Monday, November 30, 2009

On To The Point

It has been 48 hours since loading up from my ride Saturday night and I still feel really good. Looking back on the ride, one of my favorite sayings popped into my head. Bad decisions make good stories. It was a beautiful day and even though we got lost, with the exception of running through the bats and Randall just barely making it back to the truck on fumes, we still had a great ride. Randall ran out of gas at 97.2 miles on our last ride. I was calculating the mileage in my head as we were riding back once we found a landmark and knew where we were at. The best I had it figured, was that he could make it to within 2-4 miles of the truck before running out of gas. We ducked through a shortcut on the way back and as it turns out, thankfully I was wrong. Randall made it all the way back to the truck with 97.4 miles on the tank of gas. Another 1/2 mile and he would have run out.

I didn't get sore or hurt after this ride, in fact, I didn't hurt until today around noon. I was making a pot of stew today and went to put the clean dishes up out of the dishwasher. I misjudged a knife, my wife insists on putting them in with the sharp end facing upward, and WHAM ... ran the tip of a steak knife about 3/8 inch up in between my thumb and thumbnail. You would have been proud of me though. In my younger days I would have taken the 6 quart stockpot in my other hand and invented the Olympic Cookware Toss. I was cool though, just muttered a "damn" and quickly grabbed a towel to wrap my thumb tight to help stop the bleeding. I didn't know a thumb had that much blood in it, I'm pretty sure my thumb had to be pumping out blood from my index finger by now. After my thumb finally bled out, I cleaned it, doctored and bandaged it.

I currently feel better about the Orencia now. Hopefully my rheumatologist was right, some people respond faster while some respond slower than the 3 month average date for seeing what it can do for me. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, that is, if I could cross them.

Around here if it's not one thing it's three, but one thing's for sure, there is never a dull moment. Remind me to tell you about the time that animal control had to shoot a rabid dog on our front porch.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Little Hair Of The Dog

I have been hurting this week from the after effects that a 171 mile dual sport ride Monday put on my RA. I got a phone call from Randall Tuesday afternoon wanting to go again Wednesday which I declined because I was just hurting too bad to go out. Well, want to go Saturday? I said that I would if I was feeling better. Friday evening Randall called back and asked how I felt and I told him "Let's go for a 100 miler". The truth is that I felt marginally better than I did earlier in the week, but the temperature was supposed to be an unseasonably warm 75. The way I looked at this is, I could sit around the house hurting or I could go do something I love to do and hurt. At least if I go ride, I will be enjoying some good weather and having a great time. Now you understand why I've never been accused of being normal.
We unloaded for a 100 mile dual sport ride Saturday taking dirt roads, trails and asphalt to Mena. The short story is that after 2 flat tires, running across a guy from England on a dual sport bike that we talked with for about 20 minutes, getting lost (big tine lost), finishing the last 1 1/2 hour of the ride in the dark (oh, and running through a group of bats in the dark) we made it ... with 160 miles. When we pulled back up to the truck at 7 pm, the temp was still 65. What a great day to be lost!
The crazy thing about this is I fully expected to be hurting worse this morning. The truth is, I feel really good this morning. I am not stiff, my hands and fingers, hip and shoulder are not hurting at all, zero, nadda, zip! Can someone explain this one to me? If all I have to do to feel better is ride my bike all day, then count me in. I seriously don't know why, I'm not going to question it, but I feel fantastic today.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Who Ordered This Train Wreck?

It's a terrible thing to be diagnosed with any type of disease. I know what I suffer from pales in comparison to what a lot of people suffer from, but when I was first diagnosed with RA, I felt numb for what must have been a solid two weeks. I had more questions than answers, didn't know who to talk to, trust or how to research a good rheumatologist. My first rheumatologist was not much help either, didn't like you asking questions, was not open to trying anything except what he wanted to give you. I stuck it out with him for a full year before finding a good one.
In my first 6 years, I have had my ups and downs, pain and near pain free days, but I am so glad it was me and not my wife or daughter. I usually play down the effects of my RA or or my true feelings about having it, but some days it is so frustrating while other days it just plain hurts me. This has been one of those days, this morning I couldn't seem to hang on to anything (good that I did not go riding today) and I was extremely tired after just waking up from 9 hours of sleep. I am stiff and hurt all over and my hands are swollen and hurting badly.
I learned a couple of lesson's Monday. I have said before that having RA is a constant learning experience. Monday I learned that 171 miles is too long for me to ride with my RA along with a much more important lesson. I often take Tylenol Arthritis after a ride to help with some of the pain, if needed. Monday I was going to be slick so I took 2 Tylenol Arthritis 1 hour before we started riding. Then I took 2 more with me to take at our gas stop, about halfway or 83 miles into the ride. I didn't hurt at all during the ride and as I was loading up Monday, was patting myself on the back. I had ridden farther that I ever did in 1 day when I was younger and healthy. I could just barely get out of bed Tuesday from hurting so bad. It seems that the Tylenol covered up my normal pains. When I start hurting I will head back to the truck and load up, but since I was not feeling any pain, I kept on riding way past my tolerance point.
I can deal with the pain if I know I caused it and had fun getting there. But somedays my RA just bestows excessive amounts of pain on me for no good reason at all. And then there is the clumsiness, the days you can't think clearly, the swelling and fatigue. Who ordered this train wreck? I truly hate that any of us have to go through what we are enduring.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

ARTRAX SE3 REAR TIRE

This is a product review, which I don't normally do. Every once in a while a product comes along that makes you scratch your head and wonder why is that so cheap. We, as consumers, know that you get what you pay for but you still think, it might just work for me. Such was the case with a line of motorcycle tires known as Artrax. The tires are cheap, ... real cheap and Randall and I had been talking about them for some time. The KTM 525's that we both ride put out mid to upper 50's on the horsepower so no tire is going to last very long. But could these tires could get close to the same mileage as a Dunlop or Bridgestone?
I ordered the ARTRAX SE3 REAR TIRE and mounted it in mid September. The knobby pattern looked good, the knobs were a bit short, but it is an intermediate compound, this tire might actually work after all. My first ride on it wasn't good and I was ready to peel it off. It didn't hook up as well as my old worn out Bridgestone that I had just pulled off to put this tire on. I played with air pressure over the next 2 rides and got it to work slightly better with lower pressure. Not great, just better. I now have 5 rides on it and it is junk. There is a little under 1/8" of knob left and I only have 483 miles on it! I can get 1000 - 1200 miles out of a Dunlop or Bridgestone, and you will have better control over the bike with one of them on as well.
Below is a picture taken this afternoon after I washed my bike from yesterday's ride. As you can see it is basically a racing slick after less than 500 miles. Stay away form these tires, spend the extra $25 - $30 on a good tire that you know.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I Gave My RA The Day Off

I left the house at 7:35 Monday morning, it was 49 and sunny with a few clouds in the sky. But as we approach Poteau Mountain, there are clouds covering the top of the mountain. That is where we are going today. Running across the top of the mountain was dark, damp and dreary. A far cry from the 68 and sunny promised by our local weatherman. As we drop off of the other side of the mountain, it starts to lighten up a little, but no sun. Heavily overcast and no sun at all now, we keep going. Just before we get to US Highway 71, a huge buck jumps the road 100 yards in front of me. The ironic thing is that there is a truck parked about 20 yards on the backside of where the deer jumped the road. I quickly thought of Elmer Fudd hunting Bugs and Daffy. LOL

We had a good hard ride over to Blue Mountain, only getting (temporarily ) lost twice. We ran on up to a convenience store and gassed both bikes up and grabbed a Coke and took a short rest. We head back out and run up to the dam at Blue Mountain Lake and spent a while exploring the lake. There is a road that wraps all around the backside of the lake but that will be another day. There is 52 miles of shoreline and we had another route in mind for the afternoon portion of our ride.


We headed back on one of the alternate routes and ... about 9 miles later Randall pulls over with a flat front tire. For anyone keeping score, thats 3 rides in a row that Randall has had a flat tire. So he found a place that we could change the flat and about an hour later, didn't take us that long to change but some hunters stopped and we visited for quite a while, we are back on our way.


The trail we had planned to ride back across to Haw Creek was closed down. Loggers had come in and pushed a large mound of dirt and large trees up blocking 2 different entrances. They are in the process of building the road bed up so this means that we have lost another good trail section of the forrest. After the flat and losing time trying to get to the trail, we decided that we would just head back on the asphalt until we could jump on some dirt road and trail that we knew would be open. By the time we pulled back up to the truck we had 171 miles.
I will be honest, I am hurting today, but I never rode 171 miles in 1 day when I was healthy. My feet, right hand and right hip hurt from the abuse of the ride to my RA. My legs, calves and forearms are sore from not using these muscles enough and well ... my ass hurts because the seat on a KTM is not made to sit on for that long. But I'm smiling today anyway, what a great day it was yesterday. All of us that suffer from RA need a day off from it once in a while.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Orencia Update After Rheumatologist Appt

Quick update after my post yesterday. I went for my fourth Orencia infusion this morning and spoke quite frankly with my rheumatologist about my feelings on the Orencia.
After checking me over, he agreed that my hands are not swollen quite as bad as they were, was encouraged that my fatigue and feet are doing some better. He was also impressed that after putting in a 150 mile dual sport ride last week that I had little to no pain compared to my pre-Orencia days. He said that the three month target is an averaged date, not to get discouraged yet, that some people do react a little slower to the full effect and that he feels that by two months down the road I will be doing better.
He also said that if I am not, we will start discussing other options then. He does not want to see me go through another year like this year has been.
My rheumatologist and I began discussing switching medicines in early spring, but I am the one who wanted to hold off and give the Enbrel more time. It had worked well for me up to this point and we had a very cool and damp spring along with a extraordinarily wet summer this year. I didn't want to abandon the Enbrel just because of the unusual weather pattern.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Orencia Three Months In

I am just one day away from my fourth Orencia infusion and while I am doing better, I must admit I'm nowhere near pain free. I wasn't expecting to be completely pain free prior to starting Orencia, but after reading what several people said about how well it worked for them, I think that I may have gotten my hopes up a little too high. There are several pluses for Orencia along with a few minuses. So here is how I feel to date after being on Orencia for nearly three month's.

Positives
1) I no longer have to give myself two shots a week now.
2) My feet feel better for longer periods now.
3) I am able to ride longer distances on my motorcycle with less pain than pre-Orencia days.
4) Overall, my hands seem to have less swelling, although they still hurt.
5) Less pain has encouraged me to start working out again at the gym.
6) Fatigue is not gone, but seems to be better after starting on Orencia.

Negatives
1) I am not pain free.
2) Although my feet are better, they hurt badly after standing on them for extended periods.
3) My hands and fingers still hurt considerably.
4) After sitting for an extended period, it is still quite painful to stand up.
5) My hip still hurts too much to be able to ride my mountain bike.

Do you think it is wrong for us to wish to be pain free? In retrospect, I wasn't expecting a miracle drug to just come in and take all of the pain away, but it would have been nice. Overall I am feeling better and am glad I made the switch to Orencia, but I am still disappointed with some of the outcome.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Just Another Day

After a rough week at work last week, I recouped for a couple of days and Tuesday morning headed out on a new adventure with Randall. I have ridden motorcycles most of my life but always get excited when something different comes along. We had been studying the maps of the Ouachita National Forrest and had laid out a 200+ mile dual sport ride. Today was the day. There were lots of unsure things about this ride,
1) We weren't sure we could make it between gas stations.
2) We weren't sure we would have enough daylight, possibly finishing some of the asphalt section in the dark.
3) We weren't sure where we were going, the map uses numbers for roads and all of the roads have actual names for 911 service.
4) I wasn't sure how my RA would react to putting in that many miles.

We started out on Poteau Mountain Road and rode it out to Highway 71. Up 71 for 1 mile and turn back east and drop off of the hill we had been riding on top of. Just a little over 3 miles after turning off of Highway 71, I realized Randall was telling the truth. I just thought we had been in the middle of nowhere! We make a turn to the right and wind around the tight, twisty mountainous dirt road and are face to face with a semi coming toward us. I didn't know what he was planning on doing but I know I'm no match to play chicken with a semi pulling a trailer today. I stop and roll down into the ditch until he is by me, then I jump back out of the ditch and light the throttle up on the my KTM. In no time we are running 55-65 mph on the narrow, twisty dirt road again. Soon we get a rhythm going and are sliding the back end of our bikes into the turns and accelerating hard, often times sliding sideways with the front wheel in the air.

After stopping to check the map a couple of times, we think we know where we are headed. About 75 miles into our ride, Randall pulls over and ... once again has a flat tire. That's a flat tire two weeks in a row for Randall. To make matters worse, after finding a good place to pull the front wheel off to change the tube, Randall realized that he did not pack the new CO2 bottles to inflate the tire. So he put the front wheel back on the bike and head out trying to find a farm house that had a air compressor or pump. No luck. Either no one was home or we scared the hell out of them and they weren't going to answer their door.

Plan B resorted to us riding all the way into downtown Danville, Arkansas. Population 2392, most of whom drove by and stared at us (along with 2 policemen and a US Forrest Ranger) as Randall was changing his tire. They left us alone ... just wanted to watch. We had stopped at a filling station named Jerry's Station and borrowed some of his air, topped our bikes off with gas, grabbed a coke and a snack and were back on our way. If you are ever in Danville, stop in and say hey to Jerry, super nice guy with lots of stories. With all of the extra time spent with the flat and riding out of our way to find some air, we had to abandon the 200 mile loop, we were now in a race with daylight to get back to the truck.

We rode an extremely fast pace back taking time for nothing. We were coming in to turns hard, tapping the rear brake to get the back end broke loose and gassing it, sliding the bike through the corners on the narrow, single lane dirt roads. We were riding wheelies out of 3rd gear (at 40 mph) and jumping the bikes at every large rolling hump we came across in the roads. Most people, if they saw us riding, wouldn't believe that we are 51 years old, more like we're 20. I have often said that if I have to act like normal people do, I never want to grow up. We made it back with a little bit of daylight left.

This morning, after a good nights rest, I don't feel bad for putting in 150 miles yesterday. In fact the only thing that hurts is my wrist on my right hand (no jokes please) and both hands are stiff and swollen. We didn't finish the ride that we had planned yesterday, but we still rode hard, overcame adversity and laughed the whole way. And anytime you can do that, you have had a great day.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Doing Pretty Good Considering

It has been a truly exhausting week. I continue to do good after my third Orencia infusion. I have been training for a new job at work and two of my four days at work this week, I was on my feet all day. That's twelve hours of standing, walking and climbing stairs for training on the press. If I thought it would have helped, I would have cried Thursday night after getting off of work. I don't think my feet have ever hurt that bad. After my shift I made it to the front door which is an accomplishment, the plant has 15 acres under it's roof and the pressroom is the next to the last building inside the plant. I walked outside and saw how far my truck was parked out in the parking lot and literally did not know if I could make it out to my truck. The good news is that I am learning the job at an above average pace, according to the trainer.

I have a 200 mile ride planned with Randall Tuesday morning. We have had this ride planned and three weeks ago were going to ride it but woke to a large storm moving into the area. This is the ride that Randall told me, "This would be a prime place for Sasquatch to live". We will have to watch our gas, it will be borderline on milage between gas stations. Randall also said "I thought we had been in the middle of nowhere before - not even close." This ride may make a good, next blog post.

We have a new dog that we rescued. She has been with us for a couple of weeks now and Misty (our inside dog) is adjusting to her now. Her name is Maggie and she is an Australian Terrier that we believe is about four years old. How anyone could dump or abandon a pet is beyond me, she has obviously been around people before. She is adapting to her new home very well. She is very protective of her new bed we bought for her and growls if Misty gets too close to her bed. Misty can eat her food, they share snacks, just don't get near her bed. LOL

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Nailed It

I chose to ignore my pain Monday and had an absolutely great ride logging 130 miles, mostly dirt road with some old logging roads, and a small amount of single track trail thrown in. I fully expected to pay for my fun the next day, but the payback never came yesterday. Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining, ... just confused. Always before when I tend to push myself, I can expect my RA to pay me back with elevated pain for a day or sometimes two. For me, it's worth the spike in my pain level to be able to ride. I don't know if it's coincidence or if the Orencia is going helping me that much, I'm hoping it's the latter.

I got up yesterday morning and got a phone call from my daughter shortly after. She had a nail sticking through the side of her right rear tire. We just bought her a new vehicle this spring and she only had 5000 miles on it. I told her I would be up and take care of it, that she could drive my truck to class or wherever she needed to go whenever I got there. I was 25 miles out of town (she lives 80 miles north of us) and got another call that the dealership in the town she lives in did not have the same tire, that it would be tomorrow afternoon before they could have it in. So, a couple of calls later, I turned around and drove back into Fort Smith and pick the correct tire up and restart my journey back over the mountain.

We got an appointment to have the tire mounted up there and she had to run to class and then check with her adviser about a class for next semester. Everything worked out but it was a hectic morning and afternoon for both of us. It was 5:30 by the time she got back to her apartment and her boyfriend got off work at 6:00 so we all went out to eat at a place they had been telling me about. The restaurant, The Mellow Mushroom, was like stepping back into the late 60's. There was a large VW bus "hippied out" on the wall, tie dyes, peace signs and band memorabilia all over the place. Oh, by the way the pizza I ordered was awesome, David's calzone looked good and was so freakin" huge.

As I was leaving her apartment, I grabbed one of her barstools that was actually about to fall apart, and brought it home with me. I am going to add a couple of cross braces to try to persuade it to be a bit more rigid. I loosened up all of the screws on it, dabbed some wood glue on the joints, clamped and screwed it back together this morning. It is already in much better shape. I loved working with wood in my pre RA days, but now have quite a bit of damage to my hands and don't have the strength or grip I once had. I still have most of my wood tools though, so when a small project pops up, I can still enjoy it for a little while.

Monday, November 2, 2009

A Fast Day


I finished up a rough week at work Sunday night at 7 pm. I was hurting from being on my feet in steel toe work boots for most of my 12 hour shift, my hip was hurting slightly and my hands were aching. All of that no longer mattered when I found out my daughter and her boyfriend were coming by to see us in a few minutes. I hurried home and showered and ate a quick bite, just in time for them to show up at the front door. Although short, it was so good to see her. It eased my pain from 4 rough days at work this week.

I woke up early this morning and had to run back to the plant to take care of some insurance eligibilty questions, then gassed the truck up, ran home and loaded the KTM up. I hurt mildly this morning, about a 3 out of 10, but I was not letting a little hurting get in my way of an outstanding day. It was supposed to be 76 and sunny today, so I ran by and picked Randall up and we headed to the mountains.

We head out for Bates and were running a brisk pace due to getting a late start today. About 20 miles into our ride, Randall pulls over and we are starring at a flat rear tire on his bike. We find a place to change the tire, and after a 30 minute delay, are back on the road (so to speak) again. We were planning on a ride all the way down to Rich Mountain today, so we had to pick up the pace even more now. We also had to work some alternate routes in due to the heavy rains we have received over the last month.

We soon found big time fun in pushing ourselves on the dirt and fire roads we were taking today. At one point we saw a travel trailer being pulled a ways up in front of us. Great, I thought to myself, we are going to have to find a place to get around this trailer on these steep narrow roads. We were running 60 - 70 mph on these roads and were not catching them. We finally catch up close enough to see the trailer and it looked like it had 3 different colors of primer with a little bit of white sprayed on it. The trailer had 2 wheels on it, not matching each other and there was a big rust spot on the, well ... across the whole width of the back of it. I had a flashback to the figure 8 trailer races I have seen on Spike tv where pieces of the trailer are flying off behind the trailer, that's were we are ... behind the trailer running 55 mph. I back off and within 1/2 mile they turn right into the woods. Whew. My best guess is that they were going to abandon it in the woods! LOL

On the gas again and we don't slow down until we hit asphalt just north of Mena. We stop, order a sandwich and visit with the owner of the store for a little while, then we are back on our way. Now we are in a race to get back to the truck before the sun goes down on us. We were flying back, barely taking time to notice how high the water had been recently. I came into a hairpin turn way to hot and wound up in the ditch, but never slowed down below 20 mph and kept the throttle on, jumped back out on the road and was back up to 50 in no time. Possibly needing some clean underwear, but other than that I was fine. We kept the throttle lit and beat the darkness back to the truck ... and had a great day!