This is a repeat story that ran on a smaller, BMW list last year. I am using this opportunity to share this piece with a greater number of readers while I recover from an arthritis attack today. The pictures and the links are both new and informative. -- Jack
I once asked the legendary solo biker Doug Raymond (Philly to Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Circle in Alaska and back in 13 days) how he got started one of his big runs? He just smiled and said, “I generally get on the bike.”
I was actually looking for a bit more detail than that, but sometimes that’s all it takes. On this particular day, I needed a destination. Did you ever have one of those days where you wanted to see something new, but you didn’t feel like going very far? Or a day where you didn’t mind going far but you just didn’t feel like packing for it? These generally occur on a hot summer day, when inspiration is at its lowest point.
On this day, I went into my study, picked up an atlas, and thrust my finger into the center of it. My destination would lay at my fingertip. And considering how lazy I felt, I was hoping it would be with a 100-mile radius of the house.
It was. My finger was solidly planted on Camden, New Jersey.
Camden is one of the few US cities that has an ongoing State Department warning urging citizens to go someplace else. One of the last hotels in the city advertises upper floor rooms beyond the reach of standard small arms. As a destination, this place required some measure of preparation. I wouldn’t have to pack much though as it would be practical to sleep in my helmet and ballistic gear.
Camden, NJ is one of the few places left in the United States where
a battleship stands ready to shell the city at point blank range.
Nothing saps a man’s strength, resolve, or good will like summer heat. Thirst and dehydration were my greatest fears. I went to that great source of data -- the internet -- to look up four or five potential places enroute that might serve as an alternate destination in the event the day clouded over. Under the heading "The Alternative," I found several items of interest that did not relate to Camden. These included a site for sexual rituals and an organization advocating murder over divorce for immediate financial relief.
I altered my search to "T&A" (as in “the alternative”). This produced the listings I had in mind. (Did you know that “T&A” is also a show business term?) According to the internet references, one should have at least $50 in singles when entering a T&A oasis. I had $40 in singles and a $10 roll of quarters left over from last year’s Christmas bonus. My boss didn’t mean to give me a shitty $10 bonus in quarters last year. But if I hadn’t swiped it from petty cash, I’d have gotten nothing. I slipped it into my front pants pocket.
I had no idea at the time the role this roll was to play in my survival. I suited up in my ballistic jacket, threw my leg over the K75, and roared off into the August heat.
Dehydration is the number one enemy of bikers on the road. It sneaks up on you and makes your sweat run cold. The temperature was in the mid-90's when I roared out onto Rt. 202, and headed north. Roaring might be a bit of an exaggeration, considering I ride a BMW K75. This bike makes a noise like a hummingbird caught in a top hat. The sound didn't last long as traffic was at standstill. So here I was, the world's largest living mammal, dressed in black, sitting on a nuclear reactor in the sunshine, behind a Parabellum fairing the size of a sheet of plywood.
I began giving off 25,000 BTUs per minute.
It was time to look for an oasis. The closest stop on my list was "The Velvet Pocket," a joint of faded glory in Phoenixville. Parked outside this place was an F650, with a leopard-skin cover over the gas tank. The bike belonged to Cheri Pie, a gifted pole dancer who was inside plying her trade at the moment. She was wearing a tee shirt adorned with a picture of a BMW F650 over three words: "Women In Chains." Below that, she wore only an invitation.
Not quite Cheri Pie's Leopard F650 but you get the idea.
Owner: Sang Nguyen -- Exotic Vehicle Collector
My adventure had begun in earnest.
I took a seat up front. Cheri Pie hadn't taken her eyes off me from the second I swirled the dim light with my presence.
"You are a BMW rider," she said, biting her lower lip.
"Maybe," I answered in my unmistakable Clint Eastwood way. "How can you tell?"
"Because you are sitting in a T&A bar, wearing a ballistic jacket, helmet, and gloves," she replied.
"All of the gear, all of the time," I said in a purposeful voice, absently tapping the roll of quarters in my front pocket.
"Oooooooooooooo." she said.
The local chrome and noise biker crowd arrived at this time. It was clear they thought the place was theirs. Cheri Pie was a bonus to be passed around, with everyone taking a slice. The leader was a neckless human tattoo wrapped in leather pants, a leather vest, and a leather jacket. Cheri Pie looked like a deer caught in the headlights of a stream roller.
"You," he said, pointing at me. "Get the fuck out."
I stood slowly and reached for the bottle of rum on my table. I showed the bottle to the bikers, tapping it with my keys to indicate it was glass. Then I shattered it against the roll of quarters in my crotch.
"Damn," said the leader of the chrome and noise boys. "That's tough."
"Now you try it."
To his credit, he picked up a bourbon bottle and smashed himself in the balls. A second later he was on the floor moaning.
"Anybody else," I asked. There were no takers. "I'm leaving and I'm taking the girl."
Three minutes later I was on the road again, and Cheri Pie was riding alongside on her F650.
"Where are we going," she shouted.
The look of fear returned to her eyes the second time that day.
To be continued...
Copyright Jack Riepe 2007
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Delphi)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)