Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The BuRP Rally: The Ride That Changed My Life II

Chapter Two:  The Next 60 miles And Beyond

My "de facto" in-laws don’t expect much from me and I seldom disappoint them. Consequently, they thought my ability to ride a motorcycle from West Chester, Pa to Hagerstown, Md indicated I had hidden Lindbergh-type qualities. Leslie’s dad kept shaking his head, saying, “I figured for sure you’d either hole up in a strip-joint or fall over in a pile of bushes.” He is one of the pioneers of the nation’s genome project and regards me as an anomaly of social Darwinism. Based on our brief acquaintanceship, he published a thesis arguing that children displaying personality traits like mine should be denied access to vaccines.
My de facto In-Laws in Hagerstown, Md do not have high expectations of me.
They are seldom disappointed.

Leslie’s folks fed me breakfast, told me I could stay as long as I wanted, then threw my panniers out on the lawn. Twenty-five minutes later, I was on Rt. 66 (not that Route 66), blowing through the cultural capital of Boonesboro, Md. Boonesboro is famous for being the home of pulp novelist Nora Roberts and the site of the first Washington Monument.
The first Washington Monument, in Boonesboro, Md.

My destination was a motel in Front Royal, Va. Since I only had 60 miles to cover, I took my time and took in the sights. Route 67 leads out of Boonesboro, and you end up crossing the mighty Potomac a couple of times as you pass into Virginia and West Virginia (briefly). The view from both bridges (in the vicinity of Harpers Ferry) is worth noting, but traffic is such that taking your eyes off the road can have a surprise ending. Rt. 67 ends on US-340, which meanders into Front Royal. In fact, it meandered in a little faster than I thought and the town took me by surprise.

I put my feet down in the parking lot of my hotel and reflected on the circumstances that were drawing me to Maggie Valley, North Carolina. There are many online resources available to reentry riders, and I joined the Motorcycle Forum in 2005, a social network that was largely under the direction of renown biker writer Walter Kern, and various forum “corner” hosts. A true democracy, the group catered to riders of all persuasions (including cruisers, sport bikes, touring motorcycles, vintage machines, trikes, and Euro bikes). The discussion list covered anything and everything about motorcycles.

Author’s note -- This group has since moved from and cane be found at Motorcycle Views on Delphi Forums.

Walt Kern encouraged me to write ride reports and biker stories even though he sensed I had the riding ability of a corpse. In writing for this group, I made my first biker friends. They included Brenda and Bill Woods, Walt’s wife Jane, Steve Asson, Scott Turner, Carrie, Scott Benson, Vic (Mongo), Sammye (Granny TwoWheels), Karen Kennedy, Wayne Whitlock and his wife Lucy. These folks shared tons of experiences, observances, comments and suggestions, saving new riders from expensive trial and error situations. And there was a lot of good natured chatter too.

The only thing missing was an actual group ride.

These folks were scattered across the country, from the Pacific to the Atlantic, and from Oklahoma to Montreal. But once a year, they would converge on the Laurel Park Inn, in Maggie Valley, NC, to meet, to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway, to party and to laugh. I was invited to come in 2006. (I was initially flattered, but then I discovered they invited about 4,000 people, and included me figuring I wouldn’t show.) Thirty to 40 riders typically attend since the group started holding this event in 2002. The name of the event -- The BuRP Rally -- stands for Blue Ridge Parkway and “You.”

All I had to do was take a week off from work, and ride from West Chester, Pa to Maggie Valley, NC. Yet this was at a time when my longest ride as a reentry rider was 164-mile day. Still I considered it... Liked the idea... And said “maybe,” fully intending to decline when it would be considered polite.

That’s when Steve Asson issued “the challenge.”

Steve lives in Washington (the state). It is about 14,000 miles west of Maggie Valley. Steve kindly offered to make the ride from the Pacific, if I would only get off my ass and ride down from Pennsylvania. And that’s about how he put it, in front of millions of people on the internet. What else could I say? I posted my counter-challenge, betting him a bottle of rum that I’d get there, and started training.
Steve Asson - Steel Horse Rider
Issued the "Challenge"

I had introduced the members of this forum to a unique concept: Perdition’s Socks. This a is an elite cadre of riders who are not afraid to wear their colors anywhere. This is because their colors are not patches on jackets, but argyle socks worn under boots. Perdition’s Socks hosts an Annual Amish Horse-Pile Swerve Ride in the spring. It was one of these rides that drew Tony Luna, Mack Harrell, and Wayne Whitlock to Leslie's driveway in Pennsylvania (four months before the BuRP Rally). Wayne rode up from Richmond, Virginia for the “Swerve” ride and was immediately impressed with my riding abilities. His reaction to the news that I was riding alone to Maggie Valley was to call immediately, insisting I meet him along the way, “so I can keep on an eye on things,” said Wayne. He later confided to others that the tone of my voice had the chill of certain death in it.
Perdition's Socks 2nd Annual Amish Horse-Pile Swerve Ride 2006
From Left: Tony Luna, Jack Riepe, Wayne Whitlock, Mack Harrell, Karen Kennedy
And Pete Buchheit

Wayne Whitlock is one of the last surviving gentlemen in the old southern tradition. He rides a Harley that looks like it gets parked in Tiffany’s window, and he is some of the best company you could ever ask for on the road. I will never forget his kindness.

Here I was, sitting in the driveway of an average motel in Front Royal, Va, basting in my own juices on this hot July day, when the “potato-potato” stutter of a Harley Davidson shattered he afternoon stillness. Wayne adroitly pulled up and introduced me to his sweet wife Lucy (who was riding pillion).

“Gosh, I’m glad to see y’all,” said Wayne in his gracious ante-bellum manner. “Did y’all have a nice ride down?”

I replied in the affirmative, and Wayne added, “I’m so glad and somewhat surprised. I half expected to get a call from you saying you were holed up in some strip joint or had fallen over in the bushes.”

“Let’s check in,” I said, through a fractured but forced smile.

Copyright 2008 Jack Riepe
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views Forum/Delphi)
AKA The Chamberlain -- Perdition’s Socks (With A Shrug)

Monday, March 24, 2008

The BuRP Rally: The Ride That Changed My Life

Chapter One: My First Epic Ride in 25 years Gets Off To A Slow Start

A motorcycle is a mirror of a rider’s soul. And on this particular day, the reflection was not good. I expected to see the image of an adventurer... A rider of the wind... A man in whom the latent seventeen-year-old was thoroughly in charge. What I saw was an arthritic, overweight, middle-aged wreck, who had not mastered his fears, but who was riding merely despite them.

The bike was loaded and on the sidestand in the garage. The panniers had been packed and repacked. The topcase was layered with gear I might need right away: mostly oil, transmission fluid, a spare clutch cable, flashlight, spare gloves and other stuff like that. The tail contained a complete tool kit, tubeless tire patch kit, pump, first aid kit, manual, and a directory of BMW riders from one coast to the other. The bike had been examined by experts and was in perfect tune. Departure time was 2pm. It was a clear, hot summer day, and the road called to me like a topless dancer from the stage.

But I pretended I was someone else and looked at the ground.

I was three months into my second season as a reentry rider with highly mediocre skills and about to leave on ride through five states. I had been packing for a week and had everything, except a pair of balls. I had been looking forward to this trip for months, or at least telling myself so, and now I had the jitters. The enormity of the whole thing -- strange new highways, remote back roads, changing weather systems, and the fact that I was riding a 19-year-old BMW K75 -- hit me all at once.

Looking back in hindsight, my opening travel plans would have amazed the average touring rider. I planned to cover a whopping 104 miles the first day, spending the evening with my in-laws in Hagerstown. The second day was even better -- 60 miles total -- to a little dump of a hotel in Front Royal, Va., where I was to meet Wayne Whitlock and his wife Lucy.

One hundred and sixty-four miles in two days! This was a new low even for me. My best ride to date was 165 miles in a day. I swear the old BMW K75 was embarrassed to be in the garage with me. Meanwhile, the departure had hit a sour note on the home front. I pretended to have a last minute assignment for work. I found a damp oil spot in the driveway (from a tradesman’s vehicle) and insisted checking the transmission fluid again. (It was fine.)

The 2pm departure time came and left.

Then I had an argument with the love of my life. Her step mom (down in Hagerstown) was preparing a gourmet meal for me and it was becoming apparent that I was going to be considerably delayed. Her point was that I should call and tell her folks that I was pussying-out on this trip and would go to Plan “B.” (I didn’t have a “Plan B.”) This discussion grew heated and dragged on. When I looked at the clock, it was 5:30pm.

I am the master of self-fulfilling prophecies. I had originally planned to leave at 2pm, to beat Friday afternoon rush hour traffic. My route was to have been Rt. 30 (The Old Lincoln Highway) to Rt. 15 at Gettysburg. I had ridden this stretch before. This suited my original riding parameters: daylight, clear weather, reasonable traffic, on a road -- where for the most part -- traffic would be doing about 55 miles per hour.

Here I was, starting a trip to Maggie Valley in North Carolina, with certain restrictions:
1) I would not ride on the interstates -- particularly I-81.
2) I would not ride at night.
3) I would not ride in the rain.
4) I would take it easy and stop often.

Now I had managed to wait until the traffic was at its worst, shortchanging myself on the daylight and creating a less than pastoral frame of mind for the rollout. It was the worst case scenario that I had envisioned and sworn to avoid. And that wasn’t the end of it. The gas tank was empty and I discovered I was out of my arthritis medicine. I’d have to pick up a prescription in town.

The bike growled into life with a tap on the starter button and I was off, only four hours late without a good reason. It was five miles out of my way to get to the drugstore. And in this interval, the damnedest thing started to happen. The seventeen year-old who lives in my head showed up. His name is Jessco, and he is trouble. He was at the bike’s controls when I stopped for gas.
Finally, pulling out of the driveway for a 5-state ride on a 19-year-old BMW
Only 4 hours late!

My normal procedure for getting gas was to pull up to the pump, get off the bike, put it on the center stand, and fill the gas tank like I was defusing a bomb.

“Fuck that,” said Jessco. I pulled up to the pump, switched the bike off, and refueled from the saddle. I was out of the service station in 5 minutes. The pharmacy was next door. I got my pills (anti-inflammatory) and popped one dry.

Jessco swung the bike out into moderate traffic on Rt. 30. The late afternoon was warm but there was a hint of evening coolness. I tried to calculate the number of traffic lights and potential stops on RT. 30 before I got to the faster moving Rt. 15, some 80 miles distant. Jessco said not to worry about it. This was because he steered the bike onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike --one of the interstates I swore to avoid.

This was only my second time riding a motorcycle on an expressway in 25 years. “Fuck it,” said Jessco. “This is a great night to die in a flaming ball.” It was perfectly clear and traffic was light. At 7pm, the sun was getting low in the summer sky, bathing a rural Pennsylvania countryside in soft rose-colored tint. The aroma of manure and cornfields would occasionally ride the breeze. It was positively delightful. No one was more surprised than me.

As you are all well-aware, the smoothness of the slab is an illusion created by your car. A motorcycle always tells the truth about the condition of a road. There are many stretches of the Pennsylvania Turnpike with a corrugated nature to test the nerve-endings in your ass. Mine were working fine, apparently.

The K75 ran flawlessly and virtually vibration free. I was playing with the throttle a little when I found myself gaining on a tractor trailer. I signaled to pass and swung left, only to realize it was a long line of trucks, maybe ten or more. I hesitated, and Jessco said, “I got this, Butter Ass.”

I felt the machine accelerate and we whipped past two thirds of these trucks without incident. There was a broad “S” curve ahead and Jessco twisted on the gas. We passed the last of the trucks shot through the curve like the bike was on rails. Jessco found a line and the K75 just followed it through the turns. When I glanced down at the speedometer, it read, “95 mph.” Jessco held this in the straight stretch for a couple of miles, then throttled down with a laugh.

I stopped at the rest area before Harrisburg just to extend my legs. My arthritis was hurting and I made no effort to get off the bike. Fifteen minutes later, I was back on the slab and arrived at Rt. 15 South, just as it was getting gray. It was fully dark by the time I passed Rt. 30 and Gettysburg. The dual headlamps in the Sprint fairing, coupled with the MotoLights, surrounded the front of the machine with a basket of light. There was no traffic to speak of and the ride in the dark was seductively pleasant. Stars and a crescent moon were out. There were probably two million deer in the fields around me, but I never saw a trace of one.
The dual headlamps of the rare Sprint fairing -- coupled with the MotoLights -- wrapped 
the front of the bike in a basket of light!

I crossed into Maryland 30 minutes later, and paused on the shoulder to put my legs down again. The arthritis in my knees was screaming and I wanted to get to Hagerstown as quickly as possible. The shortest line would be to take Rt. 77 from Thurmont, through Catoctin Mountain National Park. But the deer in this place grow on trees and the road follows several hairpin curves above a creek. I opted to stay on Rt. 15 to Frederick, and pick up US-40 instead. (This added more than 25 miles onto the trip and passed country that is at least as deer-plagued as Thurmont, but I didn’t know this at the time.) I took US-40 to Rt. 66, and pulled into Hagerstown about 10pm.

Leslie’s step-mom had a five course meal waiting for me. I was surprised at how easily I swung my leg over the saddle.

“Why,” asked Jessco? “You’re only 17.”

# # #
Copyright 2008 Jack Riepe
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Delphi)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Great Slider Ride -- March 15, 2008

There is nothing more aggravating then paying the consequences for unaccomplished misdeeds. I awoke at the crack of dawn on Saturday, March 15th, with the kind of headache that normally follows an evening of heavy drinking. I was cranky due to the throbbing in my temples and pissed as the night before would have been judged boring even by Amish standards.

The one saving factor was that it was supposed to be raining, and that would mean I could go back to bed as opposed to saddling up for the Great Slider Ride. I had taken the precaution of advising everybody that a heavy dew point would suffice to cancel this run. I cautiously opened the blinds in anticipation of droplets on the window, only to discover patches of blue sky, dry road, and a fat-assed robin singing in the driveway.

I let the dogs out and they tore the bird apart.

“That’s what you get for singing in the driveway when I have a headache,” I thought, as I settled down to a hot bowl of Advil. Twenty minutes later, I was headed for the parking lot of the Exton Diner, and the start of the Great Slider Ride. The object of this ride was to hit the closest White Castle and order 54 cheeseburgers (sliders): one burger for each year of my life, leading up to my birthday last week. The two closest White Castles are in Hackettstown and Toms River, both about 100 miles away in New Jersey. While the ride up to Hackettstown could have been very pretty, I picked Toms River as one has the option of hotfooting it on the slab -- if one is so inclined.
The White Castle In Toms River, NJ is Modeled After Windsor Castle In Great Britain
White Castle Fact # 263

Why White Castle? In the halcyon days of my youth, there were two options for dining at 2am, when the bars in Hudson County, New Jersey reluctantly hosed their clientele out into the street. The first was Chinatown in New York City and the second was the White Castle in North Bergen, NJ. I felt like doing something on my 54th birthday that reminded me of the days when I was alive. Granted, to get the full effect I’d have had to arrive in the middle of the night with some lady of highly questionable character tied to the pillion. But this ride was better than nothing.

The White Castle cheeseburger (slider) is a 2.5” square patty of beef, packed in it’s own little cardboard coffin. This one-ounce beef “cookie” has five holes in it (to assist in cooking) and comes smeared with onions. Everyone admits to having tasted one of these things, though few people would own-up to riding 100 miles for a bag of them. Not as adults, at any rate. The truth is that the White Castle cheeseburger is best consumed at 3am, after the bars close. This is the magic hour when all women are beautiful and comestibles in little boxes qualify as cuisine. It has been argued that drunks eat White Castle cheeseburgers for the same reason that dogs eat grass.

I posted the trip as beginning in the parking lot of the Exton Diner, at 9:30am, and arrived 14 minutes late to build suspense. The suspense was on me, however, as I was the only bike in the joint. The diner’s manager presented me with a card from the Mac-Pac that read, “Surprise!” No matter. The front wheel rose high in the air as I popped the clutch and wheelied for a quarter mile, on my way to the Pennsylvania Turnpike.

The ride was great... Clear, mild weather... No traffic... The engine whined like a Messerschmidt in heat. This was the first time since November that it was warm enough for me to ride without wearing long thermal underwear. (I wanted to tell this to people I passed on the highway. But rather than shout, I just pointed to my crotch and smiled.) The siren song of spring prompted me to twist the throttle a bit and I found myself on the NJ Turnpike in under an hour. Shooting past a few senior citizens on their way to the La Brea Tar pits, the road through the Pine Barrens was mine alone. Unbelievably, I still had twenty-five minutes to spare when I pulled up to the intersection of Rt. 37 and Hooper Avenue in Toms River. The White Castle was clearly visible across the road on my left.
Riepe Arrives -- Note Backed Up Traffic On Rt. 37 East Looking Like Parked Cars
Riepe was doing 75mph in this photo. (Click to enlarge)

All I had to do was make a simple U-turn, on a nice day, five miles from a New Jersey shore town. How hard could that be? It took twenty minutes of slipping the clutch in stalled traffic to cover 100 yards. I remember thinking how cool it would be to mount a flame thrower on the front of my K75. Even so, I still made it with a five-minute margin.
Note Dash Clock In Center... I Made It With 5 Minutes To Spare
(Click To enlarge)

In front of the White Castle stood two commanding figures. Don Eilenberger, BMW Motorcycle Owners of America Ambassador and Trustee and Newsletter Editor of the New Jersey Shore BMW Motorcycle Riders, struck a regal pose as if he was the lord of the castle. And Tony Luna, Chief Quality Control Officer in charge of testing helicopter evacuations from North Carolina highways for the Perdition’s Socks Elite Biker Cadre, crisply snapped into that group’s secret salute.
Don Eilenberger, BMW MOA Ambassador 
Trustee and Newsletter Editor Of New Jersey Shore BMW Motorcyle Riders
(Click To Enlarge)

“We would have left in another five minutes,” said Eilenberger, offering me a true New Jersey welcome. “Then we watched you waddle the bike into the dogleg turn and knew you’d be here in an hour or so.” Don extended his hand and I dropped to my knees to kiss his Ambassadorial ring. “Your own Mac-Pac Ambassador Brian Curry would have been here, except he didn’t give a damn,” Eilenberger added with a warm smile. "And he told me to tell you that personally."
Tony Luna, Chief Quality Control Officer In Charge Of Testing Helicopter Evacuations 
From North Carolina Roads For Perdition's Socks Elite Biker Cadre
(Click to enlarge)

“I didn’t want to be here either,” said Tony Luna, “But I’ve been constipated for a week and heard that this was as good as eating grass.”

Tony had saved us a “preferred” table that had a sweeping view of both the “Slider” assembly area and the men’s room. No matter what direction you looked in, you could see guys flipping meat.

“Gentlemen, you are my guests today. Order anything you like without regard to cost,” I said. The menu featured 70¢ cheeseburgers -- lots of them -- french fries, and an order of fried clams. I would have hated to meet these clams in a secluded alley at night. A clam has to be pretty strong to overcome the taste of 5W-50 frying oil, and these did.
Riepe Surveys The Wreckage Of Another Year...
54 Down; Three More To Go!
(Click To Enlarge Riepe)

At this point, Eilenberger rapped his knuckles on the table and called the little gathering to order. He cleared his throat and delivered a moving litany on the events that transpired through history on my birthday, starting with the murder of Julius Caesar, the outbreak of plague, and an earthquake in China. He closed with the recommendation that the bed or the Chevy backseat I was conceived on should be burned in a public place.

Then on behalf of his various constituents, Don Eilenberger presented me with a beautiful watch. The inscription on the watch reads “If your bike runs better than this watch, you might get home,” but it's the thought that counts. Not to be outdone, Tony Luna presented me with a plain donut as a substitute for a birthday cake. These two manly men then sang “Happy Birthday.” It was all very touching.
The BMW K75 Lends Dignity To Anyone, Usually
Seen Here In Its Natural Element -- DeSimones BMW
(Click here to enlarge -- Then stand back)

It was my intention to continue east to the ocean over in Seaside Park, but Eilenberger talked me out of this. It seems that Seaside Heights was hosting a St. Patrick’s Day Parade and more than 70,000 people were expected in town that afternoon. Don then led us on a refreshing ride through bog and barren, terminating at DeSimone’s BMW in Mount Holly. I hobbled through the showroom with a salesperson right on my heels. Not wishing to tie him up while I browsed, I mentioned I was only looking.

“That’s all right,” he said. “I’m just here to make sure you don’t sweat on the new bikes.”

The ride home was pleasant and quick over the Commodore Barry Bridge. I would like to extend my special thanks to Don Eilenberger and Tony Luna for meeting me on the Great Slider Ride. These are two really great guys. Mack Harrell intended to come, but he was out of sorts on Saturday. One of his medical practitioners has recommended he have a “procedure.” Horrified, Mack demanded to know what kind of procedure.

“Mummification,” the doctor replied.

Jack Riepe
Copyright 2008 Jack Riepe
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Delphi)
AKA The Chamberlain -- Perdition’s Socks, PS (With A Shrug)

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Great Slider Ride (March 15th, 2008) Is On...

The Great Slider Ride, to commemorate my 54th birthday is still on for March 15th, 2008. I intend to pull up to the White Castle on Route 37 (westbound), a hundred and fifty-yards west of Hooper Avenue, in Toms River, New Jersey, at 12pm (Noon), give or take 15 minutes. Once there, I will purchase 54 cheeseburgers, otherwise known as sliders. I will distrbute the same (minus 5 for myself) to the curious and idle assembled in the parking lot.
The Legendary Slider -- Buy 'Em By The Sack -- Eat 'Em When You've Got A Bag On

Soft drtinks, french fries, and onion rings will be the responsibility of each individual in attendance.

There have been forecasts of sunny weather and rain all week. The lastest forecast is for partly sunny skies in the earlier part of the day, with clouds coming in at 2pm, and the rain starting in West Chester, Pa at 8pm. That’s good enough for me. My original plans called for wolfing down the sliders and heading over to the shore, 15 minutes to the east, for pictures and a possible sarsaparilla. That may change.

If the weather-guessing jerks have gotten this wrong, the ride will be cancelled if there is enough water on the road to create spray, or if rain is suddenly expected before 4:30pm.

I am leaving from the Exton Diner (Exton, Pa -- RT. 100 and Ship Road) at 9:30am. My route will be the Pa Turnpike to the NJ Turnpike  (Exit 7a), and I-195 (East), to Rt. 571 across the pine barrens to Rt. 70 (South), and then Rt. 37 (East) . There is a U-turn for Hooper Avenue. From Exton, this will be 200 miles roundtrip, but 80% slab. There are $8 in tolls.

This is one of the silliest rides I've ever proposed. Yet my friend Kate Farrell admitted to me yesterday that when she was a little kid, one of her younger birthday requests was to be driven to a White Castle for three hamburgers. It was the last time she would ever settle for a birthday gift that cost 30¢ in total. "I thought White Castle hamburgers were the most wonderful things," said Kate. 

Jack Riepe
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Delphi)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)

Friday, March 7, 2008

The Great Slider Ride

On March 15, 2008, I will celebrate my 54th Birthday by riding to the White Castle, on Rt. 37 (West), in Tom's River, NJ. I will mark the occasion by ordering 54 cheeseburgers -- the original sliders. I will start this ride at 9:30am, from the parking lot of the Exton Diner, on Rt. 100 and Ship Road, Exton, Pa. The run is about 100 miles in one direction. There are damn few aesthetics on a ride of this nature. It's slab and strip malls most of the way. After the ritual feast, I will continue east to Seaside Park, to look at the ocean, photograph my bike against the bay, and have a couple of snorts at a Seaside establishment.
My Favorite Picture: Jack Riepe on the late "Blue Balls"
1986 BMW K75 With A Sprint Fairing
Hit and totaled by a mini-van on June 9, 2007

This is a pilgrimage of love... Love of the slider. I expect to eat at least 5 of these cheeseburgers myself, distributing the rest to interested parties and innocent bystanders. Soft drinks, french fries, and onion rings will be the responsibility of anyone else present.

The ride home will be fast as anyone eating these will have to take a dump pretty quickly. I plan to get to the White Castle at noon, taking the Pa Turnpike to the NJ Turnpike, and I-195, to Rt. 571 across the pine barrens to Rt. 70, and then Rt. 37.

THIS TRIP IS WEATHER PERMITTING... Anything generating spray on the road will bag this trip.

Jack Riepe
AKA The Lindberg Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Delphi)
AKA The Chamberlain -- Perdition's Socks, PS (With A Shrug)

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2008

Monday, March 3, 2008

Ride Report: Migrating Geese and Motorcycles In Delaware

The weather forecast for Sunday, March 2, 2008 in the West Chester, Pa area called for clear sunny skies, with a high of 41º. “Hot rats,” I said. This would be a great day for riding down RT. 9 in Delaware, the highly picturesque road that meanders through salt marshes, rural farms, and little fishing villages for 37 miles between Delaware City and Dover Air Force Base.

After last month’s temperatures in the teens, accompanied by freezing rain, snow, gravel, and salt, 41º degrees seems like a reason to run around naked in the yard. But there’s a catch... It would only hit 41º for fifteen minutes at 2:45pm. Sunday, March 2nd, dawned like any other day in the ice age. It was 27º at 7am, and only four degrees warmer when I left for the rally point -- the highly acclaimed Dunkin Donuts in Exton -- two hours later.

Friend Joe Sestrich, still recovering from his last adventure on a dirt bike, was there in the car to photograph my arrival. He put his crutches down just long enough to snap a picture of me unfolding my cane. The two of us made a sorry argument for motorcycling. There was snow falling on the day I posted this ride and the response from interested parties was less than enthusiastic. I got two polite “maybes,” and one “stick it up your ass, Fat Boy,” from my usual riding partner, whose initials are Dick Bregstein.

I had posted a 10am departure but really wasn’t expecting anybody. I was delighted  when Corey Lyba pulled up on his GS Adventure. Twenty minutes later, we picked up Dave Oehler, and his 10-year-old daughter, Jessica, riding pillion on his pimped out K1200LT. Jessica is the most urbane 10-year-old I’ve ever met. She and her dad wore matching ballistic riding gear and full-faced helmets. Together, they look liked an ad in a BMW magazine. (And we met them at the Harley dealership in Chad's Ford.)

We followed US-202 South, to US-1 South, to PA-52 South, passing through tidy Mendenhall, Pa (with its galleries and antique shops) and Centerville, De (with the legendary Buckley’s Tavern), before turning right onto DE-141 and hitting DE-9 (less than 40 minutes from the start).The salt marshes begin immediately, though this is still a highly industrialized area. In fact, there is a huge oil refinery on the left turn into Delaware City. This facility covers some incredibly pretty real estate. We passed ten deer in a herd on the refinery property. 

Delaware City is a smudge on the map. There is no gas for the next 37 miles, so I topped off at the only station in the center of town. Here we met the fifth member of our party, Rogers George, on his R1150RT.    A few blocks from the gas station is a little barge canal,  just before the main event -- the Delaware and Chesapeake Canal. You cross this by riding over a 20-story pier bridge. 
From left: Dave Oehler, Jessica Oehler, Rogers George, & Corey Lyba (Click to enlarge)
My 1995 BMW K75 "Fire Balls" stands far right

Coming off the bridge from Delaware City is like landing in the marshes on a plane. The bridge ramp drops 200 feet to a hair above sea level. Throughout most of the ride, the road is barely a couple of inches above the water, which can cover the pavement when the tides comes in. This generally occurs at the five small bridge points further on down the road.
Thousands of migrating snow geese taking a break in the marshes on Rt. 9. (Click to enlarge)
©Copyright 2008 Leslie Marsh 

The scenery is incredible. Situated on the Atlantic flyway, we passed thousands of snow geese resting on their return trip northward. Vast numbers of these drifted in the chop of open marshes adjacent to the roadway. Yet the best entertainment of the day occurred when Rogers disturbed a convention of turkey vultures munching on a deer carcass. Corey was next in line and rode right through the departing turkey vulture flight pattern. In an instant, he was dodging huge disgusting brown birds that take off with no precision nor grace. 

The town of Taylor’s Bridge offers two interesting landmarks. The first is a "rear range" lighthouse, built in the early 1900’s. It’s unique iron trestle construction surrounding a column with an internal circular stairway seems both modern and old at the same time.
The "Rear Range" Lighthouse at Taylor's Bridge (De) is 125 feet tall. (Click to enlarge)
©Copyright 2008 Leslie Marsh

The second is a cool one or two-room schoolhouse, built in the ‘20s and meticulously maintained.
Historic Taylor's Bridge School (Click to enlarge)
©Copyright 2008 Leslie Marsh

Ten miles down the road is the extensive Bombay Hook Wildlife Preserve. The is the federal government at its best. This wildlife preserve is the epitome of peace and repose. The $4 fee they charge to get into this place is well worth the money. There are three or four tidal pools in this place, surrounded by marshes, and infrequent stands of hardwoods. The preserve closes at sunset. I advise getting there with a 90-minute jump on dusk. The setting sun is an appropriate backdrop to the beauty of this place. Note: All the roads in here are dirt and gravel. The speed limit is 25mph.
No traffic, few houses, occasional straight stretches, and cops: RT. 9

Just before the end of the line, there is a great restaurant in the town of Little Creek: Cavaliers East. The crab soup in this place is the best I have tasted in the whole Delmarva region. We arrived just in time for their Sunday buffet, which offered a wide selection of traditional southern cooking (plus meatloaf).
Salt marshes are to boating what the "Dragon's Tail" is to biking, apparently. (Click to enlarge)
©Copyright 2008 Leslie Marsh

The ride totaled 154 miles. The weather did warm up, to about 38º! I intend to extend future rides to this destination another ten miles or so -- to North Bowers beach. This is a little fishing village with a great seafood place right on the water. During the summer months, you can sit out on the deck, listen to music, eat a dozen clams on the half-shell, and sip a nice lemonade, if you catch my drift. 

Jack Riepe
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Delphi)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)