Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Inmates And A Suicidal Squirrel ... Just Another Day

Monday was a beautiful 70 degrees, sunny with a little breeze.  So I enjoyed the only way I know how, I loaded up my bike and headed to the woods.  
To say we had an unusual day just barely grazes the top of it.  Our ride started off with riding across a closed iron truss bridge (it is really in better shape than several we have been across that are still open), next we hit some some prime single track trail.  After a few miles of trail we dump back out on a dirt road and ride over to, what is known as the main intersection. We were meeting Darel there at noon.  Our timing was nearly perfect, we had just taken our helmets off and we heard a bike coming up the hill, sure enough it was Darel.  SInce we were going to include a good bit of asphalt today, Darel and Randall rode their XR 650L's since their KTM's aren't tagged.  We head out and ride through Haw Creek and cross a highway to hit some trail.  A good steep climb and we pop out on asphalt ... onto Talimena Drive.  We rode about 10 miles of it stopping at a couple of scenic overlooks along the way. 
We come up on a rough looking jeep trail and drop off of the mountain leaving the asphalt behind us.  It soon turns a little better and about 4 to 5 miles down this road come up on a white van parked on the side of the road.  At first, I was thinking someone was planting a cash crop down here in the woods (miles from anything), but as I got closer, I could see people in front of the van.  As we get up to the van, it reads Oklahoma State Department Of Corrections.  We are riding just a few feet from inmates on a work program.  Man, don't you know they would love to knock us in the head, take our bikes and make their getaway.  lol  I still felt uneasy until we were a few hundred yards up the road from them.  A couple of miles on down, Darel locks up his rear brake and turns into a Private Property - Keep Out drive.  We ride up to the coolest little cabin and he tells us this is his cousins place.  We looked around a little, no one was home.  
We head back out and this is when I have a run in with a suicidal squirrel.  He waited on the side of the road and just as I get within a few feet of him, he bolts across the road in front of me.  I narrowly missed turning the fury little critter into a greasy spot on the road.  It seems like a dumb game, but then, how exciting can it be to be a squirrel?  We head on not knowing what to expect next.  We weren't disappointed.  We came across a "horse bar" named Harry's Bar.  It was miles from civilization, but on a, evidently big time, horse trail out in the woods.  Randall looks at me and says, "Don't you know we could get some stories out of there". Soon we come back out to asphalt and light the bikes up.  We ride next to a bluff overlook and stop to get a picture or two.  We are looking down on Big Creek Spillway.  We stop for a quick bite to eat and gas the bikes up, then we head back toward home, stopping at the Peter Conser House for a brief history lesson.  The stable was my favorite part.  
By now we are all dragging and even one of the healthy riders is hurting from the ride.  We take the most direct route back which means trail.  It was washed out, rough and rutted from all of the winter ice, snow and rain.  Trees were down across the trail and we stopped several times clearing the trail enough to make it rideable.  By the time I finally got back to the truck, both my RA and OA were screaming at me, but I had rode 177 miles.  Today my right hand and both wrists hurt ... ah the effects of a fun day on RA.  But once again, I did not let RA beat me yesterday. 

I know it sounds a little crazy, but I couldn't have sit down at the computer and thought all of this stuff up!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Somedays Work Sucks

After an extremely hard week at work, I am feeling pretty good considering. Thursday, I was on my feet all 12 hours, climbing up and down the press repeatedly as well as being down in the floor on my knees cleaning an ink cavity out on the lower press deck. This hurt me, my RA was growling at me for most of the day.  Friday was better and Saturday was good, until the last 8 minutes of the shift when a fill in supervisor yelled at us for slowing the press down from 1500 feet per minute to 1150 feet per minute.  This is a common practice at shift change adjusting the speed to allow the next crew coming on to be in place and ready when the roll splices to the next roll.  This relatively new supervisor immediately came out of the office and informed me that I was not being fair to the company and it was the same as stealing from them.  I was so mad I could have punched him, but then thought of what Lana's 10 year old son told her.  I sped the press back up for the supervisor, (which only appeared to make him more hostile) the splice came off right at shift change and instead of 4 people at the press, there were 8 people in each others way causing chaos because there is not enough room for 8 people at the press.  
If you think about it, 350 feet per minute slower for 8 minutes is 2800 feet of paper.  That is barely 10% of one roll, but a few months ago the company had a 6S audit and management went through the parts room and threw out items that had not been called for in a certain period of time.  They threw out motors, wire harnesses, metal braces, ...etc like a drunken sailor spending money when he gets back on shore.  You guessed it, 10 days after this cleaning spree, we (the pressroom) needed a coating drive motor ... just like the one they threw away out of the parts room.  They had to order the special motor ($1,200) plus pay overnight shipping charges from Germany.  In addition, they lost 2 1/2 shifts of work because the press was sitting idle, but a supervisor is upset with me for slowing the press down for, what would have been 8 minutes.   
Sorry about the rant, I'm still aggravated about this today.  Tomorrow will be better though, I have a good long ride planned.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Good Old Days (Pre RA)

I am one who always took their health for granted.  Other than the ER, I had no use for a doctor or hospital until I was diagnosed with RA.  I now go in for 6 month visits to my primary care doctor as well as get a yearly physical, go to my rheumatologist every month for an infusion and a brief visit, tomorrow I am having a bone density scan done.  Almost like night and day difference, from never seeing a doctor for 40+ years to seemingly overkill now.  I was talking with Mike Smith and Mark Schultz (2 fellow motorcycle racing buddies) this past weekend.  We started remembering stuff we have done over the past, from the good to the bad and some downright stupid stuff thrown in for good measure.  

Me and Smith were riding one weekend at White Rock early in the spring and hit Mill Creek.  I wheelied across it ... the only problem was the water was up, muddy and a little wider than normal.  My front wheel came down in a rut or on a rock and I went down.  At the time I hit the water, it was the exact same temperature as the water in your ice maker a milisecond before it crystalizes into ice cubes.

Then there was 1987, that I, for some dumb reason, decided to race the White Rock Enduro.  This is the race that our club puts on, which means the members work the race, instead of racing in it.  On the starting line it was a cold, blowing rain.  That would soon change ... to sleet about 3 miles into the race.  Then as we dropped off of the mountain and got down to Mill Creek it changed again ... to snow.  Big flakes that soon changed to freezing rain, then to sleet again then back to snow again.  By the time I saw the finish line (some 4 hours later) there was 4 inches of snow on the ground and my hands and feet were hurting so bad, I literally had to peel my hands off of the handlebars.  They wouldn't bend, and felt like they had knives sticking in them. I did not know if I would ever thaw back out or not.  I hurt for 2 days, and I was a healthy 29 years old.  By the way I won my class, missing the overall by 6 seconds that day.  I quickly forgot about hurting so badly as I tried to wrap my frozen little nubs around the first place trophy.

This was the same weekend that Mike's pop up trailer froze to the ground. He just left it and went back the next weekend to get it. lol

We had some crazy times up at White Rock. I remember one year we ran into Bill Eddy on a brand new KLX650 and he let Mike Smith ride it. Mike was blazing on the big turd and all of a sudden the front end twitches and he crashes hard. I have never seen plastic explode like that. Mike is rolling around on the ground holding his knee and Bill rides up and says "My bike, what did you do to my bike?". I still LMAO over that one.

Speaking of Bill, I stopped by his shop this afternoon with my daughter.  Bill was riding around the parking lot and when he sees me, rides over to us.  He was on a KTM 950R .  I try hard to hinge my jaw back together and roll my tongue back up and put back in my mouth.  My 525 puts out 55-57 hp, this 950R is rated at 104hp!  To hear it idling was enough to drive a non motorcyclist crazy.  I would kill to throw a leg over this bike and rev it out down a long dirt road!  My daughter looked at me and said, "Bill looks like a midget sitting on that bike".  I replied, "I know, isn't it cool".  

Me, Mark and Mike remember the same thing about riding the 87 Oklahoma City National Enduro.  It was so hard, long and rough, that toward the end of the race (100+ miles), if you fell down ... you just laid on the ground for 30 seconds to rest.  Any other time you can't get back on your bike and get it started fast enough.

There are so many stories/memories that I have from racing, I could overun a blog with just these stories.  But I won't bore you with them. You've suffered enough already!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Survival Run

Yesterday was one of those crazy days.  It started as soon as I woke up at 7:30.  I was supposed to meet Race and Randall to go riding at 9:30.  A quick look outside and we had heavy fog and the temperature had dropped down lower than what was predicted.  At 8:00, Randall called and we talked about riding.  We decided to meet at 11:00 instead.
At 11:00 the sun was out and the temperature was approaching 50, so we headed out.  We rode across Poteau Mountain to US Highway 71.  After a short patch of asphalt, we plant our knobbies back on dirt.  We rode over to Blue Mountain Lake and took some pictures up by the dam.  It was a beautiful day, by now it was probably close to 60.  We head out and found an old abandoned iron truss bridge that I had been looking for.  We stopped and took some pictures for my other blog, now run up to the store and get some gas and a coke.  All was going well so far today ... that is about to change.  We arrive at the store only to discover that they are out of gas.  Randall and I look at each other ... we don't have to say anything, we are thinking the same thing.  We don't really have enough gas to make it back and there are NO other gas stops on our loop we are riding.  To say we were out in the sticks is an insult to most sticks, the sticks don't even want to be as far out as we were today.  After drinking a coke, we head out, our plans of a 200+ mile ride have been scapped ... now our ride has turned into a survival run.  
We light the 525's up and point them north all the while keeping an eye on both sides of the road for a hidden store that has gas.  Deep down, we knew there wasn't one.  We rode this loop about a year ago, but were hoping a new little store might have popped up since we were last through.  No such luck.  

Ok, it's time to get the maps out and figure the shortest route back to help with the fuel situation.  Bad news, again Randall and I knew ... just hoping we had missed or forgot an alternate road.  After looking at the map, we have a long way and a longer way back to the trucks.  We opt for the long way over the longer way and are scooting back at a fast pace when Randall pulls over and says, "you want to ride some trail back in?"  So, to make a long story short, Race runs out of gas first.  We catch up to him stranded on the side of the road (yes, we are back off of the trail onto a dirt road now).  We transfer some gas over to his bike and he lights it up and we are off.  We have 11 miles to go by now and there's no way we're all 3 making it back on the fuel we have left in all 3 of our tanks.  Randall and Race head out at a blistering pace while I have slowed down, now feeling the effects of 160 miles of riding.  I fully expect to see one or both of them on my way back in, but they both made it.  I stop and talk with them for a moment and head off to my truck which is parked another 2 miles from where they unoladed at.  I coasted most of the way since I was parked at the bottom of the mountain and made it with 1/2 inch of gas in the bottom of my tank.  I arrive at my truck logging 171 miles today, I could have made it, at most, another 3-5 miles on gas.

As I sit here writing this today, I feel incredibly good for what I put myself through yesterday.  Warm weather, found an old bridge, thumbed my nose at RA again, but best of all, I had a great time with 2 of my best friends.  You can't put a price on that.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

RA Is Not An Easy Journey

It's not been an easy journey that I have been on for the last 7 years.  Since RA hijacked my somewhat normal life, things have never been the same, even though I try to carry on like nothing has changed.  I still work a full time, very physical, blue collar job, although I have noticed it has been harder on me last year. Some evenings after finishing my 12 hour shift, it is all I can do to walk.  Just 2 nights ago was a good example, I was hurting so badly that I was nearly sick to my stomach.  I didn't eat anything, took a shower and went to bed.  After 9 hours of sleep, got up feeling good enough to go back to work.  I have a 3 acre yard that I still take care of, but I have to be careful about heat and sun exposure, so what use to take me 4 hours to do, now takes me 5-7 hours stopping to cool down and drinking plenty of water.  I'm ok with this, sometimes breaking the mowing up into 2 days, but I now envy anyone with a city sized lot to take care of.  I used to do some work on our vehicles, but crawling around under a vehicle or over the grille or fender is pretty much out of the question now.  At least everything is where I can get to it on my motorcycles, I don't feel completely useless.  I spent 2 days working on my KTM installing a dual sport kit 2 weeks ago, and it was great.  Just me, my bike and my shop ... and a couple of questions I had.  I figured everything out, somedays it's better to be lucky than good!

Worst of all, I am finally owning up to the fact that I may no longer be able to ride single track trail.  This is one of my real loves in life but it is fading away from me.  I rode this past week with Race, riding one of my favorite trails and I hurt for 4 days afterward.  I am not giving up on riding the woods completely, but I am staying away from it for a while.  As hard as it has been to admit this to myself, at least I'm still able to ride dual sport rides.  It's not the same, but it's still not bad.  Randall, Race and I have a long ride planned for this coming Tuesday, if everything goes as planned (ie we don't get lost again), we should have a 180 - 200+ mile ride.  Along the way, there is an abandoned iron truss bridge on the back side of Blue Mountain Lake that we are going to stop and photograph for my Proud Iron blog.

Things could be worse though, I can still throw a leg over my bikes and ride.  If RA ever completely takes that away from me, it will have won.  Or has it ... if I ever become disabled and have to get me a Hoveround, I'll have something new to work on in my shop.  I already have a plan.  

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A Real Knee Slapper

I woke up this morning stiff with my right hip hurting.  I was supposed to go riding today, but the way I feel, I don't know if I should push myself to go or not.  Ten minutes after I got up, I get a text from Race telling me that he is not going to be able to make it today.  I am almost relieved to read his text, even though I was looking forward to riding today.  I step outside on my way to the shop and am greeted with a 65 degree morning.  Oh yeah, I'm going riding today.  I hop in the hot tub for 25 minutes to ease my pains, jump out and start getting my bike ready to load.  I'll just go by myself.  I get all of my gear, gas can, ramp and tie downs in the truck.  Just as I am loading my bike, I get a text message.  It is from Race and he is back on for riding.  

We meet at the woods at 10 and unload quickly.  We climb Poteau Mountain and drop off of the back side of the mountain to Bates.  We are riding a fast pace and quickly wind up at one of my favorite trails.  I tell Race to go first, I don't want to hold him up on the trails (I am 51 while Race is only 19).  He heads up the trail and I light the throttle up on my 525 in an attempt to keep up with him.  It works for about the first, oh, I don't know ... 100 feet.  I was catching back up with him as we hit a short, rutted uphill ... then all of a sudden it was like he was shot out of a cannon!  Ah, the combination of youth, exuberance and no ER visits yet.  Mike, Randall and myself used to twist the throttle like that when we were young, now I am just glad I can still throw a leg over a bike every now and then. 

I eventually catch back up to Race ... well, ok, he wasn't sure which way to go at the intersection and had to wait on me.  I point to the right and we head back into some prime, loamy single track trail.  Once again he lights the throttle up and I am right on his rear fender.  As I head into a lazy left hand turn, my front end washes with me and I chop the throttle and regain control of my bike ... just in time to see Race going down hard.  I ride up to him and he is holding his right knee still laying underneath his bike.  After 10 minutes, he shakes it off and we ride back out and head to Haw Creek to grab a cheeseburger.  Neither one of us had eaten anything today and it was 1 pm.  I had some Tylenol in my backpack, which came in handy.  After eating we cut our ride short and headed back to our trucks.

We still put in 85 miles, but Races knee was swollen and sore by now.  We were quite a pair loading our bikes this afternoon, Race from his crash while I was hobbling around due to my RA.  An old quote popped into my head this afternoon as we were both limping around, "Growing old is mandatory ...growing up is optional".  Something tells me Race will be just like Mike, Randall and myself at age 50.

Monday, March 8, 2010

I'm Thankful For My Flare Up

In retrospect, I'm thankful for my flare up that I recently had.  It didn't hit me right away, but that was the first flare up that I have had in 7-8 months.  I was living in a state of constant flare everyday during this time, and this is the first flare that I have had since beginning my Orencia treatments.  It only lasted 4 days so for that I am also thankful.  Which leads me to another question.  At my last infusion I spoke with my rheumatologist about how I would have 2 really good weeks, 1 so-so week and 1 week where I hurt.  Obviously I am doing better, so I sit here perplexed.  Do I persue other options for my RA, or stick it out and hope the Orencia will continue to do better for me?

I had an interesting week last week, my daughter severely sprained her left ankle and was on crutches.  She had mid terms at college, so I drove the 80 miles north and dropped her off and picked her up from classes on my days off.  She is much better now, although her ankle is still swollen and bruised.  At least she is walking without crutches again.  I know all to well what it is like getting around on crutches.

I also was working on my bike in between her classes last week.  I now have my dual sport modifications completed.  I have to admit, it's kinda cool having a fully legal, tagged, off road race bike now.  I have been testing everything out around the house and have already received quite a few looks, even a couple of double takes.  I am putting it to good use tomorrow on a long dual sport run, that is if I can get out before the thunderstorms make it into our area.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

We're Really Not Bad People

I grew up riding dirt bikes during a time when we had plenty of land to ride on.  Mike, Randall and I have been riding and racing together since we were around 20.  We rode fast and hard, attacking each turn or hill like a police K9 chasing a one legged crack dealer.  That was a time when we could just go ride and didn't have to worry about being politically correct. Those days are behind us now, as we continue to lose more government land each year.  Yes, we still pay taxes on the forrest ... we just can't use it anymore.  According to the experts, a dirt bike with a 3" wide tire is destroying the forrest, yet it is perfectly acceptable for the timber industry to drive log trucks, dozers, skidders and front end loaders in to cut the trees down.  Notice the irony here?  We have witnessed, on several occasions, a piece of logging equipment sitting next to a clear cut zone with a huge puddle of oil that has leaked out on top of the ground.  But thats alright, just as long as its not a dirt bike.   Last year, in a letter to the editor by a hiker, we (dirt bikers) were described as rednecks that are allowed to run loose while raping the land. To many, the dirt bike and rider represent pure evil that falls in line directly underneath a mass murderer. 

The truth is, the average age of a dirt bike rider is 32.7 years old.  Most off road riders are married with families, who just enjoy riding on the weekend, often bringing their families with them to camp in the woods.  Many of those that race also bring their families with them to the races.  We are serious about riding and enjoy our sport with the same intensity that hunters, fishermen, hikers, golfers, ... etc enjoy their sport.  As so often is the case though, we are our own worst enemy, due to a small percentage of dirt bike owners that insist on: 
1) drinking before or even while riding 
2) riding through camping/park areas in an attempt to show off (often combined with #1)  
3) the louder my bike is the faster it will go  
4) leaving their trash where they load/unload

A true off road enthusiast despises all of the above.  We want to be as far away from people when riding as possible, showing off will only get you hurt, a loud bike is just plain obnoxious and Mike and I have been taking trash bags with us to ride for 25 years.  We pick up trash around where we unload to ride and haul it back in to town with us.

In the forrest where I grew up riding, they have shut it down to 3 main trails and some dirt roads to ride.  The trails that the forrest service has built are not maintained well.  They are rutted, rough and dangerous.  In the area where I now live, we are losing more forrest land as I write this, we are just not sure how much we will loose this year.  

I am older now, don't know about any wiser, but land closures are why I have started dual sport riding.  Well, that and dual sport riding is much easier on my RA.  Ten years ago I would not have considered dual sport fun.  It is a different type of riding, even though we still manage to slip in a few miles of hardcore woods riding each ride.  

I now have my KTM race bike fitted with a high/low beam headlight, horn, tail and brake lights, mirrors and have it tagged.  I am going to fit it with a GPS unit later this summer.  I guess you could say that I have evolved into a high tech, evil redneck.