Our Vacation Cottage On Wheels

Our Vacation Cottage On Wheels
2002 Mazda SUV ES-V6 & 2008 Cruiser Travel Trailer - Fun Finder X - 189FBR

Saturday, July 24, 2010

In Memorium: Goodbye Rocky, it was great knowing you...

While working on my promised update to our BLOG, tragedy occurred:

(From my post on the RV.Net Pets Forum)

Our faithful little Australian Terrier was put to sleep this morning. I feel like my heart's been ripped out. I know that you dog lovers will understand.

We began our cross-country, 1-year RV adventure on December 31st, 2009. Of our little group, Rocky was the most enthusiastic. Calling him our "Road Dog," Rocky quickly settled into every segment of our trip. He was at his happiest when he was with us (is it wrong to bend the truth a little and call your pet a "service dog" so that he can ride that bus or enter that store with you? After all, he did wake you several times from a possible fatal sleep apnea event, didn't he?).

He was also content to sit and wait for our return, even if it took hours. All I had to tell him was, "Watch the house, Rocky, we'll be right back." Whenever we returned from food shopping, he would sing his special "food song," knowing that we always brought him home a special snack, especially his favorite leftovers: scrambled eggs and bacon from Cracker Barrel.

He had a "bad back event" in February, which kept him in the hospital for 4 days and gained me a new scar on the back of my hand; one which I'll now treasure. The vet told us that his displaced disks were back in place for the moment, after a run to the end of his lead at our campground to challenge a dog 3 times his size, which flipped him into the air and down hard on the ground, but we should ensure that he did no more jumping. We may of well told the sun not to shine.

His back went "out" again last night. I walked the park with him for hours, trying to help him escape his pain. Every few steps were punctuated with a scream that must have told the entire park of his suffering. When I ran out of energy I tied him up and sat nearby, watching him pace back and forth, back and forth, crying out and trying to bite the place on his back that was causing so much pain.

We sat there until daylight, when I had made up my mind to end his suffering. I've had to do this 8 times during the past 45 years and have died a little each time I held my beloved dogs as their life quickly slid away following the vet's injection. I cried like a baby every time, without embarassment. I did this time, too. Maybe more then ever before.

My wife and I have decided that Rocky will be our last dog, a decision we have made several times in the past. I think that we'll keep the promise this time, though, since, as my wife reminded me that, at this time of our life, we've started saying our last goodbyes to family and friends and will soon enough have to face each other's death... We've seen enough of death for now...

And for now I'll have to content myself with an affectionate hug and hello for every dog that I meet. Rocky, it was good to know you.

George and Maureen

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Finally Back On Line

Well, we've been to Fort Lauderdale, Miami, the Florida Keys, back to Fort Lauderdale, and now we're in Sarasota, waiting until the 3rd and a doctor appointment I have. Why no posts up till now? Because we've had really spotty to non-existant WiFi service.

In addition, my netbook picked up some weird keyboard problem that caused a chain reaction of help files: multiple help files would open until system memory was exhausted and the netbook crashed. More on this later.

We've got lots of stories to tell you and I'll be working on them over the next few days. Please check back often.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Naples KOA; Lots of Fun and a Great Location

As we near end of our stay at the Naples KOA, we feel sadness as we watch some of our new friends packing up or already gone, heading back north for Easter at home. When I was ill, people that I hardly new would drop by to check up on me. One fellow RVer had hoped to set up a kayak flotilla; something that we weren't able to pull off, in part because of me and my stones. Maybe next year.

The cabin people keep arriving and going, some for a weekend and others for just a day. Each new day sees fewer and fewer neighbors as our "backyard" expands, spreading outward to include the empty RV sites that now surround us.

We have been very lucky concerning this park. We arrived on the 1st of March without a reservation. Having made plans to meet some non-RV'ing friends from New York and California while in Naples, we hoped to get at least 2 weeks at an RV park in Naples or Marco Island. The Naples KOA was the first RV resort we tried after driving down I-75 from Tampa, our last port of call. Located at 1700 Barefoot Williams Road, it had an intriguing address and was close to both Naples Old Town and Marco Island. We're glad we gave it a chance. It's been very nice.

After 2 months of bad weather and some unpleasant experiences in Tampa, we were ready for change.
We immediately liked what we saw; an older park, but well kept, with a nice pool, and clean laundry room and bathrooms with private showers, all of which met our immediate needs. What we didn't expect was the friendliness of the staff and visitors.

From the start, we were greeted by nearly everyone; always invited to join them at their table during events and questioned about ourselves and our plans. We couldn't go for a walk without meeting someone along the way to stop and chat with. Of course, it takes two to start a conversation and we did go out of our way to be friendly. It's more about how other people respond to you; whether they just nod and go on their way, or stop and talk. In this resort, most people act as friends, which of course some of them are after coming here for years, but they also act his way with new arrivals.

We're planning to return next year; perhaps February and March. We love the KOA's proximity to local beaches, resturants and the Old Town in Naples, which is a great place to stroll through and gawk at the many shops and their wealthy clientele, or to eat at one of the many fine resturants. We recommend McCabes on 5th Avenue. It looks like a beautiful English pub inside and has, like many eating establishments in town, tables outside to sit, eat and watch the Gucci's walk by. McCabe's puts on a terrific St. Patrick's Day celebration each year, with corned beef and cabbage and live Irish music. And don't miss a walk, drive or bicycle ride along Gulf Boulevard. 12th street west will give you access to the pier (see photo below, taken from the beach), always a great place to go, especially at sunset. Gulf Blvd's beautiful homes will knock your socks off and every block has a westside street that includes metered parking and an access to some of the most beautiful Gulf beaches we've ever seen. Just remember to bring lots of quarters to feed the parking meters. 2 bucks will buy you just an hour and 20 minutes.

Just outside of the KOA, you'll find WalMart and Publix shopping centers located on Colliers Blvd or on Rte. 41/Tamiani Trail. Check the Naples KOA's website for other local attractions.

Till next time, when we'll be in Miami and Fort Lauderdale.

Friday, March 26, 2010

IMHO: The Price Of Freedom Includes Checking Your Sources...

It used to be that the news was presented by "talking heads;" good-looking people with nice smiles and the ability to read from a script or teleprompter. They might smile when presenting a humorous or touching story and look sad when the story warranted it, but one thing that they never did was to take sides. No matter what their personal feelings might be, they were expected to remain stoic and unopinionated.

One of the best at this was Walter Cronkite. He was many peoples' idea of the ideal father, grandfather, or kindly, wise and respected uncle. Or even a national leader. As one of the most famous and respected american newsmen of the 20th century, Walter was so highly regarded that many people wished that he would run for the Presidency. To his credit, he never did.

Every night and during special events, families would crowd around their radios and televisions, listening as Walter described some of the most important moments in this country's history, whether it was the Cuban Missile Crisis or man's first landing on the moon. Throughout the decades that Walter presented the news, he remained stately and neutral to what he was announcing. The only time that I know he showed much emotion was the day he reported the assasination of President John F. Kennedy. Walter became choked up, removed his glasses and through obviously teary eyes, looked directly into the camera and told us about the murder of who many believed was one of our most beloved Presidents.

After the news was presented, we, the viewing or listening public, were on our own in interpreting what we had been told. Whatever your social position, education, party affiliation, or religion, it was up to you to take what you had been told and fit it into your belief system. You were free to decide whether what you had been told was true or not and whether it was important to your life or could be safely ignored.

During the last few decades of the 20th century, someone (probably one of the mysterious "they" that we're always hearing about; as in, they said this or that, or they decided that we should all do this or that...) determined that we, the listening public, having become much more stupid than usual and therefore not trusted to make up our own minds about what we had just learned from the news media, needed our news massaged by them in order to make it easier to understand (or manipulate their audience to meet the needs of some special interest group).

Therefore, as a public service, the news media decided to do our thinking for us. Talking heads became conveyors not only of what had happened, but also whether it was a good or bad thing from the narrow perspective that they had decided to represent. News stations have become competing; if not outright, enemy camps. You can now get your news already digested and neatly packaged to fit your particular view of reality. Stations can now not only be classified as "Blue" or "Red," reflecting the Democratic or Republican Party's positions on various issues, but can be as liberal dark blue or conservative fiery red as you want them.

Today the news might even be one station reporting on another station's activities. "Spinning" the news to better match a station's assumed demographic viewership is the norm now. The talking heads have become the stars of the news industry, with hyperbole and sensationalism encouraged by their management and expected by their avid viewers. Stations and their star reporters are denigrated by the other stations' stars as being too liberal, or too conservative, or too much of whatever other weakness their writers have decided might be newsworthy or, as often seems to be the case, more controversial.

I, for one, like to consume news that is unadulterated. And, while I do have my own biases, I try not to let them rule my life. The first question I often ask myself after hearing a questionable news report is, "What does the other side have to say about this?" or even "How is the foreign press reporting this?" With the internet, none of us has any excuse for not checking our sources before we decide to condemn or praise a news story or the personality that it reports on.

Internet sites like "snopes.com" and the like analyze news reports and present the facts about what actually happened. Foreign news web sites also provide another view of things and often provide information not deemed "newsworthy" by American news agencies. It often amazes me to learn just how twisted some of our news is. Today's virtuous heroes are next week's jackasses and the next month's esteemed insiders who are asked to tell the viewing public (for a large pile of money) the "truth" about that month's controversial news story or personality. It can make your head spin.

The  bottom line is that none of us has the need for someone else to do our thinking for us. Don't be lazy. Question everything. Trust no one...

To give yourself some more to think about and learn how fear is used to control us, try:

The Culture of Fear: Why Americans Are Afraid of the Wrong Things: Crime, Drugs, Minorities, Teen Moms, Killer Kids, Mutant Microbes, Plane Crashes, Road Rage, & So Much More, by Barry Glassner, available at Amazon.com. In the age of 9/11, the Iraq War, financial collapse, and Amber Alerts, our society is defined by fear. So it’s not surprising that three out of four Americans say they feel more fearful today then they did twenty years ago. But are we living in exceptionally dangerous times? In The Culture of Fear, sociologist Barry Glassner demonstrates that it is our perception of danger that has increased, not the actual level of risk. Glassner exposes the people and organizations that manipulate our perceptions and profit from our fears, including advocacy groups that raise money by exaggerating the prevalence of particular diseases and politicians who win elections by heightening concerns about crime, drug use, and terrorism. In this new edition of a classic book—more relevant now than when it was first published—Glassner exposes the price we pay for social panic. (taken from Editorial Reviews, Amazon.com)

Till next time

On The Road With The Rolling Stones

For those of you who have been worrying about me (I know that you must be out there somewhere - just kidding, thanks for your kind messages), I'm happy to report that I'm feeling much better, having had the sonic cannon lithroscopy and, several days later, having passed the broken remains of the stones that were blocking my right kidney, or kidneys (See "The Man With Three Kidneys").

Still having some tenderness in my kidney area and right side, Dr. Luke ordered up a special CAT scan to find out if there was anything else wrong in there. Thankfully, the doc reported that everything looks well and that they all wished they had kidneys as healthy as mine. I wasn't sure that I could believe him, since no one has come forward and offered to buy that 3rd kidney (Or trade; I'll consider a swap for a Ford 250 pick-up). As for that oddity, Dr. Luke says it's not that unusual at all (then why did it take 65 years for me to hear about "duplex kidneys;" as in MINE?).

I am now drinking 5 gallons of water every day (actually just 3 or 4 liters) and am forbidden to eat much of everything that I used to enjoy. But, if it prevents the return of the "Rolling Stones*," I am more than just willing to cooperate. They are so painful that anyone who hasn't experienced  them CANNOT imagine how much they hurt.

*No, not Mick and company, I still love them (although they are looking more and more like somebody's weird old aunties...) and I'd still be one of their Roadies anytime.

Well, stay hydrated and maybe I'll see you down the road someday,

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Man With Three Kidneys

My intent for this blog was to document our adventures as we traveled around the United States. These "adventures" have included stories about our pets, the places we have visited, our neighbors, amusing stories from our past, and not-so-pleasant events in the daily lives of many RVers. This latter category has included stories about me getting sick while on the road.

I did struggle with whether stories about my health even belonged in a blog about full-time RVng. But then I realized that fulltime RVng includes the whole enchilada, as they say.

"We arrived in San Antonio today. It was sunny and hot.
We had dinner at Pedro's Authentic Northern Italian Restaurant."*

Accurate, but boring. Wouldn't most people like to know that you spent the night with your head in the toilet, all the while cursing Pedro? But then I worried that people would tire of stories about me getting ill, or lost, two things that I seem to be doing a lot of lately. Well, I replied to myself, people get sick while staying at 5-star hotels, too, don't they? And isn't concern about one's health something that some people have to factor into their decision to start, or even continue, fulltiming?

During the past 2 and a half months, my wife and I have had our share of illnesses; OURS as in MINE and Rocky's, my dog. Those events have stressed our pocketbooks and our determination to continue our adventure. Well, mostly Maureen's determination. "Take me to a hotel!" "Take me home!" and "Enough is enough!" have been heard frequently during our time on the road. I can't criticize her for her feelings, since who wants to live in a home the size of our last master bathroom with a sick husband and a pain-crazed dog? ...Or was that a sick dog and a pain-crazed husband?

But we're still out here, letting God and the interstate road system take us where it or He may. I mean, afterall, I got sick when we were living in our sticks-n-bricks home right? And I didn't give up and say, "That's it! We're going RVng!" Did I? Well no, but one wouldn't normally think that way...

The point is, stuff is going to happen when you go fulltiming, as it does while leading a more conventional lifestyle while living in a house, a condo, an apartment, or even a yurt (look it up; I can't do all of the work here, you know). And, unless you have a disorder that requires unusual and frequent treatment by a specialist, there are fine doctors and hospitals all over our country. And, if worse comes to worse, we're all no more than a half day's flight from home or a somewhat reluctant relative, right? And there's always someone who can can drive the RV home... for a price.

As I explained to Maureen the other day, if I am going to be sick, there's no place I'd rather be than right here with you and Rocky, in our RV in this beautiful place, surrounded by friendly neighbors, all of whom were probably strangers up until a day or so ago. And I don't have to worry about cutting the grass or shoveling the sidewalk, either.

My latest adventure; no, that's not fair, since everything that happens to me also affects Maureen - OUR latest adventure began during our second week at the Naples KOA. We'd been having a great time attending the various activities and conversing with new friends from all over the country (Well okay; mostly Canadians). I began having a nagging pain in my back, centered over my kidney. I became less and less able to find a comfortable way to sit or lie down. As the pain worsened, we began to suspect that my right-hand kidney was involved. I had a similar event in January while further north at Bay Bayou, but it was less specifically located and faded away after a week or so. This time, there might as well of been a bullseye painted on my back right over the kidney with a bunch of cute cupids shooting arrows into me. We quickly decided that it was time to go to the ER at the regional hospital on Collier boulevard just a few miles from the KOA.

After an EKG, CAT scan, blood and urine analysis, we were referred to Doctor Luke, a local Urologist, who we were able to see the next day. By then, the radiologist's report was in from the CAT scan. It said that I had 4 medium-size stones lodged in my right kidney. Well, that explained the increasingly excruciating pain I was experiencing. I went back home to our RV in considerable, squirming around, groaning, calling on God for relief kind of pain. I was scheduled for sonic blasting the following morning. For the squeamish, there's no cutting involved, just full anesthesia and a howitzer-sized sonic cannon that pulverizes what ever pebbles, stones, or boulders may have grown in your kidneys or their associated plumbing.

The anesthesia is the most modern type, where one moment you're chatting with an OR nurse and the next you're waking up in recovery. I've been told that this type of anesthesia allows the surgical staff to keep you awake, but unfeeling, so that they can question you about things; like what's your position on the national health care question. Answer wrong and you get bigger stitches and and they do funny things with your privates while the staff poses and someones takes pictures. It must be hilarious. For them.

Seriously, it's a painless procedure. At least until you wake up in recovery with 6 nurses holding you down in your bed while you scream for your mommy. Just kidding, my nurse told me that it only took 2 of them to restrain me. At one point (it was nearly closing time), my wife was brought in to help the nursing staff. Since my procedure was complicated by the need to inject dye into my urethra (I could have said weenie) through a garden hose stuck up my weenie, I was in additional (as in tremendous) post-op pain. Maureen's job was to keep me from grabbing at my weenie, which felt like it was lined with razor blades.

Well, I'm home and recuperating, hoping that my adventures in the medical side of RVng are over ... for a while, anyway. Oh, what's with my title for this post? I thought you'd never ask. The urologist discovered that I have a THIRD KIDNEY! WHAAAT? A THIRD KIDNEY? Yup, a third kidney. Known as a duplex kidney, mine was completely blocked by one of the stones the urologist blasted. As soon as I learned of my "gift," I checked eBay. Being just my luck, there's no real market for it. Maybe I could join a carnival; "The Man With 3 Kidneys!"

(BTW, I don't think that there's any such restaurant as Pedro's Authentic Northern Italian, but, just in case there is, sorry, Pedro, I'm sure your food is just great)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Marco Island, Southwest Florida

After our initial surveilance drive around on Marco Island, we decided to take the bikes back today and get a closer look. It was a gorgeous day, with highs in the upper 70s. Marco Island is a beautiful place. It's on our favorites list now.

I finally got a chance to hitch the bike carrier, usually plugged into the short receiver in the back of the trailer, into the trailer hitch on the SUV. It works much better there; very stable and rigid. My plan was to use the bike carrier on the trailer during travel and then move it to the SUV when we reach our destination and want to go out and explore nearby cities and places of interest. Being on a bicycle gains you access to many areas where you couldn't normally go.

Based on our experiences today, this arrangement of the bike carrier on the SUV should work very well. I'm still not happy with the way the bike carrier works on the back of the trailer though; it sags too much. I've been taking weight off the hitch and relieving some of the sagging by tying the carrier up to the trailer's spare tire carrier. Not the perfect solution, but nothing has fallen off yet and I haven't pulled the spare off the back wall of the trailer yet either (thank God). Someday I'll have to take the rig to a local welder and get some structural support added to the arrangement.

Mo at one of the two public parks we found on Marco Island. This one is a marina/boat launching park with beautiful views of the water and canalside homes.

Hi Maureen!

I've got to get my kayak off the SUV's roof and into the water!

Mo on the beach at a public beach access point (We found two along Collier, but just try to find somewhere nearby to park!). After a two-slice lunch with raspberry ice teas at Joey's Pizza and Pasta House (now our favorite italian food spot), we attempted to nonchalantly bicycle into the very beautiful and, as it turned out, very private, for residents-only beach park on Collier Avenue. We didn't get past the guardbooth before being stopped and asked to leave. Jeez! We were just going to look around! These Marco Islanders do guard their privacy.

Looking south along the beach. The photo doesn't do the color of the pale aqua-marine water justice.

Looking north.


Taking a break in front of the Marriott.

Taking a different kind of break; Gin and Tonics at a beachside hotel bar.

The view from the bar... And the end of a great day on Marco Island. Next time we want to buy a big pet basket for my bike so that we can bring Rocky.