Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Stroke Info That May Save Your Life

Location: Highway 509 RV Park; Mansfield, Louisiana

I have been in Mansfield for a couple of weeks now and will be here through Thanksgiving. The part of the RV park I'm in is an old mobile home park. The lots are very long and I'm in a nice location where there are trees to the north and west of me to help block any cold winds. The family house is about 5 miles from the RV park and is where my x-wife and youngest (30 years of age) son live. My oldest son lives about 3 hours away in south Louisiana while my daughter lives about 1 1/2 hours north near the Arkansas state line. Everyone will gather up at the family home for Thanksgiving. The menu is typically, turkey, dressing (pepperidge farms), homemade giblet gravy (my mothers recipe), green beans, yeast rolls, etc. It's good eating and we always ask why we only fix it once a year. No good answers. 

The number one "thankful thing" we will be thankful for this year is the stroke survival of my youngest son. For those that read the blog posts in the summer and early fall know that he suffered a stroke back in July. He lost movement in his right arm and leg but began to regain it about a month later. He has been going to Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy since about 2 weeks after the stroke. He has not regained 100% of his movement and I'm not sure what percentage it would be now. He is able to walk, open doors, drive a vehicle and take care of his physical hygiene. Improvement continues, but at a slower pace than what we were seeing during the first month or so after the stroke. Improvement continues for a lifetime. 

Just like a heart attack is an attack on the heart, a stroke is a "brain attack" and attacks the brain. It can happen to anyone at anytime. REPEAT,,, It can happen to anyone at anytime. It doesn't care about your age, color, weight, nationality or anything else. Sure, some things in your life increase the odds of you having a stroke, but remember, it can happen anytime to anyone.

There are two types of stroke:

The first, "hemorrgagic", is when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures or just leaks and the blood that comes out damages the brain. This is the least common type but is also the most deadly. It occurs in only 15% of strokes but accounts for more than 40% of stroke deaths.

The second, "ischemic", is the most common and occurs when a blood vessel in the brain is blocked by a blood clot or piece of plague which cuts off the blood flow and oxygen to the brain. The effects of this stroke depend on where in the brain it happened and how long the blood flow was cut off to the brain. The effects can range from numbness to total paralysis with losses of memory, speech, sight, etc.
The recovery process is the "re-wire" your brain. In my sons case, he had to re-learn how to walk, maintain balance and how to use his arm and fingers.

A subset of the second type is a TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack). It produces stroke-like symptoms that may last a few minutes or up to 24 hours. Most all of us have had or will have these at one time or another in our lifetime but never recognize it as a TIA. They usually do not cause permanent damage but should not be ignored. People who have had one or more TIA's are 10 times more likely to have a stroke. 

Some people make a full recovery after a stroke but 2/3 of stroke survivors will have some type of disability forever.

** Stroke is the 5th leading cause of death.
** Stoke is the leading cause of adult disability.
** After age 55, the chance of having a stroke doubles every 10 years.
** Women are twice as likely to die of a stroke than breast cancer annually
** High blood pressure is the Number 1 cause of a stroke
** If you are diabetic, you are 2 to 4 times more likely to have a stroke.

GOOD NEWS: 80% of all strokes can be prevented. 

The number one thing everyone should be aware of is their blood pressure. If it is higher than 140/90, then you have high blood pressure and should do something to bring it down. I won't get into all of the ways to bring it down since that is an individuals choice. A blood pressure machine is cheap and easy to use at home. It is truly, the "silent killer".

I won't go into the importance of controlling your diabetes if you are diabetic. If you are, then surely you already know the importance of it.

Smoking greatly increases your chances of having a stroke, but smokers already know this. My son was a smoker before the stroke but the part of the brain that controls the urge to smoke must have been damaged because he had zero urge to smoke after the stroke. 

Other things that a reasonable person should be aware of are heredity, cholesterol levels, excessive weight, excessive drinking of alcohol, heart problems, etc. This is NOT a complete list. If you need more information, there are excellent sources online. 

Everyone should be aware of the acronym FAST and remember it if you suspect someone is having a stroke. It stands for:
Face -- ask the person to smile. Does one side droop?
Arms -- ask the person to raise both arms. Does one drift downward
Speech -- ask the person to repeat a simple phrase such as "Mary had a little lamb". Is the speech slurred or strange.
Time -- if you observe any of the syptoms above, call 9-1-1 and get to a medical facility as quick as possible.

Sidenote: Parents,,, when teaching your children how to call 9-1-1 be sure to say each numeral separately such as 9,,,,, 1,,,,,, 1. Do NOT say "nine eleven". There have been instances where small children have tried to call for help and searched in vain for the number eleven on the phone. 

Ok, I've rambled on long enough. This is suppose to be a travel blog but since I'm not traveling for a month, I guess I will write whatever comes to mind. 

I sure hope this post has sparked a little interest in you. At least to make you aware of some things that could affect you dramatically.

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

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Liberty's Second Birthday

Location: Highway 509 RV Park; Mansfield, Louisiana

(click pictures to enlarge)

I woke up this morning feeling a little restless. While drinking my first cup of Community Club coffee, I started browsing through some of my pictures on the computer with wild and crazy thoughts of organizing them better. Currently, most are organized in files with the date being the file name. There are a dozen or so with real (words) file names. That is one of the reasons I created the map pages with my travel route and dates so I could locate the picture files by date. The coffee must not have been strong enough because no organizing happened. 

However, while looking at some of the older pictures, I saw the first picture I took of Freedom and Liberty hooked up together. It was taken on the day I took delivery of Liberty and towed it to the Red River South Marina/RV park. I have used that picture as the header picture for this blog ever since I started the blog. I guess I ought to change it since it has been up for a while. The difference between the header picture and the original is the original has the date on the picture. That date is two years ago, today!!!!. Wow, I knew I took delivery of Liberty in the month of November but I usually don't remember the exact date. I guess I don't have to remember ti any more since the picture will remember it for me. 

As I was looking at some of the older pictures, I was reminded of the decisions I made concerning the truck, RV, equipment, routes, etc. I don't think I wrote a lot about my thought process back then so I figured I would do it now. It will be good documentation for me and perhaps some readers, although boring, may find it useful or interesting.

Now I'm stumped a little bit because I'm not sure how far back in time do I go. I guess I will start after I made my decision to retire and travel around the country in an RV. That would have been about the spring of 2012 or somewhere around there. The first question was "what type of RV"? I spent many hours online learning about the different types of RV's such as Motorhomes (big class A's and smaller class B's and C's), bumper pull RV's and fifth wheel RV's (like Liberty). I listed the Pro's and Con's for each type and found that for me, a fifth wheel RV would do the trick. I went to two RV shows, and with the exception of having a nice visit with a friend in Fort Worth, I didn't like them. I went to a few RV dealers and didn't like that experience either. The sales people are looking to sell you their RV and will put down any other RV model or brand you mention. I narrowed the manufacturer down to Forest River and the brand down to Rockwood. My only decision left was which floorplan/model. I thought I knew which one I wanted and I was lucky in that a Texas dealer about 45 minutes away had the model in stock. I went there specifically to see that model so I could make my final decision. I told the salesperson what I was looking at and to my surprise, there was no sales pitch at all. They told me to look the model over and to take my time. I did just that and sat down inside for while and tried to picture how it would be living in it full time and traveling around. After 30 minutes, I made my decision, I didn't like it and it wouldn't work for me. Dang, I thought I had wasted my time. But, the good news is I saw another Rockwood on my way back to my car (didn't have the truck yet) and looked at it. That floorplan was Liberty's floorplan and I knew it fit me. That cinched it for me as to which RV I would buy. It would be a Forest River, Rockwood Signature Ultra Light Model 8280-WS. I liked the rear kitchen, queen sized bed, high ceilings and lazy boy recliners. I chose the "diamond package" which has many of the options I wanted. The main options I "needed" was the free standing dinette (not a booth) and second air conditioner (I want to stay cool). I have been very pleased with my choice of RV and have not second guessed myself. I have only had a few minor problems with the RV, but it was to be expected after towing it 20,000 miles in the first 18 months. 
This was taken at a truck stop after picking Liberty up from the dealer. The first campground was about 10 minutes away. They match up nicely. Notice that Liberty is level to the bed of Freedom. I was satisfied.

This was taken after getting her set up for the first time. The water hose is one of those fancy "pocket hoses" that shrinks up when the water is off. It didn't last very long and I never bought another one. I also notice I don't have my Surge Guard hooked up. I don't know if that is because I didn't have it or I just forgot to hook it up. Also, I didn't place any blocks under the front landing gear or the rear stabilizers. I'm now in the habit of placing 5 yellow plastic blocks under each. The shorter the travel of the landing gear, the more stable Liberty sits.  
This was taken in February of 2014 which was about 2 months before I hit the road. The BBQ grill was an option on the RV that I chose but wish I hadn't. I have not used the grill since I hit the road. It is too much trouble to clean it when I'm moving every few days. This picture also shows the "D" ring on the water heater door. It prevents the door from opening while going down the road. It looks like I hadn't installed the bug screens over the furnace exhaust like the one over the water heater. They keep the dirt daubers from building nests in the vent. 

This was taken 3 days before the picture with the BBQ grill. Louisiana winter weather can change very quickly. The temperature got down into the low 20's but my two electrical ceramic heaters kept me warm inside. I've only used the furnace in the RV a couple times, mostly just to check it out.

Once I decided on the RV to buy, I needed to decide on which truck to pull it with. Liberty's weight tops out at 9,000 pounds fully loaded. I wanted a truck that would not only tow that amount but would have some extra towing power and load carrying in reserve for those times when I would be crossing high mountains. I also wanted a short bed truck (easier parking in cities), extended cab (not 4 doors) with single tires on the rear axle. I really liked the Toyota but it didn't have the reserve power and load carrying I wanted. That left me looking at Dodge, Ford and Chevy. I eliminated Dodge, out of hand and unscientifically because of some bad memories with Dodge trucks from my work. Chevy was eliminated because it looked like they were going away from extended cab trucks. That left me with Ford which was fine with me because my father once owned a Ford F-150. The one I chose, based on towing capacity, payload capacity (the weight of the RV carried by the truck) and comfort level, was a Ford F-250 Lariat with the 6.2 L V-8 engine. I chose a gasoline engine over a diesel engine because I figured if the truck had problems in some small town somewhere off the beaten path, the chances were greater to find a gasoline mechanic than a diesel mechanic. Also, every gas station sells gasoline but does not always sell diesel fuel. Again, I've been satisfied with my choice of truck and have taken it places where nobody was around for miles and miles. My confidence in the truck was super high and I never doubted that she would start and get me where I needed to go. Although I have had starting problems recently with the truck, it seems to have been solved and my confidence in its reliability has been steadily climbing back to where it used to be.

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

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Quick Update and Dodging Rain

Location:10/30/2015 - 11/1/2015
Hidden Ponds RV Park; Sulphur, Louisiana

Location: Current - Frog City RV Park; Duson, Louisiana

This is a quick update:

I left Bolivar Peninsula on Friday morning with rain predicted for the weekend. I had thought about staying through the weekend but knew it would just be to watch it rain. I said goodbye to the Gulf of Mexico as I turned north at High Island headed to Sulphur, Louisiana. I was looking forward to a visit with my son, grandson and "that Pinder girl" (sorry, inside joke). I enjoyed a nice dinner that evening and breakfast the following morning. I intended to pull out on Halloween but the weather turned nasty and it set into raining for 24 hours straight. I was parked in a nice location that shed the water nicely without any flooding. 

Traveling along the Bolivar Peninsula Highway with the Gulf to my right and dark clouds overhead.

The Gulf of Mexico

Just before turning north and putting the Gulf of Mexico in my rearview side mirror.

Campsite in Sulphur where I weathered the rain.
 I left Sulphur on Sunday, November 1st, headed to a visit with my sister, brother-in-law, nieces and nephew in Lafayette, Louisiana. I had to wait for a rain storm to pass over before I started hitching up. The storm was heading east, along the same path I had planned. I fell in behind it and slowed my speed down enough so as to not catch up with the rain. While checking the radar, I noticed another storm about an hour behind me and coming in the same direction. I would have just enough time to get to the campground and get set up before the rain hit. I really like having Accuweather on my phone and have used it many time to navigate around storms

I was able to visit yesterday afternoon and will be going back for more today. I plan to pull out tomorrow morning headed back to Mansfield unless I change my mind. 

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