Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Motorcycle Batteries and Nipple Connections...

My self-imposed writer’s exile in a “rustic” cabin at Elk Neck State Park was in it’s fourth day, when the Saturday morning calm was shattered by the roar of BMW “R” bikes. (An opening sentence should be crafted to introduce intrigue and to set a story’s action, as well as to pique the reader’s interest. And some license may be taken by literary experts, such as myself. But anyone familiar with the “washing machine sounds” made by BMW “R” bikes has already had difficulty swallowing the word “roar.” I beg the reader’s pardon.)

Perhaps I should begin again.

My self-imposed writer’s exile in a “rustic” cabin at Elk Neck State Park was in it’s fourth day, when the Saturday morning calm was shattered by the fart-like growl of approaching German motorcycles. Few machines make a noise like they’re running on pumpernickel and limburger cheese, and had I been rustling a newspaper, or frying bacon, I never would have heard them.

“Hmmmmmmmm... That sounds like BMW ‘R’ bikes,” I thought.

The heavy morning mist divided to reveal three classic examples of BMW engineering, riding in a tight formation — according to rank. (Remember the German thing.) In the lead was one of the premier cardiologists and heart specialists of the Philadelphia area, Dr. Peter Frechie, mounted on a classic 1976 BMW R90 S. He was followed by Gerry Cavanaugh, a retired Nixon-era CIA operative, mounted on a fire-engine red 2004 BMW GS 1150. Bringing up the rear was Dick Bregstein, a retired historian dedicated to the preservation of Coney Island hot dogs, on a silver-gray 2000 BMW “R1150R.”

Above) Dick Bregstein, "just another day at work." Photo by Mike Cantwell.

They pulled up to the cabin, swung the bikes around in unison, and chased the spiders off the front of the historic hovel with a blast (such as it was) of “R” Bike exhaust. Then the leader, Frechie, barked the order, “Unmount!” They did so like leather and ballistic-clad chorus line dancers from hell. The cabin, built by Maryland’s Declaration of Independence signer Charles Carroll, and modernized four score and seven years afterward by Lincoln, failed to impress “The Cadre,” as they now refer to themselves.

Above) Not only are the cabins at Elk Neck State Park "Rustic," but the one I stayed in was a kind of petting zoo as well. Rare "Chesapeake Jumping Mice" (capable of leaping six feet at a shot) were breeding in the kitchen, while a huge spider named "Duane," would wake me by dragging my Harley Davidson chain wallet across the floor — still attached to my Kevlar riding pants. Photo by Pete Buchheit.

They refused to come in, and demanded that I come out immediately. Later, Peter Frechie would say the cabin was only suited for squaters and mice. (It was actually loaded with mice that I was training to type and take dictation for crumbs, the current wage of the moto writer.) Bregstein picked up a stick and began poking spider webs by the door, until he succeeded in aggravating a specimen that hissed and arched its back like a feral cat.

“What literature of significance have you written living in this pile of firewood and shingles?” queried Frechie, in a manner that may have intimidated lesser men.

I began to read from my laptop: “I’m having a problem getting this spark plug out of my Sportster,” said the tanned, blond co-ed in the tight halter top, biting her lower lip. “Do you have the tool for the job?” The BMW “K” bike rider answered her question by pointing to a huge, throbbing mass in the center of his jeans. “I have the perfect tool for any job,” he replied.

“You’ve been here four days and all you’ve written is moto-porn in which you have the staring role?” asked Frechie.

I nodded once in sullen defiance.

“We got here just in time,” said Cavanaugh.

“I want to hear the rest of the story,” said Bregstein. “And I hope the details are accurate. For example, is the tool metric or SAE? How could a “K” bike rider have a tool to fit a Harley Sportster?”

Cavanaugh smacked Bregstein in the back of the head, and “The Cadre” ordered me to join them for breakfast, seven miles away in the town of “North East,” Maryland. The boys mounted up again, and then the hand of God came down to smite the proud and the sinful.

Above) "Cadre" members Peter Frechie (left) and Gerry Cavanaugh demonstrate their group's new "salute." Photo by the author.

Frechie’s flawless “R90S,” which is lovingly maintained by the same folks who take care of the Mona Lisa, barked once like a gecko (lizard), and fizzled like a damp fuse, when he pressed the starter button. To a group of BMW riders, there is nothing like having one in their number get the raspberries when the starter is pressed, as it implies either stupidity or having a small dick. Cavanaugh and Bregstein exchanged a look of bemusement which spoke volumes.

The source of many such looks for others, Frechie simply grunted, rolled the bike a few feet, and hit the starter again. The bike hesitated and caught, as if the starter were its testicles and the doctor had taken them in hand and demanded it to cough.

The seven miles from Elk Neck State Park to the cute little town of North East, Maryland is a delightfully fast run through some forested spots, some fields, and some tiny communities with churches that would seem comforting to author H.P. Lovecraft. Frechie was behind me, and I thought his headlight looked as dim as the latest economic news out of Washington. I led “The Cadre” to a great little diner in the heart of town, where there is always ample parking for bikes, in the odd little corners where a car will not fit.

The 1976 “R90 S” is the iconic BMW motorcycle. Years ahead of its time, it came with a powerful boxer engine, full instrumentation (including a voltmeter), electric starter and amenities like a hand-operated air pump (with a full tool kit) under the seat. Frechie, whose other bike is an MV Augusta, does not treat this machine like it was a museum piece. He routinely rockets around between 85 and 90 miles per hour.

“This machine is in every respect a modern motorcycle,” said Frechie, “not withstanding it is 35 years old. It gives a much better and more comfortable ride than the Augusta, which is really geared for the track.”

Yet on this day, Frechie’s brow was furrowed.

“The voltmeter is reading 3 volts,” he said. “Do you think this bike could have a three-volt system?”

“A can of peaches has higher voltage than that,” said Cavanaugh. “Let’s deal with it after breakfast.”

The waitress, who’d been married to the same man for 22 years and who’s been trying to kill him for at least 15 of those, gave us a great window table, where we could see a dark cloud forming over Frechie’s bike.

“That can’t be good,” said Bregstein.

“I don’t believe in omens,” said Frechie.

At that moment, a low-flying crow dropped a lifeless, black kitten on the seat of the R90S.

We all had the breakfast special, which included a meat by-product, called “scrapple,” from neighboring Pennsylvania. Scrapple is a fried slab of pork snouts, ears, tails, and eye-lids, flavored with a mild sausage spice, bound together with less appetizing fillers, and served in a dog’s bowl. It is a rite of manhood to eat it, and then smack your lips (with an old fly swatter).

A man and a woman at the next table joined in our conversation. They looked like a sailing couple, wearing Docksiders, and caps with a maritime air about them. The old guy was deaf, and he appeared to be reading Frechie’s lips. Peter had just said, “I guess I am going to be late getting home.” And the “captain,” (as I called him) started to jump up and down in his seat, laughing. His wife leaned over and shouted, “He said ‘late,’ not ‘laid.’”

Twenty-five minutes later, the cadre bent over the exposed battery of the R90S.

My first thought was the obvious one, that the battery had crapped out. In response to my question as to the age of the battery, Frechie shrugged, and stated it was almost new. He had bought it the year NASA launched the Hubble Telescope.

Cavanaugh got the battery out, and noticed it had vacuum tubes in it, and was stamped, “Experimental: Edison Labs/Menlo Park, NJ.”

The boys tried jumping the R90S from the GS 1150. If any current model BMW has a fault, it’s that the bikes are built around the batteries and you need Gandalf’s staff to get to the terminals. But Gerry Cavanaugh’s GS is different. He knew he might be riding over gravel stretches as long as 60 feet, and installed auxiliary terminals, accessible without pulling off the body work, to accommodate contingencies such as these.

He made the connections to the GS and handed the cable ends to Frechie, not realizing the doctor has extremely limited mechanical experience, and thought they worked like a defibrillator. Frechie attached them to his nipples, held the battery with his fingers, and yelled, “Clear.”

Above) Thinking a "jump start" was similar to using a defibrilllator, Frechie hooked the cable grips up to his nipples... Photo by the author.

Gerry cranked the bike and Frechie learned something about the more effective interrogation means of South American police institutions. Another attempt, with the cables connected directly connected to the posts, indicated a new battery was in order.

Above) After yelling "Clear," Frechie understood the success of police interrogations in select areas of South America. Photo by the author's Droid Incredible.

“Where the hell are we going to find a battery that will fit a 35-year-old BMW in a place like this,” said Frechie.

North East, Maryland, at the head of Chesapeake Bay, has more than it’s fair share of wealthy boating enthusiasts. “The Cadre” found a marina catering to the maintenance of 1932 Chris Craft boats, one model of which requires a battery that perfectly matches the one in the R90S. Peter bought the boat, pulled the battery out of it, and gave the 23-foot, mahogany speedster to some kid on the street.

“Here, take this and get the fuck out of here,” he told the kid.

The R90S started right up, and “The Cadre” set off for home. Frechie would be an hour into the trip before noticing that the voltmeter was again reading low. Suspect next was the alternator, though the real culprit would be another link in the electrical chain. Some printed circuit, or something, had given up the ghost, and another could be hand-crafted — but only using one of the jewels from the Pope’s tiara.

Frechie bought the tiara, removed the jewel, and tossed the rest of it to some kid on the street. He said... Well, you guessed it.

Twisted Roads Exclusive:
• Jack Riepe's "Farewell To Pennsylvania Ride" will meet at the Frazer Diner (Westbound US-30, Frazer, Pa, about a quarter mile west of Rt. 4o1 and US-30) at 8am, for breakfast, on Saturday, October 15th, 2011.
• It's kickstands up at 9am, for an exilerating ride through parts of Pennsylvania settled by Hessian deserters, to an authentic German Oktoberfest celebration at Hermy's BMW and Triumph, in Port Clinton, Pa.

• German Sausages an Bavarian Specialties For All Who Make The Ride!

* Riepe's departure signifies yet another woman coming to her senses...

©Copyright Jack Riepe 2011


MattPie said...

Jack, I'm offended. The majestic R-bike engine does NOT sound like a washing machine. It sounds like a sewing machine. A really large, powerful, throbbing sewing machine.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear MattPie:

Oh yes it does... It sounds like a Maytag mixing cement at idle. Naturally, it does get better at higher RPM. It's more like the "spin" cycle.

Now the "K" bike, that's different. My K75 sounds like a sewing machine made by Messerschmidt.

I'm glad we were able to get this straightened out.

Fondest regards,

Roger said...

Having just brought a motorcycle of "european decent" , I tread with caution of making any comments, manily for fear that I wil be included in one of you "stories".

After reading this I wonder what the hell I got my self in for...

Bloody good read though.


Unknown said...

Jack r:

oh oh, I think I stepped into the wrong room, I thought this was "Nipple maintenance 101" . . .

Riding the Wet Coast

redlegsrides said...

Frenchie's attempt at self-torture reminded me of that old joke: When the grizzled veteran was asked by someone at a party what he thought of the "horrible" use of torture interrogation methods by the CIA on suspected terrorrists. The veteran simply replied: " red goes to positive and black to negative"

By the by, I too would like to hear the rest of the story involving the girl with the harley and her stuck spark plug.....


Redleg's Rides

Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

John said...

Another classic Jack. I do find that a classic R bike sounds better than the typical "K" with the whining fuel pump whirl out blasting the exhaust note. Don't forget I own one of each, so I am not biased.

Nipplelover said...

I don't mind the poetic license in the first paragraph but the nipple reference in the title was clearly false advertising at worst and a bait and switch at best. We would prefer the spark plug woman to relate to ( with apologies to the good Dr.)

BMW-Dick said...

Dear Jack:
You make the pain in the ass of a dead battery sound like fun. . .as it was, since it was Peter's pain in the ass and neither mine nor Gerry's. Thanks for teaching Peter how to use battery cables as a defib. It may be valuable as our riding "cadre" ages. We had a fun day, and as usual breakfast with you was a blast

classicvelocity said...

Dear Jack,

This R Bike bashing has to stop. You fail to appreciate the stealth element of an R Bike with properly adjusted valves. Besides, when I bought my R50, the previous owner had installed straight pipes on it (which I still have hanging in the garage). It made Harley riders cover their ears !

Anonymous said...

Dear Jack:

A while back, my boys came home pulling a non-starting, vintage wooden speedboat. When I asked where they got it, they told me they were in North East, Maryland, watching strange men-in-black salute each other with their butts.

Then one hooked himself up to a motorcycle battery and danced around for a bit, before giving them a boat worth $150,000 (significantly more if it would start.)

Things are a bit clearer now.
Good story Jack!

I am coming to your "Farewell To Pennsylvania Ride," on October 15th, from the Frazer Diner, on Route 30, at 8am.

See you then,
Mike Evans

Anonymous said...

Dear Jack:

I finally just noticed that this "Memorial Ride" thread that I've been deleting has actually been about you moving to Lake Placid.

I'm stunned (although I know I shouldn't be all that surprised). You better BELIEVE that I'll be visiting your ass up there. Besides, I've got to get back up there to visit my new good-buddy Lee Kazanas.

My heart gets kind of heavy thinking of you not being in the area anymore, even though I know we haven't seen much of each other in the last year. I think this is going to be a great move for you, Jack.

I've cancelled everything I had planned on doing on October 15th. I will be riding with on your "Farewell to Pennsylvania Run." I won't eve pass you on the curves.

Kimi Bush

I'll see you there.

RichardM said...

I think I'm in the "washing machine" camp as well as I don't care for the whining fuel pump either. It sounds like the one that failed on our old Suburban. Also, having the hand operated air pump is overrated. I tried using it to add a little bit of air to the rear tire. I decided to get the CyclePump compressor after that experience.

This was a great story and the best of luck with your upcoming move. Lake Placid sounds like a wonderful location but it will make it a bit more challenging to make the Mac-Pac breakfasts.


Nikos said...


I noticed that Frechie has reversed his polarities and is thus "positive earth". I do hope that his nipples recover.

What's this about you moving to Lake Titicaca?

best wishes from us both E and N

Nikos said...


My R sounds like a doodlebug with a loose flush pull chain and my K used to sound like a de Havilland Ghost engine. The F sounds like a cement mixer.

Anonymous said...

Dear sir,
As the President of the Scrapple Honorary Appreciation Trust dedicated to spreading the good word about our favorite depression era food we feel obliged to call you on your slander.
Millions of Americans are going needlessly hungry, Moto writers among them, when delicious nutritious fried pig parts are going to waste. Love Scrapple! Don't be a hater. Accept your nations illustrious history and enjoy the food that made America Great. That and Freedom Fries. And Thousand Island Dressing.
You don't really need French wines or medieval torture techniques to get through the economic collapse. A plate of Scrapple a day will console anyone exiled to Siberia on the Hudson.
Earnestly yours,
Borgnine J Broderbund,
Intercourse, PA

RichardM said...

Scrapple (delicious fired) should be served after the "Farewell to Pennsylvania Ride" as it somehow seems a fitting end to the era...


redlegsrides said...

All this talk against scrapple, next thing I know someone is going to malign spam! I love spam.

A worthwhile effort, Ihor said...

, and there were many rustic elements to the tale. When in the LP area don't fail to grease the wooden gears of the dial up Internet server. Wouldn't want to get the Web in a twist.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Raftnn:

Thank you for joining the Twisted Roads community of dedicated bikers. Twisted Roads is the true biker blog for raw adventure and romance like broken glass.

Make whatever commemts you feel appropriate. As others have discovered in this little forum, they are throwing spitballs at a battleship. Now, what was it you really wanted to say?

Fondest regars,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Bobskoot:

In a way it sort of is "nipple maintenance," just not in a good way. But I'm glad you got a chance to read about how "R" bike riders behave in public. And they're all like this. So if you find yourself astride a boxer anytime soon, you'll know what's in store for the future.

The Mac-Pac rules. I got the best riding friends in the world.

Thanks for reading Twisted Roads, and for leaving a comment.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

So there I was, on a four-day writer's retreat, attempting to get my head out of my ass, at an undisclosed location, and they found me. Thank God! These guys are like having the circus come to town. And riding with them is the best time I can think of.

By the way, you know how the tool story and the Harley Girl will end... I show her how to work the tool to great satisfaction.

Thank you for reading Twisted Roads, and for leaving a comment.

Fondest regards,

Unknown said...


Yes, the 'death wobble' as I've hard it called. The late Raptorman waxed poetic about the 'Death Wobble.' Another rider denied its existence - though I don't know how, it's kind of like Bavaria slamming into France and then back into Germany, repeatedly.

Also, enjoy the Oktoberfest, though I don't know that it can compare at all to the real deal. (Which I recently attended.) I rode a roller coaster, drank a beer the size of my skull, and talked with a skunk-drunk Bosnian. It's a sea of people, and you're just pulled along the riptide as you walk, particularly if you get distracted by the, uh, candy.

I hope it's easier to get a beer at the PA version. Cause you pretty much need to reserve one before you arrive in Munich on a Saturday afternoon.

Spike, (Brady)
Behind Bars - Motorcycles and Life

Jack Riepe said...

Dear John (Clauss):

It cannot be denied that both the iconic BMW "R" bikes and the diabolically sexy "K" bikes both have a distinctive sound.

But if the whine of the fuel pump can be heard over the sound of your engine (on the "K"), it means you need a newer model.

The only time I ever heard my fuel pump over the motor, it was on the way out.

The unmistakable whine of the "K" bike is synonymous with the sound of Cupid's arrow hitting some lovely in the ass, the second I pull up.

Thanks for taking the time to read Twisted Roads, and for leaving a comment.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Nipplelover:

The editorial team at Twisted Roads deeply regrets that you felt cheated out of the opportunity to view firm, nubile breasts, hooked up to a bike battery someplace.

But I did say "motorcycle batteries" and "nipples," while providing the same. Bet it made you want to go out, buy a BMW, and start riding around with us, huh?

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dick:

Let's face it... We got equal mileage out of this little electrical challenge as we did when your F650 cooked the battery.

Two great stories that happened within a mile of each other, but four years apart.

Here's to another dozen — years or batteries.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Classic Velocity Blog (Wayne):

I do not bash "R" bikes. I merely report the facts. The "R" bike is a measure by which any other motorcycle must be judged, if only for it's enduring appeal since the first one was designed by the Pharaoh Ramses.

And we all know that the "K" bikes of today are the ones with the warp drive, that bends light and time.

Thanks for reading my tripe Wayne, and for bolstering my credibility by leaving a comment.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Mike:

I can't believe it has been over four years since we last attempted to ride together, and Bregstein's F650 shit the bed that day. I have nothing but fond memories of you, pushing his ass around on that thing, trying to get it to start.

However, you will have the opportunity to ride against his "R1150R," (which is not a scooter made by Aprilla), on October 15th.

I can hardly wait for this opportunity for all of us to ride one more time.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Kimi:

My own heart skipped a beat at just the thought that anything I could have done prompted a sense of loss in yours.

I am thrilled that you have cancelled everything on your calendar to ride with me on October 15th. In fact, I would be thrilled if you rode immediately to my right quarter on this run, and sighed audibly whenever we stopped at traffic lights.

They say the phoenix rises from the ashes. Fuck that. I am far from toast yet. I lived in Lake Placid for 18 years, and my parties were legendary. Wait and see what I do within a year.

October 15th is going to be a pisser.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Richard M:

I once tore my roots from the sacred ground of Jersey City, and planted them in Lake Placid. I grew to love the Adirondacks ten thousand times more than I ever loved Jersey City.

But when I ripped my roots from there and came to Pennsylvania, a series of events (involving German motorcycles) gave me a sense of belonging that I have never experienced before.

The reverses of the past 18 months are a blip on the radar... A blip caused by taking direction from mediocre bosses and people of extremely limited vision. (How the shitheads get into positions of authority, and keep them, just amaze me.)

But I have enough irons in the fire to keep my hands warm, and the fire is bright enough for light as well.

Nothing will change on this blog nor my column. What will change is that I plan to be a lot more visible at moto events and things.

And... Thanks for reading Twisted Roads, and for commenting.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Nikos:

The shit is in the fan here on the home-front, and Stiffie and I are ringing down the curtain on the longest running relationship in my life.

I am relocating to the sanctuary of perfection, the High Peaks Region of the Adirondacks, where I plan to hit newer and higher peaks in my moto-journalism.

A close friend of mine, and commenter on this blog, has created the perfect environment for me to go and do penance for life of literary self-indulgence. (It is the kind of place where a fast snack would be regarded as grubs and berries, garnered locally.)

Although, it will be novel to catch a trout "down the road" and have it for lunch again.

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Borgnine J Broderbund,

I love the way scrapple tastes, but the very thought of its manufacture gives me a case of the fantods. The fact that it is sold in blocks, like lard, is also scary.

But there is no greater breakfast than three of my pancakes, two eggs (sunny-side up), real maple syrup, and fucking scrapple.

Fondest regards,
Fondest regards

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Charlie6 (Dom):

Spam... Spam...Spam... Spam... Spam... (Monty Python's Flying Circus.)

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Ihor:

I'll be greasing a few things during the Lake Placid winter. Then again, I'll be running with Lee Kazanas, Mike Cantweel, and Chris Wolfe, so it will be handy to have a bail-bond in the glove compartment of the truck.

Fondest regards,

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Brady:

When the crowds of Bavaria get too much to handle, head to the Reeperbahn in Hamburg for a little soul-aligning solitude.

Fondest regards,

Conchscooter said...

Dear Jack,
I will be snug in Florida on the 15th but of course I will be there in spirit goading you to climb on and off your motorcycle like a precision marching band.
Pardon me for not commenting sooner but I've been busy keeping up with this blog.
I ate Scrapple once in Maryland and I had a vision as I walked back to my boat. I saw myself in green mountains, sitting at the feet of some great new Buddha dispensing wisdom about women and motorcycles and Life. It gave me a strange sensation of serenity. Scrapple is marvelous stuff. I'm with Broderbund.
Say goodbye to suburbia for me and don't look back
Your brother from different parents,

Bedlamdoc said...

This is your best blog to date. I am particularly enthralled with the new "salute". Then again, though, I have often been described as a woman with strange tastes. Hugs, Jill

Jack Riepe said...

Dear BedlamDoc (Jill):

I laughed my ass off as I wrote this. Still, it took me almost 8 hours. But you have to admit, it a little zing to it. I'm glad you got a kick out of it... And I'm thrilled I got to meet you this past summer... At Bloomsburg.