Monday, October 18, 2010

Portland Transcontinental--The Movie

Portland Transcon: The Movie
Click on the link to view the movie.

My first back injury occurred in the early 1960‘s as a young teenager. My back disease seemed to be a debilitating combination of genetics, running for 13 years, complicated child births, a major auto accident, and the Western World life style characterized by a lot of sitting.

In 1990 I re-injured my back and began an eleven-year recovery process including multiple back surgeries and complicated physical rehabilitation.

My eventual recovery was also about my surrendering my years-of-practice modus operandi of, not being willing or able to ask for help or accept help. Back disease taught me about building a team of professionals family and friends who could partner with me on my journey , not in an enabling or abusive way, but in a way of lending their experience, strength, and hope in ways that would allow me to find my own freedom in recovery.

There was no single magic pill, intervention, or therapist. Some professional team members were traditional health care providers, e.g. neurosurgeons and physical therapists. Others were practitioners specializing in holistic, complementary, and non-traditional modalities.

In March, 2001, after 11 years of being on the cusp of disability, my physical therapist and I thought maybe I was well enough to begin some kind of physical activity.

My goal was to ride the 550-mile AIDS Ride from Minneapolis to Chicago in 2002, on a recumbent bike. On my maiden ride, the day after I bought my first recumbent bike, I crashed breaking my jaw, my wrist, and several teeth. I had facial lacerations, severe road rash and internal bleeding. I was back on the bike training in earnest for the AIDS Ride in two weeks.

What is it about the bike? Riding, for me, is an expression of who I am, about freedom, gratitude, and humility. It’s about pushing the envelope, chasing the demon that lives in thin air, challenging my self to stretch, excelling, asking for help, and giving God all the glory for anything that I accomplish.

Twenty years later I continue to receive integrated manual therapy and nutritional counseling, and practice Bikram YOGA and Pilates. I have added other professionals to my health care team as needed.

Since 2002 I have averaged more than 10,000 miles each year on the bike. The highlight of 2006 was a 3,000 mile, 26-day transcontinental ride from San Diego to Tybee Island, GA with PAC Tour.

In 2008 I did two solo, unsupported rides, each about 1,000 miles--one from Chicago to Columbus, GA, the other from Chicago to Stoddard, NH.

I rode a second transcontinental in 2009 (Portland, OR to Tybee Island, GA), again with PAC Tour. Even though I was nearly 64, I struggled not with my age but with nutritional issues that resulted in my getting only about 1/3 of the calories I needed to fuel thirty (30) back-to-back, 116 mile days (3,500 miles).

The Portland Transcon taught me more about asking for help, accepting help, accepting my limitations, and remaining grateful for the gift of being out there.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Memories: Micro, Gestalt, and Tortugas

(click the pix to see the baby Tortugas)

Of course we'll remember Cancun 2010: the trip we'd been planning for 10 months, bought our airline tickets with points on Mexicana and a month before the flight we got the ubiquitous call: "there has been a change in your itinerary, please call us." Significant, indeed, it was. Mexicana had gone out of business and felt no compunction or responsibility to refund our money or rebook us on an airline that was still flying.

We'll remember always how much Kirk, especially, was looking to a change in scenery, venue, and the roil of surf right outside our patio door.

We'll remember always taking a cab, plane, cab, ferry, and golf cart to get to our villa on Isla Mujeres, reminiscent of the movie, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

We'll remember always our first meal on Isla of Ceviche at Picus.

We'll remember always notification by the Resort Staff to attend a meeting of all guests at 11:00 a.m. to learn how they would be evacuating us from Isla Mujeres to Cancun in anticipation of a direct hit by Hurricane Paula.

We'll remember always spending the rest of the day following the evacuation plan, arriving in our new accommodations in a lovely room at Avalon Grand, except to reach it you had to climb 62 steps and traverse two steep ramps, outside, in the rain, with no elevator option.

We'll remember always watching workers board up the windows and shops closing their doors to wait out the storm which ultimately turned east and hit Cuba instead of Cancun/Isla Mujeres.

We'll remember always Alejandro, the 26 y.o. front desk clerk at Isla who excelled in his customer service at Isla and who shared a big piece of his poignant story with us as we waited at the Ferry Dock waiting to be evacuated. Kirk is hopeful he can arrange for Alejandro to participate in Spanish Town in 2011 as a Guide.

We’ll remember always Kirk’s billfold continuing to ride on the Old Cancun bus without him.

We'll remember always releasing 2 of the 125 day-old baby sea turtles into the sea praying the birds of prey wouldn't snatch them before they reached safety. Wonder where safety is for those little guys?

But there are other memories that are likely to recede from the conscious realm only to be reawakened upon return to experience Mexico anew:

__The recognizable smell of Cancun as soon as exiting the plane and before stepping onto the the jetway

__Paper napkins that virtually dissolve when wet

__Absence of pedestrian walk lights so peds, scooters, buses, cabs, and cars all jockey for crossing rights

__Steps everywhere that are unregulated in height, even in the same flight

__Sidewalks that are actually humorous, if you're able bodied, as they are anything but flat, chunky cement, curb irregularities galore, and full of mid-block steps into houses and shops. If you're mobility challenged, well, even a wheelchair pusher would not be up to the task. "Kneeling buses", unheard of.

__Light switches in the villa that require key card insertion. That requires a lot of key cards unless you like leaving one room in the dark, groping to the next to insert your key card once again.

__Street signs painted on the sides of the buildings at a height of 20 feet in binoculars-required hand printed fonts, and there is no consistency on what corner (N,E,S, W) the signage will appear. Oneway signs are hand painted pieces of wood nailed to whatever, if ever.

__Garage parking meters are emptied by two, unarmed women removing the canister and dumping the coins into a bag, spilling coins all over the ground. That's the job of the second woman: pick up the spilled coins. No armored vehicles here!

__Bus fare is collected by the driver, change is made, and fares stored in open box.

__Construction workers jackhammering in flip flops.

__Peanut butter is unheard of.

__Seeming absence of locals over the age of 55. Where are they? Are they?

__Beaten down weariness of the visage, shoulders, and step of the locals riding the bus from the Hotel Zone to "real Cancun" where over 450,000 live out their lives.

Biking Isla Mujeres


This was not my first immersion in Isla life. I knew the streets were cobbled and full of axel-disemboweling speed bumps known either as Topes or Sleeping Policemen. I knew from the tippy north to the tippy south and back was at the most 10 miles, unless I zigged and zagged across the east west streets, each of which was at the most 0.3 of a mile. Isla would not be about the bike; it would be about us and rest.

I also know that I’m not a good walker and poop out after a couple of miles not to be renewed till manana. I also know that my urban, shoe-protected delicate toe pads are ground to bleeding pulp within the first 6 hours of arriving in the Caribbean clime of grade AAAAAA white sand. Toes wrapped in mole skin and riding elevated on Tilda’s pedals is a hopeful solution.

Lunch today at Playa Lancheros, about 5k from our villa. Tilda and I arrived 15 minutes ahead of Kirk who taxied out and walked home by way of the Turtle Farm. Chicago will never be able to offer fresh caught barracuda cooked in the tikinxik manner, which I imagine to be similar to a Tandoori oven, and served at your table in the sand. Definitely one of our Isla traditions.

Locusts and Wild Honey


First order of business on Isla is to introduce Tilda to “The Super”, a grocery store the likes of an Aldi + a minimal Dollar Store in the States (see her parked outside waiting patiently?). This is my first trip to Isla since my food issues have been in full bloom. I had low expectations but left with lower results: an avocado, powdered soy milk, filtered water, and a bag of rice which, once we returned to our villa, I realized I would not be cooking after all since rice cooked from scratch in the microwave wouldn’t be happening, especially since the largest available cooking container held only 6 ounces.

My Starbucks-style Tea, Steamed Soy Misto looks and tastes quite a bit different with powdered Soya Leche. I’d brought Stevia from home, but forgot my honey packets cached from Starbucks overage. Back to the Super, Tilda and I for honey, or miel as it’s known in Spanish. First they thought I wanted money from the cash station, then they thought I was using a term of endearment (I guess Honey is universal), and then finally the answer: “No Miel at the Super.”

I met Kirk for lunch after my unsuccessful honey trip to the Super. Along the way we asked a local resident for directions and fell to talking about Miel. He had a half liter of the unprocessed pure liquid gold, straight from the bees of the Yucatan. His half liter cost him 200 pesos, about $20 USD; we gave him 50 pesos for the 2 oz left in his travel bottle.

I don’t know how people with dietary limitations make it in places like Isla; just really don’t know. My solution has been to buy an order of rice, potatoes, plantains, and save some of my dinner entree for breakfast. Then, hunt and peck through restaurants and menus one day at a time, ODAT, for lunch and dinner.

Temporada Baja


Low Season, that’s what it is here on Isla Mujeres, that sleepy little Isle 20 minutes by the fast ferry from Puerta Juarez, Cancun.

In Temporada Alta, High Season, Isla wears her “stage face” by day full of unrelenting hawking of unwanted garish 10-cent jewelry, barracuda sun-bleached jaws replete with a full set of teeth, and conch shells devoid of their masters who were just served in the freshest ceviche you’ll ever eat at the likes of Picus, our favorite little seafood restaurant without walls, a canopy roof, and a beach floor. Picus is our first stop, always, after disembarking the ferry. We wheel our luggage, which this time included Tilda, on the beach floor up to the table and sigh that sigh of having made it back once again.

Isla teems with tourists from Cancun from about 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Then she returns to her shy, quiet, private self to rest and renew until the tourists return the following morning. But we’re here in Temporada Baja so the glare, blare, and crush by day is about 10% of January, and the stillness of after 6:00 is interrupted only by the pulsing surf that never rests.