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jacktheriepe The moto ghost of Toms River


By Jack Riepe #116117 TOMS


RIVER IS


the sixth largest city in New Jersey and the gateway to Sea- side Heights, the painted lady of the Jersey shore. Tech- nically, it is a shore


town itself, cuddling up to Barnegat Bay, a stretch of water 42 miles long. Barnegat Bay is a serious extension of the Atlantic that occasionally gets up to dance, as it did during Hurricane Katrina. The bay did hundreds of millions of dollars in damage to posh shore palaces and bungalows alike. (A bungalow at the Jersey Shore, like the ones you can find in the historic part of Seaside Park, costs as much as an eight-room house in the Midwest.) Toms River is roughly divided by


the Garden State Parkway, which is the world’s second longest parking lot.* On a typical summer weekend, traffic backs up from the Toms River exit (83A & B) and extends north to the rings of Saturn. Men and women headed for the barrier island commu- nities of Seaside Heights and Seaside Park have been known to devour their whiny children while sitting in traffic. Riders of air-cooled motorcy- cles can be viewed broiling ribs or lamb chops on their engines while creeping forward at speeds of 20 to 30 centimeters per hour. (This does not include oilhead “R” bike riders, as the whale oil coolant of their machines adds a peculiar taste to milder foods.) The half of Toms River east of the


GSP is home to all the cool shore peo- ple. The women are perfectly tanned and beautiful. They wear bathing suits that do not have enough mate- rial to wipe a dipstick. (I checked.) The men are thin, drive shiny Jeeps or


108 BMW OWNERS NEWS June 2016


Ford trucks, and all of them have boats. Every dog wears prescription sunglasses and a designer bandana while hanging out of a shiny Jeep or Ford truck. The highway to the water is local Route 37, and it is lined with strip malls, burger joints, sushi places, great Mexican food, two bike dealerships, and some boatyards. This is the part of town that listens to Springsteen and the Beach Boys cranked loud. The western half of Toms River is home


to some of the world’s largest retirement communities. Two of the most popular are “Seizure Village” and “God’s Waiting Room.” (For the attorneys waiting to pounce on me, this is not their real names.) Less cool people live here. I live here, in a modest house designed for folks who are a bad risk for green bananas. There is a land- line in my kitchen that has direct dial to the local undertaker. (It is cheaper if you can call yourself in and lurch out to the curb.) I have yet to bring a woman to this house. What the hell would I say? “Don’t use the phone in the kitchen?” From here, local Route 37 runs west to the spooky Pine Bar- rens, which is one of my favorite places. There are great dirt bike events held here once or twice a year. The sand roads through the pines are endless. Yet every conceivable motorcycle—from the most lupine Harley Davidson to the highest Eurotech BMW—generally heads east to the ocean. Therein lies the crux of this story. I live


far enough from the ocean so I cannot hear the waves. My house is far enough from the boardwalk so I cannot hear the whoosh and music from the great amusement rides. My bedroom is angled away from the beach, so I cannot even hear a woman’s laugh in the moonlight. However, I am close enough to Route 37 to hear the tortured scream of motorcycle engines being revved to the threshold of hell—between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m.—throughout the summer. Route 37 is


pretty much a straight shot in this part of town and the SQUIDs (So Quick Until I Die) are like velociraptors with a 14,000 rpm mating call. This bugs the hell out of me partly because I am an obsequious BMW rider and mostly because I am a brontosaurus with a direct line to the undertaker. It got so bad one night that I rolled out of


bed and made my way to the intersection at Route 37. I got there just as a mob of Skit- tles-colored motorcycles, with back tires wider than my former mother-in-law’s butt, exploded in high-rev madness and headed east at about 300 miles per hour. Each rid- er’s head was enshrouded in a full-faced helmet bearing a fantastic design and a smoked face-shield. The rest of their uni- forms consisted of bike logo shirts, shorts, and flip-flops. They were invincible. A deafening silence filled the vacuum of


sound, and I thought I’d kill 15 minutes by lighting a cigar. I had no sooner put the sto- gie to my lips than a sole headlight headed up Route 37. “A straggler,” I thought. But there was something oddly familiar about the headlamp. It had a jerky focus to the beam. And it was a softer, more silvery light than the high intensity LEDs around today. The revving engine had the unmistakable sound of a two-stroke, three-cylinder bar fight, commonly associated with a 1975 Kawasaki H2. I hadn’t heard that sound in 42 years. The hair stood up on the back of my neck. As the bike got closer, I realized that


more than the headlamp was silvery. The whole Kawasaki H2 was moonbeam white and shimmering. The rider pulled up and asked, “Hey Fat Boy... Didn’t you ever see a ghost before?” “You can kiss my pillion, Casper.” I


replied, with traditional BMW warmth. “Don’t take it personally,” the Ghost said.


“What the hell is that? A water buffalo?” The spirit gestured to my K75, the 1986 blue


lifestyle


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