Up From the Depths

Jeffrey here.  Joey yielded the floor.

As Joey posted in March, 3 ½ weeks after my pulmonary embolism, 2 ½ weeks after I contracted pneumonia, events proved the naysayers correct.  Only 120 miles into the Ride to Seattle, I flamed out on a California hillside south of Bodega Bay.  It was all I could do to roll downhill to Valley Ford and wait for my friends Nattie and Julie to fetch me back to San Jose.

Nancy flew out from NYC and took me on her business trip to San Francisco.

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Nancy. All business. All class. Sunshine! Fun!

Her business concluded, we flew home.

Darkness spared Nancy my annoying reminders that I had biked coast-to-coast over the terrain below.  I was happy to reminisce quietly in front of the flight tracker.

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Marked in red near our path are cities in which Joey and I spent significant time on previous Rides.

Now I try to strike a balance of activity (to get stronger) and rest (to avoid setbacks).  It’s been hard.  Shortness of breath.  Chest discomfort.  Deep sadness at failing to reach my West Coast goal.  Unpredictable ups and downs, reasons unknown.

Three weeks after suspending the Ride, I consulted the experts.

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L to R:  Joey, Jeffrey, Dr. Shujaat. [Photo by Shira.]

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L to R:  Dr. Graf, Joey, Jeffrey. [Photo by Marina.]

Concerned about my uneven recovery, the docs ordered diagnostic scans.  The verdict:  The embolus is a clot, nothing more sinister.  It is dissolving.  My left lung works again.  My heart is undamaged.  Coronary calcification score (lower is better):  zero.

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The dark artery-blocking embolus (circled in red) shrank between early February (L) and late March (R).

The docs’ prescription: time.  Only with time will everything mend.

Part of the process is to look to the future.

In early May, I intend to embark with Joey on the second leg of this year’s Ride.  We will pedal 800 miles (1300 km) from Indiana through Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, and Arkansas, to Louisiana.

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We’ll start in Jeffersonville, Indiana. “A” is Gadsden, Alabama. “B” is Oak Grove, Louisiana.

There is much to explore.

Consider Alabama.

Alabama enacted cruel anti-immigrant laws.  Yet many Alabamians revere the Bible, which commands us to love and protect neighbors and strangers without regard to place of birth.

In 2016, Alabama conducted a “Tax Delinquency Amnesty Program” for tax-stealing citizens.  Yet Alabama officials show no mercy to tax-paying immigrants who happen to be in Alabama without federal permission.

Does Alabama’s government reflect the will of its people?  Or, as on the federal level today, does the government defy the majority?  Perhaps we will find out.

But first we must go south.

Dear Reader, I will push the envelope.  I will get stronger.  I will prepare for the Southern Ride.  I will let you know how it goes.

Meanwhile, please join me in wishing Alfonso well.

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I met Alfonso in March in New Jersey.  Days before, he buried his 31 year old son.  Alfonso’s cart overflowed with Easter baskets, his gifts for the students at the school where he is a boiler operator.  It was moving to meet someone who remains so loving and kind despite recent personal tragedy.

I have met wonderful Americans like Alfonso on Rides through 32 states.  I will meet more in May as Joey and I pedal south from Indiana.

Onward.  Upward.  Southward.

Stay tuned.

 

Suspense!

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Jeffrey tries to hide his exasperation as Joey hectors him about human limits—as if stuffed Joey knows aught of cycling or lungs.

The Seattle part of this year’s Ride was suspended on Sunday.  While we wait for that Ride to resume, and as we look forward to the Ride to the Deep South in May 2018, the world continues to turn.

Nancy flew out from New York on Monday morning, a day earlier than planned, for some San Francisco meetings.  Friend Julie retrieved her from the airport.

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L to R: Nancy, Julie

Jeffrey was delighted to see Nancy.  Friends for 43 years, married for nearly 38, when Jeffrey is with Nancy, he’s home.

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L to R: Nancy, Jeffrey

Jeffrey placed the folded Sprint 26 on a shelf at Julie’s and Nattie’s house.  Nattie secured it, with reinforcment in case of (no kidding) earthquakes.

Jeffrey stored the rest of our equipment as he did at the end of the 2017 California Ride.  He’ll retrieve and reassemble our gear when the Seattle Ride resumes, later in 2018 or in 2019.

While Nancy attends to business, we’ll rest in San Francisco.  We’ll spend an extra night here to wait out a snowstorm in the Northeast.  Then we three will return to New York City.

Chauffeur update:  Jeffrey breathes easily in both lungs, but only his right lung absorbs oxygen.  We guess that with each breath, his oxygen absorption at sea level is what it would be with two good lungs at 12,000’ (3700 meters) above sea level.

Until circulation to the left lung resumes in a few weeks, it is as if Jeffrey is in thin mountain air.  He tires.  He yawns.  He gets out of breath.  Easy does it.

Shortness of breath doesn’t stop Jeffrey’s talking.  He continues to explain that the right (and it is a right, not a privilege) to apply for asylum is meaningless without a lawyer’s help to present the case.  In English only.  With evidence.  On a 12-page form.  Prepared according to 14 pages of instructions.  To an asylum officer in a government office.  Or in court to an immigration judge where a government lawyer opposes a grant of relief.

To help our sisters and brothers who fear persecution and ask us to keep them safe, please extend a hand to these least among us—and consider donating to Human Rights First.

We Call It a Day and Promise to Be Back

We spent the night in a place with history.

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And we met someone who appreciates an aspect of our history.

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Lisa grew up in Syracuse, NY, and studied and vacationed in Jeffrey’s native Thousand Islands region.  She and her partner regularly celebrate their anniversary at this hotel.  She pursues a helping profession in the retirement field.  She spoke of how nice it is to see Muslim refugee parents walking their children to school, laughing and at peace, in her Sacramento neighborhood.  And of how sad that some of her neighbors blame local crime on “the Muslims”.  It’s no surprise that Lisa thinks asylum applicants deserve a guarantee of counsel to pursue their claims.

Leigh works at the hotel.  A bartender, we imagine he has seen and heard it all.

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He asked about the Ride and gave Jeffrey valuable route advice, warning that we should stick to the coast because inland routes go through snowy mountain passes.  After yesterday’s hills, we’d been wondering if there is a better way for us to go.  Now we know there isn’t.

Our rear tire had gone soft.  Jeffrey inflated it.  He didn’t find a leak, but saw some cuts and will replace it soon.

The morning fog cleared and we set off for Bodega Bay.  What a beautiful day!

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A mile and a quarter (2 km) up the road—up a steep ¾ mile hill—the breathlessness that worsened yesterday, returned and brought Jeffrey to a halt.  He waited for it to pass.  It didn’t.  We were near the top of the hill …

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Close—yet too far.

… but Jeffrey couldn’t reach it.  And he felt too weak to pedal us back to town.  Uh-oh.

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The descent is steeper than it looks.

Jeffrey did something out of character.  He called 911.

Three medics and a state trooper came from Bodega Bay Paramedic Rescue, the Sonoma County Fire Department, and the California Highway Patrol.  Jeffrey’s vital signs and EKG were fine.  But in light of Jeffrey’s recent medical history, the medics asked to take him to the hospital.  Jeffrey declined.  Yet he was concerned.

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These fine people were provided by the community (also known as the government) to help Jeffrey, a stranger. No questions about papers or pedigree. That’s the America we love. Jeffrey regrets not recording their names.

Jeffrey rested a while at this, our closest approach to Seattle, 15500 California Highway 1.

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Then we turned and made our way back to Valley Ford.

Our generous friends Julie and Nattie interrupted their Sunday hike and drove 210 miles round trip to bring us to their home, where we started this Ride, in San Jose.

Nancy alerted Dr. Shujaat, the lung expert.  The doctor phoned and told Jeffrey that the embolism evidently has not dissolved enough to restore circulation to Jeffrey’s left lung.  The lung inflates, but no oxygen is absorbed.

Jeffrey has been propelling us on one lung.

Dr. Shujaat prescribed time and rest.  The recovery can’t be rushed.  He respected our Ride attempt.  We don’t know what we can—and cannot—do unless we try.

Quotable Theodore Roosevelt (he died in 1919 at age 60) admired “the strenuous life”.

Let us rather run the risk of wearing out than rusting out.  We like that.

Ninety percent of the work in this country is done by people who don’t feel good.  Perhaps.

Courage is not having the strength to go on; it is going on when you don’t have the strength.  That, Mr. President, is nonsense.  “To go on” requires strength.  For now, Jeffrey doesn’t have it.

We hope he’s strong enough to go on the Deep South Ride, as planned, in May.  We hope to resume the Seattle Ride, perhaps in the fall, perhaps next spring.

We’ll be fine.

We’ll be back.

Stay tuned.