Sunday, January 31, 2010

Snow Day


I am doing good with my RA with the exception of my hands.  My fingers have been stiff, swollen and hurting pretty bad over the last month.  I have also had trouble hanging onto things, which isn't the best situation for me.  I work 12 hour shifts using a 6 inch square point knife and a utility knife all day long.  In addition to this, when changing doctor blades on the ink cavities on the print decks of the press, the blade is essentially a 4 foot long razor blade.  One of the pressmen that I work with slipped, and the blade cut through the cut gloves we wear, cutting across the inside of his thumb to the bone while severing ligaments and tendons. 





We had a severe winter storm pound us Friday afternoon and night.  The weathermen had predicted it so I packed an overnight bag, not really thinking I would need it when leaving for work Friday morning.  We had rain for about 36 hours before the winter storm hit us.  The rain changed to sleet and freezing rain, then snow.  Plant management came through telling everyone that they could go home if they wanted to.  My check was going to be short next week already, so I told them I would stay.  There were enough of us to keep running the press and as most everyone was leaving, I checked the radar.  Ooops, maybe I should have gone on, oh well, it won't be that bad.  That's when one of the guys I am working with tells me, "I have only seen them do this one other time ... believe it was around 78 or 79."  Turns out we received 7 inches of snow on top of sleet and freezing rain While that is not much to other locations, you have to remember our average yearly snow fall is 1.1 inches, some years we don't get more than a dusting and occasionally we don't get any snow at all.  The street department does not have the equipment or manpower for this type of winter storm, so it is crippling.  I worked 4 extra hours and got off at 11 pm to head over to Steve's house.  Steve is a fellow pressman and lives a few blocks away from work.  I pulled out of the parking lot and was immediately, completely sideways at 10 mph.  I straightened my truck back up and carefully feathered the gas pedal only to be sideways again.  This is probably the slickest stuff I have ever tried to drive on.  Glad there is a convenience store at the corner.  Forget Steve's, I bought a small pizza, turned around and went back to spend the night at the plant with 4 or 5 others.  I slept pretty good, you would be amazed how good a plush office chair feels after being on your feet for 16 hours.  

We didn't lose power like they originally thought we might, and after putting in 12 hours Saturday, I drove home that night.  It felt good to be back home but I was so tired I pulled my steel toed boots off (had them on for 39 hours straight), showered, ate and fell asleep on the couch.  All in all, feeling pretty good for my first day off today ... even if I can't go ride.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

My New Blog Is Up

I have been working on a project that I mentioned in my last post about the old iron truss bridges in Arkansas and Oklahoma.  I have a new blog called Proud Iron that is up and working.  I hope you will find it interesting.  As I have been doing some research on the old iron bridges, I didn't realize there was as much history around some of them as there is.  Several bridges in our area are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  





I hope everyone is doing well. I am doing pretty good at the moment – at least good for living with rheumatoid arthritis. It's too cold to ride this week on my days off, so I have been watching Sons of Anarchy season 1 and 2. I hate to admit it, but I am really getting into this since starting from the very first episode. I give people grief all of the time over being wrapped up in a series, so I have once again stuck my foot in my mouth.

I am bracing for more cold weather coming our way tomorrow. We have an ice storm predicted to hit us tomorrow evening, followed by temperatures back down to 10 or below.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Bridges




I have been feeling pretty good the last 2 weeks with the exception of the days that I work.  I am working out with weights again and I am going to start walking every day next week.  It is really good to feel like doing these things again, especially after feeling as bad as I did last year.   I believe that in another month or so that I will feel as good as I possibly can having RA.  This may sound crazy, but I'm almost afraid to feel this good. 

Two years ago I was doing extremely well for having RA.  I was working 60 + hours a week while my wife went back to school, I was working out at the gym 3 days a week and I went to Colorado with 9 other friends and we rode 600 miles in 6 days.  I was still hurting, but overall, life wasn't too bad for living with RA.  Then all of a sudden, out of nowhere, last year hits me and I hurt all year long.  Granted, we had some really mixed up weather in 2009 and I have no doubt that played a part in some of my hurting, but I finally switched medicines in late September.  I'm afraid that I am nearing the high point again and in another year or so, I will have to suffer through another year like I did in 09.

I am starting a new project and would appreciate any feedback you have about it.  I have loved old iron bridges for as long as I can remember.  I can remember, when I was probably five or six,  going across one just outside of Fayetteville, Arkansas.  It was a long, tall single lane bridge with wooden runners to drive on.  The wooden runners would pop and the bridge would creak as you drove across it.  I was scared out of my mind, but as soon as we would be safely on the other side, I was ready to cross it again.  I love these old bridges even more today, probably because there are very few of them in operation any more.  I am researching old iron bridges in the Arkansas-Oklahoma area and plan on riding my KTM (since it is now street legal) out to as many as I can to photograph them.  I have not decided if I want to build a website or just publish them in a blog, but if anyone is interested, I will keep you updated when I am closer to going live with it.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Time To Ride



It is warming back up and I am returning to my normal pain level.  The temperature will be 64 tomorrow and I have a ride planned with Randall and Race.  It has been over a month since my last ride and I have a new Bridgestone tire on the back just waiting to throw some dirt.  I am also street legal now, this will be my first ride with a tag on my bike.  I have the map out now trying to find a new way from Rich Mountain back around to the back side of Lake Hinkle.  Hopefully we won't get lost like we did a couple of months ago and had to finish the last 2 hours of our ride in the dark.  We have a 110-120 mile loop laid out (see map above) if all goes well.

It's been a crazy couple of weeks but things are looking up.  I have been gaining more confidence on setting up, running the press and making the right decisions (better to be lucky than good sometimes) but I'm still on my feet more than at my old job.  I have it easier as far as the physical side of the job goes but there is more stress and I'm on my feet more checking on everything while the press is running.  It has basically been a trade off as far as I'm concerned.

I will go in Tuesday for another Orencia infusion.  I really like not having to give myself shots now, just show up once a month and get hooked up to an iv for an hour or so.  If I ever have to go back to giving myself shots, I'm afraid it may be like starting all over.  When I first started giving myself shots 6 years ago, I would mix the Enbrel in the syringe and sometimes take 4 to 5 minutes to work up the nerve to plunge the needle into my leg.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Sure Could Use Some Global Warming


Maggie in her new hoody ready to go outside.


The long predicted bitter cold air is streaming into the region just north of where I live now. After reaching a balmy 30 degrees today,  our temperature will fall into the middle teens overnight. The forecast is for snow with 40 mph NW winds tomorrow afternoon, along with an arctic plunge in temps that we haven't seen in this area in 21 years.  For the next 4 days, actual temperatures will range from -5 to 5 overnight (windchills down to -20) and highs will be in the upper teens. It is not just where I live, the entire US has been hit hard this winter, Canada currently has some temps as cold as -40 (actual temperature reading without wind chill figured in), Britain is in the grips of the coldest winter for 30 years, Sweden is recording -35 temperatures as well.  I sure could go for some global warming right about now!


Climate Progress's Joe Romm says that December's blizzard that rocked the Eastern seaboard was caused by global warming.  You can now add winter storms to the ever growing list of things that Al Gore's global warming is now responsible for.  Of course this isn't at all that surprising, Romm also blamed the 2007 Minnesota bridge collapse on global warming.   


I am doing quite well with my RA considering the temperatures and precipitation that we have had so far.  I got up this morning and was moving around stiff and slow, so I decided a visit to the hot tub might help.  It was 14 degrees outside, it's a good thing our hot tub is only 2 steps out the french doors of our bedroom.  It felt so good easing down into the 105 degree water, I laid back in the lounge of the hot tub so that all that was exposed to the cold was from just behind my ears forward to the front of my face.  I stayed in for 25 minutes and upon exiting, felt much better ... except for my face.  It was now numb.  The warmth of the hot tub usually provides good temporary relief to my RA pain, but oddly that relief stayed with me all day today.  My face thawed back out in a few minutes so it was definitely worth it.


I'm going to warm up the shop tomorrow morning and drain the coolant on both of my bikes and replace it with antifreeze.  I checked them in November and they were both good to 5 above, which is just fine for an average winter in our area.  This winter has been anything but average and I just can't take a chance on it freezing and cracking a cylinder on a $9000 dirt bike.


Two things are for sure:
1) I will make it through this winter ok.
2) I will not complain about mowing once spring arrives.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

No Correlation Between Arthritis Pain And Weather

Our average temperature in Fort Smith for January 3rd is 50 degrees.  Our forecast today is for a high of 32 with snow.  This is a weather pattern that started in late November and continued to dominate December.  Cold temperatures constrict blood flow, which may contribute to the fatigue of muscles, tendons, joints and ligaments.  Just what we need, more contributing factors for fatigue.

While doing a little research in writing this post I ran across this from accessmylibrary.com.  I thought you might find this excerpt amusing.   "Several studies over the past 20 years have found no correlation between arthritis pain and weather conditions."  Oh really?  They obviously forgot to include anyone that has RA or OA.  This would be funny if it weren't for the fact that outsiders (non arthritic people) who read this will believe it.

At least the Weather Channel understands ... sort of.  "Weather factors that may impact arthritis pain include dramatic changes in barometric pressure and humidity. Cold weather can increase stiffness in muscles and joints." 

Here is my, purely unscientific, data on RA and cold/rainy weather.  My hands, right hip and knees are usually the first to be affected by the cold, rain or severe weather.  It is harder for me to hang onto things (I am more prone to drop things when its cold or rainy), I get around much slower and am not as flexible.  The floor feels like it is 10 feet away when I drop something and have to pick it up.  It is absolute agony putting socks and shoes on.

Looking back, I can remember aunts, uncles and grandparents that talked about how their bones ached and how they could tell the weather was changing. I believed them, but I never really understood it back then. It's bad for you and I today, but think about 30 or 40 years ago, they didn't have much to take for the pain but aspirin.

Friday, January 1, 2010

2010 Already Successful for Travis


A few minutes after midnight as we entered into 2010 (east coast time), Travis Pastrana jumped his Subaru Rally Car 269 feet, crushing the previous record of 171 feet set by Ken Block in 2006. Add extra style points for doing it under the first blue moon in 19 years and in front a live television audience. Travis landed on a floating barge 200 feet off the Long Beach pier, slid into the tire wall and jumped out of the car to celebrate the only way Travis knows ... full throttle. He jumped (actually did a backflip) off of the tallest part of the landing ramp into the chilly water below.
I hope, for all of us, that 2010 is as successful as Travis's first 10 minutes of 2010 were.  Happy New Year!