Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Raw Iron In the Nevada Desert...

The day was hotter than hell and the heat added a shimmer to the cactus and sage brush off in the distance of the Nevada desert. It was the kind of terrain in which everything that lived rattled, stung, or pricked — with an added dose of poison. My younger brother was in his element. He rode a viciously primitive 1974 Harley Davidson Iron Head Sporty Hardtail. The lack of shocks, coupled with a flat, contourless seat (which could have been a piece of stove plate), must have assaulted the rider’s ass like a ten-year-sentence in a Turkish prison. The pipes, which were as straight as the ethics of a Baptist preacher, channeled the constant blast of the engine into the otherwise still atmosphere.

The Harley was a resumé-builder for an agent of Hell.

The bike came with an electric starter, which was an exotic feature for Harleys in the mid-seventies. It was so unreliable, my brother had replaced the factory battery with a unit taken from a Caterpillar bulldozer. The starter was activated by a hardware store doorbell switch on the handlebars. (This last refinement was my brother’s invention. So many of these “starter button” switches burned out that he carried a few with him. They were about 8o¢ apiece.) The bike also had the shifter on the left, though it was connected to the transmission by some half-assed aftermarket device that passed under the frame. (Federal law would mandate moving the shifters to the left on Harley’s the following year.)

My brother takes after the Riepe side of the family, as he is thin, tall, tough, and easily aggravated. He is as smooth as an alligator that eats hand grenades for breakfast. He started smoking when he was three — Camels, without filters (like my father). When he was 15-years-old, he and Jimmy Supple built a still in Supple’s garage, across the street. They managed to distill a quart mayonnaise jar full of white lightening, but set the garage on fire attempting to decant it. My brother came home with a hole burned through his leather jacket, which was used to beat back the flames. Both he and the Supple kid lost their eyebrows in the small blast that triggered the blaze. (I believe Supple's father was a cop. My dad was a Battalion Chief on the Jersey City Fire Department. My brother had a profound respect for disrepect. As a kid, his motto was, "Fuck it... Watch this.")

An airframe and power-plant jet fighter mechanic for the Air Force, my brother was assigned to a base outside Las Vegas, which he considered heaven. My father hated the cold and so did my brother. My dad claimed that he had frozen his balls off sitting in the tail gunner’s position of a B-17 over Iceland in January. The joke was he wore long underwear until the 4th of July every year after that. My brother says he froze his ass off working on flight lines in Germany and Korea. Las Vegas appealed to him on a number of levels. You see my brother believes the four food groups are beer, topless women, tobacco, and topless women. (He cannot be swayed from this theory.)

This day found him roaring across the Nevada desert on a crude iron frame, propelled by two cylinders — that fired first in protest and then in rage. My brother had a simple explanation for the peculiarities of that Harley Davidson motor. “If you look at the classic and most powerful engines of the ‘20s,” he said, “you’ll conclude the most successful of these were 10 or 12-cylinder radial aircraft engines. The Harley engine is essentially two cylinders pulled from that happy balance of ten or twelve. The anger of the motor is nothing more than separation anxiety. So fuck you and your German ‘Bat Cycle.’” (My brother routinely compares my K75, with it's Parabellum "Scout" fairing to the instantly dated motorcycles used in the Adam West version of the old "Batman" television series.) He went on to add that my sainted father spent the crowning glory of his youth bombing the industrial presumption of the Axis, only for me to transfer my wealth to the “Fatherland,” just to ride a flawless, vibration-free, high-speed motorcycle.

"Like a real douche," said my brother.

When I pointed out that my dad was the first on his block to own a front-wheel drive Volkswagen “Dasher,” my brother reminded me that our father grew to hate that car and replaced it with an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. According to my brother, my father hated the Dasher so much that he regretted not going after the ball-bearing factories in Schweinfurt on the second raid.

The desert roads were perfect for the Harley. They ran straight to the horizon, which was ideal for a machine incapable of making a tight turn. They were virtually free of traffic, which suited a beast that boiled its own oil in the intense internal heat generated by stop and go situations. And there wasn’t a lot of people around, which dramatically increased the likelihood of my brother getting a blow job from the blond bimbo on the back. My brother once claimed he’d gotten laid on the desert at night, using nothing more for a pad then his leather jacket and the woman’s ass.

His destination this day was some gin mill on the shores of Lake Mead. The ride was progressing nicely when my brother noticed headlights creeping up behind him. A tractor-trailer was coming like a bat out of hell and would likely pass him on the stretch ahead. Twisting back on the pulsating throttle, he swung far right, giving the flat-front rig plenty of room.

But the truck didn’t whiz by.

In fact, it seemed to have slowed considerably. Glancing to the left, my brother discovered the truck was barely a couple of feet away. It seemed glued to the void just over his shoulder. Looking up, he saw the driver and a passenger —both guys — leaning over and looking down. That was because the show girl on the back of my brother’s bike had lifted up her top and was waving her tanned, twin glories up at them.

“Stop that,” he yelled, slapping her leg. “These assholes are gonna kill us both.”

He chopped the throttle, and the bike dropped back, letting the truck move on, with the trailer swaying as the driver blew the horn. My brother brought the Harley to a halt, kicked down the side stand, and dismounted. He lit a cigarette in one fluid motion, just like a previous Riepe did upon exiting a beat-up, four-engined Boeing bomber. My brother surveyed his surroundings with a sweeping gaze. His view included the tanned ass of the blond, who was squatting to take a piss by the side of the road.

“Fucking beautiful,” said my brother.

“Thanks, Honey,” said the girl with a smile.

My brother was looking at the bike and the desert.

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

39 comments:

cpa3485 said...

Great story, Jack. It provides another snippet into the background of your family and life. Pretty Scary!

Conchscooter said...

Bloody hell. This means you are the sensible sibling in your family. Poor New Jersey, so far from God and so infested with riepes.

Good old days!, Ihor said...

But the irony is that Olds' are no more and VW is doing swell. Been to Vegas once and that was enough.

Right bit of a desert classic, could be a scene from 'MacGruber'.

Woody said...

Another epic story from Jack "Hunter S Thompson" Riepe

bobskoot said...

Jackie "r":

Nice to see you back and unscathed from Chicago. A little R&R in the hotel has done wonders for your episode today for it is "top" notch. Another literary masterpiece.

I read somewhere that you are the sensible Riepe. You learn something new every day

bob
Wet Coast Scootin

Electra Glide In Blue said...

Jack,
That was fucking beautiful.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear CPA3485 (Jimbo):

Thank you for your kind comment. My brother told me this story years ago. I never forgot it. There is a broad array of differences in the personalities of the three Riepe brothers. And that still leaves my sister.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Conchscooter:

The sensible sibling in my family is my brother Robert, who has a abundance of brains and a strong sense of filial duty. I must say your comment got a rise out of me tonight. The best laugh I had in a week, you bastard.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Ihor:

I've been to Vegas twice. The personality of the place improves depending upon the person you are with.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Woody:

That was a very kind thing of you to say. I do try my best to tell a good story, and I thought this one had a couple of clever turns to it. But in truth, it followed the details provided by my brother very carefully. Work has been pressing me of late and I haven't written a moto story in over a month. I hped this woul make a good come-back.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Bobscoot:

Thank you for your encouraging note. Work has picked up lately, and I recently handled the press for an international conference that drew over eight hundred delegates from 26 countries. The prep and follow-through for this event left me drained. This is the first real moto piece I have written in a month. I hope you got a ick out of it. Harley's are not normally my baliwick, but I thought I'd give this piece a shot.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Fondest regards,
Jsck • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Electra Glide In Blue (Jeff):

It really was, wasn't it. And you know more about it than anyone else.

Fondest regaards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Chris Sorbi said...

Very colorful and well-written story! Enjoyed it!

BMW-Dick said...

Tall, blond, mechanically adept brother? Are you sure you not the adopted bastard son of Kate Smith?
Good story. Nicely done.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dick:

We have reached a point in history where the only three people who remember Kate Smith is you, me and Mike Cantwell. And Cantwell only remembers the lady as she had a camp on one of the islands in Lake Placid.

This story is authentic and was written from a conversation I had — actually several conversations — with my brother over the years. I told my brother that I was now an advocate of heated gear, and he then asked me how long I had been sucking dick too.

I got to dinner late last night -- in the cage. Kimi, Corey, Patti, and Ken Bruce were the last ones there.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Chris (Sorbi):

Glad you liked it... Thanks for reading.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

gainesville365 said...

A number-one action/adventure tale from the master storyteller, whose work we are glad is made available to the public free of charge.

My head is filled with aerial images of the German industrial landscape juxtaposed with an impoverished view of the Nevada desert; the two are at home together.

Bill said...

Jack--Another fine example of your writing skills. I loved it. Bill

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Freshly-Squeezed (Gainesville):

You really are too kind in your response. One note from you counters 15 from Conchscooter. Thank you for providing this tired writer with a shot in the arm today.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Bill:

Thank you for your kind and encouraging note. As I have mentioned, it has been over a month since I wrote anything fun and I am overdue. However, the credit for this piece really goes to my brother, who truly personifies the riding ideals (such as they are) typically shared by a unique "iron riding" constituency.

Writing this piece was like describing a sunset. It was easy to see from a lot of perspectives.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Anonymous said...

Jack,

That was a wonderfull read!

Not being a smartass, but have you considered switching to writing Harley stories like this for "Easy Riders" Magazine or some other Harley-based
magazine? I think this story had just the right tone for those publications.

Again, I thoroughly enjoyed the story.

Thanks!
Peace
Eric

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Eric:

Thank you for yor kind note... Praise from a rider like yourself is especially meaningful for a writer like me. It should be noted that the color and the character in this piece came directly from my brother. In fact, my representartion of my brother might be easaily construed as understatement.

I was thinking of riding with a Harley group this summer to get a little experience, however. That might make a good story.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
And the "Lindbergh Baby"
Jack • reep • Toad

Steve Williams said...

Did the heat really add a shimmy? Or was that a shimmer...

Your stories read like motorcycle science fiction to me. Epic journeys and all that. Riding my Vespa scooter to the grocery store next time I am going to stop along the road, look out over the growing development, and declare in a loud clear voice, "fucking beautiful".

As always, I appreciate your wit and insight.

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

PhilC said...

Great read, I was enjoying the ride. Wonderful prose and I can smell the burning oil and the dust. Cheers!

Chuck Pefley said...

I believe the "shimmy" Steve asks innocently about was sporty tail on the back of Iron Head that obviously attracted some interest from the high-sitting passersby -:)

Nicely told story, Mr. Riepe!

Cantwell said...

Jack,
Beautifully written. I think I cried a bit. I'll shake it off with a trip to JoAnn Fabrics Dick asked me to pick up some nice paisley fabric for him to sew a padded seat cover for his bike.

Michael.

Nikos said...

Always good to hear about the valiant folk who bombed the shit out of the hun, but how come your dear Dad froze his nadgers off over Iceland? According to my tom tom that's nowhere near the Ruhr?

All the best, nikos

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mr. Williams (Scooter In The Sticks):

Life is a huge punchbowl of thrills. I simply dip in my cup, and drink with my eyes closed. Sometime you get more gin, and other times you get more lemonade. I grew up in Jersey City, which was like the set of a bad Fellini movie. Everybody I knew was a character. And I was raised in the kind of family that regarded a straight-jacket as casual wear.

It is all bound to surface in my memoirs and other work.

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

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear PhilC:

Thank you for your kind note. I try to please.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Chuck Pefley:

My sentiments exactly. But Steve's careful reading of my work is my incentive not to drink and type at the same time. Thank you for reading my blog and for finding the hidden sense in it.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mike (Cantwell):

One of my concerns when writing this piece, and there were many, was that the bold sentimentality of the text would overcome your gentle sensitivities. I meant to call you, with the intent of advising you to mix two parts vodka with three parts prune juice, to steady your nerves when reading this piece. The cocktail I described is called a "Russian Bregstein."

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Nikos:

It is always a pleasure to hear from you. My dad was stationed in northern Africa, and bombed targets in southern Europe. But on the way home, he found himself passing through Iceland in the winter, and it made a profound impression on him.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Steve Williams said...

I do read your work carefully in hopes that some of your wit, charm, and plain old passion wears off on me.

One day I hope to be an epic traveler in the Riepeian Tradition.

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

irondad said...

Based upon actual conversations with your brother? Was alcohol involved?

On a serious note, your writing is very colorful and entertaining.

Like Steve Williams, I am inspired to do something on my next ride. I suddenly have this urge to piss in the sand beside the road.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Steve (Scooter In The Sticks):

In all seriousness, epics grow in the telling. Dick Bregstein and I were out on a leisurely 150-mile run down to the Delaware salt marshes, when we passed a guy on a very beat-up, makeshift, homemade trike -- constructed largely of wood.

I was having a bad pain day, and my first thought was that this was some lost soul out bumming around. Yet my riding was so off that day, this guy was the only person I could pass. Dick got around him too, and we laughed about it later.

And that's when the story started... I'll use it in blog soon. But it was a real learning experience. I have no doubts that you have epic rides — soul cleansing epic rides — every week. I hope to get out your way for a weekend run in late July or August.

Perhaps you could meet me for an epic stack of pancakes?

Fonest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear IronDad (Dan):

The kind of dialogue with my brother (as reported in the blog piece) is our normal way of communicating. If beer and rum had been added to the mix, we'd have used a lot more hand gestures.

I too have an urge to piss in the sand by the side of the road. But I'd like the sand to be between the road and the ocean, in Eureka, Ca. And I'd like the rig that got me there to be a BMW K1300GT... And I'd like some slinky pillion candy to be standing right behind me, writing her name in the sand with my... And I'd like her name to have 45 letters in it.

That would have the makings of an epic... Especially if Bobskoot was standing right there with his video camera.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Classicvelocity said...

Jack, nicely done yet again! I love the respect for disrespect line. Good to see you back in the blog saddle....

ClassicVelocity

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Wayne:

I'm glad my piece made you smile. But as I said before, my brother made this easy. I am now looking to get the time to increase the number of storys I want to write.

Thanks for reading this piece, and for leaving a comment.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Charlie6 said...

Jack

Somehow I missed the original posting of this story much to my regret now....all the good comments have been done and I am left with nothing suitable.

Great story, your ability to take your brother's recollections and recount them so vividly had me "seeing the desert terrain, harley in the foreground, blonde in the bushes....." mostly the blonde in the bushes.

thanks

charlie6
Redleg's Rides