Sunday, February 1, 2009

Riders Gather To Honor One Of Their Own...

It was the middle of a typical business day in a hamster wheel of a work week where tedium and aggravation combined to create the daily high point of my life. The clock struck noon, and as a member of the Public Relations Writers’ Proletariat Cooperative, I was compelled to lower myself into the nearest gutter to drink my lunch. By coincidence, this was directly in front of the Betty Ford Clinic. It was a hot day with the only shade coming from my trusty BMW K75 parked at the curb. I had barely gotten comfortable, with the classic brown paper bag (the badge of my office) strategically arranged over the pint bottle, when a individual wearing glasses and a one-piece riding suit (trailing an extension cord), stepped out of the sun and asked:

“Are you a member of a BMW riding group?”

“Why,” I shot back in a feeble rapid-fire defense. “Is this gutter reserved for them?”

This gave the apparition brief pause for thought, not in search of a smart ass answer but only as he actually pondered the validity of the question. (It never occurred to me he might be an engineer.)

“I see you are riding a K75, the finest example of the motorcycle builder’s craft and the arguably the best machine ever produced by the Bavarian Motor Works. I was wondering if you were a member of a local BMW riding club,” he asked again.

“Look, Buddy... I’m just sitting here in ignominious obscurity, minding my own business, reflecting on 50 years of abject failure...”

“Because I’d like to introduce you to the Mac-Pac, southeast Pennsylvania’s premier metric riding club, with a strong focus on fine German motorcycles and the Teutonic riding lifestyle,” he continued.

It was impossible to get a good look at the guy as the sun was directly behind him and I was laying in the gutter. In fact, the only thing that kept swinging in and out of my focus was the extension cord sticking out of his riding suit. It had a hypnotic effect. I realized it had a “homespun” look about it, was bright green and sported the kind of switch most commonly used to turn on Christmas tree lights.

“Why would I want to be introduced to the Mac-Pac,” I asked, sensing I was about to find out anyway.

“Because it’s the best way to interact with women who share your principles and who can probably service your motorcycle.”

“Do you have a registration form,” I asked. It never occurred to me that engineer would lie like everybody else.

That was how I met Brian Curry, K75 Guru, ranking member of the Mac-Pac, and de facto communications guardian of the group’s highly secretive G-mail list. Over the course of the next three years, Curry explained to me how the Mac-Pac was less of a motorcycle club and more of a riding conspiracy. Rides were typically announced on 30-second notice with the average lunch run spanning two time zones. I learned to keep my motorcycle on a charger in the garage, with five gallons of gas in the tank, and bundles of $20 bills (with non-sequential serial numbers) in the top case. There was even a ritual to introducing myself to other members of the club, indicating that I had been “approved.” This entailed going up to clusters of riders at Mac-Pac events, and asking, “Do you guys know Brian Curry?” The secret response on their part was to remain silent, but to exchange glances among themselves -- while rolling their eyes.

I soon learned that Brian Curry seldom did anything in the light of day, but was a catalyst for change and action while operating in the shadows, like Peter Lorre moving through an old Humphrey Bogart movie. Yet it must be noted that the Mac-Pac is an incredibly effective social network dedicated to motorcycles in general and BMWs in particular. Without being chatty, the group’s secret g-mail list (known only to an intimate 20 or 30 thousand people) is a source of ride reports, technical data, moderate political contention, economic interpretation, and unique rider interaction. Mr. Curry plays an integral part in all this. He also leaves his bloody thumbprint on certain administrative duties akin to subliminal messaging. For example, Curry conducts club business at the monthly breakfasts by communicating through a mechanical moose head activated by a trigger on a stick. More amazing is that all members in attendance, sometimes as many as 60, listen to the moose and occasionally ask it questions -- even though they can see Curry’s hand working the trigger.

In the best picture ever taken of Brian Curry, the Guest of Honor reads the event program
and discovers all of his speeches and "insight moments" have been replaced by topless dancers.
(Photo by Jack Riepe -- Click to enlarge)

Curry manages to accomplish all this without becoming a “people” person. The administrator of the "K Bike" list as well, he is instantly recognized for his warm salutations like, "Did your mother have any kids who lived," and "If shit were brains, you'd be a sustainable resource." I will never forget the time I misread my service manual, which was written half in English with the captions under the pictures in Yiddish. I mistakenly poured a quart of transmission fluid into the bike, without getting a reading on the stick. I was in the process of opening a second quart, when I got an email from Curry which read, "I have filed a court order of protection prohibiting you from touching that bike. Put the oil down. I am coming."

Harold Gantz, one of the best-known personalities among BMW riders in the Garden State 
(New Jersey), made the trip as a "mystery guest," giving himself an out if he changed his mind.
(Out of focus photo by Jack Riepe -- Click to enlarge)

This does not mean he is without a soft spot. Curry maintains one of the largest rehabilitation facilities for crush washers in the motorcycle industry. Hundreds of crush washers, that would normally have been tossed out on the street after giving the best months of their lives sealing transmission and crank case sumps, are welcomed by Curry, restored to a somewhat usable state, then given new assignments (sometimes for years). “Old Faithful,” the most famous crush washer in BMW history, lasted 258,000 miles and 860 oil changes under Curry’s care. (He saved almost $9 over the last 40 years in funds that would have been wasted on new washers.) “Old Faithful” is now on display at the Mac-Pac Museum of Utterly Incredible Things, in Lionville, Pa., along with a bar tab that was “almost” picked up by Mack Harrell.

Veteran Mac-Pac rider Joe Sestrich toasts Brian Curry... With an empty glass. 
Sestrich drained that glass within two seconds of receiving it from the waitress.
(Photo by Jack Riepe -- Click to enlarge)

On January 9, 2009, eleven of the Mac-Pac cognoscenti gathered at Crawdaddy’s Bayou Bar and Grill For Brian Curry Appreciation Day. Dick Bregstein, Gerry Cavanaugh, Sue Cavanaugh, Jim Ellenberg, Mike Evans, John Fleischer, Harold Gantz, David Hardgrove, Matt Piechota, Joe Sestrich and Jack Riepe all came to honor Brian Curry for his outstanding contribution to motorcycling, to the BMW K75, and to the Mac-Pac. Several of those in attendance had initially indicated they wanted to offer testimonials to Brian’s ingenuity and unique approach to motorcycle maintenance, though all but two changed their minds at the last moment. Only Mike Evens and Jim Ellenberg were prepared to speak, but neither one owns a BMW, and as Bregstein had to show Evans who Curry was at the beginning of the event, the testimonials were cut.

From left, Dick Bregstein, Mike Evans, John Fleischer, and Sue Cavanaugh have nothing
but the best wishes for Brian Curry, who will not have to pay for his lunch as part of this
whole Appreciation Day thing.
(Photo by Jack Riepe -- Click to enlarge)

Curry was the only one who arrived on his K75RT. While temperatures were borderline for riding, Curry pulled up in his battle-scarred Aerostitch, connected to a socket via a converted extension cord from a Christmas tree. Rumor has it he can charge the battery by connecting it to any outdoor Christmas display. Yet before stepping into the bar, Brian changed into a custom-tailored blazer, which gave him the appearance of a talk show host or an upscale aluminum siding salesman. His credibility doubled on the spot.

Mac-Pac Mileage Miester Gerry Cavanaugh gives Brian Curry
the group's traditional salute in recognition for his prior efforts, 
future endeavors and as a token of his personal esteem.
(Photo by Jack Riepe -- Click to enlarge)

David Hardgrove, a registered Dutch sympathizer, was the last to arrive. He declined the menu and and offer of lunch, claiming his sole purpose in attending was to pick up Curry’s tab. This was received by a strong vote of confidence and a round of applause. Bregstein further moved that the group should give Hardgrove a standing ovation if he would extend that offer to everyone’s lunch. Hardgrove smiled and said modesty prevented him from accepting any further recognition. Bregstein was on the verge of insisting when the motion was tabled to a more appropriate time, when we would all catch Hardgrove on a deserted road someplace.

David Hardgrove, one of the Mac-Pac's two Harley riders, felt compelled to attend the event
to make sure somebody paid for Brian Curry's lunch. "I know this group," said Hardgrove. 
"If the men's room window was big enough, Curry would be standing there with everybody else's check."
(Photo by Jack Riepe -- Click to enlarge)

It was a pleasure to see Joe Sestrich, as he has missed the last three Mac-Pac Riders Dinners and Monthly Breakfasts recovering from the second time he fell off a motorcycle and broke his knee. Sestrich was riding a 100 cc dirt bike, borrowed from a third grader, when he was pulled from the seat by a wild grape vine. 

Harold Gantz rode in from New Jersey, where he said Brian Curry’s name was a household word. Mike Evans then suggested several household words, none of which sounded very chummy. John Fleischer came down from Reading, Pa. to pay tribute to Brian, but threatened to leave if a long speech from the guest of honor was on the agenda, “particularly if it was delivered by a talking moose.”

This was Fleischer’s third Mac-Pac event and he has expressed the opinion that he has attended union meetings that were livelier than these.

It cannot be denied that the Mac-Pac plays relentless hardball in close quarters. Many times I have found myself riding in adversity and uttering the simple prayer, "Oh God, please don't let me drop my bike in front of these bastards, especially Mike Evans, as the incident will know no end." Yet for each time the ball is thrown, someone from the team is generally there to catch it too. Brian Curry has buzzed down to my garage on any number of occasions to pull my fat ass out of the fire. And he is one of the reasons why I have never broken down on the road. On my first really great ride under the aegis of the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America, I did the unthinkable. I arrived at a rally with a bad front tire. I was a re-entry rider with limited knowledge of key bike components, and I had just put a couple of thousand miles on a Metzler front tire, bringing the total mileage on the rubber up to 13,000K . The tread still looked good to me. Brian was one of several who told me otherwise. I made an appointment with a rally vendor to switch out the tire. The vendor was overextended, overwhelmed, and highly overrated. Under his direction, my front brake was disabled and there was a serious question of how I would get my machine home.

Matt Piechota stares in polite disbelief as the list of Brian Curry's accomplishments are read.
Piechota has joined Dick Bregstein and Clyde Jacobs as one of the "Crippled Biker Escort Riders," who follows me around, waiting to lift the K75 off my fat ass when I drop it.
(Photo by Jack Riepe -- Click to enlarge)

That's when Brian Curry took charge. Pete Buchheit (a great rider often mentioned in my stories, whose only fault is endlessly bitching about raffles he loses) went off in search of parts the tire vendor said I needed. Chris Wolfe (a close friend whose faults are exceded only by all his other shortcomings) planted himself in the vendor's trailer to guarantee that a committment to get my tire mounted would eventually be honored. But it was Brian Curry who correctly diagnosed the problem, fixed the brake, and mounted the wheel when the new tire was installed, 8 hours after the promised time. Chris Jaccarino (another Mac-Pac member who works as a teller for the World Bank) bled the brakes for me the next day. 

Brian does a lot for the Mac-Pac. He maintains two lists and answers a lot of questions. There is a risk in doing so as BMW riders comprise the densest core of experts on anything, and one opens oneself to well-intentioned criticism that is cushioned with broken glass in this function. Curry keeps the group's dinners and breakfasts on track through encouragement like a barium enema. He has served with distinction on the MOA's internet cafe endeavor, and is an Ambassador for that group.

All of this is worthy of a little appreciation in my book.

The Mac-Pac Riders Appreciation Day event is scheduled by the Appreciation Day Committee, which meets in secret at the Himalayan Exotic Indian Restaurant. Gerry Cavanaugh was the last member to be honored by an Appreciation Day event, which was convened at a Chinese restaurant as he claimed Indian food gives him the “shits.” A source close to the committee chair speaking on condition of anonymity, cited that future candidates for the honor are presently under consideration. “The primary reason they haven’t been honored already is that there was some doubt that they would even attend,” said the source. It should be noted that Brian Curry refused to RSVP for his Appreciation event, and that Dick Bregstein suggested we honor him posthumously.

Why did I include this story in my blog this week when it is so obviously club business?
Because the Mac-Pac is about riding... And Friendship... And pure fun. And because this winter is quickly becoming a major pain in the ass. Events like this keep the suicide rate down. It helps folks like me remember why I ride. While it may seem difficult to offer comments on a posting like this, I cordially invite all readers to take whatever shots they choose at both Dick Bregstein and Mike Evans. In fact, I dare you.

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


Rogers George said...

As usual, difficult to distinguish the boundary between truth and fiction. Another good read, Jack, even though you never read my blog, Mushrooms to Motorcycles anymore. It's at in case you forgot the url.

BMW-Dick said...

For Rogers George
Dear Rogers:
There is nothing to distinguish. There is no truth in anything Jack writes. Brian Curry is not a real person; it's a condiment served with Haggis. Also. . . I read your blog often; usually it's on those long nights when I have trouble getting to sleep, and your wonderful writing about mushrooms and installing heating coils in the floor always seems to do the trick. I used to take sleeping pills, but now I'm drug free, and there's no risk of overdosing on your blog.
Sorry you missed the Haggis Condiment appreciation luncheon. It was almost as much fun as your blog.

Rie21 said...

Hello Mr.Jack Riepe...
I see Your Blog, and I think your post was so good. I like to read your article and photos. I wanna exchange My Link to You, have Your Link in My Motorcycle Relevant Links in My Blog. I hope You do same My Brother. Thank You before.

John said...

I miss the Chris Carr signed spoon. Where is the dignaty in a talking moose head? I am also very disappointed in the fact that he doesn't at least attempt to make the moose sound like Bullwinkle.

But Mr. Curry is a good egg, which is fitting given the shape of his head and all.

ADK said...


You really should get this spelling thing down given that you're being paid to tell lies to members of the public.

My shortcomings are perhaps best illustrated by the company I keep on interminable rides through Vermont returning from BMW rallys.

I remember Brian Curry as a hero, single handedly lifting a stricken R series bike with one arm while the luckless owner tried to replace a wheel that had also been 'serviced' by the same vendor you mentioned (Wasn't he called The Tire Nazi?), while at the same time discoursing on the unfairness in life that had propelled you into his company. I liked him a lot.

Charlie6 said...

Your story makes me want to attend these "interestingly jovial" mac-pac meetings, too bad you guys decided to live so far from the Rockies!

Using a talking moose head as a "deus ex machina" apparatus, brilliant!

motonomad said...

Are you certain that's a picture of Brian Curry? It looks more like an old photo of Alec Guinness. I doubt Curry doesn't even owns a sports coat, and if he did it would be stained with crankcase oil and brake fluid.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Rogers:

How could you say this to me? I plug your blog all the time! I hold luncheons to celebrate your work! Luncheons that you never attend, despite having plenty of free time to visit strip joints all over Delaware. And still you say that I do not read your blog!

This Friday I am calling a meeting of the Mac-Pac Editorial Committee to discuss the content, presentation, and social significance of your blog. Your blog will be the discussion of my blog shortly thereafter. (At this point, insert a sinister laugh.)

I can guarantee you will have some interesting comments.

Fondest regards,

Dennis said...

This is the kind of project that every club or rider should do.

Our motorcycle club here at the philippines. Salutes this kind of project.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dick:

Truth is a relative commodity. I tell everybody what a great guy you are, and then they are forced to consider the source. It is time for all of us to rally around Rogers and his blog at a Friday lunch. I am goig to call one for this Friday. It is a safe bet that Rogers will not show up.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Rie21:

Thank you for your kind note. I am flattered that you like my stuff and willbe happy to exchange links with you. I went to your site last night and read a couple of interesting articles. I would recommend that others do the same.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear John:

Brian Curry is an engineer... It would never occur to hom to get the moose to sound like "Bullwinkle." It would only occur to us to make the moose sound like "Bullwinkle."

I am gping to video Brian doing the announcements at the Februray breakfast, and see if we can't get hi doing a segment with the moose head.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mr. Wolfe;

I have no idea what you're bitching about. I went back to the story, where you make the most cameo of appearances, and your name is spelled correcrtly. I guess everybody else is correct: you simoply live to complain about things.

Brian never complains. He sulks. Then he moves through the shadows cutting throats undetected.

There is a good possibility I might be in better shape to do a warm weather ride up to your neck of the woods... If the warm weather ever comes. This winter is starting to suck big time.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

What a nice thing to say! You'd be made welcome at any of our Mac-Pac breakfasts, especially as every effort would be made to stick you with the check.
Let me know what your schedule is like if you head up this way. Maybe we can arrange something with a ride afterward.

Aleways a pleasure to hear from you.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dennis:

What a pleasure it was to hear from you today! There is nothing like club activities to promote the safety, social, and etherial aspects of motorcycling. My riding pleasure has been greatly intensified by club activities, and my skill has increased through exposure to better riders than myself.

I went to your site and greatly enjoyed the pictures and commentary on your group rides. Regretably, the snow and ice here are limiting my ability to deliver current ride reports. But they are coming.

Thanks for your note.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Motonomad:

How nice of you to drop by and leave such an uncharacteristically pleasant note! Rumor has it that Brian actually has a full wardrobe -- other than that Aerostitch.

Always a please ti hear from you, Pete B.

Fondest regards,

Tena said...

Well, I can't really take shots at people I don't know at all, and to be quite frank, I'm not sure I would if I DID know them! From your account, the Mac/Pac group is an awesome and formidable group! I believe you have made sure that if I ever meet this auspicious group, it will be as I'm shivering in my boots.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Tena:

The best way to meet these guys is riding a bike.

Fondest regards,

BreakfastVP said...

As I read this, it's snowing outside and the air has that sort of cold damp that can penetrate 4 inch styrofoam plate like it's fly screen. The road surfaces are as slick as month old fish guts and the salt is deeper than the snow. A royally awful winter day.
But - this blog lifts the spirit and we say "Hell, it's only 6 weeks til spring. 6 short weeks. Ha!!"
Thanks Jack. Very funny.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Breakfast VP (Todd):

Dear Sir, I'm glad you laughed. I can hardly wait to start the real ride reports as I get back on the road in warmer, dryier weather.

Fondest regards,

DC said...

I haven't ridden a motorcycle for 7 weeks. If it hasn't been ice cold, it's been wet, ...lately, both. I've been an absolute bear to the wife and kids. The day you "cleaned the garage", when Jim showed up on his GS, was the best day to take advantage. However, for me, it was the first chance the ground thawed enough to bury the bodies.

Jack, I'm glad to hear that you may be having some arthritis relief. Keep up the effort to be pain free. Your rides might also be much better if you could shed a little weight, like somethng on the order of Breg Dickstein.

You and I need to grab a couple bar stools soon. I want to find out what you prefer to see, and more importantly, avoid, on a 100 mile ride so that I can plan one thru Southeastern PA this year, in your honor. We'll call it "Rolling Hills, Streams and Strip Clubs - Riepe's Ride of Redemption - Not for the Squeamish".

Keep writing. The sanity you save may be mine.


DC said...

Sorry 'bout that. My last comment should have appeared on Jack's "First Rider of 2009". I've copied it there, with minor edits, if anyone cares...