So you want to go camping do ya?

Camping is not for the faint of heart, even in the “posh” conditions of a travel trailer! Having a trusty companion or two and the right tools can make the difference between success and failure.  For me that would be the guard dog, handy husband, jugs of water, and very long extension cord.  Gotter done!

Camplite, husband, kayak, Scorpius, rack, roof, outrigger, canoe, man, towing, camper, travel, trailer, home, Nissan, Frontier, camping

I am grateful for our Camplite (aka Tin Can Ranch) that allows me to go places with my hubby and stay in a mobile “clean room,” away from the hazards of hotels and limited choices of restaurant menus.  Preparing for these trips is an incredible amount of work all by itself:  just about the same amount of tasks need to be completed for a week-long vacation as an over-nighter.  I have a sense that we won’t be doing the latter again anytime soon!  Regardless, I rallied the strength and off we went with great expectations to the Illinois Beach State Park north of Chicago, Illinois.  I was to attend the day-long Designs for Health:  A Prescription for Wellness seminar at the beautiful Chicago Botanical Gardens and Steve was to tackle the surf along Lake Michigan.  Later we planned to meet up with some friends for dinner on the north side of the city before heading south around the city and back to NE Indiana into the wee hours of the morning.  Whilst the latter plans were complicated by severe rain and traffic issues for all parties, it turned out to be an “easier” part of our itinerary!

Our wacky adventures began soon after we pulled into the campground along the shores of Lake Michigan.  Up first:  hooking up the electrical.  Not!  For the next several hours we battled a worn breaker system that kept tripping no matter what we did to avert the issue.  Was it the breakers in the trailer that were overloaded?  The eroded contacts in the refrigerator switch plate that requires a few minutes of babysitting to turn on? Figuring this out required much problem-solving with wifey-poo dressed in early Spring/Winter garb, very weary from travelling and following orders from the friendly but not-so-helpful front office staff.  To sort this out, we ran our extension cord to a few adjacent sites to no avail.  Very likely it was the campsite breakers that were worn and not our camper since everything had worked fine at home the day before.  Too bad the real on-site expert had the day off!

Finally my husband figured out two work-a-rounds:  1)  hooking up our battery charger to the battery to run the water pump and 2) running our 100-foot extension cord to a 3rd campsite and through the kitchen area window to run the electric heater.  In the morning I disconnected the heater and attached it to my blow dryer to make some order of the bed head that came with the morning.  What about just taking a shower you ask? Well don’t!  That didn’t happen . . . for me anyways.  The campground did not have water or sewer hook-ups so we had filled our modest, 30-gallon water tank at home thinking it would be enough for bathroom needs with quick “Navy-style” showers.  We were wrong. Steve did get a shower . . . then a paddle in Lake Michigan . . . then another shower in the only open bathroom facilities in the campground.  I made the most of things and had a quick cooooold sponge bath before heading out to the seminar!  Oh well.  I was definitely AWAKE for the day of lectures to follow!

A few other tidbits further enhanced our experience such as Steve gashing his lip on the rusted breaker box in the midst of trying to figure out things!  So glad for our first aid supplies!  Then there was the brand new hot water pot that I had plugged in through the cord dangling in kitchen window to make some hot tea ended up not working; I used an electric frying pan instead!  Additionally I took every remedy that I had with me to ward off noxious symptoms from ongoing illness and to consume before-and-during the seminar (with copious amounts of food-n-bacon, of course).  And guess what?  The seminar was incredible!  Steve had a great time paddling our outrigger canoe 7 miles along the lake shore and the pup got in a few long walks at the beach.  Cool beans.

woman, seminar, Chicago Botanical Gardens, flowers, planter, Designs for Healing, sitting

Forrest Gump logic applies very well to almost all of our camping experiences these past 3 years:  you never know what you are going to get!  This trip was no different.  We are now home and pooped.  Massive loads of laundry and cleaning are now underway to decontaminate everything for our next adventure having something to do with trailer demolishen derby races or something.  With our luck, let’s just hope we don’t end up on the figure-8 track.  Should be fun.  Or maybe not.  I’ll be sure to letcha know.  Eeeeek!

JJ

It isn’t camping unless something goes awry

This trip was much like any other in terms of the massive preparation it takes to go camping!  There is always lots of kayak paddling gear to gather, packing, meal preparation for 2 distinct dietary requirements, mega supplements and meds to pop into pill boxes, “just in case” remedies to pack, and so on.  The miles go quickly as we travel most of the day and into the night, with destinations generally east of the Mississippi.  I’m especially grateful for the opportunity to catch up on the little things with my beloved Steve as he drives us along since it’s crazy busy getting everything else done before we leave!  Add the last minute deliveries of my hubby’s side business as a Stellar Kayak rep and you will see how we usually get about 4 hours of sleep beforehand but alas, I’ll let him tell that story!

Our German shepherd got sick after taking herself for a swim in Lake Michigan when delivering a kayak on our way home.  Two vent covers on the Camplite either blew off or severely cracked, respectively, on our way from Indiana to Wisconsin requiring a series of duct tape-style repairs.  The placement of water and electrical outlets on opposite sides of the campsite required a creative workaround in the dark when we arrived at our destination.  Sweltering heat and humidity nearly wilted me into a pile of mush until we found shade underneath the belly of a DC3 (airplane) on display along the air strip at the EAA AirAdventure.  In addition, my usual pattern of nightly/morning convulsive spells continued every night and morning yet were no worse considering the increased activity level and exposures related to all of our activities.  Two friends flaked on meeting us for dinner during our stay.  Bummer dude.

But wait.  There’s more!  We ran out of propane and overflowed our gray water tank at the 2-day mark.  A mysterious water spot left us sleeping on the bare mattress cover our last night that might be condensation outsmarting the air conditioner + dehumidifier combination we employed.  And lastly, the rain chased us home a day early, allowing us to deliver the aforementioned kayak for Steve’s customer who was unable to catch a flight to meet us to pick it up.  That became the reason for a 2-hour side trip to Door County from Oshkosh and the fateful swim for our pup, Elle.  But hey, the landscaped gardens of their lake home were better than the magazine photos I had brought with me to pass the time . . .

DC3, air show, Oshkosh, 2016, Air Adventure

Enjoying cool shade under a DC3

So when you decide to take up camping you also decide to take up flying by the seat of your pants!  Little goes as planned!  We have come to expect always arriving later than expected to our destinations, spending more on gasoline than meals/souvenirs/camping reservations, and getting out the tools or duct tape at some point before returning home.  If you ask me, it makes the trip more fun!  I’ll take the crazy stuff of life on the road any day to the ravages of battling a serious illness and am grateful that I get to do so with my River Bear in the Tin Can Ranch a few times each year. Now that the 9 loads of laundry are done, I just have to clean the CampLite.  Soon I’ll be ready to pop the question again like the old Microsoft commercials use to say,

Where do you want to go today?

Maybe one day I’ll meet you on the road Gentle Reader.  Please bring your own duct tape, just in case!  JJ

EAA, Air Adventure, air show, wife, husband, travel

Steve and Julie at the 2016 EAA Air Adventure

 

Let the numbers tell this story

While the numbers in my college statistics courses were fascinating and I applied them well in my Master’s thesis, I must admit that math was never really my forte.  I’ll blame it on Mr. Courtright!  Our Algebra II/Trigonometry course in high school was a constant source of frustration!  John and a couple of the other male students would pour over the text book with him at the front of the room trying to understand the lessons he was supposed to be teaching that day.  Yeah, you got that right:  high school seniors trying to figure out advanced mathematics on the fly!  I am so very glad that I never again had to sit through a traditional math class after that one!

Statistics are a different genre though.  Statistics often tell a story that we can use to make sense out of the stuff of life.  For example, landing one standard deviation from the mean (the average) in a bell-shaped curve can help us feel like things are going to be o.k. most of the time, in the right scenario of course!  Enter here special numerals applied to my recent trip with Steve to Georgia and South Carolina that will tell this story better than I can even without a calculator!  Oh how I wish some of these were more comforting than the majority of them though . . .

Over 7 days of camping in 2 locations, I was unable to leave the travel trailer 3 of the days due to illness.

My beloved Steve attended 2 of the 3 family wedding-related activities in Georgia and I attended zero.

We travelled over 2,000 miles in my truck with our 67-pound German shepherd, Elle, settled sweetly behind the jump seat of the King Cab.  Such a great traveler she has become!

I prepared about 96% of all of my own meals making this trip more of a “business as usual” affair than vacation in the realm of food.

One hour of the five that I spent in our friends’ home on Monday was spent in continuous convulsive episodes on their couch.  Thankfully the two young children had already gone off to bed when I crashed; graciously the three adults prayed over me for the Lord’s tender care as we all go forward from the significant stressors in our lives.

The kids and I planted 32 daffodil bulbs the morning we left South Carolina, overplanted with dozens of anise hyssop seeds.  Hooray!  By Springtime the view from the kitchen window of their log cabin will be alive with flowers interspersed amongst the numerous towering pines.

daffodils, mini daffodils, buttercup flowers, Spring flowers

A threatening wind storm with gusts up to 40 MPH forced us to leave a day early for safety towing our Camplite on the highways to get back home.  Just a few minutes after we arrived home at 4:00 a.m., the winds increased again closer to the estimate of 50 MPH by morning.  We had blown in just in time, praise the Lord!

Nearly 4 days have passed since we got home and I have yet to clear out, clean out the rest of the trailer as needed after a week of travel.  Steve completed the first 5 loads of laundry and about 3 more are left to go.  I have been sick in bed for most of the past 3 days, sleeping in late to recover from the nasties which characterize this wretched illness.

Over a dozen doses of a new anti-microbial treatment (Biocidin LSF) have brought both relief and a flare up of symptoms at times:  begun when travelling and continued back home when seeking a new direction, new relief, new hope for a future without illness.  Two violent convulsive episodes followed on Friday after an appointment with a new specialist and a new lab test, respectively.  Many more filled the 2 days that followed.  Perhaps this week (and 2 weeks shy of the 4-year anniversary of the first waking seizure attack) there will be an answer to end this suffering?  The odds are wearing thin lately for sure.

Yet through it all, I am reminded of the 3 days that my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ died and paid the price for all the negative numbers, the heartaches from what is not right in our world.  He knows the mathematics of it all greater than I can ever imagine and holds it all tenderly in the palms of His hands, ready to redeem it for good when He comes again in glory.  I choose to believe the promise that His precious thoughts towards me and you too, Gentle Reader, outnumber the grains of sand on the earth (Psalm139), giving us hope for a better tomorrow.  For as He thinks fondly of the ones He loves, He also promises to wipe away our every tear someday (Rev 21:4) when the time is right:  when time is no longer numbered in eternity with our Heavenly Father, God.

And that my friend is a story worth writing about.  A world without limits.  A love beyond measure.  I just hope that when all is said and done, when it is time for rejoicing in the heavenly realms, that you will be there with me there too?  Let not these numbers be wasted!  Won’t you accept the love of Christ into your heart this day, this night too?  Oh how I hope so dear one.

With love, JJ

Four-Wheeling in a Travel Trailer

getting lost, moon at night, moon, camping, campground, campsite, Georgia, November sky, October skyThe River Falls at the Gorge Campground promised to be a lovely place to be along the Tallulah River this past week.  Our reservations and multiple modes of directions were in tow with the GPS programmed to get us there, MapQuest directions handy between the seats, US Atlas turned to the State of Georgia, verbal directions written on our reservation confirmation sheet, and a back-up of directions from a Google search if needed.  But it was the map linked to the website of the campground that eventually got us there around 6:00 in the morning.  Yes, the River would be beautiful at sunrise . . .

But it didn’t go the way we had it planned!  Of course we knew that it would be a 12+ hour drive from Indiana but not over 15!  Well that sum includes completing the hook-ups once we arrived of water, electric and sewer.  O.K. so it’s kind of a modern way of “camping” yet still more rustic than the Bed-and-Breakfast accommodations to which I had become accustomed many years ago!  This is my version of “roughing it!”  There still is a lot more interaction with the elements than you might expect, (more on the mud another time!) especially trying to find a place in the dead of night on a long and twisty dirt road somewhere in northeastern Georgia.

“Something just isn’t right,” confessed my beloved Steve when the horse paths we were travelling on for almost 30 minutes ended in in 3 driveways, 2 of which were blocked by metal gates.  All of them had signs posted next to them from respective security companies.  Oh dear.  That would not be typical for a campground for sure!  It had been raining for hours and the dirt road was largely ungraded for heavy traffic, especially for a wide range of local to out-of-State travel trailers and motor homes.  How in the heck would a bus-sized RV ever make it up the road we had just traversed?  Yes indeed something was very wrong!

We decided to take some time to assess our situation.  We had already turned around twice on the main road, trying to find the campground which was supposed to be “one mile past the State park and off Highway 441.”  Well that just wasn’t our reality.  I reprogrammed the GPS and the scavenger hunt in backwoods was our third attempt to find our river-front paradise.  We had no other ideas at that time:  about 5:30 a.m.  We got out our umbrellas, Sure Fire flashlights, and hiked around.  Probably no one would mind at that hour that we were blocking everything with the 40-foot total length of my mid-size pick up truck and our 16-foot Camplite!  Steve walked closer to one of the open gates as I exclaimed, “don’t go in there!  There’s probably a laser light across the road that we might activate if we cross a line hidden by the trees!”  (I had seen this before in the homes of my home health care patients who lived in more remote areas.)  We backed away and looked up the rutted road that had led us astray.  We would need to re-trace our course.

Steve decided to pull out the manual for the brake controller and make some adjustments right there in the wilderness.  The timing was as crazy as it was brilliant.  An adjustment was sorely needed to manage the hills and valleys of our obstacle course back to the highway.  We were also concerned about the softening of the terrain as it continued to rain; four-wheel drive was already engaged.  And what if we were not alone out there?  I thought for a moment what I might do if a bear or wild hog might greet us before we had made our decision to get the heck out of there.  I was packing a pistol in my pocket but the caliber wouldn’t do much for a beast taller than my knees.  Oh yeah, I could flap the umbrella around and make a lot of noise.  Sure, that’s it!  Gratefully, we were alone out there having another Steve-and-Julie bonding experience and never encountered another soul.

Back down the road we went.  Steve made an incredible 5-point turn with the trailer in-tow with me scouting out the lay of the land outside in the dark.  I was never so grateful for having decided to wear my hiking boots during this trip.  Kind of odd, really, to wear them in the truck.  Kind of extremely helpful though in these conditions!  We bid our unknown neighbors “good night” as I hopped back into the truck whilst the sky was lightening slightly:  morning was breaking.

By the grace of God we found the campground with the re-programming of the GPS and retracing our original steps.  Funny, the campground was 1 mile from the State Park in the OPPOSITE direction than we had been instructed.  Had not we mentioned we were coming from Indiana?  Oh well.  We probably drove right past the place on our first pass through the area.  Chalk it up to the folklore of giving us directions with landmarks as if we were locals.  Sish.

While the light was out that illuminated the lettering on the building, the other lights clearly identified a big building just 200 feet or so from the road.  It was the office of the River Falls at the Gorge Campground!  We had made it!  A little more scouting, misinterpretation of a parking lot for the camp road, and final identification of our campsite out in the rain with the umbrelli brought us to a real stop for the next three days.  Steve hooked us up and I prepared the inside for us and our pup, Elle.  By 7:30 a.m., we were showered and asleep.

So what is the moral of this story?  Probably nothing!  We always seem to get lost trying to find our way in the wee hours of the morning in rural Georgia.  Yes, this has happened before when we landed at the end of a road in the woods just before daybreak trying to find Phil and Judy’s place a few years ago.  Maybe we will wait awhile before heading back to the land of boiled peanuts and peaches.  Yeah, that’s it.  Hey Babe, it’s time to GO WEST not South, my dear!  JJ

It’s more than a delicate balance

As anyone who likes to (or needs to) cook knows, it can be a tough balance to make a recipe taste just right.  The host of your fav cable cooking show says to add a pinch of salt and pepper as you watch her grab easily a fistful of seasonings.  Ah ha!  So that is why version mine comes out differently than yours!  Just ditch the online recipe on her website and fly by the seat of your pants!  Taste, taste, taste and make the dish all your own, eh?

I don’t tend to make meals using recipes anyways.  With a limited diet and having to make a wacky version for me and a “normal” one for my beloved, I would become too frustrated trying to follow the masterpiece designed by someone else’s reality!  I just start with what I CAN eat, add more salt with my eyes closed then put one of my go-to seasoning mixes on Steve’s version.  It works for us.  Well most of the time, that is!  And when it doesn’t, that is what salsa is for right?  (O.k.  I know I have offended someone out there now!)

My health situation of late is kinda like the same delicate balance.  Add too much zinc for too many days in a row or take a new supplement or med for more than 3 doses and whammo (!) I get burned at the “steak.”  There’s little more than dog food left of me afterwards.  Gratefully my Doc does exhaustive lab testing to try to coach me in the right direction.  But now even labs cannot predict the outcome anymore.  I seem to react to everything.  It’s worse when the pharmacist of an independent lab starts making suggestions too.  So I try this and that.  Oh how I want things to work out well!  So far, it has not.

I am my own worst enemy in these scenarios.  The results aren’t even back yet for the female hormones that are at a mystery level since going through menopause.  I went through menopause during the almost 4 years of this illness and these tests for me are way out of date.  The significance of the hormones is that a goodly number of women (who have true epilepsy) have worsened seizures during menopause and others have reported a new onset of what is called “catamenial epilepsy.”  While I do not think that I have epilepsy per se and all the fancy labs have supported this, I do find this course of study intriguing.  I joined a couple of Facebook groups on the subject and have hunkered down into some new online research.  Then of course I re-started a tiny bit of progesterone on my own to see what would happen.  Yeah, I know that I should wait until the lab results are back in a total of 6 weeks.  But heck, at the rate I have been going, 6 weeks means up to 210 more hours of convulsive episodes!  Why wait?  I am going to go through hell anyways . . . .

Dr. Erwin Leutzer of Moody Bible Institute teaches that, “when you are going through hell . . . DON’T STOP!!!”  Oh yeah.  That fits for me.  Not sure what to do with some of the symptoms that are emerging though.  Clearly this will need professional tweaking at some point!  Do ya blame me for trying?  What if I finally stumble upon the resolution to this nightmare?  There are so many labs that are off now and the convulsive episodes have escalated to 4 hours or more most days, I just figured that it’s worth a shot . . . worth disrupting the status quo.

The decisions of life can be a delicate balance over here sometimes.  Do we continue with travel plans when I am in the throes of chronic illness?  For us, the answer is yes.  We just adapt things a bit and get on down the road.  Life goes on.  In due time, if it is the Lord’s will, I am going to be well.  In the meantime we will use the portable heater in the Tin Can Ranch (aka travel trailer) instead of the noxious propane mini-furnace so I can be with my beloved overnight at his kayaking competitions out of town.  In the meantime I’ll freeze portions of meals to ease food prep when Steve needs to pitch in for me.  In the meantime I will fold laundry when my brain stabilizes in the wee hours of the morning and scratch the ears of our pup who gets more fractionated sleep than I do.  In the meantime Steve will head into work later to make up lost time and we will be grateful for his flexible employment.  And so it goes, a balancing act on steroids that we have come to master, one ingredient at a time!

Gentle Reader, I’ll bet you understand the need for balance with the stuff of life. Let’s look together with gratitude that we do have some choices even in the worst of situations.  For those who believe in the Lord, Jesus Christ, we know that all things, delicate and less so, will work together for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.  It’s His promise from His word in Romans 8:28.  That is because He knows us and loved us before we were even born.  He knows and cares for all of the details of our lives!  (Psalm 139)  And He knows what choices we will make.  As for me, I will aim to make choices that keep me moving forward, aiming to win.  Sometimes things will be out of balance for a time.  Yet with my eyes fixed on Christ, leaning on His Word and the leading of the Holy Spirit I will run my race of life with endurance:  endurance the produces hope (Romans 5:4) and endurance to finish well too!  (Hebrews 12:1)

surf ski, surf ski racing, river racing, USCA, kayak racing, unlimited class, competition, drafting, Epic kayaks

My River Bear leading in a United States Canoe Association event last year. Gooooo Steeeeve!

Never sacrifice sweet victory for a need to stay comfortably in balance though.  Attend to the tasks at hand with wisdom then get out there and LIVE!  Do not stop!  May we both finish well my fellow sojourner.  The crown of glory awaits!

That is all.  JJ