Lane's USA 2009
Day 45 (19 more days until I see Lynn)
Travelogue-wise, today I
rode 229 miles from Calcium, NY (outside of Watertown) to Niagara
Falls, NY, all on back roads, I took maybe five pictures the whole day
(the camera is still in the bike -- I'm not even going to download them
tonight), and that's not because the countryside wasn't nice. It was,
if fairly repetitive. I even saw Lake Ontario. Put my foot on its very
edge, touching its water.
No, the reason is that there's been something else going on. And that's
what I'm going to write about tonight.
Yesterday I had a high blood pressure emergency in the middle of
freaking nowhere, a rural road with no people, no houses, almost no
cars, and no cell signal. Obviously I survived. Why it happened no one
knows (I asked), and while my BP did not reach real emergency levels,
it did get high enough to cause major hot flashes -- very hot, dry,
prickly skin on upper body -- slight dizziness, and slight vision
blurring. I rode like this for probably 20 minutes until I stopped and
ripped my jacket and liner off to cool my skin, and proceeded to ride
in 61 degree weather in a T-shirt. This helped my comfort, but the
symptoms continued until I forced myself to stop and take my blood
pressure -- something of an undertaking involving unpacking the trunk
to get the device and the DC-AC inverter, unplug the iPod and its
charger, plug in the BP cuff and inverter to12VDC, put the bike on the
center stand, mount it, start the motor (to charge the battery with the
inverter on), take my damn long sleeved T-shirt off so the cuff will
work, and then try to calm down for the reading. Which came up 188/84
with a pulse of 123 beats per minute. I am sitting on a parked
motorcycle in the New York backwoods, with the engine running, naked
from the waist up, staring at the numbers. And they refuse to change.
I knew immediately that with the diastolic reading at only 84 I was not
in immediate danger of congestive heart failure, and the 188 systolic
was not at stroke-causing level. But I did need to take another pill --
in addition to the two I'd taken only two hours earlier that for months
had always been enough, and are supposed to last 12
hours. My cardiologist's instructions in these circumstances are clear:
"Take one extra pill and lie down for an hour or two."
Well, I was at a turnout with grass, but the grass was infested with
no-see-ums, so that was out, and just sitting there hoping for the best
in the absence of cell signal seemed pretty short-sighted. If I'm gonna
sit, I might as well ride. So I repacked everything, got back on, and
rode. Within an hour things were improved, and within two hours I was
I was also ANGRY, FRUSTRATED, and DEPRESSED.
Here's what's so: The food that is "normal" in this society is
poison to me (and to everyone, by the way) -- and it is largely what
I've been eating since I left El Segundo. Since my first acute
hypertension episode last July 30th that put me in the emergency room
and a second visit in December -- I was "getting better" and losing
weight through reasonably strict dietary control and an hour of daily
exercise -- which I'm certainly not doing on the road. I knew this
would be the case, but my thinking was "I'll survive". I mean, I'm
"sort of" recovered (I told myself), I can make it through three months
of no exercise and less than optimal food. Hell, I made it through 59
years, and with the heart drugs and no stress I should be OK, right? I
may not *lose* weight during the trip, but at least I won't *gain*.
Right? I'll "maintain", and then get back on the regimen after my
Well, no. While it is a fact that my weight has not increased, and
there are signs that it is slowly decreasing, for me these days the bad
diet turns out to be literally fatal. Two years ago it wasn't (or at
least, not so quickly), but now it is. I have to fix it. Fix it or die.
Everyone reacts to things differently, and some of you may not
understand why I have the reaction I have, but here it is: I HATE it. I
am ANGRY. It is WRONG that my world, even if unwittingly, is out to
kill me. The vast, preponderant mass of available food in this world
turns out to be the exact DEAD WRONG thing for humans to eat, and I'm
no exception. I feel betrayed. I want to find the bastards responsible
and do something vile to them. "How could you [I want to ask] mess us
all up like this?" Well, frankly, they didn't know. But I'm not in a
forgiving mood at the moment.
I talked to Lynn on the phone yesterday evening while looking out my
hotel window at a McDonald's and a Wal-Mart, and Lynn, who fortunately
a) loves me, b) knows me, and c) has finally learned, after over 28
years with me, how to say the things I need to hear without causing me
to go ballistic, somehow convinced me that I should go over to that
Wal-Mart, directly to the produce department, and just see what might
be there. And while I HATED it, hated having to do it, I went.
And found two nice prepared salads, a chicken Ceasar and a Cobb,
packaged, complete with dressing and fork. I bought both. I went back
to my room and consumed them. Both. With a Diet Coke.
This morning dawned. I'd officially gone 24 hours with "no bad food",
so I figured I was OK. Had a banana and got on the bike.
Within ten minutes I was having low-level symptoms that seemed similar
to the previous day. Not the hot flashes, but a strong sense of unease
coupled with erratic vision. God DAMN it, I thought, what is the
f***ing STORY here?? Again I pushed on for awhile, but finally stopped
to take the measurement. This time, however, I'd had the foresight to
put the cuff, readout, cord, and inverter right on top in the trunk,
and to wear a short-sleeved T-shirt so I wouldn't have to disrobe. And
the numbers were: 132/74 at 101 pulse (1st reading) and 120/69 at 96
pulse (2nd reading).
Aside from the high pulse (probably the result of sheer fear), these
readings are FINE. I am NOT experiencing hypertension. So what the hell
AM I experiencing?
I came to the conclusion it must be something like withdrawal. I rode
on. I watched the scenery. Something happened. Tears came to my eyes. I
thought, "I do not want to die today. I want to experience this beauty
at least one more day. I'll do anything." I thought of Lynn. And then I
knew that I would take this on like a war.
Later I spoke with Lynn on the phone (for 45 minutes), and by then it
had all jelled. I will eat 100% right or go hungry. Period. I will
share this with all my friends -- because that's what you gotta do when
a change MUST happen. I will divorce myself from the conventional food
establishment. I will become the Guerilla Eater.
So this afternoon I go to a supermarket a block from the hotel, and
there . . . in the produce section . . . (strains of Arlo Guthrie's
"Alice's Restaurant" in the background) . . . is a self-serve salad bar.
This may turn out to be easier than I thought, I thought. I made myself
a one and a half pound salad:
grilled chicken, hard-boiled eggs, garbanzos, and all the spinach I
could cram in the take-out box. No fork, though, but thanks to my
ever-thoughtful wife who put plastic bowls and utensils in the bike and
made me promise not to throw them away, I was prepared. And I ate that
salad with relish, lemme tell ya, just before I started writing this
That's all I want to say today.
Oh, one more thing: What IS the "right" food?
It's so simple: it's EXACTLY what cave men ate, in the proportions and
form they ate it in. Read The
Paleo Diet by Dr. Loren Cordain. It's all there, along with all
the reasons why. Reams of research. Clinical studies galore. Who knew?
Your family doctor's highly touted Food Pyramid is not only not the
right answer, it is almost perfectly the WRONG answer, and what is
more, THE MEDICAL ESTABLISHMENT IS FULLY AWARE OF THIS. It is NOT A
MYSTERY. There are hundreds of corroborating studies. The answer to the
question "What should I eat?" is not
in question. Not even a little. It is dead simple.
Maybe not easy, though. The meat's the hard part. It needs to be wild
meat, or the equivalent. If it's wild, you can eat all of it you want.
If it's not . . . well, then you gotta be careful.
What's wrong with lean beef, for example? Nothing, if it's free-range
bison. But if it's grain-fed cows from feed lots, you have to ask
yourself this question: "If the conventional food pyramid (grains at
the bottom, forming the "foundation") is the exact wrong answer for
humans, how could the meat from grain-fed cows be good for us?" Because
guess what? Those cows have flesh that's just as sick as my flesh, it's
just that we don't let them live long enough to die of heart attack,
stroke, or Type II diabetes. We kill 'em and eat 'em when they're about
age two, so that WE can die of heart
attack, stroke, or Type II diabetes. THIS is why the conventional Food
Pyramid has meat at the top (i.e. small quantities): because THIS meat
really IS bad for us.
Well, here's a little known secret. MEAT IS NOT BAD FOR YOU. It's just
the meat available to you in your supermarket that's bad for you! And
last time I checked on free-range bison (in San Luis Obispo, CA, where
they actually have some of that) it was $20 a pound. That's more than
(grain-fed) filet mignon.
Well, enough. You get the idea. Right now my goal is to lose 20 more
pounds between here and Idaho (19 days) -- and in the process eat
nothing but non-starchy vegetables, non-starchy fruits (oops, no more
bananas!), and the leanest meat I can find. And to not have another HTN
episode (that's medical code for hypertension) ever. Some day I'll die
of something, but it might actually be possible for me to keep it from
being heart disease.