The first raindrop materialized in the lower left-hand corner of my face shield, and left a tiny snail trail of moisture as it angled diagonally upward across my field of vision. I wiped it off on the back of my glove.
“Could be anything,” I thought. “Bird piss, bug guts, condensation from a passing vehicle, spittle from a blond... anything. Anything but rain.” I hadn’t seen any birds. It was the first week of fall and there were no bugs. Traffic was light. And I hadn’t been close enough to a woman to get spat upon lately. That left one possibility, and if I had any doubts, a smattering of raindrops hit the clear plastic like birdshot fired at a grouse.
The day had matured into a solitary shade of gray, unaltered in its intensity from an hour past sun-up well into the late afternoon. The forecast had been for a 47 percent chance of rain, a statistical coin toss. Would I have ventured out on the bike for a 47 percent chance of getting laid or a 47 percent chance of winning a lottery? Who wouldn't?
I called my riding partner, Dick Bregstein, to ask if he felt like joining me on a run to Centralia, PA, the remains of a town sitting atop a coal mine fire that has been burning for 60 years.
“There’s a 47 percent chance of rain today,” said Bregstein. “If it was anyone else, I’d have my gear on and be out the door in a heartbeat. But it’s you and that virtually guarantees a downpour. No offense, Jack, but you have the luck of the damned.”
Bregstein had a point. Anyone else might have had a 47 percent chance of getting laid, but I had usually had a 53 percent chance of getting fucked. So I rode out alone on the legendary K75 known as “Fireballs.”
The weather had held all the way up to Centralia, with temperatures in the low 60’s and light breezes, despite the murk. Centralia was pretty much as I remembered it: vacant lots with the occasional wisp of steam and toxic gas rising from the ground. Yet now that I was 90 miles from home via indirect roads, my chances of getting soaked seemed more like 100 percent. The insinuation of rain became a smattering of drizzle as a motorcycle shop close to my heart hove into view. I usually knew 20 people in here and couldn’t think of a better place to wait out a passing squall.
The weather had eliminated the crowd.
The parking lot out front had only two machines in it, and neither was familiar to me. One was a Suzuki that oozed speed, even on the side-stand. The other was an old rat bike of a Triumph. This almost guaranteed some grizzled rider would be leaned over the counter inside, bullshitting about the good old days, when all motorcycles sprayed oil like it was champagne. These riders invariably sounded like Gabby Hayes, dressed like Wallace Beery, and had an aroma like Henry Grajewski's pig farm.
Neither of the two customers in the shop met that description. The Suzuki rider was a Brad Pitt look-a-like, who dropped by to pick up two quarts of herb-scented motor oil ($37.50 each) in logo-branded bottles. He was leaving as I gimped in.
The Triumph biker took me by surprise. Scuffed boots, worn leather riding gear, and hair shaped by a scratched helmet that had seen too many seasons, she was Asian, with dark, hypnotic eyes. I am sucker for brunettes but I am a lost soul to Asian brunettes.
She moved through the gear aisles with the kind of indifference that comes naturally to women whose innate sensuality has been bending light since puberty. It didn’t matter to me that I was 20 years her senior. In my mind, I was thin, tough, and edgy. She’d see my red K75 outside and bite her lower lip in anticipation of a sexual union that would astound mating sea otters. Our eyes met for a minute, and it was a tough to tell if the contempt in hers was merely feigned or a reflex.
Stacks of riding gloves — designed to meet the most technical demands or the parameters of moto fashion — were displayed between the racks of leather jackets and shelves of helmets. Flashing me a look of challenge, she selected a pair of vented, armored riding gloves (in the $125 category) and shoved them inside her coat. Her pouty lips formed a silent sneer, and she headed toward the door.
I was stunned for an instant. Then I grabbed a pair of the same gloves and headed toward the counter. Her body sinuously moved through the door with purpose, though without haste.
“Do you have my credit card on file?” I asked the guy behind the register.
“Yeah, Reep” he said."We do."
I tossed the gloves on the counter and said, “Charge me for a pair of these and please return those to stock. I’ll explain later.”
She was already headed out into traffic — wearing the poached gloves — by the time I got my leg over “Fireballs.” I was in third gear and pushing 55 miles per hour when I left the parking lot. She was ahead of me by 800 yards, but in no real hurry. I caught up to her at the first light.
“Nice gloves,” I yelled over the muted din of the running engines. She shot me a blank expression and pulled away as the signal turned green. She acquired attitude with each mile and started pulling further ahead as traffic allowed. I followed her through four lights, to a side road that ran through cornfields and a forested stretch. It was here that she laughed in my face, pulling left around a car stopped in front of her, and then darting right. She had a 90-second lead that might have translated into giving me the slip, had I not slowed as I came upon a tired-looking gin mill with a gravel smear of a parking lot. Her bike was parked alongside other vintage British iron, which was intriguing by itself. My red K75 looked like the Teutonic pimento in the British olive.
The place was a tarnished go-go joint catering to a leather crowd. I found her standing at the bar, with her arm around a dancer whose physical perfection was inversely proportional to the tiny size of her g-string. The Asian beauty pulled the glove from her right hand and worked her fingers behind the little triangular patch of fabric.
Nearly speechless, I said, “I don’t usually wear gloves when I do that either.”
It was then I noticed that crowd was almost exclusively women. I thought about ordering a drink and then figured what’s the point? The bartender shot me a wry look and asked if I wanted anything. I glanced at the two women, smiled back at her, and asked, “I don't suppose I could get a veal sandwich?”
“Dream on,” she said.
It poured on the ride home.
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2012
Who Reads Twisted Roads? These Folks Do!
Above: This shot is from veteran Twisted Roads reader Gary Schultz, sitting astride what I thought to be a nice variation of a Triumph Bonneville. Gary (wearing a blue windbreaker to the far right) was kind enough to point out that he is riding a retro 2001 Kawasaki W650. In my estimation, this is one of the most beautiful bikes to ever roll off the Kawasaki assembly line. Strikingly British-like in its lines, the W650 has a wider gas tank than the Triumph and while retro in nature, it runs with the flawless performance associated with Japanese motorcycles.
Above: Jeremy Zielke (Wisconsin), a discerning Twisted Roads reader, sent this great shot of his classic Harley Davidson Road King, dramatically portrayed against the backdrop of Devil's Tombstone. Jeremy has owned a number of motorcycles and currently favors this iconic Milwaukee Iron. I have to honestly say the lines of those sidebags appeal to me greatly. The Harley Davidson remains the iconic motorcycle of all times. It is my hope to ride out to the Devil's Tower (Wyoming) next summer.
Above: Steve Diodati, Jr., on his BMW S1000RR, a nice bike for commuting to the stores or church on Sunday, if you need to get there at the speed of light. Steve waited a bit for this one.
Send your picture into Twisted Roads... Readers who send in their pictures are automatically included in randowm drawings for cool stuff. Send your picture to: firstname.lastname@example.org, with the words, "Rider Photo" in the subject line.