My bike was a 1986 BMW K75 (with the rare Sprint fairing), known to my readers as “Blueballs.” I had posted my intention to make this ride and was joined by two highly experienced riders, David Hardgrove and Jim Sterling. Hardgrove mounted a BMW F650 (thumper), while Sterling sported the iconic BMW “R” bike. (Technically speaking, this was an all BMW run, with all three food groups represented, an “F,” a “K,” snd an "R." This kind of ride is called a F*#K*R.) As the rider with the least experience, none recently in the fog, I was placed in the center of the line. Hardgrove led with his flashers on while Sterling brought up the rear, giving me a demonstration of how a headlight modulator worked. My own four-ways carved a reassuring niche in the mist.
Fog is one of those things that requires a degree of discretion. It can be as dense as Congress in one second as as wispy as lace in another. I closed on the bike ahead of me, and maintained a slower speed when visibility dropped. Even so, there were times when all I saw were orange blurs in the mist. Our route was the old Lincoln Highway (US-30) through Lancaster, PA, which is only one lane in each direction for some stretches. This was only my second experience with riding with multiple bikes, since I’d joined the club. I’d read all the data, however, and maintained my position in the staggered riding formation.
I don’t agree with the general consensus on the staggered riding formation when it comes to a personal preference. It may have been the correct thing to do for the immediate weather conditions, but the late, great moto-safety guru — Larry Grodsky — made a good case for the single-line formation. Horrific motorcycle crashes in recent years, in which groups of bikes went down like kingpins, support his conclusions. But I was very confident that day, mimicking technique from two accomplished riders. And as predicted, the fog broke giving us dry, clear conditions, with near unlimited visibility.
Hardgrove was a “by-the-book” technical rider, who adhered to posted speed limits. As the pupil on this run, I wanted to impress him by following his every direction. So I broke left when he extended his hand left arm and pointed in that direction. Jim Sterling took up his position on the staggered right. Two minutes later, Hardgrove bent his left arm to the right, and I changed position again. Jim Sterling swung back to the left. I could see him shrug in the mirror. Soon thereafter, Hardgrove raised his left arm and waved me forward. I cracked the throttle and cut the distance between our bikes by half. Jim Sterling was right there with me. And then Hardgrove reached back and scratched his ass.
What the hell did that mean?
I decided to just fall back and wait for better instructions. At a gas stop, Hardgrove explained he was just stretching his left arm, although scratching one’s ass means “you get the check for lunch” in BMW riding circles.
Hand signals between riders are generally self-explanatory. Tapping the top of your helmet signifies the proximity of police or a speed trap. Pointing at the gas tank indicates the need to stop for fuel. Spinning one’s hand in the air usually means “start them up” or “We have to turn around.” Extending the middle finger on one’s hand is the international symbol for “Welcome to New Jersey.”
Yet some signals can be easily misinterpreted by those other than the riders, which may lead to widespread misunderstanding and general misconceptions about BMW bikers. I was participating in a spirited run to a remote part of West Virginia (one of my favorite destinations) with Dick Bregstein and Clyde Jacobs. By “spirited,” I mean insanely fast. We maintained a conga line in which we routinely traded positions, with one or the other taking the lead from time to time.
The legendary “Blueballs” had long since succumbed to a wreck (left-turning car) and I was on “Fire Balls,” a babe magnet of a red K75.
We were charging down a slab that had us in close proximity with herds of cagers (traffic), bunched up as they tend to get. It was in one of these stretches that we were briefly joined by a hot cookie on a Squidabusa. She was in black leather that rivaled Michelle Pfieffer’s costume as Catwoman for raw sensuality on a Japanese street screamer that probably had 7,000 horsepower. Her rear tire was twice as fat as my ass.
So here we were, attempting to squeeze through traffic, like toothpaste escaping the tube, with a hot tamale in our midst, when Bregstein indicated to Clyde that he had to take a piss. The signal for this was to aggressively point to his groin, moving the pointing hand up and down to suggest urgency. Clyde responded by pointing at the sign to a rest area, and nodding in exaggerated biker fashion.
This communication was noted by the occupants of five cars, who looked on with open-mouthed shock. They saw some guy point to his dick and another rider take the bait. A Volvo on my left was piloted by two blue-haired ladies, undoubtedly on their way to the LeBrea tar pits for a final dip. After the performance by Clyde and Dick, they looked at me with critical appraisal.
I didn’t hesitate. I pointed at the ass of the beauty on the bike in front of me, and nodded my head vigorously. I then twisted the throttle wide open and went straight, when Dick and Clyde pulled off. Two miles down the road, the beauty saw me on her tail. She must have been confused about her location, as she welcomed me to New Jersey and took off.
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2012
All Rights Reserved
Thank You For Your Patience...
My new book is crawling through production and will ship shortly. This has been one hell of a summer.
The prenumbered, advanced order list will cut off September 17, 2012. This weekend is your last chance to pre-order a hand-numbered, autographed, inscribed book. For details, click here.
Who Reads Twisted Roads?
Above: I got a nice note from Bud Meade trumpeting the benefits of the BMW “R” bike. He wrote, “You will notice that I ride a ‘real’ Beemer, one that has two cylinders and they stick out on the sides. Somehow, some other kinds of Beemers have hit the streets that certainly are an abomination and disgrace for the Knights of the Roundel. Is nothing sacred?”
Above: Bud Meade. Well, Bud... The new “R” bikes are out and they have a liquid-cooled engine now, and the liquid is no longer whale oil. That’s all I have to say.
Above: Dan McKenzie. Dan (Minnesota) sent me a great picture of his rig on a run through the great American west. He wrote: “Here is a shot of me, Dan Mckenzie, a faithful Twisted Roads reader. I ride a BMW F800ST. This is from last months trip to Bear Tooth Pass, in Montana.
Hot Flash From A Twisted Roads Reader:
Above: Last week we posted a picture of Bob Leong (Canada) and his Vstrom 650. The word on the street is that Bob is planning a run from the west coast to Maine and he just bought a “Beemer” to pull it off. He wrote: “I am now the proud owner of a real BMW, not one of those fake ‘K’ models. It has ABS, traction control, computer, factory alarm, engine guards, bar risers, side cases, cheese-maker, heated towel rack, sock presser, and zeppelin mooring cleat. It also came with a two-year supply of whale oil. The whole package was $5 (USD) more than the best house in my neighborhood. Did I get screwed?"
Above: See what happens when you drink the Kool-Aid, Bob? Bought any accessories yet? Here’s a technical hint: bring your checkbook and be prepared to write a few chapters. There should be a full account on Bob’s blog Wet Coast Scooting.
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