Dear Twisted Roads:
What the hell is it with you lately? Every time I read this column, which is quite often, you are either riding off to pop some floozie or clinging to your motorcycle after a boudoir toss with a brunette. What happened to the plain, all-guys adventure? Has there ever been a time when you just got on your bike, rode off into the sunset by yourself, and didn’t once think of knocking off a piece? Now I hang with the same BMW riding club that you do and I know that none of those guys ever thought about laying some pipe when they’re on the road, ‘cos none of them would stand a chance of scoring any anyway.
James “The Chip Man”
Dear Mr. Chips:
If you read a previous blog post of mine, titled “The Throttle Or The Breast,” you would have come across the line, “The motorcycle is a metaphor for life.” Regardless of whether you are a man or a woman, the motorcycle is also a common metaphor for a six-foot-long, throbbing phallus. Guys see it as theirs, and women see it as something they’d love to take through a curve (or enslave), while wearing boots. The average man consciously or unconsciously thinks about getting laid 120 times a minute (approximately once each heartbeat). Consequently, it is almost impossible to ride a motorcycle any distance without having a fantasy about the 36-year-old blond waitress driving the minivan next to you. (Please understand that I don’t make the rules, but only play the game.) And these statistics double if you are a guy between the ages of 19 and 25.
So nearly all of my stories entail some element of “cherchez la femme” as a kind of cause and effect situation. And yet there are those moments when I do rise above my natural instincts to be a male alone in the elements with a motorcycle. One such moment occurred last week, on one of the warmest nights of the year. I have titled the incident:
“A Man, A Motorcycle, And The Moon On The Dunes of North Cape May”
There is an elusive quality about the seashore that has remained outside my grasp. Perhaps because it has been my poor luck to walk the strand at the height of the summer season, when the beach is filled with tanned, lean individuals (both men and women), who seem to sizzle sensuality, while I blister and burn or find the greatest concentration of Jellyfish in the surf. Yet my recent exile to Cape May (following the implosion of the relationship I thought would last a thousand years) has brought out-of-season beaches, jetties, and dunes within easy reach. I can now gauge the mood of the ocean, watch the steady beam of the lighthouse, or see the tide turn angry as the placid Delaware contests the Atlantic — in a bay nearly ten miles wide — within five minutes of my desk.
This is in contrast to the green valleys around Lancaster, Pa., where I used to ride with Dick Bregstein, and others, to get my mind clean. It would take a good 45 minutes to get out to Lancaster, to find the quaint little roads, and to smile when the kindly Amish would spit when my motorcycle whined by. (The beautiful women on the beach would never spit on me... Though they would dress me with their eyes.)
All is far from perfect though... The damp sea air — despite its mildness this winter — is playing hell with my arthritis, which is getting steadily worse. There is no real garage for the motorcycle, other than a rustic shed, with no guarantee that vermin nor the elements (which must eventually come) won’t adversely affect this flawless K75. And so it is with a heavy heart that I concluded this bike must be stored elsewhere, and consigned it to a garage in Pennsylvania, owned by a friend. Sleep was impossible on the night before it was to go. I felt like a cowboy sending his horse off to camp; or a Viking, about to misplace his battle axe.
It was one of those shore nights where switching off the lamp on the bedside table simply exchanged one light for another. Silver moonlight poured in through the windows and I realized I could see everything around me in a muted detail.
“Screw this,” I thought. “Time for one last ride this season.”
This was another of my recent decisions that ran shy of apparent wisdom. I could feel my right knee strain as I jammed that leg into a boot. And that was the easy one. My left hip felt like it was about to pop when I worked the zipper and Velcro tab into place on my footgear. The K75 is a tall bike, and it now takes a grimace and a grunt to get my foot up to the peg on the left side. I sat on the rig in the darkened driveway and thought about the magic metaphor of the motorcycle. Starting the engine tonight seemed like the final movement in an opera where the lovers are killed by middle-management clerks in a paperwork dispute. And yet, one is compelled to pursue some things to the end.
Above) The dunes of North Cape May, on Delaware Bay, on a perfect, mild winter day. Photo by the author.
I hit the two rocker switches on the dash and flooded this quiet shore street with pure light. Then I snicked the bike into gear and headed toward the dunes of North Cape May. This place must be a madhouse in the summer, but I was the only thing moving on this night. Delaware Bay was to my left. An artificial horizon of lights, which were a row of freighters, tankers, and container ships at anchor four or five miles out in the channel, seemed motionless on the gently heaving surface of silver. I moved along in no hurry, with the motor barely whispering at 20 miles per hour. It was long past midnight and the temperature was still close to 50º — in January. Even though the moon was as bright as neon, the sky was laced with stars and the effect was dazzling.
Because my K75 was built by Germans following the letter of the law, there is no way to switch off all of the lights when the engine is running. Otherwise, I’d have ghosted along by the stars and the moonlight. I can’t help but hear music in my head whenever I ride... Music to meet the occasion. Generally, I hear Steppenwolf, the Ramones, Patti Smith, or Blue Oyster Cult... The kind of soothing music that brings out the best in a tachometer. Tonight, however, I could hear Chris Isaak crooning “Wicked Game,” to the rich liquid strains of a steel guitar.
Fifty degrees is certainly warm for the Jersey Shore in January, but any change in temperature can suggest an immediate pull-over for a middle-aged man. I was wearing light leather gloves and my fall gear, without a liner. Stopping to look at the water admitted enough of a chill to my kidneys to warrant an immediate dismount. Now this presents no challenge for a guy with good knees and hips. But that damn sand was all over the pavement and I was faced with getting the bike far enough off the road not to present an obstruction, while not slipping in the grit.
Taking a piss on the dunes in a shore town during the summer will get you strapped into the electric chair faster than you can imagine. But there wasn’t a soul around, and my need could only be described as pressing. I maneuvered over the dunes and into a little depression between the street and the strand. Without a second to spare, I released Thor’s Iguana and gave a mighty sigh of relief.
This was followed a second later by a popping noise, not unlike a cork coming out of a champagne bottle, as my left hip gave up the ghost.
I went down like a sack of concrete... On my back... Describing a steady trajectory that wavered like the Fountains of Wayne in the moonlight. Now the pure entertainment value of this spectacle was only surpassed by the creative nature of the expletives I hissed as I pissed. To this scenario add the one police car that must have been cruising this entire community. He flashed the roof-lights and played a spotlight over the beach for a second or two, before continuing on. The light passed over me, as I lay in the sand, with my fate in my hand.
“This could be a hard one to explain,” I thought.
I counted to 60 before I clawed my way back to the bike. I had sand in my boots and in my pants. It took me ten tries to get my leg over the seat, and then I sat there for a while. The guys came to pick my bike up the next day.
“You’ve got sand on the muffler,” noted one. “Did you ride this on the beach?”
“In my dreams,” I replied.
So there you go... A story in which a skirt doesn’t figure once.
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2012
I am continually surprised by the folks who end up reading Twisted Roads... In the last month, I encountered a woman who was the very first pillion rider on the first motorcycle I ever owned. She was the first to ever kiss the sleep from my eyes at dawn too... And she did it in such a way that colored the rest of the day like the Rose Window in Notre Dame. Since all I can get her to do now is leave intriguing public comments, I have decided to throw my cell phone into the Atlantic Ocean tonight... At 9:30pm EST... Unless of course, she calls me.