Tuesday, March 15, 2011

"Blueballs" Goes Down... Forever!

Asheville, North Carolina is one of the most beautiful places in the United States. Saved from the ravages of the Civil War, this city of 76,000 is a mountain metropolis of quaint urban customs and architecture dating back to the late 1890’s. It is a Mecca for Art Deco construction and home to the Grove Park Inn, a hotel built in the arts and crafts tradition (Stickley and Roycrofters). The city’s location in the Blue Ridge Mountains made it a major challenge to connect by railroad as the tracks had some of the steepest grades to be found anywhere. For hills, the city rivals San Francisco both in number and steepness. And like San Francisco, Asheville is cool. Cool bars... Cool restaurants... Cool neighborhoods... And cool customs. Crowds gather in Pritchard Park on Friday nights to form a drum circle. Too cool for you? Then try Shindig on the Green, the bluegrass music and dance festival held on Roger McGuire Green at Pack Square Park. The city is a necklace of cool things to wander in and out of.

Above: The ultra-swanky Grove Park Inn, built and furnished in the "Arts and Crafts" style, is one of the most famous and beautiful hotel properties in North America. Photo from the Internet.

Above: Most folks don't realize the extend of the "Arts and Crafts" movement in the United States. These furnishings, found in the lobby of the Grove Park Inn, represent the artistic movement of the Roycrofters or the Stickley school of design. I once went to buy Leslie an authentic, mica-shaded lamp like the two pictured above for a present. I found one in bad condition. It was $29,000. (No joke.) I let it go. Photo from the Grove Park Inn.

I arrived there in the summer of 2007 with Dick Bregstein (Mac-Pac BMW rider from West Chester, Pa) and Lee Kazanas (A BMW rider from Jay, NY, in the Adirondacks). Our objective was to attend the BMW Riders’ Association Rally, which convened on the grounds of the Biltmore Estate. This was my second season of long-distance re-entry riding — after a 25-year hiatus, and my second year of debilitating arthritis n my hips and knees. I am always amazed when natives of the “Deep South” speak about the cooling glades of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was July, and the temperature outside was 25,000 degrees (F). Asheville is a great place to practice holding the full weight of your bike on a 45º incline, in a simulated blast furnace, while a traffic light leisurely cycles through the colors.

Above: The City of Asheville, NC... As cool as San Francisco and a great place to visit. Photo from the Internet.

“Riding in this fucking place makes me feel like I am trapped in a painting by M.C. Escher,” I said to Bregstein. “Every turn I make ends at an uphill traffic light, which is invariably red, and I feel like a lizard gradually turning into a bird.” Even parking had its challenges as driveways, parking lots, and city streets invariably sloped in opposing directions.

Despite having a great time, I never really got used to the place and I had a bad omen riding out on the last day. We had breakfast at the hotel, and were in the saddle by 8am on a Saturday morning. Our first stop was for gas and I nearly dropped the bike twice negotiating slow, uphill turns to the left at traffic lights. (I was really off my game, and we had between 400 and 650 miles to go that day.)

“I have that peculiar feeling that today is not going to turn out well,” I said to Bregstein, as we tanked up at a “Brand X” gas station. (I may have also added something like, "I hate this heat, and I'm sick and tired of leaning into a 45º turn every 20 seconds, and the thrill of holding my bike with my fucking balls while climbing the mountans around here is wearing thin." Checking with Bregstein, he thinks I did mention the heat. — author's note.)

“What do you want to do?” asked Bregstein.

“What is there to do,” I replied. “We go. I’ll be all right once we get on the interstate and start winding these things out.”

A lot of riders hate the interstate. I am not one of them. I am good for a limited number of hours in the saddle and given the choice, I’ll trade maximum miles for minimum hours every time. There was no thought of screwing around on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We had come down that way, and it would be the preferred escape route of every BMW pilot headed north. That meant getting sandwiched between those riding 5 miles slower than the 45 mile per hour speed limit and the real peg scrappers boiling out of the turns going much faster (in violation of federal law). Besides, I wanted to make real time without dodging the cops, inching around blind curves, or slamming to a halt behind city folks sitting in the middle of the road, admiring the verminous deer.

Above: Three Blue BMWs headed south on the Blue Ridge Parkway... Two will make it to Asheville, NC... One will return to Chester County, Pa alone. (From left) Pete Buchheit's 2003 K1200S; Dick Bregstein's 2007 F800ST; Jack Riepe's 1986 K75. Pete will ony go as far as North Carolina. Jack will crash. And Dick will return alone. The author is no longer this cartoonisly fat. Highly unflattering photo of Jack Riepe by Pete Buchheit.

I was already drenched with sweat and dealing with a throbbing hip when we left the gas station. Bregstein and I had our directions down pat, and we headed north, toward Tennessee, on I-26. Traffic was heavy getting out of town but the interstate between Asheville, NC and Johnson City, TN was just fun. The road has broad sweepers, six-lanes wide, that arc up and down mountainsides like a roller coaster. The countryside was extremely pretty. The traffic was absolutely minimal, and we went like bloody hell.

Above: Pete Buchheit (left) and Jack Riepe survey the view of Irish Creek from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Photo by Dick Bregstein.

I rode my 1986 K75, which was 21-years-old, like it was brand new. We blasted up and down mountainsides with the throttles close to wide open. The fully loaded K75 took it in stride. Bregstein’s F800ST was brand new, and quite in its element as we literally flew along the ground. We stopped once in a treeless rest area, high atop a mountain, where motorists were encouraged to walk another mile or so to the top. (I passed.) The arthritis compelled me to put me feet down, but I didn’t get off the bike.

Above: The legendary Dick Bregstein with his F800ST. Photo by Peter Buchheit.

The urban confines of Johnson City, TN called for a more prudent interpretation of the speed limit, which we followed right onto I-81 north. Interstate-81 can best be described as a pressure-cooking, grindhouse of a road. The heat of the sun is absorbed by the rutted pavement, and magnified by the exhaust of 10 million trucks. It is a major north-south artery for truck traffic and these hulking, diesel mammoths commonly push 75 and 80 miles per hour. After getting boxed in a few times, Bregstein and I decided to “set the pace.” We knifed through traffic like it was butter, and I discovered how easily my old bike could “pull the ton.”

Above: One of many encouraging signs to be found on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Photo from the Bregstein Collection.

Quarter-second glances into my Napoleon bar-end mirrors revealed Bregstein was in tight and to my right. We were in the far left lane — moving along well into triple digits — when I noticed something odd. A two-tone colored car was closing in on Dick. And by two-toned, I mean dark brown and worse brown. Colors that no sane person would pick for a personal vehicle.

“Shit,” I thought, scanning for an opening on the right. One popped up... I signaled... And flicked the bike into it, shedding 30 miles per hour as fast as I could. Bregstein followed me like a shadow. A Tennessee State Trooper shot past us ten seconds later. In a rest area up the road, I ask Dick why he didn’t flash his lights at me or something.

“I never saw that cop,” said Bregstein. “I hate the stock mirrors on this bike and can’t see a thing. You’re looking for the both of us.” A fast review of Dick’s GPS revealed our “average speed” was well above the middle 90’s. He looked at me with a stern face of admonition and said, “We’re going get in big trouble if we don’t slow down.”

But a kind of madness was on me. Gone were the jitters of the morning. We were somewhere in the middle of Virginia, when I said, “Want to take it all the way back today?”

Dick smiled and said, “Why not?”

Our stops became less frequent, and while we lowered our speed, the difference wasn’t noticeable to the naked eye. (It isn’t likely we would have gotten the death penalty had we been pulled over, but ten years on a chain gang was a definite possibility.) Yet with 5 hours in the saddle (and a 90-minute stop for lunch), we had barely covered 425 miles.
Dividing the remaining mileage between Harrisonburg, Va and West Chester, Pa by the pain in my hips, the truth was that I was not going to make it.

Above: The author, relaxing in the breeze on the Blue Ridge Parkway, wearing the kind of smile that only comes from a mad ride in the clouds with a couple of good friends. Photo by Dick Bregstein.

I’d heard of a great old hotel, bar, and restaurant in Strasburg, Va, and my resolve to make the run in one day dissolved in the vision of a tall Tom Collins. The Hotel Strasburg has been welcoming guests to the Shenandoah Valley since 1915. It is a a quirky old hotel (no elevator), in which every guest room is like something out of Aunt Pitti-Pat’s guest house. The rooms run from middling to small, and each is decorated in a very tasteful, and deluxe way. For the exception of the elevator, it would be my model for the perfect small hotel, (and as a former travel writer for a major trade association, I have stayed in some of the best hotels on Earth.)

The Hotel Strasburg has an impressive and delightful menu in the main dining room (which is fully half the reason anyone should stay there). There is a more casual (cheaper) bar with a TV, but so what. After a brief consultation with my partner in crime, we set our sights on Strasburg, Va.

We made one more stop for gas and for a couple of bottles of cold water at a road-side stand, where the temperature scored 96 points in vertical mercury. And it was here that I encountered my first somewhat malevolent exchange with the representatives of the “Motor Company.” There were four or five Harley’s parked in the shade at this rest area, which Bregstein and I took pains not to crowd as we parked our Beemers — in the sun. The Harley gentlemen were wearing sleeveless leather vests, “do” rags, and tattoos. Bregstein and I were in full ballistic mesh, with body armor, gloves, and full face helmets. My skin temperature was 449º (F), two degrees short of the flashpoint.

“Why do you dopes dress like that,” asked one of the Harley riders.

The engine on my bike was still running, and I was tempted to say, “Because your wife and sister fuck me extra hard when I show up looking like Darth Vader.” But Bregstein had already dismounted, and I thought, “They’ll take him alive, paint his ass blue, and stretch him out over a fire ant hill.” Yet my response would have been so good, so fast, and so vicious, I was almost willing to make that sacrifice.

My actual response was, “Sweat’s cheaper than plasma, and easier to come by.”

The other H-D riders seemed a trifle embarrassed by their friend’s attitude, which I thought was interesting, and they attempted to engage us in conversation.

“How far did you guys ride today?” asked one.

“We were in Lubbock, Texas, this time yesterday,” I said, straining my eyeballs to keep a straight face.”

“What’s going on in Texas?” asked another.

“We were character references for the defense in a murder trial,” said Bregstein.

“Way to go, Dickie, boy,” I thought, giving Bregstein a Clint Eastwood nod of silent approval.

One of the riders made perfunctory remarks about how much he liked our bikes, which was pure bullshit, and we returned the compliment in the same vein. I was obsequiously solicitous of one custom job where the forks stretched 12 feet from the seat, mentioning how I always wanted to have one, but could never scrape the cash together between bail bonds and alimony payments.

Actually, this was the second time Dick and I were targeted for some bullshit from the leather and chrome crowd. Once, at a breakfast run to to the now defunct Brass Monkey Diner in New Jersey, a couple of the leather boys walked down the bike line and stopped at Bregstein’s F800ST. One said, “This guy must have ridden in on his little sister’s bike.”

My mouth clutch started slip that day too, and I was on my way to saying, “It is his sister’s bike. She’s having five inches trimmed from her cock today so it won’t be more than three inches longer than yours,” when Bregstein gently kicked me in the ankle. Later Dick asked if I had been Custer’s PR guy at the Little Big Horn. BMW's F800 series needs no apologies.

I am compelled to say these two exchanges are far from the norm. I have a lot of friends who ride Harleys, and I am looking forward to riding with them this summer. I have a soft spot for the Harley dealership at Willow Street, Pa, and go in once a year to buy gloves or something just to say "Hi" with my wallet. I do not believe in the perfection of any one marque over another (Deutschland, Deutschland, über alles...), nor would I criticize anyone for their choice of bikes.

We exited I-81 a handful of miles south of Strasburg, Va, found Route 11, and turned left toward town. We were on the last few miles separating us from a cool drink, and I felt none of the jitters I had earlier. While there is a bit of release in reaching the end of a good day’s run, I was also delighted that there would be at least one more full day to our big seasonal ride. Bregstein is a pisser of a good time, and responds to each of my inane suggestions with, “Okay.” Dick falls into that rare category titled, “amiably agreeable to most activities that offer the option of a fine.” A friend will help you move. A friend like Bregstein will help you move a body.

I noted that despite being pushed relentlessly in ghastly heat, my K75 ran flawlessly. At stops and traffic lights, it immediately went to the correct factory idle. The cooling fan came on and off with predictability. It was running like a mature quarter horse, at home on the prairie.

South of Strasburg, Route 11 is divided by a grassy median, with opposing lanes coming together a block or two outside of town. There was virtually no traffic. Bregstein and I were cruising at 35 miles per hour, with me in the lead. We were coming up on the intersection of Funk Road, and I could feel the hair stand up on the back of my neck. In that instant, a car came out of the trees and rolled right to the edge of the intersection. I could see the driver clearly, as the lowering sun fully illuminated his face. He was looking right at me, when he started forward again. Though I had the clutch and front brake covered, my mind did the trigonometry and ordered my thumb to unleash the twin FIAMM screamers. That horn was loud. The driver looked at me again and stopped.

“Fuck me,” I thought. “Maybe that was it. Maybe I dodged the bullet today.” There was a clue in this, but I didn’t see it at the time.

We entered Strasburg a few minutes later. There was absolutely no traffic at all, on a late Saturday afternoon. That should have set off warning bells too. But I was tired, and the alarm bells were muted by fatigue.

The community of Strasburg is one of the most charming little places you could hope to visit. Folks are friendly, helpful, and appear to be genuinely happy. They celebrate their community too. On this day, the town’s girls’ field hockey team, softball team, or synchronized sharp-shooting team (I forget which) had just had a big win, and the whole town had turned out for a surprise victory parade. The sidewalks were lined with people. The cops were out. The fire department was there. The ambulance corps was lined up. The mayor was ready to commence the festivities. The bus with the victorious athletes was entering the north edge of town... And to the south, a blue 1986 BMW K75 entered an intersection at the same time as a late model minivan.

I analyzed the sight-picture of the intersection as I rolled toward it. The traffic light was green... The corners were clear... One minivan was approaching directly-on at a speed similar to my own, about 25 miles per hour. There were lots of people on the sidewalks. It was broad daylight... The sky was cloudless... I could see the glint of a golden sun (to my back) coming off the windshield of the minivan. I was lugging the engine in third gear. My intention was to go a block, then turn right. Bregstein was behind me by about 30 feet.

With 25 feet left between me and the minivan, it turned left. My entire filed of vision was that minivan. Not taking the forward momentum of the other vehicle into account, my speed meant I was covering 36 feet per second. It was a lottery I couldn’t win. I was screaming in my helmet, with the clutch and front brake fully pulled in, with the back brake pedal fully depressed. I was 9 feet short of the perfect panic stop.

The sound of the impact was very impressive. I was airborne, briefly, before slamming down on the front of the vehicle and then the ground. The wind went out of me like I was a blowfish with gas. I came to rest flat on my back, on the ground, looking at the undercarriage of the minivan. My first thought was that the driver might exit the vehicle without shutting it off, and that it would roll over me. And then I felt the pain in my chest... The sledgehammer pain that rolled over me with every breath.

“The asshole driver of this fucking minivan has crushed my chest,” I thought.

Dick Bregstein was horrified. He claimed it was like a cheap magician’s trick. First you see the man on the motorcycle, then you don’t. The law of gravity, aided by the tenets of centrifugal force and physics, hurled me from the seat of my beloved Blueballs. In an instant, the street had been swept clean of K75’s.

It would not have been possible to get a better emergency service response time had this been a rehearsal. In fact, I might have landed in the ambulance had the doors been open. An EMS team and the Strasburg Fire Department appeared out of thin air. In the course of very few minutes, competent first responders had stabilized me and were doing an injury assessment by the numbers. Someone was asking various questions, which I pretty much ignored at the moment. I wanted the Rosary in my pocket, but the effort was beyond me. So I began to recite the Apostle’s Creed, as I have learned it through years of Catholic schooling. My reasoning was straightforward: if this was the end of Riepe, I was going go out with whatever kind of a shine I could put on a tarnished soul. One of the EMS workers, a gentleman named Carlos, prayed with me. I was under the impression that as long as I appeared lucid, a challenge for me on the best of days, that gave the EMS folks some of the information they were looking for.

I faded in and out of consciousness once or twice on the ground, and once in the ambulance. I got strapped to a body board, had my helmet removed according to the proper procedure, and my neck secured. A state cop asked me a couple of questions, and went off to cite the operator of the minivan. I believe there were several hundred witnesses. Throughout all this, a well-dressed guy in a suit, carrying a walkie-talkie, kept sauntering up, and looking down at me. Then he’d say something into the radio. About the fourth time this happened, I asked, “Who is that guy? If he’s the local undertaker tell him I plan to live.” (I actually think it was the mayor, who was waiting to start the parade, though I really have no idea who this gentleman was.)

Bregstein’s face emerged from the crowd, and I swear the smug bastard smirked. Then he said, “The state cop is looking for the paperwork on your bike. Do you have it, Jack?” I had to think for a second, and I told him it was under the seat, in the plastic jacket of the owner’s manual. Dick then asked, “Jack, is there anything I can do for you?”

“Get my laptop out of the saddle bags,” I choked, clutching my chest. “And delete all the naked pictures of any blonds.” Every person doing something at the accident scene stopped and looked at me. “Just kidding,” I hissed.

And then, according to Bregstein, came the ordeal of the fireman. The biggest guys in town, men whose upper arm diameter is greater than the waists of Russian ballerinas, stood in total solidarity and picked me up on the stretcher. Dick claimed you could hear testicles popping clear across the county. “It sounded like champagne bottles opening at the end of WWII,” he said.

The ambulance ride to the hospital was not without its moments either. The crew hooked me up to all kinds of devices to measure vital signs, and my arms kept getting in the way. One of the EMS team members, a woman with a delightful voice, said to me, “Here... Put your hands between my knees. Now you can tell all your friends you rode to the hospital with your hands between a woman’s legs.” She had the sweetest voice. I have no idea what she looked like, because I was very woozy at the time and decided to just keep my eyes closed. But I couldn’t resist. I replied, “Honey, you wouldn’t try this if I wasn’t lashed down.” The same Carlos who prayed with me at the crash site rode in the ambulance too. I tried to give him my watch.

The emergency room facilities at the hospital in Winchester handled me like I was one of Dr. House’s guest patients at Princeton Plainsboro General. They cut my gear off and I could hear several women gasp. You see, I am so fat that my shape is defined by the Kevlar-reinforced gear that I wear. Without clothing, I start to expand until I take on the dimensions of the containment vessel. I could hear the sounds of x-ray equipment and other stuff being shoved aside by my expanse. I opened my eyes and I said to the ER team, “I’m sorry about this... But the next time this happens I will a lot thinner and have a great tan.”

I made ‘em all laugh.

Dick Bregstein had ridden almost 500 miles that day, in intense heat. He got my computer from the saddle bags. He went through the paperwork with the cop. He oversaw the pickup of my motorcycle by the towing company. And he followed me to the hospital. He called Leslie (my hot squeeze) and gave her the details. And then he waited until he got to see me, around 10pm. His reward for this was a ride in the dark to a hotel that had no food service, but allowed him to glom an apple from the registration desk. He headed back home by himself the next day. Leslie swears she passed him on I-81.

I had no serious injuries. I had no concussion... No broken limbs... No busted collarbone... I was told I had bruised ribs. Can the gentle Twisted Roads reader guess the difference between a cracked rib and a bruised one? There is no difference at all as far as pain or treatment goes. My chest hurt so badly that I could barely move, and so I was detained for the night. (Getting upright to take a piss was a 12-step program.) My Nolan helmet had hit the bumper of the minivan and then the ground. It was not cracked. My Joe Rocket armored ballistic mesh jacket remained intact. I was riding in jeans. These exploded in flight and I had road rash for a couple of weeks.

Leslie picked me up the next morning. She stepped through the door and I said, “I am so glad to see you.” Then I got weepy.

Above: The hulking wreck of the author in the hospital, as captured by the love of his life, Leslie Marsh. The only severe scrapes were on my lower legs. Not shown, thank God, are two massive bruises on my chest. No broken bones. (The author is no longer this fat.)

She replied: “Don’t move. I’m going back to the car for a camera.” That woman is a tower of quivering sentimentality. But the accident impressed her too. She offered to have the letters “DNR” tattooed on my forehead for my birthday.

“Blueballs” did not survive the wreck.

Above: The day before the wreck, this bike didn't have a scratch on it. The tires were almost brand new. And now it will be canabalized for parts. Photo by Leslie Marsh.

The fairing vaporized. The forks bent. The luggage detached and exploded (two out of three bags). The front wheel deformed... The handlebars bent...The gas tank was dented and the pristine engine cases were scuffed. (The clock still worked though.) The bike was totaled at a glance, probably because of its age. The insurance company of the minivan driver started out by explaining I was riding an old motorcycle and that they went to three dealers for accurate estimates of its value. (A statement like that from an insurance company makes me want to cover my ass with a stove-lid.) They went to “Fogo’s Cycle” in Sri Lanka, the Hog Waller General Store and Motorcycle Repair Shop, and “We Fix Bikes Good” in Latvia. They determined through fair analysis, that my bike had a value of $863. Two years later, they sent me a property settlement check for $400 more than I originally paid for the bike. This did not quite cover the price of the MotoLights nor the oversized alternator, but it was a hell of an improvement over their first offer. I did my own negotiating.

Above: The ignominious end to a great motorcycle. Photo by Leslie Marsh.

I bought “Fireballs” seven weeks after the crash. It was from the last production year that BMW made the K75, which was 1995. The bike had 11,000 miles on it. I felt like I had stolen the crown jewels. In truth, I thought (and still do) that “Blueballs” was the more spirited of these two machines. It was my intention to remove the Parabellum “Scout” fairing from the new bike, and to replace it with a new “Sprint” Fairing, which I could still get custom molded for $1,400 — unpainted. A famous BMW wrench, who has threatened to beat the shit out of me if I ever mention his name in this blog, said, “Why add an accessory that will complicate a lot of routine maintenance on this bike?” He was right... The Parabellum “Scout” fairing stayed and it has grown on me. I really love it.

Above: "Fireballs..." The 1995 K75 - with the Parabellum "Scout" fairing - that has become my signature bike. Photo by the author.

What was the clue I missed riding into Strasburg? You all guessed it. The sun-glare on the driver’s side window on the car coming out of Funk Road, and then the same glare on the windshield of the minivan. I am positive neither driver could see me, despite the fact it was broad daylight on a clear afternoon. In the first case, I hit the horn and gave myself dimension. But I never saw a turn signal on the minivan, so it never occurred to me that it was going to turn. There’s a lot I would have done differently if I could relive that ride into Strasburg... But there is no guarantee it would have turned out any differently.

It was almost three months before I trusted myself to get on another motorcycle. This was due to pain and fear. (I bought “Fireballs” without riding it. What the fuck, it’s a K75.) I took it easy, but was nervous to the point where I was ready to piss myself. I planned a five-mile route that was likely to have the least amount of traffic. Three blocks from the house, some asshole in a minivan made a snap left turn across my lane. But I was ready this time. The driver was a stupid kid — talking on the phone. It was my intention to follow him someplace, and to beat the shit out of him when he got out of the vehicle. But what would that prove... I would have gotten the drop on the dopiest member of the million-person-asshole minivan league.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011


Allen Madding said...


Another well written story that had me glued to the laptop screen taking in every word from start to finish. I am amazed how blessed a man you are. If you were going to pick any place in the world to get hit by a mini-van, that precise place and precise time would have to be the best place. You could not have gotten that prompt and good care anywhere else no matter how hard you might have tried.

Kudos to you. I venture to say there are not many riders in the world that have been runover by a mini-van and survived without a broken bone. You are a tough old bird.

I too ride in a Joe Rocket jacket and am glad to hear it held up so well. Sorry to read you were in unprotected blue jeans. I personally learned they hold up like cheesecloth to a grater when going down in gravel, so I didn't expect much better results with asphalt. Your legs looked very uncomfortable. I hate roadrash with a passion.

The Nolan helmet proved to be quite a good investment. Bouncing off a bumper and then the street are so tough blows.

I know losing BlueBalls to a mini-van was just adding insult to injury in such a situation, but at least one of you came out of it well.

Thanks for sharing this story. I will be thinking back to it when I enter intersections with approaching mini-vans.


BeemerGirl said...

Damn! Great read and great retelling.

I'm always torn reading accounts like this of an accident, thinking back to Oilburner's, and talking with people that haven't been in any. Is there a key for prevention? It would be nice if there were, but I don't think there is. I'm thinking there is a lot of luck and being at the right (or wrong) place at a certain time. We can take as many precautions as we can think of, but sometimes fate/providence/Rosencrantz and Guildenstein will step in when we least expect it.

Glad that you survived relatively unharmed. Feel for Blueballs, but she did her job of protecting you as best she could.


RichardM said...

A great story and knowing that there was an accident coming added to the suspense. Thank you for sharing your story and, as an owner of an old bike, would be interested in how you managed to convince the insurance company to award you something approaching the true replacement value.


sgsidekick said...

Wow. Well, I was also glued to my laptop screen, reading every word. I'm familiar with the exploding jeans; Ron's has exploded twice now in different accidents. I also know how Leslie was feeling as she drove to the hospital. But with your telling, I felt like I had witnessed your accident.

So now we know you are no longer so big, how many lbs have you lost? Keep up the good work!

Nikos said...


In England we have the road safety campaign that displays wish woshy guidance messages to cagers such as "think bike".

I'm going to suggest the alternative and memorable "beware the hun in the sun".

Best wishes, N

ADK said...

A similar incident resulted in a near miss for me a couple of years ago but, other that some cosmetic damgat to The Yellow Peril, left me uninjured. The worst part was the aftermath - literally feeling nauseous about getting back on my motorcycle and going for a ride for a full 2 months afterward. Something that hadn't happened to me since starting to ride over 35years ago.

My jeans explode with enthusiasm on a regular basis, but then my bike isn't called "Blueballs".

Hope that you're over your bad cold, and I'm sorry that I couldn't offer any assistance last week when you needed it.

jay said...

Jack, your fast get off made me recall my own get off @ the Cherahola Skyway and helo sightseeing ride to the hospital. Stayed there 2 days for observation while friends wrenched my bike back into shape. 3 days later, still black and blue; I rode the bike toward home from Maggie Valley, N.C, to New Joisey, exit 16 E. The Yamato Special still lives and run like a top. BTW, I'm using a public comp @ work , is why the strange name. Happy Beerday, White Castle again ??? C ya.

Vulcan AL still on the Moonbeam.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mr. Madding:

I consider it a good day when I can keep a real moto-writer like yourself entertained. Never before has the word "blessed" been coupled with my name. One of my closest boyhood friends, an ordained Jesuit priest, claims I have a soul like a shop rag. I suspect he is right.

I believe that Joe Rocket gear is great stuff. It is made well and thoughtfully, with lots of nice little touches. And it came in my size. My preference for the Nolan helmet is well documented. It costs a few bucks more, but with Nolan, you get what you pay for.

I don't know what it is with minivans, but it seems that this vehicle is the preferred conveyance of the global asshole league.

Thanks for reading and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Steel Cupcake (Lori):

The great moto writer Melissa Holbrook Pierson once wrote that a motorcycle's nature position of rest was on its side in a trench someplace. I believe this is true. There are two kinds of riders: Those who have gone down someplace; and those who are standing in line for the experience.

You can be vigilant... You can wear high visibility gear... You can have 2000 watts of light on your bike (as I do)... You can plan an escape route like Houdini... And there is no guarantee that some drunk won't come smashing through the garage as you dismount the bike.

That's the reality of the lifestyle we have chosen.

While Blueballs was a delight, the handling characteristics of Fireballs is so damned identical it is like the soul of one bike jumped to the other. But like I said, it's a K75.

Thanks for reading and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Richard M.:

Te insurance company (the other driver's) tried to break my balls so thoroughly over something that I was willing to resolve in 15 minutes, that I decided to dig in and explore every option. I was polite, cheerful, friendly, and Christian... Also, somewhat determined. I put about 20 hours into the negotiation process, always came away pleasant, and refused to cooperate... But always willing to do more research for them. It was the kind of research they didn't find helpful.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear SgSidekick (Tena):

As Leslie drove to the hospital, she was thinking, "How much can I get selling his things in a garage sale, and will it bring me enough to pay to have the unsold crap carted off.

I am still huge. The winter did not work to my advantage. But I am not as huge as I was. My pictures from ext summer will tell the tale.

Tell Ron I said, "Hello."

Thanks for reading and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Nikos:

The "The Hun In The Sun" is thinking of mounting a flamethrower on his handlebars. The riding season has startedvhere this week, with temperatures expected to hit 70º (F). But it is unlikely I will be in the saddle.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear ADK (Chris Wolfe):

I was wondering when I was going to hear from you. When I caled last weekend, Missy told me that you had your head in the toilet.

"Is he barfing," I asked.

"Either that or really thirsty," she replied.

Your jeans would be less inclined to explode if you weren't so full of shit.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Jay (Vulcan Al):

I remember your last crash well. I opted not to ride with you guys that day, but to head off to Cherokee with Ricky and "Bob," the guy with the huge Honda.

The news of your crash troubled me so much, that I had three extra rum at cokes and the end of the day. But all's well that end's well.

I have no birthday ride planned for the White Castle this year. In fact, I am having some real challenges getting out of the garage in 2011.

I'll keep you posted.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

John Strube said...


Another great story, too bad it wasn't fiction. Glad you came through & definitely don't go back to that hospital to show them the skinny you... At least not on a stretcher.


Unknown said...


I was in suspense waiting for the miniVan, while all the time reading your relaxing and eloquent words. We are all glad that no permanent damage was done and thankfully you had "lots of Padding" to avoid injury.

Riding the Wet Coast

ps: get some riding pants

David Denesowicz said...

This was a good read for me and a great experience for you Jack, in that you didn't die. Your friend Dick was a great help and Leslie, the love of your life, was very supportive.
I totaled a Honda scooter in '09 and recieved a insurance check. Upon initiating a new automobile insurance policy in 2010 I was assesed an extra charge, roughly equivlent to 1/3 of the previous payout. It was explained to me this charge would be in affact for three years. The greedier arch-criminals have defected to the insurance industry IMHO.

Anonymous said...

Jack -

It's a rare moment when I laugh out loud at the written word - which happened more than once whilst absorbing this missive.

Thanks for sharing it.

And just so you know - when in Key West, I ride barefoot in nylon shorts.

Walking on the wild side,


norcalbarney said...

Another great terrible story. Thank you for sharing. When your shadow is straight out in front, you're invisible to other drivers.

I'm glad you're OK, and that you and Fireballs got together, although I'll miss reading about the Rare Sprint faring every other posting...

And, dude, get some riding pants, please. When are we gonna see pictures of the new/slimmer/more vegetarian Jack Riepe? As an Internet Celebrity, it's your responsibility!

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Bobskoot:

Leslie claims lots of permanent damage was done, and she's documenting my behavior since the accident to prove that one's brain can be disconected from this of the head, without a lot of people noticing. She is my biggest fan.

The new K75, such as it was new at that point, was based on a rock solid, if not dated technology. While providing preductable results, it gave me an engine with a few more yesars on it before I'd have to start replacing 300 different rubber seals.

I'm glad you liked the story. I live to entertain you.

Thank you for reading and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

BMW-Dick said...

Dear Jack:

That was one of the best trips we've been on until you decided to show off for the girls field hockey team by laying your bike down in the center of the parade route. Typical Riepe. . .risking his life to get the attention of a bunch of high school kids in short skirts. I wish I had taken pictures of you being loaded into the ambulance by a full regiment of EMTs, but you had me busy rummaging through your side cases for your cross-dressing outfit. It was truly a great trip up until that point. Thanks for the memories.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear John Strube:

It is my fervent prayer that I do not show up anyplace on a stretcher for a good long while. And I accept your good wishes as my life's plan. Thanks for reading and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

GF said...

For me it was like "OH CRAP" because I tend to first glance at all the pictures but then I started reading and my heart started beating again :-) glad it all turned out good with nothing human broken ;-)
Nicely written, I was glued to the story :-)

ADK said...

Dear Riepe, Missy obviously didn't tell you that my head was in the toilet BECAUSE you called.

And Yes, I was barfing.

Dick, Jack is famous for dressing up. I remember an occasion he came to a Halloween party dressed in a pumpkin suit. Such were the dimensions of said get up that several other guests enquired why The Red Planet was taking up five drinking spots at the bar. Others helplessly fell into geosynchronous orbit.

Steve Williams said...

So many lessons in this parable. I had to take out a sheet of paper and take notes. Before I go on I am glad that your injuries were relatively minor and lived to go on to found Twisted Roads and provide your readers, or at least me, frequent reminders of the joys of riding, friendship, and fantasy.

Heat. It was the first note I jotted down. For some reason you don't appreciate the sun other than a potential tanning source. Don't you know that without the sun none of us would be riding?

Then came speed. This isn't the first time I felt impotent after reading of your breakneck pacing on the highway. I picture the little wheels on my Vespa spinning madly until the rubber comes apart and I shriek to a stop in a cascade of sparks.

The next note "he's touchy about his clothes." Your strong response to disrespect on riding clothes had me thinking you are a lot like Tim Gunn on Project Runway.

Durable. That's the last note. Slam into a minivan and hobble away with just some bruises and road rash. Nothing that a few Tylenol won't take care of.

All in all, your crash story was outstanding. And as these kind of stories go it's nice to read one with a reasonably happy ending. The only sad part was you got another K bike.

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks
Follow me on TWITTER

Conchscooter said...

Dear Jack,
Congrats to your ghost writer who has your style down perfectly. Are you going to finish croaking anytime soon?
By the way how did the prayer work for you? Did St Jude appear in a magnificent halo? The bastard failed to show up for me when I took a header over a car in my impetuous youth and I stopped parying for him to show up after that. I think he must be a union member on strike because he's never been seen since.
In solidarity.

Sojourner's Moto Tales said...

I remember well when this accident happened and it was THE talk of the about.com motorcycle forum. I didn't know you then but had become a fan of your writing. This was an excellently rendered story with all the sense tapped--as you usually do in your storytelling. The cutting off of your gear had me laughing aloud--although I didn't like reading the part about your body meeting the ground.

I have missed you!

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Sojourner (Sharon):

So where have you been, my pretty? I had all but given up on you. We met once in a Chicago hotel (you can explain that), and then you disappeared. Some said you ran off on a Harley? Others said you joined the Vespa crowd.

I just assumed you got my number right.

Yeah, that crash did make a splash, in a matter of speaking. Not only did I live to tell the tale, but to spin it a little as well.

Glad you got a laugh out of it. So, are you riding these days?

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad
Twisted Roads

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Conchscoter:

I noticed your comment at the exact moment you called me this afternoon. The prayer worked great. I said, "Lord, please take the pain from my chest and move it to my ass. I met you two days later. I call that pretty good service.

I look forward to riding with you this summer, and promise to keep secret your desire to ride out to Boalsburg, to see Scooter In The Sticks.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

mtlcowgirl said...

Dear Minivan Target,

Another winner. I laughed. I cried. I am also happy you and Fireballs have grown to love each other. I remember when Mack and I met up with you on the Haggis Ride you saying you were still uncomfortable with it.

At least you got some respectful street creds. I got a broken leg at 3 miles an hour. How pathetic is that?

Keith - Circle Blue said...

Dear Jack,

I am acquainted with both broken and bruised ribs. My experience of them was the same as yours. The pain is the same. The only way to keep them from hurting is not to breath which needless to say is not a workable strategy.

Glad you lived to tell the day and get another set of balls, I mean wheels in your life.


redlegsrides said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
redlegsrides said...

Jack, an outstanding account of the events leading up to and including your accident on Blueballs....outstanding!

Can't imagine a better testimonial to the benefits of riding ATGATT than this posting of yours.


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

I hope three is the charm. This is the third time I have ben hit by a car or a truck and lived to tell about it. I have never been cited as a result of a crash with another vehicle, but there are times when discretion is the better part of valor.

Fondest regards,
Jack • Reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Keith:

Another day, another wreck... Hopefully not. It is my desire to one day have a whole garage full of "balled" motorcycles. "Steel Balls... Brass Balls... Stone Balls."

Thanks for reading and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear MTL Cowgirl:

"Fireballs" came with a red hot-looking Sargent seat, that in no way was designed for my ass. It was like riding on a piece of slate. It made the riding position a trife uncomfortable. I really started to wam up to it with the Russell Day-Long saddle, which was a $700 (Plus) enhancement.

Thanks for reading and for writing in.

Fonbdest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Scooter In The Stix (Steve):

I am so thrilled that my blog has proven to be a learning experience for you. I hate riding in the heat almost as much as I do sitting in the saddle in intense cold.


I was on a stretch of unnamed roadway in a beautiful unnamed state on a day when this curvey piece was nearly deserted. I was in pain and hotter than a fuck. That German workhorse gave it everything, and I remember leaning into a curve with the concrete barrier about two feet to my left.
That red son of bitch followed the slightest handlebar input like it was fly-by-wireless.

And the pain left me... And the heat dissolved... And I wasn't old any more... And I had a huge cock... (Well, that goes without saying, BMW and all.) And I passed some asshole kid on a crotch rocket, wearing "Team FujiFuki" colors. And I realized that my throttle wouldn't budge another fraction of an inch.

There was an explosion behind me as that kid kicked his bike in the balls and came after me. The outcome was never in doubt, but it took him four miles to catch up. I exited and stopped at a light. A horse might have snorted... The equivalent on the K75 is hearing the cooling fan come on. On this highly overdesigned bike, the cooling fan is proportionate to the impeller on a GE jet engine.

And I got old and gimpy again in an instant. And yes, a tire could have blown (they're new), the forks could collapsed (they're serviced), the brakes could have failed (brand new), and I could have been killed. At that moment, it would have been okay. I have started to understand Hunter S. Thompson.

The "K" bike is an abomination in one regard... They all laugh, and sometimes, not in jest.

Thanks for reading and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear ADK (Chris Wolfe):

Fuck you, you British twit. Strong letter to follow.

I look forward to riding with you in your neck of the woods when the snow melts, around July 4th. In the meantime, eat shit and die.

How's the duct tape look on the "Yellow Peril?"

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear George F:

Your concern was genuinely touching... But if I am writing about it, you can bet I survived and the outcome is somwhat ludicrous. Of course, that could be different if the headline reads, "So Long, Fatass." I'm glad you like the story.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear NorcalBarney:

I intend to get a CyclePort riding outfit the instant my weight falls within acceptable parameters. As it is right now, I cannot see the point of spendng $900 for a custom pair of riding pants with my weight in flux. I didf invest in a pair of fat man's "Defender Jeans," which are Kevlar lined. Who knows how good these would be in a rolling dump? But they might be better than nothing.

I tend to define things like the "rare" Sprint Fairing when I write about them as they are obscure to even most BMW riders, and I often get emails asking about the odd K75 in the picture. But I will take your comment for a hint and go easier on it :).

I'm glad you liked my piece, and I started to read your blog last night. I will add it to my destinations file this weekend.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Unknown said...

Jack, I'm happy to hear you're not so fat anymore. I was debating on how much shit I could get away with, given the 'I-got-fucked-by-a-van' nature of this story, but thankfully you took care of it for me. You've got to do it before others can. It's the same reason I pass out fliers warning about my bird legs in February, "May-Sept. beware anorexic model legs in this vicinity. Owner will trade to a field hockey player or softballer of appropriate height. Perfect for "Whole Foods" style woman, otherwise, need shaving. That way when they're actually unleashed on the world, there is no fodder left.

Good story, I particularly like the part where you tried to give your watch away while your hand was between a woman's legs. If she was the kind of woman who pull a watch off a wrist with the equipment god gave her, you might want to check your hospital invoices for vague entries of 'services rendered.'

In all seriousness, I'm glad you're still with us. The risks, man, they're great, but the rewards we all understand.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Brady:

I just opened your signature picture, and realized you are the spitting image of my younger defacto son-in-law, and he's a real prick too.

I never take offense when rider pals and acquaintances of mine have fun at my expanse... Because retribution is a bitch and I have the tune down pat. On the other hand, it's kinda hard to deny the truth.

Let me tell you something, if the nice lady in the ambulance could remove my watch with her sugar scoop, and be cruising Strasburg looking for minivans every weekend! (That was one of your funniest lines.)

As I stated, this was my third crash with a car, and I have to get a ticket or a summons... But I would have been delighted to forego the whole experience.

Thanks for reading Twisted Roads and for writing in... Have a great riding season.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Unknown said...

Knowing I don't need to watch my tongue while commenting is half of why I keep coming back. I've got a fat joke or two left over from my college days, my roommate was of hardy stock, 300 (and quite a few plus pounds) Not that it ever got him down. He somehow managed to become high school homecoming king. That's personality. If you ever called him fat, he'd just say, "Am I? REALLY?! Oh my GOD, you're right, look at my FINGERS... THEY'RE LIKE BRATWURST!

Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life

irondad said...

The great part is that this is behind you by several years. Probably mostly healed. Although I disagree with Bobskoot about no lasting damage.

Perhaps a CAT scan as a follow-up?

You didn't mention the gender of the minivan driver. As I read the post I was thinking that only you would crash into a MILF in a minivan right next to an ambulance with every emergency services person in town right next to it.

A real stud would have crashed down a 200 foot embankment and had to live off the land for three days before being adopted by rabid wolves.

Bluekat said...

Great read! If it was a book I couldn't have put it down. As it was a computer screen...well you get the picture!

Sorry that Blueballs met her fate, but I'm glad you survived to ride another day. I'm always impressed when someone goes through something like you did and musters the courage to get back on the bike. Kudos!

Jack Riepe said...

Dear IronDad:

Your comment made me laugh tonight, which sent a spasm through my asthmatic bronchitis. I had a CAT scan at the hospital that day, which came up negative. In fact, they couldn't see that there was anything in my head to damage.

I believe the driver of the minivan was a woman in her early 60's. I also understand thay she never got out of the vehicle, but that she called the cops that night to see if I had died. I hold no animosity against her. Since there is no evidence that she and I were ever involved, that rules out a motive for murder.

But I do think there is something aboutr minivams tha make their operators a trifle dopey.

And for your information, I did the embankment thing when I met Leslie.

Thanks for reading, and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear BlueKat:

There was never any doubt that I would ride again, but there was a question of when. Not to get on another bike would have been to admit I really wasn't a "rider." And I wasn't anywhere near that point yet.

The advantage to getting a "younger" K75 as a replacement, meant not having to worry about aging seals and stuff for another few years. I will keep this K75 forever... But my next rig is going to be a 2003 BMW K1200GT. I think this model is the best looking bike every built by BMW.

Thanks for reading and for writing in.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • toad

Classic Velocity said...

Dear Jack,

Finally I get the actual story of the end of Blueballs, recanted as only you can. If only all motorcycle accidents were 100ft from an ambulance, firefighters, and police. So tell me, were you Grand Marshall at the next parade ;-)

Glad you are here to tell this tale and so many others. Cheers.

Chris said...

Great story Jack. I'm glad you got back in the saddle and continue to ride (and write). Comparing the photos I like your "new" K75 more than the old. The red looks better to me with the shape of the bike.