Friday, July 29, 2011

Hot Bikes, Hot Women, and Hot Times At The BMW MOA Rally In Bloomsburg, Pa

“You’re kidding yourself if you think you’re going to ride up to the Bloomsburg rally in this heat, and not have it come to a bad end.”

This was the verdict of my trusted cardiologist, doctor, and friend.

“You weigh more than a neutron star and pinball around on that poor cane under the best of circumstances,” the doctor said. “So now you’re going to put on a black mesh jacket, black perforated leather gloves, and a black helmet, prior to flopping onto a water-cooled K75 — which cranks out the heat of a gas grill — under what amounts to a week-long solar flare?”

His assessment of “Plan A” was uncanny.

“Does the expression ‘really stupid’ strike a chord?” he asked. “Try this... Suit up in the body armor, roll the bike out into the driveway, and sit on it with the engine running. Then call me back if you don’t die.”

I donned full gear while standing over an air conditioning vent in the kitchen. I was wearing a crisp pair of Defender (Kevlar®-line jeans from Diamond Gusset), a full mesh jacket by Joe Rocket, and skin-tight summer riding gloves from Icon. I took three steps into the garage and felt myself expand in 99º (F) heat. My shape was being defined by the retentive strength of my protective gear... And then I banged my head on humidity that would dent a shovel.

I rolled “Fire Balls,” my 1995 K75, out into the driveway and thumbed the starter button. The engine detonated into life and I immediately switched off the “bogus” choke (idle advance for the fuel injection) as the motor was already as warm as a stove lid.

This performance was being witnessed by Chris Wolfe and Mike Cantwell, two friends who had ridden down from Lake Placid, New York, (7 hours distant) to attend the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America, in Bloomsburg, Pa.

“Are you leaking coolant?” asked Chris.

“The bike’s hoses look tight,” I replied, glancing over the machine.

“Not the bike... You!”

A fine spray of liquid was squirting through the mesh on my jacket, and puddling on the ground. Within two minutes, geese were paddling around in it. It was hotter than friggin’ blazes. I felt like the attendant in a steel mill who samples the slag with a huge tube. I switched off the bike and staggered into the garage, where the heat was a degree less than the broiling tarmac outside.

The gloves came off like they were tattoos. My jacket was a sodden mess, and the crisp creases in my riding pants were as faint as my recollection of wedding vows. “You win,“ I said in a return call to the doctor.

Fifteen minutes later, David Hardgrove showed up in a bright red Ford pick-up, with a cab temperature of 68º (F), and Fire Balls was ignominiously loaded onto my Kendon trailer. I threw my riding gear behind the truck’s front seat, still determined to make a moto presence at the rally. After all, I’d ridden up to the Vermont MOA Rally in 2006, and to the MOA Rally in Tennessee in 2007. Those rallies were held in the dead of summer. (Then I remembered wearing a long-sleeve shirt as temperatures dropped to a chilly 66º one afternoon during the Vermont rally. That was not likely to happen here in Pennsylvania.)

Above) "Fire Balls" arrived at the rally towed by "Big Balls," David Hardgrove's red Ford 150.

We opted for the fast track and took the Pennsylvania Turnpike to I-80. My mood was subdued as David, a chemical engineer, made small talk about what rally events we should check out first. I anticipated a highway choked with BMW’s, but saw very few. Chris Wolfe (on a piss-yellow Honda VFR) and Mike Cantwell (on a pristine blue BMW K75) disappeared into the haze on the horizon, doimg about 200 miles per hour. (Mike has the directional instincts of the late Ray Charles, so he led.)

MOA rallies draw participants from all points of the compass, and before long a red Triumph pulled alongside. The rider wagged his finger in shame at the K75 in bondage. (I was touched by his sympathy, and showed him a finger of my own.) The Triumph’s wingman was astride a Kawasaki Concors, and he was peering into the cab with more than casual interest. He'd recognized my vanity plate — “RIEPE” — from my blog. This was none other than George Ferreira, the publisher of the biker blog: Riding In the USA. George raised his face shield and shot me a huge smile, which, with a glance at my restrained German bike, acquired the characteristics of a Kawasaki-rider's sneer. The Triumph rider was his pal, Wayne Fields. Both are from New Jersey.

We followed these guys into the rest area at Allentown, and were reunited with our advance guard, Mike and Chris, who came in 25 minutes later, after having missed the exit for the Northeast Extension of the Pa. Turnpike. (It’s an easy turn to miss as the sign is the size of cruise ship.) Chris assumed that offended British look of his and observed, “Fucking Pennsylvania is the only fucking state with three fucking turnpikes.”

Within minutes, we were joined by a bunch of riders from New Jersey, all on “R” bikes. There is a highly lovable trait common to all bikers from New Jersey. Whenever you say something like: “How are you? It’s great to see you guys,” they look at you like you’re trying to steal something. “I’m Jack Riepe,” I said to one guy, who replied, “I know who you are. Don’t sweat on my motorcycle.”

Two hours later, we arrived at a rally site that was like the epicenter of universe for German motorcycle perfection.

Every conceivable variety of “K, R, F.” and “S” bike lined the pathways through the tent sites. Tricked out K1600GTL’s (once thought to be mythical) were parked shoulder-to-shoulder with pristine “Toasters” and surviving WWII bikes. For me, there was nothing as exciting as riding around the rally grounds and picking out stunning K75’s with unusual fairings or custom paint jobs. My personal favorite was a K75 decked out with a Krauser fairing and bags, with blue flames trailing back from the front. (It gave me big ideas for Fire Balls, including red LED lighting buried in the frame.) There were a number of bright yellow K75’s — with black trim — which made me think of giant “Yellow Jacket” wasps. These machines exuded a raw sexuality that is beyond the “practical shoes look” given off by “R” bikes of a similar vintage. I was looking at one when a woman half my age came up to me and said, “This bike makes me want to do something bad...” I glanced at her and she quickly added, “But not with you.”

One machine that brought my eyes out on stalks was a BMW C1 scooter, carefully painted to look like a map.

One thing I love about BMW MOA rallies is that you can ride your bike as close to the action as you like — and park it just about anywhere. This leads to a mad chaos of traffic control and a great mix of extraordinary German Iron. Yet because of the level and paved nature of the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds, I didn’t see one dropped bike.

Above) Roddy Irwin (behind the wheel) made sure I arrived at my speaking engagements without that "freshly hosed" look that was so popular during the rally. In the background is the madness of the Mac-Pac camping compound. Ron Yee is standing dead center, watching two other Mac-Pac members grease the seat on his "R" bike. Photo by Gary Christman.

My first destination was the camping compound of my local club — the Mac-Pac Eating and Wrenching Society — the premier chartered BMW riding organization serving southeast Pennsylvania and the world. Next to the Great Wall of China and the printed version of the US budget, the Mac-Pac campsite was the third man-made structure on earth capable of being viewed from space with the naked eye. The main structure was a tent-like awning, shaped like the Taj Mahal, equipped with four beer taps (which gushed the purest and best home-brewed nectar, the temperature of an Alpine spring). The main feature was a custom-built picnic table, built by Ken Bruce, that was the size of an aircraft carrier's flight deck. It could easily accommodate 18 people on a side. This remarkable camping complex was surrounded by 50 or 60 tents, in which happy campers changed their tee shirts every 20 minutes, as the temperature hit an impressive 103º (F).

Above) Left: Peter Frechie, my friend, doctor, and trusted cardiologist prepares to wrap a radial tire around my arm so he can take my blood pressure. Can you think of a greater testimony for a Kermit Chair? Photo by Gary Christman.

Above): This is all that remains of the Mac-Pac Pig Roast, the culinary highlight of the rally for our club. Conducted by Rick and Linda Sorensen, this evdent unfolded like a major WWII troop movement. If Linda Sorensen had been entrusted with the organization of the earth's creation, it would have been completed in five days, regardless of the heat. The pig's head was sent to Congress, where it brokered the current debt ceiling compromise. Photo by Gary Christman.

Above) Hundreds of rally attendees (myself included) opted to stay in air conditioned dormatory suites at Bloomsburg University, as opposed to camping on the scorched ground like convicts. This led to scenes like the one above, with college community streets lined with German iron. Photo by Gary Christman.

It was so hot during rally week in Central Pennsylvania, that Amish farmers ate their straw hats and took wagon-loads of their kith and kin to bowling alleys, movie theaters, and tattoo parlors — any place that was air conditioned. In the course of three days, more than 50 riders would be rushed to the hospital for heat stroke. (This included three members of our group.) Water sprinkers, tons of ice, and thousands of bottles of cold water (freely distributed to the masses) prevented that number from being much higher. Although the BMW crowd is known for its ATGATT philosophy (All The Gear All The Time), this was the first rally during which I saw legions of Beemer pilots riding in bicycle shorts, bikinis, speedos, shirtless — and without helmets.

Above) One of a dozen beautiful swimming holes on the Susquehanna River in Bloomsburg, Pa, where hundreds of riders fled to beat the heat. Photo by Gary Christman.

Hundreds of rally participants roared out onto PA Route 11, and Pa Route 42 in search of swimming holes along the picturesque Susquehanna River. This bucolic ribbon of water spills into isolated pools and quiet coves less than a mile from town. It was a common sight to see dozens of gleaming Beemers, parked off the shoulder, while their riders cooled off in the water. (And just as pleasant was the absence of police cruisers with cops yelling at people to stop having a good time. In fact, Bloomsburg, Pa. was about as hospitable a place as you’d find anywhere.)

Above): GS riders were offered a technical riding course that was filled with "Adventure." Here a rider has pulled into a stream that has flooded an abandoned railroad tunnel. Photo by Gary Christman.

Above) GS riders charged through the unknown, kicking up rooster-tails as they navigated this flooded railroad tunnel. Photo by Gary Christman.

Above: "Pit Crew Member" Kimi Bush and the author... Pit Crew Members Kimi Bush and Linda Sorensen wore these shirts and got the audience warmed up for the author's presentation.

There were two midways on this fairgrounds. The first was dedicated to the moto vendors, where trading was heavy for gear, gadgets, tires, and customizing. (I watched in amazement as an artist applied pin-striping to a number of machines. This simple but elegant touch made these bikes stand out a bit from the crowd. "Tattoos for motorcycles," I thought.) The other midway was a broad boulevard set aside for the food vendors. (And I would have visited each one if it hadn’t been so damned hot.)

There was one or two slightly disappointing aspects of this rally for me. The heat succeeded in subduing some of the more outrageous, spontaneous festivities that usully erupt at these things. For example, at the Johnson City, Tennessee rally, we dragged furniture from our hotel rooms and had parking lot parties that ran the length of football fields. Here, it was still 92º at 10:30pm, and no one wanted to carry on outside, let alone serve cocktails.

The second disappointment concerned a most grevious and vicious attack on myself.

It had appeared that I had made it through this rally without suffering any of the personal indignities usually inflicted on me by my riding buddies Pete Buchheit, Dick Bregstein, Gerry Cavanaugh , and Clyde Jacobs. This largely because I had a busy schedule and didn't really get to see these guys a lot. On the day of my presentation, however, a person or persons unknown attempted to hold me hostage under the worst of conditions. Perhaps it was the excitement of the morning. Or perhaps it was the prune juice and Vodka I'd had for breakfast. (This cocktail is called a "Squatting Russian." ) I arrived on the rally site an hour prior to my presentation and was compelled to park my bike — pronto — before seeking solace in one of the porta -potties dotting the rally scene.

It was like sitting in the microwave from hell.

I had no sooner composed myself for the business at hand, when I heard something of a thump at the door. "This unit is occupied," I said, cheerfully. "There are 38 more just like it to the left."

Instead of a reply, I heard something like a sinister whisper and a giggle: the sound "R" bike riders make when involved in puerile conspiracy. A faint sheen of sweat appeared on my brow to match the sinking suspicion I felt in my heart. And when I tried to exit, the door wouldn't budge...

This was because my motorcycle was leaning against it.

With less than an hour to go before my presentation, some fish-faced enemy of the people trapped me in a porta-pottie, that was approximately 98 percent full. The fragrant atmosphere of the interior recharged itself every 30 seconds as the temperature continued to climb. Worse, my own K75 was playing a major role in my inevitable asphyxiation.

My screams caught the attention of a passing Amish pie vendor. He rolled the bike to one side, opened the door, and said, "Rough night for you, eh buddy? Just spend the money on a hotel room next time." Rally security interviewed several hundred witnesses, the majority of who not only took credit for this escapade, but who wanted a write-up in the MOA's magazine as well.

I never went about the rally alone from that moment on. Tricia and Carol, two highly trained security experts and MOA volunteers, piloted my ass around the rally grounds in an armored golf cart. Carol constantly scanned the crowd for latent editorial critics, while Tricia posted pictures of Clyde, Pete, Dick and Gerry on the cart's dashboard. (She vowed to open the nitrous oxide valve, boosting our top speed to 28mph, before running down my alleged assailants.)

BMW Rallies are famous for their tech courses and seminars on everything from mechanical know-how to advanced riding. There was no lack of these at Bloomsburg, including a rip-roaring, off-road GS track and more than 20 classes scheduled over three days.

Above) Tricia and her beautiful, yellow "R" bike, vowed to hunt down my attackers...

Above) Carol used this heavily armored golf cart to keep me from being abducted and also to keep me from drowning in my own sweat. Note the number on the cart is #1.

It was at 9:30am, on July 22, that I launched my career as a moto speaker. My topic — How To Breathe Life Into Any Ride Report Or Motorcycle Magazine Story — drew nearly 300 people into a discussion on techniques guaranteed to supercharge the moto story-telling function. My presentation hinged on five simple points, supported by anecdotal data. The four points were:

1) Make sure you have an interesting story to tell.
2) Tell the story by seducing the reader.
3) Seduce the reader by putting him/her in your shoes.
4) Spring an ending like a woman jumping out of a cake. (Make sure it is an attractive woman.)

Above) The conclusion to any good story sneaks up on the reader. It should be a total surprise, like the girl popping out of the cake. Photo by Mary Baker.

I explained it is critical to capture the reader’s attention with a dynamic opening sentence. My three recommendations for good opening sentences were:

• Nothing smells as bad as the breath of a bear at 6am.

• I never thought an entire life could fit into two side bags and a top case.

• “I’m not really late, I said to the Mac-Pac guys, "I stopped to donate an organ. In fact, I donated it twice.”

The first example introduces an interesting crisis to the reader. The second example implies personal conflict like divorce. And the last is a pure, classic Riepe tactic, in which I use the truth to hide a more obvious truth.

I also gave two examples of really bad opening sentences...

• After mowing the lawn, painting the porch, and waxing her car, I had enough courage to ask my lovely wife of 22 wonderful years if I could go to the BMW MOA rally in Bloomsburg.

• The highly reliable BMW has always been regarded as the “Volvo” of motorcycles.

In the first of these, the speaker does not fit the Teutonic mold of the decisive, bold, BMW rider, and there is considerable evidence he is a gelding to boot. If the gentle reader cannot immediately see the flaws in the second example, he should report to a re-education center immediately.

My presentation closed with the introduction of a new product and a contest. The “Twisted Roads Enforcer” is a new concept in motorcycle helmet design. While most helmets serve as a passive insurance policy to protect your head against contact with the ground, they do little to alert the surrounding traffic of a biker’s presence.

Above) From left: Linda Sorensen, Rick Sorensen, Kimi Bush, and the author at the introduction of the "Twisted Roads Enforcer" helmet. Photo by Mary Baker.

Equipped with a rotating police beacon, and a siren which doubles as a public address system, the “Twisted Roads Enforcer” helmet actively announces a rider’s presence and punches a hole in surrounding traffic. The prototype — built by Mike Cantwell — created a sensation when Rick Sorensen (another Mac-Pac member)strapped it on and charged the crowd.

I then challenged those in attendance to write (5 paragraphs or less) about the helmet, or my session — using the techniques I demonstrated during my presentation — and to submit these to, no later than August 31st, 2011. Mark the subject line “Helmet-Session Contest.” The winner will become my guest columnist in the BMW MOA’s magazine — The Owner’s News. The runner up will be featured here as a guest columnist for this blog. Each will also receive a fabulous prize (to be announced).

One of this rally's high-water marks for me was meeting 5 moto-bloggers, with whom I have developed enduring professional relationships. Richard Machida, of Richard's Page, blew in from Alaska. Machida's blog covers riding in Alaska, with a strong emphasis on cultural events, the weather, social developments, and nature. He rides an "R" bike. Steve Williams, publisher of Scooter In The Sticks, rolled in on his classic Vespa. I initially tried to pattern "Twisted Roads" after Williams's blog, as he writes about things moto (plus life, nature, and introspective thoughts) — in the most soothing manner. It has been pointed out to me that Williams's brand of sincerity differs from mine in that his is genuine. Rick Slark, of Keep The Rubber Side Down, rode in from Ohio. Rick is a cigar aficionado and a fan of my book. His blog is pure moto with diverse observations, comments, and photos, covering a broad area. (One of my pit crew ladies — Kimi — told Rick she was a former Mrs. Riepe) George Ferreira, publisher of Riding The USA, writes about touring, interestimg destinations, and people he meets along the way. He is based in New Jersey.

I had the privilege of sharing a couple of hours of deep conversation with these guys over lunch. (Rick Slark disappeared, much to my regret.) Lunch was pulled pork sandwiches and fresh, hot apple dumplings. Just the thing for a perfect day with temperatures in triple digits. The proprietor, an attractive woman in her early 30's, explained that the apple dumplings would be much better in a month or two, when the new crop of Macintosh apples came in. I demanded a retro-actve discount for all of us, considering an inferior product had been foisted on unsuspecting consumers, who's traveled great distances to be swindled.

The poor lady caught her breath for a second, before realizing the game was on. She then offered to meet us all at the same place in October for dumplings on the house. (Had she been from New Jersey, she just would have told us to shove them.)

A day later, Nikos Laskaris, the publisher of Nikos' World arrived from Europe with Mrs. Nikos — the charming Electra. I found them wandering around the rally site asking people, "Have you seen this ponderously fat person, who purports to be a writer?" They were sent to the same (now vacant) porta-potty 57 times. Nikos is about 6'7", and as Greek as they come with a soft British accent. Mrs. Nikos — Electra — is about 5'4" and is as German as any of the motorcycles on display at the rally. I had the pleasure of introducing these folks to a select number of the Mac-Pac, and the delight of their company over dinner that night.

Nikos brought me up to date on the state of motorcycling in Britain, while Electa was simply abuzz about all sorts of things. It had been my intent to take them out to a local joint in Bloomsburg, but long lines of bikes outside every gin mill and steak joint on Main Street changed my plans, and we ended up at Ruby Tuesday's instead. ("Why didn't you just take them to the local jail" asked Leslie/Stiffie, when I told her we'd ended up at a US chain restaurant.) My deepest regret is that I had to be on the road at the crack of dawn the next day, and didn't have the opportunity to take Electra and Nikos through Amish country, or at least join them for a souless breakfast in the lobby of their hotel. Better yet, I'd have loved to have ridden with any or all these guys.

Above) Four blog publishers meet to set parameters for all future blog posts... From left: Jack Riepe (Twisted Roads), Steve Williams (Scooter In The Sticks), Richard Machida (Richard's Pages), and George Ferreira (Riding In the USA). Not present for this shot was Rick Slark (Keep The Rubber Side Down) and Nikos Laskaris (Nikos World) and Mrs. Nikos, who showed up the next day. Photo by the waitress, who pawned off apple dumplings made with secondary fruit, at the insistence of Steve Williams.

And so ended the BMW MOA Rally of 2011. Rumor has it that I have suggested that the slogan for next year's rally — to be held in Sedalia, Missouri — shlould be: "MOA in Missouri — Because It wasn't fucking hot enough last year!" I am rather looking forward to Sedalia... I love their onions.

To receive a free electronic version of the handout presented during my session, please send your request, including your name and the bike you ride to, marking the subject line: “Handout Request.”

My presentation at the Bloomsburg Rally was made possible through the generosity and vision of Hermy’s BMW & Triumph, in Port Clinton, Pa. Hermy’s has a full riding season of events with three planned for August. Please see the schedule posted to the right.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011 — All rights reserved.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Slight Change in Rally Plans...

The K75 was wedged into a corner in the garage yesterday, and I gave it a shove to reach something behind it. There was the sound of a center stand folding and "Fireballs" lurched forward. I dropped my cane and grabbed the bike... But I was at an odd angle and wrenched my knee. I was advised to pack it in ice and to stay off it for a day.

That day is tomorrow... I will not be leaving the Allentown rest area at 10:30 AM on Wednesday, July 20, 2011. I'll be leaving on Thursday, at the crack of dawn. I regret the delay, but I don't want to push my luck.

See you at the rally...

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Service Options For BMW Riders Headed To Bloomsburg

Hermy’s BMW Extends Service And Operating Hours
For Epic Motorcycle Rally

With more than 10,000 riders converging on Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania for the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America’s Annual International Rally next week, Hermy's BMW — the landmark bike dealership in Port Clinton, Pa since 1963 — will be open 8 straight days, with extended service hours, to assist in any mechanical contingency. According to a statement issued by Herman “Hermy” Baver, the dealership’s General Manager, the extended schedule brackets the rally (July 21 - July 24, 2011) to assist riders experiencing mechanical contingencies en route to or departing from the event.

“MOA rallies have a reputation for attracting riders from across the country, and from Canada and Latin America,” said Baver. “Many BMW riders think nothing of taking a 2,500-mile run on a 40-year-old motorcycle. While the staggering majority of these bikes are in pristine condition and built to run for hundreds of thousands of miles, the occasional mechanical problem can arise. We want everyone headed to the Bloomsburg rally to know that we’re here, we’re open, and we’re ready to assist them.”

Hermy’s BMW (and Triumph) is located on Route 61 in Port Clinton, Pa (just north of I-78), approximately 65 miles south of the rally site. This location may be especially useful for riders coming up from the southern states. Any BWM rider passing through Pennsylvania is urged to load Hermy’s coordinates into their GPS and the dealership’s telephone number in their cell phone:

GPS Coordinates — 40 34' 51" N - 76 01' 27" W
Telephone — 610.562.7303

The extended operating hours are:

• Monday, July 18
9am - 6pm
• Tuesday, July 19
9am - 8pm
• Wednesday, July 20
9am - 6pm
• Thursday, July 21
9am - 8pm
• Friday, July 22
9am - 6pm
• Saturday, July 23
9am - 4pm
• Sunday, July 24
9am - 2pm
• Monday, July 25
9am - 6pm

“Not only have our hours been extended for rally week, but all maintenance and service schedules have been left wide open specifically to accommodate rally participants facing daily mileage deadlines,” said Baver. “There is nothing more reassuring to a rider confronting a mechanical problem far from home than knowing a certified mechanic — familiar with his machine — is standing by.”

In addition to extra hours and open service bays, Hermy’s has bolstered their inventory of replacement parts.

“We have been stocking up on the more common replacement parts, such as clutch cables, brake shoes, special bulbs, and tires for a wide range of late model and vintage BMW motorcycles,” added Baver. “We request any rider dealing with a mechanical contingency to call first, and let us know they’re on their way. And while we are happy to provide an extra margin of confidence for our extended BMW family, we urge every rider to make sure his or her motorcycle is in perfect running order before leaving for the Bloomsburg Rally.

The BMW MOA Rally officially convenes July 21 and runs through July 24, 2011, at the Fairgrounds, in Bloomsburg, Pa. This year’s program features a balance of technical seminars, riding technique sessions, and interactive participant presentations. Hermy’s BMW is thoroughly committed to the BMW Motorcycle Owners Of America, regional BMW riding clubs, and unaffiliated BMW riders. The dealership sponsors a series of “open house” breakfast and brunch events through the year. Their summer schedule for the 2011 riding season includes:

• July 23, 2011 — Team Rawhyde Free Off-Road Dirt Riding Clinic and Trail Ride
• August 12, 2011 — Autograph Session with Chris "Teach McNeil 3:00 to 6:00
• August 13th - BMW STUNT SHOW featuring Chris "Teach McNeil
(Showtimes - 11:00 - 2:00 - 4:00)

For more information, contact: Hermy’s BMW — 610-562-7303

Monday, July 11, 2011

Packing For A Multiple Day Motorcycle Ride...

One of the crown jewels of the moto industry’s annual events — the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America’s (MOA) International Rally — will throw open its gates to an anticipated crowd of 10,000 riders, on July 21, 2011, in Bloomsburg, PA. The event’s program, a careful balance of technical and social seminars (ranging from bike maintenance, riding technique, and membership interaction), is expected to draw riders from across the US, Canada, Mexico, South America, and Europe. With less than 10 days to go, I find my own preparations have reached a fever pitch. (This means I have vaguely starting thinking about buying a bottle of rum to stash in my saddle bags.)

My mind regards the ten remaining days on the calendar as a virtual eternity in which to make any of the adjustments and minor tweaking that my bike is likely to need, to get together my rally “wardrobe,” and to finalize my plans for meeting folks whom I’ve been chatting with (online) for the past three years. And yet, wars have been won or lost... Fortunes have been made and squandered... And women have been met, married, and aggravated (by me) in less time. So I move towars readiness like an enraged glacier.

“Don’t you wish there was such a thing as a pre-rally preparation simulator, in which you could experience how things are apt to be around here the day before you leave for this clam-bake?” asked Leslie (Stiffie), my long-suffering significant other. (Her former career as an attendant in a mental institution occasionally puts something of a tone in her voice when addressing me.)

My late father once said, “There are times in man’s life when answering a rhetorical question from the resident Valkyre with nothing more than a raised eyebrow is the safest course of action.” I sensed this was one of those occasions and forcefully wagged an eyebrow in a vain effort to ward off whatever point this woman was trying to jab into my heart.

“Let’s assume the rally is tomorrow,” said Stiffie (Leslie). “Do you know what clothes you’re taking? Is your gear organized? Are your speeches ready? Do you have a primary list of things to take so you can gauge your progress?”

My response was to wag both eyebrows, giving the impression I had windshield wipers on my forehead.

“Stop doing that,” she hissed. “You look like an idiot.” (This woman is crazy about me.)

It was then I replaced the look of chagrinned panic on my face with an expression of vicious smugness. “As a matter of fact, I have a master list right here on my computer,” I said. And with that, I pointed to a folder on the screen labelled: List Of Gear And Support Materials For The MOA Rally in Bloomsburg. “Hah,” I added, with the snort of a cold laugh that carried no humor.

Her shock and surprise was thoroughly gratifying. She bore the kind of expression I would have expected had I slapped her cheeks with a pickled herring. “Admit it... I got you this time,” I said. She said a satisfying mouthful of nothing, but just stood there, blinking. And then came those two fateful words.

“Open it."

I hesitated, and she reached over and clicked on it. The folder popped up revealing a list of one item. It read:
1) Make list of things you need for the rally.

The conversation went pretty much downhill from there. Leslie (Stiffie) did an impersonation of a mastodon stomping around, and bellowing, “I just lost two days of hard work on this fucking computer... What son of bitch moved my helmet... Why didn’t somebody tell me I was down to three pair of boxers... Those fucking bike keys were right here two months ago... The opening lines of this speech were fucking hysterical two days ago; now they suck... Some asshole broke in here and stole my mesh jacket...

“Who are you supposed to be?” I asked, dripping righteous indignation.

“Who do you think?” she replied. “I was wondering what it might be like if you could get out of here on a bike trip just once without scaring the hell out of the dogs or having a S.W.A.T. team sharpshooter shoot you with the rhino tranquilizer dart.”

I let this caustic remark hang in the air, before I gave it the look of askance it deserved. And if Stiffie (Leslie) had not had her back turned at the moment, she’d have gotten an eyeful.

There is no trick to packing for a motorcycle trip. The French philosopher/mathematician René Descartes first proposed a formula for motorcycle pannier packing in the year 1625, just 30 days after BMW rolled out the design for the “R” 1150. The formula is: X=YxC/S; where "X" is packed material, and "Y" is the number of days, multiplied by “C,” which is the opportunity in which having clean underwear (essential for romance), is divided by “S,” which is the existing space on the motorcycle.

It may look like a crock-full at first glance, but this formula makes perfect sense. In fact, this is one of the only things Descartes did that even had a remote connection to fun. In all of his portraits and publicity photos, Descartes usually looks like he is smelling shit, which was liberally tossed out of the windows in most French cities of the day. (So maybe he was.)

I take a more casual approach to packing for a motorcycle trip. On the bed I have just slept in, I lay out my clothing for a five day motorcycle trip in five separate piles. These piles consist of 1 pair of boxers, 1 undershirt, 1 pair of industrial strength white cotton tube socks, and 1 moto-themed tee shirt. Alongside this impedimenta, I place one tightly-rolled pair of Diamond Gusset brand “Defender®” jeans. These are denim riding pants lined with bullet-proof Kevlar®. (I am still too huge to spring for a custom-made pair of riding pants from CyclePort, about $1100, with the options I want. No other manufacturer has anything I could possibly fit into off the rack.) I can get five days of hot summer riding out of two pairs of jeans (one to wear and one packed). Since I am going to wear one pile of clothes going out the door, that leaves three piles of clothing to go into one of my OEM BMW side bags and one pile to go into the other. The bag with the least amount of clothing will get my computer and shaving kit. (I like to keep both bags balanced.)

There should be a second flashlight packed in with your clothing, as well as the one packed in the tool kit. Why two?

You may be out cruising around at dusk, and develop a problem. You will want the flashlight with the tool kit, secure in a place where you can find it in the dark, not packed with your clothes back at camp or the hotel. Or, you may be in your hotel room, when the fire alarm rings, the lights go out, and the hall fills up with smoke. You will want the flashlight that you have packed with your clothing, not the one down on the bike.

Here are some absolutely free packing tips.

1) Tape a business card with your name, address, and cell phone number into each side bag. (This way, if anything should cause the bag to come off, and it stays intact on impact with the road, the driver who pulls it out from under the front end of his car can contact you directly, and possibly return stuff you may need to finish your trip.)

2) Lock the side bags to the motorcycle. (The locks on my luggage can be easily smashed open by the heel of a boot or a hammer, but they will not open under normal operating circumstances, keeping them attached to the bike. I had a BMW OEM pannier come off the back, but it had to be hit by a minivan first.) I have seen older “R” bike side bags secured to the motorcycle by the secondary means of a back-up strap, but this is unnecessary for my application.

3) NEVER PUT ANY OF YOUR PRESCRIPTIONS ALL IN ONE BAG ON THE MOTORCYCLE. (If you lose that bag through stupidity, theft, or accident, the ride may be over.)


5) PACK YOUR COMPUTER IN THE MOST APPROPRIATE CASE, SEAL IT IN A PLASTIC BAG IF YOUR PANNIERS ARE NOT WATERPROOF. THEN CHECK THE BAG EVERY DAY TO BE SURE THERE IS NO CONDENSATION. JAM THE COMPUTER INTO THE SIDE CASE, SURROUNDED BY CLOTHING. (When the minivan slammed into my K75, the right side bag came off and smashed into the ground. The bag remained closed and locked. Upon inspection the next day, my computer, an Apple 13” MacBook, worked fine. It ran for another year, until it got cooked in the side bag. See above.) Never put a hot computer in a plastic bag. Never bring a switched off computer in from a cold environment to a warm roo, and turn it on either.

6) When packing life-preserving Rum, Gin, or Irish Whiskey into a side bag, transfer the liquid into two 24-ounce Sigg Bottles, or other types of metal bottle containers. In the event of an accident, the Sigg Bottles will not smash or crack, soaking the contents of the bag, or the accident scene, with the reek of alcohol. It becomes one less thing to explain to the cops. The Sigg Bottles will not flavor the contents.

I find it important to pile each day’s clothing into complete outfits, as opposed to one pile of 5 undershirts, one pile of 5 boxers, and one pile of five tee shirts, etc. Why?

It was 4:45 AM when I surveyed all the neat little piles of clothing, ready to stashed in the OEM BMW side bags. I was still somewhat groggy, not having slept well owing to all the excitement of the pending ride. I picked up the side bags and laid them on the bed. The K75’s side bags are peculiar in their dimensions, and sort of resemble a slanted trapezoid. I then proceeded to put every little pile of stuff in evidence into the two bags, and quietly carried them down to the garage. I’d said “goodbye” to Leslie (Stiffie) the night before, so she could sleep in.

Ten minutes later, I sat astride the quivering machine in the driveway, about to snick it into gear, when I got bopped on the head by a copy of my cigar book (paperbound). Stiffie (Leslie) had thrown it out the window to get my attention. I looked up just in time to get draped by five pairs of boxers. I’d left them on the bed upstairs, as I had put the side bags over them. By packing each day’s clothing in a little collection, I can never forget all of it, nor do I have to rummage throughout the cases for a complete change of wardrobe.

See you at the rally.

"Be Part Of History..."

At The BMW MotorCycle Owners Of America's
Annual International Rally
Bloomsburg, Pa
At 9:30am, On July 22, 2011,
In The Big Room Under The Grandstand,
At The Fairgrounds

Jack Riepe
Publisher of Twisted Roads
And The Humor Editor For TheBMW MOA's Monthly "Owners News" (ON)

Will Reveal The Cosmic Secrets Of:
How To Breath Life Into Any Ride Report Or Motorcycle Story

Riepe will Explain:
How To Mezmerize Readers...
• How To Make A Ride To The Drug Store More Exciting
Than A Ride To Alaska Or The Amazon Jungles
• How To Make Women Write You Fan Letters...
• How To Use The Truth For An Occasional Surprise Ending

And he will do all this, in a moving dialogue, filled with the anecdotal data that makes his blog and monthly column a highly regarded source of moto information.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Coming To Grips With Reality...

There are certain high spots in a man’s life that he begins to anticipate from the age of thirteen. These include his first motorcycle, his first apartment, and his first live-in-girlfriend. The delight in these high spots seems self explanatory, as each has a lineal relationship with speed, or living in the fast lane. No man can ever forget that first motorcycle, bought and paid for with one’s own sweat. Mine was a brand new Kawasaki H2, sold to me by one of the fastest talking salesman in the history of motorcycle transactions. His name was “Fabulous Sam,” and he worked me over like a prize fighter on a punching bag. It took him exactly 15 minutes to sell me a bike. His mouth moved in a constant blur, like the mirror on an idling 1973 Harley. (I have nothing but fond memories of Fabulous Sam, who must be in his seventies if he is still kicking. And if anybody knows this guy, please drop me a line as I’d like to buy him a drink.)

I left the shop in Union City unable to believe the motorcycle was mine.

This incredibly beautiful, purple and chrome, mechanical wonder had my name on the title. And it was parked (on the sidewalk) outside the eighth wonder of the world — my apartment. The inspiration to get an apartment came from my father, who said to me when I was nineteen, “The time has come for you to move out of the house.” My father was neither a cruel nor an unreasonable man. But he had an enduring love for my mother, one of the most capable, competent, and statuesque blonds ever spawned by the Gods. My mother had a sense of humor as deep as the Beefsteak Mine... She was a people person who could work a room like Huey Long... And her Irish temper was the forerunner of the hand grenade: when she pulled the pin, it exploded in 7 seconds.

My mother and I were at war and the fighting was vicious, loud, and daily. The argument was about two out of the three high spots.

My mother discovered my plans for a motorcycle about the same time she learned I was having sex three times a week with a beautiful Italian girlfriend. I wasn’t stupid enough to tell her these things. She learned them through subterfuge. To make matters worse, I declined to become something useful in life — like an accountant — in favor of pursuing a vapory writing career. No decent son in my mother’s experience rode a motorcycle, had sex, and pretended that writing was a means of making a living. When asked by her friends how I was doing, she said I was in training to become a piano player in a whorehouse.

The fighting between my mom and I was so bad, my dad decided it was time for me to to leave.

Most guys who grew up in an urban environment like Jersey City will have no difficulty remembering their first apartment as it was usually a dump. I found another guy at school who needed a roommate, and we moved into a two-level town house, on Boulevard East — one of the most exclusive neighborhoods in Hudson County. The living room had a bar and a terrace, with a sweeping view that ran from the George Washington Bridge to mid-town Manhattan. It also had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a utility room. It guaranteed instant sex from any woman lured to its confines.

And then there was the live-in girlfriend.

She was 5’6,” with brown eyes, about 110 pounds, and captain of the equestrian team at school. (She was wearing jodhpurs when I first met her, and I would have committed murder for a date.) Roxanne had straight brunette hair that was as black as the outlook of the current economy, and turned every head when she walked into the room. Kissing her was like putting your lips to a perfectly ripe peach. I had the motorcycle... The apartment... And the live-in girlfriend. I was barely a junior in college, and I had the world by the balls.

Then I discovered that reality is a bitch and nothing in life is as it seems.

While the Kawasaki H2 was the fastest street bike of its day, it was one of the most primitive motorcycles ever to roll out of Japan. The engine ran like three midget Samoan tag-team wrestlers, who hated each other. The motorcycle had the cornering characteristics of a piano dropped from a church roof. It revved like a tyrannosaurus farting, and other riders spit on it. (The H2 would eventually be regarded as cool, but that would take 30 years.) I learned how to clean spark plugs in my spare time, and got the usual education on tires that barely lasted 5,000 miles and brakes that were the source of many exciting moments.

My roommate and I could barely keep the bar in the apartment stocked with cheap gin because of the monthly rent. Since I had yet to set the world on fire with my literary ambitions, my primary income came from loading trucks. Loading trucks was one of those positions that seemed to pay remarkably well (and it did considering it was a Teamster’s job). But the nature of my truck-loading expertise was such that I was required to show up between the hours of 11pm and 7am. This was about the time I would normally schedule serious drinking, screwing, and sleeping, which constitutes the basis of most writers’ inspiration.

Yet the biggest shock of all came with the realization of the gap between a post-adolescent male’s expectations of a live-in girlfriend and the actual limitations of a woman’s endurance. I naturally assumed she loved me because I rode a motorcycle, drank Irish whiskey out of the bottle, and was ready to mate every 45 minutes. I was appalled to learn that her attraction to me was the result of my “penetrating blue eyes and literary promise.” What kind of bullshit was that? Furthermore I had assumed that doing my laundry, cooking breakfast and dinner, and perhaps tiding up a bit was more than adequate compensation for riding on the back of my bike, hanging around with my friends, and having sex with me whenever I wanted.

I was amazed to learn that this remarkable woman had some sort of hidden clock that was set to a kind of “doomsday” reckoning, upon which an alarm would ring, oral sex would stop, and her breasts would fill up with high-test, or else a bomb would explode. Worse still, the terms of this Armageddon to good times were nowhere written. Males destined to climb the Darwinian ladder are supposed to know all this. Her clock was set for 8:30am... While mine was set for August 4th, 1984 (9 years later).

The timer doesn’t usually go off like an alarm clock though... It’s a more gradual process marked by increased indifference. Yet one should never assume that while a woman doesn’t appear interested in a lot of things, that she she doesn’t see and understand everything. I had the mating instincts of a mink and the ethics of a roach when I was nineteen going on twenty. And I just assumed it was the natural order of things to have another lover heating up while the current one cooled. On the day of the final break-up, I rode in after a night of loading trucks and having a gin breakfast with the boys. She was on her way out with an air of finality. I held open the door, and she said something clever, about me being an asshole. My thought that morning was that a gesture must speak when the moment is too sensitive for words, and I knew the perfect one. Then I poured myself a gin and tonic as big as my ass and slept for a couple of hours on the sofa.

A man’s heart breaks as thoroughly as any woman’s and I was consumed by a crushing grief. However, my way of dealing with it was to aim the bike at the horizon and ride off to a roaring weekend party (where I would be introduced to a woman wearing a cotton shirt, a denim skirt, and perfume instead of panties). The Kawasaki started on the first kick. I snicked it into gear and let out the clutch. I got about fifty feet when the rear wheel locked up and the bike went sideways. The drop was somewhat embarrassing and the right turn signal shattered when it hit the ground. I yanked the machine upright and noticed that it refused to roll. Then I saw the chain was loose and the rear wheel was canted at an angle.

The set screws which kept the tension on the chain were missing. I found them on the ground where the bike had been parked — along with the lock nuts. Women are experts when it comes to having the last word, and some know a few things about gestures of their own.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011