Into Africa

I am going to Africa. Saturday morning my friend, Phyllis and I board a plane at JFK International Airport and we are off.

How did I get to this point? First I agreed to go on this adventure. Early in March I moved into Phyllis’s condo for a couple weeks and we planned. Each morning after breakfast we moved to our computers and began to put this trip together. First we started with the photo safari and then moved on from there.

Pangolin Photo Safaris ended up being our Safari of choice. We will be traveling with professional photographers. I am excited to be able to learn from them. I am excited to see animals and birds  and learn how to photograph them better. I am excited. Our tour includes a hot air balloon ride. That excites me too. Kenya and this safari is the climax of this trip.

It was Phyllis who said “If I am traveling that distance, I want to see as much as I can”. We extended our stay to one month. Then we decided two months would be better. We got input from good friends who planned their own independent trip to Africa (thank you Mary Z) and decided we could do this as well.

Several blogs helped guide us to figure out routes, places to stay and things to do. With the ten hour time difference it took a while to put the trip together. I did have a few late nights so I could contact places when they were open.

And then in the middle of all the planning, I had surgery to remove my right thyroid for what everyone thought would be a benign nodule. Instead it came back positive for cancer. After a few shed tears and oh my God moments, I had discussions with my surgeon and endocrinologist and a second opinion at UCSD Moores Cancer Center. Everyone said go to Africa and so I am. I was started on Synthroid to keep my numbers low. The rest of the treatment is on hold until fall. I am turning the cancer shingle to the wall for the summer and am off on a grand adventure. I know that sounds easy yet, in reality I have to keep my anxiety at bay. It is good to do research but not too much.

Tuesday I picked Phyllis up at the airport in New Jersey. She came to stay at the lake for a few days. In the wee hours of Saturday morning we are climbing aboard British Air and flying off into the wild blue yonder.

Here is our tentative itinerary in a nutshell.

  • Victoria Falls is the first stop. I plan on getting wet in the mist of the falls. Did you know that elephants sometimes walk through downtown Victoria Falls? Elephants!!!!
  • Three days later we will fly to Nelspruit, South Africa and rent a car.
  • After one night in town, it will be time to explore Kruger National Park. We plan a week in the park. We hope to see the big five-buffalo, elephant, rhino, lion, and leopard. In Kruger you can rent cottages in different areas. We are staying in cottages in two different sections of the park. The other three nights we will be staying at a private reserve. Hikes and Safaris are included in our itinerary.
  • When we depart Kruger NP we plan to meander south along the east coast of south Africa. This is the most un-set part of our itinerary. We are going on a road trip.
  • It will be spring in South Africa. Flowers will be starting to bloom. I am looking forward to the gardens and the flowers and visiting National Parks as we travel.
  • Our next big stop is West Coast National Park. We will see more animals and wild flowers. We have registered for a day hike in this park and staying in Langebaan, a town just outside the park.
  • Next is Cape Town. We will be staying at the Parker House, again a recommendation. Sight unseen I have no doubt we will like our accommodations. The owners have been instrumental in helping us with some of the details of this journey, a rental car for one. It is nice to know that someone has our backs and we can touch base with them if we need to.
  • Finally we fly to Kenya and go on our official Safari. I am hoping to see many animals and birds. The Wildebeest migration is at the top of the list.

Elsie the cat and my rig are staying at my sister’s, on the lake in northern New Jersey. Ginny and my niece are taking the rig out for a weekend camping trip. We have gone through all the nuts and bolts on running the rig and turning on the house. The owners manual is close by and I told her that if she has any questions to ask on the RV Lifestyles or Roadtrek Hymer Facebook pages. People have always been helpful when questions are asked.

Here is my condensed summer adventure. I am excited and a little nervous. Hopefully I will remember to try to enjoy my journey just one day at a time. I will remember to breath and allow myself to open up to the experience.

There will be definitely more to come. I am planning to blog often and post photos, of course. I hope you will come along for the journey.

 

Living With or Without Cancer-Getting Ready to Roll

“There’s always a story. It’s all stories, really. The sun coming up every day is a story. Everything’s got a story in it. Change the story, change the world.” – Terry Pratchett

Today I am changing my story. Instead of dying with cancer I am now living with cancer. It is possible that I am fooling myself and there is no cancer within me to live with. Well that is a cool thought.

Moores Cancer Center

Last Wednesday, with the support of Yvonne, we drove to the Moores Cancer Center at UCSD (University of California San Diego). I had a second opinion appointment with one of the primary head and neck surgeons. I define second opinions as a way to gather more information, so that I can be comfortable making a decision that will shape and define my life.

This whole complex of buildings that makes up the cancer center and other technologies are imposing as you drive in. The structures are big and impressive. There is one building that is dedicated to all things radiological speaking. The Novel Technology building is so new that the staff is not sure what it does. I was curious enough to do some on line research. It appears that it is a specialty that works with deep brain tumors and microscopic surgery. Interesting. It is good to be impressed by what I see.

My appointment went well. I met with Dr Brummond and his associates. They were kind and amazingly good listeners, especially the medical student that did the intake interview. Most of the information that I was given was not new, but that is what I wanted, a confirmation that my surgeon and endocrinologist were on the right track. I will have the other half of my thyroid removed upon my return from Africa (yes I am going). I did receive one new piece of information. This doctor feels that if the biopsy on the left thyroid comes back negative for cancer he believes I don’t need the radioactive iodine treatment. So I will gather that information into the ongoing puzzle of thyroid cancer.

Dr Brummond feels it will be OK to wait until my return in the fall to have the surgery to remove the other half of the thyroid. That is good news, really good news. I am relieved that this appointment is over and that I can begin to really plan for a trip of a lifetime. I imagine my friend and travel companion, Phyllis is glad to hear this too.

With the help of a therapist I am now getting ready to go into the final planning mode for this trip. Today I got my typhoid shot. All the other meds are gathered and ready to go. I am planning to leave San Diego this coming Monday and begin an amble east. Elsie says her bags are packed as well. I am daring to allow myself to get excited without getting overwhelmed. Living with cancer allows me to dare, to get excited, to dream. I was already getting weary of the feeling of dread that has been hanging over me. As I take each step towards Africa, the dread will disappear more and more.

My life is too short to be fearful and experience dread. That is a hard way to live. I would rather live hopefully and with a little or a lot of joy, depending on the day. These are always personal choices we all have to make every single day of our lives. Yes even you, dear reader are included here. Sometime the choice to live with hope is easy. Other days well we all have to dig a bit deeper to find that place. And so dig I shall.

Getting to Roll…New Jersey here I come….AFRICA here I come.

 

The Flight of the Butterfly

I am slowly making my way to San Diego.

Roadtreks at a Rally

I had a wonderful couple weeks on the central coast of California. The Roadtrek Rally was a great success. It was a personal success for me. I met wonderful people. When the rally was over I left with two of the women, Mandy and Ann and met up with a third Roadtreker, Don. We camped for four nights near Morro Bay. Every day was beautiful and fun. We hiked and taked and talked and laughed. We got to know each other.  I have new friends to go on adventures with.

I gradually am working my way into San Diego. I am a bit nervous about my upcoming appointment at the Moores Cancer Center. Instead of making my way all the way there, today, I am camped for one more night on the ocean. My view is great and I can fall asleep to the sounds of the Pacific crashing below my campsite. 

Four Roadtreks at Morro Bay

The last few days I have been in Camarillo, CA staying with my good friends, Mary Jane and Jeff. Elsie and I camped in the driveway. Jeff and I are doing fiberglass repair work on my side steps. I sort of met one too many sidewalks. It will take a while to complete, yet I walk away with the knowledge that I will be able to complete the repair on my own. It is looking good at the moment. 

For the past two days I have been sitting in the middle of the Monarch Butterfly migration. It has been amazing. As soon as it warms up they are flying, up the driveway, over the roof and on north. I have heard of this phenomena yet this is the first time I have experienced it. I am not talking of one or two butterflies, I am talking more like hundreds. I finally left them behind when I arrived at the ocean, near Malibu today.

“The annual monarch life cycle and migration begins at the monarchs’ overwintering grounds in Mexico (for the eastern population) and the central to southern California coastal region (for the western population). Around March, the overwintering monarchs begin their journey north. Once migration begins, monarchs become sexually mature and mate. The females begin their search for milkweed plants on which to lay eggs. After mating and egg-laying, the adult butterflies die and the northward migration is continued by their offspring. It takes three to five generations to repopulate the rest of the United States and southern Canada until the final generation of the year hatches and does the return journey to the overwintering grounds.

The monarch migration is one of the greatest phenomena in the natural world. Monarchs know the correct direction to migrate even though the individuals that migrate have never made the journey before. They follow an internal “compass” that points them in the right direction each spring and fall. A single monarch can travel hundreds or even thousands of miles.”

I admire their perseverance. They cross ten lane freeways, mountains, Los Angeles and they still continue to fly. If it is not warm enough they lay on the ground until the sun or weather heats them up enough to fly. 

I feel honored to have witnessed this once in my life. It was amazing. I rode my bicycle to a preserve near my friends home. The butterflies were hanging on the wild mustard. It was a sight I will not soon forget. It was hard to drive because I knew that my rig was hitting them. I kept telling them to fly higher. It is hard when the industry meets nature. Often nature loses.

Tomorrow it is on to San Diego. I will remember to breath. I am hoping for a good outcome from this second opinion. As I weave my way through these next few days I will remember the amazing Monarchs and hope they help me smile.

 

Bienvenue-Welcome

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Samish Bay

Summer is here and it is time to go and explore more new places. I have been working my way to the west coast since April. Yesterday I finally got to touch the Pacific Ocean at Samish Bay, Washington. I felt like I was being welcomed home.

Where have I been? I have been to some really interesting and fun places since I began the drive west, including two weeks in Alaska (without Elsie or the Roadtrek). Cruising the Inside Passage on a small ship cruise was really cool.

I have stopped in many places and all of them have been interesting. Since you have last heard of the places I have been, here is the list. I know some may be a repeat, please be patient.

  • Glacier National Park-one week on the east side and one week in the Kalispell area on the west side. Flowers and wild animals were certainly a highlight.
  • Western Montana for the 4th of July, camping on a beautiful lake with friends.
  • I revisited Idaho and had my first Boondockers Welcome experience. Boondockers is an organization RV,er’s can join. People sign up to be hosts and you can stay in their yards or driveways for 2-3 nights. I stayed with a lovely couple near Farragut State Park on Lake Pend Orielle. I camped in their tree covered yard, visited with the neighbors, visited with my hosts and rode my bike into a beautiful state park. I visited the town of Bayview and saw the floating houses. There are always so many cool things where ever I go.
  • I bicycled the Hiawatha Trail on the Montana-Idaho border. It was very good day.
  • I finally made my way out of Idaho into Washington state. I started in the middle-Cascades, visiting a good friend, Lori, who I have not see in years. It was a really good visit.

Hiking Cascade Pass

  • I arrived in the Northern Cascades and Northern Cascade National Park to spend five days exploring. Wow-that is all I can say. I hiked and walked and took photos. What an amazing place. I chose not to stop in the small towns as there were too many people and events were happening. I camped in a National Forest Campground and loved every minute of it. I hope to go back, maybe when it is not so crazy busy. You should have seen the parade of cars, RV’s, jeeps and trucks driving east along route 20 on Friday afternoon. Everyone from the greater Seattle area was leaving town, or so it seemed.

The last three days I have been in Burlington, WA. I am catching up on chores and fixing EmmyLou the rig so she is ready for tomorrow. Tires?-check. Slow leak in one tire?-check. (it was a screw) After a crazy incident all parts fixed on my rig?-check. Headlight replaced?-check. (one went out when I got here. I even changed it myself) Laundry done?-check. Pedicure done?-check (I have sparklie green toenails) Chiropractor appointment?-check. Billing done?-check. All records ready for entry into Canada tomorrow?-check, I  hope.

I did take time to drive to the coast yesterday afternoon. I visited the small town of Samish. What a pretty little town. I was able to drive to a point in Samish Bay and finally greet the ocean and Jim. (he is buried out there) The flowers are beautiful in people’s yards. It reminded me of my mom and dad, especially when I saw the giant dahlias. My parents loved to garden. It was good to return to the ocean after almost four months away.

Tomorrow I head out on a new adventure. Elsie and I are going to be taking the morning ferry from Anacortes, WA to Vancouver Island, Canada. I first visited this island as a tour director. I remember taking my group to Boutchart Gardens, worth a visit.

Two years ago Cat, my friend who bicycled the Pacific Coast, and I took the ferry from Vancouver to the Island and started south. I knew then that I would return. It is a beautiful Island and I wanted to see more. Tomorrow I get that opportunity. I plan to be there for at least a month and discover interesting and magical places and meet new people. I plan to cover the island, driving biking and walking. If it takes longer, I will stay. I am ready to go into the unknown.

So stay tuned. Come along on the adventure. El and I are getting ready to roll.

 

 

Being Sick, Getting Better, Ready to Adventure On.

being sick

At the end of my pet and house sitting gig in Boise, earlier this month, I headed north to McCall, ID hoping to spend the major part of my summer hiking, biking and kayaking and practicing photography.  The same people I house sat for have very generously offered me their second home in the mountains.  Linda accompanied me with plans to spend a week, before returning to her family in Boise. We both got sick. We were both sick for the full time she was there. Arrgh!! This is not how I wanted to spend our time together. I was hoping for hikes and ample time to take photos. Instead we were sick.

I don’t spend much time around large groups of people. I should go out and expose myself more, so that I don’t catch the latest thing that is “going around”. When I worked as a nurse and a tour manager the “bug” exposure was always there and usually one illness  a year would do it. After I started to annually receive the flu shot, even that went away.

Since Jim’s death I have been healthy. With that stressor, I would not have been surprised if I had gotten sick. Stress can do that to a person. It just did not happen. I did have other physical events like a broken ankle but that is not getting sick. That is one of those oops moments that the Arnold girls are prone to. 🙄

Although I love my tiny home, I was very glad to be in a real sticks & bricks house. There was a great deal of comfort, being able to curl up in a firm, double bed with Elsie, my sidekick, curled up next to me. During the day I sat in a comfy chair and watched the weather play out it’s agenda. When I wore out, back to bed I would go. I wonder what I would do if I became sick while traveling in my cute little Roadtrek. One time a few years back I developed a really bad headache and I retreated to a hotel. If I got really sick while on-the-road I think I would retreat to a hotel until I felt better. Maybe I wouldn’t, yet I think my inclination would be to nestle in somewhere.

Except for the cough, I am better. And why is it, that the cough is the last thing to go? I don’t know. Usually for the better part of the day I am fine but when I get weary the cough shows up. Sigh.

After the REI Garage Sale on Saturday, early the next morning I began driving north. Since I still feel in recovery mode I find that if I travel four to five hours in a day, that is enough. I have found wonderful national forest campgrounds each night with nice short or long walks right at the edge of the campground. Tonight I have upgraded to a State Park Campground on the edge of Flathead Lake.

Thursday, I am meeting up with friends in Columbia Falls, MT. We are doing a six day river raft trip on the Flathead River starting near the border of Canada. I am excited to be out and doing.

 

The country I have been exploring has been amazingly beautiful. In the high country it is spring and there are fields of flowers in bloom. Mosquitos abound. A good snowy winter means a lot of standing water this spring. Water=Mosquitos. At one point, I pulled off the road to get a photo from the RT, rolled down the window and within a matter of moments there were mosquitos everywhere. I spent the next twenty minutes chasing the little buggers and, despite bad karma, killed every single one. I have no regrets. After that little fiasco, I had to clean the interior of the front windows. Sigh. I am not a fan of mosquitos. 

Spending the majority outside means that bugs are part of my life. I just like the ones that do not bite or sting. Why can’t we have a mutual agreement to not bother each other? Life is not like that and I have to accept that there will be the infrequent close encounters.

Hmm, I wonder if this could be applied to the rest of my life as well. It is the end of my day and I cannot go to that deep thought place right now.

Montanna

I am looking forward to being on the river. We will be floating near Glacier National Park. It will be stunning country. This type of adventure is one Jim would have enjoyed. This time I will have to enjoy it for both of us. Ready to adventure on.

 

Getting Ready to Roll

I feel like I have been in San Diego for a long time. It is not true, I have been here for a month. My RT went into the shop today to have a few things checked. She is ready to go. Oil changed, tires rotated, DEF fluid topped off, leaky gray water tank fixed today. It looks like everything is a go.

Once again I am un-nesting. I find I get anxious before I get ready to “get on-the-road”. I have delayed trips by a day or two or by a week or more because of anxiety, mostly presented by my not feeling well. I am now recognizing the symptoms earlier so I can attempt to stop the anxiety from getting the upper hand. Well, most of the time.

A wash outside of Zion National Park

Where am I heading? I am leaving in the morning, tomorrow for southern Utah. I have a dear friend who lives just outside the entrance to Zion National Park. I am anxious to see her and catch up. It also helps that I can walk from her house to the washes and take off hiking and exploring. And then, there is the park within a short drive. This is an amazing part of our country.

I would like to say that this anxiousness has occurred since Jim’s death but that would not be true. When I was working as a Tour Manager, I would feel that anxiety build before a trip. It amazes me that I have to tackle this issue when I love to travel so much. I believe that some of this anxiety is my desire to be perfect, which I will never be. Then there is also the unknown. When Jim was around he would help defer it by keeping me busy. Now it is up to me to discover tools to help with this. Reminding myself that once I get behind the wheel, the anxiety disappears. Breathing and meditating is also another useful tool. If any of you have tricks that work for you, please oh please share.

Life is a continual learning and growing experience. I am looking forward to the beginning of the next part of my continuing life adventure. I am not sure where I will land but I am certainly going to make it an adventure getting there.

Get ready Miss Elsie, we are getting ready to move out.