Room service is the apex of civilization, requiring nothing more then to slip into a robe and to sign a chit for the privilege of extending the morning’s “Ka” through the first meal of the day. There are times when quiet reflection is worth about $2 grand a second, and “in-room dining” provides the perfect aura for enjoying breakfast on the American plan, in your underwear. The fragrant aroma of eggs, sausage, pancakes, and coffee filled the room like incense in a pagan temple, where I was the oracle. I pulled the drapes aside, letting in the light of a flawless Adirondack morning, along with a view of the mountains and Mirror Lake, in the center of town.
|My 1986 BMW K75 with the Rare Sprint Fairing
And yet the focal point of the view was my blue 1986 BMW K75 (with the rare Sprint fairing). It’s headlight stared blankly up at the window, reminding me that my life was not entirely without purpose. In many regards, life is about limits. The average room service coffee pot is limited to about four large cups of java. I bolted the first cup to jump-start my soul. The second and third cups accompanied breakfast. The final cup washed down a handful pills (celebrex and pain killers) to numb the arthritis raging in my knees and hips. This pharmaceutical dessert would enable me to stagger around in a mockery of mobility, but it would also permit my knees and hips to bend enough to let me ride.
I buzzed out of the hotel driveway an hour later.
This was the second day of a week on the road, and the first time I had ever ridden a motorcycle through the Adirondack Mountains of New York. I love the town of Lake Placid, nestled in the center of the High Peaks region. The inaccessibility of this place (hours away from anywhere by car and without a viable option for a public airport) has kept it as pristine as possible. Coupled with visionary “Forever Wild” legislation now over 100 years old, the integrity of these mountains is preserved in the state’s constitution. The Adirondacks occasionally get crowded... And they have their honky tonk touristy attractions... But they are home to moose, deer, bear, wolves, mink, fisher, martin, trout, bass, and splake — all within an eight-hour drive from Manhattan. And they offer some of the best motorctycle riding to be found anywhere.
That simple sentence — “I buzzed out of the hotel driveway an hour later.” — is a lie. (I tell a lot of them.) It took me twenty minutes to get my boots on and ten minutes to mount the bike. That means I took my time swinging my leg over the seat, bending my knees, and flexing my hips. Then I studied the situation. The driveway of the Crowne Plaza Resort is a steep drop to a curve on Main Street. I would be bringing my feet to the pegs two or three times in 300 feet, which can be a tough trick for me, just starting off. (I like to ride two or three miles with my legs up right out of the gate, to stretch the joints.) As usual, the thought of getting my feet up and down was much worse than the actual effort, and I found myself cruising along the Main Street in Lake Placid a few seconds later.
The gentle (or savage, or indifferent) reader should know that I used to live 18 miles away from this town, in a log cabin, on a dirt road. It was the only log cabin around with three phone lines into it, serving two computers and a fax machine. I ran a business in New Jersey from here, writing speeches for clients in Washington, Paris, Berlin, and Singapore; and placing stories in major newspapers regarding every aspect of the business travel industry. It had been my life’s ambition to live in the Adirondacks, deriving a decent income from someplace else. I pulled it off for twenty years. And then circumstances changed. My life’s focus evaporated in four simple words... And they are the same four words that have changed my life so many times: “I met a woman...”
There are three compelling forces in my life that continually bring me to the brink of salvation or utter ruin. They are my love of writing... My love of motorcycles... And my love of women. I would be forced to write if I had to read my work aloud to statues. For me, life exists solely for interpretation and retelling. And there is nothing like hurtling down a road on the back of a motorcycle. Twisting the throttle morphs the rider intro a half-human/half-machine god, who sizzles through molecules of air like an electric charge, arriving at another reality, in a cloud of spent ions. There is no other way to describe it and debating me on this is pointless. Simply stated, motorcycle riders have more orgasms, taste more of life, experience more highs, and spend more time in traffic court and emergency rooms than other mortals. (I don’t make the rules, I just play the game.)
And then there are women.
I generally prefer one at a time... So I can lose my mind, heart, and soul without distraction. Woody Allen once said, “In life, there are the horrible and the miserable. The horrible are the deformed. The miserable are everyone else.” Women are the precious elements that elevate man above the “miserable...” Unless, of course, they have pitched him into the quicksand misery of failed romance in the first place. There is nothing in the world to compare with the first turbocharged kiss from the captain of the college equestrian team, as she presses your hands against her jodhpured ass... Unless it is having a coworker you’ve had a crush on for years, pulling off her shirt and nailing you in the office... Or a newspaper reporter who’s busted your balls for years, jumping you on the city desk (after midnight on a Saturday)... And then there is having the most bewitching woman you have ever held in your arms taking your soul in the most enchanting Adirondack places: along streams in the mist, in glades where wild strawberries (the size of buttons) flavored her bare skin, and on a bear skin rug — before a roaring fire.
It was the memories of this last woman that were haunting me as I careened through a right angle turn onto Route 73, retracing my steps from the night before. (Please read previous blog). I was as stiff as a board and the turn has some wobble in it as I coasted to a stop at the last traffic light in town. (If one were headed straight south, the next stoplight would be 150 miles away.) The tide had long since gone out on that Adirondack love story, yet it is my firm belief that passion is like energy, and that it never really goes away, but comes back time and again for those who believe in quarks, quasars, black holes, and the black magic of motorcycles. It is the memory of the few women that I would have preferred not gotten away, however, that gnaws at my soul on cold, moonless nights. And I might have kept them all, but one, if I hadn’t been a total prick. (Naturally, I'd like another shot at "the one" that was destined to get away.)
The light changed, and the K75 spoke to me in German accent one normally associates with Marlene Dietrich. It said, “Wake the fuck up and pay attention. Your chances of getting laid on this trip are about the same as Congress coming up with enlightened legislation. However, your chances of blowing through a curve and going off a cliff are excellent.”
|Above: Silver-screen star Marlene Dietrich
The K75 sounded like Marlene Dietrich, but took on the image of Milla Jovovich when it appeared in my mind. (It is astounding how often images of Milla Jovovich have appeared in my mind.) The bike whined as the clutch bit into the friction zone, and I shot past the two towering Olympic ski jumps. Skiers in training were barreling down these inclined ramps (one 270 feet high) despite the fact it was July. The ski jumps and the landing strips on the sides of the mountain were covered in green brushes. (You read that correctly: “green brushes” with the bristles pointed upwards.) The skiers must hit 62 miles per hour before they can become airborne. I pulled over and watched as a 17-year-old with a death-wish briefly became a human clay pigeon, falling at least 12 stories through thin air, to land upright, on slightly bent knees, before making a perfect stop — on brushes.
“He may get laid tonight,” said the K75.
“Kiss my ass,” I thought, snicking it into gear. I launched myself into a 62-mile-per-hour start and began the descent into the Cascades. As previously mentioned, the Cascades are three stepped lakes piled into a narrow valley, lined with aspens. The road drops like a stone, with a few sweeping curves to the right and left. The pavement is good, wide, and steep enough to make a rider think the bike only has a front wheel. A light tap on the brakes causes the forks to dip like investments on Wall Street following a jobs report.
The Cascade Lakes are always pretty, but become incredibly so at dawn and twilight. (I married the second former Mrs. Riepe on the shores of Middle Cascade Lake, in a secret sunrise ceremony, conducted by the Honorable Judge Arnold Rothman, who sold me a fishing license the day before. She was Russian, blond, intensely pretty, focused, and under the impression that I could be fashioned into something useful.) It was no challenge to hold the bike on the hill with its flawless German brakes, but I preferred to let it build up a head of steam, before dropping down a gear. My reason for this was simple: I love the sound the engine makes when the RPM suddenly jumps, and I am addicted to the “grab you by the balls” feeling the bike imparts when it suddenly drops 25 miles-per-hour. Let’s face it... These are two of the reasons we all ride.
I wanted the descent through the Cascades to go on forever.
The breeze was cool... The road was mine... The challenge was minimal... And the satisfaction of the ride was vast. The bike responded to each of my slight handlebar inputs with Bavarian precision. Yet the sign announcing the 30-mph speed limit in town popped up fast enough, and you ignore these at your peril. I looked for people I knew as I rode through the towns of Keene and Keene Valley, to no avail. (This is the drawback to being able to ride on a day when everyone else is stuck in work.) I passed the now empty “Cozy Bear Bookstore,” where more than 400 people attended my first book-signing (Politically Correct Cigar Smoking For Social Terrorists). The event made the 6 O’clock news in Plattsburgh. The bookstore is something else now. (It is across from the Noonmark Diner, in Keene Valley, which is the best breakfast in the Adirondacks. Not only do they bake their own bread, but they make their own jam and maple syrup too. There are three kinds of breakfast served in heaven: Southern Breakfasts... New Jersey Diner Breakfasts... And the Noonmark Diner Breakfast. Riders should enjoy the triple crown of breakfast dining now, in the event they don’t qualify for heaven later.)
The K75 snarled into the incline leading up to Chapel Pond, and I took these curves at 60 miles-per-hour. There is a sheer drop-off on the left, framed by a vertical cliff, from which a glass-like waterfall tumbles into a ravine. Careless motorists are saved from plunging to certain death by a three-foot thick native rock wall guaranteed to cause certain death at point of impact. It is all very picturesque.
Once, passing this waterfall with my six-year-old daughter on the front seat of the Suburban, I pointed it out to her, explaining that a rock climber had fallen to his death there just the day before. She looked at the site through huge solemn eyes, before asking me, “What was his name?”
Details like that were always important to her.
I had no idea, but I didn’t believe that a dad should ever look like a dope in front of his little girl. I never hesitated and replied, “His name was Lefty.” For the next 16 years, my daughter would tell people, “That’s where Lefty fell off the cliff.” She was astonished to finally learn I had just made that name up. (His real name was Mucca Fignotti.)
Route 73 gives the impression it was laid out by the Chamber of Commerce. It passes by three or four natural wonders, winds through the kind of towns Bilbo Baggins would prefer, and offers proximity to a great breakfast (the Noonmark Diner) and a legendary saloon, called the Baxter Mountain Tavern. (Technically, this is on Rt. 9N in Keene, just off Rt. 73.)
I pulled into a clearing by Chapel Pond, and dropped my feet.
Chapel Pond sits in a depression at the foot of another vertical rock wall, surrounded by conifers and hardwoods, with three or four campsites accessible by car. I have been admiring this place for 40 years. It was here that the most beautiful woman I have ever known gave me the adolescence I never had, in the back of an SUV, when the rain fell like a curse. And just stopping here, in that same spot, I could feel my DNA tying itself into a square knot.
“Fuck it,” I thought. “You’re only making yourself crazy.”
I snicked the bike into gear, and continued on. There is another change in elevation on the other side of Chapel Pond, as the road drops into a valley as tight as my riding pants. A rock-lined trail peels off to the left, following a stream. The same blond scorched my soul in the same SUV as the moon rose above the trees here too. I remembered the moonlight in her eyes, the scent of her hair, the quickness of her breath, and mellow richness of her laugh. And I remembered how I wanted that night to go on forever, like the road through the Cascades: with minimal challenge and thrills without immediate consequences. And I remember thinking, “This one will last forever.”
“Is there any place in this 7-million-acre state park and forest preserve where this blond, or some other wet dream, didn’t honk your horn?” asked the K75. “Because if there is, I’d like to get there at 110 fucking miles-per-hour.”
It is impossible to argue with a motorcycle, especially one that takes on the image of Milla Jovovich, in her heartwarming role as the clone next door — “Alice” — in Resident Evil. We took a left on US-9 and the motorcycle changed the tune playing in my head. It went from “She’s My Girl” by the Turtles, to “Everything Louder than Everything Else” by Meatloaf, emphasizing the line, “If the thrill is gone than it’s time to take it back.”
Riding to a different tune occasionally causes you to sing one. I found myself tearing through the back end of Essex County, NY, thinking of nothing but the road. Two hours later, I saw a sign outside a little bistro, promoting “Meatloaf” sandwiches. I thought this was prophetic and decided to stop. The joint was on the corner, and I swung around to the side street, hoping to park in the shade. It was here I encountered a purple Harley-Davidson Sportster, from which a firecracker of a redhead was in the process of dismounting. The Harley had a New Jersey tag on it. The rider was as thin as braided leather and as hot as Satan’s kiss.
The firecracker was already seated at one of three tables when I sashayed in. I sat at an adjacent table and fired off my best “battered baby seal” look. The Harley rider appeared to be searching for a spittoon. I ordered the meatloaf sandwich, subconsciously humming “Paradise By The Dashboard Light.” The redhead suddenly took her meal outside.
Oddly enough, we both ended up mounting our bikes at the same time. (I decided that I only wanted a few bites from my sandwich.) “Headed to the BMW rally in Vermont?” I asked her with a smile.
She responded with a long pause, before asking, “Is there something about my bike, my gear, or my demeanor that suggests I could possibly give a shit about anything you might have to say?”
Stunned, I stuttered, “What part of Jersey City are you from?”
Her bike answered with a thunder clap from the pipes, and a slight fishtail of the back tire as it pulled away.
I tried to re-inflate my dignity in the silence that followed.
“Well you haven’t lost your touch,” said my K75. “At least you didn’t get laid here, which is good as the meatloaf was pretty decent and we can come back tomorrow without you feeling like shit.”
I really loved that K75... I must have. I wouldn’t take shit like that from Milla Jovovich, unless she gave me the opportunity, of course.
©Copyright Jack Riepe 2012
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