Not Meant To Be

So, this morning, I planned on heading into Clearwater Beach and getting some pictures of it.  The temperatures were low, around 50 when I was first heading out, perfect for leaving the beach with less beach combers.  As I unlocked Red Rover, a small black dog, looking like part Shih zu or Brussels Griffon with a severe underbite, came running up to me.  He had no collar and looked like he had been out for a day or two but not terribly messed up.  He, well, we’ll call it a bark, barked a bit at me.  I took his picture and sent it to my sister-in-law, but she didn’t know if he belonged to anyone in her neighborhood.  So, I called up animal control.  As I was talking to the lady, the dog jumped into Rover and settled down in the passenger seat.  So, instead of heading out to the beach, I took the little cutie to animal control, who didn’t find a chip, but promised to look for his owner.

Okay, so I head back to the house to shower and change (because he could have had fleas, even if I couldn’t see them), throwing my original clothes in the washer, before once again heading out towards the beach again.

As I began to get close to the overpass, a fire truck and ambulance went flying by me.  But I continued on, figuring they could be headed anywhere in Clearwater.  Then another couple fire trucks and other police and fire cars went flying by.  Soon, I’m stuck in a line of cars are more fire and law enforcement fly up the opposite side of the street.  Twenty minutes later, I realized that there was no way to get to the beach.  The main street was completely closed down.  I turned around (and around and around) and headed home.

Obviously, I wasn’t meant to go to the beach today.

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On Pause

A few weeks ago I wrote about Mom going into the hospital and our positive views on her getting out.  While she did get out, her heart just wasn’t strong enough and she left this plane of existence to join my Dad in the next.  She will be extremely missed by my family and her friends near and far.

That being said, what does this mean for me?  Well, I’ll be focusing on getting everything settled and pretty much stationary in the Clearwater, FL area.  Perhaps there will be a trek or two around the Pinellas County area, but for now, it will probably be quiet for the next week or two.  Please keep your email notices on and hopefully I’ll have something coming down the pike in a bit.  Thank you for all your thoughts and well wishes during this time.

 

Shiloh

Our Medical Saga cont.

So, how did we end up sitting in a hospital outside Orlando for over 2 weeks?  Well, after leaving Crystal River, Florida, we headed inland towards Ocoee, a suburb of Orlando, to stay in a boat house on Starke Lake for the holidays.  Set up like a studio apartment, the view was stunning, right on the water.  We spent Christmas watching bits of the fireworks from Walt Disney World and just relaxing.  It wasn’t until we closed in on New Year that things took a turn.

The evening of the 28th, we had done some grocery shopping and had pre-made items from the local Publix.  Mom suddenly became sick, but we looked up the symptoms and found food poisoning.  We went with that hypothesis because by morning, Mom was feeling a bit better, but not perfect.  In the middle of the night, though, things turned again.  She was having trouble breathing and feeling anxious and some chest tightness.  She’d fall asleep sitting up but then wake up an hour or so later unable to breathe.  Finally, we called 911.

They had to off-road to get to the boat house, but they got Mom out and on to a stretcher, then loaded her into the ambulance.  Then, I hopped in Red Rover to follow.  There were a few moments of panic because they turned on the sirens and lights and blew through a light.  Since the Kia Soul does not come with such a light and sound package, I had to wait at the light until it turned. Luckily, I was able to use the GPS to find my way.

No one seemed especially worried when I got in, but about half an hour in, a young ER doctor popped in, casually announced Mom was in the middle of a heart attack and that they were taking her up to the heart cath lab to get checked out.  He made it sound almost routine.  So, I was escorted up to the waiting area and told someone would be out to talk to me once they were done.

Two hours later and several paniced text between my brothers and myself,  the cardiologist came out and informed me it was a significant heart attack and laid out exactly what happened.  She had one artery that was completely unusable.  A second was blocked at 70% and they blew the clot out.  The third artery they had to put a stent in.  Because of the blown out clot, they inserted a balloon pump to act as a way to keep the clot from settling somewhere else.  It was a temporary measure and only in for a little over a day.

Because of the damage the heart had sustained from the attack, some of her other organs got into disarray and began acting up.  Fluid started filling her lungs.  Her kidneys didn’t want to do their job.  Even her liver seemed to be throwing a minor temper tantrum.  The heart was fixed, but then all these other issues kept popping up, making her recovery time longer.

So, at the end of the day, we’re still waiting on her release from the hospital, but she has heart failure and will have to wear an external defibrillator, of which I am familiar as I wore one after my own heart failure hospital stay.  She’ll also have to have some physical therapy and our diet is going to take a big change.  More ‘home cooked’ food, less pre-processed.  Moderating our sugar and salt intake will also be on the agenda.  We’re still hopeful that her health will improve enough to travel again.  She’s a strong woman and I have full faith in her full recovery.

So, we might not be posting as often and it will likely focus on Florida for the next while, but we’re still planning on getting out and seeing things.  Hey, Florida is a big state and there’s more to see in Central Florida than just Disney and Universal.  So our adventures will be slightly closer to home for now.

Why We’ve Been Quiet Lately

Some of you may have wondered why we haven’t posted since our stay in Crystal River last month.  Part of it was due to the holidays. Being home with family can take up quite a bit of time.  But, for the most part, we’ve been quiet because Mom suffered a heart attack on December 30th.

Which brings us to our topic of this particular post, what happens when you have a medical emergency while traveling.  We can’t speak to traveling in a foreign country, only here in the US for US citizens.  For that, I would suggest to check with that country before traveling.

Before you travel, check to see that your health insurance will travel with you.  If you have an HMO, contact your insurance provider to see what their policy is if you get sick when out of your home area.  If you’re the proud owner of a PPO, you’re pretty safe, though you’ll be paying more out of pocket than you would back home.

Find out where the nearest medical facility is.  Even if it is just a ‘doc-in-a-box’, aka Urgent Care Clinic, know where it is and how to get there.  It is better to be over-prepared in a medical emergency situation than under prepared.

Make sure your wishes are known.  Even if it is just a card in your wallet, have something prepared that let’s the medical personnel know if you want to be resuscitated or intubated or who your medical proxy might be.  If you have a traveling companion, make sure they know what your wishes would be in this instance as well.  There were some times when I had to be called on to make decisions for Mom while she was not able to make them on her own.

Trust local medical professionals.  When the ambulance came to get Mom from the AirBnB we were staying in, they asked where she wanted to be taken.  She asked for the best one and they made the decision based on their experiences.  And I can honestly admit that she has had the best care.

No matter what, you can’t plan for everything.  There are just too many variables that could take all your careful plans and flush them down the toilet.

More to come tomorrow.

The Floridians’ Blizzard

One of the problems of planning as far in advance as we do is that Mother Nature doesn’t give a flying squirrel about our planning.  This was demonstrated to us very visibly this morning when we arose in El Paso.

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Our poor Floridian car was wearing a white blanket of snow.

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Last time I saw snow accumulation, we lived in Virginia Beach.  That would have been the winter of 2002.  So, 15 years since snow.  I’m not counting the time Walt Disney World set up a temporary attraction after Frozen came out and they made ‘snow’ for kids to play in.  This was actual snow.

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Our plans for tomorrow were to head North to Roswell, NM for a couple days.  But there was no way we were going to head north after seeing this.  So, we contacted our host and have made arrangements to stay in El Paso for 2 more nights.

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Why, you ask?  Because it is supposed to drop well below freezing tonight and we don’t want to take a chance of black ice or any other weather conditions.  That’s the thing about living this road tripping lifestyle.  You have to be able to be flexible when it comes to traveling.  We did it when hurricanes were battering the Gulf coast.  So, this time we’ll work around a different kind of weather pattern.  Still, we’re working our way back to Florida and its lack of snow.

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We realize that to those who live in more northern climates this sounds really wimpy. But after living in Florida for 15 years, our blood is thin and our snow driving capacity is nil. So, we accept our wimpiness and will get to enjoy El Paso for a couple more days.

Why We Travel

People have asked if we have a reason behind our travels.  Normally we just call it an ultimate bucket list trip, but there’s a bit more behind it.

Growing up, my parents made sure we went ‘somewhere’ during our summer breaks.  Even if it was just a drive up to the Shenandoah Parkway or a trip to Virginia Beach, they made certain we didn’t just sit in Richmond (Virginia) all the time.  I think it is in our genes, as Mom lived in Minnesota most of her life, then moved to California with her parents, then Oregon then after my older brother and I were born, moved once again to Virginia.  Dad went even farther, being from Los Angeles, but living all over the place after he got out of the Army, before settling in Virginia.  And having done our family tree, the rest of our ancestors were travelers too.  When we were all adults, my folks moved to Florida, so we followed them.  For some of us, Florida felt like home.  Others moved back to Virginia.

During the last 15 or so years, medical problems began to pop up.  I got breast cancer for the first time the year before we moved to Florida.  Finished treatment with Mom and Dad by my side the entire time, then Mom and Dad went back to traveling, including a 80 day cruise around Europe and RVing around the country.  Then, after several years in Florida, Dad got diagnosed with a rare auto-immune disease.  Fast forward a few months and he and I were back in the hospital, him for complications from the auto-immune disease, me with breast cancer again.  We both got better, though Dad continued his fight with his chronic disease.  Then, in August of 2015, we lost my dad.  This hit Mom hard.

Six months later (April 2016), I was back in the hospital.  Come to find out, all those treatments for breast cancer did a number on my heart.  I now have congestive heart failure along with a few other issues.  But, after 3 months of treatment, we got my heart back up to the low end of normal and my cardiologist said I was good to travel.  This is when we did our prequel trip.  We figured out we really enjoyed traveling together.  Oh, sure we have our spats.  I mean, you’re traveling with someone who knows you better than any one else.  And I don’t care how old you are, if your Mom uses your middle name, you know you’re in trouble, whether you’re 4 or 41.

Mom is getting up in age, close to the age when her mother passed.  Of course, sometimes she’s able to do more than I can, so I can’t see the aging affecting her.  Sure, she can’t drive due to some vision issues and if we were ever pulled over and she was asked to walk a straight line, she’d be hauled off to the drunk tank even if she were stone cold sober, but she’s the driving force behind our travels.  She also is keeping me out of working in some office where every day would be pushing me closer and closer to the end of my physical abilities at a break-neck speed.

We poke and tease each other (yes, I do still yell out ‘DINNER’ when we drive by broken tire pieces on the side of the road while she still uses the dreaded middle name) and basically drive each other crazy, but there isn’t anything or anywhere else I’d want to be.  So, we will pack up Red Rover once again and hit the road while we still can.  Because life is too short not to travel.  Or, to quote that sage philosopher Jimmy Buffet, “I’d rather die while I’m living, than live while I’m dead”.

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The Long Road Home

So, once again, we have packed up Red Rover and hit the road.  This time, we’re taking the next 3 weeks to make our way back to Florida to celebrate Christmas and New Years with my younger brother and his family.

After leaving Las Vegas, we stopped last night in Kingman, AZ and stayed in a hotel on Route 66.  Then, it was time to drive to Tuscon, AZ, where we’re spending the next 4 nights.

Obviously, Mom didn’t get her usual 8+ hours of sleep.  How do I know this?  As we were driving along Hwy 93, we were commenting on the scenery (desert and cactus) when she suddenly yelled out “DINNER!,” and pointed at the road.  There was a huge chunk of semi truck tire in the middle of our lane.  Neither one of us is certain why she yelled “DINNER” at the top of her lungs when seeing a tire in the road.  She claims she was tired.  I’ll go along with it (though I did take time during our drive to point to pieces of tire on the side of the road and yell DINNER).

If that doesn’t read as a sign that we need to get back on the road (Mom mistaking road garbage as a meal), then I don’t know what would.

 

DINNER!

Thanksgiving

Here in the US, yesterday was Thanksgiving.  A celebration of the first ‘Thanksgiving’, when the Native Americans helped the Pilgrims with their first harvest in 1621.  It didn’t become a federal holiday until during the Civil War, when Abraham Lincoln signed it into effect for the 4th Thursday in November in 1863.  For many, it is a time to gather with your family and friends and celebrate all that you have to be thankful for (before trying to be the first in the door at whichever shopping venue you chose for Black Friday shopping).

There are many things that I’m thankful for.  I’m thankful to be able to take this epic journey with my mother.  I’m thankful for having a (changable) roof over my head and food to eat.  I’m thankful for my family, even though we’re all spread out across this country.  I’m thankful for all the adventures Mom and I have been able to experience and (health willing) will continue to experience on this trip.

We’re thankful for all the wonderful friends we have made along the way.  We’ve made some great new friends, notably Chris and Anita in West Virginia, and Todd and Beth in New Mexico, and look forward to making more.  We’re both thankful for everyone who reads this blog and travels along with us this way.

We’re thankful for open roads and people who open their homes and share their experiences with us and help us find new wonders to enjoy.

Thank you!

Getting Disconnected

One thing I have learned since being on the road is that everyone has a different definition of good wi-fi.  And most of them don’t jibe with my definition.  There have been a few location out in the middle of the woods when I can log on and work online for hours.  And others, in the middle of a city, where I wonder if I’m supposed to make a sacrifice to the wi-fi gods for just an hour of connection.

It is understandable that locations like the Grand Canyon or in a National Forest would have less than desirable wi-fi.  I mean, it isn’t like someone can build any antennas in the middle of protected land.  But if you are in a location surrounded by electrical wires and cell towers, then your wi-fi should be solid, right?

Nope.

In a day and age where almost everyone is attached to each other via electronics, it makes me wonder how any place could say they have great wi-fi and it dies every 2 minutes.  Mom suggests that I should put on a tin foil hat and stand outside, hanging over the railing, with my computer in an attempt to strengthen the signal.  There may or may not have been a rude gesture included in my reply.  Besides, they are currently under a wind advisory here, with the steady wind blowing at a mere 20 mph.  I have a feeling the hat wouldn’t stay on.

So, long story not made in the least bit short, if you don’t hear from us for the next few days, blame the wi-fi gods, who didn’t tell me specifically what I was supposed to sacrifice to appease their fickle hearts to grant me the presence of wi-fi in my life.

Flexibility is Key

When traveling, you can plan as much as you like, but there is always one thing that you can’t plan.  What Mother Nature might throw at you.  That is why flexibility is key.

Take Mom and I, for example.  We’ve had our travel plans in place for weeks, if not months, for this leg of our travels.  But, we’re on the Gulf Coast in August.  That’s dead center in hurricane season.  We had planned for 3 days in New Orleans and then a week in Galveston, TX.  But Mother Nature decided to throw a wrench in those plans and plop a currently Category 2 (predicted to gain strength to a Category 3) hurricane right over our plans.

Now, we could have whined and pouted.  Not really our style, though.  What we did was cancel what was cancellable and started looking for an alternative.  We’ve got almost 2 weeks until our next planned stop, so we’re looking at taking it day by day.  Hopefully, by the time we’re scheduled for San Antonio, the city will have had a chance to recover from Hurricane Harvey.  Until then, we’ll just have to hit the Southern sights we weren’t able to hit on our way back to Florida earlier in our trip.  Oh shucks?

Yes, we could get upset that we’re not going to be able to enjoy the Crescent City or hang out on a Galveston beach.  But what is that going to do, other than bum us out?  Nothing.  All the pouting and fist waving won’t make the hurricane change paths.  Instead, we’ll look for different adventures for the next dozen days.  Better to look forward to what’s to come than grumble about what didn’t happen.

So, now we’ve got some new adventures to find.