The one saving factor was that it was supposed to be raining, and that would mean I could go back to bed as opposed to saddling up for the Great Slider Ride. I had taken the precaution of advising everybody that a heavy dew point would suffice to cancel this run. I cautiously opened the blinds in anticipation of droplets on the window, only to discover patches of blue sky, dry road, and a fat-assed robin singing in the driveway.
I let the dogs out and they tore the bird apart.
“That’s what you get for singing in the driveway when I have a headache,” I thought, as I settled down to a hot bowl of Advil. Twenty minutes later, I was headed for the parking lot of the Exton Diner, and the start of the Great Slider Ride. The object of this ride was to hit the closest White Castle and order 54 cheeseburgers (sliders): one burger for each year of my life, leading up to my birthday last week. The two closest White Castles are in Hackettstown and Toms River, both about 100 miles away in New Jersey. While the ride up to Hackettstown could have been very pretty, I picked Toms River as one has the option of hotfooting it on the slab -- if one is so inclined.
The White Castle In Toms River, NJ is Modeled After Windsor Castle In Great Britain
White Castle Fact # 263
Why White Castle? In the halcyon days of my youth, there were two options for dining at 2am, when the bars in Hudson County, New Jersey reluctantly hosed their clientele out into the street. The first was Chinatown in New York City and the second was the White Castle in North Bergen, NJ. I felt like doing something on my 54th birthday that reminded me of the days when I was alive. Granted, to get the full effect I’d have had to arrive in the middle of the night with some lady of highly questionable character tied to the pillion. But this ride was better than nothing.
The White Castle cheeseburger (slider) is a 2.5” square patty of beef, packed in it’s own little cardboard coffin. This one-ounce beef “cookie” has five holes in it (to assist in cooking) and comes smeared with onions. Everyone admits to having tasted one of these things, though few people would own-up to riding 100 miles for a bag of them. Not as adults, at any rate. The truth is that the White Castle cheeseburger is best consumed at 3am, after the bars close. This is the magic hour when all women are beautiful and comestibles in little boxes qualify as cuisine. It has been argued that drunks eat White Castle cheeseburgers for the same reason that dogs eat grass.
I posted the trip as beginning in the parking lot of the Exton Diner, at 9:30am, and arrived 14 minutes late to build suspense. The suspense was on me, however, as I was the only bike in the joint. The diner’s manager presented me with a card from the Mac-Pac that read, “Surprise!” No matter. The front wheel rose high in the air as I popped the clutch and wheelied for a quarter mile, on my way to the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
The ride was great... Clear, mild weather... No traffic... The engine whined like a Messerschmidt in heat. This was the first time since November that it was warm enough for me to ride without wearing long thermal underwear. (I wanted to tell this to people I passed on the highway. But rather than shout, I just pointed to my crotch and smiled.) The siren song of spring prompted me to twist the throttle a bit and I found myself on the NJ Turnpike in under an hour. Shooting past a few senior citizens on their way to the La Brea Tar pits, the road through the Pine Barrens was mine alone. Unbelievably, I still had twenty-five minutes to spare when I pulled up to the intersection of Rt. 37 and Hooper Avenue in Toms River. The White Castle was clearly visible across the road on my left.
Riepe Arrives -- Note Backed Up Traffic On Rt. 37 East Looking Like Parked Cars
Riepe was doing 75mph in this photo. (Click to enlarge)
All I had to do was make a simple U-turn, on a nice day, five miles from a New Jersey shore town. How hard could that be? It took twenty minutes of slipping the clutch in stalled traffic to cover 100 yards. I remember thinking how cool it would be to mount a flame thrower on the front of my K75. Even so, I still made it with a five-minute margin.
Note Dash Clock In Center... I Made It With 5 Minutes To Spare
(Click To enlarge)
In front of the White Castle stood two commanding figures. Don Eilenberger, BMW Motorcycle Owners of America Ambassador and Trustee and Newsletter Editor of the New Jersey Shore BMW Motorcycle Riders, struck a regal pose as if he was the lord of the castle. And Tony Luna, Chief Quality Control Officer in charge of testing helicopter evacuations from North Carolina highways for the Perdition’s Socks Elite Biker Cadre, crisply snapped into that group’s secret salute.
Don Eilenberger, BMW MOA Ambassador
Trustee and Newsletter Editor Of New Jersey Shore BMW Motorcyle Riders
(Click To Enlarge)
“We would have left in another five minutes,” said Eilenberger, offering me a true New Jersey welcome. “Then we watched you waddle the bike into the dogleg turn and knew you’d be here in an hour or so.” Don extended his hand and I dropped to my knees to kiss his Ambassadorial ring. “Your own Mac-Pac Ambassador Brian Curry would have been here, except he didn’t give a damn,” Eilenberger added with a warm smile. "And he told me to tell you that personally."
Tony Luna, Chief Quality Control Officer In Charge Of Testing Helicopter Evacuations
From North Carolina Roads For Perdition's Socks Elite Biker Cadre
(Click to enlarge)
“I didn’t want to be here either,” said Tony Luna, “But I’ve been constipated for a week and heard that this was as good as eating grass.”
Tony had saved us a “preferred” table that had a sweeping view of both the “Slider” assembly area and the men’s room. No matter what direction you looked in, you could see guys flipping meat.
“Gentlemen, you are my guests today. Order anything you like without regard to cost,” I said. The menu featured 70¢ cheeseburgers -- lots of them -- french fries, and an order of fried clams. I would have hated to meet these clams in a secluded alley at night. A clam has to be pretty strong to overcome the taste of 5W-50 frying oil, and these did.
Riepe Surveys The Wreckage Of Another Year...
54 Down; Three More To Go!
(Click To Enlarge Riepe)
At this point, Eilenberger rapped his knuckles on the table and called the little gathering to order. He cleared his throat and delivered a moving litany on the events that transpired through history on my birthday, starting with the murder of Julius Caesar, the outbreak of plague, and an earthquake in China. He closed with the recommendation that the bed or the Chevy backseat I was conceived on should be burned in a public place.
Then on behalf of his various constituents, Don Eilenberger presented me with a beautiful watch. The inscription on the watch reads “If your bike runs better than this watch, you might get home,” but it's the thought that counts. Not to be outdone, Tony Luna presented me with a plain donut as a substitute for a birthday cake. These two manly men then sang “Happy Birthday.” It was all very touching.
The BMW K75 Lends Dignity To Anyone, Usually
Seen Here In Its Natural Element -- DeSimones BMW
(Click here to enlarge -- Then stand back)
It was my intention to continue east to the ocean over in Seaside Park, but Eilenberger talked me out of this. It seems that Seaside Heights was hosting a St. Patrick’s Day Parade and more than 70,000 people were expected in town that afternoon. Don then led us on a refreshing ride through bog and barren, terminating at DeSimone’s BMW in Mount Holly. I hobbled through the showroom with a salesperson right on my heels. Not wishing to tie him up while I browsed, I mentioned I was only looking.
“That’s all right,” he said. “I’m just here to make sure you don’t sweat on the new bikes.”
The ride home was pleasant and quick over the Commodore Barry Bridge. I would like to extend my special thanks to Don Eilenberger and Tony Luna for meeting me on the Great Slider Ride. These are two really great guys. Mack Harrell intended to come, but he was out of sorts on Saturday. One of his medical practitioners has recommended he have a “procedure.” Horrified, Mack demanded to know what kind of procedure.
“Mummification,” the doctor replied.
Copyright 2008 Jack Riepe
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Delphi)
AKA The Chamberlain -- Perdition’s Socks, PS (With A Shrug)