Come Hell or High Water… is what I told Mike Kelly, BOE,
during our February 12, 2012 Board Meeting of the OPS on the fifth floor of the
Biomedical Research Building at UNC, Chapel Hill, NC. It was in response to him asking me, ‘Hey
Jim, are you coming to the Mid-Year meeting?”
Of course one says ‘Yes” to Mike, and then figures out the rest later.
I also had to entertain an invitation by Allen Katz, BOC to
be one of the examiner/raters for the OPS’s CRA practical examination. Of course, one cannot deny an invitation from
Allen either, so, I knew I was heading to the midyear by early May.
So I decided to ride my 2004 BMW
R1150RT Motorcycle from Long Island,
New York, to Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
I estimated that it would be about 600+ miles each way, and so, I
thought I would make it an adventurous ride down, but, one has to "prepare for
the worse, and hope for the best.”
My plan was to ride Thursday and Friday to make
it down, and Saturday and Sunday to make it back home.
Thursday, June 7th, 2012, 7:45 am, I
suited up on this gorgeous, but cold 50 degree morning, and departed Holbrook,
NY onto Rte. 495 West, towards New York City.
Within 45 minutes, I was in an HOV lane and then, onto 278 West, Staten
Island, and Rte 95 South.
I cleared Staten Island and into New Jersey for my run westward. I headed West on Rte. 78 towards Tim and
Jim’s in Hershey, PA.
The temps rose in Pennsylvania. Within 100 miles, it hit the 70’s. By the time I cleared Hershey, PA, it was in
the 80’s. I even phoned in Jim Strong, and got his cell
phone answering machine. I left him a
quick message saying I was passing by Rte 78, Exit 70, and was waving at him as
I headed towards South into Virginia, and my planned overnight there.
Crossing into Virginia, was like entering a time warp, and
all the hills came alive, and the roads got twisty, and hillier. I began to look for signs for Route 211 East,
and Skyline Drive and The Shenandoah National Forest.
Here is a short video of my ride from YouTube, taken as I
was heading East on Rte 211, towards Skyline Drive in Virginia:
I entered Shenandoah Valley with an ominous
feeling, that soldiers had fought and died on this soil in the name of
‘slavery’, and ‘freedom’, and ‘independence’ in their hearts and souls. I never knew if a town, or home, or fallen
soldier had stood before me, and just took the moment to take it all in.
I arrived at Shenandoah National Forest via the Thornton Gap
Entrance at 3:15 pm. After paying a $5
entry fee for the length of Skyline Drive, I hit the twisties for the first
time, 25 miles later was my first landmark, The Big Meadows Campground at 3360
By the time I reached Big Meadows Campground, it was 4 pm,
and the sun was getting long in the sky.
I was assigned my campsite, and set up my tent and unwound. Not bad for the first day, 423 miles at the
end of day 1. Here is a video segment as
I approached the campgrounds on
Drive, southbound, in Shenandoah National Forest: http://youtu.be/5gSxkL-8D4U
Friday June 8th, 2012.
I was all packed up, and out by 7:45 am, and had one
objective in mind, "get to Allen” by 2:15 pm in Chapel Hill! I can
only say that Skyline Drive in Virginia was probably some of the most
technically challenging riding I’ve done in the past 10 years. I enjoyed every moment, and my visibility was
better than 20 miles in all directions.
I stopped to read some of the placards that announced how
famous the valley, or a wayward point of land had become, such as in this photo
(below) of Massanutten, and its historical significance during the wars.
When I cleared the Shenandoah Valley and Skyline Drive, it
was 10:30 am. I still had 145 miles to
go until I reached 110 Mason Farms Road, UNC, and Chapel Hill. Must stay focused!
As I was weaving through the southern hills of Virginia’s
Rte 86 and entering North Carolina for the first time…Want to hear the first
thing I noticed: Winery’s ! Believe it
or not, all of those tobacco growing farms from the turn of the century into
the 20’s and 30’s, are now areas where there are prolific vineyards, and there
are acres upon acres, of growing grape vines.
Little vineyards’ were dotted along the highways like a mini-Napa
Valley, and too, the temperatures soared.
By mid-morning it was 91 degrees!
Gatorade and ice a must, I stopped for gas at small stations here and
there, talked to local folk, tried boiled peanuts, and was welcomed by many an
elder statesman, some of which were badly in need of an appointment with their
Within 30 miles of Chapel Hill, I began to send both Sarah
Moyer and Allen Katz a txt message notifying them of my arrival. My estimated time of arrival was still about
At UNC, I was happy to see everyone beginning to gather for
the CRA Exam. We tested individuals from
3 pm till 10 pm. We even had time to
help Tim unpack a van of home brew from the back of his Ford Explorer.
After a few laughs were exchanged with Sarah, Bob, Mike, and
Tim, and maneuvering bottled prizes down hallways and into storage reach in
refrigerators, the evening of CRA performance exam progressed. Friday evening was spent overnight at The
Saturday, June 9th, 2012, 8 am.
At the meetings I enjoyed greeting colleagues and sitting in
on Neuro-Ophthalmology lectures from Dr Bhatti, learned about ophthalmic parasites
from Richard Hackel, saw wonderful montages from the dream team of Hess and Hickey,
and enjoyed the effervescence of our founder Johnny Justice who discussed the
history of ophthalmic photography beginning with the smuggling in of the first
Fluorescein Angiogram Camera from Germany in the late 1940’s. The vendor support was immense with Topcon,
Zeiss, Optovue, Genentec, and I-Optics, to name but just a few.
All in all, it was a worthwhile mid-year event for me,
despite that I had to hit the road at 4 pm, in order to begin making my way
back up to New York by Sunday.
By the late afternoon, 4 pm, I said a few brief goodbye’s
and swapped updated contact information with colleagues, both old and new. I then dressed for the road, and had wheels
turning by 4:15 pm.
I headed north towards Richmond, and then subsequently Rte
95 North. I had great music on the
headset and took a call from an old sailing friend up in Maine. She was giving me the play-by-play on the
"144th Running of The Belmont Stakes”. Unfortunately, my horse didn’t come in that
arrived at my hotel at 8:45 pm, tired but happy. With home on my mind, I hit the sack, and
said that I would just let my body do what it wants to do, and not set an alarm
clock this time.
Sunday, June 10th, 2012, 5:05 am.
"I awoke with a clammer…” I think that’s a line from one of
my daughters story books back at home. It
really was 5:05 am! By 5:30 I was dressed and back on 95 North,
and within 20 minutes I was riding past the Potomac River and the Pentagon. By
7:45 am though, I was crossing the DE River, and took my first break for a
Starbucks and gas in NJ. Here is a short
youtube segment of that bridge crossing:
At 9 am, I was on the NJ turnpike.
By 10:15 am, I was crossing the George Washington Bridge…
this was incredible!
At 11:25 am, I was pulling into my driveway in Holbrook, NY;
my wife and daughter already waiting patiently in the driveway. It was a good feeling to pull into the garage
and turn the key off. I was so high
from this ride, the feeling of elation stayed with me for nearly 3-4 days
As with any plan to attend one of our OPS meetings, you could
come by plane, train, automobile or even by horse drawn buggy. But in the summer of 2012, I completed one of
the most memorable 1,292 mile rides on my BMW motorcycle from Long Island, New
York, all the way down to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and back, all without a
I did not go about this half-heartedly, and neither should
you. A ride such as this requires
careful planning, and additional preparation, and support of your family and
friends who believe in you.
On the day of my departure, I will always remember these
famous parting words by our colleague and fellow BMW rider Harry Kachadoorian, who
said to me, "Jim,…just remember, enjoy the ride!”.
Jim Soque's career in ophthalmology
began in Boston in 1983, as a research assistant and ophthalmic assistant
with Dr Delia N. Sang. His background in retina
includes research in retinoblastoma tumors, and ROP disease at both, The
Mass. Eye and Ear Infirmary and The Schepens Eye Research Institute,
Boston. In 1997 he joined Dr. Pamela A. Weber, in Shirley, NY.
He is a COA, CRA, and, an assistant in vitreo-retinal surgery. He
lectures for the OPS,
and conducts SD-OCT workshops. He serves as a member of the OPS Board Of Education, since