Monday, April 26, 2010

Hands Hurting and Dozer

My hands and wrists have been hurting me a lot the last few weeks.  I have been using Voltaren Gel on them and it has helped, but only temporary relief.  I will get up to go to work the next day and after a few hours, they are hurting again.  It is frustrating, but there is not much that I can do about it  ... I guess.  Overall, I feel better than I did last year, so I will live with my wrists and hands hurting more.  I will live with the added pain, but it seems to me like we shouldn't have to.  I don't mean to trivialize an of these conditions, but if you have high blood pressure, you take a pill ... if you have heart problems, you get a pacemaker or a transplant ... if you have cancer, you have surgery and/or chemo.  Why is Rheumatoid Arthritis just pushed into the corner and forgot about when it comes to research?  Why is the medical profession content to just give us some drugs that will help mask the pain?  Well, that's enough whining about my condition.

I put in a 168 mile ride today.  It was a perfect day to be outside enjoying the great outdoors.  We found a fire watch tower and of all days, I forgot my camera.  We are going back though, we can go up in the tower on a Friday or Saturday.   My hands are hurting big time right now, but it was worth it.  
Dozer testing the feel out
Me laughing about something ... with Dozer there's no telling.
Dozer with his bike finished.

I ran across some photos taken last December when my buddy Dozer brought his Harley over to work on in my shop.  He replaced his handlebars with some ape hangers and we had to lengthen the cables out, which involved cutting all of the controls and re-soldering them.  Everything worked as soon as we put them on the bike, big sigh!  Anyway here are a couple of goofy photos, as you can see, Dozer is not someone you want to make angry.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Great Day Yesterday

I had a really good day yesterday. By noon I had taken a full truck load of junk to the dump, repaired the fence behind the shop, mowed and weedeated behind the shop, replaced a broken door handle on one of the storm doors, replaced a dryer vent, changed oil in my KTM and played with the dogs outside (they love to play anytime, anywhere - but playing outside is special to them).  My RA is definitely making me pay for all of the bending, climbing and stooping yesterday. It was worth it, getting all of those little odd jobs cleaned up, but it hurts to walk, sit and stand from a seated position this morning. My OA in my knees is hurting worse than normal as well.

At 12:30 I stopped, went inside and got cleaned up. I was going out for an afternoon of bridge hunting and playing with Donna's new camera. It is a Canon EOS Rebel XSI. We found one abandoned bridge and one that is still in use. I have not shot a digital SLR before yesterday, and although the same concept applies with shutter speed, aperture and speed of lenses, it is quite a bit different from using a 35mm SLR. I quickly loved the camera, you have so much more physical control over a photo than using a point and shoot digital camera. We walked a lot as well as climbing up and down banks getting to the bridges, all in all a great day for bridges and a pretty decent day of walking.

Upon leaving the first bridge, we ran across something that I have never seen before. A cattle rancher had obviously had it with coyotes attacking his cattle, well over 100 head in his his herd that we saw. In retaliation, he was hanging the coyotes on his fence after shooting them. To date 5 were hung on the fence. After checking into it, I found that Coyotes, after being killed, because the coyotes are killing the ranchers livestock, are hung on fences in order to deter or scare off other Coyotes. Don't really see this as working, but just thought I would pass it on.

My scorecard (x out of 10) for my days off this week would be as:
Working Out:  6
Working Around The House:  8
RA: 5 (moderate pain today)
Coyotes: 0 (guess it sucks to be a coyote in Oklahoma)
Bridges 10 

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Death Wish

After an infusion and a low key week, with the exception of four very hard days at work last week, I am feeling fairly good. I have had extraordinary discomfort in my right wrist and my ring and little finger on my right hand. I spoke with my rheumatologist about this and he examined my right hand. With no swelling, he said more than likely it is just due to having more damage in those fingers and the wrist. He added that if it is still hurting like this next month, we are going to have some x rays made and see if it is due to the RA. Other than that, all is good aside from my normal everyday RA pain. It is amazing what you can get used to living with isn't it? I am now thankful for the days when only both feet, both hands and my right hip are all that hurt me.

As a start to my weekend (yes it is a Monday) I load my bike up to go play. I have added a couple of new items on it and am anxious to go ride and check them out. I had them on it last week, but did not feel up to riding. Randall, Mike and Darel are all working today, Race is in school so, against my wifes best judgement, I am heading out solo today. We have two different viewpoints on riding alone. Hers is that if I get hurt, I will lay out in the middle of nowhere and die. I feel that Donna's viewpoint is flawed because I haven't broken anything yet that the ER can't fix. My bigger fear is of my bike breaking down, and with the damage to my feet combined with wearing riding boots that are built for protection, not walking, I don't know how far I could walk to try to get some help. 

I am checking on two bridges in the next couple of days for my other blog, Proud Iron. One is abandoned that was built in 1911, while the other one is still in use and was built in 1920. This has been an adventure that I am glad I took on. Hunting some of these bridges can prove to be tricky, sort of an adult easter egg hunt. But when you have been searching for one and finally do see the iron trusses peering over the top of the trees at you, it is a rewarding feeling that overtakes you. Last week, I was searching for the Pedro bridge in Benton County, and had driven within a quarter mile of it twice without seeing it. It is an abandoned bridge that sits sadly in a field now with no road to it on either side of the bridge anymore. I had to walk a half mile down the old, grown up road bed to get to the bridge. It still crosses the Illinois River with tree limbs hanging out over the bridge and grass growing on the runners crossing the bridge. I ran into one of the elder residents that grew up there, a retired gentleman named Don, and he told me how as a boy, he had jumped off of the Pedro bridge many times. He also told me that he had climbed up on top of the bridge a few times, but never could get up enough nerve to jump into the river from the top of the bridge (the water is only 8-10 feet deep at the bridge). And my parents thought I had a death wish racing motorcycles!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dogs Like Spring Also

I have had a very rough week at work, and that combined with being the last week before another Orencia infusion, has reduced me to hurting like a big dawg. My feet, ankles, hands, wrists, along with my OA in my knees has me in an elevated level of pain today. I am taking the day off today (it is my day off - but I was planning on mowing and weed eating this afternoon) and just going to watch a movie and maybe grill some chicken later this evening. I love being outside in the spring, spending time in the backyard grilling or just relaxing in the porch swing listening to the wide variety of birds that we have. We have a Martin box, and although we don't have any in this year yet, I did see some in our neighborhood last week. I enjoy listening to the Purple Martins as well as watching them glide through the sky.

The two dogs like to be outside, and I suspect, enjoy spring almost as much as humans do. They want outside in the morning and Misty will come back in for a while, but wants back outside before long. Maggie, on the other hand, stays outside all day long. Once night time hits, Maggie is ready to come inside and be fed. She is spoiled, ... she just wants to be spoiled on her own terms.
I am going in for an infusion tomorrow, so that wastes one day of my days off this week. I am hoping that this infusion doesn't kick my butt like the last one did. But I have noticed that I have felt better this month, so I am not giving up on Orencia bringing me back to a semi-normal life. Don't get me wrong, I hurt every damn day. Thats my life now, I get it ... I accept that. But I also don't think it is wrong to expect, especially for the cost of these meds that we take, to do more than just slightly numb the pain. My hands hurt so bad this morning, it is painful just using the keyboard. Something else that I don't get, I'm not very smart, maybe too many concussions, last week when I rode 201 miles, I got back to the truck and my hands (along with my whole body) were hammered. On my right hand, my ring finer and little finger hurt five times as bad as any of my other fingers, I guess maybe I have more damage in them? After I straightened them out, using my left hand, I could not bend them back, they were so swollen and stiff. Those two fingers were stiff and hurt for the next three days. Just one of the perks of riding that I now live with! 

Oh, by the way, I was at last week. Kelly does a great job with the website and getting information out to us, and after talking with her, I know that she genuinely cares about each and every one of us. She's a really good person. At the bottom of the Self Image and Living with Rheumatoid Arthritis post, there was a MARVEL COMICS SUPER HERO PERSONALITY TEST. I thought what the heck, I'll try it. 
I took it one time, and was not picking the crazy outlandish choices, and it came back that I am most like Ghost Rider.  Weird.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

RA Iron Man

I finally did it today, I rode 201.7 miles. I now consider myself an RA Iron Man. Just kidding, but I have been after the 200 mile ride for some time and things just never worked out due to time, weather or my RA hurting too much. I spent all day Monday in the yard cleaning the place up for the first time of the 2010 mowing season. You know what, ... it actually felt good to be outside mowing for a change. I'm sure I will rescind that statement come mid June to July when it is 100+ outside. Anyway back to my thought, I was hurting due to Monday's activities, so I started off the day with a couple of Arthritis Tylenol and headed for the woods. I stopped and got breakfast on the way, a bottle of water and a PayDay (Darel calls them the original Power Bar). We were riding out to a bridge that I had been wanting to photograph for my other blog. I made a route sheet out and taped to my top triple clamp, so I wouldn't have to keep getting the map out today. The forrest map is 3 feet wide by 4 feet long and we had high winds all day. Have you ever tried to fold a big map up in 40 mph winds? 
All went amazingly well on the way to the bridge, it was built in 1903 and does not have a single guard rail on it anywhere. I'm not sure I would want to drive a vehicle across it when it was iced up. Still, a cool old bridge and after taking photos of it, we head out for something to eat and some gas for the bikes. We head north out of Danville, and as we turn our bikes back west, we notice it getting darker to the southwest. We are supposed to have storms this evening, so we scrap our plans in favor of getting back ahead of the storms. Well, as I have said before, ... it's not a real ride unless we get lost. It turned into a real ride, but thankfully it was short lived.
We were flying back, hitting sunken low water bridges and wheeling out of them at 40+ mph. I hit a good sized one and the bridge bowed down, then back up on the other side. I was airborne coming down in the exact center of the bridge, must have been 20- 25 feet. Man, that felt good, even though I didn't know it was like that when I hit it. We crossed Highway 71 and started back over Poteau Mountain, with both bikes lit up. We were charging into the turns, hitting the brakes enough to get the back end broke loose sliding sideways, then aim the front end and light the throttle up. All was going great until about 15 miles from the truck. I had just glanced at my speedo and was running 59 mph when I look back up and the road turns hard to the left. Someone with less experience might have crashed (hard at this speed) but not me, ... I just screamed like a little girl (just kidding). I chopped the throttle and tried to slide the bike in the deep gravel, which only pitched me toward the high side of the bike. So I did the next best thing, I blipped the throttle and yanked on the handlebars and jumped the bike into the ditch. Holy Crap Batman, that was close. At this moment, I hear Randall starting his 650 and in a few seconds he is riding up to me, still in the ditch. He did the very same thing at the previous turn. After laughing about it and kidding each other, I rode my bike out of the ditch and we are once again underway. This is where you are probably saying, "well, at least they rode the rest of the way back slower after their close calls". You would be wrong, we charged back to the truck, still laughing about our close calls. Randall: "I hit the ditch first, I won". Me: "Well, my ditch was deeper and had more rocks in it". What a great way to spend a day off.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Full Tilt Spring

Spring is in full bloom here on the Arkansas/Oklahoma border. Spring has been a long time favorite of mine, watching everything come back to life and green up. But with that also comes my seasonal allergies, mowing and snakes. I saw my first snake (rat snake-see below) of spring last week, so thats another thing we will have to watch on our future rides. Let me tell you, they grow some huge snakes in the Ouachita National Forrest!! Fortunately we only have 6 poisonous ones to watch for. Also with springtime comes severe weather, and we get our share of it where we live. We have had 3 tornadoes within 5 miles of our house over the last 10 years. One passed over the house in the air as we were huddled in our hallway bathroom. It was quite a scene, two adults, one child and two dogs in the bathroom that night, we heard debris pelting the roof and sides of the house and windows. The house was creaking and popping, and you will never forget the unmistakable noise of a tornado once you have been in one. This wasn't the first one for Donna or myself. We were pleased to find only minor damage once it had passed over us, some of my co-workers were not as lucky as we were that night.
My RA has been up and down this past week. Overall I am not doing bad, it just seems like every time you feel like you have it figured out, it throws you a curve. I have been walking and lifting weights, and my muscles are feeling great actually being challenged again, my fatigue is better, but my hands, fingers and wrists have been hurting pretty bad. I have been using Tylenol Arthritis at work this last week to help get me through my workdays. I have also been using Voltaren Gel on my hands and have been in the hot tub more this week than previous weeks (due to working out again). I am not complaining, as long as I can still work full time and throw a leg over my motorcycles, I will be alright.

Woke up early this morning and spent 1 1/2 hours prepping my bike for a long ride tomorrow. After changing oil, cleaning the air filter, adjusting the chain and checking the rear brakes, ... my baby is asleep in the garage waiting for tomorrow. Your neighbors look at you funny when you are up working on your motorcycle at 6:30am on Easter morning. I hope that everyone is celebrating Easter, for it represents the ultimate triumph of hope and love.