Sunday, May 22, 2016

More "Wows" (part 2 of ?) (6/18/14 to 9/10/14)

Location: New Rockdale RV Park; Mansfield, Louisiana

This is part 2 of a series of posts about some of the Wow spots I've been too over the last 2 years. I have thought of doing these for a while but never had the time while traveling. I have the time now while my youngest son is recovering from his second stroke and I want to be near him. He continues to improve every day and it seems as though it will be like it was after his first stroke with his hand and arm being the last to come around. I will be surprised and saddened if he isn't walking and driving in about 6 weeks.

As I said in the last "Wow" post; it is very hard to pick just a few pictures out of the hundreds and hundreds of pictures taken during this portion of my travels. If you want to see more pictures or the blog post about a particular location, use the map below to isolate the time period, then go to the Archives on the right bar of the blog to find the post.  

This portion of travel picks up as I leave Maine with my distant destination being Lake Itasca in Minnesota which is the beginning of the Mississippi River. There were 22 stops at campgrounds along the way before arriving at Itasca State Park.  

Travel route for 6/18/2014 to 9/10/2014

Awwww,,,, Lady Liberty, as seen from New York Harbor. This is the view some of the 14 million immigrants that arrived in America between 1886 and 1924 would have seen. It must have been an amazing feeling they experienced after escaping their lives in the old countries and arriving in America where the sky was the limit as to what you could achieve if you tried hard. The part of Emma Lazarus's poem  that I like the best is, 'Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,,,,,'. The key words there are "free". That is what makes America so different than any other country; Freedom. There are always silly people that want to chip pieces of it away, but it still survives.

In the right side of the picture is the One World Trade Center building. It is the replacement for the World Trade Center. They were putting the final touches on it while I was there and couldn't take a tour. It is a nice looking building though and it shows our resiliency and determination.    

This is a view from the Empire State Building. I wondered how many people lived and worked in the buildings shown just in this view. Too crowded for me, that's for sure. 

As I've said before, this lifestyle allows a person to experience opposites. After the hustle and bustle of New York City, the opposite was this Pennsylvania State Park. 

This picture is of a veterans memorial in a small Ohio city. The name of the town is not important because I have seen these type of memorials in just about every town I've visited. It is great to know that the heartland of America still appreciates and will never forget the sacrifices of their veterans.  

This office building was one of those accidental "wows". It is located next to a major highway so I was able to turn around and go back to get a good picture. The secondary "wow" was that my daughter's third grade class had just seen a picture of this building in one of their school books just a few days before they saw it on my blog post. That was cool.

The blueness of Lake Huron was a major "wow" for me. I was shocked when I first saw it after setting up camp at Lakeport State Park. It was amazing. This picture was taken on a boat tour and doesn't highlight the blue of the lake. None of the pictures I took captured it. It is one of those things that will just be in my memory.

This is another one of those unexpected 'wows'. It is from Lakeport State Park on the banks of Lake Huron. When I first arrived, there were only a few stones in this pile but after just a couple days it grew to this size. I asked about what it meant and was told this: At the end of camping season in late fall the locals will find a nice stone and take it home with them. During the winter time, they will personalize it by painting it. On their first camping trip of the season in the springtime they will place it in this pile. The person telling me this story was able to point out several different stones of people she personally knew. She said, by the end of the season, the pile will be 10 to 20 times the size it is in this picture. I thought the idea was neat and I said "wow" when I found out about it.

From Lake Huron, I moved to Lake Michigan. Just after setting up camp at Muskegon State Park, I got lucky and was able to catch this storm coming ashore. I was hoping to catch a storm crossing the lake and did. As I stood there watching this large storm slowly creep towards me with the temperature dropping and the wind increasing, I got the sense of the extreme power of the storm. I have experienced many large storms at sea in the Navy as well as on land, but this one was different somehow. I still haven't figured out that difference. 

After the storm on Lake Michigan, I awoke to another "wow" moment. Dense fog with fog horns bellowing their warnings. Everything was calm, no wind, no noise except the fog horn. Until the fog lifted some, as in this picture, the feeling was an eerie apprehension as I tried to see through the dense fog. That feeling was probably brought on by memories of horror movie scenes with similar settings. I may have said "Oh, _ _ _ _", as many time as "wow" on this one.

The Mackinac Bridge over the Mackinac Straits that connect Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. This bridge is what separate the Upper Peninsula (U.P.) from the rest of Michigan. 

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island. No motorized vehicles are allowed on the island. A nice tour by horse pulled wagon and lots of walking. I had to see this hotel after seeing it in one of my favorites movies, "Somewhere in Time" with Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymour. The hotel charges you $10.00 just to walk around the place but after traveling so far, I paid the price to see it. It was worth it. 

This is the International Bridge connecting Sault St. Marie, Michigan with Canada. I took the picture while on a boat tour of the Soo Locks which connect Lake Superior to the lower Great Lakes. Several "wows" were here for me. My father was the concrete superintendent for the company that built the bridge sub-structure. I was looking at concrete that he and his concrete crews poured 50+ years ago. 

This is from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore out of Munising, Michigan on Lake Superior. I took nearly 500 pictures on this tour, it was amazing. The different colors are created by different minerals in the rocks.  

This was one of several waterfalls I visited in the U.P. of Michigan. This one has a small hydo-electric dam located just downstream of this spot. A perfect example of nature and technology working together to make human life easier. 

The ducks coming home from a hard day of swimming as the sun sets over Lake Superior. 

The beginning of the Mississippi River as it exits Lake Itasca in the background. It will take 90 days for water passing this point to reach the Gulf of Mexico. 
There are a lot of campgrounds and places I skipped over to keep this blog post brief. They all hold some sort of "wow" for me. 

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

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Some "Wows" (part 1 of ?)(4/11/14 to 6/18/14)

Location: New Rockdale RV Park (el. 224 ft); Mansfield, Louisiana

This is part one of an unknown number of posts showing some of the "wow" moments in my travels. I'm taking advantage of a lull in traveling while my son recovers from a stroke. 

I always have a destination in mind when traveling. It is a point of interest for me and is usually a few months down the road. My route to that destination is never a straight line due to the many side trips to other locations. There is also rarely a time table that I need to meet in reaching the destination. I say "rarely" because I remember I had to wait for Glacier National Park and Crater Lake to thaw out before I went to those destinations. I like to call it,,, I'm heading to a destination with several journeys along the way.

It has been harder than I thought in putting this post together. I've had to cull so many pictures and locations because of the size of the post. I feel as though I'm minimizing those stops along the way that didn't make this list but never the less left a mark on me for various reasons. But I'll give it a shot and see how it turns out. There will be a lot of captions on the pictures to help explain them. 

This is good for me in organizing my memories and I hope any readers enjoy it as well.  

These are the first 23 stops I made after retiring. My destination was Bangor, Maine. There wasn't anything special to see in that city except to say I that I had been to Bangor, Maine. It is mentioned in several songs and I just wanted to see it.

This was taken on the day of my retirement. So many of my friends and co-workers wanted to see Liberty, so I brought her to work on my last day. I had been talking about RV'ing for a few years before I retired. I'm sure several people thought I was just blowing smoke. I pulled out around noon and began my new life as a Full-time RV Traveler. 

I crossed the Mississippi River at Vicksburg, headed east. I stayed 6 days in Vicksburg which was too long. There was plenty to see to keep me busy, but I learned the rule that,, "Find one or two things to see in a place, see them then move on. The number 1 and number 2 things in a place down the road are usually better than the number 3 and number 4 in the place you're in."

This is the first picture I took of a "thinking bench". It was at Jenny's Ferry in Alabama. I have taken dozens and dozens of such pictures since then. Many people have asked me the story behind the pictures of empty benches. So far, I've been elusive in my answers. There are actually several reasons which I'm sure to explain sometime in the future. Maybe that will be another post,,,, a "Benches Post"

The Great Smoky Mountains. So many "Wow" moments. 

Another picture of the Smoky Mountains. This one shows the clouds forming which is the reason for the name "Smoky".

One of the benefits of this lifestyle is you can go from one extreme to the other in the span of a couple days. I went from the Smoky Mountains to the Atlantic Coast. This is the deserted Virginia Beach. The home port of the ship I was stationed on during the 70's was the Little Creek Amphibious Base about 30 minutes north of here. 

Cape Hatteras Light House. 

Appomattox Court House. Instead of posting some of the pictures, I thought this picture of the picture of the signing of the surrender documents was the best. It is in stark contrast to the recent wave of events throughout the country to erase all memory of the civil war. Incidentally, there is one union officer just out of the picture on the right. Some said it was done intentional due to the cocky attitude of the officer. That officer was George A. Custer.   

This ghoulish statue stands at the entry point to the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia. It looks strangely out of place, but once you read the plaque it makes a little more sense. It is still strange that they placed it in such a prominent location. 

The plaque sums up in just a couple sentences just exactly what the U.S. did for the world in World War II. "Restoring Freedom" and "halting the extermination of a people." As the sole super power in the world at the end of the war, we could have conquered the world if we had so desired. But that was not our way. However, in hindsight, General Patton may have gotten it right when he said something to the effect, "As long as we have the armies over here, let's go ahead and take out the communists." Many lives would have been saved and changed if that had been done. Oh well, live and learn.  

The official entrance to the National D-Day Memorial. It is located in the small town of Bedford because there were more men lost from Bedford during D-Day, per capita, than any other town in the country.

A drive through the Shenandoah Valley and up to the Skyline Drive. 

The Tomb of the Unknowns. They have been guarded 24 hours a day, 7 days a week since 1937. It is a humbling time spent in the presence of the tombs. 

The view of Washington D.C. from Arlington House, the old homeplace of General Lee and his wife Mary Anna Custis Lee, who was related to George Washington. When the Civil War broke out, the Union forces immediately took control of Arlington House and the estate. It is obvious as to why since it was on high ground to the west of D.C. During the war, the Union starting burying the Union dead around the house with the intention to prevent the Lee's from wanting to live there after the war. The Lee's never lived there again. But it brings to mind all of the Confederate Memorial being removed lately. Will the next move be to dig up all the Union soldiers who are buried on property formerly owned by General Lee? Trying to erase history never works. 

This is the Flight 93 memorial located near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The white marble wall is the direction the plane was flying before crashing about 400 yards away. It is another somber place to visit. I was very happy to see it has not been commercialized and hope it remains so. This plane was suppose to crash into the capitol building while congress was in session. 

Another bench. This one at Erie, Pennsylvania. I was lucky and caught the U.S. Brig Niagara as she was returning from a training exercise. 

Niagara Falls. The American Falls on the left and the Canadian Falls in the center. Also notice the old electric power plant on the right near the waters edge. That is the Maid of the Mist boat in the center. I took that trip and it was great. I highly recommend this location.

I also took a boat ride on the Erie Canal. I'm not sure some of the younger generations remember the importance of the canal or even the song. :)

A bench overlooking one of the finger lakes in upstate New York. They are impressive to see not only their size but their beauty. They were created when the retreating glaciers dug out soft spots in the earth as well as some hard rock. The melting glaciers filled up the hole, creating the lakes. 

The view from the top of Cadillac Mountain near Bar Harbor, Maine in the Acadia National Park. Looking out to the Atlantic Ocean. I took a boat ride around the islands and it was great.

Sunset over the bay from the campground near Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine.
That ends the first installment of the summaries of some of my travels. It took much longer to put together than I anticipated. It will definitely be a good reference for me in the future. 

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

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Travel Statistics thru Year 2

Location: New Rockdale RV Park (el. 225 ft); Mansfield, Louisiana

An update on Brandon: Today is day 28 since the stroke. He is scheduled for out-patient therapy 2 hours per day, 3 days a week. This is the same frequency he did last year which proved successful. He continues to improve daily.

With time on my hands, I put together my travel statistics since I passed the two years of traveling mark last month. 

Over the last 25 months, I've towed Liberty 23,220 miles. 

I have traveled about that same amount of miles while exploring the areas around the campgrounds. 

I've camped in 143 different campgrounds with the average miles towed between campground being 162 miles. 

Of the 143 campgrounds, 64 have been state or federal campgrounds. 

I have seen 44 states on these travels. 

Those are only the cold and hard numbers. The real statistic can't be easily measured. That statistic is the "Wow" stat. Those are the moments where I say to my self or sometimes out loud, "Wow". 

My plan is to make a post of a lot of the "wow" moments. I have thought about that for a while, but the size of it would be too large for one post. While traveling, I didn't have the time to do a regular post plus a good summary. I have that time now. Perhaps I will break it down into six month segments. I will do that during my free time while Brandon recovers.

Until then, these are two "wow" moments that sprang to mind while typing this post. 

Sunset over the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Oregon. This is while staying at Fort Stevens State Park. The structure on the beach is what is left of the ship Peter Iredale which wrecked in 1906. 

This was taking on the way to Salt Lake City. The white in the background is the Bonneville Salt Flats. I was lucky by being the only one at the rest stop and had the elevated observation platform all to myself. Even with interstate traffic so near, there was a peaceful feeling and good vibs about the place. 
Don't wait too long to follow a dream.

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


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Stroke Update (day 24)

Location: New Rockdale RV Park (el 225 ft); Mansfield, Louisiana

It has been 24 days since Brandon's second stroke. He was discharged from Pathways, the in-patient rehabilitation hospital, last Friday and everyone was glad he was home. The nearly two weeks he spent in Pathways was very beneficial and I give them a high recommendation. He was evaluated at the local out-patient rehabilitation center and begin therapy today. That therapy will consist of physical, occupational and speech. He continues to show improvement in all areas. His attitude towards his recovery remains positive and high. I would hope mine would be so too if I was in his situation, but I don't know for sure. He remains an inspiration in his courageous approach to a crappy deal.    

Last Sunday was a scary day. Brandon's blood pressure kept dropping into the very low range. After seeing the doctor on Monday, we learned that this happens sometimes after strokes in that the body will lower its blood pressure to compensate for the stroke. He has been off of one of his blood pressure pills since Monday but has since resumed a half dose this morning after his pressure seemed to have stabilized in the 150/90 range, which is the upper limit for his condition. Hopefully the half dose will do its job at lowering it just enough, but not too much. Brandon didn't go through this low pressure stuff with his first stroke so it was news to us and was scary. It seems to be resolved (fingers crossed). 

Along with his low pressure on Sunday, his blood sugar wanted to go low too. Over the 20+ years he has been a diabetic, he can generally tell his blood sugar reading prior to testing. The testing usually is just confirmation. However, after this stroke, that sense of knowing the readings seems to have been altered. It is almost as though he is going through a second "diabetic honeymoon". For those unfamiliar with that term, it is when a newly diagnosed diabetic has drastic swings in their blood sugar levels. This is due to the pancreas turning its insulin producing ability on and off at random times. It's trying to do it's job, but just can't. Only after it shuts down completely, can the patient know for sure that the only insulin in their body is the insulin they inject. His sugar level has been much more consistent over the last two days without any drastic low readings.

Another item of interest that we found out a while back about Brandon is that blood pressure machines give a false reading for his pressure. Thanks to a conscientious nurse at his stay in the hospital last year it was discovered that the machines give a reading that is too high by 10 points on both the upper and lower reading. This has been confirmed independently by two other hospitals and more recently by his doctors nurse. During his last doctor's visit, the blood pressure machine used at home was compared with the nurse's reading taken the old fashioned way with stethoscope and pressure dial. Again, approximately 10 points higher on the machine. The nurses said it happens to some people and it is rare. Something about the machine picking up a second false echo prior to the real one. All I know is that it has been confirmed by at least 6 to 8 different nurses in 3 different hospitals and doctors offices. So, if you are getting high readings from a blood pressure machine, ask for confirmation by the old fashioned method. I would bet it happens more often than people think.
Seeing double. That is Liberty in the background. The one in the foreground is a newer and cleaner cousin. I haven't met the owner yet, I think he is working the night shift at one of the plants. 

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


Thursday, May 5, 2016

Stroke Update (day 18); Moving Day Tomorrow

Location: Red River South Marina & RV Park (el 200 ft); Bossier City, Louisiana

Today is day 18 since Brandon's second stroke. He is currently on day 10 of his stay in Pathway Rehabilitation Hospital and will be discharged tomorrow afternoon. The hospital and staff have been excellent with the exception of one person who unnecessarily caused stress for Brandon simply because she is a mean person with a bad attitude. She was only on duty for 3 days, but except for her, the staff is great. My x-wife and I have set up a routine of me being with him around breakfast and supper (for my yankee friends that means dinner or evening meal) and she being with him for lunch.  

He has received Physical, Occupational and Speech therapy daily. They have conducted a swallow test because of concerns that some things he was drinking and eating may have been going down the wrong tube and ending up in this lungs. This is called "aspiration" and isn't a good thing because it can result in pneumonia. The test showed very little, if any, was going towards his lungs, which was good news. His lungs continue to sound clear when the doctor checks them with his stethoscope. His swallowing as been improving daily with electrical stimulus being applied to the sides of his throat as he is eating and drinking. 

His speech is coming along as well. I can tell the difference by being able to understand almost every word he says compared to the way it was last week. His eye also continues to improve and he is not wearing the eye patch any longer. 

He is fully capable of showering by himself while sitting in a chair as well as taking care of his other personal hygiene tasks. He is walking with a cane more and more each day. His arm and hand seems to be the last to come around. This is the same as it was last time. 

All in all, he has made great progress in a great place. He will be discharged tomorrow at the completion of his daily therapy. He will continue his therapy on an out-patient basis at the same place he went to last year. Last year it was 2 hours a day, 3 days a week. I assume it will be a similar schedule this time. 

I will be moving campgrounds tomorrow while he is being discharged. His mother will be taking him home. I scouted out a better campground than the one I stayed at a couple weeks ago. This one should be much better with evening shade being provided by some tall pine trees and starting around 2 or 3 in the afternoon. Shade will definitely be needed with summer coming on quickly. I will report more on the campground next posting. 

The following are some pictures taken from around the area.
Brandon enjoying some fresh air in a nice "park-like" area in the middle of the hospital. The shrub/tree in the middle was blooming and put off a really great fragrance. I'm not sure what it was, but it smelled a little like honey suckle or jasmine.

My granddaughter/ Brandon's niece dropped by for a visit. She was checking out his meal.

She asked him to share and since she has him wrapped around her finger, he did. 

Asking "more, please". :)

After scouting the new campground, I decided to grab something to eat at my favorite Hamburger place in northwest Louisiana. The first one I ever ate was while sitting on the bottom of the Red River inside a cofferdam while working on building the Red River Bridge. It was great then as well as today. If you ever want to find places like this, ask a "highway department" person, they will know. 

Since the burger place doesn't have many sit-down places I decided to take my diet meal, small plain burger, small cheeseburger, ok, ok, "double cheeseburger all the way" and hit the road. I headed to the lock and dam on the Red RIver about 10 miles north of the town of Coushatta. The day was still a little cool with a nice breeze blowing down the river. It was a great place to enjoy my burger and relax. It wasn't a bench, but close enough for me on this day. 

The dam had all gates open trying to control the local flooding caused by lots of rain over the last few weeks. 

This is some of the backwater away from the dam. It is obvious why it is called the Red River. 
Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.