Thursday, April 17, 2014

I Am a "USONIAN"

April 15th
I recently read that it would be more accurate to call citizens of the United States "Usonians" than Americans.  Usually, we are called "Americans," 

Yesterday I finally finished my taxes and got them submitted electronically.  It was quite an experience, as 2013 was the year I had to begin taking RMDs (Required Minimum Distributions) from several investment accounts.  I'd used Turbo Tax for last year's taxes and it went very smoothly.  Well, 2013's experience has been challenging.  I can't say I don't enjoy the process, but I certainly fiddled around with it for weeks; then found myself last weekend with only days left to file on time.

Thursday before "K" day!  Yup, this coming Monday will be "K" Day (that's 'knife' day!).  In a way I'm kind of looking forward to it.  This last prep period has been difficult.  Without the help of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, the arthritis all over my body has been in full force.  I've curtailed driving any distance in Petunia, as she doesn't have cruise control; maintaining pressure on the gas pedal becomes a small torture after about 15 or 20 miles.  Well, that'll be over soon.

This week I'm cleaning house and getting things done, like grooming for Lacy, that'll have to be put off for awhile.
I'm going to store Floribunda here on Bob and Judy's ranch while I move into Kari's (daughter) house on Saturday.  I'll be chief cook for Easter, my last hurrah before Monday.

Oh, and yesterday was the 53rd birthday of my son, Jeff.  OMG, can that be true?  When I spoke with him last evening he said his brain just can't take it in; he feels like he's made it into his 30s; but 53?  No way!  They say that recent memory goes first.  So, I can remember very clearly that day in April when Jeff came into my life.  I was barely 18 and didn't know too much about life; but, I loved him with all my heart the first time I saw him.  He was a 7 pound, 7 ouch bundle of joy; and has become a wonderful man, Usonian, husband, father and friend.  Happy Birthday Jeff.  May this be the happiest year of your life.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

More Than You Probably Wanted to Read About Total Knee Surgery!

On Tuesday I joined a group of about 8 other "bum knee" people for our "Total Knee Replacement Arthroplasty Pre-Op Class" given by the Physical Therapy and Nursing Departments at Kaiser Permanente.  It's a nice way to get all the instructions for how to prepare for surgery (mine is scheduled for the day after Easter, the 21st) before the patient has to be able to actually follow the instructions.  It gives patients the opportunity to ask questions and have some of their fears alleviated.  For me it was interesting to see the improvements that have been made in the treatment of hospitalized patients, in general, and specifically from the standpoint of the Orthopedic patient who'll not only be physically compromised and in pain, but in a hospital environment with its inherent discomforts and exposure to foreign bacteria.  [Any time it's necessary to open a bone in a surgical process, it leaves the patient particularly vulnerable to infection and complication].  The thrust these days is to involve the hospitalized patient  in his own treatment and get him out of the hospital as soon as possible.  We've 'learned' how to deal with those germs around our own homes (mostly it's our immune systems that have built defenses  to the germs in our homes); but hospitals are public places, housing patients with all kinds of maladies; it's possible for there to be a germ that our immune system hasn't yet built a defense!  From where I 'm living, at Bob and Judy's ranch, it's a 75-mile drive to the South Sacramento Kaiser Permanente Hospital; fortunately all Physical Therapy after surgery will be at a Kaiser facility only about 4 miles from my daughter's house. 

I'll 'move in' to my daughter's house probably a couple of days before surgery after I pack what I'll need and get Floribunda ready to sit patiently and wait for Lacy, Eleanor and I to return.  The problem for me in moving back into the rig won't be the stairs I'm sure, but the bending, crawling, etc. that must occur to clean and operate the vagabond lifestyle.  Who knows when I'll have that kind of mobility.  I'm diligently doing the pre-op exercises to build as much strength and breathing power before the surgery as I can, so I'll be ready to tackle the rehabilitation.  
This week I ordered a pedal exerciser that I'll be able to use for flexibility and strength of my legs and arms after surgery

This is a picture of before and after total knee reconstruction.  I've had lots of experience with this surgery - but only from the "other side of the knife!!"

I stopped taking the miracle medication called Celebrex last Monday as it "thins the blood" and makes bleeding more of a problem after surgery; so, not only does my knee hurt like crazy, but all my other areas of arthritis are inflamed.  Driving Miss Petunia has become very uncomfortable, mainly because she doesn't have 'cruise control' so I have to use my right foot all the time I'm driving; and arthritis in my spine (some due to spinal surgery several years ago) has also flared up.  So, the long and short of it is that I'm not driving any distance and things like shopping have gone by the wayside.

I 'moved' into the guest room at Bob and Judy's for the weekend because my daughter-in-law, Alice, and my granddaughters, Malia and Samantha, are staying in Floribunda; they're here for a soccer tournament.  Malia will play and Samantha, with her broken leg, will be a spectator.


I'm making a chili feed for this evening and we'll all play Mexican Train Dominoes.  It's so fun being able to include the girls (14) in the adult game.  And, I'm sure they'll be better at it than I am!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

I'm Still Here Enjoying the California Poppies . . .

Happy Spring Sunday!

I'm still here in Loomis and have been busy with family activities and surgery preparation; so I apologize for being out of touch with my wonderful "virtual friends."  I hope all are continuing to enjoy Spring 2014 wherever you are.  I'll get back to posting soon.

Before I retired I always seemed to be too busy to slow down and just enjoy the wonders of nature and the view of our wonderful world.  I am so enjoying This Spring back in California . . . and we've even had some good rain.  I hope we haven't seen the last of it because we need so much more; but it's not as bad as when I got here!
Above is what our hills look like now . . . in a couple of months they'll be golden brown again and our Oak trees will depend on water deep in the ground
Our State Flower, the California Poppy is in full bloom almost everywhere you look.

New news:  Samantha, one of my son Jeff's 14-year old twins, was injured in a girls basketball game two weeks ago today.  She fractured the top of her right tibia (big bone in lower leg) and had surgery complete with placement of screws and is now recovering.  She'll go back to school tomorrow but will continue rehab for 4-5 months.  The docs say she'll be able to return to her traveling soccer team next year.  She's been a real trouper and we'll both be in right-knee-rehab mode together.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Back "Home" Again in . . . Loomis, California

Lacy, Eleanor and I rolled into Bob and Judy's ranch in Loomis a little after noon yesterday.  Judy is one of my very best friends in the world.  She and Bob married while I was in Guatemala, so I missed a very important historical event!  Seriously, I worked with Judy at Kaiser in Roseville and we have become the greatest of friends - especially since we've both retired.  Judy had been widowed several years ago; then, along came Bob, a retired accountant and rancher.

Judy is now the chief lady rancher on this beautiful ranch.  Loomis is a very small, and somewhat distant, suburb of Sacramento.  Judy is lifelong resident of this area, knows a lot about its history; Bob has been a resident for many years and has owned this ranch for over 20.  When he and Judy 'hitched up' they began a ranch 'overhaul' that has resulted in a very beautiful and comfortable home and property.  

Combining pet families and making additions, they currently have:  two horses, four llamas, four Chihuahuas, two lop-eared bunnies, a cat, and a pond full of Koi (Japanese for 'carp') of every color koi come in!  Oh, and they have resident geese, that do not migrate; some days there are 10 or 20 hear in the ponds and pastures; some days there may be a hundred!  They fly in early in the morning and fly back to (probably) Folsom reservoir every night.  They can be a nuisance what with poop and such; but for me it's heaven to watch all the animals all day long.


You may remember a similar photo of Floribunda 
right after I moved in last July.  
Bob and Judy's ranch was my first adventure.


There's another beautiful 'ranch' across the street.
Each property is about five acres - 'gentlemen ranches'
I took these photos about 8:30 this morning.



These are pampered, well-loved horses, 
Mindy and Pollyanna, who are kept overnight
in the barn and then let out during the day.
I say pampered because Bob and Judy try to protect 
them from the cold nights!  50F!!!


In those trees is a wonderful tree-house 
for the grandkids.  It's even carpeted!


Unfortunately, California is in for a bad summer if 
we don't get lots more rain and that's not likely; so, container plants, 
landscaping and watered pastures may not
be possible.


Lacy has an affinity for this rose garden. No roses to 
smell - yet - Lacy


This is a small landscaped and enclosed garden area where
they let the bunnies run free and play in the bushes and flowers.
Oreo and Sable also have an indoor / outdoor hutch in sun and partial shade.
In the summertime, with our really high temperatures
the bunnies are brought into the house during the hot days

Here are three of the four Chihuahuas:  L to R:
Lilly, Dusty and Marty.  Max had taken a real liking to Lacy's
soup bone and was out on the deck going at it.

It's Spring, it's Sunday, we're with friends - 
I'm happy . . . and I wish you a happy Sunday
too!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Decoding a Myth of the Vernal Equinox . . .

Remember I said I was going to try to find out why there wasn't actually equal day and night on the Vernal Equinox, yesterday?

AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski gives this definition of Vernal Equinox:  This is when the sun crosses the equator going south to north.  It happens during Earth's orbit around the sun  and simultaneously on the imaginary dome of our sky.  Remember that the Earth orbits the sun one time per year; but the Sun orbits the Earth one time per day.  On the Vernal Equinox the Sun crosses the equator, an imaginary line drawn right around the Earth's middle, like a belt.  It devices Earth into the Northern Hemisphere and the Southern Hemisphere.

Kottlowski says that the word equinox means "equal nights," and as a result it's rumored that there must be equal hours of both day and night (12 hours).  But, he says that's not really true, that we get closer to equal day and night hours based on the effects of daylight saving.  The one place on Earth where one would probably see the most equality between day and night is at the equator, somewhere like Quito, Ecuador.  [I visited Quito years ago and had a photo taken of me straddling the equator].

Today I leave Bakersfield to meander north towards home (Judy's ranch in Loomis, CA).  I don't plan to make the whole trip today but maybe as far as Modesto or Stockton; then it'll be just a short hop to Loomis tomorrow - without commute traffic.


Eventide of the Vernal Equinox . . . and Today's Adventure

Thought I’d check what the actual sunrise and sunset times were for today.  Sunrise (PDT) was at 6:57am and sunset (PDT) was at 7:05pm.  What?  Today is the vernal equinox; aren’t the day and the night supposed to be equal?   I guess I have another research project; I’ll find the answer.  According to the World Clock and Astronomy, it was the 16th that had 7:02am sunrise and 7:02pm sunset.  Well, I’ve just got to get this figured out.  I’ll share what I find out.

As for today’s adventure . . . I posted that I was planning to either make it a really short day by driving only to San Bernardino, or Glendale.  I left Desert Hot Springs at 10:45, which got me to the San Bernardino area by about noon.  “Well,” said I to Lacy and myself, “I think we need to continue to Glendale.”  So we stayed on I-10 and headed west towards Glendale.  Somewhere between San Bernardino and Glendale I admitted to the kids and myself that what I was really uncomfortable with that was causing my hemming and hawing was the infamous Grapevine.

For those followers who are unfamiliar with The Grapevine, it is a grade that essentially begins at the mouth of Grapevine Canyon at an altitude of very close to sea level, and ascends the canyon to Tejon Pass in the Tehachapi Mountains via I-5.  The grade is named for the canyon it passes through with its wild grapes that still grow along the original road.  The Spanish name is La CaƱada de las Uvas(the mountain pass of the grapes). 

The highest point is at an elevation of 4,431 feet and the grades are 6%+ both uphill and down.  It’s the major route for the long haul truckers who must use it for transporting goods between Southern and Northern California and all of the Pacific Northwest.  Closure for any reason causes a formidable disruption to traffic; and, it does occasionally close due to heavy snowfall during winter storms.

These photos are from Google Images - I was too busy to take photos!




Sometime after passing Glendale, I decided that the way to calm down about traversing the Grapevine was to "just do it!"  So we pulled off a little north of Glendale for a snack, gas and potty break and headed on to I-5N and the Grapevine.  End to end it's about 40 miles; but takes at least an hour to cover the distance in a car.  Floribunda just hung in there with all the big trucks, at times going 35mph on some uphill grades.  There are signs instructing drivers to turn off air conditioners for a number of miles to prevent overheating, and they even supply water stations for overheated radiators. I also attempted to do a large part of my downhill braking using my lower gears, and thus, hopefully saving some brake pad wear.  The road is curvy and the downhill portions can be hairy; I chose to stay in the right lane even if I had to go slower than normal (behind a truck).

Along about the time I saw the sign (above) that Bakersfield was 39 miles, I made the decision to head there to look for an RV park.  I've stayed in Bakersfield in my Toyota Dolphin but couldn't remember the name of the park.  So, when I found Bakersfield River Run Park, online, it was easy access from Highway 99, off I-5 and it's really lovely.  The grass is green green, the trees are all in leaf, the sites are paved with lawn in between each site, and it's $31 - not bad.  Tomorrow I could backtrack to connect with I-5; but I think I've decided to head to the Sacramento area on Highway 99N.  It takes me through the Central Valley, but passes through several cities and towns; some you may be familiar with:  Delano, Fresno, Tulare, Visalia, Madera, Chowchilla, Merced, Modesto, Stockton, and up into South Sacramento.
Over the 44-year period between 1970 and 2014, Bakersfield has grown 400% (from 70,000 to 545,000),[making it one of the fastest growing cities in California.
It was 90F when I arrived here at 4:30; it's cooled down to about 70F right now and will probably cool more by early morning.  Life is good.

I'll leave you with a couple of photos of the State flower, the California Poppy; they're starting to pop up and should be in full bloom in a few weeks.
 



That's all for now.  I need to research this equinox discrepancy!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Vernal Equinox . . . 2014 . . . Back in California, Where I Started From . . .

March 20, 2014
First day of Spring
Vernal Equinox

Beauty

Fun

New life

The word equinox is derived from the Latin words meaning “equal night.” Days and nights are approximately equal everywhere and the Sun rises and sets due east and west.

Here I am in Desert Hot Springs getting ready for the final few days of this adventure that began last July, when I moved out of my house in Roseville and into Floribunda Flair with Lacy, Eleanor and Lincoln, who, sadly, we lost in Amarillo, TX.
This photo was taken in early August as I was preparing to venture out from my girlfriend Judy's ranch.  I spoke with Judy and her husband Bob yesterday; I'll be camping there again in a few days - such great friends they are.

I'm in process of deciding how I want to handle the trip from here to I-5N, as I seriously choose to avoid as much Los Angeles traffic aggravation as possible.  I can go only as far as San Bernardino, only about 60 miles, spend the night and take on 210 to I-5 tomorrow.  Or, if I feel lucky, I may go as far as Glendale today; then leave tomorrow, after commute traffic (is there ever a non-commute traffic time there?), to start heading north to and on I-5.  The answer remains to be seen.

Although I've traditionally found I-5 long and boring, but fast, I'm looking forward to it this time.  I appreciate my home state all the more for having visited so many new places.  California is a beautiful part of the world.  Mountains lush with greenery and snow in Winter, touching the sky.  Mountains dry and sculpted by winds and rain surrounding deserts of sand and dust, tumbleweed, cactus, jack rabbits and snakes. Oases in those deserts of verdant growth by irrigation, like Palm Springs.  Valleys of agriculture that feed and clothe the nation.  National and State parks abound - some actually being wonders of the world.  And all along its western boundary, the Pacific Ocean and the glorious beaches and landscape for hundreds of miles. 


Sierra Nevada Mountain Range


California desert in Spring


Carved mountains and desert


Enough fruits, vegetables, nuts and cotton 
to almost feed and  clothe a nation


Artichokes


And grapes for eating and drinking

Big Sur coastline highway

Sandy beaches all along the coast

I look forward to spending good times with my family and friends.  I look forward to regaining much of my ability to hike, walk, bike, swim and generally enjoy daily life without a bum knee.  I look forward to cooking and baking with the use of a kitchen counter that's big enough to accommodate, not only me, but maybe 3 or 4 grandchildren at one time - cooking some newly thought-up creations or baking old standard grandmother / grandkids cookies and cakes.
Then, there will also be the 8th grade graduation of five (5) grandkids!  Yes, Avery, Tate, Spencer, Malia and Samantha will be out of what we used to call grammar school in early June. 
Yes, I'm looking forward to all the excitement of a fairly large family and friend network; but, that's not to say that I won't be anxious to move back in to Floribunda, hook Petunia behind, and return to this nomadic life I've come to love.  There's so much to see, so many people to meet, so many experiences to encounter.

Aaahh, but here is the picture I take with me regardless of where I wander:

I've driven across twice a day - for years - to and from work.  I've sailed under it.  I've flown over it. I've run across it.  I've swum under it.  I think of it often - as I travel, near and far.