July 30, 2004: Have you seen Fahrenheit 911 yet? If not, I recommend that you do. It's going to make you think!

July 26, 2004:  I just posted some of the pictures from the recent trip up to Napa/Sonoma. Check them out below!

Well, I'm steadily getting better. For the past few days, I've been out walking 2-3 miles per day, taking it slow and easy. This physical therapy is definitely helping out! Yesterday, I didn't have to take any pain killers and with the exception of a very minor limp (which will be gone in a couple of days), I'm able to walk normally. On Sunday, I spent most of the morning with the Romine's hanging out over at their place. I love spending time over at their house cause they are always so much fun to be around :-) 

Towards the end of our visit I ran out to get a new bandage for my back because the one on there was starting to peel off. I got bunch of waterproof bandages made exactly for this type of scenario and Rick was good enough to change the dressing. Actually, I was pretty happy because it turns out what I though was blood in the old dressing was nothing more than the iodine/antibacterial ointment they had put on me. Yeah! :)

After that, I went back to my place and crashed out for a couple of hours. Then I took a drive over to San Mateo to hang out with Justin for a couple of hours. We went and saw The Bourne Supremacy and we both thought is was really good! I don't think you could've packed anymore action into that flick. After the movie, I headed back to Dublin to crash and he went into SF to hang out with friends.

Today I'm going to do some more walking and take it easy. I plan on working a small part of the day from home and will continue to do that throughout the week.

:Penz

July 23, 2004: Slept OK last night. Woke up once around 2:30 AM but went back to bed fairly quickly. This morning, after breakfast, I went out for a walk. I'm really trying to keep myself motivated and do as much walking as possible to help my back muscles strengthen up. I walked about a 1/2 mile or so before I came back. Just enough to stretch out the leg muscles. I then did some reading and zonked out for a couple more hours. 

Around noon, I had some lunch and then went out for another walk (it's a gorgeous day outside). I walked for about 2.5 miles. I did it nice and slow and took a few good rest breaks. Felt good to be moving.

For the rest of the afternoon, I think I'm just going to watch some movies and take it easy. I don't want to do too much to soon and rest is supposed to be a big part of the healing process here.  <sigh> I just hate sitting around though...

Hehehe, sure would like to crack open one of those tasty bottles of wines that I picked up last weekend. Hmmm, maybe over the weekend I can do that. We'll see :)

:Penz

July 22, 2004:  Well, I slept pretty good last night. Went to bed at 10:00 and woke up at 6:00 AM. Well, let's just say that all of the good pain meds that were left in my system from the surgery/hospital stay have worked their way out of my system. This morning, it felt like I had back surgery :)  Pretty much, all day today, I took it really easy.... I went out for a couple of short walks around the building. I'm taking half steps, because my back is pretty tender where they operated, and I don't feel too steady on my feet. I also slept for a few hours this morning and a few hours this afternoon, which is a testament to how wiped out I am. It's hard for me to sit in any one position for more than 10 minutes or so.

Luckily, I know that I'm going to get better and just need to take care really good care of myself for the next 10-14 days. I tell ya, it's a hell of a feeling not being able to do much....

Thanks again to everyone who's called to check in on me. I really do appreciate it :)

Well, I'm going to make a bit of dinner and try and see if I can sit down for a bit.

:Penz

July 21, 2004:  Well, yesterday morning I went to Valley Care Hospital in Pleasanton for my surgery (Microdiscectomy). At 7:15, Terri Romine picked me up and took me to the hospital and acted as my surrogate mom for the day :) By 8:00 I was checked in, in my robe and on a gurney waiting for the fun to begin. At 9:45, I was visited by the OR nurse who would be watching over the operation and a few minutes later, Dr. Knight, the anesthesiologist, stopped by to give me my pre-op cocktail. Well, it worked just fine, because I don't remember being wheeled into the OR.

My next memory was a fuzzy one of being wheeled from the recovery room to my hospital room. I heard voices, but I remember that I didn't want to (couldn't?) open my eyes, so I just laid there in my drug induced haze. My next memory was being awake for a wee bit in the hospital room. Terri was there as was a nurse. I think I spoke for a few minutes before I zonked out again (it was 1:00). At 3:00 I woke up to fine Rick Romine by my bed. This time, I stayed awake for a while and we talked. I was feeling pretty good. Terri came back a few minutes later and I stayed awake for another 1/2 hour. They eventually took off and promised to come back in a couple of hours. 

Around 4:00, the nurse asked me if I wanted to try walking. I said sure and so we took a walk around the floor. Me in my hospital gown pushing around my IV on a stand. Hehehe, I looked just like a patient... oh yeah, I was one. Well, the pain in my leg was gone and I felt pretty damn good (if not for being a little weak/woozy from the meds/surgery).

Around 5:00 I was really hungry (as I hadn't eaten all day), I was brought a liquid meal of beef broth, jello and decaf coffee. The nurse said if I could hold that down OK, I would be upgraded to a regular menu. Well I woofed that down no problem and was brought a menu. A 1/2 hour later I had a chicken sandwich, salad and chocolate cake :) Rick and Terri came back with their sons Kevin and Daniel. They all hung out for a about 45 min before taking off. I finished my dinner and watched Law and Order until 10:00 PM. Around 11:00, the nurse came in to give me my pain meds, switch me to a fresh IV and off to sleep I went.

Around 4:00 the nurse came in to ask me if I wanted to take a shower. Hmmm, 4:00 AM, shower... I said NO and went back to sleep. At 5:00 AM they woke me up again to take my vitals and give me some more meds. I went back to sleep.... at 6:30, I woke up and took a walk around the floor and then ordered breakfast. At 6:50, my omelet, bagel, fruit salad, hash browns and cranberry juice arrived. Mmmm, breakfast! At 7:30 my doctors assistant came in to de-brief me on the operation. It was obviously successful. She said he removed a huge fragment from my back, some of which had started t move down my spinal cord. She said my disk basically exploded and was like a flat tire. Great.... So what was my long term prognosis? Well, in about a decade, I'll probably experience back pain again and if they haven't developed the technology to replace a disk, I'll probably have to undergo a spinal fusion. Not something to look forward to. But until then, I should be just fine. At 8:00, I was signing papers and walked out of the hospital, escorted by my nurse (we skipped the wheel chair!).

Pretty amazing, back surgery one day and walking out of the hospital the next day!

For the next two weeks, I'm not allowed to twist or bend over (ha ha ha...) and I can't lift anything over 10 lbs. I intend to take it easy and do a lot of nothing, except walking, which is the one physical therapy they want me to do.

Thanks to every one who called/emailed me with their good wishes and thoughts. I greatly appreciated it!

Well, just remember, if all you have is your health, you're doing ok! :) I hope all is well in your world. I'm off to take a nap :)

:Penz

July 17-19, 2004

Trip to Napa and Sonoma  

A Weekend of Wine Tasting

July 17, 2004: Well, talk about a fun weekend! Heheh, I figured that for 3 days, I'd suck up any discomfort and trade in my bottle of Vicodin for bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (hey, all natural pain medicines can't be bad, right?). Heheh, turns out, that worked just fine!

It started around 11:00 on Friday morning, when me, Alex, Becky and Lisa all headed up to Napa. We got there at 1:00 which was perfect timing as we had reservations for a private tasting at St. Supery

We were greeted by Toni and she took us upstairs to a private area for a wonderful tasting of all of the current and reserve wines being tasted that day. She made our visit a lot of fun and when it came time to check out, we did so in style! Alex picked up a 1/2 case of the 97 Merlot (delicious!). Becky, Lisa and I who are already wine club members, upgraded our membership to the Halo club (if only to get the 1997 Limited Edition Dollarhide Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon which is shipping next month). I also picked up a bottle of the 1997 Merlot, the 1993 Cabernet Sauvignon, a 2001 Petite Verdot as well as my 2 bottles of Cabernet Franc from this months club shipment. Becky and Lisa picked up about a 1/2 case of mixed wines as well. Hehehe, yeah, we like this place a lot!

On the way out we got to see Bryan who is the wine club manager and that was nice, as he has setup our private tasting. 

Our next stop was right next store at Peju. It's a beautiful little winery and we had a nice tasting there. The star of the show was one of the tasting guys who sang for us and even yodeled! Their wines were nice, but the only one that stood out to me was their Cabernet Franc, which just won an award for the best Cabernet Franc in CA. 

Our final stop of the day was at Sullivan Vineyards. This is one of our favorites not only for their outstanding wines, but for the wine tasting manager Ernie! He is awesome and as usual, made our visit memorable. We tasted their 2001 Coeur de Vigne (that means Heart of the Vineyard), the 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2001 Merlot. All of their wines are outstanding (and at $100 a bottle they should be!). Hehehe, I've already got a couple of these, so I didn't purchase any more this day, but Becky and Lisa did sign our for their futures for the 02 Reserve Merlot and Cabernet!

Alex inspecting the grapes at Sullivan

Alex, are you tasting those grapes?

Becky and Lisa at Sullivan Winery... awww, aren't they cute!!??!! :-)

After visiting Napa, it was about an hour drive up to Sonoma and to our destination at Lavender Hills Vineyard. This was our home base of operations for the rest of the weekend, and my oh my, talk about a gorgeous place! Bill and Scott broke ground on this gorgeous place back in 1997 and finished in 1998.  Since then, with a lot of love, time, care and effort, they have created a little piece of paradise nestled up in the hills above Alexander Valley.  

They have 2 guest suites which they rent out and when you are there, you feel like you are family! They welcomed us into their home and after a tour of the estate, we sat down to a lovely table full of wine and cheeses laid out for us to enjoy. We sat there for about an hour, by the pool, enjoying the breath taking scenery of their gardens and the view of the valley as well as their company. Here are some photo's which try to capture the beauty of this place:

The Main Entrance - Welcome Home!

Just around the corner, the path to the pool area

The outside dining area with fire place made for a wonderful setting for dinner on Saturday night!

Out around back, the views were magnificent!

And of course, there was lavender to be found everywhere!

Ahhh, the pool and a view of the villa. This is a paradise, no? :-)

The faithful hounds protecting the homestead :-)

Around 7:45 we headed off to dinner at Chateau Souverain. This is one of the few wineries in the area which also has a full restaurant on their premise. We enjoyed a wonderful dinner here and brought our own wine (I brought the 93 Cabernet Sauvignon from St. Supery which was tasty and Lisa brought a bottle of Chateau Souverain's Zinfandel which was very nice as well). We enjoyed a great meal on the terrace and afterwards, we headed 'home' to Lavender Hill, where after a late night dip in the pool (water was 94'), we all crashed out for the night.

The next morning, Bill and Scott has breakfast and coffee waiting for us and after that, we headed down to the bottom of the hill where we met up with Alex Hutcheson., Ryan and Jenn and our 8 person stretch limo! We climbed in and off we went! Here are the wineries that we visited:

  • Martinelli - '00 Reserve Pinot Noir was nice as well as the 01 Dry Select Gewurztraminer

  • Mill Creek - '99 Cab is awesome. I already have 1 bottle and picked up 2 more (since there were only 5 of them left)

  • Hop Kiln: Their wines were ok.T he '02 Marty Griffin's Big Red table wine was nice at $13 a bottle.

  • Rochioli: Right next door to Hop Kiln. Beautiful vineyard but none of their wines tickled my palette.

  • Jospeh Swan Vinyards: Without a doubt, the best stop of the day. The wine maker/vineyard owner was pouring his wines and was very nice! My favorite was the 99 Lone Redwood Ranch Zinfandel of which I picked up a bottle to enjoy later on :)

  • Hartford Family Wines: Nice wines but a little pricey. They were only tasting whites that day, which didn't appeal to me much, though the Sauvignon Blanc was tasty if you like apricots.

  • J : Pretty nice place. Good champagne served with some tasty appetizers.

  • Limerick Lane: Nice little stop. Good pinot at a decent price. 

  • Christopher Creek: A personal favorite for Pinot's and Syrah's. Introduced to me by Ashish and Jill.

Hehehe, not a bad day eh? At 4:00, the limo dropped us off and Alex H, Ryan and Jen took off for home. The rest of us went grocery shopping and picked up some nice rib eye steaks, salmon, and all the fixin's for a good meal. We went back to the house and that night we cooked up an excellent meal and had dinner with Bill and Scott. We drank some tasty wines that night over dinner, which we ate outside by the fireplace. We ended up chatting by the fire until about 11:00 before we crashed out for the night.

The next day, we got up, took a dip in the pool and had some breakfast. At 9:45 we met the limo and off we went!

  • Stryker: Nice winery, but nothing grabbed me here except for the view of the vineyards and the building.

  • Robert Young: Yum, nice 99 Scion Cabernet Sauvignon and the 99 Merlot was quite tasty too!

  • Simi: An awesome place! We had a great tasting here (thanks to Lisa's hookup of knowing the brother of one of the managers). I walked away with 2 bottles of their 2001 Alexander Valley Merlot and 1 of the 02 Petit Syrah. Their '00 Reserve Cab's were also quite tasty!!

  • Seghesio: A personal favorite of mine. Their '99 Port is awesome and I took another bottle home with me (so did Alex).

  • Unti: Another favorite of mine. I was a bit disappointed that they sold out of their Barbera but was glad I had 2 bottles of it at home :) I did pick up another bottle of their '02 Petit Syrah. It's a100% Petit Syrah and inky dark red. Quite tasty!

  • Frick: A one man vineyard run by Bill Frick which produces a couple of tasty wines. The 02 C2 was nice as was the 99 Syrah. Stop by if only to meet the dog, Lucia! She's awesome :)

  • Bella: Beautiful winery where the tasting room is in a cave. Nice Pinot's and Zin's. But to be honest, I was pretty much tasted out by this time on Pinot's and Zin's...

  • A. Rafanelli: An interesting winery. It's very exclusive and visits are by appointment only. They do a very small production and make a nice Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon which go for $40 and $90 a bottle. You can only by one bottle of Cab per group and 2 bottles of Merlot per person and it's cash only! The old man pouring the wine was ok, but didn't make us feel at home.

  • Lambert Bridge: The place where we parked our cars to meet the limo :) We had to stop in! They made some nice wines, but nothing that stood out for me. Hehehe, if they don't have a tasty Cab or Merlot, then forget it. People were very nice though.

Alex enjoying the start of his day at Stryker Winery

Quintessential picture of California wine country. The vineyards behind Stryker Winery

Alex McCabe at Mill Creek Winery

Alex McCabe and Alex Hutcheson at J Winery 

Beck and Penz enjoying a moment together outside of J Winery

And that wrapped up the tasting trip. We all returned to Bill and Scott's place for one last visit together. After an hour or so, Alex and I packed up our stuff and took off. We stopped off in Santa Rosa for a quick bit to eat at Chevy's and then headed home. That night we just chilled out.

The next morning, we went out to breakfast at The Copper Skillet here in Dublin and then it was off to San Jose Airport where Alex caught his flight home. Needless to say, it was a pleasure to have Alex out here for the weekend and sure was great to see him. Hehehe, I think we made the most of our time. What do you think?

:Penz

July 15, 2004: Alex McCabe arrived safe and sound today! Tomorrow we're off to wine country for the weekend! 

July 14, 2004:  Well, it's certainly turning out to be an interesting month! Let's see...

On Friday July 2, I woke up with some pain in my lower back. This is not an uncommon occurrence and has been happening since fall of 2001. Way back then, I did go and see my doctor about the pain and he took some X-Rays which didn't show anything major. Because I was a bit overweight and stressed out, we wrote it off to needing more exercise, losing weight, etc...  Well, anyway, the pain usually goes away as soon as I get out of bed, but today, it kept on going. By the time I got to the office, I was having trouble walking and the pain was a bit intense at times. I'm figuring that I pinched a nerve while I was sleeping so I just dealt with it. That night, I went to bed, hoping the next morning, all would be well...

Next morning, I woke up, and the pain was still there. 

On Sunday, the 4th, the pain in my back continued to shoot down my leg and was really getting to me. I did some research on the web and I had all of the symptoms of a herniated disk. So, I decided wait until Tuesday and go see a doctor (since offices were closed on Monday for the holiday). 

Tuesday I went to see a spine specialist and he confirmed that I had the symptoms of a herniated disk. He perscribed Flexeril (muscle relaxant), Norco (Vicodin cocktail) and put me on prednisone (steroid) to help relieve the swelling. He said that if it didn't get better within one week or if symptoms worsened, that we'd do an MRI and figure out the next steps.

Well, one week later, I had lost feeling in my foot and the lower part of my leg, I had a severe limp and had some weakness in the leg. We has the MRI done on Tueday the 13th. 

Today, we reviewed the MRI and the disk is herniated pretty bad. The sciatic nerve is being pinched and the best to fix this is with surgery..... .so, next week, I'm having a Microdiscectomy performed. What is that? It is the surgical removal of herniated disc material that presses on a nerve root and the spinal cord. Before the disc material is removed, some of the bone from the affected vertebra will be removed (basically, they drill a small hole through it) and this allows the surgeon to better see the area.

More info than you ever wanted to know on herniated disks and the operation can be found at:

<sigh> so needless to say, this has been 'fun' to deal with.... but life continues to go on :)

Weekend of July 4:  I was hoping to go up to Clearlake with Tanya Littlejohn and her family, but due to my back going out, well, there was no way that I could make the 4 hour ride up there :(  Hopefully, I'll be able to make it up there next year!!

So, on Saturday, I met up with my neighbor and good friend Ryan (www.vinesugar.com) in the morning. After a bit of arm twisting, he convinced me to go and do a little wine tasting down in Santa Cruz. The 40 minute ride over sucked, as it hurt to sit for any length of time, but I grinned and bared my teeth till we got there, hoping there would be a good bottle of red waiting for me..

We visited two wineries, Ridge and Picchetti. Ridge has a gorgeous location with a killer view, but that day, none of their wines we were tasting  really impressed me. After Ridge,  it was off to Picchetti. This was my favorite of the two. Two wines that I really enjoyed were the 2001 Super Tuscan and the 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon. I walked away with one bottle of the first and two of the second :)  Our tasting guy, Mike, was awesome. If you are in the area, I highly recommend you visit this winery (if only to see the peacocks!).

On Sunday, July 4th, I spent the afternoon over at Ryan's parents place and enjoyed the company of his family for a few hours (very nice time!). I got to meet his brother as well as his Uncle and family. We drank some good wine and enjoyed a nice BBQ. Afterwards, I decided to hang out at home and chill instead of watching the fireworks, as the pain in my back/leg was kicking in and I really didn't feel like going out.

On Monday, July 12th, I turned 34 :-)  I was taken out to dinner by Ashish, Jill, Nikhil and Amy and we went to Mezze in Oakland (a great Mediterranean restaurant). We had a really nice dinner together, and afterwards, we hit up Tuckers Ice Cream for desert. Mmmmm, the moca chocolate chip was tasty!

The rest of the week, I spent my days at work and the nights taking it easy. It was pretty uneventful, other than when I started to lose feeling in my leg ;)

On Saturday July 10th, Becky and Lisa arrived in town! I picked them up at SFO and off to Rob and Susan's we went. We hung out for a few hours and during that time, went to CostCo to shop for the BBQ the next day. Around 3:00, I headed over to Jill and Ashish's place for Nikhil's 1st birthday party! It was a great time. They had about 15 people over for a wonderful BBQ. Of course, there was plenty of food and wine to enjoy, and the birthday boy was as cute as ever!  That night, I went back to Rob and Susan's and crashed out there.

On Sunday, we had a great BBQ! Along with Rob and Susan's crew, I had Michael & Shannon Tanner (along with their daughter Juliana and Gabriel), Ashish and Jill (and their son Nikhil), Renette Estes and Justin come by. It was a great time and fun was had by all!!

Tomorrow, Alex McCabe fly's into town and I pick him up at SJC in the early afternoon. Tomorrow night, it's off to Rob and Susan's place and then on Friday, we're off to Healdsburg/Sonoma until Sunday. A weekend of wine, friends and adventure. What more could you ask for??!?!?? :)  oh yeah, no back pain :P

So, more updates to follow, but I just wanted to drop a note in here and let ya know what's up.

:Penz


Return to Penz's Journal