Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Jim Continues on the Path

Oy, it’s been a few days.  I have to tell you, this surgery is not for the faint of heart, it hurts.  Our first phone call to the surgeon’s medical assistant for more oxycodone was not encouraging.  So, we cut back on dosages to make the supply we had last a little longer.  That was not a good outcome.  Jim has been suffering like an animal for a couple of days.

Then the contact allergic dermatitis at the surgical site kept getting worse. When he came home, there were some lines of agitated skin from the bandages they used.  We quit using them, but the dermatitis kept getting worse.  This morning we went in to see the surgeon.  I was watching his face when Jim pulled up his shirt.  He was somewhat shocked.  They put vancomycin in the incision to prevent infections.  It could be a response to that, it could be from one of the many things they put on his skin to kill any bacteria.  The mystery is why does it continue to get worse now that he’s home.

That’s the incision, which is healing nicely, and that’s the allergic response in red.  It’s a terrible burning itch and it’s swollen.  It’s a three inch incision.


It’s good we went.  They’ve put him on a low dose of Prednisone for seven days.  We also got more narcotics which I am very happy about, as well as cortisone cream to smear on the dermatitis.

Jim’s been on narcotics every four hours, tylenol every 6 hours and a muscle relaxant every 8 hours.  I have spent a lot of time counting on my fingers to figure out which pills are due when.  If you find yourself in this position, may I recommend the humble white board as an organizational tool?


In other news, we have these tidbits from the internet.  This is a water spout photographed somewhere in Texas, courtesy of Hurricane Harvey.

gulf coast

This is from Twitter.  I can’t remember the rider’s name. Does it not appear to you that he is about to hit the deck?  It was during one of the stages of the Vuelta a Espana.

day in the break

So that’s what’s happening here. 

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Jim Leaves the Bus

Last night and today have been difficult.  When we left the hospital, they wanted Jim to take the drugs every four hours, instead of every three as he had been doing.  So, we did that last night.  Today we are back on every three hours.  Last night was not good.  We also failed on getting drugs to him in the middle of the night.  We will not make that mistake again.  Seven hours was way too long of a gap.

Today has been painful.  We’re wondering if it’s made worse by the fact that he quit taking Prednisone Tuesday, and its anti-inflammatory properties are wearing off.  When a person has spinal fusion, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories are also forbidden for three months.  NSAIDS interfere with bone production. 

Despite the discomfort, there have been two walks circling the RV park.  The good thing is that the walker is staying in the bus.


I promise that soon I will blog about something other than Jim and his back.  Our Fearless Leader has been providing so much material, but I know you’re all sick of it.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Jim Returns to the Bus

We were able to depart the hospital about 11:00 this morning.  Getting in the pickup was not as difficult as I had feared it would be.  I have to use the running boards, but Jim is tall enough that he can get his butt up on the seat and then pull his legs in.


This is where much of life will occur for the next few weeks.  This procedure is major surgery. Muscles and nerves are moved during the procedure, and they don’t like it.  They told us before the surgery that there would be six weeks of no bend, lift or twist.  They did not mention that to do so would cause severe pain.  Getting on and off furniture, the bed and the toilet are the major sources of pain.  When you lift your body up, you use those muscles in the back.  Since they’re currently angry, they get revenge.

We did end up renting a walker for a month.  It was an excellent choice.  He doesn’t actually need it for walking, but he does need it for sitting down and getting up.

So – now he rests, gets some sleep (which he was not getting in the hospital), and we wait for bone growth to occur.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Day After Jim’s Surgery

Jim had a good day today.  The third day, tomorrow, is frequently a bad day.  Something about rates of inflammation, blah de blah de blah.  The surgeon gave us an acronym for it, which of course I can not remember, nor the explanation of why that is.  The older I get, the less recall I have.

Here is Jim walking out the door with his Physical Therapist.  She told us that 75% of people having this surgery go home with a walker.  The walker helps with balance and unloads the surgical site just a little.  At this point we don’t know if we’ll be buying one or not, but she indicated that Jim is a good candidate for not needing it.  Jim also walked up and down the four step stairs they have in the occupational therapy room.  That orange band is a strap that they grab if the patient starts heading for the deck.


This is Jim’s new hardware.  See the screws in his vertebrae? The screws hold the vertebrae in place with proper spacing.  There is cadaver bone acting as a spacer.


One of the things we’ve learned is that the spinous process is removed during the surgery.  They take the bone and grind it up.  It’s put back in to the space freed up by the removal of the disc.  The presence of the bone dust tricks the body into thinking there is a broken bone.  That results in the production of new bone cells in the area.  After about a year, the space between the vertebrae is full of new bone.  The screws become unnecessary, but they are never removed.  They’re buried in bone. Click on the screen scrape for more clarity.


The other thing you can see in this x-ray is the fix to Jim’s pelvis from 2006.  He has 17 screws from the surgery that rebuilt his pelvis after the crash.  At this point, he’ll probably never be able to pass through an airport scanner!


The PT and Occupational Therapist have been amusing to me.  They keep asking us if we have grab bars in the shower or shower chairs.  When we say no, we get a response (like a bug look) that wonders why we don’t have these things.  We’re in an RV!  There are no grab bars, a shower chair will not fit!  What do you want from us?  It’s fun to watch, I think they don’t get too many full timers.

Today’s key learning is this.  If you have compression of the spinal nerves with the concomitant pain, DO NOT SIT DOWN.  Jim is doing well because we kept riding.  After he couldn’t walk any distance, we kept riding.  I think we were still doing 70-80 miles a week after things went to hell.  The stronger you are before surgery, the better you will be after it.  If you can’t ride, swim.  If you can’t swim, then dog paddle or tread water. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Jim is Out of Surgery

Jim’s surgery went well today.  The physical therapist walked him up and down the hall this afternoon.  Jim reports that the shooting pain down the back of his leg is gone.  There is significant pain at the surgical site, but they are giving him significant pain meds.

The Valley Medical Center Spine Center is just wonderful.  In 2006 Jim broke his pelvis and was taken to Harborview Hospital.  It’s a level one trauma center in a really blighted part of Seattle.  One of Jim’s room mates was a drug dealer!  If I’m lying I’m dying.  That night I would not leave the hospital until they moved that guy out because Jim was helpless and I was afraid.  They moved him (the drug dealer) to a room with a patient with a very large extended family who never left.  Anyway, the Spine Center has private rooms, and it is so quiet.  When the door to the room is closed you can’t hear anything.  So much better.  Is this not palatial?  Plus, they do not do broadcast messages over the intercom.


There is the patient waving at us.


He’ll be home on Friday.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

The Vuelta and a Ring Around the Sun

One of the (many) things that just irritates the living snot out of me is the fact that NBCSN is only televising the Tour de France.  Of the three grand tours, it is by FAR the most boring.  Sky racing and their big fat budget gets a lead, controls the pace and it becomes a parade.  I think the Vuelta a Espana is the best race.  Anyway, we had to sign up for live and on demand coverage streaming on NBCSN.  Forty dollars for a year.  Phil and Paul are not narrating, it’s a couple of Australians and they’re about as exciting as a bucket of warm spit. Sound quality is really terrible, it’s up and down, and the Aussies have a habit of swallowing their words. Even the camera work is bad.  OK, enough complaining.

I have to laugh at us.  Roku, Chromecast, Firestick or Fire whatever are meaningless words to us.  So, I called my friend Kim and asked her to tell me, speaking slowly, using words of one syllable, how do I get what’s on the laptop on to the television.  HDMI cable!  Since we’re on DSL until we leave here, we don’t have to worry about exceeding our data caps with Verizon.

We’ve made ourselves a major trip hazard, but at least we can both see it at the same time without huddling around the laptop.


Today we did a short ride out in the Carnation Valley.  It’s a safe place to ride, so we’ve been going there instead of riding with the cars.  Jim does not need to crash at this stage of things.  There was a pretty good ring around the sun.


Here is Jim, at our turn around point.


Tomorrow we will have to use our pin hole eclipse viewer.  We were unable to procure the glasses, so we bought a giant box of corn flakes to make the viewer.  I will stand by to be amazed if this actually shows us anything.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Past Few Days

Greetings Earthlings!  Life proceeds in the GPNW.  The weather has improved, we’ve gotten some things crossed off the too do list.

Safelite came out to replace the wind shield.  The truck is a 2011 and the glass had deteriorated over the years.  It’s gradual, and the eye does not register the many slight scratches that occur.  Having the new glass in is very nice, we can see!  The person who did it was very professional, cleaned up everything and took the debris away.  It took about an hour.  I think we’re done going to a glass shop, it’s better when they come to you.


Tuesday Jim was having a decent leg day, so we decided to go downtown and walk around for a bit.


Pike Place was full of people.  They were everywhere!  When you go to the market, the easiest way to transit is by walking in the street.  The sidewalks are just jammed.


Look in the middle of the photo behind the stadium.  That’s Mt. Rainier in the background.  The mountain was almost out.


The building continues at a furious pace in the city core.  I read somewhere that very few condos are being built.  Seattle requires that condos last four years before they begin requiring repairs.  The developers are building apartments instead.


Yesterday we rode with the COs and did the loop out in Carnation Valley.  This is the always lovely Sikes Lake.  The clouds make it difficult to see the water.  I was hoping for more reflected trees.  It was nice to be there.


Today we did a shorter version of the loop.  We’re beginning to see ears on the corn. It was a lovely day, blue skies and white puffy clouds.


Tomorrow we’re having the bus washed.  It’s really streaked and just looks bad.  It’s a good thing to outsource.  Other than that, I have nothing to report.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Air is Better Now

Yesterday the wind direction changed and the smoke moved out.  Happy we are about that.  It rained a little last night, so the air is now nice.  Except of course, for the RV park.  Our neighbor on the driver’s side of the bus has a smoker.  I’ve never seen a smoker that puts out quite that much smoke.  Since there is virtually no wind today, it’s settling in the space defined by our two RVs and the guy behind us.  Even with all windows and doors closed, we can smell it.  We are not happy campers about this.


Jim got his bike out of the truck in Carnation Valley yesterday only to find he had a flat.  It was the rear tire.  Of course!  It’s always the rear tire.  Anyway, this is the new pump.  Jim’s frame pump died some time ago, and given the new frame geometries, his pump can not be replaced.  I’m probably the last person on the planet to have a pump peg for my pump, which is still working. 


It’s a Lezyne pump.  Apparently they’re now quite the thing in pump technology.  I had never heard of them until a friend of ours mentioned their wonderfulness.  There is a tube inside that connects the pump to the valve on the tube.  It’s much easier than attaching the pump directly to the valve.  It will work for presta and Schrader valves.  It attaches to the water bottle cage with a mounting bracket.  It’s pretty cool.


While we were in Portland, we were shopping at WinCo.  They’re an employee owned grocery store.  They don’t take credit cards and they don’t bag your groceries.  They sell MREs (military Meals Ready to Eat).  I have no idea why, but they have giant bins of them.  Jim just had to buy one to try it.  You may not be able to read the print, but there are 780 mgs of sodium in that thing.


If they hadn’t over salted it, it would not be bad.  As it is, it made our mouths burn.  It’s only 230 calories, so you’d have to eat more than one of them on a back packing trip.  That would be mass salt!


Other than this paltry offering, I have not much to say.  I mainly wanted to get the Nazis post off the top of the list.  Those people offend me greatly.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Day 205: Nazis in Virginia

Well, I never expected to see this in Charlottesville.  Hillary won the area by 80%.  There is a college there.  It’s just not a place associated with the alt-right.  But now it is.

Didn’t we fight a war against this flag?  Why would anyone bring it back?


Friday night they had a torch light parade.  Twitter enjoyed making fun of their Tiki torches, one description was “Pier One Nazis.”  Other people wondered exactly what it is they want.  Who oppresses white guys in the US?  There was chanting of “blood and soil” and “white lives matter” as well as anti Semitic crap.


Poor oppressed citizens.


This is a telling photo.  Look behind the officer’s right shoulder.  That’s KKK regalia.


On Saturday, the president made the effort to condemn hatred, bigotry and violence from “all sides, many sides” after violence broke out.  He would not name the White Supremacists, implying that the violence came from all quarters.  Apparently even that limp condemnation was too much for ex-leader of the KKK, David Duke.


This is from Daily Stormer, a white supremacist newspaper.


Later, someone drove their vehicle into a crowd of people protesting the alt-right’s hate speach.  One killed, many injured.  The police believe it was premeditated.


How did we get here?  This is how we got here.  This is from a WAPO editorial.
That was your crowd down there in Old Virginia, Donald Trump.
They were speaking your language, vomiting your sentiments, acting out what animates you from within.
Don’t act as though you don’t know them. They believe and expect you are working to “take back America” for them, because you are of them, just as just they know — as do you — that they gave their all for you.
So why are any of us the least bit surprised that Trump’s devoted clan of white nationalists would be so emboldened as to brazenly emulate their klan forbears and take it to the streets? One of their own reached the White House, with their help. It’s enough to make an old Confederate proud, and a present-day white nationalist as arrogant, reckless and dangerous as can be.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Doing Time in the GPNW

Greetings Earthlings!  So far so good, no nukes have been lobbed.  Perhaps humanity will survive.  If not, cockroaches and tardigrades will have dominion over the Earth.  I wonder how tardigrades would evolve if exposed to radiation.  Godzilla comes to mind, perhaps we’ll have five story tardigrades roaming the earth. 

Anyway……..  It’s still hot and still smokey (update to post:  it's actually smoky.  Smoky is an adjective, smokey is a noun.  Who knew?).  The setting sun remains bright red.  Allegedly it cools off tomorrow and possibly there will be showers on Sunday.  We need an on shore flow to flush this out to the east.  But then it will be bad for the people east of us.

Here is a nature photo for you.  The GPNW is full of Canadian geese.   They’ve stopped migrating.  Winters are not that cold, there is stuff to eat, and so they stay put.  This is an apple tree in Issaquah that is dropping fruit on the ground.  I did not know that geese like apples.


Here we are out in Carnation Valley.  This is a body of water covered in something green.  At first I thought it was Duckweed, but I’m not sure what it is.  Could be green slime.  There are ducks in the water, and there is also a heron on a log.  They’re too far away to see.


We spent today doing laundry.  Then we had to empty one of the bays under the bus so we could get at the spare TV.  If Jim’s convalescence is tortuous, it will be good to have a TV in the bedroom.  I had to laugh at us, we couldn’t remember how to hook it up (use the red/yellow/white wires, set input to AV2).  Eventually we found the notes I’d taken when it was installed, they were in an unlabeled file folder.  Of course!  Why would I put it behind the TV tab in the motorhome file?
Other than complaining about the weather, I have nothing much to report from the GPNW.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Day 202: Nuclear War

Did you ever think you’d be worried about nuclear war?  Who among you remembers the Cuban Missile Crisis?  I was ten years old.  My Mom was a church secretary.  There was a storage closet underneath a set of stairs.  She put two gallons of water, crackers and deviled ham in the closet.  We were told to go there if the balloons went up.  Looking back, it’s just comical for any of us to have thought we would survive.  We truly feared for our lives.  Then things got better, countries calmed down.

But now, in the twinkling of an eye we have a bellicose president, threatening “fire and fury” at an equally unstable leader of a nuclear armed nation.  Yes, we can over power what ever arms they have, but at what cost.  It will leave the Korean peninsula a smoking radioactive hole.  As the only nation to have ever used nuclear weapons,  do we really want the honor of doing it again? 

So that was yesterday.  Today the White House is walking it back, saying he got off script and pay him no nevermind.  I’m not sure which is worse; that he would blurt something like that out on camera, or that staff would tell the world to ignore the words of the President of the United States, former leader of the free world.

There is an excellent essay on Medium, about survivor bias.  The author’s thesis is that because the US has survived threats to the democracy in the past, we believe we’ll survive them in the future.  I’m not so sure.  It’s not long, go here to read it.

This was taken in Greece.  I’m not sure where it came from, but it’s a lovely picture.

greece eclipse

Monday, August 7, 2017

Riding the Sammamish Slough

It is so hot, again.  Really hot.  My recliner is on the hot side of the bus.  I’m currently sitting on the bed because the rear air conditioner is doing a much better job on the bedroom than is the front air conditioner.  Today would be a good day for a third a/c, but we’re not going there.

This morning, before it was really hot, we drove out to Marymoor Park.  It is the jewel of the King County parks.  They have cricket, soccer, RC planes, climbing walls, a velodrome and more.  We just wanted to park there and ride up the Sammamish Slough. 

Staff was running a bicycling camp for little kids.  Some knew how to pedal and others were being pushed around until they found their balance.  They look like mushrooms in those helmets.


The slough, or river, drains Lake Sammamish into Lake Washington.  It doesn’t have a lot of current, today it was looking pretty brown.  It is, however, water.  And water front commands a premium price in the real estate market.  This makes the continued existence of this mobile home park, and another one up the road so astonishing.  I can not believe they haven’t torn these down and put up condos.


They have been here forever.  It’s kind of nice to see some of the old parts of the area surviving.


This is an older section of the trail.  The parts that are currently being paved, at great inconvenience to the people who fought the project in the courts for years and lost, will be 12 feet across.  It will be very pleasant riding, assuming they finish while Jim and I are still alive.  I wrote about the trail last year, and you can read it here if you are interested.


As we were leaving Marymoor we saw a Google motorcycle coming down the bike path. I’m assuming it’s Google, I don’t know who else drives around with a rotating camera.


I saw these photos on Facebook, this is the Cariboo wildfire.  This is the source of the smoke we are currently inhaling.  The number of fires in BC is just staggering.

bc fire 2

This is distressing. 

bc fire 3

Other than sweltering, we have not too much to report. 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Preston and Mitchell Hill

We were up early to ride before it got too hot.  I hate early starts, it interferes with my coffee consumption.  The area is still full of smoke.  We’ll all probably have brown lung by the time this moves out.

The river was, as always, very pleasant to see.


On the way home, we drove through Preston.  It’s a defunct mill town.  In the 1970s the mill closed and everybody was laid off at once.  Then the old mill burned down. 

Here we have a young male deer.  He has tiny little antlers.


There is a cemetery up the hill.


This man lived a full life.  He made it to 90, which considering his service in WWI and the state of medicine at the time, is an amazing accomplishment.


It’s an interesting area.  Preston and the land up the hill is called Mitchell Hill.  It was King County’s first Transfer of Development Rights.  The county wants to keep open space for the animals.  The developers want to put houses on every square inch.  Here is a description of what happened in the area.  The entire article from 2000 can be found here.

Mitchell Hill became the point of an arrow called Transfer of Development Rights (TDRs), which could be the model for a countywide policy intended to contain growth and save green space. It's too early to say if TDRs are going to show up in anything but small, specific cases, but the first one is a doozy.

TDRs work like this: A builder buys development rights to a forest or open space, most likely somewhere in east King County. Those rights are then shifted back west to the developer's project, ensuring the open land will never be developed. Essentially, the money goes to lock up forests from development. In exchange, the builder puts more square footage into another site.

The Mitchell Hill Connector is the first TDR enacted and becomes a tale of county, local government and the developer doing a square dance of revolving partners. King County agreed to the sale of development rights on 315 acres of forested land to Port Blakely Development Co., creator of Issaquah Highlands - formerly known as Grand Ridge. For $2.75 million, Port Blakely acquires rights that are transferred from Mitchell Hill into Issaquah Highlands, which then adds 500,000 square feet to the 2.9 million square feet of commercial space Microsoft plans to use. An additional $250,000 from King County goes to the land owners to round out the full cost of the TDR to $3 million.

The city of Issaquah had to sign off on the deal because it's getting more density. Port Blakely agreed to put $1 million into a bypass to help with easing traffic out of Issaquah Highlands, which is expected to generate about 7,000 car trips a day onto environs of Issaquah.

There are many private roads leading off the main route up the hill.  According to descriptions of the area, there are many Microsoft millionaires and NBA stars with mansions back in the woods.  I think this would not be one of those mansions.  I could not get a complete picture of all the stuff these people have in their yard, but there is more off to the right.  They can never move.


This is currently on the market for $860,000, which is actually not a terrible price.  It sits on 5 acres, has room for horses, and a three car garage.  The price per square foot is $255, which is really good for King Country.  And it’s air conditioned.  I do wonder how much of the surrounding hills they can see, or if they just look at the trees.

preston house two

Other than this, I have nothing to report of much interest.