Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Throwdown, Knockout… “I fell. Ooh, that’s not good.”

I’m sure you won't be surprised to learn that when I say "last Monday," I actually mean “sometime late last October.”  I wrote this post then, but didn’t edit or publish until, well, now. Par for the course, eh?

Last Monday, Pilot and Guy and I set out on a fine Eating on Two Wheels expedition to Patagonia, AZ via some four wheel drive roads. Our food destination was inspired by the 2014 Downtown Lecture Series (2014 topic: Food!). We were off to visit the Native Seed/SEARCH Conservation Farm, and possibly pop in on Gary Nabhan , presenter of the October 22nd lecture, and his farm, as well.

Of all the possible riding scenarios I’ve prepared for, by wearing all manner of safety gear, carrying tools and knowing (mostly) how to use them in a pinch,  owning a SPOT device, carrying Pilot Guy’s satellite phone, not riding off-road alone (I break that rule on occasion, though I may not again for a long time), telling people of my plan and when to expect me, carrying extra food and water, etc., etc., there’s one scenario that never, ever occurred to me.  And that is that I might have a low speed fall on a technical hill, and, despite the Shoei full face helmet strapped firmly to my cabeza, knock myself completely out and wake up with amnesia.

Yup, I had my very first motorcycle induced temporary amnesia event.  And I am here to tell you it is fascinating, hilarious, freaky-weird, - pardon me - shit.

I think I’m about to write a coherent post, but in recollecting my usual run-on sentence style of writing, which I happen to be exhibiting right now in a spectacular fashion, I admit that anyone could fairly argue that I’ve never actually done so. Consequently, I take that back.

To call this little incident a “crash,” or even an “accident,” would be assigning it far too much glory than it deserves. It was more like a low speed throw down during my ascent of a challenging ( i.e. rocky, rutted, steep, loose, sandy, but not out of the realm of possibility) bit of 4WD road.  The short story is that we (Li’l Burro and I, that is), got tossed to the ground by a narrow rut. The long story was something like: “Christ, I should stick to hang gliding…  Scary Hill!!  Okay, we got this.  Deep breath and go! [commence motorcycle noises]  Oof, needed more time to get set up*… Aieeee, this is not pretty, but we’re almost theeerrrre… [poor form, too much clutch, compensated for by too much throttle; engine revving.] Don’t go in the rut! Avoid the rut! Whooop whooop!  Okay, we’re in the rut. We can work with this.  Ohhh, falling isn’t so bad, is it?”  Thump.

And then… nothing.  Not even crickets.  It seems I conked myself right on out of consciousness**.

Pilot Guy said by the time he got to me, I was just coming back. “I’m kind of dizzy.” (I do remember saying that much at some point.)  But for the next hour, my little blonde flute brain completely lost its capability to glue together any information at all.  I had, quite simply, the memory capacity of a goldfish***. Or worse.  Pilot Guy and I had the same conversation over and over starting with, “I fell. Ooh, that’s not good. Did I get up by myself?”  I would loop back every minute or so, not realizing we had just been over this. Did I know who I was?  (I did!)  And then, “I fell. Ooh, that’s not good. Did I get up by myself?”  Did I know who he was? “Why, you’re my lovie!,” I said, cheerfully pleased with myself, before turning back to the beginning.  “Did I get up by myself?”  Finally, Pilot Guy started drawing a line in the dirt next to Li’l Burro each time we started again. “See this?”  I’d see it, believe, and understand what he explained for a brief moment, and then, in 3, 2, 1… “I fell. Ooh, that’s not good. Did I get up by myself?”  Always with the same inflection, but never with any recollection.  I knew who I was, knew who he was, but had no idea where I was, why I was there, what year it was (evidently I cheated by looking at my license plate, admitted as much, and promptly forgot again), and then… “I fell. Ooh, that’s not good. Did I get up by myself?” Another line in the dirt.  By the time my ability to write neuro-data  started to reappear, there were a lot of lines in the dirt.  I do remember those moments when my circuits first started reconnecting.  I remember having to work really hard for the date: was it 2013, 2014, or 2015? Hmm…  And the names of the dogs, I had to dig deep for that, and I felt bad about it.  And, aha! - we’re near Amado, aren’t we?  But I couldn’t place Amado anywhere on a mental map of AZ, and I found myself praying I hadn’t permanently scrambled myself.   Surely we must be here on a food adventure, right?  I got the details after a hint.  Finally.  I can only imagine Pilot Guy’s relief.

The whole way back to Tucson (desert extraction courtesy of Bohemian Bicycle Dave), we laughed at the bizarreness of it all, marveled at the weirdness of it all. “I said that??”  We mused over my compliant, cheerful demeanor each time Pilot Guy suggested we go over all of it again, to make sure “we’ve got a lock on it.”   We puzzled at how I could seemingly be so normal and so not, all at the same time. “You did all that??”  I had absolutely no memory at all of the battery of first aid diagnostic tests Pilot Guy had performed on me before letting me get up and before taking my helmet off.  Those lines in the dirt - that moment of realization was the stuff of freaky movies!  We wondered what I would have done had I been alone. Sat down and eaten my grilled chicken, roasted pepper, and chipotle sandwich? (I did eat it, and it was delicious, by the way.)  Wandered off into the desert? Would I have remembered I had various communication devices with me, or even realized I needed help at all?  What would an interaction with a stranger have been like? How long would it have taken before he or she realized I was, er, a bit “touched.”  I simply have no idea.

As it turns out, recovery from a concussion is much less fascinatingly weird and interesting than recovery from transient global amnesia. It’s more like being locked in a spa against your will. I guess there are worse things, but I can’t say I’ve had a good week.  The prescription I was given was anti-inflammatory medication, to keep my brain from swelling out of my skull, and “brain rest.” Mostly, I lay in the deliciousness of Pilot Guy’s Temper-Pedic mattress, listening to the soothing soundscape of his dated Brookstone clock radio.  Its processor was a bit scrambled, too, occasionally mixing up the loon sounds with the ocean waves, the babbling brook with seagulls, but I forgave it.  I took soothing baths enriched with almond oil, and learned that a slippery tub is terrifying when you’ve just sustained a head injury. Things that I might have been able to do with a broken ankle felt nearly impossible. One simple rehearsal left me dazed and exhausted. I came home and slept for nearly 36 hours straight.  Sorting silverware felt like a challenging Facebook brain quiz, and required a restorative nap afterwards. I caught myself putting my dirty cereal bowl in the oven instead of the dishwasher.  Writing an email required every last bit of my mental and physical energy.  Driving a car was completely out of the question.  But the recovery process was mercifully quick, and for this I was, and am, unspeakably grateful.

I’ve always been one to wear my helmet even if I’m just moving my bike a few feet from here to there. After this incident, I won’t stop that practice any time soon.  I don't like to imagine the damage that would have occurred had I not been wearing it.  Surprisingly, my helmet looks completely untouched, although it has certainly been retired from service.  And I think it will be a while before I break the “don’t ride off-road alone” rule.  This one goes against my grain more than a little. I like to ride alone.  Finally, politics aside, I’m very grateful for my healthcare.gov insurance policy.

Good Heavens, no one tell my mom.

*Turns out, at my skill level, I could not get set up before meeting the challenge.  I need a few feet of flat rolling distance to comfortably get the bike in the appropriate gear and my body in the proper position.  Consequently, my weight wasn’t where it should have been, which forced me to sacrifice a bit of control.  Lesson: I should have moved the bike back a bit to give me a little space before the actual hill.  (Pilot Guy and I had stopped to assess and recollect after a mechanical issue he was having with his own wheels.)
**Li’l Burro got his noggin banged up a bit, too, but I think he’ll be straightened out pretty easily. Still, I feel bad about it.  Poor faithful little guy.  I sat on him a bit later in the week, patting his side, promising he’ll be okay, and that we’ll win the next round.
***Goldfish have a memory span of three seconds, or so the story goes. Evidently that’s a myth, though.  Either way, any goldfish had me beat.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Morning After: Holidays 2014

So yeah, the holidays are over, and I feel a bit like this leftover cake. A bit weary, a little melted… where did the time go??

Triple  Chocolate Mousse Cake the day after 001
Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake, the morning after.

I’ll tell you where.

On Thanksgiving Tuesday, I made a pot of gold, or, if you insist on being specific, a pot of turkey stock.  On Wednesday, I poached a 14lb turkey in it, transforming that pot of gold into something even better. Pot of platinum?  Pot of gold, squared?  At least! I browned that bird in a roaring oven on Thursday, and, as we sat down to eat, swore I would never cook a turkey any other way again. After the gravy and, later, the soup, I strongly encourage you to slowly boil the quarts and quarts of liquid gold you still have left as long as you dare. If you hold out for a supersonically savory syrup and freeze it in an ice cube tray, you will have veritable neutron bombs of turkey-ness at your disposal.  Handle them with the care and respect they deserve.

Pot of Gold 003
Gratitude: Life has been a pot of gold in 2014. I hope that you were able to find genuine gratitude for something, big or small, no matter how the pendulum of life swung for you this year.

For Christmas I had important tasks at hand, like making teeny tiny camel spritz cookies and a couple pounds of peppermint bark, eating gingerbread men before getting around to decorating them, and building the aforementioned Triple Chocolate Mousse Cake.

Spritz Camels 008

Cresta Loma Tree 003

Christmas Eve Dinner Cresta Loma 019
The crushed candy canes were the sleeper hit: sparkly pretty in the low light of an elegant dining table, with a zingy crunchy contrast to this immensely dense finale.

I won’t tell you what I made for Christmas Eve dinner,  but Pilot Guy has touched my heart with his little dinner inspired po-em, simultaneously supplying you with a whimsical hint:
I know a place where food magic abounds
where faeries queue up for their sugar plums, without making a sound,
where tri-colored beagles, each one to a cup, sprinkle nutmeg on nogmugs, then line them all up.
A place for pork tummies to get pampered just so,
why, they're swimming in sour cherries, wouldn't you know!
And apples of earth, taters by name, are sliced so thinly, you'd think it insane.
Through each spudwindow, the next you can see, shaped into a cake, quite perfectly.
Sprouts from the host of EU, here don't get neglected.
They're sliced and sprinkled and perfectly toasted.
Were it not for the myriad other delights, they'd steal the whole show, they are so out of sight.
In case you were worried about leaving the table, without a sweet bite, as if you were able,
there is a confection, just out of view, so dreadfully sinful; if only you could...
wield a utensil, just one final time...
to top off the evening, chocolate and cream!
It's impossibly sultry; so intimate, so deep,
anyone with a soul is brought to a weep...
Do try to guess the menu!

At the very least, surely you can tell it was no small wonder we hauled our still full bellies up Blackett’s Ridge on Christmas Day.

Blackett's Ridge Christmas Day Hike 007-Edit

Then we went snowshoeing in Santa Fe….

Snowshoeing Big Tesuque Campground Area and Trail 013

…where it was rather cold.


On the way, I dashed in here, in hopes of finding this guy. I didn’t, but I slipped a note in the café’s mail slot.  For the record, Lunch at Tre Rosat in Silver City was notably good.


On the way back, we splurged  - one whole dollar each! – to view a roadside attraction I’ve driven past countless times.  No, I can’t possibly tell you what it is.

The Thing Exit 322 001

Then another hike in Tucson, where, strangely, it felt, but wasn’t, even colder than something-teen degree Santa Fe.

Wasson Peak via Sendero Esperanza and Hugh Norris Trails 031

That same evening, we quietly greeted 2015 with fireside fondue and wine, while battling out a Scrabble sudden death tie breaker and watching snow fall in the desert.  Remarkably, I have a Scrabble photo, but no snow in the desert photos. See here for some from our last snow, in 2012.

Scrabble Dead Heat 002

You may have noticed that my holidays were suspiciously devoid of any sort of two wheeled activity. First, there was that incident at the end of October that kept me from riding for a my final week in AZ.  Then  - whoosh! - I was in Miami. Then – whoosh! (again) - I was back!  And ready to roll!  Sadly, the Ducati wasn’t quite so ready. I dutifully connected her to the charger the day before my planned ride, failing to realize – oopsy! - that electrons were not gaily skipping from pig tail connector to battery**.   So when the starting gate opened… well, we weren’t starting. Then – whoosh! (again again) – back to Miami! Then – whoosh! (again again again) – back to Tucson!  But that high maintenance Ducati insists I pull her tank to investigate and hopefully restore electrical integrity***, and there was no time, no time, what with the pumpkin cakes with caramel cream cheese frosting, pork bellies, beagle parades (really!), Santa Fe fine dining****, and, oh yes, the December work schedule of any musician.

And now  - whoosh! (again again again again)… I’m back in Miami.

But just for a week! (Impending whoosh!) And when I return, there will be time!

God, but I miss riding. Little things unexpectedly tweak my heart. Yesterday, mind elsewhere, I saw a rider on the street out of the corner of my eye do that iconic motorcycle slouch thing that I and surely ever other rider often do when waiting at a light: leaned back, spine curved, right hand on the thigh, left foot on the ground.   The impact of this brute force attack of nostalgia startles me, catches me off guard. It is a wholly unpleasant jolt to my psyche.  I rode how many thousands of miles this summer? Seven? Eight?  Still, these dry spells unsettle me.

I freely admit this is quite possibly my most boring and disconnected post since I started writing in 2007. (2007? Really?) Which is saying something.  Yet I’ve told myself I will not get up from this laptop until I hit the “publish” button, proofreading and obsessive editing be damned.  No doubt this hurts you, dear readers, even more than it hurts me, so I apologize.  I miss writing my little stories and I’ve no idea why I’ve lagged during the past couple of years.  This, too, has been unsettling.  So, like a literary New Year’s resolution public weigh-in, I make this promise to you: By the time we reach  - let’s not be too ambitious! –  Valentine’s Day, I’ll have told you what happened in October, what I did last summer, and have published the first of a “Back Burner” series, either about the 2012 Baja reprise trip via Two Wings, or Grand Bahama on Two Wheels*****.  How’s that?

Ready, set... publish. <click>

*Recipe Continuation: As the final coup de grace, you just might make your stuffing in a casserole dish, using turkey fat to sauté your mirepoix, and some of that liquid gold to moisten the bread cubes you dried out yesterday.  Slap a turkey back on top of it while it cooks, for extra yum. Then cram it (the stuffing, not the casserole dish), still hot, in the bird, after they both come out of the oven. You will be have done the impossible: made delicious (and safe!) in-the-bird stuffing, without  overcooking the turkey in sacrifice.   Sneaky, huh?
**Explains that malfunction vest at the North Rim, eh?
***Nothing at all like the good natured Kawi, who only asks that I pop off the seat.
****The cauliflower velouté was the surprise best-in-show at dinner for two at the Coyote Café.
*****Finished on time. But barely!