Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Family Medical Issues

I don’t want to post details of what is going on except to say I just made an emergency trip from Paso Robles, CA to Seattle, WA due to serious medical issues of family members.  I didn’t feel I could cope with the problems from 1,000 miles away.  I literally spent my last dime to get here and have been stranded without gas money since.  But people are pitching in to help me.  Thank all of you who have donated (there is a donate button in the upper right corner of this site).

I continue to be amazed and humbled by the generosity of my online tribal family. For those of you who only follow me here, I write this blog post, but I have posted some details on the Facebook group: Vandwellers & Vehicle Dwellers Lifestyle Help & Share Group if you are a member there.  I also update more frequently on Swankie Wheels Facebook page, though I don’t feel right about posting health issues of my family members.  The medical issues are heart for one of them, and hip and infected vein for another.

Now that I have landed and settled a bit, arranging for my mail to catch up with me, crashing after the long hard drive up here, and dealing with the depression of not taking time to load my bike or Kayak before hitting the road… I am getting back to my normal activities.  I owe a couple of people sketches that are overdue and one painting.  I am trying to stay on track with my goals, training for the AZ Trail next year and am now biking (stationary) 8 miles and walking (treadmill) 3 miles.  I push it a little farther each week.  But it is difficult, I am so concerned about the people I love.

Please hang in there with me.  Thank you for your understanding and patience.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A New Challenge–Update June 22nd: 820-mile Arizona Trail

This is Part II of my posts about training for the Arizona Trail. Read Part I.

I have begun training to hike the Arizona National Scenic Trail


The Arizona Trail is an 800+ mile recreation trail from Mexico to Utah.

My challenge is to get my body fit and ready – all body parts must work.  This is a big challenge, since I have been mainly just sitting on a kayak for the past five years. 


Right: 2009, Left: 2014


1) Ball of left foot – RESOLVED:  callus was causing pinching and blister.  Thought it was a bone spur but and seems to have gone away with increased walking on the treadmill.  Good, since I need to be able to walk 15 miles or more on most days.

2) Left Buttocks - ON GOING Issue: gluteal maximus muscle sprain, or hamstring pull????   Physical Therapist says it is micro-tears in the ligament attaching the hamstring muscle to the butt bone.  I am working on resolving this by working the surrounding muscles more. Was told not to sit lopsided to get the pressure off the left side, but to keep my pelvis level and only tip it forward or backward to relieve the pressure.  May also try one of those butt donuts.  Have had x-ray, but of course that won’t show the soft tissues, and have not yet reviewed them with doctor.  Maybe NOT too Bad – as it doesn’t seem to bother me walking on the treadmill.  Still a concern.

3) Back Issues - RESOLVED:  I began training on 3/4/14 and on 3/11/14,  I ended up in the Emergency Room due to severe back pain.  My pain was so bad they gave me a shot in my spin and rushed me off to the MRI.  Images showed I had four severely budging disc in my back. Physical Therapy began me on core work and no longer have low back pain. Part of the problem could also have been that my bowels were impacted.  I didn’t realize this could happen and didn’t make a connection that such a thing could affect your back/spine. Between managing both of those things, the core muscles and the gut, problem is gone.  Spine doctor has released me from his care and says surgery is not needed. 

4) Food intake: The gut issues made me realize I had to pay more attention to what I was eating.  My new primary care doctor, Dr. Matthew Talarico, Templeton, CA, suggested I get off meat and cheese as they are “inflammatories” and get the book “Superfood Smoothies” by Julie Morris.   My goal is to get fit, any weight loss is just icing on the cake (pun intended), besides I have already lost about 60 pounds.  Eating the right foods is key to getting fit.  This is not something I can change overnight.. it is a lifestyle change. 

I will be hiking for over two months in the wilderness, and can’t do smoothies out there anyway.  My plan is to change slowly, use up foods I have on hand, and to slowly buy the ingredients with long shelf life that are mentioned in the book.  After the hike is completed, I hope to ease into near 100% “smoothie” lifestyle, though I don’t ever expect to hit it 100%.  Probably after the hike, later in 2015, I will buy a second refrigerator for the van, and will keep one as a freezer, allowing me to keep frozen fruits and vegetables on hand for smoothies.  Excellent, but a long term plan.  Short term, do my very best to make all my foods nutrient rich.

5) Right shoulder – ONGOING but improving:  I have had two surgeries on my right shoulder.  a) Rotator Cuff repair and b) cutting part of the clavicle off, that my bones were getting stuck on and popping across (I’ll look up the name later).  Doctor gave me Novocain and cortisone injections in the shoulder. June 30, I return to see if Physical Therapy and Massage Therapy is improving the pain and Range of Motion – and I believe it is.  May have an MRI at that time. Still concerned as this could be bad if I am hundreds of miles away from civilization and my right arm won’t move, or lift, or tolerate a 40 pound backpack.  Must resolve this issue.

6) Left knee: Status Unchanged.  In November 2005, I had a total knee replacement.  The day after surgery, I fell out of the hospital bed, and broke the prosthesis loose from the bone.  There is something in the left knee not right.  If a sit on a low toilet or low stool, there is a painful crunching and popping on the outside of the left knee.  I don’t know what that is, but I am going to have to address it soon.  Will make an appointment to discuss this with Dr. Sima as soon as possible.  Bad – I have to make sure it is not something that could fowl up walking 820 miles.

7) Medications:  My goal is to get off all prescription meds before hitting the trail.  I will of course carry some “as needed” meds as first aid.  Currently, I have two meds to wean myself off of (under doctor supervision).  Tried to get off Prilosec for the second time and lasted 3 days before I had to begin taking it again.  So, still two to go. I have reduced Ibuprofen 50%.   I will be listing my medicine kit as I prepare my gear.  Great – considering the side effects of many pharmaceuticals today.

8) Skin – progress continues:  The gym I joined has tanning rooms.  So, I decided I should try it one day. WELL, guess what folks… the tanning is changing my skin and it is smoothing out and changing and feels very nice, like silk.  Little bumps are going away.  I am no longer WHITE as a ghost but tan  for once in my life and my skin is now darker than my hair.  I feel this will help me for the time I am out in full sun all day long on the hike. Great, the point is, I didn’t realize that tanning could have a positive effect on my health, but it has.

9) Lungs/COPD – CONTROLLED:  Back in 2007 or so I was diagnosed with COPD.  I carry no COPD meds and consider it a non-issue now.  Just have to be careful to get away from any airborne allergens, so I don’t have a flare-up. I tried a couple days in Fresno, June 20-21, and air quality was too poor to stay, and my throat began to burn.  Great change and a non-issue today.

10) Psychology of solo hiking – I am certain there are things to consider, but I won’t address them at this time, because I don’t think it is possible to anticipate what they might be.

That’s it.  Those are the changes in my physical issues.  Three months ago it took me 1 hr. to walk on the treadmill for 1/4 mile.  Yesterday I did 1.4 miles in 30 minutes, without any discomfort, but still can not reach my training heart rate(THR) of 124-137.  I can only get up to 120… so I am pushing this next week to get to THR and hold it for 20 minutes 3 times a week.  The more I push myself, the healthier I become so long as I make sure my body has the proper fuel and plenty of water.


Live life to the fullest… that can only happen if your body is the best you can make it.


June 21, 2014 – my great niece, Charlie looking at that photo of me in 2002 in the red shirt… and she was shocked at the changes.  It’s all good folks.

I will keep this format for future posts, to record changes and discoveries between now and the beginning of the hike.  My goal again, is to get as fit as possible before the hike begins.  When the hike ends, I expect to be the most fit I have been in my life… at age 71.

Adding swimming to the mix this week, now that my shoulder is improving.

Never give up.

Monday, May 26, 2014

50th State: Hawaii–Swankie’s Final State to Paddle


Photo by Richard Bailey

This is a long post with lots of photos, so give it time to load.  I felt that my readers deserve to know what Hawaii was like for me. Thank you all for your support.

Took an airbus shuttle from Monterey, CA to the San Jose, CA airport at 4am on 5/13.  Flight left at 8:30am and I arrived in Maui midday.  Took six local buses to the timeshare my friends Matt and Cherrish Beals would be staying in that night, they would be arriving later in the evening.  I made myself comfortable in a recreation area and watched t.v. until they arrived.  First two nights I would be staying with them.  The next evening my son would arrive and I stayed in his hotel that night. 


Rich checking out the view from our timeshare.
Rich said: “This does not suck.”

The next three nights we stayed in another timeshare provided as a gift to me, by Matt and Cherrish.  Last night I was on Maui, I stayed with Matt and Cherrish again… and they took me back to the airport the next day.  Kinda a crazy schedule, but it was the only way I could have afforded the trip and reached my goal to kayak Hawaii this year.

Saw some interesting things while waiting for others to arrive.  This dog had just jumped from the empty surf board to the one he is on in the photo.  No fear.


I had finally come to the end of my Kayak America Adventure… Hawaii, my 50th state to kayak.  Although we talked about renting gear and kayaks and doing our own thing, I decided I wanted to use Maui Kayaks and do a tour to make sure I got to see interesting stuff.  I decided on their Makena/Wailea Explorer Tour.


Photo by Matt Beals.

May 16, 2014 – Charlene’s 70th Birthday.

From their brochure:  Our Signature Trip!  This South Maui kayak and snorkel eco-adventure is no ka oi!  Enjoy the calm, clear waters of Turtle Town where you will encounter an abundance of Hawaiian green sea turtles, occasional dolphin sightings, as well as dozens of vibrant tropical species of fish.  Experience snorkeling at Five Graves, where you can look into the skylight cave from the water’s surface or swim down and get a closer look!  Explore the historic Pu’uolai coastline.  We finish our adventure with a delicious buffet-style picnic lunch on the beach.

We arrived at the appointed spot at 7am and got our gear, kayaks, and instructions.  As luck would have it, at least from my point of view, another woman was suppose to be in our group, but had sprained her ankle and cancelled.  We had our guide all to ourselves.


Our guide, John Sheppell.


As soon as we reached the area… we saw turtles.  The one below is heading straight toward my kayak (that’s the tip of my kayak) and that is Cherrish in the other kayak.


I love the next photo, as I am not zoomed in… he was really that close.


He dove below the surface right next to me and though my camera is good down to 5’ underwater, I just didn’t want to risk it.  However Rich had a GoPro with him and got underwater photos of this one and others after we were all in the water.IMGA0953IMGA0951

I have only once before gotten off my kayak in deep water, and when I did it was extremely difficult to get back onboard (a supervised self rescue in the Monterey Bay, with instructors of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary standing by and advising me).  A self-rescue is mandatory in becoming a volunteer for the group.  So I was concerned about throwing myself out of the boat with only a snorkel mask, leaving the life vest in the boat.  But off I went.  I tend to panic when I try to use a snorkel, so I didn’t put the mouthpiece in my mouth until I was in the water and comfortable bobbing around.

My son and I kayaking Hawaii together.  His birthday is a week before mine.  What a hoot.


Finally we were all in the water and swimming with the sea turtles. 


Photo by Matt Beals

Very large Green Hawaiian Sea Turtle, me behind it, and my son with his GoPro camera on the right.  This was the highlight of my Hawaiian experience.

After our paddle and swim with the turtles, we returned to the beach to a wonderful lunch that John (guide) had prepared for us.



He was a wonderful guide, and knowledgeable about all the wildlife and sea creatures and a funny funny guy.  John Sheppell (I think that is his last name but can’t find his card right now).  He wanted me to share a link to his photography which supplements his income.  I will add it when I find the card.

It was a grand birthday and I just don’t see how any birthday can get any better than this one.


That evening we all went to dinner together at Mala’s on the shore.  It was a wonderful meal and the boys picked up the tab.  Very good food and sea turtles swimming in the water right beside us.  So many sea turtles.




Next morning my son Richard treated me to breakfast as Slappy Cakes.  They have griddles build right into your table… I ordered a gluten free batter and cooked my own pancakes loaded with fruit right at the table.  I had never heard of anything like that before.


Another day, my son, Richard Bailey and I decided it would be fun to dive in a submarine and so when out on the Atlantis Submarine based in Lahaina, Maui. 


There I go, down the hatch. Photo by son Richard Bailey. 


A shuttle boat is used to transfer passengers from the dock to the sub.


The “Roxi” is the pilot boat that keeps an eye on the surface and communicates with the sub about surfacing, etc.  It also tows the sub back into port each night. 



Can you see the Puffer fish on the left?


Our Captain at the helm


The submarine was much roomier than I expected and I didn’t have any sense of fear or impending panic attack.  I highly recommend this adventure.

Richard took me to dinner at Bubba Gump's Shrimp place.  The restaurant  was built around this very large Monkey Pod Tree.  The trunk of the tree is inside the restaurant.  The branches span beyond the walls of the restaurant.  Wild tree.


We walked around town a bit and noted the wonderful plants and interesting sites.

In the local park near the boat dock, there was a local surfboarding competition going on.  This young boy was practicing moves on a skate board.  Can’t you just see this boy out on a great pipe wave?




And then, as if my birthday could get any better, I get a surprise call from my sister-in-law, Ruth Sosa Bailey, who just flew in to Maui with her mother, to help celebrate my birthday.  We met them at Mixed Plates dinner for drinks.  Later that day we all went for pizza.


We watched a sunset together and Richard showed/introduced Senora Sosa to his ball… and did contact juggling for her.  She was fascinated and she adored Richard (who doesn’t?).  She loved the juggling as well.  And I loved her to pieces.  What a neat, happy, crazy lady.  And of course, my sister-in-law is also a jewel.  Thank you both for celebrating this special time with me.

And we spent some time walking around town, peaking in shops, eating ice cream and admiring the giant Banyan tree.


And then there were the sunsets and more contact juggling by Richard.


Thank you Richard and Matt for my wonderful and awesome birthday.


Hau’oli la Hanau to everyone else having birthdays.  Mahala and Aloha.

What’s Up Next? 
Hiking the 820-mile long Arizona Trail in 2015.

Summary of the Kayaking Adventure

Who is Swankie?

My Photo
Anywhere, USA, Full-Time USA traveler, United States
In 2006, I was shopping for a wheelchair. By 2007 I had new knees, better health and by 2008 a kayak. In Aug 2013, I kayaked my 49th state, Alaska, at the Holgate Glacier and in May 2014, I kayaked Hawaii, my 50th state, to celebrate my 70th Birthday and the finale to the wonderful adventure of Kayaking America? Next up... Hiking the Arizona Trail, 820 miles in 2015 solo. In training now for the hike.