Friday, January 14, 2011

Behind The BMW Mystique

It was the kind of July day where a high-speed run up the interstate made the fires of hell seem like an invitation. The baking asphalt, super-heated by dense truck traffic, turned the exhaust-laden atmosphere into the whirlwinds of the damned, sucking the moisture right out of me through my perfed riding gloves and armored mesh jacket. It might have been cooler on the tree-lined side roads that ran through Virginia but I had to get to another rally in Vermont that week, and time was getting away from me. I’d lost a day to the arms of a honey I’d met in Maggie Valley (North Carolina) and was paying for it now.

The quart water bottle in my top case was barely getting me through 50 or 60 miles, and I hadn’t had to take a piss in 5 hours. In fact, the last time I’d tried to drain the “hose” it merely hissed like a python with a slow leak. I banked the vintage 1986 BMW K75 into yet another rest area with the hope of getting off the damn bike and stretching out in a bit of shade... Except there was none.

There were three trees in the rest area with the kind of tired green leaves that suggested they too were worn out by the heat. That would have been fine for a brief nap, except thousands of motorists had walked their pets under those trees, leaving an expansive patchwork of dog shit. The other option was a park bench out in the sun. There were the compulsory rest rooms, and a lean-to housing two vending machines and racks of brochures for local attractions.

It was here, tucked in the rack, I found a scrap of paper inscribed with a brief note and an odd design. I had been looking for something like this for the past couple of hours. To the average person, it was just a note claiming that some folks were going to stop ahead someplace, and that their friends should meet them, if so inclined. Yet to a BMW rider, such as myself, the scrap of paper was written in the code of our ancient order, advising travelers that a enclave of our kind would be assembling at a specific location, off the next exit.

The instructions directed me (as the next rider) to destroy the note.

I threw my leg over the seat with mixed emotions: anticipation and trepidation. While the note was an invitation, it was hardly a guarantee of welcome. Though the roundel is alleged to unite us in a common spiritual quest for mechanical perfection and the ultimate sensation of pure adventure, not all BMW riders think alike. Many are the salt of the earth. Others are buccaneers of the road and two-wheeled swashbucklers, who will buckle swash with the best of them. Yet a lingering small percentage fall into the category of “incognoscenti,” or those who do not get the joke. (The literal translation from the original latin is “douche.”) To be trapped next to one of these at a rally is like being handcuffed to an engineer in a New Orleans whorehouse.

Above: Many in this crowd ride "R" bikes — From left, Joe Dille (R Bike), Roddy Irwin (K Bike), Dick Bregstein (R Bike), Eric Heilveil (R Bike), Jim Ellenberg tall guy behind Heilveil (R Bike sidecar rig), David Hargrove giving finger (Sportster), Hilko Siebles from Karlsruhe Germany (R Bike), Jay Scales (R Bike), and Jim Sterling (R Bike). There is one confirmed "Incognoscenti" in this lot, who torments me at every opportunity. I am onto him. Photo by the author.



Plus there is a natural level of dissension among roundel riders. There are those known as the “ultra-purists,” the most orthodox of BMW riders whose beliefs limit them to the iconic “R” bike. These machines sport the traditional “boxer” engine, the design of which has been minimally altered since Moses carried it down from the mountain, in the 4th Century BC. They are countered by “Renaissance Riders” who embrace change, innovation, and steamy romance associated with riding fast motorcycles with proper cooling systems. These are “K” motorcycle fanatics who believe touring bikes (complete with hard luggage that looks like it belongs on the machine) should easily reach the velocity of shooting stars before leaving the driveway.

The relationship between the two groups ranges from cordial to chilly. In fact, there was a time when it was thought that “R” bike riders practiced cannibalism. This was proven false by a leading researcher of online myths who traced the source of this urban legend to a discussion prompted by the surrounding of a “K” rider by 20 or more “R” bike aficionados. It seems the sole rider of the “K75” responded to a snub by the “R” bike incognoscenti with two words: “Eat me.”

I wondered who would be waiting up ahead, cool BMW riders out for adventure, or the “others.”

Getting off at the next exit, I swung to the left, then took a right on a picturesque, though gravel-lined back road. The blunted snout of a cattle skull pointed to a clump of trees on the edge of a field. Screened from view, but easily defended, I found five riders sequestered in the shade of a little clearing. There were two men and three women, sitting on Kermit chairs, in front of a line of “K” bikes. I dismounted, removed my Nolan helmet, and gave the formal, timeless greeting between BMW riders.

“Wie geht's hängen?” (How’s it hanging?)

“Your mother,” they said in unison, giving the appropriate response.

I introduced myself, using my tribal BMW name — “Lord Gorzog, the Undefeated.”

They were, “Astrolabe the Magnificent; Cthulhu the Merciless; Zeena of the Endless Curves; Princess Tong the Seductress;” and “Magma on the Purple K75.” Otherwise known as Tom, Louie, Christine, Jennifer, and Maggie. And in keeping with the equally ancient custom of hospitality, each had placed a hip flask of a rare, and potent liquor in the center of their little circle. The flasks were as unique and personal as their bikes. One was encased in embossed leather. Another appeared to be tarnished silver. The third was plain glass, with a fully engraved golden shot cup/cap on top. The fourth was a common hip flask to be found in any catalogue. Maggie’s (Magma) was an antique flat bottle with a cork in it. My own was a battered and scratched Sigg bottle, that had survived a savage crash years earlier.

There were two couples in this group, who’d responded to the note the same way I had. Tom and Christine were from Hog Wallow, Tennessee. Louie and Jennifer were from the town of “Open Rebellion, Georgia.” Maggie had been riding relentlessly from the Mississippi River since dawn, and just felt like a little company. She’d posted the note three hours earlier. They were all there for the night. Looking at Maggie, I figured I might as well stick around too. She was about 5’8” tall, with the body of an Olympic Swimmer. Her eyes were like fresh sapphires and her hair was a cascade of burnt sienna tied back in a pony tail. It was easy to imagine her leaning a K75 into a vicious 46-degree turn, or as the CEO of a multi-national corporation, eliminating the competition in a savage take-over. Her ballistic riding pants were open at the waist, revealing khaki shorts that were unbelievably sexy in their simplicity. By contrast, my sweat-soaked mesh gear looked like it had been used to fish dead bodies out of the Hackensack River. Concentric darkened circles of liquified Riepe, defined by dried salt stains, gave my gear a tortured texture.

Tom asked me where I’d ridden in from, and while I focused on the source of the question, I could feel Maggie studying my face... Ready to weigh the significance of my words.

“Argentina,” I said, without skipping a beat. “I left three days ago, stopping only for gas and to read the headlines.”

“What happened in Argentina?” asked Louie.

“A man insulted a woman I loved and paid the price.”

A half-smile of satisfaction and acceptance appeared on Maggie’s face.

The drama of my delivery was shattered by the sound of voices in the adjoining field. A troop of boy scouts out for a hike was headed in our direction.

“Quick,” hissed Louie. “People.”

In the blink of an eye the flasks were tossed under a jacket. Christine passed out tea cups and saucers for the ladies, while Jennifer piled cucumber sandwiches on a plate. Tom and Louie unfolded a checkerboard, and I reached for a book, the cover of which advocated a “12-Step Program To Eliminate Compulsive Swearing.”

Seconds later I could hear a boy’s voice, like a violin string under the tension of puberty, saying “Mr. Meinnert, there are motorcycles pulled up under the trees.” Yet when the troop entered the clearing, they found two middle-aged guys hunched over a checker board, two ladies sipping tea and brandishing cucumber sandwiches, while another knitted. I waved from my own Kermit chair, where I had obviously been relaxing with a self-improving book.

“Those aren’t bikers,” said Mr. Meinnert, the scout leader. “These nice folks are BMW riders... They’re like the Amish.”

We held our positions until they were out of sight.

“I hate these damn fire drills,” said Christine, putting the plastic cucumber sandwiches back in the bag. The checkerboard and checkers were a one-piece assembly that folded flat. The tea cups were part of a fuel-siphoning kit. The book in my hands had been long-since hollowed out and held cigars. And it turns out that Maggie was knitting a cover for her flask.

It was time for dinner and we pooled our resources. We all had something in the way of snacks to eat, but Maggie had trained with Special Forces, and used the curved shock absorber adjustment wrench in her K75 toolkit to bring down a feral pig. The stars came up and the two couples disappeared under respective blankets in the deep shadows.

Maggie and I traded flasks for a bit, and I said I preferred hers. When she asked why, I said, “Because the bourbon is better for the taste of your lips.”

“Then get it at the source,” she replied, with the kind of kiss that recharged my cell phone at 40 feet.

I spread the bike cover from my top case on the ground and invited her to cuddle with me on it.

“Don’t get any ideas,” she said.

I traced the curve of her face with my fingertips and said, “I’m a BMW rider. I don’t get ideas... I have instincts. And I have a huge instinct right now.”

She was gone in the morning. The two couples were packing up and I’d have murdered both for a cup of coffee. I was mounting my K75 when the scout troop returned.

“Good morning, folks,” said the cheerful Mr. Meinnert. The scouts were marching by, whistling the tune from the “Bridge on the River Kwai.”

“Do you guys have any coffee? I asked. “I’ll trade decent cigars for hot coffee.”

“Not likely,” laughed Mr. Meinnert. “These are young kids. They don’t drink coffee or smoke cigars.”

“Then you can kiss my ass,” I thought, hitting the starter button. The whine of the K75 reminded me I was now two days late for Vermont — and for the same reason.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011

39 comments:

Cantwell said...

Lieber Jack,
Dein Deutsch ist immer viel besser.

I think it's time for you to start writing some fiction. Your readers are going to be very disappointed with all these ride reports. Bring on the stories!! We want to be lied to!

Jedenfalls ist mein K75 schneller und schöner als Ihr.
Möge dein Helm Boden frei am Morgen sein,
Michael

Charlie6 said...

Quite an accurate description of the road habits of K riders I assume?

Truly amazing the encounters you have while riding Mr Riepe. Truly amazing and inspiring.

Though I'll stick with my R Bike and her jugs cooling the wind just the same.....

dom


Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

Redleg's Rides

Gary5410 said...

Jack,
Great story, had me grinnin'!!!!!

I think you need to write up a REAL adventure story.....like the one about a night in Port Hope Simpson, Labrador. Unfortunately, I am sworn to silence....you'll have to pry the details from the other veterans of the Trans-Lab Highway!
Gary

Corey said...

Great story, if that is what it is? I'm still trying to live up to some of your ideas.

Corey

RichardM said...

Lord Gorzog:

Great story. Even after riding in all that miserable heat, you still can come up with the Argentina story. Amazing! The tribal name, is that a K-bike thing kind of like a secret handshake?

I guess I need to either learn German or get rid of the old airhead.

Richard

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Michael:

As ever, this piece is a compilation of events that did actually happen — just all not on the same day. I was in a bar (big surprise), when I heard a Harley rider describe me (all in black ATTGAT) as Amish.

I thought this was hysterical... And the event went into the hopper to be iused at some piont in the future.

I hope you got a kick out of this piece. I am trying to get into the habit of writing two blogs a week: a long one on Monday and a short one on Thursday.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

BMW-Dick said...

Dear Jack:
To quote Big Jim, The Cookie King, "It's amazing how your mind works." The Algore weather surrounding us and preventing riding does have a bright side of providing you with more writing time. This is a terrific, entertaining story of epic proportions. It's a lot more fun than you are in person.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

Thank you for reading Twisted Roads and for chiming in. My riding adventures know no bounds, though there have been a couple that require some toning down.

Let's face it Dom, the BMW riding mystique has been under the radar for years... Yet there is no greater satisfaction than when two kindred souls meet in a desolate location, coming from opposite sides of the roundel.

Now we are all familiar with the good natured ribbing that exists between the "K" bike riders (being on the cutting edge of innovation) and the "R" bike folks (whose special talents include shifting and shoveling coal at the same time).

Thank you for reading Twisted Roadsand for writing in. This blog is only improved through the insight of "R" bikers like yourself.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

John said...

Very funny Lord Gorzog! Keep up the good work!

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Corey:

Living up to my ideals should be easy.
1) Ride
2) Carouse anfd have fun
3) Chase skirts
4) Smoke cigars
5) Think about the nobility of man

Too bad your return from New Zealand corresponded with the greatest demonstration of Global Warming (constant snow) since Al Gore invented the internet.

Thanks for reading and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Joe Dille said...

Jack,

This was your best paragraph:
“I hate these damn fire drills,” said Christine, putting the plastic cucumber sandwiches back in the bag. The checkerboard and checkers were a one-piece assembly that folded flat. The tea cups were part of a fuel-siphoning kit. The book in my hands had been long-since hollowed out and held cigars. And it turns out that Maggie was knitting a cover for her flask.

I could see the special effects as the tea party broke up.

Ride Safe,

Joe

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Gary:

What is the point of taunting me about a night on the road at Point Bareass if the details are secret? All you have to do is change the names (except for the people we want to embarrass) and hope that the women left behind aren't raising our kids.

As I said to Mike Cantwell, all of the points in this story are true (essentially). They just happened on different rides. For example, I went into a bar in Cincinnati and a guy said to me, "Ahhh, a BMW rider. Do you know the secret handshake?"

I said, "It looks like this," and flipped him the bird.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Deear Richard M.

I was rolling into the BMW MOA rally in Johnson City, Tennessee, on one of the hottest riding days of the year. My clothes were glued to my body, and I looked like I had just gotten out of "the hole" in a Turkish prison.

I met another rider in the hotel lobby, some skinny little bastard on an "R" bike, who was as cool as ice. He said to me, "Wow... You look hot. Where'd you ride in from?"

I lookd at him and said, "Brazil. I left yesterday." There was a second of stunned silence, and the whole places busted out laughing.The opera is never over until the fat man gets up to sing.

Thanks for reading and for writing in...

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dick:

I got a rash on my ass yesterday that really started to itch. I was in the process of scratching it, when I thought, "What's Bregstein up to today?"

You wwere right when you said, "The ice and snow is here to stay for this month, and probably most of next month too." I suspect you are right. I will ride to breakfast in the car on Sunday.

And even if the damn snow melts... We still have the sand and salt dust to contend with. I think the time has come for us to start planning rides.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear John C.:

I'm glad you got a laugh out of my work today. I enjoy presenting historically significant ride events (many that have a practical moral) to you guys.

Thanks for reading and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Joe Dille:

As a long-time BMW rider you are fully aware of the myths and truths constantly bandied about this marque. How many time have you heard of the props allegedly carried by all BMW riders to maintain our squeaky clean image? I got tired of carrying that collapsible lemonade stand around in my topcase. The time has come for BMW riders to speak out and clear the air.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Shannon Baker said...

Jack (Lord Gorgonzola),

I think I saw this same piece but with more detail at the naughty bits in an issue of Penthouse Letters: The Reject Pile...

I now know the difference between BMW riders and Harley riders...no damn fire drills!

Out of my little group Red would have made the scout leaders build and tend the fire, BPR would have sent the scouts on a beer run and Brother Wolf would have to be kept away from the young men (he rides a Honda after all).

Oh, one other thing. There would have been a stripper pole. There is always a stripper pole and a crazy "ole lady" ready to try it out if you get a bunch of Harley riders together!

Hang in there

-Buddha
Backroads Buddha

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Shannon Baker (Buddha):

There was yet another crucial difference you overlooked... The BMW's would have restarted. But this is small detail of little consequence.

I look forward to riding with you next summer... Under any circumstances (strange or otherwise).

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Brady said...

I had a day like this in Iowa, of all places, only without ANY of the excitement. I rode through a wasteland of corn and beans in my T-shirt, a pile of protective gear bungeed to the back of my f650. It goes against my safety protocol, but it was so hot I would have ridden naked if I could have shifted barefoot.

Best line in there is about Moses. Seems that's what most Airhead Airheads think of the origins of the boxer. I want to get get my hands on one myself, unshroud the mystery and all that.

Brady
Behind Bars - Motorcycles and life
http://www.behindbarsmotorcycle.com

Conchscooter said...

You need to bottle that "liquid riepe" and put it on the market as essential musk. I would gladly opertae a roadside stand for you this summer- oir die trying.

Anonymous said...

Jack

Great story. You make me read, keep my interest and make me laugh.
I do not read anymore but for medical shit.
Thanks for writing.

See you tomorrow,

Peter Frechie

Shannon Baker said...

Jack,

You just want in on the stripper poles!

You just jogged a memory of mine and uncorked my writer's (yes, I use that term loosely) block.

Watch for a new post soon. There will be strippers and a Harley.

Hang in there

-Buddha
Backroads Buddha

Classic Velocity said...

Jack, fabulously entertaining as usual. Thanks for my "fix". I do need to dispel one myth though; R Bike riders are not cannibals, but F bike riders are Vampires. Cheers.

BeemerGirl said...

Dear Jack,

I can see where some people would believe R riders are cannibals. When their K brethren are so well marinated with bourbon and the like and starting to cook in those hellish temps. Alas we aren't. Not enough good, lean meat. Though we will share our flasks.

Best,
Lori

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Conchscooter:

I just had a few rum and Cokes and had no difficulty filling a bottle with my special essence for you. And if I call it "root beer," it's sort of telling the truth too. (Really, you left the door wide open on that one.)

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Peter:

I'm glad you liked this one... Then again, you're probably just thrilled you weren't targeted. I'm not surprised you put the MV Agusts away for the season. It doesn't seem like we are going to gt a clean road t ride on until April.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Buddha: (My Illegitimate Son):

I'm afraid the season has passed for dancers on brass poles, and for strippers who lose their clothes at crucial moments in the music.

Somehow, the excitement of a rip-roaring gin mill loses something when you step outside, into the frigid air and the piles of dirty snow. Jus like gin and rum are summer drinks, so too is the brass pole a seasonal thing.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Classic Velocity Blog (Wayne):

I bear no animosity toward "R" bike riders. They have my greatest admiration. I would never be able to do what they do: lean into curves, work the clutch, and shovel coal into the firebox — all at the same time.

Thank you for reading "Twisted Roads," for feeling guilty about being an "Airhead," and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Beemer Girl (Lori):

The "R" bike will always have place in motorcycle history... I predict that every history book ever written about German motorcycles will have at least one paragraph that begins, "The once favored predecessor of BMW's flawless "K" bikes...

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

Jonesy said...

...“Those aren’t bikers,” said Mr. Meinnert, the scout leader. “These nice folks are BMW riders... They’re like the Amish.”...

Destined to be in motorcycle forum sig lines all over the web...and, by the way, I resemble those "R" bike remarks.

Another great bit, Jack.

Mark

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Jonesy:

Ain't it the truth though? While it cannot be denied that BMW riders have a reputation for speed and distance, they have the same rep for covering themselves in black, Burka-like crash gear, and for keeping to themselves in secret covens.

At the BMW rally in Burlington, Vt, I got into a conversation with a state trooper who drove into the event compound. He was astounded that there were 10,000 bikers packed into the fairgrounds, and he couldn't hear any noise on the street — 300 feet away.

We are like the friggin' Amish.

Glad you liked the piece.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Shannon Baker said...

Jack,

If nekked women and rum are seasonal interests for you, you have more than a a few extra pounds wrong with you. I recommend immediate psychiatric help...

(non, nod, wink, wink, I know you only wrote that because Leslie lowers herself to reading the blog on occasion. We won't revoke your man card yet.)

Your bastard son

-Buddha

Chris Luhman said...

Dear Jack: Another great read to get my Riepe fix. Since you dislike R so much, perhaps you should change your name to Kiepe. ;)

I like my R bike, and will likely skip the Ks and go straight to the S bikes: the delicious S1000RR ;)

PS: Here's a great vid about R bikes and some of their riders, I mean owners: http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/7110381/

-Chris @ everydayriding.org - year round riding in Minnnesota

George F said...

Another great story, I'm never sure if it really happened but I love it, great writing. I am going to send a link to my brother (rides a R1200GSA) He's totally "R" bike and he is going to love the "roundel riders" reference :-)

irondad said...

To my good friend, Jack.

Once more you have done me a good turn. You see, not thinking I would use them for a long time, I buried my hip boots in the attic someplace. As the weather gets worse I have been thinking of finding them but it has been just too much trouble and too cold in the attic.

I got about a third of the way through your post and suddenly had the urge to jump up as if newly energized and go find my boots.

Signed,

Conan, slayer of BMW b.s.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Buddha:

My point was that I am less inclined to go in to a strip joint in the winter. It's like the boardwalk at the New Jersey Shore... It's gotta be hot to kick it into gear.

I have no problem cozying up to a hot tamale in from of a fire place at a ski resort... It's just not the same thing.

I am awaiting your new blog episode with baited (sushi) breath.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Chris Luhman:

In the BMW circles in which I orbit, mercy is a quality in short supply. As a "K" bike rider, I am constantly the target of unkind or pointed remarks. Yet once or twice a year. I feel compelled to straighten them all out.

The "R" bike is a beautiful, finely-tuned, carefully balanced, well-designed machine. I love them, but feel compelled to fight global warming with a machine that has a proper cooling system. The "S" 1000rr is unbelievably nasty.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear IronDad:

Thank you for reading Twisted Roads and for commenting. We regret that all lines are busy at the current moment, but your comments are important to us, and have been forwarded to our "Riders Who Purchased Yamahas To Get BMW-looking Motorcyles Without Spending The Money" Department. You should receive an answer shortly. Until then, we suggest holding your hand on your ass and whistling a jolly tune.

Fondest regards,
Emma Blodget
Twisted Roads
Customer Service

irondad said...

I have noticed a pattern with you. The higher regard you have for a person the more of your creative talents you put into insulting them.

Thank you for your efforts!