Recovery (Nov 7th – Feb 25th)

Safely back in Phoenix, several days had passed. Most of my injuries were healing, but my wrist remained painful when moved. I suspected it might be broken, and investigated my options.

I don’t have health insurance. I’ve never had health insurance that wasn’t supplied by an employer, as the costs are prohibitively expensive, and I cannot be nomadic with high recurring bills. I do have some health coverage through my bike insurance, but it has a high deductible. Overall, not the best plan unless I REALLY needed it.

Arizona has a Medicaid enrollment freeze for “childless adults”, so if you aren’t already on Medicaid, you can’t join. I called various medical centers which advertised reduced-fee care for those with low incomes, and was told that I’d need to see a financial advisor before becoming a patient. They were scheduling such appointments for February, which was useless. The hospital offered financial aid, but you had to first be denied Medicaid and go through a labyrinthine approval process. This could take months, and has no guarantee of acceptance.

Overall, I felt left out in the cold. I am a fairly healthy person, and this was the first time I’d actually needed medical care without insurance. It was a sobering experience, and a stark contrast to the health care system when I lived in Denmark.

The cost of getting an x-ray out-of-pocket would have been a few hundred dollars. Thankfully, a friend of mine had a bright idea and recommended that I visit her chiropractor. This sounded bizarre, but they had an offer for new patients: free x-rays and consultation, so I decided I had nothing to lose.

I had never been to a chiropractor before, and wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. All my life I’d thought that it was much like any other medical profession, so imagine my surprise when I arrived at a room with a poster depicting “the damaging effects of subluxations” on the “innate life force” of the brain.

Apparently this is a controversial concept among chiropractors, with many shunning it due to its metaphysical origins. There appears to be a range of viewpoints within the practice, from the pure-science aspect of aligning the spine helping to reduce stress on the surrounding tissue, to a more antiquated approach. This suggests, much like acupuncture, that one can alter the pathways of energy force by spinal manipulation alone and use it to cure other, completely unrelated diseases.

They took x-rays, both of my wrist and neck, and the wrist displayed a small fracture on the radius. The chiropractor said “Now, officially I told you to go see a doctor, because I am not licensed to give you medical advice about this. However, if it were me, I’d put that wrist in a splint and avoid moving it, and if you like, we can take more x-rays later and check up on it.” I thanked him for his help. He also suggested that my neck was misaligned, and we did a spinal adjustment.

They wanted to schedule me for dozens of appointments, every day for weeks, but I strung them out to once a week or so. My neck and upper back did feel quite relaxed afterwards, but at $40 a pop, the costs piled up quickly. I likely wouldn’t have returned much at all, but I was concerned that they would be unwilling to help me with “off-label” x-rays if I wasn’t seeing them for other services. My friend loaned me her wrist splint and I tried to use video games to feel less cooped up while I healed. My only real outings were the weekly ride across town for the adjustments, and it was great to get out of the house.

Overall I ended up spending about $200 over the course of a month. Still cheaper than even getting a single x-ray from a real doctor. After the second set of x-rays showed that my wrist was healing – and, thus, that I didn’t need something pinned – I stopped going.

I did have to change a flat tire with the broken wrist, I’d picked up a double-headed nail on the way home from one of my visits. This was a surprising challenge and the process involved holding tire spoons with my feet.

My wrist has since returned to full strength and no pain, as though I’d never broken it.

One of my wisdom teeth had been getting increasingly sensitive to hot and cold foods, so I decided to see a dentist. After calling around, I found one which offered a free exam and x-rays.

Two of the wisdom teeth on my right side were growing sideways. This would have to wait, they wanted $300 to remove them, and they weren’t bothering me. The sensitive one was, as I suspected, riddled with cavities and needed extraction.

For the princely sum of $100, they shot me full of Novocaine and yanked the sucker out. This was cheaper than what the local dental school wanted for a simple exam. Recovery was surprisingly painless, I ended up not needing the painkillers I’d been prescribed. Victory!

It was good to be around family for the holidays. I manage to visit my parents once or twice in a good year, so it was a nice change of pace to spend some quality time with them.

I also spent some quality time with their cats, Patches and Tasha. I set up a chair for Patches nearby and she kept me company most days.

Tasha is huge. At over 20 lbs, she weighs more than two cats combined.

My parents get her shaved periodically, when her fur starts developing mats. It’s difficult for her to keep herself clean because of how overweight she is, and the shaving seems to help with that. She looks ridiculous.

I also did what I could to get the bike back to pre-crash status. My first priority was the box. My father and I cut out a piece of sheet metal to match the bottom panel and riveted it all together braced on all four sides with pieces of angle aluminum.

He wanted to wrap a strip of aluminum around the outside, so the box would serve as a chair again, and to hide the jagged outer edge. We made sure it was as even as we could get it before riveting it on.

Success! It’s now even stronger than it was originally. I caulked all possible gaps and hoped that it would be waterproof.

Next up was the rack. Here’s the damage:

A closer look revealed that it was just the tabs which bent.

After some trial and error hammering the tabs flat, we managed to return it to normal. It’s still a bit off, but not enough to matter.

I also got a new tube and rear tire, as mine was getting pretty worn:

While I had it off, I noticed that my cush drive rubbers were getting a bit tired. Not wanting to wait for another shipment, I found a suggestion to shim it with inner tube rubber. Worth a shot!

It was surprising how much more responsive the throttle felt after this fix, there had been drive lashing that I had not even noticed until it was gone. Yay!

We made some other slight modifications – I got a set of tank panniers to hold my tools and hopefully add a bit of forward weight. We riveted some strips of leather to the bags and ran a loop of rope through them, to keep the bags from flapping upwards at speed. I purchased a battery terminal to SAE cable, and my dad soldered together an SAE to cigarette outlet, which we outfitted with a USB adapter. I can now charge electronics off the bike and air up my tires at will. After sanding, masking, and painting, my plastics are almost as good as they were. There’s a few lumps and bumps, but it adds character. I also got new grips, as mine were… slowly dissolving? Gross.

Oz had grown tired of the rainy Oregon winter and started saving money. A few months later, he flew to Mississippi and bought a bike from an ADVRider. He showed up in Phoenix five days later and visited me for a couple of weeks until I had everything ready to go. He wanted to travel with me.

We went for a shakedown ride to Wickenburg to test my new setup and make sure it was road-worthy. It was great to be on two wheels again. Oz was digging the cactus, he hadn’t been in the desert since he was a kid.

In Wickenburg, we had lunch at a local diner and explored the town. They had some interesting statues, like this one waiting for a train:

Everett Bowman, “All-around Champion Cowboy of the World”:

And, of course, the “Jail Tree”. “From 1863 to 1890 convicts were chained to this tree for lack of a hoosegow. Escapes were unknown.”

The bike handled the ride with no complaints, even though it had sat mostly idle for almost four months. There was no noticeable jiggling and the rack and box held up great.

The stage was set…

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