Tuesday, March 29, 2011
“Really?” I replied. (This is how a 9-year-old first says, “Kiss my ass.”) there are two kinds of kids in the world... Those who can hardly get through the day without putting on a glove and chasing after a leather-covered cannonball; and those who are more literary-minded, like myself, who think baseball blows like a hot summer’s breeze.
I sucked so badly at Little League that my position in the outfield was a long distance call. I was often left out there during the change of innings, and if it hadn’t been for my mother looking for me, I would have been left out there for the change of seasons too. I hated Little League almost as much as my team members hated me. While the other players had cool ball-playing names, like “Sammy Spikes, Joe Pyro,” and “The Batman,” I was “Butter Ass.” I just did not find the hidden thrill in standing for three hours, five acres into oblivion — in the wilting sun — waiting for some asshole to find the range and drop a ball into my glove, which had all the flexibility of a dorsal fin on a killer whale.
My idea of a good time on a Saturday afternoon was to read a book and to be left alone. I was about 10-years-old, when I came across a copy of King Solomon’s Mines at a relative’s house, and finished it four days later. What was baseball compared to a story like King Solomon’s Mines? I changed schools about that time and met one of the most dynamic personalities I’d meet over the course of the next 50 years: Scott Volk. Scott hated baseball, anything that required adult supervision, and people in general who told him what to do. He got away with this attitude as he was the smartest kid in the whole school... Maybe in the history of that school. Scott and I had two things in common: geared bicycles and a hatred of baseball. One day, we unfolded an Esso gas station map, found an interesting place 30 miles away (in neighboring New York State), made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches —and left. Naturally, we did this without telling anyone, which would have been tantamount to asking for permission.
This started a weekend tradition that would last until I was 17.
The roads we pedaled were public highways. (One of them was the George Washingtion Bridge, I-95 into Manhattan.) There were great hills that went on forever. We had no compunction about getting out into traffic, and holding our own at 45 or 50 miles per hour. Twice, local cops grabbed us and threw us off the thoroughfares. My perspective on life changed as I got older. Scott hung onto his bicycle. The last bike of my adolescence only had to be back-pedaled once, or until the 70 horsepower Kawasaki engine fired. While Scott and I remained unshakeable friends, we developed distinctly different tastes in life. Scott would think nothing of disappearing into the woods to go camping by himself, sometime for a week at a time. I loved camping too... But I liked tying my gear onto the back of the 1975 Kawasaki H2, riding off to an out of the way campground, and rolling around in Cupid’s euphoria with my girlfriend. Riding, drinking around a campfire, and getting laid was my mantra. Quite frankly, the formula is hard to beat 37 years later.
Yet, there was something of a challenge in what Scott was doing that started to get to me. On one trip, he pedaled off to one of the more remote reaches of a state park (no camping allowed), hid his bike, and set up a minimalist campsite on the Palisades. I found him pedaling back home on the shoulder of Route 9W the next day. (I sort of knew where to look and had his schedule.) Over lunch, I asked him the question that only a guy could ask another guy, who was a close friend.
“Don’t you get spooked out in the woods alone at night?”
“I did in the beginning,” Scott replied. “Last night was one of those times. I heard something about 2am that got me out of a sound sleep. It was this strange, rhythmic, lapping sound. And then I realized it was little waves on the Hudson River, 400 feet below, washing up on the bank.”
The cat was out of the bag... I didn’t like the idea of being out in the woods alone at night. This was nothing more than an advanced form of being afraid of the dark. And I didn’t like having to acknowledge that weakness either. It gradually ate away at me that entire summer, until there was nothing to do for it but get out into the woods and face my fears. The woods are a great place to go to periodically cleanse your mind. And in the mid-seventies, New Jersey still held a few truly wild places (that were not topless places on RT. 17 or bars at the shore.) My destination for a night of solitary, moto camping would be High Point State Park, just off Rt. 23. It was the first week of autumn and the camping season was about over for this place. The nights were cool... The trees were turning colors... And I would have the place to myself.
Above: The Great Notch Inn, built in 1939, still welcomes riders at the confluence of Route 3 and US-46 in New Jersey. The backdrop for this saloon is a notch in "mountain top" directly behind it. Photo from the internet.
My ride started out on Route 3, down in Hudson County. If this highway could possibly become a machine, it would be a chipper. The road design was obsolete 40 years ago, the traffic has always been utterly horrendous, and the pace can only be described as frenetic. But I was a kid then, and I didn’t give a shit or a second thought to any of this. Route 3 blended in with US-46, at Great Notch, NJ. (A bar, like an old log cabin still marks the confluence of these roads.) The stretch spawned by this unholy union only lasts for a few miles, but it is ghastly enough, with ugly strip malls, dramatically short entrances and exits from the highway, and a few diners. My immediate objective was Route 23. Route 23 peels away from the nuclear junction of I-80, and US-46 in Wayne, New Jersey, at the edge of the Willowbrook Mall, one of the first real malls in the “Garden State” and in the US. (This was one of the first places where millions of people learned about a food court.)
The traffic at this spot would have Saint Francis kicking cats in 30 seconds.
Yet 37 years ago, Route 23 was the gateway to northern New Jersey’s last working farms and dairy industry. City assholes, like myself, could see cows grazing in fields, find deer on the islands (median) of the roadway, and still run across tractors pulling steel carts (filled with manure and campaign speeches) on the road.
I loved Rt. 23... In terms of social polarity, it was as far away from Hudson county as a person could get in 90 minutes. The road was the most direct route to the northern part of the state, and its highest point. That primitive Kawasaki “ying-yinged” its way through traffic, and I found myself in Packanack Lake, one of New Jersey’s first resort and vacation spots. (It is now a bedroom community for the Metropolitan area.) This historic spot was marked by a traffic circle, a unique New Jersey attraction that replaced wolves and saber-tooth tigers as predators in the Dawinian life cycle. The road passed through Butler and Pequannock, NJ which had its own traffic circle (to try and pick off the survivors from the one at Packanack Lake).
Above: The Clove River, more of a stream actually, where I took my last trout in the State of New Jersey, more than 30 years ago. New Jersey has some of the most beautiful spots in the United States... And they really need to be preserved. Photo from the Internet.
Route 23 became an expressway to nowhere for a bit up by Stockholm, NJ, where it snaked around the two reservoirs for the Newark watershed. Even then it had a curve so blind that it would have qualified Ray Charles as a sharpshooter. Mostly, the road was two lanes in each direction, but there were many places where it was half that. There was a fantastic restaurant off on the right, called Jorgensen’s Inn, where I used to take women when they needed to be impressed. The sun was getting low in the sky on this run, and I knew I would arrive at the camping area in the dark.
The road continued to climb as I passed through Hamburg, NJ. This was the town (crossroads) where my old friend Dick Matz (now in his 80’s) had a cousin Violet, who owned the local bar. Ray Bucko (now the head of anthropology at Crieghton University), Bill Matz (deceased), and I drank here once, washing down servings of pickled pig’s feet with rye whiskey and ginger ale. (We were 18.) Hamburg, New Jersey is home to the “Gingerbread Castle,” a flour mill in the 1800’s that was converted, by an an architect and a Broadway show set designer into a “storybook” attraction for children. I first came here in the early 1960’s. Hansel and Gretel took us on a tour. Rapunzel let down her hair. Jack and Jill fetched water. Witches cackled from a pit. And it was here that I learned the characteristics of an evil step-mother, which would become personified in my first mother in law. (The place is closed now, and in some disrepair. Fairy tales have passed out of fashion and two-year-olds today have cell phones and nursery school acceptance coaches.)
Above: The "Gingerbread Castle" in Hamburg, NJ. It was here I first learned about blonds, when Rapunzel let down her hair (1961). This place started out as a flour mill in the 1890's. Note mill stones in the front wall. Photo from the Internet.
Route 23 passes the picturesque Clove Cemetery, and the Clove River, a winding and wild ribbon of water from which I extracted the last trout I ever caught in New Jersey, on a day when the water froze in the eyelets of my rod. It wasn’t anywhere near that cold on the day I made this ride, but the temperature of the air dropped like a stone as the early autumn sun turned from yellow to red. Route 23 passes through Franklin, the only place on earth a luminescent mineral called “Franklinite” is found, and goes through a couple of right angle turns in Sussex. The last few miles of Route 23, just before High Point State Park twist upward on a nice run, ironically through a tiny community called “Beemerville.”
Above: The monument at High Point State Park, off Rt. 23, in New Jersey, marks the point of greatest elevtion in the Kittatany Mountains — 1,803 feet above sea level. Photo from the High Point State Park Website.
A left turn along a few miles of heavily wooded ridge led to the camping area, and my headlight lit up both sides of the road. I had a bit of anxiety as I realized I would soon be setting up camp for one, in the gathering gloom of dusk, in the savage wilderness of untamed New Jersey. (The thought was utterly preposterous, even then). Now I have no trouble walking out of the woods in the dark, if I have been there all day. But going into them just as it is getting dark is just plain stupid. Why? Because that’s when vampires are feeling the most active, and are most likely to insert themselves into your circumstances.
There was one car in the campground, and I rode to the site that was the farthest from it.
I parked the bike and methodically set up camp. The tent was a “canvas” two-man number that I bought off a vendor on Canal Street in New York City for $20. I used it for 10 years and never got wet nor aggravated. There was a picnic table and a fire ring at the site. Dinner was a can of Dinty Moore Beef Stew, heated over a Svea stove. A tiny Primus light cast 50 watts over the table, with a hiss that sounded like a leak in a high pressure air hose. I dissolved a couple of packets of “Swiss Miss” hot chocolate in a cup of boiling water, and added about three ounces of rum. (This exhausted my supply of booze which was verboten in New Jersey state parks. I wasn’t carrying more as those were the good old days, when motorcycle riders were regarded as trash, and saddle-bag inspections by the authorities were not uncommon.) I moved the Primus light to ground outside the tent, and climbed in. Clothes in a ball on the tent floor, I slid into my sleeping bag, opened my copy of “Northwest Passage,” and proceeded to read, while sipping Cocoa laced with Meyer’s Dark Rum. (I had my standards even then.)
I was asleep 30 minutes later, with the screen secured on the tent, but with the door unzipped, and the lantern hissing away.
The sound of a barking dog brought me to consciousness. Night has a heady smell in the woods. The cool air slides under the darkness, intensifying the scent of the cedars, the pines, and forest duff. It also has a way of sneaking in improperly zippered sleeping bags, and finding your feet or the one muscle inclined to knot in the cold. In this case, the cold found my kidneys, reminding me that I had to piss like a yak.
But first, there was the matter of the barking dog. It wasn’t the bark of a real dog, like a Great Dane, a German Shepherd, or even a Labrador Retriever... But the yapping of a little, two-stroke dog, like a Yorkie or a Pug. And something or someone was revving the little mutt close to redline too.
“Excuse me,” said the voice of a woman. “Is anyone there, over by that light.”
My first thought was to growl, like a bear. But then I thought, “That’s how smart-assed guys like me get shot in New Jersey campsites.
“I’m here,” I yelled.
‘I’m coming over,” she said.
“I’d give it a few seconds,” I replied.
Standing naked in the mid-October night simply emphasized the need to take a leak. And anyplace was as good as likely, provided I wasn’t pissing down into my boots. The process was fairly automatic, when I realized I was casting a profile shadow in the glare of the little lantern. My concerns about making a good first impression in the harsh reality of the Primus light were unfounded as the two high-beam headlights of an approaching car bathed me in illumination. I was a senior in college... I was a varsity fencer (saber — letter and trophy)... And I was thin, taking a naked piss next to the fastest production motorcycle of the day. What the hell did I have to be sorry for?
I then pulled on my jeans and a shirt. Not once did the woman dim the lights of the car.
“I’m terribly sorry to disturb you,” she said. “But I was camping over there and wild animals were attacking each other in the brush, and I was afraid they’d come after me in the tent. Could you come over and take a look?”
The dog was one of those little breeds, whose nose is so crinkled they’re better off breathing through their asses. He snuffled in my direction once or twice, then barked in a tone of muffled disapproval. He had a name like “Ghengis Khan.”
“I’ll meet you over there,” I said.
She said thanks, and rather gave me the impression that I was expected to jump in the car and ride over with her. I didn’t doubt she heard something, but it probably wasn’t the bugling of an elk nor a wolverine challenging a bear for a big horn sheep carcass.
I stepped into my boots (without socks), grabbed the chain on the Primus light (for hanging it) and walked the 600 yards to the woman’s campsite. She had one of those Coleman pop-up tents that you could always find set up in the outdoor department of Sears in 1973. A metal cooler was on the picnic table, and her tent door was hanging askew. I walked around the tent with the Primus light swinging like a pendulum on its chain. The end of each little arc sent broad shadows dancing, but there was no evidence of a buffalo stampede or anything.
“Do you want me to let the dog out?” she asked, from the relative safety of the vehicle. The truth was that if she had let the dog out — and if a Kimodo Dragon came out of the woods and swallowed it like an aspirin — I’d have laughed myself into insanity.
“No,” I said, shaking my head, looking down at the ground like I expected it to yield a paper printout of the evening’s activity.
Then I sauntered over to her picnic table, put down the Primus lantern, and lit a cheroot, which was a crooked as a congressional mandate.
She got out of the car, carrying the stupid dog, and sat at the table, looking at my cigar like I had dog shit dangling from my lip.
“So what did you hear and where did the noise come from?” I asked, trying to sound like a professional hunter on the trail of a wounded gazelle. I looked directly into her eyes, and gave her a very mild exposure to what would become known as the patented Jack Riepe Battered Baby Seal Look and Pre-Foreplay visual invitation.
She told me she heard a vicious tussling in the trees, and then a kind of scream, followed by the sound of something being rendered into pieces. Her expression, highlighted by the lantern, took on the characteristics of somebody telling a horror story to a six-year-old.
“Aaaah,” I replied. “Well, that’s easily explained. Rabbits constitute the basis of the animal kingdom diet up here, in wild New Jersey, and foxes, coyotes, weasels, and owls jump them all the time. When caught, the rabbit screams like a human baby.”
“My God,” she said, “They do?”
I nodded and said, “What you probably heard was a rabbit meeting its maker, and then being processed for dinner. You were never in any danger.”
“How come the dog didn’t scare the animals away?” she asked, looking at me with a bit more respect.
“Because your dog isn’t much bigger than a rabbit and a fox, a coyote, or an owl would have no qualms about doing the same thing to your dog.”
“Will the owl or the fox, or the weasel come back?”
“As long as rabbit is on the menu,” I smiled. “I think you should be okay, now. Good night.”
I got up to walk back to my tent. I found myself wondering, “How far is she going to let me go before she says...”
“Jack...,” Said Carole. (Not her name.) “Would you like to stay here tonight? I have sandwiches and stuff.”
Carole had a pretty face, a nice shape, and an intriguing ass. But she had the chirpy manner of a woman who taught second-graders how to share. (I was the scourge of the second grade. I once made the sweetest — kindest — old Catholic nun call me “a son of bitch” in less than 15 minutes.) Carole was about 27-years-old, which made her 6 years older than me. As far as I was concerned, she was ready to collect social security. I thought of my own girlfriend, about 70 miles to the south. Roxann was two-years older than me, an Italian beauty with skin the color of honey at sunset, waist-length black hair, and the kind of voice that could take the sting out of sunburn. I wanted my own girl tonight... My own red-hot sex kitten of a girl was home, watching my Labrador Retriever, a dog that never made a noise like a hand-held vacuum cleaner choking on a lint ball, because I had to prove something.
Carole suggested that we could play cards in her tent, try to identify constellations from a book she had, or even just talk. I started to waver.
“Do you have anything to drink? Coffee.. Irish Whiskey?” I asked.
“Herbal tea,” she responded, holding up a Thermos.
That did it. I was ready to hang a pork chop around her neck, tie her to a tree, and whistle for Kong.
“Great.” I flashed a genuine smile that would have delighted an aluminum siding salesman. “Why don’t we do this? Pull your car around to my tent. You and the dog can sleep on the back seat of the car, with the doors locked. At dawn, we’ll go for breakfast, at the place in Colesville.”
A minute or two later, I was back in my tent, which was again the focus of her headlights.
“You can turn them off now,” I said. I had to say it three times.
It was full daylight and nearly 7am, when I rose for the day. Carole’s car was gone and I took another forceful piss with male biker impunity. (Guys love taking a piss outside, and getting the stream up as high as a Kodiak bear can leave scratch marks on a tree.) I broke camp in record time and the Kawaski started on the first kick. I snicked it into first gear, and the shifter fell listlessly to the ground.
“What the fuck,” I uttered in a precise mechanical assessment. A “C” fastener had vibrated off one of the pivot points and the shifter had come apart. I replaced the fastener with a bit of twisted wire. A gas station down in Sussex would sell me another fastener for a quarter.
The bike restarted and I was OTFD (Out The Fucking Door)a second or two later. I had breakfast at this little joint in Colesville... And I pushed that H-2 as fast as I dared on the way home to take Roe out to lunch.
But that is not the end of the story... Not by a long shot.
Four years later, Ricky Matz and I were clawing our way up Route 23 to his place in Pennsylvania. Route 23 exits New Jersey at the spot where it meets Pennsylvania and New York. Ricky was riding a Norton, and I was still on Tojo’s Revenge. We stopped for a couple of beers in a joint where I’d gotten lucky once before, but the lightning didn’t strike twice this time. Our ride can only be described as “spirited.” Once again, dusk found me rocketing up toward High Point State Park, this time with Matz about 70 feet behind me. Our goal was to go over the mountains at High Point, and hit Pennsylvania about the time the action was heating up at a bar called “The Acorn.”
The suspensions on these motorcycles were so primitive that our headlights vibrated with a strobe effect that added to the excitement. And in the strobing effect of my headlight, there appeared the dull shine of a guardrail, where the road curved to the left.
The gentle Twisted Roads Reader will now chose the paragraph that they liked best. Should you decide to leave a comment, please indicate your selection...
First Choice (A):
Out of options, I laid the motorcycle down, relinquishing all control, so I could come to halt, gradually, through road friction and by slamming into the guardrail, knowing I would minimize my own injuries.
Second Choice (B):
The finely tuned suspension of the 1975 Kawasaki H2 Triple instantly lived up to its reputation as “The Widow Maker,” went into a tank slapper, and hurled me to the pavement just as the bike careened into the guardrail.
Third Choice (C):
I slammed on the primitive brakes, went into a skid, and fell off the bike on the low side as it whacked into the guardrail.
The bike went down at 45 miles per hour.
The handlebars were bent... The tank was dented... The headlight was out of focus... The clutch lever was oddly bent, but not broken... The left mirror was shattered... But the forks seemed okay... The Kawasaki restarted. Ricky rode the wreck to the ranger station at the top of the hill.
A passing farmer gave me a lift in his truck, and Ricky walked back to retrieve his Norton. I had a torn sleeve on my fatigue jacket and no injuries. My shitty candy-apple metallic helmet was scrapped to shit.
The park ranger/cop was the world’s nicest guy. He plopped me in a wooden rocker, got me a Coke, and was very helpful in letting us park the wreck behind the station for the weekend. He asked me if I wanted an ambulance. (What I wanted was to hit the Acorn and get laid for the weekend.) He could see that neither Ricky nor I was intoxicated, and mentioned that the guardrail I hit was very good for local tow truck business on the weekend. He did not ask how fast I was going, which was also good, as I was speeding and would have lied to him. (I have an honor thing with going fast on a motorcycle and lying to the cops about it later.)
The officer was more like a combined ranger and cop, as he had a gun and handcuffs on his belt. Neither Ricky nor I exactly conformed to the definition of scooter trash. He treated us like men, which we barely were, and we tried to meet his expectations for politeness. (And once again, there was no liquor nor controlled substances on our bikes.)
Ricky explained that he had a car across the state line in Damascus. Pennsylvania — about 50 miles away. He’d go and get it, then come back for me. It was 8:30pm, and the station was only open until 10pm. The ranger said I was welcome to wait with him, and then sit out on the porch, until Ricky returned, about midnight. Ricky looked at me, and smiled. The dim tailight of the Norton faded over the crest of RT. 23. I could hear the engine growling in the dark night air.
The ranger was a sociable type and we got to talking. I mentioned the night (three years before) that I spent in the campsite with the woman and her little dog, right in the middle of his jurisdiction. And now, I will add one more detail to that story. The woman had a name that was hard to forget. It was a household word. I remembered it perfectly then, as I remember it now. The cop remembered it too... And found it in a file.
At dawn that day, Carole Tapper (not her real name) drove out to the ranger station with her useless little dog. She waited until the office opened, around 8am, and filed a report. An officer escorted her to the campsite (and if it was this same cop, he probably helped her fold the tent). Park rangers examined the camp site, and found — are you ready for this — mountain lion tracks in the duff behind her tent.
The park cop/ranger then told me that this was one of New Jersey’s best kept secrets... That big cats occasionally turned up in solitude. And that if you knew where to walk, you could still traverse the northern end of the state without coming up on a house. (I was secretly delighted that I had the good sense to mind my own business, lest my name appear in the same report.)
The hour was a few minutes from 10pm, and the officer started to lock the place up. He invited me out to the porch, just as Ricky pulled up, in a 1971 Dodge Dart, the official car of Catholic Convents throughout the US. Ricky’s Dart was called the “Yellow Jacket.” It was painted electric piss yellow, with black doors (two-door) and a black hood, from which protruded a two-foot tall chrome scoop, that sometimes belched fire. The car was powered by an eight-cylinder Chrysler atomic reactor.
Powerful stereo speakers pounded the atmosphere, as Jethro Tull’s epic work of enduring romance — “Locomotive Breath” — announced that Friday night was still on. We’d make “The Acorn” in plenty of time.
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011 All rights reserved.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
One a month, Twisted Roads will present "Dispatches From The Front," a collection of letters from our readers, many of whom are writing from the road, the halls of government, pool halls, the Witness Protection Program, and fully accredited mental institutions. Whenever possible, the Twisted Roads Editorial staff will attempt to answer readers' questions or provide some measure of resolution.
Dear Twisted Roads:
As so many of your stories begin, the day was hotter than a college cheerleader’s shaved quim and I pulled into a gin mill just outside Winslow, Arizona to grab a cool sarsaparilla. My Victory Vision was tethered to the zeppelin moorings outside, attracting the usual crowd of the curious and idle. This bike was the closest thing I could get to Judge Dredd’s motorcycle in the movie of the same name. I even had my riding gear designed to look like Judge Dredd’s uniform.
Now I was just sitting there, striking dramatic poses for the señiorita’s at a nearby table, when some guy pulls up on an old red BMW K75 combo blender and sewing machine. The friggin’ thing must have stealth mode. One second there was a void in the atmosphere, and in the next the ugliest motorcycle in the world is parked to the Judge Dredd Sexual Street Justice Machine. The rider swaggered up to the bar like it was assumed he was going to get laid and drink for free.
He orders drinks for the house, roses for the señioritas, and “destiny” for himself. This turns out to be a double Jameson’s Irish whiskey, served in a woman’s navel. (And three bar hotties volunteered!) Well he ends up ordering four or five rounds on a tab that is almost as big as my bike, when he makes a bet with the bartender. The wager is that we got five balls between the two of us. It is apparently common for BMW riders to grow a third testicle with all the riding they do and the exposure to the power transfer between the saddle and the man-pillows. Not vibration, which is the reason most Sportster riders are women, but a solid connection between the soul of the motorcycle and a man’s sense of character.
So this K75 rider bets the bartender double or nothing for the existing tab, plus one of equal value, that he and I have five balls. You should have seen the look on this guy’s face when I leaned over and said, “Hey buddy, I hope you’ve got 4 balls.” Not one person heard that K75 start up and pull away at 85 mph. My tab came to $264.
So put the word on the street... I’m looking for the BMW rider whose got some balls.
Eddie “One Ball” Sturottio
Above: The Victory Vision is as distinctive a bike as any rider cold ever hope to own. Photo from the internet.
Dear Eddie “One Ball” Sturottio:
That would be all of us, including the women.
Dear Twisted Roads:
The last episode you wrote — Daylights Savings Time — was so fucking lame that I was embarrassed to read it aloud in my therapy group. But I didn’t know that until I actually volunteered to go first, stood up, and got into page three of the painful printout without getting a laugh. Could you please install a suck-meter on your blog so I could be spared this kind of humiliation in the future? What does Daylight Savings Time have to with riding a motorcycle, getting laid, or partying on a weekend? Absolutely nothing, that’s what. Please don’t let this happen again.
However, you might want to look into the wild tire-changing parties we have up here in Keene, NY. There’s hilarious story material there, like the time we spilled the Dyna-Beads into the oatmeal for a “balanced breakfast.” Get it?
Chris “Both Coasts” Westboffen
President/The Yellow Honda Riding and Farting Society
(Both coasts being both shores of Lake Champlain)
Dear Twisted Roads:
She was beautiful. I met her in a Key West bar, where the setting sun turned her hair into spun gold. She had the kind of seamless tan that suggested clothing was always optional on her stretch of beach. When she smiled, the air in the room turned thin, and I found myself spinning out of control whenever she looked in my direction. She moved across he dance floor like a lobbyist through congress, touching everyone but staying beyond everyone’s reach. There would be no fingerprints on her ass.
I knew she wasn’t for the likes of me, but was shocked to find myself talking to her at the end of the night. I mentioned I ride a “discount” Triumph Bonneville, without a tach. She whispered she had a thing for austere British iron and asked if I’d take her for a ride to a quiet place, “where the moonlight meets the water.” We left the bar and rode to a deserted spot by the Blue Hole on Big Pine Key. Gently pushing me down on the sand, she said she wanted to ride me like I was a 1970’s Triumph.
“Go ahead,” I said.
“Okay,” she whispered. She stood up with the moon behind her, looked down at me, and yelled, “Start, you old British Fuck.” Then she kick-started me in the balls three times.
When I came to, the blond, the bike, and my wallet were gone. I was in the fetal position on the sand, almost face-to-face with that puny alligator the Chamber of Commerce dropped in the Blue Hole. How much longer should I wait here for her? It’s been three days and I’ve eaten every one of those stupid chickens that have wandered within reach. You know, they’re not bad. They taste a little like iguana.
Lutsey Baravelli (Not My Real Name)
Key West, Florida (Where body paint hides European Cruise Ship Breast Sag)
Dear Twisted Roads:
There are 13 covered bridges in and around my town in Pennsylvania that are no longer safe for standard vehicular traffic or even those cute buggies. My plan is to put a fresh coat of paint on these and convert each into an “Amish House of Rolling Pleasure” for bikers. Motorcycles could slowly troll through, while Amish maidens conferred upon the riders such delights as “The Dutch Taffy Pull, the “Your Shu-Fly Is Open,” and “The Dutch Egg Noodle Special.” Not only would this promote the preservation of these structures, but it would offer riders the opportunity to spend money in these little communities where feed corn is still king. I think this would be a much better alternative than Amish Casino Gambling.
The “Covered Bridge Real Estate Elder”
Dear Twisted Roads:
I’m tired of reading all this bullshit about BMW riders having supernatural powers and pile-driving sexual capabilities. I ride a Kawasaki Vulcan and most of the BMW riders I’ve met are average, every-day douches. I was on a ride through West Virginia (where I originally met my wife, who is 20 years my junior and a former runner-up in the Miss Sizzling Breakfast Sausage Pageant), when this guy pulls up to the hotel, and proceeds to dismount by pulling a step out of his top case.
So I chime in with, “Maybe you’re too old for this young man’s game!”
And he answers with, “Life is challenging for me now that I’ve grown this third testicle.” But he doesn’t say this to me... He says it to my wife!
So I came back with “Balls just walk a man in baseball.”
And he turned to my wife and said, “Whether you walk or run, it makes no difference how a man gets past third base.” My wife is a very religious person. She must have been praying at the time because I heard her sigh and utter, “Amen to that.”
Then this bastard stares her right in the eye, and if he didn’t look like something that would climb onto the ice in Canada, only to be clubbed to death by real men. He was gone in the morning. Them “K” bikes make less noise than flushing a toilet on the Niagara River. No one at the hotel heard him go. And no one heard my wife slip out to go shopping or something either. But she’s gone too, probably scared to death by the memory of the BMW rider with the three testicles.
Truth-In-Advertising, West Virginia
Dear Twisted Roads:
I hate it when people greet me with a fucking 'aloha' --especially when it's 40 degrees and your balls are aching... Anyway... What you are suffering from is the result of either a very mistaken indulgence in some badly seasoned 'soixante-neuf' OR a case of the Creeping Cruds. Either way, the cure is the same .
This is not some macho posturing-- this actually works, i have done it.
The Hat Cure: lie down in your bed, take off your hat, and put it at the at the foot of the bed. Be careful here-- make sure it is the foot. Open a bottle of decent Scottish or Irish whiskey, no corn mash. Start to drink. When you see 2 hats at the foot of the bed, get all the blankets you have and get underneath them. Sweat like a bastard, as if you just received a subpoena and your bike won't start.
You have nothing to lose except the toxin that put you into this condition. Alcohol is a powerful diuretic. You can drain the dragon without it, but it's a lot less fun.
Anyway, be well, go forth and try to multiply. If you can't, then go fifth and divide.
Somewhere in Friggin’ NJ,
r1200GS, triumph Scrambler,
age 62, 3 ex's and a current girl friend who is a goddess
I am feeling somewhat better now as I went to a "natural healer," who made a poultice for my chest, and who bled me periodically. Also, leech therapy worked too. It appears I may have had cholera or yellow fever. I am now feeling well enough to walk to the bathroom to take piss, as opposed to relying on the nearest open window.
Jack • reep • Toad
The Twisted Roads Editorial Team will accept and consider any reader letter regarding motorcycles, riding technique, gear, personal relationships, Constitutional law, hygiene, or bizarre sexual practices. Published letters do not represent the official position of Twisted Roads, nor the personal opinions of its editorial staff. Twisted Roads does not offer counseling from licensed practitioners nor should one assume any answer will not be anything but the biased opinion of a guy who drinks beer, smokes cigars, and looks to get a little every now and again. Send letters to firstname.lastname@example.org
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011 -- All rights reserved.
Monday, March 21, 2011
I get great satisfaction from the realization that Franklin would have been burned at the stake if he had tried to perpetrate this nonsense 300 years earlier.
Above: Ben Franklin, US patriot and general pain in the ass when it came to clever sayings. He thought Daylight Savings Time was a great idea. Portrait from Wikipedia.
Yet on the second Sunday of March, most of the states in the US deprived me of an hour’s rest, or an hour’s drinking, or an hour’s reading, or an hour of doing anything, by advancing the clock 60 minutes ahead. According to Franklin, and legions of behavioral experts, most people would rather do stuff later in the day, utilizing natural light, as opposed to gradually easing into the day as we head toward summer. I have since heard other claims that Dickensian factories banged away a few extra hours in the day, for which immigrant labor went largely unpaid, making the best of natural light filtering in through dirty skylights. And farmers could easily rake hay, muck horse shit, or sing to the pigs, also making the best out of existing light.
And this doesn’t even touch Franklin’s claim that advancing the clock conserves whale oil, which is now the primary lubricant for most Ducati’s.
But I have found damn little to benefit me in the daylight savings scheme. Some claim you get the “hour” back in the fall, but that’s just bullshit. Suppose I’m doing something important at 1am, on the second Saturday of March — like knocking off a piece? Am I going to get that particular hour back in the fall? Does the gentle Twisted Roads reader know how many times I have scheduled an hour of creative sexual gymnastics for that Saturday night, only to be cheated out of it by an “atomic” alarm clock that immediately jumps ahead one hour? And what about getting the hour back in the fall? I’m usually cleaning the garage, working in the garden, or trying to get the damn harvest in when I discover I’ve been awarded my free hour. Who the hell wants a free hour of that stuff?
I first began to combat daylight savings time 23 years ago. I would dutifully turn the clock ahead one hour every spring as required... But opted not to turn it back in the fall. Year after year, I would willing lose an hour, without expecting, nor getting, a damn thing in return... Until this year. This year, I opted to take all of the 24 hours I had coming to me in one lump sum, giving me a whole day frozen in time. The plan did not work as well as I thought it would. Though working with a 24-year payoff in mind, each year would bring me an hour closer to another time zone. By this March, I was on Beijing time, an entire day ahead of my clients in the US. Then, in one fell swoop, I was on Riepe time... A full day behind the world, in a dimension of my own.
I thought I could spend day the doing exactly what I would have used all those hours for — getting my horn honked. That was my first misconception. Fat chance. My next shot was for being out on my bike, but it rained that day and I since I was the only person using this unique approach, I couldn’t switch days.
And then the solution hit me — just as lightening must have hit Franklin in the ass at one time or another. I would create: MRDST, Motorcycle Riding Daylight Savings Time.
This is an amazing process. Utilizing MRDST, there is no need to get up early in the morning to get in a full day’s ride. The new system will give you all the riding time you need. For example, sleep until 10am and wake up gently, at your special pace, to enjoy a nice hot cup of coffee. When mounting the bike, set the clock back 3 hours to 7 am. This will be the new MRDST factor. When do you advance the clock forward an equal amount of time? When confronted with something really unpleasant — like the Monday morning office meeting with the boss. Just go in at the usual (unadjusted time), and turn the clock ahead the missing three hours, sparing yourself three hours of scalding hot air from someone least qualified to tell you how to do your job.
Now the concept of MRDST is neither entirely new, nor entirely mine. It has been thoroughly tested by millions of unknown and unnamed riding pioneers, who have responded to sensitive domestic inquires, such as “when do you intend to come home,” with, “When I’m done riding.” That is the essence of the MRDST program.
Now there are some drawbacks to this approach. For example, it works best when limited to a single 3- to 6-hour extension per week. Some riders find the MRDST approach so comforting and personally satisfying, that they attempt to turn the clock back a week or so at a time. Things get confusing at that point, and the difference between a week and a month becomes blurred. One Harley rider of my acquaintance, Jesse Kissmyass (not his real name) starting turning the clock back a season at a time. His intent was to eliminate the winter of his life on an annual basis. A BMW rider, Clyde Douchely (his real name) attempted to keep himself young by extending his riding months, and eliminating those months in which his in-laws visited.
But the truth is that a motorcycle is a time machine in itself... No other mechanical contrivance is so effective in making you feel like a kid. Twisting the throttle turns a middle-aged rider into a predatory cat (not like a leopard but more like a saber-toothed tiger). And have you ever noticed that you’re ready to mate like a mink on steroids after a sizzling ride? Fooling around with the clock might buy you some time or cost you an hour every now and again... But a motorcycle renews your soul, and that’s the best way to get the most out of the hours you have on earth.
Spring officially arrived yesterday, in West Chester, Pa, but it was here a week ago when the peepers came out in all the streams and damp meadows. (It went down to 36º two nights later, and I’m afraid thousands of those wonderful little frogs might have frozen their little brown asses off.) The daffodils are blooming out front, and two crocus blossoms are in the garden. My de facto grandson dropped a couple of gummy worms out in the yard, and I watched a fat-assed robin walking around with a red and green one sticking out of his beak.
Above: Thousands of "Spring Peepers" sound off with a soothing note of annual renewal, as we get a few days with temperatures in the 50's (F). And then we get a frost again, and they're sorry they said anything. Photo from Wikipedia.
My local BMW riding club, the Mac-Pac, had their first breakfast of spring on Sunday morning (yesterday, March 20, 2011), and I humiliated myself by arriving in the Subaru. We get our own private room at the diner because watching the Siegfried boys eat en masse is not a pretty thing. My appearance was unexpected and the only sound you could hear when I stepped in was coming from my hips and knees. I could barely walk. But I am stretching my joints a couple of times a day, and doing what I can to improve the range of motion. Saturday, April 2nd, is gassing day and we are converging on the Qurentin Haus Restaurant,in Quentin, Pa, at 1pm.
I have no idea when I’m going to get there, as I’ll be on Motorcycle Riding Daylight Savings Time.
I am coming out of the far end of the asthmatic bronchial thing, and it looks like I may have dodged the really annoying bullet. The wheeze deprived me of sleep for nearly two weeks, and I have been off my oats for a long time. Today’s post will see a resumption of the Monday/Thursday publication dates for Twisted Roads.
I have accrued a ton of letters from readers, next Thursday’s post will be “Dispatches From The Front.”
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011
All rights reserved
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Above: The ultra-swanky Grove Park Inn, built and furnished in the "Arts and Crafts" style, is one of the most famous and beautiful hotel properties in North America. Photo from the Internet.
Above: Most folks don't realize the extend of the "Arts and Crafts" movement in the United States. These furnishings, found in the lobby of the Grove Park Inn, represent the artistic movement of the Roycrofters or the Stickley school of design. I once went to buy Leslie an authentic, mica-shaded lamp like the two pictured above for a present. I found one in bad condition. It was $29,000. (No joke.) I let it go. Photo from the Grove Park Inn.
I arrived there in the summer of 2007 with Dick Bregstein (Mac-Pac BMW rider from West Chester, Pa) and Lee Kazanas (A BMW rider from Jay, NY, in the Adirondacks). Our objective was to attend the BMW Riders’ Association Rally, which convened on the grounds of the Biltmore Estate. This was my second season of long-distance re-entry riding — after a 25-year hiatus, and my second year of debilitating arthritis n my hips and knees. I am always amazed when natives of the “Deep South” speak about the cooling glades of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was July, and the temperature outside was 25,000 degrees (F). Asheville is a great place to practice holding the full weight of your bike on a 45º incline, in a simulated blast furnace, while a traffic light leisurely cycles through the colors.
Above: The City of Asheville, NC... As cool as San Francisco and a great place to visit. Photo from the Internet.
“Riding in this fucking place makes me feel like I am trapped in a painting by M.C. Escher,” I said to Bregstein. “Every turn I make ends at an uphill traffic light, which is invariably red, and I feel like a lizard gradually turning into a bird.” Even parking had its challenges as driveways, parking lots, and city streets invariably sloped in opposing directions.
Despite having a great time, I never really got used to the place and I had a bad omen riding out on the last day. We had breakfast at the hotel, and were in the saddle by 8am on a Saturday morning. Our first stop was for gas and I nearly dropped the bike twice negotiating slow, uphill turns to the left at traffic lights. (I was really off my game, and we had between 400 and 650 miles to go that day.)
“I have that peculiar feeling that today is not going to turn out well,” I said to Bregstein, as we tanked up at a “Brand X” gas station. (I may have also added something like, "I hate this heat, and I'm sick and tired of leaning into a 45º turn every 20 seconds, and the thrill of holding my bike with my fucking balls while climbing the mountans around here is wearing thin." Checking with Bregstein, he thinks I did mention the heat. — author's note.)
“What do you want to do?” asked Bregstein.
“What is there to do,” I replied. “We go. I’ll be all right once we get on the interstate and start winding these things out.”
A lot of riders hate the interstate. I am not one of them. I am good for a limited number of hours in the saddle and given the choice, I’ll trade maximum miles for minimum hours every time. There was no thought of screwing around on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We had come down that way, and it would be the preferred escape route of every BMW pilot headed north. That meant getting sandwiched between those riding 5 miles slower than the 45 mile per hour speed limit and the real peg scrappers boiling out of the turns going much faster (in violation of federal law). Besides, I wanted to make real time without dodging the cops, inching around blind curves, or slamming to a halt behind city folks sitting in the middle of the road, admiring the verminous deer.
Above: Three Blue BMWs headed south on the Blue Ridge Parkway... Two will make it to Asheville, NC... One will return to Chester County, Pa alone. (From left) Pete Buchheit's 2003 K1200S; Dick Bregstein's 2007 F800ST; Jack Riepe's 1986 K75. Pete will ony go as far as North Carolina. Jack will crash. And Dick will return alone. The author is no longer this cartoonisly fat. Highly unflattering photo of Jack Riepe by Pete Buchheit.
I was already drenched with sweat and dealing with a throbbing hip when we left the gas station. Bregstein and I had our directions down pat, and we headed north, toward Tennessee, on I-26. Traffic was heavy getting out of town but the interstate between Asheville, NC and Johnson City, TN was just fun. The road has broad sweepers, six-lanes wide, that arc up and down mountainsides like a roller coaster. The countryside was extremely pretty. The traffic was absolutely minimal, and we went like bloody hell.
Above: Pete Buchheit (left) and Jack Riepe survey the view of Irish Creek from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Photo by Dick Bregstein.
I rode my 1986 K75, which was 21-years-old, like it was brand new. We blasted up and down mountainsides with the throttles close to wide open. The fully loaded K75 took it in stride. Bregstein’s F800ST was brand new, and quite in its element as we literally flew along the ground. We stopped once in a treeless rest area, high atop a mountain, where motorists were encouraged to walk another mile or so to the top. (I passed.) The arthritis compelled me to put me feet down, but I didn’t get off the bike.
Above: The legendary Dick Bregstein with his F800ST. Photo by Peter Buchheit.
The urban confines of Johnson City, TN called for a more prudent interpretation of the speed limit, which we followed right onto I-81 north. Interstate-81 can best be described as a pressure-cooking, grindhouse of a road. The heat of the sun is absorbed by the rutted pavement, and magnified by the exhaust of 10 million trucks. It is a major north-south artery for truck traffic and these hulking, diesel mammoths commonly push 75 and 80 miles per hour. After getting boxed in a few times, Bregstein and I decided to “set the pace.” We knifed through traffic like it was butter, and I discovered how easily my old bike could “pull the ton.”
Above: One of many encouraging signs to be found on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Photo from the Bregstein Collection.
Quarter-second glances into my Napoleon bar-end mirrors revealed Bregstein was in tight and to my right. We were in the far left lane — moving along well into triple digits — when I noticed something odd. A two-tone colored car was closing in on Dick. And by two-toned, I mean dark brown and worse brown. Colors that no sane person would pick for a personal vehicle.
“Shit,” I thought, scanning for an opening on the right. One popped up... I signaled... And flicked the bike into it, shedding 30 miles per hour as fast as I could. Bregstein followed me like a shadow. A Tennessee State Trooper shot past us ten seconds later. In a rest area up the road, I ask Dick why he didn’t flash his lights at me or something.
“I never saw that cop,” said Bregstein. “I hate the stock mirrors on this bike and can’t see a thing. You’re looking for the both of us.” A fast review of Dick’s GPS revealed our “average speed” was well above the middle 90’s. He looked at me with a stern face of admonition and said, “We’re going get in big trouble if we don’t slow down.”
But a kind of madness was on me. Gone were the jitters of the morning. We were somewhere in the middle of Virginia, when I said, “Want to take it all the way back today?”
Dick smiled and said, “Why not?”
Our stops became less frequent, and while we lowered our speed, the difference wasn’t noticeable to the naked eye. (It isn’t likely we would have gotten the death penalty had we been pulled over, but ten years on a chain gang was a definite possibility.) Yet with 5 hours in the saddle (and a 90-minute stop for lunch), we had barely covered 425 miles.
Dividing the remaining mileage between Harrisonburg, Va and West Chester, Pa by the pain in my hips, the truth was that I was not going to make it.
Above: The author, relaxing in the breeze on the Blue Ridge Parkway, wearing the kind of smile that only comes from a mad ride in the clouds with a couple of good friends. Photo by Dick Bregstein.
I’d heard of a great old hotel, bar, and restaurant in Strasburg, Va, and my resolve to make the run in one day dissolved in the vision of a tall Tom Collins. The Hotel Strasburg has been welcoming guests to the Shenandoah Valley since 1915. It is a a quirky old hotel (no elevator), in which every guest room is like something out of Aunt Pitti-Pat’s guest house. The rooms run from middling to small, and each is decorated in a very tasteful, and deluxe way. For the exception of the elevator, it would be my model for the perfect small hotel, (and as a former travel writer for a major trade association, I have stayed in some of the best hotels on Earth.)
The Hotel Strasburg has an impressive and delightful menu in the main dining room (which is fully half the reason anyone should stay there). There is a more casual (cheaper) bar with a TV, but so what. After a brief consultation with my partner in crime, we set our sights on Strasburg, Va.
We made one more stop for gas and for a couple of bottles of cold water at a road-side stand, where the temperature scored 96 points in vertical mercury. And it was here that I encountered my first somewhat malevolent exchange with the representatives of the “Motor Company.” There were four or five Harley’s parked in the shade at this rest area, which Bregstein and I took pains not to crowd as we parked our Beemers — in the sun. The Harley gentlemen were wearing sleeveless leather vests, “do” rags, and tattoos. Bregstein and I were in full ballistic mesh, with body armor, gloves, and full face helmets. My skin temperature was 449º (F), two degrees short of the flashpoint.
“Why do you dopes dress like that,” asked one of the Harley riders.
The engine on my bike was still running, and I was tempted to say, “Because your wife and sister fuck me extra hard when I show up looking like Darth Vader.” But Bregstein had already dismounted, and I thought, “They’ll take him alive, paint his ass blue, and stretch him out over a fire ant hill.” Yet my response would have been so good, so fast, and so vicious, I was almost willing to make that sacrifice.
My actual response was, “Sweat’s cheaper than plasma, and easier to come by.”
The other H-D riders seemed a trifle embarrassed by their friend’s attitude, which I thought was interesting, and they attempted to engage us in conversation.
“How far did you guys ride today?” asked one.
“We were in Lubbock, Texas, this time yesterday,” I said, straining my eyeballs to keep a straight face.”
“What’s going on in Texas?” asked another.
“We were character references for the defense in a murder trial,” said Bregstein.
“Way to go, Dickie, boy,” I thought, giving Bregstein a Clint Eastwood nod of silent approval.
One of the riders made perfunctory remarks about how much he liked our bikes, which was pure bullshit, and we returned the compliment in the same vein. I was obsequiously solicitous of one custom job where the forks stretched 12 feet from the seat, mentioning how I always wanted to have one, but could never scrape the cash together between bail bonds and alimony payments.
Actually, this was the second time Dick and I were targeted for some bullshit from the leather and chrome crowd. Once, at a breakfast run to to the now defunct Brass Monkey Diner in New Jersey, a couple of the leather boys walked down the bike line and stopped at Bregstein’s F800ST. One said, “This guy must have ridden in on his little sister’s bike.”
My mouth clutch started slip that day too, and I was on my way to saying, “It is his sister’s bike. She’s having five inches trimmed from her cock today so it won’t be more than three inches longer than yours,” when Bregstein gently kicked me in the ankle. Later Dick asked if I had been Custer’s PR guy at the Little Big Horn. BMW's F800 series needs no apologies.
We exited I-81 a handful of miles south of Strasburg, Va, found Route 11, and turned left toward town. We were on the last few miles separating us from a cool drink, and I felt none of the jitters I had earlier. While there is a bit of release in reaching the end of a good day’s run, I was also delighted that there would be at least one more full day to our big seasonal ride. Bregstein is a pisser of a good time, and responds to each of my inane suggestions with, “Okay.” Dick falls into that rare category titled, “amiably agreeable to most activities that offer the option of a fine.” A friend will help you move. A friend like Bregstein will help you move a body.
I noted that despite being pushed relentlessly in ghastly heat, my K75 ran flawlessly. At stops and traffic lights, it immediately went to the correct factory idle. The cooling fan came on and off with predictability. It was running like a mature quarter horse, at home on the prairie.
South of Strasburg, Route 11 is divided by a grassy median, with opposing lanes coming together a block or two outside of town. There was virtually no traffic. Bregstein and I were cruising at 35 miles per hour, with me in the lead. We were coming up on the intersection of Funk Road, and I could feel the hair stand up on the back of my neck. In that instant, a car came out of the trees and rolled right to the edge of the intersection. I could see the driver clearly, as the lowering sun fully illuminated his face. He was looking right at me, when he started forward again. Though I had the clutch and front brake covered, my mind did the trigonometry and ordered my thumb to unleash the twin FIAMM screamers. That horn was loud. The driver looked at me again and stopped.
“Fuck me,” I thought. “Maybe that was it. Maybe I dodged the bullet today.” There was a clue in this, but I didn’t see it at the time.
We entered Strasburg a few minutes later. There was absolutely no traffic at all, on a late Saturday afternoon. That should have set off warning bells too. But I was tired, and the alarm bells were muted by fatigue.
The community of Strasburg is one of the most charming little places you could hope to visit. Folks are friendly, helpful, and appear to be genuinely happy. They celebrate their community too. On this day, the town’s girls’ field hockey team, softball team, or synchronized sharp-shooting team (I forget which) had just had a big win, and the whole town had turned out for a surprise victory parade. The sidewalks were lined with people. The cops were out. The fire department was there. The ambulance corps was lined up. The mayor was ready to commence the festivities. The bus with the victorious athletes was entering the north edge of town... And to the south, a blue 1986 BMW K75 entered an intersection at the same time as a late model minivan.
I analyzed the sight-picture of the intersection as I rolled toward it. The traffic light was green... The corners were clear... One minivan was approaching directly-on at a speed similar to my own, about 25 miles per hour. There were lots of people on the sidewalks. It was broad daylight... The sky was cloudless... I could see the glint of a golden sun (to my back) coming off the windshield of the minivan. I was lugging the engine in third gear. My intention was to go a block, then turn right. Bregstein was behind me by about 30 feet.
With 25 feet left between me and the minivan, it turned left. My entire filed of vision was that minivan. Not taking the forward momentum of the other vehicle into account, my speed meant I was covering 36 feet per second. It was a lottery I couldn’t win. I was screaming in my helmet, with the clutch and front brake fully pulled in, with the back brake pedal fully depressed. I was 9 feet short of the perfect panic stop.
The sound of the impact was very impressive. I was airborne, briefly, before slamming down on the front of the vehicle and then the ground. The wind went out of me like I was a blowfish with gas. I came to rest flat on my back, on the ground, looking at the undercarriage of the minivan. My first thought was that the driver might exit the vehicle without shutting it off, and that it would roll over me. And then I felt the pain in my chest... The sledgehammer pain that rolled over me with every breath.
“The asshole driver of this fucking minivan has crushed my chest,” I thought.
Dick Bregstein was horrified. He claimed it was like a cheap magician’s trick. First you see the man on the motorcycle, then you don’t. The law of gravity, aided by the tenets of centrifugal force and physics, hurled me from the seat of my beloved Blueballs. In an instant, the street had been swept clean of K75’s.
It would not have been possible to get a better emergency service response time had this been a rehearsal. In fact, I might have landed in the ambulance had the doors been open. An EMS team and the Strasburg Fire Department appeared out of thin air. In the course of very few minutes, competent first responders had stabilized me and were doing an injury assessment by the numbers. Someone was asking various questions, which I pretty much ignored at the moment. I wanted the Rosary in my pocket, but the effort was beyond me. So I began to recite the Apostle’s Creed, as I have learned it through years of Catholic schooling. My reasoning was straightforward: if this was the end of Riepe, I was going go out with whatever kind of a shine I could put on a tarnished soul. One of the EMS workers, a gentleman named Carlos, prayed with me. I was under the impression that as long as I appeared lucid, a challenge for me on the best of days, that gave the EMS folks some of the information they were looking for.
I faded in and out of consciousness once or twice on the ground, and once in the ambulance. I got strapped to a body board, had my helmet removed according to the proper procedure, and my neck secured. A state cop asked me a couple of questions, and went off to cite the operator of the minivan. I believe there were several hundred witnesses. Throughout all this, a well-dressed guy in a suit, carrying a walkie-talkie, kept sauntering up, and looking down at me. Then he’d say something into the radio. About the fourth time this happened, I asked, “Who is that guy? If he’s the local undertaker tell him I plan to live.” (I actually think it was the mayor, who was waiting to start the parade, though I really have no idea who this gentleman was.)
Bregstein’s face emerged from the crowd, and I swear the smug bastard smirked. Then he said, “The state cop is looking for the paperwork on your bike. Do you have it, Jack?” I had to think for a second, and I told him it was under the seat, in the plastic jacket of the owner’s manual. Dick then asked, “Jack, is there anything I can do for you?”
“Get my laptop out of the saddle bags,” I choked, clutching my chest. “And delete all the naked pictures of any blonds.” Every person doing something at the accident scene stopped and looked at me. “Just kidding,” I hissed.
And then, according to Bregstein, came the ordeal of the fireman. The biggest guys in town, men whose upper arm diameter is greater than the waists of Russian ballerinas, stood in total solidarity and picked me up on the stretcher. Dick claimed you could hear testicles popping clear across the county. “It sounded like champagne bottles opening at the end of WWII,” he said.
The ambulance ride to the hospital was not without its moments either. The crew hooked me up to all kinds of devices to measure vital signs, and my arms kept getting in the way. One of the EMS team members, a woman with a delightful voice, said to me, “Here... Put your hands between my knees. Now you can tell all your friends you rode to the hospital with your hands between a woman’s legs.” She had the sweetest voice. I have no idea what she looked like, because I was very woozy at the time and decided to just keep my eyes closed. But I couldn’t resist. I replied, “Honey, you wouldn’t try this if I wasn’t lashed down.” The same Carlos who prayed with me at the crash site rode in the ambulance too. I tried to give him my watch.
The emergency room facilities at the hospital in Winchester handled me like I was one of Dr. House’s guest patients at Princeton Plainsboro General. They cut my gear off and I could hear several women gasp. You see, I am so fat that my shape is defined by the Kevlar-reinforced gear that I wear. Without clothing, I start to expand until I take on the dimensions of the containment vessel. I could hear the sounds of x-ray equipment and other stuff being shoved aside by my expanse. I opened my eyes and I said to the ER team, “I’m sorry about this... But the next time this happens I will a lot thinner and have a great tan.”
I made ‘em all laugh.
Dick Bregstein had ridden almost 500 miles that day, in intense heat. He got my computer from the saddle bags. He went through the paperwork with the cop. He oversaw the pickup of my motorcycle by the towing company. And he followed me to the hospital. He called Leslie (my hot squeeze) and gave her the details. And then he waited until he got to see me, around 10pm. His reward for this was a ride in the dark to a hotel that had no food service, but allowed him to glom an apple from the registration desk. He headed back home by himself the next day. Leslie swears she passed him on I-81.
I had no serious injuries. I had no concussion... No broken limbs... No busted collarbone... I was told I had bruised ribs. Can the gentle Twisted Roads reader guess the difference between a cracked rib and a bruised one? There is no difference at all as far as pain or treatment goes. My chest hurt so badly that I could barely move, and so I was detained for the night. (Getting upright to take a piss was a 12-step program.) My Nolan helmet had hit the bumper of the minivan and then the ground. It was not cracked. My Joe Rocket armored ballistic mesh jacket remained intact. I was riding in jeans. These exploded in flight and I had road rash for a couple of weeks.
Leslie picked me up the next morning. She stepped through the door and I said, “I am so glad to see you.” Then I got weepy.
Above: The hulking wreck of the author in the hospital, as captured by the love of his life, Leslie Marsh. The only severe scrapes were on my lower legs. Not shown, thank God, are two massive bruises on my chest. No broken bones. (The author is no longer this fat.)
She replied: “Don’t move. I’m going back to the car for a camera.” That woman is a tower of quivering sentimentality. But the accident impressed her too. She offered to have the letters “DNR” tattooed on my forehead for my birthday.
“Blueballs” did not survive the wreck.
Above: The day before the wreck, this bike didn't have a scratch on it. The tires were almost brand new. And now it will be canabalized for parts. Photo by Leslie Marsh.
The fairing vaporized. The forks bent. The luggage detached and exploded (two out of three bags). The front wheel deformed... The handlebars bent...The gas tank was dented and the pristine engine cases were scuffed. (The clock still worked though.) The bike was totaled at a glance, probably because of its age. The insurance company of the minivan driver started out by explaining I was riding an old motorcycle and that they went to three dealers for accurate estimates of its value. (A statement like that from an insurance company makes me want to cover my ass with a stove-lid.) They went to “Fogo’s Cycle” in Sri Lanka, the Hog Waller General Store and Motorcycle Repair Shop, and “We Fix Bikes Good” in Latvia. They determined through fair analysis, that my bike had a value of $863. Two years later, they sent me a property settlement check for $400 more than I originally paid for the bike. This did not quite cover the price of the MotoLights nor the oversized alternator, but it was a hell of an improvement over their first offer. I did my own negotiating.
Above: The ignominious end to a great motorcycle. Photo by Leslie Marsh.
I bought “Fireballs” seven weeks after the crash. It was from the last production year that BMW made the K75, which was 1995. The bike had 11,000 miles on it. I felt like I had stolen the crown jewels. In truth, I thought (and still do) that “Blueballs” was the more spirited of these two machines. It was my intention to remove the Parabellum “Scout” fairing from the new bike, and to replace it with a new “Sprint” Fairing, which I could still get custom molded for $1,400 — unpainted. A famous BMW wrench, who has threatened to beat the shit out of me if I ever mention his name in this blog, said, “Why add an accessory that will complicate a lot of routine maintenance on this bike?” He was right... The Parabellum “Scout” fairing stayed and it has grown on me. I really love it.
Above: "Fireballs..." The 1995 K75 - with the Parabellum "Scout" fairing - that has become my signature bike. Photo by the author.
What was the clue I missed riding into Strasburg? You all guessed it. The sun-glare on the driver’s side window on the car coming out of Funk Road, and then the same glare on the windshield of the minivan. I am positive neither driver could see me, despite the fact it was broad daylight on a clear afternoon. In the first case, I hit the horn and gave myself dimension. But I never saw a turn signal on the minivan, so it never occurred to me that it was going to turn. There’s a lot I would have done differently if I could relive that ride into Strasburg... But there is no guarantee it would have turned out any differently.
It was almost three months before I trusted myself to get on another motorcycle. This was due to pain and fear. (I bought “Fireballs” without riding it. What the fuck, it’s a K75.) I took it easy, but was nervous to the point where I was ready to piss myself. I planned a five-mile route that was likely to have the least amount of traffic. Three blocks from the house, some asshole in a minivan made a snap left turn across my lane. But I was ready this time. The driver was a stupid kid — talking on the phone. It was my intention to follow him someplace, and to beat the shit out of him when he got out of the vehicle. But what would that prove... I would have gotten the drop on the dopiest member of the million-person-asshole minivan league.
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011