I see my vacation in the rearview mirror. A fading memory of a not-so-great week. (Eli’s injury, then illness, then an early return home. <<== Link). Susan scoured VRBO looking to rent a place at the beach for a few days as a family consolation prize. Apparently, a popular idea. No one vacationed last summer. Everyone on earth booked a house this year. No rentals to be found. A hotel room miles off the beach access road seems to be the only option. Or maybe a daytrip. Nine hours in the car, ten on the beach, I might be too old to pull that off.
I wish I could stop falling off my bike. Right, I wrote about Eli crashing on vacation, but me? Our first day home, I rode at the Farm. The mountain bike team I coach has a trail system on private property. Wooded swaths bordering a few crop fields, three-plus miles of trails already cut. Plans for more. Cleverly, we call it the Farm.
No one’s been riding there since our early May trail maintenance day. Thorn bushes encroached the paths. As I passed, they snagged my bare arms. Blood dripped from both hands before I completed a lap. In one tight area, a thorn-runner grabbed ahold and didn’t let go. I jerked my arm free and threw myself off balance. I landed on my forearm, wrenching my shoulder. A partial dislocation, it’s called a subluxation, something I’ve done a dozen times. Each day since, a bit more range of mobility returns. On day-one, I couldn’t put my phone in my back pocket.
The season started last night, the first practice of the year. Mostly healed, I led the green team on laps. The greens are the high schoolers. I’m supposed to coach the red team, the middle schoolers, they ride at a relaxed, cautious pace, much more my speed. A last-minute coaching shakeup put me with the greens. “Jeff, take them on some loops of the skinny line.”
I suck at skinnies. Our trail has four ten-foot-long raised half-log sections to balance on and ride across. They look like dugout canoes before the digging starts. I made a skinny in my back yard out of cinder blocks. I’m supposed to be practicing daily, but I don’t. Last night, on each loop, I rolled off the side of one or more logs. Not a big deal, they’re only a foot off the ground, but embarrassing when the coach can’t do the drill. The fourteen-year-old pinned to my back wheel no doubt judging me.
As I rolled off the side of a log on my last lap, my wheel dropped in a ditch. I launched over my handlebars and landed on that same forearm. I didn’t cuss, and I even laughed it off pretty quickly. The kid behind me, astonished and concerned: “God, are you all right?” By the time practice ended, my ribs hurt. Today, they’re sore to touch.
I have rashes trying to break through on both forearms. Trail building last weekend put me knee-deep in brush, creating a trail in what looked like a lightly wooded meadow. I could see poison ivy plants all around me as I mulched the undergrowth with a weed eater. I’ve overdosed on Claritin all week, the antihistamines suppressing the allergic reaction. My arms are bumpy and itch a bit, but a full-fledged breakout still staved off by my pharmaceutical abuse. My wife and kids keep checking in with me about how many 24-hour doses I’ve taken each day.
I love summer. That’s what I tell everyone all winter. I really don’t mind being cold but the short days cut into my outdoor activities. I don’t mind being hot either, but for the past two weeks, the oppressive heat and humidity have irritated me. I don’t feel well. Various aches and pains and now itchiness leave me in a bad mood. I know these weeks bracketing the solstice are a gift. Daylight until nine o’clock, I should be hiking after work and running at sunset. Instead, I’ve sat in my house, injured, sulking, planning how I might coach the reds.
I’m fighting against the feeling that I’m already stuck in the dog days. It’s too early in the summer to dream about fall. I’ve been looking forward to the mountain bike season since October, I want to embrace it. With vacation ‘out of the way’ my weekends are free to pop out to the state forest to hike, bike and run whenever I want. So what if it’s hot? I’ll drink more water. So what if I have nagging injuries? They’re an expected side effect of mountain biking at fifty-eight years old. Eli, now fifteen and only three weeks out from his injury, is already taking small bike rides around the neighborhood. My days of being an elastic teenager are long gone, but my enthusiasm hasn’t faded. Sometimes I just need a little push.