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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Getting My Back Back

It has been a long and very painful road, but thankfully the end is in sight.  Monday I had a long awaited operation on my back to correct the condition that had kept me down and out.  I'm home now with a six week recovery ahead to get back to full strength.  I have some serious restrictions on what I can do (not very much) and what I can't do (lots!).  But it is worth it all to be rid of the unbelievable debilitating pain I experienced.  I'm very grateful for modern medicine and an outstanding neurosurgeon that fixed me up.

So the Journey will have to wait a little bit longer to get its long overdue wash job, but when I can get to it, it'll be the best one it ever got.

Thanks to all my friends and readers for the encouraging comments and emails.  It sure helped me in a very dark time to know you were out there and concerned for me.  :c)

Friday, August 4, 2017

Slow Going On The Back

Rome wasn't built in a day.   It seems my quest to get my back...back is going to take just as long as the Rome build.

After trying to get help through the VA Hospital and not getting any satisfaction on the glacial pace that they work, I went on the outside to our family doctor.  That, at least, sped things up a little bit.

I'm now waiting for my appointment with a neurosurgeon my doctor recommended, and the earliest I could get is for September 13th.  My doctor put me on this track right away recognizing that my back issue is quite serious.  As for the VA, they wanted me to go to a pain clinic and a physical therapy route, never mentioning a neurosurgeon's review of my MRI.

The funny thing (NOT!) with the VA is the earliest appointments I could get if I took that route was for the last week in October.  That's a long time to be hurting.

So I'm taking it easy, I have some meds to help me along.  I still get around okay and am able to drive short distances and even continue to volunteer at the nearby USO a couple of hours a week to have something to look forward to and get out of the house.

It's very rewarding to help some of these young kids who have stepped up to begin their military career at basic training at the local Army base as well as a chance to exchange "War Stories" with some of the more senior military folks that stop in for a rest, a snack or two and a hot cup of coffee.  My fellow volunteers are a great bunch to work with and the three full time ladies that run this USO are nothing short of amazing, they put their heart and souls into it.

Sadly, the Journey still resides in the storage lot with the bugs and road grime from our California trip.  I'm hoping that once the old back is straightened out I can show it some love, it surly needs it!

I'd be remiss if I didn't remember that today is the birthday of the U.S. Coast Guard.  It sure provided me with a wonderful career and a "boatload"  of memories.

                                        Semper Paratus!  

 Image result for Coast Guard shield

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A New Wrinkle

Nope, not in the Journey, or our Element tow car.  It's me.  Again.

Many years ago during my Coast Guard days, I got injured in a rescue.  To make a long story short, I got smacked across my lower back by a pipe (actually a Jack Staff for you Navy/Coast Guard folks).  It's a campfire story.  (The rescue turned out okay).

I was a little sore for a few days and the bruising soon disappeared.  Didn't think much of it after that.

A few years later during an MRI on a fraud investigation (another campfire story) it was discovered that the pipe smack had damaged a disc in my back ( L-5).  It didn't bother me but I was told it could cause problems later on in life.

Occasionally over the following years, I'd get a minor backache and treat it with some Motrin.  It worked okay for me.

Fast forward to now, now that I'm of Old Fart status, the back started acting up about three months ago.  The Motrin was working but as the days passed, it worked less and less and I'd be taking more and more.

On our California trip, the back really started to talk to me.  I didn't let it slow me down (too much) but on the trip home my back started talking to me, yelling actually.  Now I was up to 800 mg Motrin 3-4 times a day and it wasn't working.

By the time we were visiting our friends at the NWR, my back was now screaming at me.  Time to get home and to the doctor.  The pain was getting to the excruciating level and my left leg at times tingled and went numb.

I got an appointment at the Columbia VA today and after an X-ray, there shows problems with that pesky disc that got smacked all those years ago.  Thankfully I got some more powerful meds that have helped turn down the pain.  I'm going to get an MRI in the next week or so as they have an opening.  The downside is there really isn't much that can be done to fix me short of surgery.

That new wrinkle is throwing a wrench in our remaining summer plans.  I'm not complaining, just facing up to the fact that reaching the age for a Golden Age pass can come with a few unwanted side effects.  ;c)

Anyway, we had a great trip to California, the granddaughters were so much fun to be with, the many sights we saw and things we were able to do on the way out and back were worth it all.  We did 5366 miles on the trip and the Journey did us proud, we sure are pleased with how well it ran and how comfortable it was.

The downside is I couldn't wash the Journey, I had to put it in the storage lot with all those bug casualties all over the nose.  I may have to take it to a nearby truck wash when I get a chance, I like to keep it clean and shiny.  It's the least I can do in return for all the Journey's great service it's given us.

So I'll be chilling here at our SC home base for the time being.  A good place to be.  :c)

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.  

Friday, July 7, 2017

Rolling Out In The Home Stretch

We had a good visit with our friends at Crab Orchard NWR.  Because we're on a roll towards home, we didn't tour any of the refuge.  So some of the wildlife came to our site.  In the tradition of my great wildlife photographer friends, Sherry and Nancy, I gave it my best try.

Unfortunately, my best try was somewhat lacking.  All my subjects either fled from me or gave me their best "end" view.

Finally I got close enough to one guy and he "dissed" my pathetic attempt to snap his picture.

I did get one good picture of another sight.  Thankfully this subject stayed still long enough to get a good picture.

A tribute to the many young men of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) who built many wonderful things for us to enjoy.  This is the Lodge and Restaurant where we went to have a fantastic family style dinner of fried chicken.  No pictures, unlike some people who post amazing pictures of lobster rolls, I chose to eat rather than snap a camera shutter.   :cD

This is located at the Grant City State Park.

We're overnighting at a Flying J just 280 miles from our SC home base.  As usual, with my luck, we hit a big backup several miles from our exit.

 It was really slow going, thank goodness we carry a bathroom with us in the Journey.  I swear many of the other drivers were looking longingly at us, probably regretting that last cup of coffee.  ;c)

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Taking A Day Off

After a day of rain filled driving,

we made it to Crab Orchard NWR in Illinois to stay for two nights.  We have some very dear friends, Denny and Mary, that volunteer here.  We worked with them the last several winters at Strom Thurmond COE so it's nice to take time off from the road and catch up.

Yes, that is actually trees behind the Journey instead of a Walmart or Flying J store.  :c)

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

For us it was just the opposite.  We got lost.  Really lost.  In Kansas.  Lost so bad that we were even looking for a handy tornado, just to get us out of the state. Hey, it worked for Dorothy and Toto...

It all started as a nice day of driving.  The interstate was not busy at all, probably everybody was off celebrating Independence Day.  Oh yeah, hope you had a happy Fourth.

We laughed as we passed some bikers riding down the interstate...on the shoulder.  Maybe they lost their lane?  We laughed too soon.

When we left California, we had to go over a bridge.  The bridge has a $5 per car toll.  When we drove over it, towing the Element, we got hit  a $20 toll.  Not $10, they charged us like a truck by axles.  If we had known that in advance, we'd have disconnected the car before the bridge and saved ten bucks.

With the stinging $20 toll in our minds we saw ahead that the interstate by a major city turned into a toll road.  Not gonna happen to us, we're going to take the beltway around the city and avoid paying.

Now sooner had we turned off onto the beltway we saw another sign:  Toll Ahead.  Un-uh.  Not going to happen.  We're going to turn off at the next exit and find a different way to go.

Of course, the GPS told us the next exit was 25 miles away, so we were stuck on this toll road.  After driving the whole distance to the exit, with my teeth being ground down to nubs after I realized I only had $35 cash in my wallet (debit cards are so handy) we pulled up to the toll both.

$4.75.  Wow!  We got off cheap.  Now to find our way back to the interstate.  Except the only road we were now on was going through the countryside and was going Southwest.  We needed to go East!

The road was narrow, but pretty as we drove.  And drove.  And drove.

Thankfully, there was water available so we wouldn't die of thirst if we never found our way back to the Eastbound interstate.

All the little towns we ended up transiting were empty, folks were enjoying their day.

Finally we found the interstate.  In the right direction, too.

It only took us 100 miles out of our way.  Now lets see, 100 miles, 7.5 miles to the gallon, a gallon of diesel fuel runs an average of $2.75, um I should have sucked it up and just paid the toll.

Sometimes, no matter how much I look up, I still find myself in another self induced adventure!  ;c)

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

Monday, July 3, 2017

No Drama Day

That's just the way we like it.  A simple (and safe) fill up at the RV pump at the Flying J we stayed at.  This Flying J had an IHOP restaurant, so we filled our personal "tanks" with a great breakfast before hitting the road.

Driving through eastern Colorado and western Kansas we didn't see those amazing views we saw the last couple of days.  Instead, we saw lots of flat land, some fallow, some with crops.

Not too exciting.  But one view got me very excited, something I don't see too often.

8.8 mpg!  That's something very rarely seen in our Journey.  Usually we see fuel figures averaging 7.2 to 7.5.  With the flat highway and no winds, we got the much higher figure.  Almost like free fuel.  No complaints, we'll take figures like that.  Sometimes you win!

About another 1200 miles to home base, we'll see what new things we see along the road.

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Situational Awareness

That's what I stressed when I taught my trainees in law enforcement classes.  Always be aware of your situation, don't get tunnel vision and lose track of your surroundings.

Yet today, me, of all people did exactly that, I lost track of my situational awareness.  How did that happen?  Let me 'splain.

Western Colorado is beautiful, but not too friendly to large vehicles like trucks and our Journey, towing our Honda Element.  There are many gas stations that carry gas and diesel, which we use, but aren't laid out to allow big vehicles to fit in.

After yesterday's 415 mile trek and an overnight at a Walmart, with some generator use, the fuel gauge was under 1/4 of a tank.  Normally I fuel around half a tank so I have plenty of mileage left to search out a fuel stop. Of course, this morning all there was available in the quaint little Colorado towns were gas stations with no room for a big vehicle like ours.  We looked and looked to find an accessible station no avail.  We tried exit after exit with no success until I spotted a station across the street that I could swing into, the pumps were parallel to the road instead of the pumps facing the store.

I turned left into the station and before I could get all the way in, a man came running out and stopped me.  He said I wouldn't fit under the roof over the pumps.  He was right, the roof was only 11 feet high and the Journey stands at 12'6".  I almost installed a sunroof in the Journey because I lost situational awareness, I was looking for a place to pull in and not looking up.

Now the fun started, I was half in the station with the car sticking out in the road blocking the lane.  You can't back up a towed car so the only hope was to dodge traffic while I unhooked the car and then backed the Journey out into the road which had traffic backing up.

Fortune smiles on a fool and it sure did for me.  A police officer came along and stopped traffic while I unhooked the car which Marti pulled out of the way and then he helped me back out.  Phew!

Now that I was unhooked, I was able to drive down the street to another station that I fit under and now could maneuver without the car.  After I fueled up, Marti and I moved to a large area and hooked up the car.

Lesson learned, keep track of your situation, breathe, and remember to drive the RV in three dimensions, width, length and UP!

I did figure out a new cable to replace the one I tore yesterday.  This is the cable that attaches to the plug that would stop the car if it ever came unhooked from the Journey.

I found a cable that is used by boaters to attach to an engine kill switch in case the operator falls overboard.  The cable pulls out and stops the engine.  With a little modification, cutting off the plastic part on one end and I had a new cable.  Cheap, too.

After the fueling debacle, we had a nice drive on I-70 through the Colorado mountains, passed Vail and drove along the Colorado river.  The mountains were beautiful,

and we saw many people rafting on the river.  That looks like fun, one of these days we'll have to try that.

The highway even runs through some tunnels.  The road is well engineered.

Tonight we're blacktop boondocking at a Flying J.  You can be sure we'll top off our fuel tank here before we head out in the morning.  1500 miles to go to get back to home base in South Carolina.  And I'll keep looking UP!  :c)

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Rolling East And A Change Of Plans

We pulled out of the KOA in Cedar City, Utah this morning with a different plan.  That's why we say Semper Gumby (Always Flexible).

Our daughter is working on her second Master's degree, doing it online.  However, she needs to go to Virginia (to the university she is taking the course from) for a week in person.  Because her husband often needs to travel for his job at the drop of a hat, she needs someone to be home with our grandsons.  That is something we love to do, spend time with the boys.  So we need to be back to SC by July 9.  Might take some PDD driving.

I can't complain because my back has been really bothering me.  Motrin is my friend.  It is an old injury that I was told will get worse as I get older.  That prediction is coming true, so I'll need to check in with my doctor when I get back.

With those changes, we still had a wonderful day driving through Utah on I-15 and I-70.  Lot of great scenery, just goes to show that Utah doesn't keep everything in its five National Parks.

We're stopped for the night at a Walmart in Colorado after a 415 mile drive.  Yep getting back in practice for some PDD driving.  I need to visit the hardware department, when we were pulling into a fueling station, my hitch scraped the ground.  No major damage, just the thin, coiled breakaway cable was pinched and broken in half (the cable that pulls the toad brakes on if the toad were to detach from the Journey).

I'll engineer some kind of Rube Goldberg device to take the cable's place until I can get a new one.  It's never good to have your toad pass you on the highway!  :c)

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Zion National Park

We should be very grateful to those foresighted people that preserved this amazing natural wonder for us to enjoy all these years later.

I first visited Zion National Park in 1973 while on a cross country motorcycle trip with my dad and one of my brothers.  I was blown away by the rock formations, the colors and the size of the mountains.  It is a cherished memory of mine.  One formation that stood out in my memory was called Checkerboard Mountain.  I looked forward to seeing it again.

Marti and I set out in our car this morning to tour the park.  There would be no hikes on the many trails for us because of my back acting up from an old injury from my Coast Guard days that has been getting worse.  That didn't hold us back from seeing the wonders via our car, the road through the park has many easy off, easy on pull offs.  I just wish my camera would capture the wonders exactly as seen by eye.

The park provides shuttles, or you can drive your car, we even saw many motorhomes rolling on the roads.  The entry cost is steep, $30 per car, less if you bike or walk in.  I'm lucky, we entered for free because I have a service connected disability card.  I'm glad to have it, the bad back, not so much.  ;c)

I'll let the pictures tell the story.  I waded through a couple hundred I took to pull these few out, hopefully to give the flavor of this amazing park.

There is a mile long tunnel build by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) is cut through a mountain.  Along the side of a mountain are openings to provide natural light to the tunnel.

Finally, the long awaited Checkerboard Mountain came into view, just as I remembered it.  

The one word that comes to mind visiting Zion is:  Magnificent!

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

They Lied

Oops, sorry.  In today's PC culture, they "Misspoke".   About Route 50 in Nevada as being the "Loneliest Highway".  Today's drive took us on Route 93 South which in our opinion dethroned Route 50 from the title.  The proof:

Finally, something to break up the scenery:

Why is it that certain morons have to use highway signs as targets?

Staying at a campground, especially a KOA is a little bit different for us, but it is a good jumping off location.   We're going to drive the car down to Zion National Part tomorrow, we've been told to get an early start because the parking area fills up quickly.  We'll be setting an alarm clock for the first time in a long time.

I just want to clarify what I said in yesterday's post about the mountain roads on Route 50 near Austin, NV.  The roads are completely safe to drive, just require a bit more of caution.  When you are driving a 33,000 pound 40' motorhome towing a car that weighs close to two tons, extra care is the way to drive.  At least it is for me.  Now if I was on my motorcycle, that would be a completely different viewpoint, I'd be looking for roads like that.  YMMV.   :c)

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Loneliest Highway

I've been waiting for years to check this road off on my Bucket List.  Route 50 across Nevada.  The Loneliest Highway.  Today was the day, we were up early to "pull chocks" and head out to this road.

On the way out of the KOA, we noticed a different type of RV, certainly eye catching.

After a few miles on I-80, we turned on to Route 50.  It did look a bit lonely.

I envisioned it being a long, flat road.  I was wrong.  It had all different kinds of scenery,

as well as mountain roads.  Once we got up into the mountains around the little town of Austin, we hit some of the steepest and twistiest roads we've ever been on.  I took it slow and easy, using the exhaust brake extensively as we crept carefully down the road.  Didn't want to take a trip over the edge of these roads.  No pictures, too busy being careful.  The roads are definitely imprinted in my memory.

What we didn't know was Route 50 is built on the pathway of the Pony Express and Overland Coach road.  There were many signs pointing out stagecoach stops along the way.  People that traveled in a stage coach along what must have been a very bumpy road had to have strong constitutions...and cast iron bladders!

We stopped at one area where a stagecoach/Pony Express station stood.  The foundation of the building still stands, protected by a fence.

It was a nice stop, both scenery and history to take in as we stretched our legs.

Tonight we're blacktop boondocking at a truckstop in Ely, Nevada.  331 miles down.  Tomorrow the plan is to head down to Southern Utah and take in Zion National Park.

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.