About ten months ago, my kids were coming home from overseas, Christmas was approaching, and I was about to hit 10,000 miles of bicycle riding for the year. I was really looking forward to a big finish to 2017.
Then I got my ass kicked by some invisible friends. Unbeknownst to me, I had been harboring a deep vein thrombosis, a big blood clot, in my left calf. On the night my kids came home, a week before Christmas, my DVT sent tiny bits of blood clots to my heart and my heart pumped them into my lungs. I’ll take pulmonary embolisms for 1,000, Alex.
There I was in the ER hearing the diagnosis from a gaggle of doctors. It was literally unbelievable, and inane.
Me: You’re putting me on!
Doctor: No. We’re serious.
Me: I just rode a bicycle to Key West.
Doctor: Ever hear of a plane?
At some point that evening my right lung collapsed.
And so it became clear that my mileage for 2017 would fall 88 miles short of 10,000 miles. Which, at the time, wasn’t exactly at the top of my worry list.
I’ll take Please don’t let me die for $2,000, Alex.
And I decided that I wasn’t done with 10,000 miles.
After a week or two, I gently began riding Big Nellie in the basement. Then, I ventured outside. Mile after mile. Day after day. I got a little bit stronger.
By February I was feeling pretty much like my old self. My lung had long since re-inflated and my pulmonary embolisms were gone. Still, I had to be careful; I was on Xarelto, a powerful blood thinner with no antidote. One blow to the head would cause me to bleed out in my skull. Can I have Dead as a door nail for $800, Alex?
And still I rode. And rode. And by the end of April my DVT was gone. My hematologist took me off Xarelto. And he and my pulmonologist gave me the green light to ride to the Pacific northwest. Their words of warning: stay hydrated and, if your symptoms return, get to a hospital.
All was well until my left calf became enlarged near Fargo. I felt fine. but by the time I got to Bismarck, I knew I had to go to an ER and get my leg checked out. A doppler ultrasound confirmed that I was fine and could continue to my tour. As it turned out, my December DVT made my left calf rather elastic, prone to swelling. Now all I had to do was wear a compression sleeve on my calf.
And I rode on. Through the plains, past the Painted Canyon, over the Judith Mountains, around Square Butte, to the Missouri Breaks, over Rogers Pass and Waconda Pass and Sherman Pass and Loup Loup Pass and Washington Pass and Rainy Pass, down to Anacortes, and, eventually, to the Pacific Ocean near Astoria, Oregon.
But I wasn’t done.
For the next three months, day after day, I rode. And rode.
And today, just riding along the Mount Vernon Trail, I reached 10,000 miles.
In the immortal words of Blue Swede:
OOGA CHAKA, OOGA OOGA, OOGA CHAKA.
I think it’s time for some pizza and beer.
My car misses me.