August 7 and I now catch my breath. Been travelin' Did not spend a Friday night in July in my own bed, and three of those Friday nights I was sleeping in my tent--West Virginia, Pine Ridge and Rent One. Last Friday I luxuriated in a hotel room in Milwaukee-- after nine hours on my motorcycle riding there from Carbondale. The ride to SSR, my first, but I've been trying to ride to the meeting since SSR was in Madison in 2000-- but then it was the Norton and Chicago to Madison was way out of the comfort zone. But this jaunt, on the BMW was just plain easy, 420 miles in 9 hours. Such a splendid ride up US 51 to Decatur then I 39 to I 43 to Milwaukee; 42 mpg, 125 miles comfort zone. I made it 250 on 6 gallons and was a bit tense as I cruised north past Alpine Valley, the site of so many great shows, but not a gas station in sight. I cruised into with a half a gallon to spare. Hard on the ass to ride that far without stopping. But nothing like the ride home-- on the hottest day ever-- 107 degrees! Detour via Chicago, I94 in traffic- yikes-- but once I57 stretched on south of I80 it was smooth sailing. I let the wind fill my chest and leaned forward, suspended, relaxed-- hot as hell, even going 80 the sweat was streaming into my eyes. boots and jeans burning in the sun, no indoors when your on your bike. It was OK though, like an athletic event, a seated marathon. I wanted to ditch my jacket it was so hot through the mesh, but I felt like a fireman, their jackets are warm too, but they sure wouldn't take them off. The punishing sun would have seared me and darkened my tan black after burning me red-- been there, done that many times, but now I am rather enjoying my skin not being burned in the relentless sun. When I made it to the rest are north of Effingham I crawled onto a bench and took a little nap. I drank three liters of water and ate three protein bars which had melted to pudding. The day had started to cool as the sun slanted west and after I stopped at Mt Vernon for gas I packed my lovely silver mesh jacket into a pouch, tied it to the luggage rack and flew on down the road in my t-shirt. Much cooler but that ragged wind was still hot. Interstates are where the semis scream and push, blotting out the music and rocking the bike-- its good to get past them, and Silver Cloud delivers. I got of the interstate at Benton and followed 37 all they way to Marion. Slow, scenic, peaceful, cool in the shade of the Shawnee forest-- much more pleasant than that old interstate.
The ride to SSR added to the huge wonderful experience. My 24th SSR, an annual pilgrimage to the Society for the Study of Reproduction, my scientific home. This year I had the honor of presenting a tribute to Anita Payne -- my first plenary lecture at SSR. Sally Kemper, Phyllis Wise, Marco Conti and I collaborated for the Historical Perspectives session starting out with biography then we gave talks for each of her eras-- early Phyllis, middle me and late Marco. Phyllis focused on her personal relationship with Anita. My talk described my journey from Leydig cells to Ovarian cancer in chickens and how Anita influenced me at many steps along the way-- such as introducing me to Janice Bahr who enables the chicken research-- to the cyp17 antibody I made in her lab that I am still distributing to labs all over the world. It was a lot of fun preparing and giving the talk. I introduced the entire society to the chicken model and espoused its virtuous recapitulation of the human disease-- convincingly so judging from the buzz I heard during the coffee breaks. The model really speaks to many people especially those who have been personally touched by the disease. Perhaps the new best hope for finding the cure. At the NAKED party, minutes after I walked into that Milwaukee bar and queued up for a beer, I was almost accosted by an enthusiastic trainee who threw herself at me excited to talk about chicken research. She collected herself while I nodded at her silently, and explained that she was a reproductive physiologist at the National zoo and had a keen interest in bird models of disease. Pretty fun ice breaker, who would've figured ovarian cancer would spawn so many conversations. NAKED was a dance frenzy with may students new and old and friends I've danced with since my first NAKED. A non sanctioned core function at SSR meetings.
The high point of my year, as I have been heard saying,comes on the last night of the meeting when I get to play with the band at the annual dance and barbecue. This year there was a great cover band, Counting Crows and Rusted Root, and the bass player played the harp. We negotiated for 1st song second set, Sweet Home Chicago in E. I leapt onto the stage and as soon as I blew a few notes into the mike, the crowd went wild, surging to the stage, arms raised chanting Buck Buck... I feel like a rock star! Those guys were great and we played a stellar version of sweet home, right in sync, perfect tune and three big solos! Fabulous, what a trip. Twice in that meeting, the lights all shining on me, two memorable performances. Kristine delivered the final act, her last presentation from her graduate work, now her post doc in prostate cancer takes her away. And my excitement seeing Sean, Sara, Erfan, Sheree with Kristine the whole meeting, the new guard, the charter members of the Hales lab, SIU edition.
A great end to a frenetic summer, though August stretches out before us like the desert sand, with the cooler weather of autum a mirage on the horizon.