Friday, July 21, 2017

Carmageddon at the Eclipse

A traffic thought for you all.  ODOT is predicting carmageddon during the August 21st eclipse.  An estimated million people are on their way to see the event.

ODOT is staffing up and warning drivers to be prepared to be stuck in their cars for hours during the solar eclipse.

Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Don Hamilton says the eclipse will cause "the biggest traffic event in Oregon history" on August 21.

I guess if you’re going, perhaps go early!  This map shows the path of the eclipse.

path of the eclipse

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Appointment With the Orthopods

Yesterday we saw the orthopedic surgeon’s Physician’s Assistant, Chad Swaims.  He’s a very impressive medical professional.  The entire office was running late, but once it was our turn he made it clear we would get as much time as we needed. As you no doubt recall, Jim’s L5 vertebra is displaced and the disc is bulging.

Jim has pain down his leg, weakness in the leg as well as foot drop when he walks.  The pain is due to a pinched nerve.  It’s a double crush at L5.  The nerve from L4 that travels down to L5 is crushed by the displaced vertebra, and an L5 nerve is compressed by the bulging disk.  Leg weakness and foot drop are caused by the pinched nerves.  The nerves can not signal to the muscle fibers to contract.  Worse, the nerve receptors in the muscle fibers die when they are not stimulated.  Once they are dead, they’re dead; there is no regeneration.  No amount of exercise or physical therapy will overcome this.


As the discussion developed, Chad wondered if the vertebra was fixed and displaced, or if it was moving when Jim moves.  Two more x-rays were ordered, one with Jim standing and one bent over.  The films done at the hospital were static.  Moving is bad.  Jim’s disc is moving.

What does that mean?  It means that the relatively non-invasive microdiscectomy (removal of part of the disc) is off the table.  We’ve now progressed to requiring spinal fusion to fix this.  For the life of me, I don’t know why it’s mobile.  Either he didn’t say or I can’t remember.  It’s a lot to take in.

Anyway, this is spinal fusion.  The disc is removed completely.  They screw into the vertebrae to anchor plates that hold the vertebrae in the correct position.  Cadaver bone which has been rendered totally dead is inserted as a spacer between the verterbrae.  Over time, Jim’s bone cells will migrate in to the cadaver bone, displacing those cells.  After a year or year and a half, the two vertebrae and Jim’s bone cells will fuse.


Currently, Jim is scheduled for an epidural steroid injection on July 28, which seems like an eternity from now.  This will reduce the inflammation in the crushed nerve.  I’m hoping (unencumbered by facts and data) that inflammation reduction will allow the nerve to start firing again and will decrease any further receptor death in the leg muscle fibers.  Surgery will follow at least two weeks out from the epidural. We will see the PA after two weeks and Dr. Chris Howe six weeks after the procedure.  It’s looking like we’re going to be here for part of the rainy season again.

It’s a six week recovery.  During that period there will be no Bend, Lift or Twist.  There will be walking.  I doubt if there will be bicycling.

Interestingly enough, this entire progression started around November 2016, but we didn’t know what we were witnessing.  When Jim would ride more than 20 miles, the bottom of his big toe would go numb.  Over time, the numbness covered more of his left foot.  Damage was occurring then.  I tell you this, because:  who knew?  Spinal degeneration starts in 100% of the population at age 20.  Over the years the discs dessicate and shrink, the ligaments that run along the spine grow lax, the vertabrae respond by producing osteophytes to protect their edges.  Jim now has a small degree of scoliosis because he has degenerated more on the left than the right.  Hence all the pain is left legged.  Pay attention to your symptoms when they develop.  Toughing it out, aggressive stretching and all the positive thinking you can muster will not fix a significant problem.

Dr. Howe trained at Harborview Hospital in Seattle.  It’s a level one trauma center.  In 2006 Jim endoed on his road bike, and shoved his femur through his acetabulum.  He was fixed by Dr. Chip Routt.  Dr. Howe immediately recognized Dr. Routt’s handiwork in the x-rays they took.  Dr. Routt has since moved to Texas.  Apparently there was some sort of staff reorganization at Harborview, and Dr. Routt moved on in 2013.  I can not believe they let him go.  He has done more acetabular repairs than anyone on the planet in the history of time.  It’s all he did.  So- keep that in mind if calamity strikes in the Houston area.

So, that’s what’s happening with us.  I will close this out with a picture of a Bee Hummingbird.  They are the size of bees.  Cute cute cute.


Monday, July 17, 2017

Cycling Washington and France

We didn’t ride this past weekend.  There was a large music festival in Carnation, and since the bridge was still closed, we knew the traffic in Fall City would be unbearable.  So we did stuff like get the dead bugs off the front of the bus, wash windshields, and polish the 3M film and the headlights.  The front of the bus looks much better.

We also refilled the windshield wiper fluid container in the bus.  This is what we saw this morning.  Apparently there is a hole in the bottom of said container.  Caulk will be necessary after it gets through dripping.


The music festival went on for three days.  There were camping options available for attendees.

rei camps

The yurts were across the river.  I’m not really clear on where they found enough level ground to install these things.


Today the bridge was open.  Yay!!!!!!  Life is so much better.  Apparently the county decided to reopen with weight restrictions.  Commercial trucks are forbidden to drive across it.  This guy is about to take down the closed sign.


That’s the foot traffic suspension bridge in the background.  See how steeply the land moves away from the water?  That’s why we’re perplexed about how yurts and other camping sites were available for the weekend.


In 2002 and 2003 Jim and I did fully supported bike tours of the Tour de France.  They’d take us out on the course and leave us to climb something.  As soon as the publicity caravan came through the road was closed and we’d have to stay put and spectate.  We did a LOT of climbing.  We were younger, lighter, and much stronger than we are now.  They were both vacations of a lifetime.  If we ever went back, we’d need electric bikes.  My friend, Greg de Respino has put up an album of pictures from when he was there.  The photos are good, you should check them out.  This is Jim and me somewhere in France.

tour de france

This is Greg and me on the lower slopes of Le Col du Columbiere.  I was not using a digital camera then, so it’s nice to see photos of that trip, mine are all in photo albums in storage.  Thanks Greg!

tour de france 2

Jim’s doing better with the Prednisone.  It still hurts, but he’s not yipping.  His mobility is now much better than it was.


Mike, who runs the park, just came by to ask us not to dump any tanks tonight.  Apparently there is a broken pipe in the sewer system, and things are not good.  I’m pretty happy that we dumped the gray this morning! It is always something.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Back, Bike and Lunch

This morning we got the MRI results.

The MRI was not surprising, but it was disappointing.  L4 and L5 seem to be the primary scene of the crime.

The disc is bulging out about 1/3 of an inch.  There is also a pinched nerve, and there is some question as to whether it's the nerve that goes out the side of the vertebra or out the bottom.  The reflex when the doc taps the knee is significantly less in the left leg than the right, and the leg is weak.  So, we'll have 10 more days of Prednisone to get him through until when he gets an epidural steroid injection.  An interventional radiologist will do that and it takes awhile to get on the schedule.  Aaaaaaand they don't use any pain meds when they do that.  The GP wants to give the epidural a chance rather than going straight to surgery because sometimes discectomies lead to more discectomies because the change in the one disc weakens the others.  I must have missed medical school that day because I had not seen that on the interwebs.  However, given the size of the bulge, it may be inevitable.

Here is one of the views from the MRI.  The bright white stripe down the middle is the spinal column.  If you look towards the bottom of the photo (about a quarter of the way up from the bottom) you can see where it narrows. That’s where the bulge is pushing out.  This is a photo of a screen print, so resolution is not great.


After that bracing conversation with the doctor, we went to a very nice bike store in Renton, Center Cycle.  We’re thinking about buying new bicycles.  Thinking, not doing.  We’re not riding mountain bikes all that much anymore.  McDowell Mountain is really the only place we enjoy.  They’re Goldilocks trails, not too hard, not too easy, they’re just right.  We’re also not that fond of riding with cars on road bikes.  The problem with riding the Serottas on flat paved trails is that we don’t get enough work.  So, we’re considering owning heavier bikes that will make work for us.  Today we learned something about endurance bikes (designed for comfort on long rides).  Road bikes are migrating to disk brakes.  Along with the disk brake migration, they’re moving to through axles.  Here is an excellent article on the subject.  Quick release brakes on bikes with disk brakes are going out the door.  The advantage to the through axle is preventing torsion at the hub and of the left fork leg during braking.  However, here’s the down side of the disk brakes.
… the disc caliper must be aligned precisely with the rotor otherwise the brake pads will rub and slow the bike down. The clearance between the pads and the rotor is tiny (<1mm) and very sensitive to minor variations in the position of the rotor, which occur often even for otherwise identical wheels.
Changing a flat is going to be a bear.  You must have the tool that is required to get the wheel off with you.  And forget bike racks that use a fork block to secure the front of the bike.  I think I’m not too happy about this latest technology.  This would be the end of putting the bikes in the back of the truck.  So that is my technology update for today.

Then there was lunch.  We went to the Red House in Renton.  It was a glorious day, and downtown Renton was looking particularly nice.  It makes a person think, maybe we should come back to the GPNW.  Then one remembers it rains nine months out of the year, so maybe not.


It’s an old boarding house that has been remade as a lovely restaurant.


We ordered too much food.  The crab cake sliders would have been plenty.  The hummus and pita were good, so we were obliged to eat them, as well.  It was very pleasant after the morning’s discussions.


That’s it maties, that’s all I have.  Back, bike and lunch.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Hit and Run (not us) and a Rabbit

People are so interesting.  A motorist hit a bicyclist on the Natchez Trace.  The Trace is a 444 mile road that goes through three states.  It’s a bike route and riders are allowed to take the full lane.  The friend of the man who was hit was wearing a Go-Pro, so the case is pretty much open and shut.  The motorist’s statement just floored me.
An arrest affidavit signed Sunday stated that Neely claimed a man and woman were standing in the roadway and threw a bicycle at his vehicle.
A GoPro video taken by a riding partner, however, shows a black SUV striking the cyclist while the two are riding side-by-side.
“When the police came and asked me what happened, I said, ‘I don’t know.’ There was a guy there maybe and I remember he was standing there and I said maybe he threw his bike at me,” Neely told the newspaper Monday.

Really?  Somebody threw their bike at a car? 

I spoke too soon on the lack of rabbits in the RV park.  We still have at least one.  I noticed that when he crosses the open spaces he’s running, fast.


This morning we had a 7:40 check in for Jim’s MRI.  It’s only 16 miles, but it takes the better part of an hour to get there.  It’s not helped by the fact that they’re putting in a new building, and the parking lot is strewn with construction equipment.  So, it was an early get up.  Tomorrow we see the family doc who hopefully will have the report from this morning.

I walked about three miles this afternoon, partly on the road with dump trucks.  It’s very exciting to see them coming down the road at me.  So far, no damage.  Jim’s having a bad day, so he did not go.  That’s it – that’s all I have to report.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Wildlife in the Area

Remember last year?  We were up to our ankles in rabbits.  It was not possible to walk around the RV without stepping in rabbit poop.


We could walk outside and they would not run away.  They appeared very confident in their environment and would stroll across the interior streets very calmly.


We have no rabbits this year.  Apparently the predators didn’t know they were here last summer.  This year bobcats, coyotes and eagles have eaten them all.  I kind of miss them.

We had a lovely ride out in the Carnation Valley yesterday.  It’s a low traffic fairly flat ride that doesn’t jostle Jim too much.  There are chickens on the route.


I think this is a rooster.  But what do I know, I’m a city kid.


Today we drove out to look at a planned community at Snoqualmie Ridge.  We’re still thinking about the exit strategy.  That area would be a big no.  It’s in the foothills, so as bad as the weather can be in Seattle, it’ll be worse there.  The clouds stack up against the mountain and it rains a lot.  There are many children there – I suspect there are not many people our age in the area.  As we learned in North Carolina, in kid friendly areas, the social network revolves around the kids.  So, we would be isolated there.  PLUS it’s so expensive.  A teeny tiny house is about $600,000.  I have no problem with small houses, having spent the last 9 years in some sort of a recreational vehicle, but I do have an issue with paying that much per square foot.

On the way back we drove by the field where the elk live.  Look at the rack on the guy on the left.


It’s so cool to see a herd in such a built up area.


Other than that all I have to report on is the ongoing perfidy and malfeasance in our nation’s capitol, but I am really trying to not go off on a rant.

Sunday, July 9, 2017


Jim started a six day course of Prednisone on Friday.  I was not totally supportive of the idea, having witnessed my father taking it and turning in to a complete and total ogre.  Saturday morning was nothing short of miraculous.  He felt almost normal.  So of course we went out and over did the activity level.

There was a short ride on the mountain bikes.  We were on an unpaved trail that people ride on road bikes.  Then there was a trip to Lowes followed by two trips to Safeway.  It was too much walking.


This morning things were not so good, so much time has been spent on the couch.  We watched two stages of the Tour de France.  People are so interesting.  For years we saw The Devil on the side of the road hollering at the riders and waving his trident.


Now we have this.  I don’t know what to say.


I did the three mile walking route this morning.  There are still enough intact sidewalks to do the circuit.  It is disturbing how many roads are  marked up with spray paint.  It would appear that Issaquah will be a construction zone for several years.  This dog is always out, sitting in the shade.


Other than this, I have nothing to report as we are fairly stationary.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Traffic, Bridge and Road Closures and the Back

The RV park is taking out trees at a rapid rate.  Three days before the work was supposed to start, a giant poplar went down.  It landed dead center on a brand new 5th wheel.  It still had temporary plates on it.  So tragic.


The laurel next to our site continues its path towards world dominance.  As we do every year, we trimmed it before putting out the slides.  It’s now taller than the RV.


May I complain just a bit?  I know I can be a whiner, but really.  A new Ford dealership is going in somewhere in our vicinity.  The local environmentalists became concerned that oil might leak into a tiny creek and possibly hurt a fish.  Apparently the dealership was considered more threatening than all the water that runs off the roads into the creek when it rains.  So, the creek has been rerouted.  A major road in Issaquah was closed for 6 days to put the culvert in. During this process they removed access to the East Lake Sammamish trail.  Now we will have to ride on sidewalks, and on the street with 50 mph traffic and maniac drivers to get to the trail.  Once we reach the trail, we won’t be able to stay on it for long because they’re repaving a paved three mile stretch, and they still haven’t started on the gravel section.  I would very much like to talk to their project manager about scheduling.


To leave the RV park, we have to turn on this street.  Good luck with that!


There is also the Southeast 62nd Street project.  It’s a new road, which really decreased traffic jams in Issaquah.  Unfortunately, it’s now closed, and will be closed until 2019.  In the meantime, traffic volumes are just unbelievable.  We’ve returned to the practice of using the freeway to get across town. 

So we thought we’d go ride the Carnation loop.  Nope!  This is a brand new bridge.  King Country tells us this:
King County’s structural engineer reviewed the work of the private firm that designed the Tolt Hill Bridge. The County discovered discrepancies between the design calculations for the bridge and the plans provided by the private firm to the builder for construction. While an investigation continues, the bridge will be closed beginning at 8:00PM on Friday, June 16 for an indefinite time to design and implement repairs.
OK, I get it, no trucks on the bridge.  Couldn’t they have left it open to bikes and pedestrians until they start work?  No, no they could not.  Anyway, there’s not even a guess as to how long this will be closed.  Needless to say, traffic volumes on the alternative route are just horrific.


There is a gravel trail we can ride on to get into Carnation – but I really hate gravel roads with skinny tires.  I think I’m just going to have to get over that.


This is in Renton.  More roads dug up!  This is the route to our doctors’ offices.


We’ll be traveling this route more than once this summer.  Since June 27, Jim has had pain radiating down the back of his left leg and down his calf.  It’s just excrutiating.  Sleeping is very difficult since rolling over is like being stabbed with knives.  An x-ray reveals that there is displacement of the L4 and L5 vertebrae.  This causes the disc to press on the nerve roots which causes the pain.  The impingement is severe enough that it’s causing foot drop when he walks.  Suffice it to say, we are devastated by this development.  He was finally recovered from the Achilles and now this.  There will be an MRI on Thursday and then a followup with the doctor.  I don’t know what the next steps are.  Getting old just sucks.

So, my advice to you dear reader, is to gather ye rosebuds while ye may.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Follow up on the Battery Issues

First off, I'd like to offer an apology to Lifeline Batteries.  One should not take a post on an RV forum as gospel.  I spoke to one of the owners of Lifeline, and they're completely unaware of any manufacturing defect from the 2011 time frame.  I corrected that in my previous post.
The batteries have failed for an unknown reason.  Even though they are out of warranty, Lifeline is going to ship four new ones for no charge. 
We're very impressed with the customer service on this matter.  They were very kind and professional and truly exceeded user expectations.
Here is a fun fact about Lifeline AGMs.  You can install them on their sides.  It's not recommended that you install them upside down, however.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Arriving in Issaquah

It was a dark and gloomy morning.  We accomplished a good departure.  Traffic was really good through Portland, amazingly so. GPS did take us off the highway due to an accident around Salem.  It was a nice drive through the country.  There was another 20 minute delay up the road, but all in all we didn’t suffer too much.

This is Government Island, in the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington.  It’s only accessible by boat.  There were a fair number of people camped on the shore.


Behold Jim’s driving position.  We are really happy with the front end alignment we had done at Country Coach.  The tech’s name is Eric Wolfe.  Most coaches are configured to be absolutely level, his approach is to put in the slightest hint of a lean to off set the crown of the road.  Jim says it is now much easier to drive.  Note the left hand on the arm rest, and the relaxed posture of the right hand.  This is a very different driving experience from before.


Traffic southbound today was just horrific.  Backups went on for miles.  We were so happy to be going in the opposite direction.


We’re in Issaquah.  There is a huge construction project on Front Street.  A good sized chunk of the bike trail has been dug up, and a stretch of the sidewalks on our four mile walking loop are gone.  We were thinking we’d drive the truck over to a store parking lot, but then realized that we can’t get there from here on foot.  It is always something.