Saturday, July 24, 2010

An Invisible Disease

I grew up with a very active lifestyle, playing baseball and football, throwing the shot and disc at track events.  In addition, I played golf and raced motorcycles, a weird combination I know, but I enjoyed all of these activities. 
I enjoyed pushing myself beyond normal limits.  When most people were content to watch tv or cook out on the weekends, I was with my friends racing through the roughest trails imaginable, or Mike and I would head out for a 50 to 80 mile bicycle ride.  I started riding at least one century (100 mile bicycle ride) a year in 1986.  In 1987 Mike, Dusty and I did the Ride AMOK, riding 130 miles through 4 states in one day.  
I quit racing when my daughter was born, I wanted to be a full time dad for her.  I loved spending time with her.  We did things together, I would paint her fingernails and toenails, we had a date night one night every week until she outgrew it.  Just she and I would go do whatever she wanted to do. I never thought about illness or disease, especially happening to me, I was invincible!
I am lucky, RA did not call on me til later in life.  I could not imagine having to raise kids with RA, I know so many do and I honestly don't know how you do it.  When it finally did hit me, I had never hurt so bad in my life.  I would go to bed in pain, sleep in pain and wake up in pain.  For the first 3-4 months after being diagnosed, there was no help or relief coming my way yet.   I literally prayed to die.  I sold all of my motorcycles and bicycles during this time, I thought my life was over.
I could not lift my arms over shoulder high, my hands were on fire and so swollen that I could not close them to make a fist, my feet, hips, knees and ankles all hurt equally bad.  
I have been on 3 different meds for RA since being diagnosed.  I am doing better, on a good day for me, I have a pain level of a 2-3.  I hurt everyday, I honestly can't remember what it is like to wake up and not hurt any more.  I did not ask for it, I do not like it, but I have accepted it and try to enjoy life the best that I can.  Somedays that means taking one of my motorcycles out for a long hard ride while other days the best I can do is kick back in the recliner and watch an old movie or two.  Living with RA has been an ongoing educational experience for me.  
For me, I think one of the things I miss the most is not motorcycle racing (sure I would love to line up on the start line again with the smell of 2 stroke oil in the air) but I miss the time that RA has robbed from my family due to hurting, fatigue or the physical inability to go with them.  RA is a cruel, invisible disease.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Artrax SE3 vs Bridgestone M404

This is for my riding buddies.  I ride dual sport now, so your actual milage may vary, however the same type of roads and trail were used for both tires.
I just pulled off my Bridgestone M404 and, since I did a product evaluation of the Artrax rear tire, thought I would show you a side by side analysis of the 2 tires. At the time I pulled both of them off, they were pretty even on stopping ability (very little) but the Bridgestone did have better traction and acceleration than the Artrax. The side wall, at changing time, was stiffer on the Bridgestone, but as you can see form the photo, actual tread is about the same. The main difference is that the Artrax had just under 500 miles on it while the Bridgestone had 2004 miles on it.
Not scientific by any means, just wear under normal dual sport conditions by an average rider.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Stay Cool

As I sit here at my computer, with Stevie Ray Vaughn rattling the windows, I am perfectly content enjoying the air conditioned comfort of our home. Thats where I intend to stay for my next 4 days off. The heat, down here in the river valley, has been unbearable for the last couple of weeks. The current temperature at 5:00 pm is 100 with a heat index of 114. Yet somehow, my grass continues to grow. I like the privacy of the large lots (3 acre minimum) in the neighborhood where we built our house, but after being diagnosed with RA, I envy people with a city sized yard to take care of.

I have been hurting quite a bit, but hope to feel some relief this week. I finished up a round of antibiotics last Sunday, so I have not been able to take my RA drugs for the last two weeks. While I am in an elevated state of pain, it is not unbearable pain. It hurts to sit, stand, walk, lay down, it takes very little for my hands and fingers to start hurting ... oh and raising my arms over shoulder high is out right now. Other than that, I feel pretty good. I will take my MTX and a Humira injection this week so hopefully by the weekend I will be feeling normal again. On second thought, I don't know what normal feels like any longer, I hope to be feeling semi-normal by the weekend.

Most people learn by observation, and there are the few who learn by experimentation. And then there are those, like me, who actually TOUCH the fire to see if it's really hot.  

My leg is healing up nicely now. If anyone ever offers to bead blast your leg ... just say no. Ok, no, I didn't just stick my leg out there and say, "Hey, let's see what that baby can do on some skin".  Long story, don't ask, but it is going to leave a cool scar.
Randall and I are mapping out some cool rides for this fall. One is a 20 minute ferry ride, on Bull Shoals Lake, that leaves the shore in Arkansas and lands in Missouri. Another is riding out to explore a ghost town. We have a couple of other rides in the works as well, just waiting for the weather to cool down a bit.
View from the Peel ferry on Bull Shoals Lake.
Fellow ADV rider entering the ghost town of Rush.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

An Awesome Day

Briefly, I am feeling better after using Humira.  Still hurt, blah, blah, blah, but I am feeling like working out with weights, walking, working is not as hard on me plus since switching 3 weeks ago, I have made two 200+ mile rides.  The down side is that I now have a sinus and ear infection so no MTX or Humira this week.  It's bad when you're disappointed that you can't give yourself a shot!  That first one at the rheumatologist hurt like a big dawg.  The thought of having to take another injection of Humira was about as exciting as a girl finding out she had a blind date with Joran van der Sloot.  After a couple of injection tips, my last injection did not hurt much at all. 

Had a great 207 mile ride this last week.  Rather than talk about it, I'll let some photos do the talking.  
Too many trails ... too little time.
Making adjustments while waiting on Tim.
Swimming hole that not very many people ever see.
View of one of the mountains we rode.
Darel moving down a trail.
Stopped to eat at Belleville diner ... food was excellent.
Old barn at Belleville.
Spring Lake Dam.  Hand laid stone built in the 20's.
Tim and Randall walking across the top of the dam.
Got caught in a severe thunderstorm just before getting to the top 
of Mount Magazine (highest point in Arkansas).
We took shelter in a pavilion at the top of Mount Magazine.

We had 155 miles in at this point with a lot of good riding ahead.  However, my camera batteries committed suicide leaving the rest of my ride to be remembered by my febile little brain.