On the Road with Wally: Travel Tips from India

Only 31 years ago this week, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were standing on the moon, representing our species on the moon for the first time in history. If you are lucky, some day you will get a chance to read about the moonshot in the best book about it yet written, Apollo: Race to the Moon by Charles Murray and Catherine Bly Cox. In fact, it’s just one of the several books you can get at the newly-opened Paracelsus Bookshop (catchy name, eh?).

Actually, I overstate my case a little. The Apollo book is out of print now, but it is a great book, and one day it will be back in print and you will be glad I told you about it. Plus, there really is a Paracelsus Bookshop, powered by Amazon, ready to recommend only the highest quality paper-and-ink products for your high quality paper-and-ink needs.

It’s been a busy week here at Star Chamber World Headquarters, because we’re also launching the new Paracelsus Rambles weblog, powered by the friendly folks at Blogger.com. The weblog scene is very big and very entertaining, and if you haven’t heard about it anywhere else yet, then you heard about it here first.

Finally, and as if that weren’t enough, our correspondent from the field, Bendy Wally, has just returned from India, and we have secured for the Star Chamber the exclusive coverage of his trip. Don’t look for it anywhere else on the web, because you just won’t find it. And besides you only have to scroll down the page a little bit to find it here.

Continue reading “On the Road with Wally: Travel Tips from India”

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.

On the road with Wally

Part 42: Signs of Soda
by Wally

We were one sunrise away from watching the reddish glow of the evening sun color the rim of the Grand Canyon, and one sunset away from the first light of daybreak over Zabriske Point, in Death Valley. We were smack dab in the middle of Nowhere, Nevada.

Not to say there isn’t much of anything in Nowhere. Au contraire. George had been enlightening me to the wonder of the alluvial plains that exist here in Nevada. With no rain to wash it all away, all the material that sheds from the tops of the mountains here falls to the bottoms. And stays there. It creates a nice, gradual, slope of residue, once seen (and identified), never forgotten. In fact, on the way out of Death Valley the next day, we were basically driving straight up the alluvial slope for 45 minutes, avoiding tarantulas that darted across the road. But that’s another story.

No, here in the middle of Nowhere there was two-lane blacktop, lots of sand, and some scrubby desert vegetation. (and probably Wile E. Coyote, although he was much too wily to be seen. Unlike Wile E. Tarantula — again, another story.) And Sky. Big Sky. Sky that made Montana jealous. Big, dramatic, desert but-it’s-lookin’-like-rain, and not wimpy pacific northwest micro-rain, but slam it down, cats and dogs, southern summer thunderstorm rain.

A Sky that was so dramatic that George pulls over and comments, “Man, will you just look at that Sky.” Which is one of the things that makes George a good travelling companion — he’ll stop and smell the sagebrush. We hop out and stand agog at the beautiful sunlight spreading through the high dark cumulus. Menacing, yet beautiful. Alone, we appreciate.

An unnatural sound clatters through our meditative silence as a lone Coca-Cola can rolls down the highway. We stand even more amazed, because we’re in the middle of nowhere, almost back to nature, soaking up the desert landscape, the gorgeous almost-sunset and are jolted back to reality by a singular token of civilization, intruding on the road-runner-esque landscape. Our heads both swivel comically to the right, as the can, seemingly out of nowhere, rolls down the double yellow line in the middle of the blacktop. It almost feels like we’re in some weird commercial, but lacking the requisite camera crew and pretty graphics.

Then an even more unnatural sound blasts us both from our left as an 18-wheeler thunders unexpectedly around the bend and thrusts itself into our view before our startled inhales are completed. Its mammoth wheels roll over the can, crush it, suck it up and around, crush it again and fling it out behind, a crumpled, flattened token of what was once the perfect shape, the wheel, the cylinder, the rolling reminder of civilization… now just a flat piece of aluminum on a lonely Nevada highway.

As fast as it came, the juggernaut is gone. We both stare dumbly in stunned amazement at the coincidence of us, the can, and the rig. A collective “Whoa” settles among us.

“Let’s roll”, sez George. I couldn’t agree more.