Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The BuRP Rally: The Ride That Changed My Life II

Chapter Two:  The Next 60 miles And Beyond

My "de facto" in-laws don’t expect much from me and I seldom disappoint them. Consequently, they thought my ability to ride a motorcycle from West Chester, Pa to Hagerstown, Md indicated I had hidden Lindbergh-type qualities. Leslie’s dad kept shaking his head, saying, “I figured for sure you’d either hole up in a strip-joint or fall over in a pile of bushes.” He is one of the pioneers of the nation’s genome project and regards me as an anomaly of social Darwinism. Based on our brief acquaintanceship, he published a thesis arguing that children displaying personality traits like mine should be denied access to vaccines.
My de facto In-Laws in Hagerstown, Md do not have high expectations of me.
They are seldom disappointed.

Leslie’s folks fed me breakfast, told me I could stay as long as I wanted, then threw my panniers out on the lawn. Twenty-five minutes later, I was on Rt. 66 (not that Route 66), blowing through the cultural capital of Boonesboro, Md. Boonesboro is famous for being the home of pulp novelist Nora Roberts and the site of the first Washington Monument.
The first Washington Monument, in Boonesboro, Md.

My destination was a motel in Front Royal, Va. Since I only had 60 miles to cover, I took my time and took in the sights. Route 67 leads out of Boonesboro, and you end up crossing the mighty Potomac a couple of times as you pass into Virginia and West Virginia (briefly). The view from both bridges (in the vicinity of Harpers Ferry) is worth noting, but traffic is such that taking your eyes off the road can have a surprise ending. Rt. 67 ends on US-340, which meanders into Front Royal. In fact, it meandered in a little faster than I thought and the town took me by surprise.

I put my feet down in the parking lot of my hotel and reflected on the circumstances that were drawing me to Maggie Valley, North Carolina. There are many online resources available to reentry riders, and I joined the About.com Motorcycle Forum in 2005, a social network that was largely under the direction of renown biker writer Walter Kern, and various forum “corner” hosts. A true democracy, the group catered to riders of all persuasions (including cruisers, sport bikes, touring motorcycles, vintage machines, trikes, and Euro bikes). The discussion list covered anything and everything about motorcycles.

Author’s note -- This group has since moved from About.com and cane be found at Motorcycle Views on Delphi Forums.

Walt Kern encouraged me to write ride reports and biker stories even though he sensed I had the riding ability of a corpse. In writing for this group, I made my first biker friends. They included Brenda and Bill Woods, Walt’s wife Jane, Steve Asson, Scott Turner, Carrie, Scott Benson, Vic (Mongo), Sammye (Granny TwoWheels), Karen Kennedy, Wayne Whitlock and his wife Lucy. These folks shared tons of experiences, observances, comments and suggestions, saving new riders from expensive trial and error situations. And there was a lot of good natured chatter too.

The only thing missing was an actual group ride.

These folks were scattered across the country, from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and from Oklahoma to Montreal. But once a year, they would converge on the Laurel Park Inn, in Maggie Valley, NC, to meet, to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway, to party and to laugh. I was invited to come in 2006. (I was initially flattered, but then I discovered they invited about 4,000 people, and included me figuring I wouldn’t show.) Thirty to 40 riders typically attend since the group started holding this event in 2002. The name of the event -- The BuRP Rally -- stands for Blue Ridge Parkway and “You.”

All I had to do was take a week off from work, and ride from West Chester, Pa to Maggie Valley, NC. Yet this was at a time when my longest ride as a reentry rider was 164-mile day. Still I considered it... Liked the idea... And said “maybe,” fully intending to decline when it would be considered polite.

That’s when Steve Asson issued “the challenge.”

Steve lives in Washington (the state). It is about 14,000 miles west of Maggie Valley. Steve kindly offered to make the ride from the Pacific, if I would only get off my ass and ride down from Pennsylvania. And that’s about how he put it, in front of millions of people on the internet. What else could I say? I posted my counter-challenge, betting him a bottle of rum that I’d get there, and started training.
Steve Asson - Steel Horse Rider
Issued the "Challenge"

I had introduced the members of this forum to a unique concept: Perdition’s Socks. This a is an elite cadre of riders who are not afraid to wear their colors anywhere. This is because their colors are not patches on jackets, but argyle socks worn under boots. Perdition’s Socks hosts an Annual Amish Horse-Pile Swerve Ride in the spring. It was one of these rides that drew Tony Luna, Mack Harrell, and Wayne Whitlock to Leslie's driveway in Pennsylvania (four months before the BuRP Rally). Wayne rode up from Richmond, Virginia for the “Swerve” ride and was immediately impressed with my riding abilities. His reaction to the news that I was riding alone to Maggie Valley was to call immediately, insisting I meet him along the way, “so I can keep on an eye on things,” said Wayne. He later confided to others that the tone of my voice had the chill of certain death in it.
Perdition's Socks 2nd Annual Amish Horse-Pile Swerve Ride 2006
From Left: Tony Luna, Jack Riepe, Wayne Whitlock, Mack Harrell, Karen Kennedy
And Pete Buchheit

Wayne Whitlock is one of the last surviving gentlemen in the old southern tradition. He rides a Harley that looks like it gets parked in Tiffany’s window, and he is some of the best company you could ever ask for on the road. I will never forget his kindness.

Here I was, sitting in the driveway of an average motel in Front Royal, Va, basting in my own juices on this hot July day, when the “potato-potato” stutter of a Harley Davidson shattered he afternoon stillness. Wayne adroitly pulled up and introduced me to his sweet wife Lucy (who was riding pillion).

“Gosh, I’m glad to see y’all,” said Wayne in his gracious ante-bellum manner. “Did y’all have a nice ride down?”

I replied in the affirmative, and Wayne added, “I’m so glad and somewhat surprised. I half expected to get a call from you saying you were holed up in some strip joint or had fallen over in the bushes.”

“Let’s check in,” I said, through a fractured but forced smile.

Copyright 2008 Jack Riepe
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views Forum/Delphi)
AKA The Chamberlain -- Perdition’s Socks (With A Shrug)

2 comments:

Steel said...

Jack, I'm working on my next challenge. Better take the practice sessions up a notch (and get another bottle of rum).

Countersteer said...

What a great start! Looking forward to more