Low Hanging Limbs

No, the subject line does not refer to gorillas, orangutangs or apes..not even monkeys. It explains why I didn’t get my last hurrah bike ride in yesterday.

I picked up my buddy’s bike and put it on the roof of my car…a freshly rebuilt Gary Fisher Sugar, double suspension, SID front shocks, brand new brakes, bottom bracket and who knows what else he threw on. A nice shiny gary fisher decal on the head tube as well.

We each drove off to setup a car shuttle to turn a potention 30 mile ride into a fun 10 mile ride connecting two different drainage basins in the Roosevelt National Forest, just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park. All of his gear, helmet, camelback, bike, wallet and PHONE were in my car. As he pulls out of the driveway, he yells, If I get lost, come and find me, you’ve got my cell phone! And he’s off. He runs the next yellow light to boot. It’s not like he can start riding without me!

We, he takes the high road and I take the low road and we miss each other on the way back to the shuttle point. I zoom up a 4WD side road and decide he wouldn’t drive any further than this beautiful turnaround point complete with campfire ring, and a beautiful, lush pine tree. So I zoom around the pine tree and make it MOST of the way around when I hear a huge CRACK above my head. Crap. I look up through my sunroom and see a huge pine branch laying on the car. And on the windshield, and on the hood of my car. THere is his bike, proudly standing on my roof getting a big old pine branch hug.

There was so much flex in the pine branch that i had almost driven all the way through it before the brach snapped in two. I got and and wrestled it to the ground off the car, then checked out the bike and roof rack. Still in one piece. I got out my allen wrench and tighted up the roof rack…that seemed to be OK. I check out the bike. Crap. For starters, the decal is torn off. I get out an armor all wipe and see if I can buff out the scratches. Then I pry fresh pine wood out of the allen wrench holes on his brand new stem. Then I notice the cable from the front shock lockout to the handlebars…bent at a 90 degree angle. Crap.

I go find him, we get the bike down and find more damage still…the front brake arm is gently arced backwards…if you didn’t know, you might think it was deliberately engineered that way…but it didn’t match the other side.

So epic bike ride is avoided. We drive down hte mountain, drop the bike off at a shop and spend the next several hours cruising through the mountains…Ward, Nederland, Eldora. Wow…I thought I’d seen beauty before, but in this place, it just doesn’t stop.

Retired Nurse Ranger

Retired Nurse Ranger

Normally I don’t enjoy talking to the families of patients in the ER about non-medical stuff. The families are usually filled with nervous energy, I’m usually focused on making a diagnoses and keeping up my press-gainey scores while not making any horrendous mistakes. The conversation that ensues is therefore usually shallow chatter to pass the time.

So when the elderly daughter of my patient began pacing the ED and started asking me questions, I didn’t put much effort into the conversation initially. But somehow she was different. As a retired nurse in her 70s, caring for her mother, she had all the classic features of wisdom…a wrinkled forehead, smile lines to spare and an air of acceptance regarding the uncertainties of life.

So I started listening.

The chatter started with the weather as it usually does, then about the winter winds. I told her how windy it was while I was fishing earlier and her eyes began to sparkle.

“Where did you go fishing?” she asked, with her soft, scratchy, tobacco voice. The intermittent puffs of her oxygen were a little bit distracting, so she took it off for the duration of our conversation.

As she began to rattle off the names of the high-altitude lakes her lungs would no longer let her hike to, I imagined a much younger woman, dressed in a tan ranger hat, pistol at her side and ice axe in hand as she patrolled these mountains daily every summer for over a decade. She was reliving every backcountry patrol she’d ever taken as she talked about the 34″ rainbow trout found after the devastating Lawn Lake flood, and about getting tired of catching fish because they were so plentiful in the lakes that were harder to get back to. She had retired by then (over 25 years ago), but her memories were as fresh as ever.

Her mother came back fromt the CT scanner, I talked to the radiologist, made my diagnosis and got ready to discharge her home. The ex-ranger and I exchanged smiles, and with some sadness, I told her I’d be leaving the mountains in less than a week. We had formed an instant connection and I wished I’d met her years ago, before her oxygen tank kept her anchored at less than 8000 feet.

“Well, we’ll have to go fishing next summer, someplace low so my lungs can keep up.”

“Yes, we’ll go fishing next summer,” I replied.

The whole encounter was exciting and sad at the same time. I couldn’t bear to say goodbye to her. The thought that she may be a patient in the ER herself someday very soon for lung problems overwhelmed me in my sleepless state at 5AM. I snuck out of the department without saying goodbye, and felt like I had both found and lost my best friend.

I will talk to you next summer, Ranger, take good care of yourself. Save some of the fish for me.

Johnny Park Ride

Johnny Park Ride

THis is a ride I did a few weeks ago. In a guidebook for the area, it is listed as an out and back ride…I don’t reccomend it that way. Set up a shuttle or plan for a 30 mile road/mtn bike ride and do it as a loop. The scenery is great, the trail conditions for the first 3 miles out or so are not too bad, and OK for newer riders or a family outing with “big” kids. GO much further than that and it’s a hell of a climb out of the hole. Might as well just keep heading downhill to Rt. 34 and hitch a ride back home.

Here is some of the scenery…this is Long’s Peak and Meeker’s, looking backwards from the beginning of the ride.

I stopped to take some self portraits as well, this is the best one that turned out! This is looking east down onto the plains.

I came across this and thought the occupants might have just stopped at teh top of the hill and were out sightseeing. But looking closer, I figured it out. Can you see what’s wrong with it?

How about now?

This was their biggest mistake…can you find it?

The bartender and the musician.

So I’m sitting at the bar sipping a margarita and engrossed in this month’s CME from New England Journal fo Medicine on Methicillin Resistant Staph Aureus infections. There is a large group of tourists at the endof the bar, who knock a full glass of beer on the fllor, shattering the glass.

“Don’t pick up the pieces,” the bartender admonishes. I make a joke, “unless you want to end up in the Emergency Room.”

My joke, unappreciated by the entire intoxicated group, is heard by the fellow 3 seats down, a musician who’s just finished playing a wedding. He’s wiped out and enjoying a beer. We start talking, and he inquires as to waht I’m reading. Hmm. Embarassing moment. What the hell, I”m not here to impress anyone.

“I’m reading about MRSA infections in the community.”

Not surprising ot me, he asks what MRSA is. I explain about the community aquired flesh eating bacteria being seen more and more frequently amongst innnocent high school wrestlers and professional football players.

“Yeah, well why should all the nosocomial people get to have all the fun,” he replied with a smile.

I do a double take. Anyone who uses the word ‘nosocomial’ in a bar…well, I don’t know, but even I wouldn’t use that word amongst non-medical friends. Clearly this musician knows someting more than just music.

“My father was a clinical pathologist he explains.”

Ahh, yes, that explains it. I decide to try and gross him out with a story of a healthy 50 year old struck with a nasty abcess on the back of his neck…MRSA. As I’m graphically describing the debridement of his wound, I see the bartender looking at me and I start ot laugh.

“It’s not your typical conversation at the bar, is it” I joked.

The bartender says, “My father was a forensic photographer. I’ve seen things as a child that no one should ever see in their life.”

So, with two interested audience participants, I continue my graphic description. The conversation evolves between the three of us…internet poker, day trading, other esoteric topics. The bottom line that we all agree on…”Life is short, then you get MRSA.”

Not your typical bar conversation. Then again, I’m not your typical bar patron.

Bouldering

Bouldering

I can’t believe that I live within minutes of the world’s greatest bouldering playground, and I havn’t gone bouldering until today.

It was a beautiful afternoon, warmish evening temps with an autumn smell to the air. the setting sun cast shadows across each of the boulders highlighting every seam & crack.

Although my strength, weight and conditioning are not ideal at the moment for really pushing myself on these boulders, the mere act of hiking to the climbs, putting on climbing shoes, touching the rocks and summitting the boulders regardless of route difficulty put me a zen-like state of appreciation of my surroundings.

Sitting on top of the boulders looking out onto MacGregor Ranch and the Rocky Mountains was just about the best thing I’ve done all summer. (Just about)