The decision to leave the three women sunning themselves by the side of the pool while we took the bikes through the back roads of rural Pennsylvania (June 1975) was an easy one to make, as they were the ones who made it. Each of the ladies, ranging in age from 19 to 21, looked like an ad for French fried derriere, as they stretched out in a buffet line of feminine perfection. They were equipped with books, magazines, baby oil, lotion, fruity rum drinks and sunglasses, ready to tackle the challenges of laying motionless in pursuit of the seamless tan.
We had a more aggressive agenda. Our host, Stitches, had uncovered a map dating to the 1860’s and thought it would be cool to locate some of the original roads that ran through the valleys surrounding the upper Delaware River. Obscure roads reveal the character of a place through the architecture and artifacts that mark the lives of those who choose the anonymity of the path less beaten. By comparing the old map with a new one, we established that two or three of these old byways were now major thoroughfares connecting communities that not only survived the test of time, but thrived. Yet some roads disappeared entirely, as did the communities they once served.
One of these was a settlement marked “Landjager.” Landjager looked promising to five Hessian families fleeing the endless pleasures of life under Landgrave Frederick II of Hesse-Kasse, whose primary occupation was supplying mercenaries to the British Crown. (If he were alive today, Frederick II would be supplying lobbyists to the special interests trade.) These Hessian deserters were people of long-term vision. They realized that a tavern and a cider press would be very profitable when a road came through. The dirt road followed 125 years after the tavern went broke. The legacy of the place was alleged to be a few tumbledown foundations on the old Landjager-Oberst Road.
We decided to follow the most obscure roads we could find in search of Landjager, always heading away from familiar or popular destinations. Our goal was to discover the most run-down saloon or backwoods tavern, with the last bottles from failed distilleries still on the top shelf. My pal Stitches led on a Ducati 860 GT, accompanied by Fast Freddie on a Norton Commando, followed by myself on a Kawasaki H2. The first road was a nicely paved two-lane thoroughfare with a double yellow line. Fast Freddie referred to it as the “yellow double-dare” line. This led to a paved road that was about a lane and a half-wide, that had received less tar and more cow dung in the past year.
There were dairy farms along this road that went from highly manicured picture postcard bovine spas to far more casual cow flophouses. There were once gracious country houses that needed paint, then some that yearned for clapboarding, and others that craved both, plus roofing. I cautiously banked down a gravel road, following the other two riders. The first two houses we passed were long since abandoned, with saplings sprouting from the porches. We went by a small house that had a car parked next to it, but the barn roof had collapsed. Many of these places had ponds, some with tumbledown docks no longer connected to shore, and others choked by weeds. The house had collapsed on one old farm and it was obvious someone was living in the barn. There were four rusting Studebaker Larks parked outside, in addition to the hulking remains of an old fire truck.
Landjager-Oberst Road was barely the width of the tractor that had last traversed it, judging by the tire tracks. Even the gravel was spotty and overgrown with weeds. It seemed the perfect hide-out for Hessians on the lam, though it may have had an alternate charm in the 1770’s.
“You’d have to be pretty desperate for a drink of cider to find your way in here,” said Stitches, who’d paused for the refreshing gasp of a cigarette. “Maybe the tavern had live entertainment in the way of women.”
We speculated for a bit on the charms of Hessian women, and decided they were somewhere on a scale between the wives of Sparta and Amish pole dancers. If there were any standing ruins dating back to a Hessian enclave, we didn’t see them. There was evidence of someone carving out an existence from the land, however, as a tumbledown post and rail fence began to make a half-hearted appearance along the sides of the road.
The fence yielded to a traditional stone wall in spots and then to mad tangles of hedgerows. The right-of-way was less than 8 feet wide in some places, giving the impressions we’d turned down a private lane. The hardwoods were dense and tall, with branches arching overhead. It was here, at the narrowest part of the road that we discovered three large pigs rooting in the duff.
There is something about finding a pig going about its private business on a public road that brings peals of laughter to city punks on motorcycles. The fact there were three pigs only intensified the situation.
“It looks like the Hessians left the ladies behind,” said Fast Freddie. “There appears to be one for each of us.”
“This is the kind of menage a trois that calls for barbecue sauce,” said Stitches.
“Are pigs vicious?” I asked. “Can we squeeze by?”
Stitches snicked the Ducati into gear and tapped the horn. Freddie followed suit. The pigs snorted and squealed, then turned tail and started down the lane. We pursued them, jazzing the motors and hitting our horns. This was hysterical. And then we came upon a crumbling house with a broken gate on the lane. The pigs charged through the gate, climbed the steps to the porch, and bumped the front door. It opened, and the pigs went inside.
We were laughing to the point of speechlessness, and Stitches yelled after them, “I’ll huff and I’ll puff... And I’ll blow your house down.”
Then we took off, finding our way back to the ladies about three hours later. They were tanned, hot and pissed, demanding we take them out for dinner. And that is very nearly the end of this tale. Fifteen years later, I was a public relations practitioner working on a local land issue in Pennsylvania. Stitches and his family extended to me the exalted status of an invitation to hunt deer on their land (almost never given to anyone outside the family). They even hired a guide for me. The guide knew his stuff, and with ten minutes left to go on opening day, I shot a 6-point buck. My first.
I was elated. The guide knew tons about the behavior of White Tail deer. I asked him where he lived and if he raised animals.
“I live about 30 miles away on Landjager-Oberst Road,” he said. “I just have cattle now, but I used to raise pigs. Those pigs could escape from any enclosure I built for them. I came home one day and they were in the house. They crapped in every room.”
Who Reads Twisted Roads?
Who's really in charge on this iconic BMW "R" Bike?
Above: Richard Barnhart of Texas with his favorite pillion rider, grandaughter Trinity, on a beautiful black R1100RT. Trinity tells him when to shift, and when the steam pressure is low. I wrote a perfectly clean blog tonight so Trinity could read this and show it to her friends. It nearly killed me.
From The Man Who Has Everything...
Ken Johnson of Pensylvania balks at doing his own work on the heavily armored BMW GS in the foreground. "The complexity of today's motorcycles call for skills not always at hand for the average man," said Johnson. He is resting his hand on a flawless Glassair III, that he built himself, from scratch, in 1995. The aircraft is capable of speeds of 400 miles per hour. Johnson made headlines and raised eyebrows by flying the aircraft around the world. He has also taken the GS up to Prudhoe Bay. Johnson has offered a flight to Twisted Roads editor Jack Riepe, as soon as he completes his next project, which is rumored to be a zeppelin.
Top Dog from Top Gun Riding School Snatches Quote For Rally Shirt....
Skip Harrison, the top dog from the Top Gun Biker School in Louisiana, shows off his special commemorative BMW MOA rally shirt from Sedalia. The shirt proudly display's a failed slogan for the Sedalia rally: "Come for the onions!" Harrison heard Twisted Roads Publisher Jack Riepe respond to the question, "Why are you coming to Sedalia," with the answer, "For the onions," and had two shirts made. (The onions are actually grown in Vidalia, Georgia. Riepe got something wrong. Imagine that.) Harrison had a shirt made for Riepe, which is now being used as the outfield tarp for Yankee Stadium. When Riepe last spoke with Harrison, Skip and his family was gearing up for Hurricane Isaac, which swept through the area 7 years to the day of Hurricane Katrina. Let us know how your doing, Skip!
Got a picture of you and your bike?Send it in. Readers who contribute pictures are eligible for special drawings for valuable prizes. Tonight we got three Beemer Riders. Twisted Roads is not Beemer centric. Where are the Harley riders and the guys on the Hondas, Kawasakis, Suzukis and Yamahas? Guys who send in pictures of their hot girlfriends, wearing next to nothing, on equally hot motorcycles, receive no special consideration for prizes. It just works out that way. Void where prohibited. (Who would prohibit a hot woman on a hot motorcycle?)
Next episode: The Special Tour Cape May County Story... Monday Night: September 3, 2012. Lots of "Never seen before pictures!" And one that has been around.
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2012