As with automobiles and Indiana Jones, it's not the years so much as the mileage.
"All I know for sure is that every day I must remember to cherish the small things...the smell of brewing tea, the glint of sunlight on the ocean." Rick Ridgeway, Below Another Sky...A Mountain adventure in Search of a Lost Father.
Below Another Sky is a book about love and loss in the mountains. Having suffered "loves and losses," Mountain climber and adventure film maker Ridgeway suggests that we owe it to those adventurers who paid for their choices with their lives, to never lose sight of and appreciate the little pleasures in life.
|Mountain bike rides around and near Vulture Peak|
Ridgeway's reminder smacked me up-side the head while I was dealing with nasty cold, wading around in a "why me" puddle of self-pity. Why me, indeed.
We've all been there, so ill it feels like one foot's in the grave. But for those of us who, for one reason or another, rarely come down with so much as a sniffle...well, a flu or cold can feel like a near-death experience, and the bigger the man, the harder the fall, and the louder the whine.
Harken back, if you will, to the ides of January, it was time to resume our winter sojourn to camp under the twinkling stars and statuesque saguaro of the Sonoran Desert in Southern Arizona. We motored straight through, from Lovely Ouray to Hurricane, Utah, in order to pick up our new-to-us but well used Rv, Daisy.
While I topped Daisy off with propane and fresh water, Bobbie went to Walmart for groceries. I've said it before but it bears repeating: Walmart is a literal petri dish for the most virulent and vile daycare diseases known to mankind. In hindsight, it was a careless and risky decision...one we would come to regret.
The incubation period took about a week as we hiked and biked our way south through the Colorado River corridor. Then, as we rolled into our Wickenburg boondock, BAMM, like a head-shot from Mohamed Ali, the Wally Infirmity knocked Bobbie to the mat. She slept for days, semi comatose, going through box after box after box of Kleenex. Me? I was out for hours on end, feeling good, mountain biking all the backroads around Vulture Mountain, lowering my immunity, apparently.
As you might imagine, with all the sneezing and coughing and piles of used Kleenex, it didn't take long for Daisy to become a hazmat zone. What was I to do, pitch a tent? No, I trusted my immune system to engage the enemy and defeat the little bastards...to rise above the germs with exercise and positive thinking (I will not get sick, I will not get sick). Right...
It took another week or so of Hazmat Zone exposure for my immune system to run up a "white flag." But I was in denial, thinking I was just tired out from all the mountain biking. As Bobbie seemed to be slipping out of her coma, we decided to move on to McDowell Mountain Park, near Fountain Hills, east of Phoenix. Though weak, she had obviously turned the corner, while I, on the other hand, felt like there was a 10 pound weight on my lungs. We went on a bike ride, promising to keep it casual. After a couple of miles I began to get my wind back and felt better. Yes! Dodged the bullet. After a dozen or so miles, Bobbie decided to play it safe and head back to camp for some rest.
"I'm feeling good," I said. "I'm going to keep riding."
I flew down the oh-so-rocky back half Pemberton trail...balls to the walls, confident that I had the demonic virus under submission. Jim and Gayle showed up that afternoon and we went on a nice long hike.
After a rough night, I woke the next day with one foot in the grave. Laid out. Down for the count. Praying it would be a short, temporary setback. It wasn't.
I spiraled down like a plane in flames. While Bobbie's bug had gone to her sinuses, mine went straight to my lungs. I spent untold nights relentlessly coughing and convulsing... fits that literally shook the Rv like 8.0 earthquakes and aftershocks. After 4 days that felt like a year, I decided I better get to a walk-in clinic and beg the kindly Doctor Chopra for some drugs.
After all my pills were gone I still felt like shit. The "grave" is winning, I thought. Bobbie and I even discussed going to a hospital Emergency Room. Days were bad, but nights were the worst...with uncontrollable fits of coughing. We talked about bagging the Rv life...selling out and just going home to stay, theorizing that our immune systems could better cope with more familiar viruses. The weeks drug on. We were not happy campers.
After a month of illness, I am thankful to announce that we are back to around 70 percent wellness. There's still sinus and coughing, but we've turned the corner enough to get back outside where we belong and are ramping up the miles and elevation gains.
Losing my health and fitness served to provide some long-view perspective, as well as a modicum of embarrassment. Sick though I was, I tried not to complain, especially after reading about others who are/were wrestling with grave life and death issues. I mean, all I had was common fucking cold. I tried to adopt an attitude to thank my lucky charms that I wasn't dealing with something really serious. As our "mileage" continues to rack up on life's "odometer," most of them rough and tumble "off-road" miles, there are bound to be more potholes. There are no cure-all solutions beyond just keep moving, try to live in the moment, and give thanks when those moments are good.
"I will strive to treat every day as though it were my only one. I have wasted many days, and no doubt I will waste many more. But by experiencing and accepting the reality of the present, I can learn not to regret the past nor fear the future."
From Jonathan Wright's journal, right before he died in an avalanche below the summit of Mount Minya Konka, China. (Excerpt from Below Another Sky, by Rick Ridgeway).
Now for a few photos from our Wickenburg boondock...
Pretty clouds and cacti....
Then, on to McDowell Mountain Park...a biker's paradise.
Mark and Bobbie...now on the mend near Madera Canyon (cough).