When Karl Utrecht wanted to start a scooter club, he went about it by tracking people down and handing them his business card. When he had enough people, he invited them over to his house with about sixteen people showing up.
“They didn’t want any officers or dues,” said Utrecht, “They just wanted to ride.” The Las Cruces Scooter group meeting on a Thursday morning for a breakfast ride to Hatch confirms their goal of creating a relaxed group was successful. Utrecht says the club varies between retirees and those still working, with a majority being those who have the time for more leisurely rides. “We’re old coots on scoots,” said Utrecht laughing.
The full disclosure that becomes unavoidable is that I’m a scooter rider, having bought myself a scooter years ago as
a graduation present. It is a small 80 cc Honda Elite. Over email correspondence where Utrecht suggested I tag along for a ride, he asked how fast it went. I gave him my usual answer: “50 with a backwind.” He suggested I bring my husband’s motorcycle instead.
Lined up at the Albertson’s parking lot at 8 a.m. were the heavy hitters of the scootering community, powerful Suzuki Burgmans and Honda Silverwings, and Utrecht on the classic, a red Vespa. These are not your babysitter’s scooter; these are made for comfort and for cruising. After years of hearing skepticism about riding a scooter, it amused me to hear a good-natured ribbing toward the Harley rider that came along.
The group was extraordinarily friendly, even as I was another outside motorcycle rider. How long had I ridden? So happy to have you with us! One rider, Daryl Pearce, came over to conspiratorially mention that if I needed the real scoop to come to him as he winked to Utrecht. Another rider, Mike Denham, made me do a double take when he said just the day before he had celebrated his 86th birthday.
Next disclosure that is needed: I’ve never ridden in a group before. I slid next to Utrecht and in a low voice asked, um, how exactly would we be riding in a group. He lit up and gave me directions and instructions. The group would ride staggered, one rider ahead of another but on the opposite side of the lane, letting the group bunch together, with two to a lane when stopped. “Just keep your eye on the persons in front of you and behind you and you’ll be fine,” said Utrecht. We would travel in the middle, the easier spot, with him behind me.
Much like cowboys leaving a saloon, stepping up and swinging a leg over their horse, the riders corralled by Utrecht ambled to their bikes and got on, with the final preparations of gloves and zipping up vests. A slow procession is led out of the parking lot and out toward the more open road of Doña Ana County.
Picking up speed, I struggle a bit to keep up, too excited to see a line of riders in front of me and a line of riders behind me. The weather is clear, the sun is bright but not yet scorching, and the sky is typically blue and typically expansive. Everything they say about the Southwest spreads out in front of the group. In fact, coming through the canyons and riding next to the Rio Grande, I realized that this is the dream of many motorcycle riders around the world. Riding along the American Southwest has become a classic myth. Here, a group does this to get to breakfast.
We ride into Hatch, about a 40 mile winding ride through the back roads. I see Denham spring off his bike. I robotically peel myself off my bike. My hands are numb from the vibration and my shoulders hunched from bracing against the wind. Yet, I’m still trying regain control of the dorkiest smile on my face.
Sitting down at the Pepper Pot restaurant, I ask Utrecht if he feels pride at seeing the laughing group together at the table. He nods and mentions it’s nice a whole host of different politics and backgrounds have the common unity of scootering. Looking across the group, you get a sense of different demeanors — one more grizzled rider, one more casual — but all are at the table together and a sense of companionship through the morning’s shared experience.
After the meal, the riders prepped themselves and their bikes to get ready to leave. The glow of the unified ride faded like the glow of the morning’s sunrise. Some quickly gather up and head out in a small pack first, others linger. Utrecht comes over and hands me a business card. It’s his contact details with a color photo of him, dressed exactly as he is in front of me and next to the same bright red Vespa.
If you are interested in riding with the Las Cruces Scooters group, contact Karl Utrecht at 496-6528 or email@example.com.