Monday, September 29, 2008
This morning, with no wide-eyed spectators present, I hoisted my own left leg over the side of our bath tub no-hands - from my position seated on a plastic stool. I heard the sound of distant trumpets heralding my triumph, but no one else heard or saw a thing. Lance won seven; Valentino just regained the World's Championship and broke lots of records, and I have lifted my leg over the side of our tub. Proud men all.
In a couple of days, I'll see my surgeon. He'll tell me if I can simply walk, or walk with a cane or walk with one crutch. If I can put some weight on my left leg, I believe I'll put my Bike Friday (because I can step through the frame to get on and off) on a stationary trainer and pedal low gears for a half hour or so each day. Pedal my way to health and vitality, I will...
Thanks to my physical therapist and the exercises she suggested, I can bend my leg and lift it from the floor. I can get around okay on my crutches. I feel sure that pedaling will help reduce the swelling in my left ankle and foot by promoting blood flow. That's the plan anyway.
If I had to fall off my bike and break my leg, I'm thankful that it happened when it did - in the first half of August, and not later. My daily walks have preserved my sanity. Had I crashed in the fall and been rehabilitated enough to get out on crutches just as the snow fell, I'd have been out of luck.
I'll write again after I've seen my doc. Thanks for reading these probably sleep-inducing reports; they seem like epic tales of One Man's Heroism and Humanity from where I sit. Hey, I got my leg over the side of the tub no-hands - this morning!
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Be sure to click on View All Comments at the end of the piece.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
But my leg! My leg is getting better! Why, the swelling is down so much that I have a visible ankle - a bony area separating my lower leg from my foot. No kidding! I'm walking a good bit every day on my crutches in lovely early fall Denver weather; I'm doing my physical therapy exercises....and getting better.
I see my surgeon on October 1st. It is my hope that he will allow me to begin to put some weight on my left leg - so that I can ride a bicycle on a trainer (in low gears) and walk with a cane instead of my crutches. The crutches have been helpful but they are not lovable. I am thankful for them, but they are as unlovable as your anti-virus programs. Almost.
I'm glad that the crash happened in August and not a couple of months later. Had I fallen in October, in December I'd be wanting to get outside for walks but the sidewalks would be icy. I don't know what I'd do. Get a ride to an indoor mall and walk around it?
I have been thinking about riding my motorcycle once I'm better but I have not been imagining riding my bicycle. I think about cycling, if I'm explaining myself accurately, but not much about my own riding.
The costs of that crash is hard to calculate in terms I can communicate to you. In terms of pain and inconvenience and time lost and strain on Tamar's and my relationship... In fearfulness and self-absorption.
I'm confident that I'll get past all this; Tamar and I will remember this as a nightmare that will fade in time. Perhaps we will forget the price we paid for my not seeing that goddamn sand.
I am happy to see the return to top-level cycling of Tyler Hamilton, Floyd Landis, Ivan Basso and Lance Armstrong. Racing will be more entertaining with those guys around. Wishing that they could just blend back into the peleton is silly, but Lance's return (to Astana) will certainly muddy the waters there.
If you were Johan Bruneel, would you rather have a superstar fan- and sponsor-magnet whose further Tour-winning abilities are unproven - or an ordinary winner of three grand tours who is merely a wonderful bike racer? Merely a winner?
Friday, September 19, 2008
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Tamar and I aren't big Dan Hicks fans, but everything else in this piece rings solid true...
Indy Recap--Deer Don't Like Dan's Hot Licks
by jim mcdermott
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Heading home thru Virginia, dinosaurs first combusting then puffing thru the twin exhausts of my bike, it was easy to let my mind wander back to a great weekend in Indianapolis. I had the cruise set to 75, it was late and used up stormheads were backlit by a huge moon. Obscured light shimmered behind the clouds, a black mother-of-pearl glow that lit the prehistorically dark hills shouldering the highway. Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks crooned "Waiting For The 103" over the stereo, a newfound musical discovery (for me) whose eclectic sound always elicits a strong response from first time listeners, either love or hate.
Like most people, I didn't really know what to expect from the first MotoGP held at Indy; the setting was never going to be as picturesque as Laguna Seca; no crashing waves, wet seals or dry lakebed. And of course, no Corkscrew. I always watched the Indy 500 when I was a kid, on ABC's tan-sportscoated Wide World Of Sports, when the race was huge and AJ Foyt owned it. Other than a few dim 70's memories of teeming grandstands on Memorial Day, Indianapolis Motor Speedway was just a name to me.
I arrived in time for first practice on Saturday. Unlike most racing circuits which are set back from main roads to help contain noise and provide parking, Indy is literally right on the street. On Georgetown Road, a hulking gray line of grandstands hang over the curb, like WWII aircraft carriers sitting in dry dock. Across the street, residents offer parking on the lawns of their small cottages, $10 on Friday, $20 on Saturday, $50 on Sunday. Some provided camping for the wet dogs who rode their bikes to the races. From gaudy trailer stands, carnies hawk hot nuts, knockoff event shirts, and send fresh marks scavenging for left-handed screwdrivers. A traffic cop thrusts a hand out to oncoming traffic, wiggles his fingers and hustles you towards the Speedway entrance. You descend just underneath the track to get inside the circuit; during practice, the MotoGP bikes roar onto the front straight, directly overhead.
Once inside, you notice the high wire fences, which jut out over the tarmac in front of the grandstands. In a high speed shunt, they'd stop a car from flying into the crowd, preventing the kind of tragedy that killed 80 spectators at the 1955 Le Mans 24 Hour race. The arms which hold the wires have been discolored by rusty decades, in fact oxidation is evident on many of the metal surfaces at the track. This is not to say that Indy is falling apart; more that it is aging majestically, like an original, unrestored Iver Johnson motorcycle. There is history in every beam here, every rivet, a presence which no other American racing facility possesses. I've felt this at Monza in Italy......Imola too. It is imbued into such places thru epic victories, heartbreaking loss and profound tragedy. If you take care to listen, the echoes of the countless millions who cheered in these seats over 100 years can still be heard, on the edge of the wind, once the motors are quiet. The wonderful Speedway museum features Indy racers from 1911 thru today, and a trove of racing ephemera, including legendary Mercedes F1 driver Rudi Caracciola's entire trophy collection.
The stuttering report of MotoGP bikes, idling down pitlane on their speed limiters, snapped me back to 2008. The track was soaked, but riders still shot down the narrow front straight at close to 200 miles an hour thru the spray. The weather made for drama all weekend, rumors of an early race, a delayed start, a cancelled event, but Sunday afternoon came around and they rolled onto the grid. The wind picked up and made the rain hurt your face. I rolled up my jean cuffs, put on a ten dollar Indy rain parka/trash-bag with logos, and headed to the Turn 9 Grandstands for the start. Within a couple of laps, it was clear that Hayden and Rossi must have had a bigger bowl of Wheaties that morning, as neither, especially Hayden, were displaying any real concern for the awful track conditions. The rest of the field seemed quite spooked, and most looked as though they were running a tiptoe pace in comparison. Of course, Hayden's riding style is the most visually dramatic in MotoGP, sliding the RC212V thru the corners, getting out of shape and catching it without backing off. It will be a treat to see him manhandle the Ducati next year. As the laps counted down, almost inevitably, Rossi caught Hayden and won it, riding the Yamaha with finesse, control and visible genius. These two guys were in a different race than everybody else out there.
Ben Spies certainly impressed with his 6th place finish, besting many experienced riders on equal or better machinery. Earlier in the year, I thought Spies' next stop should be World Superbike, but I was very wrong. He seems to have more fire in his belly than half the guys riding in MotoGP. He didn't boast or make predictions, he kept it on two wheels and wasn't satisfied to row around in 16th place. It will be a real drag if Ben doesn't end up in the Blue Riband class for 2009.
Downtown, the place to be on Friday and Saturday was South Meridian Street, the streets closed off for bike-only parking. The crowd was similar in size to Monterey's Cannery Row during the Laguna Seca race weekend, but there were a lot more cruisers, less European bikes, even chunky girls in sweatpants riding stretched Hayabusas. And it was much rowdier - despite a road sign which flashed "Ride Proud, Not LOUD", open-piped machines rorted up and down the streets, mere feet away from the local constabulary, who didn't seem to be that bothered by the ruckus. Speaking of the streets, they were renamed after riders for the weekend, so you'd look up and see Freddie Spencer or James Toseland's name on a signpost above you. Banners advertising the GP were ubiquitous, posters in every restaurant, even the menus had the Red Bull/Indy MotoGP logo imprinted on them. This is the way races are promoted in Italy and Spain, not America....I've attended four MotoGP races at Laguna, and while they do a superb job making the event visible, this was at an altogether higher level. I stayed at The Hampton Inn, which gave each guest a laser engraved paperweight commemorating the inaugural race. Thankfully, they didn't pay for it by quadrupling their room rates.
So would I go again next year? Absolutely. Indianapolis has a totally different vibe, blues bars and ribs versus Monterey's karaoke and crab legs. Wives and girlfriends will of course prefer California, Indy being perhaps more of a man's man, pure motorhead event. The weekend was damned good fun, with nonstop weather drama- I gave BBC commentator Charlie Cox a frantic, windswept ride to the airport on the back of the Harley. Balancing a pillion on wet streets was a bit nerve wracking (must NOT dump the frakking broadcaster), but Coxie made his flight just in time. I left Indy Monday morning with a 600 mile ride in front of me, praying for dry weather. I got my wish, but I still has some drama to get thru.
Eastbound at midnight on I-64, Virginia is a deer's world, and I was just riding in it. Singing along with the CD player, no vehicles near me for miles, I almost didn't see the animal as it took tentative steps onto the highway. My headlight caught a quick glint of nocturnal eyes and I got on the brakes, hard. The bike sat down on it's suspension, slowing fast, but still headed towards the flank of the deer, as the front tire howled loudly over the music. Startled, the doe did a quick double take, then bounced back into the woods. I passed by at a walking speed, heart pounding, awfully glad for the rubber squeal which frightened the animal out of my path.
On second thought, it was probably the Dan Hicks tune that scared her off. I'm pretty sure the deer was a first time listener.
Two years ago, as Tamar and I were preparing to escape Tucson, someone broke into my tool shed and took my toolbox - and its 15- or 20-year accumulation of tools. Broke my heart.
I whined about the incident in my column in The Bicycle Paper, the Pacific NW free cycling monthly. Beth read the piece and sent me an assortment of bicycle tools, extras she'd accumulated in her years as a bike mechanic and cyclist. Beth Hamon is the real thing.
Here's the note:
Dear friends -- I almost NEVER send out public service announcements like this one. In fact, I think this may be a first, or only a second, I dunno.
If you drive to work, your gasoline and a significant portion of the costs of maintaining the roads are subsidized by the government and/or the automotive and petroleum industries. If Americans paid the true cost of owning and driving a car every day, most would end up broke and/or unable to afford to drive.
If, like me, you ride to work, you bear ALL of the costs of purchasing, maintaining and storing your bicycle. On top of that you may also get grief from co-workers and employers who frown on your sweaty arrival at work each day, and who sneer at your requests for more secure bicycle parking.
But I digress.
A tax credit for those who cycle to work daily wouldn't amount to very much money, especially when compared to the zillions in subsidies that car drivers currently experience; and because adults who ride bikes for basic transportation are still greatly outnumbered by folks who drive cars every day.
Earl Blumenauer (D - Oregon) would like to see bicycle commuters get a "thank you" for helping out the planet by getting a little tax relief. If you want to find out more, read here:
...and if you think you'd like to get behind this (by contacting your elected officials), read here for more info:
(End of my public service announcement. I promise there won't be another for at least a year or more. If getting this really bothers you tell me and I will not include you in future PSA's.)
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Tamar and I are back from a four-day trip to Indianapolis to visit my family and to spectate at motorcycle races on Saturday night and Sunday.
If you have never passed through an airport or the gigantic Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a handicapped person, I can assure you it is an eye-opening experience. There are dozens of people in the airports whose job it is to assist folks who need help.
And at the Speedway? If you've wondered what it's like for the Stones to arrive via limo to an arena show... That's what it was like.
All in stark contrast to trying to negotiate your neighborhood sidewalks in your wheelchair. Those sidewalks are an obstacle course - often nearly impossible to use. But in the airports? And at the Brickyard? Wonderful.
Terrific as it was, I would not suggest breaking a bone to experience that luxury. Just take my word for it.
I'll try to post a photo or two of the race on Sunday, held in awful, hostile weather. And maybe one of Tamar and me with my family, huddled under an awning during the lapse between the shortened 125cc GP race, the cancelled 250cc GP race and the shortened MotoGP.
Monday, September 8, 2008
This piece, No Need for Speed, suggests that building 300hp cars, trucks and SUVs for roads limited to 75mph may be (uh...) counterproductive.
Soon, said the blooger as he knocked on the compressed sawdust of his $40 American Furniture Warehouse desk, I'll be able to sleep as I always have. Tamar will be able to return to what we call "our" bed.
Think of it. Well, don't, but imagine me thinking of it.
I walked with the crutches again yesterday, maybe almost a half-mile. The rubber pads at the tops of the crutches chafe my rib cage on both sides, just below my armpits. I'm sharing this intimate detail with you because I know you care. You do care, right?
My hands get tired from the crutch handles, which as I did not know, support your weight as you move from place to place at dizzying speeds. While I am speeding down the sidewalks and across the ped-Xings, I am afraid of everything: passersby, dogs, traffic, uneven sidewalk slabs, sandy patches...
Every short walk is an adventure.
My left leg is still swollen but you can see a knee there. My left foot is fat, fat. My physical therapist says the swelling will remain until I can walk on the leg. It's the last to go, she says.
Thanks to a phone alert from my friend Aaron in Boulder, I watched the last miles of the US Pro Cycling Championships from Greenville, SC, yesterday. Tyler Hamilton won. I like and admire Tyler, who has probably strayed from what we'll call the Straight and Narrow and paid the price. He's back, entitled to race, and he's still the prince-of-a-guy he's always been. Bravo, Tyler!
During that race, one of the guys in the break crashed suddenly for no apparent reason. Perhaps he rolled a glued-on tubular tire off his rim. I couldn't watch the result. Too real. Too close.
I also watched the Superbike races (motorcycle road races) from Donington in England. The track was drenched by heavy rains all through practice and qualifying; many riders fell, one guy (a great rider) six times.
During the event, a racer's engine blew. The exhaust spewed oil mist all the way around the track. Lots of guys fell off on that oil. I had to look away from the screen.
I've never liked watching crashes but I just can't do it now. When I fell, I wasn't going 28mph like the poor guy who fell at the Pro Championships - or 80mph like the guys who fell at Donington. I hope the cyclist jumped right back up, sore but uninjured. The Superbike riders wear armor and leather; the slickness of the track and its design mitigate against serious injury.
You don't have to look deep between the lines here to realize that I'm good-'n'-spooked. When I ride in a car in city traffic I feel I'm in Hyperspace with Han and Chewbaca.
Just human nature, right? I'll get over it soon enough, right? If you have been in this fearful state of mind, please contribute a comment or send me an email. Your blogger, never brave, hates to feel he's the scared-iest cat ever...
Saturday, September 6, 2008
But I'm doing better now, having figured out how far apart to plant the tips and how far in front of me to swing them and...some other stuff that's equally or even more boring if you aren't hurt.
This morning, Tamar and I walked the five short blocks (Denver city blocks are indeed short, not nearly a tenth of a mile) to a coffee place. The day was perfect and I didn't even nearly fall down, not on the way there or on the way back.
That little walk gave me a glimpse of the legendary light at the end of the long, dark tunnel. I can imagine that eventually, weeks from now but not forever from now, I'm going to be okay.
My left middle finger will need some help, perhaps a small surgery to correct cartilage damage it sustained when I rudely dislocated it. But I can walk about half as fast as I can normally. It feels fast to me. It is way faster than I could go behind the walker.
I've heard via email and phone from friends, many of whom have related accident stories of their own or about their own friends. Maybe it's true: Maybe a bit of misery loves a bit of company.
As I walk now with my crutches, guys walking with canes, guys in wheelchairs and guys on their own crutches always say hi and often pass along a few encouraging words. There's an invisible fraternity of hurt folks that's been invisible to me. I see it now.
My time in the trauma hospital and in convalescing has been eye-opening indeed. Much of it has been nothing at all like real life. If you know someone who's been hurt and had to depend on the kindness of white- and green-clad strangers, ask them if it wasn't a series of small but poignant epiphanies.
I would not re-break a femur to re-experience the epiphanies, but maybe they're the silver lining that reputedly lurks behind even the darkest cloud.
Oh, Steve Braun of Tucson AZ: Comments to posts on my blog are blind. They cannot be responded to. Your email address has changed as I discovered when the fine note I sent you was returned. Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org so I can re-send it. Hope you're doing great, Steve!
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
I'm getting range-of-motion back in my knee and my hand, but it's slow. My therapists do a house call or two a week. I do my exercises and watch more CNN than is good for me. I'm Wolf'd half to death.
As this is written, the Republican Nat'l Convention is happening in the Twin Cities. My nephew Nick lives there but sent me this marvelous link to the web site of a Denver-based bicycle racing team, Garmin-Chipotle. I live here but I'd have missed this. Thanks, Nick!
Last week as you'll recall, the Democratic Nat'l Convention brought those shady tax-'n'-spend lefties to Denver. Jonathan Vaughters, prime mover of the Garmin-Chipotle team, our American team based here in the Mile-High City, had a chance to ride with one of the Democrat heavies.
He's 65, he fits into racer-cut medium jersey and shorts, he can ride a bike set up for a pro, and I'm proud to say I voted for him. Maybe he really won in '04. Both presidential candidates ride bikes. Maybe they should have sprinted it out, one on one, after 50 rolling miles...