It read, “If you don’t want your balls cut off, meet us at Ryan’s Pub in West Chester, on December 22, 2010, at 1pm... Come alone, and bring two copies of the cigar book.” The note was signed “The Harley Guys.” The cigar book in question — Politically Correct Cigar Smoking For Social Terrorists — was written by me in 1998.
I get lots of fan mail, most of which starts off with cheery greetings like, “You son of a bitch. This kid looks exactly like you and I want money...” Though the “Harley Guy” email appeared to constitute a threat, it seemed devoid of actual malice and I decided to show up at the appointed time. Still, I pressed for some additional details and authenticity. For all I knew, this could have been an ambush set for me by sex-crazed Victoria Secret models. (They have been sending me photos of themselves — in their underwear — for some months now. Apparently, their underwear is for sale. And I would gladly buy some if I could pick it myself, like strawberries off the vine.)
“Dear Harley Guys,” I responded. “Do you spend more money each month on chrome polish or on KY jelly for taking it up the ass when you are guests of the Turkish penal system?” This was a trick question rather like “Who won the 1939 World Series,” which was bandied about by G.I.s in WWII, when climbing into strange trenches without the appropriate password. To me it was a “no brainer,” but since the response was hours later in coming, I didn’t realize the answer could possibly result in a tie.
“Chrome polish, Lardass,” read the reply. “Why don’t you ride up on that K75 so we have something to take a piss on, Sincerely, the Harley Guys.” Why not, indeed. “Dear Harley Guys,” I typed. “With a 30-inch seat height, the K75 towers over what you’re used to and you would have to take turns standing on each other’s shoulders so the guy on top could hit the pegs.”
“We’ve done that lots of times,” was the response. “The guy on the bottom just can’t look up and must keep his eyes closed. Be there with the books.”
This was promising to be an intriguing meeting.
West Chester, Pennsylvania is a visually pleasing urban center. It has the charm of a college town where someone in authority saved most of the 1890's architecture. The place is loaded with specialty shops and has an abundance of good restaurants, bars, and places to hang out. It is the home of West Chester University, which is one of the 14 educational institutions comprising the Pennsylvania State System. And while I can’t make this statement with certainty, the school seems to have a rule requiring all female students to be absolute beauties. Those are the pluses. On the negative side, traffic in West Chester is on a par with rush hour in Mumbai and parking is doled out by secret lottery.
I don’t go anyplace where I have to park more than 15 feet from my ultimate destination. For this reason, I have had dinner in West Chester (about 10 minutes from the house) three times in 10 years. “You’ll be a screaming madman if you have to park in West Chester,” said Leslie (Stiffie), my significant other. She is compelled to remind me of my shortcomings. “That would make some impression on your new Harley friends, who are probably just waiting to beat the shit out of you anyway.”
“I’ll take the bike and park between cars or on the sidewalk,” I quipped.
“Then you’ll have to leave now,” she said. (It was the day before.) “It has been three weeks since you last rode and you’ll be as stiff as a jack handle.”
“Always,” I whispered to myself. (Jack Handle was my porn star name.)
“I’ll take you in, drop you off, and pick you up,” she said with a sigh. This sounds like the height of romance but in fact Stiffie never stopped the car, shoving me out while maintaining a slow roll.
“My cane,” I yelled. It came flying from the SUV’s open window like a javelin. It would have bounced into traffic had the back of my head not arrested its flight.
Above: From left, the author, George Byerly III, and Adam Hummel — The "Harley Guys," who flattered me with a private book signing at Ryans Pub in West Chester. Pa. Photo by "Morgan," a real cute waitress who used Byerly's cell phone.
Ryan’s Pub is the epitome of a decent neighborhood saloon, with its ancient storefront appearance, the long hospitable bar inside, and the battered booths along the wall. It is suitably dark and the bartender pours with a generous hand and an open heart. I paused at the first booth, which was occupied by two of the cleanest cut, middle-aged guys I have ever met. The guy on the left was the scruffier of the two in that he had a slight beard and mustache. He could easily be mistaken for a college professor focusing on woman’s studies. The guy on the right looked like an ad for the seven virtues. Neither one gave the impression they would ever say “fuck,” even as a plaintive verb in conversation with a hooker.
These were the “Harley Guys.”
George Byerly III and Adam Hummel are two bikers from Morgantown, Pa. who showed me one hell of a good time. These guys had made a 45-mile trek into West Chester to host a private cigar book signing (in essence) and seldom have I been so honored. For 90 thrilling minutes, we discussed our favorite rides in the area, traded different riding techniques, and amazed each other with tales of near-death escapes on two wheels. I told Byerly of how I was hurled to the pavement by a left-turning assassin (in the pay of a former wife); and he shared with me how a car-load of Benedictine nuns beat him through a railroad crossing, leaving his feeble ass in a ditch (and his neck broken in two places).
Above: Adam Hummel's Harley Davidson Low Rider, a dazzling machine of sinister dimensions. The seat is 11 inches off the ground. Photo by Adam Hummel.
Hummel (who looks a lot like one of those German figurines) confessed he has never gotten a speeding ticket, has never passed anyone on a double yellow straightaway, and has never dropped his motorcycle under any circumstances. The words were barely out of Hummel’s mouth when Byerly and I began to distance ourselves from the speaker, so that neither of us would be struck by the lightning bolt hurled down from the motorcycle gods to avenge this statement of hubris. Byerly is an integral part of human reconstruction at a local emergency room and Hummel has built his reputation on running a power washing company for the past quarter century.
Above: George Byerly's "blackened" Harley Davidson Road King, the perfect image of an iconic bike with timeless styling. It is the preferred motorcycle of "The Children Of The Corn." Photo by George Byerly.
The “Harley Guys” treated me to lunch, and unlike Jim Ellenberg and Dick Bregstein (my usual two wheeled partners in luncheon crime), they encouraged me to order from the adult menu, so I didn’t have to have “The Zebra” (chicken nuggets, chocolate milk, and the piss yellow Jello). As it turns out, these guys and I share a passion for many of the great roads in this area. These include that gorgeous stretch of Route 9 in Delaware (along the salt marshes), the eastern shore of Maryland, Chincoteague Island, the Roads west of Gettysburg, and several of the winding Amish loops around Strasburg. I was surprised to discover that their riding styles also paralleled mine. I ride for an hour or so, and must then painfully unfold my legs from the pegs. The “Harley Guys” ride for an hour or so, then stop for coffee, a smoke, or to wipe a smudge (real or imaginary) from the chrome. They even do crab runs, favoring a place called “Crabby Dick’s,” which I think explains a lot.
Our waitress was a cute as a button (and probably registered at West Chester University). The “Hardy Boys” dropped their conversation and got lost in the depths of her eyes each time she brought another round to the table. Then they’d argue over who she was actually sizing up from the corner of her eye.
“That’s easy,” I said. “She’s fascinated by the BMW rider.” I proved my point when she arrived with lunch. Introducing myself with the famous “Battered Baby Harp Seal Look,” I explained I was the publisher of Twisted Roads and asked if she’d mind sharing those eyes with thousands of readers, by posing for a photograph on my K75 — the legendary “Fireballs.” She blushed a little, bit her lower lip, and said, “Sure... If I’m here.” She turned and left, with an extra flourish in her step. The Harley Guys were speechless for a second, then begged me to show them the battered baby harp seal look. I politely declined, explaining the hidden dangers of this unbelievable power.
George and Adam then honored me with the rare “Harley Challenge.”
They offered to let me lead them on a ride at any speed (up to 65mph), on the route of my choice, daring to stop at as many topless joints, go-go bars, and other scenic vistas as often as I liked (up to three or four per hour in the saddle). I felt like I was among true two-wheeled brothers. They had just one demand of me: that we would wear matching Twisted Roads Tee Shirts on that day. I was deeply touched. George Byerly had one day off this week, and he decided to share it with me. I had another appointment at 3pm with a publisher, which I would have gladly cancelled had I realized the circumstances. (Meeting with a publisher is a like meeting with a cobra suffering from hemorroids—there’s a lot of hissing and kissing their ass becomes a dance of death.) Lunch with the Harley Guys was one of the most gratifying afternoons I have spent with fellow riders in a long time. These guys not only get the joke, but they are fully capable of perpetrating a few of their own.
Thanks a lot guys... Lunch is on me the next time. (I recommend the “Zebra.”) Actually, I was thinking of The Whip Tavern. You might be into that.
©copyright Jack Riepe 2010
AKA “The Lindbergh Baby” — Mac-Pac
AKA “Vindak8r” — Motorcycle Views
AKA “The Chamberlain” — PS-With A Shrug
It was the coldest night of the year, and the children in the orphanage were huddled together for warmth, having eaten the stale crusts of bread and having consumed what moisture they could lick off the freezing radiator pipes. It seemed like just another desperate winter’s eve, when the stillness was shattered by the distinctive sound of a three cylinder engine (running with more of a whine than a roar). One of the stars on the horizon seemed to glow a bit brighter, and in a minute or two it split into a headlight, a pair of MotoLights, and two PIAA HID lights.
The children watched in amazement... Their eyes growing round with wonder as Santa Lucia pulled up on her red 1995 K75. She was stunning with her flowing white hair and golden crown lit by candles.
Above: Santa Lucia, the spirit of Christmas for many in the Nordic Countries.
Reaching into her sidebags, Santa Lucia handed out thick slices of steaming prime rib, accompanied by little bottles of American Rye whiskey, and containers of hot custard. Then each child was given a nice maduro cigar to round off their new inner warmth, along with instructions for seizing the orphanage from the bastards who ran the place.
With the kind of smile that only children can appreciate, Santa Lucia climbed back on her bike and roared off toward a Turkish prison, where two Harley Guys had been especially good.
Merry Christmas to all of you; and to your families and those you hold dear... And to those of other faiths, I wish you the warmest and best for the new year, with my hopes that each of us will find our own personal star to follow.
The Lindbergh Baby • reep • Toad