Monday, February 27, 2012

Presidents Day Rocked

I was off for Presidents Day last week so Randall and I thought we should celebrate by throwing dirt on each other.  We headed out mid morning, waiting for the temperature to get up in the mid 40's.  We started off at an easy pace for about the first ... oh, I don't know ... quarter of a mile.  
Soon we were chasing each other on the forest roads like a police K9 running down a one legged crack dealer.  Several miles off of the highway we got into some clear cuts.  Like Andy said in one of his recent posts, "they are logging the crap out of the forest", or close to it.  Sorry Andy if I didn't get your quote exact.  
I need to adjust the shift lever and rear brake pedal position on my KLR but keep forgetting to do so.  They work fine with my Nikes and work boots but not with my Alpinestars riding boots.  About 15 miles into the ride, I was following Randall running 68 mph into a turn.  A quick stab at the brake and accelerate hard out of the turn back up to 65 mph and again tap the rear brake approaching the next turn.  I'll say it again, tap the rear brake approaching the next turn.  OH CRAP!  My size 12 Alpinestar has been hung on the side of the brake pedal and boiled the brake fluid... no rear brake.  None, nadda, zip, zilch, nit!  No time to panic, is there a clearing through the trees that I can run through off the road?  No way, that would be too easy.  Suddenly my ride had turned into a Wile E. Coyote cartoon.  The only thing missing was that little sign that reads "Help!" so I could turn and look pitiful at the camera.  
I chopped the throttle and firmly pulled the front brake, then let off and downshifted, again on the front brake and downshifted as I entered the apex of the turn with my butt sucked down on the seat hanging on for a serious crash.  I tight roped the edge of the road and the start of the ditch for about 30 feet before I realized I was going to make it.  I was half chuckling/half shaking and well ... I no longer needed to go to the bathroom.  Some two miles down the dirt road my rear brake pedal came back.
We rode on into Danville and then to Ola.  We were looking for 4 iron truss bridges to photograph today.  The first one was a wash, literally.  The road was under water so we turned around and found the next one.  
Built in 1918, it was a bit lightweight compared to some but still a cool bridge.  Next we found the real prize, a bowstring truss bridge (below) that was built in 1880.  The water was too high and prevented me from getting over closer to it but I will be back later to get some close up shots of it.  
Finding some of these old bridges is like an adult easter egg hunt. We finally found an abandoned railroad bridge that we were looking for.  It was built in 1899 and although it had been out of service for 10+ years, it was in amazing shape for as old as it is.  We walked out on it even though it was missing a few ties here and there.  
We stopped by Belleville and ate at the diner (amazing food) before heading on.  We soon had the 650's lit up once again and between Spring Lake and Mount Magazine we passed a ranger, pulled onto a side road and parked, at 70 mph on the single lane forest road.  
To our relief, he didn't come after us.  I'm not sure what the speed limit is on a single lane dirt road but it's pretty safe to say that 70 is exceeding it just a little bit.  I don't think I have ever seen everything so green this early before.  We stopped and shot one more abandoned railroad bridge by Blue Mountain Lake.  We climbed up on top of the derelict bridge and shot several pictures, then walked part the old rail bed before heading on toward home.  
We split up just before getting back and Randall saw 3 bear on the road at dusk.  We also just barely beat the thunderstorms back in.  190 miles, 1 flooded road, 4 bridges, 3 bear and thunderstorms.  Mike, you missed a good ride buddy.  And my RA didn't complain all day!  

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Even Hero's Have Health Problems

I remember, as a young boy, turning on the tv to watch Wide World of Sports on Saturdays. I searched the tv guide every week for any motorcycle races and the possibility of Evel Knievel jumping anything.  I never had many heros but I guess you could say Evel became mine for a while.  No one was cooler, tougher, or more bad-ass than Evel.  When I grew up I wanted to ride a motorcycle just like Evel.  He did everything his way, from marketing himself and doing his own promo's to building his own ramps.  As I developed other interests as a teenager and his career began to diminish, so did my interest in him.  I never forgot about him though.  Several years passed before he died in 2007 and ESPN ran a special on Evel.  I had forgotten so many of the things he had accomplished in his life. He was a true daredevil and showman, light years ahead of his time for extreme sports.  Evel put it all on the line every time he jumped and there wasn't a fake bone in his body, on or off of the bike.  Not many people left like that today.
Despite his success as a daredevil, his life after jumping was riddled with health problems.  In the late 90's he was in need of a life-saving liver transplant as a result of suffering the long-term effects from Hepatitis C. He had contracted the disease through one of the numerous blood transfusions he had received. In 1999, Knievel was given only a few days to live and he requested to leave the hospital and die at his home. Evel received a phone call from the hospital that a young man had died in a motorcycle accident and could be a donor. Days later, Knievel successfully received the transplant.
In 2005, he was diagnosed with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, an incurable and terminal lung disease that required him to be on supplemental oxygen 24 hours a day. In 2006, he had an internal morphine pain pump surgically implanted to help him with the excruciating pain in his deteriorated lower back, one of the costs of incurring so many traumas over the course of his career. He also had two strokes, but neither left him with any severe debilitation. In addition to all of this, he had been living with diabetes for many years.  
He went out the same way he lived ... in style.  Evel was buried in his hometown of Butte, Montana on December 10, 2007.  His funeral was held at the Butte Civic Center with the eulogy given by Matthew McConaughey. There were fireworks exploding in the night sky as pallbearers carried Evel in for the ceremony.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Waiting On Spring

I sit here this morning carefully analyzing what will happen in the next few hours.  We have gone from unseasonably warm winter weather to unseasonably cold winter weather with snow and ice moving in tonight.  The front blew in Friday and has thrown me into a moderate flare up further solidifying the fact that I truly hate winter now that I live with RA.  My hands are swollen and I can't hang on to anything, my feet feel like they have been hit with a sledge hammer while my hips, knees and ankles refuse to bend.  I also learned this week that there is a shortage of one of my drugs, Methotrexate.  While some people are apparently panicking over this, I am not letting it bother me.  Stress acts as a trigger for RA and, for me, can bring on more pain and fatigue.  I refuse to let this have that much control over my life.
I may be temporarily down but I have been working on my 650 and am making progress on getting it set up. I fired the heaters up in the shop and installed a set up Happy Trails Dakar Nerf Bars and a skid plate.  I bolted on a FMF Powercore 4 and modified the air box to let it breathe better.   A stage 1 jetting kit is on the way for the carb.  In addition, I removed all graphics and wired in a 12v lighter to run my GPS, charge my cellphone on overnight rides and I'm going to pick up a small 12v air compressor to air up tires.  
I think that RA knows I am going to take it for some good rides this year.  I have a ride planned from Arkansas, through Oklahoma to the Texas border all on dirt, a bridge run (you know me ... I love old bridges) in Missouri that will include 5 iron truss and 3 swinging bridges and then a week long ride in Colorado.  I've also been playing with my GoPro Hero cam so I hope to have some decent videos from rides this year.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Stigma Of RA And The Media

I have done two interviews for Health Monitor in the last five months.  The first was about living with rheumatoid arthritis.    The writer, Kristina Mastrocola, contacted me by email and we set up a 20 minute interview.  I wasn't sure what to expect, would I be worthwhile to interview?  I'm just a dumb old country boy, there are many smarter than myself that would surely be better candidates to interviw.  She was very nice and easy to talk to while drawing the information out that she needed.  
Last month Kristina sent the final PDF file, that had been approved for production, to me.  I took a deep breath, with the exception of Cycle News I have never been in national print, and opened the file.  I read it and, with the exception of one minor note about dual sport riding, everything appeared good.  Oh ... and the fact that I had a photographer shoot pictures of me with my bike, at the request of the editor, and then they run a stinking street bike photo with the story!  I sent Kristina a quick note back thanking her and told her that I was pleased with the article with the exception of the photo.  She understood, the photo was out of her control.  All was good.
Then the next day I reread it ... wait a minute.  I reread it a second time.  Something was curiously missing that I had overlooked in my quick read the first time.  Pain, there was no mention of it.  I specifically pointed that out.  I still hurt everyday despite taking chemo and the DMARD's.  I do not want people that read this article to simply brush it off as ... he doesn't really have RA or his RA isn't the same as mine.  Why does the media insist on hiding the fact that most of us live in pain every single day?  After reading the article, it is almost like an Enbrel or Celebrex commercial where it sounds like I can go run on the beach or do anything I want to do.  That is far from my reality.  At the end of my shift at work, some nights my feet and hips hurt so bad I that can barely walk to my truck.  
I am not Superman, never have been, never wanted to be.  I am not asking for anyones sympathy, just a little truth and understanding of what we live with day in and day out, after all they contacted ME to do a story about living with RA.