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.”


  1. Dear Dick:

    The doctor has just left... I have three days to live. My right knee froze on the ride home from the diner, jamming the accelerator to the floor. The SUV lurched out of control, and plowed into the back of van, full of whores for a baudy house in Exton. I was hurled through the air, straight through the back window of the van, coming to rest between the legs of "Tena The Tart."

    It would be an hour before I could call for help.

    My hips were so bad the rest of Saturday, that I just dozed in a chair. Sunday wasn't much better. It's 4:30pm, and I am just getting out to the garage. This doesn't bode well for the rest of 2010.

    Fondest regards,
    Jack • reep • Toad
    Twisted Roads

  2. Dear Jack:
    Fortunately there are only 60 days left to 2010, and about half of them in extremely crappy riding weather. Stay on your diet regimen and aim for hip surgery next year. It can change your quality of life so riding is a delight rather than a visit from Torquemada. You have a lot of friends in your corner.

  3. Dear Dick,

    Glad to hear the house didn't burn down. Sounds like you had a nice ride.

  4. Woody:
    The Photoshopped Riepe collection is intact as is the house. The last time Jane called me about a problem I had just arrived at the MOA Rally in Vermont. Saturday's trip was a nice ride. The weather was perfect and the riding buddies superb, and going to Hermy's appeals to the "kid in a candy store" syndrome.

  5. Dear Michael:
    You were warned. Hope you enjoyed this tribute to our currently halt and lame buddy.

  6. BMW-Dick, an outstanding ride report.....glad to see Jack has such good friends to put up with him....


    Redleg's Rides

    Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

  7. bmw-Dick: I'm glad you had a chance to get Jack out for a meal, not that he needs another one. I wish we had a Hermys up here, most of our dealers don't carry much stock and few accessories due to cheaper on-line pricing and easy access to cheaper prices south of the border

    Wet Coast Scootin

  8. Charlie6
    Being Jack's good friend is easy. A wise person (my Mom) once told me "You have to be a good friend to have good friends."
    The real challenge is riding with him.
    Thanks for your kind comment. I'd love to link to your serious ride reports. Let me know if that's okay.

  9. Bob:
    We always enjoy meals with Jack. He can't run fast, so we usually get to stick him with the bill.
    We're lucky to have Hermy's in our area. It's about a 100-mile round-trip ride on pretty rural roads for me, and I always feel welcome - even when I leave my wallet at home. We too have access to the discounters, but I believe it's important to support local vendors who provide good service and appreciate the business.
    I'd like to link this blog to Wet Coast Scootin. Let me know if that's okay.

  10. To BMW-Dick, yes, it'd be great for you to link to my blog....Jack is lucky to have friends like you, to badger him into riding more...


    Redleg's Rides

    Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

  11. BMW-Dick:

    a link would be appreciated and I will do the same when I get home.

    I love your gentle writing style and the way your words flow, and of course the subtle references to our friend Jack "r" . I am hoping that one day I too will be able to experience the Amish countryside with my own eyes. It's too bad we don't have a similar car train from West to East like you do down the East coast to Florida.

    I like to support local dealers but it has gotten to the point that our dealers don't carry much of anything anymore and Canadian distributors don't make it easy to compete with the larger US market where wholesale prices mimic on-line pricing. We have a few renegade shops here which outsource from the US and undercut authorized dealers. You have to pay Upfront and you get your goods a week or so later after they order and bring it into the country. We have many US dealers close to the border down in Bellingham or Mt Vernon area and a lot of locals purchase their motorcycles down there for huge savings, thus the reason some our large dealers have shut down during the end of summer. There is no duty on motorcycles and the price difference can be as much as $10,000. cheaper on HD or BMW.

    Wet Coast Scootin

  12. I was wondering about my sanity as I am about to head out into 40 degree weather to attend The Outlaw Dave Ranch Ride with about 500 of my closest friends and then on to The Lone Star Rally with another 100,000 of the same. Then I read this and I know that I have indeed lost all vestiges of sanity. But at least I am in good company...

    If I may be so bold as to to join in a tradition that does not normally extend to people in Texas, those who don't ride BMWs, and those have not had the distinct displeasure of riding with him yet...

    Screw Riepe!

    Now I feel even better :-)

    Hang in there