The much-anticipated home swim meet was this past weekend. The experience, while glorious, was tarnished by some jerk’s decision to move the venue from the south YMCA (4 minutes from my house) to the Onalaska Y (30 minutes from my house).
Another blemish on the experience was Bethany’s mono-induced activity restriction. Still, Bethany attended all three days, spent time with friends, and did some race timing. Nikole and I ran stop watches too on Saturday morning.
Ruthie dropped time in all her events. Lydia dropped 14 seconds in her 50-yard freestyle, which is sort of funny because the big kids will scratch and claw to drop 4/10 of a second in a 50-yard freestyle.
Edward was not present. He was at the Districts Youth Conference, and he is swimming for the high school swim team this time of year. Helen was also at Districts. Claire attended the Frostbite meet with us and lamented that she should have kept swimming after she graduated.
It was a perfectly good pelvis, with the smooth, bold curves you’d expect in the midsection of a highly trained endurance athlete. But, then, it was attacked without warning or provocation. And the worst is that the attack came from a trusted friend.
It began on a cloudy September Saturday in Eau Claire, Wisconsin when I was riding my mountain bike around the trails at Lowe’s Creek County Park. My pelvis rode lightly and happily on the old green Avocet saddle of my Trek Superfly mountain bike. We were riding a lap of the NICA race course with our student athletes. The course was fast and fun and very safe.
We completed the lap and went back to camp where I found another group of kids wanting to go out and practice the course. Ruthie, my daughter, wanted to ride another lap, and I planned to ride lap after lap, all day long.
We rode briskly down the dirt road that comprised the start of the race. After half a mile, we entered the single-track and started twisting and turning through the woods. With Ruthie in the lead we entered the single track. I came around a left curve in the trail followed by a line of innocent 12-year-old children who trusted me to guide and teach them about my lifelong sport. I was not moving slow, and I was not moving fast as I looked at the big roots mostly buried beneath the surface of the trail. The little tikes behind saw me rolling lightly and confidently over the roots when — BAM — my bike stopped. An unseen force stopped my bike and I was ejected from the cockpit. There was a violent interaction with the handlebars, and I found myself on the ground. That’s when my bike – the old friend I trusted – came crashing down on top of me. The wide-eyed 12-year-old behind me reported that my bike appeared to leap in the air and come down saddle first onto my hip. That’s right, the seasoned, green Avocet saddle on the trusted old bike attacked me when I was already down.
I laid on my right side in the fetal position on the trail yelling out in pain. Ruthie picked my bike up off me. Embarrassed, I began to skootch myself off the trail, still on my side and moving like an injured caterpillar. Two coach friends helped me into a sitting position and, after a few minutes, to a stand. I kept thinking, “I’ll just loosen up and get back on my bike.” But I could not lift my left leg because of the pain. I stood there thinking about how much I did not want to ride in an ambulance, when I finally pulled my phone out of my jersey pocket and called Nikole back at camp.
I almost burst into tears when she answered, I was so sad. (I hate to admit this, because I know that you think I am a cold and fearless adventure boy.) I held it together enough to say, “Nikole, I crashed and I can’t get myself out of the woods. Someone is going to have to come and get me.” We spent several minutes trying to nail down where I was on the course, and she spoke to the race organizers.
I sent Ruthie, and the coaches and the scarred 12-year-olds in our group down the trail to finish their practice lap. Coach Phil stayed behind to warn riders that there was an injured rider on the trailside. I thought I might faint, so I lowered myself to kneeling and nodded at the passing riders out testing the course.
Surprisingly soon, my beautiful wife came walking around the corner of the trail followed by volunteer coordinator, Zach. They tried to act as human crutches, but adventure boy could not lift his left leg even a little. So, Nikole and Zach wrapped my arms around their shoulders and each picked up a leg and began to carry me in a seated position out of the woods. I let them think the tears running down my cheeks were from pain, but I was so scared, and so touched by this selfless act that I was struggling to keep from sobbing. I rode out of the woods sitting on the tailgate of Zach’s truck.
Back at camp, I laid on the ground next to my van while a panel of experts determined that my injuries were muscular and required rest. But when I still could not walk the next morning, a doctor friend ordered me to go directly to Urgent Care in Eau Claire.
In Urgent Care, they casually took an x-ray of my hip joint. The x-ray tech flicked her cigarette and drawled, “I see a little something up there… I’m going to have to take another picture of your whole pelvis this time.” They stuck the new x-ray up on the big screen and the whole mood changed. Suddenly, I was a big deal.
An orderly pushed me in a wheelchair to the E.R. taking the corners on two wheels. They told me I had a shattered pelvis, they started an IV “in case we need to do a procedure”, they took and tested blood and they did a CT scan. The CT scan showed that all my shattered parts were still in the right places, and there was no internal bleeding. Everyone chilled out and went back to casual mode. The doctor handed me some crutches and was like, “Yeah, you might want to make an appointment with an orthopedic doc in La Crosse, ‘cause, like, your pelvis is jacked.”
I don’t know why, but knowing for sure what the issue was gave me a lot of relief. The only thing sad was that we had missed Ruthie’s and Bethany’s races. We drove back to race venue. I parked myself in a lawn chair on the race course, ordered a vegetarian sandwich and a large coffee and yelled at Edward when he rode by. I said, “Nikole, you should probably start packing up the van… I mean, I would do it, but I got this shattered pelvis.”
All things considered, the weekend was a great success. I was surrounded by friends, nobody tried to cut me open, and now the whole family is at my beck and call. Really, if you have to shatter something, I recommend the pelvis.
When my beautiful wife and her two oldest daughters left the house to go shopping at 6:30am on Black Friday, I layered up in active wear and rode my mountain bike toward the woods. I wanted to be like a model on the REI Co-op web site doing exciting outdoor things while the rest of the world was at the mall. I left my sleeping kids in the care of their sleeping 15-year-old brother.
A Chance Encounter
I rode up the bluff on the Vista trail. It was 37 degrees and the trails were hard and clear of snow. I stopped half way up to shed some layers. As I packed my jacket in my jersey pocket, I looked around at the beautiful, brown forest. I was surprised to find a buck, about 10 yards from me, crunching dried leaves off a downed tree. I said out loud, “Oh yeah, it’s hunting season. You’re not like all angry and in rut, are you?”
He replied, “No, it’s cool. I’m just chillin’ in the park enjoying those, ‘No Firearms On City Property’ signs.”
I told him I thought that was a good idea. I wished him a good day and continued my climb.
When I reached the top of the bluff, I rode the Quarry Connector trail to Stinky’s, then Bob and Twister. I ruminated about the deer’s concern for gun safety, and I hoped my vintage orange cycling jersey would be enough to alert any lost hunters to the presence of a human when they heard something moving through the woods.
Adventure Boy Lives His #OptOutside Dream
I planned to finish my ride with a break by the pump track, but it was windy and cold on the very top of the ridge. I got back on my bike and rode down through the prairie to the pines at the beginning of Stinky’s. The wind sneaked through the trees searching for me. I found a place that made a good wind break and sat on the ground to eat my first breakfast. (It was my first, because I would have to indulge in another breakfast when I got home to my sleeping kids.)
Adventure Boy at home in the woods
I pulled from my backpack a peanut butter sandwich and a Kleen Kanteen thermos (which I had stolen from my 19-year-old) full of hot coffee. I sat on the ground dining and telling myself I was the most adventurous, rugged cowboy in town… maybe in the world. It was a most excellent time. I wish every breakfast could be just like it.
Here ends the good part of the story. I made it down off the bluff safely, and got home to enjoy eggs and toast with my Ruthie. (Edward slept until noon.)
Looking For Work
I really think I would benefit from a job in which I go on long mountain bike rides and drink coffee in the woods. If you know anyone hiring for that, please let me know in the comments below.
This post is mostly an excuse to share this drawing of bikers and sticks. Here is the story:
There is this thing in cycling culture, where we point out road hazards to the riders behind us. Image you are riding along and the biker in front of you points at the ground on his right. You would cautiously move a little in the opposite direction and watch as a huge pot hole, or a sharp piece of metal or a dead skunk comes into view on the right side of the road. If you were in a big group of cyclists, you might also point out the hazard to the riders behind you.
Too Many Pointing Fingers
This morning as we headed across the marsh on the bike trail, the riders in front of me began pointing to their left… then their right… and their left again. There was a storm last night, and the trail was littered with broom-handle-sized sticks. Soon, my friends, suffering from finger fatigue, stopped pointing and left us to our own defenses. We were all craning our necks to look ahead and swerving back and forth as we went down the trail. People were bunny hopping. Sticks were snapping. It was mayhem.
As I rode through the carnage, the accompanying illustration and hand lettering, jumped into my head. I follow lots of talented hand-letterers on Instagram, and they often transcribe Bible verses or inspirational quotes. So, I feel slightly less than amazing for sharing a string of words that are nothing more than a quote from my stream of consciousness. But it was fun to draw, so now you have to look at it.
…And another thing
My daughter, Claire, who is a talented illustrator and letterer, told me my illustration is very nice and should be shared. I relish this rare and unsolicited endorsement, and I thought I better obey.
I went to a graduation ceremony for my beautiful daughter, Helen. The first speaker told me how life is fleeting and I should not waste any time. I thought about how little I have accomplished. I should have a bigger house. I should have more in savings. I should have books in libraries. I should have paintings in museums. I am a total failure.
The next speaker channeled Dr. Suess and told us to try new things. I thought about the golden chain around my neck — the one that binds me to a really good job with excellent benefits and pay. Though I would like to travel the country exchanging doodled portraits and hand-lettered coffee shop signs for food and drink, I think remaining in the employ of the technical college might be a more prudent choice.
Then the last valedictorian spoke and told me to do what I like and not consider money. She told me I should do what makes me happy. But I just want to sit in my garden and draw irises all day. That would make me happy.
During one magical hour on the weekend of my daughter’s graduation, I sneaked away to draw in our garden. I look forward to next summer when I can steal another hour to sketch flowers. (Feel bad for me. I have a really hard life — sarcasm.)
I will not be attending the graduation ceremonies of my other five children. My delicate emotions cannot handle the conflicting messages. My wayfairing spirit cannot handle the tease.
I would go to the garden now to draw some lady slippers, but I have to prepare a lesson for class. Please, you go draw for me.
Ed walks the halls with his classroom key always at the ready.
I carry a biggish ball of keys with me wherever I go. Finding the right key can be difficult, so I have them grouped onto color coded lanyards. The ugly, teal lanyard is for car keys, because cars are evil smog producers, and deserve an ugly lanyard. The prettier black lanyard is for house keys, because home is a sanctuary (teaming with loud, screaming children). My work key has a special, long, black and yellow lanyard, because when I am rushing to class, I want to be able to find it quickly.
When I get to school, I unhook my work key and leave the huge key planet in my office. I walk the halls with one, light key in my pocket. The long yellow lanyard enjoys hanging from my pocket, and catching on door knobs and hooks.
Here is where the drama starts
On Thursdays, I have to get to work early to open all the computer labs. I always arrive with just enough time to lock my bike and rush into the building, where I find the five really serious students waiting by their classroom doors. Last Thursday, as usual, I rushed to string my cable through my bike wheels and hook the cable on my big u-lock. I fumbled with the massive key ball to find the tiny tubular u-lock key (which lives on the pretty black lanyard with house keys, because home and bikes are both beautiful things.) I locked the big u-lock and turned to rush to the door. But the rushing stopped when the long, yellow and black lanyard, having secretly looped itself around my bike cable, yanked me to a stop.
Oh, the hardships I must endure, as I try to eek out a living
This is where the excitement stops
So I was an extra 40 seconds late, after I went back to the bike rack, fumbled some more with my wad of keys, and released my work key from the bike lock. I thought the experience was just funny enough to illustrate in my journal, and because I took the time to draw it, I am forcing you to hear about it here.
I hope all your lanyards stay where they should be.
Last week, Helen’s High School put on their spring play — The Miracle Worker, the Story of Helen Keller. It was excellent. I cried through several Kleenexes.
Helen, my eldest daughter, was a wordless servant and manager of stage and props. The play would have been a total flop without her work. The part where my Helen swept up the food after the breakfast fight scene was very touching. She took the audience through the range of emotions. We laughed when she flinched at the mess. We cried when she missed a big piece of fake scrambled eggs.
Claire, my second daughter, was in charge of Helen Keller’s hair. It was a mystery how Claire could rebuild the actress’s hair after every episode of great struggle. Every time Helen Keller came back on stage, the audience would gasp and whisper, “Oh, look at those braids. How many hair dressers are behind that curtain?”
If you are on facebook, you can see a photo of Helen subtly controlling the play from behind the action here:
I know you don’t hate me because you are evil. You hate me because you have no other way of coping with my great beauty. You look at your reflection in the water dish and see a dogface. Then you look out the front window and see me walking by, and you feel rage. You see a dog whose lips hang down and cover his teeth, as is the fashion these days. You see hair that has the decency to grow around, rather than over, my eyes. Every morning, I climb out of bed ready for the cover of Field and Stream Magazine. While you… even after hours of expensive grooming, you could elude the dogcatcher indefinitely by laying next to a mop bucket. But your scrub brush appearance is not your fault any more than my super model body is my own doing. So, I will not judge you. I will not return your scorn, for I know it comes from a broken heart. But take heart, my friend. Someday in Dog Heaven, you will live for eternity with a perfect body — one like mine.
Drawing of a nervous man. Is he holding a bucket and a piece of cake? Or a stopwatch and a clipboard? It depends on which of my kids you ask.
I volunteered to do timing at my kids’ swim meet this weekend. It was -2° outside. But after entering the Y in my Inuit costume, I changed into shorts and a t-shirt to brave the tropical pool room. I wish the kids could learn to swim without splashing. I’m like, “Hey kid. I’m giving up my Saturday to help out at your race and you thank me by launching eight ounces of pool water onto my foot? You’re lucky I brought a change of socks.”
Timing for the prestigious Frostbite Swim Meet is tense. I kept saying in my head things like, “Okay, this is a 200 meter race. That’s eight lengths. Okay, he’s on his sixth length, I think. Oh crud, my lane is in the lead! I can’t look at the other timers to see if they are getting ready to hit the stop button. Okay, okay, I will try to discern if he is setting up for a flip turn or a reach for the wall. I HOPE THIS TWERP DOES FLIP TURNS!” I needed muscle relaxants by the time my morning shift was over.