I fell. I was playing in a rainy golf tournament, slipped on a wet bridge, and fell hard on my left hip and side, hard enough that others came running. It winded me and I spent a little while doing a “post crash checklist” as we say in the off-road motorcycle/bicycle world. It is a routine with which I have all too much experience. I lay there, methodically checking for serious damage and, finding none, stood up and finished the round. I wish I could blame my “high score” booby prize on the fall, but it was my lousy game.
After a month, I still felt traces of hip and lower back pain, so I went to my ortho. He announced, “Nothing is broken, but you have a congenital hip defect where the thickened femoral neck impinges on the socket and it’s going to give you arthritis.” I wish I had money for every time I heard I’d have arthritis: when I broke my elbow and collarbone in a bicycle race in my 30’s, I was told I’d have arthritis in my elbow. Knee injury in my 40’s? - “You’re gonna have arthritis.” Guess what? I turn 60 in February and…I have arthritis. Ibuprofen is my friend, but damn if I don’t hate taking anything for anything.
The manifestations are more than physical, however. Motorcycling, especially off-road, is an activity that places more than an average amount of stress on your body even when you don’t hit the deck. Even a road ride requires dexterity and strength when using one’s hands to manipulate the brake and clutch levers and when putting a foot down at stops. Keeping the RT vertical with Betsy and I aboard when the pavement isn’t level can be a chore. Mindful of those things, I have become concerned about the future and my ability to ride.
I have never considered myself old. Even approaching 60, I am active: I hiked in Antarctica and slept in a hole in the snow last year. I cut and split my own wood. I ride ridiculous numbers of hours with heavily-laden passengers on big road bikes in support of bicycle races. I ride sportbikes on the track. I ride, albeit cautiously, offroad motorcycles. And yet, suddenly, a slip and fall at a golf course has younger folks rushing to my aid instead of chiding me for my clumsiness because…I’m considered an “old guy” now.
I have a lot of things left on my to-do list, from dual-sport motorcycling to the North Slope of Alaska like Mike Mosca did to hiking the Appalachian Trail to bicycling the Assault on Mt. Mitchell and so many other things. Damn if I want some inflammatory process I got as a result of falling down participating in various sports derail those plans! Oh sure, there are plenty of medications, all with their own family of potentially life-threatening side effects. Joint replacements are out there (Betsy has had two), but damn, am I going THERE?
I do have hope and inspiration, a lot of which comes from the Backroads community. Face it, folks, we are ALL there in some form or another. Have you checked the demographics of our rallies, lately? There are not only good examples of older riders, there are great ones: at the Gray Ghost last year, a woman named Ann Lockyer showed up on a beautiful sea-green Indian roadster. She rode up, solo, from her home in the Bronx at 80 years of age! Then, there’s “Himself,” none other than Reg Pridmore, who has ridden on the track into his 80’s. If we check the Backroads yearbook, there are plenty of folks with extended riding longevity.
I’m in denial - I just don’t want to be there. I want to get in Mr. Peabody’s “Wayback Machine” or into the magical, time-traveling Delorean and go “Back to the Future” to a time when I didn’t have to deal with this crap. The fact that I remember Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine is an indication of just how much water has flowed under MY personal bridge. Another indication is that I keep a supply of antacids and reflux medicine in my tank bag - next to the Advil - for the post-barbecue-lunch eruptions of my intestinal volcano.
I guess I am following the guidance of one of my favorite fellow scribes, Gonzo himself, Hunter S. Thompson, who said, “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a Ride!’”