Seize the Day

On the Road with Wally: Part 76
by Wally

You just never know what life’s gonna throw atcha…

I had been planning on going to the Klamath Falls rally for a while, and when my buddy Brian called and said he was going to be headed to LA that weekend, and would I like to go, the coincidence was undeniable. These rallies are basically just an excuse to ride to a specific destination to be able to stand around and chew the fat with other BMW motorcycle owners, drink some beer, and camp in an exotic location – like the infield of the Oregon Institute of Technology track.

So we took off on Friday evening, and made it over the Cascades and into Sisters, pitched our tents in the city park, and slept fitfully ‘till morning. We breakfasted in Bend, and made it into Klamath Falls by mid-morning. I pitched my tent, we looked around a bit, and then as Brian wanted to get back on the road, we motored out of town in a southerly direction. After lunch, we parted ways, and I continued on a big loop around Mt. Shasta, to point back at K Falls, where a BBQ Chicken dinner and the beer tent with all sorts of conversation awaited me. Unfortunately, I chalked up some Bad Karma points when a bird zipped out in front of me, and committed suicide on my right-hand turn signal stem. “Yuck – sorry Mr. Bird,” I muttered, as I slowed enough to allow his carcass to drop off.

I carried on, and after the next gas stop, the 1974 R75/6 was just not running right. I had been trying to keep my eyes and ears on the carburetor adjustment, since I was flitting about between 3000 and 5000 feet, and I’m trying to learn to hear the perfectly Zen spot for engine optimization. But it was just not happy; so I pulled over in Macodel at a Texaco/convenience store, parked it in the shade, and tried playing with it a little more. Left side was fine, but right side wasn’t even firing – I’ve got spark, I’ve got fuel, but it doesn’t want to run on the right hand side. Bah, humbug…perhaps it’s overheated – this is the longest and hardest I’ve ever run this bike…(not to mention the spooky bird incident on this side) so I’ll give it a break, and go get a drink.

As I’m standing in front of the drink cooler, I start to see an aura. Now, I’ve had three migraines in my past, so I recognize this for what it is. This is not a good development, I think, but I know I might be able to power through it with the wonder drug of caffeine. So I start scanning for the iced tea, but the aura has progressed to the point that I can’t even make out the drinks two feet in front of my nose. “That looks like beer, there won’t be tea in there,” I think…and the next thing I know, I’m lying on my back in front of the aforementioned beer cooler, there’s an EMT leaning over me, and I’ve got oxygen in my nose. The ambulance arrives a few minutes later, and before I know it, I’m again on my way to Klamath Falls, but this time in the back of an ambulance.

Grand Mal Seizure is the diagnosis. In the hospital, they give me a CT scan, and start me on a Dilantin drip. Nothing obvious shows up in the scan, but it’s obvious to me that something vigorous happened…by the next day my calves, jaw muscles, shoulders, and thoracic spine are all sore. I’ve since found a sizeable bruise on my left tricep, and a scrape on my right forehead. My memory was also gone for a while; it was tough to remember the answers to simple questions while I was in the ambulance. I end up (literally) across the street from the rally site, and after spending most of Saturday night in the ER, I am released to go crash (not literally) in my tent.

Any family history? Nope. Overheated? Well, it was a warm day, but nothing outrageous. Flashing lights? Not really – I had gotten out of the woods, and into the Klamath Basin by this point. Dehydrated – maybe, but both Brian and I had picked up water earlier in the day, and were making it a point to drink some at every stop. Canned meat? Maybe – I had a Reuben for lunch, which is unusual for me. My brother the doctor says I might never know the cause. But now I’m forbidden to drive for 60 days, I’m on a nightly 300 mg dose of Dilantin, and thankful that I work for Tri-Met, the local bus/light rail transportation agency, because it’s a lot easier to get around.

On the bright side, I took the train back to Portland, and it was a beautiful ride – all hail Amtrak. And I got a good salsa recipe from one of the emergency room doctors. And I’m learning how to be assertive in asking for rides.

I’ve had an EEG, which pointed to focal epilepsy in the frontal left lobe of my brain. I also had an MRI, which showed an anomaly in the right rear lobe of my brain. To the untrained eye, this looked big – I asked the doctor what it might be, and further tests have just added to the mystery. Non-vascular, but non-invasive – a benign tumor, basically. I have three options: wait and do more tests in six months, do a biopsy (which leaves me with a small hole in my skull), or do full on brain surgery and get it out (eeek! this involves me being partially awake). I’m doing the wait and see approach for now.

Do I think I’ll develop the confidence to ride motorcycles again? That’s a big question mark. Speaking of which – the 74 BMW is still down in California, at the local fire station. I’m planning on having a friend drive us down there this weekend, with the trailer that I just bought two weeks ago(!), in order to pick it up and bring it back. Then what happens? Who knows…

It just goes to show you that you never know what kind of curve balls life is going to throw at you. I am a lucky man – if I hadn’t been stopped, fiddling with the carburetors, I’d probably be dead. I’m really going to make it a point to appreciate life more, and be more loving, kind and positive to people.

I originally wrote this up in order to share with friends, just to be more efficient in my emails. Paracelsus convinced me to shoot for a wider audience. If you get anything out of this, go and tell your loved ones how you feel about them. Do just one thing you’ve been putting off for a while. Make it a point to enjoy the sunset tonight. And always remember: carpe diem.

John Lynch, artist

Wally is a close friend from high school. You may remember his elegant description of a Coke can getting flattened in Nevada during the last installment of Travels with Wally back in May.

Wally’s back, and he’s got an even better story this time around. But don’t take my word for it. Read about the carburetor that saved his life.

Also, we’re thrilled to have a Web premiere showing of the paintings of John Lynch, an artist currently working in California.

Finally, Paracelsus has made some changes to his index page that should make it a little easier to find that special back issue you’ve been trying to track down. Collect ’em all! Also featured in this listing are all the authors that Paracelsus has sponsored in this space, including not only the illustrious Wally, but also Anne Onnamus, Gecko,
Ortelius (winner of the cool signature image award), Pandora, and three-time contributor St. Frank.

And now, on with the show.