2016 Summer Journal #BusLife

Dealing with an injury on the bus + Ankle Update

So far this has been a tough post to write. I’ve been out with an ankle injury for almost three weeks now, since April 12. Since then I’ve sat down to write this post several times and ended up avoiding it – no matter how many outlines I scribbled, I just couldn’t get the words on the page.

How I spent most of my first week with the sprain.

How I spent most of my first week with the sprain.

Today is a different day, for a very good reason: I’ve finally been cleared to get back out on the trail! Last week I got out for a few short bike rides and yesterday I was able to go for a fantastic mini trail run. I think that knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel makes it easier to put these thoughts down on paper without feeling like I’m throwing myself a big ‘ol pity party.

SO. Let’s get down to it. Dealing with an injury is no picnic, period, I know lots of you understand. However, I think it’s even worse on the bus. The focus of our bus journey is to travel from place to place, finding the best mountain biking and trail running in the American West. This means that our daily routine is pretty simple:

  • get up early
  • go for a morning run
  • work for a few hours
  • go for a bike ride, hike, explore outside
  • go to bed tired

We aren’t able to watch a lot (or any) TV, we don’t have any volunteer commitments, we don’t have any old friends to pass the time with… lots of the stuff that takes up time in “regular life” just doesn’t apply while you’re traveling. Normally that’s ok: we have so much fun playing outside that we just don’t need all that other stuff to kill time. With an injury, that daily routine looks more like this:

  • get up early
  • go for a morning run
  • work for a bit
  • go for a bike ride, hike, explore outside
  • go to bed tired lay in bed trying to fall asleep for several hours

All of the items on that list take place inside my 208 sq ft bus. “Cabin fever” is a very nice way to describe the feeling I had, but it did not do nice things to my attitude and personality. There’s only so much reading you can do before you want to binge on Netflix or HGTV rerun marathons, and that just isn’t an option on the bus.

Worse than being stuck in the bus all day is the torture of being surrounded by the very activities I’m missing. Every day we wake up in a beautiful campsite, and drive to a popular trailhead. Will and Hilde head out for their multiple runs, bikes, hikes, while I stayed in, watching carloads of recreationalists pile out to enjoy their days in the desert. I’m so happy that they’re able to get out and enjoy… but I want to bike/hike/run too, dammit!

I had a lot of “why meeeeeeeeeee” emotions during the first two weeks, interspersed with a good amount of bitterness that Will and Hilde were getting out on the trail without me. Will is a saint – throughout the entire process he did his best to make me feel loved and supported even though my behavior more closely resembled a trapped coyote than a logical human being. I know that it wasn’t easy to put up with me, and I love him all the more for making the best of it.

Ok, that’s enough whining. It’s been a rough few weeks, but I’m through the worst of it and am so excited to get back out on the trail.

When my physical therapist gave me the green light to hit the trails again he emphasized how important it is to take things slowly, making sure that I’m not ramping up too fast. My first run yesterday was really a walk/run combo, just half an hour, and I only covered 1.6 miles.

The bus in the parking lot for "Hell's Revenge"


Will spent the day on the Porcupine Rim, a 29 mile mountain bike extravaganza, so I decided to do my mini run from the parking lot. I started off on a OHV (off highway vehicle) trail called Hell’s Revenge. I think they named it Hell’s Revenge to make the tourists think it was pretty gnarly (and maybe it was, I don’t know) but for running, it was pretty tame – there weren’t many rocks, and the sand was nice and soft. In order to keep those pesky OHVs on the trail rather than roaming all over the desert, someone had fenced this particular trail in pretty tightly. I didn’t like feeling like I was running on a go kart track, so Hilde and I ducked out onto another trail pretty quickly.

Our side trail traveled up to the top of the ridge (Dr Wes – if you’re reading this – it was super tame; gently sloped and not off camber at all. Ankle felt great!) and gave us some great views of the city and “America’s Second Most Scenic Landfill” (their words, not mine!) I stopped for a few minutes to do my rehab exercises, and then continued on to make a little loop out of it.

Looking over the city of Moab (America's second most scenic landfill is directly behind us)

Looking over the city of Moab (America’s second most scenic landfill is directly behind us)

As far as runs go, it was pretty uneventful. I wasn’t particularly fast and I certainly didn’t go very far, but I was running, and that’s all that mattered. I think it’s easy to get caught up in needing to make every day harder than the last, constantly pushing for more and more epic adventures. This run was a great reminder to slow down and appreciate the little things in life, like this blooming cactus we saw on our way back to the car.

Cactus only bloom for a short time, so I felt really lucky to come across this beauty covered in flowers.

Cactus only bloom for a short time, so I felt really lucky to come across this beauty covered in flowers.

Have you ever been sidelined from something you love by an ill-timed injury?
I want to hear your stories!

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  • Oof, I finally just got over a sprained ankle from back in October 2015 so I can definitely sympathize. But I can’t even imagine trying to recover without a few good Netflix binges to keep my mind off the fact that I *couldn’t* work out, even if I wanted to. Compound that with all of the cool activities surrounding you…you are a strong, strong person! And props to you for not trying to get back out too early and setting your healing back! I don’t know many who could exercise such force of will! Hope your return to the trails is pain-free and you’re able to make up for all the time you missed!

    • Dang girl, that must have been some sprain! You’re giving me way too much credit… I haven’t been that good. Will is the one who deserves the credit, he’s the only reason I’ve stayed sane!

  • Laura Gawlinski

    Crap happens! I’m so happy to hear you’re getting back on the trails. Go slow Girl – you’ll come back stronger.
    I’ve been following your adventures for a little while now and love to live your adventures, albeit vicariously through your journal entries.
    I am planning my own adventure since my son will be going off to college. Once he is established and comfortable in his new life, it will be time for me to venture out!
    I would like to hear how you handle safety and security for the bus and yourselves. I’ll be traveling alone (mostly) in something smaller like a Class B van so I can go off-road/grid and then venture into cities for museums. Any tips and advice would be very welcome.
    Thanks so much – you are an inspiration.
    Laura in Massachusetts

    • Hey Laura – good for you! I’m definitely guilty of thinking we need to fit all of this travel in now, before we “settle down”, but the amount of retired people we meet on the road shows that there’s no expiration on adventure!! You’re in luck, we have a post about safety & security queued up for tomorrow!

      Thank you for your kind words and encouragement. Happy trails!

      • Laura Gawlinski

        I look forward to your post.