Thursday, February 18, 2010

Speed on Snow and Ice Leaves Parkinson's Behind

Fifty-five miles an hour (90 kph) uphill on a logging road in the middle of winter, sliding around corners on the powerful snow sled at that breakneck speed seemed like an activity reserved for younger people without the impediment of Parkinson's disease. So too did careening around corners on the ice surface of a lake, trying to avoid flipping the oversized ATV while clipping the rampaging Rhino (see photo) next to you as you scream full speed from one race course pylon to the next. These are activities normally reserved to those who casually convince themselves that they are invincible and immortal. Instead, I found myself in a group of men trying desperately to ignore their aches and pains, as well as their age, as they sought to out do each other in stunts and speed.

What made it slightly more dangerous was that it was warm for a mid-February day up in the mountains more than 300 kilometres (190 miles) from Vancouver. As a result, no one knew how thin the ice was on Otter Lake. Clearly, there were slushy spots on the otherwise snow-covered surface, each discolored patch silently threatening to swallow one of our unsuspecting boy toy. Winter was prematurely, or perhaps temporarily, losing its grip on the shoreline and surrounding hills as well. What should have been a monochrome mid-winter mantle of snow had far too many patches of gravel and greenery, making it appear more like a late Spring scene.

But we were here for some adventure, so the risk of sinking down 70-feet to the floor of the lake or unexpectedly slamming into exposed sticks and stones on the trails seemed quite acceptable.

This was the second "24 hour adventure" that I had experienced at Tulameen (an Indian word meaning "red earth"). The last trip had me and others laughing uproariously as I learned to survive off-road motor-biking in the surrounding hills. And despite being launched over my handlebars on a few occasions, I managed to escape with only a few bruises and increased familiarity with my aging body and resulting humility.

Adventure, for me at least, is a way of feeling fully human and only minimally impaired by my PD. The speed and risk of riding a powerful rocket on skis, all the while wiping away the snow thrown in your face by the snowmobile in front of you, is an exhilarating exercise. Amid the roar of the high revving engine and the need for complete concentration, the tremor, if it exists at all, is forgotten, and the stiffness temporarily ceases and your instinctive movements take over.

And just when I thought exhaustion had gotten the better of me, with my body insisting, "it is time for a nap", the boasting began about which team of two would prevail in the rhino racing. The challenge was too much to forgo. No giving in. No crying "uncle". No wimping out. There will be time later to deal with any banged up body parts. So off we went like drunken drivers intent on using destruction derby tactics if necessary to win. We were like speed skaters on the mostly frozen surface, seeking advantage at every corner to either pass or prevent being passed, missing by inches (mostly) the corner posts on the twisting lake top racetrack.

Drained from the day’s demands I remembered with a smile that life truly is an adventure. The advent of each day presents potential for the unexpected, the challenging, and the entirely new. And maybe, even at the age of 57, and even pursued by the relentless foe of Parkinson's disease, maybe it is not too late to know that childlike sense of anticipation. After all, who can answer the question, "What will today bring?"

To quote the line made famous by Robin Williams in "The Dead Poets’ Society", shall we not shout encouragement to each other, "Carpe Diem - Seize the Day!"

1 comment:

  1. My ex, who was a race car driver, had a plaque on his wall that I think you'd enjoy. It said: "the only difference from a man and a boy is the cost of the toys." enough said.