Do it now…cont’d

I pulled into a gas station in Meredith, NH at exactly 12:30. You can catch part 1 here btw. Charlie wasn’t there yet so I went inside and bought some essentials to offset my sleepless night. 2 cokes and a Snickers. A sugar high was what the doctor ordered. When I came out, Charlie was waiting for me. We briefly discussed the route, 220 miles to Lake George with a stop to meet the other 2 guys who were coming from MA. We then took off.

The ride was beautiful. The sun was out and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. We whipped and weaved through the winding roads of Western NH into VT. Through our frequent stops, a virtual comedy played out as our compadres continued to fail to meet us at arranged stops. They were lost, despite having done this ride 10 years in a row. We finally met up in Killington, at a gas station where I first met Charlie (another Charlie) and Rick. I liked them immediately. We took off for the last 80 miles of our journey.

We stopped for dinner at a diner in the Adirondacks. As soon as we got there it became clear that they knew everyone there. A complimentary round of beers came to the table. I gave mine away and asked for a coffee. I was dead dog tired and fading fast.

The last leg of the trip was cold and a bit white-knuckle. My crew was more experienced than I and were going too fast for me on the dark roads. I barely kept up with them. My nerves were frazzled after almost 6 hours on the road.

When we finally got to the Village of Lake George it was evident that we had arrived at the party. The streets were full of classic cars, muscle and vintage, Street Rods, Rat rods, you name it. The streets were lined with people in lawn chairs cheering on the cars as they drove the strip in a loop. Apparently, the village issues a temporary permit for Thursday through Sunday for all the cars, street legal or not, to cruise the one strip and drive like maniacs if they want. The police just stand there and watch. I had never seen anything like it as we negotiated the bikes through the crowd blocking the motel entrance. I was overwhelmed.

We checked in and I was less than thrilled to find out that the four of us were sharing two beds. I am a terrible sleeper and was not looking forward to sleeping with another guy. I shook it off, hoping that a couple of drinks would knock me out enough to override what I suspected was going to be a massive snore/fart fest. We went to the bar.

It was like Cheers the TV show for these guys. They knew everyone and everyone knew them. Several rounds of drinks showed up at our table and I imbibed a little. We went back to the room and everyone passed out in their clothes. It was exactly the snore/fart fest that I thought it would be. I was up all night. I knew I was in trouble.

After breakfast I asked what the plan was. The plan was to do about 300 miles of beautiful riding through NY and VT. I had a decision to make. Do I take a chance and do the ride on no sleep in 2 days and risk getting real sick or do I puss out and stay at the hotel? They knew my situation and said they would understand if I couldn’t make it.

I thought about it for a while and decided that I would definitely regret not going. I had made it this far, I was going to experience all of it regardless of the cost. I showered and packed for what was going to be a really long day.

to be continued…

Do it now

Tuesday the text came through from Charlie. Charlie is the guy I bought my motorcycle from and we became friends and riding buddies.

We had a cancellation for Lake George this weekend, you in? We leave Thursday.

The Lake George Trip! He had mentioned this to me. 4 days of riding motorcycles and a huge car show. I was excited. Then I thought about it. I came up with about 50 reasons why I should say no. Some were legitimate, like missing 2 dialysis sessions was a big one. I texted him back and told him I couldn’t make it.

Then I thought about it. I didn’t even try to see if I could make it work. Had I even tried to change my schedule at dialysis or try to schedule an appt in NY? Apparently a year of Dr’s Appointments and a rigorous dialysis schedule had almost stolen my spirit. Almost. I texted Charlie back and told him that I needed until the next afternoon to decide.

The next morning I went to my clinic and sat down with the nurse manager Karen and told her that I had an opportunity to do a real bucket list thing and asked for her help. Within minutes it was agreed that I would come in the next morning at 6 am (as opposed to noon), skip my Saturday treatment and do Monday and Tuesday when I get back. Bada Bing Bada Boom. I was all set. I called Charlie and told him that I’m in. He was happy.

That afternoon I packed everything I would need for the trip. Rain gear, clothes, tools and snacks were loaded onto the bike. I had already polished her and topped off the oil. She was ready to go.

As luck would have it I didn’t sleep for a minute that night. I went to dialysis at 5:45 hoping I would catch a nap there. No such luck. When I left at 10:15 I was dead tired. I briefly entertained the notion of Chumping out but I didn’t. I got home, parked the truck, fired up the sled and drove an hour to meet Charlie. I had committed myself to accomplish this trip.

to be continued…

deep, lasting bruises

My shoulder is killing me. I have a large goose egg on my elbow. My hip is so sore I can barely walk. But nothing hurts as badly as my pride.

NH has a very stringent policy on Motorcycle endorsements. You can only have a learner’s permit for 45 days at which time you need to schedule a road test or complete a state run safety course that, provided you pass the skills test you are granted a license upon completion. Once the 45 days is up you had better have a license because you can’t get another permit. I set up and timed it perfectly, I took the surprisingly difficult test at the DMV exactly 45 days before I would complete the safety course with the hopes (dare I say expectation?) that I would leave the course with my license.

I then embarked on as many days of riding as I could, the weather has been terrible) and at the end of the 43rd day I felt good about my skills. I put almost 2000 miles on my bike in that time and I deliberately worked on areas of difficulty to make myself a better rider.

I showed up at the practice course ready for 2 days (8 hours each Sat and Sun) of learning. I had jumped through hoops to make it work, including rearranging my dialysis schedule which included making my extra day a 6 AM (ugh) start. Great sacrifice went into this but it was a necessary evil and I was ready.

Overall, it was a cool experience. The instructors were knowledgeable and fun. It was hot as hell but we took many breaks. At the end of the day I was tired. It probably isn’t advisable for a dialysis patient to spend 8 hours pushing and riding a motorcycle in the heat but I didn’t complain, I didn’t want any special treatment. At the end of day 1 I was exhausted. I had a hour and a half hour ride home and when I got there I was done. I woke at 5 am the next day and embarked on day 2.

Day 2 was a disaster. It was baking hot and I hated the motorcycle they assigned me. It was really small and the controls were much closer than on my own bike and I never got used to it the entire day. But I got through the day, barely. Worn from the heat, cranky and not feeling well I felt my stomach drop when they announced “evaluation time.”

I don’t test well, I have extreme test anxiety. I have a hard time performing anything in front of a group of people. It’s the main reason I had to abandon my Porn career. I was nervous and filled with dread despite their assurances that it would not be difficult. The 12 of us lined up.

The first exercise was fine. Not great but I did it. I was really struggling with the size of my bike. The second exercise not so good, on a corner I cut too sharp and the bike tipped over. I was furious, embarrassed and in pain. None of which compared to the sudden realization that I had also failed. The instructors made sure I wasn’t hurt and pushed my bike to the side. I was hurt but didn’t tell them. I went to sit in the shade and fume. One of the instructors came over and told me not to leave, no matter how mad because there was still the knowledge test and if I missed that I would have to repeat the entire course.

There I was. One of the only class members who had actually ridden before, sitting in the corner with a fucking Dunce Cap on.

For the next 30 minutes I waited inside in the AC and fumed. I was beyond myself. While I was waiting I walked over to a chart on the wall. At the beginning of the class we were asked to rate ourselves on our own skill, knowledge and awareness of motorcycle riding. I was a cocky prick and I felt safe giving myself 8’s and 9’s. After all, I had ridden in groups, highways, hills and corners with some very good riders. I erased all of my scores and changed them to Zeros across the board.

As the rest of the non-fuck-up classmates trickled in I kept my face in a book to avoid eye contact. I would have chewed my own arm off to get the fuck out of there at that point. But I didn’t. I took the test, scored 100% and waited for my exit interview. I made it easy for them, I said “yea, I screwed up and I will take the course again.” The instructor felt bad.

“Bill, you’ve got the skills, you just had a bad day.”
“If you think I have the skills, will you pass me?”?
“Sorry. No.”

That was the end for me. I got in my truck, texted Lois that I was a failure and an idiot and made the hour and a half hour drive home. I was miserable.

I spent the rest of the day in a foul mood and woke up about the same. I sulked around for a few hours and then I decided I had to take it on headfirst. I went to the DMV and enrolled for a road test. I scheduled it for next week. I am going to practice the moves that I struggled with and I am going to pass that goddamn test with the assistance of improved skills and a hopefully nice test administrator.

I hate pity parties and therefore I host as few as possible. My wounds still hurt today, but the ego feels a little better because I took some action to resolve this. I don’t feel great, but at least I don’t feel bad for myself.

Now if I can just get the remembrance of dropping a motorcycle and hitting the pavement in front of a large group of people out of my head.

The open road

You may or not believe me when I tell you this, but 32 years ago as I was lying in traction with 4 fractured vertebrae, 3 broken ribs and a nurse picking gravel out of my ass, that I was dreaming of my next motorcycle (and of course about the hot chick I was going to see when I crashed). I had to dream of the next bike because the one that I had just crashed was a mere pile of twisted metal.

People were amazed that even during my recovery I still loved the notion of the motorcycle. I was unfazed by my injuries, the lure of the open road always called to me since my boyhood days of clutching to my father’s waist as we roared around on his bike. I was barely 17 when I got my first one and only 23 when I had my crash.

I stayed away from the call of the road through my late 20’s and by 30 I was married with no expendable income and a wife that never entertained the notion even if I could afford one. She was amazed that after what I had been through I wanted another and just a bit fearful of me making her a widow. For the time being I had to be satisfied with daydreaming and slobbering over every bike that I saw go by. I craved the wind in my face and driving as if I were a very part of the road itself. I romanticized it to say the least.

Not needing the approval of anyone, I bought one last fall. Once I started her for the first time this Spring, I knew that I hadn’t romanticized it enough. It shook as if it were the heavy breaths of the mighty steed. It required taming and finesse. We name our steel steeds after a woman, because it’s a thing of beauty and at the same time, the moment we lose respect for her it will buck you off. I named mine Bella.

Bella and I have spent a lot of time together and have earned a mutual respect. We have learned to ride the bumps and hang the curves in unison. We are enjoying our trips and are experiencing an unexpected bonus. We are both celebrities and members of a very exclusive club.

Celebrity status comes in the form of strangers asking me at gas stations and stores what year she is and commenting on how pretty she is. In the form of people seeing the helmet and saying “Oh, I’m jealous.” Bored husbands in minivans teeming with screaming rugrats looking at me at stoplights with pure envy.

The exclusive club is other bikers. Apparently, it is courtesy and custom to wave at passing bikes as we zoom by each other on highways and side roads. We all do it. Harleys to Hondas, we’re all in the same wonderful club. And we watch out for each other, should a car mess with a bike it’s a lot like when a hockey player knocks over a goalie. Shit hits the fan as the protectors come off the bench.

I can’t tell you how much joy I have already gotten from Bella. She’s made a routine commute a religious experience. A ride to and from dialysis a complete and meaningful experience. It has become an escape, a way to become one with nature and a way to make an ordinary day one for the books.

I suppose one additional perk is that it is one giant FUCK YOU to those who say that someone in my position shouldn’t be doing it. I’ve had cancer twice, 2 near fatal accidents, 2 near fatal staph infections, a kidney transplant and I’m still going. Nothing has killed me yet, I’ll be damned if I’ll take the “safer” road for my own benefit. I want to die having lived, with a giant goddamn smile on my face.

Now if you’ll excuse me, the sun is out and Bella is beckoning to me to ride her…

Living

I have gone on record as being divided on how I feel about Social Media, Facebook in particular. I hate the politics and the pursuant hatred and vitriol from idiots with “keyboard balls”. I hate the vague statuses in which some attention hound posts “ooh I’m so mad!” so all of her friends will reply “What’s the matter honey?”. Then there’s the 50 year old housewives doing duckface selfies. Enough already.

The one thing I have always liked about FB is catching/keeping up with old friends. I have deeply enjoyed this aspect of it. Having graduated HS almost 36 years ago I love that I can see what people who I don’t actually see often (or at all) are up to. One such person is Tim. The last time I saw Tim was after we had a fistfight after school in 9th grade. I don’t know to this day why we fought, but it was over quick and he moved soon after. That was 38 years ago. He and I connected on FB about 8 years ago and have been very friendly but never gotten together.

That changed this week. I posted a pic of my new (to me) motorcycle

and several minutes later a IM popped up. Want to ride?
Hell yea, I replied. We worked out the details for Monday, the weather was looking fine.

We met at a restaurant we both knew. He had come from 50 miles south of me and the plan was to ride into the White Mountains of NH where, I think it is safe to say that God himself designed these roads for Motorcycles and merely allows cars to use them as needed.

He pulled in right on time. I knew what his bike looked like and a fair idea what he did as well. He got off his bike, took off his helmet, lit up his trademark cigarette and just said, “Billy Mac. You haven’t changed a bit.”
“Well, gee Tim. I would think I’ve changed a little since 9th grade.”
We talked for a bit, mostly small talk and we then saddled up. I told him I was a bit of a Rook so I would follow him.
Off we went.
There are certain rules to follow when riding in a group, even if the group is two. I learned them from my dad. Don’t ride side by side, ride staggered. If the leader is occupying the left side of the lane, stay in the right so that another driver doesn’t try to occupy the lane. Don’t get too close. I was nervous at first but I did fine. At the first stop, Tim likes to stop frequently and have a smoke and talk, he asked how long I had been riding.
“Less than a month.”
“Wow”, he said. “You’re doing great.”

At the next stop I asked where we were going. He told me we were going up Cathedral Ledge. I asked more questions and he said to just follow him. Before long we were taking a left into Cathedral Ledge State Park. We then began an upward climb on the windiest road I ever saw. Cars were crawling up and we had to pass a couple because if we didn’t we would have rolled back down the hill. It was that steep. We reached the top and there were hundreds of bikes and cars. We dismounted and I followed Tim to a clearing. Where I saw this…

The view was breathtaking. We talked for a while, got into a little more detail about our lives, elaborated on things we knew about each other from Facebook posts. Finally, he said. “Dialysis, huh?”
“Yup. If you look over there (I pointed to a clearing not visible in this pic), that’s my clinic right there.”
“They’re there. And you’re here, huh?”
“Absolutely. When I’m not there I’m living.”
Tim’s a quiet guy, a man of few words. “You sure as hell don’t look like a dialysis patient to me. Not that I actually know what one looks like, but it ain’t this.”
“Thanks, man. That’s the point.”

We left, descended the hair-raising winding road and set out on the last leg of our journey. We ended up on a very winding stretch of 29 miles that begins with a sign “no gas or services next 29 miles.” The first 3.5 miles were straight up. Then the curves began. I followed Tim’s lead and we began a stretch of snake curves where you need to lean your whole body into the curve or you wouldn’t make it. It was do or die time for me. I summoned my courage and went at it.

Part of me wanted to slow down but I didn’t. I rolled with every turn, mimicking every move Tim made. The wind blew us about, the noise in my helmet was deafening, the adrenaline was pumping. I was exhilarated in the place of fright. At one point I screamed over the din of the engine to no one in particular
LIVING!”

No mortal man heard me, it was for the ears of God alone.

At the next break we talked about the rush of that section of road. I was in heaven. I felt accomplished, I felt like I had performed above my pay grade. I felt alive.

Tim and I later parted ways with a commitment to do it again. We will. I can’t wait. It’s days like yesterday that remind me why you have to deal with the bad stuff to get to the good stuff. The bike, good friends, good conversation, the outdoors on a beautiful Spring day, adrenaline. That’s the good stuff.

I may be stuck in a dialysis chair 3 days a week. But on the other 4, you’ll find me out doing something that someone told me I can’t or shouldn’t do.

I call it LIVING.

Something big between my legs…conclusion

When I left off, I was lying in the woods, behind a rusty guardrail on a sparsely traveled road. Unconscious. If you would like to catch up you can here.

“Bill… can you hear me?” a strange voice boomed over me. It was noisy and chaotic, I was freezing and disoriented. The surface I was lying on was incredibly uncomfortable and I attempted to shift my weight. A tsunami of pain washed over me and I cried out. Several sets of hands suddenly were on me forcing me to sit still. Again, the booming voice called out to me. I opened my eyes to see 8-10 faces, all staring at me with anticipation.

“Where am I? ” It was then that I realized that I was wearing an oxygen mask. I tried to reach to take it off when I realized that my arms were strapped to my sides.

“Bill please don’t try to move. You’ve sustained a serious back injury and you are in a prone position until we can determine the severity.”

I think I next asked about my bike. He dodged the question.

med students

A nurse burst into the room. We’ve got his dad on the phone, he says the patient has kidney disease. I heard a quick exchange between them and before I knew it my shorts were at my ankles and I was being catheterized. I have two powerful memories of that moment. The pain of a plastic tube going the wrong way up an exit brought me to full consciousness right away and I realized that I was in the presence of about 10 medical students.

Embarrassing. My second regret is that I didn’t have the mental acuity to make a good joke such as “aren’t you going to buy me dinner first?” I don’t remember much after that. I either blacked out again, was anesthetized or I fell asleep. My next memory is of being in a stuffy hospital room in traction.

My parents were my first visitors. I managed to find the strength to thank my father for the heads up that led to me being “pantsed” in front of a team of medical students. We laughed a little about that one but laughing and fractured vertebrae equaled agony so we kept the joking to a minimum. Soon after, a wave of my friends arrived with thoughtful gifts such as books and dirty magazines. Their visits were helpful but I was in a funk. Then, on the afternoon of my second day, a cute little blond poked her head in my room. It was Cheryl. She had called my house and my father had told her what had happened.

She came into the room with the facial expression of a woman delivering a cancer diagnosis. Despite her dour demeanor, I lit up. I was so happy to see her. She proceeded to profusely apologize for what happened. I assured her that it was in no way her fault, hell I would do it again. As her visit would reveal that would not be necessary. She told me that we can’t see each other anymore because she wanted to “make it work” with her boyfriend. That was exactly the dick-slap I needed at that time. Of course, I didn’t know that the next day I would get another one. I received a call from my employer. Because I had not shown up for work without a call I was terminated. That was the good news. I also learned that the bargain-basement health plan that my company provided did not cover an accident that wasn’t work-related. Believe it or not, health care has improved dramatically. This was a deplorable policy that is now illegal. I would accrue over $27,000 in medical bills from the accident.

I spent 2 1/2 weeks in that hospital. I had a collapsed lung, 4 fractured vertebrae, 3 broken ribs, a broken wrist, a concussion and “road rash” on 70% of my body. A muscle shirt, jean shorts, and sneakers may have been a great choice for fucking in a van, but it was a poor choice to ride in that day. They were picking rocks and pebbles out of my ass for a week. I was in traction for 8 days and the pain was excruciating. As I laid there high on pain-killers, watching TV and wishing I was anywhere else I attempted to piece together the moments after I blacked out. I had so many questions.

I cringed at the memory of the moment when I gasped for air and failed. I really thought I was going to die. Why didn’t I? I asked my Dr. and he explained the medical phenomenon of your body going into “shock”. Incredibly, my body sensed that I was losing control and it “took over” my panic and shut me down. It enabled me to breathe and consequently survive until I was found.

I wanted to know who found me. Remember, this is before cell phones. Was it a good Samaritan driving by that saw my bike and found a nearby house to call 911? I don’t remember a house in the area that I went down. In addition, how long was I lying in a ditch before they saw me and how much time elapsed before the ambulance arrived? I had no memory of the ambulance ride. It was a blank. I still don’t know nor will I ever.

The last question that nagged me, and does to this day was who was the asshole that hit me and why did he leave me there? He had to have seen the crash. To my knowledge, no arrest was ever made. I still harbor an unhealthy bitterness towards that sonofabitch.

I would wear a back brace for 6 months after the accident. I was out of work for a year.  I had to deal with many issues during recovery including lower back issues resulting from compensating my posture to ease the pain. I still struggle with it to this day but I don’t dwell on it because my ever walking again was once in question.

I still love motorcycles. I will ride one again. The only reason I don’t have one now is money. I also believe in helmet laws. My father recovered my helmet, it was cracked in half. Despite all of it, when I can afford it I will again enjoy the sensation of driving that only an iron steed can provide. Amazingly, the memories of my riding days are still fun ones. Sun on my skin, wind in my face and bugs in my teeth. Cheryl on the back with her tiny arms wrapped around, sexy-talking me while holding me tight, damn I will never forget my times with her. Whenever I see a bike, which if you recall is what started this story, I smile.

As I do when I see a Nurse’s uniform. Did I mention that I began dating one of the medical students immediately after the crash? She slipped me her number as she wheeled me out of the hospital when I was released. I suppose she liked what she saw when I was “pantsed” and catheterized. She was fun.

But that, my friends. is a story for another day.

fini.

Something big between my legs…part 3

To bring you up to speed, you can catch up here .

I had just been asked, nay, commanded by my captivating temptress to meet her at a destination some 25 miles away for a steamy rendezvous. Having absolutely no control over which head was doing the thinking, I jumped on my motorcycle and rolled out of my driveway on my way to what was certain to be another afternoon of memorable debauchery.

The route I needed to take was largely highway followed by a series of back roads that seemed slow and endless, as if designed to discourage the impatient from traveling them, therefore preserving the quaint little towns they rolled through. I hated highway riding on the motorcycle but looked forward to the side roads. And of course the destination.

Massachusetts drivers are notoriously rude and aggressive and bikes often become victim to overzealous tailgaters and lane-changers. Despite the hormones raging through my body, I maintained a safe speed on the 2-lane highway for the entire 18-mile stretch. Speed wasn’t my thing. I rode to experience, to savor, to be a part of the road and everything around it. This made me a major burden and obstacle to other drivers. As expected I was passed as if sitting still several times and I was cut off more than my fair share of times. I wasn’t angry, I took great satisfaction knowing that my destination likely held way more fun in store than theirs.

As I got closer, the soaring seagulls above me and the salty taste of the air stinging my face teased my sense of urgency. I would be pulling off of the highway soon. Before I knew it I was at my exit and I pulled off. The treacherous part of my journey was over and the scenic part was upon me. I downshifted, felt my steed angrily and loudly object and began the last leg of my journey.

The road was one of those roads that you can lose yourself in. With few stop signs, an abundance of woodland briefly interrupted by the occasional beautiful home on each side, it is a road that you could “zone out” and not remember riding it but know you loved it. I was coasting along, leaning into the winding corners when I noticed in my left mirror a car coming up on me very quickly. I tensed up a bit, I wasn’t the most experienced rider and tailgaters made me very anxious. He got on my rear wheel pretty close and I knew I had to let him by me, but where? There were no houses in sight and the shoulder was soft and loose. After one very anxious and angry mile, I spotted a pull off. I could see from a distance that it was a scenic spot that many people used to pull off and enjoy the view (the sand dunes were visible at this point). I could see that it was all dirt and rocks so I signaled and slowed in preparation to turn off.

As I shifted down to pull onto the shoulder the driver behind me accelerated. Underestimating my speed he hit my left leg and foot rest. My bike and I sharply shot to the right and plunged into a section of deep sand. My bike stopped. I didn’t. I was thrown from the bike and my last recollection was of slamming into a old, rusty guardrail. I hit it and rolled down an embankment where I vividly recall frantically gasping for air futiley three times, realized that breathing wasn’t possible, thinking to myself “I’m dead” and then blacking out.

to be continued…