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