Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Parkinson's, Helicopters and Dirt Biking

It did not seem like we were traveling one hundred miles an hour until we got close to the mountains. While we were over the multi-shaded green fields of the fertile valley, it was if the chopper was floating slowly a mile above the Fraser River. From my vantage point, sitting next to the bulged-out plexiglass door, I found myself glancing everywhere at once, perched in the sky like a much older Harry Potter, caught up in a game of Quidditch, flying high on his Nimbus 2000 looking for the snitch. The shudder of the helicopter, my tremor and the anticipation of the next day all merged together in the evening ride. This was the way to start an adventure!

The four of us "slightly older" men were soon swooping down through the dusk to a small town, Tulameen (population 250), snuggled by Otter Lake in the Cascade Mountains of British Columbia. It was the beginning of a short adventure that promised to challenge me, and not just because my Blackberry was out of range.

The next morning started somewhat late, after an uncharacteristically restful night’s sleep breathing in the crisp and cold mountain air through the cabin window. We scarfed down a breakfast that only men could appreciate after they cooked it themselves, supplemented by cafĂ© lattes made on an espresso machine brought up just for the luxury of it.

The bright yellow, red or blue 250 cc motorbikes outside screamed for our attention as they were started and tested. They were like wild broncos, saddled and waiting for someone to climb on and ride into the treed hills to explore or just escape the stresses of civilization. As I chose my mount, the powerful machine gave out a whine and growl, leaping ahead as if leaving the starting gate while I clung to the handlebars with a death grip. The surefooted "steed" sprang up rutted roads, over sharp boulders and around unyielding corners with nimble knobby tires gripping and scratching at whatever surface was available. It was as if they instinctively knew that one false move would send its wide-eyed rider over the handlebars and into a tree or over a cliff. It was pure exhilaration, at least when it was not humiliation due to being unceremoniously "bucked" off the bike due to my misjudging the terrain or just losing my balance.

There was only one occasion when I nearly became an adventure statistic. Going insanely fast down a steep narrow road, straight up on one side and straight down on the other, I was passing everyone else, banging and bumping over rocks and ruts with ever-increasing speed. Beyond control and in panic mode I desperately tried to remember the instructions I had been given just moments before. “THINK! THINK! AM I SUPPOSED TO USE THE FRONT BRAKE, THE BACK BRAKE OR BOTH?” I had little opportunity to experiment and was only ultimately saved insult and injury by hanging on for dear life until I somehow came to a breathless stop. My shaking from fear and Parkinson's were indistinguishable, both being about 8.2 on the Richter scale.
Despite the motto of our fearless leader, "all the gear all the time", there was enough danger of suffering mortal harm that I found my senses became finely tuned, spotting almost every hump, bump and stump in the path ahead. Despite the intense pleasure of each moment, or perhaps because of it, my symptomatically stiff shoulder and arm muscles seemed to be clenched indefinitely. Parkinson's somehow became irrelevant.

By the end of the ride, I began to feel comfortable, pushing the powerful bike faster on the straight-aways, harder into the tight corners, even taking little jumps when I could. I was beaming when I got off; bushed but beaming. I knew that even if dirt biking was only a one-time experience, it was a great one. I was confident that despite the degenerative disease there would be an abundance of adventure ahead. I just needed to look for it and be willing to take the risk.

No comments:

Post a Comment