Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Ultimate Temptation of “Ride To Work Day”

“Ride To Work Day” loses something in translation for those of us who labor at home. The commute from the bedroom to my office isn’t much, even if I go via the kitchen. Quite frankly, the prospect of suiting up and running the bike around in a one-man display of solidarity on Monday (June 15), seemed somewhat pointless, even risky in one regard. Risky in the sense that it would be the greatest temptation to point my K75 in the direction of the open road, or one that promised the scent of open water, or even the open shirt of a tanned woman astride her own bike -- and ride as far and as fast from work as I could make the machine go.

I would definitely suit up for the “Ride To Escape Pointless Corporate Bullshit Day.” But that would be every day for many of us. So I didn’t join the morning commute as a moving target for the thousands of blank-eyed zombies headed for the office yesterday. What I did do was wait until later that evening, when the cursed hoards were already home, to take the bike out and cruise the local roads in a tight 5-mile radius of the house. Though this house has a West Chester address, we actually live in East Goshen, Pennsylvania, where it blends in with Paoli and Malvern.

This is a typical Pennsylvania stone house that commonly dates back to the mid-1700's. 
The windows and doors will have been replaced and the plumbing brought inside. 
This is a private residence.
(Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

These are communities where each adolescent girl has a horse, and where families with several girls have several horses. This used to bug me a bit, considering my Suburban and my motorcycle are both 14-years-old. But I have grown more comfortable living within these equine demographics, as I suspect a number of these families are now eating the horses they used to ride. And when the horses are gone, they may begin eating the children too. (I came around a corner and found a young woman astride a thoroughbred that cost more than my college education. She was as hot as a bucket of fresh rivets, wearing jodhpurs and a tailored blazer. And as God is my witness, the horse was just ambling along while the rider text-messaged someone on her cell phone. What is it with this compulsion to type out ten word sentences every 30 seconds?)

Flanked by horse paddocks on both sides, this packed and pocked gravel road 
has the unlikely name of "Warren Avenue." Two minutes before I took this picture, 
I yelled at a fawn the size of a labroador retreiver, standing in the center of the road.
(Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

Not a mile from Leslie’s house, where I live as the premier paramour parasite, it’s obvious the roads are little more than paved-over farm lanes. The old agricultural concerns are long gone, but I must still ride past a dairy farm and cornfields on my way to the liquor store or post office. It will not be long before these too are converted into ugly strip malls, executive offices, cookie cutter housing, or pasteboard mansions. So on this day, I decided to ride my bike over very familiar ground, and grab whatever pictures took my fancy.

This is typical of the "country road" that I ride on, less than a mile from the house. 
No shoulders, fog lines nor street lights, each mile of these pleasant runs can accommodate
 about 22,000 deer. 
(Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

Farm roads are the essence of practicality. They are as wide as they need to be, as crooked as they can be, and as pointless as the original deer tracks or Indian trails that preceded them used to be. That means that the best views or most interesting photo angles are where there is no place to pull over without dropping the bike into a swamp or getting hit by a car on a blind curve. The blind curve is not only common on these roads, but also regarded as a the best place to locate a driveway. To prevent accidents, these driveways are marked by piles of loose pea gravel, subject to movement by strong rains -- like the kind we’ve been having on and off for the past 5 days.

The entire county is criss-crossed by split rail fences. These fields are the scene of 
fox hunts and the home of some beautiful horses.
(Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

Many of the the local communities in these parts, like Willistown Township, have very restrictive “no gunning” laws, despite thousands of open and forested acres. This guarantees an endless supply of picturesque deer to eat flowers, carry ticks, or sustain the auto body repair industry through lean years. The deer are most active during the times of the day when motorcycles pass by. At the sound of a passing motorcycle, deer will look up and jump over whatever is in front of them, be it a fence or a barn, to run out in front of the machine and stare down the rider. It’s quite thrilling.

The extent of the fields around here has to be experienced to be believed. I hope the reader 
will enlarge the photograph to get some sense of the depth of the picture. In this shot, 
there are three different fence sizes to compare for perspective.
(Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

Yet in riding around this neighborhood, it’s easy to understand why the embattled farmers decided to stand and fight, as opposed to handing over the family farm to advancing Red Coats or Confederates. There are miles of lush fields and wooded hills, separated by wandering streams, crossed by covered bridges or stone arches dating back to the early 1700’s. Stone houses from the same period, once regarded as quaint or just enduringly practical, are highly sought-after and can cost a king's ransom (in the previous economy). These tend to be placed as close to the road as possible, an important consideration in the 1700s, when plowing snow was not as easy as it is now.

There are times when I feel as if I live in the Hudson River School of Painting. 
(Picture by the author -- Click to enlarge)

Even the ruins of these houses, fallen foundations covered by ivy, are worth a mint in building materials, or as accent elements in new construction. The most precious of these structures are ones which reflect three building styles of consecutive periods. In other words, there are a few houses in which one section is a log cabin, while another is the undressed stone, while a third portion is stone covered with stucco. I know of two which are original, and three built as exquisite copies.

The building on the left is a community museum and was originally the blacksmith's shop. 
The structure across the street is another stone house dating back to the mid-1700's 
and is now a bed and breakfast.
(Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

Equally charming are old barns, raised by the Amish or Quakers, that have been converted into residences. One of the building styles incorporates three or four external stone columns to create what appears to be a loading bay for farm vehicles. Several of these stone farm structures have been converted into galleries and antique shops. One close by is a bank, while another is a bed and breakfast.

Here a little stream meanders under the covered bridge closest to Leslie's house, where I live as a parasite. The preservation of this bridge is nearly perfect as a modern road now crosses a modern culvert next to this structure.
(Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

But the structures most commonly recognized and treasured are the covered bridges, There are three in the immediate area, but only one that could be deemed in this neighborhood. That one is very well preserved, as the traffic no longer runs through it. (The other two are in daily use by cars, but their 9-foot high portals exclude all truck traffic.)

A black, wrought-iron gate protects the bridge's laminated wooden arches from mischief. 
Maybe I'll get a chance to gt better pictures in the future, if I feel like getting off the bike.
(Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

I have been threatening to run a kind of “Key West Diary” type blog for months, but this is not it. Tonight’s blog is more inline with the kind of presentations one would expect from Bobscoot in “Wet Coast Skootin’” or from Steve Williams in “Scooter In The Sticks.” I am under no illusions as to my limitations as a photographer. It is important to note that I took these pictures with a little camera, in the last hour of daylight, without ever getting off the bike.


There has been a lot of discussion on the best way to deal with flat tires, when they occur on the road far from the comfort and security of the garage. Some folks carry a tire repair kit. I simply carry a spare motorcycle. 

What is the point of fooling around with messy plugs and glue, when all you need to do 
is grab the spare bike off the top case. Here we see "Fireballs" with balls of her own. 
"Micro Balls" is a 49cc "Pocket Rocket" capable of hitting 45 mph.
(Photo by the author -- Click to enlarge)

Originally developed in Key West as transportation in scale with the Conch Republic, these gutsy bikes have been known to tangle with errant roosters and rogue lizards, and to jump  g-strings on Duval Street with reckless abandon. They make great spares.

Mac-Pac member Corey Lyba was kind enough to assist me in mounting the spare bike on my top case, at a recent event in which he and his wife Kimi raised funds on behalf of the moto-marshalling team for a Multiple Schlerosis bicycle event, to be held in Lancaster next month.

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


Unknown said...

Mr Jack "r"IEPE:

I thought that I had the wrong blog. I was looking forward to that tongue and cheek, sort of sassy writing that you are famous for but instead find a very coherant, detailed post filled with breathtaking photos. Breathtaking as in out of breath getting on and off your bike and the energy expended to perform this arduous task considering the condition of your knees, but then you admit that they are taken while seated on that comfy Russel Day seat (the heated one).

When you get a chance, could you please post a picture of you astride that pocket bike ? and is there a way to mount the K75 on the rear rack of that pocket bike to transport it home ?

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Conchscooter said...

I was enjoying this one for some reason until I got to the end. Of course if I lived in a town called Goshen, and not even the main one but just the east one by gosh, I might treat the world with scorn too. And someone needs to tell the road builders in the goshens east and west to straigthen out their roads. they are a disgrace, all scrambled up like that.

Woody said...

I, too, was taken back by this blog. While wondering if your blog had been hijacked, the Twisted Road t-shirt reminded me I was where I should be.

What a fine tribute to the daily commute. The photos are wonderful, the prose classic, but muted, Riepe. You didn't use the word 'fuck' once, which is usually mandatory when referring to hooved rats.

I love the country roads of PA. I'm particularly fond of the road that dead-ends, only to discover the other leg of the dog is located just over the crest of the hill had you turned in the opposite direction.

Thanks for another great story.


Grandad 43 said...

Jack, living in Bucks County, I can appreciate your latest input.
Nice piece of informative writing with pictures to enhance the story line.
Saw a program on the history of BMW motorcycles on cable, hope you saw it. They feature different bike builders each week. Comes on at 10:00 pm

Grandad 43
PS 14

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Bobskoot:

This current blog entry on Twisted Roads signifies a program change in my editorial content. A reader has accused me of being incapable of writing a straight, descriptive motorcycle story that does not entail drinking, getting laid, or copping a cheap feel.

From this point on, I will try to produce two or three stories a month that do not use the word "fuck" as an adjective, expletive, or wishful verb. It is impossible for me to exclude all of the acid that is the signiture ingredient of my text.

There will also be more stories involving my riding buddies, and people I have met in the moto world.

I promise I will get a shot me sitting on "Micro Balls" the next time I am out by Limerick. There is the very real possibility that a motorcycle of this dimunitive size could disappear up my ass.

Thank you for reading my blog and for commenting this morning. I can lways count on you, Bob.

Fondest regards,
Jack "r"

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mr. Conch:

Bobskoot was quite correct in his assessment of your vindictive streak. It amazes me how quickly members of the Conch Republic lash out when they suspect others have their number.

I was unable to accurately depict the curviness of the roads around here as it is worth your life to stop on any of then to snap a picture. And I wanted to do a better job of focusing on the little bridges and creeks, yet I had traffic behind me everytime I approached one.

There is going to be a "Ride To Work With Assholes Week," in which it will be possible to take pictures of hundreds of drivers around here who are in the process of tailgating or passing on these roads -- while talking on the telephone.

Thank you for reading my blog and yielding to impulse by commenting.

Fondest regards,
Jack "r"

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Woody:

As I stated in previous reader correspondence, it was suggested to me that I am incapable of writing prose that does not drip with puerile references to sex, drinking, and the kind of hijinks that appeal directly to the frat-boy school of sophistication.

As you are aware, I cannot walk away from a challenge. I have started reading "The New Yorker" again, to refresh myself in advanced writing techniques for those who would pursue humor without references to fornication.

Thank you for your kind comments. I readily acknowledge the graininess of these pictures, but take coforet in knowing the match the text perfectly.

Fondest regards,
Jack "r"

Canajun said...

Great story and great pics. Living (and riding) in the country I can relate to two points in particular - the one being that the only suitable place to stop and take a photo involves trying to get the kickstand to not sink in the swamp, and the second being the loose pea gravel that spreads across the road on a blind curve, courtesy of some resident who thinks making my life exciting has great entertainment value.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Grandad43:

Bucks County (short for Buckingham County, I hear) has a much wilder look to its country roads and more opportunity to follow them for longer distances. Most people would be shocked to hear that all of the scenes I took pictures of are within a 40-minute drive of the parking lots at Philadelphia International Airport.

You invited me on a group ride through Buck's County three yars ago. I remember waking up in a sweat that day, thinking it was going to be a 60-minute ride on the Turnpike just to get to Buck's County. That's like going for coffee now.

Funny how things change.

We are due to meet for lunch again. I haven't seen Walt from Motorcycle View in three years, and that's entirely too long. What say lunch over on the Delaware next month?

Thanks for be a loyal reader, and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack "r"

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Canajun:

Thank you for you kind commentary this morning. The truth is that while all of this looks in the country, it really isn't. This is a bizarre pocket off the traditional Main Line in Pennsylvania. The wooded area depicted in this picture spans an area the size of Hudson County in New Jersey -- about 25 square miles.

It is hard to believe, but everything depicted in these photographs is within a 40-minute ride of the runways of Philadelphia International Airport. This community is bordered by Philadelphia in one direction; Wlimington, Delaware in another; King of Prussia in a third (home of the second largest mall in the US); and the hell-raising Amish in Lancaster.

Sitting in my garden at night, I can hear Harley traffic on US-202, nearly two miles away.

Thank you for reading my tripe and for writing in. I find it very gratifying.

Fondest regards,
Jack "r"

BMW-Dick said...

Great pictures. You should have called me. I would have loved to join you on that ride.....perhaps that why you didn't call me ;)

cpa3485 said...

Jack, those are great pictures and thanks for the lovely view of the area.
Wichita wasn't even founded until 1870 or so and the northeast part of the state is just a few decades older as far as American civilization is concerned. Of course the native americans were here for centuries.
We don't have many twisty roads here. The early people laid everything out in square mile grids all across the state. One of the prime meridians passes through Wichita. As such, you can expect a stop light at just about every mile, exactly. The only curves in roads are where there is a river or some other sort of topographical feature that would make the construction of the road difficult. Try going to google maps and satellite view and zoom in on Wichita and you will easily see what I mean.
I have been to your part of the country before and remember it as being very beautiful. Vacationed near there with my family when I was a youngster, even went to the Philadelphia zoo. Didn't Bill Cosby once call the city Filthydelphia on one of his old records?
And like BobSkoot, would love to see a pic of you on Micro-Balls.
Your imagination never ceases to amaze me.


sgsidekick said...

Jack, if these are the photos you take with a tiny camera, I'd love to see the ones you do with a "real" one!

Know what you mean about construction moving into the area. My mom used to live out in the country and now she's in the suburbs. Thing is, she's still in the same house! We kids could go "down over the hill" and scream our heads off for no reason and have no worries. Now if we tried it, 15 pistol packin' people would pop out their doors to see what the ruckus was!

This was a lovely writeup (yes, I did, too, use the word "lovely" in describing something YOU wrote!!), and made me homesick. Very hard to believe this is all just a pocket, but then again, goes to show what can be done if people really value their piece of the countryside...or else the developers just hadn't found them yet. Whichever, thanks for the beautiful trip around your area.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dick:

You'll get the chance. I made a more comprehensive list of other pictures and things I want to include in the next "local" ride. The theme will be brigges and tunnels.

Like I said, the chance to get any really good pictures is screwy because of the road situation. I need your company this Saturday. want to do a "Key West Diary" type of blog and I have a location in mind. Clyde could help with this one too.

Yoiu guys are going to have to click on "Key West Diary" under my destinations section to get an idea of the style.

Fondest regards,
Jack "r"

redlegsrides said...

wow Jack, outstanding posting and pictures...I guess you were serious about trying a less "tongue-in-cheek" style of postings. I hope the humorous ones remain in the pipeline?

Nice composition on the shots. You sure have some green countryside views there in PA. The rains lately have greened up my Colorado surroundings quite a bit but it won't last.

Unknown said...

Jack "r"IEPE:

You thought we didn't notice, but we did but forgot to mention it. This was probably your first SOLO ride .

with great affection and love from the northern climes of BC

bobskoot: wet coast scootin

Unknown said...


Nice post. I used to live up on Grove Rd in West Chester. Now I live out in the stix. Anywho, your words and photos brought back some memories.

Ride Safe,


Jack Riepe said...

Dear SGSidekick (Tena):

These were indeed pictures taken with a Nikon Coolpix S9. The camera is about the size of a pack of cigarettes, though not as deep. I'm flattered that these pictures got a good reception, but the camera actully doctored them, correcting dark spots at the press of a button.

My goal was to grab a couple of shots where the fields unfolded, and to illustrate some of the architure. I actually wanted to hit all three bridges, but there just wasn't enough time.

Slower economic times may help to preserve some of the larger land tracts around here. Houses were selling very quickly. A couple of cornfields disappeared, to be replaced by 200 MacMansions, a high school playing field, and a YWCA. The building of the 200 houses was nothing short of a crime.

By the way, I got the damnedest thing in the mail from you. Leslie took pictures of it and it will run in the next "Dispatches From The Front" section of my blog. You'll see.

Thank you for reading my blog, for commenting, and for sending me this neat stuff.

Fondest regards,
Jack "r"

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Joe:

Thank you for reading my blog and for writing in. What kind of bike do you ride and where do you ride? I always like to know something about my readers.

Fondest regards,
Jack "r"

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

I thought the pictures were sort of grainy, but it was nice of you to say otherwise. I feel like "Twala" the "Wild Man," who managed to surprise everyone by taking a drink of water and not getting hit on the back of the head with the toilet seat.

It has been raining here pretty steadily for the past two weeks. We get the grass cut every 25 minutes. I have decided to try a post like this at least two or three times a month, depending upon the availbility of subject matter.

Thank you, as always for reading this tripe, and for commenting.

Fondest regards,
Jack "r"

Jack Riepe said...

Dear CPA3485 (Jim):

I have been through Kansas an I liked it. Looking at the map, it seems to me you could organize a ride out of Wichita's City streets, running on US-54, to the shores of Lake El Dorado on Rt. 177. This is marked scenic all the way up to Tuttle Creek.

I used to date Essie Tuttle, before she got all those tattoos and listed herself on e-Harmony.com. If you see her, just say "Slick said hello."

You should also organize a ride out to Climax, and have tee shirts printed up. They could say, "I rode my scooter to Climax."

There is a town in Maryland called "Crapo." I am thinking of doing a ride there just for the tee shirt value. Those shirts would say, "The Up To My Ears In Crapo Ride."

I don't really have an imagination though. This is all real to me.

Thank you for reading my stuff and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack "r"

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Bob:

I may ride alone again tomorrow.

Fondest regards,

Steve Williams said...

I don't think I ever saw a woman, tanned or otherwise, with an open shirt astride a motorcycle. That must be an eastern Pennsylvania thing.

I'm familiar with the every girl has a horse thing from many years photographing horse shows. Common sense would seem to dictate a motorcycle a far more sensible ride...

Great post and pictures. I will have to venture down towards the stone house region of Pennsylvania.

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks

kingfisch said...


I've been reading Twisted Roads since you started it. This article shines. That B&B at the end of Boot Rd. is the house I grew up in. I was moved there by my parents in 1953. That place was RURAL! I'm nearing 60 and still have a WC address. Thanks for the fine pictures & article.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Steve:

I have often thought that your blog has had beautiful visions, but few rival a woman on a bike with an open shirt. And I used to come across them a lot more often when I was younger -- like 24 years younger.

Let me know when you intend to ride through this area and I will do be the best I can to organize a VIP luncheon. I have odten felt tha motorcycles made more sense than horses, if only from the standpoint that less comes out after fueling.

Thank you for reading my blog and for commenting.

Fondest regards,
Jack "r"

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Kingfisch:

What a treat for me to hear from a reader who's been following my stuff since day #1! I'm flattered. And I'm pleased you like this last post -- and that you have a personal history with one of the buildings in the pictures.

You aren't that mucj older than me... You're nearing 60 and I've just pased 55. What are you ridng these days? And if you are near or in West Chester, let me know. I have biker functions every so often, or you could run into me at the Oriental Pearl Chinese Restaurant on Paoli Pike.

Fondest regards,
Jack "r"

ADK said...

In a previous incarnation I too lived in Westchester PA. The sheer number of deer on the road, even back in the early eighties, was overwhelming. They were a significant traffic hazard then, and I suspect that things are worse now.

Despite my parochial Church of England upbringing, I actually attended a Catholic College in Gwynnedd PA. Unfazed by the brutality of my childhood education, I was seized by the impulse to experience the Catholic side of 'Learning by Thrashing and Intimidation', and so signed up for two years of classes under the tutelage of Sister Mary Flatiron and her colleagues, the Sisters of the Immortal Burning Soul. Imagine my complete surprise when I discovered that the anticipated daily humiliations were not on the educational menu. In fact this particular bunch(The correct collective term I believe)of nuns were kind, considerate, warm, and just generally lovely people.

One of these delightful women was driving home one night from the July 4th fireworks show, she had travelled to see in downtown Philly. The lines of traffic were so long that she ended up, with thousands of others, watching the fireworks from the roof of her car, parked in the middle lane of the Schuylkill Expressway. On her way home her car passed under a rather high grassy bank, from which a deer jumped, and in full flight hit the front of her car , smashed through the windshield, and wedged itself in the open space vacated by the safety glass.......alive and kicking. She was pinned in the drivers seat for over an hour with this thing flailing around and doing its best to help her into the ultimate state of grace. She was freed, after the animal control officer turned up, and gave this wretched animal an instant, and deadly, case of lead poisoning.

Last weekend, while I was riding back from Canton, NY, in a moderate downpour, a deer jumped out of the ditch on the left hand side of the road, and ran full tilt into my left knee. I and the VFR stayed upright, a small miracle at an approximate 70mph! Two hours, and a considerable amount of pain, later I was home, inspecting my aching knee,and looking at a perfectly snout shaped bruise, noseholes and everything, tattooed on my lower leg. This bruise was inflicted through rain gear, armoured riding pants and denim jeans.

If I'd have had a flashlight to light my way........Who Nose?

mq01 said...

limitations as a photographer? surely you jest. fantastic post and pics jack!

personally i would ride naked if i could stay out of jail doing so :)

and now i hear that you aim to say fuck less than me?? LOL! why??

Joe said...

Wow! This post was as if Miro painted a still life in which the apples really looked like apples.

"...a few houses in which one section is a log cabin, while another is the undressed stone, while a third portion is stone covered with stucco."

Apparently constructed for big bad wolves in old age who aren't quite up to making the rounds from house to house to house.

- Joe at Scootin' da Valley

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mqo1:

I think the pictures for this blog would have been a lot richer had I read the instructions on the camera. It seems to be able to do a lot more than I got out of it

Then again, they are what they are. There is going to be a more varied approach to the material in this blog. For example, there will be at least two stories a month like this current, plus one or two adventures adopted from my ridng buddies.

I got a lot of fan mail from readers claiming they like this change in style, and it is nothing to make my readers happy -- somewhat.

Once again, I am deighted to find you here. Thank you for reading my tripe, and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack "r"

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Joe:

I will attempt to photograph one of the original houses tha conform to this style. The stone houses are ver beautiful and highly sought after. In that housing market, most were priced over a million dollars.

But you do make a god point! It seems like the three little pigs were hedging their bets.

Joe -- thank you for reading my blog and for leaving a comment.

Fondest regards,
Jack "r"

Baron's Life said...

Finally a good piece of writing, a genuine glimpse into life in the country, great picture, story and country living... do more of these... I am in Awe

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Baron's Life:

I'm genuinely flattered that you like this so much. I am committed to reader satisfaction and will attempt to accommodate your request.

Thank you for reading my stuff and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack "r"

Sojourner's Moto Tales said...


I haven't read this entry yet, but will return to it later. However, I had to comment on the photographs. I don't think I've ever seen you better! These were mighty fine pics and I loved each of them and you're right, they needed to be seen in their fullest to see the true beauty that you captured. Excellent!