Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Mouse And The Cobra...

The mouse stares at the cobra, paralyzed by the hopelessness of its situation, until the snake inevitably eats it. I know how the mouse feels.

Fall is nature’s way of paying you back for the heat of July. While I had big plans for riding this past summer, the opportunity to do so fell on days when the Mercury was bubbling at a stifling 95 degrees; or on weekends when a marginally cooler 87 degrees was accompanied by a matching 87 percent humidity — the kind of atmosphere you can stir with a canoe paddle. These are the days when strapping on ballistically practical mesh gear, with matching perfed leather gloves and a full-face helmet, rivals shower romance in a Turkish prison for overall appeal.

Like millions of other riders who remember the crisp fall days of youth (when every outdoor breath had the bite of a Macintosh apple), I have been waiting for September, October and November to arrive. I dreamed of mornings when I could strap on my asphalt-resistant gear — without breaking a tsunami-like sweat — and ride off in the direction of country inns, where warm mugs of spiced cider and hot-buttered rum are served by smiling waitresses (with perfumed good will spilling out of authentic 18th century bodices), alongside crackling fireplaces.

So what the hell happened?

September was a continuation of August’s heat, which made our lawn look like pre-smoked tobacco. October in this part of the country saw daytime temperatures in the high 60’s or low 70’s (Fahrenheit for my European readers, who are under the impression my ass must be fireproof), which is as perfect as you could ask for. But it was a damp October and my arthritis exploded. The pain was the worst I have experienced in the last three years. The throbbing was so bad that I couldn’t ride out 60 miles to meet Michael Beattie (Key West Diary) on his Iron Butt ride through these parts. I was compelled to take the SUV, expecting to endure all kinds of criticism from Beattie, except for the fact that he ran over his own foot with the Triumph — landing on his fat ass in a trench.

The first week in November was flakey too. Here in Pennsylvania, temperatures had been forecast to hit the lower 50s (Fahrenheit again), but barely hit the mid-40s, dropping to 33 degrees at dawn. The first frost of the season coated the lawn on Wednesday, November 3, 2010.

I do not consider temperatures in the 40-degree range (Fahrenheit) to be exceptionally cold. Dick Bregstein, Pete Buchheit, and myself have ridden on days when it was much colder than this, and I simply wore silk long-underwear (beneath jeans), the liner in my jacket, and a pair of off-the-rack leather gloves. So when the opportunity presented itself to take a multiple-day fall ride, I wasn’t anticipating any challenges. There is nothing like a periodic motorcycle adventure to put things in perspective. Now it should be noted that the phrase “motorcycle adventure” is subject to interpretation. My idea of a great motorcycle adventure is riding off to a place I haven’t been to before, checking into a nice hotel, and swapping stories at the bar with legitimate motorcycle adventurers, whose bikes are adorned with shrunken heads, claw marks from wild animals, or mini-dents from the spiked heels of painted pillion candy.

My destination was the pleasant city of Bloomsburg, Pa, a college town of great restaurants, interesting bars, and stunning women, who appeared to be all over the place. It was a scant 150-miles distant, and the meeting place for the BMW Motorcycles Owners Of America’s (MOA) board of directors, who were there to begin the final planning for the group’s summer rally. Expected to attract a crowd in excess of 10,000 (a huge number when applied to BMW motorcycles), the rally site is the fairgrounds at Bloomsburg, which are ideally suited for an event of this nature. My riding club — the Mac-Pac, is volunteering to serve on a number of committees and I thought this would be a great opportunity to participate myself.

But I hadn’t ridden in 6 weeks, and I was developing a paralyzing apprehension.

Not an apprehension about riding... But an apprehension of finding out this fucking arthritis had made another serious incursion in my capabilities. I was concerned that if I got my feet on the pegs, I wouldn’t be able to get them down again. (The drawbacks of this situation would become evident at the first “Stop” sign.) Then it is always is the back of my mind that I might be too stiff to make a good panic stop. Coupled with the knowledge that the first half-hour in the saddle is likely to be uncomfortable in the extreme, I lose the mad passion to go ripping out of the driveway. In fact, there is no “ripping out of the driveway,” as it can take me 15 minutes to put on my boots, and 20 minutes to mount the bike for the first time.

This ridiculous apprehension seriously delayed my departure. It had been raining earlier in the morning, and I decided to wait until the roads were less wet. Leslie (Stiffie), my significant other, wanted to know why I was stalling. (I think she was planning on bringing another guy in here as soon as I left. When I explained I wanted the piles of leaves on the streets to dry out some, she dialed a number on her cell phone and said, “Not yet. The ‘Man of Steel’ is too chickenshit to get on the bike.”)

First I bullshitted myself into thinking it would be significantly warmer than 46 degrees (F) around noon. (It wasn’t.) Then I decided it was absolutely critrical to re-adjust the new Air Hawk seat cushion that I bought, and that consumed another 40 minutes, bringing me to the question of a mid-afternoon lunch. The gentle reader is getting the picture. I had two dread fears that I did not want to realize: getting stuck in rush hour traffic, and having to ride any distance in the dark. Having identified these real fears, I then became the mouse looking at the cobra.

My departure at 4:30pm absolutely guaranteed that I’d get stuck in weekend and rush hour traffic, as well as the thrill of riding 80+ miles in the dark.

Bumper to bumper traffic snaked throughout the first 40 miles of the ride, as 48 million people left Philly for the Poconos (the five-foot high mountains between Pennsylvania and New Jersey) for the weekend. Ninety-eight percent of these people were in front of me, at a dead stop. I pulled over twice in the first 20 miles to shake the cramps out of my knees. Then I attempted to make up for lost time by adjusting the throttle at breaks in the traffic. I performed speedometer and tachometer checks whenever possible, pulling the ton a couple of times, and still managed to cover 60 miles in 70 minutes.

Above: The magnificent mountains of the great Pocono Plateau, with many peaks as high as card tables. The ridge in the background runs across Pennsylvania in this part of the state and is pierced by a tunnel on the turnpike. The gap in the ridge could be the Delaware Water Gap, or not. Photo from Wikipedia.

The bike ran like a champ, never missing a beat nor hesitating when I pushed it though an opening in the pulsating steel trap around me. At 16-years-old, this BMW K75 has no problem hitting the "century" mark on the clock nor holding a 90mph pace indefinitely. It seems to run better in the cooler weather, though there was no indication (on the instruments) that the K75’s systems were affected one way or the other. My route north is known as the “Northeast Extension” of the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and it connects the holy city of Philadelphia with Wilkes-Barre and Scranton. There is a fuel and food stop at Allentown, which was my immediate destination.

I can get 200 miles from a tank of gas, though the warning light comes on 60 miles short of that. The bike has a 5-gallon tank, which I have never run dry, and averages between 45 and 47 miles to the gallon — when operated between 65mph and 75mph. Considering the size of my ass, it burns a lot more gas when steadily pushed at higher speeds. My plan was to pull into the food and fuel stop at Allentown, and replace the 5 quarts of gas burned off in the first 60 miles. This way, I’d make Bloomsburg without looking for additional gas, regardless of how fast I had been traveling. There is nothing more frustrating to me than to have to deal with screaming knees and a glowing gas light when all I really want to do is call it a day.

I was ten miles south of Allentown when I noticed two peculiar things: daylight was draining from the atmosphere at the rate of 10 lumens per second; and my hands felt like ice. The sun didn’t set... It sank to the horizon like it had been assassinated. And the blood in my hands turned to slush, before being pumped directly to my balls.

“What strange bullshit is this,” I thought.

The rundown rest area on the Turnpike at Allentown, Pa. has been replaced by a modern food court and instant caloric ass-expansion system. Three sides of the interior are dedicated to pizza, pasta, roast beef sandwiches, fried chicken, and cinnamon buns that will inflate your ass like a life raft on a stalled Carnival Cruise ship. I wanted a scalding cup of hot coffee, and made the mistake of standing in the Starbuck’s line. This concession was staffed entirely by zombies, who had eaten each other’s brains. One vapid cashier was taking orders at the rate of continental drift, while a team of two alchemists struggled to construct coffee drinks requiring no less than 72 ingredients.

“My simple order of one, plain cup of black coffee will delight them,” I thought. Nothing could have been farther than the truth.

The cashier received my request with a nod, grabbed a cup, and then tilted the coffee pot, a large, square metal container, to drain the last out of it.

“Not for me,” I said cheerfully.

“You want me to make a fresh pot,” she asked.

“No,” I replied. “I’ve been standing in this line for 20 minutes just waiting to see if lightning would hit both of us in the ass.”

This response puzzled her, as she had never seen lightning hit anyone in the ass before, and it was highly unlikely that a fire had ever appeared under her’s. But the approving response from the crowd must have troubled her somewhat as she went through the motions off adding ground coffee to a filter, and sticking it under the faucet.

I remained standing there like a cigar store Indian while she took other orders. After processing the third one, she informed me I should move down to the receiving area, a counter about which a crowd of people hovered like the arriving flights in a pattern at Newark International Airport.

I emitted a sigh that sounded like a zeppelin deflating. “You want me to wait on another line while an expert reads a purchasing order before pouring hot black, liquid into a cup?”

She blinked at me, realizing this was a trick question. Then she poured my coffee herself and handed it to me with all the grace and aplomb of a Romanov attempting to get rid of a red from the receiving line at the Winter Palace.

Let the gentle reader take note that I do not find this performance typical of all Starbuck’s. The one on US-30 in Exton is staffed by coffee-conscious Kamikaze pilots. And the one in Missoula, Montana used to have an incredibly beautiful blond working the drive-up window, who presented me with a cookie because I had to wait a minute for a fresh pot. But your staff is only as good as their training.

My joints were looser from the hour’s run on the K75, but I was still puzzled by the cold. This had never been an issue before, and the data on my Droid Incredible still showed the temperature above 40º (F). I killed an hour and a half at the rest area, before donning an additional sweater and a heavier pair of gloves. These were Nubuck insulated leather gloves from Gerbings, with the new micro-wire heating elements. While bulkier than I like, they would be much warmer than the pair I had on — even though the bike was not yet wired for electrics.

Now ladies and gentleman, your hero faced a moment of truth. While many of you routinely ride in the dark, I do not. I have done so on occasion, and liked it. But I do not go out of my way to pursue it — despite the fact my bike is illuminated by 2 million candlepower. In fact, the last time I have ridden in the dark was two years ago. I am a superstitious rider and like everything to feel perfect. The Air Hawk seat felt odd... The new Gerbings gloves felt odd... And pulling out into the darkness felt odd. Traffic had faded quite a bit and I had a lane to myself. The ultra-bright Osram “Night Penetrator Darkness Ball-Buster” headlight that cost me $60 from Great Britain threw a bright white corridor of light ahead of the machine. It was very gratifying. Flicking to the high-beam illuminated mile markers several hundred yards ahead of the bike.

“Not bad,” I thought.

Then I switched on the 50-watt MotoLight spots, mounted down low on the brake calipers. These lamps are mostly used for daytime visibility, but bathed the motorcycle in a basket of forward-shining light that went a long way toward giving me a clear view of the shoulder, and of the pavement on the left.

“Cool,” I thought.”

And then for the piece de resistance: the PIAA High Intensity Discharge Lights. These are lightning bolts continually squeezed in a self-contained ballast and lamp arrangement, mounted on the crash frame. They take about 20 seconds to power up and the left one comes on a few seconds before the right. The light is of the blue/white intensity and enables me to read a newspaper two miles away. An abandoned farm shed came into view, and then vaporized in the light. These lights were a $600 investment, plus $150 to install.

“Fucking eh,” I thought.

Though my eyes were glued to the road, and wide open for the little orange/red reflections that indicate rats on stilts headed for the pavement, the ride became outright etherial. I know the road well and 15-miles north of Allentown it dashes through a mountain tunnel, with a sharp turn to the left. This was a pisser. Crossing into the valley on the other side brings you past the Town of Jim Thorpe (formerly Mauch Chunk), where the road begins to climb a series of ridges. The scenery was of no consequence in the dark, but the changes in elevation were met with an increase in RPM as the engine challenged heavier resistance.

Above: This picture was taken from the shoulder of the Pennsylvania Turnpike on the way home, two days later. My joints were screaming so badly I didn't feel like taking pictures, but grabbed this one to prove I made the run. This is looking through the scratched windscreen on "Fireballs." Picture by the author.

Though the highway is an interstate and has none of the hairpin curves you would expect from a country road in the mountains, this part of Pennsylvania is highly rural and loaded with deer. I found it exhilarating to tear around curves, with the tach and speedo needles parallel to each other, as I knifed through the darkness in a flash of light. Traffic had dissolved to nothing and I was less concerned with aggravating other drivers with my lights. Many cars now sport xenon headlights, which aggravate the shit out of me. Even the low beams are blinding, and leave me blinking for a good 15 or 20 seconds after they pass. I have my revenge now as these cornea-scratching PIAAs light up the road like it was a hospital operating room.

Above: Still on the shoulder, this shot shows the pleasant nature of Pennsylvania countryside, before 4 lanes of interstate cut through it. Photo by the author.

A truck driver, three or four football field-lengths ahead of me, flashed his back-up spots in protest, and I killed the PIAAs. They cannot be flicked on and off and require another full 15 or 20 seconds to come back up to full brightness. These unbelievably bright lights picked up the tenderized remains of full deer carcasses on the pavement several times, as well as lengths of blown truck tires that would have packed a greater surprise a second or two later.

The ride would have been perfect if not for two things. The first was the pain in my left hip and right knee. This discomfort was greatly reduced by the purchase of an Air Hawk Comfort System, which amounts to an inflatable seat cushion wrapped in a non-skid cover. This eliminates 40% of the bumps (and a major source of pain). The Air Hawk also gives me a bit of knee relief from some added height, but does not affect flat-footing the bike as the air in the seat moves toward the back as I slide to the front. (It takes about two breaths to inflate this cushion, leaving it with a very quashy, ass-coddling surface.) Still, the joint pain was substantial and I would pull over twice on the 90-mile stretch north of Allentown.

The second ride qualifier was the lingering cold in my hands. Despite the increased thickness and insulation of the Gerbings gloves (not yet connected), my hands were cold. I got off the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike at I-80 (West), and sat warming them on the engine casings for a full 15 minutes. This was a real puzzler as my hands never get cold in weather this mild. According to the GPS, I only had 49 more miles to go, but creaky joints would cause me stop again, a scant 13-miles from my hotel.

Above: This is my idea of the perfect parking space: 8 feet away from the lobby of the Comfort Inn and Suites. The side bags pop off and become convenient luggage. Click to get a close up look at the Air Hawk Comfort System on the Russell Day-Long Saddle.

I usually ride in the company of one or two others... But sometimes, you have to ride alone to get the full effect of the motorcycle experience. I really cranked it on whenever I got moving on this run, undoubtedly riding much faster than was prudent. This machine is a great equalizer and I can run and play just like the other kids with the throttle wide open. My thoughts are as weightless as I feel on this BMW. There are times when I think the bike is silent and the whine of the engine is coming from my soul.

The sound of the K75 has been the subject of debate among riders for years as there is no good connotation for the word "whine." To the untrained ear, this model BMW does have a whine to it. But so does a bullet fired from a beautifully crafted Mannlicher rife.

Above: The classic full-stock Mannlicher rifle... A thing of beauty, like the BMW K75. Photo from the internet.

Now there are those among you who raised an eyebrow reading the line that stated I spent "an hour and a half" in the food and fuel. "What the hell was he doing," you may well ask. Quite frankly, I was looking at some of the most beautiful and sexiest women I had ever seen on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, or in Manhattan, for that matter. These were ladies who had gotten out of cars dressed in a manner that suggested they were rushing off somplace to specifically reverse the process. And there were a lot of them. But the great motorcycle god works in strange ways, especially for the pure of heart. That delay spared me the invigorating pleasure of two rain squals that had passed 25 miles to the north. The road was still wet in places when I got there, with a hint of spray evident. But this was no bother as my PIAA HID lights dried the pavement with one pass.

The bike ran flawlessly, and as achey as I was, I took my exit from the interstate with a hint of regret. The engine wound down like the last line in an epic opera, resuming the factory idle without catching a second breath. The darkened face of the GPS pointed at the hotel, and I pulled up like I was carrying a dispatch from the fires of hell. Several ranking members of the MOA board were outside, smoking cigars and sipping spring water from glass slippers shed by debutantes.

“Care for a cigar,” asked a gentleman I had not yet met.

“Can I have one you haven’t been smoking,” I asked.

The lobby doors of the Comfort Suites opened, from which poured the fireplace-heated hospitality of a bartender named Rudy. The adventure was in full swing... And for the life of me I couldn’t remember what the hell it was I’d been worried about all day.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2010
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)

Monday, November 22, 2010

Funk... Funk... Funk...

The latest installment of my monthly column in the BMW Motorcycles Owners of America’s publication, the Owners News, (November Issue, Page 44), is a feature-length story titled, “The K75... A Love Affair.” It is the absolutely true story of how I came to own my first BMW. The story also details how I was bamboozled into paying three times more than I expected for this bike (despite the fact it was one of the oddest and ugliest motorcycles I had ever seen.) The article’s conclusion explains the hypnotic effect this machine has on me, how I came to drink the Teutonic Kool-Aid, and how this German-built motorcycle has made me one of the “boys in the bund.”

Exceptionally gratifying has been the influx of comments and fan mail I’ve since received from K75 riders around the country. I was delighted to learn that this article was the favorable focus of several on-line K75 mailing lists and forums. This is what happens when you tell the truth, I guess. Robert Davis, a reader and acquaintance from Delaware, was kind enough to send me a story describing his romance with the K75, which is presented as my newest “Guest Blog.”

Jack Riepe
Jack • reep • Toad

The Story:

The muted “funk... Funk... Funk...” came through my schooner's hull. I scrambled up the companionway and saw the only other vessel in the lagoon, which made one more than there ever had been in the four months since I moored Eurydice there last Christmas. It was a Baltic ketch had come through the pass with an afternoon squall two days before. The water was like glass, except for this row of ripples, pulsing from the Baltic ketch.

I jumped in a kayak and paddled over.

A missionary family owned the ketch, which had been double-diagonally planked (6" x 6" frames on 12" centers) to bust ice, in a forested fjord a hundred years ago. The vessel was a big, burly Viking Hero, broad in the shoulders and deep in the chest. These Borneo-bound bible-beaters had the feeble delusion they could own this sailboat and serve God.

Hah! No man can serve two masters.

Beneath the cockpit, the missionary showed me his engine room, where a seven-foot tall diesel — made and signed by Otto Diesel himself — resolutely churned, going “Funk... Funk... Funk.” The missionary's young son, who was two feet shorter, diligently worked an oil can, going “Squink... Squink... Squint,” at shiny black rods thumping up and down. The was machinery straight out of the Industrial Revolution. It idled at 90 rpm. That’s “nine zero,” and redlined at 700 rpm. Redlined.

True story.

A four foot cast iron flywheel dragged her from “funk” to “funk.” A crown gear drove a shaft through the deck, which spun a windlass that at one time had inadvertently torqued up a telephone trunk cable laid across Amsterdam harbor. The fucking engine is probably still alive to this day; that is, if you can still find the kind of leather you need to cut piston rings for it. I don't remember the ketch's name, but it had an “O” with a slash through it and two As in a row with two dots over one of them.

That was the slowest engine I have ever admired. What it lacked in technology it overcame by heft.

Today, I own an R1200CLC named Annie. The same BMW R1200C cruiser (Chrome-Head) so beautifully sculpted that Guggenheim put it in a traveling art exhibition. Annie is the bagger version: panniers, trunk, handlebar mounted fairing, heated big butt seats for two old fatties, six speed tranny, digital cruise, heated grips, radidio slash CD, all that stuff.

Above: Customized BMW R1200C (not owned by Robert Davis), courtesy of Wikipedia.

Ponderous. A U-turn requires retirement planning. Idles at 900. At 3,000 RPM, her peak torque, Annie's speedo shows 70 mph, and you are hypnotized by her muted throb. You can ride Annie six hundred fifty miles at 3k, climb off at the B&B full of regret, and dream about that throb all night. I have a theory that three thousand rpm on a twin, and the sixty Hz we are immersed in, and sixty heart beats a minute at rest -- all are in harmony with the universe.

Annie's is the slowest motorcycle engine I have admired. What it lacks in zip it overcomes by Zen.

Let's skip by my KLR650, "Biffy Bullfrog." Piece of shit gives "Made in Japan" its 1950's meaning. What it undercomes in design it undercomes in quality. I do love her, though.

But I have owned some really zippy Japanese bikes with really zippy engines. My V65 Magna, mysteriously monikered "Maggie," for example. Her cams would starve for oil under 3k RPM. Redline was thirteen five. If you achieved that, you would be doing 176 mph. People had. I never more than cracked Maggie's throttle. Yet I held a ton many a time; usually by accident. You could be riding Maggie down the freeway at 90, twitch the throttle, and lift the wheel. I’ve done it. I once made the mistake of wiping her seat down with Armor-All. When I took off to work next morning, I discovered why she had a sissy bar. (That discovery was made as I was laying on the tank, feet flailing behind, grunting to pronate my wrist to close the throttle.)

Maggie did not throb; she buzzed.

Last year, I brought back to life a wrecked Honda 919 I named Soichiro. Zero to sixty by the end of the driveway. Zero to suicide by the end of the block. Redline eleven five. Soichiro howled. Soichiro, he's my hero; Soichiro Honda; but neither of his bikes are. Not any more. My new enthusiasm is silent. She does not funk, throb, buzz or howl. The Japs run smooth as stonewashed silk, but even silk has weft.

Not Ocelot. Weftless.

Every year I rescue a neglected bike and flip it. Idle hands are the Devil's playmate, and all that. This year I bought a 1990 K75C. The previous owner rode her 40,000 miles in ten years, got old, met the doctor, and wound up losing his house and savings.

Above: "Hurtling Ocelot," The K75 owned by Robert Davis. Photo by Robert Davis

This bike has been parked for ten years. Corn squeezings (ethanol) dissolved every bit of rubber in the tank, leaving black rubber jelly beans strewn all over in there. I cleaned it out, sent the injectors to Mister Injector, got new fuel pump, installed new battery, clamped on new hoses, and fired her up.


Never has there been so electric a combustion engine. I named her Ocelot. Smallish, orange and black, she purrs at idle; growls when you twist her tail; and emits a jungle cough when you downshift hard. She’s not the most powerful cat, but is quick and agile. A K75C... The bulletproof acme of Teutonic ingenuity. Built after that Rube Goldberg of an airhead, but before things got so complicated you need a PhD from BMWU and a $30,000 computer to diagnose a hiccup. Rolled out between inadequacy and hypertech, BMW outdid itself. Every part is built like a brick shithouse and fastened by the minimum of case-hardened allen head screws. And you don't need hands the size of an eight year old with double jointed wrists to get at them either.

Would Ocelot whip a tablecloth out from under stemware for sixteen? Never.

Fastest spinner?

Most horses?
Not even.

Thumpin bad ass bike?
Yeah, right.

But twist that round rubber thing until the dial on the right says "5," and your tailbone hurts. Feels like you are on a slip-n-slide lathered with olive oil laid on a golf green tilted toward the Grand Canyon. There is no funk, no throb, no buzz. It is the closest thing to hurtling through space. Jungle stealth... Agouti in the cross-hairs... Hungry cubs at home... Claws extended, ears forward, teeth bared.

I have always scorned the “flying bricks” because they have no sex appeal. A motorcycle engine should look like machinery, not like a brick. A motorcycle should sound like an engine, not like a beehive. And the styling, My God!

But I was wrong. I had left out the flying part. By far the smoothest engine I have ever owned. What she lacks in sex Ocelot overcomes by hurtling.

©copyright Robert Davis 2010

Twisted Roads is occasionally pleased to present "guest authors" whose work epitomizes the high standards and pure motorcycle riding ethics emphasized by this blog. Stories must be about motorcycles in general and include a reference to adventure, two-wheeled romance, and/or an escape from the mundane. While Twisted Roads celebrates motorcycles of all makes and models, stories referring to BMW riders as "elitist assholes, douchebags," or "expresso sipping, whine and cheese pricks, with $70 haircuts," cannot be considered. Stories accompanied by pictures of naked or nearly naked girlfriends astride cool bikes will receive the highest consideration. Articles that do cite BMW riders as "elitist assholes, douchebags," or "expresso sipping, whine and cheese pricks, with $70 haircuts," that are accompanied by pictures of naked or nearly naked girlfriends astride cool bikes will get "waivers in processing."

The editorial powers that be at the BMW MOA’s (Motorcycle Owners of America) monthly publication — the “ON,” or Owners News — informed me that the signature picture that I’d sent them to head my monthly column was scaring children and causing pregnant women to deliver prematurely. Others, who were not so kind, claimed the photograph that has headed my blog for the last year portrayed me as a “pasty-faced blob, wedged into a tortured motorcycle jacket.”

I asked Leslie/Stiffie if it was true... If the photograph (taken by my riding buddy Dick Bregstein) did make me look like a pasty-faced blob, wedged into a tortured motorcycle jacket?”

“Do you want the truth,” she asked.


“You look great in the original picture,” Stiffie/Leslie replied, “which really brings out the porcine squint in your eyes.”

I stared at her like an orphan by the side of an abandoned railroad track in Doctor Zhivago.

“Would you like me to take another one, at the same location,” she asked.

Above: My original "signature" portrait, taken by my riding parter, close friend, confidant, and bane of my existence — Dick Bregstein. It should be noted that I have more chins than a Chinese phonebook in this picture.

She did. I am pleased to note that the ravages of a four-month diet are evident in a face that no longer sags like ten pounds of shit in a two-pound bag. My Joe Rocket jacket is a tad less shapeless as my chest is reverting to contours not to be confused with “man tits,” or “moobs.” My demeanor in this new photo (as evidenced by my expression) suggests hope, happiness, and sexual fulfillment — three elements beaten out of me by years of multiple marriages.

Above: My new "signature" portrait taken by artist/photographer Leslie Marsh (Stiffie), on Augustine Beach, in Delaware, on November 20, 2010.

It should be noted that Kate Farrell, a close friend and former colleague, thought the original photograph (with the reactor in the background) was just perfect for me. Yet Mike Cantwell, one of my riding buddies and fellow Mac-Pac members, was the first to note the switch. For this, he will win an EZ Tire Pressure Gauge, compliments of Twisted Roads.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Color Of This Blog Is Black Today...

May 2, 2010, provided me with one of the most exciting moments in my life... The parking lot at Montgomeryville Cycle Center (in Hatfield, Pennsylvania) was jammed with BMW motorcycles trying to break the Guinness Book of World Records for the greatest number of German bikes ever assembled to ride in one continuous parade. BMW motorcycles spanning more than 50 years of production — with virtually every model recognized — rolled in to participate. They trickled in at first, and then arrived in waves from a five-state area. Some of the guys had been on the road longer than 5 hours just to ride in and be counted.

The deadline was high noon. The tide of arriving bikes had slowed to a trickle. Then simply stopped. With twenty minutes to spare, we were one bike short of breaking the record. The silence was palpable and the atmosphere was positively electric. And then there was that sound... The distinctive nuclear growl of a BMW super bike coming up Route 309. Hundreds of people held their collective breath as a rider wearing full racing leathers, on a brand new BMW S1000RR, barreled into the assembly, putting the whole effort over the record-breaking top.

The rider was Edward A. Stimmler, Jr., an unassuming guy, who was just out for a spring ride on his new BMW predator, pulled in because he saw the crowd, the bikes, and the cops all in one huge gathering. He hadn’t heard about the event, yet was the keystone in its success. He had no idea why hundreds of people were applauding him, and slapping him on the back. That day, Stimmler was a vision of the BMW rider of the future: a thin, young guy, wearing form-fitting marque racing leathers, riding the hottest new motorcycle introduced by Beemer in years... A bike that would soon raise the bar for every racing motorcycle in its class.

Two other machines would follow Stimmler, but none would draw that response from the crowd. Members of the Mac-Pac (southeastern Pennsylvania’s chartered BMW riding club) would meet Stimmler up close and personal three-weeks later, when he rode in for their monthly breakfast.

On October 21, 2010, Edward Stimmler, Jr., 37, was fatally injured Thursday after the BMW motorcycle he was riding collided with a vehicle in the 1200 block of Penllyn-Blue Bell Pike, according to Whitpain police. Allegedly, the driver of a Ford Fusion pulled out of a driveway and sideswiped the motorcycle, causing it to veer off into a fence. Despite being treated at the scene and being flown by helicopter to a local hospital, Ed Stimmler, Jr. died as a result of his injuries. He wore a helmet and full gear.

I only knew this man for the five minutes it took him to register for the Guinness Book event. I did not make the Mac-Pac breakfast that month. I remember Stimmler as a nice guy who laughed at the reaction of the crowd when he rode in. It is my intention to ask the Mac-Pac to make this gentleman an honorary member and to conduct some annual event, with proceeds collected to be donated to some local charity in his name. There is no evidence at this time that the driver of the Ford Fusion was guilty of anything other than “not seeing the motorcycle,” though I do not have any details of the subsequent investigation.

I am tired of cage drivers not seeing motorcycles... And it is always sad to read of a fellow biker who went down “minding his own business.”

Tomorrow night, at 9pm Eastern Time, I am going to raise my glass to Ed Stimmler, a fellow biker and a BMW rider who sure knew how to make an entrance. Please join me in this simple gesture to this “unassuming nice guy,” and thousands of others like him, who went down doing something they loved.

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

Monday, November 1, 2010

Dispatches From The Front... Again

Heart-rending letters from readers seeking advice, absolution, or social alignment befitting an Ostrogoth... And answers straight from the Jack of Hearts. Each note reflects the diverse backgrounds of Twisted Roads readers, and represents a part of the broad mosaic of biking. Twisted Roads does not offer licensed therapy but a common sense approach to a balanced life.

Dear Twisted Roads:

So I did exactly what you did... I went out and got myself one of the remaining few, low mileage, BMW K75’s. And its a real beaut... Owned by a guy who was a real douche... Who had no friends and stood no chance of getting laid... And so this bike spent most of its life on the center-stand in the garage. So now I got it and I buffed it up real good. I do exactly like you do, and replace all the chrome with Jet-Hot black... I put snazzy lights on it... I even boost the electrical system so I can torture political prisoners in Chile...

Does even one broad lift up her shirt when I ride by? Not once. Does even one hot cookie come up to me and ax for me to ride her? Nope. My point, what the fuck?

Pissed Over Spending More On This K75 Than Charm School

Dear Pissed Over Spending More On This K75 Than Charm School:

While it is apparent to me that you lack nothing in style and panache, you may require an additional piece of gear to bring out your true profile (clearly evident with good riding technique). Try inserting a large baking potato into your riding pants. When you pull up to a likely candidate for romance, say something like, “Look what you bring out in me?”

Got that?

The Editor

Dear Twisted Roads:

You are full of shit.

I did exactly what you said. I went to Mr. Baccagaloupe’s vegetable stand (Hoboken) and bought a fucking huge potato. I mean, it was really fucking huge. This was the hugest fucking potato I ever saw. My friend Tommy C. was with me. (The “C” stands for “pussy” cos he’s always talkin’ about how much he gets. But I told Tommy I didn’t want the pussy he gets. I want the other kind... The visible kind.) He thought it was the hugest fucking potato he ever saw too. Like he said to me, “You know, that is one huge fucking potato.” I said to him, “I fucking know that.”

So I shoved the fucking potato into my pants, like you said. I’m cruisin’ around with Tommy C, who’s got a Suzooki. I said, “Tommy, get the fuck away from me on that fucking Suzooki. I want a hot broad, not Snooki from Jersey Shore.”

Then I see her. She is smokin’ hot. She’s got tits bigger’n my head and Tommy C’s head too. “Lookie that,” I says to Tommy C. But Tommy C. can’t talk... He’s dividing those tits by our two heads and coming up with double digits. She’s stannin’ on the corner with holes in her jeans with those tits jammed into a tee shirt.

So I pull up to her and jazz the engine on the K75... But she can’t hear it as there’s a toothless old lady gummin’ a hot dog on the same corner, and the sound of her chewin’ was drowning out the bike... So I blew the horn at her.

“What the fuck,” she says, actin’ real coy. But I can see she’s looking at the potato in my pants.

“This is what you make come outta me,” I says. Then I stood with my feet flat on the ground. The fucking potato slid down my thigh. That made her eyes open real wide. Then it slid down my pants leg and came out the bottom. The biggest tits I ever saw ran down the block laughin’.

I’m gettin’ rid of this piece of shit K75 and going back to my Sporty. So fuck you. You can shove that potato up your ass.

Pissed At Spending More On This K75 Than Charm School

Dear Pissed At Spending More On This K75 Than Charm School:

Thank you for writing to us at Twisted Roads. Your opinion is important to us. Your letter has been forwarded to our “Readership Service Department,” where it will get the kind of attention you’d expect from us. If you require further satisfaction please contact us here.

Fondest regards,
The Editor
Twisted Roads

Dear Twisted Roads:

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary over old forgotten lore. The diagrams in this Clymer manual really suck. Are all these wires really important? My bike is a 1971 Triumph T1000C.

E.A. Poe
Baltimore Forever More

Dear E. A. Poe

Not if they are the originals.

The Editor

Dear Twisted Roads:

My husband was incorrectly diagnosed as having something fatal. He asked me, “Honey, I’m dying. But I have to know something. Did you ever cheat on me?”

This was breaking my heart, but I felt I had to tell him the truth. “Remember when you lost your job and we had no money,” I asked. He nodded silently. “I slept with the manager of the bank so he’d lose the foreclosure papers.” My husband just nodded, and said “Thank you.”

Then I had to tell him about the time his backhoe blew a major hydraulic pump, which paralyzed his landscaping business. Again we had no money and I slept with the parts manager and blew the mechanic over at the shop. My husband understood this and squeezed my hand.

Finally, I said to him, “And remember when you wanted to be the president of your local Harley club, and you only had five votes out of 72...”

Well guess who’s not dying anymore and is really pissed?

Lately Of Windsor Castle, Pa
A town of 11 people and one party line

Dear Margot:

Men tend to get territorial after surviving a near-death experience. Yet there does reach a point where this level of behavior is not only unacceptable, but short-sighted. Please send a picture of yourself (if you weigh less than 130 pounds) to the email posted on this blog. Mark it “Twisted Roads -- Personal from Margo.” I may be able to help.

The Editor

Dear Twisted Roads:

In one of your previous blog episodes, you mentioned laying back in a tent, while a naked honey dripped hot candle wax on you at the point of climax.

Whatever you do, don’t try this with hot solder.

Harleysville, Pa

Dear Moose:

If you say so...

The Editor

Dear Twisted Roads:

You recently entered a contest in which participants were asked to complete the following sentence: “Living in Philadelphia is closest to...” Your response was, “Shoving your head up Saddam Hussein’s ass.” Could you please clarify that before we send you the prize for “Most Original.”

Althea “Alley” Fistula
“The Living In Philly Is Like... Foundation.”

Dear Althea “Alley” Fistula:

Not if the prize is shredded beef, covered with Cheeze Whiz, on a fucking Kaiser roll, or a sweating pretzel, commonly found at the airport for $11.

The Editor

Dear Twisted Roads:

I’m a hot-looking transsexual standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, such a fine sight to see (not my real city) when a guy pulls up on a K75 (which makes a noise like an electric toothbrush), points to his crotch, and shits a baked potato. Two hours later the same guy pulls up on a Sportster and asks if anybody saw his “potato?” Have I missed a new transcultural riding trend or something? Generally I read about these things in my favorite blog “Riding with Riepe and Other Indiscretions.” (By the way, there is a cute picture of you from kindergarten in this week’s episode.) I like how your mother dressed you. You may not know the answer to this question as you are not affiliated with this blog, but does the author of “Riding with Riepe and Other Indiscretions” take it up the ass?

Harriet Reed

Dear Harriet Reed:

Only figuratively and only since the last Presidential election.

The Editor

Dispatches from the front are drawn from real letters “To Twisted Roads.” Letters for consideration must have something to do with motorcycles, though communications that deal with emotional issues (stemming from motorcycles), or are accompanied by topless women sitting on motorcycles (must be taken and owned by sender) are also eligible for consideration. A grand prize (a Cycle Pump) will be awarded to the individual who submits the best letter prior to December 31st, 2010. Letters should be sent to:, marked “Dispatches From The Front,” in the subject line.

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