Photo taken near Monument Valley, Utah

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


Sunday, November 14, 2021

A New First for Phannie: Rehab Center for Knee Surgery

 At Cowtown RV Park, Aledo, Texas...

The day had finally come. My worn-out right knee would be replaced with a prosthetic one by Dr. Nathan Williams, a Fort Worth-area surgeon who specializes in hips and knees and who has previously done Sandy's knees and my right hip. Our experience with him has been superb, and his bedside manner is hard to beat. I thought it might be helpful for others who might be contemplating this surgery to see what recovery would be like in an RV.

The surgery began at 9:30 a.m. and lasted about two hours, after which he gave us the report that everything went well, even though the knee was in worse shape than he thought. They gave me a pain blocker which lasted most of the day and evening. 

As it turned out, the pain blocker caused me to think recovery was going to be a breeze. The physical therapist had me up and walking around the unit that afternoon, and I even climbed a set of therapy stairs to make sure I would have no problem getting into Phannie when I was dismissed. The therapist voiced her encouragement and enthusiasm at my progress. Little did I know that the blocker was masking a hellish pain that would soon rear its ugly head.

Here's the scar immediately after surgery; this will shrink considerably over time.

My hospital stay was two nights instead of the usual one because of a slightly high creatinine level in my kidney function, but it had normalized the next day, and I was glad to  be released. Sandy had to drive, of course, which she hates--especially in big city traffic--but I stretched out in the back seat and we made it just fine back to Aledo, some 30 miles from the hospital.  We would have stayed at a closer one, but Cowtown was the closest RV park where I could book a long-term stay. 

When we arrived at Phannie's door, a problem had developed. Since the pain blocker had worn off by then, there was no way I was going to be able to climb those stairs to get inside. The pain was such that I couldn't possibly put any weight on my right foot. So, I turned around and sat on my behind as I pushed myself upward from step to step. Luckily, Phannie's stairs are fairly narrowly spaced, so my booty-scoot worked fine. However, I pray that no one made a video of it. So ended surgery day plus two. 

On day three, a nurse came out to the bus to check me over and declare me ready for physical therapy (hereinafter referred to as PT). Dr. Williams had told me that day three would be the worst, pain-wise, and it was. I'm afraid I wasn't very good company for the nurse. I had the pain more or less under control with medication that day, but trying to move around on the walker was pure agony. 

 On day four, a PT supervisor came out to evaluate me, possibly to determine which of their therapists would be most effective in my upcoming torture. He informed me that my first "in-rv" session would be on Monday, a week after surgery. One positive on day four was that I could tell a bit of improvement in pain and mobility--not much, but enough for me to keep going.

Day five was a noticeable improvement from day four. I was able to get by with less pain medication, and using the walker was a good bit less painful. Sandy--God bless her--was there, devoting all her time to me and my needs, which seemed endless. We decided to keep meals simple, and we had numerous items already in the freezer that needed only to be nuked. Fortunately, my appetite was almost nil for days, perhaps because of the anesthesia, so not much attention to food was needed. By this day, my appetite had returned somewhat, so we celebrated by having Sandy fetch some Mexican food from the taco joint across the street.

Day six was a Saturday, so we were free to do anything we wanted--which turned out to be nothing, while in this condition. I had been experiencing strange dreams--probably from my pain meds--and, even when awake, I occasionally thought I heard voices and would even answer them. There were none, of course, but it freaked out Sandy a few times. One complete surprise is that I have been able to sleep very well at night. I certainly didn't expect that!

Day seven was Sunday, so we streamed our church service, and Sandy fixed a light breakfast. It has become quite tiresome looking at the same four walls for a week, so I'm in high hopes that my mobility will improve next week. One major effort today will be devoted to taking a shower, something that hasn't been possible because of the step-up required to get inside. We have (we think) figured out a way to use a tall chair to set outside the shower and swing my feet inside. I'll let you know how that goes.

So, there you have it--week one of post-surgery in Phannie. It hasn't been bad at all, if it weren't for the post-op pain, which wouldn't be any different if we were in a house. I'll keep you updated as to how next week goes as PT begins. I'm pretty sure they're going to hurt me.

    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, October 30, 2021

A Quick Trip Before Knee Surgery; A Bit of Nostalgia; A Surprise Visit With Old Friends

 At Turkey Creek RV Park, Hollister, Missouri...

I can't help but cringe at my expectation of a dressing-down from Janice for my irregular posting; In fact, I'm surprised she hasn't scolded me again already. She's probably saving it up for just the right time. I'm really struggling to explain my inattention to this, except two circumstances are at play: 1) I just can't bring myself to post about unremarkable days and 2) we took a quick trip to Branson, and we have just been too busy to sit down and put something together. 

When I ended the last post, I was describing all the updates to Phannie that we had done at Red Bay, Alabama, the tiny town that is the home of the Tiffin Motorhome factory. There was one photo that I forgot to add to that post, involving a sign that I saw while we were there. Red Bay is a quirky little town, as I previously described in three ancient posts, published in sequence beginning with this one (click on the link). You can add to those quirks this sign, which appears to be relatively new:

If you read it through carefully, the Red Bay Hospital is trying to promote its outpatient care, but the sign is not large enough to read the smaller print as you dash past it in a car.  All you see is, "We Make it Easy for You to Stay Home." As I zipped by the sign, not reading any further than that, it instantly brought forth my proper English language obsession and love of its comedic butchering to produce unintended meanings; I turned the car around to take another look. In reading only the large print, of course, the sign gives the impression that the hospital's function is so abhorrent that a prospective patient would prefer to stay home and take his or her chances rather than to use its services. The explanation, in small print below the larger lettering, made it more sensible. However, the designer obviously didn't take into account that only a speed reader would notice more of the message than I did as he or she passed by.

With that little oddity out of the way, I'll go ahead with more current events. After Red Bay, we went to Searcy, Arkansas to visit friends Carolyn and Larry for a couple of days, then we were off to my ancestral homeland, Nacogdoches, Texas, to visit more friends. We even got a fine catfish dinner and a tour of the beautiful Lufkin home of Ray (a former employee but forever friend) and his wife, Carolyn. Naturally, I forgot to take a photo. We also had a nice lunch at the Lufkin, Texas airport, where I was based shortly after I landed my first real job as a pilot (pun intended), flying mail every night to and from Dallas with a stop in Palestine. It's hard to believe that was more than 50 years ago. The following photo was taken from that era:

I was all of 23 years old at the time, and the airplane was a Beech 18, which was an upgrade from the old WWII-era C-45. Because the airplane was not particularly forgiving to pilots who weren't on their game, I took some pride in having pretty well mastered it at such a young age. 

Airplanes were not automated then as they are today, and these small airports had ancient navigation aids; GPS used today hadn't even been invented. I can't tell you how many VOR and ADF approaches I hand-flew at night in bad weather in these airplanes with no autopilots. With the advent of modern avionics and GPS, such hand-flown approaches would be somewhat of a curiosity to today's pilots--as the old Radio Range approaches were when I began flying. (Yes, they still had a few of those back in 1963.) Most older pilots will know what I'm talking about, but the young ones probably don't have a clue.

Writing about the changes in aviation I have witnessed throughout my lifetime doesn't really bring with it the feeling that I have missed out on anything; in fact, I am not unhappy that I actually had to fly--with hands on the yoke and feet on the rudder pedals--the airplanes instead of watching a computer fly them.  I'm glad I was there when the airlines were still switching from propeller-driven airliners to jets. In fact, it occurs to me that I may be one of only a handful of active pilots still remaining who have actually flown a Lockheed Super Constellation which, in my view, was the most beautiful airliner ever built. I think there is only one left in the world that is still flying. The photo below shows the Connie I flew; it was taken during a stop in Acapulco in 1968:

Leaving all this nostalgia behind, let's get back to Phannie and Mae and the current day.  After a brief stay in my home town, we then made a quick stop at Livingston to pick up our mail from Escapees before pausing at Conroe for doctor appointments and a visit with the kids. We couldn't stay long, because Sandy had yet another medical appointment in San Antonio, so we were off for our digs in Hondo, a small town near San Antonio. We were pretty worn out after all that, so we spent a few days at our Lone Star Corral property for some downtime after the doctor visit.

After almost six years of fulltiming, our tiny cabin at Hondo has begun to remind us of why we sold our house and hit the road: There is always something that needs to be done, even to such a small and simple place. Some guys thrive on piddling around and tweaking things, but I'm not one of them. So far, there are only a few positives to owning this thing: 1) We have a permanent place to store the small amount of personal stuff we still have; 2) I finally have a piano again, and 3) we have some nice friends in the park. We can appreciate the fact that, if we must own something that resembles a house, this is about as basic and low-maintenance as one can get. It is unfurnished, however, and we still have a few minor repairs to make that were caused by the hailstorm last April.

After resting up a bit, we hit the road toward Branson, where we were to meet our friends from Arkansas--Larry and Carolyn. We had an uneventful trip and began a ten-day stay. What we didn't know was that some old friends from earlier years of RVing were going to be there, too!  Imagine our glee when we met up with these folks; they represent years of friendship and millions of laughs:

From left to right are Ed, Bob, Denny, Jackie, Janet, Marilyn and Sandy. Ed and Marilyn are off the road now, but the others are part-timers. It was wonderful to see them again, as we don't cross paths as often as we once did. One thing that hadn't changed was our ability to laugh and tease each other unmercifully. Seems like surprises like this make them even more special.

Of course, we had already purchased a number of entertainment tickets with Larry and Carolyn, as we had planned the trip long in advance, and we had the added pleasure of having dinner with their son, Scott, wife Melissa, and their grandson, Gabe:

One could get the impression that all we do is eat out at restaurants in Branson and, well, that wouldn't be far from the truth. We did take in some shows, the best of which was the unbelievable spectacle at the Sight and Sound Theater:

There's one more show that we always see when we visit Branson--The Hits of the 50s and 60s--that has been playing here without interruption for 19 years: 

We notice that they are now beginning to include music from the 70s--as those who come for the 50s are ever dwindling in number (that would be our bunch). It doesn't matter how many times we've seen the show, it always gives us a nostalgia high. Corny? Maybe; but ask me if I care.

As I write this blog, we are preparing for our departure to Fort Worth tomorrow, where we will be staying for more than a month while I recover from my first knee replacement surgery. I am using the same surgeon who replaced my right hip and who replaced Sandy's knees. With those successes, we have great confidence in him. I'm not exactly looking forward to the surgery and the therapy afterward, but I am looking forward to getting behind me the pain and instability that has gotten progressively worse as I have obviously outlived my joints.

I can't help but look behind and ahead as I approach my 75th birthday. I find it fascinating that I seem to think more of the past much more than I used to--probably because so much more of my life is behind me than is ahead. I feel blessed to have lived during those years--especially during the fifties and sixties, when there were still vestiges of the Mayberry-type lifestyle. When I was growing up, crime was almost unknown. We didn't lock our doors at night, and we usually left the car keys in the ignition. With our bicycles, all outdoors was our world, and nobody ever feared harm from some perverse individual. The only rule we had was to be home for supper. Our neighbors watched out for us, but it really wasn't necessary. We prayed in school and proudly stood for the flag with our hands over our hearts. Never in my wildest dreams would I have guessed that our beloved country would turn into the dystopian, perverse cesspool that exists today. And I know when it began: 1963, when prayer was forbidden in schools. Little did I know that the year I began to actualize my aviation dream would be the year my country began its downward slide into who-knows-what. We pray daily for our loved ones, who will have to look for the good and run from the bad as they navigate the storms.

On a more positive note, attaining an advanced age without life-threatening illness or loss of mental faculties (some may question this) is indeed a blessing, of which we are ever mindful. It is odd that I don't sense in my mind that I am old. I don't notice any lessening of, say, my ability to drive a car, fly an airplane or play the piano. I'm sure my reflexes are probably not quite as good as they once were, but it seems impossible to have attained 75 years--it all went by so quickly!  There are a few annoyances--like the incessant medical appointments to obtain medication refills and yes, I do forget a few more names than I used to, but I never was very good at that.

What is important is to thank the Lord that Sandy and I have been privileged to live--both as individuals and then as one--for all these years. So many are not afforded that privilege. 

I will keep you posted on the progress of the surgery, which is scheduled for November 8, and the recovery process.  Not a few of you will have this in your future, I'm guessing.

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, September 26, 2021

Christmas Comes Early For Phannie!

 At Red Bay Acres RV Resort, Red Bay, Alabama...

If you read the last post, you learned that Phannie was on her way to Red Bay to get new carpet in the bedroom and her annual "well-woman check," as Sandy puts it.  (For guys, that's getting the oil changed in Phannie's engine and the generator, as well as a changeout of all the fuel, oil and air filters, as needed. For a woman, I think it's an entirely different thing, but I'm afraid to ask.)

Bay Diesel's shop in Red Bay; nothing fancy, but number one on my list for performing repairs:

As part of the annual check, Bay Diesel also tests the condition of the engine coolant, and it was found on the verge of needing to be changed. Well, we can't have Phannie running around "on the verge" of something, so that will also be done at 7:00 a.m. in the morning. Yes, I looked at a clock with hands on it, and there are, indeed, TWO sevens on it. Well, there aren’t really two, but there may as well be. We rarely have anything to do with the one through which we sleep in the morning; I had even forgotten about it altogether. As a result, we have, among the frenzy of hand-wringing about this ungodly show-up time, been thinking of ways to accomplish this and still get a little shuteye. We even thought about having Phannie towed there while we were in bed, but this would probably wake us up in the process. We think we've come up with a plan that will involve all sorts of short cuts in our normal departure routine, and who knows what we will leave behind or undone? We'll let you know how it goes.

Red Bay, in case you didn't know, is a little town built around the idea that working hours for just about everyone is 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. This is several hours before we become coherent so, for us, it's like being in Switzerland or somewhere. The reason for these working hours is that the giant Tiffin factory employs almost everyone in town, including husbands and wives, and somebody has to go get the kids at school. To accommodate this, the whistle blows at 3:00 p.m., and there is a mad dash to the schools.

Okay, I'm digressing, as usual; back to the subject of the post I go. Everything went perfectly at MS Solutions with the carpet. We finally have new bedroom carpet that will be much less likely to show every blemish and piece of dust that got near the old light-colored carpet:


This new addition was so inspiring that we decided to change out the center-aisle rugs throughout the coach:

In this photo, you can see the old putty-colored carpet that remains in the lounge area. We can't wait to get it changed. Keeping it clean--especially since going fulltime--has been the bane of our existence. I think when they remove it, we're going to have a bonfire. No, that's not a good idea--the smoke may be toxic!

Well, we were on a roll, so to speak, with the new carpet. We checked into the newest, nicest RV park in Red Bay--Red Bay Acres--and began to think about more well-deserved upgrades for the old girl. 

One thing jumped out at us--Girard Awnings had just built a new RV awning factory and installation center next to our RV park, and wouldn't you know that Phannie just happened to need a new door awning, She had been without one since the old one decided to pop out and become a winglet a few years ago. You can read about it here: seemed like a sign!  I traipsed over there and found they were more than happy to sell me a new door awning...and I could even show up at the much more humane hour of 12:30 p.m. Now, this was more like it! I showed up on  time, went to lunch with Sandy. Our sandwich, with the awning as dessert, was a paltry 1500 bucks or so. An Alka-Seltzer helped a bit, and at least Phannie had a new door awning:

The old awning:

The new awning:

When the door awning first went kaput, we thought it wasn't that big a deal, but after a few rainstorms when we needed a little protection from the elements and sometimes needed a break from the hot sun, we decided it was worth the (gulp) price.

The Girard factory:

Phannie's in the bay for her awning while Sandy and I have an expensive lunch...

But were we through yet? Oh no, we've left earth's orbit! We had always been a little disappointed in the original lighting provided on the outside passenger side of the bus, which was, in reality, almost useless. And then, along came the digital age, and we couldn't help but notice that the newer coaches were being adorned with all sorts of LED light strings that even illuminated the ground underneath. Then we noticed they would change color, giving an effect that, well, may be appealing to some, but disco was a long time ago, and we old fogies were perfectly okay with white. Not wanting Phannie to be left lightless in her golden years, we ordered a string of LEDs under the awning and a set under the passenger-side slide, giving a nice effect at night, especially when we have outdoor guests. What we didn't realize was how sophisticated the system is. After installing it, the technician showed us how it was operated not by a switch, but from my cell phone! Not only that, it will also change colors, mimic a sunset, and even do a disco effect--flashing in rhythm to whatever rock tune I might have going on the phone!

This was hardly what I had in mind, and I can see visions now of my daughter watching her 74-year old father rockin' out to some heavy metal with disco lights in the background. I would probably never see her again!  (I have to admit that, in learning how to use the system, I accidentally turned on this feature, and I was frantic to get it turned off and back to white. I can just see Sandy trying to explain to the EMS attendants what I was doing at the time of my collapse.)  Here is a non-disco photo of the lights as they will be run unless I mess it up again:

Who knows what Phannie thinks of all this bruhaha?  She probably feels like Ethel Merman with a new necklace! No matter, the old gal has been good to us, and she deserves some special attention.

An unexpected plus was the surprise arrival of Don and Linda Cochrane, with whom we have been socializing for the past few days. They are always a lot of fun, and Don seems to have an inexhaustible supply of stories--as all of us pilots do. It's been enjoyable for a couple of old pilots to do "hangar flying" if not the real kind. So far, I think the lies have been kept to a minimum.

We will be headed back to Texas with a couple of stops with friends along the way before going back to Hondo. After that, we will be heading back north to Branson, where we will spend a couple of weeks with friends before my first knee surgery in November. But more on that later.  Here's hoping you will all stay well and happy until we meet virtually again!

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