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.

Monday, March 23, 2009

An Open Letter to Lance Armstrong

Dear Lance,

News of your clavicle crushing cycling crash has caused concern and consternation here. I know that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but really, you shouldn't have. I'm slowly getting better and have been on the bike quite a bit recently. Still, it was a nice gesture and I appreciate the support.

They say you were coming down a narrow, rough-surfaced, rural European road. Sounds eerily familiar. It only took a hose in the road to bring me down. You, the professional that you are, needed fully 20 other riders to get you into that embarrassing handlebars-below-the-wheels orientation. And I do admire the attitude evidenced in your statement, "That's cycling. It's nobody's fault. Crashes happen all the time." That was my reaction - hose happens, you just have to get over it.

The picture of you sitting by the side of the road also brought back memories. There you are in that shoulder-favoring pose that says, "Try to move my arm and you'll be a week removing what's left of my bike from your..." But what you actually said was, "It's pretty painful." Yeah, I know the feeling. Too bad you didn't have an ENT surgeon with you as I did. They can do wonders with a couple of pair of tights. No, I mean using them to fashion a sling and brace. It really helped ease the pain. But remember when you get back out on the road again, make sure he goes down the hill first.

In another amazing parallel to our accidents, I hear you walked to the waiting ambulance. Me too. Except it was a station wagon. Driven by the local farmer's wife. I bet you had lights and sirens. Me? Not so much as a toot of the horn. Oh well, you are the big-name pro. And speaking of clinics as we are, the one where I've been treated is having a special program you might want to look into; it's called Taking Steps to Prevent Falls.

I also read that Jacinto Vidarte, spokesman for the Vuelta Ciclista Castilla y Leon race, says you may be out for as long as three to four weeks. Not bad, as it took me that long to figure out how to get dressed in under 30 minutes. But hang in there. I was on the road two months after my crash. Rode 13.3 miles. Of course it was another 3 weeks before I got back on a bike again and then it was attached to the floor in my basement. But if you really work at it, you might get back in shape a little faster.

Say, did your Spanish doctor suggest an afternoon of surgery before you headed home? From my current perspective (sporting a "non-union" of the left clavicle) maybe you should have listened to him if he did. But, I'm sure you'll get the best of care and will soon be winging your way to a complete recovery. Even so, it seems we are facing similar issues in the immediate future. For instance, it doesn't look like you'll be able to compete in this year's Giro d'Italia. Me either. Bummer.

So you see, I know how you feel. Well, not how it feels to win Le Tour de France seven times. But I'm pretty sure we aren't too far apart on the broken clavicle thing. Next time you're in La Crosse, give me a call. We'll meet at the Bodega and compare x-rays.

Ride on,


P.S. I was really glad to see you were wearing your helmet.

Friday, March 6, 2009

How Did They Know?

This flyer came in the mail today from the clinic where my shoulder has been treated. It was inviting me to participate in a special program:

Taking Steps to Prevent Falls

Aren't my conversations with the doctor about falling off the bike and breaking my collarbone supposed to be kept quiet? Oh, well. I suppose they could have just read the blog. So, while I appreciate the thought, I'll pass. It's not so much that I don't think I need the help, but maybe, just maybe, it's that the target audience is "Americans over age 65."

Besides, isn't taking the steps a big reason why people fall in the first place?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Good Advice

Saturday, September 6
Madiswil to Zurich

It was far from the most restful night of the tour. Trying to sleep sitting up, getting twinges with even the most careful of moves. I was glad when it was finally late enough to get up. I began to develop the moves necessary to get dressed. On this first morning, it was getting on my socks.

The big issue of the day would be transporting the bikes and bags by train to the Zurich airport. BIll had already decided he'd go with me instead of finishing out the ride to Basel, but dealing with two bike boxes, two suitcases would not be easy. The trip we had bought the tickets for had one 3 minute connection and one of 5 minutes. Not possible, of course. But the major hassle that this could have been was avoided, thanks to Laurenz. He could not take all of our baggage AND us, so he agreed to bring our bikes and suitcases to the airport hotel, leaving us to take the train with only our backpacks to deal with.

With Laurenz before we depart for Zurich

There is a book entitled When I'm an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple. Laurenz, it would seem, is working on the companion volume, When I'm an Old Man, I Shall Wear Clashing Plaids.

On the first leg of the trip to Zurich, I got into a conversation with a group of hikers on their way out of town. I explained what happened as best I could (in German) and learned that they were members of a club that sponsored regular weekend treks. We were changing trains at the same stop, so they suggested we follow them (remember, this was the 3 minute connection) since they knew exactly where to go. We arrived on track 3 and left on track 32, but they weren't nearly so far apart as the numbering might suggest. One of the men offered insisted he carry my pack. We made the next train in good shape. We had no problems at the next stop, either, but we did have every bit of FIVE minutes. No challenge there.

As I have done on many occasions, I decided to get a room at a nice hotel as near the airport as I could. The SAS Radisson at Zurich was basically part of the terminal complex. Bill was not too happy about not being able to spend the night in the communal bunk room at the spartan hostel in Basel, but he'd get over it. We settled into a comfortable seating area in the lobby, had beers brought to us on trays, and waited for Laurenz. After he dropped off our stuff and headed on to Austria for a family celebration, we took my bags into the terminal. Here we took advantage of one of the best travel ideas I've seen - we could check our bags and get boarding passes for tomorrow's flights today.

I had to check in at one desk, arrange for payment of the fee for carting the bike at another and actually deposit the bike at a third location. When I paid the fee, I had a chance to chat with the agent. She asked about the trip and we got into the accident, the broken collarbone, etc. She looked at me and asked, "Are you just learning to ride?" "Nooooo..... Although I could see how she might think that. Then, expressing her concern for my future, she added, "You really should not go down hills like that." Good advice.

After a trip into Zurich, we came back to the very nice hotel restaurant for dinner. I had a steak that was about as good as any I've had anywhere. Add to this the fact that our waitress cut my food for me... well, it was a pretty nice evening, break or no break.

Place for Fine Dining at the Zurich Airport Hotel

Tomorrow - the long trip home.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Taking a Break

Speaking of breaks as we have been, I'm taking one tonight. Take 106 miles on the trainer in the last four days, add a sore throat and scratchy eyes and out comes a do-nothing evening. While there will be no photographic evidence of this break, I can provide a glimpse of the helmet that cracked on the pavement in Switzerland. You know, when I fell and DID NOT hit my head. Because it was the helmet that hit.

Never, ever get on a bike without a helmet...
I've had fun, in a weird sort of way, with the broken collarbone thing. Might as well, as it wouldn't do any good to really gripe about the state of what is now the Non-Union. In all honesty though, I am a little bummed about the whole thing. But I got another one of those perspective adjustments during the mission trip to the Dominican Republic. While at the monument in Santiago, the one on a hill with a long approach of stairs on all four sides, we saw a man bouncing up the steps. Given that it was Carnival time and there were a number of people dancing to the upbeat music coming from down below, this would not normally be noteworthy. Thing is, this man was hopping up the stairs on only one leg. Because he had only one leg. He had also lost a goodly portion of his arm on the same side. No crutch, no cane, just hopping up the stairs. When he got to our little group, he was smiling, glad to be out, glad to have a chance to enjoy the Carnival, appreciative of the small gift we provided. He wished us a good evening and went hopping off, the big grin he had carried up the stairs going with him. Oh, and he said he'd lost two children in the accident that claimed his limbs. He was smiling! I do not know your name, but I'll not soon forget you. Thanks for the lesson on attitude.