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. 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.
When I ride cross-country, I am painfully conscious of how vulnerable I am. The most obvious; cars and trucks scare me. But there are plenty more subtle threats. For example, consider the road’s berm, which I consider to be anything to the right of the painted line defining the roadway. Sometimes, that’s a two or three-foot drop, straight down. Lose concentration, ride off the road and it’s going to be a bad news day. And then there is the problem of what to do when two semi’s approach each other, and you are right next to the trailer of one. When that happens I just pray “Please, don’t hit me, please don’t hit me.”
To combat all these bad things, I wave to all the cars and trucks that give me wide berth. (I strongly believe in positive reinforcement.) The waving to cars and trucks soon morphed waving to every Joe, Phil, and Denny I see. Some guy would be walking or standing by the road and I’d shout out “Good morning!” or “Good afternoon!” and give them a hearty wave. Riding down highway 101 and approaching Lincoln City, Oregon, I’m thinking to myself, “Why am I waving to everyone? For all I know, one of these guys could be a serial killer!” And I resolved to stop waving. The wisdom of my choice soon became apparent with the next guy I saw: a fisherman walking up a creek embankment. Dirty, with a scowl sharper than a knife. Even from this distance I can see the scars on his face. Obviously a serial killer. I ignored him and pedaled on, looking for a place to camp and pitch my tent. After a few miles, I came across a place that seemed like a good possibility; a mobile home park. I stopped and walked up to a door.
Knock, knock, knock. No answer. Went to the next place. Same thing. Went to a third place. Again, no answer. Went to a fourth place. Knock, knock, knock. No one home. Just as I was walking down the home’s steps, a car pulls into the drive, and a guy gets out.
It was serial killer man.
Serial killer man gets out of his car, looks at me and says:” What’d you want?”
“I’m looking for a place to camp tonight.”
“You can camp here on my front lawn.”
I think “Oh yeah, I’ll bet that’s what you say to all of your victims.” But my lips say “Gee, thanks!”
So as SKM climbs the porch steps, we introduce ourselves. His name is Bob, and last year he was in a serious car accident that almost killed him, hence the face scars. He also suffered some brain damage and has had a hard time finding a job. So he fishes a lot for his meals. After some chit-chat I unpack my sleeping bag and make myself dinner. I decide the weather is warm enough to forego putting up my tent. Bob comes out and starts to chat. His wife left him and he misses his son.
Bob offers me some salmon and I accept. It’s delicious. Bob figures he needs $60,000 a year to pay his debts. I offer the best advice I can think of: Learn how to operate heavy equipment. At dusk we bid each other good night, and I crawl into my sleeping bag. Not putting up the tent was a mistake; in the morning I am soaked by the evening dew. I pack up and continue my journey to Boise, Idaho.
When I see the next pedestrian, I give him a hearty wave and wish him good morning.
I don’t like where this is going.
No, it’s not the miles. Not the mountains.
Not the long passes or falls off my bike.
Not the blisters on my butt.
None of that bothers me.
What bothers me are the other riders. 2,000 of the little suckers. I rode across the U.S. solo. Good Lord, I rode almost 900 miles from Prudhoe Bay to Anchorage.
In the rain.
Against the wind.
So when I see/hear all the other riders
“Passing on your left. ” “Passing on your Left.” I get bummed out. And if I was not shackled by
the camp grounds, by the rules, I know I could blow all those suckers away.
Because they would all give in and give up before me.
If I was still 21.
Join Doug’s Wild Ride on Sunday, May 18th at the Sherwin-Gilmour party center in Mayfield Heights for a dinner and silent auction to benefit the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s. Guest speaker: Andre Machado MD, PhD (Doug’s DBS surgeon). Tickets $45
We hope to see you there! Please share the invite with friends.
More info will be available under the “Events” tab.
Day 3, 12k Day: Independence Pass
I almost didn’t ride on the third day. Before turning in at the end of day two I made a tentative plan with Doug to help him get off to an early start in the morning and then take a shuttle to the next town. I was experiencing debilitating pain in my knees.
When I woke up in the morning I wanted to ride. The problem was my bike. The seat was set too low. I spent nearly an hour with a bike mechanic making adjustments to the bike, lowering the seat, replacing the handlebar stem and changing the brakes. So much for Doug’s early start; we hit the road around 9:00am.
I felt much better riding the bike. The day began with a scenic paved bike path and a manageable uphill grade. At the second rest stop 21 miles into the ride Doug and I both agreed that we felt strong.
Shortly after that the bike path turned into a dirt trail or more accurately a sandbox. The trail bed consisted of loose sandy dirt, four inches deep, reminiscent of a kitty litter box. Riders in front of us turned around. I wanted to stay on the Ride the Rockies route. Doug wanted to diverge from the route and take streets into Aspen. We had a not so civil discussion about what to do and parted ways.
After pedaling less than a mile down the trail away from Doug I ran into an obstacle, a short but incredibly steep hill. My bike tires spun out in the sand. I tried to unclip fast but I couldn’t free my feet. Losing momentum I was going to fall over. I stood up on the bike and pushed the pedals down hard. I pushed with everything I had, mentally chanting, “YOU CAN’T FALL!” I didn’t want to prove Doug right that the trail was not safe even though he was right. By luck and determination I managed to stay upright.
I rode the litter box trail slowly and cautiously for four miles into Aspen. In Aspen I rejoined street traffic and never caught site of Doug. I assumed that I was ahead of him.
I took a short break and continued onwards towards Independence pass. I caught up with Doug after a few challenging hills at the next aid station. He had beaten me to aid station by at least twenty minutes.
Independence pass seemed to go on forever. Reaching the tree line finally gave us some feedback that we were nearing the summit. My breath was short and I pedaled in what seemed like slow motion. The ride was really getting tough and then the final switchback emerged. Looking up, the top of the switchback appeared 1,000 feet closer to the sky.
I wanted the summit bad. I took my time and refused to stop until I reached the top. Doug was having a tough time coping with the altitude. He walked with his bike for some of the last miles. The sag wagon was no option. Doug would get to the top by his own power and he did.
Miserable, that is how I felt when I began riding on day two. I had hardly recovered from the exhaustion of riding the previous day and my knees ached fiercely. Approaching my twelfth week of pregnancy, mornings were sometimes “rocky” anyway. Being overly tired and unsure of the logistics at the campsite I failed to shower the evening before. I considered the sunscreen and dirt build-up to be advantageous in protecting my skin against the bright rays.
I pushed on. I wanted to at least give McClure pass my best try. It was the lowest pass of the five passes for the week. If I couldn’t do it I may as well have gone home. The summit of McClure pass is 44 miles from Hotchkiss with a 3,894 ft gain in elevation. As the elevation graph shows, the last five miles before the summit are the steepest.
I spent the morning impatiently wishing away the miles. I simply wanted to arrive at the steep portion and get it over with. But something happened around 20 miles into the ride. I began to enjoy myself. An amazingly beautiful mountain scene opened before me. I didn’t take a picture! I didn’t want to stop pedaling.
My entire mindset changed. I no longer wished away the miles. Instead I began to savor the opportunity I had to be out there on my bike.
The summit of McClure pass is 8,755 feet. As I mentioned, it was the lowest pass on the ride but I found out later that it is one of the steepest mountain passes in Colorado with a maximum grade of 8%.
Doug and I rode to the top together by making frequent stops during the last five miles. I proved to myself that I have the physical capacity to ride my bike to the summit of a Colorado mountain pass. That was important to me because before that day and even that morning I wasn’t sure.
Doug encouraged and inspired me along the way. The ride was challenging for him too but I knew he was as determined as me, if not more so to reach the top.
It was all downhill to Carbondale from there. “All downhill” isn’t as easy as it sounds. Riding down a mountain, at least for me, is scary. I literally hold on for dear life to my brakes with an entirely tense body. The downhill portion was beautiful but I was moving way too fast to stop and take pictures. Once the route leveled off I snapped a few of the Crystal river. The scenery never failed on this ride.