Nothing makes me feel wealthier like looking at all the riding gear I have purchased over the last 6 years. In a pile, it takes up less than one percent of the space consumed by 9 cords of firewood, and cost 25 times more. Sometimes I imagine all this stuff (2 rain suits, 2 mesh jackets, 1 ballistic jacket, 2 jacket liners, 1 Gerbings electric liner — plus all the connectors — 2 helmets, 4 pairs of gloves, 4 pairs of boots, and 4 pairs of Diamond Gusset Defender jeans) as loose $50 bills. Then I jump off the stairs and roll around on it.
Above: Regardless of what gear I wear, I look like the "Stay-Puft" Marshmallow Man masquerading as a S.W.A.T. team member. Photo from "Ghostbusters Franchise 1984."
I bought this stuff to protect myself, to add to the enjoyment of riding, and to look more like a true BMW rider. It has protected me. And the right gear does add to the enjoyment of riding. But as far as the image goes, all I have managed to do is look like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man masquerading as part of a S.W.A.T. team. Yet there is a certain satisfaction in having the right gear for each season, and in knowing where it is in time to use it for the current season. For me, knowing the location of my gear is like knowing the Ganges River is in India. It is quite another thing for me to put my hand on a specific part of it. (Dedicated Twisted Roads readers will recall I thoroughly organized the garage, cataloguing all the gear out there. But my riding gear is not kept in the garage.)
Summer became fall here last weekend with all the subtlety of a car accident. The temperature at dawn had been a routine 69º, before falling to 44º Fahrenheit without prior warning. (For the benefit of my readers in Texas, Key West and Hell, I consider 69º to be frigging hot.) In a perfect world, the change of seasons would happen gradually, with each day losing a degree or two until motorcycle riders experienced a conscious need for warmer gear. Under these circumstances, riders would gently be reminded to check the location and condition of the next season’s gear, before having a sudden need for it.
Here it was, barely ten minutes before kickstands up, and cold to the point where the crickets were no longer chirping, but stamping their little feet and muttering “Fuck this, I’m going to get eaten by a bird today.” I had just opened the garage door and realized that a short-sleeved tee shirt under a mesh jacket wasn’t going to cut it. There is a windproof/waterproof liner for the Joe Rocket mesh jacket that I wear, but the thought of cold, clammy, plasticky sleeves on my bare, muscular arms was equally unappealing. What I wanted was my Joe Rocket Fall Meteor 5.0 Jacket, with the zip-out vent panels in the front.
I just hadn’t seen it in about a year. (In fact, I remembered getting a note from it... The jacket was in Las Vegas and getting laid just fine without me.)
A mad search through the closet produced a rooster tail of shirts, blazers, and dress pants flying out behind me like tunnel detritus generated by a digging badger. The very last item, of course, was the object of my search. “Aha,” I gloated. Then I realized all of the vents were open and the two zip-out panels in the front were gone. “Muthafuck,” I whispered to the pitch-black interior of the closet.
“Leslieeeee...” I shouted up the stairs, where the Evening Star of my life had yet to deal with the reality of dawn (considering it was 6:30am on a Saturday morning). “Do you know where the two zip-out vent panels for my Joe Rocket fall jacket are?”
“I traded them for milk and bread at the supermarket last week,” she groggily replied.
There was a moment of silence while I thought about the horror of this, when she lovingly said, “How the hell would I know where you left the zip-out vent panels for your Joe Rocket fall jacket?”
“Then you didn’t trade them for bread and milk at the supermarket last week.” I said with obvious relief.
While she didn’t actually respond to this, I swear I could hear the sound of a silencer being screwed into the barrel of a 9mm Browning semi-automatic pistol.
Examining the jacket in the first rays of dawn, I found the vent panels tucked into a pocket. “Never mind,” I said, stepping over the pile of clothing on the hall floor.
Joe Rocket makes very good gear, at great prices, in sizes large enough to actually fit the motorcycle, so mega-fat riders like me can wear effective, official-looking biker apparel. More than just a question of buying the first garment that fits, Rocket gear is well-thought out, well-made, and comes with little clasps for your keys and waterproof pockets for an MP3 player or a cell phone. (It is with the deepest regret that I did not see the "Meteor" Jacket in the 2010 Joe Rocket line-up. The closest thing they offer is the Ballistic 8.0 jacket. This comes in a "5XL" size, which I swear to God, I will never need again. But others might. Not all Joe Rocket jackets are available in this super, fat-assed sizing.)
The change of seasons also calls for a change in the gear I carry on the bike too. My Sigg water bottle is now replaced by a Nissan Silver Bullet stainless steel vacuum bottle. I am fanatical on the subject of coffee. Unlike New Jersey, where the state legislature has passed a law requiring a Dunkin’ Donuts every three miles or where most diners serve excellent Joe, coffee sold in greasy spoons and gas station convenience stores throughout Pennsylvania generally tastes like shit. (Signs at the state Line that read “Welcome to Pennsylvania,” should have a line added that cautions, “Home of the shittiest coffee.” Riders will also concur that hot coffee is never available at the most spectacular views, the most beautiful forrest glades, or any of the other places where one is likely to stop and get off the bike.
Hence I recommend carrying the Nissan Silver Bullet stainless steel vacuum bottle.
This clever, tapered design goes nicely into my top case, keeps coffee warm for about 4 hours, and fills easily from the Nespresso Coffee-maker I have in the kitchen. The stainless steel interior won’t explode into a million pieces in a drop or a tip-over either. But it had been a year since I’d last seen my Nissan Silver Bullet stainless steel vacuum bottle and it had inexplicably moved from the last location of record.
“Leslieeeee...” I again shouted up the stairs. “Do you know where my Nissan Silver Bullet stainless steel vacuum bottle is?”
Her reply was preceded by a long sigh that was actually more like a “hiss...” The kind of sound a python makes when deflated by a mongoose. “Yes, I do,” she said in a hoarse whisper. “I will tell you if you step into the light at the foot of the stairs.”
Now I have watched every Alfred Hitchcock movie ever made, and I can tell you there is a time to step into the light at the foot of the stairs and a time to give it the pass. This was definitely one of the “pass” moments. I grabbed a little pillow from the easy chair in my office and tossed that into the light. It had no sooner landed on the floor when it jumped to the accompaniment of two loud popping sounds, and began leaking feathers from a couple of closely-spaced holes.
“Never mind,” I said from the shadows. “I’ll find it.”
It turned up in the garage, in a plastic bin marked “Ancillary Riding Gear.” Picking it up was just like shaking hands with an old friend. But It had a slightly unbalanced feel to it, like it was partially filled with a gelatinous substance that slid from top to bottom as one solid, quivering mass. Opening it in the kitchen sink revealed a year-old shapeless mass that smelled like coffee, but resembled penicillin-streaked yogurt. (For the BMW-riding engineers reading this story, I will end the suspense by saying the brownish gunk was no longer hot.)
Above: The 16-ounce Nissan Stainless Steel Vacuum Bottle — order it from Campmor and save a bundle. Photo from the internet.
I filled and refilled the vacuum bottle with boiling hot sudsy water, leaving the stopper to soak in a sterilizing agent overnight. The stainless steel liner emerged sweet-smelling and clean after a few treatments. (I have been through this before.)
Above: This is my idea of the ideal ride destination — the outdoor "Tiki" bar at the Chesapeake Inn, in Chesapeake City, Md. The ladies were walking around in bikinis and tiny little shorts in July. I thought a BMW K75 was a babe magnet, but the Beemer is not nearly as effective as a 65-foot boat. Photo by the author.
There are at least two times a year during which the motorcycle rider is likely to be slightly uncomfortable. One occurs after a touchy swerve and panic stop, when an unscheduled bowel movement is most likely to appear between the rider and the seat. The other is when the day starts out cold and ends up hot — or hot enough to break a sweat — when the rider is swathed in cool weather gear. This happened to me on a recent lunch run from West Chester, Pa to a seafood joint on the water in Chesapeake City, Md. Once the sun was up, the temperature climbed into the high 60’s. I ended up opening every vent in the jacket. There is one for each sleeve, two removable panels in the front, and two zippered openings in the back.
Above: The object of this phot, taken from the shadows, was the background — The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. These boats are a classic example of how the rich pull up for lunch at the outdoor bar of the Chesapeake Inn, in Chesapeake City, Maryland. Photo by the author.
The vents do not pass through to the rider’s shirt, but circulate the air around a windproof inner liner. (I know this works as I have opened the front vents, leaving the rear ones closed. This causes the jacket to inflate like a life raft.) This vent design is very clever. You could be out riding on a marginally cool day, and get caught in quick rain shower. The interior liner of the jacket prevents rain water from passing through and soaking the rider. I could have carried my mesh jacket in one side bag, while wearing my fall jacket, but I get tired of planning each ride like it’s a space shot.
Above: This shot was taken from my seat at the outdoor "Tiki" bar of the Chesapeake Inn. This view looks west toward Chesapeake City. That is the Route 213 (Md) bridge in the background. It is high to accommodate the ocean-going ships in the canal.
My first cool-weather riding day was not without adventure. I met “Leather” Dick Bregstein, Pete Buchheit, Clyde Jacobs, Dave Oehler, Ron Yee, Gerry Cavanaugh and Tony Forsberg, “The New Guy” from Colorado for an early fall run to a seafood joint on the water in trendy Chesapeake City, Maryland.
“Anyone care for hot coffee,” I asked, holding up the Nissan Silver Bullet stainless steel vacuum bottle?
“Not if today was the first time you’ve opened that in a year,” said Gerry Cavanaugh.
“Suit yourself. Do any of you have clap or a respiratory ailment that would benefit from traces of homegrown penicillin?”
There were no takers.
Above: Gerry Cavanaugh, a confirmed BMW GS rider, does not support the modern trend toward penicillin for curtailing contagen. Photo by Dick Bregstein.
This was the first day after a 24-hour period in which our area had received between 7” and 9” of rain. I had planned a gentle ride along heavily wooded roads that paralleled streams and rivers. This was a mistake. Most of these were still covered by washed-out gravel, fallen tree branches, and hundred-yard stretches of river slime. A whole section of my planned ride, in Delaware City, (De) was still underwater. We ended up taking the most direct route, a mix of interior back roads and highways. My joints were so creaky, I could hear them grinding over the sound of the engine whenever I moved on the seat.
Bregstein could hear them too. “I think your swing arm pins need lubricating,” he said.
“Dick, this is a BMW. It doesn’t have a swing arm.”
“Don’t mention it,” he replied.
The day was sunny and bright enough to sit on the water... But the breeze made you wish for a long-sleeve shirt. My pace was so slow and awkward on the way down, that I actually had to pull over to relieve the cramping in my hips. I waved the other guys on. Ron Yee was good enough to hang around and ride in with me 20-minutes later. HIs role was assumed by Clyde Jacobs on the way back.
Above: Pete Buchheit rode up from Baltimore on a 2003 K1200S to join us for lunch. Photo by Breg Dickstein.
Above: Dave Oehler, a K1200LT rider, first led us to this saloon last year. Photo by Dick Bregstein.
Clyde and I took it easy, and stopped off at a couple “performance artist” exhibitions on the way back. These artists are so poor that many perform wearing only panties, or less. Admission to these events are free, but one is compelled to give the artist a dollar every few minutes, especially if they are performing on the bar in front of your $11-dollar Diet Coke.
Above: Another great picture of Jack Riepe, taken by Dick Bregstein, the author's most frequent riding partner and occasional friend. Photo by Dick Bregstein.
The garage door went up on my return to reveal that Leslie’s car was gone — indicating she was out and about with friends. I stepped into the house to find “Scout,” our 100-pound white rescue mutt (with aspirations of being a Labrador Retriever), running around with the tattered sleeve of one of my Armani shirts in her mouth. In the next room, Atticus, a 150-pound German Shepherd, was laying on the pile of clothing I had left earlier. One of my silk ties was neatly knotted about his neck: a message from Leslie.
I will be avoiding the light at the end of the stairs for the next two weeks.
It's been a few weeks since I last published a new blog. I allowed myself to get distracted by a lot of insignificant stuff. This happens every time I try and take the safe route through life. You would think that after years of riding a motorcycle I would have realized that the best aspect of life is experienced from its edge.
For those of my readers who are members of the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America, my column in the ON (Owners News) resumes with the November issue, with a passionate love story guaranteed to inflame the coldest soul. There was some doubt as to whether the conservative nature of the publication would lend itself to such graphic literary depiction... Yet such was the emotional tone of my prose that men and women of all ages are tempted to place themselves within its context. At least one boy-toy is definitely in its context... Again and again.
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2010
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Twisted Roads)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2010
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Twisted Roads)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)