Parkinson’s and the Lesson Learned on the Bermuda Railway Trail Walk

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” Confucius

“You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.” Babe Ruth

Preface to the Story: One of our favorite vacation places is Bermuda. The small 20-something square mile island, the water, the scenes, the amicable people (~60,000 inhabitants), and the entire environment allow us to relax/renew. And it is only a 2-hour flight from North Carolina or South Carolina. My story is based on a recent walk on our first full day in Bermuda. Click here for a previous post about Bermuda (Parkinson’s and Life Lessons Learned in Bermuda).

“After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb.” Nelson Mandela

Background to the Story: The Bermuda Railway Trail National Park is an abandoned railbed track that runs from one end of the island to the other for a total distance of 18 miles. No motorized vehicles are allowed, so it is a beautiful walk, hike, or bike ride for anyone and everyone to enjoy the scenic and stunning views of the island of Bermuda. “Go To Bermuda” describes it this way, “The train, known as the “Old Rattle and Shake,” operated from 1931 to 1948, running from St. George’s Station in the east to Somerset Station in the west. In 1964, the remaining right of way was transformed into a trail for walkers and cyclists. The trail was designated as a National Park in 1986 and is maintained by the Bermuda Parks Department.” (click here for more information).

“Effort only fully releases its reward after a person refuses to quit.” Napoleon Hill

Introduction to the Story: One of my Parkinson’s-heroes is Jimmy Choi (Jimmy Choi – Fox Ninja). Jimmy recently posted a video about his tremor, Parkinson’s, and commercial flying (click here). He talked about how hard it is sometimes to be in public with Parkinson’s and the difficulty in controlling one’s tremors and occasional erratic movements. I do not travel as I used to earlier in my academic/research career when I was a frequent traveler. But yes, traveling with Parkinson’s can sometimes be a challenge, as Jimmy mentioned. Our flights from SC to NC to Bermuda were on-time and straightforward but still demanding and stressful regarding the time needed to get to the airport, etc. However, I felt good about my Parkinson’s while flying for several hours. All-was-good. Or so I thought.

“The habit of persistence is the habit of victory.” Herbert Kaufman

The Story: On the first full day, we decided to take the Railway Trail Walk and go to Gibbs Hill Lighthouse. According to my watch, the total distance was 5.9 miles (measured at the end of the walk). I felt okay before the walk, and then we started. My first cycle of carbidopa/levodopa begins around 7:00 AM and again usually 4 hours later. We started the walk at 11:00 AM, so I took my second dose of carbidopa/levodopa right as we began the hike.

The first part was very much uphill, and I immediately struggled to walk cleanly. My right foot/leg was just sluggish. Usually, following the next dose of carbidopa/levodopa, this clears up quickly, and my cadence returns to normal. But this day, my foot/leg kept on dragging. I kept saying and thinking it would get better very soon. But it did not. A few stops to rest, sit, and stretch. It was going to get better any minute now. Let’s keep going. You know that ‘on’ feeling when the newly made dopamine brings you back to normalcy. But on this day, it was not happening.

My mindset had been to keep going and try to walk better, and it reminded me of a comment by B.F. Skinner, “A failure is not always a mistake; it may simply be the best one can do under the circumstances. The real mistake is to stop trying.” So, frustrated and worried now and more than 90 min into our walk, I took another half-pill of carbidopa/levodopa sublingually. Later, finally, I felt the muscles in my legs working better, my foot stopped dragging, and I stumbled back to normalcy.

Lucky for me since there are stretches of the Railway Trail that require you to walk on the main roads (without a sidewalk or path on the side of the road). Only three main roads traverse West-East on the island: South Road, Middle Road, and Harbor/North Shore Road. Remember, this is a small island, so buses, cars, trucks, bikes, scooters, and people all share the small meandering two-lane roads on the island.

And as one might expect, they put lighthouses at the highest point on the island. Thus, at the end of our walk, our climb to Gibbs Hill Lighthouse was a dirt trail with a path and steps that seemed almost straight up.

We climbed the many steps up to the top of the lighthouse, enjoyed the view of the island, and then came back down. From there, we went down the street to enjoy a late lunch at “Henry VIII Restaurant and Bar” (the fish chowder and fish sandwich were the best!). Thankfully, the last 60-90 min of the walk was close to normal; apparently, the carbidopa/levodopa was working. However, instead of walking back, we took the bus back to the Pampano Beach Club.

“The greatest achievement is to outperform yourself.” Denis Waitley

Lesson Learned From the Story: In hindsight, I learned a lot after the walk. Jet lag and the stress of commercial flying linger and are cumulative. The first morning, I was overly tired, dehydrated, and not back to normal. Instead of tackling this relatively ambitious walk, we should have rejuvenated there, gone to the beach, slept more, and gotten reacclimated. Then go on the hike on the second day. However, on the second day, I did all those mentioned above. I even went to the golf driving range at the golf course next to Pampano (Port Royal Gold Course). And on the third day, I felt virtually back to my ‘normal’ feeling with Parkinson’s.

I made the Railway Trail Walk work because I am very stubborn. I should have just said, “I need a rain check. Can we come back tomorrow?” But no, as Katharine Hepburn once said, “It’s not what you start in life; it’s what you finish.” Yes, persistence is part of the fabric of my character traits. It would have been better to chill on the first full vacation day.

Sometimes, carrying on, just carrying on, is the superhuman achievement.” Albert Camus

Final Thoughts on the Story and Living With Parkinson’s: The life and path of Parkinson’s are not trivial. The disorder can rear its ugly self at any moment, disrupting and disturbing life in a heartbeat. Although it slowly creeps in advancement in most of us, it never stops or rests while you are on vacation. It is with you for the duration of one’s life. What we can do to live with Parkinson’s is to learn the nuances of how it attacks our body and devise a strategy to best deal with it.

I must understand that escaping to paradise means being aware of my Parkinson’s at all times. Managing better the critical things and recovering from even a small amount of jet lag is necessary; adequate sleep, appropriate hydration, and reduced stress will all add up to a day of a better life in the presence of the menace named Parkinson’s. Then one can begin the vacation. Message received. Lesson learned.

“No-one gets an iron-clad guarantee of success. Certainly, factors like opportunity, luck and timing are important. But the backbone of success is usually found in old-fashioned, basic concepts like hard work, determination, good planning and perseverance.” Mia Hamm

Cover Photo Image by Tyler Bridges from Pixabay

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