Saturday, June 11, 2011

Ride on June 10, 2011, my 86th birthday

My son Jim needed parts for his KTM enduro bike and I said I’d gladly pick them up at Moroney’s in Newburgh. I had thought about taking the car since it was only 10 days from the date of my hernia operation and the surgeon had said I should stay off the bike for two weeks. But I thought, wouldn’t it be nice if I rode the bike to Newburgh to celebrate my birthday?

I wasn’t even sure I could get my leg over it and back it out of the garage safely when I reached for my helmet at 8:45 AM. No sooner I threw one leg up to swing it over the bike, the other leg partially collapsed and I almost ended up in a heap inside the garage! But I got on, shook the weak leg and backed it out, hoping that it wouldn’t collapse again while I was depending on it to hold up that side.

I started the bike and carefully eased it into gear, reciting the Lord’s Prayer as I rode carefully down the driveway. And I took a deep breath of fresh air as I started up the street. I had been feeling weak ever since the operation and I had met with the surgeon the day before. He said I should walk more and get more exercise. I said that I don’t have much desire to walk or exercise, and I asked, do you mean I should push myself? He answered, “Yes, push yourself.” So after taking a deep breath, I said aloud, “Push yourself!” and I pointed the bike toward Newburgh, hoping for the best.

I felt a little out of it as I was passing a school bus and a string of cars going up Storm King Mountain above West Point, and I wasn’t sure I should be pushing quite so hard. But after picking up the parts and saying hello to a few friends who work there, I felt a little more normal. So when I got back out to the bike and was able to get my leg over it without incident, I felt a little more confident that I might take a longer way home, since I had only traveled 25 miles so far. Oh well, he did say, “Push yourself,” so I repeated it and headed west, instead of south.

By the time I got past Stewart International Airport, I had already decided that I would turn north and maybe go as far as Modena via some back roads. That started a series of similar incidents where I’d think of the same two words, push yourself, and I kept going north until I got beyond Kingston, where I was already almost 60 miles from home and didn’t know yet where I was headed.

At one point, I had come to where about six or eight state troopers had set up a roadblock to check inspection stickers. I pulled in and turned off the engine, since I wasn’t wearing my hearing aid and wanted to hear what was said. One big guy said, “Don’t turn it off,” as he walked around to the right side. Four others stood in a line on my left, looking on. I said as the big guy walked around to the right, by the way it’s over on this side, near the top of the fork leg. He said, “I already saw it. Do you have a motorcycle license?” I laughed and said, I sure do. I’ve had one since they “grand-fathered” me in about 60 years ago, and I reached for my wallet. He said, “I don’t have to see it.” I then told them that I’m out taking a ride to celebrate my 86th birthday. I got at least one smile and about four other “Happy Birthday” wishes as I restarted the bike. As I pulled away I said, “Take care guys, have a nice day.”

I gassed up north of Kingston and decided to head east across the Rhinecliff Bridge toward Dutchess County, thinking about which roads I’d like to ride on my birthday, and always thinking of the doctor’s saying I should push myself. Of course I realized that he meant by walking more, but this certainly wasn’t as strenuous as walking! By the time I got back across to the east side of the Hudson, I had already decided that I’d head for Ancramdale in Columbia County, where I’d have lunch at the Farmer’s Wife, a little country deli and catering place I’ve used several times in the past.

I started experiencing lightheaded episodes earlier and I wondered what might be causing them. I had been having very low blood pressure since coming out of the anesthesia, so that could be a possibility. Another could be dehydration, but I had coffee when I stopped for gas. I wondered if it could be weakness from not having eaten much that morning. Lunch at the Farmer’s Wife would decide. I got there at exactly 12-noon, and the place was empty; so I got my order in before the rush since they usually have quite a large take-out business at lunchtime, which apparently hadn’t begun. I ordered a Rueben and helped myself to a Tropicana orange juice out of one of the coolers. I thoroughly enjoyed lunch, and when I got back out to the bike it was sunny and around 80 degrees, and I felt much better.

I headed northwest on County Rte. 3 toward the foothills of the Berkshires and then took several back roads to Sharon, CT. From there, I rode several of my favorite country roads along the CT/NY state line, including a ride through Mizzentop, to NY Rte. 164, and through Towners and Luddingtonville to get home. Altogether, I clocked 210 miles in a little over six hours, and it was a really great birthday. I still had barely enough energy to attend a joint birthday party for my grandson Jimmy and me, who share the same birthday. Barbara served pizza and ice cream. I got up the following morning without any negative aftereffects, so I’m back in business!

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