Posted by: twistsoffeet | February 11, 2011

Golf Courses, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Bicycles: Their Effect on Health and the Environment

A couple of posts ago I promised to keep this blog on subject.  It really is about riding my bicycle across America– or at least a large part of it.  I also advised that “on subject” was open to very broad interpretation, hence this post.

For the last couple of years, after escaping from the paradise of the Caribbean, I landed in west central Florida. Not planning on being here long, and with the economy the way it is, I took a job working at a country club/golf course. I rarely worked on the course.  Instead, I handle the landscaping of the country club grounds around the club house pool and tennis facility.

I have always like working out doors, tending gardens and helping plants to grow. I live near the edge of this country club, so it was easy to ride my bike or walk a little over two miles to work each direction. Honestly, I had never wanted to be around the ‘country club set’, with their noses in the air and holier than thou attitudes.  But… I needed a job and I needed health insurance, for reasons I will explain later.

In some ways, I was pleasantly surprised by the members of this club, who have all been very friendly and fair with me. Some of them even seek me out for conversation and I enjoy that.  One couple here rides their cruiser bikes everywhere within the club and race each other home after working out, because whoever gets home first gets to mow the lawn and they enjoy it.

But one reason I am so anxious to leave is the management. In two years, I have never seen a smile on the face of the owner. The General Manager, who I used to see daily and to whom I would always say,  “Good morning, Mr. GM,” would look at me like ‘how dare I utter his name (!)’ and walk off with no further acknowledgment that I existed. I find it interesting that the manager, who I’m sure makes less than 200k per year, looks down his nose at all of his employees.  (Including me) Yet the multi-millionaires and billionaires, of which I know at least one, treat me very well, know my name, and wave at me whenever they see me.  A few will even go out of their way to shake my hand.

One reason I took this job was for health insurance.  But shortly after I became eligible the club eliminated nearly any contribution on their part due to financial hardship that golf courses all across the country are facing. I ended up with such a horrible insurance plan that I could not afford to use it.

Just so I am clear, I am 100% against any type of socialized medicine, even if it makes my life difficult. Anyway, here I am, working at a golf course and getting an education. I once thought golfers were always saying that it’s good exercise, but let me tell you… for the majority of these golfers, if it is wet and they are required to keep their carts on the path, they will not golf because they have to walk more than five feet to swing at that little ball.  So, I see no one getting exercise out here.

But that is okay because they enjoy it, although I have heard more than one of them comment on the quality of their marriage and that they golf to get away from their spouses.

Now for the big kicker.  At least… it came as a surprise for me, although that was just me being naive and never giving it a thought at all.  I am absolutely stunned by the amount of chemicals they pour into the environment: pesticides nematocides, fungicides, herbicides, chemicals to slow growth or speed it up or make it grow laterally, chemicals to make it more green, or to shed water better or to heat the soil in the winter…  And all of this goes into the lakes, the ocean, rivers, and ponds out here.  Frankly, it is disgusting, but I put up with it for a job, though I do not handle chemicals.

I have rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis and psoriatic arthritis. If you have or know someone who has severe rheumatoid arthritis, then you know the suffering that this horrible crippling disease causes. Some claim environmental toxins cause it; others claim trauma, among a myriad of different causes. What I know for certain is that living and working around these pollutants can not be good for anyone. Some even claim– and there are apparently at least some indications, although far from having proof– is that these chemicals cause or contribute to Parkinson’s disease.

One of the reasons I wanted health insurance is so I would be able to treat my R.A.  My former treatments of Methotrexate actually did help to improve my quality of life in some ways, but it was incredibly hard on me to take this chemotherapy medicine. I have decided to search out alternative treatments because I can no longer subject my body to this poison.

Not many people out there understand the close relationship between Methotrexate and the chemical warfare agent mustard gas that was used extensively in WWI; and not many know that America and other countries still have vast supplies of it. Every time a person gets an infusion of Methotrexate, it is prepared by someone who is exposing themselves to this agent and is greatly increasing their possibility of developing a number of different cancers.

This is not hype; it is truth and is recognized by the Surgeon General, the AMA, and numerous other medical oversight agencies.  So… why would I want to inject myself with this poison?

Whew! I needed to get all of that crap that has been spinning around in my head out of there.  It feels good to be rid of it because none of this is me. I am not a country clubber (not that there is anything wrong with being one).  I am not a person who wants to swim around in a toxic cesspool just to earn a buck or get medical insurance, and I sure as hell do not want to inject myself with poison to increase my quality of life while at the same time greatly increasing the possibility of having a much shorter life.

But what is a person to do?

Well, exercise of any type has been shown to lessen the severity of rheumatoid arthritis, as well as providing benefits in many ways to a person’s health. For me. that means lifting weights, climbing rocks, hiking, breathing fresh air, or riding a bicycle.

Since there are no rocks to climb in Florida, and currently a gym membership is not affordable, and while the air may not be bad, I find the molds and pollens to be very hard on me.  That leaves hiking or walking, which I do, and riding a bike.

The last thing: riding a bike is really the right answer for me.  By riding my bike, I do not contribute to hydrocarbon emissions and other pollutants associated with the automobile, which, by the way I do love to drive. Riding keeps me moving and helps my R.A., as well as my general state of health.  Just as important– if not more important– it is my means of escape from this toxic chemical cauldron I throw myself into everyday, and it will allow me to get away from a business that does not respect or appreciate its employees. It is also giving me a way to get back to my beloved Colorado to see my family and friends, climb some rocks, and all with only a bare minimum of loosely associated hydrocarbon emissions.

One of the greatest benefits is that I will be doing something I have often thought about doing.  That, and I believe, many others have thought about by living this adventure. I will clear my lungs and my head, I will be able to be proud of my minimal negative impact on the environment. I also will be able to do other things I enjoy, like take photographs, meet new people and see a pretty broad swath of this country in a way that really very few people get to see it.

Seven and a half weeks before I hit the road. I still have a lot of planning and training to do, as well as obtaining the gear and getting my bike set up for the trip. Once I decide on doing something, I am very impatient and want to get it started immediately… so this next two months is going to be both exciting and frustrating.

But at least I have started pursuing this goal and I am determined to see it through.


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