Let me advise you against any alarm clock that starts the day with the sound of a waterfall, the surf, or a stream -- particularly if you are a heavy sleeper who is open to suggestion and who generally takes a healthy piss first thing in the morning.
I want an alarm clock that wakes you by whispering, “C’mon Baby. Time to get up. Can I get you some coffee... Or something?”
On this particular morning -- which was last Sunday -- my alarm clock was my cell phone, which I really hate. As it was, I didn’t need anything to get me me up. The day started at 6:30am, with a little tongue action on the side of my face. Regrettably, the tongue was two feet long and attached to a huge German Shepherd, named Atticus, who likes to start his day by taking a healthy piss through the fence on the little dog next door. The personality of the little dog next door is such that I not only condone this action, but join in from time to time.
The other end of the tongue was attached to Atticus Finch -- 145 pound German Shepherd
(Photo courtesy of Leslie Marsh -- Click to enlarge)
The room was filled with light as this was the first morning of daylight savings time. Though the clock said 6:30am, it was twenty-minutes past full sun-up. I was still wearing most of my clothes from the night before, a sure indication that I had had a good time. If you have read any of my articles dealing with surviving a really good time, you will recall that the best thing you can do upon regaining consciousness is to close your eyes, remain motionless, and try to remember some details related to the previous evening.
I remembered Gerry Cavanaugh, a dedicated R1200GS rider, pouring some yellow stuff into my glass and saying, “This is what lemonade and 190-proof grain neutral spirits tastes like.” I also had a vague memory of women putting make-up on my ass. Eyes still shut, I took stock of my bloated body. Amazingly, there was no hangover nor wrist burns from handcuffs.
“So far so good,” I thought.
The first stabbing arthritis pain came when I swung my legs to the floor. “Fuck this,” I hissed to the dog who was watching me patiently. It took me a few seconds to brace for the aftershocks from my hips and knees, but I got upright on the second attempt. I never thought the day would come when pulling up my pants would feel like the equivalent of running a mile with a kitchen stove on my back, but that day was officially last Sunday.
I hobbled to the back door and let the dog out. The day was bright gray with the garden thermometer hovering at 42 degrees. I followed Atticus onto the patio and felt the morning cold of the pavers through my bare feet. The little dog wasn’t out yet, so Atticus pissed in the dried cone flowers and I pissed on a bush I never really liked. Every guy I knew in the Adirondacks routinely pissed off their back porches. This is a ritual uncommon on the Main Line in Pennsylvania, however.
I took my arthritis medication with a steaming hot mug of coffee and looked at the kitchen clock for the bad news. This limited activity had consumed an hour, and I was supposed to lead a ride at 9am. “Damn this fucking hip,” I thought. Assembling my riding gear seemed to take forever, as I was shuffling with a corpse-like motion. The garage door went up like the curtain for a morality play, framing the vision of my bike against the backdrop of the driveway. I hesitated, anticipating the jolt of pain I’d get throwing my leg over the saddle.
Do you remember that movie “Always,” starring Richard Dreyfus and Holly Hunter? It’s actually a remake of an earlier film with Spencer Tracey and Audrey Hepburn. Dreyfus plays the pilot of B-25 used for putting out forest fires. Holly Hunter is his squeeze. There is this scene in the flick where he and Holly are walking in the moon light, and they come across his plane bathed in mist on the tarmac. At that moment, Holly just knows the next mission is doomed.
Well it seemed like my bike was bathed in mist too. (Actually, it was. But this was the hot air coming from the clothes dryer vent. It appeared ominous nevertheless.) “I don’t have to do this,” I thought. Considering the pain in my knees, I didn’t think the guys would mind if I showed up in the truck.
“Who the hell are you kidding,” asked a little voice in my head. “This is the Mac-Pac, you dope. They’ll laugh first, then pull down your pants and paint your ass blue in front of everybody.”
It was then I remember that “Fireballs,” my 1995 BMW K75 hadn’t started the last time I’d hit the button (after a 5-week interval of lying idle). It required a jump start then. It had only been two weeks since that episode, but no one would blame me if I had a bad battery. (What’s more, I still hadn’t plugged it into the battery tender.) Raising my eyes in supplication to the motorcycle gods, I uttered a prayer that I wouldn’t mind if the bike was as dead as Kelsey’s nuts -- this time.
The K75 exploded into life the second my thumb hit the starter.
“You heartless red bastard,” I hissed into my helmet. For some reason, I managed to get in the saddle with less trouble than usual and got my left leg up to the peg on the second try. Fifteen minutes later, I met the group at the Dunkin Donuts in Exton, Pa. They were “Leather” Dick Bregstein, Gerry Cavanaugh, Jerry Cline, Mike Evans, Laura Hirth, Corey Lyba, Matt Piechota, Jim Robinson, and Todd Trombore. Veteran hot-shot Chris Jaccarino had planned to attend, but thought twice about it when he remembered what happened the last time he rode with “Leather” Dick. I was the last to arrive.
The riders (from left) Corey Lyba, Jim Robinson, Todd Trumbore, Laura Hirth,
Jerry Cline, Jack Riepe (on bike), Gerry Cavanugh, "Leather" Dick Bregstein,
and Mike Evans (who is showing inordinate interest in community theater).
(Photo courtesy of Matt Piechota -- Who took it -- Click to enlarge)
“We figured you were coming in the truck,” said Robinson. I couldn’t help but notice a tinge of regret in his voice and a can of blue paint alongside his red “K” bike.
The crowd gathered round and started looking at their watches. When 15 minutes had passed, cash exchanged hands. “Some of us bet that you wouldn’t be able to get off the bike,” said Gerry Cavanaugh, who made 5 bucks off Mike Evans.
Officially, the ride was billed as “The Flight Of The ‘Leather’ Dick Bregstein Phoenix.” The 100-mile route was somewhat sedate with gentle changes in elevation and mild twisties. The objective of the ride was to provide Leather Dick the opportunity to get acquainted with his bike in the company of well-intentioned friends (witnesses).
The official starting point was where Rt. 401 runs into the Lincoln Highway Rt. 30 in Frazer, Pa. Route 401 begins in your typical suburban neighborhood, with heavy tree cover and the occasional deer. Yet after crossing Rt. 113, you begin to encounter solid evidence of old WASP money. Homes become somewhat solitary and isolated from each other by paddocks, pastures, and open fields. Many are made of stone and predate the Revolution. Single lane stone bridges span creeks and picturesque ponds dot the side of the road. Each little community has a church with a stone or white spire pointing toward heaven, and is accompanied a churchyard full of ancient, but presumably, satisfied parishioners. (“Leather” Dick Bregstein pointed out that the residents of these cemeteries are spryer than I am. I reminded Dick that raw truth hastens the decline of mediocre friendships. I did this through a simple gesture using but one finger.)
Despite the opportunity to go faster, I led the Teutonic line at 45-50mph. I found myself more inclined to take in the scenery than to entertain the guys behind me.
The midmorning autumn air had lost some of its bite but it was cold enough to warrant having the liner in my Joe Rocket jacket. I mention this as I initially planed to just wear a long-sleeved shirt under the unlined jacket. The Parabellum Scout fairing does a great job of keeping the wind off my chest, and except for the discomfort in my hip and knees, it was becoming a delightful ride.
I am always amazed at what you can smell riding on a motorcycle. Apple orchards, corn fields, and dense stands of conifers each have a distinctive scent. Nothing can beat it when the wild flowers burst into bloom in the spring. Especially on roads like the Blue Ridge Parkway, which seldom gets the clouds of exhaust that flavor main highways. Yet as all of you are aware, you can be tooling along, sucking in nature’s perfume, when you hit the invisible funeral vapor of a dead deer. I have no mixed emotions about this and always smile. Occasionally, one cruises through an Amish community when the elders have been spreading manure on empty fields. I have come to like this pungent aroma too. I prefer it to the smell of messages approved by candidates and political groups.
Crossing Rt. 100, the road passed through a state park, stretches of forest and open fields, some where the last of the dry feed corn is still standing. The trees were wearing their fall colors, with a few well past their prime and others that had just gotten the memo. My personal favorites are the oaks and maples, which provide the traditional golden hues and the brilliant scarlets of the season. They remind me of harlots and Cardinals, mingling in a mad ball. “Deer Crossing” signs at 30-second intervals caution the rider that “ forest rats on stilts” are lurking in every shadow. I had heard that Pennsylvania was issuing doe permits to inner city youths and allowing them to hunt with bats. I approve of positive “out of the box” thinking like this. Two deer looked up from their task of destroying fall flowers at the base of a mailbox as I roared past. It was broad daylight and this pair couldn’t make up their mind as to which motorcycle they wanted to knock over.
It is not uncommon to find houses like this one, dating back to the mid-1700's
in rural Pennsylvania. While this one is now a community museum, you can
find plenty just like it as active residences.
(Photo by the author -- click to enlarge)
We turned left, heading south on Rt. 82, which followed tighter curves through more serious farm country. My left hip started to throb and my left turns lost a good deal of their precision. If I tried to give the gentle reader the notion that I carved anything off to the left, it would have been with a putty knife. At Route 322, we turned right and picked up the pace to 60mph, matching road conditions. We turned left onto Rt. 10 and headed south toward Sadsburyville. (Who names these places?)
This stone structure is a blacksmith shop that was in business when Ben Franklin was
giving speeches as to why when should turn our backs on Great Britain (1776, not recently).
It is used a a community hall where boy scouts now meet.
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge)
Route 10 is a sweet little road for the rider who doesn’t have to slide his knees on the ground in every turn. You begin to encounter Amish wagons south of the town of Blue Ball, and road apples (from the horses) are always in season. The scenery along this road is very pleasant and there are enough tight curves to keep the average rider occupied. Riding through these stretches, it becomes easy to understand why the local “embattled farmers” took this land for their own and drove out the Crown.
Note the weather vane on the roof of the blacksmith shop... Can you imagine
the one they would have had on the roof of the local bordello? I want this blog
to be well-known for its reference to items of historical significance.
(Photo courtesy of the author -- click to enlarge)
The illusion is lost when you hit Rt. 30 in Sadsburyville. This is the straightaway to the Lancaster outlet center and the human zoos, where you can view the Amish in their natural habitat. Still there is something legitimate to see here. Turning right, we headed over to Rt. 41, in the town of Gap. A mile from the intersection, a view of the valley to the north opens up on your right. Hundreds of farms are laid out like patches on a quilt. And if you hit this at the right time of day, you can see miniature Amish buggies moving about on little farm lanes. You have to look fast as traffic moves at a good clip here, with a traffic light at the foot of the hill. Turning left onto Rt. 41, you move through the town of Gap. The most noteworthy structure here is the clock tower, built in 1892.
The Town Clock Tower in Gap, Pa was built in 1892,
four hundred years after Columbus discovered Pennsylvania,
and asked an Indian, "Do you know the time?"
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia -- Click to Enlarge)
We turned right at the clock tower, onto Rt. 741. This road runs straight through a pretty Amish settlement. In fact, it is the heart of the largest Amish settlement in the US. Traffic was light, enabling us to pass buggies on the far side of the oncoming lane. I always give the horses plenty of running room as they can dart out when spooked. I have come upon several roadside dramas, in which horses struck by cars are either lying dead or awaiting dispatch. The vehicle operator is usually an asshole who passed the buggy too closely, managing to clip the horse. The last such scene I witnessed was on a Sunday. The horse was dead. The driver of the car was a tourist from New Jersey, who had come up to watch the Amish try and live their own lives, minding their own business, in their own community. The Amish couple, dressed in Sunday black, and two kids looking both adorable and miserable, stood by the side of the road.
I remember thinking that I would make a poor Amish elder, as I would have pulled a chainsaw out from under the seat in the buggy and quartered this guy on the spot.
Our only stop on this little ride was at the Strasburg Rail Road, one of the most incredible operating steam train museums in the east. I love trains and I love this place. I get a real thrill out of watching huge steam locomotives from the early 20th Century pound around the sidings, belching fire, smoke and steam. Yet I am amazed at how close you can get to these things, as the engineers expect you to exercise good judgment. It is surprising at how often people demonstrate their lack of knowledge when it comes to appropriate behavior around old steam locomotives.
On one such occasion, I watched a guy position a little boy about three feet away from the steam box on one of these beauties. He wanted to take a picture. This is understandable. Close by the boy were a series of pipes and valves issuing steam or dripping boiling water. From time to time, a valve will release pent up steam as part of its function. I was thinking the caption for this picture could have been, “The Last Day Little Johnny Had Skin.” I wondered if this guy was aware that boiling water, steam, and flame are all part of the equation for propelling this 25-ton hunk of iron. On another day, I watched a woman who had just had a brain transplant from a bottle of Airwick Solid take her daughter by the hand and cross the tracks in front of a moving steam locomotive -- less than 20-feet away. It would have been a bad day had either the kid or she stumbled. You can’t stop one of these things in 20 feet. Understandably, the woman probably thought that I would run in and save her. Not unless she was naked.
While at Strasburg, Dick announced that he was going to raise the seat on his new 2000 BMW R1100R at his earliest convenience. Todd Trumbore insisted this could be done painlessly and without tools. He stepped up to the plate and the process took about five minutes. We then shoved off for lunch at the Whip Tavern, about 20 miles away. Taking Rt. 896 to Rt. 10, and Rt. 10 to Rt. 926 brought us out of Amish farm country and into horse farm country. The horses are immediately thinner and more picturesque. Instead of pulling plows, they jump over things at the command of gorgeous women in jodhpurs.
Bikes parked outside The Whip Tavern are a comforting sight on an autumn day.
On this occasion, the Beemers were in front and the Harleys were in back.
(Photo courtesy of Rogers George, who doesn't know it yet -- Click to enlarge)
Turning left onto Rt. 841 delights the rider with countryside right out of an English novel. This is an apt setting for “The Whip Tavern,” which is an authentic English pub, with a great menu and a fascinating selection of beer, cider, and ales. It’s an intimate place (meaning small), with a fireplace and jazz band on Sunday. Imagine our surprise when we walked in and discovered that Rogers George, his wife Val, and their daughter Hanna had been holding a table for us against all odds. Rogers used to be a friend of mine, until he causally remarked it was his intention to pirate readers from this blog for his own editorial delusions, titled, “Poor Rogers Almanac, or Mushrooms to Motorcycles.” He fancies himself a poet. Rogers lives in nearby Delaware, rides an “R” bike, and is presently building a scale model of the Panama Canal in his yard.
Rogers' wife Val and their daughter Hanna...
Hanna is listening to one of my stories and Val is thinking of the years in
therapy this poor kid is likely to need as a result. In two minutes, she will
forbid the child from reading this blog too. Tough break, Hanna.
(Photo courtesy of Rogers George, and he still doesn't know it -- Click to enlarge)
Laura Hirth looked at the menu and paused at “Bangers and Mash.”
“What’s a banger,” she asked me.
“You’re speaking to one,” I replied. Actually, a banger is a kind of hot dog-like sausage favored by the Brits. I was rewarded by one of Laura’s laser-like smiles for this exchange of information.
The author, Jack Riepe, 10% banger and 90% mash.
(Photo courtesy of Rogers George, anonymously -- Click to enlarge)
Lunch was great. I recommend the fish plate and Scotch egg as appetizers. I had fish and chips as the main event, washed down by Thistle India Pale Ale. It was boots and saddles 90-minutes later, as our little riding party split up and headed out. It took me 20-minutes to get back in the saddle. (Honest.) Dick and I followed a meandering road to Rt. 926 again, where a nice lady, probably wearing jodhpurs, left-turned across my bow. It wasn’t as close as some chance meetings I’ve had... But it was close enough.
Special guest, Charlie Somerdyk, arrived to join the festivities. It took him longer
to get a beer than it did to remove his pants, which he does for anyone with a camera.
(Photo courtesy of Rogers George, who writes a great blog -- What a guy!)
Traffic was thick on US-202 when Dick and I parted company, with a raised arm and a wave that signified “the boys were back in town.” I wish “Leather” Dick Bregstein the best of luck with his new bike, and look forward to thousands of miles in his company... Thousands of miles that are improved by his company.
I promised the first woman rider who participated in this event a free commemorative tee shirt. Laura won it. I expect she’d rather die than wear it.
On a Related Note...
My daughter is a writer like myself in the public relations field. She claims there are entirely too many “Dick” jokes and references throughout my blog. I’d appreciate your opinion.
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2008
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- Perdition's Socks (With A Shrug)