“Aaaaaaaah, the first real day of fall,” I thought. The neighbor’s cat darted across this carpet of fallen flora and struck a dramatic pose against the fence post. This is the cat that delights in pissing in my garage.
“Say cheese,” I said.
The cat looked at me quizzically in the brief second before I triggered the electric leaf blower, air-mailing forty square feet of detritus in her direction. As you are all aware, a substantial number of bike drops occur because the rider has inadvertently stepped on dry leaves, wet leaves, a potion of a a wet leaf, a stub of a twig (with a perfectly round circumference like a pencil), or cat shit causing the one leg supporting the bike to go akimbo.
The prudent rider is well advised to keep the runway clear of this stuff for drop-free take-offs and landings. My tool for this purpose is an a leaf blower powered by a General Electric C40a, a fan motor used to ventilate subway tunnels. In less time than you can spook a cat, the leaves were off the pavement and roughly piled on the grass. I then rolled out "Fire Balls," my 1995 K75 BMW, and couldn’t help noting how seasonal it looked against the backdrop of turning trees. The bike is painted a deep shade of scarlet so inspirational, the College of Cardinals in Rome used matching color swatches for their football team’s jerseys.
The starting line-up for the College of Cardinals 2009 Football Season -- (Photo courtesy of Cardinal Mendzenty -- Click to enlarge)
“Have you seen my cat,” said a voice that sounded like a pick-up line from the Crypt-Keeper. My aged, hated neighbor, who has more lines in her face than a contour map of the Himalayas, was draped over the fence like a hangover hallucination.
“No, I haven’t,” I replied, using the voice I save for traffic cops and divorce court lawyers. .
It was at that point that one of the piles of leaves started to “meow.”
“Did you throw those leaves on my cat,” she screamed.
But I had already started the bike and was following the standard BMW warm-up procedure of revving it at 6,000 rpm, so I missed a lot of what she said. I could tell her maw was still moving though as it had started to foam.
“Don’t worry,” I shouted over the screaming of enraged pistons. “I’ll burn these leaves as soon as I get back.”
I snicked the bike into gear and buzzed out of the driveway. According to the electronic billboard at the local bank, the temperature was 48º. The sun was shining and the bike was running like a lineal descendant of Jim Thorpe. All was right with the world. And if the digital dash clock, standard equipment on all K75s from 1986 to 1995, was to be believed, I would be on-time for this morning’s ride.
This ride would barely be a warm-up for the average BMW riders -- 45 miles. An invitation from Yar Seevers, sole proprietor of Buckingham Lumber, for an outdoor fall brunch was luring Dick Bregstein, Andy Terrell, Alain Kaldewaay, and myself to quaint little Buckingham, Pa. Our starting point would be at the Starbuck’s in Exton, where a decent hot cup of Joe can still be purchased for less than $10.
I hadn’t ridden in two weeks and every part of me, except one, was as stiff as a board. I debated taking the more picturesque, and tree-lined run down to Exton, and gave it the pass in favor of the more urbane Route 100, with its breathtaking view of shit house strip malls most of the way. My decision was colored by the fact it had been raining like hell for two days and 40 percent of leaves that had been on trees 48 hours previously were now on the ground in a kind of puree from hell. Despite being 100 percent natural, I can live without this stuff’s effect on curves and fast stops. PA Route 100 would be arid and leaf-free.
I had two blocks left to go when I was brought to a halt by a traffic light. It was here I saw two BMW motorcycles cut into the Starbuck’s driveway. And just when I was about to pull away, Bregstein carved through the intersection, with the the kind of wave WWI pilots used to exchange after a dogfight.
“Well,” I thought. “We’re all here.”
In truth, I didn’t give much thought to organizing a group ride. I had just had a really shitty week and felt like getting lost in the company of a few good people, who always have something funny to say. Three had responded to my posting for a ride.
The parking lot at Starbuck’s is behind the building, which looks like it should have been a bank, or something. I bumped over the lip of the driveway and carved a sharp left into — a convention of BMW motorcycles. For the first time in seven days, I felt a smile rip across my face and I started to laugh. There was Gerry Cavanaugh, Andy Terrell, Jay Scales, Matt Piechotta, Alain Kaldewaay, Dick Bregstein, Gary Christman, and Jim Robinson (and I know I am forgetting a few people).
I put my feet down and started to laugh. Let there be no doubt about this: doing stuff with the Mac Pac is like going to Thanksgiving dinner with people you really like.
Jim Robinson was riding his Ducati, which looks and sounds like a Roman candle. Robinson lost 37 pounds and was wearing ballistic gear he bought from the Michael Jackson “on-stage” collection. His “Duc” makes the most incredible sound. At start-up, there is a kind of contained explosion, and then it sounds like a nuclear reactor shaking a can of marbles.
Aside from myself and Robinson, everyone else looked like a commercial for the BMW GS, the motorcycle designed to match the classic appeal of the bowling shoe. And even the machines that were not in the “Merrimac” armored dirt-bike category sported the traditional boxer engine. I wasn’t fooled for a minute, and knew the look of “K” bike penis envy on the faces of these guys when I pulled in.
The parking lot at Yar Seever's "Buckingham Lumber" was choked with bikes by 12:30pm. All the best people were there. (Photo by Jack Riepe, who barely got off his ass after arriving at the event -- Click to enlarge)
Jim Robinson proposed an interesting route for getting to Buckingham, Pa. He wanted to go out RT. 113 to Lake Michigan, then head back east. He knew a way that included a network of tree-lined back roads, complete with switchbacks, cattle-crossings, and a turn through a corrugated half-pipe culvert that ended on 150 feet of single-plank board scaffolding, that extended over a working open-pit mine.
Jim Robinson standing in front of his screamingly hot red Ducati. (Photo by Jasck Riepe -- Click to enlarge.)
I just ridden 5 miles and my ass was killing me. I wanted to go out US-202, take the right turn onto Rt. 413, and get a drink in Buckingham. No surprises. “Guy’s,” I said. “Don’t worry about me. Pick the ride that will give you the most satisfaction.”
I was nearly knocked off my bike by the stampede to follow Robinson.
Only Dick Bregstein and Gary Christman (who had just returned from China) offered to ride with me. Dick claimed that he was more than happy to ride US-202 through the mall-congested town of King of Prusia, to the ripped up street congestion of downtown Norristown, to the mall- congested stretch through Montgomeryville, to the single-lane congested stretch approaching Peddler’s Village. He said that he would enter it in his diary as the “Just Fucking Shoot Me Fall Ride.”
Our host — Yar Seevers — striking a pose on the hottest bike in the lot, while Alain Kaldewaay, BMW GS rider, looks on in unasbashed admiration at a bike with a proper cooling system. (Photo by Jack Riepe, who still hasn't gotten off his ass -- Click to enlarge)
Gary claimed that he had never ridden with me before and heard the chance for unintended entertainment could be high. Twenty minutes later, I popped the clutch at a stoplight, had my left hand slip off the handlebars, while the right one twisted on the gas. The bike took off swerving from side to side for about 200 feet before I could get it under control. Looking in the mirror, I found Christman laughing his ass off, giving me the "thumb's up."
While the ride was pleasant, it didn’t start to get pretty until within three miles of our destination. It was exactly like riding on a busy city street for 40 miles. Yet the terrain becomes positively pastoral the second you cross into Buckingham. Yar’s business — Buckingham Lumber — makes the Amish look gadget oriented. It’s located in red barn, surrounded by the kind of equipment made for moving lumber and building materials in the 1890’s. There is even an adjacent railway siding, with passenger train coaches from the ‘20s awaiting restoration, to add to the ambiance.
The business end of Dick Bregstein's BMW R1150RS. Note the non-telescoping front forks. The chrome suspension cyclinder can be seen under the headlight. Also note the spotless condition of the jugs on this Beemer. (Photo by Jack Riepe — Click to enlarge)
Within minutes of our arrival, the place was jammed with bikes. Riders came from as far west as Allentown and as far east as Philly, to shoot the breeze, look at bikes, and chow down on pancakes, sausage, eggs, burgers, and dogs. Dozens of Duncun Donuts disappeared in a feeding frenzy as the mob continued to build. I found a nice seat in the sun, and sat there, looking like a casualty with my cane prominently displayed. This was a great strategy as at least three hot-looking women scrambled to get me breakfast — one pointedly ignoring the guy she came with (Chris Jacarrino).
Mac Pac rider Rick Sorensen suiting up for the ride back home, on a BMW GS. (Photo by Jsck Riepe -- Click to enlarge)
I could have selected my seat with better judgement, however. Bregstein noted it was perched on a platform attached to a scale used to measure bulk commodities in tons. I’d eat something, and he’d bring folks over to study the dial (which was the circumference of a hula hoop) to monitor the difference. Finally he said, “I can’t tell if this thing is weighing you, or the train.”
Andy Terrell suiting up for a back roads run home, on another BMW GS. It is the marque's biggest seller. (Photo by Jack Riepe -- Click to enlarge)
There were close to 40 bikes in the lot with a few serious riders. Moto Edde Mendes was there with his significant other Nicole. Edde rode in on a K75 that he used for his run from Morocco to New York, heading east for 39,000 miles through the Sahara, the “Stans,” Asia, and Russia. High speed, long-distance riders like Rick Sorensen joined Jim Robinson, and Doug Raymond (who rode from Philly to Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Circle and back in 14 days) showed up later.
Long distance riding legend Doug Raymond came later. This is a photo of Doug attending the Mac Pac Monthly Breakfast the weekend before, when it was raining. (Photo by Jack Riepe — Click to enlarge)
Not having ridden in two weeks, my arthritis was acting up and I did not want to ride home via the Purgatory route we took coming in. I asked Bregstein’s indulgence and sought the shortest distance to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which I figured was less than 10 miles away. Yar gave us directions that involved 63 turns and two enroute decisions that had to be made according to number of birds sitting on the overhead wires. I got us lost twice within that 10 miles. But Alain Kaldewaay claimed his GPS was watching over us and that we were almost at the interstate.
"Fire Balls" holds its own with bikes of a newer design. Note the mounting block I use as a step in front of the back tire. (Photo by Jack Riepe — Click to enlarge)
We were... The ride back was at warp speed, and I am not kidding. It felt great. My bike is as steady as a rock at 7,000 rpm, and sounds like a Messerschmidt looking to get laid.
International model "Gina" stopped by on her way to the Cannes Film Festival, and just had to sit on "Fire Balls." When asked if she would consider a life of editorial compromise and general disillusionment, she gave this gesture. (Photo by Jack Riepe -- Click to enlarge)
But the day wasn't over yet. I pulled into my driveway a little after 4pm, and left the bike outside. Despite the fact that I was walking like Quasimodo, I was determined to take this bike for a ride in the dark. Those of you familiar with “Fire Balls” from previous episodes will recall that I have $1400 worth of riding lights on this machine. Since installing them, however, I have yet to go riding at night.
It was blacker than the inside of a cow at 8pm, and I headed for the darkest roads I could find. The headlight was out of adjustment, again, which had me a little crazy. But I got it right after two or three dismounts and was very pleased with the result. It takes about 30 seconds for the HID lights to come up to speed but the effect is startling. The left one comes on first, with a flash of internal fire and a gradual steady piercing light. It is shortly followed by the unit on the right. This may be because each unit draws two million jiggawatts at ignition, before simmering down to 30 watts each. There was no odd activity on the voltmeter, however.
I now have a field of dazzling white light in the center, flanked by laser-like blue light on either side, at least three hundred feet ahead of the bike. This works just fine for me. I may consider having a metal shop make a visor for each of these lights, as some illumination leaks upward into the fairing interior.
It wasn’t a lot of miles (110), but they were fun miles.
Next Blog Episode: “Duc Dude’s Most Excellent Toll Booth Adventure”
Coming: “189 Miles Per Hour In First Gear — No Shit”
Copyright© Jack Riepe 2009
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)