“Major snowstorm coming in for the holiday week with 5-9” of snow possible from Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday followed by 35-45 mile per hour winds,” emphasizes the meteorologist during the Monday evening weather forecast. I groan. I must work two days this week and one of them is to be Wednesday. I am not looking forward to trying to traverse a blizzard whipped road to meet my work obligation. I just hope that Thanksgiving is nice as I am looking forward to having our daughter and her husband join us for the holiday. They have a four-hour drive from Ames, Iowa.
Tuesday dawns with a dark curtain hanging low over the land. However, the temperature is mild, rising into the forties and the wind is calm. This depressing atmosphere pervades throughout the day, but no raindrops or snowflakes fall from the pregnant clouds. Only a few snowflakes have fallen by the time the earth circles into the darker darkness of night. Maybe the weatherman will be wrong.
“I’m going to go take my shower,” I inform my husband around 9:15 Tuesday evening. Soon I am basking in the warm pleasant water of the shower, scrubbing the suds of the soap bar into all the cracks and crevices. Without warning, I am thrown into complete darkness. Great! Just great! Maybe it will come back on again.
“You are going to run out of water if you keep letting it run,” comes a voice from the doorway.
“Well, yeah! But I am not going to stand here with soap all over me.” I turn off the water and stumble out of the shower groping for a towel in the blackness.
“I didn’t think it was that bad outside that the power should go out.” I comment to my husband, “Could you start the generator for a while?”
“I’m going as soon as I can find a flashlight,” his voice recedes into the murky hole of the stairwell.
Soon there is a roar from the garage and a flood of bright light from the kitchen indicates we are generating limited electricity. At least, the water pump will run and I can finish my shower. But now what do we do? It’s too early to go to bed. A few extension cords are pulled from the drawer and strung so we can view the weather on TV. Still, the power has not been restored.
“Should we leave the generator run and go to bed,” questions my hubby. “I really don’t like to leave the generator run while we are sleeping.”
“Let’s just turn it off. It’s not that cold out and we can snuggle together in bed.”
But I am reminded as we settle into bed that my bed warmer needs electricity, our Sleep Number bed is hard too. It can’t adjust without power, and Hubby’s CPAP mask doesn’t operate on air either. Ughhhh… I lay there listening to the snores beside me with eyes wide open. There is not going to be any sleep for me tonight. I have just started to doze off when I am startled awake by the overhead bedroom light glaring in our face. The power is back on.
The next day, we learn that the power outage was the result of a local crop farmer who was headed home from last minute corn harvesting. The steep hill a mile from our house had become layered with fresh ice and snow causing his large John Deere combine to slide off the road and snap a power pole in two.
I am feeling exhausted when I climb out of bed the next morning from the events of the previous night. About 8” of new snow greets me when I peek out the front door. To top off the situation, the wind is howling. Hubby heads out to clear the driveway. The biggest problem for plowing is that the ground is not yet frozen, and the snow is wet and heavy. This results in rolls and rolls of driveway gravel ending up in the ditch- a distressing result to me this early in the season.
For the last three weeks, I have been driving a new 2019 Subaru Crosstrek as a loaner car while mine is in the shop. I can see myself smashing this one in a winter storm before I am able to return it. But it is a Subaru and it is an all-wheel drive so what could possibly go wrong. I leave a ½ hour early in order to be able to drive carefully. The roadway is plowed but patches of drifts have developed where the snow has been driven by the westerly wind across the road. I find myself following a van whose driver thinks 30 miles per hour is an exceedingly high speed. Every few minutes, she (I am presuming it is a she) finds herself “flying” down the road at 32 or 33 mph and the brake lights come on. Over and over, this happens. I take a deep breath and bite my lip. I might actually make it to work. Thank goodness, I left early. It seems a little icy to try and pass especially with a car I do not know well so I patiently follow. I soon park safely in the parking ramp. I have promised my hubby that I will text him when I get to work to let him know I have arrived safely. I type the text in the car and hit “send.” “No service,” pops up along with a question, “Do you want to send when service is restored?” I hit the “yes” button and head into the hospital. I check my sent messages a couple of times to make sure my text went. Satisfied, I turn off my phone.
Not only is this a snowy wintery day, it is the day before Thanksgiving, and we are busy in surgery. I find myself running an hour overtime and it is 8 p.m. before I am ready to head for home. I turn the phone back on and see I have a frantic message from the morning from my hubby, “I haven’t heard from you. Are you OK? Are you in the ditch? Should I come look for you?” Now I am flustered. Did my text not ever get to him? I quickly dial his number.
“I just got your text from this morning,” he informs me. “I have been worrying all day that something happened to you.”
“I’m sorry. I sent you a text. I guess you can figure that if no one from work has called looking for me, that all is well,” is the only response I have for him.
I am frustrated that my well-laid intentions did not work out and Hubby has been anxious all day. There is not much I can do about it now, but I guess I have learned not to trust text messaging.
It is no longer snowing as I head for home and the state road heading north seems clear. It isn’t until I turn onto a county east-west road, that I see the first pickup in the ditch. As I scan the road about another mile ahead, numerous red brake lights shine back at me. A glaze on the blacktop reflects back from where the snow has been skittering across the road all day. There is an obvious problem ahead as well. Sure enough, another pickup is in the ditch. I crawl around the disaster to avoid the same fate myself. I come up behind a car that is crawling along with hazard lights flashing. Seriously! That’s annoying to have intermittent orange bouncing off my retinas. I think I can tell we need to go slow.
By 9 p.m., I am safely in the garage, only to be confronted by another problem. The internet is not working. I can only guess the dish is snow and ice covered. That problem will have to wait until morning.
After a good night’s sleep in a warm, snuggly, electrically-operating-properly bed, we decide to solve our outdoor issues while waiting for the young folks to show up for Thanksgiving. The satellite dish is covered with snow, so a ladder and a broom are obtained to wipe off the offending material. A coating of ice remains after the snow is removed. The connection is trying to work now but ever so slowly. It is brainstorming time. How do we get the ice off the dish? Hubby produces a tree trimming pole and I dig through the drawer for a hair dryer. Electrical tape them together and we have a useful tool for thawing ice high up on the side of the house. Ten minutes of hair drying, and we have an internet connection.
Our daughter and son-in-law along with two large dogs soon sweep in with a flurry and we have a Thanksgiving feast together. Well timed by the Lord above, it is the only day of the week with quiet weather and a smooth-running day. Our bellies are laden with turkey, stuffing, squash, and pumpkin pie and our hearts are gladdened with family fellowship.
Friday morning after climbing out of bed, I turn on the water at the sink in the bathroom. Hmmm? Nothing is coming out of the faucet.
I return to the bedroom to my sleeping husband. “I think we have a water problem.”
He sleepily crawls out of bed and dresses. “It has been almost 25 years. One of these times, we are going to end up pulling the pump.”
I sure hope it is not the pump. Pulling it now would be a huge headache. Our yard already has a four-foot drift in it and getting a well truck backed up to the garden would take some doing. Well, I can’t wash up, but I can comb my hair and get dressed while Hubby disappears to the basement with his electrical meter to do some checking and diagnosing. A few minutes go by before the bathroom is thrown into darkness. A resetting of the breaker has caused a bang as the breaker kicks out again. “There is a dead short,” is the response I get when I go to check on progress. Soon he is kneeling in the snow in the garden by the well attempting to make a final determination of the problem. “I think it is the underground and that I can fix. I just hope I am right,” he concludes.
A trip to town is next to get a roll of wire which we string across the yard to the house. A hole is drilled in the garage/house wall to gain access to the basement and then my resident electrician re-wires the well. A flip of the breaker results in rising water pressure and a stream from the faucet. Hurrah! So why has the underground decided to go bad now after twenty-three years? We can only speculate. This fall, we added a porch to the front of the house. One of the posts was extremely close to the buried well wire. The builders did not think they hit it but maybe, they nicked it and now it has burned off or maybe, the concrete poured into the hole for the foundation has shifted enough to put tension on a previous splice. We will be waiting until spring now to run another permanent underground wire.
But we do have electricity and water again just in time for the next winter weather system to move through dropping rain, freezing rain, and snow over the next three days – days that I thankfully do not have to venture out to work. We are more than ready for the bright sunshine that appears on the Monday morning that next week. It heralds the beginning of December and the start of the Christmas season.
gets up at 5 a.m. and leaves the hotel. I am awake anyway so I might as well
get up. I wander over to the conference early and eat my breakfast alone
outside on the patio. Our scheduled adventure for today is an ATV ride at 1
p.m. I had a little panic attack this morning while looking at one of the maps.
I see an Arizona Off-Road Adventure company located close to Camp Verde. My
ticket has an address in West Sedona. Did I make a mistake? If we show up at
the wrong place, we have thrown away a bunch of money.
head back to the hotel room after the next to last lecture and meet Hubby in
the hallway on his way back to the room as well. We hurriedly throw together a
lunch as the GPS says it will take us a ½ hour to our destination. “The traffic
is terrible this morning,” is Hubby’s report for the morning.
arrive with time to spare and my anxiety about showing up at the wrong place is
not justified. We sign the usual, “This is a dangerous activity and we are not
responsible if you die” paper before being fitted with a kerchief to cover our
mouth and nose, a helmet to protect our brains, and googles to protect our
eyes. Now we look like bandits. We settle down to wait for other people to
arrive before being taken to a small track outback to practice driving. “For
how many people is this the first time they have driven an ATV?” asks our
instructor. All four hands in our group go up. Well at least we are not alone
in needing to look like beginners.
wants to go first?”
some instruction on how to push the throttle and how to apply the brakes, I am
off. Slowly I crawl around the track. They purposely made it with deep holes
and rocks and short turns. Turning the machine seems to be my biggest problem
but I make it around without any significant problem. Hmmm! Maybe I can drive
this thing. Everyone else takes a turn before we are ready to leave. Hubby does
his trial run without any problem either so soon we are piling into a van to be
hauled to the Coconino National Forest. Contrary to my preconceived notion, national
forests in Arizona do not necessarily contain trees. This one has short scrubs,
mostly dirt, cacti, and stones.
I am a little apprehensive but also a little excited. This has the potential to be smashing fun. We are soon lined up behind our guide. We will be riding 25 miles of dirt trails covered with rock and holes and twists and turns. It takes a little getting used to the throttle which needs to be operated with one’s right thumb. The temperature is only about 80 degrees but the helmet with the face kerchief makes for a smothering sensation. I soon ditch the kerchief over my face. It doesn’t seem that dusty. As I get more used to the machine, accelerating in short burst is a thrill. We travel down a forest road first and then turn onto a path through the “forest.” It is more like a cow path through a dry and barren land. We eventually climb higher on the Sawtooth Ridge and stop for a break. We gaze out over a vast valley below to the red rock formations miles away. Then we begin our ascent back down and back to our starting point. The last few miles takes us on the gravel forest road, and we step up our pace. With the wind in our face, we throttle the machines and sail towards the drop off spot. Whee! A little taste of risk-taking enhances the thrill. Our ride takes about three hours and before we know it, we are back to the truck and heading back to Sedona.
Our plan for the evening is to watch the sunset from the airport above Sedona so we pick up some Subway sandwiches to picnic there. The person working in Subway is sullen and inattentive. I think she would just as soon have not been there. This is our second attempt at buying Subway in Sedona and neither one has turned out particularly well. The last time, the bread on the sandwiches was hard and the cookies stale. This time the sandwiches were good, but the cookies were still stale. Time to give up on Subway here.
The drive up airport road is one of twists and turns. It cost $3 to park in the parking lot there but the view is awesome. We wander down a trail along the ridge and settle ourselves on a bench there. Hubby sets up the camera to get some pictures. The wind is getting cool as the sun goes down. We keep expecting the rocks to turn red with the sun sliding below the horizon but the color changes little. Hubby is somewhat disappointed as the hype has been great that it is such a spectacular view at sunset. It is still a great view. It just doesn’t meet what we have been told to believe. Oh well, time to get back to the hotel.
Saturday, September 21, 2019
Today is my last day of the anesthesia conference and our last day in Sedona before we fly back tomorrow. Hubby left early to explore so I thought I would get up and visit the Pink Jeep concierge desk at the hotel before the conference starts. We made a last-minute decision last evening to see if we could get reservations for the Pink Jeep trip to the Honanki Indian ruins in Boyton Canyon. I walk up to the concierge desk, but no one is staffing it.
“When does the concierge desk open,” I ask the hotel desk attendant.
“They don’t start until 8 a.m. on the weekends.”
Well that’s weird. Why would one have less coverage on the weekend when it is busier than during the week? Oh well, I guess I will have to come back between conference sessions.
When I return at 8:30, a gentleman is available to help me. And I am in luck. They have a 2 p.m. time slot for the venture we are looking at. That should be perfect. I can attend the whole conference on the last day, maybe get in a nap, and still make it to uptown Sedona by 1:30 p.m.
arrive back to an empty hotel room as Hubby has not yet returned. I spend a few
minutes gathering our things together for travel home tomorrow before he
have to go right now,” he announces.
I ask. I was planning on a nice little nap. “Don’t we at least have time to
are thousands of cars today with a two- mile backup on route 179. I don’t know
why it is so busy, but it took me ½ hour to travel just a few miles.”
let’s at least try to eat first. We still have an hour and ¾,” I implore.
hurriedly eat our usual cold cut tortilla lunch in the hotel room and set off
on this beautiful day. Traffic is slow but there are no extended periods of traffic
stoppage. I try to relax. We will be just fine. The sun is shining
brightly with no clouds in the sky. The temperature is about 80 degrees. We
have had no cloudy or rainy days since we arrived here.
reach Uptown Sedona where the Pink Jeep headquarters is located with time to
spare. The next order of business is finding a parking spot. The town is
flooded with people. I don’t know if this is business as usual for Sedona or if
this is extra ordinary. We decide to try out some back streets and do find one
parking spot in front of some mailboxes in Lot B. Is this a legal parking spot,
we ask? We look high and low for any signs indicating our car will be towed if
we park here. There are none. Next we need to figure out how to get across the
street. The one thing the designers of round-abouts forgot to address was
pedestrian crossing. When there is wall to wall traffic with no breaks in the
continuous flow of speeding vehicles, how does one get across? Soon I notice
that some traffic control people have been called into service on this busy Saturday.
One activates a traffic signal that was dark and dormant and another stands at
the next round about up the street and stops traffic periodically to allow safe
have arrived with an hour and a half to spare. We do some shop browsing before
settling down in the waiting area of the jeep company. At 1:45, we are given
some basic instructions on our trip. The most humorous one is the instruction
on how to fasten a seat belt. Then we are assigned to our driver. There are six
of us in the open-air pink jeep with overhead roll bars. And yes, the jeeps are
pink. The first part of our journey is on a hard-top road. It then turns into
dirt as we again enter the Coconino National Forest. The roads are of the same
status as the ones we traveled on the ATVs. They are strange uneven rock
underlay and are full of potholes. We bounce around as we wind through more red
rock country with tall mesas off in the distance. After about an hour ride, we
arrive at the Indian ruins. The sun is hot as it beats down on us. We have a
fairly short walk through the “forest” to the ruins. A slight breeze blows and
we get intermittent shade from the scrubby trees. One lady in our group is
almost 80 years old resulting in a rather slow walk for the rest of us
not-quite-as-old folks. There are some rocks and tree roots to stumble over and
a short section of natural stone steps to traverse.
are told the walls built of stones mortared together with mud that connect
directly to the cliff wall are left over homes or community buildings from a
people that lived there in the 1400s. On the cliff walls, in some places barely
visible, are various sketches and drawings made by these people. It looks like
a rather unique place to live – hidden up against the 1000-foot-high cliff
lady in our group is unable to take the pictures she wants as her batteries
have reached their useful life expectancy. Noticing her predicament, my always
generous husband offers her his backup batteries. She graciously accepts.
Hopefully, his will last until we get home as they are rechargeable.
soon return to our pink jeep. There are two elevated seats along each side and
one in the back. Hubby and I squeeze into the back seat for the ride back. It
is a little like riding in the back of a school bus, but we enjoy the cool
breezes as we head back to town. There, we decide to eat in a restaurant along
Sedona’s Uptown streets. There are many to choose from. First, I remind Hubby
that we were going to stop at the chocolate shop. I saw a tasty looking bar there
earlier that reminded me of the peanut butter bars I used to love. They have a
peanut butter core covered by chocolate. My mouth has been watering all
afternoon. The chocolate covered orange sticks are attracting my hubby. As we
check out, the smiling young lady with flowing long pigtails greets us
cheerfully, “Thank you for coming back. I gave you a 20% discount for stopping
again.” She remembered us from earlier even with the multitude of people
flowing through the shop.
mouth is watering for a hamburger, so we pick a restaurant called the Cowboy
Café. The waiters are dressed like cowboys with one even having a gun on his
hip. I am not sure if that is just for looks or if it is actually loaded. Afterall,
Arizona is an open carry state. I about fall over after previewing the menu. I
was hoping for a reasonably priced meal, but this is anything but that. It
looks more high class. We finally decide to order a plate of appetizer for us
both. It includes rattlesnake sausage, buffalo skewers, breaded fried cactus,
and some type of spicy “bread.” Each item comes with a sauce. I keep forgetting
that we are close to Mexico and finding food that is not spiced up is a
challenge. We will need to get out the Gaviscon tonight.
the time we finish eating, it is time to head for the Red Rock Rangers station
where they are holding a View The Stars Party. The hour-long astronomy
presentation is following by star viewing through several different telescopes
outside in the dark. The sky is cloudless and the stars shine brightly. The air
is cool enough to require the addition of a sweater. All the rocks and things
to trip over are lined with red lights which supposedly does not affect one’s
night vision. I soon realize that I will have trouble navigating in the dark as
my balance since my stroke in February seems to be dependent on having visual
orientation. Hubby’s primary interest is photographing the stars and the milky
way. By 8:30, we are both tired and head back to the hotel.
last evening is spent packing up and getting ready for a quick departure in the
morning. Our flight is not until 12:15 (noon) but we have a two-hour drive, a
need to return the rental car, then catch the rental car shuttle to the airport
and get ourselves through security. We get all this accomplished with two hours
to spare to eat a leisurely breakfast. “Traveling would be so much fun,” I
comment to Hubby, “if there just weren’t
any people.” Take a deep breath, I tell myself, and take it one step at a
time. Maybe by the time we are too old to travel, we will have this travel
thing figured out.
first segment of our journey to Chicago from Phoenix goes quite smoothly. There
are some thunderstorms in the Chicago area with rain pouring down on arrival.
This leads to some turbulence and rather panicked instructions to stay in our
seats and buckle up, but we arrive a ½ hour ahead of schedule. We have a
three-hour layover here so there is no need to hurry. Our text message from
American Airlines gives up a gate number of L1A. We settle in to wait. I spend
the time catching up on my writing and do some reading.
5:58 p.m., our cell phones ding to tell us that our flight has been moved to
gate L3. We gather up our luggage and move a few gates down. The board still
says this flight is on time for takeoff at 8:45 p.m. At about the time the
electronic board indicates we should be boarding the plane, the cell phone asks
for our attention again. Time for takeoff has changed to 9 p.m. Five minutes later,
the next message says the gate has changed to H3A with the takeoff time still
being 9 p.m. We get up and begin our walk across the airport this time to a
different wing. We have no more started our walk than the next message informs
us the gate has been changed to H1B. Seriously people! Is it that hard to
figure out what you are doing? And now departure time has been changed to
head is spinning, and I am beginning to doubt that we will be arriving home
tonight. Finally at 9 p.m., another arriving load of travelers deplane and we
almost immediately begin boarding. Maybe there is still hope. Once
everyone is comfortably seated, the captain announces, “We will be pushing away
from the jet bridge in just a few minutes but expect a 40-minute wait for
takeoff.” I groan. But as promised, by 10 p.m., we are airborne and headed for
walk into the house at midnight. “Kitty Kitty Where are you?” Several times
while in Sedona, I wondered if I had put her food out and I couldn’t remember but
I convinced myself that I couldn’t have possibly forgotten something so
important. I look up at the shelf where I put her food so that I could just set
it down before we left. OH NO! The bowl of food still sits high up on
the shelf. I never gave her the food on the way out the door six days ago. Poor
Snowflake. She greets us with her usual “Meow Meow Meow Meow!” She does not
seem any the worse for the situation. I am not sure if she is protesting that
we left her alone or that she is starving. I quickly feed her, but she doesn’t
seem particularly over hungry. She is just happy we are home and wants us to
This morning was my first day of the anesthesia conference. My night last night was not restful. I woke up several times with the feeling of sour food pushing against my throat. The shrimp scampi I ate for supper must not have set well. Finally, I take a Gaviscon and am able to drift off. But I wake up every hour or so and check the clock. And so the night drags on.
walk back to our room from the seminar about noon. Hubby has gone shopping for
lunch staples, so we have tortillas and chips before heading out. We start out
going north on Hwy 179 through Sedona. We make several stops at scenic views.
The Chapel of the Cross on the top of a high red rock is the highlight. We drive
as high up as we can and then decide the last option is to walk the rest of the
you want a ride?” inquires a voice from a golf cart just as we are starting our
climb. This is too good to be true.
I respond as I make a dive for the back seat of his vehicle. I do notice the
tip box prominently displayed upfront. Oh well, it was worth not having to walk
up the steep hill.
In Sedona, we go around the umpteenth round-about and head south on 89A. I thought Minnesotans were in love with round-abouts but here, there are almost no traffic lights and a round-about every time one blinks their eyes. Nobody seems to care much about being polite either. They would just as soon run over you as not.
One of my goals for this day is to find the Verde Valley Railroad while sightseeing which we have a reservation for at 1 p.m. tomorrow. Then I will know how early to leave the seminar. As we drive along viewing the countryside, I develop my plan of attack. I surmise that if we turn right at the upcoming Catholic church, we should be able to wind our way up to the Railroad Terminal in Clarksdale. What I have not accounted for is that the map I am following is a rough estimation and not to scale. I think the Catholic church is located at the light by Mingus Avenue. It is not. But there is a sign just before the church pointing to Old 89A and mentioning the towns that we are searching for. Oh well, we have missed that, so we turn right on Mingus Avenue at the light. This should still lead us to our destination. After a few minutes of tentatively driving onward and intuitively turning where is seems the map would direct us, we spot the road to the train depot. Now, we just have to come back out and turn right on 89A again and I conclude that it should bring us back around by the Catholic church. Imagine my surprise when we see a sign pointing to Jerome ahead. Jerome ahead?
don’t want to go to Jerome,” I exclaim. “I don’t understand what just happened.
Don’t we want to go south?”
we want to go north,” counters my hubby emphatically, “We need to turn around.”
just follow 89A south,” I instruct him, “and hopefully we will come back
town we enter as we drive is totally unfamiliar. “We can’t be going the right
way. I don’t remember any of this,” insists Hubby over and over.
don’t remember it because we didn’t come this way,” I respond several times.
Now I am becoming frustrated by his insistence that we are going the wrong way
simply because he doesn’t recognize anything we are driving by. I am pretty
sure this will work out though not absolutely certain. Soon I spot the road I
was hoping to find.
it is. Turn right there,” I direct.
have no idea what you are doing. I am totally lost. You are going to have to
drive back here yourself tomorrow as none of this makes any sense,” is his
final declaration before lapsing into silence.
I eye the Garman GPS sitting on the dashboard that we stowed into our suitcase so tenderly. Maybe we really should plan ahead to use that little thing. But then, we are still old-fashioned enough to think that we can navigate by a map- even a map that is missing most of its landmarks and highways. The rest of our drive back to the hotel is uneventful. We decide to call it a night as Hubby is not feeling up to par physically.
Thursday, September 19, 2019
Hubby got up at 5:30 a.m. this morning after his phone rang – must be 7:30 a.m. back home. I lay in bed another hour before time to get dressed for the conference.
We have a 1 p.m. reservation for the train ride on the Verde Canyon Railroad so I leave the conference a little early. By 11 a.m. we are on the same road again that we traveled yesterday. Today’s ride goes smoothly, and we know exactly where we are going. It is a sunny, pleasantly warm day as all the days here have been. The train depot is bustling with activity and people milling around.
“You look like you need tickets,” a gentleman greets us. “Head right over there.” He motions to the right.
As we exchange my receipt for actual tickets, I address the ticket agent. “Where do I get our lunch?” I have already paid for a lunch to go with our ride.
“You can either get your lunch at the restaurant or choose to eat outdoors. We are having a German-mashed-potatoes with sauerkraut lunch and brats special today.”
Hmmm! That sounds like a nice change of pace. I haven’t had mashed potatoes and sauerkraut since my mother used to make it for my birthday years ago. We enjoy our lunch in the semi-shade of a tree while we wait to board the train.
We are assigned to the car dubbed “Tucson.” It is air-conditioned, clean, and well cared for. The seats are bench seats like a school bus but can be flopped over when the direction of the train is changed since they can’t turn around. Between each of two cars is a train car that is open and available for outdoor riding. Our car attendant is a man in his late fifties or early sixties who is extremely jovial. He welcomes us to our car and takes the tickets when it is time to board.
urge Hubby to join me on the outdoors car for the first hour of the trip. It is
hot, probably in the upper 80s but it is breezy and there is a small shade
canopy. The land we travel through is, to my eyes, a land of desolation but
also of great beauty. We clickity clack along the rail laid along the side of
the mountain on the left while a canyon falls away on the right. Deep in the
canyon flows a small river or what we Midwesterners would call a creek. The
river is lined with lush green trees. The walls of the canyon beyond the river
rise magnificently to meet the sky. They are a beautiful red color. Scattered
over the steep boulders are blooming cacti and small scrubby trees. We descend
a twisting turning path of switchbacks over the next 38 miles to Prescott, now
a ghost town. Then, the engines are brought around to the back of the train and
reattached. And the climb back through Verde canyon begins.
spend part of our time in the air-conditioned coach car and enjoy the scenery
out the window. I even fall asleep for a 10-minute nap. Ice cream sandwiches appear,
and our host makes an offer, “I have ice cream sandwiches on special. $1 for
one, $2 for two.” This is followed by laughter. Just the kind of afternoon to
enjoy ice cream. Soon, we venture back outside to enjoy the last hour back to
Clarksdale in the great outdoors.
Since we are so close to Jerome, AZ, the town with the reputation of being the wildest town in the west, we decide to travel there before heading back to the hotel. The road winds with tight curves up the side of the mountain. As we climb higher, a fantastic view appears. The valley below falls away with an awe-inspiring view. The town of Jerome, itself, gives the impression of the houses clinging to the hillside. The streets are narrow and close to the side of the cliff as well. The back doors or maybe the front doors too of the houses overlook the cliff. It is a beautiful scene and provides some photographic opportunities.
it is time to head for the hotel. We decide to make our own supper when we get
there. The route we planned to take back to Oak Center is closed because of an
accident. “Take alternative route,” says the sign. Great! The only alternative
route we know is a little further but probably just as fast. We settle in for
an evening at the hotel.
“Let’s go to bed an hour early
tonight,” I implore my husband on Monday evening. We need to get up at 2:45 a.m.
if we are going to make our 5:45 a.m. flight. As is usually the case, I find
that I can’t fall asleep. I am afraid that I won’t wake up in time. I set my
regular alarm clock, my travel alarm, and Hubby sets his phone alarm. That
should be enough to get us awake on time.
Bling, Bling!” over and over assaults my ears. I roll over and peer at the
clock. It is 1:45. I groan. Why is the phone going off at this time?
“Your phone is an hour early,” I grumpily
mumble to my spouse.
“It’s not my alarm,” is the response.
“It’s the airline texting to say our flight is on time.”
“Seriously? You have got to be
kidding me.” Now I am awake and irritated. I could have slept another hour. I
roll over and snuggle back in. Maybe I can fall back to sleep. A few minutes
later I hear Hubby get up and go downstairs. Then. . . brring, brring, bring!
Now my travel alarm is going off. It is now 2 a.m. I had set it for 2:45 but it
is going off at 2 am. Is someone trying to tell us something? Any hope of sleep
is now gone.
Our trip to the airport goes without
incident though I am anxious and wishing I had not turned down Hubby’s offer
for me to drive. When did we turn into the old couple cautiously peering out
the window and approaching every obstacle with trepidation? The traffic lights
in downtown are all green because it is still the middle of the night, but my
dear spouse slows down as he approaches each one. Doesn’t green mean go, not
slow down? We creep along ten miles under the speed limit on the deserted
streets. I bite my lip to keep from being the dreaded back seat driver. We do
arrive just as the airport is coming to life.
We sail through security without any
issues and settle down to wait for our flight which is still on time. I have
not bought an upgrade for this “short” 1 ½ hour flight to Chicago so Hubby
tucks his lanky frame into the standard issue seat. His legs have begun to numb
even before takeoff. But before we know it, we are safely on the ground in
Chicago. A fairly long walk to concourse K is the next order of business. I am
learning not to schedule tight connections for our flights because we are way
too old for this running business. We have quite a leisurely morning stroll and
even some time for breakfast before it is time to board our flight to Phoenix, AZ.
This time we have hit pay dirt with our seat choice. Not only does Hubby get an
exit seat but he gets one right where the plane narrows leaving his window seat
with no seat in front of him – all the leg room he could ever want is within
Another beautiful touchdown in
Phoenix ends the air flight part of our journey. Then it is on to boarding a
bus to take us to the rental car terminal. I reflect on the fact that it is
only 11 a.m. here in Phoenix but we have
been up for ten hours already. My head hurts and I need a nap.
This time when I rent a car, I
decline all upgrades even though we are told that means we will have to ride in
a VW bug. When we pick up the car though, it is not a VW bug but a Ford Fiesta.
Our butts are almost sitting on the ground and we need Hoyer lifts to get
ourselves up out of the car every time we stop but it does successfully perform
the task of transporting us around. We soon discover that the left blinker
doesn’t work, and the tires are bald. It does have 43000 miles on it, so I
think it needs some loving attention. Hubby just cannot live with a car that
lacks a working signaling system, so he buys a bulb the first day in Sedona and
Driving in Phoenix is like driving in
any big city. The speed limit says 55 but it is like we are a beetle crawling
up the road while everyone else catapults by. Phoenix is a dry and barren
landscape with some beautiful cactuses scattered here and there. What do these
people do here for a living? We wonder. As we get north of the city and the
elevation begins to increase, the landscape begins to change. It now looks more
like the grasslands of Africa. The grass is brown and dry, but it was once
grass. Short stubby trees are struggling to grow and the tall stately cactuses
of earlier have disappeared. The land begins to take on a reddish hue as we get
closer to Sedona. Once we turn off the main interstate 17 onto 179 north, the
beauty of the landscape becomes apparent. The red rocks of Sedona rise in
stately spires towards the skyline. We end our day by previewing the landscape
in preparation for our coming days.
I am always looking
for new books to read. I especially love non-fiction novels about the lives of
others. I want to know how they dealt with the experiences in their lives and
how it worked out for them. I came across a book entitled “Educated” by Tara
Westover. It is a New York Times best seller. My curiosity was triggered, and I
bought the book.
It is a story about Tara
Westover’s life growing up in a Mormon family in Idaho. Even by Mormon
standards, her father especially, is an outsider in his own faith tradition.
Eccentric might be another term that one would use. Tara and some of her other
younger siblings are never sent to school and their so-called “homeschooling”
is basically no schooling. Her father believes school will contaminate his
children to the world- a world in which he sees himself as God’s prophet.
There are so many
psychological and religious issues in this story that I can relate to on so
many levels from my own personal experience. Although, I grew up Mennonite and
not Mormon and the religious beliefs are different, the cultural dynamics are
First, Tara grows up in a family where the father is the ruler and women are seen as needing to always be submissive to men. This is a standard Mormon belief as well as one of many evangelical Christians, but her father uses that belief to control and to manipulate his family into a separate kind of lifestyle ruled by paranoia of everything “out there”, religious superiority, and an expectation of family loyalty. He does this through demanding an adherence to a distorted preaching of his faith as the one and true faith, by shaming his children if they so much as show any interest in how others live and attempt to copy that behavior. I couldn’t help but make that connection to my own father. Though my father was not nearly as off-center as Mr. Westover, I recognized the same behavior from my childhood. The result is the child feels alone and unable to connect with anyone often for life.
Tara finds herself
alienated from everyone in her world except her family. She sits alone in
Sunday School and of course, she has no friends for two reasons. She feels
different from everyone else and her father makes sure that she has no time or
opportunity to cultivate friendships with others. He stresses that girls she
meets are not good enough for her. Her father uses his faith to condemn them as
not living the way a person of God should live. She, therefore, feels guilty
for even wanting to associate with such “wicked” people.
Tara, even after she
leaves home and goes to college, finds herself unable to fit in and at odds
with pretty much everyone. I don’t think she, for many years, recognizes that
this is a result of the socialization or lack thereof from her home life. It is
deeply and complexly rooted in the emotional, psychological, religious, and
cultural dynamics of her early years. I find it interesting that she titles the
book, “Educated,” as if obtaining an education is what moves her to a place in
society that she is accepted as “normal” by others. The lack of education is a
handicap and with certainty will keep her a captive in her father’s strange
world, but it is not what makes her feel alone, strange, and like she doesn’t
belong in the new world that she explores. Getting educated will not fix what
is broken inside of her from her childhood. It only gives her a better platform
from which the self can say, “Now I am somebody.” I did the same thing. I went
to school and got a master’s degree and a job that is viewed with respect and
awe. And while working in it, I feel strong, accepted, and like I have worth. But
outside of it, I still feel friendless and different from everyone else. I
watch Tara as the story progresses feeling this total alienation from others
and struggling with it. From my own experience, I have learned the feeling
never goes away. One simply has to learn to be comfortable with being alone and
knowing that this is who I am.
A part of her psychic also does the same thing that I did with my family even after leaving. It longs for the love of one’s parents and siblings. Tara, like me, keeps coming back to the family trying to convince them of reality and what is right. Even though on a logical level, one comes to understand that one’s family is mentally unhealthy, there is this deep seated need to stay connected to them. Afterall, if those who bore you and nurtured you in childhood don’t love you, then why would anyone else especially God. Tara loses herself and becomes mentally unstable for a year after she realizes that her family does not want to know the truth that one son has been viciously abusing other members. Her parents are not interested in addressing the problems in the family and the highest value of loyalty makes everyone choose to accept “the delusion that they are one big happy family” which will allow them to remain part of the family. Tara realizes that the family “truth” and loyalty are more important than loving her. This is devastating to her.
What really destroys her is that her mother betrays
her in this battle to expose evil. Her mother one minute acknowledges to Tara
that she knows about and will speak to her father about Shawn’s unacceptable
behavior. But when there is an actual confrontation, her mother turns against
her and sides with her father. Her mother tries to destroy Tara’s reputation
and character. For the mother to stand
against the patriarch of the family requires too high of a price. It reminds me
so much of my own mother who swung from seemingly being rational to total denial
and perpetrating vicious attacks on my character. It leaves one very confused
and in the case of Tara, she cannot concentrate enough to even study. She falls
into a deep depression. She had this deep-seated hope that her family would
change because of her speaking the truth. But her family, like mine, was
incapable of changing. Denial is a powerful substance that keeps the system
stable no matter how dysfunctional. Only the individual has the power to change
and often doesn’t because of these pressures from different aspects of society
to conform, especially the family of origin and one’s religious community.
If you enjoy exploring the complex dynamics of
families, “Educated” is a compelling read. My books “If You Leave This Farm”
and “No Longer a Child of Promise” also explore many of the same dynamics. My
third book, “Once An Insider, Now Without a Church Home” explores the same
dynamics and pressures within the evangelical church as found within the
family. One is only a friend and a member as long as one follows the dictated
expected behavior and norms.
I appreciate all those who have the courage to write
their stories. It helps me to know that I am really not alone and that I don’t
need to be ashamed to share my own story.
I love camping but putting up a tent and sleeping on the ground is good more for groans than a fun time when one reaches 60 years old. So I get brave and ask a friend if we can borrow their tent camper for this year.
have to tell you the lights don’t work,” she informs me.
a problem,” I declare, “Do you care if my husband fixes it for you?”
would be fine.”
pick up the camper on a Sunday afternoon a couple of weeks before our planned
trip in order to have time to make the repairs and test out our pop-up tent
raising ability. Our friends and Hubby struggle to get the camper trailer
hitched to the truck. The latch doesn’t want to drop over the ball hitch and as
stated, the lights don’t work – not even one of them. But the hitch finally cooperates
and snaps into place.
home, my Hubby who is wearing a neck brace after obtaining a C4 fracture from
falling down a customer’s stairs, has the privilege of backing the camper up by
the shed. He accomplishes this with ease in spite of not being able to turn his
head. That little camera on the tailgate in back of the truck is a nifty
addition to the backing up task. But when we go to unhook and crank the stand
down, the hitch has no intention of releasing the ball on the truck.
about a little WD40?” I suggest.
after a soaking in the magical fluid, the hitch remains tightly locked. Looks
like we are going to be attached to this truck from this day forward.
if I drive the truck ahead a little,” is Hubby’s thought.
coasts the truck a few inches. With a snap, the hitch rotates down and the ball
releases. Oh Wow! It might have worked better if we had thought of that sooner.
couple of days later, we decide to make sure we know how to put up the camper
before we set out on our journey. My hubby gets out his electrical handyman –
his voltage tester. All the electrical connections test out as working and when
we put the connections together, all the lights work except the right rear one.
What was wrong with it? Maybe the connections were a little corroded from
sitting around and that WD40 did its magic there too. At least there doesn’t
seem to be a significant problem.
start the process of cranking up the popup top. We make quite the pair. My
hubby in his neck brace and stiff me trying to crawl around under the bed ends
to insert the stabilizers and under the camper to put the feet down. I peer
inside the camper as the roof moves skyward. A small rivulet slides down the
inside screen and pools on the kitchen counter. A larger pool gushes off of the
expanding canvas into the front bed.
I holler, “We need to catch the leaks.”
up all the unwelcome water with 2 blankets close by. Still, the dampness meets
my hand as I touch the bed surface. The same dampness is present underneath the
mattress. Time to set up the fans and dry out the interior. We are not really
sure where the water actually came in. This could be a rude awakening if it
drips on us in the middle of the night. We are hoping it just came from the
unsecured opening in the top. At least our excursion has resulted in us feeling
proudly confident in our ability to set this thing up even as cripples.
next order of business is to change the hitch on the truck that we will be
using to one that allows the camper to tow more levelly. It soon becomes
apparent that the current hitch has been on the truck far too long. It is
rusted into place. The WD40 can is emptied and the hammer is swung over and
over. The hitch does not budge. I craw under the truck and try to hammer from
the backside. Soon I am covered in rust stains and WD40 spatters. Light beige
colored pants really are not a good choice for this job. Hubby soon goes off to town to buy another
can of WD40 and we begin our efforts again. Was that a little movement that I
see? After over an hour of spraying and hammering, the hitch begins to move
with each bang of the hammer. “Hurrah!” I cheer. “You have done it.” Now we are
ready to camp.
July 11, 2019
We get up at the usual time of 6:30 am. Hubby makes a trip downtown with instructions for his help and I feed the cat, move the calves around, and get the rest of our stuff together.
We have no problems with hooking the camper and soon are on our way. I think I have done well this time, but I am sure there is something that I have forgotten. Even with his neck brace, Hubby feels he can drive with a little assistance from me. We do have to stop at the shop and pick up his sunglasses.
We make several stops during our travels and realize that the camper trailer lights only work sporadically. Oh well! It pulls well with the pickup with being able to use the truck trailer braking system. The last time we towed a popup camper with our Toyota RAV 4, it made us extremely light in the front end and difficult to handle. That time we had to stop and move our bicycles to the top of the car to distribute the weight more evenly.
We decide to stop at the Reiman Gardens in Ames, Iowa run by Iowa State University. We wander through flowers and vegetables and butterflies- paths that twist and turn amongst beautiful waterfalls. It is a warm day but not totally uncomfortable.
Around 3:30, we head for Ledges State Park by Boone, Iowa. We miss the entrance on our first pass through. I am expecting a well-kept, well-staffed entrance booth. The sign that points towards the “Park Office” seems misleading. It looks like a maintenance building, not what I think of as a park office. After realizing we have passed the park, we swing around in the middle of the road and head back again towards what I think looks like a park entrance building. It is the right place but there is no one staffing it. It seems to be a “register yourself” kind of thing. Well, we have reservations, so we decide to just go set up our campsite. And there is the green reservation card waiting for us.
Our trial run of setting up the camper at home pays off as we are efficient and competent. Starting our little Coleman camping stove does not turn out quite so efficient though. It has been probably five years or longer since we have used it and Hubby just can’t get it to light. He pumps and he pumps and he pumps but it just won’t light. Of course, when all else fails and it looks like there will be no supper, one should read the directions. Reading them slowly and carefully is helpful too. It says “turn lighting lever up, with a lighted match over main burner, open valve completely and light. After flame turn blue, turn lever down.” Clear as mud. Which is the light lever, and which is the valve? Hubby does vary his technique and at least we get flame- leaping dancing orange flame but it is flame, just not blue flame. After some more fiddling around, he finally gets the flame under control and supper is in the making.
And I now discover what I have forgotten – the water jug to carry our water. It wouldn’t be camping without a major forgotten item. I search through the camper and come up with a shiny blue covered cooking pot. That will work dandily.
We sit outdoors in the warm evening glow and enjoy the birds singing, the mosquitoes chomping on us, and the myriad sounds of nature. We do realize that the bathroom is quite a distance from us. Around the circle, down the road, turn right, walk another ¼ mile and circle again. Bummer. Don’t think I will be going over there in the middle of the night.
July 12, 2019
Scritch, scratch, scratch, scratch… I am awakened in the dark of night. What is that scurrying in the grass outside of our camper? Hubby is awake too and hands me the flashlight. I press the light against the screen of our sleeping area. Two sets of shadowy eyes glare back at me from the top of the picnic table. Ugh… I had left one empty package from our supper on the picnic table as I forgot to take it away with the garbage. It was weighed down with the water kettle. But those little bandits have found it and are busily chewing away on the smell of chicken and noodles. At least it is not a boogie man.
The night cools off and the air becomes deliciously cool. We snuggle down in our sleeping bags, but I still have a hard time sleeping. Hubby rolls over every hour or so, rocking the camper like a ship on the wavy sea. I briefly wonder if those cheap metal poles designed for holding up this extended sleeping end of the camper really are strong enough. I have visions of us awaking looking at the ground.
We finally slide out of our bed around 7 am and begin the routine for the day. Our breakfast consists of fried sunny-side-up eggs cooked over our gas stove. This morning, the lighting of it goes much more smoothly. Hot chocolate, Italian bread, and donuts complete our meal. After cleanup, we are soon on the road to the Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad in Boone. We have tickets for the 11 am train ride. Or at least, that is what I thought. The gentleman at the desk looks at me and says, “Do you have reservations for the 1 pm train?”
I pause. “No, we have reservations for the 11 am train.”
there is no train at 11 am on Friday. Your reservation is for Saturday.”
stare at the ticket and then I stare at my watch and back at the ticket. “Ah
man. I must be mixed up. I thought today was Saturday.” Anyway, its nothing new
to me to be confused. OK, I guess we will come back tomorrow.
and I wander around the museum for a while and then decide to head out and
explore. One of the items of interest that I had come across on the internet
and in travel brochures was the Kate Skelly Memorial Train Bridge. I could not
find an address for it and one person who had commented said that he had to
travel some country roads to find it. Google had marked it on a map for me as
being east of Boone at about U Ave off 190th St. We leave town
driving east. I do like the coolness of the truck in the 90-degree heat but as
we drive along, Hubby questions our direction. “We have to go down to the
river. There is nothing but flat farmland here. There would be no reason to
build a railroad bridge here.”
I pull out a bicycle map Hubby has picked up and study it. Maybe our underlying
information is wrong. The Des Moines River runs west of Boone and for the
railroad track to cross it, the bridge needs to be on the west side of the
city. We turn around and head west. There are no signs anywhere indicating
where this bridge might be. First, we follow a major route west from Boone.
Once we cross the Des Moines River with no sign of the bridge, we realize we
have gone too far. Time to turn around again. I remember a road that we passed
earlier that indicated it was a dead end. Maybe that is the one that goes along
the tracks and will give us a view of the famous bridge. As we drive along, the
road gets curvier and rougher. We bounce down the hill over rocks and washouts
until we reach the end of the road.
that was a waste of time,” remarks Hubby.
Look,” I point through the trees. “There it is.”
sure enough, the tall stately bridge is visible in the distance through the
trees. We tiptoe through the flood ravaged backwaters to the edge of the De
Moines River. What a magnificent view! We are only wishing that a train would
come over the bridge about now and Hubby would have the perfect photographic opportunity.
But it is a hot day and the mosquitoes think we are tasty, so we do not linger
long. We make our way back up the rock-strewn path and turn down another washed
up road that has the potential to take us maybe to the other side of the bridge
further downstream. This road does take us over the double railroad tracks on
our path downward to the river. “Look for Trains,” says a big sign on a
trailer. There are none to be seen.
This gravel road does give us a different vantage point, but the bridge seems further away, and we soon retreat to the coolness of the truck. As we drive back up and make the turn to again cross the tracks, I state the obvious, “Look for the train.” The words are no sooner out of my mouth and whoosh, an engine whizzes by followed by a second one just a few seconds later on the second track. Together the trains hurdle towards the Kate Skelley Bridge. “Ah Man! I wasn’t ready for that one,” blurts Hubby.
It is obvious that this tourist attraction is not advertised and only accessible to those who seek diligently. Hunger and heat soon drive us back to the campgrounds though, where we throw together a lunch of spam sandwiches, chips, and Oreo cookies. Then it is nap time.
We spend the afternoon driving around checking out Madrid and many back-country roads. We locate another high bridge, the High Trestle Trail Bridge, just out of Madrid that is used for a bike trail. The easiest access is a mile walk from the parking lot to the bridge. We shake our head that no, we do not want to walk a mile in 90-degree heat. We will come back later this evening when the sun is going down and it is getting cooler.
Later in the day, the sky has clouded over, so we decide to leave the campsite around 8:25 pm for the drive to the bridge parking lot. The sun is orange in the sky and sinking toward the horizon. We will be too late for a sunset picture at the bridge, but we are hoping with it now being cloudy that it will not be so hot. The trail slopes gently downward through the trees- not a hard walk. Even so, the sweat bubbles out on my brow and soon is making rivulets down my back. The mosquitoes decide to check us out as well and we soon slather more Deet on our already coated arms and face. Hubby keeps saying, “I don’t know if I can do this.”
you glad we didn’t try to walk this at 2 pm this afternoon?” is my comeback. It
is only a .4-mile hike to the actual bike trail. There we are met by masses of
people moving rhythmically toward the bridge – like worshippers drawn to the
object of adoration. We melt into the flowing crowd. Bicycles with lights and
loud music blast past us while the slower walking people meander along. Now
that we have reached the trail, it is only another .5 miles to the bridge. However,
with sweat running places you don’t want to know about, it calls for fortitude
and the persistence of putting one foot ahead of the other. The air is still
and hangs heavy in the slowly darkening sky. The moon sits high in the sky and
thrusts lengthening shadows for the silhouettes now moving on the path.
near the bridge, we can see the white light that illuminates the entrance
pillars. The bridge itself is another .5 miles in length as it spans the Des
Moines River from 130 feet in the air. Part way across, it is lit by blue LED
lights. This is the spectacle we have come to see. It provides a photo
opportunity for my hubby’s hobby. Below us, the river flows lazily along
illuminated by the light of the moon. We spend about a ½ hour on the bridge and
then turn to trudge our way slowly back to the parking lot on the now dark path
through the maze of ambling people and speeding bicycles. A moonlight walk on a
hot July night does hold some romantic essence to it.
July 13, 2019
The fans in the camper keep us cooled down enough to sleep. We get more rest than the first night. I awake to rain splotches on the canvas. But it doesn’t last long. The weather is cloudy providing some measure of relief from the heat. It is actually quite comfortable this morning. Hubby cooks some pancakes for breakfast and then we decide to head out to the Kate Skelly Bridge again to see if we can catch a picture with a train crossing the trestle. Rain drops splatter on our windshield as we drive, and we decide that we do not want to be drenched for our train ride later. Rather than going down by the river, we stop on top of the hill where the trains pass by before entering the trestle. Soon it stops raining. Then I notice the railroad signal has changed to green on one track and to red on the other.
“I bet there is a train coming on each track. One going one way and one going the other,” hubby deduces.
bet you wish we had gone down below,” I respond.
but it’s too late now.”
ten minutes, we are graced with a train horn and a speeding train. And then
another one. Bummer. We should have gone down to the river and waited. We have
missed the opportunity.
head back to Boone for our lunch train run at 11 am – the one I thought we were
supposed to do yesterday. It is an 11-mile trip to Wolf, IA and back in the
comfort of air-conditioned reconditioned train cars. For some reason we are the
next to last ones called to board and they need to ask us who we are.
have room for you. Don’t worry,” says the conductor.
are seated at our table, he brings us two tickets, “Here are your tickets.”
Hubby and I raise our eyebrows at each other and shrug. We already have tickets. Did we mess them up by picking up our tickets the previous day? We will never know.
ride is pleasant. It is hard for Hubby to turn to see out with his neck brace
and to top it off, he is the one going backward. They stop the train at the
trestle so that we can look out and take pictures. There are no guardrails on
the tracks. It is straight down from the railroad tracks to the valley below- a
little too freaky for this “afraid of heights” person. But the scenery is
magnificent and when we think we have been forgotten with the food; it arrives.
We have pulled pork sandwiches, baked beans, and scalloped potatoes. Our ride
ends around 2 pm and we head back to the campground for a nap.
our morning drive to Boone, we had discovered the canyon and sandstone cliffs
that are part of the campground. We decide to return in the afternoon. There
are several places where the water flows over the road and we need to drive
through it. This morning, no one was around but now there are crowds of people
picnicking and frolicking in the water. The sweat again pours out of us with
little exertion and to walk seems like a huge effort. But I am drawn to the
water and I take off my shoes and socks and go wading. I expect a shock from
the cold of the water, but it is warm like bathwater – hardly cool enough to
cool one off. But it does feel sweet to the feet. Then I remember I probably
should not be wading with my cell phone in my thigh pants pocket – just in case
I fall in.
Children line the sides of the road where the cars drive through the flowing water and cheer for each car, “Faster, Faster, Faster.” Many drivers comply but Hubby just smiles and waves at them. I wonder how many cars end up with flooded engines from this practice.
We head back to the campsite mainly because we are not tolerating the heat very well to relax some before our supper. We struggle with the camp stove again as we do at every meal. Beef stroganoff is the food on the menu followed by Smore’s. It is too hot for a fire, but one cannot go camping without roasting marshmallows over a fire and making finger licking smore’s. The fire is soon crackling away. We settle into our camp chairs to read until our one bundle of wood burns away and the mosquitos are urging us to “take it indoors.” I decide to leave the garbage on the table until we make a trip to the wash house before bed. Then we will go by the dumpster and dispose of it. We are only in the camper an hour before we decide to make our last trip to the bathroom and turn in. I pick up the garbage bag and realize it has two huge holes in it and the garbage is spewing out on the table. Son of a biscuit! In that hour, the racoons have stealthily made their visit. So much for delaying the delivery of the garbage to the proper place of disposal.
prepare to get ready for bed, we try to figure out how to get undressed and
redressed without flashing the community around us. We don’t have privacy
curtains. Last evening, there were no neighbors around but tonight, we have
neighbors on all sides. The solution we decide upon is to turn out the lights
and change in the dark. It really is not that dark as the moon is moving
towards full and there is light reflected from the adjacent campsite. I am
confidently washing up and feeling quite secure when out of the door of the
camper next to us comes a man with his flashlight. It hits me full in the face.
Really? This is annoying. And then he sits down or so it seems, and it
continues to shine into our camper. Is he watching? Is this entertainment? He
probably doesn’t even know that it is pointed our way. But I do. I end up
having to crouch down behind the stove to be insured that I am not providing a
July 14, 2019
We climb out of our bed around 7 am and Hubby cooks our breakfast of biscuits and gravy. Then it is time to tear down and head out. The temperature is already climbing, and rivers of water pour off of us. Our plan is to visit the Iowa Arboretum just south of the campground before heading home. The day is beautiful, and the flowers are magnificent, but Hubby and I move slower and slower. The heat has sucked all the energy out of us.
“I think I am going to throw up,” he says. Time to get ourselves to the cool truck and start our journey homeward.
make one last stop in Clear Lake, Iowa looking for the Guardian Wayside Chapel
which Hubby has seen advertised. The ad says it is located on South 24th
St. There is no house number. I type a random 620 into the GPS. We follow our
guide’s instructions to exit the freeway and take the second left. We drive
maybe a ¼ mile on 24th street and the GPS announces that we are at
620. No more than it has said that than Hubby declares, “There’s the sign.” I
don’t see any sign but good thing his eye caught it as it is weather beaten and
peeling. That was way too easy. Maybe it is the guardian angel that has led us
We walk back a grassy path into a secluded area of the woods in the middle of this city and there it is – a beautiful white chapel. It is quiet inside and peaceful and we spend a few minutes meditating as I read the story of the chapel’s history aloud.
Then it is time to find a place to satisfy our hunger and travel the remaining miles home. Our journey into nature has been successful. Our creaking not-quite-as-bendable bodies say, “thank you” to the popup camper and its owners for putting an extra few feet between them and the hard ground.
“Do you want to go along with me to Albert Lea,” questions my husband, “It is the only place I can find a silver cover for this light fixture that I need.”
Lea is about sixty-five miles from our home but not outrageously so. “Sure,” I
respond, “Why not.”
decide to go to the early service at a church in the local big city. Not only
will it be closer to our destination, but we will be able to get an earlier
start on our journey.
Instead of turning to get onto the interstate after church, Hubby pulls into the local Kwik Trip. “I need to get a Dr. Pepper.”
wait while he makes his purchase and a bathroom stop and then we are on the
way. No sooner are we on the interstate and the car’s cruise control set at 70
miles an hour than he decides to take a drink from the newly opened Dr. Pepper.
Suddenly, the car swerves violently and my heart skips a few beats. What is that all about? I reach for the
steering wheel as I glance over to see what the problem is. Hubby is holding
out a volcanic spewing pop bottle. Dr. Pepper is spilling onto him, the seat,
and the center console of the car. I am distressed by the flow all over
everything. Trying to help out, I reach out and take the bottle so he can gain
control of the car. “@#@#@#,” I exclaim as the vomiting bottle continues to
gush all over me.
did this happen?” I throw my question at him while trying to contain my rising irritation.
didn’t get the cap back on right and then I dropped it – twice.”
Great! I stuff my exasperation the best
that I can. It wasn’t intentional.
But I am still distraught. The driver’s car seat and Hubby’s pants are wet, the
passenger car seat and my pants are wet, and dark spots of sticky liquid cling
to nooks and crannies I hardly knew existed. We pull off the interstate and try
to salvage the inside of my car. That pile of napkins I have been collecting in
the glove compartment comes in handy along with Hubby’s handkerchief. Soon, we
have cleaned and wiped all the surfaces that seem to have been hit by the
cyclone bomb. It actually looks cleaner than before we started. I sigh. Let it go. No need to spoil the day over
some spilt milk – Oh I mean Dr. Pepper.
“Eight to ten inches of snow for southeastern Minnesota,” predicts the weather lady on the Saturday evening news, “followed by 45-50 mile per hour winds. There is a blizzard warning from 6 p.m. Saturday evening until 6 p.m. Sunday evening.”
groan. Not again! We have already
received almost 40 inches of snow in the month of February. It is piled high
along the sides of our driveway. More snow is the last thing we need. But like
all Minnesotans we take the prediction with a grain of salt and hope for the
Mother Nature has started to shake clusters of fat fluffy snowflakes past our security camera before we crawl into our warm bed. The storm has begun. Church has already been cancelled for tomorrow so it remains to be seen what the landscape will look like in the morning. I awaken several times during the night. The wind howls around the corners of the house. At least we don’t have to go anywhere being it is a Sunday.
peak outside in the early dawn of morning. The sky is blue, and the sun shines brightly.
Judging by the stacked pile of white peaked on the deck railing, it looks like
we might have gotten around seven to eight inches. The trees are whipping back
and forth but otherwise, it is a winter wonderland out the bay window in the
back of the house. It is a different scene from the front door. The wind drives
sheets of white across what was once our lawn and hurdles them down the drive.
Our snow fence and garden fence have disappeared beneath the ocean of blinding
brightness. Only the tops of posts with specks of orange webbing peak out. So much for the snow fence effectiveness.
The stone bench by the apple tree is no longer visible while the apple tree trunk
has gotten significantly shorter.
ventures outdoors to steal a few pictures and I follow him in a few minutes. Just how bad is this situation anyway? I
step into his footprints as I trudge after him seeking to avoid making new
tracks in the mid-thigh drifts. I am soon out of breath with this balancing
act. Our whole driveway is covered to this depth. Neither of us go far in this labor-intensive
march and turn back towards the house. The wind blasts us in the face and hubby
disappears into the snow. “Help me up?” is the request thrown my way as I look
back to see if he is coming.
you really can’t get up, I am not strong enough to pull you out.” I worry out loud.
This could be a life-threatening situation if one fell out here alone. The tracks
we have made only a few moments before are almost filled back in already. I
extend my hand and he is soon back on his feet. Together, we return to our warm
have a plow truck, but an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness engulfs me.
There is no way that we will be able to push these kinds of drifts. I make
several calls to different neighbors looking for someone who has a large
tractor snowblower or a tractor and bucket. Everyone is in the same predicament
and not willing to venture out in this weather. There is not much we can do in
this wind anyway. We both finally make the decision to wait until Monday
morning when the wind has died down to tackle this impossible project. I am
supposed to work at 9 a.m. but maybe I can negotiate a later time.
same white landscape with even deeper drifts greets us in the morning. Now the
drifts are solid and unmovable. Thankfully, the wind has retreated, and the air
is still in the almost zero-degree weather.
going to see what I can do,” Hubby announces. My stomach is tight, and I am
tense. I know how this will end – being stuck. I watch the movement of the
truck on the security cameras. Back and forth. Back and forth. I am constantly
watching for a lack of movement. He needs to drag the snow backwards with the
plow in small amounts and deposit it out of the way. He does this over and over
because it is too hard and too deep to plow forward. I am just putting my boots
on to go out and check on the progress when I hear the garage door slam. Uh Oh! That is a bad sign. Hubby has
come to retrieve the shovel. I stomp heavily in his footsteps to the stranded truck.
you stuck?” I ask the obvious. The front wheels have dropped over the edge of
the driveway in his effort to push the massive pile back from the edge. The
plow is buried in the snow drift. Soon we have the wedged snow dug out from
under the plow and the truck frame. But the attempt to back up only results in
two deeper holes for the front tires and the back tires spin. The chains
usually work wonderfully for traction but now are digging only deeper holes.
done for!” pronounces Hubby. We stand and stare at our hopeless situation. But
my ever-creative husband has an idea. He gathers all the tow rope that we own
and ties the truck off to the other truck in the shed. Then he attaches his
come-along. Neither of us are optimistic that this is going to work but we have
nothing to lose. While he is doing that, I struggle back through the snow for a
½ full pail of sand and salt for the back wheels.
in the truck,” he directs, “and put it in reverse while I ratchet.”
out the clutch and apply the gas until the wheels begin to spin. Then I stop. We
do this a couple of times while Hubby tightens the rope with the come-along.
Finally, he says, “That is all I can pull it. I think we are done. Try it one
out the clutch and step on the gas – this time like I really mean business.
Amazingly, the truck rises up out of the hole. I am almost shocked by our
success. The extra tension and the pulling downward on the rear bumper were the
ticket to triumph. My husband is a genius.
retreat to the warmth of the house while I wait for the next call for help.
Another hour goes by before I hear the house door bang again. “I need your assistance.”
In this last hour, Hubby has been able to clear out by the house garage. This
leaves us with the access to his 4-wheel drive work truck, a significant
improvement from our previous predicament. I drive the plow truck while he
pulls with the other truck. Soon, I have been dragged backwards out of the
snowbank and planted firmly on the drive again.
I glance at my watch. 10:00. If I am going to arrive at work by noon which was my re-negotiated start time for today, I will need to leave in an hour. The drive is only ½ cleared after three hours of plowing. My decision is made. I need to let go of my guilt and life-long instilled drive to always meet my obligations. I will make my first road call ever. I am already stressed to the max over this situation and the sheriff’s department is saying many roads are still closed with huge drifts in places.
One more episode of needing to be dragged backward out of the snowdrift on the side of the drive occurs in the next hour before Hubby announces, “I’m through. I can get out. I need to go on a service call though. One of my customer’s barns collapsed. You can try to widen the path a little if you want while I am gone.”
I have no desire to get stuck while he is gone, and I have no one to pull me out. However, I have this bright idea that I can go to town with the snowplow and fill the truck with gas. The roads are snow covered so the chains won’t be so hard on the blacktop and it will give me a chance to see what the roads are like. I switch over to 4-wheel high gear and off we go. The chains do make for significantly more chattering of the tires, so I drive slowly. Several spots in the road are one-lane only but otherwise, the road is in fair condition. One mile out of town, I notice that the “Coolant Low” light is on followed by the “Engine-Overheated” light. Great! Just great! I am frustrated as to why the truck should be overheating. We have plowed all morning without a problem. I pull over, turn the key off, and pull the hood lever. I do have extra coolant with me. I know that one is not supposed to open the radiator lid when the engine is hot, but I think that I can turn the cap just enough to let off some of that pressure slowly. I stand back and slowly turn the cap, allowing the scalding coolant to sizzle gradually around the cap. But the boiling liquid has other intentions. Like a volcano, the cap shoots into the air following by the trapped geyser like those found at Yellowstone National Park. I stand there in horror and watch the spouting liquid cover the plow, the engine and the front of my coat. It does not stop until most of the coolant has been spewed into the air.
“Can I help you? Do you need a ride?” the voice is that of a gentleman who has stopped.
“I’m good,” I say, “it just overheated, and I wanted to add more anti-freeze.” I am not about to admit that I am a total idiot for taking off the cap while hot but I’m sure it is obvious from the state of my truck. The engine is steaming, and the plow is covered in orange-yellowish liquid. He wishes me well and drives away. I am left to dump what remaining anti-freeze I have with me into the holding tank. It does not begin to fill it. If I can only make it to town, I can buy more. Now to find the missing cap. I look under the truck and all through the engine compartment. No cap! “Lord, help me,” I breathe. This is an utterly ridiculous pickle. I turn around and look up the road. There it lays on the shoulder of the road six feet in front of the plow. “Thank you.”
The temperature gauge has dropped back into the safe range when I restart the truck. If I can just make it this last 1 ½ miles to the gas station. No sooner have I started out again than the temperature begins its climb and the “Coolant Low” light comes on. I barely make the city limit before the “Engine Overheated” begins flashing again too. Frickit! This is not going at all like I planned. There is nothing to do but stop and walk to the gas station to buy coolant. Walking down the icy street because the sidewalks aren’t cleared makes me feel totally conspicuous. The middle of the street is piled high with the remnants of the storm making me an even more likely target for unwary motorists. Soon I am able to buy more coolant and stroll back to the truck. This does allow me to reach the gas station where I buy another container of coolant to empty into the bottomless hole. A full tank of gas and a full container of coolant later, I am ready to begin my journey home. The temperature stays in the acceptable range. Thank you, Lord. But as I make the last turn into the drive, that pesky “Coolant Low” light comes on again. Ugh!
The drive is passable, the truck is gassed, and blizzard 2019 is over. I am so done with this storm. And we are left with memories of a lifetime.
Beep! Beep! Beep! I roll over and hit the alarm for the third time. It is Friday morning and my day off. I am looking forward to a day of home activities. In the darkness of early morning, I slide out of bed and throw the covers back over the bed. As I pull open the bedroom door, I am hit by a sudden overwhelming curtain of silence followed by wooziness. That was weird. As I take that first step down the hall, my right leg wobbles and I reach out for the wall. My right arm also seems somewhat uncoordinated and I need to think about where I place them as I traverse the morning route to the bathroom in the dark. I shake my head several times trying to clear the cobwebs from my brain. It is not unusual for me to experience vertigo at times, but it usually passes in thirty seconds or so. This does not want to go away. I peer at my face in the mirror. All facial movements seem symmetrical. I console myself that it is probably not a stroke. I conclude that this must be an escalation of my normal vestibular (ear) problem. Afterall, I have been sick for most of the last week with the common cold. Maybe it has moved to my ears.
“Are you OK?”
It is the voice of my husband.
“No, I am
not OK.” I stand there trying to clear my head. “I would go downstairs to the
bathroom, but I don’t think I can make it that far.”
He offers me
the commode as a seat, and I plunk down on it. I sense the watering in my mouth
that precedes an upchuck. Oh dear!
“Do you need
to throw up?” he asks.
coming. I don’t know what is wrong, but I think we need to go somewhere. I
don’t know where to go at the clinic so maybe we should just go to the ER. Can
you help me get dressed and then you should go plow first?”
been a day of receiving three to four inches of snow followed by high winds and
significantly subzero windchills. As I had driven home from work at the
hospital at 7 p.m. the prior evening, I struggled to see the road in places. I
would find myself on the wrong side of the road, disoriented, and with the need
to get myself back where I belonged. As I finally drove up the drive, the
wind-driven snow hit me smack in the front. The drifts were piling up in the
yard and in the driveway. I didn’t know if we could get out without plowing.
I sit and
contemplate my situation as Hubby makes his way downstairs and out the door.
Because of the weather and the prediction of below zero temperatures, as well
as an injured right arm from a fall on the ice on Wednesday, he has already
decided to take the day off from work. If one has to be sick, I guess the
timing could not be better. Hubby is home and neither of us are trying to get
attempting to throw up, the ever determined me decides to comb my hair. I have
to look respectable. I plant my feet wide apart for stabilization at the sink
and with a little thought into directing my arm, I am able to accomplish this
task. Now to get downstairs. I grasp the rail as I put one foot ahead of the
other. As long as I think about what my right foot is doing and grasp the rail
to stabilize the spinning room, I do quite well. I collapse in the recliner in
the living room. Uh Oh! Almost immediately, I can feel that premonition in my
mouth. I am going to throw up again. There is no way I am going to make it to
the bathroom. What am I going to do?
I don’t really want to throw up on the carpet. I drop to the floor and crawl the
six feet on my hands and knees to the laminated flooring just in time to heave
over and over. Exhausted, I crawl back to the chair.
appears at the kitchen door. “I can’t get the plow truck to start but I think
we can get out without plowing.”
go then.” I grab my basin.
glisten with frost covered needles and branches. The sun shines brightly. It is
flanked by the colored pillars of sundogs. The car thermometer displays 12
degrees below zero. On any other morning, this would be a beautiful scene to
absorb and photograph. It is still a beautiful scene but not really enjoyable
with one’s head in a barf bucket.
A lady with
a wheelchair is waiting for us just outside the emergency room. I could not be
more thankful as I don’t think I can walk anywhere at this point. We are
whisked into a room and soon introduced to a medical student. I was expecting
hours of waiting to be seen but when one is really in trouble, the most
efficient means of obtaining medical care is the emergency room. I suppose it
was that telling them that my right arm and leg didn’t work right. That
triggers a different response than just throwing up or some such thing.
your partner?” asks the nurse who takes my vital signs.
the guy I picked up in the ditch along the way,” I intone.
lost her humor.”
Soon, I am performing all kinds of neurological tests. “Squeeze both hands. Follow my finger with your eyes. Pick up your left leg. Pick up your right leg. Push down on the gas pedal. Pull back towards your nose.” I perform most of these with ease. I only stumble on two of them. “Touch your nose, then my finger with your right hand as fast as you can.” My finger has a hard time hitting my nose and it takes complete concentration to hit the doc’s finger. “Slide your right heel up and down your left shin.” To this command, I find my heel weaving down the shin bone. I just can’t make it go straight.
you might have vestibular neuritis (a viral infection that affects the nerve of
the ear) but because of difficulty with those two tests, we are going to send
you for a CT scan.”
I grab my
trusty barf basin and off we go. By this point, I am throwing up every fifteen
to thirty minutes. If I keep my eyes open, the world has some semblance of
stability. If I shut my eyes, the world goes around and around. When I sit up
to transfer to the CT table, I sway back and forth like a branch in the wind.
“I think we should just slide you over,” is the conclusion of the CT techs.
I make it
back to the ER just in time to throw up again. I have given up waiting for them
to bring me the promised medicine for nausea. I hit the nurse call button. “Can
I have some nausea medicine?”
think there is anything ordered,” states the nurse who responds. Really? There
have been two different doctors who have promised this. I am ready to collapse
into a sobbing heap as I just keep heaving and heaving. I have lost track of
the number of times now. Soon she is back with the treasured medication.
student squeezes her body though the slightly open door, “The CT shows a small
cerebellar stroke, so we are going to put through a neurological consult.”
Shock would be my reaction. Why would I have a stroke? I don’t have high blood pressure. I don’t have diabetes. I am not particularly overweight. I have never had a blood clot. I do not have atrial fibrillation. I am only sixty-one years old, exercise regularly, and I take a full aspirin every day. All I can think of is my father who had a major stroke at eighty-two years of age from which he never recovered. He could not write or talk or communicate for the next seven years before he died. I would rather die than be like that.
Within a few minutes, the neurology resident appears, and we go through the same battery of neurology tests again. “I am going to send you for an MRI to evaluate the arteries in your head and then we are going to admit you to the hospital.”
By this time, I no longer care. I just want relief from the nausea. I want to sleep but every time I close my eyes, the world spins and renews my discomfort. By the time escort comes to take me to the MRI scan, I have received some Compazine for the nausea, but I still do not trust myself. The nauseous feeling lies just below the surface.
“What am I going to do if I have to throw up in the MRI scanner?” I clutch my emesis basin close to myself as if it were my security blanket as we set off again for another test. No one seems particularly concerned but me. I try to calm my rising panic as they strap me onto the MRI table and snap the head piece into place. I am somewhat claustrophobic anyway. So I talk to myself. Just take deep breaths and close your eyes. Then you can’t see how tight the tunnel is. I clutch my call ball and shut my eyes. At least the world has stopped spinning. The air blowing into the tunnel is cold and I shiver. By this point, all I want to do is sleep anyway so I doze off and on and soon the test is done. I am so glad the medicine is working.
I sway back and forth as I sit up after being transferred from the cart to my hospital bed. I close my eyes and go to sleep. This whole situation is beyond comprehension. My hubby settles down in the chair next to my bed. His face is lined with worry.
My assigned nurse comes by to introduce herself. She holds up the ridiculous yellow band that says, “Fall Risk.” They put them on everyone who admits to having a fall in the last year. Everyone in Minnesota in the winter is a fall risk and I have always told my colleagues if they ever put one of those things on me, I would cut it off. I stare at it and sigh. I guess I really am a fall risk. I soon discover when I try to sit up on the edge of the bed that a loud obnoxious noise also emits from the bed!
Sleep seems to be the only thing I am capable of doing without supervision. Before long, I am awakened again. A transport cart is parked by my bed. “You are going for a CT scan with contrast.” How many scans can I possibly go for? I just had a CT and an MRI and now we are going to do another CT – this time with contrast! So off we go again. I try to keep my eyes open to prevent the dizzying spinning.
Later that afternoon, the neurology resident comes by the room. “None of the scans show any evidence of vertebral artery tears, plague in the arteries, or a bleed. Since we do not find anything in your head, we need to look at your heart. I am scheduling a TEE (transesophageal echo) for tomorrow.” Gads! How many tests can they come up with? By this time, I am starting to feel significantly better and am returning to my normal personality. I ask to visit the bathroom and am trilled that I can ambulate fairly well. I still cannot pass a roadside DWI test but with the compensation of a wide-stance gait and a tightly clutched gait belt by the nurse, I can walk. Bored with being in bed, I sit up in the chair for a couple hours. I attempt to find and write down a few phone numbers for calling my supervisors, but my hand produces mostly an illegible scrawl. I can text if I take my time. After notifications to some family members of my state of affairs, I crawl into bed and sleep some more.
Steam rises from the chimneys of the city outside my window on Saturday morning. My immediate view is that of the hospital chapel, its door surrounded by frost. My life feels a little bit like it is surrounded by frost too. I was not planning to be here today. I have life to live.
Not being inclined to be an invalid, I situate myself in the chair. I just need to be careful about not doing any spins or dance moves. Reassured that I am fine and won’t do anything stupid, the nurses have turned off the bed alarm and I have reverted to being the patient+. This means I maneuver my own IV pole, my bedside table, and IV pump the best that I can. The lab gal comes to draw my blood and I ask her to use my left arm because the right antecubital area is all black and blue. “But someone has to come and turn off the IV,” she declares.
“No problem. I’ll take care of that.” And I do.
Soon there is a knock on the door and a lady from occupational therapy enters. “How are you doing? My job is to evaluate you from an occupational standpoint and determine if you need therapy. Can we go for a walk?”
I sign heavily. I am fine but I am happy to go for a walk in the hall. She slips on the dreaded gait belt and off we go. The IV pole provides all the stability that I need. I am convinced that if I stumbled or started falling, this lady would not be able to help me. She seems more unsteady and feebler than me. My being as good as I am, I reflect, has nothing to do with my own abilities but to the grace of God and his goodness in allowing me full return of my faculties. This facade of independence, competence, and strength that we all present to the world is just that, a façade that can be crashed at any moment.
I have not eaten any breakfast as I am not to eat in preparation for the planned TEE.
Imagine my surprise when the escort shows up with the transport cart around ten am. “I am here to take you to your MRI with contrast.”
“My MRI??” I question incredulously. “I thought I was going to have a TEE today?”
“The directions say we are going to an MRI,” repeats the escort gentleman.
I just love the communication around here. No one talks to me. They just change plans out of the blue. I guess we are going to an MRI. I think I will have met my medical deductible with two CTs and two MRIs. This time I am more prepared and feel physically better. I open my eyes in the MRI scanner and look around the best that I can while being in a head vise. Above me is a mirror that reflects the head frame back at me. It gives the illusion of more space than there really is. I can’t actually see the bore that surrounds me. That’s interesting. I wonder if they can see me from the control room.
Back in my room, I get up to the bathroom. My legs and my upper arms are covered with red spots intermingled with white splotches and they are starting to itch. Great! I must be allergic to the MRI contrast used. The MRI tech told me that no one is allergic to the MRI contrast. There is always a first. The only time I have ever seen this on me before was after several mosquito bites in the same area and that rash lasted for weeks. The only thing that was helpful was to grit my teeth and not scratch.
The resident comes by later in the afternoon to inform me that this MRI did not show anything abnormal either. “I thought I was to have a TEE today. How come we went for MRI instead?”
“We can’t do the TEE on the weekend unless it is an emergency, so we have to wait until Monday. We wanted to definitively confirm that nothing is going on in your head anyway, so we decided to do the MRI instead.” I am beginning to wonder if there is anything at all in my head. Maybe they are just trying to find a brain.
I sigh. I am already bored and feeling over tested. I have so many things I could do at home. “Can I go home today then?”
She gazes at me and smiles. “You do look quite well. I guess we could let you go home and come back for the other tests we want to do as an outpatient. I will order a 48-hour Holter monitor for you and once you have the device on, you can go home. We will order the TEE for Monday as an outpatient.”
“Versed and Fentanyl medications do not work for me so I would really like one of my colleagues to use propofol for me.”
“Just tell them when you get there,” she brushes my request off.
“That isn’t going to work,” I impress upon her, “If you do not order it as anesthesia, no one is going to honor my request. I know how this works around here.” I can tell by her face that she has no intention of following my request.
Taking a shower is the next item on the agenda if I am going to have stickies all over me for 48 hours. With meticulous care and deliberate moves, I gather all the supplies necessary and bask in the warm shower. I am still somewhat like a waving reed but if I take my time I can compensate for any remaining deficiencies. This could have been so much worse. How does one wake up one morning and five minutes later, the world has been turned upside down? It hits me that we are not prepared for something to happen to me. I have always planned that my hubby would go before me. After all, his parents died in their early seventies and mine were both 89 at their time of death. The urgency of remedying this situation floods over me.
Once my shower is done, the Holter Monitor tech comes to hook me up. The last order of business is to read the discharge instructions. I notice that they changed my cholesterol medication without telling me and that the resident has marked sedation instead of anesthesia on the TEE order. She comes back to see me one more time at my request and I point out to her that there is a box to check anesthesia. “Alright, I will see what I can do,” she finally concedes.
How am I going to know when the TEE is planned for on Monday is my question? The resident has given me the phone number for the floor at the clinic where they do these, but I do not have a time. I am told that they will probably call me to let me know but no one really knows.
Monday morning, I anxiously wait by the phone. I check the on-line portal for patients. It tells me that there is a TEE scheduled for “undetermined time.” That is helpful! Finally, after hearing nothing by 8:30 a.m., I make a phone call to the clinic. “You are scheduled at 2:30pm in the cath lab at the hospital,” she tells me, “We don’t usually do them there for outpatients.”
She transfers my call to the cath lab. They clarify that I am on their list, but the nurse then hesitates, “Are you on an anticoagulant now?”
“Nooo… not more than aspirin and Plavix. And I got three heparin shots in the hospital.”
“That’s all gone by now. So that’s not enough. You have to be fully anti-coagulated before we can do this. I need to make a phone call to the doctor and then I will call you back.”
I do not know what to say. I am confused. This seems rather excessive. But then, I don’t do TEEs every day, so I have to assume he knows what he is talking about. I wish they had thought of this on Saturday. Maybe I should just have stayed in the hospital.
Finally, around 10 a.m., he calls me back. “My mistake,” he says, “We should be good. I thought you were having a cardioversion. We don’t need full anti-coagulation for just the transesophageal echo.”
The light bulb goes on in my head. Now I know what has happened. I have totally messed up the system and confused everyone. In order to meet my request for anesthesia-controlled sedation instead of nurse sedation, they needed to schedule my procedure in a place where anesthesia is available. And in doing so, the nurse there assumed that I was having the procedure commonly done there. It always amazes me how confused the system can get by changing just one aspect of the standard practice.
But I am delighted to find that one of my colleagues, a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, is there to administer that special drug, propofol, that I handle so adeptly every day. I drift off into a blissful sleep to wake up feeling comfortable and secure at the completion of the procedure. Finally, I am able to reap a benefit of my career.
In spite of all these tests, no clots, or artery tears, or cholesterol plagues are ever found to explain why this happened to me. It leaves me wondering. Is there another time bomb waiting to go off some day? Only time will tell. And I think I like being on the provider side much better than on the patient side.
I am hit in the face by a blast of cold air as I step out of the elevator and into the fifth level of the parking ramp. The weatherman has predicted temperatures of -15 to -20 degrees for this evening with 30 mile per hour winds. I am hoping to make it home from work without a problem. My 2016 Subaru Forester protests as I turn the key but pops right off. The dashboard thermometer shines out a chilly -14. Every part of my trusty chariot creaks and cracks with stiffness but soon we are rolling homeward. The air is saturated with tiny particles of blowing snow making for a hazy backdrop for the street lights.
As I approach the stop sign at the
top of the hill behind the hospital, I step on the brake as is considered
appropriate to do at a stop sign. The brake pedal is stiff and refuses to be
depressed. The car keeps creeping forward. Oh no! I press harder on the pedal as
a sense of helplessness washes over me. I then let up and press again. This
time the brake pedal responds. What was
that all about? I ask myself. A memory from this past Sunday comes back to
me. My hubby was driving on the way to church. As he braked for a stop sign, he
had declared that the brakes didn’t work.
“Well, I haven’t had any problem
with them,” I had declared brushing off his concerns. He must have been
mistaken, I had thought. Now, I understood what had happened to him.
I pump the brakes a few times. They seem to be working again. This is not a night that I want to be stranded beside the road requiring walking but then moving forward is not the problem, it is only the stopping. At least, there are not many people on the road, so I make the decision to continue my journey towards home. The wind driven snow hurtles across the road making for whiteout conditions in spots. This makes travel slow and tedious. The brakes seem to now be working properly. Soon I am making a left turn onto main street in Elgin and then a right to stop at the post office. Well, maybe, I will stop at the post office as it is happening again. I apply the brakes. They are stiff and do not respond. Is this just because it is so cold outside? I have no idea but this is getting scary. I need my car tomorrow, but I am going to have to call the garage. I can’t drive like this. It is a lot like playing Russian roulette, never being sure which stop will become the deadly one.
We are greeted the next morning by
frost coating the windows and creeping around the edges of the doors of the
house. The little snowman on the wall is bundled up and declares that it is -28
degrees. Hugh beautiful sun dogs grace the sky. I have no desire to leave the house,
but I have a tax appointment at 10 a.m. and I need to drop my car off at the
garage afterward. My hubby has decided to not even try to go to work so he can
at least pick me up.
That little Subaru groans as it does
a slow turn of the engine but then sputters to life. She always starts. I test
the brakes gingerly a few times as I drive away but all seems well. My trip to
town for the completion of taxes is without incident and I continue on from
there to the repair shop in our little town that sports our address. As I roll
up to the garage, it happens again. My foot firmly stomped on the brake is
having no effect. Horrified, I have visions of crashing through the closed
garage door right into the service bay. Hello.
I’m here. Now wouldn’t that be embarrassing. Thankfully, my anticipation of
the possibility of such an event has caused me to come in slower than I
normally would, and we roll to a stop just shy of the door.
“Just drive it in,” instructs the
repairman, “and we will check it out quick.”
We turn off the car while he tears
off the engine cover and peers at the various contraptions under there. He then
steps around and drops into the car. A turn of the key producing a cranking of
the engine, but it refuses to start. After several tries, the battery has given
up and a turn of the key produces only a clicking sound. OK, we are going from bad
to worse. I wasn’t having any problem starting it.
“All I did was take the cover off the engine,” he insists.
“Your hubby is here,” adds his
Yes, it is time for me to walk away.
There is not going to be a car for me to drive by tomorrow.
“Should we drive to the shop while
we are out and moving and try to start your other pickup, so I have a vehicle
to drive to work tomorrow?” I question Hubby.
“It hasn’t been run for a week,” he
counters, “but now is probably better than at 5 o’clock this evening.
My hubby’s shop is not heated and
the cold seeps into our clothes and bites our fingers and toes. The truck does
not think it should have to wake up today in the cold either. It makes a gallant
effort at cranking sluggishly five or six times and then it is done. Jumping it
is not an option due to its forward position in the shop parking bay. The
charger and the portable LP heater are at home, five miles away but there is
nothing to do but go get them. At least we have one vehicle that has not been
defeated by the bone chilling cold.
Soon we have the heater pouring its
warmth into the truck engine and the charger putting new life back into the
battery. We hole up in the running work truck while we wait. Thirty minutes
later, hubby decides to give it a try again. Vrrrmm!! What a delightful sound.
“Hurrah!” I shout. My hubby who
doesn’t realize I have followed him back into the shop half collapses to the
floor in fright. Oh dear! “I didn’t mean to scare you,” I laugh. “I was just so
happy it started.”
“Hello, this is Gary from the garage.
Your car is ready.” Begins the phone call at 5 p.m. “I couldn’t find anything
wrong except the battery is weak.”
“Really! How is it possible that the
brakes don’t work because the battery is bad?”
“I couldn’t find anything else and
so many things are electronic these days, the ABS system could be being
affected because of it.”
As I drive home from the shop, the thermometer
on the car still reads -18 degrees. Who would have guessed that a stressed and
weak battery from the cold could cause the car brakes to fail? Could we just turn
the heat up now, please?