2 Wheels To Adventure

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Alaska/Canada Trip--2006
Two "Adventure" Bikes

Ride boldly, Lad,  fear not the spills! (From "The Man From Snowy River," by Banjo Paterson) 
 
I'm not the man I used to think I was. (RBW)
 
"Cast a cold eye
On life, on death.
Horseman, pass by!"
(William Butler Yeats)

For a looong discussion on motorcyling in general and Adventure riding in particular, see the archives (or scroll down) for the first post on September 28, 2006.
It gives some opinions and ideas, along with a bit of philosophy; one (old) man's view of the world of 2 wheels.

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New Scooter---2014 R1200RT
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Cap'n Ron in the Straits of Georgia
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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Riding Around The Flagpole

I have been taking a ride a week or so with some local geezers I know. We usually meet at a given place and time, and toodle up to Prescott or over to Salome for lunch, then toodle home by three or so. Last week we went up to Tortilla Flats, on the "Apache Trail." There were seven of us, and we had breakfast/lunch at the old restaurant there in T.F. 

After eating, I thought we were going to continue to the end of the pavement at least, and Jack Cook and I took off up the road. There was some runoff over the road just a few yards up, but it was only six inches deep, and we churned through it easily. Nice curves meandered the five or so miles to where the pavement ends, and we stopped there to wait for the others. Pretty soon, a stranger on a KLR rode up. He told us he had seen the others back at T.F., and they weren't coming, so Jack and I turned around and went back. They had already left, so we rode home alone. No one was interested in crossing that water and getting their shiny bikes dirty, and Jack didn't want to ride the rest of the way up to Roosevelt Dam on a gravel road, so that was that. I have not ridden that road for at least ten years, and will make it a day trip one of these days. Looks like I will be doing it alone.

I have been riding the GS the past couple of weeks, leaving the LT to rest awhile. I do love both of these bikes, and despair that I cannot ride both of them all the time.

I'll be going to a Honda Sports Touring Association Rally down in Kerrville, Texas early in April, and will ride the GS on that trip, seeking out as much two lane blacktop as I can. The HSTA magazine is featuring a series of articles by me about the 48 Plus ride I made, and they have asked me to conduct a seminar at the rally on Iron Butt and long distance rides. 

I think I might combine that trip with a ride to some other climes I have yet to sample, like the Natchez Trace (Tennessee, Georgia, and Mississippi) or maybe even Deal's Gap and the Tail of The Dragon (Tennessee and North Carolina). Deal's Gap boasts 318 curves in 11 miles, and one hasn't ridden curves, according to some, until he has done the Gap.

I'd also like to tackle Baja California again, as well as another ride to Antigua, Guatemala. Then, of course, there is the Alaska Highway again. I never got to Yellow Knife on the last Alaska/Canada trip, and I would like to check that one off, as well. So many roads, so little time.

Australia beckons. I am looking into that as well. At present, I have little information on whether to ship my bike, rent one there, or buy one, then sell it back after the trip. I think in order to "do" Australia the right way, it would be a trip of at least two months. That one may have to wait awhile, but then, I don't have unlimited time for this kind of foolishness... 

5:21 pm mst 

Monday, February 11, 2008

Aftermath

I was in the hospital long enough to have the staples removed there, rather than to make a visit to the urologist, and the next thing was the catheter. It came out the following Monday. It was nice to be off the leash.

Recovery has been as easy as the operation. Other than the brief set-back with the Ileus, everything has gone as expected. I went for a follow up on February 5th, and the PSA taken at that time showed a reading of 0.1, or untraceable. It appears that the cancer was confined to the prostate, and that it has not progressed elsewhere, but that is not positive. I go back for another PSA every 3 or 4 months for the first year, every six months the second year, and, if no cancer appears by the tenth anniversary of the surgery, I will be considered "cured."

I do have a two of the expected and common side effects of the surgery, but have every reason to believe that they will be temporary. In the meantime, they are not serious, especially for a man of my advanced years, and are more of an aggravation than a focus of suffering.

I am glad that I chose this method of therapy to get rid of the cancer, and have every expectation that the future will bear out the decision. All in all, it was a breeze... 

I have been back on the bike for several weeks, and even took a ride this past Thursday of about 250 miles. All seems normal in that area, and I will be heading out for a trip of greater length when the weather in the rest of the country begins to resemble Spring. Here in the Phoenix area, it is lovely, and the last couple of days have reached the mid 70s. Charming! 

8:26 pm mst 

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Under The Knife

Friday, December 28. We checked into the hospital at 11:00 in the morning, and by the appointed 1300 operating time, I was prepped and being wheeled into the OR. I have no recollection of much of anything until I awoke in Recovery. I felt pretty good. By 1630, I was in my room, with my Sweetie by my side. No pain, and not enough discomfort to mention. I had the five incisions mentioned earlier, each sutured with three or four steel staples. I apparently was conscious and talking earlier, but don't recall the conversations.

I had a liquid dinner, and in the evening, my  daughter and son-in-law, who were in town from their home in Idaho to spend the holidays with his mother, stopped in, and later, my old riding partner. I was feeling pretty cocky. This was a piece of cake!

Saturday dawned bright and optimistic. I was allowed a solid breakfast, and later a nice solid food lunch. They told me I could go home in the afternoon. My Dear Wife collected me at 1500, and we went home. I still had a catheter, since the prostate removal requires bisecting the urethra. They suture it together, and insert the catheter which remains for about eight to ten days. It is not a lot of fun, being attached at that point, but also not a large aggravation. I had done a bit of walking in the hospital, and the medical people urged me to do lots of it to get the intestines working. After general anesthetic, the guts go to sleep, and have to be urged back into peristaltic action and normal function.

An old friend and airline compatriot had stopped to see me on Saturday morning. He had had an open radical prostatectomy in early October, and his counsel was welcome. He said the second day home could be a bit uncomfortable, but he had had no problems, and was well on his way to recovery.

He was right. Sunday, my second day home was uncomfortable. My abdomen was still distended from gas, and I wasn't having any luck dispelling any---very unusual for me!

Monday was no better. It was worse. I was full of gas, and there was no relief. Gas pains, not severe, but very uncomfortable were constant. At 1500, I told Sweetie that maybe we should call the doctor and get some advice. It was Monday, the 31st, and of course his office was closed.  The answering service advised us to go to the Emergency Room. We went, and I was re-admitted.

They hooked me up to the IV (again), and took Xrays. My intestines were visibly distended. Hmm, yes, trapped gasses were definitely the culprit. They call this post-operative Ileus---a paralyzed bowel. It happens from time to time after surgery. Mine was about four-and-a-half hours duration, and my guts were snoozing. 

They moved me from the ER to post-op, the same floor as my previous stay. This time I was there for 6 days, while they hydrated me through the IV, injected goodies to get things moving, used a couple of suppositories, urged me to walk, and in general took excellent care of me. I cannot say enough good about the nurses and aides, as well as the several doctors who saw me. This hospital is Scottsdale Shea, and care could not have been better.

I had multiple trips to Xray to check the distended intestines, and finally all of the therapies began to work, and I started to return to normal. I will spare you the details. Suffice it to say that normalcy returned vigorously.

On Saturday they sprung me again.  

12:31 pm mst 

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A Slight Diversion

I have been "away" for awhile. I stopped making entries for a couple of reasons:

 1) This site was becoming too political. I was drifting into rants against the current administration and the direction it has been taking the country. Be that as it may, and nothing has happened to alter my attitude, that was not the intention when I started this site, and it certainly is not what the title suggests.

2) I went for a PSA test in early October, and the reading took a jump, from 2.4 to 9.4. A second PSA showed even higher: 10.1. The family physician recommended I see a urologist, and he suggested a biopsy.  It is done in the urologist's office, and consists of inserting a probe into the rectum. The probe looks like a white plastic dildo, and to the prospective examinee, appears as large as Muhammed Ali's fist and as long as his forearm. I cannot swear, but I think it probably seems smaller than that to those not on the receiving end.

"Relax," says the doctor, and there she goes! It slips right in, and there one lays, hoist on this petard, curled on his side in a near-fetal position, feeling just a tad vulnerable. The biopsy is taken through the head of the probe, and usually 10 or 12 samples are taken. They sting just a bit, but it was not something I would say I would never do again. I have a friend who has had seven (7) of these, and he swears he has not fallen in love with either the probe or the attending physician. All in all, it was not the most unpleasant procedure I have ever undergone, although I would not hope for one every week. 

The biopsy is evaluated by means of what is called a "Gleason" scale. That gives a reading of the aggressiveness of the tumor. Anything six or below is deemed fairly slow acting, and usually the recommendation is for watchful waiting, with increased frequency of PSA tests, such as two a year or more. Six and seven are moderate readings, and over seven is cause for real concern, as it signifies advanced and aggressive tumor. My results were Gleason readings of six in three quadrants, but in the lower left it was a seven. The scale is based on microscopic inspection of the cancer, which can tell the development of the disease. A reading of 7 is moderately aggressive, and current medical knowledge for a man of my age is that some form of therapy is indicated. It is not a situation that warrants watchful waiting, and the urologist urged me to seek treatment sooner rather than later. He said it was not critical, but that he would not suggest waiting more than a couple of months at the most.

I was concerned about this, but not worried. My wife and I decided to act with dispatch and search out the different therapies to determine which might be the best for my situation. There are currently these options: Radiation; seed implants; surgery. These are the main cancer fighting protocols currently offered for my situation. Watchful waiting is not a good option, since the seven Gleason reading suggests a tumor that is going to progress, and something needs be done before the disease exceeds the boundry of the prostate gland itself and spreads to surrounding tissue and metastasizes into the entire body.

I followed the biopsy with an Xray scan to see if any bones were involved. Prostate cancer usually attacks in the form of bone cancer, and although it is not absolutely positive, bone scan can give a fairly definitive indication of bone involvement.

After that, it was a CT scan to check the lymph nodes that lie close to the prostate. Again, this is not proof positive that cancer is not affectin those nodes, but it is a relatively sure determinant.

Both of these tests were negative, and that made me a pretty good candidate for surgery, should that be my choice. I spoke with a respected radiation oncologist, and he told me that radiation and surgery were statistically even in their effectiveness. Radiation is relatively painless. There may be some minor tissue damage in tissue surrounding the prostate, and side effects are quite minimal, but incontinence and impotence are possibilities, although less than with surgery.

I have the usual older man's prostate, BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia), which means the enlarging prostate is partially blocking the passage of urine through the urethra. That means frequent urination, and a weakened urine stream. Us old guys can't write our names in the snow anymore, and we stand a lot closer to the urinal than when we were kids.

Radiation can cure the cancer, but it usually results in a further restriction of the urethra that may or  may not be permanent. Most BPH sufferers who have radiation will have to have further treatment to keep the urethra open, and that most often requires some minor surgery. "Rotorooter" comes to mind. 

The radiation oncologist said that although he could not evaluate my comfort level with my current HPB condition, he would probably, in my case, opt 51% for surgery and 49% for radiation.

I consulted with two surgeons, and they both suggested I would be a good candidate for Da Vinci Laparascopic-assisted radical prostatectomy. There are two main prostatectomies: "Open," or conventional surgery, where they make an incision from the pubis to the navel and manually remove the prostate; and the Da Vinci method. The latter utilizes remote arms that are controlled by the surgeon from a console while he watches his operation field, much magnified, from a space-age console several feet from the patient. Surgery for men over 70 is not always recommended due to the risks inherent in any surgery. 

I decided to have the Da Vinci procedure. It was now late November, and I was scheduled for surgery on December 28, the earliest date available. Of course the two main potential problems with radical prostatectomy are incontinence and impotence. I opted for surgery over radiation for two main reasons: First, most surgeons will not operate after radiation because of tissue damage in surrounding areas, and the potential for complications. Most surgeons do not want to deal with them. As far as the incontinence and impotence, I would deal with that later, and the surgeon assured me that he could "fix" either of those conditions.

Second, removal of the prostate also removes the restrictions around the urethra that resrict urination. If radiation is completely successful, there is still the HPB problem that has to be dealt with sooner or later.

The surgeon thought me a good candidate for surgery despite my age. I am in pretty good shape, and after a pre-op physical, I was deemed "operable." They like it when there is not a lot of fat in the abdominal area to wade through.

So, I had a date for the New Year. I expected to be in the hospital one or two days, with perhaps three weeks of recovery (open surgery typically has a six week recovery). Other reasons for Da Vinci were the five small incisions instead of a large six inch opening, less blood loss, less chance of infection, better operating field for the surgeon (less blood obscuring the field), and steadier surgical tools. The mechanical arms are more precise, with less chance of shaking hands wielding a scalpel. Also, the screen the surgeon uses is greatly magnified and in three dimensions, giving him a much better look at his work.

So that is my second excuse for suspending the blog this time. I have had other things occupying my attention. 

5:23 pm mst 


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For future use

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Our New Best Friend, TRES

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My Hero, Uncle Pete, two days short of his 90th birthday.

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Meet Mort--- Mortem "mors me cum equitat"
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The view from 50 feet up the mast
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The Old Guy At The Helm Of "OH MISS"
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Adventure Bound
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The Old Guy, Back Home Unscathed
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2005 BMW K1200LT, long gone to bike heaven
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"Der Klunkenschiffter" at age 4, 102,000 miles