A quick glance at the speedo revealed I’d crossed over into triple digit territory without so much as a hiccup from the engine or the hint of a contrail from the muffler. It had only been daylight for about an hour, and this was the second day, a Sunday, of a three-day summer holiday weekend. The interstate was deserted and my destination was an obscure "shore" bar atop the dunes in a postage stamp of a town known primarily to bikers. Not BMW bikers, but the chrome and leather riders, who would arrive in a barrage of sound, on machines hammered out of ore taken straight from chrome mines, decorated with painted pillion candy (ladies) who would have a man thinking of things that would embarrass a moose in rut.
"Fireballs..." My 1995 BMW K75, a motorcycle of class and distinction. Photo by the author.
Once off the slab, my route would hug the coast for a bit, rolling through towns that smelled of salt, fish, and marshes percolating in the summer heat. The road would occasionally rise above a waterway, catching a freshening breeze while offering a glimpse of the ocean on my left, and a vast bay on the right. It was far too early to arrive at a bar and start drinking. My plan was to get through the shore communities before the crowds and the cops would jam these roads like platelets in a worn artery. Still, there were plenty of places where I intended to stop, and pour myself a cup of coffee from the battered Nissan vacuum bottle in my top case.
One of these spots is a little public pavilion overlooking a thin stretch of beach. It is off by itself, nearly concealed from the road by shifting dunes, corralled by sand fences buried to within inches of their tops. I generally hit this place slightly before 8am, on this annual ride, and have been known to light up one hell of a maduro, robusto cigar for the brief time that I am here. Smoking a robusto (wrapped in the black-hearted leaf of Connecticut) is like sucking on the muffler of a Ducati, and creates clouds of satisfying, spice-laden vapor to challenge the oxygen-generating capabilities of the nearest rainforest. Native Americans were quick to realize the portable smoke-lodge benefits of thickly-rolled tobacco and I will not dispute generations of cures attributed to holistic medicine.
On a prior run, I was ensconced in this pavilion, cigar in hand, when a gentleman showed up with a shopping bag and a little dog, like a Pomeranian, on a leash that was as delicate as dental floss.
“I read the New York Times here every Sunday,” he said.
“There’s no need to apologize,” I said with a smile. “I’ve read far worse.”
“But you’re smoking,” he said.
“Not me... My cigar,” I smiled, holding it up.
“Well, it’s a disgusting habit and my dog doesn’t like it.”
I took one more puff and let it out slowly. The breeze was coming off the water and the smoke evaporated instantly, like a practical idea in Congress. I realized I was in the presence of that rare bird of paradise, the great American warbling douche... A man in his forties who had never been laid, whose greatest ambition as a kid was to be the hall monitor at school, and whose current career peaked when named to his position at an insurance company -- denying coverage to cancer patients.
“I beg your pardon,” I said.
Collecting my helmet, jacket and gloves was a process that took a few seconds, and I accompanied this activity with a series of puffs that would have set off inversion alarms in any major city. The look on this guy’s face was priceless. I stepped out of the pavilion and headed to a bench 50 feet away, where I proceeded to smoke like a forge.
“I can still smell that cigar,” he yelled in my direction.
The spell was broken. This guy had managed to take all the magic out of the morning, and I had to be moving on anyway. I stood up and ground the smoldering stogie into the sand with the heel of my boot, where it remains to this day, providing fodder for legions of migrating lemmings. I walked up to him and said, “I’ll be back in an hour. If you’re still here, I’m going to smoke that fucking dog.”
But these were the images in my head as I downshifted off the slab that day, heading for the first leg of the local route. The light at the intersection went red in my face and I reined in the K75. I no sooner had both feet flat on the pavement than my senses were assaulted by a concentration of sound one usually associates with the re-entry of space debris rocketing through the atmosphere. The scream of metal in anguish, as tortured pistons instantly went from full thrust to dynamic braking, penetrated my helmet like a projectile.
A S.Q.U.I.D. pulled up next to me at the light, having decelerated from 3,000 miles per hour to a dead stop -- in 40 feet. His bike, a 4200cc Squidabussa, looked like a predator straight out of that stupid "Transformer" movie. The rider appeared to be 20-years-old, weighed about 87 pounds, and exuded the nonchalance of a drug dealer.
The woman on the back, however, was both a vision and a curse. She raised her tinted face screen to say something to him, and revealed the kind of eyes one seldom finds outside of Anime. Though wearing a little leather jacket, her foot pegs seemed nearly level with her seat -- almost raising her knees behind her ears -- exposing a “tramp stamp”(that would easily get my vote for official US postage) over a flawless ass that I would have been delighted to wear as a hat.
She looked right through me, and I realized I was an all but invisible bale of rags, escaped from a prison laundry, riding a gelded iron dinosaur. That is because at 55-years-old, fat, and astride a vintage BMW (that was an acquired taste the day it was new), no other combination of words could be kinder.
The light changed and the Squidabussa vaporized in a new set of sounds that seemed to suck up all the air around me in a reverse tsunami of speed. I sat there, motionless, watching as that tramp stamp hung in the air, like the smile of the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, burning itself onto my retinas before fading.
I returned to reality when a dowager in a minivan behind me blew her horn. I thanked her by raising my middle finger as I snicked the bike into gear. (I like the phrase “snicked into gear” and think I may have been the first to use it. Every biker knows what I mean. It’s sort of like bagpipes “skirling.” But in truth, older BMW’s go into gear with the sound a ball-peen hammer makes when striking cast iron. Regrettably, there is no single word to describe that action, other than “clunk,” which defeats the whole purpose. -- author’s note)
The ride progressed according to plan but I was thoroughly preoccupied by thoughts of my youth, which had long-since been eclipsed by failed marriages, career woes, and the accumulation of aches and pains associated with stupid decisions that seemed clever at the time. And when I say “stupid,” I mean epically so. I did things on a motorcycle that should have gotten me killed outright, or shot by a firing squad convened by local civil authority.
My vehicle of proposed self-destruction back then was a Kawasaki H2. I remember beating a commuter train through a crossing on it. I rode astride a double-yellow line on a major thoroughfare in a dense fog for miles coming down from High Point, New Jersey. (It was the only way I could see the road.) I consumed my weight in Irish whiskey one night, picked up some local talent (Laura the Animal), and rode to a buddy’s place over winding, twisty mountain roads. (In the morning, my body was covered with primitive tattoos that Laura had chewed into my skin. I remember thinking, “How the hell am I going to explain these to my girlfriend?”)
These are just a few of the highlights that I can easily remember. There were others that involved the police, cash transactions in court, and afternoons spent in emergency rooms. Yet I am reminded by words written by the late Hunter S. Thompson: “It’s better to get shot out of a cannon than to be squeezed out of a tube.” I could fit into a cannon when I was young. Now my ass alone would require a howitzer.
I started to think of how I would like to exit this vale of tears, and was once given the idea to write my own obituary by Walter Kern of Motorcycle Views. If I knew I had 72-hours left, I would want to go after one of the great, legendary motorcycle weekends of my early 20’s. The trip would start with a mad dash to the mountains -- or the beach -- in the company of friends, who would ride like they had just stolen their motorcycles. Each bike would have the prerequisite camping crap lashed to it, behind stunning women, whose collective idea of perfume was burned oil, cigarette smoke, and stale beer.
The day would have been spent jockeying for the lead, pulling ahead of the next guy, and keeping the tach needle dancing on the red line. Nightfall would be against the backdrop of a huge campfire. Flames and women would be dancing to Led Zeppelin, Cream, and the Doors. The green bottle of Jameson would be making the rounds, chased by beer cold enough to make your teeth ache. And when stars competed with the embers, I’d lead my tanned beauty to a tent illuminated by a single candle, the soft light of which barely extended to the ends of an old double sleeping bag, whose down loft more than compensated for the ground. She’d be on top, long hair cascading over my face with each movement...
And then the end would come, after three hours of unbroken passion.
In the morning, my tent would be cordoned off by yellow crime scene tape. The coroner would be standing over my cadaver, interpreting the site for the benefit of the cops, who would have never seen anything like this before.
“This man has lost 92 percent of his bodily fluids,” the coroner would say. “That means he was literally fucked to death. And the fact that he is laying on his back, ass down, would indicate there was a woman involved, and not a lawyer.
“The hole in the top of the tent tells me the woman was ejected with some force. I suggest you start looking in the surrounding treetops for a naked, stunned blonde, modestly endowed, who is probably sleeping off the hangover of the century.”
“You can tell all that from these few clues,” the younger of the two cops would ask.
“Certainly,” the coroner would respond. The thong the deceased is wearing as a headband would do justice to a Victoria’s Secret model with a 22-inch waist, and a lady’s hairbrush indicates recent use by a blonde. You can tell that the woman in question was modestly endowed by the slight cup shape of the deceased’s hands, forever frozen in rigor mortis.”
The blonde would be found, safely sleeping it off in a tree top a half-mile away. My bike would go on display in a museum, where once a year, riders who had difficulty getting laid could touch it for inspiration and luck. My remains would be cremated, and my ashes would be carried in an inverted Nolan Helmet, to a suburban town in the Metropolitan area, where they would be thrown in the face of my first former mother-in-law, Kathleen Dunphy.
Millions of people would put stuff in front of this monument on my birthday every year. (Graphic courtesy of my ex-wives and their attorneys -- Click to enlarge)
I started to laugh out loud thinking of these arrangements, and discovered I was pulling up before the little pavilion where I would have my coffee and cigar. Yet parked on the street below the dunes was the Squidabussa. Dismounting, the sound of my footsteps was lost in the loose sand. Between the sound of the surf and the wind, they never heard me approach. She was all over that guy with her bare back to me. He looked up, put a finger to his lips, and smiled. I took one last look at that tramp stamp, and backed away without making a sound. Call it professional courtesy. She never knew I was there.
There are some things a cigar will not improve. And somehow, I got too old way too fast.
Long-time friend and riding buddy Pete Buchheit -- age undisclosed -- yesterday received a 100,000 mile BMW mileage award from Bob Henig, of Bob’s BMW,in Jessup, MD. Buchheit claims he has been working toward this award for a while as his annual mileage goal never exceeds 1,100 miles per year. He is the inventor of the handlebar-mounted drool bucket.
Pete Buchheit (left) receives a coveted 100,000 mile recognition award from Bob Henig, of Bob's BMW in Jessup, Md. (Photo by Bob's BMW -- Click to enlarge)
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2009
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac Pac)
AKA The Vindfak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)