The 2014 Warm Showers hosting season started early, with three brave riders in January, taking advantage of the mild but wet Pacific Northwest winter to head from Seattle to Los Angeles.
Unfortunately, the season was cut short: our own “training” rides and mini-tours, starting in New Mexico and California in late January and early February, continuing in April and May in Washington and Idaho, were truncated because of increasing back and chest pain while riding. We finished a successful 2013 riding and tour season (including a 700km self-supported tour to cap a 2500-km yearly total) after seeking treatment for GERD (gastro-esophageal reflux disease), but the symptoms progressed to a wider spreading chest pain as the 2014 season developed. After returning from a really scary 30-km ride in Idaho at the end of May, and experiencing chest pains even while walking, I pressed for more comprehensive testing to get a better diagnosis: we were a mere six weeks out from a scheduled supported week-long tour and needed to train.
A treadmill test on Friday, June 13 (an auspicious date) made it absolutely clear that the problem was cardiac-related, and severe: the test was aborted after less than three minutes, with blood pressure and pulse over 200 and the EKG trace looking like a major earthquake. After being sent home with nitro tablets and some powerful heart regulators and told to “do nothing” over the weekend, a visit with the cardiologist on Monday got me scheduled for more testing on Tuesday, June 17, a cardiac catheter probe, which showed nearly total blockage of the main cardiac arteries, only days or hours (or one bike ride) from what would have been a fatal heart attack. I was wheeled from the recovery room at the test center directly to surgery, where I had a full six-hour open-heart procedure.
While still in the hospital, I took us off the Warm Showers schedule for the summer, and cancelled our late July tour: I went home at the end of the week a temporary invalid, confined to a (new) recliner in the living room for a few weeks while Judy, a retired nurse, slept on the sofa for a few nights and then in the downstairs guest room. After a few weeks, I could, with help, get in and out of the guest room bed, as lying flat helped the healing some, but continued to spend part of the night in the recliner for the next two months. After a month, I was strong enough to climb stairs to the master bedroom, and able to walk a kilometer or two, slowly.
Now, eight weeks after what can only be called emergency surgery, and six weeks after a repeat hospitalization for severe pulmonary emboli and subsequent warfarin regimen that will last for six months or more, recovery is in sight. I am driving again, and able to walk at least 5 km on outings 4-5 days a week, but not yet cleared for heavier duties like opening the garage door and other pushing and pulling, so our guest room is still closed. We’re off to Portland, Oregon by train and public transit next week for a conference, and on vacation in early September, one we had hoped would be filled with day rides, but we will need to be content with hikes and walks. The bicycle needs to wait until the bones are completely healed and probably until the blood thinner treatments end. We might open our doors to guests for a week or so between the Oregon trips, in late August, but only if I get medically cleared for more activity.
But, by mid-September, we should be on the Warm Showers active roster again for the Fall Pacific Coast touring season, briefly, but at least for a couple of weeks before we head to Montana in early October to re-winterize the cabin we last saw–buried in snow–in March, and to build a ship’s ladder to replace the vertical ladder to the loft, now that I have joined the ranks of the old and feeble, to avoid undue strain on the divided and now “zippered” sternum, which I have been promised will soon be strong enough to withstand hours on the handlebars for many touring seasons yet to come.
Warm Showers (www.warmshowers.org) is an international organization of bicycle tourists who provide lodging—at a minimum, a place to camp and access to shower and toilet facilities—to other cyclists on tour. Many hosts also provide full guest services: bed, meals, laundry, transport to and from public transit facilities and bike shops, sag service, and storage (bike boxes, etc). The web site is run by volunteers and funded by donations, and guests are never charged for services offered. Warmshowers.org is also on Facebook, where members discuss travel and post photos.