Category Archives: Personal stuff

Nobody lives forever, but I’m good for today and tomorrow.

You get older and, at some point, the fact that you’re not going to be around forever becomes something you think about. Perhaps for me the concept of mortality is brought home by way of all the testing that’s been done on my heart & lungs, trying to get to the bottom of my breathing issues. For example, last week I had an electrocardiogram re-test, to see how my heart looks compared to a year ago. This because I now have a real live pulmonologist looking into things for me, and he had some concerns about the very small amount of “valve leakage” that showed up in my prior test, as well as the “athlete’s heart” thing. You can read all about the phenomenon here, but in a nutshell, it’s a normal adaptation of the heart to a lifetime of exercise.

But hey, I’m 61 years old, and it’s not unheard of for people my age to have some weird undiagnosed heart thingee that drops them like a rock. That’s where I have a huge advantage. I’ve now been echocardiogrammed, stress-tested, scanned and then some. My ticker has been pronounced solid.

But until you get the results, things are in a weird state of limbo, and you’re just a bit unsure of how far you should push yourself. What’s going on in that ticker inside your chest?

Finally, Wednesday morning (two rides after the latest round of tests) came the news. The ticker’s good. No progression at all in valve leakage, nothing else to worry about. But a lot of time in-between the test and the results to be thinking about the future, and even the present. Minutes can pass like hours, and interesting thoughts intrude when you’re engaged in things you don’t enjoy, as in, this is time I’ll never get back!

I’m glad those days are over. I’m glad I no longer have thoughts there could be something that could stop me dead in my tracks, without warning. That doesn’t mean I’m immortal though. Nobody is. You keep looking for answers and eventually even the healthiest person will likely find something not-quite-right. But whatever remains isn’t nearly so scary.

Why this photo is important

The metal Triceratops on the road to Pescadero. Not so easy to see if the Mastadon that fell into the field a few years ago.

Oral history. We assume we can find everything about anything on the ‘net, and heck, since I’m writing this right now and putting it out there, it’s at least partly true. But not entirely. There’s something missing when you experience the virtual instead of passing on the knowledge, the story, person-to-person.

Take the photo here. As a single point in time, and that’s really what the ‘net distills everything down to, it’s not very significant. There’s a large metal Triceratop at the edge of a field. OK, people have strange things in their yards. But the San Francisco peninsula is my yard. And that Triceratop goes back many, many years. OK, still, so what? Do I know the backstory, who put it there? No. But what I do know is that, for quite a few years, that Triceratop stared out across the field to a tall metal Mastadon. For years they faced off against each other in some sort of imaginary battle-to-be. Very few cyclists ever noticed; probably even fewer motorists. But I did. And every time I rode with a group past them, I pointed them out.

A few years ago, the Mastadon fell over and lay on its side for a couple months, until it was, literally, put back on its feet. It remained upright for another year or so before falling again, after a heavy rain, and it’s remained on the ground ever since. During the drought, the weeds grew slowly so the fallen Mastadon remained visible, if you were looking for it. Today? You have to look really hard to see evidence of it.

Without an oral tradition, telling the story as people ride past, this imaginary battlefield… well, frankly, I’m struggling a bit to make my point. But what if I’d never pointed out the Machine Gun Man sculptures to my son on Stage Road? It’s gone now, but he’ll remember always, and some day he’ll be taking someone past that house and tell someone about it. Something that ties us to the roads we ride, something that, told by someone rather than researched on-line, creates a sort of bond.

Truthfully, Kevin, my son, gets a bit tired of me wanting to stop and check things out on a ride. Lack of permanence, and the need to remember what’s gone, doesn’t seem as important to his generation. I think his initial interest was easier to encourage because it gave him a distraction at a time when riding wasn’t very easy for him and a 100k ride was more about survival than doing it really fast. And of course when your main focus is on the number of watts you’re producing and your speed, there’s less time to spot and talk about the things you ride past.

I wonder if the reason I’m bringing this up now is because I’m slowing down a bit as I get older, giving me more time to see things, or I’m looking for distractions to take my mind off the difficulty of keeping up with people.