It’s been an up and down week. Georgia schools started in mid August, so we’ve had plenty of time for the fall sniffles and crud to mix and redistribute (along with Covid). We have a new student in the house, and little fingers go everywhere. So, I’m fighting off the crud, but thankfully, it’s not Covid, yet. I’m really self conscious about the cough though. I want to spontaneously volunteer to strangers through my masked face that I’m thankfully both vaccinated and Covid free.
Georgia is solidly in 4th place for total numbers of cases, and for deaths, due to Covid-19. That’s for overall numbers as well as 28-day numbers, not a place you want to be consistently outpacing 46 other US states. The trails and everything else remain open regardless. My commute out to the closer spot on the trail is taking about as long as it did to go 2 counties out for open trails early in the first year of the pandemic because traffic is heavy again. It’s a strange situation and how people are dealing with it (or not) is even stranger. People are ready for “back to normal” no matter what their stance is on any of it. I hope the vaccine will remain protective for me, and I’ll do what I can to prevent passing anything I can’t detect to anyone else. Based on policies I see now, I don’t anticipate any closed trails over Covid in the foreseeable future.
Weather has been a challenge too, but riding has been nice. Today’s ride was slow to warm up my muscles, then I had a faster finish. I was a lot hotter when I stopped than I realized while riding. That surprised me with the overcast sky and cooler temperatures. It makes me wonder how fast my finish was compared to my average. We will record all the metrics we expect to be relevant to this and future projects once videos begin, but I don’t usually bother to start up any devices to measure ride stats for personal knowledge. Today I would have actually looked at them if Russ had been with me because he does.
We stuck to the gradual 10% (or less) per week build when we first started our pandemic rides. We were in such reduced fitness at the time that it was hard to understand how we got there. This week I found a plan for working up to a century in 12 weeks. I think it’s interesting. We never could have done that last year and the 10% recommendation for gradual pacing is important. It’s basic to maintaining long term stamina. But, we laid firm groundwork over the last year and I think we can adopt a little bit from this second plan too. Our current rides exceed the front end of this 12 week plan, but we’re not doing full centuries yet. Russ works more than 40 hours a week and, being in landscape, his busy seasons are the best riding seasons and his hours ease up when the days shorten and it’s still difficult for him to get in rides on weekdays. I forgot that when I expected the training prep to be more workable for longer than it actually is.
One thing I found nice about this 12 week plan is how doable it feels and there also seems to be some good solid general advice on the page. That reinforced my sense that we did enough training over the last year to be able to swing into century mode on cue. One difference though is that this is a training plan to do a single century at the end of 12 weeks, not a plan to do weekly or twice weekly centuries at the end of 12 weeks. I’m still pretty comfortable though. Our plan we be more like stretching the back third of this plan over the same amount of time and working it to the higher goal. It will fit nicely into our set up needs at the beginning as we prepare everything and get set on both ends of the trails. It’s feeling pretty good to be looking at a big daunting project like this with a healthy, but shrinking level of fear.
August has been full of doing things rather than writing things that are ready to post. The riding has been going well. One day I went out and was hit by three stinging meanies, on my shoulder, on my chest, and the last one was in almost the exact same spot on my lip as the sting I wrote about in my last post, but I did not get stung by any of them. I held my breath a bit each time until I realized I wasn’t hurt, but never had to pull out the benadryl that’s now part of my everyday kit.
It’s been humid southern riding. Moving or removing my bike shorts has been worse than a wet swimsuit on some days. I haven’t suffered much with overheating, and that feels good. A guy came up to me in the parking lot one day as I was loading the bike. I had passed him earlier. He said “You didn’t have to make that hill look so easy!” I thought “What hill?”, but what a I said was that he was on a mountain bike and I was on a road bike (which is easier) and I talked about how much it meant to me to be riding and regaining strength over the pandemic. On the way home, I decided I must have passed him on a long slow hill that I walked up when I first started riding the Silver Comet. back then there was an intersection and you had to stop at the bottom. Now there is a trail bridge and momentum takes half the load. It was a small thing, but it felt good to be in a different place than I was a year and a half ago. I’m probably passing 80% of the riders I see going in my own direction now. That doesn’t mean I’m fast. Fast riders get on, get done and get off. I never even see those riders if they started in front of me. I still can’t call myself a good rider, but I am much stronger than I was, and I’m good enough to complete the project I want to do. It’s a level of accomplishment that feels good, feels on target.
I’ve also been adjusting to changing commitments and getting some personal things done. I have more time available and I’m trying to get my mind and my house ready to shift into full time mode. Part of that is that we just made some major renovations to the house. Another part is working on the Etsy store and getting it ready for the busy season. I’ve been struggling with it, as have a lot of vintage sellers. I’m in a funk. I have a lot of stock, and I’m ready to just give it all away, clear out the basement and Marie Kondo the side gig. I can’t really afford that though. And when I say that I can’t afford that, I’m still fully aware the increasing overhead by way of fees and shipping costs is killing me. I still have a 5-star average review, I’m just working harder than I should be to accomplish it, and… Then every once in a while there’s that one customer, and I just made such a difference for them. That thing that I found and rescued was that thing that reminds them of someone they love and they’ve been looking for for so long.
I’m making a push toward paying a lot more attention to the photography because however much I personally want to do the project on muscle power, it will always be completable on electric power, but there will be few fixes for photography fails. I’ve watched a lot of photo editing videos as well and will watch many more. I’m sure the level of editing I’m willing to do will evolve, and at the same time be different for different projects. To some extent the point is moot. I don’t have editing software yet. In fact the only reason I’m looking at editing instruction instead of photography instruction right now is that I need to choose the editing software. I may end up with the obvious Adobe products, but if I do, I want that to be an educated choice.
During the first wave of the pandemic, Russ, in the landscape industry, was officially considered by the Georgia Governor’s executive order to be an essential employee. That was a flood of mixed feelings. In the beginning we stayed home except for work and groceries. We didn’t go out to feel the freedom of empty roads with little traffic in those early days. I really enjoyed not buying gas. But, one day, for what reason I don’t remember, I took Russ to work. On the way we saw Santa Claus on the side of the road. How random is that in April? He had signs leading the way, thanking essential workers and encouraging people. And there he was, waving and dancing. After the initial delight, I want to know the backstory when I see something like this. Who was this guy? What motivated him?
I think I saw him maybe 3 times total, but it was every time I passed by. It wasn’t always a Santa costume. By the time I was driving that road often again, I wasn’t driving it during commute hours and there were only signs beside the road. I wanted to take a photo back while he was still out there, one with the sun rising behind him. Time got away from me. Then I wanted to photograph just the signs. Then there was only one sign left. It was the smiley face attached to a traffic sign. After missing the previous photo opportunities, being in a rush, not having time, not making time, I finally stopped to take a photo of the smiley face sign before it too was gone.
I didn’t want to park in turn lanes, so I pulled into the neighborhood next to the sign. There wasn’t a great place to park, so I parked across the street from a driveway, but it was a narrow street with houses on only one side. There was a little less room than normal street parking. When I came back to the car after taking the picture, there was a man in the driveway looking at me like he was wondering what I was doing.
I said Hi, and told him that I had stopped to take a photo of the sign and apologized if my parking had bothered him. He introduced himself. He said he was the guy! He put all the signs out there and stood there waving and smiling at passers by during those dark early days of the pandemic, and then he kept it going. The person to get the backstory from was standing right in front of me, and he was talking to me about the whole thing. I guess I picked the best time to stop after all. His name is Jerry and he’s a professional Santa. Santas had a rough go of the pandemic too, BTW, but Jerry didn’t say anything about that.
Jerry was out there at 6AM every day, then cut it back to two days a week. He was out there for a total of 6 months waving at people and thanking them for being essential workers. One day his wife asked him how many people he thought he had an impact on. His guess was 25 per day, but then he decided to count reactions, and realized that he could count 150 positive reactions a day, and sometimes he was in the dark, he wasn’t even sure that he could see all of the reactions. On top of that, people stopped to talk to him and thank him, to tell him that they shared what he was doing with co-workers and it cheered them too. He was really having an effect, making a lot of smiles and laughs. His big message for me was that his effort was totally worth it. He let people know that they mattered, and the cool part is that they let him know that he did too.
Jerry’s big focus was on the more essential jobs, from healthcare workers to waste collectors, but he made a difference to everyone who was out there driving by, and the Georgia list of essential workers was pretty big.
Russ was out there commuting every day, caught in a fog, grateful to be employed, grateful to have income that we needed, while also wondering if it would cost him his life. The official governor’s executive order was a cruel Catch-22 with no good options for high risk workers who actually needed their income. Russ’ company instituted new procedures to limit contact between crews and did everything they could to make it as safe as possible. At the same time, it’s hard to wrap your mind around beautiful landscapes as essential work. Bad things do happen when landscape maintenance goes by the wayside. Vandalism and vermin increase, but it’s not at the forefront of what people think about when they think of who’s job is essential.
It was and still is a struggle for everyone. But, it’s easier for some of the essential workers to know exactly why they’re essential, and harder for others. If you’re saving lives everyday, you know that risking your own is worth it. The more removed your work is from saving lives, the harder it is to see it as anything but risking your life for a paycheck. The pressure and opinions through the pandemic were and are still relentless, most of them dictated by what the holder of those opinions feared most. One day I asked Russ if he (Santa Jerry) was still out there. He said “What?, oh, I don’t know.”
There’s was a row of signs like you’re coming up on a Stuckey’s or Rock City and at the end of it Santa Claus is jumping and dancing and waving and Russ didn’t know if he was still out there? At the time that I asked that question, Jerry was still out there, and Russ was too distracted to see him.
I just said that Jerry mattered, and then I said, for all his effort, he still faded into the background for Russ. But, the thing is, both are true. When people are that stressed out, the Jerrys of the world all matter. The guy on the Silver Comet telling people to have a glorious day matters, even when you are no longer consciously aware of them, even if they become background noise, the noise is good. It matters that there is good background noise. People who love people redeem the rest of us.
I went to a funeral service for Russ’s Uncle Woody a few years ago. The pastor built the entire sermon on Uncle Woody’s favorite greeting, “God loves you and so do I.” Woody would say that and offer his hand. I never saw him do it. I met him at a family reunion and he didn’t do it there. Apparently he did it everywhere else. I love the unconditional love that gesture conveyed. I don’t know how to offer my own version of it to people. I want my own version. I want it to be inclusive of different belief systems. I want something just as warm as Woody’s, but universal. It’s harder now. We’re still in the middle of a pandemic and I’m really ready to leave handshakes behind forever, but the elbow bump feels more trendy than warm. I just don’t feel it. When I was active in ballooning, we all hugged a lot. Not everyone, because not everyone is a hugger, and that’s way too up close and personal for the pandemic era. What puts your mind and body into a greeting like Woody’s for today? I’m not sure.
Extroverts like Jerry have figured out how to reach out to people. And, we are all better for it. Not everyone can be a Jerry, not everyone should. People are different. Some are introverts, some are distracted, some are having a bad day, some have the weight of everything precious and ephemeral on their shoulders. But, reaching for the connection, however you can is a good thing, and even when people don’t respond noticeably, we get that strangers care enough to get out there every day and work for nothing more than a smile. When that happens, we’re in a world with a more beautiful backstory. When the world is crushing, the compassion and the connection are the background music that gets us through. And sometimes when we see or meet a Jerry, we smile, inside or out, and our heavy thoughts are replaced with lighter ones for just long enough.
For a few weeks I was in a ride 4 days in a row, do something else for 3 days cycle. It wasn’t a choice, just the way things kept working out. It’ll be alright with me if that spreads out across the week, but it slides into the habit I plan for the project pretty well, so it will be alright if it keeps up too. There hasn’t been much that was too memorable about the rides. Rain has been frequent, so some rides were wet. I got a shingles vaccine on Sunday and I was kind of miserable Sunday and most of Monday, but I rode a slow and easy ride in 90 degree temps Monday night and hope to be up and riding early Tuesday, this morning, I didn’t feel like riding, but it’s a day when I can get out while the temps are cooler, so I pushed and went out anyway.
A week or 3 ago I got a sting on my pinkie while riding. Today it was my face, and I could have used my morning off to sleep in! It seems like all my insect bites while cycling the Silver Comet happen in July and August.
You can’t tell from the camera angle, but the swelling made me look a little square jawed. The lip was big enough to notice in my peripheral vision. That was really weird, really weird.
The weather hasn’t been completely peachy. Last week we had siding replaced on the back of the house, soffits and fascia underneath the gutters with Hardie board and it’s rained enough that there hasn’t been a paintable day since. Fortunately, It’s easier to get a rideable day than it is to get a paintable day. I got up this morning to see if the forecast was as grim today as it was last night. I clicked and got excited, then realized it was showing me Panama City Beach. We visited my Mother for the first time in a year and a half a few weeks ago and went a little out of the way to drive through Wewahitchka for some Tupelo honey and walk down the beach. I’m not sure why the widget reverts back to the fun thing you checked once or twice instead of going to show you the place you’ve checked dozens of times since, but I’ll choose to be grateful for the reminder that I got a walk on the beach and a long awaited visit with my mother
The morning percent chance of rain moved inside my parameters here too, and the thunderstorm forecast disappeared completely. The grim bedtime forecast converting into a bike ride happens often enough that I never rule out a ride until the morning of, and really kick myself if I forget to re-check. More to be grateful for.
The ride was nice, not too wet. I was dragging at first, but energetic and getting my head into the right place before it was over. The Y was more crowded last time I went. I hope that was a reflection of the time of day rather than changing norms. I didn’t get the muscle soreness after, so I’m getting used to being back. My bike feels like it could use tightening up, tuning up and adjustments everywhere. For that matter, so did my body earlier this week.
I’ve been writing a good bit, things for this blog, both published and not, as well as other things. I’ve also started getting ready for the seasonal uptick in sales for the Etsy store. I need that to flow smoothly for at least the next 6 months and everything I do now will save some really irritating oops from happening later.
That’s it for today. Have a glorious day, and try to remember what you’re grateful for.
Sometimes I chide myself for focusing on the wrong thing, but making some camera decisions now does seem like the thing to do. I have to get funding before those decisions matter. At the same time, I need credibility as someone who has what it takes to get the job done. My blog pictures need to start looking better.
I’ve spent some time now and then over a few months considering what to carry instead of the Nikon for stills while riding the trail. Once there is a recumbent, I may take the Nikon from time to time, but as a rule, it’s just too risky, and you know those amazing things will happen too fast on the days on the days I have it, and there will be really glorious moments on the days don’t have it. For that quick access I’ve thought of a point and shoot or a better phone camera. I wasn’t sure. The phone cameras keep getting better and you’re more likely to have your phone handy when something happens quickly. My decision was partly made for me.
I love the Samsung Galaxy 8 Active that I had, but it was tired before I ran it through the washer and the dryer in my yoga pants pocket. The $9 a month I’ve been paying in insurance since it was new was going to get be a Galaxy 9 (not active). After the deductible, it was going to cost half the retail price to get a dated phone. I’ve mentioned my luddite tendencies, but that’s just because the budget is king in my life. The current Galaxy phone is a 21 and I want to do a project that needs a good quickly accessible camera at the touch of a whim. A lot of the tech savvy people who participate in funding crowdsourced projects won’t relate to this, but buying the Galaxy S21 Ultra was a leap of faith, especially since the reviews said it wasn’t even as rugged as the S20. My last 2 phones were active models because I AM going to drop it. The temptation to get rid of the overpriced and useless insurance was tempting, but the phone was really expensive. I couldn’t quite do it.
One of the things I love about this phone is that you can turn on “Make a RAW copy” (actually, I found out that I could have done that on my 8 Active too). That means that you can use the .jpgs for all those things that .jpgs are good for, but if you want to play around with RAW, you have that option. I haven’t bought the software for that yet. I’ll probably go with Lightroom because it is widely used, but I did see some software that was rated higher and was a one time fee, not subscription. Decisions! And, miles to go…
It’s not just hot, it’s been hot long enough that people are tired of it, especially here in the south. and in some places we are breaking previous heat records for highest (“reliably measured”) temperature on earth, and other extremes regularly, including highest lows.
Locally, there’s been a small respite. Hurricane Elsa, the fifth named storm of the season passed south and east of us bringing rain and some cooler temperatures, a bit of an irony, because warmer ocean temperatures favor storm formation. Elsa was the earliest named 5th storm in history.
The weather made riding hit or miss, with a few good hits. The knee pain was medium to mild, but still around, then almost gone by the time I posted this. It turned out not to be caused by the strength training. I didn’t see how it could be, but the timing made me wonder and I couldn’t think of any other reason at the time. I discovered it was actually because we didn’t get my seat height and angle properly adjusted after the musical bikes. That’s all better now. I’m still liking the new flat bike shoes and pedals, but they’re not 100% at taking care of the tingle and cramps I get in the right foot. I got rides four days in a row. After giving it a rest for a bit, it could be that no shoe would help. Irregular activity levels irritate my problem.
On one of the earlier rides, I saw a newborn fawn. It was the first time for me. As I was approaching, I thought it was a thin sick dog, but then I saw the wet, vibrant dark red brown fur with the bright white spots and thought “Oh dear, where’s Mama? I hope she knows I’m not gonna hurt her baby.” Then the fawn ran away more awkwardly than Bambi on ice. Just afterward I bought a new “flagship” phone. It might give me some better options for getting the unexpected images while riding pre “official” project start time. It’s definitely going to give me better stills without having to carry the Nikon.
I’ve been writing a lot, mostly some of the (not yet finished) posts that should be up when I launch the kickstarter. I’ve also been applying to jobs. It’s not that I can do both the project and a job. I can’t. The project is more than full time for both of us and I’m still trying to get my expected project hours per week down much closer to 40. And, it’s certainly not that I have given up on the video project. Doing something that fits my need to make a difference could be the most important thing I might do next. And, Russ could use a break from his current life to do that as much as I could. What he could really use is about 20 hours a week when he gets plenty of exercise and doesn’t have to manage the expectations of a dozen people in an hour. Really, the reason I applied is that some of the jobs I once wanted very much came floating across my laptop. They did that now. I don’t know that I’d even get an interview for any of them, but back-up plans are pretty important, especially when you’re chasing a long shot, and I may have and answer on this project before any of those companies are ready to interview, so it’s not irresponsible to apply for a job I might not be able to take. If I ever get myself into consideration for the positions in the first place, I can responsibly take myself out as soon as appropriate.
In fact, some people, people who care about me might ask why I’m even thinking of spending another year and a half pursuing unpaid work. It’s really hard to explain. Money is important. Everybody has expenses, and the more money you have, the more options you have. Options are good. I’d like more of them. At the same time, money isn’t what motivates me most in life. It’s the pursuit of whatever I’m following at the moment that lights my fire. I get it. In the world we live in, that takes money, which is why I’m planning a kickstarter. But, my great pleasures are thinking and doing and giving. I don’t get so much pleasure from earning money, I get pleasure from earning opportunities. The distinction may sound trivial, but I’d be a happy clam in a Star Trek Universe where money isn’t really a thing and science, discovery, connection and truth are not just valued, they are the whole point.
I’m thinking about these things at the same time I’ve reached that place in this project where I sometimes give up on myself. That’s not related to those back up job applications I just mentioned. Those were just the choice to have backup potential. It’s related to refining an idea so well, while at the same time keeping most of it in my own head, (and some of it here in these posts). I believe in this project strongly, but I haven’t shared many details, even among some of my closest people. Part of that is because I’m accustomed to caring deeply about more things than most of my people are even interested in knowing exist. I have written 40+ Tuesday updates, but not even Russ has read many of them. When I tell my granddaughter I need some time to work on the computer, I suspect my children assume I’m typing furiously in a FB group (which is only true sometimes :).
The isolation I feel is partly because it’s my MO to be self contained about my ideas, and it’s partly because things are so busy and stressful too. All that stress I mentioned in one of those Tuesday updates? So here’s the thing. I’ve both applied to jobs and hit my wall, both at about the same time. I probably understand my strengths and shortcomings fairly well, and I’m still spending all the time I can pursuing this project. It must be what I am supposed to do next. So, for right now, I’ll just keep plugging along and make it work.
I ended up buying new shoes just before the century. My go to pair is getting worn, making my tingly toes worse. Breaking in a new pair of shoes is not something I’d normally do for a big event, but it was time and I don’t really remember noticing a “break in” period on bike shoes.
I don’t like clips. I’m afraid I’ll forget to release in an emergency and wrench an ankle. My MTB riding grandson had mentioned I might like flats a while back. Then when we stopped by the recumbent store, the owner showed us extra large flat pedals and said that that they were good for preventing tingly toes. I hadn’t even mentioned that was an issue for me. They look a little clunky. Apparently he recommends them often and his customers love them. They’re not sleek, but I’m all about functionality and plan to follow his advice.
I was already thinking about flats when I ended up using my spare shoes. I keep my, new old stock Keens that are too narrow for me in my car for emergencies and noticed that they are wide enough in the summer with no socks. The stiff sole feels good too, but if I wear them a few times in a row without socks, they’ll start to leave rub damage on my skin. All signs were pointing to flats.
I asked the REI sales rep for something stiff and wide. I expected him to show me flats, but I was leaving the door open to learn something new. Flats it was. I needed to buy the pedals as well. These are much more comfortable to walk in too. Ask me how I know!
Training and the Hospitality Highway
I decided early in the week before the century (link is not my video) to give the Y a shot. I was riding down the Greenway thinking about driving to the Y nearest the house when I got home, but I was almost at the Y on the Greenway. So I parked my bike and went in. It was time to start going, or to stop paying for the membership after a year and a half of not using it. (It did open back up months before I decided to go.) Under current conditions (the crowding level I experienced this week, combined with the risk level of the current Covid variants status locally and my status being fully vaccinated) I plan to go weekly, hopefully 2-3 times. And, I’ll try not to get too burnt out on the chore keeping up to date with current conditions (has a variant blown through the vaccine?). I’m looking forward to getting back to strength training. It should help my shoulder, back, knees and hips, and keep me riding through more adverse circumstances. I was surprised that my knees hurt after the workout, I didn’t push it at all. I wondered if strength training after so much time without it was part of what made me feel so bad through the rest of the week, but I think it’s more likely that I took my opening to ride almost every day all month in climbing temperatures without having managed to reach an optimal weight. I’ve been busy too. I hardly know which thing to write about.
Highway 400 is apparently called the Hospitality Highway. I learned that when we picked up our t-shirts. The ride (link is not my video) was fun, the week leading up to it was not. I had a flat on Tuesday, a really difficult and draining ride on Thursday and felt bad Friday and Saturday. It wasn’t my best training week at all. I had spasms in my leg, which according to the internet could have been stress, exhaustion, dehydration or the beginning of rare and horrible things. I’m leaning toward stress and exhaustion because I’m pretty good at hydrating.
I was a bit nervous at the start of the ride. It was raining just enough to make the roads slippery. This crowd was full of energy, but crowds in general aren’t my favorite riding situation and the busy roads in areas with high population density aren’t either. I was having a little bit of that nervous feeling I had just before that time I was getting ready to rappel off the side of a waterfall. “Am I really going to do this?” was floating around in my mind, and I was remembering the time I flipped over my handle bars. Flying through the air, I wasn’t scared, I was angry. I thought I was about to miss things I had planned to do because I did something stupid. If I were to have a wreck in this pile of 1650 people, how hard and long would it be to recover? That’s the thing. It’s not the immediate pain, it’s the time you loose.
There was a young man in a Georgia Tech jersey going over safety rules with a man I soon learned was his father, saying things like “Go across the seams between lanes at an angle, don’t let your tire get a tire stuck in the crack).” I was tuned in to hear what ever I might have forgotten to think about. It was a family activity. The parents were celebrating their 39th wedding anniversary, on the day of, by participating in the ride with their sons.
The ride was good. Were were in a midlin’ good position. As we went under the overpass that was in about the middle of the freeway section, there were already large numbers of riders crossing it, and by the time we got to that place ourselves the police cruisers were pulling up the rear, one to each lane. I didn’t see this effect in any of the videos I watched, but, where I was, there were large numbers of riders with bright tail lights ahead and, from a bright red lights standpoint, it looked much like rush hour with cars on the road. I heard other cyclists remark about it too.
We crossed the Chattahoochee River twice. It was beautiful. The rain wasn’t falling at that exact moment and the early morning fog was rising from the water. I didn’t feel at liberty to give it more than a seconds worth of attention, but I made sure to appreciate that it was there for longer. There were plenty of cool sights to file away. At least one person did wreck. Russ saw a cyclist who had an accident and said there was a lot of blood coming from her head. That really surprised me because helmets usually keep that from happening.
I went up some hills with confidence building ease. We loaded the instructions for the 43 mile ride. It would pass nearby our house at the 30 mile point and we could stop if we wanted, or ride it on in if we didn’t. The last hill before the nine mile route ended is called “Mother-in-Law” (no, none of these named hills were named for men). I walked half way up Mother-in-Law and asked Russ at the top what he wanted to do. The conversation took a little longer than necessary because neither of us wanted to say it, but, we were wiped. I stuttered around and said “I only got 4 hours sleep last night.” We went home and showered and napped, then went back to listen to bands and cheer the 100 milers in. Like most things I start thinking “Am I really going to do this?”, I was glad that I did. After I work my way through this video project, it would be fun to look for some other challenging centuries to ride. I’m sure this particular century will have a new home by then.
Mom wasn’t an anti-vaxxer, she was distracted. I received my smallpox vaccine at school in Texas. I remember lining up in a huge lunchroom, but after that we moved back to the small rural town in Alabama where she and a few more generations of my family grew up. I really don’t know what happened, but the ball was dropped somewhere and the rest of my vaccines didn’t happen at school, or the health department, or the doctor’s office. My vaccine card was also missing Polio, maybe something else as well, but Measles and Polio are the ones I remember.
I was in the 5th grade when it happened. I noticed the rash in the bath at home. I don’t remember how quickly the shift from “not that sick” to “nearly dying” happened or how long I was sick. I remember lying on the sofa in front of TV (no remote, black and white) drifting in and out while Mom was at work. I lost 40 lbs. I remember Mom telling me if I didn’t eat they’d take me to the hospital and stick a needle in my arm. For a long time I remembered the weird hallucinations I had, and the delirious nonsensical conversation I was told about later, but those are lost to me now. I remember my hair falling out like a cancer patient, but only about half of it. Some of it never came back. I wore my hair in braids back then and they were never as thick again. No one else in my class got it. I’m guessing they were all vaccinated. I ate a lot after I got well and became chubby for a couple of years afterward.
I remember Mom telling me I had a really close call, but just how high my temperature got was a little fuzzy. The mercury was up in that tip of the old glass stick thermometer where the numbers end and just a little bit of tube allows the liquid to continue to expand into the twilight zone of guessed the temperatures. As an adult, I wondered if there was a way to figure out how high it got. I looked up the symptoms and things that happened to me to see if they happened at a specific body temperature. It was disquieting. The phrase “denatured proteins” was in what I saw and it wasn’t very far from the temperature range I’d been led to believe my body and brain might have reached. The article likened denatured proteins to scrambled eggs for those who aren’t familiar with the term. In fact, the only reason I’m sure my temperature didn’t get all the way to that level is because I’m alive.
Shortly before I had my first child, I read an article about an unvaccinated farmer who contracted Polio when his daughter was vaccinated. When I took my son in to the pediatrician to get his Polio vaccination, I asked the Dr to vaccinate me as well. I told him about the article, and about getting the measles after missing that vaccine. He laughed and gave us both the drops. I didn’t mind the laugh. I wasn’t going to get Polio from taking care of my child and that’s all that mattered to me. We don’t give Polio drops in the US anymore. This article from the CDC explains that the liquid drops Polio vaccine can lead to what happened to the farmer in the article and that’s why those drops are no longer allowed in the US.
Catching the measles isn’t quite straightforward. There are some after effects. I wonder sometimes what new research could mean diagnostically to my health, so I look it up every now and then. The linked article talks about a loss of antibodies to other illnesses after having the measles and uses chicken pox for an example. There’s a relationship between chicken pox and shingles. If you had chicken pox, you take one shingles vaccine, if not the other. While waiting for my Covid vaccine, I remembered that the age recommendations had changed I was now overdue for shingles.
My grandfather had shingles. The last 20 years of his life were marked by pain. He didn’t have the opportunity to take a vaccine. I owe it to his memory to do my best to avoid the pain he suffered, I almost took it first, but felt Covid was more critical (and there needs to be time between vaccinations). At a time when so many people were comparing Covid vaccine reactions, mine was practically nil, but when I got around to the shingles vaccine, I had the strongest reaction I have ever had to any vaccine. I rarely have side effects, but this was enough of an exception that it had me rethinking which vaccine I should have taken. I had the measles after chicken pox, so what if the immune reduction affected me? I finally decided I was ok. When my children got chicken pox, I didn’t get sick, so I must have had enough residual immunity to keep me from catching it again, therefore, the vaccine for people who had chicken pox was the vaccine for me.
In high school chemistry, the professor told us to look around the room at each other, then said “Before vaccines, all but two of you would be dead.” I have personal experience to what missing mine almost meant to me. From time to time, when someone teases me about being distractible or forgetful, I wonder if I did experience some brain damage. I don’t really remember if people started teasing me about my distractibility before that illness, and no one else does either. In some respects it doesn’t matter. This is the one life I have and it’s had some pretty awesome moments that I’m grateful for.
I don’t want to dwell on this, but I do want to learn from it and avoid as much sickness and pain as possible, and I do tell the story fairly often. Measles is dangerous and the effects can compound. All the diseases that have been worth developing a vaccine for are better avoided. I don’t want what happened to me to happen to others. I hope that sharing my story will help people to avoid it.
“Crickets”, people say that to indicate a lack of response. Shortly after moving back home for a bit, my son asked me if we were playing cricket sounds in the bedroom. I laughed. We are. I’ve been falling asleep to the sound of crickets for months now. At our old house, only 8 miles away (and almost every other home I’ve lived in) the real crickets outside were really loud. We had an exchange student once, she asked what the noise was. The background noise was so constant that she had to take me outside and point at nothing in particular before I understood her question.
At our current house, where the phrases “front yard must be bermuda or zoysia grass” and “open like a golf course” are in the HOA Guidelines, the neighbors use yard chemical services and the crickets are now faked on a meditation audio. (The reasons I moved here were good, but the fit wasn’t a natural one).
Russ and I have been skipping around with guided and unguided meditations. His default often goes to unguided abstract music, but as I’ve read more articles about the benefits of nature sounds and coming across articles about forest bathing I thought about crickets. They are the background music of my life. And, I have been sleeping better.
I’ve been riding at Big Creek because the streambed is cooler and it allows me to ride at more different times of day. The leftovers of a tropical depression are drifting by though, and the weather service flood warnings started 2 days before the rain actually got here. Urban flooding is a problem in Atlanta and the surrounding areas. Really it’s a problem in all places where there is a lot of impervious pavement. It’s a problem for Big Creek too, and, while many people who walk short distances will get to use the Greenway there sooner, I won’t ride there or even check the conditions again for at least a week after the rainfall stops. It takes that long for the waters (which during flooding sometimes contain sewage overflow) recede in more places.
Watching the weather is something I didn’t come by naturally. I’ve alway been the “Yes, there’s weather.” girl who didn’t pay much attention, but it’s something Russ and I both do frequently now. Russ does it for his work. I started when I got into ballooning, continued through a few Georgia droughts, and I do it now for the bike rides. Often the local weather forecast will be for more rain or greated chances of rain when I look the day before a ride, and by the morning of the ride, things have changed enough to meet my parameters for a ride. I recently had a week when I didn’t think I’d be able to ride at all, and rode nearly every day. They weren’t all dry rides, but it was fine. Not getting rain that was in the forecast has been something I’ve noticed frequently over the years. Forecasts that that always seem to change in the same direction make me wonder if Heat Island effects on precipitation are being fully accounted for in the model.
Regardless, today I’ve got the weather when it wasn’t expected, so, I can write about everything else later. It’s time to stop writing and start riding.