Friday, May 1, 2009

Mack Harrell Bites (The Dust)

Saturday, April 18th

Having had the presence of mind to split my arthritis medication and to take half of it before I went to bed, mobility did not taunt me at dawn Saturday, April 18th. I was walking around like something out of the grave, but I was still able to tie my own boots, which was not always the case the day after a ride last year. My house guest for the weekend, Mike Cantwell, was also up and moving around. I found him trying to work the rather exotic coffee-maker, his face was masked by boyish frustration.

“I realize these things that look like 12 gauge shotgun shells are probably the coffee,” said Cantwell, “but I can’t tell is this thing is a semi-automatic or a pump. Then again, this is the first coffee-maker I ever saw that has a clutch on it too.” Mike is from the Adirondacks, where coffee is ground by beating it with a hammer, and strained by running it through yesterday’s undershirt.

We peeled out of the driveway and headed over to the Exton Diner, the rally point for the ride. The temperature was in the high 50’s, which might be cool for some, but I had stripped the liner out of my Joe Rocket Meteor 5 ballistic jacket and stuffed it into the top case. Mike was dressed for the season, though we both expected it to warm up in the afternoon. (It would get to the high 80’s down on the coast.)

“How many folks will be at the diner,” asked Mike.

“That’s a tough question to answer,” I replied. “There could be 50, or none. It’s a mood thing.”

My riding partner Dick Bregstein had been planning on this ride, but his bike had developed a stalling problem the day before, and I knew Dick wasn’t one to fight a balky engine for a couple of hundred miles if he didn’t have to.

This was to be the ride I had dreamed about all winter. A rural road through Delaware’s salt marshes and wild bird sanctuaries... The smell of the ocean mixed with the aroma of pines... Old cast iron lighthouses and two-room schoolhouses on the same road... And a bar, right on the water’s edge, serving rum and clams and fish that were in the ocean that same time we were pulling out of Pennsylvania. This bar (its more of a temple to my personal values than your typical gin mill) has live music in the summer, and women wearing scanty little things drinking “hurricanes” in the sun. The incoming tide occasionally swells up onto the street, and it is not uncommon to find a few Harley’s parked outside.

My vision was to sit on the deck of this place, with a cool drink in my hand, surrounded by my closest friends, all giving me shit and laughing, and with a line of BMWs at the curb. It was a fairly simple request.

There were 15 bikes at the diner and 12 of them were BMWs. The guys had come from a 50-mile radius (for the exception of Mack and Mike, who had come much farther) and a carnival atmosphere prevailed. Everyone had a full tank too. (That should have been my first warning that this ride was doomed.) We piled into the diner and the manager was delighted to give us a single table for 17 (another bad sign). Finally, the waitress smiled at the request for separate checks (which was the absolute kiss of death). Then she said I had nice eyes, and lifted up her shirt. (I should haver known right then and there this ride was cursed.)

A very decent crowd showed up for breakfast. That is the author first on left, sitting next to Karen Kennedy, and her husband Mack Harrell. Karen is unaware that her husband will break her leg in two places, about 22 minutes from the time this picture was taken. Corey Lyba is sittig across from Karen. His moving his face so it looks like rubber.
(Photo by Mike Cantwell -- Cick to enlarge)

Since the distance wasn’t that great, less than 100 miles down, we lollygagged over breakfast. The run directions were passed out and I reminded each in the group to ride their own ride. Glancing through the crowd, I could see that the majority of these guys were peg draggers. The boys might be inclined to run hot on this one. No matter... Everyone knew where we were supposed to end up.

Headed south on Rt. 100, the group was strung out over a mile. I realized that Mack Harrel, his wife Karen (pillion), and I were in the last two spots. I signaled for Mack to close it up and gave “Fire Balls” the throttle. From Rt. 100 we hit US-202 South and turned onto RT. 926, which becomes a beautiful road, where expensive residences give way to more expensive stone houses (predating the Revolution), and finally to horse farms. Mack accelerated like a sea anchor, but I eventually positioned us farther up in the line behind Mike Cantwell.

The long line of BMW's (and a couple of others) at Augustine Beach in Delaware.
Don't look for the author as he is not there. Sixteen bikes took this ride.
(Photo courtesy of Rogers George -- Click to enlarge)

At a right angle kink in the road, the leader, Matt Piechota, deviated from the course to take a very twisty and really pretty run along the Brandywine River. Thirteen riders followed. David Case, riding a beautifully restored BMW museum piece, cut right. (Dave was not joining the group for the ride.) I followed him as I was one of two riders who knew we were picking up Clyde Jacobs, in front of Buckley’s tavern, on Rt. 52. Again, this made no difference as we were all riding our own rides and had the complete directions for the run. The right turn was the original course.

Looking out at Delaware Bay from JP's on the Wharf, North Bowers Beach, De.
(Photo courtesy of Rogers George -- Click to enlarge)

Route 926 hits Rt. 52 at a light, and a left turn will bring you through the property of Longwood Gardens, arguably one of the most beautiful estate gardens in the United States. Having made this left, I saw that Mack Harrell, his wife Karen (on the pillion) and Dennis Doose were behind me. It was a gentle shot through some open fields and woods to US-1 and I slowed to stop for the light at this intersection.

Dennis shot up beside me, and cut to the left-hand shoulder. In an instant, he had his bike shut down and was peeling off his gear. “What the fuck,” I thought. “I wonder if he’s got a bee or something in his jacket.”

The town of South Bowers Beach is about 85 feet from North Bowers Beach, but a 20-mile ride by motorcycle.
(Photo courtesy of Rogers George -- Click to enlarge)

Then I looked for Mack Harrell on his big BMW GS. There was no sign of him in either mirror. I snapped my head around and saw the bottom of the yellow bike spanning both lanes, Mack and Karen were sprawled on the ground behind it.

We were 22 minutes into the ride.

Dennis Doose was there in ten seconds. I got my bike turned around and headed for the left shoulder, which turned out to be the only solid pavement in 100 yards. It was 15 feet long. I duck-walked the bike down to wreck on the soft shoulder, then realized it would be impossible to get off in the soft duff. At this point, Mack was up, and he and Dennis righted the GS. They had just gotten it to the shoulder (precariously balanced on some scrap) when a cop pulled up and closed the road. They moved Karen to the shoulder, where it was determined that she was seriously hurt, with an injury to her leg.

About this time, Mike Cantwell pulled up, having left the other group to see where I had gone. He dismounted in the soft duff, and went to assist, only to watch his bike topple over two seconds later. The shoulder was so soft, however, that the fall didn’t even put his mirror out of adjustment. Dennis Doose assisted in picking up a motorcycle for the second time that day.

The ambulance arrived and the EMTs loaded Karen onto a gurney. Then they wisely went back and asked Mack a few questions. He is advanced in years, between 70 and 168 years old, and they were concerned he might have a hidden injury. After a brief discussion, they printed “DNR” (Do Not Resuscitate) on his forehead in black magic marker and drove off.

About this time, Clyde Jacob pulled up having been summoned by my call.

The cop interviewed Mack about the cause of the accident, which seemed to have been triggered by the confluence of gravity and the loss of forward motion. The only thing that could have possibly prevented this crash, would have required the driver to put one of his feet down. Riding a motorcycle is a complicated thing, and there are a lot of tricky procedures to keep in mind. For Mack, this is one of them. (Mack is going to practice this dangerous maneuver sitting on a chair in his kitchen, or whenever he uses the toilet.)

To my amazement, Mack jumped on the GS and chased the ambulance with all the determination of a lawyer. Dennis, Clyde, Michael, and I formed a huddle to determine the next step. It was at this point Cantwell told me that Mack had asked for me to meet him at the hospital. I called two other people in the main body to let them know that I was out of the running for the day. Matt Piechota and Chris Jacarrino took over the run. My three pals wished me well and took off for Delaware.

I have some experience with hospital emergency rooms and motorcycle accidents. A brief stop in the emergency room, getting examined, filing the paperwork, getting an x-ray, and a doctor to read it would take all of two hours. I knew Karen was alive and well by the way she cursed at the EMTs who lifted her. So I decided to return home, about 11 miles away, and get the truck. My thought was that the truck would serve as a useful base of operations, allowing me to read a book, watch television (portable DVD player), smoke cigars, or nap while I waited for information from Mack.

I found Mack at the hospital about an hour later. Surgery (a rod in the leg) was under discussion and they wanted a second opinion. Mack volunteered my services to take Karen to another hospital and Saint Barnabas was the one of choice. I had never heard of it before. That’s because it is in Essex County, NJ, two hours and 53 minutes from here.

EMTs converted the back seat in my Suburban into a hospital bed. They lined it with sheets and a blanket, and tossed in Karen, who was wearing one of those open-backed hospital gowns and a splint on her leg. A nurse handed me a huge hypodermic needle, saying “Stick this in her neck if she complains of pain.”

“Is it a pain killer,” I asked.

“No,” she replied. “Liquid Plumber.”

Karen lit up a cigarette and said, “Step on it, fat boy. We're burning daylight.”

I had my window down to take advantage of the spring air, which could have been early summer. The incoming breeze fluttered her gown a bit, and I the rearview mirror framed a glimpse of a tattoo of Mack, made out to look like Elvis, on her thigh. (It was either Mack or Willie Nelson, as the beard was executed in great detail.)

She caught me catching the glimpse in the mirror and said, "Keep your eyes on the road, Blimpo."

Saint Barnabas Hospital is in Livingston, NJ, along the old Erie Lackawanna Main Line. The GPS routed me there through Chicago. But we pulled up in good shape and Karen let out a squeal when she saw Mack outside.

My phone rang several times enroute, as the guys called me from the bar in Delaware. They wanted to let me know that my three pals had joined up with them, that they were having a great time, and to thank me for a great ride. They described the chill of the cocktails, the sweet saltiness of the clams on the half-shell, and the trill of the ride. Actually, they asked about Mack and Karen first. Several then inquired what he was going to do with the motorcycle. (The vultures circle quickly with this group.)

In a discussion about the accident much later on, some of the Mac-Pac’s GS riders cautioned Mack that the bike’s power-assisted brakes, even with the ABS, can slam that model to a sudden stop, which may have played a role in the accident, and two others in which he dropped the bike at a standstill.

Some of their recommendations included:
• Not filling the side bags with library books before leaving for a ride.
• Leaving the free-weights back at the gym.
• Not carrying a hot water heater strapped to the back of the bike.
• Attempting to remain conscious when bringing the bike to a stop.

Yet the boys are the soul of practicality, and had an engraved piece of metal made for the bike’s dash. It reads, “Place feet on ground at full stops.”

While motorcycle accidents give me the creeps, I prefer to deal with those where there are no fatalities. The bike sustained some degree of damage to the left jug, and the incident would have been a wash had Karen not been injured. I understand the surgery was successful and that Karen’s long-term plans include a Kawasaki Ninja. Mack and Karen are friends of mine, and I was glad to be of assistance during these circumstances. I will never forget the effort and personal sacrifice endured by Dick Bregstein on my behalf, when I was hit by that mini van in Virginia in 2006. It was my turn to "pay it forward."

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


MackBeemer said...

Dear Jack:

I thought your comments and the advice of the 'Pac profoundly amusing. I know this may come as a surprise since amusement is rarely a deep thing with you (or anyone else for that matter). But there it is. When you don't pay for it, you get what you get, and woe betide the ingrate who complains that this or that detail was misdescribed, this or that person was illegitimately abused, or ... well, you get my drift I am sure.

Still, one wonders if this was your best shot. I have come out from behind the stuffed chair, removed the sofa blocking the doorway, and emptied my underwear of the smelly detritus accumulated during my "going to ground."

Thank you for your kind (?) words!

Older 'n' dirt 'n' twice as dumb.

BMW-Dick said...

Dear Jack:
Screw pay it forward. You owe me BIG TIME....I hope I never collect. It's more fun reminding you of the debt.
Glad Karen is recovering well and that Mack didn't totally trash the bike and himself. I'm also glad I crapped out on that ride, because I would have volunteered to ride with you on that shitty trip to NJ.

Unknown said...

While I do not personally know Mack or Karen I feel a lot closer to them based upon those visual images that you have alluded . I cannot shake the image of her tatoo which is dancing around in my mind and of her in that backless hospital gown. I don't know how you managed to drive that 2 hours and 53 minutes keeping your eyes on the road, rather than in the rear-view mirror. And knowing you, I think that you purposely left your window down.Karen:
I truly hope that you recover well enough to ride another day, perhaps on your own machine.

I've been eyeing those GS's, and Yellow is my color. I would be forever indebted to you if you chose to give it to me.
does it come with those aluminum panniers ? Does it have heated grips ?

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

mtlcowgirl said...


Your astuteness as to my sensitivity is nothing short of astounding. You are too charitable. We both know my vitriol was far worse than that.

I am mending as well as can be expected. The brace came off yesterday. Physio is next.

Your bud,

Hopalong Kennedy

mtlcowgirl said...


Believe me. For once, Jack was speechless for the better part of 3 hours. I couldn't imagine why. Now I know. Yes, I will walk, and ride, again.


redlegsrides said...

A riveting report Mr Riepe....I pity Mack Harrell and the crap he's going to have to take for the next few rides or so until someone else does something to divert the wolves.....

Worse, he's going to have to cater to Karen! My wife, while 8 months pregnant with our second son, managed to fall and break her foot while walking in a parking lot. Talk about scary but the incident was nowhere as dramatic as your account. I am sure though, had you been there, you'd have made it sound exciting.

That bar by the water sounds great, though I hate seafood for the most part, do they serve "real" food?

Unknown said...

Jack speechless . . . hmm, I don't think so. (Of course he barks louder than he bites)
Hope it doesn't hurt too much and get well quick now that you hold the remote control and can issue commands all day long to poor Mack as he has nothing to say that will remedy this situation (which he created)bob
bobskoot: wet coast scootin

MattPie said...

I would have stayed on the route instead of turning left if I knew just about everyone was going to follow me. :) If was supposed to be 4 or 5!

Karen: I hope you're feeling better!

Woody said...

I know how you were anticipating this ride; you spoke of it like a giddy schoolboy with a new Hustler magazine.

I'm sorry to hear of the mishap and wish Karen a speedy recovery. When she gets the Ninja, you can rest assure she won't be planning any rides with you.

Just to rub it in ... I was unable to attend the ride. I played hookey from work the day before and had no destination in mind, until I remembered your ride plans. So I did a solo run to Bombay Hook and had a nice trip. I took a bunch of photos, but only managed to post shots of a Red Fox and a Great Egret on my photoblog to date.

Thanks for the ride suggestion ;-)

sgsidekick said...

Wow. Karen sounds like a gal I'd like to meet, and sounds a LOT like Bugser when he put HIS bike into the dirt along the freeway. The initial hospital recommended he be transported to our local hospital, so into the car he went! His foot was hanging off his leg like a cartoon character, and all he demanded was that I stop at McDonalds before we hit the hospital, because he was hungry. This just goes to show that most motorcycle people are tough as nails (or crazy as loons), and use any excuse to prove it.

Your accounts of your trips are very enlightening. Thanks for taking us along.

Please let Karen know we're all pulling for her, and Bugser and I know what she and Mack are facing.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mack:

I thought long and hard about giving you both barrells in this tale, and I would have, except that Karen ended up in the hospital as a result of the accident. Had she walked from this, your ass and hers would have been fried.

As it was, you both got flash fried as opposed to deep fried. Once again, I was glad to have been of service. By the way, the Suburban was out of service the previous week. I would not have had a vehicle with which to drive Karen to the hospital in.

Fonfest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dick:

Thank you for the offer to keep me company, but I'd have told you to ride on with the other guys. The Suburban is a shit box, as you are well aware. Karen asked if she could smoke. The last thing I smoked in that truck was a salmon, or a joint. I can't remember which. Then again, you and I smoked a couple of cigars in the truck on the way to Mac-Pac dinner.

I'm just glad the wreck wasn't worse. We are now three and a half weeks away from our big ride.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Bobskoot:

I am forced to admit to you that I do make some stuff up when I write. For example, Karen's tattoo isn't really on her thigh. And I think it was Mack, as the beard was executed in great detail.

You should see Mack get on that GS. He uses an extension ladder and a knotted rope to get into the seat. That bike is one tall mutha. It does sink down on the shocks when you sit on it, but for me, mounting that beast would be impossible.

Mack had all Suzuki leathers when he bought that bike. He asked what he shoud do with them, and Pete Buchheit (Motonomad) had two words for him: cleaning rags.

Thank you for reading and for writing in.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Karen:

My arthritis is greatly aggravated by not being able to move my legs around, like from a sitting to a standing position. I wasn't talking on the 3-hour ride north, because I was gritting my teeth in agony.

And the pain really wears me out, so I was getting very tired on top of that. After I dropped yo off, I stopped three times on the way home to get out of the truck and move around.

I'm glad you are on the mend.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

As far as I'm concerned, there is nothing like eating fresh fish right on the water, and washing it down with an ice cold draft, or chilled rum drink that is not frozen. In fact, the situation practically cries out for a rum and coke.

Now there are some people who say that motorcycles and a snort don't mix. They do not weight nearly as much as I do. I can legally have 10 drinks in an hour, and still not hit the intoxicated level in Pa.

Regretably, I have developed a condition that prevents me now from having more than four cocktails a week. Anything more than that will give me a dizzying headache for two days.

Iam looking forward to rides to the New Jersey Shore, as well as down to Delaware, for the sole purpose of taking in the sun, the brreze, the flounde (or crabs) and a Cuba Libre.

Thank you for reading and for writng in.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Matt Piechota:

The Mac-Pac riders know a good thing when they see one. Thanks for taking over the ride for me on Saturday.

And thanks for reading this blog, and for writing in.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Woody:

When Karen Kennedy gets the Ninja, I'll get a sex change operation.

Let me know if you feel like doing that run again. I'd like nothing better than to ride through Bombay Hook, and then continue on to JP's on the Wharf -- or to Sambos in Liepsic.

Thank you for reading and for writing in. I'm dreadfully sorry if I misspelled your name before.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Tena:

I have no idea what Mack is facing... But Karen is facing life with a drooling fool, who can't remember to put his feet down.

Fondest regards,

Grandad 43 said...

Enjoyed the levity injected into this ride report.
As others have previously stated, I am so glad that the outcome was not more serious then it was.
Poor Mack, I know he feels bad enough and now he will never hear the end it.
If you reschedule the Bowers Beach ride, please let us all know.
Grandad 43
PS 14

Ron (bugser) (Mr. Cupcake) said...

Dear Jack

In regards to what Mack is facing, I would like to hazard a guess.

Lifelong servitude and riding "bitch"
behind Karen.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear GrandDad43:

I can schedule another ride down to Delaware anytine you like. And it doesn't have to be a lot of bikes to have a good time either. I'd be just as happy if it were you, Bregstein and myself, or anyone else. What are you doing on the third Sunday in May? If you feel like getting up early, you could meetme at the Mac-Pac Breakfast in Pottstown -- say "hello" to the folks, and we could head down to Delaware from there.

Or feel free to pick a weekend of your choice.

It's always great to hear from you. Thanks for reading and for writing in.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Bugser:

Mack Harrell is one of the first real riding friends I met up with when I first started to ride. Having said that, I intend to torture him when the prospect presents itself. Karen is the least of his worries.

Fondest regards,
Twisted Roads

Conchscooter said...

I can't think of anything useful to say but you seem to like thanking people so you can now thank me. Thank you.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Esteemed Friends and Colleagues:

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Michael, Mr. Conch, of Conchscooter fame, the author of Key West Diary, for what he has written today, which now compells me to go into the kitchen, and open a cold bottle of Warsteiner Lager.

This talented Scungili certainly deserves everything that is coming to him, which will be presented on my first visit to Key West. And the kind of person he is, Conch will modestly try and refuse it, denying that he actually knows very little useful information about Key West. But I will insist. Oh yes, I will. I will thank him in person... And in spades.

Conch, thank you for reading my blog, and for making such appropriate and astute observations.


motonomad said...


Great news that Karen is on the mend, and she and Mack will be back in the saddle (so to speak) sooner rather than later.

Also, I'm delighted that, despite the unfortunate circumstance, you finally got to use your rear view mirrors.....:).

Jack Riepe said...

Dear MotoNomad (Pete):

I never thanked you for carrying in my saddlebags to the house on our last multi-state ride. Are you planning to do that agin in three weeks? If so, please e advised that I will be carrying a few singles for tips.

Fondest regards,

motonomad said...


Dick, Clyde or I will be delighted to carry your panniers into our base camp in the unlikely event that any of us will still be awake by the time you arrive.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear MotoNomad (Pete):

You're going to pay for that.

Fondest regards,

Sojourner's Moto Tales said...

As usual, an excellent report that had me laughing and worrying about Karen, who tells me that she is doing well. She also tells me that you "embellish" matters--but I don't believe that for a minute!

DC said...

Dear Jack,

I still can't believe I peeled off the ride but minutes prior to the accident. Karen, I'm sorry I wasn't there to help, and am glad you are on the mend.

I'm afraid I may have contributed to the incident. Just before departing the diner, I mentioned to Mack that he could really get a leg up on his BMW miles if he were willing to drag a peg on occasion. Poor ol' buzzard got it all mixed up.

Andrea Fuentes said...

Man I didn't know Karen was hurt!!! Oh no... hope she is recuperating ok. I saw her posts so glad she will be OK after physiotherapy,

Your post was hilarious as usual.

One word for Mack: Why did you throw away those Suzuki leathers/Suzukis don't have all those tempermental problems like beemers, and tend to keep the rubber side DOWN. OK that was more than 1 word!

andrea fuentes aka hsart teacher

Anonymous said...


Your story on the fly is probably one of your best to date. Dot is upstairs saying, "what's so funny?" as I'm down in my office pissing my pants with laughter. Some days I really wonder what goes through that head of yours. No, on second thought, I wonder that every day.

Big Jim

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