Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I Succumb To Another Spasm And Call For Help

Last Sunday started out normally enough. I had a light breakfast, four cups of strong coffee, and a blonde cigar from Sumatra, which I smoked while reading the New York Times sitting astride the free-weight bench in the basement. I remembered to kick a weight around every few minutes to punctuate the atmosphere with the muted clack of “metal on metal,” to indicate that the purpose of this expensive and sophisticated equipment had not escaped me. Yet the room started to spin the minute the minute I stood to dissipate the cigar smoke by waving the newspaper. A dull pain shot down my back and settled in my ass. I tried to cry out -- to attract the attention of my girlfriend -- and found my speech muddled. My mouth wouldn’t form words, but could only mimic the noise of a running BMW K75.

This is not the way to call out for help in the house where I live. In fact, these sounds are more closely linked to foreplay, the threat of which can send my hot squeeze into the witness protection program. Beads of sweat dripped from my forehead as my body thrashed in a kind of spasm. In a burst of inspiration, I made the sound of a K75 missing on one cylinder -- something I once heard on the science fiction channel. My girlfriend responded instantly.

“Are you okay,” she yelled down the stairs.

It was apparent I was not. The symptoms were classic: a growing sense of detachment, a lack of enthusiasm for life, and a reluctance to converse with in-laws beyond a polite exchange of profanity. The illness, a combination of psychological and physiological breakdowns, is widely known as parked motorcycle syndrome (PMS). It affects more than 4 million riders in the US each year and is recognized as the number one reason why standard-sized houses appear to shrink to the dimensions of matchboxes during the winter. Some women claim they are unable to get a decent night’s sleep with husbands and significant others who have PMS, as they are constantly awakened when their guy starts the chainsaw in the middle of the night.

Nothing says "I've been thinking about us" to a woman louder 
than starting a chainsaw in the middle of the night.
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia -- Click to enlarge)

Medical experts acknowledge that cabin fever and the Wendigo psychosis were the forerunner of parked motorcycle syndrome. Yet the true nature of the disease, and its cure, were not understood until the invention of the motorcycle. “In the history of mankind, the motorcycle is a recent development,” said Dr. Albert Hissingaz, PhD; of the Wilmington Institute of Holistic Dry Cleaning. “There was a time when men and women were unable to release their souls in an expression of speed, freedom, and reckless abandon. This was not so important in the summer months, when women would devote their lives to raising crops and children, and men could drink. But in the winter, they often found themselves snowed in, trapped in a small dark structure, staring at each other across a table, illuminated only by a dim grease lamp for months at a time. These were the circumstances in which someone would invariably find themselves being eaten, and not in the good way.”

Hissingaz contends that the invention of the motorcycle provided an emotional “steam valve” to successfully vent pent up passion best released on perfect stretches of pavement in distant mountains or along the endless strand of a Pacific coast beach. “This enables motorcycle riders to achieve a higher sense of balance between the id and the ego,” said Hissingaz. “This is why bikers make better lovers, writers, artists, musicians, and confidents than other people -- albeit in the summer months. In the winter, they can revert to a far more insidious and primal nature. A long and arduous winter season devoid of motorcycling can turn the most sophisticated of Renaissance riders into total pricks.”

Leslie, my girlfriend, is a certified “Writer-Life-Partner” and is thoroughly versed in procedures to halt runaway irrational logic, offset professional angst, and slow Monday-through-Saturday binge drinking events common to my profession. She has also pioneered a course of PMS treatment that has brought me back from the edge many times. On this occasion, my angel of mercy slipped a Steppenwolf CD into the sound system and began gyrating her hips to “Magic Carpet Ride,” the theme song of K75 riders everywhere. She continue to dance until the color slowly returned to my face. And when it seemed as if I would slip off again, she opened her shirt and showed me how a touch of lace can really accent perfection.

I collapsed back on the free-weight bench with a loud gasp and started breathing heavily. Leslie grabbed her cell phone and dialed the secret three-digit number that mobilized the Mac-Pac PMS Support Team. As most of you are aware, the Mac-Pac is the BMW group that I ride with. Her call activated an automated “Code Blue” alert, which had Dick Bregstein speeding in his car toward the house in less than 2 minutes. He detoured through an obscure driveway, pausing just long enough for team member Clyde Jacobs to jump into the back seat. Clyde carried with him a briefcase loaded with maps of West Virginia, rental properties throughout the state, and points of interest that could constitute a decent ride.

Clyde Jacobs -- Member By Default of Last West Virgina Ride Conspiracy
(Photo by Dick Bregstein on his $10 phone -- Click to enlarge)

Ninety miles away, Peter Buchheit jumped into his car and headed toward Jimmy’s Jumbo Crabs, a bar known for its hospitality, live music, and bikini contests, in Port Deposit, Maryland. It would be Buchheit’s job to make sure the arrangements were made at the bar, so that my symptoms could be properly treated by planning a great spring ride to West Virginia. These professionals moved with such practiced precision that we all arrived at the same time. The bartender, briefed while we were enroute, met us with a platter of steamed shrimp, reanimated with just the right touch of Old Bay seasoning.

Nothing beats winter doldrums and the demons of PMS like planning a great spring ride with your pals.

We commandeered about ten feet of the bar with a laptop, a Garmin, maps, brochures, and various samples of the distiller’s art. This would be our third annual ride to West Virginia and we wanted to incorporate the more successful elements of previous ride formulas with new opportunities for adventure. Prior trips included a ride which brought us to a different motel and restaurant each night, and a run in which we rented a deluxe cabin (complete with a hot tub, fireplace, and deck on the Potomac River), and cooked steaks and corn on the grill. With the economy being a factor this year, it was agreed that the cabin was the way to go, as we could eat and drink in-house, and enjoy better accommodations for less cash. We selected a four-bedroom vacation home on a river, complete with a screened-in porch, and a jacuzzi. The cost of the rental was cheaper per night, per person than staying in a decent motel (about $79). Each rider would have his own room and there are plenty of bathrooms in the house so no one has to feel like they’re standing in line.

Pete Buchheit -- Veteran West Virginia Ride Conspiracy Member
(Photo courtesy of Dick Bregstein -- Click to enlarge)

Finding a nice cabin-like house with four bedrooms was a bit of a challenge. Most rental properties have three bedrooms. None of us are kids anymore and there is nothing like a nice bed in your own room at the end of the day. A locking door guarantees you will not wake up with your hand in a bucket of warm water or out in the driveway with your pants gone and your ass painted blue. It is unacceptable that anyone should have to spend a night on a sofa after spending the day in the saddle.

Jack Riepe -- The author fills up the interior horizon
(Unflattering photo by Dick Bregstein -- Click to enlarege, then stand back)

The next consideration was the discussion of a menu and the kind of meals we wanted each night. This is normally not a big deal. In fact, it got zero consideration on our last trip. Our day rides typically spanned 225 miles and we’d hit a supermarket on the way back, stopping to pick up beer, steaks, vegetables and other stuff. Yet Pete mentioned that we were always looking for something we wished we had on that last ride. Stuff like a roll of paper towels, dish detergent, coffee filters or orange juice to temper the vodka.

“I am going to ask the rental agent about having a person pick up everything we want, according to a list, and deliver it to the house so it is there when we arrive,” said Buchheit. “We’ll pay the guy a fee and know that everything we need is waiting for us.”

I regarded this idea as nothing short of brilliant. This is also why we let Pete boss us around to some degree. If it was up to me, I’d have a bartender, cook, and valet on the premises as well. After all, this is a therapeutic vacation. Yet Clyde Jacobs raised the point that steak and lobster are items of intense personal preference, and he did not feel comfortable delegating the purchase of these commodities to a total stranger.

“You tell someone to go out and get a couple of steaks, and they might come back with a piece of meat barely three quarters of an inch thick,” said Clyde. “That might work if we were in prison but on a ride of this emotional significance you want everything to be perfect.”

Once again Buchheit rose to the occasion. “We could arrange to have the meat cut to order and delivered by Omaha Steaks,” he said. “They could also include other items from their catalogue which would pretty much guarantee a varied and slightly exotic flair to the menu.”

“But why stop there,” said Bregstein. “I personally recommend live lobsters and steamer clams from the ‘Lobster Trap.’ Wouldn’t it be great to come in from a day of riding and sit down to a New England lobster bake? Furthermore, we could order key lime pie from Harry and David.”

And suddenly, it was all there on the table. We’d ride like pirates and dine like Sultans. We’d drink like swells and smoke cigars like robber barons. At the day’s end, we’d sit on our screened-in porch and laugh over the silly things that contributed to the legend of the ride. In the ride report that followed, nothing would compare with the preposterous arrangements we’d have made for dinner.

Dick Bregstein -- Founding Member of the Mac-Pac PMS Code Blue Response Team
Dick has recently claimed being a Native American. He will not say what tribe but
plants a clue in every photograph that is taken of him.
(Photo coutesy of Patti Jacobs -- Click to enlarge)

This cold, winter day spent in a bar in Maryland would be the beginning of a legendary four-day ride in West Virginia. There are still a lot of details to be worked out. Our agenda for the next meeting will include a list of things we’d like to see on this trip, outstanding points of local interest, natural wonders, and historical sites. We’ll find the battlefields, the museums, the steam trains and the strip joints. We’ll find everything.

Just as we were congratulating ourselves on the beginning of another great ride, the band in the bar -- about six guys with banjos -- started warming up.”This has to be an omen,” said Buchheit.”

A number of folks have asked me about joining us on one of these runs and we’d be delighted. But the accommodations define the group at the end of the day and it would be up to another group of three or four riders to secure another house in the vicinity. (They are all over the place, either as single units or as vacation clusters.) We do not do a group ride per se either, even among ourselves. I have always maintained that riding with Dick and Pete is a lot like riding by yourself. (Still it is a comfort to know that help is only 40 or 50 miles ahead of you.) We ride in a lose group of two or three, knowing when and where we are all headed, and when and where we are all expected to end up. Dick and Pete like to switch off screaming through turns. Clyde has different moods. I like to amble along at my own pace, stopping to take pictures, relax, or donate an organ.

Sunday’s meeting ended all too soon... And it was the general consensus among all of us that we were ready for this ride the next day.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2009
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Big Things Come In Small Packages

The Christmas gift was diminutive even by the new fiscally conservative parameters set by mutual agreement two months before the holiday. While I had been steeling myself to expect a small box, I wasn’t quite ready to receive an even smaller envelope.

Leslie (Stiffie), my hot squeeze, had eliminated the guess work out of Christmas years before, by insisting everyone create a small list that could be distributed among family and friends. The purpose of this list was to streamline the shopping process and to help establish realistic cost guidelines, depending on family status. The same procedure was alleged to be in effect this past Christmas, albeit under tighter economic control.

This is my hot squeeze, Stiffie (Leslie)
(Photo by some magazine photographer -- Click To enlarge)

Though I would be the first to say that I had not cooperated with any of the requests to enlighten the world’s smartest woman as to what I would have really appreciated in the way of a gift, I did not do so maliciously or through sloth. The reason why I didn’t suggest anything is because I already have everything I need. And before the hard-boiled among you roll your eyes in anticipation of some greeting card-quality platitude about “How Jack Riepe Discovered The True Meaning of Christmas,” rest assured that if I did, I’d sell it as a 12-step program to your wives and girlfriends first. That way, I’d be your next Christmas present.

The truth is that I like presents that set my imagination free. My imagination was at its nuclear best when I was eight years old. I’d tell stories about anything that came into my mind without rhyme nor reason. My second grade teacher was a wonderful Catholic nun, Sister Theresa De Lourdes, who liked me in general, but who had a great deal of difficulty dealing with falsehood. She regarded lies as the currency of the devil and would bless herself when confronted with one. Well I’d get wound up in the details of some story I swore I was a witness to and she’d start blessing herself so fast that she’d begin to hover like a human helicopter. I personally saw this happen two hundred times.

At age eight, nothing set my mind free like trains. I loved everything about them. A ride on one was the equivalent of space travel. And the Lackawanna Railroad was the most incredible of them all. My Grandfather, Pat, used to walk me down to the Lackawanna tracks in Denville, NJ, where we could wave to the engineer of the Phoebe Snow as it roared by (at an outrageous 60 miles per hour) on the way to Chicago. I can still remember the whine of the cars as they went past, and the little wisp of steam as it exited a hose at the last one.

This is the view of Main Street, at "Stillers Junction," my train layout.
(Photo by Ray Bucko, S.J. -- Click to enlarge)

I have built a scale Lackawanna layout (“O” Gauge) in the basement, with a scale model of the very train my Granddad and I used to wave at. I can wave at it any time I like now. And there is nothing like putting your head down next to the track and having one of these models pass you up close.

The Phoebe Snow (MTH F9's w/Proto2) rolls into town, right on time.
This is the train my Grandfather and I used to wave at, when I was 8 years old.
(Photo by Ray Bucko, S.J. -- Click to enlarge)

Today, one would question the sanity of an old Irish ward-heeler who would take an eight-year-old down to a stretch of tracks where one of the last of the 1950’s streamliners would streak past less than ten feet away. But Pat was a man who understood the power of conspiracy. He’d fold my hand in his and say, “See the train down in the turn... Get ready to wave... It’s coming. And not a word of this to your mother now. She doesn’t like trains, nor strong drink, nor the smell of horses at the track.”

A stickler for realism, hookers ply their trade in the park opposite the station on my layout.
(Photo by Ray Bucko, S.J., who was laughing his ass off as he took the picture --  Click to enlarge)

I could think of fifty things I would have liked for my layout this Christmas, but not to point of telling people about them. I have exactly the right amount of trains to set my imagination free. Perhaps too free. I had it in my head to get a story published about my layout in a model train magazine known for emphasizing realism. On my tracks, there is a factory siding not far from a seedy little park opposite the station. I have hookers working the streets there. At least one is providing a valuable service in a parked car. The editors of the train magazine were not amused.

Here a local maestro conducts a flute solo. 
The editors of the train magazine were not amused. 
(Phoro by Ray Bucko, S.J. -- Click to enlarge)

Well the same was true for my other pursuits. I like books, but couldn’t think of one I wanted. Apple came out with a great new computer that I wanted... But I didn’t need it, and this one was far beyond the greatly reduced amount of money to which we were supposed to limit ourselves. In the end, I asked for some of that $20 stuff I saw in those silly commercials on television... The little electric shaver (that sucks)... The Sham Wow shop rags (that work)... And The Girls Gone Wild Sterno Beach Spring Break Video Collection (which I did not get)... Leslie did surprise me with a great book: A Historical Compilation of Color Schemes Used By The Erie Lackawanna Railroad. (This is the equivalent of train porn.) I spent all of Christmas morning reading aloud from it.

Yet her main gift to me was an envelope. I prepared myself to act surprised and overwhelmed with appreciation. (And for the record, I would have been thrilled with a naked picture of her from high school... Even more so if it had been taken by the girls’ field hockey coach.)

It was a completed order form for a new, heated, custom-built motorcycle seat from Russell Cycle Products. The Russell Day-Long Saddle is legendary among those who ride long-distance, especially if they have really fat, misshapen asses. My ass is so fat that it is defined by the shape containing it. When I step out of the shower, that shape is Chester County, Pa. New for this year, the saddle is now offered in a heated model, activated by a rocker switch on the seat’s shoulder.

I was flabbergasted. This was far in excess of the $75-$100 bucks we had agreed to spend. And it is something that I was so utterly delighted to get! I have a 1995 BMW with a low seat. It is an unusual configuration. I Like being able to flat-foot the bike at stop lights and corners, but the lower seat makes for a much tighter bend in the knee owing to the more pronounced peg height. This is hell on my arthritis. (And by the way, the far-forward peg position of the standard cruiser is much worse for my knees.)

The measurements of the Russell Day-Long saddle being built to fit me are impressive. While the basic design matches the shape of a traditional John Deere tractor seat, the scope is much larger. In fact, I suspect the finished product will look like the upholstered top of a Steinway Baby Grand piano. The Russell Day-Long saddle comes with “wings,” designed to support the extreme ends of the buttocks, which in my case, hang down into the spokes of the back wheel. Not only does this “droop-ass” increase resistance and fuel consumption, but it makes my exhaust system sound so much louder. It is my understanding that the wings for my saddle may say “Cessna” on them, but they are expected to be substantial enough to float my ass cheeks up around my shoulders.

This Baby Grand Piano will give the reader the size of the seat it will take to cradle my ass.
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia -- Click to enlarge)

I got so excited about this that I sold my existing saddle to a blacksmith. He’s now using it as an anvil over at his forge. The last I saw of it, he was shaping horseshoes against it with a sledge hammer. The only downside is that Russell Cycle Products are so busy that it will be the end of March before I get to sit on this thing. Riding partner Dick Bregstein said to me, “Suppose we get a couple of nice days in the meantime? How will you ride Fireballs without a saddle?”

“Dick, sitting on it feels exactly the same with or without the existing seat,” I replied.

Now I know that some you, primarily women, are undoubtedly wondering what I gave Stiffie for $75-$100 that would not leave me feeling a little sheepish. Well here’s the deal, I never do what she says anyway. I bought her Christmas gift long before we agreed to this stupid plan. She is interested in the works of Nina Bagley, an artist with a flair for making exquisite jewelry out of elements of nature. Leslie was bemoaning the fact that Nina did not accept commissioned work, and would certainly never agree to anything like a Christmas timeline.

“This is a job for the battered baby harp seal look***,” I said to myself. Or more correctly, the voice that goes with it as I’d be gambling on using the phone. It took me a few attempts to contact the artist by e-mail, and then I got her on the wire. I told her the “truth,” that I was dying and didn’t have long to go... That I wanted my girl to a have timeless memory of me... A memory that could only be expressed by a Nina Bagley necklace. I told her that cost was no object as I was selling my few good organs on e-Bay... That I had one huge organ that was generating some interest... And that I’d send her an autographed picture of it with advance payment if she’d see her way clear to accepting a commissioned piece and getting it to me by Christmas.

And that’s how I managed to be done with Stiffie’s (Lesslie’s) Christmas shopping by November 6, 2008, and why she continues to look at me like I am the god of romance.

*** The patented Battered Baby Harp Seal Look is what I use on women when I need them to do something for me, or when sexual attention is desperately needed and otherwise highly unlikely. Through years of practice, I can muster the same look most commonly found on the faces of baby harp seals, battered on the ice by ruthless canadian hunters. Women melt in the sight of this highly emotional expression.

Copyright© Jack Riepe 2009
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA The Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- Perditions Socks (With A Shrug)

Monday, January 12, 2009

Expanding My Riding and Editorial Horizon's For 2009

Some readers voiced criticism of this blog yesterday by breaking windows, overturning cars, and savagely beating homeless people on the street, who were mistakenly identified as my supporters when they were nothing more than former in-laws. This occurred mere feet and a thin pane of bomb-proof glass away from the desk where I was writing. Yet so strong was my conviction in the truth that I was compelled to compose even as my former mother-in-law — Kathleen Whats-Her-Name — was held face-down over a live steam grate outside. Her screams will haunt me forever... Not the ones I heard yesterday, but those she shrieked in the church as her daughter became my future former wife, 25 years ago.

Order was restored later in the evening under clouds of tear gas fired by SWAT teams from six communities.

According to a statement delivered to a local newspaper by a carload of ski-masked individuals, the riot was the desperate action of thousands of cruiser and scooter riders who believe my blog content is too BMW-centric. While I emphatically deny snorting wiener schnitzel speed balls first thing in the morning, I do admit that the Beemer marque gets more than its fair share of the ink here. There are two simple reasons for this: I own a BMW and I ride with a very active BMW club. Their leadership believes that every day I spend on the road, learning German phrases like, “Vas is losse“ (How’s it hanging?), is one less day I will not waste pursuing fast women, slow hangovers, and the kind of low entertainment that passes for historical fact in this blog.

The truth is that I became a BMW rider the same way that Davy Jones became the lead singer of the Monkees: I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. My hot squeeze was coming back from a spiritual retreat on the west coast, when she got stranded in Sturgis, South Dakota during the rally. “Sizzling Cheesecake” (not her real name) called me to say that she had never seen anything as cool and provocative as these women on cruisers and that we were getting motorcycles as soon as she got home. She also asked me to go online and check on some of the events that these women might be staging during the Sturgis rally. I readily found the “Chicken Choking Contest” and “Pickle Sucking Event.” It must have been hot in Sturgis as many women sought to cool off by having cold water poured on their tee shirts.

“Steaming Cheesecake” arrived home with a new Honda Aero Shadow, fully tricked out in the cruiser style. The implications of her actions were clear to me... I’d either get a bike and learn to ride, or get the hell out. Let the record show that I know a threat when I see one. Writers are required by law to support the alcohol, tobacco, and naked performance artist industries to an extent where very little cash remains for necessities like new motorcycles. While my squeeze could walk into a showroom and buy any new motorcycle she wanted on an American Express Card (which is what she did), I had to resort to a combination of Ponzi schemes, shell games, and petty theft to raise the required capital for a bike.

My girl's 2005 Honda Aero Shadow with seasonal luggage rack option
(Photo courtesy Leslie Marsh -- Click to enlarge)

In typical Riepe fashion, I conducted a bike-to-bike purchasing search with absolutely no research. My first choice was a cruiser. Yet the machines in the $3000 category had a decidedly used look about them. I broadened my search to include hundreds of bikes on lawns throughout the area, finding nothing that piqued my soul. These too had a noticeable forlorn, abandoned air about them.

The 1986 BMW K75 And the 2005 Honda Aero Shadow: opposite ends of the spectrum.
(Photo courtesy of Leslie Marsh -- Click to enlarge)

It was at this time that a couple of business associates of mine revealed themselves as “boys in the BMW bund.” I was shocked. They recommended a more Teutonic approach. I was told I’d be a dope if I let a particular machine -- called a K75 -- with an unusual fairing slip away. The motorcycle was 18-years-old and more than twice as much as I wanted to spend for a three-year-old bike. There is one word to sum up deals like this.

“Bullshit,” was my cleverly worded response.

I went through the motions of looking at the K75, prior to dismissing my friends. It was the most peculiar bike I had ever seen. With the classic lines of a bowling shoe, it had all the appeal of a barium enema. Sitting on it was like have having an iron wedge shoved up my ass, leaving me perched about 40 feet above the pavement.

“What a hunk of shit,” I said to myself.

The bike’s owner pulled a Luger on me. I was stunned. With the gun cocked, he made me drink a cup of red Kool Aid. My limbs became lifeless. I watched helplessly as he placed a huge pod, like a big seed, next to me. It was the last thing I saw before passing out.

Consciousness arrived to the strains of Wagner’s “Flight of the Valkyrie.” Somehow, I woke to find myself the owner of an ugly bike, that made a whining, fartish noise when the starter button was pushed. I don’t know why I bought it. I could barely sit on it. I was afraid to ride it out of the driveway.

My girl let me ride her Shadow often enough to enable me to make a comparison. In fact, I did my first two group rides on the Honda. The tires on her machine were much fatter that the Metzlers on mine, hence they didn’t dance over every imperfection in the road. Her custom Mustang seat kissed my ass like a politician running for office. Her bike started like one expects a Honda to start and it would get up to and hold 80 miles per hour -- eventually.

One of my favorite pictues, astride my girl's Honda Aero Shadow, a very nice bike.
(Photo courtesy of Dick Bregstein -- Click to enlarge)

The BMW K75 was top-heavy in the driveway. It was a pain in the ass to move around in the garage. The seat was designed by the North Korean secret police and would make you sign anything in two hours. It felt like I was attempting to get comfortable on a strange toilet. Furthermore, I had just read a book called “Motorcycling For Morons,” where it clearly stated that the BMW K75 was a poor choice for re-entry riders.

Steve Assan enroute to meeting me in North Carolina -- From Oregon
(Photo courtesy of Steve Assan -- Click to enlarge)

My girlfriend is one of life’s true saints. “Maybe you made a mistake,” she said. “No one else would be that stupid to pay what you did for it. Maybe you can sell it for less and still get something?”

It was then that Lee Kozanas, an old friend and BMW rider from the Adirondacks, arrived in my driveway on a BMW “R” bike. This was the machine built by the Germans but designed by the Incas.  He’d ridden 400 miles straight in less than 90 minutes and appeared in a mist of Valhalic mysticism. Kozanas was wearing black armored textiles, matching gloves, and a flip-up helmet. He looked seamless, except for the blue and white roundel on his left shoulder.

“Do you ride the BMW like the Honda,” asked Lee.

I nodded in the affirmative.

“Are you in 5th gear by 40 miles per hour?”

I nodded again with my eyes closed.

Are you changing gears at 1500 RPM?

All I could do was look at the floor in silence. This was a trick question. The Honda had no tach. In fact, you couldn’t get an aftermarket one for it either that year.

“Are you a pussy boy,” he asked, whispering in German. "Do you scream like a little girl when you ride the K75?"

I said nothing. He shamed me into getting on the Beemer and told me that I would do this bike justice once, or that he would watch while the bike mauled me like a tiger.

“Do not change the gears on this K75 until the tach needle is a tenth of an inch away from the red line,” said Lee.

I swung out onto a thorofare with Kozanas close behind me, and settled into a straight stretch. In second gear, I ran the bike up to 7 grand and snicked it into 3rd. An enraged snarl escaped from the soul of all Germania and the bike fired itself from a Krupp cannon. I snicked into fourth and fifth without the needle losing any distance against the tach. The engine noise became Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. I could feel a pulse in the grips, but no vibration. The K75 turned like it had power steering. It stopped like it had power brakes. And it lied to me like it loved me.

That was when I noticed one of life’s most amazing truths: the K75 is absolutely beautiful, from the soul out.

The Honda was one of the politest bikes I ever rode, but the Beemer handled like the kind of paragraphs I like to write. And that was that. Some man like brunettes, others like redheads. Some women like roofers. Others like middle-aged, pudding-faced writers. It is the same when it comes to bikes.  If this K75 had an ass, I’d have my hand on it every time I went out to the garage. 

That was two years before I joined the Mac-Pac (southeast Pennsylvania's premier chartered BMW club). That was two years before I even knew anyone who rode a BMW in this neighborhood. It was Steve Assan who challenged me to meet him on my first really long ride. He rode a cruiser. It was Wayne Whitlock who accompanied me on the first part of that ride. He and his wife Lucy rode a cruiser. Tony Luna was the first to turn up at my second group ride. He rode a cruiser. The first person who ever invited me on a group ride with his friends, Grandpa43 (Dave), also rode a cruiser. The ride captain who saved my reputation in the funniest (and oddest) story story I ever published for a BMW magazine, Chris Jaccarino, rode a Honda Goldwing, which is like the Hindenberg of cruisers.

Jack Riepe, Wayne Whitlock, and Tony Luna on the Second Annual Horse Pile Swerve Ride
(Photo courtest of Pete Buchheit -- Click to enlarge)

I don't care what anybody rides... But I don't want you folks thinking I'm blind to the chrome.

So I am resolved to get myself invited to ride with a cruiser group on a monthly basis if one will have me. (This is a hint for Grandpa43 to step up to the plate.) I'm open to suggestion. And I am determined to ride out to meet Steve Assan some place in the middle of the country this summer. This should give me a few good cruiser stories in 2009.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2009
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA The Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- Perditions Socks (With A Shrug)

“I’ll speak to this Humongous. He’s a reasonable fellow.” -- The Road Warrior

Thursday, January 8, 2009

What Goes Around Comes Around...

Gina Ziggliano was like no other woman I had ever come across before. She was the first woman I saw in leathers, outside of Diana Rigg (on BBC’s “The Avengers), and the first to wear a tattoo almost 30 years before it would become a fashion statement. She was the first woman I ever knew to have four piercings in one ear. She also had the distinction of being the first woman I ever saw riding her own motorcycle — a chopped Harley Panhead covered in chrome.

Diana Rigg In The Avengers

Gina was a big girl, but perfectly proportioned. I once ran across her dancing in the street with some guy at a neighborhood block party, down in the old Marian section of Jersey City, when that part of town was almost solid Italian. A curbside stereo on a card table was blasting “Light My Fire” by the Doors and Gina was pivoting her hips around some lucky guy who looked like an ink-stained human muscle. They moved through the yellow circles of brightness, cast from the old streetlights, barely touching in the most sensual kind of public foreplay.

“Holy shit,” I remember thinking. “What kind of man gets that,” I said aloud.

“The kind that would kick the shit out of you if he caught you looking at her ass exactly the way you are looking at it now,” replied my friend Bob Pearson. “And then she might kick the shit out of you for good measure too.”

The word on the street was that Gina was good in a fight and had a mean left hook. The story going around was that some guy put his hand on her ass and she broke his arm. In my mind, I was flat on my back and Gina was riding me like that Harley.

“You never know how things could turn out,” I said.

Pearson mocked me with the cold laugh of a Jersey City street fighter. “I know how’d you’d turn out in this one.”

There were two reasons to attend college as an English literature major in 1974. The first was to go far beyond the standard prep school English literature courses and focus on the evolution, intricacies, and wonder of the written word from its its initial zenith at the pen of William Shakespeare, to its pinnacle at the hands of Mark Twain, to its understated perfection by Falkner, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald in the ‘30s.

The second was to get laid.

Since I already had a fairly deep understanding of Shakespeare and knew the significance of the round table at the Algonquin Hotel, the later was my primary concern. “Concern” probably isn’t the most accurate way to describe what had become an obsession for me. All of my friends had gotten well-laid en-route to college, or so they said. I was something of a late bloomer. Actually, I was more of a petrified bloomer. My greatest fear was that I would die without ever dipping Cupid’s arrow into the vermillion bullseye. A copper bracelet on my wrist carried the engraved legend, “If this man appears to fall into a coma or a seizure, please call a reasonably attractive hooker, not older than 24, at once.

Diana Rigg as "Emma Peel" in the Avengers..."

Most of my friends carried a condom in their wallet. I used to carry wire cutters in my back pocket to get through the treble hooks of a woman’s brassiere.

Worse... I panicked the first time I did get the hooter-guards off. It was amazing. There was this twanging sound, like a wire spring letting go under tension. The next thing I knew, I was in a three-dimensional Playboy pictorial. I felt like Oppenheimer looking at the first nuclear reaction.

“Wutzamatta,” said the kind debutante. “Aintcha never seen tits before?” My hesitation may have given me up. She was sweet enough to try and put my hand on one, but it was the hand holding the wire cutters and I think it gave her a scare. Or perhaps the wire cutters were cold.

That girl, a blind date arranged by my pal Bob, exited the car, commenting, “Pearson was right... You are fucking strange.”

But college was a fascinating place and a target-rich environment. I got involved with the campus television station and started getting my line of shit out over the air. I used this medium to insert my presence -- as a kind of public service comedy announcement -- to four dormitories and the student commons. It was at a party in one of the student lounges that I finally heard the magic words, “Hey... You’re the guy on TV.”

I traced the soft, magic voice that uttered this statement to a set of pouty lips that curved in a smile when I replied, “Yesssssssssssssssssssss,” rather like steam leaking out of a pipe. “That would be me.”

There were two things about this woman that I liked instantly: she was intensely pretty, and pretty intensely drunk. It is this second characteristic that added a good deal of pizzazz to anything I said that night. She hung on my every word for about an hour, and then uttered the response that I normally associate with the ejection seat warm-up.

“Give me your number... I’ll call you.... I have to go break-up now with some asshole. He came to this party to bad-mouth me.” I couldn't imagine doing such a thing to such a delightful person.

She called the next night and told me to pick her up. Two dates later, we were parked in one of the more notorious make-out spots on the Palisades Interstate Parkway (overlooking a reflection of the moon on the Hudson River, 400 feet below).

“You won’t need these,” she said, dropping my wire cutters out the open car window. She showed me a new kind of bra, one that had one simple hook, in the front.

I made up for years of frozen adolescence in the next six months. She was unbelievable. Anything I wanted to do... Whenever I wanted to do it... In the car... On her mother’s lawn... In a darkened classroom in school... On the dorm roof... On the fire escape... On my desk in the TV studio... On the way to a restaurant at the beginning of a date....We were halfway through the Kama Sutra three weeks after the first kiss. It was incredible. I started having visions of the coroner finding my shriveled body on a park bench. After feeling for the non-existent pulse, he turns to a cop and says, “This guy has been fucked to death.”

And if that happened, I wanted it on my tombstone. 

All she wanted was to be with me. All my life, I wanted a girlfriend who just wanted me. This one did. Exclusively. She was in the cafeteria waiting for me every day -- breakfast and lunch. She’d hang around the TV station. She came to my fencing meets. She’d bring me presents. She wanted to meet my friends. She wanted to hang out with us. She’d talk about her friends, though I never really met them. I didn’t mind.

The great band Jethro Tull had a song called “Bungle in the Jungle.” There is a line in the lyrics that goes, “He who made kittens put snakes in the grass.” Truer words were never spoken.

The first hint of trouble came when I was slated to go on a “boy’s weekend.” She didn’t like it. She offered to come. I declined.

“Pearson would have a fit,” I explained.

“Are there gonna be women there,” she asked. “Are you going to some strip joint? Why can’t I come? It’s because your friends don’t like me, isn’t it?” And thus it began. After three hours of debate based on North Korean interrogation logic, I resolved the matter through advanced relationship-building skills known to all 18-year-old men.

“Will you shut the fuck up,” I earnestly reasoned.

That was when she hit me. She delivered a roundhouse punch to my ear. There was this instantaneous numbing concussion and a ringing that lasted a half-hour. I was stunned, literally. I caught the rage boiling up in me, and she melted like butter. So did her clothes. What followed was one of the steamiest sexual episodes of my life.

But this became the pattern. Whenever she got pissed over something, she’d come out swinging. Then to make up, I could have any kind of sexual activity I wanted. The trouble was she’d started getting pissed over everything. Rare was the week when I didn’t get belted for some minute infraction. Now it had occurred to me to end this. But my memories of the previous 17-year sexual drought were a lot stronger. I found myself thinking, “suppose I never get laid again?”

I started hiding things from her. I had to sneak off to be with my buddies. I didn’t dare look at another woman on campus, let alone speak to one. There were women on the campus television station... So she wanted me to quit. If we went to a party, I had to sit with her, talk to her, and only her. 

The day came when I had had enough. I told her to keep her clothes on, that I had just come by to pull the life-support plug on our battered brain-dead relationship. Her response, “You think you can just walk away from me like this? Fuck you! I’m on you like glue, muthafucker.”

She followed me everyplace. And when I thought I had ditched her, she’d be waiting at my next class or event. Now all of this was long before the term “stalker” was popular in the press. It never occurred to me that she could be dangerous enough to do something like kill me. (This was a threat that would only come from women I actually married.) She must have hit me in the face about 250 times. My dad was the first to see the bruises and wondered if I was fighting. "Are you in some kind of trouble," he once asked. Years later, he told me he'd thought I'd crossed a bookie.

How could I tell him, or any of my friends, the truth?

But a big change was coming. I got my first writing job. I stopped hanging around on campus. I was about to buy my first motorcycle: a reddish purple Kawasaki triple. That’s when my de facto ex girlfriend kicked my persecution up a notch. She started showing up at the bars I used to drink in, leaving a new and exciting story at each watering hole. The tales were amazing... She was pregnant... She had money she owed me... She had stuff of mine... She wanted to go away for a week... Her life was in danger... Each time she’d go into a gin mill, somebody there would raise the alarm and call the joint I was really in. If she had suspected a conspiracy this time, she’d have been right.

Some dope told her about my bike and she started staking out the biker bars. Now while the H2 Kawasaki Triple was the fastest production bike of its day, you couldn’t just pull up to a biker bar and walk in. You’d be killed. The “triple” sounded like a leaf blower on steroids. It didn't come in black. And real Harley riders of the time would be more than happy to spit on it and me.

One of these bars was a joint called, “The Severed Head.” Pearson asked me to meet him there one night, but to park my bike “down the block,” so the other guys wouldn’t think he and I were gay or something. I complied, and was threading my way through the Harleys parked in front of the saloon when I heard the voice that made my blood run cold.

“So this is where you’ve been hiding... I heard you got a new bike... Have you got a biker slut waiting for you inside this place too?”

I turned, resigned to a huge and humiliating scene. My ex-girlfriend came running up and took a swing at me. My left arm rose in reflex action. Regrettably, I was holding my helmet in my left hand, and she hit that. But I leaned back on my right hand, which I used to steady myself by placing it on a royal Harley.

“You son of a bitch,” she screamed. This was pillow talk at the “Severed Head,” but it was loud enough on the street to draw attention. “I’ll fix your ass. You think you’re hot shit with a new bike? Do you think having a bike makes you a man?” With that, she grabbed the sissy bar of the Harley I was leaning on, and threw it to the ground.

I couldn’t believe I was looking at a magnificent, chopped Harley-Davidson pan head, covered with chrome, on its side. And that’s when Gina Ziggliano came out of the bar to see my de facto ex girlfriend kicking her bike, and scoring a million new scratches on the chrome each time the machine rocked on the pavement.

Gina beat the shit out of her. 

I left as Gina fired punches like a machine gun. I had no desire to be implicated in this scenario and found some convenient shadows to skulk through until I reached the Kawasaki. I heard the sound of a blouse ripping before I’d gone 50 feet. Pearson caught up to me as I fired up the machine.

“A bike is down and Gina Ziggliano is beating the shit out of some woman,” said Pearson. “ I didn’t see you there, but I knew you had something to do with it.”

Now I have never raised my hands to a woman. And I would never stand by and let some other guy raise his hands to a woman either. But this situation was so incredibly different. 

"What do you think we should do," I asked Pearson.

"I think you start this rice burner and get us away from ground zero as fast as possible," Bob said.

The Kawasaki triple was brand new and turned over on half a kick. I never heard from my ex-girlfriend again.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2009
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Letters From Outside “The Comments Section”

Not all of the observations generated by this blog appeared in the appropriate “comments” section at the end. Some folks have not grasped the mechanism in place to post a comment. They send their remarks to one of my e-mail addresses, which is fine with me. Others feel their insight, recommendations, or demands are too pointed for general consumption, and they too direct their communications to my e-mail addresses. Finally, I am somewhat chagrined to admit I get a number of proposals from women, who insist that I respond to their off-blog letters in kind. But I see no reason why I shouldn’t share these with my readers (unless you recognize one of these writers as your wife or girlfriend and take it the wrong way).

Below is a random sample of some of the more interesting e-mail (relating to this blog) I have received in the past few months. I am including them here for your edification. It shows the power, scope, and growing appeal of Twisted Roads.

For those of you who are just tuning in after a prolonged Christmas/New Years Holiday absence, the previous story is significant as it is the accurate depiction of my riding club’s first event for 2009, which took place on January 1st. While reading it may seem like attending a reunion at someone else’s school, I guarantee you will still find a few gems in the text. And the one before that is special as it is the absolute truth about the first long-distance ride I ever took -- on a Kawasaki Triple. Technically, it qualifies me as an international rider.

And a word of warning regarding a story that will be posted in two or three days. It is an accurate account of a dark period in my life that I have never shared with my biking friends before. I regard it as moto content because of the ending. There is a strong possibility that the ending of this story may lower me in the estimation of my women readers (if that is possible), and in the opinion of some men. I sincerely hope not. But it happened and it has merit as a story. I am a wiser, older man now. But decisions made in youth can still be somewhat perplexing years later.

Letters From Outside “The Comments Section”

Hi Jack!
I'm here in Germany and reading your blog story about the first (Mac-Pac) ride in 09. It is cold and my bike is not registered in the winter and I don't have a car. The busses and trains are not so bad. I also made a resolution about next year’s January ride, I will not travel (abroad) but ride in PA.

My friend's here felt really sorry for your lack of a heated vest and where ready to pass the hat to purchase such a garment for the underprivileged American, until I informed them of the necessary size and power requirements.

Being Germans, the impromptu engineering started almost immediately. A trailer with a Diesel powered generator was found to be too small. A small nuclear generating plant was not GREEN enough. The last decision was to push forward with the PLASMA driven power plant design regardless of the cost. There was concern for the timing. I reassured them, that by the time you lost enough weight to make your knees work again, the Plasma technology would be well established.

You see Jack, even in Europe, people are knowing you, thinking about you and are concerned about your welfare.

Fondest regards,
Horst Oberst
Mac-Pac International Rider

Dear Jack:
Before I met you, people called me Mr. Bregstein. I commanded respect and admiration. Folks looked up to me as a role model. After 11 months of your blog, however, I am now known as Bundt Cake Bregstein, Bermuda Triangle Bregstein, and Leather Dick Bregstein. I am regarded as your sidekick, which is like being a sidecar on a garbage truck. I demand you change your image in 2009, or at least mine.

Dick Bregstein

P.S. I think your suggestion to move at least one of our twice-monthly lunches to a local Hooters is a good idea.

Dear Jack:
Thank you again for stopping on I-81 when my bike broke down. Who would have thought that a muffler bushing could have been responsible for killing my bike’s electrical system! It was a lucky thing for me you stopped and assessed the problem so quickly. More amazing is the fact that the Harley replacement part is a one-piece installation about four feet long. You were very kind to offer to go and get it for me, at your own expense. Naturally, it would be difficult for you to carry this back by yourself, and it made perfect sense that my girlfriend ride with you to assist in this.

But that was five days ago and I am still here by the side of the road. When do you think the dealer will get the part?

(Sent via Blackberry)
Smilin’ Stuart

PS: Please tell April that I found a halter top that looked just like hers on the shoulder of the road about two miles from where you picked her up. Isn’t that Amazing! Now she’ll have two!

You Fat Son of A Bitch:
I don’t care what your lawyer says, this kid looks like you and I want money. You left your bottle of male “birth control” pills on the night table... The bottle of red pills with the little letter “M” on each one. It turns out they are red “M&M” candies! And you made a great show of taking a handful before encouraging me to do that thing that is still illegal in 6 Tennessee counties. So what if I was drunk! It doesn’t change anything! I still say this kid is yours, and I want money.

Tired of living in this trailer with your deceit,

Dear Mr. Riepe:
Please be advised that the Jamaican Government already has the most stringent production standards in place for the distilling of rum and that your claim of finding chicken heads in a random purchase of six different brands is not deemed credible. Therefore, we do not see the need to create a “Rum Czar,” empowered to “taste any brand, at any time, anywhere,” in the interest of protecting the rum-drinking public. The same goes true for the other office for which you applied: The Ministry To Detect The Chemical Impact of Coconut Oil on Exposed Nipples.

While your concern for the economic development and growth of Jamaica is certainly appreciated, I believe we have these areas covered.

Percy Monseur
Office of Economic Development

Dear Sir:
The image and profile of the standard BMW rider is well-known on five continents. Regardless of location, BWM riders have established a reputation for their dexterity, mechanical ingenuity, and their lean, sophisticated appeal. Your blog revels in a different kind of rider, apparently. You frequently glory in pictures of a pork-bellied, slab fat-sided rider, whose primary destinations are strip joints, massage parlors, Turkish baths, and Turkish prisons. If you persist in perpetrating this level of fraud, we will have no other option but to demand you cover the roundels on your K75 with duct tape.

Now how about writing a nice ride report, where you meet a sensible woman, who is fully dressed (and sober), who is also working on a green project, and who does not regard you as the “sperminator” she has been waiting a lifetime for?

Would that be so bad?

Ethel Millsnake
The Society To Preserve Pure Motorcycle Marque Perception

Dear Jack,
I would like to retract my last statement. I believe I may have used the term 'fluffer' inapproprately.

Mike Cantwell
Fucking Cold
Upstate New York

Free Quote of the Month:
“I’ll speak to this Humongous. He’s a reasonable man.”
-- From the Road Warrior

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2009
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The First Ride Of The New Year: 19º Temperatures, Immersion in Freezing Cold Water, A Gathering of Unicorns, & A Visit From Motorcycle Royalty

The first day of the new year is also the first gathering of the Mac-Pac, as riders from throughout southeast Pennsylvania and Delaware converge on Michael’s Diner, at the junction of PA Rt. 422 and PA Rt. 662 for lunch. Testosterone is seldom an issue with this group, as a high percentage of members have endured cross-country runs, international rides (real ones), Iron Butt events, and even transcontinental epics spanning five continents. At least one member (a mechanic) races professionally and many pursue adventure off-road. No one has anything to prove and challenges are self-inflicted.

Yet there is a perverse satisfaction for those who ride to this event and other meetings when conditions are less than ideal. On January 1, 2009, the mercury was stalled at 19 degrees (Fahrenheit) at 11am. The sky was crystal clear and piercingly blue. It had been damp a couple of days before and I raised the garage door to check for ice in the driveway. It didn’t really make any difference though. My right knee was swollen to twice its size (arthritis) and my left hip was working like sand had been poured into the joint. I would not be riding today.

“This fucking arthritis,” I muttered under my breath, as I limped across the garage. A limp in one leg can be a babe magnet, as per Dr. Gregory House. But a limp in two legs spoils the effect. I move with all the grace of a wounded bison. At 19 degrees, this would have been the coldest riding day of my career. But I might have been inclined to try it as there was not a lot of ice, nor salt and gravel on the ground. I have ridden four hours at a clip when the temperature was 25 degrees and did not find it terribly uncomfortable dressed in layers and wearing Lee Parks gloves. But this sudden drop in temperature (It had been 46 degrees two days before.) was playing itself out in my joints, and riding would not have been fun.

There is nothing as inspirational as a herd of "German Unicorns" parked in 
a line outside a diner or a strip joint on one of the coldest days of the year.
I was mortified that mine was not among them. Only one person called me a
"pussy" and spit in my coffee for not riding in. She was one of the five women in 
attendance. About two-dozen Mac-Pac members rode in on their bikes.
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge)

I do not yet have electric gear owing to my vast size. A company out west offered to make some for me, using the outfield tarp from Yankee stadium as a pattern. The main obstacle would be in wiring this textile acreage for heat. One of their engineers thought electric gear for me would require the same number of mega-watts that it would take to heat a small New England village -- for a year. There is some question as to the capacity of the 50-amp alternator on my 1995 BMW K75 to meet this demand.

Jim Robinson and John Clauss  just before riding off into the cold.
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge.)

I blew off a winter event once before as I didn’t want to be the only guy showing up in a truck. A senior member of the club, Todd Byrum, told me they’d rather have the guys come in a cage as opposed to giving the event the pass. This consideration was expressed by others who always seemed to sit at my table. It was later that I learned that the last one to flee the table at the meal’s end got stuck with the check. This rule provides a distinct economic advantage to those who embrace the fact that I am fat, virtually crippled, and move like I am wading through hip-deep cement.

The rear tire on Jim Robinson's bike reflects thousands of miles traveled last year.
A regular road rebel, the phrase "Meet me on the barricade," has added new 
meaning to Jim's ride philosophy.
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge)

Not wanting to show me up, Dick Bregstein (my riding partner of the past three years), consented to ride in with me. We were among the last to arrive and counted more than two dozen bikes in the lot. The diner was doing a brisk business for New Year’s Day and our group raised the noise to Mardi Gras levels. One woman asked if we could hold it down, and our table nodded politely, while indicating we couldn’t hear what she said because it was so noisy.

Todd Byrum (left) and Gerry Cavanaugh garnered the favored parking spot.
Byrum later stated that this was for "Proper BMWs -- 'R' bikes with the historically 
accurate air and oil cooling systems. Byrum had nothing but praise for his machine's
arcane charging system, while Cavanaugh made the Sign of the Cross and rubbed a
rabbit's foot before restarting his GS in the frigid temperature.
Both bikes started flawlessly -- as expected.
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge) 

This event always draws the creme de la cocoa of the Mac-Pac and the usual suspects were in attendance. Gerry Cavanaugh, Todd Byrum, Jim Ellenbergh, Jim Robinson, Brian Curry, Rich Cavaliere, Charles Somerdyke, Billy Zane, Jack and Marge Busch, Eric DucDude, Jim Sterling, Rich Newman, Bruce and Annie Heilman, John Clauss, and Roddy Irwin were just a few of the folks I got to chat with. At least four “R” bike riders complained of slow or hesitant starts in the cold. Three admitted that their bikes had not been on battery tenders for any serious recharge time. No “K” bike riders experienced starting problems and shrugged off the complaints of the others as nonsense associated with arcane charging systems.

Todd Byrum's vintage "R75" is simply beautiful with classic BMW Lines
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to Enlarge)

Todd Byrum was the only rider in attendance with a truly vintage machine, the “R” bike Jefferson rode to his inaugural address. He pointed out that the corner he and Gerry Cavanaugh parked in was a true representation of the BMW lifestyle, as it held a historic airhead and a powerful oilhead GS. Jim Robinson agreed, but only to the extent that the average age of the riders parked there defied carbon dating.

The distinctive profile of Gerry Cavanaugh's GS. The traditional left foot 
warmer is clearly evident above the side stand. 
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge)

Motorcycle royalty occasionally turns up at these things, and renown racer and record-setter Chris Carr sat at my table. Carr is a seven-time AMA Ford Quality Checked Flat Track Champion and has elevated the land-speed record for two wheels on the salt at Bonneville. In the last year that he held this title, he hit an incredible 354 miles per hour in the Dennis Manning-designed BUB streamliner. His average speed for several runs was 350.8 miles per hour. (As I pointed out to him, this is only slightly faster than I exited my second marriage.)

Chris Carr and his Harley-Davidson of Sacramento XR750
(Photo courtesy of Chris Carr -- Click to enlarge)

In his second national win of last year, Carr won the Indy Mile at Indiana Fairgrounds in September, 2008. Interestingly enough, he won this same race the last time it was held at this location in 1999.

Carr is modest to the point of virtue when it comes to discussing his track triumphs. During lunch, he leaned over and asked me a question. He asked, “What are the odds of you passing me the salt anytime soon?” I thought he said, “What are the odds of you passing me on the salt anytime soon.”

“Name the day, Pal,” was my response. “Just name the day.”

Conversations with Chris Carr left me fascinated with the speed trials on the salt flats at Bonneville. It would be great to ride out to Utah next summer and watch the event from a Kermit chair on the salt. Carr advised me to bring portable shade and told me there could be concern for my welfare as the heat hovers around 100 degrees in August, or better. I was flattered that he’d mention this but as it turns out the “concern” was that I might leave grease spots everywhere I sat down.

Roddy Irwin (left) tries to sell Rich Cavalieri a pair of motorcycle gloves made of
hollowed out Platypus hides. Irwin contends that leather from Australia is best
and has the highest insulating qualities.
(Photo courtest of the author -- Click to enlarge)

Lunch was about over and the riders were roaring (as much as BMW’s can roar) off into the cold. It was at this point that Doug Raymond, holder of the Mac-Pac speed record for riding to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska (via the Haul Road on the Arctic Circle) from Philly and back (in 14 days) arrived. (I shit you not.) He had been delayed getting to lunch by going for a swim in a local quarry, as part of a Polar Bear event. (I shit you not again.)

Roddy Irwin demonstrates his "Platypus" hide riding gloves and hand puppets.
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge)

“It was really fun this morning,” declared Raymond, who described the pleasures of toweling off in 19-degree weather, before riding his bike to the diner. He then ordered a large pot of coffee and put his hands in it.

Bruce Heilman revs up a stately BMW LT. "K" bike riders did not give
a second's thought to cold weather starts. All started within 3 seconds.
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge)

You know how you can tell you’re having a good time? When you can feel the disappointment of knowing it’s about to end. Dick Bregstein and Brian Curry joined me in having coffee with Doug Raymond -- for another hour and a half -- after lunch was over. Raymond had just rebuilt the engine of his “R” bike and filled us in on its performance and things he might have done differently.

Rich Newman pulls away on a snazzy Triumph "loaner."
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge)

Doug is one of those McGyver characters who can fashion precision machine parts from discarded junk. On the Prudhoe Bay run, he used a soda can, a sardine can, and a bungee cord to serve as a throttle body assembly for about 1400 miles. He got this jury rig in place just in time to escape the pursuit of a wolf. (Once again, I shit you not.) The exploits of Raymond’s epic ride were well documented in a past issue of the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America “ON” magazine. In fact, it was one of the largest and most exciting ride reports I have ever read.

Mac-Pac list lurker Dave Schneider suits up for the cool ride home. 
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge)

Raymond told me he is working on a special device for me -- a liposuction unit that will attach to my ass and convert fat into a biofuel that my bike can burn as I ride. He calculated I could easily ride without charge for 50,000 miles per year. “Not only could you ride that distance for free for ten or twelve years,” he said, “But you could lose weight without exercise on every trip.” I thanked him profusely for thinking of me.

Doug Raymond (left) and Brian Curry prepare to shove off. Doug holds the Mac-Pac 
record for riding to the Arctic Circle (in Alaska)  and back (14 days), 
while Brian Curry is recognized as a BMW K75 guru and the 
moderator/administrator/terminator of the Mac-Pac list.
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge)

I watched Raymond and Curry saddle up and ride off. A grim reality had exposed itself to me that morning. If I was going to make and keep a single resolution for 2009, it would be to lose this tonnage and ride to this event next year on “Fire Balls,” one way or the other.

Doug Raymond in his natural habitat. Dick Bregstein and I are in the Suburban.
While I was taking the picture, Bregstein was trying to remove my wallet, not realizing 
it is secured to my belt by a chain. As my riding partner, Bregstein has been pulling
my chain for three years.
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge)


I am going to have to carry a notebook with me to write down important details, like the proper spelling of peoples’ names, as I have reached a point where my head is like an old screen door. I can’t remember a damn thing anymore. (For example, I can’t remember that I borrowed $20 from Dick Bregstein last week, and his chances of getting it back are now slim.)

"Nick" came running up to me with the traditional Mac-Pac salute: a smile and a handshake.
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge)

During the summer, an emergency luncheon was convened at the Himalayan Exotic Indian Restaurant, in Frazer, Pennsylvania. I forget what the emergency was, though I suspect we were gathering to give Mac-Pac member Rogers George a hard time about his blog. The nature of these lunches are such that either just two people show, or ten to fifteen walk in the door. On this occasion, It was just J. Ellenberg, Breg Dickstein, and myself, when two strangers arrived and announced they were the Reading, Pa contingent.

"Nick" and his buddy Ed or Ferguson, or something like that. I'd like to recognized 
these guys correctly. Nick -- if you read this, drop me a line. 
Likewise for anybody who knows these gents.
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge)

They’d read about the lunch and decided to ride about 60 miles to see what it was all about. The boys and I were amazed that anyone would ride that distance for the kind of nonsense we were engaging in. They told me their names, which to my shame, I promptly forgot.

Well low and behold, they showed up at the Mac-Pac New Year’s Day Luncheon with big grins. The chummier of the two came running up to me, hand extended with a big smile on his face, to wish me a Happy New Year. His name is Nick. I still can’t remember his buddy’s name, which might have been Ed or Ferguson. Their pictures are included in this sidebar. If anyone knows who these guys are, drop me a line. They are worthy of better mention than this.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2009
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)