Thursday, September 17, 2015


Five weeks out…

The first good rain of the season came yesterday and everybody knows how good it smells the day after a rain.  The dry grass lays down and emits a glorious, sweet aroma.  Puffy white fair weather clouds dance across the sky, sometimes clinging to the tops of hills like whipped topping on a deep purple mocha.  All the dust and smog and smoke from nearby fires is knocked out of the air and all the roads all appear to be leading to Eden. 

It’d had been nearly five weeks since I’d gone in for surgery on my little finger.  Recovery from that trauma reminds me that joints in guys my age provide ample venues for arthritis to invade.  Not only is that gimpy finger stove up, so is the whole damned hand.  Perhaps a short spin on a lovely day will loosen things up a bit.  Maybe the vibration from the Guzzi’s throttle will be like a gentle massage.  Plus: the weather's so nice.

A favored short loop runs north on US 101 to Hopland, west-southwest on Mountain House Road and east on CA 128 back to Cloverdale.  The route includes both freeway speed and twisting turns against a backdrop of vineyards, open range, oak studded hillsides and historic barns and bridges.  The perfect route for a slightly rusty rider.

South of Hopland, the old 101 is now called River Road.  It traces the eastern side of the Sanel Valley through a canopy of oaks.  Cattle graze the hillside and pears grow in the bottomland.  Its two lanes are bucolic, superior to the nearby US route.

At the Campovida Winery (nice tasting room, wonderful gardens, superb wines) River Road intersects CA 175: closed to the east due to fire this day.  A jog west crosses the Russian River and puts me back in Hopland just south of the Bluebird Café (funky, homey, filling breakfasts; you’ll be treated like a regular).  Heading south on 101 for about a block, a right turn places me on Mountain House Road.  A mile on is the Terra Savia winery and olive oil mill (try the Meritage and pick up some Meyer Lemon Olive Oil.)

I’m out of Hopland almost as soon as I enter.  Mountain House Road is marginally maintained.  It’s easy to go slow and enjoy the rolling hills of the Coast Range.  Here, I find out that the Moto Guzzi massage-therapy theory I’d been operating on is, in reality, not so therapeutic.  My game hand didn’t appreciate having to maintain a consistent grip on the throttle while jarring across hummocky, broken pavement.

I stop ostensibly for some photos, flexing that out-of-shape hand.  The Spanish moss looks rejuvenated in the rains from yesterday.  The chill that had accompanied the front prompts colors to change on some of the area’s black oaks.

Crossing the historic Mountain House Road Bridge, I wonder if this road preceded River Road as the major north-south route 100 years ago.

Ten miles southish, I intersect with CA 128.  A right hand turn would take me 58 miles through wine country and redwoods out to the glorious Mendocino Coast.  But a left takes me eight corkscrew miles back to toward Cloverdale.  I elect to head back to the barn.  Sporting as the Moto Guzzi Breva is, my confidence has ebbed a bit; I pull to the side to allow an Audi to pass, receiving a courtesy wave in response. 

A warm water soak on my hand, once home, loosens things up enough that I can type.  I’ll try this again in a week or two…

© 2015
Church of the Open Road Press

Sunday, September 6, 2015


Backstory:  What is Dupuytren’s Contracture?  In older men of northern European extraction (I have to cop to at least two of these three characteristics), oft times the fascia overlaying and protecting the tendons which allow the fingers to flex and/or straighten, shrinks up – contracts – disallowing the tendons to do their job. Most commonly, this condition arises on the little finger and, secondarily, the ring finger.  In my case, I found that I could no longer straighten my pinkie.  Repair involved the surgical removal of a section of the uncooperative protective tissue.

A follow up appointment was scheduled three weeks after surgery.  Upon rising that morning, I removed the bandage, showered – the thing could now get washed and dried according to the medicos – and, before rewrapping it, decided to brew a little coffee, sit out on the back porch, let the thing air out and enjoy a little morning sunshine.  (The gauze wrapper really dries and chafes the skin and any moments without that irritant are pleasant ones.)
Sipping my Joe, I inspected the wound.  Last week, just after the sutures were removed, it looked like I’d engaged in a pitched a battle with Hannibal Lector and nearly lost.  This week not so bad, things seemed to be knitting nicely.  Lifting the coffee mug with my gimpy hand, a ray of sunshine glanced across the incision.  Shocked, I observed that portions of the scabbing wound near the tip of my little finger were purple – or for Crayola Crayon aficionados: blue-violet.  Purple-blue-violet!  Yikes!
Gobsmacked, I nearly dropped my coffee cup onto the glass table.  I stood up to get some better sunlight on it.  Yep!  The damned thing was etched in a sickly bright purple-blue-violet color.  And was that the beginning of some white – I don’t know – a moldy looking fuzz covering the colorful wound?
I shared my concern with wife, Candace, who, with a slightly twisted look of concern – no, more like horror – backed away for a moment.
Should I call and ask about this?  Or should I wait until my 3:00 PM with the physician’s assistant?  Mulling for some time, I decided that the circumstance couldn’t get much worse in the intervening five hours.  I resumed with my French Roast and read a cover story in the local paper about a dog that died suddenly after swimming in the Russian River where there were blooms of a mysterious blue-green algae.  We’d been out to the Russian River just yesterday.  I reconsidered calling the doc, but didn’t.
Rebandaging the finger, I couldn’t help periodically peeking under the gauze roller to see if the purple-blue-violet streak was still purple-blue-violet.  It was during one of those peek-a-boo moments that I noticed the same discoloration at the other end of the work area.  I wondered if it is going to creep across the palm of my hand and up my arm to my elbow.  What’s going on and what might be the fix?  And if they have to amputate my arm, will I have to give up riding the motorcycle?
The appointment was only two hours away, so I tried not to fret.  But the fingertip was a little numb and is the joint stiffening up?  Was I going to end up in some sort of a colony?  And what about that flesh-eating mold?

Those two hours passed like molasses in the winter months.  Finally, I sat in the office of the physician’s assistant.  She asked if I had concerns.  I mentioned the discoloration that I’d only seen for the first time this morning.
“That’s a skin marker,” she said.  I nodded, not wanting to ask more, assuming that what I was seeing was some chemical or biological reaction that occurred as the traumatized skin worked itself back together.  She added, “The doctor is in the next room.  Let’s have him take a look at it.”
My mind immediately flipped back to gangrene or scurvy or Dutch elm disease.
The doctor walked in and casually fingered my hand while nodding approval.  “Looks good,” he intoned.
“What about this purple-blue-violet?” I asked, trying to subdue the squeakiness in my voice so as to mask my burgeoning panic while pointing to the growing, brightly hued stripes.  (Was it creeping toward my elbow yet?)
“Oh that,” he said.  “I take a felt tip pen and outline where we are going to make the incision.  Nothing too precise.  I chose purple Magic Marker to mark your skin.  Somebody’d left the cap off the red one.”
“Oh.  A skin marker,” I said.
“Yes.  What were you thinking?”
“Oh…  Nothing.”

© 2015
Church of the Open Road Press