Thursday, June 24, 2010

Best Laid Plans

As most of you know our plan was to drive to Billings yesterday to be able to do laundry, get the truck clutch adjusted and do some more genealogy research. But we ended up in the Beartooth Hospital Emergency Room in Red Lodge about 8am yesterday morning instead.

After a sleepless night Richard woke me up early to tell me we needed to get to a doctor. Since he only goes to the doctor for an annual check-up I immediately knew it was serious. His stomach was distended and his pain on a scale of 1-10 was a 10+. When he was having his back problems his pain level was never more than an 8 so, again, I knew it was pretty bad.

They ran tests and determined he had a lower bowel obstruction. His intestines had pockets of air as well as fluid putting a tremendous amount of pressure in his mid belly region. They put a tube down his nose into his stomach and proceeded to pump out junk hoping to relieve the pressure, plus they gave him IV fluids to try to get his bowels working again. His pain remained at a high level even after 6 mg of morphine.

If this procedure hadn't worked he'd have been sent to Billings where they would have done surgery to relieve the obstruction.

They admitted him so they could continue giving him fluids and pump out "stuff". His pain level was down to a 5 by early afternoon so he didn't ask for any more morphine. By about 4:30 he was writhing in pain again so they gave him some more morphine. It took a total of 6 mg again to get him comfortable enough to finally be able to go to sleep. That's when the pump was finally able to do its job and as he slept things began to improve. When he awoke he was pain free - and he's been pain free ever since! All I can say is, "Thank you, Jesus for answered prayers".

They took the tube first thing this morning and started him on a liquid diet. They brought him a liquid lunch but he complained enough that they checked with his doctor who approved a soft meal. He only got a bowl of chicken noodle soup but it was better than nothing. They told him they'd bring him some ice cream in awhile, which I know will be a nice treat for him.

So it looks like he will be discharged late this afternoon if his bowels continue to work like they have been the past few hours. We will go back to the same spot we were at, south of Red Lodge, for the night and then head out first thing in the morning again for Billings (and not in an ambulance, thank the Lord!).

When it rains it pours. I spent all morning dealing with our credit card company and the VA.

Someone attempted to fraudulently use it to purchase something on the internet using Paypal. We can't figure out how that would have been possible but, after several phone calls, the result is our cards have been canceled and we are having new ones overnighted to Billings. Now the hassle of redoing all our automatic monthly bill payments, etc., etc. No fun.

The VA is a regional system so when we told them he has VA insurance they assumed he is registered with the MT office. Since he isn't his claim would have been denied. After I brought this to their attention, the hospital business office contacted the TX VA to determine his eligibility and then the MT office to register him with them.

So, we've had all the excitement we can stand for awhile and pray the rest of our travels this summer & fall will be fun, but uneventful! Thank you everyone, for your prayers and good thoughts. And thank you, Daryl, for your extremely kind offer to help. That was above & beyond.

I had to walk a over a mile to a coffee house on Broadway (Red Lodge's Main St.) so I could get an internet connection. It's a beautiful 75 degrees out so it was a lovely walk. It was good to get out of the hospital and get some fresh air.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Beartooth Scenic Byway Adventure

We have been in the same place just south of Red Lodge, MT for four days.  The weather has been reasonable but not great.  We have had afternoon thunderstorms a couple days, but yesterday was pretty nice.  We have spent the past two afternoons at the historical society in town, digging through genealogy information.   Dianna's great grandfather, Alfred E Flager moved to Red Lodge in about 1889 and opened the Carbon County Mercantile in 1895.  In 1902 he built what was described as one of the finest mansions in Red Lodge.  That house is still there and is now on the National Historic Register.  We went to see it and take photos, and were lucky enough to meet the current owner.  She gave us a full tour of the place.  Dianna was in 7th heaven.

We planned to leave for Billings tomorrow and spend our last day here taking a motorcycle ride over the Beartooth Scenic Byway from Red Lodge to the northeast entrance of Yellowstone National Park, only about 70 miles away.  The highway has been described as one of the most beautiful routes in the country.

It was about 60 degrees when we started out, but although that is cool we were wearing our cold weather gear since we expected it to get a lot colder.  The West Summit Pass is just a little below 11,000 feet.  There were high clouds that made for hazy sun when we left.  As we headed up the mountains the clouds thickened and it got a lot colder.  By the time we reached the vista point at 9,200 feet it was cold and the sky was threatening.  We figured it was less than 2,000 feet more to the summit so we pushed on.  Soon it began spitting snow, then snowing heavier, and finally it turned to an all out blizzard.  Visibility dropped to only 100 feet or so in places as we crested the summit and started down.  It continued to snow heavily and even began to accumulate on the colder bare spots of ground, although fortunately it did not stick to the road.  If it had we would have stopped immediately since riding on snow or ice is not something to do on a motorcycle.  At times were were riding through tunnels of snow banks higher than a car that reminded me of some of the roads we used to see in Western New York when I was a child.

We finally came to the Top of the World store at about the 9,000 foot level.  We stopped and had some lunch and got something hot to drink.  The thermometer on the post on the porch read 32 degrees.  We talked to the locals and they told us of another route back to Red Lodge.  Dianna did not want to go back over the summit.  Although it was about 60 miles farther, it was much lower.  Rather than continue on to Yellowstone we turned off when we came to the intersection with the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway and took that route back home.  By then the snow had stopped and although it was still cold until we got back down to lower elevations, it was much more comfortable and somewhere along the way the scooter odometer turned 30,000 miles.  On the way we stopped at a bakery and had pie and something hot to drink.

All in all it was quite an adventure, although I think Dianna would probably describe it as an ordeal.  Here is a photo of her when we stopped at the Top of the World store.  Due to the weather conditions we did not take nearly as many photos as we planned, but the rest of the photos we did take are in the gallery.


Saturday, June 19, 2010


We visited Big Hole National Battlefield in MT and arrived in Dillon this past Monday afternoon under beautiful, clear skies. It turns out it was the only nice weather we had the entire time we were there.

We scooted to Judy and John's that evening for supper. They truly "killed the fatted calf" for us. They have milk/meat cattle - the ones that look like Oreo cookies!

We had planned to go to Bannock St. Pk. the next day but it rained that day and the next. Bannock is a ghost town but Bannock Days are held there every July and the Vaccaros are quite involved in that event. It would have been a lot of fun to see.

We had the Vaccaros over for a spaghetti dinner the evening before we left. It's a good thing all six children aren't home any longer or we never would have fit! It was great seeing their beautiful log home and visiting with them. It's only the second time since they left CA over 15 years ago that we've seen them.

Arrived in Bozeman Thursday, set up camp and headed to town to begin my genealogy research. My great grandfather, Zachary Taylor Widener, moved his family there in 1903. The Historical Society is right next door to the County Recorder's office so I was able to find out where my ancestors lived and worked and went to school. We then ate at a terrific BBQ restaurant, Famous Dave's, that evening.

Yesterday we moved south of town and camped alongside beautiful Hyalite Creek in Hyalite Canyon. We went back into town where I found more information at the library, Historical Society and Co. Recorder. We took pictures of the three homes the Wideners lived in as well as two commercial buildings my great grandfather had his insurance, real estate and loan company in.

At one of the homes a young man was out front so I asked him if he owned it. He said he was just a boarder but invited us in to see his fourth floor loft. It was so amazing to be in the home my great grandparents and grandparents lived in!!

We also found my dad's birth announcement in the newspaper and my grandfather's picture in the college yearbook. All in all it was a wonderful adventure and I'm so glad I convinced Richard to go the southern route instead of the northern one here in MT.

Today we moved to south of Red Lodge and are camped beside another gorgeous creek, Rock Creek. We will be here a few days as I want to do some research on my grandma Widener. She went to college and taught here. I can't figure out how my grandparents met as they lived 150 miles from each other! It's another of those questions I really wish I had thought to ask when family was still alive.

Next we will travel to Billings, where my grandparents got married, on to Little Big Horn National Battlefield and eventually to Miles City where my grandmother's family lived for awhile before moving to Red Lodge. It's been so meaningful to me to see the places my ancestors lived and worked I can't wait to continue the search.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Nevada and Idaho

Time to catch everyone up on where we have been the past two weeks.  We left California behind after our visit to the Bristle Cone Pine Forest and took the turnoff from US 395 onto US 6 in Bishop, CA.  A sign shortly after the turn notified us that we were on the longest US highway in the country.  The other end of US 6 ends in Cape Cod, MA.

We stopped at Walker Lake and spent two days there.  Walker Lake is a remnant of a lake that once covered much of the Great Basin.  We did some geocaching and visited a museum in nearby Hawthorne.  Hawthorne has the distinction of having the largest Army ammunition depot in the world.  The museum was mostly about the different kinds of bombs and ammunition the Army uses.  Interesting and free.

We then moved on to Winnemucca, NV.  We found a BLM campground in a canyon above town called Water Canyon.  There was a nice stream just behind our trailer and it was a nice place.  Again we did some geocaching, including being the "First to Find" for one cache that had been planted in the area just a few days earlier.  That is our first FTF.  We spent two days there.

Then we moved up to Nampa, ID, a suburb of Boise, and rented a spot in an RV park for the first time since leaving Frazier Park.  We need to do that about once a week so we can do laundry, etc.  We had a nice visit with Robin and Ken both nights we were there.  The second night they took us out to dinner at a very nice Italian restaurant with an outdoor patio that overlooked a woodland by the river.  It was very nice.

We then headed north from Boise into the mountains.  We followed the Boise River into the wilderness and climbed up and over, down and around.   The country was beautiful but the going was slow.  We stopped just south of Stanley, ID along the Salmon River where we spent two nights in a forest service campground.  The river was just a few feet from our rig.  It was cold and rainy for the two days we were there, but we enjoyed the stay anyway.

The Salmon River is also known as The River of No Return.  It is a very fast flowing river as it cuts its way down out of the Sawtooth Mountain range.  We followed it to a spot just south of the town of Salmon, ID where we found a large parking area by a boat launch and spent the past three nights.  Saturday we drove into town and visited the Sacajawea Interpretive Center.  Salmon is located where the Lemhi River joins the Salmon river, and Sacajawea was born here in the Lemhi Valley.  She was captured by another tribe when she was 11 or so, and taken to live with them in North Dakota where she was married off to a French trapper.  The following year Lewis and Clark hired the trapper and her to guide them west.  She returned to her village here along the Lemhi as they moved west, and then on to the Pacific Coast, returning with the party to North Dakota.

As you can imagine, there is a lot of information about Lewis and Clark  in the area.  Yesterday we took the scooter and followed the Lemhi River to its headwaters near Gilmore Summit about 60 miles southeast of here.  The valley runs along the foot of the Bitteroot mountains which are still snow capped and beautiful.  We had a great ride, stopping to read all the information signs along the way, and climbing from 3,000 feet to over 7,000 at the summit.

Today we will leave Idaho and move into Montana.  We plan to spend a day or so visiting Dianna's cousin Judy in Dillon, then we will explore more of the areas in Montana we have not seen before.  We still have a month until we pick up Dom in Minneapolis, so we have plenty of time to see things along the way.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Bristlecone Pine Forest

We are on the road again.  We left Frazier Park yesterday and headed up Highway 395 along the back side (east side) of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.  This side is very different from the west side as the mountains rise sharply and it is very dry here.

We stopped in Big Pine and found a campsite in an Inyo County campground.  We have no hookups so we had to run the generator and air conditioner to cool off.  The temperatures are in the high 80's to low 90's so we are finally able to thaw out from our experience in Frazier Park.

Today we drove up to see the Bristlecone Pine forest near the 10,000 foot summit of the White Mountains.  The road was very steep, narrow, twisty and not the best place for a truck like ours, but we made it.  We were concerned that it would be too cold on top for the motorcycle because the road only opened two weeks ago, but it would have been no problem.  There are only a few small patches of snow left.

The Bristlecone Pines were very interesting.  The are the oldest living things on earth and only found in a few remote places in this area.  The trees we saw on our short hike were about 4,000 years old.  The hike to the area where the oldest trees, about 5,000 years old, was still covered with snow according to the sign.  I suspect I would have a difficult time telling the difference.

We took some pictures so if you are interested you can follow the link to Bristle Cone Pine Forest.