There was no doubt that all hell was coming. The news casters were painting a picture of total disaster 12 hours before the first rain drops started to fall. Storm tracks shared by every major news network showed little variation in the path of the hurricane — dubbed Irene — as it carved its way northward. One of those noodle-like storm tracks, the purple one, showed Hurricane Irene passing between the kitchen and the living room of this house. Experts claimed that the eye of the storm would look in the bedroom window around 2am and wink at my soon-to-be-former girlfriend’s ass, before passing on.
Yet on this sunless, windless, soul-less Saturday morning, I felt like Frodo Baggins: determined to spit in that eye as if the storm had been named “Hurricane Sauron.”
It was the Saturday morning calm before the storm, and I was slated to hand out coffee and donuts up at Hermy’s — the enduring BMW and Triumph dealer, on Route 61 in Port Clinton, Pa. August 27th had been declared “Twisted Roads” day at Hermy’s, a date upon which I would write and publish my blog from the showroom floor, garnering some of the funniest or most unusual stories from riders converging on the premises. Hermy’s is more than just a dealership... It’s starting point of many rides headed north and west. It is where riders meet to seek counsel from their peers, and to trade falsehoods as if they were commodities on Wall Street. What better exchange could there be for Twisted Roads?
Above) With it's cut stone facade, Hermy's BMW and Triumph is more like a gentleman's club. Photo by Leslie Marsh.
With its cut-stone facade and country store-like atmosphere, Hermy’s is more of a gentleman’s club than a dealership. (I have often said that I’d never leave if this place had a bar.) A line of understated Teutonic mechanical perfection stretches from the door to the service counter. A parallel line of Britannic engineering, coupling hot new motors (that now retain oil as opposed to filtering it en route to the ground) with elegant styling snakes through the rear of the showroom. This dealership has been a fixture in Port Clinton since 1963, when it first offered the BMW R60/2 for sale.
Above) The BMW line-up takes center stage at Hermy's. Like Henry Ford's Model "T," black used to be the predominant color. No longer. Photo by Leslie Marsh
I arrived “a la entourage,” accompanied by Dick Bregstein, my wingman through many adventures. Dick lifted up the face-shield of his helmet, and scanned the darkening sky for the coming storm storm every time we stopped at a light. While dramatic, this was strange as we were riding in a Subaru SUV. (You don’t ask a lot of questions with Dick.) But it was perfect riding weather, with temperatures around 73º (F), no sun, and light breezes. Yet the humidity hung in the air like an unspoken settlement at one of my divorce proceedings.
BMW riders have any number of ritualistic greetings for each other, such as, “Vas is lösse?” This roughly translates to “How’s it hanging,” and I am always surprised to hear it exchanged between women. (Then again, it is no surprise that female BMW riders have balls.) On the morning of the hurricane, I was greeted by, “You better have the friggin’ donuts...” This was from Dave MacVaugh — the “Combat Plumber.” MacVaugh was a Seabee, one of the US Navy’s combat engineers, whose motto is, “We Build... We fight!” MacVaugh rode 39 miles from the hamlet of Zion Hill, one of eight “hell and brimstone-themed” communities in Bucks County, and was out to beat the “wrath of heaven” before the storm came.
MacVaugh’s bike of choice is a 1992 R100R, with an immaculate paint job. Though admitting to be terrified of hurricanes, spiders, and circus clowns, he felt compelled to get to Hermy’s for a “one or two little parts” and his free donut.
“I had no intention of wasting my time attending a Twisted Roads event,” said MacVaugh. “In fact, I went on record as saying it would take an earthquake and a hurricane in the same week to get me out here for a Twisted Roads gig. That was when the house started to shake...”
The story MacVaugh had to tell was nothing out of the ordinary, so I didn’t use it. Yet a story told to me about MacVaugh was worthy of print.
The Tale of the Combat Plumber:
“Dave MacVaugh is a world-class wood-worker with the kind of tools and skill that enable him to recreate anything, working in the kind of precious woods that are as hard as steel and harvested from hard-to-reach places where cannibalism is the norm,” or so said the nameless narrator of this story. “It seems MacVaugh was approached by a former serviceman whose wife was being shipped out to Afghanistan. She wanted a small, folding table of a unique design she’d seen somewhere, and her husband thought it was something MacVaugh could do in his spare time.”
According to the narrator, “The husband was the average Joe who just wanted to do something nice for his wife. He had no idea of the time and labor that would go into a project of this nature. The man figured that MacVaugh might have some lumber handy — pine or whatever — and be able to utilize hardware and hinges he had in jars to assemble a table that would fold, but not come apart. This couple had children, and money and patience would be tight with one of the bread-winners toeing the line against Al-Qaeda insurgents, in a place that would make hell look like paradise.
“MacVaugh studied the former serviceman as he described his wife; how of all the things that would make her life more bearable under combat conditions, what she wanted most was this little table; a place to put pictures of her kids (and presumably her husband); a place that represented her space; a place that she could pack up and take with her when the call came to move closer to the front.
The former serviceman thought he was describing a table... But MacVaugh got the impression that the guy was defining a romance; going into detail about something enduring, something that was binding and stable; yet capable of yielding to circumstances, and unfolding again, into its original form. The man thought he was ordering a piece of furniture... But MacVaugh heard him order a valentine.
The wood selection was easy.
These few pieces of wood had grown to maturity in the shadow of a volcano. As branches, they had defied ants that lived in battalions, that warred like huns, and voted and collected taxes like Democrats. This wood had frustrated termites, and blunted the primitive tools of four-foot-high men who wore jaguar skulls on their heads, and poisonous snake fangs in their foreskins. These few pieces of wood came from a tree that was living before the Spanish had given names to most of South America, and cost as much as the tables in some Fortune 500 boardrooms.
“What the hell?” thought Dave MacVaugh. “His wife needs a table.”
The former serviceman came to pick it up two weeks later. He marveled at its compactness, and at its smoothness of operation. He also noted its density, and its surprising heft.
“Hefty enough to sustain small arms fire,” thought MacVaugh. But what he said was, “No charge.”
The Dazzling Blonde’s Tale:
Rick and Linda Sorensen are typical of the fabric that bind the members of the Mac-Pac, the premier chartered BMW riding club serving southeastern Pennsylvania. Whether they are planning a pig roast for 85 (at a BMW MOA Rally), or organizing the club’s White Elephant Christmas Dinner, they can be found in thick of things, guaranteeing the event is moving smoothly and according to plan. Both are accomplished GS riders and think nothing of a two-day jaunt to Colorado from Philadelphia. Rick Sorensen is the world’s nicest guy... Though he’s got a sense of humor like a pointed stick, which he occasionally shoves in my eye.
Rick and Linda Sorensen have stopped aging. This is less evident with Rick, because I do not look carefully at men. (Yet I do not want the gentle reader to think I am looking carefully at Linda either.) But I am a moto-writer, and I am compelled to note when someone’s gear fits them well. Linda’s gear fits her like she is 29-years-old. (I know this because I recently looked carefully at a 29-year-old performance artist.) On the other hand, I am aging a year for every third meal I eat.
Rick and Linda rolled into Hermy’s last Saturday with the look of folks on a mission.
Rick’s bike needed tires, and Linda’s was in for routine maintenance. The threat of a hurricane was not judged to be sufficient to lose their place on the shop schedule. Linda was good enough to chat with me while Rick was distracted with tire selection.
“You know all those stories about BMW riders being somewhat nerdy to the extreme?” asked Linda. “Well there’s more than a grain of truth to it.”
Linda went on to describe a motorcycle function she’d attended where the party characteristics of a marque known for its leather, chrome, and tattoos had been liberally shared with a roundel riding club whose idea of fun was solving calculus problems and stamp collecting. While Linda never actually used the word “douche” to describe a large subset of these Teutonic riders, the manner in which she rolled her eyes suggested she knew of a few.
“At one point in the evening, a topless dancer of grace and exceptional beauty was standing alongside a 1976 BMW R90S, lovingly restored to the point where the supple curves of the machine were the perfect compliment for those of the woman, which were apparently tanned, flawless, and uncovered.
“This was normal for at least one type of biker party where tattoos are considered the equal of riding gear,” said Linda, “but somewhat extraordinary for airhead riders who will swoon over valve adjustments. Yet slowly but surely, a roundel rider approached the dancer and made an attempt at small talk... The guy looked her right in the eye and asked if the R/90S was wearing the original paint.
“The dancer flashed a perfect smile. When she spoke, it was with a soft voice that was a smooth and seamless as her tan,” explained Linda. “‘ The bike isn’t mine,’ replied the dancer to the roundel rider. ‘Is that a pina colada you're drinking?’”
The roundel rider claimed it was a pina colada, and that they had them at a bar down at the far end of the room. Noting that the R/90S had 650,000 miles on the clock, and that the control buttons on the handlebars hadn’t yet faded, he gave off a slow whistle of admiration.
“Hey Clyde,” the roundel rider yelled to a guy in the crowd. “Come here... You have to see these. They’re perfect.”
Clyde ambled over, smiled at the topless woman (who could have been featured on any page in Maxim Magazine), and asked her if the bike was a 1975 R/90S or a 1976?
“She doesn’t know...” replied the first roundel rider, with an edge of annoyance that implied the word "anyhing" at the end of the sentence. His name was Pete. “It’s not her bike... But a load of this mileage.”
It was then Clyde’s turn to express wonder and amazement. “Do you think this is the original paint?” he asked the first guy.
Once again, the topless dancer, who’s name was Tina, asked Clyde if he too was drinking a pina colada. Clyde answered “yes,” without looking up from the R90S, and added they had them down at the far end of the room.
The first roundel rider shrugged and asked, “Do you think Gerry might know if this is the original paint?”
So Clyde and Pete called to Gerry from the crowd, who had the presence of mind to bring a camera. Five minutes later, the three of them had the topless dancer — with the perfect body that was barely wearing a “g” string and nothing else — take a picture of the three of them clustered around the R90S’s odometer. Then according to Linda, they sent the topless dancer to find the bar at the end of the room — to return with three more pina coladas. (It is rumored the topless dancer left with a red K75 rider.)
Linda Sorensen is not the type who would tell a lie, and I may have met these BMW riders at the Bloomsburg Rally.
The Tale Of The Unhappy Man...
Nothing breaks the ice among riders like passing around several dozen donuts and cups of hot coffee, provided it is in the morning, and all are waiting for the storm of the century to let loose. (Had it been in the evening and around a campfire, the donuts would have been replaced by a bottle of Irish fire.) It was under the auspices of a custard-filled, chocolate frosted Dunkin Donuts belly bomber that I met Dave Curci.
Dave Curci looks like your average BMW rider: fearless, guileless, and beyond letting hurricanes and earthquakes interfere with his riding. Yet it was obvious that the man had been through a traumatic experience that may leave him scarred for life.
“Have another chocolate-drenched, custard-filled ass expander,” I said, offering him enough calories from Dunkin Donuts to keep a New England family alive through winter. “Then tell me your story.”
There is a possibility that Dave Curci may not smile again soon.
“I parked my 2007 R1200ST in the lot of Residence Inn in Philadelphia, not far from the airport, where I was spending the night,” said Curci. “I locked the forks, and checked into the property. While I couldn’t actually see the bike from my room window, I watched a white van cruise through the parking lot, briefly pause, then go.”
Curci shook his head sadly at this point in the brief narrative. “It now occurs to me I actually saw the theft of my bike. A half hour later, security reported the space in which my bike was parked was now empty,” he said.
The authorities are of the impression that that van pulled into the lot and stopped, while two or three guys jumped out, picked up the motorcycle’s front end, and dragged it into the truck.
“The van could have pulled away with the guys steadying the bike inside, before pulling over to secure the motorcycle someplace down the road,” added Curci. Curci’s 2007 R1200ST is a very rare model, with only 50 just like it imported to the US. A picture of the motorcycle is provided here, in the event anyone is offered this rig for sale. While the machine is insured, Dave Curci would rather have the motorcycle back, preferably intact and not badly abused. If you see this bike anyplace, or think you may know where this machine is, please contact Twisted Roads immediately at: email@example.com.
The Tale Of The Haul Road Rider...
Gary Christman is on his second BMW GS. It’s not that he wore the first one out on one of his many trips to the arctic circle, or to Hudson’s Bay, or to any one of a dozen places where whale blubber and seal fins are chewed like candy... It’s just that he likes to have the newest suspension refinements, horsepower upgrades, and other advantages of a later model.
“I was chewing through the gravel of the Haul Road, making damn good time over miles and miles of empty country and clear skies, when I got the call to pull over,” said Christman. “Despite having a suspension designed to convert ruts, potholes, and washboard stretches into smiles and memories, the old kidneys still take a hazing and when you gotta go, you gotta go.
Above) Gary Christman with his second GS, rode out to Hermy's for "Twisted Roads Day." Note the bright red earplugs, and where they are dangling. Photo by the author.
“There was absolutely no point in standing on ceremony,” added Christman. “We were in the middle of absolute nowhere, and I brought my GS to a perfunctory halt on the side of the road. I dismounted, opened my fly, and attended to business. Yet after a few seconds, I detected no satisfying arc of trajectory. Glancing down, I discovered that my earplugs, dangling on their tether, had interrupted the flow, turning the arc into a cascade.
“Circumstances being what they were, it was hard to conceal this development from my fellow riders... Who expressed their sympathy with peals of derisive laughter,” said Christman. “Needless to say, I rode the next few days with the sound of the engine, the noise of the road, and the moan of the wind loud in my ears.”
The Tale of The Man Who Was Sold By A Tank of Gas...
Mark Frumkin is a 30-year veteran member of the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America, and has been coming into Hermy’s Triumph and BMW since the shop first opened its doors.
“I used to hang around here when Hermy’s father, the original Hermy Baver, was running this place,” said Frumkin. “I was into British bikes in those days. I had a 1968 Triumph Tiger... You couldn’t beat the looks and sound of a British bike back then. They were selling BMW’s here, but they were strange-looking things — with engines that stuck out sideways. They didn’t sound like motorcycles either.
“Well I pulled in here one day, and Hermy’s dad pointed to a black R65 parked out front, and yelled, ‘Hey Frump... Take that bike down to the gas station and fill the tank for me.’ So I fired it up, snicked it into gear, and ran it down to the pumps.”
Frumkin smiled, and slowly shook his head. “I took the long way back from the gas station, putting that bike through its paces. The seating position... The way it handled... The way it accelerated... And the way it started... Everything impressed me.
“I pulled that bike back into the lot, found a screwdriver, and switched the plates with my Triumph,” said Frumkin. “That was it. That R65 was mine.”
Mark Frumkin must like the marque. His current ride is a BMW K1600 GTL, with custom paint. Mark told me another story, which he titled, “Shaken, Not Stirred.” But that’s for another time.
I got a ton of emails and notes from riders in New Jersey and Maryland, who had planned on attending this event... But who decided to play it smart with the unpredictability of the weather. Bregstein and I pulled out shortly after noon, laughing at the dire predictions of the weather guessers.
We drove into a solid wall of water 10 minutes later. It didn’t last, but was only a brief taste of what was to come. Twenty-four hours later, dozens of roads would be blocked by fallen trees and more than a million people would be without power.
Take the poll at the upper right, and cast your vote for the best story. Your vote should be motivated by which tale had the greatest impact on your emotions, bringing you to laughter or tears.
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011