The scene at the Vanilla Bean



Jack's and Glenn's and Steve's
Very Satisfactory RTE

Provoked by Eric on the west coast, around noon on Friday I announced a ride to eat in Connecticut for the following Sunday. This gave west coast riders almost their full 50 hours to ride coast-to-coast to attend, provided they left the instant they finished reading the email. I am eager to see who will rise to the challenge.

I myself rise at 0730 on Sunday to prepare for the 40-mile trip. At about 1030 I am ready to leave. My Gerbing jacket is on under my Roadcrafter and my Gerbing gloves await. I insert earplugs and start my Bandit's engine. I put on my helmet and gloves. I swing a leg over and plug in the heat. Then I ask myself "Self, do you smell gasoline?" I reply to myself "Why yes, I believe I do." I bend over and look under the tank. Yep, gasoline is dripping out of the fuel petcock onto the engine. "Self, is this normal?" "Well, how many miles do you have on this motorcycle?" I check the odometer: 258xx, so I reply "Hunnerd and 25 thousand and change. Why do you ask?" "Well, self, has this ever happened before?" "Ah, no." No reply from self. Eventually I understand: Guess this isn't normal.

The next question is "Is this bad?" "Of course this is bad, self. You have gasoline dripping — nay, running — onto the engine. If there's a spark, you'd have a fire." "Really? I didn't know that a spark could ignite gasoline vapors." Again, no reply from self.

Now while this conversation was progressing, I was unplugging and dismounting and removing the gloves and the Stich and the heated vest and the helmet and earplugs. I had replaced the fuel level sensor a few days before and figured that the gasket had wrinkled or something, but no, that didn't make sense: A leak at the sensor wouldn't show up at the valve. And I'd just replaced the vacuum line to the valve too, but how could that cause a leak? I could think of a way: I'd cracked the valve or the mounting point on the tank while tugging and pushing on the lines.

I removed the seat and opened the Givi bag with the tools. 2 minutes later I lifted the tank enough to take a look. Good news; it wasn't the valve itself, the rubber fuel line had split at the petcock. (I should have replaced the fuel line rather than the vacuum line.) I went downstairs and returned with wire-cutting pliers, snipped off the end of the fuel line with the split, pushed it back onto the valve, reconnected everything, returned to the house to clean my hands, and started the bike again. I put on all the gear and looked and sniffed. Problem solved.

I drove away at 1100 rather than the planned 1030. I hope my public will wait for me.

On this pleasant Sunday morning there was a lot of church traffic. The descendants of the Puritans don't have the prosletyzing drive shown by the Protestants in Texas where I grew up; here they seem to intend their inspirational messages to revive the flagging faith of their fellow churchgoers, not to address us atheistic bikers. But there are exceptions. I followed one car for a time and had ample opportunity to ponder his bumper sticker, which said "Jesus is coming soon! Are you ready?" So I sent him my telepathic sermon, to wit:

"Listen, buddy. Jesus has been coming soon for over two thousand years now. Am I right? You know I am. So lemme give ya some advice, which I'm sure will be as welcome to you as yours is to me. Now I know you need to be ready to meet your maker. But it looks to me as if you are ready. So I think you should prepare to spend some time here, not in heaven. Do some good works. First, go kiss your wife. (But no tongues. You know where that leads, and you're busy.) Visit an elderly neighbor. Adopt a dog at a local shelter. Pick up some of the trash at your next campsite. I don't know, and you don't know either, whether you're going to be here for a few more hours or a few more decades. Whichever it is, leave the place a little better than when you arrived. Am I making sense? You know I am. And finally, doesn't Jesus have something to say about those who would predict the time of his return? Check Matthew 24."

There was no reply to my telepathic sermon. Well, his loss.

I frisked through the curves on the back route to the Vanilla Bean Cafe in good time. Not as many riders as I'd expect, but it's about 53 degrees and I wouldn't be out either without auxiliary heat. Yea, verily, winter is coming soon.

I arrived about 1210, only 10 minutes later than I promised in my announcement. I couldn't take off my Aerostich because I'd told people to look for the skinny man in the yellow suit, but that's ok; it's chilly enough to leave it on. I had only enough time to remove helmet and gloves before a man rode up on a 650 V-Strom and asked whether I was Steve. This was Glenn Clave, in from Loudon in New Hampshire. We chatted for a few minutes before being joined by Jack Bunce, from not far away in Connecticut. This would be the entire crew.

It's a little late for the executive summary, provided by my wife when I got home: We rode in, we ate, we talked, we rode home. But she thinks I should provide details about the food. Standing in line to order I saw the key lime pie, which I know is very good because I've shared it with Ellen on previous occasions. I ordered the ham, salami, and provolone sandwich, with roasted red peppers and garlic-herb olive oil and the usual sandwich stuff like lettuce. Glenn had one of their excellent burgers, and was that pastrami I saw you eating, Jack?

We ate outside in the sun and discussed ld rides, ld riders, the past and future of organized crime (Jack was a lawyer in a former life), elderly parents, ne'er-do-well children, New England winters, how much southern California has changed in one person's (Glenn's) lifetime, and a host of other topics. See a week of the ldrider list for a sample.

The place wasn't as crowded as on the summer days when I've been there. But then we were invaded by a loud bunch of bikes, with jackets advertising the Bucket O' Doom Motorcycle Club, or the Scary Faces Motorcycle Club, or some such, I forget. They certainly did have fierce patches on their jackets, though. When they left, conversation ceased for about 5 minutes, because they were loud! (Maybe it was the Ill-Tuned Motorcycle Club.) And they had to assemble at the exit, and they didn't ride too well so that took a few minutes. I heard Jack say something about crew-served weapons but I didn't catch it all. I gather he disapproves of Saving Lives. Quiet returned with their departure.

As the shadows encroached upon our table we rose to return home. It took us a considerable while to get out though, because in time-honored fashion we lingered over the table, and then walked to Jack's BMW where we talked another 5 minutes, and then Glenn and I walked to our bikes and talked another 5. I was under way about 3:15, three hours after arrival.

I took the known route to the cafe because I was running a little late due to the fuel line problem, but indulged my penchant for detours on the return. Even so, I got lost only once for a 2-mile detour and arrived home with nearly 82 miles on the clock. And I did it in less than 6 hours! No wonder Lisa thinks I'm an imposter.

Ellen asked about the trip when I arrived home, in particular about the food. It was only then that I remembered the key lime pie. We were immensely saddened. Not to worry, though: They're open late on Sunday! But no, imposter that I am, I didn't return.

Eat your hearts out, west coasters!