Thursday, July 30, 2015

Family Emergency (update 3)

Location: Highway 509 RV Park (El. 275 ft); Mansfield, Louisiana

Today is day 20 since Brandon had his stroke. Again, he was very lucky he didn't die from it even though he suffered from no movement in his right arm, hand, leg and foot. I started to use the word paralysis but it didn't seem correct. To me, paralysis implies something permanent. It is obvious that Brandon's condition is not permanent since he has shown progress almost daily. As of today, he can walk unassisted, albeit with a pronounced limp and the use of a ankle brace. His fingers are opening and closing more than they were just a week ago. It appears the arm/shoulder may be the last part of the puzzle to be solved. The puzzle I'm referring to is the mystery of the brain. In Brandon's case, the stroke knocked out some of the connections in the brain that controlled his arm and leg. The arm and leg muscles were undamaged, but they were not receiving the signals from the brain telling them how to act. The recovery process is for the brain to make new connections to the arm and leg. For example, when he walks, the brain senses the imbalance and fires signals to the muscles to compensate. Those signals are now having to find new pathways to the muscles. This is exactly how babies learn to do everything as their brain develops in conjunction with their bodies.

We all hope and pray his progress continues and he makes a 100% recovery. 

To the readers of this blog, I say Thank You for the many thoughts and prayers for my son. The internet is a wonderful thing. Although I have only met a couple of the readers of this blog, I have felt the warm and kind feelings over the last few weeks about my family emergency. Again, Thanks. 

Hopefully the next posting will again contain positive improvement by Brandon and possibly be to the point where travel plans could be considered.

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.  

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Family Emergency (update 2) Information

Location: Highway 509 RV Park (El. 275 ft); Mansfield, Louisiana

Today is day 13 since Brandon's stroke. He has attended a few Physical Therapy sessions and is showing some improvement. Physical improvement is coming slowly while it is intermixed with emotional ups and downs. Brandon is familiar with facing adversities in life. He was diagnosed with diabetes when he was 9 years old. That is a tough thing for a child to handle with the constant finger pricks to check blood sugar levels and a few shots of insulin every day. The diabetes never stopped him from doing everything a child and teenager wanted to do. He was a stand-out at baseball, from little league through high school. After high school graduation he worked in a few jobs then decided he wanted to work in Auto Body Painting. He went to Universal Technical Institute in Houston, Texas. During his time as a student there, he suffered a heart attack and a stent was installed. The heart attack was minor with little, if any, damage. Even with the heart attack, he graduated from UTI only a few weeks later than he had planned. About one year later, another stent had to be installed next to the first one. I still have questions if the first one was installed correctly, or if two were originally needed instead of only one. Immediately after graduation he found work in a local auto repair shop as their primary painter. His reputation grew locally as a top-notch quality painter. Off and on over the last several years he has been in and out of the hospital for a variety of issues but each and every time he comes back stronger.

Someone asked him about the stoke the other day and his response was, "It is just something else to get over". How is that for a positive attitude??? I don't know of many people that could face up to so many roadblocks and still have such an attitude. Now, don't get me wrong, he can get a bad attitude sometimes as well, but overall, the positive side wins the average. 

It is just a guess, but I figure he will be walking unassisted in a few weeks. After that, his freedom to come and go, well be given back to him. He said he is searching for the purpose of him surviving the stroke. I have a feeling it will be something to do with helping others in a similar situation, but we will see. 

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.  

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Family Emergency Update 1

Location: Highway 509 RV Park (el. 275 ft); Mansfield, Louisiana

After getting new tires for Freedom on Monday, (7-13-15), I pulled out the following day and drove a little more than 500 miles to an RV park in Nevada, Missouri. It was conveniently located right along the interstate. I hitched back up at 2:00 a.m. and was rolling by 2:30 a.m.  That is the first and hopefully last time I have to hitch up in the middle of the night. Lucky for me I've done it so many times, I guess I really can do it with my eyes closes, or in the dark. I arrived at the South Bossier Marina/RV park about 1:00 pm and after getting set up, made it to the hospital by 3:00. I spent the night at the hospital in my son's room Wednesday and Thursday so my x-wife could get some rest at home since she had been staying with him day and night for a few days. 

Brandon's condition: He had a stroke and it was located in his brain stem. This is a bad location for a stoke since the 1/2 inch diameter brain stem controls so many functions such as breathing, heartbeat, blood pressure, speech, swallowing, hearing, eye movement, motor control for muscles. With a stoke in the brain stem, it can cause damage to any of those functions plus many more. If some of those functions are damaged, it can be fatal. 

Brandon was very lucky and the doctors are surprised he survived. It appears the only symptoms he is having is the inability to move his right arm and right leg. It has been one week since the stroke and he is able to walk about 30 yards with a walker. He attended 3 days of Physical Therapy in the hospital and the PT's were very surprised about his progress. He was released from the hospital Friday afternoon and we have an appointment with a local Physical Therapy Group associated with the local hospital. One of the specialties is Stroke Rehab and we will be going to them for a while. For Rehab like this, there is a golden window of a few months or more where your muscles retain their memory on how to do things. During that time and while doing PT, your brain is re-wiring around the damaged parts, and making new connections. Those new connections between the brain and muscles are made faster if the muscle memory still exists. A good example of muscle memory is what Brandon calls his "yawn reflex". If he yawns, his right arm will automatically start to rise up to his mouth like it has down countless time over the years. It will actually move upward farther then if he tries to do it on his own. This means the next couple of months are critical in his recovery. 

Although the doctors and PT's try to hedge their bets by not wanting to be very specific about his recovery, unofficially, they are all saying they will be surprised if he doesn't make a full recovery.

I'm posting this update quickly, and will proof read it and maybe edit it more in detail later but wanted to get it posted to update those people who were concerned.

Thanks for all the thoughts and prayers from everyone. 

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.  

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Headed to Louisiana (family emergency)

Location: R & R Campground (el. 1,350 ft); Mitchell, South Dakota

A family emergency has come up back in Louisiana. My youngest son had a stroke. He is in the hospital and the doctors are saying maybe 4 to 6 weeks of physical therapy will bring all motor functions back. His mother is with him and is keeping me informed on everything. 

One of the reasons for me coming to Mitchell was to get a new set of tires put on Freedom. It is questionable if she would make the 1,100 mile trip to Louisiana without them. I have an appointment for 1:00 pm on Monday for the new tires. I'll pull out of here early Tuesday morning. It's a little much for me to drive straight through like I used to when younger and sleeping in a truck stop parking lot won't work due to the heat. I will stop Tuesday night somewhere in Missouri and arrive in Louisiana on Wednesday evening. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Badlands (mostly pictures)

Location: Sleepy Hollow Campground (el. 2,850 ft); Wall, South Dakota

(click pictures to enlarge)
(all pictures taken with Nokia Lumia 929 cell phone)

The Badlands. 
Every time I say the words, "The Badlands", I wait for the sound effects. Something like, "da, da, da, dum,". But it never happens. Only in my mind. Oh well, I guess that goes to show how much movies in our youth affects us throughout our lives. 

I wasn't expecting the Badlands to be a "wow" moment, but I was wrong. 

After the initial surprise, I began to look at it from different viewpoints. From an Archaeological viewpoint I could imagine ancient people camped in the valleys using the walls as protection from larger animals. From a Paleontological viewpoint, I could imagine fossils being found everywhere. From a Geological viewpoint, I could see the different layers of sedimentary rock that had been laid down over the ages. From a Civil Engineering point of view, I could see the large fines and penalties from the Federal Government for allowing such a large amount of erosion without using any counter measures. :)

Although the weather was overcast, with a haze in the air, it was still interesting to see the different colored layers in the hills and valleys. 
That is "The Wall" in the distance. It
is where the town of Wall gets its name.

It wasn't too crowded so there were plenty of parking spaces in the viewing areas as well as being able to slow down enough to get some pictures while driving. 
Nice bench, but not a nice place
to rest or think.
 The reddish bands in the following pictures looked good. I've been told, when the weather and sky is just right, they are amazing. I guess I was just unlucky yesterday.

Junction of the Great Prairie and Badlands

A couple mountain sheep just hanging out.
I imagine they were kind of scared by all the
people down below taking pictures of them.
I took this one out my side window as I drove past.

I'll be moving on tomorrow. I'll be heading east for a little more than 200 miles to the town of Mitchell, South Dakota. I'll be there for 3 days before making a short move to Sioux Falls. I'm not sure about where I'll be going after that. The temperatures are due to rise into the lower 90's in a few days, so I guess I'll head north. Maybe up towards the Great Lakes. I enjoyed them last year and I think I would like to be shocked by the blue-ness of Lake Huron again. I'll do some more thinking on the travel plans while doing some easy cruising along the interstate tomorrow.

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.     

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Wall Drug Store; A Store as a Destination?

Location: Sleepy Hollow Campground (el. 2,850 ft); Wall, South Dakota

(click pictures to enlarge)
(all pictures taken with Nokia Lumia 929 cell phone)

Yesterday was moving day and I arrived here at Sleepy Hollow shortly after noon. The weather was great with temperatures in the lower 70's with a nice breeze blowing. The park is nice and located close to downtown. 
One of my neighbors is in a multi-colored camper. At first I thought, "old hippies from the 60's", but then a younger couple (mid 30's) with two kids got out. Hmmm,,, I hope I have an opportunity to talk with them to get the story of the trailer.  

I haven't had a decent sunset picture in a while and this was the best I could get while in Black Hawk. 

It's not great, but hopefully there will be some better ones ahead. 

There were two reasons that I stopped in this town; explore the Badlands and see the Wall Drug Store. It sounds strange to stop just to see a store. Maybe that would apply to the Mall of America or something big and fancy like that, but this is a drug store in a small town in South Dakota. I had heard and read about Wall Drug for a long time and wanted to see it for myself. I'm not sure if I would have stopped for it by itself, but since the Badlands are within a few miles, it was a no-brainer.

The story of the drug store starts in December, 1931 when a young druggist and his wife are considering the purchase of a drug store in Wall, South Dakota (population 326). 
Those 326 were mostly poor farmers that were just barely getting by as the great depression was beginning. There was no interstate highway like today and Mount Rushmore was not completed, so there were very few tourist passing through. But, after praying about it, the couple bought the store and with their son, moved into the living quarters behind the store. Times were tough and business was practically non-existent. It was the middle of a hot summer in 1936 when the wife came up with an idea. That idea was Ice Water, something of which they had a lot. She had been seeing people drive by the store and town without stopping so she had her husband put a few signs along the highway saying "Free Ice Water, Wall Drug". By the time he returned to the store after putting up the signs, the lines had formed. Business grew immediately. Before the summer was over, they had to hire 8 employees just to meet the customer demand. 

They still have free Ice Water today along with some real good coffee for a nickel. The store has grown and now occupies what looks like a little more than one city block. There are about 2 more city blocks of free parking lots. They have a little bit of everything for sale along with a cafe. On a good summer day 20,000 people show up. 
You know it is a big place when
they give you a map as you
enter the place.
I was one of those 20,000 yesterday afternoon when I went to see the place and get something to eat. I tried taking pictures of the inside but it was so crowded with people it was difficult. I ordered a buffalo burger with onion rings and a piece of cherry pie. The burger and pie was great but the onion rings were just so-so. I also got a donut on my way out. It was what I would call an "old-fashioned" or "cake donut". It was light and tasted great. 

I wandered around a little bit looking at stuff as well as people watching. It was an experience and I am glad I went.   

I will visit the Badlands today and I may stop at the Drug Store on the way because I hear they have some pretty good biscuits and gravy. :)

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Why Only Male Mammoths?

Location: Three Flags RV Park (el 3,650 ft); Black Hawk, South Dakota

(click pictures to enlarge)
(all pictures taken with Nokia Lumia 929 cell phone)

Yesterdays exploration was to Hot Springs, South Dakota to check out an active, on going, Paleontology dig.

A quick history of the location:
1) 26,000 +/- years ago, a sink hole forms and fills with water. The edges of this newly created "pond" are steep, muddy and slippery. 
2) Animal of all sorts (mammoths, camels, wolves, bears, etc) come to the pond to drink. Some fall in and can't get out due to the slippery banks. Obviously, some got out or there would be more fossils.
3) The ones who couldn't get out sink to the bottom and are covered in silt as the sink hole dries up and is filled with calcium carbonate rich material which helps preserve the bones and "cement" the area.
4) Over 1,000's of years, the ground around the now filled and cemented pond erodes away leaving the cemented area as a moderate hill.
5) Sometime in the recent past, the property owner begins to build a sub-division by leveling the hill. Bones are found, he stops work, calls the experts, they all get excited, he sells the property to the city of Hot Springs and scientific excavation begins. 
6) After discovering many different animals, the sight is enclosed so excavation can be done year round. 
7) Tickets go on sale for the public to see the excavation and bones. I show up, buy a ticket and see the sights. 

So far they have found 61 mammoth skeletons. Some are woolly mammoths and others are Colombian mammoths. But the one thing they have in common is that they are all males. Why is that? Why didn't the female mammoths fall in? Were the males showing off for the ladies and got trapped? Were the guys picking flowers for the ladies from the edge of the pond and fell in? Perhaps the ladies pushed the guys in. No one knows. Another one of those "inquiring minds want to know" things.

I won't caption each picture because it would be the same for each,,,, "Bones". 

It was an interesting visit.

Today is traveling day but it will a very short haul. I'll be heading about 60 miles to the town of Wall, South Dakota. I'll be there for 3 day while exploring the Black Hills and sightseeing Wall Drugs.  

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.   

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Mount Rushmore and its Secret(?) Hall of Records

Location: Three Flags RV Park (el. 3,650 ft); Black Hawk, South Dakota

(click picture to enlarge)
(all pictures taken with Nokia Lumia 929 cell phone)

I arrived in Black Hawk, South Dakota last Thursday after a short haul of about 100 miles. It will be a 5 day stay here which should be long enough to see some of the sights, get an oil change for Freedom and do a little maintenance. Black Hawk is only a half dozen miles or so north of Rapid City. 

One of the top items on my list of sights was Mount Rushmore. 
Interesting bridge with a
wooden sub-structure on
the way to Rushmore.
My family visited it when we lived in Mobridge, South Dakota but as a child I don't remember it at all. I only know we visited because I've seen the old (55+ years) pictures. It took about 15 minutes to get through the entrance gate where you pay the entrance fee. 
A tunnel on the way is expected
Even though it is a National Memorial and I've used my National Park Pass to get into other National Memorials, the pass wasn't accepted here. At Mount Rushmore, they are playing the Clinton game of "depends on what the definition of 'is', is". Entrance to Rushmore is free, but in order to enter, you must pay an $11.00 parking fee. 
The view while waiting to pay
the "parking fee".
The National Park Pass that I bought at Sequoia National Park is not good for parking fees. I knew about this before I arrived, so it wasn't a surprise and I've gotten way more use out of my pass that it cost to purchase, it's the principal of the thing.

Mount Rushmore was the brainchild of Mr. Doane Robinson in 1924. He wanted a mountain, in the Black Hills, carved into something that would attract tourists and their dollars to South Dakota. 
He had heard about a guy named Gutzon Borglum who was carving the likeness of Robert E. Lee (General; War for Southern Independence) down at Stone Mountain, Georgia. Mr. Robinson contacted him and commissioned him to carve Rushmore. Mr. Borglum began work in 1927. His original plan was to carve 
the likeness of 4 past presidents from the top of their heads to their waist. He also had plans to carve a map of the Louisiana Purchase with some important historical highlights of the country carved onto the map. Although he worked on the project for 14 years, he ran out of time to complete it. Mr. Borglum passed 
This is the walkway with all the
state flags represented. I
checked to see if Mississippi
with its stars and bars was
still flying. It was.
away in 1941 at the age of 74. His son, Lincoln Borglum, who had been helping his father during the work, put the finishing touches on the monument after his father death and declared the project complete.

The completed project is the busts of four past presidents. These four were chosen to represent certain parts of the American story. 

The crowds came as hoped
by Mr. Robinson
Washington for the founding of the country, Jefferson for its expansion through the Louisiana Purchase, Roosevelt for its preservation through his setting aside parts for National Parks and Preserves, and Lincoln for the country's unity during the Civil War. These carvings will be around for 10's of thousands of years. 
Spooky profile view of

Future generations and possibly future civilizations will be coming to view the faces on the mountain. 

But what if the future civilizations don't remember who the faces were or the amazing country they represent. If some cataclysmic earth changing event happens, most written history will be lost. Borglum thought about this and his solution was to carve a stone vault, behind the heads. This Hall of Records is 11 feet wide, 18 feet tall and 70 feet deep. The purpose of the Hall is best stated in Borglum's own words:
"Into this room the records of what our people aspired to and what they have accomplished should be collected and preserved, and on the walls of this room should be cut the literal records of the conception of our republic, its successful creation, the record of its westward movement to the Pacific, its presidents, how the memorial was built and, frankly. Why."  

He worked on the Hall between 1938 and 1939 before being stopped by the U.S. Government who was partially funding the project at the time. They convinced Borglum, that the Presidents were to be the top priority of the project and that he should finish them before doing any further work on the Hall of Records. Borglum reluctantly agreed. Again, time ran out for Borglum, due to his passing the Hall was never fully completed to his plans. Through the years, it was forgotten by many people and was never known about by others. The Presidents clearly overshadowed any partially built 'cave'. 

Fast forward to 1998 and the subject and purpose of the Hall is resurrected. A vault is cut into the floor of the partially completed Hall and into that vault is placed several items. Some of the items are: 16 porcelain panels containing copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, biography of Borglum and the story behind the Presidents and the country. These items, and others, are sealed in a teakwood box, which is placed in a titanium vault and is sealed with a 1,200 pound capstone. The Hall of Records is not open to the public and the picture I am using is from the National Parks webpage. The intent is not to be a time capsule with a set date to open, it is strictly for future generations or civilizations to know the history of the American "experiment".
You can see the sloped granite capstone on the floor.

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Devils Tower (a typo that lasts forever)

Location: Keyhole State Park (el. 4,200 ft); Moorcroft, Wyoming

(click pictures to enlarge)
(all picture taken with Nokia Lumia 929 cell phone)

The purpose for my trip to these parts was to see Devils Tower. 
Kind of strange the way the clouds
swirled around the tower

It is the first National Monument in the country and was established by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1906. This gave the state of Wyoming the distinction of have the first National Park (Yellowstone, 1872), and the first National Monument (Devils Tower). The apostrophe was mistakenly left off of the word "devils" in the official proclamation, so it has been left off ever since. Those pesky typos will hound you forever. :) Some American Indians have wanted the name changed since they don't like having the word "devil" associated with one of their sacred places. The problem is that different tribes have different names for the tower, so which one to use? 
Prayer/thought clothes left by local
American Indians. 
The tower was given the name Devils Tower by an Army Colonel in 1875 as he was confirming that gold was in this area. The local Indians leave "prayer/thought clothes" tied to the limbs of trees around the base of the tower. This is very similar to what I saw at that Buddhist Stupa in Sedona, Arizona earlier this year. 

The big question is,,,,, "what the heck is this thing?"

I've been to a lot of places, not only in this country, but in the world and I've never seen something that looks like this. 

Some of the experts call it an "igneous intrusion" which to me is just geological double-speak. They say it is magma from way down below that started coming to the surface 100's of million years ago, as a potential volcano, but didn't quite make it all the way to the surface before cooling off. Hundreds of million years of erosion got rid of the softer rock and dirt 
Nice paved trail around the
base of the tower. It seemed
like more going up than down.
over and around the "intrusion" which left us with what we have today. Yeah, maybe and maybe not. It is hard to believe the surface of the earth, even that long ago, was 900+ feet (tower height) higher than it is now. For that much material to erode away, it had to go somewhere. Where did it go? It is the same with the Grand Canyon, where did all of that material go? Geologists say all these drastic changes happen over hundreds of million years. Ok, let's go with that for a little bit. If during those hundreds of million 
As I've seen in many other places,
life will cling to the smallest of area.
years you can erode 1,000 feet of material from around the tower and carve the Grand Canyon, then how is it possible that so many dinosaur bones survived 100 million years intact? Those same geologists say the continents drifted around on the surface of the earth before getting to their present positions. It would seem that much "geologic activity" would be causing lots of earthquakes, etc. But during all of that rearrangement of the surface of the earth, a dinosaur dies, falls over and 100 million years later is discovered as a complete skeleton? Wow. It just prompts a few questions in my mind. You know, like the old advertisement,,,,"inquiring minds want to know". lol

Speaking of inquiring minds,,,, I saw this tree stump on the side of the path that goes around the tower. 

It has some type of symbol cut into it. The cuts are precise and clean. Does anyone recognize it? 

It was an interesting trip. I didn't expect to leave with so many questions in my head. It is one of those things that you just have to see for yourself. I took this shot through my side window as I was driving away. Notice the swirling clouds are no longer there. 
Parting look at the Tower

Tomorrow is moving day but it will be a short haul. I'll be moving to a campground just north of Rapid City, South Dakota. I'll probably be there for at least 4 days to have enough time to see some of the things around that area. 

Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.