Monday, June 27, 2011

Sometimes A Person Is The Destination...

There are times when the ride is the destination. And there are times when the destination is not the end of the ride but the begining of the next. And then there are times when the people you meet along the way become a destination unto themselves.

The headlight bobbing in the right mirror was Dick Bregstein, holding the wingman’s position as we cruised down Route 9 in Delaware. I have written about Route 9 several times... It is a one of kind road that spans some of the most beautiful real estate in the eastern U.S. A stone’s throw away from the largest cities in Delaware (Wilmington and Newark), plus the madhouse that is New Jersey, it is a marvel of repose seemingly designed for motorcycles. Tucked away in preserved salt marshes and tidal farms, Bregstein and I refer to this as our “Anti-Amish Run.”

Typicially, Dick and I will head off to Lancaster for more sedate society: horse-drawn buggies, on narrow, high-banked farm roads that wind their way through quant-sounding places like “Intercourse, Bird-In-Hand,” and “Silent Wife, Pa.” (which is close to “Paradise”). But there comes a time when you just feel inclined to exchange the sweet manure-scent and the cackle of crows for the pungent bite of the salt marshes and the screech of gulls. This summer day, four years ago, was just one of those occasions.

We had already passed the cast-iron back-range lighthouse, the town of Taylor’s Bridge, and the nature preserves. We’d run our tires through the high tide seeping over the roadway where the low bridges carried the road over the inlets, and buzzed by the nesting ospreys. We’d seen the huge ships coming up through the mouth of the Delaware, and the huge transport aircraft taking off from Dover Air Force Base. And we’d cruised 36 miles of inland coastal roadway, virtually free of traffic and northing in the way of local police. Yet in truth, I had no desire to speed. It was as if we were touring a bayside version of Mayberry RFD, in 1962.

It’s not enough for me to ride through a particular scenario... I have to taste it. And the farther Dick and I rode along Route 9 that day, the more determined I became to taste the ocean, or at least part of the bay for which Delaware is famous. Yet If Route 9 has a fault, it is a shortage of watering holes where the average biker can pull in to flush the road grit from his throat, or to sample the local cuisine (which in Delaware during the summer is crabs and crab cake, the market price of which is similar to gold).

There is a joint in Port Penn, but that is too near the beginning of the run to stop. (I have never been in there.) A very famous bar and inn patronized by Teddy Roosevelt used to be at Augustine Beach. (He has not been there lately and the place has closed.)There is a fish joint on the water in Leipsic, called Sambo’s. It is alleged to be big on local crab flavor, but the ambience here falters. The bar is unassuming, but not particularly chummy. I’ve had a few snorts there, but didn’t feel inclined to stay.

Bregstein and I were debating cutting over to Chesapeake City, in neighboring Maryland (where the crab and seafood places are shoulder-to-shoulder), when we passed a bar called “The Three Cavaliers.”

“Let’s give it a shot,” I yelled, to which Dick (in his customary good humor) simply nodded. We were backtracking two or three miles when I passed the strangest vehicle on the shoulder. It was a trike, built entirely of wood, including the forks and handlebars, pulling a trailer, also of wood. At the controls was a man, who was apparently 200-years-old, dressed in worn seafaring garb, with a look on his face that clearly said, “Today is another day in my life and go fuck yourself.”

The trike didn’t seem to be making any noise, but was moving along at a good 20-25 miles per hour. I was watching this machine in my mirror, when the old guy waved. I waved back. So did Bregstein.

The Three Cavaliers met my expectations all the way around. The bartender, a gent named Chuck, hustled me a Myers and Coke faster than I could drape my jacket over the back of the barstool. He also recommended we try the crab bisque, the specialty of the house. Now wherever you go in Delaware or Maryland, the specialty of the house will be steamed crabs, crab bisque, or crab cakes — if the place is a seafood joint. And the waiter or the guy behind the bar will swear the place has been famous for this specialty for 90 years, and that people come from Iowa or Rumania, and stand on line in the rain, just to get it. And nine times out of ten, the crabs will just be okay, the bisque or chowder is tolerable, and the crab cakes taste like shit. Now I love crab, clams, oysters, and all kinds of fish, but I used to think great crab cake was a mythical thing, thought up by the Maryland Chamber of Commerce.

The crab bisque at The Three Cavaliers was a signature chowder that could have hung in the Louvre. It was thick, creamy (with real butter and heavy cream), that seemed to act as a lubricant for chunks of crabmeat. And while there seemed to be a hint of Old Bay spice about it, nothing overpowered the taste of the crab. So within the space of 15 minutes, I was immersed in the fragrant aroma of crab, Old Bay, and dark rum in the air conditioned atmosphere of a well-kept gin mill.

Then the door to the bar flew open and in stepped the specter of the misplaced Ahab from the wooden trike. He paused in the doorway, and took stock of the clientele at the bar. Then despite that only two of the 14 or so seats were occupied by Bregstein and I, he sat down next to me.

And my first unkind thought of the day was, “How do these people find me?”

“Hello Captain,” said the bartender to the apparition-like character. “The usual?”

Not only was the guy well-known, but he was respected enough to have a usual, which turned out to be a pint glass of beer.

The “Captain” had a fascinating story. He was not a fishing captain, but a retired captain of infantry from WWII. He lived in a shack on a nearby beach under the most amazing conditions. The shack was on property that had been acquired by the federal government, or the state government, or some fucking government. The captain was grandfathered into this living arrangement. When he died, or left, the shack passed to whatever government agency had brokered the deal. The shack, which had been his home for years, had no electricity or running water.

The “Captain” made a kerosine run twice a month, with his trike and trailer, carrying 25 gallons of fuel out to the shack to boil water, to cook, and to fill his lanterns. He also made a water run once a week too. He had lost his license at some point, and built the trike himself. It was powered by an electric motor he got someplace, and by eight car batteries hooked up in a series.

And then this amazing individual cut me down a notch.

“Please give this gentleman a drink,” the Captain said to Chuck.

I was astounded, and clinked his glass ceremoniously.

When my glass was again empty, I tried to buy him one.
“The Captain is limited to one drink per day,” said Chuck, with a knowing smile. “He is a man of excitable temperament.”

Dick and I left the Captain at the bar, where he and Chuck were ruminating like Republicans. Outside, we examined the trike and the trailer. It was a rough-hewn piece of work held together by a lot of basic hardware.

“This is one tough old guy,” said Bregstein. At the time, Dick was riding a BMW F650, painted in a dignified Howard-Johnson’s orange. “Think he’d take your bike in trade for the trike?”

“He sure as hell wouldn't take yours,” I replied.

I regret to report that the Three Cavaliers did not survive the ongoing economic slump. It was closed and listed "For Sale" when I last went by, a few weeks ago.

Twisted Road Readers Check-In:

From Ed Zachary Wright

In a warm personal note to me, Ed Zachary Wright said, “I was describing your prose style to the S.O. (who is also a writer, but of the grant-getting variety) and summed you up as "Dave Barry meets Hunter Thompson and they go pick up P.J. O'Rourke and all go out for and drink and to get laid."

Of his new Ducati Diavel, he says, “That Diavel truly is the most astonishing motorcycle I have ever ridden since I got my first Honda Mini Trail 50 in 1968. It has all the intuitive competence of the Ducati 848 Superbike I traded in, but with much more power, and luxurious comfort. It really is a superbike for old farts like us. You need to seek one out and ride it. Then sell whatever it takes to buy it. PLUS they've done whatever it took to push the dreaded valve adjust interval (which costs a left nut) out to 15,000 miles. Life just keeps getting better and better...

Ed Zachary Wright and his BMW GS and new Ducati Diavel.
The GS is the yellow one in the background. The two are often confused.

From Robert Haskins

This dedicated Twisted Roads reader has been following my work for years. Robert Haskins wrote, "You certainly tell a fine tale and can sculpt a phrase as smooth as a coed's ass, or a well turned pool cue. Speaking of asses, I'm through kissing yours, now."

Robert Haskins as he appeared to me in a dream.

Robert Haskins and his 1985 Yamaha Virago, still looking like it did right out of the showroom.

From Carl Carlson

What is it about New Hampshire where they seem to give folks the same name twice? Carl Carlson was good enough to write "I have been enjoying your blog ever since discovering it via the BMWOA mag articles… it’s actually quite addictive! And, I also love the positive reinforcement for my K75 which, as you have probably experienced, draws stares of disbelief from many of our riding brethren."

Carl Carlson on his 1993 K75, with Russell saddles.

A closer look at Carl Carlson's 1993 BMW K75RT. The older-style Russell saddles provide a unique look to this bike, while dramatically boosting rider comfort. The fairing on this RT is in pretty good shape, though Carl agrees the civilian version of the crash bars are not as functional as the authority bars, though sleeker.

From Stu Goodall

Everyone knows that Canadians cannot tell a lie. Stuart Goodall confesses, "I have not read your blogs in a long time." (He doesn't even pretend to like them.)

Stu Goodall's 1993 K75 FX — a former Toronto Police "Authority" bike. Stu really liked the BMW "Taxi" paint scheme and thought it would really add something to the K75. Note the additional authority bars in the back, as well as the broad set in the front.

The business end of Stu Goodall's K75 "Authority Taxi" is big on lights,
with this unique arrangement, also sporting dual horns. With the
black fork gaiters, this bike does have a rather commanding presence.

From William John Woods

Once again, my writing style seems to have appealed to another rider. Bill Woods graciously writes, "I'm looking forward to reading your book. I'm taking it with me on a trip to the Gaspe Peninsular in a couple of weeks. Your sarcastic wit reminds me of the writings of Jimmy Breslin and Howie Carr."

Bill Woods is the genius and crafting hand behind Ogunquit Wooden Toy, a source of beautiful wooden baby rattles and other wooden toys made from selected native and exotic hardwoods and finished with walnut oil and beeswax. These enduring wooden works of art can be seen here.

William John Woods on his Honda ST1300, tearing up the gravel in Maine. This bike is loaded for bear.

From Mike Peters

Mike Peters, a professional photographer who senses human attributes in motorcycles, wrote, "I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for all of your wonderful stories about motorcycles, friendship and adventure. Although we've never met, I feel like I know you. One of these days.

"By the way, notice how the jugs on the Guzzi are upright and perky like a young lady sans enhancement? Not like those droopy air and oil head jugs, hanging off to the side, all used up and tired looking. I'm sure you can appreciate the difference."

Mike, I ride a "K" bike, which has a dick. I'll wave it when I pass you.

Mike Peters, confirmed perky Moto Guzzi "Goose" rider, and Twisted Roads Reader

Mike Peters's Moto Guzzi "Goose" on a recent run to West Virginia and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Got a cool picture to share and a line or two to cast into cyber print? Then send them both to (.) Mark the subject line "Twisted Roads Readers Check In."

A special episode of Twisted Roads will run on Wednesday, in addition to the Thursday post. This is in advance of the BMW MOA Rally in Bloomsburg, Pa, July 21 — July 24, 2011.
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011 — All rights reserved


Chris said...

another great read Jack! I would have loved to see a photo of the wooden trike.

Not sure if I can make the rally now. There is some stupidness at work that threatens the funding for the ride.

Cantwell said...

Dear Jack,
I would have been ironic if the 'Captain' slid into the stool next to you and lisped 'hello sailor".
See you soon,

BMW-Dick said...

Dear Jack:
This was,indeed, a delightful run through salt marshes filled with the smell of dead fish and the excitement of sand, gravel, and salt water flowing over the pockmarked road. I noticed that you left out the part where you bugged the shit out of Captain about the whereabouts of Tennile (Imagine what she must look like in 2011). I was saddened to hear the Three Cavaliers is no more, having fallen victim to a faltering economy created by a dearth of political leadership. It was a nice joint run by friendly people who served up good food and excellent memories at a reasonable price.

redlegsrides said...

Jack, a nice tale of meeting an old veteran...and as Chris said, pics of that trike would have been nice.

Did he have tales to tell or did you really ask him where Tenille was? ;)


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

ADK said...

"It’s not enough for me to ride through a particular scenario... I have to taste it."

Ho, Ho, Ho, Ho,.......Hee, Hee, Hee, Hee,..... Haw, Haw, Haw, Haw.....!

Unknown said...

Glad to see you're back around, Jack. The internest is a little dry without you.

Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Brady:

That was a very nice thing to say. I have my hands full at the moment, but it's all good.

I sincerely hope you intend to pursue your blog in some shape or another while in Germany. The truth is that you are good writer, and a good communicator.

I am facing challenges on four fronts, but have never felt more alive... And never more likely to realize my personal ambitions. I regret not being able to get a ride in with you before your departure.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear ADK (Chris Wolfe):

You and Cantwell are like athlete's foot and clap. I don't know whether to scratch or go blind. We need to chat son to formalize the plans for the rally week. And I may want to consult with you on another issue. Are you going to be home tnight?

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

He was one of the most interesting people I had run into on the road in a long time. I liked him a lot. In fact, he was so far from the c oncept of "derelect" that I am going back and editing that word out of the story.

He spoke of marching a company of men through Normandy and Europe, and I realized that those days may have ben the pinacle of his life. Yet here he was getting through day after day, camping out in the wooden structure that he called home. You know, there are days when I am the perfect ashole.

There was a bigger story to tell avout the Three Cavaliers, but I didn't know how to go about it. Maybe tomorrow.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dick:

I know that you know there is a much bigger story to tell about the Three Cavaliers, and I started to go into it, but turned chicken shit and walked away. I decided not to tell that story because I didn't want any trouble or accusations. But I think I will write that piece for tomorrow.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Cantwell (Michael):

Just what are you implying?

Nevermind... This guy was old, thin, and worn, but enduring. He knew he was bucking the system, and you could tell he was losing ground. I wonder where he is drinking that single beer a day now. (I don't think there was another place within range of that trike.) I wonder what sympathetic bartender is watching out for him now?

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Chris (Luhman):

I don't think I really did the old captain justice. And in those days, I never carried a camera. That ride was the sort of thing Dick Bregstein would go on to humor me. I didn't make his last couople of lunch rides, and he managerd to go 250 miles between the soup and the sandwich.

There is a lot of "stupidness at work" going around these days. Despite the bullshit Washington is spewing about an increased economy, I don't think things are getting better on the workfront anyplace.

Please keep me posted. There are several great bloggers coming to hear me speak at that rally and I am going to reserve seats for all of them in the front.

Fondest regards,

ADK said...

Hey Pops, Home tonight after 8:30 or so.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Chris (ADK):

Pops my ass you grey-haired mutha.


Bluekat said...

Great post, but I was hoping for a pic of the trike (and Captain) as well. Sound like a couple of very interesting characters...the Captain and the trike!

OMG, all this talk of Captain and Tenille, I had to google them. Still around and they have a website. Is that scary or what?

Unknown said...


The blog will continue. I have no idea in what format, but I keep writing; I need somewhere to put it.

Maybe I'll head back East next summer. I'm guessing I won't have a machine in Germany so I'll be itching to ride around the country when I get back. If your bones haven't dried up by then, maybe we can connect for a ride - provided I can actually arrange it AND, I don't die of e.coli or a freak stein-related accident.

Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life

Anonymous said...

Mr. Riepe,
It's an honor to find myself on your blog. Adhering to the Twisted Roads tradition, and in anticipation of my new found fame, I ran out and purchased a felt tipped marker with which to autograph various body parts of the female persuasion. I'm happy to report that there's now a wooden leg with your name on it.

Robert Haskins

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Robert Haskins:

That's how it starts, slowly at first. But if you get a K75, women will start lifting their shirts and askig you to sign other things. You had an interesting picture, Robert. The one in the fog was cool, but the bike is a real piece of art too.

I hope our paths eventually cross and we get to ride together at some point.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jack Riepe said...

Dear Brady:

Fols seem to have little or no trouble renting motorcycles in Euroope, and I think you will probably get a kick out of riding in Germany. The Autobahns are like Disney World for high speed machinery... But learn what all the bizarre traffic astymbols are for. For example the vertical bars indicate in hundreds of meters how fast the high-speed road runs out.

And I have every reason to believe that I will still not only be writing moto stuff, but will have expanded my repertoire by next summer. I look forward to riding with you.

Have a good time in Europe.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear BlueKat:

As I said previously, there was a vtime whewn I simply didn't carry a camera, nor did I take a lot of pictures of things. Now only a few years later, I wish I had documented morew of my travels and the people I've met.

Fondest regards,

Classic velocity said...

Dear Jack, I need to make it down to Delaware and Maryland to check out this scenic and cullinary wonderland you and Bregstein have found. Only you could find a wooden trike ridden by capt Ahab while drinking rum. All you were missing was the jolly roger!!