"I'm about to depart for Germany to get on my Suzuki DL650 and ride SE towards Ukrainia and then loop SW toward Turkey and Greece before turning up thru the Balkan countries and back to Germany. I'll be home by the end of June. I'll try and post a few pictures and updates along the way. Anyone interested in following along, climb aboard!"That was what started this trip blog this time. Sorry it has taken me a week to figure out how to get anything post on this site again. I'll be damn if I can remember how to do it and it just ain't intuitive enough for me to find the right thing to click. And, there's no one here under 15 to ask... So, here goes the best I can do at the moment:
It was a very slow start to this Adventure Ride.
Because of my failing lung condition, the high altitude (low air pressure – low oxygen density) messed with my blood and then my whole system. My heart rate doubled for about 3 days, while I just sat around doing almost nothing or took naps. Eventually, it started to get better, the heart rate went back to only slightly higher than normal and I began to get a little more energy back.
Three days after I had planned to be “on the road again”, I told myself to get on the bike and go, the same thing I'd been telling myself every morning, but this time I went.I called my friend Blazenka (also from Bellingham) who has just retired and is visiting the old homeland (Croatia) and I set off for Zagreb. Not sure how much stamina I had yet, I decided to take 2 or 3 days to get there from near Heidelberg, Germany where I have kept a bike ready to ride each year for almost 10 years.
5-17 6amAs it turns out this trip is going to be all about the vicissitudes of having Pulmonary Fibrosis and only a little about nice people and nice places.
I intended it to be all about beautiful people and places. It’s been almost a full week since I left Bellingham, Washington and I haven’t really gone anywhere yet.
I was told by my Pulmonologist (you’d think that would be fact that a pulmonary specialist would know) that commercial aircraft cabins are pressurized at 4,000 feet for high altitude flights. 4,000 was about my maximum limit for getting enough oxygen thru my failing lungs and into my blood to keep me functioning at a near “functional” level. So, no problem!
Something I learned a couple of days ago from Wikipedia is that airlines actually keep passenger cabins pressurized at between 4000 feet to just over 8,000 feet at the highest altitudes – like the 41,000 feet that was flown on the final 6 hours of my flight across the Atlantic. I should have looked up Wikipedia before I left home!I noted that the change in altitude came during dinner on the plane (yes, you still get a dinner on trans-Atlantic flights). A meal means some of your blood gets syphoned off to digestion. I also noted that my pulse rate kept gradually going up crossing the USA and continued crossing the Atlantic. And that my Lung efficiency at moving ambient oxygen into my blood stream rate kept going down especially at 41,000 feet - 6 hours of it.
I have a little gizmo I put on my finger and it can tell all that!
For the last 6 hours of the flight [and for 3 full days after getting back on the ground in Germany, my Pulse Rate was double yours (between 100 and 123 beats per minute) and my OXY Rate was 20% less than yours bouncing around between 77% and 83%. Yours is 97 to 100% efficient.
Did I go see a doctor? No!I waited for it to fix itself. There isn’t anything to be done anyway, I reasoned. Well, some straight oxygen up my nose would have helped, maybe….
After I talked myself into thinking I was getting better (pulse down under 100 barley and OXY rate up to 84ish) and I’d done nothing except sleep for several days, I decided to pack up and go. I rode about 250 miles south east toward Zagreb, Croatia to visit my friend from the ROMEO CLUB (Blazenka) and her family (she’s the only woman and an honorary member of the illegal Retired Old Men Eating Out Club.
I got myself to Bad Wörishofen, still in Germany and half way to Zagreb and I just couldn’t go anymore. I was too fatigued just sitting on the bike at 120 kilometers an hour in traffic to feel safe should some emergency jump out in front of me. Beside, I’m in no hurry!
I found a nice sedate and very comfortable hotel (Kurhotel Kaiser) and here I am this evening after two restful nights, a visit from the Emergency Medic Unit (communication problem here at hotel -- I'm not an emergency - but very professional, included a doctor who arrived by police car as they were taking me out to the vehicle to plug me into lots of wires and check me out -- no charge, thank you - and they called to get me a home visit doctor - on Friday evening!, two visits (and one big shot of Prednisone - something I'm already taking for the last 4 months since being diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis) from a House Call Doctor.
I want to feel like going on. But, alas, I waited a bit too long for this one last big adventure out into the interesting friendly world. At least on a bike adventure.
Should I just quit while I’m (sorta) ahead and go home? That was the question of the day! Quit with no pictures. No funny stories. Nothing to show for it except a growing list of well wishing friends - new and old?
Well, that decision was made for me by the House Visiting Doctor on her call back this morning - at 8 o'clock sharp! She looked at my blood pressure – not bad. Looked at my heart rate and OXY rate – not bad like yesterday, before the big shot of Prednisone. Then she asked me to walk over to the three step up to the entryway and climb them and come back. Retested with the finger gizmo – both rates gone off in the wrong direction by 10 points: Bad!
She listened to my lungs front and back and told me she was voiding my German road insurance – I could no longer legally ride a motorbike in Germany --or anywhere else in the EU. She would order them to ship me and the bike back to where I came from (Heidelberg). Case closed. This was all communicated in German with pantomimes -- and a little help from my friendly old Kurhotel host owner in his best German to English translation.The ever efficient German road insurance company ADAC, came and picked up the bike two hours later and someone will show up to collect me and ship me back to Heidelberg tomorrow morning about 10am. And, it’s a Saturday here! House call doctors? House call motorbike transporters? House -call insurance paid- people transporters – on a Sunday? It's one way you know you’re not in Kansas anymore – or Washington either.
I am sorry to have led everyone to expect an interesting adventure through an interesting part of the world that most of us have never had a chance to see and some of us what with violence in Ukraine and floods in Bosnia are now seeing parts of on TV (well, if you watch Aljazeera or maybe BBC, anyway).
I especially wanted to see Croatia – very beautiful scenery (in books), very interesting history (in books), and I’ve met some of the people from there – same as people I've met nearly everywhere I’ve been – very hospitable and very friendly, especially to old men on motorcycles.
So, I am off back to Heidelberg to arrange to get home again- well actually, my wife is doing that - she misses me, and I've only been gone a week this time!
Then to see if any of the damage to my failing lungs can be repaired – probably not. And then to figure out how to enjoy the rest of my life without a motorbike between my legs…
You all will just have to go see the sights of this part of the world on your own -- I'll read your blogs. Sorry I didn't take you anywhere with this one.
I don't recommend it for anyone under 60, but, if you've gotten old enough to risk death defying travel in the open, try seeing the world on a motorbike - can't beat it!
Thanks for following along. Tom