Ok, I fell again. But this time it had nothing to do with PD.
Last night Alissa and I went out for a training ride, about a ten-mile round trip. As we rode from the driveway to the road, I felt the bike shimmy. It didn’t happen again, so I thought it was my imagination or something.
I’ve always thought that sometimes people are warned about things. For example, I once saw some kids playing on a large inflatable swimming pool, The pool looked like a giant donut, and was located on a concrete pad. Kids were playing on the top of the donut, and in my mind’s eye, I could see them slipping and falling on the concrete. Eventually, that is exactly what happened and a kid knocked a tooth out.
So we start the ride, the end of which is down a steep hill. Alissa waits for me at the bottom; I get a drink of water and we start uphill. I push down on the pedal and it won’t move. I haven’t locked my foot in the toe clips, so I hop off the bike. I look at the wheel and don’t see anything wrong with it. So I hop on again. This time I get both feet locked into the clips.
And I can’t crank the pedals, as hard as I try. They don’t budge. I start falling to my left.
Now my left arm is the one with the artificial joint, and I am deathly afraid of breaking it. But I’m falling and there is nothing to do, except stick my arm out and hit the ground. Which is exactly what I do. I hit hard, scratching up my knee and just laying there in shock, hoping a car doesn’t run me over. Thankfully, my left arm does not shatter. Alissa, always the fast rider, doesn’t see any of this.
Alissa finally looks for me, and turns around. I see a truck coming down the road. It stops. Emily is driving it.
Alissa is there now. Emily offers a ride to the top, Alissa rides her bike to the top. At the top, I look at my bike and see the problem: The skewer that holds the wheel to the frame is loose.
The chain is on the right side of the wheel, and the wheel is bound against the left tube stay. The harder you push the pedal, the harder it locks.
I reset the wheel, lock the skewer nice and tight. Soon I see Alissa, charging up the hill.
We ride home without further incident, Alissa following me.
As I rode up the exit ramp, I saw a guy with a bicycle at the top watching me. My first thought was that he was touring on a bike like me, but as I came closer I could see he was just riding a mountain bike. And definitely not a biker: no biking shorts or shoes. Just some guy on a bike. He was muscular and heavily tattooed, a combination that always makes me a wee bit nervous, but I sized him up and decided that he seemed to be more or less ok. That assessment was soon called into question. He called out:
“Hey, do you have an Allen wrench I can use to fix my brakes? They’re really loose and don’t work very well.”
“I’m sure I do.” I said, but not wanting to adjust brakes on an exit ramp with cars and trucks speeding past us, I said “Let’s ride over to that truck stop. We’ll adjust them there.”
He thanked me, and introduced himself to me as Chris. The truck stop was about one quarter mile west. We rode up to it, single file, me following him. It was a fairly big truck stop, like “The Iron Skillet” or a “T and A”. There were about twelve trucks parked in the lot, so while not dead, it wasn’t exactly a throbbing place. As we entered the truck stop, a thin, blond haired woman in her mid-twenties came out of the door. She was not happy to see Chris, and her screaming sounded like a frozen motor bearing:
She screamed as soon as he was in earshot. She told him in terms that no one could mistake that she did not want him in her parking lot. She made it pretty clear that if he didn’t leave she was calling the cops. She screeched it again, “I’m going to call the f&^$#?! cops!”
She sounded like she meant business to me. For good measure, she called him an expletive that no one should say in polite company, and which cemented my nervousness to be seen in his company. And that was the good part of what she had to say. No kidding. She called him a liar, a murderer, an escaped felon, a child molester, (more swearing), and just about every other type of bad person you can think of. I wondered if any of what she said was true, and worried about what I had bumbled into. Was this guy setting me up for some nefarious purpose?
Chris verbally brushed her off. He was actually seemed to be pretty level-headed; he must have heard it before. He told her he was just here to fix his brakes, but she continued her ranting and screaming. Chris turned to me and genuinely apologized, “I’m sorry about this.” He said. His apology disarmed me. I wasn’t sure how to respond, so I just stuck to the business at hand, getting his brakes tightened up.
I pulled the wrench from my pannier and handed it to him. “It’s none of my business. Here’s the wrench.” I didn’t want it to be any of my business.
As he adjusted the brake cable, she went back inside the truck stop. Standing outside, twenty feet from the door, I could hear her muffled voice complaining about him to a coworker. Yes. She was that loud.
I really didn’t know what was going on, but from my standpoint she seemed totally in the wrong. I don’t know their past history, but what I saw was a guy ride up to a gas station and attempt to fix his bike. A woman comes out and without provocation on his part, she lets him have it with both barrels, figuratively speaking.
But I’m sure she didn’t see it that way.
Chris finished with his repairs, handed me the wrench, and thanked me. I went inside to new shades. I nervously looked around for Blondie; I didn’t want her flying off the buy some handle at me!
I tried on a couple of different pairs of sunglasses and finally settled on a pair that seemed mechanically stronger than my previous pair yet were reasonably priced. Blondie was nowhere to be heard.
But mostly, I’m in it for the speed. I love speed. I live for it.
On one of my many bicycling trips, as I was pushing the pedals down one more time, with my mind somewhere between God and the road, I asked myself: “Why not ride all the way across the United States?”
The first time I rode out to Oregon was in 1975, and I had done it almost on a whim. I had been accepted at Case Western Reserve University, but before I went I started thinking about a bike road trip. At first this trip was supposed to be from Bowling Green to Texas to visit my roommate’s (also named Doug) sister. When that didn’t pan out, another friend, living in Portland Maine seemed like a likely recipient of a visit from me via a long bike road trip. But as was the case in those days, this trip did not happen either. The trip that did happen is probably responsible for the long-distance riding I’m still doing today.
My dad, a professor at Case Western Reserve University, had a student, John, who needed someone to drive his car out to Oregon while he finished some business in Cleveland. John said he’d give me $200 to drive his car to Portland, Oregon. He then said he’d give me an extra $50, if I’d stop in Boulder, Colorado on my way to Oregon, and pick up some of his stuff that was being stored in a garage. Always the opportunist, I remembered a buddy of mine who had moved to Boulder, and I thought this was a great time to pay him a visit. Who knows, I thought, maybe Bryan might want to join me on my bicycle adventure. I said to John, “make it $100 and it’s a deal.” He acquiesced.
This became the reason for the first trip from Oregon. My original plan was to take the car to John, and then ride all the way back to Cleveland. But I simply did not fathom the enormity of that ambition. I made up the route as I rode along. No one knew where I was or where I was going. If I had been injured no one would have ever known. And I failed to realize that I could get tired, that I would want to bathe or eat a home cooked meal. I certainly did not realize the effect on my body of climbing mountains, lugging 40 pounds of gear, day after day. After two weeks of riding, Boise, Idaho began to seem like a more practical goal.
That was how far I made it in 1975 before calling it quits and catching a plane back to my uncle’s house in St. Louis, Missouri. From St. Louis, after a few days rest and my aunt’s home cooking, I rode back to Ohio.
In 2005 I made the ride across Oregon a second time. I took the same route as I had taken in 1975, but this time I told everyone about my route, so they’d be able to find my body if I never came back. Older and wiser.
Those two rides, across Oregon and then from St. Louis to Cleveland, had a big impact on my life at the time, and many times throughout my life my thoughts have turned towards those adventures, and the thought of repeating the rides always haunted me. Those rides gave me the confidence to believe I could do anything I really wanted to do.
I’ve also ridden to Boise, Idaho three times, but always stopped there; why not go on? I started to think of a long ride that could be done in five stages: Portland, Oregon to Boise, Idaho (stage one); Boise to Denver, Colorado (stage two); Denver to St. Louis, Missouri (stage three); St. Louis to Cleveland, Ohio (stage four); and finally, Cleveland to the east coast (stage five).
Stages one and four were complete, and so I reasoned there were only three stages to go, so why not try it again.
Why not indeed?
While attending Bowling Green State University I majored in physics, and my favorite topic was astrophysics. The enormity of the Universe is a concept that is difficult for almost anyone to grasp. Realizing that a million earths can fit inside the sun makes one begin to grasp the smallness of the planet we live on. Further, to think on the billions of stars in our Milky Way Galaxy alone is even more staggering, not to mention what might be beyond our galaxy, and the vast empty regions between galaxies. When I think about these things, I am even clearer in my thinking about how tiny we as humans are in the scheme of all of these planets, stars, and galaxies. No more significant than a grain of sand on a beach really. And I’m talking about a really big beach.
But wait, back to bicycles.
I mention all this universe thinking because it makes me understand how truly lucky I am to be alive, lucky to have been born in the United States, and lucky to have a job that allows me to ride when and wherever I want to go. Ride bicycles that is.
It didn’t take me long to scout out the best places to ride in BG (this is what the locals call Bowling Green). One of my favorite places to ride were the back roads that crossed Route 6, a west to east road that is a corridor from the west coast in Bishop, California to Provincetown, Massachusetts on the east coast. The stretch of Route 6 in Bowling Green is mostly a trucking route. One of my favorite games, albeit dangerous, was racing trucks coming down Route 6. I’d ride from my apartment on West Wooster to Liberty Hi Road. Liberty Hi crossed Route 6. I could see this intersection from quite far back on Liberty Hi, maybe from 1,500 feet or more because of how flat the land is. The traffic on Liberty Hi had a stop sign; traffic on Route 6 did not. Yeah, I’d stop. In your dreams.
What I took great delight in was racing trucks to the intersection. You’re right if you are thinking this was dangerous. But there it is. This is the kind of thing that got my blood racing when I was in college. I’d cruise down Liberty Hi and scan ahead for trucks coming down Route 6. When I saw one that looked like it might reach the intersection at the same time as me, the race was on! I would stand up and start cranking, throwing the bike back and forth. I’d tightly hold the handlebars, pulling on them as I cranked down. Even my chest muscles came into play, tightening as I gave the bike my all. At the same time, I’d closely monitor intersection because even though most of the trucks were east bound, occasionally there would be a west bound one as well. I sure didn’t want to get blindsided by a truck traveling in the opposite direction.
If a trucker gave me a warning blast with his horn that was a good thing because it told me he was watching me. While there were more than a few times I pissed off a trucker, I’d almost always win. Of course, if I didn’t think I was going to beat them, I’d slam on the brakes! While I was into the danger element of this game, I wanted to live to play again the next time.
I’ve mentioned I wrote a book. I’m trying to self publish it, but that’s a lot easier said than done. So periodically I’ll show you some excerpts . Your feedback is appreciated. Here’s the first.
One of the best things bicycles have given me is freedom, and the ability to go just about anywhere I could point to on the map. I could just pick two cities on a map, follow the white line on the road’s right edge between the two, and I’d reach the second city. Certainly it would be faster in a car, but for me cars lack the magic of reaching a destination on a bicycle. You expect a car to be able to travel a long distance. Bicycles, not so much. I believed and still do believe that the simplicity, durability and versatility of bicycles endow them with a power unmatched by automobiles. Whenever I look at a bicycle I think “I could ride that thing across the United States.”
I know, because I’ve done it.
A similar thought never enters my mind when looking at a car. Cars need gas, oil and money. Bicycles just need less. When I was very young, my bike gave me the freedom to ride to the park and hang out with my friends. Now, as a mature adult, they give me the ability to dream of new adventures. This is their magic.
Have you ever imagined being a hero? You know, one of those fantasies where against all odds, you beat the bad guy? Like in the movie “Rocky” or perhaps you are on an airplane and something happens to the pilots, and you safely land the airplane?
Well today I stood toe to toe with Joe Frazier in the boxing ring and he kicked my ass. I didn’t do any better as a pilot. The plane crashed.
Of course it wasn’t really Joe F. Or an airplane. It was Parkinson’s. Old Mr. Parky.
Breakfast time in the Bahniuk household, I was fixing my daughter a glass of Chocolate milk, and my cell phone rang. I’d just finished mixing the milk and syrup.
Brrring! Brrrring! The glass of milk was in my right hand, so I answered the phone with my left, flipping it open with my mouth. (I do not, nor will I ever, have a smart phone.) It was my wife. I was standing facing the kitchen sink, and i turned to walk to the kitchen table.
As I turned, he (Mr. Parky.) sucker punched me. Now He’s tried that a hundred times before, But I’ve always had a free hand to catch myself.
Not this time. Phone in one hand, glass in the other, I fell into the refrigerator. The glass of milk shattered. The phone went dead. I cleaned up the mess, thankful that I never said any bad words in front of my daughter.
I’ll be ready for the SOB the next time. I probably can’t beat him, but I won’t have something in each hand. No more Mr. Nice guy.
After 3 years I’ m back. Since that time, I’ve had two brain operations, had my left shoulder replaced 3, count them, three times, and written a book. I’m hoping to have the book, titled “The White Line to Denver” published by November.
In June, Alissa and I are participating in Ride the Rockies. We each pledged $2,500 to the event, so if any of you is feeling particularly generous at the moment, please let me know.
That’s all for now, but more to come soon.