Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Special Day in More Ways Than One

A whole year! I can’t believe it’s been a year today since we started up the coach and, and in a pouring thunderstorm, started on our journey of full time RVing. So much has happened, good and bad, funny and sad, exciting and normal. But it seems so much more meaningful when each day is an adventure. I wish all people could experience this if even for a short while. Every day we wake up (thank goodness) and say ‘what do we want to do today?’ Some days we have things we have to do (chores, appointments, etc.) and those days give us continuity and grounding. However, it is the empty days, the days that are blank squares on my planner, that give me the most anticipation. For it is those days that we live for. Anything can happen. Anything…

Well, I know you might be wondering about Gary and his chemo treatments. Yesterday we arrived on time and met Yvette, who will be Gary’s technician. Here she is with an important look on her face.
She plugged him in to the machine distributing a couple of drugs before the chemo Ontak is mainlined. The Benadryl makes him sleepy and gives him RLS (restless leg syndrome) for a couple hours.
He gets a little Aloxi (for nausea) and Decadron (an anti-inflammatory). We spent 3 ½ hours in the clinic yesterday, and 2 ½ today. Yvette gave him all kinds of warnings and papers to read. Of course, I’ve been doing my research on the web, too. Fatigue and nausea are the most complained about side effects of this drug. Yvette cautioned him not to eat his favorite meal the first night. She was so sure he’d feel sick, that it might never be his favorite meal again.

Well, I drove home and he was fine. I mean FINE. We had dinner went for a long walk all around the lake. Jerry was walking back to his Essex coach and offered to take a picture of both of us with the lake fountain in the background.
By the time we got home he was hungry again. He slept until 3 am, woke up and thought of another way to sanitize the fresh water tank, went back to sleep and woke up at 7:45. “What’s for breakfast – I’m starved!” Well, yippee skippee. We even think we can notice some improvement!

We stopped at the grocery store again, but didn’t buy half the things we thought we’d need like Gatorade, yogurt, imodium, etc. But, I am cautiously optimistic. It’s only been the second treatment, and he has 3 more to go. Even though Yvette said it should be easier from now on, we’ll see. But we are thrilled so far with everything.

It was very windy today and blew our rug under the coach and a tire cover off. It is going to rain and severe weather is forecast.
Fortunately we went back to storage to get our Weather Alert radio – something every RVer (and homeowner) should have. We also brought back the beach chairs. It will be perfect again by Friday, and we miss our beach. Maybe we’ll have some pictures for you.

Until then, we are going to celebrate our anniversary (full-timing) tonight. Happy campers live here! Happy, happy, happy...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Pleasant Lake, Bradenton, FL

Saturday we decided to move to Sarasota for the duration of Gary’s treatments. We checked out Pleasant Lake on Route 70, drove around the huge lake looking for empty spots. We found one under a large tree that had a view to the lake through an RV spot. One phone call and it was ours. Making a decision is always a weight off one’s shoulders. Often it is difficult weighing the pros and cons, and in our case we were practically growing roots here. The wear and tear on the Jeep and three hours a day driving on the interstate pushed the needle over to ‘leave’. But the timing was good – we will only be leaving four days before the end of the month.

On the way back we called Donna and Ron. They had just arrived at Downtown Disney to meet their daughter and family at a restaurant. We had a quiet evening eating leftovers and planning our escape for Monday. I made a Departure List for each of us before we started this almost a year ago and update it once in a while when we discover something we should do. It’s stupid mistakes that cause damage, and often it is something forgotten. I read about damage that could have been avoided if only they had ‘remembered’. I guess I’m anal about that. I don’t want it to be MY fault that something got hurt.

BUT I found out that the departure list should be followed even if you’ve moved a short distance. Like driving to Camping World to get our fridge fixed. Well, the tech switched the outside step button to lock. Always I check before driving that the steps are in because it is on my list. Didn’t check the list, so drove all the way home with the steps out. Could have had an expensive repair there. It also surprised me that no one stopped next to me at a red light TOLD me that our steps were out. But, it’s not their responsibility, and they might not know that steps aren’t supposed to be sticking out into their lane… Other RVers certainly would throw things at you to get your attention for something like that – at least I would. We were lucky this time and THAT will never happen again.

Sunday we started our packing. A major trip to the laundromat was in order, and while four loads were washing, I started putting things away and cleaning the coach. Then it was time to wash the outside rug, and move it to dry. I could have taken pictures of all this, but it was boring. We kept tucking things away, then broke for a last drink on the patio. It was a beautiful evening considering it reached 94 degrees today. We probably needed the A/C on, but managed with a couple fans and open windows. But I did have to get up to close them all when a big clap of thunder shook the coach and huge raindrops hit the roof. Our first rain in about 3-4 weeks. Unfortunately it is supposed to rain every day this week. And I had planned to hit the beach. I might find a little pocket of sun somewhere, though. My middle name is Sunseeker.

Monday it poured all morning as we continued to get ready to leave. Donna and Ron came over and sat a while talking until they had to leave to spend time with their family. We hugged goodbye. It was hard to believe that we had been such good friends and neighbors for 5 months. Wishing each other safe travels, and ‘can’t wait to see you again in Texas’, they left for Disney. It was still pouring at 12:30, so we had some lunch. Finally the itch became too much, and we pulled out, heading to the office to say goodbye. We hitched up the Jeep and turned onto 17/92 in the rain.
It rained almost the whole way to the TA station for diesel at the junction of Interstates 4 and 75. Ouch, that put a dent in the wallet.
The rest of the drive it sprinkled, but the most of the heavy rain was behind us.

Before we knew it we were turning off the highway into our campground, Pleasant Lake on route 70. It took about 20 minutes to decide where to park, but we chose a spot next to a Newmar MountainAire. We can’t wait to meet them and pick their brain on a couple functions that our coaches might have in common. In thirty minutes we were set up, and having a celebratory drink.

This is our new home for as many weeks as necessary (hopefully just 2) to get my hubby better.
This is our view to the lake.
Apparently there are two resident alligators, one big, one small. Hopefully I can get to the pool but it is supposed to rain most of this week. That’s OK, Sarasota needs it. It is raining really hard and thundering right now, but we are safe and cozy in our little traveling home. Yay. Happy Campers!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Good News and Good News

We invited Ron and Donna to go with us to Sarasota. We got to Gary’s Dr. appointment on the nose. Donna and Ron waited in the coffee shop down stairs. His Dr. was pleased to announce his scan and blood was perfect, but because of his radiologist’s hesitation to radiate, suggested a chemo treatment. It involves 5 days of intravenous injections in a row, and then three weeks off. Side effects were mild: nausea and fatigue. We asked to what extent and the reply was that her 82 year old patient felt tired but she had very little nausea. Well, reasoned Gary, if an 82 year old female could do this, he could, too. The name of the drug administered will be Ontak. There can be some serious side effects that we will watch for, but we are hoping for the best. The good news is that we should start seeing improvement after the first treatment. We were given permission to continue our travels to Tennessee, but she would like a reference for an oncologist rather than pick one from a book to continue his treatments there and monitor his progress. If any of you can help…please leave a comment or leave your email address in your comment. Thanks so much.

So after that good news (relatively so) we went to lunch at TooJay’s to celebrate then drove over to show D&R our house and on to Lido Beach. How ‘bout that sky?
What about that water!
And the sugar sand?? This is why we chose Sarasota as our home. It was wonderful to take a walk along the water. A gentleman with a very fancy camera was walking toward us, and I asked if he would kindly take a photo of all of us with my weenie camera. It didn’t take him but a second to figure it out.
Good photographer, yes? Or is it the subjects? Ha.

By then it was getting late, and Donna was going to do dinner tonight. But by the time we got home and it was finished baking, it would be very late. What to do? Stop for ice cream at Friendly’s!
Oooooh that was good. (I’ll have to walk 4 miles tomorrow!) Driving on the highway in the Jeep is not fun, and especially at rush hour. Holy cow, we got to the end of the ramp and we stopped to a near crawl. It was only traffic, so it picked up. Nevertheless, we arrived home at 8pm and Donna got to work in the kitchen. We all said we were not hungry, but the yummy cooking smells did its magic, and we finally ate at 9:45! We hung out until nearly midnight, then called it a night.

Just before Gary fell asleep, he said “I feel like a new man”. As far as he’s concerned, a clear scan equals a new lease on life. Thanks for all your prayers and well-wishes. They worked again and are so appreciated!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Playing Catch Up Again

Playing catch up again. Let’s see, Monday was another beautiful day, so we decided to wash and wax the coach. First we climbed up on the roof to wash that. It was really dirty and Gary attacked the stains with his magic wand sprayer.
It attaches onto the end of your hose and gives you a hard or soft jet spray or a hard or soft fan spray with a different nozzle (which is MIA at the moment).
It was $10 in CVS – one of those “As Seen on TV” things. You can see me using it to rinse off the side of the coach.
It’s very cool! Bella hadn’t been washed since her stay in New Jersey, so she was pretty dirty. It took all day to wash and wax her, but we can see our faces, as one guy walking by asked.

When I removed the tire covers, I noticed a hole that was dug under the right rear tire.
What could have done that? Too big for a snake, too small for an alligator…
We treated ourselves to a steak BBQ dinner with salad and grilled onions and mushrooms. Well-deserved.

Tuesday, we left for Sarasota to check on the fridge repair service Gary had set up by internet. Sure enough, Sears was at the house and the repairman called me and quoted a $200 fix-it bill. We were in the car on the way to pick up our mail, but turned around to see what had to be done and see if it was worth it. By the time we got there, he had fixed it and only charged us the service call price. Nice guy.
Gary had his CAT scan Wednesday at 1 and his radiologist appt. at 3. We decided that if he needed radiation, we would move the coach closer to Sarasota to save wear and tear on the Jeep. So I did some research on RV parks around the area and made a list.

We stayed overnight Tuesday and drove to St. Armand’s Circle on Lido Key for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants Tommy Bahamas. George was kind enough to take a photo of us enjoying our appetizers and Red Stripe and SeaBreeze.
We always have the appetizers only and always the same ones: I have the nut encrusted goat cheese with pineapple/mango chutney and Gary has the Loki Loki tuna (chopped asai tuna mixed with avocado) and flatbread. Delicious and priced right. We love sitting on the balcony, but knew at spring break time it would be packed (it’s only a bar with about 8 chairs overlooking the circle). So we planned going around 8:30 pm, and that was a good time. We got there and everyone on the balcony left at the same time! We had a lovely time together reminiscing about the early days in Sarasota when every day was a new discovery.

Wednesday morning we drove around visiting a few of the parks. Since the end of the winter season in Florida is April 1 and most of the snowbirds start heading north, the prices were still really high. Hmmmm. I’m hoping we don’t have to move.
Eleven o’clock and Gary had to drink his first ‘milkshake’ and 12 o’clock the second. I dropped him off at Florida Cancer Specialists for his scan and headed to Lenscrafters to pick up his lenses and our prescriptions for contacts. Boy, do I love my contacts. If I did not have them I would have to wear tri-focals to see. But the Bauch and Lomb Multifocals give me vision from two feet to about 50 yards so that I only have to wear regular readers to see close up. It’s so nice to see people clearly that are talking to me. Gary’s so lucky he only has to wear one and he can read and see the street signs far ahead when driving. They are a little costly, though, but so worth it. I used to carry three pairs of glasses around with me!

Anyway, Gary was done in an hour, so I picked him up and we drove over to the radiologist. His Dr. said he’d prefer not to do any more radiation in the areas affected. Serious eye problems could occur (which is what the Dr. in New Jersey said, too). These include dry eye, constant tearing and loss of vision. He suggested we go with a systemic treatment and called Gary’s oncologist right then to get her opinion. She made an appointment for him on Friday. So there we are. We thought the drugs would be a last resort, but his radiologist said we could always go back to radiation. But since it is popping up elsewhere as well, it was like putting patches on a cracking dam wall. Gary’s a little freaked out because it is something new. He’s had radiation treatments for a couple years and is comfortable with them. I, on the other hand, say he has thick skin and therefore the radiation isn’t getting down deep enough. Maybe working from the inside out will be better, and it works on all the spots at once. Logic, right? We’ll keep you posted on what happens next.

We drove home and had a drink with Donna and Ron explaining our time away, and then we split up for dinner. We were beat – all the stress, don'cha know. We had a little leftover chicken and relaxed in bed watching funny night. ABC’s lineup of The Middle, Modern Family and Mr. Sunshine.

Thursday dawned bright and breezy and we needed a Walmart run. Gary looked out the window and noticed this little guy.
Aha! The hole maker!
I was making dinner tonight for us and wanted to cook Polish Noodles. I might have mentioned in a previous post that I need a special noodle that only Winn Dixie carries. Well, fortunately, there was a TacoBell, Winn Dixie and Walmart right together in Haines City. Off we went. Got everything we needed and came home to write the blog.

Hope you enjoyed catching up with us and I’ll keep you informed of our future travels, trials and tribulations.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Happy Spring!

Yesterday we looked at HHGregg for new appliances for our house. But while we were there, they were offering a Verizon MiFi for free if you had a contract with Verizon. Well, we had been wanting one of these gadgets to allow Gary to use his laptop while I use the desktop. With our Verizon aircard, we could only use one at a time. Also, it went dormant or lost connectivity more than I liked. Time to upgrade! It was supposed to be simple to install, but we were missing a driver. A call to Verizon (at 9:30 pm) and a talk with Dale for about 30 minutes got both our laptops and the desktop up and running beautifully! This plan is better and cheaper, too. Love that four letter word: free.

Donna needed to buy some Ginger Peach tea, and Books-A-Million had it for sale. Ron ran in while we planned our next stop. Guess: Walmart. Donna was planning tacos for dinner and needed the stuff to make them. We got home and had some drinks on the veranda in spectacular weather. We knew the super moon was rising tonight and finally found it between the trees to the east. Our photos were less than perfect, so I won’t bore you with those. I hope you got to see it, though. It was really beautiful. I hope we get to see the next one in 18 years, too.

Today we planned to have lunch with Terry and Sherri at Cherry Pocket Steak and Seafood Shak.
They picked us all up at our coach and we drove on all kinds of back roads to find this place. They had been there before, and told us the owner comes out wearing big red fuzzy slippers, sits down next to you and asks ‘How ya doin’?’ Well, who wouldn’t want to experience that? The food was supposed to be good, too, so off we went. A kind gentleman took our photo, and we waited for service. She took our drink order, and came back to take our food order. We got our drinks, and waited. And waited. The people next to us, having come in way after us, got their food. The waitress comes to apologize. "I never put in your order, and you’re number 7 from now." Well, we ended up there 2 ½ hours. Fortunately the food was really good and the weather and company was perfect. We even had Billy Blaze play his guitar and sing for us. So it was a great afternoon.

There is a boat ramp, where a sea plane flew in for a bite to eat, the “HILL” (the bathrooms), a “Don’t Feed the Dam Gators” sign, little cabins and RV spots. Interesting little place and it was jammed, but the clientele were a happy bunch visiting tables of friends they’d spot across the deck and singing with Billy.

We were stuffed (I forgot to take a picture of the food again – we were a little hungry) and we plopped down on our veranda and talked for a couple hours. It was good to see Terry and Sheri again, and plan to see them one more time before we leave. Unfortunately, we did not get to see the lady in the red fuzzy slippers.

The sesame chicken wings I made for dinner were finally ready, and we ate on the picnic table watching the bats catch bugs in the sunset. Donna suddenly got a text from her visiting son and his wife that they were ready to meet them at the airport for a ride to their hotel. So off they went to OIA, and we will see them tomorrow.
Gary and I did the dishes, I wrote this, and Gary worked on his computer at the same time! Yay, MiFi!

Tomorrow we are planning to work on cleaning the coach inside and out for our trip out of here. We don’t know where we are going yet, as Gary has a Dr. appt. with his radiologist this week. We may have to miss the Rally in Tenn. (boooooo) and start work a little later than planned if his Dr. wants to start radiation immediately. But I will keep you posted on that as we find out what’s up.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Finally - Internet!!

On Thursday evening, Donna, Ron and we decided to go over to the Polynesian Hotel (A Disney Resort) to have a Margarita on the beach and watch the fireworks. Knowing Disney, we should have checked to see what time the fireworks started that night. But, no. So we got there when it was still light out (around 7 pm) and walked around having our picture taken while waiting. A bunch of people were out on the beach (of the lake) ready for the show. Eight o'clock came and went, then 8:30 and we finally figured out it was 9 pm. And it was FREEZING and windy out. I have on a long sleeved shirt, sweater, sweatshirt and fleece. But the fireworks were fabulous and we had a bonus of a light show on the lake just for us! Here's a sampling:

Gary took a video of the light show, but I can't seem to download it. Will have to work on that.

You might remember me telling you on the 10th that we were going to Bluffton, SC with our grands for a few days on the last post. Well, we had a great time. We drove over to St. Pete to transfer our stuff to the van. I should have taken a photo of that. I never saw so much stuff crammed into such a small space. But we did it. Brian was at the hospital getting a whooping cough test on tiny dude (Henry) and gave us a heads up when he was close enough to have everyone in the car upon his arrival. Even so, we got a late start and finally arrived at our rental home around 12:30 am. By the time we got kids into PJs and unloaded the car, we were ready for sleep, and we slept really well. Here are some pix of the inside of the house.

Saturday we got up a little later than usual, and had breakfast at the restaurant in the village. This is some of our fare:
Let me tell you a little about this place. Situated in the picturesque South Carolina Lowcountry, the 20,000-acre tract known as Palmetto Bluff extends from the headwaters of the May River near the town of Bluffton, skirts Bull and Daufuskie Islands via the Cooper River to its east, and gives way finally to the ancient freshwater rice fields of the New River along its western edge. The locals call it the "Bluffs", and it is a small community grown from a mansion built by R.T. Wilson, Jr. financier and horse-racing afficianado in 1910 as a hunting retreat. The 72 room mansion burned to the ground in 1926 but the ruins were left as a centerpiece for the development of a new community - The Bluffs!
This is the little white chapel which is nearly always booked every weekend.

After this fabulous breakfast, we rode into town to the grocery store to pick up supplies. When we got home we rode our bikes around to check out what was where and what we wanted to do. There was kayaking, canoeing, bocce ball, croquet, tennis, a spa, fire pits for making s’mores, hiking and biking trails, tree houses, zip lines, riding and golf to name a few. Gary and Brian were all about golf, so they tried to get a T-time set up. The kids were really keen on riding, so that was organized. The rest of the stuff we all wanted to do, and every day was supposed to be warmer than expected and no rain at all.

So, here come the photos of what we did and where we went on our fabulous vacation!

This is Gary and Brian hitting balls before playing. I hear it was a close game all the way.

Every night fires were lit in three firepits and long sticks, marshmallows, chocolate coins and graham crackers were free for the making! This was a huge hit and we did this almost every night.
Gary getting a ride from Lance. Hold on, Honey!

The three boys: Lance, Graham and Henry the Eighth.

Lauren on the zip line at the first treehouse (only a three story structure)

Boating on the May River inlet was exciting for Graham for it was his first time in a canoe. He did alright when we stopped showing him alligators and got him interested in fishing. He did catch my hair a couple times, but Lauren caught a tree, a bush and Gary and Lance in their kayak!

Here are the kids riding 'Oscar'. Yes, Lance rode too, but he was ever so helpful by doing a little cleanup work-totally his own decision.

We took a trip into Savannah one day to visit the Savannah Boneventure Cemetary and the Savannah Candy Kitchen where Lance lost a baby tooth chewing taffy!

A little artistic view:

A photo of the beautiful cemetary.

Gary and friend. Savannah was gearing up for the big St. Patrick's Day celebrations!

We ate lunch at the Mellow Mushroom (which, incidentally, was some of the best pizza I ever ate!)

MomPom and Henry

The last night, the big boys enjoyed a cigar and a glass of Lagavulin on the front porch.

Thursday came all too soon, and the kids were willing to stay another week. Alas, most good things come to an end, but they will have wonderful memories for a lifetime. And that, my friends, is what life is all about.