Saturday, March 28, 2009

It Arrived Yesterday!

The story about a ship wedged in the Panama Canal barely caught my attention as I scanned the transportation headlines. Those of us who make our living writing about the plight of the airlines, the indignities suffered by the business traveler, and the sound a million business travel industry jobs make as they disappear down the crapper are generally hard to impress when it comes to developments in the shipping news. Yet there was a picture of the vessel attached to the headline. It had an incredibly familiar, though utterly unbelievable, look to it. One click brought it to the forefront of my screen.

There was the unmistakable image of a huge container ship thoroughly wedged into one of the locks of the Panama Canal -- dwarfed under a gigantic custom motorcycle seat. The ship would have cleared the waterway effortlessly, but the sides of the seat had slammed into the edges of the locks, knocking a dozen visiting dignitaries from the North Korean Peace and Harmony Ballistic Missile Commission into the water. Repeatedly clicking on the little magnifying glass made it possible to read the tag attached to the seat.

It was addressed to me.

This was my custom seat, carefully constructed so that my ass would only overhang it by an inch in each direction, being shipped by the most practical way from the west coast by the manufacturer. According to engineering experts, this may be the largest saddle ever constructed for a BMW motorcycle in the history of two-wheeled transportation. Somewhere enroute to West Chester, a picture was taken of two Little League teams, playing nine innings while sheltered against the rain under this seat.

A huge ship similar to this one wedged itself in the Panama Canal 
carrying my custom seat from the west coast.
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia -- Click to enlarge)

The legendary comfort of the Russell Day-Long Saddle has been whispered around the campfires of my riding friends for as long as I can remember. After 12 or more hours on the road, some riders have been known to dismount, shower, and get back on the bike (while on the center stand) to get a good night’s sleep. One long-distance runner claims this saddle makes cobblestones feel like new Macadam. Another stated that his Russell Day-Long Saddle was smoother than any of his marriages. A third says he has no problem getting naked models to pose on his bike since installing a Russell Day-Long Saddle. These are the kind of recommendations that strike a chord with me. Oddly enough, they do not appear in the company’s brochure.

I have been a candidate for a custom saddle for the past three years. The aftermarket seat on my first BMW K75 was designed as an interrogation tool by the STASI (the East German Secret Police). You would sign anything after sitting on it for two hours. I sold the saddle from my second Beemer to a blacksmith, to use in hammering out horseshoes. This seat looked great, but was designed along the lines of a splitting maul, which centered right on the crack of my ass. I remember one long ride to West Virginia, when I got off the bike feeling like a split rail fence.

"Mike" at Russell Cycle Products begins the painstaking process of 
developing a seat pocket that will match the contours of my ass. 
A dedicated seat composition artist, Mike wept openly at the 
thought of sending such a beautiful seat to certain death.
(Photograph courtesy of Russell Cycle Products -- Click to Enlarge)

Yet I have taken particular notice of long-distance riders who claim their Russell seats are like catcher’s mitts for their butts. I watched as one woman dismounted and her Russell Saddle actually made a loud kissing noise as she pulled her rather shapely ass out of it. (She blushed when she realized I was watching and said, “Something, huh?” I forget my exact reply, but I remember telling her that I could do a much better job than that saddle.)

"Mike" at Russell Cycle Products carefully mounts a critical suspension 
component into my custom Russell Day-Long Saddle. Note the photograph
 of me sitting on "Fire Balls" in the upper right. Once they got past the initial
 shock of working in mega scale, the team of experts at RCP had no 
difficulty in  dealing with my dimensions.
(Photograph courtesy of Russell Cycle Products -- Click to enlarge)

I have never heard an adverse statement about these seats, and have read plenty from riders who claim these custom-built units are a delight. Many of these riders own multiple motorcycles and have Russell Day-Long seats on all of them. And the commentary is not just from the BMW crowd, but from a variety of different marque riders who have discovered that the two areas in which motorcycle manufacturers are most likely to cut corners are seats and horns.

The size of the finished seat cannot be overstated. Local township officials (above) were initially stymied as to whether or not the finished seat required a Certificate of Occupancy and an address.
(Photograph courtesy of Leslie Marsh -- Click to enlarge)

Only one thing has separated me from a Russell Day-Long Saddle before: cash. They don’t give these away. Professional writers like myself are chronically broke. While my alimony payments to a platoon of former wives have ceased (just in time for the economy to collapse), I am still supporting a distillery in Jamaica, a tobacco industry in Honduras, a pole dancer in Coatesville, and 466 whores in Washington, DC. This doesn’t leave me with much. Yet my girlfriend -- the amazingly beautiful and gentle Stiffkins -- seems to remember something nice I did for her, and presented me with a combined Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and birthday gift: my very own Russell Day-Long saddle.

Jay Scales, Mac-Pac member and a *Swiss bell-ringer I sometimes ride with, was also presented with one of these saddles by the woman in his life. We were thinking of building a monument to them, but Jay is holding out for MotoLights as well.

Ordering a saddle from Russell Cycle Products is an exacting science, requiring a number of critical photographs, vital statistics, and **character references. I decided not to lie about my weight in the event it voided the warranty. RCP required pictures of me flat-footing the bike and riding it. I had great shots of me putting “Fire Balls” through its paces at 167 mph taken by Chris Jaccarino and his girlfriend Melinda. Static pictures were taken by David Hardgrove and Matt Piechota. (All of these folks are celebrated members of the exalted Mac-Pac, the eastern Pennsylvania-based BMW Eating and Wrenching Society.) As far as character references go, I sent them the names and phone numbers of total strangers, selected from the phone book at random.

My  finished Russell Day-Long Saddle is a work of art with beautifully clean lines that will dovetail with the classic styling of the Scout Parabellum fairing on the "low seat" configuration of my 1995 BMW K75. 
The heater switch, in black, is on the other side.
(Photograph courtesy of Leslie Marsh -- Click to enlarge)

RCP’s website lists every possible seat configuration for hundreds of bikes, and each of their saddles is as unique as a set of fingerprints. (Technically speaking, this seat is an exact profile of my ass and should be accepted as legal identification at any airport in the country.) The site depicts a cross-section of the saddle’s construction, illustrating their highly innovative spring suspension, which results in unique wings to support your butt cheeks.. I believe the spring used in my seat was a leaf taken from the suspension of an Abrams battle tank. Russell does require your seat pan, which makes getting one of these saddles an ideal winter project as it will take a few weeks. Nevertheless, they don’t waste any time and have a reasonably quick turnaround.

Opening the box yesterday, my office was flooded with that new motorcycle seat smell. (I can assure you this is significantly different from the way an old motorcycle seat smells.) This scent is so stimulating that I’m thinking of ordering a suit made from the same material. (This would guarantee that I could get laid anyplace.) You have a choice of stitch patterns with these seats, and I went with the “half moon” style, which offered a clean design with fewer seams. I actually printed out each stitch pattern and looked at them up against the bike, to see which one went best with its classically beautiful lines.

The fit and finish of my new Russell Day-Long Saddle is a good match for the timeless beauty of the BMW K75 -- especially in the low seat configuration. Note heater switch.
(Photograph by the author -- Click to enlarge) 

I also ordered the optional seat heater. This is a single-setting comfort item that will take the chill out of your butt, while possibly extending the riding season when the temperature is in the mid-20s. The activating switch is located at the back of the seat. The seat came with all the electrical hardware (including an in-line fuse and directions) to connect directly to the battery. The unit will also connect cleanly through the Centech fuse box I had installed last fall.

This shot gives a better idea of how the seat actually looks on "Fire Balls."
(Photograph by the author -- Click to enlarge)

The folks at Russell Cycle Products take a keen interest in customer service and will make any reasonable effort (as defined in their guarantee) to achieve client satisfaction. I had fun chatting with them on the phone (especially with Leslie), and got them to send me pictures of my seat in construction. They are interested in how the seat and I morph to each other. I promised I’d let them know.

My daughter -- Katherine -- pronounces the new seat as "very comfortable." Then she said she wanted one. When I pointed out she had to have a motorcycle first, she mentioned she wanted one of those too. 
Kayo (my name for her) really wants a pink Vespa.
(Photograph by the author -- Click to enlarge)

The seat arrived in plenty of time for me to begin the riding season. In fact, the tons of salt and grit still lingering on the road have me dragging my feet anyway. And I regret to report that efforts to get “Fire Ball’s” exhaust system and crash bars coated black have hit a snag directly linked to the credit crisis.

“Don’t look at me,” said Stiffie. “I gave at your office.”

The are limits to a woman’s love apparently.


Author's Note: I have no affiliation with Russell Cycle Products and received neither compensation nor discount for writing about this seat.  The opinions, analogies, and humor presented in this piece are my own. I subscribe to a sophisticated writing style that elevates mild exaggeration to an art form. Some fictional license has been taken with the Panama Canal and with the assholes calling the shots in North Korea. I intended no offense to anyone in the writing of this piece. But if you came away slighted, you might want to consider working harder at becoming a better person, finding better friends, or changing your name. 

Story Notes:
*Jay Scales is an authority on church bells, public clock bells, bell castings, and the installation of carillons in some of the most impressive and historic buildings in the area. His work and that of his company is widely respected in national and international circles.
**Character references are optional.

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

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Long Way Back -- Alone

Riding a motorcycle is a solitary activity, even if you are sharing it with up to three other riders, which is what I consider the best number for a group ride. Yet I cannot deny finding the illusion of greater security in another solitary headlight dancing behind me, or the glowing cigar-stub of taillight in front of me. Since either of those are likely to belong to riding partners I trust, like, and even admire on rare occasions, there is a kind of security in numbers. This is a false sense of security, however, as a deer, a dollop of grease, a drunk, a momentary distraction or even a sudden mechanical failure like a blowout, can pass over one while anointing another. And headlines have reported the stories of a bike going down and taking part of the club formation with it. These are the times when that element of security lies in getting quick assistance -- either with mechanical expertise or medical attention -- from a riding partner.

Too bad motorcycle riding doesn’t begin with a guarantee of assistance, reassurance, nor absolution.

Many riders who routinely traverse the country, or the globe, are accustomed to carrying the majority of their foreseeable needs in saddle bags, top cases, and tank bags. They are their own assistance. But solo riding mile-after-mile also forces an individual to take stock of what’s in his or her mind and heart. I have discovered that solitary riding offers a unparalleled opportunity to think of things I will write and say; words that I should have written and said; and thoughts that should never have been expressed considering the hurt they caused or other consequences they spawned. Riding alone over long distances requires that you be comfortable with yourself. It can set your emotions free, and from time to time, the demons too.

The taillight competing with broad daylight on the road ahead of me belonged to Ricky Matz, one of five lifelong friends from high school. There was a time when Ricky was only one of two other people I knew who rode motorcycles. Two years later (1976), we rode our bikes into a remote part of backwoods America, where Ricky hooked me up with “Laura The Animal,” a perfectly proportioned woman built on the scale of the Stature of Liberty.

My old pal from high school Ricky Matz, on his new Yamaha FJR1300, which 
replaced the Honda in this story. Note Ricky's expression matches the one on his bike. 
(Photo courtesy of Rick Matz -- Click to enlarge.)

There was considerable evidence that Laura had been raised in the wild and that I was the first human she had ever seen. According to Ricky, she could use her lips to remove the fur from a rabbit. I assumed this was a euphemistic way of expressing that my luck had changed. Then I discovered Laura carried a wallet made from a pelt that she had chewed off a rabbit earlier in the day. She had a good heart though, and had let the rabbit go after she gotten its hide.

Ricky had been with me most recently (2006) in Maggie Valley, North Carolina for my first participation in an event known to the biker elite as “The BuRP Rally.” (BuRP is an an acronym that stands for the “Blue Ridge Parkway, and You.) It was a long distance run for me, about 425 miles, as I was coming from the Philadelphia area. (The details of the BuRP Rally are presented in previous installments of this blog, generally preceded by the word, “chapter.” There were six in all.) But very little of the ride down counted as solo mileage. I had been escorted by Wayne Whitlock and his wife Lucy for all but 150 miles of the way.

The ride home would be a different story.

Now many of you routinely ride much greater distances than this by yourself -- and under very challenging circumstances. BMW riders openly laugh at 425 miles and will spit in my coffee if given the opportunity. This distance is nothing to Mac-Pac riders like Edde Mendez (Morocco to Philly by heading east -- 39,000 miles in 11 months), or Doug Raymond (Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Circle in Alaska from Philly and back n 13 days), or Kimi Bbush (a Red Butt ride of 1000 miles in 19 hours), or the Sorensens (Philly to Colorado in two and a half days), or Jim Robinson, who does 700 miles a day with his eyes closed (which explains his injuries). But it was a long ride to me: an overweight, shapeless, damp Wonder Bread-kind of re-entry rider, who had originally begun this trip swearing not to ride in the dark, on the interstates, nor in the rain.

On this occasion, the farthest I had ridden was 225 miles in a day, under the watchful eye of my friend Wayne, on this very trip!

I’d had to leave the BuRP rally early to guarantee I’d make the BMW Motorcycle Owners of Americas’ rally in Burlington, Vermont later that same weekend. Plagued by vicious arthritis in my knees plus the fact that my bike was an 18-year-old BMW K75, I was giving myself plenty of time to get home. Ricky had recently moved to Erwin, Tennessee and was riding point with me as far as Johnson City in that same state.

Riding a motorcycle on the sweepers of Interstate 26 through North Carolina and Tennessee was the closest I have ever come to hang gliding along the ground. The scenery is much better than you would expect from a super-slab. The road surface was superb and the traffic below Johnson City was non-existent on a July weekday morning. Ricky is an excellent rider and tends to hold the needle at 70 mph, or so. (He has an allergy to cops.) Those gently sweeping curves dove into valleys like dive bombers and exited the far end in breathtakingly graceful parabolas. The few trucks we passed were spouting black rage like steam locomotives or giving off vapors of regret from red hot brakes.

Ricky was mounted on a huge 18,000cc Honda cruiser. Having more than double the cc’s and an additional 200 pounds in iron and chrome gave him a whopping 20 horsepower advantage over my vintage bike. This meant he had to downshift less (the exhausting process by which one moves the left foot an inch or two in conjunction with squeezing the left hand) on 80 miles of hills. Ricky’d covered the Honda’s chrome headlight and handlebars with green electrical tape to cut back on the glare that was frying his eyes by coming up underneath his sunglasses. His machine ate the mountains effortlessly. My aging K75 (Blue Balls, with the Sprint Fairing) followed like a Messerschmidt with a boner. Its distinctive BMW whine was loud in my helmet (though not as loud as one of Laura’s whispers), but there was no vibration in my handlebars, a claim my riding partner couldn’t make.

We passed Ricky’s town, Erwin (named after the great Confederate General Erwin Corey), and pulled over for lunch at a chain restaurant in Johnson City. I dawdled over southern fried something, hush puppies, French fries, and a fried quart of sweet tea. Kidding myself that I was savoring the air conditioning, I knew I was just putting off the final segment of an adventure in which I would be my own company for the next 450 miles.

Stepping back out into the tropical heat of the parking lot, the sweat I had saved by sitting in the air conditioning gushed through my pores, gluing my cheap Icon Gear mesh jacket to my bloated frame. Two ravens and a vulture were sitting on my bike. A black cat ran between my legs and a hag believed to be one of the harpies from the opening scene of “MacBeth” let out a cackle.

“Have a good ride back,” said Ricky, extending his hand.

I have often remarked that farewells in motion are the best, but they never do justice to the occasion. It was a difficult left turn out of the parking lot onto a service road, and I caught a glimpse of Ricky tossing me a wave, or the middle finger, and he evaporated in traffic. A sharp right brought me back to I-26 and the reality of dueling with heavy truck traffic.

There was no bullshit here. I opened up the throttle and went left. My arthritis clock was ticking and the purpose of taking the slab was to generate maximum miles in minimum time. By the time I’d hit I-81, I’d had already gone more than 100 miles since leaving Maggie Valley, and hadn’t even put a dent in this trip yet.

There is some element of competition when you ride with a pal. The terms of that competition vary. It may have to do with a little line dancing or it might it just be in matching riding styles. The freedom from having to keep up with a leader, or watching out for the guy behind you, lets your mind free to wander somewhat -- when you are not absolutely focused on the road. And it does seem as if you develop a sixth sense that watches the road.

It was 1pm and I had a dream of doing 450 miles in this one day. I envisioned the way my club -- the dreaded Mac-Pac -- would look at me in admiration, and how some women would lift up their tops as I walked with a swagger. That reverie was shattered by a stone that landed dead center on the top of my helmet. It was like having a shotgun go off in your head, without having it come apart. I went into the first rest area on the interstate to check the damage to my helmet. The Nolan had come through without a chip or a scratch. Quite frankly, I expected to find it cracked. Had the helmet been a windshield, I’m sure it would have broken. I couldn’t help but think what could have happened to someone if they had been riding helmet-free.

This was one of my surviving wedding pictures.  
Here my mother-in-law (front) delivers her daughter to the church. 
(Photo courtesy of the Auto-Da-Fe -- Click to burn her at the stake.)

The summer heat settled like a mother-in-law’s curse. Trucks were running in herds on I-81, adding to the heat and stirring it. The line of my upper lip acted like a gutter, channeling sweat from my face to the corners of my mouth. I stopped at every rest area, averaging 50 to 60 miles between stops, buying water and cold diet soda (rich in phosphates and neutronium). While it felt good to extend my legs, getting on and off the bike was becoming painful. I realized there was a finite number of mounts and dismounts I could expect of these tortured knees. (These were the days when I was walking without a cane.)

This K75 was my beloved “Blue Balls,” which sported the rare Sprint fairing. It lent a very distinctive look to a bike that started out as ugly as a bowling shoe. I would be lying if I told you I wasn’t taking a large degree of pride in pulling up to these rest areas on a feisty, 18-year-old German whirlwind. I was basking in that pride when a guy parked next to me someplace in Virginia. He was riding a fire engine-red 1986 Honda, also in mint condition.

My Beloved Blue Balls -- RIP, 1986 K75 with Sprint Fairing
(Photo by Leslie Marsh -- Click to enlarge)

He was a nice guy and made a big deal over my bike, which sentiment I was forced to return, despite the fact he had just unintentionally shit all over my parade.

“Where did you start out from today,” he asked.

I phrased my answer in such away as to pack a little extra punch in each word.

“Well, I had breakfast in North Carolina this morning and swung up this way through Tennessee.”

“Wow,” he said, enthusiastically! “I had my breakfast yesterday in Houston.”

“The Houston that is in Texas,” I queried.

“That’s the one!”

Why is it that every time I get comfortable thinking something, some son of a bitch shows up with something else that is either bigger or longer than mine?

This guy and I played tag for the next three hours pulling in and out of various rest stops. He took off at one where I couldn’t ride the bike right up to the soda machine, and so I spent some time sitting at a picnic table, smoking a cigar that had the same approximate dimensions as a bus muffler.

It was here that a small child pointed at me, saying to his mom, “Look how fat that man is!”

This hell-spawn’s mother glanced at me and replied, “Don’t say that, Beau. Fat people don’t like to be told how fat they are.”

I almost called after them, “And your mom’s huge quivering ass qualifies her as an expert on the subject.”

Miles filtered through the odometer like grains of sand passing through the hour glass at the Inquisition. It had just scored a total of 310 miles for the day, when I decided I’d had enough. I checked into a motel that had a little chain restaurant in front, with the rooms in a separate building about three hundred feet behind. My only requirement was a room on the first floor with parking outside the door. Imagine my surprise to find the Honda on the centerstand  in the space next to mine.

Such was my fatigue, however, that dinner was three cans of Diet Coke from the vending machine and a pint of rum from my saddle bags. I never left the room once my boots were off. (I got the soda in my bare feet.)

The rain hitting the window was my wake-up call early the next morning. Every part of my body was stiff but one. A glance out the curtains revealed the Honda was gone. I opted not to ride in the rain, but to hook up my computer and spend the day working from the hotel. The possibility that my decision not to ride was somehow connected to an inner fear troubled me. I rode the bike down to the restaurant for breakfast, noting the spray coming off the front wheel. The road was wetter than the atmosphere, which was starting to lighten up.

The rain stopped in the early afternoon, and despite the grayness of the day, I opted to get on the road. This was a big deal for me. I generally give riding the pass if there is even a remote chance of getting caught in bad weather. But I felt so eager to be on the road that I knew luck would be with me. (It was, but it wasn't the sort of luck you can do much with.) “Blue Balls” blew into a heavy drizzle an hour later, and slid like a greased turd when I pulled up at a gas pump. That was a clue I had missed.

Sooner or later, you just make the decision to deal with things. I decided not to try and squeeze into rain gear that would be ghastly hot. It was very warm in the breeze at 65 mph and the road spume actually felt good. I pulled into one rest area with the rain at its peak and found a guy on a magnificent K1200GT with a custom trailer in tow. He was on his way to the BMW Rally in Vermont.

“Me too,” I said.

He looked very skeptical, as if a three-legged stool had announced it was going to do an oil painting. “Where’d you start from,” this bastard asked.

“Houston, two days ago... The one in Texas," I added for emphasis.

The sun came out just before I hit Maryland, and I was dry as I crossed the Hagerstown line. I was home three hours later. Those two days had been the longest I had ridden alone in 25 years. On that ride, I thought of the following:

• Three past girlfriends, what they looked like naked, and where they were at that moment.
• How Charles Lindbergh once figured out how many times his engine fired in an hour, and how many times it had to fire to get him to Paris. West Chester isn’t Paris, but as far as I’m concerned, it amounted to the same thing. I gave up trying to make other calculations when I hit 16,000,000.
• Clever things I could have said to each of those three women once I realized they would never lay me again.
• That I had never consciously looked at the bearings in the steering head (after swerving around a truck).
• My life in general.
• What it would have been like to have all three of those women together, slathered with warm Crisco.
• Clever tstatements that all ended with “Shove it up your ass,” to a former client.
• How I could afford a new BMW K1200GT?
• What this story would look like if I ever wrote it?
• How the woman in the car I just passed would look naked?
• Would I really feel like meeting Mack Harrell the next day and riding to the BMW Rally in Vermont as planned?

The one thing that I wasn’t thinking about was that I had over 10,000 miles on those damn Metzlers. And boy did that come back to haunt me in Vermont!

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

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The Perfect Pee Wee Herman Dash...

The simplest mechanical things continually confound me. In my attempt to create the perfect Pee Wee Herman dashboard effect on my vintage 1995 BMW K75, I decided to mount a GPS on my handlebars. Now many of you are undoubtedly thinking that this is a reasonable endeavor considering how the average BMW rider often finds himself far afield in strange environs, struggling to maintain a constant course while the clock is running.

Pee Wee Herman's Bike was red too!  Panniers have a definite BMW-type flair!
(Photo courtesy of the internet -- Click to enlarge)

Those of you who know me will be somewhat puzzled, as it is common knowledge that I would have to ride a week to get far enough to get really lost, and that I stop often enough to bullshit with waitresses and barmaids to guarantee a steady access to local data. Yet Clyde Jacobs and Matt Piechotta had no difficulty getting me turned around and totally lost in Bird-Up-Ass, Pennsylvania -- before abandoning me -- and that’s only 9 miles from the house. Totally lost is a bit of exaggeration. I knew where I was in regard to four north/south and east/west main routes and riding long enough in any direction would certainly bring me to one of these, but my knees were killing me and I was trapped in a Chinese noodle-swamp of unmarked roads. It took me 45 minutes to find a route I was familiar with (without getting off the bike to ask for directions).

The truth is that while a confluence of circumstances made the installation of a GPS possible, the real reason for me getting one is that that my riding buddies Jim Robinson, Gerry Cavanaugh, Dick Bregstein and Pete Buchheit have these on their handlebars. I have grown tired of the superior way they work the GPS subject into the simplest of issues. For example, on the discussion of the nation’s waterways, Jim Robinson will say, “My GPS was instrumental in helping me find the Missouri River.” He occasionally neglects to say there was supposed to be a bridge there, and not a barrier which he hit at 40 mph. Dick will say, “Shall we look for an alternate route? Allow me to consult my GPS.” Or Pete will say, “I wonder if there’s a more scenic route? I’ll just check my GPS.” And then Dick might add, “I have to take my first dump in three days. I’ll check my GPS for a good place.” These statements burn my ass after I’ve heard them a few thousand times. So now on the next run, I’ll be able to say, “I want to take a scenic dump on the alternate route. Let’s see what the GPS says.”

Pete seems to use his GPS with some effect. Dick has the same unit that Amelia Earhart used, and almost came to the same end adjusting it (pure speculation, but as valid as any other explanation for his famous high impact boulder stop).

My recent fascination with these electronic navigational devices was piqued when the love of my life dejour, Leslie (Stiffie) decided that she prefers the GPS that came with her new Subaru to the Garmin Nuvi 660 I bought her two Christmases ago. Therefore, I was welcome to the Garmin unit if I liked. I said “I liked” very much and accepted it as a Valentine’s Day gift. So technically, the Garmin was free. However, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Three components I am trying to bring together: a Nolan helmet, a Garmin Nuvi 660, and a Scala Q2.
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge)

All I needed to get was the mounting bracket from Ram Mounts, sold through Whitehorse Gear. This was a whopping $31, plus $11 bucks for the GPS cradle. I love getting stuff from Whitehorse Gear. Those folks bend over backwards to guarantee the customer is happy. They have a great return policy and customer service that other places -- like LL Bean -- should emulate. They sent me three separate emails confirming my order before actually shipping it. I signed off on each like a blind Senator confronted with a stimulus package.

It was Christmas in February when the box arrived from Whitehorse Gear. I stopped whatever I was doing to explore the mounting bracket and to place the GPS in the cradle. Ten minutes into the project, I uttered the sentence beginning with my signature three-word phrase:

“How the fuck is this GPS supposed to fit into this cradle,” I asked rhetorically. “I think some asshole wrote these directions.”

“Let me see it,” said Stiffie (Leslie), correctly interpreting my rhetorical remark as a plea for help. “And don’t use that language in front of your infant grandson.”

“He’s a year old,” I said. “He barely understands Ma-Ma.”

“Asshole,” said my infant grandson like a parrot, pointing at me with his sippy cup.

“Well he understood that much,” said Leslie. Two seconds later, she deduced it was the wrong cradle for the GPS. “Let me look at shipping statement.”

Apparently, I had ordered the wrong part and okayed it three separate times. “Hmmmmmmm,” said Leslie. “An asshole may have been involved after all.”

I called the folks at Whitehorse gear, and they switched out the proper cradle in no time at all. The new part arrived three days later and my excitement reached fever pitch as I attempted to mount the unit on the handlebars.

The handlebars of the 1995 BMW K75 are literally wrapped with control cables that will alter the bike’s performance if shifted one millionth of an inch. More so on the left side than on the right. Even more challenging was the fact that the 3-inch mounting post that I had purchased (at discount as part of the overall mounting kit) was a bit too tall for where the GPS would have to fit in the Parabellum Scout fairing. This led to another call to Whitehorse Gear to order the 1.5 inch mounting post. That one arrive in another three days for a mere $11 plus shipping.

The Garmin Nuvi 660 (the thing with the screen) finds the Scala Q2 unit, but identifies it as a cell phone. 
Screwed again, Bullwinkle.

The Garmin 660 (now discontinued) had a larger screen than most other brands when it came out, so I figured I could get the gist of the directions with a fast glance -- without having to wear my reading glasses. Yet the unit’s real value is in having a loud female sex-mistress voice call out the turns at the appropriate time. “This thing has Bluetooth,” I reasoned. “There must be a way to project that voice into my helmet.”

Since I have a Nolan helmet which I love, my search first led me to the Nolan communications package. On sale, this was a mere $280 at Hermy’s, my local BMW dealer. I can’t tell you how excited I was to get the get the kit installed in my helmet. Yet going through the directions line by line, it became apparent that I would need an external cable to make the appropriate hook-up. A cable! A fucking cable from my head to the handlebars! Hermy’s traded me a nice Givi topcase in exchange for the Nolan communications package.

Yet my desire to make this GPS talk to me through my helmet burned in my soul. Two members of the Mac-Pac (the notorious BMW riding club in southeastern Pennsylvania), Gerry Cavanaugh and Horst Oberst, presented themselves at my door to demonstrate the capabilities of the Scala Q2 communications system. Simplicity in itself, the Scala Q2 system offered a Bluetooth connection to the GPS, bike to bike communications, an integral FM radio, and an intercom I would never use. It even promised a 5-minute installation time. With shipping, this was a mere $240!

I ordered it online and had in my hands two days later.

It really did attach to the helmet, including speaker installation, in less than 5 minutes, with the little allen wrench provided. And nothing gave me greater satisfaction than to put the Scala unit into “find me” mode at the same time I triggered the Garmin 660. In just about a second, the Garmin recognized the Scala and logged it in. It was just a simple matter of hitting “Okay” with my fingertip on the Garmin screen.

The Cardo Scala Q2 unit. I liked this so much I decided to hang onto it.
(Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge) 

I hit “Okay,” and the Garmin asked me to dial in the passcode of “1234” from the cell phone’s keypad. Except the Scala unit does not have a key pad and it is not a cell phone. No keypad is offered in this mode on the Garmin 660. I repeated the process to make sure I got everything right. Getting the same frustrating result, I called Garmin.

After being on hold for 15 minutes, I got a young woman with the sweetest voice. This is one of the wisest marketing strategies and defense mechanisms Garmin could have used. I was instantly disarmed. She sounded like 30-years-old, brown eyes, brunette, and intensely pretty. I decided not to say “fuck” unless she whispered it first. She listened to my tale of woe, put me on hold for another few minutes, claiming she wanted to confirm the bad news with a colleague before passing it on to me. The Garmin Nuvi 660, a legendary landmark in GPS innovation when it was first introduced, only two fucking years ago, was now discontinued and would not recognize anything via Bluetooth that was not a cellphone. She then politely asked if there was anything else she could do for me.

A vision of handcuffs, a can of starting ether, and a house on the beach in Baja passed through my mind, but I couldn’t see how I could work it into the conversation.

So it appears that my dream of having a fully functional GPS, capable of speaking to me through my helmet, at minimal cost, is shot to hell. The Garmin 660 is not ideally suited for a motorcycle anyway. It isn’t waterproof, has several unprotected openings (for a jack and a disk), and isn’t designed for use with gloved hands. (I will put a strip of clear tape over the openings.) I decided to keep the Scala unit anyway. I like a lot of things about it and it will eventually come in handy. For the exception of the woman who answered the phone, I am disappointed with Garmin. I expected a two-year-old electronic unit that sold for $880 to be programmable for future Bluetooth changes. I am going to write them a letter telling them so, though I expect their response will be to shove both the letter and the GPS unit up my ass.

This is the Pee Wee Herman Dashboard on my bike. For now, the GPS will be speechless.
This GPS cannot be adjusted as I ride, as it is on the right. That's fine with me. 
At least two friends of mine adjusted themselves into a ditch playing with these damn things.
(Photo by the author -- Click to Enlarge)

This is what I get for attempting to be cool. Dick, Clyde, Pete and I are planning a ride to West Virginia this May. We will be taking a lot of little back roads and no one can say what my arthritis will be like. I’m hoping it will be better. But I am anxious not to hold any of the members in my group back. These guys are all red-hot riders who like to scrub the bugs off their mirrors by going low in the twisties. If we get separated, this GPS unit will be worth its weight in gold.

Members of the Mac-Pac (the densest concentration of engineers on two wheels) are holding a special seminar on GPS devices and I have signed up for it. This session is guaranteed to help riders like myself get the most out of these devices.


Regarding Nose Bag Business
Last Friday, I called an emergency session of the Mac-Pac Nose Bag Dining and Etiquette committee at the Himalayan Exotic Indian Restaurant, in the sad little strip mall in Frazer, Pa, “Big Jim” Ellenberg and “Bermuda Triangle” Bregstein were the first responders. We barely had our nosebags of fragrant Hindi cuisine strapped on, when we were joined by Jim Fox, one of the Mac-Pac’s invisible men. Jim is an undercover custom cabinet-maker, who has apparently been investigating an international plywood counterfeiting scheme. The extent of his undercover work has kept him chained to a lathe in his Phoenixville shop, which is why he has been unable to attend any of the club’s rides, dinners, breakfasts, and lunches for the past two years. Such are his recuperative powers that he didn’t even look fatigued from an extended two-year effort when he walked into lunch. We were relieved to learn that the total collapse of the world economy allowed him to get away for lunch.

The nose bag facilitates dining for Mac-Mac members when time is of the essence and utensiles are just too slow.
(Illustration courtesy of the internet -- Click to enlarge)

Regarding Twisted Roads Prizes
The flashlights have been mailed to those winners of the “Worst Obstruction in the Road Contest.” The winners of the Twisted Roads Tee Shirts will have to wait a little longer (two weeks). All prizes from the “Meals” contest were awarded and presumably received.

Regarding Twisted Roads Tee Shirts and Patches
The first ever “Twisted Roads” tee shirts are selling like thong peelers at a pole dancer’s convention. Production is limited... So if you have been hesitating about sending in your order, you will find yourself screwed if you wait much longer. Pay nothing until your shirt arrives. These are the first of a series of unique “Twisted Road” products, custom-designed for our readers. Twisted Roads jacket patches -- “the ultimate colors of sarcasm” -- are on order with a highly disreputable supplier, who drinks throughout the entire day. I would urge patience on your part, except this like urging sexual abstinence to a cage full of mink. So yell all you want, they’re coming.

Regarding My Custom Seat From Russell Cycle Products
I got a call yesterday from the folks at Russell Cycle Products... They just wanted to let me know that the world’s largest continuous sheet of vinyl was being wrapped around the world’s largest pile of compression seat foam, and that my saddle (roughly the size of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City) would be lashed to a barge and shipped via the Panama Canal on Friday. In the meantime, it was being supported by four massive bridge jacks and being used as a shelter by 400 wild horses.

I have heard nothing but great things about Russell-Day-Long seats and can hardly wait to see and sit on mine.

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

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Sounds Of Angry Motorcycles...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 6, 2009

Give Me The Proletariat Every Time...

This is old news but it made me laugh to read again, so I decided to share it with all of you. I used to make my living some years back routinely writing book and movie reviews. I occasionally still get the urge to do so, generally when some stinker of a flick or a novel motivates my sense of editorial revenge. For example, it is widely held that Harrison Ford has never made a bad movie. He broke his winning streak with Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. This movie sucked so badly that it would stick to the surface of a waterfall. And we are talking about a really impressive waterfall, like Angel Falls in Venezuela. I never wrote about it here as it held very little moto content, other than in the opening scene.

Angel Falls in Venezuela. Corrosive waterfall mist dissolves clothing, 
which makes things tough for young mothers accompanying class trips to the site.
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia -- Click to enlarge)

Yet the exploits of Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman were making the rounds in the book “The Long Way Round” back in 2005 and I felt compelled to read it. Not quite a review, I did comment on a particular aspect of the book on a BMW list three and half years ago. That comment is repeated today at the request of Bruce Furnival, a dedicated reader of Twisted Roads and a friend of a friend (Jim Ellenberg).

Absolutely starved for motorcycle adventure, I went from page to page in the "Long Way Round" with the same expectations I had when reading "Kon Tiki" nearly 40 years ago. I found myself getting a little annoyed. For one thing, I thought it took balls for the authors to ask for free motorcycles that they planned planned to ride into the ground.

No one ever gave me a free BMW to ride around the world. And it's not because I haven't been asking. Both of these guys were supposed to be big deal actors. Can't big deal actors (one of whom had just come back from singing "Until The Day I Die" at Nicole Kidman) just write a $20,000 check for a GS? (Author’s note -- I have since learned that Charley Boorman was hanging cabinets in London for a living at that time.)

Believe me, if I was a famous writer like these guys were stars I wouldn't walk around with my hand out looking for a motorcycle. I might try and get sponsors to mention in a book... But I'd be more interested in getting out on the road if I had cash of my own. This is probably why I will never have any real money.

The accomplishment of their ride cannot be disputed. However, MacGregor's constant pissing and moaning about getting out among the proletariat got tiresome fast. I have imagined myself in similar circumstances.

The proletariat are swell, but I don’t feel compelled to sweat alongside them in a ditch at the end of a long day in the saddle, hoping they’ll share a bowl of goat’s eye soup... Not if there’s an alternative close by.

The Scenario: 

I come roaring into a town festooned with yak shit. The aroma of yak shit is a pleasant diversion from my mesh jacket, which has been percolating like an aquarium filter for the past nine days, channeling a torrent of my sweat into the arid earth. The jacket now adheres to me like a tattoo. An eerie silence hangs over the town, as the proletariat stare at me like extras from the original "Night of the Living Dead" movie. Five seconds later, their ranks stagger toward me as the instinct for robbery temporarily overpowers their reflex for murder. It appears I will be the subject of a brief ethnic cleansing, though "cleansing" appears to be a lost art in this part of the world.

Suddenly, a battered sedan of the Kazakhstan secret police pulls up. Two goons in leather trench coats get out and spray the crowd with automatic weapons. They gesture for me to follow, and we trace a winding road through a community of rusting sheet metal and cracked cinder block wattles, barely held together by conspiracy. The townsfolk are gathering for their evening meal of entrails and dirt in broken pottery. But our little tour ends in a walled compound, where a 24-year-old woman, wearing a diaphanous thong, cuts the clothes from my body and rubs me down with cool cloths. Her twin sister  hands me a Tom Collins, and leads me to a suite lined with pleasure silk. They make it clear they know I am a writer on a 1986 K75 with a Sprint fairing, and therefore, they will do whatever it is I want.

"Screw this," I scream in rage. "I want to be out there in the yak excrement with the zombies. I can find naked twins who think I'm a deity in a free deluxe hotel suite just about anyplace."

That sounds like me doesn't it.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2006
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- Perdition’s Socks (With A Shrug)

Monday, March 2, 2009

A Motorcycle Oriented Weekend...

Hopes of getting a jump on spring riding, and having the state and various municipalities sweep the streets of excess gravel and salt, were dashed in southeast Pennsylvania today, as a winter gale dumped up to 10 inches of snow in a broad swath ranging from Harrisburg to Philadelphia. This was just a small cross-section of a late winter storm that covered an area from Tennessee to New York, and from Atlanta to Boston. Under normal circumstances, I would be really pissed at getting all this snow at the beginning of March, but my bike is laid up getting a custom seat and some beautification done on the headers and the muffler. It will be March 20th at the earliest that I can get out, so I am content to sit here by the window, sipping coffee, and alternately typing a few lines.

Today's storm mocks the promise of an early spring. This is the front yard looking left.
(Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

I am listening to classical musical at the moment -- classical motorcycle music: Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild.” Yet I can still hear the scrape of the snow shovel from outside as my girlfriend, Leslie, shovels out my car. I’m glad I got her that ergonomic snow shovel for Valentine’s Day.

Looking right, at 12 Noon, the street is obscured by densely falling snow. 
(Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

Last year, we hired a small company to plow the driveway. They were called "Two Douchebags With A Plow." It snowed about five times in 2008, usually on a night when we were having company. I found myself often asking, "Where are The two Douchebags With The Plow?" Or, "Do you think we should call The Two Douchebags With The Plow again?" We hired two other guys to plow the driveway this year. They are former investment bankers from Wall Street. They asked for a flat fee of $2.5 billion to not only plow the driveway, but to shovel the walkways and establish confidence in the economy. 

While this winter scene looks very pretty, I'm already sick of it. 
This is the view from the right side of the front porch.
(Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

Despite the fact that I couldn’t ride, the past weekend held strong motorcycle content. It started with a lunch meeting of some good old moto saddle tramps. These were my riding partner Dick Bregstein, Rogers George, and his wife Val. Bregstein and Rogers drink the BMW Kool-Aid, while Val rides a Honda Shadow. The meeting convened at the Himalayan Exotic Restaurant, which offers the hottest (spiciest), best, and cheapest all-you-can eat Indian buffet for $7.99. Bregstein and I have lunch here at least twice a month as it is centrally located to our jobs and the owner, Sam, treats us like we are dignitaries. This appeals to me on a number of levels.

In addition to being riders, each of these folks is also a writer. Bregstein wrote professionally as a public relations wordsmith. Rogers George has built a career as a technical writer and maintains a rather interesting blog. Val George has specialized in a series of editorial efforts on a number of topics ranging from customer service issues to care for the elderly. Among the topics discussed at lunch were the essentials of a good ride report.

Bregstein contented that a good ride report should have enough factual material to interest novice, re-entry riders, and seasoned road fanatics. Rogers stated that a decent ride report should be a mix of local color and history, as well as technical riding data. Val thought there should be a strong, personal, introspective touch in each story, explaining something about the author (his or her beliefs in regard to riding in general and the ride under discussion in particular). To this mix I added that every good ride report should include an element of danger, a near topless woman, and a motorcycle that makes a noise like its metal parts remember when they were magma.

My three companions concluded that it was only a matter of time before I would be exposed for the literary charlatan I really am and for the fraudulent biker stories I regularly perpetrate.

Rogers’ blog -- Mushrooms to Motorcycles -- takes a “Poor Richard’s Almanac” approach to life and covers a broad range of topics from rides he’s taken to construction projects he’s undertaken. He made an announcement that he was thinking about a stronger emphasis on motorcycle stories, as opposed to the mushroom side of life, and posted a new essay on getting ready for a ride to Florida. Rogers has diverse interests, one of which includes poetry. He regards poetry as mathematical equations, which is why he sucks at writing it. His motorcycle stuff is good though, and i recommend it.

Actually, all of Rogers writing is precise and methodical, like his outlook on life. His blog is more of a personal journal, like a behind the scenes account of the seamier side of Mayberry, RFD. The trouble is that there is nothing really seamy. I have never even heard Rogers curse. I suggested that he add little nuggets to the text that imply he has a secret life where heavy drinking, hard motorcycle riding, and cross-dressing were occasional events

“It seems to work for you,” was all he said. Underneath his pleasant "Mr. Rogers" personality, he is a bitter s.o.b.

I actually have one funny Rogers George story. Rogers is actually a very proper individual and gives the impression there is starch in his shorts. David Hardgrove and I were out tooling around in a convertible one day, showing Rogers, (who was following behind on his "R" bike) a shortcut to Delaware, when we passed a stunning woman in a skin-tight outfit, on a street corner. Hardgrove and I nearly snapped our necks taking in her perfect form.

Rogers noted this performance, then turned to see what we were looking at. (He would have missed her, keeping his eyes on the road.) In the most uncharacteristic manner, he beeped his horn and waved. 

She waved back. 

All Rogers would say later on was, "I don't think that outfit was the most practical choice if she intended to walk far." Hardgrove and I were astounded.

Last weekend also led me up to the local BMW dealer -- Hermy’s Tire and Cycle -- in Port Clinton, Pa. The shop is located 60 miles north and west from my desk, at the end of a series of nice roads that wind through horse and agricultural country. You pass through several little towns that are pretty non-descript, until you come Fleetwood, Pa. The focal point in this little urban center is a brick factory rising up next to the very active railroad tracks. This factory was the home of Fleetwood Metal Body, a premier builder of luxury car bodies since 1909, purchased by Fisher in 1925, and integrated with General Motors in 1931. Fleetwood car bodies were used by Bentley, Cadillac, Duesenberg, Lincoln, Mercedes-Benz, Packard, Pierce-Arrow and Rolls Royce.

Main Street in Fleetwood, Pa. Note mural painted on corner building.
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia -- Click to enlarge)

A trip to Hermy’s is like dropping in on a relative you really like. Donuts and coffee are within easy reach, and glass counters -- like the kind you’d find in a jewelers -- display stuff ranging from marque watches and key chains to the coolest stuff dejour. Yet it cannot be denied that the hottest things in the shop are the BMW’s and Triumphs parked on the showroom floor. The new K1300GT called out to me as I walked in the door.

“Hey you, Fatass,” it said.

“I beg your pardon,” I replied, looking around for the source of the voice.

“You heard me. Over here.”

The K1300GT looks like sex on Metzler tires. The machine is a lot more compressed-looking than its counterpart in the “R” bikes. In fact, it looks like a comet waiting for ignition.

‘I can be yours,” said the bike. “All you have to do is lose 1100 pounds, write something that people will pay real money to read, and cash the checks.” Then the bike laughed and spit on my boots. If nothing else, BMWs are painfully honest motorcycles.

My purpose in visiting Hermy’s was to return a bagful of fancy electronic stuff that would carry the voice of my Bluetooth-equipped Garmin GPS into my Nolan helmet. After hours of experimentation, it appeared that the Bluetooth option would work for my cell phone, but not for the GPS. (Not unless the lady who lives in the GPS unit called me via my cell phone to give me the prompts for turning.) The solution called for connecting the GPS to the helmet via a cable, which I thought was utterly stupid in this era of electronic wonder. I attempted to be more like Rogers in accepting this disappointment, but saying, “Good heavens,” didn’t hit the mark. Uttering, “Fuck this,” made me feel instantly better.

I’m told Scala makes the unit I want.

There are two women behind the counter at Hermy’s, who play a vital role in separating a man from his money. The first is “The other Chris,” who has warm, penetrating eyes that extract honesty from consumers attempting to return stuff. She can tell at a glance of you dropped the part in question into the toilet, used it, or let the dog play with it.

And then there is Suzy. Suzy has the kind of smile that makes guys spend money just to prolong the conversation.

“I’m so sorry this purchase didn’t work out for you,” said Suzy, with a voice that sounded like bubbles escaping from a glass of champagne. “Can we get you anything else? How about a nice Givi topcase that looks like it costs the same as the stuff you’re returning, but will inevitably run a century note higher?”

“Okay,”I said.

Suzy looked at Chris, and they exchanged a “high five.”

If Hermy’s had a bar, I’d still be sitting there. Real bikers, the kind who find nutrition in milege, tramp through this place on a regular basis. The best thing about Hermy's is that you’re always running into folks you know, or people who know you. My vicious negotiating with Suzy was interrupted by the arrival of Roddy Irwin from the Mac-Pac. Roddy is a tree surgeon, whose business card is a laugh of recognition, which he passes around freely.

We shot the breeze for a bit and were then joined by Gary Christman, who won a Twisted Roads tee shirt in last week’s contest. I am always amazed when somebody comes up to me and asks, “Are you Jack Riepe?” My first inclination is to say, “Why? Were you presented with a kid who looks like me?” (Apparently, a growing number of women are claiming they were random victims of my “battered baby harp seal look.”) Gary was cited on this blog (last month) for running out of road in Alaska.

Then another gentleman named “Vince” introduced himself as a reader of my work and paid me a nice compliment about my writing. I can’t tell you how good this is for my ego.

I have been thinking about getting a Givi topcase for the longest time. The one I looked at is the larger than the OEM BMW K75 topcase and can be wired for a stoplight. The mounting rack is more practical than the original on the K75 too, as if offers a broader area for carrying stuff like camping gear, or a case of beer.


Those of you who have ridden with me before know of my fascination with tee shirts. Most of my more elaborate rides are commemorated by tee shirts that highlight some of the events’ more obscure details. For example, I am putting together a ride to Crapo, Maryland (actual place) this summer. That deserves a tee shirt. I am also doing my first annual “Toys For Tarts” ride this fall, which will acknowledge the efforts of performance artists in the tri-state area, many of whom are so poor that they must earn their living without wearing clothes. That ride will get a tee shirt too.

But now for the first time ever, I am announcing the highly coveted “Twisted Roads” Tee Shirt. Made of high quality materials and treated with long lasting dyes, these shirts make a fashion statement and an editorial statement that cannot be ignored. They are also restricted to a limited printing of 26,000. Once they are gone, that’s it.

Announcing the "first ever" Twisted Roads Tee Shirt
Red type reads: Raw Biking Adventure... Romance like broken glass.
(Only $25, plus $3 S&H -- Ordering Details Below)

Designated as the occasional blog prize, the Twisted Roads Tee Shirt is also available for purchase. Why wait to try and win one of these things when you can buy one for $25 (plus $3 S&H). They make great gifts. You can even wrap a set of tire chains in one and make a great impression on that mother-in-law who just won’t stop bitching. To order one of these rare shirts, send your name, address, telephone number and shirt size to All data is destroyed after shipping and billing.

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