Of course, heart surgery is on my mind occasionally. There will be plenty of time to think about that as the time to leave approaches so I try not to dwell on it. I did hear from a Dr. Johnston at the Cleveland Clinic who, after reviewing my medical data, told me he was able to offer me the so-called minimally invasive aortic valve replacement procedure.This is very good news. It means that instead of the standard sternotomy (massive chest sawing and splitting) he wants to use the newer mini-sternotomy procedure, which involves a much smaller incision in the chest, to access the aortic valve for replacement. Success rates are excellent, healing time is much reduced and there are fewer side effects. After giving up on the idea of tennis next summer, now I'm thinking maybe I'll be able to play after all. That would be most excellent. My endurance on the courts is noticeably reduced now. A 5-shot rally leaves me fairly winded and 3 hours of playing doubles in the heat wastes me. But I'm happy and my game is actually improving. I have hopes that this operation will change all that for the better.
The trip to Udon had a sort of dual purpose. I wanted to get out of the city for a ride in the country and also to visit my Homer friends who hang out over there. DC, Albert, and Sean were freshly arrived from Homer and the motorcycle has been just sitting around begging to be ridden. Nut decided to stay home and putter in our new place so this trip was a solo ride.
Udon's about 450 miles (700 km) from here and I always take two days to do it breaking for the night in Nam Pat. It's a lovely ride especially at this time of the year when northern Thailand enjoys the clear air and moderate temperatures of its "cold season."
|First burning of rice straw - Route 1105 near Uttaradit|
|Scene from Route 1268 near Nam Pat|
The jungle is lush along much of the route and that makes it shady, always a welcome situation in the tropics. I used to tease Nut about how she instinctively avoids the sun. Now, I too invariably cross over to walk on the shady side of the street.
|Riding through the shady jungle - Route 1268|
|Along Route 1268|
|The Mekong River north of Nong Khai|
|DC and I with the Mekong in the background|
|At the park|
|Route 203 near Phu Ruea|
|Serpentatious statue -- Route 203|
I reached my little guest house in Nam Pat after a thoroughly enjoyable day of riding and ended up spending most of the evening researching alternate ways back to Chiang Mai. I wanted to try the back roads north of Lake Sirikit and after fooling around with Google Earth, my Thailand paper maps and my Open Street Maps that live on my GPS and computer I came up with a route that I thought might work. There were about 40 miles of dirt to cover but I reasoned that as long as it wasn't wet, it was worth a try. The trip up to where the dirt began was pleasant. So far so good. Route 1341 runs through very rural back country but the further I got the rougher and narrower it became.
|Along Route 1341|
|Peaceful valley - Route 1341|
|Muddy ruts on PHR 4001|
I might have toughed it out over the rocks but the mud was very slippery and I didn't want to risk a fall, especially so far from anywhere. So after just a few hundred meters I reluctantly turned around and headed back down the hill.
Maybe next time....