A week ago yesterday I took the UTA out for it’s 3rd ride. The first ride was a bit of an anti-climax. It had happened without much fanfare on the Thursday before. I spent the whole ride trying not to puke, and was so distracted by it that I couldn’t get any sense at all of how the bike handled itself. Wretched feeling. It didn’t seem at all like appropriate punishment for the 5 or 6 weeks that I had been off a bike because of weather and travel. It felt as though something was going on besides simply being out of shape. When I had the same nauseated feeling the next day WITHOUT being on a bike I started to put two and two together. The amount of narcotics I need to take to keep the pain under control has gone up dramatically. Enough that my doc has switched me to, or added I guess, a slow release version of the same thing. A couple of pills a day instead of tons. Thursday’s ride happened to coincide with my first day on the stuff and after day two, it seemed clear enough that it was the drug making me feel ill. I discontinued the stuff and went back out on the bike on Saturday and felt just fine. An amazing relief. I had been legitimately afraid for a moment there that perhaps my body was really beginning to fail me. And quickly! What a depressing thought.. that I had built this amazing bike to ride out my days, but had gotten it done (and the weather had cleared) just a little too late! Well. Not so. Happy to report that I feel just fine. By Sunday I was right back on top of my game. Even after a decent ride on Saturday, I had good legs and managed to do a 3 hour ride with a gang of 6 other riders without having to be carried once!
The fact that I didn’t have to be carried is actually significant! We rode at Blue Mountain Reservation. We noodled around the interior for a while and then headed out onto a trail called “Monster,” that wanders out around the far perimeter of the park. At a point precisely as far from the parking lot as it’s possible to be, feeling quite confident on the UTA (a veritable magic carpet), I took a runner at a little rock slab that I’ve never managed to quite get up. I stalled and rolled backwards. I put my foot down.. a little funny.. and heard/felt a cute little “pop.”
“Ez? You ok?” The guy behind me asking was Todd Miller. My good friend the PT from VT.
“Well.. I just ruptured my ACL,” I got back on the bike and started riding.
“Ez? You need to stop for a sec?” This time it was my brother, Zach. (I think).
I had already done the math. Took me about 2 seconds. We were as far away from the cars as we could be. I was the only person on the ride who knew how to get back to them (not that they wouldn’t have been able to figure it out, but then what?). Walking wasn’t going to be possible (and would be slower than riding anyway) and if I stopped moving, I was pretty sure that my knee would start to swell. So off I went. Zach claims that the pace of the ride actually increased. FESTINA LENTE!!!!
At some point we paused to let the single speeders catch up and Todd was able to verify the sloppy knee. I had given Peter N. my camera to carry for the day (By far the most capable rider among us AND, ding ding ding!!, a photographer) and he captured the moment. Fingers crossed to no avail.
The bike is amazing, though. I’m in love. When I think of what I was able to ride on the thing.. and then remember that I BUILT it!!… I get that same thrill that I got when I first started building bikes. The fact that mountain bikes are such foreign territory for me, both riding and building, makes it feel new and magic again! I’ve spent the week limping around, but feel ready to get back out there!! St. George reports that there’s still snow on the trails, though. Probably just as well to give the knee a little more time and a little more bike tube PT.
At the end of February, Hill and I went to Europe. Our good friend Glen gave us the most wonderful gift of an expenses paid vacation. I haven’t talked about Glen too much on here because it feels a bit like name dropping. He’s quite a talented and successful musician. There are times, particularly when I see him perform, that I think, “wait a minute.. I KNOW this guy??!!” But most of the time he’s just Glen. He bought one of my bikes early on (no 8, I think) and it started a friendship that has grown and deepened over the years. When he’s in town, typically he comes straight to us for a nice home cooked meal, and after being on the road with him in Europe I get it! I was reminded of my own brief touring career (dance, not music), and how after a bit you DO just long for ‘home.’ We met up with him in Rome at the tail end of his Europe tour. (He sang for me from stage.. What a thrill!)
The trip was amazing. Florence. Milan briefly. Dublin. Prague. In Florence we stayed in the most amazing hotel I’ve ever been in.. Just blocks from the Duomo. Lying in the bed looking out the window it blocked the sky. We went to the president’s house in Dublin.. (I hugged him!! and thanked him for going after the tea party). We saw the European premiere of the Once musical. Pierce Brosnan was there (Hill recognized him by his ass). So was the president. He saw me and smiled.. “Michael! Twice in one day!” I said, and got another hug (I’m not kidding.. This was a big thrill for me). We talked briefly about the importance of public support of the arts. Prague was amazing. I couldn’t stop looking at the ground! The most beautiful cobbled streets and sidewalks. Amazing beer.
The trip was exhausting though. I was forced to recognize that I’m slowing down. When I asked the doc months ago what I was likely to experience in my decline, fatigue was on the top of the list. Whether it’s an emotional reaction to dealing with the reality of dying, or a physical reaction to the progress of the disease isn’t clear, to be honest. The fatigue is real, though!
During a conversation with Glen in the car driving from Rome to Florence, he helped me make an important decision.
I have decided to retire.
I’m not going to build any more customer bikes. I’m sending back down payments. I can imagine this being a decision that I go back on.. I can imagine being one of those people who was given 6-8 months and then outlives their doctor. But, I also FEEL like this disease is progressing, and if it’s true that I don’t have much time left I don’t want to spend it doing jobs. Working in the shop, maybe.. yes.. if I get the urge, but not filling orders. There are some things that I’d really like to make, and I don’t want to go out to the shop to work on them and feel as though I’m cheating on paying customers. I’m also quite sure that I can’t fill enough orders before I go to leave Hill in some wildly different financial situation than I will be. I’m sure that this sounds sensible enough, but it’s still a pretty tough decision to make.
Yesterday, the EVER patient T-Mac stopped by to pick up his cargo bike. Still without wood, still without rack attachments, but ready to RIDE. Perhaps the LAST customer bike to come out of the shop.
A very emotional moment for both of us as he swung his leg over for the bike’s first ride.. and my last delivery.. and then “CRUNCH”
Nothing is ever as simple as you imagine it being. Maybe that’s how you know it’s truth and not fiction. After about 45 minutes of fiddling around, we determined that the “crunch” was coming from the 3 x 9 speed hub. The cassette driver seemed to be slipping. Faulty hub, I think. Looks like I’ll have to build him a new rear wheel. Looks like I’m not retired quite yet!