Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dispatches From The Front... “Obstruction” Contest Winners Announced!


On February 9, 2009, the readers of this blog were confronted with question: “What was the most amazing thing you’ve come upon in the road, and how did you handle it?” The prize was to be a single Mini Maglite LED flashlight. I anticipated a handful of replies, with the most common answer being “ladders,” that had fallen from the vans of carpenters, painters, roofers, and handy men. The reason I anticipated this response was that I had read improperly secured ladders constituted the primary obstacle encounter by bikers and cagers traveling on highways and main roads.

This particular blog chapter drew the largest response of any issue posted on Twisted Roads in its brief 13-month history, with 27 accomplished riders writing in to share some incredible stories of obstacles in the road, and what they did to avoid them.

Not one rider came across an improperly secured ladder.

Responses varied from detached pick-up truck camper bodies to one actual dead body. Enough wandering animals were reported to fill a zoo, while many of the inanimate objects represented a bizarre strata of life in America. The first thing I realized was that one flashlight would never cover the response I got from my readers. So I increased the prize to 5 flashlights, establishing different categories of weirdness. And the winners are:

Category: Most Crap Encountered on the Road In A Single Lifetime
Winner: Chris Wolfe (ADK) -- Vintage Honda VFR Interceptor
Chris reported finding a fallen tree on a blind curve, a live electrical wire across the road, a queen-sized mattress in the center of the road, a complete rear axel from a pick-up truck adorning a center lane, and a dead deer (with all four legs sticking up in the air, like in a cartoon). Conventional wisdom urges Chris to move to a better neighborhood. Some of this stuff was on expressways just outside of New York City.

Chris Wolfe -- Code name "Artful Dodger" -- On his Honda VFR Interceptor
(Photo courtesy of Chris Wolfe -- Click to enlarge)

Category: Largest Item To Fall Off The Back of A Truck
Winner: Don Eilenberger -- BMW
Don dodged a complete camper body that bounced out of the bed of a pickup truck that whacked a pothole on I-287 in New Jersey. If it had been a Soprano’s episode, “Pussy” would have been sleeping in the camper.

Don Eilenberger -- Got around a free rolling camper body on I-287 in New Jersey
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge)

Category: Dumbest Thing To Encounter In A Road
Winner: Wayne Whitlock (Nite Owl) -- Harley Davidson
Wayne turned onto a rural country road, and got knocked out of the saddle by an unmarked wire extended across the psvement by a farmer, to contain escaped cows.

Wayne Whitlock -- Now ducks when someone says, "Can you hold the wire?"
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge)

Category: Thing Most Likely To Rip Your Ass Off And Kill You In The Road
Winner: Rick Cavaliere -- BMW
While cruising the Roemerville Road, between Newfoundland and Promised Land, Pennsylvania, Rick came across a female lioness sunning herself on the pavement. The lion was a retired circus cat, declawed and defanged... Otherwise Rick, may have found himself deballed, deboned, and deceased. The lion was on a tether that gave her too much room.

Category: Not Dead Tired... Not Dead Drunk... Just Dead
Winner: Dan Bateman (Irondad) -- Yamaha FJR
A cop at the time, Dan responded to a call on an authority bike, which led him into desert outside of Yakima, Washington -- at night. The desert darkness was devouring his lights, barely leaving enough to frame the body of the deceased (a gunshot victim) directly in his path.

Tee shirts will be awarded to two runners-up, who also had great stories to tell!

Category: What The Hell Happened To The Road?
Winner: Gary Christman -- BMW GS
Gary Christman was out for a typical ride -- on the Dempster Highway to Inuvik, in the Northwest Territories -- to see the home of the “Ice Truckers,” when he realized there was water in the road. It was about six feet deep and twenty feet across. He decided to stop, and that earned him a “Twisted Roads” tee shirt.

Gary Christman -- Found water on the road on a recent ride to the Arctic Circle
(Photo courtesy of Gary Christman -- Click to enlarge)

Gary Christman and his BMW GS -- Just before coining the phrase, "Screw this."
(Photo courtesy of Gary Christman -- Click to enlarge)

Category: Do I Hear Banjo Music?
Winner: Chris Jacarrino -- Honda Goldwing
Chris had just negotiated a series of tight turns in backwoods West Virginia and was in the process of taming yet one more blind curve, when he encountered a refrigerator, standing upright and burning like hell, in the center of the road. “I remembered thinking, ‘It’s very disappointing when an expensive appliance like a refrigerator craps out,’” said Chris.

It was very hard to narrow this list down to five flashlight winners and two tee-shirt recipients. All contestants will therefore receive a coveted “Twisted Roads” patch. To receive your prize, or your patch, please send your name and address, plus tee shirt size (if applicable) to


It’s amazing how often I get to meet (and to ride) with so many of my readers. We start as acquaintances in an online dialogue and then discover we’ll either be at the same rally, or someplace in the same state, and one thing leads to another. In many cases, I will have acquired a new friend. During one such gathering (The Second Annual Amish Horse-Pile Swerve Ride), I met Dick Bregstein, Wayne Whitlock, and Tony Luna -- three guys who are all wool and a yard wide. (I met Mack Harrell on this run the year before.)

I have had the pleasure of meeting many people through Motorcycle Views (under the aegis of Walter Kern). I have been relying on them for good advice or just a good ribbing for years. One of these folks, Steve Asson, shamed me into my first long-distance ride after 30 years of two-wheeled abstinence. He said, “If I can ride from Washington state to North Carolina to meet you (at the infamous BuRP Rally), then you can certainly get off your fat ass and ride down from Philadelphia to Maggie Valley to meet me. Unless, of course, you’re afraid of pissing your pants in truck traffic on the interstates.” Steve is a diplomat, and made this statement online, in front of 36,000,000 people.

At the time, I was afraid of pissing my pants in truck traffic on the interstates, but it was a secret that I had kept from public announcement. Steve took care of that.

I’ve known “Bugser” Abbey since 2005. He is a cruiser rider who once admired my methods of traveling light for a ride. At the time, I stated that an American Express card, condoms, and a good rum were really all you needed for a decent weekend on a bike that was gassed up and ready to go. Our correspondence was split by a rift over the necessity of carrying frozen White Castle cheeseburgers “just in case” (a move I endorsed). But I stayed chatty with his wife, Tena, who is an aspiring writer.

From left, Bugser Abbey (Mr. Cupcake), Tena Abbey, and Steve (The Diplomat) Asson
These are exactly the type of folks you associate with crabs. 
(Photo courtesy of Sylvia Asson, who had the presence of mind not to be in it -- Click to enlarge)

I recently learned that the Abbeys were meeting Steve Asson, and his wife Sylvia, for dinner at Joe’s Crab Shack, up in Washington State this past Sunday. (Steve and Bugser have ridden together on several occasions.) They were good enough to call me from the shack’s parking lot and put the phone on speaker. Steve and I are planning a ride through Dodge City and Deadwood this summer. I will meet the Abbeys (for the first time) in Ohio, sometime in September. They sent me a nice picture of their little gathering (from last weekend). If you look at their eyes in this photo, conspiracy is evident.

Then I started getting comments on my blog from “Bugser,” signed “Mr. Cupcake.” As it turns out, this is his new identity in the witness protection program.


A resident of New York State's Adirondack Mountains, Michael Cantwell was recently faced with a choice: Dismember his family and eat them, or go for a ride. He waited until the temperature was 1 degree above Zero degrees Kelvin, fired up his K75, and took it out on mountain roads not expected to thaw in this century. He sent me a note saying, "Ha Ha... I'm riding already, and you're not."

Michael Cantwell's classic BMW K75 at the mouth of Rusty Mulvey's driveway, 
with Whiteface Mountain, and its Olympic ski slopes, in the background.
(Photo courtesy of Michael Cantwell -- Click to enlarge)


The weather prognosticators on television, bums all of them, have just announced that warmer weather, with temperatures close to and occasionally above 50º, will be settling in for the rest of the week. The word on the street is that this could be the turning point for the cold weather this winter.


I made the decision to render my bike inoperable by removing the crash bars, headers, and muffler. These are being sent out for Jet-Hot coating, which will effectively cover up all of the chrome on this bike with a nice black semi-gloss finish. My last K75 had a black Luftmeister muffler, with matching headers, which I liked a lot. I’m not big on chrome (especially polishing it). I timed this cosmetic maintenance to coincide with getting my seat custom rebuilt (Stiffie’s Christmas present to me) by Russell (Day-Long) Cycle Products, in California. This will take at lest two weeks from the date scheduled for seat reconstruction (March 6th).

So I am out of commission until March 20, 2009. The weather will be perfect through March 19th. Expect temperatures in the mid-70s , cloudless blue skies, and topless women to bask in the change of seasons -- right up until my bike is ready to go. Then it will rain until August.

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

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Interim Blog Message... #02024-1

This notice is being posted in advance of the regularly scheduled blog message for Wednesday, February 25th, 2009. It has been more than 90-days since I last rode my motorcycle owing to the weather, plus gravel and salt on the road. Therefore, I have not had any recent adventures to write about and have resorted to reporting events, rides, and observations from memory.

It should be noted that several outstanding ride reports have been filed by other blog writers, whose current adventures can be found at bobscoot: wet coast skootin; Key West Diary, and REDLEG’S RIDES. (Links to be found in the column on the right labelled “Destinations.”)

Bobscoot has sent some great shots from the Canadian waterfront in “wet coast." Look past Domingo Chang’s “Lego” post to find some great pictures of winter fading in the Colorado Rockies, the focal piece of REDLEG’s RIDES. And the author of Key West Diary presents a near daily, behind the scenes look at this great semi-tropical paradise.

It irked me that I had no legitimate ride reports to offer these guys by way of competition. In fact, certain mechanical considerations will immobilize my bike until March 20th, 2009, at the earliest. So, begging the gentle reader’s indulgence, I ask refer you to the following ride report, filed close to this same time next year.

Please click here to read the ride report.

The management regrets this necessity.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Gear Review: When Huge Things Are Supported By Little Ones...

There are national parks and other places throughout the world where huge rock formations and natural columns of stone stand precariously balanced on foundations that have been whittled away by water or wind. To thousands of tourists who photograph these wonders, half the delight is in getting the picture. The other half is the possibility of being there when one of these things comes crashing to the ground.

Similar sentiments were expressed by a crowd of some fifty onlookers, assembled in a Haverford College parking lot for a tailgate party, prior to the school’s savage basketball victory over traditional rival Swarthmore this weekend. I had previously offered to supply the group with hot, spiced cider (braced by a quart of Applejack and a dash of cinnamon), heated to the point of steam over a burner I used for frying turkeys.

I have no personal interest in basketball, but pretend so to humor the coeds who show up for these parties in skirts that are smaller than the bandana I use as a handkerchief. Yet tending the cider meant sitting next to it and occasionally giving this mixture a stir. This gave me an excellent opportunity to once again bring out my Kermit chair.

If you have ever attended a major bike rally where one or more of the entertainment functions included the burning of a huge human figure, or a wild, half-naked dance around a bonfire, or even a bar set up on planks, you will likely remember that there was a scarcity of places to sit. The ground is always available, but is invariably too hard, too cold, too damp, or too covered with cow shit to offer adequate comfort. These factors are seldom regarded as serious considerations in your early 20s, but acquire a higher priority in your 50s.

With some rallies attracting crowds of 10,000 to 50,000 riders, the search for a rock, log, or vacant picnic table is sometimes highly competitive and generally unrewarding. Plus rocks still fall into the category of being too hard, while the curved surface of the standard log is seldom compatible with the shape of the average derriere.

Hence the Kermit Chair was born.

According to popular legend, the Kermit chair was developed as the ultimate, light-weight, folding chair, especially for bike rallies. (The legend is actually a bit more specific claiming the Kermit chair was initially developed for Beemer rallies. It is a well-known fact that BMW riders have very official-looking -- and highly functional gear -- for all occasions. Shortly after being introduced to the market, the Kermit chair became a staple at BMW rallies, but has many other equally practical applications.)

This product has a collapsable leg and armrest assembly, connected by a cloth seat and back. It includes two leg supports and two curved seat braces. Coming out of the bag one cannot help but notice the fine fit and finish of the oak wood. The evident quality of the metal joinery speaks volumes too. The chair has no small parts and assembles in about two minutes without tools.

When first assembled, however, it looks like a kid’s chair for the beach. And a skinny kid at that. Many in the crowd wondered what the hell I was doing putting it together. They had no idea what I intended to do with it once it was completed, as the basic chair is not only somewhat tiny in appearance, but it is low to the ground too.

The manufacturer offers leg extenders, which raise the seat height to 17.5 inches. These also go on in a matter of seconds without tools.

The fully assembled Kermit chair is very elegant-looking, but the first word that comes to mind is “spindly.” I offered it to my friend Molly, who weighs in at 110 pounds, and her first words were, “Will that hold me?”

I stepped around to the chair’s front, and positioned my ass over it. The whole seat was swallowed up by my shadow. A gasp ran through the crowd like an electric current. A young mother made her son run behind a parked car to protect him from the splinters. I heard a voice say, “That poor chair. That man ought to be ashamed of himself.”

I gradually lowered my bulk into the seat... The Kermit chair creaked like a wooden trestle the first time a locomotive rolls over it. The silence of the crowd make the creaking seem as loud as machine gun fire. I saw money change hands in the back of the gathering as bets were settled and the odds increased.

I had barely settled myself in the seat, when, you guessed it. In front of all those people -- nothing happened. The creaking stopped. The Kermit chair was unbelievably comfortable. And all of those nice folks, who were standing around on a cold day (waiting for the fat person in the popsicle chair to go crashing to the pavement), realized I had the only seat, closest to a roaring propane burner, by the only hot drink on the menu.

The spindly, delicate-looking Kermit chair is stressed to take 350 pounds. Buried in the chair’s promotional material is a statement claiming it was tested to 750 pounds, and I believe it. I presently weigh more than 350 pounds, though I am losing weight every day. I have a size 56 waist and I have to tell you that the Kermit chair is more comfortable for me to sit in than an airline seat. Every detail has been well thought out. For example, the chair’s two seat supports are curved to prevent digging into your back and thighs.

I took no risk in using the Kermit chair before this savage crowd as I had demonstrated its properties for my de facto father-in-law at a family gathering last year, when I was heavier. This was pure theatre as far as I was concerned. This is the second time I have written about this chair. The test was different on this occasion as I got in and out of it a dozen times, putting it's joints to one hell of a stress test.

The chair weighs 5 pounds and fits into a stuff bag 22” long, and 4” by 6.” According to the specs, the leg extenders go into a stuff bag 9” long and 3.5” by 3.5.” Any backpacker will now roll over face down in the dirt and tell you how nonsensical this is. But I am compelled to remark that the packed size of the Kermit chair does not seem that big, especially its diameter. My 1995 BMW K75 has yet to complain about carrying it. No canoe or horse would complain about the added weight either. Yet your butt and back will thank you, especially after hours in the saddle. The Kermit chair is a lot more comfortable than a metal folding chair and will carry a lot more weight than the plastic ones found on the deck’s of many restaurants.

The Kermit chair comes in forest green, burgundy, black, and red. A cup/beer holder is also available. This chair is not cheap, and will set you back $129. The leg extensions (which I regard as absolutely essential) are another $30. The cupholder (purely cool) is $18. The chair has a 5-year warranty.

This blog supports American-made products, like the Mini Maglite. The Kermit chair is made in America, Tennessee, in fact, and is the personification of US craftsmanship like you remember it. The engineering that went into this product is evident in every aspect of its design. It will replace all of the shitty aluminum can and plastic weave seats you have been accustomed to buying on site, and throwing away before you leave for home. It’s a better choice for the environment and for the economy. Quite frankly, I can’t think of a nicer gift to give or get, if your riding takes you to events which are held outdoors. The Kermit chair guarantees you will always have a “good” seat.

Speaking of the economy, money is going to be a touchy subject as the riding season unfolds. Everyone I know is under the impression that they are going to have less of it. This places a greater emphasis on the quality of the gear you purchase. As a professional writer, I am chronically broke. (I have made myself a sign that reads, “Will write for sex, rum, or food, but especially sex,” that may come in handy when I am forced to pimp my talents on Main Street this summer.) I discovered hunting during the first financial crisis in my life, 25 years ago, and a bought a Winchester semi-automatic shotgun for $179.

I thought it odd at the time that the semi-automatic shotguns from Ruger and Browning were selling for five times as much, but I had my weapon and was ready to hunt. No one was more surprised than me when the breech-block blew out of that piece of shit shotgun the first time I fired a high-brass round through it. I was lucky I didn’t get hurt. (So was Winchester.) Then I read a prophetic statement in a hunting magazine that said, “Buy the very best gear you can afford for hunting or fishing,” The author went on to say that it might be better to save your money for a season or two rather than to purchase crap that could actually ruin a trip through failure. Well-made equipment will hold its functionality for years to come.

The same holds true for motorcycle gear. The Kermit chair may be regarded as a superfluous item for motorcycling that entails outdoor events or camping. Yet it becomes a lot less superfluous if your ride is enhanced by having a decent place to sit at the day’s end. It should be noted that I paid for my Kermit chair and have no relationship whatsoever with the manufacturer of this product.

In the next issue of “Twisted Roads” will introduce my new feature, “Dispatches From The Front,” a series of shorter, inter-related topics presented as one feature.

The winners of last week’s contest will be announced in this new section on Wednesday.

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

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

How To Choose A Riding Partner...

The bike in front of me snaked through the “S” curve like it was on a track, leaning low first one way, then snapping through the upright position to lean way over on the other. I mimicked the other rider’s moves, noting the skill displayed in maintaining a steady line through the curves. Matching that line improved my speed and stability. Each twist in the road changed the riding equation, causing the other rider to shift from side to side, and to hang slightly off the seat. The road straightened out for a bit, and I twisted on the gas, narrowing the gap between our machines.

You can learn a lot from riding with a seasoned veteran and I wanted a closer look at the other rider’s form. This makes a strong argument for choosing a riding partners with great style, good riding habits, and an inclination to share them. My riding partner for the day met this criteria, but he had left me in the dust hours before. The biker ahead of me was a stranger, an incredibly beautiful woman with a fantastic ass. Her Aerostitch riding gear accented the curves on her body like her BMW traced the curves in the road.

The road opened up to four lanes and I swung to her left, going yet another quarter inch on the throttle.

I imagined the conversation we could have. We already had several things in common. She had a bike and I had a bike. Hers was a BMW and mine was a BMW. She had a perfect physique and I had a line of bullshit three feet wide and a football field-long. She would tell me about her exotic rides and I would tell her whatever it took to peel that Aerostitch down to skin. The trick was to see if she could feel the tug of my animal magnetism as I passed her. I raised the external sun shield on my Nolan flip-face helmet, and prepared to blast her with my famous “battered baby seal look.”

This would be one for the books if it worked. Normally, the battered baby seal look combines eye expression and eye color, paired with the incomparable sincerity of a boyish smile to melt the frost off the hardest female heart. The emotional depth of this complex form of body language occurs only one other place in nature -- on the faces of baby harp seals when they are first clubbed by ruthless Canadian hunters. Yet under these conditions, she’d only get to see my eyes, and a fleeting glance at that.

It was almost as if my K75 understood the drama that was about to unfold. What little vibration I could feel in the handlebars disappeared. The bike seemed to hold its breath while slowly edging forward. Each quiver of the tach needle bought me another few inches in a pass that was nothing less than a pass in the classical sense. I glanced over my right shoulder as we paralleled each other, separated only by ten feet and six degrees of desire. I fired the battered baby seal look -- a micro-burst in a micro second.

The K75 continued to edge forward and I couldn’t tell if I’d hit the target. Suddenly, I heard the engine on her K1200GT change pitch and she accelerated into my peripheral vision. I looked right again, directly into her eyes. She raised her left arm in my direction, and fully extended the middle finger on her left hand. There was a nuclear whine, and the “KGT1200” faded into the horizon.

My riding buddy Pete Buchheit was waiting for me at a convenience store just twenty more miles up the road.

“Anything to report,” he asked, as I pulled my helmet off.

“Nope, just a nice uneventful ride through the countryside.”

“A woman on GT pulled through here a few minutes ago,” said Pete.

“She’s not still here, is she,” I asked, looking around.

“Naw... She kept going. Why?”

“I don’t feel like being bothered with the ‘spirit of the road’ bullshit today,” I said.

“Another one who gave you the finger, huh,” asked Pete, rhetorically.

And that’s the whole point of this story. If you are going to ride with people, you should choose partners who are intuitive, considerate, and willing to compromise. Ideally they should be able to show you something useful about riding, and bonus points are awarded if they are certified mechanics -- with years of experience working on your model bike. Pete has the intuitive part down pat.

Many bikers prefer to ride alone. One friend of mine, a woman from Chicago, insists on riding by herself with very few exceptions. She has very strong reasons for this, which she does not feel compelled to share. Another close friend of mine, Brian Curry -- the renown BMW K75 guru -- is another accomplished rider who prefers to go solo. To some, riding alone is a highly personal experience in which they face private challenges, think deep thoughts, or simply isolate themselves from anything that would intrude on the experience of the ride. Riding with someone else, and certainly a group of people, is always something of a compromise. Riding time is so precious to some people that they prefer not to compromise a minute of it.

I had two and a half years to ride by myself as a re-entry rider, while my girlfriend gradually mastered the art of riding on the street as opposed to a parking lot -- only to have her give it up due to lingering problems with vertigo. I used to ride with a guy in the neighborhood, but he was a little different. He would ride all day, but not outside a 20-mile radius from home. I like getting out into the country. I also like getting up onto the slab every now and again, and letting the 71 horses out of the barn, so to speak.

I found it difficult to join riding groups in my area and so got involved with a number of on-line lists. I then hosted a couple of group rides. Thus was born the Annual Amish Horse-pile Swerve Ride. All kinds of people turned up for this, and I learned a great deal about riding in general, and riding with other people. These folks, now all friends of mine (and not necessarily of the Beemer persuasion), showed me endless consideration and helped me learn a few things about myself too.

I started to ride individually with some of the folks who participated in these runs and learned a lot about about riding technique and about people. Mack Harrell (Beemer rider) and Wayne Whitlock (Harley rider) taught me a great deal about leaning into curves and handling fast changing road conditions. But they were lessons learned over hundreds of miles. Pete Buchheit (Beemer rider) illustrated a number of ways to get the most out of a ride -- and boosting peformance -- without wearing myself out or taking undue risks. Again, over hundreds of miles. Chris Jacarrino (Honda Goldwing rider) showed me the proper way to both ride in and conduct a group ride. And Joe Sestrich (Beemer rider), David Hardgrove (Harley rider) and Jim Sterling (Beemer rider) all showed me the meaning of solidarity on a ride.

But above all, I learned a few things about choosing a riding partner. When you’re new at this, you’re happy to be riding with anybody.You become a bit choosier when you start to get the hang of things. Without realizing it, I began to look for someone who has a similar riding style, dietary appreciation, and bladder endurance. Riding style is the most important. The ideal riding partner not only prefers to ride at a similar speed, but will also have a parallel appreciation for the kind of roads you like. For example, there is a cadre of riders in the Mac-Pac (the BMW riding group I belong to) that feels every inch of a 400-mile ride should occur on a back road, with one peg or another carving the BMW roundel into the pavement, with the tach pegged at the red line. They have cordially invited me never to ride with them as long as I live.

I have accepted the invitation.

Attempting to ride with these guys either as a group, or paired off with a single rider, would just ruin everybody’s ride. They’d be miserable and I’d end up dead.

Dietary preference is another important consideration. My eating preferences are well known. Whenever possible, I prefer the exotic. This includes “authentic” Chinese, Indian, German, Vietnamese, Japanese and Italian. Note the emphasis on the word authentic. On one ride, I stopped into a recommended Chinese storefront eatery and had hacked rabbit cooked with dry chilis. Our group lunches routinely end up at the Himalayan Exotic Indian Restaurant, where goat is a big favorite with us. Riding with someone whose idea of exotic is the Olive Garden can be a bit tedious if you plan to be on the road for three days, or a week. I rode with a guy whose preference was Burger King for lunch and dinner. I got tired of this fast. Things may different if dictated by financial necessity, however, and it may be something I learn this summer (as all of the money in my industry has evaporated).

Bladder endurance is another serious point. Some guys like to ride until the gas warning light (BMWs) has burned a hole in the dashboard. Then they pull into a gas station, take a fast look around, and take a piss while they are gassing up the bike. They are on the road again in 30 seconds or less. I don’t mind stopping every 100 miles for a cold drink, a look around, and a bullshit summary of what we’ve just seen. On a day when my arthritis is screaming, that distance gets cut to 60 miles or an hour’s duration in the saddle. (And I may not be able to get off the bike.) It’s essential to find a rinding partner who shares this sense of timing.

Another point seldom considered is the reason for the trip. I like to to stop and read historical markers, take in the occasional view, or drop into an interesting country tavern for lunch to see what’s going on in somebody else’s world. This is not high on the agenda for a lot of people. Some folks want to get to the final destination and party as the bike cools for the next day. Others find the joy in the riding.

Three years ago, Pete Buchheit, Mack Harrell and I took a motorcycle tour of Gettysburg National Battlefield. Our bikes were whisper quiet and we felt reasonably sure we would not be annoying anyone. (This battlefield is an outdoor cathedral to the bravery and personal commitment of the American soldier. Everyone who died there was an American. It’s not a picnic grove.)The roads through the park meander through areas where skirmishes were fought and stands taken. Each key location is marked with a statue or monument to the unit that was there. There are dozens of them, some of which are quite impressive. Pete and I felt compelled to stop and view them. This was driving Mack Harrell crazy as his bike at the time (a Hirohito liter special) was hard to maneuver at slow speeds and was becoming a handful. We stopped at about 25 statues.

“Wasn’t that wonderful,” I said at the tour’s 2-hour conclusion.

“Yeah,” said Mack. “But why did they set up the same statue 25 times,” Note for the future: historical significance is not big with Mack Harrell.

The riding partner I have logged more miles with, hands down, is Dick Bregstein. As the saying goes: a friend will help you move. Dick Bregstein will help you move a body. Dick Bregstein is the perfect riding partner. He will never tell you to slow down, stop drinking, or tell you that the waitress to whom you’ve been offering your motel room key is actually a man. (Regarding this last qualification, Bregstein would rather wait until the morning then tell the other guys what happened.)

Dick will ride 100 miles or 400 miles, and be happy to call it a day either way. He will ride the back roads and the slab or anything in between with equal good grace. And he will patiently sit for hours in an emergency room, after riding 400 miles on the hottest day of the year, waiting to find out if you died. Dick also has the kind of face that many people don’t question. Rooting through the smoking wreckage of my motorcycle, Bregstein removed my Apple laptop from a shattered top case. A Virginia State Trooper shouted, “Hey, what do you think you're doing?” To which Bregstein replied...

“I’m going to send his girlfriend an e-mail.”

The cop had nothing to say to that. And when I was wheeled out of the emergency room, with the grill of a minivan sticking out of my ass, Dick was sitting there, after 10 hours in the saddle, holding my computer. I regret I was not able to return the favor the following year, when Dick insisted on riding with the big kids, and came to a bad end. (The advice in this column could have saved Dick a summer of pain and busted ribs.)

There are other considerations in choosing a riding partner too. These include political inclination, who reaches for the tab the slowest, and who can best keep his or her mouth shut regarding the details of a really outrageous ride. But this is the fine tuning after the initial cut. And trust me, there is no greater satisfaction than to have someone else call you, asking you to ride with them. It means you learned something.

Female riders looking to choose a male riding partner should select a candidate with spirit, and fire in his eyes. The specimen should move about freely without favoring one leg or the other. In certain cases, however, a candidate with a rapier-like wit will prove far more interesting than one with a great body but a limited repertoire.The ideal candidate should exhibit no sores, botts, nor boils in the saddle area, and remain calm though attentive as you examine his testicles for imperfections or previous marriages.

My Four-star riding partners;

Dick Bregstein (BMW) -- About 38,000 miles, almost all of it noteworthy, hysterical, or simply ribald.

Pete Buchheit (BMW) -- About 8,000 miles
David Hardgrove (Harley) -- Broke personal best of 325 miles in a day (second long ride as a re-entry rider)
Mack Harrell (BMW) -- Broke personal best of 425 miles in a day (third long ride as a re-entry rider)
Chris Jacarrino (Honda, Goldwing) -- Ride captain for one of my best rides and stories for the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America’s magazine
Clyde Jacobs (BMW) -- About 3,000 miles
Matt Piechota (BMW) -- Never has an unkind thing to say, always up for a ride.
Jim Sterling (BMW) -- Covered my ass by riding tail gun Charlie position on 325-mile personal best day
Joe Sestrich -- Covered my ass in a horizontal downpour for 40 miles, my first in 30 years.
Wayne Whitlock (Harley) -- Broke personal best of 275 miles in a day, first long ride as a re-entry rider

I am looking forward to spending saddle time with all of these guys between April and December.

Candidate for Riding Partner Indoctrination Program 2009:
Steve Asson (Kawasaki) -- Meet up in Dodge City

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

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Plans for The Great 2009 West Virginia Ride Unfold

The next best thing to being on a motorcycle trip is planning one. That is the premise of tonight’s essay. Naturally, it isn’t true, but it’s nice to think so and is an essential falsehood to the editorial fraud I am trying to perpetrate. If I couldn’t be out exploring new territory on my motorcycle, and I was given a choice of alternatives such as:

1) Planning a motorcycle trip with Dick Bregstein, Pete Buchheit, and Clyde Jacobs
2) Sitting on a beach in Tahiti while a naked Sandra Bullock pours me a Planters Punch
3) Being worshiped as a God/Pharaoh in ancient Egypt
4) Being tied to a tree and used as a drone by a lost tribe of Amazon women...

It is unlikely I would pick door “Number One” as my first option.

Believe me, I do not make this statement lightly. I think about riding through the morning mists, carving my way along the Pacific coast, or putting my kickstand down as the moon becomes visible through my bug-scarred windscreen about a thousand times a day. Nothing compares with the sensations that accompany these ride scenarios. I am a public relations specialist and floating a major news story used to give me an incredible high. (It is still a sense of accomplishment.) But now I do it to fund those occasions when I’m going to be on the road with my two-wheeled desperado pals for a few days.

And therein lies the rub. I try to bring a sense of unbridled enthusiasm to each ride I undertake -- only to be beaten into the pavement by my riding buddies. They certainly have their good points, but they do rise above them where I’m concerned. Here’s what I mean. Every ride that involves two or more riders on their own bikes is something of a compromise. Choosing a route can be a dicy thing if someone wants to take the most convoluted back roads while another prefers a faster way. It gets more complicated if one guy wants to stop and take pictures, while the fourth party feels compelled to pullover occasionally and provide tramp-stamped performance artists with a badly needed stimulus package (one single dollars at a time). It is automatically assumed by the majority on these rides that the routes I choose are determined by the availability of pole dancers, strip joints, or places where a less than discerning female clientel will talk to me.

As a result, my recommendations are always subject to secondary consideration, but are first to draw the most fire.

For the third year in a row, some buddies and I are taking a multi-state ride to West Virginia. One of our number proposed a scenic route that has 758 turns in just under 225 miles. Only six of them are right turns and I believe he used an Escher drawing as a map. He was good enough to type them out and send them along. They took up 6-single spaced typewritten pages. (He claimed this was the most scenic route but it would be worth your life to take your eyes off the road for an instant.) They weren’t on my screen thirty seconds when another ride participant insisted we stop for lunch at Captain Bob’s crab shack, in Railroad, Pa. (And the Maryland crab at Bob’s is worth the detour.)

All this was fine with me, but being the kind of guy I am, I wanted to work out a preliminary schedule. So I started to get into particulars, like departure and arrival times. Now granted, the trip isn’t until the end of May, about 100 days away; and perhaps these details could have waited for a later discussion. Yet I am so excited about this ride that I can’t wait. And yet, this is how one participant responded to my planning efforts.

“Fellow West Virginia Riders,

“I'm writing to tell you how thrilling it has been for me following the 116 emails among yourselves attempting to decide whether you will be stopping at Captain Bob's for lunch en route to WV. I fully expect an equal degree of excitement concerning your much anticipated correspondence in deciding what color outfits you will all be wearing on the ride.


I’m not sure, but I think this is what editors refer to as highly corrosive sarcasm. And it got worse too.

Words commonly used to describe my riding style by the guys I hang with are “mediocre, leisurely, and somnambulistic.” This is because I take my turns with prudence and ample visual confirmation that there are no surprises ahead of me. Dick Bregstein claims he once completed the crossword puzzle in the Sunday New York Times following me through the “S” curves at Hawks Nest, New York.

Motonomad, AKA Pete Buccheit, sitting on the bike he bought with his Communion money.
He only wears this leather outfit in the house. The two Beemers are classic beauties, 
at opposite ends of the model spectrum.
(Photo by Pete Buchheit, who took 65 of them today -- Click to enlarge) 

Always concerned that I am holding my friends back, I insist that they go on ahead while I ride my own ride. They insist on it too. I have often said that there is great assurance riding with Pete Buchheit and Dick Bregstein, knowing that help is only 50 or 60 miles ahead of me. Clyde Jacobs and Matt Piechota once insisted they would ride with me in the event I needed assistance (owing to my arthritis) following a Mac-Pac breakfast. Clyde suggested a “nicer” ride back to the garage, and the two of them led me into a Chinese noodle swamp of unmarked roads -- shortly before giving me the slip. (They were waiting for me back at my house, drinking my beer, and sharing overwhelming concern with my girlfriend, when I next saw them.)

Pete standing naked in his boots, which he bought for half off at a yard sale.
(Photo by Pete Buchheit -- Click to enlarge)

Well Clyde has chosen the route for this trip and I am anticipating getting lost again, thinking of all those turns in the middle of nowhere. It occurred to me that it might be a good idea to get a compass for my bike. So I went to The Compass Store to see if they had an inexpensive, liquid-filled ball compass that would not only show me the direction in which I was going, but one that would look cool on the dash of my K75. Kasper and Richter (Germany) make one for $54.95. It would secure to the dash on the Parabellum “Scout” fairing with a suction cup, that I would have reinforced with two screws to prevent theft.

I made the mistake of sharing this idea with Pete Buchheit (Motonomad), who had an alternate suggestion.

Cool Kasper and Richter precision liquid-filled ball compass, available at The Compass store (online) 
for a slick $54.95. This was my first thought for the Parabellum fairing dash.
(Photo courtesy of Tthe Compass Store -- Click to enlarge) 

“That’ll get stolen the first time you park the bike on the street, “said Buchheit. “If I were you, I’d mount it on the front of my helmet. And whenever you want to know the direction you’re headed in, you could pull into a gas station, a bait and tackle shop, or even an antique store and ask somebody there to read the cardinal direction marking on the ball to you.”

This was more of the that highly corrosive sarcasm.

In hindsight, it did seem kind of stupid. I’ve ridden through West Virginia 6 times now and its not the kind of place where you need to chart a course to have a good time. But the best news is that my girl presented me with a slightly used Garmin Nuvi 660, so I wouldn’t get hopelessly lost. It is the same unit I gave her for Christmas in 2007. She bought a new Subaru and prefers the GPS that came with it. So she re-gifted this fine unit back to me for Valentine’s day. It isn’t waterproof, as it was designed for a car, but it has all the bells and whistles and can link to a Bluetooth unit made for my helmet, so I can hear the prompts, if I so choose.

"She loves me; she loves me not; she loves me..." My Valentine's Day gift from Leslie.
It's ready to navigate and so am I. This damn ride can't get here fast enough.
(Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

Whitehorse Gear (fine folks to order stuff from) had a set of Ram handlebar mounts for this unit, and they should be here in a day or two. Now I don’t care if I get lost. I spent the evening programming this Nuvi with the location of every strip joint and Go-Go bar in West Virginia.

Ride your own ride -- every time.

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

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Question For The Day...

I had been in the saddle for 300 miles but it felt more like 3000. The run was from Burlington, Vermont to West Chester, Pennsylvania, and I wasn’t farting around on this one with notions of taking pictures, waxing philosophical, or chasing tramp-stamps into bars. My start had been delayed by four hours of nearly horizontal rain. No less than 60 people I knew were on the road that day, all headed in my direction from a great rally. But they were old salts who regarded rain as part of the excitement of the trip. I had a brand new front tire and I thought of the rain as a life-threatening pain in the ass. They left at dawn while I waited for a break in the downpour and ended up riding alone.

Not that riding alone is a big deal for me... I just tend to get more easily lost in my thoughts, which can be like watching television when I cover long distances by myself. And despite the fact my mount was a 19-year-old BMW with narrow handlebars, the bike flew along vibration-free on the super-slabs, effortlessly maintaining speeds in excess of 80 miles per hour. So I began to lose a sense of how damn fast I was going.

The entire week had been a series of late nights with the boys. So it could be argued that I was not up to my usual finely-honed sharpness too.

My knees felt like there were ten-penny nails driven into them. I didn’t realize this at the time, but the weather was playing hell with my arthritis. The line of thunderstorms did pass, but this was July and I felt like a steamed clam in the humidity. The conditions were ripe for a distraction and I threw in the missing ingredient, a daydream in which I was handing the soap to a former secretary in the shower, an event that never occurred. (And the reason it never occurred, according to her, is that there wasn’t that much alcohol in the world. I am amazed that she knew a statistic like that.)

Such was the scenario when a voice in my head screamed, “Wake the fuck up and do something!”

The late afternoon’s humid murk yielded to reveal a huge obstruction in my lane. It acquired definition in a split second, but my brain refused to accept the data. It was another second or two before I realized there was a detached pickup truck bed liner directly in front of me.

“Golly,” I thought. (Actually, it was more like “Holy shit.”)

Glancing over my shoulder to be sure of an opening, I leaned on the left handgrip with my chin. The bike swerved around this huge tub-like thing and returned like a reflex action.

All I could think of was, “Who the hell dropped the bed liner from their pickup and didn’t realize it?” And then a really horrible thought occurred to me. Suppose I had been riding in the dark. The bed-liner was jet black. It would have swallowed my headlights until it swallowed me and the bike. (I notified a cop at the next rest area.)

On one other ride, I came across a bale of hay in the road and easily avoided it.

So my question to all of you today is, “What was the most amazing thing you’ve come upon in the road, and how did you handle it?” The best answer wins an LED Mini MagLite, complete with batteries. In the event of a tie, the winner will be chosen at random (unless one of the contestants is really hot looking and sends her picture). That’s fair.

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

Friday, February 6, 2009

Dick Bregstein And The Juice Run... Or Dick Runs Out Of Juice

A well-respected motorcycle rider once told me that preparation is the secret to the success of every ride — regardless of the distance. This sounds good and fits well with the safety course litanies, where you are told to check the oil, the tires, the acid in the battery, the boiling point of nitrogen, and the current value of the dollar against the dong every time you get on the bike. The preflight checklist for my K75 is two pages longer than that for the B-2 Stealth Bomber. Then again it should be noted that the B-2 Stealth Bomber is not subjected to the stresses and strains of carrying my ass over primitive Pennsylvania pavement..

The pre-ride checklist for my K75 is two pages larger 
than the pre-flight checklist for the B-2 Stealth Bomber
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia -- Click to enlarge)

My bike does get the big “annual service,” the smaller “semi-annual” services, and the “Oh-Shit-There’s-That-Noise-Coming-From-The-Fuel-Pump-Again” services (that only occur the night before a ride). This 1995 BMW K75 sees more services than a Las Vegas wedding chapel. The engine is so clean that when the oil comes out at 3,000 miles (the color of champagne) it’s used to fry wiener schnitzel at a local German restaurant. Furthermore, the battery tender has an LED to indicate when the battery is charging, when the battery is charging beyond its credit card limit, and when the battery is thinking lewd thoughts. The tender has its own web site and cell phone so it can contact me in the event of a malfunction.

The oil coming out of my engine is so clean, it is reused 
to fry wiener schnitzel at a local German brat haus.
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia -- Click to enlarge)

With this kind of pre-ride preparation, I do not worry about something critical falling off nor failing. But “preparation” also extends to the state of mind of the rider and to the rider’s personal gear. So the night before a recent Mac-Pac Rider’s Breakfast found me systematically organizing my riding gear for an early morning departure. It’s a short 18-mile ride to the Pottstown Family Diner, but the quickest of rides can become pure agony if you’re not prepared for a change of weather, particularly rain or frost, as both were common at this time of year.

I laid out my BMW underwear, BMW socks, riding pants, Joe Rocket ballistic jacket, gloves, spare gloves, and boots. As part of an experiment to allow myself to sleep as late as possible, I arranged my clothes in the classic fireman style: all overlapping and tucked into each other. I merely had to step into them, pull up two zippers, and squeeze some Velcro before trotting into the garage.

Then I went out to an Amish bachelor party.

The details of the evening are a bit fuzzy. I seem to recall a naked woman wearing a bonnet, and a bunch of Abe Lincoln look-a-likes yelling, “Take it off! Take it off! Take it all off.” Someone put the first of 52 drinks in my hand. It was called a “Buttermilk Divebomber.” At drink #26, an Amish hottie led me into the back room for a lap dance and to “Churn der butter.”

I woke up with a case of the horrors. The horrors begin with a numbing amnesia. You’re not quite sure where you are, where you’ve been, nor the circumstances that brought you to the current impasse. Accompanying the amnesia is a brief grace period during which your body fails to realize it has been poisoned.

“What the hell did I do last night?” I thought.

My eyes had been focusing independently until this point, but zeroed in on the alarm clock at precisely 6:59:58. Two seconds later, the screaming alarm touched off a nuclear reaction in my head, which subsequently exploded.

Suddenly it all came back to me. Every sordid detail kicked me in the stomach. It took twenty minutes to be able to stand without clutching the floor... And then I remembered I was supposed to meet the Mac-Pac (my BMW riding club) for breakfast. Getting dressed was an ordeal. The dogs had found my pile of clean clothes and were fighting over a pair of briefs. They had them stretched out a full eight feet. I activated the coffee maker and realized shortly thereafter I’d neglected to put a cup underneath it. It’s amazing how a mere eight ounces of coffee can spread out over most of the kitchen floor.

It was about 35 degrees outside (not the coldest of mornings in the past two months), but between the bite of the breeze and the pounding in my head, I considered taking the truck. But I was supposed to ride to Maryland with “Leather” Dick Bregstein after breakfast.

“He won’t care if I ride up in the truck. The guys won’t bust my balls too badly,” I thought. Who was I kidding? If I showed up in the truck, my testicles would be fragmented into dust and cast to the winds. I’d be better off taking a hammer to them myself.

It was 8:55am by the time I straddled the K75. I can’t recall the exact minute that I discovered that I’d left all my cash in the cream separator of some Amish beanpole dancer the night before, but I needed to make a fast stop at the drive-up ATM. Every little thing conspired to make me late, including the 9 traffic lights between East Goshen and Eagle. I was more than an hour late for the breakfast festivities.

The response from the crowd was predictable.

“Who are you?”
“Can we help you?”
“Who are you looking for?”
“There were some guys here earlier, but they left.”
“We were going to stick you for breakfast. Now we’ll have to stick you for lunch.”
“No seats at this table.”

The only one who understood the extent of my suffering was my riding partner, Dick Bregstein.

“Want some coffee, Jack?” asked Dick, in a soothingly low voice.

“Yes, I do,” I said gratefully.

“Me too,” said Dick. “So bring me back a fresh cup before you get comfortable, Fat Ass?”

It was then I learned that all 25 riders seated at this table told the waitress their names were “Jack,” so there’d be no mistake when the separate checks were presented. I wanted to explain my circumstances and why I was late... But there is no need for apologies with the Mac-Pac. You will suffer just the same.

“Chack. How are you?” asked Horst Oberst, in his rich German accent. “Eat your breakfast... Don’t vaste time explaining... You look like bird shit anyvay.”

And so the day began.

Dick informed me that Gerry Cavanaugh and Horst Oberst would be joining us on the post breakfast ride. These two guys look like an ad for BMW. Dressed in black leather and riding an “R” bike set up for touring, Oberst (whose last name means “colonel”) has ridden extensively throughout South America. Cavanaugh is an “ambassador” for the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America, a representative for the BMW Riders Association, and the administrator of the Mac-Pac mileage contest for the MOA. His code name is, “The Snitch.” Our destination was a joint called Woody’s. Woody’s Crab House in North East, Maryland (that’s the town’s name) is a well-known destination for this crowd as it features all of the four food groups: crabs, potatoes, salt, and rum. Cavanaugh triangulated the route in his head and we were off like a shot.

Horst Oberst
(Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

At the time, I suffered from a “leaning” disability. This meant I seldom leaned the bike five degrees out of vertical. As a result, my turns were slow. How slow? Chris Wolfe , a British cockle monger, now living in the US under the Witness Protection Program, once said I turned slower than a two-dollar whore could make change. (Two dollars is a lot of money in the United Kingdom, apparently, a nation where “tips” refer to winners at the race track.)

“I’ll just follow along,” I said. “I don’t want to hold anybody up.”

“Nonsense,” said Horst. “Ve haff vays of making you lean.” He withdrew a taser from a pocket and showed me the brilliant flash when he hit the actuating button. “I vill be right behind you. Ven you go too slow, I’ll zap you in der ass mit dis ting.”

I attempted to lean with the best of them, and actually improved on my turns anytime I saw Horst gaining on me.

The ride was fun and quasi technical. The guys found roads with plenty of twisties. When these became tame, they rode on the sides of buildings, the faces of billboards, and on the tops of rail fences.

We stopped at a light less than a mile from Woody’s, when Jerry gave the strangest set of hand signals. He pointed at Dick, gave the thumbs down, and drew a finger across his throat.

Lifting up my face-shield, I yelled to Horst, “Gerry wants us to kill Dick.”

“Yah, Yah,” shouted Horst. “I haff been exschpecting dis for a long time now. I’ll hold Dick and you can kick him.”

As it turns out, Gerry was trying to tell us that Dick’s F650 had just died. Dick duck-walked it off to the shoulder and the boys attempted to perform an autopsy. It was determined that Dick’s electric clothing had drained his battery. He was wearing electric pants, electric socks, electric gloves, an electric jacket, an electric hat, and an electric cod piece. The aquarium heater in the cod piece drew 16 amps by itself. Everything had been turned on “high” and Dick’s bike produced a reverse magnetic field that dimmed street lights when he went past.

Now it is a recognized fact that the old F650 had a single cylinder engine made for BWM under license by a well-known manufacturer of two-wheeled transportation favored by nuns. This was a touchy subject with Dick, who resented being called “Sister Mary.”

So here we were, on the side of the road, bordering a field that was returning to nature.
A gaggle of Harley riders swept around the corner at that very moment. In a flash, Horst draped his leather coat over the BMW roundels on Dick’s bike.

“Everyvun, quickly. Stand over here und make like ve are taking der piss.”

The four us ran to the bushes at the edge of the road and appeared preoccupied. “Why are we doing this?” I asked Horst.

“I could not bear for das Harley riders to see us standing dere mit das broken down Aprilla.”

Having diagnosed the problem, the next challenge was to give the bike a jump start from another vehicle. Dick flagged down the first one that came along. It turned out to be an Amish buggy.

“Gude morgan,” said the driver, who looked like a traveling log cabin salesman. “Ist das Englander das sheist koff vanten to yump das horse?”

“What did he say,” asked Dick.

“He said you are a fine fellow,” translated Horst.

The woman in the buggy with the driver winked at me and I realized she was the butter churner from the Amish bachelor party the night before. Dick lifted up the horse’s tail in search of a battery connection, and not finding one, waved the Amish couple on.

I pulled a set of cables out of my top case, Gerry Cavanaugh exposed his posts, and Horst had current running through Dick’s alternator (which said Schwinn on it) in a second. Five minutes later, we were sipping chowder at Woody’s.

Dick Bregstein working on his F650's electrical system with Brian Curry.
Brian Curry is shown at his full actual size.
(Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

Nothing makes chowder taste better on a cold day than knowing you were the only one who had the cables when the old salts found themselves up shits creek. There is something for being prepared.

This story appeared as Ride Report #167 in a previous though limited Mac-Pac list. I resurrected it here for a larger audience because it is one of my favorite riding episodes and accurately depicts the true character of my riding friends.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2007
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The First Roar Of A Bike In My Driveway For 2009...

The garage looks like a bazaar in Baghdad. One that just got worked over by a car bomb. Initially built for three cars, temporary (though indefinite) storage of tons of crap have whittled the available space down to accommodate one small SUV, a bike trailer, and my motorcycle. A fast inventory includes one canoe that has not been in the water for three years, a wheel barrow with a flat tire (whose bead is as loose as the elastic on my oldest pair of boxers), an electric version of “The Total Gym” still in the box (exercise equipment that weighs 700 pounds), several bicycle racks (sans the bikes), gardening chemicals, tools, a turkey fryer, fishing gear, camping gear, and 40 or 50 boxes of extra art supplies collected by my hot squeeze. It should be noted that the the 100 feet of shelving in this garage looks like a flea market from hell. Organization is not my strong point.

Stiffie (Leslie), my hot squeeze, has made it clear that anything that has not been touched in two years is a candidate for the trash. This does not apply to impedimenta that belongs to her, however -- only stuff that is obviously mine. For example, taking up rare space in the motorcycle bay is a collapsable garden refuse container, filled with the dry stalks of last autumn’s final pruning. You wouldn’t think this dehydrated plant matter had value, but it is apparently priceless. I am going to move it next to her car tonight (the driver’s door) and I expect it will surface in conversation tomorrow. On the other hand, I have motorcycle-related material strewn throughout the bike bay. My helmet, has been gathering dust on a chair in my office for three months. I found a spare clutch cable tossed into a pile of gloves, which somehow escaped from a box I packed them in.

My stuff needs tending to.

The garage is insulated poorly and tends to be somewhat inhospitable when the weather turns unpleasant. It was designed by the person who invented the vacuum bottle. Consequently, it stays icy cold when the weather outside warms up and retains the heat of hell when the air cools off on a summer night. This is but one of several convenient reasons I have for never staying in there long enough to straighten it up. The fact that I have arthritis, a fear of lurking spiders, a dread of wasps flying in from outside, and move with two speeds -- slow and reverse -- are other convenient reasons.

Jim Robinson and BMW GS roared into the ice-shrouded driveway, 
the first bike and rider to do so for 2009. 
(Photo by Jack Riepe -- Click to enlarge)

But the weather warmed up to 49º(F) on Sunday, and I opened the doors to let in the sunshine and spring-like air. It was just past noon, when I decided to tidy the place up -- exclusively using my Jedi Knight mind powers to move stuff around. Two seconds into this, I was distracted by the snarl of a motorcycle fighting its way up the ice in the driveway.

“Impossible,” I thought. “The ice is still an inch thick in most places. How can this be?”

The suspense was shattered a few minutes later when my pal (and fellow Mac-Pac member) Jimmy Robinson appeared at the top, wearing a two-foot wide shit-eating grin, astride a silver BMW GS.

“Damn,” said Jim, with a laugh. “You don’t make it easy for friends and acquaintances to drop by, do you?”

“Actually, most of them take the hint,” I replied.

Robinson reported that the streets were largely free of ice and that warmer temperatures compelled him to get on his bike and ride. “Why don’t you come with me?”

The imposing profile of the Beemer GS looks great in the driveway, 
or on the Great Wall of China. It's BMW's best selling model.
(Photo by Jack Riepe -- Click to enlarge)

I pointed to the tarmac in front of the garage for my answer. The blacktop was shrouded in dirty, gray ice right up to the garage door. This presented no obstacle for the vintage Suburban or the Subaru, both of which are equipped with four-wheel drive. “I have no intentions of dropping that bike in the driveway, or anyplace else today.”

The flight deck of the GS is neat mixture of computer screen and analog dials.
Jim Robinson can be seen shoveling his escape route through the crud encrusted windscreen.
(Photo by Jack Riepe -- Click to enlarge)

Technically, the streets were clear. But melting snow and ice left most of them soaking wet with a piquant brine solution. Anything taken out on the road would return covered with white salt streaks. If there was one thing I felt less like doing than cleaning the garage, it was washing my bike in a cold garage. Plus Robinson was not quite honest about the clarity of the roads. The volume of water in the streets, especially where it was channeled by dissolving snow banks, was the equivalent of a good rain storm. A rider would be thoroughly soaked by the spray from traffic within a few miles.

“Do you have a snow shovel I could use to help cut the ice down on the hill in your driveway,” asked Robinson.

“Aaaah, Jim. I hate to think of you shoveling the driveway,” I said, giving him a choice of two shovels. “Don’t forget to hack a path to the side door.”

Robinson cleared enough of the ice away to guarantee front wheel traction on his exit. Nevertheless, I refused to turn my back on him knowing where that shovel could have been shoved. Seconds later, Robinson roared out, anxious to put a hundred miles on the bike in the next couple of hours. My big surprise is that a recent procedure has made my arthritis a lot more tolerable. Had the driveway been clear, meaning that if we had had two weeks of rain to wash away the salt and gravel, I would have ridden with him.

Robinson cleared enough of a path to guarantee traction for his front wheel 
on the way out. It wasn't quite that simple on the way in.
(Photo by Jack Riepe -- Click to enlarge)

So Jim Robinson and his GS became the first bona fide rider and bike to appear in my driveway for 2009. Forty-eight hours later, the temperature dropped again and there’s eight inches of new snow covering everything. I’m so happy I could just shit.


I wasn’t kidding when I said I had two speeds, slow and reverse. The two last winners of the Twisted Roads Riders Meal’s Contest never got their prizes from November of last year. As you may be aware, two individuals are selected from everyone who contributes a comment to the blog each month. Brenda Wheatley and Bobskoot were the last two winners and their $50 meal cards were mailed today. The prize department of Twisted Roads regrets the delay.

©Copyright Jack Riepe2009
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)

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)