Friday, August 12, 2011

The Biker Who Came In From The Rain...

The rider claimed he was going to be passing through my area on Tuesday, August 9th, and wanted to know if my schedule would permit a meeting over lunch. This rider was a blogger, whose technical posts on maintenance and riding hjave been entertaining me (and others) for over a year. The only question in my mind was to bring him here to the house (West Chester, Pa), or to meet him on the road, somewhere closer to the direction he’d be traveling, which was west.

I dragged my feet when it came to answering his last e-mail.

My first thought was to meet him out by Strasburg, Pa in the heart of Lancaster County Amish country. There are nice places to eat in Lancaster and the friendly (read “mildly cool”) reception by the Amish is always fun. Yet the weather this summer has been a constant pain in my knees, with forecasts for the mid-eighties (Fahrenheit) coming in ten degrees higher by noon, accompanied by humidity with the density of drywall. I was reluctant to make meeting plans for a location I wouldn’t feel like riding to, and finally sent him directions to the house.

I sent him three sets of directions with a heavy emphasis on beautiful back roads that would take him past racing horse farms, open fields used for traditional fox hunting, small Amish farms, and settlements of stone houses predating the Revolution. It was my intention that he should see the real Pennsylvania, on his ride up from Annapolis. My only concern was, “This will be a beautiful ride for him — if it doesn’t rain.”

Tuesday dawned in a smudge of humid murk, which turned out to be the comic relief for clouds that were darker than the atmosphere surrounding a federal tax audit. The two dogs in this house — Atticus (the towering German shepherd) and Scout (the rescue dog who keeps burglars from stealing Atticus) — are the perfect barometer for storms. Neither one cares for lightning nor thunder, and both were wearing old motorcycle helmets while cowering under the stairs.

Above) Chris Luhman and his Suzuki SV650 (left) with the author and the legendary K75 known as "Fire Balls."

The canine forecast was for thunderstorms... And not the kind of summer storms that fire bullets of hail and dump sheets of water... But the variety where dark clouds conceal squadrons of evil flying monkeys. Had it been me riding up from Annapolis to meet another blog personality for lunch, I’d have emailed my regrets and spent the day in a hotel bar, slipping single dollars into the “G” string of an enthusiastic performance artist.

That’s not Chris Luhman’s style.

The publisher of “Everyday Riding,” Luhman rides year-round in his native Minnesota, where the temperature in February routinely hits zero degrees Kelvin, and stays there until Memorial Day. The threat of rain means nothing to him. Which was good as the storm front that hit while he was en route would have sustained a brook trout dumped on a car hood.

Luhman surfed up the driveway on a red 2001 Suzuki SV650, that emitted a very satisfying growl. He released ten gallons of water from his boots and his tank bag once inside the garage.

“How was your ride?” I asked, solicitously.

“I have it all here,” Chris replied, tapping his GoPro camera.

The consummate gentleman, Luhman made a point of complimenting the rural nature of the roads leading into West Chester, describing how the terrain changes dramatically within a short distance. “What would have made this ride perfect would have been two feet less water on most of the roads, and fewer of the fallen trees that backed up traffic when the wind knocked them across the pavement.”

Luhman then replayed the footage on his GoPro. The first shot showed him climbing a hill that looked more like a millrace, with a solid six inches of moving water pouring down the pavement. “I had no other option but to proceed,” he said, “even though my toes were dragging through the torrent.” Chris remained nonplused as the video wore on, though I suspected this would have changed if floating trees, cars, and houses had been coming at him in the tidal surge.

His next scene was that of traffic at a standstill, as one of the stately oaks that line the roads around here had coming crashing down, blocking lanes in both directions. A UPS driver was out dodging the occasional lightning bolt, while directing traffic to turn around. Hearing the sound of chainsaws amidst flashing lights, Luhman saw things differently. The road crew had opened a sliver of pavement, and Chris charged forward, like a key going for the only opening in a closed door.

The background sound of the video was really entertaining... It primarily consists of growling Suzuki, and the noise of a thousand ping-pong balls hitting plastic. This was a relentlessly driving rain smashing into the waterproof GoPro housing.

In his mid-thirties, Luhman could probably fit into his high school clothes. The fulcrum of his life is a vegetarian-based diet that eliminates the vices — and their side effects — that have constituted my downfall. I suspect he forages for grubs and berries in the local park at home.

We hit the local Hindi joint for dinner, than chatted about things moto until 1am. I took an interest in his riding gloves, which I described as falling into the “Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtle” costume variety. I couldn’t help but notice the knuckles of these were festooned by miniature alien skulls. (See photo.) Chris pointed out that the palm-side of these riding gloves were made of kangaroo leather (probably the pouch) which retains its strength regardless of the thickness. I again reminded him that this strength was at the expense of alien skulls on his knuckles.

Looking at my K75, Luhman said, "I thought there'd be more lights on it." He is the only person who has ever looked at this bike, and drawn that conclusion. (There are five white lights ranging from 50 watts to 300 watts facing forward.) I now intend to add another set,

Above) Miniature "Alien" skulls on the knuckles of Chris Luhman's riding gloves. Photo by Lesle Marsh.

An IT person by trade, Luhman explained how he built his own computer at home, specifically geared to handle his specialized needs. He is also an accomplished photographer, and showed Leslie and I an image he captured at the brink of Niagara Falls, at night, that really grabs the character of the location.

Luhman made a point of explaining how he intended to make this current trip on his BMW GS, but a blown brake line changed his plans at the last minute. Though he is ambivalent about the GS, he’s crazy about the Suzuki, which is sleek, red, and ballsy. We shared a leisurely morning over oatmeal, and Chris shoved off for his next adventure — meeting a mutual friend in Chicago. He is the second blogger and third online rider to arrive here, following in the footsteps of Michael Beattie and Carl Boler. This has been my year for meeting riders and bloggers. Just last month I made the acquaintance of George Ferreira, Nikos Laskaris, Rich Machido, Steve Williams, and Rick Slark.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011

27 comments:

Charlie6 said...

Jack

nice writeup of your meeting with Chris and a great description of the obstacles he traversed just to go meet you.

Scout (the rescue dog who keeps burglars from stealing Atticus) - I love this line!

Good pic of the both of you, so that's what Chris looks like.

dom

Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

Heywood said...

This is the first story of yours that I can remember which does not describe, in great depth, at least one pair of breasts and your affinity twards them. Thank you for not describing Chris' hooters and your deep rooted love for them.

DougBob said...

Jack,

It's good to see you associating with other literary types, given that motley crew you were seen with at the Rally.

I understand Michelle Smith is also a blogger. Please let us know when you intend to have her over to discuss her material.

If you're having trouble reaching her, Bregstein tells me he has her number tattooed on him somewhere (although he only had room for the last 4 digits).

Ride on,

Doug

bobskoot said...

Jack:

I didn't realize you set up an obstacle path to keep people away. It was good that Chris knew how to slalom around them and got to meet the Legend. I hope that my time will come soon, perhaps on your cross country odyssey west, next year.

bob
Riding the Wet Coast

Gary France said...

Chris is one of those rare people that doesn’t have blood coursing through his veins – he has anti-freeze instead, for that must be the only way he can ride every day of the year. Reading about some of his Polar Bear Rides, I am convinced that not only are his gloves alien in nature, but Chris must also be from another planet, given the low temperatures he rides in.

I enjoyed reading about your encounter with Chris. “I suspect he forages for grubs and berries in the local park at home” almost saw me wetting myself, bought on by the hysterical laughter that nearly woke other people in the house.

I am glad you met Chris. I suspect two guys who know a great deal about the technical side of motorcycles had a lot to talk about.

RichardM said...

I think the torrential rain may have been preferable to the heat. That was a great writeup of the challenges he went through to get to your place. I guess I'll have to wait for Chris' blog entry to get more details.

By the way, grubs may be in the meat category. Just a guess as I have no first hand experience. But I suspect it would be a successful diet program. You can't eat anything except what you personally collect from the local forest.

motoroz said...

Enjoyed reading the post. It is fun to meet fellow bloggers. Glad you guys were able to meet up.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

I'm glad you liked my recap, but I have no doubt that Chris will go into much greater detail. Leslie took a picture of Chris and I, using his camera. When he was unable to tell me when I might be able to view the results, I had her take another set on her camera. I got those right away.

Chris made mention of the fact that he has very seldom — if ever — posted his picture on "Everyday Riding." So I opted to take the mystery out of things.

Thank you for reading Twisted Roads and for leaving a comment.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Heywood:

I have put your note of appreciation on the scale opposite those who not only love the naked breast, as do I, but who are demanding regular photos. If you read my last post, one female reader wanted lessons on how handle the clutch and brake, while lifting up her shirt. (Brava!)

On the other hand, I am perfectly willing to start a new category of reader who prefers IT specialists to hooters. (It may get onely in tha file, though.)

Thank you for reading Twisted Roads!

Fondest regards,
Jack/Reep

Jack Riepe said...

Dear DougBob:

It's still hard for me to realize there are folks with two first names woven into one, living as close by as Delaware... Gah Damn!

Michele Smith just left. We had a nice visit, during which I examined her for ticks. She split, visibly upset by Bregstein's crying. He blubbered for two hours because I locked him out in the driveway.

How do you know the size of Dick's tattoo?

Thank you for reading Twisted Roads, and for recommending it to your friends.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Bobskoot:

Thank you for you kind note... But I am hardly a legend. That title goes to another blogger. I am more like a bad rumor.

I was rather hoping to meet you on your home turf — Saskastoon. Please comprise a list of suitable strip clubs that would support the dignity of a K75 parked outside. And when you check these places out, remember: no fatties.

Thank you for reading Twisted Roads and for making me your life coach.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Gary France:

It was a very pleasant visit. My favorite part was when Chris repeatedly deferred to my broad experience as a wrench. I was never more honored than the moment he described me as "wrench in most machinery."

Regarding his penchant for riding in cold weather, I was rather shocked to hear him say that he'd resort to heated gear at 58ยบ (F). Then in a later phone call, he told me me he intended "to sleep in" one morning, "at least until the temperture rose from the 60's (F)."

I wondered if I had come face to face with the alien Chris, while the original had been beamed up to the mothership.

Thank you for readng Twisted Roads and for leaving a comment. I hope to meet you in person as well on your next trip. Have you ever been to Saskatoon?

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep

Jack Riepe said...

Dear RichardM:

In all fairness to Chris, I think I may have abbreviated his perils. The man is utterly fearless and regards challenge as the basic spice of any ride. It is my understanding that he may ride right out in the open during tonight's meteor shower.

Grubs could be meat, in which case he probably spits them out. I am going to plant millet in the yard against his next visit, so he'll have grain on the hoof, so to speak.

Thank you for reading Twisted Roads and for leaving a comment. It is my only comfort in life.

Fondes regards,
Jack/reep

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Motoroz:

Before Chris left, I taught him the secret Twisted Roads handshake. I look forward to meeting you some day, and showing you the same ritual.

Thank you for reading Twisted Roads and for leaving a comment.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep

Chuck and the Pheebs said...

Dearest Jack -

As a reformed year round rider of air-cooled boxers, if you think for one nanosecond that I'm gonna pull a Beattie and show up on your doorstep, you're nucking futs. I prefer my testicles hanging low, not sucked up inside my body cavity as if to mimic prepubescence.

I'll meet you halfway, though - Michael's house. It's halfway between Key West and Marathon.


Chuck.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Chuck and Pheebs:

Michael said I was welcome at his house anytime... But I had to limit my visit to 6 weeks. I plan to come around March, when the warmth of my engine will be appreciated in sleet-covered Tampa.

Thank you for reading Twisted Roads, and for embracing my life's philosophy for all it's worth.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep

Conchscooter said...

Please do show up. I will be away riding real motorcycles in Europe that decade but I will leave fresh ground coconuts and horse puckey for you and chuck to chew on.
I would pay Swiss francs to see ripe eat vegetarian for 24 Hours.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Conch:

Do you have the Swiss Francs on you now?

Fondest regards,
Jack

Chris Luhman said...

Good post Jack. Thanks again for your hospitality! It was an enjoyable time. You're welcome anytime at our place in MN.

-Chris
Everyday Riding

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Chris:

The pleasure was all mine... And I will take you up on your offer next year.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep

Nikos said...

Jack

So you had the old "burst brake line" excuse did you? - I suspect Chris did not want to get his pristine GS wet (I know the feeling).

I'm working up to the MOA post.

Best wishes from riot torn England, N

Chris Luhman said...

Nikos: I wouldn't call my GS pristine. That might involve washing it, and that takes away from valuable riding time.

-Chris
Everyday Riding

Nikos said...

Hi Chris

I bet that all your engine paint isn't peeling off like mine?

Washing? Mine was washed once by a BMW workshop - shame they didn't spend the time doing the mechanical work that I had paid them lavishly for!

N

Chris Luhman said...

Nikos: mine is dented and scratched. the valve covers are pealing and the center stand mounts are rusty.

It's a GS. it's made to be dirty, dumped over, and scratched.


-Chris
Everyday Riding

bluekat said...

Ah, another blogger meet up - very cool!
I'm not sure if I've seen Chris' blog, so I have some exploring to do. Great write up on his ride. Gotta love those rainy, stormy, debris filled, rides.

Classic Velocity said...

Jack, I hope you bowed as is the custom before year-round riders from Minnesota. They are not mortal.

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