Saturday, August 20, 2011

When Biker Instincts and Reflexes Pull You Down...

Nothing aggravates the motorcycle purist like scratches on the gas tank or the windscreen. Unless your daily mount is akin to a BMW GS or a KTM machine, where scrapes are a measure of the street cred, a scratch translates into “something done stupidly.” This story finds me in the driveway (late spring of 2006), applying a thin film of ordinary toothpaste to several semi-deep scratches in the plexiglass on a Sprint Fairing, mated to a 1986 BMW K75. According to my pal, Lee Kazanas, simple toothpaste (not a gel type) can buff out windscreen scratches when carefully massaged over the wounded area in a circular motion.

“These scratches are too damn deep,” I thought, feeling the micro-slashes in the plastic under my finger tips. “But maybe...” And then my thoughts drifted as to how I got those scratches.

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There is a place in the state of New Jersey where a two-lane road (with a “US” prefix) runs along a river that is so pretty it might just as well be someplace else. This is in a part of the “Garden State” where there is still corn in the fields, cows behind fences, and the occasional piece of slow-moving farm equipment clattering on the pavement. I’d taken possession of a vintage blue Beemer the year before and had yet to make the acquaintance of other riders, and so found myself branching out on solo runs of a 75-to 100-mile radius of my home, close to the Brandywine River, in Pennsylvania.

While I have a preference for going like hell on the more picturesque slabs (interstates), there is a time for meandering along country roads. The scenery is softer and the air is better, for sure. You can smell every cut blade of grass, every flower in bloom, every brush fire on every farm lot, and every cow flop within a mile of the road. On the subject of manure... City-bred sophisticates too readily determine this distinctive aroma as originating from a type of “shit,” which causes the more genteel among them to make a face, while twisting the throttle. Having ridden through Amish country about 4,000 times in spring, when the fields are being lubed with a slurry of manure and water, I can assure you this is one of the purest aromas in life, and one that restoreth the soul. (I strongly urge wearing a tight-fitting face shield, however. There are 6 billion flies in the air during this time of the year, a healthy percentage of which will buzz right into your open mouth. Guess where they were standing moments before?)

I was buzzing along easy, at or just below the 50 mph speed limit, taking in the local sights. A river with some repute as a trout stream was on my right. Finding pure, undisturbed nature in New Jersey is tough. One of the smallest states in the Union, there are 12 million people per square foot* living here (by average), and each drives three cars (at the same time). Traffic on I-80, which runs right through northern New Jersey, routinely backs up from the Denville Hill to the rings of Saturn. I like fishing, but it takes the kind of concentration required of a formal Japanese tea ceremony to tune out passing traffic while bobbing for rainbow trout. If fish could hock loogies, rainbow trout would use my creel as a spittoon. Consequently I like to commune with them in a vacuum of artificial sound and distraction, like on stretches of the AuSable River (at base of Whiteface Mountain) in the Adirondacks, where I can hear them clear their little throats.

Above: The 1986 K75 known as "Blue Balls," on its way to a solo run New Jersey... Not knowing the trap was set.

Other local sights included pastoral fields, solitary farmhouses, and little towns, like Butzville, NJ (actual place), which should be on America’s most endangered crossroads. The small, agrarian community is the soul of the “Garden State.” Gem-like towns such as Peapack, Gladstone (now virtually one community), and Knowleton, were the reason colonists took up the musket and explained the parameters of American philosophy to free-booting British noblemen and Hessian war whores. New Jersey** was the cornerstone of the “Fuck you... We’re not doing that,” approach to government decree, which is still prevalent there to this day. But real estate in New Jersey is worth more than the subtotal of all the landmass in Asia, and it is being eroded by financial pressure as the price of luxury tract housing squashes the traditional markets for flawless tomatoes, sweet corn, and little towns.***

There are riders who claim you must regard every square inch of pavement like an American President driving through Iran in an open car — that the road is one endless death threat. I can’t do that. I ride to be immersed in my surroundings, and sometimes, I get lost in them. But there is a part of me that is constantly on guard for anything out of the ordinary. That system kicked in three times that day. The first was for a tractor pulling a “honey bucket,” throwing up huge clumps of earth, some of which hit the windshield and my face-shield as I swerved around the farmer (with a jaunty wave). The second time was for a couple of kids crossing the road with fishing poles. This required a squeeze on the binders and a fast blast on the twin FIAMM screamers. Yet the alarm rang good and loud calling for a total halt the third time...

Off to the right was a traditional hot dog stand (similar to the type that used to dot the countryside in 1960), and at the counter was a woman as hot as magma from the tap — wearing moto-leathers that outlined the curve of her soul (assuming her soul was in her ass). Parked nearby was a Triumph Bonneville, in matching black. I dropped two gears and felt the tires dance over a bit of gravel, before cutting into the parking lot. (Dropping two gears has a dramatic sound to it, but in reality this raises the RPM sound of the K75 from a slight whine to the roar of a newspaper rustling.)

The woman never looked up.

This was just as well as it never pays to be too obvious. I swung into a tight curve, coming to a halt about 25 feet away, putting the distinctive profile of my own unusual mount with the sunlight behind it. I busied myself in the nonchalance of pulling off my gloves and helmet, then dismounted before draping my mesh gear over the saddle. Sitting a discrete six stools away, I ordered a root beer and the speciality of the house — a hot dog with a sliver of dill pickle, onions, mustard, and chili — then glanced around like I had just regained consciousness.

“Nice bike,” I said to her. “The Bonneville always had great style. Had it long?”

“Well, not really...” she said, looking over my shoulder, where I knew the K75 was intriguing the hell out of her. “Your bike is...”

“Different,” I said, finishing her sentence. “That’s because it’s a BMW with a Triumph-designed Sprint fairing...”

“Well, it looks like it’s moving,” she said.”

“That’s the illusion of speed,” I responded.

Then I heard the sound of the K75 falling over behind me in the gravel, as the side-stand dug into the soft ground, bringing the steep angle of the parked rig past the point of no return.

I stood over my fallen steed in a state of shock. Then I grabbed it by the handlebars, and slowly, with my nuts banging against the inside of my eyes, picked it up. The damage didn’t look too bad. One mirror had popped loose and swung inward, which probably prevented it from breaking. The clutch lever was intact. The back of the machine had been spared by the OEM side bags. Even the gas tank was scratch free. But the priceless, irreplaceable windscreen, made by elves in Britain, had two gashes in it.

“All wasn’t lost,” I thought. “I didn’t lose my cool and this dolly just saw me pick up a 580-pound motorcycle on an adrenaline high.” I kicked away the gravel to find bare, hard ground and reset the bike on the center-stand, giving it a tug to confirm it was rock solid. The sound of the Bonneville growling to a start spun my head around. The woman was firmly in the saddle — on the pillion. Some guy, who looked like a model for motorcycle gear or a chapter out of a eugenics handbook, was shifting it into gear. He’d been out back, draining the lizard, when I’d pulled up.

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While it seemed likely that the windscreen would never suffer from tooth decay, it was obvious that toothpaste would never take out those scratches. Two days later I called Sprint (in the UK), and spoke to a great guy, who remembered where he had stashed replacement parts for that fairing — 18 years earlier. A mere $380 (USD) later, I had a new windscreen... Because nothing aggravates the motorcycle purist like scratches on the gas tank or the windscreen.

* Actual count taken by satellite photo of middle fingers held outside of car windows in typical New Jersey traffic.

** New Jersey has a darker side not always taught in the history books. New Jersey residents also had no trouble telling General George Washington to "Get bent," when he desperately needed supplies during the horrible winter at Morristown, as the British were paying for food and hay in gold. Source: "1776" written by David McCullough, first published by Simon & Schuster on May 24, 2005. (Some things never change.)

*** New Jersey, once known as the "Garden State" for its incredible tomatoes and corn (plus other things) had to pass legislation protecting the few farms left in the place. In years to come, this legislation will have succeeded in protecting the most valuable heritage in the state.



Special Announcement:

Twisted Roads Day At Hermy’s Tire and Cycle
August 27, 2011... 9am - Noon

Got a great story you’d like to see as a guest author in Twisted Roads? The folks at Hermy’s BMW and Triumph, in Port Clinton are sponsoring “Twisted Roads Day” on Saturday, August 27th. From 9am to Noon, show up and have coffee and donuts with the publisher of Twisted Roads... Tell him your story and qualify for a valuable prize. The winner will be announced at 11:45am. Consolation prizes will be awarded to the first and second runner up.

Hermy’s is located on Route 61 (Southbound), Port Clinton, Pa. The shop is only 5 minutes north of the interchange with I-78 (Hamburg, Pa) and is an easy ride from New Jersey and Maryland.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011 - All rights reserved.

32 comments:

Flimsky said...

Sounds like Hot Dog Johnny's to me. Good but rippers at Rutt's Hut are my favorite, and used to be a hot dog inspector for Schickhaus. And don't ask me what goes into a hot dog. And Head cheese is worse than making legislation!

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Flimsky:

You are so right... The location was Hot Dog Johnny's, in Butzville. And you are so 100% right... The best hot dog in the world is served at Rutt's Hut, Clifton, NJ. I would love to get a ride going up to Rutt's. There is nothing like one of their "weller's," smothered in their special relish.

And this may be a Jersey thing, but I love head cheese. In Pennsylvania, it is called "Souse," if you can find it. It is regarded with more suspician than scrapple.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep
Twisted Roads

DougBob said...

JR,

Nice piece - no, not the cart attendant - your article. In fact, I think you should do a future blog entitled "the illusion of speed" as that serves as a fitting metaphor for you seated on your K75.

Ride on,

DougBob

Jack Riepe said...

Dear DougBob:

Thank you for the nice comment and for taking the time to read Twisted Roads, the blog that leaves no turn unstoned.

I was thinking of how you would perceive this story (even as I was writing it). And still, I finished it. I am still gearing up for my marathon ride through Delaware — in five days. You'll need time-lapse photography to see me pass by.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep
Twisted Roads

DougBob said...

Jack,

A ride through Delaware, eh? Time lapse photography might be appropriate, given how small Delaware is, but wouldn't "wide angle" photography be more appropriate?

Hope to see you at breakfast.

DougBob

Jack Riepe said...

Dear DougBob:

Shot in the back, at close range. Et tu, Brute?

This has been a crazy week with some tough developments, and I am going to pass on breakfast.

Fondest regars,
Jack/reep
Twisted Roads

DougBob said...

Jack,

I implore you reconsider, you knave! Our good friend, Doug "Mr. Mileage" Raymond has threatened to attend, and of course, Bruce "Mac of Pac" will honor us with a slide presentation of his recent trip to Alaska.

Do come!

DougBob

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Doug:

Threats and slides? Did you say something about incentive?

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep
Twisted Roads

DougBob said...

Jack,

Well, alright . . . how about if I give you half of my home fries and a sausage link?

You drive a hard bargain!

DougBob

Jack Riepe said...

Dear DougBob:

I'd be thrilled to give it a shot, but I am compelled to ride intomorrow, and the "Arthur" is bad enough to preclude riding in a car.

Fondest regards
Jack/reep

Chuck and the Pheebs said...

Jack -

Your motorized appliances are growing on me. I wonder if one can be stripped down morphed into a proper street fighter.

Off to Ebay for a study session,

Chuck.
PS - did a half day tour around Guam on a shot-glass displacement bike - first installment up Sunday, with enough material to last a week.

DougBob said...

Jack,

Your commitment is exceeded only by your perspicacity!

I'll save you a seat . . .

Best to you,

DougBob

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Chuck:

I am looking forward to reading your account of riding through the streets of Guam on a shot-glass bike with great anticupation. You will find me a regular commenter, or heckler.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep
Twisted Roads

Charlie6 said...

Jack, did Blueballs not come with a centerstand? Such devices are standard on R type Beemers, the epitome of Teutonic engineering and enlightened design.

One simply dismounts, places one's trust R Bike on its center stand and there's no worries about the sidestand failing to hold it up in "iffy" terrain.

Cheers....

dom


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

Nikos said...

Jack

Take heed of the old Greek proverb:

If passenger foot pegs down, rider is peeing behind bush

All the best from a pseudo mental institution in Kharkiv, N whose GS has more scratches, rust ,peeling paint, dents, pointless farkles than Chris'

Gary France said...

I can relate to the “Because nothing aggravates the motorcycle purist like scratches on the gas tank or the windscreen” comment very well. Ever since buying my Road King, the ‘Leading Ladies’ new, the height of the top of the windscreen has bugged me, as it sits right on my sight line when looking at the road ahead. On all of the miles I rode across the USA last year, I wished I had changed the screen beforehand, but in order to save money, I didn’t. Right at the end of my tour, I think in Nevada, the screen developed a tiny crack when I hit a bump and as soon as I returned home to the UK, I noticed the crack every time I went within half a mile of the bike – it just glared out at me, so I changed the whole screen just for that small crack, but I did take the chance to get a lower one.

I laughed at draining the lizard – never heard that before!

Camilla Jessop said...

I do like name of your BMW, Mr Riepe. Is it because it was first registered in Blue Ball Pa?

I remember Lancaster County very fondly, for we stayed in Lancaster when my Stepfather, the Count, took Mama and I on a trip to visit the nearby New Holland plant. Although she like agricultural tools, tractors weren't really Mama's interest, so she went off on her own - and got lost! We eventually found her just off the Old Philadelphia Road, in the middle of Intercourse.

Canajun said...

Personally I like to fish on lakes where it's so quiet you can sometimes hear the fish laughing at you. And that's NOT 50 feet from an interstate.

Classic Velocity said...

Dear Jack,

There are parts of west central and north western NJ that are so nice, they should really be annexed by PA. It's only fair.....

bluekat said...

If there are scratches on my windscreen, I can't find them under all the bug gutts. Maybe it's better that I don't know.

Nikos has a good point about the passenger foot pegs :)

Jack Riepe said...

Dear BlueKat:

Do you love your windshield? I love the Parabellum "Scout" fairing on my K75 and bugs on the windscreen are the number one cause of micro-scratches. Simply fill a bucket with very hot water, soak an old towl in it, and drape it over the windscreen. A good hot soak get's those evil, acid-filled bug carcasses good and loose. Sometimes you might hsve to do this two or three times. Think of it as a massage for the windshied.

Some believe it helps to talk to the windscreen or fairing, as you gently smush the deceased vermin from the plexiglas. (I recite poetry to my bike. It especially likes "Ozymandias." I think it places me in the poem.)

I'm sure you are quite familiar with bug removal from delicate surfaces... But your comment gave me an opening... And that's always dangerous.

Thank you for reading Twisted Roads.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep
Twisted Roads

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Classic Velocity (Wayne):

I remember riding my bicycle through Branchville, NJ, when I was 15. That was pretty. Sussex was pretty. Lake Mohawk was pretty. It still is in many regards... But the traffic. Oh my God... The traffic.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Canajun:

In states lage enough to have communities where the closest house is still a mile away, like in Upstate New York, and in Elk County, Pa, it is still possible to wander off into the woods and not see another person for three days. That's the kind pf place I like to fish in.

I read a story about a guide who drove a client three hours to a stretch of river in the middle of nowhere. They crested a bluff, and found a solitary angler, the first person they saw in 20 miles. The guide said, "Damn... There's somebody here."

That's how I feel about fishing.

Thank's for reading my tripe today.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Camilla Jessop:

The legendary K75 that was "Blue Balls" was named after the period in my life between "Blondie, the emotional sink-hole (1993) and "Lulu" (1995), who were about as different as the plague and saving grace. Not that I didn't have a good time then, it was just different.

Lancaster County is one of my favorite short rides. Yet there are times when I get Intercourse confused with Paradise, depending upon the nature of the ride.

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

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Gary France:

I was more or less ambivalent bout the Parabellum "Scout" fairing on the K75 when I first got it. (I have written a number of times that the K75 is an acquired taste, even within model changes.) It came with a 16" tinted windscreen, which I decided I hated; for no particular reason. So I ordered a clear 16" replacement.

The replacement arrived about five days later... Abnd by that time I decided I really loved the tinted one. But I have a head like a screen door, and never got around to exchanging the clear one, and so it sat in the box in the garage for three years.

Moving stuff around in the garage, I hit the windshield with my gloved hand, and cracked it at one of the mountings. The crack is 3/16ths of an inch long.

I can't stand it. I dream about it at night. I am going to mount the clear windscreen this week. I really preferr the tinted one, but money is tight and I might as well see what the hell "Fire Balls" looks like "in the clear."

Someday, I hope to sit alongside you in a bar, and share a snort. Then ask me how I spent $1500.00 on a .22 cal rifle because of a scratch on the stock.

Thanks for reading Twisted Roads, the biker blog of last resort.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Nikos:

When confronted with leather-wrapped derriere-perfection, the pegs of a bike would have to be solid gold or on fire to get a second look from me. Then again, those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

BMW "K" bikes come with everythingf. And I always parked Blue Balls, and now Fire Balls, on the centerstand if I am going to be any length of time. In this story, I simply dismounted, leaving the rig on the side-stand, as I was in hurry to go into swagger mode.

My "K" bike was built in an era when the toolkit, the sidestand, the flashers — and a proper cooling system — was included. Of course, there will be a liquid cooling system on the "R" bike of the future.

Thanks for reading my stuff this weekend.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep

bobskoot said...

Mr Jack rIEPE:

I consider scratches like a Badge of Honour. My Vstrom is like a Jeep, with caked-on dirt from last year still evident on the bodywork. I still have bugs from the Montana trip, so I am going to try your hot, wet facecloth technique this weekend on the windscreen. Once cleaned I am sure the aerodynamics will greatly enhance my speed factor, along with the subsequent weight loss factor of the missing bugs

bob
Riding the Wet Coast

BeemerGirl said...

I have a love/hate relationship with stuff like this. I don't want to spend the money to fix something I stupidly did. I sigh when I look at the defect and then remind myself NOT TO DO IT AGAIN!

And I hope it becomes a talisman. If I leave this little thing I won't invite something worse to happen.

I have a friend that fondles his Harley daily to keep every speck of dust off of it. It drives him nuts to see blemishes. And I don't want to be like that. I have too much fun laughing at him.

Steel Cupcake

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Steel Cupcake:

Minor scrapes in the paint from flying rocks, road debris, sand and that soert of stuff are perfectly acceptible an never need an explanation. But the obvious stuff, like a dent in the gas tank, or a lateral crack in the windsceen, or a huge divot in one of the sidebags, often seems to imply lack of maintenance, or worse, the absence of competence.

In which case, the inferences are worse for the operator. I believe it is more important to spend the money and feel stupid, as to leave the imperfection, and look stupid.

Thank you again for reeading Twisted Roads... The biker blog that tells it like I think it should be.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Bobskoot:

As you are aware, I ride within the parameters of a certain Teutonic lifestyle. If you own a GS machine, it is perfectly acceptible to show up at breakfast or a lunch with a machine covered with bugs and dirt. But your opening line must be something like, "The mayflys were hell on the Haul Road this morning."

Otherwise, you must show up on a motorcycle that does not have a fleck of dust on it and say, "I really have to clean this bike today... It looks like shit." I don't make the rules. I just play the game.

Thanks for reading Twisted Roads, and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep

MattPie said...

What is this windshield you speak of? The Germans that built my bike felt it was unnecessary.