Even with the vents opened on this Nolan helmet, sweat percolated through my eyebrows -- drowning millions of tiny mites alleged to be living there -- before coursing in little streams to the corners of my eyes. The familiar whine of the K75’s engine told me the tach needle was closing on 7 grand with the bike in fifth, which would put me at just under three digits on the speedo.
(Photo courtesy of Motogadget on the internet)
Charlie Shit-For-Brains was squatting in the left lane at a sedate 62 mph, his Mercedes sedan serving as the cork in a moving bottle-neck as he paralleled two huge trucks for miles, creating a “no” zone that could have had it’s own zip code. What was amazing is that this inconsiderate dope exactly matched his speed to that of the trucks on his right, whether they were moving along on a flat stretch, braking on a downhill sweeper, or straining to maintain speed on a long climb.
Why anyone would want to drive alongside two noisy, stinking diesel behemoths on a hot afternoon beats the hell out of me. I certainly didn’t. It was like sitting on a vinyl griddle, being toasted by the exhaust of a jet engine. The afternoon heat was in the high 80’s, with humidity to match. My mesh jacket captured this breeze from hell, sucking every drop of moisture through my skin. (I wouldn’t have to piss for 12 hours.) The guy in the Mercedes had backed up traffic in long lines and it had taken me a while to edge up to this spot.
This spot marked the beginning of the “go” zone and I was flying as I entered it.
A slight incline widened the gap between the trucks. Charlie Shit-For-Brains was dead center in the opening. It would be a tight squeeze getting around him. One last, fast look over my shoulder and I triggered the right turn signal button. The K75 angled into the opening and I was alongside the Mercedes in a flash, nestled in a pigeonhole between the trucks. This was the lair of Hunter S. Thompson’s Sausage Creature
and I was the bait.
I hit the opposite turn signal button, and banked left in one fluid movement -- into the first stretch of open road I’d seen in an hour.
Swinging right again, I slowed to a more practical speed, about 80, as Dick Bregstein and Clyde Jacobs negotiated the same maze. Soon we were in “velociraptor” formation, with stark headlamps and running lights marking our position in the afternoon haze. It was at that point the three Maryland State Police cruisers emerged from the melee behind us... And continued on, in search of easier prey.
I don’t listen to music as I ride. No sound from any earphones can possibly match the music in my head. In this case, it was Blue Oyster Cult’s "Fear The Reaper.”
Laughing out loud, I marveled at what this ride had become... And how very differently it had begun, eight hours earlier...
I create great plans -- then execute them like old people fuck.
I had had a year to make my arrangements for this ride, and for one reason or another, it was still touch and go as far as getting a shot to control the pain in my left hip before we left. Worse, the custom seat that I was expecting to forever free me from the torture of the stock BMW K75 short seat didn’t arrive from its final alterations until 48 hours before our departure time. (Please read this prior blog
to get the background on my legendary Russell Day-Long seat. The damn thing was like Chinese handcuffs for my ass.)
Well I got the the shot in my hip and it really didn’t seem to work this time. While my left hip appeared a bit more mobile, it was still plenty sore. (It should be pointed out that I am still plenty fat and my joints have been ravaged by arthritis and abuse for years.) The seat issue was more complicated. The folks at Russell Cycle Products graciously listened to my story, about how their seat attacked my ass and wouldn’t let go of it in the very public parking lot of the Himalayan Exotic Indian Restaurant (Frazer, Pa), and seemed very sympathetic.
One of their master seat-builders, a guy named Mike (who judging by his picture is about 14-years-old), sort of implied it might be easier to bring in a plastic surgeon or demolition expert to reduce the land mass of my ass. We didn’t have the best connection on the phone, but I could have sworn he said that no motorcycle seat in the world could serve as a barrier to continental drift. But Mike also said they could make some sort of adjustment to the seat if I could mark the problem area with masking tape.
I did. And they did get the seat back to me before the ride, considering they are in the peak of their production season.
My level of expectation matched that of an adolescent opening a debutante’s brassiere for the first time as I lifted the allegedly altered seat from the oversized carton. It looked exactly like it did when I sent it back to them.
“Fucked again, Bullwinkle
,” was the phrase that came to my mind. “They didn’t do shit to this seat,” was my conclusion.
So burdened with the realization that my hip was throbbing, that this damn seat appeared to be virtually unchanged, and that I had had almost no saddle time (that was not absolutely torturous) before this trip, I poured myself a cup of coffee in the darkened kitchen and dreaded the thought of getting on this bike. “At least it’s not raining,” I thought, a second before the distant rumble of thunder passed over the house.
First light barely diluted the sky with streaks of gray, while steamy fog coagulated at the end of the driveway. For a while, it seemed like this would be the pattern for the whole day (Thursday, May 28th), with a prediction for late afternoon thunderstorms thrown in for comic relief. Rain had been forecast for most of the previous weekend and the beginning of the week, yet it never came. Now, hours before our departure, rain was imminent, with a possibility of becoming a recurrent theme for Friday as well.
There had been a flurry of e-mail activity around 5:30am.
The three other guys were debating the wisdom of postponing the trip by 24 hours to avoid a potential drenching. Pete voted to go as scheduled, considering Friday was looking like rain too. Dick said he would go either way (which merely confirmed suspicions). Clyde would ride through a sea of bubbling shit if he felt like going on a run. Therefore, I would be the swing vote.
But I didn’t want to get on the fucking motorcycle.
“Just tell them you don’t want to go,” said Leslie, the heart-throb of my life. She found me sitting in the kitchen, wearing my mesh jacket and boxer shorts. “Call Pete and tell him the truth.”
“The truth being you’re sick and you need me to stay home and take care of you,” I said, looking up.
“No, the truth in which you are a fat, unprepared chicken shit, who is unwilling to admit that his motorcycling days are behind him’
“Aside from ‘fat,’ they are not likely to believe me,” I replied.
“Well use the phrase ‘chicken shit’ to describe yourself and that will pretty much establish your credibility,” said Leslie.
“I have seen omens,” I said.
In the garage, vultures were roosting on my bike’s handlebars. Blood, dripping from the ceiling, dried into my initials on the tank. And a severed head in the top case, grinned and wished me a good morning. Lesser men would have shit themselves.
“There’s no such thing as omens,” said Leslie. “Either ride the bike or sell it.” She then leaned over, as if to give me a hug, and whispered, “Chickenshit,” one more time.
I rolled “Fireballs” out into the driveway and attached the packed side bags. She looked good. The BMW K75 is a quarter-horse. It won’t win races and won’t wheelie down the block. But it will run all day at 80 or 90 miles per hour without burning oil and without getting hot.
I then took what amounts to a running leap (in my case, a surging limp) at the Russell Day-Long saddle, and swung my leg over it. I had no trouble rolling into it.
“Hot rats,” I thought.
Sliding slightly forward, I could easily flat-foot the bike.
“Sonavabitch,” I uttered.
But the real marvel came with the seating position. Without appearing to be appreciably higher, the new seat slightly elevated my thighs, which made it very easy to get my useless left leg up to the peg -- without the jolt of pain I have been experiencing for the last two years. And unlike the last time I tried this seat, I could dismount without putting on a side show.
I was awestruck.
Bregstein roared into the driveway, with his “R” bike loaded down like a prop for a remake of “The Grapes of Wrath.” He had two side bags, a huge duffle bag, and a tank bag expanded so it resembled an accordion with a raccoon living in it. I was surprised to see him as we had agreed to meet In Clyde’s driveway, some 20 miles to the south.
Dick Bregstein showed up to make sure I was a starter in the 3rd Annual west Virginia Ride.
Dick executed great turns on this trip, with exemplary precision on tight corners...
Textbook turns on a great looking motorcycle.
(Photo by the author -- Click To Enlarge)
“I was afraid we’d get a call from you canceling out if I didn’t show up to shame you into it,” said Dick.
“Are you nuts,” I asked? “I wouldn’t miss this ride for anything.’
Leslie didn’t say anything, but just held up two fingers, about a half-inch apart, indicating how close it had come. I gave both a look of pained righteous indignation.
“Judging by that look of vaudevillian pained righteous indignation, I got here in the nick of time,” said Bregstein.
Refusing to dignify this thinly veiled insult with a comment, I gave a wave to both with my middle finger and roared out of the driveway, hitting second gear at the bottom (with both feet on the pegs) -- an event that has not occurred in recent memory. I was stunned by the incredible difference this new seat made. With the stock seat, and the previous model of an aftermarket seat, the first ten miles would entail getting adjusted to the riding position and the various pains in hips and knees that were common to both. There was none of that nonsense with the Russell Day-Long Saddle.
The folks at Russell Cycle Products clearly state the the broader profile of this seat will require the rider to forcibly slide forward a bit to get both feet down. And they make a point of asking, are you more concerned with a comfortable ride (shooting through the countryside, racking up the miles, being thrilled by scenery, elevating your soul, and quite possibly getting laid) or the joy of planting your feet at a stoplight (while breaking your ass and balls) on a splitting maul of a seat as you ride?
This is an important question if you have legs like a circus midget, a tall bike, or a combination of both. Yet for those who often miss the point, the real question here should be, “do you primarily go 60 miles in the course of a long ride, stopping often to wipe the bird shit off the chrome, while asking your pals how your bike sounds? If so, you needn’t spend the $700 (or so) for a Russell Day-Long Saddle.
The seating position on the BMW K75 is about 29 inches in the air (short seat) and not nearly as lofty as most bar stools. Yet the average bar stool does not require the patron to spread his legs wide and thrust 560 pounds of iron between them. The forward slide mandated by the Russell seat is indeed one more conscious action to be aware of as you come upon a stop light or a full stop at an intersection. The way their shop had cut this seat initially (for maximum fat ass support), I had difficulty getting my legs down in the proper position to hold this bike up.
I currently have a 28-inch inseam. It used to be a 32-inch inseam but being cut off at the knees through two divorces has taken its toll.
The first test of the seat came at a stoplight less than a mile from the house. The intersection was clear and I was but a half-mile away, cracking open the throttle as I leaned through a slight curve. In this part of Pennsylvania, the traffic lights are on sensors. The first vehicle into the intersection will trip the light, or start that process, regardless of how long it has been green in the other direction. Emma Blodgett, 104, had just picked up a quart of prune juice at the local Genuardi’s, after leaving her home in “The Shades Of Death Adult Living” community. She approached the light (which was red) at her top speed of 45 mph, stopping three feet into the intersection.
The light turned amber in my face, then changed to red two seconds later. The K75 bled off speed in less time that it takes the average woman to conclude that she will never sleep with me throughout her entire life (about a second and a half). It was a simple reflex action to move forward and catch the bike with my feet. It took no effort whatsoever. Furthermore, it is important to note that there is no unintended tendency to slide forward on the Russell Day-Long seat. It is a marvel of ass-focused technology.
Now my gentle reader is undoubtedly thinking, “Who really gives a shit?” I am assured that the gentle reader is definitely thinking this if they have a ball-buster of a seat on their bike. But I can honestly say that this Russell Day-Long saddle dramatically changed the entire complexion of this four-day ride for me.
Clyde Jacobs - master wood worker and cabinet builder -- is a man of few words and unfathomable sarcasm.
He would serve as ride captain and primary navigator.
(Photo by Pete Buchheit -- Click to enlarge)
We met Clyde in his driveway 30 minutes later. He raised his right hand in a relaxed wave, typical of the late Princess Diana acknowledging the crowd, and gave us the traditional warm Mac-Pac (the premier chartered BMW riding club in southeastern Pennsylvania) welcome:
“What took you assholes so long? I’ve been ready to go for two hours.”
Dick and I responded with the appropriate reply, “Eat shit and die.”
Clyde led us through a series of back roads that illustrated the true character of Maryland. We crossed the Mason-Dixon line, technically entering the south long before we encountered a hint of the Virginia’s. While famous for its Eastern Shore, Maryland has beautiful inland byways that traverse quaint farms, horsey communities, and forested pockets that harken to another era. Quaint architecture stands in contrast to current building codes that make no accommodation for practicality, style, or cultural significance.
Under normal circumstances, I would have argued with Clyde against taking back roads in favor of the slab. The pain in my hips and knees is generally aggravated by the local twisties as shifting my bulk is like moving a refrigerator every few seconds or so to get through a turn. This was not the case with the new Russell Day-Long seat. I rode a good three hours before my knees wanted the first break.
Not only did the back roads offer the best opportunity to see the character of the states we rode through, they were cooler as trees covered much of the road surface... They were largely free of traffic... And they presented better opportunity to stop at locations of our choice. They are also a lot more fun as they are what the bike (most bikes) are designed for. The pace was somewhat slower, averaging between 45 and 50 miles per hour, owing to the nature of the blind curves and the abundance of police, who were protecting the nation by writing tickets at the slightest provocation.
I rode in the “Tail Gun Charlie” position, content to let Clyde call the shots. Clyde navigated using the Christopher Columbus method, relying on maps with edges that were defined by dragons, and making direction changes that incorporated an astrolabe plus a surveyor’s transit. Yet on at least two occasions, he deferred to “Helen Keller” Bregstein, and his famous GPS. Now in Mac-Pac circles, it is quietly whispered that Bregstein purchased the original GPS unit that Amelia Earhart used on her ill-fated flight across the Pacific.
Clyde used an astrolabe for a GPS, a device that relies on the phases of the moon, the position of the stars, and the amount of phogistan in nearby wood to provide accurate readings.
(Photo courtesy of the internet -- Click to enlarge)
The first time we got turned around, we were looking for Westminster, Md. Clyde beckoned to Dick and said, “Left or right?”
Dick pressed two buttons on his coal-fired Garmin -- and paused. Then he pressed three more buttons, and looked puzzled. Once again he started pressing buttons and paused once again. He repeated this process looking graver and graver. (I suspected the device was telling he we were over Fiji and running out of fuel.) Finally, he looked up and said, “Left for a mile, then right,” using the same tone in which Chingachkook (pronounced Chicago, according to Mark Twain) declared himself the last of the Mohicans. We dutifully followed these directions until we passed the third sign indicating that Scranton, Pa. was just ahead. At this point, we retraced out steps and found Westminster three miles to the “right” of our initial turn.
Dick Bregstein's GPS, rumored to be the one used by Amelia Earhart on her flight across the Pacific.
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia -- Click to enlarge)
The weather had been gray all day, but finally looked as if it was going to deliver on its threats. Clyde suggested jumping on the slab for a bit to minimize our exposure to thunderstorms on narrow, twisting roads. Which brings me back to the opening of this story. The back roads were so much nicer than the slab. The heat radiated off the pavement on the slab. The inevitable truck traffic was annoying. And the only aroma was of spent hydrocarbons. However, I cannot deny that I like to go fast, and the slab is more likely to accommodate this preference than the side roads.
The rain began as a light sprinkling of droplets the size of duck eggs. These were gently whipped into an airy froth by two million spinning truck tires, providing us with the unique sensation of riding the last 60 miles through the meringue of hell. The tedious business of dodging trucks in the mist was relieved by a relaxing stretch of Rt. 901 (West Virginia), where the rain added a nice touch to soothing hairpin curves, generously decorated with gravel.
In the lead, I approached a curve on an incline but was able to see how it continued on through a field beyond the turn. Hitting the apex I realized the pavement in the field had nothing to do with the road I was on, which inconveniently twisted farther to the right in a decreasing radius with a negative camber. This change in circumstances nearly prompted a bowel movement.
The rain had ceased by the time we got to Berkeley Springs, West Virginia,
a resort town with close ties to George Washington. The aggressive drizzle had been replaced by three-dimensional humidity, imported from the Amazon. It’s hard to believe trhat the three of us started this junket without getting exact directions to the house in which were staying. We figured we’d pull into a nice place to stop, have a cool beverage, and call the fourth member of this secret society, Pete Buchheit, who was already in residence at the house for the missing details.
Pete Buchheit -- retired travel management executive and motorcycle sage -- is seen here in the throes of anxiety, wondering how the hell it can be taking us hours to traverse the 4 miles between the center of town and the house.
(Photo by Chri Pie, Exotic Dancer -- Click to enlarge)
The only place to stop was a Sheetz gas station, which was in the middle of the busiest intersection in town, and which had the all appeal of a police line-up. The police were there in fact. At least three cars representing the West VIrginia State Police, the local Sheriff’s Office, and the Department of Look-At-Me-Sideways-And-Your-Out-Of-Town-Ass-Is-Going-To-Jail pulled into the lot. Each of these officers apparently gets their hair cut at the Skinhead Salon. What is it with cops these days? Do they think that looking like slightly evolved storm troopers is the “piéce de resistance” in public intimidation? Some cops highlight this look by wearing paratrooper boots.
Backwater Falls, NJ, police sargeant Steve "Kitten Stomper" Filcher admires his new haircut,
designed to convey to the general public that he is there to protect, serve, and kick fucking ass.
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia -- Click to enlarge)
I am intimidated by anyone in great physical shape, who carries a gun, and who has the right to make my life miserable for a hour or 6 to 12 years. But I do support the current trend to use low slung police cars that are painted black and white, and which have badge designs on the doors that incorporate skulls over Latin mottos that read, “Illic Ero Ordo Si Nos Have Neco Totus Vestrum Bastards.” (Translation: “There Will Be Order If We Have To Kill All Of You Bastards.”)
This Sheetz station was built on a slope, with the only level parts being at each gas pump. I pulled into a spot close to the convenience store, directly in front of a pump that dispensed kerosine. The stupidity of this maneuver became apparent as soon as I had rolled the treads of my front tire and the sole of my boot in the oil slop that had mixed with the recent rain. Clyde relieved the tension of the situation by remarking, “Only a real asshole would try to park there.”
Cell connections were spotty from this location, and Pete’s directions were condensed to every third word, which led to a rather broad interpretation. Once again, we turned to Dick Bregstein’s mystical GPS. Twenty minutes later, we were in the parking lot of a church where the most basic of prayers involved the handling of rattle snakes. Faintly familiar strains of banjo music drifted out of the nearby trees.
“This is it,” said Dick.
“Dick,” I said. “There are some folks hereabouts who are going to make you ‘wee’ like a pig. They may kill me shortly thereafter, but it will be worth it to watch.”
It took ten more calls to piece together enough data to find the house, located in a faded “vacation” development a few miles outside town. The house would have been considered a “pleasure” palace in the ‘60s. It was now more of a monument to a faded lifestyle. But it had four bedrooms, four bathrooms, and an outdoor grill. It was big enough so four individuals burdened with strong opinions about everything weren’t on top of one another -- and air conditioned. The only disappointment was the driveway, that was situated on a steep, gravel-covered incline, that ended in mud.
The author leads Dick and Clyde into the promised land.
(Photo by Pete Buchheit)
I haven’t written much about Clyde Jacobs, who is a master wood-worker and cabinet builder by trade. I watched in awe as Clyde deftly maneuvered his 2004 K1200GT to a parking space on the gravel incline. He then swung himself out of the saddle, and removed a 5-liter keg of beer from one of the side bags. I thought to myself, “Estan es un hombre.”
I watched in amazedment as Clyde Jacobs pulled a 5-liter mini-keg of beer out of his Beemer's sidebags.
(Photo by Pete Buccheit)
The rest of that first night was about good times and good friends, united by a love of motorcycles. We ate off the grill like Vikings, and smoked cigars like robber barons. There was wine with dinner and beer afterwards. I drank rum, and realized I hadn’t brought enough of it.
Believe it or not, this was the welcome sign we got pulling into our vacation retreat.
Had we all been 30 years younger, we'd have burned this sign and cooked burgers over the glowing coals.
The current economy made us ideal weekend tenants, apparently.
(Photo by Pete Buchheit -- Click to enlarge)
The next two days were spent riding roads that led to nowhere. West Virginia has some of the best motorcycle riding opportunities on the east coast. On this trip, Spring Gap Road provided nearly ten miles of exhilarating hairpin turns and quick changes in elevation. I worked the shifter like I was playing a banjo with my foot. A number of the roads we found were borderline technical, and of limited appeal to riders who do not want to throw their machines from one curve into another -- until the sweat shoots out their eyes. Others were much tamer, but provided stimulating changes in elevation, while running through scenery that included dense forests, charming little farms, and communities that constitute the true fabric of America. I liked these little towns -- especially Romney -- which has an aura that has all but vanished in places like New Jersey, and eastern Pennsylvania.
This was our rental home for the ride. We always choose houses with observatories
as they are useful in conducting our human sacrifices. This home belonged to an artist,
who decorated it with artwork he couldn't sell, which was all of it, apparently.
(Photo by Pete Buchheit -- Click to enlarge)
While there was no shortage of beautiful countryside to ride through, much of it didn’t translate into in spectacular photography. Trees are trees. There was a scarcity of breathtaking vistas. And where you would have liked to pull over and taken a few pictures, there was generally no shoulder, but piles of loose gravel or a ditch filled with jagged rocks. There was no litter... No graffiti... And nothing to make you say you were sorry you had come.
Another view of the house. This cost us $69 per night, per person, and ended up being much
cheaper than a hotel, as we had the option to cook dinner for ourselves, and did.
(Photo by Pete Buchheit -- Click to enlarge)
The humid air was filled with the scent of flowers, cut hay, or the ozone left from passing storms. The most pleasant aroma of all, decomposing deer, was occasionally encountered, but not once did we find a dead deer on the roadway. We returned to the house at early dusk each night, passing open fields of lush grass, and never saw these hoofed rats standing around, waiting for a well-deserved bullet.
It is our custom to seek out an American Legion Hall, or some country tavern in which to retreat from the dead heat of the afternoon, on each of these trips. Rumor had it that there was a joint in the town of Paw Paw -- the Backyard Lounge -- which offered spring water, air conditioning, and performance artists gyrating around poles. On the afternoon that I was headed to this place, mutiny ensued among the troops, who swung me back toward Berkeley Springs. We came to roost at an overlook which took in a rather picturesque valley to the left, and which featured a delightful mountain inn on the right.
This was one of the rare open overlooks where we could actually pull over and put our kickstands down. There was still plenty of gravel to go around, and we had to exercise care. The river in the valley is the Potomac.
(Photo by Pete Buchheit -- Click to enlarge)
“Why don’t you go in there and see if they have ice cream sodas,” I said to Pete B. He disappeared into the joint, and materialized a short time later, standing in the open door, pantomiming an individual sipping a martini.
From left -- The author, Dick Bregstein and Clyde Jacobs taking in the view.
(Picture by Pete Buchheit -- Click to enlarge)
Thus we made the acquaintance of a tight-lipped bartender in the Panorama at the Peak, about three miles west of Berkeley Springs on beautiful Route 9. Built in 1929, this restaurant has a cool, dark interior, built of dressed logs which appear to be original. The outside of the building has been altered, as would be expected. The canopy over the door hints of class, and this place has it in buckets.
From left -- Pete Buchheit, Clyde Jacobs, Dick Bregstein, and the author in their natural habitat.
(Photo by the bartender -- Click to enlarge)
There are three micro-brews on tap, and conservative samples were taken. I have it on good authority that quality rum is poured at this place, and poured with an exact, if not generous hand. One of the “specials” that day included Mohitos, made from organic mint grown in the garden. A passerby told me they were exceptional. The mint did not overpower the rum, apparently.
This place has a kitchen to rival some of the nicest restaurants in any resort town in the country. Every meal is made from scratch, using organic and locally grown vegetables whenever possible. A vegetable soup consisting of something that sounded like “Leafy-weafy” was served in standard-sized bowls. I could have had a gallon of it. (I couldn’t understand what the bartender was saying when I asked her about the primary ingredient of this pottage, even though I made her repeat it three times. She gave the impression that you were some kind of a dope if you had never heard of this vegetable, so I finally said, “Ahhhhh, yes.”) It was by far the best soup I have eaten in years.
The menu for that particular day featured things like: “Pork Chop The Magnificent” (a 12 oz. chop on a bed of homemade sauerkraut -- $20.49); “Pork Stuffed Acorn Squash” (a locally grown acorn squash stuffed with sweet Italian Black Hog pork sausage, onions, celery, leeks, and spinach -- $16.99) ; and “Traditional Shepherd’s Pie” (ground lamb sauteed with organic vegetables in a stock topped with a scallion cheese potato crust -- $15.99).
But we were there for lunch.
Ordering standard bar fare, I had a cheeseburger. Even this became a gourmet treat. The burger was six-ounces of beef that lived an exemplary life and was butchered while still in a state of grace. It was dressed in lettuce and tomato, with a hint of mayo and tucked between two pieces of fresh baked Ciabatta bread. (Ciabatta is a mythical land where all the men have huge schlongs and where women regard washing a motorcycle as red hot foreplay.)The burger was accompanied by something that had the look of hand-cut steak fries but which turned out to be Rosemary roasted organic potatoes. The price of the burger was $10.99. (Rosemary roasted organic potatoes are the way to go.)
Now some of you may feel that this menu is a bit pricey. You’d be mistaken. A menu is pricey when you are charged for food that lacks vitality, verve, or panache, regardless of the cost. Panorama at the Peak specializes in meals that are flavored with the spice of life. Considering what you get here, the menu is priced for value. I must emphatically state that this place is not a beer joint. It is the kind of establishment where you go to forget the angst of the office, the heat of the road, and the tedium of our daily bread. I highly recommend eating here for every evening meal if you are stopping in the area and staying in a hotel. And if you are blowing through the Berkeley Springs area, this is you best option for an “on-the-road” respite, as it is exactly 5 feet from the pavement.
The bar tender has a sense of humor like Sister Helen Brimstone, who was my third grade teacher. But she knows her business and goes at it with brute professionalism.
There are two places we hit for breakfast in town. The first is a joint called the Fairfax Coffee Shop and Eatery. Great pancakes... Great Coffee... Great eggs any style. But customer service is a concept in development. It appears as if each dish is cooked one at a time. This is great, provided you are customer number 1. On our last day in town, we were customer numbers 12-16, and waited a good 25 minutes for our meals to be called (not served), with 10 minute intervals. But the young manager of this place is eye candy supreme, so we gave it a 10. Her boss, who is an Ernest Hemingway look-a-like, came in to chew her out about something, so we all made fart noises when he passed our table. Clyde did not have to improvise, and thus was able to look the gentleman in the eye, while impersonating a ship in fog.
A brick street and quaint storefronts set the stage for the Fairfax Coffee House and Eatery.
Nice scenary inside and out.
(Photo by Clyde Jacobs -- Click to enlarge)
The Fairfax Coffee House looks like the kind of place that should have the Sunday New York Times on each table, and a violin player in the mens room. If you’ve got the time, this place has great food with a view.
“Earth Dog is the second joint. This place is actually a breakfast joint by morning, a barbecue place during the day, and a bar at night. We pulled up in a stage whisper of engine noise, and a lovely woman, enjoying a cigarette outside, asked, “Wanna give me a ride?”
I almost said, “Can I wear my spurs,” but thought the better of it.
This place serves breakfast on the American plan. Clyde ordered pancakes. They were the size of the plate, and of the buckwheat variety. I had corned beef hash, two eggs and home fries, cooked to order (with onions and green peppers), as if I were in any New Jersey diner. The other two guys had variations on a theme. Pete did not care for the corned beef hash, which I said was great. Customer service here is a specialty, and we got our food, all at once, before the ink dried on the order.
Our waitress, a charmer with the nickname of “Bug,” brought me a tall glass of the local mineral water to sample. It tasted great, but made me wonder if it didn’t have something of a laxative effect on the uninitiated. I liked this place a lot and regretted we didn’t gt back to sample the barbecue.
The author on "Fireballs," a 1995 BMW K75, against the backdrop of the Delray, WV Post Office.
(Photo by Dick Bregstein -- Click to enlarge)
We spent two days on the road, riding in wide loops up to Cumberland and Keyser, and in tighter circles from Paw Paw to Delray, Rio, Augusta, and Old Fields. We paralleled the C&O Canal in many places, and I would have liked to have seen some of the many locks. But the access roads to these places was loose gravel, which is not my favorite riding surface. Quite frankly, I felt lucky to be making this trip at all, considering the advanced state of my arthritis.
One of the traditional spa buildings in the center of town... Folks would walk up with empty containers and walk away with jugs of mineral water. You can still take a mineral bath here. Clyde wanted to choose his minerals with a preference for gold.
(Photo by Clyde Jacobs -- Click to enlarge)
We did eventually pass the Backyard Lounge, which seemed abandoned. The local American Legion Hall was the terminus that day for a local poker run. The place was swamped with chrome cruisers. Hundreds of them. I wanted to go in for a drink. Buchheit was with me. It’s hard to tell with Clyde, but he would have come too. This was an alien concept for Bregstein, however, and we gave the joint the pass.
Completed in 1891 as a weding gift, the Berkeley Springs Castle is an amazing structure that served for years as a single family home. This is one of many beautiful things to see in the area, if you could only pull over and take a picture -- which you can't.
(Photo from the internet -- Click to enlarge)
On this day, I was suffering from the worst malady that can hit a rider on a run: the shits. We were just completing one of our loops when I felt compelled to take the lead and ride my bike right into the men’s room at a gas station. I got off “Fireballs” in record time and launched myself onto the hopper. This was one of those occasions when you could make a strong argument for seat belts on a toilet. I could hear the sirens going off outside with the initial blast. Quite frankly, I expected to find everyone in the gas station dead or unconscious when I exited the water closet. Instead, I found two Harley riders waiting to use the facility. They were from the poker run.
“Is it safe to go in there,” one asked me.
“Maybe by Thursday,” was my response.
The braver of them pulled open the door and went in. He staggered out two seconds later, holding the bandana from his head over his face. Third degree burns covered most of his body.
“Damn,” said his riding buddy. “Did your ass make some kind of pact with the devil?”
The trip was not without it’s close calls. Pete was several hundred yards in front of me as we roared through the middle of nowhere on a very nice secondary road, that was well paved and clearly marked with bright yellow double lines. We were doing a reasonable 50 mph, on a dry surface on a sunny day with unlimited visibility. The curves were civilized and had great line of sight functionality. A less than secondary country road, paved (though loaded with gravel), entered from the right, at the foot of a steep hill. Traffic coming from this direction was burdened with a “Stop” sign.
Pete roared through this junction and I was about to do the same thing when an ugly old bitch driving a wreck of a car came into view on the hill. Doing the trigonometry, I realized the harpy and I would arrive at the same spot on this road at about the same time. Instinctively covering the clutch and the front brake, I felt assured she would brake at the stop sign.
I hit the binders and swerved left into the oncoming lane (no traffic for miles), while the sea hag went right through the stop sign, cutting her wheels hard right, lurching and sliding on the gravel shoulder. I was around her in two seconds, then followed Pete to the left into a gas station. The “Face Of A Thousand Curses” continued on. It only then it occurred to me that the brakes on what appeared to be a 20-year-old car may not have been working. Had she turned left, this story would have had a more poignant conclusion.
Just prior to the start of this run, Pete Buchheit mailed each of us a piece of chalk to carry on the trip. He insisted we carry these as “essential equipment.” Later on, he explained that these were the most reliable form of GPS units in the event the group got separated. Anytime the leader distanced himself from the group, he would get off his bike and chalk the turn on the ground. Bregstein wanted to know how the chalk knew what direction to indicate.
Pete Buchheit gave a poingant demonstration of the GPS -- The Global Positioning Stick -- a classic device to unerringly indicate the correct direction of travel for your friends to follow.
Made of chalk, the device uses a methodology familiar to Marco Polo.
(Photo by Pete Buchheit -- Click to enlarge)
Nothing brings out the best and the worst in people like getting married or taking a multiple day motorcycle ride. And I can say that there are no better guys to ride with than Dick, Pete, and Clyde. The consideration that these guys extend to each other, and collectively to me, was exceptional. They are unrivaled even by my best memories of hunting, fishing, and camping trips with other great guys. Yet every trip has at least one pain in the ass who does something stupid. This one was no exception. On Saturday morning, some asshole lost the keys to his motorcycle.
I couldn’t find them anyplace.
The author desperately searches through the garbage -- emptied into the sink -- to see if he tossed his keys in there by mistake. Clyde Jacobs later asked if the author had placed his keys next to his plate at dinner, and inadvertantly eaten the keys with everything else. "If that's the case, you're gonna have to go through the toilet too," noted Clyde, being very helpful.
(Photo by Dick Bregstein -- who was laughing his ass off.)
For 45 minutes, these three gentlemen searched every inch of the driveway, lawn, and house for my keys. I went through every piece of clothing I had... I searched the bike... With Pete’s help, I even went through the trash one piece at a time. What I had done earlier in the day, was to tuck my keys in the elastic band of my boxer shorts upon exiting the shower. Why would I do this? Why the hell do I do anything? But Clyde was quick to say he would never think to look in there.
The author wearing his "utterly happy-to-be-on-a ride-one-more-time face,"
or it could be his "there-is-a-bar-across-the-street-and-it-is-open face."
Photo by Clyde Jacob -- Click to enlarge)
This ride ended like they all do. I waited a year for it... And it came to an end in four days that passed all too quickly. This was adventure, challenge, and fun they way it was meant to be experienced. I can’t wait another year to do this again.
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2009
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)