Feeling sort of Autumn

Some of the trees still have leaves. At least in my neighborhood. I’m not an arborist, I can scarcely tell a maple from an oak. Some of the trees are red, some are yellow. The rest are brown or bare. Saturday, Eli and I drove up the mountain to go mountain biking. Is it actually mountain biking if you aren’t in the mountains? This mountain is small. Part of the Allegheny section of the Appalachians. During the drive, you never clearly drive up a mountain. No switchbacks, no long views, a couple of steep hills, but that’s all they are, hills. But the general direction is up.

In my driveway, I always run the same conversation in my head. Am I wearing enough clothes? The temperature drops ten degrees driving to the trailhead. The most rapid drop occurs on what appears to be a flat portion of roadway on the last few miles of the trip. The thermometer-display at the bottom corner of my rear-view mirror clicks down every thirty seconds. Forty-seven, forty-six, forty-five… I always wish I brought an extra layer.

Saturday’s ride was iffy. On Friday, as I drove home from work—my seven-minute commute, a mile and a quarter from the center of town to my close-in suburban neighborhood—I realized I had a headache. After dinner, the ache became deep enough that when I thought about it, I wanted to throw up. Best not to think about it; I binged a show and went to bed. Saturday morning, my headache remained.

After coffee and cereal, I returned to bed. Caffeinated, sunlight bright in my eyes through the light-filtering shade, Tommy, my brown tabby purring in my ear, I couldn’t sleep. I binged my show some more. Containment: A virus appears in downtown Atlanta, possibly of terroristic origin. The Feds react quickly, first with an electric fence, then with shipping containers stacked three high, they surround the epicenter of the outbreak. They isolate the four thousand people unlucky enough to be trapped inside the quarantine area behind a forty-foot steel wall. Possibly this isn’t the best show to watch while feeling ill during a rampant-running pandemic.

My father called. Two minutes into the conversation: “Jeff, are you OK? You don’t sound so good.” I told him about my headache. I told him this is the second time in three weekends I’ve been shut down feeling ill. He knows about my dizziness and has spent more than his share of time worrying about me. I never told him about my seizure, that might be the straw that breaks the camel, nothing to be gained from telling him that. “Jeff, you really need to go see your doctor again.”

By afternoon, I felt good enough to ride. When Eli and I got to the trailhead, just forty-three degrees cold, he noted that up in the mountains, winter had arrived. No leaves on any trees. No red or yellow or brown. They were all on the ground. I hate mountain biking in November. Southern-central Pennsylvania has got to be the rockiest, root-strewn mountain biking in the country. When the trail is clear, I need to carefully pick my line, make sure I don’t hit any rocks or roots at odd angles that might swipe my wheels out from under me. On Saturday, I couldn’t see those obstacles, they hid beneath the leaves. In truth, I could barely tell when we were on the trail. That lay hidden below the leaves as well.

After a mile of riding—typically a relaxing downhill where we travel fast enough to bounce over all of those uneven bumps, but this time a slower white-knuckle stress-fest where I expected to wipe out on a loose, hidden rock at any second—we started to climb. This is when I realized I was sick. My head pounded; my body felt as strong as a wet, limp napkin. Hyperventilating, I tried to keep up with Eli, but he kept edging farther away. Riding uphill is my strength. Riding with kids, I always know they’re going to kick my butt on the downhills—they lack the common sense to be cautious—but I always catch them on the ups. On Saturday I lost ground on the downs and even more riding up.

When we popped out onto a fire road, we had to make a choice. Ride a steep mile to the top of a ridge to hook up with a long, twisty downhill trail, or go straight back to the car on an easy, flat path that’s only satisfying after you’ve completely used yourself up with ninety minutes or so of hard riding. I apologized to Eli and opted for the easy trail back to the car.

Talking with my father, I told him about my up-coming MRI. When I saw the neurologist about the seizure, I told him about my dizziness. He thought it a good idea to look inside my head. He’ll look for misplaced masses with the MRI and disrupted brainwaves with an EEG. Maybe he’ll find something, maybe he won’t. My stretch of possibly related brain issues started in late February, and I’m really tired of it. Most of this time, I thought it was possibly Covid related; my family and I had a fever and flu symptoms in February. A couple of weeks ago, I gave blood. As part of the enticement, they give a free antibody test (the nation is really low on blood), I don’t have antibodies. I’ve never had Covid… probably… maybe.

I’m looking forward to the results of my tests. Bad news would mean that we’ve discovered something I need to know, and good news, no problems, would give me some piece of mind that the worst-case scenario isn’t unfolding right behind my eyes. Over the next couple of weeks, my neighborhood will take the final steps towards winter. The trees, without leaves will seem barren and bleak. Dusk at 4:30 will simply be depressing. But weekend days will still offer opportunities to ride bikes with my son over trails that increasingly become free of leaves, and will, not so far in the future, rejuvenate with spring.

Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

21 thoughts on “Feeling sort of Autumn

  1. Having these tests scheduled must be nerve-wracking, wondering what may be going on but also a relief, because soon you will have a better idea about what is going on. I hope the headaches leave you alone, and you can enjoy better biking time, feeling like your old biking self.

    Liked by 2 people

    • The thought of these tests hasn’t really bothered me much until I dwelled on them for half the afternoon. The MRI is the one I’m a little more keyed up about. That’s next week. Hopefully I’ll have answers before thanksgiving. Hope your weekend rocked.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. There are just so many possible explanations for the headaches you’ve been having that it will certainly be a relief to find out the cause. While it might seem simple to have had COVID and thus explain the problem, everything we are learning about the long term effects of the virus make me think it isn’t the easy answer we hope for — over and done with. I’ll be thinking of you. In my household we have unfortunately perfected the “wait and see” strategies as we’ve had so many occasions to employ them. Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I’m not so stressed about the MRI (yet). The EEG is disconcerting because the test results could impact my ability to drive a car. But you’re right, best to just turn off the what ifs until the results come back.


  3. The headache sounds like a migraine. I used to get “please just put me out of my misery” migraines in my 20s & 30s. Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster they left in my 40s. Make sure you mention it to the doctor. Could be related.

    Doesn’t suck how everything makes us wonder if we have/had the Kootie?
    I should contact the “Vampires”. Being O-, they love me. Thanks for the reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve never had migraines in the past and these in general don’t seem bad enough to be migraines (based on how everyone describes them. The really weird part of it was just how bad I felt when I was riding. I honestly felt like someone removed all of my muscles. Yes, please give. As a recipient, I give every chance I get. There are so many barriers to giving blood – have you ever looked at a woman who talked to a man who got a tattoo in England in 1985?

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  4. Not knowing the why for while imagining all the possible causes is usually worse than any actual news. Think of the MRI as a chance to relax since you have to be still. (Unless you’re claustrophobic, they’re quite calming.) Strange that your most recent headaches occur on weekends. A subtle clue? I’m sure the waiting for test results will be stressful. I hope you get answers that make sense, or – better yet – a clear bill of health, meaning the headaches were likely a result of election stress 🙂

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    • Thanks Rebecca. I think the headaches happen on the weekend because some god has it out for me. The past several months have been dizzying and headache inducing. Maybe this is a normal response to annoying stimuli.


  5. I was wondering what came of that appointment. Bring some earplugs for the MRI. It is, believe it or not, possible to fall asleep in them. Glad the ball is rolling, sucks that you were sick this weekend. 😦 Feel better soon!!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hmmm. I would think my hearing loss might be enough for the MRI noise, but we still have some ear plugs from when Eli was a drummer before his arrogant music teacher pushed him out of band. Yeah, sick on the weekend is just unfair.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Jeez Jeff, that is definitely stressful wondering what is going on. Keep us posted for sure. I was recently having pains in my lower abdomen, my head went straight to the bad stuff. In the end, it was just an infection handled by antibiotics. To your point, there is plenty of things to be stressed about these days. I seem to have more headaches than normal. On another note, it is NOT fun riding bikes or hiking on leaves.. I ALWAYS seem to fall

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I am sending good thoughts your way, Jeff. I am hoping for good news for you with your MRI and EEG. The waiting must be stressful. Maybe a different genre of movie would be better watching material for you right now – something light, maybe a comedy? When I run trails, everyone passes me on the downhills too. I am a pretty timid downhill runner over the rocks and roots of Rockyslvania.


    • My wife and I just discussed this tonight. No more Containment and it’s time for me to back away from Covid news too. I don’t need to read about every one of the 1200 daily deaths individually. One day I want to go running or biking somewhere out west and experience some nice smooth trails where I can really let loose. Eli and I have ridden a couple of times in Brunswick MD, just 45 minutes away. Completely different. No rocks, minimal roots. PA is unique.

      Liked by 1 person

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