Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Rite Of Passage To Spring

As my RA continues to play Jekyll and Hyde due to the quick changing weather patterns of spring (and winter reluctantly dragging it's feet while leaving), I am up and down in terms of coping. We are scheduled to get our first real bout of severe storms for the year tonight and Thursday. Living in Oklahoma, severe storms are an official rite of passage into spring.

I was honored to be contacted by RheumatoidArthritis.com and informed that they are readers of my blog. After talking with them through email and by phone, I will be doing some guest posts on their site. I feel like Steve Martin in The Jerk ... things are going to start happening to me now! 

In addition to servicing my mowers for spring and building a desk for my daughters photography business, I now have an online flexography class through work and will have a timed 90 minute test over all 24 weeks of classes. I'm too old for this stuff! In my pre RA days, I would have let this worry me ... not anymore. I suppose this is one positive change that living with RA has brought about in me. I just don't get too worried or stressed over things now.

I had the pleasure of riding with a new rider yesterday. It was refreshing watching his expressions and excitement talking about the ride and seeing how well he is doing for only riding a few times. He bought his bike at the end of January and has just a few rides under his belt but is a fast learner and completely dedicated to becoming an above average rider. I took him up Poteau Mountain with the descent on the back side being absolutely brutal. He did good. Once off of the mountain we rode further into the forest and discovered they have been clear cutting again. It was nauseating to witness acre after acre of destruction to our forest. I continued to drag Tony over three more mountains and took him to two abandoned iron truss bridges while logging 157 miles. He is well on his way to becoming a good rider ... and totally consumed by it. 

I felt good when I finished my 157 miles yesterday afternoon at around 4:30. I was feeling my RA but not bad and still flexible (for an old man with RA anyway) and comfortable moving around. Three hours later I could barely move and was walking like Tim Conway as the old man on The Carol Burnett Show. I was stiff, slightly swollen and hurt bad. Today, however I feel pretty good. I added this because I don't want people thinking I have a mild case of RA and thats why I ride. I hurt every damn day, I'm just not going to sit back and refuse to enjoy life because it may cause me to hurt a little bit more. 
My daughter and grand dawg.
Desk space I am building for my daughter, will finish it next week.
A view from my office window Tuesday morning.
Black Fork Creek in Eastern Oklahoma.
Fizzel Branch
My new camp stove. Nothing like dried eggs in a foil pouch!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Multiple Personalities

Our weather continues to have multiple personalities so far this year. That in turn is relayed to my RA having multiple personalities this year.  That once again is transferred into me having multiple personalities so far this year. Life will be much better when it warms up and stays warm. It gets old feeling pretty good one day only to wake up to frigid temps, snow and sleet the next day and barely be able to get out of bed and walk to the living room. 

I was able to get out and ride yesterday with Greg and Randall. I rode 174 miles but I'm paying dearly for it today. We rode out to Oark and I stopped at the old Herrods Creek abandoned bridge just off of AR215. My grandad had a sawmill close to the old bridge back in the 1940's. My dad and uncles worked at the sawmill and hauled RR ties all over the area. I wished that dad had some old photos of the mill here. Last year I drove him and mom over through here and I guess it brought back memories. I knew grandad had 2 different sawmills but never knew one of them was where I have been riding since I was 19 years old.
KLR all cleaned up and ready to go.
Herrods Creek bridge ... my grandad had a sawmill just a few feet from here.
Abandoned bridge in front with replacement bridge sitting above and behind it.
Oark Cafe, cool little place with great food.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Bad Blogger


I have been a bad blogger.  I didn't intend to neglect my blog over the past month but between the horrid winter weather, actually slipping one ride in over the past 4 weeks and coming down sick again, it happened. Oh, and spilling coke on my keyboard, then having to run in to town between ice storms to get a new one. I will do better in the future. 

The media continues to mislead people about Rheumatoid Disease. It's really no surprise that there’s a disturbing lack of knowledge about RD/RA. However, until the media finds a shred of decency and responsibility and drug companies start relaying truth in advertising, RA patients will continue to be seen as the boy who cried wolf. Recently a respected major publication described RA as an inflammatory disease that affects small joints in the hands and feet. If you watch tv, according to the commercials, all we have to do is take a shot and then we can go run on the beach with our family. What a crock!  I truly wish the people in charge of the current media view of RD/RA could experience, just for 1 day ... just 24 hours, what we have to live with every single day.  

I did manage to work in a nice 165 mile ride during our two nice 70 degree days in February.  There was still some ice and snow scattered where we rode through but it felt so good to be outside for a change.  We got into some twisty mountainous asphalt roads just before going off road.  I have no problem riding asphalt but didn't take into consideration the ice and snow that had been there less than a week earlier.  The ice and snow was gone ... the sand that they use for such conditions was not!  We both made it through the first sandy turn without crashing.  Thats all I'm going to say.  We rode more cautiously til we found some dirt.  Once on dirt we dialed the speed back up but my worn tires were once again no match for the mud and deep gravel the county used on the dirt road.  I ordered new tires as soon as I got back home.  If it ever warms back up, I am going to have to spend a day in the shop working on my bike for spring rides.
Water over the spillway again!
Stop for a quick bite to eat. 
Heidenau K60 rear tire
New shoes!  K60 and Dunlop 606 front
Still shot from helmet cam at 60 mph
Low water bridge 
Clean clear water that rivals Colorado.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Rheumatoid Awareness Day



Rheumatoid Awareness Day is observed on February 2.  One goal of having our day is to overcome the misconception that rheumatoid disease is just a form of arthritis.  Rheumatoid Disease/Arthritis has often been confused with osteoarthritis. But joint pain and stiffness is only a part of RD. Throw in extreme fatigue, balance issues, brain fog as the disease is attacking our joints, eating up cartilage, and sometimes attacks vital organs. It causes severe pain, frequent disability, and increased mortality.  It's a challenging painful disease at best. Outwardly we appear healthy but the pain inside is very real to each and every one of us.  

While there is no cure, we do have several treatments but most provide little relief nor give us any long term hope.  We often hear "I have arthritis too" or "just excercise, you'll feel better". Perhaps one day there will be enough money for research that they will find a cure so future patients won't have to endure what we are going through.  For me, my plan is to  just live day to day.   I keep getting out of bed and go do the best that I can do every day.  Sure I make plans but they often get rearranged or even cancelled. 

I am on the verge of a epic ride coming up this summer.  Right now it is all hinging on my RA and I'm looking at a 50/50 shot of getting to go.  Stupid RA!  I will tell you more later, hopefully while announcing that I'm going.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

DMARDs and Biologics


In the beginning, as most newly diagnosed RA patients do, I looked for alternative treatments.  I was afraid of the drugs and their side effects.  I tried so many natural/homeopathic treatments and diets, I can't remember all of them.  The only thing that happened was I continued to get worse.  I don't fault the newly diagnosed for thinking they are going to beat RA without going the standard DMARDS and biologics.  I applaud them for their enthusiasm and determination ... and they have my best wishes for success.  I even talked my rheumatologist into letting me try minocycline, an antibiotic that has been used with some degree of success for the treatment of RA. Unfortunately it also did not work for me.  Afterwards my rheumatologist told me that he didn't blame me for wanting to try the antibiotic but he felt like the people that it worked for were not in the moderate to severe category.  

I am through with alternative treatments now, have been for some time.  I know that if I am to have any type of life beyond sitting at a computer or watching tv on the couch, I am dependant on DMARDs and biologics.  I don't like it, I don't think about it, I just take them and go live life the best I am able to now.  Even with the drugs, I still hurt everyday.  They are not a miracle drug as the television commercials lead the general public to believe.  Even though I do not look sick outwardly, the pain I feel inside is very real.  I don't want your sympathy ... I don't want your pity.  What I do want is people to stop telling me what I need to try or what I can do to cure my RA, there is no cure.  It seems that I am becoming less tolerant of this after 10+ years.  I know people mean well, but I am doing okay.  If you want to talk about football or fishing thats fine by me ... trying to cure me is off limits.

After 5 weeks, I finally got over my sickness that has been dogging me since just after Thanksgiving.  Then the next week after feeling better, the arctic crud left our area and the past 2 weeks, I have put in 3 rides totaling 430 miles.  Nowhere cool, but it felt great after being off of my bike for so long.  I had to replace the low beam on my KLR and holy freaking cow!!  It took over 2 hours to ... let me back up first.  The headlight is buried in the upper front fairing and without a shop manual, it took over 2 hours to figure out how to pull the fairing off to get to the headlight.  I'm not dumb, I have worked on all of my bikes I used to race as well as trail ride.  This one thing thoroughly kicked my ass though.  I now know what it takes and could do the next bulb change in about 20-25 minutes.  Needless to say, I do not think like a Japanese engineer.  By the way ... I have a shop manual on it's way now.
Above Ozark lock and dam
Stairway down next to the bluffs at Arkansas River were 
not really made for size 12 Alpinestars riding boots. 
My first and most likely only selfie.  Was trying to find the zoom on my
new phone and flipped the camera to front mode ... figured why not.  
The old TB Hospital at Booneville.  In the 1930-40's it was the
largest and most advanced hospital for the treatment of TB.
Front entrance to the hospital.
Front entrance to the hospital.
Abandoned bridge on a ride yesterday.  Yep ... we rode across it.
Surprised they did not have barricades across both ends.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy New Year


Happy New Year to everyone.  I am thankful for being granted the privilege of seeing another years birth.  I've got to lose some weight, not because of a new years resolution but because I stepped on the scales two days ago and said "holy crap!"  As someone who never really thought much about the future, I'm also someone who doesn't look back.  There have been several changes in my life over the past 15 years but none have impacted my life the way that RA has.  I always saw myself still being able to run, ride a bicycle and yes ... racing motorcycles in the super senior class at this age.  

I am looking forward to 2014 with great optimism.  For me, 2013 wasn't that good.  I was dealing with a very long flare up that lasted a good part of the year.  It impacted my work, household jobs and yes ... even riding.  The last 4 months of 2013 I did the best I could to make up for seat time on my bike but then I was sick the entire month of December.  This month long sick marathon was due partly to the mutated, nuclear strain of cold/sinus/ear infection I had, and partly due to my depleted immune system from the RA drugs I take.  I went off of my chemo and biologic while on antibiotics and soon my hands were swelling and hurting followed by my hips, knees and ankles.  I am back on my RA meds and with the exception of this pesky cough, completely over it.

I have been considering a set of medical dog tags to wear in case of emergency.  I know that riding a motorcycle in and outside of town, I am more at risk to be laying on the side of the road somewhere than most of you, but have any of you considered them, or have them?

I will leave you with some photos of a ride I did this past summer.  I stopped by a small lake a few miles from where I live.  I ride by and stop to relax every once in a while.  It is a peaceful lake that almost always has a nice breeze blowing across the water and plenty of empty benches to sit on.  
Spiro Lake


I have never seen this sign before ... on new, smooth pavement no less!
Use to race (enduro's) by one of these on Tinker AFB at OKC.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

I've Had Better Weeks


As someone who loves the outdoors I have been downright bummed by all of the cold, nasty weather we have had since Thanksgiving.  I get cabin fever quickly and the past 16 days have been no exception.  We have had freezing rain, snow and sleet with temps down to zero ... and it isn't even winter yet!  I hate winter.

My RA is running wild with all of the cold moisture we have had.  I had to call in to work FMLA tonight due to my right hand.  I am experiencing severe pain, swelling and cannot use it to grip or pretty much do anything.  I hurt everyday and work with pain but this was different.  I have had FMLA filled out on my RA for the past seven or maybe eight years now ... this is only the second time I have used it.  Yeah, it hurts that bad.  On top of my RA, Donna gave me the crud that she had brought home from working at the hospital.  I have been sick as a dog but I'm finally feeling better.  Have I mentioned I hate winter?

My bikes are feeling neglected.  I haven't even started my KLR since before Thanksgiving.  I have a couple of new parts that I haven't felt like messing with.  I downloaded BaseCamp for my GPS to map out rides then load them into my GPS ... I just need to get it figured out now.  I'm no longer a techie.  I used to love new stuff, now I put off switching as long as I can.  Like when they fazed out VHS tapes to DVD's, then DVD's to Blu-ray.  Whatever comes next after Blu-ray will just have to move on without me.  I have new camping gear bookmarked so I will be camping some off of the bike next year.  Looking forward to that, now I just need it to warm up!  Oh, my bikes hate winter also.

After borrowing my KLR a few weeks ago, one of my riding buddies just bought a new KLR. Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.  May you stay warm, safe and surrounded by family.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving Memories


Thanksgiving is my mother in laws favorite holiday.  She always has a huge feast at her house every year.  There have been as many as 80 people at her house for Thanksgiving.   We love spending the day with family now as much as my mother in law does.

Back in 91, I was still racing motorcycles at that time, a couple of guys and I headed out at 6 am to do a quick ride before a cold front moved in to our area.  The temperature was mid 60's and we hit the woods not long after day break.  We rode a couple of hours and noticed it was turning cold around 9 am, the cold front wasn't supposed to hit until mid afternoon.  We decided to start heading back to the truck since we all needed to be home before noon anyway.  By the time we got back to the truck and loaded up, the temperature had dropped down into the 30's and it was raining with a little sleet.  By the time we made it back out to asphalt, it was all sleet and we still had mountains to drive through with an hour of interstate to get back home.  Even though the temperature had been warm, there was so much ice falling that the roads started to ice over. That was the longest drive home!  We made it home safely but I was so cold and the bikes were a frozen mess in the back of the truck.  I remember walking into Thanksgiving diner and the house smelled so good and it felt so warm.  Best of all, my daughter came running up to me and gave me a big hug.  I have not been riding on Thanksgiving morning since that year.  It's just for family now.

WIshing all of you a warm and Happy Thanksgiving this year.