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!