Monday, October 31, 2016

Not All Adventures Are Fun

The calm before the storm.  Stoller Winery
with Victor Pancichkul, Kathy, Charles Price,
Steve & Christina Martin, and Larry Gray
One week ago, Kathy and I enjoyed a fun Sunday afternoon at Stoller Winery with friends.  Later that night, following extreme stomach cramps, I had emergency surgery for a twisted bowel (known in medical terms as a cecal volvulus).   I thought my gut was going to explode! The surgeons removed about three inches of my small intestine and about six inches of my colon, then connected them together.   I got my appendix removed as well.
The large black lines were the incision
points, later sewn together.
According to the Internet Machine, these are sudden, random and very rare, with about 200,000 cases per year, and most are not as severe or require surgery.
3 days post surgery,
before the drains
were inserted.

A typical daily agenda, minus
 listings of the many other
non-pain medications,
injections, and antibiotics.
Thanks to all of you for you kind wishes and inquiries.  I was too sick and drugged up to accept visitors or even phone calls.  And I can't risk an infection, especially one that makes me cough.  I will be discharged from Salem Hospital later today after my last IV antibiotic course is finished.
Turns out I was allergic to tape, so
 the area surrounding my 9" incision
 is highly inflamed and itchy.

I am lucky!  It happened out of the blue at the right time and place before internal bleeding or
gangrene.   The attack and the post-surgery recovery are the most painful things I have ever experienced.  We had just returned from our Desert Trip rock concert Indo, CA, and we were starting to pack for our bicycle tour of Cuba, departing November 1.  Had this happened during these trips things would have turned out much worse.

It turns out that we wouldn't have been able to go to Cuba after all, because Kathy's mom was rushed to the ER on Saturday for a urinary tract infection and a wildly fluctuating heart beat.  (Poor Kathy--dealing with both of us in the hospital at the same time!) We couldn't have left with a clear conscience with no support for her locally.  I got some good doctor-ordered walks going to visit her in the CV unit in the other building.  She's back at Dallas Retirement Village and apparently feeling much better then I do.

I was also lucky to have this happen in 2016 instead of 1966 or earlier.  The medications and the diagnostic tools truly are a marvel.  I dread getting the bill for all of this.  My guess is about $50,000+  but I'm lucky again to have insurance to cover most of it.  This experience would  have been much more stressful wondering if I could afford any of it.

View from my window
The hard-working nursing and support staff  Salem Hospital were models of kindness, attentiveness, and professionalism.  Indeed, visiting with them many times of day and night over they past week as they took care of me was the highlight of the whole experience.  I gained a lot of insight about what it's like to work in a hospital and juggle their home lives around three 12-hour shifts per week.  It's a stressful and physically-demanding job.  I now have a HUGE appreciation for daughter Feruza, a nurse in New York in a ward similar to mine.

I generated about 3 of these a day,
and much more during my surgery.
(Sorry, planet.)
I can resume a normal diet, but I don't have an appetite or stomach capacity to eat much.  Those of you who know me well know that I usually don't have any trouble passing gas.  Part of my condition of going home was being able to have a few big farts, and at least one bowel movement.  MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, but I still have much more to do so that my stomach isn't the first thing entering a room.  The hardest part of my recovery is waiting 5-6 weeks before I can resume exercising, and probably much longer to get back to where I was two weeks ago.

As the title says, not  all adventures are fun. This was one of them, but it was a good opportunity to reflect upon how things can change in an instant, the nature of pain, and to appreciate good health and all of the people in my life.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Rock On!

Ariel view from a drone (not our photo)
As we soak in the brisk autumn air at an Ashland campground, this post is hard to write because we don’t know how to summarize last weekend’s Desert Trip rock concert in Indio, CA.  Four days later, we’re still in awe of the whole experience, basking in a warm happy glow.  It will be a weekend we will always remember as one of the most fun and joyous things we have ever done.   We’ve been to over 150 symphonies, two dozen operas and many musicals, but probably only about five rock concerts.  So this was quite a new experience for us.
Cooling off in the
Beer Tent

Nick Jagger of the Stones called it "OldChella" and the “See them before they croak festival.”  The Wall Street Journal called it the “Biggest, Oldest, Over-the-Top Rock Festival Ever.”  We have to agree.  Spread over two weekends, each with 75,000 attendees, it was huge and quite an experience to share with 74,998 other people from all over the world in a big state of happiness.  

Pre-concert fun with
CA and OR friends
However, unless you count the performers (average age 72.4), it probably wasn’t the oldest, as about 80% of the attendees were younger than us, many of them under 40.  The festival grossed $160 million before concessions --$10 for a Coors, (much more for Oregon microbrews), $16 Wandering Angus ciders, $10 ice cream cones, $40 T-shirts.

We stayed at a very nice RV park about three miles away, which swelled to near capacity as other attendees arrived Thursday afternoon, in 94⁰+ heat.  We’re really glad we didn’t stay in the crowded official campground right on the polo grounds with all of its dust, rules, and booze rationing.  (We would have needed to relinquish our treasure Reno purchases if we had stayed.)
Young Mick Jagger inspecting
new Dylan Albun

Roger Daltry
(The Who) 
The venue outside of the performance area itself was HUGE, to coin a Trump phrase.  It was a 3/4-mile walk from the shuttle bus drop off the entrance.  Lots of food booths, countless beers on tap, 1000 toilets, and above all, a fascinating photography exhibit with hundreds of photos of the performers from their early days.

This is just half the audience
The performance area, under the sunset and the moon rise, was magical.  We had decent grandstand seats, but as symphony patrons, we weren’t used to the spilled beer, the people coming and going, standing up blocking our view, and the smell of pot and cigarette smoke drifting our way.

The highlights were the performers, except for Bob Dylan.  He totally sucked! What a reclusive jerk, who never even once acknowledged the audience.  (We heard that the first weekend was worse—glad we didn’t hear him last week!).  

The Rolling Stones before the fireworks

The Stones knocked it out of the park and more than made up for Dylan’s dismal performance.  Mick Jagger struts like he was 30.  Charlie Watts, rarely smiled, but kept the hard-driving beat going.  Keith Richards, in spite of the jokes about him, was at the top of his game.  We can only wish to be that talented and fit at that age.
Neil Young's stage

The second night featured Neil Young and Paul McCartney.  We aren’t huge Neil Young fans, but he surprised us and everyone with his energy and the well-done visuals on the screen the size of a football field.  Paul, was simply fabulous, and Kathy’s first choice.  He went for 2.5 hours with old Beatles favorites and more recent stuff.  He added context to many of the songs, providing us with some history that added new meaning to the songs.  His drummer was fantastic.  Rhianna joined him for a tune, but the highlight was the encore when Neil joined him for Give Peace a Chance, A Day in the Life, and Why Don't We Do it in the Road, breaking strings near the end. 
Paul & Neil young

The third night featured The Who and Roger Waters (formerly Pink Floyd).  I think The Who was my favorite of the three days.  Their visuals totally synced with their high-energy music.  Pink Floyd was a stoner mellow, and the older Canadian couple in front of us asked us if we had a joint to share (we didn’t). Their graphics were spectacular, and I read somewhere that they could be seen from space.  Some press accounts said that Roger Waters plowed much of his $20 million paycheck into the production--it showed!  It included a gigantic anti-Trump inflatable pig, and some of his political statements got a little old. We left at the encore.
Pink Floyd Set

Pink Floyd's many sets
Everyone was in a good mood, and unbelievably polite.  The event was extremely well-organized and well-staffed.  And speaking of staff, every one of them from the janitors to the security guards, to the ushers, to the food servers were models of friendly service that would challenge that of Nordstroms.

The Stanford mansion. in Sacramento. We toured this and the
state capitol with Cindy Brockway, Kathy's Assistance
 League friend and former board member.
We did this on a whim, but like some of the best things in our lives have been the result of a whim.  It was three days of sleep deprivation, energy, hot weather, euphoria, and community.  It was three days we’ll always remember with fondness.  If you see us next week with a distant look in our eyes, we're still there.  Rock on!
Outside governors office
at CA state capitol.   
The only campers in a ghost town
at Col. Allensworth State Park,
founded by African Americans in 1906
Col. Allensworth Historic State
Park north of Bakersfield.
(Not our photo, but we
did have a moon rise)

Mt. Shasta on
beautiful drive home

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Backroads to Joshua Tree and Indio

A Joshua Tree
Many things make us happy, but bike riding or driving on an undiscovered backroad road is a special delight.  Our new discovery was the East Sierra Nevada Scenic Byway, which runs from Carson City, NV to about Ridgecrest on Highway 395. 

Actually, when pulling a trailer, we find that most backroads are more relaxing and enjoyable than freeways.  This was especially fun, as a Sirius Radio station was broadcasting from the first weekend of the ‘Oldchella’ concert, playing songs from the groups and adding color commentary.
Hwy 395 south of Bishop, CA

Breakfast view at Bridgeport, CA
At our first night camping on the banks of the Metolius River, we smelled fumes and noticed a drip under the engine.  We had to add a quart of oil enroute, and thought it was just a little excess burning off.  The gauge said everything was fine so we continued on to Susanville for our second night.  On Monday, we decided to stop by the VW dealership in Reno to buy another couple of quarts of oil just in case.  Good thing, as they discovered a leak in a fuel injector and the fumes we were smelling were actually fuel, which, they warned us, could ignite and explode at any time. 

View from Conway Summit,elevation 8900'
But even in our bad luck, we are lucky.  They had the $42 part in stock, three hours later we were on the road again, and he fume smells were gone.  We found a beautiful campground at sunset near Bridgeport, CA populated by very sociable  hunters.

Morning at Indian Cove Campground, JT NP
After a 400+ mile day
The east side of Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada Mountains were stunning, and the traffic was light for the first 275 miles.  Such a stark contrast to the massive freeways and urbanization just 50-100 miles to the west.  The last 125 were not fun or very scenic, but it was worth the effort to make it to Joshua Tree National Park.  We found a secluded campsite among gigantic boulders and a vista of the plains below, with nearly a full moon.

Joshua Tree NP is north of Palm Springs and Indio, and east of Redlands.  It's hard to imagine this much wilderness so close to the LA area.  The park is where the Mojave and the Colorado deserts meet, and the two are very unique in appearance and vegetation.This is the most primitive and laid back national park we have ever experienced.  It’s huge, but without tour busses, traffic, gift shops, and mobs of visitors with selfie sticks.  There is no water, except at the four entrances.  The restrooms are pit toilets.     

Inside Hidden Valley, JT NP
Joshua Tree
Joshua trees are the park’s namesake, but in our mind, the key attractions are the rock formations and vast desert vistas.  The trees are relatives of the yucca plant.  They don’t have rings like typical trees, but botanists estimate them be up to 150 years old.  We spent a very pleasant day hiking among the trees, desert plants, and the rocks in 80+ degree weather. 

Not all trees are Joshuas. 

Cacti in the Colorado Desert portion of JTNP
As we listen to the crickets on a nearly full moon and gaze at the surreal moonlit rocks in our campground, we still don’t know fully know what to expect for the Desert Trip experience, but we do know that it will be a stark contrast to the remote serenity of Joshua Tree NP.

Friday, October 7, 2016

On Our Way to “Oldchella”

The Line Up
“They aren’t getting any younger, and neither are we,” said Kathy as she looked at a Facebook post while we were on our way to Ashland last May.  “Let’s do it!” we impulsively decided.

She was referring to the rock stars performing at Desert Trip, the big three-day rock concert at the Coachella Music Festival near Indio, CA.  Mick Jagger, one of the performers has dubbed it “Oldchella.”  He’s right, the average age of the performers is 72.  The Stones kick it off Friday evening. 

So tomorrow we’re hitching up the Airstream and taking the backroads to southern CA.  We’re spending tomorrow night on the Metolius River at Camp Sherman, our favorite Oregon campground, where we’ve camped every summer for the past 20 years.  (We missed it earlier this year, and we don't want to break our 20-year streak).  Then on the way we’ll visit some of her Assistance League friends in Klamath Falls, and hike and camp in Sequoia and Joshua Tree National Parks. 

The Saha's, Rotarians from India
Although we’re eager to hit the road again, it’s been nice to stay home for a couple of months.  We’ve both had a lot of work to do, both for business and our community commitments.  And we managed to have some fun here and there working out, eating out, and hanging out.  We hosted a delightful couple from the New Delhi area of India, rode bikes, visited wineries, and I got a backpacking trip to Mt. Jefferson with my good friend, Ken VanOsdol.  
View from our Mt. Jefferson wilderness camsite

Kathy led some workshops in Dallas, TX for the national Assistance League convention.  She finished her 8+ years of service with the organization, first as Finance Chair, then heading up Technology.  Check out the new website she just launched for the Salem-Keizer chapter of Assistance League.
She's happy to be home, and I'm happy to have her home!

We’ll post a couple of dispatches from the road.  Hopefully we’ll come back with our hearing intact, but probably with a few less brain cells.

 In case you missed them, here is a link to more photos of our road trip with some additional commentary.  Many of them weren’t in our previous blog.  You don’t have to be on Facebook to see them; simply click on this link.  

Until then, rock on!