Sunday, December 30, 2018

Update and Random Thoughts

Location: New Rockdale RV Park; Mansfield, Louisiana

Well, it's been a couple of months since I've posted to the blog and people (Cat Lady being the latest) have been correctly prompting me for an update. So, with thunderstorms rolling in from Texas and a hot cup of coffee, here goes. To simply the post, since I'm out of practice, I'll itemize it like a shopping list. 

1) It's been almost six months since Brandon's transplant and he continues to get stronger every day. Both kidney and pancreas are performing well. He has blood tests every two weeks with doctors visits every four weeks. The main doctors are his Transplant doctor and his Nephrologist (kidney doctor). The Transplant doctor was in the surgery for the kidney/pancreas transplant and is mostly concerned about organ rejection. Brandon is on anti-rejection medication which suppresses his immune system to keep it from attacking the transplanted organs. At the same time, he is on antibiotics to specifically fight certain things that may come up because of his weakened immune system. It is a balancing act and took about three to four months to get the dosages right. Almost all of his test results are showing to be in the normal range. The kidney doctor is pleased at how well the kidney and pancreas are functioning and those tests are also normal. All is going well and he continues to get stronger.
Brandon, Olivia and Brittanie

Brandon bowling on one of the family outings. He couldn't have done that prior to the transplant. Amazing.

Olivia looking up at me after letting her bowling ball go down the slide. She is giving it a little English with the body language. Oh well, there is always another frame in life.

2) New Grandbaby Nathan is three months old and also is getting stronger every day. It took a while to find a formula that suited him but now that search is over and it's back to growing. I was a little surprised the baby formula industry hasn't tried ethic flavors such as Mexican Formula or Italian Formula. Maybe I'm just ahead of the curve. Olivia is handling the big sister role perfectly. She checks on him regularly and especially when she wakes up in the morning or when she arrives home from school. It was nice to attend her school Christmas program.
This is one of my favorites. Olivia just got out of her bath and came to check on Nathan before going to bed. "Goodnight baby brother, see ya in the morning"

The four grandkids all in one place at Christmas time. That is Cooper, Tucker, Olivia and baby Nathan. Nice.

3) I've visited with all of my doctors and they all said I'm good to go for another year. I was pleasantly surprised that my cardiologist didn't suggest a stress test so I guess the EKG looked good. To be cynical, some doctors would call for extra tests just to run up the bill, but my doctors aren't like that and I'm glad. My optometrist checked my eye pressure and glaucoma. The pressure is holding steady from six months ago and the optic nerve is unchanged. For those of you that haven't been to an optometrist in a while, think about going if for no other reason than to get a "baseline picture" of your eyes. If you have any kind of problem in the future, the baseline will be extremely useful. I'll see my GP sometime in the spring and we will decide which blood tests are needed. I think I'll ask for one of those colonguard tests I've seen on TV since I'm pretty sure I won't be doing a colonoscopy again.

There were no changes in any of the medicine I'm taking and none of them said anything about me losing weight (one may have said something about "diet" but since I don't speak French or Swedish, I don't have a clue what he was talking about). 

4) Liberty is a mess from sitting still for so long. I meant to wash the outside but kept putting it off and now that it's kind of chilly during the day, I've determined it is too late in the year. Dang, and I was really looking forward to doing that chore. The inside is messy also. When I'm traveling, everything is put back into it's traveling spot after using. But when sitting still for so long, things are where ever I dropped it. It will take several days to get her back into traveling mode. 

5) Freedom had her oil changed and regular servicing performed. Her back up camera is still not working, but since I don't use it too much, it's not a problem. The Ford dealer said it would be $99.00 just to hook it up to the diagnostic machine and it may or may not say what is wrong. The casino riverboats could take some lessons from Ford. 

6) I may be able to hit the road after January 8th. I'm not sure yet. I've been scouting for places to go and the likely long distance destination spot is Yosemite National Park. The last time I was close enough to drop in, it wasn't open due to snow and ice. So, I passed it up with the intention of coming back some day. It is one of the few major National Parks on my list that I haven't visited yet. The route from here to there is still being worked out and will greatly depend on the weather. So far it has been a mild winter around here with only a couple of nights in the mid 20's. The two week outlook shows the same. A couple of Texas State Parks that I planned to re-visit are still closed due to storm damage. They are Goose Island and Mustang Island down on the Texas gulf coast near Corpus Christi. Those closures will definitely affect my route and time of departure. 

7) The news just reported the release of 1,000 asylum seekers in the El Paso area with more to be released in the near future. El Paso is one of the towns that gave me the hebbie jebbies when I was there a few years ago. There has only been a couple of places that have given me that feeling of heightened sense of situational awareness where my head is always on a swivel. I guess I need to post that list some day. To head west from here during the winter months almost requires a person to pass through El Paso. When and if that time comes, it will be a quick trip through without a campground stop like last time. 

I guess it's time to take my Christmas decorations down for another year. "And my crew sock was duck taped by the space heater with care,,,,," Merry Christmas to all.
Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.    

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Birth of Nathan Drew

Location: New Rockdale RV Park; Mansfield, Louisiana

Nathan Drew joined the family on September 14, 2018. He will be Olivia's baby brother. My daughter and her husband are great parents and it will be a wondrous thing to see the grandbabies grow up together.

Sleeping peacefully 

Mother and baby just an hour or so after birth. 

Of the hundred or so pictures of Nathan, this is one of my favorites. He is in his mother's arms as they sit on the front porch watching Olivia play in the drizzling rain. It is as if he is saying to her, "what are you doing? Are you crazy?" Looking to the future, he and Olivia will have lots of fun and be best friends as well as brother/sister. 

Nathan is about one month old in this picture and he came to visit his Uncle Brandon who was about six weeks past his transplant date. Two miracles, one picture. 

"Sleep well baby brother, your big sister is watching over you."

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

Friday, August 31, 2018

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Location: New Rockdale RV Park; Mansfield, Louisiana

This will be an update on Brandon so as to keep a record of his adventures after transplant. First, his kidney is doing great. It's GFR, which in simple terms is a rating of how well the kidney is performing, has topped out at over 100. The day of his transplant, it was an 8. It almost can't get any better. Amazing, in one day he went from being in kidney failure and surviving on daily dialysis to having absolutely no sign of kidney distress at all. The pancreas is still working great also and Brandon has not needed any insulin shots since the transplant which was almost a month ago. 

Of course to balance out the good news, there always seems to be some bad news. The bad news for Brandon was he had to go back in the hospital for a week due to "C-Diff" which is a bad infection in the intestines. It is highly contagious to people on antibiotics. It seems the antibiotics kills off the good antibodies at the same time it is killing the bad ones. Without the good antibodies, bad stuff like C-Diff can find an opening at do its dirty work. It is a serious infection for everyone, but especially for transplant patients because they are taking anti-rejection medication to prevent their body from attacking the new organs. 

We had not heard of C-diff before his diagnosis but were quickly educated afterwards. I won't go into it here but for all of my RV friends and readers, never forget to wear disposable gloves when emptying your waste tanks. Clorox is the most reliable thing to kill the spores which can live on most any surface, such as gloves, hoses, etc for days or even weeks. A spray bottle with diluted Clorox and Clorox wipes will forever be in my storage compartment.

Brandon is home again and needs to build his strength back up. He is weak and doesn't have much of an appetite. Some transplant recipients claim they take on some of the eating likes and dislikes from their donor. We will see how it goes as he begins eating again. Hopefully, the C-diff will be the only major set-back and he can continue to improve daily.

As always, our thoughts and prayers go out the donor who help make all of the good things happen in Brandon's life. I hope you know that he is taking care of your kidney and pancreas and is always thankful for your action to become an organ donor. Hopefully, he will be able to learn more about you in the future. I hope the family of the donor is comforted in knowing what their family member did for Brandon, a total stranger. May God bless them and show them mercy in their time of grief.  

I have a hard time making a post without a picture so I've chosen one of my favorites from about 4 years ago.
A "thinking bench" looking out over Lake Michigan
If all goes well, I'll be back on the road in a month or two. 

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

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Goodbye Diabetes and Dialysis

Location: New Rockdale RV Park; Mansfield, Louisiana

Well, what a difference a week makes in a persons life. Brandon received a kidney and pancreas transplant as well as getting his gallbladder removed 10 days ago on August 2, 2018. That month and day is significant because it was on that day, two years ago, that his cousin passed away. 

August is also the month in which my mother, her two sisters and their mother (my grandmother), all passed away. To me, August has always had a bad vib to it. I'm hoping that Brandon's transplant has reversed that feeling. It may also have focused all of those that have passed, to whisper in God's ear about Brandon needing a little help. After only 5 days in the hospital, Brandon was released to come home. He said the most painful part of the experience was the uncomfortable hospital bed. It made his back, ribs and shoulder blades sore.   

The pancreas is the organ Brandon was most excited to receive. He has been a Type 1 diabetic (insulin dependent) since he was 9 years old. That is 24 years. During that time he has given himself at least two shots a day and pricked his fingers about four times a day. That has been about 20,000 shots and 50,000 finger pricks. Pretty tough uh? 

Brandon was the only kid in his school with diabetes. Not only did his mother and I have to learn the in's and out's of diabetes, his teachers, school staff and classmates had to learn as well. He helped educate all of them simply by being diabetic. It got to be second nature and no big deal when Brandon would prick his finger for a blood sugar check during class. If needed, he would also draw up insulin and give himself a shot. At first, some of the school staff thought he should be banished to the bathroom to do finger pricks and insulin shots. They were educated pretty quickly as to the difference in sanitary conditions between the classroom and the bathrooms. Big credit must be given to his classroom teachers who stepped up and used it as an educational experience for his classmates. Diabetes didn't stop Brandon from playing sports. He played football and baseball all the way through High School. It was not unusual to see him pitch an inning of baseball then go into the dugout to check his blood, give himself a shot and again run out to the mound to pitch another inning. It became second nature to his teammates and the opposing teams as well. Nothing seemed to stop him, definitely not diabetes. 

One thing that was hard for him to take was being the only kid around the area with diabetes. There wasn't anyone his own age that he could relate to about it. That all changed a couple of years after he was diagnosed. A member of the local Lion's Club approached us to see if Brandon wanted to go to their summer camp. Wow, summer camp. We weren't sure about that at first. Yes, Brandon was checking his blood sugars, watching what he ate and giving himself insulin shots, but his mother or I were always near by in case he needed help. At camp, he would be away from us for a whole week. We then found out how special the Louisiana Lion Camp really was to children. You see, for two weeks every summer, the Lions put on a camp for diabetic children from around the state. All ages, come one, come all. Not only are the campers diabetic but also the counselors. Diabetics everywhere. The normal camping events, such as canoeing, archery, games, etc were all there for the campers to enjoy, but the main thing was the interaction of the kids to one another. Like Brandon, some were meeting other children with diabetes for the first time. And as with most things, the camp included educational events. Doctors, nurses, dietitians, social workers from around the state volunteered their time to stay at the camp with the kids. They were all specialists in the field of diabetes. Classes were held to teach the kids about diabetes and how to control it.  Brandon attended the camp for several years until he became too old to be included. He thought about becoming a councilor at the camp but other things got in the way and it never happened.  They not only have a couple of weeks for diabetics, but also weeks set aside for kids of other ailments. Their camp goes on for a couple of months each summer with a new batch of kids coming in each week. The Lion's have affected the lives of many kids in the state. Oh, did I happen to mention, it is all free of charge. The Louisiana Lions Club foots the entire bill. Pretty good uh? Why don't we hear of good things like that more often.

Since the day Brandon became diabetic, his kidneys began their journey to shutting down. It was always just a matter of time before we would be faced with dialysis and hopefully a transplant. His kidneys fought and fought to keep up but after 24 years, they finally needed some help. That help was in the form of At-home Peritoneal Dialysis which Brandon began in January of this year. Every night, he would hook himself up to a machine that would clean the toxins from his body. This was to be his life, tied to a machine every night. If he decided to quit then within a couple of weeks he would die an excruciatingly painful death. Remarkably, after only five weeks on the Active transplant list, he was chosen for a transplant. 

The donated kidney began working immediately after it was connected. Three days after the transplant, Brandon's nephrologist (kidney doctor) said his GFR was in the upper 60's and will continue to rise. In simple terms, the GFR is the percentage in which the kidney is working. To be eligible for transplant, your GFR has to be below 20. Brandon's was in single digits which was the reason why he started dialysis. The doctor expects it to top out in the 80's or higher. Odds are his GFR is better than mine. He now has three kidneys since they don't remove your old ones when they install the new one. They are too risky to remove since it just introduces the possibility of infection or other problems. The new one is also in the front and not in the back where the other two are located. The pancreas started working immediately also. Within hours it was controlling his blood sugars and producing insulin. Brandon has not had to give himself an insulin shot since the surgery and his blood sugars are in the normal range. It is amazing and really hard to believe. The doctors did a great job and their hands were surely guided by God. I'm sure God also had a hand in the choices made by the donor and their family. I pray they are being consoled about their great loss. We don't know anything about the donor although we have been told only young pancreas's are used in transplants. We don't know the age range of "young". That also means the kidney is from a young donor. This is very good news since the younger the organ, the longer it last. A lady received a kidney on the same day as Brandon. We don't know if it is the paired kidney from the one Brandon received. We met her at the first doctors visit and she said, she was told the organs came from Alabama. Hopefully, we will learn more about the donor in the future. 

Brandon is taking three anti-rejection pills and four anti-biotics. They will reduce his immune system to a point where his body will not try to fight the new organs. The anti-biotics will eventually be tapered off but the anti-rejection pills will be taken for the rest of his life. When the doctor asked about having to take the pills forever, Brandon reminded them that without the transplant, he would be on insulin and dialysis for the rest of this life. Pills are much better. He still has a long way to go and we are having blood drawn and doctor's appointments twice a week for 6 weeks, then once a week for another 6 weeks, then once every other week for 6 weeks, etc. But, the lab and doctor are in the big city of Shreveport, about 30 minutes away, which is a good excuse for lunch at different restaurants.
It's a new day in many ways.
Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.  

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Transplant Happened Today

Location: New Rockdale RV Park; Mansfield, Louisiana

This is going to be a super quick post. 

Brandon had the honor of receiving a kidney and pancreas from a deceased donor today. The doctor said the organs looked great and the kidney immediately started functioning with the pancreas working also. It is still a long road ahead to get things lined out but the main hurdle is over. Everyone at the transplant center was very surprised that Brandon was only on the "active" list for 5 weeks before getting the transplant. Many said that was "unheard of" an "astounding". It is one in a series of miracles that have happened over the last year or two. 

It's been a long day and I need to get to bed. I'll post more in the near future but wanted to let everyone know that has been following Brandon, that it looks like the transplant was a remarkable success. 

My thoughts and prayers go out to the donor and their family since they have suffered a great loss at the same time we have benefited from that loss. Organ transplants are the epitome of give and take in this life. 

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

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Trip Wrap-up and Update

Location: New Rockdale RV Park; Mansfield, Louisiana

Trip route (6 weeks)

Well, I've been back for one week so I guess it's time for a wrap-up and update. The hard facts of the trip is it lasted 6 weeks and I traveled through 11 states and stayed in 11 campgrounds. I towed Liberty 3,190 miles and explored in Freedom for an additional 1,200 miles. The campground breakdown is Corp of Engineers (2), Indian Casinos (4), County/City (2), Privately owned (3). The average price for the campgrounds was $24.17 with the most expensive one being $34.00 while the cheapest was $11.00. The highest price for gasoline was $3.09 and the cheapest $2.55. I don't know what the average price was but would figure about $2.75. 

I had my first blow-out on Liberty during this trip. All in all, I was very lucky in that it didn't do any serious damage, I wasn't stranded very long and I was able to buy a set of tires from a nice Goodyear dealer located right on my route. The whole incident from blowout to pulling out of the Goodyear dealer was 3 to 4 hours. The sad thing is that while I was on the shoulder of the Indian Nation Turnpike, no one stopped to ask if I needed help. Oh well, I didn't need any help and maybe they knew that, so we won't hold it against them. 

The World War I museum in Kansas City is worth a stop. The city campground near KC, while the most expensive on this trip, was conveniently located. Iowa is just Iowa, travelers will understand that. Lake Superior is always nice, but Lake Huron is still my favorite. Before cutting my trip short, I planned to cross Michigan to camp near the shore of Lake Michigan in hopes of getting a nice sunset picture. It has been a while since I've had a decent sunset or sunrise. I need to work on that.    

I've added Duluth, MN / Superior, WI to my list of "good vib" places. Those are places where I get an immediate sense of peace and contentment when I arrive in the place and it lasts until I leave. I've traveled coast to coast and border to border and have only discovered a handful of such places. They are rare and always a nice surprise. Some places I expected to be a "good vib" places, but weren't. An example would be Sedona, AZ. I had heard it described as such by many people. But, I guess I was the odd man out because it just didn't do it for me. Maybe I didn't get on the right vortex. "Good vib" places are different for everyone since the "vibs" inside us must jive with the "vibs" of the place. We have to be in sync. This isn't some new wave or old hippie thing. It is real and I'm sure others who travel a lot have run into the same thing. If not, then I'll deny ever saying this so the guys in the white coats don't come after me. 

The number of RV'ers on the road has dramatically increased over the last couple of years. Use to be the campgrounds were mostly empty during the week and only filled up to about 80% during the weekends. This applied to most types of campgrounds. That has changed now. A lot of the campgrounds have no vacancies on the weekends, especially the state/federal campgrounds. It seems locals have started reserving weekend campsites in the state/federal campgrounds months in advance. I found the Indian Casino campgrounds and county campgrounds to have more vacancies than any other type. They were nice campgrounds too especially the casinos since they gave me free money in hopes of getting me to gamble with my own after losing theirs. I fooled them,,,, 

I shortened the time on my trip by a few weeks after Brandon got a call to be on "stand-by" for his Kidney/Pancreas transplant. Although that one didn't work out for Brandon he has been placed on "stand-by" two other times since then with the latest being just an hour ago. They will let him know around 6:00 in the morning whether or not he needs to go to the hospital. They didn't give any other details about the donor, but with a kidney/pancreas transplant, the donor has to be deceased. If Brandon is given the honor of receiving these organs, then we will be told more about the donor. And so the waiting game continues. 

For those of ya'll still out there on the road, be safe and always be thankful for the freedom of the road.

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

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Organ Transplant and 1300 miles/2 days

Location: New Rockdale RV Park; Mansfield, Louisiana

I need to clarify something from my last post. I mentioned that Brandon was number 2. Some people thought that was number 2 on the waiting list. Actually, a pancreas/kidney was available for transplant and Brandon was number two on receiving those organs. When organs become available, they call 2 or 3 people on the list whose blood/tissue type matches the donor. The number 1 person is told to go to the hospital for further testing and transplantation if all is good. The number 2 and 3 are told to be on standby and not to leave the immediate area. Brandon was number 2 for these organs. After about 9 hours of waiting, they called to let him know that the number 1 person received the organs. But, the good news is that it appears Brandon will be number one for the next organs that match his blood/tissues. That is extremely good news for only being on the waiting list for about a month and only been on dialysis for 7 months. So we wait,,,, but are comforted by knowing that the transplant can happen at any time. There are people around the country who have been on the active waiting list for years and years and never received a call for even standby. So we are feeling fortunate. A few readers have asked for Brandon's email address so they could drop him a line of encouragement or to ask him questions, etc. It is 
If you don't want to email, but want to let him know something you can always post a comment to the blog here.

I read an article in the newspaper many years ago about a local organ recipient. He had received a heart transplant which saved his life. He wanted to meet the family of the deceased donor to thank them for being part of saving his life. Through the transplant center, he was able to track them down and learned the family would to meet him as well. So, with his new heart pumping away, he scheduled a visit to meet at the family's house. During the visit, he learned many things about the donor which made him happy. As he was saying his goodbyes and preparing to leave, the deceased donors mother surprised him with a question. She asked him a simple question: "Can I listen to my baby's heart?" Of course he said yes and when she placed her ear to his chest, she cried. Wow. That is what organ donation is all about and not talked about nearly enough. 

I made it back yesterday afternoon after 1,335 miles in two days. That violated my usual 200 miles per travel day maximum but, I wanted to get back quickly. I left early and put 800 miles behind me before I started looking for a place to stop for the night. The 800 mile point was a Flying J truck stop in Charleston, Missouri. I figured I would park in one of their RV parking spots and catch a few hours of sleep and continue on. Wrong. This flying J has converted their RV parking spaces into "Reserved 18 wheeler" parking spaces. It's a very busy truck stop and I guess there is extra money to be made by reserving them for the truckers. I don't know how much they charge but I wasn't too happy. But luckily, the next exit had a campground that I've stayed at before. It is a small, no-frill, self serve campground for $12.00 cash per night. You get full hookups for the $12.00. It was after dark when I got there and no-frills include no street lights. I left Freedom/Liberty hitched up and only connected electricity for A/C use. I didn't even open the slides, just turned the A/C's on 70 degrees and crawled into bed. I woke up a little before dawn, got a shower and hit the road. 

Freedom and Liberty did great on the trip although Liberty gave me a little bit of a scare when one of the Temperature/Pressure Monitors indicated a low tire. I thought, "oh crap, must have picked up a nail". I pulled into the next exit and checked the tire. Luck was with me again when I discovered it was just the monitor that had worked itself loose and allowed air to escape. This twice that has happened. It was down to 59 psi, which is the pressure I set for an alarm. If I had to, I could safely travel on that low of pressure for a while. But, lucky again, the place I pulled into had a working air compressor. It wasn't one of the larger ones, but it was able to put 73 psi into the tire. I knew I had another fuel stop coming up at another Flying J, so I hit the road with plans to complete the airing up then. Wrong. Their air compressor was broken and there were 18 wheelers at every diesel pump so there wasn't any way of getting to the truck air compressors. So, I continued the last 150 miles with the 73 psi. Not ideal, but not a problem either. Flying J disappointed me twice twice on this trip.

I'm not sure how long I'll be here but at least through the birth of my grandson in September. 

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

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Deadheading Back to Louisiana (Updated)

Location: Alpena County Fair Campgrounds; Alpena, Michigan

Update: as of 6:00 am on 7/23/18 the available organs went to the other person. My plan is to still head back, but perhaps not as frantically. Ya'll take care of each other.

This will be a short post without pictures. Even though I have one more day paid up here at Alpena, I'll be pulling out tomorrow morning heading back to Louisiana. As you know, Brandon was put on the "active" list for a Pancreas/Kidney transplant about a month ago. We anticipated an 18 to 24 month waiting period. Surprise, surprise but the transplant coordinator called Brandon today and informed him he was Number 2 on a pancreas/kidney. They said they would call back if the number one person had problems. Well, it's been about 6 hours since the call and no further word has been given. We are new to this, but after being part of a couple transplant groups on facebook this lengthy waiting time is not unusual. In Brandon's case, it will have to be a deceased donor because of the pancreas. In many cases, the doctors will keep a patient alive in order to buy time for the testing and harvesting of donated organs. If that is the case, it could be a couple of days before a final decision is made as to who, if anyone, will receive the organs. 

So, it seems the extended waiting game may have just gotten much shorter. But on the other hand, he may not get these organs and have to wait the 18 to 24 months. But, to get a call to be Number 2 after only being active for 1 month is amazing. So we see that as a good sign. 

With organ donation it is really a matter of perspective. You can think of the donated organ as keeping Brandon alive or you can think of it as Brandon using all of his body to keep a piece of the donor alive. :)

I'm about 1,300 miles from Mansfield. My plan is to leave sometime in the morning and stop at a truck stop around 10 pm to catch some sleep before continuing the trip. Looking at the weather forecast, it should be dry and the night time temperatures at about the 10 pm stopping spot should be in the lower 70's to upper 60's. Good sleeping weather. I'll decide then to either nod out in the truck or crawl up in Liberty. 

No time to proof read, got to get ready for tomorrow. 

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

Friday, July 20, 2018

Glass Bottom Boat and a Joke

Location: Alpena County Fair Campgrounds; Alpena, Michigan

Thru stop # 10

One of the main reasons for coming to Alpena was to take a boat tour on the glass bottom boats to look at the shipwrecks of Thunder Bay. Alpena sits on the shore of Thunder Bay with over 200 "known" shipwrecks in the bay, which is a lot considering the bay is only roughly 100 square miles. Notice the word "known". It is unknown how many shipwrecks are actually in the bay since ships disappear or never show up at their destinations and are considered lost but the location of the sinking is unknown. One of the known shipwrecks in the bay was thought to have been lost in a storm on Lake Michigan but apparently survived it only to sink in Thunder Bay. It was a surprise to everyone when it was found in the bay by divers and identified. Some wrecks iced over during the winter and sank due to the excessive weight. When ships sank from ice weight, they sank perfectly intact and are resting on the bottom sitting as if they were still floating. One of those is sitting on the bottom and their lifeboat is right next to it. Apparently, the crew left the ship before it sank only to have the lifeboat ice over and sink as well. I don't remember if the crew survived.
A birch bark canoe in the NOAA museum as part of the boat tour. These were sometimes as long as 30 feet. The contraption on the front is a fire platform. Once they got into a good fishing spot, they would set that of fire to attract fish to be speared. The thing below the boat is a fish trap and is not part of the boat.

This boat preceded the birchbark canoe. It is a dugout canoe. Made by taking a log, and in a series of setting it on fire and digging it out, arrive at this canoe. It is a step above riding on a log, but miles away in design, stability and cargo carrying capacity of the birchbark canoe. 

It water was calm going out but got a little rougher on the way back in to port. The Captain explained that no one, not even experienced Captains and fisherman can accurately predict the condition of the waters in/around Thunder Bay.

Some of the Islands out in the bay.

What's left from a very large Fish Camp village on Thunder Bay Island.

Thunder Bay Island Lighthouse and Life Saving Station. There were hundreds of lives saved by both. 
One of the interesting wrecks is a barge without a name and was simply called Barge Number 1. At the time of its sinking, it was loaded with timber and chickens. It was one of a few barges being towed at the same time so when Number 1 started taking on water, the crew just cut it loose so it wouldn't jeopardize the other barges. However, a couple of the crew, feeling sorry for the chickens, managed to cut the ropes tying the chicken cages to the barge. They also freed hundreds from their cages before the barge sank. Who knew chickens could swim, but swim they did. Some were strong enough swimmers that they swam with the cages still around them. They needed a compass though because instead of swimming to the nearest land, they swam all the way to Thunder Bay Island which was nearly 8 miles away. The lighthouse and life saving crew as well as many in the Fish Camp enjoyed chicken instead of fish for a long time once the thousand or so chickens started arriving on the island.
A picture of the deckhand and the viewing bays. Once over a wreck, everyone scrabbles to look. I learned quickly, that simply looking over the side you could see just as much because the water was so clear and shallow.

Looking over the side at one of the wrecks. One others you could see their propellers, boilers, etc. 
A mooring buoy over one of the wrecks. The rope you see floating away from it is used to tie you boat too so you don't damage the wreck with your anchor. If you look a little bit into the distance, you can see another one.

Navigation aide leading to the Thunder Bay River. Nice large flag flying in the background.

It was a good day for a boat tour.
Alpena is a nice town. They have a very active downtown and a few public parks on the shore of the bay.

Looking out to the bay from one of the parks. I caught another gull in this picture. Pure luck.

A fishing/walking pier from one of the smaller parks. 

Looking back from the end.

A man and his dog. The guy would splash water and the dog would run into the water to the guy but then turn around and go back to land. I wasn't sure if the dog was trying to save him or playing with him. They were at it for 30 minutes or more before coming out. 

Looking down at the public beach area from the pier. Several people were swimming in very cool water
During the shipwreck tour I was reminded of two things. One very serious and the other a joke. The serious one was remembering "abandon ship" drills when I was in the Navy. One of the several cruises I was on during the 1970's was to the North Atlantic from Little Creek, Virginia. We were to sail with several other ships but one of the ships had engine trouble so my ship was designated to "stand-by to render assistance" while the ship attempted repairs. After a few days, it was determined that she was not going to able to repair herself so she limped back to port. We on the other hand headed to the North Atlantic to catch up with the fleet. We knew we would not catch them before arriving near Norway. That meant we would be crossing the Atlantic alone. Never a good thing. We weren't a large ship, only 522 feet long and a crew of 200. Big ocean, small ship. The Captain decided to hold an abandon ship drill. During the drill, the word is passed on the ship's PA system telling the crew to prepare to abandon ship. Part of that message is the distance to the nearest land and nearby ships. Since we were in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the message was similar to "All hand prepare to abandon ship. Nearest land is 1,200 miles to the northeast, nearest ship, unknown". Now, after all of these years, I don't remember the exact mileage that was mentioned but do remember it being greater than 1,000. Coincidentally, I looked at the fathometer (depth of water beneath the keel) just as the message was being passed. It was reading 1,000. That is in fathoms. One fathom is 6 feet so the depth was 6,000 feet, a little over a mile. We wondered how long it would take us to hit bottom if we really sank. The thoughts of 10 foot tall and bullet-proof teenage sailors. The nearest ship information came from where I worked in the Combat Information Center. To have "nearest ship, unknown" meant no surface contacts on the radar. Our radar at that time had an effective range of about 25 miles. That drill drove home just how alone we really were during that cruise. During the shipwreck tour, I wondered how many abandon ship drills had been run and how serious they were taken by the crews of the shipwrecks. 

The second thing I was reminded of was a joke about divers and is told by Thibodeaux and Boudreaux. I guess I first have to explain to my non-Louisiana friends about Thibodeaux and Boudreaux. To pronounce the names, think of "eaux" as "oh". So the names are pronounced, Tib-a-doe and Boo-droe. They are two fictitious Cajuns who are the butt of jokes similar to Aggie jokes, Polish jokes, etc. I have never heard any cajun say they were offended by the jokes and most are told by full blooded cajuns. I use the word cajun but if you're familiar with the area, substitute "coon-ass" and it will be OK. I was reminded of the joke when the tour guide mentioned divers diving on the shipwrecks. It goes like this:

Thibodeaux: "Hey Boudreaux, I wonder why dem divers always fall backward when dey leave da boat to get in da water."
Boudreaux: "I know da answer Thibodeaux, it is cause if they fall foreward they would still be in the da boat". 

Finishing the evening at the picnic table next to Liberty. The weather is nice. Highs in the upper 70's to low 80's with a cool breeze. Lows at night in the 50's. Rain is predicted for this weekend. 
Ya'll take care of each other. I'll Cya down the road.     

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Moving Day (Brimley, MI to Alpena, MI) (mostly pictures)

Location: Alpena County Fair Campgrounds; Alpena, Michigan 

Route thru stop #10

I got an early start with a short tow ahead of me. That isn't always a good thing but the weather was a nippy 59 degrees with a cool breeze blowing in from the lake. A few degrees cooler and I would have been wearing long pants; it felt great. The weather front that passed through yesterday cleaned the air and left behind the nice breeze. That breeze got stronger during the day but nothing that Freedom and Liberty couldn't handle.
Good morning Campground on moving day. It's been a great campground but time to move on.

Pretty good view from the dump station uh? The view gave me the feeling of hitting the Freedom road into the unknown. 
I crossed the Mackinac Bridge, aka "Mighty Mac". I crossed it back in the fall of 2014. Use the archive on the right and the dates should be 8/15/14 thru 8/18/14. They include a trip to Mackinac Island. 
This was taken from a "Bridge Viewing Site". 

I started not to post this one, but the bird in the upper right corner made me.

Approaching the bridge in the distance. Very little traffic going south but there is a long line of northbounders waiting to pay their toll. 

If you're a little hesitant about crossing bridges, then you better not cross the Mighty Mac unless you're knocked out. The Bridge Authority recognizes the problems some people have with the bridge and provide a "drivers assistance program" which provides drivers to drive your vehicle across the bridge for you. I didn't see any statistics on how many people use this service, but it is nice, free service. 

I've taken pictures through my windshield in all kinds of conditions, terrains and traffic but each time I've crossed the Mighty Mac I always feel funny doing it. I also don't like the open grate bridge deck. I don't like it on any bridges. I know it is used to reduce the weight of the bridge, yeah, yeah, but I still don't like them. And wouldn't you know it, they were welding on the grates as I was crossing. The bridge is a sight to see. By the way, the toll for Freedom and Liberty was $8.00 ($2.00 per axle). Not a bad price at all. 
Approaching the main span. That's Lake Michigan on the right and Lake Huron on the left.

The suspension part of the bridge. It worked out nice the the two center towers aligned. I could have said I planned it that way, but didn't, darn.

Open grate bridge deck with lane closure coming up. I put the cell phone camera down after this shot because I was tried of taking picture. Putting it down had nothing to do with the open grate deck, nope, nothing.
The rest of the tow was along the Lake Huron coast road. Lake Huron is my favorite of the five Great Lakes. It always seem bluer than I expect. There were a few turn-outs with views of the lake but not as many as I anticipated. I was happy and surprised that only about 10 miles of the 100 mile coast road was rough and needed work. 
Blue Lake Huron from one of the turn-outs. That freighter is headed south. 

I'm guessing that weather front created the brown color, but that's OK. 
This campground is on the Alpena County Fairgrounds. I've stayed in places like this before and they are always a good bargain and usually located right where I want to be. In this case, it is on the edge of town which is opposite of the place I've been staying during the last week. It is electric only at the campsite so you have to fill up with fresh water before setting up camp. That's not a problem with me and I actually prefer campsites like these because it discourages people from camping for extended periods of time. Alpena is not only a Walmart sized town, it is also a Taco Bell sized town. That is called a double bingo. One of the things I've come here to do is to take a tour on a glass bottomed boat to look at some shipwrecks. Other than that, I need to visit the visitor's information office for other suggestions. I also heard there is a pretty good bakery here so I may look that up. I'll be here for a week so there is plenty of time. 
I got the only 50 amp campsite on this side. It's not going to be hot enough this week for two A/C units, but 50 is always better than 30 if available at no extra charge. 

There are two other campers on the end of this row and the caretakers says it will be close to being full this weekend. 

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