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Travel Log From California to Southern Texas
tbutler posted a blog entry in Tom and Louise on Tour in North AmericaWe recently made a typical trip that included some sightseeing and maintenance stops. I submit this description as an example of full-timers' travel experiences even though we are no longer full-timers. This trip is like many drives we have made as the final trip of the summer travel season. We left south Texas in early May of 2011. We visited family and I had knee replacement surgery during the summer. We left Missouri September 7 and arrived in California on September 16. After a stay of a month we departed our campground about noon on Thursday, October 13. We had an appointment to have our entry door lock repaired at Paul Everett RV in Fresno on Friday morning. They have an adjacent area with water and electric hook-ups. By sunset we were parking and hooking up electric. We had water and empty sewer tanks so no need for any other hook ups. We had been to Paul Everett for service before and they were always willing to take us in even though we have never purchased a motor home from them. Friday we lined up for service as the shop was opening. After a brief check in the motor home went into the shop. I browsed the parts store and found a few handy items we needed including a new propane detector. They were happy to install that for us. With the lock repaired we were departing Fresno just after noon. Our next destination was Albuquerque, New Mexico. I had Southwest Airlines tickets from there to St. Louis for a 12 week check-up after knee surgery. The doctor appointment was for Wednesday the 19th so we didn't have to push too hard. Still, I'd rather be sitting in a campground than driving an extra day so we didn't let any dust collect on the tires. Friday night was spent at Wal-Mart in Barstow, CA. Saturday night we parked at the Wal-Mart in Winslow, Arizona. Sunday night we were in the Santa Fe Skies RV Park in Santa Fe, NM. We talked over plans as we traveled. When it became apparent that we should be near Albuquerque on Sunday we decided to spend some time in the Santa Fe area. This was not our original intent but it was going to work well on several counts. I could take the car to the airport, leave it overnight and pick it up the next evening. Louise would be fine in camp for a day and a half without a car. We would be better off making one trip to Albuquerque for the plane flight than staying in Albuquerque and making multiple trips to Santa Fe for sightseeing. Monday we spent most of the day exploring Santa Fe. Tuesday I left for the airport shortly before noon arriving in St. Louis just after dark. Wednesday morning I saw the doctor and got the OK for six months until the next appointment. I was back in Santa Fe by 9:00 p.m. Wednesday evening. On the drive back to Santa Fe I was listening to the St. Louis Cardinals beating the Texas Rangers in World Series Game 1. Thursday we did more touring in Santa Fe. Friday we decided to drive to Taos. As we drove through the gorge of the Rio Grande on the road to Taos we enjoyed the brilliantly colored leaves so much that we made numerous stops to photograph the scenery. We picnicked along the river in the middle of a grove poplars with bright golden leaves. We barely made it to Taos when we decided to return to Santa Fe. The trip in this case truly was the destination. We would return to Taos another time and explore the area further. Saturday we left Santa Fe taking the most direct route toward San Antonio. Saturday night we stayed at the Wal-Mart in Lamesa, TX. By Sunday night we were parked at Cummins Southwest in San Antonio. Monday morning, October 24 the motor home goes into the Cummins shop for an oil change and lube. We're out of the shop before noon. We had a rock hit the windshield during our drive from Santa Fe. I used the waiting time at Cummins to arrange a stop at the glass shop for the afternoon. They were very flexible. We pulled up and parked on the street in front of the shop. Ten minutes later they were at work on the windshield. I called our next service appointment while work on the windshield proceeded. We would be at Iron Horse RV after their lunch hour. They had installed a water pump which had failed. A second had been installed and it was showing the same problems the first pump did. They made some adjustments, I changed water filters, it was working better. Will it last? We'll have to use the pump for a while to see. Now I called ahead to Texas RV which had ordered parts for repairing our toilet. They would accommodate us for the night on their lot with electric hook ups. The next morning, Tuesday, we had a tech at work removing the toilet. Inspection showed that we needed new vacuum breakers. They hadn't ordered them and it could be several days before they could be shipped from the manufacturer. After some checking they found them at another dealer in San Antonio. Now it is 2:00 p.m. and we are leaving San Antonio. We used our passage through San Antonio to take care of several maintenance items so we would be ready to go next spring. Tuesday as the last light faded from the sky we were pulling into our winter residence in Edinburg, TX. We park the motor home next to our mobile home which makes the unloading process easier. Still, late in the evening we pretty much settle for just getting a few items into the house before hitting the sack. The next day we would take the motor home out for its annual safety inspection. Once that is done, we can park for the season. By Wednesday evening the motor home is on its wood pads, leveled and we're unpacking and storing the contents in our house. Several days later we close up the slides. We left the campground in California on October 13 and have parked the motor home for the winter on October 26. Thirteen busy days from summer travel to parked for the winter.
tbutler posted a blog entry in Tom and Louise on Tour in North AmericaToday we become house sitters. Our daughter and her family are off for a family vacation. They are leaving, our motor home remains parked in their driveway. The summer continues to melt away and we aren't going anywhere. Normally, we're long gone by this time of the summer. One of our reasons for buying the motor home in the first place was to escape the unbearably hot mid-west summers. This summer we're stationary and the rest of the world is on the go. Despite my whining about our being parked, it was planned this way. My knees have been getting more painful as the years have stretched on. In the last several years, they have tolerated my activity only at the price of long recovery resting periods after each period of activity. I was spending more time sitting in a chair than on the go. It's not the lifestyle we wanted. I've done knee braces, medications of various kinds and modifying my activity, all with diminishing returns. So finally after all this, we decided this was the year to rebuild my knees. As of last Thursday, I now have two shiny new knees. You can tell by looking, the zippers are evident. Today I start home therapy for my right knee. A visiting nurse will arrive this morning to assess my condition and guide me through the next three weeks of my recovery. The therapist arrives this afternoon to lead me through the first exercises to recover full use of my new knee. I know the drill, still it helps tremendously to have some guidance with the whole process. I see one of the great values of this kind of attention being that a professional is assessing my condition and prescribing activities to challenge me appropriately to keep the recovery going at a fast rate. Without professionals monitoring me, I might go too fast or too slow. My right knee seems to be recovering much faster than the left knee. I'm experiencing less pain and greater mobility. So today my daughter and her family are off on vacation and we remain parked, a reversal of our normal situation. We'll stay here for the next six weeks. After the six week visit to the doctor, we are going to head for California to visit another daughter and her family. We'll spend a month there then return to the mid-west for the final visit with the surgeon before heading south for the winter. In the meantime, I am having a number of interesting experiences. On Saturday, I was in Wal-Mart, waiting for the pharmacy to fill my prescription. I had three separate discussions with other customers. I don't usually visit with other customers at Wal-Mart, it is a place to shop not visit. Most people are there on a mission and aren't looking to visit. Sitting there by the pharmacy, one after another, three people came up to me to comment on my knee surgery. The first, a man, his wife and daughter approached. He asked me about my knee surgery, did I have them both done recently? I told him they were eight weeks apart. He lifted his shorts a little to show me his scars. He had both knees replaced in one surgery and we discussed his recovery process. Later a younger man came up to me and asked about my knee surgery. He talked about the pain and difficulty of movement he was experiencing. He is planning to have his knees replaced in two months and was full of questions about the process and the recovery. Then a lady approached. She was picking up medications for her husband who had just had a knee replaced. She was surprised to see me out and about so shortly after my surgery. Her husband was having a much more difficult recovery. So I'm part of a club. I guess I'll be meeting lots of new friends. At a picnic for the local pilots organization last week I picked up several more new friends who noticed my scar. We visited about our surgery, recovery and current condition. Who knew there were so many of us? I certainly didn't know until now. I'm joining another club today. Today my insurance switches over from the insurance policy of my employer to Medicare. Yes, I'll be 65 this month. Having insurance with my employer has been a mixed blessing. They haven't been paying for my insurance, only keeping me in the group. Being in a group means I have insurance, good insurance and won't be dropped. It also means that I have expensive insurance and the cost has been an increasing burden on our budget. Medicare will reduce my insurance costs while providing good insurance and a guarantee of not being dropped. At my age, I would not want to be without good health insurance. When we went full time, being tied to my employers insurance meant that we had to return to Missouri for all of our medical care. Louise has been in the same situation, being tied to her employers insurance. We've managed to do the routine stuff without problems by planning to swing through the area each spring and fall. In the case of my knee surgeries, we've had to change our routine to be in Missouri for this surgery. Now with Medicare, we'll be able to get our medical care wherever we are. It gives us a bit more freedom. Still, since I have a good doctor and a favorite surgeon here in Missouri, we'll keep returning as long as it is convenient. The whole Medicare enrollment process has been an interesting challenge. It took me quite a bit of reading, searching and questioning to arrive at an understanding of the possibilities available to me through Medicare. Both Louise and I have elected to go with the "original" medicare for the simple reason that it allows us to travel and receive medical care anywhere in the US. With the right supplemental policy, we are even covered for trips outside the country. It is a little more costly than some other routes but compared to what we have been spending on medical insurance, this is a real improvement.
It's a Great Life
tbutler posted a blog entry in Tom and Louise on Tour in North AmericaI was standing at the window of our daughter's home looking at our motor home parked in their driveway. I was baby-sitting two of our grandchildren, the payment we make for camping in our daughter's campground. I do the early shift because our son-in-law and daughter leave for work earlier than Louise likes to rise and shine. I enjoy the early shift. If I'm quiet, the children will sleep until my shift is over. I can use the time to read the paper and catch up on my computer communications. Anyway, back to my original thought. Looking at our motor home, I realized that our motor home offers everything we need to be at home. This is not a new thought, we've been living in it for 9-1/2 years. We are able to live independently of our daughters family even though we are parked right next to them. We interact as much or as little as we or they desire. For an extended stay that could turn into mooching on the kids, the motor home allows us to stay independent and out from underfoot. We have been here for almost two months and will be here for another two months until both my knees are replaced and I'm healthy enough to travel again. When we do hit the road again, we'll head west to California to visit with another daughter and her family and see two more grandchildren. We aren't traveling right now. We aren't parked in some exotic scenic location. We aren't in a cool summer location. Parked or on the road, our motor home enriches our life. This is one versatile machine.
Life Returns to Normal or Close to Normal
tbutler posted a blog entry in Tom and Louise on Tour in North AmericaI am one month from my left knee replacement and life is returning to normal. Once off the powerful medication, I began driving when I returned to the rehab facility. I'm slow getting in and out of the car but once there, completely comfortable driving. Rehab is progressing from stretching and improving range of motion to building strength. The pain level in the knee is decreasing and I'm able to sleep better at night. My surgeon has me on extra strength Tylenol now. I thought I would see if I really needed the medicine a few nights ago. I was sleeping well and woke up about time to take the next dose of medicine but decided just to go back to sleep. The next morning it was obvious to me that I wasn't ready to give up the medicine just yet. I've made several outings lately. There have been several shopping trips, just a store or two. Wal-Mart is a long walk by the time you get to the back of the store! I've been to the bank and the office supply store. My first real excursion was Friday afternoon. Louise and I joined my daughter and her family for a trip to Herman, Missouri. Herman has a great German heritage from the early 1800's. Early immigrants brought wine making skills to the area and it remains the pioneer wine making area of Missouri. I had received an e-newsletter advertising a BOGO sale at the Stone Hill Winery so we planned a trip. The car trip through the back roads of central Missouri was a delight. My daughter and family and ridden the KATY Trail State Park from near their home to Herman a year ago and this trip was a chance to refresh all those memories. "Look kids, here is the bridge where dads bicycle broke down." We saw plenty of high water as we neared the Missouri River but it isn't flooding seriously in the Central Missouri. At the Stone Hill winery we tasted a flight of wines and picked out a few to take home. Then we had a late lunch in the Vintage Restaurant at the winery. The kids enjoyed eating lunch in a horse stall in the old barn building. The food was excellent and we even had dessert. We followed that with a trip back via another route. There were more memories of the bicycle ride and some close looks at the bank full Missouri River. Saturday night my daughter had snagged VIP tickets for the fireworks display at Innsbrook, a local recreational community. Her employer had contributed to the fireworks and then gotten a bad case of poison ivy so wasn't going to attend. We arrived at 7:00 p.m. to take advantage of the picnic lunch before the fireworks. This was a fine show, plenty of music playing during the picnic. Kids swimming in the lake. Boats gathering near the fireworks display. It was a very warm summer evening. They used periodic salutes to mark the time. As dark neared the music changed to marches and the fight songs of the branches of service. This ended with the fireworks accompanying our National Anthem. The fireworks were spectacular and we were watching from directly across the lake from where they were being fired. I had to walk to and from the car on grass on a hillside but managed that without any problem. The last visit to my surgeon we scheduled the replacement of my right knee for the end of July. I have four weeks to turn my left leg into my strong leg so I can support my right leg when that knee is replaced. Despite my summer of surgery we're getting in a few interesting events. Our plans now are to be here in Missouri through September before hitting the road again.
tbutler posted a blog entry in Tom and Louise on Tour in North AmericaIt has been two weeks since my last entry. In that time I've made great progress in my recovery. I had doubts about the wisdom of doing the recovery from my knee replacement while living in the motor home. After two weeks any doubts have been erased. Actually I believe that the recovery has been easier in the motor home than it would have been in an actual home. From the time I opened the door and faced the five steps to get into the motor home I found everything worked very well. There are grab bars on both sides of the entry stairwell so it is easy to find something to hold onto. While holding the grab bar on the dash, I was able to also brace myself against the floor in front of the passenger seat. Then I could use the seat and the dash to steady myself. Once inside, my recliner was just a few steps away. The walker I was to use was pretty much unnecessary in the interior of the motor home. I had a cane also and with it, I was always within reach of a counter, chair or table to steady my other hand. So getting to the toilet was about eight steps from my recliner and the bedroom another three. I could prop the cane against the wall by the bed within easy reach. The trip from the bed to the toilet was a three step dance. Even getting onto the toilet was easy. Cane in one hand and the other braced against the magazine rack. There are built-in courtesy lights in the bathroom and the kitchen so I could get up at night without turning on the overhead lights and still see to get around. My knee is healing nicely. The staples have been removed and the incision looks clean and infection free. Swelling and bruising are both in serious decline and I have recovered full range of motion. There is still some discomfort when I sit in one position too long and walking isn't completely pain free. Each day brings noticeable improvement. I'll see the surgeon in less than a week for my first follow up visit. I'm almost ready to take on the replacement of the other knee! The motor home has been a great place to recover!
Bad to the Bone
tbutler posted a blog entry in Tom and Louise on Tour in North AmericaOur travels after Denver were easy to plan. We drove about three miles from Golden Terraces RV Park to I-70, headed east and stopped when we got to Foristell, Missouri. Another three miles south of I-70 and we were at our daughters' home where we are parked for an extended period of time. Our activities since arriving here have included a dance recital by our granddaughter, a barbeque on Memorial Day weekend which included several killer games of croquet, and now a brand new knee for me! We've visited with my mother, both of our children and their families including our four grandchildren in the St. Louis area. Our granddaughter loves to dance and it shows. The dance school has a huge performance about this time each year. The participants range from 2 and three year old dancers up through high school and beyond. The really young ones are cute beyond description. The older dancers have amazing ability. Our granddaughter is somewhere in the middle. She does love to dance and it shows in her performance. The show starts at 1:30 and runs until 4:30 for a full afternoon of dancing. We treated everyone to ice cream at Fritz's, the local ice cream shop. The next week included hitting the doctor's offices including getting surgery for my knee scheduled. Louise has had a persistent cough, ear congestion and swollen glands. The doctor diagnosed a sinus infection and bronchitis. She is now on the mend. My orthopedist scheduled my knee surgery for June 2. This set off a series of visits for tests and exams at the GP and a pre-surgery visit at the hospital. As part of my pre-surgery routine, I set about getting everything top shape on the motor home. I had no idea how long it would be until I was able to work on fix-its after my surgery. One of my projects was to install the day/night shades from MCD Innovations which we ordered on our way out of Texas. The shades arrived on Friday after our arrival in Foristell. I had them installed by the following Monday. So now we have first class shades in the motor home. Louise loves how dark the night shades are. She has been sleeping late trying to shake off her bronchitis and sinus infection. At 5:30 a.m. on June 2, I reported to the surgery unit at St. Anthony's Hospital. Two hours later I was in the operating room and two hours after that I was waking up in the recovery room. It is now the 4th of June and I'm resting comfortably at home in the motor home. My orthopedist prescribed a rigorous pre-surgery exercise and conditioning program and it has paid off by getting me home quickly. Now I'll continue with the follow-up therapy. Once this knee heals, I'll have the other replaced. I thought perhaps I didn't need to have the replacements but a week off the pain medication I've been taking for the last several years settled that issue. Once both knees are replaced and healed completely, we'll break camp and head down the road for more motor home adventures. In the meantime I'm really ddddddddddddddddrowsy. Those hospital beds aren't all that comfortable. I only got about six hours of sleep the last two days. It turns out I'll be enjoying those MCD Innovations shades also!