Pain in the Neck

The alarm goes off at 5:30AM even though it’s Sunday morning–I have to remind myself we’re going hang gliding.  I get out of bed feeling stiff and sore.  My right shoulder and the right side of my neck are especially sore.  I move my head gently trying to loosen things up.  Then, I get the coffee brewing and start on my morning routine.

When I lean over the sink to wash my face, the entire right side of my neck goes into muscle spasms.  I can barely hold my head up long enough to rinse the soap off my face.  My shoulder is likewise screaming–stabbing pain shoots down my right arm.  I reach up with my hands and hold the weight of my head in them.  Carrying my head, I walk into the living room and, as carefully as possible, lay down on the floor.  With the weight of my head supported, the pain lessens.  Instead of feeling like someone is stabbing me in the neck with a slightly dull knife, I feel like the stabbing has stopped and now I’m just in pain.  I lay there and think, “Oh. I am not going hang gliding today.”  Apparently I paddled my kayak unevenly yesterday.

I manage to get up off the floor after about 10 minutes, get a cup of coffee and move to my office chair where I can prop my head on the headrest.  This feels good, although I’m still very ouchy–I try not to move my head in any direction that offsets the weight of my head from directly over my neck.  I drink my coffee with my left hand so as to prevent using my right shoulder by accident.

Turns out my eye-hand coordination is even worse with my left hand and I dump hot coffee down my chin, onto my shirt and into my lap.  I’m in too much pain to worry about it.  Since I’m wearing dark fleece, I figure the stains won’t show much.  I wipe my chin off with the back of my hand and keep sipping coffee.

Pat gets up and I explain to him what’s going on.  I decide I will get ready to go just in case by some miracle my neck rights itself by the time we get there.  If it doesn’t, I will drive the Kubota and tow hang gliders.  If it does, I will fly.

The hardest part is putting on shirts over my head.  But, I need multiple layers to stay warm driving the Kubota, so I suffer through.  I pull on my down jacket before pulling on my rain jacket.  My rain jacket is still stained from the mud I drug myself through last Sunday.  I make a mental note to wash it when we get back.

The drive to the training hills is so uncomfortable I worry that I won’t even be able to drive the Kubota.  But, given that there won’t be any traffic passing me, I won’t have to worry about looking over my shoulder before changing lanes, so I think I might be OK.

It’s still in the 20’s when we get there.  The sun is rising, but the almost full moon hasn’t set yet.  I attempt to take a picture of the moon hanging just above the horizon over the small hill.  I have only my iPhone and I use a camera app with zoom.  Unfortunately, I guess I don’t know how to save the picture from this app because it disappears on me.

I help Pat assemble his glider by reading the directions to him so he doesn’t have to put his reading glasses on.  I don’t even attempt to bend over to do any actual assembling.  So far, as long as I turn my whole body when  I want to look at something, I’m doing OK.

When the first pilot is ready, which turns out to be Pat, I pull up the Kubota and let him load his glider.  When we get to the top of the hill, I hold the nose while he gets down and picks the glider up instead of taking the glider off the trailer myself.  I won’t be carrying any gliders today; that much is for sure.

I make several more runs back and forth picking up 5 more gliders and students.  By the time I’m done, there are already 3 students at the bottom of the hill waiting for a ride back up to the top.  One has given up and is walking his glider up.  I circle around and start picking up students and gliders and driving them back up top.  With 6 flying and a 7th on his way, I can’t seem to keep up.

By the time the 7th student looks ready, I need to use the facilities.  I hand the Kubota over to Pat to drive while I walk down to check on the last student and use the outhouse.  With everyone off on the hills, I opt for the woods over the outhouse–much more pleasant.  Then, I get on the four wheeler to tow the last student out to the hill.

I’ve never driven a four wheeler before.  The angle is bad for my neck, but not so bad that I’m not going to drive it.  The shifter is like a motorcycle–down at my left foot.  The other student keeps telling me to raise it up to put it in gear.  I keep telling him I can’t find the clutch, but he can’t hear me.  What should be the clutch doesn’t squeeze like one.  I finally turn around so he can hear me and he informs me that there is no clutch.  I’m a little confused as to why it has a shifter like that with no clutch, but sure enough it works.  The accelerator, however, is like a waverunner–a tiny little lever that you push with your thumb.  When I push it, I have trouble accelerating gently and I jerk the trailer hard.  I’m sure that student number 7 is wishing he had just driven himself up by now.

As the wind starts to pick up, there is a pause in the flights.  I actually get ahead on picking up students.  I make it to the bottom of the hill and sit well out of range so I can watch Pat’s next flight.  Pat is now learning to land on his feet.  I’ve only gotten to see one of his flights so far today, I’ve been so busy driving.  I watch him soar off the hill, speed up, slow down, and then flare.  He still has too much airspeed when he flares and he balloons up a bit too much, then drops the nose (which you’re never supposed to do) and, remembering, quickly brings it up again.  In the end, he lands on his knees instead of his feet, but not hard enough that he gets hurt.

When I pick him up, he’s disappointed that I saw his crappy landing instead of one of his good ones.  I’m disappointed that I couldn’t get my iPhone out in time to get a video. He’s happy I didn’t.

At the end of the morning, I’m actually tired from driving the Kubota.  But, what I notice is that my neck and shoulder feel considerably better.  Instead of laying around feeling sorry for myself, the activity not only kept me distracted from the pain, but it seems to have loosened up some of the tight muscles.  I still can’t turn my head far enough that it would be safe for me to drive on the highway, but I’m glad that I came out.