Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)


The U.S. National Library of Medicine notes that "some people experience a serious mood change when the seasons change. They may sleep too much, have little energy, and may also feel depressed". Research has proved that brain chemistry is affected by bright light, although the exact process is not clear. It is a real illness that affects as many as 6 out of 100 people in the U.S. Even 10 to 20% more people may experience a milder form of SAD. 

There's no denying that I get the winter blues ... but winter is still two weeks away. The past five weeks have been unseasonably cold and overcast here. Last week was ugly all four of my days off. After I went back to work, the sun popped back out and three of the four days I worked, it was in the mid 60's. It was supposed to be 61 and sunny here today so I had planned to go for a good long ride. I even prepped my bike last night after getting off work. This morning it's 37 and foggy with the forecast now saying we might see just a little bit of sun in the late afternoon. So much for riding today ... again. 

I do have a new toy coming and it will be here in two days. I have thought about one for quite a while and they have finally come down in price. I ordered a Heli-Max 230si video drone to use (after I get comfortable with flying it) to video fly by's and fly overs of abandoned bridges that I photograph.  A co-worker has a small one and brought it over to play with recently. The bottom photo is from a video clip shot from 80-100 feet above our house. The Heli-Max that I have coming shoots both still shots and video at 720p. I will hopefully have some videos and stills of bridges from up above them. 



Tuesday, November 25, 2014

November, Just Go Away

It has been a rough November for me. From a 10 day long severe flare up due to intense cold weather, losing a former co-worker to problems from getting a crown (I can't help it ... I hate going to the dentist) put on. I am ready for November to be gone! The cold weather we had really has me dreading this winter now. 

I only managed two rides for the entire month but made the most of them. I would like to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. May you be surrounded with good friends and family.




Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Brain Fog On Vacation


I find that during my flares, I sometimes have trouble with memory and speaking.  A 2010 study by NCBI, in The Clinical Journal of Pain found that people with RA who were in a lot of pain scored poorly on tests of planning, decision-making, and working memory. In a 2012 study by Arthritis Care & Research,  nearly one third of people with RA scored low on a series of mental tasks. Thinking issues may also affect physical function, making it harder for people with RA to go about their daily activities. Brain fog feeds off of fatigue so I try to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep every night. During flares, it is not uncommon for me to sleep 12-14 hours. It used to frustrate me sleeping that long but I learned it's what my body needs. 

The reason I brought this up is this week while riding my motorcycle, I was having a flare hit me about 230 miles into my ride. While my RA was not liking me being on the bike I was still 70 miles from the motel. I was running 70 mph entering a turn before I realized it. I grabbed both brakes hard and saw there was no oncoming traffic so I let myself drift up into the other lane through the turn. Needless to say I slowed down to the speed limit for the rest of the ride back to the motel. This was my fault, I know my reaction time isn't as good during a flare up ... it just slipped up on me and I got away with it. I just didn't realize that my flare was serious enough to impact my thinking already.

Cut our 3 day ride a day short due to t-storms moving into where we staying at. Had a great time and the fall colors were everywhere from just starting to full on to a little past peak color. We camped out at the Marion Countryside Inn and rode 305 miles the first day which is double what I try to hold my mileage to. All was good until ... I tried to get out of bed the next morning. No need in trying to identify the culprit ... it was my entire right side from the hip down. My hurting places had hurting places on them. It was ugly but after working for about 5 minutes, I was just about to get myself out of bed when ... I get a cramp in my right calf. Are you kidding me? I quickly slid what refused to bend out of bed and did the frankenstein stand up and walk until the cramp eased up. Whew, that was fun, now I just have to shower, gas the bike up, eat breakfast and ride 200 miles back home. Haha, I made it, and it was worth it, but I'm paying for it today!








Tuesday, October 7, 2014

RA Tip#37

After being on RA meds for close to 11 years now, I have the routine down pretty well ... or do I? This past Wednesday was shot day, I give myself an injection of humira every other Wednesday. I have always iced my leg down to numb it before the injection at the suggestion of my rheumatologist. I take the shot out of the fridge and let it warm up for about 10 minutes before injecting it. I was preparing my lunches for my work week, baking chicken and cooking vegetables and forgot about it. The shot had been on the counter for close to 25 minutes now when I remembered it. I didn't want to let it sit out for another 5 minutes while numbing my injection site and besides with it warmed up this much the humira would be warmer and probably offset not numbing my leg. I wash my hands and clean the injection site with an alcohol pad. Now remember, I have never not numbed my leg for the injection but ... I'm not scared. At the exact moment the liquid entered my leg, my leg felt the same temperature as it is 30 feet off of the surface of the sun! I considered yanking the needle out of my leg but knew I needed to just man up and ride it out. I pulled the needle out of my leg as soon as it was all in and let out a string of cuss words that would make a sailor jam his fingers in his ears and say "lah lah lah lah lah". In closing I would like to say that I will ALWAYS numb my injection site from that day forward. Just remember, I do stupid stuff and write about it so you don't have to.

About 100 miles into my ride Sunday afternoon, I was riding a patch of asphalt and passed a guy on the shoulder of the road. I slowed and turned around to check on him. I pulled up behind him and asked if he needed gas or help. He smiled real big and said thanks, he just stopped to stretch his legs. We started talking and turns out he was from Tulsa and knew some people I use to race with from over there. Super nice guy, we must have talked 25 minutes or more on the shoulder of the road. Oh. almost forgot the best part, he was riding a black Moto Guzzi V7. Ultra cool retro bike. Face it ... people that ride are just way cooler!



Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What Is Wrong With People

Having an invisible illness, as in my case RA, has it's advantages and disadvantages. One of the disadvantages is that no one sees you as really being sick. It happened to me at work again last week, a co-worker told me they wish they had what I had, they would get on disability and quit work. They went on to say that it looks like what I have isn't too bad! I push myself hard to continue enjoying life. They don't know that I hurt every damn day, that my feet feel like they've been hit with a sledgehammer most days, they don't know what it's like to have pain wake you in the middle of the night and not be able go back to sleep, many nights just the weight of the sheet on my feet hurts them, they have never felt your joints feel like they're on fire during an intense flare. A perfectly healthy person willing to trade their good health in so they could sit on their no good, lazy ass and get a check for doing nothing! I'm really not an angry person, I have developed a adverse reaction to stupidity.

I had three days off this week and was fully flared up in both shoulders. Monday morning I couldn't lift my left arm over waist high. After doing nothing Monday and Tuesday, I have good range of motion in both shoulders this morning. I want to ride today so bad but the responsible part of me says no, you have to go back to work tomorrow. I hate it when responsible me makes sense! 

I have had the forest maps out and between them and google maps I located another iron truss bridge to go shoot and an abandoned schoolhouse from 1905 to go visit. Taking down time isn't always a bad thing.

I have also been reading about the restyled Suzuki V-Strom 650 and have to admit I'm interested. I wish it had a 21" front tire but I still want to look at and throw a leg over one.



Tuesday, September 16, 2014

RA Strikes Back


We had a cold front blow in cooler temps and thunderstorms last Friday. I have been in agony ever since, affecting my hands, fingers, wrists and elbows. My jackass friend RA has laughed at the Tylenol Arthritis and Aleve that I have taken in hopes of settling him down a notch or two. And if that weren't enough he has been playing hide and seek with me. You know ... you go to bed with one hand hurting worse and when you wake up ... TADA!  The other hand is now taking center stage in the rheumatic S&M freak show! 

Then, on top of the pain, fatigue has just hammered me! I have slept a little over 24 hours over the past 2 nights. On average, I will get 22-23 hours for 3 normal nights sleep. I am hoping that I'm nearing the end of this unruly flare up but we have more storms and temperature changes scheduled to roll in Thursday through Saturday of this week. Holy cow, I don't have time for this stuff ... I have a life to live!

I had a nice ride planned for today. I was supposed to ride down south 120 miles to hunt and photograph an abandoned iron truss bridge sitting by itself in a field. That will have to wait til next week now. I do have new stuff coming for my bike preparing for my upcoming week off in October.

The photos below are of my cousin/18 year old road racer. Awesome kid!


Sunday, September 7, 2014

Take That RA!


Wow ... so much has happened since my last post. I didn't intentionally ignore my blog, it just sorta happened!  I have had a rough year with my RA. After going gluten free some 4 weeks ago I have noticed a pretty dramatic change. While my pain has only reduced slightly, I have so much more energy and actually feel like doing things now. I had a rheumatologist appt last week and he was equally excited about it. We were going to switch meds but after seeing that I was doing better decided against it, as did I.

I have felt the best I've felt in a year right now and I'm taking full advantage of it. I have been riding several times plus finishing up with a few more things on my bike. I have a set of Oxford Heated Grips and a Touratech Headlight Guard laying on my work bench. Also a lower dash kit and 12 volt plug are next up to be ordered with an Alumiracks rear rack. 

I woke up at the crack of 8 this morning to cool temps for this time of year in Oklahoma. It was 68 as I fired my bike up and pointed northeast. I met up with Greg on the way out of town and we rode out to the Ozark National Forest. We stopped at Oark for breakfast and then rode further into the forest only to discover the swinging bridge over the Mulberry River had been destroyed. I loved walking it and hope it will be rebuilt. We rode some more good dirt before popping back out to asphalt and the ride back home. Rode 195 miles today and I feel great ... take that RA!

Abandoned church house we found last week.
Abandoned church house we found last week.
Resting the bikes on the Mulberry River bridge.

What is left of the swinging bridge at Oark.
Greg strapping on his helmet after breakfast at Oark.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Good News


I had two spider bites on my eyelid, it was not shingles after all. I was just going off of how I felt the previous time I had shingles (in the exact location the bites are). The bites itched, were painful to touch, I had a low grade headache Sunday and my eyelid was swollen like with the shingles so I just assumed the worst.  Not sure where I got the bites, we have our house sprayed 4 times a year and it is extremely rare to see a spider (or any bug other than a fly) in the house.

I lied on my previous post ... I forgot that I got out early one morning. Two weeks ago I did a short solo ride and wound up riding part of an abandoned highway that has now been bypassed. I was surprised to find all of the road signs still in place despite huge boulders on each end of the road denying access to it. On the south end I just squeezed my bike between the large rocks and as I approached the north end I thought I might have to turn around. The wide part of my bike was just above the top of the boulders but if I did not have folding footpegs, I would not have made it in between them. It was nice seeing nature reclaiming the road and covering the signs up but I figured I had better move on, I met an elderly man walking on the road, and as I approached him running all of 20mph, I waved and said hello. He said nothing and gave me a dirty look so I thought he might be calling the law on me for being on "his" road. lol I was doing nothing wrong, wasn't tearing anything, up just riding slowly and taking some photos but I just don't trust someone who can't smile back after speaking to them ... then again, some people just don't like motorcycles. Can't we just all get along?






Sunday, August 10, 2014

Shingles Part Two


Six years ago I started this blog on living with RA as well as some ride reports. It was going to be worth it if I could inspire just one person to continue to do what they enjoy despite living with a chronic disease. In an unexpected twist it is I who has been inspired and touched by so many I have talked with and who have left comments and sent emails. I also recently turned over 100,000 visits to my blog ... a milestone I never expected to see since I don't promote or push my blog. Thank you to all of my followers and guests.

I have been enjoying the benefits of feeling better since my last post. Three weeks ago I started my second attempt at going gluten free and am doing much better with it this time around. While I can honestly say that my pain level has only been reduced slightly (any relief is good) I am amazed at how much more energy I have now. While my fatigue has not been completely erased, it is wonderful to feel like doing things again! In addition to having more energy, I have lost nine pounds in eighteen days. I wished everyone could experience how much better I feel. I am now questioning whether I should go on with the switch in meds or stay with the Humira a little longer. 

On the down side ... shingles again. This is my second bout with them and they are quite painful. Not to mention I have them on my left eyebrow so I have to go see an opthalmologist to make sure they do not spread into me eye. Impatiently waiting on these miserable things to be gone!

I got the Lexx exhaust installed on my bike and after a few rides am really liking it. It has a deep thump, not annoying loud like my 09 with the FMF Powercore was. I ordered the Trail Saver Quiet Core that Lexx offers and it does quiten it down about 4-5 more dbs. I took it back out for now because the stock exhaust with the spark arrestor insert is perfect for my taste.

I have not been on any rides with the exception of riding to work. I do have several good rides planned and if I continue to feel good this fall, I want to do a Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico loop I found. Several old bridges and lots of windmills (old style) on the route. Also have a ride down to the Oklahoma/Texas border shooting some old bridges laid out. Now if my RA will just cooperate for a little while.
Black Kettle National Grassland in Oklahoma

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Bad To Good In Half-a-Day


It has been rough since I last posted. I haven't felt like riding or even working on my bike in 4 weeks now and this past Saturday I was hurting bad enough that I called in FMLA (first day this year). I went to work the next day, my last work day for my week, and began feeling better mid-afternoon. 

Monday I had a list a mile long to get started on ... if I could just get two or three items crossed off I would feel good. It was one of those days where things just fell into place and combined with feeling good for a change, I got most of the list crossed off plus pulling the tank and seat on my bike and wiring up new driving lights. I followed that up by a quick trip to my GP to get a new prescription Tuesday morning then I came home and mowed and trimmed our three acre hacienda. after that, I cleaned up and went to take some tests at work that I was behind on. I can't explain why I'm suddenly feeling better so quickly ... I am just enjoying it for the moment. 

Cool note: Phil, one of my followers here bought a KLR and is loving riding again. 
Uncool note: Phil is also struggling right now with his RA and rides one day at a time like me.

I did take my bike out for a quick 40 mile ride Monday with the new lights. To quote a riding buddy who also lives with a chronic illness, "it feels good to feel good for a change." I have a new exhaust ordered that should be here Thursday. That will be the last big item I need for my new bike. The only other thing I need is for the Cimzia to work well when I switch meds!
New lights I put on Monday

Monday, July 14, 2014

Patiently Waiting Is Killing Me


It has been four weeks since I have felt up to riding and this week is no different.  After doing some research and talking with a few people who have used Cimzia, I am prepared to start it in seven weeks. I usually dread any med changes but feel if it doesn't work, it won't be any worse than where I am right now. I'd like to thank Andrew at Living With Rheumatoid Arthritis for his posts and helpful information on Cimzia.

In addition to feeling major league fatigue, you know the kind where you wake up from 8 hours of sleep every bit as tired as when you went to bed the night before, I got overheated at work Saturday. The door at the front of the press has been broken for three weeks and the heat from the warehouse just comes right in on where we work at the front of one of the presses. It has been hot but Saturday the temperature hit 101, not sure what the heat index was. I thought it was just me but toward the end of the shift Sean, who works the front of the press with me, told me that the heat had got to him as well. 

I have spent the day inside today researching some old abandoned iron truss bridges to ride to and shoot this fall once I start feeling better. One will be a stretch (for me) to ride in one day but I will try to get Randall and/or Greg to go with me. I found another one that was washed downstream and is supposedly still sitting in the creek bed.

btw, I may force myself to get out and do a short ride Wednesday before I start back to work Thursday.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Crossroads


I once again find myself at a familiar place with RA. I have been struggling with it for the past 6 to 7 months. I had a lengthy visit with my rheumatologist Monday complete with extra blood work. After examining my shoulder and hands he said inflammation doesn't look that bad and asked if I could get up on the examination table. I got up and walked over and stepped up to get on the table and he said, "you aren't moving well at all!" He also said that he was sure we could get me back to moving and feeling better. I go back in 10 weeks, if I'm not showing signs of improvement, I will be switching medicines again. It appears I may be going with Cimzia next. He gave me literature on it and I will do some research on it online as well before going back.

I just have to get better. I'm having 1 to 2 good days for every 5 to 6 bad days; I just can't go on like this. It's frustrating when you want to go do things but you just don't have the strength or the drive to do it. Fatigue is really been hitting me hard. I wake up every morning  just as tired as when I went to bed the night before. I even have to force myself to go riding lately, and you know how much I love to ride.

I'm not whining, nor I don't want anyone’s sympathy. I just want everyone to understand that, even though I don't complain much about RA, that it is a very real part of my life. I have had comments made in the past that I don't really have RA or I couldn't go ride motorcycles like I do. The bottom line is I hurt every day, but I still get up and push myself to go to work, mow the yard and yes ... lately even to ride my motorcycles.

Perhaps I will feel up to riding next week. Anyone who knows me knows I'm hurting pretty bad when I don't feel like riding at least one of my days off. I have been doing some research on fire towers in our area and may try to hunt some up to photograph this fall. I can remember climbing a couple of them with my dad while out hunting years ago. I remember finding one, just out for a weekend drive with him, back down towards Russellville (I believe) and it was so tall that I chickened out on going to the top of that one. I only made it a little over halfway up on that one. Haha, the things you remember later in life.

Below is the Rich Mountain fire tower that we stopped at last fall on a ride. You can climb it a couple of days a week, but the day we were there it was locked up.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Silver Bridge Ride


It was going to be a hot day so we decided to start early to help beat the heat. It was a balmy 80 degrees at 6:45 a.m. but it was partially overcast. I rode out some 40 miles and met Tony at Silver Bridge in Mulberry, Arkansas. It is a beautiful three span through truss bridge that was built in 1912. It was full on hot by the time we met at 8:00 a.m..  We took photos and walked around, across and under the bridge before heading out. 
Just up the road about a mile sat an abandoned house on top of a clearing that overlooked a valley and several mountains in the background. It struck me as such a beautiful place (I love photographing old abandoned places) that I turned around and went back to shoot the old home place. 
First panarama pic I've ever shot. Silver Bridge
Silver Bridge over the Mulberry River.
Abandoned house I turned around and went back to shoot.
Tried to get Tony to cross here but he didn't trust my judgement.
The old Boy Scout camp.
The appropriately named Long Bridge.
Inside the Oark Cafe.
Breakfast ... and no, I couldn't eat all of it!
What my knee sees.
Shores Lake Bridge. Closed for business...
... for a hole in the bridge.
It felt 10 degrees (maybe more) cooler when we rode into this.
My KLR parked road side while I shot some pictures.
We next headed for an old swimming hole/party spot. I was riding with someone who grew up here so I was getting the inside on places that I never would have seen. The water was too high and rolling fast to cross here today but we found plenty more to do. Next we stopped at the old Boy Scout Camp down on the river. By now we were hungry so we rode over to Oark and ate breakfast. As we were leaving we ran into two riders from KC and talked with them a good while. I've said it before but I'll say it again, I love riding, no doubt, but I also really enjoy meeting and talking with people out on rides. I truly believe 95% of the people out there are good people away from jobs, stress and money problems. We headed to Shores Lake next but 1 mile from the lake, the bridge was closed. No problem, we rode over the rocks at one end but they were too close to the guard rail on the far end for my 650. Tony squeezed through and we parted ways leaving me to take the long way back home.
Pulled back in to the house with 203 miles but it was seriously hot out there by this time. My RA griped and grumbled all evening and night but I feel better this morning. I finally have decided which exhaust I am going with and the company has gone bankrupt. Supposedly it has been bought but I can't get in touch with anyone that can tell me if I can still get a X3 exhaust or not. Just my luck.

Monday, June 2, 2014

What You Missed This Weekend


My first week back to work from vacation was not kind to me. My feet, which have serious damage due to RA, hardly hurt during my vacation time. The first day back I laced up the mandatory steel toes and within 4 hours me feet were begging for mercy ... only 8 hours in the shift to go! I had also grown used to taking a short nap around 2:30 in the afternoon but I made it fine at work without my nap. Funny how I hated naps as a kid but now they rock. My hands and right hip complained but no worse than normal. Mainly it was just my feet with those damn steel toe shoes. My rheumatologist asked me once "could I write your employer a letter explaining the damage in your feet from RA and possibly get them to make an exception in your case?" I told him it wouldn't matter, they want 10,0000% compliance from employees (this is one of their sayings on PPE). He shook his head and said "what I have seen from the medical side is steel toes destroy your feet". My feet couldn't agree more.

I decided to do a short ride Sunday and soon it grew to another co-worker wanting to go. Then I called Greg and he wanted to go then the next day another co-worker asked about going. When we left yesterday, there were three of us, one backed out. It was heavily overcast and 71 degrees with a good breeze with the radar assuring us there was no rain in the area. 

All three of us were riding on extremely worn tires so we took more asphalt than normal. We rode the back way (dirt) into Devils Den State Park and then rode the twisty, curvy mountainous asphalt patch back into Winslow. There we stopped and walked up to the train tunnel to get a few pictures. At least Tony and I did, Greg stayed with his bike setting up his GoPro for the ride though the Boston Mountains back toward home. I have some Bilt adventure boots that aren't as stiff as my Alpinestars so I wore them to walk in. It was about a 1/4 mile walk and didn't bother me at all. Upon returning we found Greg swinging on the park equipment where we left the bikes. Yes folks, he is 50 years old and playing on a swing set at the park where we left him. 
Quick pit stop for air for Greg
Downtown Winslow
Walking the tracks to the tunnel
North entrance to the tunnel
North entrance
Downtown Winslow
Greg swinging

This was a knobby tire 2500 miles ago
Metzler Karoo 3 mounted up
We left Winslow climbing up onto the mountain and it started getting cooler, almost to the point of "wishing I wouldn't have worn my mesh jacket cooler". Soon it started raining on us, it was only a brief rain and we worked our way through the treacherous windy road at break neck speed. Soon we were back on 282 that brought us back into town. Once home I lubed my chain while it was still hot then jacked it up and pulled the front wheel. I changed the front tire and will change the rear tire later this afternoon. 

It was a good day to be out this weekend. Everything is so green right now here, usually we are entering near drought conditions. The sad things is that despite the rain we have received, there were still many dry creeks that we crossed. Hopefully everyone got outside and enjoyed the weekend.