Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Scrambled Eggs and Emotions -- April 19, 2009

Our routine was always the same. Scott Volk and I would start our Saturday bike hikes (as we called them) around 6am. We’d push off from his front porch on ten speeds loaded with lunch, water, and tools, heading down Nelson Avenue to Hague Street, turning right to pedal up hill to Kennedy Boulevard, then turning north on the “boulevard, the longest thoroughfare in Hudson County. There was something of a dip in the road where the Boulevard crossed from Jersey City into North Bergen, and then a slight uphill for the next five blocks. The clicking from the ratchet on the back wheel would become a steady buzz going through the dip but then become a slower litany that announced the cranking of the sprockets going uphill.

The year was 1968. I was fourteen.

Some of those rides were shorties, averaging about 40 miles. Others would go as far as 115 miles (to Peekskill, NY, coming back over the George Washington Bridge). We always headed north, as that was shortest way to get into what passed for country, highways and roads lined by cliffs and trees. There was never any complaint that we were passing through familiar territory once again. That was the price of getting out of town. We were pedaling north toward freedom... Long sweeping hills where we would hit impossible speeds on the downgrade... New things to see upclose... And an invisible line, the New York/New Jersey border, about 24 miles away. We were the only kids in the 7th and 8th grades who routinely rode their bikes into another state, looking for a good time. (This would become my lifestyle as I got older.)

The good times might be climbing on cliffs in Palisades Interstate Park (now illegal, the penalty is death), visiting historical sites (largely associated with the grand retreat of the Continental Army on their way to the next defeat), or riding through neighborhoods where people had real money (Alpine, NJ, Croton-On-Hudson) and imagining we might have some too someday.

Yet in those first few blocks, as my bike (which came from Sears and featured some really neat stuff on it, like drilled rims so the brakes worked in the rain) cleared the dip and started on the first mild uphill, I would always think, “Shit, I’m going to be doing this for the next eight to ten hours.” It never occurred to me to say, “I really don’t feel like sweating my ass off all day.” For one thing, my friend would have thought I was a pussy.  And for another, I'd waited all week for this. We were city kids. What else was there for us to do? Jersey City was the dog shit and broken glass capital of the world.

This was our way out.

I think of the halcyon days of my youth every time I get on this motorcycle. My routine is always the same. I get the bike to the head of the driveway and drag my left foot to the peg, a simple action that has come to hurt like hell for the last two years. And I always think, “Shit. I’m going to be doing this all day. Do I really feel like dealing with the pain in my knees and dodging killer traffic for the next eight hours?” The answer to that question is always the same: What the hell would I do anyway? And Bregstein would just think I was a pussy. The inside of my head has become the dog shit and broken glass capital of the world. 

This bike is the way out.

I had just gotten my left foot up to the peg with a minimum of grimacing. In fact, it was easier than I expected. I looked over at Michael Cantwell on his blue K75, loaded for the 400-mile ride home, and said, “Follow me.”

“I have to,” he said through his helmet. “I don’t know where we’re going.” Cantwell had been saying profound things like that for the last two days. Quoting him in this story would be liking paraphrasing a cigar store Indian.

The morning was exactly as I like them, deep gray, with a promise of rain that wouldn’t come until the next day. It was this forecast that caused Michael to cut his trip by a day, and to be headed back to the Adirondacks, out of the wet. Yet this was the third Sunday of the month, April 19th, and we’d be having breakfast at the Pottstown Family Diner -- with the assembled company of the Mac-Pac (the premier chartered BMW riding club serving southeast Pennsylvania.)

It’s a fast run to the diner, about 18 miles. There was absolutely no traffic and 7:30am is too early for most of the chrome and leather boys. But was not too early for one of the harpies from “MacBeth” to be out driving a mini van. This personification of stupidity was stopped in front of me at a light in the town of Eagle. She signaled left (from the far right, ignoring the left turning lane), and I went to get around her on the right shoulder. Amazingly enough, she started to turn right (despite the fact there is no road there but a low wall). Michael and I hit our horns at the same instant, bringing her to a stop. I showed her the roost for the state bird of New Jersey (the finger) as I got around her.

And even then she decided not to take the left turn she signaled for.

Nine out of ten of the vehicles that will tailgate me, turn in front of me, or do something stupid around me will be minivans. What is it with minivan drivers? Do you have to be really stupid before they sell you one, or do you get a lobotomy at the dealer’s?

There were about 60 bikes parked behind the diner. The majority of these were Beemers, ranging in age from brand new to 40 years old. There were also Ducatis, Triumphs, a semi-precious MV Agusta, a Harley, and one Gold Wing. I always try to park next to the MV Agusta, as the owner breaks out tears when he realizes how close I come to falling on his machine as I dismount. (It is my understanding that an MV Augusta starts at about $64,000.) A faded K75 followed Michael and I into the lot, and I failed to recognize it as Moto Edde’s bike. This is the machine that Moto Edde Mendes rode from Morocco, through the Sahara, up through Turkey and “the Stans,” across China and Russia, and then from the west coast to the east coast in the United States, to his native Philadelphia. The trip ran 39,000 miles and took 11 months.

“I can’t believe you didn’t say ‘hello’ to me when you pulled into the lot,” said Edde. “Didn’t you recognize me?”

I admitted I hadn’t. “But you didn’t wave to me either,” I said in my own defense. “Didn’t you recognize me?”

“Actually, I had,” said Edde. That stung.

Moto Edde Mendes, who rode the K75 in the picture from Morocco through the Sahara, up through Turkey, the "Stans,"  plus China, and Russia, before shioping the bike to the US and riding it from the west coast to Philadelphia... Some 39,000 miles in all. Unlike a couple of movie stars who had an entourage, Edde did it alone. The scratches on the fairing were not sustained on the-round-the-world trip, but as the result of a tip-over in Philly. The bike got a thorough mechanical make-over from the legendary Tom Cutter, who kept finding sand in every part of it
(Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

We were among the last to arrive and breakfast was playing out along the lines of a prison riot. The two waitresses were overwhelmed, and would stand in the doorway to our private room, yelling out things like, “Who ordered the fried eggs with bacon?” Naturally, twenty guys would yell out, “I did.”

A more experienced waitress arrived on the scene and restored order by dispensing coffee with a fire hose.

Michael and I had a brief search for empty seats. My brothers in arms immediately vacated a spot for me, with a full view of the men’s room.Whenever the door opened, I could see somebody standing there shaking a Taylor ham. (You must be from New Jersey to fully appreciate this last line.) Every time Cantwell approached an empty seat, someone would throw a coat over it and yell, “No room.” (He eventually found himself sitting with the six or seven guys that nobody else likes. These included Dick Bregstein, Gerry Cavanaugh, Horst Oberst, and myself.)

Jim Sterling (left) and Rich Newman both tell me I'm limping much better today.
There is never a polo mallet around when you need one.
(Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

The Mac-Pac has a long-standing restaurant tradition of demanding separate checks. This is to prevent one or two tight wads from ordering the steak and eggs and insisting they only had coffee. The waitress sauntered over to our table and asked Bregstein his name.

“Dick,” he replied.

“No argument there,” chimed in a voice from an adjacent table. It might have been Jim Ellenberg. Jim rode in that day on his Suzuki resurrected from an accident that sounded a lot like Mack Harrell’s. (Read previous post.) Jim limped away from that one, but he too earned a rod in his leg.

When the waitress looked at me and demanded my name, I couldn’t resist. “Big Dick,” I said.

One of the most beautiful vintage bikes to show up at this breakfast. I believe this is an R60/6 (thanks, John Clauss, but I did not get the rider's name or the details. 
I'll publish these when I do.
(Photo by Jack Riepe - Please enlarge)

There were few points of business to announce that day, but we had been joined by quite a few guests, who were all asked to stand up and suffer introduction. Two gentlemen, Bill Mauser and Doug Braley had ridden up from Virginia to join us, having read about the Mac-Pac in this blog. Doug Braley asked Jim Ellenberg to introduce me.

“Why?” replied Ellenberg. “Meeting Riepe is a highly overrated experience. Wouldn't you like to met some women instead? They might do to you in person what Riepe will certainly do to you in his blog.”

We had the pleasure of meeting Michael Thomas, a blues musician from Frazer, who rode on one of the oldest Beemers in attendance. Mr. Thomas insisted on eating his breakfast outside, at the picnic table where the waitresses smoke. While many of us instantly saw the wisdom of this decision, he explained that his riding partner, Windy, a 40-pound white labrador retriever who likes the pillion, was restricted to the outside. (We almost took a vote on the subject to bring the issue before the diner’s manager. Then two other individuals, one may have been Bregstein, made a motion to nominate the dog as club president. Someone else said we can't have dogs in the club, but that idea was scrapped as it would have excluded several non-German bikes in the parking lot.)

Michael Thomas, a blues musician from Frazer, Pa, and "Windy," a 40-pound 
labrador retriever who rides pillion on a venerable Beemer "R" bike. 
(Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

Mr. Thomas got the dog to keep him company following heart surgery (his, not hers). Since all he could do was lay on the couch after the operation, the puppy grew up thinking this is what people did. She is the most attentive and sedate dog I have ever met, and one of the sweetest. Out in the parking lot, she put her head on my shoulder, and whispered, “I’ll lick your ear if you go back in there and get me a cheeseburger.”

"Windy," responding to something that Dick Bregstein said.
(Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

The best part of a Mac-Pac breakfast is the stuff that goes on in the parking lot later. The guys make the rounds, look at the really cool bikes, and occasionally peel out on rides. I like to be the last one to leave. This makes it possible for me to hear the sound of each machine as it goes, and to remember the face of each rider. Events with these guys are always like having Thanksgiving dinner with a big family, in which you like each member, and are always sorry when they leave.

Gerry Cavanaugh (left) and Chris Jacarrino (back to camera) give Michael Cantwell some good advice before his departure. Rumor has it they told him not to come back anytime soon.
(Photo by Jack Riepe -- Click to enlarge)

Chris Jacarrino and Dave Case put together a nice little backroads run up to I-78, and the boys led Mike Cantwell on a pleasant and picturesque ride to the slab as the parting shot for his Mac-Pac indoctrination. I decided to give it the pass, as I didn’t want to hold anybody back. Jim Ellenberg and I sat there bullshitting for almost two hours, Then we took off down Rt. 422, parting company at Valley Forge.

I rode the last twelve miles in introspection. It had been a busy three days. I had been looking forward to this weekend for a month. Now it was over. The custom seat had become a trial... Mike Cantwell had come and gone... And Mack Harrell had dropped his bike...Then I noticed how the jolts to my hip always become more pronounced when I’m riding alone. Finally, I realized this weekend wouldn’t be over until I wrote about it. And then it would never be over. Not for some.

Doug Braley (foreground) and Bill Mauser (background) rode up from Virginia to join the Mac-Pac for breakfast. On the way home, an extra long battery post (replacement battery) connected with the aluminim gas tank on Braley's GS, and burned a hole through it. They effected repairs on continued on their way. It was a pleasure meeting these two guys.
(Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

I was on US-202 now, which can be very heavily travelled. But the traffic was minimal this day, as I held the red beast to a steady 65 mph. Yet a glance in the mirror revealed some asshole in minivan was three feet behind my back wheel. “Eat shit and die,” I thought, twisting on the gas. Five seconds later, the minivan was a flyspeck on the mirrored glass, and my tach read 8 grand.

I richocheted up the driveway, where I met Leslie (Stiffie) in the garage.

“How was breakfast,” she asked?

“The same,” I replied.

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


redlegsrides said...

Good writeup Jack, nice to see the mac-pac apparently treated Mr Cantwell nicely on his intro to the group.

As to your experiences with idiots in minivans, I tend to get the same from Audi drivers....not sure what it is about cagers who ride this particular brand but they tend to drive like assholes. It's gotten to the point that seeing the audi logo raises alarms in my head as I ride along.

So, did you give the NJ salute to the tailgating idiot at the end of the ride before you left him in the dust?

Unknown said...

Ah, yes. Reminds me I need to do my next installment on how to do three 1500 mile days in a row. Wish I weren't job hunting. Might bop down to Rehoboth Saturday to take the boy to a CAP rocket launch. Wanna join us?

Jack Riepe said...

dear Charlie6 (Dom):

Glad you like the breakfast docu-drama, Domingo. the Mac-Pac treats everyone eqully, with a firm handshake and the left-handed compliment. I have never had so much fun with a motorcycle.

I occasionally hear from guys who attempted to join other clubs, who say things like:
• The had more rules than rides...
• Their rituals were really stupid...
• They had 14 members and 23 committees...
• They were douches...

This group is very different.

Since the second mini van driver din't come close to kiling me, I just took off. Sometims I try to wave them past me, but they are usually oblivious.

Thanks for reading this tripe and for writing in.

Fondest regards,

Woody said...

“Big Dick,” says it all.

We techies have been working on a prototype surface-to-surface motorcycle mounted missile that only targets minivans. You can test the prototype.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Rogers:

It is always a pleasure to hear frim you! I regret I will not be riding this weekend -- not on a bike anyway -- as family business is taking me to Nebraska for six days. we are driving out, and leaving tomorrow.

I have some posts prepared to run on this blog that are set on automatic.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Woody:

I'm sorry I didn't have the prototype in 2007.

Fondest regards,

Unknown said...

I am amazed that you can remember so many fine details about events that occurred over 4 decades ago, and not a mention of swinging your leg over the bars without any difficulties. Back in the day, it would appear that you covered more miles on your bicycle than your K75.

Here in British Columbia, mini-van drivers come in 2 flavours. The first group consider them as high performance sports cars, quick off the line, tailgate, and aggressive lane change maneuvers on a whim. The second group meanander aimlessly at slow speeds in the HOV lanes, often stopping at intersections wondering which way to go and park by the "bump" method. It seemed that you have encountered the first variety. Up here you have to watch out closely for those VOLVO drivers who think they are mini-vans of the first variety.

While I have to consult my maps, I would think that Nebraska is nearly half way to British Columbia. You're getting very close . . . (in your words) only 3 states away. Or in Rogers George's terminology only 1 saddle sore butt ride 1,500. mile day. What I am trying to say is if you are in the area there will be 1 - 6 oz cup of the finest starbucks coffee waiting for you. I'm still on the fence about including the matching donut. We don't have a Duval Street, but I think we can come up with a substitute.

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

redlegsrides said...

to add to Bobskoot's comment re distances, once you're in NE, you're just ONE state away from God's country, Colorado.....where exactly will you be located in the Cornhusker state?

If you don't feel its an intrusion and are so inclined, I might be able to ride out to at least shake your hand.....update the photo for the post office wanted poster, you know...

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom) and Bobskoot:

I will be in the Omaha area on Friday, Saturday, and Monday. I will be in Nebraska City on Sunday night. Zap me on my personal e-mail JPRiepe@aol.com, and Ill give you my cell phone number.

I wll not be on my bike, but in Leslie's truck. I wouldn't regard meeting up as an intrusion at all. I'd offer to meet you halfway, but I cannot get that far away from the activity this weekend.

Fondest regards,

cpa3485 said...

Like Charlie, I am curious as to where you'll be in the cornhusker state. Not sure I am up for a 200-300 mile ride yet, but curious.

As to my first actual group ride, we held our initial scooter rally last Sunday. The weather threatened us a bit with a forecast of showers, and I am sure some more recreational riders didn't show up because of the weather, it actually turned out to be a great success! Among the 14 participants, we had a 500cc Kymco' a 400cc Burgman' down to a couple of 50cc bikes and almost everything in between.

I tried to suggest we ride in groups of 4-5 but we ended up riding as one large bunch. Everybody was very careful though, and although we had some fairly inexperienced riders, it worked out very well.

Amazingly enough, one person volunteered to help set up a website for us and by Monday night, it was up and running. Things are off to a flying start.

Like your Mac PAC, we will have no dues and the main priority will be riding and then eating!

Unknown said...

I was in Omaha a few years ago. I remember they were restoring an area called something like "the old market". Westroads Mall, Crossroads mall, sort of like a fog to me now, but I remember lots of places to shop and we ended up at the Liard Zoo since the Strategic Air Command was closed the day we were there.

Please take pictures of all the sights and post them Key West Diary documentary style, thank you in advance

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Jack Riepe said...

Dear CPA3485:

Congratulations on the success of your first group run, and the beginnings of your club. I think 14 is a great number to start with. You may soon discover that there are five people who show up for everything, ten people who show up for some things, and 20 people who show up for two things.

My suggestion is to keep things loose and manageable. Remember, this is about fun and safety. One thing you might want to emphasize is that everyone should agree on those two points.

Eventually, you will also discover that the best number for a ride is almost certainly two, and seldom more than four.

I have no other advice to offer, not knowing anything about scooters. What is the cruisng speed of a 49cc scooter? How do you tailor a group ride to the lowest denominator? I have no idea (other than to give everyone the ride directions and say, "See you there.") I do know that the least experienced riders are routinely sandwiched between the more experienced road runners, when it comes to motorcycles. Sounds good for scooters too!

As I said earlier, I will be in Omaha on Friday, Sunday, and Monday, of this week, and in Nebraska City on Saturday. Drop me a line on my private email, JPRiepe@aol.com, and I'll send you my cell phone number.

Fondest regards,

Sojourner's Moto Tales said...

Jack, I loved this tale! Especially how it started. I used to ride my bicycle all over the neighborhood (alone) and went to far away places. I didn't know until I was an adult that I was "into" long distance riding back then. But like you, it was the only way to get out of the neighborhood! The Mac Pac group continues to sound like a fun gathering--although I think I'd be a tad overwhelmed by it all.

I have thought many times that on my rides I'd like to have a stunt gun that can penetrate cars and zap the crap out of people exhibiting stupid behavior while driving a car. Just a zap on the side of the head to wake them the hell up!

John said...

I do not know who the owner is but I can tell you that the bike is a R60/6, you can tell even if the plate wasn't there, by the type of carb and the drum front brake as opposed to the disc of the R75/6. Happy to help!

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Bobskoot:

I generally sit in a hotel and work when I'm in Omaha. I expect nothing to be different on this trip. In fact, I can guarantee there won't be one picture or a woed written about it.

That's how it goes on a lot of my non-moto trips.

Fondest regards,

DC said...

Another great story, Jack.

We had fun chasing Jaccarino's lead over those backroads he knows so well, as we led your friend (and new Mac-Pac'r), Mr. Cantwell north toward NY after the b'fast.

For those of you outside the Philly area, we have had FIVE straight days of rain in the Mid-Atlantic region [1.9" total]. I'm surprised the murder rate hasn't tripled. Morale is certainly low. If it rains again tomorrow, I'm taking the gas pipe.


MackBeemer said...

Dear Jack:

Good report on a good day. As Karen says, "Sorrrrrrry I couldn't make it!"

I've been thinking about my taste of dust lately and the causes thereof. One factor I hadn't considered (other than my failure to put my feet down as the Queen came to a stop) is the placement of the Hepco Becker Gobi Bags relative to the rear axle. They are relatively high up, making the bike even more top-heavy than otherwise.

The bike is in the shop for her 24K mile service. I'm going to talk to the guy, ("The Motorcycle Consultant", Keith Speegle
Email k.speegle@hotmail.com
Phone 347 581 1930) about this. I've tried to follow Cutter's advice about putting heavy stuff at the bottom of the bags and forward, but my thinking is now: I need a different set of bags - like Jesses or something.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear DC (Dave Case):

Once again, I like to extend my thanks to all of you guys in the Mac-Pac who contributed to the success of that weekend, and for the warm welcome extend to M. Cantwell.

Some day, he'll get a chance to ride with me for longer than 22 minutes, and he'll find out what hell is really like.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Sharon:

I like to think that my motorcycle riding has long and deep roots in the thousands of miles I put on bicycles in my youth. The truth is I knew dozens of roads and byways by bicycle long before I hit the road on a motorcycle.

And I had no fear of navigating a two-wheeled vehicle through dense traffic, after riding a bike on the shoulders or what passed for shoulders in New Jersey.

If we could eliminate all the stupid drivers we run across in cars, the cage driver would be an endangered species.

Thanks for reading and for writing in.

Fondest regards,

Tena (sgsidekick) said...

Hey, Jack. Loved how you started out with bicycles. On bikes you could escape to any world you could invent. The same stands for adults and motorcycles & scooters...or anything else with 2 wheels. (No, unicycles do NOT count as adventure.

I'm leary of telling any ijit driver they are number 1 in my book (with my second finger), as the last time I did, they pulled alongside me and mimed firing a handgun at my head. That tends to take the fun out of it. However, if you have the misfortune to ride in the car with me, do bring earplugs, as I tend to get loud & inventive with the vitriol I spout at offenders. A young passenger almost threw up from laughing so hard at me trying NOT to use bad, loud, obnoxious language in front of her as I drove.

Nebraska? So close, yet so far... hug Leslie for us!

Conchscooter said...

Lovely story told by a master story teller. Always a delight. Especially the particular characterization of your dear friends. I was so glad to learn your nickname is Big Dick, and that's how I will think of you from here on as our electronic friendship swells.
with fondest affection
your friend
A Lapdog in a Crate.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mr. Conchscooter:

How the new leaf flutters in the breeze! I too feel the same influence to be kind and good. Yet considering I'm in PR, I can put the semblence of half-assed success on it, without investing anything.

The line you used in your piece before last, the one in which you stated something like we should all have dad's who take us to concerts, was actually quite profound.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Tena:

That was the absolute truth. I hit 60 miles per hour on a ten speed bike (on a long downhill stretch below Peekskill, NY, long before I ever did it in a car or on a motorcycle. On a tire that was about 1.5 inches around.

For my friends and I, there was no other escape.

Thank you for reading my tripe and for writing in.

Fondest regards,

Anonymous said...

Love it Jack! The pics were great, especially the dog.

yes, you get a FREE lobotomy with MIni Van purchases, at least here in Miami.

Andrea Fuentes aka hsartteacher

sgsidekick said...

Jack, how did we all survive our childhoods???

MattPie said...

Hmm, I have a mini van as a rental (there wasn't a choice at 11PM). I don't feel any dumber...