Above: This is one of my favorite pictures of "Blueballs," a 1986 BMW K75. It was 20 years old in this picture and was routinely pulling the ton (no pun intended nor accepted). This is one of my favorite pictures. It was taken by Dick Bregstein shortly before we pulled into Asheville. Four days later, this beautiful motorcycle was totaled.
I try to compensate by sparking outrageous good times and by being the catalyst for impossibly funny situations. On the way down, we stayed in one place that had great accommodations, but which could only be reached by a long, negatively-cambered gravel road that had been washed out in 10 places. The office was a mile away from our rooms, and in hindsight, we should have gone to dinner first. I don’t like gravel under any circumstances, but I absolutely detest it at the end of a long, hot day, when my hips and knees are making me see things in shades of plaid. I willingly admit I had a couple of touch and go spots on this stretch, where I almost dropped the K75 in the washout ruts.
“I think we’re in for the night,” said Pete, looking down the gravel ski slope. “To hell with dinner, we’ll just eat a big breakfast.”
“Fuck that,” I said. “It’s our last night together as a little group on this trip and we are going to have a party. I’ll call the woman who manages this place and offer her $40 to drive us into town. There has to be a pizza place or a Chinese joint somewhere around here.”
Above: Beer and Chinese food on the verandah at dusk. Pete Buchheit, Dick Bregstein and I (and later Clyde Jacobs, when we voted Bregstein off the island) have had some of the best times together, drinking whiskey, smoking cigars, and watching the stars come out on distant bike trips.
Above: One of the many vistas on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Here I am parked behind Pete Buchheit's 2003 BMW K1200S. I am sitting on my bike in every picture taken on this trip because it hurt too much to dismount. Picture taken by Pete Buchheit. Buchheit and Bregstein were in a competition to see who could take the most unflattering picture of me.
I should mention that this is our standard procedure. When we arrive at a hotel in a rural community where the concept of a cab is alien, we bribe someone at the hotel to drive us to a local gin mill or tavern, where we can get a decent taste of the local cuisine, and knock off about 20 drinks. This way no one is anywhere near a motorcycle with half a bag on. Neither Peter nor Dick (both names are synonymous with penis in colloquial US English) wanted to deal with this gravel stretch again, either to save me the embarrassment of crying, or to save themselves the effort of picking up my bike.
But I was hungry and had a particular hankering for Chinese food.
A call to the manager resulted in a tone of surprise.
“I thought BMW riders could ride over anything to go anywhere,” she said. “That road really has you spooked?”
“Not me,” I replied. “But those other two guys are old and they get frightened easily.” It was then I made the offer of $40. She seemed equally surprised that I would pay someone that much for a short ride into town.
“I’m baking a surprise for my husband tonight and want to get it done before he comes home. But if you’re ready we can go now. Town is only about ten minutes away. I’ll be right over to pick you up.”
Pete and Dick were each sitting in rocking chairs, looking out over the Shenandoah Valley. Pete was sipping a vodka martini and Dick was drinking vodka and prune juice, which he calls a “Squatting Russian.”
“You guys aren’t going to believe this, but she is willing to take me into town provided I throw her a fast pop, before her husband gets home.”
The unholy two looked at me and laughed.
“I’m serious,” I said. “She just told me flat out... She didn’t want the money... Just a good old-fashioned, meat-tenderizing, plowing of the lower forty. And she jumped right in the truck to come and get it.
“Aren’t you going to shower?” asked Dick, with a total look of incredulousness.
“She told me she wants it fast, down and dirty... Before the old man gets home. I’m just gonna lay there like the Woolworth Building and let her jump up and down on Thor’s hammer.”
“When is he supposed to get back?” asked Pete. “You might be cutting this kind of fine.”
Before I could fabricate an answer, a jeep came bouncing up the road, and the manager, who was an attractive brunette in her mid-40’s, yelled out the window, “We’ve got 40 minutes before Bob comes home. Let’s get ‘er done.”
I thought Pete and Dick were going to shit themselves.
“They are kind of old,” she said to me, as we headed down the gravel track.
And then with a graciousness that you can only find in the American south, this lady whom I barely knew for more than ten minutes said to me, “Keep your money and take the car. I’m baking a cake for my husband and I don’t want to rush.” The Chinese joint was 15 minutes away. You would think that Chinese food in rural North Carolina would taste like shit (compared with what you’d find in New York City’s Chinatown) but this stuff was great. I ordered five entrees, plus egg rolls and spare-ribs. (Did you ever notice how you get the munchies on a road trip about 10pm, and wish there was something like egg roll or spareribs to eat?) I put $20 worth of gas in the car. The kitchen was a hubbub of baking activity when I got back. The manager was up to her smile in flour and eggs, and just told me to leave the jeep in the driveway, with the keys on the counter, and to take the golf cart up to the cabin. I folded two twenties in half, and left them under the keys.
“Did you do it?” asked Pete when I pulled up.
“Of course. She was unbelievable,” I said, passing out the Chinese food.
“So what happened?” pressed Bregstein.
“What do you think happened? She made me sit in a big recliner, then climbed on with her legs over the arms and whaled away.”
Pete and Dick looked at each other in total amazement.
“Did you pay her anything for the car?” asked Pete.
“She didn’t want money... She wanted certified Jersey City love python, and she got it.” With that, I absolutely refused to say anymore about the subject, and neither one of these guys could tell if they were being hosed or not.
Checking out the next morning, the manager told us to help ourselves to the coffee — but she poured mine. “You were very kind last night,” she said, jingling the car keys.”
“As were you,” I replied.
“Are you boys coming back this way,” she asked. And then to me, “I saved you a piece,” pointing at the cut cake.
I thought I heard Bregstein choke.
I couldn’t look at either one of these two guys as we saddled-up and headed out for breakfast. But Pete and I have been friends for over 20 years and I knew he suspected fraud. The diner where we were having breakfast was about 5 miles distant, and it can take me that long to stretch my knees when first starting out. I found a tight parking space in front, and reached around behind me (without looking) to fish my folding cane out of the top case. I wasn’t having much luck with the latch, when suddenly, another pair of hands popped the lock and handed me the cane. Looking over my shoulder, I saw the sweetest little old southern lady, wearing a kind of bonnet.
“Two pairs of hands are sometimes better than one,” she said with a smile. “I used to ride a Harley Davidson before the war.” I figured she meant World War Two, but the waitress in the diner called her "Miss Gracie," and Bregstein thought she could have ridden an H-D before the War Between The States.
“You were lucky she didn’t see the Pennsylvania plate and beat the shit out you with that cane to settle the score at Gettysburg,” said Bregstein.
“Do you want us to wait while you tap that one too?” asked Pete. Some guys can be so petty at times.
The bike I was riding on that trip was Blueballs, a 1986 BMW K75, with the rare Sprint fairing. I was the machine’s third owner. Pete Buchheit had been its first. Pete was splitting off to head for Maryland after breakfast, while Dick and I were continuing on to Asheville. What none of us knew nor even suspected was that four days later that K75 would be a pile of wreckage and my trajectory would end in a Virginia hospital.
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011