Monday, July 27, 2009

Jack Riepe Back From The Missing -- Maybe

I have been attempting to hide the fact that eight days on the road and back from the BMW MOA Rally took a lot more out of me than I anticipated. My arthritis is advancing faster than expected and it takes longer for my joints -- a lot longer -- to recover from a week of exertion. At first, it seemed like a couple of nights' sleep was all I needed and I had plans to immediately resume writing for work and in motorcycle circles.

Yet by last Wednesday, it was clear that something else was going on here... This fucking disease was preventing me from focusing on stuff I want to write and simple tasks I set for myself each day. In truth, I have just spent a whole week doing a lot of nothing, and that's about what I have to show for it.

I would like to thank Pete Buchheit, Dick Bregstein, and Clyde Jacobs, (my riding partners on the Tennessee odyssey), for all of the assistance and consideration they extended on my behalf.

Never before have three individuals endured so much bullshit at the hands of one person on a daily basis. Despite being the first up in the morning (showering before 6am), I was always the last one to flop into the saddle and the first to pull into a rest area 60 miles later. I again managed to lose my keys (again in my underwear), lose my glasses, lose my toothbrush, and lose my cane on various days throughout the ride. It was the general impression of many that I had also lost my mind, but that was long before this ride.

These guys took everything in stride, and even pretended to laugh about it.

Work is getting to be a chancy thing these days. I had signed on for a series of assignments that could only be delivered during the week of the rally. (Revenue is such that I would write for Satan if he called and paid in advance.) My option was to eitrher cancel the Rally ride, or attempt to work at night. Canceling the ride was out of the question. I would work at night. That plan turned to shit when my 4-year-old Apple laptop ( a 13” Black MacBook that had survived being hurled to the ground in a motorcycle crash three years ago -- without any damage) died in my saddlebags.

There are no Apple Stores in Johnson City... They are several places that service Apples (mine was far beyond that, however) but nothing that was going to provide the kind of relief I needed. I was able to contact Apple from my hotel room in Johnson City, describe what I wanted, and persuade them to ship a new MacBook Pro to me within 15 hours.

The blown computer provided a degree of stress that I did not need. The client was very supportive and advised me that killing myself would be more acceptable than fucking them up with a delayed project. In fact, they wanted me to complete the project and kill myself anyway (as this would resolve any overtime issues.)

Since my hotel rooms had all been prepaid, I allocated about $18 a day for gas, $30 a day for food, and a little extra for cigars and rum. I figured the $300 in my pocket would cover things nicely, using my credit card for stuff at the vendor tent. After the call to Apple, my total expenditures for this ride came in at $3400.00 for the week. The computer was more than half of what I paid for the K75.

I was forced to work all day Thursday and Friday (except for lunch), and we departed for home on Saturday morning. That was why no one saw me at the Rally. I had been invited to two official dinners on Wednesday and Thursday evenings -- and that was the only time I was on the Rally premises. But I would not have missed this run for anything. I cannot recall ever having such a good time.

The Rally seemed like a hive of activity. Yet both times that I was there, I had to pull out at nightfall, when my pain medication was wearing off, and when traffic control was at its maddest. Twice I found myself riding in the dark and rain (not my favorite). Every time I rode through the rally I prayed, "Dear God -- Don't let me drop this bike in front of all these bastards, especially the ones wearing fancy name tags."

There are some very special people who really extended themselves on my behalf for this trip. They are:

• Jim Sterling -- Three people came up with ideas to help me get my fat, ungainly ass on and off my K75. Each built me a kind of step. Ricky Matz was the first. He built his as a joke, and disguised it to look like a BMW OEM part. It did not fit in my top case. The second individual was Dick Bregstein, who came up with a section of 4x4 (well-used in his garden) that he thought would do the trick. It too had its limitations (termites and carpenter ants among them). Then Ken Bruce came up with a version that he thought might work too. He offered to tailor it to whatever specifications were required.

But Jim Sterling tackled this assignment like a true engineer. He made measurements, taking note of the peculiar dimensions of the interior of the top case. (It’s like a trapezoid.) He made a prototype, showed up for a custom fitting, then determined it needed alterations. The finished product was painted (twice) and linked to the handlebars via a chain, so I could reel it in like an anchor, and stow it in my top case. I use the same process, in reverse, to get off the damn thing.

I used this device three or four times every day on this ride and it was a life-saver, sparing me a jolt of pain in my left hip every time I got on and off this bike.

This is the step that my engineer friend Jim Sterling designed and built for me. The front-loading capability of the top case enables me to stow it after reeling it in on the chain. Some folks claim that I should be embarrassed to need this to ride a BMW.
Then again, I need a wheelbarrow to carry my genitals at the beach.
(Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

• Brian Curry -- Brian invited me to the BMW MOA'S Ambassador's Diner, and gave me the opportunity to meet with the organization’s ranking leaders and key committee chairmen. Before the evening ended, many of these folks took Brian aside and told him never to do this again, as poor Emma Blodgett, 87, the BMW MOA Ambassador to Somoa, may never recover from the story I told about the pole dancer and the “organ” grinder’s monkey. Brian also sold tickets to about 200 people who paid to see me dismount using Jim Sterling's new invention "The Fat Ass Anti-Gravity Step."

• Dave Misevich -- Dave made arrangements for me to register at curbside, because I was too spent to get off the K75, stagger 100 yards, and stand in line. Dave walked up to me, shook my hand, and went back into the registration center to find John Murphy, a registration volunteer from Canada, who then processed me while I sat on my bike. Dave never once mentioned that I was leaking sweat like a New Orleans levee gushing water under a tidal surge.

• John Murphy -- Who was all smiles and helpful information as he processed my registration (while I sat on the bike at the curb). Mr. Murphy was one of the few people I would meet on this trip who didn’t offer to a) help pull the K75 out of my ass; b) suggest this might be less of an ordeal if I didn’t weight 10,000 kilos; c) greet me by yelling , “Hide the cookies,” over his shoulder.

• Mary Baker -- Who was one of three ladies who offered to pose as “Cheri Pie -- Exotic Dancer and Physical Trainer), and who volunteered as my “date” for the BMW MOA Owners News Contributor’s Dinner. Mary is a pisser and a half, who rides a BMW like a Kamikaze pilot with a sense of excellence. I was surprised to get Mary’s note volunteering for this mission, as she always gave me the impression as being the sort of woman who grinds total bullshitters like myself into the dirt. In fact, I always thought she regarded me as an example of what happens when the wrong people have access to penicillin as children. Mary came dressed up for the event wearing form-fitting Capri pants(with a stunning cherry pattern on them) and a special Cheri Pie tee shirt, that I had ordered.

Mary Baker "Cheri Pie" and her red hot BMW "R1150R" bike that she rides like a Kamikaze pilot. Mary is a dedicated rider who didn't hesitate to show up for dinner with me,but never once said anything about riding together. Point taken. Mary is a real BMW rider, who doesn't tolerate bullshitters, nor fools, nor guys who ride their K75's like scrap metal on a flatcar.
(Photo courtesy of Mary Baker -- Click to enlarge)

The other ladies who responded to my call for a date were Jill Last -Name-Withheld-Out-of-Courtesy (who claimed on a public list that she'd be perfect for this as she has “killer tits”) and Kimi Bush (who begged off as she would not be attending the rally). Jill gets a special mention here for unknowingly providing me with the title for my first book about motorcycles. (It may be called, “A Re-Entry Riders Guide To Motorcycles and Killer Tits.”)

• Jim Ellenberg -- Who offered to ride my bike home from the rally, while I stretched out on the back of seat of a car, driven by his wife Dot. Jim got this idea when I went passed him on I-81 doing 98 mph. He said my back was so twisted that I appeared to be riding side-saddle.

I couldn’t even begin to think about this, as Jim is 6’9” tall, and my K75 has a 36” wheelbase. Jim would have had to put his testicles in his shirt pocket and steer with his feet. (Actually, I was determined to finish this ride as I started it. While Jim’s offer sounded great, I had no desire to be carried back unless I had crashed. Jim did carry back half of my gear in his car, however.)

• The unnamed woman on the purple Harley at the rest stop just south of Roanoak, -- who said, “You’re the guy who writes ‘Twisted Roads,’ and who then lifted up her shirt and jiggled those babies around. It’s people like you who give people like me something to write about. Actually, a couple of dozen folks did come up to me, ask if I was the guy who wrote “Twisted Roads,” and then thank me for making them laugh. One was a gorgeous blond who said, “You’re even fatter in real life.”

I smiled and replied, “My new book will be called ‘A Re-Entry Riders Guide To Killer Tits.’ You're not in it.”

The only decent picture of me taken at the BMW MOA Rally in Gray, Tennessee.
All of the other pictures portray me as a huge fat blob, recently handcuffed to the food chain.
(Photo courtesy of Mary Baker "Cheri Pie" -- Click to Enlarge)

If I died tomorrow, I would go to hell laughing over the memories of this ride. I deeply regret not having written a current blog piece in a long time. The fact is I was under a lot of stress on the ride and it has taken nearly two weeks to decompress. The rally ride story will be posted in the next 24 hours.

I have not answered a lot of email for the same reasons listed above. I freely admit that I have had scrambled eggs for brains. It took me two weeks to write this letter. It has taken me 10 days to think of the opening for the Rally Ride story. And it only occurred to me on Saturday, on my way to the dirt track motorcycle races in Hagerstown, Md. (By the way, I was the guest of Chris Carr, AMA champion and former title holder as the world's fast man on two wheels, and spent the afternoon with his pit crew -- another Twisted Roads first. Story to follow.)

Thank you very much, everyone who helped me make this ride. And for those of you who see this letter and my recent absence from this forum as an admission of defeat, please feel free to kiss my ass at your earliest convenience. Those of you who are short may use this excellent step I have to get a good shot at the target.

Fondest regards,
Jack Riepe
Publisher/Twisted Roads

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The First Guest Blog on Twisted Roads -- Michael Cantwell

From time to time I come across some real gems, great stories that have involved friends of mine, that I would like to offer in this column. I cordially invite these folks to draft the piece and submit it to me for editing. This is the first of this collaborative effort. There will be two more in the immediate future. These are:

• 150 Miles Per Hour In First Gear -- Or How I got to become the World’s Fastest Man on Two Wheels, As Told To Jack Riepe By Chris Carr

• DucDude Pays $1800 At The Toll Booth, as told to Jack Riepe by Eric H.

I will also present a piece on my ideal motorcycle weekend. I guarantee it will be the funniest and most profane thing I have ever written.

Jack Riepe
Twisted Roads

My Father’s Day Ride To The Clouds
By Mike Cantwell, as told to Jack Riepe

Holidays fall into three categories: religious, national, and those created by greeting card companies (egged on by merchants) looking to move mountains of useless stuff in months bereft of religious or nationally significant holidays. Father’s Day would normally fall into that third category.

Not in my house.

I have instilled a sense of religious fervor in my wife and daughter to treat as sacred the one day of the year in which the father is to be appreciated for all his efforts. These include endless household repairs, the mystical healing of the motor vehicles, heavy lifting, piggy back rides, the education of the dog, plus the conversion of logs into firewood, sweat into groceries, and raw sexual satisfaction into sublime emotional release. (If I were to add “in-law tolerance” to this list, Father’s Day would become Father’s Week.)

On Father’s Day 2009, I made it clear that I was going on a mystical retreat -- to the garage -- where I would purge my soul in silence and solitude, not to be disturbed, unless there was a fire, or the raw sexual satisfaction stuff became imperative. I intended to spend the day with my beloved 1993 K75. She needed an oil change and some other attention.

I did all but change the oil.

Instead of changing the oil, I went for a short ride up Whiteface Mountain. Nestled in the center of the “High Peak” region of New York State’s magnificent Adirondack Park, Whiteface Mountain is the site of Olympic-quality downhill skiing (and the highest vertical drop in the east).It is the sole mountain in this ancient and noble range that has a highway to the top. Construction on Veterans Memorial Highway began in 1929, as a Depression Era project that was part of the New Deal. The road is five miles long and snakes around sheer drops and slides, at an impressively steep 8 percent grade.

A view of Whiteface Mountain with its first dusting of winter snow, taken on August 15, 1964
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia -- Click to enlarge)

At the road’s end is a tight turnaround circle, that runs through the portal of a stone castle, which houses a coffee shop, a souvenier shop, and tiny bathrooms. A hiking trail disappears upward to a weather station (also housed in a castle-like structure at the very top. The hike is the equivalent of walking up 25 stories of uneven stairs. The less adventurous, and I mean long-time friend and professional gimp Jack Riepe, can take a cooling walk through a 424-foot mine shaft, to an authentic mine elevator at the end. This elevator is a rickety affair, with emergency chains clanking alongside in the shaft. These permit the cage, which holds between 10 and 15 passengers, less if Jack Riepe is jammed into the car, to be lowered by hand in the event of a major power interruption.

"The cloud line is just visible through the trees here as I close on 3,000 feet.
Note the natural guardrail to my right."
(Photo by Michael Cantwell -- Click to enlarge)

I was not interested in engineer marvels or castles in the clouds on this day. I was itching for a ride, didn’t have much time, and live at the foot of this mountain. The die was cast. The views from Veterans Memorial Highway are very impressive. Three rivers and seven lakes, including Lake Placid and Lake Champlain can be seen from the top. On a clear day, you can see Mont Royal and the taller buildings of Montreal, some 70 miles to the north.

"The view of the clouds on this day was strickly inside out, as I reached the 4500 foot mark."
(Photo courtesy of Michael Cantewell -- Click To enlarge)

But weather in the Adirondacks is a chancy thing. It can be bright band dry in the valleys (note I said bright and not sunny), while the tops of the mountains are shrouded in clouds. Today was one of those days and I knew that I wasn't going to see much as I couldn't see the mountain from the house.

"The turnaround at the end of Veterans Memorial Highway runs through the 'castle' at the top of Whiteface Mountain. On this day, it looked like a meeting place for retired vampires."
(Photo by Michael Cantwell -- Click to enlarge)

The ride up to the toll house passes Mel’s Diner in Wilmington, NY, once considered a culinary bright spot for breakfast, lunch, and the ubiquitous burger. In truth, there are better places for breakfast, especially if you have a yen for pancakes or eggs done with flair. Mel’s is the newest looking of these places and tends to capture the transient tourist crowd first.

"These stairs are at the beginning of the trail that winds up the last 275 vertical feet of the mountain.
The part that is stairs is exactly what you see. It becomes a fairly steep walk about 50 steps from the bottom."
(Photo by Mike Cantwell -- Click to enlarge)

Not even on the real mountain yet, the road is steep enough to find yourself riding third gear if you want to adhere to the speed limit.

A couple of miles on the road will bring you past the first legitimate theme park ever built in the US -- Santa’s Workshop. A collection of rides, shows, and attractions, all with a Christmas theme, has delighted little children here since 1949. How detailed is this place? The highlight of one show is a personal appearance by Santa Claus, who arrives in a real full-size antique red sled, pulled by live reindeer, at least four of them. (One year, the reindeer got loose and park employees were chasing them all over the place to prevent a major escape, which would have provided some local hunters with a interesting season.)

'The flip side of the "castle" was even scarier-looking in the fog. Normally, it's a pretty cheery place.
Rest assured, the ridgeline that you can see in this picture is far from the top of the mountain."
(Photo courtesy of Michael Cantwell -- Click to enlarge)

One really fascinating aspect of this park is its address. It has town status and is on the map as North Pole, New York. It has its own little postal facility and cards mailed from this place are canceled that way. What is great is that you do not have to visit the park to take advantage of this. You can send your holiday mail up there (at Christmas time) and the will re-mail it for you with the ultimate Christmas message on the envelope.

The toll house at the foot of the Veteran’s Memorial Highway is absolutely beautiful. It is designed to look like part of a turreted Swiss Chalet, and a reflecting pool, a little lake actually, catches the conical details of the turrets and the blue sky, when there is actually blue sky. The water was somewhat gray today. This lake is stocked with rainbow trout and is only open to be fished by children, meaning kids, about 9 years old or younger.

I stopped at the toll house only to discover that they had raised the road fee from six to nine dollars. I had exactly, including the pennies, six dollars. I rode back down to Wilmington, past Santa’s Workshop and Mel’s Diner, to get some more cash at the ATM in town.

'The last time I pulled over on soft duff like this, it was to assist some guys in pulling Mack Harrell's BMW GS out of his ass.
My bike tipped over that day. I was more carefull in posing it for this picture."
(Photo courtesy of Michael Cantwell, who would pass up taking a shot of a naked women if he couldn't get his bike in it... The picture, I mean. -- Click to enlarge)

Once again at the toll house, I paid my fee to a very friendly woman, who was beginning to carry the unmistakable look of fatigue normally associated with the anguish of romance with an Adirondack man, and endless winters where she had to prove this love by cutting wood and shoveling out his car. You could read the resignation in her eyes. In her smoke-stained voice she informed me that the temperature was 55 degrees and there was no visibility at the summit. I thanked her with all the kindness in the world in the hopes that the old adage 'kill them with kindness' would work in this case. I have a hard-to-conceal disdain for the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) and those who work for them. This is not a rational disdain, but one that comes as a reaction to base patronage and decisions made by a semi-private entity that frustrate all understanding.

As a certified BMW rider, it is my God-given right to criticize and bitch at anything that takes away from the total enhancement of a ride. Pulling away from the toll house I thought 'where the hell is the nine dollars per vehicle and five per passenger being put to use?'. The road is what I imagine a prairie dog village would look like. There are mounds, heaves, crevasses, caverns, hummocks, washouts and any other form of hole/fissure you can name. I'm sure if the Inuit lived in proximity to this road they would have one thousand words to describe it's condition.

The posted speed limit is twenty-five miles per hour. While glancing off the road at a vista, I hit what I would call 'Little Whiteface'. My lower back still hurts. I believe the US Olympic Ski team does mogul training here.

At about 3200 feet. I stopped to take a few pictures. The pull off was at a spot in the road that had a nice vista. It also had a grade of about eight percent. Finding a position to put the side stand or center stand down was a challenge.

There are quite a few scenic spots along the road and it would have been a spectacular view had I not poked my head into the clouds at 3300 feet. In one of the pictures, you can see the clouds lurking in the distance waiting to saturate you with cloud mist with a pH of four...about the pH of lemon juice... which by the way is great for removing bug splatter, tar and chrome. How do I know this? I work for an environmental concern that measures the PH of Adirondack cloud mist on a regular basis. It’s part of an ongoing study to support a large scientific pool in which leading authorities place bets on when tons of hydro-carbons released into the air from the great American midwest (and from our shifty-eyed Canadian neighbors to the north) will kill all of the amazingly beautiful 1200 natural lakes in the Adirondacks.

"The mountain is lined with interesting stone work that lies covered by 75 years of overgrowth."
(Photo by Michael Cantwell, who is finally a little embarrassed that his bike is in every picture -- Click to enlarge)

The ride down the mountain was purely uneventful, if your idea of routine is taking hairpin turns in a dense fog, on a road that was apparently hit by mortar fire in the middle of the night, and occasionally dusted by fine particulate generated by the deterioration of the “$9 per square inch pavement,” complete with sheer drops to certain death on rocks a half-mile below, or comforting rock faces and boulders to gently arrest your speed should you mistakenly turn into the mountain. (Actually, this is routine for the average BMW rider.)

"One of the many delightful little picnic areas that line Veternan's Memorial Highway on Whiteface Mountain,
in New York's magestic Adirondack Mountains."
(Photo by Michael Cantwell -- Click to enlarge if you want a better view of his bike)

On the subject of speed, the dynamic braking action of the K75’s unbelievably solid engine, combined with the judicious application of the dual disks on the front made the five-mile descent from the clouds a thoroughly controllable and pleasant exercise in good judgement. That is because Father’s Day does not fall in the height of the Adirondack Season. Had the day been a bright, clear, and relatively warm (60 degrees at the top) example of North Country perfection, the road would have been a lot busier with tourists in minivans charging up the road, scenting the atmosphere with the aroma of engine coolant as it comes to a steady boil. Many of the little vistas offer picnic tables, allowing those who have saved for a few weeks to cover the toll, to pull over and grill salmon or smelt tin over engines that are generating clouds of their own.

Yet the real measure of stupidity can be gauged by the manner in which Darwinian elimination candidates try and hold their vehicles at a steady 25 miles-per-hour on the way down. The cozy smell of brake fluid at the operating temperature of French fry oil is common at the first major intersection in the hamlet of Wilmington, far below. There used to be a gas station right there, owned by a guy who migrated north from New Jersey, a place where having forced anal sex with consumers who know nothing about the cars they drive is mandatory.

"Distant lakes and rivers can be seen through rents in the clouds, just behind a good shot of my bike."
(Photo by Michael Cantwell -- Click to see either the Saranac River, the Saint Regis River, or some other damn river flowing down in the valley.)

It is my understanding that this mechanic did 20 brakes jobs a week. Jack Riepe pulled in there nearly 30 years ago, driving a brand new AMC Spirit (not a Pacer) with hot brakes. Riepe was encouraged to do so by Maryann (his sizzling squeeze dejour), who thought hot brakes were a harbinger of certain doom, and that the guy she was with had moments in which he was a pure horse’s ass. In a rare move, Riepe did not do any of the talking. He let Maryann, his future former #1 wife exit the vehicle first, wearing tiny little shorts that rode up high enough to do double duty as a necklace, explain the perceived problem. The mechanic recognized Maryann’s unmistakable New Jersey accent, and put the car on the lift. He then gave her a tour of each wheel while Jack, leaning against the inside of the garage doorway, watched with professional New Jersey male appreciation.

The mechanic then look at Jack and said, “These brakes are fine. You don’t owe my anything. If you want, you can get me an iced tea across the street.”

“No problem,” said Jack. “Babe, please run across the street and get this gentleman a six-pack of iced tea. The look of disappointment on the mechanic’s face could have been read like the front page of a newspaper. There are all kinds of ways to screw stupid consumers in New Jersey. According to local accounts, Riepe’s wallet was one of the few survivors to escape that garage. His girlfriend didn't have any grease marks on her ass either.

My friend and fellow Mac-Pac member, Michael Cantwell, on his Blue BMW K75
(Photo courtesy of "Lolita," Pole Dancer Extraordinaire -- Click on the picture for her phone number)

Submitted as a diversion in literary styles.
©Copyright Twisted Roads/Michael Cantwell 2009
The opinions presented in this story do not reflect the position of Twisted Roads, its publisher, or any of the people he really likes. But if it portrays a real douche in a natural light, you can accept it as the truth.