Wednesday, June 30, 2010
gathering gloom but we knew it was too late.
Surprisingly, by the time we got to our destination, Cody, Wyoming, some 45 miles further, we were all dry and warm again, the mountain ordeal having already faded to more 'exciting' than frightening. However, we all admitted it was the worst driving conditions we had ever encountered astride a motorcycle. We had survived the attack on the mountain and were happy.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
If it does not fit the annual 'bad biker dude place to be' label, why does it attract the masses. As one friend stated, "Perhaps it is just herd mentality." It has become, simply and inexplicably, the place for bikers of all description to congregate, if only to buy and then wear a T-shirt that proves one's attendance.
Posted by Bob Kuhn at 9:48 PM
today, ending around 8 PM in Belle Fourche, South Dakota, just north of the Black Hills and Mt. Rushmore. In fact, we are at the same motel, and ate at the same restaurant, as George and I patronized last year July 4. And there are still 4400 folks living in this town but, despite the re-paving of Main Street, it seems to be fighting a losing battle against age. It has past its prime.
Posted by Bob Kuhn at 8:06 AM
Sunday, June 27, 2010
For most touring motorcyclists there are few more satisfying events than when riding a powerful machine on a highway slalom course of perfect turns. First left, then right, lunging and leaning into each corner as if to make it submit to the sidewall grip of the two tires. Then accelerating out of each curve as if whipped by a chain of skaters, hurtling almost out of control over the ground as if on blades cutting into ice. The rider pushes the machine while studying the road immediately ahead as if searching a typewritten page for the smallest error, simultaneously scanning the landscape on both sides the road for potential deer or other wildlife, or even an ignorant driver pulling back onto the pavement like a plane onto a runway oblivious to the aircraft coming in to land. Carelessness, by you or the errant motorist, can send you onto the shoulder or clamping hard on brakes in defence. There are risks, as there are in any adventure, but care and caution reduce that concern without depriving the two-wheeled traveler of the thrill of conquering the highway.
Posted by Bob Kuhn at 10:44 PM
Saturday, June 26, 2010
Today held experiences in extremes. We were on the road before 8 am, ready for the day's challenges and adventures. Little did we know. It started off as a day of magnificent mountaintop experiences as we rode as far as possible up Mt. Rainier, 3 metres of snow on either side of the road, which kept us on the cool side of comfortable. Then we careened down a road no snake could duplicate until we reached Packwood, Washington, taking time for a decent cup of coffee and a muffin before we pressed on to our next pinnacle. You can get near the top of Mt. St. Helen's by two routes, one from the east and one the west, both great for motorcycles. We had chosen the eastern "backside" as it allowed us to avoid the freeway and travel the curvaceous corners of Highway 131. It was a treat for all of us, with one exception.
We were enjoying our way up the 20 mile ascent to Windy Ridge when we caught up with an older style Harley Davidson. He was slower than us, as were most vehicles as they doddled beyond logic. But I was in no hurry to pass, recognizing that the summit was a few miles ahead. As well, I was tuckered out from the number of corners I had conquered so far. But the blue Harley must have heard the clarion call of the view and at the last second he suddenly decided he would turn left and enter the "overlook " . He was not in the left turn lane, but I was, having interpreted his slowing down as an invitation to pass. Accelerating at the same time as he swung the old hog to the left I hit him hard, glancing off his bike with a sickening sound of crumpling metal and plastic. Wobbling, but still upright, I was able to stop in the wrong side of the road before reaching the edge of the drop off to an unknown conclusion.
That was when the shaking began. I mean more than normal with my Parkinson's disease. But, amazingly, except for a dislodged highway peg, my bike was unscathed. Not so with the Harley, its engine guard bar was bent at almost a right angle, just barely short of preventing his front wheel from turning. He and I checked out the damage in relative silence. He seemed to know it was his fault but no allegations where stated. I stopped shaking twenty minutes later. I was thankful that neither my body, bike nor our trip were ruined by what proved to be only a scare. Honda meets Harley and comes away a winner!
The rest of the afternoon was spent descending to the Columbia River gorge and then traveling east in what became a very hot 150 miles to our destination for the day, Kennewick, Washington. Arriving after doing a respectable 550 kilometres (300 miles) I was minus the visor from my new helmet, which had blown off earlier and ended up under George's front tire. But tonight, while enjoying an incredible Italian meal, we all agreed that the day had certainly been eventful. Maybe we had enough adventure for one day.
Posted by Bob Kuhn at 11:14 PM
Friday, June 25, 2010
The most important gear for a motorcyclist of any type is the helmet. Having somehow badly scratched the visor of my old helmet by trying to clean it last night – the cleaner bottle said it could be used on plastic – I could not find a replacement visor so I had to purchase a new helmet this morning before we left. Apparently, helmets are like new running shoes. You don’t wear them for a marathon without breaking them in first. The blue (same as my bike) size XL felt like a good and snug fit in the store but began shrinking onto my head after 50 miles or so of riding. At 200 miles I felt a permanent dent was developing in my forehead. I am not sure what to do about it, but that is tomorrow’s problem. For now, just taking the helmet off felt wonderful.
We were starved (not to mention very tired, and in my case I had only slept a fitful 3 hours the night before due to working until the early morning hours). “Where is a good place to eat around here?” I asked the elderly desk attendant, immediately sensing his frustration at my question given that he obviously wanted to vanish through the door behind him to continue watching World Cup soccer. “The Wild Berry” he said tersely. Thinking that sounded fresh and homey we took up his suggestion.
After settling in at the restaurant we asked the typical question, but got an atypical response. “Yak steak” the distinctly Tibetan server stated nonchalantly in answer to our request for the ‘special’, as if this was as common as meatloaf or fried chicken. The specialties of the house were all genuine Himalayan dishes, and tasty, at least based on my choice of the chicken curry over basmati rice, with Tibetan rice pudding for dessert. Who would have guessed that my first experience with food from Tibet would be in the culinary centre of nowhere, Ashford, Washington?
Tomorrow I will introduce the fifth member of our adventuring group. He put our modest first day mileage to shame by having traveled 1200+ kilometres (720 miles) today to meet us. But for now, I need some sleep. Although I foresee dreaming of having head butting contests with Yaks in Tibet all night.
Posted by Bob Kuhn at 10:50 PM
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
Until I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, my tomorrows would almost always look better than today. My dreams were lush jungles of adventure filled with certain success and achievement. Fear never did more than stalk the edges of my tomorrows, and then only long enough to face inevitable conquest and banishment. But since my turning point in January 2006, I seem to need a constant parade of new things in the near future to keep me looking forward with a positive attitude. After all, the prevailing direction for those of us facing a degenerative disease such as PD is a slow, in relative terms, spiral downwards. Think about it long enough and the potential future seems filled with tremors increasing until they rival the great San Francisco quake of 1906, stiffness setting in like slow curing concrete, and loss of balance becoming more akin to drunkenness than disease. And that is just the beginning of symptomatic responses to the diminishing supply of dopamine being produced in one's brain. Our future is not typically marked by celebrations with bright colored balloons, streamers and confetti.
For me, anticipation is an antidote to anxiety about an uncertain future. Often times when I find myself focused on the fear of future disability, I can fight the darkness that would smother me by simply saying to myself, "Yes, I know. But in just a few days/weeks/months I will be...!"
Nothing could be more relevant recently than the need for positive anticipation to offset the sometimes depressing demands of a far too busy schedule. So right now I am anticipating leaving Friday for a two-week motorcycle trip in the northwest United States. Despite the potential for some pain and discomfort from cramped muscles, few things rival the exhilaration of cruising through corners on two wheels with wind, scenery and smells buffeting my body as I lean into the camber of the road to counteract the centrifugal force at play.
Sunday, June 20, 2010
First, I am pleased, as I am every morning, that Parkinson's disease has not yet made it difficult to get out of bed. There is no stiffness that often plagues others who struggle to take their medication and wait for it to take effect before rising. I can only imagine the frustration of waiting, thinking of the necessary and pressing, as well as a desirable, things to be done.
At the same time I am thankful for the opportunity to be a father, and grandfather. Although there is sometimes worry and heartache that go with the role and responsibility, there is also great joy and gratification. I have learned so many invaluable lessons from my children, and through my struggling to be the best father I can. Despite my many failures, I have a deep sense of peace that I have passed on to my children, as best I can, the values that are most important. Now I am much more the prayerful and caring bystander than the director or decision-maker for their lives. Which is as it should be.
Now, if I can only figure out how to turn this machine on! Oh well, I may have to read the instructions.
Posted by Bob Kuhn at 9:49 AM
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
It is unclear what "Peanuts" cartoonist, Charles M. Schulz, meant by the phrase he coined. But it sounds like something Charlie Brown would say as he stood on the pitcher's mound of that mythical baseball park wondering what he could do so that his team would win just one baseball game. Schroeder, Lucy, Linus and even Snoopy were losers when it came to baseball.
What is winning? When it comes to life with Parkinson's disease, how do we end up being winners? What if we cannot beat PD? Are we losers? Like many other wise statements, the words used in this cartoon-based maxim require definition.
Today, I learned from my grandson. It happened like this. Due to my right arm being weak and painful when lifting anything of any size or weight, I could not easily lift him, being the stout 18-month old toddler that he is. So rather than sweeping him into my arms for my customary bear hug as he puts his head on my shoulder, I was forced to get down to his level. This had me on my knees, looking him right in the eye. I saw him differently. We played at his level for the rest of the evening. We both sat in his little picnic table on the back deck. I draped over the edge of the bathtub has he played with his toy boat with the little men who sat in their circle, triangle or square slots on its deck. But, after a long day at the office, I was spent. But even in that loss of ability to give anymore watched him drift off to sleep while I held him having his bedtime bottle. My "loss" had become a very satisfying "win".
Posted by Bob Kuhn at 11:11 PM
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Wikipedia, the seeming authority on all things sublime or substantial, says, "Calibration is a comparison between measurements - one of known magnitude or correctness made or set with one device and another measurement made in as similar a way as possible with a second device. The device with the known or assigned correctness [our once-upon-a-time normal body and brain] is called the standard. The second device is the unit under test [our PD bodies], test instrument, or any of several other names for the device being calibrated."
Right now it is the constant ache of my right arm that I need to recalibrate and forget the standard set by my pre-PD self. I need to redefine “normal” for my arm and its ability, at least for now. And keep doing so lest I become defined by the progression of this unrelenting disease. But, given that we are all aging, perhaps each person needs to recalibrate their own definitions for what is “normal”.
Posted by Bob Kuhn at 1:49 AM
Saturday, June 5, 2010
My Parkinson's disease constantly reminds me that I am losing control of my body. And age itself slices like a scalpel into the sharpness of my memory, sometimes leaving me without the right word, someone's name or a clear recollection of an important event. The younger, tech-savvy generation rises like a tidal wave, threatening to overwhelm my ability to remain on the cutting edge of developments in my profession. At 57, am I losing control of my life? "Freedom 55" must be a cruel joke, a myth perpetrated by investment dealers and "wealth managers"?
Ironically, this reminds me of my 18-month-old grandson and his love of stairs and keys. Until recently fear kept PJ from even attempting to crawl up the curved staircase in the entryway of our home. But, inevitably, like all helpless babies who are growing into their 2 year old independence, he has began to assert his need for freedom to make his own choices. He giggles excitedly as he stretches his short legs up to the next riser, clinging to the spindles with one hand while he turns, beaming, to watch me follow a few steps below. He will spend several more decades in this process of asserting himself, and inserting himself into the world around him, making choices, taking control, and experiencing freedom.
Anyone experiencing the progression of PD will feel a commensurately deepening sense of loss. But, like any loss, be it the inability to hold a teacup still enough to raise to your lips, having your driver’s license revoked or being unable to move due to "freezing", the loss need not define us.
I may lose my self-importance/pride, some of my self-image/vanity, and even elements of my self-worth/misplaced identity to the extent it is tied to my perceived ability to control the world around me. But I cannot and will not allow any disease, misfortune, event or even person to take away my determination to be the person God made me, with an irrepressible ability and need to make choices. For as Voltaire, the French philosopher, said, "Man is free at the moment he wishes to be.” We are only as free as we choose.
Posted by Bob Kuhn at 12:07 AM