Weekly Roundup: Folded, Spindled, Mutilated Edition

To the unpleasantries of September — contentious and unsatisfying club races, difficulties in getting my Radical prepped for the track, some coward lobbing libelous Molotovs at my employment from (what might turn out to not be) complete anonymity — I can now add a long, jagged fracture of the right fibula, sustained at Austin’s Walnut Creek Trails this past Tuesday. On my warm-up lap. I cleared three jumps on a borrowed Specialized P3 then promptly earned myself a two-month sit-down in the final turn.

Since I was in Austin for the primary purpose of reviewing the new Rolls-Royce Ghost, I stuck around for two days and did my job, walking on the ankle while telling myself not to be a you-know-what about it. This probably increased the difficulty of the repair to come, but I have a great young surgeon who trained with the fellow who fixed my left tibia in 2015 — who, in turn, trained with the fellow who did my femur nail in 1988 and who recently jammed some plasma into my right knee. I’ll be able to ride much of the indoor skatepark season and if I do all my therapy well I should be able to hit the big jumps at Snowshoe when they open in May.

This is going to hurt a little bit, of course, but if you know me then you know what really hurts is the loss of time.

Realistically speaking, I have between twelve and twenty-four months until my son is fast enough on a bike to make my participation a drag for him. We will still be able to hang out at parks and whatnot, but the truest joys — those of running at 30mph over broken rocks on the way to a stretcher of a jump between trees — will be gone. Right now I wait for him, I burn a set of SRAM Code brake pads every weekend to not run him down on the long hills, but waiting is a father’s game, not one for sons.

Cyclists in the so-called extreme disciplines all eventually have to make peace with the circadian rhythm of injury, recovery, and riding. Virtually no one is immune; the most durable rider I ever knew was Big Nick Pearson, who rode from 1984 to 2013 with no broken bones, then suffered a miserable shoulder break going over the gate in a race, then died two years later of a random embolism at the end of a training ride. The rest of us, like John Mayer, are frequently in repair. Last year around this time I pulled a ligament off a toe. Between then and now I’ve had a bad hit to the ribs and some sort of strain/hernia on my right side that doesn’t seem to want to heal. I feel it not as pain but as a presence, like something has burrowed into the area right under my ribcage. I know when it happened — at a pumptrack outside St. Louis — but it doesn’t stop me from riding so I haven’t thought much about it. Maybe I’ll get it looked at now.

After thirty-five years of this stuff I’ve acquired a hilariously warped attitude about pain and injury. I’ll trade pain for time. In the case of the ankle, that means getting a plate so I can ride again faster, instead of just putting it in a cast and letting it heal. This gives me more time with my son — but it also gives me more time with me, the soon-to-be-49-year-old me who might have five good years of downhill and skatepark riding left before the bad injury happens. That’s the injury that takes me off the bike for good.

The intelligent reader will note that if I stop riding right now I don’t have suffer the long-term consequences of The Big One, whatever it will be — but my response is that I’m on a one-way trip, as are we all. If you live long enough, you’ll be in pain regardless. Every experience matters, every moment counts, on the journey from beginning to end. Was it stupid to borrow a bike and ride unknown trails in the advent of late middle age? Absolutely. When those trails are torn down, however, I’ll be able to say that I rode them, albeit eyeblink briefly.

We raise a lot of young men nowadays who have a long list of nevers — never broken a bone, never pissed blood, never been in a fight, never taken an unacceptable risk, never done something that frightened them so much they had to close their eyes to do it. When these men are faced with adversity they look inside and find nothing there to sustain them. So they appeal to outside authority, they complain, they snitch, they rely on someone else to handle the problem. People think that toughness is some sort of innate quality, that it’s something given to Lawrence Taylor or Tex Cobb or Greg LeMond at the moment of their birth. It’s not. Look at Hemingway, look at Teddy Roosevelt. It’s something that any man, even a man with intellectual pretensions, can learn. I’m still working on learning toughness myself. It’s slow going.

For better or worse, some of my attitude has already percolated through the generation gap to my son. Last year he broke his hand in a schoolyard incident. Once the cast was off and he was cleared to ride, we headed up to Ray’s MTB in Cleveland. On maybe his third run, he slipped a pedal, ejected from the bike, and hit the concrete nice and hard. When I got to him, he was sobbing out loud, holding his left foot.

“Tell me where it hurts… take a breath… if it hurts too much you can keep crying.” He gave me the look one gives a particularly stupid person who is saying particularly stupid things, and snapped,

“I’m not crying because it hurts… I’m crying because I don’t want to take another month off!”

* * *

For Hagerty, I wrote about big German cars and big German cars that are also big British cars, or vice versa.

26 Replies to “Weekly Roundup: Folded, Spindled, Mutilated Edition”

  1. Rick

    I just love reading everything you write. Have you thought of publishing a collective works book, perhaps on Amazon?

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      I have been planning that for a while but I don’t want to do it until I can provide at least 50% new content for it.

  2. Mike B

    Re trading pain for time, I love this. Elaborate plans for the future are sure to be disrupted in the same way a “rainy day” fund provides no joy until the realization hits that you’re waiting for the things you could be doing now. I’m not sure if one can learn too early, but you can certainly learn it too late.

  3. Tom Klockau

    Read the Ghost review yesterday at lunch. I love that metallic green. It reminds me of the oh so excellent FoMoCo jade green of the ’70s, as seen on Town Cars, Marks and LTD Country Squires.

    Sorry to hear about the leg. Hopefully nailing the feckless vantz who’s messing with you will be a soothing balm sooner rather than later.

  4. bluebarchetta

    Damn, I enjoy your writing. Glad to see you posting new material. Some folks love what they do so much that they can’t quit. Even when their bodies tell them they should. Zanardi, Foyt, and Gary Bettenhausen come to mind.

    In 1993 I had the pleasure of meeting motorcycle racer Randy Renfrow at Mid-Ohio. When I shook his hand, I noticed he had the biggest thumb I had ever seen. I asked his publicist about it and he said, “That used to be Randy’s big toe. He mangled his thumb in a crash and had to have it amputated, so he had the doctor graft his toe onto his right hand so he could still ride.”

    Randy was TOUGH. Really nice guy, too.

    I have no real point other than to illustrate that you’re in good company.

  5. Brian

    Good luck with your recovery, Jack.

    My son once broke his collarbone while playing at recess when he was in first grade. He came home from school complaining about his shoulder hurting and we thought he was just playing it up. Only later that night when he was getting ready for bed and took his shirt off did we realize how serious the injury was. I never felt so bad for not believing him. He sure was tough to live with that pain all day.

    Oh, and by the way, I gotta call out your misspelling of unpleasantries…

  6. stingray65

    Wow – both Hagerty pieces were even more fantastic than usual, and essay above is timely and relevant to the world our current world of safe spaces, micro-aggressions, and anonymous cowardly cancellation attacks on free speech. I wish you a fast recovery and quick return to biking and Rolls testing.

  7. Widgetsltd

    The team and I raced a couple of 7-hour races two weekends ago at Chuckwalla out in the desert. While I’m not eager to repeat the experience, it’s good to know that I can run a two-hour-long driving stint in 105 degree heat.

  8. John C.

    On the Ghost, you make the comparison to the early eighties Silver Spur. Yet it is hard not to notice that silly fake star gazing, the donk wheels, and having less wood inside than my Volvo and far less hand polished wood inside than my old XJ8 or your Phaeton. As late as the Arnage/Silver Seraph it was possible to order things like white wall Avons and everflex roofs to make yours stand out from the cash flow guys up (barely) from the cesspool. Is that still possible on the Ghost? Bentley implies it is through Mulliner, though getting it past the Hugo Boss wearers I bet would be a challenge.

    • Jack Baruth Post author

      Thats a failure of photography on my part. Much of the dashboard and rear console is made from black wood with gold flakes laid into it.

  9. rich

    It’s astonishing someone could read your beautiful prose and think: “wow I need to get this guy canceled!” Really makes you despair when you think of all the tenth raters out there.

  10. Mike

    Excellent timing for this post Jack. I took my youngest with me tonight to look at a dirt bike that I ended up buying- succumbing to my own need for electric start due to an old hip injury, yes, from riding motorcycle. The seller showed me the bike and pointed out that he lowered the suspension to see if his 60-something father would be comfortable riding it. “He has had trouble finding a dirt bike because he lost his left foot.” My 7 year old said, “Wow! Did he find a bike to ride?” “Yes, he has a little dual sport now.” To which my youngest spouted the lesson I have said weekly since they showed any interest in riding anything with wheels- “It goes to show you, when you fall down, you just have to get back up again.” Nice to know the lessons we try to teach and the examples we try to lead by do leave an impression.

  11. -Nate

    Well written as always .

    When a local 35 year old Moto rider lost his left foot he simply bought an older English bike with left side rear brake and had a steel ring the same size as the tip of his left leg extension and kept on riding, usually faster and better than I .

    Accepting and meeting life’s challenges is the right way to go, it ensures you won’t have to worry about John after you’re gone .

    Eventually you’ll likely wind up like me, sleeping in a recliner but never despair ~ follow the P.T. regimen and you’ll still be out and about and riding a Moto too…… =8-) .

    I’m off to read the Hagerty articles .

  12. DR Smith

    I’ve pissed blood, pulled both hamstrings bad enough to be out of action for 3 months at a time, have had mutiple contusions, had my skull cracked open twice that I needed stiches, and have a perpetual trick back from what are two bad disks in my back but as long as the pain is contained in lower back and can be managed without mind altering drugs and does not travel down my left leg, I will avoid surgery and figure life is OK. However, no broken bones as of yet – guess I’m missing something.

    Glad you are rubbing off on your boy – you and I, and may I add the rest of the world, will need real men like your boy when we get too old to do the main fighting that is coming…

  13. Pingback: Difficult Things To Do With A Splinted Pinky – Musings from Brian J. Noggle

  14. hank chinaski

    Well damn.
    Get all that metal recovered after you’ve shuffled off. Have something fun fabricated for your posterity, like more bike parts or better yet a 1911 frame.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum from the ‘nevers’, and further off than the weekend warriors, there’s a bunch of guys with broken bodies earned in years in the mill/mine/field. I’d wonder if they hold more disdain for the latter or former. Somewhere on a tangent of that line, there’s the ‘in the wrong intersection at the wrong time’ cohort.

    Get well. Stay vertical. Shiny side up.

  15. AoLetsGo

    You might recall that I have written before about how I started MTB with my son when he was young boy. Many years ago, his riding abilities surpassed mine, but we still ride together sometimes (we live thousands of miles apart) and he will wait up for his old man occasionally.

    I also rode today. It was not the gnarliest trail, it was not my best riding, there was pain in my left knee from last weeks fall, but it was a beautiful day and a Great day to be alive and out there!

    • George Denzinger

      I spent the weekend on Michigan’s Mackinac Island with my wife and two adult daughters. The older of the two and I both share a love for the outdoors and bicycling. We rode the ring road around the island on Friday stopping to hike and take pictures. While this year has not been a banner year for my riding (but better than 2019), she can just plain out-pedal, out-bike and out-run her daddy. It’s been a while since we rode together, but I was busting a lung trying to keep up with her all weekend long. But, she also would wait for her old man.

      It’s nature’s way. It’s the way it should be.

  16. Mike

    I don’t want to go and say that kids need to be getting in fights and walking uphill in snow and 90 degree heat both ways to school…but I feel like the inevitable “softening” of society has had real ramifications. There really is a class divide, and I feel like I straddle it in my job. Yesterday I came into the office, and there were 3 other people here (2 women and a guy), all wearing masks, all doing computer tasks. All sitting far apart in different offices/ work areas. I go out to the shop, and NO ONE has a mask on, they’re all working side by side, and replacing turbochargers on big diesel engines and stuff. These guys (yes, all guys) get dirty and bruised and often cut up in their job, breath all sorts of stuff in the air and work with all sorts of greasy, nasty parts and chemicals. Lots of them go out for a smoke break. Somehow worrying about a mask and a generally non-lethal virus doesn’t really rank up there too high on their list of concerns.

    There has been a noted trend over the last 50 years of liberalization in education. Polls show the % of professors who self-identify as “conservative” has fallen from maybe 1/3 in the 50’s to under 5% now. And they’re pretty much all either economics or engineering professors. The young minds undergo 4+ years of tutelage under this monolithic philosophy, then go out into the Real World (which is still only about 40% college educated) and get shocked.

    This country was built by immigrants, and children of immigrants. People who work hard, endure hardship, take risks, and have a stake. People who own businesses…houses…property. People who do stuff. People who have families. All the numbers for all of those things are going down. More renters. More people working for big, safe corporations/ the government. More people for whom their primary activities are playing video games, watching sports, or trying out the latest brewery. More childless couples. People who have taken no risks in life and have no stake in anything. Toss in declining numbers of active religion participants, and you end up with, on the whole, a pretty disaffected group of people. So they glob on to whatever cause de jure makes them feel better (environmentalism, social justice, et cetera) and toss a few bucks every month to the SPLC and it makes them feel like they’ve made a difference.

    I could write more, but I feel like it would be rambling, and I have work to do out in the shop…

    • jers

      Well said. Avoiding responsibility is not a path to satisfaction.

      Jack, good to see you posting again. I suspect you’d find more than enough new material for a book in the further discussion of fathers and sons, and the related opportunities, joys, and mistakes of manhood.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.