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.