Monday, June 25, 2012

Giant Spiders and Motorcycle Deer Strikes

“I am through riding the Blue Ridge Parkway,” said Chris Jacarawycz. “This is the fourth time I’ve whacked a deer on this road, and the next one may whack me.”

Chris Jacarawycz is one of the finest motorcyclists I have ever known. Whether stirring up the dirt in backwoods Pennsylvania on a raging KTM, or taking a Honda Goldwing through twisties that would daunt a much nimbler bike, Jacarawycz is a biker’s biker. He carves through curves like a Renaissance sculptor, rendering gravel-coated corners into the moto equivalent of Michelangelo’s “David.” But all his skill couldn’t stop a large whitetail deer from from diving straight into the windshield of his Yamaha Super Ténéré — at point blank range.

“The deer came out of the brush in a dark brown blur,” said Jacarawycz. “My peripheral vision had barely scored the threat when the bike shuddered under a tremendous jolt. Broken plastic and bits of glass showered over me, as I fought for control. The front end started to wobble and the machine veered to the left. There was no opposing traffic and my thought was to keep it on the blacktop, while I brought the machine to a straight stop.”

He almost made it. The bike went into a front-end skid when the front wheel hit the grass, dropping Jacarawycz in a sliding dismount on the pavement. While not life threatening, his injuries would curtail his riding for the better part of the season. The event would prove fatal to both the bike and the deer. (Jacarawycz wears a full-face helmet and total ballistic gear.)

This was his fourth deer-strike, but only the first time he dropped the bike as a result of the impact. (His last encounter with a whitetail would severely damage the fairing of a Honda Goldwing, but Jacarawycz managed to hold the machine upright, precluding injury to himself, or the pillion rider. This was the outcome of two other deer strikes as well.)

“What could you have done differently to prevent this accident,” I asked him.

“Not a damn thing,” Jacarawycz replied.”It was broad daylight, in the middle of the afternoon, and the deer leaped from thick cover right at the edge of the road. It slammed into the bike a split second later. There was absolutely no opportunity to swerve nor to slam on the brakes.”

“What was your initial reaction?”

“I knew what happened instantly... My reflex was to hold the bike upright, assess the situation, and bleed off speed without slamming on the brakes. I was pretty confident that I’d get it stopped upright, but there was greater impact damage to the forks or front brakes than I anticipated and circumstances proved otherwise,” Jaracawycz said.

“What advice would you give to riders dealing with whitetail deer?”

“It’s the luck of the draw. I’ve heard that if you come across a deer in the road, you should aim for where the animal has been. This assumes that the deer is not the point-man in a column of whitetails, which is often the case. Then again, I’ve seen deer start slipping and sliding on the pavement, and turn around to go back the way they came. The animals do not always enter the road in a tentative stance, pausing to look around. Sometimes they just come barreling out,” said Jacarawycz.

And on a tight, mountain road, this can spell trouble for motorists in general, and bikers in particular.

Nothing gets people more fired up in the US than the manner in which nature is regarded, discussed, and managed. When it comes to wildlife, the average fat-faced American is a real dope, extending human attributes to creatures who coexist with each other in a hair-trigger state of nature. I got my first lesson in this subject 25-years ago, on a fishing trip with my pal, Ihor Sypko. We were camping on the shores of Round Valley, a reservoir in New Jersey, and had planned to launch a rowboat from a marshy area, adjacent to our campsite.

There was nothing compact about the aluminum rowboat, and we chatted as we carried it (by hand) down the access road to the water’s edge. It was a half-mile walk. We laughed as we sweated, making no effort to conceal our movements. About 200-yards from the water’s edge, I noticed a fawn in the undergrowth. It was a thing of beauty. All spindly legs and silvery spots on a tiny, tawny body... It was trying to stand.

“Holy shit,” I said. “I think that fawn was just born. I hope we didn’t spook the mother.”

“I didn’t hear a deer run off,” replied Ihor.

We then carried the boat to the water’s edge in stealth mode.

The fishing was fun. The average size of the fish we caught could have been mounted on a Ritz Cracker, although I did hook into something impressive— that got away. It was probably a Blue Fin tuna or a Marlin.  We returned to shore 4 hours later, sun-dried, bug bitten, and hungry. We were carrying the boat back, when I remembered the fawn.

It was still there, and none too happy-looking.

“Shit,” I said to Ihor. “This little thing needs our help.”

Because we grew up in New Jersey — the land of abundant civil authority — and because we were city kids (relying on the irrefutable truth of Disney’s “Bambi” for our knowledge of deer), we decided to notify the park rangers. Since cell phones were pure science fiction in the late ’70’s, Ihor lit out for the emergency land line, about a mile and a half distant. Our plan was to call in a medivac helicopter and to get the deer airlifted to Johns Hopkins University Hospital as fast as possible.

I figured they probably had a jet at a local airport standing by for this sort of thing.

Ihor returned a bit later, with the news that a ranger was coming.

“Why didn’t you just wait by the phone and ride back in the helicopter?” I asked.

“They didn’t say anything about a helicopter,” said Ihor.

“What the fuck?” I responded, dripping furious indignation. (This was long before the internet, so I actually said, “What the fuck,” as opposed to the letters W.T.F.) “Did you tell them this involved a baby fawn, who may have been alone in the hot sun for a minimum of four hours?”

“Yes,” said Ihor.

“Did you tell them how cute it is with spindly legs and silvery spots on a tawny body?”

“Yes,” said Ihor.

“Did you tell them the little guy is thoroughly disoriented, and barely responds to his name?”

“Yes, I did,” said Ihor.

“Did you tell them his name is Jerome?”

“No,” said Ihor. “I didn’t think of that.”

“Well,” I said pointing in the direction of the phone. “Get moving. It is emotionally draining for me to stand guard over this fawn while you go sight-seeing.”

Ihor had barely set off, when we both heard the drone of motorboat, churning across the lake. It grounded with authority, and a ranger in a gray uniform, with very official hiking boots, stepped out of the boat. Have you ever noticed how some people just look like their chosen profession? I mean, is there a law that all firemen must resemble professional football players in stature, and have the confident demeanor of Navy SEALS? (By the same token, elected officials look like street walkers in the time of cholera.) This ranger, whose name was probably something like “Ted Goodperson,” combined the looks of Robert Redford with the personality of Saint Francis. I remember thinking, “I could fuck my way along the entire Appalacian Trail, without having to buy a drink for any lingerie model, if I looked like this guy.”

The ranger introduced himself, glanced at our gear and stuff, then advised us to wait quietly while he sized up the situation. He went into the tall grass and looked at the fawn carefully, without touching it. Then he looked at the grass around the fawn, examed the underbrush, and then poked around in the adjacent stand of hardwoods. This took about 15 minutes. He concluded his investigation and waved for us to join him.

“This fawn was born dyslexic,” said the ranger, “a condition that will prevent it from standing or walking properly.” To demonstrate his conclusion, he gently picked up the fawn, and set it on its legs.

It promptly fell down. He did this two or three times.

“The mother sensed there was something wrong with the fawn, so she abandoned it. They don’t waste any time with unhealthy fawns,” said the ranger.

This was not the message I wanted to hear from Saint Francis in a gray uniform... That the does of New Jersey were nothing more than wanton slatterns, who popped out fawns that got abandoned on the filmiest of pretexts.

“Why wouldn’t the mother try to nurse it to health?” I asked. “Will she come back?”

The ranger hesitated for a bit, then delivered the gruesome punch line. “The unhealthy fawn will attract predators that may prey on the doe as well. So in the interest of species preservation, the doe has abandoned the fawn. She may have three or four others in the next three or four years.”

“So you’ll take Jerome here to the state park vet?” I pressed.

It was then the ranger looked at both of us, and gave a little sigh. He knew he was dealing with two city assholes who couldn’t handle the truth. With the gentle grace of a good shepherd, the ranger put the fawn across his shoulders, carried it down to his boat, and buzzed off across the lake.

Ihor and I had steak that night... Steak seared over an open fire... Steak carved from the ass of a steer that had been whacked on the head with a sledge hammer in some slaughter house... A steer that had been born in the night, on spindly little legs, just like Jerome. And we felt pretty good... Like a couple of sports who had just saved a deer. And we drank our fortified ginger ale, listening to coyotes that we didn’t know New Jersey had, howling across the lake... Where they were probably eating Jerome.

Because this is the correct order of things, in a state of nature, where the mothers abandon their young to the coyotes, feral dogs, farm dogs, and bears... And where the remaining entrails of those abandoned young feed turkey vultures, crows, mice, twenty-kinds of beetles, and two million fly larvae. (The fly larvae will ultimately grow into big, fat, disgusting, shit-squatting insects, that slam into clear-plastic motorcycle face-shields, creating a need for replacement parts, providing the nice people at Nolan with jobs.)

Now, why did I write all this stuff about deer-strikes and motorcycles?

I was running through FaceBook last week and under the heading of a rider I like and respect was this well-intentioned advice about how you can tell the difference between orphaned fawns and those that are just parked for a bit. The truth is, there is no difference. Leave them all alone. Either the doe will come back, or Mr. Coyote will. Nature takes care of its own. In many states, it is illegal to feed wildlife as this conditions them to humans and ultimately makes them better targets for those with shotguns or rifles, or for cars and motorcycles.

I wanted to ask the nice lady who was feeding two “orphaned” fawns,  "what she would do if she found a couple of orphaned tarantulas, or other huge, fucking killer spiders with hides?" Would she return with a baby bottle and nurse them to health? Tarantulas need love too. (I had a mother-in-law who was a giant tarantula.)

Suppose the great Disney movie “Bambi” wasn’t about a deer?

What if the hero of that movie had been a huge, killer spider, whose name was “BiBi;” who got lost in a winter storm and who found a kindly old blind person (a guy named “Dallas”), in a remote cabin; who then invited the spider in from the cold (thinking she was an odd breed of talking dog). And suppose BiBi discovered the cabin was infested by Norway rats (British accents), that shit all over the blind person as he slept (like Congress does to the nation), so she laid 22,000 eggs under the kitchen table. Each egg hatched in the pleasant environment of the cabin, and  all the rats disappeared over the course of a week. Suppose the movie ended with the kindly old person falling asleep each night under the warm protection of a living blanket of 22,000 tarantulas?

The title of the movie could be “BiBi Lays For Dallas.” 

This movie would be as factual as “Bambi.” And it would be perfect if the studio could get Noomi Rapace (Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) to be the voice of the spider.

Suppose that movie had been made and shown in the 1950‘s... Would we all be feeding orphaned tarantulas? Would we be pulling over on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and pointing in delight as resident tarantulas ate rare hummingbirds trapped in their webs?  Some dopes would. 

There are more deer alive and running around in the United States today than when Columbus discovered America. It makes more sense to feed cockroaches. Leave the deer alone. The fawn you’re feeding may injure or kill someone you know on a motorcycle. Wouldn’t that be swell?

As long as we’re supposing things, suppose cash-strapped states sold “orphaned” deer-feeding permits for $50, allowing well-intentioned, but dreadfully uninformed, people to feed abandoned fawns, provided the animals were ear-tagged, and that the permit-holders were liable for any motor vehicle or crop damage. Who would legally feed the deer then?

Now, do I expect anything I wrote in this blog episode to change the feeble mind of anyone who is feeding “orphaned” deer? Nope. But I do expect to get 10,000 emails from jerks claiming its time to ban motorcycles from the Blue Ridge Parkway, as they disturb the sugar-fueled deer. 

Philly Area Rider Wins Triumph T100, Compliments of Castrol....

Religiously changing his vehicle’s motor oil every 3,000 miles paid off big time for Fred Diehl, the winner of Castrol’s Triumph Sweepstatkes. Diehl accepted the keys to an iconic red and white, Triumph Bonneville T100, at a Pep Boys location in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, on Saturday, June 24, 2012.

Fred Diehl on his new Triumph Bonneville T100 -- Compliments of Castrol

“I have always used Castrol lubricants, in both my car and my motorcycle,” said Diehl. “I was buying oil in the shop and was intrigued by the promotion. So I went back to the office and entered the contest online. Winning this Bonneville T100 is the result of that effort.”

A Harley rider for more than 3 decades, Diehl had an instant appreciation for the T100’s retro appeal. “I have been without a bike for a while and look forward to the Triumph experience,” he said.  Diehl primarily rides on the weekends, but the Triumph, with it’s classic panniers has given him an idea for a longer run.

“My dream ride would be a run with no time-frames, no destination and no purpose, other than to enjoy the scenery and to relax without thinking of everyday problems. I want a short two-wheeled escape from reality,” said Diehl. This bike may make that dream come true.

When asked if he read Twisted Roads, Diehl replied, “I have never read the blog but I have heard of Jack Riepe and some of the strange stories he tells. No one can be that peculiar.”

I hope Mr. Diehl reads this whole blog and sends me a comment.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2012
All rights reserved

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Practical Advice For Bikers and Charging Bison...

 The ride across country was as near perfect as a ride can be if one is denied access to a motorcycle. I did, however, have two other ingredients that made the trip special. One was a blonde girlfriend whose hair was the color of spun gold. The other was her Audi A4 convertible. Not quite a motorcycle, there are worse ways to drive across the United States. I had accepted an assignment in Vancouver, BC and refused to fly. This is not because I am afraid to fly.  I have enjoyed many hours in helicopters, small aircraft (an Aeronca Champ on floats), flying first class on British Airways, KLM, and especially Lufthansa, and a few adventures where I took off and landed on a dirt strip. I now regard flying commercially as a dehumanizing experience starting with US airport security, which I feel is mostly show and unconstitutional in spirit if not in practice.

So I give the airport the finger and drive — or ride — whenever possible.

The United States is one of the most beautiful places on earth, with some of the most hospitable people in small towns and rural crossroads. Everyone should drive across the US at least once... Spending as much time in Nebraska, Kansas, and North Dakota as they would in New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco. (In fact, the best breakfast in the United States is served in Auburn, Kansas, tied with one in Keene Valley, NY.) The threshold to heaven begins in Small Town, USA. I was once told that the only thing I’d see in Nebraska was corn. What I saw was an endless sea of corn, waving in the dry summer wind, surrounding remote islands of farm buildings, each illuminated by a single outside light at night. It was astoundingly beautiful, and a sign of this country’s undiminished strength. (There are damn few signs of this strength left.)

I have a thing for signs. They trap me every time. Accompanied by this blonde, I have seen the world’s largest ball of twine, the world’s largest rocking chair, the world’s largest HO train layout (which drove her crazy), every steam train in 22 states, the world’s oldest pair of petrified beaver balls, the world’s largest free standing water sphere (painted to look like a peach), and Pedro’s “South of the Border” assault on the senses. It was in North Dakota that we got off the interstate in the town of Medora, following signs for Theodore Roosevelt National Park. I had never heard of this place before and thought it might be fun to get a look at it as I had never been to a real “National Park” out west.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is a highly condensed natural gem on the edge of the “Badlands,” spanning 70,467 acres, or about 100 square miles. It is divided into three units (the South, the North, and one of which is so cleverly ignored on the Park Services’ website, I figured it was like “Area 57” and infested with aliens).  We pulled into the South Unit, which offers a 36-mile scenic drive, that takes about 90 minutes to cover. The entire park is surrounded by a 7-foot high chain link fence intended to keep livestock out. I found that odd, especially as we drove over a metal livestock grate. I had seen no stray livestock, other than a few antelope or wild turkeys, which I thought would be a plus in a National Park.

The road brought us to an overlook, where I got my first look at the lunar landscape of the Badlands. I was utterly amazed. The woman in my life offered to drive for a bit, so I could play with the camera and the binoculars. We changed places in the little car, and put the roof down, dawdling for about an hour, before retracing our route back to town.

“I don’t think this is the way,” I said.

“Of course it is,” she purred. “There was only the one way in here.”

“Yes,” I said, attempting to reassert my agreeable self, “but I don’t recall leaving all these buffalo laying around.”

The road was about the width of a healthy recreation vehicle and strewn with hoary, prehistoric cattle, which were tossing their heads and sharing maniacal looks that hinted of stampede and instant death. I had seen plenty of buffalo before, on the pages of National Geographic and in history books. My recollections were of hump-backed steers, about the size of feral pigs, half-covered in cheap shag carpeting, being shot by Pony Express riders, who were about 14-years-old themselves.

These buffalo weighed about 14,000 pounds apiece and were following a bull whose horns were covered by a blood-soaked cocktail dress.

“Stop the car,” I suggested.


“Have you noticed that this car is only 20% larger than the cocktail dress atop the headgear of yon mastodon? It occurred to me he might still be pissed at how the prom went last night,” I said.

The bull burped in the manner peculiar to herbivores with compartmentalized  stomachs, as if to emphasize my point.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” said my blonde companion. “This is a National Park. The whole system is funded by tips from people who ride in here specifically to photograph these things from little cars like this one. How would they make any money if the animals gored everybody? You are such a fucking pussy whenever confronted with any adventure. A real cowboy, like the ones who wanted to shoot pool for my top in the bar last night, would kick this thing right in the balls, with those cool, snakeskin boots they wear.”

It would have been easy enough to do. The bull was sporting a set of stones that barely cleared the ground by two inches. (I swear I saw the Harley-Davidson logo on them too.) The herd started to edge toward us, preceded by an aroma that was the best insurance against anyone taking a shot at one with the intent to use the hide for intimate bedroom apparel.

“Don’t move,” I whispered. “Suppose these are Stephen King Buffalo, possessed by undead spirits from a cursed cemetery, filled with the souls of devil-worshiping lobbyists, or something.”

She looked me through eyes that had narrowed into slits of contempt. “How many of those cowboys have model train sets at home, do you think?” she hissed. I swear the women I come to love are all part cobra, as they eventually spout flaming venom. Yet one of the buffalo must have been a model railroad aficionado as it stamped for a bit, and trickled drool from an evil-bearded maw. The blonde turned pale, clutched my hand and stammered, “Do something....”  Implied but unspoken were the adoring words “You Asshole.”

I took a deep breath, and in a voice that was barely audible, began to sing “They Call The Wind Mariah” from the great screen classic — Paint Your Wagon — starring Lee Marvin and Clint Eastwood, eventually belting out the second chorus as loud as I could. The buffalo had drifted away to go roll in the dust or piss down prairie dog holes, the later of which is a popular activity among a lot of cowboys, or so I understand.

But this raised a rather serious question in my mind? Suppose I had wandered in here, astride a viciously sensual motorcycle, like a gray 2007 BMW K1200GT, with a skull and crossbones painted on each side of the highly unimaginative flat fairing, and found myself facing a heard of demented buffalo, without even the marginal safety of an Audi A4 in which to cower?

What action would I take?

Would I trigger the fearsome Steble/Nautilus compact air horn and twist the throttle until I disappeared into vapor? Or would this invite a deadly charge? According to the precautions published by the National Park Service, visitors are advised to give the buffalo, the grizzly bears, the Komodo dragons, and even the prairie dogs a wide berth, measured in the hundreds of yards. (It is my understanding that a colony of prairie dogs can strip the tires off a tour bus in 15 seconds or less.) But what if the only exit is blocked by fearsome smelling bovines, capable of jumping 15 feet straight up in the air, or sprinting faster than one would expect? And what if you start out being a hundred yards away, and the damn things stalk you? What if the choices are to take a direct hit, or run the bike through piles of buffalo shit ten feet high (guaranteeing you’ll spend the next two weeks running a rag over the chrome parts), or drop the bike on its side (scratching thousands of dollars-worth of custom paint or tupperware) while you climb a tree?

Which is the correct one? 

Legendary long-distance Mac-Pac Rider Gary Christman strikes a pose wearing a Twisted Roads tee shirt.  He has confronted buffalo.  This is a man with style.

There had to be a solution to this, and I put the question to my resident panel of experts — the Mac-Pac — the premier chartered BMW riding club serving southeast Pennsylvania. An answer came within minutes from long-distance rider Gary Christman, who routinely rides from rural PA to Hudson’s Bay (Canada), Yellowknife (Canada), and Yellowstone National Park (in the USA). For those whose rides are somewhat limited in scope, Canada is that big red space on the map north of the Great Lakes. (Shortsighted military planning in 1812 requires US citizens to carry a passport when riding there now.)


The buffalo, named "Fast Eddie," followed Gary Christman to his mighty BMW GS Adventure.  Photo by Garry Christman

Christman was confronted, but not intimidated, by a brawling buffalo on his first cross-country ride in 2007. Mounted on a armored BMW GS Adventure (new that same year), he was threading his way through stopped traffic on one of Yellowstone’s more scenic roads, when he noticed a single buffalo, standing a good distance away, striking dramatic poses while pissing down a prairie dog hole. Christman is cautious by nature, and he left the bike idling on the side-stand, as he moved forward on foot, to snap a fast picture.

The buffalo bull has closed in on Gary Christman, whose bike is marked with a huge red duffel bag. Photo by Gary Christman.

 “I didn’t think I would need the flying exit that day,” said Christman, “but I wanted to give myself the option. It was my intention to get a clear picture of this majestic and iconic American animal, without causing the noble beast any inconvenience nor distraction.”

Yet Gary was unaware that impure thoughts or gestures as subtle as a raised eyebrow can disturb a buffalo. It started to head in his direction and Christman lost no time in hustling back to the bike. Much to his dismay, he realized the buffalo was gaining on him. He mounted the bike, thinking it would be the work of a second to put it in gear and show the buffalo the benefits of an enhanced tail light system. 

The buffalo ignores the red duffel bag, evident in the mirror, and wanders off in search of a woman rider on a Sportster. Photo by Gary Christman. Conclusion by the author.

Christman leveled the machine and snicked the sleek zeppelin-like bike into gear... But the side-stand was down, triggering the automatic engine cut-off with typical Bavarian efficiency.

The engine died like it was shot by a Navy SEAL.

“And in that instant, the buffalo was upon me,” said Christman. “I didn’t know a lot about buffalo at the time, but I realized the presence of a single udder indicated a bull. All I could think of was the flaming red duffel bag strapped across the back of the bike, and the effect the color red was supposed to have on bulls.” The animal passed within ten feet of Christman, who leaned the bike as far over to the right as he could, figuring he’d jump for it, keeping the machine between him and 1.5 tons of aggravated burgers.

“The buffalo just kept on walking, and I had the presence of mind to snap a few pictures to show how close he’d come to me,” said Christman. Just how close was that? In one shot, the buffalo consumes the entire field of vision. The close proximity to the bison made a profound impression on Christman.”I swore this would never happen to me again,” he added.

Less than 15 minute later, Gary Christman is again surrounded by buffalo. Photo by Gary Christman.

It happened less than 15 minutes later, when stalled traffic brought Christman to a halt, and an entire herd of buffalo threaded its way around him. This time, he calmly switched off the motor, looked at the ground, and minded his own business. A dozen bison had passed when one said, “I didn’t know that BMW made motorcycles... You didn’t pay extra for those fugly side bags, did you?”

Gary just nodded in silence.

Gary sent me the pictures he took and a link to YouTube, in which a buffalo does ram a rider on a Honda Valkyrie. (This was a cow with a calf.) I am amazed the Honda rider didn’t drop the bike.  Buffalo can be as nasty and bad tempered as they are evil-smelling. Give them a wide berth.

Author’s notes:
1) Gary Christman  had one hell of a ride that year, including a timed stint on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Further details of that run will appear on Twisted Roads next Thursday. I’d like to thank Gary for the best 45 minutes I had on the phone this week. I can’t make his run to Yellowknife this summer, but if I don’t go next year, it will be because I’m dead.

2) Also on Twisted Roads in two weeks will be my personal initiation to a 1952 Vincent Black Shadow. Now many of you are probably asking yourself, “What bullshit is this? Who would let Riepe anywhere near a 1952 Vincent Black Shadow?” Well let me tell you something, I have friends in low places.

3) I received a letter from a reader, a woman out west who rides a gorgeous Harley. She wrote: Do you realize how insulting it is to refer to your present or past love interests by the color of their hair? Describing someone you loved as “The Brunette” is a bit harsh, don’t you think?

• My answer to the question is a respectful “No.” I can’t refer any of my former lovers by name, nor by description (nor tattoos, nor profession) as some of their husbands are likely to take offense. (I don’t make the rules, I only play the game.) I have heard from two brunettes who I’ve loved in the past, and both were flattered to be included in the text. (They know I adore them, though SnowQueen has ducked me like I was a swine flu carrier. Another brunette, the second woman to ever ride pillion on my Kawasaki H2, sent me a severed head on Valentine’s Day.)

• I refer to a lady in this story as “The Blonde,” because I don’t want her to have the satisfaction of knowing that I can’t say her name without catching my breath, a condition likely to last for 20 more years.

• My first wife was Lambkin. She once said to me, “Do you know how often I kill you in my mind?” She was a brunette too. Using my system, all of the brunettes think I still love them. 

The author posing for a warm, birthday greeting card photo for his first former mother-in-law, with his first former wife, Lambkin. Photo by Police Gazette,

• Finally, the word from the doctor is that I will not be able to ride for another 5 months. This came as everyone I know has left on a trip. My closest circle of friends, the cognoscenti from the Mac-Pac, left yesterday for their annual West Virginia Cultural Tour, where they will take banjo lessons, learn to call hogs, and practice dropping their bikes on gravel driveways. The boys called me as they started out yesterday, claiming they missed me beyond measure. It seems no one can program the VCR at the cabin, and the whole flush toilet thing has at least one of them confused. But they all posed for a great, heart-warming photograph, that is supposed to have a subliminal message.  The picture is included below. I guess I have to stare at it. 

From left: My closest circle of riding buddies — Ron Yee, Clyde Jacobs, "Leather" Dick Bregstein, Paul Pollio, Gerry Cavanaugh, and Pete Buchheit. Stare at photo for 20 minutes, then close you eyes to see the subliminal message. Photo by Ellie Mae Simkins, tattoo artist and chitlin' caller.

For the record, two bikes have already been dropped. One because the rider stepped in shit, and the other because he forgotten he’d removed the sidecar before the ride started.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2012
All Rights Reserved

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Ride To Nowhere... Something Just For Her

It was one of those rare occasions when I was absolutely minding my own business. At the mid-point of 57-years-old, the sole advantage to minding one’s own business is that others mistake your caution for innate wisdom; when in truth it is simple emotional skepticism acting like a seat belt. The woman had pulled up a bar stool directly in front of mine; bracketed my knees with her own; and kissed me squarely on the mouth. She was in her late forties, nicely built and carefully maintained, with dark hair framing a face  that held an incredible smile.

“You probably weren’t expecting that,” she said right into my lips.

I felt the tips of my fingers trace their way to her waist, and I pulled her towards me, turning the kiss which had begun as an opening sentence into a paragraph. Touching my lips with her fingers, she said, “The way you look at me makes me feel like I am the only woman in the world.” I smiled that little boyish half-grin which women find endearing, but which actually says, “You’ve mistaken me for someone else.”

Then she lifted up her shirt, put my hands on her breasts, and said, “How long have you been thinking about these?”

My first response was to say, “Since I was 5-years-old,” but the absolute truth never gets anyone anywhere. The boyish half-grin simply switched from one side to the other, acquiring something of a roguish quality in transit. I never took my eyes off hers, but whispered, “How long have you been thinking about my hands on them?”

It had been a while since I had gotten lost in woman’s face. While I had seen this face hundreds of times, seeing it through a 90-second kiss brought the depth of her eyes, the perfection of her skin, and the fullness of her mouth into a different perspective. I had seen this mouth express  guileless smiles and launch lighter-than-air laughter at dozens of parties... And now it was open, pressing against mine, as her tongue ran along the inside of my lips.

Her nipples had gone from zero to rock hard in sixty seconds, and still I couldn’t take my eyes from her face.

“I want you...” she said.

The kiss continued.

“To do something...”

Her lips moved over to my neck

“For me.”

I cradled her face in my hand, then moved her hair behind her ear. A single diamond caught the low light in the room.

“I want you to write something for me... Something that is like nothing else you’ve ever written for a woman before.”

There is nothing like touching a woman with a sensitive part of you that isn’t normally used for touching, like the back of your fingers. I traced the curve of her face to that smile, which then kissed my hand.  And I knew that part of me was etching every second of this moment onto the surface of my mind; so I’d get it right when I wrote about it later; so I’d remember it perfectly, when I was old and nothing this good was likely to occur to me ever again. 

Nothing like this had happened to me for a while.

The tide was going out on a relationship that I thought would last forever, leaving me on the beach with my pants around my ankles, again. A woman, who I swore would be the last I’d ever hold in my arms, whose kisses would be the last I’d ever savor, whose eyes would be the last heaven to overwhelm me, was now certain that her feelings for me were in tatters, and that there was nothing I could do to restore the magnificent paper dragon that I’d once made come alive in her heart. This was the nicest way anyone ever told me that they had heard all of my stories, all of my jokes, all of my plans, all of my fears, all of my beliefs, and all of my opinions — and now preferred to think of me in the past tense.

Just as this wave of abysmal reality was about to sweep over me, here was another woman, with a personality like the mad careening bubbles in champagne, jumping me out of the clear blue. The electric contact of her lips reading mine at point blank range left me as speechless as it did breathless — despite an accompanying sense that I was planting my feet in the soft hope of romantic quicksand. Nothing satisfies the aching hunger in a man’s soul like the taste of a woman’s lips. I had quite forgotten how long it had been since I had fed, and now someone was feeding on me. The desire for a woman in my life is one of the most compelling drives to surface in the stories I write, the sunsets I describe, the thunderstorms that color my adventures, and the tides that carry my plots out to sea. Yet as strong as this drive is, it is nothing compared to the soul-elevating sensation I derive from having a woman desire me. Out of two marriages and a dozen affairs, it has happened exactly once, that a woman ran me down like a cheetah, and left me with no alternative but a gasping surrender.

And now, just when I was at my lowest point, it appeared to be happening again.

We agreed to meet at a hotel across a nearby state line, far from the chance glance of unwanted eyes, for a couple of hours of mad passion and the kind of laughter that never escapes the pillows. And so it was that I found myself on a red BMW K75, headed for an assignation, the anticipation of which had my hands sweating through my light summer gloves and my breath heating up the inside of my Nolan helmet. There was never a question in my mind that this was trouble... Just as there was never a question in my mind that I needed this like I needed oxygen... Or that a red K75 was one of the original food groups.

It was almost 95 miles to the hotel, a nondescript business property alongside the New Jersey Turnpike. I vowed to think this through — on the ride there — holding my speed to a rational 65 miles-per-hour, as I tried to get my hands around every implication.

“Nothing will ever be the same with this woman again,” I thought. “We’ll never be able to stand in the same room without this very tangible, though invisible connection, between us.” The thought of a connection with her at all set my pulse racing, and I swerved around the car ahead of me, zigging first right than zagging left, as I shot into the middle lane, then returned to my position with the concrete divider about a foot from my left knee. I wondered if that connection would become a gentle smile traded as an invitation to repeat what was about to happen that afternoon, whenever we met by chance or design, or if it would simply be a footnote to the regret of lost hours. And then I looked down to see the speedo needle heading east of the century mark, and realized I couldn’t get to that hotel fast enough.

The whine of the K75 rose and fell as I passed through the toll booths of two states, causing me to wonder what the toll would be for this day’s madness. But the tab was already mounting as there are no free open-mouthed kisses between friends. I arrived at the hotel, claimed my reservation, and sat by the window in the room. The red motorcycle stood like a beacon in the parking lot, a beacon marked by a license plate that bore my last name. This building was getting a facelift, and its facade was covered by scaffolding. How many times do men and women cover their lives with facades of kisses that so poorly hide the imperfections underneath? The room was made of concrete walls, from which pictures of Paris had been hung. I have been to Paris many times. Nowhere in that city is a concrete hotel with pictures of the New Jersey Turnpike on the wall. It was the standard box of a room, in the average box of a chain hotel, devoid of any romance other than that carried in by the guests.

I could hardly wait for her to arrive.

I watched as her car circled the lot, and took a spot next to the bike. My cell phone rang, and I gave her the room number, watching her glance up at the windows on the third floor as she stepped out of the car. I’d filled a couple of glasses with ice and topped them off with vodka and cranberry juice, the original lubricant of passion. There was the usual entertainment center options, and I switched on the stereo, choosing “classic rock” as the background music  to drown out the hammering on the scaffold.

She was beautiful in the soft light of a fading afternoon. We had a couple of drinks before we found each others willingness, concealed in a fleeting tinge of guilt. But the passion was unmistakable, and she was as gentle and considerate as she was creative. All I could think of were the “Meatloaf” lyrics that said, “I used her body like a bandage... She used my body like a wound.” Three hours evaporated in each others arms. Our final kisses were exchanged in the muted atmosphere of the music of “Donavon,” in the 1966 rock classic, “Season of The Witch.” And the room had become eerily quiet.

Something had changed.

That something was the utter abandonment of the hammering that had poured in from the scaffold outside. That’s because the ten guys who were out there had given up for the day, preferring to watch the show in our room through the open curtains.

They clapped as she got into her car and as I mounted the motorcycle.

And the story ends there. There was no tangible, though invisible, connection between us. There was no exchange of smiles. And when I asked her about it, puzzled, confused, and a bit hurt, her response was as if I had mentioned a rumor that was distasteful to her.

There are times when I think I must have imagined half of my life. But I promised I’d write her something that I have never written for any other woman. This blog is it.

My late friend Cretin had a great philosophical outlook when it came to these things. He once said, "Somewhere, that woman has stepped into a bar, a restaurant, an airport, or an office, and a bunch of guys are wondering what she looks like naked. You know. Isn't that cool."

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2012
All rights reserved...

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Thoughtless Father's Day Gifts Lead To Chainsaw Massacres

• To read a comprehensive ride report dealing with the images that haunt the mind of moto-writer Jack Riepe, while rocketing along on a fine BMW motorcycle, please click here. While the story is humorous, it is also the tragic history of how beautiful women torture sensitive men in general, and Riepe in particular.

• To read a critical analysis of how thoughtlessly cheap Father’s Day Gifts will plunge thousands of hard-working, focused dads into a murderous depression, please read on. 

Disappointing Father’s Day Gifts Associated With Depression and Chainsaw Murders

Wilmington, NY, June 6 — A new study by the Wilmington Institute of Holistic Dry Cleaning (WIHDC) has determined that disappointing Father’s Day Gifts will plunge thousands of sensitive, normally focused men into the kind of depression that can easily lead to chainsaw massacres. According to a statement issued today by DR. Albert Hissingaz, Pfd., Fu, Chief Behavioralist for the renown WIHDC, ill-conceived Father’s Day gifts can easily push dads over the edge, compelling then to start up the chainsaw, especially where older teenagers are concerned.

“Shitty ties, stupid mugs, uselessly cheap tools, flatulence cushions, and $5 gift certificates toward the purchase of a Bentley are the kinds of Father’s Day tribute that inspire dad’s to chase the kids around the house with a growling chainsaw,” said Hissingaz. “Yet these are the gifts high-school and college-age adolescents can buy pre-wrapped,  within ten feet of a department store entrance, for $10 or $12. Their logic is that dad will be so grateful to get anything, he’ll be delighted with something that will end up in the trash less than two hours later.”

But dads are more sophisticated today, claims Hissingaz, responding best to gifts that display genuine forethought, while reacting savagely to a minimalist expressions of affection. The behavioralist cited a dad in upstate New York who continued to make tuition payments, service three cars, and cheerfully fork over the occasional cash advance just because he got a Father’s Day Gift that made him laugh. In contrast, a dad in Jersey City sold his two kids into slavery after receiving a hat that read, “World’s Greatest Dad,” for the third year in a row. 

Cheap Father's Day Insurance 
for $30 + $5 S&H

The best way to make dad feel like he's worth $30, plus $5 Shipping and Handling

Experts claim the safest bet for a Father’s Day gift is an autographed copy of Jack Riepe’s Politically Correct Smoking For Social Terrorists. Personally inscribed by the author, these first edition, tightly bound, 30-chapter books are the essence of laughter and a sound Father’s Day investment. In fact, smart dads simply order a copy for themselves, and bill the kids later. (Studies show that a majority of kids are employed by the time they are 34-years-old, and eventually have $35.)

Attention Moms: Don't let your kids give your husband one more reason for selling them into slavery, walling them up in the basement, or signing them up for a cult. Please follow the directions below...

Books ordered for Father’s Day will be shipped by Monday, June 11th, first class mail (Priority) USPS. To order:

Email me at
• Just indicate “Cigar Book Order” in the subject line!

• Tell me if the book is for you or for a Father’s Day recipient
• If a gift, tell me the first and last name of the recipient, plus something about them... (i.e. If they ride a motorcycle, play golf, fly fish, or paint by numbers)
• Include your name, address, and telephone number.
• Send no money... Books will be sent with a post-paid envelope and an invoice.

• Order as soon as your read this... Autographed, authorized copies are about to pass out of print. 


• Mucca Fignotti (North Bergen, NJ) Giving my dad this book last year bought me 12 months of peace and quiet about getting a job, and sneaking my girlfriend into my room.

• Steve LaDoucher (Feed Lot, IA) I gave my dad a pre-wrapped tool for $6 bucks last Father's Day. Two days later, I woke up chained to a post in fucking Sudan. Don't let this happen to you.

• Cheri Pie Debris (Brass Pole, NM) I didn't even know my husband owned a chainsaw.... Should have bought the book.

• Brian "Stooey" Bastage (Willaby, NY) I bought my dad this cigar book, and he bought me a BMW S100RR. What a sweet deal!

Results are not typical... You are likely to experience something similar to an appreciative dad or husband, however.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2012
All rights reserved

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Second Day Of A Summer Ride in 2006... Uncensored

The next best thing to waking up in a hotel room alongside a simmering beauty on a motorcycle trip is waking up alone. I was alone on this trip. The crisp sheets on the bed and the muted hum of the air conditioner conspired to keep me horizontal longer than I had planned. Then again, I had no plans. No one knew I was here and the luxury of being out on a motorcycle, without a single demand on my time, coddled by a deluxe-class hotel, was intoxicating. And yet, one is compelled to get on with the ride. Thinking of the maxim that causes so many BMW riders to do 100 miles before the first meal of the day, I dialed room service and ordered breakfast — with a full pot of coffee.

Room service is the apex of civilization, requiring nothing more then to slip into a robe and to sign a chit for the privilege of extending the morning’s “Ka” through the first meal of the day. There are times when quiet reflection is worth about $2 grand a second, and “in-room dining” provides the perfect aura for enjoying breakfast on the American plan, in your underwear. The fragrant aroma of eggs, sausage, pancakes, and  coffee filled the room like incense in a pagan temple, where I was the oracle.  I pulled the drapes aside, letting in the light of a flawless Adirondack morning, along with a view of the mountains and Mirror Lake, in the center of town.

My 1986 BMW K75 with the Rare Sprint Fairing

And yet the focal point of the view was my blue 1986 BMW K75 (with the rare Sprint fairing). It’s headlight stared blankly up at the window, reminding me  that my life was not entirely without purpose. In many regards, life is about limits. The average room service coffee pot is limited to about four large cups of java. I bolted the first cup to jump-start my soul. The second and third cups accompanied breakfast. The final cup washed down a handful pills (celebrex and pain killers) to numb the arthritis raging in my knees and hips. This pharmaceutical dessert would enable me to stagger around in a mockery of mobility, but it would also permit my knees and hips to bend enough to let me ride.

I buzzed out of the hotel driveway an hour later.

This was the second day of a week on the road, and the first time I had ever ridden a motorcycle through the Adirondack Mountains of New York. I love the town of Lake Placid, nestled in the center of the High Peaks region. The inaccessibility of this place (hours away from anywhere by car and without a viable option for a public airport) has kept it as pristine as possible. Coupled with visionary “Forever Wild” legislation now over 100 years old, the integrity of these mountains is preserved in the state’s constitution. The Adirondacks occasionally get crowded... And they have their honky tonk touristy attractions... But they are home to moose, deer, bear, wolves, mink, fisher, martin, trout, bass, and splake — all within an eight-hour drive from Manhattan. And they offer some of the best motorctycle riding to be found anywhere.

That simple sentence — “I buzzed out of the hotel driveway an hour later.” — is a lie. (I tell a lot of them.) It took me twenty minutes to get my boots on and ten minutes to mount the bike. That means I took my time swinging my leg over the seat, bending my knees, and flexing my hips. Then I studied the situation. The driveway of the Crowne Plaza Resort is a steep drop to a curve on Main Street. I would be bringing my feet to the pegs two or three times in 300 feet, which can be a tough trick for me, just starting off. (I like to ride two or three miles with my legs up right out of the gate, to stretch the joints.) As usual, the thought of getting my feet up and down was much worse than the actual effort, and I found myself cruising along the Main Street in Lake Placid a few seconds later.

The gentle (or savage, or indifferent) reader should know that I used to live 18 miles away from this town, in a log cabin, on a dirt road. It was the only log cabin around with three phone lines into it, serving two computers and a fax machine. I ran a business in New Jersey from here, writing speeches for clients in Washington, Paris, Berlin, and Singapore; and placing stories in major newspapers regarding every aspect of the business travel industry. It had been my life’s ambition to live in the Adirondacks, deriving a decent income from someplace else. I pulled it off for twenty years. And then circumstances changed. My life’s focus evaporated in four simple words... And they are the same four words that have changed my life so many times: “I met a woman...”

There are three compelling forces in my life that continually bring me to the brink of salvation or utter ruin. They are my love of writing... My love of motorcycles... And my love of women. I would be forced to write if I had to read my work aloud to statues. For me, life exists solely for interpretation and retelling.  And there is nothing like hurtling down a road on the back of a motorcycle. Twisting the throttle morphs the rider intro a half-human/half-machine god, who sizzles through molecules of air like an electric charge, arriving at another reality, in a cloud of spent ions. There is no other way to describe it and debating me on this is pointless. Simply stated, motorcycle riders have more orgasms, taste more of life, experience more highs, and spend more time in traffic court and emergency rooms than other mortals. (I don’t make the rules, I just play the game.)

And then there are women.

I generally prefer one at a time... So I can lose my mind, heart, and soul without distraction. Woody Allen once said, “In life, there are the horrible and the miserable. The horrible are the deformed. The miserable are everyone else.” Women are the precious elements that elevate man above the “miserable...” Unless, of course, they have pitched him into the quicksand misery of failed romance in the first place. There is nothing in the world to compare with the first turbocharged kiss from the captain of the college equestrian team, as she presses your hands against her jodhpured ass... Unless it is having a coworker you’ve had a crush on for years, pulling off her shirt and nailing you in the office... Or a newspaper reporter who’s busted your balls for years, jumping you on the city desk (after midnight on a Saturday)... And then there is having the most bewitching woman you have ever held in your arms taking your soul in the most enchanting Adirondack places: along streams in the mist, in glades where wild strawberries (the size of buttons) flavored her bare skin, and on a bear skin rug — before a roaring fire.

It was the memories of this last woman that were haunting me as I careened through a right angle turn onto Route 73, retracing my steps from the night before. (Please read previous blog). I was as stiff as a board and the turn has some wobble in it as I coasted to a stop at the last traffic light in town. (If one were headed straight south, the next stoplight would be 150 miles away.) The tide had long since gone out on that Adirondack love story, yet it is my firm belief that passion is like energy, and that it never really goes away, but comes back time and again for those who believe in quarks, quasars, black holes, and the black magic of motorcycles. It is the memory of the few women that I would have preferred not gotten away, however, that gnaws at my soul on cold, moonless nights. And I might have kept them all, but one, if I hadn’t been a total prick. (Naturally, I'd like another shot at "the one" that was destined to get away.)

The light changed, and the K75 spoke to me in  German accent one normally associates with Marlene Dietrich. It said, “Wake the fuck up and pay attention. Your chances of getting laid on this trip are about the same as Congress coming up with enlightened legislation. However, your chances of blowing through a curve and going off a cliff are excellent.” 

Above: Silver-screen star Marlene Dietrich

The K75 sounded like Marlene Dietrich, but took on the image of Milla Jovovich when it appeared in my mind. (It is astounding how often images of Milla Jovovich have appeared in my mind.) The bike whined as the clutch bit into the friction zone, and I shot past the two towering Olympic ski jumps. Skiers in training were barreling down these inclined ramps (one 270 feet high) despite the fact it was July. The ski jumps and the landing strips on the sides of the mountain were covered in green brushes. (You read that correctly: “green brushes” with the bristles pointed upwards.) The skiers must hit 62 miles per hour before they can become airborne. I pulled over and watched as a 17-year-old with a death-wish briefly became a human clay pigeon, falling at least 12 stories through thin air, to land upright, on slightly bent knees, before making a perfect stop — on brushes.

“He may get laid tonight,” said the K75.

“Kiss my ass,” I thought, snicking it into gear. I launched myself into a 62-mile-per-hour start and began the descent into the Cascades. As  previously mentioned, the Cascades are three stepped lakes piled into a narrow valley, lined with aspens. The road drops like a stone, with a few sweeping curves to the right and left.  The pavement is good, wide, and steep enough to make a rider think the bike only has a front wheel. A light tap on the brakes causes the forks to dip like investments on Wall Street following a jobs report.

The Cascade Lakes are always pretty, but become incredibly so at dawn and twilight. (I married the second former Mrs. Riepe on the shores of Middle Cascade Lake, in a secret sunrise ceremony, conducted by the Honorable Judge Arnold Rothman, who sold me a fishing license the day before. She was Russian, blond, intensely pretty, focused, and under the impression that I could be fashioned into something useful.) It was no challenge to hold the bike on the hill with its flawless German brakes, but I preferred to let it build up a head of steam, before dropping down a gear. My reason for this was simple: I love the sound the engine makes when the RPM suddenly jumps, and I am addicted to the “grab you by the balls” feeling the bike imparts when it suddenly drops 25 miles-per-hour. Let’s face it... These are two of the reasons we all ride.

I wanted the descent through the Cascades to go on forever.

The breeze was cool... The road was mine... The challenge was minimal... And the satisfaction of the ride was vast. The bike responded to each of my slight handlebar inputs with Bavarian precision. Yet the sign announcing the 30-mph speed limit in town popped up fast enough, and you ignore these at your peril.  I looked for people I knew as I rode through the towns of Keene and Keene Valley, to no avail. (This is the drawback to being able to ride on a day when everyone else is stuck in work.) I passed the now empty “Cozy Bear Bookstore,” where more than 400 people attended my first book-signing (Politically Correct Cigar Smoking For Social Terrorists). The event made the 6 O’clock news in Plattsburgh. The bookstore is something else now. (It is across from the Noonmark Diner, in  Keene Valley, which is the best breakfast in the Adirondacks. Not only do they bake their own bread, but they make their own jam and maple syrup too. There are three kinds of breakfast served in heaven: Southern Breakfasts... New Jersey Diner Breakfasts... And the Noonmark Diner Breakfast. Riders should enjoy the triple crown of breakfast dining now, in the event they don’t qualify for heaven later.)

The K75 snarled into the incline leading up to Chapel Pond, and I took these curves at 60 miles-per-hour. There is a sheer drop-off on the left, framed by a vertical cliff, from which a glass-like waterfall tumbles into a ravine. Careless motorists are saved from plunging to certain death by a three-foot thick native rock wall guaranteed to cause certain death at point of impact. It is all very picturesque.

Once, passing this waterfall with my six-year-old daughter on the front seat of the Suburban, I pointed it out to her, explaining that a rock climber had fallen to his death there just the day before. She looked at the site through huge solemn eyes, before asking me, “What was his name?”

Details like that were always important to her.

I had no idea, but I didn’t believe that a dad should ever look like a dope in front of his little girl. I never hesitated and replied, “His name was Lefty.” For the next 16 years, my daughter would tell people, “That’s where Lefty fell off the cliff.” She was astonished to finally learn I had just made that name up. (His real name was Mucca Fignotti.)

Route 73 gives the impression it was laid out by the Chamber of Commerce. It passes by three or four natural wonders, winds through the kind of towns Bilbo Baggins would prefer, and offers proximity to a great breakfast (the Noonmark Diner) and a legendary saloon, called the Baxter Mountain Tavern. (Technically, this is on Rt. 9N in Keene, just off Rt. 73.)

I pulled into a clearing by Chapel Pond, and dropped my feet.

Chapel Pond sits in a depression at the foot of another vertical rock wall, surrounded by conifers and hardwoods, with three or four campsites accessible by car. I have been admiring this place for 40 years. It was here that the most beautiful woman I have ever known gave me the adolescence I never had, in the back of an SUV, when the rain fell like a curse. And just stopping here, in that same spot, I could feel my DNA tying itself into a square knot.

“Fuck it,” I thought. “You’re only making yourself crazy.”

I snicked the bike into gear, and continued on. There is another change in elevation on the other side of Chapel Pond, as the road drops into a valley as tight as my riding pants. A rock-lined trail peels off to the left, following a stream. The same blond scorched my soul in the same SUV as the moon rose above the trees here too. I remembered the moonlight in her eyes, the scent of her hair, the quickness of her breath, and mellow richness of her laugh. And I remembered how I wanted that night to go on forever, like the road through the Cascades: with minimal challenge and thrills without immediate consequences. And I remember thinking, “This one will last forever.”

“Is there any place in this 7-million-acre state park and forest preserve where this blond, or some other wet dream, didn’t honk your horn?” asked the K75. “Because if there is, I’d like to get there at 110 fucking miles-per-hour.”

It is impossible to argue with a motorcycle, especially one that takes on the image of Milla Jovovich,  in her heartwarming role as the clone next door —  “Alice” — in Resident Evil. We took a left on US-9 and the motorcycle changed the tune playing in my head. It went from “She’s My Girl” by the Turtles, to “Everything Louder than Everything Else” by Meatloaf, emphasizing the line, “If the thrill is gone than it’s time to take it back.”

Riding to a different tune occasionally causes you to sing one. I found myself tearing through the back end of Essex County, NY, thinking of nothing but the road. Two hours later, I saw a sign outside a little bistro, promoting “Meatloaf” sandwiches. I thought this was prophetic and decided to stop. The joint was on the corner, and I swung around to the side street, hoping to park in the shade. It was here I encountered a purple Harley-Davidson Sportster, from which a firecracker of a redhead was in the process of dismounting. The Harley had a New Jersey tag on it. The rider was as thin as  braided leather and as hot as Satan’s kiss.

The firecracker was already seated at one of three tables when I sashayed in. I sat at an adjacent table and fired off my best “battered baby seal” look. The Harley rider appeared to be searching for a spittoon. I ordered the meatloaf sandwich, subconsciously humming “Paradise By The Dashboard Light.” The redhead suddenly took her meal outside.

Oddly enough, we both ended up mounting our bikes at the same time. (I decided that I only wanted a few bites from my sandwich.) “Headed to the BMW rally in Vermont?” I asked her with a smile.

She responded with a long pause, before asking, “Is there something about my bike, my gear, or my demeanor that suggests I could possibly give a shit about anything you might have to say?”

Stunned, I stuttered, “What part of Jersey City are you from?”

Her bike answered with a thunder clap from the pipes, and a slight fishtail of the back tire as it pulled away.

I tried to re-inflate my dignity in the silence that followed. 

“Well you haven’t lost your touch,” said my K75. “At least you didn’t get laid here, which is good as the meatloaf was pretty decent and we can come back tomorrow without you feeling like shit.”

I really loved that K75... I must have. I wouldn’t take shit like that from Milla Jovovich, unless she gave me the opportunity, of course.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2012
All rights reserved.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

On A Summer Day, in 2006

“How far do you think we’ll ride today?”

That question was posed to me by the late Mack Harrell, who was strapping the last of his camping gear to the back of a bright yellow BMW GS.

“Not as far as you’re accustomed to going,” I replied, with a grimace.

I’d been home less than 24 hours from a week on the road — via the BuRP Rally in Maggie Valley, NC — and had made a horrible discovery: my arthritis was no longer resetting to “zero” after a decent night’s sleep and a hot shower. Here it was, at the beginning of a run to Montreal for Mack and Lake Placid, NY for me, and my knees would barely bend. I struggled to get my side cases out to the bike and mounted to the frame. (According to the manual, each case could hold a maximum of 25 pounds. Mine were certainly heavier than that, but I knew the system was up to it.) Yet a loud creaking and popping sound accompanied the maneuvering to get each pannier on the frame. (There is a trick to mounting the bags, and knowing it guarantees the panniers will attach in two seconds or less, and stay attached throughout a nuclear attack. Not knowing it will cause the rider to say, “Fuck,” no less than 7,000 times, as nothing will get the bags on the frame.)

“Are your side bags creaking like that?” asked Mack.

“No,” I replied honestly. “That noise is coming from my knees.”

Later, when I started the engine, Mack cocked his head in amazement as the legendary whine from the K75 filled the air. “Is that sound coming from your engine?”

“No... My dick,” I lied, for variation.

Our ultimate destination was the BMW Rally in Burlington, VT (2006). But Mack had a romantic liaison planned for Montreal and I had always wanted to ride a motorcycle in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. His bike, the Trojan workhorse of the BMW line, was set up for a week of camping. It looked like he was out to discover the source of a strange river. My machine was a 1986 BMW K75 (with the rare Sprint fairing), carefully loaded to get the most out of a first class hotel with superb room service. The plan was to head north a few days before the rally, enabling each of us to pursue our own objectives, before meeting at the rally in Burlington.

Lake Placid was about 400 miles from the driveway and Montreal was another 90 minutes north of that. Most BMW riders would cover that distance before lunch, and Mack had made the run to Montreal, Canada from Essex County, NJ in one shot many times. But my longest day’s run (as a middle-aged male destined for the La Brea Tar Pits) was just around 300 miles, and it nearly killed me. (That ride was on a scalding hot day, and between the heat and my arthritis, riding buddy Wayne Whitlock  suggested replacing my helmet with a plastic bag.)

It’s not that I don’t like riding long distances. But the pain in my knees gets to the point where I start grinding my teeth, and that’s after taking the really strong medication. I would try to make the most of a day’s run by choosing a mixture of direct side roads and picturesque slabs, thereby squeezing 60 to 80 miles out of each hour. Hence my love of the interstates. I have been driving to the Adirondacks for over 35 years and knew the fastest routing — which ran through New Jersey. But Mack had just come from there, so I chose a scenic route up to I-84, that would bring us into New York without having to pass through the Garden State again.

Under the circumstances, that was probably the stupidest thing I could have done.

We took PA Route 100 up to US-22, and grabbed the Pennsylvania Turnpike (Northeast Extension) at Allentown. We followed that to Scranton, and got on I-84 (which misses New Jersey by about 8 feet), which we then traced to the New York State Thruway.
Except it wasn’t quite that smooth nor automatic.

The demons in my knees started hammering before I left the driveway. Pennsylvania Route 100 (heading north) has stretches that delight the eye and refresh the soul. I found myself chewing through my lower lip  with every imperfection in the pavement. There are traffic lights, little farm communities, and the occasional tractor pulling a load of shit. We were delayed by all of them, as the temperature steadily climbed into the mid-90s. While the routing I chose seemed to offer an abundance of high-speed slabs, it wasn’t the most direct route by far. Three hours into the ride brought us to a rest area on I-84 (in New York State), which wasn’t even the introduction to the ride that lay ahead.

We were both wearing mesh ballistic gear that enabled the hellish breeze to evaporate the moisture from our bodies. I was so dehydrated that I didn’t have to take a piss in 8 hours. (I tried, only to release a puff of steam and a whistling sound from “Thor’s Hammer.”.)

“How are you doing?” asked Mack.

“I’m having the time of my life, but don’t really know how far I can get today,” I replied. “I might have to call a halt in Albany.” Albany is the State Capital of New York and was only a little more than halfway. But the truth was that I was starting to think of one of the cheap, run-down hotel properties that one can find for $60 or $70 off the toll road in the vicinity of the Catskills, fifty or sixty miles before Albany.

“Whatever you want to do,” said Mack. The stink of defeat was in the air.

We pulled through the tollbooth of the New York State Thruway 20 minutes later, and moved out into traffic. That was when the real demon made his presence known.

I have always love to see things by car, and the New York State Thruway has been my gateway to freedom since I was 17-years-old. It was the fastest way to get a dramatic change in scenery for a kid who was raised in a city of flat roofs, broken glass, and dog shit. You can’t really see the Hudson Valley to the right, but the foothills of the Catskills open on the left, and all this open, wooded, uncrowded space boggled my adolescent mind. Once again, I found myself lost in reverie on this road.

Now, at age 52 (astride this near vintage Beemer), I stated thinking of the thousands of times I had driven this road in both directions. Twice with new brides... Eight times with new lovers... Dozens of times with hunting and fishing buddies... Hundreds of times on visitation weekends with my daughter (starting at age five)... And many more times by myself (as I owned a business in New Jersey yet lived in Lake Placid, a scant 7 hours distant). Yet this was only the second time I’d traversed this road by motorcycle. (The first was in 1976, when I rode a Kawasaki H2 to Niagara Falls, turning west at Albany.)

Despite the fact that only 11 years separated the issue date of that Kawasaki H2 (1975) and that BMW K75 (1986), there was no comparison between the two machines. The Kawi was primitive, rough riding, and buzzy in the extreme, complete with an odd engine sound. The Beemer was as smooth as 20-year-old single malt, far more responsive on the lower end, immeasurably better in the curves, a lot more reliable on the brakes, and marginally better sounding. What a difference a decade makes!

Then I thought of the comparison between the riders... With more than 34 years difference, the Kawasaki rider had the knees of a varsity fencer, the reticence of a Kamikaze pilot, the commitment of a serial killer and the sense of a doorknob. That rider’s throttle knew two positions: “balls to the wall” and “guilty as charged.”  The H2 rider got a erection once in 1975, and that lasted from April 3rd to December 22nd.

The BMW rider was a shadow of that kid. Rotten knees and an outlook stained by two failed marriages, a mad compulsion to eventually write down every thought and inflict it on unsuspecting readers, and a desire to cling to the one link that forever kept him 19-years-old (at least in his mind), conspired to keep him in the saddle, always waiting for the other boot to drop.

The demon began to seep into my hand through the throttle, and I felt a tingling in my fingers. Looking down at the speedo, I realized I was clipping along at 93 miles per hour, with Mack in hot pursuit. (Some things never change.) I opted not to slow down, but pulled into the first fuel stop to tank up.

“You seem to be feeling a bit better,” noted Mack. “How’s it going?”

It was going worse than I wanted him to know. It hurt taking my left left off the peg almost as much as it hurt to get it up there... And the pain was gravitating toward my hip.

“These rest areas are spaced about every 20 or 30 miles all the way to Albany,” I said. “Would you mind if I pulled into each one just to drop my legs?”

Mack didn’t mind at all, suspecting that we’d have another 40 miles to go before I got off the bike for the day. But the demon had begun to possess me now... And he was feeding on the pain. We covered the distance between rest areas like errant bullets, running speed traps twice. The Catskill Mountains reared up on the left, where we could see a thunderstorm  loose among the peaks, with lightning arcing from crown to crown. The temperature dropped a bit, which was reflected by another jump on  my tach. We ripped past the exits for the cheap hotels, hurtling beyond a picturesque valley housing a maximum security prison.

I carried my own prison in my knees.

There are three beautiful streams crossed by the Thruway and I have always wondered what it would be like to hike along them, casting a fly here and there... But not that day. Hiking and fishing are for the damned when you can be riding a motorcycle. I clung to the far right lane crossing these bridges, so I could see over the side, knowing that they’d be behind me in a second or two. I pointed out waterfalls, mountains, rivers and landmarks to Mack. One of these was the first covered bridge I ever saw in my life, though they would be common enough where I would come to live in Pennsylvania. Mack was a technical rider, who was all business. He never took his eyes from the road and would later confess he had no idea why I was gesturing and waving.

I pulled into every rest area, and got another hour’s leeway in the saddle for every twenty minutes I stretched my legs (without getting off the bike). We were burning up daylight, but covering the miles too. Albany, the center of government in New York State, is but the heart of a metropolis formed by the sister cities of Troy and Schnectady. It is here that the New York State Thruway heads west, and we continued up the Hudson, carving through the interchange that put us on the Adirondack Northway. Imagine what this road first looked like to me when I was 17, a guttersnipe from Jersey City, encountering my first highway signs in another language: French! This is to accommodate the hoards of French-speaking Canadians headed north.  (The second time I’d see highway signs in French, I’d be driving a Citroen SM from Geneva to Chamonix in the French Alps, in the company of a sizzling brunette. I’d be 35. I used to get away with fucking murder when I was alive.)

Passing through Albany, Mack Harrell got his first surprise... “Let’s go as far as Glens Falls,” I said, “about 45 miles further north.”

The Northway crosses the Erie Canal, which is about as wide as most waterways in states that do not support a legendary river (like the Mississippi). Then just before Glens Falls, it crosses the mighty Hudson. At this point, the Hudson is not as wide as one of the cruise ships it floats 140 miles to the south. It has a lake-like quality as it disappears into mist and mystery, en route to the Blue Ledges. (Again when I was 17, I’d hiked to the headwaters of the Hudson — Lake Tear Of The Clouds – and stood with one foot on each bank.)

I informed Mack that we wouldn’t be stopping at Glens Falls nor Lake George, but going straight through to Lake Placid, another 86 miles to the north... And he could see the madness in my eyes. The pain was coursing throughout my body by this time, but it was a different kind of pain. It was the pain that accompanies the desire to accomplish one more ride — just like I was 19- or 20-years-old again. My soul thirsted for the wonder and the thrill of yet “another” first time feeling on a motorcycle.

We crossed the imaginary “blue line” of the Adirondack Park, one of the most amazing reserves anywhere in the world, in the honky-tonk resort of Lake George. There should be a “blue line” painted across the road, but there’s just a sign. I blew my horn like I always do, and did a swerve of celebration. The Adirondack Park is the largest state park of its kind anyplace in the United States. With 1200 lakes and hundreds of miles of rivers, it spans 7 million acres, and is larger than any three national parks combined (in the “Lower 48”). I couldn’t help thinking of all the circumstances under which I’d driven this road before. The best of these adventures were spent in a red GMC Suburban, with a 5-year-old marvel on the bench seat next to me. My daughter and I played every game, sang every song, made up every kind of story, and ate lots of ice cream and Chinese food in that truck. And we did it every other weekend for the next 7 years. (I put 50,000 miles on a new Suburban in the first year I owned it.)

But something different was happening now. There was electricity flowing from the throttle into my hand and the effect on me was amazing. The interstate (I-87) is sweeping turns, marshes, dense forests, and views of open water north of Lake George, which itself is 44 miles long, and I would have run it wide open, had I not been sure I’d have been arrested. I pointed at every landmark I knew, laughing like an idiot, knowing that Mack Harrell had no idea what was running through my mind. The Beemer (Blueballs) was 20 years old that summer, and I rode it like it was new. Sparing neither the horses nor the emotion, I routinely pushed that machine to the red line, only to discover that it used no oil after cruising at sustained speeds in excess of 85 and 90 mph. It barely burned 3 ounces that whole summer.

Our exit was a hundred miles north of Albany, and I pulled over on the shoulder of US-9 (the same US-9 that runs through Jersey City), to catch my breath. Dusk was settling in and the sky was scarlet, against “honest-to-God” purple mountain’s majesty. With the bikes switched off, we could hear a stream tumbling into a ravine, scented with the fragrance of a million balsams.

“How much farther?” asked Mack, amazed that we were pulled over in a place where there was nothing but solitude.

“Another 50 miles, or so.”

“What the fuck got into you today?”

“A sense of who I wanted to be, and what I wanted to feel like,” I replied.

“Well who do you feel like now?”

“I felt like Charles Lindbergh earlier. Now I feel like the Lindbergh baby,” I replied, thumbing the starter for the final time that day.

Have you ever noticed how the last light of the day disappears in the blink of an eye? We weren’t stopped 10 minutes when the shadows matured into a tangible darkness. Pulling in, our headlights had been a suggestion in the gathering dusk. Now they punched a hole in the night, fifty feet ahead of the motorcycles. And while it was night on the pavement, the last vestiges of daylight bled through  the openings in the trees above us, and in the wide expanse of Keene Valley, through which the AuSable River flows.

The road gracefully climbed past Chapel Pond, with the granite cliff rising straight out of the water, before plunging into Keene Valley. Mack only saw the pavement of Route 73, framed in the headlights. I saw the road in my mind, as I have seen it a thousand times. I found myself carving into one “S” curve after another, feeling each turn as I remembered it — but in a truck. I was leaning into them for the first time after all these years. And there was something ethereal about doing it in the dark. All of you have experienced the thrill of riding into a cold pocket, where cooler temperatures envelop bike and rider like a specter. We rode through a dozen of them, as the river pooled alongside the road in unseen recesses, home to trout and wild mink.

The Hobbit-town lights of Saint Huberts, Keene Valley and Keene, winked before we started the final ascent, through the Cascade Lakes, into Lake Placid. The solitary beam of a motorcycle headlamp is like looking through a keyhole in reality... The  bike is cradled by the same invisible forces that hold it at an angle to the ground during the day, but they are positively cult-like in the dark.

The Cascade Lakes are a ribbon of water that span different elevations parallel to the road on the final climb into Lake Placid. Route 73 is gentle in this stretch, but twisty and steep leading in and out of it. I flicked on the MotoLights, mounted to the K75’s brake calipers, and the front of the bike was wrapped in a basket of light. The bike glowed like an ember, rising upward. I knew this entire stepped valley was walled by granite, softened by millions of Aspens, all deep green this weekend... But my world was the golden ring of light, and in that moment, it was all the world any rider could ask.

Two stunning vistas lay before us, but we flashed by them in the dark. (It is unlikely Mack would have seen them in broad daylight.) These were the cluster of high peaks visible at the open field  (where Adirondack Loj Road joins Route 73), with the Olympic ski jumps just beyond. Minutes later, we entered the soft, elegant light that is the resort of Lake Placid, home to two Winter Olympic Games; neither of which succeeded in compromising the charm of this exquisite village.

We pulled up under the marquee of the Crowne Plaza Hotel, one of the nicest places to stay in town. I put my feet down with an audible sigh, and switched off the bike.

“You must be hurting,” said Mack.

I was... But it was the kind of hurt that accompanies the realization one cannot hurtle through space forever. There reaches a point where the ride is over. Hopefully, the bar is open at that point.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2012
All rights reserved

Shango Rider At Americade!
June 5th to June 9th, 2012 
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