Thursday, June 7, 2012

Why? What do you get out of it?

I get asked why did I want to ride across the country more than any other question along the route. I am not sure I am able to properly answer that question because not even I know for sure why I wanted to push myself to ride over 4000 miles for no apparent gain on my part. I think a bit of history is in order here for others to maybe better understand what got me on my bike. I was a healthy active 40 year old man with a family and a good job when suddenly I ended up in the hospital. I was in agonizing pain and after several surgeries I was sent home on a stretcher and told by the doctors to take all the morphine I wanted for pain control because there was nothing else they could do for me. I could not walk or even get out of bed. I was told I would never be able to walk again.   In a few months I was able to use a wheelchair which I hated. To say that I was depressed from my sudden disability would be a severe understatement. Then my wife at the time told me she did not want to spend the rest of her life with a cripple and she took my kids and left me alone. There was nothing I could do about it. I had no money, my body was a mess and my brain was even worse. I got screwed over in the divorce and ended with almost nothing. I was suicidal from having my kids taken away from me and actually made more than one attempt to take my life but was not able to do the job for various reasons. I was eventually able to stand up and walk a few paces. Then I bought a dilapidated old house with a big death stain in the living room thanks to the previous owner that died in the house. I proceeded to try to remodel it into a disabled accessible home. It took me years of work and I had to call in all my favors from my friends to get the house done. I was still in extremely high pain and very disabled physically and my depression was still at the suicidal level. I had to take life a day at a time and often a minute at a time to stay alive. I decided to sell the house and take the money down to Mexico and blow it in a few months trying to enjoy myself and then when the money ran out, I planned on killing myself. There was only one flaw with my plan. While I was relaxing on the beaches of Mexico I started to get healthier by the day. My body and more importantly my brain started to get better. My depression was lifting. My mobility started to go up also. I pushed myself to walk on the beach. At first it was hard to just walk to the beach but with determination I started to walk along the beach every day. I got better and better physically and I started to actually get a little bit happy. The change surprised me. I was caught off guard that I was no longer suicidally depressed and stuck in a wheelchair. That isn't to say that I was no longer disabled. I still had very high pain and a very limited ability to walk. I was able to walk about a block a day and I stopped using my wheelchair completely. I spent the next seven years trying to heal while living in Central and South America from Costa Rica to Argentina. Then one day I came back to the U.S. and I got stuck here when Social Security told me I could not leave the country again until I was 62 and a half years old. I was resigned to live in the states from then until now. The problem with that is that it is impossible to live in the states on the amount of money I get for Social Security. I tried to do the best I could but it was impossible to survive without the help and generosity of my friends and family. I ended up owing everybody that I knew for something or other. I felt like a parasite with no self pride in anything. Then my health started to slide again. My pain went back up to unbearable levels and my mobility went down. I was close to living out of a wheelchair again when I discovered that I could still ride a bicycle. I could not walk but I found I could ride all day long and it actually made my pain go down. I started to ride a lot. I started to get fit. My weight went down and my pain was more manageable. Then Social Security and the counties started to mess with me. The made me feel like a total parasite again. My depression was again spiraling down the more they harassed me. Social Security will lie to people and try to trick them into making a mistake so that they can chop them off the rolls. They are the lowest, meanest people I have ever encountered in my life. They prevented me from seeing doctors for almost a year. My pain meds were gone and I was again suicidal. I made a plan to go jump off the Golden Gate Bridge. I was mulling over my last arrangements before my suicide when I suddenly decided to just take off on my bike to points unknown. Back in my twenties I almost rode my bike across the country so on a whim I just decided to do it now before my suicide. Using a credit card, I went out and bought a touring bike and loaded it up with what I thought I needed, bought some maps and three days later I was on the road from San Francisco. I used the Golden Gate Bridge as my starting point and even considered just jumping that first day of my ride. Instead of jumping, I took off and started my ride. Fifty seven days of riding later, I finished my cross country ride. At the end of the ride I was happier than I have been since before I got disabled twenty years ago. I lost weight, got invigorated with new energy and a new reason to live. My depression is much better and at this time I am not always suicidal. I still can not live on my Social Security check so I still have issues. I had to borrow money from my family to be able to buy food for the last week of my ride. I am not sure how I will survive in the near future. I don't really have a plan. I do have some hope. The long hard ride showed me that I can push my limits and overcome many obstacles. Trying to find the stamina to make it up those hills and mountains and to push on despite being extremely tired taught me I am tougher than I thought. If I can find a way to focus that determination I might still beat the spiraling demons of depression. This battle I have won but the war is not over yet. So maybe now you can better understand why it is difficult for me to answer the question, "why did I ride across the country" when people ask. All I usually answer is, "I just love to ride and it is about the ride not the destination." Enjoy life while you still are able to...more later.