Top Ten for 2022

This year turned out to be a relief, mostly a relief from the pandemic. It was also rather uneventful.

  1. The year began with the receipt of paperwork making me an Irish citizen. I immediately sent away for a passport which arrived in early May. I don’t really need a second passport but it is my understanding that it’s good for a discount at the Guinness brewery in Baltimore.
  2. January brought a whopper of a snowstorm, the first in many years. The magnificent maple tree next door split near its base and landed an impressive tree chunk inches from Mrs. Rootchopper’s car. A few weeks later, the neighbors had the tree removed. We missed its blazing colors this fall. On the plus side, we now have a sunny kitchen.
  3. We travelled to St. Charles, Missouri to attend my niece Irene’s wedding. After the wedding the bridal party came down with Covid. We were spared. For the next two months I managed to avoid the virus despite travelling among the great unmasked out West. Alas, my luck ran out when I got back home. I came down with Covid and had strange symptoms. My ears were stuffed up for a week. Otherwise, I had a very mild case and, with the help of four Pfizer vaccinations and Paxlovid, I recovered in a few days.
  4. After a two-year hiatus thanks to the pandemic, I launched on another bike tour. This one began in St. Charles, Missouri and ended nearly 3,500 miles later in Portland, Oregon. The first half was solo and included an epic day fighting 50-mile per hour crosswinds in Kansas. In Canon City, Colorado I hooked up with Corey and Mark, whom I met on my 2019 bike tour, for the second half. The highlight of the trip was the final mountain climb up and over McKenzie Pass in Oregon. Definitely one of the top ten rides of my life. I managed to intercept Keith Adams, whom I met on my first 50 States Ride, in Eastern Oregon (or maybe western Idaho, it’s all a blur). Keith was riding from Bend, OR to Cody, WY. A few days later I met up with Rachel Cannon, another 50 States posse alum, and consumed talk, nachos, and beer in Redmond, OR.
  5. When I got home from my bike tour, I found that all my pants fell off whenever I put them on. My first physical in three or four years confirmed that my weight had dropped over 20 pounds on the trip. Thankfully, I have some stretchy belts to keep me from flashing the neighbors.
  6. My physical included some blood work results that were rather upsetting. I started eating more sensibly, avoiding junk food, eating less red meat, and such. I also started eating almonds and Brazil nuts which are supposed to lower cholesterol. My cholesterol fell from the 270s to the 220s in three months. My weight also fell another eight pounds. Dang. In retrospect, having all my slacks altered in the spring was not such a great idea.
  7. For the 14th time, I gathered a posse of friends old and new and rode the 50 States Ride in DC in September. We had a stellar time and I only fell once. (I got a boo boo on my elbow.)
  8. Most of the posse returned for the Cider Ride in November, during which I learned that celery is a bodacious dentrifice. This info will come in handy whenever I need to brush my teeth at the farmer’s market,
  9. Earlier this year I couldn’t walk a half mile without back pain. At the end of the bike tour, I needed to walk around Portland and found that I could walk a mile without pain. Alas, schlepping my baggage through National Airport brought the pain back. After much hemming and hawing, I decided that rather than have surgery, I’ll live with the pain and accept that I am now officially old.
  10. Tickets to Washington Nationals baseball games were dirt cheap. This had something to do with them trading away Juan Soto, their last star player, and others, and ending the year with the worst record in baseball. On the plus side, we attended a minor league game at The Dunk, Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford.
  11. I managed to ride 11,355 miles, my fifth 10,000-mile year in a row.

It’s Not Paranoia if They’re Out to Get You

I woke up this morning to light rain and moderate temperatures. I briefly thought of riding to Friday Coffee Club in DC. Normally it would take a bit over an hour to get there then another hour plus of hanging out before riding home at 10 or 10:30. I checked the hourly forecast. It called for a big drop in temperatures around that time. Basically, I’d be racing a crazy cold front all the way home. I decided to forgo the ride and stayed home.

It was the right call. The front came through with lots of blowing and rain and a flicker to the lights. After riding in the basement, I checked the internet. That’s when I learned that around 3 in the morning a beer truck crashed over the Jersey barrier and railing that separates the bike lane from the highway on the 14th Street Bridge. This is on my route to DC.

The cab of the truck made it across the path from the looks of things.

You can’t help but wonder if the beer had fewer hops, this might have been avoided.

Photo from WTOP.com

Spoiled for Soccer

I skipped the World Cup this year. Until today’s final. Holy cow. It was one of the best sporting events I’ve ever seen. I saw a couple of textbook plays by Argentina that blew my mind. One was a goal scored on a series of touch passes that looked like a fast break by the Larry Bird Celtics or the Showtime Lakers. Another was a put back by Lionel Messi who was lurking in front of the goal like Phil Esposito of he old Boston Bruins. France should have won but for an absolutely magnificent save by the Argentine goalie near the end of the game. Lordy.

I’ve seen a lot of sporting events in my life but this World Cup final one was definitely one for the ages. Here are a few others.

The Sixth Game: In September 1974, the Red Sox brought up three rookies from their Pawtucket farm team: Burleson, Rice, and Lynn. I told my father about them and said that they were going to be a great team in 1975. He laughed. Game 6 of the 1975 World Series at Fenway Park was the pinnacle. It was credited with reviving the nation’s interest in baseball. I lived in Boston and drove a cab that summer. The Sox were all any of my fares wanted to talk about. It almost didn’t matter that they lost Game 7.

Hagler vs Hearns: Hagler was New England’s greatest boxer since Marciano. Hearns was called the Hit Man. They battled it out for three rounds that had more action than any three entire bouts anybody had ever seen. It was exhausting to watch.

Celtics vs. Phoenix Game 5: This game went three overtimes. Near the end both the players and the fans were utterly spent. I was watching in a bar in southern New Hampshire. The bar was supposed to close but nobody would leave with the game still going on. They closed the bar and locked us in! Celtics won the game and the next to win the championship.

Nationals World Series 2019: Nearly everything they did worked. They lost all three of their home games and still one the series. That never happens.

USA wins gold: The 1980 mens’ Olympic hockey team really should not have been on the same ice as the European teams but they won. I lived on a hockey floor in a dorm during my freshman year in college. One of the freshman players went on to be the 1980 USA team captain. The icing on the cake was that for once a nice guy finished first.

Red Sox 2004: The Sox hadn’t won the World Series since before my father was born. True to form they were punished for three games in the playoffs by the hated Yankees then pulled off the biggest comeback in history. I was jumping up and down on the couch like a madman. My kids thought I had lost my mind. The Sox went on to win it all.

After the 2004 World Series, I couldn’t watch baseball again for years. I just wasn’t interested. Nothing could top that. It probably helped that we didn’t have a bona fide major league baseball team in DC until 2012. I feel the same way about this year’s World Cup final. I’ll just move on from soccer for a year or so before I watch another game. (Okay, I might just peek at the women’s World Cup final next summer. Just for a bit.) In a way, I felt the same after riding my bike across the country in 2018. I walked around in a dream state for weeks afterward. Despite riding through some of the most jaw dropping scenery in the world, I really didn’t enjoy my 2019 tour. It wasn’t until this year that fun came back.

The Colonoscopy Blow by Blow

For those of you wondering how the whole colonoscopy thing went, here’s a recap.

Friday

A regular day except I stopped taking my daily aspirin to allow better blood clotting

Saturday

Ate a “light breakfast” which for me was two Eggos, two eggs over easy, and a banana chased down with four mugs of coffee with skim milk and a glass of water.

After 9 a.m. I could not eat any solid food. I drank two cans of ginger ale, a glass of skim mile with malt powder, a tall glass of lemonade, and beaucoup water.

I went for an easy 30-mile bike ride because I knew I wouldn’t be riding on Sunday and Monday.

At 4 p. m. I took three teeny Dulcolax pills. I figured they wouldn’t do much. I figured wrong. They had roughly the force of three teeny atom bombs. Beginning at around 6, I ran to the bathroom several times. After about 8 p.m. all was calm.

Sunday

Nothing but clear fluid all day. So it was tea with sugar, And lots of water. At 2 p. m. I took three more Dulcolax pills. Within an hour I was doing laps to the bathroom. By this point there was nothing solid left in my digestive track. By 4, all was calm.

Good thing because at 4 I had to drink a quart of Mucolax, a powdered laxative mixed in water. It worked like a charm. At 6 the laxative kicked in and I was back on the track, running to the bathroom. By this time I was feeling worn out. I am pretty sure my electrolytes were all askew. I had a whopper of a headache. (I could have taken Tylenol but decided to ride the headache out.)

After a couple of hours my gut calmed down. Then at 9, I drank my second quart of Mucolax. Lord knows why. I guess some people have stubborn plumbing. The next two hours were pretty rough. More running to the bathroom for about 2 1/2 hours. Nothing but wet.

At midnight I lay down for six or so hours of sleep on the couch. Except I couldn’t sleep. My gut gurgled all night. I couldn’t warm up. From midnight on, I couldn’t eat or drink anything to prepare for the anesthesia.

Monday

At 6:10 I rollled off the couch groggy, and dressed. Mrs. Rootchopper drove me over to the endoscopy center in Maryland, about ten miles away.

I checked in, signed a mountain of forms, then went into a prep room. My vital signs were taken. Then I was weighed. 188! Unreal. My clothes weigh about the same as what the laxatives took out of me. I had thought my 190 pound weigh in at my GP’s office in November was a fluke or the result of a bad scale. Apparently not.

A nurse gave me a gown and told to take off my shoes and undress below my waste. My clothes and such were put into a plastic bin that would follow me as I was moved about. The gown went on with the back open for obvious reasons. I was also given a disposable sheet across my lap for modesty’s sake.

Next I was taken through a side door to the procedure room, a rudimentary operating room with a cushioned comfy table just for me. I was positioned on the table on my left side, head on a pillow, with knees bent up, butt out at present arms, so to speak. The anesthesiologist came in and explained what he was doing. I was hooked up to some equipment that would monitor my vital signs. The gastroenterologist came in and chatted briefly. Then the anesthesiologist put an IV into my arm and injected a sedative. It was ice cold. I felt it go up my arm.

Next thing I knew I was in the recovery room. Nurses were buzzing about. I felt a hand on my shoulder. It was a nurse making sure I didn’t getting up. Mrs. Rootchopper, who had been waiting outside in the parking lot, was called.

After a brief period (I have no idea how long) I was allowed to stand up. The nurse told me to put my underpants and my pants on while seated. Then I was to put my shoes on and tie them. Finally I was to stand and pull my underpants and pants up. All of this was to avoid bending way over to tie my shoes which would have been both comical and semi-catastrophic given the disoriented state that I was in and that I was utterly unaware of. Sure enough, as soon as I stood up, I wobbled. Yeah, the anesthesia is still in my system.

I was moved to a chair and Mrs. Rootchopper and I met with the doctor. (Having someone present when you get debriefed is a good idea because you’re half loony tunes from the anesthesia.) Everything went well. The prep worked just as intended. He found a bit of hemorrhaging along the colon but no polyps…until the endoscope got to the very end of the large intestine where it connects to the small intestine. There he found a polyp. He took a biopsy which he will send to a lab for review. He seemed confident that it was noncancerous but the lab would determine its specifics. He showed us a couple of pictures he took of the area including an irregular patch where he had burned the polyp. No more polyp.

After another few minutes of waiting to clear my head I wobbled out to the car and went home. I felt anemic and my tummy felt kind of spongy and tight at the same time. I ate a bowl of rice chex and a banana then I took a two hour nap.

I was groggy for a few more hours once I woke up. Then I ate dinner: mini-hamburgers in beef gravy with mashed potatoes. It tasted amazing. It was only after dinner that I realized how messed up my system had been. For the rest of the night, my only discomfort was some gas caused by the use of air during the procedure. (The colon is about six feet long and has irregular walls and there are several bends in it. The air facilitates smooth passage of the endoscope.)

Tuesday

Today was a normal day. Breakfast with coffee and milk. At noon I went for a 30-mile bike ride and rode up a long hill like it wasn’t there. Light as a feather with fresh legs. Not the least bit groggy or fatigued.

Thursday

I can start taking my daily aspirin again.

Post Procedure Observations

I have to say that the prep took more out of me this time than in the past. It turns out that the choice of laxatives was determined by what my insurance would cover. In the past I had used Moviprep, a prescription solution. I think I had to drink a gallon of the stuff. And it tasted like Pedialyte, which is to say, nasty. This time I used a combination of over the counter laxatives: Dulcolax and Mulcolax. Drinking Mulcolax was an improvement. I only had to drink a half gallon and it had no taste at all. The apparent advantage of Moviprep is that it shortens the overall length of the prep.

The only pain I felt was the stab from the IV port. I felt nothing during the procedure itself. The staff and the nurses were great. As were the doctors. I learned that this was my fifth colonoscopy, all with the same doctor. He was a very handsome young man when I first met him 30 years ago. He’s a bit stooped over now with thin gray hair but he has a world-class bedside manner and communicates well. Most important, he has a ton of experience doing colonoscopies and he burns a mean polyp.

I’ll find out about the lab results soon. Unfortunately I’ll probably have to have another colonoscopy in three years, maybe two if the polyp is found to be troublesome. There are worse things in life.

As unpleasant as all this may have sounded, I urge you to follow CDC guidance and get a colonoscopy if you are 50 or older, 40 if you have a family history.

If you are a workaholic or a slave to your daily routine, I advise you to forget about going to the office or trying to do anything remotely normal during the prep. Lordy, don’t schedule a Zoom meeting! (You don’t want to be known as Jeffrey Poobin, do you?) You can’t predict when the laxative will kick in. You want to be as close to your porcelain overlord as possible when it does. In other words, surrender to the voiding.

Since I have decided not to have back surgery, barring a calamity, I am done with doctors for 2022. With any kind of luck, next year will be a boring one for me medically. No epidural injections. No endoscopes. Just a follow up skin exam in January, and routine biannual trips to the dentist and eye doctor. Life is good.

Prep School

Right about now I should be on my way to a friend’s holiday open house, an event that I greatly enjoy and haven’t been to since Covid messed everything up. Instead I am at home sitting in the chair nearest the bathroom. Yesterday I started preparing for a colonoscopy tomorrow morning. It’s my sixth or seventh colonoscopy. I’ve been getting them since my early 40s because I have a family history of colon cancer. Thanks, Mom.

The procedure involves threading a camera through your colon and looking for anomalous tissues. If any are found the doctor will remove them. In order to see what’s going on, the colon must be completely empty. To this end (so to speak), the prep used to involved drinking a gallon or two of powerful laxative solution that tasted horrid. Now it involves taking six laxative pills and drinking a gallon of powerful laxative solution that tastes horrid. Medical science marches on.

Yesterday morning I ate breakfast. Eggs and waffles and a banana with four big cups of coffee. That’s the last solid food I can have until after the procedure. Yesterday afternoon I took three tiny orange/red pills. Nothing happened. Then boom the laxative kicked in. I spent the next several hours literally running back and forth to the bathroom. By bedtime all was calm and there appeared to be not one atom of solids left in my gut. All I can say is that Dulcolax packs a mighty punch.

I started today with a scrumptious breakfast of ginger ale, hot tea, and chicken broth. There are pretzels and cereals and Christmas cookies all over the kitchen tempting me. Eat me! Eat me! I can hear them whispering. Nope. Not gonna.

At 2 p.m. I will take three more pills. Then at 4 p.m. I drink a quart of laxative solution. At 9 p.m. I drink another quart. I am guessing things will settle down and I will be able to get to sleep around 2 a.m.

Tomorrow morning I go to the endoscopy center at 7. There, I will be given a gown and sedated. Then I’ll wake up and Bob’s your uncle.

When I first started getting colonoscopies, the results were negative. I was placed on a five-year cycle. During my third or fourth colonoscopy the doctor found and removed polyps, the precursors to cancerous tumors. These were removed and I was placed on a three- year cycle.

As unpleasant as this process is, it’s infinitely preferable to cancer treatments. If you are 50 or older and haven’t had a colonoscopy, get one. All you need is a good doctor, some laxatives and someone to drive you to and from the doctor’s office. People with a family history of colorectal cancer should start getting colonoscopies at 40.

Even a colonoscopy is not 100 percent effective at detecting tumors. An old roommate of mine died from colon cancer even after having one. Nevertheless, colonoscopies are far more likely to detect polyps and tumors than other methods. (One drug is on the market that claims to find 92% of colon cancers. That’s an excellent success rate for free throw shooting in basketball. Alas, cancer ain’t roundball. Go for the scope.)

My friend Tim blogged about his first colonoscopy. He has a gift for cutting through the technical jargon and getting right to the scatological humor.

Ten Years On

I started this blog on WordPress ten years ago. I have been running out of space (more can be acquired at cost) so I deleted all the pre-12/9/2012 material. This includes posts about my wife getting hit by a car, acroyoga, and some other odds and ends. Seems like a century ago. Anyway for the pathetically dedicataed reader that material still exists somehow on rootchopper.blogspot.com.