Wednesday, August 31, 2011

"Twisted Roads Day At Hermy's BMW"

Saturday, August 27th, 2011 — The morning Hurricane Irene made landfall...

There was no doubt that all hell was coming. The news casters were painting a picture of total disaster 12 hours before the first rain drops started to fall. Storm tracks shared by every major news network showed little variation in the path of the hurricane — dubbed Irene — as it carved its way northward. One of those noodle-like storm tracks, the purple one, showed Hurricane Irene passing between the kitchen and the living room of this house. Experts claimed that the eye of the storm would look in the bedroom window around 2am and wink at my soon-to-be-former girlfriend’s ass, before passing on.

Yet on this sunless, windless, soul-less Saturday morning, I felt like Frodo Baggins: determined to spit in that eye as if the storm had been named “Hurricane Sauron.”

It was the Saturday morning calm before the storm, and I was slated to hand out coffee and donuts up at Hermy’s — the enduring BMW and Triumph dealer, on Route 61 in Port Clinton, Pa. August 27th had been declared “Twisted Roads” day at Hermy’s, a date upon which I would write and publish my blog from the showroom floor, garnering some of the funniest or most unusual stories from riders converging on the premises. Hermy’s is more than just a dealership... It’s starting point of many rides headed north and west. It is where riders meet to seek counsel from their peers, and to trade falsehoods as if they were commodities on Wall Street. What better exchange could there be for Twisted Roads?

Above) With it's cut stone facade, Hermy's BMW and Triumph is more like a gentleman's club. Photo by Leslie Marsh.

With its cut-stone facade and country store-like atmosphere, Hermy’s is more of a gentleman’s club than a dealership. (I have often said that I’d never leave if this place had a bar.) A line of understated Teutonic mechanical perfection stretches from the door to the service counter. A parallel line of Britannic engineering, coupling hot new motors (that now retain oil as opposed to filtering it en route to the ground) with elegant styling snakes through the rear of the showroom. This dealership has been a fixture in Port Clinton since 1963, when it first offered the BMW R60/2 for sale.

Above) The BMW line-up takes center stage at Hermy's. Like Henry Ford's Model "T," black used to be the predominant color. No longer. Photo by Leslie Marsh

I arrived “a la entourage,” accompanied by Dick Bregstein, my wingman through many adventures. Dick lifted up the face-shield of his helmet, and scanned the darkening sky for the coming storm storm every time we stopped at a light. While dramatic, this was strange as we were riding in a Subaru SUV. (You don’t ask a lot of questions with Dick.) But it was perfect riding weather, with temperatures around 73º (F), no sun, and light breezes. Yet the humidity hung in the air like an unspoken settlement at one of my divorce proceedings.

Above) Herman "Hermy" Baver... Photo by Leslie Marsh

BMW riders have any number of ritualistic greetings for each other, such as, “Vas is lösse?” This roughly translates to “How’s it hanging,” and I am always surprised to hear it exchanged between women. (Then again, it is no surprise that female BMW riders have balls.) On the morning of the hurricane, I was greeted by, “You better have the friggin’ donuts...” This was from Dave MacVaugh — the “Combat Plumber.” MacVaugh was a Seabee, one of the US Navy’s combat engineers, whose motto is, “We Build... We fight!” MacVaugh rode 39 miles from the hamlet of Zion Hill, one of eight “hell and brimstone-themed” communities in Bucks County, and was out to beat the “wrath of heaven” before the storm came.

MacVaugh’s bike of choice is a 1992 R100R, with an immaculate paint job. Though admitting to be terrified of hurricanes, spiders, and circus clowns, he felt compelled to get to Hermy’s for a “one or two little parts” and his free donut.

“I had no intention of wasting my time attending a Twisted Roads event,” said MacVaugh. “In fact, I went on record as saying it would take an earthquake and a hurricane in the same week to get me out here for a Twisted Roads gig. That was when the house started to shake...”

The story MacVaugh had to tell was nothing out of the ordinary, so I didn’t use it. Yet a story told to me about MacVaugh was worthy of print.

The Tale of the Combat Plumber:

“Dave MacVaugh is a world-class wood-worker with the kind of tools and skill that enable him to recreate anything, working in the kind of precious woods that are as hard as steel and harvested from hard-to-reach places where cannibalism is the norm,” or so said the nameless narrator of this story. “It seems MacVaugh was approached by a former serviceman whose wife was being shipped out to Afghanistan. She wanted a small, folding table of a unique design she’d seen somewhere, and her husband thought it was something MacVaugh could do in his spare time.”

According to the narrator, “The husband was the average Joe who just wanted to do something nice for his wife. He had no idea of the time and labor that would go into a project of this nature. The man figured that MacVaugh might have some lumber handy — pine or whatever — and be able to utilize hardware and hinges he had in jars to assemble a table that would fold, but not come apart. This couple had children, and money and patience would be tight with one of the bread-winners toeing the line against Al-Qaeda insurgents, in a place that would make hell look like paradise.

“MacVaugh studied the former serviceman as he described his wife; how of all the things that would make her life more bearable under combat conditions, what she wanted most was this little table; a place to put pictures of her kids (and presumably her husband); a place that represented her space; a place that she could pack up and take with her when the call came to move closer to the front.

The former serviceman thought he was describing a table... But MacVaugh got the impression that the guy was defining a romance; going into detail about something enduring, something that was binding and stable; yet capable of yielding to circumstances, and unfolding again, into its original form. The man thought he was ordering a piece of furniture... But MacVaugh heard him order a valentine.

The wood selection was easy.

These few pieces of wood had grown to maturity in the shadow of a volcano. As branches, they had defied ants that lived in battalions, that warred like huns, and voted and collected taxes like Democrats. This wood had frustrated termites, and blunted the primitive tools of four-foot-high men who wore jaguar skulls on their heads, and poisonous snake fangs in their foreskins. These few pieces of wood came from a tree that was living before the Spanish had given names to most of South America, and cost as much as the tables in some Fortune 500 boardrooms.

“What the hell?” thought Dave MacVaugh. “His wife needs a table.”

The former serviceman came to pick it up two weeks later. He marveled at its compactness, and at its smoothness of operation. He also noted its density, and its surprising heft.

“Hefty enough to sustain small arms fire,” thought MacVaugh. But what he said was, “No charge.”

The Dazzling Blonde’s Tale:

Rick and Linda Sorensen are typical of the fabric that bind the members of the Mac-Pac, the premier chartered BMW riding club serving southeastern Pennsylvania. Whether they are planning a pig roast for 85 (at a BMW MOA Rally), or organizing the club’s White Elephant Christmas Dinner, they can be found in thick of things, guaranteeing the event is moving smoothly and according to plan. Both are accomplished GS riders and think nothing of a two-day jaunt to Colorado from Philadelphia. Rick Sorensen is the world’s nicest guy... Though he’s got a sense of humor like a pointed stick, which he occasionally shoves in my eye.

Rick and Linda Sorensen have stopped aging. This is less evident with Rick, because I do not look carefully at men. (Yet I do not want the gentle reader to think I am looking carefully at Linda either.) But I am a moto-writer, and I am compelled to note when someone’s gear fits them well. Linda’s gear fits her like she is 29-years-old. (I know this because I recently looked carefully at a 29-year-old performance artist.) On the other hand, I am aging a year for every third meal I eat.

Rick and Linda rolled into Hermy’s last Saturday with the look of folks on a mission.

Rick’s bike needed tires, and Linda’s was in for routine maintenance. The threat of a hurricane was not judged to be sufficient to lose their place on the shop schedule. Linda was good enough to chat with me while Rick was distracted with tire selection.

“You know all those stories about BMW riders being somewhat nerdy to the extreme?” asked Linda. “Well there’s more than a grain of truth to it.”

Linda went on to describe a motorcycle function she’d attended where the party characteristics of a marque known for its leather, chrome, and tattoos had been liberally shared with a roundel riding club whose idea of fun was solving calculus problems and stamp collecting. While Linda never actually used the word “douche” to describe a large subset of these Teutonic riders, the manner in which she rolled her eyes suggested she knew of a few.

“At one point in the evening, a topless dancer of grace and exceptional beauty was standing alongside a 1976 BMW R90S, lovingly restored to the point where the supple curves of the machine were the perfect compliment for those of the woman, which were apparently tanned, flawless, and uncovered.

“This was normal for at least one type of biker party where tattoos are considered the equal of riding gear,” said Linda, “but somewhat extraordinary for airhead riders who will swoon over valve adjustments. Yet slowly but surely, a roundel rider approached the dancer and made an attempt at small talk... The guy looked her right in the eye and asked if the R/90S was wearing the original paint.

“The dancer flashed a perfect smile. When she spoke, it was with a soft voice that was a smooth and seamless as her tan,” explained Linda. “‘ The bike isn’t mine,’ replied the dancer to the roundel rider. ‘Is that a pina colada you're drinking?’”

The roundel rider claimed it was a pina colada, and that they had them at a bar down at the far end of the room. Noting that the R/90S had 650,000 miles on the clock, and that the control buttons on the handlebars hadn’t yet faded, he gave off a slow whistle of admiration.

“Hey Clyde,” the roundel rider yelled to a guy in the crowd. “Come here... You have to see these. They’re perfect.”

Clyde ambled over, smiled at the topless woman (who could have been featured on any page in Maxim Magazine), and asked her if the bike was a 1975 R/90S or a 1976?

“She doesn’t know...” replied the first roundel rider, with an edge of annoyance that implied the word "anyhing" at the end of the sentence. His name was Pete. “It’s not her bike... But a load of this mileage.”

It was then Clyde’s turn to express wonder and amazement. “Do you think this is the original paint?” he asked the first guy.

Once again, the topless dancer, who’s name was Tina, asked Clyde if he too was drinking a pina colada. Clyde answered “yes,” without looking up from the R90S, and added they had them down at the far end of the room.

The first roundel rider shrugged and asked, “Do you think Gerry might know if this is the original paint?”

So Clyde and Pete called to Gerry from the crowd, who had the presence of mind to bring a camera. Five minutes later, the three of them had the topless dancer — with the perfect body that was barely wearing a “g” string and nothing else — take a picture of the three of them clustered around the R90S’s odometer. Then according to Linda, they sent the topless dancer to find the bar at the end of the room — to return with three more pina coladas. (It is rumored the topless dancer left with a red K75 rider.)

Linda Sorensen is not the type who would tell a lie, and I may have met these BMW riders at the Bloomsburg Rally.

The Tale Of The Unhappy Man...

Nothing breaks the ice among riders like passing around several dozen donuts and cups of hot coffee, provided it is in the morning, and all are waiting for the storm of the century to let loose. (Had it been in the evening and around a campfire, the donuts would have been replaced by a bottle of Irish fire.) It was under the auspices of a custard-filled, chocolate frosted Dunkin Donuts belly bomber that I met Dave Curci.

Dave Curci looks like your average BMW rider: fearless, guileless, and beyond letting hurricanes and earthquakes interfere with his riding. Yet it was obvious that the man had been through a traumatic experience that may leave him scarred for life.

“Have another chocolate-drenched, custard-filled ass expander,” I said, offering him enough calories from Dunkin Donuts to keep a New England family alive through winter. “Then tell me your story.”

There is a possibility that Dave Curci may not smile again soon.

“I parked my 2007 R1200ST in the lot of Residence Inn in Philadelphia, not far from the airport, where I was spending the night,” said Curci. “I locked the forks, and checked into the property. While I couldn’t actually see the bike from my room window, I watched a white van cruise through the parking lot, briefly pause, then go.”

Curci shook his head sadly at this point in the brief narrative. “It now occurs to me I actually saw the theft of my bike. A half hour later, security reported the space in which my bike was parked was now empty,” he said.

The authorities are of the impression that that van pulled into the lot and stopped, while two or three guys jumped out, picked up the motorcycle’s front end, and dragged it into the truck.

Above) Dave Curci's stolen 2007 R1200St, one of 50 imported into the US.

“The van could have pulled away with the guys steadying the bike inside, before pulling over to secure the motorcycle someplace down the road,” added Curci. Curci’s 2007 R1200ST is a very rare model, with only 50 just like it imported to the US. A picture of the motorcycle is provided here, in the event anyone is offered this rig for sale. While the machine is insured, Dave Curci would rather have the motorcycle back, preferably intact and not badly abused. If you see this bike anyplace, or think you may know where this machine is, please contact Twisted Roads immediately at:

The Tale Of The Haul Road Rider...

Gary Christman is on his second BMW GS. It’s not that he wore the first one out on one of his many trips to the arctic circle, or to Hudson’s Bay, or to any one of a dozen places where whale blubber and seal fins are chewed like candy... It’s just that he likes to have the newest suspension refinements, horsepower upgrades, and other advantages of a later model.

“I was chewing through the gravel of the Haul Road, making damn good time over miles and miles of empty country and clear skies, when I got the call to pull over,” said Christman. “Despite having a suspension designed to convert ruts, potholes, and washboard stretches into smiles and memories, the old kidneys still take a hazing and when you gotta go, you gotta go.

Above) Gary Christman with his second GS, rode out to Hermy's for "Twisted Roads Day." Note the bright red earplugs, and where they are dangling. Photo by the author.

“There was absolutely no point in standing on ceremony,” added Christman. “We were in the middle of absolute nowhere, and I brought my GS to a perfunctory halt on the side of the road. I dismounted, opened my fly, and attended to business. Yet after a few seconds, I detected no satisfying arc of trajectory. Glancing down, I discovered that my earplugs, dangling on their tether, had interrupted the flow, turning the arc into a cascade.

Above) Note the bright orange/red earplugs, dangling on their tether.

“Circumstances being what they were, it was hard to conceal this development from my fellow riders... Who expressed their sympathy with peals of derisive laughter,” said Christman. “Needless to say, I rode the next few days with the sound of the engine, the noise of the road, and the moan of the wind loud in my ears.”

The Tale of The Man Who Was Sold By A Tank of Gas...

Mark Frumkin is a 30-year veteran member of the BMW Motorcycle Owners of America, and has been coming into Hermy’s Triumph and BMW since the shop first opened its doors.

“I used to hang around here when Hermy’s father, the original Hermy Baver, was running this place,” said Frumkin. “I was into British bikes in those days. I had a 1968 Triumph Tiger... You couldn’t beat the looks and sound of a British bike back then. They were selling BMW’s here, but they were strange-looking things — with engines that stuck out sideways. They didn’t sound like motorcycles either.

Above) Mark Frumkin, and his K1600 GTL, more than 30 years of BMW's

“Well I pulled in here one day, and Hermy’s dad pointed to a black R65 parked out front, and yelled, ‘Hey Frump... Take that bike down to the gas station and fill the tank for me.’ So I fired it up, snicked it into gear, and ran it down to the pumps.”

Frumkin smiled, and slowly shook his head. “I took the long way back from the gas station, putting that bike through its paces. The seating position... The way it handled... The way it accelerated... And the way it started... Everything impressed me.

“I pulled that bike back into the lot, found a screwdriver, and switched the plates with my Triumph,” said Frumkin. “That was it. That R65 was mine.”

Mark Frumkin must like the marque. His current ride is a BMW K1600 GTL, with custom paint. Mark told me another story, which he titled, “Shaken, Not Stirred.” But that’s for another time.


I got a ton of emails and notes from riders in New Jersey and Maryland, who had planned on attending this event... But who decided to play it smart with the unpredictability of the weather. Bregstein and I pulled out shortly after noon, laughing at the dire predictions of the weather guessers.

We drove into a solid wall of water 10 minutes later. It didn’t last, but was only a brief taste of what was to come. Twenty-four hours later, dozens of roads would be blocked by fallen trees and more than a million people would be without power.


Take the poll at the upper right, and cast your vote for the best story. Your vote should be motivated by which tale had the greatest impact on your emotions, bringing you to laughter or tears.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Virtual Test For Motorcycle Awareness...

“Is it true that you are a writer?” asked my friend, the manager of the diner I occasionally frequent for lunch.

Glancing from side to side to make sure he hadn’t been overheard, I leaned forward and hissed, “Yes, but keep your voice down. Most people think I am a piano player in a whorehouse and I don’t want to lose my standing in the community.”

As it turns out, the manager (whose name is Spiros) has an adolescent daughter who is struggling with “composition” in high school, and wanted to know if there was anything I might be able to do to help... Tips or tricks that I could show her. I like this guy a lot. There have been dozens of times when I wandered into this place, in search of the ubiquitous soup and salad, only have him say, “The cook is from a province of northern Greece, and he is making something special today for the kitchen help and the waiters. Why don’t I bring you some of that? No charge, if you don’t like it.”

I have never “not liked it,” and many times there was no charge anyway. (I have never been able to figure this out.)

And so I met his daughter “Antonia,” a 15-year-old beauty whose lithe frame seemed to walk two inches above the pavement. Though somewhat reserved, she was very much the quintessential teenager in that her rate of texting matched the heartbeat of a squirrel in coitus. Yet when she spoke, her speech was devoid of the word “like,” which the average high schooler uses 72 times per minute, “Like, you know?”

Antonia seemed slightly self-conscious at working with me in a booth at her father’s diner. She found the table covered with sample papers, diagrams, and my laptop, which was tuned-in to a Harley Davidson blog, where the women were wearing tattoos and evil thoughts.

“You must be Antonia,” I said, hitting a key that switched the screen to a backdrop of the Acropolis. “Do you know why we had to meet here in the diner?” The question was purely rhetorical as I answered it without giving the poor kid a chance... “Because you’re too young to meet me in bar. Let’s get started.”

Since Antonia is a perfectly normal kid, with a zest for life and her whole zestful life in front of her, her decision to chuck high school composition was an understandable one. Her intense dislike of composition was twofold: one, the rules of English grammar rival Dutch Maritime Law for red hot interest; and two, her teacher has a face like a cat’s ass, all round, pink, and puckered.

Personally, I don’t think English composition is taught correctly these days. Some kids will be writers, and they need the pure, uncut, snort of the real thing. But millions of others simply need to be taught how to effectively communicate ideas on paper, in a manner that will ultimately support their conversational skills as well. (There will be a terrible price to pay for raising a generation that thinks in terms of 140 characters, “like, FaceBook, like you know,” unless of course we’re talking about campaign speeches.) All I wanted her to do was chat for a bit, so I could show her that good writing wasn’t much more difficult than simply speaking. So I asked her, “What do you like to do in your spare time?”

The first answer was mind-numbing. If left to her own devices, she would sleep 15 hours a day. For the other nine, she would play on-line video games.

“What kind of games,” I asked. “Can you show me on my computer?”

Thirty seconds later, I watched this genteel beauty systematically slaughter a legion of flesh-eating zombies, using an assault rifle, a flame-thrower, and white-phosphorous grenades. (She took out a sidewalk-full of panic-stricken bystanders, as the penalty for eliminating the innocent as “collateral damage” is much less than the bonus points awarded for killing the flesh-eating lobbyists at the top of the zombie food chain.) However, what amazed me the most was the detail in the graphics.

It looked real...

Several hundreds of the zombies were bikers, astride twin-cylinder cruisers and choppers that were realistic to the point where they leaked oil, stalled, and deafened those who were shortly to be eaten. You could count the the bolt-heads on the engine casings. And their maneuvering was virtually flawless. Their bikes turned, pivoted, wheelied, stoppied, and left burn-outs with precision. It was then I noticed that the rest of the game was the same way.

The greatest threat facing motorcycle riders today is the left-turning moron, facing into the sun, with a cell phone glued to his or her ear, driving a minivan filled with screaming kids. I would take a roomful of fleshing-eating lobbyists over this scenario any day of the week. The second greatest threat is any part of the above combo, enhanced by rain, darkness, gravel, and stupid deer (moose, elk, chickens, etc.) wandering out into the road. But nothing is a dangerous as a stupid driver reading email, chatting on a cell phone, eating a super, mega-fat burger, or programing a GPS at 67 miles-per-hour.

Their excuse for vehicular manslaughter is always the same: “I didn’t see the motorcycle.”

My thought is to provide a taste of this situation, without the tragedy, by adding an inter-active eye-test/motorcycle cognizance segment to the standard driving test. Applicants would be required to play an on-line game where they would have to pick out the motorcycle in traffic, and correctly maneuver around or toward it, as per the traffic situation. Now since the average high-school boy might exit one of these tests with the attitude, “Got me three bikers,” there should be a penalty for loosing. Failure to correctly pass this test could result in a probational approval, with the potential for higher insurance rates.

Or, if the failure in the interactive part of the test resulted in the theoretical fatality of the virtual rider, the license could be denied. Personally, at this juncture in the test, I think it would be fine if six bikers then came out from behind a screen and beat the living shit out of the applicant, saying things like, “Can you see us now, you stupid asshole?” I think we should put this level of technology to work. What do you think? Leave a comment. Let me know.


Twisted Roads Day At Hermy’s Tire and Cycle
August 27, 2011... 9am - 2 pm

Jack Riepe will be writing and posting Twisted Roads directly from the showroom floor of Hermy's BMW and Triumph on August 27, 2011. His goal is to meet and greet the real road warriers, coming in for a hard-to-find part, a sought-after bargain, or a word of advice from the experts who've been here since 1963. Got a story to tell? You could be the guest author in a Twisted Roads slot — and win a valuable prize to boot. Door prizes given out periodically. Consolation prizes will be awarded to the first and second runner up.

Have coffee and donuts with Jack Riepe... And listen to a few of his stories:
• Why the jaws of life are mounted on the back of his bike!
• How a motorcycle saved his first three marriages!
• Lines women never believe and always swallow!

Hermy’s is located on Route 61 (Southbound), Port Clinton, Pa. The shop is only 5 minutes north of the interchange with I-78 (Hamburg, Pa) and is an easy ride from New Jersey and Maryland.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011

Saturday, August 20, 2011

When Biker Instincts and Reflexes Pull You Down...

Nothing aggravates the motorcycle purist like scratches on the gas tank or the windscreen. Unless your daily mount is akin to a BMW GS or a KTM machine, where scrapes are a measure of the street cred, a scratch translates into “something done stupidly.” This story finds me in the driveway (late spring of 2006), applying a thin film of ordinary toothpaste to several semi-deep scratches in the plexiglass on a Sprint Fairing, mated to a 1986 BMW K75. According to my pal, Lee Kazanas, simple toothpaste (not a gel type) can buff out windscreen scratches when carefully massaged over the wounded area in a circular motion.

“These scratches are too damn deep,” I thought, feeling the micro-slashes in the plastic under my finger tips. “But maybe...” And then my thoughts drifted as to how I got those scratches.


There is a place in the state of New Jersey where a two-lane road (with a “US” prefix) runs along a river that is so pretty it might just as well be someplace else. This is in a part of the “Garden State” where there is still corn in the fields, cows behind fences, and the occasional piece of slow-moving farm equipment clattering on the pavement. I’d taken possession of a vintage blue Beemer the year before and had yet to make the acquaintance of other riders, and so found myself branching out on solo runs of a 75-to 100-mile radius of my home, close to the Brandywine River, in Pennsylvania.

While I have a preference for going like hell on the more picturesque slabs (interstates), there is a time for meandering along country roads. The scenery is softer and the air is better, for sure. You can smell every cut blade of grass, every flower in bloom, every brush fire on every farm lot, and every cow flop within a mile of the road. On the subject of manure... City-bred sophisticates too readily determine this distinctive aroma as originating from a type of “shit,” which causes the more genteel among them to make a face, while twisting the throttle. Having ridden through Amish country about 4,000 times in spring, when the fields are being lubed with a slurry of manure and water, I can assure you this is one of the purest aromas in life, and one that restoreth the soul. (I strongly urge wearing a tight-fitting face shield, however. There are 6 billion flies in the air during this time of the year, a healthy percentage of which will buzz right into your open mouth. Guess where they were standing moments before?)

I was buzzing along easy, at or just below the 50 mph speed limit, taking in the local sights. A river with some repute as a trout stream was on my right. Finding pure, undisturbed nature in New Jersey is tough. One of the smallest states in the Union, there are 12 million people per square foot* living here (by average), and each drives three cars (at the same time). Traffic on I-80, which runs right through northern New Jersey, routinely backs up from the Denville Hill to the rings of Saturn. I like fishing, but it takes the kind of concentration required of a formal Japanese tea ceremony to tune out passing traffic while bobbing for rainbow trout. If fish could hock loogies, rainbow trout would use my creel as a spittoon. Consequently I like to commune with them in a vacuum of artificial sound and distraction, like on stretches of the AuSable River (at base of Whiteface Mountain) in the Adirondacks, where I can hear them clear their little throats.

Above: The 1986 K75 known as "Blue Balls," on its way to a solo run New Jersey... Not knowing the trap was set.

Other local sights included pastoral fields, solitary farmhouses, and little towns, like Butzville, NJ (actual place), which should be on America’s most endangered crossroads. The small, agrarian community is the soul of the “Garden State.” Gem-like towns such as Peapack, Gladstone (now virtually one community), and Knowleton, were the reason colonists took up the musket and explained the parameters of American philosophy to free-booting British noblemen and Hessian war whores. New Jersey** was the cornerstone of the “Fuck you... We’re not doing that,” approach to government decree, which is still prevalent there to this day. But real estate in New Jersey is worth more than the subtotal of all the landmass in Asia, and it is being eroded by financial pressure as the price of luxury tract housing squashes the traditional markets for flawless tomatoes, sweet corn, and little towns.***

There are riders who claim you must regard every square inch of pavement like an American President driving through Iran in an open car — that the road is one endless death threat. I can’t do that. I ride to be immersed in my surroundings, and sometimes, I get lost in them. But there is a part of me that is constantly on guard for anything out of the ordinary. That system kicked in three times that day. The first was for a tractor pulling a “honey bucket,” throwing up huge clumps of earth, some of which hit the windshield and my face-shield as I swerved around the farmer (with a jaunty wave). The second time was for a couple of kids crossing the road with fishing poles. This required a squeeze on the binders and a fast blast on the twin FIAMM screamers. Yet the alarm rang good and loud calling for a total halt the third time...

Off to the right was a traditional hot dog stand (similar to the type that used to dot the countryside in 1960), and at the counter was a woman as hot as magma from the tap — wearing moto-leathers that outlined the curve of her soul (assuming her soul was in her ass). Parked nearby was a Triumph Bonneville, in matching black. I dropped two gears and felt the tires dance over a bit of gravel, before cutting into the parking lot. (Dropping two gears has a dramatic sound to it, but in reality this raises the RPM sound of the K75 from a slight whine to the roar of a newspaper rustling.)

The woman never looked up.

This was just as well as it never pays to be too obvious. I swung into a tight curve, coming to a halt about 25 feet away, putting the distinctive profile of my own unusual mount with the sunlight behind it. I busied myself in the nonchalance of pulling off my gloves and helmet, then dismounted before draping my mesh gear over the saddle. Sitting a discrete six stools away, I ordered a root beer and the speciality of the house — a hot dog with a sliver of dill pickle, onions, mustard, and chili — then glanced around like I had just regained consciousness.

“Nice bike,” I said to her. “The Bonneville always had great style. Had it long?”

“Well, not really...” she said, looking over my shoulder, where I knew the K75 was intriguing the hell out of her. “Your bike is...”

“Different,” I said, finishing her sentence. “That’s because it’s a BMW with a Triumph-designed Sprint fairing...”

“Well, it looks like it’s moving,” she said.”

“That’s the illusion of speed,” I responded.

Then I heard the sound of the K75 falling over behind me in the gravel, as the side-stand dug into the soft ground, bringing the steep angle of the parked rig past the point of no return.

I stood over my fallen steed in a state of shock. Then I grabbed it by the handlebars, and slowly, with my nuts banging against the inside of my eyes, picked it up. The damage didn’t look too bad. One mirror had popped loose and swung inward, which probably prevented it from breaking. The clutch lever was intact. The back of the machine had been spared by the OEM side bags. Even the gas tank was scratch free. But the priceless, irreplaceable windscreen, made by elves in Britain, had two gashes in it.

“All wasn’t lost,” I thought. “I didn’t lose my cool and this dolly just saw me pick up a 580-pound motorcycle on an adrenaline high.” I kicked away the gravel to find bare, hard ground and reset the bike on the center-stand, giving it a tug to confirm it was rock solid. The sound of the Bonneville growling to a start spun my head around. The woman was firmly in the saddle — on the pillion. Some guy, who looked like a model for motorcycle gear or a chapter out of a eugenics handbook, was shifting it into gear. He’d been out back, draining the lizard, when I’d pulled up.


While it seemed likely that the windscreen would never suffer from tooth decay, it was obvious that toothpaste would never take out those scratches. Two days later I called Sprint (in the UK), and spoke to a great guy, who remembered where he had stashed replacement parts for that fairing — 18 years earlier. A mere $380 (USD) later, I had a new windscreen... Because nothing aggravates the motorcycle purist like scratches on the gas tank or the windscreen.

* Actual count taken by satellite photo of middle fingers held outside of car windows in typical New Jersey traffic.

** New Jersey has a darker side not always taught in the history books. New Jersey residents also had no trouble telling General George Washington to "Get bent," when he desperately needed supplies during the horrible winter at Morristown, as the British were paying for food and hay in gold. Source: "1776" written by David McCullough, first published by Simon & Schuster on May 24, 2005. (Some things never change.)

*** New Jersey, once known as the "Garden State" for its incredible tomatoes and corn (plus other things) had to pass legislation protecting the few farms left in the place. In years to come, this legislation will have succeeded in protecting the most valuable heritage in the state.

Special Announcement:

Twisted Roads Day At Hermy’s Tire and Cycle
August 27, 2011... 9am - Noon

Got a great story you’d like to see as a guest author in Twisted Roads? The folks at Hermy’s BMW and Triumph, in Port Clinton are sponsoring “Twisted Roads Day” on Saturday, August 27th. From 9am to Noon, show up and have coffee and donuts with the publisher of Twisted Roads... Tell him your story and qualify for a valuable prize. The winner will be announced at 11:45am. Consolation prizes will be awarded to the first and second runner up.

Hermy’s is located on Route 61 (Southbound), Port Clinton, Pa. The shop is only 5 minutes north of the interchange with I-78 (Hamburg, Pa) and is an easy ride from New Jersey and Maryland.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011 - All rights reserved.

Monday, August 15, 2011

One Pissed Off Biker...

The Old Lincoln Highway (US-30) divides the Amish communities in and around Lancaster, Pennsylvania like a vein of steel. In addition to being the shortest of the tourist arteries through the land of quilts and shoofly pie, it is a primary truck route for tractor-trailers heading across the state. On summer weekends, traffic backs up through the little town of Paradise, making it anything but its namesake. And on the outskirts of Lancaster proper, rampant whoring on the Amish theme with an outlet center, an aging theme park, and hex signs painted on everything from gas pumps to garden shacks gets a little tiresome. Weekdays can be hell throughout the year as endless lines of trucks growl through their lower gears, stacking up at every traffic light.

To the north and south of US-30 however, are some of the most beautiful farm roads to be found anywhere. Amish farms rival those in Norman Rockwell paintings for immaculately maintained farm buildings, well groomed draft horses and mules, and flower beds where every petal and bloom is perfect. On summer weekdays, the biker passing down these byways will see black-skirted Amish women tending vegetable gardens, while tow-headed boys in straw hats feed chickens or race around on foot-powered scooters. The men are most often seen standing ramrod straight, balancing on the yoke on a plow or cultivator, holding five massive percherons in check with a handful of leather reins stretching 18 feet or longer.

On Sundays, riders passing through the area will find themselves sharing these roads with dozens of buggies headed for the Sunday meeting, held at an elder’s house. The front yards of these places look like buggy parking lots, with these rigs standing in orderly rows, while the horses run free in a paddock.

The events of this particular Sunday took place on a cold day in November, on the afternoon that would prove to be my last ride of that particular year. (The first light snow fell a few days later. While it would melt quickly, local municipalities cured the roads with a thick layer of salt. I will not submit my beautiful, black aluminum engine casings to road salt.) I was mounted on “Fireballs,” my trusty red, 1995 BMW K75. Fifteen years old at the time, the dated nature of this vintage Teutonic mechanical wonder felt somewhat Amish itself. I willingly admit that the K75 is an acquired taste, as the bike has all the classic lines of a cinderblock. Yet the proof is in the riding. The K75 is an incredibly stable, reliable riding platform, that easily breaks into and holds triple digits on the clock, when the spirit so requires.

This was one of the rare occasions that I was buzzing around by myself... Just an hour after dawn... In 25º temperatures... On a Sunday morning... Deep in the heart of the Amish periphery.

Riding around in Amish country in the late fall feels much safer than doing it in July. The reason for this is that nearly all of the roads are the paved version of farm roads that were laid out in 1682, when the reigning King of England at the time chartered all of Pennsylvania and Delaware to the Quaker pacifist William Penn, who systematically began the re-education of the Native Americans in residence. Since this area has been settled for so long, cultivated fields come right to the edge of the pavement. In many cases, the road is below the grade of the fields. When planted with corn, this makes it impossible to see any other vehicles, except tall trucks, approaching on the crossroads. You may find yourself charging along at 50 miles per hour, only to see a minivan driven by a pea-wit on a cell phone, pulling right into the parameters of the intersection before coming to a halt. I have had more than a few interesting moments making myself known to vehicles driven by mobile telephone operators in this neck of the woods. In the fall, the bare fields bring the light of day to the intersections.

Oddly enough, I have never had a close call with a horse and buggy. My policy for riding around Amish wagons is simple. Give them all the room they need. While the vast majority of Amish horses have more sense than a representative in Congress, they are not the most intuitive of animals and can spook at the drop of a hat. (This is true of Congressmen too.) Therefore, I do not advocate squeezing past them in the same lane when Amish teamsters swing to the right. Traffic on the roads where I usually encounter Amish buggies tends to be very manageable, and I swing to the far left (moving into the oncoming lane) and avoid doing anything really stupid (i.e. hitting my horn or jazzing the engine to impress the Amish).

One of the saddest scenarios I have encountered (three times) is to come up on a car and buggy pulled to the side of the road, only to see a stricken horse dead in the traces, the victim of some asshole who cut his passing too short. In one case, I saw two little Amish girls in tears over the dead horse. Had I been that Amish farmer, I would have stepped down from the buggy, removed the wheel nut from one of the hubs, and beat that driver’s face into raspberry pulp with it. (There are several reasons why I would not make a good Amish elder.)

There wasn’t much traffic on this cold, gray November day, Amish or otherwise. I had ridden into an area that was less cultivated and more forested, when I got the dreaded message from my kidneys. I have had two kidney “procedures” that required removing stones the size of softballs (and you can’t imagine where they inserted the chain and tackle to get them out). Since then, some things have been a little odd. For example, I never get a gentle reminder that it is time to drain the lizard... I get a 28-second tsunami evacuation notice. And considering my arthritis has instituted a 12-step dismount procedure that takes up 24 of those seconds, there isn’t a lot of time for fooling around.

A thermos of coffee can load a lizard right properly. And aided by the subtle churning motion of a motorcycle, the urge is nearly always urgent. I brought the bike to a screeching halt (that fully compressed the forks), and started counting backwards from 28. I had my step* out of the top case at the 24-second mark... I had it positioned by second #18... I was off the bike and hobbling on my cane into the bushes with 12 seconds to go.

The gentle reader can not believe my sense of panic. I didn’t waste a second removing my gloves nor my helmet. I got into cover, sucked in my gut, and shoved my jeans and insulated riding underwear down to my boots. Then I stood upright, raised my eyes upwards, and let go.

Now for those of you who never studied the wonder of male anatomy, nature has devised a clever physical reaction to guarantee the reproduction of the human species during time of glacial advancement. A certain part of the male anatomy is cold sensitive and retracts to a warmer position behind the lungs, when temperatures get around 25º, apparently.

So I stood there with eyes uplifted... And pissed straight down into my jeans.

I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t even have to stop the bike to get this result. Worse, though the steaming hot liquid hadn’t lost a degree of heat from its origin in the thermos, it was the temperature of the air by the time I got back on the K75. The ride home was the longest 57 miles I ever rode in my life.

* Jim Sterling of the Mac-Pac built a mobile step for me that fits into my top case. It greatly eases the mounting and dismounting from this tall seat.


Special Announcement:

Twisted Roads Day At Hermy’s Tire and Cycle
August 27, 2011... 9am - Noon

Got a great story you’d like to see as a guest author in Twisted Roads? The folks at Hermy’s BMW and Triumph, in Port Clinton are sponsoring “Twisted Roads Day” on Saturday, August 27th. From 9am to Noon, show up and have coffee and donuts with the publisher of Twisted Roads... Tell him your story and qualify for a valuable prize. The winner will be announced at 11:45am. Consolation prizes will be awarded to the first and second runner up.

Hermy’s is located on Route 61 (Southbound), Port Clinton, Pa. The shop is only 5 minutes north of the interchange with I-78 (Hamburg, Pa) and is an easy ride from New Jersey and Maryland.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Biker Who Came In From The Rain...

The rider claimed he was going to be passing through my area on Tuesday, August 9th, and wanted to know if my schedule would permit a meeting over lunch. This rider was a blogger, whose technical posts on maintenance and riding hjave been entertaining me (and others) for over a year. The only question in my mind was to bring him here to the house (West Chester, Pa), or to meet him on the road, somewhere closer to the direction he’d be traveling, which was west.

I dragged my feet when it came to answering his last e-mail.

My first thought was to meet him out by Strasburg, Pa in the heart of Lancaster County Amish country. There are nice places to eat in Lancaster and the friendly (read “mildly cool”) reception by the Amish is always fun. Yet the weather this summer has been a constant pain in my knees, with forecasts for the mid-eighties (Fahrenheit) coming in ten degrees higher by noon, accompanied by humidity with the density of drywall. I was reluctant to make meeting plans for a location I wouldn’t feel like riding to, and finally sent him directions to the house.

I sent him three sets of directions with a heavy emphasis on beautiful back roads that would take him past racing horse farms, open fields used for traditional fox hunting, small Amish farms, and settlements of stone houses predating the Revolution. It was my intention that he should see the real Pennsylvania, on his ride up from Annapolis. My only concern was, “This will be a beautiful ride for him — if it doesn’t rain.”

Tuesday dawned in a smudge of humid murk, which turned out to be the comic relief for clouds that were darker than the atmosphere surrounding a federal tax audit. The two dogs in this house — Atticus (the towering German shepherd) and Scout (the rescue dog who keeps burglars from stealing Atticus) — are the perfect barometer for storms. Neither one cares for lightning nor thunder, and both were wearing old motorcycle helmets while cowering under the stairs.

Above) Chris Luhman and his Suzuki SV650 (left) with the author and the legendary K75 known as "Fire Balls."

The canine forecast was for thunderstorms... And not the kind of summer storms that fire bullets of hail and dump sheets of water... But the variety where dark clouds conceal squadrons of evil flying monkeys. Had it been me riding up from Annapolis to meet another blog personality for lunch, I’d have emailed my regrets and spent the day in a hotel bar, slipping single dollars into the “G” string of an enthusiastic performance artist.

That’s not Chris Luhman’s style.

The publisher of “Everyday Riding,” Luhman rides year-round in his native Minnesota, where the temperature in February routinely hits zero degrees Kelvin, and stays there until Memorial Day. The threat of rain means nothing to him. Which was good as the storm front that hit while he was en route would have sustained a brook trout dumped on a car hood.

Luhman surfed up the driveway on a red 2001 Suzuki SV650, that emitted a very satisfying growl. He released ten gallons of water from his boots and his tank bag once inside the garage.

“How was your ride?” I asked, solicitously.

“I have it all here,” Chris replied, tapping his GoPro camera.

The consummate gentleman, Luhman made a point of complimenting the rural nature of the roads leading into West Chester, describing how the terrain changes dramatically within a short distance. “What would have made this ride perfect would have been two feet less water on most of the roads, and fewer of the fallen trees that backed up traffic when the wind knocked them across the pavement.”

Luhman then replayed the footage on his GoPro. The first shot showed him climbing a hill that looked more like a millrace, with a solid six inches of moving water pouring down the pavement. “I had no other option but to proceed,” he said, “even though my toes were dragging through the torrent.” Chris remained nonplused as the video wore on, though I suspected this would have changed if floating trees, cars, and houses had been coming at him in the tidal surge.

His next scene was that of traffic at a standstill, as one of the stately oaks that line the roads around here had coming crashing down, blocking lanes in both directions. A UPS driver was out dodging the occasional lightning bolt, while directing traffic to turn around. Hearing the sound of chainsaws amidst flashing lights, Luhman saw things differently. The road crew had opened a sliver of pavement, and Chris charged forward, like a key going for the only opening in a closed door.

The background sound of the video was really entertaining... It primarily consists of growling Suzuki, and the noise of a thousand ping-pong balls hitting plastic. This was a relentlessly driving rain smashing into the waterproof GoPro housing.

In his mid-thirties, Luhman could probably fit into his high school clothes. The fulcrum of his life is a vegetarian-based diet that eliminates the vices — and their side effects — that have constituted my downfall. I suspect he forages for grubs and berries in the local park at home.

We hit the local Hindi joint for dinner, than chatted about things moto until 1am. I took an interest in his riding gloves, which I described as falling into the “Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtle” costume variety. I couldn’t help but notice the knuckles of these were festooned by miniature alien skulls. (See photo.) Chris pointed out that the palm-side of these riding gloves were made of kangaroo leather (probably the pouch) which retains its strength regardless of the thickness. I again reminded him that this strength was at the expense of alien skulls on his knuckles.

Looking at my K75, Luhman said, "I thought there'd be more lights on it." He is the only person who has ever looked at this bike, and drawn that conclusion. (There are five white lights ranging from 50 watts to 300 watts facing forward.) I now intend to add another set,

Above) Miniature "Alien" skulls on the knuckles of Chris Luhman's riding gloves. Photo by Lesle Marsh.

An IT person by trade, Luhman explained how he built his own computer at home, specifically geared to handle his specialized needs. He is also an accomplished photographer, and showed Leslie and I an image he captured at the brink of Niagara Falls, at night, that really grabs the character of the location.

Luhman made a point of explaining how he intended to make this current trip on his BMW GS, but a blown brake line changed his plans at the last minute. Though he is ambivalent about the GS, he’s crazy about the Suzuki, which is sleek, red, and ballsy. We shared a leisurely morning over oatmeal, and Chris shoved off for his next adventure — meeting a mutual friend in Chicago. He is the second blogger and third online rider to arrive here, following in the footsteps of Michael Beattie and Carl Boler. This has been my year for meeting riders and bloggers. Just last month I made the acquaintance of George Ferreira, Nikos Laskaris, Rich Machido, Steve Williams, and Rick Slark.

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Message In A Bottle From A Neighbor Up North...

The following account was sent to me by Stuart Seaton, a regular columnist for Motorcycle Mojo Magazine in Canada, where men are lumberjacks and the moose subscribe to online dating services. Stuart is one of the few BMW riders I know who recently participated in an event which required the Royal Canadian Mounties to subdue what amounted to a few old friends passing laxatives around a campfire. I thought his account so extraordinary, that I made it my "Thursday" Blog episode. This makes Stuart a winner of a copy of "Politically Correct Cigar Smoking For Social Terrorists," a book that is becoming quite rare at reasonable prices. Got a great story to share? Send it to Twisted Roads, and see if you too can win a prize. Mark the subject line of your entry, "Great Story," and sent it to

Dear Mr. Riepe:

I hope the BMW rally was kind to you and you survived in living colour. I would have made it to the rally this year, as it was really quite close; but my other commitments were just a bitch, especially when you plan like I do, which is much the same as a dog... Yell "Squirrel," and I'm off in another direction. This drives my wife insane.

We made it back from Atlanticade, which was quite a caper. It's the first time that our group ever had the Mounties pay us a visit: eight of them no less, plus a twenty-year-old security guard who had obviously chosen the wrong career path.

It was close to 11 pm and we were sitting around the fire pits of the gorgeous Fairmont Algonquin Hotel of St. Andrews. Our group was essentially the core sponsors of the rally, which usually dumps about $5 to $8 million (Canadian) into the local economy every year. The average age was about 103, so it wasn’t what I'd call a tawdry affair. The loudest noise may have come from some squeaky hearing aids. However, the hotel’s security guard, who I’m sure had been reared by some religious cult to think that motorcyclists are the Lord's bane, demanded that we leave, mumbling something about a local ordinance, which he could neither recite nor produce.

Above) These are exactly the kind of police who would strike terror in the hearts of BMW "R" Bike-Riding Extremists... It is no coincidence that many BMW "R" bike riders wear these same pants, either out on the road or just relaxing in the garage. Photo from Wikipedia.

Well, getting folks who are quite comfortable and are enjoying the evening to snap to the order of the hotel’s adolescent commando is much like moving Stonehenge three metres east. The general response was, “Fuck off and bring us some more wood… Please.” Even though we offered typical Canadian politeness, the little bastard came back with enough Mounties to perform the R.C.M.P. Battle Charge.

Then things got cute.

My brother, 72, offered a beer to one of the coppers. Alan (one L please), 82, recited a Robert Service poem about the Royal Mounted Police and the shooting of Dan Mcgrew (which was very dramatic). All of the girls wanted to see the ordinance. (One was a golf writer from N.Y.) That's when things generally degraded into a slow motion, good natured brawl. Everyone eventually toddled off, and then I’m pretty sure the Mounties then beat the shit out of the security guard and the hotel manager, just on principle.

That was one day before I hit the deer.

I rather enjoy deer, from a distance. I’ve clobbered my fair share, but never before on a bike. My wife was riding her 650 GS and like a good person, was behind me by about three miles. I was noodling along at about 50 mph when this monster reached out and touched me. I was riding my Teutonic Pig, an 07’ 1200 GS Adventure, which at the time was wearing full knobs — which I didn’t think would offer me the kind of braking power they did. (I must send Metzler a thank you note.) I nailed every bit of brake that I had, with the anti-locks kicking in, and I was able to move about three inches to the left, which I’m sure saved my bacon. The upper crash bar impacted with the doe’s hind leg, and according to my wife, sent it into quite the speed wobble. The bike took a major shudder, but everything remained upright. I coasted over to the side of the road, trying to get my heart rate down to below 4000 rpm. I was actually more worried about my wife. Where there’s one deer, there’s usually three. So I was watching the rear views hoping that no more furry things charged out of the ditch.

Above) Stuart Seaton, columnist for Motorcycle Mojo Magazine (Canada), and deer sushi chef.

Total damage: zip, zero, nada, with the exception that my right side was covered in deer snot. Well, I think it was snot. I wasn’t really taking a running account out of what orifice was spewing what. It was a good plastering though. By the time I hit the border it had hardened into some sort of science project and is now ensconced within the fabric of my Motorrad pants. It’s probably liquid deer pheromone that will forever attract coyotes, wolves and other unwanted beasts. I noticed that it made my old Labrador positively curious, which I thought interesting as she’s so old that she barks in sign language.

All in all, t’was a fun trip. Hope yours was as fun (minus deer snot and cops).


©Copyright Stuart Seaton 2011