Thursday, January 27, 2011

Really Stupid Things I Did On A Motorcycle... Part One

The bike in front of me dodged a wobbly manhole cover, swerved around an open car door, and narrowly missed knocking a boom-box off some guy’s shoulder — without a glimmer of the brake light, as the rider took all of this in stride. His instructions to me had been cryptically clear: “Stick with me Reep. I’m not waitin’ for your dead ass at traffic lights.” So I skirted the same manhole cover, caught the phrase, “fucking asshole,” from the asshole getting out of the open car door, and took the bird (perched on the upended hand of the guy with the boombox).

It was the sizzling summer of 1976, and we were on Tenth Avenue; two shooting stars rocketing through traffic on the West Side of Manhattan, the smallest borough in New York City.

Even then, riding in Manhattan was like taking a flying saucer through an asteroid belt. A lot of the manhole covers were loosely seated. If I said “fuck” every time some dope opened a car door in front of me, I’d have been diagnosed as having Tourettes. And pedestrians with pizzas, boom boxes, dogs on leashes, and the occasional shopping cart (filled with the remains of shattered lives) were always stepping out into traffic, willing to play the odds on getting across major avenues that were six lanes wide.

The guy in front was “Cretin,” a street brawler and respected member of Jersey City Café Society. He was known for winning arguments by snapping the antennas off parked cars, and using them to beat his opponents half to death. He was the “Doc Holiday” of his peer group, being able to quote Shakespeare fluently and to read and write Latin without hesitation. He had an incredible mind that battled emotional tides only he could see or hear. And he was infatuated with the romance of the gutter.

Cretin had the kind of code and reputation that made him welcome in some of the roughest gin mills in Jersey City (and there were more than a few). No one had a bad word to say about him, and many of the guys whose asses he had kicked admitted it with pride. He thought I was funny, and introduced me to some of the toughest guys I would ever meet, in a bar that could best be described as a “bucket of blood and teeth.”

Cretin was astride a 1974 Norton Commando painted “Gestapo” black. The machine generated two-thirds of the Harley Davidson thunder — with one-tenth of the heartbreak. Still, it staked out it’s curbside territory with a spot of oil, which Cretin referred to as its “signature.” When I once asked him why it leaked oil, his response was, “Because it’s perpetually on the rag... Like the last broad you tried to hump.”

He was not far from wrong. The metropolitan area was fighting off one of its annual summertime draughts, and I was in the throes of one of my most enduring dry spells. It had been so long since I had as much as copped a cheap feel that the color of my eyes had begun to fade. I poured out my troubles to Cretin, over 15 shots of Irish truth serum.

“There’s no trick to getting laid,” said Cretin. “Especially if you have a motorcycle... Unless you have a shit pot like yours. Then you have to get creative.”

He was perfectly serious.

I was riding a 1975 Kawasaki H2, the fastest and most primitive motorcycle of its time. One of the last of the two-stroke street screamers to be offered to an unsuspecting public, the “Widow-Maker” made a noise like a lawnmower with its balls in a bear trap. My bike was painted plum pudding purple, with a big, stupid Kawasaki decal on the gas tank. That decal looked dated from the day the bike rolled off the assembly line.

Above: The 1974 Norton Commando 850 Interstate... A classically beautiful British motorcycle. Photo from Wikipedia.

Above: The 1975 Kawasaki H2, the fastest and most primitive motorcycle of its day. Photo from the Internet.

Other than that, the bikes looked oddly similar. They shared a similar profile, with a straight seat and raked pipes. The Norton had two cylinders to the Kawasaki’s three, but both motors were utterly stark in design, with easy access to all the parts. Each had four gears and weighed about the same. Both had similar instrument clusters on chrome handlebars, behind big headlights in chrome housings, which in turn accommodated turn signals on chrome stalks. Up close, the Norton had a much better fit and finish, and the bigger engine. But the Kawasaki had 25 more horsepower and easily pulled ahead from a stop. The Kawasaki had a slightly longer wheelbase and a forward slant to its straight seat, which guaranteed the pillion candy would always slide into the rider on a good stop. It also started easier than the British bike. The Norton was tight in the turns, whereas the Kawasaki had the cornering capability of a baby grand piano, dropped from a twenty-story building.

Cretin thought I had two major disadvantages when it came to mating rituals. The first was in my objective and the second was in my approach.

“You go into a bar or a party looking for the romance of the century, with the most perfect woman you can find, so the two of you can move into a cottage by a pond, and have kids who can read and write from birth. Consequently, your dick looks like a bicycle handgrip from solitary consolation workouts,” said Cretin. “You need to meet women with the idea that you’re going to be shot at sunrise. That way, they’re all perfect.” He claimed each of his romances had fiery beginnings and bittersweet endings, about 5 hours later.

“Why five hours?” I asked.

“Because that’s when I usually wake up hung over, but with a strong sense of regret and a compelling desire to have breakfast alone, 150 miles away from where I’ve regained consciousness.”

“Don’t the women feel some regret that you leave?” I asked.

“How the fuck would I know,” he replied.

Cretin claimed my second problem had to do with my mouth. “You either sound like a college professor or the fucking game show host from hell,” he said. “Women like biker guys who mask themselves in mystery and who express themselves in grunts. Just stop talking, and learn to shrug with your eyes. I’m going to take you to a party over in the city tonight — and using my methods — you’re going to get laid.” His parting instructions were, “Stick with me Reep. I’m not waitin’ for your dead ass at traffic lights.”

Traffic through the Lincoln Tunnel was heavy but moving fairly quickly. I have always loved the sounds of motorcycles within the confines of the tunnel, even my own. The Lincoln tunnel has a spiraling turn at one end, and slight changes of curving elevation in the dingy tile-lined two-laned tube. (There are three tubes of traffic, with two in and two out, depending on the time of day. Sometimes the middle tube is divided and there is on-coming traffic for a mile, deep under the Hudson River.)

It was around 9 pm in the dead of summer and turning dark on Tenth Avenue, or as dark as it gets in a city of a billion lights. Working girls waved to us from street corners, and I swear one called out to Cretin — using his real first name. We got caught at a light and I was distracted by one of the hottest women I had ever seen. She was wearing the uniform of a hooker, a skin-tight black rayon dress that ended high up on her flawless thighs. The woman was black and in the shadows it was damn near impossible to see were the dress ended and she began. I remember her voice to this day:

“Wanna go out?” she asked, stepping off the curb and leaning over the bike.

She spoke in the slight melody of the south, with eyes that saw me, but which were focused elsewhere. Her voice was the flavor of honey, and lemon, and whiskey served hot. She was about my age, 22, and had a hauntingly beautiful face. The act of leaning over the bike revealed her flawless milk chocolaty breasts, capped by dark bitter-sweet nipples. I had never seen a black woman’s breasts before, and was totally captivated. Glancing straight ahead, the light had changed and the Norton was nowhere to be seen.

“My name is Jack,” I said, switching off the Kawasaki.

This information failed to impress her. She merely cocked her head and looked at me with an expression of drug-induced resignation. This woman was beautiful enough to be on the cover of any magazine.

“Do you wanna go out, Jack?” she asked again.

“What’s your name?” I asked. What I really wanted her to do was to climb on the back and ride off with me to a cottage on a lake, where we could get lost in endlessly naked discussions on romance poetry.

“Kara,” she said. “My name is Kara... Do you wanna go out?”

I was about to mention the cottage on the lake when the Norton pulled up alongside me.

“What the fuck did I tell you,” yelled a furious Cretin. Then he looked at Kara and said, “Get lost honey. He sucks cock just like you.”

She blinked, languidly, and realizing there was no business to be had, started to step away.

“Wait,” I said. “Take this,” and I handed her the only bill I had in my pocket, a ten-spot. She looked at the bill, looked at me and then stepped back into the shadows of Tenth Avenue.

“You just gave a hooker ten bucks because you got a look at her tits,” said Cretin. “What the fuck is the matter with you? Stop acting like Toulouse Lautrec and follow me.”

Cretin split lanes whenever he felt like it or when it seemed to buy us a few seconds. We were always at the head of traffic when the light turned green. Our destination was a monolithic apartment house on West End Avenue, on Manhattan’s Upper West side. This is a classic New York City residential neighborhood, between Broadway and the Hudson River. The street was tree-lined and wall-to-wall parked cars. Cretin found an open spot by a fire hydrant, and bounced over the curb, with his trademark disdain for civil authority.

We parked the bikes on the sidewalk within spitting distance of the lobby doors.

Cretin hit a doorbell in a brass panel that held fifty individual buttons, some with names and others that were just numbers. These stately structures were built for the well-heeled in an era (the mid-1920’s), when each apartment was supposed to be a real residence. The lobby was all marble and brass, with a now vacant counter once manned by a concierge. We were buzzed in anonymously and ascended to the eighth floor in a tarnished brass bird cage of an elevator.

Above: Historic structures on West End Avenue in New York City harken to a more gracious era. Photo from Wikipedia.

I got the last of my instructions on the way up. “Don’t fucking talk if you don’t have to. Let me do the talking. Just nod if you hear your name,” said Cretin.

“Who’s throwing this party,” I asked.

“No one you know, and no one who gives a shit that you’re here. By the way, I reserved the star chamber for us.”

“The star chamber?”

“Are you dense?” asked Cretin. “Just fucking nod.”

The apartment was the kind of place you see William Powell and Myrna Loy romping through in the old “Thin Man” movies. The ceilings were 10-feet tall and there had to be a least 12 rooms. The layout was like a rabbit warren, and included a living room, a library, a dining room, bedrooms, a butler’s pantry, a servant’s room, and a music room. The decor was a combination of late Greenwich Village “coffee house,” with a strong Kerouac influence, punctuated by furniture that had grown tired before it qualified as “antique.” There were candles — mostly of the melted-down variety — stuck in wine bottles all over the place. Strains of The Doors, Led Zeppelin, and Janice Joplin pounded an atmosphere already laden with the sweet smell of pot. Behind a sofa in one of the living rooms there was a mural that looked like the pattern for the original paisley shirt. It covered the whole wall. Cretin told me it was a quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

“Do you see it?” he asked.

Taking my first cue of the evening, I responded by nodding.

“What a piece of worke is man,” said Cretin.

“Ain’t it the truth,” I muttered, scanning the people at this bash.

“That’s the quote, you asshole.”

I gave Cretin a sneer rather than admit I never read Hamlet... But now that he had given me the answer, I could see the message rather clearly. The painting was far from the equal of “Guernica,” but it was clever in many respects. He shoved a glass of whiskey in my hand and told me to sit tight while he “worked” the room.

Above: "Guernica," by Pablo Picasso. Low resolution reference from Wikipedia.
The original, which I saw at the Museum of Modern Art, is the size of a billboard.

There were about 90 people attending this event, representing a diverse cross-section of the cultural strata de jour. There were artists, poets, dancers, musicians, communists, socialists, and even one anarchist — or so they said. It was easy to pick out the dancers. The modern ballet set featured women with incredible physiques. Even the more delicate ones were exquisite beauties with muscles like gymnasts. In one room, the occupants were sitting around a circle, while some guy read “an original piece” to the accompaniment of a sitar. In another, men and women (many of whom needed a shower) were crooning the lament of the proletariat. (Do you know how to tell a communist woman from a socialist babe? The communist women have fuller mustaches while socialist honeys often braid their underarm hair — author’s note.) A third room offered a mix of college girls and guys out for a good time. These were the general admission eloi. It was here that joints were orbiting in concentric circles, that the music was the loudest, and that I thought I stood the best chance of knocking off a piece.

But I was with Cretin... And he left nothing to chance.

Cretin was a man of many talents, and on this occasion he had brought with him some pharmaceuticals that were in short supply. Consequently, he was greeted like the Sun King in a world of darkness. And it was perhaps owing to this aspect of his talents that he shortly reappeared with two ladies in tow. He had designs on the blond, who had big hair, a big smile, and big tits. He thought I would hit it off with the other one, who was as flat as a board, slender as a willow wand, and with long hair down to her waist. (He got the size right. I do have a thing for women with long hair and flat chests.) Both of these ladies claimed they had an interest in motorcycles.

Above: The northern terminus of West End Avenue in New York City, where it meets 107th Street. Photo from Wikipedia

Cretin produced a bottle of wine, a couple of glasses, and a joint as thick as my thumb. He led us off to a room deep within the bowels of this apartment, in which foreplay was wearing the guise of a discussion on art. We followed him into a large walk-in closet, about the size of a bathroom. He hit a switch and a hidden black light brought constellations of glow-in-the dark stars, planets, and moons into view on the ceiling. The floor was littered with cushions of every shape and size.

“Welcome to the star chamber,” said Cretin, lighting up the bone.

The pot was alleged to come from Hawaii, where it was grown without seeds, under little magnifying glasses to enhance the power of the sun, and crumbled between the thighs of Polynesian princesses (who only had sex with each other). This potent weed had knockout potential of a locomotive.

Cretin introduced himself as a designer of leather jackets. I was astounded at the breadth and depth of this incredible falsehood. He made up shit about how he traveled all over the country (on the Norton, no less) in search of the most perfect hides. Then he spun some other fantasy of how he was designing a leather jacket just for women.

“Leather jackets are made for men,” said Cretin. “A woman’s leather jacket is just a man’s in a smaller size. I’m working on a design that will follow the subtle contours of a woman’s body, accenting each gentle curve, making her feel as if she is being caressed by a second skin.” Naturally, he was running his hands all over the blond as this world-circling line of bullshit unspooled. “Can I make a leather jacket for you, Baby?” I heard him whisper. “You could be the model for my whole new line.”

And new “line” was the right way to describe it.

Cretin introduced me as a “ghost writer.”

“You write scary stories?” The brunette asked.

“Nawwww,” said Cretin with a smile that had an eerie glow to it in the black light. “He writes books and stories for famous people... He gets the money... They get to put their name on it. But he’s not allowed to talk about it.

“You know famous people?” the brunette asked, her lips against my ear.

“I really can’t talk about it... It’s a condition of my contract.”

“Who do you know?” she pressed.

“I’ve been meeting with Steve McQueen every other week for two months now,” I said, unbuttoning her blouse with the precision of an assembly line welding robot. (I felt this whopper of mine easily put me in Cretin's class.)

“Could I meet him too?” she asked in a breathless whisper.

“The very next time I see him.”

That’s when she put her hand in my jeans.

I couldn’t believe how well the night was going. Using the Cretin method of romance, I was actually getting some. (The sense of conquest lost some of its shine during a lull in the action, however, when the brunette, whose name was Chelsea, whispered to her friend the blond, “He knows a guy in the rock group Queen.”) Yet pride goeth before a fall, and the meter was running. It was after 2 am and we were all still in the closet, which had begun to take on the characteristics of a marijuana smoke house. As congenial as Chelsea was, I couldn’t get Kara out of my mind. I wanted to know Kara’s story, her circumstances, and her plight. I wanted to release her from whatever sexual bondage she had to endure, and give her the chance to suffer through another one, less odious perhaps, with me.

Cretin was right about one thing. I couldn’t be happy without the cottage on the pond. Chelsea had gone out to “freshen up,” and to see if there were any “Queen” albums. She came back humming “Bohemian Rhapsody,” and offered to perform a trombone solo for me, which I regard as the highest form of musical appreciation a woman can share with a man, two hours after meeting him for the first time. And then I made the mistake of saying, “If only these stars were real... If only we were outside... In the country, with the cool night breezes blowing over us.”

“That’s what I want too,” said Chelsea.

“And then breakfast,” said the blond, whose name was Michelle.

“Fucking Riepe,” said Cretin. “All you had to do was shut the fuck up. Why is that so fucking hard for you?”

We were down at the street about fifteen minutes later. My pal jammed a bundle into his soft leather side bag, and the ladies climbed on behind us. We were headed east, across town, moving with purpose, but without the shenanigans that would attract the attention of errant cops. Cretin hit Central Park West, and turned as if he was headed for a transverse (one of the thoroughfares that cuts thorough the park to 5th Avenue). Yet he shot up the handicapped lip cut into the curb instead. He switched off his headlight and rode along the sidewalk to one of the Macadam pathways into the park. I could only see the Norton when it passed under one of the occasional street lights, or if Cretin hit his brakes. My Kawasaki, also running dark, was a second or two behind his Norton.

Above: Central Park, 863 acres in the heart of New York City. Follow the upper diagonal line of bordering buildings to its lowest point. You'll notice a light brown apartment building. To its immediate right is a much lower, darker structure, with copper or bronze roof fittings (greenish blue) and almost Tudor-stule markings. This is the "Dakota," where John Lennon was shot. Photo from the Internet.

The brake light came on and stayed there. The Norton made a slow turn to the left and vanished into the trees. So did I. We were in a clearing about 20 feet square, surrounded by trees and shrubs. It was as if we were in the country. To those who have never been to New York City, Central Park was the first landscaped public park in the United States. It spans 883 acres, has two lakes, and more than 40 antique iron bridges spanning culverts and trails. In 1976, the park had a bad reputation after dark, and we pretty much had the place to ourselves. It is patrolled by mounted cops on horseback. The bundle that Cretin had shoved into his side bag was a tablecloth and two bottles of wine. In a gesture that I will never forget, he spread out the tablecloth for me and Chelsea to lay on. Then he handed me a bottle of wine.

“What about you?” I hissed.

He pulled off his heavy leather jacket, spread it out in the shadows, and pulled Michelle into the darkness after him.

I was new to this business of getting my horn honked in a communal situation, but it wasn’t bad. I could Cretin muttering, zippers getting unzipped, and a woman giggling. I heard Michelle ask, “Does it have a name?”

Cretin responded, “I call it Pillion.”

"That's a funny name," she said.

I busted out laughing. When Cretin asked a woman to ride “Pillion,” he was being brutally honest.

Manhattan is hotter than hell in July. The heat that bakes the concrete canyons during the day lingers far into the night... Even if you are in the only green spot for miles. I dozed off in the middle of the trombone solo. I was tired and half in the bag. First light was around 5am, and the din of a waking city, even on a Sunday, can be hell on a hangover. In the brutal light of day, it was clear I had the prettier of the two women. Both ladies were on the edge of the clearing, squatting to take a piss. I was critiquing their two naked asses in my mind, as they were before me side-by-side, when I felt Cretin’s eyes upon me. He was laughing without making a sound.

Then as clearly as if we were at the race track, we heard the clip-clop, clip-clop of horses on the path, barely 30 feet away. A mounted patrol was passing. “That’s the firing squad I was telling you about,” said Cretin. He gathered up the tablecloth and two empty bottles, and slipped off to reconnoiter. We’d broken about 50 laws the night before and clearly the best way to handle the situation was to break one or two more in a desperate bid to get off scott free.

“The loop drive through the park is about 200 feet on the left. That’s our best shot. There are people on the path now... Bikers... Joggers... And dogs,” said Cretin. “It’s too dangerous to get out of here the way we got in. We’d have to duck-walk the bikes out and we’ll run into a cop or some asshole on a bicycle for sure.”

Two hundred feet doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a lot to cover in bushes, over tree roots, and through leaves and loose gravel, especially with a woman on the back. Yet it was no trouble in the end and we were out of Central park just a few minutes later. Michelle lived off Ninth Avenue, down by the tunnel. The plan was to drop the ladies at her place, so they could get cleaned up before we stopped for breakfast, at a diner across the river in New Jersey. Her building was a dumpy four-floor walk-up in a neighborhood that looked like home to giant roaches. Cretin insisted we stay with the bikes on the street. Chelsea kissed my neck and followed Michele inside. They weren’t gone three minutes when Cretin kicked the Norton into life.

“C’mon,” he said.

“We’re leaving now?” I asked.

“Hey, we got them home safe and sound. It’s time to go while everybody’s smiling.”

There was virtually no traffic in the tunnel and we roared through it like projectiles being shot out of a cannon. On the New Jersey side, the tunnel ends in a massive helix, a spiral to the left, that climbs to the top of the Palisades, giving the rider a breathtaking farewell view of Manhattan. We were going to hit it at about 70 mph, like fighter jets in formation.

Just outside the tunnel, hundreds of bright orange traffic cones had been set up in complex lines. Cretin extended his right leg and knocked over about 50. “I can top that,” I thought. My intention was to extend my right leg, and capture one of those cones on my boot. They are made of soft rubber and weigh about 5 or 6 pounds. I hit the one I was aiming for at about 40 miles per hour. The sudden pain in my ankle was excruciating. I didn’t break it. But I limped for a week.

This story is a page from the chapter of my youth, titled, “Really Stupid Things I Did On A Motorcycle.” I’m glad I did these things when I was a kid. Because I haven’t got the balls to try any of it now.


Two weeks later I rode back to the corner on 10th Avenue — alone. I had flowers bungeed to the back seat and $100 in my pocket. My intention was to find Kara, and take her out to eat, even if I had to buy her time. It was a hot, cloudy day when I left, and raining when I got there. There were two other hookers on the corner, both of who looked tougher than Cretin. I rode around for a while and ended up giving the flowers to an old woman walking on the street. Years later I mentioned this to Cretin, who laughed and slapped me on the back.

"Reep," he said. "You are the piece of work Shakespeare was writing about. Her pimp would have sliced you up, taken your wallet, and stolen your bike. But that wouldn't have stopped Toulouse-Lautrek either."

Cretin was dead ten years later. He died slowly in a hospital, like Doc Holiday. Not the recipient of a gunshot nor knife wound, but a victim of the gutter nevertheless. The last time I saw him, he was with a woman like Kara... And glad for the company. In the end, he was a lot like Toulouse-Lautrek and Doc Holiday.

Above: The Medical Inspection At The Rue De Moulins Brothel — 1894, by Toulouse-Lautrek.
Low resolution image from Wikipedia.

It's funny how some things stick with you. I think of Cretin a lot, and I miss him. But I only think of Kara when I come across the artwork of Toulouse Lautrek, or find myself on 10th Avenue.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011

Monday, January 24, 2011

The True Meaning Of Valentine's Day...

There are times when the price of legitimate crops can be worth more than the most potent marijuana. Right now, greenhouses around the world are scrambling to ship millions of cartons of roses (of every variety) in preparation for the annual Saint Valentine’s Day Wallet Massacre. Anytime in January, a gentleman eager to prove his love for a woman (or anxious to bribe his way out of some indiscretion) can buy a dozen roses for $22 - $28, in almost any upscale US supermarket. Yet just two weeks prior to the date on which the average man is compelled to publicly demonstrate his love for the woman in his life, the rose will disappear from public sale, only to re-emerge in all shades of its red glory for $60 to $170 per dozen on or about February 14th.

Likewise, specialty confectionary shops will begin displaying huge velvet heart-shaped boxes, filled with chocolate delights, ranging in cost from $30 to $250, depending upon the perceived exotic nature of the candy within and the brand name without. Yet the madness extends to a much broader range of the economy. Restaurants, especially those with a romantic ambiance, have already begun taking reservations for their better tables, and many will offer a “Valentine’s Day” menu priced to feel like a large zucchini being shoved up the ass of the unsuspecting male. Woe to the man new to a romance who shows up with the $20 (pre-wrapped daisies) and the $30 box of drugstore candy, thinking that pizza at the bowling alley is going to get the job done.

Buddy, you aren’t going to get laid anytime soon.

St. Valentine, a Christian priest in Rome, was martyred in 269 AD and buried in the Via Flamina. This worthy cleric would undoubtedly be appalled to learn that his name now graces a day set aside for romantic blackmail. The typical Valentine’s Day tribute to beauty, love, and intimate companionship (this last one means “the occasional blow job”) translates into roses, the heart-shaped box (containing Godiva chocolate, or a silk Teddy, or a diamond necklace — not one advertised on TV for $99), and dinner out. The total tab for this can easily run between $400 and $700 bucks. By coincidence, this is in the same price range as two tires mounted on the bike, or the MotoLight set you thought would look cool on your ride (and you’d be right), or the heated Gerbings gear you’ve been thinking about for the past year.

For those of my gentle Twisted Roads readers lucky enough tho have this extra cash in their pockets (during this time of extreme economic recovery), the decision to divert limited finances to what amounts to a “one-way Christmas” may be a challenging one. (While many women feel compelled to give the man in their life some token of their love on this particular day, the word “token” seems to sum it up.) Valentine’s Day has come to mean “a dramatic, costly public showing of affection” for a particular woman, in tribute for her romantic attention, which may not materialize on that day! Whoever thought of this holiday scam should have been martyred.

But, clever men can easily navigate through this. Instead of spending $140 on roses that will be dead and in the trash a week later, why not head out to a place like Waterloo Gardens and buy a bonsai tree ($75 to $100). Then get a $1.50 card at any drugstore, and cut out the little red Valentine’s Day heart from it. Neatly put her initials and yours on the heart. Then tape it to the tree, symbolizing the traditional carved heart in a tree that guys used to do instead of graffiti. When presenting this gift to the lady, say something like, “These trees typically live for 100 years. That wouldn’t be enough time for me to prove how much I love you.” Then stand back. You will have scored 100 bonus “BJ” points. (Do not attempt to carve the heart and initials directly into the little tree. It should also be noted that some bonsai trees can cost thousands of dollars, so order one early.) If the woman responds with, “You gave me a fucking tree for Valentine’s Day...,” get rid of her. She’ll be a huge pain in the ass as time goes on. You can get a great bonsai tree at Waterloo Gardens, In Exton, Pa. The owner and manager there is Bobby LeBoutlier. Call him at 484-614-5174 and tell him you ride a bike and read Twisted Roads. He’ll take care of you. (He rides a BMW, with me.) And if the tree doesn’t do it for you, he’s got other ideas. Waterloo Gardens has an exquisite gift center as well.

Above: A typical Bonsai Tree for under $100. This is a Juniper and one of the most common types. It looks so cool. Photo from the Internet.

I am ordering charming tea roses (live miniature roses on the vine), which cost a fraction of cut flowers, and which can be wrapped into beautiful expression with a small sculpture. If I wanted to spend a little more, these same flowers can be put in a small terrarium, shaped like an oversize wine glass. Bobby can set you up with something like this too.

There is another shop down in Exton, Pa. conveniently located next to the beer distributor on US-30 (Business), near the intersection of Rt. 100 and US-30. “Perennial Pleasures” is a specialty store offering the most unique upscale “artistic-type” gifts, ranging from wall hangings to statuary, plus vases, artificial flower settings, and really unusual items. Prices run from $50 to the sky is the limit. They carry the full line of “Sid Dickens” tiles, which are highly collectible. My hot squeeze, Leslie, collects these and has 25 of them hanging in the kitchen. They are perfect Valentines Day gifts (for the kind of woman who could spend hours in a museum), with current tiles selling for about $80. (But be advised, if you buy one, and she really likes it, this will become a routine purchase at Christmas and on her birthday too. Then again that makes life easy.)

You can get an unusual card at this place (with a blank interior), and write something like: “This tile was inspired by passion and fired under tremendous heat... Two things I feel whenever I’m around you.” To contact a romantic gift specialist at Perennial Pleasures, call 610-594-6696, and ask for “Martha.” Tell her “Fat Jack” from Twisted Roads set you. Do not give a gift of this nature to anyone who wanted the $99 simulated glass jewel diamond heart and dinner at the chicken place by the gas station.

Candy is a tired subject at Valentine’s Day. The huge heart looks good, to a guy. While everybody loves chocolate, most women feel they are too fat to eat it with reckless abandon, or they feel the price of staying thin is too high to add a pound of condensed fat to their ass. So the big chocolate heart (that you intended for her) gets passed around at the office and worker drones, who you either don’t know or don’t like, are the ones eating your gift. Fuck ‘em. One of the best ways to say I love you on Valentine’s Day, or any other day, is a box of Big Jim’s Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Above: Big Jim's Chocolate Chip Cookies taste like sex in a box. Photo from Big Jim.

Now I can just see the look on your face as you read the above lines, thinking, “that bastard Riepe sold out and wants me to blow my chances for romance on Valentine’s Day giving my girl chocolate chip cookies.” Maybe I did. So what?

But the thrust is that Big Jim’s Chocolate Chip cookies taste like sex in a box. Each cookie pushes the envelope for flavor, texture, density, and composition. Heavier, thicker, and more proportionally perfect than any other cookie I have ever tasted, Big Jim’s recipe was originally buried with the Pharaoh Imen Hotep III. It stayed a secret until grave robbers allegedly passed it onto St. Valentine, a priest in ancient Rome, who was allegedly martyred for not giving the recipe up to Roman Emperor Caligula, who was trying to impress a woman on February 14th.

Why are these cookies better than candy?
A) It is easier to justify a cookie than a piece of chocolate.
B) There are no fucking caramels hidden among the good pieces.
C) They are cheaper than chocolate truffles made in France.
D) They are so good, your girlfriend, wife, or significant other won’t want to share them with the flesh-eating zombies at work.
E) She’ll want to eat them in bed, with you, and that kind of suggestion can easily be expounded upon.
You can order Big Jim’s Chocolate Chip Cookies right here... Or you can click on the ad at right of this story. Cookies are available in five extraordinary varieties.

Now, if you had $300 to blow for the month of February, you could get the tree or the tile, and the cookies for about $125. That would leave you with $175 to spend on heated gear or a tire. Not bad, eh? You can thank me by leaving a comment. Twisted roads is going to award a box of Big Jim’s cookies to a reader, selected at random, from comments left at this column. (Click on comments below to leave yours.) A winner will be announced on February 3, 2011. (US readers only.)

Women reading this blog in search of the perfect “token” gift to give a guy on Valentine’s Day couldn’t do better than to order a copy of the acclaimed book, Politically Correct Cigar Smoking For Social Terrorists. This book is 30 chapters of character-building short stories — dealing with cigars, the male psyche, world peace, sexual gratification, nature, human nature, and subhuman nature (politics). It has been rumored that briefly reading this book for an hour a day gives the average man a raging two-hour erection. (These results are rumors and may not be typical.)

Above: My book — the guide to the male psyche for women. Photo by Leslie Marsh.

You may order an autographed copy by sending me a note to: Please put “Book Order” in the subject column. Each copy is $25, plus $5 S&H. Please include your name and address, and telephone number. If the book is to be a gift for your boyfriend, husband, significant other, or illicit lover, please include the full spelling that person’s name, and a line or two about them, so I can craft a personal inscription. Mailed books are accompanied by an invoice.

Women may think they have the last laugh on Valentine’s Day... But the equivalent of a male Valentine’s Day is on March 14th. This is the official holiday of Twisted Roads and ladies, you don’t really have to buy anything.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2010

New Twisted Roads Blog Posts Every Monday and Thursday...
This Thursday: The Perfect Party Bike, Or A TromBone Solo In Manhattan

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dealing With The Winter Maintenance Ritual...

A famous Russian poet, Igor Pistov, once wrote to the Czar, “Winter is the night of seasons,” then he threw himself under a train before the proletariat ripped him apart. It isn’t known if the crowd turned on him for merely expressing what everyone else was thinking, or for the saltine he had hidden in his shoe. But the poet may have been on to something. With the twice monthly snowstorms on schedule, the nearly daily sanding of the roads, and the gray atmosphere hanging over this house like the wedding blessing of my first mother-in-law, I have a great desire to close my eyes and wake up on Wednesday... Sometime in April.

Above: Igor Pistov, poet, optomist, and male cosmetics model in Czarist Russia, threw himself under a train after he stepped outside the station and saw his shadow, indicating six more months of winter.

I have spent the first month of this cursed season with my face pressed against the frosted glass of the front door, sobbing over the memory of perfect riding days past. Yet even as winter’s routine shows no sign of abating, time is running out for that most crucial of rituals: the spring tune-up or annual maintenance. Many Twisted Roads readers prefer to do their own work on their bikes, just as Dominican friars of the Middle Ages would hit themselves in the head with two-by-fours for spiritual release. Personally, I can think of nothing less appealing than lying on the freezing cold garage floor, with three manuals (BMW, Clymer, and the Necronomicon) spread open to the curse of the clutch splines.

It’s not that I have no confidence in my mechanical abilities, it’s just that I suck at doing anything mechanical. When replacing the last rhombohedran screw in the universe, I will drop it onto the floor and watch it roll into the sewer grate, eventually settling in the coils of a deadly pit viper. Or I will brush up against something connected to a red wire, creating a path for an electrical current between the flux capacitor and the Motronic brain, frying the later, which is now only available from the Vatican for $126,932 (USD). Or I will leave one air bubble, no bigger than the period at the end of this sentence, in the whale oil line lubing the steering head bearings. This will undoubtedly generate the kind of friction that can only be eliminated through massive applications of wallet grease.

Above: It is rumored that the "Motronic" brain in the BMW K75 is fashioned from real human brains harvested from US politicians, who seem to have no need of them once assuming office.

People like myself — and there are millions of us — are compelled to take their bikes to a motorcycle mechanic. There are 2,381,491 motorcycle mechanics in the United States. Seventeen of them work on BMWs. Five can actually fix one. (I know three of those guys.) Thank God BMWs never break. While this number may seem slightly out of proportion, the horror stories of questionable shop performance abound within each marque. I have heard Harley riders curse their mechanics. And I have seen Honda riders take their bikes back to the local Chevy dealer time and time again. In some cases, a shop (and you know the one I'm talking about) may have one guy who can actually do anything, and five dopey high school kids whose eyes cross when they concentrate on taking a piss.

That’s why gifted mechanics (and we all know at least one) are cherished like semi-precious heirlooms. My own visits to a certain shop are always enjoyable, educational interludes into the world of mechanical perfection. My mechanic is a god among men; a healer of wounded motorcycles; and a magnet for the blessings that come only from the great motorcycle spirit in the sky. I am not allowed to mention my mechanic’s name as he is shy to the point of being a shrinking violet, and because he has threatened to cast me out among “the mechanicless damned” if I ever “mention his name in one of my bullshit blog stories again.” I think that is what he said. So in the interest of preserving his anonymity, we will call him Betty Lou Johnson.

I was terrified when I first arrived at Betty Lou's shop. I thought I was on the original set of the Wizard of Oz. My mechanic initially appeared as a vapory presence, hovering 20 feet above the ground. A boomingly loud voice demanded, “Why art thou here?”

“For service, my lord,” I replied.

“Then kneel in supplication and obeisance, like the worm thou art,” said the voice.

“But my lord,” I said, “There is dog shit here in the driveway.”

“Then kneel in that,” said the voice. “And be happy it is nearly frozen. It was soft and warm when Bregstein was here earlier today.” (Dick Bregstein is my riding partner.)

The voice further demanded the nature of the service I sought. I explained some fluids needed changing, that I wanted the timing looked after, and that perhaps the cooling fan mechanism needed replacing...

“Silence,” boomed the presence. “I will tell you what needs replacing. I am the mechanic."

“Yes, my lord,” I squeaked.

“Hast thou touched this bike in any way?”

I was afraid to utter a sound.

“Hast thou attempted to do anything on this bike yourself, thereby making a simple job far more complicated than it needs to be?”

I nodded, and lightning flashed through the shop. Distant cattle lowed and a baby cried somewhere down the street.

“Are all the parts there at least?” asked the voice dripping with malevolence.

“I think so,” I said. “There was this one little black screw, in the shape of a rhombohedron, that fell into the sewer grate...

“Aaaaaaarrrrgh,” screamed the voice. “And did you think that I would come across the missing central rhombohedran master adjustment screw blessed by Pope John Paul II thnking I’d lost it?”

I am not ashamed to tell the gentle Twisted Roads reader that I pissed myself standing right there, because that was my scam to the letter.

“Leave the bike, yet slink thee away like the vermin ye are.”

And then I opened my mouth one more time, nearly consigning myself to hell. “When will my bike be ready?" I asked.

“Return thee to thy hovel and sit by the phone,” said the voice. “It will be ready before the hyena, who was probably thine father, can shriek in night three times. Wait until my call, then sell all your possessions. Put the proceeds in a brown paper bag and bring it hence.”

That was the first time I ever showed up at Betty Lou Johnson’s garage door with my helmet in my hands. I go back pretty much every year, for several reasons:

a) I have one of the best running bikes around and I doubt it is a coincidence.
b) I never get a line of bullshit, just straight information.
c) Betty Lou Johnson is an intuitive mechanic who understands his role in my life. He will service everything on my list, and then check out the whole bike. He won’t change the tires and give me the bike back needing brakes.
d) His thoroughness saves me money. By using OEM parts and keeping the bike to factory specs, I avoid excessive wear and unpleasant surprises.
e) Betty Lou is factory trained. The kid with the least experience in the shop is the one usually entrusted with changing the oil, brakes, and tires, working on a range of bikes. At Betty Lou’s shop, the top guy looks at everything.
f) I have never waited longer than two days to get my bike back.
g) Betty Lou gives me good advice for free. He told me “to shut the fuck up” just the other day, and that turned out okay.
h) Out of all the people who make fun of me for being inept, fat, or just a trifle odd, he does it better, with true élan.

Nevertheless, I feel compelled to make certain recommendations to the impressionable Twisted Roads reader, who is undoubtedly interested in improving their relationship with a mechanic.

1) If you are planning on getting your bike serviced this spring anyway, why not do it now? The mechanic can probably use the business and this is one time of the year when the bay is less crowded.
2) In reporting a problem to the mechanic on the phone, in which you are doing your best to imitate a short in the wiring harness, do not expect a pinpoint analysis — including cost parameters. The mechanic is going to have to look at the bike.
3) Don’t bother calling the shop on April 3rd, with temperatures in the 60‘s, to ask if they are busy.
4) In a shop with a great reputation for service, calling for a service date in April will usually get you one in June.
5) Calling the shop every day to ask “Is it ready yet,” will not endear you to the service manager nor the mechanic. Getting the bike in for service during a lull in activity can’t hurt.

Winter is the night of all seasons... Sweet dreams. There are 59 days until spring.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)
Attention Dedicated Twisted Roads Readers

The new blog piece scheduled for publication here at 12pm today has been delayed owing to a catastrophe of near alcoholic proportions.

Despite every data safeguard provide by the Apple MacBook Pro system (including the marvelous "Time Machine"), the head editorial asshole at "Twisted Roads" managed to utterly erase the original folder, containing 2,200 original words written expressly for this blog today. Attempting to talk on the phone, shuffle through pictures, and participate in an "on-line" dialogue (with hot singles who are dying to meet only me) provided the perfect environment for this dope to click on the little red dots in the upper left-hand corner of overlaying documents, while simultaneously clicking "yes" to every question posed by the computer... Including "Do you want to piss away the last four hours worth of work?"

Please be advised that "Time Machine" does a major backup on this computer every 15 minutes... But it requires the chimp at the keyboard to save the document at least once. If your next two questions are, "So you worked on a story for four hours and didn't save the fucking document once? Are you fucking stupid?"

The answer is "yes" and "yes."

The new blog will be posted by 6pm. I regret the inconvenience for our readers in Europe. Yet for our readers in Asia, it's already two days later, so what the hell is the difference?

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Renewing The Winter Relationship... And Finding The "G" Spot

The garage here is like the guest-star hotel for “Wild Kingdom." At any given time of the year it has hosted mice, snakes, spiders, bees, hornets, and the cat belonging to old hag next door. (The cat would be welcome if it did anything useful in the way of discouraging the other guests; but its primary purpose is to piss in my box of shop rags.) The garage is my inner sanctum. Few things give me greater satisfaction than to than to light up a cigar, pour myself a whiskey, and sit back to admire my motorcycle — against the backdrop of a ten-drawer rolling toolbox. Despite the fact that I detest anything that stings or has fangs, nothing has ever succeeded in running me out of the garage. Yet there comes a time each year when I am driven back into the house.

That time came last night.

The temperature in the garage is 27º (F) with another snowstorm — the fourth since Thanksgiving — just getting under way. While these storms have yet to amount to anything serious in the way of accumulation (between 4 to 8 inches per storm), the reaction of the local municipalities is to spread tons of salt and sand on any exposed blacktop. So even if the sun came out tomorrow — and the temperature rose to 80º (F) for a week — the pavement would still be covered with “motorcycle anti-matter.” The gravel and sand are such that simply putting your foot down guarantees something in the nature of a slide. Dealing with this once or twice on a ride is one thing. But having to face it on every curve and at every stop is something else.

My BMW GS-riding friends, who have ridden north to Hudson’s Bay on gravel roads for a couple of thousand miles in each direction, are laughing at this. Yet I am smart enough to know that I am not in their league. It would not take much for me to drop this 560-pound work of mechanical art owing to a front wheel slide or a misstep with my gimpy legs on a street covered with grit. The K75 that I ride is 16-years-old and doesn’t have a noticeable mark on the paint. The engine is encased in a square metal block under the gas tank (the ugliest motorcycle motor design in the history of mankind) and is jet black. Salt residue on this motor becomes a major pain in the ass, requiring repeated wipe-downs with hot, moist cloths to remove every last lingering trace. (Quite frankly, I expect to get laid in exchange for the hot cloth treatment and that response is not forthcoming in the garage.)

Failure to get the salt off immediately after a winter ride can lead to a permanent fading of the deep black coating on the engine and the forks, or so I suspect. Last year, I let the salt sit on this bike for three weeks, and the cheap chrome coating on the “authority bars” (crash bars from the police version of the K75) was thoroughly pitted. The German motorcycle industry is not big on chrome and they are nowhere near the American standard in this regard. I didn’t give a shit about the chrome “authority bars” as they were destined to be converted to black by the Jet-Hot process, which I highly recommend.

The front fender has a few hairline scratches in the paint (literally finer than human hair) but has not acquired a tinge of rust. This is because the front fender is plastic. I was pissed when I first discovered this, believing that BMW had taken an unpublicized shortcut in the production of this machine. Yet their wisdom in this design decision cannot be second guessed. Not only does the fender not rust, but it retains its shape in the event of a mishap like a garage or a driveway drop.

Between the snowstorms that seem to come every couple of weeks and the crud on the roads (that will not be swept up until April), my riding season came to an end.

I lit my last cigar of the season in the garage last night and tucked the K75 into a winter’s sleep. It’s life-support system, the battery tender, hummed a tuneless melody, while a green LED assured me that battery was “strong” and fully charged. Two ounces of fuel stabilizer specially formulated to combat the ill-effects of ethanol — the renewable fuel source that not only fucks up sensitive, high-performance engines, but also cost more fuel to produce than it saves — will hopefully protect my new fuel pump. I tenderly caressed the billiard table-sized Russell Day-Long Saddle and gently kissed the gas tank (resisting the urge to slip it the tongue).

Re-entering the house was more than just stepping through the door between the garage and utility room. It meant reacquainting myself with the beautiful woman within now that the riding season was over. It meant the resumption of conversations that did not focus on my motorcycle, my biking buddies, or the mysterious developments simmering in Bavaria, the epicenter of the BMW world. It meant feigning interest in all kinds of things until the bulbs burst forth in the garden and the robins returned to the bird feeders. But most of all, it meant just getting in.

The door was locked.

I had not planned to be out in the garage for any length of time and I was in shirt sleeves, without the benefit of a sweater nor a jacket. At 27º (F), it wouldn’t take long for hyperthermia to set in, perhaps 16 hours or so. I tried pounding on the door to no avail. Then I tried yelling and pounding. Neither method produced the desired results, which was to have my darling Leslie/Stiffie open the door. Then I thought I heard the muffled scraping of metal against concrete.

“Was Stiffie out shoveling the snow?” I asked myself. Looking out the garage window, I saw my neighbor, the ancient Mrs. Hackleschmackle (owner of the piss-bag cat), laboriously shoveling her driveway, meticulously picking up each shovelful of heavy, wet snow and throwing it up against our mailbox. “Mrs. Hackleschmackle,” I yelled, banging on the glass. “I’m trapped in the garage.”

She looked about to see the source of the noise, then found me framed in the lighted garage window. The old bitch smiled and flipped me the finger. “Eat shit and die,” I thought, giving her a two finger salute, one from each hand.

In every crisis there reaches a point when the hero decides nothing worse can happen... That is the precise moment when the hammer of fate knocks him cold. I turned to face the door again only to be soaked by freezing cold water shooting out of garden hose that had been concealed in a pile of junk that I had promised to toss out six months earlier. My hypothermia estimate would have to be advanced by 15 hours and 50 minutes. Indeed, I could feel the blood in my extremities congealing into pudding already. With my life passing before my eyes in slow motion, there appeared a vision of loveliness and salvation... It was my K75 framed in the garage lights.

Of course! The K75!

My bike is equipped to handle every aspect of adversity. A long sip of Irish vein defroster — kept in one of my hard, factory-installed BMW trademark sidebags — restored both strength and resolve. Under the seat I found my original BMW factory tool kit, which makes it possible to build a K75 from scratch, or to replace an “O” ring on a space shuttle. With the right tools in hand, I had the security plate off the door to the house in an instant and removed the locking mechanism in twice that. I then placed my eye to the two-inch hole in the door for a fast look. This was a mistake as I was temporarily blinded by a foot and a half of German Shepherd tongue.

Once inside, I found Stiffie/Leslie (my hot squeeze) wrapped in a quilt and firmly planted in a comfy chair, watching the “Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” on NetFlix. (This is one of a current trilogy of films making the rounds in which an unbelievably self-sufficient woman, who starts out looking a bit odd but who is steamingly hot naked, goes about killing men who are pricks. A word to the wise should be sufficient.)

“Didn’t you hear me yelling?” I asked.

“Was that you?”

“I was locked in the garage,” I sputtered.

“Were you?”

“And then I got sprayed by a hose,” I added, somewhat dismayed that my recounting of this bloodcurdling chain of events was not curdling Stiffie’s blood to any degree of satisfaction.

“Did you?”

“I could have died,” I said, emphasizing the word “died” for emphasis.

“But you didn’t” she sighed.

“How would you have explained to the police that I got locked in the garage and sprayed with a hose on one of the colder nights of the year?” I demanded.

“Theoretically, the mice, the snakes, the bees, the spiders, and the cat next door would have eaten you by spring, which is when Dick Bregstein would have missed you, if I had given any thought to it,” replied Leslie.

“And what would you have said to Bregstein? I demanded. Dick Bregstein is one of my closest friends and my riding sidekick for the last 5 years.

“I’d have answered the door in a negligee and handed him a martini.”

She had Bregstein's number all right.

“Wouldn’t you have missed me?” I countered.

She seemed lost in thought for a bit, then replied, “I suppose the absence of a shit mess on the kitchen counters, the unexplained disappearance of your sock collection from the living room, and sudden liberation of the third bay in the garage would have made me feel something.”

“You didn’t lock me out, did you?”

I asked this question at the point in the film where Lisbeth Salander (played by Noomi Repace) was kicking a biker in the balls, prior to shooting him, and Leslie was totally caught up in the spirituality of the moment. She seemed not to hear it. In any successful relationship, however, there are some questions that are best left unanswered and some best left unasked. These include: “You didn’t lock me out, did you,” which is a good trade for, “Did you cop a cheap feel from my sister the time you were helping her out of the pool and her top came off?”

The end of the riding season for many men calls for a dramatic renewal of standard relationship behavior as hundreds of hours of togetherness become available when the bike is on life support. Yet this is where many men stall as the world has moved on during the the last six months or so. It becomes necessary for the male rider to catch up on issues and social developments that have become important in women’s lives since last winter. It will no longer be sufficient to simply say, “That’s incredible... My God!... What did you do then?,” and the ever popular, “I can’t believe that bitch said that,” during periodic intervals in conversation with the woman in your life — in an effort to appear to be listening.

It is necessary to be able to hold up your part of the conversation. Two weeks prior to putting your bike up for the winter, I suggest going into a good bookstore and getting a handful of woman’s magazines that address a variety of topics ranging from home decor and garden planning to more personal issues like sexual enhancement. It is also a good idea to pick out a few of the current bestsellers that women are reading and quoting.

I recently read a woman’s magazine where the lead story focused on how to get your man to hit the “G” spot every time. Short of using the Norden Bombsight or a forked stick to locate the damn thing, there was very little useful information in the article. But I did learn not to come to bed wearing a miner’s helmet while carrying a map and 40 feet of rope. It is also important that you do not rely on information from your riding buddies on topics like these. I once asked the guys how long it took to bring a woman to orgasm. Their collective responses included, “What’s female orgasm?” and “Who gives a shit?”

Above: The Norden Bombsight — standard equipment on B-17s in WWII — is essential in helping the average rider find the "G" spot in the bedroom. Photo from Wilipedia.

A very popular book dealing with a historical perspective of the female psyche is The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant. According to published reports, the book's title refers to the tent in which women of Jacob's tribe must, according to the ancient law, take refuge while menstruating, and in which they find mutual support and encouragement from their mothers, sisters and aunts. Turns out its like a monthly vacation from the assholes they married. (Guys have a similar book. It’s called Politically Correct Cigar Smoking For Social Terrorists.)

During the endlessly depressing weeks of winter it is important to understand what a woman means when she says, “Wouldn’t it be great to have a nicely painted bathroom?” She does not mean “invite five guys over to watch football reruns.” Nor does she mean she wants you to assist in shaving her schnauser. What she means is that she wants you to go down to Home Depot, or Lowes, or the neighborhood hardware store (which these places are determined to put out of business) and get the paint, the brushes, and the other stuff so she can paint the fucking bathroom.

Above — Any guy quoting from this book is going to rack up huge points with a woman who initially thinks he is just a horse's ass on a motorcycle. Bonus points are awarded if you pull up with a dog-eared copy — and a good bottle of wine — in your side bags. (You are still required to quote from the book.) Points are deducted if you simply memorize the text on the back cover and get caught. Photo from the internet.

The winter puts a lot of strain on relationships between bikers and the women they love... Especially if the weather keeps them at home with their wives instead. It becomes really important to focus on the little things. One super-sensitive Harley rider I know couldn’t believe his significant other was taking it as a personal affront that he occasionally forgot to put the toilet seat down.

“I was at my wits end,” admitted Stitches (not his real name), a Sportster rider from Texas, who has removed most of the chrome from his bike. “I never mean to leave the toilet seat up... What the hell, I thought I was doing good just to flush the damn thing. But leaving that toilet seat up would drive her crazy.”

Stitches resolved the problem by pissing in the bathroom sink.

“This way the seat is always down and I use less water for flushing,” he added. Like most smart men, Stitches opted not to share his solution with his 5th wife as it might appear as if he was gloating. (The toilet seat is not a problem in the warmer months as he just drains the lizard outside, in her mother’s vegetable garden.)

There are now 60 days until spring, March 20, 2011.

Author’s note — It is my intention to publish new blog posts every Monday and Thursday from this point on. (Yesterday was a holiday.) Monday’s posts will be longer in length, while Thursdays will be shorter.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011
AKA The Lindbergh Baby (Mac-Pac)
AKA Vindak8r (Motorcycle Views)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Behind The BMW Mystique

It was the kind of July day where a high-speed run up the interstate made the fires of hell seem like an invitation. The baking asphalt, super-heated by dense truck traffic, turned the exhaust-laden atmosphere into the whirlwinds of the damned, sucking the moisture right out of me through my perfed riding gloves and armored mesh jacket. It might have been cooler on the tree-lined side roads that ran through Virginia but I had to get to another rally in Vermont that week, and time was getting away from me. I’d lost a day to the arms of a honey I’d met in Maggie Valley (North Carolina) and was paying for it now.

The quart water bottle in my top case was barely getting me through 50 or 60 miles, and I hadn’t had to take a piss in 5 hours. In fact, the last time I’d tried to drain the “hose” it merely hissed like a python with a slow leak. I banked the vintage 1986 BMW K75 into yet another rest area with the hope of getting off the damn bike and stretching out in a bit of shade... Except there was none.

There were three trees in the rest area with the kind of tired green leaves that suggested they too were worn out by the heat. That would have been fine for a brief nap, except thousands of motorists had walked their pets under those trees, leaving an expansive patchwork of dog shit. The other option was a park bench out in the sun. There were the compulsory rest rooms, and a lean-to housing two vending machines and racks of brochures for local attractions.

It was here, tucked in the rack, I found a scrap of paper inscribed with a brief note and an odd design. I had been looking for something like this for the past couple of hours. To the average person, it was just a note claiming that some folks were going to stop ahead someplace, and that their friends should meet them, if so inclined. Yet to a BMW rider, such as myself, the scrap of paper was written in the code of our ancient order, advising travelers that a enclave of our kind would be assembling at a specific location, off the next exit.

The instructions directed me (as the next rider) to destroy the note.

I threw my leg over the seat with mixed emotions: anticipation and trepidation. While the note was an invitation, it was hardly a guarantee of welcome. Though the roundel is alleged to unite us in a common spiritual quest for mechanical perfection and the ultimate sensation of pure adventure, not all BMW riders think alike. Many are the salt of the earth. Others are buccaneers of the road and two-wheeled swashbucklers, who will buckle swash with the best of them. Yet a lingering small percentage fall into the category of “incognoscenti,” or those who do not get the joke. (The literal translation from the original latin is “douche.”) To be trapped next to one of these at a rally is like being handcuffed to an engineer in a New Orleans whorehouse.

Above: Many in this crowd ride "R" bikes — From left, Joe Dille (R Bike), Roddy Irwin (K Bike), Dick Bregstein (R Bike), Eric Heilveil (R Bike), Jim Ellenberg tall guy behind Heilveil (R Bike sidecar rig), David Hargrove giving finger (Sportster), Hilko Siebles from Karlsruhe Germany (R Bike), Jay Scales (R Bike), and Jim Sterling (R Bike). There is one confirmed "Incognoscenti" in this lot, who torments me at every opportunity. I am onto him. Photo by the author.

Plus there is a natural level of dissension among roundel riders. There are those known as the “ultra-purists,” the most orthodox of BMW riders whose beliefs limit them to the iconic “R” bike. These machines sport the traditional “boxer” engine, the design of which has been minimally altered since Moses carried it down from the mountain, in the 4th Century BC. They are countered by “Renaissance Riders” who embrace change, innovation, and steamy romance associated with riding fast motorcycles with proper cooling systems. These are “K” motorcycle fanatics who believe touring bikes (complete with hard luggage that looks like it belongs on the machine) should easily reach the velocity of shooting stars before leaving the driveway.

The relationship between the two groups ranges from cordial to chilly. In fact, there was a time when it was thought that “R” bike riders practiced cannibalism. This was proven false by a leading researcher of online myths who traced the source of this urban legend to a discussion prompted by the surrounding of a “K” rider by 20 or more “R” bike aficionados. It seems the sole rider of the “K75” responded to a snub by the “R” bike incognoscenti with two words: “Eat me.”

I wondered who would be waiting up ahead, cool BMW riders out for adventure, or the “others.”

Getting off at the next exit, I swung to the left, then took a right on a picturesque, though gravel-lined back road. The blunted snout of a cattle skull pointed to a clump of trees on the edge of a field. Screened from view, but easily defended, I found five riders sequestered in the shade of a little clearing. There were two men and three women, sitting on Kermit chairs, in front of a line of “K” bikes. I dismounted, removed my Nolan helmet, and gave the formal, timeless greeting between BMW riders.

“Wie geht's hängen?” (How’s it hanging?)

“Your mother,” they said in unison, giving the appropriate response.

I introduced myself, using my tribal BMW name — “Lord Gorzog, the Undefeated.”

They were, “Astrolabe the Magnificent; Cthulhu the Merciless; Zeena of the Endless Curves; Princess Tong the Seductress;” and “Magma on the Purple K75.” Otherwise known as Tom, Louie, Christine, Jennifer, and Maggie. And in keeping with the equally ancient custom of hospitality, each had placed a hip flask of a rare, and potent liquor in the center of their little circle. The flasks were as unique and personal as their bikes. One was encased in embossed leather. Another appeared to be tarnished silver. The third was plain glass, with a fully engraved golden shot cup/cap on top. The fourth was a common hip flask to be found in any catalogue. Maggie’s (Magma) was an antique flat bottle with a cork in it. My own was a battered and scratched Sigg bottle, that had survived a savage crash years earlier.

There were two couples in this group, who’d responded to the note the same way I had. Tom and Christine were from Hog Wallow, Tennessee. Louie and Jennifer were from the town of “Open Rebellion, Georgia.” Maggie had been riding relentlessly from the Mississippi River since dawn, and just felt like a little company. She’d posted the note three hours earlier. They were all there for the night. Looking at Maggie, I figured I might as well stick around too. She was about 5’8” tall, with the body of an Olympic Swimmer. Her eyes were like fresh sapphires and her hair was a cascade of burnt sienna tied back in a pony tail. It was easy to imagine her leaning a K75 into a vicious 46-degree turn, or as the CEO of a multi-national corporation, eliminating the competition in a savage take-over. Her ballistic riding pants were open at the waist, revealing khaki shorts that were unbelievably sexy in their simplicity. By contrast, my sweat-soaked mesh gear looked like it had been used to fish dead bodies out of the Hackensack River. Concentric darkened circles of liquified Riepe, defined by dried salt stains, gave my gear a tortured texture.

Tom asked me where I’d ridden in from, and while I focused on the source of the question, I could feel Maggie studying my face... Ready to weigh the significance of my words.

“Argentina,” I said, without skipping a beat. “I left three days ago, stopping only for gas and to read the headlines.”

“What happened in Argentina?” asked Louie.

“A man insulted a woman I loved and paid the price.”

A half-smile of satisfaction and acceptance appeared on Maggie’s face.

The drama of my delivery was shattered by the sound of voices in the adjoining field. A troop of boy scouts out for a hike was headed in our direction.

“Quick,” hissed Louie. “People.”

In the blink of an eye the flasks were tossed under a jacket. Christine passed out tea cups and saucers for the ladies, while Jennifer piled cucumber sandwiches on a plate. Tom and Louie unfolded a checkerboard, and I reached for a book, the cover of which advocated a “12-Step Program To Eliminate Compulsive Swearing.”

Seconds later I could hear a boy’s voice, like a violin string under the tension of puberty, saying “Mr. Meinnert, there are motorcycles pulled up under the trees.” Yet when the troop entered the clearing, they found two middle-aged guys hunched over a checker board, two ladies sipping tea and brandishing cucumber sandwiches, while another knitted. I waved from my own Kermit chair, where I had obviously been relaxing with a self-improving book.

“Those aren’t bikers,” said Mr. Meinnert, the scout leader. “These nice folks are BMW riders... They’re like the Amish.”

We held our positions until they were out of sight.

“I hate these damn fire drills,” said Christine, putting the plastic cucumber sandwiches back in the bag. The checkerboard and checkers were a one-piece assembly that folded flat. The tea cups were part of a fuel-siphoning kit. The book in my hands had been long-since hollowed out and held cigars. And it turns out that Maggie was knitting a cover for her flask.

It was time for dinner and we pooled our resources. We all had something in the way of snacks to eat, but Maggie had trained with Special Forces, and used the curved shock absorber adjustment wrench in her K75 toolkit to bring down a feral pig. The stars came up and the two couples disappeared under respective blankets in the deep shadows.

Maggie and I traded flasks for a bit, and I said I preferred hers. When she asked why, I said, “Because the bourbon is better for the taste of your lips.”

“Then get it at the source,” she replied, with the kind of kiss that recharged my cell phone at 40 feet.

I spread the bike cover from my top case on the ground and invited her to cuddle with me on it.

“Don’t get any ideas,” she said.

I traced the curve of her face with my fingertips and said, “I’m a BMW rider. I don’t get ideas... I have instincts. And I have a huge instinct right now.”

She was gone in the morning. The two couples were packing up and I’d have murdered both for a cup of coffee. I was mounting my K75 when the scout troop returned.

“Good morning, folks,” said the cheerful Mr. Meinnert. The scouts were marching by, whistling the tune from the “Bridge on the River Kwai.”

“Do you guys have any coffee? I asked. “I’ll trade decent cigars for hot coffee.”

“Not likely,” laughed Mr. Meinnert. “These are young kids. They don’t drink coffee or smoke cigars.”

“Then you can kiss my ass,” I thought, hitting the starter button. The whine of the K75 reminded me I was now two days late for Vermont — and for the same reason.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The MV Agusta Tamburini Versus The BMW K75

Every now and again I can be counted on to do something really short-sighted... Like drinking clear, highly flammable liquid from a bottle containing a coiled cobra (brought back from Vietnam)... Or getting married to a leggy blond with the kind of Eastern European accent one only finds in early James Bond movies... Or saying, “What the fuck are you gonna do, lock me up,” to a judge in divorce court. Most writers are passionate individuals, driven by emotions that are generally unfettered by common sense. (This does not apply to writers of federal legislation, who are usually brain-dead, flesh-eating zombies.) So dedicated Twisted Roads readers should not be surprised that I responded to a challenge — thrown in my face by the rider of a somewhat flashy but obscure motorcycle — by extending my middle finger and revving the hell out of my BMW K75’s finely tuned, vintage engine.

To make matters worse, the challenge was delivered before the select company of other BMW riders (all astride wheezing “R” bikes), who had assembled at my invitation for a nice, little breakfast run up to Amish country.

The "breakfast ride" combines a number of unique sensations. It generates the excitement of an early morning run (i.e. the growl of the engine; the crisp bite of the air still heavy with the evening’s chill; the subdued sound of the road as traffic has not yet begun to build; and the recognition of friends who also ride BMWs) with the incomparable aroma of hot coffee, fresh eggs, and corned beef hash. There is nothing quite like it. Rides of this nature generally bring out the best in people, though not always.

Above: I got this cobra in a bottle of alcoholic spirits from Vietnam. BMW rider Kimi Bush of the Mac-Pac fame was the first to sip out of it. After she did it, would else could I do? Photo by the author.

In New Jersey, where diners have evolved into the highest art form, breakfast is on a par with the ancient Japanese Cha ceremony. Yet appreciation for the most significant meal of the day quickly deteriorates the farther one get from the Garden State. The majority of diners around here must think Pennsylvania is 12,000 miles away from New Jersey because most of them suck at serving breakfast. Some of them suck so badly at this simple task that they could stick to the surface of a waterfall. (And I mean a really serious waterfall — like Niagara Falls.)

In New Jersey, a good-looking hostess will direct you to a table or booth, and a waitress will pour you a cup of hot coffee before your ass can find the seat. (That’s the law in the “Garden State,” punishable by death for the first violation. Because if you keep somebody waiting for a cup of coffee in New Jersey, they are likely to rip your throat out anyway.) The waitress will expect you to order some egg and meat combination, which she must then present in 2.5 minutes with a nice smile at one end and a hot little ass at the other. She will call you “Hon,” and lean all around you while pouring coffee refills, demonstrating why there are no sharp corners on New Jersey diner waitresses.

Above: Jim Ellenberg's plate of slops (note the spent Band-Aid on the apples) at a recent Mac-Pac monthly breakfast. Photo by Leslie Marsh

For the exception of a place near Allentown, Pa, most of the diners around here blow like a summer’s breeze. There is one place that is so horrible, that Leslie (my hot squeeze) swears they serve shit right out of the dumpster. (Riding buddy Jim Ellenberg once found an old band-aid in an omelet served at this joint. The look on his face was worth the price of admission.) So I was delighted to learn that two of my riding partners had located a greasy spoon up in Paradise, Pa, allegedly capable of serving breakfast. It became the destination for a late fall run and drew 8 riders:

“Leather” Dick Bregstein — An “R” bike rider who has been insinuating himself into my adventures for the past five years. Dick achieved local fame by following a GPS (actually a little Etch-A-Sketch) into a huge boulder, that subsequently launched him into the side of a house.

Above: "Leather" Dick Bregstein set the pace for the ride. He did what he could to keep "Mussolini's Curse" at bay. Photo by Leslie Marsh

Gerry “Be Prepared” Cavanaugh — A GS rider (the ugliest “R” bike ever designed) who has taken his machine over some of the most challenging 30-foot-long gravel driveways in the country. (And once, he had to get off the bike and open the garage door by hand.)

Above: Gerry Cavanaugh seen ready to mount his BMW GS... His question: "Is my bike the red or the silver one?" Photo by Jack Riepe.

Dave Case — An “R” bike rider who once observed, “A bad day of riding is better than a good day in the office, unless you end up strapped to a gurney and being air-lifted to the nearest hospital that has a neurosurgeon and a proctologist on call.”

Above: Dave Case relaxed and perfectly at ease with his R80ST. Photo compliments of Dave Case.

Bobby LeBoutlier — An “R” bike rider who was recently quoted as saying, “Most of these roads around here were intended to handle traffic moving at 35 miles per hour and I don’t feel comfortable pushing the design envelope.”

Jay Scales — An “R” bike rider whose rain suit matches the color of his bike, while the piping on the sleeves compliments the illuminated tint of his instruments. And none of this is by coincidence.

Above: Jay Scales, the most precise, color-coordinated "R" bike rider in BMW history. Photo by the author.

Ron Yee — An “R” bike rider who recently experimented with a new method of heating his seat by jamming rodent nests in the boxer engine cavities. (The experiment was successful in raising the temperature of the fairing, the wiring, and the fuel lines to 451º Fahrenheit.)

Above: Ron Yee is bustin' with pride at his perfectly restored "R" bike, which required a dab of paint here and there after his machine, a designated rolling hamster habitat, burst into flames. The cause was a network of mouse nests hidden around the engine. Photo from Ron Yee.

Myself: the sole rough-cut representative of the BMW “K” bike category, on a machine with a proper cooling system that allows for an engine width of less than 16 feet.

Above: The author's favorite picture — Jack Riepe tearing out of the garage on a 1986 BMW K75 — the late "Blueballs." Photo by Leslie Marsh.

And then there was “The Outsider.” There is one in every group.... The one guy who has to be different... The person who finds a subtle way to say, “Look at me... I’m not one of you old farts riding around on dated douche-bag Deutschlander bikes.” While Peter Frechie has owned, and still owns his share of flawless BMWs, he arrived on a savage M.V. Agusta “Tamburini.” (It means “tarantula” in Italian, I think.) The sinister black and red machine, with solid gold wheels, was alleged to be hand-built by the College of Cardinals, at a reputed cost of $186,532. It is very fast, and some reports claim it is “zero to fuck you” in under three seconds.

The Agusta’s impact on the crowd was instantaneous: the “R” bike boys huddled in a circle and started to quack like petting zoo ducks threatened by an unleashed dog.

Having been married several times, I register surprise and wonder with a sneer, an expression that Frechie interpreted as “raw defiance.” And maybe there was a hint of the defiant nature that is so characteristic of the BMW “K” bike rider. Then again, I have tremendous confidence in the machine that has earned this segment of the Bavarian marque the title of “Flying Brick.” (In truth, my tendency to place the K75 “uber alles” is so strong that several of my riding buddies have suggested I wear a baseball cap with a logo that depicts a brick with wings, but under a legend that changes the letter “B” to a “P.”)

Looking at the gleaming “Italian Death Bike,” I subconsciously ground my heels into the parking lot pavement — and ran the engine up to four grand. The whine of 71 Lipizzaner Stallions poured from the K75’s distinctive triangular exhaust, and drew a line of sound in the air that would not be crossed.

“So that’s how it’s gonna be,” said Frechie. “You and me, eh, Fatass.”

He then hocked a loogie that sizzled on the left pontoon-like cylinder head of Bregstein’s near naked R1100R.

“You lead,” he said to Bregstein.

“Thank you, sir,” whimpered “Leather” Dick.

Bregstein is a very reliable rider of stable judgement. He led us onto a local expressway headed to Strasburg, Pa, where I expected the speedo needle to hold somewhere south of 60 mph. Yet the single-handed clock showed a more frenetic pace as Dick worked hard, flogging gears and setting his top gallants, to avoid being run over by “Mussolini’s Curse.”

“Enough of this shit,” I thought.

Twisting the throttle all the way around, I let the horses go and watched the needles on the tach and speedo simultaneously point to the true north. The K75 surged forward, easily subjugating the gaggle of “R” bikes. Seconds later I was abreast of the Agusta, which was on my right. Traffic prevented Frechie from moving forward, and like a true sportsman, I wouldn’t let him out. Bregstein graciously waved me into the lead. Raising my arm and extending the middle finger on my left hand, I signaled I was now in the #1 spot. The expressway came to an end a mile later, and the first round passed to the K75.

Above: Peter Frechie and his low profile, blend-in-with-the-crowd MV Agusta "Tamburini." A top speed of 191 miles per hour made possible by 173 horsepower. Photo courtesy of the Highway Patrol in 37 states.

Dedicated Twisted Roads readers will realize that at no time did any of us engage in the kind of roadway horseplay that gives motorcycles a bad name. Traffic was at a minimum and the cops were as thick as congressmen on a wounded federal program. I regret I had to be the one to remind the “Spirit of Lucretia Borgia” that riding strategy is every bit as important as brute speed, but it wouldn’t be the only lesson I’d get to teach that day.

Turning into the town of Strasburg proper, we found ourselves crawling behind long lines of Amish wagons, loaded with whiskey, cigars, and homespun nylons to be traded in town for DVDs, auto parts, and condoms. Frechie and I were side-by-side at one intersection (where the color “red” appeared to painted on the traffic light), when we both noticed an unbelievably beautiful Amish woman, licking an ice cream cone. We watched in mute fascination as her tongue sculpted the scoop of vanilla into a more compact cylindrical shape, before massaging the excess cream across her lips. She had the classic hour-glass shape of a pilates instructor, flawlessly tanned athletic arms, and the kind of face that could instigate a bidding war between DNA donors.

She finished the cone and then did the most unexpected and sexually provocative thing I have ever seen in these parts... She loosened her bonnet, releasing a torrent of dark, blonde hair.

I revved the K75 to the red line. The resulting whine was the mating call of the Valkyrie. She glanced in my direction, before rewarding me with the half-shy, half-bait smile common to beautiful women everywhere. My soul was hers for the asking.

Frechie looked at her spellbound, then turned to me and hissed:

“You son of a bitch.”

He began revving the M.V. Agusta, which has the same resonance as a tyrannosaurus rex that has been kicked in the balls. But it was too late. The spell was broken. She laughed, stepped off the curb, and touched my arm, asking:

“Vas ist das matter mit der udder motorrad mit dem goldenen dädern?

Her Pennsylvania Dutch accent was utterly charming. (Regardless of what she actually asked, her eyes sought my reassurance that her horseshit shoveling days were over.)

“Das udder motorrad ist Italienisch und der fahrer hat einen kleinen penis,” I replied, in my best Pennsylvania Dutch. (Basically, I told her the Augusta was poorly maintained and needed oil.)

“Und dis motorrad?” she asked, laughing.

“Das motorrad ist der Deutscher K75 und ich habe einen großen schwanstüker.” (Translation: “My German motorcycle is red and reliable.)

She was within an ace of climbing on the back when some goon the size of a Clydesdale, (on the way to an Abe Lincoln look-alike contest) yelled, “Gretchen, Stop blödsinn mit dem Engländer und backen mir ein Shoo-Fly Pie.” Thus reminded of matrimonial joy, this stunning beauty went back to knotting pretzels and yodeling at the chickens.

The second round went to the K75 as well.

We eventually got to the diner which was a bone fide 1930’s streamlined aluminum greasy spoon. While I normally regard this as a good sign, the seating inside was equally authentic. Judging from the booths and the toy stools at the counter, the size of the average American in the ’30’s was about that of the Munchkins in the Wizard of Oz. The situation was not improved by the fact that 1,300 people were crammed inside for the early morning pancake and chicken-fruit ritual. Mahatma Ghandi would have had a tough time squeezing into this joint. The coffee was hot and the service was quick. It had to be as no one could breath again until they got outside.

Above: The Bendix Diner in Hasbrouk Heights, New Jersey... A classic in looks and service, I have eaten at the Bendix hundreds of times when I went to school in Rutherford. Photo from Wikipedia.

Above: The Tick Tock Diner on Route 3, in Clifton, New Jersey, represents the pinacle of diner evolution. The menu has a hundred items (some rather complex) that can be conjured up in minutes. Every diner in the world should send their staff and management to this place to train. This is a great place. I have eaten here sober and half-in-the-bag 3,000 times. The average wait for coffee is 18.5 seconds, when every table is filled. But the first challenge will be learning how to speak "New Jersey." Coffee with cream and sugar = "Coffee reg'lar." Good morning = "Fuck you." The downside is Route 3, known as S3. It is a primary artery to the Lincoln Tunnel and a super dangerous road. Most bikers would cut their own throats rather than ride this at 5pm, or when a game lets out at Giants Stadium. Photo from the Tick Tock Diner site.

Many diners
have cute regional names for their breakfasts, like “the trencherman,” or the “happy farmer,” or the “smiling crack whore (Philly).” I was compelled to order a low-calorie, highly-reduced fat dish for the first meal of the day. So I chose “The Battan Death March Special.” This is one poached egg, a crust of bread, and a smear of oatmeal. (If you eat the soiled paper napkin from the previous guest the whole meal totals 86 calories.) The waitress goofed and added three strips of crispy, fat-laden, local bacon, carved from pigs that had no original sin. These were snatched from my plate before I could sample the aroma in the air.

In addition to being a slick motorcycle rider with a flair for the exotic, Dr. Peter Frechie is also my cardiologist.

“Not so fast, Fat Boy,” he said. “You’ve been lucky so far. Why push the odds?”

Frechie then proceed to explain how bacon is the number one killer of obese K75 riders in the 56- to 57-year-old category of frustrated writers looking to break into the moto-journalism industry. He emphasized each point by waving a strip of bacon in the air, prior to eating it himself. (I almost ordered waffles and ice cream to see how this would affect his oratory.)

And so the third round went to the MV Agusta rider.

The diner is “Jennie’s” and it is on the north side of the Lincoln Highway (US-30) in the vicinity of Paradise, Pa. The waffles and pancakes get 9 out of ten stars, and the coffee is excellent. Everything is enhanced by waitresses who know their trade. The parking lot is easy to get in and out of and the joint has a lot of character. On the downside, the crowds it attracts are tough to take. It’s on the fucked-up stretch of US-30 that backs up like an old septic system and which is the leading cause of suicide among drivers in Lancaster County. Heading west, take the US-30 bypass to Rt. 41 (in the town of Gap). Then take Rt. 41 to Rt. 741 in Strasburg. Then cut back to US-30 via Rt. 896 and turn right. “Jennie’s will be on your left in a mile or so.”

Above: Jennie's Diner on US-30 (The Lincoln Highway), in Ronks, Pa. In my opinion, the best diner in the whole Lancaster area. Photo by Gingersnap G., off the YELP site.

The conversation during breakfast turned to motorcycles, and I was able to do a fairly accurate comparison of the K75 and the M.V. Augusta “Tamburini.” This Italian powerhouse shamelessly borrows a number of design concepts from the K75. For example, both have two wheels and a mono-mount for the rear drive. Each is powered by a single engine, placed under a seat (more or less), and steered through curves by handlebars. What else is left after you acknowledge these startling similarities? The few differences are the MV Agusta has 173 horsepower and a top speed of 193 miles per hour. (Like that stuff ever got anybody laid.)

The ride back was fairly uneventful. I let Frechie lead. After all, I’d made my point. There is no purpose to rubbing it in. We rolled onto the expressway in a group and the MV Agusta must have hit a cosmic worm hole or something, as it just evaporated into thin air. There was a sound like a gunshot, but that’s nothing in the Philly area. I got a call from Bregstein later that night:

“I’m glad you kicked that guy’s ass today,” said Dick. “I was going to do it myself, but you know me when I get started. Who knows how this would have ended?’

“True enough, Dick,” I said. “True enough.”

Author’s Note — Three weeks before Christmas, the BMW riding elite of southeastern Pennsylvania gathered at a local restaurant to celebrate the upcoming holiday. About 70 riders attended. In a fit of joyous frenzy, I ordered a Fred Flintstone-sized cut of prime rib, done rare. This would have been the first really large cut of beef I’d had since the summer. The waitress was a cupcake of exquisite beauty, who served the dish with verve and panache (a shimmy and a squeal). Yet before I could place the napkin in my lap, Dr. Peter Frechie breezed into the room, grabbed my plate, and ran with it. The waitress returned ten minutes later with a tasteless vegetable gruel, popular among prisoners in the South Pacific.

“That man over there said you really wanted this tonight... With a tall glass of cold water. Is that right,” she asked.

Just out of range, the good doctor fell on my prime rib like a condemned man. The place exploded in laughter. He would present me with a customized gift from his office later that night: a calendar with one month in it.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011