This story will make no sense unless you read the previous posting... (Written four days ago.)
I got an email from my Uncle Bill yesterday, telling me he had come across an obituary for a Scott Volk in the Asbury Park Press and that he was wondering if my life-long friend had died. My blood ran cold for a bit as I scrambled with the link. It wasn’t him. But I started to think about the sequel to the previous blog, because the truth is lessened without it.
Scott Volk and I have been getting into trouble together since the 5th grade. At a time when most kids were playing with toy soldiers and cap guns, Scott and I had learned to extract oxygen from peroxide and mix it with acetylene gas derived from crystals taken from an old miners lamp. The experiment ended with a small explosion in his basement. I think we were 11-years-old at the time. His mother was really pissed.
As city kids with limited access to even more limited amounts of cash, we rode bicycles that started out as new once, and quickly accumulated the battle scars of pedaled machinery that went far beyond initial expectation. The earliest models were “three speeds” of the “English Racer” variety, that ultimately suffered gearing peculiarities associated with a complex rear drive hub. The limitations of this dignified two-wheeled conveyance would become obvious over longer stretches of road, with far more challenging hills.
The “three speeds” were replaced by “ten speeds,” with handlebars that curved down and around like the horns of some two-wheeled ram. Scott had a paper route, and channeled this modest income into a serious bicycle, made in France and purchased from a specialty shop. It was a kind of sports car.
My bike came from Sears. Sears was selling multi-grade products at the time and this one was the top of the line. I didn’t know that many Sears products, then as now, were made by other companies and simply carried the store’s trademark. I bought mine second hand -- with an income that was largely derived by saving cash gifts accrued through passing youth. It had a rear dereileur made of “fiberglass” that weighed nothing, rims drilled with a million little holes so the brakes would work when wet, and gear shifters mounted high up on the handlebar stem.
I was told that these innovations were not seriously regarded by those in the bicycling sport and I learned to suffer with gears that changed reliably and smoothly 100% of the time; brakes that stopped the bike (until all the little holes on the rims were filled with scraped off rubber); and shift levers that did not require me to assume the shape of a hoop every time I wanted to downshift. Uncharacteristically, I suffered in silence (preparing for my marriages far into the future).
But I got sick of pedaling long before Scott did.. Arriving at exotic destinations soaked in sweat and smelling like a draft horse had its limitations in the constricted social circles I moved in then. Scott and I never knew that we were pioneers in the “extreme” bicycle movement, and quite frankly, I was ready to jump ship as I saw no possible connection with riding a bicycle and getting laid. (This was long before cycling became a fad and led to the great bicycle clubs for men and women, who could see each other’s bodies in Spandex prior to investing in meaningful conversation, such as “What sign are you? Or “How would you like to put a lip lock on this?”)
The Kawasaki H2 ended my interest in bicycles as adventure generating transportation forever. Nothing compared with the wind whistling in my ears as I piloted my bicycle down a long sweeping hill. With the Kawasaki and an open faced helmet, that experience could be recreated right out of the driveway. It took six hours to pedal a bike up to Bear Mountain State Park in New York. It took 90 minutes to cover the same territory (in traffic) on the motorcycle.
But Scott didn’t have one. None of my friends did. I ended up riding alone all the time. Yet somehow the thoughts that dogged me for hours on end when pedaling had less time to work on me. I felt like Lindbergh on every ride out of the city.
Then there came the day when I left the house before 7am on a summer Saturday. As I anticipated, Scott was loading up his ten speed for a ride north. Water bottles were filled. Sandwiches were tucked into panniers that also held cookies and a banana, as well as tools, inner tubes, and other gear. He was dressed in little shorts and shoes that had a mechanism on the toe for locking his feet to the pedals. I was wearing jeans, a tee shirt that read, “Makin’ Bacon’” over two humping pigs, and an army fatigue jacket (my dad’s from World War II).
He looked over the Kawasaki with amazement. “For the first time in my life, I’m jealous,” he said with a smile.
I looked at him and laughed. “Don’t be. This bike isn’t taken seriously by those in motorcycle circles. Meet me in the Cub Room at the Bear Mountain Inn.”
The Bear Mountain Inn at Bear Mountain State Park... The "Cub Room" had a great painting of Rip Van Winkle over the fireplace, in which the Andirons were bear cubs. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia -- Click to enlarge)
Scott mounted up and started pedaling with purpose. I rode off and had breakfast in a diner. While he headed straight north, I followed the Hudson River and missed him at some point. I got up onto Rt. 9W, crossed the State Line, and had a wild idea! Why not pull over at the same place where I seen my first set of hooters and wait for him to come by!
I had no trouble at all in finding that spot and in pulling off he road. Despite the fact it was broad daylight, I was amazed to discover that the bog had spread in the 7 years that I had last seen it. The Kawasaki rolled into the ooze the same way that other guy’s Harley did, but only up to the front tire.
Dismounted and with my feet now covered in muck, I couldn’t budge the damn thing. Attempting to rock it back and forth only made the situation worse. Like a jerk, I stood by the side of the road for 45 minutes, until my pal rode by. We were bigger now, and got the bike out in no time. Scott grabbed a water bottle and took a huge gulp.
“Want some,” he offered. Naturally, I wasn’t carrying a water bottle.
“You know, Reep,” Scott said. “Your preoccupation with tits is going to get you in trouble every time.”
Truer words were never spoken.
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2009
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)