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 46ยบ 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)


Unknown said...

You have great riding buddies. Every ride is an adventure with you along as long as you are NOT "the leader of the pack"
I don't know how to do it but I have friends who take road trips together. Before a trip they chatter back and forth about routes, etc, and when it is finalized they put the same "file" into their Garmins (GPS) units.

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Bob:

The territory covered on this run is so familiar to just about everyone in our club, that there was not a lot of discussion about it. The opther three riders simply assuned I would take the short cut. The turth is that I prefer that particular gas station and listed it on the original ride route.

The guys never read the ride route. But we all hooked up with each other in plenty of time. I'm doing a four-day run through western Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virgiia, and West Virginia at the end of the month. The routes will be tricky and each day's ride will be programmed into each rider's GPS.

Dick Bregstein and I are participation in a Mac-Pac class this weekend on how to get the most out of your GPS. Should be interesting.

Thanks for reading and for writing in!

Fondest regards,

Grandad 43 said...

I have anticipated this next installment and have not been disappointed.
Have been on the Rt. 100 run many times and as was reported, there are many scenic portions to enjoy. My son and I were on a portion of Rt. 100 last week when we rode to the antique bike show in Oley,Pa.
Grandad 43
PS 14

MackBeemer said...

Oh Jack! Jack! (with Tatanya Rooossian accent).

I had thought this would be the post wherein I receive my final skewer. But no. A mere mention of a local storm cloud located over my head, and a few million vampire bats. Hell, man. You owe me. This business of hiding out behind stuffed chairs and couches has cramped my style in more ways than a few.

I look forward to my intimate, not to say carnal, introduction to asphalt pavement in your next post.

My name is MackBeemer (Two-Shot) and I think this comment is hysterically funny. My wife just said so.

cpa3485 said...

I am jealous.

You seem to enjoy your riding buddies as much as you enjoy the actual riding. My jealousy is because I do most of my riding alone and I am dying to make some new friends so that we can ride together.

I am however, in the process of hopefully remedying this situation. I have been working with the guy I bought my scooter from and this Sunday we will hold a scooter rally with the purpose of trying to organize a local scooter club.

I have designed the route, but have had to make it 50cc friendly so it will be in town mostly along our river corridor. Then we will have a meeting at a local restaurant and decide on a name for the club as well as barnstorming some ideas for the future of the club.

I think I am almost as excited about this as you obviously have been about getting on the roads again. Sorry to hear about difficulties with your seat and damn glad that the injury of your friend wasn't any more serious than it was. I am sure that has put a damper on things a bit.

PS. If I see any automatically retracting side stands on vehicles in our new club, I'll be sure to report back to you.

PSS. What did you think of that BMW Superscooter? If I had one of those I am pretty sure I could leave you in my dust!

Cantwell said...


I assumed that turning your back to the new guy was a traditional Mac-Pac welcome.

Actually, now that I examine the picture, I believe the sudden turning of backs was due to gravitational forces.

Bloater eh?


Jack Riepe said...

Dear GranDad43:

It is alwaysa pleasure to hear from you. The truth is that this was a fairly simple ride and it was hard to spin it into an adventure.

The way I would get to Oley would be to take Rt. 100 to Rt. 662 and ride toward Fleetwood, where Cadillac car bodies were made in the early 1900's.

We still have to gt together for a run this summer.

Thank you for beig a loyal reader, and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mack:

As you are aware, a strong effort is made to be truthful in the recounting of my adventures. I think you will agree that the details of the Friday ride are about as accurate as can be expected.

The story of the Saturday ride is largely where yoiur sorry ass gets dragged through the muck. And I would look for that soon.

Thank you for being so attentive.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear CPA3485:

I have had the pleasure of riding with a few folks before I joined the Mac-Pac, and the truth is many people can be dreadful pains in the ass.

What is amazing about the BMW riding/lifestyle is that so many of these guys ride alike. I have discovered that the fall into three categories:
• Super fast and super far
• Moderate with speed and game for long distances
• All of the above and track racers too.

It is interesting that the BMW marque seems to shape the rider. In the last four years that I have been riding with a BMW group, I have only encountered two riders who did not subscribe to the ATGATT philosoohy. I think that disparity is much higher on other brands.

A lot of these folks have made it clear to me that when they are engaged in a serious ride, I should sit them out. And I have since learned that highly technical rides are not fun for me.

Yet when I do post a fun ride, it is not uncommon that 17-20 bikes will show up. This makes me feel like a big deal.

You have to be very careful when choosing a riding partner. Some people are dangerous. Some don't really give a shit for the group.And others are just bad riders.

We have an interesting policy. Everyone shares cell phone numbers, but groups are limited to pods of four. This way everyone is forced to stop for the guy who forgot to gas up, or the guy who has to take a leak, or the fat guy whose knees hurt. Since everyone has the ride directions, no one can get lost.

And the sharing of cell phones, with units that can take messages, makes it easy for the group to respond to mishaps, like the one which occurred on my ill-fated ride to Delaware, two weeks ago.

The BMW scooter is cool looking. Yet since it carries the roundels, it is probably $7,000 more than its competition. I regret that the roundels do not mean it will be faster or more comfortable than its competition either. And I am reluctant to pay German pricing for a Chinese engine. Nothing against the Chinese engines, but than that scooter should say CMW on it.

It ain't Bavarian if it is made in Kowloon.

The best runnin Harley's are the ones with the Porshe-designed water-cooled engines on them. They sell like smoke in Europe and like shit in the US. Why? Because it ain't what the customer expects.

Good luck with your club. Use ours as a model.
Few rules. One officer. No meetings. No dues. And no speeches. Just fun.

Thanks for reading and for writing in.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mike:

Bloater has a nice ring to it. And the line about the gravitational effect was equally snappy. I'm thinking about a ride to the Adirondacks. Will your lawn accommodate 50 campers?

It was great having you here, and swell riding all of 11 minutes with you on Saturday.

Fondest regards,

redlegsrides said...

What a great ride report. I found myself salivating for some of the pancakes as well....I really must learn to "illustrate with words" the way you do so easily.

These mac-pac rides almost make me want to give group rides another try, but no, a solo rider I will mostly be....if ever I am in your neck of the woods though, I hope its during one of the rides. Doing this is now on the "do before you die" list.

No picture of Montana?

184 miles, that's good mileage! Not as good as my 260 miles ride this past Sunday but good! Just remember, you're the one who threw down the gauntlet by the way. :)

My regards to the mac-pac!

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

It's like I said, the Mac-Pac ride like very few other groups.

I'm glad you liked this piece. The truth is it was a very straighforward ride and the adventure was meeting the woman in the gas station. I hope she calls.

You are too kind in your praise. I think I had beeter have a real adventure soon, or else my stuff is going to get very tiring.

Thanks for reading and for writing in.

Fondest regards,

Conchscooter said...

Remind your daughter that she isn't responsible for her father. emigration is always an option (it worked for me). The photography is improving too, and while the Scout handlebar fairing looks excellent in that shade of luscious red, I am pleased to note that in the last group picture everyone except the photographer appears to be ignoring you. Very illustrative. I am glad it is a BMW club because if it were open to Triumphs I might be tempted to come along and enjoy your humiliation. But I think no one would notice me, because Bonnevilles don't go "Ker-Lunk" every time they change gear like the Bayerische Motoren Werke models do. Perhaps the Chinese can fix that.

cpa3485 said...

Your suggestions about group riding are very helpful. Thanks!

It looks like it may rain Sunday for our rally and that will probably reduce our group size. But my thought is that it will also serve to let us know who the really serious riders are. I plan to be there rain or shine!

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mr. Conch:

Thank you for your recent correspondence of May 1, 2009. Your opinions are very important to us and we regret that no one was here to answer your note personally. Yet we hope you will find comfort in this form letter, generated by a computer, sitting by itself on a desk with an empty rum bottle.

Nevertheless, we are thrilled to tell you that there are several Triumph riders at the Mac-Pac. Hopefully you will make one of our rides some day -- and learn the definition of true humiliation.

Come to breakfast sometime. Third Sunday of the month, Pottstown Family Diner, on Rt. 100.

Fondest regards,
The Computer

Jack Riepe said...

Dear CPA3485:

Screw the rain. Stay home in bed. Have you prepare your opening remarks yet? Start with:

"Good morning ladies and gentlemen... You're probably wondering why I asked you all here today. The fact of the matter is I'm starting a scooter club as an excuse to meet every woman in 40 square miles who rides one of these things. Now before we take the sacred club oath, I want all men to remove their hats and all ladies to lift up their shirts."

Let me know how far you get with this.

Fondest regards,
Twisted Roads

Anonymous said...


I'm still laughing over the dog's reaction to Dick Bregstein's comment. Classic.

Big Jim