Lost Blog(s) Introduction
During the five years that I have been on SparkPeople, I have composed several blogs, that for one reason or another, I never posted. I have decided to post a few of these "Lost Blogs".
This blog, "Are you Trying to Kill Me?" is the third and last in a series. The emphasis should be as follows: "are you TRYING to kill me"
The entire blog is now in three huge parts:
Great Outdoors Part 1: Moderately Fit
Great Outdoors Part 2: Disaster Strikes!
Great Outdoors Part 3: Are You Trying to Kill Me?
In the process of preparing The Great Outdoors blogs for posting, I removed about half the original text.
And the story is still too long.
If there is a central theme, It would be that only on the edge is one tested sufficiently to come face-to-face with limitations. I would still think of myself as being invincible.
This true story takes place on June 13th, 2013. I hope you enjoy this lost blog "Are You Trying to Kill Me?"
-----------------------Start of Lost Blog ------------------
Part 14: Are You Trying to Kill Me?
The final day's activity would be an early morning, crack-of-dawn, ride to some ancient Anasazi ruins. We started riding in the coolness of the morning. Ashley, whom was a tiny dynamo of a rider, was our guide for this day. I rode in the front of the pack with Ashley, Alan, Jason and Jeremy. The other riders lagged behind. Ashley told us to wait at a marked turn-off up ahead. She wheeled around and back down the hill to shepherd the slower riders.
Ashley may have been petite, but she was 99% muscle and sinew. She was a mountain bike racer from Park City, Utah. We relatively clunky big guys just lumbered on up the sandy hill.
We saw the turn-off but we kept going straight. The morning had broken. We rode down a steep hill and stopped to watch the sunrise.
In the history of the world, there have been few sunrises to equal this one. The four of us just stood over our bikes in rapt attention. The sun rays danced and shimmered.
"and God saith. "Let there be light" and there was light.
The unworldly beauty of the sun rising in such an ancient place defies description. The hues of blue, red, purple, white and green were pure and bright. We saw a sheet of light climbing up the hill in front us. The sun chased the shadows away. The air was crystalline pure and delicious. It seemed as if the earth beneath our feet celebrated the sun's return. I closed my eyes as the sun's warmth touched my face.
Jeremy, the sanest of the lot, broke the spell, "I think they may be waiting for us." We turned around and rode back up the steep hill. I found that I could pedal quite well in spite of my really hideously swollen knee. I was clipped-into my pedals so my lower body was stabilized.
All four of us lumbered up the hill. We found our little group waiting for us at the turn-off. Ashley asked, "Where you guys been?" I answered, "Watching the sunrise!" She gave a quick smile, "Ah, gotcha!" I am sure our companions thought we were crazy.
Ashley addressed the group, "We are going to be going down some pretty rough terrain. We are going to park our bikes and hike to the cliff dwellings. Stop where you see the van. We have your hiking clothes and boots in the Van. If the trail is too rough, feel free to walk your bikes."
We started down the road. The road crossed an occasion flat sandstone formation. This was fun! The narrow "road" dropped off into steep descent. There where loose baby head rocks all over. Too soon, I saw the Shuttle Van. I thought, "Damn, I don't want to stop.
The guides locked our bikes together while we changed. The shy and self-conscious ladies took turns changing in the van. We crude and barbarous guys changed wherever we felt like, with the exception of inside the van, of course.
I cinched my right hiking boot as tight as humanly possible in an attempt to stabilize my ankle.
I have a great Keen boots, but ankle support is moderate.
This basin is ankle killing country. Nothing is flat. There are little sandy ball bearings all over the place.
When I am riding my bike, my feet are locked into my pedals. Walking on this giant rock with a wobbly ankle is scary. The funny thing is that my companions are happy and comfortably hiking along. I am nervous in the extreme. If I put my foot down wrong, I will take a tumble.
We get to a place where we have to climb down a naked dead tree "ladder". This dead tree was propped against a 10 feet vertical drop-off. Each one of my group climbed down the dead tree without hesitation. This dead tree was situated on a narrow ledge with a seemingly fatal drop just a few feet from its base. I slowly climbed down the tree. When I reached the bottom of the dead tree, I clung to the ledge.
Here is a photo of the ancient cliff dwellings where we ended-up. I had scooted my back against the wall and braced myself. I felt like I was in mortal danger!
----------- Lost Blog Note ------------
On June 13th, 2013, I thought I had just lost my nerve. In retrospect, I really was in mortal danger! My body was torn to bits. I could ride my bike because the bike was stable, just like a wheelchair.
I just couldn't walk!
All I had on my body that was still good was my left leg, left arm and left eye. This inventory of “good” body parts is precious few when a single missed-step could turn you into a bloody spot on the canyon floor far below.
The entire right side of my body was a shambles. I had a torn right rotator cuff, destroyed my right ankle, and ripped tendons in my right calf muscle. I had blurry vision in my right eye from a detached and bleeding retina.
In addition to absolutely zero right-side appendages or vision, I had a severely concussed brain, damaged spine, torn neck muscles, splintered neck ligaments, and seriously damaged disks and vertebrae in my neck and back. My swollen, battered and still bleeding right knee that I had injured the day before really was a nit.
I was in a bad way.
------------ End of Lost Blog Note -----------
I got angry that I was so stupidly afraid that I couldn't stand up. I was trying to calm my trembling body. I folded my arms on my knees; I put my head in my arms like a school boy. I closed my eyes and tried to fight the horribly deep black paralyzing fear spreading through my whole body. After an eternity, the guides announced it was time to go. I scooted toward the dead tree ladder on my butt with my back against the wall.
I got mad. I told myself "Stand-up you cowardly bastard". I got to a place where the ledge was wider and flatter. Trembling in abject fear and shame, I slowly pushed myself off the ground and stood up with my back against the wall. I inched my way toward the dead tree while staring out into the monstrous and deadly void in front of me. My blood blinded right eye would not let me see how close I was to cliff. I swear my feet were dangling in space. Everybody else just strolled along.
My feet felt like lead. My heart pounded wildly.
I heard Kimberly's voice, "Come on, Bruce, we are going to take a group picture." I replied with a cheerful voice, "I am coming." I was faking it. I was feeling anything but cheerful. I was walking a tight rope between the light of here-and-now and the dark silence of eternity.
In the eons since creation, I finally reached the happy smiling group. I concentrate to keep my body from collapsing and rolling into the void. I was directed to the stand at the back row for the group photo, which put me closest to the cliff. I fought back my fear, and took my place for the photo. I had the ugly feeling that the icky black fingers of the soul crusher were clutching at me from the canyon floor far below. I was nearly hysterical with fear.
The misty forms of people moved around me. I was in such a far-a-way place, I was utterly alone.
I heard a distant voice say, "Time to go, everybody". I moved in a zombie-like daze toward the dead tree. Olive grabbed me and pulled me to the tree. This human touch brought me back! I was so glad to be back. I had been in that far-away-place a few times before and I did not like it one tiny bit.
I was the last one still on the ledge. I carefully, climbed up the dead tree skeleton. I moved slowly, testing and retesting every foothold and handhold. As I neared the top, Josh the guide reached out and took my right hand. He helped me the rest of the way up the tree.
Part 15: One Last Ride
When we got to back to the road, Josh offered a scenic trip back to camp in the Shuttle Van. Everybody accepted a nice comfy van ride, except Jason, Alan, Jeremy and me. We opted for a bike ride back to camp. The four immortals would ride together just one last time. Ashley’s young and cute face blazed. She said with unabashed anticipation, “I know a really cool route back to the camp. I know you’ll all like it!” Looks are often deceiving. We all knew this petite woman was tough as hardened steel.
I was on my bike and whole again. I could barely walk but I could ride like the wind.
Ashley took the lead. We all rode along without effort. The ride was glorious! The road became rougher and more primitive. Perfection! Obviously, we were riding on a route less traveled. No meat wagon followed us. No service truck was ahead to serve lunch.
We were free!
The road dipped and weaved. The land changed from a burning desert to cool green forest.
The sun softened and we could see the shadows of clouds moving on the ground. I felt like I had waken from a bad dream. When I was told I was going for a Great Outdoors trip in Utah, this was exactly how I imagined it would be.
We rode past beautiful lakes that were clear and cold. We had magically been transported to paradise. Pain and fear melted into a distant memory. My bike obediently carried me along.
We climbed up toward the camp. On the final ascent, the sight-seeing van caught up with us. Josh stopped and offered us something to drink. I asked for a Coca-Cola. Josh handed me an ice-cold coke. I showed-off and slammed the coke down my gullet in a few seconds. I then twisted the empty can and crushed it flat with my bare hands. I handed Josh the crushed can and took off like a bolt-out-of-the-blue on my Stumpjumper.
This was the last ride. We stayed the night in the camp. After breakfast the next morning we loaded up everything. The Western Spirit Team drove us back to the world. We said our goodbyes where we all met 10,000 yeas ago at the Grand Junction Airport.
I sought-out Ashley. My company was going to write a check to Western Spirit to tip the guides. I know that people working in the recreation industry don't make a lot of money. I thanked Ashley for such a great ride on the final day. I handed her $80 and said, "This is for Josh", I gave her another $80 and told her that was for Olive. I gave her $120 and told her that was for her.
I thought this tough little lady was going to cry. She thanked me profusely. I was the only one of the group that gave the guides a personal tip. I wanted to give them more but that was all the cash I had on me.
--------------End of Lost Blog - Great Outdoors Part 3: ------------
When I inexplicably fell off my bike high above the sun-baked Utah Canyonlands on June 12th 2013, I discovered that my right foot was useless.
The hike to the Anazazi ruins on June 13th was a watershed event. I found that there was a lot more wrong with my body than I could have guessed. I also lost my immortality on that day, which is both a blessing and a curse.
Since returning from this watershed trip to the Utah Great Outdoors, I have endured reconstructive surgeries, pain control medical procedures, and endless hours of rehabilitation.
I have not mentioned the racket of personal injury law. Suffice it to say that my battered and broken body was a gold mine. But not for me. I recovered enough money to pay for most, but not all, of my out-of-pocket expenses for past, present and future medical procedures.
I learned things about myself that I would rather have not known. I learned things about medicine and law that I still refuse to believe.
One thing has been affirmed for me through all this pain, frustration and injustice. I know it is a cliché.
In the end, all we have is each other.