Tuesday, May 15, 2012


The West Virginia Riders MC on the shores of Lake Riepe

Motorcycle trips usually come two flavors: Vanilla and Rocky Road.

A Vanilla trip is planned down to the minutest detail. This may include things like the brand of cocktail onions you need to pack for Gibsons on the Rocks to be sucked down at the end of a dusty day. 

A Rocky Road trip, is commonly referred to as a "cluster fluke" (named after President Obama’s graduate student supporter who earned 10 minutes of fame by announcing to the world that while pursuing her master's degree she couldn't afford condoms for her many suitors). Ergo, the whole fluking country needs to be shoehorned into another taxpayer-funded fiasco healthcare plan designed by idiots. But I digress.

Most of my motorcycle trips have been a double-dipped serving of both flavors, they are vanilla with rocky road portions, or rocky with splashes of vanilla. Either way, they are usually fun because of the guys with whom I get to ride

This is the story of the first motorcycle trip I've taken in several years that did not include the never-to-be-defeated Jack Riepe. My good friend, Jack, was unavailable for this adventure. In some ways, that was a good thing, because Riepe hates riding on gravel, on twisty roads, and in the rain, but I get ahead of myself.

This trip came together one day when my riding buddy, Gerry Cavanaugh, President Emeritus of The Mac-Pac, currently a BMW affiliated Motorcycle Club, called me to say he was contemplating a trip to
enlightenment with The Buddha in search of the mythical headwaters of Lake Riepe.

"He must be into the single malt," I thought. But knowing Gerry as an excellent, serious rider, I was intrigued. “Tell me a little more,” I asked while listening for any alcohol-induced slurring of his speech.

"It would include three to four days of spirited riding in a back-to-nature adventure on some of the best pork barrel roads in Robert C. Byrd country," Gerry said. 

"We're bringing our own Cardiologist and Pharmacist, just in case someone trips over a coffee table and needs to be resuscitated, jump started, or drugged."

Ron, Buddha, Gerry, Me, and Peter with our meds
Without hesitation I shouted "I'm in." 

It isn't often I get to ride with medical attention a bike's length away, and besides Peter “Dr. Aorta” Frechie, Cardiologist, and Ron “Experimental Drug Dude” Yee, Pharmacist, are both great riders, good guys, good friends, and fun to be with anywhere, but especally on a motorcycle adventure. This was going to be an great trip: Gerry and me, medical attention, good drugs, the path of The Buddha, and BMW motorcycles with solid rear drives. Who could ask for anything more?

On second thought, I could have asked about the weather.

We were headed for Snowshoe, WV, soon to become the geographical center of Lake Riepe. The Buddha, whose real name is Paul Pollio, rented a four-bedroom chalet for us next to the Snowshoe Ski Resort.
As our departure date approached the weather report grew more discouraging, drizzles became downpours, downpours evolved into thunderstorms, and the weather map looked as if one of those cute weather girls in a tight sweater splashed it with red, yellow and green paint that ran quickly in our direction.

As undaunted Coach Riepe would say, "Plan for the Worst. Go for the Best. It's like buying punch card chances at a West Virginia VFW bar, you never know when I'll hit the big one."
Buddha, whose name derives from his physical rather than spiritual conditioning, selected our path to enlightenment. The plan was to meet at Gerry's house at 7:00am and ride back roads to Snowshoe. We would avoid highways. Buddha estimated the trip would cover more than 400 miles. If we didn't dawdle at leg stretch stops, which also doubled as pee stops, we could arrive well before dark.
We hit Snowshoe about 7 1/2 hours later having covered 355 miles, encountering occasional drizzles, lots of wet roads, and some gravel in turns, corners, and at intersections. We stopped for a quick snack, gas, and only a couple of leg stretch/pee breaks.
The Chalet
My buddy, Ironbutt Buchheit, the golfer, said, "That's a long trip. You should have taken two days and stayed at a bed and breakfast."

With a sore butt, tired knees, and stiff neck I was thinking a month at the beach sounded better.
Sweaty Dick Arriving at Chalet
The Snowshoe Ski area is a huge operation with restaurants, a night club, hotels, and lots of condos, but it's closed between the ski and summer seasons. That and the fact that it’s the legendary site of Lake Riepe is why Buddha directed us there.
“Meditation and serious motorcycle trips are best served without the distraction of scantily-clad ski resort cocktail waitresses,” The Buddha hummed.

The Path to Enlightenment at Lake Riepe and to the chalet we rented was at the end of a mile-long gravel and pot-holed road with 2,000 switchbacks. When we arrived, tired, achy, and verging on grouchiness in 87-degree-heat, the road was a little dusty, slippery, and begging to be rained on.

“The prayers of gravel encrusted roads and of people who kiss snakes are often answered swiftly in West Virginia,” offered The Buddha.
Frechie Tributary
Cavanaugh Tributary
“I predict outstanding weather,” said Dr. Aorta, our inaccurate prognosticator.
“What are you smoking?” asked Ron, our resident experimental drug expert.

“Smells like Ginseng root,” Gerry added.

Evening sky at Snowshoe,WV
We unpacked our gear and headed for the porch to survey the landscape and watch dark rain clouds roll in. Hungry and tired as we were, not one of us was willing to make the trek down the gravel road to search for food.  Gazing at the evening sky, Dr. Aorta pronounced, “Tomorrow is going to be a great riding day.”

We filed inside to share a meal of nuts, M&Ms, Pepperoni, Cheese, Sopprassata, Triskets, cheap wine, raisins, and single malt scotch that cost more than the new rear tire Buddha needed on his heavy RT motorcycle, and the rain started.
It was still drizzling when we awoke the next morning. Hungry and coming off of an M&M and raisin high, we slipped into rain gear, mounted bikes, and rode out over a wet, graveled, and grass-clipping-encrusted driveway headed toward our mile-long gravel, pothole, and switchback enhanced ride down the mountain in search of  breakfast.By the time we reached the bottom of the entrance drive my arms and shoulders hurt too much to raise a glove to wipe the rains drops from my visor.
“The path of The Buddha is challenging,” I hummed, warmly in the solitude of my helmet. “This is going to be great fun.” Gerry, who was connected to my helmet via the Cardo Q2 he let me borrow, thinks he heard a few of Riepe’s most common expressions prefacing Paul’s name.
Ron Yee simply gave Buddha the finger behind his back.
Dr. “A” grinned and rocked his head from side to side; he was immersed in an album of Kate Smith tunes piped into his Schubert helmet via his iPhone.
“Follow me,” shouted Buddha, as he throttled toward a restaurant he heard was at the base of the mountain. Three minutes later we were parking on gravel in front of a restaurant. It was closed.
Later Buddha told us he remembered receiving a barrage of telepathic four-letter word messages from the rest of us calling for his demise. He dismounted his bike, found a native, and asked where we could eat breakfast.

Twenty miles and a drizzle or two later, we arrived at a Mom and Pop No-Name motel that had its own “restaurant.” We could smell the bacon on the grill as we approached, and saliva flowed in anticipation.

Dr. “A” questioned, “A Motel Restaurant?  Let’s find real place to eat.”

A smile of contentment crossed Buddha’s face as he received a new telepathic message, “Kill Frechie,” and he visualized the passing of the baton of hate.

Hunger outweighs animosity. We headed out in search of breakfast. One thing you notice about West Virginia is the lack of fast food places like Golden arches or BK that dot our neighborhoods. On the other hand, there was no lack of Correctional Facilities along the roads we traveled. Maybe we can get breakfast at one of them, I thought.
Three towns and 30 miles of wet roads later we arrived at a restaurant in a burg that lacked a post office,  movie theater, gas station, or elegant French restaurant, things we take for granted. The restaurant owner was filling in as waitress. The regular waitress had to report to her parole officer that day. We all ordered bacon and eggs to keep it simple. Gerry wanted scrapple, but Peter told him he’d let him lay where he dropped if he ate pig snouts and anuses.
Seneca Rocks, WV
Gerry, Paul, and Ron at Panorama Overlook

That breakfast failed on many levels - food, preparation, service, ambiance all were zeroes.
On the other hand, the roads in Pocahontas County are made for motorcycle riding. They have good surfaces, changes in elevation, gentle curves, quick switchbacks, beautiful scenery, and very little traffic.  Riders thinking about a West Virginia tour should check out routes 219, 33, 15, 150, 39, 84, 220, and 66 around Cass. We rode all of them and more. They were close to perfect.
Green Bank Radiotelescope

On that first day out, it drizzled most of the time, so we decided to stop for lunch and take a tour of The Green Bank Telescope at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory, in Green Bank. It was interesting to see, as was our tour guide who could have moonlighted at Hooters.
The highlight of our NRAO visit was learning where we could find a good food market. Buddha asked the friendly woman running the ticket desk, and she directed us to Kinder’s Market in a town 50 miles away.

We laid in about $100 worth of steaks, bacon, eggs, huge potatoes, fresh leafy vegetables, and Devil Dogs selected by our resident Cardiologist and clean-living consultant.
The ride back to the ski chalet was pleasant. We covered about 100 miles on back roads that day. Negotiating the gravel road up the mountain seemed easier now that it was wet from the day’s drizzles. We rode up the slippery inclined driveway to the chalet’s garage one at a time.

Buddha, went first; then Peter. Gerry waited at the bottom of the driveway, and I pulled in behind him, kept the bike in gear, held in the clutch, and slowly put my foot down into a pothole. Ron , who was riding behind me watched as the bike and I slowly tilted to the left and fell over into the wet grass at the side of the drive.
“I hope he wasn’t carrying the eggs or the Devil Dogs,” shouted Dr. Aorta with the compassion of a professional healer. Ron, on the other hand, jumped off of his bike, camera in hand, and ran over to see how I was.

“Just lie there and writhe as if you're in pain,” he said “I want to snap a few pictures to preserve the moment.” Then he helped me pick up the bike.

Buddha walked down the driveway and offered to ride my bike into the garage. I was fine; the bike was fine. If you’re going to fall over, it is best to do it in wet grass, although doing it in front of your riding buddies is not a good move.
“Let’s call Riepe, “Gerry shouted, “He has a need to know.”

“Let’s not, and let’s get something to eat,” I suggested in a diversionary move. Sharing information about me with Riepe is dangerous. What goes in seldom comes out as recognizable. Trust me on this. I know the real Bundt Cake story.
Dr. Aorta moved to fire up the grill and found there was no propane tank.

“No problem,” I said, “Let’s go down the hill next to Lake Riepe, and frack what we need.”
And so it was. Before long we had a garden hose connected to the fracked pipeline and connected to the grill. BTUs were blazing.

Peter grilling rib eyes to perfection
That’s no less hard to believe than Dr. Aorta paying a visit to the unoccupied house next door and surgically removing the propane tank from their gas grill, is it?

Ron seasoned the steaks, and whipped up some carrots, baked potatoes, and Asian slaw with his special cream sauce. I cracked open a bottle of cheap wine. Gerry poured the Single Malt, and dinner began.
Steak, Baked Potato, and Carrots
An after dinner cigar with good Buds
We ate ourselves close to oblivion. It was great meal. Then we broke out cigars, including some Cubans that someone’s brother-in-law sneaked past US Customs in his bra.

We moved to the porch to watch the clouds roll in and blacken the full moon.
Peter predicting a great riding day
“I predict tomorrow will be a beautiful riding day with no rain and exceptionally well-manicured roads,” offered Dr. Aorta.
As luck would have it that was the night I woke up at 3am, headed to take leak, and walked into a heavy oak coffee table, bruising my leg with a hematoma the size of a Major League baseball.
“With your history of dropping bikes and hitting boulders, nobody will believe you did that on the way to the head”, said Gerry.
“Especially with the photos I have in my camera,” added Ron.
“You’re going have major bruising,” offered Dr. Aorta, “when we get home I’ll bill you for the co-pay.”
“The path to Enlightenment is sometimes bumpy, but always worthwhile,” said the Buddha, adding, “as long as the bumpy part happens to the other guy. oooooom.”
I was awakened the next morning by the smell of bacon cooking and the gentle clatter of pots and pans. Ron was already up and starting breakfast. I jumped out of bed and felt severe pain in my leg. Looking down, I saw the Major League Baseball had morphed into a Chicago-style, 18-inch softball, the purple was spreading, and it hurt like hell. I looked out the window and realized that Dr. Aorta better stick to medicine, because weather forecasting is not his forte. It was pouring.
As we enjoyed an excellent breakfast of freshly smoked country bacon, eggs, and home-made hash browns I told the others that I thought I would stay home, elevate my leg, put ice on it, and rest up. Riding in downpours with a sore leg would have been a bad choice for me.
“Good,” said Dr. Aorta. “Great,” said Gerry. “Outstanding,” said Ron. “Candy ass,” said the Compassionate Buddha, “We don’t need your crippled butt slowing us down.”
While the four others negotiated gravel-covered, wet roads in heavy downpours, I watched “The Great Escape” on the flat screen television in the living room and napped with ice on my swollen leg and a glass of wine in my hand. Some motorcycle trips can be grueling.
Wet but undampened Peter, Buddha, Gerry and Ron

Buddha, Gerry, Peter, and Ron had a great ride. Buddha said they found a West Virginia religious shrine at the top of a hill with three crucifixes; the center one was home to a basketball backboard. “Makes it convenient to pray for a three-pointer,” said Gerry.
Ron, Buddha, Peter, and Gerry in their "Missing Dick" formation
It wasn’t long between naps and glasses of wine that my wet riding buddies returned with panniers full of New York Strip Steaks, Boneless Pork Chops, more Potatoes, and other culinary delights. They said it rained most of the ride. I said I suspected that, because I tried to go out on the porch a couple of times to fire up a Cuban cigar, but it was raining hard.
Dr. Aorta put his boots in the clothes dryer and headed for the Single Malt. Buddha headed for the hot tub. Ron headed for the kitchen, and Gerry headed for a bag of M&Ms he had hidden in a package labeled, “Castor Oil.”
Here's to good friends on a great MC adventure
We fired up the grill and had another feast. As we finished dinner the rain ended, and it was time for a cigar on the porch where many manly exaggerations are heard, not believed, and topped by even more incredible tales - not quite up to Riepe standards, but incredible none the less.

We talked about the ride home. Peter wanted to head south to Georgia and then work our way back on dusty North Carolina roads running through tobacco farms. Gerry, ever the voice of reason, suggested that we wait and see how the weather looked before we committed to a plan. Ron said that Buddha had been such a good ride Captain that anything he suggested was fine.  I couldn’t find my own way off of Snowshoe Mountain without a guide, so I kept mouth shut.
The next morning the smell of bacon and eggs awakened me. As I opened my eyes, Ron was standing in the doorway of my room, with a big smile and holding a plate of food. “You ordered Breakfast in Bed, Sir?” He asked.  And then he laughed, gave me “the finger.” He told me it was his breakfast, and I had better get my ass out of bed before they left without me.
We ate a magnificent meal of bacon and eggs and hash browns that Ron whipped up in his sleep. We straightened up the Chalet and hit the road by 7:30am. All of the roads we took were excellent. Some were even dry. We followed 219 into 250 and then headed East on 33 to 28.

On Route 50, as we came to the top of Mount Storm, we entered pea-soup fog. Buddha, Peter and Gerry turned onto what I thought was a road, but I couldn’t see more than two feet in front of me. The “road” was gravel covered and pocked with mud-filled pot holes. I stopped my bike, looked around, saw nothing but fog, and hailed Gerry on the Cardo intercom.
“Where the hell are you?” I asked.
“Right here in the overlook,” he answered.
“What overlook?  I thought this was a road,” I said.

 “Beep your horn, so we can find you.”
Ron and I moved ahead slowly, beeping until we saw tail lights break through the dense fog. They had been only ten feet in front of us and were ready to move out with great caution. We left the overlook and inched down the road in first gear.  There were a couple of sharp turns on wet 9% downgrades that kept my attention, because I couldn't see more than three or four feet in front of me.

Even Buddha, who has ridden thousands of miles since 1974 admitted that horsing his RT through the blinding fog on wet steeply inclined roads was a challenge – especially with Dr. Aorta riding behind him and beeping for him to speed up.

Fog break at site of inefficient wind energy
We picked up 522 in Pennsylvania and had a great ride on this scenic road. Paul headed North to 78 and ultimately to New Jersey, while the rest of us slipped on to the PA Turnpike which would get us home in about two hours.
I was sore, tired, hot, and happy when I got home around dinner time. I left everything on the bike, walked into the house, stripped off my clothes, and headed for a hot shower.
“How was it?” asked my patient wife.
“Just wonderful,” I said, “The roads were close to perfect, the guys are great riding buddies, the accommodations were terrific, we ate like kings, rode like devils, and had an outstanding time. The only thing I would have changed, if I could, was the weather, and I would have chopped that friggin’ coffee table into firewood if I had known it was destined to attack me in the middle of the night.”

“Bull,” she said, “I’ll bet you dropped your bike again!”

Peter with his 25-year-old BMW
Gerry at Panorama Overlook
Ride Captain Paul
Ron and Gerry enjoying a break in the weather

Buddha maintaining his title


  1. Well done, Dick. Obviously you picked up more than Jack's "fumes" whilst riding behind him. Thanks for the smiles.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it. The only things I assimilated from Jack are spelling and typos. Those are all his effin' fault.

  2. It's about time you f'ing wrote something on this f'ing blog.

    Wish I lived closer. sniff.

    1. Michael:
      Me too. I wish you lived closer. Then you could take some of Riepe's scorn, too.

  3. Good story Dick, too bad about the motorcycle falling but yeah, it's worse with witnesses....


    Redleg's Rides

    Colorado Motorcycle Travel Examiner

    1. Dom:
      The bike was pretty unscathed. If you have to drop it, it's best to do it in wet grass after a soaking rain storm. The only damage was a loosened mirror. I tightened the mirror this morning, and got my buddy Gerry to show me how to put new tires. The bike is ready for the next WV adventure. Someday I'll have to get our your way.