Saturday, May 26, 2012


anyone missing a bike? 
I'm riding up the Mississippi River vicariously through the experiences of my friends and in particular my riding buddy Debbi who just arrived in Iowa to capture the essence of epic riding from Burlington, Iowa to Lake Itasca, Minnesota.  The way I figured it two weeks of riding the Mississippi with Debbi was better than not riding with her at all.  Strange how things turned out, isn't it?   Because, damn it,  I'm not riding with her at all.  

Thanks to my biking friends who are helping to keep the dream alive.  With frequent Facebook posts and photos, daily blogs,  emails and phone calls,  but without the saddle sores or achy muscles, I've enjoyed the playfulness,  challenge, excitement, disappointments, and the beauty of the land-- many of the elements an epic ride has to offer.  On the other hand,  I've really missed being on the bike myself, bonding with my fellow riders, experiencing middle America for the first time, and listening to stories told by local folks who probably walk in shoes much different than my own.  I can certainly attest to the kindness and generosity of the people of Louisiana and Mississippi, but that's as far as I got, so I'm taking the liberty of sharing some thoughts from a fellow rider who recently posted on Facebook her impressions of  the land and the people she has experienced so far.    
Near Burlington, Iowa 

"My uncle asked what my favorite state was so far and I was hard pressed to answer. This has not been a trip about America's great parks or natural wonders as much as it has been a cultural experience of my own people. Upon reflection, from an A&W here in Iowa, I have to say that thus far Iowa seems to be the strangest place I've probably ever been. It is American Gothic with completely unnecessary malnutrition, yet almost everyone is overweight. I dont think this is about the usual tropes about over indulgence. I think people here are unknowingly deprived of things that will truly satisfy and nourish. I'm thinking it's corn syrup and refined flour that's the culprit, and so many folks even appear to be in physical pain. That may also be due to the economy and the fact that people are working so hard. It makes me wonder if that is part of the reason for such an increase in pain killer abuse. Now, For beauty and classic Americana on this trip, I'd say Missouri was a treat. It was classic rolling farmland, quaint towns, and green everywhere.

For a real eye-opener on American poverty, that would be Mississippi. Louisiana had aspects of all of the above, but also had that wacky southern swampy vibe going on, which was kinda fun in its own way.

But despite any of my apparent criticism, I have to again point out that we have still even treated everywhere, without exception, to kindness, curiosity, encouragement and generosity. There is a sense of humans all being in the same boat here that is noticeably missing in places like LA, NY, London, whatever. I wish the democrat 
could tap into that more...because that seems to be what America really is."

I'm tired of writing about tingling hands and numb fingers, so I won't bore you with this any longer,  except to say I changed my mind about going East this weekend and am staying home instead to focus on healing through continued rest and PT.  Bruce flies home on Tuesday.  YES!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


I've been seasoning a pair of favorite jeans for the last 15 years just like I seasoned my cast iron frypan for the last forty.   These well worn jeans are perfectly faded and they never stretch or bag.  They are comfortably snug in the right places with just a few loose threads around the hem.   They  fit me best at 130, but with a little effort they button ok at my current weight of 135.   I wash the jeans with mild soap and hang on a clothes rack to dry  giving them the same loving care I've always given my cast iron frypan --  No soap, just hot water and some oil to season every now and then.

In case you were wondering where those cuss words were coming from this afternoon, they were coming from my house when I discovered my terrible mistake.   I obviously wasn't thinking when I carelessly tossed the jeans in the dryer, set the timer on 40 minutes,  cranked the dial to high and went to the  movies.   I used those same four letter words years ago when my newly-wed husband proudly showed me the sparkling clean cast iron frypan after completing the dishwasher cycles --  rinse, scrub with soap  and dry 30 minutes on high heat.  

I knew it was too late,  but I quickly took off my clothes  and tried on the still-dryer-hot jeans   Uh-Uh, no way.  These are not "Not Your Daughter's Jeans" but are the real deal with no forgiving lycra.  I have to lose at least ten pounds. With some work the cast iron pan made a come back, but the jeans?

Sunday, May 20, 2012


On Friday I had a "come to Jesus" meeting with my revered physical therapist about my determination to return to the ride and pick up the group in Iowa.  She did not dump a bucket of ice water over my head; instead it was just lukewarm.  What I'm saying is that I wasn't totally surprised when she told me I would be taking a huge risk if I returned to riding too soon, especially to a bicycle that needs to be reconfigured to meet my needs and to an itinerary that is still hard core all the way to Northern Minnesota.  Deep inside I already knew that this was a decision I had to face but just wasn't ready to admit it to anyone, particularly myself.   She said that one or two bulging discs were serious enough, but three could put me in a queue for possible surgery down the line.  She said many of her patients require a second round of cortisone so there's always that as well.

So, having said all this, it won't surprise you to know that I have decided not to return to the ride after all.    This will probably come more as a shock to my doctor when I tell him tomorrow because he has become personally involved in my ambition, my longing to return, and his efforts to make that possible.   The injections are taking longer to kick in than I had hoped since it is now 5 days and I still have symptoms.  Carol said as long as I have numbness and tingling in the hands and fingers, the nerves are still being compressed.  My health comes first and there's always more riding down the road and other tours in my future.   So friends I will get over this and I won't be off the bike forever.

Yesterday I emailed my husband Bruce who is on his cruise and told many of my friends about my decision.  What surprised me is that almost every person I talked with seemed relieved to hear this news.  Loyal friends as they are, they had the good sense not to lecture me when I said I was going back, hoping, of course, that I would eventually come to my senses.  

So, here's what I'm hoping to do instead, thanks to my always thinking ahead husband.  I will flly to Washington, D.C. next weekend and meet Bruce who will fly there from London to spend some time with his daughter and our grandchildren who live nearby.    After a few days with the family, we will take a little trip just the two of us.  Where?  We are not certain yet, but possibly New York City or Charleston, South Carolina or maybe somewhere else.   Stay tuned..........

PS:  I want to keep blogging because it's fun. I've also received positive feedback from people who seem interested in what I'm doing off the bike as well as on it. Of course, I hope you will read Biker Chick even if she's not cycling the Mississippi River.  I'll also write about some of our exotic travels around the globe as I've done in "Where in the World are you, Pami?"   Below are a few photographs taken during our trip to Ethiopia in 2009 when we traveled throughout this fascinating country and visited the exotic tribes of the South Omo region.  I traded this Womantours tee shirt for the red & black necklace this young girl is wearing around her neck.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


I shook my head and answered no to the questions the pre-op nurse asked about my use of  recreational drugs in the past.  I may have lied just a tiny bit but I don't think she expected me to go back 45 years.  Besides my memory is only good with names and dates not drugs and dates.

However,  I'll never forget that the best drug of all was the corticosteroid they administered, along with some lidocaine to soften the jab, and a light valium drip to relax me.   That magic stuff cursed through my veins all night long, and sleep was not on the agenda except for the one hour between four and five.   I watched David Letterman until 1 a.m..  At 2 a.m. I took a sleeping pill thinking that would help knock me out, but the Ambien wasn't strong enough to override the power of steroids.  But all this drug talk is not why I'm writing.  I'm writing with the good news that today (Wednesday) I'm feeling SO MUCH BETTER.  What a surprise given that the doctor said it would probably take two to three days to kick in.  Although I still have tingling in my left hand and some numb fingers,  the stabbing pain in my shoulder and arm has practically disappeared.  I've really been taking it easy since coming home last week, and I plan on laying low until Friday when I have my first PT session and a doctor's visit to discuss if I can return to the ride on May 26.   But this afternoon it was sure nice to go to a  movie with a couple of friends and enjoy a big bowl of delicious bouillabaisse at a fish house next door.

Before closing I want to share one last thing.  The ultimate offer was made to me tonight by a man I've biked with off and on for a number of years.  Trust me, it's not what you are thinking.   He wrote and volunteered to be my personal sag, so that I could complete the Mississippi ride.  Now if I didn't know better, I'd say it's because he'd love nothing more than to hang out with 29 beautiful women, but I know that's not his reason.  It's because he's probably one of the nicest guys I know.  Besides he knows how tough a ride like this can be since he rode the Northern Tier in 2010 self supported.  And if I said, "Yes, I want you to be my personal sag," he'd jump in his car and drive all the way back  to Iowa so he could follow me up the Mississippi to Canada just to be sure I completed my goal.   Can you believe it?   This truly blows my mind.

Well, friends, it's now 10:30 p.m. and even with only one hour of sleep last night, I'm still not feeling very tired, but I'm crazy if I don't turn out the light and try to fall asleep.  I'm hoping that when I wake up Thursday morning, the tingling hand and numb fingers will be gone for good, so I'll feel like my old self  again.  I am so anxious get back on my bike to see how I feel, but I'm afraid I have to wait a little while longer. Thanks again, everybody, for hanging in there with me and listening to all my complaints.   Stay tuned.  I will try and share more interesting stuff in the future.   This chick needs to get back on her bike and soon.    G'nite..........

This photo was taken last year at Denner Vineyards,  Paso Robles, California where we stopped to fill up our bottles with water not wine!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


One week ago today I was turned around, feeling upside down,  and on a plane headed back to San Francisco.  In just seven days I decoded the local health care bureaucracy and managed to get an MRI, a doctor's appointment, and today a corticosteroid injection in outpatient surgery to alleviate the inflammation of my C5, 6 and 7 discs.   For 17 days the bulging cervical discs have been putting pressure on nerves that run from the left side of my neck, down to my shoulder, in my arm pits near my chest, down my forearm through my left hand and finally ending with five tingling fingers.  Although I've never had shingles, I now sympathize with those who have since similar nerves are painfully affected.

  Fortunately the MRI nightmare is behind me.   Today my doctor cautioned me to be patient because this drug might not take affect for a few days;  in fact, it might be a week before I'm pain free.  But there is a strong sense of psychic relief because I know I'm finally on the road to being back on my bike,  and if my doctor agrees,  I plan to rejoin the tour on 5/26.  Two weeks of riding is definitely better than staying home,  but after the tour I will need to reconfigure the handlebars of my bike, putting me in a more upright stance so I'm not craning my neck.   I need to do everything I can to make sure this doesn't happen again.

I've always known I'm a pretty resilient person.   After all I was dumped twice by men with wandering eyes and not only did I survive,  I became a better person in spite of it.  In this case,  it's more than just resilience, it's determination.  My family will say it's in our genes.   I set my sights on this Mississippi tour a long time ago and trained hard for it despite some limitations earlier in the year.  But the determination is based on more than just my personality.  It's also based on the fact that I have so much loving support from so many people, even some I've never met who found my blog and have written to cheer me on.  Then there are the women riders in the group.  While I only spent five days with them, they have been calling, writing, posting, and sending strong messages of encouragement and love.  Then there are my dearest friends at home -- you know who you are -- who have been calling daily, sending emails, driving me for the injection, offering to spend the night at my house, and wanting to cook dinner for me.  Then there is my doctor (who earlier fixed me) who went to my bike shop for the first time last weekend to maybe buy a bike, and told the manager Dave how special I was.   And then last but not least there's Miss Patti in Natchez, Mississippi who is praying for me.  If you go to my 5/10 blog post entitled "Driving Miss Pami, "you will see a new post in the comment box written by Miss Patti herself and another one written by her sister Barb.  Now who wouldn't be determined after reading what they said in those posts.

Most of you know what I'm talking about, whether you ride a bicycle or not.  Determination and resilience are not reserved for cyclists.  It's also a characteristic that many of my dear friends share, and I believe exists in all of my immediate family.

I close with  a message to those of you who don't ride but are thinking about it, " Do It"  "Go for it".    It will change your life.  It changed mine.  Besides it's so damn much fun!  And you meet the greatest people.

So as you can tell I'm pretty pumped up right now.  It may be the Corticosteroid drug talking, I don't know for sure, but for those who know me pretty well, you'll probably say, "Nah, that's Pam."

N.B.  In case there are any burning questions.   My husband Bruce left Saturday for a cruise with his youngest daughter through the British Isles,  a trip he planned to coincide with my ride.

Saturday, May 12, 2012


After a couple of frantic phone calls on my first full day home, an MRI was scheduled for Thursday evening (May 10) at Stanford and an appointment with my doctor the following day.  There's nothing more frustrating than waiting around which is what I did on Thursday until I was checked in at the imaging center at 6 pm.

"Take off just your bra," the male technician said in a stern voice.  I felt like a stripper.   "What?" I replied.  "Just take off your bra, " he repeated, and since there were no loose gowns to slip on,  I took off only my bra,  put my top back on and waited for him to escort me to the room where the machine was located.  I scooted on to the table and laid down.   The stabbing pain in my left shoulder, arm and hand escalated to what I would describe as a pain threshold of ten.   The position I was put in compressed my already- raw nerves. All the fingers in my left hand were tingling like I had been connected to a wall socket.   Tears ran down my cheeks.   I wasn't sure I could go through with the procedure, but I really had no choice.  I had to find out what was going on, so I could be treated and return to my ride.   The technician was sympathetic.   Obviously he'd seen patients in agony before, so he made some coil adjustments on the table and I made another attempt.   The pain was still pretty bad, but not the same intensity, maybe an eight,  so I shoved the rubber ear plugs in and said,  "Let's get this show on the road."  He proceeded.  The next 30 minutes were really challenging.   I tried converting the loud banging sounds the machine makes into some kind of tolerable rap music during the two to three minute intervals to help take my mind off the pain.  His words "We're all done," sounded like a lullaby.   I exited the tube and slipped off the table in a slump.  My body ached.  I felt 100 not 68.

Bruce put his arm around me and helped me to the car for the drive home.  On the way, I told him to hell with the no sugar diet I've been on for a year,  so we stopped at Rick's Ice Cream in Palo Alto for a double scoop of creamy chocolate chip cookie dough and yummy salty caramel.  I deserved it.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Driving Miss Pami

Tuesday's three hour drive from Natchez to the airport could have been a real downer, but it wasn't. Instead I arrived at the airport full of hope knowing that I had just met an angel whose name was Miss Patti. When Guide Lynne was working to find transportation for me to New Orleans, the manager of the Eola Hotel said a member of her staff needed to go to NOLA and would be willing to drive me for $100 plus $50 for gas. Since an earlier shuttle quote was $350, I was very happy a cheaper alternative had been found.

In a sweet Southern drawl, the driver introduced herself as Miss Patti. For three hours we shared tidbits about our lives: her kids, my marriage, her job, my bike ride and an explanation of why I was going home. She was very happy when I said how impressed I was with the courteous staff at her charming hotel and the extreme friendliness of Southerners overall. With elongated speech, she entertained me with believable stories about haunted houses, which includes the Eola Hotel and how the ghosts of young Eola and her father are still cavorting around. She bubbled with enthusiasm when talking about her steadfast love for PBR (Professional Bull Riding), and how her new iPhone makes it possible to check in with her sisters almost every day. She nibbled on cheese whiz crackers and drank from a bottle of Mountain Dew as she described her near-heart attack but explained that new habits included vegetables but little or no red meat. I could tell how excited she was about a nearby "dig" to uncover treasure from a 150-year-old sunken ship, but how disappointed everyone was when the loot didn't turn up. There was sadness in her voice when I heard about her 17-year-old daughter's tragic death, and how she has pieced together reasons that sustain her today. Raised a Southern Baptist, she holds a steadfast belief never to question God, so I told her about losing my dear friend while snorkeling in The Philippines last year. I went on to describe the lone whale shark sighting on our very last day, and Patti validated my belief that this was indeed a silent message from Kaye telling us she was all right and a visible sign that said everything would be okay.

Although I was eager to get on with my long journey, I really didn't want to say goodbye. We parted with several big hugs and our mutual belief that everything in life happens for a reason. And for me it was meeting Miss Patti.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Photos from the last few days.

Let's see if the app I just downloaded solves my photo problem. YES!
It does!
Getting ready for the another biking day!

This is my dear friend Penny Bradley
From Hawaii

Carolyn Goodwin & Penny Bradley at lunch after today's ride.

Louisiana road kill

Pam and Guide Carol posing along the way

The Meandering Mississippi gals

Pam, Penny and Pat in New Orleans

Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, May 5, 2012


Today was a good day to ride shotgun in the sag. My cervical bone spur is screaming at me, the weather is too hot and humid to argue and it's a friggin' 96 mile day.   When I heard about the two major suspension bridges everybody had to climb, I crossed myself and said "Bless my Soul."    Anybody who says that people In the South aren't friendly haven't had the experience we've had. When a police vehicle spotted a group of cyclists about to climb the bridge ramp, he put on his flashers and provided escort in one of the auto lanes?  I don't think it happened because we are 29 gorgeous babes. I think it happened because they are just plain nice.    It's now around 11:00 a.m.   I'm sitting in the van listening to the guides worry about the condition of the day and how it will affect "their girls"  who are on the road and spread out over 20 miles. And the spread only gets longer as the day goes on.  Man, its hotter than hell and the humidity is really high.  Fortunately when biking, you create a little breeze and even though it's only a little, it really helps. Drinking electrolytes in  water every ten or fifteen minutes is mandatory.  As I  wrote yesterday, there are a number of experienced riders on this trip, but there are also those who've never done a tour before.  And the type of experience varies too. A four day bike tour on Cape Cod is not the same as a 2 month cross country or a 40-day epic ride up the Mississippi like this one   Moving on ---- it's now 2 pm and the van is waiting at 60 miles to see who needs to be hauled in and the sag is still out on the road servicing riders. There is no way in hell I would take on this level of responsibility in a day like today. OK here come a bunch of riders, looking tired and hot, but their spirits are high and they will continue on. Carol, the guide, reminds them of the upcoming bridge and the importance of not riding it alone. The caution was well taken since the riders need to be in the left lane because they will access the bridge from that lane. Moving on --- it's now 4 pm and all the riders have checked in at 60 miles. About ten have decided to bag it and ride in to the motel.  So, we all hop in the van and schlepp people to the Holiday Inn Express in Port Allen! Louisiana.  When we arrived, a few of the very fast riders were already here and waiting for the van so they could get their luggage About 15 minutes later my biking buddies arrived and showed me their bike computers while others showed me their temperature gauges: k100 miles, 100 degrees and 86% humidity.  I am so impressed and at the same time I'm not sure I could have done it (or would have wanted to). What surprises me is the different fuel needs these people require. While I would be drinking water mixed with electrolytes and downing electrolyte pills, some of the gals are just drinking straight water. However, at 60 miles one girl arrived very dehydrated and had to be iced down.  She lives in a part of the country that seldom sees temperatures anything like this. So, what did i do from 7 am until 5 pm besides work on this blog?   Well, besides helping Guide Carol navigate the van and find the perfect parking spot to wait for riders,  I helped Chef Lynne cut vegetables, fruit, shred cheese and made guacamole for tonight's fantastic tostada dinner.  But otherwise it was a pretty dull day and I was very envious of my fellow riders even though they were out there riding in that heat.   Tomorrow is another day, but a very short one at 35 miles as we head for a town north called New Roads, Louisiana Sorry, but I still can't post photos but I'm hoping that an app I'm about to buy will change that. Sent from my iPad

Friday, May 4, 2012


I love watching the expressions on people's faces when I tell them why we are in New Orleans. One woman exclaimed "Oh, we love cruising up the river".   Did she believe  me when I told her we weren't cruising, but were biking up the river?   Probably not.   New Orleans is an exciting city to visit because it's a vibrant mix of dynamic cultures in a setting that gives permission for freedom of expression in many different ways ---lifestyle, food, music, dance, art, theater, and architecture. It's a city that came back from one of the greatest disasters in the United States and holds its head high. Although I only spent two days in NOLA,  I wouldn't hesitate to go back and this time bring Bruce with me for a few days of decadent living.   I think one of the best meals I've ever had were the charbroiled oysters at highly acclaimed Drago's.  They were so delicious that Penny and I went back and shared a dozen for lunch the next day.  Then there were the shrimp, man, were they ever good. I think  New Orleans is definitely back! Finally, after two days of playing tourist,  we met up with the 29 riders at the orientation on Thursday afternoon. Carol Wilder and Lynne Brach are our guides and Lynne, who has 30 years experience as a camp cook, also doubles as chef.  Going around the room and introducing ourselves to one another, I was struck by the different levels of biking experience, from people who have ridden cross country several times to gals who've never done a bike tour before in their life. Sleep did not come easily to me last night, which was most disturbing as I looked over at my roommate who appeared to be knocked out. Then when I rolled over at 4:30 this morning and saw her reading with a flashlight, I was wide awake too. Bottom line: short night.   But I was ready to go this morning when we finally took off at 8:30 AM and headed  41 miles north for LaPlace, Louisiana where we are staying tonight.   HOT, HOT, HOT and FLAT, FLAT, FLAT.  Can you imagine?  41 miles and 125 feet of climbing?   Riding out of New Orleans took us by many beautiful homes, some large and majestic, some small and quaint. We wondered which ones had been affected by Katrina  Eventually we rode the levees which were smoothly paved and, of course very flat. The landscape, while somewhat industrial, was also quite scenic. The Mississippi is definitely a working river. Right now I seem to be having difficulty posting photos via my iPad on my blog, but if I could, you would be looking at photos of tugboats pushing barges, vistas of smokestacks and flames shooting up from oil refineries. Not pretty, you might say?  Actually, the views were still distinctive in an  commercial sort of way, giving you a real feel for what life is like along the great Ole Miss.