Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Price of Better Pictures

My shoulder hurts so bad I can hardly type. Started writing by hand on Saturday evening but don’t get too far. A deep aching pain only relieved by sudden flashes of sharp pain caused by a strained rotator cuff. And that is a result of trying to get better pictures. Just one of the costs of better pictures.

Two goals were firmly in place when I left the house this past Saturday morning on the Vespa --- to see the sunrise and see a wild elk. Riding early means seeing magical light. Light that describes and defines the world in ways outside common experience. Those of you who routinely travel at dawn or dusk know what this means. I hope you stop once in awhile and actually look at things. Getting up early was a small price to pay when the alarm went off at 4:20 AM

The sun would rise at 5:56 AM and I was dressed and ready to go at 5AM but I hadn’t factored in the problems my new helmet visor would pose. Last week my clear visor broke and the dealer didn’t have a replacement. While waiting for a new one to arrive I purchased a tinted Iridium visor. Works great in the sun but was almost useless in the dark. So I had to wait until the pre-dawn glow was bright enough to see. When I am anxious to ride it is hard to wait.

At 5:50 AM I stop in a cornfield to watch the sunrise. Not notice it while riding but actually stop and watch. Like I do when Kim and I stay in Ogunquit, Maine and sit along the Marginal Way to watch the sun come up.

Riding on the morning clouds give way to a clear blue sky. I pass a single Harley and we both extend hands in acknowledgment of being out early in 55 F air. That’s really cold when you have gotten used to hot weather. Riding in the shadows of the forest was cold. I stopped in the bright sun to look out across a reclaimed strip mine and pull on another layer under my mesh jacket.

Vegetation slowly takes back and hides the disruption to the landscape surface but at best the place is only a ghost of its former self. The sun warms me enough to continue on towards the Quehanna Wilderness area.

A line of fog in the distance marks the West branch of the Susquehanna River. Descending off the plateau brings the scooter and me into sudden grayness. The temperature dips and my visor fogs making visibility bad. Whitetail deer stand along the road as I slow to 25 MPH and raise the visor.

want to take a look at the river and ride down a canoe access road. The water is quiet. Docile. Nothing like the torrent earlier this spring that attracts serious canoers. There is not a soul around. I have the world to myself.

I cross the river at Karthus and continue on to Quehanna, a vast tract of land that almost was lost except for a bit of foresight on the part of then Secretary of the Department of Forests and Waters Maurice K. Goddard.

In the 1950’s in a move to make this “useless” 50,000 acres of land profitable the state agreed to give it to the Curtiss-Wright Corporation to test and build aircraft engines. At the last moment before signing the agreement Goddard insisted the state get the land back should the enterprise fail. It did and now Pennsylvania enjoys this area where every cabin and camp and other human enterprise was stripped away. The place is a wilderness save for the paved road that runs around its perimeter.

It is on the Quehanna Highway that I pay another price for better pictures. It happened while stopped making the picture below.

It was a quick picture. Didn’t even take my helmet off. I didn’t like how the Vespa was arranged so I put the camera down on the seat and move the scooter off the center stand. If you look closely at the picture you might imagine what is going to happen next.

The scooter drops off the stand after a good hard push. I relax and the scooter tire rolls back off the road. The bump causes the camera to fly. I have to take my hand off the bars to steady it on the seat. The front wheel turns to the left and the scooter is taking on a life of its own. As I wrestle with it the Nikon D200 starts to slide. I am faced with a decision. Save the camera or save the scooter.

I grab for the camera and the scooter begins a slow descent towards the ground. My right hand is still firmly grasping the rail around the seat but the decision has already been made. As beautiful as the GTS is it looks bad lying on its side along the road. I continue to make bad decisions by not taking a picture of it in repose.

I get the scooter back up and the only damage is some gouges and scratches to the side. I have begun thinking about riding patina. It has been suggested that the optimum state of a Vespa is to look unused. That sort of flies in the face of the moment and of the use I put it to. I am going to have a user version of the Vespa.

It won’t be until I get home that the pain in my right arm blossoms, a result of unconsciously trying to save a lost cause. A visit to the doctor on Monday confirms a strained rotator cuff. No riding for a few days. My arm still hurts. On a scale of 1 to 10 for pain I offered 8. I’m a wimp though and not real smart of late.

The scooter still runs fine and I continue on in hopes of seeing elk and stop for a moment to admire a birch forest. Uncommon for Pennsylvania.

Elk could appear anywhere now. The herd is the only free ranging herd east of the Mississippi River. The native herd disappeared at the turn of the century but around World War I elk from the West were reintroduced and have now established a viable population.

I see the first elk from a place called the Winslow Hill Elk Viewing Area. The state has built a little observation area above a valley where they often roam. You can see them in the distance above the sign.

I wanted to see one up close. My dream was to have one next to the Vespa in fog. I ride on until a Harley rider waves me down and points towards a field.

Across a stream is a bull elk. That is as close as I’ll come on this trip.

This region of Pennsylvania is isolated. I stopped to try and call Kim to let her know where I was. Not sure why I thought there would be any cell coverage.

The ride was relaxing and I had a lot of fun and I stopped frequently just to look at the landscape. Even though the water levels were down on Wyckoff Run the sound of a small waterfall was like music.

The last unusual event on the trip occurred while I was stopped for lunch and looking over an atlas for possible routes home. A red Miata flies by and stops, backs up, and rolls down the window. Stacy and Gina are regular readers of Scooter in the Sticks and saw me sitting there. Small world.

My right arm started to ache during the last 50 miles and by evening I arrived at unsettling pain. It has taken several days of scattered attempts to get this post together. For some reason typing is an especially bad activity.

The ride was great even with the scooter drop and damaged shoulder. And the ride never fails to trigger a lot of ideas and issues to wrestle with. I’m ready to roll again. Another day or so and I should be in good shape.


Pvino said...


Sorry to hear about your incident; I definitely would save my camera over my scooter. Nikon lens and camera body damage specially a D200 cost more than the little scrap and dent. I much prefer to deal with a little cosmetic damage over a dysfunctional camera and lens. I feel for you about your shoulder but in my case its in my left wrist. I caught my scooter going down but luckily it did not make it to the ground. The price I paid is a excruciating painfully sore wrist. My prognosis - overly extended left wrist ligaments with developing tendernitis. I had excruciating pain a few hours later. My treatment - cold compresses first, ibuprofen intake, and after 5 weeks - feeling much better. With empathy to your incident - your shoulder took the blunt, no doubt painful and there will be long stretches of shoulder tenderness but it will heal up over time. All those that have been riding mountain bikes knows what I mean. A speedy recovery to you and get back on the scooter.

Ride safe,


CodyandMichelle said...

Sorry about the mishap Steve. I've been dealing with a pulled pec minor for awhile.It's not healing quick because I keep working out. But that's my style.
BTW way, I really like that first shot with the crisscrossing jet lines in the clouds. Pretty cool.
BTW, on my latest blog I give you, Harv, and Betty some kudos.

Lucky said...

Seems like a riddle or a brainteaser: your two favorite objects are falling, and you can only save one. Which one do you grab?

Get better soon!

Steve Williams said...

phil: I'm recovering and stretching the arm. I agree -the scratches to the scooter are much easier to deal with than the potential damage to the camera. Glad you healed well and are doing fine.

cody: Thanks for the good words on your blog. Both yours and Michelle's scooters look fantastic! I can't let mine get that pretty or I would feel really bad letting the scooter show the physical wear from riding in bad environments.

Bill Sommers said...

Quite an adventure, complete with an injury to both you and the scoot.

So there won't be any arm wrestling for a few days, but its a bummer to miss out on riding as you recover. Hope to see you riding SOON.

Have fun,

S u n d a n c e said...

That's tough to hear about the cuff. It made for a heckuva post, though! And you got to see the Elk. I seem to come up on a lot more deer on the scoot than in the car. I think it's because it's so much quieter. Try not to sweat the scratch.

Kano said...

Sorry to hear about your accident Steve, wishing you a speedy recovery. Yep, I think you made the right decision. Vespa's are tougher than cameras.

Gina Marie said...

Hey Steve -- cool running into you on Wyckoff. You were immediately recognized by your yellow riding jacket. I'm glad you had a good trip, despite the now bruised arm and the scooter fall. It's a beautiful area of PA.

We didn't run into any dear on Wyckoff -- probably for the best.

David Precious said...

Sorry to hear about the Vespa droppage, and hope your shoulder is better quickly.

Probably the right choice though, I imagine the camera is pretty valuable and could quite possibly have been wrecked.

I shouldn't worry about the marks on the Vespa... it'll just give it character :)

I'm sure next time you'll put the camera somewhere safe before attempting to move the scooter :D

Steve Williams said...

lucky: There wasn't much hesitation. The camera definitely was the more disasterous fall. And at the same time I didn't like the idea of the scooter going over.

bill: The shoulder is already healing up. Could have ridden to work today. Will ride tomorrow.

s u n d a n c e: The Vespa really is quiet. I'm sure one of these days I will sneak up on an elk. It is on my list of things to do.

Kano: Thanks Kano! Back to normal is within viewing distance and the Vespa will be fine with its new scars.

gina: It was really strange to have you and Stacy drive by. I figure I am so far away from home...

david: Yes sir. Next time the camera goes right back in the pack. Or on the ground. Or around my neck. Anywhere but on the seat!

CodyandMichelle said...

Hey Steve,
As to your question on my blog, I retire in 3 years and we are moving to NC.
Glad to hear you'll be back riding by tommorrow :)

Joe said...

Don't be surprised about typing bothering you. I've got impingement in both shoulders and on the surically repaired one I was told that small motor movements in the hands hurt the most. Playing cards and reaching into the craps pit seem to bother me the most. Typing hurt at first but got better over time, which is a good thing for a blogger.

Steve Williams said...

cody: The shoulder is much improved and rode to work today. That's always a good thing, even on Friday the 13th.

joe: thankfully the typing problem only lasted a few days. Hopefully I am on the mend. Doing all the stretching, icing, and anti-inflamatories I was prescribed.

gary said...

I've been thinking about how to respond to this post.

Like you, I have a sort of low-grade vanity about the appearance of my GTS.

The other day, someone was offended by my "Rock Star" parking at the local market, and kicked the front of the leg shield, leaving the paint scratched.

I was furious, at first. But then I realized that, when you USE a scooter as intended, shit happens.

Thus it acquires the "patina" we always talk about. That wouldn't stop me from eviscerating the bastard who did it, if I caught him, but it helps me accept the results of his vandalism.

What the heck? You saved the camera, and that is the most important tool of your trade. If your GTS takes on a battle-scarred look, it can only make the photos more interesting.

Ride well,

kitkatknit said...

OMG Steve! My husband has had both shoulders rebuilt during rotator cuff surgery. Way in the back of my mind I think that is what is keeping him off scoots. Here's to a speedy recovery.


Steve Williams said...

gary: I find it difficult to really let go of my desire to keep the Vespa looking pristine. I say this recognizing a gap between my desire (mental) and my actions that have me using it is ways and places that just dirty it up. I hope to come to a reasonable place in this.

kitkatknit: The shoulder is fine. Saw an orthopedic surgeon and he confirmed a severe strain of the rotator cuff. I am almost back to 100 percent use and the pain is gone. As he said I probably dodged a bullet....

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