April 22 – Day 13: We are staying in Trailer Park Village in the Grand Canyon. It’s a really cool campground. The elk are everywhere!
We hike the eastern part of the south rim in the morning and take a bike tour of the western part in the afternoon. Even the squirrels get close to the edge for a better view.
As usual the pictures don’t do it justice, but we took a lot anyway.
April 23 – Day 14: The one thing Steve says we have to do when we’re in the Grand Canyon is take a helicopter tour. He took one on a previous visit, but at $300 a person, I am the one who is agonizing about spending that much money. My wonderful husband takes one for the bank account and sends me up by myself. I am SO glad he did. It was breathtaking. You can not grasp the enormity and diverseness of the canyon until you see it from above. I take lots of pictures but am disappointed that they didn’t come anywhere near close to capturing what I saw. I take a video as we enter the canyon. I wish I had known that it turned out as good as it did because I would have just videoed the whole tour.
Author’s Note: Steve says the slide shows I’m posting are a little boring and that I should snazz them up a bit. See below for my first attempt. You can watch one of two ways. Click on the video itself or for a full screen viewing click on the link to YouTube.
April 19 – Day 10: We visit Zion National Park. One of the most popular National Parks, parking is limited and a shuttle bus takes you on a tour of the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. The canyon is beautiful but even with cloudy skies, the drive through the park itself is impressive. See for yourself.
Perhaps the most entertaining part of the day was Steve’s experience with the Zion – Mt. Carmel Tunnel. A 1.1 mile long tunnel that connects Zion Canyon to the east side of the park, it was built in the 1920s when vehicles were a lot smaller than they are today. The tunnel is arch-shaped and if your vehicles is taller than 11’4” and wider than 7’10, you can’t travel in a single lane through the tunnel. The rangers have to stop traffic and escort you through the middle of the tunnel where the clearance is higher.
Bottom line, it’s a long narrow tunnel and Steve is a not a big fan of tunnels. We’re in a long line of cars when we enter. Steve is surprised that the truck headlights don’t’ come on since they are set to “AUTO”. He turns them to “ON” and flicks his bright lights on and off.
S (frantically fiddling with the lights): My lights aren’t working. I can’t see s*@t.
M: What do you mean? I can see fine.
Steve continues to fiddle with the lights and is getting increasingly “agitated”. I’m about to crawl in his lap and drive us through the tunnel and then I notice something.
M: Perhaps you could see better if you took your sunglasses off.
S (ripping his sunglasses off his head and spewing an expletive or two): Perhaps, you’re right.
April 20 – Day 11 If you’re an animal lover like me, you cannot visit Kanab, UT without touring Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. If you’re Steve, you go because you love your wife.
Located in Angel Canyon, Best Friends goal is to make our country no-kill by 2025. Caring for about 1600 horses, pigs, goats, sheep, birds, cats and dogs, it’s an impressive operation. We take a 2 hour tour of the entire sanctuary. I choose that tour because it includes hands on time in both Cat World and Dogtown. Yay! What I don’t understand when booking the tour is that there are many different cat “worlds” and dog “towns”. There are the “worlds” and “towns” full of cute kittens, puppies, cats and dogs. And then there are areas for the senior and special needs cats and dogs, the ones who are hard to adopt. Guess where we go for our hands on time? That’s right. Best Friends pulls a fast one on us, hoping that one of these cats or dogs will tug on the heart strings of one of the tour participants and find its forever home.
I enjoy the cat area. The cats all seem to be living a pretty good life.
The dog area is tough. Most of the dogs we see have behavior issues, many triggered by neurological conditions. Some of the dogs are eligible for adoption but a lot of them have purple collars, meaning that their forever home is the Sanctuary.
Best Friends believes in a better world through kindness to animals. While it’s hard to believe that the doggy world of these purple collar dogs is good, it is a little better. And knowing that, my world is a little better, too.
April 18 – Day 9: Visits to Bryce Cannon and Zion National Parks are on the itinerary but after asking Mr. Google what else there is to do here in Kanab, we decide to drive Cottonwood Canyon Road. It’s 47 miles of “unimproved” road full of ups, downs, and switchbacks in the Paria River Valley desert.
Cottonwood Canyon Road is located in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. The Monument is not a National Park. It is managed by the Bureau of Land Management whose mission is “to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.” They are also dog friendly!
The drive was amazing, don’t you think?
There is a trailhead that lies 25 miles up Cottonwood Canyon road called the Cottonwood Wash Narrow. It’s 1.5 miles of impressive rock formations and towering Navajo sandstone walls, a great hike for the 4 of us. Parts of it are very narrow forcing us to walk single file and parts are so steep that we had to carry Cal and Trixie up and down the rocks. We were the only ones in the narrows so we let them off their leash (shhh…don’t tell anyone we broke the “dogs must be on a leash that’s no longer than six feet at all times” rule). Definitely the best day of the trip so far!
April 15 – Day 6: The four of us visit Arches National Park to see a few of the more than 2,000 natural sandstone arches. It’s a beautiful day and the pictures speak for themselves.
April 16 – Day 7: Canyonlands National Park is next. There are four districts in the park. We visited Island in the Sky, a huge, flat-topped mesa with panoramic overlooks. I was a little freaked out because someone likes to stand a little close to the edge.
I finally gave up worrying about him falling and did a little exploring on my own.
It was overcast so the pictures aren’t as crisp but still pretty impressive.
On the way out, we had to wait for the cows to go home
When we lived on FNR, we quickly came to the conclusion that we were Dock Queens. After a couple of days visiting National Parks, we realize we are half-day park people. We go, we look, we leave. This is actually a good thing since Cal and Trixie aren’t allowed in National Parks. Half day visiting a park, half day making sure Cal and Trixie have some fun.
After two days in Moab, we’re ready to head to Kanab and on the way, guess what? It snows.
However, we can’t complain too much since we enjoy this view while eating lunch.
This blog post is dedicated to Rootie, one of the two dogs we left behind when we moved aboard FNR. Luckily, both dogs stayed with family. Each daughter took one. Sadly, Rootie went to the Rainbow Bridge today. He was the best dog ever. Rest in peace, sweet Rooter! YMLY!!
We arrive in Smithville, TN to spend the night with the Unc and Auntie.
April 11 – Day 2: Leave Smithville, TN. Arrive 370 Lakeside Park in St. Peters, MO. A really, really, really nice city-owned 140-acre recreational lake with camping, fishing, boating, hiking and biking.
Let me know when we get there.
Let me know when it’s time to eat.
April 12 – Day 2: Leave St. Peters, MO. Arrive WaKeeney, KS. Nothing much to see along the way except the Gateway Arch, a pretty impressive bridge and some windmills. Steve fought some mean head winds and some of us slept.
April 13 – Day 4: Leave WaKeeney, KS. Arrive Parachute, CO.
This is a Friday as in Friday the 13th. I have never been overly superstitious but I may think twice before traveling on Friday the 13th going forward.
We check the weather. Blizzard warnings have been posted in parts of the central Plains and Midwest. We are in Kansas. Kansas is in the Midwest. We need to get the hell out of WaKeeney.
We are on the road before 7:00 AM. It’s snowing by 8:30 AM. The wind is blowing snow, tumbleweeds, and us across the interstate. But once a sailor, always a sailor so Captain Steve battens down the hatches and pilots us across Colorado.
Ten hours later, the snow is behind us, and we stop for a much needed break. Steve walks the dogs and I go into the camper to get us something to eat. Uh oh. There’s water on the floor. I look in the bathroom and look up. What??? Who left the #$@&%*! vent open? I reach for the handle to crank it closed. What??? Where’s the #$@&%*! handle? I look around. Why is the #$@&%*! handle on the floor?
Steve comes in. We assume the wind caught the vent cover with enough force to break the handle. Steve removes the screen, the fan blades and the motor and pulls the vent cover closed. He uses twist ties to secure it. I mop up water.
Exhausted, we decide to get a hotel room for the night. I make a reservation. About 20 miles out, a guy in a truck zooms up beside us, honking and pointing frantically at the camper. We stop. We look. We have a flat tire.
We check into the hotel at 6:00 PM. Tired, but not discouraged because now I have something to blog about!
April 14 – Day 4: Leave Parachute, CO. Arrive Moab, UT where the pictures speak for themselves.
Well, of course, blood clots suck especially when they are huge honking big ones in your lungs but they suck even more when you find out you’re in the 1% of patients who go on to develop chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension. CTEPH is a complicated disease and Mr. Google can tell you all about it if you are so inclined to ask him.
For Steve, it means his lungs have not been filling up with air the way they’re supposed to and he’s terribly short of breath. We think it’s because his blood clots did not dissolve the way most blood clots do and that’s what clogging his pulmonary arteries. Steve’s heart has been working really, really hard to pump oxygen into his lungs and left untreated, he will die of heart failure.
So that’s the sucky bad news. The good news is that some patients with CTEPH can potentially be cured with a surgery called PTE – pulmonary thromboendarterectomy – where they go in with a high tech Roto-Rooter and remove gunk from clogged arteries.
We found all this out after a pulmonologist at Duke put Steve through a slew of tests on September 1. Needless to say, the last week and a half has been tough. Biding time gives you way too much time to think.
Steve was admitted to Duke on Monday. More tests were done on Tuesday, the results of which indicated that Steve – THANK, GOD – was a surgical candidate. Surgery was performed on Wednesday and, I am beyond thrilled to report, that it was successful.
This was a huuuge surgery.
Steve’s chest was cracked open. He was placed on cardio-pulmonary bypass and his body was cooled to about 65°F. They had to make him that cold because in order to roto-root his arteries they needed a bloodless surgical field. In order to get a bloodless surgical field, they had to stop his circulation. In order to stop his circulation, they had to turn off the bypass machine thereby depriving his body of oxygen. In order to protect his body from lack of oxygen, they had drop his body temperature. And…they had to stop his circulation TWICE for a total of 47 minutes– once to roto-root the right side and once to roto-root the left. If you are grossed out by yucky stuff, don’t click here.
He’s in ICU on a ventilator now and will be there for two, maybe three days. Once he’s stable and breathing on his own, he will be transferred to a “regular” room for the remainder of his stay.
Of course, we expect Steve to kick the crap out of all of this and Young Son is taking bets as to the first sarcastic remark out of his dad’s mouth when he wakes up. We have been told to plan on two weeks in the hospital. Steve’s goal is to be discharged in one. Kind of makes you wonder who’s going to be happier to see him walk out those hospital doors – us or the staff at Duke?
Kudos and eternal gratitude to Jeffrey Sparks, MD for knowing something wasn’t right, to Pulmonologist, Victor Test, MD for the spot-on diagnosis and to Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Jack Haney, MD for the life-saving surgery.