Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tour De Lopez pt. 1

Left: at the Anacortes Ferry.

Right: Evening sky, San Juan Islands

Cyclists love riding the San Juan Islands. They are breathtakingly scenic, they have far less vehicles than the cities, and the ferries work beautifully for people on bikes. My sons still talk about the camping trip we took on our bikes there in Summer 2006. I recommend the Tour De Lopez to any person who likes to ride a bike and has wondered about joining an organized ride event. There are several distance options and lots of support, and everybody shares lunch in the Village at the end. Hospitality, Lopez style, simply cannot be matched. The novice and experienced rider alike can have a great time on this ride. Because registration will open later this month, I thought I’d share last year’s story along with some links and pictures.
Rides are really stories on wheels, and the Tour De Lopez certainly provided a great story line. One might question the sanity of my buddy, Steve-O. He keeps agreeing to go on these organized rides with me. Maybe he does it for the amusement, because riding with me seems to never turn out like he imagines.

Part 1. Getting There Is Half The Fun...Or At Least It’s Supposed To Be

Just after you call 9-1-1 and report chest pains, you have a few priceless minutes to stare at the ceiling and ponder your own mortality, how your current predicament really sucks and was totally avoidable, and how little control you now have over what happens next. That's surreal.

My buddy Steve-O is a great guy and all, but we didn’t really know each other super well yet. I’m sure he was wondering what he’d gotten himself into. This 9-1-1 call launched him into a new kind of relationship with me. While we waited for the emergency folks to arrive, he got to call Mrs. C who was 300 miles away, and use words like “paramedics” and “chest pains.” Welcome to full-fledged friendship, Steve-O.

This happened last April (2009) on the Friday night before the Tour De Lopez. Steve-O and I had looked forward to this for months. We hopped on an evening ferry in Anacortes with our overnight bags and bikes. It was way cheaper than bringing the car onto the ferry, and starting out on the bikes would be more fun. Steve-O and I both have bikes that are super light, fast, smooth riding machines. You don’t add packs or racks on bikes like these. I figured we could just sling our overnight bags over our shoulders as we rode from the ferry to our overnight accommodations. I’d found a place on the internet that looked like it was just on the outskirts of town in Friday Harbor, which is on San Juan Island.

Now let’s think about some of the obvious flaws in Kelly’s plan, and see if it might explain why a 9-1-1 call was in the making: no bike rack, heavy rider, 15 lb. bag starts on my shoulder but keeps shifting and hanging around my neck. Far from being in riding shape to begin with, let’s go uphill for two miles in the chilly night air, while the strap to my bag is pressing in on my windpipe. I was also keenly aware that it wasn’t just my bag that was providing the extra weight. I was the heaviest I’ve ever been and I hadn’t been exercising like I should. Now, throw in some testosterone-induced stupidity that usually flares up only with men during man-cations. It’s not like I haven’t had asthma all my life. I’m not sure what I wasn’t thinking. Steve-O, didn’t appear to be struggling at all. Kelly must then not appear to be struggling either, right? Guys learn that early in life.

A mile or so riding uphill from the ferry landing, it felt like my heart was pounding out my ears. I was in the lowest gear and it still wasn’t helping. It was getting quite dark and of course, we had no lights, so we needed to get to our destination quickly. I’d never actually been to the place we were staying, and it was farther out than I imagined. We finally arrived and I managed to get off the bike without collapsing, but the next few minutes are sort of fuzzy. We still hadn't eaten, so we were trying to see if we could order a pizza. I wasn't all that hungry, though; I couldn’t get my breath, or think very clearly, and I was scared. It felt like there was an anvil on my chest, and my inhaler wasn’t making any difference. It was getting worse, not better. Honestly, this had a different sensation than asthma. This was chest pressure. Steve-O and I both wondered the same thing, but neither of us said it outright...maybe I was having a heart attack.

You can’t get pizza delivery on this island, but paramedics are in plentiful supply. That’s way better than the other way around when you’re having chest pains, even if you’re hungry. An EKG revealed that my heart was fine. A nebulizer helped me breathe better. No pizza, however. My drama sort of overshadowed everything else, and any hope of dinner had disappeared. I was trying to put myself in Steve-O’s shoes. On an island with no car, chewing on a protein bar after watching his neighbor get his chest shaved and heart monitored by the locals. Do I know how to show a buddy a good time! He stayed cool through the whole affair, because that's just who Steve-O is. After the last "visitors" had left, we called Mrs. C to let her know it was “just” asthma. Relief, embarassment, exhaustion.

Couldn’t even think about whether I’d be riding on Lopez tomorrow. That would have to wait. ‘Night, Steve-O.

Continue here for part 2.

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