Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My First Poker Run

Author’s note: This story was written in 2005, a full year before I met anyone at the Mac-Pac (my primary riding club). I didn’t know one other person with a BMW.

I am a middle-aged train wreck of a man with the muscular definition of Wonder Bread. Deep inside, however, I am a nomadic biker, with a steel blue Clint Eastwood-like gaze, reflexes like lightening, and the mating instincts (and ethics) of a mink. There are days when the nomadic biker in me insists on taking control, and I am compelled to seek out my own kind.

When my inner biker-nomad is at the controls, I ride to catch some fleeting moment of my youth... To con myself into thinking I am still an alpha male... To get to a destination in my mind defined by the arc of banked curves. Since this is my mind we are talking about, this same place is populated by topless tattooed women who beg to do my bidding, and Viking-like men who fear me.

In the spring of my first season as a re-entry rider (2005), I came across a notice for something called a "poker run." According to the flyer, hundreds of bikers would be converging on a nearby town to raise money for a worthy cause. Structured around a beautiful ride through 5 covered bridges in Chester County, PA, I thought this would be a great opportunity to meet others of my kind and to ride with bikers united in a common cause.


Five covered bridges like this one were the excuse to ride, drink, and play cards
during the first and only poker run that I ever attended.

Between rendezvous points at the bridges, the flyer claimed we'd muster at a few saloons, play a few hands of poker, and shoot the breeze before launching ourselves into it. The concept appealed to me. While I had no idea how to play poker, I did know how to get the most out of a saloon. The ride was to followed by a barbecue and a raging party for anyone who wanted to camp on the grounds of the fraternal organization hosting the event.

But best the best aspect to participating in this ride was that I'd be with bikers. I could ride with folks who really knew what they were doing. Guys who twisted adventure from their throttles. And women who could twist a man's DNA with a smile. There was bound to be a few riders on Beemers. I was sure they'd welcome me as a new disciple in the true religion. Registration started at 9 am. I was up at 6 am, wiping down the Beemer, checking the air in the tires and the level of the engine oil, brushing my teeth with the stub of a cigar to give me that "rake-hell" air, and taking my Celebrex so I wouldn't fall over at the first "stop" sign.


"I didn't know how to play poker, but I knew how to get the most out of a saloon."
Note the author is drinking a bourbon Manhattan in a biker bar, where beer is 
typically served in plastic cups. (Click to enlarge)
(Photo courtesy of Pete Buchheit, who insists on getting full credit, whenever he takes one
of these things as people tend to ignore him under other circumstances .)


The directions to the rally point weren't quite clear. I got within a mile or two of the place and got passed by a guy on a great vintage Beemer. He was headed in the same general direction, and I naturally concluded he'd be a participant. So I just followed him. Twenty minutes and ten miles later, I realized I'd been shadowing some guy just passing through the county. I turned back and found the poker run the same way Columbus discovered America -- by mistake.

At 8:55 am, there were 28 bikes in various lines waiting for the run to begin. Twenty-seven of them were Harley Davidsons.

I can say with absolute certainty that my first hump wasn't as sexy as the motorcycles in that parking lot. The studded leather, the gleaming chrome, and the paint jobs that rivaled the richness of the Sistine Chapel threatened to overcome my senses. There was every form of customized expression on two wheels. One machine had a license plate held in the jaws of a laughing skull. Another had grips like the lugged handles on a bayonet. A stunning flawless paint job of a third was beautifully reflected in pool of oil slowly spreading out underneath it.


This was the bug-eyed image I presented to the Harley crowd at my first poker run.
Jack Riepe on a 1986 K75 With A Sprint fairing.


Twenty-four of the riders were men, averaging six foot, seven inches of taut muscle and 94-octane testosterone. They appeared to be encased in leather. The other three riders were women, all of whom were wearing chaps taken directly from my adolescent fantasies. (I would have lent my own skin to any of these ladies for the same purpose provided my sense of touch would work via remote.)

One of the Harley's started with a barrage of exhaust that blew the roof off a garden shed across the street.

I whined into this mix on my Beemer. (I originally wrote that I "roared in" on my Beemer, but this would be a gross exaggeration of the sound my old Luftmeister muffler actually made.) My former K75 was unique in that it had a Sprint fairing, originally designed for a Triumph -- but bearing a BMW roundel molded into the windshield. These fairings are rather rare. This bike looked like a futuristic teutonic touring machine from 1986. Nevertheless, I felt like the guy who showed up at a cockfight carrying a rabbit.

I registered, and stood by my machine in silence for about 20 minutes. If anyone asked, I intended to tell them I was there to enter the "quietest pipes but largest dick contest." The other riders sort of looked at me sideways, like they suspected I was a bus-station faggot.

"Screw this," I thought, and began walking around, slowly and deliberately looking at the Harleys. I acknowledged the visual perfection of each bike with a sage nod and a tight smile.

I cannot deny that I also slowly and deliberately checked out the chap-framed butts of the three ladies in attendance. I wisely refrained from any display of acknowledgment (visual perfection not withstanding), remembering advice my father once gave me. "Shitbird," my dad said, using his special name for me, "Never flirt with nor antagonize a woman who gives the impression she can kick the living shit out of you either in anger or foreplay."

About this time the poker run got under way. Riders got their directions and starting heading out in groups of three and four. That was when I realized I'd be riding alone. I didn't know anybody and the BMW crowd failed to materialize. Furthermore, the run's directions spanned two typewritten pages.

"How the hell am I going to read these and ride at the same time," I thought. My tank bag was equipped with a clear plastic sleeve for directions, and I remembered how great it looked on the workbench back in the garage.

"Excuse me," said a voice. "My name is Ray, and I was just admiring your bike."

The speaker was a soft-spoken gentleman, wearing a striped sport shirt and blue shop pants. He asked a few questions about the K75's fairing then shook my hand. His bike was the 28th in my count, and stood off by itself. It was 1978 Honda Goldwing with a sidecar, which at the moment was filled to overflowing with a human-sized plush replica of the Warner Brothers' cartoon character Yosemite Sam. A fluttering American flag completed the sidecar's look.

“Great,” I thought to myself. “The two confirmed douches at this event are now talking to each other.”

With no small degree of pride, Ray explained how he'd built the sidecar and mount from boxes of parts he bought "here and there." He showed me some little personal touches he'd added to the bike (other than Sam) and asked if I was familiar with the route. I learned he didn't know anyone either at this poker run but knew how poker runs worked in general. Suddenly, I was delighted for this gentleman’s hospitality.

"Would you mind very much if I rode with you today," I asked.

Here in an instant, the ruins of my expectations were about to be salvaged by a total stranger. (And I learned my first lesson about real bikers.) Ray said "yes," and, in gratitude, I appointed him navigator. My reasoning was simple. He had three wheels and I had two. This numerical advantage allowed him to look at his set of directions without falling over.

I trailed Ray into the first little town center. Rolling down Main Street, he switched on a recording of carousel music (which poured out of hidden speakers) and did a gentle weave within his lane. The effect was positively astounding! Everybody around us stopped to look. Had I been on the loudest Harley with a naked Angelina Jolie sitting on my handlebars -- no one would have noticed. (If you are Angelina Jolie and you are reading this, I would like to propose a little experiment in the interest of science.)

Ray was an absolute pisser to ride with. As an re-entry rider, my skills were brutally basic. Ray set a great pace though gentle wooded curves, along the banks of the Brandywine river and other assorted streams. We found the bridges and the bars. At one stop, the poker game was incredibly vicious, with the losers taking off their clothes and hurling them in a pile. (It was here Ray pointed out we were in the wrong bar.) The carousel music came on whenever the traffic slowed or we passed through a town center. The effect was always the same. I have never had the opportunity to ride in a circus parade, but I can say I've done the next best thing!

My arthritis started to get the best of me 5 hours into the run. That, plus the thrill of hitting a bridge with an open steel deck coming out of a blind curve, led me to believe I'd had enough for one day. (At the time, bridges with steel floors scared the shit out of me.) Neither Ray nor I had a pen. We shook hands and split. I haven't heard from him since. If anybody knows this guy, drop me a line. I'd really like to ride with him again.

"So did you find your own kind today," said my squeeze upon my return.

"I found someone who was exactly like me," I replied. "Only more so."

"I can't believe there was a bigger douche than you at this thing," she said.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2005
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Damned Computer

I have no idea how I managed to screw things up so that the last post ran twice. But I did. I guess the devil really is in the details.

I regret the error.

©Copyright Jack Riepe2008
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With a Shrug)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Devil Is In The Details...

Not every detail makes it into print, particularly in my stories. There are a number of good reasons for this. Some explanations are too complicated for the purpose of the piece. Others lead to tangents which can breed distracting opinions on the part of the reader. And finally, a certain percentage are either too boring or too unbelievable to be incorporated into the text.

The previous posting dealt with an unusual situation in which my girlfriend of the day, and pillion rider at that moment, helped me resolve a mechanical problem in the dark, by using an illuminated adult lovemaking toy, as I had no reliable flashlight. That was absolutely true... But not quite accurate. There was one detail that I left out of the story because it fit each of the reasons I have just outlined. As such,this fact normally would have been lost to posterity as it is unlikely either the lady, myself, nor the police would have cause to revisit the tale on national television.

But I had lunch last Friday with the self-appointed Mac-Pac* Editorial Review Board, and one subject under discussion was the credibility of motorcycle blogs. As far as the truth goes, several of my stories were thrown under the bus of suspicion. The chief prosecutor was “Big Jim” Ellenberg, who is on crutches after falling off his motorcycle (which was traveling at a low rate of speed, in a straight line, on a clear day, with no perceived obstacles in sight).

Not only did I insist that I wrote the truth, but I decided to reveal the missing detail of the last story. “Big Jim” thought it should have been included, so I have decided to present it here, as a kind of addendum.

Presuming you have read the previous post...

Thirty seconds before the engine quit on my 1975 Kawasaki 750 triple, my thoughts were of arriving at my destination, having a couple of drinks, and getting laid. Quite frankly, this was my weekend agenda for 6 or 7 years; and looking back, it would be hard to improve upon it, even today.

The night in question was warm and sticky. Most folks don’t realize how humid it can get in New York’s Catskills and Adirondacks in the summer. But this was of no concern to me as the breeze was cool enough at 50 mph on a naked bike. In a split second, the lights went out and the engine died on the only straight stretch of road I’d been on in an hour. This was so unexpected that I had no idea what to think. While the power was off, the engine continued to rumble but started slowing the bike down dramatically. It got quiet fast when I pulled in the clutch. Dismounted and considering the situation, I started to sweat. I popped up the seat and poured droplets of perspiration on the electrical component of the bike. And then the mosquitoes and the “No-See-Ums” got the range.

I had a temper like a rattle snake caught in car door in those days. My first reaction was to say “Fuck,” at least 240 times. Those of you familiar with my writing will understand that my mechanical abilities are a standing joke among three motorcycle clubs. A screwdriver in my hands becomes a deadly weapon.

The cheap flashlight failed (as described previously) early in the game. My girlfriend was a smoker (and a saint), who offered to light matches. As I recall, I responded to this offer in a rather unkindly way, probably with my “fuck” mantra. This was long before the cell phone was invented and we were way out in the boonies. I don’t think I had seen a light or another vehicle in almost an hour.

The fact that the bike’s lights had failed at the same time the engine quit was a dead giveaway the problem was electrical. That much I could figure out. I didn’t think it was a battery nor alternator failure as the lights went from brilliant to off. I had no idea if the machine had fuses, where they were, or if there was a spare. My first thought was that a cable had come off the battery.

It was at this point that this beautiful and patient girl unveiled the lovemaking toy with the light in it. Now some men would be a bit concerned that their partner had brought along a huge rubber, pulsating, self-illuminated dick on a weekend date. Not me. I was intrigued. In fact, I was trying to imagine how she looked buying it. I found the whole proposition rather stimulating.

I remember saying, “Aside from the fact it lights up, it’s just like mine.”

This device was a forerunner of the now famous vibrator known as “The Rabbit,” of Sex in the City fame. Not nearly as sophisticated as they are today, this unit had one function and it was necessary to switch it on to get the light to work. So there I was, bent over the bike, sweating like hell, trying to read a manual, by the faint light of a penis that made a noise like a coffee grinder, while describing slow circles above my head.

And that is how the police found me when they pulled up.

This was the missing detail. Please let me know if it was worth telling.

* The Mac-Pac Eating and Wrenching Society is the Euro-Tech motorcycle club based in south east Pennsylvania that I ride with. Members ride many different and exotic marques but the predominant badge is BMW.

©Copyright Jack Riepe2008
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)

The Devil Is In The Details...

Not every detail makes it into print, particularly in my stories. There are a number of good reasons for this. Some explanations are too complicated for the purpose of the piece. Others lead to tangents which can breed distracting opinions on the part of the reader. And finally, a certain percentage are either too boring or too unbelievable to be incorporated into the text.

The previous posting dealt with an unusual situation in which my girlfriend of the day, and pillion rider at that moment, helped me resolve a mechanical problem in the dark, by using an illuminated adult lovemaking toy, as I had no reliable flashlight. That was absolutely true... But not quite accurate. There was one detail that I left out of the story because it fit each of the reasons I have just outlined. As such,this fact normally would have been lost to posterity as it is unlikely either the lady, myself, nor the police would have cause to revisit the tale on national television.

But I had lunch last Friday with the self-appointed Mac-Pac* Editorial Review Board, and one subject under discussion was the credibility of motorcycle blogs. As far as the truth goes, several of my stories were thrown under the bus of suspicion. The chief prosecutor was “Big Jim” Ellenberg, who is on crutches after falling off his motorcycle (which was traveling at a low rate of speed, in a straight line, on a clear day, with no perceived obstacles in sight).

Mac-Pac Editorial Review Board Acting Chairman "Big Jim" Ellenberg threw
several of this blog's stories under the "bus of suspicion" for credibility.

Not only did I insist that I wrote the truth, but I decided to reveal the missing detail of the last story. “Big Jim” thought it should have been included, so I have decided to present it here, as a kind of addendum.

Presuming you have read the previous post...

Thirty seconds before the engine quit on my 1975 Kawasaki 750 triple, my thoughts were of arriving at my destination, having a couple of drinks, and getting laid. Quite frankly, this was my weekend agenda for 6 or 7 years; and looking back, it would be hard to improve upon it, even today.

The night in question was warm and sticky. Most folks don’t realize how humid it can get in New York’s Catskills and Adirondacks in the summer. But this was of no concern to me as the breeze was cool enough at 50 mph on a naked bike. In a split second, the lights went out and the engine died on the only straight stretch of road I’d been on in an hour. This was so unexpected that I had no idea what to think. While the power was off, the engine continued to rumble but started slowing the bike down dramatically. It got quiet fast when I pulled in the clutch. Dismounted and considering the situation, I started to sweat. I popped up the seat and poured droplets of perspiration on the electrical component of the bike. And then the mosquitoes and the “No-See-Ums” got the range.

I had a temper like a rattle snake caught in car door in those days. My first reaction was to say “Fuck,” at least 240 times. Those of you familiar with my writing will understand that my mechanical abilities are a standing joke among three motorcycle clubs. A screwdriver in my hands becomes a deadly weapon.


In those days, I had a temper like a rattlesnake...
Photo courtesy of  "What To Look For In A Divorce Lawyer"


The cheap flashlight failed (as described previously) early in the game. My girlfriend was a smoker (and a saint), who offered to light matches. As I recall, I responded to this offer in a rather unkindly way, probably with my “fuck” mantra. This was long before the cell phone was invented and we were way out in the boonies. I don’t think I had seen a light or another vehicle in almost an hour.

The fact that the bike’s lights had failed at the same time the engine quit was a dead giveaway the problem was electrical. That much I could figure out. I didn’t think it was a battery nor alternator failure as the lights went from brilliant to off. I had no idea if the machine had fuses, where they were, or if there was a spare. My first thought was that a cable had come off the battery.

It was at this point that this beautiful and patient girl unveiled the lovemaking toy with the light in it. Now some men would be a bit concerned that their partner had brought along a huge rubber, pulsating, self-illuminated dick on a weekend date. Not me. I was intrigued. In fact, I was trying to imagine how she looked buying it. I found the whole proposition rather stimulating.

I remember saying, “Aside from the fact it lights up, it’s just like mine.”

This device was a forerunner of the now famous vibrator known as “The Jack Rabbit,” of Sex in the City fame. Not nearly as sophisticated as they are today, this unit had one function and it was necessary to switch it on to get the light to work. So there I was, bent over the bike, sweating like hell, trying to read a manual, by the faint light of a penis that made a noise like a coffee grinder, while describing slow circles above my head.

And that is how the police found me when they pulled up.

This was the missing detail. Please let me know if it was worth telling.

* The Mac-Pac Eating and Wrenching Society is the Euro-Tech motorcycle club based in south east Pennsylvania that I ride with. Members ride many different and exotic marques but the predominant badge is BMW.

___________________________________________________


Many of you have mentioned that you cannot readily discern how to leave a comment on my blog. It is really easy to do. At the end of each post (story, episode, or installment), look to the bottom right, where you will see the word "comments" preceded by a number, in red. Just click on the word "comments." It will take you to a page where you can read the remarks of others, and publish your own in the box at the top right. By leaving a comment, you are eligible to win a $50 gift card for a free dinner in a restaurant near you.

©Copyright Jack Riepe2008
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Light From Within

What is the most you would pay for a tool?

There have been times when I would have paid $10,000,000.00 for a working flashlight. A flashlight is like running water, in that you never think about it until you desperately need it. That’s generally when you reach into your tool kit, top case, or tank bag , grab the light, and curse at the pale yellow beam dribbling through the lens. Or worse, after testing the light before taking a trip (and replacing the batteries with fresh ones), you discover the bulb's frail filament has succumbed to the machine’s vibration (howsoever slight). But you will discover this in the dark, on the shoulder of a deserted road -- as the rain begins to fall.

Years ago, I found myself riding up to a mountain hideaway with a black-haired honey clinging to the pillion. We took the trip in easy stages, timing our arrival to coincide with the sliver of a moon rising over a lake. The machine was a legendary 1975 Kawasaki 750 triple (the widow-maker). This primitive fire-breathing two-stroke Komodo street dragon had five moving parts, a battery, and some wires. It was the golden-era of motorcycling, when ailing bikes didn’t have to go a mechanical neurosurgeon.


The 1975 Kawasaki 750 had an operating personality similar to a Komodo Dragon.

We were on a back road running through a forest in the Sullivan County Catskills, when the familiar “yingggggg-- ying, ying” of the engine went silent and the headlight went out. Fortunately, the road was straight and coming to halt blacked out in the darkness was not a problem. There is generally some sense of light on all but the darkest of overcast nights, and I could see enough to push the bike to side of the road.

I reached into my pack (strapped to the sissy bar) and pulled out the finest specimen of a $1.50 drugstore flashlight. You may remember the type: a thin aluminum tube with a metal end cap and a bulb encased in a red plastic lens holder. The switch was a two-cent plastic slider that brought a thin metal strip into contact with the base of the bulb.

I hit the switch and an anemic beam of light flickered and dimmed. I whacked the tube with my hand and the light got much brighter for about five seconds. I whacked it again, and the top flew off into the dark night, followed by the batteries.

“Shit,” I hissed.

“I have a light, sort of,” giggled the babe. Feeling around in her stuff, she produced a kind of vibrator, that was part adult love-making toy, and part flashlight. I had never seen anything like it. She switched it on.

“What the hell is that,” I asked.

“I thought it might be fun this weekend,” she said.

I know a good time when I see one and had the presence of mind to shut up as I considered the possibilities.

It wasn’t much different from the cheap light that had come apart in my hand, except for the lens, which instead of a red plastic collar surrounding a bulb, was a glowing, six-inch long phallus. (See link above.) Attempts to separate the artificial schwanstucker from the light were unsuccessful. It was glued in pretty tightly.

“Never mind,” I said. “It gives off enough light to check the fuse.” (You read that correctly. The bike had one fuse, a glass tube encased in a rubber cover with a spare, mounted to the frame under the seat. “You hold the light and I’ll change it.”

It was downright peculiar to be working on my bike by the light of a penis, but the poetic justice of the situation appealed to my writer’s sensibility. The woman held the glowing dick over my head while I popped the old fuse out, and fumbled with the new one. I almost had the machine back together again, when this gentle beauty said, “There’s a car coming.”

Before I could say a word, she started signaling the approaching vehicle with the shining penis. “Don’t wave that at anybody,” I hissed. But I was too late. The red flashing roof lights of the car came on a second later.

“Shit,” I said for the second time that night.

The cops could barely keep a straight face as I explained the situation. The spotlight on the squad car bathed the bike in white penetrating light. My girlfriend looked great in her boots, jeans and leather jacket, holding a glowing dick like some strange version of the Statue of Sexual Liberty. The parts of my broken flashlight were retrieved, and the Kawasaki started on the second kick. Quite frankly, it was a great weekend and I often wonder what’s she’s doing now.

But since then, I haven’t skimped when it comes to flashlights. And I discovered that size isn’t everything. Pound for pound, nothing performs like a Mini Maglite.

My love affair with 2AA Mini Maglites has been going on for years. The black Mini Maglite in my toolkit is 15 years old. It has been dropped on concrete, stones, and in a creek. It has been left out in the rain without any apparent ill affects. It is still essential that the batteries get checked and changed or else the operator will still find himself dealing with the pale yellow light.

The 2AA Mini Maglite has many pluses. They are:
1) Virtually indestructible.
2) No switches to break. You turn it on by rotating the head. (It can’t be switched on by accident in your pocket or top case.
3) Spare bulb in the base of the light.
4) Beam focuses from flood to spot.
5) Candle feature let’s you light up the interior of a tent.
6) Nite Ize makes a useful Glow-Spot shade for emergencies that fit this light.

It has one drawback:
a) It is round and it will roll.

The cost of the standard Mini Maglite varies from $9.99 to $12.99. You won’t cry if you lose it, but it will last indefinitely if you keep track of it. So what? You all know this. Anyone who has done serious camping is aware of the Mini Maglite.

Yet on two occasions, I reached for my Mini Maglite with fresh batteries and found the bulb had blown. I suspect the vibration from the bike broke the filament in the bulb. Hence I started to experiment with LED flashlights. Mini Maglite makes one in the 2AA category, but it is $24.00. In 1960, $24 bought a car, a pint of whiskey, and companionship for a weekend. I balk at spending $24 for a mini flashlight.


You can pay up to $200 -- or more -- for a military spec L.E.D flashlight. They have a 
circuit to regulate brightness as the batteries wear down. L.E.D. lights have metal bodies
as they give off heat which the tubes serve to dissipate. 

Nite Ize is a US company that makes a lot of cool stuff for Mini Maglites. These include holsters, stands, safety gear, and a rubber “Lite Bite” that lets you hold a Mini Maglite in your teeth. The most practical of this stuff is their L.E.D. Upgrade Combo kit for the 2AA Mini Maglite. For $10 bucks, this kit enables you to convert your existing Mini Maglites into L.E.D. flashlights. Ten dollars is $14 bucks cheaper than the new Mini Maglites.

I gave it shot. The kit consists of two parts. The top is a little light basket with three L.E.D.s in it. It takes two seconds to install it. The bottom piece is a push-button switch. The light will still work like the original, in that you must turn the top to first switch it on. Theoretically, you focus it to suit your needs, and then use the push-button switch to avoid having to refocus it.

Don’t bother installing the push-button switch. The focus of the light barely changes no matter how you turn the top, and the push-button makes it very easy to switch the light on in your pocket. Is the top part still worth $10? You bet. Especially if you have four or five Mini-Maglites you want to convert. The unit gives off a white light while dramatically extending the life of the batteries. The pattern is that of a flood light which is fine for maintenance, map reading, or camp activities.

Then my riding partner Dick Bregstein gave me a Husky L.E.D. mini flashlight. This Chinese-made unit is also all metal, has 12 L.E.Ds, uses 3 AA batteries in a “carriage” and throws off a brilliant white flood light, with a slight blue tint to it. It uses a stiff push-button switch that will not depress easily in your pocket. It is $5.99. It also has a notched bezel that keeps it from rolling. It’s hard to get around the price. The light works so well, it has become the “house” flashlight.

What do I carry on my bike? The $24 L.E.D Mini Maglite! Why? Couple of reasons. It works the best. I like the company. It is a staunch US manufacturer which means quality jobs in this country. (Read their manufacturing philosophy.) You can still focus this beam. And it fits nicely into a headband I got to turn it into a “headlamp.” Besides, it's red and matches my bike. The spare light is a Nite Ize conversion. I still love Mini Maglites. For all practical purposes, the $5.99 Husky is as good as anything. The switch will eventually fail, but not before you got your $6 bucks out of it. I just hate to contribute to a contrived economy -- like China's -- that has very little regard for working conditions or the environment. In that respect, it fails to meet my criteria. Besides, there is something about buying stuff once, and having it forever.

Please note: I bought all of the equipment mentioned above -- for the exception of the Husky flashlight that Dick Bregstein bought. I accepted no payment, nor any consideration, in my evaluation of these products. This is not something I insist on... It's just that no one offered.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2008
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Trouble With The Cops Again...

The police just left here and I got the distinct impression they were greatly disappointed that I wasn’t handcuffed in the back of the car. It never ceases to amaze me how a simple and straightforward philosophical point can escalate into a major grievance -- often involving long-faced authority. In this particular case, the philosophical point is that a man’s garage is his temple.

This philosophy may be subject to interpretation depending on the circumstances. For example, in the case of assertive alpha males (who make the ground tremble when they walk), the garage becomes a master mechanic’s surgery, with tool chests on rollers, flawless workbenches, and tools hanging on little pegs like chromium steel pork chops in a butcher’s window.

My friend Clyde Jacobs has a garage like this. All that is missing is the hand-lettered sign from the “Little Rascals” that reads, “He-Man Woman Haters Club... No Women Allowed.” (The reason this sign is missing is because Clyde’s wife Patty, who is about 25 percent his size, would insert her foot far into his ass.) The floor of Clyde’s garage is oil-resistant rubber and has a turntable built into it so he can rotate his BMW like a 45 rpm record, with one hand.

Another buddy of mine, Eric DucDude (so named for his Ducati affinity) also has a garage like this with semiprecious motorcycles (some old, some new) all reposing on battery tenders like an ad for a Euro-tech bike spa. I’ve been to his garage once, and I swear he looks at home walking through it wearing a white lab coat and carrying a clipboard.

Then there are the non-Alpha males... Men like myself who have had their lungs and balls removed by the hell-spawned attorneys of former wives. My “temple” is about 20 square feet in a three-bay garage, subject to shrinkage by antique furniture acquisitions, gardening supplies, and the detritus of various home improvement projects, all at the discretion of the haus frau, who periodically reminds me that I live here at her fickle pleasure. I am chagrinned to inform the gentle reader that a packed suitcase is kept by the door to remind me that I am always close to the gutter.

Nevertheless, I still regard this 20 square feet as my final refuge. It is where I can go to admire my bike and sit with a drink and a cigar. (Of course, I have to go outside if I want to light the cigar.) Yet even this modest male-retreat is under constant surveillance and siege. The nice old lady who lives next door has a cat named “Houdini,” who has determined that there is no better place in the world than this garage for taking a piss.

Now there are no broken windows in this garage. The cat simply waits until one of the doors goes up, then dashes in and signs his name on the nearest pile of rags, carpeting remnant, or my Joe Rocket ballistic jacket. Whatever is available. He’s out again two seconds later. He’s like a feline Zorro, signing a “Z” in yellow ink.

For those of you who have not read, Fun Facts About Cats, these animals do not have a strong sense of smell. A sense of smell is considered useful in the wild if you intend to mate. Even in the watered down version of nature that we call “society,” smell triggers certain reactions. It is why women spend a fortune on perfume and cologne. It is also why men laugh when they fart. Nature has compensated the cat for a poor sense of smell with piss that can be detected by other cats 143 miles away. (NASA once published a paper saying that cat piss is the only aroma on earth that can be easily detected in space.)

All I wanted at first was to discourage the cat from coming into the garage. I tried putting mothballs in the corners and around the workbench. I set unbaited mousetraps on the rags. I started letting the two huge dogs that live here into the garage. One went to vet's for eating the mothballs. The other limped back into the house with mousetraps on every foot, his nose, and tail.

Then I was out for blood. I borrowed a chipper, put an old towel and a bowl of milk in its feeder opening, then left the garage open. All to no avail.

This morning was the last straw.

I was attempting to perform a frivolous bit of maintenance, which boils down to hanging a “ride bell” from the center stand on my 1995 K75 BMW. According to legend, the ride bell should be hung down low on a bike, where its gentle tinkling will discourage gremlins from working their mischief. The bells are silver in color, and generally have a design on them. The one I was attaching to “Fire Balls,” is called a “Writer’s Bell,” as it bears the image of a naked woman, who is handing a drink to a man, who performs no useful work. My squeeze gave it to me as a gift. Ride bells of various design are common among the cruiser crowd, though I have seen a few Beemers with them as well.


The Typical Ride Bell... Shown slightly larger than actual size.

It was a delightful day outside, with the cool hint of an early fall. Naturally, the garage door was wide open. I was on the floor under my bike, when I witnessed four furry feet slink past me. The cat sashayed over to my gear (which was heaped in a pile on the floor), and squatted up against my helmet. It was about to unload into my $350 Nolan.

Not two inches from my hand was the remote to close the garage door. I hit the button and the trap was sprung. “Houdini” was my prisoner in the garage. You should have seen the look on his furry little face as I backed him into a corner. We stared at each other in a stalemate, and then I unzipped my fly in preparation to pay this cat back in kind. It occurred to me that this is one of those ideas that sound much better in barroom conversation than in reality. There was no guarantee the cat would sit there and just take it. The thought of chasing the cat around while hosing off my own stuff seemed somewhat self-defeating.

And then I knew what I was going to do. I donned my armored ballistic jacket, helmet, and gloves on the outside chance “Houdini” wouldn’t cooperate. (This turned out to be a wise precaution.) The deed was done in two seconds and I released one thoroughly aggravated cat out into the driveway.

I felt 20 years younger. I whistled. I did some work in the garage. I poured myself a drink and lit a cigar in an act of total defiance. Ten minutes later, Mrs. Hackleschmackle appeared at the door with two cops. She held the sneering cat in her arms.

“Does this belong to you,” asked the first cop, who looked like a skinhead working for the post office in a totalitarian state. Using his baton (club) he pointed to the ride bell attached to the cat’s neck via a Radio Shack wire tie.

“No,” I lied, using the kind of intense nonchalance that only public relations Jedi masters can muster.

“Yes it is,” said the hag from next door. “His girlfriend showed it to me yesterday.” I had no trouble envisioning Leslie joining this crone in picking me out of a police lineup. Fortunately, she had left for Europe.

“I did have one like it, officers,” I said, “And my girlfriend did get it for me. But I sold it so I’d have some money for whisky.”

‘Well just how do you think we should resolve this,” asked the second cop, using a tone of voice which suggested that he didn’t really give a damn for whatever answer I might pose.

“Officers,” I said with quiet authority. “If I were you, I’d walk this lady back to her house, and beat the shit out of her with your night sticks. It’s the only known cure for Alzheimer's.”

And I closed the garage door for the second time that day.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2008
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished!

Nothing is as exciting as a race with two-wheeled vehicles My first experience with motorcycle racing was at Summit Point Motorsports Park, in Summit Point West Virginia. Mac-Pac member and fabled BMW wrench Tom Cutter was competing in a WERA-sanctioned event, and a bunch of us made the trip down to cheer. I will never forget standing at the midpoint in the first straight-away, as men and machines streaked by at 150 miles per hour. The sight was incredible and the noise was almost three dimensional.

Racer and fabled BMW wrench Tom Cutter with Jack Riepe at Summit Point.
Next to getting laid, this is alleged to be a high point in Riepe's life.
Riepe is riding Blue Balls, before it was destroyed in the crash.
(Click to enlarge, but stand back.)

But two-wheel races don’t have to be confined to triple digit speeds to be exciting. And they can be as quiet as the sound of dripping sweat or the clicking of a Shimano derailleur flipping a chain over the rear cassette. Bicycle racing calls for the instincts and reflexes of a leopard, with the stamina of a steam engine, and the muscles of an Olympic contender. And occasionally, they call for the assistance of a motomarshal.

These are the incredibly cool individuals on motorcycles herding the bicyclists around. In professional and sponsored races, they sometimes carry photographers and television cameramen, while escorting the riders through traffic. In charity events, they assist the bicyclists through traffic, and provide other assistance and services for riders confronted with mechanical challenges. It is sophisticated work requiring no small amount of skill.

Motomarshals must often ride and maneuver at slow speeds. The races and rides take place on public roads, so there is traffic and pedestrians. They may find themselves mounting and dismounting in confined spaces -- often. Their bikes may be balanced precariously on the edges of narrow roads. And their topcases and panniers will be stuffed with first aid kits, water, bicycle tubes, patch kits and pumps. (Actually, aside from the bicycle inner tubes, most Beemer riders carry this stuff anyway.)

Many Mac-Pac members have volunteered for this kind of duty. At least nine of the club’s members joined Kimi Bush at the Multiple Sclerosis 150 PA Dutch Ride this past July. They were Corey Lyba, Charlie Gilman, Jay Scales, Tom Byrum, Mike Evans, Georgina Texeira, Doug Bennett, Jim Corry, his son Jameson, and Carl Millhouse.

Mike Evans demonstrates the perfect riding posture expected of a motomarshal.
Training is provided by the Federal Motomarshal Program
(Click to enlarge)

But this story goes beyond recognizing those dedicated souls who ride simply for a good cause. It is the tale of Mike Evans, and proof that no good deed goes unpunished.

On Saturday, September 6th, 2008, Mike Evans was motomarshalling in the fast-paced Univest Grand Prix, in Souderton, Pa, on his blue 1999 Suzuki Bandit. This race was one of only 13 Union Cyclist International (UCI)-ranked professional road cycling competitions for men in the United States, drawing 150 riders from 16 countries. It was also the day when a few thunder boomers would sweep the area.

Motomarshal Mike Evans on his rare 1999 Suzuki Bandit
At the MS 150 Pa Dutch Ride
(Click To Enlarge)

Thirty miles into the race, Evans got caught holding traffic while the entire race procession went past him. He had been assigned to ride in the lead, but realized there was no way he could get ahead of the pack from behind now.

“I considered my options and realized the best one was to veer from course, take some side roads, and come out in front of them,” said Evans.

This was the moment it started to rain. “The drops were petite at first,” said Evans, “About the size of Green Giant LeSeur peas. You know, the ones that come in the silver can. They had that clean, fresh rain smell to them. But they got bigger and there were a lot of them.”

The raindrops started out about the size of LeSueur Peas

Evans turned onto a quaint road that quickly became a steep down-hill, complete with running water. It was then he discovered he had absolutely no traction with either wheel.

“The front wheel slipped momentarily and I let up slightly on he front brake. Then the back wheel started to lock up and I let up on that as well,” said Evans. He continued putting light pressure on the front brake and toggling the back, desperately seeking traction on a road surface that rivaled wet glass. Fighting panic, this veteran rider fishtailed his way down this hill in typical mountain bike descent fashion. (Fishtailing is where the rear-end sways uncontrollably.)

“Nearing the bottom of the hill, I realized I was not scrubbing off enough speed to make a 90-degree right turn coming at me,” said Evans. “Straight ahead was a field of waist-high weeds and grasses. I left the road surface behind for the salad bar.” But if he thought the road was slippery, the wet vegetation was worse with his street tires. Evans made it a good way into the field, bouncing over and through ruts until finally the front wheel just lost bite altogether and zipped out from under him.

“I went down on my right shoulder and side. The wind was knocked out of me instantly.”

Evans lay there for a moment, listening to the raindrops landing on his helmet, punctuated by the occasional report being blurted out over the race radio he had with him. He took a mental inventory of what hurt or felt strange and worked to get air back into his lungs with some regularity.

“I began to feel around and move my limbs a bit and gradually sat up. From where I lay all the weeds were taller than me so I could not see the road, nor could anyone from the road see me, not that it mattered as no one came down this road for the balance of the time I spent there,” said Evans. He reached over and turned off the bike.

He got up, walked around a bit and began carrying various items up the
the roadside. Then he went back for the bike.

“My right shoulder was screaming but I was able to lift the bike in the correct manner without putting too much pressure on the shoulder. Then I pushed the bike up through grass back to the road,” said the shaken rider.

On-Site mechanical damage summary:
• various plastic scrapes and cracked fairing
• right side mirror knocked loose.

“A nice scrape and gash in the side of my helmet was right behind my ear. A cool guy cruiser salad bowl helmet likely would not have helped in this case,” Evans reflected. “Otherwise all seemed well. I pulled out the tools, tightened down the mirror and climbed back on. A quick blip of the starter brought the Suzuli’s engine back to life and off I went back to catch the race.”


The damage to Mike Evans 1999 Suzuki Bandit
Waist-high grass hid a minefield of debris.
(Click to enlarge)


Evans noticed that his sore shoulder seemed to have a good range of motion with some tightness and dull pain, until he put any pressure on the bars. Then it felt as though a knife were sticking in his neck. He guessed he had a broken collar bone. He guessed right.


The typical broken collar bone
(Click to enlarge)


Nevertheless, Evans got back onto the course ahead of the race an led the racers for another 50-plus miles at that point. Once in Souderton, he elected to park it in the pits and be done. Faced with the option of getting treatment or lunch, he headed for the food tent. While sitting there enjoying his chicken, ribs and deserts, he started to really stiffen up.

“Once the race was over, I climbed back on the bike and rode my way home to Kimberton, where I removed the many layers of riding gear and got dressed to drive over to Phoenixville hospital,” said Evans.

Evans attributes his Arai full-face helmet, FirstGear Mesh Jacket and
FirstGear textile pants -- plus nylon rain suit -- with preventing more serious injuries. The emergency room confirmed the broken right clavicle.

“I am getting tired of telling the accident story though, especially to those who are anti-motorcycling and who respond with, "Those things are soooo dangerous... Serves you right," said Evans. “They usually follow those comments with "I bet you're not going to get on that thing again."

At this point I spout back,"That's the same thing the doctor said to your father, referring to your mother upon seeing you pop out of her womb."

Evans does see a silver lining in this cloud.

“Surprisingly the arm sling does garner some attention from sensitive women. I was at a party over the weekend and several women at the bar went out of their way to ask about the injury,” said Evans. “For those that didn’t, I bumped into them and began screaming as if in great pain. Their nurturing instincts took over and they would want to caress the pain away. I can work with this. They sell the arm slings in Aisle 7 of Rite Aid if you want to try it out.”


©Copyright Jack Riepe 2008
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Bike Called Hepatitis

New York State’s Adirondack Mountains serve as a magnet for rugged individuals and “originals,” who choose to do things in their own way. For over two hundred years, these wild peaks have attracted trappers, hunters, loggers, artists, musicians, philosophers, writers and bartenders -- all looking for a sense of self and peace. In 1982, a writer stepped in from the cold, knocked the snow from his boots, and met a bartender. Their professions complimented each other like the pilot fish attends the shark.

I was the writer.

The pilot fish bartender was Chris Wolfe, my first friend in the Adirondacks. Chris had a stake in a hostel/campground just outside of town. The place was years ahead of its time, featuring a great restaurant, bar, bakery, entertainment and a salmon pond. It is nothing today to pick your live lobster from a tank in just about any restaurant. At this place, you could catch a salmon outside and they’d cook it for dinner. (The amazing thing is that it was not an automatic process. You could stand in the cold rain for two hours while those stately fish gave you the cold shoulder.)

Chris stepped behind the bar whenever I came in, fearing the potential for a reverse tsunami, where the contents of every bottle would simultaneously surge in my direction (such was the strength of my personality). He would also interrupt my cheery conversations with the waitresses, by interjecting terse observations like, “No, she doesn’t want to make 12 bucks the hard way.”

I came to the Adirondacks from the urban grind of New Jersey, and found a cabin in the woods. Chris came from the United Kingdom (Great Britain), and settled in the North Country (Adirondacks) as he’d heard a clipped British accent mesmerized the local women. One of these ladies did the kind thing, spurning me and marrying him. Chris returned the favor by serving as my best man when I married my second wife. He then attempted to make up for this by volunteering as a character witness at my divorce three years later.


This beautiful Autumn scene in the Adirondacks is only a few minutes 
from the home of my friend Chris Wolfe.

Everything in the Adirondacks is in a state of transition. The mountains are worn down by the elements. Seasons come and go. Clearings become forests. Lives change. Following my divorce, I entered the witness protection program and moved to West Chester, Pa. Chris left the hospitality industry and became a physician’s assistant. For anything less than surgery, he’s as good as most doctors. (I once asked him about a lump on my testicles. He offered to remove my balls and leave the lump.) Throughout this whole time, nearly 21 years, neither one of us knew about the other’s interest in motorcycles.

In 2006, I showed Chris my 1986 BMW K75 (with the rare Sprint fairing). He proudly trumped my hand with a 1971 Triumph T100 Trophy, in great condition. (The linked website is for illustration. The bike pictured is not the exact same one in this story.) We attended the BMW MOA Rally in Vermont that year, and dozens of people stopped him to ask about the bike. He calls this machine his “Strumpet,” as it takes his money and screws him every time.


The author's incredibly beautiful 1986 BMW K75 with the 
rare Sprint fairing, destroyed in a collision in 2007

Chris Wolfe called me shortly before Labor day with the news that he was acquiring a 2000 Honda VFR Interceptor with 5,100 miles on it. I asked if he had considered a BMW? He told me “yes,” but that he prefers his bikes the way he likes his women: with chains.

The bike was in New York City, a scant 6 hours away. He was getting ready to make a mad dash to Manhattan at dawn, try the bike, buy it, plate it, and ride it home -- all on the Thursday before the Labor Day Holiday. He was utterly confident that this adventure would go like English clockwork. Not a minute was set aside for delay. Wolfe described this process to me the same way Field Marshal Montgomery reveled in the plans of Operation Market Garden. His insufferable arrogance is part of his enduring charm.


Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery's ill-fated Operation Market Garden
inspired Chris Wolfe's elaborate plans to acquire a bike and ride it 400 miles 
in pre-holiday traffic. 

I made a couple of suggestions, and smiled into the phone when he scoffed at my concern.

“It’ll take me a a half hour to get across town from Penn station... Then an hour to look at the bike, ride it, and do the deal,” said Wolfe, slowly inflating to match the royal grandeur of this scheme. “I’ll be in motor vehicle about an hour... Maybe an hour and a half at the very worst. I should be ready to leave Manhattan by 2pm, even if I take my time.”

As he was saying this, I envisioned the Manhattan office of the division of motor vehicles as a huge soul-chewing maw at the esophagus of hell. The motor vehicle office that Wolfe frequents is in Elizabethtown, New York, the hub of Essex County. I have been there five or six times. The entire town covers ten lovely streets, where everybody gets a turn marching in the 4th of July parade, and you would never walk past a kid selling candy or cookies without buying some. The motor vehicle office there is staffed by four of the nicest, most efficient women I have ever met in a state government facility. I have never been in there longer than twenty minutes.


Artist John Martin's vision of hell, coincides with my concept of a division
of motor vehicles office in Manhattan, the day before a major holiday.


“You’re undoubtedly right,” I said, agreeably. (Leslie, my squeeze, has taught me to say, “You’re right,” as opposed to, “What are you, some kind of a fucking dope?” She claims it’s far more satisfying in the long run and she’s correct.)

We also agreed on the best way out of the City at that time of day, and I planned to meet my old pal at the first rest area on the New York State Thruway, in the picturesque hamlet of Sloatsburg.

As it turned out, hell has many maws and my friend would kiss all of them on this trip.


Chris Wolfe on his 2000 Honda VFR
The Mad Max of the Adirondacks 
Photo courtesy of Chris Wolfe

The first leg of Wolfe’s grand plan was to have a buddy drive him from Lake Placid to the train station in Albany. The trip is a good two hours, if you step on it. The train was scheduled to leave at 7am, so these two guys were on the road well before first light at 4:30.

“I was as excited as a kid on Christmas Eve,” said Wolfe. “I got no sleep at all, which put me in fine form for the next day.”

They pulled up in front of the station, and Wolfe said to his friend, “Wait here. I want to see that everything is on schedule and according to my plan.” He then grabbed his backpack and ran in to buy his ticket. Imagine his consternation when he came out and discovered his friend had left. Now this would have been no big deal, except the cashier’s check for the bike and the necessary insurance paperwork were still in the glove compartment.

At this point, Field Marshal Montgomery would have said, “Damn.”

Wolfe said, “Bollocks.” (This is a British colloquialism for “Good Heavens.”) He deduced that his friend, who he described as being like “Lenny” in Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, went off in search of a coffee shop. There were three at the end of the street. Wolfe took off at a run. There is no cell phone reception throughout most of 6 million acres of the Adirondacks. For this reason, a lot of people still don’t carry them. Chris had one to call me at the successful completion of each stage of his plan. “Lenny” did not.


Chris Wolfe proudly poses on the first of his motorcycles that 
will not drop oil on the pristine Adirondack eco system
Photo courtesy of Chris Wolfe

Wolfe’s driver was not at any of the coffee shops. He then found a cab company, where he offered the owner/dispatcher $100 to chase Lenny, who had a 20-minute head start, down the Northway. With a century note dancing under his eyes, the dispatcher fired up a van and the two of them took off.

“The guy was driving like he was taking his driver’s test,” said Wolfe. “I said to him, ‘For a hundred dollars, you can burn some gas!’ He hit 95mph on a couple of stretches, and we caught up to my friend about 22 miles away, in Saratoga.” Pulling Lenny over, they got the issue sorted out and Wolfe was on the next train. He arrived in New York and got across town in less than a half hour.

The bike was a beauty. It started right up. It had a new battery to compensate for the fact that it had not been ridden very often in the last eight years. The seller insisted my pal ride it.“That was very sporting of him, considering he didn’t know me and it was Manhattan,” said Wolfe.” Exchanging the check for the title, he set off for the motor vehicle office.


The 2000 Honda VFR Interceptor is a great way to carve the curves
in the savagely beautiful Adirondacks. The bike makes a statement 
at the end of Chris Wolfe's driveway.
Photo courtesy of Chris Wolfe

By this time, I had left West Chester, Pa for Sloatsburg, NY -- in the Suburban. I had tools, oil, water, antifreeze, and a cooler in the truck. Unlike Field Marshal Montgomery, I had no confidence in the plan. Taking Rt. 100 to I-78 (Pa), to I-287 (NJ) to I-87 (NY), I had a three-hour ride. Repeated calls to Wolfe’s cell phone produced only his wife’s voice in the prerecorded message.

I didn’t care. It was a nice day. A strong breeze flirted with Sloatsburg. There was no sign of Wolfe, but I wasn’t concerned. What the hell, the cooler was working and so was my MP3 player. The office thought I was donating an organ. And in my mind, I was.

The first call from Chris came at 4:30pm. He had been at motor vehicle for over three hours, and the only activity he’d witnessed had been an attempt to steal his new bike. The DMV facility was designed to accommodate about 4,000 people and all of them had shown up (before Wolfe) with a five-part transaction, requiring a multi-lingual explanation.

“Have you ever seen one of those old Frankenstein movies where the crowd has torches, pitchforks, and clubs,” asked Wolfe. “Well it was like that on one side of the counter and like Dawn of the Dead on the other.”

Wolfe told me that he would be at least two more hours and that I should leave. I thought of the traffic I faced on the long ride back, and foolishly said, “Okay.” This was one of dumbest things I have ever done, and I blame it on middle-age concerns for traffic and work the next day.

Wolfe roared out onto the FDR drive in Manhattan, and made the jump to the Major Deagan Expressway. This becomes I-87, the New York State Thruway. After a brief tour through the Bronx and parts of Yonkers, it cross the Hudson River over the magnificent Tappan Zee Bridge.

All of Manhattan turned out to watch my friend ride by on his new motorcycle. And they all came in cars. Wolfe timed his departure to coincide with the mass exit from the last game to be played in Yankee Stadium. There were 2 million people in the stands, apparently. The Major Deagan slowed to a crawl and stopped. So did the Honda. And it wouldn’t restart either.


Chris Wolfe likes his motorcycles like his women: with chains
Photo courtesy of Chris Wolfe

Wolfe had been trapped in bumper-to-bumper traffic for two hours, on a road that expands and contracts from six lanes to ten and then down to four like an accordion. He can lane split like a maul moving through a log, but there was simply no place to go.

“My first thought was that the rectifier/regulator had blown,” said Wolfe. “These machines are known for this problem.”

For the four hundredth time that day, Chris Wolfe again said, “Bollocks.” Like most modern George Jetson motorcycles, the VFR Interceptor is a seamless plastic sculpture, held together by 78 hidden fasteners that can be loosened only by chanting a spell. “There was no thought of attempting to take this thing apart on the road,” said Wolfe.

The temperature at that time of the day was still 89º and my pal was wearing textile ballistics, while carrying a small pack with rain gear in it.

“This setback occurred at the foot of a hill,” said Wolfe. I dropped my gear, and pushed the bike to the top, gushing sweat like a busted pipe. I turned in time to see some guy going through my stuff. I shouted, jumped on the bike, and rode it down, getting a start in the process. The guy took off as I pulled up.”

The bike ran for another three miles and died again. Once again, there was a hill. But this time, it was much steeper. Wolfe caught the attention of a twelve-year-old boy on an overpass, and offered him $20 to help him with the bike.

“What do I have to do,” asked the kid, suspiciously. (The lad had probably never heard a British accent before and undoubtedly thought he was about to be asked to participate in an unnatural act.) The kid reluctantly helped Wolfe push the bike to the top of the hill. This time the machine did not restart on the way down.

“Tough shit,” said the kid. “I gotta go, where’s my twenty?”

Wolfe paid the little bloodsucker, and with the last strength left in his body, pushed the VFR to the top of hill by himself. “I was completely done in,” he said. “I started down the hill and popped the clutch a first time... Nothing. Still rolling, I popped it a second time... Nothing again. I was running out of hill and I popped the clutch a third time.”

The machine hacked and coughed, then roared into life. Wolfe broke into lighter traffic and kept the revs up until he got to the rest area at Sloatsburg, about 30 miles away. There is a two story parking facility there. He ran the bike up to the second level, turned it around, and parked it facing the ramp. “ I was taking no chances at this point,” he said.

The time was 8:30pm. It had taken him four hours to cover 40 miles. Field Marshal Montgomery would have been proud

Wolfe ate his first full meal of the day, and drank four bottles of water. He cooled off in the air conditioning, then mounted up and rode the remaining 5 hours home. The bike performed flawlessly for the rest of the ride. It was 1:30am when he rolled into the driveway. He’d been up for 22 hours. He believes the battery did not have a full charge in it to start and two-hours of stop and go New York City traffic killed it.


"What should I name this bike," asked Chris.
"I can think of three things that are yellow," I replied
Photo courtesy of Chris Wolfe

In hindsight, there are a few things he could have done differently. But I should have waited. There’s a couple of cheap motels two exits up. We could have gotten a couple of rooms, had a few drinks, and partied a bit before getting some rest.

The bike is a beautiful yellow. “What do you think I should call it,” Wolfe asked me.

“Well, what are some things that are yellow? Lemons, piss, and hepatitis come to mind,” I said.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2008
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)

Monday, September 8, 2008

August Winners Of The “Meals For Squeals” Contest

The August winners of the Twisted Roads “Meals For Squeals” readers contest have been randomly selected and notified. They are Sammye Shipman of Oklahoma, and David Case of Pennsylvania. Each has been sent a $50 gift card to a chain restaurant located in their state. As contestants, each had their name submitted in a drawing every time they posted a comment (squeal) to a story on Twisted Roads, one of the most selectively factual motorcycle blogs on the internet.

Sammye (Granny2Wheels) Shipman is a well-known personality in the Motorcycle Views Forum, an accomplished long-distance rider, and an all-around pisser in general. Her ride is an 1100 V Star that she has put over 9k miles on this season alone.

Shipman was initially thrilled upon hearing that her name had been drawn for the dinner prize, then asked, “This is from Twisted Roads? Are they cooking dinner and mailing it to me or is this a case of Kraft macaroni and cheese? What's the joke?”

Sammye Shipman on her 1100 V Star
"Having dinner on Twisted Roads"

David Case is a member of the venerable Mac-Pac Eating and Wrenching Society and a committed BMW rider. Case loves nothing more than spirited run through backroads of Amish farm country or the deep woods of four neighboring states. Sometimes he tries to hit them all in one day. One of his most loved rides is an R80ST.

Said Case upon his prize notification, “I’ve never really won anything significant before. And I probably still haven’t.” Case claimed he was once selected by Twisted Roads to test the prototype of an inflatable seat, and put 200 miles on it before he realized it was one of those cushions that makes fart noises. 

David Case and his R80ST
This is what you get when you tell a Beemer rider "To smile."
Maybe it's the seat.

Jack Riepe, author of Twisted Roads, congratulated both winners, urging them to continue to read the blog, and to reenter the contest after a 90-day cooling off period.

“I am delighted to present the first of these monthly awards to these fine readers. Twisted Roads is written for motorcycle riders who appreciate stories with punch and a punchline,” said Riepe. The blog publisher then went on to deny that he was the mystery rider associated with the red German motorcycle, the Jell-O, and the sorority in recent headlines.

Once a month, two Twisted Roads readers who leave a comment (squeal) at the end of a story are randomly selected to win a $50 gift card to a chain restaurant in their state. For complete contest rules, go to  Have Dinner On Me!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Addendum To Previous Post

While I tend to write from a peculiarly accurate perspective, I don’t often pay enough attention to photographic detail. I regret that the photographs in the previous story do not do justice to the bikes that were lined up in the diner parking lot for last month’s breakfast. If you have an interest in seeing that beautiful two-wheeled machinery, I would send you to the blog of riding pal and Mac-Pac member John Clauss. Mr. Clauss was part of the Great Centralia Ride, featured in last February’s BMW MOA Owner’s News magazine.

The blog is http://nmwyg.blogspot.com

It is necessary to scroll through the blog to about the third entry. Mr. Clauss also has a story on a mechanical workshop I conducted in my garage for the edification of novice Mac-Pac members on practical electrical theory. I got very little appreciation for my effort. In fact, I was scorned and the phrase "helpless idiot" was openly bandied.


Sincerely,
Jack Riepe

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The August Mac-Pac Monthly Breakfast -- An All Day Affair

Pennsylvania Route 100 is a straight 14-mile shot from Exton to Pottstown. It goes from four-lanes to two, and has one heavily wooded stretch with some gentle twisties on it. I watched the tail lights of the two bikes in front of me thread their way into the turns. The speed limit was 45 mph and the speedo read 60. I leaned to the left and gave “Fireballs” more gas. The 1995 K75 responded like a well-trained quarter horse of the Apocalypse. A profound sense of freedom and release came over me. I was getting to doing this one more time...

The third Sunday of every month is reserved for the Mac-Pac Riders Breakfast. The Mac-Pac is a group of Euro-Tech riders (99% BMW) that let me join before they could close the membership loopholes. (New qualifications require potential members to weigh less than their bikes.) On this day, riders from across eastern Pennsylvania saddle up at the crack of dawn and ride to the Pottstown Family Diner, on Rt. 100 about a quarter mile north of where it is crossed by Rt. 422. Depending upon the time of year and the temperature, between 15 and 70 riders will assemble for breakfast.

The proprietor has assigned the group a back room for this ritual. This is because we desire and merit privacy for the occasion, and because giant squid feed with more decorum. There are two waitresses assigned to us on a regular basis. One is usually being punished or penalized for something. The other is Denise, who is one of a kind and destined to become my next wife. This conclusion is drawn on obvious affection demonstrated by the fact that my breakfast is served quickly and on a plate, while everybody else must fight on the floor for theirs. (I will kill the first person who tells her that I am in long-term relationship with a loving woman who worships the quicksand I walk on.)


"The Mac-Pac is assigned a private room at the diner
as giant squid feed with more decorum."
(Click To Enlarge)

I had been losing my battle with arthritis and riding less as a consequence. The low seat on my bike, coupled with pegs mounted just under my testicles, adds to the pleasure of the ride. This seat was first devised by the Benedictine order in the 12th century to entertain heretics, then perfected by the North Korean Secret Police in 1948 as a means to elicit the truth from prisoners. Actually, this seating position is perfect if you are a German male, 5’11”, who weighs 145 pounds, has steel blue eyes, and a huge dick.

I do not meet the weight requirements.

I am so fat that my ass hangs down over each side of the back wheel and rubs the tire. The effect is like putting an entire league of baseball cards into the spokes of a bicycle wheel. The resulting noise is louder than Vance and Hines straight pipes. Still, I have not had much success advancing the theory that fat asses save lives.

At any rate, I have missed a couple of breakfasts simply because I am so stiff in the morning, that mounting the damn bike is a challenge. It can take me a few tries to get my left leg up to the peg at all. Getting the right one up there on the fly, at least for the first time, is a bitch. I have taken to rolling the machine down to the street, and taking off from there as I can give myself a hundred yards to get situated. There is no problem once my right leg gets stretched enough.

This is so much fun that I can generally talk myself out of it.

The third Sunday of last August was the twentieth and I prayed for rain the night before. I really wanted to ride but knew I’d feel lousy in the morning. If it rained, I could take the truck and sit at the table with a bag over my head. I checked my e-mail at 11:45pm and found a note from two guys, who thought they’d ride into breakfast with me. Joe Sestrich and Andy Terrill, both peg draggers, announced they’d meet me in my driveway -- at 7am.

This did not seem subject to negotiation.

I thought of the naked woman sleeping upstairs, and how the barking dogs would influence her early the next day. I sent off a response telling the guys to meet me at the corner gas station at 7am, but not to wait for me if I wasn’t there.


"I thought of the naked woman sleeping upstairs..."
Photo courtesy of Leslie Marsh

Dawn found me moving through the house at the speed of continental drift. At 6:54am, I managed to get my respective limbs on the bike and rolled into the gas station. The boys showed up a minute or two later. They were genuinely surprised to see me as neither had checked their e-mail before leaving.

“Gee,” said Joe. “We figured we’d get the dogs barking and have Leslie come to the window naked.”

It never ceases to amaze me as just how many of my friends know how things work in my house. Two seconds later, we headed to Route 100. The temperature was barely 60º and I was glad I had the liner in my Joe Rocket mesh jacket. It would be 87º in two hours, and the sweat would be pooling in my helmet. But it was outright chilly now.

More than 40 riders had already assembled at the diner, when we roared into the parking lot. I had timed the last traffic light perfectly and managed to stay rolling while the other guys had come to a full stop. As a result, I snapped past them and led our little group into the mass of bikes and riders. I would have gotten off the bike with a swagger, except it takes me 15 minutes to lower my quivering mass to the ground, and then I walk with a cane.


Arriving riders check out the bikes before the menu 
at a Mac-Pac 3rd Sunday Breakfast
(Click To Enlarge)

The lot was filled with the usual assortment of vintage Beemers, plus a full range of “R” and “K” bikes from the last 20 years. (Only a Beemer can be 20 years old and not be considered “vintage” nor old.) Other machines included Ducati’s, a Harley, A Gold Wing, and a hand-built, hand-painted, hand-blessed-by-the Pope MV Augusta (from the discount rack). It was a flawless day and each of these machines looked as if they’d rolled straight from the showroom floor. There was even a bicycle. Joe Dille pedaled in from someplace, probably having knocked off 25 miles before breakfast.


The back lot of the Pottstown Family Diner starts to fill up  
around 7:3o am for the Mac-Pac 3rd Sunday Breakfasts
(Click To Enlarge)


Showing up at a Mac-Pac breakfast is like attending a reunion at a reform school from which no one ever graduated. The smiles are genuine but there is a air of expectation. The stories slowly make the rounds and it is discovered that someone has ridden in from Hudson’s Bay, in 11 hours and 6 minutes. He has a baby wolverine chewing through his top case. Another rider is passing around a GPS, where the high-speed is recorded in six digits. The guys are all planning rides and I am gratified to pass among them.


The bikes are Euro-Tech with 99 percent BMW, though all are somewhat exotic
(Click To Enlarge)

Breakfast was shoveled out onto the floor, and the alpha males began rooting through the deepest piles of it. One was challenged for a glob of bacon dripping with eggs, and got knocked on his ass. The woman who won piled it into her helmet and carried it outside to eat in relative peace. My own meal came on a separate tray, with silverware wrapped in a linen napkin. A newcomer reached for it, and Denise bared her teeth. I have come to like this attention, as it befits my station and aggravates my riding partner, Dick “Stone Mason” Bregstein.


From left: Joe Sestrich, Charles Hehl, and Jim Robinson 
watch in amazement as I dismount from my bike
(Click To Enlarge)


Speaking of Bregstein, he sat at an adjoining table, demonstrating how he can now stick his left arm straight up in the air, twirl it around, and wiggle his fingertips. The is the result of weeks of rehabilitation following his epic crash. His performance drew applause, until Chris Jaccarino asked him if he was doing that with his arm when the bike went down. Bregstein said he thought rehab might do me good too -- and then he mentioned the Betty Ford Clinic.

I sat smug in the warmth of my friends, knowing that they would never ambush me, when Denise approached with a huge wedge of cheese cake, ablaze with birthday candles. Everyone was singing, including six retired strippers (from the Coolidge administration) that Bregstein hustled in from the adjoining room. The retired exotic dancers were so old, they referred to Bregstein as “sonny.” My birthday is in March. I resolved to kill both Bregstein and Jaccarino, whenever they have their backs to me.

Confident that the best part of the day was over, I started to head out when Chris Jaccarino engaged me in conversation.

“You’re not going home now, are you? It’s a nice day. You should ride someplace. Where are you thinking of going?”

I started to say “the Betty Ford clinic,” but what came out astounded even me.

“The steam train museum at Strasburg,” I lied. “I was planning on a little 30-mile run to let the wind blow through my jacket. Strictly the highway just to get the feel of the bike again. Not the kind of ride that would appeal to you.”

“That sounds nice. We’ll ride with you.”

My knees were screaming and his response sounded like a kick in the balls. Chris has a hot new squeeze, Melinda, whose got a smile like a flash on a camera and a new Gold Wing, that he has named “The Yamato,” after a slightly smaller battleship. He was joined by Ken Bruce and Matt Piechota, who all thought this would be fun. My 28-mile ride had just jumped to 102 miles.

Chris Jaccarino named his Gold Wing after the "Yamoto," 
a battleship  slightly smaller than his bike

The run up to the train museum was a pisser as neither Melinda nor Matt had ever seen a running steam locomotive before. Traffic was light and the run was quick, but not overly so. I was about to head back, when it was suggested that we all take a run down to Maryland’s eastern shore for a bit of chowder and some boat business that Ken had to attend to. I tried to beg off but it was explained to me that it was only another 38 miles.

Ken led us through some beautiful back-country farm roads, where the friendly Amish welcomed us by throwing clods and road apples. They seemed to know him.


Ken Bruce, our upstanding leader... The day was blistering hot and Ken rode the
mile from the marina to the restaurant without his ballistics.
Photo courtesy of Chris Jaccarino

Every ride through this part of the country is special. The heady scent of mown hay, drying tobacco, or even manure in the fields serves to etch another scene in your mind. Even the heated air smelled of August, and changed subtly as we passed over shaded streams and through cool glades. Each turn in the road held a surprise. One driveway had an old Beemer with a sidecar parked in the center of it, and many were filled with Amish wagons gathered for the Sunday service. There was always something in the road too. Slight pressure to one side of the bars or the other swerved you around flattened horse muffins or piles of gravel without as much as a thought.

We crossed into Maryland and little by little, the air became flavored with a hint of salt. The trees gave way to big water and Chesapeake bay unfolded before us. The bay was like a movie without sound. There was a stiff chop on the surface and fishing boats bobbing at anchor; yet the sound of this movement was lost before it could compete with my bike’s engine.


Fireballs and I pause at the waters edge... I am advised that two 
more feet to the rear and I am on my own.
Photo Courtesy of Chris Jaccarino
(Click To Enlarge At Your Own Risk)

We rode to the water’s edge, and had lunch in a cool, dark gin mill called the Nauti-Goose. This is another of the touristy crab-shacks of North East (like the dismal Woody’s) that promises more that it can deliver. But what it delivered was fine for me at the time. I thought we might dine outside, where the baked skin of young women the color of summer might delight the eye, but I was happy to cool off inside.


Matt Piechota took the tail gun Charley position, to alert the 
others if I fell of my bike or became otherwise "confused."
Photo Courtesy of Chris Jaccarino

Getting back on the bike was a bit of a problem. My hip had stiffened to the point where I couldn’t move it. Jaccarino ran my bike over to a railroad tie, which I used as a step. Once aboard, I managed to stretch my joints once more.

The ride home was very pleasant, and I expected to see the boys drop off one at a time. It is a part of the ride that I never really get used to. We hit a nice stretch of expressway (not named) and I noticed the guys had picked up the pace a bit. The Gold Wing passed me like a neighborhood on wheels, while the operator (Chris) gestured in an up and down motion that suggested he was polishing asparagus.

Twisting on the gas, I glanced down at the cluster and noted the gauges read 7 grand and 107 mph. I suspect the speedo is optimistic, but I still think I was well into triple digits. I laughed like hell in my helmet. A profound sense of freedom and release came over me. I was getting to doing this one more time...

————————————

I cannot thank Joe Sestrich, Andy Terrill, Chris Jaccarino, Ken Bruce, and Matt Piechota, enough for the consideration they extended to me on this day. I was little more than a functional cripple and I had my challenges. Chris Jaccarino was especially helpful throughout the day, but then again, he always is.

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