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My Ride to the OPS Mid Year Meeting - 2012

Posted By Jim Soque, Friday, September 14, 2012
Updated: Friday, September 14, 2012

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.



Day 1:

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:  http://

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 feet.

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 Skyline Drive, southbound, in Shenandoah National Forest:


Day 2:

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 local dentist.   

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 2 pm.

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 Carolina Inn.


Day 3:

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 day…  

I 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.


Day 4:

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 afterward.  

 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 single incident.   

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!”.  

I certainly did.


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 2010.

Tags:  blog  cute  Educational Meeting  funny  Ice Breakers  Mid-Year  PDC  Travel 

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