Monday, July 23, 2012

One Blond... One Swerve... One Ride... One Day

I used to think that there was no greater pleasure than to be standing alongside a gurgling trout stream as the first gray light of dawn filtered through the woods. Then I discovered what it was like to lay alongside a naked blond as dawn gently illuminated the details of her lithe body. While these two activities still remain high on the list, nothing compares with riding into the first glimmer of a new day on a screaming motorcycle. There is a coolness to the dawn air that transcends temperature. The atmosphere is still heavy with the mystery of the night, which slowly dissolves into an opaque reality, that gradually overpowers the bike’s headlight. It is like attending a religious service in which the benediction is read on the tachometer.

This time of the day is so special, that it is easy to understand why the concept of “60 miles” before breakfast is embraced by so many riders. What better way to start the day than to race the dawn and celebrate the daylight with a plateful of fragrant eggs, bacon, and home fries? And so I found myself rocketing along an interstate (binding rural New York State to Pennsylvania) in the sacred hour before daylight is established. My bike was a 1986 BMW K75 (with the rare Sprint Fairing). The needles on the tach and speedo were parallel in 5th gear, indicating a smooth, steady pace slightly above 80 miles per hour. The sky behind me was brightening as the gray, pre-dawn darkness before me gathered in pockets to make a last stand.

Technically this ride had begun after loading my gear onto the motorcycle in front of a chain hotel at 4:30am; but I was on my way home after ten days on the road and the scent of a woman was tightening my DNA. It wasn’t the actual aroma of a delicate perfume warmed by the heat of her body, but something much stronger: the memory of the last night we’d scorched that perfume together. A motorcycle is the ultimate escape vehicle, freeing a rider from the constricting bonds of daily life. Yet there comes a time when the ultimate escape is in the arms of a tanned, flaxen-haired blond, standing in that same driveway that launched the adventure in the first place. And it is the motorcycle that takes you there. 



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So I found myself wide awake an hour before first light, in a chain hotel, barely 200 miles from home, dealing with a hunger originating from a point below my stomach. “Time to go,” I thought, though there would be nothing to dull these pangs within 60 miles.

The three-cylinder engine on the BMW K75 is known for more of whine than growl when the throttle is twisted. That is the sound of the Valkyrie winding up for the pitch. It is the sound of an engine that will run at 95 miles per hour all day, without burning an ounce of oil. I didn’t need all day to get to where I wanted to be. At a comfortable 95 miles per hour, I would be home in two hours and ten minutes, barring intervention from the authorities.

Nowhere in eastern New York nor Pennsylvania is it possible to run at 95 miles per hour (for any great length of time, much less two hours) without getting arrested. But I have pushed the envelope more often than is ever wise. I love going like hell on smooth pavement in light traffic and letting the motorcycle hit its performance specs. Virtually vibration-free to start with, the K75 reaches its top cruising speed without the venom of a pavement predator and takes the sweepers as smoothly as a politician tells a lie. I can truthfully say “rare was the ride I didn’t take either of my two K75’s into triple digits,” but I can also make the claim that 85 to 90 miles per hour is my most comfortable gait (circumstances permitting).

Traffic was light to the point of non-existent, despite the fact that it was a weekday morning, and I was east of Scranton. The K75’s whine was more on the throaty side and I toyed with the idea of kicking things up a notch. While the temperature on a July pre-dawn run in eastern Pennsylvania might be a civilized 68º to 72º (F), the humidity can easily make things clammier than cooler. This was the case on this particular morning and pockets of mist lined sections of the road, clinging to the inside of some curves. The fun of running at 95 mph or better was spoiled by the thought of a stupid deer stepping out of some hidden glade, causing me to test the adhesion limits of my new Metzler front tire.

Have you ever noticed that some mornings start out with a burst of energy and a burning desire to get on with things, only to evolve into the conclusion that three hours and forty-five minutes’ sleep just isn’t enough to bankroll the day’s activities? I had barely been in the saddle 45 minutes when my eyes got that blurry feeling that accompanies a fleeting sense of regret that a perfectly good, and now empty, hotel room was in my immediate past. The right eye was worse than the left. It was focusing on a strange, dark, ill-defined mass in the right lane of Interstate 80 (I-80), which appeared to be doubling in size with every second.

The rider’s eye is quick to identify various threats such as oncoming locomotives, ships lost in the fog, flaming zeppelins, stupid deer, and mobs of flesh-eating zombies. The merest hint of these will send the bike and rider into an evasive swerve that will not only demonstrate a masterful handling of the machine, but conclusively prove it’s possible to cling to the seat by a clenched sphincter (which has contracted to the size of a buttonhole). But add a bit of mist or ground fog to something, robbing the image of a discernible shape, and the slightly fatigued rider might waste valuable nano-seconds trying to guess what the hell that thing might be.

I saw a shapeless, black mass looming out of the mist before me, and thought, “How odd is that?” It seemed to have corners for a second or two, and then not. It then seemed to have depth, and then not. To be perfectly frank with the gentle reader, I was also thinking of eggs and bacon, sizzling on a griddle, tended by my tanned, blond girlfriend, who would be surprised by my return, and agreeably padding around bare-assed in the kitchen. Thoughts like these get their talons in me and are not easily shaken, especially as the chances of this actually happening were about zip to none. (Stuff like this used to happen in my thirties and forties. I have been unsuccessful in perpetrating this scam in my fifties, but I’m working on it.)

I was 10 car-lengths away from the dark, shapeless mass (about a second and a half), when the full light of dawn bloomed like an orchid, clearly illuminating the threat in the road. I screamed so loudly into my Nolan helmet that I briefly succeeded in fogging the interior shield (judged to be impossible). 

Spanning the full lane in front of me, like the white-trash swimming pool from hell,  was the bed-liner out of some piece-of-shit pickup truck. Light plastic to be sure and a black hole for any motorcycle headlight, this unexpected debris would have swallowed the K75 in a heartbeat. My reaction was a vicious half-swerve to the left.  A full swerve might have bought me into the side of the bed-liner. I was past it in a flash, with my thoughts on survival, as I chopped the throttle to half and let the dynamic braking slow the bike.

I thought of pulling over on the shoulder, yet to what purpose? This happened in the blink of a dull eye. (I was 5 football fields away when the full impact of the situation hit me.) I wondered what would have happened if I had hit the bed-liner dead on?  Would the bike have just slammed through it? Would I have panicked and dropped the rig in the bed-liner? In which case, would I have slammed through the bed-liner with the bike on its side or just slid down the road inside the bed-liner?

I suspect I’d have slammed through the bed-liner, dropped the bike on its side, and come to rest in a ditch, ten feet away from a mob of flesh-eating zombies. Yet it is these sudden obstacles that add to the challenge of riding, and which make us appreciate our hidden skills. For example, I never knew I could say, “Mutherfucker” in 17 languages, until I swerved around that bed-liner.

I arrived home three and a half hours later. My blond lover was on the couch, wrapped in a blanket, sipping a cup of herbal tea. It was the second day of her period... The worst day for cramps.

“I’m just going to spend the day on the sofa,” she said meekly, with the smile that drove me mad. “I’m reading this book called The Red Tent. What are you going to do?”

“I might take a ride with Bregstein later,” I said. “Want anything from the diner?” 


Next Blog Episode:
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Jack Riepe The Keys 
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In Exchange For Sexual Favors...." 
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©Copyright Jack Riepe 2012

28 comments:

Classic velocity said...

Dear Jack,

I really love being on the road as dawn approaches. The beauty and solitude are unmatched. It is easily my favorite time of day. However, the threat of deer is a major negative in our neck of the woods. I can personally appreciate the near miss experience.

Ps: I have a major complaint for you. I left in the middle of the night and travelled 1200 miles to Sedalia MO, pitched my tent and endured 104+ degree heat. Then I walked in the heat halfway across the fairgrounds to hear a seminar and get an autographed copy of the speaker's new book. Upon arrival, I was told that the session was cancelled as the speaker could not make it. I demand a full refund of all travel expenses and rally registration ;-)

JZ said...

The dawn ride is wonderful!

Conchscooter said...

Well, let's be honest, no one writes up a motorcycle ride like you, Jack, and my hat's off to you for showing us how to bring a reader along on a ride. Great fun.
On the other subject close to your little head, I do remember those periods of which you speak. Age has it's privileges. And I am considerably older than you, young man. Herbal tea has lots of uses you philistine.

Anonymous said...

Jerk. I was there. It was you had the period and told me it was Bregstein you preferred to me. I've almost forgiven you after all these years,
Janie (the tanned one in the gown).

cpa3485 said...

Another classic in the true Riepe tradition! You keep drawing me in, hook line and sinker.

Dan Mckenzie said...

This is why I ride, probably why most of us ride. Nothing like it. Reminds me of last summer, 5am, western British Columbia, coming down off the Alcan Highway headed for Prince George. No traffic, standing there looking at Bear Glacier, sun just illuminating the tops of the mountains. What could be better? Well, maybe the blond standing beside me...

Looking forward to your book!!!

Brady Steffl said...

Jack,

The red tent, huh? Subtle. But you do aim to please. I have the same feelings about dawn riding. Honestly, once noon rolls around I want to sit under a cafe awning and piss the day away, but I can't get on the road early enough in the morning. There's magic in that mist. It works on your body like a lungful of mountain air.

I don't feel that way right now, though. Last night's low was 80. The two words I use to describe most situations I encounter also work here. "Fuck that."

Enjoy the fame of your publication.

Brady
Behind Bars - motorcycles and life
www.behindbarsmotorcycle.com0

Nikos said...

Jack

Panic over, disaster 3a did not materialise (I was just sipping my Burgentrotfangler 2015 cabernet 20/50 sauvignon wine at 30,000ft on my Lufthansa no better way to fly airbus flight to Frankfurt last week when the thought struck me that I did not recall locking the cases of my mighty R1200GS parked at Manchester airport in which were my helmet and riding gear stored for my return on Sunday evening....it transpired that nothing had been stolen.)

Kind regards, N

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Classic Velocity Blog (Wayne):

I never had a near miss like I did with that bed-liner. I saw it in plenty of time... I just didn't compute what it was. And I could have run right into it, trying to figure out what the hell I was looking at.

Regarding my cancellation at the MOA Rally... I got bad news from the doctor regarding the state of my legs and the question of my mobility. While I was willing to remotely entertain the wheelchair, I couldn't risk a relapse with edema. The doctor was positive the heat would have prompted problems for me.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep

Jack Riepe said...

Dear JZ:

There is nothing like riding the bike into the darkside of the dawn before the mysteries of the night are solved.

Thanks for reading Twisted Roads and for writing in.

Fondest regsards,
Jack/reep

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Conchscooter (Michael):

I seriously doubt you are older than I am.

Thanks for the very nice compliment regarding my writing style. As you know, I like to to tell the story as I remember it — without coloring the facts. Ever.

I hope I adequately conveyed the fact that I scared the living shit out of myself.

I have moved again, but I am still on the New Jersey Shore. I suspect I will still be here for a bit.

Fondest regards,
Jack/Reep

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Anonymous:

This almost reeks of Bregstein... Who is still pissed for the way I zapped him in the BMW MOA's July Issue of the Owner's News.

I live to zap Bregstein.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep

Jack Riepe said...

Dear CPA3435 (Jimbo):

I am delighted that my writing appeals to you and touches one of your inner chords. This piece had been floating around in my head for a bit and I had been meaning to set it down for quite some time.

It's amazing how little an impression things seem to make at the time of the swerve... Until you realize how close life comes to changing.

Thanks for reading Twisted Rosds, and for leaving a comment.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Brady:

"The Red Tent" was a great book about a nomadic people who sent their women to a red tent when they were in their time of blood renewal. The guys thought it was a kind of penalty. As it turns out, the women were running a kind of a night club in there.

It does get hot in the midwest, doesn't it. Let's see what kind of fame I get afyer the new book is out.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Brady:

"The Red Tent" was a great book about a nomadic people who sent their women to a red tent when they were in their time of blood renewal. The guys thought it was a kind of penalty. As it turns out, the women were running a kind of a night club in there.

It does get hot in the midwest, doesn't it. Let's see what kind of fame I get afyer the new book is out.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Nikos:

The suspense is killing me! Did you leave the case unlocked or not? I once left an ex-wife at the airport. No one gave her a hard time either.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep

Anonymous said...

Dear Jack,

I realize that you must have had a very good reason not to be at the MOA Rally. I heard it was under Doctors orders. My comments are all in jest...

Classic velocity

Nikos said...

Jack

I found one case unlocked and 2 locked - nothing had been stolen thus proving the honesty that plagues Olympic devastated Britain.

Did you leave your ex-wife in the motorcycle compound chained to a ground anchor?

N

Charlie6 said...

Kudos on brilliantly describing what its like to ride in the pre-dawn hours and watching the world come awake as you motor along....though I ride at a more sedate pace that you Sir.

Glad too that your reaction time was enough that day....

dom


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

Steve Williams said...

I second Conchscooter's assessment of your writing prowess. And I don't even have a motorcycle. I do want some bacon and eggs right now I think. Not quite sure...

And I was really shaken to hear Janie reveal you're a jerk. Bubbles keep bursting.

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

Michelle said...

Jack,

I completely agree with your views on early morning rides. We have taken many a trip thus far starting out during the pre-dawn stretches of the day. There is absolutely nothing like riding pillion with my guy watching as the sun just begins to kiss the sky over some beautiful stretch of countryside or shoreline in Florida. Being able to completely envelop my soul in the experience knowing that my guy is expertly in charge of the motorcycle and all I have to do is hold on and just simply enjoy the experience. I swear it truly is like a religious experience.

BeemerGirl said...

I love the smell and feel of the morning ride. The world just tinged with a golden color as the mist burn away. The deer scare the shit out of me here. Though I can say that I now believe in the Derr Hornet. Saw evidence of it working on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

I love the cover of the new book. Please tell me that isn't going to be the best part. ;)

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Beemer Girl:

I actually prefer riding a coast road at the crack of dawn, as I find the ocean mesmerizing. And one of the nicest stretches of this is the main drag that runs through the dunes sections of the Outer Banks. These are really special, with occasional views of open water on both sides of the road.

And no deer. Then again, there is sand on the road to deal with.

As far as my new work goes, you can judge this book by its cover. Thanks for reading my blog, and thanks for ordering one of my books.

Fondest regards,
Jack/Reep

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Michele:

Thanks for reading my blog and for leaving a comment. Your remarks were especially interesting to me this month, as they represent the perspective from the pillion... Yet I can just image how interactive your pillion riding must be.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Steve Williams (Scooter In The Sticks):

The number of women who think I am a jerk would stretch from one end of the country to the other... Doesn't stop them from marrying me though.

Thanks for your kind note... And thanks for reading my blog and writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6:

I swear I start off with the best of intentions... And these include sanely riding off into the morning mist. However, I shortly find myself twisting the tiger's balls (the throttle) and racing my own pulse and imagination.

And God, I do love doing this in the morning.

Thanks for reading my blog, and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Nikos:

I am delighted that you did not face disaster number 3, or even number 2. However, it is cause for concern on at least one level that your saddle bags (panniers)were undisturbed at Manchester Airport. It could be said that the BMW does not inspire theft through the absence of its good looks.

Thanks for reading my blog and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Wayne:

I will be running an explanation regarding the circumstances leading up to my BMW MOA rally cancellation, but a relapse was regarding as "almost certain."

Thanks for reading and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack/reep