Modern medicine

I have spent the past three days in a campsite just north of the Middle Of Nowhere, Cornwall. Of course, I am in reality only nine miles away from the nearest large town and only a short walk from a small town nearby, but with only one serviceable leg the distance doesn’t matter – you aren’t going anywhere. There was a hint of foreshadowing in my previous update, but I have been dealing with somewhat severe tendinitis in my right knee since (stupidly) deciding to push through it the day before making it here. One of several lessons here is that there are certain things you can push through, and certain things you really shouldn’t.

Regardless of the reason, I’m stuck here, or at least I have been for the past few days. And these days have been miserable. I sleep in a tent on the ground at night, it has been raining on and off every day, I am never warm, and on top of everything, I’ve finally come down with a cold I must have picked up on the airplane. Even worse is the feeling of utter helplessness. I want nothing more than to continue putting the miles behind me, but even my body has betrayed me. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but such are my days here.

I have subsisted primarily on a steady diet of ibuprofen and pasties bought from the nearest possible butcher shop (these are the only bright side of the whole affair.) The campsite is, in truth, one of the most beautiful campsites I have ever seen, complete with a stone hall dating back to the 1600s, a massive and very impressive garden, perfectly manicured lawns, and even a library from which I am currently posting. I wish I could upload a picture, but the upload on my wireless card seems utterly useless, so suffice it to say I expect to be attacked by a ghost at any second. It’s that kind of library.

One of the reasons it has been so long since my last update is because I had hoped to keep the rather depressing details of my convalescence to myself until I had healed up completely, but it’s becoming more and more clear that this isn’t a recovery break so much as an important juncture in the journey. Though I don’t suspect the weight of my pack was the original cause of the injury, I am pretty sure it is the one obstacle standing between myself and the ability to resume my walk (more of a hobble at this point) and to move my recovery out of the campsite and onto the road. I have realized that up to this point I’ve been carrying a variety of (mostly) unnecessary items, and if I want to continue without wasting too much time I’ll have to ditch them. As such, I have resolved to become a sleeker, more sophisticated walking machine by ditching my backpack completely, if possible, and only traveling with absolute necessities. This means I’ll only be able to update the blog from public libraries, of which there are plenty, but apart from that the impact to you, dear reader, should be minimal. In fact, you’re likely to have a good deal more to read about as a result.

To accompany my new mindset I have invested in the latest in walking technology. Take, for example, my knee brace. Obviously three days is not nearly enough time to recover from inflamed connective tissue (maybe that’s not obvious, so I’ll just say it: that’s not enough time) so I have fashioned for myself a medical breakthrough. Medically speaking, it is a device to move the insertion point of my illotibial band farther up my knee so it no longer rubs on the bone. Practically speaking, it’s an ace bandage with a sock shoved in the side. It works – more or less- and allows me to walk without pain and hopefully will give the tendon itself time to recover as I press on. The only caveat is that it really can’t support much weight so, again, I need to shed a lot.

Tomorrow I am making my last walk with a backpack, to the post office in town, and mailing it to my parents’ house east of here. We may be reunited at some point in the trip, as I move into the less populated regions of Scotland, but for now the most sensible approach is to do whatever it takes to keep going.
Until the next library, then!


14 Responses

  1. Great to hear from you, Alex. That’s my nephew…full of ingenuity and resolve. But be careful not to press on too quickly or too soon. John O’Groats isn’t going anywhere, so what’s the hurry? And yes I know about the return airline trip having been booked, but that can always be changed. Remember the turtle and the hare.

  2. Alex – I’m so glad you’ve given us an update. I have heard a pint or two helps with physical ailments such as yours. Perhaps you can give it a try – along with the ibuprofen and pasties, of course.

    Although you are disappointed in your lack of travel abilities right now, I’m sure it will be no time at all before you’re ready to move on.

    Stay safe and enjoy – –

  3. Vince!

    I’ve not taken the time to read your post, as it is quite long. Besides, blogs are so 2008, you should just tweet the whole thing!

    Actually, forget that, twitter is completely lame, I’ll just try and read it when I get back home, you long winded bastard. Also, what’s up with the whole “Name (required)” thing? Can’t it be “Name (optional)” or “Name (punishable by death)”?

  4. Furthermore, you’re moderating?! Blogs are serious business…

  5. Wait a minute! While I am impressed that you’ve fashioned a medical breakthrough to move your iliotibial off your knee, you’re an engineer, from an accredited institution and practically a tour guide for Stonehenge to boot. How about fashioning a sledge for the backpack, as the ancient Britons did to move the monoliths, and a sling around your waist to drag it behind you, while you rest your leg and take a break from the weight?

    And IF you feel you can, try some stretching exercises (after the muscles are warmed up, of course) periodically as you walk.

  6. Despite your recent setbacks, I hope you still manage to have a happy birthday! God bless you and keep you safe on your travels!

  7. Happy Birthday!!! Hmmm it’s difficult to think what you might need/want more right now. How about a donkey?
    Anyway, given that you’re intent on dropping any additional weight, the presents will have to wait until you get back.. but have a great day all the same. Hoping you’re doing a little better today and thinking about you.

  8. Happy Birthday Alex! Glad that things are looking up and that you have nice weather on this very special day. Remember the words of Ben Franklin…”Take time for all things: great haste makes great waste” as you continue on this once in a lifetime experience.

    Love you, Mum

    PS: The Wings are up 2-0 against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conf. finals

  9. Alex–My calendar tells me it’s your birthday! Happy Birthday!!! I hope you are somewhere warm and dry and perhaps celebrating in a cozy English pub. This will be one of those unforgetable birthdays you can tell your children/grandchildren about someday. Inch by inch, anything’s a cinch, so hang in there.

    Take care,

  10. Hi Alex, We want to wish you a happy birthday! This is going to be quite an adventure. But, we really wish that you would keep this up to date every day. You know what worriers we are!!!! Love you. Grandpa & Auntie Mame

  11. Hi Alex–I am one of your Mom’s tennis friends (played tennis with you last year at your house). I am just amazed (and a little jealous) by your journey. What an accomplishment and a great bar story to tell people for years! Hope the knee is doing better, good idea getting rid of the added weight of the backpack–hope it doesn’t get lost in the post :) Best of luck to you, can’t wait to read you next adventure. Cheers from northern Michigan!

  12. I just figured out I can reply to your mad ramblings!

    Seriously, you brought Trevor along for a reason, make a sled and have him haul you. You’ve got important things to document and can’t afford to be holed up in a campsite, no matter how haunted.

    • *shakes fist*

  13. I feel as though it is my duty to strongly suggest that you be careful!! :) I am worried about you!! I guess if worst comes to worst, wheeling to john o’ groats would be an accomplishment too… The you just sling your pack on the back of your wheel chair… :) Anyway, I hope you had a good birthday.. I keep hoping for an arby’s hat trick, but nothing yet… keep your fingers crossed… I’ll get you your roast beef and save it until you get home!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: