Thursday, April 21, 2011

When Motorcycle Rides Turn Rogue...

I did not love my first motorcycle, though I was often delighted by it... And it was kind of cool. But once I realized it was never going to be anything special (at least for 36 years), the wonder began to leach out of it. For the first year (1975), the bike got washed every other week and I went after grease and dirt through every nook and cranny with a rag. Then money got tight in the second and third years and I let a few things go. This included a pronounced scratch on the tank. The battery vent hose popped off one day, dripping acid on the pipes, which instantly dissolved the chrome, revealing a shiny brass-colored base metal. There is nothing more pronounced on a bike than the gas tank and the exhaust pipes. A ding or a dent in the tank is like a broken front tooth, and scratched or scarred pipes are like walking around with duct tape on your boot.

Touch-up paint on the gas tank gave the bike a touched-up look, but there was nothing that could be done about the pipes. There was never a question of getting them replaced or redone. From that point on, the Kawasaki H-2 became less of a quarter horse and more of a mule, albeit a fast one. I moved a couple of times and the machine became a full-fledged street bike, in the sense that it was parked on the street. I found it knocked over a couple of times, the victim of some idiot trying to parallel park in a space that was just too tight by an inch or so. This necessitated replacing a couple of mirrors and turn signal lenses, but after a bit, the turn signal stems acquired a bit of a droop.

As a young writer, money flowed in trickles, and tune-ups at the shop became something of a luxury. There wasn’t much to tuning up an an H-2. You replaced the plugs and the points, and then synchronized the three carburetors. I replaced the plugs fairly often. That was easy and I carried a spare set under the seat. The spares were new for a long time. Then they were the previous set, cleaned with emory paper (or carbon tetrachloride) and re-gapped. I never did master the secret of changing the points. I could get the new ones in, but could never get them set right. The manual said something about “when the points start to close...” What the hell does that mean? Do points start to close when the distributor cam makes them quiver or do they start to close when they move a good deal? I tried changing points twice, then had to push the bike to a Harley shop where a mechanic could do the job right in about 15 minutes — for $60.

Synchronizing the carbs was black magic. This called for a gauge that measured how each carb breathed, using columns of mercury, a centrifuge, a pressure regulator, and a barometer. (This was my understanding of it.) Each cylinder was an individual motor joined to the other two in a hellish trinity. None of the cylinders liked each other and would whisper “fuck you two” in a language common to lawn mowers of the era. They would stay synchronized for about ten days, when the vibration of the motor would have successfully started re-adjusting tiny screws held in place by 2¢ springs. Then the odd backfire would occur, or more likely, an internal engine fart where the power would hesitate for a minute as the bike made a noise like firing off a round with insufficient powder.

In tune, the Kawasaki H-2 would start on one cylinder. Friends of mine would kick their Harley’s and their Norton’s to the point where if the bikes had had balls, they’d have kicked those too. I got more respect from these guys as the bike got older, and rattier looking, but they just wouldn’t forgive the noise that bike made. Their bikes growled and mine went “Ying... Ying... Ying...Yinnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnng, emitting clouds of blue smoke that matched the color of my eyes.

Toward the end of the last summer I owned this bike, our destination was a gin mill on a dirt road tucked away in rural Pennsylvania. Rumor had it that this watering hole was the preferred location of ladies who were unburdened by extraordinary expectations of men. My companions and I (at the time) were utterly expectationless sperm donors with a few bucks in our pockets. I was anxious to arrive at the bar first. Even women unburdened by expectations know enough to pass on the purple Jap bike if something better is in the offing.

I was well in the lead when I came upon the turn-off for the three-mile long dirt road headed to the bar. But that lead would quickly evaporate when the other guys figured out what I was up to. So I did what any other male would have done under the circumstances — I dragged one foot in the dirt. This created huge clouds of dust that threatened to coat both riders and bikes behind me, unless they pulled over and waited it out.

My bike came to a long, sliding stop right in front of the joint, where a woman tricked out in cut-off jeans and an over-taxed halter top viewed me from the porch. Her hair was as black as a lawyer’s heart and she looked at me like I might be the next life guard in her gene pool. This was cool as I was looking at her pretty much the same way the former Soviet Union used to look at Poland. I put my sunglasses in my shirt pocket and grinned. Then I swung my leg over the saddle, caught it on the sissy bar, and pulled the whole damn bike over on top of me.

The boys showed up about this time, covered with dirt, and found me pinned under my bike with the red hot motor burning my leg through old jeans. They all took a second to spit in my direction before going into the bar. A few seconds later, a woman three times my size and an apparent stranger to teeth, rolled out of the door with a much gummed stump of a cigar protruding from her maw. This woman had to sneak up on her lunch if she were to get the benefit of nourishment.

“Where’s the guy who wants to make out with a real woman,” she cackled.

I screamed and struggled against the bike.

She came off the porch like an avalanche of ugly and caught my head in a vice-lock death grip. Swallowing the cigar, she thrust seven feet of tongue between my lips. It was like having a live turkey’s head moving around in my mouth, but not nearly as appetizing.

The incident left me scarred for life. It would be months before I could smoke a cigar without envisioning that woman, holding my face in hands that could knead baked hams. But more tragic was the thought that my riding buddies could so casually throw me to the wolves.

I pulled myself out from under the Kawasaki, gave it a kick, and left it laying in the dirt. Then I went into the bar and tossed back a couple of doubles of Irish penance (or absolution, depending on your viewpoint). Through cunning and stealth (plus the fact that my riding buddies were hard to take even by women who had no expectations), I managed to get close to the halter top beauty who was out on the porch when I arrived in style.

“That was some entrance,” she said to me over a rum and Coke.

“You mean the part where I pulled the bike over on myself, or the finale, where I got attacked by a savage bar floozie?” I replied.

“That was no savage bar floozie... That’s my mamma,” she said, wide-eyed. “Hey Maaaaaaaa...”

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011


Conchscooter said...

I love my 2007 Bonneville. Starts every time, runs and stops like a champ and some people call the Bonneville bland compared to the old vibrator that leaked oil and shook the rider to pieces in the 1970s. Some compare it, with luggage, to a BMW. Nope, the final drive chain so far has failed to break down ever, unlike shafts on BMWs.
Of course I never got into the sexual scrapes you did. Probably because I was too busy riding.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Vicious Twit Conchscooter:

I have long-since admired your Bonneville for what it is, "a beautiful motorcycle, well-enginered, with an eye for the past, and a strong sense of performance."

There is nothing bland about the bike at all. It is the rider that gives people fits. Motorcycles in the 70's had shitty brakes, screwy tires, bizarre steering, and motors with character that occasionally needed their asses kicked.

I have yet to have a final drive failure and my K75's splines look like brand new. But then again, you would expect that from a machine that came with fuel injection and a tach as standard in 1986.

And by the way, I am envious that you found drug-store-priced side bags for your bike, and only had to drill 250 holes to make them fit. {

In actuality, I forwarded the shots of your bags to a few guys who are interested in getting the option of quality luggage for a very realistic price. You stole those bags... And they look great. I think they look better than the soft bags and will protect the bike when you drop it again. LOL :)}

Fondest regards,
Your Life Coach and Mentor
Jack • reep • Toad

redlegsrides said...

Ok, so now the folks at my new job think I am some nutjob who bursts out laughing while at his computer.....

Great story Jack, the imagery involved with: "It was like having a live turkey’s head moving around in my mouth, but not nearly as appetizing." was quite vivid....

It's good that you have less ruthless riding companions now....though some of the comments I've seen from them lately....

“Hey Maaaaaaaa...” Priceless....


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

Steve Williams said...

Dear Mr. Riepe,

First, you can't say "black as a lawyer's heart." You've already used that phrase in an earlier post and speaking as an advocate for all your readers we expect more from you. So either change her hair to a fiery red and use some other expression or find a new way to characterize that dark mane.

Otherwise, it was a fine tale. Please post a picture of the burn marks when you have a chance.

When I do finally purchase a motorcycle it will won't be anything that goes Ying ying yiiiiiiiinnnnnng. They were fun but hard to get now. And it won't be one of those tired old German things. It will be a Triumph Bonneville. I'm just waiting to get one until I look more like Steve McQueen.

I will attest to the truth of your post, or at least part of it. Dragging a foot on a dry dirt road works well to through off pursuit. It is a basic riding survival skill for all Vespa riders.

Thanks again for the entertainment and education.

Steve Williams
Scooter in the Sticks
Follow me on Twitter

Anonymous said...

That's pretty funny - you being kissed. Ha. Haha. I think I pee'd a little.

Radar said...


Loved your story and suspect at least one of said women were contendors for the first Mrs. Ex-Riepe. I'll let the readers pick.

I've never had a way with women the way you do. I did, however, meet a girl in the park the other evening.

There was an instant spark between us and she immediately dropped to her knees and laid on the grass at my feet.

As we lay making love, I thought,
"These taser guns are well worth the money".

Unknown said...

I cannot believe you do not mention owning a rubber mallet. I own an old pile of shit Honda from '78 and that thing would not run today without the stroke of genius that caused some ape to nail a block of rubber to a stick.

If you didn't know, you can also use repurposed bongs to sync your carbs - if you can find enough sleeping hippies. Otherwise, you can buy a fine tool out of England imbued with Poseidon's ejaculate. It works well, though finding Poseidon was a hell of a lot of work. It saves me time every tune up.

Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life

bunny said...

Ah, memories of River Road! I asked rick if you had a Kawasaki then, and he said you had some kind of piece of shit bike. Mr Happy!

Doc Rogers said...

Hey Jack,
Another story that caused multiple bursts of laughter. To use a phrase from my home state of WV, "You ain't right son." Keep writing!
Doc Rogers

J Strube said...

Jack, love reading your stuff. I only have 2 friends with the same love of all hot females as you & I have & one of them is dead. I think a gal I met back in college took kissing lessons from that huge bar babe you encountered... If you are ever out in Cali, I'll pour you some bourbon. Just keep your mitts off MY hot squeeze!

BMW-Dick said...

Dear Sidekick Jack:
As someone who has instant access to your lopsided view of life and can listen to your bullshit by dialing "1-ADO-UCH-EBAG", I found this posting delightfully entertaining and among some of your best serious writing.

Nikos said...


I used to ride a motorcycle that went ping pang pong and also fell over when riding in front of hot totty.

kind regards from sun drenched Britain


PS I have had a liaison with the Owners Club Journal - a result! (of sorts)

Nikos said...


insert "Editor" some where in the PS

Cantwell said...

Dear Sidekick Jack,

So the what was the name of the well endowed dark haired beauty? And, how long did it take to find out his real name?


Dan Mckenzie said...

“Hey Maaaaaaaa...”

And then what happened? Video? Did it involve some sort in "insertion"? Can't sleep until I know the conclusion...

Allen Madding said...

Hank Williams, Jr. once pondered, "why do the best looking girls have real ugly friends?" I have on several occassions had this question give me pause. I guess this situation is somewhat related.

Pitty the old gal having to find young men trapped under the remains of a Jap bike just to get a little sugar. Reckon she had bear traps set near the front door of her house to catch the post man?

Surely the black haired beauty considered you off limits since maaaa had the eyes for you.

Glad the BMW improved your station in life or else you might have wound up wearing an ankle bracelet in some old ogre's cave.


DC said...

Dear Jack,

You sure have been to some real dives in your day. Surprised we didn't meet sooner.

Happy Easter.


Lady R (Di) said...

LMAO! Karma! That's all I've got to say about that one!! Muwahahahaha!!!

...or maybe that's... Maaaaaa!!

ADK said...

Hey Steve Williams, I would point out that repetition is the purest form of laziness, a topic close to the authors heart. He's been stealing quotes from me for years.

I'd suggest that the description of the raven haired beuty's locks be:

" As black as the empty pit known as Reipe's wallet."

You'll know what I mean if you ever meet him.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear ADK:

While you are offering Steve my wallet, you should also offer to mix him one of your famous cocktails. I kept a goldfish alive for two weeks in the last drink you made for me.

I am making special plans for you this summer... It will be a delight to have you pull up to the BMW Rally on "The Yellow Peril."

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Lady Ridesalot:

I can only roll with the punches, such as they are. I have learned to be a lot more circumspect under new circumstances.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dave:

I seem to recall getting thrown out of a dump one night, and landing on top of you in the gutter.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Taod

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Allen Madding:

I never met a brunette in a bar at closing time who I did not admire for one virture or another. Yet the "beast" taxed my powers of denial to the utmost.

Yet my sainted father once said to me, "If you want to see how the daughter is going to turn out, just look at the mother." Some escapes are more than narrow.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dan:

Here's the conclusion: I bet the old lady ot the door, got the bike picked up, started it on one kick, and fled. Some situations are past saving.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Cantwell (Mike):

That stung... Have you been hanging around Chris Wolfe lately? I doubt it. You'd never ride alogside a piss yellow bike with duct tape. You have too much class for that.

Happy Easter!

Fondest regards,
Jack • Reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Nikos:

If rode a bike that went "Ping... Pang... Pong...," I suspect it was a Chinese scooter. You should have a bumper sticker that says, "I brake and fall over for nice booty."

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dick:

It really pains me when you imply I am a douche-bag. Know why? Because I really admire you and that would mean you were a douchebag's sidekick. And there is only one thing lower than a douce-bag.

Happy Holidays Dick!

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear J Strube:

Pleaae be advised that my wandering, philandering days are over... Unless they're not and just didn't know about it.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Doc Rogers:

I never claimed I was "right," only friendly and eager to please. Women have claimed I was the most eager man they had ever met. They are right.

Happy Easter!

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Bunny (Rita):

He always thought it was a shit bike. How are you and Mr. Happy doing?

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Brady:

I had a 1968 VW Beetle (semi-automatic), which required beating with a rubber mallet when the automatic safety switch would stick — about once every 3 months.

The Kawasaki started up the fitst time — everytime, but once. And I may write about that next.

Happy Easter!

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Radar:

Every woman I ever hooked up with was flat chested, weighed about 125 pounds, and athletic to some degree. And the ones that got away were pretty much the same way too. I had a thing for women tht could kick the shit out of me.

I thought the taser line was funny, and the 75 other guys sent it to me too. But you were first.

Happy Easter...

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Woody:

The true stories are always the best ones.

Happy Easter!

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Scooter In The Sticks (Steve):

I don't know anything blacker than a lawyer's heart. The best description of a color of woman's hair was written by the late great poet Richard Brautigan, who one described it as being pitch black, with tints that only bats could see.

In truth, I love long dark hair... But the color of Leslie's hair, silver/gold, has kept me mesmerized for years. I think you should get a Triumph Bonneville. I understand from Florida-based experts that performance-wise, it is the coset thing you can get to a Vespa.

Happy Easter!

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

My current riding buddles had canned vicious for breakfast. Not only would they throw me to the wolves, but they'd hold me down so the old wolves could feed too.

Glad you got a laugh out of the piece... Happy Easter to you and your family.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad

BeemerGirl said...

If dragging your foot in the dirt and creating a cloud of dust and debris is your way of advancement and camouflage, why aren't you on some other bike that is belching blue smoke and flames to obscure the road for those following, for the same effect? You will always get there first, leaving tons of carnage behind. Much more impressive to the ladies as they flock to you as the soul survivor. :)

-Steel Cupcake

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Steel Cupcake (Lori):

This story happened 35 years ago. If I am dragging a foot in th dust now, it's because I am about to fall off the bike. Happy Easter, and thanks for reading Twisted Roads.

Fondest regards,
Jack • reep • Toad