Thursday, October 21, 2010

Riding With Riepe

His license plate says it all, in the inimitable riepe way. When illuminated it reflects his name, but when the foot comes off the brake it reads "asshole" and whether it refers to the rider or the person following all depends on the observer's fortitude and sense of self worth. Here is the Great Man at work in his office, with his faithful sidekick "Ramrod" by his side.
riepe would be lost without Ramrod, named in honor of my sunny island retreat deep in the heart of the Florida wilderness. Ramrod is riepe's enforcer, his staff upon whose discretion and judgment he relies whenever standing. riepe says he has arthritis, but if he didn't have a badly inflamed arthritic knee he would have no need of Ramrod, and he'd have to ride his archaic museum-quality BMW instead of parking it and polishing it all the time.What happened was my wife, tired of my weepy sentimentalism and love of sunny outdoors Florida told me I had to take a crash course in manliness and arranged with riepe for me to do a boot camp for a few days in his home. As part of the toughening process she also signed me up for an Iron Butt ride to darkest Pennsylvania. Such was my trepidation at meeting the man known even to the World's Greatest Motorcycle Trainer in Oregon, Dan Bateman as "The Legend" that I overshot the mark and ended up in New York State "by accident". riepe had to talk me down by phone to get me to his abode, Castle Stiffness, up a dark eerie cul-de-sac in a swamp on the outskirts of somewhere in the Quaker State. riepe's other secret weapon at his manliness camps is Gregory Peck, known to his victims as Atticus, a vicious hound of Baskerville proportions, seen here digesting his latest victim.Atticus has his own sidekick a camera shy ex-mafioso hit dog in the Witness Protection Program called Scout who wears white to remain camouflaged in the bitter Siberian winters of Castle Stiffness's fastness. The Toughen Up seminar started the moment I arrived at Castle Stiffness with a bowl of gruel and then they sat me down and force fed me beer and whisky until I could take no more, riepe shouting "Drink! Drink!" like a Soviet commissar on meths while Atticus circled me groaning and salivating as he eyed my delicate thigh, like a starving man might eye a chicken wing. "You pansy, Neville," riepe roared at me, my lower lip quivering. "The last trainee I had on the course was drinking and throwing up simultaneously! Drink! Drink!" and he pushed the Jack Daniels at me.In the morning I started out my first day with a light breakfast of 63 pancakes, push ups and a quick run around the Castle Stiffness with Atticus in hot pursuit. Then the manliness training continued when we got into riepe's staff car and smoked cigars and told lies while he drove in circles around the neighborhood shouting "Fuck You!" and "Get a life!" at sweet mothers pushing prams and Mexicans standing on street corners begging for food or work. "Fail my course and that will be you!" riepe glared at me as he hit the brake pedal with Ramrod as we approached a green light. Sounds of squealing tires and the smell of burnt tire rubber filled the cold morning air. "I love the sound of emergency stops, early in the morning, " riepe announced from behind a cloud of cigar smoke as thick as a bonfire. "They're great training for life."The above is a sneak picture of riepe contemplating new tortures to inflict on me as I gave him a quick two dozen push ups, punishment for questioning whether or not he really ever does ride Fireballs, his flame red museum piece BMW. "Today we drive to Hermy's, a dealer in BMW motorcycles, and we're taking Dick Bregstein along to make sure you don't buy any piece-of-shit Triumph crap while you are there. I climbed in the back of Bregstein's Corvette, huddled in the tiny space known laughingly as a rumble seat and we took off. I didn't let them know at the time but I would happily have ridden there but riepe insisted we drive "it's part of your self denial training," he told me sternly like the headmaster I knew at an English prison camp years ago. Hermy's it turns out has been in business half a century selling Triumphs, the world's nearly best motorcycles and while my minder was drooling over the part's guy, a man called Neville, I snuck pictures of my favorite bikes and drooled over the Triumph parts selection on open display behind the manly BMWs which I was forced to admire by the party faithful......gathered for one of their impromptu Waffen BMW meetings at the shop. While they sang choruses from the Horst BMW anthem I dropped SOS messages under the motorcycles in the hope someone might learn of my predicament and send help. None ever came, much to my despair.I seriously considered making a break for it on this incautiously parked Thunderbird but I knew the hounds of hell would be sent to drag me back to Stalag Stiffness and the thought of vicious fangs penetrating my delicate, Florida sun toasted flesh, was more than I could bear. I wept and passed on the chance of freedom. I am a modern American after all and freedom is a concept for me now, not a part of my daily life, as riepe kept explaining to me in loud re-education lectures while Bregstein drove the Corvette in fits and starts as he kept searching for the clutch on the automatic transmission, cursing President Obama's New GM factories as we lurched down the road.It was a pretty road too, for a Rebel on a Triumph, but riepe admonished my desire for a ride saying, "Ramrod does not will it" as he hit me with the stick and reminded me freedom to ride is an earned privilege.Little did my minders know but Bregstein's "friend" Neville took a shine to me and slipped me some invaluable Triumph parts, which I hoarded and gloated over on the rumble seat of the Corvette. "We will eat now!" riepe announced and Bregstein lurched the Corvette to a halt outside a restaurant renamed in my honor. "Eat!" they said pushing vast plates of food at me. "This is Pennsylvania sea food" riepe said. It looked like chicken to me but I said nothing and ate my portion as fast as I could before riepe hit me with Ramrod again. Dinner that night at Castle Stiffness was huge portions of marinated flank steak, roast potatoes, home made creamed corn and beer and whisky. Oh the humanity! This meal is in your honor, they said as they flogged me off the premises. Note riepe's self satisfied grin and threatening posture with Ramrod. "You have a long way to go before you are tough enough to ride with BMW riders" Bregstein said after sizing me up in a long contemplative stare. What would be the point of telling him I prefer Triumphs?
riepe gave me 15 seconds free time late in the afternoon as he turned his attention to whipping up another piece of froth for some deluded publication somewhere. I took advantage of the lull to snap a quick picture of my love and myself enjoying a tête a tête.
My love fest was interrupted by the sounds of screaming and groaning from deep within Castle Stiffness. I shall draw a veil over what I found but let me simply drop in a photograph here (taken from riepe's final report on my re-education http://jackriepe.blogspot.com/ ) of her Highness the Stiffness and her riepe correction tool. I ate my gruel with proper appreciation I can tell you, and practiced my battered baby seal look.
I knew my every move was under observation. I was told it was the season for stink bugs, a code word for secret transmitters located all round the rooms monitoring my every move. I found one and snuck a picture to prove it:
Part of the re-education program at the riepe training camp is self sufficiency and we spent a happy morning hand washing clothes and hanging them out to dry. We sang The Internationale and read from Mao's Little Red Book to keep up our morale. It was all very invigorating.
It was a wholesome way to spend an evening, working with parts mechanical and bonding as master and neophyte only can bond. riepe is seen here doing routine maintenance on a huge UFO that landed in his garden that day seeking a repair shop. He is a man of talent selfless in his pursuit of the betterment of all he comes across. Praise to you O Master! (Ow!)
He smeared unguent on my Triumph for which I was extremely grateful. He said it was toothpaste to make my Bonneville shine but I am pretty sure it was fairy powder because my Bonneville ran better then ever after he ministered to it. Thank you O Master! (Ow! Ow!!) This was recreation time at Castle Stiffness and I was allowed to drink cold water and repeat my mantra under my breath (BMW is Best- ommmm). It was very soothing.
We spent a few short hours in awe and reverence of the immobile Fireballs, the worlds greatest motorcycle.
We pondered the wisdom of the BMW riders manual and we contemplated what it might be like to actually ride this machine. riepe told me it hadn't been ridden for 18 years but soon some man might be found somewhere who could dominate Fireballs and tame the beast within. Clearly such a man was not a Florida sun pansy like me. The temperature was 3 degrees and where riepe was sweating in exaltation of his superior machine (complete with tach and ammeter) I was shivering and goose pimpled by the arctic Pennsylvania weather. My Bonneville and I are not men, clearly.
In an unguarded moment riepe allowed himself to admire the true finery of the world's second best motorcycle.
And then he got back to the business in hand- making Fireballs feel loved, if not ridden.
"Worship me, mere mortals!"
"Come no closer human scum!"
"Riepe! Get me a deer for my dinner!" I never saw riepe scuttle quite so fast to obey his Lord and Master. I was quite worried my Bonneville might get some bad ideas from seeing this adoration of the Fireballs routine.
To complete my manliness rehab riepe stood on his step and made me kiss his limbs one by one, all the way up to his...well you get the idea.
Then we went for the long awaited ride.
Into the garage, where my Bonneville dripped engine oil silently and perniciously onto the floor. Good girl.
Next, to wrap up the joyous course of manliness we learned to play the bagpipes, a modern version made by the multi-talented riepe and known to him as Kermit (he likes to name things).
Then as part of the initiation into his Mac Pac he showed me his man purse, barely large enough to contain his manhood. "I am fearsome when aroused," riepe remarked as he attempted to stuff his purse back into his jeans.
To complete my certification process I spent two hours in the Hornet's Nest, a small room used for the final test. Poke the nest with with a stick (rather in the manner of this essay) and survive until riepe lets you out and you are a bona fide man. At last. Sentiment is not allowed at Castle Stiffness but I could have sworn I saw a tear in his eye as he bid me adieu with orders to photograph naked chicks on the beach in Key West. "Tits," he admonished me. "The future is tits!" he told his graduate on parting.
Make me proud, grasshopper!" were the last words the Great Man directed at me as I rode off into the sunset. I survived three days with the Legend of Motorcycling. Not everyone can do as much.
My hat is off to the remarkable and amazing Stiffie, a woman of talent and self restraint who could soon become Australia's second woman to reach sainthood (were she Australian) considering her decade of coping with riepe and his patented battered baby seal look. I wanted to secrete her into a saddlebag on the Bonneville and help her escape to milder climes but she took me aside and said there was no one else who could do what she does at Castle Stiffness and for the betterment of humanity she felt it was her calling to stay behind and try to keep riepe's worst excesses in check. I promised to light a candle in her honor every time I visit St Mary's in Key West. I hope you will do likewise.