This weekend I was in San Diego at a periodontal convention, and on Saturday I took an all-day course in advanced pre-implant bone grafting. Most of the session was devoted to "monocortical block" grafts, which are plates of bone transplanted from thick areas of the chin and back of the jaw to deficient areas destined for dental implants. Though these techniques are in fairly wide use, the combination of substantial surgical risks with uncertainty whether grafted bone is actually supportive, suggested caution and sticking with more predictable cases.

We also toured the nearby wine-country of Temecula, and enjoyed wine-tasting with a couple we met at a winery. Celebrating their 30th anniversary, the gentleman told of his long career as an underground line electrician, and how the 13,000 volts can kill by electrocution or burns. On hot days, when electrical loads burn out transformers, they use an infrared gun to check the temperature of the transformers prior to opening them. In the days before such technology, if the transformers were too hot they would explode on opening. Then, the decision to open was based solely on experience.

As usual when visiting new places, one morning was spent jogged around the hills and canyons. This part of California is arid and warm, and though the picking season had passed some of the bunches were not harvested and there was the fragrance of fermentation on the vine. These grapes shrivel like raisins, and with high sugar are often made into delicious dessert wines such as the sweet pear Chardonnay and jammy Zinfandel varietals we tasted.

The Temecula valley is an eclectic mix of equestrian ranches, vineyards, tract homes, and large custom estates; all manifestations of various booms endemic to the area. The community has the ubiquitous turf battles, in this case between real estate developers and "save the vines". In that there is both a world-wide wine glut and cataclysmically declining real estate values, it is hard to tell just where the dust bowls first will howl.

On the drive back I was paged and had a terrible shock: on Saturday a colleague was struck by a car while cycling and had been killed. He was a humanist, extremely well regarded in the community, with a large, successful practice, and had left behind a wife of 25 years and two teen boys. He and I rode together several years ago, and in between steep hills we'd talk about life. This was before I gave up cycling following an accident that convinced me this wasn't the sport for a father. Recently, whenever I had see him he would chide me: "When ya gonna ride with us again?"

At the office today there were hushed tones as everyone discussed the tragedy, and some thoughts revisited from the past when others had died. There was guilt; I should have spent more time with him and now the opportunity is lost. Someone remarked, "Had he just left 5 minutes sooner, or later, or had the old woman driving altered her schedule, none of this would have happened".

The scientist explained that it was completely random; if you ride a bike there is always risk, and you cannot die in a cycling accident if you do not ride. And there were intrusive thoughts that were strange but familiar. Try to remember….what was I doing when the accident happened? Was there anything odd that day? The elderly driver who swerved as I jogged along the road? The fragrant grapes hanging too long as if by accident? Did I wonder about an inexplicable sadness in the eyes of the electrician, or the gait of an injured horse?

Even when we cannot ride together any more you teach me about the romance of senselessness.

Bruce Lee comments:

I offer you my condolences. I had similar misgivings about cycling (in Manhattan), but was fortunate to have my bike stolen, because it was doubtful I would have stopped. Before then, I came across the bicyclesafe website. The tips are common sense, but it is often useful to review the obvious anyway.


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