Sunday, January 3, 2010

My First Motorcycle...

The motorcycles stood in orderly chrome lines before the plate glass widows at the dealership. I stood on the sidewalk outside, without a clue as to the one I wanted. They all looked sort of the same, like the hookers in the Reeperbahn (the famous St.Pauli District in Hamburg). Just like those ladies, who either sat in storefronts or walked the quaint street, each of these was a beauty with a unique allure all their own. And just like those ladies, it was easy to imagine myself on all of them. There was a sense of heat in my groin, where all the money I had in the world was burning a hole in my pocket.

(Above) The locked barricade to the Reeperbahn (red light district of Hamburg) warns against the entry of males under eighteen or any women. Spring-loaded doors (concealed by advertising) are to the right and left of the locked center portal (for use by emergency vehicles). Photo by Wikipedia.

It is possible to draw any number of parallels between the time I purchased my first motorcycle and my first evening on the Reeperbahn, especially the part where I had no idea what I was doing. In both cases, I was looking for the ride and the thrill of my life. And in both situations I would end up spending a lot more money than I had initially planned. I could have asked my friends for some assistance in setting up the transactions, or I could have read what literature there was on both at the time.

But I did neither.

That is not my style. For better or worse, I generally just jump into something with high expectations and an abject resignation to limp through the consequences. There was one big difference though: I was 19 when I stood outside the motorcycle dealer on Kennedy Boulevard in Union City. The year was 1975. The Reeperbahn would wait until I was 26.

I had only had one ride on the back of a bike before before. A friend from high school -- Ricky Matz -- could ride a motorcycle like an Apache can ride a horse. His family dabbled in bikes and had Moto Guzzis, Ducatis, and Hondas in their stable. I rode the pillion while Ricky put a stately Moto Guzzi through some rather sedate paces one day in rural Pennsylvania, and I found it kind of fun. That was it. There was no sudden electrical connection between my soul and the bike, no call from the road, and no sense of flight at four feet above the ground. I didn’t lay in bed that night imagining that the Moto Guzzi was mine.

The absence of the cosmic connection may have been because I was ridding bitch. But the seed to ride had been planted nevertheless, and the final push came from a most unusual source.

My father.

He was a fireman with a sense of adventure. A rescue captain first and then a battalion chief in Jersey City, New Jersey’s second largest city (a place that knew how to burn), my dad choose careers that had an edge to them. He came to the fire department fresh from WWII combat as viewed from the tail gunner’s seat in a B-17, after managing to live through 36 missions. I used to love rummaging through my dad’s dresser, but this had to be done when he wasn’t around. He kept a broken pistol there, a box of pictures from Egypt (WWII), a Nazi bayonette, and a torn flag with a swastika on it. Nevertheless, the day came when I got caught, examining the contents of a small box, the sort of thing a ring might have come in. But there was no ring, just a jagged stone. When I asked my dad what it was, he replied, “Flack.”

My prized possession that used to belong to my dad is a classic fireman’s helmet, known as the “New Yorker” style with the eagle on the front of it. It is white, designating a chief in Jersey City, and has a hole burned through it. (These helmets were made of heavy duty leather.) I had to wonder what kind of shit my father had gotten into someplace where it was hot enough to burn through more than a quarter inch of leather.)

(Above) Traditional "New Yorker" style fireman's helmet, shown with yellow ear and neck protector extended. Neither of my father's two helmets had the clear plastic visors. Photo from the internet.

There were three things my dad always wanted: a sailboat, an airplane, and a motorcycle. He got four kids instead, and put three of them through private schools. Had my father known me prior to my birth, I would have been the load shot into the sink. His pet name for me was “Shitbird,” inspired by the fact that I had inherited all of the shortcomings of two ancient bloodlines, and none of the virtues. Years later, my dad would confess he thought I’d rewrite our family motto to be, “They said it couldn’t be done... So we said, ‘Okay, the hell with it.’”

There were many evenings when still living at home with my folks, I’d get in around midnight, to find my dad sitting in a dimly lit kitchen, sipping incredibly cheap Scotch (Fleischmanns), or drinking Yuban instant coffee. (I used to think he was in training to be a hostage.) We’d sit and talk, sometimes for two or three hours. One night, the conversation turned to motorcycles. My dad was of the impression that I should buy one of the city’s old Harley Davidson trikes, as they were being taken out of service. He thought a Harley trike would be a great thing for camping, for the open road, for a young guy whose borders were the horizon.

Quite frankly, I thought the aging black and white trikes were perfect for old geezers who wanted to sell melting ice cream out of the back to kids in the park. I had once watched a Jersey City traffic cop attempt to jump start one of these machines by rolling it down a hill. The engine remained as dead as Kelsey’s nuts. (Because I was a fireman’s kid, I offered to give him a push start with the rear bumper of my Volkswagen Beetle. The engine remained DOA after pushing the trike three blocks.)

My dad’s trike talk of the open road meant nothing to me. I’d had a VW Beetle since I was 17, and used it to go camping in the Adirondacks, drinking in New York City, and cruising for the passion peach since day one. Having a car opened roads and brassieres previously beyond reach. But the Beetle lacked panache, verve, and style. It required me to develop these characteristics. Then the old man happened to mention he’d watched a bunch of guys ride their bikes through Journal Square one day with the most extraordinary women attached to them, buffered by sleeping bags and all kinds of stuff lashed to the sissy bars and frames. He said these guys appeared to be out for the kind of good time known only to Vikings.

(Above) Journal Square, the epicenter of Jersey City, NJ — the Paris of the New World. Photo from Wikipedia.

Now I was getting my share of the ladies, but I had had to really work at it. And my dry spells had a tendency to last for six months. The thought occurred to me that having a motorcycle might provide crucial back-up in the romance department with the kind of women whose priorities in life matched my own. (At the time, these were cruising around, drinking and getting laid, with the emphasis on the last one.)

Such was the seed that lead to my interest in motorcycles.

Actually, it was more like a grain of sand under the shell of the oyster. I suddenly became conscious of motorcycles parked on the street, passing by in a fusillade of straight pipe thunder, and leaning through the curves -- -- with red hot patooties (a lá Meatloaf) clinging to the riders in a manner that suggested intimacy rubbed raw and made more intense by the elements. These bikes fell into four categories: Harley’s, Triumphs, Nortons, and Beeza’s (BSA). The Harleys were by far the most popular. But the others had a classic upright style that were more appealing to me. (I had once seen a BMW, but the rider appeared to be constipated and garbed like a character out of a Sherlock Holmes story.) Yet I couldn’t help but notice that the riders of all of these bikes had grease-stained hands. Even at the tender age of 19, it was widely recognized that I had absolutely no mechanical aptitude. I would need a machine that was as close to maintenance-free as the technology in 1975 allowed. This meant going "Japanese."

(Above) The standard gypsy caravan. Think twice about buying a motorcycle from a place that has one or more of these parked out back. Photo from the internet.

One month after having this conversation with my father, I sold the VW, and found myself looking through the plate glass window of a Honda/Kawasaki/Yamaha dealership in Union City, NJ, where the motorcycles stood in orderly chrome lines. A need for transportation was now adding itself to my mating urges. From the street, I could see some of the price tags on these bikes which seemed rather reasonable. I decided to step inside and present myself to the proprietor as the average guy on the street with $1600 in his pocket. At the time, I was unaware that there were certain rules to life, especially when it came to motorcycles, which cannot be questioned nor broken.

Rule #1:
Do not buy a motorcycle from a man who looks like he is the King of the Gypsies.

“Fabulous Sam” stood in the center of his dealership, with a closely cropped beard and mustache, an earring in one ear (long before this was fashionable), and a gravelly voice reminiscent of Wolfman Jack. He looked exactly like a Gypsy king. I looked around, half expecting to see fortune tellers and violin players wearing bandanas. The dealership could have been in a tent, surrounded by gaily painted wagons.

He welcomed me like I was a dumb cousin from the country who had just inherited a lot of money. In fact, he’d probably sized me up standing outside, counted the cash while it was still in my pocket, and cut another notch in his Gypsy king belt, all before I had walked in the door.

“I waited all day for you,” he said, with a little bow, sporting the kind of grin known only to alligators and lawyers. “My name is “Fabulous Sam. What can I do for you?” (I kid you not. That was his real name.)

He had my absolute trust and confidence in 30 seconds. I explained that I wanted a motorcycle but that I had a couple of questions. The first was, “What is the difference between a two-stroke and a four-stroke engine?” (This is the absolute truth. I went into a dealer and asked this question, thereby proclaiming that I was dumbest asshole on the face of the earth. )

Sam smiled again, paused for effect, and fucked me like a grand master. Having asked that question, I gave him no choice but to screw me in the most savage manner possible. There was nothing personal about it. He was a dealer and I was a dope.

“Some men prefer blondes, and some men prefer brunettes. There really isn’t much difference,” he explained. “What do you like?”

“Blondes.”

“Well let me show you a little blonde right here that you are going to love,” said Sam.

And with that, he showed me a Kawasaki H-2, a 750 known as the “Widow-maker.” Sam explained that this model had a whopping 71 horsepower and was the fastest production motorcycle of the year. I remember looking down at the speedometer and seeing that it went to 160 miles per hour. That was faster than any Corvette.

“Will it go that fast?” I asked.

“That’s up to you to find out,” said Sam, in the throes of orgasm.

I sat on the bike and was surprised at how easily it moved around. Both of my feet set squarely on the ground and the machine balanced easily between my legs. The gentle reader may need to be reminded that all of my prior two-wheeled experience was at the helm of French-built 10-speed bicycles, with the kind of seats that paralleled prison romance for comfort. And it was there I learned about the second truism of life:

Rule #2:
All motorcycle seats feel comfortable in the showroom. All of them. Even if you have been riding for 40 years.

Sam offered to show me a 1975 Honda 750 4-stroke that cost more money and didn’t go quite as fast. He equated it to a brunette. As it was, a brunette had just dumped me so I took the blonde. That was the fastest $1600 I had ever spent in my life. I’d had it for a total of an hour and a half. It took "Fabulous Sam" less than 18 minutes to cull one of the last but most notorious two-stroke street bikes from his inventory.

(Above) The legendary 1975 Kawasaki H2 "Widow-Maker." Photo from the internet.

Sam was far from through with me yet, however. He explained the need for a good helmet, asking if I wanted to go the whole deluxe route and get one in a shade that complimented my bike. Come to think of it, he didn’t really ask this but more or less insinuated that a man of my discerning taste could only go the deluxe route. The H2 was green (but not for long), and Sam showed me a metallic-green helmet, with a vertical black racing stripe. He threw in a flexible, snap-on face shield.

Rule #3:
A metallic green helmet with a black vertical racing stripe will only be worn by a douche... And a stupid douche at that.

Sam sold me two.

It is with chagrin that I admit to the gentle reader that the first time I had heard this motorcycle running was after I had signed all the paperwork. My anticipation of the snarling roar of the three cylinder engine faded to abrupt disappointment, which could easily be read on my face. The damn thing sounded like an outboard motor. And it smoked like a campfire.

“Listen to that brute power,” shouted Sam, trying to be heard over a sound that closely resembled a lawn mower that had been kicked in the balls. “Nobody’ll ever catch you.”

I was amazed at how easily the machine fired with the kicker. (You could even get it to fire up by just kicking one cylinder!) Stories were common at the time of Harley riders getting thrown over the handlebars by their kick starters. That would not be the case with this bike. And while this is a small thing, the choke lever was on the handlebars, not hidden among the cylinder heads. The two-stroke engine demanded oil in the gas, but this was automatically injected and required no mixing. A porthole in the right side-cover gave a visual status of the oil tank.

Sam motioned to a guy in the shop who jumped on the machine, and gestured for me to mount the pillion. This was easy for me to do as I weighed all of 165 pounds. He took me to one of the greatest expanses of open asphalt in Hudson County, New Jersey at the time — the parking lot of the Shop Rite on 32nd Street and Kennedy Boulevard in North Bergen. It was there I received all of 20 or 30 minutes instruction on the operation of a motorcycle. This guy confirmed I could walk the bike. Shift gears. Turn it in first and second gear. Find neutral. And stop. I offered to run him back to the shop. He paled at my offer, smiled, and claimed he needed to stretch his legs. He then wished me luck, and waved.

With that, I rode out onto Kennedy Boulevard (one of the busiest thoroughfares in Hudson County, on the fastest street bike then available, at 5:30pm on a weekday afternoon, in Lincoln Tunnel traffic to and from Manhattan, which was one mile away). The bike was registered and insured, even though I had no endorsement nor permit to ride a motorcycle. Protected by the utter stupidity of youth, I didn’t give a shit either. And you know what happened on the way home? You guessed it...

Nothing.

I didn’t even stall the bike. Having ridden long distance bicycle (up to 120 miles per day) in congested city and highway traffic, I had no fear of riding out among the cars, trucks, and buses. The helmet was an unusual sensation, but not an unpleasant one. I was amazed at how easily the bike stopped, in a smooth positive braking action (on pavement as dry as snake skin). The brakes on that machine, a disk on the front and a drum on the back, seemed like power brakes compared to the center-pull binders on the stupid bicycle. And the Kawasaki felt a lot more stable than the bicycle too. Now here’s an important factor: When I discuss rush hour/Lincoln Tunnel traffic on Kennedy Boulevard, I am deliberately leading the reader to imagine a rampant Sausage Monster of solid steel cages, slamming around at high speeds, creating the perfect environment to consume a dilettante on a new bike.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

If I got that bike into third gear on the 40-block ride to my dad’s house, it was for 30 feet. Rush hour traffic in that part of Union City or North Bergen crawls. With a traffic light on each corner, I got plenty of practice with the clutch and the brakes. It may have saved my life. The total distance traveled on that first ride may have been 2.5 miles, and it probably took 20 minutes to cover it.

My mom was still at work when I pulled up, but the Chief was home. He came out to the curb fighting envy, amazement, and horror. “Out of all the suggestions I have ever given you,” he said, “I can’t believe this is the one you took me up on. And I distinctly remember saying you should get a Harley trike. Does this look like a Harley trike to you?"

It would be two years of constant riding before I dropped that bike for the first time. And that was prompted by some old bastard at an intersection, who crawled through a stop sign to squirm into stalled traffic. But that’s another story.

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Author's Note:

Let me make this perfectly clear... Any new rider needs professional instruction. There is no substitute for good training and proper education (classroom discussion) regarding the basics of sound motorcycle operation. Curbside consensus and conventional wisdom have no place in motorcycle training. And while you can occasionally find some good information online (such as Musings of an Intrepid Commuter, written by certified riding instructor Dan Bateman), the internet is a source of some of the most outrageously stupid bullshit you’ll ever find regarding motorcycle operation.

God looks after Irishmen, drunks, and writers. I rode trouble-free for two years. Then I crashed three times, getting hit by cars twice. (It was never my fault and I was never ticketed, but that is poor consolation when you are sliding on your ass in the road.) Looking back, I survived my first motorcycle by pure luck. I should have been killed 50 times over. I never did learn to turn correctly (during that period) and that particular bike was a total bitch for blowing through turns. It had the suspension of overcooked broccoli, the cornering ability of an ocean liner, and the unpredictable nature of a snake with PMS.

In a rare revelation of the truth, I never took that Kawasaki over 90 miles per hour — even on the slab. And that may have saved my life too. I have pushed both of my K75s (1986 and 1995) a lot harder than I ever rode that H2. This is because I know a lot more about riding now and because the K75 has ten times the sophistication and handling capabilities of that old Kawasaki.

© Copyright Jack Riepe 2010
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)

49 comments:

Richard Machida said...

Another great story. Rich enough to visualize the scenes taking place. Especially the visit to the dealer...

It took me a lot longer to get my first bike.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Richard:

Thank you for your kind comment and note of encouragement. While I have a tendency to dabble more in color than fact, this piece is pure truth. No one has ever accused me of being overly rational when it comes to making a decision.

What I find so amazing is that my life has come full circle in some regards, and that biking plays such a big part of it.

Thanks for continuing to read my stuff and for commenting.

Fondest regards,
Jsck • reep • Toad

Nikos said...

There's nothing wrong with 2 strokes just because the Germans used them to power the great airships albeit in diesel form.
In fact that would read better if the "just" was deleted.
Every true biker needs to have ridden an ill handling and spark plug fowling 2 stroke machine - I feel a pity for the youth of today who have never needed to change the spark plugs at least twice on any 100 mile journey (Yamaha RD200 - knackered)
Happy New year Jack!

BMW-Dick said...

Dear Jack:
After riding with you for more than three years, I'm delighted that you have not lost the youthful impetuousness you describe in this well-written story.
Compared to you, I had a motorcycle-deprived childhood. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, when the Dodgers were there and the Verranzano Bridge wasn't. The only motorcycle I saw in those days was an Indian ridden by a cop who used to hide in bushes at an exit of the Belt Parkway and ticket people who rolled through the stop sign at the top of a cobbled-stoned hill. Rumor had it that he ticketed one of our more upstanding neighbors, a "made man," who was part of the "Waterfront Mob" that controlled activity on the docks. One night as the cop pulled out of the bushes and growled around the corner, siren squealing and lights blazing, in hot pursuit of a stop-sign runner, a large black Caddy with no lights pulled away from the curb and hit him broadside. The NYPD didn't replace him in the bushes, so the next time I got close to a motorcycle was 20 years later when a cop stopped me in Staten Island for tailgating some asshole who had no brake lights. I beat the ticket by pleading insanity, which explains why we have such a good time riding together.

Canajun said...

Jack - great story, with just enough similarity to my own that I was grinning broadly by the time I'd finished. Similar that is except for the Reeperbahn bit (that's my story and I'm sticking to it) and the fact that my first bike was a Yamaha 200 2-stroke. I had even less money than you and that bike lasted about 3 months until I upgraded(!) to a Honda CB350. Hitting the road on a brand new motorcycle with 5 minutes' parking lot training wasn't unusual for the time I guess, but it's still a wonder we survived at all.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Nikos:

I loved that bike. I had nothing else to compare it with and I thought it was wonderful. I rode it for almost seven years and never managed a tank slapper nor a high side.

The plugs didn't really foul that often -- but frequently enough. There was a set of spares under the seat, and I carried sand paper and a gapping tool to doctor up the plugs rotated from the motor.

I remember going through a set of tires every 4,000 miles.

Happy New Year... And thank you for writing in!

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dick (Bregstein):

As I said in the story, there was no magic bullet nor utter fascination that drove me to purchase that first Kawasaki. It was an impulse buy fueled by the vision of riding hot patooties around town.

Tha bike ran well enough and I certainly got more than $1600 worth of memories out of it.

I hope the insanity of our joint rides continues... But the accumulation of salt and cinders on the ground is putting the brakes on my ride likelihood for anytime soon.

Lets do lunch at the Hindi place soon.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Canajun:

I'm glad my lastest piece made you laugh! I got to know Fabulous Sam a little bit better over the years and I rather liked him a lot. He was very helpful in getting that bike repaired all three times that I wrecked it -- especially in dealing with the insurance company.

But the details as I have stated them are 100% true. I bought my first bike on a whim. The acquisition of my second machine wasn't much different either.

Thank you for reading my tripe and for commenting.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

BRALEY said...

Jack: A great story is one that brings back fond memories of times past. I was a dumbass when I bought my first bike. I had wanted a bike to ride to work and do some trail riding, I ended up buying a 175 Harley Davidson Street/trail, POS. I had ridden a little earlier in life when I would steal my brothers 125 Ducati out of the shed when no one was home and ride around the yard, but knew nothing about bikes, obviously. Anyhow I spent alot of money trying to turn this H-D (short gor "heavy dog") into a real dirt bike but failed miserably. Someone finally did me a favor and stole it. From there I had a variety of dirt bikes and settles on a Yamaha IT175. I had several of these while riding in enduro's in the NETRA series in New England. I didn't get many babes withem either. Love your stories, talk to you soon. BRALEY

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Braley:

Happy New Year! It's always a pleasure to hear from you. We have yet to ride together, but that's my fault. I hope to remedy that situation next Spring. Right now, the roads are covered with grit and salt. Plus the fact that I'd be freezing my ass off.

When you bought your first bike, you were looking to ride. I was looking to get laid. There's a bit of a difference. You have no idea how many women follow mw home on this K75 I've got now. I've stopped counting.

Is there a joint down by you that serves real grits (not instsant) for breakfast? If so, plan on joining me for a biscuit and sausage gravy when the tobacco leaves break the ground.

Always a pleasure to hear from you.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Stuart said...

Jack: read your work in january 2010 issue BMW On magazine and the blog, its funny how you put what we think into words. nicely done, Ill be looking forward to more such stories.
stu

bobskoot said...

Jack rIEPE:

Great story. I was imagining your BIG eyes peering through the window drooling.

165 lbs EH ! You were really young back then

My first bike experience was on a Suzuki X6 Hustler, one of the fastest 2-strokes of its time in the mid 60's

bob
bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Joe Dille said...

Jack,

Another great job. I got my first significant motorcycling in on a 2-stroke. It was a Suzuki GT380. A lot more refined than the Kawi and less potent for sure, but lots of fun.

Ride Safe,

Joe

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Stuart:

Thank you for your kind note. Not everyone appreciates my delicate approach to humor. Some claim there is a direct link between my writring and global warming. Others are more insidious. Have you ever heard of the "Red Hat" society for elderly ladies? Well there is a "Pink Croc" society for riders who appear elderly in their comments. These individuals are often relentless in their persecution of my work.

I'm glad you liked my curent story in the BMW MOA "Owner's News." It was nice of you to say so. I like to think the exclusivity of that publication reflects the sophisticated and discerning literary tastes of the group's members.

Thank you for reading my stuff, and for taking the time to comment.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Bob Skoot:

Yes indeed, my eyes were the size of saucers. But that was when I was on the Repperbahn, getting ready to do my Christmas shopping.

I must again emphasize my first bike was mere impulse buying, triggered by my dad. And not mch had changed in my approach to motorcycle purchasing when I got my second bike either.

In truth, you have spent more time evaluating the purchase of a single camera, and probably your least significant one, than I ever did on both of my bikes. I bought my bikes the same way you bought your pink crocs — on a whim.

Thank you for reading my tripe into 2010 and for taking the time to comment. It is always a pleasure.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Joe:

I am always thrilled when a legitimate rider such as yourself reads my tripe and finds it to his liking. I wish I was able to report that I started out on a beat up mini-bike, saved up money from my first job as a fish monger, and bought a Honda Cub.

The only thing I did not do when I got my first bike was get drunk and get tattoed too. Thanks for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Charlie6 said...

Jack, great story...reminded me of a similar experience when I foolishly walked into a Jeep dealership just to look around and shortly afterwards came out with a new Jeep Cherokee to replace the perfectly functioning one I had that was a bit underpowered.

Any pictures of your younger self with that "cool looking" helmet? : )

Wayne Thompson said...

Jack, another great piece. Its one thing to just tell a colorful story , but you have a gift for making even the drab parts colorful. You could probably write a novel on my first bike experience!

ps: I put a link to your blog on mine and referred a friend to your blog. He has enjoyed it so much that I could have forgone the bottle of single malt that I gave him for xmas !!

fasthair said...

Mr. Jack: I wish I wasn't drinking so much fine Crown Royal right now. I've read of this Widow Maker many times here and each time it brings menories of my youth. But this time you have brought many many of those days together in one post. I'll have to revisit this post to regail those soon. Thanks for the trip...

raises his glass of Crown on the rocks...

fasthair

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Domingo):

Thank you for your kind note. The sad truth is that I carry these sense of impulse purchasing into every phase of my life. I have gotten into jobs, marriages, and businesses pretty much the same way I bought that Kawasaki. The details leading up to my owning a BMW K75 are on a par with what I wrote yesterday. In my case, history repeats itelf in some way or form every 24-hours.

So quite frankly, when you tell me you bought a Jeep accordimg to my principles of logic-free living, I fully understand.

I never owned a decent camera (other than the Instamatic type) until the second year of my first marriage, when my wife gave me one for Christmas. I do not have a single picture of my first bike. But then sgain, I do not have any pictures of my VW Beetle, my bicycles, my fencing meets, my first shotgun (I was 11.), my bes dog, or some of the hottest women I ran with either.

And you have no idea how I regret it.

Thank you for reading my stuff, and writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jsack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Wayne (Thompson):

Thank you very much for commenting on this latest blog episode of mine. And I genuinely appreciate your recommending Twisted Roads to a friend of yours. In the future however, I'll be delighted to write your friend into one of my columns... Provided you send me the bottle of single-malt he usually gets for the holidays.

Thank you for adding "Twisted Roads" to your blog this evening. I will return the compliment in the next 24 hours. Your blog has an elegant appeal to it. It's a nice contrast to mine.

I look forward to reading your stuff.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Fasthair:

Finding a comment from you is like sticking one's hand in a back pocket and coming across $50! Your kind note of ecouragement had the bracing effect of a gin and tonic to a man at a picnic — convened by his rabid inlaws.

I'm glad this piece recalled something of your youth to you. Just writing it reminded me of fast bikes, fast women, and fast weekends that have blurred into a faint vision of good times and good friends -- some of both gone forever.

The Kawasaki H2 was a bitch of bike... But I had nothing to compare it with so I thought it was great. Then again, you would have thought I'd hsve learned something after this machine dumped me on my ass a few times.

I owe you a couple of e-mails. I got stretched as thin as shit over the holidays, but will hope to get things sorted out over the next few days.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Lance said...

Jack, great story, and as usual, I am impressed - your first mc was an H2! I see them every now and then on sale on Craigslist, and while not knowing much about them I have often thought about picking one up (I say that rather nonchalantly as if I could actually afford one).

As a comparison, my first was a 150cc scooter, which I still have. Not widow-making material, and it would be embarassing if it actually did that, so I tend to ride it conservatively.

Conchscooter said...

You are even crazier than previously imagined. A Kawasaki triple was only ever suitable as a last bike not a first ride. I knew a guy who borrowed one for a quick spin and launched himself into outer space on one. He lived, the motorcycle happily did not. Those things were death traps. Me? I bought an MV Agusta 350 when i was 17- it was fire engine red, had a sticker that read "39 times World Champion" and I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I rode it all across Europe and had a blast. While you had no idea what you were doing in New Jersey i was failing to understand what i was doing in Italy. But we lived and didn't bother with internet fora for "advice." Great times.

cpa3485 said...

It is fascinating to know that your name is renowned the world over. It must be very fulfilling to know that your name is immortalized in Hamburg as the name Rieperbahn is well known. I suspect you just misspelled it because of your humble nature.
Alas, my membership in the pink croc society is still pending.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Lance:

The H2 was a very light bike with a lot of go. In truth, I was always a little afraid of it. I can only recall even pretending to let the machine go only once, and that was on a perfectly straight stretch of road between Secaucus and Jersey City. (I blogged about that too.)

The machine was very light and unlike the K75, it got slightly more peculiar at higher speeds. It was fine between 50 and 75 miles per hour. I think I hit 90 once, on the New York State Thruway. There was a good deal of buzziness in the handgrips. I can tell you this though, I never ewore gloves riding it in the summer.

I found one of these online recently, perfectly restored (allegedly), for the whopping sum of $4000 (USD). Naturally, I am broke now, but I did entertain the fancy for a moment. What would be the point? Furthermore, how would I ever kickstart the engine with my knees the way they are now.

Thank you for reading my blog, and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Conch:

The only word to describe the Kawasaki H2 is "primitive." It was a crude, brute engine bolted to a frame and a seat. I think it had one fuse (in a rubber block under the seat), three spare plugs, and points to trigger the ignition. I can think of only once or twice when it did not start.

I had no one to ride with locally, so I went a lot of places by myself. One day, I attached myself to a group of riders (my own age on rice burners) tearing down the Palisades Parkway. They were on Honda 750's and other 4-stroke bikes. They waved me into their group and we were in the 70mph range on sweeping curves and nice straight sections. Then they got off the main road to ridesome local twisties. I was done. I took them so slowly that these guys were waiting for me. I introduced my self, and we parted company. I never pushed it.

It was a marvel that I was not killed someplace in series of curves. But I would point out, you have never seen me say that I miss that bike.

There is a guy in the Mac Pac who rides an MV Agusta. The story goes that the bike was hand-built and ran in excess of $64,000 (USD). You must have been rich.

Thank you for reading my blog, for cghoosing me as a role model, and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

bobskoot said...

Jack "r"

It makes me so sad to think that youth has gone forever. Can't you get someone to kick start it for you and put your elephant stand away at the same time ?

bob
bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Jack Riepe said...

Dear CPA3485:

My adventures on the Reeperbahn were hysterical. And I cannot begin to describe the beauty of the women, many of whom were secretaries, bank tellers, or sales clerks doing the day. I owe all of my Hamburg tales to a remrkable individual, Pecco Beaufays -- possibly the most celebrated name in the annals of business travel -- who brought me to this adult Disneyland and let me loose.

This pre-dated the threat of aids and will forever remain one of the most amazing times in my life. (Not the fact that I was in a red light district, but that I went across northern Europe in limousines and five star hotels. It beat the hostel route by a country mile.)

Thank you for reading my blog and espousing my life's philosophy.

Fondest regards,
Jsack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Bob Skoot:

I got up to take a shower this morning and was greated by a new pain in my left knee. I reached down and could actually make the joint click by twisting my knee with my hand. I grimmaced, smiled, and said, "Fuck it. A fresh new hell today."

I am 17-years-old every time get onto this BMW. And from time to time, when I look down at the speedo and it reads 108 mph, I an 17-years-old with a vengeance.

On the third Sunday of every month, I meet Dick Bregstein, who is also 17, and we ride to the Mac Pac Breakfast, where 60 or 70 17-year-olds have parked their bikes out back, and are getting ready for a food fight.

Twice a year, I saddle up with Dick Bregstein (17), Clyde Jacobs (17), and Pete Buchheit (17) to ride through West Virginia, or to attend a rally. You will find this hard to believe, but we drink, smoke cigars, and eye the local dollies. Oddly enough, the babes we look at the hardest seem to be in their 40s.

Today, because my job has turned to shit, I am going to try and have lunch with Jim Ellenberg, who is 17.

There is something about this motorcycle that keeps me feeling like I am........... 17.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

bobskoot said...

Jack "r":

you've got me smiling and thinking that I'm also going on . . . 17 .

I wonder if that curmudgeon down in KW is 17 too

bob
bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Recollectively, Ihor said...

Speaking of 17, isn't there a snap of your VW in the Prep year book? Happy New Year, now get thinner.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Bob Skoot:

Seventeen is a state of mind. I was 17 all day yesterday, watching Molly clean my bike. Th Key West Troll was never 17. He was born at 58.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Ihor:

I don't recall ever finding a picture of the "Berlin Bomb" in the Prep yearbook. Do you realize how infrequently we took pictures of our stuff or the places we had been when we were younger? Look at all the Adirondack trips we took. There are only a handful of pictures... And that was when Bill Matz was alive.

There are pictures taken with your camera of one of our camping/hunting trips, and a few from the time we hired guides. But not many.

And now I am too ugly for pictures where I am not wearing a full face helmet.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

sgsidekick said...

Another fun read. Sorta, almost, makes me want to visit Jersey City. Almost.

Sounded like the dirtbike I rode as a kid had a bit more power than your first bike. Mmmm. Maybe.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear SgSidekick (Tena):

I sincerely hope that you and Bugser had a great New Years and a warm Christmas. Visting Jersey City is always a treat and a great cultural experience. We'll have to go that way on your next trip east.

There was nothing to regret about the H2.

Thank you for readimg my struff and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

mtlcowgirl said...

Dear Jack,

Jersey City the Paris of the New World, eh? The only French I heard spoken in Jersey City was from a poodle walking her support staff on Palisade Avenue last month. But I think she was from Montreal.

Another hilarious read. It was also very cool to see My Short Tenure as a Biker Gang Leader in the latest BMW Owners News.

Keep 'em coming.

Karen

Jack Riepe said...

Dear MTLCowgirl (Karen):

It is my understanding that after Paris, Jersey City ranks second as a tourist destination for most French-speaking people. It may be the charm and allure of the waterfront cafes or the romantic nature of the sunset on Route 440.

Happy New Year to You and Mack!

Thank you for reading my blog, and for taking the time to comment.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

irondad said...

I can picture an Old Bike's Home somewhere. What kind of stories is the H2 telling about you? One can only imagine.

Thank you for the mention. I'm honored. I think.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear IronDad (Dan):

Someplace in old bike's heaven, an H2 isd describing the ham-fisted handling of a young rider, and the soft, sensous ass of his girlfriend. And it is telling the story with pride.

Happy New Year!

Fondest regards,
Jsck • reep • Toad

irondad said...

Dear Jack,

As long as the bike isn't telling stories of your soft, sensuous ass, all is right with the world!

Charlie6 said...

Irondad.....

eeeewwwww

charlie6

rob h said...

Jack,
Wonderful story straight from the heart; one of your best - thanks.

Rob H

Jack Riepe said...

Dear IronDad (Dan):

And maybe that too.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Rob Haut:

I'm glad you liked hthis one. Wait until you read the new one though. It's about DucDude.

Happy New Year!!!

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

It's hard to tell what runs through people's minds.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

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