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)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Epilogue To A Great Day...

The smoke had barely settled from the Mac Pac attempt at establishing a new Guiness Record Book number for the BMW motorcycle category when I started hearing snippets from the street. Some of these snippets related to details that had been left out of my last blog episode. While many of snake-eyed readers are more than happy to attribute this to bad journalism, the truth is that I have been working against a number of challenges lately. The first of these regards my regular writing schedule, which has intensified by 100 percent (thank God). I went from being a near-unemployed bastard to being a bastard with 5 to 7 writing assignments each week. (I prefer things this way.)

But I’m only good for a limited amount of text each day and I’ve had a lot less time to go through things. Plus the arthritis that has plagued me like a one of my previous marriages has spread to my back and other places. This simply wears me out. Yet I was compelled to fill in the blanks from my previous story on this record-breaking event. I really wanted to elaborate more on the “behind the scenes” activities of my colleagues, and to run some of the pictures of these guys.

Above -- Todd Trombore (left) laughs at Brian Curry's suggestion to ask everyone to move their motorcycle two feet to the left. Curry dropped a quarter and he wanted it back. Trombore did not realize that Curry was serious. (Brian Curry is usually what someone means when they say "Mac Pac leadership.") Photo by Wayne Woodruff.

As previously reported, Mac Pac leadership had considered going after this record nine months ago, but decided to just have breakfast instead. Then Todd Trombore said, “I think we can do this.” (Mac Pac leadership is determined by having five guys and four chairs in a room in which music is playing. When the music stops, each weasel scrambles for a seat. The person left standing is the “leadership.”)

(Above) There wasn't much of a crowd around 8:30am. (From left) Gordon Till, Dot Ellenberg, Jay Scales, Laura Hirth, Dave Case (extended arms), and Rich Cavaliere. Most of the machines in this picture are traditional "R" bikes, owned by people who do not believe in proper cooling systems, such as those of the mechanically sophisticated "K" bike. Photo by Wayne Woodruff.

Trombore is the epitome of the BMW motorcycle preservationist. His name is well-known among serious BMW collectors and the Delaware Valley Riders, who revere antique machines of all marques. With more than 34 bikes in his collection — many of which are painstakingly restored to museum-quality perfection — he keeps company with legendary BMW riders like Karl Duffner and personally supports an annual riding program designed to showcase BMW toasters “that were designed to be ridden, not hidden.”

(Above) This is the priceless "Velocette" owned by Dave Crank, who worked registration. Note the toe and heel shifter. I first saw this machine two years ago, when Crank rode it on one of Todd's rides. Two hours into that trip, we found Crank on the side of the road, crying piteously. He hadn't read that the ride would be four hours long, and the splitting-maul of a seat was working its magic on his ass. The bike was ineligible for the Guiness Record-Breaking event. Photo by Wayne Woodruff.

Trombore has the kind of personality that puts everything into an easy perspective. No challenge is too great... No issue is too ghastly to defy resolution. He is one of those guys who can do anything (and is very annoying in the extreme to those of us who can’t.) In this case, he was faced with creating a mechanism for getting everyone all together and organizing the event, including a ride-route that not only met the Guiness Book Record requirements, but that would also treat participants to a real taste of the Pennsylvania countryside.

(Above) There is nothing like spying BMW royalty in the crowd. Moto Edde Mendes looks for trick questions on his registration card. Mendes is the gentleman who rode an unmodified K75 from Morocco down to the Sahara, up to the Silk Route through Turkey, across the 'Stans' into Russia, and across the US east to Philly. In all, 39,000 miles in 11 months -- without a film crew or support team. He is a member of the Mac Pac. Photo by Wayne Wodruff.

“We need to set up a route where the riders need only hang together in tight formation for two miles,” said Trombore, staring off at the horizon, like Lincoln thinking of the Emancipation Proclamation.“Then they can spread out and take in the beautiful countryside that surrounds this place. I have a simple route in mind... Only three left turns and 128 rights.”

I rolled my eyes at Dave Case.

Trombore is our resident authority on twisty, shaded, Amish farm roads. I have been honored to be invited on two of his great antique runs in the past.. And he does pick some of the most beautiful roads I have ever been on... Yet it is not uncommon for these roads to disappear down single tracks marked with cattle skulls and pentagrams, and end at a knotted rope, which the rider must climb with the motorcycle strapped to his back.

(Above) Videographer interviews Todd Trombore (middle) and Bob Jones, the CEO of Montgomeryville Cycle Center. Photo By Wayne Woodruff

Montgomeryville Cycle Center is tantalizing close to Rt. 309, in Hatfield, Pa, but its driveway is actually on a one-way access road that peels to right of the highway, just as the sign for the dealership heaves into plain view. Initially, it looked as if all of our riders would have had to spill out onto the access road to make an immediate left, and then a right onto a tight, one-lane country road. The local police department commiserated with Todd on this grim bit of reality, and then offered to shut down the access road, and both lanes of Rt. 309 fot the 13 minutes it would take for 246 bikes to exit the lot. Suddenly, it became very easy to set up the parade formation, herd the bikes out onto the pavement, and videotape them from several vantage points.

(Above) The 60-second to roll-out signal has been given, and 246 BMWs started in unison. Photo by Wayne Woodruff.

If Dave Case, the Mac Pac member responsible for coming up with the bike parking scheme for the event, should ever opt for a change in careers, he could teach a correspondence course on air traffic control. Case packed those bikes in tighter than a clams ass (and that’s waterproof). Yet he was assisted by a team of Mac Pac members whose dedication to service would shame the commitment of a Kamikazi pilot. This addendum will attempt to do justice to Dave Case and his crew.

The Crack Volunteer Parking Team was...

Mark Barr
Kimi Bush
Rick Cavaliere
John Clause
Joe Dille
Charles Hehl
Roddy Irwin
Corey Lyba
Linda Sorensen
Rick Sorensen
Chelcie, Fiancé of Ryan Sorensen
Ryan Sorensen
Jim Sterling
Frank Tomé

“The day started out as humid as a greenhouse, but cool enough to move around,” said Case. “Yet the sun beating down on all that hot German steel and black asphalt quickly turned the parking lot into an oven. My first thought was 246 kickstands were going start to punch holes in the blacktop. I had a vision of setting another record... The number of bikes that could go over like dominoes. Fortunately, we didn’t have to deal with that.”

Case likened the arriving bikes to popcorn in as microwave. “At first the kernels pop slowly, almost at random,” said Case. “Then they pop faster. That’s how the bikes arrived. By ones and two’s, and then in groups of ten or twelve, as they came together on the road. I was confident the crew had it covered. At one point though, I heard a pride of Beemers arrive and found everyone locked in conversation over a great looking bike So I just yelled, ‘Incoming,’ and that became the action word of the day.” (A group of BMW motorcycles and lions is referred to as a “pride.”)

(Above) Bill Dudley of New Jersey shows Mac Pac members Corey Lyba, Kimi Bush, and Dave Millhouse the point of impact for slow moving pedestrians. Photo by Wayne Woodruff.

Case and his volunteers had formulated a number of contingency plans for another crisis: mechanical failure. “Some of these bikes were 50 years old,” said Case. “Our record-breaking attempt was two phase. One was to get them together. The second was to ride in a parade formation for two miles. Every one of them had to start and ride out of here to qualify.”

(Above) The crack registration team (from left) Patti Minner, Dave Crank, Gordon Till, and Jack Riepe. Photo by Wayne Woodruff.

Not surprisingly, they all did. But one went down towards the back of the line. It was a classic parking lot drop with no damage to the rider nor the machine. Two of Case’s crew rushed to upright the bike, while others paused the remaining cycles around it. (The rider of the dropped rig simply remounted, restarted, and went. The delay was less than 30 seconds.) Case and crew were among the last riders to exit the lot.

“It was like watching the plug get pulled out of a giant tub,” said Corey Lyba. “There was a swirl of motorcycles back by the exit, and then the rest all followed smoothly.”

The ride was to be the subject of at least three video teams. One was on a highway overpass, less than a mile from the start. Cameras from this vantage point caught the bikes coming and going. Joe Dille (pronounced Dilly), and his son Matt, got some incredible ride footage at ground zero -- from the sidecar of vintage BMW. Moving among the riders, Team Dille caught the line undulating along Route 309 at speed.

(Above) Author Jack Riepe (in blue Sturgis BMW shirt) comments to Gordon Till, "There is nothing more penetrating than a fart from a senior citizen." Till responds by taking the most basic of precautions, but cannot help glancing at the most likely source. Rogers George is staring intently at Riepe's water bottle, trying to levitate it. Photo by Wayne Woodruff.

Clyde Jacobs and I filled in that 30-second gap prompted by the dropped bike. I followed the flashing police lights through two easy curves, marveling at the expressions on the faces of waiting cage drivers, who certainly weren’t expecting a show of this magnitude. As I explained in my previous piece, the staggering majority of BMW riders do not do the group thing. I was immediately behind a guy on a yellow bike who was under the impression the speed limit was 35mph. This rider felt that a 25-bike-length gap was the bare minimum space between his machine and the motorcycle in front of him. Now while the police from various townships closed the feeder lanes as we approached, some did not feel the need to remain until we all passed by. I saw a line of cars waiting to get on the road sizing up the gap created by the guy in front of me.

I hit my flashers, waved to Clyde, and went around this gent bringing Fireballs up to the red line in 3rd gear. Seven other bikes followed me. And that was it. The event was over for me shortly thereafter, and passed into history — perhaps. The group thing is fun in moderation. I recommend riding on groups of two and three, unless you are with 246 BMWs.

©copyright Jack Riepe 2010
AKA The Lindbergh Baby
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain — PS (With A Shrug)

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Story Behind The Mac Pac Recording Breaking Attempt

Anticipation is a great motivator. But it cheated me out of the sleep I so desperately needed last Sunday, and awakened me a half-hour earlier than the 5am pegged on the alarm clock’s face. This was the morning of May 2nd, 2010 — the day the Mac Pac (the premier chartered BMW riding club in southeast Pennsylvania) and riders from more than 8 states, would try to break an existing Guinness Book record for the greatest number of German motorcycles riding in one parade.

And I was slated to be in the thick of it.

The ambient light in the room gave no indication of the weather outside nor of the pending dawn. The muted droning of a bedside fan nearly lulled me back to sleep, but I didn’t want to set a bad example for fellow Mac Pac member and K75 rider Mike Cantwell, who was still sawing wood in a room down the hall. Cantwell is an old friend of mine from a previous life in Lake Placid, New York. He’d ridden the four hundred miles from the Adirondack Mountains two days before, just to participate in this event.

Beating the Guinness World Record for the greatest number of BMW motorcycles in a single parade formation sounds like a fairly ambitious objective, yet it is one that is subject to some interpretation. The current “confirmed” Guinness World Record for this event is somewhat modest in the extreme, and was awarded to 128 BMW motorcycles gathered in Einsiedeln, Switzerland, on June 12, 2004. Records of this nature are set to be broken. Grass Roots BMW, in Cape Girardeau, MO, is currently awaiting confirmation of 241 riders in a subsequent record-breaking attempt event last September. Compared to the 2,100 Harley riders who hold this title for their brand, BMW numbers are rather sparse but accurately reflect the market share of the marque in the US.

The Mac Pac initially considered going after the record 9 months ago, but opted to focus its organizational resources on events of a more regional nature. It was the success of the Cape Giradeau group that once again brought this subject into the limelight. Cursed by the enthusiasm of Todd Trombore, a former US Marine with a stable of 34 antique, vintage, and new motorcycles (the majority of which are BMWs), the project went from discussion to completion in less than a month.

Trombore brought the concept to Bob Jones, the CEO of Montgomeryville Cycle Center, the newest BMW dealer in Pennsylvania. Jones is a consummate businessman, but he is also a BMW rider and has a thing for bringing bikers together for any good cause or even just a decent ride. Jones also brought something else to the table — a parking lot the size of two football fields adjacent to a state highway with a two-mile long straight-away.

Bolstered by boundless support from his fellow riders in the Mac Pac (the vast majority of whom simply responded, “Yeah, that would be nice” when asked about breaking the record), Todd waded into a logistical swamp that included repeated discussions with the Guinness folks, local police departments, several area newspapers, and the officers of neighboring BMW clubs. Their general response was a collective, “Sure, that would be nice.” The first volunteer to step forward to help with the planning was David Case, a Mac Pac rider who was recovering from an involuntary dismount on a vintage bike in flawless condition. He suffered minimal injuries in the initial crash, but experienced greater trauma off-loading from the emergency vehicle. (Case was in the process of being transported by helicopter from the accident, but leaped from the aircraft to the hospital roof —from 6,000 feet —when he was informed of the cost of the transit.)

The team of Trombore, Jones and Case worked out a complete program, including publicity, mapping out a parade route, arranging police support and traffic control, plus devising an arrival process by which participants could safely exit the facility while maintaining the tightest possible formation. Jones went further, and provided cases of ice cold bottled water, gallons of hot coffee, and a complimentary hot dog lunch through the generosity of Hatfield Meats. Another Mac Pac rider and a strong motorcycle racing aficionado James “Big Jim” Ellenberg supplied several thousand hand-crafted chocolate chip, peanut butter, and pecan cookies — that will soon be available commercially, through a new business venture.

And so the dominoes of the Mac Pac’s epic Guinness Book Record-Breaking Attempt were set to fall. All I had to do was get there.

Having volunteered to man the registration table, I thought I should get to the site early, about 7:30am. It was my plan to meet with a few cohorts at the Exton Diner for a pre-event steak and eggs breakfast, at 6am, and then to head off to Hatfield by the most expedient means. Unfortunately, my arthritic joints had other plans. Every part of my body, except one, was as stiff as a board. I could barely stand up in the bathroom. My legs were so unsteady that I felt like I was trying to take a piss while standing on a moving train, and I briefly considered aiming for the bathtub as it presented a larger target.

Putting on my boots can take twenty minutes under these conditions and I was determined to get this done before Cantwell was even up. I flavored my first mouthful of coffee with Celebrex and Tramadol, and staggered out to the garage. The jointed door rose like the expectations of a Victorian virgin on her wedding night, and I stepped out onto the driveway, where I was knocked unconscious by the humidity. Looking up to catch the faintest trace of the sun, my face was covered with raindrops. “Fuck this,” I whispered in supplication to the motorcycle gods. It had only taken 5 minutes to get my boots on. It then took me ten attempts to get my leg over the saddle... And that was using my portable step.

My 1995 BMW K75 (mystic red) named “Fireballs,” and Cantwell’s 1993 BMW K75 (silky blue) named “The Nobility Of Mankind,” (or some shit like that) started without hesitation. I went through the usual nonsense of getting my left leg up to the peg (for the first time in three weeks), and we hit the road.

Cantwell made an interesting observation... While our bikes are virtually identical in so many ways, like coins stamped on the same press, there are also as different as two quarter horses bred from the same mare. The distinctive K75 whine is there, as well as the buttery smooth sound of changing gears (like hitting a coconut with a mallet), but they have separate personalities with regard to the way they ride, the way they idle, and their overall impression. Cantwell likes the “naked” look of his machine, which is adorned in the Amish tradition of almost nothing, other than a clear OEM windscreen that wraps around the headlight. He claims this concept best adheres to the austere Teutonic design philosophy of the K75. His deference to additional lighting is limited to a modulating headlamp.

My bike caps the hard, straight lines of the K75 with a “Scout” fairing from Parabellum. I have removed anything shiny and replaced it with black powder-coated or Jet-Hot-treated parts. (I specifically wanted an all black exhaust system and crash bars.) The Russell “Day-Long” saddle is huge, as is my ass, but really adds character to this rig. I have Motolights, HID PIAA lights, and a fancy LED strobe affair connected to my brake lights (that fits in the OEM lens). Other riders who come across this bike in the parking lots of saloons, pool halls, whorehouses, and the Rayburn Building in Washington (where many Senators and Congressmen have their offices) come away thinking I am one tough BMW rider. They are right.

It generally takes me ten or fifteen minutes to get my joints adjusted to the seat. The pegs are high on BMW’s and I can rest my elbows on my knees, which are just below my ears. Not on this day, however. Everything continued to hurt on the fast 7-mile ride to the diner. (This is what comes from riding this bike once every three weeks.)

Our waitress was a pretty little thing who poured coffee in such a manner that I decided to father her children. All of them. I introduced the four riders at the table (Dick Bregstein, Matt Piechota, Michael Cantwell, and myself), explaining that we’d be her customers this morning, and that she’d be welcome to join us after hustling the fragrant steak and eggs out of the kitchen.

“Shove it, Fatass. I wouldn’t fuck you if you had his dick,” she replied, nodding at Cantwell before disappearing behind swinging doors. (This caused Cantwell to blush for about 25 minutes.)

“Kind of reminds you of being married, eh Jack?” noted the sage Bregstein.

It was after breakfast that Matt Piechota announced he would be riding out to Montgomeryville in the company of Earle Bare, and others of the Mac Pac peg-dragging ilk. Piechota is a calculating individual and he withheld this statement until after I had paid the check. Matt meant no offense, it was just he had an all too vivid recollection of following me out to New Jersey on the White Castle run, and didn’t want to take any chances of a repeat performance. “Thanks for breakfast,” he sneered, snicking his “R” bike into gear.

So it was just three BMWs that headed off into the murk, with three unnamed riders, who found an unnamed stretch of road, and subsequently hit 111 mph (107 on the GPS) on a quiet Sunday morning ride. It is my understanding that there is nothing to match the regal sound of a certain model of BMW, discontinued in 1995, when it is allowed to run unrestrained. It sweeps into curves by telepathy, flirting first with gravity and then with centrifugal force. I must try it someday.

I had planned to arrive at Montgomeryville Cycle Center prior to 7:30am. It was an hour past that when Dave Case waved us into our parking spaces, like a deckhand on an aircraft carrier. Case welcomed me with a half-smile that clearly said, “You’re late, you douche.” Case had worked out an elaborate system by which every motorcycle that pulled in would be assigned a special place in line, guaranteeing that each machine could be easily counted, and would be poised for the fastest and safest exit from the parking lot. His system worked flawlessly and was well marked by highway cones. Bregstein returned Case’s wave with a salute and assumed his position in line, quickly followed by Cantwell. I flipped Dave the bird and parked “Fireballs” sixteen inches away from the seat I would occupy that entire morning. (As an extremely junior-level administrator for this event, I decided rank had its limited privileges.)

Case’s parking lot volunteers had motorcycles tucked away in a flash. These guys, and several women, were like the June Taylor Dancers with their gestures and signals. As each kickstand came down, a volunteer handed the rider a registration card, after first carefully writing down the motorcycle’s plate number. (Many riders don’t know the registration or plate numbers of their bike and this step was intended to eliminate having bikers leave the registration line to go back to their bikes.)

Above — As time wore on, the parking lot for Montgomeryville Cycle Center, in Hatfield, Pa became a sea of BMW Motorcycles. At this point, the heat was on it way to 92º(F). Photo by Jim Sterling.

Registration was manned by Patti Minner (who just got her motorcycle permit), Dave Crank (who rode in on a flawless Vellocette, which was not eligible for the ride), Gorden Till (who is the parts manager for a local Harley Davidson dealer, but who rides to work everyday on a BMW GS), Rogers George (who covered his “R” bike’s fairing with commercial grade rhino hide), and myself (details upon request).

Above — Dave Case's parking crew packed 'em in tight. In the foreground is Mike Cantwell's Blue K75 (yellow triangles on the top case). Photo by Jim Sterling.

The temperature went from 82º(F) to 92º(F), with traces of the earlier rain turning to the kind of mist one finds in atomic reactor cooling towers. Bob Jones discovered a torrent of water running out from under the registration table and realized it was my sweat. He promptly invited me to move the registration tables into the air conditioning. But I looked at Dave Case and crew sweltering in the sun and realized I’d be lynched if I fled into the cool dealership. So Jones rolled out a huge vent fan which I believe is used to test the aerodynamics of submarines. He switched it to “Gale Force Five,” and the atmosphere under the registration tent became delightful... Until 60 people decided to stand in the breeze.

Then the bikes started to arrive.

BMW riders do not often do the group thing. They are creatures of the solitary ride cult, substituting speed and distance for companionship. At best, we expected to see groups no larger than three. Bikes buzzed into the parking lot in endless cycles of twos and threes and started to accumulate around the edges. Riders came up to registration, presented their credentials, and signed in. Their points of origin were predictable: Bucks County, Montgomery County, Chester County, Lancaster County, and Philadelphia. And then a guy handed me a card from Hudson County, New Jersey. He had ridden in from Bayonne, the sister community of my native Jersey City. Riders (like Don Eilenberger and Bill Dudley — Junior and Senior) came in from the Jersey Shore, along with guys who came in from the Skylands Region of the Garden State (like Bill Mara). Riders checked in from Connecticut, Queens (New York City), Delaware, Virginia, and Maryland. Some had been on the road since 5am. There were representatives from the Jersey Shore Riders, The New Sweden Riders, The Delaware Valley Riders, and the Mid-Atlantic Riders. Some of these guys came in small groups, but many came by themselves. Surprisingly, many did not belong to a local chapter, a club, or even the national organization. They’d heard about this event through various means — and just came.

The numbers mounted slowly.

An hour into the open registration it looked like we were chasing a pipe dream. The bikes started arriving in a steady stream after 10am. It seemed as if they were coming in at the rate of one per minute. And what bikes they were! There were some of the newest and hottest BMWs on the road. Dozens of mighty GSs rolled in covered with battle scars, exotic road dirt, and the remains of insects from the tropics melded into the windshields. There were “Toasters” in mint condition. Bikes with more than forty-years of service on the road bounced in like they were just off the assembly line. Sidecar aficionados were well represented. “Big Jim” Ellenberg’s AUTBD sidecar rig was about the 10th from the lead, which was Todd Trombore’s antique sidecar, complete with Larry Bowa, the BMW riding dog. There were bikes dressed to nines, and naked machines that made Cantwell’s look positively ostentatious.

Above — "Big Jim" Ellenberg's sidecar rig, the flagship bike of the AUTBD. Photo by Dick Bregstein.

There is nothing like running into a motorcycle riding buddy on the road, just over the horizon from anyplace on the map. But it becomes something special in a group like this one, where some of the legendary names are among the faces in the crowd. Moto Edde Mendes roared in on the same two-tone blue K75 that he rode from Morocco through the Sahara, and up through the silk route... Thirty-nine thousand miles in 11 months, without a back-up team.

The event started to look like an ATGATT convention, until a rider, whose only protection against the ground were his tattoos and a “do” rag, pulled in on a Beemer made out to look like a muscle bike. There was even a Hannigan trike conversion, easily recognized as a stately BMW LT.

Yet the flow of traffic had stalled by 11:15am... The crowd grew pensive, with many voices asking, “What’s the count?” We were 8 bikes away from tying the record. Each machine that rode in was regarded as another notch in an invisible belt, that stretched from Cape Girardeau to the offices of the Guinness World Record folks. The police arrived to begin closing off the road for the epic count. I thought they’d be firing tear gas to disperse the crowd if we couldn’t get the numbers. Suddenly, the margin was down to five... Then to three... And then the count hovered at 240.

Nobody breathed...

Regardless of the model, a BMW makes a distinctive sound. If it is a “R” bike, it sounds like a twin cylinder meat grinder at idle, but quickly becomes a chorale of power... A sound that has mesmerized riders since 1923. If it is a “K” bike, then it sounds like precision power calibrated to the music in one’s soul. Now this may sound like a lot of drivel to those genteel Harley riders and Suzuki fans out there. But they can kiss my ass as it is the truth.

There was no mistaking the sound coming around the curve.

It was a BMW bearing a plate from Tennessee, and it tied the record. Two minutes behind him came a brand new S1000RR from Philly, ridden by a nice guy in leathers who just pulled over to see what all the excitement was about. He hadn’t even heard of the event. I thought the crowd was going to pull him off the bike and ride him around on their shoulders. He was number 242. Four more riders came in behind him, but the place was a bedlam.

Trombore and Case calculated it would take 12 minutes to empty the parking lot at Montgomeryville Cycle Center. They were off by a second or two. For one brief moment, there was a symphony that I had never heard before: the sound of 246 BMWs starting all at once. And everyone of them started on cue. The cops had closed the one-way ramp from RT. 309, allowing the riders to go against traffic for a couple of hundred yards, before effortlessly turning north onto Rt. 309. The procession smoothly surged forward.

There was a brief pause or two, and riders in line invited me to pull out in front of them. I declined, wanting to be the absolute last bike to pass before the video cameras marking this event. My old riding partner Clyde Jacobs left the line to wait with me. “Someone has to be around to pick up your fat ass if you drop the bike,” said Clyde. “It won’t be me, but I can find somebody who might.”

There were still about 20 bikes left to go when Clyde and I roared out. Once on the highway, I was amazed to see the line (now moving at about 50 miles per hour) stretched out far ahead of me. It took my breath away. I was always the kid who got picked last to be on any team... Yet that didn’t matter with this team.

Technically, we assembled 246 motorcycles and are now contenders for the Guinness World Book record for BMWs gathered in one place and exhibited in a parade formation. But we are only contenders until our evidence is evaluated and certified by the Guinness organization. This could take months or even a year. So until that happens, others can claim the title.

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Events like these bring riders together. And in the current economic crisis, bringing greater visibility to the BMW marque, showing the enduring appeal of the brand, and displaying a sense of camaraderie not commonly felt in other riding sectors can only be a good thing --- For all of us, not just one club.
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Not everyone was delighted by the news. Mac Pac leadership received a communication from someone claiming to be a member of the Cape Girardeau group, who described our effort as “mean spirited,” as we made the attempt before they were yet certified. The writer went on to say that “Cape Girardeau is in the middle of nowhere, and had to draw riders from 17 states, while we had the advantage of pulling in everyone off the streets of Philadelphia.” Apparently, some folks are under the impression that Philadelphia is hotbed of BMW activity. I regret to inform them that it’s not. This e-mail writer also indicated that if he were riding his bike through Philadelphia area, and it broke down, he’d push it to Fredricksburg before asking for help.

Records are made to be broken. Records with such little numbers like 241 and 246 are just asking to get broken. A man who recently claimed the title of the world’s fastest motorcycle on the salt flats waited years to take that exalted designation from Chris Carr. He held it two days before Chris Carr reclaimed it. Should Carr have waited a month, or a year, or two years before throwing his hat in the ring again? If we got a call from the New Jersey Shore Riders, or any other group, who claimed they were going after a similar record breaking attempt in two months, the Mac Pac would be honor-bound to send as many riders as we could... And we’d do so happy just to be included in the project.

Events like these bring riders together. And in the current economic crisis, bringing greater visibility to the marque, showing the enduring appeal of the brand, and displaying a sense of camaraderie not commonly felt in other riding sectors can only be a good thing... For all of us, not just one club. I expressed doubt that the email our group received was even legitimate, as it referenced a BMW breaking down, and I’ve never heard of such a thing.

But I would say this to our colleagues in Cape Girardeau, feel free to call me if you break down in Philly. I have a trailer and I’ll come and get you. So would anyone of 20 Mac Pac members I know (who are so equipped). And anyone of them would stake you to dinner too.

To any other chapter going after this title I would tell you there is talk about the Mac Pac making this an annual event. (Yet let me tell you, it was a stretch pulling in 246 BMWs.) And if the BMW Motorcycle Owners Of America did this at one of their rallies, they'd have 8,000 to 10,000 bikes in their count. The world — with its records — is getting to be a pretty small place.

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

Monday, May 3, 2010

Did We Break The Record?

Did the Mac Pac break the Guiness Book Record for the most BMW motorcycles in one paradew formation? Complete details will be available within 24 hours. But I was compelled to make a statement now.

Never have I been prouder to be a member of any social group than I was yesterday...

The Mac Pac (the premier chartered BMW riding club serving southeast Pennsylvania) represents the epitome of fellowship, friendship, social consciousness. riding expertise, and technological know-how. I cannot tell you how choked up I got watching our guys (and women) coming flying into the Montgomeryville Cycle Center parking lot on Sunday, May 2nd. While expectations ran high that we could beat an existing Guiness Book record, something else was evident. The infectious smiles of the Mac Pac instantly revealed the delight of sharing a kind of private joke... A joke that starts out with, "So a handful of guys who ride German motorcycles (known to be favorites of the barbed wire in the jockstrap crowd), got together and decided..." And it became instantly apparent that while breaking the record would be fun, just getting together on a scale like this was historic enough.

And every member of the Mac Pac started the conversation the same way, "What can I do to help?" There were ten volunteers for each position.

But then things moved to a higher level... Riders starting throttling in from all over. They came from Connecticut, Virginia, South Jersey, Lake Placid/New York, Bayonne/New Jersey, Queens/New York, from west of Harrisburg, Pa, from Maryland, and from Delaware. Rogers George (holding dual citizenship in the Mac Pac and the Mid-Atlantic Riders group) came roaring in with his contingent. Don Eilenberger blew in from South Jersey with guys from the Jersey Shore Riders and the New Sweden Group. Mike Cantwell drifted down from the Adirondacks, NY (about 90 minutes from Montreal, having taken an unintended Google Maps tour of Princeton, NJ). Some started while it was still dark to make this event — and rode over a hundred miles to help pull it off.

Each had several things in common... They all had that infectious smile... They all shared the same private joke... They are all part of an incredibly unique motorcycle riding community. It was then I realized that they had extended those same credentials to me. And considering how I ride, I am proud to be part of the punch-line.

Yesterday would not have been possible without the leadership and participation of the Delaware Valley Riders, The New Jersey Shore Riders, The New Sweden Riders (NJ), The Mid-Atlantic Riders, and over hundred of independent BMW riders, whom we all met for the first time. Also, it came to my attention that Brian Rathgen, publisher of Backroads Magazine, also alerted the masses to this event. Backroads Magazine is a very interesting publication that appeals to the riders of all marques, with spot-on ride reports, stories, op-ed pieces, and technical reviews that hit the mark without requiring the subscriber to read between the lines.

I would like to thank the registration crew who made the sign-in process utterly painless yesterday.

They were:

• Patti Minner, who just got her biker’s permit.
• Gordon Till, parts manager for the Valley Forge Harley Davidson dealership
• David Crank, who rode in on a pristine Vellocette (which couldn’t be counted)
• Rogers George, who tells jokes with punch-lines that require footnotes.
• Kimi Bush, a real firecracker, was a big help in distributing the door prizes, (which were ten $25 gift certificates from Montgomeryville Cycle Center, courtesy of Bob Jones).

Another unspoken hero of the day was James “Big Jim” Ellenberg, his wife (the lovely Dot), and his son Alex, who baked well over 1,000 chocolate chip, pecan, and peanut butter cookies, and donated them to the event. “Big Jim’s” cookies are world famous for a big taste (a dozen weigh well over a pound), and will soon be available commercially.

I would also like to thank Bob Jones, who worried terribly that the heat would kill me and that I might die on his property. After repeatedly advising me that I could move the registration tables into the air conditioning, he rolled out a fan that must have been 16-feet in diameter, set it to “Force Five,” and had it blow straight on me.

In truth, I did almost nothing for this event. But I would be remiss if I did not call your attention the effort extended by Todd Trombore and David Case. Todd was the voice of exuberance. David was the persona of practicality. I was ballast. There was talk going around that we should make this an annual event. Why not? We should set a combined goal next year (between five of the local clubs) to break 500 motorcycles. That would be a pisser, too.

Complete details of yesterday's event (see previous blog) will be posted late tonight.

Fondest regards,

Jack • reep • Toad
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)