The plan was to get up at the crack of dawn, limp into the garage, and build some kind of step that would enable me to get my leg over the “fat man wings” of my new custom Russell Day-Long Saddle. (Please read about my seat difficulties in the previous post. I needed immediate help with my new custom saddle. ) Though several of my friends had either offered to build some sort of step for me, or had actually built me one, I wouldn’t learn about their efforts until after the fact. The BMW K75 is a tall drink of water, as are most of the German models, to accommodate a 46º angle of lean. This fact looks impressive, but the only thing I have leaned that far out of perpendicular is a barstool. Mounting the K75, even a low seat model like mine, can be a challenge if you are ponderously fat or short.
I am not short.
I awakened at 5:45am, not in anticipation of the alarm nor due to the excitement of the ride, but in response to the throbbing arthritis pain in my left hip. I have been spared this anguish for the better part of the last four months owing to injections I’ve received directly into my joints. But the orthopedic specialist advised me that relief might only be temporary, with four months being the best case scenario. Another option alleged to provide a year of relief is a suppository used to treat elephants with joint problems; but it is the size of a softball, and the pitcher would have to have some arm and aim in my case.
A yoga instructor (my daughter, who is also a professional writer) recently taught me some mental exercises to jump-start my joints in the morning. While the room is still dim, I close my eyes, focus my internal strength on my afflicted joints, and chant, “I hate this fucking arthritis and the forty generations of Irish inbreeding that have cursed me with it.” This little ritual doesn’t really alleviate the pain, but it provides me with the drive to get up and take a piss. Then I can generally navigate the stairs, albeit like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz.
My Daughter Katherine (accomplished yoga teacher and professional writer)
taught me a few mental exercises to put my pain in perspective.
(Photo by some PR Photographer -- Click to enlarge)
There is nothing like the high voltage jolt of great coffee in the morning, and I have a nuclear coffee maker that produces heady, magma-like expresso with enough caffeine to reanimate a corpse. I can usually get my boots on after four or five cups. On this day, cup three had barely hit my veins when the doorbell rang... It was Gerry Cavanaugh and Horst Oberst -- two of the more legendary members of the Mac-Pac, the chartered BMW club I ride with. Gerry simply stood in the doorway, and silently held up a straight K75 low riding seat.
At that moment, the sun broke through the clouds behind him.
Moses created the same effect when he held up the ten commandments on the mountain. While the straight seat would be purgatory to ride, it would also enable me to mount and dismount without building a collapsable flight of stairs. I fell to my knees and offered Gerry and Horst breakfast. My idea was to open a box of donuts, pour a couple of cups of coffee, and send the boys out the door. This would be a cheap trade for the use of the seat.
“We want pancakes,” said Gerry.
“Made from scratch,” said Horst. “Not the typical shit that comes from a mix out of box.”
I stood up straight and turned around to face them. (They reminded me of the “Knights Who Say ‘Nee”” in Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail.) “Gentlemen,” I replied, “You are in for a treat.”
Into a large bowl went one egg, a cup of flour, a cup of sour cream, a cup of buttermilk, a teaspoonful of baking powder, and a teaspoonful of baking soda. (The gentle reader is undoubtedly amazed that I have buttermilk at my house. I always keep some on hand, for my inlaws’ coffee. They never ask for a second cup.) Gerry watched my technique while Horst never took his eyes off a stopwatch. The batter needs to sit for 20 minutes at room temperature to let the ingredients do their stuff. Cooked three at a time in a frying pan liberally coated with butter, the pancakes inflated to three times their expected size and floated onto Gerry’s plate. Horst pulled a Luger from his pocket and shot his down before they could gain real altitude.
I revealed the details of the afternoon’s ride while the boys ate. Long-time pal Mike Cantwell was coming down from Lake Placid, NY to West Chester, Pa (about 400 miles) for some local riding, and for his induction into the Mac-Pac. (This is a touching ceremony involving tar, rope, and a goat.) He planned to take the slab most of the way (a lot of which is scenic), meeting me at the last rest area in New Jersey, on I-78. By coincidence, Mack Harrell, and his wife Karen, were riding in from the same direction and they also agreed to meet at the same rest area.
I had envisioned a fast run up Rt. 100 (which can be rather pretty just before MacCungie, Pa) to I-78, then a mad dash to New Jersey (tickling the red line), for a heartwarming reunion of bikers, and an equally fast run back via the same route. Gerry and Horst looked skeptical. For one thing, these guys like the back, twisty roads and the combination of Rt. 100 and I-78 sounded like a real bullshit maneuver, put together by a guy who wanted to minimize the time on the bike. But I wouldn’t be riding alone as Dick Bregstein had agreed to come with me and we determined Schmaltz’s Harley Davidson in Eagle, Pa as the rally point. I concluded this presentation by telling the two pancake cannibals that we were leaving around noon and that they should come.
Gerry and Horst are not big on group rides and they politely declined as they exited whispering among themselves.
Meanwhile, my cellphone had been beeping throughout the morning, receiving text messages from Mike Cantwell, describing the delays he was facing. He needed a new front tire and planned to leave for the shop, about 80 miles distant (but in the general direction of his trip) at 6:30am. I got a message from him saying that he was underway by 7:15am, and then again when he had arrived at the shop by 8:20am, only to learn it didn’t open until 9. This was no problem as I had built some delay time into his schedule. By 11am, it appeared that he was running a good hour and 15 minutes behind. I called Bregstein and Mack Harrell, telling both to adjust their departure times. Unknown to me, Gerry and Horst had decided to make the ride. They would have a 90-minute wait at the Harley dealership. Both would be suffering from chrome blindness by the time I got there.
Mike Cantwell's beautiful blue BMW K75, which he has named "Bloater,"
pausing for a break on the southern end of the New York State Thruway.
Cantwell has just liberated that tank bag from my garage.
(Photo by Mike Cantwell -- Click to enlarge)
It is always a moment of truth for me, swinging my leg over the saddle at the beginning of the riding season. Quite frankly, I have second thoughts about getting on this bike for the first few rides of every season. I had just entered the garage when the loud buzz of an enraged lawn appliance filled the air, as David Hardgrove pulled up on a Kawasaki Sherpa. This is a 250cc dual purpose electric shaver that is excellent for annoying the neighbors on a Sunday morning. Hardgrove was carrying a folding stool to see if it would fit in my top case. (It didn’t.)
Hardgrove accompanied me to the Harley dealership on his high-powered roller skate. David actually owns an 883 Sportster, which he won from a woman he beat in a fist fight, but he was riding the Sherpa to show how “green” he was. Traffic on Route 100 was fucking horrible, and construction around the Harley dealership reduced their driveway to gravel. “Swell,” I thought. “Getting out of here will be a cinch with these gimpy legs, piles of loose rock, and this damn traffic.”
From Left -- Gerry Cavanaugh, David Hardgrove, Horst Oberst, and Dick Bregstein gather together in at Schmaltz's Harley Davidson dealership in Eagle, Pa., and give me a traditional Mac-Pac welcome. Gerry and Horst showed up as a surprise. The surprise for them was the ride's start was pushed back 90 minutes.
(Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)
Horst and Gerry had plenty of time to tour the facility, and watched a man part with his soul in exchange for 800 pounds of sexy chrome, sound effects, and studded leather. Yet they became chummy with a guy who works in the shop -- who rides a BMW GS.
The faded charms of Route 100 will mean nothing to my readers from the Mac-Pac. Yet to those of you not familiar to this road, be advised it has stretches that run through the edges of farm country, dotted with little produce stands in season; gentle two-lane twisties in some places, complete with deer ambush spots; and fairways where you can go like hell, if you can duck the police.
The parts that were under construction, backing traffic up for three miles, were just annoying. To make matters worse, it was “Senior Citizens Over 90 Drive Yourself to the Cemetery Day” in Pennsylvania, and most of the participants were in front of us. I aggressively downshifted to avoid meeting one, which caused my bike to make a muffled explosion. Forty cars pulled onto the shoulder with their drivers clutching their respective chests.
The author gassing up the mighty "Fire Balls." Note the message on the gas pump just above the
author's helmet. It seems more than appropriate considering the seat troubles I've been having.
This picture was taken by Mike Cantwell who saw the advertisement onthe gas pump and decided
to strike while the iron was hot. He is a first-class bastard.
(Photo by Mike Cantwell -- Click to enlarge)
The best part about riding with the BMW crowd is that they know all the short cuts. The bad part about riding with these guys is that you will not know what happened to them if you get slightly separated. This was the case at a light where I opted to go like hell when it turned ‘yellow.” Quite frankly, I just didn’t feel like putting my gimpy leg down if I didn’t have to. Slowing to a casual 30 mph, I rode along waiting for them to catch up. They still hadn’t when I pulled into a gas station to tank up, about 5 miles later.
I took advantage of this opportunity to strike up a conversation with a cute little number on a Suzuki, who allowed me to buy her Coke in the shade of the gas pumps. She was explaining how her back hurt from holding up her large but perfect breasts against the breeze. Wha could I do but make highly sympathetic remarks? I was on the verge of offering to give her a break by holding them up for an hour or so when my cell phone rang. I hit the speaker button and Gerry Cavanaugh politely inquired, “Where the fuck are you? We’re on I-78 waiting for your fat ass one more time.”
I explained to the woman, whose name was Montana “Smidgin” Peeler, that I was escorting some Alzheimer’s patients to a church picnic, and that they had gotten loose. I later deduced that they went right on Rt. 29 where I went left on Rt. 100, as they knew it would save them 50 yards in the long run.
Fifteen minutes later, I careened out onto I-78 and started running the needle up toward the red line. My speed scored 95 at a couple of points, but I soon found myself playing slab pinball with unbelievably dense truck traffic. Three miles from New Jersey, I still hadn’t caught up with the unholy trio, and then noticed three single headlights closing the gap behind me. We crossed the Delaware River in the famous “middle finger formation,” and an additional 16 miles of hellish travel brought us to the rest area where Mack Harrell, his wife Karen, and Mike Cantwell were waiting. It was a rest area the same way an unattended port-a-potty at the county fair is a “rest room.” The place was a shithouse.
The Highly Emotional Meeting On I-78 -- From Left: Dick Bregstein, the author on Fire Balls,
Gerry Cavanaugh, Mack Harrel, Karen Kennedy, and Horst Oberst
(Photo by Mike Cantwell, who got everyone's back -- Click to enlarge)
The ride back was uneventful, but hot, and punctuated with a dozen traffic jams. We assembled one last time, to give our famous victory yell. I thanked the guys for a fun afternoon, apologized for the traffic and said, “Things will be a lot better tomorrow, when we take our leisurely drive down the Delaware shore, and have lunch looking out over Delaware bay, sipping nice drinks in the cool breeze.”
It was then I noticed that a dark cloud was hovering over Mack Harrell, and that his bike was being trailed by millions of vampire bats. I failed to grasp the significance of this at the time.
Vampire Bat -- Clouds of which generally signify someone is going to drop their motorcycle.
(Bats courtesy of Mack Harrell and Wikipedia -- Click to enlarge.)
Back at the garage, I got off the bike and dragged myself into the house for a rum and Coke as big as my ass. My first ride of the season was 184 miles. Standing in the shower, I noticed my ass had been pressure cast into the shape of a straight BMW saddle.
Next Blog: One Of Our Fellowship Kisses The Pavement -- No Fatalities (Thank God)
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2009
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chaberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)