Saturday, February 27, 2010

One Of The Best Biker Books Ever Written...

The Best Of Pete Egan From Cycle World Magazine
(MotorBooks, 316 Pages, $19.95)
22 Feature-length Stories
27 Column-length articles

Riepe rates this book 5 Stars (Out of 5 Stars)

If Mark Twain had ridden a motorcycle instead of piloting a steamboat, the iconic American novel Tom Sawyer would have turned out differently — and biker sage, writer, and wit Peter Egan might have had some serious competition. As it stands now, Egan remains untouchable and in a class all his own when it comes to two-wheeled story-telling. He is a master at weaving the anecdotal into warm, folksy prose, rich with imagery, history, and a genuine sense of, “What the heck...” that compels the reader to savor every line.

Many writers (including myself) muck around in the beginning of a story, trying to gain a little traction. Eagan is a master of the subtle beginning, relying on a couple of highly sophisticated techniques to lure the reader into the text. One of these is the patented “Egan Smokescreen,” where he points at one thing, and starts talking about something else. The reader smiles and nods, not willing to admit momentary confusion, then finds himself sinking into the soothing quicksand of a masterfully-written short story that is perfectly plausible from every perspective.

A good example of this literary device occurs in the first line, of the first story, in Section One of Leanings, a compilation of his best work from the pages of Cycle World Magazine. The story is titled, “Dateline Missoula,” and harkens back to 1977, the Middle Ages of modern motorcycle evolution. The line reads:

“I guess it’s better to bend a valve in Missoula than to lose your mind in Bozeman,” my wife said, patting my hand as if to console me.”

Who could argue with logic like that? Yet taken by itself, the statement is as significant as the Cheshire cat’s smile, if one had come upon it simply hanging in the air without knowing it should be attached to a cat in the first place. What follows next is a descriptive paragraph that appears to list the primary characters of a scene in a Fillini movie. It then becomes apparent that the author and his spouse are traveling on a bus. The hook is set firmly in the reader’s protruding bass-like lip with the qualifying paragraph:

“We were riding back to Madison, Wisconsin, via Greyhound, returning to a city full of prophets honored in their own time. Everyone had told me not to ride my old British twin to Seattle.”

There it is. The reader now knows a valve was bent.. That a British twin, described as old in 1977 and probably built around the signing of the Magna Carta, blew up... And that the circumstances about to be revealed in painful detail were spawned by the author’s hubris, in the face of advice to the contrary. Yet it is not possible at this point for anyone who has ever ridden an old British twin from the ‘50s or ‘60s, or who dreamed of riding across two thirds of the country on poor but whimsical judgement, or who just wanted to stretch the bonds of matrimony to the Greyhound Bus limit, to put this book down.

A second technique of Egan’s is just to drop the reader in the deep end of the pool. For example, in the piece titled, “To Ride A Vincent,” he begins: “It was the fastest bike in the world the year I was born, 1948, introduced just two weeks after my birth.” Not only is this a compelling way to start a short story, but this statement leaves one wondering if there is not some definite link between Egan’s birth the launch of the Vincent. The author makes no effort to dispel this notion and it remains something of an open question.

Egan’s stories contain a generous measure of personal experience with legendary bikes that have almost passed into mechanical mythology. He writes of Triumphs, Ducatis, Nortons, and the occasional Vincent like they were cousins who just lived down the road a piece. And when he writes about them, the reference is never about a museum where they are enshrined, but a garage, a living room, or an alley where the current owner was in the process of restoring the machine when Egan stumbled upon it. His position as an editor for Cycle World never worked against him either, as the man seems to get an unbelievably high number of invitations to ride these one of a kind bikes.

A number of Egan’s stories are thinly veiled ride reports — or details about assignments covering developments on Yamaha’s test track in Japan and Cycle Week on the Isle of Man — that are a sheer delight to read. Whether he is touring Ireland or just following the banks of the Mississippi, he weaves the color, the flavor, and the people of each locale into a narrative that sometimes wanders, but which never loses sight of the objective: to take you with him. And to make you feel a fraction of what he felt at the time.

This is my favorite passage from his motorcycle tour of Ireland:

“In the morning, Barb and I packed our luggage, which consisted of a tank bag and two soft saddlebags, and said goodbye to the O’Donovans. On our way out of Dublin we stopped to see the Book of Kells, housed in the long room of the Trinity Library. The book is a richly illustrated manuscript of the four Gospels, believed to have been written in year 800 A.D. in a monastery scriptorium. A woman ahead of me in line peered through the glass at the elaborate insular Celtic Script, intertwined with snakes and tendrils and flowers, and said in a New York accent, ‘I wundah what it says?’

“Her husband snapped back, ‘How should I know?’

“I suppressed an urge to read it for them and make it up as I went along:

“‘Gloria entered the room, flushed from her tennis lesson...’”

Yet you really get a surge of his feeling for motorcycles. His short stories depict the rapture of riding his first mini-bike, the wonder of riding Jay Leno’s Vincent Rapide, and the joy of taking a Ducati 900SS through the Alps — in terms that make it seem like all of this could just as easily have happened to you . Leanings, The Best Of Peter Egan from Cycle World Magazine (MotorBooks, 316 pages, $19.99) is a “must read” for any literate biker.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2010
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chanberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Breakfast In The Bed Of Hell... And A Glimpse Of The Future!

Just as the full moon will pull the tide across the beach or turn werewolves into accountants and lawyers, the third Sunday of every month draws the cream from Pennsylvania’s motorcycling riding elite to the Pottstown Family Diner, as the Mac Pac (the state's premier chartered BMW riding Club) convenes for breakfast. Thirty riders from towns and hamlets covering 1400 square miles of the “Keystone” state converged on this legendary greasy spoon on February 21st, to suck up eggs, bacon, ham, and hash — all floating in small puddles of liquified lard.

Like bears periodically coming out of a cave to piss or scratch during a forced hibernation, it was evident the winter had been hard on this group of primarily Teutonic two-wheeled aces. Growls and roars were exchanged as these veteran riders slammed their empty coffee cups on the chipped formica tables, shooting the beleaguered waitresses looks that demanded sustenance, such as it was. The diner’s owner, a man of experience and action, dragged in a trough from out back and filled it with the customary breakfast slops.

Hot coffee was sprayed over the group with a garden hose.

During the brief lull in which nothing could be heard but slurps of contentment, Mac Pac Gruppen-meister Brian Curry attempted to call the group to order. He did this by addressing the mass of riders through a talking moose head on a stick. (I shit you not.) In the middle of Curry’s impassioned effort to get everyone’s attention, a voice from the back of the room — it may have been Ken Bruce’s — yelled, “Open season on Moose.” The air was instantly thick with diner detritus, as Curry ducked and bobbed the impromptu onslaught.

(Above) Patches of ice did not deter 10 riders from coming into the recent Mac Pac Monthly Breakfast on their bikes. The machine of choice for the day was the mighty BMW GS. Photo by the author.

Club business was mercifully short as there were no guests to announce, no pressing projects, nor issues to discuss. Jack Riepe made a feeble attempt to announce the 2nd Annual Slider Ride to a White Castle Hamburger joint 98 miles distant in Toms River, NJ (March 20th), but the group received this information with the same enthusiasm they would have expressed for a barium enema.

(Above) Cute blonde Sue Cavanaugh, wife of Gerry Cavanaugh (despised Mac Pac Coordinator for BMW MOA's Mileage Contest) barely gives this magnificent silver BMW GS the time of day. Ugly as a bowling shoe, the BMW GS remains the marque's best seller. Photo by the author.

The first Annual Slider Ride was conducted two years ago, to commemorate Riepe’s 54th birthday. The purpose of the ride was to hit the nearest White Castle, where Riepe (who is openly addicted to these grit burgers of death), purchased 54 of them to distribute to the crowd. The Mac Pac demonstrated their deep affection for Riepe by boycotting the event. Only Don Eilenberger of the New Sweden BMW Riders (that's in New Jersey) and Tony Luna, of Motorcycle Views, met Riepe in Toms River. (Both later admitted they attended soley to meet women, an objective that was not realized.) Eilenberger presented Riepe with a genuine Rolodex watch (that ran on a "D" battery), and Luna got the shits from the sliders before he left the White Castle parking lot.

"How could we let that poor bastard ride all the way from Pennsylvania to celebrate his birthday alone, at a White Castle," said Eilenberger at the time. "It's just not the BMW rider way. If Tony Luna and I hadn't of shown, Riepe would have spent the afternoon sitting on the curb, with that face buried in a blue and white bag full of lard wafers. He'd have done better to get arrested someplace."

"Riepe is a natural born tragic figure," said Tony Luna that afternoon. "You have to wonder about his early home life if he spends the whole year looking forward to a nosebag of beef shavings. Rumor has it he was abandoned at an SPCA shelter when he was three, and raised there until he was 17."

(Above) Jay Scales and his gleaming BMW. Just a scant second before this picture was snapped, Scales had been standing with a crowd of Mac Pac riders. "All of you get in the picture," I said. "Let him show his wife he has friends." This picture was the result of that request. Photo by the author.

Ten members opted to ride into the event, cheating certain death on curves and shaded stretches of pavement where ice was still prevalent — especially at that hour of the morning. The majority of these guys rode mighty GS bikes, the armored vehicles of the motorcycle world. These riders included Jim Robinson, Andy Terrill, Jay Scales, Alain Kaldewaay, and Ken Bruce. Bruce Heilman pulled up on his royal K1200LT, the BMW motorcycle that weighs 26,000 pounds — and it was absolutely immaculate, without a hint of salt dust on a black finish that was the equal of an attorney’s soul. Legendary distance rider Doug Raymond was also in attendance on his familiar red “R” bike.

Let the record show that during the bloodbath that passed for breakfast, I overheard Doug Raymond tell someone (it may have been Horst Oberst), that he should share his stories with a competent writer, “a serious one.” He raised his eyebrows at me as he uttered these words, and the man meant them to sting. Singed for the moment, I turned away, and dreamed of my revenge.

Above) The ECO Mobile remains the most distinctive of any enclosed motorcycle design, hitting impossibly high speeds in a near aerodynamically perfect shell, propelled by a BMW motorcycle engine. Photo by the author.

Yet the big story for this Mac Pac breakfast was the final bike to arrive — the magnificent ECO Mobile, piloted by Tom Mohn, and his wife Kathy. Fully enclosed and supported by landing gear, the ECO mobile will hit speeds of up to 150 miles per hour, powered by a BMW K1200 engine and commanded by many of the original BMW K1200 bike controls. The machine cost over $80,000 (USD) in 2002 and was the first of its kind in the United States. (Now there are two.)

Amazingly enough, it was the first motorcycle ever owned or ridden by Tom Mohn.

Mohn first became aware of the development of the ECO Mobile in 1994, when he saw it on the Discovery Channel. Intrigued, he contacted the folks at the Discovery Channel, and eventually traveled to Switzerland to get a demo ride. He was hooked on the concept, took the specialized training, and ordered his machine — which took a year to build.

(Above) The left profile of Tom Mohn's ECO Mobile, sporting its new celestial paint job by Tricked Out Custom Cycles of Warminster. Photo by the author.

Mohn has admitted to dropping the ECO Mobile on a number of occasions. Yet a pair of hull sliders in the front and the exposed landing gear tires in the rear prevent the bodywork from coming into serious contact with the ground. The company that designed and built the ECO Mobile — Peraves — has a video that demonstrates a maneuver by which the rider can raise the machine by manipulating the steering and gunning the engine. Mohn professes not to have yet mastered that maneuver.

(Above) The right profile shot of the ECO Mobile details the air intake and the landing gear well. Photo by the author.

Originally shipped in a shade of white, Mohn recently commissioned a stellar custom paint for the ECO by Tricked Out Custom Cycles of Warminster, Pa.

(Above) The front office of the ECO Mobile is reminescent of a fighter jet. Many of the BMW bike controls are retained. Note the exquisite leather seat. Photo by the author.

“I have been a doctor of dental medicine and a scientist all my life,” said Tom Mohn (in an exclusive interview with Twisted Roads). “I have had a deep fascination with space and instructed Amanda, one of the graphic artists at TOCC, to come up with a celestial design to match the colors and composition of space with the fluid dynamics of the ECO Mobile. Her finished work is a tribute to the space shuttle, the Hubble telescope, the international space station and the crab nebula. The distinctive design even includes an orange stripe for enhanced visibility.”

(Above) A detail of the ECO Mobile's right profile. This machine is cool. Even the turn signals were smoked to blend in with the paint scheme. Photo by the author.

Since he never owned a motorcycle before taking title to the ECO Mobile, Mohn had no bad habits to unlearn. In fact, the only motorcycle he can ride is the ECO Mobile. Instead of attempting to drop his feet when stopped at a light, Mohn hits a button that drops the landing gear. “When riding on the back of Kathy’s Honda Aero Shadow, I subconsciously find myself attempting to lower the back wheels.” On the other hand, Kathy recently completed her ECO Mobile training and still finds herself attempting to drop her feet at a light.

(Above) I asked ECO Mobile pilot Tom Mohn to take me for a ride. "In your dreams, fat boy," he said, pulling away. Photo by the author.

The ECO Mobile is fully air conditioned, heated, and defrosted. It has a nice stereo and since it is built of bulletproof Kevlar®, the riders do no need to wear helmets. The pilot’s side comes with a belted harness.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2010
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain — PS (With A Shrug)

Twisted Roads Blog Episodes to Be Posted Every Monday And Thursday... Except Today

The Management of Twisted Roads apologizes for the delayed publication date of this blog, which was supposed to be out yesterday. The worthless turds that constitute our editorial staff, coupled with the useless human trash in the blog composing department, tied on a shitter yesterday, prior to going on a rampage. The police were called, and gained access to our offices only after firing tear gas into the windows. Despite upper management's instructions to shoot to kill, no causualties were reported. Scabs were called in to get this episode out this morning.

Twisted Roads regrets the inconvenience. Every reader who feels they were inconvenienced should indicate so in the comments section. Their names will go into a special drawing for a complimentary collection of 5 great motorcycle bandana's — all new. To leave a "comment," click on the little word "comment" (which is generally preceeded by a number). If your identification is not accepted, select "anonymous" and leave your full name at the bottom of your message. I can't do one more thing to kiss readers' asses as far as this issue is concerned.

Twisted Roads

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dispatches From The Front... Stuff Left Out

The “Dispatches From The Front” episodes of “Twisted Roads” deal with open correspondence to the author, bits and pieces of stories not yet published, real endings to stories of mine that were published in sanitized hardcopy venues, interesting pictures that haven’t yet made it into print, and ride announcements.

Previously Unanswered Correspondence From Readers

Dear Twisted Roads:

The island nation of Fuugola has been looking to compete in the winter Olympics for the past 50 years. As you must be aware, the tropical nature of Fuugola is not conducive to luge training, nor do our meager resources allow for the construction of large scale, artificially cooled luge facilities. The most recent blog episodes of Twisted Roads indicate that East Goshen, Pennsylvania is a land wracked by ice and snow, where people wear hides and drink potent liquids from helmets, worn to prevent death from impact during the odd warm month, when motorcycles play a significant role in the mating ritual.

Our research indicates that your current physique (which most closely approximates the dimensions of the Fuugolanese alpha male), your nurturing attitude toward women, and your ability to consume rum and coconut milk from a helmet — coupled with the frozen vastness of your driveway (an ideal luge training facility) — compel me to ask, would you consider going into training and competing on behalf of Fuugola in the next winter Olympics, to be held in Newark, NJ (a city with the same annual snowfall of Vancouver, BC).

(Above) Total Life Trainer from Fuugola — Photo by Bob Skoot

We haven’t got much to offer you in the way of compensation. In fact, all we can do is provide you with a “Total Life” trainer, who will do your cooking, your cleaning, and basic luge and motorcycle maintenance, while attending to your more animalistic needs. Her name is Siama Seeza. (Picture enclosed.) We would also be willing to name you “Hardonius Erectus,” which would make you a tribal chief. Would these arrangements be acceptable to you?

Motubu Afumastu
Minister Of Olympic Competition
Island Nation of Fuugola

Dear Motubu Afumastu:

Looking at my calendar, I can start tomorrow.

Fondest regards
Twisted Roads

Dear Twisted Roads:

My boyfriend, “Street Crud,” rides a Harley Davidson. He got it to ride from Seven-Eleven to Seven-Eleven with his friends every weekend. Sometimes they cover as much as 25 miles in a day. They pull up in a huge line in the Seven-Eleven parking lot, drink coffee, and admire their bikes. Then they ride on to the next one and do it all over again. At that point, things started to get “odd.”

Crud got one of those stupid German soldier helmets, in chrome, that looks like a huge dickhead. After that, he got a Harley tattoo on his dick. Okay, it's not actually on his dick. It's a tattoo done in an arch that reads, "H-D... Born to ride" over his dick. But he likes to read it whenever he takes a piss, so he had it put on upside down. Crud has to shave his pubes to read the damn thing and has made a You-Tube video of shaving himself with a straight-edge razor. But it’s all bullshit. He really uses “Nair” and a pink Lady Gillette razor with little flowers on it. The straight-edge razor is made of plastic and came from a Halloween costume shop.

Now Crud is complaining about my tits.

(Above) Crud says these aren't Harley enough. Photo by Babs

He says they just aren’t “Harley” enough. I am a 34 “C,” with pink rosé nipples that point up. He wants me to get a boob job pushing these puppies up to 44 “Double D’s,” so I can get “Harley” tattooed on one, and “Davidson” on the other. Except he wants the words put on backwards so he can read them in the mirrors on his Sportster. A fucking Sportster. Is it just my imagination, or does it sound strange that a guy would willing go riding around on a little fucking Sportster? Do you think he secretly wants to be a bitch.

Questioning Sportster Crud
Shithole, New Jersey

Dear Babs:

Could be. I’ll admit that the fascination with a little motorcycle and big hooters does sound strange. But we here at Twisted Roads are more concerned with potential safety hazards that Crud may be creating — and to which he may be inadvertently exposing you. Our safety team engaged an exotic dancer, with 44 “Double D’s,” to ride pillion on a Sportster we found parked behind a local ballet studio. A we suspected, her bodacious tah-tahs completely filled the field of vision on both mirrors, preventing the operator from seeing anything else.

This is a very dangerous situation. You were smart to write to us.

But there is some good news too. Your current vital statistics exactly match those found on page 16 of the K75 Eugenics Guide For The Perfect Ride. In other words, you are exactly proportioned to be a flawless addition to the pillion of any BMW K75, particularly those manufactured in 1995. (This is a legendary motorcycle that is anything but small.) There is a notation on the same page that as a further test for rider compatibility, you can lay back on the gas tank, resting your ankles on the K75 operator’s shoulders. If he emits a low whistle, you’re a perfect fit.

I just happen to have a 1995 K75, with a custom tank bag made of Corinthian glove leather. Let me know if I can assist you in any way.

Twisted Roads

Dear Twisted Roads:

Me, Nancy and Harry actually did save 1.8 million jobs. Yours just wasn’t one of them. So fuck you.

Bowing Barry
Washington, DC

Dear Bowing Barry:

Thank you for writing to Twisted Roads. No one is here right now, as we are out begging on the street, but your opinion is important to us. Your letter will be answered next November. Fuck me? Fuck you!

Twisted Roads

Dear Twisted Roads:

You Son Of A Bitch: Oh you were sooooo cool... Coming up to me in that dumpy biker bar with that stupid line, “Allow me to reproduce myself.” I could kill you for wearing that stupid banged-up beagle look on your face, and myself for falling for it. I can’t believe I swallowed that story about you being on your way “to donate an organ.” Well we know who the organ recipient was, don’t we. Then you told me those pills in the bottle next to your bed were male birth control tablets. They were nothing more than red m&ms. (I found the rest of the bag on the floor in the bathroom. Not a red one in the whole bunch.) You are such a prick. You and that whole BMW- riding crowd from Pennsylvania. They ate and drank everything in the damn beach house.

When am I going to see you again?

Paris H.
Hollywood, Cannes, New York, You-Tube

ps: The video is so cool... Especially when you peel that little Twisted Roads tee shirt off me.

Dear Paris H.:

I never lied to you... Well maybe just a little... Actually, the part about me being a professional pole vaulter was a stretch... Unless you want to consider vaulting the poles the strippers use in topless joints as a vocation. And you knew what those guys were when you answered the door. You still owe me $2,000 for the shirt.

Twisted Roads

Dear Twisted Roads:

I want to be just like you, and have women lift their shirts every time I pull up on my bike too. So I got a red K75, covered all the chrome parts with black Jet-Hot coating, mastered the patented “battered baby seal look,” and even shoved a large potato in my tight Aerostitch riding gear. I get a lot of smiles, but not one woman has lifted her shirt. Should I change the muffler on the bike? Should I switch to a Sprint fairing? What am I doing wrong?

B. Curry
Hanging Cat, Pa

Dear B. Curry:

Try putting the potato in the front of your Aerostitch.

Twisted Roads

Other, Unrelated Issues

BMW aficionado Lee Kazanas sent me this picture from Jay, New York... Where I used to live. It is a pictorial comparison between the weather in Jay and East Goshen, Pa., my current residence. Lee Kazanas was one of my very first friends when I moved up to the Adirondacks. Our daughters trick or treated together when they were five years old.

(Above) Lee Kazanas on his newest acquisition, a BMW R1150RT, sending me an encouraging message about the weather. Photo by Lee Kazanas

Kazanas and his wife Cheri are the talent behind the world-renowned Jay Craft Center, the source of exquisite pottery, woodwork, and jewelry. (This studio is highly regarded as the epicenter of cultural development in the North Country. It is part of an extensive community of artists, musicians, and writers, plus a sweat shop where Kazanas keeps Cheri and the kids handcuffed to the machinery.) I have spent thousands of hours with Lee and his wife over dinner, at a bar, by a fireside, or even in their studio, where clay is tortured into beautiful shapes. Some of the most elegant Adirondack homesteads are decorated with artwork from this studio, adorned by the distinctive pinecone signature. Years ago, when I was a young writer, I saved six months wages to buy a hand-painted switch-plate for the kitchen wall from the Jay Craft Center. One of my former wives took it on her way out.

This picture is Lee’s genteel way of giving me the finger. He's out riding, and I'm not.

Clicking on this link will take you to the front forks of Michael Cantwell’s 1994 BMW K75. A neighbor of Lee Kazanas, Cantwell lives in Wilmington, NY (another town where I used to live). This video clip depicts Cantwell roaring out onto Bonnieview Drive, and turning left onto Route 86, for the first ride of 2010. His run will go past the road on which Twisted Roads reader Ihor Sypko has a cabin, and past the vegetable stand where the Mulvey’s sell produce in the summer. (Cantwell will blow his distinctive horn as he passes the Mulvey Farm.) Coming into Jay, Michael will go right onto Route 9 in Jay, passing the Jay Craft Center, only to get stuck behind a minivan doing 25 mph for the last 15 miles of a beautiful ride along the barren AuSable River. (The only thing that keeps Cantwell from passing the other vehicle is unsabashed fear. The word the gentle reader is looking for is “pussy.”) Nevertheless, the sound of the K75 is like having a hot luge trainer from Fuugola whisper in your ear. The video pixelates as Michael hits his top speed of 36 mph, but the sound of that engine is the symphony of life. I recommend watching the video at least once, then closing your eyes and just listening to it a second time.

Gifts I received...

Readers occasionally send me the nicest things. Most recently, Bob Skoot of “Wet Coast Scootin’” sent me a collapsible stool to assist me in mounting and dismounting from my K75. The arthritis in my hips and knees is so bad, that swinging my leg over the 31” (inch - ‘Merican unit of measurement) sends a jolt of pain through my spine. This thoughtful gift is cleverly designed to fold flat, and Bob quickly deduced that it would fit into my topcase, providing me with additional options to minimize my riding challenges. My topcase is the OEM unit from BMW. It opens forward, enabling me to reel in a step, secured to the handelbars by a chain, and drop it into the case behind me, also accepting a folding cane that I use for walking. Bob undoubtedly felt this stool would be a rather fashionable answer to my mounting problems.

Regretably, the stool that Bob sent me does not fit into the topcase, which has some peculiar dimensions.

(Above) The interior contours of the BMW OEM topcase limit the usable space inside, and the nice folding stool that Bob Scoot sent me is a trifle too large. Photo taken by the author.

The step I currently use was built for me by Jim Sterling, a Mac Pac rider and friend, who happens to be an engineer for Boeing. Sterling recognized the odd parameters of the BMW topcase, took careful measurements, and built the step to fit. He rode up to my garage from Delaware, where he then experimented with a prototype, that added nearly four inches in height to my leg, helping me get it over the “fat man wings” of my Russell Day-Long Saddle.

(Above) This is the step arrangement I cureently use, designed and built by Jim Sterling, of the Mac Pac Engineering Institute. These guys can do anything. Photo by the author.

Bob Skoot was the 6th person to contribute a step to my garage. Prototypes were contributed by Ricky Matz (a friend of mine for 40 years), Ken Bruce (Mac Pac), Dick Bregstein (Mac Pac), David Hardgrove (Mac Pac) and Jim Sterling (Mac Pac). David Hardgrove provided me with the exact same model as Bob Skoot, so now I have two. Two of the wooden steps (Ricky’s and Ken’s) are now permanent fixtures in the garage, which I can just pull up to. Bob Skoot’s step (which was mailed to me at considerable expense) is now in the Suburban, to assist me in getting snow off the roof and as a means to soften the jolt when the Celebrex isn’t up to the job.

I have no idea what it was that deserved this kind of consideration attention from my riding friends, but I am eternally grateful.

Tena Abbey sent me a pouch she knitted, filled with little baby harp seals. According to the note, she has been studying the marketability of the “Battered Baby Seal look,” a technique I have relied on to get laid for years. (I have not previously considered marketing this secret, nor holding webcasts in its execution, as I am not interested in raising the competition.) Abbey claims that the baby harp seal has other therapeutic benefits, however. In a secret study, Canadian school teachers, politicians, healthcare officials, and clergy all showed dramatic drops in anxiety after spending a few days on the ice, clubbing the shit out of baby harp seals. (It’s hard to believe that Canada has a dark side like this, but it fits in nicely with the whole bilingual scam.)

(Above) Tena Abbey's desktop Harp seals are ideal for battering with a pencil, to work out those inner office tensions. Photo by the author, taken on his desk.

Abbey felt that she could replicate the relaxing sensation of clubbing baby harp seals, and make it available to executives and others with high anxiety-generating jobs in the US, through this pouch of seals. You simply empty it onto a desk top, and whack the seals with a pencil. I recently did this while listening to a keynote speaker in the travel industry. Her presentation was on the significance of professional advancement within a firm by using social networking, like Facebook, to kiss ass publicly. By the time her presentation was over, I had whacked two of the fake seals to threads, and ate three others. Abbey is working on a CD that will create accompanying sound effects as well.

Two Tee Shirt Honeys...

Janice McKenzie bought three of my shirts around Christmas time, realizing the power of a Twisted Roads Tee shirt in a world gone amok. She then tempted fate by wearing one herself. Apparently, it has raised the value of the house she and Rolly Brown live in. I got the picture from Rolly, who said, “Doesn’t Janice look great in this shirt? And it really accents the natural beauty of the front porch too!”

(Above) Janice McKenzie demonstrates the proper fit of a Twisted Roads Tee Shirt. Photo by Rolly Brown, I thnk.

The second shot is off Tena Abbey, who decided to wear her shirt into a local library. I thought I had explained that the nature of the Twisted Roads tee shirt is best experienced in a risque setting. Now Tena lives over on the west coast, and apparently, the library is where women go to get something started. I heard that guys in the periodicals section went berserk, throwing cards from the catalogue high in the air. Some guys even spoke out loud.

(Above) Tena Abbey let's her Twisted Roads tee shirt magic loose in a west coast library. Photo is from the National Civilian Secret Data File.

Twisted Roads is in the process of changing its Tee shirt vendor. I wasn't happy with the quality of the larger size shirts, and am in the process of switching suppliers. Several folks have inquired, and I apologize for the wait. Five people have been waiting for books, and these were shipped today.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2010
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Breaking Free Of The Winter Doldrums


This episode of “Twisted Roads” was slated to run yesterday, which was the celebration of the President’s Day Holiday in the United States. The Presidents celebrated are the two renown for getting results. These are George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. The fact that there are no other Presidents celebrated is an indication that these two have set the minimum standards for comparison, which have yet to be matched.

Washington is best remembered for his incredible perseverance, when the first US Congress demonstrated the kind of behavior that American voters could expect from future legislators. They hobbled Washington at every turn during his initial confrontation with the British in 1776, and accused him of being what they themselves were in most every regard – average men. George Washington was an average man only in that he had been measured by average means. It is a little known fact that he had very limited military experience prior to the American Revolution, and that he lost every battle in which he had ever been previously engaged.

With his back to the wall and at the end of his rope... With troops ill shod, ill clothed and ill fed... With jealous and petty officers sniping behind his back... With hundreds of sick soldiers leaving the ranks as their enlistments ran out... With everything against him... George Washington established the first high-water mark for revolutionary thinking and Yankee ingenuity by doing the impossible... He attacked a greatly superior force (Hessians, the pit bulls of 18th Century Europe) in the middle of a winter snowstorm, and with many men armed only with pikes (spears), he seized two British strongholds — Trenton and Princeton — sending a message to tyrants for the first time: “That you underestimate the American nation at your peril.” It is a message often forgotten.

Abraham Lincoln is credited with ending slavery in the United States and preserving the Union. However, there is evidence that he would have been willing to work something out to keep the nation intact. Lincoln is the epitome of the common man rising above his own circumstances, and the circumstances of a nation in duress. With an education best described as “home schooled,” Lincoln was the right man, in the right place, during the darkest hours of the United States. Surrounded by the first truly bipartisan cabinet (an idea far ahead of its time and one that didn’t work) and reliant on the best military minds in the north (which were utterly incapable of providing a victory), Lincoln found himself working within earshot of Confederate artillery (Battle of Bull Run).

Yet Lincoln was made of strong homespun. At one point, he directed the Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton to ask General Meade if he (Lincoln) could borrow the army for the weekend if the general wasn’t going to use it. But Lincoln’s greatest endeavor would have been displayed during Reconstruction. His reasoning was that rebel states never had the right to leave the Union, therefore they were still part of it. His intention, by quote was “To let them up easy.” His assassination at the hands of southern patriot John Wilkes Booth guaranteed a period of reconstruction during which southern states were treated like occupied enemy nations. But the Constitution was preserved and survived up until ten years ago, when it became toilet paper for two administrations.

So I took the day off yesterday to meet with a few gentlemen to discuss the potential for creating a motorcycle-related business. (That is a story for another time.)

The Episode...

Winter brings out the worst in me. The endless blanket of snow draped over this part of the U.S. makes me feel like “Cousin Yorgi,” on page 123 of any Russian novel, where suicide is introduced as comic relieve. Speaking of Russian epics in which winter’s misery is the backdrop of light character studies, my late father was one of the world’s great unrecognized philosophers. We were watching the film classic Dr. Zhivago one night — as Omar Shariff wrote poetry to Julie Christie in a Siberian cottage where the ice was three inches thick on a hot stove — and my dad noted the scene in which a handful of people were walking along a barren railroad track to nowhere. They were bent over as the wind, disguised as a permeable wall of snow, was blowing at 90 miles per hour.

“Where do those people think they are going,” asked my dad to no one in particular. “What would make them think that walking in the snow from a village that has absolutely nothing to another that has even less seem like a good idea?” My dad was a practical man who had been from Iceland to Egypt in the tail gunner’s balcony of a B-17, and who had experienced the temperatures of hell from both perspectives. He had gotten cold at 23,000 feet over Reykjavik (which he pronounced Rake-A- geevic) in December of 1943 and didn’t warm up until July of 1964.

I treasure many of the conversations I have had with my late dad, since those of my memory hold none of the rhetorical questions regarding my character flaws as did the originals. Nevertheless, I am delighted that my father and I never sat through an Ingmar Bergman production, where characters representing death and marriage occasionally played chess. My father was a unique man in that he thought life should be spent looking upward for inspiration, as opposed to poking through shit with a stick, seeking meaning.

The fragile, frozen solitude of last Saturday was shattered by a ringing phone. Dick Bregstein — my riding partner and frequent target of this blog — suggested we throw off the shackles of the season and head over to the local BMW dealer for the product launch of the S1000RR, and for the free breakfast that went along with it. He got no argument from me, and within an hour, we were headed to Hermy’s Tire and Cycle, a temple to two-wheeled perfection selling BMWs and Triumphs.

(Above) Herman Baver, General Manager of Hermy's Tire and Cycle, stated there has been a lot more rider interest in the model launch of BMWs S1000RR, and more inquiries as to when the bile would make its appearance in Pennsylvania. Photo by "Slick" Dick Bregstein.

The expression “local BMW dealer” is a quaint throwback to the days when the boys in the bund saw fit to plant dealerships in every other town, like the blacksmith shops of yore. “Local” now means “closest,” which is a purely relative interpretation. For example, my closest dealer is Hermy’s, in Hamburg, Pa. And Hamburg, Pa. is closer than Hamburg, Germany. See?

(Above) No trip to Hermy's would be complete without a smile from Suzy "Cookie" from behind the front display counter. Photo by "Iron" Dick Bregstein.

It felt kind of odd covering the 60 miles between East Goshen and Hamburg in my old Suburban, as this was the first time Dick and I were attending an event here in a cage. The back roads from Pottstown to Hamburg offer fine motorcycle terrain, but we found plenty of spots were the curves were still crowned with ice and packed snow.

“Now, Dick,” I said, wagging my finger in his direction. “We should walk through Hermy’s first, looking at the new bikes before making a beeline to the free breakfast. Try and linger around the new S1000RR for a bit, asking a question or two to be polite, and then we’ll freight up at the buffet table.”

Bregstein agreed, but this seldom signifies understanding.

The banked snow of Route 61 in Hamburg put a slight damper on the anticipated crowd, especially as the new S1000RR was to have been available for test rides. Still, a respectable mob showed up just to touch the new bike. Dick edged through the crowd like a fullback, approached Herman Baver (the General Manager), and said, “What a great turnout. The new bike looks terrific. Where’s breakfast?”

(Above) Walking through Hermy's is the closest one will ever come to mechanical heaven. The place is wall-to-wall BMWs, with a few Triumphs thrown in for basic comparison. This is one of the few places on earth where I am understood, and someone doesn't walk around behind me, making sure I do not sweat on the bikes. Photo by "I-Can-Pick-Up-A-Pail-Of-Rocks-With My" Dick Bregstein.

The first-rate breakfast buffet was laid out in the main maintenance bay. There were trays of eggs, pancakes, fried potatoes, ham, bacon, sausages, breakfast pastry, coffee, and juice. Bregstein’s technique was flawless. He grabbed eight pancakes, separated them into four pairs, and loaded each pair down with six slices of ham. He then jammed each “sandwich” into a different pocket in his jacket. “I’ll have lunch for the rest of the week,” he hissed, shoving a child aside to grab a container of orange juice.

(Above) The magnificent BMW K1200LT... The Touring Bike For Kings. Photo by "Leather" Dick Bregstein.

Dick glanced around the room to see if he was being observed. Then with his back to the security camera, he systematically constructed a seven-layer breakfast plate that must have weighed three pounds. Bregstein blended into a corner in which to savage the leaning tower of breakfast in much the same way a muskelunge will go through a line of ducklings.

“Good heavens, Dick,” I exclaimed. “They never really count this stuff, you know.”

His response was a low growl.

The new bike was on display like a predator in the zoo, surrounded by onlookers masked by unabashed awe and motorcycle lust. Surprisingly diminutive, the S1000RR conveys power, style, and innovation at first glance. One would think the riding position awkward for a tall man. Yet several tall riders (including the Mac Pac’s Matt Piechota) mounted it in the showroom, claiming the position was quite comfortable.

(Above) Mac Pac member Matt Piechota tries on the new S1000RR for size, and likes it. Tom Murray, of the crack Hermy's Sales Team (left) smiles knowingly and quietly asks for a sales pad to set the hook. Photo by "Compass Needle" Dick Bregstein.

The machine on display was fully equipped with ABS, traction control, and a series of other options. The standard feature that garnered the most attention from this crowd, however, was the engine. Rated at 182 horsepower at the back wheel, the S1000RR is one of the sleekest, fastest, and most powerful bikes in the BMW stable. It also has an incredible horsepower to weight ratio, at 450 pounds wet.

“Hey, Jack... Wanna hear her run,” asked Tom Murray, of the Sales Department.

“Why yes, Tom,” I replied. “If it’s no trouble.”

“It’s never any trouble for you.”

Tom wheeled the raptor over to the double glass doors, opened them and sighed over the starter button. The bike snarled to life a nano-second later like a panther on a short leash. The engine idled for a few minutes after which he gave the throttle an aggressive twist. It was like pulling the cadmium rods out of a reactor. The bike went to high RPM in a split second, with a sound that set every heart in the room on a war-drum beat.

(To view a video of this machine idling at Hermy's, and my closing comment, please click here.)

“I am seriously thinking of getting one of these,” said Matt Piechota.

I asked Bregstein if he would take pictures for my blog. He was only too glad to oblige me, claiming he had a camera in his pocket. He did. But it was in the last pocket he checked, and Dick found it only after pulling ham and pancake sandwiches out of every zippered opening, like a sideshow magician.

While up at Hermy’s, we met Matt Piechota, Rick and Linda Sorensen (Mac Pac Riders), Mike and Desiree (Delaware Valley Riders), and Bill Mara, (who I met at the Airheads Conference in Pottstown last week.) I was commenting on the kind nature of Hermy’s to get behind a product launch like this, when Linda Sorensen mentioned that they drove over 90 miles to support this dealership. Bill Mara came considerably further, from Warren, New Jersey.

Hermy’s Tire and Cycle has a long and distinguished background supporting BMW riding clubs. The only way they could possibly become more hospitable would be if the put a bar in there too. Then again, I would never go home.

I would like to acknowledge the contributions of Dick Bregstein and Matt Piechota to this report.

There will be a second Twisted Roads Posted For Tomorrow...

The bog episode originally scheduled to run today — Dispatches From The Front — will run here tomorrow, as a bonus episode for all of my readers who have waited so patiently for it.


Two new “Destinations” have been added to the blog list on the right. These are:
1) Scootin’ Old Skool by Orin
2) Everyday Riding by Chris Luhman

Scootin’ Old School primarily focuses on the two-wheel world of classic scooters. Written by Orin, this blog provides in-depth riding perspectives from the viewpoint of a veteran scooterazzo, with extra attention to both new and vintage machines, techniques, and destinations that have appeal to both the scooter crowd and bikers in general.

Everyday Riding are the enduring chronicles of Chris Luhman, who goes through life nailed to the cross of a Ural sidecar rig. Luhman is undaunted by snow, sleet, locusts, and Bolshevik revolutions as he confronts all from the handlebars of his Russian rig. His blog covers subjects ranging from technical interludes to destinations, and from making videos from the cockpit to the occasional analysis of the riding psyche.

I read them often.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2010
AKA The LIndbergh Baby (Mac Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With a shrug)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Kiss of the White Death... Part Two

It was not my intention to rail against the weather, nor those who are paid to hype it, in this blog episode, but the events which unfolded on Tuesday and Wednesday were so extraordinary, that I am compelled to report them in some measure.

It is no secret that a vicious one/two snowfall (approaching blizzard conditions) had been predicted for the Philadelphia area (including Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey). The first of these punches was delivered over the weekend, from Friday night into Saturday afternoon. As detailed in my last blog, we all coped, and even managed to have a good time.

The second part of the onslaught was not slated to start until Tuesday night, and most of the talking heads on the weather programs had assumed a less hysterical stance by Monday morning. In fact, there were fewer of the dire predictions that constitute good weather drama. The usual scenes of people storming the local markets in search of bread and milk had been replaced by the more prominent stories of shootings and robberies, which constitute “human interest” in Philly.

(Above) During the lull in the storm, this is what the house looked like at 2:30pm on Wednesday. This was before the heavier storm activity. Note the "plowed" driveway to the right of the house. In two hours, it had accumulated another 6 inches of snow. The front door is not visible behind the snow-covered dogwood tree. Photo by Leslie Marsh

The storm started on cue, about 9pm Tuesday evening, and was duly noted by our two dogs, who were in the yard at that moment and who are ambivalent about this sort of thing. Dawn Wednesday morning saw an additional 4 inches of heavy, wet snow on the ground, which made for pleasant breakfast speculation during the normal conversation.

(Above) The mailbox on its ornamental carved post is barely visible in the as the storm winds up for the pitch. Photo by Leslie Marsh.

Both the news teams and the weather forecasters — all talked out over the cataclysmic events of the weekend — seemed a lot more pensive and tended to issue more practical assessments of problems likely to develop in the next 24 hours. Gone were the interviews with morons shoveling snow on the street. In their place were reports from New Jersey Transit, PENNDOT, and PECO about major suspensions in service and the potential for serious road closures. These seemed incongruous with the gently falling snow outside.

(Above) Less than three miles from the house, this picturesque lane appears as desolate as any country road in the middle of nowhere. The snow here was over ten inches deep, but no challenge for the Suburban. The tire tracks indicate someone was ahead of me in here at some point.

Our plow guy, Joe DiGiacomo (from Planet Granite in West Chester), pulled up, dropped the plow, and had the driveway and garage area cleared out in ten minutes.

“I’m gonna be back during the night and once again in the morning,” Joe said, with an infectious grin. “Then I’m leaving for a ski trip up in Montreal. My friends left yesterday, but business is business, and I’m going make sure all my customers get plowed out before I go.”

(Above) The field to the left is usually host to a dozen horses. They were probably eaten by rich people who did not want them stolen by hoards of "Have Nots," roaming the countryside looking for a meal. Photo by Leslie Marsh.

I fired up the Suburban, and rolled out into the street, which had already been cleared by East Goshen Township, who have done a magnificent job of dealing with the snow. A fast spin around the block and into town clearly indicated the truck was up to anything accumulation that was on the roads. “Another series of storm predictions that were much ado about nothing,” I surmised. Yet I noticed that a handful of cars moving around without 4-wheel drive were having a tough go of it, and seemed to be at the limits of their expected performance range.

(Above) Weighed down by hundreds of pounds of snow on each branch, trees bowed across the road, giving a wild aspect to their usually more dignified county road nature. Picture by Leslie Marsh.

Leslie was eating a bowl a steaming barley beef soup when I tramped in.

“The trees are heavy with snow and their branches are hanging down to the pavement,” I said, “Want to take a ride in the truck and grab some pictures?”

“Sure,” she said. “How is it outside? They say it’s going to get worse.”

I told her the snow seemed to have reached a lull, and that the best scenes for pictures would be now, before the wind picked up. We headed out 20 minutes later, and I couldn’t help noticing that there was already two more inches of snow down on the newly plowed driveway.

(Above) A solitary tree wearing the colors of winter: shroud-white and bleak. Photo be Leslie Marsh

We were out for an hour and a half, during which time the wind did pick up, as did the rate of snowfall. Nearly all of the vehicles we encountered were commercial plowing vehicles and township trucks. Ducking down some of the more picturesque side roads, we found the snow to be as deep as ten inches. The “Big Blue” Suburban took it all in stride, though there were at least two country roads where the snowbanks had narrowed the right of way to a single lane. These were on downhill stretches, and I did not see how I would be able to yield to a vehicle coming the other way. (Fortunately, none did.) At one point, we hit a stretch where the plow had simply stopped, leaving a standing snow barrier. I gave the truck a hit of gas and drove right through it.

(Above) Exiting an old mill pond by the side of the road, this creek was one of the few example of open water we could find yesterday. Photo by Leslie Marsh.

Our objective was to find and photograph some open water, where Ridley Creek passes under a bridge on Dutton Mill Road. That was out of the question. Dutton Mill Road was in bad shape as it runs for a couple of miles and there are only a few houses on it, mostly at opposite ends.

(Above) Frequent readers to this blog will remember that in the most recent past episode, the furniture on the patio was used to measure the accumulation of the snow. Please feel free to compare this shot with the last one taken of the yard. The white blob in the center is a coffee table. Photo by Leslie Marsh.

The run back to the house was without drama, despite near white-out conditions . It was a lot warmer outside than I expected, and I had the driver’s window down more often then not. With less then two miles to go, we were confronted by a three- truck conga line of plows. All were headed towards us like fate, with each vehicle plowing a respective third of the road. There was enough of a gap between the first and second truck that I could swing to the right of it, and then to the left of the other two, with Leslie snapping pictures the whole time.

(Above) The East Goshen Public Works Department deserves the highest accolades for snow removal in a state not known for vicious winters. None of the adjoining municipalities had streets and thoroughfares as clear as ours. Nearly all of the snow-covered roads in this blog's pictures were taken in neighboring Willistown. The East Goshen Public Works Department is so well rehearsed in snow removal, they could give the guys in Lake Placid, NY or Buffalo, NY a run for their money. This is a conga-line of plows we cut through.

That ended our big adventure for the day. But not the drama.

The snow fell faster than my hopes for getting a decent Christmas bonus last year. Branches snapped off the magnolia tree in front of my office and a couple of really big branches broke off the pines in the yard. The drift against the gardener’s access gate to the yard was more than four feet high and 15 feet long. Septa cancelled all bus and trolley service by 5pm. New Jersey Transit cancelled all statewide bus service by 7pm. Philadelphia International Airport, the most rural on the east coast and the one I hate the most, was closed all day and was still closed early this morning. Even the crack dealers were gone from the usual corners in Philly. The driveway was once again a seamless sheet of white with more than a foot of new snow in it. Yet this time, the snow was heavy and weighed a ton per shovelful.

(Above) This was the view out of the front door early this morning. Photo by Leslie Marsh.

By 6pm last night, I-76, I-476, I-676, and I-78 were all closed. The Pennsylvania Turnpike remained open as did I-95. I-80 was open until there was a 50-car pile-up someplace west of here. A state of emergency had been declared in Delaware, and none but emergency vehicles were permitted on the roads. Leslie’s son Jordan called to report the electricity had been off there all day and that he, his wife, their two babies, three dogs, and one visiting mother-in-law were all huddled around the fireplace, but that they were down to using birthday cake candles for light. We prepared to go into rescue mode to go and get them with the Suburban. The snow was winding down, but the wind was howling. It would make driving in the dark on snow jammed country roads that much more difficult. I figured it could take me an hour to cover the five miles between there and here.

“Tell them I’m on the way,” I said. At that moment, current again surged through the wires and Casa Jordan was aglow once more.

At 9am this morning, a huge plow truck from East Goshen Township was slamming through the Cul De Sac when it slid into a slow bank. The township dispatched a bulldozer to pull the truck out. Both then labored to open the street to blacktop in many places. They had barely left when the great miracle occurred. Our plow guy appeared in a burst of sunlight. (This is not the douche we had before, but a guy who is as good as his word.)

(Above) My 15-year-old Suburban, "Big Blue", in the driveway just plowed by Joe DiGiacomo of Planet Granite. The vehicle effortlessly handled 22 inches of snow on Saturday, and 16 inches of wet snow yesterday. Photo by Leslie Marsh.

Against all odd, Smiling Joe DiGiacomo of Planet Granite roared into Leslie’s driveway with the plow down. His Chrysler pickup is powered by a Cummins diesel, with a heavy duty transmission. It bit into the incline of our driveway like a T-Rex running through a room full of puppies. Eight passes later, the driveway was cleared, as was the tarmac area in front of the garage. The snow banks at the back end of the driveway are over 6 feet tall.

The trees in the garden have sustained heavy damage. I don’t know if the magnolia tree can be salvaged. Likewise, the dogwood tree out front has every branch bent to the ground. With more snow predicted for the weekend and early next week, it is unlikely I will be able to get this bike out for another month. But that’s why they call it winter.

Hopefully, I will not get the opportunity to write about snow again this year.

©Copyright Jack Riepe2010
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain — PS (With A Shrug)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Living Through The White Death...

The weather dopes on every network from Fox to CNN, and from CBS to NBC, started waxing orgasmic about the the winter storm that was to ravage the east coast from New York City to Virginia, five days in advance. Their predictions included highly editorialized conclusions that snow would pummel places like Philadelphia to the point where civilization would vanish. All transportation would cease... Parents would eat their children... And society would be reduced to wearing hides and communicating via grunts and primitive gestures.

The day before the storm, the mediocre meteorologists were joined by a battery of talking heads, who foamed at the mouth as they explained how the snow would erode recent market gains, destroy US credibility abroad, open the country to a new wave of illegal immigrants, and cause babies who were conceived during blizzard-like conditions to be born with lemur-like eyes. Right on cue, the airlines cancelled hundreds of flights into Philly, before the first flake hit. I half expected the army to start shooting looters, even though no one had stolen anything yet.

I immediately ran out and bought 50 cases of tomato soup and all the leather tanning supplies I could lay my hands on. My thought was to have enough of one commodity to eat, which could also be mixed with vodka for entertaining, and to get a head start on learning a craft, like converting cows into yurts. A friend of mine stocked up on enough food for 48-hours and barricaded himself into the basement with three women he’d met in a bar.

“Do you think two-days worth of comestibles will be enough,” I asked.

“You eat what you want, and I’ll eat who I want,” was his response.

By 5pm on Thursday, February 4th, the chance of finding an elected official in Washington, D.C. was only a point or two greater than the chances of discovering a unicorn munching oysters at the Old Ebbitt Grill. The federal government fled Washington, D.C. long before the storm was expected to strike. The United States has not seen such a mass exodus from the Capital since the battle of Bull Run. Footmen and servants attended stately Senators as they grabbed anything of value and crammed it into their limousines. Cases of champagne, clusters of silver candlesticks, and bunches of women in diaphanous gowns where thrown into car trunks or lashed onto the roofs.

It was a different scene in the poorer neighborhoods — where Congressmen live. Most of them relied on the tried and true routine of tossing a mattress out the bedroom window, and dropping their few things of value onto it, hoping to minimize breakage. One Congressman is alleged to have tossed a crate of chickens from a third-story attic loft, where he had been raising them and selling the eggs, only to see it hit the pavement — splitting open and liberating the occupants. He spent 45 minutes chasing his constituents in and out of traffic.

On the day of the storm, Friday, February 5th, many schools in the Philadelphia area and surrounding region dismissed their students at mid-day, hoping to prevent great loss of life due to avalanches, frostbite, and the increased risk of having thousands of kids wandering around in whiteout conditions. The students were advised to go straight home... To huddle around such heat sources as they had... And to join their families in prayer and meditation for the little time they would have left together.

I was glued to the big screen at noontime. Every channel tracked the storm as it came up from the south. Reporters relentlessly dogged it from airports, to highways, and to rural farming communities — even following it into a bar and a whorehouse. There was nothing about this storm that I didn’t know. Yet the sun was still shining wanly outside, without an indication of the cataclysmic activity that would follow shortly.

My attention was split between televised scenes in which thousands of people were storming supermarkets, buying bread and milk — and the telephone, which had remained ominously silent. (Do people think bread and milk will prevent snowstorms?) You see, I had an assignment to cover a motorcycle event that Friday night (the day of the storm), and I sat by the phone, waiting for the call confirming it had been cancelled.

“Do you honestly believe that anyone is going to turn up for a motorcycle event, in Pottstown, Pa., on the night of one of the worst snow storms in local history,” asked Leslie, the love of my life and the voice of reason.

I hesitated in my response, which was as good as saying, “Yes, I fucking think everyone will turn out for this event because it involves BMWs and BMW riders, who are the closet thing to the Knights Templar in the Middle Ages when it comes to resolve and purity of obsession.”

“You think these guys are gods, and that if you worship them, they’ll let you be a little one,” she said.

Once again I hesitated, which was as good as saying “Yup, that’s what I think.”

The call came at 1pm, at which point the event organizer, Todd Byrum, explained to me the event was on — and that there had been very few cancellations.

Now the gentle reader should be advised that I am something of a dimwit when it comes to details. Todd had sent me some promotional material, two weeks prior, explaining the nature of the two-day event, its objectives, the caliber of the speakers, and the focus of the participants. I figured I’d look at it while I was at the event, pretending to take notes. I was under the impression that this was a Mac Pac sanctioned discussion group on mechanical upkeep, and that I already knew most of the guys who’d be in attendance. (The Mac Pac is the premier chartered BMW riding club in southeast Pennsylvania.)

Nothing could have been farther from the truth.

I wandered into the conference center at the Pottstown Motel 6, which shares a building housing a truck-loading facility, and found a full room. In fact, it would be standing-room only ten minutes later. I counted 60 participants, and didn’t recognize more than one or two faces. ‘What the fuck,” I whispered, pulling a notebook out of my pocket.

(Above) This sculpted flower pot sits on a table on our back patio. Leslie used it as an intial snow gauge. Photo by Leslie Marsh

This was the opening reception of the annual BMW Airheads Super Tech Conference, a technical/and social event catering to the riders of magnificent antique and vintage motorcycles of this marque, powered by the air-cooled version of the classic boxer engine. A year in the planning, this event attracted riders from states as far as California, and from at least one other country (Canada). Looking around the room, these guys reminded me of an elite sharpshooter’s unit in the US Marine Corps. A guy to my left stuck out his head, told me his name, and asked what “Airhead” I rode.

I went on the defensive immediately, realizing that I was trapped in a room full of fanatics.

“I ride a 1995 BMW K75, a bike with a proper cooling system,” sneered I.

The guy’s smile faded to “minimal,” but his eyes narrowed, clearly regarding me as a bus station pervert.

“I’ll buy you a glass of coolant at the next BMW rally,” he replied, looking sideways at his companions.

They thought this was hysterically funny. In fact, they began whispering and pointing at me like I was fat or something.

Of the gentlemen sitting at my table, one was from Minnesota, two were from Ohio, one was from Toronto, and another was from Warren, NJ. All of them drove in. When I asked if they had been concerned by the snow, they looked at me like I was wearing a tutu.

(Above) This is the same picture of the sculpted flower pot, except Leslie has now included the entire table top. This is not drifted snow. The snowfall on the table is indicative of what is on the ground in every direction. Photo by Leslie Marsh

Todd Byrum called the room to order and introduced some of the attending biker royalty and keynote speakers. These included Chris Carr (the world’s fastest man on two wheels, 368 mph on the salt at Bonneville), Tony Foale (the world’s leading expert on motorcycle suspensions), and Tom Cutter (one of the foremost BMW restoration experts in the country).

(Above) This was the height of the snow at the driveway door. This was undrifted height across the driveway. Photo by Leslie Marsh

Chris Carr was the headline speaker for the opening reception, and he began by detailing his racing career, which commenced at the age of 6. A two-time AMA (seven year) Grand National Champion, Carr has attained rock star status in both dirt track and super bike categories. He has set the speed record as the world’s fastest man on two wheels twice.

(Above) This was the scene that greeted me when I raised the garage door. Note the scale of the snowfall to the height of the motorcycle. Leslie titled this picture, "No Motorcycling Today." The motorcycle is a 1995 BMW K75. Kindly note it is fucking spotless. I run a tight ship. By clicking on the picture, you can see how new the back tire is too. Photo by Leslie Marsh.

Carr has the rare every-man speaking quality of the late actor Jimmy Stewart. He downplays his accomplishments, making each member of the audience feel that they too could have done what he did, if they had had an $8 million motorcycle in their garage. He ran through his last record-breaking run, briefly touching on an on-board fire created by a parted oil line, a momentary crisis caused by the failure of a brake chute, and the stress endured by a set of tires costing six-figures, all of which seemed to develop at speeds over 300 miles per hour.

(Above) Certain friends of mine always stick pictures of their dogs in their biker blogs. If they can do it, I can do it too. Atticus Finch (rear) chases after Scout (front) in a mad dash back to the house. Scout believes this is too much of a good thing. Scout is a rescue mutt the size of a standard Labrador retreiver. She weighs in at 100 pounds. Atticus is 148, without an ounce of fat on him.

Carr is the consummate professional on and off the track. He spoke for 90-minutes, took questions, and then met with participants one-on-one. Realizing that I would not be called upon to narrate my high-speeds runs for the crowd, I made my exit and stepped out into a raging snowstorm.

I should have made the effort to stay at the hotel, though it is unlikely they would have had an open room. But there was barely two or three inches of snow on the ground in the parking lot, and with my customary concern for caution, I said, “Fuck it.”

With the Beach Boys pouring out of the stereo and the wipers flipping snow off the huge windshield, I pulled out onto Route 100 in Pottstown and felt the rear wheels slip in the eery white slurry. It was eery in the sense that it was largely undisturbed and undiscolored on a major thoroughfare. And then I realized that mean there was no salt or grit on it yet. “How odd,” I said to myself, pulling the floor lever to engage the four-wheel drive.

(Above) Atticus Finch sitting in the back doorway, the lord and master of the snowy wasteland that is now the yard. There is no evidence that Atticus ever gets cold. Photo by Leslie Marsh

The snow was falling at a rate faster than two inches per hour and created a dense fog that bedeviled the truck’s headlights. I chugged along at 25mph, which seemed to be the going rate for what traffic there was. Route 100 is a pleasant run through changing terrain that normally delights the eye and provides the average biker with multiple thrills. There are pure country stretches that are very pretty, running through charming little towns where adulturors are still stoned to death. These connect with freeway stretches and two-lane twisties alike. Had I had a hot cup of coffee and a cigar, I would have enjoyed myself thoroughly.

(Above) Though she looks like she is digging in, Scout is coming through the snow at about 40 miles per hour. She hates it... And she hates having her picture taken. That is her look of abject betrayal. Photo by Leslie Marsh

The nice twisty stretch starts at the intersection with Route 23 and runs down to Ludwig’s Corners. (Doesn’t Ludwig’s Corners have a nice ring to it? It sounds like the kind of town Norman Rockwell would visit to get laid.) I was well into this bit of heaven, listening to Blue Oyster Cult going on about not Fearing The Reaper (my theme song), when I picked up “The Asshole.” This guy appeared out of nowhere and filled my rear-view mirrors — all three of them — with his high beams. He appeared to be 15 feet off my bumper, with no other purpose in the world other than to aggravate me.

Checking the speedo, I was dead nuts on at 25mph, now hacking my way through what appeared to be more than half a foot of falling snow. “Blow me,” I thought, concentrating on the road ahead. The nicest twisty bit unfolds on a hill that opens to three lanes, with the center one closed to traffic in either direction. The asshole passed me on curve, in driving snow, on a hill. I slowed slightly and let him go. I met him again at the top, where he was the last vehicle in a line of 11 cars... Stuck behind one that was taking the incline sideways.

(Above) Atticus Finch, named for a character in "To Kill A Mockingbird," as is Scout, is seen here looking wise and just. He is four years old and probably was planning to ambush Scout when this picture was taken. Clicking on the picture will show you this magnificent dog in detail. Atticus goes on the alert well, to advise you that he senses something odd in the house. Scout not only has an impressive bark, but she will kill anyone who comes in here without the nod from Stiffie. She went after Dick Bregstein, my riding partner, one day. Photo by Leslie Marsh.

I only had 18 miles to go from the Motel 6 in Pottstown to my driveway in East Goshen. It took me an hour and 45 minutes. Every road at my disposal runs through a valley, with a somewhat steep climb out the other side. Every route I picked had stalled cars sideways on the hills. Turning north, I road into Paoli and turned onto Paoli Pike, which is level at that point. I had a pleasant cruise (hitting 30 mph), throwing up nice rooster tails of snow from the back.

(Above) Hitting the bread line just outside the living room windown is "Cardinal Mendzenty," named after the great Vatican financier. Despite the cold winter, the Cardinal is looking a little chubby. We love these birds and have had a pair of them around here forever. Photo by Leslie Marsh.

The driveway was a bit of challenge — not. Though it is an incline with a slight curve in it, and covered with eight inches of snow (at that hour), the great blue beast never hesitated. I made myself an Irish coffee the size of my ass and called it day. The Airhead Conference was scheduled to reconvene at 8am the next day for a full 7 hours of classes. (The program also included an addition half-day on Sunday.) It was being held at the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles, and would feature some priceless BMW restorations.

Yet it was not to be for me. When I raised the garage door the six hours later, the snow was 22 inches deep. My arthritis was screaming, and the thought of digging a path to the truck, then digging a path in 22 inches of snow around the truck, then clearing 22 inches of snow off the truck, drove me back into the house. My part in the great storm was over.

It is my intention to write at least two articles on the Airhead Super Tech event (one for my hard copy magazine column and one for this blog) at some point in the immediate future. Later this week, I will present a story called “183 Miles Per Hour in First Gear,” focusing on the details of Chris Carr’s most recent record-breaking run.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2010
AKA The LIndbergh Baby (Mac Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
AKA The Chamberlain -- PS (With A Shrug)