Saturday, October 31, 2009

My Co-Pilot...

Mr. Bones made his annual appearance tonight.

My Co-pilot -- Mr. Bones -- We share many interests. He was my best man in two weddings. (Photo by Jack Riepe -- Click to enlarge)

Cigarette and cosmopolitan in hand, he told me I’d be in his thoughts tomorrow as I rode up toward New York City. And when that tiny opening in traffic occurs about Exit 8a on the New Jersey Turnpike, he promised to be the one whispering, “Fuck it, twist on the gas. Spit in the Sausage Creature’s eye.”

You’d be amazed at how often I rely on his judgement.

Some of you would be concerned about a spectre drinking a "Cosmo." I am inured to it. A few years ago I went into a neighborhood gin mill with my old pal Roy. (Roy and I have been friends for over 35 years. Yet what he pulled in the bar that day left me in shock.) The barmaid was live steam poured into a blouse. I was sweating testosterone and wanted nothing more than to share with her a twist of my DNA. Roy looked into her eyes... And asked for a fucking appletini. I moved over two stools and ordered a polo mallet and a body bag. It was too late. Not only did Roy kill his chances, but he took out mine in the crossfire too.

Mr. Bones once said to me, "What's the worst that can happen? Your girlfriend already had 'DNR' tattooed on your chest. And you can always run for Congress if you end up a vegetable." (Photo by Jack Riepe -- Click to enlarge)

Happy Halloween!


I have no patience with anything electrical. Being third generation Irish, I fear anything I can’t see, smell, or drink that can still knock me on my ass. While attending the BMW Motorcycle Owner’s of America rally in Tennessee this summer, my Garmin GPS crapped out in such a manner that indicated a loss of power from the bike to the unit. A careful examination of the power cord indicated the plug end going into the GPS was cracked.

I got around to ordering a $38 replacement cord two months later. The GPS still refused to “wake up” when plugged into the dash power outlet on the K75. My next thought was I had blown a fuse connected to the outlet. A circuit tester showed 12.5 volts in the socket (with the bike off), and the wire (as well as the old one) both worked fine when plugged into the cigarette lighter in the truck.

Suspicion switched to the “Powerlet” converter that allows me to connect the SAE cigarette lighter plug into the “BMW” style outlet on the dash. Three screws are visible on the outside of this unit, and the larger one exposes the internal connectors. Sure enough, the wires were disconnected. The black ground wire attaches to the “square” connector inside.

The Powerlet converter unit... (Photo by Jack Riepe -- Click to enlarge)

It took five minutes to fix this thing. It should be noted that the fixture is black, exposed to the sun on dash, and probably is subject to a modicum of vibration. All of these factors could contribute to a loosening of the connections. It was mildly satisfying to fix it. Those using these converters should be advised that when properly tightened, there isn’t a lot of flexibility between the male “Powerlet” plug and the female socket.

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

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Ride To Yar's Fall Lunch...

The driveway looked like the palette of an artist gone mad. Two or three layers of leaves covered the black-top in a last hurrah of color, before acquiring the tint and texture of old tobacco.

“Aaaaaaaah, the first real day of fall,” I thought. The neighbor’s cat darted across this carpet of fallen flora and struck a dramatic pose against the fence post. This is the cat that delights in pissing in my garage.

“Say cheese,” I said.

The cat looked at me quizzically in the brief second before I triggered the electric leaf blower, air-mailing forty square feet of detritus in her direction. As you are all aware, a substantial number of bike drops occur because the rider has inadvertently stepped on dry leaves, wet leaves, a potion of a a wet leaf, a stub of a twig (with a perfectly round circumference like a pencil), or cat shit causing the one leg supporting the bike to go akimbo.

The prudent rider is well advised to keep the runway clear of this stuff for drop-free take-offs and landings. My tool for this purpose is an a leaf blower powered by a General Electric C40a, a fan motor used to ventilate subway tunnels. In less time than you can spook a cat, the leaves were off the pavement and roughly piled on the grass. I then rolled out "Fire Balls," my 1995 K75 BMW, and couldn’t help noting how seasonal it looked against the backdrop of turning trees. The bike is painted a deep shade of scarlet so inspirational, the College of Cardinals in Rome used matching color swatches for their football team’s jerseys.

The starting line-up for the College of Cardinals 2009 Football Season -- (Photo courtesy of Cardinal Mendzenty -- Click to enlarge)

“Have you seen my cat,” said a voice that sounded like a pick-up line from the Crypt-Keeper. My aged, hated neighbor, who has more lines in her face than a contour map of the Himalayas, was draped over the fence like a hangover hallucination.

“No, I haven’t,” I replied, using the voice I save for traffic cops and divorce court lawyers. .

It was at that point that one of the piles of leaves started to “meow.”

“Did you throw those leaves on my cat,” she screamed.

But I had already started the bike and was following the standard BMW warm-up procedure of revving it at 6,000 rpm, so I missed a lot of what she said. I could tell her maw was still moving though as it had started to foam.

“Don’t worry,” I shouted over the screaming of enraged pistons. “I’ll burn these leaves as soon as I get back.”

I snicked the bike into gear and buzzed out of the driveway. According to the electronic billboard at the local bank, the temperature was 48º. The sun was shining and the bike was running like a lineal descendant of Jim Thorpe. All was right with the world. And if the digital dash clock, standard equipment on all K75s from 1986 to 1995, was to be believed, I would be on-time for this morning’s ride.

This ride would barely be a warm-up for the average BMW riders -- 45 miles. An invitation from Yar Seevers, sole proprietor of Buckingham Lumber, for an outdoor fall brunch was luring Dick Bregstein, Andy Terrell, Alain Kaldewaay, and myself to quaint little Buckingham, Pa. Our starting point would be at the Starbuck’s in Exton, where a decent hot cup of Joe can still be purchased for less than $10.

I hadn’t ridden in two weeks and every part of me, except one, was as stiff as a board. I debated taking the more picturesque, and tree-lined run down to Exton, and gave it the pass in favor of the more urbane Route 100, with its breathtaking view of shit house strip malls most of the way. My decision was colored by the fact it had been raining like hell for two days and 40 percent of leaves that had been on trees 48 hours previously were now on the ground in a kind of puree from hell. Despite being 100 percent natural, I can live without this stuff’s effect on curves and fast stops. PA Route 100 would be arid and leaf-free.

I had two blocks left to go when I was brought to a halt by a traffic light. It was here I saw two BMW motorcycles cut into the Starbuck’s driveway. And just when I was about to pull away, Bregstein carved through the intersection, with the the kind of wave WWI pilots used to exchange after a dogfight.

“Well,” I thought. “We’re all here.”

In truth, I didn’t give much thought to organizing a group ride. I had just had a really shitty week and felt like getting lost in the company of a few good people, who always have something funny to say. Three had responded to my posting for a ride.

The parking lot at Starbuck’s is behind the building, which looks like it should have been a bank, or something. I bumped over the lip of the driveway and carved a sharp left into — a convention of BMW motorcycles. For the first time in seven days, I felt a smile rip across my face and I started to laugh. There was Gerry Cavanaugh, Andy Terrell, Jay Scales, Matt Piechotta, Alain Kaldewaay, Dick Bregstein, Gary Christman, and Jim Robinson (and I know I am forgetting a few people).

I put my feet down and started to laugh. Let there be no doubt about this: doing stuff with the Mac Pac is like going to Thanksgiving dinner with people you really like.

Jim Robinson was riding his Ducati, which looks and sounds like a Roman candle. Robinson lost 37 pounds and was wearing ballistic gear he bought from the Michael Jackson “on-stage” collection. His “Duc” makes the most incredible sound. At start-up, there is a kind of contained explosion, and then it sounds like a nuclear reactor shaking a can of marbles.

Aside from myself and Robinson, everyone else looked like a commercial for the BMW GS, the motorcycle designed to match the classic appeal of the bowling shoe. And even the machines that were not in the “Merrimac” armored dirt-bike category sported the traditional boxer engine. I wasn’t fooled for a minute, and knew the look of “K” bike penis envy on the faces of these guys when I pulled in.

The parking lot at Yar Seever's "Buckingham Lumber" was choked with bikes by 12:30pm. All the best people were there. (Photo by Jack Riepe, who barely got off his ass after arriving at the event -- Click to enlarge)

Jim Robinson proposed an interesting route for getting to Buckingham, Pa. He wanted to go out RT. 113 to Lake Michigan, then head back east. He knew a way that included a network of tree-lined back roads, complete with switchbacks, cattle-crossings, and a turn through a corrugated half-pipe culvert that ended on 150 feet of single-plank board scaffolding, that extended over a working open-pit mine.

Jim Robinson standing in front of his screamingly hot red Ducati. (Photo by Jasck Riepe -- Click to enlarge.)

I just ridden 5 miles and my ass was killing me. I wanted to go out US-202, take the right turn onto Rt. 413, and get a drink in Buckingham. No surprises. “Guy’s,” I said. “Don’t worry about me. Pick the ride that will give you the most satisfaction.”

I was nearly knocked off my bike by the stampede to follow Robinson.

Only Dick Bregstein and Gary Christman (who had just returned from China) offered to ride with me. Dick claimed that he was more than happy to ride US-202 through the mall-congested town of King of Prusia, to the ripped up street congestion of downtown Norristown, to the mall- congested stretch through Montgomeryville, to the single-lane congested stretch approaching Peddler’s Village. He said that he would enter it in his diary as the “Just Fucking Shoot Me Fall Ride.”

Our host — Yar Seevers — striking a pose on the hottest bike in the lot, while Alain Kaldewaay, BMW GS rider, looks on in unasbashed admiration at a bike with a proper cooling system. (Photo by Jack Riepe, who still hasn't gotten off his ass -- Click to enlarge)

Gary claimed that he had never ridden with me before and heard the chance for unintended entertainment could be high. Twenty minutes later, I popped the clutch at a stoplight, had my left hand slip off the handlebars, while the right one twisted on the gas. The bike took off swerving from side to side for about 200 feet before I could get it under control. Looking in the mirror, I found Christman laughing his ass off, giving me the "thumb's up."

While the ride was pleasant, it didn’t start to get pretty until within three miles of our destination. It was exactly like riding on a busy city street for 40 miles. Yet the terrain becomes positively pastoral the second you cross into Buckingham. Yar’s business — Buckingham Lumber — makes the Amish look gadget oriented. It’s located in red barn, surrounded by the kind of equipment made for moving lumber and building materials in the 1890’s. There is even an adjacent railway siding, with passenger train coaches from the ‘20s awaiting restoration, to add to the ambiance.

The business end of Dick Bregstein's BMW R1150RS. Note the non-telescoping front forks. The chrome suspension cyclinder can be seen under the headlight. Also note the spotless condition of the jugs on this Beemer. (Photo by Jack Riepe — Click to enlarge)

Within minutes of our arrival, the place was jammed with bikes. Riders came from as far west as Allentown and as far east as Philly, to shoot the breeze, look at bikes, and chow down on pancakes, sausage, eggs, burgers, and dogs. Dozens of Duncun Donuts disappeared in a feeding frenzy as the mob continued to build. I found a nice seat in the sun, and sat there, looking like a casualty with my cane prominently displayed. This was a great strategy as at least three hot-looking women scrambled to get me breakfast — one pointedly ignoring the guy she came with (Chris Jacarrino).

Mac Pac rider Rick Sorensen suiting up for the ride back home, on a BMW GS. (Photo by Jsck Riepe -- Click to enlarge)

I could have selected my seat with better judgement, however. Bregstein noted it was perched on a platform attached to a scale used to measure bulk commodities in tons. I’d eat something, and he’d bring folks over to study the dial (which was the circumference of a hula hoop) to monitor the difference. Finally he said, “I can’t tell if this thing is weighing you, or the train.”

Andy Terrell suiting up for a back roads run home, on another BMW GS. It is the marque's biggest seller. (Photo by Jack Riepe -- Click to enlarge)

There were close to 40 bikes in the lot with a few serious riders. Moto Edde Mendes was there with his significant other Nicole. Edde rode in on a K75 that he used for his run from Morocco to New York, heading east for 39,000 miles through the Sahara, the “Stans,” Asia, and Russia. High speed, long-distance riders like Rick Sorensen joined Jim Robinson, and Doug Raymond (who rode from Philly to Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Circle and back in 14 days) showed up later.

Long distance riding legend Doug Raymond came later. This is a photo of Doug attending the Mac Pac Monthly Breakfast the weekend before, when it was raining. (Photo by Jack Riepe — Click to enlarge)

Not having ridden in two weeks, my arthritis was acting up and I did not want to ride home via the Purgatory route we took coming in. I asked Bregstein’s indulgence and sought the shortest distance to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which I figured was less than 10 miles away. Yar gave us directions that involved 63 turns and two enroute decisions that had to be made according to number of birds sitting on the overhead wires. I got us lost twice within that 10 miles. But Alain Kaldewaay claimed his GPS was watching over us and that we were almost at the interstate.

"Fire Balls" holds its own with bikes of a newer design. Note the mounting block I use as a step in front of the back tire. (Photo by Jack Riepe — Click to enlarge)

We were... The ride back was at warp speed, and I am not kidding. It felt great. My bike is as steady as a rock at 7,000 rpm, and sounds like a Messerschmidt looking to get laid.

International model "Gina" stopped by on her way to the Cannes Film Festival, and just had to sit on "Fire Balls." When asked if she would consider a life of editorial compromise and general disillusionment, she gave this gesture. (Photo by Jack Riepe -- Click to enlarge)

But the day wasn't over yet. I pulled into my driveway a little after 4pm, and left the bike outside. Despite the fact that I was walking like Quasimodo, I was determined to take this bike for a ride in the dark. Those of you familiar with “Fire Balls” from previous episodes will recall that I have $1400 worth of riding lights on this machine. Since installing them, however, I have yet to go riding at night.

It was blacker than the inside of a cow at 8pm, and I headed for the darkest roads I could find. The headlight was out of adjustment, again, which had me a little crazy. But I got it right after two or three dismounts and was very pleased with the result. It takes about 30 seconds for the HID lights to come up to speed but the effect is startling. The left one comes on first, with a flash of internal fire and a gradual steady piercing light. It is shortly followed by the unit on the right. This may be because each unit draws two million jiggawatts at ignition, before simmering down to 30 watts each. There was no odd activity on the voltmeter, however.

I now have a field of dazzling white light in the center, flanked by laser-like blue light on either side, at least three hundred feet ahead of the bike. This works just fine for me. I may consider having a metal shop make a visor for each of these lights, as some illumination leaks upward into the fairing interior.

It wasn’t a lot of miles (110), but they were fun miles.

Next Blog Episode: “Duc Dude’s Most Excellent Toll Booth Adventure”
Coming: “189 Miles Per Hour In First Gear — No Shit”

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

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Sequel To The Story I Posted Four Days Ago...

This story will make no sense unless you read the previous posting... (Written four days ago.)
Thank you...

I got an email from my Uncle Bill yesterday, telling me he had come across an obituary for a Scott Volk in the Asbury Park Press and that he was wondering if my life-long friend had died. My blood ran cold for a bit as I scrambled with the link. It wasn’t him. But I started to think about the sequel to the previous blog, because the truth is lessened without it.

Scott Volk and I have been getting into trouble together since the 5th grade. At a time when most kids were playing with toy soldiers and cap guns, Scott and I had learned to extract oxygen from peroxide and mix it with acetylene gas derived from crystals taken from an old miners lamp. The experiment ended with a small explosion in his basement. I think we were 11-years-old at the time. His mother was really pissed.

As city kids with limited access to even more limited amounts of cash, we rode bicycles that started out as new once, and quickly accumulated the battle scars of pedaled machinery that went far beyond initial expectation. The earliest models were “three speeds” of the “English Racer” variety, that ultimately suffered gearing peculiarities associated with a complex rear drive hub. The limitations of this dignified two-wheeled conveyance would become obvious over longer stretches of road, with far more challenging hills.

The “three speeds” were replaced by “ten speeds,” with handlebars that curved down and around like the horns of some two-wheeled ram. Scott had a paper route, and channeled this modest income into a serious bicycle, made in France and purchased from a specialty shop. It was a kind of sports car.

My bike came from Sears. Sears was selling multi-grade products at the time and this one was the top of the line. I didn’t know that many Sears products, then as now, were made by other companies and simply carried the store’s trademark. I bought mine second hand -- with an income that was largely derived by saving cash gifts accrued through passing youth. It had a rear dereileur made of “fiberglass” that weighed nothing, rims drilled with a million little holes so the brakes would work when wet, and gear shifters mounted high up on the handlebar stem.

I was told that these innovations were not seriously regarded by those in the bicycling sport and I learned to suffer with gears that changed reliably and smoothly 100% of the time; brakes that stopped the bike (until all the little holes on the rims were filled with scraped off rubber); and shift levers that did not require me to assume the shape of a hoop every time I wanted to downshift. Uncharacteristically, I suffered in silence (preparing for my marriages far into the future).

But I got sick of pedaling long before Scott did.. Arriving at exotic destinations soaked in sweat and smelling like a draft horse had its limitations in the constricted social circles I moved in then. Scott and I never knew that we were pioneers in the “extreme” bicycle movement, and quite frankly, I was ready to jump ship as I saw no possible connection with riding a bicycle and getting laid. (This was long before cycling became a fad and led to the great bicycle clubs for men and women, who could see each other’s bodies in Spandex prior to investing in meaningful conversation, such as “What sign are you? Or “How would you like to put a lip lock on this?”)

The Kawasaki H2 ended my interest in bicycles as adventure generating transportation forever. Nothing compared with the wind whistling in my ears as I piloted my bicycle down a long sweeping hill. With the Kawasaki and an open faced helmet, that experience could be recreated right out of the driveway. It took six hours to pedal a bike up to Bear Mountain State Park in New York. It took 90 minutes to cover the same territory (in traffic) on the motorcycle.

But Scott didn’t have one. None of my friends did. I ended up riding alone all the time. Yet somehow the thoughts that dogged me for hours on end when pedaling had less time to work on me. I felt like Lindbergh on every ride out of the city.

Then there came the day when I left the house before 7am on a summer Saturday. As I anticipated, Scott was loading up his ten speed for a ride north. Water bottles were filled. Sandwiches were tucked into panniers that also held cookies and a banana, as well as tools, inner tubes, and other gear. He was dressed in little shorts and shoes that had a mechanism on the toe for locking his feet to the pedals. I was wearing jeans, a tee shirt that read, “Makin’ Bacon’” over two humping pigs, and an army fatigue jacket (my dad’s from World War II).

He looked over the Kawasaki with amazement. “For the first time in my life, I’m jealous,” he said with a smile.

I looked at him and laughed. “Don’t be. This bike isn’t taken seriously by those in motorcycle circles. Meet me in the Cub Room at the Bear Mountain Inn.”

The Bear Mountain Inn at Bear Mountain State Park... The "Cub Room" had a great painting of Rip Van Winkle over the fireplace, in which the Andirons were bear cubs. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia -- Click to enlarge)

Scott mounted up and started pedaling with purpose. I rode off and had breakfast in a diner. While he headed straight north, I followed the Hudson River and missed him at some point. I got up onto Rt. 9W, crossed the State Line, and had a wild idea! Why not pull over at the same place where I seen my first set of hooters and wait for him to come by!

I had no trouble at all in finding that spot and in pulling off he road. Despite the fact it was broad daylight, I was amazed to discover that the bog had spread in the 7 years that I had last seen it. The Kawasaki rolled into the ooze the same way that other guy’s Harley did, but only up to the front tire.

Dismounted and with my feet now covered in muck, I couldn’t budge the damn thing. Attempting to rock it back and forth only made the situation worse. Like a jerk, I stood by the side of the road for 45 minutes, until my pal rode by. We were bigger now, and got the bike out in no time. Scott grabbed a water bottle and took a huge gulp.

“Want some,” he offered. Naturally, I wasn’t carrying a water bottle.

“You know, Reep,” Scott said. “Your preoccupation with tits is going to get you in trouble every time.”

Truer words were never spoken.

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

Friday, October 16, 2009

Nothing Really Beats A Pair...

The exact date of the following event is no longer clear in my mind. What I do recall is that I was 14-years-old and riding a ten-speed bike on Route 9W, which runs up from New Jersey across the New York State line, along the tops of the Palisades. The stretch of 9W in New Jersey is still incredibly popular with bicyclists (literally drawing hundreds of them every day of any weekend), owing to the fully-paved, tree-lined, wide shoulders and modest elevations that are part and parcel of this road.

I was riding in the company of Scott Volk, a co-conspirator in many of my life’s early adventures, and our destination was Nyack, New York. By itself, Nyack is no big deal, other than it was the first place I ever had a lap dance from a totally naked performance artist (albeit ten years after this story occurred). Yet from the heights of the cliffs (still the Palisades) that look down on the Hudson River around Nyack, two 14-year-old boys could park their bikes in High Tor State Park and gaze down at the amazing sight of the Tappan Zee Bridge.

Above -- The "Tappan Zee" Bridge, which carries the New York State Thruway across the Hudson River.
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia -- Click to enlarge.)

Now it is important to understand that I was born and raised in Jersey City, the dog shit and broken glass capital of the world. The place was famous for attached houses (many painted highly implausible colors) with flat roofs, suffocating summer heat, and accents in the mouths of residents that made Leo Gorcey (of the Bowery Boys) sound like William F. Buckley. Scott and I pedaled our bikes as hard as possible to escape to open views, from a lofty perspective, with a breeze that carried no hint of ethnic cooking nor the exhaust of cars orbiting a block to grab a parking spot.

Above -- Leo Gorcey of "The Dead End Kids, Angels With Dirty Faces," and "The Bowery Boys."
I once dated a girl who dumped me because she said I sounded a lot like him. (Photo from Wikipedia -- Click to enlarge)

Pedaling along 9W was the closest thing we could do to getting out in the country. There were virtually no houses on this road (31 years ago), while a number of access points permitted entry to Palisades Interstate Park, with its vistas (400 feet above the Hudson), and opportunities to take street bicycles along hiking trails. But nothing could compete with the splendor of looking down on the Tappan Zee Bridge, which to us, was an engineering marvel on a par with the Eiffel Tower and the Great Pyramid.

The bridge was built in 1955 at one one the widest points on the Hudson River. With its approaches, the bridge is 3 miles long, with a center span of 1200 feet, with the roadway 138 feet above the river. We just liked to look at it. Actually, we’d lean the bikes up against a couple of trees, pull our sandwiches of a bag, and pool the cookies or cupcakes that remained -- all while studying the silver structure that spanned the river like a bracelet, hundreds of feet below.

Above -- The "Tappan Zee" Bridge snakes across the mighty Hudson like a bracelet, runningh from Nyack, NY to history Tarrytown, NY -- home of the "Headless Horseman." (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia -- Click to enlarge)

Some of the cliff faces and mountains (such as they are) on the river’s edge are famous. The “Storm King on the Hudson” had been immortalized by painters like Thomas Cole and Homer Dodge Martin (of the Hudson River School) in the early 19th century. Now Scott and I were immortalizing them with peanut butter and jelly.
Above -- Storm King Mountain On The Hudson, one of the many landmarks of nature I pedalled a bike over as a kid. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia -- Click to enlarge.)

Yet bigger fish were to be fried on this trip, and there was nothing that could have prepared me for it. Not far after crossing the New York State Line, Route 9W drops in elevation with a sweeping curve to the right. Though the shoulder was non-existent at this point, we’d get our bikes up to 45mph shooting down this sweeper of a curve, moving out among the traffic.

Above -- A painting of the Adirondacks by Homer Dodge Martin (From Wikipedia -- Click to enlarge)

With the wind whistling in my ears, I can remember reaching down to switch the levers, which threw the chain on the combination of sprockets that brought the greatest resistance to the pedals and the fastest speed to the bike. Scott was hot on my heels. Not only was this part of the “big fun” for this ride, but it was crucial to get up a good head of steam to minimize the effort of climbing the inevitable hill that followed this refreshing plummet.

Yet halfway around this curve, two guys in jeans with bandanas on their heads stepped out of the brush on the right and waved us down. I remember the squeal of the rims as the rubber center-pull brake blocks bit into them, bringing the bikes to a halt.

They were two Harley riders with a problem. They had pulled over in the darkness of the previous evening to spend the night with their girlfriends, and one of the bikes drove into a little bog. It was buried in muck almost up to the exhaust system, and was being held upright by a piece of wood. They wanted us to lend them a hand at pushing the bike out.

It took the four of us (the ladies didn’t help) nearly forty minutes of pushing and shoving to get that bike out of the ooze without dropping it. Scott and I were in sneakers that were covered with foul-smelling swamp rot that came halfway up to our knees. “Frank” and “Butch” had muck on their feet, hands, and faces. But the Harley was free and only the tires were covered with shit.

We got ready to leave, and Scott was asking Frank about something on his bike (the unstuck one). I found “Butch” and this incredibly attractive young thing swapping spit on a log.

“So long,” I said. “We gotta go.”

The guy looked at me with a suggestion of a smile.

“You want anything,” he asked. “A cigarette... A shot of tequilla... A few bucks...”

“Naw, we’re fine.”

I rather got the impression I was having my leg pulled, and then he said, “Want to see some tits?”

Before I could say anything, the babe with him lifted up her shirt. She was about 20, with a dark tan, modestly endowed, with nipples like finished beadwork on perfection. I was conscious of my eyes opening like the torpedo doors on a submarine. Nerve endings in my brain, long since considered dead or unattached, started firing impulses with machine gun rapidity. A voice in my mind whispered, “Tits... You get to see 'em with a motorcycle.” My soul responded by assuming the shape of a steel bar, a compass needle pointing in her direction, my new dtstiny, committing my whole being to the endeavor of a two-wheeled lifestyle.

And then it was over. She smiled. He laughed. The shirt came down and I turned away, wondering if this had just happened to me.

We pedaled into the park 40 minutes later, with the roar of two Harleys briefly passing behind us, heading north on Route 9W.

I told Scott what had happened as we unwrapped our PB&J sandwiches.

“Why didn’t you come and get me,” he asked.

“Because I didn’t want to waste a second by blinking,” I said.

We ate our lunch in the usual silence, looking down at the bridge. Years later, Scott told me he often thinks of those rides we took as kids, and remembers every detail of that bridge. Now matter how often I look at the Tappan Zee Bridge now, I am instantly transported to a glade of trees, where the girlfriend of a Harley rider showed me my first real natural wonder.

I knew then that I too would ride a motorcycle. I sort of also knew that I’d love the feel of power in the handgrips, the rise and fall of the engine’s growl, and the scream of the wind around my helmet. But I had no doubt as to what I was going to love best about having a bike.

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

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Dispatches From The Front... Stuff Left Out

This section is the catch-all for important stuff I meant to get into previous episodes of “Twisted Roads,” but which failed to make it into print for one reason or another. The most common reasons for stuff being deleted is that I was tired, or drunk, or aggravated, or pressured by a cash-job deadline, or that I was convinced that whatever it was I had written was shit. (In this last case, I occasionally change my mind, or just rewrite it.)

Dispatch #471
What Kind Of Person Wears A “Twisted Roads” Tee Shirt...

The classic “Twisted Roads “ tee shirt is not only drawing attention as the best “Get Laid Anywhere” instrument of true romance, but it is turning up as the garment of choice for moto-adventurers, moto-swashbucklers, and moto-maniacs the world over.

World class BMW GS Adventure riders like Gary Christman wear “Twisted Roads” tee shirts. Joined by a dedicated team of Mac Pac riders, Gary Christman led the charge to the Rupert River, in remotest Canada, where this mighty cataclysm is about to be forever tamed to create hydro-electric power. Christman was not daunted by a 300-mile (plus) gravel road (the longest in north America without services), starting in the wildest stretches of Quebec. Christman was good enough to send me these two pictures, as proof, that “Twisted Roads” lead to the coolest places.
Above -- Gary Christman and his BMW GS Adventure on the shores of Janes Bay, Canada (Photo by Gary Christman -- Click To Enlarge)

Above -- Gary Christman carried the "Twisted Roads" message to Oatmeal Rapids on the Rupert River. (Photo supplied by Gary Christman -- Click to enlarge)

Above (From Left) -- On James Bay, Mac Pac riders Ken Bruce, Doug Raymond, Rich Cavaliere, Gary Christman (the only one who bothered to get a Twisted Roads shirt), and Corey Lyba all pose around the banner that is respected and feared worlwide. (Photo supplied by Gary Christman -- Click to enlarge)

Professional “big block” wrenches like Laura Hirth wear “Twisted Roads” tee shirts. She’s as much at home on a BMW motorcycle (with or without a sidecar) as she is in a pit under a diesel truck engine. This is a good thing considering she’s a mechanic for a world-wide shipping company. When not pulling apart transmissions or cylinder heads in the shop, Hirth can found co-organizing and co-leading antique bike rides throughout southeastern Pennsylvania, sometimes with an Australian shepherd named “Larry Bowa” in the side car. She epitomizes the Renaissance women in a world where character is defined by capability, and vision knows no boundaries.
Above -- Pulled over on the side a very Twisted Road, Laura Hirth makes it clear where she goes for the inside straight when it comes to moto-reading. (Photo by Todd Trombore -- Click to enlarge)

Tena and Bugser Abbey are the first readers to wear “Twisted Roads” tee shirts in the great American northwest. They recently made the pilgrimage from the state of Washington to Pennsylvania, to meet Leslie and I. Both are members of Motorcycle Views, where as a cruiser rider, Bugser has been needling me since 2005. Writer and artist, Tena Abbey recently sent me a pouch full of knitted baby harp seals, that I can club with a pencil when the need for release presents itself. I love meeting long-time readers of my blog... On this past visit (which was entirely too short), the Abbey’s presented me with a cup from the Washington Bait Company with the timeless words “Bite Me” emblazoned on both sides.

Tena and Bugser Abbey (Photo By Leslie Marsh -- Click to enlarge)

Dispatch #754
The Great Twisted Roads Tee Shirt Contest...

The Great Twisted Roads Tee Shirt photo Contest has started! Simply purchase the best "Get Laid Anywhere Tee Shirt" on the right, and take a picture of yourself, or the hottest honey you can find, in an exotic background -- wearing this shirt-- and send it to, marked Twisted Roads Tee Contest Entry. The grand prize is a $100 gift certificate from the Motorcycle Shop of your choice. All entries must be submitted by December 31, 2009. Submission acknowleges that the sender is the owner of the photograph and has given explicit permission for the picture to be used on this blog. Once the prize has been awarded, all further dealings are between the winner and the bike shop of their choice. The judges decision is final

Dispatch #520
Additional Perspectives of My Labor Day Ride...

I never intended the account of my Labor Day ride to run so long. But even as I was struggling to get it completed, there were a few pictures that got dropped out of the text. I really did want to include these, so better late than never.

Photo #1 -- Ihor Sypko (Self portrait of an Adirondack man -- Click to enlarge)
Ihor (pronounced EE-hore) Sypko and I were boys at school together. I moved up to the Adirondacks in 1984, and Ihor said he’d come too. But he waited until I had moved back down before staking out a spread. This is Mr. Sypko on the porch of the cabin he is building.

Photo #2 -- Ihor’s Cabin (Photo by Ihor Sypko -- Click to enlarge)
The cabin was originally constructed as an outbuilding on the property of New York State’s four-term Governor Herbert Henry Lehman (1933 - 1942), and built around 1910.

Photo #3 -- Ihor’s Cabin Again With Ihor and Local Mountain Woman In Picture (Photo by Ansel Adams Murphy -- Click To enlarge)
Ihor purchased the cabin, had it panelized (disassembled), and moved it to Wilmington, NY. The interior is being rebuilt by hand, utilizing many of the windows, nails, hardware and other fixtures from the period, enhanced with radiant heat in the floors and local river stones used in place of tiles in the bathroom floors.

Photo #4 -- One Last Ferry Shot (Photo By Jack Riepe - Click to enlarge)
There is nothing like a relaxing 40 minute ferry ride across Lake Champlain (12-miles wide in some places), while the sun hangs low over the mountains. These guys were a group of Harley riders tha got on the boat ahead of us. EWe are headed to the dock in Essex, New York.

Photo #5 -- The Sun Going Down over Champlain (Photo By Leslie Marsh/Stiffie)
Two weeks after I got back from cruising around in the Adirondacks and Vermont, Leslie (my hot squeeze) retraced some of my steps while attending an artist’s retreat. (Artist’s retreat = women painting and creating stuff, while drinking hard liquor from the bottle, dancing in the moonlight, and discussing men like they were a cross between athlete’s foot or venereal disease. (Click to enlarge)

Photo #6 -- Sailboats Ride At Anchor Like Huge Ducks (Photo By Leslie Marsh/Stiffie)
This is the bay in Vermont from which the Shelburne ferry sails. The woman on the dock s an “artist” recovering from one hell of a night, apparently. The pilothouse of a ferry can be seen at the 3 O’clock position in the photo. (Click to enlarge)

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

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Tribute To The Brotherhood of Riders...

One of the biggest fallacies to be perpetrated in the face of a barely enduring mankind is the notion of a “brotherhood of riders.” While we make a big deal of slapping each other on the back and sticking together like “bros,” the sad truth is that many of us go through life regarding other bikers with a look of askance. If the other bikers are bigger and tougher, the look of askance is generally offered from a machine doing 90 miles per hour in the opposite direction. Full face helmets disguise the fact that we are not always smiling good naturedly. In most cases, when the typical Harley rider says he admires the perfection definitive BMW, what he really means is that he would consider shoving it up your ass if you need the factory-installed dash thermometer to tell your temperature. On the other hand, when a Beemer pilot says his next bike will be a Harley, he means if the other option is incurable clap.

In truth, the average bystander on the street would seldom suspect this competitive level exists because these are the opinions we share among our “own kind.” Only once did anyone ever say anything remotely challenging or insulting to me. It was over the gear I had on. A gorgeous woman astride a custom Sportster, enameled in form-fitting black leather from head to toe, said to me, “Despite all that armored gear you’ve got on, you’re gonna be in a world of hurt if you don’t take your hand off my ass.”

Apré riding leather ATGATT for any woman rider (Photo from the internet -- Click to enlarge)

The “brotherhood of riders” is clearly divided by a dozen issues, including the wearing of helmets, the use of mufflers, a preference for a type of oil, the necessity of protective gear, whether women bikers should be topless at least part of the time, and by the very marques we ride. The largest contingent by far -- the Harley crowd -- is further divided into real bikers and posers, just as the other lifestyle riders -- the BMW chosen -- are either demigods of distance, speed, and charm or douches. BMW douches are revealed by their manner of speech. If they ride a BMW and start a sentence with, “At our club’s bylaws meeting, last Saturday night...,” they are douches. (Bylaws? On a Saturday night?)

Further subsets within the “brotherhood” include the overwhelmingly numerous cruiser crowd, sport riders, sport tourers, Gold Wing-Abagos, racers and the “calamari” crew -- the S.Q.U.I.D. (So Quick Until I Die) school of thought. This last bunch are universally despised for the way they make the rest of us piss ourselves as they appear out of nowhere, enshrouded in the deafening scream of an engine in anguish, ripping through the gears and disappearing over the horizon in a split second. While their riding styles are genuinely annoying and bad for the overall image of biking (usually seen with the front wheel high in the air as the rider checks his email), they are really hated for the way they effortlessly attract tanned pillion candy and get laid at the drop of a bike.

And I haven’t even touched the fastest growing subset of the two-wheeled food chain yet. These are scooter riders, either buzzing through the country-side like locusts, or droning along in solitary contemplation of the fog, the odd tree, or the cloud that looks like Angelina Jolie in the shower. These tend to fall into two categories: Vespa riders, and Vespa Wannabes. The Vespa Wannabes ride one of 66 models of scooter made at the Hong Fat Scooter Works in Poontang, China. The average Vespa rider tries hard to live up to the machine’s equivalent of the Marlboro Man. This is a tobacco-chewing, singing Dominican nun with a guitar strapped on her back.

What is truly amazing that each of the categories represented in this story can be found in the “destinations” list of blog-sites to the right of this article. I can tell you without a doubt their authors represent some of the finest riders, and the most expressive two-wheeled writers, that I have come across. There is never a hint of marque-related animosity, or even a biased comparison of factory-installed equipment -- with one bizarre exception. I have even become friendly with a couple of these guys (or as friendly as my social standing as a BMW rider will allow). Reading their columns is a lot like reading a fresh motorcycle magazine every day. In fact, some of these folks are published in various motorcycle venues on a regular basis.

For those who like a more Teutonic bent on life, four of my favorite blogs are written by BMW riders.

• Those looking for thrice-weekly BMW adventure -- generally accompanied by breathtaking photographs are well advised to read “REDLEGS RIDES.” The author, Charlie6, has been published in the BMW MOA’s “Owners News,” does most of his own work, and rides a Ural along trails in the Rocky Mountains that would scare a goat. His pictures are routinely exceptional.

• Others of the traditional Beemer persuasion are directed to Sojourner’s Moto Tales. These are the reports of a Beemer pilot who rides incredible distances to support a unique historical perspective -- or for any other reason. She is a writer of piercing logic who occasionally leaves me bleeding or gasping for facts.

• Rogers George is a member of the Mac Pac, and is one of the truly guile-free individuals I have ever met. A dedicated BMW rider, his blog -- Mushrooms To Motorcycles -- is like a return to Mayberry, RFD. He is a technical writer by trade, and his work is technically perfect. Just imagine Romeo and Juliet as written by the Verizon technical department... But it is so soothing and free of poison. And Rogers is one of these guys who will jump on his bike and knock off a 1,000 miles like it was nothing.

• Keep the Rubber Side Down is written by Rick Slark, a BMW rider and a true biker aficionado. Slark produces a no-nonsense blog that often follows the racing circuit, news items that impact all riders, and related issues.

I am proud to list a number of great Harley sites on my “destinations” list too. They espouse the essence of riding as it has been forged in Milwaukee, since the ‘twenties. They are:

• Electra Glide In Blue is an interesting resource on a number of levels, ranging from technical, anecdotal, news, and the occasional heart-warming story, complete with “from-the-heart” commentary that typifies the depth of colloquial American expressions. The author is a total pisser.

• Fast Hair is a Harley site that encompasses a broad range of interest from bikes to cars, to computers, to ride reports, to good advice, and the occasional passing fancy. It’s written in a highly personable tone that makes the reader feel they’ve known the author for a long time.

• Allen Madding’s Musings are the personal perspectives of a biker ironist. These highly literate, highly-condensed observations focus on the irony of life, and occasionally wander over to include some unique photography, or issues taken from the headlines, and other sites.

• Ms. M’s Place is billed as the rants of a Harley Chick. She describes herself as, “a weird 40-year-old chick in the East Bay who wears stilettos and skirts by day, leathers by night.” Nothing weird about that in my opinion. In fact, it sounds like somebody finally read what I put in the suggestion box. She writes highly mystical interpretations of her thoughts, feelings and impressions.

The “cruiser” crowd is represented by:

• Midlife Motorcycle Madness, written by Torch, is as collection of rider reports, gear recommendations, philosophical summaries, good advice, and personal observations. One of his gear assessments led me to purchase a pair of riding boots from Bates shoes.

• The View From Over The Handlebars, by Lance, is an eclectic bunch of stories about 90 percent of which entail some direct aspect of motorcycles. The other 10 percent is about travel, personal observations, and mid-live developments. Lance is well-traveled, well-read, and well-mounted on Bonneville America.

The cruiser, sport bike and Japanese Touring Sector is represented on this list by two entrants:

• Musings of an Intrepid Commuter are not only the personal observations of a professional riding instructor (to the masses and the police), they often contain tips and guides to high-level riding techniques. Written by IronDad (Dan), his work is a careful balance of ride reports, his thoughts on a variety of subjects, or answers to readers’ questions. Dan occasionally goes beyond reader expectation and details fundamentals that repeatedly turn up in his classes. He is a strong proponent of increased proficiency for all riders.

• Motorcycle Views is the brainchild of moto-chronicler and journalist Walter Kern. It is actually a portal to another site that offers a newsletter, photos, research and advice, as well as a running forum with hundreds of members. The site covers all kinds of bikes and riders. It was Walter Kern who published my first motorcycle story.

The scooter crowd, many of whom ride all kinds of bikes, are strongly represented here. Their perspective is certainly worth noting and the “experts” I have posted offer a good deal of food for thought.

• A Scooter In Turkey is a near daily account of John McClane’s experiences on the road (paved or otherwise) in Turkey. His pictures are a remarkable depiction of life in a small Turkish seacoast village, with forays elsewhere.

• Scooter In The Sticks was the reason I started a blog. Written by a guy named “Steve,” SITS offers thought-provoking photography (generally involving a Vespa), accompanied by soothing text of a strong philosophical nature. I started out to copy his style. It appears I was not successful as no readers ever claim I am mystical or inspiring. In fact, several have threatened suit.

• Premeditated Scootin is the evolution of a rider, “CPA3485,” who recently decided that life on an an environmental scooter was the way to go for him. “Jim” also decided to find others of his ilk and organized them into a cadre, that takes rides throughout a certain corner of the midwest. I find his writing refreshingly “clean” and loaded with nuance.

Then there are the “switch hitters,” guys who alternate between scooters and bikes at the drop of a hat.

• Bobskoot jumps between a scooter and V-Strom in his online column “bobskoot: wetcoast skooting.” His range is throughout British Columbia and parts of the US northwest. He is a photographer with a semi-professional bent, who carefully documents his rides with accurate photographs. He is also capable of humor that requires strategy and vengeance.

And that leaves one.

• Key West Diary is the “Seinfeld” of all biker blogs. The author, a guy named Conchscooter (Michael), either rides his wife’s Vespa or his own Triumph Bonneville around the environs of Key West, reporting on the architecture, the weather, the plants, the little deer, the residentially challenged, politics, and an occasional ride to the mainland. Nothing and everything in Key West is fodder for his blog. Of all the blogs listed on the right, this one has the broadest scope as the author has no editorial objective for each piece, which in turn gives him the greatest editorial leverage. And he exercises this leverage with a minimum of verbiage, though his posts are loaded with literary spice. You cannot print one out without replacing the toner in your printer with vitriol. His photography, however, focuses on lizards, birds, litter, elderly cruise ship escapees, homeless people, Cuban sandwiches, dark streets, homeless people, and small beaches with fully-clothed investment bankers sitting on on them.

Recently, Conchscooter was kind enough to do a brief pictorial essay titled, “What Jack Sees,” or something like that. He implied that I go through life attempting to find the perfect naked woman, scantily-clad woman, or suggestively-clad woman of the day, or hour, depending on the circumstances. While that may be true, I have my standards. I have promised the readers of this blog that it will always have pure, unadulterated motorcycle content, without resorting to cheap gimmicks or tricks.

To prove it, I respectfully submit the following pictorial exercise. These photographs were taken for me by Mac Pac rider/member Jim Ellenberg, at a track event over in New Jersey. Each picture offers strong subliminal biking messages.

Photo #1
This shot illustrates the adventures of young Drew Johnson, and his efforts to avoid skin cancer by staying out of the sun. At first, it appears that bike content is secondary to the plight of Mr. Johnson.

(Phot0 by Jim Ellenberg -- Click to really enlarge)

Photo #2
A detail taken from the shot above, we can clearly see the woman is wearing jewelry fashioned from an Indian Head nickel. The “Indian” was one of the finest motorcycles of its day.
(Phot0 by Jim Ellenberg -- Click to really enlarge)

Photo #3
Determined to stay out of the sun, the inventive Mr. Johnson has introduced himself to a second source of shade.
(Phot0 by Jim Ellenberg -- Click to enlarge)

Photo #4
A close up of photo #3 reveals that Mr. Johnson is supporting a motorcycle facility in California through the logo on his shirt, thereby providing great solidarity to the industry at a time when things are just hanging in the air.
(Phot0 by Jim Ellenberg -- Click to enlarge)

Photo #5
Here we see the intrepid Mr. Johnson, still dodging the sun, but wondering if his right hand is getting all the protection it needs. Too bad the nice Honda lady doesn’t have a back pocket. But bikes to the right and left of this enthusiastic couple are the most obvious support for this two-wheel passion.
(Phot0 by Jim Ellenberg -- Click to enlarge)

Photo #6
Once again, a detail taken from the shot above simply reinforces the message that Honda is here to stay.
(Phot0 by Jim Ellenberg -- Click to enlarge)

Photo #7
It is always important to carry the right insurance on your bike. A lesson Mr. Johnson will have to learn.
(Phot0 by Jim Ellenberg -- Click to enlarge)

Photo #8
Gratuitous shot of a guy's ass at a moto event... Yup. That's what it is.
(Phot0 by Jim Ellenberg -- Click to enlarge)

This introduction to the Brotherhood of Biking and a guide to great blogs was presented as a public service by Twisted Roads. I can't do enough for you.

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