Bicycle versus Car: 0 – 1

Loves Truck Stop Each time I’ve ridden my, much admired I have to say, red Schwinn to and from town, there have been a considerable amount of drivers who refuse to leave adequate space between their motorized vehicle and my bike. Each time this happens, I fill the air with profanity and either lift one hand to indicate gap and or give the hand gesture for “wanker”

Or both.

At least one time I flipped an ignorant so-an-so a fairly furious bird…

Each time this happens, I vow to write an article about idiots who do not know the rules about leaving enough space between their vehicle and a bicycle. Whilst waiting to store up adequate vitriol to write said article, yesterday, the thing I have been dreading finally happened.

A car forced me off the paved surface. Not, however, off the main road, but off of a parking lot. (Which in my shocked state yesterday I continued to call a car park. This is particularly funny as my colleagues in the Prison Service were always poking fun at me for calling it a parking lot while I was in England!)

The whole thing was my fault. If I had not stopped at the truck stop where I’d left my pocketknife two days ago, it would not have happened. After checking with lost and found, it was not there, I got back on my bike and headed toward the exit to town.

In this portion of the parking lot, there are car spaces on each side for parking and the right hand side was full. As I passed the cars, a station wagon backed out of its space and sat there idling with its reverse lights on. I swerved to the far left to avoid the car and seconds after doing so a blue four-door sedan turned into the parking lot on “my side” of the road driving straight for me.

I was parallel to the station wagon facing the blue car. To my left was a 10 to 12 inch curb, an aggregate shoulder surface and a streetlamp with a large square, and yellow, base. I moved as close to the curb as I could while attempting to break.

The only thing I could tell about the blue vehicle was that a man appeared to be driving. The windows were tinted fairly dark and it was difficult to see with any certainty. The station wagon had still not moved and the sedan headed right towards me.

My bike impacted with the curb at roughly 7 mph as moving away from the car seemed prudent. I tapped the top of the curb with my left foot and the second time I tried this maneuver my foot “hopped” and both the Schwinn and myself went airborne. Approaching the ground I started to “tuck and roll” but my elbow was not quite tucked in enough.

I did roll, however, and stopped when the back of my head came in contact with the base of the streetlight. At the same time, my backpack hit the ground with some force. My first thought was of my MacBook Pro, my only real source of income at the moment.

I sat up slowly and ignored the panicky desire to open my pack to check the laptop and began to check for bruises, broken bones, et al. A group of men were working on a SUV opposite me and they paused to glance over.

“Did that guy hit you?”

“No mate, he forced me off the bloody road!”

They shook their heads and chuckled. No one asked if I was okay, so I must have looked all right. I checked my legs and found that the right leg, on the shin area, had a huge amount of swelling on the front, about as long as your forearm. My left leg had a fist-sized bump near the outside of the calf and my left elbow had an egg-sized lump on it.

I quickly checked my bike and it appeared to be fine. I walked it to the front of Loves Truck Stop and locked my Schwinn up. I searched for a member of staff and after finding one, explained what had happened and asked if they had a first aid qualified worker on hand. She took me to the first aid section (aspirin, salves, et al). I said, “No, I don’t want the section, where is your first aider?”

She replied that they did not have one, that if anyone is that badly injured they are rushed to the nearest hospital.

I was amazed. In England, each place I worked had insisted that a minimal amount of staff were trained in first aid who could treat others who were injured until the ambulance could arrive. Not, apparently, in this country.

I went back out, hopped on my bike and rode it across the humpback bridge, over the I-10, and went to Burger King. I had a couple of coffees, a snack and called the VA to see what I could do for treatment.Burger King

I also rang the local “Urgent Care Clinic.” The young lady explained how they had worked VA treatment in the past and gave me the number to Quartzsite’s transit service. They came and collected me from BK and dropped me off at the clinic.

As the pain and swelling increased I spoke again with the VA who gave permission for me to use the local clinic, as the nearest facility was miles away. There was some initial confusion when the local folks thought I had actually been struck by the blue sedan and not just forced off the road. Apparently they cannot treat patients struck by a vehicle.

Finally, after what felt like hours, I was seen to. The nurse was concerned about my right leg. She put an Ace bandage on it and gave me instructions to put ice on the swelling every four hours for the next 48 hours. I was to keep the leg elevated and under no circumstances was I to walk on it.

The receptionist rang the local police to report a “hit and run” as the blue sedan never stopped. Although in this case it was a “forced off the road and run.” Her thinking was, even though I had very little information for local law enforcement, they could at least give my bike and me a lift home.

The police opted not to “follow up” the report, unless I really wanted them to. I explained that was fine as all I had noticed, before tumbling off onto the aggregate and dirt, was the color of the car and I was not even sure of the driver’s gender.

They did take me to get my bike from Burger King and helped me to load it into the back of the Range Rover police vehicle. They gave me a lift home and we chatted amiably all the way back. The officer, whose name I never did quite catch as it was a long one, said that they were going to start a campaign to inform drivers to leave enough space between them and a bicycle.

While waiting to be seen at the clinic, I did what I always do when in shock. I paced, ran off at the mouth and joked around a lot. (I was told off for pacing by the nurse.)

Since my return home, I have discovered a few things. Re-wrapping an Ace bandage, for instance, is an enormous pain in the arse. There is no way to put the thing on so that it looks like the original configuration and it feels loose where it did not before.

Frozen mixed vegetables work just as well as frozen peas as a substitute for ice and elevation is highly overrated. (Although it is quite comfortable.) The settee, where I have bivouacked for my period of recovery, may be comfy, but in terms of getting 3G on my hotspot is the worst area I could have chosen.

My T-Mobile signal is so weak and erratic that it is difficult to make a phone call let alone hook up to 3G (that they charge me for but in reality is 2G) so that communication with anyone is nigh on impossible.

I have also learned that the day after banging one’s head into a yellow concrete streetlight base, is when the swelling and tenderness starts.

Thankfully, since my heart attack in 2012, my pain gauge has increased. I am in pain, and it is difficult to walk, but it is nowhere near as agonizing as the day it took hours to “rush” me to hospital for my double heart surgery.

This little town constantly amazes me. Quite a number of the folks here are very friendly and helpful. Taking the “glass half full” road, I am counting myself very lucky that the bugger in the blue car did not hit me with his vehicle. I realize that I need to practice that tuck and roll maneuver just to see if I can get that elbow in quicker.

Finally: The biggest plus is that my laptop made it through virtually unscathed. Oh, the outside is a bit scuffed, but the inside bits still work and that is the most important thing of all. As I finish this article off, I thank the big guy for letting me off “lightly” with my bike versus car challenge. It may by 0 – 1 in the drivers favor, but as the local Sheriff, or deputy, put it, “things have a way of working out he’ll get his just reward one day.”

18 March 2015

Joys of Withdrawal in the Real Desert

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas Screenshot
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

 

Keeping to the theme of writing about my new, temporary, abode in the great Southwest desert, or the “Real Desert” as I like to refer to it, I’m now dipping into the less fun aspects of my refuge from the criminal element of Las Vegas and the Internet. The above title is a bit of a misnomer, anyone who has gone through withdrawal knows that there are no joys involved.

Just a lot of suffering.

This is not a complaint, just a fact. While the discomfort is not fun, it is nothing compared to the original ailment that required the painkiller to be prescribed initially. Regardless of pain levels, as any addict will tell you, getting off any drug, or pharmaceutical medication, is damned hard. Even more so when the tapering off procedure is inadvertently bypassed  because you have run out of the substance  that has taken up residence in your system for far too long.

Years ago, when I was taking a plethora of pain medication for a back condition that was finally sorted out with surgery via the NHS, I became addicted to several medications. I was naive back then; despite reading about various celebs who were all “fessing up” to being hooked on prescribed medication, I thought that becoming addicted had to do with illegal substances like, crack, heroin and so on.

I soon found out that when the stuff the good doctor has shoved in your system, via pills and potions, runs out, addiction is not so close minded or choosy. Whether the drug of choice is cocaine or valium, or Tramadol (a man-made morphine substitute) or Percocet, when you run out or try to wean yourself off the bloody stuff, life becomes upsetting and pretty unpleasant.

My retreat into the joys of withdrawal in the real desert started with giving the wrong address to the VA, after inadvertently either suffering from numerical dyslexia or just “old man idiocy” I swapped out the last two numbers in the temporary PO Box number I now have. As a result, my pain meds, and more importantly, one of my heart medications was kept for four days at the local USPS and then returned to the sender. Through a series of misinformation and a non-caring Hitler-ish type woman who runs the local post office and a ticking clock, I have been without one of my heart meds for over two weeks and my pain meds have been drastically cut down from my usual 300 mg per day to nil.

Ironically, I went in the day before the meds arrived and asked about the medicine coming in and since I  could not open the post box, could they please check for the parcels. Firstly, she refused to look in the actual post office box and then she went back in the sorting area, stood in plain view of me and the rest of the customers looking blankly at the room behind the service desk and announced, “There’s nothing back here.”

I went back a couple of days later, when my medicine was there (according to the tracking numbers) and got the same song and dance, even after explaining about my getting the PO Box number wrong, so “please, can you actually look for the parcel.”  No dice,  the woman lied to me and did not care that my heart medication had run out. I’ll deal with that later, especially since the “big” USPS office told me that the packages should have been kept a week at a  minimum and not four days.

My heart meds came in today. My pain meds are yet to arrive, but hopefully will be here tomorrow. I’ve got to take my hat off to the beleaguered VA. I rang them yesterday, the first day after President’s Day and reminded them of my plight, the lovely lady I spoke to said she would pass the details of my dilemma onto the pharmacy, who by then had my “drugs” with them.

On a side note, as stated above,  my heart meds arrived this afternoon. They’d actually been posted on February 13, the day I first rang, quite panic stricken at my dilemma, before I rang yesterday to see if they were paying attention. Way to go guys!

While the heart pills are not helping me to cope with the Tramadol withdrawal, at least now I know that I can, if needs be, exist without the heart meds for a pretty extended period of time.

I have also learned that living in the real desert, with no car, a bike out of commission, and miles away from the nearest VA facility, or bloody town for that matter, is not the best of all situations. I am away from the greedy vampire that was and is GLV and now different problems are cropping up.

On the bright side, and there is one, the weather is warm and my feet and ankles, which were so swollen from the ride back on the bike with the flat tire, have deflated from their Bugs Bunny hugeness and I can again wear something on them besides flip-flops. They still feel swollen and uncomfortable so my six mile trudge to town will have to wait for one more day.

There are other stresses that I am ill equipped to deal with, but that will change. Once the joys of withdrawal in the real desert are overcome, this old man will once more be able to deal with things that, right now, are urging a temper tantrum that would make North West at her daddy’s concert look like a fan.

Hopefully, the muscle twitching, nausea,  headache, weakness, cold symptoms and inability to think along with the struggle to not turn into a homicidal, foul-mouthed, maniac will cease by tomorrow, or the day after (Please? Big Guy?). Oh and before you ask the question of why I haven’t just gone to the local quack and gotten a prescription, answer me this, how would I pay for the visit and the drugs? Even if the VA sign off on using a non VA treatment arena, it is still co-pay. While these folks, Veterans Administration,  only charge me afterward, the doctor’s office will not be so obliging, not to mention that the stuff  not provided by the VA is damned expensive.

In the meantime, I’ll say a big “Thank you,” to the Nevada VA;  you guys rock and give the USPS another nod of thanks, they called me today, not the Hitler lady who runs Quartzsite, but the bigger more professional postal people,  to confirm that the VA had my drugs. To the large lady who runs the local USPS, I give you fair warning, address me in that tone of voice again and you’ll be amazed to see that there is an old codger who can vault your service counter and kick some manners into you. I’ll even wait calmly for the police to arrest me, from what I’ve heard from other customers, no judge in the local area will convict me.

18 February, 2015