Friday, November 28, 2014

What I am NOT Thankful For!


Chef Steve, lowering the turkey into the deep fat fryer.  Took 45 min. to cook that bird.  It was yummy.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving 2014, and I spent it with my “vanily.”  That’s right, VAN-ily.   (Van + family)  There were about 40 of us gathered off grid in the AZ desert with no services.  My friend, Steven, was the Host and Chef with the Most.  He did all the work of preparing one of the best thanksgiving meals I ever had.  I prepared an apple/pecan cobbler that was to die for.  It was a great meal and good time renewing old friendships and beginning new ones.  I got to meet three new tribal dogs, Kaylee, Cody, and Max.  So, you would think I would be happy.  But it’s just not so.


Just at dusk, this horrible cloud of smog blew in from the west, agricultural dust from CO River Valley, ATV and Mountain bike dust, and truck fumes.  I had to retreat to the van, put on a mask, and run my A/C until the cloud passed.  How is that fun???  This I am not thankful for.

I woke in the night with allergic reactions to dogs, dust and the pollution.  My eyes were itching, my nose was running, I was stuffy and having trouble breathing.  I was also up all night peeing gallons (???).  What the heck?  Why does my price for having fun have to be so high?  This morning, I came to the realization, one I have been fighting for a couple years, that I would not be able to continue to gather with the tribe for the desert dinners and for RTR.  My allergies have just gotten too bad.  In the future I will be remaining in an isolated camp alone, and will try to remain healthy enough to endure the exposure I get from dust of the rock club itself… and avoid any other allergens in the future. This I am not happy for.  Hopefully, I will not have to give up the Rock Club, my original reason for coming to Quartzsite.  That I would not be thankful for.


Cody (Bob Wells new dog) and Kaylee (Lori Hicks new dog), playing besides the chairs.

I love dogs. They know it and all want to come to me.  I have to be mean and firm and cruel to them to keep them away.  They want to romp under my feet and kick up dust that I have to breath, so I have to be mean and wear a mask.  That is not fun for me.  This I am not thankful for.  We had half a dozen dogs at Thanksgiving dinner and I expect a minimum of 2 dozen at the RTR, most will be allowed to run loose and pee on whatever they wish.  One peed on the canopy of my blue chair, while it was down.  Some clubs, like WINS has a rule against bringing your dogs to the meeting circles and meals.  There will never be a rule like that for RTR, so I will just have to stop attending after this Jan. 2015.  I have to choose between the RTR and my health.  It is unfortunate, but that is just the reality of it.  The dogs have more rights and freedom than I do… this I am not happy for.

I am hoping the year will end on a better note, but am stressed out about that as well. My son had his 3rd hip replacement on his right hip in two years.  That 3rd was in November, and when he went back for a check up  and to get staples out a couple of days ago, they discovered his femur had fractured.  This I was not thankful for.


So December 2, his daughter is having open heart surgery, and on December 3, he is having his 4th hip surgery, to go in and wire his femur back together.  Astonishingly, he reports that he is having NO pain at all.  I believe the pain would be unbearable, so his body and mind have shut it all down.  This is very stressful for me.


A tooth in a box… cost $950.00

And then there is the botched Mexican dental work that I am having to pay to have redone in America.   $950 out of pocket to a Mexican dentist… only to have the final crown fall out two days later because he used the wrong size abutment (and he knew it was wrong, but didn’t tell me and went ahead and let me pay him the balance).  He agreed to a refund in October, but I have yet to see one penny.  This I was not happy for.  NEVER go to this dentist… he is not reliable, honest, nor honorable.

Beware:   Dr. Sabas Magana Ambriz in Los Algodones, B.C. Mexico

I want my blog to be upbeat and all about fun and adventure, but I swear 2014 is making that a real challenge.  I will make one more post in 2014, and I promise you it will be a happy fun one.  Stick with me, my dear followers.  Swankie will be swankie again before too long.  And if you pray, please keep my son and granddaughter in your prayers.


It might be a genetic flaw… we laugh and get silly when serious stuff happens.  I would be very thankful for all the prayers you can send their way.  They both deserve to have full and happy lives, even if I don’t.  This I would be very thankful for.  Thank you.

I’ll be back, Swankier!!!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Who Am I???? Where do I belong???


First, my apologies for not posting in a couple months.  It has been a confusing and overwhelming time for me with family medical issues, car mishaps, and emotional entanglements.  I feel ungrounded and lost.

This morning was the first Orientation Meeting for the Rock Club.  I was asked to attend and help with new members and in the Lapidary Orientation.  So, showed up as I said I would, only to find the other volunteers knew nothing about me.  They shoved a bunch of instructions at me, the guy leading the Orientation appointment me  THE “Shop Foreman”… and so I tried to do as I was asked only to find the other “instructors” looking over my shoulder at everything I was telling others… and correcting me.  I found it confusing and so after an hour or so… I felt the urge to flee and so I fled.  They really did not need my help, and I guess the way I learned things is different from the way they are teaching things now, so I will require some re-training before I allow myself to be put in that role again (I AM NOT a “Lapidary Instructor”… I need far more training than I have had for that role), if I do ever allow that, again.

I fled to my secret place in the desert where they are NO people.  It seems to be the only environment where I can think clearly.  I took a walk, I found the above crystal, my head cleared and I could breath easier.  I decided if I am going to be a Quartzsite Roadrunner Gem and Mineral Club volunteer, for now… this year anyway, it will have to be in behind-the-scenes roles… like editing the Newsletter.  I have agreed to edit the first newsletter of the year… ONLY.  Have 1.5 hrs. into that and will finish it in 1.5 hrs. or less tomorrow.  Could have finished it in 2 hrs. total, if all the “news” had been turned in.

So, I still find myself asking Who Am I?  Where do I belong?  I never seem to fit anywhere.  I look back on my blog post from a year ago… and can’t see that I have made any progress.

November 8, 2013 I wrote: 

I come to Quartzsite each winter to learn about making jewelry, it is only a coincidence that Rubber Tramp Rendezvous (RTR) began happening here too. But, right now I need to be close enough to walk to town in a reasonable amount of time and I get tired of hiding from Clyde (BLM employee/ranger) and trying to be legal. I need to be able to unpack, set up camp and relax and have a home to come back to after a hard day of sawing rocks and cutting stones, and polishing stuff and making jewelry, etc. and so forth. RTR is only two weeks out of the whole winter. And as much fun as the RTR is, I do have a life outside RTR. Rocks come first and I get to do that ALL winter long.

Now, I find I am not as interested in rocks as I was then.  I have downsized the number I am keeping, and hope to downsize even more this year, IF I don’t get rid of them all.  At least… Clyde is not returning this year, and I have paid for the LTVA permit so I am legal so long as I stay within 500 ft. of a Vault Toilet.  I don’t like my camp as well this year… as I could not return to the same location due to storm damage.  This was last year’s camp:


Where my van is parked above, lies the top 3rd of this tree. So the top of the tree is no longer there to shade the carpet area. I can’t park there, I can’t pull the trailer through there, and so I have set up camp across the wash from this spot in a far less desirable location.  I am not happy.  The wind has been blowing for a week and I can’t leave my side walls down.  I feel unsettled.

This time last year I had finished kayaking Alaska, and was looking forward to kayaking Hawaii in May 2014.  I did that and was jubilant beyond words.  I was hopeful and looking toward the future.  I was pleased with the progress I made in becoming the best I could be. Below, how much can you change after six years on the road??


After kayaking Hawaii, my plan was to begin training for the AZ Trail Hike in spring of 2015. But I got derailed by getting into an unwise emotional relationship, and by family medical situations which I felt required my presence.  I was wrong on both counts, but those events costs me financially more than I could afford …and resulted in me having to delay my Arizona National Scenic Trail Hike one year.  I can not now afford to outfit myself for the hike or to properly plan it out and get fit. Now I find myself depressed… and fighting that with all I have to fight with, and the continually nagging question, “Who am I?”

I thought reaching out to help others would make me feel better, but I only get a momentary high from that, then I find myself wanting to be alone again… totally alone.  I don’t know how to fight this.  I have joined the Rock Club and offered to help in ways I felt I could best contribute.  I have reached out to another vandweller who is just launching into this lifestyle, but find myself doing an approach/ avoidance thing with that arrangement, even though I really like this person.  I have joined the Metal Detecting Club and will get out and be as active as I can with them.  But I approach something I think I want to do, and then get this urge to turn and flee as fast as I can the other direction.  What is wrong with me?  Where do I belong?


Son and Granddaughter, both on IV Antibiotics most of the summer and fall.  What the heck???

I suppose this is not new to some of my readers and may be normal human behavior after emotionally charged life events?  I.E., I have a granddaughter scheduled for open heart surgery very soon and her father, my son, having his third hip replacement surgery on the same hip in two years… about the same time.  I went to be with them this summer and help where and how I could, but did not get the feeling that I was appreciated, needed, or even wanted… so I left.  I can not afford a return trip for their surgeries, regardless of the outcomes, I can only hope and pray that the outcomes will be positive for them.


And then there is the botched Mexican dental work which has cost me over $1,000 and I have nothing to show for it but a tooth in a box.  I am trying to get the promised refund, but so far that amounts to zero.  The Mexican implant is going to have to be pulled out and all the work done over again.  Do not go to that dentist. (Dr. Sabas Magana Ambriz in Los Algodones, B.C. Mexico)  Also I was under the false impression that my Delta Dental Ins. would pay for out of pocket expenses I paid to a Mexican Dentist but that will only happen if you have a Mexican address on file with the Ins. company.  So, my claim was denied.

I am just out $1,000, plus the expenses of getting to Washington state and then back south again, a trip I was not going to take this year, and have nothing to show for it but depression.  I MUST find a way to fight my way out of this depression.  Hopefully I will also find a way to write an up-beat blog post soon, about desert rocks and metal detecting…. and hopefully, the wind will stop blowing.  Without wind, I love the desert.


If you run into Swankie out there, send her my way. She needs to help me find myself.  But I do still know how to find the sunsets.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

In Search of Solitude

Well, I lived through the drama (unplanned trip to Seattle, WA, son’s 2nd hip surgery and complications, upcoming heart surgery for my granddaughter, damaging my van requiring replacement of three right side doors, hassles with insurance company and auto repair shops, the threat of loosing my van, repairs, being “homeless,” being taken is by wonderful friends who I will never be able to repay, and feeling suicidal).  I have come out the other side, not exactly looking back on it all and laughing yet, but I’m moving in that direction.  And I have my van home back and I’m on the road again.
Once past Eugene OR going south, the world begins to feel a little more sane, and traffic starts to ease up. I knew there was a WINS (Wandering Individuals Network) gathering not far off my path, so I contacted them to see if I could join them overnight. For a few years I had thought about it, but recent photos they posted of kayaking adventures inspired me to actually stop, socialize and join signing up for a 1 year membership ...($70). There is a members' blog list, which I asked to be added to.   (Normally I add a link to things like WINS but I will not… you can google it.) The next morning I met at their hugging circle (right just what I needed a bunch of hugs from strangers)... and listened and watched, as they received instructions for the day. Everyone was happy and excited, but it reminded me a little of being back in grade school with the teacher at the head of the class and all the little obedient children paying attention. Then as they departed for the various activities, the president came up to me with a couple questions about my blog and what I needed to remove/change about it in order to be listed on their list. Sanitation... he said he could not list my blog as long as there was anything on it about going to the toilet. WTF??? Really! Here is the page in question. . I said it would be fixed but as I parted and headed down the road, I just got increasingly more aggravated by his request. So later in the day, after discussing this with a couple of my friends on FB Chat... I decided to cancel my membership application and request a refund.. I decided WINS was just not a good fit for me... and after six years of writing that blog, I was not going to change it to protect their sensitive members from the topic of "living small." Poop on that. (Pun intended).  Now if my readers complained, I might make some changes. IMGA0483 So off I went in search of solitude. Getting closer, but nope, this is not it. Water in the man-made Galesville Reservoir was depressingly low and I didn't need anything else depressing in my life right now. Onward. IMGA0470 Not a bad place, that Galesville Reservoir and it might be fun to kayak, but I don't have my kayak with me. And no overnight parking is allowed anywhere but the campground, which had only a few closely-packed sites with no privacy for $15 a night. I can do better... onward. IMGA0479 But I am beginning to see more wildlife... wild turkeys, geese flying south... etc. OK Swankie still flying south too... While waiting in Washington for my van, I became driven to get away from the cities, the pollution, the people, the traffic and find some solitude and a mountain. Well yesterday morning sunrise, through the smog... sun is off to the left still... was o.k. but I can do better.... need mountains. Air in OR down Rt. 5 was awful, burning my throat in spite of having windows closed, A/C on and wearing a mask. I had to get out of this. Onward... need a mountain.

Last evening, I spent time half way up this mountain on a paved road, little traffic, but I didn't sleep well. I knew I could not sit outside at this location and paint... so I kept driving higher on the mountain this morning until I came to this. Finally, a mountain. I have only passed two parked vehicles coming up here... and I think I will stay awhile. Maybe a day, maybe more. I need to heal my heart, my body, my mind, my throat, my soul.  I can begin to do that here. IMGA0508 A Swankie-style home. I challenge any of those WINS members to wake up to this view.. they could not even get their rigs up here. They are camped literally on the highway in Junction City, OR in an RV Dealer Parking lot. Would you trade this for that? IMGA0525 So here is my new camp. I can't make a fire and probably wouldn't if I could, but I have a very nice and clean fire ring, and I can sit out there in the morning and enjoy more sunrises. IMGA0528 The road coming in to my camp. Only the last little stretch of the road was off pavement. Been on roads much worse. And there is one low area I would want to get back across if rain threatened, but skies are clear and dry.°22'56.9%22N+123°38'12.5%22W/@42.3820346,-123.639298,439m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x0:0x0?hl=en IMGA0529 Here I will finish this painting for a friend in Paso Robles. Last commitment I have to anyone else. I will then be free again. I have solitude here, to think, to find myself again. I don't know how I got so off track back in March, but I vow to work hard at never letting that happen again. Only ONE thing could make this day better and that would be if there was water here and I had my kayak. So it can get better than this, but for today, this is all I want or need. I have plenty of food and water and a cell signal. I am blessed.
(Updated: Sept. 29, 2014) Painting delivered, customer happy.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Insurance Company wants to total out my van.

I sideswiped a concrete post in a parking lot and bent 3 of the four hinges on my side doors.  The pillars the hinges were welded to were slightly bent inward, less than 1".  For this, the insurance company is totaling out my van.  I got this message from them late afternoon (8/14):

"Ms. Swankie, I spoke with Kirmac as well as our staff Property Damage Specialist and they have advised me that due to the amount of damage sustained from this loss, that your vehicle is a total loss. This is the reason we have not received the final estimate from Kirmac because the shop needs to complete a thorough inspection to determine the full extent of the damage and potential costs of parts and labor. Once we receive the finalized total loss estimate, a representative from our total loss department will be in contact with you about the next steps. Regards,  __________.

Then, this morning (8/15) I get this message from Insurance Co. - "Your vehicle has been inspected, and the appraiser is determining whether it is repairable. We'll share the appraisal results soon."

It's like the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing.  I want to scream.

Dang it!   I should have stayed in California.

Luckily I was near friends who for some strange reason like me enough to help me get through this, but my heart is broken over my un-SwankieWheels.

The post is almost a foot away from the curb, not in line with the previous post the camera is sitting on top of and a real hazard.  I am not the first person to leave marks on this post.  By the way, the coating on the post was not cut through????  And the plastic totally my van pulling away from a dead stop at a very slow speed?????    Stay far far away from concrete post, covered in plastic, that are in parking lots or in gas stations.  They DO NOT yield.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

My Remarkable Son–Richard S. Bailey


Chris, me, and Richard, in Amsterdam, Netherlands, 1969.

Both of my sons are truly remarkable and amazing men, but this post is about the youngest, my “bounding baby boy” Richard S. Bailey.


Chris Bailey, 1966, Teheran, Iran

My first born, Chris Bailey, a “big … red-headed…. boy” the doctor exclaimed as he was delivering him… is an amazing man in his own right.  He got up and walked on his own at nine months and never sat back down.  He continued to walk and years later walked the entire 2,200 mile-long Appalachian Trail, and a few years after that the 2,600 mile-long Pacific Crest Trail.  He put himself through college and graduated Suma Cum Laude from the College of Jurisprudence in Baltimore Maryland.  Later he became an airline pilot, flying a puddle jumper in Alaska, and then flying for “some rich guy” in his private jet (he never told me who that was). Then he became a Dad… and determined he would be the best Dad he could and give his children a better childhood than he had had in a single parent home… and he settled down in a small town, becoming an organic gardener (he always loved to grow things) just so he could be home more of the time with his kids. 


But this story is about his little brother Richard… I just want to make sure they both know, and the world knows, that I love and admire them both the same… and never favored one or the other.  I am sure it seemed to Chris growing up that I did favor Richard, but that is just not true.  So back to Richie’s Story.bailey_rich_095

Richard’s first passport photo.

As an infant, he would not “bounce” in my lap.  The very second he stiffened his legs to stand and hold himself up, he would just fold his legs and sit down.  He would not “bounce.”  Why?  I was puzzled.  Chris was off and running like he was born six months old.  Rich would not stand and would not bounce.  Each doctor appointment I would say, “Something is wrong with his hips!”  What is wrong with him?  He doesn’t seem to be in pain.  He just won’t stand up for more than a couple seconds.  Rich just said today (August 2, 2014) that “The field is ever changing. Can’t really piss on the docs for not knowing something no one knew about. There are evolutionary advantages to being born late.”


Later, while Chris walked at 9 months (that is actually a photo of his first steps.. and genuine look of surprise realizing he was walking), Richard didn’t walk until 18 months and then he wouldn’t do more than just what was required. There are no photos of Rich walking as a toddler… he just didn’t do it.   Chris began to call him lazy and resent him.  I didn’t think him lazy, I just didn’t know what was wrong.  Doctors never found anything wrong with him.  They would stretch his legs out, check their length, flexibility, etc. and say, nothing is wrong.

In school, he would not participate in any sports or gym activities, unless he was forced to participate.  At home, he would avoid anything physically strenuous like lifting or carrying things leaving all the hard work for his big brother… causing even more resentment. Still I did not see him as “lazy.”  He went to live with his Dad for his high school years, and the school insisted he had to have some P.E. credits to graduate…. so he got them to agree to let him roller skate for the credit.  He loved the speed and gliding of skating… which I am assuming gave him a feeling of freedom.


Rich’s first computer (TRS 80), and decades later a Senior Microsoft Software Engineer.

Both my sons are brainy.  Both have high I.Q.s and photographic memories (inherited from their father, not their mother), and both find learning new things to be pretty darned easy compared to my learning style.  Rich has a super brain… one made for advanced technology, which he has soaked up like he was a dry sponge.  He has never been able to learn new technology fast enough… so he has excelled in that field.


He took up skydiving, a sport that doesn’t put a lot of stress on your hip joints unless you have a bad landing.  I guess, after thousands of jumps, that has happened a few times.  A couple of years ago he had a total hip replacement because his right hip was worn out.  Why was it worn out???  Turns out, I was right, there was something wrong with his hips, or at least the right one.  Instead of a rounded ball on his femur, he had a genetic defect in that the ball was more oval, like an egg… causing not only instability when trying to stand and walk as an infant/toddler, but also preventing him from any activity which caused him to feel the instability yet he was unable to understand or verbalize the problem/feeling.  This defect also caused the hip joint to prematurely wear out… AFTER only 44 years.

Dang!  Why didn’t any doctors take me seriously?  What if something could have been done before it wore out?  Anyway… a couple years ago he had a total hip replacement and I felt guilty somehow like it was my fault.  In May 2014, he went to Hawaii with me to celebrate my 70th birthday and to kayak my 50th state.  No better gift could anyone have ever given me… but he was walking with a cane and in excoriating pain from his hip and had a badly inflamed varicose vein in the same leg.  Every movement he made caused him great pain, except the snorkeling with the green sea turtles.  Being almost weightless in the water felt very good to him.


Richard and I on May 16, 2014 kayaking off Maui Hawaii.

When he returned home to Washington state, he was planning to have a hip revision to correct whatever was wrong (the thought it was just the loose socket/cup).  First doctors had to clear up the infection in his right leg.  Compression stocking and antibiotics began and finally after weeks, the infection was clear enough and on 7/30/14 Rich had surgery.  It was agony waiting for the doctor to come speak to his wife and I.  Finally the doctor came out and told us there were complications. It felt like time froze. The reason he was in agony was that the hip joint capsule was under great pressure and full of puss… exploding gunk all over everyone when it was opened.  They had planned only to replace the socket or cup, but once inside learned even the very well-seated stem/ball section was infected.  The femur had to be cut open and the stem also removed. 


All the metal was removed from the joint and a temporary plastic artificial spacer hip joint was put in and the cement used was a special one loaded with antibiotics.  This joint would not be weight-bearing.  He was not a happy camper when he woke up and learned this news.  He would now have to be on IV antibiotics for at least six weeks or more… and in three months go back under the knife to have a third (in less than three years) hip joint installed, with another 3 months of recovery.  Oh my gosh.  How much does he have to suffer???  He has endured this now for 46 years… and MOM says, enough!  I mean it was already enough that he has a hearing loss (which I also did not learn about until he was five years old)… which he has dealt with very courageously and now this.


Me, Rich on crutches, and Tori (on IV antibiotics), July 2014.

And then there is his beautiful daughter, Victoria (Tori), born with a hole in her heart… who was hospitalized with a heart infection last month (July 2014) and now faces heart surgery this fall too.  Why do things have to happen this way?  She was released to home with IV antibiotics and while she was coming off her IV… her father was getting his IV PICC line put in.  Why is it these two beautiful people so full of life and ambition with so much to give each other, their families, and their many friends have to go through so much?  And Rhonda Bailey, you are amazing the way you are coping with all this.  Amazing.

I guess I can’t answer that, but I somehow know that both of them are going to be alright. They have a very large and loving support group of friends.  I did the “worried mother” thing and came rushing to their side (from CA to WA) even though I could not afford to do so. I panicked when I learned Tori had a heart infection.  I just needed to be with them, even though they didn’t need me here.  I really came for me (I keep telling myself that over and over again).  Now that I have seen them both, seen how very strong and healthy they are, and seen their support group in action, I know they don’t need me.  Amazing.  Within four hours of Rich’s surgery, his friends had arranged for his bed to be moved to make his covalence easier, and an online meal schedule was set up to bring him hot meals.  He is so loved by so many people and it is well-deserved. He is a very special wonderful man and son.

A writer friend of his, Jessica Bruder, thanked me for putting Richard on earth (I can’t remember exactly how she worded that).  Many of his friends want to meet me because he brags about my recent accomplishments. He is as proud of me as I am of him.  His friends tell him he is amazing.  His doctors say his pain was even greater than they realized… and justly so.  The anesthesiologist said… he was one for the books, he was a statistic now. 

This is what’s up:  

A complete exchange of a hip replacement done in two stages: A first stage consists of the complete removal of the hip replacement, cleaning of the bone, and implantation of a temporary cement spacer that will allow some hip motion and deliver antibiotics to the hip area. This is generally followed by a six week course of intravenous antibiotics. The second stage consists of the re-implantation of a definitive hip replacement (generally 6 to 8 weeks after the initial operation).

Something happened to me the day after his surgery where a feeling of peace suddenly came over me about him, and I knew, not only would he be alright, but Tori would also be alright.  I know I have many friends who are praying for their full recovery.  It breaks my heart that they have both suffered their entire lives with birth defects that have prevented them from living life to the fullest, but I know they are more then going to make up for that in the future.  I can’t imagine what that will look like for them… their lives have already been so remarkable, but it will be grand indeed.

Recovery and rehabilitation for both of them, will take time and a lot of hard work.  That’s their job.  Within a year they will both have resumed their lives and will be busy creating a future they themselves can not even begin to comprehend today.  They are going to be fine.  Just fine.

My job is to let go. Letting go is the hardest thing a parent ever has to do.  I must let go and continue to become my own best self, to stick to my fitness goals and prepare for my own long distant hike (820 mile long Arizona Trail). I honor them best by being true to my own best self.  I look forward to seeing them both again in a year… when we have all accomplished the goals we have set in front of us now… and we will all be healthier then, than we have ever been in our lives.  That’s what I see in the future for all three of us.  I love both my boys(equally) and all my grandchildren, more then they will ever know… and just want the very best health for them that is possible.  Hugs.

Very much looking forward to 2015.


Richard and I celebrating our birthdays in Hawaii, 2014.

Back in 1965, while I was pregnant with my first child, I taped this little quotation in his baby book. I was trying to remember the words and could not. He just sent me a photo of it:

snug in a cocoon of
sleep you melt into me--- and I forget
that you are guest and not
possession. how I would like to
keep you in this circle of oneness---
but I must help
you grow, teach you
to drop my hand and walk alone.

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–Updated 5 Nov 2017: 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. See updates in Bold Red below.
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.
5 Nov 2017 - visited Dr. Talarico again and am doing a series of Medicare approved preventative screening tests. Will stay in this area to follow-up on all this.
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.
Update 5 Nov 2017- tests on my right shoulder show it is shot.  Surgeon in WA recommended a Reverse Shoulder Replacement.  I am seeking a second opinion from a CA doctor recommended to me by Dr. Talarico.  I am tempted to try a section of the AZ Trail hike before the surgery and see how it goes.
This is not my xray, but this is what a Reverse Shoulder Replacement looks like.  Ick.
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.
Update: Effective March 2017 I have been off ALL medications. 
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.

Update: In March 2017 a small carcinoid tumor was found at the entrance to my right lung.  I had been saying for months, maybe years, there was something wrong.  A CAT scan was done and radiologist reported my lungs were clear, but I had gotten a copy of the scan on a Disc and studied it myself.  When the doctor reviewed the radiology report with me and say my lungs were clear, I informed him that was wrong and I showed him myself on his computer where the tumor was and told him he had to remove it.  He did.  It seems to be totally gone in a followup scan in September.  We have to OWN our own health.  The medical profession would have let me walk out of that office in March... undiagnosed and untreated.  My health and life had taken a 180 degree turn since then.

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. Update 5 Nov 2017: Swimming is kinda out for now... the shoulder hurts too bad.
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... Solo Hiking the Arizona Trail, 820 miles? Maybe. Still healing from shoulder and trying to decide.