Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sons of Agony

If you like Motorcycles and appreciate the “brotherhood” syndrome that delivers a sense of belonging to the emotionally disenfranchised, you may enjoy the TV series, Sons of Anarchy. Currently it can be seen on the FX Channel and on DVD and Blueray. I’m sure those with a larceny gene in their DNA or a teenager living at home can also find it in pirated files on the Internet.

The Series is pretty much like a soap opera about an International Motorcycle Gang that deals guns, rides noisy hogs, maims and kills adversaries, and loves its family and friends. It’s rated M for Mature, N for Nudity, L for Language, O for Offensive, B for Boring, and SS for Silly Shit.

Jane, my “life partner” of nearly 43 years,  is addicted to re-runs of game shows and to “Chick Flicks” on LLC (Lesbian Ladies Channel) about women who beat their husbands to death for the insurance money. She suggested that I DVD the show. Her exact words were, “then you can watch that inane crap when I’m not around.” I’ve recorded the series on Fios, and I think I haven’t missed an inane episode.

I know some you reading this might welcome spousal absenteeism as an opportunity to surf porn on the internet. Not me. When I'm not reading the Good Book I use that time to catch up on Sons of Anarchy and blood sport shows where a couple of guys with no body fat and Brussels Sprouts for ears beat the crap out each other. It’s a “guy thing.”

Watching a motorcycle show about guns, drugs, violence, and half-naked women got me thinking about starting a motorcycle gang. I could do nicely without the guns, drugs and violence, but the thought of riding with a gang that has it’s own colors, patches, and sexy women who are property of the club and whose only mission is to satisfy sexual whims of the “brotherhood” is appealing as long as Jane doesn’t find out.

As with any new project, I needed a working name. The Sons of Anarchy is called, “SAMCRO” in the series. I think that stands for “Sons of Anarchy Motor Cycle Riders Organization.”

I decided to call my motorcycle gang, “SAMECRAP.” In keeping with the current politically botched and intellectually absurd thrust toward clean energy, it stands for “Sons of Agony Motorized and Electric Cycle Riders Organization.” I'm trying to get Al Gore to be a founding member.

I settled on “Sons of Agony” when I considered who I would get to join the gang. When thinking about the people with whom I usually ride, the first person who came to mind was Riepe, whose picture is prominently displayed next to the word "agony" in the dictionary. Jack has major arthritis in his hips, knees, and back and endures incredible physical pain when he rides his motorcycle. Those of us who ride with him are in agony, too. For us it’s more mental and emotional than physical,  but we have learned to endure that hardship for the joy of consistently sticking him with the breakfast check.

To round out the membership I started thinking about others with whom I’ve ridden recently. The last trip, on Saturday, November 13th, was with four other guys, all members of  The Mac-Pac. Just to put things in perspective, the group of five riders has a total of three prostate glands, a series of operations, cardiac caths,  and travels with its own riding Cardiologist. Each, rider has at least one infirmity, so “Sons of Agony” is an appropriate name for the gang.

Riepe, the Grand PooBah of pains in the ass, was out of town for the weekend. Yet, we still honored him by meeting at 8:30am at his usual rallying point, Starbucks, on Route 30, in Exton PA.

Gerry Cavanaugh, who rides a BMW R1150GS capable of fording streams, jumping over piles of fallen timber, and climbing rock cliffs, took responsibility for planning the trip. We all arrived on time (Noto Bene, Riepe) at Starbucks.

The Military Police are known for their authoritarian stance and decisiveness. In another life, Gerry was an MP, so we expected that he would have the trip mapped out to the most annoying, minute detail. When he arrived, map in hand, he announced that we could go to Jennie’s Diner in the Lancaster area for breakfast, or to Chesapeake City, Maryland, or up Route 501 to Pine Grove, PA. It was then that we learned the motto emblazoned on the Cavanaugh Family Crest, “Humilitas per Iudicium,” loosely translates as “Indecision Is Mine to Administer To Those Foolish Enough To Put Me In Charge.”

Peter Frechie, our Cardiologist buddy, riding his spirited, 38-year-old, 1975 BMW R90S, suggested that breakfast at Jennie’s was too loaded with carbs and cholesterol for our band of broken brothers. He announced that he wasn’t hungry and wanted to forego breakfast for perhaps a late brunch or early lunch and get in some good riding before the roads got clogged like the arteries of those foolish enough to eat bacon.

Jay Scales, who had ridden his oil- and air-cooled 2009 BMW R1200RT from Allentown in just above freezing weather with his heated jacket liner ablaze grimaced and ran into Starbucks for a hot cup of coffee and to make an early morning dew deposit.

Ron Ye, riding his “Chipmunk Special," arrived with his jacket open and wearing a thin pair of leather gloves. Ron, who works with experimental drugs, wears surgical gloves under his leather ones to keep the heat in. Some suspect that he eats fiery Szchuean food before riding on cool days. Riepe told me that he doesn’t care what Ron wears or eats; he just wants some of Ron’s experimental drugs.

I arrived on my BMW R1100R which had been fitted with new Conti Attack tires and new front brake pads just this week, at The Rubber Chicken Racing Garage, in Yardley, PA. I was wearing my heated Gerbing jacket liner and gloves, and I had remembered to plug them into the bike. Tom Cutter, the irrepressible motorcycle legend who owns, runs, and does all the work at The Rubber Chicken Racing Garage told me that plugging in electrics makes them work better. Tom is always right; ask him.

With the temperature just near 40 degrees, I did not have to turn the heat on. The Gerbing gloves are well insulated and keep my hands warm in 40-degree weather. My Gerbing jacket liner worn under a leather jacket does a good job until speed or wind chill are factored in. Then a twist of the controller dial surrounds me in memories of prenatal warmth – if I remember to plug in the controller.

Within minutes Gerry had us on the road headed for someplace West and possibly North. With Gerry in the lead, we hit the Route 30 Bypass and ended up in a line of traffic that refused to climb above the speed limit. It got even more challenging when we hit every traffic light between the end of the bypass and Gap, PA, where we traveled West on Route 741. The objective was to take 741 to 896 and then Route 30 to 501 North.. For a while it seemed that even snails move faster during their mating season than we were going.

After riding for about an hour, we stopped for breakfast at a Pennsylvania Dutch diner. There was something familiar about our waitress, but we couldn’t put a finger on it. Gerry swore it was her smile.

(Photos Courtesy of Peter Frechie, which is why there's no picture of him)
Our waitress looking frighteningly familiar
 Gerry hid his bacon under the eggs
Ron's eggs needed more Chili Oil

Jay got Ron's uncooled Chili Oil 

Doesn't this look like a puppy with a bloody nose?
By the time we finished breakfast, the temperature was approaching 60 degrees, so we shed layers of clothing and prepared to head North. Peter suggested that we take Route 501 to Route 125, and it turned out to be a great suggestion once we got past Lititz and the Lancaster Airport area.

As we headed North, we got ahead of the traffic, and the road opened up as we passed through some beautiful scenic areas with rolling hills, green farmland, and forests painted in all the exquisite colors of Fall. I wanted to take pictures of everything I saw, but I was having too much fun riding the bike to stop.

Pennsylvania Woods Behind My House

As we reached the stop sign at the intersection of 501 and 125, Peter asked, "Have you ever been on125?"

None of us had. He smiled, snapped the visor shut on his helmet and took off with the four of us in hot pursuit. It was splendid ride.

Eventually we found our way to Route 81 and 72 and 322, and at about 3:00pm I pulled into my driveway with a big-assed smile on my face and more than 200 additional miles on my new tires as the sun was disappearing over the trees.

Gerry Cavanaugh called to make sure I made it home, and he told me he had spoken with all of the others who were home safe, sound, and smiling.

When  I booted up my computer to check email , there was one from Peter to all of us.  It read,

“It was a great day;  thanks for joining me on a much needed day off.
"Nothing else I would have rather done.”

Me too, Peter, me too.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Missing In Action


This issue of Riding With Riepe and Other Indiscretions is dedicated to Michael Cantwell who hangs on my every word.

The alarm shrieked at 7:00am, and I tried to roll out of bed. It was tough, because I hadn’t slept well. I’ve been nursing a dripping sinus cold that gets me up every few hours to blow my nose and cough up truly disgusting biological concoctions reminiscent of The Blob. A week ago, I tried to cure the cold on my own with Nyquil, aspirin, vitamin C, chicken soup, hot tea, and half a bottle of wine. You’d think that by this stage of my life I would have learned there’s no good substitute for a medical license.

When I finally visited my friendly family physician, he checked my blood pressure and heart rate, listened to my lungs and looked up my nose, in my ears, and down my throat. The verdict was sinusitis, for which the treatment is rest, liquids, Penicillin, and above all, the doctor admonished, “Avoid riding a motorcycle with Jack Riepe.”

The first layer of leaves on my driveway
I’ve been resting and taking Penicillin for a week, and, for most part, the weather has cooperated by being rainy, windy, and dank and producing the kinds of days that discourage me from getting on my bike, which is whining for new tires. By Thursday, for example, there were six inches of wet leaves covering my driveway.

Riepe also cooperated by coming up lame in the first furlong, as his chronic arthritis has reduced him to a sniveling ball of humanity, a large sniveling ball, but one that was having a hell of time even trying to roll or bounce.

A Tiny sample of Minado's Menu
I had seen Jack earlier in the week, when we both upped our iodine and lead intake at a Mac-Pac dinner at Minado, a remarkable Japanese sushi buffet restaurant in Norristown, PA.

We had a chance to talk briefly. Jack said he hadn’t ridden his motorcycle in a month, and he was determined to ride this weekend. I told him to count me in, and as far I was concerned I would ride anywhere he could ride comfortably.

Amish women racing to be hit on by Riepe
On Friday night, I found an email from Jack announcing that he would be at the Exton Diner at 9am and was planning to ride a loop through the Amish country, stopping for a lunch of nuts and apples and freshly churned ersatz butter spread on warm diet crackers and to hit on some of the Amish women.

Then at 7:05am I had another email from Jack saying he was up and moving around and wished he set the meeting time for 10am. I wrote back, “Me too,” and headed to shower and to get dressed.

Getting out of the garage was a bit of a chore this morning. For one thing, it was 42 degrees, and I wanted to stay warm so I wouldn’t aggravate my cold. I put away my vented jacket and its liner and opted for my leather jacket with a heated Gerbings jacket liner and my heated Gerbing gloves – just in case it turned cooler.

I haven’t used the heated stuff in about a year, so I had to decide how to attach the controller to the bike and where to run the wires. None of that is difficult or confusing. It just requires a little thought, which comes fitfully for me prior to sucking down a few cups of coffee. The bottom line is I got it done, plugged everything in, twisted the controller to make sure it worked. The red LED was glowing, and I saw no sparks, so I turned it off with the kind of smile of satisfaction you’d find flashing across the face of a master mechanic who just set up a winning bike for Chris Carr.

At 8:58am I pulled in the parking lot at The Exton Diner. Not another motorcycle was in sight. “Fuckin’ Riepe,” I muttered, “I could have stayed in bed.”

I turned off the bike, put the kickstand down and dismounted being careful to unplug the Gerbings cable, so I wouldn't pull the bike over or break the very durable connections. I removed my gloves, helmet and sunglasses, and figured I would just go inside have a cup of hi-test coffee and wait for Jack.

Then I saw a red bike coming down the hill on Swedesford Road with the sun glaring behind it. The rider was wearing a red helmet. Jack has a black Nolan helmet. “Must have a new lid.” I thought as I stowed the gloves and locked the helmet to the bike.

When the red bike got closer I realized it wasn’t “Fuckin’ Riepe.” It was Ron Ye on his Chipmunk Special. That was good news, because I always enjoy riding with Ron who knows almost as many back roads as Jay Scales.  Ron pulled in next to my bike and to my surprise Jay Scales arrived a little while later. As we stood in the parking lot trashing Riepe for not being there, Jack emerged like the great pumpkin from between two parked cars and told us he was having breakfast with Bobby LeBoutillier, who runs the famous Waterloo Gardens Nursery and sweat shop.

Jack, an expert on all things Dutch, said he was teaching Bobby about planting depths for exotic varieties of tulip bulbs and discussing ballet dancing in wooden shoes.

He explained that he hadn’t slept in two months; he had a headache, acida, a toothache, hemorrhoids and hoof and mouth disease, and he didn’t feel right about riding this morning, since it was Rolly Free’s great grandmother’s cousin’s nephew’s next door neighbor’s birthday, and he was slated to present an award at a Knights of Columbus meeting in Uganda sometime in June. He said if we all had breakfast with him and rode back to his house, he would try to get on his bike and ride with us.

The sounds of traffic on Route 100, the roar of a jet plane overhead, and the snickering of women throughout the world who have known Riepe were drowned out by the coordinated response from Ron, Jay, and me.

“Screw you, Riepe,” echoed through the canyons of Exton, PA, bounced off of Philadelphia, and lodged itself in between Jack’s ears.

“But I’ll buy breakfast,” Jack said.

After breakfast, Bobby headed to work to test some of Jack’s tulip-planting strategies, Jack went home to clean up dog poop, and Jay, Ron, and I decided to ride to Hermy’s BMW/Triumph Motorcycle dealer, in Port Clinton, PA.  Jay needed to buy some oil, Ron needed an oil filter, and I needed a ride. Hermy’s is a great destination, They always have an exciting assortment of new BMWs and Triumphs on the showroom floor, and they have some excellent used bikes in their constantly changing inventory. More importantly, they welcome gawkers and buyers with equal enthusiasm, although drooling on the bikes is discouraged.

Just as we were about to leave the diner, my cell phone rang. It was Jane, the mother of my children, keeper of the cats, joy of my life, and now harbinger of bad news. She was on her way to work and thought that she left the iron on. I could either chance having the house burn down taking with it my collection of photo-shopped Jack Riepe pictures, or I could head home and pull the plug.
Jack's Kindergarten Photo (Courtesy of Sister Mary Margaret Knuckle-Buster)

I told Ron and Jay that I knew a real neat way to get to Hermy’s from my house, which is less than a mile from the dinerof Etiquet. The three of us gave Jack the Mac-Pac salute and us headed off so I could check the iron.

Mac-Pac Salute Courtesy of The Mac-Pac  Etiquette Manual

With my plug-pulling chore done, we headed up Route 113 to Route 401, which is a pretty ride with some nice curves when the traffic isn’t heavy. As luck would have it, 401 was clear. The sky was also clear, and the sun was beginning to brighten the cool, crisp day.

We headed north on Route 100. I had thought about taking 322 to 345 and riding back roads through French Creek State Park, but I remembered that a bridge on 345 was out, some of the roads were being resurfaced with oil and gravel chips, and the roads through the park had a 25 mph speed limit.

We took 100 to 422 to 662, moving at a pretty good pace, but not too fast to miss enjoying the sight of turning leaves on a sunny and cool Fall day.

We spent about an hour sitting on BMWs and Triumphs, fantasizing about how we will spend our Powerball winnings, and buying the things my riding buddies needed to work on their bikes.
Jay Scales, Me and Ron Ye all leathered up for Fall (Photo by Ron's Robot)

Standing in front of Hermy’s, I mused, “Too bad Riepe couldn’t be with us,” and my gaze turned toward the one cloud in the sky that strangely looked a lot like the face of Michael Cantwell, a long time friend of Jack’s. The face in the cloud appeared to be grinning as Ron and Jay shouted in unison, “Screw Riepe.”

Ron and I waved to Jay as he headed home to cut the grass and change his oil. Our ride South into Chester Country was pleasant. There wasn’t much traffic until we hit the part of Route 100 that condensed from four to two lanes, and that still moved along nicely.

It was great day to be out on a motorcycle in the Fall weather with a couple of good riding partners whose Cantwellian words were still ringing in my ears, “Screw Riepe.”

Monday, October 11, 2010

Breakfast In The Boonies

How many people do you know who can argue with themselves and lose? That’s exactly how Sunday started out for me. I’ll get to that in time, but first want to say that I was delighted when I got home late Saturday afternoon to find an email from Ron Ye asking if I was interested in a Sunday ride.

For those of you who haven’t met Ron, he’s the guy who bought a BMW Boxer that had chipmunks living in it. When he took it on its maiden voyage the chipmunk nest, which was nestled lovingly under the gas tank, burst into flames. Fortunately Ron and the bike survived, because besides being a nice guy who doesn’t deserve incineration Ron’s a very good rider who swears he knows his way around the back roads of Pennsylvania.

My cat, Henrietta, protecting my bike from chipmunks
Yesterday he was put to the test. With the authority vested in me by The Halt and Lame Riders Guild of Southeastern Pennsylvania, I crowned Ron Sunday’s Ride Leader for a breakfast run to Jennie’s Diner, in East Lampeter Township. That’s the place that has pancakes the size of Jack Riepe’s ass.

Riepe, the erstwhile author of Twisted Roads, was not going to join us. Someone who doesn’t eat pancakes had just taken major bites out of his ass, and Jack was attempting to recover while learning to sit in a chair without leaning. This is a move he had long since perfected on his BMW K75 motorcycle.


As Sunday morning rolled around, I woke up to darkness and I too rolled around to get a peek at the clock on the cable box. It read 5:30am.

“That’s too early for a man to attempt to function unless he’s going fishing, hunting, or has an assignation with a sexy woman of means,” I thought. Not qualifying for any of the three, I rolled over and went back to sleep.

Ron and I had agreed to meet at the Wawa on Route 30, opposite the Wegman’s shopping center, at precisely 8am. I posted the ride to the Mac-Pac email list with the 8 o’clock meeting time.

Morpheus, Phanasos, and Iris
(courtesy of Wikipedia)
As Morpheus once again slapped his greasy hands over my eyes, I thought “I can grab another hour of sleep before I have to get ready to ride.” (Noto Bene to Jack Riepe:  Morpheus is the god of dreams, not a gay Greek lover).
The alarm went off at 7:00am. I jumped up,  mumbled, “Oh Shit, get your greasy hands off of my eyes. I’m running late!”

I ran to the kitchen, turned on the coffee pot, fed the cats, and drank some coffee. I brushed my teeth, got dressed and headed for the garage. I did this all very quietly, because Jane, the mother of my children who has put up with my crap for 42 years, was still asleep. She worked until 9:00pm Saturday night, and was due back hawking cosmetics by 10am. Waking her up early is like simultaneously stepping barefoot into hive of Killer Bees and a nest of Fire Ants. Ever since our helpful government banned DDT, there’s no good way to do it.

As the garage door went up I could feel cooler-than-usual air. “Hmmm,” I wondered, “Should I put the liner in my vented jacket?” My Field Sheer vented jacket has a warm, windproof and supposedly waterproof liner that makes it at least good for three seasons.

This time of year it’s difficult to know how to dress for a motorcycle ride. Sometimes it’s cool in the morning and cooler in the afternoon, and sometimes it’s not. I decided to check the weather.

About a week ago I downloaded an “app” (application for the Apple uninitiated) to my iPhone that gives me an instant five-day weather forecast at the push of a button. I also have a Weather Channel app and another one that gives me weather maps, 10-day and hourly forecasts and can be set to send alerts to warn of Tsunamis, Meteorites, and approaching visiting relatives.

My iPhone said the temperature was in the low 50s and it would hit the low 70s. That was clearly enough information upon which to base a valid executive decision, so I decided not to put the liner in my jacket. Besides, hooking up the zippers and little “snappy” tabs is a royal pain in the ass, and I was running a little late. I'm pretty lazy before 9am, so any excuse not to do something is valid.

As many of us have learned, executive decisions are not always the best.

As I pulled out of the driveway, I could feel the cold air make my eyes tear and blow through my jacket, swirling around my chest, tickling the hair in my arm pits, and numbing my back. I started singing a refrain from That Ol’Black Magic….”icy fingers running down my spine, that same old witchcraft when you’re teary eyes meet mine.” 

Luckily that’s all I could remember of the song, and my helmet singing ended as I pulled into the driveway at the Wawa at 8:03am. The four riders who had already arrived will never know what they missed. Maybe I’ll sing for them at the Christmas Party.

As I pulled up to a gas pump to top off my tank, I noticed that we were riding with the noteworthy: Ron Ye, Leader Extraordinary and Chipmunk Master, Ken Bruce, who makes “The Long Way ‘Round” look like child’s play, Renaissance Man, Doug Raymond, whose personal adventures would make Tolstoy’s War and Peace seem like a cheap dime novel, and John Fleischer, who admittedly had never ridden with The Mac-Pac before, and wondered why. We promised John that before the day ended he would understand how well providence had protected him in the past.

By 8:35am we were on the road following Ron to Jennie’s Diner, so we thought!

Since it was Sunday, we had anticipated coming upon Amish buggies shuttling the devout to their Sunday meetings. There were some of these hard-working rustic folks on the road. We also thought most of the Amish watching sightseers would not be on the road, because the Amish markets and shops are closed on the Sabbath.

What we didn’t anticipate was the Speed-Limit Drivers of America regularly scheduled Rally along our path.

Normally one can ride safely through the farm country at 50 to 70 mph or more, even though the speed limit may be 45. Motorcycle riders can be slowed by road conditions, such as gravel after a rain storm (we had a lot of this last week), road apples (horse shit – there’s always a lot of that – on and off Pennsylvania roads), or real apples, Osage orange tree droppings, pine needles, slippery leaves, Pennsylvania pot holes, dead branches, dead possums, dead foxes, dead cats, and the dreaded deer living or dead.

Amish Mule Power
Today we were slowed by folks out for a Sunday drive in the country to watch cows and mules, browning corn stalks and farmers cutting grass. But still it was a pleasant ride through very pretty country.

What became painfully evident to me was that I should have put “the fucking liner” in my vented jacket. Because, now twenty minutes into the trip, my hands were numb, my chest was frozen, and my nipples were as hard as a career politician’s heart and twice as cold. I hoped I remembered to pack a wind shirt.

In another twenty minutes we were pulling into the crowded parking lot at Jennie’s Diner. My frozen mind was playing tricks on me, so all I could think of was wrapping my numb fingers around a hot cup of coffee, and probably spilling a little on the front of my shirt.

We parked the bikes and began the disrobing ritual: First the gloves, then the helmet, then the sun glasses, then the jacket. Now open a saddle bag and take all of the junk out of the jacket pockets and put it into a lockable saddle bag. Then lock the helmet and jacket to the bike. Don’t forget to take the key!

While I was doing this, Ken walked over to the diner to get us a table. Two minutes later, we arrived and were greeting by two lines of at least twenty people waiting to get inside to be seated. Five hungry riders made a quick decision to move on and find a place where we could get into the eating mode a lot faster. Jennie’s Diner is small; we figured the wait would be up to an hour, and we didn't want to waste this beautiful day standing in a line for breakfast.

I found the wind shirt in my saddle bag and put it on. It’s amazing how much more comfortable motorcycle riding is with pliable nipples. I didn’t mind that Ron led us to what seemed like Canada and back to find a place to eat. The truth is I can probably live off of my own stored body fat for five or six weeks, and the ride through Lancaster County was delightful.

It wasn’t long before we ended a circuitous route in the parking lot of Hershey Farm Restaurant and Inn, in Ronks, PA. As we again dismounted our motorcycles and stowed our gear, I could hear a loud speaker on the building summoning the hungry to their tables, “Ahmadinejad party of 12. Pelosi, party of one. Obama, party while you can, Baby.”

“Looks pretty touristy,” I thought to myself, “but we’re all hungry. How bad can it be? And if I say anything, the other four guys will probably beat the crap out of me and set my bike on fire.”

Wisely, I chose to suffer in silence.

There was no suffering. The truth is it was pretty darn good. The restaurant serves a buffet breakfast with good French toast, corned beef hash, hash browns, scrambled eggs, waffles, biscuits, all kinds of wholesome berry toppings, and there’s a cool guy slinging outstanding omelets. There’s very little missing on this breakfast buffet, and the food is of good quality. The hostess who seated us and the waitress who took our drink orders and cleared our deceased dinner plates were delightfully pleasant, and the price was right – just a couple of bucks more than the buffet at your typical greasy-spoon diner.

I can’t remember which roads we traveled to return home, because my attention was focused on our surroundings. We passed a few buggies and weren’t held up by gawking tourists more than once or twice. We got do some gawking ourselves. At one point we rode by two Amish women on foot-powered scooters rolling down the shoulder of the road with their hair, bonnets and dresses flowing in the breeze. It's a sight I will long remember as a symbol of this ride. There were lots of horse-drawn buggies and carts and animals in the fields, and the air was filled with the fresh, healthy smell of rural America

With the smell of early Fall in the air, we covered some very pretty country with full bellies and broad smiles. It was a good day to be on two wheels with a fun group of riding buddies.

Doug Raymond, a Living Adventure
Ken Bruce who really wanted to ford a stream
Racoon fur embedded in Doug's tire
Two of those guys, Doug and Ken have been cross country and to Alaska on their bikes, and all four, Ron, John, Doug, and Ken, of have years of riding experience on me.

I am warmed by that wonderful feeling of being accepted as a part of riding group of highly experienced bikers who never once tried to kill me or burn my bike. I know Riepe’s thinking, “There’ll be a next time.”

Post Script: Sorry there aren't more pictures, but my camera crapped out right after I shot the photos of Doug and Ken. Not saying that's a cause and effect; you decide!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Jennie's Diner Redux

What better way to celebrate National Comic Book Day than to take a motorcycle ride with that icon of two-wheeled madness, that witty raconteur, master of the turned phrase, and self-professed sex symbol…..I’ll bet you expected me to say “Jack Riepe.” Nah. Not him. Actually I was thinking of Pop-Pop Gerry Cavanaugh, but that’s for another story.

Catherine Zeta Jones
September 25th is National Comic Book Day, so declared by strange-looking dudes who play dungeons and dragons and live in a weird make-believe world in someone’s basement. Kind of like some bikers you may know.

September 25th is also Catherine Zeta Jones’s birthday. She was an unfertilized egg, in 1968, the year I got married. That puts my thoughts about a tryst with Katy in an even more disgusting category, although it doesn’t kill the thoughts.

September 25th is also the day after Jack Riepe decided he had played the halt and lame card long enough and was going to organize and lead a ride to breakfast somewhere in the Amish Horsepile country which he singlehandedly made infamous.

Jack suggested we head for the Gap Diner which has a large biker-friendly parking lot and terrible food generally sucked down by grinning Amish-watching tourists who flock to the area to see folks dressed in black clothes sell colorful quilts and canned pickles and who ride around on foot-powered scooters or in horse-drawn wagons. I wondered, “Is the quality of the food payback for the gawking?”

A scant eight hours before the ride Jack posted it to the Mac-Pac mailing list. In an ordinary group of people with normal human interaction, eight hours notice would have turned up no takers. Not so with the Mac-Pac, whose lives are as full as lunar craters or looted Egyptian tombs.

Jack Riepe Terrorizing The Amish
The Mac-Pac is a group of predominantly BMW motorcycle riders known to roll through hamlets in Southeastern Pennsylvania striking fear in hearts of the Amish, the Mennonites, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Buddhists, Islamists, Druids, Agnostics, Atheists, and the Dutch no matter what their religion.

When the high-pitched whirr of Mac-Pac beemer engines and the clanging of their clutches come through town, children are hustled into horse-drawn carriages and scurried away like bottles of milk used to be stashed on the Borden Milkman’s horse-drawn cart in the 1940s. For more information about The Mac-Pac, click the link:  For more information about the Milkman’s horse, ask your Grandpa.

I was up at the crack of dawn and emailed Brother Riepe that I would be at the usual rendezvous point, Starbucks on Route 30, in Exton, PA, at 8:30AM. Jack emailed back that he was up, had taken a hand full of psychotropic enhancers, and was getting detailed travel directions from his invisible friend. He said he expected to meet me at 8:30 or 9:00AM. Riepe runs on what is lovingly, colorfully, and politically incorrectly known in the “inner city” as CPT – he is generally an hour late, and has incredibly creative excuses for tardiness. The last one was, “I need to get a watch.”

Gerry Cavanaugh, Ron Ye, Bobby LeBoutillier, Dave Case
I arrived at 8:20AM. Dave Case, a great human being and Master Soup Chef, rolled in a few minutes later, followed by The Plant King, Bobby LeBoutillier, Hell’s Bells Jay Scales, Pump Doc Peter Frechie (on his whinny MV Agusta), and finally Drug Kingpin Ron Ye on his chipmunk torched Beemer. At 8:55AM, the Amazing Mr. Riepe arrived on his K75 complaining about his hips, his knees, his earlobes, Congress, and the stink bugs that invaded Washington, DC, and almost made him late.

Gerry Cavanaugh left a voice message on my phone saying he was on dog-walking detail and would meet us along the route. I called Gerry and told him we’d meet him at The Gap Diner. Gerry, who moonlights as a food critic when he’s not testing his stent with rashers of bacon, responded, “Not The Gap Diner. The food sucks!”
“Is this Chef Cavanaugh giving The Gap a four dog-poop rating, “ I thought to myself

“Okay,” I said, “we’ll meet you at the gas station at the end of the Route 30 Bypass. Let’s go back to Jennie’s Diner. We know the food and service are good, and it’s an easy ride – much of it through pretty countryside.”

Jack said the Mighty Ken Bruce might meet us, but we had to let him know where we were going. I text messaged our destination to Ken. I heard back later that he was tied up and couldn’t get away. Hmmm! Some of the Mac-Pac are into bondage; others have this goat thing. One of our members who will remain nameless, but his initials are M-I-K-E-E-V-A-N-S, is allegedly into goat bondage.

As I rode past Jack on the way out of the Starbucks parking lot, he motioned to me to take the lead. I did so with a vengeance. I usually ride behind Jack, because he is a good wind deflector and excellent buffer against on-coming left-turning vehicles; he once saved my life and sacrificed his motorcycle by head butting a mini-van in Virginia. Jack has written several amusing pieces about the incident. We joke about it a lot, but at the time it was a terrifying experience we would have been happy to avoid.

Today I had the lead, and I was going to enjoy every spin of the tires. I headed for the Route 30 bypass, and pretty much kept up with the faster traffic until we passed the Coatesville exit, then I cranked on the juice and mumbled inside my helmet to the image of the MV Agusta in my mirrors, “Catch me if you can, Sucker!” It was a good thing Peter couldn’t hear me.
Dr. Peter Frechie shows the effects of "acida"
The Agusta didn’t catch up. It just held the measured gap between our bikes until we arrived at the first traffic light at the end of the Route 30 Bypass. Peter demonstrated significant restraint on the first leg of this trip. As we waited for the light to change, he revved his engine, and the whine morphed into a low and dangerous growl that suggested a hungry panther about to disembowel a domesticated farm animal in the forests of Costa Rica.

I revved my boxer engine in response, and Peter came dangerously close dropping his motorcycle as he doubled over in laughter that almost drowned out the sound of crumpling tin foil coming from my Beemer.

The rest of the trip on Business Route 30 was relatively placid. Gerry Cavanaugh took the lead, and we followed a string of cars, a garbage truck, construction vehicles, and a horse trailer until we reached the parking lot at Jennie’s Diner.

Once inside the crowded diner, we found two tables, and we spread our eight hungry bodies over the seats.

Jennie’s is a typical 1940s railroad car shaped diner. There’s a counter with stools and booths running along the back and side walls. It’s the kind of place working folks would stop for a donut or piece of pound cake and a cup of Joe on the way to work in the old days before we had vending machines, instant coffee, and a Starbucks on every corner.

Some guys have all the luck. Peter is a cardiologist “but-in-ski” who usually tries to shame good sense into the eating habits of the Mac-Pac. He has been known pluck pieces of bacon from Gerry’s plate, and he is probably singly responsible for Jack’s new serious approach to diminishing his hulk. As luck would have it, Gerry, Jack and I got to sit with Peter who we thought would be critical of every bite we took.

Even in our Washington-professed recovering economy business must be bad for Pump Docs, too. Peter encouraged us to eat and even told the waitress to bring extra bacon for “the boys.” The truth is we had a pretty open discussion about eating and diet, and we all ate sensibly. Nobody ordered the Riepe-ass-sized pancakes, and each of us left food on the plate.

The food was excellent, the service outstanding. Nobody ever had an empty coffee cup. And that’s why I love this place…..that and that it cost us less than ten bucks a piece for a breakfast we couldn’t finish……and it’s a really nice motorcycle ride to get there.

Just as we were getting up to leave, Karl Millhouse who lives in the area arrived. He said he was riding by when he saw the bikes and decided to stop. We visited with him for a couple of minutes, but had to get back on the road.

The ride back home was very pleasant. We turned South on 896 to 741 East and rode that past the Strasburg Train Museum to Route 41 North to Route 30 and then shot East on the Bypass. I was cruising at about 30 mph beyond the limit when Peter growled past me as if I were parked at the curb. In a split second, he was a dot on the horizon.

Nothing Better than a good ride with good friends
Gerry bailed out at Coatesville, and Peter and I rode together until I jumped off at Downingtown. We had long since lost the other members of our riding gang, but I heard that they had all returned safely from a nice ride on a great day to a good breakfast.

Good weather, good ride, good food, good friends. Who could ask for more?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Riding with Riepe and other things for which I need to atone

At Sundown, September 17th, Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement began. By tradition, Yom Kippur is marked by fasting, praying, and asking God’s forgiveness for the transgressions of youthful stupidity or the practiced bad habits of us older guys who, with years of practice, are more adept at transgression.

I don’t take kindly to fasting, which I only do before being knocked unconscious by physicians seeking to remove dysfunctional body parts. For years I’ve had doubts about the effectiveness of my prayers. I can’t even start to count the many times I’ve said, “God I want her” and instead found myself eating eggs over easy with grisly BMW riders!

Yesterday, as I was sitting on the can reading the local Community Driveway Toss, I saw an ad for breakfast at the Kinzer Fire Company, which is located on Route 30 a few miles West of Gap, PA. All You Can Eat for $7.00 sounded like the kind of thing I could get my teeth into even though my long-since transitioned Grandmother would have preferred I didn’t eat until sundown.

I scanned the ad into my iPhone and emailed it to a few of my primary riding buddies whose understanding of the word “fast” never relates to food, only to miles per hour. I knew they wouldn’t mind riding the Route 30 Bypass to Business 30 through the Lancaster County tourist area to Kinzer for an AYCE breakfast with Firemen. Doing something macho for a good cause is the coolest – especially when you can eat until you waddle.

Riepe posted the event to the Mac-Pac list as only he can, taking seven paragraphs of late-night cleverness to say “Breakfast at Kinzer Fire Co., tomorrow. Meet us at 9am at Starbucks on Route 30.”

At 8am this morning, Jack called me to say that he was “under the weather,” a phrase I’m told that is often used by women who are rejecting male advances. You hear a lie often enough, and you just start to repeat it! The truth is he woke up with “The Mother of All Headaches,” and medication and hot water bottles were not helping, so he was dropping out of the breakfast ride.

I could hear the voices of disappointment shouting in my head. “Riding without Riepe is like riding without a helmet.” “Who’s going to be there when that Minivan cuts you off?” “Screw Riepe; he hasn’t been fun since he stopped eating.” “Piss on Riepe.” “Hang the bastard.” “Tar and feather him.”  Those voices get louder when I don’t get my morning coffee, so I headed for the coffee maker.

As far as I knew Gerry Cavanaugh, who had his seasonal medical butt probe yesterday and was “itching” to put that abused butt on his GS saddle was the only other macho breakfast rider. I told Jack I would show up at Starbucks and wait with Gerry to see if any of the other usual suspects arrived. We waited until 9:15am. No other bikers came, but Gerry and I agreed that the Starbucks parking lot on a Saturday morning is a good place to check out the local MILFery. The lot was packed with a continuing stream of attractive young women stopping to pick up their triple snickering lattes and toss the old guys on bikes a bump, grind, and sexy smile. Great for the ego – glad I chose not to atone for what I was thinking.

Gerry and I took a left out of the Starbucks parking lot and shot straight down Route 30 until we connected with the Bypass just before the intersection at Quarry Road. It was 55 degrees when I pulled out of my garage, so I was wearing a golf wind shirt under my mesh jacket. As we pulled on to the Route 30 Bypass, I could feel cool air rushing through the jacket and my mesh gloves. It was a little chilly, but not uncomfortable. The forecast was for warmer weather, so I felt I was dressed appropriately.

I’ll bet it wasn’t a half-hour later that we blew by the Kinzer Fire Company, which is literally hidden in the shadows of the Patriot Manufactured Housing complex. I never saw it and rode right by it, but Eagle Scout Eyes Cavanaugh spotted it and directed us around the block and back to the Fire Company’s driveway. There were two motorcycles and one car in the lot, and no signs of life.

“Waddaya think?” asked Gerry.
“Waddaya think?” I responded.

We often have high-level intellectual discussions when taking a break from laying down rubber on Route 30. I think Gerry said that he knew a diner just down the road “a piece,” but he could have said he had a piece in the road when he was a minor. I was wearing my highly-rated Leight Max Foam earplugs and couldn’t really understand anything he was saying from behind his face shield.

“I’ll follow you,” I shouted, waving my arms like a Bahamian traffic cop. It’s not surprising that former MP Gerry understood every one of my hand movements.

A couple of minutes later we rode by what used to be a diner. The inside was dark. The parking lot was empty. The shrubs were overgrown. “This was a remnant of better times when free enterprise flourished in America before the big government guys took over the country,” I thought quietly in the solitude of my helmet.

We continued down Route 30 and passed some of the touristy stops. The heavy smell of frying bacon wafted across the road from the Miller Smorgasbord Restaurant. Their parking lot was jammed and people were lined up almost out the door, so we kept going.

“That diner used to be a nice place,” Gerry said when we pulled up to the next traffic light. “Before the big government guys took over the country,” I shouted as the light changed and his GS roared off in first gear.

Before long we came upon what looked like a typical 1940s diner, Jennie’s Diner, and we pulled into the parking lot which was packed with cars.

“Waddaya think?” asked Gerry.
“The smell of that bacon down the road made me hungry. Let’s give it a shot,” I responded, decisively.

We parked our bikes and went inside. The place was packed, which is always a good sign in dinerdom. We found a couple of stools at the end of the counter. Before we had even made a butt impression on the seats a guy wiped off the counter in front of us, handed us menus and clean silverware, and told us the waitress would be right with us. As we looked over the menu, a table next to us opened up, and we asked if we could move over there.

The waitress said, “Sure, nobody’s waiting, so that’s not a problem.”

In two seconds we were sitting a booth. With mugs of hot coffee in front of us scanning the many items on the menu. It was then that I noticed that the tip of my right middle finger was yellow as if no blood was circulating in it. The other fingers looked normal – pink with shriveled old skin covering them, but that one finger reminded me of the time I got frost bite while snowshoeing in upstate New York.

I looked around the diner to see if there was some place I could warm the finger. That’s when Gerry with a glint in his eye grabbed my hand and thrust it into the hot coffee. That seemed to do the trick, although it was less adventurous than what I had in mind. Circulation was restored to the scalded finger, and we didn’t have to fight our way out of the diner.

To demonstrate our individuality, we both ordered the same thing, Jennie’s special - two eggs, toast, a pancake and meat.

I ordered bacon, thinking if you’re not fasting to atone for your sins, you might as well make a statement; and Gerry, the Pennsylvania loyalist, ordered Scrapple. Even though nobody really knows what goes into Scrapple, and it often conjectured that Scrapple is closely related to colonoscopies, the Scrapple Gerry ordered looked very appetizing.

Riepe-ass-sized pancakes
My eggs came with toast and at least six pieces of crispy bacon that tasted as if it had just been cured and smoked. The last time bacon tasted that good to me it came from Harrington’s, in Vermont, and was cooked by someone who is now a fading memory from that portion of my inquisitive youth that I label, “well-spent.” It was outstanding bacon. It’s hard to screw up over-easy eggs, so they were fine. But the centerpiece of the meal was the pancakes. We each received only one, and it was as big as Riepe’s ass, more than an inch thick, cooked to perfection, globbed with a half stick of butter and served with a pitcher of syrup.

Neither one of us could finish the breakfast. For the value driven, the total cost with tip was less than $12 a person. The service was excellent, we never saw an empty coffee cup. The food was outstanding diner fare. Bottom line: I’d go back in a heart beat.

Waddling out to the parking lot, we were greeted by warmer temperatures. Time to “86” the golf wind shirt I thought, and Gerry ditched the jacket he wore under his stich.

There was a little more traffic on the way home. We took Route 340 and pretty much cruised behind Amish watchers through the Intercourse and Bird in Hand area and then headed to Route 82, where Gerry headed home, and I jumped on the bypass heading East.

It was a beautiful day to be riding. I’m delighted that Gerry was able to join me. We were both disappointed that Jack couldn’t be with us, but we thought of him often – each time we’d stick a fork into those Riepe-ass-sized pancakes.