Oilburner and I arrived at our hotel around two-ish after navigating the construction zones on the Garden State Parkway. Once we were settled into our room Jack and I touched bases on getting together.
While Jack had been up since 5 am, and driven to and from Pennsylvania that morning to spend time enthralling the MacPac, he was still quite willing to come pick us up and go out for dinner. We settled on a time that would give us all the chance to relax and cool down.
When we emerged from the hotel a bright red Ford F-150 was stopped, nosed into our neatly covered bikes. Jack sat there contemplating the unidentifiable bikes. I'm sure wondering if they really belonged to us, and if we were on the level. Despite all of the warning signs we shook hands, made our introductions, and he allowed us to climb into the pickup.
His concession to safety was a heavy wood cane nonchalantly leaning against the front passenger seat. I'm guessing he was planning on using it as a beating stick if I started going crazy. (He sure was taking his chances...)
We started towards the "real" Jersey shore, heading to Seaside Heights. I had to bring up something about New Jersey that had baffled, but impressed, me. On the main road we had ridden in left turns from the roadway were not allowed. At intersections, instead of turning left, one had to turn right after the intersection onto a "clover leaf" (also known as elbow or jug handle in NJ) that dumped you onto the cross road. I found this intriguing and wonder if it cuts down on left turn accidents. Wondering, as well, if traffic flowed faster without that signal time in the routine.
Crossing over the Thomas A. Mathis Bridge we started swapping experiences of riding over metal "cheese grater" bridges. Jack's involved a scantily clad woman riding pillion, having to stop for the raising of the bridge. Mine mundanely regaled my experience yesterday riding through Norfolk, encountering a curve in the rain on one of those horrid things. He educated me on his cure by riding with the MacPac: they laughed at his trepidation and just rode faster.
We were treated with a great driving tour of Seaside Heights., admiring the architecture, while discovering Jack's favorite house. Why is it his favorite you ask? Well, it obviously has something to do with some smoking hot woman.
We ended this portion of the tour in front of Berkeley Fish Market, where we were headed for dinner. Apparently it is the most expensive place around... Of course, nothing is too good for Jack.
This is where we learned more of the cane story. In addition to making a great weapon, it was very hefty and solid, it was a working weapon. Jack's use of the truck hood, bumper, cane, planter, door handle, support column, and any available waitress wasn't feigned. (OK, maybe the waitress leaning was a little contrived.) That cane was a well regarded extension of his arm and it was heavily used thanks to the latest medical problems. He took it in stride and just used it as an opportunity to solicit a little more help from friendly waitresses.
As the Fish Market is a fairly regular haunt for him we were seated at the best possible table with sticky chairs, horrible views of the parking lot, and a mean waitress that we had to bribe to talk with us. (Maybe that was another use for the cane, snagging them so they couldn't get away.) In discussing our dining options Jack learned that we were poor waifs uneducated in the culinary perfection that are Ipswich clams.
We were soon to be instructed. A bucket of "steamers" was ordered and Oilburner and I began our homage to Jack's instruction: pry the clam open, extract the clam by the faintly phallic appendage called the foot, remove the "sock" from said appendage, dip in clam broth to remove sand, then dredge in butter before devouring this delicacy.
The "foot" was a bit rubbery, or chewy, for my tastes. Oh, but the rest just melted on your tongue.
Dinner soon arrived. I believe the waitress only drug his soft shell crab across the parking lot once, to collect a bit of sand and roughage for him to chew on. He was really turning the charm on, though I didn't once see his battered baby seal look!
Conversation lingered over motorcycle stories tall and short and I was finally able to call him out on his purported snail paced riding capabilities. With a twinkle in his eye he didn't exactly admit I was right. Instead he told another tale that just proved my hypothesis.
Dinner was over much too soon. And the waitress was genuinely happy to see us on our way. Out the door. Away from her station. We didn't move far though, as we worked our way to standing around his pickup continuing our conversations. There was a discussion of the BMWMOA rally starting up in a few days time. We discussed his frustration at having to cancel his attendance and seminars at the rally. While he had really wanted to attend, so as not to disappoint all his fans (those holding tomatoes as well as pens), his recent medical backslide and associated immobility was preventing it. I was just happy to be having personalized attention, not having to vie for it amongst a crowd of adoring fans.
We also palavered about dream rides. Once Jack gets back on his feet (HA! Literally) he is purchasing his dream bike and having the appropriate spider and skulls stenciled on it and taking it across the country. I would gladly volunteer to accompany him. But somehow I just don't think I will be able to keep up with his speed, unless I am on some rocket-propelled motorbike. I believe his thinking is to peg out and never let up.
Unfortunately, we overstayed our welcome and our waitress came out into the parking lot to shoo away the riff raff; accusing us of running off incoming customers. So we climbed into the truck and turned our attention to more classic New Jersey landmarks along the shore. Now...growing up in Southern California I am not accustomed to permanently affixed amusement parks. Amusement parks are those fold up rides and carnival games that come in and set up in the middle of the night, and leave just as quickly. Leaving candy wrappers blowing in the breeze, getting stuck in the trampled grass. The amusement park along the sea side was complete and authentic to the ones I remember while growing up. However, these are permanent structures and a large attraction for tourists. So I sat in wide-eyed wonder as we slowly drove past the boardwalk. I was enamored with the flashing lights, bells ringing, and sordid carnival goodies. I was drawn in like a moth to light. But there was no way Jack could get me to set foot on that boardwalk. I know about those electric murder-death-kill mosquito zappers that will harm moths too. I was not going to be sucked in.
(Though I was thoroughly fascinated with the "ski lift" that ran the length of the boardwalk. Affording people views of their next selection for entertainment, or giving lascivious boys the opportunity to sneak peeks down tank tops or throw spit balls into aforementioned tops.)
The sun was setting and we turned back towards the hotel. Not wanting the conversations to end we raided a Dunkin Donuts for dessert and coffee and continued the talks. We ranged all over from Bregstein to Canadian Geese to Land's End. As a final push, Jack was trying to convince us to take a ride into New York on our way out of town in the morning. To ride those beautiful cliffs over the Hudson that he has written about on more than one occasion. As much as a yearn to behold this sight for myself, there is no way I am going on a Monday, during a work week, when he ends the directions with "but it has to be done between 11 and 12 o'clock". Uh-uh, no way! That is a sight that I will only ever try either following him down those roads so that I don't have to figure out proper turns. Or when Stephen King's Captain Trips comes to decimate the world and I am one of the few riders remaining.
Jack drops us off at the back of the hotel, quickly speeding away into the darkness. The clouds are quickly gathering and we will have one heck of a light show that night. It was then that I realized he had kept me so busy during the evening that I had failed to take a picture. My camera managed to take one of his legs in the cab of the pickup. But since it didn't show any garters and hose, nor the cane, I'm not posting it.
SSsoooo....what part is truth and what part is fiction?? The waitress was actually very nice. She put up with our gruff and scorned the nickname Jack tried to give her. Though she did shoo us from the parking lot.
Jack, thank you so much for the fantastic evening. I wish we could have gone back through New Jersey. I just didn't want to scare the Jersey drivers on the Parkway again. I hope we can continue our conversations over alcohol and donuts along some shoreline, bike headlights illuminating the ocean soon.