Lane's USA 2009 Motorcycle Tour
Update 11

Saturday 6/6/2009
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 normal.


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 return.

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 screed.

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.