“Steve Williams was regarded as the perfect choice for conducting this interview, as hundreds of thousands of two-wheeled blog readers across the country — and around the world — regard him as the epitome of honesty and integrity, which is clearly evident in their response to his writing and his photography,” said Riepe. “The majority of the these same people consider me a horse’s ass. But I have learned to live with it.”
Above: Publisher and author of Scooter In The Sticks, Steve Williams. Photo by Gordon Harkins.
Thirty-five years in the making, Riepe’s motorcycle book is judged to be a critical work that will realign the perception of riding for millions, especially non-riders. While it retains the tang of his blog, Twisted Roads, each chapter is linked to the others in an order that tracks the evolution and maturing process (such as it is) of his bizarre riding philosophy.
The title of Riepe’s book is The Motorcycle: A Talisman Of Eternal Youth. It is due out in the late spring.
Some see you as a modern day Confucius of the motorcycle riding experience. How does that responsibility weigh on you as you write?
More people see me as the “Austin Powers” of the motorcycle riding experience than Confucius, with one foot in reality, and the other precariously balanced on the lingering perceptions of my misspent youth. The greatest responsibility that haunts me is a compelling need to leave my readers entertained, as well as occasionally informed. There is nothing to compare with riding into the dawn of a clear, warm spring day... Or the excitement of leaning into a red hot, hight-speed curve... Or the erotic sensation of having a woman tighten her pillion grip on you as the engine screams through the gears... Unless it is having the bike slip off the side-stand when you are taking a leak, fifty feet away, with your pants around your ankles. All have a special place in the reality of riding, and that’s what I write.
Above: The official Federal Witness Protection Program picture of Jack Riepe. Note the dramatic contrast in sincerity levels between Steve Williams and Jack Riepe.
You’re a committed BMW rider. How can your book possibly have any relevance to me, a Vespa rider?
I am committed to the BMW riding philosophy, which combines a love of speed, distance, and bullet-proof gear — plus a deep appreciation for applied mechanical evolution — with a sense of camaraderie that transcends typical club ritual and douche bag club politics. I fell in with a bad BMW-riding crowd — The Mac-Pac. Based in southeastern Pennsylvania, these guys are expert riders, great armchair mechanics, devoted friends, and dyed-in-the-wool pissers. By and large, they are all straight-shooters who never hesitate to step up to the plate when anyone needs help — whether they ride a BMW or not. They have zero tolerance for bullshit, especially from Motorrad... And still, they let me join. This was the “BMW” essence that colored my moto commitment.
My motorcycle book will incorporate humor with a strong interpretation of the two-wheel sensation, common to all bikes and scooters. That two-wheel sensation weaves excitement, triumph, fear, frustration, romance, abandonment, freedom, camaraderie, loneliness, and great personal satisfaction into a series of interconnecting chapters that span 34 years of interrupted riding. While substantially different from my blog, I guarantee you will identify with many of my experiences. It is written in a softer style with more of an accent on the allure and seduction of the riding experience.
With so many motorcycle books on the market already, what makes yours worth reading let alone purchasing?
There are many fine motorcycle books on the market today. Yet most of these are the work of riders who are trying to write. I am a professional writer, and a story-teller of 35 years experience, who rides. In addition to conveying the details of a situation, I attempt to draw the reader into the story, either placing them in my shoes, or carrying them on my pillion. I minimize the moralizing and the editorializing, while putting a greater emphasis on the riding experience, and the entertainment value of the story. This book will seduce the accomplished rider, the weekend explorer, the novice, and the non-rider with the riding sensation.
Above: Steve Williams and his ride of choice: the iconic Vespa Scooter. Photo by Steve Williams.
How did you make the monumental decision to become a writer rather than a fireman, accountant, or something useful instead of writing this book?
Everything I do is somehow tied to my need to procreate. I related this absolutely true story at my presentation on moto-writing for the BMW MOA rally in Bloomsburg, Pa, last summer:
I met the cutest little brunette at a high school dance. Her name was Evelyn Ann Elizabeth C. (“C” is not really her last name. But she is now rich, influential, and possibly vindictive. So I am not using her full name, though I remember every delightful thing about her.) I was desperate to impress her into giving me a date. She asked me what I wanted to be (if I grew up), and I stalled. She told me she was headed for a career in journalism. Sensing an opening, I lied and answered, “Me too.”
“Do you write for the school paper?” She asked.
“I have offered to do a weekly column,” I lied even further, “but we have yet to agree on the focus or content.” I went to a progressive Jesuit prep school in Jersey City. The newspaper office was a hub of organized activity and editorial industry. There were seniors with pencils behind their ears, juniors running around with cameras, and sophomores typing away. It looked a lot like work and my offer to write a column was rejected and scorned. (I get the same reaction from most editors today). Columns were for those who had proven themselves in lesser assignments.
But across the hall was the “Student Publicity Committee office.” I had no idea what they did. No one did. Inside, a person was sleeping on a desk, two were smoking a joint, and several others were staging a cockroach race. The favorite to win was a brutish water bug named “Duane.” I went in and announced I was ready to write whatever needed publicity.
“Why the hell do you want to be on the Publicity Committee?” one asked.
“Because it may give me the opportunity to see tits for the first time,” I replied.
“Perfect,” he said. “You qualify.”
I was sworn in on a copy of the Manhattan Yellow Pages. Then I was told to write up a summary of the “cool” stuff going on in sophomore year. I put a spin on the lies that I heard going around and dropped the names of the cool kids like I was friendly with them. (The cool kids hated me.) I submitted my “copy” and was shown the door.
All that mattered was that I could now tell this cute tomato that I wrote for the “Publicity Committee,” whatever the hell that was, when I called her later that week.
The shit hit the fan two days later. I walked in the door at home to discover my mother raving over something that I had done.
“Why don’t you ever tell us about this stuff?” she asked. “Do you think I’d give you a hard time if you discussed it with me? I’m your mother. Why do I have to hear about this stuff from the neighbors?”
I had no idea what the hell she was talking about. But the local daily newspaper — The Jersey Journal — was open and spread out on the kitchen table. In section three, there was a column called “The High School Set.” The headline on the column was mine, as was the byline. I had skipped the school newspaper step entirely and went right into getting published by the real deal.
It was one of the few occasions on which my mother was proud of something I did. I didn’t have to call the cute brunette. She called me. “Why didn’t you tell me you were writing for the real paper?” she asked.
“I don’t like to seem like I’m bragging,” I said. Three days later, I got my first French kiss and “over the bra” cheap feel. I assumed (sometimes incorrectly) that writing and getting published would result in increased sexual awareness. It was this first experience, and others, that convinced me to be a writer. I have never looked back.
What is the first step in producing a book like yours?
The first step was in convincing myself that I had a compelling story to tell. I ran a couple of experimental chapters (dealing with this new approach to the material) on Twisted Roads and the response was very encouraging. I wanted to write a kind of sequel to “Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance.” I think I have.
Did you have any rituals to get you primed for writing this book?
Riding a BMW K75 between Vermont and North Carolina primed the pump. Brushing my teeth with gin helped get it flowing. Watching a naked blond in the shower (while I had the daily opportunity) kept me focused. And understanding the relationship between keeping my readers satisfied and meeting new blonds (brunettes and red heads), keeps me going.
I assume you have much experience in this area --- how do you deal with criticism of your writing in general and any that might be directed at this book in particular?
Readers either love my work or hate it. Those who hate it, really hate it and hate me too. I have discovered they aren’t shy about it either. I have been attacked on FaceBook, in “Letters To The Editor” (published in at least one moto mag), and on the street in Cape May, NJ — where a beautiful woman spit in my coffee.
I got a critical fan letter from a nice lady yesterday. It starts:
“Dear Son Of A Bitch:
This kid looks just like you and I want....”
Fortunately, these are people who also fear and detest the punch line as one of life’s realities. Those who fear the punch line generally find themselves the brunt of one. I examine all criticism (unless it is from women to whom I was previously married, in which case I just ignore it) for validity or constructive advice. My last former hot squeeze — Stiffie — said I should concentrate on writing stuff that is not moto-related. Soon I will have another work ready, titled “Midlife Crisis: Let The Games Begin.” It is my take on day-to-day living at age 55.
I heard that Angelina Jolie is writing a dusk jacket blurb. Is this true?
Not really. But I have asked 7-time AMA Grand National Champion (and twice the holder of the title “World’s Fastest Man On Two Wheels”) Chris Carr to write the forward... And he has agreed.
What are the chances that a movie will be made from this book? Who do you think should play Jack Riepe?
The character of Jack Riepe would have to personify a certain smoothness, to exude a charisma that appealed to women, and to be well-respected by his peers. The actor I would pick would be Ian McShane in a recasting of his role as “Big Al” Swearengen from the classic HBO series “Deadwood.”
You already have quite a following of your writing on Twisted Roads. What are your thoughts on the book spawning a riding religion in the manner L. Ron Hubbard established the Church of Scientology with his books?
Religion is a tricky subject, though there are friends of mine who think the fact that I get paid for anything I write is a miracle. I like to think Twisted Roads has developed a strong cult following based on its healing powers. Many women claim it takes their mind off menstrual cramps while a growing number of Yamaha-riding guys feel it gives them a “Viagra” effect.
Your stories often present experiences and situations far beyond what most of us will ever experience. Won’t your book leave readers feeling their existence is nothing but a bleak shell of a life?
Quite the contrary... I write to provide my readers with an avenue of escape. I like to think they are cheering each time I make it over the wall... And know that I am holding the door open... So they can follow me.
How do you blow off steam after a long, hard, filthy episode of writing?
I pour myself a tall Baccardi and Coke, light up a cigar and read other blogs. I like Redlegs Rides, Life Behind Bars, The Classic Velocity Blog, Nikos World and Key West Dairy. I enjoy a dozen others, written in places like Alaska (Richard’s Page), Vancouver (Wet Coast Skootin’), and Washington State (Scootin Old School). Now sometimes I write late at night and finish up at dawn, in which case I have a Bloody Mary and call in a massage specialist named “Cheri Pie.”
What will the feminist take be on your book? You know you're a pig right? (This was added with a grin, but an outside influence was suspected to be at play here.)
I believe feminists will rally around my book, as women have played a important role in making me the man I am today. The stunning brunette — SnowQueen —who has commented on this blog of late, was the first woman to ever ride pillion on a bike I owned. She will be featured prominently in several chapters of the new book. (She bitched she wasn't in the cigar book, though her dog was.) I started riding a motorcycle as a mature adult because a woman insisted I get a motorcycle. I love women. If it was up to me, I’d love a different one every weekend — with all my heart — and forever. There is nothing like the image poetry of a woman on a motorcycle, with the kind of smile that freezes your soul in the permanent state of being 19-years-old.
Above: Photo of Mac-Pac Rider Kimi Bush astride an MV Agusta Tamburini... This picture proves my last point. Note Mac-Pac Rider Gerry Cavanaugh appearing lost in the background. He is asking if anyone has seen the missing parts of his pants. Who the hell wears shorts with black dress shoes?
Take The Reader Poll At The Upper Right:
The hot brunette — known as SnowQueen — was the first woman pillion rider to grace Riepe's 1975 Kawasaki H2, and his paramour throughout college. (Actually, SnowQueen was his first in many regards.) She has access to the best riding stories of his early career... But won't email him. Her contact is confined to hit and run remarks in the comments section of this blog. This drives the author crazy. In fact, he may now be rabid. Please take the reader poll at the upper right. Justify your opinion in the comments section of this blog episode, and you could win a copy of Politically Correct Cigar Smoking For Social Terrorists, autographed and inscribed by the author.
On March 14th, 2012, Twisted Roads publisher Jack Riepe will address the New Jersey Shore BMW Riders monthly dinner, at Schneiders German-American Restaurant, on Main Street, on Avon-By-The-Sea, New Jersey. The focus of this event will be: "Has The Modern Teutonic Riding Club Become The New Version Of The Boys In The Bund?" The speaker may demonstrate a new kind of hydration system as the restaurant is a BYOB. It is rumored that this event will commemorate the speaker's turning 47-years-old in mid-speech. Details will be documented in an upcoming chapter of Twisted Roads, and be featured in the author's monthy BMW MOA Owners News column.
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2012