Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Countdown Until We're Northbound

 At Ranchito Hondo in the Lone Star Corral Escapees Park, Hondo, Texas...

First, I would like to point out that it has been less than a month since my last post! This burst of writing energy leaves me encouraged that I may not have  given over to the last of the seven deadly sins--that being 'sloth.' This seems especially true since we have not been indolent here in the Texas outback. Even though we have been busy, as you will see below, the unusually hot springtime weather has caused us to spend more afternoons under Phannie’s ample air conditioning. The time is growing short until we shutter the Ranchito (yes, Ranchito Hondo is the new nickname of our Texas 'acreage') and point the Dowager Phannie northbound to Colorado. It will not be a quick trip, however, due to a long-anticipated stopover in the DFW area to see Tyler and Mindy and the grands. They will be celebrating grandson Mason’s birthday at the Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, and we will gladly brave the heat to be with them for a few days. After that, we’ll have another stop in northwest Texas to visit longtime friends Bubba and LouAnn and their families. We will see them again in Colorado along with some other dear friends, Steve and Jackie. My posting frequency will, undoubtedly, pick up once we begin that trip.

I’m trying not to think about the cost to fill Phannie’s 100-gallon fuel tank. I had the good sense to fill the tank before we parked for the winter/spring here at Ranchito Hondo. That 'cheap' fuel will take us only 700 miles or so until we’ll have to become bank robbers or something. The problem with that money-making scheme, however, is that Phannie will probably not be a good getaway vehicle. Sandy will never go for it either, because wearing a face mask would ruin her makeup. I’ll have to think of something else, I suppose. Although I have learned to keep this blog relatively free of politics, I have some rather strong views about whom to blame for the craziness we’re witnessing in the country; I'll leave it at that.

As mentioned in the previous post, we have spent a good deal of our time and treasure lately, upgrading the formerly gruesome landscaping here at the Ranchito. Over the years before we bought this place, the weed barrier beneath the much-despised pea gravel yard had deteriorated, causing a losing battle for me against the wretched, useless plants that sprang up everywhere, mocking me for my ineffective attempts at controlling them.

In the last post, I also mentioned that the absurd green paint on the driveway would be sandblasted; below are photos of that effort:

The sandblasting crew was another blow to the treasury, but it has helped curb my overdosing on Xanex:

Ah yes, so much better now:

The cable in the photo above goes to a Starlink router inside Phannie. When we return in the fall, this will be redirected inside the cabin, where it will provide Wi-Fi to a new TV, security cameras and the like. Service out to Phannie will then be provided via a wireless network.

After all this, plus a little landscape lighting (see the second photo below), the place is much more welcoming, don’t you think? There are slight differences between this photo and the one in the previous post. (Hint: The wooden fence and the cactus in front of the boulders.)

Nighttime view:

A couple of nights ago, we took time to watch the lunar eclipse and see the phenomenon of the “blood moon.” I took some photos, three of which I’m including here--at the beginning, middle and end of the increasing shadow of the earth upon the moon:

Hence the "blood" moon.

I couldn’t help but wince at the inadequacy of the hybrid legit/digital zoom on my camera, but an upgrade will have to wait a little while until the bank account gets off life support.

Let's see...I guess I could offer my impression of Starlink, now that we've had a couple months' use under our belt:

The first question I'm always asked is, "Is it worth $110 per month (plus another $25 if you want to carry it with you)?" Well, yes; but I am a gadget freak, and I am absolutely fascinated with the technology brought about by the genius of Elon Musk. The lightning-fast Wi-Fi speed with no limits is terrific, but probably is a bit of overkill for my use. Do I care? Not really. I had to have it, and there are toys and vices I could have that are more expensive. I'm looking forward to trying it out in Colorado.

And so it goes with our tiny winter hideaway out in the country. There are plenty of good neighbors around, and we have made fast friends with some of them here in the park. Although we could choose differently, we have come to love the simplicity and economy of this lifestyle and have no desire whatsoever to go back to the 'bigger is better' mentality of our past. We only wish we could have learned that lesson much earlier.

We have only a couple of weeks' countdown until we blast off for the summer; look for more posts after that!

 Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 

please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it each day as I should.

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood

Monday, April 25, 2022

Okay, This is Embarrassing!

At Escapees Lone Star Corral, Hondo, Texas...

No, the blog hasn't gone dark; I'm still here. However, things are a-changing, methinks. We seem to be entering a new phase in our fulltiming/part timing lifestyle that appears to be brought about largely by the inevitable aging process. It is said that a child's world is very small until he or she reaches adulthood, when the world grows large and potential is seemingly limitless in many areas, including travel. However, in later life, their world slowly gets smaller until their confines return to that of a child when their cognitive and physical abilities diminish with their passage into old age.

I wouldn't want you to infer from the above that Sandy and I have suffered much cognitive decline, at least that we can perceive (some may disagree). However, the last few years have presented some physical challenges, and we have the surgical scars to prove it. These have been illuminated ad nauseum in prior posts, so there's no need to rehash any of that. Even though surgical repairs have been made and parts replaced to enhance our mobility, an aging body is sort of like the Bop-A-Mole game, where something unexpected begins to hurt, creak or leak from time to time. This adds to the frequency of visits to health professionals to get that mole bopped down again. If you're in your seventies or better, you know what I'm talking about. If you're not there yet, you can get a glimpse herewith of that to which you can look forward!

Besides enriching health providers, there is another very effective means to lessen the impact of the unwelcome moles that pop up; it all has to do with one's attitude. We try to concentrate on the positives--the things we can do, our wonderful family and the many cherished friends who are almost family to us. We thank God for each new day and try to ignore or beat back the moles that keep popping up. (Have I worn out that metaphor yet?) Sandy is naturally better at brushing off adversity than I; I think men, in general, are predisposed to whining about things that don't go right, and her lack of complaining can be annoying at times. See? It's not hard for me to find something about which to whine!

Now before you get the idea that my lack of presence in the blogosphere is due to my being holed up in a pity party or some kind of 12-step program, we are not doing nothing. In fact, we have been quite busy, recently spending a month away from our digs here in Hondo to visit family, celebrating grandson Pryce's birthday and visiting with friends in the eastern part of the state. Meanwhile, while there, we took care of some end-of-life business that befalls everyone when the realization of the inevitable shows clearly the loose ends that need to be tied up. Once accomplished, however, these can be forgotten, replaced by more pleasant things.

I've written previously about our reasons for buying into this Escapees park--mainly having our home (Phannie) and our stuff (stored in the cabin) together in a place that we own. Since the cabins here are not equipped for fulltime living, they can be claimed on the tax rolls as 'sheds,' thereby generating an insanely low tax footprint. Being classified as a shed doesn't mean that it can't be very nice inside and outside--projects in which we have been heavily involved lately. (Photos of the inside later.)

When I think back at all the crowing I have done about having gotten rid of the drudgery of keeping up a stick-and-brick house, I feel a little sheepish about having a small resurgence of that drudgery with our place here in Hondo. I guess it hadn't occurred to me that any edifice in which one at least partially lives--no matter how small--always requires attention. For example, I had to buy an electric hedge trimmer the other day--after I had given away my old one when we began fulltiming, and I thought then I would never have to use one again. Following the acquisition of our tiny stick-and-brick cabin, we have had to acquire anew many of the house-upkeeping tools that we had given away, all the while sneering at the poor souls who would have to be using them. Karma is alive and well, it seems.

That brings me to the concluding thoughts about this new phase of our lifestyle and the years that led up to it: 

1) In the initial phase of fulltiming, we were drunk with freedom; we couldn't wait to go and see all the things on our bucket list. We were always on the move--sometimes exhaustively. I remember writing about the most inane of details--about everything; it was so exciting! 

2) As time went by and we began to develop friendships along the way, we tended to moderate our traveling frenzy to include places where we could interact with those friends for a longer period of time. 

3) Even when we were not with friends, our traveling was moderated in favor of staying a longer time at the places we had grown to enjoy. 

4) In the next phase, which stretched over years, we traveled to see most everything on our bucket list, so we found ourselves returning--and off the road--for a full season at the places we liked. 

5) In the current phase, we feel the need to have our own home base--however modest--from which we do an even lesser amount of traveling. We find now there is really no substitute for being home, irrespective of what kind of home, as long as it's ours.

So, are we no longer fulltimers? I guess we're not. We seem to have flopped into part-timing after about six years. 

Since we are quite happy with our setup here in Hondo, we've decided to dress up the place a bit. We hired a landscape company to revamp completely the entire area around the cabin with near-carefree hardscape. The company had a designer on staff, so we prevailed on him to make a unique design for the front yard, and he certainly did.  Here is a photo, taken as the workers were beginning the job; you'll notice they have removed part of the horrid chain-link fence that the previous owner had installed to keep pets from roaming:

The weed barrier beneath the old pea gravel had deteriorated, causing a fight with weeds that I was about to lose. The company removed every bit of the pea gravel and the old weed barrier, bringing in new, plus river rock, flagstone and crushed granite to make this design:

The photo above was taken from the street in front of our place, and it shows the minimalist design that we wanted. You'll notice the dark crushed rock is roughly in the shape of the state of Texas with a stack of large boulders in the middle. The boulders, to which I refer as a mini-Stonehenge, is a real head-turner for many of the park's residents, whose tastes generally run in a much more traditional vein. The purpose of stack of stones, of course, is to evoke curiosity in the viewer as to 'what it means.' The truth is that it has no intended meaning; it means whatever the observer thinks--good, bad or indifferent.

In this instance, the design has some of the aspects of modern art, which I  always thought was a bit silly, as I couldn't figure out what the artists were trying to show with odd blotches, squiggles and tortured shapes. Then I realized that it wasn't necessary to figure out the 'meaning' of the piece; whatever I thought about it, in most instances, was the meaning, and so it is with the landscape design. We are becoming much bigger fans of minimalist simple design and, if we were to build another house (not gonna happen), we would need to resurrect Frank Lloyd Wright to design it. As you can imagine, there is nothing else like our lot in the park, and there has been no shortage of head-scratching from those who pass by. We just smile and do a high-five. Success!

This project--the cost of which was hard to swallow--still isn't quite finished. One last row of chain-link fence, visible in the photo, has now been taken down, to be replaced by a wooden rail fence. The driveway, which is painted dark green in places--for reasons known only to God--has yet to be sandblasted. There is another small area of pea gravel at the rear of the driveway and along the other side of Phannie that will be refurbished in the fall with river rock.

Now that we've been here a while, we are meeting new friends besides our old friends and fellow residents, Richard and Karen. Here are a couple of photos that show some of them:

Richard and Karen are on the left of the photo above, and new friends Patti and Gary are beside Sandy. They are sitting in the park's event center.

Lanie and Walt, above, are busy renovating their cabin. Unlike us, they are annoyingly talented at this sort of thing, but their friendliness helps us overcome our own inadequacies in such endeavors.

About a month from now, we will be leaving for the Dallas area, where we will help grandson Mason celebrate his 13th birthday at the Great Wolf Lodge. After that, we will be making our way to Colorado to spend the summer, with a stop near Plainview, Texas, to visit friends Bubba and LouAnn and their family.

I appreciate all of you who have stuck around during my serious posting deficit. My entries will undoubtedly pick up steam when we leave for Colorado.

 Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 

please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it each day as I should.

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood



Sunday, February 20, 2022

Fail! It's Been Over a Month Since I Posted

AT Lone Star Corral Escapees Park, Hondo, Texas...

It has been so long since I posted that I won't even be able to face Janice, who heads up the blog police. I'm's just been a little on the dull side--you know, everyday activities that really can't possibly interest readers. 

However, there have been a few recent developments that I can talk about, so here goes. This is the longest time we have spent in the lot we own here at Hondo. We are embarking on our seventh year as fulltimers, and I suppose one could think we are now part-timing because we have a "house." Well, it isn't really a house, because it doesn't have a bathroom, a bed or a kitchen. Because it doesn't have those things, it is not classified as a "house" on the tax rolls; it is, instead, for the purpose of assessment, a shed. This results in a tax "burden" of about $200 a year for the whole lot:

It has a nice screened porch, new heat and air conditioning, a small workshop, a plethora of storage areas and a decent gathering room.  We are putting together a very nice extra living area inside, but we're not quite finished furnishing it, so I'll wait to send you photographs. I think you'll be surprised. By the way, the chain link fence will be removed, and we are already working with a landscape designer to greatly improve the lot's appearance.

We are preparing the lounge area for an entertainment room, having bought extra chairs and theater seating where we can view a large state-of-the-art TV that will be powered, along with all our other digital devices, by Starlink, which we just received and set up temporarily in the front yard. 

This antenna will eventually be attached near the roof of the "shed," but it works fine for now, just setting in the front yard. It is so nice to have lightning-fast unlimited internet and to be rid of the need for our much slower hotspots (until we travel somewhere again). I'm justifying the cost by getting rid of one of the hotspots. When I think how technology like this has advanced in my lifetime, I cannot help but be in awe. When I remember that, when I was young, my grandparents didn't even have electricity at their house, I find it hard to believe how this global satellite internet system is an evolution of a relatively few decades of technological progress. 

Even though I recently bought a new Kawai digital piano, I have since discovered the Yamaha Clavinova CVP-809, the most advanced (and, unfortunately, most expensive) digital piano on the market. 

I decided I just must have it, so I have traded my stored Kawai grand piano for one. The new piano has been ordered and will arrive in a couple of months. I have other plans for the Kawai digital I now have.

I have already written about our rationale for settling into this relatively modest living arrangement, but we find it just perfect for this stage of our lives. We are fortunate in our financial condition, in that we could make practically any living style choice we wished, but we have absolutely no desire to go back one inch toward our insane period 30 years ago when we built an enormous house on ten acres of land--just for the three of us! That decision was such a terrible thief of our spare time that we had, literally, none. Fortunately, we came to our senses quickly, and every living arrangement since then was to downsize, downsize, this--which, actually, is a slight upsizing from Phannie's 350 or so square feet. But all our meaningful personal belongings are finally with us, and that's what we really wanted.

In order for us to consider living in a real sited dwelling again, we would first have to conceive of it and, so far, we haven't. The day will come, of course, out of necessity, but we love the minimalism of upkeep and expense, not to mention freedom, that we now have.

I suppose I could mention my progress in mobility now since my right knee replacement a little over three months ago. I am largely pain-free, except for an occasional twinge when my leg gets in an unusual position--but it's only momentary. My right leg is getting stronger, although the left is still a bit more more adept at stair-climbing. I have to remember to climb stairs more with my weaker leg to help make it stronger. Walking is not much different from before the surgery, except I feel a slight mechanical motion in the new knee joint. It's not painful--just a bit peculiar. I don't know if that will go away or not.

I had earlier made a proclamation that I was going to have both knees replaced within a few months of each other. Well, that proclamation is out the window. I have friends who have had both knees replaced at the same time, and they have my deepest respect. I, on the other hand, have proven to be a coward, I guess. This operation was quite enough for one year, and I've developed a new perspective on the condition of my left knee, which seems to have improved markedly since the violent abduction of its partner on the right side. I admit I don't do pain well; I think men would be ill-suited to have babies.

I can report an incident that gave me quite a surprise regarding the resilience of the new knee. Although I try to be very careful, I had a fall of a about two feet to the concrete driveway because I was bent over doing something I probably shouldn't have been doing, and the handle I was using for stability gave way. The impact was directly on the new knee and at my right hip joint, which had also been replaced years ago. As I was falling, knowing where the impact would be, I already had visions of more surgery to repair the damage. The fall was painful, of course, but to my amazement, there seemed to be no damage to the prosthesis. The tissues at my knee and hip were sore for a couple of days, but the absence of any problem with the implant was most surprising and reassuring. I don't know whether it was a testament to the surgeon or the device, but I was relieved and impressed. I have vowed to be even more careful in the future.

We have plans for about a month's travel beginning March 11. We will be traveling to Conroe to visit with relatives we don't see all that often, then to Austin for a few days, followed by a trip to Mission, Texas for a reunion with old friends whom we used to see when we frequented the Valley in the winter. These will be fun visits, for sure. Then we will make our way up the Texas coast for April's First Monday in Canton, Texas. If you don't know what that spectacle is, you should look it up, or search on "First Monday" in the search box on this blog. 

So far, our first winter here in Hondo has been mild. The days are generally beautiful in the 60s and 70s, and I think we've had only two or three nights below freezing, but then we are only about a hundred miles from Mexico.

I try to remember to include a favorite photo from the hundreds we've taken on our travels. But this time, I think I'll include a couple from my flying years. I've been thinking a lot lately about those years and that they are well behind me now. I'm so grateful that I had a career that I enjoyed immensely and that was so rewarding in many ways. Both of these photos appeared earlier in the blog, but they may not have been seen by most readers due to the long 17 years covered so far in its posts. The first photo was taken in 1969, when I was flying a Beech 18 at age 23:

The next was taken 25 years later, when I retired from flying  with 15,000 hours and joined the FAA. My last flight was as captain in a Boeing 727 from Las Vegas to Dallas. Happily, I made the best landing of my life on that trip.

    Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 

please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it each day as I should.

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood


Sunday, December 26, 2021

Stuff We Can't Live Without; Did Santa Bring You Any of These?

 At the Lake Conroe KOA, Montgomery, Texas...

I hope all you dear readers had a wonderful Christmas holiday. We have returned to the Conroe, Texas area where we will be spending a few weeks during the holidays. Our grandsons are growing up so quickly, it's scary. They seem to have changed with every visit, so there's always something new and different going on. Below, left to right, is Pryce, Sutton (hiding) Mindy, Tyler and Mason. They are, of course, our pride and joy.

Driving Phannie over here from Hondo was much less taxing than my original venture forth from Fort Worth after only five weeks from surgery. Here I am with my five-week old new knee, pulling out from our convalescing parking spot for the long leg southward.

The 300-mile trip to Hondo was exhausting, which is unusual because Phannie is very comfortable to drive. I had not taken into account that I had been relatively sedentary for five weeks--except for physical therapy--and, while my knee was working fine, my energy level and stamina were not up to par. We made it with no problems, though and, after a day of rest, I felt much better. 

The knee?  Well, it is still a little tender for the first few steps if I have been sitting for a while, but it's getting better every day. Thankfully, the arthritis pain that prompted the surgery is gone. 

Now that I've moved on from that painful and confining episode, I thought I would change the subject completely and write about some RV-related gadgets (some of which I've mentioned way back in the blog) that I just wouldn't want to live without and still do this full-time thing.  This has taken some thought, and I've tried to narrow it down to just the essentials--that is essentials for me--realizing that others' list may be entirely different. But this is based on 16 years of RVing and six years of fulltiming.

These are in no particular order, by the way:

1. Our TST tire pressure monitor:

I have tried two other brands of these, and only the TST has proven to be utterly reliable for such a long time. I wouldn't leave without it.

2.  Max Flow Water Pressure Regulator:

This is a contender for number one in importance. This regulator is amazing. No matter what pressure goes in the inlet (up to 125 psi), it will give you 18 gpm of flow and around 47 psi at the outlet. It reminds me of the Oxygenator shower nozzle in the mystery of how it works. It is not cheap, but I have wasted so much money on other pressure reducers that do not perform. (I can't stand a weak shower flow). You can count on this sucker to give you the same flow all the time, no matter what. I don't even check the park pressure any longer--I just install this thing every time and know it's going to be adequate but not damaging to Phannie's plumbing. More photos:

Above is the faucet pressure without the regulator at our current park--admittedly not too much over pressure, but more than you want.

Above is the pressure at the Max Flow regulator output--51 psi; not 47 as advertised, but plenty safe (and the gauge could have that much error). Plus, you have all the flow you could possibly want in the shower. I'm hoping these are still being made; Amazon is sold out. I've got to get a spare.

3.  Vornado Electric Heater With Thermostat:

Okay, I'm pretty sure I'll get some difference of opinion on this one. I can hear them now: 1) If you pay your electricity, it's too expensive; 2) If I run it, I can't run much else; 3) It won't heat the entire room; 4) Why not run your heat pump or furnace, etc., etc.

Here's my thinking on this: I'm not talking here about new half-million dollar rigs with heated floors; Phannie is hardly that. But we rarely ever find ourselves in really cold temperatures; most of the time, we just need a little extra warmth and, if it gets really cold, that's when we turn on the propane furnaces. As far as the cost of operation goes, propane costs more. Why? We are usually at one of two kinds of parks: 1) The electricity is included in the lot rental; or 2) We are in Hondo, where electricity is 10 cents per kwh. 

As to the argument that if you run one of these at 1500 watts, you can't run much else, well, Phannie has had a workaround for that since day one. When we bought her, we had the dealer install a third air conditioner; back then, they only installed two in the Phaeton. We found out quickly that that wouldn't work in Texas. When they installed the third air conditioner, they had to install another 20-amp electrical circuit, and we use that same circuit to allow us to run two of the Vornado heaters if we need them. The result? We only have to fill our propane tank about once a year. We don't like to use the heat pumps because we want the heat at the floor level, not at the ceiling level. The thermostats in the Vornado heaters allow them to operate without any attention from us; we just set the temperature we want and forget it. Oh, and one more thing:  Did I say we try not to go where it's cold in the winter?

4Indoor/Outdoor Thermometer

Yes, I snapped this photo just as we returned to Phannie, and we hadn't left the air conditioners on. That's why it reads 79 degrees inside. There are any number of different models of these, ranging from very simple to a full weather station, so it's sort of whatever floats your boat. I opted for this one, as it has internal lighting, but it doesn't have the complexity of a weather station. I try to keep to a very minimum anything outside the coach that has to be put away or disassembled for departure, and the outside array of a weather station does not fit that laziness profile. Besides, all I really care about is the temperature inside and out. The humidity is also mildly interesting. Bottom line is that I'm happy with this one.

5. The Tineco Cordless Vacuum

I think we all have things that annoy us, perhaps more than they should. Mine is a vacuum cleaner with a cord.  We have had both corded and cordless ones and hated them all--until now. At more than $400.00, I swallowed hard and ordered this Tineco cordless vacuum, and I must tell you that it is worth every penny.  It is so well crafted that it could be called the Rolls-Royce of cordless vacuums. It has a powerful suction and a battery that, well, seems to last forever. I highly recommend it if you are willing to pony up the bucks for the best.

5. Apple TV

It may be a little difficult to tell what this is, but it represents streaming, which is the future of television. It doesn't really matter whether you get the Apple product, the Fire Stick or Roku; they all seem to work pretty well. I got the Apple TV because it just seems better built and more innovative.  After I ran the cost numbers of our Direct TV satellite service versus getting the same thing plus a lot more by streaming, the choice was easy. The dish has retracted onto the roof for the last time (I'm going to keep it in case a future owner might want it), and the satellite receiver boxes have been returned to Direct TV. We have 100 GB of wi-fi streaming available from an AT&T hotspot and unlimited from our Verizon hotspot and T-Mobile through our phones, so we can get unlimited streamed TV from just about anywhere. We never go anywhere where cell service isn't available so, with all three networks, we're pretty well set at a cost a good deal less than the satellite feed. 

I hope you enjoyed this change of pace from my surgery diary; I know I did. Until next time, here's wishing you a happy New Year and a prosperous and healthy 2022!

 Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 

please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it each day as I should.

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

End of the Knee Saga - Therapy Begins

 At Cowtown RV Park, Aledo, Texas...

As this is the end of the fourth week since surgery, and life is becoming more normal every day, this will be the last post in this series.  I don't know how many people recuperate from this surgery in an RV but, if it provides some insight for anyone, I will be happy.

So what can I do now--a week or so later?  Well, these may not sound all that significant, but when your world is centered around your knee and becoming more mobile, small things get gold stars, in my book. Taking note of them is sort of like climbing a ladder (not that I will be doing that); climbing to the next rung is a big deal.

I suppose the biggest gold star goes to...walking with some normalcy. It seems like only days ago that I was struggling with a walker, slowly and carefully making my way along, painfully, as if I thought the new knee could break at any moment. I remember climbing Phannie's stairs for the first time, sitting on my behind and using my arms and "good" leg to push me upward. I probably could and should have done it the normal way, but I still wasn't trusting this alien device that replaced the knee God gave me. And now, I can walk up and down the stairs normally--something I couldn't do before surgery. Thank goodness I still have the original left knee--doc said it's in slightly better shape than the right one was. I still can't imagine having both knees replaced at the same time, as some people do; my hat is off to them. In terms of walking at four weeks, this is going very well; in fact, I have jettisoned the walker and my cane, which was the walker's successor. On my first day of outpatient therapy, the therapist noticed that I was limping because there was still a small bit of pain remaining. The therapist immediately called me on it, saying that it had probably become mostly habit (it had), and I was not to do that on the next visit. Huh? That sounded a little harsh but, as I mentioned before, I know these people. They are wonderful and necessary, but I can't help but think they would keep smiling as they were strapping me in the gas chamber. Sure enough, I simply forced myself to walk normally and, by my next visit, I was walking normally with no pain. (I said normally, but it's a new normal. I don't yet have full control over my new knee, so occasionally my foot goes somewhere slightly that I hadn't intended for it to go, but that's getting better every day.)

Smaller gold stars:  1) Getting in the shower and stepping over the raised threshold easily; 2) no need to hold on to something while in the shower; 3) dressing myself with no assistance. (My right sock was the last obstacle, and I conquered it this morning.) 4) Cooking; I cooked lunch today with little assistance by Sandy. I should add that washing dishes afterward was just too taxing. I don't think I'm ready for that yet. 

Here's a biggie:  Driving the car, which I first did yesterday, just around the block. Getting in on the driver's side was very different, but relatively easy with a little help in guiding my right leg with my hands. Once in position, I was surprised that I had to relearn slightly the location of the pedals. It was as though my right knee had no idea what its role was, so I had to move my foot several times from brake to accelerator in order to teach it their locations and functions. Once my knee figured it out, I had no difficulty pushing the pedals as usual.

One of the best gold stars goes to sleeping through the night without being drug-induced and the ability to sleep on my side--another first.

There are probably other things I don't remember that signal a return to normalcy, but it's safe to say that I am thrilled that my progress is speeding along. Fortunately, the dark memories of those first two weeks after surgery are fading, but they'll be back whenever I come back for the other knee's replacement. Don't worry, I'm not going to post about that; this series was quite enough.

Oh wait!  One more thing: My pain medicine completely wiped out my appetite, so I dropped more than 20 pounds--that I really needed to lose--during these first four weeks. However, I'm not taking any prescription pain meds now, and my appetite is returning. I'm going to try to stay motivated to keep control of it.

Since I haven't taken any photos (I don't think anyone wants to see my scar), I'll see if I can find another favorite from our travels. 

Below is our second RV, a Jayco fifth wheel, purchased in 2005. It was actually the second because the first one we kept for less than a day. It was a bumper-pulled Jayco that I knew wouldn't work for us when I pulled it off the lot with our Suburban. So I turned around, took it back, and went looking for a Dodge diesel truck to pull the fifth wheel we bought instead:

 We were such newbies that we obviously didn't know what we were doing. We came to hate the inside layout of this one, and you'll notice from the photo that it had only one air conditioner. Where do we live? Texas. However, we bought another, much nicer, fiver soon afterward, and it served us well until we found Phannie. Sometimes you just don't know what you don't know. 

 Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 

please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it each day as I should.

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Week Three of Post-Op; Turning the Corner

 At Cowtown RV Park, Aledo, Texas...

I love all my commenters but, this week, one of the earlier comments in particular stood out in my mind. She was lamenting the excruciating post-op pain of her knee replacement surgery. It was something for which she was not prepared, and she said she wouldn't have had it done if she had known about it beforehand. 

I quite understand her conclusion, because anyone with a low pain tolerance would probably feel the same way. I wouldn't want to imply that I have a high pain tolerance, because I don't; I think mine is about medium for a man, whose tolerance for pain in general appears to be a good bit lower than women. I think God gave this special dispensation to women because they are the ones who give birth. If that job were somehow given over to a man, the world would probably be devoid of human life in about a century. 

As I mentioned before, my surgeon warned me during his visit immediately after surgery that, for the first two weeks, I would question my decision because of the pain but, around the third week, things would change for the better. And, as it turns out, he was right. There are other guys who seem to sail through this with much less whining (I admit to being a professional-level whiner when I don't feel well. And, if I should have a cold...well, that's worth a 911 call, in my view.) For those guys who are impervious to pain, well, I would like to know what drug cocktail they're using and where I can get it, even if it is from a guy named Vinny who is carrying a .45 under his coat.

So, what's my bottom line for the first two weeks? Yes, it was painful, especially when the pain medication's efficacy began to wear off before it was time to take another dose, but it was bearable. What was surprising was that getting up and walking, while a bit unsteady, was not nearly as painful as I thought it would be. Did I have those feelings that Dr. Williams said I would have? Well, yes, to a degree, but I think the pain didn't play as much a part as did the confinement and what appeared to be the slowness in healing. Once I remembered that I am 75, not 25, I think my recovery has been remarkable. Healing doesn't go all that quickly when one gets old. 

With the last episode, I was about to make my two-week post-op visit with Dr. Williams. That turned out to be a nothing-burger of sorts, as all he did was to take a look at my incision and move my leg back and forth. He seemed very pleased with what he saw (he should know, because he does about eight knee replacements on each surgery day), so I was sent on my way to out-patient physical therapy, which will begin next week. However, I know what to expect from these people because of my shoulder surgery a couple of years ago. The doc wants to see me again toward the end of January if I survive the therapy.

Physical therapists are wonderful professionals, without whose attention joint surgeries would not be nearly as successful as they are. I wanted to get that out of the way before pointing out they also have split personalities, and the other one is psychotic and sadistic. What else could explain their smiling while seemingly dismembering you with all kinds of instruments of torture? Oh, well...I really don't need to go into that; If you've had physical therapy, you know what I'm talking about. So pray for me next Tuesday; I know what awaits me.

I see I have not related anything in this post to recovering in an RV. I suppose I would say that the only negatives so far have been negotiating Phannie's stairs--which really hasn't been a big deal--and the increased feeling of confinement in the small space. It would have been nice to have had a larger area in which to practice walking; I think that has been the only thing that I can see as a negative so far. The positive, of course, is that you can go wherever you wish for treatment--in this case, to a surgeon with whom we've had excellent results for, now, the fourth time--soon to be fifth, when I have the other knee done.

I am finishing up this post on Day 19 after surgery, and I am pleased to tell you that the excruciatingly slow recovery seems suddenly to have reached a turning point. I am beginning to feel like my old self again, and my knee doesn't seem like the center of my annoyance universe any longer. The therapists will do their thing and, if I survive that, I'm hoping to have a new and more useful knee. I'll keep you posted.

I also notice that I have not provided you with a single photo in this post, which is not my style. So, here is one of my favorites as we look back at all the places we've been in this incredible 16-year journey, six of which have been fulltime:

This is a well-used and now retired fishing boat at sunset in Port Isabel, Texas.

 Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 

please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it each day as I should.

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood


Sunday, November 21, 2021

Week Two of Post-Op; PT Begins; New Technology for Phannie

 At Cowtown RV Park, Aledo, Texas...

Week two began with the first visit by Mary, my home-visit therapist. We sat for a brief chat as she took my blood pressure and I signed a form affirming that she had appeared. Mary, a somewhat large-framed woman, had been in the PT business for 30 years and, with her all-business, but personable attitude, had undoubtedly 

seen just about every kind of PT patient, including one like me. Those who know me may be aware that I can be 'inventive' in spinning stories in ways that will effect an outcome that I am seeking. There is a rather off-color term for this (gift?) , so I will leave out the, um, earthy, part:  B_______ Artist. 

Sizing Mary up, I didn't even try to invent any shenanigans I might use to gain sympathy, thusly lessening the severity of whatever she was going to do to me. I simply accepted my fate and checked over my will.

Actually, my fear was unjustified. The first day of PT was rather benign, with her guiding me through a routine that wasn't very strenuous but still painful, to a degree.  At the end, she had me practice walking the length of the coach several times, using the walker. During the exercises and afterward, she would grunt out an occasional "good!" I wasn't really sure if this was just perfunctory on her part to keep me going or she was actually pleased with my performance.

After the PT was done, we sat across from each other, in order for her to give me a critique. I was surprised that such a mild workout had actually caused me to perspire slightly, and I had to lower the thermostat a little.

During the critique, she produced a plastic device that measures the angle at which my new-knee leg would bend. Apparently it is desired that I be able to bend the knee to a 90-degree angle by the two-week post-op visit with the surgeon, and she seemed delighted that I was already at 108 degrees. After talking with her a while, it became clear that she was, indeed, pleased with my results of the first day. We soon bade each other goodbye and, oh, by the way, she would be here again in two days.

Mary made a rather big deal out of her insistence that the exercises accomplished today were to be repeated twice daily, even on the days she was not scheduled to appear. I immediately began thinking of excuses I could use if I weren't exactly diligent (It's not my fault; God designed me for comfort, not speed.) However, I had heard enough advice about the value to PT (plus my own successful use of it after shoulder surgery a couple of years ago), so I was determined to be successful, no matter if it killed me.

Of course, there are other things going on besides PT. Tuesday was more or less devoted to personal business like paying bills, dealing with insurance and other not-so-fun, but necessary, tasks. Sandy, as usual, was meeting herself coming and going, managing me, the medications, meals, laundry and other things I claim to be unable to do to her satisfaction. (This is probably true.)

We don't watch much TV, but I have to tell you about a couple of changes we have made lately that have lowered drastically our wireless and TV charges. When we bought Phannie eleven years ago, we had the old TVs removed, replaced by new digital TVs. We also had a Winegard Travl'r automatic satellite antenna installed, using Direct TV because we had Direct TV in the house. For those eleven years, the system has worked fine with very few hiccups.  Our cell phones were obtained through AT&T which, became the owner of Direct TV. We thought that would give us a break, but it really didn't. We also had--and still have--a Verizon Jet Pack, in case we have signal problems with AT&T.  And then, T-Mobile came out with a senior citizen plan that we gobbled up, ditching AT&T for our phone service. We also bought an AT&T hotspot, though, which gave us access to Direct TV Stream at a much reduced price. It works much the same as the satellite receiver and gives us access to AT&T streaming. And last, but not least--we're finally able to park in the shade underneath trees; streaming isn't bothered by obstructions overhead Now we have wifi service available from all three major networks at a price hundreds less than we were paying. So now, our Winegard automatic rooftop dish is no longer usable for anything, but eleven years of good service is a pretty long run. Isn't it amazing how technology changes so quickly? We've also signed up for Starlink Internet at our place in Hondo. That should be a real game-changer when it is finally available.

Okay, I digress--what else is new?

Since I was so busy on Tuesday, (Surgery Day +8), I didn't do but one round of PT exercises. My thinking was that, since I was already ahead of normal, Mary wouldn't notice. When she appeared on Wednesday, (Surgery day +9) that seemed to be the case, so I felt pretty smug. Then Mary announced that on her next visit, we would practice walking down the RV stairs and getting into the car, in preparation for my two-week post-up visit with Dr. Williams. Well, this was like telling a kid in school he was having a field trip. I have to admit the walls have been closing in a bit, having not ventured forth from Phannie for nearly two weeks!

And so it was; on Friday (Surgery Day +12), we headed down the stairs to greet a sunny day. Freedom! It was heaven!  I used the walker only on the ground, and getting in and out of Mae was easier than I thought. Here are a couple of pics with Mary paying close attention:

 I wanted my photographer (Sandy) to get a photo of my negotiating Phannie's stairs, but she doesn't like to take pictures (because cameras are machinery--something with which she doesn't get along), but it was okay. Once I saw how bedraggled I looked, it seemed the photos were indeed of a hermit who had just been discovered in a culvert after several weeks. Clearly, I was not not thinking about my image, but my first day of freedom!  We celebrated that evening by going out to dinner--Panda Express. We ate in the car, and I kept marveling that there was still a world out here!

Perhaps it would be a good idea to share my progress in several other areas:

On Surgery Day + 4, I was able to take a shower in Phannie. Since there is about an eight-inch step-up into the shower, I had first to sit in a tall chair and swing my legs inside. It was a bit scary but, with Sandy's help, I got a decent shower. I'm sure others around me were equally happy.

I usually take a shower every day, but I opted for one every two days until I am really comfortable getting in and out of it. On Surgery Day + 12, I am now very comfortable lifting my legs up and stepping inside, so I am returning to my usual daily regimen (is someone cheering in the background?)

Also on Surgery Day +12, Mary began noticing that I was being unnecessarily dependent on the walker. She asked me first to practice just guiding the walker ahead of me but walking without using it. I was more surprised than anyone that I really didn't need it all that much. The next step she called "furniture walking." That's when I abandon the walker and walk unassisted through the room, holding on to furniture or cabinets as needed to steady myself. So there I was, walking without the walker on Surgery Day +12! Now, at Surgery Day +13, I try not to use it at all, and that certainly adds to my sense of progress.

No one asked, but it is essential for a while to have a raised toilet seat. That's one thing you shouldn't forget.

I need to make sure and acknowledge the dozens of messages, thoughts and effective prayers that have come my way from family and friends. I love you all for thinking of me.

Next Tuesday will be my two-week post-up visit with Dr. Williams. I'm looking forward to hearing his take on my progress.  More after that.

  Thank you, Lord, for this wonderful life; 

please forgive me if I fail to appreciate it each day as I should.

We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing. 
 ---George Bernard Shaw

"I get up every morning, and I just don't let the old man in." ---Clint Eastwood