Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Locked Out

This is a picture that was snapped today at Yankee post ride bliss. I am not even sure how I found this setting on my phone, though I am confident it will take me a week to get a normal picture setting back. After four or five pictures while I was still breathing heavy from the ride I decided it was time to pack it up as the breeze chilled my sweaty skin. I stood up and reached in my jersey pocket for my remote key. Click. Click....clickity, click, click, click. Nothing. I was locked out of my car. I scampered over to the driver side door kicking up the dust in my clip clop shoes. Sure enough I left the lights on. "Now how the hell did that happen?" I asked my self. Then I remembered....

When I pulled into the trail head parking lot I breathed a sigh of relief when I didn't see Ol' Blue. He had posted on Facebook that he was riding with the sunrise at Yankee. I thought I had timed it just right to get there after he left, ride, and still have enough time to make it to work, but as I swung around the corner to the parking lot I could see he was actually there...packing things up into his cousin's car. My heart started pounding in my ears as I put the car in park and shut it off. I fumbled with my phone for a minute killing time as they finished packing up. At that instant my bladder threatened to pop like a water balloon being chucked onto sharp grass by an angry 12 year old. I had no choice but to get out of the car. As I bee-lined to the outhouse I told myself this was something I was going to have to get used to. We live in the same town. We ride the same trails. His cousin mentioned something about the weather. I blurted something in response which I can't recall now, thanking God that he didn't say anything to me. I ducked into the outhouse that was already ripe for mid March. I took care of business and waited for the sound of the car engine to turn over... and waited, and waited until I couldn't stand it anymore. I was sure I was going to burn my throat if I stayed in there much longer. I threw the door open and trotted toward the car and then I heard him say it. He had to say it. He just couldn't help himself. "Enjoy the trail. It is AMAZING!" I wanted to fire back something super witty like, "Don't tell me what to do!" or something along the lines of " I stood a chance of enjoying my ride until just now." but I said nothing. I couldn't. The lump in my throat felt bigger than a grape fruit and the tears in my eyes threatened to blind me to the point of not making it back to my car. I considered not even taking my bike off the rack, going home and taking a nap before work. I felt old and slow and sad and I just didn't want to ride anymore like so many times over the last few years, but I thought of the wasted gas and the wasted opportunity and reluctantly took the "Q" off the rack. As all this was happening I never double checked to see if I shut my lights off. I locked my car with the keys in it, and threw my remote in my jersey pocket, and clipped in to pedal away my sorrows.

Maybe if I was still able to do a 55 minute lap I would have made it back before my battery was totally drained. I was only able to manifest 1:09. Not fast enough although it was 6 minutes faster than my time out there on Sunday. I noted the progress and decided that in spite of feeling shitty on the bike, and just shitty in general I am getting a little bit of fitness back.
This made the day not suck quite so hard, as I was tempted to do a mental death spiral on how much this trail head distraction was going to cost me. I sent out an SOS and my heart was warmed by the response. Two of my friends called right away, and offered to come get me. A friend in the area called and left me a voice mail giving me his address, offering to let me hang out until something transpired to get my car unlocked.
My awesome mechanic Bill, owner of Middleville Auto came out, but was unable to get in my car. He called a towing service he uses frequently, but there was a two to three hour wait. Bill offered to let me use his car for the day, but I felt like I should just sit tight because I would need to be there should the ever impending tow truck need to be called into action.

Just as Bill was leaving the lady from the towing company took pity on this damsel in distress alone in the woods and called me back with info on a company in Hastings that could get to me sooner and cheaper than the company posted on the rangers shed. I scratched the number in the dirt, and waited. I was already late for work, steadily losing the money it would take to pay for the tow truck. As I picked up my phone to dial a truck pulled in the parking lot. The guy that got out didn't look like a criminal, but I was desperate. "You wouldn't by chance know how to break into my car would you?" "I think I might be able to do just that!" he replied. He reached into the back of his truck and pulled out "breaking into car tools". This guys had skills. When he couldn't actually get the unlock button to work he went after the post sticking up at the top of the door. This thin bar he was using had nothing on it that would grab hold a pull up the lock post, but low and behold he did it. Clearly there are mountain bikers that have many tools and talents for things other than biking. Who knew?

I politely verbalized his amazing skills and while he jumped my battery we chit-chatted about the upcoming TT at Yankee, as well as recovering from various injuries. He said something very interesting that I didn't take into account when I started riding again, because I felt like I was at ground zero. He said that I will regain what I had lost much quicker than if I was a newbie just starting out. Judging by my progress (minimal, but still progress none the less) I could see that this spandex wearing potential car thief was right. There is no way I could have rode Yankee in 3 hours when I was learning to ride, and 1:09 wasn't even a thought in my head back then. I drove away feeling optimistic about my future riding abilities, and prayed that his theory also applies to starting life over again by myself. Locking myself out of my car at the trail head could get pretty costly this summer otherwise.

I think I will go get another key made. :/

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Return to Dirt

     The last two years and seven months have been a blur of various injuries that started with heart break in Feb 2010. The next was a sprained ankle in June 2010 that just wouldn't get better. One wouldn't think the heart and the ankle had much in common other than being part of the same body, but if you continue to use them while injured they are both subject to not healing or functioning properly. Last summer came a diagnosis of medial epicondylitis as well as a rotator cuff impingement, and a sprained wrist that I procured at Fort Custer. My father also died last summer. Add to the list more heart break to an already festering wound. A culmination of a series of unfortunate events led to me writhing on the floor unable to get up. My summer was capped off with a broken back. Yesterday marked six months and two days from that miserable day. It also marked my return to the dirt from which I came.

      Driving to the trail head I felt like myself again. I haven't felt that way in what seems like a very long time. Although I was scared of what was to come it just felt right to be going where I was going so I could do what I do, but it wasn't without fear. I was scared that somehow every technical skill I had ever learned had somehow vanished along with my wasting muscles. I was scared a tree would reach out and throw me off the trail and I would be once again writhing on the ground with a broken back. I was scared that it would take me 3 hours to get around Yankee. I was scared that I would be so discouraged I wouldn't ever want to ride my bike again. I was scared it was going to hurt. I am happy to report not all of those things happened. I do still have a little muscle under the fat that has gathered on my body like cumulus clouds in a summer sky. After a mile or so into the woods my soul remembered what my mind and body feared were lost forever and I was able to maneuver the Q over rocks and roots without much difficulty. I was able to head off at the pass the motivation of every evil trail side tree as they stood naked watching me. What I feared would take an eternity to complete only took 1:29. A far cry from my lap times the last time I was healthy enough to race there in 2010, but there is nowhere to go but up from here right???

      Just as I thought though, there was pain. With every drop, rock, or root I was acutely aware of the break that was once in my T-12 vertebra. The muscles along my spine tightened and burned in a protective response to the weakened area in my back, and many times it almost seduced me into giving up. Almost. Somehow, (and I don't exactly know how this works when I am on my bike) I was able to turn that pain into fuel to finish the lap.  As I rode memories of what brought me to this point in my life tightened and burned in a protective response to the weakened areas of my broken heart, and I knew I never had to put myself in that position again.

      As I pulled out of the parking lot with my jelly roll pushing down the waistline of my lycra shorts, I turned on the radio. Feeling much less that hot unless of course you count the sweat rolling down my spine into my butt crack, my ears tuned into the irony of life playing on WYCE.

      I don't have much but James reminds me I am going to have to use what I got to get what I want. This requires putting on my Hot Pants, jelly roll or not.  For the first time in a very long time, I want the life I am living right now in this very moment and I want to ride my bike.    I think I will play in the dirt again very soon.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Half Moon

If you were the moon

and I the sky

you'd hang low

in my jealous hands this night

only the half of you

you choose to give

tonight, tonight...

like every night.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Breaking Away

If you know Niel and me, then you know two people whose lives have been impacted by Multiple Sclerosis. MS is a degenerative condition that attacks the central nervous system. Symptoms can range from a mild numbness to paralysis or blindness. For those with MS, the future is at best uncertain. Every individual is affected differently.

In November 2001 the tip of my left middle finger went numb. In three days time I lost partial function and feeling on the left side of my body. If I extended my arm out from my side, it would flail about as if it had a mind of its own. I could not tie my own shoes, put my hair in a pony tail, or do anything that required the use of two hands. Although I could walk, I couldn’t go more than 25 ft without losing my breath because it felt like someone was sitting on my chest. A neurological itch developed on the left side of my head, neck, back and chest. It felt like my skin was being shrink wrapped to my bones. The best I could do was roll around on the floor crying while I clawed myself bloody. This was the beginning of a very scary and uncertain 3 months of testing…. and waiting.

On February 2, 2002 the official diagnosis came in. I was diagnosed with Relapsing Remitting Multiple Sclerosis. Relief came just by knowing what it was I was dealing with, but along with that diagnosis came a million questions and a whole new set of fears. The first place I called was the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. They had tons of resources available, and the latest information on research and treatment. The understanding and compassion that was relayed over that telephone line was priceless.

Much has changed for me since February 2002. Now when I open my eyes in the morning I am grateful I can see. When I swing my legs over the edge of the bed, I am grateful they hold me up. Another thing that has changed is I try to take care of myself as best I can. Other than popcorn and ice-cream, I eat pretty healthy. I quit smoking about four years ago. Right around that time my friend Eric re-introduced me to my first love and this has been my saving grace, my bicycle. When the uncertainty of my future gets to be too much, I swing my leg over the bike, clip in and pedal through it. I cannot express to you in words how much my bike and the ability to ride it means to me. It has opened up a whole new world for me to live in.

This disease can leave those diagnosed and their loved ones feeling rather helpless, so you can imagine how happy I was to find out that I could help those effected by MS simply by doing what I love to do most…ride my bicycle. I am blessed to have met someone who seems to tolerate me, and shares the same biking obsession. We plan to ride 200 miles together in the Bike MS West Michigan Breakaway on June 12& 13th. If you want to help us change the future for those with MS, you can do so by clicking here. I would love it if you could help Niel and I support the organization that was there for me when I needed it most. Thank you so much for your time and support.

Monday, February 22, 2010

A Joint Venture

If you have noticed this blog has seriously lacked content. I have been busy working on a joint venture. It's just getting started but if you care to follow along you may do so at www.dirtfortwo.blogspot.com. Cya!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

A Broken Jar

like a movie

I saw myself at the table.

Paper, loose leaf

strewn about like fallen tree fingers

scattered in the sun.

I imagined I was feverishly writing

about memories we had caught;

like fire flies in a mason jar.

I saw us as we peered from opposite sides into the glow of the jar.

Great were the shadows the light did cast

till there was more of you that I couldn't see.

So I shook the jar

that slipped from my sweaty palms

as I tried to place it in your outstretched arms

it crashed

between our feet

and the light dispersed

our memories


into the space

between us.

I thought I might join you there

to sweep up the glass

but the table,

the tree fingers... disappeared...

I dusted and vacuumed instead.

Friday, August 7, 2009

A Vase


carelessly fall from your lips

they land

on my heart

in pieces

But some....

Some I hold in my hand

caressing the petals with unfeeling fingers

not knowing if they are real,

I pull them

one by one.

I inhale deeply their sweet scent.

A seduction of life anew

drifts passed my haunted memories

making even those smell sweet.

you love me

you love me not

until nothing

is left

but stamen and pistil

as another spoken word like a flower picked,

dances on your bottom lip


to curl it's sweet scent around my neck

like a noose it chokes out


until I can't hear anything

more than

a bouquet of

"I love you"

that fills me

fragile, hollow.

A vase,

wishing it were soil

to nourish

what you said.