Last week Cecily and I went on vacation for 10 days with close friends in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The first few days were spent in Walla Walla wine country, which was territory we were very comfortable with. I have been collecting wine for twenty five years and despite a loss of smell thanks to Parkinson’s, I was at ease with wine tasting. Upon our return, we spent a day on the lake. Again another comfort zone. Grew up around boats.
The next day we were planning an ATV trip up one of the many trails nearby. After a comprehensive lesson on how to drive, turn, and most important how to stop the devil’s spawn, I was deemed thoroughly competent to operate the four wheeler. What was still an unknown for me is whether I was physically ready for this adventure, a fear I quietly kept to myself, under withering questioning by my back seater.
The next morning bright and early, we loaded up the ATVs and went to the starting part of this journey. At the end of road to nowhere, we jumped on our trusty metal stallion. After the first few seconds, before the stream crossing, it was apparent to me that my small muscle control was somewhat lacking. I knew this by the Holy s%%^ from Cecily as we jumped and lurched forward. Since neither of us had ever been on an ATV, I was able to convince Cecily that everything was fine (discussed life insurance policies).
To set the stage for those who have neither experienced this type of excursion, the trail was 8 feet wide (or less), the vehicle as 4 feet wide, periodic washouts were common, flat (side to side) was non-existent, direction was definitely up, and the drop-off on downhill side of the trail was anywhere from two feet to two thousand feet.
As a point of reference of what I saw on the two hour trip to the top, every time Cecily said look at that I responded in an expletive “No I’m busy, look at that rock.” Have I mentioned the cramps? Right thumb on the throttle control, right leg, left leg……… Short version my hair didn’t cramp. We were on the last big run to the top when I had to stop. Hip cramp (who’d a thunk). Rule #1 don’t stop on a steep incline. I said to Cecily, “I don’t think I can make it.” She said “What do we do?” Having no other choice, I said “We’ve Got This.” I don’t know if her hug was in loving agreement with me, or her just hanging on, I hit the throttle and within a few minutes we were at the summit. There was no gas in our tanks, although the beast was half full and wanted to continue. Dick, our fearless leader was still slowly getting off his machine, but he quickly found two beers in the cooler to celebrate.
As we stood there, a calm sense of accomplishment came over me, for about two sips. He suggested lunch at a lake about “10 minutes downhill” and off we went. It was easy compared to “up.” All I had to do was hold the brakes fully locked. Shortly (a little more than 10 minutes) we arrived at the lake which was beautiful. We took out our lunch and the remainder of the one precious beer. That is when we heard the sound of a helicopter. Looking up we saw a water supply helicopter which was actively being used to fight the forest fires plaguing the northwest. To our surprise it was only a few minutes after it took water from the lake that it returned for its next load. CLICK. That is the sound of our collective brains. There was a fire nearby. After less than a minute, we assessed our situation and realized it was a small hot spot with five (number of trucks parked at the lake) firefighters trying to contain the fire’s spread with the support of the helicopter. No big discussion here. We jumped on the devil’s spawn and hightailed it down the mountain gravel road to the ever present sound of the helicopter and chain saws.
I lead the way as fast as I could.
So why this post? I have reflected on a great adventure. All of the details fade behind that one moment before the summit when “I was done.” I could have easily gotten off the ATV and quit, but I didn’t.
When I thought of our journey with Parkinson’s, I remembered all the times I wanted to give up, and it wasn’t an option in my mind. I remembered Matt Mitchell telling me “You are not alone,” and John Ryan and many others (including all of my family) screaming to others, meeting their challenges “YOU’VE GOT THIS”. The truth is we did have it. We knew we could persevere, just like we do every day.
ON TO DISNEY
WE DO HAVE THIS
WE ARE NOT ALONE
TWO SHOES ON AGAIN
PS. To Sam Fox (Tour de Fox’s 49 summit goal raising over $1,000,000 for The Michael J Fox Foundation), and to all others finding their summits, you are amazing and we know YOU HAVE GOT THIS.