Wednesday, May 17, 2017

We blew into Pendleton behind a Low that had moved off to the east, but the wind and moisture wrap around was with us the entire drive. We came from Twin Falls, ID, and it was 300 plus miles of head and side winds, some rain showers, but thankfully no snow. We did watch the new snow line get lower and lower as we headed higher and higher until eventually the road and the new snow met. Fortunately not on the road surface. We made it into our campground in Pendleton, OR early in the afternoon taking advantage of the time zone change and celebrating our first day of three and a half months worth of days in OR.

Yup, the travel blog is back. Unreliable and sporadic, nothing new with that, but once again alive and functioning for a few posts. We will spend the next few days getting closer to Kedric and Pollen in Portland, spending a couple of days visiting, and then heading off to report for “work.” Our location during our volunteer gig will be closer to Kedric than what we were along the coast last year, and we look forward to that. We will be campground hosting for the BLM in the Cascades. BLM is a federal agency we have not yet volunteered with, which is a good way to mark our 20th volunteer gig since we started this madness. Plan A was 20 gigs or five years of doing this and then we would “retire.” But Plan A took a hit on the head several years ago; we’re not sure what plan we are on, but I’m sure there will be a 21 and a 22 and a 23…,you get the picture, volunteer gigs.

We are well. A more detailed report may follow if this blog is ever updated again. And our motor home is surprisingly doing okay too. We have not had to have any work done on it since January. We made it through Albuquerque and Grand Junction without a service call. By stating that fact, tomorrow something will go wrong. Heck tomorrow it might even be one or both of us that goes wrong and the motor home will be fine. Our lives continue to be an adventure.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Today is Presidents Day. This is the day the President came out of his hole and saw his shadow. That means 1353 more days of chaos. Oh for joy.

We are now at Bosque del Apache NWR having arrived here on Saturday. If you are keeping score on FB, this is old news for you. Our original plans called for us to be here starting on March 1 through the end of June. Because of our medical challenges causing us to spend a month and a half in ABQ, our schedule has changed, and we are starting early at Bosque.

We also have a volunteer gig campground hosting at a NWR in Alaska starting in May. Our plan was to leave Bosque the first of May rather than the first of July. However…I’m getting to hate that word… because of the uncertainties of Shannon’s heart issues, we are running out of time to fully address the issues, and now her regular doctor told her last week that she  should not go to Alaska. Sigh. Alaska. The Mecca, the Holy Grail, the Bali Hai, the Emerald City of RVing. We were not going to make a definitive decision re Alaska until Shannon sees her Cardiologist in March. However, the more she thinks about it and with her strong desire to not make that trip without having answers to her questions regarding her heart, she is ready now to contact the volunteer coordinator in Alaska and cancel. We also know the longer we delay in making the decision the more difficult it will be for the volunteer coordinator to find someone to replace us. So a sooner decision will be better than a later decision.

I'm still only hearing noise in my implanted ear. I am doing word exercises without my hearing aid in my other ear, and I can recognize words. I actually scored a 100% on a twenty word test, but mostly I’m scoring in the 70’s and 80’s. The voices I hear sound very much like Donald Duck, and that’s a common characterization of voices for new cochlear implant recipients. I understood a few words from Shannon sitting across the table from me again when I was not using my hearing aid. But mostly I hear constant noise in my implanted ear when I am functioning “normally” with my hearing aid. I did have my hearing aid adjusted before leaving ABQ, and I now can hear every disparaging remark made about my good looks. I can only think progress is being made.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Today the white legs came out. Lucky for you there will be no photos, ever, here or on FB. But it does feel good. The record high temp for ABQ on this date is 72, and we have a chance of setting a new record today. To better address this hot wether, we are planning to move south to Bosque del Apache NWR next Friday. We have three more medical interactions this coming week, and then we are busting out of this place, although we do love ABQ...

I am now wearing another type of processor although I still have and wear at times the one you see in the photo. The new processor does not fit behind the ear with a coil to the magnet. It's a disc with microphone, magnet, processor, and batteries as all one unit. It hangs on my head by just the magnet and a hair clip. And yes I do have enough hair that the hair clip actually is effective. It is suppose to be more discrete to address my vanity. That's important for me... It's thick enough that it is harder to fit a hat over it, but it has no cable which does not hinder eye glasses. Ah, the challenges in life.

I have now started to do sound exercises. When I saw the audiologist yesterday, she had three letter sounds on flash cards, and when she said the sounds, I could actually pick out the correct letter. Wow! You have no idea what that felt like. How about Christmas when you were about 7? Yah, that's close. I am using a software program called Angel Sound which has a host of sounds for me to identify. Yesterday I started with just the sounds of individual letters. The first round of 25, I got a score of 32%. THIRTY-TWO PERCENT!!! I got 0% in that ear before my cochlear implant. Today I tried words and I was getting 70 to 80% correct. The sounds are very different than normal speech and I am seeing the 4 word choices which gives me assistance in identifying the correct word. BUT I'M ACTUALLY UNDERSTANDING WORDS!!! Maybe there's hope for this old man yet.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Today was scheduled to be my dancing day. I’d either hear the music of the spheres or continue to hear the roar of the void. I’m somewhere in between. I hear noise. Noise is good when there has been no sound before. So things are good.

Today I saw the audiologist to “turn on” my new cochlear implant. When the processor was applied to my head and turned on, I did begin to hear noise. And as the level of sound in the room increased, the level of noise I was hearing increased. Since I have not effectively heard anything for decades in the ear implanted, this was a positive accomplishment. Her explanation for only hearing noise, and she was relieved I was hearing something, was that since the brain has not heard sound for such a long time, it does not know how to convert that sound into useful auditory information. It will take time to train my brain which gets into that age old conundrum, can one teach an old dog new tricks? Woof...

The audiologist installed 4 programs in the processor. Each program simply has an increase in volume. My assignment until I see her on the 9th is to try to work up to the 4th program. The only limitation will be how uncomfortable the louder settings would be for me. Within 4 or 5 hours I was using program 4. So, I’m not sure what that means. Hopefully it means I get an A for today’s session and not the dreaded F.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Groundhog Day. I understand Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow despite the cloudy day in PA. Here in New Mexico where the sun shines 364 days a year, today was the 365th day and therefore cloudy. So, no shadow here today which means an early spring (YES!), and, oh, it also means 6 more weeks of bland blog posts. Oh well, we take the good with the bad.

I continue to heal from my cochlear implant surgery on the 25th. The swelling has pretty much gone down, my head is now more normal size, and semi’s on the Interstate can once again see to get around us. My head is still tender and sensitive on the left side, and I get some pain down my neck. But the pain is benign and progress is being made. I still only can sleep on my right side, and that is getting as hard as immediate recovery from surgery. I tried to turn over the other night and give my right side a break, and, oh my, the world went spinning. A quick flop onto my back and closing my eyes brought the room to a standstill. That freaked me out. I’ll continue to lay on my right side a little longer. And, sometimes in the morning I’m a little unsteady when I walk about. I wouldn't exactly say I walk like a drunken sailor, but perhaps I’m more like a landlubber walking on the deck of a ship during a blow.

I have two appointments to see the audiologist next week. She will “turn on” the processor, and we will start to see if this old man can detect any sound on the left side. After my second meeting with the audiologist, we are planning to head south to Bosque del Apache NWR where we were originally scheduled to be from March through June. We have an alternative plan, and we may be leaving Bosque the first of May. We’ll see how things go with my hearing and more importantly with Shannon’s health. More on our new plan maybe in my next bland post.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

You should see the other guy, indeed. Check off cochlear implant surgery from my bucket list. How did it get on my bucket list to begin with? I better study that bucket list and see what other surprises are in that bucket.

I’m told the surgery went well. Of course I wouldn’t know. I slept through it and missed the darn thing. But the second hand info I received was two thumbs mostly up. This surgery takes about 1-1/2 to 2 hours; mine took close to 3. It had to do with the condition of my inner ear from otosclerosis. Apparently otosclerosis can cause a loss of bone (that was my story previously), but another phase of the disease can add bone. In my case at this stage of the disease, additional bone was encountered and caused some additional work and time. Suffice to say, it’s done and behind me, and now I’m awaiting for the processor to be turned on to see if the implant will do any good. And, I can still smile, Alice, when I choose to, and of course frown ‘cause I gotta keep the bland going, and my taste is as good as it was before surgery. I also had little pain, one pain pill last night, and no nausea or dizziness. Now I’m nursing three days of Shannon waiting on me, and life is good.

We have been watching the Presidential Executive Orders come rolling out, and we are especially close to the federal hiring freeze. It’s too bad. We the people are loving our public lands to death, and without personnel the lands and landmarks that we are in such awe will only deteriorate or become off limits.

One of the compelling reasons we started volunteering was a deck talk we attended when we were visiting Padre Island National Seashore in the days when we were Minnesota snowbirds traveling in a 16-foot Scamp travel trailer pulled by a Ford Ranger. Ah, life was simple then. Anyway, the talk was by a volunteer, and the theme of the talk was about the items that washed up on shore (Shannon would later do that very same talk when we came back to volunteer in 2012), but the volunteer talked quite a lot about the need for volunteers. He made it quite clear the Park Service and other federal agencies simply did not have the staff to do programs and keep visitor centers open. In our times since when we volunteered at different sites throughout the country, we met young (and sometime not so young) seasonal employees trying to gain enough experience and pay their dues to become hired full time for any natural resources agency. They were the future, and even though it was a struggle to finally get on full time, there still was a hope that someday these young (and not so young) folks would take over the leadership of these federal agencies and become full time stewards of the lands we love. However, the future has become a lot more murky, and the bright hope has dimmed significantly. Sad.

Monday, January 23, 2017

A Bitter Lake NWR and Roswell retrospective is long past due. It's not that we didn't enjoy ourselves at Bitter Lake, it's just me. In fact our stint at Bitter Lake NWR was one of the easier and more enjoyable gigs that we have had. The work was light. We had 3 days at the visitor center with an average daily visitor count of less than 15. Our biggest day was the day after Thanksgiving. The count was 55 and set a record high that we did not see repeated looking through the archives except when a special event was offered. Our volunteer coordinator tried to come up with projects to occupy our time, and often the chores were a welcomed distraction from sitting behind the desk at the VC. And, we have not experienced a more friendly staff and personable volunteer coordinator as what we found at Bitter Lake.

The only downside that comes to mind was our inability to make friends with and relate to the other volunteer couple. There was nothing negative about them; it was just we ended up leading parallel but separate existences. Having relationships with other volunteers is really icing on the cake for this life. The other volunteers we have met so far have enriched our lives immensely. The Bitter Lake volunteers were kind of meh.

We did have cranes, though. Weekly counts were made of the population, and the highest weekly count was in excess of 15,000. From November on, weekly counts were in excess of 10,000. Food is not raised on the refuge, and so every morning the cranes fly off the refuge to feed and then return to spend the night. At night cranes will stand in shallow water as they rest. The water helps them to detect predators sneaking up on them; it's a safety behavior for them. Their return every evening about sundown was spectacular. Thousands would fly over in groups of 20 to over a hundred squawking their way to their nightly roosting spots. They often directly came over the area where we were living, and since we were outside walking the dogs, we experienced the cranes up close. The sounds they make are indelibly etched into my deafness. Their sounds were loud enough that their voices filled even my silent void. It filled me with some of the same feelings I use to get when I would hear loons in the evening calling across some unnamed lake in northern Minnesota. The sounds of freedom and wildness. It was a good thing to experience.

The refuge also supported a variety of water fowl including coots, shovelers, green wing teal, mallards, pintails, etc. There was a fair size light goose population also overwintering on the refuge. Numbers were generally in the thousands, but not as large as the crane population or the snow and Ross goose populations at Bosque del Apache NWR the year before when we volunteered there. The light geese flocks were still spectacular. They generally hung out together and for whatever reason known only to them, they would get up and fly around and land back in about the same spot. The take offs were more spectacular than the crane fly offs since the cranes tend to leave in smaller groups.

The refuge allowed hunting. It is one of the purposes of the NWR and the USF&W Service. So, we had to be a part of it. Hunting was allowed on part of the main refuge Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from sunrise to 1:00 p.m. All hunters had to fill out a survey sheet indicating what they bagged or shot without bagging. Cranes were included. Part of our job was to put up and take down signs and open and close one gate when the hunting period was over. So, we were very aware of what was going on, especially when we collected the survey forms and noted the kill for the day. Hunting is something that we both understand intellectually, but in our hearts we struggle with it, especially on a refuge.

The site offered to the volunteers consisted of a cement pad, full hookups, and access to propane. Within a short walking distance we had access to a washer and dryer. There were two bathrooms with showers, a recreation room for whatever, and a refrigerator for our use. There were several residences close by housing the biologist and one of the fire guys; so, we did not feel like we were all alone. The staff was very friendly and helpful, and when leaving we even got hugs from some of the non-professional staff. The refuge is located only 7 miles for Roswell which has all the amenities one could hope for. There was free WiFi for our use when we were at the VC which was readily taken advantage of since we sat more than we interacted with visitors. Anyway, not a bad place to be.

Roswell was a pleasant surprise for us. It is probably the largest city in SE New Mexico; so, it had a lot of things going on to keep us busy on the 4 days we were not working. One week there was a Jazz Festival with free concerts every day culminating with a Sunday morning jazz worship service at the Methodist Church. And there were UFOs and aliens all over town. We went to the local museum and got up to speed on why the focus on UFOs and aliens. Of course many of the local businesses capitalized on the theme with alien figures outside their business establishments. One of the McDonald's was designed as a space ship and was quite fun to see. And , of course, as we gazed up into the darkening sky watching cranes return against the multiple hues of a New Mexico sunset, there were times when...ah..better not...I'm not prepared to say anymore...just come for the cranes and stay for the UFOs.

We blew into Pendleton behind a Low that had moved off to the east, but the wind and moisture wrap around was with us the entire drive. We ...