Monday, February 26, 2018


This is what we saw on the trail on February 13 – our last hike before entering the cardiac badlands.  He was looking remarkably boneless, I thought he was dead until we saw his tongue flicking in and out.  He’s not a rattle snake, can anybody identify him?


We were on our way out to the stone hut.  It was a glorious day to be outside.


Today we walked a mile and a half in the park.  To get to the heart, the cardiologist inserts hardware into the femoral artery in the groin region and threads it up through the body. The insertion site stays lumpy and sore for a few days.  Walking is not yet comfortable.  I’m trying to get Jim to agree to pictures of the bruising (which is significant), but so far he’s not cooperating.

High winds are here, and will stay with us for a couple of days.  There will also be rain and cold temperatures with highs in the mid 50’s on Wednesday.  Pity us as we return to winter.  Kidding!  Just kidding!

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The 2017/2018 Season of Our Discontent

As you all no doubt recall, Jim had a spinal fusion August 22, 2017.  It was an arduous recovery.  He lost a lot of muscle mass and coordination and it hurt like holy hell.

If that were not enough, three weeks post surgery a mysterious pain and stiffness manifested in his hips.  A week later, it was also in his shoulders.  The pain was excruciating.  It took about five weeks for the medical team to diagnosis it as polymyalgia rheumatica.  Here is a brief description of it.
The symptoms include pain and stiffness of the shoulder and hip girdle. The stiffness may be so severe that the patient may have a great difficulty rising from a chair, turning over in bed, or raising the arms above shoulder height. Stiffness after periods of rest (gel phenomenon) as well as morning stiffness of more than 1 hour typically occurs.
The treatment is prednisone.  Eight weeks after surgery on his back, Jim was back on steroids.  The PMR responded very well to the prednisone, and within 24 hours we were able to attach the truck to the RV and leave Issaquah.  Without it, we might still be there.

One of the (many) prednisone side effects we were warned about was acid reflux.  That manifested November 2.  Mass quantities of proton pump inhibitors and H2 antagonists did not control the events.  After a couple of months, we were sent to a gastroenterologist.  The gastro we went to see was very concerned about the fact that the pain in the chest occurred during exertion.  She was less concerned about the fact that it also happened at rest, which we thought was somewhat odd.  It did put a damper on how much and how hard we could hike/bike.

So then it was off to the cardiologist.  On the tread mill it was discovered that Jim had a depressed ST segment on his EKG which means there is inadequate blood flow in the heart somewhere.  A PET scan of his heart revealed that his Left Anterior Descending Artery was narrowed.  The LAD is also known as the Widow maker.  The scan didn’t say how blocked, nor did it say if any other arteries were clogged.

On February 15 Jim had an angioplasty done.  His LAD was 99% blocked.  Dr. Tuli was going to place a stent, but could not.  He could get the wire through the plaque, but it was too dense for the balloon to go through.  The good news is that the rest of his arteries are not too badly clogged.  We left the hospital that day with orders to not hike, not bike and not exert.


This just came out of the blue, and it could have been so bad.  When you have a heart attack, the ambulance hauls you in to the catheter lab, and they do the angioplasty procedure.  The balloon is inserted in the plaque, and is inflated to squish it against the sides of the artery.  Then a stent is inserted to hold the squished plaque against the artery wall.  In Jim’s case, the balloon would not have moved through the plaque, and Jim could have died.  Depending on the hospital, they could have called in an interventional cardiologist certified in drills and lasers if they had one on staff.  If not, then there could have been a bypass right then and there.

Friday we went to the Tucson Medical Center cath lab.  It’s a good thing we went when we did.  Jim was 100% blocked.  There was a tiny microchannel still functioning, but things were dire.  Dr. Waggoner had planned to use the equivalent of a drill to clear the plaque due to its very large size.  Yuuuuuge! That was not to be, the thing was so full of calcium that the drill could not penetrate it.  So the laser was deployed and a fair amount of time was spent vaporizing the plaque.  Here is a link to a youtube animation of how the laser works.  The animation is non-gory and safe for all ages.  Basically, the Excimer laser is advanced up to the plaque, and the plaque is vaporized.

Two stents were placed due to the length of the artery that was zapped.  Recovery took awhile, there were some low blood pressure excursions, probably due to lack of food and immobility.  When I left after dinner, Jim had pinked up and was looking good.  He has gone from blocked to not blocked, and life will be better.  We still don’t know exactly what that life will be like, but it will be better.

As of this writing, the PMR seems to be in abeyance.  He’s down to 7.5 mg from 20 mg of prednisone, and the wean continues.  The back surgery was a complete success at three months and he had regained a lot of strength and muscle mass.  If it weren’t for his wretched heart, and the pain he had in his chest, things would be excellent.

So that’s how our winter has turned out.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

A Weather Post

For awhile, it looked like the cold snap we had a couple of months ago would be it for winter.  We were wrong.  First there was rain, and a fair amount of it.  The wipe seal on the front passenger slide needs to be replaced, it’s allowing water intrusions into the bus.  So that slide is closed for the time being.  Losing that 17 inches of space really makes the RV feel smaller.

Here is the preferred outfit for grilling in the rain, as modeled by Jim.  I think the headlamp with the hood is a nice touch.  The headlamp has been an excellent aid to cooking after dark.


Friday we made the terrible choice to drive down Grant road from the freeway heading east.  If you’re in Tucson, do NOT do this.  They’re widening the road, and the entire thing is just nightmarish.  I think a lot of local businesses are going to go under because people are not willing to drive there.  We don’t know how far east it goes, but Grant is now off the let’s drive here list.  You can see where the new road bed will be on the other side of the road.


Yesterday morning, the dew point equaled the temperature for a bit and we had fog.  We don’t see that very often.


The slide will stay in until Tuesday.  Our storm from the south has moved on, but next we will be swept by the horrific weather in the GPNW.  They’re having high winds, sideways rain, snow and power outages.


So that’s it – a nice soothing weather post with no mention of all the troubles in the world.

Friday, February 16, 2018


Of all the tweets and comments about Wednesday’s shooting in Florida, this struck me as the most poignant.  We now have groups of survivors to help those who come along later.


Sunday, February 11, 2018

A New Species

Long time, no post!  There’s just not that much to write about since we are stationary.  We saw an interesting cairn at the top of Hidden Trail.  Somebody put some effort into building this.  I guess it’s not actually a cairn since it’s off the trail. 


We rode out the Santa Cruz trail out to the Rillito trail this morning.  It was a really nice day.  The wind is so weird, it switches directions frequently.  It was good to be outside.  The flu levels are so high in this state we’re afraid to go into any retail.  We went to the grocery store yesterday and it seemed like everybody was coughing.  It was a very quick shopping.  Currently much time is spent outside.


This is a marmokreb.  It’s a new species.  It does not need a male to reproduce.  Currently they’re taking over Europe, threatening the native crayfish.  German pet stores were selling them, but people were soon inundated with their offspring and started releasing them into the wild.  The original crayfish was born in Florida or Georgia.  A gene mutation allowed it to make daughters that are all genetically identical to the parent.  They produce hundreds of off spring frequently.  The article goes in to more detail about them.  They’re the ultimate in monoculture, it’ll be interesting to see if a virus or a disease wipes them all out.

Before about 25 years ago, the species simply did not exist. A single drastic mutation in a single crayfish produced the marbled crayfish in an instant.

The mutation made it possible for the creature to clone itself, and now it has spread across much of Europe and gained a toehold on other continents. In Madagascar, where it arrived about 2007, it now numbers in the millions and threatens native crayfish.


So that’s it!  The crayfish are coming for us.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

As Seen in Tucson

Greetings and Salutations People of Earth.  There is, as has been usual, nothing very exciting going on in Ye Olde Pueblo.  Hike and some bike; read the newspapers, beat breast and rend the hair; the usual.  Today’s terrible news, other than the Nunes memo, was the fact that borrowing by the government will be double due to lack of revenue caused by the tax bill.  But enough of that.

The Tortolitas continue to be a favorite place to hike.  We’ve noticed a definite increase in the amount of gasoline consumed getting to the various and sundry trail heads.  Less gas was consumed when we were mainly biking from the RV park.

This is a dead Saguaro.  He was an old guy when he perished.  It’s always sad to see them dead, it took 100 years to grow arms, and now he is gone.


Jim on a promontory (well technically not, since it doesn’t jut out over water) surveying all that he sees.


Yesterday and today we rode on the bike path.  This is a new bike bridge the city built.  As I have posted in the past, Camino de la Tierra becomes a water course during heavy rains.  The road is effectively closed until the Rillito stops running.  The bridge was constructed to provide access during the rains, as well as to keep people from having to ride down a terrible road surface.  They don’t fix the road, because when it rains, it will just disintegrate again.


It is quite the structure.  I’m always amazed at the amount of trail building that is done in Tucson.  Phoenix metro has better parks, but we win in the bike trail department.


We think this is a gravel pit.  It was inactive for years.  Now there are large machines shoving dirt around, spraying water and burning diesel.


For the life of us we can not figure out what they are doing.  A little signage would be a good thing.  One wonders if it will be a golf course, similar to one we saw up near Oro Valley.


Maybe the pit will become this.


Back at the ball fields we saw this little bird trying to get a drink.


The water fountains are turned off.  He does not look pleased about this.


We’ve been looking at these structures along the trail for years, as well.  We never saw any people around them until today.  There is a guy wearing a harness standing on a wire up high, and then there is someone in a harness being lowered to the ground.  It took awhile to pry him off the pole he’s hanging on to so they could lower him.


Then there is the other side of the structure.  Eventually two people climbed up the poles on the far right.  One person walked across the cross member to the other person.  Then they stood there for awhile.  We were baking, standing in the sun, so we abandoned our observations.


It has been hot, approaching 80.  The talking weather head is warning that it could be in the 100s by March.  That would be bad.