Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I'll Take Mine Well Done

It all started one normal Saturday afternoon in 1987. Mike and I were headed to the woods to camp out and ride all weekend. We found a good spot to camp on Mill Creek right at the entrance to one of our favorite trails. We unloaded the bikes, gathered some fire wood, set the tent up and had something to eat quickly so we could go for a night ride. 
Night rides are crazy. Yes our race bikes do have lights on them, but they are not to see with, you could see better if you taped a $2 WalMart flashlight to your handlebars. We weren't going out for a leisurely ride at night, we would ride as hard as we could and push each others riding ability through the woods without little to no light. The bad thing about night riding is when you crash, most times the engine stops running so you have no light to see. At night, miles from the city lights, in dense wooded areas, you cannot see your hand in front of your face. There is something deeply disturbing about a grown man crawling around on his hands and knees trying to locate the motorcycle that has just hammered him into the ground like a tent peg. 

We survived this night ride without any incidents and arrived safely back at camp. You can't have a camping trip without a camp fire so we were getting the wood prepared in the fire ring. It had rained earlier in the week so the wood was damp. What better way to start a fire with damp wood than to use premix (gas and 2 stroke racing oil), right? As I am dousing the damp firewood with the mixture, Mike strikes a match and drops on the wood ... the same wood I am still pouring premix on. After a big whoosh, I realize my arm is on fire! My best friend has turned me into a human fireball! Ok, maybe that was a slight bit overly dramatic, but you get the picture.  After a couple of damns, some running, hoping and possibly a couple of skips ... my smoking, singed haired limb is safely extinguished. We did what any semi-normal buddies would do at a time like this, laughed our ass off about it. 

We rode the next day til noon, then headed out to another area where our off road club was hosting a race at the next weekend. They were setting the start up funneling the racers through several turns back and forth to stagger the riders out some so they wouldn't all hit the woods at the same time. They asked Mike and I to test it out to see if everything was going to work and to get an idea of how long it would take to get to the woods. No problem, we pull our bikes out of the truck, put our gear on and line up next to each other on the start line. They started us and we hit the first turn side by side. We rode into the next turn wide open neither of us shutting down or giving an inch. Man, this is BIG TIME FUN now, we make it through the next two turns handlebar to handlebar and I just slightly inch out in front going into the next turn. Mike comes up on the outside of me in the turn and our tires made contact. Mikes bike slams him to the ground, and I, still unaware, have the throttle pinned running through the rest of the banners to the woods. I stop and look around for Mike. No Mike, hey, why is everyone going over to the middle of the grass track area? 

I ride backwards on the course and I see Mike who is by now sitting up, a bit groggy. We started laughing once he got to his feet and I told him it was payback for setting me on fire the night before.  After about 20 minutes Mike and I were lined back up on the start line for another run. We tried to get some others to run the start section with us again ... not a single person would line up with us. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Human Pain Magnet

I began my training as a human pain magnet early in life.  It seems that I have always been a "learn by fail" kind of guy.  When I was about 3 my dad was changing oil in the lawn mower and had just shut it off to drain the oil when I walked up.  He warned me not  to touch the muffler ... so began my life long journey with pain.  Between being a rowdy boy as a youngster, playing football, baseball and racing motorcycles, I have experienced my share of pain.  Broke my front tooth off playing football, stuck a knife in the side of my hand and the tip came out in the palm of my hand, have endured 3 concussions, 14 broken bones along with a ton of stitches.  I admit I have done my share (and probably 3 or 4 others) of stupid stuff while gaining my vast expertise in the world of pain, but none of us asked to live with RA, diabetes, fibro or any other chronic condition.

While this seems like it would have prepared me somewhat for living with a chronic disease later in life, it pales in comparison.  These did inflict great pain temporarily, but living with  a chronic condition is a full on 24/7 event.  While my pain level is certainly lower than most broken bones, I get little to no relief ... EVER.  There are times now that I feel the same as when my shoulder was separated, or suddenly I get that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach when you move with a healing broken bone and you can feel it separating apart a little bit.  It is like comparing living through a tornado (broken bone) to a hurricane (chronic disease).  We live on the edge of tornado alley and are used to them coming and going quickly.  We were in a cat 1 hurricane while on vacation in Florida in 2000.   We thought living with tornadoes, a hurricane wouldn't be that big of a deal, but the winds and rain are constant for hours and hours, it eventually starts wearing you down.  After so long you just want it to stop ... sound familiar?

I was going through my closet this spring, throwing stuff out, and ran across a folder with xrays of some of my broken bones.  Why I still had them I don't know, but I immediately thought of the movie Road House.  lol

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Can't Live With 'Em, Can't Live Without 'Em

In spite of hurting Monday night after I got home from work, I got up early Tuesday morning and went for a quick little 75 mile ride.  I met Randall at the Haws Creek store and we had breakfast.  When getting ready to leave, the lady working at the store/diner told us to be careful and watch for bear.  I was halfway out the door and backed up to inquire a bit more.  She said that there had been a lot more bear sightings this summer, I assume from the drought.  She said one of her regular customers, an elderly gentleman, just last week had a mother and two cubs eating what was left of his garden.  I assured her that we would watch out for them, Randall and I have both rode up on several bear before in our years of riding, but they never fail to provide excitement!

Then she added, "which way are you going?"  I told her and she said she lived back a mile past the iron bridge (I love that old bridge) and there have been four people who have seen a large mountain lion in the area.  Now that would be some excitement I have not experienced.  So Randall and I did what any other dumbasses would do after hearing this.  We split up and rode back solo.  haha

On my way back I did run across a friendly little chap, a diamondback rattlesnake.  He was very polite, stopping to pose for a couple of pictures before proceeding to vanish into the plush carpet of the forest.

I'm still not completely over my surgery, it still hurts a little bit to ride.  The MTX has slowed the healing down so much, I should have been completely healed a month ago.  I feel no pain from with the exception of riding, and my doctor said it will continue to get better, just slowly.  Sigh ... life with RA medication.  Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

It's Just Arthritis

I’m reluctant to complain because I know that I am one of the fortunate ones who, so far, has a mild version of RA and I can maintain a somewhat reasonably active lifestyle.  On an average day, I don’t hurt badly but I am certainly no where close to being pain free. Living with a chronic disease means that we have to work harder at everything than normal healthy people do.  It takes more from us to simply get out of bed in the morning, to exercise, to working at our jobs, but this also includes having fun.  

Many of you know that I still ride motorcycles, but my riding is often hampered by pain.  I always ride with my backpack that includes a 50 oz CamelBak bladder of water, 2 tubes, tire irons, a MSR tire inflation kit, first aid kit, maps, flashlight and ... Tylenol Arthritis.  We ride from anywhere between 100 to 260 miles on most trips.  On most of the rides we do, we may not see a house, much less a small town for most of the day so we always ride prepared and adjust what we carry for each ride.  There have been many rides that even after taking Tylenol Arthritis I am in quite a bit of pain by the time I finish a ride. 
   
My rheumatologist seemed truly shocked when on my last visit I told him that I hurt everyday. I’m not sure which one of us had the more confused look, him that I said I hurt everyday or me being shocked that he had not understood this before.  My personal opinion on this is the MTX/Humira combination is working pretty good so far.  I do not want to be required to take a pain pill just to make it through the day (other than an occasional Tylenol Arthritis).  As the disease progresses, my view on this statement may change.  But is this just me accepting what the medical machine has pushed off on us?  I often say that I am not going to let this disease dominate me ... truth is it does so more days than I would like to admit.  I still work a full time physical job but many days I can barely walk out to my truck at the end of the shift.  Would this be acceptable if I had another disease instead of RA?  In my opinion, the medical field is content to just push us off in the corner, under the stairway, with the latest, new improved RA drug so they can go back to working on something important.  After all ... we just have "arthritis". 

Monday, August 8, 2011

My Life With RA ... Day 2951

Woohooo!  We had a bit of a cool down today.  It was heavily overcast most of the day with a slight breeze ... the temp only made it to 101.  While that is hot, we have been in the 110-117 range the last two weeks ... it honestly felt nice outside.  Sooo, after a quick text to David, we decided we need to work in a short little ride this afternoon.  He rode over to my house and we left from there riding up Highway 253 to Bonanza, then rode the back roads over to lock and dam 14 on the Arkansas River.  The river is getting pretty low in the midst of the summer drought for 2011.  It was a pleasant ride in spite of the heat, hitting sprinkles (we could see the rain a few miles away but it never got to us) a couple of times.  I am still not completely healed up from my surgery but it felt so good to be out riding today, I wasn't going to let a little pain stop me.  We stopped to take a couple of photos of one of my favorite iron truss bridges.  It was built in 1911 and is just absolutely massive for being built before cars were in use.  The deck of the old bridge is a good 20 feet lower than the new concrete bridge next to it.  While the deck has quite a bit of decay on it now, it is still a beauty.  After a 55 mile ride, we arrived back home and did not realize we were so hot until we walked in to the air conditioned house.  David opted for wearing jeans and a t-shirt today while I stuck with riding pants and a jersey ... we were equally hot by the end of the ride.
I have some good news on the MTX from my last post.  I did up the dosage last week from 2 to 3 and I felt much better this past week. This is good news because I know that my body will not respond that quickly to a change in dosage so I think that I may be ok in the future with just 2 MTX per week.  With all of the side effects from the MTX, cutting back any is good.

In my previous post, I touched on the fact that I do not ride pain free but the thrill I get from riding far outweighs any pain I experience.  I would like to add that my riding gives me something to live for and look forward to.  A distraction, if you will, from the constant agony of living with RA day in and day out.  We all need a hobby or pass time to focus on and help keep our minds off of the pain.  When not riding, I enjoy working on my bike and getting the maps in front of the computer to lay out rides that have specific points of interests to see.  I have been hunting down old iron truss bridges for sometime and am just starting my research of old fire towers still in use around us.  I plan on climbing some of these if I feel good enough when I track them down.  I'll keep you updated on that progress.