Sunday, January 4, 2009

The First Ride Of The New Year: 19º Temperatures, Immersion in Freezing Cold Water, A Gathering of Unicorns, & A Visit From Motorcycle Royalty

The first day of the new year is also the first gathering of the Mac-Pac, as riders from throughout southeast Pennsylvania and Delaware converge on Michael’s Diner, at the junction of PA Rt. 422 and PA Rt. 662 for lunch. Testosterone is seldom an issue with this group, as a high percentage of members have endured cross-country runs, international rides (real ones), Iron Butt events, and even transcontinental epics spanning five continents. At least one member (a mechanic) races professionally and many pursue adventure off-road. No one has anything to prove and challenges are self-inflicted.

Yet there is a perverse satisfaction for those who ride to this event and other meetings when conditions are less than ideal. On January 1, 2009, the mercury was stalled at 19 degrees (Fahrenheit) at 11am. The sky was crystal clear and piercingly blue. It had been damp a couple of days before and I raised the garage door to check for ice in the driveway. It didn’t really make any difference though. My right knee was swollen to twice its size (arthritis) and my left hip was working like sand had been poured into the joint. I would not be riding today.

“This fucking arthritis,” I muttered under my breath, as I limped across the garage. A limp in one leg can be a babe magnet, as per Dr. Gregory House. But a limp in two legs spoils the effect. I move with all the grace of a wounded bison. At 19 degrees, this would have been the coldest riding day of my career. But I might have been inclined to try it as there was not a lot of ice, nor salt and gravel on the ground. I have ridden four hours at a clip when the temperature was 25 degrees and did not find it terribly uncomfortable dressed in layers and wearing Lee Parks gloves. But this sudden drop in temperature (It had been 46 degrees two days before.) was playing itself out in my joints, and riding would not have been fun.

There is nothing as inspirational as a herd of "German Unicorns" parked in 
a line outside a diner or a strip joint on one of the coldest days of the year.
I was mortified that mine was not among them. Only one person called me a
"pussy" and spit in my coffee for not riding in. She was one of the five women in 
attendance. About two-dozen Mac-Pac members rode in on their bikes.
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge)

I do not yet have electric gear owing to my vast size. A company out west offered to make some for me, using the outfield tarp from Yankee stadium as a pattern. The main obstacle would be in wiring this textile acreage for heat. One of their engineers thought electric gear for me would require the same number of mega-watts that it would take to heat a small New England village -- for a year. There is some question as to the capacity of the 50-amp alternator on my 1995 BMW K75 to meet this demand.

Jim Robinson and John Clauss  just before riding off into the cold.
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge.)

I blew off a winter event once before as I didn’t want to be the only guy showing up in a truck. A senior member of the club, Todd Byrum, told me they’d rather have the guys come in a cage as opposed to giving the event the pass. This consideration was expressed by others who always seemed to sit at my table. It was later that I learned that the last one to flee the table at the meal’s end got stuck with the check. This rule provides a distinct economic advantage to those who embrace the fact that I am fat, virtually crippled, and move like I am wading through hip-deep cement.

The rear tire on Jim Robinson's bike reflects thousands of miles traveled last year.
A regular road rebel, the phrase "Meet me on the barricade," has added new 
meaning to Jim's ride philosophy.
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge)

Not wanting to show me up, Dick Bregstein (my riding partner of the past three years), consented to ride in with me. We were among the last to arrive and counted more than two dozen bikes in the lot. The diner was doing a brisk business for New Year’s Day and our group raised the noise to Mardi Gras levels. One woman asked if we could hold it down, and our table nodded politely, while indicating we couldn’t hear what she said because it was so noisy.

Todd Byrum (left) and Gerry Cavanaugh garnered the favored parking spot.
Byrum later stated that this was for "Proper BMWs -- 'R' bikes with the historically 
accurate air and oil cooling systems. Byrum had nothing but praise for his machine's
arcane charging system, while Cavanaugh made the Sign of the Cross and rubbed a
rabbit's foot before restarting his GS in the frigid temperature.
Both bikes started flawlessly -- as expected.
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge) 

This event always draws the creme de la cocoa of the Mac-Pac and the usual suspects were in attendance. Gerry Cavanaugh, Todd Byrum, Jim Ellenbergh, Jim Robinson, Brian Curry, Rich Cavaliere, Charles Somerdyke, Billy Zane, Jack and Marge Busch, Eric DucDude, Jim Sterling, Rich Newman, Bruce and Annie Heilman, John Clauss, and Roddy Irwin were just a few of the folks I got to chat with. At least four “R” bike riders complained of slow or hesitant starts in the cold. Three admitted that their bikes had not been on battery tenders for any serious recharge time. No “K” bike riders experienced starting problems and shrugged off the complaints of the others as nonsense associated with arcane charging systems.

Todd Byrum's vintage "R75" is simply beautiful with classic BMW Lines
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to Enlarge)

Todd Byrum was the only rider in attendance with a truly vintage machine, the “R” bike Jefferson rode to his inaugural address. He pointed out that the corner he and Gerry Cavanaugh parked in was a true representation of the BMW lifestyle, as it held a historic airhead and a powerful oilhead GS. Jim Robinson agreed, but only to the extent that the average age of the riders parked there defied carbon dating.

The distinctive profile of Gerry Cavanaugh's GS. The traditional left foot 
warmer is clearly evident above the side stand. 
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge)

Motorcycle royalty occasionally turns up at these things, and renown racer and record-setter Chris Carr sat at my table. Carr is a seven-time AMA Ford Quality Checked Flat Track Champion and has elevated the land-speed record for two wheels on the salt at Bonneville. In the last year that he held this title, he hit an incredible 354 miles per hour in the Dennis Manning-designed BUB streamliner. His average speed for several runs was 350.8 miles per hour. (As I pointed out to him, this is only slightly faster than I exited my second marriage.)

Chris Carr and his Harley-Davidson of Sacramento XR750
(Photo courtesy of Chris Carr -- Click to enlarge)

In his second national win of last year, Carr won the Indy Mile at Indiana Fairgrounds in September, 2008. Interestingly enough, he won this same race the last time it was held at this location in 1999.

Carr is modest to the point of virtue when it comes to discussing his track triumphs. During lunch, he leaned over and asked me a question. He asked, “What are the odds of you passing me the salt anytime soon?” I thought he said, “What are the odds of you passing me on the salt anytime soon.”

“Name the day, Pal,” was my response. “Just name the day.”

Conversations with Chris Carr left me fascinated with the speed trials on the salt flats at Bonneville. It would be great to ride out to Utah next summer and watch the event from a Kermit chair on the salt. Carr advised me to bring portable shade and told me there could be concern for my welfare as the heat hovers around 100 degrees in August, or better. I was flattered that he’d mention this but as it turns out the “concern” was that I might leave grease spots everywhere I sat down.

Roddy Irwin (left) tries to sell Rich Cavalieri a pair of motorcycle gloves made of
hollowed out Platypus hides. Irwin contends that leather from Australia is best
and has the highest insulating qualities.
(Photo courtest of the author -- Click to enlarge)

Lunch was about over and the riders were roaring (as much as BMW’s can roar) off into the cold. It was at this point that Doug Raymond, holder of the Mac-Pac speed record for riding to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska (via the Haul Road on the Arctic Circle) from Philly and back (in 14 days) arrived. (I shit you not.) He had been delayed getting to lunch by going for a swim in a local quarry, as part of a Polar Bear event. (I shit you not again.)

Roddy Irwin demonstrates his "Platypus" hide riding gloves and hand puppets.
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge)

“It was really fun this morning,” declared Raymond, who described the pleasures of toweling off in 19-degree weather, before riding his bike to the diner. He then ordered a large pot of coffee and put his hands in it.

Bruce Heilman revs up a stately BMW LT. "K" bike riders did not give
a second's thought to cold weather starts. All started within 3 seconds.
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge)

You know how you can tell you’re having a good time? When you can feel the disappointment of knowing it’s about to end. Dick Bregstein and Brian Curry joined me in having coffee with Doug Raymond -- for another hour and a half -- after lunch was over. Raymond had just rebuilt the engine of his “R” bike and filled us in on its performance and things he might have done differently.

Rich Newman pulls away on a snazzy Triumph "loaner."
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge)

Doug is one of those McGyver characters who can fashion precision machine parts from discarded junk. On the Prudhoe Bay run, he used a soda can, a sardine can, and a bungee cord to serve as a throttle body assembly for about 1400 miles. He got this jury rig in place just in time to escape the pursuit of a wolf. (Once again, I shit you not.) The exploits of Raymond’s epic ride were well documented in a past issue of the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America “ON” magazine. In fact, it was one of the largest and most exciting ride reports I have ever read.

Mac-Pac list lurker Dave Schneider suits up for the cool ride home. 
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge)

Raymond told me he is working on a special device for me -- a liposuction unit that will attach to my ass and convert fat into a biofuel that my bike can burn as I ride. He calculated I could easily ride without charge for 50,000 miles per year. “Not only could you ride that distance for free for ten or twelve years,” he said, “But you could lose weight without exercise on every trip.” I thanked him profusely for thinking of me.

Doug Raymond (left) and Brian Curry prepare to shove off. Doug holds the Mac-Pac 
record for riding to the Arctic Circle (in Alaska)  and back (14 days), 
while Brian Curry is recognized as a BMW K75 guru and the 
moderator/administrator/terminator of the Mac-Pac list.
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge)

I watched Raymond and Curry saddle up and ride off. A grim reality had exposed itself to me that morning. If I was going to make and keep a single resolution for 2009, it would be to lose this tonnage and ride to this event next year on “Fire Balls,” one way or the other.

Doug Raymond in his natural habitat. Dick Bregstein and I are in the Suburban.
While I was taking the picture, Bregstein was trying to remove my wallet, not realizing 
it is secured to my belt by a chain. As my riding partner, Bregstein has been pulling
my chain for three years.
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge)


I am going to have to carry a notebook with me to write down important details, like the proper spelling of peoples’ names, as I have reached a point where my head is like an old screen door. I can’t remember a damn thing anymore. (For example, I can’t remember that I borrowed $20 from Dick Bregstein last week, and his chances of getting it back are now slim.)

"Nick" came running up to me with the traditional Mac-Pac salute: a smile and a handshake.
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge)

During the summer, an emergency luncheon was convened at the Himalayan Exotic Indian Restaurant, in Frazer, Pennsylvania. I forget what the emergency was, though I suspect we were gathering to give Mac-Pac member Rogers George a hard time about his blog. The nature of these lunches are such that either just two people show, or ten to fifteen walk in the door. On this occasion, It was just J. Ellenberg, Breg Dickstein, and myself, when two strangers arrived and announced they were the Reading, Pa contingent.

"Nick" and his buddy Ed or Ferguson, or something like that. I'd like to recognized 
these guys correctly. Nick -- if you read this, drop me a line. 
Likewise for anybody who knows these gents.
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge)

They’d read about the lunch and decided to ride about 60 miles to see what it was all about. The boys and I were amazed that anyone would ride that distance for the kind of nonsense we were engaging in. They told me their names, which to my shame, I promptly forgot.

Well low and behold, they showed up at the Mac-Pac New Year’s Day Luncheon with big grins. The chummier of the two came running up to me, hand extended with a big smile on his face, to wish me a Happy New Year. His name is Nick. I still can’t remember his buddy’s name, which might have been Ed or Ferguson. Their pictures are included in this sidebar. If anyone knows who these guys are, drop me a line. They are worthy of better mention than this.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2009
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)


BMW-Dick said...

Dear Jack:
I've been pulling that chain hoping you'd be flushed way with the rest of the effluvia, so I can get to ride with some serious motoradicals. AND, it's not $20 it's $200 you borrowed. You've got to work on that selective short-term memory loss of yours. On the event: I'm glad we didn't ride, because it was painfully cold. After riding with you for three years I have nothing I have to prove to anyone; my endurance is beyond question, so riding in 19-degree weather is a choice rather than a challenge.
It was great story and certainly a tribute to those among us who feel they still have something to prove.

Grandad 43 said...

Jack, nice to read of another of your adventures. I also wanted to ride that day but with the temp at 14 degrees and the wind chill reducing it to signal digits, I opted to leave the ride in its' winter headquarters.
That wolf attempting to out run a BMW in order to get dinner needs more details. I recently heard about an elk out west which went through a fence in order to send a dirt bike on its' way down the road. Perhaps the creatures of the wild have had enough and are now letting us know who is in charge while in their their domain.
Jumping in to a spring fed quarry in January, now that's another story.
Thanks again,
Grandad 43
PS 14

Tena said...

Terrific story of comrades willing to brave Mother Nature just to eat together in fellowship. Or to share bullsh*t, whichever comes first. Hard to tell with riders *bg* Sorry you couldn't ride, but as a companion in arthritis, I can totally understand! Good luck on your resolutions, and I look forward to your next post.

Charlie6 said...


great report as usual. I wish I was closer to this gathering place where you and guys like Doug Raymond socialize.

I read the ON article about Doug's trip on the haul road, and he did it on a similar bike to mine which made it even more interesting to me. Truly a great story.


Woody said...

Your captivating words tear at me, reminding me of what I miss. I should resolve to attend more events in 2009.

fasthair said...

Mr. Jack: Another great post. Makes me wish I lived closer just so I could attend one of your lunches if for no other reason then to get a free mean. Of course I would have to park over on the other side of the parking lot so as not to be mistaken for a real rider on my Harley.

Meeting Mr. Carr had to be a thrill. Did he ever get the salt? That was funny... say when!


John said...

Riepe, its Clauss darn it! Two esses and no e. Otherwise a good post as always. I also have a few pics up on my blog, including a couple of interesting shots of the "road goo" I needed to ride through. Oh, the trials of winter riding.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mr. Bregstein:

I am fortunate to be able to ride with guys like you, Clyde Jacobs, Matt Piechota, Ken Bruce, Kimi Bush, Corey Lyba, David Hargrove, Chris Jacarrino and, of course, Pete Buchheit.

I have ridden with two dozen other members of the Mac-Pac on one or two rides in the past year, but this list of characters has ridden with me many times... And each has extended a great deal of consideration and kindness to me.

You, Pete, and Clyde have gone through the fire for me. And I will never forget the day Chris Jacarrino blocked traffic in a difficult intersection (on a hill), so I could get through. David Hardgrove and Jim Sterling bracketed me on my fist 370-mile day.

But I have ridden more miles with you, Dick, than anyone else. And it is true, you have endured plenty. I hope to be in better shape this year, so you can endure lots more.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Grandad43 (Dave):

I am eager to write you into a number of my ride plans for 2009, Dave. For one thing, I'd love to broaden my horizons by riding with more of the cruiser crowd. It has been almost two years since we had our las good time on the road.

It's time for the Perdition's Socks Crowd to ride again.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Tena:

It's too bad you and Bugser aren't on the east coast. I would love to introduce you both to the Mac-Pac crowd at one of our monthly breakfasts, dinners, or rides.

And it would be cool to chase Bugser around in the company of Grand Dad43, Mack Harrell, and Karen.

I'm glad you liked the piece.

Fondst regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6;

You'd love these guys. But the truth is that i just sit in the back during these events as my riding star is the dimmest in this universe.

I have learned so much by keeping my mouth shut and listening to guys like Doug Raymond, Brian Curry, Tom Cutter, and Edde Mendes.

I have become so humble, many of these guys call me "The Mute." If you ever head east sometime, you could be a guest speaker at our monthly breakfast.

Fondest regards,
Humble Jack

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Woody (Wayne):

Please tell me if you are ever free on a Friday afternoon for lunch. I would like to set up a "Wayne Appreciation Day" for you at the Himalayan.

Chances are that we could get 15 warm bodies to attend, and your $7.95 lunch would be on the house. Actually, it would be on Bregstein's side of the house to be really accurate.

Thank you for writing in.

Fondst regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mr. Fasthair:

Thank you for you kind comment. While 99 and 44/100ths percent of the Mac-Pac ride BMW's, other margues are common in the group. This include Ducatis, Triumphs, at least one Gold Wing, two scooters, an MV Augusta, two ECO Mobiles, two Harley's, and two Suzuki's.

Only Mike Evans feels compelled to park his Suzuki back by the dumpster.

We have 250 members in the Mac-Pac, with most in the Philly area. Others live in neighboring states, plus Illinois, Tennessee, South America and Japan.

Chris Carr is a genuine pisser in the classic sense. I am told he is a regular reader of this blog.

Thanks for writing in.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mr. Clauss:

I just reread my blog and your name appears to be spelled correctly wherever it appears.

Thank you for your kind note.

Fondest regards,

Ihor said...

I think that the 4 Jan. 09 piece has a tone of comradery that has seldom or ever been matched on your blog. It made me envious of such an assembly of fellows whose ease of enjoyment and common purpose is a tribute to their gentlemanly sense of friendship. Are you their Dondi?
Just kidding, great piece and hope the New Year exceeds your expectations. I'll be sending you three 1.13 inch diameter, 19th century brass sleigh bells this week.

Cantwell said...

Ihor, I believe the correct term is 'Fluffer'.

Awesome. I can't wait until the weather clears up enough to start commuting. I had thought about taking my K75 out a couple of times, but NYS tends to put the same amount of salt on the roads daily that McDonalds uses on their french fries all their restaurants combined.


Jack Riepe said...

Dear Ihor:

What a nice thing to say about the Mac-Pac! But your sentiment makes it clear that you've never eaten with them. It's like what happens when the hyenas find the baby gazelle.

There is a strong level of comradery here, that dissipates as soon as the rubber hits the road. It becomes every man for himself in a desperate bid to find the ultimate BMW-oriented rider solitude.

The lack of witnesses prevents the true statistics on how many of these guys who don't get laid on a run from surfacing in the trade press.

What are you doing the third Sunday in January? You should come to one of our monthly breakfasts and see the Beemer riders in their natural habitat. (For other looking at this, Ihor is one of my oldest friends.)

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Michael?

YOU HAVE A K75??!!

Please send pictures of you on this bike at once. I'm getting an idea....

Fondest regards,

Ihor said...

Mike Cantwell, You may be too young to have read the comic 'Dondi'. There was a movie also about an Italian orphan taken in by a company of G.I.'s during WW2. This sounds like the arrangement Mac-Pac has with Riepe, except for the Italian part. As for being one of John's oldest friends, that is true, we went to high school together but he's 3 month's older and twice the friend I am, at least,... give or take 10 pounds. And while Fluffer may apply, I believe John serves more as a scribe or journalist in the original sense, a chronicler of BMW 2 wheeling. Ihor

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Ihor and Cantwell:

Are you guys aware that a "fluffer" is the person who keeps male porn artists stiff while the crew is changing camera angles?

Ihor -- You may have met Mike. He used to live in Wilmington. He and I hunted wild turkeys together in the fields surrounding a huge tree farm. We lost a flock of them in an open, friggin' field! Mike is the only guy I ever knew to blow a spider. (Explained somewhere in a previous blog.)

Mike -- You may have met Ihor. He now has a house in Wilmington and acts like Felix Unger. Where are the pictures of your K75? What color and year is it? Where the hell do you get it fixed up there?

Fondest regards,

Joe said...

I can't believe I missed Chris Carr. I should have mingled more...

Ride Safe,


don eilenberger said...


You're really sucking up to Curry.. guess you need some K bike work done?

I haven't seen his red RT.. hopefully he'll wander over to NJ sometime before offing a Bambi with it, or trying to prove the incompetence of Penn-DOT.

Have a great year - and we all could use a bit of slimming.


Jack Riepe said...

Dear Joe;

Mingling is an art learned early by PR people. The trick is to start by the door, and end up by the pretty woman at the bar, at the exact moment the free drinks stop.

At a Mac-Pac event, it is best to start mingling at Jim Ellenberg (best chocolate chip cookies) and end up by buying breakfast for someone who can fix your bike.

Study this technique and you'll do okay.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Don:

Not at all... Aside from one or two cosmetic items, my bike is good to go for 2009. Although I am going t need tires in May, I think.

I will suggest to Brian that we do a White Castle run over to Tom's River, perhaps to celebrate my birthday.

Fondest regards,
The Lindbergh Baby
West Chester, Pa

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Don:

Not at all... Aside from one or two cosmetic items, my bike is good to go for 2009. Although I am going t need tires in May, I think.

I will suggest to Brian that we do a White Castle run over to Tom's River, perhaps to celebrate my birthday.

Fondest regards,
The Lindbergh Baby
West Chester, Pa