23 October 2013

How Group Health Cooperative lost me as a customer

Do you read the paperwork they give you after a doctor visit or after getting a vaccine?  Really?  EVERY TIME? 

No, you don't <smile>.

Please start.  Now and forever... I know I will because if I hadn't read the paperwork I received after my first round of shots last week (see two posts ago), AND I got bit by rabid animal any time in the future, it would most likely kill me—even if I'd had all the shots!!! Think I'm being maybe just a bit over-dramatic? Read what the CDC has to say about rabies.


On October 14, I got four shots and a bunch of pills in preparation for this adventure. One of the shots was the first of a three-step rabies vaccine and another was the first of the two-course Japanese encephalitis vaccine. 

A number of people have asked why I'm spending $972 for rabies prevention. The answer if fairly simple—I'm going to be out in the toolies and if I get bit by ANYTHING bigger than a mosquito (see Japanese encephalitis), I want to know that I'm well on the way to avoiding rabies. I'll bet that if I got bit without effective vaccines on-board, I'd probably pay a hell of a lot more than $972 to prevent rabies.  It's like insurance... you don't need it 'til you need it and if you do have it somehow the universe usually decides to fuck with someone else instead.


The problem is, that after the first round of shots, the nurse told me to come back in two weeks for rabies shot #2 and two weeks after that for both rabies shot #3 and Je shot #2. When I said I'd be out-of-town in four weeks and asked if it'd be okay to come in four weeks after the second shot, she said, "Yes, no problem."


The rabies paperwork that this same nurse gave me and that I almost didn't read (and that she apparently didn't read either) says,

The nurse told me it would be okay to get
Dose 2: 14 days after Dose 1
Dose 3: 42 days after Dose 1

According to the CDC, missing their schedule by even one day can compromise the protection and result in not having the antibodies you'll need if you get bit...and the nurse told me it would be okay if I missed by 7 and 14 days.  

I guess my question is, "How the hell can a medical professional give such wrong information and thereby possibly compromise the patient's life?" Or, if you prefer, "WTF?"
The good news is that I caught it, got the second shot on the 21st, and have the final shots scheduled on November 11thday 28... so I will have the protection I need and paid for.

The bad news is that when I called GHC and complained about this, they told me they had talked to the nurse in question and she said (paraphrasing here) that she was "just a fill-in" and should probably know more before answering questions.  Ya think?

Like many of you, I'm currently evaluating health plans for next year under the ACA.  Until this happened, I was probably going to spend a little more each month to stay with Group Health; in part because I've been taken care of relatively well until now and in part because it would mean a smooth transition.  Does it make sense that I'm seriously re-evaluating? (Update: I'm definitely going with Premera Blue Cross, NOT Group Health.)

Bottom line... it's up to us to stay informed and take care of ourselves.  DO NOT TRUST what the "professionals" tell you—they may just be making it up as they go.

I dodged this particular bullet.  Make sure it misses you, too. 

Read the flippin' paperwork!

20 October 2013

The Search for Waterproof Motorcycle Luggage

Note: If you are in the market for waterproof motorcycle luggage, please be sure to read all the way to the end of this post...

It's a slippery slope... an Internet-enabled slippery slope...

For the past seven months I've been on a mission to gear-up for this adventure. I had ZERO idea how much "stuff" it takes beyond all the crap I already had. Let me assure you, it's a LOT!

A couple days ago it finally hit me that the North Face Base Camp Duffel I've been using for a lot of trips and was planning on taking as my main piece of luggage just may not be waterproof.  The best way I know of to check its waterproofness (waterprooficity?) on a sunny day is to put it in the shower and run water on it for about five minutes. So I did just that.

I like the bag, though as nice as it is, it's definitely NOT waterproof. The rubberized material would make a good travel sink, though, 'cause it holds water quite well.

Later the same day, the latest issue of ROADRUNNER magazine arrived and on page 115 there is an ad for Kriega Drypacks. 

Kriega US-30 Drypack 
They come in various sizes; are completely waterproof; designed to securely connect together on the back of the bike; and seemed to be just what I need.  After searching a few different sites and finding that they are not discounted (ya gotta try, right?), I bought a 30L (pictured above) and a 20L from Revzilla.comone of the great motorcycle web sites (free shipping over $40, <$8 returns) from whom I've bought a number of items.

I had to look it up... 30L is just a hair over 1 cubic foot. I'm going to have to pack really well to get everything in these two bags!  Between the packing cubes, compressed dopp kit, and a few compression sacks, I may make it. The North Face duffel will make a good outer container to keep me within the airline's two-piece luggage allowance.

The Kriega site says that up to three of the 30L bags can be strapped together, so if I have to I can get another one.

UPDATE (@ departure minus 20 hours): Although the Kriega bags are beautiful and very well made, they are just too small for my current needs. They would be great for a weekendtrip, and I may eventually re-order them. For now, I'm going with one 70L FirstGear Torrent and one 40L Ortlieb Moto. That adds up to 220% of the capacity of the Kriega bags. It might be different if I knew I'd have panniers on the Asia bike; there is too much stuff to keep dry and at departure I have to figure they will be my only luggage holders. Now back to packing...

Further update (@ 10 days down the road): The FirstGear bag has a more user-friendly handle. The Ortlieb has a pop-out valve that allows you to get most or all of the air out and therefore compress into smaller spaces like the fabric panniers I bought with the bike. If you're on the water, air is good 'cause it will help the bag float if everything goes swimming. Here, it's my enemy. If I were to do it again, I would bring two Ortlieb 40L and leave a bit more stuff at home.

Further update (@ 22 months down the road): Forget everything else and check out MoskoMoto!

While in the U.S. last month to take a few advanced motorcycle training classes, I got to see the MoskoMoto waterproof motorcycle luggage used by a couple of the instructors and Adventure motorcyclists.

I was so impressed by the versatility and the quality that within 24 hours I went on-line and placed my order for their Reckless 80 system

and the 40L duffel.
As soon as I received them, I sold my Wolfman Expedition dry duffle.

Within a couple days of arriving back home in Đà Lạt, I mounted it on my DR-Z400, and I am very much looking forward to taking it out on next month's extended adventure!

Please, before you buy ANY waterproof motorcycle luggage, check out MoskoMoto's versatile offerings.

16 October 2013

Shot Four Times... Three more to come

Heard something the other day that might explain why I've done some of the things I've done... "Pain heals. Chicks dig scars." 

Just a thought...

Since I'm traveling to places I know little about (and have zero personal knowledge of), I'm doing a TON of research. I'm taking precautions (e.g. the Connect device) to ensure the trip lasts as long as I want it to and isn't cut short for something against which I could've taken precaution.  With that in mind, I had a phone interview a month or so ago with Group Health's Travel Nurse service to find out what medications/shots/etc I should have on-board or at least in my kit.  The nurse made some good observations and even told me about things that I probably won't encounter, but might want to prepare forrabies, typhoid, polio, and more. Hell, I thought polio was erradicated in the 60's...

Yesterday (14 Oct) I went to get my shots and pick up my meds. YIKES!  The four shots were a piece of cakethe administering nurse was very good and has a sense of humor, which is always preferred.  The biggest shock was administered prior to the sticking... three shots (polio, rabies, Japanese encephalitis) cost $491! The flu shot was free.  I tried to make the argument that, like the flu shot, these other three were preventative and should, therefore, be at no charge, but the person taking my money was not amused. There are two more rabies shots needed and a final Je.  Quite a lotuntil you figure what it would involve if I got even one of the diseases they're preventing.

Next we stopped at the pharmacy and coughed up additional $ for three prescriptions (oral typhoid vaccine, azithromycin (traveler's trots), and doxycycline (malaria).  I was also supposed to pick up four EPI pens in case I get a bee/hornet/wasp/other bite, though when they told me that the price had gone from $30-something to $120-something each, I decided to wait until I can check the price around town and at the nearest Canadian pharmacy.  It might be worth taking a drive...

06 October 2013

La Creme de La Creme

Ran across a web site with AMAZING motorcycle tours of Thailand and Burma... Asian Bike Tours

It would be great to be able to add one of their tours into my itinerary. I'm thinking it's time for a bake sale to generate my admission fee.

04 October 2013

Safe... and Dry in the Rain

What happens when we’re out in the toolies and something goes sideways—a crash, a bike mechanical meltdown, or a sudden medical issue? How do you get help?  Although I’ve thought a little about this, Victoria brought it fully to my attention the other day when she simply asked, “What if... ?”  She’s been a dirt bike rider for almost 40 years, so I’m inclined to pay attention when she talks about riding.  Soon after, I received an email suggesting I look at the SPOT line of GPS signaling/tracking devices…so I did.

I had no idea such a thing existed!  Using my vast reasoning powers, it only took me an hour to decide which of their three offerings will best suit my needs… the SPOT Connect.

Once you have the unit, there is a yearly subscription fee that allows sending of unlimited GPS coordinate location updates to friends and family with an “I’m okay” message via a smartphone/tablet app. For an extra 10¢/message (in a pre-paid bundle), it will also send 41-character messages—all from most of the land masses on the planet, including everywhere I’m planning to go on this trip, via satellite, without cell phone or Wi-Fi service.  Total cost is ~$350… an extravagance—until you’re in the soup.  Once I get the unit and it’s set up, I’ll post the URL here that you can use to see where I am and my route to-date.

Thank you, Victoria!!!

Yesterday I took my first ride in a serious rain and it was enlightening.  At one point, I took a bit longer than normal to change lanes and dawdled a bit on the white striping. As I felt the back tire move a little side-to-side I suddenly remembered hearing that the striping is as slippery as snot! They were right... it is!  

You’re going 65 mph… you'd better CONCENTRATE, DAMN IT, or you will end up as a spot of snot!

Those of you who know me will be less than surprised that these thoughts brought this video to mind: 

My first reason for wanting a lot of rain-riding time is to ensure that I’m as ready as I can be for anything that may appear during the trip.  The second reason is that I need to ensure that my gear is what it needs to be—safe, waterproof, and comfortable. Good thing I checked...

REV’IT Tornado pants—check (IFF the waterproof liner is in-place, duh!)
Alpinstar CR-4 Gore-Tex boots—check (AWESOME boots!)
Olympia gloves—NOPE! They’re summer gloves. I went to Paulson’s and picked up a new pair.  Would've rather had the hi-viz cuff, but they only had the black in XXL and I wasn't interested in riding home with COLD hands.

Next rain (this is the Pacific Northwest, so it’ll come soon enough), I’ll give it another try… last thing I want are cold, wet hands—or a cold, wet anything else.

Speaking of rain… my friend Rain said something a few minutes ago that I will put out there and would appreciate if you'd do the same: 

“We shall manifest that you are a magnificent rider with preternatural instincts that keep you safe. We shall envision you in a white light that will keep you safe."

Thank you!