Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Sounds Of Angry Motorcycles...

The fires of a man’s passion are often ignited by a scent that is like no other. That heady aroma had me in its throes now and was driving me to perform an act nearly as old as written history, and certainly as old as epic poetry. I followed the scent to its source, anxious to touch it with my lips. Barely an inch away, I felt my nostrils flare like a stallion in heat. There is nothing like the spicy allure of Irish Whisky, especially after a hard day of fingertip dancing on a keyboard. Yet my lips had barely closed on the rim of the classic “rocks” glass, when the telephone rang, effectively throwing a wet blanket over my reverie.

“This better be good,” I hissed into the mouthpiece.

It was... Rather than the voice of some damned telemarketer, I heard the unmistakable rage of a motorcycle engine being driven on the thin edge of the red line, building in intensity, and then screaming for the right of way as it rocketed past a phone held in some unidentified hand.

“Did you hear that,” asked a voice that was vaguely familiar. “Well here it comes again!”

This time it was the anger of a bunch of motorcycles, separated by inches, judging from the synchonicity of multiple engines downshifting and getting the throttle within a partial second of each other.

Race Official and Mac-Pac Member Jim Ellenberg (man) with wife Dot 
giving the "red flag" to Twisted Roads at Leguna Seca in 2006.
(Photo courtesy of Jim Ellenberg -- Click to enlarge)

“This unbelievable,” screamed the voice of a man who knew he had my undivided attention. “I’m standing inside Turn #1 at the Daytona 200 and you’ve just got to see this to believe it. These bikes are passing me at around 130 mph... And so close that I could reach out and touch them.”

The "Long and the Short of It..." Vern Troyer (Mini Me of Austin Powers fame) 
and "Big Jim" Ellenberg on the track at Leguna Seca.
(Photo courtesy of Jim Ellenberg -- Click to enlarge)

The classic sound of a big time motorcycle race instantly conjured up images of bikes leaning into turns at impossible angles, with riders throwing themselves from one side of the seat to the other, cheating gravity in one instance and centrifugal force a mille-second later. The scene was as clear in my mind as if I was standing there alongside my friend, at the “Big Track,” during Bike Week in Daytona. I took a deep breath, half-expecting to smell burning rubber and engine oil hot enough to brown French fries. What I got was a close second best, a snoot-full of 20-year-old Irish whiskey. It won’t leave you breathless but the euphoria is similar.

Greg White from the "Speed" Channel interviewing Ben Bostrom,
the winner of the Daytona 200, last week.
(Photo courtesy of Jim Ellenberg -- Click to enlarge)

The caller was my pal and Twisted Roads’ motorcycle racing correspondent, “Big Jim” Ellenberg, checking in from the best vantage point on the track. “I’d have to be in the race to get any closer,” he said. Jim has invited me to join him at Daytona, and a handful of other events, knowing full well that work precludes me from getting away at this time of the year. So he does the next best thing, calling me from one of the tightest turns, the most frenzied of the pits, or the nearest tattoo parlor, to make sure I understand he’s having a good time.

All The Gear All The Time... How many reasons can you count for drinking Corona?
At Twisted Roads, this is our idea of a "stimulus package."
(Photo courtesy of Jim Ellenberg, Corona, and 10,000 years of evolution --
Click to enlarge)

A current race official, Ellenberg is a well-known face at this event, and others, whose credentials get him into the thick of things. He reported that while several events filled the stands, it was obvious that the huge crowds of prior Daytona Bike Weeks was substantially down for 2009.

“You could walk across the street from the track right into the lobby of the Holiday Inn, and they’d have a room for you,” said Ellenberg. “That hasn’t happened in years!”

My question: “Was it the growing ages of the participants, the economy, or the weather that kept attendance down?”

“The economy is certainly playing a huge role in events like this, from sponsorship levels to what the average guy can spend this year,” said Ellenberg. “While the vendors seemed busy enough, the absence of bikes in motel parking lots and from the street five miles outside Daytona clearly indicated fewer riders were around. And pricing was way down too!”

Ever wonder what the Geico gecko does in his spare time?
(Photo courtesy of Jim Ellenberg -- Click to enlarge)

Ellenberg also noted that gray hair was in abundance, testifying to the advanced age of many attendees. “It was apparent to me that many of these folks were in their mid-sixties,” he said. “Then again ’60” is supposed to be the new ’40,’ or something like that.” He claimed this was evident at the dirt track race in Metropolitan Stadium. Yet the Super Cross event easily drew 30,000, with the age of the attendees an apparent 25 and under.

Classic skull and cross bones remains a timeless fashion symbol among bikers.
(Photo courtesy of Jim Ellenberg -- Click to enlarge)

The weather had raged north of Florida during Bike Week, dumping record amounts of snow in Georgia and Tennessee, all the way westward to Texas. That too may have had an effect on the number of riders who had planned to attend, but didn’t want to ride in winter conditions. “The temperature dropped to 31º on one night, and it felt like we were camping out at my brother’s place, which had no heat,” said Big Jim. Yet it was a balmy 68º last Friday night (March 6, 2009) when he called me.

Concern mounts as riders careen around the track at Daytona, hiting speeds of 189 mph.
(Photo courtesy of Jim Ellenberg -- Click to enlarge)

There were three major innovations introduced at this year’s Daytona 200, according to Ellenberg. The first was that the race was held at night. The second was the gates between the stands and racers’ waiting area were opened, allowing the crowd to meet their favorite riders and pick up an autograph or two. The third was to use a pace car start, eliminating the popped clutches and the mad scrambles that generally ensue at one of these races. “The pace car start is actually somewhat safer in my estimation,” said Ellenberg.

Leather can save your legs in a tumble. Boots work well too!
(Photo courtesy of Jim Ellenberg -- Click to enlarge)

Ellenberg serves as an “All Events Official,” but was attending in a volunteer capacity this year.

In The Next Post;
The conclusion of my “Free” GPS installation ($14,000 and climbing)
My Twin Children (as envisioned by Dick Bregstein) From One Roadside Affair
One Man’s Opinion -- Frivolous Bike Gear Spending

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2009
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- Perdition's’ Socks (With A Shrug)


Charlie6 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charlie6 said...

My heartfelt thanks to Mr Ellenberg for including you in his fun, if somewhat vicariously, and through you...the rest of us.

Nice of him to be at a race track and send pictures, the right pictures too, not the old boring stuff of riders defying death at every turn; but of the girls who surely cause much heavier G-force turns of one's head in order to gaze at them.

All that Corona advertising, I think I'll go get me a beer.....

Nice posting Jack!


Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

Twisted Roads -- the premier motorcycle blog for serious riders who do not take themselves too seriously -- acknowledges its responsibility to cover all of the issues, not just the fun ones.

From time to time, we can rise to the occasion.

Thanking you for writing in an mentioning the photography. Despite the best efforts of the TR team, it still does not compare with yours.

It's always a pleasure to hear from you.

Twisted Roads

Fondest regards,

irondad said...

Great photos! I'm sorry, were you writing about something?

BMW-Dick said...

Dear Jack:
I'm going to start hanging out with Big Jim. He has better looking friends with bumps in the right places.
Your former Riding Buddy

rob h said...

All I can say is, who needs to "click to enlarge"?

Rob H.

Charlie6 said...

On a totally unrelated note, since there's no scantily clad women in it, and since Jack is seemingly reticent in tooting his own horn...I wish to toot it for him (damn, that does not sound right!):

On the BMWMOA site, they've got his Ride Report on the Mac Pac's ride to Centralia, PA. LINK

It was my first "exposure" to Jack's writing and I count myself fortunate.

Anonymous said...

Jack, as the norm, your writing is always a pleasure to read. BTW, just finished reading about your "DIE_et tu" on Febs. BMW ON mag. Soon you'll be slimmer than I am. Write safe...err. ride, I mean.

Vulcan AL

Tena said...

Jack, I can honestly tell you that if I had inhaled a snootful of Irish Whiskey, no matter how old it was, it would certainly have taken MY breath away!

You made me wish that I was either 1)there with Jim at the races, or 2)smacking Jim around for taunting! It is clear that he is a good and concerned friend, with your interests at heart.

Poor Bugser went out at lunch on the very same day as the races, to celebrate his birthday. Unfortunatly, even tho Corona was on the menu, it hadn't been delivered yet, so he was forced to make do with rum & coke.

Tena said...

Charlie6: Thanks for posting the link to the story. Our boy Jack sure is a talented writer!

Woody said...


Thank you for lending your literary genius to Jim's superb photographic skills.

Note to self. Apply for the position of Geico lizard.

John said...


While the Daytona 200 had many new innovations, the race was a debacle on the largest scale. The DMG group which took over AMA pro racing has ruined what used to be the premier event, besides the Isle of Man. all of this was no fault of Jim's however.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read much of your stuff, yet. What I have read, I have really enjoyed. You seem to have a way to put emotions and feelings into words that people can relate to and make a lasting impression. Please don't stop.

Ride on,

bobskoot said...


another classic for sure. and excellent pictures "in the style of Jack Riepe" , thanks to Jim Ellenberg

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Ihor said...

Dear John, you may well be the Gunthar Les of our age! The depicted beauties are more likely products of 10,000 generations of evolution, 10,000 years only produces a Zazu Pitts. And not leather, spandex. The click don't lie. A very enjoyable 2nd hand report, hope for more and how tall is Jim, 9 ft., 4 in.??

Todd Trumbore said...

Ah yes Bike Week in Daytona. Thanks for the colorful update Jack.

My good friend and riding partner Karl Duffner gives me daily briefings as well. There was a time some years ago that I would join him on his annual pimgrimage. I don't think Herr Duffner has missed Bike Week in Daytona in almost 40 plus years. Those were good times, but short lived for us, you see Karl would never ever think of missing the Daytona event, but didn't want to burn too many personal or vacation days. So we would take one day off from work.

I had to be a Karl's house at 0500 Friday morning of bike week. We would ride down to Daytona from PA and arrive there Friday night. Then we would have ALL DAY on Saturday to enjoy the festivities. Sunday morning at 0400 am we would be back on the road for the 1000 mile return trip.

This went on for quite a few years. Then one year I let my maintenance go until the last minute and payed the price. I remember going to work and then working on my bike for three nights straight without ANY sleep.
I had not sleep in 3 days, just finished up my wrenching in time on the fourth morning (Friday) and was barely able to show up on time at Karl's house at 5 am. I didn't dare tell Karl about my lack of sleep, he would not have let me ride with him had he known.

We rode the entire day down to Florida when Karl noticed I had trouble staying awake and in my lane of traffic. The only thing that keep me going was the adreniline. So I think we stopped to look for lodging a little earlier that year. I don't know how I made it that far.

I miss Daytona, but I don't miss the ride down that year.


Jack Riepe said...

Dear Irondad:

It is the policy of Twisted Roads to explore every aspect of motorcycling, and to present photographic proof whenever possible. As they say, one picture is worth a thousand words.

I am forced to compete with Key West Diary, Wet Coast Scooting, Scooter in the Sticks, and REDLEGS Rides for meaningful pictures. Most of the shots in this episode of Twisted Roads frame my thoughts exactly.

Thank you for writing in. It's great to find you here. By the way, the story you're unfolding with "Kevin" is genuinely interesting. Are you planning to ride with him sometime?

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dick:

It's odd that you mentioned bumps. Has your head recovered from hitting that house this past summer?

My opinion on trading engineers from the Mac-Pac for women from Harley groups is well known.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Rob H:

You can never get too much of a good thing. By the way, I couldn't help but notice how the outfits of these ladies would sizzle on a "green" bike.

Thank you for writing in.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Domingo)"

That was really kind of you to post the link to that story. To this day, that ride (faithfully reported) was one of the best adventures I have ever had with a group of riders.

Your confidence in my editorial abilities is much appreciated, though probably misplaced, as pals of mine like Dick Bregstein will assure you. Let me tell you, I write plenty of crap.

But it is still great to think you can't see that yet.

Thanks again for the plug.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Vulcan Al (Tony):

I'm always thriled to run into an old friend in my blog patch. I haven heard from you in a while and have been wondering what you are up to. I sincerely hope we get out for a ride this season. I'm experiencing less pain in my hips and knees at the moment and have plans for rides through New Jersey. It would be cool to meet you and Mack Harrell, who is now wearing the ball and chain of matrimony.

Keep in touch. It's always a pleasure.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Tena:

Please congratulate "Bugser" on his 68th birthday. Then get him a nice laxative. Actually, I think the first line of this note will have the same effect.

Hopefully, I'll be able to join Mr. Ellenberg on his racing adventures next year. Then the pictures will be of me, and not that stupid lizard.

Always great to hear from you, Tena.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear John:

Your point of view is not necessarily contrary to the opinions of others. And it should be noted that economic considerations have changed the competitive field as well as impacting attendance.

Thanks for writing in. Thursday's Twisted Roads will have a reference to a point developed in your blog regarding product development for the biker crowd.

Fondest regards,
Jack Riepe

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Woody:

I was thinking, "What will Wayne have to say about the Geico gecko," as I placed that photograph in the text.

That photo you mentioned adds another dimension to the phrase, "Letting the ladies stroke the lizard..." I;m thinking of adding "Lizard Gratification Day" to my calendar.

Thanks for writing in.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Torch:

What a nice thing to say! I liked your note so much that I read it onto Dick Bregstein's (my riding partner) voice mail 116 times today. He can't hear good news often enough.

Torch -- tell us: what do you ride, what's your favorite country to ride through, if you could choose a riding partner, who would it be: Denise Richards or Nancy Pelosi (Assume the ride entails taking a shower together.)

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Bobscoot:

You are too kind. I want you to know that I will be using your pictures as a guide for shots I will be taking this season. Hopefully, my arthritis will allow me to get off the machine more often and be able to take better pictures than I typically get from the edge of the road.

Thanks for writing in.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Ihor:

Twisted Roads -- the premier motorcycle blog for seruious riders who don't take themselves too seriously -- will begin running more stories and reports taken from dedicated readers on the cusp of adventure.

Your reading pleasure is our delight. Your comments are important to us... Send us a quotable statement about this blog and win a highly collectable Twisted Roads patch.

Thanks for writing in.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Todd:

What a fascinating teaser! I'd love to spesk with you some more on this point and feature your story here.I bet you have pictures to go with it too!

What do you say?

Also, I may be in a lot better shape for the antique ride this year. Althogh my bike is vintae, I'll show up with Bregstein as my antique.

Fondest regards,

Cantwell said...

Dear Jack,
As always it is a pleasure to read your blog. There are many days lately that I sit at work and dream about riding. Your stories help me to fill the emptiness where my innocence, ignorance and inexperience once dwelt.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mike Cantwell:

I missed your call tonight. I'm up working on bike stuff.

Call the house again.


Rick said...

I am sure your words were elegant, but I must admit on this post I only looked at the pictures!

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Rick:

Nevertheless, I'm delighted I was able to offer something that appealed to you.

Thanks for dropping by and writing in.

Gondest regards,