I was having quite a nice time on the Tiger when it suddenly turned on me and pounced on my leg.

Okay, technically, it failed to turn due to my foolishly misplaced body weight, tipped abruptly left and pounded me into the Alta Tecate (antonym of Baja California) sand. We weren’t done riding, so I got back on just like Daddy always said to do but I was gimpin’ a bit by then. That was the night I rediscovered the almost mystically blissifying properties of ibuprofen.

Ibuprofen won’t make you woozy, but we had boxes the of beer for that, consumed around a campfire (well-kindled from genuine beer box tinder) in the company of a meal fit for gauchos. By the time I crawled into the sack, I was sufficiently fuzzed to be grateful we’d pitched our solo tents before dinner, but I woke up aching in the cold, clear night and couldn’t get back to sleep.
camping with ibuprofen
We had another 150 miles or so to ride the next day, most of it on pavement but a lot on pavement that barely deserved the name. Your venerable yet perennially untutored scribe (read: “slow learner who got old anyway”) knew just enough to realize that his gimptastic riding was not going to improve with sleep dep.

Lessee, there’s an ibuprofen in here somewheres…

Scrabbling around in the dark, I came up with my leetle frien’, a bottle of MILSPEC ibuprofen — o, sweet road candy! — the smell of which brings back more memories than the oiled rubber pong of an army supply tent, and the taste of which I’ve come to cherish like venison simmered medium-rare in a rich cabernet and truffle reduction.

Crunch, crunch, crunch.

Okay — that’s exaggerated. Delicious though venison may be, it’s no ibuprofen, man! Eight hundred milligrams later, I settled in to wait.

And wait. And think about whether I was lying or just vague when I told Pretty Wife that it was “probably a big sprain, maybe a light fracture.” I liked that turn of phrase: “light fracture.” Kind of a calorie-reduced injury, but one that was gnawing at my sleepy bone. The sleepy bone, like the funny bone, works best when left unmolested.

The stars at night were big and bright, there in the heart of SoCal, and I unzipped my tent fly to trace them across the sky for about 20 minutes and distract myself from the annoyingly earnest telegrams from my left ankle, which had engorged ambitiously and broken out in a rainbow coalition of colors unsuitable for pedestrian travel by the time I peeled off the FLY Milepost boot that had been functioning as a splint both before and after devoted scribe “fall down, go boom.”

It didn’t hurt too badly if I didn’t think about it, and I didn’t have to think about it unless I moved it, touched it or put weight on it. So I lay there, practicing a retarded form of koan by concentrating on not moving it and trying not to think about it while concentrating.

The thing about ibuprofen is that it is flat awesome at reducing inflammation, far better than amateur Zen and in fact so much so that it’s not recommended for people healing fractures or major soft tissue damage. Its efficacy reduces inflammation so dramatically that it interferes with natural healing processes. For the same reason, most serious weightlifters shy off from Vitamin I; it’s said to reduce muscle growth by eight to ten percent after a heavy workout, and they’d rather be big and sore than puny (defined as “less big”) but comfortable.

Weightlifting has never been about comfort, but I don’t push weights anymore and I had miles to go in the morning.

About 20 minutes after gulping down my government-subsidized health tablets, a cooling wave of relief swept over me like a breezy day at the beach. Hog-tired and ready for sleep, I rode that wave straight into a gratifyingly detailed and quite artistic dream starring none other than my own home sweetness. Side benefit, that. Never has happened with codeine, a pitiably non-lascivious drug.

Morning temperatures jumped quickly up out of the 40s, evaporating dew off our bike seats and tents, but the cool early temps combined with a water-and-ibuprofen breakfast to ensure that my ankle was only three times its nominal diameter, not four times, and I was able to smear a motorcycle boot over it before its petals of purple could fully blossom out under the warming sun. Wasn’t much for bending, though.

What are ya gonna do, anyway? Cry in last night’s beer, or ride today’s fine motorcycle? Life is a series of opportunities and you don’t have to take ’em all, but all motorcyclists know the track ends somewhere and I can almost make out the end of the race from here. Happily, I’m a backmarker and can take my time getting there.

On five earlier occasions I’d busted that leg somewhere between knee and foot, the first time as a teenager and thoroughly enough that they had to open the muscle fascia and plug in a drain shunt to keep the swelling from closing off circulation and causing the whole danged thing to rot off with gangrene. The second and third occasions accrued to dumb dances with Ducatis, and the fourth time it just gave way during a 6.8-mile segment of the Hood To Coast relay… on mile three. That’s when I learned that you can walk on a fractured fibula, but you sure can’t run very fast. Anyway, that’s all by way of saying that on its best day, that ankle is about twice what its “normal” size should be. It makes up for this with a string-thin Achilles tendon, and I can usually crush the whole rattling mess into a boot without much effort.
Triumphs in the graveyard
That day it only took three minutes to get my sock on, but fully 12 to get the boot installed, zipped and velcro-flapped into place. Really a pretty nice ride after that, and the new Triumph Tiger is really something on nasty little roads that would have scared me silly on a less agile bike (like, um… mine), but landing the mini-jumps along the way was costly enough that I was happy to see the hotel that night (further details on the ride and the bike in an upcoming issue of Motorcyclist, so support toilet tank literature and go buy yourself a colorful new magazine once in a while).

Home again now, I can relax on the sofa with my busted, booted ankle propped on a stack of pillows. I receive a cornucopia of kisses, snacks, coffee, Scotch, cookies and codeine and all of this is very nice, but let’s be honest — it’s ibuprofen that got me here.

Chrome don’t get you home. Ibuprofen does.


  1. Heal well and quickly, my friend, and that goes for Pretty Wife too, o voiceless she.

  2. Even in the face of adversity – our lust^^^trusty scribe manages to uh…scribe something worth reading. Thanks Jack. Glad it wasn’t me who falled down and went boom-cracka-lacka.

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