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Our summer has been one of little travel and few activities beyond medical care. Fortunately, this has not been life saving medical care. The medical care was more like quality of life care. My left knee was replaced on June 2 and my right knee replacement was done July 28. As a result, I haven't been getting out and about as much as normal. Exploring has been a big part of our life since we started living full time in the motor home. We've traveled all 49 RV states and most of Canada. Along the way we drive, hike and explore our surroundings. This summer we have missed that activity until this last week. With the healing well under way, I'm becoming more mobile. A fellow camper here at Goldstrike Village in San Andreas where we are staying mentioned that California highway 4 was a wonderful scenic drive into the Sierra Nevada mountains. Having nothing scheduled on Friday we decided to explore that route. Our first stop was in Angels Camp to drop off our water pump at the UPS customer center. It's going back to the factory center to be repaired. Leaving Angels Camp our next stop was at Murphys to top off the gas tank, always advisable when heading into the mountains. From there it was a steady uphill drive. The highway is excellent here with a good stretch of new pavement that hasn't been painted yet. We stopped for lunch at Bristol's Ranch House in Big Trees, a fair sized town near the state park of the same name. Louise had the special for the day, stuffed peppers and rated it first class. I had one of the best French Dip sandwiches I've ever had. Prices were reasonable and we were able to eat outdoors on the deck and enjoy the nice weather, sunshine and comfortable in short sleeves and shorts. Leaving Big Trees we were headed into high country. We passed up Big Trees State Park wanting this to be a thorough exploration of highway 4. The state park is close enough to our base that we can visit it another day. Once we are at higher elevations scenic view points start popping up. We stopped at several, enjoying the view taking pictures and doing some light hiking. The first stop had just a short trail out onto the white granite bedrock. At the second stop we found longer trails through a feature named H*ll's Kitchen. The granite bedrock was strewn with granite boulders weathered from the native rock. I guess you could picture it as a very messy kitchen. We walked around the whole area taking our time and plenty of pictures. This was my first real experience with rough terrain since my surgery so I was slow and deliberate. My right knee is just nine weeks old and I'm still favoring it a little when it comes to up and down grades. I was also being sure footed when picking my way along the trail. Scattered over the landscape are giant sequoia trees which dwarf the tall pine trees among them. Still, these are not the true giants which are found in the state park and further south in Sequoia National Park. It felt good to be back out on a trail. As we left this area we passed a sign for the Spicer Meadows Reservoir on the Stanislas River. Louise asked if we could drive to the reservoir and I agreed. It was a ten mile drive into the valley on a smaller, unmarked road through some spectacular scenery. There was very little traffic and one hardy bicyclist on the road. We took our time and enjoyed the ride. The reservoir is beautiful with the surrounding scenery being truly spectacular. I've seen the California reservoirs dreadfully dry in past years but this year the level was quite good for the end of the summer. We walked onto the dam as far as the Department of Homeland Security would allow, then drove below the dam to hike to a view of the generator housing and discharge pipe which feeds the Stanislas River below the dam. There was a full flow of water coming from the six foot diameter discharge pipe and additional water coming from two active generators. This put out a nice spray which the wind drifted to us from time to time. We enjoyed viewing the resulting river rushing downstream as we walked over a low bridge. After returning to highway 4, we continued on east toward Pacific Pass and Ebbetts Pass. It was now getting late in the afternoon. As we drove the road narrowed and became serpentine. The road was entirely unpainted, not even a center stripe. Signs cautioned snow plows not to continue past the point where the road narrowed. They also indicated permits were needed for vehicles over a certain size. This was going to be true mountain driving. We continued on for about a half hour, passing over Pacific Pass and descending to the bridge over the North Fork of the Mokelumne River. We had about an hour of daylight left. I elected to abandon further exploration so we could return over the narrow steep curving road in the daylight. We had already had a pair of deer stare us down and there were sure to be more as darkness descended. Besides, who wants to drive on a narrow snake of a road in the dark with oncoming traffic. No thank you! We made it all the way back to the town of Big Trees before stopping for dinner. The final 30 miles back to Goldstrike Village were done in the dark but on much better road. We had seen some spectacular scenery, walked among some of the big trees. I felt like an infant that had taken their first steps, I was going to get better and we would be returning to our life of exploring.
I 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.
It 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!