Sunday, December 23, 2018

12/23 Almost Christmas and the End of the Year

So, what have I been doing lately?  Mostly, not a lot.

It has been raining here in Oregon almost non-stop, and it has been chilly even during the day, so I can't go out much. So, I have been doing some cooking, some cleaning, some sorting, and working on some projects that I have put off for a long time.  One was scanning and desktop publishing a cookbook from the mother's club of my elementary school.  It was put together in 1955 and has so many of the names I remember--relatives, neighbors, and relatives of classmates.  That project took me three days and at least 15 hours. I have also been busy getting my winter class ready for the new semester.  

I seem to have recovered from my kidney stone problems, but will not know for sure until I get the results of the cat scan that was done a week ago.  Other issues are also resolving, which means that as of January 31, I will be able to head south to get out of the rain and into slightly warmer California for a while.  That will feel really nice!  

Also, I have been thinking about how long I have been living in this small space and traveling.  It has been several months over six years since I sold my condo, put my stuff into storage, and took off on the road.  When I started, I was not sure I would like to do this kind of traveling long-term and told myself that I would commit to at least two years.  I was not sure if I would be bored or lonely or feel claustrophobic living in this roughly 10' by 28' space.  (That is an estimate with both slides out and not counting the cab part of my vehicle.)   I have lived in a 1,000 square foot house, a 2,000 square foot house, and an 1,800 square foot house, but I feel just as comfortable in these 280 square feet as in all of those.  

I COULD use more storage space and more cargo carrying capacity so I could bring more stuff, but I have all the essentials to make me comfortable.  (Cargo carrying capacity is the amount of weight your RV can carry without overloading the frame and tires.  It includes people, fresh water and waste in tanks, belongings, even gas in the gas tank.)  I am at the very top of my cargo carrying capacity, so I have to be careful of what I accumulate, and I cannot drive with more than a quarter of a tank of fresh water.  I am also getting tired of so many things breaking in this motorhome and having to spend so much money of repairs.

But, I have a very comfortable bed, my old leather recliner that fits me perfectly, a refrigerator and freezer full of food, a kitchen that enables me to cook and bake, even if my oven is small.  I have two internet mobile hot spots and satellite TV, so I am well-connected with the outside world. Also, I like that I have lots of windows and a good view of both sides and through the front windshield from my recliner.  Being able to look out makes it feel a lot less cramped inside.  And of course, it helps that being able to keep moving means that my views from my windows are never the same for very long. 

While I enjoy seeing new places, I also have found some favorite places where I feel comfortable and I enjoy visiting.  Most of my favorites are in beautiful places.  And many others have wildlife to watch.  For example, I am planning to go to the Las Vegas area in March so I can stay at Valley of Fire State Park and visit Willow Beach Marina.  

How much longer do I want to live the life of a vagabond?  As long as I possibly can.  I am hoping for another five years, assuming my health and money holds out!  Keeping my fingers crossed.       

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

12/4/2018 Update on my Life

So, several things have happened to me lately--some good and some not-so-good.  I have been very busy grading papers and getting ready for the upcoming winter semester, and it has been too cold and rainy to do much sightseeing in this area, but I do want to visit the university museum when I get a chance.  I also want to rent a car and go for a drive up to Portland.  

Most of my medical issues are getting resolved, but two things I did not expect have happened lately.

First, I went to the LensCrafters store at the Eugene Mall to get a new left lens in my glasses.  My eyes have been getting tired lately, and I had noticed that my left eye was getting worse.  I have really had problems reading and grading students' papers online and had to take a lot of rests.  And it has been two years since I had a new prescription, so the solution seemed evident--new prescription and new lenses.  Except, the ophthalmologist told me that It would be useless because what I really needed was cataract surgery and an eyelid lift.  I've known for some time I had a mild cataract in my left eye, but it had never bothered me before, so figured I would get it done next summer at Cleveland Clinic when I was visiting my younger son and his family.  

I also knew that eventually my eyelids would continue to droop, and I would need a lift, but like the cataract surgery, I figured I could put it off for a few months or next summer, at the earliest.  So, now I need to find someone to do the surgery near here.  Got one recommendation, but other things have interferred--like Situation #2.

So, the second thing was that a few weeks ago, I had a cat scan for some unrelated issues.  This cat scan with dye showed clearly that my left kidney was not working well and that I had two collections of stones.  One was in the ureter, near the bladder and was clogging the flow of urine, which is why my kidney was not functioning well.  And the second group was a little nest of stones in my lower kidney that was in a place that meant they could not easily pass. 

So, a couple of weeks ago, I made an appointment at a urologist, and after looking at the cat scan, they got me scheduled into the hospital to get them out--fast!  I have been a regular kidney stone former for over 35 years, but have not really had any pain with these last ones, which puzzled me, although I did have some back pain I blamed on muscle spasms. But it was not constant and did not feel like kidney stone pain, so this one completely missed me. 

So surgery was scheduled for last Thursday afternoon.  They went in and discovered the lowest stone had already passed, but they used a laser lithotripsy to blast the "nest" of stones in my lower kidney.  It meant general anesthesia and an overnight in the hospital on an uncomfortable bed, but it had to be done.  They put in a stent from kidney to bladder to help them pass, but I have had stents in the past and they typically cause pain and a lot of bleeding.  It did not help that my platelet count has been very low, making the bleeding worse, but no choice in postponing.  

So, I have spent the last few days mostly sleeping or sitting in my recliner.  I made sure I had plenty of food, water, propane, pain meds, and stuff before all this started.  But today, I had to go out to get blood tests done, and drove, plus I also did some grocery shopping--big mistake.  I have to go out tomorrow to get the stent removed, but I think I will take Uber because I had a lot of pain after getting home this afternoon.  Basically, the doctor said to focus on being a couch potato for the next few days, which I need to do a better job at.  

I am feeling much better right now, after dinner and a pain med chaser.  Got papers to grade, but luckily that is easily done while sitting. 

So, "they" tell me cataract surgery is very easy these days, but I think I am going to wait a bit before tackling that item on my to-do list.  I also really need to get a colonoscopy and a breast exam, but those are on the back-burners also.  At least I am in a place with lots of good doctors.  But, I am still anxious to head someplace warmer and sunnier as soon as I can!   

And speaking of staying warm--I got two new electric heaters that really do a much better job of keeping me warm.  They use the same number of watts, but blow the air around better, plus they have an extra safety feature.  Nearly all small electric heaters have a feature where they shut off if tipped over.  These also turn themselves off if they overheat, which is a concern when you live in a small place.  

It is going to drop down to 26 degrees tonight, and I have filled my fresh water tank and unhooked the water hose to prevent it from freezing.  I also wrapped an old towel around the area in the utility cabinet  where the sewer hose exits to keep cold air out.  There is furnace duct in that compartment which should prevent freezing down to around 20 degrees, so I should be OK. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

11/21 Brrrrrrrr! Liviing in an RV in Cold Weather

OK, I know what is cold to one person is not cold to another, but if you notice, nearly all RVers who live full time in their rigs head for warmer places in the winter.  So, why can't you stay in colder places?  People do it all the time in house trailers or "mobile homes."  

There are several big reasons why you cannot spend the winter living in an RV in places like Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, or even Kentucky or Kansas. 
  • First, RVs are not insulated anywhere near as well as mobile homes.  The walls are only 2" thick and you can't add any more insulation since the walls are made of pressed foam with no extra spaces.  Your "sticks 'n 'bricks" home has at least 4-6" of insulation in walls. 
  • Second, very few RVs have double-pane windows, so there is a lot of air leakage around windows.  And the ratio of windows to solid walls is more than in a home or mobile home. 
  • Third, slides leak air.  All of them.  There is only a thin piece of rubber that surrounds most slides, and it is not unusual to have gaps in that rubber weatherstripping.  I have one space that is 1" by 1" where I keep a rag stuffed in mine.  If you want to test air leakage around slides, park sideways next to a 65 MPH wind as I once did.  Even when I put my slides in, rain and wind came in under, over, and to the sides of the slide facing the storm.  It took a lot of towels to sop it up.   
  • Fourth, even with skirting, which most people do not put around RVs, fresh water and sewage tanks are exposed from underneath.  You can last a few hours at maybe 28 degrees, but any colder or longer, and you are likely to have frozen pipes and frozen hoses, and frozen sewage! 
  • Fifth, it takes a lot of propane and electricity to keep your RV warm, no matter what kind it is.   
So, I am staying in mid-Oregon for a couple of months to get some medical things taken care of.  This is a relatively mild climate for some place so far north because of the closeness of the ocean and other weather factors.  It gets below freezing here, but only during the nights and then warms up during the days. It is only November, and I can already see that this is going to be a chilly winter.  Highs during the day have been about 50-60 and during the nights has dropped down to close to freezing or a little before.  

I have a 10-gallon built-in propane tank that fuels my hot water tank, stove and oven, and two furnaces--one in the front living area and one in the rear bedroom.  I am also supplementing the furnaces with two small electric heaters. (Bigger heaters would not be safe and might blow fuses.)  My first tank of propane lasted 15 days.  My second lasted only 12 days.  Getting a refill means driving my motorhome out and getting someone who can fill it.  (There are external supplemental tanks you can get, but these require a special fitting, which I don't have.)   And I have been barely keeping the temps at 68 degrees during the day and much lower at night.  

Luckily, I have a really warm down comforter that keeps me warm at night, but getting out of bed in the middle of the night is still pretty chilly.  I am hooked up to sewer, but I have to go outside to pull the handles on my tanks every three or so days.  

So, as soon as I can, hopefully in late January, I am headed for warmer places around Las Vegas and Arizona!   In the meantime, brrrrrrr!  

And by the way, the good news is that it is now raining in Oregon!!  Even better, it is raining in Northern California, so the fires will be going out and the air will be getting a lot better in the next few days.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

11/17 Still Here, Hanging Around Oregon

I know I have not posted in a long time, but I have been hanging around Oregon, getting some medical issues taken care of.  So, I am doing a lot of working, resting, and catching up with other things, but putting my travels on hold for a couple of months.  

One question I am often asked is how I handle medical things.  Well, it is complicated at times and very simple at other times.  First, I have regular Medicare with a traditional supplement and a prescription Part D.  My plan enables me to see any doctor I want anywhere.  

I have a personal physician in Ohio who I see once a year for a checkup and to get prescription refills.  (I need to get some tests scheduled when I visit her in the spring.)  But I also have visited a lot of urgent care facilities as I travel and end up with minor things like colds or infected mosquito bites.  However, I have routinely been seeing a hand surgeon in California who has given me cortisone shots for trigger fingers.  He also did surgery on me for carpal tunnel syndrome and for one trigger finger that kept bothering me. 

I have seen other specialists here and there, as I have needed them.  It was easy because my particular Medicare plan does not require referrals, so I just find someone and make a call for an appointment.  A Medicare Advantage plan might give me those "extra" benefits, but would limit me to a specific set of doctors, which does not match my lifestyle.  

The other thing is that I keep copies of all my test results, so if I have to see a new doctor, they won't have to repeat a bunch of tests unnecessarily. 

Anyway, I do plan to rent a car and head up to Portland to do some exploring one of these weekends, assuming the weather is decent. (It has been really chilly and damp lately.) Thinking that maybe some indoor museums would be worthwhile, but I want to wait until after Thanksgiving so I don't get caught in the shopping mess.  

Monday, October 29, 2018

10/28 Shasta Lake to Mt Shasta, CA - Fire Damage

Interstate 5 is the main north-south freeway in California, going all the way from the border with Mexico to past Seattle.  Heading north from Napa, most of the route is through the Central Valley, which is mostly flat and hot and consists of farmland.  Once you get past Redding, however, you enter the mountains and the elevation rises sharply.  If you remember from the news this summer, Redding was one of the hardest hit places when the fires were burning, but most of the damage to Redding was west and north of the city.

There were also separate fires in the areas just past Lake Shasta, north of Redding.  These fires closed the interstate for several days with fires on both sides of the highway, in an area about 10 miles long.  If you remember, people had to drive 200 miles to get north because of the closed freeway.  

This is beautiful, heavily forested, mountainous land. 

The lake is substantially down because it is October and the rains have not yet started. 

The brown trees shown on the right are not changing color because it is fall.  They have been damaged by fire. 

There are still patches of unburned trees, luckily. 

The next few photos show substantial fire damage. 

In the heavily burned areas, they are cutting and removing all burned trees and shrubs from the interstate right-of-way.  I assume this is being done to reduce the availability of fuel in case another fire comes. 

They are also repairing the hillsides and trying to prevent rains from washing out some areas. 

This burned area goes for at least ten miles.  It must have been a spectacular fire.  Notice that the hills and mountains in the distance are also burned. 

Notice the stumps remaining where they have removed the trees.   

Piles of burnt trees and undergrowth. 

The very wide shoulders here are chain-up areas because this area gets heavy snow during the winter.  If the signs indicate I need to put chains on my RV, I can guarantee you I will do a quick exit or u-turn and head back down the mountain to wait it out!  

More burned area.  I just got tired of taking photos, but it was amazing how much here was burned.  And notice how spotty it was.  There would be a small burned area, then some green trees that were untouched, and another burned area.  The top of the mountain to the right is really black. 

10/27 Napa EXPO RV Park

I've been spending the last week or so in Napa, visiting family.  My favorite place to stay in Napa is at the county fairgrounds, aka the EXPO, where there is a very nice RV park.  It is really the only decent place to stay within maybe 30 or 40 miles because it has very large paved RV sites with full hookups.  It is a tad expensive, but worth it because it is only 4 blocks from downtown and other city attractions like the wine train and tons of restaurants. 

Another advantage is that there is a small laundromat tucked into the shower and bath building.  I never use the public facilities provided with campsites, but I do like the laundry because it is so close. 

There are also two camp hosts next to the facilities building.  Camp hosts are responsible for checking you in, maintaining the grounds and restrooms, and making sure guests follow the rules and don't get carried away with late night wine parties!  You can see my front bumper in the right lower part of the photo, which means I am very close to the laundry.  And in fact, I did four loads while I was here. 

I had to pull my rig as far forward in my site as I could because the trees were blocking my satellite TV signal.  You can see how much space there is behind my motorhome--enough for another RV.  In fact, during the county fair and the annual Bottlerock Festival, they put two rigs on each site and two more in between, so there will be as many as four RVs in the same space taken up by one during the rest of the year!  The camp hosts keep their spots, but the entire fairgrounds is rented out for Bottlerock, and the camp hosts have told me they will be moving out next year!!   

Here is a video showing the premium ticket suites!  They build huge grandstands for this event, with half a million people attending.  

And here is another video of the festival: 

The camp hosts also told me that they have to completely re-sod the fairgrounds afterwards because of all the crowds!  

Anyway, most of the time it is much quieter here.   

Looking from the front of the campground to the back.  There are only 28 sites, so it is full almost every day of the year. 

No campfires and no tents are allowed.  You also may not put any mats on the grass. 

My site this time was next to the cow barns.  No cows or any other animals, however. 

Most people stay only a couple of days, so during the day, it is about half empty, but this photo was taken in late afternoon when it was full. 

 Another nice thing about this campground is that I can ride my bike through the fairgrounds and out onto the bike trail along the main road for a couple of blocks, and then catch the bike trail that follows the wine train tracks.  It will take me to the other end of town where if I wanted to, I could get on the 20+ mile trail to Yountville. 

Thursday, October 18, 2018

10/17 Emigrant Lake Recreation Area, Southern Oregon

I am staying at this very pleasant campgrounds for a few days as I work my way south to Napa, California, to visit family.  I've been here a couple of times before because it is a nice place not too far off of I-5, which is the major north-south freeway from California to Washington state.   

The drive from Eugene to Medford, near Emigrant Lake, goes through forested mountains surrounding Mt Shasta and Grants Pass, so maybe a bit of snow in winter, but it is a very pretty drive.  

 Emigrant Lake is usually full of water.  (It has also been mostly full of smoke for the past year because this is one of the hardest hit fire areas, but that is another story.)  Right now, the fires are mostly out, but the lake is almost dry, the water from the past year having been pumped out for agricultural uses.  It will fill up again in the winter, but here is the overflow area--not much to overflow right now!

The row of RVs is usually on the shore of the lake. 

There is a second row of camping spots behind this row and about 20' higher, so all sites have very good views. 

Just a large puddle right now!  

It's a very long drive down the boat ramp to the lake.  And really, the only boats I saw in the last few days were a couple of canoes and a rowing team practicing.  You can see where the lakeshore normally is by the lack of vegetation. 

There is one car way down at the bottom. 

There are actually two campgrounds on this lake and a water slide.  My campground has paved sites and full hookups, but the other one is dry camping only, meaning to water or electric hookups.  It is closed for the season, as is the water slide. 

I used my telephoto lens to take this photo of my rig in the distance. There are about 30 sites full hookup sites, and the camphosts told me that even if it is only 50% full, this is the busiest they have been all summer, due to the smoke conditions.  They even closed the water park most of the summer because smoke levels were hazardous here. 

Another photo of my campsite on the upper level.  Good cell service, and hence good internet access here, plus an easy satellite signal--all things I value!

My reservation in the upper loop ended today, so I decided to try one of the lower sites that had a better view of the lake.  I claimed this site and then headed to town to get some groceries.  This was taken in very late afternoon, so very long shadows.  

I had noticed on my way in here a few days ago that there was a rowing club boathouse and stacks of boats parked on the other end of the lake.  They are very long, but not much more than 15" wide.  Here is a crew practicing.  Note that the person in the rear is not rowing.  Instead, she is calling out instructions to the rowers, who all looked pretty young.  There is a college in town, so I assume this is a college group. 

And the guy in this little boat had some sort of megaphone that he used to give them directions.  The rowing boat looks at least 50' long, I am guessing.

Almost sunset, so time to head home from my short walk. 

Most campers this time of year are older retirees, with a few younger people on long vacations tossed in.  That makes for a very quiet group.  

Sunday, October 14, 2018

10/12 Not Much to Post These Days

I am still in Oregon, but catching up with doctor's appointments and tests, so have not been traveling much, hence no postings lately.  Also, just taking it easy.  

One issue with full-timing is staying somewhere long enough to take care of medical issues.  For ordinary sore throats and colds and such, I just stop into a local urgent care center. I also have an internist who handles my basic things in Ohio, an orthopedic surgeon near where my son lives in northern California who did carpal tunnel surgery on my right hand a few years ago and trigger finger releases on my left hand. 

Since I am a kidney stone former and have been having some symptoms of kidney stones lately, I need to see a urologist soon.  I had a lithotripsy treatment from one in northern California a few years ago, but was unhappy with him, so I think I will see one here in Oregon when I come back in a couple of weeks. And I really need to see an ophthalmologist, so finding one is on my list.  

The older I get, the more specialists and more appointments, unfortunately!  

One thing I do is to carry around copies of all lab test results so I don't have to needlessly repeat things.  And because I live and travel alone, I keep a one-page document in my purse and in a prominent place in my motorhome that lists my medical contacts and the phone numbers of my kids, plus a list of medications I take and a brief medical history.  That is in case I pass out of something and 911 is called.  It is also handy to give to new doctors if I have to go to urgent care or an emergency room. 

I will be heading south to northern California to visit with family soon, so will do some postings then. 

Friday, October 5, 2018

10/3 Thomas Condon Paleontology Center, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

Amazing.  I went over a week without posting because I had nothing to post, and now I have too much to post!

Anyway, here the second part of October 3rd.  My big stop this day was the visitor center which is named after the person who did most of the collecting here in the 1800s and who was the first State Geologist in Oregon. (Unlike John Day, he came to Oregon later in the century and so did not get robbed of his belongings and clothing by the natives.)

I have been to a lot of museums and visitor centers in my six years of travel, but I was really impressed by this one and learned a lot I did not know about this area.  First, there are three parts to this national monument that are widely separated.  That is because the monument encompasses three unique fossil areas.  The main one where the visitor center is located is called the Sheep Rock Unit. 

Oregon has some unique fossil collecting areas because of the number of volcanoes and eruptions of ash that covered and protected the plants and animals that lived between 54 million and 20 million years ago.  

Not a huge museum, but big enough and nicely done. 

The view from the patio shows some of the areas which are still being explored today.  Only about 3% of the fossils here have been found, so there is still lots of digging by students and researchers. 

This shows you where the various layers are located.  You can see how large an area these cover. 

The oldest area is the Clarno nut beds.  After volcanic ash became saturated with water, it was common to have lahars, which are mud slides that pick up and carry trees and plants. At the bottom of a mud slide, fossil hunters have found concentrated areas of early trees and plants.  Some examples of these early trees and plants are shown in the photo two slides below. 

The next era was the Hancock Quarry, about 40 million years ago. 

There were some strange-looking mammals back then, including some that looked like rhinos and other animals that live in wet and hot areas now. 

More recently, at about 33 million years ago, was the Bridge Creek Flora area.

The Turtle Cove period was about 29 million years ago.

And the Kimberly era was about 24 million years ago.

And the Haystack Valley era was only 20 million years ago.

I could have spent more time, but I was worried about getting a camping spot for the night.  I will come back here maybe next spring or summer.