Staying comfortable in the saddle again

Section of a side view of the Rose Garden at URC showing the side exit door and some of the path

Out door – but not in right now


We are on lockdown, which currently means you can go out, but not in, through all the usual exit doors in our building.

Why? So they can control who comes into our facility, and make sure they’re wearing a mask, and pass a quick health check, and I think take their temperature. Good precautions, and control of entrances is a part of that.

They’ve added a check station by the campus’ front entrance from the street, so cars and people coming in can be queried as to whether they are essential personnel, essential visitors, or not. A patrol car with a private security guy sits there, and some of our staff are in the little covered space to deal with contractors, delivery people, etc.

No enforcement possibility is necessary – it’s all voluntary, but family members are being turned away, even if they’re bringing something, most of the time.s-l500

Maggie2 is identical to Maggie

Both are black. Unobtrusive.

Maggie waits for me to find a part and a repair person.

But I found that after two months of not riding, I’ve lost confidence in my riding ability and Maggie2’s balancing ability, so I need to go out with some excuse to ride around a bit every couple of days.

Part of it is sidewalks and paths and curb cuts and cutouts: they make look smooth to an able-bodied walker with no balance problems, but they are neither truly flat nor even remotely smooth.

Sidewalks and paths are made a square or rectangle at a time, with gaps between them. When a repair is done, or a utility opening is created, the finished product is roughly smooth (an oxymoron).

I’m not a light-weight kid with the great balance of youth

There is a lot of me, and the Maggies cope, but I sometimes wonder how much of a strain it is, and how near the actual limits I might be, especially when riding outside, with up and down slopes. I don’t go near steep gradients any more, and plan my travels with slopes in mind.

But if I haven’t been in the saddle for even a couple of days, I’m ever so slightly nervous when I hop on board, such as to go down to get the mail. When trundling down the corridors, I’m conscious when I start that I’m a little unstable.

It’s like when I haven’t spoken Spanish for a while, and my sisters rattle off on the phone, and I’m expected to just jump in and participate – and I feel so awkward reaching for a noun or wondering if they still say things in a particular way.

So tonight I went for a little planned ride

Checked the battery – 3 out of 4 dots. Good.

Took the elevator down to the first floor (elevators are wobbly because they’re on cables), and headed toward the side door (in picture). Right now the entire first floor is being painted, the furniture changed, and the carpet replaced – and is covered with a layer of plastic that crinkles as we ride along.

Use the paper towel so I don’t touch any surfaces directly, from the elevator buttons to the door opening buttons first into the stairwell, and then out into the side Rose Garden.

Grit teeth – tell myself it isn’t that big of a slope out. It isn’t.

Say hello to other Resident who chooses this moment to come out with a large dog and a frisbee – and ask that they both be mindful of where I am, as I don’t want to be knocked down or startled off my perch by a vigorous dog which is aching to get some running and jumping and catching in.

Go down the path – and run into a moving van which has barely left enough room for Maggie and me to go down the sidewalk.

In through the front lobby – and check that I can get out of the building near the Skilled Nursing section. They say yes. But when I get down there, I find that the door opener doesn’t work after 5pm, but I can get out if I push the door. Push, hoping no alarms will go off.

Then around the north end of the building, in and out of the patio area, and back to the front entrance – all the while up and down slopes, on and off of sidewalks, around sharp corners (keeping the two of us in the center of the walk), around patio furniture piled willy-nilly, smelling some lovely roses, and up and down several curb cuts.

On our way back now

Check in, chat a moment, tell them the door doesn’t open automatically after 5pm., but you can still get out (front desk seems knowledgeable all the time, but the details sometimes escape them).

Chat with a few of the servers, both of us masked – we miss our dining room staff like crazy. One is excited they are moving toward reopening some of the dining venues. I tell him we are not: no cure, no treatment, no increased hospital capacity, no vaccine – and exhausted medical personnel. We’ll probably stay in much longer than strictly necessary.

Pick up the mail. Chat with another Resident (I have to keep backing up). She’s hoping the path from hospital (starting in December, not covid-19 related) to Skilled Nursing and now to Assisted Living is only temporary, and that she’ll be able to go back to her Independent Living unit. I tell her I hope so, and want to know – I will be resisting the Assisted Living part in a similar situation unless I’m sure it’s reversible if I can handle it.

Zoom up the corridors, reverse the elevator ride – and husband say: “That was a short ride!”


Put mail away, put everything back in its place, being very conscious of what might have touched a surface outside the apartment, stabling Maggie2, and washing hands twice, thoroughly, during the process.

And we’re home!

I regained my comfort, mostly, with riding. I’m glad I included time outside and with challenges – they were a bit scary and got better on the circuit. Other people commented on how smoothly we move – and I didn’t disavow the prowess.

But I know.

And that’s all the excitement of the quarantine/isolation at the CCRC today. Absorbing, eh? And reset the brain by seeing other humans (I haven’t been out much otherwise), and talking to them.

Until next time.

Tomorrow is trike ride day.

These things seem and are trivial, but they’re also important to do for psychological welfare, especially since we’re going to be at this a long time.

Stay well.

Writing persists, though right now it seems to be taking me 5-6 hours to get that brain to come on every day. I am well into becoming Andrew to write the next scene, after days of gathering.

That’s all I ask for.

Hope everyone out there is staying safe. Or recovering. I know some are not, and still have trouble some days believing the whole disaster.

“Another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.” Yup. Part of the week’s research included watching that used in a whole bunch of their movies. And yes, that quote is accurate. Memory is funny.



10 thoughts on “Staying comfortable in the saddle again

  1. Jeanne

    I’m glad you’re getting out. I have also been forcing myself out, although we’ve had weeks of rain. Sometimes I only walk to the mailbox and back, but I need to keep walking and it’s so nice to breathe fresh air.


    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      It’s as if going out resets something: we’re okay again for a while – and then the tension starts building. Today is trike day. I have to check the weather (no rain, up to 82° by 3pm), and decide how to fit the writing and the riding into the physical and mental spaces that creates.

      I’ve been struggling with exactly how to take everything I have noted, and turn it into how a character responds to some extraordinary (really big changes) events that just happened – and which change the future. He’s having trouble dealing – which means that I, writing right behind the eyeballs, both am in trouble, too, and need to get it exactly right.

      I think I’ll do the trike first, before it gets hotter, then take a nap, then just buckle down and live through it with him.


  2. joey

    Look! See Alicia zoom? See Maggie zoom?
    It’s a bit of hassle for some fun, but I can’t say I wouldn’t do it 🙂 Saddle was a GREAT title quip!


  3. marianallen

    I would be up the creek, if I needed to rely on a Maggie. No ramp out of the house, and a gravel road from the house to the mailbox. I loved taking your journey with you. I especially liked smelling the roses, since rose is one of the scents I can barely smell. Sandalwood is another.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      You don’t realize how inaccessible your house is until you realize you’re crawling up the stairs. Things to think about – preferably before you need them.

      My problem is that the ME/CFS predates the spinal problems by many years, so I’ve been trying to function with a damaged brain for a very long time – and it makes planning properly a nightmare. When you’re exhausted, and there are days you can’t make yourself brush your teeth before bed, thinking ahead doesn’t much happen.

      You adjust, and do the best you can, and don’t let the world see you whining, but it IS hard to get the necessities in.

      Takes a lot longer to do anything, which is why I’m so glad we managed to move here before the pandemic hit. We’re socially isolated here – but we would have been much more back in a single-family home in New Jersey.

      And I’m writing – I think I would have had trouble doing that back in NJ. So illness made me make the decision to something I tell other people: move before you have to, and while you are still functional enough to make good choices for yourself.

      Or other people will have to do it for you, and it will rarely be exactly what you want or need, and will often happen in crisis mode.

      Like I probably would have, if I’d been healthy!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      There is a tendency in lockdown not to want to venture past the safe door of our apartment.

      This is opposite the tendency to need to get the heck out of Dodge at least occasionally.

      Balance is tricky, but I will make it a conscious aim to ride Maggie2 several times a week, even if I just go get the mail and go outside the building for a bit.

      It’s going to be a long time for some of us – those who think they will survive even if they get the virus and will then be immune are very cavalier with those of us who, if we got it, might die, will definitely be very sick, and will take a long time to recover if we do.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. acflory

    Glad to see you’re back in the saddle, so to speak. Habits that are bad for us seem to be impossible to break, yet the ones that do us good can slip so easily. I try to keep my physical fitness up by walking down to the back of the ‘yard’ and back up again. Doesn’t sound like much until you know that it’s an acre and a half and the back is really steep. Going down is fine. Coming back up tells me in no uncertain terms that I’m not as fit as I used to be.
    I hope we both persevere!
    Stay well. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      The big problem is that people with ME/CFS recover very badly from exercise – it’s one of the hallmarks of the disease because our cells don’t make energy normally. So I have to balance getting a bit of exercise with not wiping myself out for days. Very tedious.

      I could probably do a bit more – and have to rest to compensate – but I hate the soggy feeling, and it completely blocks writing.

      So we negotiate, body and mind and I, and reach accommodation which pleases none of us.

      But even sitting on Maggie requires more energy than I remembered, and there were muscles which hurt – more than expected.

      Such is life – the evening was beautiful and warm and not humid and full of flowers.

      Liked by 2 people


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