ZS. WetLeather pt 2 – the Gather

Posted 6/30/2014

If you haven’t already done so, you should read “WetLeather pt1 – The Fish Fry.” It adds a bit of context to this story.

My First Gather

Besides the spring Fish Fry there were three other annual events when WetLeather people would get together in person. Two were dinner parties at the Vancouver home, and the third was a weekend camp out known as The Great Pacific Northwest Dryside Gather, or just The Gather for short. The Gather location moves around but it is always on the east side of the Cascades, hence “Dryside.” In 1997 The Gather was at the group campsite at Crescent Lake, Oregon, only two hours from my home. I left work early, packed my motorcycle with some camping gear and rode to Crescent Lake on Friday afternoon. After setting up my tent I hung out at the dining shelter, quaffing some excellent homemade ale and putting faces to the names I had been seeing on-line for the last half year.

A group ride was scheduled on Saturday. About two dozen people gathered after breakfast around the ride leader, a woman with the nickname Wolverine. She passed out maps of the ride’s route, which started at the campsite and ended at lunch in a brew-pub in Bend. The ride was split into five sections; three sections would be ridden at or near the speed limit as a group while two sections would be “ride at your own pace,” with a regrouping site at the end.

“Are there any questions?” Wolverine asked.

Nope. The maps were pretty clear. It looked like fun.

“One more thing,” Wolverine added. “Ride within your limits. If you crash we will sell your motorcycle, bury you beside the road and never speak your name again.”

The ride turned out to be fantastic. The first ride-at-your-own-pace section was Forest Service Road 19, 60 miles of near motorcycle nirvana. As soon as we got the signal from Wolverine, Squido and I took off ahead of the group, he on his Honda CBR900RR and me following on my smaller 650cc HawkGT.

Squido was a young man, mid-twenties I’d guess. His bike was arguably the best performing sport bike then available – it was really hot stuff. He had taken on a self-mocking nickname as “squid” is slang for an inexperienced rider or racer, as in watch out for that one, he’s a real squid.

I discovered Squido was no squid, in spite of his nickname. He set a pretty quick pace on the big Honda, but there were no straightaways along this part of the route where he could use his superior top speed and I was able to follow him in the curves without strain. Although I had never ridden FR19 before I felt right at home; the road was tight and twisty.

After about 15 minutes Squido signaled for me to take the lead. I didn’t need a second invitation. Once in front I started attacking the turns, focusing intently on the corners. My pulse rate went up and my senses were sharpened by a jolt of adrenaline. Endorphins were swirling around in my bloodstream; my eyes, hands, feet and butt had become nerve centers, sending messages to the brain – slow for this turn, ok that’s enough, shift weight and turn in; the rear tire is about to slip, feather the throttle; weight on the left foot peg for this one; gas it now – not too much; and … Whee!

I was having a great time. I hadn’t felt those feelings for years.

After 40 miles or so the road straightened out a little and I relaxed and looked at things besides the tarmac. I was surprised to see empty road behind me. I rode moderately for a while, catching my breath and watching to see if Squido would catch up, but when the road reached Cougar Reservoir it got twisty again and my focus returned to the curves and I forgot about watching behind me.

I got to the rendezvous point, gassed up the HawkGT, went into the store and bought an ice cream sandwich, came outside and sat in the shade to eat it. I was about half way through when Squido rode up. He parked his bike and came over and said, “Please tell me you live around here and ride this road all the time.”

“I live about 2 hours from here, but this is my first time on this road. I expect I’ll ride it again soon; it’s a really fun ride.”

Squido just shook his head and mumbled, “I hate old men on Hawks,” and walked away.

At the time I didn’t understand what he meant. I was just having fun; I never meant to make anyone feel bad. And I was only 48, hardly an “old man.”

As I finished my snack other members of the group began arriving. When everyone was ready we rode in formation for a few miles on Highway 126, and then turned onto Highway 242, the second ride-at-your-own-pace section. It’s the road over McKenzie pass; another delightful motorcycle road and I would have liked to rush through it, but I’d had my time in front and volunteered to ride “sweep” for a while. My job as the sweep was to stay behind everyone and watch for stalled or crashed riders and make sure nobody was accidentally abandoned. It meant for a while I rode at the pace of the slowest rider in the group.

Highway 242 goes over the Cascade Mountains via McKenzie pass. It skirts the edge of a very large lava flow that, in geologic time, happened yesterday. It’s well worth a stop at the Dee Wright Observatory to take a closer look if you have the time.

McKenzie Pass hwy ends in the small town of Sisters, where we regrouped and rode together to the brew-pub in Bend. After lunch I rode solo back to the camp site via the Cascade Lakes Highway, a road with great mountain scenery and fast, wide open curves and long straights. It’s not a challenging motorcycle road unless you want to ride in excess of 80mph, but it has some great mountain scenery. Compared to a car there is no view better than from the saddle of a motorcycle, not even a convertible. Left, right, behind, up in the air. It’s all right there.

I got to the campsite still basking in afterglow of the endorphins from those 60 miles of FR19. After Saturday dinner the Evil Californian and her band-mates put on a concert of acoustic music, playing well into the night. I slept well that night.

Sunday morning people started leaving as soon as the sun came up. Some had ridden from as far away as Spokane, even California, and had a long trip home. The Gather was more fun than I expected and I really enjoyed it. I figured that was it for the year and I was looking forward to the next one. I hadn’t heard the last from that Gather, however, not by a long shot.

I Earn my WetLeather Nickname

A few days after the event , Squido sent a post about his impressions of the event to the Wetleather list. The following was part of that post (modified partially to protect the guilty).

There is a new species out there. I'd originally thought when I first met one of its kind, that this particular specimen was merely a genetic aberration. To my shock and dismay, there are others like him. It was two years ago that I first rode with Barbeque Slayer. I was then riding my totally bitchin hotter than s**t [Honda] CB600F2, and BBQ Slayer was riding Ln's Hawk GT. So we rode in a group for a while and then we got to twisties and my ego shrank...a lot.
For you see this was my first encounter with Squidicus Sandbagerus. So far as I can tell, their preferred habitat is one near twisty roads. They seem to take on the appearance of kindly older gentlemen, who smile at the stories younger men tell of harrowing escapades upon the tarmac. This is not to lull the younger men into a false sense of confidence. The young men have that in spades anyway.
Until the Squidicus Sandbagerus strikes. It happens in the twisties. Now Squidicus Sandbagerus tends to be VERY careful about what he uses to gut the ego of young men. It is usually some sort of modest or understated affair ... Squidicus Sandbagerus is almost always found on a bike that people more often than not refer to as 'competent' or 'a good all arounder'.
So after the young Squid shoots off on his red hot racer replica, Squidicus Sandbagerus starts rolling on the throttle and motors ahead in a smooth glorious manner. He does not 'thrash' or 'cane' his bike, he whispers to it and it does his bidding and together they sweep through corners in an unearthly fashion. Eventually they pass the young squid like he was standing still and shortly thereafter they disappear into the ether, leaving the younger squid holding a severely ruptured ego in what he thought was his throttle hand. Squidicus Sandbagerus looks into your eyes and smiles, and then eats your ego for breakfast.
So it was that Paul Ritter flew past me last Saturday as we headed north on Forest Service road 19 on a Hawk GT...
So all of you younger Squids out there...keep your eye out for that older guy with the easy smile and an 'unassuming' bike. He's smiling cause he knows he's gonna eat soon.”

I thought it was pretty funny, but I felt bad about bruising his ego. Should I tell him I’m a former Superbike winner; would that help? I decided to keep quiet. Things didn’t stop there, though. The next day Rocket Science Racing made this post.

Squido wrote about his encounter with Squidicus Sandbagerus.
This particular example of the Genus Squidicus seems to be fairly modest. Hence, he probably didn't mention that he has to his credit 2 AMA Superbike wins on A BEVEL DRIVE DUCATI! … As a teenager he was one of my idols, and I used to follow his exploits in Cycle magazine, Cycle World, and Cycle Guide. He was especially noted for his exploits in the rain, on SLICKS.
Sheesh! What DO they teach squids in history class these days?

Oh my God! I felt like I’d been outed — from the garage though, not from the closet. I never meant it to be a secret that I was an AMA Superbike race winner; I just hoped no one would notice. Again I decided to keep quiet, but it refused to die. Two days later RSR posted to the entire list again.

Privately, several people asked me:
> What? OUR Barbeque Slayer has won two AMA Superbike races? Really?

And I replied: No, OUR Paul Ritter. Sorry Paul, the game is up! :-)
I really wanted to go to the Gather to meet the guy . I noticed his name right away when he first posted to Wetleather last fall. The funny thing was, I posted something asking if he was THE Paul Ritter and he replied privately that he was. Then a week or so later Herb posted a list of past AMA Superbike winners, with the number of wins, and there was Paul Ritter with two of them. Nobody noticed.
I think he needs more than a little prodding to admit to that. Typical behavior for a Squidicus Sandbagerus.

Well, that blew the whole thing wide open, and keeping quiet was no longer an option. I made a post to WetLeather admitting that yes, I had won two AMA Superbike races in the late ‘70s on a Ducati. I included a long description of the 1977 race. Ironically the date of the post was July 17th, 1997, exactly 20 years past the day of the actual race. It was an anniversary celebration of sorts. Many enjoyed the story.

Mark, already known as Barbeque Slayer, gained new nicknames “SSMark” and “SS-1” since he was the first identified example. As for me, from then on my Wetleather nicknames were “SSPaul” and “SS-2.”

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