80 Miles on My 80th Birthday -Portland Bicycling Club

80 Miles on My 80th Birthday

How would I summarize my 80th birthday ride on Easter Sunday? In a word: WE.

All in all, to be trite and use the passive voice (which I pretty much rail against and detest) a good time was had by all. Four hardy souls and one old cranky one gathered at Paulson’s Floor Covering lot on Science Park drive at 9:00 on a soggy morning. It wasn’t actually raining right at the start, which was good, because I was able to keep the clipboard dry. That brief respite was about the only one all day. 

Mark Detrick and his friend Cary Fisher started out along with Maria Sworske, me, and Emmy Pellico, whom I met several years ago on the Jim O’Horo Memorial Columbia Gorge Explorer (even back before it was a memorial and it was known only as the CGE). We headed out along Cornell to Evergreen and my friend, Tom Frillman (former jogging, riding, and backpacking buddy), met us in Hillsboro. Mark and Cary, being only about 50% faster than the rest of us, headed out first. We saw them again about two or three miles from Vernonia after they had had lunch and were on their way back.

Two more people from the CGE, Kyly McMurray and Brian Woodward, met us at the Banks trailhead. I am still floored that people would ride with me on such a crappy day. The weather lived up to its dreary forecast and did it one better. And Kyly and Brian drove 50 miles each way to do that. Wow!

I trust everyone has seen Maria’s wonderful pictures of the event! If not, they are posted on the club’s FB page.

It was just another ordinary long ride in the rain until we had left Brian and Kyly at their car in Banks and were another five miles closer to home. Maria, Emmy, and Tom all pointed out to me, at about the same time, that I was kind of tilting to the right and the bike was seriously canted to the left. I was having the beginning of the same symptoms I experienced on last year’s CGE. For readers of last July’s QR (Member Memories: O’Horo Memorial CGE 2022), you will recall my scary, but somewhat comic experience. Scary, because I just kept toppling over when I’d try to stop. Comic, because of my experience with the EMTs in Lyle.

Anyway, the listing to starboard kept getting worse, but I was determined to finish my 80 miles, so I kept on keeping on. For another ten miles. About a mile from Kaiser’s westside facility, I pulled over (not falling over yet, but it was a near thing at every stop light) and explained to Emmy and Maria (Tom had left us to go home in Hillsboro) that they had a choice: I could give them simple directions to get back to their cars, or they could go with me to Kaiser and see what’s what. With one voice they announced they weren’t going to leave me. Damn! You can’t buy friends like that.

So, we turned off and went in to Kaiser. Emmy stayed with the bikes and Maria walked me down the hall. My balance was so bad by that point that I staggered a couple of times and, if Maria hadn’t been holding on to me, would have gone down for sure. As it was, I almost took her with me.

I thought maybe my blood sugar was low, and that’s what I wanted checked. But doctors being doctors were not happy with anything that simple. They did check, like, EVERTHING. Blood sugar was only a little high – a result, I am sure, of the big piece of carrot cake with about ¾” of cream cheese frosting for lunch – but not bad. It sure wasn’t low. Naturally, they weighed me. Now that was an experience. Before breakfast I weighed 158. My clothes and the water in them added nearly 20 pounds! I peeled out of everything, and the nurse gave me a set of really spiffy paper scrubs to wear while they got all the necessary bodily fluids and wired me up for the EKG. BP was 123/68, pulse was 78 (I had just gotten off the bike, remember – it settled down to 59 in about 20 minutes). Oxygen saturation was 100%, and respiration was 12. And they determined I was not dehydrated. So far, so good.

They felt that my reported balance issues were kind of a headscratcher, so then they carted me off to imaging for a CAT scan and MRI. They had given me the CAT scan after last year’s episode, but all test results had been inconclusive then. This year, the doctors used some kind of dye to give better contrast and determined that there is a “congenitally diminutive right vertebral artery.” That is right out of the radiologist’s report.

Basically, I have a birth defect it took only 80 years to find. Apparently, one of the arteries supplying blood to what permits me to move, ride, etc., is too small. Never developed properly.

Now, this collection of symptoms has occurred with more or less severity several times. Always on 50+ mile rides, and only on the one bike. Scientific wild guess is that my head and neck position on that bike constricts the blood flow through that artery (and maybe the good one, too, my doctor pointed out). As a solution, I am going to tinker a bit with the geometry on the bike, like raising the handlebars a bit.

One humorous moment (gotta leave you laughing). I mentioned the spiffy outfit they gave me so I could get out of my wet clothes. Well, Maria and Emmy left after an hour or so, and rode back to the ride’s starting point. They were good enough to ferry my car back to the hospital so I could drive home. How much are friends like that worth? More than I could possibly pay!

I was not going to put almost twenty pounds of wet clothes back on so I could finish the ride. And the medical people weren’t going to let me ride home anyway, but they’d let me drive?? (Disappointingly, I did not make my 80 miles. 78.6, but who’s counting, right?)

So, I put my shoes on and stuffed everything else in a couple of plastic bags hanging on the wall, picked up my paperwork, and left the ER. Walking through the ER lobby/waiting room, a couple of nurses noticed my nifty outfit and demanded to see the discharge papers. They thought I was escaping!!

Dave McQuery, Member at Large