I believe in accommodating my readers whenever possible (except for the BMW “R” bike group in Minnesota who insisted I drink poison). This is the requested blog episode.
I apologize to my readers who were expecting humor. This is sophisticated science.
# # #
The face on the clock condemned me with a sneer, and read 2:45 A.M. It was set to detonate in two hours and fifteen minutes, when the first light of day would soil the sky. My eyes felt like I rolled them in cat litter and there was a dull throbbing in the pit of my stomach. These were the symptoms of holistic motorcycle pre-ride planning.
I was supposed to lead a breakfast ride of close friends and associates through a hostile Amish settlement. (The Amish were pissed over a steel vent fan that mysteriously fell from the heavens, stampeding a herd of chickens.) Arrangements called for me to meet the usual suspects (Bregstein, Frechi, Clyde, Gerry, Ron Yee, and David Hardgrove) in the parking lot of a local Starbucks. These hooligans are punctual to the point of pain. If I was ever more than an hour late, they’ll ride to house and rev their BMWs in the driveway. (They’d make more noise rustling a newspaper, but to these guys the symbolic gesture is everything.)
I should have been ready to spring into the saddle. My preparations were straight out of the holistic rider’s manual. The day before — Friday afternoon — I stopped work four hours early to meditate in a sweat lodge. An authentic sweat lodge is a yurt-like structure made of animal hides stretched over a frame of willow rods and bone pinions. I got plans for one on the internet but Home Depot was out of bone fragments, so I just sat in my old Suburban and smoked a cigar as big as my ass.
The cigar was potent and filled the vehicle with a dense cloud of rich, robusto haze. A wasp had followed me in from the driveway and had just begun to realize its peril. It tried stinging its way through the windshield, but to no avail. The nicotine fog enveloped it like an evil spirit and the insidious little fucker’s head exploded with a micro-pop.
The appreciation of nature is a critical part of the cigar/sweat lodge experience.
It takes 40 minutes to enjoy a smoke as dense and as perfectly rolled as an Arturo Fuentes Anejo Shark, in Maduro. (Maduro is a country in which the days are long and hot; the rum drinks are fruity and cool; and the women are dusky and seductive. I go there every time I light one and close my eyes.) The dense smoke of a great cigar presents a joint-like Nirvana (or so I’ve read) in the close confines of the rolling sweat lodge. I smoked so many cigars in that old truck that the windscreen was tinted yellow.
When that cigar was smoked to the point where I needed a roach clip to hold it, I tossed the smoldering clincher into the neighbor’s flowers. (Her cat had been pissing in our garage for years.) Then I looked to the parked K75 for spot maintenance. This ritual began by sitting in a Kermit chair and looking over the bike while sipping something restorative. I recommend a “Planter’s Punch,” made with Myers Dark Rum. These are the squeezings of a whole lemon, a whole lime, a tablespoon of sugar or simple syrup, and an ounce and a half of Myers dark rum, in a tall glass, topped with orange juice and ice, plus a squirt of grenadine. If you are riding the next day, limit yourself to seven or eight of these.
I discovered a loose mirror and set about tightening it. These mirrors were an aftermarket afterthought that turned this 1995 K75 from a bowling shoe into a glass slipper. The mounting screws were .34512 of an inch. One little wrench was specially cast for this size, before all of the dies were broken and all of the toolmakers who designed it were executed. I couldn’t remember if I left the wrench in my coat pocket, in the tool box, or on a rail fence alongside a dirt road in West Virginia. So I fudged it. The mirror would come loose in mid-ride, after I tried adjusting it at 60 miles per hour. Bregsten would run it over.
The seal on the top case was also loose. This was due to a gasket that BMW sells separately. It appears to be three inches too short on initial installation, and eight inches too long thereafter. I used a brand of super glue to hold the stretched-out gasket in place, closing the lid to guarantee a tight fit. An hour later, I would discover the lid glued shut in places.
It was then time for dinner. The truly spiritual rider does not freight up on carbs, huge cuts of meat, nor piles of starches the night before a ride. Experts claim light supping on things like watercress salad, cheese crusts, and herbal tea is the best thing to propel a rider out the door for a traditional Amish breakfast. I parboiled three green beans, a shallot, and some grubs I found in the garden for my evening meal. I planned to eat while reading a popular self-help book titled, How Not To Annoy The Living Shit Out Of Women... A Practical Guide For Men, when the love of my life waltzed in with a friend.
My lover at the time was a doe-eyed beauty, with a voice as soft as rain water trickling through orchids. She had a smile that refreshed my tortured soul and a kiss like a powerful narcotic. Her friend was another hot-looker with a personality like champagne bubbles set loose in the atmosphere. For the sake of this story, we will call the friend “Melissa.” Melissa was a statuesque brunette with a smile that promised a hot foot or a prison riot, and anything in between.
Melissa grabbed my dinner and tossed it to a rabid raccoon outside. The ladies suggested headiing to a local Asian joint, to savor some mild sushi (along with a cocktail or two), before calling it an early night.
“I am compelled to tell you two ladies that I am leading a breakfast run of philosophers through a hostile Amish encampment a first light. I plan to be in bed by 9:30pm, getting a full 7 hours sleep before this ride,” I said. "I want to wake up fully rested, refreshed, and headache free, prior to pulling out of here with time to spare."
The beauty who was mine looked at me in that special way that women who have been with the same man for more than a decade use to say, “Wanna bet, asshole?”
“Sure you are,” nodded Melissa, with a look that suggested information to the contrary.
The Asian place was intimate, dignified, and accommodating.The sushi chef, whose name was Ichiban Makozowai, greeted us like old friends, which we had become. The manager, Izu Fong Chu, said to me, “Ha ha. Good to see you again, Mr. Jack. Your fren’ very funny. She no start food fight again tonight, huh?”
Melissa wanted adventurous sushi. She ordered cuttle fish babies served in remorse, shark eyeballs in aspic, pulsating octopus suckers, spicy tuna tongues, starfish balls in bonita flakes, politically astute shrimp brains, squid caps, and electrified eel dicks. She ordered hot dishes too. One was called “The Peacock and The Dragon.” According to the menu, it was a guinea hen that had been kicked in the balls and a komodo dragon that died of natural causes.
There was no bar in this place but it was BYOB. The ladies had two huge containers of mixed cocktails. By the time we had eaten the last deep sea urchin on earth, the waiters were practicing ritual seppuku in the kitchen (disemboweling themselves). So we went to the Irish bar down the street, where it was Mariachi Night. At closing time, Melissa was wearing a huge sombrero, and reenacting the final moments of Poncho Villa on a Dublin Street corner.
I staggered back to the house, leaving a trail of clothing from the front door to the sofa. At 15 feet, the sofa was closest to a first floor bathroom. I couldn’t find a blanket and wrapped myself in a sleeping dog. Chunks of half-digested sushi began to reassemble and reanimate themselves in my stomach. A fiddler crab fought with an octopus in a deadly struggle. A school of yellow tail went into session. I was close to death at 2:46am, about a minute after this story started. I knew I had seconds to make the bathroom.
There are times in a man’s life where he fully appreciates the principle behind seat belts. I wished the toilet had had them. Next to the commode was a nice little vanity with a candle on it. My lover back then was as practical as she was pretty. The candle was a small galvanized pail, filled with paraffin and citronella. It had three industrial-sized wicks in it. Next to it was my self-help book from the kitchen, which was opened to page 36. This said, “A man should always light a candle or ignite a block of thermite when taking a dump in a confined space smaller than a zeppelin hanger.”
Matches were thoughtfully provided.
My lover had replaced the exhaust fan in this bathroom with a ventilation system from a Latvian lithium mine. Sometimes it was not enough. One night, the vent fan blew through the roof of the house and disappeared.
I lit the first wick. The citronella struggled. I lit the second wick, and the scent of the citronella was barely noticeable. Then I lit the third and a nuclear blast of citronella filled the room. Twenty minutes later, I stood up, ready to totter out to the couch again. But I am a fireman’s kid, and I blew out the candle first.
Each wick generated a thick plume of smoke, which rose to the ceiling — setting off smoke detectors throughout the whole house. A woman’s voice, tinged with impatience and a sense of irony, drifted down the stairs. She said, “You finally took a dump so vicious that it set off the smoke alarms.”
Does anyone want a used copy of How Not To Annoy The Living Shit Out Of Women... A Practical Guide For Men? I don’t need it any more.
Who reads Twisted Roads?
Dick Bregstein (PA), Pete Buccheit (MD), and Clyde Jacobs (PA) are celebrating their annual West Virginia Bacchanalia Ride this week. This is where the guys occasionally hit speeds of 62.5 miles per hour, stay up until 8:30pm, and eat meals with all the salt they want. Sometimes they will smoke a cigar, but Clyde complains it is usually all gobbed up by the time it gets passed to him.
Yesterday they announced their riding was curtailed by humidity that went above 20 percent, which is Bregstein’s threshold. When I suggested that they watch something other than the weather channel and beauty queen reality shows, they sent me a picture of their team during morning calisthenics.
Paul Pollio (NJ) took a day trip from suburban New Jersey to Mount Washington (NH) for lunch yesterday. The rain slowed him to a more practical 86 miles per hour, Here is a picture of the rains in Hancock, NY yesterday, where Pollio pulled over to release a trout from his boot.
Above: The classic Indian Motorcycle that I almost got for a gift...
Henrietta Van Dratten (TN) sent along this picture of an Indian, which she bought me for a gift, and then took back. Technically speaking, this makes her an “Indian giver.” (I’m sure I will hear from 16 politically correct ethnic groups over that last comment.) I’ve known Henrietta Van Dratten for years, but under another name. This is all very strange.
Next blog in 24 hours...
Dispatches From The Front
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What, again I am the first one to post? Truly am I not stalking you or living for these postings, I assure you. Even with the the typos and all....even so, the stuff is better than anything I ever hope to write.
Pre-ride rituals eh? I have enough trouble remembering to void my bladder before I am fully geared up, then it's too late, isn't it?
"Specifically, I was to avoid any reference to getting laid (or expecting a trombone solo) as an incentive in the direction-taking process."
Hi Jack. I'm not sure this is even possible...in describing any motivation of man...as long as he's breathing anyway. Good read!
Always an adventure reading your posts!
The status of my arthritis has me crazy. All I want to do is ride, and it is not going to happen for another year. I got s depressed that I didn't post a blog for almost 6 weeks.
I stated this one, which is grounded in pure but dated fact, three weeks ago. I determined to finish it and stop looking at it. I corrected ten typos after I read your comment. Undoubtedly, others remain.
I have a surprise for you in two more blogs.
Thanks for your kind comments... And for stalking me.
You are so spot on with this one. I never realized how sweet trombone music could be. Bear in mind that March 14th is the official holiday of Twisted Roads.
Thanks for reading and for writing in.
I exist solely to bring a little adventure into the lives of women. What s life without the occasional ride on the roller coaster?
Thanks for reading and for writing in.
Well, you are not the only one who has bikes "speak" to them. The Indian ( AKA Dirk Diggler) saw your picture from the BURP rally a few years back. He threatened to run me over like Christine used to do in the King novel if you went near him. We came to an agreement and he is now just slowly decaying on the lawn. And yes, I am from NJ, hence the "name". Have you read the news lately? Michigan farmhouse and all? Great stories, looking forward to your next book....
The guys have never looked better. At least Bregstein brushed his teeth before posing for the picture.
I half expected to see a large "cigar" sticking out of at least one of those big wide smiles...
See what happens when you ride without a gel seat?
This piece touches me in many aspects, from planters punch to cat litter in the eyes-bravo!
Kind regards from Northern Albania,N
Getting touched by anything I write is generally a mistake. I'm sorry you're not back in Britain. I was hoping you could send me a newspaper so I could find out what the hell is going on in the US.
Please excuse me while I gouge my eyes out, the moon shot will haunt me for months.
So many smart ass remarks that I could make...and it would only improve the scene. I'm just not seeing the smart ones on this blog. As Dan remarked about gel seats...it isn't a pretty sight seeing monkey butt up close and personal.
I also was surprised to not see a cigar, and maybe a cut out of your face plastered someplace, since they were obviously thinking of you.
As far as the rest of the story, goes to show that you shouldn't mess with the love of your life. She'll take you down faster than you can think "pow, to the moon"!
So....did they gang come and rustle their newpapers over your prostrate form congealed into the sofa??
Go Jack, Go!
Indian giver...didn't see that one coming, brilliant! (screw pc)
With that Indian even you could drag stuff in the corners !
My pre ride consists of , wake up to the pounding on the door from early arrivals and take a piss, grab a cup of coffee then another, then one more cup I know I'll regret but do it anyway. Smoke a pack of cigarettes (makes the voice deep and gruff) hack out some phlegm or bit of lung. Stroll to the bike and look at it, have to make sure it is still there. Wait for others to arrive while taking a dump (hopefully I'm still awake), your book might help in this department. While on the toilet the phone will always ring. Make sure there is still grease and oil in the bike, when it's not leaking from a gasket or fork seal I know it's time to worry, if it's fresh drippings I know I'm ready.
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Just finished "Conversations with a Motorcycle," a coming of age story set in the mid 1960s about a young man, Riepe, and his first motorcycle, a back-talking 750cc Kawasaki H2. A man of practicality and observation Riepe's character and scene descriptions are beautifully written, each paragraph visually rich.
"I remember beautiful, clear afternoons that were instantly clouded by motorcycle that refused to fire. On one such occasion, my friend Cretin jumped up and down on the starter of his beloved Norton Commando about 20 times, muttering mystical (and presumably helpful) incantations like: "This fucking British bitch of a motorcycle," between efforts." Music to my ears since my ex-husband had a yellow Norton Commando sitting on a pedestal in our living room. The pleasure was knowing that the ex had to kickstart the Commando a million times over whatever status he thought the bike brought him. Riepe's H2 always started.
Perhaps one of the book's characters, Cretin, said it best.
"Reep," said Cretin. "You are the writer in a gin mill where no one can read. You are Toulouse Lautrec in a society that has yet to discover art. Make the best of it. Limit yourself to words of two syllables, or these guys will think you're making fun of them and beat the shit out of you."
Riepe is a gem whose writing tells of a time before cell phones and GPS units whose screens dissolve into a green and unusable digital abyss on an empty road in the middle of nowhere, always the best place to be.
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