The K75 had been ridden hard and put away wearing its war paint. Streaks of road grit from four states trailed back from the fender along the engine and gas tank. This bike desperately needed a bath. Attempting to move it around in the garage drew ominous grinding noises from both of my knees and hips. I shrugged this off as post-ride joint fatigue but realized it would be tough to wheel “Fire Balls” out the door holding a cane in one hand.
Molly, a 20-year-old firecracker who could be a model in any magazine, volunteered to make a few bucks the hard way -- by washing and waxing my bike. Her incredible good looks are exceeded only by her ambition and work ethic. She accepted the case, provided she could work in a bathing suit to catch a little sun while spreading the suds. What could I do? I had no choice.
Molly is now my #1 Pit Crew Member In Charge of Motorcycle Gleam
Photo by Leslie Marsh
© Copyright Leslie Marsh 2008
Five hours later, the K75 gleamed like the avarice in an attorney’s eyes. Molly had actually used q-tips to get around the bolt heads on the engine casing. (I know this for a fact as I watched her do it, occasionally handing her new swabs.)
This cleaning job was both a blessing and a curse. While the machine shone, I had no desire to get this bike dirty again. This was my excuse to let it sit on damp days. The stiffness in my joints gradually gave way to a new level of pain, which I treated with benign neglect. An ounce of denial is sometimes as good as pound of reality. My ability to ride this bike is my gauge of personal deterioration. I shut my eyes to the fact that I was now leaning on a cane for every step.
The road eventually began to call me again, using the voice of Pete Buchheit, who suggested that the West Virginia crew assemble for lunch; preferably at some relaxing joint with a view of the water -- weather permitting. (Pete had just washed his bike and wasn’t eager to get it dirty either.) There was a potential for thunderstorms, and he suggested we could avoid the wet weather by taking our trucks. Clyde Jacobs pointed out that he too had washed his bike but would rather put on a dress than not risk some storm grit. (Pete then asked him what dress he was going to wear.)
Thus shamed I attempted to mount my bike. I attempted to mount it six times. I couldn’t get my leg over the seat. On try number seven, I lunged like a dolphin going through a hoop and clawed my way over the tank. My knees felt like they were made of glass. It took another few minutes to get my feet on the pegs. My legs were demonstrating symptoms of rigor mortis but everything seemed to stretch out into some facade of normalcy after 20 minutes on the road. The K75 is an incredible motorcycle. It lends dignity to the way I ride and instantly improves everything.
I rendezvoused with Clyde and we had a pleasant 68-mile ride to the Tidewater Grille, in Havre de Grace, Maryland. Pete was sitting at the bar wearing a face like a human sacrifice. The Tidewater used to have a cozy bar that encouraged cigar smoking. The restaurant has recently changed hands and philosophies, however. The bar has been expanded and cigar smokers are now persona non-grata. The place used to have a great barkeep named Sarge. Sarge has been replaced by a new bartender who can’t find her ass with both hands. We waited 20 minutes (sitting at the bar) to place a drink order. A gentlemen next to me offered to sell me half a glass of beer for $10. He’d been there since the day before, apparently.
Yet all this became inconsequential as soon as we got our table. This restaurant was made for summer. It is situated where the mighty Susquehanna River flows ito Chesapeake Bay. There is an outside deck on a lawn, right at the river’s edge. Some patrons arrive by boat, yet there are docks for seaplanes too. Sitting outside, as close to the water as possible, gentle breezes lulled us back to good humor as sloops and yawls plied their way on the bay. Amtrak trains trundled over a picturesque bridge to the north, and even more picturesque waitresses made us feel like kings in incognito. Coyote decoys are poised on the lawn. We were told this is to discourage the geese. The coyotes are in a crouch position, which gives them a kind of Tasmanian devil look.
The high point of lunch came when the manager appeared at our table -- usually a bad sign -- and requested us to hold down our umbrella as a helicopter was about to land. We exchanged that raised eyebrows look, as if to indicate “not another helicopter,” when the chopper roared into view. It landed about seventy-five feet from us. The umbrella barely rippled. The pilot and his pal nonchalantly climbed out of the machine as if everybody traveled this way. Women looked at them like they were gods. Clyde had the presence of mind to spit.
The day was so perfect that lunch turned into a three hour affair. It was thus that we came to watch the ace and his passenger take off. Once again, the manager slithered out and advised us to hold the umbrella. The two sports climbed aboard and triggered the starter. The engine turned over and died. They tried again. Again the engine rumbled and stalled. They tried a third time with the same result.
Pete looked at me and said, “I didn’t know Harley made a helicopter.”
The pilot held the starter down again and the machine finally caught. (Lucky for him. I was going to get my cables out from under my seat on the bike.) Clyde wondered if you could push-start one of these units by dropping it off a 60-story building. The breeze set up by the rotors shook the hell out of the coyote decoys, giving them a strange humping motion.
We left shortly thereafter. I mounted the bike with all the grace of that rare American bird -- the bison. It was different this time though. Everything seemed to hurt a little. I became grateful for the red lights, so I could put my feet down. On this day, however, nothing seemed to help. The pain in my right knee was so bad on the return trip that I pulled over to rest three times after crossing into Pennsylvania. (That’s right... I pulled over three times in under 20 miles.)
My right knee was the size of a football the next morning. I packed it in ice and took the medication I had. The arthritis hit like a thunderclap three days later. And I had waited just long enough for both of the doctors I normally see to go on vacation. That was a little over two weeks ago. During that time I have been a virtual prisoner at my desk. Getting up to take a piss has been an ordeal. I have been sleeping on the sofa because the stairs are impossible at the end of the day. I passed on the Mac-Pac breakfast (my riding group) at the Quail’s Nest restaurant because getting into my truck that day (at that hour of the day) seemed like an impossibility. It would take me 10 minutes to get up the stairs to take a shower, and about an hour to complete that process.
Still, there is humor in everything I do.
My oldest friend in the world (not Mack Harrell, who is simply the oldest living thing in the world), a buddy of mine for 44 years, was holding a life celebration party for his wife who had passed last February. The party was in Bayside, Queens, NY. I was determined to attend this. My tasks that day were to take a shower, get dressed, and drive to Queens. This would also entail gassing up the truck.
I was out of pain medication and seeing double. Conducting a cabinet by cabinet search, I had hoped to find something that had been prescribed for me in the past and which I had forgotten about or overlooked. I uncovered a dark blue pill bottle, that without my glasses, I determined held tramadol, which I had taken two years ago. I just didn’t remember a blue pill bottle.
“This will help,” I said to myself, filling a cup with water. Intrigued by the blue container, I found my glasses and discovered this stuff had been prescribed for “Atticus Marsh,” our German shepherd.
"Atticus Finch" -- Our 145-pound German Shepherd
Photo courtesy of Leslie Marsh
©Copyright Leslie Marsh 2008
It was at that moment Leslie walked in and said, “I can’t believe you just took the dog’s pain medication. Do you eat his lunch when I’m not here too?”
This could have been a catastrophe if the pill gad been for heart worms or something. (I do not worry about being neutered as I have been divorced twice.) For the record, I do not advocate taking strange pills... Especially if one of the side effects is a reflex action to bury your nose in women’s crotches.
To be continued...
I deeply regret letting this blog go so long without a recent post. The fact is that I have not been riding for obvious reasons and have not been in a mood to write anything cheery. I'm dealing with these issues now. -- Sincerely, the author.
© Jack Riepe 2008
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Delphi)
AKA The Chamberlain -- Perdition's Socks (With A Shrug)