Thursday, April 30, 2009

The First Real Ride of The Season -- April 17, 2009

Friday, April 17, 2009

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)

Friday, April 24, 2009

Desire and Disillusionment... Part One

She was sitting in the student union office of my high school, a representative of a local girl’s academy working on a cooperative project. Her hair was a waterfall of burnt sienna, in contrast to a flawless complexion. She had brown eyes that looked through the souls of shallow men, and the kind of mouth I wanted to bend into a smile, before exploring it with my own. The year was 1971 and though she was my age, she was way out of my league. There were cosmic forces at work here, but I was a truly vapid adolescent at the time, and had no idea that leagues hold no meaning for uber men -- nor future writers. I would carry a torch for this woman for 17 long years... Before taking her to Europe on a two-week trip, following my first divorce.

It was there I would learn one of life’s most important lessons: that all the desire in the world does not automatically make a good fit.

My brains may be in my dick, but 98 percent of my body’s nerve endings are in my ass. While burning romance is the fire that warms my soul, a nice cushy seat on my motorcycle has been my fantasy for years. You can imagine my dismay when the most recent object of my passion -- a coveted custom seat from Russell Cycle Products -- was rejected by my ass the way donor organs from investment bankers are shunned by humans.

I was scheduled to meet my long-time riding partner and sidekick Dick Bregstein at the Himalayan Exotic Indian Restaurant last Wednesday, April 15th, for lunch. It was to be my first ride of the season -- a whopping roundtrip of 12 miles. My bike was ready for a brawl. Completely tuned up last January, the final touches (powder-coated crash bars and a matching muffler) had been installed the night before by riding buddy and fellow Mac-Pac member Clyde Jacobs. “Molly,” one of the stars on my pit crew, had spend the afternoon wiping the grime and grit from last year off “Fire Balls.” A coat of polish had restored the bike’s deep red luster. It looked like the official motorcycle of the Vatican’s College of Cardinals.

Mac-Pac member and my riding sidekick Dick Bregstein, at the 
Himalayan Exotic Indian Restaurant on the day of my fateful ride.
(Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

My helmet, jacket, and boots were ready two hours before I needed to leave for the 10-minute ride. Yet I cannot deny that I had butterflies in my stomach... Butterflies that felt more like aggravated bees trapped in a jar. I was experiencing the absolute worst case of performance anxiety.

You see, my last few rides of 2008 were pure misery. The arthritis in my hip made it impossible to just put my left foot on the peg. I had to gradually ease it up, then jolt it back by shifting my whole body. This would send a lightening bolt of pain up my spine. The right foot was a little easier, but not by much. I needed to stretch that leg carefully, so I could take the foot on and off the peg at will. It sometimes took 300 yards of straight road before I could get the right foot up to the peg. At the close of last year, it was taking me 20 minutes or longer to mount the bike. Other men would have given up this lifestyle by then. They can kiss my ass.

Though I am walking better now, and am somewhat thinner, there was no guarantee I wouldn’t have a repeat performance. The anticipation of a reoccurrence of last year’s pain had soaked my shirt with sweat before I’d even got out to the garage.

I was expecting miracles from that custom seat, the same way I had expected pure heaven from that lady I’d met in high school. But the sad truth is that I seldom get whatever it is I am expecting. And if there is a wedge involved, you can bet I will draw its thin edge.

I had some slight trouble mounting the Russell seat. It took me two tries to get my leg over it. (This was still a major improvement, as it used to take me 6 or 7 tries before I could get my leg over the standard saddle.) While the Russell Day-Long seat was just about as high as the Sargent seat it replaced, it was much wider. Because of the triangular nature of this seat and its western-horse saddle style, there are definitive cut-outs for the rider’s thighs. Now it should be clear that the folks at Russell plainly state that it it could be necessary for the rider to slide forward when coming to a stop, to assure a good stance in holding up the bike. This doesn’t bother me a whit. I often slid forward on the other seat when I expect to come to a full stop, or when traffic got thick and it seemed I’d be giving the shifter a workout. And in most cases, I only put my right foot down when I come to a full stop, so a slight tilt to the right is fine with me too.

But I have thighs like two slabs of uncured bacon and the positioning is somewhat restrictive for me when flat-footing the motorcycle. The cut of the custom seat is such that I can only get my legs down at point where they are at the outer ends of the pegs -- as opposed to behind them. This puts an additional strain on my already weak right knee. It’s a touchy point as I can generally only use my right one to balance the bike.

It took me 20 minutes to find all this out, and I was now late for lunch. Moving the bike in the driveway felt damned odd. I yelled for Stiffie (Leslie), my significant other, to come out and keep an eye on my take off. I felt there was a distinct possibility that I could drop the bike as I duck-walked it to the top of the sloping driveway. By this point, the sun was beating down on my black helmet and matching Joe Rocket ballistic jacket, and despite the cool morning temperature (slightly over 50º), the sweat was running down my face in channels.

There was a slight temptation to return to the garage and get the truck. I thought of the two busy intersections I would hit within seconds of leaving the driveway, and the necessity of having to get my right leg up and down quickly.

“Fuck the garage and fuck the truck,” I said out loud, nodding to the next door neighbor, who was filling her birdfeeders, hung in such a manner so the excess seeds fell onto our lawn, spawning all nature of weeds. She regards me as the epitome of white trash and I do the best I can to live up to her expectations. (Please read the blog episode where I attempted to piss on her cat.)

And then the most amazing thing happened.

My left leg rose to the peg, got hung up for a second, and found it without difficulty. The slightly different height and positioning of the Russell Day-Long seat made this possible. I did not experience the jolt of pain. I smiled at the old bitch next door, pulled in the clutch, snicked the bike into gear, and let her rip. My right leg came up to the peg without a problem and I was actually in second gear by the time I hit the street, about 75 feet later. That hasn’t happened in the last two years. (Score 50 points for the Russell Day-Long saddle.)

There was no traffic at the first intersection, and I did a pause and go. This scenario repeated itself at the next corner as well. I did get stuck at two other lights and getting my right leg up and down was less of a problem than anticipated. But it was still very awkward. In fact, this would be a first class pain in the ass if I got stuck in stop and go traffic, which happens all the time.

I hit the highway and let the ponies run. “Fire Balls” got up to 95 mph in no time flat and ran like a champ. The gauges showed no problems and the new voltmeter was giving me lots of little colored lights to match the output of the charging system. The new seat felt very odd -- but not uncomfortable. It was not a big cushy catcher’s mitt like I anticipated, but a firm support across my ass. My knees were still not without discomfort, however. But it cannot be denied there is a distinct benefit to getting my feet up to the pegs.

I rolled up to the restaurant a good half hour late. This place is a madhouse on Fridays, but it looked half empty today. Then came the surprise.

I couldn’t dismount.

With the bike on the side stand, there was no way I could get my right leg past the fat man wing on the right side of the seat. For what seemed a lifetime, I was trapped half on and half off the motorcycle. All I could think of was my vast weight, added to the 560 pounds of the motorcycle, being held up by the side stand, which is attached to the bike via a mechanical linkage. (The side stand on the legendary BMW K75 automatically retracts when you pull in the clutch.) I expected to hear a metallic snap, prior to having the bike fall over underneath me.

"Sam" -- The owner and manager of the Himalayan Exotic Indian Restaurant, Frazer, Pa.
(Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

The sweat covered my face, my neck, and my hands as I struggled to remount the bike. Once on again, I rested for a few seconds and tried to dismount one more time with the same result. The sweat had now pooled under the bike and ducks were swimming in it.
I considered kicking a mallard with attitude but didn’t want to fall off the bike. Dick was less than 75 feet away, in the restaurant, but my cell phone was locked in my top case -- behind me.

So I blew the horn. I blew it 25 times.

One of the extremely polite Indian waiters came out and waved to me. “Hello, Mr. Jack,” he said. “Are you okay?” I nodded and he disappeared inside before I could tell him to get Dick for me.

So I blew the horn another 25 times, until Dick stuck his head out of the door and asked, “Why don’t you just come in?”

“Because I can’t get off this fucking motorcycle,” I said, with some emotion.

“What,” asked Dick.

“The new seat is like Chinese handcuffs,” I explained at volume. “The more I struggle to get off, the more trapped I am on this fucking motorcycle.”

Several ladies who were having a conversation close by took note of the fact that I had a “fucking motorcycle” and moved off, fearing they would be asked to participate in demonstration, or so I suspect. Once Dick was aware of the problem, he rose to the occasion and came close to wetting his pants with laughter. He stuck his head back inside the restaurant, and said something I couldn’t hear. In a instant, an army of Indian waiters came streaming out to lift me off the bike.

The main dining room of the Himalayan Exotic Indian Restaurant, Frazer, Pa.
(Photo courtesy of the author -- Click to enlarge)

The scene defied description. I felt like a Maharaja, about to be lifted from the howdah of an elephant’s back. Though in this case, it was the elephant being lifted. I declined this degree of assistance and made a mental note to kill Dick at my earliest convenience. I ended up restarting the bike and using the engine to maneuver the rig close to a concrete stop in the parking lot. I then used this as a step to elevate myself, and pull my leg over the seat.

A "Howdah" is the little house on top of the elephant. Dick Bregstein thinks I should have one of these on my K75. Oddly enough, Dick disappeared shortly after making this suggestion.
(Illustration courtesy of Wikipedia -- Click to enlarge)

“I called the house when you didn’t show up,” said Dick, “But I couldn’t hear what Stiffie was saying as someone was blowing a horn outside.” My old friend commented that my riding might become somewhat restricted if I had to dismount on a pylon each time. I forget what my reply was, but Dick found it highly inspirational.

I used the same concrete stop to mount the bike on my return ride home. And once again, I had no problems getting my feet to the pegs. I triggered the garage door opener a hundred yards out, and rode the bike right into the bay when I got home. I didn’t bother shouting for Stiffie. She has long since been deafened to my bellows. The bike’s horn, magnified by the close quarters of the garage, got her attention. I thought her assistance might be useful in preventing a catastrophic dismount. There was nothing to serve as a step in the garage, so I brought the bike as close as practical to a shelf, then threw my weight on that, to pull my leg over the seat.

“That was instructional as well as entertaining,” said Stiffie. “I should have been wearing a costume with spangles on it as a drum rolled in the background. We'd be a sensation in Vegas. But aren't you likely to find your riding somewhat restricted by the availability of flexible storage shelves if this is what it takes to dismount.”

I had something clever to say to Stiffie, just as I had for Bregstein, but thought the better of it as homelessness does not suite me.

Some slight alterations to the new seat are going to be necessary. My thought was that the ends of the fat man wings need to be taken in a trifle, and that the leading edge of both needs to be reduced by an inch and a half. I am in discussion with the folks at Russell Cycle Products over this at the moment. These changes will give me enough room to plant my feet behind the pegs, and to swing my leg around the saddle.

In the meantime, I was screwed. My old pal Michael Cantwell was riding down from the Adirondacks and I had three rides planned for the weekend. The first was to meet him, and riding buddy Mack Harrell, at the last rest area on I-78, in New Jersey. This would be a roundtrip ride of 189 miles, and it was not unreasonable to assume that I might have to get off the bike to take a piss or something during the duration of that ride. I did what any individual in my position would have done: I turned to my riding club -- The Mac-Pac -- the premier chartered BMW riding group in eastern Pennsylvania for advice and assistance.

This is like turning to a firing squad for a recommendation on ammunition.

Clyde Jacobs suggested wearing a pair of ladies 6” high heels, though not the stiletto variety, to gain the height I needed to dismount.

Melinda Bonnani recommended I find a map that listed destinations with suitable things I could stand on to mount and dismount the bike. Barring that, it was suggested that I could carry a cinderblock in my top case to use as a step.

Matt Piechota thought it might be inconvenient for me to carry a cinderblock on the tail piece, and suggested that Dick could carry it for me.

Chris Jacarrino felt that a cinderblock might not be up to the job and thought a small floor safe, available from Harbor Freight might do the trick.

Howard Portugal, a man I do not know well (though that will be of little consequence when I exact my revenge), suggested I adapt a two-wheeled tow truck to elevate my bulk from the seat.

Mike Evans, a professional prick, explained that I should learn to ride while wearing a pair of in-line roller skates. According to Evans, the boot part of the inline skates would offer substantial protection and support for my feet. Dismounting would occur simply by lowering my legs to the ground, and having two assistants roll me off backwards.

Then the techies in the group got into it. Wayne Woodward and Joe Dille started researching folding stools from places like Harbor Freight and Fisher Price, that they thought would be small enough to carry, but strong enough to hold me. It was Joe Dille’s opinion that kids in America are now getting fat enough that several models from Fisher Price could hold me (with a little modification). David Hardgrove actually pulled up to the garage with a plastic folding stool he thought might do the trick. It did not fit in the topcase, but he thought it could be bungeed to the bike. Joe Dille sent me a plan to build a mounting block from simple two-by-fours, while Jim Sterling asked for the measurements of my topcase to build me a custom one. Ken Bruce did build me a step and said he’d alter it to fit the top case.

Mac-Pac member and Dutch sympathizer David Hardgrove brought me a folding
step stool that he thought would fit in my topcase. The soul of encouragement, 
Hardgrove said, "I hope your fat ass doesn't fall off the stool and knock the bike over."
He added that he wanted the stool back if it wasn't compressed into the floor.
Hardgrove is on the run from the "AUTBD" -- Americans United To Beat The Dutch.
(Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge.)

Then there is Ricky Matz. Not a member of the Mac-Pac but a long-standing friend (over 30 years), he built me a a step that he disguised to look like an official OEM BMW part, called Der Schteppen Footz. This came in the mail complete with a bogus logo, bogus German instructions, and a chain to attach it to the handlebars, allowing it to be reeled in after mounting. This was hysterical. (Too bad it does not fit in my topcase.)

Yet at the crack of dawn of Friday, April 17, 2009 (the day I was to meet the guys in New Jersey), Gerry Cavanaugh and Horst Oberst arrived at the house with the stock seat from a K75 low mount. Gerry owns a K75 of this model and offered to lend me the seat until I could get the one from Russell altered.

Mac-Pac member Gerry Cavanaugh pulled the seat off a low riding K75 he had in the garage
and lent it to me so I could get on and off the motorcycle for the weekend without 
looking like a complete horse's ass. 
(Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

I cannot begin to tell you how touched I was by all of this. The sympathy and the humor extended by this group went a long way toward dispelling my disappointment. The fact that three gentlemen offered to build me a step, and that two did, is unbelievably heartwarming. But that Gerry Cavanaugh actually pulled a seat from his spare bike and drove it down to me so I could make the first of my scheduled rides, was simply above and beyond the call of duty.

It has been said that a lot of BMW clubs are full of supercilious douches -- and they might be. But the Mac-Pac is all wool and a yard wide. I have never met such generous, gracious, and well-informed individuals in my life. I am honored that you guys have yet to pass the by-law prohibiting me as a member. Every person in this club is an ace, for the exception of eight individuals. Contact me off-line for their names.


A Surprise Gift From A Reader

Imagine my surprise the other day when a representative from an international delivery service, rang the bell, waved to me through my office window, and tossed a box with my name on it into the bushes. (I am going to have to start tipping these bastards.) Inside was a jar of “Tired Old Ass Soak,” from Tena Abbey, along with a card wishing me luck with my new custom motorcycle seat. (Please read the above article.) The description on the jar reads:

“A revitalizing mineral bath used to treat exhaustion due to harrowing workdays, demanding deadlines, overbearing bosses, excessive exercise, rotten luck, frustrating delays, and any other bad stuff that happens.

"Tired Old Ass Soak" -- Do not mix this with rum. It is a external application.
(Photo courtesy of my tired old ass -- Click to enlarge)

“This refreshing bath essence will sooth away the years of torture and abuse that your tired old ass has taken. The essential oils give your body strength and physical energy again.”

Tena and Bugser Abbey as viewed by Monet
(Illustration supplied by Tena Abbey -- Click to enlarge)

This was very kind of you Tena. Tena, and her husband Bugser (Mr. Cupcake), are friends of mine from the Motorcycle Views list. We’ve been communicating and chatting with each other by computer and phone for nearly four years. We plan to meet for the first time in October. I used the bath crystals last night. My ass was a challenge for the stuff, apparently, as the water turned to steam when I sat in it. Reading the ingredients, it seems to contain rosemary, eucalyptus, and vetiver. Stiffie later admitted adding lye for an additional zing.

The Other “No Zone” When Dealing With Trucks

BobSkoot is the author of Wet Coast Scootin (link found in the column on the right under “Destination”), a blog that deals primarily with riding a scooter in and around Vancouver, British Columbia. An accomplished photographer by hobby, Bob’s posts generally include great scenery, close ups of local interest, or developments (like floods or bike shows), plus the odd bit of very important information. He recently attended a truck show put on by the folks at Peterbilt and came away with some incredible data.

Cars like the Mazda Miata are completely invisible to truck drivers operating long-nose vehicles to a distance of 25 feet -- DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF THE TRUCK! That means a motorcyclist could easily swing over in front of a truck while maneuvering in traffic, and if circumstances were right, the driver of the truck would never see the biker until after the huge vehicle ran him over. For incredibly dramatic pictures of this, click on bobskoot: wet coast scootin.

Not The Usual Pictures

There are lots of blogs out there to read, but many seem to say the same things over and over again, or feature rather flat photography (like guys standing around motorcycles, which is common to my posts). Domingo Chang is long-distance, year-round BMW rider based in Colorado. His blog -- Redlegs Rides -- is routinely punctuated with extraordinary pictures of hairpin turns, buttes, tortured rock formations, and stone of unusual colors. (The link to his blog is also on the right, under “Destinations.”) Several of his pictures have been published in the BMW MOA’s monthly magazine for their stark contrast and bold expression.

Now that the snow has melted, Dom Chang is back to focusing on the imagery of Colorado again. In one of his posts, he painstakingly took pictures of existing landmarks then went back through various archives to compare how the scenery around these has changed. This made for a great ride report that can be found here.

He also comes up with some of the damnedest accessories. Those of you who are likely to be on the road in rural parts of the world will be interested in this custom carrier for a gas can.

Author's note: 

I deeply regret the delay in publishing the events of last week. In two or three days, I will post the details of the ride last Friday, and the more tragic events of last Saturday, in which Mack Harrell surprised his wife Karen, with a flying dismount, which resulted in her breaking two bones in her leg. Karen is recovering and Mack has signed up for rudimentary motorcycle riding lessons.

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

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Rides Begin...

The last of the missing parts are expected to arrive tomorrow and “Fire Balls” will be reassembled on Tuesday night. This 1995 BMW K75 is the low seat design with a really shitty seat latch. The plastic lock retainers had broken last summer and I ordered new ones from Bob’s BMW. There is no expectation that the replacement parts will be any better than the old ones, nor that they will last much longer, but my new “fat-assed” Russell Day-Long saddle moves a tad when I got on it and the replacement lock will anchor it better. Now that I know how fragile the lock is, I can handle it with kid gloves. This is one part that should have been made of metal as opposed to plastic.

The powder-coated muffler and crash bars were delivered over the weekend and this machine is now predominantly red and black. The bike got a full tune-up in January at the legendary Rubber Chicken Racing Garage. The tires are rock hard at the right pressures. The battery tender is flashing a green “good to go” signal and there is every expectation that my first shake out ride on Wednesday evening will go smoothly. I am planning a short 72-mile roundtrip run up to the rail museum at Strasburg for the test ride. I will do another of these rides on Thursday night as well. My concern is not so much for the bike, but for my knees and hips, which are acting up again since I stressed them last week.

“Fire Balls” will get a thorough wash and wax on Thursday night.

My good friend Michael Cantwell is riding down here from upstate New York on Friday. I took the day off from work and am planning to ride into New Jersey to meet him about a third of the way down. His ride will be close to 400 miles for the day. I’m hoping to do a picturesque cruise up Route 100 in Pennsylvania, to I-78, to I-287 in the “Garden State,” running into my pal somewhere around Parsippany. (This is assuming the new seat is easier on my back and hips.)

Situated here in southeast Pennsylvania, there are a number of varied riding terrains close by. On Saturday, April 18th, I’m planning on showing Michael the salt Marshes of Delaware. For those who are no longer getting my riding list e-mail (due to an unexplained malfunction), the details of that ride are included below. Anyone looking to make this ride should confirm it with me on my private e-mail (

Ride #1
Title: “The Impact of Refineries and Nuclear Discharge on Crabs And Migratory Birds”
Date: Saturday April 18, 2009
Assembly Point: Exton Diner (Route 100 and Ship Road/Diagonally opposite the Drafting Room)
Time: 8am (If you are meeting for breakfast)
Kickstands Up: 8:45am

1) Depart Exton Diner via Rt 100 south to Rt. 202 South
2) Pick up Rt. 926 South To Rt. 52 South
3) Take Rt. 52 South to Rt. 141 South
4) Take Rt. 141 South to Rt. 9 South.
5) Take Rt. 9 South to (Parking Lot Opposite Nuclear Power Plant for Group Picture)
6) Take Rt. 9 South to Unmarked Road on map leading into Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge ($4 charge per bike). There are great views of the bay and of the marshes here. However, roads are dirt and gravel, Riders choosing not to do this can wait by the flush toilets and picnic tables at the interpretative center. Bring binoculars and a camera, if you have them.
7) Take Rt. 9 South to Rt. 1
8) Take Rt. 1 South to Bowers Beach Road going into North Bowers Beach
9) Lunch at JP’s on the Wharf -- 12:30pm

• JP’s On The Wharf -- This is a cool seafood and steak joint on the water. North Bowers Beach is a tiny little resort community that looks like recession hit it in 1954 and stayed. The last time I was here, there were two bars here. The other one was a Harley joint. When the tide comes in, it comes up through the storm sewers in the street. There is a full bar at JP’s, for those writing travelogues. Lunch without drinks can run $15 on average. The road to get into this place (Bowers Beach Road) runs through the salt marshes and is very pretty. It’s about 5 miles long, as I recall.

Other lunch options ---

• Sambo’s Tavern (Leipsic, De) just after the federal wildlife refuge. Also on the water, but no view as it is a saloon. I have never been here but there were three reviews. One said the crabcake was average but overpriced. The other two were stooge reviews that were planted.

• Three Cavaliers (Dover, De) Dick, Dave Oehler, and Rogers George have eaten here. Full bar, incredible crab soup, not cheap. Average fried chicken. They will remember us as we stood out in the crowd.

Lunch is going to be $15 - $25. All of these seafood joints are expensive.

If we are going to meet up with folks from Delaware, there is a shitty gas station (Getty, I think) on the left of Rt. 9 (headed south) about a quarter mile from the tall bridge over the canal, in Delaware City. They won’t let you use the horrid bathroom and the coffee machine is all the way in the back. I am bringing a thermos of hot coffee to sip at the nuclear plant, and at the wildlife refuge.

10) Continue South on Rt. 1 to Cape Henlopen State Park at Lewes.
11) Continue South on Rt. 1 to Maryland, where road becomes Rt. 528
12) West on Rt. 90 to Rt. 366.
13) Rt. 336 to US 50 Bypass
14) US 50 to Rt 313 (North)
15) Rt. 313 to Rt. 392
16) Rt. 392 to Rt. 313
17) Rt. 313 to Rt. 213
18) Rt. 213 to Rt. 841 (Pennsylvania)
19) Rt. 841 to US-1

The total distance is about 265 miles.
Please meet at the Exton Diner with a full tank of gas
There is virtually no gas on Rt. 9 and I am not gonna fuck around looking for someone’s brand, or one that is 11¢ cheaper.

Please RSVP if this run appeals to you.

Ride #2
Title: The Amish Horsepile Sample Run
Date: April 19, 2009
Rally Point: The Pottstown Family Diner
Kickstands Up: 9:30- 9:45am (Arrive with a full tank of gas)

This will be a gentle ride through Lancaster County following the Mac-Pac Breakfast at the Pottstown Family Diner, on Sunday, April 18th. Breakfast is at 8am, and we expect to be underway by 9:30 or 9:45am. The ride will run through some very pretty Amish farm and horse country.

1) South on Rt. 100 To Rt. 401
2) Right turn onto Rt. 401 at Ludwig’s Corners
3) Left from Rt. 401 onto Rt. 82
4) Right from Rt. 82 onto Rt. 322
5) Left onto Rt. 10 from Rt. 322
6) Right onto Rt. 30 from Rt. 10,
7) Left onto Rt. 41 from Rt. 30.
8) Right over Amtrak tracks at first light, and right again onto Rt. 741
9) Stop for coffee and piss at Strasburg Railroad Museum

10) Zigzag around Pennsylvania Railroad Museum and go left onto Rt. 896
11) Follow Rt. 896 to Rt. 372
12) Go right on Rt. 372 and follow across the Susquehanna River to Rt. 74
13) Go left on Rt. 74 (bad corner) and cross into Maryland, bearing right onto Rt. 136
14) Take Rt. 136 to US-1.
15) Go Left on US-1 and cross Conowingo Dam.

• Deviation: go right onto Rt. 222 and stop at Union Hotel Bar (wild boar on menu). This is a Harley joint.

16) Take US-I to Maryland/Pennsylvania state line. Have picture taken at Mason/Dixon line sign.
17) Turn right from US-1 onto Rt. 10
Turn right from Rt. 10 to Rt. 946
Deviation: Turn left onto Rt. 841 and follow four miles to the Whip Tavern -- Authentic English Pub and great place to look at hot asses of women in jodhpurs. (Not a source of cheap beer.)
20) Follow Rt. 946 to Rt. 202. -- Ride ends

If you are planning to make this ride, let me know at Mark the e-mail "Cantwell Ride."

These details have been posted for my Mac-Pac friends and others in the area who are not getting the regular e-mail at the moment.

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

Thursday, April 9, 2009

My Ultimate Humiliation... My First Experience With A Scooter (Sort Of)

I am occasionally required to do something in the way of serious writing to pay the bills and put comestibles in the old nose bag. Yet there was a time when I had my choice of jobs. Two avenues of labor beckoned to me as a young man. One was to become a piano layer in a bordello. I had the job for two days, but was discharged for not having the vaguest idea how get noise out of the ivories, and for dipping into the profits. The second was to become a public relations writer, which is still pretty close to whoring, though in the literary sense. My skills as a practitioner of the black arts were called into play by the business travel industry down in Washington, D.C. this past week, which accounts for my absence from this forum, and my irregular response to clever statements published elsewhere.

My travel arrangements were similar to those professed by the late Hunter S. Thompson. I drove my own vehicle, surrounded by the things that keep me sharp and comfortable (fifty cups of coffee, a box of cigars, and fresh pack of teki maki from the sushi place down the street.) Consequently, I arrived in DC looking like a bag of rumpled laundry that escaped from a prison hamper. The hotel parking valet scorned my 14-year-old Suburban like it was shit. A cloud of cigar smoke drifted out the open driver’s window, causing him to cough like a shop steward from a coal mine.

“Will the door come off if I open it, sir,” he asked.

“Fuck you, Rinaldo,” I smiled, pocketing the two dollar tip he would have had. “Don’t scratch the rust.”

The hotel was a sprawling affair, spanning three towers, two conference centers, and about 60 meeting rooms. A famous designer used a floor plan based on a prairie dog colony to lay this place out. With a rack rate of $300 a night (which nobody pays anymore), it is exactly the kind of hotel I really hate. Registration was a mere 200 yards from where Rinaldo picked up my truck with distaste.

I was early for the event and noted, with smug satisfaction, that I had beaten the usual crowd to the desk. It was then I noticed there was no usual crowd. This was my first taste of the devastation that has hit my industry. A bellman was ready in an instant, another symptom of the state of the industry, and after another brief 900-yard walk, I was in my room.

The sweat poured out out of me.

My regular readers are aware that I am the world’s largest living mammal, dwarfing the legendary supersaurus. (It is reported that this huge creature had one brain in its head and another in its ass. There are those who feel I may have more in common with this creature than size.) I am fairly crippled with arthritis, and the sweat comes from dealing with pain in my hips and knees. Still, walking around this hotel at all was a major improvement for me as I couldn’t walk more than 25 feet in any direction last November. I have been losing weight, and Doctor Williams from Orthopedic Associates of Bethlehem (Pa) has been working wonders for me.

I am most often compared in size with the supersaurus.
The appendage at the back is not a tail, but a prehensile penis (another reason for my popularity in certain circles; I can find the "G" spot in a fog with my eyes closed, and tickle it with a toothbrush).
(Ilustration courtesy of Wikipedia -- Click to enlarge)

Business travel industry events used to be total pissers 15 or 20 years ago. Now they are like attending reunions at someone else’s school. The best line I heard at this event was “flat is the new up.” That’s like looking at me and saying “55 is the new 30 and thin.”

Losing weight has helped me enormously. But I wasn’t ready for some things. For example, I picked up my dress clothes at the cleaners and threw them into a bag. When I put them on, they were all one size too big. I found myself limping down hallways with my cane in my right hand, and holding up my pants with my left.

I managed to walk the halls of this place for two days. Every office I needed to hit was three quarters of a mile from wherever I was. Still, I was determined to cover the ground without giving in, even though that “God-Help-Me” look was plastered on my face and my shirts were soaked with sweat by 10 am.

Until Sunday.

The press office was located at the farthest perimeter from the center of the action. I paced it. It was about 9 football fields from my room. I did the distance once, and heard my left hip pop.

“Fuck this room, and fuck this hotel,” I said. Then I offered a passing bellman $5 to ride me to the press room on his luggage cart. He hesitated, looking around. There was probably a rule against this. I raised the ante to $10.

“Sir,” he said with a trace of a Latin American accent, “There is a little electric car at the bell stand that I could let you use. Please wait here.”

He returned five minutes later with a little red scooter/chair. Now I have seen fat, stupid-looking dopes, riding around supermarkets in these things, and I swore I’d die before I ever got on one. But at that moment, it looked like Nirvana. I eased my huge fat ass into office chair on the back, and heard my hips sigh.

“Do you know how to drive such a vehicle,” asked the bellman, pocketing the tenner.

“Hold my beer. Watch this,” was my reply.

I took off down the hallway at about 40 miles per hour. Pressing the horn button made a noise like a bugling elk -- and flashed the headlights. Chambermaids, conference participants, waiters, and presenters ran screaming for their lives, or flattened themselves against the wall as I buzzed by.

The device above is close in design to the vehicle produced by the hotel bellman.
(Photo courtesy of the internet -- Click to enlarge)

For the first time in 31-years, Jack Riepe felt the wind in his hair -- in a hotel. Hearing me yelling as I approached, a reporter from USA Today swung open the door to the press room and I arrived in style. (This is absolutely true.) I am among my own in the sanctity of the press room. These guys know me and anything goes.

I used that scooter four more times before I left for home. Parked outside the press room, it became an object of interest for a bunch of kids attending some youth event. They changed all the settings on the machine. When I went to ride it for the last time, it appeared to have no power. It was then I noticed a knob with a indicator that would point to either a tortoise or a hare, or any point in between. My esteemed colleague, Kate Farrell, who often introduces me to others with the preamble that I am mildly retarded, explained that this was the universal language for illiterates.

"See if switching the knob from the turtle to the rabbit makes a difference," said Kate.

It did.

I still wouldn’t use one of these things in a supermarket. But walking close to a mile carrying 30 pounds of crap is a bit ambitious for me. In the meantime, the weight loss will continue. I hope to be riding "Fire Balls" in a couple of days. But this is my ride report for today, and I am sticking to it.

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

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

In The Beginning... There Was Whistler

Whistler is a wilderness ski area in British Columbia like Manhattan is a remote borough of New York City . If glittzy hotels, shoulder-to-shoulder theme bars, restaurants representing the cuisine of the world (provided you don’t travel much), and high speed chairlifts running like the assembly lines from hell could be converted into armor plate, Whistler would be a battleship. (To see pictures of Whistler, go to my friend Bob Scoot’s blog. Titled, bobskoots: wetcoastscootin, it has been among my destinations list for a long time now.) Whistler is heaven if you look like Brad or Angelina, ski like an automaton, and hump like a jackhammer. I only qualified in one of these categories and I can do that in the back of my truck.

Yet the love of my life -- Leslie -- was a champion downhill racer in high school and her dad (the troll) is a skiing aficionado as well. No one was less delighted than I to learn these two had purchased a condo on the slopes of Whistler “Village,” and that they planned on spending six weeks there every winter. It was like discovering that a winter wonderland would be shoved up your ass part of January, February, and March. However, my late Irish grandfather, Patrick “Nitro” O’Riepe was something of a philosopher and he used to say, “It’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow somebody.” Little did I know that person would be me.

One or two seasons of bad snow (it happens there too), family vacations that didn’t materialize (You can get to France faster than Whistler from the east coast.) and the lure of the Olympics caused the two real estate mavericks to unload the condo, making an obscene profit. They sold in the summer, loaded what impedimenta they kept into a rental truck, and drove home across the country. They got stuck in a small, nondescript South Dakota town in the middle of a bizarre festival. The town was “Sturgis.” The festival was “The Rally.”

Leslie was entranced by thousands of leather-clad women jazzing Harleys, stretching out on Harleys, burning up the tires on Harleys, drinking beer on Harleys, and (some) even riding Harleys. She described the women as tattooed, jeweled, and wearing leather like other women wore perfume: barely on their skin. They were statuesque Amazons and Viking goddesses. It is my understanding that her dad thought some kind of leather, sex circus was in town. He found it less funny when the first hotel with a couple of rooms for the night was 200 miles away.

Leslie called me from her cell phone as they crawled through traffic on Main Street. “What’s going on,” she asked. “There’s a guy holding up a sign that says, ‘Show us your ticks.’ Why are they looking for ticks?”

“Sweetie, look at the sign again. The nice man doesn’t give a shit about ticks. And if he comes up to the truck, kick your old man out into the street. They’ll tear him apart,” I said. I then explained to her the religious significance of Sturgis to iron mined in Milwaukee. I advised her not to get out of the truck

“It’s a great place,” I said, “if you look like Sonny Barger, ride like Cochise, and like Jello.”

“They eat Jello,” asked Leslie.

“No, they like their women to roll around in it.”

Leslie told me that she saw that Kevin Costner was supposed to be leading a ride someplace. “Go on line and see what events are listed for today,” she asked.

“There are several,” I replied, looking at the computer. “There is a chicken choking contest at 12:30pm, a pickle sucking contest at 2pm, and a wet tee shirt contest at 5pm. The ladies open invitational lime jello booby trap removal event is slated for 8pm tonight, provided the authorities can’t beat the location out of a captured drunk.”

“Are you making this up?”

“Believe me, babe,” I said. “I wish I was there.”

The upshot of this whole adventure was that Leslie informed me that we would be getting motorcycles upon her return. My girlfriend had just driven through Sturgis, and ordered me to get a motorcycle. Had I died at that moment, I would have been in heaven.

Two months later we were enrolled in a motorcycle safety course with about a dozen other adventurers and free-booters. Leslie never waited beyond the first night of the course. She wandered into a Harley dealership in Delaware, where the vampire in charge sat her on five different models, letting her start three of the more expensive ones in the showroom! (You read those last three words correctly. This viper was the smartest salesperson I ever met.) He wanted her to feel the bikes come alive and vibrate! I started to say something at one point, but he nodded, and two goons threw me out in the alley.

But all his bikes were black.

The winner was discovered at a Honda dealership two days later. This dealer had exactly what Stiffie/Leslie wanted: a pearlescent white and silver Aero Shadow (retro Harley looking) with the extra lighting package, a windscreen, crash bars, saddle bags (with studs) and a Mustang aftermarket saddle. Leslie/Stiffie whipped out the old American Express card, took the bike, and bought some riding gear that was being modeled by an Elvis impersonator. The card wasn’t even warm when she put it back in her wallet. The dealer, a pimp if I ever saw one, then said, “And we have a large support group of riders, a great bunch of guys, who’d be happy to go out with you.”

The Winner -- Leslie's 2005 Honda Aero Shadow
A reliable, comfortable, classic-looking motorcycle
(Photo courtesy Leslie Marsh -- Click to enlarge)

“You miserable, fuck,” I thought, taking a fast look around to see where they kept the goons in this place. My reflex action was stake this bastard down in his coffin.

It became apparent to me that I had to get a bike quickly. But Leslie and I move in very different social and financial circles. Most of our neighbors explain my presence as the mentally disturbed handiman she hired to do some simple thing, who then refused to leave. The local grammar school runs a history tour for the second grade through our driveway. The teachers tell the kids, “See! There’s a truck that’s older than you. Does anyone know the name of that brown stuff on the metal? It eats paint like you eat peanut butter.” The last time they showed up I turned the garden hose on them.

As a professional writer, I had to buy a motorcycle with what little I could scrape up in tips from under the tables of publishers. Nobody can skin a nickel like a publisher. Even in good years, tips are scanty. I would be buying a used bike. Just how used I had no idea.

It had been 25 years since I last owned a motorcycle. That bike was a Kawasaki S2 750, the fastest production motorcycle of its day, a vicious two-stroke street bike, with the most primitive appointments and a nasty habit of exterminating its rider. It was known as the “Widow Maker.”

Motorcycles have changed since then. They now come in three flavors -- plus one. The flavors are Harleys, cruisers, sportbikes, and something else. Harley’s are simply the sexiest motorcycles ever built. I knew a lot of guys who had Harleys. All of their clothes were stained with oil. They carried wrenches like they were a fashion statement. But these guys claimed their girlfriends could unwrap condoms and install them using only their teeth. I didn’t think I could pull this off.

I started looking at used cruisers. It was the summer, and there were no bargains. The cheap ones looked like shit and the decent ones were priced like chrome gold. I didn’t like what I could afford. And to be quite honest, I didn’t like the feel of the expensive ones I couldn’t afford either. One dealer suggested that this feeling might be linked to my huge gut. I told him that life was full of compromises and that I was as thin as Mahatma Ghandi when I got a hard-on.

I had no interest in sportbikes.

Time was running out. Some asshole named Brett was calling from the Honda dealer’s with ride suggestions.

I mentioned my dilemma to a couple of friends of mine. To my utter amazement, both were riders and members of a highly secretive religious order of Teutonic Knights. This was the “plus one” among the flavors. I had no idea that either of these guys had any interest in motorcycles. One had three BMW motorcycles. The other had nine of the same marque. I visited with one who brought me into his garage. It was dark in there. He hit a switch and concealed lighting revealed each of the nine bikes, and a small covered table in the center of the room. Some of the bikes had an odd sideways jugged appearance to them. Several others looked like they had to take a shit. I had never seen motorcycles like these before.

“Are you feeling nervous,” said my friend Lee. “Relax. This is my garage... My temple... My inner sanctum.” Yet as he said these things, I noticed he had started to roll his R’s.

“It is a warm day. Please... Drink this Kool-Aid,” said Lee.
He removed the cloth cover to reveal a smiling pitcher with eyes for roundels. “It is very refreshing.” I awoke in my bed at home, with a burning desire for sauerbraten.

Then my other pal, Pete, called me. He had just sold a great bike to a guy who had proven unworthy... That if I acted fast, I could probably get this bike for a good price... But that I must not debase myself by haggling... And that I should pay the money without question. For good luck, Pete sent me a huge seed pod, telling me I should put it alongside my bed as soon as I got it.

My pal Pete Buchheit in his inner sanctum sanctorum. Pete likes to dress up in leather and take his own picture two or three times a month. Then he sends them to strangers.
(Photo courtesy of Pete B. -- Click to enlarge)

The bike was an 18-year-old BMW K75. It looked brand new. The unworthy man wanted $5,000. I laughed in his face. That kind of money would have bought me ten 18-year-old Japanese motorcycles.

“Will you be found unworthy as was I,” asked the seller. “The gods of Siegfried only ask once.”

I offered him $4600, knowing that this sum was absurdly extravagant too. My thought was to insult him into ending the conversation.

“I’ll take forty-seven hundred dollars,” was his reply!

I hesitated, looking at the ugliest and oldest motorcycle with the strangest fairing that I had ever seen.

“Are you so poor a man that you do not have an extra hundred dollars to meet your destiny,” said the seller. “I did not think you were the type who would rather have the world think you had a small dick rather than pay the extra $100 bucks.”

I threw the $4700 in his face.

“Ride it over to my house,” I said. I did not want him to think I could not get on this motorcycle. So I did not attempt it to avoid confirming his suspicions. The seat was three inches higher than my crotch. And so I bought an 18-year-old-motorcycle that I had never sat on, for more money than I would have spent over a lifetime in the pleasure palaces of Phuket.

"Blue Balls" had the most incredible curved lines of any K75. Yar Seever's white K75 is just beyond at "Buckingham Lumber," a legendary merchantile fixture in these parts. I remember this day well. I met Yar for the first time at a "firehouse breakfast" on a Sunday morning. It was the first time in 25 years that I rode a motorcycle on the Turnpike. I told Yar that I was wary of the curves. He showed me the right way to take 'em. Ten minutes later, I watched him dodge a car and go right through a ditch full of water. He did not drop the bike. No injuries.
(Photo Courtesy of Yar Seevers -- Click to enlarge)

Leslie looked at the bike like it was part giraffe and part emu. She framed me with those beautiful (though penetrating) eyes and said, “You bought this piece of modern art because the guy said it would mean you had a small dick if you didn’t, right?”

I nodded.

“Well, I’m glad you didn’t trade the family cow for a pocket of magic beans,” she added.

“How does the seat feel?” asked Leslie.

“Good,” I said, looking at the ground.

“You didn’t sit on it, did you?”

My silence would have lied but Leslie was already onto me.

“How much did you pay for this?” she asked.

“He got it all.”

“Honestly, Jack.” And that was all she said.

Later that day, she would read aloud to me from a book titled, “Motorcycle Riding For Assholes and Morons,” stating that BMW’s were specifically not recommended for re-entry riders owing to their top-heavy nature. (The bikes, not the riders.)

The Sprint Fairing gave my 1986 K75 a one-of-a-kind look. I am seen here with Tony Luna (Vulcan Al) on the Delaware River, parked between Mack Harrell's new BMW GS on the left, and Tony's BMW K1200R on the right. Tony had done a track day the week before. 
His GPS still recorded his top speed of 147 mph. This was the day that Perditions Socks named Walter Kern "A Fellow Of The Road." It was my first ride of the season that year. 
(Photo courtesy of Mack Harrell -- Click to enlarge)

Three days later I moved the K75 out of the garage. It was like shoving a block of iron. I thrust myself up into the seat, hit the “choke” lever (on the handlebars, where it logically belongs), and tapped the starter button. The motorcycle whined into life. The tach needle jumped and a series of warning lights came on and off as each system checked in. A yellow dash light remained on to tell me the choke was still engaged. (It isn’t really a choke but an idle advance with two settings as the 18-year-old BMW K75 was fuel injected, a detail the new Honda lacked.) I jockeyed the Beemer around between my legs. It was like sitting on the top of a flagpole, trying to lever a block of concrete across a muddy field.

“This blows,” I thought. “How could I have been so stupid. Well, fuck it. Into the breech.”

I pulled in the clutch and snicked the bike into gear. This automatically raised the side stand: another feature of the 18-year-old BMW.

It was the oddest sensation. Imagine sitting in a lifeguard’s chair with power tilt. It felt as if I were 40 feet off the ground. But the slightest pressure on the handlebars would lean this sucker over under a hint of power. It became weightless after rolling only an inch or too... And amazingly enough, so did I. Unlike the cruisers I had been sitting on, the seating arrangement leaned me a trifle forward and down. The handlebars were the “S” bars for this bike, which were really narrow. This translated into some really tight steering.

Still, Leslie’s heart was breaking for me. (Actually, it was. She simply said, "Sell it, if you can, and get another one. No big deal.")

Here was my first bike as a deteriorating adult, and I had bought a freak with all my money. She let me ride her Aero Shadow so my feelings wouldn’t be hurt. This gave me an interesting running comparison. Adding to my depression, I had just failed the motorcycle safety course. This was the only driving test I had ever botched. I celebrated by telling the instructor he was “a little shit.” This guaranteed my bridges vaporized as they burned. Fortunately, Leslie passed the course and was able to tell me what it felt like to have a motorcycle endorsement -- all the way home in the car.

(It should be noted here that Leslie never hesitated. She retook the course again -- without any need other than to encourage me -- to make sure I didn't blow a fuse, wet my pants, or run away. And once again, she got a higher score than I did.) 

Pete Buchheit's R/7 and my 1986 K75 among the falling leaves at Elkneck State Park in Maryland. The park was shutting down for the season and it was barely warm enough to sit outside without a coat. Nothing adds to the atmosphere like woodsmoke. I lit a cigar.
Photo courtesy of Pete Buccheit -- Click to enlarge)

But the damnedest thing was happening. I started to really like this K75. Granted, this was out of necessity at first. But I could carve a turn on the Beemer with less effort and faster than the longer, heavier Shadow. Despite the fact that they were both 750’s, the K75 had a lot more get up and go. The Honda started to seriously catch its breath at 82 mph. At 103 mph, the K75 still had a grand to go before hitting the red line. I was amazed. After each ride, the Honda had to have the bugs wiped off its chrome. A narrow forked tongue flicked out of the BMW’s headlight and it ate the bugs.

The turning point came on the day I got confused by the automatic retracting side stand, and dropped the bike. Fortunately, it fell on me. The adrenalin surged through my body like an electric current. With strength I didn’t know I had, I righted the machine. A crowd gathered to jeer. I killed them with flaming Godzilla vapor from my mouth.

Raw sentiment poured from my lips. I called the slightly wounded bike “My darling... The spirit of the Rhine... My Bavarian Bitch... The ecstacy between my legs...”

And I told it I loved her.

I loved her self-canceling turn signals. I loved her emergency flashers that could be activated from either the turn signals or a button on the dash. I loved her fuel injection and the resulting 71 horsepower (a statistic that you must hire a detective to learn about many other bikes). I loved her dual disk front brakes (another item missing from the Honda). I loved the powerlet electrical socket under the seat. And I loved that all of these things were standard on this bike in 1986 (before many of today’s SQUIDs were even born) .

I got the bike back to the garage and took a long sip of the Kool-Aid. Actually, it was rum and coke. Leslie was doing something in the kitchen. “Did you have an okay ride on your strange motorcycle?” she asked, over her shoulder. Not getting an answer, she turned... And gasped.

I was standing there, wearing chain mail and winged helmet. In my hand was a brilliant sword, marked with a radiant circle divided by quarters, crowned by three letters. “The jackhammer wiener schnitzel is on me,” I said, rolling my R’s. My trasmagorification was almost complete. I was becoming a Teutonic Knight.

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