Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It’s Only Flat On The Bottom!

The bike seemed a bit squirrelly in the curves, giving the distinct impression that all was not well south of the seat. Pulled to the side of the road with the BMW on the center stand, the cause of the questionable performance became evident: there was a nail planted firmly in the tire. The air leak was very slow, but enough to impact the machine’s corner-carving capabilities. There is never a good time for a flat... (Unless, of course, it occurs in front of a motorcycle tire repair shop, adjacent to a strip club.) Yet this flat didn’t bother me in the least... For two reasons; 1) I had everything required to plug a tubeless tire in 15 minutes or less, and 2) it wasn’t my bike.

Matt Piechota, a friend of mine and a dedicated member of the Mac Pac (southeastern Pennsylvania’s premier chartered BMW riding club), had just posted notice that the rear tire of his flawlessly naked 2004 “R1150R “bike had hammered a nail into itself, burying the head flush with the rubber. Despite the fact that the tire still had a couple of thousand usable miles on it, Piechotta was taking the safe route and planned to replace the tire with a new one.

“The bike is in my garage,” he wrote. “I’ll pull the back wheel off and deal with it this weekend.”

This was the opportunity I had been waiting for. Having learned my lesson about riding with marginal tires at a BMW rally in Vermont four years ago, the rubber on my bike is always in very good condition. But shit happens, and road debris shows no discretion in the tires it chooses to ruin. So I carry a plug kit, complete with oversize C02 cartridges for inflating the tire, in addition to a Cycle Pump Air Compressor. But I have never tried any of this stuff out; and consequently, had no idea how well it worked. There was no way to ruin this tire of Matt’s any more than it was, so there could be no harm in screwing around by trying to plug it. And that’s what I said to him.

Above — The offending nail. Photo by Matt Piechota.

Like 98% of the Mac Pac’s riders, Piechota is an engineer. He is incredibly even-tempered and believes everything in the universe is part of a vast inter-related equation that is revered, massaged, and tended by those of his profession. (However, I do get the distinct impression that he regards those of my profession as coming from the part of the master equation watered by the cosmic septic system.) Matt welcomed me at his open garage door with the ancient Mac Pac salute of pressing an ice cold beer into my hand.

Piechota looked on in mild amusement as I spread out the parts of the Progressive Suspension & Tire plugging kit, the pump, and some other stuff. Men accustomed to working with tools often respond to my attempts to imitate them “by having stuff” with a patronizing look usually reserved for a three-year-old with a toy toolbox. He was good enough to conceal his smirk by covering it with his hand though, and converting an obvious laugh into a cheap stage cough.

Above — Early in the game, Piechota and I discovered the tube of cement was empty and petrified in its own juices. Photo by Matt Piechota.

The directions were simple enough. Start by removing the nail from the tire with pliers. This took a second. Then run a rasp-like tool through the puncture a few times. The next step entailed smearing a miniatuire ice-cream cone-type plug with rubber cement and jamming it (using the rasp-like tool), into the hole. According to the directions, the plug was supposed to snuggle into the hole with a resounding little snap.

This is where the plan went awry as the plug did nothing of the sort.

The kit came with three plugs, each residing in a little semi-soft clear plastic capsule affair, like the sort of package designed for leprechaun condoms. I have been carrying this kit for over three years, during which these little capsules became the greenhouses of hell, with its own little bit of fouled atmosphere. Each plug was banded by a green strip of tape that the directions demanded be removed. Peeling back the green strip then revealed a red strip, which was not mentioned in the dispatches. (This was because it was the backing of the green tape, and was now semi-fused to the plug.) Piechota just shrugged and attempted to smear the glue over it.

This was the point at which we discovered that all of the glue in the little cement tube (about the size of a tiny Tabasco sauce bottle found in an army “K” ration) had dried out leaving a petrified vulcanized glaze on the container. Matt and I looked at each other and busted out laughing.

“This is not the sort of thing you want to discover in the middle of nowhere, at night, or in the rain,” said Piechota. He retrieved a fresh tube of cement from a tool box and picked up where we left off, smearing the red-banded plug with cement. He then speared the plug on the rasping tool, and jammed it into the hole. The plug held for a second before firing back out like a cork from a champagne bottle.

“Do the directions say anything about that,” asked Piechota?

I extracted another plug from its little greenhouse condom, and peeled the green strip from the new one with a similar effect. But this time, I also removed the remaining red strip too, which exposed three fine circular ridges. (Ribbed for the puncture’s pleasure?) Once again the glue was applied and the plug was jammed into the hole. This time it went in with a little “pop,” and stayed there. Matt trimmed the excess plug and the whole thing made a very nice presentation. He then attached my Cycle Pump directly to the valve on the tire, periodically checking inflation progresss with a pocket gauge. I would normally use the "EZ" Tire Pressure Gauge as it is a bridge connection from the tire valve to the pump, giving an accurate and progressive reading, and is easier on my knees.

Matt regarded my collection of stuff the same way a curious — but naturally suspicious child — approaches a live rabbit that appeared from a magician’s hat. I knew he was thinking, “Riepe had all the gadgets, but no cement.”

Whole blogs, essays, and environmental impact studies have been written about the preferred inflation systems for repairing flats or topping off tire pressures on the road. Many repair kits include C02 cartridges for refilling tires. And many of these same kits come with a three-inch length of hose to connect the cartridges to the valve stems. What you may not know is that the gas will rush right out of the cartridge if you connect the hose to the shiny little cylinder first. And in doing so, the temperature of the cartridge (in your hand) will drop to zero degrees Kelvin. Many tubeless flat tire repair kits offer false confidence in providing three of these C02 cartridges. Be advised that you are likely use all three to reach a minimum degree of inflation. And if you were to botch one, you’d could still be screwed.

Above — The first plug popped right out with a smear of cement taking on the color of the protective strip that remained on it. Photo by Matt Piechota.

The Progressive Suspension & Tire plugging kit has a C02 dispenser device that controls the gas coming out of the cartridge, allowing you to save some if you have a bad bite on the valve. It also prevents you from getting freezer burn on your hand. But as far as I’m concerned, inflating a tire this way is still a bit of a science project. (This kit came with three plugs, patches for tubes, the rasping tool, the gas dispenser, cement, a connecting hose, and simple instructions, all contained in a neat pouch for $55.)

Above — The Cycle Pump fully inflated the tire in 5 or 6 minutes. Photo by Matt Piechota.

That’s why I also carry an electric compressor that fits in my tailpiece. The one I use is the Cycle Pump. Clad in armored aluminum, with four folding legs and a slider switch that rests between two protected bolt heads, this unit has a generous length of connecting hose (2 feet), a realistic length of power cord (8 feet), and multiple connection options including an SAE fitting, plus a plug for a cigarette lighter outlet or a Powerlet fitting, along with clamps for battery posts. It weighs a pound and a half and comes in a very nice heavy duty red bag. (Every aspect of this pump hints at precision.) While it has a fairly large footprint (insert dimensions), it is flat and fits perfectly in my K75’s tailpiece.

Now for the bad news: it costs $100.

And for that princely sum the Cycle Pump does not come with a tire pressure gauge. The “EZ” Tire Pressure gauge is a clever device that gives you highly accurate tire pressure readings, and attaches to the valve stem with a hose. You can fill the tire by attaching the compressor to a valve right on the gauge. This enables you to stop filling at the exact pressure you want, or to easily bleed off a pound or two with precision. This unusual tire pressure gauge makes life easier on my knees, as I do not have to crawl around to get a good fit with the air pump. So I carry one of these too. (I have heard that the rotors on the F800 BMWs crowd the valve stems and that the EZ Tire Pressure Gauge may not get a tight bite under these circumstances. The company that makes this accessory also makes right angle valve fittings to sidestep this difficulty. These are $7 bucks. The gauge was $25.)

There are many other compressors out there that are much cheaper. I used an Airman Sparrow pump for three years. This little beauty cost $25 and included a decent stretch of power cord, a good hose, and a tire pressure gauge. It worked very well — right up until it caught fire while topping off my back tire. My research for a replacement led me to some of well-written promotional material for the Cycle Pump. Somewhere, I read that this unit is standard issue for British Commandos. I could just imagine super-tough British Special Forces, inflating their Triumph Triple Speed tires, while being shot at, shelled, or otherwise inconvenienced. As a BMW rider in a Harley environment, I know that feeling. I forked over the $100 gratefully.

It should be noted that many of my esteemed friends and colleagues in the Mac Pac are as tight as a clam’s ass when it comes to money. (And a clam’s ass is water-tight.) They will buy some sort of inexpensive pump — housed in a 2-quart Tupperware-like case — and reinstall it in a Band-Aid box for less than $9. One gentleman of my acquaintance retrieved a Jarvic Seven mechanical heart from his mother-in-law (who was at death’s door anyway), reconfigured it to pump air, and mounted it in a metal box the size of a tea bag. (It works great but can’t be made to pump faster than 92 beats per minute.) I lack the skill of these guys, and prefer to buy something once, if I can. Enough people use the Cycle Pump (as per their testimonials) to support company claims regarding durability and effectiveness. The Cycle Pump is made in the United States and looks as if it would stop a .45 caliber bullet.

The Cycle Pump inflated the tire to 40 pounds or so in about 6 minutes. There is a cautionary tale that accompanies the use of small tire-inflating devices. It appears that they can overheat after prolonged “continuous use.” “Continuous use” is defined as about three our four minutes. Even the immortal Cycle Pump carries an advisory to switch the pump off if it gets hot. (But the Cycle Pump’s aluminum case acts as a sump to draw off excessive heat, and we did let the unit rest for a minute or two in pumping up the tire.)

Matt hooked the pump up to the standard BMW Powerlet socket on his rig, and filled the tire without starting the engine. When I expressed some concern over this (as I believe motorcycle batteries will use any excuse to crap out), he hit the starter button and fired the bike right up. Since it is a “R” bike, it makes a noise like a horse fart when the engine catches. (As a "K" bike rider, it is important that I make these useful distinctions.) Personally, I have the engine idling at 1000 RPM (using the idle advance on the handlebars) to keep the alternator charging when I’m topping off a tire.

This little adventure took us about a half-hour, but that was because we were unfamiliar with the parts and process. I think Matt could easily replicate our results in half the time. Also, if it was up to me, I’d carry the Kermit Chair too, so I could park my fat ass in comfort as I screwed around with a flat tire on the road.

So, what is the moral to this story? It actually has two. The first is that it is not enough to simply carry all the shit required to plug a tubeless tire; you should also get some experience using the stuff. The second moral is that the components of these kits seldom last forever in the harsh biking environment. Go through your emergency flat kit and check to see that the plugs are still functional (supple), that the cement is still usable, and that your onboard inflation system works well.

Author’s note #1:
I received no compensation in any way from the manufacturers of the Cycle Pump, the “EZ” Tire Pressure Gauge, nor the Progressive Suspension & Tire plugging kit. This is not because of my untarnished ethics, but because no one offered. I have yet to have a bad experience with any of this stuff and believe in sharing good news about great performance with other riders. You can buy this stuff with confidence... And if you have a problem with one of these products, or with service, please let us know.

Author’s note #2:
Twisted Roads does not advocate riding any great distance on a plugged tire— other than to a new tire dealer. While we have received numerous stories of riders plugging a fairly new tire and riding 4,000 or 5,000 more miles on it, we still recommend (as do most accomplished riders) replacing the tire as soon as possible. Twisted Roads acknowledges that it is a rider’s right not to wear a helmet or ballistic gear. Sliding on the pavement, face first, offers great birth control as you will not be getting laid anytime soon. As firm supporters of the iconic BMW riding lifestyle, the editorial staff of Twisted Roads strongly encourages all riders — particularly new ones — to wear a full face helmet, full ballistic gear, and gloves.

Addendum:

Twisted Roads is again rewarding its readers with prizes! Two great prizes will be offered for the month of August: A Progressive Suspension & Tire Plugging Kit, and an EZ Tire Pressure Gauge.

1) To compete for the Progressive Suspension & Tire plugging kit, please answer this three question survey:
Do you carry a first aid kit? (Yes, Or No)
Have you ever had cause to use your first aid kit? (Yes or No)
If the answer to the above question was “yes,” did you find it adequate? (Yes or No)


Copy, cut and paste your response to jpriepe@aol.com. Mark the subject line "Tire Plugging Kit." Include your first name and email address. Winners will be selected at random and notified by e-mail.

2) To compete for the EZ Tire Pressure Gauge, just leave a comment at the end of the blog. You can even say, “This blog sucks,” but then I’ll know you were either Chris Wolfe, Scott Royer, or Michael Beattie

To leave a comment, read through to the blog’s end (sheer torture). For those who see the comments posted, just click on the option “leave a comment.” If you click the “anonymous” option, be sure you leave a readily identifiable name so you can be announced as a winner.
If comments are not automatically listed, read through to the end of the blog. At the end you will see something like “15 comments.” Click on the word “comment”. Type in your comment in the space provided. If you click the “anonymous” option, be sure you leave a readily identifiable name so you can be announced as a winner.

• Winners for both contests will be announced on the “Twisted Roads Blog,” on Monday, August 16, 2010.
• Winners will be chosen at random.
• Relatives and former wives of the editorial staff of Twisted Roads are not eligible for prizes.
• No substitutions
• Void where prohibited
• Prizes are awarded new as they are shipped in their original packaging from the manufacturer. Twisted Roads is not responsible for any defects in awarded prizes, nor for any incidents, accidents, injuries, damages or death perceived to be caused by defective prizes. Riding a motorcycle is a dangerous activity with special risks. We all ride at our own pleasure and peril.
• Unclaimed prizes will be held a year. It is up to all contestants to read the Twisted Roads Blog dated August 16th, 2010 to see if they are winners.
• Any additional taxes or fees due on prizes are the responsibility of the winners. Twisted Roads is happy to pay for shipping and handling.
• Topless contestants who send pictures of themselves usually do a lot better at winning prizes. My email address is posted on my blog. (I dare you.)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Riding North To The Grand Canyon... Of Pennsylvania

The 9pm deadline, hit and for the first time in my riding career I adhered to it.

“Goodnight,” I said to Leslie (who also responds to “Stiffie.”) “I have that ride tomorrow and I am going to get a full eight hours sleep. Please do not wake me up for the customary hour of ‘jackhammer’ sex tonight.” (She calls me “Cupid’s Jackhammer,” unless “Shithead, Dope,” or simply rolling her eyes is more appropriate for the moment.)

“Oh, I won’t,” she replied. “You have my word on it.”

With that, I set the clock for 5am, turned off the light, and willed myself to sleep. This was a dramatic change in behavior for me. I would normally be at my keyboard, going through stuff for work (at least until midnight), and then I’d hit the sheets with the TV on, fighting the anticipation of the ride and any other last minute considerations, until nodding off around 1:30am.

The bike was loaded, gassed up, and ready to go in the garage. There was only one possible hitch: The fuel pump had been recently replaced and was as yet untested for performing under a load (understatement) on a hot day for any distance. Also, I hadn’t ridden in six weeks, so technically speaking, it could seem like this was actually the first ride of the season.

My riding season has gotten off to a peculiar start. While I do not normally ride every day, I seldom let a weekend go by without a run to someplace — even if it is a quick 50 miles up to the Amish country for lunch with my riding buddy Dick Bregstein. But that hasn’t happened this year. Prolonged winter snows and sand on the roads deprived me of the early spring rides. A major setback in finances (due to the economy) precluded getting the machine serviced. (I considered myself lucky to keep it insured.) My K75 was simply sitting in the garage,

Warmer temperatures brought rain on a lot of the early spring weekends, which pretty much drowned any enthusiasm I had to ride. And then there was the bad news. On the few rides that I did go on, the fuel pump in my classic 1995 BMW K75 started to shriek, indicating the potential for a major repair, which I did not feel like funding. I hate making repairs of any kind to my motorcycle, because I believe that screwing around with it releases the “anti-ka” demons that destroy the harmony of the bike. (Yet it can easily be argued that a 15-year-old motorcycle, ridden hard and like hell, is going to need maintenance — preventive or remedial — sooner or later. The details of the fuel pump replacement are concealed in a previous blog posting.)

They say bad news comes in “twos” and mine was no exception. My arthritis has been advancing with the same relentlessness as a BP oil spill. During the course of the winter, it has settled into my shoulders and back. I am learning to live with the pain, numbed by Celebrex and Tramadol, but some activities seem to aggravate it more than others. Riding this motorcycle and certain sexual practices (that require a trapeze and a trampoline) are at the top of the list. I have only ridden this bike four times in the past six months, and what my body remembers most is the pain of each little run.

It's a bitch when your desire to get out on the bike is tempered by the torture that you know will invariably follow. I used to think that constantly riding the bike stretched my joints, and kept them supple. The discomfort would come only after three or four hours in the saddle. In a recent conversation with long-term riding friend Ricky Matz, he said, “The real drag about riding these days is the realization that I am going to hurt for a couple of hours until I get used to the seating position on this bike again.” I started to think that all I needed was to get used to it... To ride as often as possible.

Regrettably, that doesn’t seem to be the case.

I was up at the first grey hint of dawn and beat the alarm clock by five minutes. A full night of sleep added to my resolve and sharpened my sense of purpose. In another behavioral change, I refused to think of the challenges that lay ahead of me this day. Fears of dropping the bike or running off the road normally vie with my final preparation. “You are going to race the wind today, and experience the sensations that few mortals understand and share,” I thought. “That’s all there is to it.” Popping my pills with a cup of hot coffee, I stepped out into the yard to “taste” the weather. A nondescript bird called to me from the split-rail fence, and I called back — with a stone.

My regular readers will recall that I have written about the “jitters,” an underlying fear I get regarding my ability to stop quickly, lean into turns, and make the best decisions. This is not because I suck at riding, but because pain has a way of affecting the way I sit on a bike, and how I react to situations around me.

I slipped into my riding gear and was able to put my boots on (in less than 20 minutes) without assistance. This last chore was a great omen. Yet the jitters were standing out in the driveway when I rolled out the bike.

“Fuck you,” I said to them. “Get lost. I have done this thousands of times and today will be nothing but routine.” I reminded myself that next to sexual gratification with a Yugoslavian gymnast, nothing compares with riding a motorcycle. I will never have the jitters again.

Mounting the motorcycle can be an ordeal for me if I haven’t done it in a bit. This means horsing around with my portable step and getting lined up to put my left foot on the peg. It can also entail getting the bike out of the driveway (with both feet down), positioning the machine on a straightaway, straining to elevate that left foot, and getting the bike moving with enough of a runway so I can get my right leg up to the peg. The thought is to bend the joints easily at first. Watching me start off is like viewing an old newsreel of the Hindenberg coming out of the hanger.

But not this day.

“Just ride the fucking motorcycle,” I muttered. Having warmed the bike up, I levitated my left leg to the peg, closed my helmet visor, and took off. I could feel my left hip pop as the bike bounced into the street. “Eat shit and die,” I said to myself, twisting on the gas. The five-mile ride to the Pennsylvania Turnpike was uneventful.

This was how I began a four-day ride up to the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania. In approximately 100 miles, I would meet up with Pete Buchheit, “Leather” Dick Bregstein, and Clyde Jacobs at the “Ranch House,” a diner on Route 11/15, just outside of picturesque Duncannon, Pa. They had offered to ride the whole distance with me, but they wanted to take the most picturesque route. I wanted to take the fastest way, but couldn’t see ruining their ride. So I decided to ride the first segment by myself, which meant the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

Many Beemer riders, and others I suppose, detest the interstates because of the lack of challenge, the sameness of the terrain, and the boredom of maintaining the same speed range over a long period of time. I love the interstates. I get to go fast, hear the sound of my engine, and be a biker again, while racking up the greatest number of miles in an hour. I’m generally good for an hour before having to put my legs down, and I like to have 60 or 70 miles under my belt. It also gives me a chance to pick up the cadence of the bike before I immerse myself in the complexity of stop and go traffic.

It was 8:25am as I banked onto the Turnpike. The temperature was 64 degrees. I buzzed around a line of trucks, and gave “Fire Balls” the gas. The speedo read 85mph, and I toned it down some, as a cash-strapped Pennsylvania has cops lurking behind every bush and post generating revenue through summonses. I settled in for the 78-mile run to Harrisburg.

I got eight miles, before I had to pull over. There were two Harley’s parked in front of the first rest area. There was a hot-looking pattootie sitting astride one. I was going to ask if I could borrow her Buck knife, to cut off a length of my belt so I could chew on it to alleviate the pain.

Above — At the Ranch House Diner, it was discovered that Clyde Jacobs (shown wearing a shirt designed by a peacock) had a left riding light out and that Pete Buchheit had a right riding light out. These guys are so cheap that they rode next to each other for 400 miles, so they didn't hve to look for spares. Photo by Pete Buchheit.

“Fuck this,” I thought. “The pain in my hips was staggering.” Twenty-minutes later, I set off again. It was about 40 miles to the next rest area and I was up to 85mph (and counting the mile markers) as I pulled into it. This would set the tone for the beginning of this ride. In all, I stopped 4 times in 78 miles to stretch my legs. Each stop was for 20 to 30 minutes. I arrived in Duncannon an hour and 45 minutes late. I had tried not to arrive unannounced, first calling Pete’s cell phone, and then Dick’s, to advise them of my condition... And to tell them that I was going to turn around and go back home.

They didn’t answer, and in doing so, compelled me to ride as far as Duncannon.

There was none of the torture and banter I so richly deserved when I pulled in. The guys listened to my plight, and made helpful suggestions. These included:
1) Finding something tall and strong enough so I could hang myself
2) Giving me a leg up into the dumpster behind the diner
3) Pushing me out into traffic

They assured me that my bike would be well taken care of and that they would race back to the house to comfort my girlfriend.

Clyde Jacobs made a very convincing argument for continuing, however. He pointed out that the distance we had yet to ride was a mere 90 miles, while the way home was almost a hundred. Buchheit brought up the fact that the road ahead was highway and expressway for 80% of the way, and that we could go as fast or as slow as I required. Bregstein mentioned that our final destination, the Happy Acres campground, had a bar on the premises and that he’d heard the barmaid, a former Yugoslavian gymnast, had great tits.

There was really no decision to make.

US-15 gives the appearance of a expressway, but is is actually a simple highway suffering from false pride. Traffic lights and a 55-mile per-hour speed limit prevent the average rider from taking advantage of sweeping curves and straightaways that are not lined with shoulder-to-shoulder strip malls. Lower US-15 (above the PA Turnpike) offers some delightful views of the Susquehanna River, which can appear both bucolic and expansive at the same time. Yet these views give way to the stop and go traffic in little towns like Lewisberg, where we found ourselves inching along behind trucks, belching clouds of exhaust that barely dissolved in the still summer air.

Riding with the guys introduces a certain element of pride, and I am very disinclined to be the pussy who has to stop for every ache and pain. So I managed to squeeze out 50 miles before calling a halt. This was at a gas station in Allenwood, where US-15 hit PA. Route 44. We were following the fastest directions to get to Happy Acres Campground and Cabins, and stuck to US-15... We would find out that hooking a left onto Rt. 44 would have been a far more delightful alternative. As it was, we would take a fast, but sterile stretch of I-180 to Rt. 44, bailing right onto a side road in Waterville, Pa.

The guys started to lose me within 15 miles of our destination, as the road was one delightful little twisty after another, and traffic was virtually non-existent. I’d find Clyde or Pete waiting for me at all the crucial intersections. Our last pull-over for the day was in front of the restaurant associated with Happy Valley Acres, in a parking lot paved with highly decorative loose gravel. There was a small concrete pad in front of the place and I aimed for that, as I was in no mood for fancy side-stepping on a slippery surface.

Above — We arrive at the restuarant affiliated with the Happy Acres Campground. From left, Clyde Jacobs, Dickie Bregstein, and the author. Photo by Pete Buchheit.

That was when we discovered the campground’s office sits atop a rise from which access to all cabins and sites are via descending, winding, trails of loose gravel and washouts. I find going uphill on a packed gravel road to be preferable to going down a steep descent on loose shit. Getting to the office was easy. Then the fun stuff started. I watched the other three guys begin maneuvering through the loose crap. Pete and Clyde, on their Beemer GTs, had no trouble. But I had my eyes on Bregstein as the ass end of his big “R” bike started a slow fishtail.

“Fuck me on an anthill,” I whispered to myself as a confidence builder, while I started my descent. The gravel was really loose and the road was bisected by a washout, which my front wheel found like a compass needle and started to follow into the trench. I stopped on the brink of a slow drop onto the rocks. With both feet down, I climbed out of the washout and traversed the road. Once again, I paused with my front wheel nestled in a pile of loose powdered boulder.

Above — The bar inside the joint framed in the previous shot. I thought we'd never get there.
Photo by Pete Buchheit.

I took stock of the situation, and noticed that this hill bent off to the left, on a nice grassy lawn that ended in a smooth driveway. The grassy lawn was part of the outdoor effect created by a cabin owner, who did not appear to be at home. Knowing that it would be easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission, I snicked the K75 into gear and rolled over 75 feet of manicured lawn. (Dropping a bike onto soft grass is better than dumping it on hard rocks. And the grass offered better traction too!) I got by without incident.

Above — The perfect composition of this photo depicts true inner peace and happiness for all true riders. It shows the epitome of the motorcycle builder's craft, a 1995 BMW K75 (Fire Balls) and Bilbo Baggins's cottage. Photo by Clyde Jacobs.

The two cabins we rented were a few hundred yards up the road. While Happy Acres did have tent camping sites, it was more of a place for RVs and trailers. But unlike the typical parking lots that the owners of these vehicles are usually consigned too, this joint was fully forested and nicely laid out. There was a pool and a game room for those burdened with offspring, plus showers and other amenities for guests in tents.

Above — Pete Buchheit is the sage and philospher on these rides. He starts many conversations with, "Now if I were only here without this collection of assholes..." Buchheit is known for going into country liquor stores, where screw-cap wine is regarded as "top shelf," and asking, "Can you recommend a good pinot noir that can handle a native fish course but not balk at a mild cigar?" Photo by Dick Bregstein.

But the main event was an inventory of little cabins which were a substantial improvement over the typical (barely furnished) sheds provided by some outdoor camping facilities, while not quite on the scale of a real house. We had to rent two cabins as each was limited in the number of “bedrooms” available, and each sported one small bathroom. This is the third year that Clyde and I have been sharing motel rooms and cabins. I generally do not like to share close quarters because I have odd working hours and strange sleeping habits. If I feel like writing and have a computer handy, I think nothing of composing at 2am. Plus I may get up to take a piss two or three times a night. This is addition to my preference for keeping the atmosphere set at zero degrees Kelvin. But Clyde is a tolerant and considerate soul, and I have added him to the list of compadres (Ihor and Ricky Matz) that would make a perfect addition to any deer camp.

Above — The author (left) and Dick Bregstein successfully resolved many of the world's problems over a cigar and a snort. The water bottle at Riepe's elbow is filled with rum. Photo by Clyde Jacobs

This cabin was designed for Bilbo Baggins, if he was on his honeymoon. There was one standard-sized bedroom (which I seized) complete with a hot tub and a 12-inch TV screen that got C-SPAN and Canadian porn (muskelunge fishing). This left poor Clyde with a loft that was reachable only by a six-foot vertical ladder on the wall.

“Sleep on the couch in the living room/kitchen/dining room,” I said to Clyde.

“The mattress is better in the loft,” he replied. “I can handle the ladder.” At that point, a cock crowed three times, a mirror cracked, and blood dripped from the ceiling.

Coming from New Jersey, I have an acute sense of what I need to be happy and I am not shy about making the arrangements. There was a young groundskeeper named “Nick” buzzing about the place on a four-wheeler and I flagged him down. I then introduced him to a $25 gratuity and explained I wanted two bags of ice, a load of firewood, six bottles of Coke, and transportation for four down and back to the restaurant, which had a bar. Nick was somewhat taken aback by all this, as deals of this type do not come his way often... But he got right into the spirit of things. (A gratuity does not cover the purchase price of amenities.)

Above — Clyde Jacobs striking a dramatic pose. The look of profoundity on his face will be negated by every other picture taken of him. Photo by Dick Bregstein.

The Happy Acres Restaurant is contracted to a lovely, and interesting person, named Victoria. It has a somewhat limited menu, designed to appeal to local tastes, but what it has was nicely done. Pete had a steak. Clyde had spaghetti and meatballs, while Dick and I had liver and onions. Everything was competently prepared and served in a highly relaxed manner. Now there are times when a highly relaxed manner won’t cut it, but the bartender was a cool Jake, who poured with a generous hand, and we didn’t give a shit.

Above — See what I mean? This is the face Clyde typically wears (center). It rained this entire day and we all sat out on the porch hoping to lure a carload of coeds or Swedish flight attendants into the cabin. Not one stopped. We couldn't figure out why until Dick took this picture and we all got a load of Clyde. (Left) The author, Clyde Jacobs, and Pete Buchheit. Photo by Dick Bregstein.

There is nothing to seal the deal of a nice ride and to heal the abrasions of the road like a rum and coke the size of my ass. I had five of them, taking a terrible chance that these might present me with one hell of a headache the next day, which appears to be a reaction between the booze and drugs I take for the arthritis. But we were the only customers in the bar and dinner had taken on the parameters of a private party.

It was here I told one of my few jokes.

The joke:

Dick Bregstein was out riding one day, and pulled into a bar to drain the lizard and to savor a taste of something cold. Two stools over from where he sat, a classic blond beauty was sending out signals that she didn’t want to drink alone. Dick noticed that the woman had selected a corner with subdued light to work her magic, though in lighting up a cigarette, revealed facial details that showed she was a little older than he had originally estimated.

She was 69-years-old to be exact, a fact that surfaced in an hour of vibrant conversation with Dick. My riding buddy couldn’t help but notice that she had a great shape and a light in her eyes that suggested a pool of inner fire. He wondered if she had a younger daughter, who might join her at the bar.

Almost as if she had read his mind, the woman leaned into him and asked, “Have you ever had a biker sandwich?”

Dick replied by raising an eyebrow.

“A bike sandwich is where you find yourself in the shower between a mother and her crazy daughter. Want one?”

Dick replied with a grin.

She jumped on the back of Dick’s bike and directed him to a cottage on a quiet country road. Taking him by the hand, she stepped through the door and yelled:

“Hey Mom... Are you still up?”


Some trips are great because of the ride. Others are great because of the scenery. And then there are those that are unforgettable because of the romance. This trip wasn’t that far, though it was far from technical. It lacked the excitement of a ride along the edges of a Himalayan gorge. There was no romance. But it had all the ingredients of a raging pisser of a good time.

(Above) — With the campfire crackling and the table set for dinner, we get ready for a night of serious carousing. Photo by Dick Bregstein.

We had a campfire each night, and the aroma of burning woodsmoke mingled with the pungent scent of cigars (rolled between the thighs of Cuban maidens). The tinkling of ice in the odd collection of Fred Flintstone jelly jar glasses (found in the cabin), cooled strong cocktails and punctuated conversation that drifted from the road to politics, and from naked women we rode in the past to motorcycles we hoped to ride in the future. The flickering firelight makes you see strange things... It made me see the images of men grown older by another year, yet each had the eyes of a twenty-year-old ball-buster just waiting for an opportunity to strike.

(Above) — Two wild and crazy guys pose with two beautiful motorcycles. (Left) 2004 BMW 1200GT (Red Molly) and owner Clyde Jacobs, and the author with his 1995 BMW K75 (Fire Balls). Note bottle of diet Pepsi and unidentified black water bottle next to the author. Photo by Pete Buchheit.

And there was humor laced with horror too.

One night, the urge to take a piss with moose-like intensity snapped me out of a sound sleep. I had just managed to get myself upright and headed for the can when I heard an ominous creaking from the loft. Clyde was headed for the same destination. I pulled open the bedroom door to discover a naked ass, swinging like a pendulum — at eye level. Screaming in terror, I drew back my cane to whack it with a vengeance, when it detached from the ceiling and crashed to the floor. Clyde had missed a step on the ladder and replicated the final performance of the “Flying Wallendas.”

Now Clyde is not a kid anymore. It is rumored that he is 47 years older than his wife Patti, who just turned 31. And here he was, laying in a heap.

“Clyde,” I yelled, “Are you okay?”

“I think so,” came the muffled gasp from the floor.

“Don’t move,” I cautioned. “Let me get my camera.”

Clyde got up with the reflexes of a cobra, and I never did get the shot of the century.

Pete led us on a great loop up to the city of Wellsboro. We backtracked through Waterville to Route 44, going left to Route 973, and then taking that to Route 287 north. Happy Acres is located on State Route 4001, which goes right into Rt. 287, but the road was closed owing to a bridge washout. Riding north on Route 287 was very pleasant as the road incorporated the occasional twisty, with long stretches through the woods, broken at intervals by little towns with varying degrees of color. The road surface was very good for Pennsylvania and leaning into the curves, such as I do, was a delight. Traffic was almost nonexistent. It should be noted that we saw no dead deer by the side of the road. Pete learned that a burgeoning coyote and bear population have really put a dent in the deer. A local gent informed him that chances of seeing a coyote or a bear were much greater than coming across a hooved rat.

(Above) — Three Teutonic stallions at rest before the fire at the end of a long wet day. (Photo by Pete Buchheit).

As far as I am concerned, deer constitute the number one threat to motorcycle riders. The number two threat is the legion of senior citizens coming out of any one of the numerous Alzheimer Parks that have sprung up around West Chester. These folks drive like extras from the original “Night Of The Living Dead” movie. An outspoken resident in this neck of the woods, who prefers to remain anonymous, recently advocated the release of Bengal tigers in the local parks, and in the local supermarket, in an effort to curb the number of old dinties haunting the roadways.

We headed west along the fabled US-6 to Galeton, where we bought steaks to do on the grill, for what would amount to our farewell dinner. Route 144 heads south to Route 44 and is a splendid run through hills and woods that invite relaxed two-wheel cruising in a rural country setting. There are at least two hairpin curves — where the speed limit drops to 10 miles per hour — strategically placed where you are most inclined to hit them doing 60mph. And peeling around one corner brought me smack into an intersection where the pavement had been stolen by bandits, and replaced by gravel. This stretch was only about 75-feet long, and I blazed through it clamping onto my handlebars in a blind panic.

(Above) — The campfire as viewed through the windscreen of Dick's iconic "R" Bike. Photo by Pete Buchheit.

Three miles later, the pavement just ended and became gravel for a mile-long stretch. I dropped down into second gear and rolled into the hard-packed quicksand of my dreams. Clyde passed me doing 60 miles per hour, to show me it could be done. Pete followed, flipping me an encouraging finger. And then the ultimate humiliation... Bregstein passed me too!

The ride ended an hour later at the bar of the only saloon in Waterville, Pa. The other three guys drank beer. I absorbed gin through my skin like a lizard. We were three miles from the cabin, and it took me 20 minutes to get back on the bike. Every joint in my body ached.

We headed home on day four, after 24 hours of drenching rain. Pennsylvania has a thing for naming places after other places. The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania looks nothing like the real Grand Canyon. Black Forest, Pa. is about as far removed from Bavaria as you can get. And Jersey Shore, Pa, on Route 44, looks nothing like Seaside Heights, New Jersey. We passed through it looking for a place to have breakfast. (According to a local sage, Jersey Shore got its name from an early settler, who came from New Jersey, and thought the beaches of this settlement on the west bank of the Susquehanna reminded him of home.)

Route 44 at this point is nothing more than your typical country highway. But then it starts to meander and climb through Tiadaghton State Park. Gentle curves become a bit more pronounced as the road gets steeper, and it was here that the guys lost me. I have the bike with the smallest engine and the greatest weight to least horse-power ratio. I found myself shifting far more often and running higher RPMs than the other guys to just to keep up. This is a very pretty road and a steady uphill that was shrouded in mist and occasionally offered a surprise vista. I found myself goosing the K75 in third, and shifting up to fourth every now and again just to keep up the revs.

Cresting one ridge only to see another above me, the bike steadily carved its way left and right, holding to 45 or 50mph. And then I was at the top. A valley, veiled in the morning mist opened before me, revealing a patchwork quilt of small farms and settlements marked by the occasional steeple. The road dropped more steeply than it had climbed and I found myself reeling in that unique euphoria of flight that every rider comes to know. A break in the clouds concentrated sunlight into a beam that fell somewhere ahead of me, as I began to level off surrounded by farm fields and pastures.

Route 44 takes a 90 degree right here and runs for about 600 yards, before bending 90 degrees to the left. My three pals were waiting at this obvious junction, and started rolling off as I approached. I went through the intersection, pulled over, and dropped my feet (but not the bike). Bregstein’s tail light mocked me as the three comancheros disappeared around a curve. I’d been riding for an hour which is my limit for a stretch. The idling engine seemed louder than usual, but this was only the added noise of the growling in my stomach, as we still hadn’t found a place for breakfast.

I deduced I was in an Amish community as a towheaded kid about 7 years old, barefoot, and dressed in black pants and suspenders ran out to check the mail box. He was the first kid I had seen in the last five years who was not carrying a cell phone, nor texting anyone. He also looked like he had more common sense than three congressmen I had seen on TV. The kid looked at me like I was a carnival act pulled up in front of the family barn. It occurred to me that I have never seen a fat Amish person, and that this kid had probably never seen a human my size.

I don’t know much about the Amish, but I had sudden wish that least one small group of them owned a restaurant about 200 feet from where I was sitting on my bike. My wish expanded into a fantasy in which a comely, well-tanned Amish woman of about 30, was passing me a platter of hot donuts, before opening her bodice to reveal a set of flawless hooters, kept airborne by hours of picking vegetables in the garden (nature's gym). And in that instant, I would have been perfectly happy to trade my K75 for a trotting horse and a buggy with a BMW roundel on it.

But that didn’t happen. I restarted the bike, willed my gimpy left foot to the peg, and took off after the boys. I found them gassing up in Allenwood.

(Above) — The author... Who had a great time. Photo by Dick Bregstein.

I can never repay Pete Buchheit, Dick Bregstein, and Clyde Jacobs for the kindness and consideration they extended to me on this trip. These guys waited longer, rode slower, and exchanged more unspoken expressions of frustration than on any other ride. Bregstein volunteered to ride back with me on the Pennsylvania Turnpike and is now writing a book called, “How I Pissed Away Ten Years Of My Life In Two Rest Areas East of Harrisburg.”

This wasn’t the most exotic ride the four of us have ever taken... But as I expected, it was one of the best for having a plain good time... At least it was for me.

# # #

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

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

My First Heart Attack...

The trials of a public relations writer are numerous and varied. It is a profession that demands an individual be capable of conducting astute economic analysis, be able to divine new industry trends, and be aware of the human element in news stories, while writing with the sincerity of a carnival fortune-teller, the tenacious blood-sucking determination of an aluminum siding salesman, and the ethics of an aging whore (condemned to haunt the lobbies of threadbare hotels).

I am the personification of this profession.

One day (the middle of last month), I was writing a impassioned speech for a client regarding the impact of a fragile economic recovery on the international professional meetings and conferences trade, which has yet to collectively make $70 since 2009 (when most companies decided it was more cost-effective to make employees stand outside the bathrooms of major industry conventions, listening to the side conversations of those pissing against the walls, as opposed to registering for the actual event). My opening line read, “The big decision facing many of us this year will be to either capitalize on the drama of jumping out the window of a luxury hotel, or to pursue the ignominious end of sitting in a running limousine parked in a closed garage.”

Client input had been scarce on this assignment. Yet even so, there was doubt in my mind that I was hitting the cheery note of optimism so desperately sought by my patrons. It was then I felt something odd, other than remorse for not becoming a plumber 30 years ago. It started as a sense of pressure on the center of my chest. In seconds, that sensation multiplied, spreading across my back as well, giving me the feeling that I was caught in the jaws of a giant vise.

Breathing was still possible. There was no pain per se, but the crushing pressure continued to mount. I called for Leslie.

“I’m afraid I have a real problem,” I said. “I think I’m having a heart attack. Could you stand by me for a bit?” (I really do speak like this at home. I either sound like Cary Grant or Leo Gorcey.)

“Do you want me to call 911,” she asked, reaching for the phone.

My first inclination was to say “yes.” I knew from reading a thousand articles, blogs and posts that the first few minutes of events like these often prove to be the deciding factors in minimizing the damage and hastening a recovery. But 2009 had been a real dog shit year. I took a serious hit on the chin financially... And had pulled myself back from the brink by investigating every bit of potential for getting my clients in print. I’d just gotten them into the headlines of the big papers again. I’d even managed to get interviewed by National Public Radio on a tragic plane crash. This would be the worst conceivable time to go to the hospital. The momentum I had salvaged could be so easily reversed. And if I went down, my clients could replace me with one of 10,000 writers now out of work.

I was at a crossroads in my career. I’d reached the point where death was preferable to unemployment.

“Don’t call them yet,” I said. “Let’s see what happens.” Leslie waited with me, and even took my blood pressure. It was elevated as I am ponderously fat. In fact, it was 567 over 124. The only recorded pulse higher than this was achieved by a hummingbird at the height of coitus. (Later on I had to admit that this data would be of little use to both of us.) The pressure on my chest began to subside after eight minutes, and would be all but gone in another 20. I went back to writing the speech, and altered the perspective slightly.

But I’d had a bad scare.

First of all, Leslie was not dialing 911 but a local knacker who picks up dead horses.

Then there was the event itself. It was like leaning a bike into a tight, wooded curve, only to find a herd of deer coagulating in the apex of the turn. I’d had some chest pain before, but wrote it off to the torture of flabby chest muscles being called into service to levitate my bulk in the absence of strong knees. I did think it odd that I experienced these twinges in the dead of night (when attempting to get laid) or when my clients were on the phone (ready to discuss some attitude characteristic of mine). C’est la vie. At 56 years old, something always hurts.

Two days later I brought the car into the shop for tires, and my mechanic’s waiting room (the one with the broken fan, not the other one with the broken toilet) had a stack of old magazines to read. I flipped one open and the feature article was, “124 Signs That You Had A Heart Attack While Writing A Speech!” Amazingly enough, I had 123 of them. I made a mental note to cut back on the toasted salt pork rings I usually eat for breakfast, along with the three tablespoons of Crisco I stir into my coffee.

Now I’m an affable type, and I mentioned this odd string of coincidences to a couple of riding buddies in the Mac Pac. As I have explained before, the Mac Pac is the premier riding club of BMW connoisseurs in south eastern Pennsylvania, chartered by the national organization. The Mac Pac numbers about 250 active members, from Japan to Chicago, From Toronto to New York, and from Texas to West Chester, Pa. It is a society of white-collar executives, artists, musicians, engineers, craftsmen, arborists, and at least two medical professionals. One of these is a cardiologist.

The most amazing thing about the Mac Pac is how its members stand up for each other — with very little fanfare. Whether it is to help one move a household — or a body — these are guys who can be counted on... Both for their individual talents and for their discretion. All of these guys excel at something. They are all experts in their respected fields. I was strongly advised to call the cardiologist.

While I had had the privilege of meeting Dr. Peter Frechie at a number of club breakfasts, I’d yet to engage the gentleman in conversation. He rides a magnificent and thoroughly lethal-looking MV Augusta, rumored to have been hand-built by the College of Cardinals, at a cost $12.6 million, in addition to a Beemer he’s got tucked away someplace. Dr. Frechie typically wears black leathers (modeled after those worn by Michele Pfieffer in one of the Batman movies), with the outline of a kitten embroidered on the waist. His Mac Pac code name is “Cat Woman.”

Above — Doctor Peter Frechie on his 2005 MV Agusta F4-1000 Tamburini. 109 of the Mac Pac's 250 members have this model MV Augusta as "second" bikes.

My appointment at Dr. Frechie’s office was high on drama from the beginning. One of his medical assistants herded me onto a scale (of the variety used to weigh coal trains). The digital numbers indicating my weight were visible on a screen at eye-level. Yet they were cycling so quickly it was hard to see what the final number might be.

“Holy shit,” I heard the assistant mutter. “Your final weight has a comma separating the numbers.”

My weighted taken and logged for the Guinness Book, I was then told to remove my shirt. This is always a poignant moment for me in any medical professional’s office. Many people are unaware that my shirts are made of sheet metal and the buttons are sewn on with piano wire. This is because my physical shape is determined by my immediate container. Without one of my shirts, I am defined by the borders of Pennsylvania.

Above — Leathers worn by Michelle Pfieffer in one of the Batman movies provided the inspiration for leathers worn by Doctor Peter Frechie. Photo from the Internet.

I was asked to position myself on a steel reinforced table while Dr. Frechie probed my shapeless mass with a wand connected to some kind of sonar device. The machine was to produce an image of my heart, detailing valves, arteries, and a muscle the size of a catcher’s mitt that has been brutalized by women since I was 15.

“Something really catastrophic happened to your heart when you were 36 years old,” said the doctor.

“How can you tell,” I asked.

“Well, your heart has rings around it like the center of an oak tree, and ring number 36 has a spiked high-heeled shoe sticking in it,” he replied.

I’m afraid I presented something of a career challenge to the doctor, or at least to the probe. The handheld device was designed to emit a beam capable of penetrating a six-inch lead plate. The slab bacon encasing my body was diffusing the laser, apparently.

Above — Doctor Peter Frechie takes a corner at 156mph on Track Day, demonstrating techniques learned at the Jack Riepe School of Motorcycle Riding Prowess.

“You are one fat... Fuck,” muttered the doctor. “King Kong didn’t have man-boobs this huge.” The probe eventually found its mark and the second largest organ I have filled the screen. It was remarkable. Valves opened and closed like those on a three-cylinder K75 at 4 grand on the tach. Each beat made a noise like a battering ram, as blood enriched from generations of Irish kings surged through veins and arteries as tough as stainless steel hoses.

“That’s impressive,” muttered Dr. Frechie.

“Too bad you’re not a urologist,” I said. “You’d need a 27-inch screen.”

The next step was an EKG. This machine required my gut to be wired like I was a stooge for a federal law enforcement agency. Fifty or 60 conductive tabs were stuck to my arms, legs, and chest with dabs of red Locktite. Had there been a power surge, I’d have levitated off the table, stopped only by the ceiling. Once again, my fattitude was frustrating the latest technology. Stepping up the voltage drew St. Elmo’s fire from every metal object in the room, and the first beating thing to get measured was my spleen. (My spleen is the organ that allows me to read congressional legislation without taking a a shit of rage in my pants.)

Above — Doctor Peter Frechie showed up at the Mac Pac Guinness Book Record Breaking Ride on an immaculate BMW "R" bike.

Dr. Frechie has the kind of bedside matter that I am most comfortable with. His face is a mask of thoughtfulness, that yields no information before its time. Going into this historic meeting I was positive that I had days, maybe hours, before my heart exploded into a paste of misspent youth, scorched romance, and unfulfilled promise. At the moment when I was held in that vise-like grip (at the beginning of this story), I knew three things... That I wanted Leslie with me (not only to hold my hand, but to be buried, alive if necessary, by my side like the wife of Pharaoh)... And that I had neither fucked enough nor ridden my K75 far enough to justify dying in this fashion.

As it turns out, my heart is fine. There is no evidence of a heart attack. My arteries are not clogged. My valves are not worn out. My heartbeat has not been disturbed by legions of women who climbed on top, just to use me as Cupid’s trampoline.

However, Dr. Frechie had another message for me: “You are too fat. Figure out whatever you have to do to drop the weight, and get started. I want to see you in three months, and you should be noticeably thinner.” He is a “no bullshit” kind of guy.

I have started... Again. But I don’t want to embarrass myself, nor betray the confidence of my club and riding friends. So I will succeed at this. Two days after this visit, I met some friends to honor the passing of the Senator Byrd of West Virginia. We met in a barbecue joint. I had six plain chicken wings and a cup of cole slaw. And so it begins.

# # #

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

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Cantwell Factor...

The unmistakable rumble of a BMW “R” bike drifted up the driveway a fraction of a second before my riding partner Dick Bregstein materialized on his motorcycle. For those who are not familiar with BMW’s “R” bike legacy, these are the classic two-cylinder machines that the Bayerische Motoren Werke (Motorrad) has been cranking out, in one configuration or another, since 1923. The cylinders, commonly referred to as “jugs,” stick straight out about 3 and half feet on each side. Bregstein has a had a “love/hate” relationship since he bought this machine from a Gypsy horse-trader early last year. It replaced his brand new F800S, that he augered into a boulder on a tight curve in the early summer of 2008, before flying off to strike a house. While this “R” bike offers the seamless power and understated dignity of a BMW motorcycle, Dick misses the “bad boy” characteristics of his F800S, which combined the flickability of a pole dancer with the overall characteristics of a Doberman.

He switched off the bike, raised the chin-bar on his helmet and said, “I was in your neighborhood when I realized one of my MotoLights was out. I figured you’d have a spare.”

“No problem,” I replied. “Step into the garage. Can I get you a cold drink?”

“Do you have any prune juice and vodka?”

“The prune juice is in the refrigerator and the vodka is in the freezer,” I replied. (Dick calls this cocktail a “Russian Two-Step.” I believe he has one a day, regularly.) Yet before he could even open the freezer door, I had two replacement lamps in my hand. “Do you want a 25-watt bulb or the 50-watt one?”

“The fifty,” said Dick, with pure amazement in his voice. “But I’ll just take it and go then, as I’ll need the special tool to install it, and I have it at home.”

“No bother,” I said with a smile. “I have that tool right here.” I opened the third drawer in my rolling tool cabinet, retrieved the little “Y” wrench, and put it in Dick’s hand.

“Wait a minute,” said Dick, looking around. “What the fuck happened to this garage?”

Above — "Leather" Dick Bregstein, my riding buddy, knows where to find a spare MotoLight bulb in a jiffy. He is seen here posing with his "R" bike, named "Michele," after the President's wife. Photo by Patti Jacobs.

The three-bay garage attached to this house has a reputation for looking like a bazaar in Baghdad, after the Taliban has exploded a car bomb or something. But Bregstein’s glance revealed that everything had been organized and put away. The floor was spotless. All of my motorcycle gear had been categorized and stored in transparent plastic bins. My tools were filed by category and neatly placed in the appropriate drawer of my red, rolling tool chest. I knew exactly what stuff I had and where everything was. It took me 38 seconds to find the MotoLight bulbs.

“Have you got a clean rag,” asked Bregstein?

“Red cloth garage rags or heavy blue absorbent paper,” I responded, popping open a bin that had both, plus an assortment of micro-fiber cloth towels.

“I can’t stand this,” said Bregstein. “Not from you. Did you get abducted by aliens? If so, I hope they gave you the anal probe without lubrication — repeatedly.”

What happened to the garage was Michael Cantwell.

A mild-mannered, environmentally sensitive individual, who is trained as a forester and nature specialist, Cantwell lives in a world of perfect order. Everything exists without conflict in his little universe... Stars never collide... Bees never sting... And women never bitch. That’s because he makes sure everything is where it should be, without confusion nor conflict.

Above — Michael Cantwell takes a hit of Adirondack spring water while assessing the seemingly endless piles of shit stacked in the garage. His BMW K75 motorcycle, named "The Nobility of Mankind," is parked in the background. Photo by Leslie Marsh.

I first met Mike Cantwell years ago when I was a writer living in the High Peaks region of New York State’s Adirondacks. We were on “day 15” of an ice storm whose after effects still had another 10 days to go. I had been trapped in a cabin for two weeks with a woman who (without radio, television, or the telephone) was gradually turning into a vampire, when I staggered into a bar looking for help.

“Do any of you skinny assholes know anything about phone wires,” I asked a crowd of barflys.

One guy, who was sitting by the wood-burning stove, sipping a warm Nestle’s Quik, said, “I think I know what they look like.”

“Can you climb a pole for $20,” I pressed, fully examining his qualifications?

He was willing to climb Everest for $20, and that’s how I met Mike Cantwell. (He had my phone hooked up an hour later, when most of the Adirondacks were wrapped with dead and fallen wires.) We have been good friends ever since.

Cantwell had ridden down from Wilmington, New York to participate in the Mac Pac’s Guinness World Book attempt to assemble the greatest number of BMWs in one spot, and was staying with Leslie and me for the weekend. He’d gone to bed early enough on the evening he arrived (after a 400-mile stretch), yet I found him in the kitchen at dawn, dark circles around his eyes, sobbing into a bowl of Fruit Loops. (We normally keep boxes of “silly cereal” around for the warped tastes of the children of our visiting friends.)

“What’s the matter, Mike,” I gently asked, suspecting some secret family trouble, or a midlife male identity crisis, or a simple case of overwhelming motorcycle penis envy that stemmed from parking his underspoken blue K75 next to my flamboyant red one.

“I can’t tell you,” Cantwell whispered. “You’ll be totally pissed.”

“Did you get drunk and make a pass at Leslie,” I guessed. (I already knew this wasn’t the case as we didn’t have that much Nestle’s Quik in the house.)

“Worse,” he sobbed. “I can’t stay here another minute.”

“Why?”

“Because your garage is such a total shit house that I can’t close my eyes without seeing it in my sleep,” Cantwell said. “It’s so fucking horrible, that it scares the living shit out of me.”

“How can I help,” I asked.

“Could you... Would you... Could you let me clean it and organize it for you,” he stammered.

This was the only time in my life I ever came close to knowing how people who win huge lotteries feel.

“Only if you let me supervise while drinking rum and coke.”

“Thank you... Thank you,” he sighed. “Can we get started now?”

“But it’s only 5am.”

“If we get started now, we’ll finish in time for the Guinness Record ride,” said Cantwell, looking at his watch.

“The ride isn’t until tomorrow,” I said.

“I know,” said Cantwell. “I know.”

“Very well,” I said. “Make me a rum and coke.”

“You want a rum and coke now” asked Cantwell. “It’s only 5am.”

“I know,” I replied. “I know.”

Cantwell stepped out into the anguish of the garage with the expectations of a young sailor visiting a New Orleans whorehouse for the first time. The change in his demeanor was utterly remarkable.

“Now there’s a science to this,” he said. “We should begin be identifying all of the things in this shit house of a garage that you use very rarely or not at all. These will then be tossed out or placed in out-of-the way corners, making space for other things.”

I signaled my agreement to this concept by tinkling the ice in my glass.

Cantwell found 1 canoe, three bicycles, three portable bicycle racks, one semi-permanent bicycle mounting pole, one roof-mount storage capsule (for a car Leslie no longer owns), paddles, 6 tents, fishing gear, 6 shitty/cheap folding lawn chairs, canoe paddles and life jackets, 42 full boxes of art supplies (equivalent to 12 tons) 4 pieces of strange Adirondack furniture, a wheel-barrow with a flat tire, 3 metric tons of gardening supplies, 3 dog beds, a ramp (for Atticus to use to get into the Subaru), an Apple Tower computer from 1995, and a 300-lb. box containing an electric version of a “Total Gym,” that a friend of Leslie’s had to have immediately (“How much is it,” the friend asked. When he heard it was $1100, he said,“I’ll get back to you tomorrow.” That was nine years ago.)

Above — The author takes a boyish delight in categorizing box after box of motorcycle gear. Photo by Leslie Marsh.

In the motorcycle bay, Mike discovered motorcycle accessories and parts (many unopened in the original packaging); partially filled bottles of oil; transmission lubricant; tubes of room-temperature, self-vulcanizing shit; two ratchet sets (each missing the one socket that was most likely to be needed); a Kendon trailer; a couple of stools; three coolers (empty); and two spackle buckets (filled with shit). The entire garage floor was covered with leaves and sticks that had blown in from the driveway. And a mouse darted from corner to corner; while the neighbor’s cat paced outside

“The mouse problem was the easiest to solve,” said Cantwell. “I just carried in the cat.”

“The orange tabby from the driveway,” I asked.

Cantwell replied with an evil smile that said, “Nature is best when left alone.”

“That’s the neighbor’s cat who likes to piss in the garage,” I said. "Look over there."

The cat was hunched over, about to aim a stream of urine into Mike’s helmet. Homing in on the felonious feline's little round asshole, Cantwell's boot launched it into a perfect parabola that abruptly ended with a splash in the neighbor’s pool.

“How often do you use any of this shit,” Mike asked, gesturing to the inventory described above.

Once again, I tinkled the ice in my glass.

“Why don’t you just throw it out?”

“Because it belongs to the Vatican,” I said. “And she is absolutely certain everything is essential,” I said.

“Shit,” he replied.

“Ditto,” said I.

Cantwell went into high gear. Bicycle racks and the old car luggage pod were suspended from the ceiling. Various random items were dragged out into the driveway, to reveal the original floor plan of the structure. Meanwhile, I started going through all of my biking gear, organizing it into seven large plastic bins. The thermometer started to climb. By mid-day, it was dancing around 94ยบ (F). I had a huge fan pointed at my head, yet the breeze stopped three times as Cantwell carried it out to the driveway.

Above — Mike Cantwell correctly identifies the state bird of New Jersey, while pondering the "Nobility of Mankind." Photo by Leslie Marsh.

“You touch that fucking fan one more time and I am going to fucking kill you,” I told him. He then made me feel badly with that ridiculously contrite look he gets on his face, especially as he then carried the fan around behind me for an hour.

Above — The author now understands why Native Americans did not have garages when Columbus discovered America. Photo by Leslie Marsh, the author's hot squeeze.

By late afternoon, I had the second-most thing I have ever wanted in my life: a spotlessly clean, well-organized garage, with a personal “Man Bay” solely for my motorcycle stuff. Cantwell had organized and hung garden implements on one wall, while reserving another just for odd sized bike-related stuff. These included my K75 "City Bags," which are hard, brief case-sized panniers, ideal for lane splitting in the city. (Cantwell was fascinated by these as he had never seen them before. "Cool," he said. "You'd look like a real Beemer douche riding around with these on.")

Parking my huge ass on my semi-hydraulic, 10-wheeled mechanic’s stool (a gift from Leslie’s dad and stepmom), I lit up a cigar the size of a hog’s leg and watered my throat with a deluge of beer as cold as an Alpine stream.

Above — Just washed, Cantwell's austere K75 exhibits a decent shine... His bike sports civilian crash bars and a manly, exposed set of throttle bodies. (They are covered on Fire Balls.) Photo by Leslie Marsh.

“Thank you, Michael,” I said. “Being gimpy like I am, this would have taken me a week, which is why it never gets done.”

“No problem,” said Cantwell. “I love doing stuff like this. And I’ll sleep like a baby tonight.”

“Maybe not,” said Leslie. “Jack, tell him to park his bike in your train room.”

# # #



Addendum... Congratulations to Nikos!

On behalf of the global Twisted Roads readership and the riding elite of BMW motorcycles — K75 Owners — I would like to congratulate “Nikos” on his recent acquisition of a beautiful K75RT. This is a variation of the machine that sports a full fairing with the surface area of the State of Delaware. This distinctive fairing is designed to provide the rider with maximum protection from the more distressing elements that are likely to occur in locales with the kind of weather that would have Saint Francis kicking cats... Such as Great Britain.

It is my delight to embrace Nikos as the proud owner of a motorcycle subspecies — the K75 — in a design category that is regarded by many as the ugliest fucking motorcycle ever conceived. The truth is that all K75s are like that woman in the office; the one with the black-framed glasses, the square shoes, and the flat ass; the one who reads 1930’s novels for the complex sentence structure... The one who puts on a little black dress just for you; the one who makes you feel like a 21-year-old bullfighter; the one who has a classic art deco body when outlined in the moonlight, and the one who will keep you young forever.

Above -- The classic art deco nude form of a woman, from a 1930's painting by Walter Beach Humphrey. If a K75 could transform itself ito a woman, it would look like this. If a K75 could transform itself into a man, it would look like me. Photo from the internet. The painting is in a private collection.

There are those who will look at your bike, Nikos, and roll their eyes in amusement. Some may even ride other BMWs. These are the dopes destined to be the punchlines of the cognoscenti. Learn to give them that special little, warm smile... The one that says, “Shove it up your ass and keep walking.”

Above — The profile of a beautiful K75RT, now owned by Nikos. Photo by Nikos and stolen from his blog.

Nikos, I have seen the K75RT before, but never with the array of switches high up on the fairing. These give you a tremendous number of options for cool accessories without the clutter of aftermarket switches. What is the center switch for? (Is it a night light to read a map?) I also noted that your rig has heated handgrips, and the electrically adjustable windshield. Very neat. I also love the fuel gauge and the temperature gauge. You have me thinking that these might be a cool addition to Fire Balls, if I can figure out where to mount them.

Above — The flight deck of Nikos's K75RT. Photo by Nikos and stolen from his blog.

At 45,000 miles (kilometers), this machine is barely broken in. You can easily tell that it has been pampered as the color of the handlebar control switches has not faded. And Yours has a stereo sound system. (Tell me you’ve got this hooked up to an MP3 player?) Looking at the front brake rotors, I’m guessing that this unit has ABS brakes. (Mine does not and I occasionally wish it did.) Here’s a stupid question that I should know the answer to: are the red lines across the headlight for defrosting it?

My only regret about you having this rig over in Britain is that we will not be riding together soon, Nikos. Congratulations again. I have taken the liberty of adding your blog to mt destinations column on the right. You will come to regret my comments.

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