The 2012 riding season officially opened for me on March 14th, with an invitation to address the New Jersey Shore BMW Riders, during their monthly dinner meeting at Schneider’s German American Restaurant, in the picturesque hamlet of Avon By-The-Sea. I found it curious that I was already at the Jersey Shore (leaving from Cape May), and had nearly a 100-mile ride north to find myself still within earshot of the Atlantic Ocean, in a state that is smaller than my riding pants.
Despite my familiarity with BMW motorcycle-riding culture, I found my trepidation level surprisingly high... Not because I’d be in the company of a mystical riding club whose aggregate years in the saddle went back to the tertiary age... Nor because this was one of those semi-reclusive biker clubs where everyone has at least one 1950’s black German bike with an odometer that runs twelve places (and nearly every number is a 9). It was the thought that I was without a motorcycle for the second time in 8 years that bugged me.
The ravages of arthritis forced me to sell the legendary “Fireballs” this past winter and I am still fretting over it. The pegs were too damn high — as was the saddle — for me to comfortably mount and competently ride it. And there was no way to cost-effectively lower the bike without destroying the integrity of the model year. But it’s not like I’d never see her again. It was purchased by a member of the New Jersey Shore Riders for a record $1.7 million — after only being posted on this blog for 72 hours. (There are three parts to that last statement. Two of them are true.)
The day could not have been prettier for a drive (or ride) along the New Jersey Coast. The lower stretches of the Garden State Parkway parallel the edges of vast salt marshes, and they are beautiful beyond belief, though the view passes all too quickly. I have made this trip by motorcycle a number of times on the 1985 K75 known as “Blue Balls,” which was destroyed in a collision with Emma Blodgett, back in 2005. The view spreads out right and left at Somers Point (Great Egg Harbor), and again where Parkway spans the Mullica River.
Above: Club President Kent Seydell convened the March dinner meeting of New Jersey Shore BMW Riders, while unveiling the precious last of the "Old Logo" club tee shirts. Photo by Roy Groething.
I hesitate to say this but New Jersey has (had) some of the most beautiful places on earth for years. When I was a boy, the locale around the tiny hamlet of Peapack rivaled anyplace in the Hamptons. The Jockey Hollow area was both historic and pristine in the same shot. Yet real estate developers have carved this beautiful state like it was a rump roast, cutting down centuries old oaks in favor or strip malls or sterile housing developments.
Above: One of the few remaining "Old Logos" of the New Jersey Shore BMW Riders, displaying class, heritage, and solidarity — with the power of a tsunami. Photo by Roy Groething.
Though the speed limit on most of the Parkway is 65 mph, traffic moves faster than that. (The cops are like snipers, however, and they will grab you without mercy.) I recall hitting the GSP bridges over open water doing 90 mph on that older K75, and it was almost better than getting laid in the back of my first car. There is a bite to the salt air, especially if the breeze is off the water. And the salt marshes have an aroma all their own. Hitting the incline of a bridge ramp at speed was akin to launching myself into space, with that finely balanced German engine screaming like a raptor. It has been my experience that each of these bridges is followed by a curve, so the landings were fun too. I wasn’t pushing 90 mph on my drive to Avon, as my current vehicle gets 40 feet per gallon.
I arrived early, so that none of the NJSBMWR members would see me disembark from a red 4x4 pick-up that has all the charm (and length) of fire apparatus. But at least two did.
I heard one remark, “Here comes Riepe... I can see his apparatus.”
The other replied, “Well let’s make sure his pants are zipped before he waddles inside.”
Schneider’s German-American Restaurant is a fixture in Avon. Popular legend has it that the zeppelin Hindenberg would follow the fragrant traces of fine German cooking from far out over the Atlantic, then dim its lights or circle overhead before landing in nearby Lakehurst. The restaurant’s dark interior is heavy with the aroma of wienerschnitzel and the place would be ideal for staging a putsch. I can honestly say the wienerschnitzel was the best I have had in years, and the red cabbage had a tang worth savoring. Schneider’s is also well-known for homemade ice cream, though I didn’t try any on this visit.
Above: Jack Riepe (second from left, with his concentration camp haircut that he got at SuperCuts) winding up for the pitch. Most people are laughing. Those with straight faces think he is lying. The guy on the speaker's left is actually smirking over Riepe's haircut. About 30 riders were in attendance. Photo by Roy Groething.
Our waitress was a charming bunch of roses with an enchanting way about her that I will never forget. When she found out who I was, she went and got the owner to say a few words to me. Seldom have I been flattered to this extent.
The guys began drifting in with a ritual that is common to riding clubs the world over — regardless of the marque. There is the glance around the room, the eye-contact with riding buddies, and the exploding smiles as handshakes connect. The atmosphere was charged with the kind of camaraderie one has come to expect from riders who share a passion for distance, speed, and pure adventure. I have met a number of these guys on previous occasions and not one of them held it against me. Several even seemed glad to see me.
Above: Harold Gantz, of the New Sweden, NJ, BMW Riders, who won a copy of Riepe's book for showing up in a "Twisted Roads" tee shirt. Gantz has one of the most beautiful K75s that ever rolled off the assembly line. Photo by Roy Groething.
About thirty riders trooped in, most astride flawless machines ranging from the mighty GS to the sleek F800. My former K75 was among these, though she no longer raised her head when I whistled. In fact, she snarled and spit at me like a former spouse. The meeting was called to order, and I was introduced. I had planned to begin with a tale of my youth, which involved a Kawasaki, a near-naked Asian woman, a boomerang, and a bar on Westside Avenue in Jersey City. It was then I noticed that we shared the room with the general public, several of who were taking quite an interest in my warm-up. I realized the punch line, “Then she polished my goggles with her panties, even though she was still wearing them,” was likely to start a riot, or cause several patrons to start waving panties of their own. (These patrons would have looked hot in lingerie back in the day when most railroads ran on steam.)
The best stories are the ones grounded in fertile personal experience, and I had more than a few of these. One had occurred en route to the event. It was the warmest March 14th in recent history, with temperatures in the mid-sixties. I had the windows down and the stereo cranked, releasing clouds of Meatloaf’s “Louder Than Anything Else” into the atmosphere. The mating call of a crotch rocket reverberated through the truck’s cab like a gunshot in church. I heard the scream of pistons long before I saw the bike. It was a sizzling Japanese “Fonguasa,” or something like that. (They all look alike.) I knew it wasn’t Italian because it didn’t carry the colors of a pizza box. The rider was a young guy in his mid-20’s, with a stick of pillion candy on the back. She was drop-dead gorgeous and in a perfect world, I’d have changed places with him in a second.
Traffic had coagulated at a light, and I found myself stopped next to them. The rider jazzed the engine for no other reason than it sounded it cool, which seemed to get a rise from the lady on the back. I don’t go for this sort of stuff normally, but I jazzed the engine in the Ford, and looked to see if something hot and sexy would appear behind me in the load bed. Nothing did. In fact, jazzing the motor in the Ford 150 (with the Titan engine) cost $14.75. So I did the next best stupid thing, and cranked the stereo so loud that the windshield began to flex.
It was then I whispered the prayer of a desperate man, and said, “Oh gods of the motorcycle, send a me a single woman on a BMW, whose habits and lifestyle match my own.”
Though the sky was clear, there was the distant rumble of thunder, and an “R” bike buzzed into view. The rider was a stately woman whose features were concealed behind a flip-face Nolan helmet. I was mesmerized. I then hung out the window and gave her the secret sign of a BMW rider. (This entails extending the fingers of your left hand like a fan, sticking your thumb in your left ear, and waving.) She raised the face shield of the Nolan and yelled, “Want a chaw of my terbacca?” She had the body of eternal youth and the eyes of tempered skepticism. They narrowed as they focused on me.
I nodded... And she spit a darkened gob onto the truck’s door. I didn’t realize she was offering the chaw already in her mouth. She then bit into a hunk of leaf, slammed the Nolan closed, and pulled away. The next time, I will not wish for a woman so finely tuned to my way of doing things. I concluded the story and those in the crowd still awake nudged those who were not.
A member in attendance raised his hand and asked, “Did that really happen?” I nodded, and two others wanted to know the direction in which she was last headed.
I always ask groups of riders if they have any suggestions or story ideas for me. These Jersey boys came up with a great one. Apparently, there is a hair-cutting place not too far away in which the stylists wear only bikinis. The New Jersey group suggested a Twisted Roads ride to this joint, resulting in a review of their services, which also includes things like “waxing.” I wondered what it would be like to order a “bikini wax” for a vintage red K75.
Two attendees won copies of my book, Politically Correct Cigar Smoking For Social Terrorists, that evening. They were Harold Gantz, of the New Sweden BMW Riders Group, and Monica Gionet of the New Jersey Shore BMW Riders. Harold won his for wearing a Twisted Roads Tee Shirt. Monica got hers for coming up to me with a smile like a laser, and saying, “I really like your stories.” Still, she had to guess a number from “1 to 10,” and what were the chances I was really thinking of “4.” I presented the book to her husband Norm. (It is no secret that Twisted Roads is reaching out for woman riders/readers, and Monica buzzed in on a hot F800ST. Michelle Smith won a book this week too. She is a new BMW rider — an F650 — from Florida. She won for leaving a comment on my blog that one of my former girlfriends must have been a “bitch.” That kind of forward thinking should always be rewarded.)
Also present from the New Sweden Riders Group was Jim Nanfeldt, who was the guest author of my column in the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America’s “Owners News” this month. Through the most implausible circumstances, Nanfeldt ended up riding Elizabeth Taylor’s Harley during a motorcycle ride hosted by the legendary Malcolm Forbes. His deadpan account of the ride made for a great guest story and his debut as a moto-writer. Jim is thinking of doing a more serious interpretation of a cross-country run he took years ago. You may read my column — and Jim’s piece — in this month’s magazine, by going to http://www.bmwmoa.org/ and clicking on the checkered flag about halfway down the page. In a broad gesture to the riding community, the BMW MOA is making my material available on its public page. (This is very different from the gesture I usually share with the riding public.)
Above: "Dr. Jerry" astride the legendary "Fire Balls," the machine he purchased from Riepe for the undisclosed amount of $1.5 million. The PIA HID lights on this rig brought out the "peepers" three weeks ahead of schedule in Avon-By-The-Sea. Photo by Roy Groething.
The New Jersey Shore BMW Riders are a vital part of more than 50 chartered clubs that constitute a national network of Teutonic bikers across the country. I was flattered to receive their invitation and was honored to share a few laughs. I hope to host a New Jersey riders “Oyster and Pole Dance Festival Ride” from the Garden State late this summer... And I hope I’ll see these guys there.
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2012