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?


  1. Sounds like fun, shame I couldn't make it, I was doing chores at church. But I did find a new riding buddy. So it was a win.

  2. Holy Crap Dick! Two posts in less than a week! Great ride report. I had fun today, even though I was alone :( I'll consider this as my birthday ride in absentia.

  3. I followed Cantwell's profile over here thinking this was his blog, and wondering to myself, "wtf, I didn't know that he was around for the ride this morning..."

    I probably shouldn't have admitted that.

    Nice writing.

  4. John:
    We always have fun. You know that first hand. There should be a place in everyone's life for charitable acts. Payback for good things is usually sweet. We missed you, but you did have a good day.

  5. Mike:
    Speaking from experience, older is a good thing. On the other hand, the aging process occasionally has it's downside including mind-altering medication and the removal of dysfunctional body parts. Loved the photos of your solo birthday ride. Had we been there we would have embarrassed you.

  6. Dear Leslie:
    You need to stay out of Jack's pill box. Michael Cantwell's photos of his Birthday ride were great, as I'm sure you know by now. They captured the very essence of the nasty weather that blows into the North Country this time of year. Even so, I would have loved to have taken that ride with him and made him listen while I sang "Happy Birthday."

  7. Dick,
    I'm sure you have a beautiful singing voice. Admittedly, I was wishing I was riding with some other folks, but then again, I got to do what I wanted at my speed with none of that speed up/slow down crap associated with a group ride.

  8. Michael:
    There's a lot to be said for riding alone. The downside is that nobody gets to share the experience with you, and when you tell anyone about your great adventure, they either don't care or think you're lying like a career politician.

  9. You ride pretty fast for an old guy, Dick. So does Jerry. I'm really glad I came out to enjoy the morning with you guys. At one point Jack, Ron and I got separated from you on the traffic-hell part of Rte 30. A logging truck was in front of us, trailer FULL of logs, tires straining. Jack was leading our little group. So in my view I had this massive weight straining on it's tires, and it wasn't Jack. :) The damn thing actually made Jack look small.

    Great ride, 150 miles all tolled for me, not bad for 4 hours of riding busy backroads and highways.

    Dave (the soup nazi, apparently) :)

  10. Dear Mr. Bregstein:

    I have asked the Mac Pac Safety Committee to inspect the insulation on your bike's seat... Because it was apparent to me that someone lit a fire under your ass as you lead last Saturday's ride.

    Bobby Leboutlier asked me (with some trepidation), "Is Bregstein leading this ride."

    "Thank God," he replied to my nod, "I hate going faster than 45 miles per hour when all the tourists are out."

    Yet your opening address commenced at 85 miles per hour ten seconds after we hit the big road. As the #3 or #4 bike, I loved the pace. Stopping at the first light (the intersection of Rt. 10), I noticed Bobby LeBoutlier was sobbing in his helmet.

    Fondest regards,
    Jack • reep • Toad
    Twisted Roads

  11. Dave:
    I have a personal rule of not slowing down you younger guys when I'm leading. That double yellow line part of Route 30 is a PIA; it's either logging trucks, garbage trucks, or Amish gawkers out for a Sunday drive (even on weekdays). It was a nice day. The weather was perfect, we had a pleasant bunch of riders, the food was good, and nobody got hurt or arrested. Tell your daughter I still think you are a great human being. . .I could have said "balding."

  12. BMW-Dick:

    another nice weekend breakfast with Jack and the boys, but Jack was but a mere speck in your rear view mirror. Too bad he couldn't keep up with your pace.

    You seem to still have decent warm weather while we are experiencing heavy downpours with record rain accumulations

    Wet Coast Scootin

  13. BobSkoot:
    It's raining like the beginning of "40 Days and 40 Nights" here. You must be sending some of that shit weather our way. With luck it should have passed through by next weekend, so we can head south for some clam chowder. Jack could be ten miles away in my mirrors, and there's no way he would be a "speck."

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  15. Jack:
    I've followed Bobby on back roads. There's no doubt he knows how to turn up the speed when he wants to. I only picked up the pace because I had Peter behind me, and there was no way he was going to let me lead anywhere near the speed limit. I don't think we hit 85; on the way out -- On the way back I was bookin' when Peter passed me as if I were parked. No way to estimate where his needle ended up, but it was out there! It was a fun ride; glad we got it in before the rains came.