Sunday, February 12, 2017

A PILGRIM REUNION

If you followed me when I walked the Camino de Santiago in Spain then you already know about Camino Family.  Pilgrims walking along the Camino quickly become connected to one another in a bond many non pilgrims have trouble understanding.  For me, I have maintained that bond with many of those who I walked with and we continue to stay in touch to this day.  Two pilgrims that fit in this category are Len From Canada and Alex from Brazil, who I walked with and spent many evenings at the table talking about our lives and families.  I guess you could say we became close.  In the Fall of 2015 I managed to visit Len at his home in Winnipeg and him left with an open invitation for he and his wife Janet to visit Cathie and I in San Diego.  Well, they took us up on our offer and made plans for a 10 day visit.  They said they wanted to see us, but at -20 degrees Fahrenheit in their hometown, they may have had other reasons.

With Len and Janet's plans locked in, I dropped Alex a line and asked if he would like to make a surprise visit.  Turns out Alex's job in Brazil would be taking him to Juarez, Mexico at the same time of Len's visit and plans were laid to surprise Len.  I should tell you that in Spain, Len and Alex walked everyday together and were like brothers.

THE THREE AMIGOS IN SANTIAGO

So when the day arrived, Cathie and I picked up Len and Janet at the airport about noon. I made up a story for Len about how I had to pick up friends at the U.S. side of the Tijuana Airport asking him to go with me to help locate my "friends".  Upon arrival at the airport, I told Len I could not leave the car unattended and would he go inside and tell my friends I was at the curb.  With the description I provided he went to look for them, but instead Alex came up behind him and asked him if he was looking for Yellow Arrows. Boy, was he surprised.

                                      video

The next day we did the San Diego tourist thing.  A drive out to Cabrillo National Monument to see the National Cemetery, the lighthouse and of course the view.

THE THREE AMIGOS



No visit for someone from Winnipeg would be complete without a walk on the beach, so we next headed Pacific Beach for a walk in the sand and some local color.  You locals will know what I mean.  We also walked out to the end of Crystal Pier, which with a high surf warning in effect was shaking enough to freak out Janet, who made a hasty retreat.


Len is a craft beer aficionado, so we paid a visit to Amplified Ale Works for a pilgrims lunch and some liquid refreshment.  From the looks of Len's smile, the establishment met with his approval.  You will notice that everyone is wearing sunglasses, something Len and Janet do in Winnipeg only to prevent snow blindness.  They did express some surprise that our car didn't have snow tires.


I had told our guests that I wouldn't be taking them sailing, but rather we would be attending a boat event.  At the appointed time we arrived at VIP Paints, for our boat event.  You see, this is a place where you, along with others, follow along with an instructor artist and paint the same picture.  As it turns our on this night, the subject was a sail boat.  So with paint brush in hand we were off in an effort to paint our masterpieces.  It didn't hurt that this was also a BYOB event, one way to get the creative juices flowing.  

video
Not too bad if I don't say so myself.

What trip to San Diego would be complete without a tour of the USS Midway.  So the next day with me acting as tour guide, we arrived on the pier .  As a volunteer on the Midway, I can bring my guests on board one hour before the museum opens and explore areas of the ship that are off limits to most guests.  We managed to squeeze in Damage Control, machine rooms, the Marine Detachment and several other off limit areas in addition to all of the public tour route in our 5 hours on board.  We did manage to get our exercise for the day.

JANET WITH THE SHOOTER

The next day we said good-by to Alex as he had to return to work.  I am hopeful that this visit with Alex won't be the last.  Perhaps Brazil will be in our future travel plans.

For the next 4 days and 3 nights, we rented THIS vacation rental in Borrego Springs. Although Len and Janet had been in the desert before with visits to Las Vegas and Phoenix, it was now time to show them the real desert.  After settling in, we took a drive out to Fonts Point for an overview of the badlands.


Over the four days in Borrego, we managed to give our guests a great overview of our desert.  We took a hike up Palm Canyon taking a break in the shade of the palm oasis.


Made a stop at Seventeen Palms to sign the register in the prospector's mailbox.


And the visit wouldn't be complete without seeing the Pumpkin Patch


We spent the better part of the next day exploring Fish Creek, Split Mountain and Sandstone Canyon.




Get off the car kids

Of course the desert has it's own variety of wildlife.  We saw plenty of the usual lizards, doves and the more common critters, but no tour on Gassaway's Adventures would be complete without some of the more exotic desert residents.  We were greeted by this hawk upon our arrival at out condo.


Len and I narrowly missed stepping on this fine specimen of a Rattlesnake


We managed to see a small group of the elusive Big Horn Sheep


And of course the Desert Serpent.


We shared many happy hours on the patio


And of course the beautiful sunrises


We were sad when it was time to return our visitors to the airport, but we know we will see Len and Janet again.  I believe that Cathie made a new friend in Janet and it was great for me to reconnect with both Alex and Len.  Such is Camino Family.








  



Tuesday, December 06, 2016

ABOUT MY WEIGHT, ABOUT MY HEART



This is a photo of me taken back in 2007 when I was close to my heaviest.  By 2008 I weighted a whopping 308 pounds, so I did something about it.  I went on a liquid diet, supervised by a team of specialists at my health care provider, Kaiser Permanente, called Positive Choice.  Five protein shakes a day for 5 months.  No food.  I lost 110 pounds in that five months and felt better for it.  Since then I have always been active, riding my bike, walking, and lifting free weights.  I ate a more healthy diet. But over time, with travel to foreign lands and about the U.S. I gained some of it back.

When I was home, I would maintain my weight with mostly good food choices and exercise, but when I traveled, it was a different story.  I exercised less and ate more and the food choices were not the best.  Since we traveled for 2 to 3 months at a time, it was easy to gain 10 pounds on a trip.  Upon return home, I would eat better, exercise more and maintain my weight, but rarely would I loose any.  After 8 years I had gained 60 pounds and needed to do something, so back to Positive Choice.  I made an appointment and scheduled my screening for the program.



A medical exam is required to enter the program and included in the exam was a EKG. So the nurse hooks me up, turns on the machine and runs the test.  She then looked at me and said, "You know you have A-Fib"  My response was, "I guess I know now".  A-fib or atrial fibrillation, an abnormal heart rhythm characterized by rapid and irregular beating.  Up and until this point, I had no idea I had A-fib, but the strange thing was that right after she told me, I could actually feel it.

Having A-fib narrowed the possibilities of the diet program and I was told that I couldn't do a full fast but was eligible for a partial fast program, 4 shakes a day with limited food.  More about this program later, but now for the heart part.

First an appointment was made for a echo-cardiogram.  This was scheduled for 4 months out, which was unacceptable to me and I made my feelings known loud and clear. After voicing my displeasure at the delay (read lots of yelling) I was scheduled for an appointment 2 days away.  Basically a echo-cardiogram is a ultrasound of the heart.  To get the results, you go to a cardiologist, but no body had referred me to a cardiologist.  After more "voicing my displeasure", I got an appointment with Dr. Sharma.  He explained to me that the echo-cardiogram showed some minor buildup of calcium in one my arteries, but that first we must get the heart beating in a normal rhythm.  To do this, they shock your heart, but because the heart beating normally again just might send a clot to the brain, I had to go on a blood thinner for 1 month before I got the shock.

I must say that only after learning of the A-fib, did I experience any symptoms.  Now I was constantly out of breath and had little energy.  I could hardly wait the 30 days to get it corrected.  I thought by pissing off a policeman I could get tased.  That would work, wouldn't it?



Finally the day arrive, so off to the hospital for the shock treatment.  As I was waiting my turn, and it was taking longer than expected, the nurse told me that the guy scheduled ahead of me had a heart attack, so that was the reason for the delay.  Oh, great, that made me feel better.  So they put you to sleep, and I gave my approval after the anesthesiologist promised me that he wouldn't use the stuff that killed Michael Jackson.  Next I go to sleep for a few minutes while they use the paddles on me.  I awake and everyone is smiling, including me.  I can tell the difference right away.

Next, a sleep study was ordered.  Picked up a monitor to monitor my breathing while I slept.  Put it on and went to bed.  Couldn't go to sleep.  I tossed and turned, watched the clock and hoped for sleep.  It didn't happen, so I took the monitor off returning it the next day.  I told them that I never went to sleep.  A week or so later I get a call from the sleep clinic and was informed that I have moderate sleep apnea. Tried to explain to them that I never slept, but to no avail.  Now the diagnosis is in my medical record.  Still trying to get that corrected.

Dr Sharma suggested I have a stress test, you know the kind where they put you on the treadmill.  So this was scheduled and completed.  I passed without a problem. This also included taking some kind of atomic pill so they could take a look at my heart with some big scanning type machine.


So, everything is alright, clean bill of health and I'm off to the Sierras for some hiking. While strolling along at 10,000 feet, I started experiencing some chest pain.  Not too severe, but about a 5 on a scale of 10.  The pain lasted for a long time even after finishing the hike.  No other symptoms, and the pain eventually subsided.  A couple of days later, I experienced the pain again while on another hike and it went away when I stopped walking.  So when I got home, no I didn't call for an ambulance, I called Dr. Sharma and he scheduled me for a CAT scan.  This came back negative, but did show that calcium build up.  When meeting with the Doc, he suggested that just to be sure, perhaps I should have a angioplasty, where they put a catheter in your vein and go exploring around the heart.  I agreed.

On the appointed day, we get up at zero dark thirty and drive to the hospital.  They told me to arrive early, but it turns out I was a day early.  Opps!  The next, correct day, we did it again.  Check into the hospital, wait a couple of hours, go to the procedure room, get sedated but stay awake, stick the catheter in the vein in my arm, do a tour of the heart and 30 minutes later, I'm done.  The doctor who did the looking around told me, no blockages, no plaque, only the previously known calcium, which according to him is very minor and no a cause for concern.

So what caused the chest pain you ask?  Don't know.  I go for another consult with Dr. Sharma in a week or so, we shall see.

While all this is going on, I am on my diet of 4 shakes a day and a small amount of healthy food, about 1000 calories total.  Have to go to fat people class once a week to learn stuff about food.  To date I have lost 40 pounds, with 20 more to go, so something is working.

Actually, even with the hiccups at Kaiser, I am very satisfied with my treatment so far.  I must say that after all these years at Kaiser, I am finally getting my money's worth.  As for Dr. Sharma, I am very pleased with him.  If I send him an e-mail with a question, he almost always calls me the same day and is very responsive to my questions.  When I go for an office visit, I have never waited longer then 15 minutes.  He takes the time to explain to me in detail my treatment and answers all my stupid questions.

Friday, September 30, 2016

WE KEEP GOING BACK TO THE SIERRAS

We keep going back because we like it there, but this time we were also meeting up with our friends, Hansjorg and Silke from Germany.  They had shipped their motor home to the states and were seeing the country, finishing up in San Diego, where they will store the motor home for a return trip next spring.  Also joining us, Gary and Diane, who met up with Hansjorg and Silke further north and were traveling south with them.

Hansjorg and Silke

When we go to the Sierras, we tend to stay in one of two places we like because they are close to hiking.  This time we opted for Robinson Creek a forest service campground outside of Bridgeport.  Both Cathie and I have been coming to this campground since we were children.  It is the place I learned to fish when I was about 10 years old.  Since then, our children learned to fish there, and some of our grandchildren too.



Cathie and I managed to get in a couple of hikes before the rest of the crew arrived.  We headed up to Saddlebag lake, just outside of the east entrance to Yosemite.  At 10,000 we figured it would be a great hike to find out what kind of shape we are in.


I took this photo of Saddlebag Lake this past spring.  The photo below was taken on this last trip.


We took a couple of hikes with the rest of the crew after they arrived.  We headed up into Yosemite and took a 9 mile jaunt from Tuolumne Meadows to American Falls.  Every time we have visited Hansjorg and Silke at their home in the Black Forest, Hansjorg has taken us on extended hikes over hill and dale, so I wanted to repay them with a hike or two in our neck of the woods.  A big difference in hiking in Germany is that every so often you will come upon a cafe where one can obtain refreshments, something not available on most hikes in the States.

Not much water in the Toulumne River







We ran into Ranger Steve on our hike.  He was putting up some new trail signs.  He has been riding his trusty steed in the back country of Yosemite for the past 51 years.  Now that's a long time on horseback.

The following morning, while everyone else slept in, Hansjorg and I took a short hike up to Horsetail Falls.  Up hill to the turnaround point, so we got our workout in for the day. Here's the photos.



We had a little rain

The upper meadow.  There's beaver out there

Next we took a jaunt out to Bodie Ghost Town, a well preserved example of a gold mining town.  In 1859, a small group of prospectors camped there, scratching out a living of sorts on their mining claim.  In 1876, the Standard Company discovered a profitable deposit of gold-bearing ore, which transformed Bodie from an isolated mining camp comprising a few prospectors and company employees to a wild west boomtown. Rich discoveries in the adjacent Bodie Mine during 1878 attracted even more hopeful people. By 1879, Bodie had a population of approximately 5,000–7,000 people and around 2,000 buildings. Over the years, Bodie's mines produced gold valued at nearly US$34 million.
Bodie boomed from late 1877 through mid– to late 1880. The first newspaper, The Standard Pioneer Journal of Mono County, published its first edition on October 10, 1877. It started out as a weekly, but soon became a thrice-weekly paper. It was also during this time that a telegraph line was built which connected Bodie with Bridgeport and Genoa, Nevada. California and Nevada newspapers predicted Bodie would become the next Comstock Lode. Men from both states were lured to Bodie by the prospect of another bonanza.



Hansjorg takes a "break"

Silke thought the picture was of Beethoven
We will forgive her being German

Today

2008

Many of you know I've been messing with a GoPro Camera and I continue to do so.  It's a big learning curve for me, but I think I'm slowly improving.  Here's my latest attempt.




















Saturday, September 03, 2016

Sunday, June 26, 2016

A VIDEO

I keep working at it, trying to figure out how to make a decent video.  A summary of our last trip is the latest attempt.




Tuesday, June 14, 2016

TURNING SOUTH

Our choice of Lake of the Woods, just east of Medford for our next stop was a good one.  We arrived on Memorial Day just as everyone was heading home.  With just a few other campers, we pretty much had the place to ourselves.  Close enough to the lake that I could carry my new kayak down to the water.  We had intended on camping at Crater Lake, but the campground had yet to open for the season.  We did manage to take a drive there for a look, but not much else.  All the hiking trails were still under several feet of snow.



DO PEOPLE REALLY NEED TO BE TOLD THIS?



Just south of the Oregon/California State line is the small town of Tulelake, home to the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge and The Tule Lake Unit, WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument, the latter contains both the Tule Lake Segregation Center and Camp Tulelake.  The segregation center was the largest camp were Japanese citizens were incarcerated during WW II and Camp Tulelake was a Civilian Conservation Camp.  Although we didn't go to the actual site, there is a great little museum in town about the area's history and both camps.  The town's Web Site has a wealth of information.

Just south of Tulelake is Lava Beds National Monument, where of course there is lots of lava.  There are numerous (22) caves or lava tubes one can explore on their own without the assistance of guides or rangers.  The caves range from short, less than 200 feet to the Catacombs Cave at just under 7,000 feet.  Here is the description of the Catacombs Cave in the parks brochure.

"This very long cave is easily entered, but gradually increases in difficulty.  It is possible to walk upright for approximately 800 feet to the stairway, after which the ceiling rarely exceeds 3 feet.  A few places exist where the ceiling height is less that 12 inches."

Yeah, let's go do that one.  Actually we were not prepared to explore caves, but I did manage to take a peek in the Hercules Leg Cave, one where I could remain upright.




While in the area, we attempted to go to Stukel Mountain, but we took the wrong road.


As we continue south our next stop was Eagle Lake, just north of Susanville.  Another place we had never been to, so it was time to check it out.  I did manage to get in a bike ride as the forest service has built a nice trail along the lake shore.  Also I got the kayak wet one morning and did a little exploring and watching the birds.

CAMP AT EAGLE LAKE

We took a drive to the top of Antelope Mountain to pay a visit to the fire lookout.  Upon our arrival we were met by swarms of bumble bees, which had taken over the outhouse. No one was on duty, but we were able to take a look inside.





MT LASSEN

After a brief stop in Reno, we continue our journey to our last camp at Robinson Creek, just outside of Bridgeport.  This being one of our favorite camping spots, it was a good place to finish up this trip. We managed to snag a prime spot right on the creek, which due to the heavy winter snowfall, was roaring.  Both Cathie and I have been coming to this spot since we were children and now our children are following our lead.  Son, Eric called and said he was heading our way and since we had the best spot in the campground, he replaced our rig with his when we pulled out to head home.

MOUNTAINS ABOVE ROBINSON CREEK

HIKING IN LUNDY CANYON

SADDLEBAG LAKE, STILL WITH ICE

CAMPGROUND FULL OF SNOW

SIERRA CREST

MT DANA, BEEN THERE, DONE THAT

SIERRA STORM CLEARS

Well, that about does it for this adventure, but stay tuned as there are many more to come.