Tuesday, December 17, 2013

I've Had Better Weeks

As someone who loves the outdoors I have been downright bummed by all of the cold, nasty weather we have had since Thanksgiving.  I get cabin fever quickly and the past 16 days have been no exception.  We have had freezing rain, snow and sleet with temps down to zero ... and it isn't even winter yet!  I hate winter.

My RA is running wild with all of the cold moisture we have had.  I had to call in to work FMLA tonight due to my right hand.  I am experiencing severe pain, swelling and cannot use it to grip or pretty much do anything.  I hurt everyday and work with pain but this was different.  I have had FMLA filled out on my RA for the past seven or maybe eight years now ... this is only the second time I have used it.  Yeah, it hurts that bad.  On top of my RA, Donna gave me the crud that she had brought home from working at the hospital.  I have been sick as a dog but I'm finally feeling better.  Have I mentioned I hate winter?

My bikes are feeling neglected.  I haven't even started my KLR since before Thanksgiving.  I have a couple of new parts that I haven't felt like messing with.  I downloaded BaseCamp for my GPS to map out rides then load them into my GPS ... I just need to get it figured out now.  I'm no longer a techie.  I used to love new stuff, now I put off switching as long as I can.  Like when they fazed out VHS tapes to DVD's, then DVD's to Blu-ray.  Whatever comes next after Blu-ray will just have to move on without me.  I have new camping gear bookmarked so I will be camping some off of the bike next year.  Looking forward to that, now I just need it to warm up!  Oh, my bikes hate winter also.

After borrowing my KLR a few weeks ago, one of my riding buddies just bought a new KLR. Wishing everyone a Merry Christmas.  May you stay warm, safe and surrounded by family.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving Memories

Thanksgiving is my mother in laws favorite holiday.  She always has a huge feast at her house every year.  There have been as many as 80 people at her house for Thanksgiving.   We love spending the day with family now as much as my mother in law does.

Back in 91, I was still racing motorcycles at that time, a couple of guys and I headed out at 6 am to do a quick ride before a cold front moved in to our area.  The temperature was mid 60's and we hit the woods not long after day break.  We rode a couple of hours and noticed it was turning cold around 9 am, the cold front wasn't supposed to hit until mid afternoon.  We decided to start heading back to the truck since we all needed to be home before noon anyway.  By the time we got back to the truck and loaded up, the temperature had dropped down into the 30's and it was raining with a little sleet.  By the time we made it back out to asphalt, it was all sleet and we still had mountains to drive through with an hour of interstate to get back home.  Even though the temperature had been warm, there was so much ice falling that the roads started to ice over. That was the longest drive home!  We made it home safely but I was so cold and the bikes were a frozen mess in the back of the truck.  I remember walking into Thanksgiving diner and the house smelled so good and it felt so warm.  Best of all, my daughter came running up to me and gave me a big hug.  I have not been riding on Thanksgiving morning since that year.  It's just for family now.

WIshing all of you a warm and Happy Thanksgiving this year.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

RA Bites ... But I Bite Back

It has been a couple of weeks since my last post and I have to admit my RA has been mildly flared up.  It has not prevented me from riding a couple of days but it has also had me down on the couch a couple of days also.  I don't believe it was the three day ride, although I'll admit it did kick it off but shortly after returning from that ride it started raining and continued to rain for 5 days.  Then the last day of the rain, a cold front blew in, chasing the rain out, and we had temps ranging from 34 to 80 degrees last week. I notice my RA becoming more active by this drastic range of temperature than if it gets cold and stays cold for a week.  

I talked with Kelly at rawarrior.com this week and she told me that she had quoted me in her last speech and from what I hear, she continued, what I said made a difference to some docs.  She said, I quoted you where you said, "my doc looked shocked that I am in pain every day".  Kelly went on to say, I think that really opens their eyes because the docs "think" they can tell how we are by just looking at us.  Although we try hard to keep up life as much as possible, the meds don't leave most of us feeling back to "normal".  Kelly is an awesome person who puts in a ton of hard work with RA Warrior and the Rheumatoid Patient Foundation.

I ran into town this evening for a couple of things, I am putting a screen door on the upstairs bedroom down that leads out to the balcony, you never get everything you need the first trip.  I stopped by Target to pick up some Tylenol Arthritis for my tool box at work and I have to say ... Target sucks!  Not only do they NOT have Tylenol Arthritis, I picked up their generic brand anyway, they have it stocked on the very bottom of the shelf!   Come on Target!  I am doing quiet well compared to a lot of RA patients and it was a struggle/hurt me to bend down to get a box.  At least WalMart and Walgreens keep their Tylenol Arthritis on the top shelf.  

I didn't really feel up to riding Friday and told Greg that I wasn't going when he called me.  Then I walked outside and couldn't believe how beautiful the day was outside.  I went on to the shop and the more I thought about it ... yep.  I called him back and told him I was going.  He said we could shorten what we going to ride up and we agreed on an alternate route and met at 1pm.  On the way to meet up with Greg, I realized it was the right call, I was feeling better already.  Besides I hate to waste a 70 degree day in November.  Nice day to be riding in the hills of Arkansas taking in the fall colors.  We came up on one tree that was backlit with the sun and it looked like the tree was on fire. Amazing, too bad the picture doesn't do it justice to what it really looked like.  Ran across an interesting place for sale ... you get a magnificent view on top of the mountain PLUS a steer skull and he'd probably throw in the stop sign to boot. Had been reading diner reports and adventurerider.com and were planning on stopping at a cafe that has great food reviews.  By the time we got there we were both starving, we skipped eating anything and it was now 3 in the afternoon.  They close at 2:30 ... and to make matters worse the special for the day was meatloaf, mashed potatoes & gravy, green beans, okra, roll and tea or coffee for $7.00.  You can't eat at McDonalds for less than that!  We will be back but we'll be on time next time we pass through.  I rolled back into the shop at dark, nice little ride.
Fall in the Ozarks.
Photo doesn't do this justice, tree looked like it was on fire approaching it.
For Sale
The hills of Arkansas

Sunday, October 27, 2013

My Three Day Adventure

I have been feeling quite good over the past 6 weeks and have had this week of vacation planned for a long time.  I was confident that I could make it without too much objection from my RA.  

We left my house Tuesday morning for a three day binge of PayDay's and pure adrenaline.  We rode a nice leisurely pace for the first 45 miles.  Once on the north side of Ozark we let the bikes stretch their legs a bit.  Highway 23 is often called the "pig trail" and offers up it's share of twists and turns through the mountains in the Ozark National Forest.  We turn onto 215 and now we are ready to light the bikes up.  We stop along the way for a couple of photos and hey ... who can resist a swinging bridge?  We ride the next hour through more mountains, curve after curve and I stopped to check my GPS when Greg pulls up to me and smiling says, "why haven't you brought me over here before?"  I just smile back and reply, you haven't seen the good stuff yet.  We stopped at a roadside overlook and as I'm getting off of my bike, a C130 buzzes the top of the mountain!  I frantically try to get my camera out but by the time I do ... he is too far away.  We waited a good while there hoping he would make another pass but no such luck.  We spend the next hour running mountainous roads that would make Captain Hook sea sick.  Stop at the Buffalo National River and take some photos and visit with a couple from England.  It was here that I notice my right footpeg rear bolt is stripped out.  We arrive at Yellville and find our motel, check in then go eat.  After eating we ride just outside of town to photograph a huge train trestle.  We go back and tarp the bikes down so we don't have to climb on a wet bike in the morning.  First day mileage: 182 miles.
Mulberry River
Swinging bridge at Oark
Buffalo National River
Pruitt bridge over Buffalo
Pruitt bridge over Buffalo
Yellville train trestle

We waited for the temp to get into the mid 40's before starting Wednesday morning.  After breakfast we head up and take the ferry across Bull Shoals lake.  We met four retired couples from New Mexico, all riding Goldwing trikes and having the time of their life.  We rode 125N in Missouri up to Glade Top Trail in the Mark Twain National Forest.  It was a well groomed narrow road that had plenty of spectacular views along the way.  Just as we were finishing our ride on Glade Top I noticed my right footpeg was loose again.  I stopped and tightened the front bolt again.  We rode back into Yellville and I took some Tylenol Arthritis, yes it was starting to hurt me.  After about 30 minutes, we head back out south of town to check out the ghost town of Rush on the Buffalo National River.  I really enjoyed checking the town out and want to go back when I have more time to walk around everywhere. Once we get back and tarp the bikes down again we had rode 217 miles for the day.
Peel Ferry ride

Southern entrance to Glade Top Trail
Glade Top Trail 
Glade Top Trail
Fire tower on Glade Top Trail
A bit early for peak fall foliage

Go ahead and laugh, we climbed on dry bikes every day
We pack everything up and head out of town Thursday morning.  We take a different way as we ride SE towards St Joe.  Greg wants to stop there at a smoke house to get some bacon and ham.  On the way we pass an old time general store and I wanted to stop and take some pictures on the way back through.  Just before arriving at the smoke house I notice my right footpeg is loose again.  While Greg is in the smoke house, I get my tool kit out and discover that now both bolts are stripped out.  Holy cow!  WE're a LONG way from home.  I tell Greg my problem and tell him I am riding back down to the general store to see what he has that I might use.  Sure enough, he came through.  Super nice guy who also rides motorcycles and I exit with a hose clamp and one big ass industrial zip tie.  I get the footpeg tightened back up against the frame and it feels pretty solid.  Who knows how long it will stay there as we head our bikes toward home.  All asphalt on the way back and we separated at Ozark, where I rode the last 40 miles back home solo.  Third day mileage was 210. The footpeg made it just fine by the way, I drilled, re-tapped and have new bolts in it so I am ready to go again.  
Rush, AR

Smelter used in mining operations
Buffalo National River at Rush
St Joe Mercantile - the original supercenter
Footpeg held on by hose clamp and big ass ziptie
My RA was hurting me pretty bad the last day but I just finished a 3 day, 610 mile ride.  I will deal with a little pain for getting to do that any day.  These are the times that we can look back on when we're having a bad day and smile ... they give us something to hold onto until our next big adventure and help pull us through the bad times.  

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Mountain Fork Bridge Adventure Ride

We set out in search of iron truss bridges, a tunnel under RR tracks, an old fire tower and the ultimate cheeseburger. A quick stop for gas and a PayDay (Darel calls them the original PowerBar) and we were gone. It was a brisk 58 degrees with fall in the air, it even smelled different being out in it. 
We ride 12 miles when Greg pulls up next to me at a stop sign and says "I'm hungry". Holy cow, are you kidding me? We've just got started!  We stop at a well known hole in the wall, down the road, for a burger and get back out on the road. I have to admit, I was more hungry than I realized by the time we ate. Good, now that lunch is out of the way, that will free up the rest of the day to ride. 
We head south and finally climb up on top of Talimena Drive. Talimena Drive is 55 miles of sheer excitement on a bike with overlooks to stop and enjoy the view along the way. We don't have time for that today, besides, we've both been on it numerous times. We turn off of Talimena Drive onto PCR 100 and start our descent down the mountain. With all of the floods this year, the road was in treacherous condition. Wash outs left harsh square edged deep cuts across the road and the dirt had been washed away leaving sharp jagged rocks exposed just waiting to puncture a tire if you hit them wrong. I have rode miles of trail that was not as rough as this dirt road. We finally make it through the 11 miles down to Highway 8. Run up the highway for 1.5 miles then turn onto more county dirt roads. The condition was much better than the last dirt road we were on.  We rode miles and miles of dirt road, taking in the beauty of the country, right up against the mountains before finding the Mountain Fork Bridge. Man, she was a beauty too ...110 years old! Greg pulls his helmet off and says, "you drag me out in the middle of (censored) nowhere ... for this?? I replied, no, I am looking for a tunnel under the RR tracks ... this is just on the way. He looks at me and says "oh ... cool". 

We spent quite a while there admiring and photographing the bridge and enjoying the peacefulness and beauty of the river and its surroundings. Next we ride across the bridge and I stop to get a couple of photos. It was cool looking through the decking to see the river below. Next up we stop at the Two Mile Creek bridge built in 1920. From there we ride back out to asphalt and ride Highway 71 for four miles before catching another county road. I knew we must be getting close to the tunnel, I have been following the train tracks next to the highway and they bent off just before we turned onto the dirt road. After losing the tracks altogether, we were twisting and turning going through the country side and I was about ready to say, lets turn around ... we make one more hard bend and there is the tunnel. We rode through it, took some pictures, played with a friendly dog that found us then started back towards the house. 

We stopped by the Rich Mountain Fire Tower ... a lot of history with that little place on top of the mountain. On the way back, Greg pulls up and says (no ... he doesn't say I'm hungry again. You're getting ahead of me here!), "I'm low on gas, I have 31 miles to empty". I look at my mileage and I'm about 29 miles from hitting reserve myself. We drop back down to Highway 59 and run into a little town for gas, I had just hit reserve and Greg had 6 miles to empty. Nice ride today, 255 miles, saw some cool stuff, made a new friend and in general had the time of our life today. I love fall days.

255 miles exceeds my mileage (a lot) that I normally try to stick to but I have to say I am feeling great for the day after.  My RA has been well behaved and didn't even complain too much throuhout the longer ride yesterday.  I hope everyone feels up to getting out and enjoying the fall weather this year.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Semi-Mundane Monday

I was contacted by Stephen Trevathan a while back about some info on RA.  Anyway, I checked it out and it seems to be legit so I decided to pass it on.  In my opinion, the info won't really surprise any of us living with RA but would be good info for newly diagnosed patients or family members.  Here is part of his email to me and the link if you are interested: "Last year, I helped to put together an infographic on rheumatoid arthritis, and I figured it would be something that you might want to share with others."

While I am feeling better, now out of my flare, I continue to drop things daily.  I just dropped my 1/2" torque wrench on my right foot ... wouldn't have been so bad but I had my house shoes on working in the shop. I might as well had a sheet of paper wrapped around my foot ... the protection factor would have been about the same.  After hopping up and down on one foot, swearing and throwing things at the cat (pretty sure she was laughing at me), I am nursing a bruised top of my right foot.  I have a week of vacation scheduled for the week of October 21st and Greg and Randall are on board to ride up into Missouri with me. That will be a 2, possibly a 3 day ride depending on what we run across while on the ride.

I got up and left the house on my KLR at 7:30 Monday morning.  I was meeting Greg at 8:30 and we were riding 90 miles NE to eat breakfast at a small cafe in the Ozark National Forest.  As I left the driveway and turned north, I noticed a small thunderhead in the sky.  Not giving it much thought, I proceeded on and over the next hour witnessed our sunny morning turning darker and darker.  I stopped at 8:15 and checked the radar on my cell phone and sure enough ... rain was moving in.  I called Greg and he was stopped getting gas so we decided to eat breakfast locally and see what the weather did.  It's funny how in small towns where we stop to eat, no one pays any attention to us walking in and sitting down.  Walk into a larger town cafe with riding pants and knee pads, riding boots and jackets and everyone stops and stares ... you would have thought we had guns the way everyone was watching us!  I kept watching radar while we were eating and the rain was staying just north of our position so I talked Greg into running a shorter loop and rechecking the weather on the way.  We stopped at a dry creek, which normally has 2-3 feet of water in it, and rode the creek bed for a little bit.  I actually intended to just run up a short way and turn around to come back but noticed that Greg had followed me down the creek bed on his 1200GS with street tires!  Alright Greg ... so we rode a bit more of the creek, turned around and rode back out to the road.  Once back on the road I noticed it was getting darker again and cooler.  We rode into an abandoned truck stop and you could see and smell the rain, now about a quarter of a mile from us.  We talked about riding it out under the truck stop awning but Greg needed to get back to meet some contractors on his house so, not knowing how long we might be caught there, we headed back towards town.  On the way back passing through a small town I looked down at my speedo ... oh crap!  I was running 63 in a 40 mph zone, so I threw the binders on and slowed down just in time to ride around a corner and meet a state trooper sitting just off of interstate on the side of the road that we were riding.  Not a bad day, we scared some people, had a crummy breakfast, beat a speeding ticket and still rode 153 miles while staying dry for the most part.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

RA and Osteoporosis

Remember to get your questions for Angela into me by this weekend.

As someone with rheumatoid arthritis, we are at greater risk for osteoporosis. Both arthritis and osteoporosis make you more likely to slip or fall. Strategies for preventing and treating osteoporosis in people with rheumatoid arthritis are pretty simple and straight forward. Reduce clutter and trip hazards in your home, use a rubber mat in the shower and using the hand rail on stairways.                                                                                                                          

A well-balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D is important for healthy bones. Good sources of calcium include low-fat dairy products; dark green, leafy vegetables; and calcium-fortified foods and beverages. Vitamin D plays an important role in calcium absorption and bone health. Bone is living tissue that responds to exercise by becoming stronger. The best activity for your bones is weight-bearing exercise that forces you to work against gravity like walking, climbing stairs, weight training, and dancing. I have no problem climbing stairs but it is difficult and painful coming down them.

A bone mineral density (BMD) test measures bone density in various parts of the body. The test can detect osteoporosis before a fracture occurs and can predict one’s chances of fracturing in the future. I have been getting a bone density test every 2 years over the past 8 years, they are safe and painless.                                                                                                    

Like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis has no cure. However, medications are available to prevent and treat osteoporosis.   Several medications, including bisphosphonates and a parathyroid preparation, are available for people with rheumatoid arthritis who have or are at risk for glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis.                                                                               

I have my bike ready to ride this fall, just waiting on some fall temperatures. It has been 95-99 every day last week and this week with heat index from 103-110. Too hot for this boy!

A young man was seriously injured in a motorcycle crash over the weekend. He has serious head injuries and was not wearing a helmet. One of many debates with helmet use is that many experienced riders feel they should not have to wear a helmet. The problem I have with that is it's not about the experience, for me it's about the safety. While a more experienced rider is less likely to show off and watch the road better, 48% of motorcycle accidents occur due to the fault of the other vehicle. Sure riders want the freedom, but are they ready to pay the consequences to receive their few minutes of enjoyment? 

From 1997 through 2008, the number of motorcycle fatalities nationwide more than doubled from 2,116 to 5,290*. Head injury is a leading cause of death in motorcycle crashes. Yes there are more motorcycle riders out there now but the bottom line is that two out of every three riders killed were not wearing a helmet. An NTSB spokesman said "It's a public health issue." No, it's not a public health issue. A public health issue comes from people being exposed to illness, skull fractures are not contagious.   I'm a firm believer in AGATT (All Gear All The Time) no matter how hot or uncomfortable it may be. Unless riding to work, I ALWAYS leave the house with full length boots, riding pants with hip and knee pads, gloves, full face helmet and most days a jacket with shoulder, back and elbow pads. The days that I ride to work with just helmet, gloves, jeans and my steel toe work boots, I almost feel naked.                                                                                                                             

The choice is ultimately yours but remember, you don't just put yourself at risk.  Are your family and friends ready to take care of you long term or say good bye to you forever? 

* http://www.ntsb.gov/news/speeches/hart/hac110214.html

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


Setbacks are part of living with a chronic disease.  We don't like them but we don't really have a say so in it.  The real key is to not let them get you down...easier said than done sometimes.  Angela recently posted on everyday victories and I think that is an excellent way of keeping us grounded.  Our victories may differ from day to day but thats what makes living with RA so interesting.  That was a joke.  It's hard to explain to someone how it can take everything I have to get out of bed and walk to the living room one day and the next day I can go ride 150 miles.  After living with RA a few years, we learn to listen to our bodies and know when we can push and get away with it and when we need to take it easy.  Still somedays I do get surprised though.  Learn to recognize your victories and use them for self motivation on future rough days.  While you may not be able to relate to me riding a 200 mile adventure ride through a national forest, you can relate to the time you mowed your yard in one day (I have a big yard), went to the movies or for a bike ride with the kids.  You can submit your victories to EverydayRAVictories.com and UCB will donate $1 for every victory until the $30,000 goal is reached.

I'm excited beyond words right now.  I continue to feel good (for someone with RA anyway) and I have new tires, wheel bearings, chain and sprockets ordered.  I have a long day ride planned for late September and a 2-3 day ride in October.  Plus I have 2 bridge rides that I will work in on my days off soon.  I am looking forward to hunting one bridge down that not only is abandoned, the road is no longer there as well.  I have (hopefully) good coordinates for my gps so the only challenge should be actually picking a good line through the trees.  I may have to ride my KTM for this one though.
 My KLR 650
While looking for an old iron truss bridge in January, I found this old concrete bridge.

I have now put close to 9000 miles on my KLR and while it is far from the perfect bike it is a good fit for what I am riding.  The suspension upgrade this summer is by far the best money I have spent on the bike since owning it.  I bought my KLR used with 4400 miles on it for $3600 and have put another $1005 into it, not counting consumables such as tires, oil and filters.  I have had it to 90 on asphalt, 83 on dirt roads as well as taking it for a mild beating off road.  You can't find a cheaper, more capable adventure bike than the KLR.  The downside is that it does lack brutal, rip your arms out of their socket horsepower, is a bit heavy and being a 650 single ... it's a 430 pound vibrator.  I am easily distracted by KTM and BMW's but the bottom line is I am riding everything they ride for a lot cheaper.

Remember to get your questions to me for Angela's guest post (see my previous post) coming up.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Short Bus

I have my moments - okay sometimes days.  Some can be blamed on the RA/meds that leave you in a medicated fog, some can be blamed on the three concussions I have had and I suppose some can just flat out be blamed on bad genes (no, I didn't ride the short bus).   I have felt better over the last two weeks than most of the year and it finally hit me like a ton of bricks ... I have been in a serious flare up since April.  I was quick to blame the Humira, thinking it had quit working, and hadn't even considered that I was in an extended flare up.  Then again the longest flare I have ever had lasted only three weeks.  There you have it, I'm not afraid to admit that I'm a mental midget.  I still hurt everyday but overall I feel great right now.  Healthy people won't understand that last statement.

RA Adventure Rider was selected by Healthline as one of the top 20 blogs on RA for 2013. You can see all 20 of the blogs here. I'm humbled to be included with the likes of real writers and health advocates. I would like to thank all of my readers, followers and Healthline.

If you don't already know her, I would like to introduce you to Angela Durazo.  She is is former professional model who currently runs a small media and public relations consulting company, a triathelete, oh I almost forgot ... she also has RA.  An amazing young woman who will be on the September cover/cover story for 'Arthritis Today Magazine', and will be doing a guest post here in the next month. Angela was on biologics, steroids, anti-inflammatories & muscle relaxers but after having bad side effects, she got off everything and now manages her RA with a controlled anti-inflammatory diet. You can read her blog here and I will forward any questions you have for her so she can address them in her upcoming post.
I met Greg for a heavily overcast mid-morning ride.  We stopped by his new house when he discovered his BMW needed oil.  After the quick detour we were off like a heard of turtles, really large turtles with fast bikes!  We have had so much rain and flooding lately, we headed to the Ozark National Forest to check it out.  Our first stop was at Natural Dam, an all-natural rock dam that's nearly 200 feet wide.  We were shocked at what we saw ... nothing out of the ordinary.  While there we talked with a man and his son that had rode their Harleys over from west of Okmulgee.  I always enjoy visiting with people out on rides, especially other riders.  Next we rode over to Devils Den State Park and again the same story.  No water there either, we had even talked about if the water was up over the low water bridges we would just turn around, but there was no chance of getting a bike washed away today!    We rode old scenic highway 71 back up and over Boston Mountain and cut across Frog Bayou and again, same story.  Turns out the heavy rains and flooding we have experienced have been spotty just like the summer showers are.  Still, a great way to spend a day.  The clouds gave way to sun and with a heat index of 103, I nearly over did it again.  I did something I don't normally do, I pulled my jacket off and rode in a short sleeved t-shirt.  I believe in AGATT but it was so hot I made an exception this one time.  Despite the air rushing over me at 60-75 mph, my t-shirt was wringing wet by the time I pulled in the garage and I payed for my fun later that night but all is well now.  At least the ER was not involved in this over heating episode.
View of the Arkansas River from Gregs back yard.
Caught my bike out sunning ... like its not dark enough already.
Half of Natural Dam
 You know me, I love iron truss bridges!
 Super fast dirt road that comes out at Devils Den.
 Shade tunnel
 I thought bats took shelter in caves ... I learned something new.
 A view under the overpass that few ever see
on the road/trail less traveled.
As a matter of fact Greg does own the whole road... until a car comes!

Remember to get your questions to me for Angela.