There are national parks and other places throughout the world where huge rock formations and natural columns of stone stand precariously balanced on foundations that have been whittled away by water or wind. To thousands of tourists who photograph these wonders, half the delight is in getting the picture. The other half is the possibility of being there when one of these things comes crashing to the ground.
Similar sentiments were expressed by a crowd of some fifty onlookers, assembled in a Haverford College parking lot for a tailgate party, prior to the school’s savage basketball victory over traditional rival Swarthmore this weekend. I had previously offered to supply the group with hot, spiced cider (braced by a quart of Applejack and a dash of cinnamon), heated to the point of steam over a burner I used for frying turkeys.
I have no personal interest in basketball, but pretend so to humor the coeds who show up for these parties in skirts that are smaller than the bandana I use as a handkerchief. Yet tending the cider meant sitting next to it and occasionally giving this mixture a stir. This gave me an excellent opportunity to once again bring out my Kermit chair.
If you have ever attended a major bike rally where one or more of the entertainment functions included the burning of a huge human figure, or a wild, half-naked dance around a bonfire, or even a bar set up on planks, you will likely remember that there was a scarcity of places to sit. The ground is always available, but is invariably too hard, too cold, too damp, or too covered with cow shit to offer adequate comfort. These factors are seldom regarded as serious considerations in your early 20s, but acquire a higher priority in your 50s.
With some rallies attracting crowds of 10,000 to 50,000 riders, the search for a rock, log, or vacant picnic table is sometimes highly competitive and generally unrewarding. Plus rocks still fall into the category of being too hard, while the curved surface of the standard log is seldom compatible with the shape of the average derriere.
Hence the Kermit Chair was born.
According to popular legend, the Kermit chair was developed as the ultimate, light-weight, folding chair, especially for bike rallies. (The legend is actually a bit more specific claiming the Kermit chair was initially developed for Beemer rallies. It is a well-known fact that BMW riders have very official-looking -- and highly functional gear -- for all occasions. Shortly after being introduced to the market, the Kermit chair became a staple at BMW rallies, but has many other equally practical applications.)
This product has a collapsable leg and armrest assembly, connected by a cloth seat and back. It includes two leg supports and two curved seat braces. Coming out of the bag one cannot help but notice the fine fit and finish of the oak wood. The evident quality of the metal joinery speaks volumes too. The chair has no small parts and assembles in about two minutes without tools.
When first assembled, however, it looks like a kid’s chair for the beach. And a skinny kid at that. Many in the crowd wondered what the hell I was doing putting it together. They had no idea what I intended to do with it once it was completed, as the basic chair is not only somewhat tiny in appearance, but it is low to the ground too.
The manufacturer offers leg extenders, which raise the seat height to 17.5 inches. These also go on in a matter of seconds without tools.
The fully assembled Kermit chair is very elegant-looking, but the first word that comes to mind is “spindly.” I offered it to my friend Molly, who weighs in at 110 pounds, and her first words were, “Will that hold me?”
I stepped around to the chair’s front, and positioned my ass over it. The whole seat was swallowed up by my shadow. A gasp ran through the crowd like an electric current. A young mother made her son run behind a parked car to protect him from the splinters. I heard a voice say, “That poor chair. That man ought to be ashamed of himself.”
I gradually lowered my bulk into the seat... The Kermit chair creaked like a wooden trestle the first time a locomotive rolls over it. The silence of the crowd make the creaking seem as loud as machine gun fire. I saw money change hands in the back of the gathering as bets were settled and the odds increased.
I had barely settled myself in the seat, when, you guessed it. In front of all those people -- nothing happened. The creaking stopped. The Kermit chair was unbelievably comfortable. And all of those nice folks, who were standing around on a cold day (waiting for the fat person in the popsicle chair to go crashing to the pavement), realized I had the only seat, closest to a roaring propane burner, by the only hot drink on the menu.
The spindly, delicate-looking Kermit chair is stressed to take 350 pounds. Buried in the chair’s promotional material is a statement claiming it was tested to 750 pounds, and I believe it. I presently weigh more than 350 pounds, though I am losing weight every day. I have a size 56 waist and I have to tell you that the Kermit chair is more comfortable for me to sit in than an airline seat. Every detail has been well thought out. For example, the chair’s two seat supports are curved to prevent digging into your back and thighs.
I took no risk in using the Kermit chair before this savage crowd as I had demonstrated its properties for my de facto father-in-law at a family gathering last year, when I was heavier. This was pure theatre as far as I was concerned. This is the second time I have written about this chair. The test was different on this occasion as I got in and out of it a dozen times, putting it's joints to one hell of a stress test.
The chair weighs 5 pounds and fits into a stuff bag 22” long, and 4” by 6.” According to the specs, the leg extenders go into a stuff bag 9” long and 3.5” by 3.5.” Any backpacker will now roll over face down in the dirt and tell you how nonsensical this is. But I am compelled to remark that the packed size of the Kermit chair does not seem that big, especially its diameter. My 1995 BMW K75 has yet to complain about carrying it. No canoe or horse would complain about the added weight either. Yet your butt and back will thank you, especially after hours in the saddle. The Kermit chair is a lot more comfortable than a metal folding chair and will carry a lot more weight than the plastic ones found on the deck’s of many restaurants.
The Kermit chair comes in forest green, burgundy, black, and red. A cup/beer holder is also available. This chair is not cheap, and will set you back $129. The leg extensions (which I regard as absolutely essential) are another $30. The cupholder (purely cool) is $18. The chair has a 5-year warranty.
This blog supports American-made products, like the Mini Maglite. The Kermit chair is made in America, Tennessee, in fact, and is the personification of US craftsmanship like you remember it. The engineering that went into this product is evident in every aspect of its design. It will replace all of the shitty aluminum can and plastic weave seats you have been accustomed to buying on site, and throwing away before you leave for home. It’s a better choice for the environment and for the economy. Quite frankly, I can’t think of a nicer gift to give or get, if your riding takes you to events which are held outdoors. The Kermit chair guarantees you will always have a “good” seat.
Speaking of the economy, money is going to be a touchy subject as the riding season unfolds. Everyone I know is under the impression that they are going to have less of it. This places a greater emphasis on the quality of the gear you purchase. As a professional writer, I am chronically broke. (I have made myself a sign that reads, “Will write for sex, rum, or food, but especially sex,” that may come in handy when I am forced to pimp my talents on Main Street this summer.) I discovered hunting during the first financial crisis in my life, 25 years ago, and a bought a Winchester semi-automatic shotgun for $179.
I thought it odd at the time that the semi-automatic shotguns from Ruger and Browning were selling for five times as much, but I had my weapon and was ready to hunt. No one was more surprised than me when the breech-block blew out of that piece of shit shotgun the first time I fired a high-brass round through it. I was lucky I didn’t get hurt. (So was Winchester.) Then I read a prophetic statement in a hunting magazine that said, “Buy the very best gear you can afford for hunting or fishing,” The author went on to say that it might be better to save your money for a season or two rather than to purchase crap that could actually ruin a trip through failure. Well-made equipment will hold its functionality for years to come.
The same holds true for motorcycle gear. The Kermit chair may be regarded as a superfluous item for motorcycling that entails outdoor events or camping. Yet it becomes a lot less superfluous if your ride is enhanced by having a decent place to sit at the day’s end. It should be noted that I paid for my Kermit chair and have no relationship whatsoever with the manufacturer of this product.
In the next issue of “Twisted Roads” will introduce my new feature, “Dispatches From The Front,” a series of shorter, inter-related topics presented as one feature.
The winners of last week’s contest will be announced in this new section on Wednesday.
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2009
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pc)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)