This episode of “Twisted Roads” was slated to run yesterday, which was the celebration of the President’s Day Holiday in the United States. The Presidents celebrated are the two renown for getting results. These are George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. The fact that there are no other Presidents celebrated is an indication that these two have set the minimum standards for comparison, which have yet to be matched.
Washington is best remembered for his incredible perseverance, when the first US Congress demonstrated the kind of behavior that American voters could expect from future legislators. They hobbled Washington at every turn during his initial confrontation with the British in 1776, and accused him of being what they themselves were in most every regard – average men. George Washington was an average man only in that he had been measured by average means. It is a little known fact that he had very limited military experience prior to the American Revolution, and that he lost every battle in which he had ever been previously engaged.
With his back to the wall and at the end of his rope... With troops ill shod, ill clothed and ill fed... With jealous and petty officers sniping behind his back... With hundreds of sick soldiers leaving the ranks as their enlistments ran out... With everything against him... George Washington established the first high-water mark for revolutionary thinking and Yankee ingenuity by doing the impossible... He attacked a greatly superior force (Hessians, the pit bulls of 18th Century Europe) in the middle of a winter snowstorm, and with many men armed only with pikes (spears), he seized two British strongholds — Trenton and Princeton — sending a message to tyrants for the first time: “That you underestimate the American nation at your peril.” It is a message often forgotten.
Abraham Lincoln is credited with ending slavery in the United States and preserving the Union. However, there is evidence that he would have been willing to work something out to keep the nation intact. Lincoln is the epitome of the common man rising above his own circumstances, and the circumstances of a nation in duress. With an education best described as “home schooled,” Lincoln was the right man, in the right place, during the darkest hours of the United States. Surrounded by the first truly bipartisan cabinet (an idea far ahead of its time and one that didn’t work) and reliant on the best military minds in the north (which were utterly incapable of providing a victory), Lincoln found himself working within earshot of Confederate artillery (Battle of Bull Run).
Yet Lincoln was made of strong homespun. At one point, he directed the Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton to ask General Meade if he (Lincoln) could borrow the army for the weekend if the general wasn’t going to use it. But Lincoln’s greatest endeavor would have been displayed during Reconstruction. His reasoning was that rebel states never had the right to leave the Union, therefore they were still part of it. His intention, by quote was “To let them up easy.” His assassination at the hands of southern patriot John Wilkes Booth guaranteed a period of reconstruction during which southern states were treated like occupied enemy nations. But the Constitution was preserved and survived up until ten years ago, when it became toilet paper for two administrations.
So I took the day off yesterday to meet with a few gentlemen to discuss the potential for creating a motorcycle-related business. (That is a story for another time.)
Winter brings out the worst in me. The endless blanket of snow draped over this part of the U.S. makes me feel like “Cousin Yorgi,” on page 123 of any Russian novel, where suicide is introduced as comic relieve. Speaking of Russian epics in which winter’s misery is the backdrop of light character studies, my late father was one of the world’s great unrecognized philosophers. We were watching the film classic Dr. Zhivago one night — as Omar Shariff wrote poetry to Julie Christie in a Siberian cottage where the ice was three inches thick on a hot stove — and my dad noted the scene in which a handful of people were walking along a barren railroad track to nowhere. They were bent over as the wind, disguised as a permeable wall of snow, was blowing at 90 miles per hour.
“Where do those people think they are going,” asked my dad to no one in particular. “What would make them think that walking in the snow from a village that has absolutely nothing to another that has even less seem like a good idea?” My dad was a practical man who had been from Iceland to Egypt in the tail gunner’s balcony of a B-17, and who had experienced the temperatures of hell from both perspectives. He had gotten cold at 23,000 feet over Reykjavik (which he pronounced Rake-A- geevic) in December of 1943 and didn’t warm up until July of 1964.
I treasure many of the conversations I have had with my late dad, since those of my memory hold none of the rhetorical questions regarding my character flaws as did the originals. Nevertheless, I am delighted that my father and I never sat through an Ingmar Bergman production, where characters representing death and marriage occasionally played chess. My father was a unique man in that he thought life should be spent looking upward for inspiration, as opposed to poking through shit with a stick, seeking meaning.
The fragile, frozen solitude of last Saturday was shattered by a ringing phone. Dick Bregstein — my riding partner and frequent target of this blog — suggested we throw off the shackles of the season and head over to the local BMW dealer for the product launch of the S1000RR, and for the free breakfast that went along with it. He got no argument from me, and within an hour, we were headed to Hermy’s Tire and Cycle, a temple to two-wheeled perfection selling BMWs and Triumphs.
(Above) Herman Baver, General Manager of Hermy's Tire and Cycle, stated there has been a lot more rider interest in the model launch of BMWs S1000RR, and more inquiries as to when the bile would make its appearance in Pennsylvania. Photo by "Slick" Dick Bregstein.
The expression “local BMW dealer” is a quaint throwback to the days when the boys in the bund saw fit to plant dealerships in every other town, like the blacksmith shops of yore. “Local” now means “closest,” which is a purely relative interpretation. For example, my closest dealer is Hermy’s, in Hamburg, Pa. And Hamburg, Pa. is closer than Hamburg, Germany. See?
(Above) No trip to Hermy's would be complete without a smile from Suzy "Cookie" from behind the front display counter. Photo by "Iron" Dick Bregstein.
It felt kind of odd covering the 60 miles between East Goshen and Hamburg in my old Suburban, as this was the first time Dick and I were attending an event here in a cage. The back roads from Pottstown to Hamburg offer fine motorcycle terrain, but we found plenty of spots were the curves were still crowned with ice and packed snow.
“Now, Dick,” I said, wagging my finger in his direction. “We should walk through Hermy’s first, looking at the new bikes before making a beeline to the free breakfast. Try and linger around the new S1000RR for a bit, asking a question or two to be polite, and then we’ll freight up at the buffet table.”
Bregstein agreed, but this seldom signifies understanding.
The banked snow of Route 61 in Hamburg put a slight damper on the anticipated crowd, especially as the new S1000RR was to have been available for test rides. Still, a respectable mob showed up just to touch the new bike. Dick edged through the crowd like a fullback, approached Herman Baver (the General Manager), and said, “What a great turnout. The new bike looks terrific. Where’s breakfast?”
(Above) Walking through Hermy's is the closest one will ever come to mechanical heaven. The place is wall-to-wall BMWs, with a few Triumphs thrown in for basic comparison. This is one of the few places on earth where I am understood, and someone doesn't walk around behind me, making sure I do not sweat on the bikes. Photo by "I-Can-Pick-Up-A-Pail-Of-Rocks-With My" Dick Bregstein.
The first-rate breakfast buffet was laid out in the main maintenance bay. There were trays of eggs, pancakes, fried potatoes, ham, bacon, sausages, breakfast pastry, coffee, and juice. Bregstein’s technique was flawless. He grabbed eight pancakes, separated them into four pairs, and loaded each pair down with six slices of ham. He then jammed each “sandwich” into a different pocket in his jacket. “I’ll have lunch for the rest of the week,” he hissed, shoving a child aside to grab a container of orange juice.
(Above) The magnificent BMW K1200LT... The Touring Bike For Kings. Photo by "Leather" Dick Bregstein.
Dick glanced around the room to see if he was being observed. Then with his back to the security camera, he systematically constructed a seven-layer breakfast plate that must have weighed three pounds. Bregstein blended into a corner in which to savage the leaning tower of breakfast in much the same way a muskelunge will go through a line of ducklings.
“Good heavens, Dick,” I exclaimed. “They never really count this stuff, you know.”
His response was a low growl.
The new bike was on display like a predator in the zoo, surrounded by onlookers masked by unabashed awe and motorcycle lust. Surprisingly diminutive, the S1000RR conveys power, style, and innovation at first glance. One would think the riding position awkward for a tall man. Yet several tall riders (including the Mac Pac’s Matt Piechota) mounted it in the showroom, claiming the position was quite comfortable.
(Above) Mac Pac member Matt Piechota tries on the new S1000RR for size, and likes it. Tom Murray, of the crack Hermy's Sales Team (left) smiles knowingly and quietly asks for a sales pad to set the hook. Photo by "Compass Needle" Dick Bregstein.
The machine on display was fully equipped with ABS, traction control, and a series of other options. The standard feature that garnered the most attention from this crowd, however, was the engine. Rated at 182 horsepower at the back wheel, the S1000RR is one of the sleekest, fastest, and most powerful bikes in the BMW stable. It also has an incredible horsepower to weight ratio, at 450 pounds wet.
“Hey, Jack... Wanna hear her run,” asked Tom Murray, of the Sales Department.
“Why yes, Tom,” I replied. “If it’s no trouble.”
“It’s never any trouble for you.”
Tom wheeled the raptor over to the double glass doors, opened them and sighed over the starter button. The bike snarled to life a nano-second later like a panther on a short leash. The engine idled for a few minutes after which he gave the throttle an aggressive twist. It was like pulling the cadmium rods out of a reactor. The bike went to high RPM in a split second, with a sound that set every heart in the room on a war-drum beat.
(To view a video of this machine idling at Hermy's, and my closing comment, please click here.)
“I am seriously thinking of getting one of these,” said Matt Piechota.
I asked Bregstein if he would take pictures for my blog. He was only too glad to oblige me, claiming he had a camera in his pocket. He did. But it was in the last pocket he checked, and Dick found it only after pulling ham and pancake sandwiches out of every zippered opening, like a sideshow magician.
While up at Hermy’s, we met Matt Piechota, Rick and Linda Sorensen (Mac Pac Riders), Mike and Desiree (Delaware Valley Riders), and Bill Mara, (who I met at the Airheads Conference in Pottstown last week.) I was commenting on the kind nature of Hermy’s to get behind a product launch like this, when Linda Sorensen mentioned that they drove over 90 miles to support this dealership. Bill Mara came considerably further, from Warren, New Jersey.
Hermy’s Tire and Cycle has a long and distinguished background supporting BMW riding clubs. The only way they could possibly become more hospitable would be if the put a bar in there too. Then again, I would never go home.
I would like to acknowledge the contributions of Dick Bregstein and Matt Piechota to this report.
There will be a second Twisted Roads Posted For Tomorrow...
The bog episode originally scheduled to run today — Dispatches From The Front — will run here tomorrow, as a bonus episode for all of my readers who have waited so patiently for it.
Two new “Destinations” have been added to the blog list on the right. These are:
1) Scootin’ Old Skool by Orin
2) Everyday Riding by Chris Luhman
Scootin’ Old School primarily focuses on the two-wheel world of classic scooters. Written by Orin, this blog provides in-depth riding perspectives from the viewpoint of a veteran scooterazzo, with extra attention to both new and vintage machines, techniques, and destinations that have appeal to both the scooter crowd and bikers in general.
Everyday Riding are the enduring chronicles of Chris Luhman, who goes through life nailed to the cross of a Ural sidecar rig. Luhman is undaunted by snow, sleet, locusts, and Bolshevik revolutions as he confronts all from the handlebars of his Russian rig. His blog covers subjects ranging from technical interludes to destinations, and from making videos from the cockpit to the occasional analysis of the riding psyche.
I read them often.
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2010
AKA The LIndbergh Baby (Mac Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With a shrug)