African Connection links are now in the sidebar to the right, just below the My Travel section.

Click here to see a La Crosse Tribune article about the mission in Uganda.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Friday, September 5

So, I have a broken collarbone. But I am still in Switzerland and still want to finish out the tour with as much elan as I can muster. It won't be on the Trek, of course, but this was to be the last afternoon on the bike anyway. So, by the time Laurenz gets us back to the hotel in Madiswil, I can ease back into the program as it was planned to be.

We go through the hotel lobby and dining room and emerge into a pleasant garden area decorated with bicycles, painted and arranged in a variety of cycle-sculptures. And then there was the "snack!" A cold plate of thinly sliced beef with salad greens. This is accompanied by the classic "cycling kit:" beer and pommes frits with mayo. All this works to ease the pain of the fracture better than the wimpy analgesics from the hospital. Later, Bill would offer a 600mg Motrin; very effective and I was thus off on a months-long experiment to see how much ibuprofen I could tolerate.

Laurenz Enjoying the Mid-Afternoon "Snack" at Madiswil
If you recall, I was unsuccessful in finding the jersey I'd seen in Zermatt in my size (and that continues to be the case; exhaustive internet searches have failed to scare one up). But Bob showed off a pretty nice looking jersey he found at a bike shop here in Madiswil, so after finishing up at the table, Bill and I went off to find the shop... Now this was not as easy as you might think. Remember, the directions are being provided by Bob of the infamous "I think this is the right road to Ricken" suggestion. Walking was OK, but only if I moved slowly. Any pace at all and each footfall would send a twinge through my shoulder. We eventually find the shop and the jerseys. But there was this problem: there were only two of the right size (extra small!) and one was long sleeved. After a bit of "No, you choose first," we settle on Bill taking the long-sleeved one. It turns out to be an OK choice, as Bill finds the lining and long sleeves making this a good option for cool day riding around La Crosse, those rides taken during a time soon after our return when I'm still trying to figure out how to put on a pair of socks.

Swiss Jersey - Short Sleeved Version
Speaking of jerseys as we are, I must point out the nice surprise I got several weeks after our return as Bill presented me with a brand new one, proudly sporting the Georgia Tech theme!

The New GT Jersey - Thanks, Bill
Upon returning to the hotel, "we" disassembled the bikes and packed them up for the trip home. Of course, my contribution to the effort was limited to handing a few things to Bill and sitting on the bike boxes so he could latch them shut.

The really official, final, last of the tour, we are not kidding this is it farewell dinner is at the hotel tonight - in a very nice dining room. Thinking that my no-jersey, jacket-wrapped-around-my-shoulders outfit might not be fully appreciated by the others at the table, I decide to face a new challenge head-on: taking a bath. We have been given a room that is clearly confused. It is on the first floor and labeled as handicap accessible. But, it has one of those really deep European tubs with sides just shy of high enough to require a stepladder for entry (and regress). I manage to get in without doing any more damage to myself and it goes pretty well until I'm done and realize I can't get up. As in "can't get UP" not, "can't get OUT." I'm reminded just how incomplete my knowledge of anatomy is as it is now clear that every muscle in my body is connected to my left shoulder. No matter what I try, very unpleasant sensations emanate from my shoulder. I cannot lift myself off of the bottom of the tub. Bill suggests he grab under my upper arms and pull me up. There is no way whatsoever that I'm entertaining trying that. Then it comes to me. I can roll over onto my knees and then rise up. IT WORKS! First lesson in being a semi-invalid. There would be more.

At dinner we continue a discussion of the most pressing of issues regarding my injury: how to tell Shirley. This would take some thought at any time, but there was a real concern now, it being early September. This is because Shirley and two other ladies from the Bible Babes group are going to Alaska with their mothers; or mother in law, in the case of Eileen - Bill's wife. My fear is that Shirley would think she needed to cancel the trip and be at home when I returned. And I did not want this to happen. So, how to approach this issue as delicate as my painful shoulder?

The general plan was to convince Shirley that everything was under control and that I'd do just fine at home during the week she was away. This in spite of growing evidence that it wouldn't be quite that easy. Consider for a moment the bath experience. Anyway, we decide that Bill would call Eileen first so that she would be prepared to support the story or "conspiracy" as he called it. Then, I'd call Shirley, sounding upbeat about the whole thing. Basically, I'd be minimizing the difficulties, not realizing how much of a struggle it would turn out to be. But at the time, the story seemed plausible so, that's what we did. My conversation with Shirley went so well that not going off on the cruise never even came up. I will say that the tone was a little different the next evening when I called. She was, of course, concerned, and asked more about the accident and injury. At one point, she asked, "Did you hurt your head?" (my take), to which my answer was, "No." Her take, explained after she returned and I showed her my broken helmet, was that she had asked, "Did you HIT your head." Now technically, the answer was still, "No," as it was my helmet that hit the road. But I'm sure you see where this is going...

Shirley's Cruise Journal
The Alaska cruise NOT MISSED because of a broken collarbone. The top image shows the front (right) and rear covers of one of Shirley's clever topical journals, this one devoted to the cruise. In the middle you can see the entry about my riding in Switzerland. Then, in the bottom image, the note that needed to be added because of the news I had just delivered. You might need to click on the image to open a larger view.
It was finally time to turn in and I got to experience more of the challenges that taking care of myself for a week would present. As far as my shoulder went, I was able to find a semi-sitting position that was comfortable enough. But that's not the way I normally sleep, so I just dozed off and on during the night. And then there was getting up and down, something I had to do several times...that was pretty UNcomfortable. And so it went, the end of my first day with a broken collarbone.

Tomorrow: Going Home

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Catching up on Correspondence

Upon returning from my business trip to Tyler, Texas, I felt I should write notes to a few of the people I encountered along the way. In the interest of efficiency, I decided I'd just post them here on my blog. If you recognize anyone mentioned below, let them know so they can come and check their message. Just don't give them my name.

To the young woman who struggled mightily with the suitcase,
What part of your comment that "This is an odd sized case, it NEVER fits," would have lead you to try it yet again on the flight from Chicago?

To the drivers on I 20 east of Dallas,
Sitting still and watching the show is best done at home in front of the TV. On the Interstate, it only serves to back up traffic for miles. And it was just two cars (with no dents as near as I could discern) and one state trooper parked on the shoulder!

To Maggie (the female voice giving me directions from my GPS),
Why didn't you tell me to exit left at Texas Spur 157?

To the country singers on Texas radio,
Thanks for keeping me company on the drive. And to one of you in particular, I think you're right, "Everybody wanna go Heaven. But nobody wanna go now."

To the clerk at the Holiday Inn in Tyler,
A Packers fan! And only 125 miles from Dallas! What a nice surprise.

To the cook at Bodacious Barbeque,
That was one mean sliced beef sandwich. I'll be back.

To the clerk at the La Quinta near DFW,
A Packers fan! And only 0 miles from Dallas! Do you know the lady in Tyler? Do the Cowboys know who you two are rooting for? Good luck.

To the young man in the DFW Admirals Club,
I believe the world record for talking on the phone without pausing for a response (or to inhale) was within your reach. Sorry I had to go catch my plane and so missed actually seeing it happen.

To several passengers on the Chicago flight (you know who you are),
Is it THAT hard to turn off your cell phones when asked to do so?

To my seatmate on the flight,
I hope you got the job. And, I hope you learned a few things by studying my solved USA Today crossword. I was flattered you asked as I assume this meant you figured I got it all right!

To the lady on the flight to Chicago,
It's not just your plane.
The flight attendants are not your personal assistants.
The aisle is not intended to be a parking lot for your suitcase full of snacks.
Seating assignments are not yours to rearrange to suit your needs.

To the man with the leg injury sitting across from said lady (and next to her husband) on the flight to Chicago,
After getting climbed over a half-dozen times, no jury in the world would have convicted you. But you kept your cool. Glad to see that you were eventually able to score a whole row in the back of the plane.

To the flight attendant in charge of the zoo that was the flight to Chicago,
Ma'am: you do not get paid enough.

To the passengers on that flight to Indianapolis - the one with the non-functioning lavatory,
I trust you listened when they announced that you should use the restroom BEFORE boarding. And I hope the flight really was only an hour long.

To whoever is in charge of these things at O'Hare,
At 12:55 our pilot was in the terminal and met the flight attendant who had just come from the plane. She was rushing to pick up something at one of the shops. He said to her, "No need to hurry, we have lots of time" (this because a mechanic was on board fixing something). Did you really believe that our 1:05 flight was going to leave On Time?

To the mechanic who worked on the American Eagle plane in Chicago,
I'm not sure what was broken, but if it was the heater, you DID get it fixed.

To those of you who are wondering what all of this has to do with bicycling,
Not one darned thing!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Since You Asked...

"Where have you been?" you ask. I haven't been anywhere. Well, I have, but that's not the reason for the relatively long gap between posts. I guess it’s sort of like the downtime after the crash. Things just slowed down after the fact. In the last posting (Roadside Reflections) you can find my musings on the crash and its more immediate effects.. "So, what's going on now?" you wonder. Well...

I've been riding. Yesterday it was up Bliss Road, down FO, back up on OA before returning home: a 22 mile long, 1,700 foot high ride on the Bianci. Outdoors it was! A pretty nice ride, although the roads were a little dicey in places making for really slow descents. And it was, of course, windy. Still, it was riding on the roads and my first test. "A test of what?" your inquiring minds want to know. Well...

My new shoulder joint got tested on the ride. X-rays taken during last Tuesday's appointment at the orthopaedic department confirmed what I see now had been hinted at in earlier visits: the collarbone has not healed. It is officially a non-union. Medical term. Means still broken. Maybe he was right. "Who? And what was he right about?" your questions just keep coming. Well...

Recall that the doctor in Switzerland was ready for surgery. Right then. Right there. OK, maybe not with quite that sense of urgency. But it was his personal favorite plan of action, the surgery thing. Waiting made sense, though. So I did. Things have improved slowly, but I kept the appointment last week because my shoulder still bothers me. Not a whole lot, but enough. So I kept the appointment and got the news. "What will you do now?" you beg me to tell you. Well…

Surgery would be the only way to get a healed collarbone. But, I might well make out just fine with the non-union. And that's the way I’ll approach it - keep on riding, plan on a tour this summer, assess the results in the fall and go from there. It might even work out better in the long run. I can beg off of heavy lifting (trash bags, etc.) yet still ride since I seldom have to heft my bike up. And I lift my glass with my right hand, so noooo problem there, either. "And tell us, just what kind of tour are you considering?" you beseech. Well…

That would be Cycle America's Glacier-Waterton tour coming up in July. About 400 miles of riding around and through Glacier National Park, including a jaunt into Canada. For this tour I’d go for the hotel option, making for no lugging of heavy duffels to and from the truck every day. The ride will be hard work. The rest of the time shouldn’t be! "So, you'll really be training hard now!" I hear you speculate. Well…

Sure. Later. Right now I'm in Tyler, Texas on a business trip. I did the Fitness Center thing here at the hotel this afternoon, but that’s just maintenance (maybe). And next week I head down to the Dominican Republic on a mission trip. No bikes. No Fitness Centers. But after that… You plead with me, "Tell us about Tyler!" Well…

As I look out of my hotel window, I see an establishment across the street. The sign on the front reads, "Bath Specials - Wash 'n Go's; Tattoos; Instant Copies." I am NOT making this up. "Don't tell us any more!" you implore. Well...

That is a little much, so I'll give you a break from talking about breaks and break it off here. And, by the way, thanks for asking.