Was it worth it?

I think I noted in one of my previous posts that I will just about try anything that anyone suggests that might help with my RA and inflammation. As you all know I have changed my diet and mostly eat food that is considered anti-inflammatory and stay away from foods, for the most part, that is known to cause inflammation. Sometimes that is easier said than done. On Sunday, Chip cooked a pot of spaghetti sauce, and I had a container of gluten-free noodles, so I was excited. See, I can be with my family when they get cook-out milkshakes or dairy queen blizzards, but I have a hard time not eating Chip’s venison spaghetti sauce and chili too.

As usual, his venison spaghetti sauce was delicious, and I was a happy girl, that is until the wee hours of Monday when I woke up with my hands hurting so badly that I could hardly move them, must less pull the covers up over me. Ugh, I thought, I know what did this. The spaghetti sauce was the culprit! Though it was made with venison which I can have, it had tomatoes and sugar, peppers and such in it, things I know I am not supposed to have. Was it worth this pain, it was at the time, now I am not so sure.

I had read a lot about celery juice and all the benefits about 6 weeks ago and decided to give it a try. Everything I read suggested drinking the celery juice for 7-days. Most people reported after 7-days they continued to drink the celery juice because they felt better. So, I am not a huge fan of celery. Now that is not saying that I don’t like it, but if I am going to eat celery, I prefer it to be with chicken salad on it or pimento cheese back when I was eating cheese. But to just eat a stalk of celery, not me, but Chip loves to shake salt on it and crunch away.

I did not have a juicer and read that you could “juice” using a powerful blender and then drain the pulp off. I have a ninja blender which is super powerful, so I elected to not spend money before knowing if I was going to stick to this or not. So, for 7-days, every morning, I would spend time blending my celery, draining it through a fine-mesh strainer, then pushing on the pulp left behind to get more juice out. The key is to have your pulp almost dry. This was doable but time-consuming. I had read about a nut milk bag when I was doing my research, so I thought I would give this a try. I googled to see if any store in town had one and they did not, so I ordered a nut milk bag off Amazon and was eager to give it a try. It was definitely worth the few bucks that it cost me. I would recommend this over the strainer anyway. You literally pour everything out of the blender into the nut milk bag and squeeze all the juice out. It was not as messy as it may sound. I am not sure if my hands had been hurting like they did today that I could have squeezed the bag, though.

Nut Milk Bag Reusable 3 Pack 12″ x 10″ Cheesecloth Bags for Straining Almond/Soy Milk Greek Yogurt Strainer Milk Nut Bag for Cold Brew Coffee Tea Beer Juice Fine Italian Nylon Mesh Cheese Cloth

In the meantime, I went into one of my favorite thrift stores in Danville, Helping Hands in the Sherwood Shopping Center. This is a 100% volunteer ran Thrift Store as all the profits go back into the community. I love this thrift store. Anyway, I found a juicer for $8.00. The volunteer clerk at the store helped me check to make sure it ran, and it did, so I bought it. I washed it up, which took a while as I don’t think whoever donated it had done so, it was pretty nasty. It was so easy to use and has definitely made my life easier. I always wash my celery, cut the top off first, a close cut to not waste any, just enough to trim off the browning edges and then the bottom.

Then you simply add it to the juicer. My used juicer did not come with a container, but a measuring cup works just fine.

Here are the pictures to show how messy the machine is afterward, but as long as you clean it up as soon as you are finished it is easy peasy.

I give the left overs to the chickens, they like the cut parts, but not so much the pulp. I guess I have already got the good stuff out.

I had watched a video on the juicer and new of its shortcomings, but it was worth it for me. Since then I have reviewed other machines and honestly, at the end of using them, they are all a hot mess too, so I will keep mine for now. It took me exactly 20 minutes from beginning to end, that includes taking my celery out of the refrigerator, washing, cutting, juicing, pouring into containers and then cleaning all the parts. During that time, I also had to let the dogs in the house, which means I had to re-wash my hands.


So does the celery juice work. My honest opinion is it does for me. When I started the day, I was in a lot of pain in my hands. Once I drank my juice while working in my home office, I was busy, so I did not time how long it took to work or anything but a couple of hours later I realized my hands were not hurting. Now, I think that is a combination of things. First, I did not take any medication at all, but I believe “working” through pain as for me it loosens up my joints and they do feel better. So, a combination of the celery juice and working helped. Could just working have been enough? I do not know the answer to this, but I am not willing to give up my celery juice to try it.

So, in this time of the Covid-19, I was not worried at all that I would be able to get enough celery, as who in their right mind would want to hoard celery. That is until we went to Sam’s Club on a Sunday, like we usually do and attempted to buy, four packs like I always do. When we tried to check out on our telephone, like we always do, it would not let us. We thought perhaps it was because I was buying two boxes of Mucinex (I have a lot of allergy issues), so I took one of the boxes of Mucinex through the checkout and it still would not let Chip check out with his telephone. One of the super nice Sam’s club employees came over to help us out. We basically had to take everything out of the buggy, go through the self-checkout to discover it was the celery holding us up. What? Celery? Yes, we were only allowed to buy one package of celery as there was a limit on all vegetables. So now I have become a little more panicky about getting my celery. What if they restrict leaving your home as they did in China? How would I make it without my celery juice?

Well, I happen to put this concern out on Facebook, and a friend came to the rescue. She told me about using Celery Powder that is made from just that Celery Powder. She mixes it up in a glass of water and drinks it every day. I decided to do a little research and lo and behold the Celery Powder she uses comes from a company that I was already very familiar with and love a lot of their products. I had not purchased anything in a while and did not know about some of the new products such as the Celery Powder. The company is called “It Works.” You may have heard of “that crazy wrap thing” that was popular a few years ago. It still is, and a lot of people use the wraps, it is just not front-page news right now. But their products are amazing. I swear by their hair and nails supplement. It literally helped my widows peak I was forming, grow back in. I probably have a before and after pictures, but I hate pictures of me so I will refrain from sharing. I still had an account with the It Works company that I had set up with another friend years ago and was able to order the Celery Powder.

My Celery Powder actually came in the mail today, but I am not going to use it until I either run out of celery or until we are able to start back camping or me traveling for my work. The Celery Powder will work great for me being on the road because otherwise, I would have to do a lot of juicing ahead of time. For me after the second day, my celery juice is not quite as good as the first day, I would not want to have celery juice that was as much as 3-4 days because sometimes I am gone from home that long. I already look like a gypsy dragging my suitcase, work bags, and a cooler of food into the hotel, so I surely do not want to drag a juicer along with me. My juicer is pretty loud so I am sure the person next door would not appreciate my juicing in my hotel room at 6:00am. Therefore, Celery Powder is going to work perfectly for me. I hope it tastes just like my celery juice. I will let you know once I have tried it out.

If you would like more information on the Celery Juice, or all the amazing products the company has to offer, contact https://www.facebook.com/diane.robinson.108889, she will tell you all about how these products have helped her family for years improve their health.

Will I eat Chip’s venison spaghetti sauce and his amazing chili again, yes, I probably will, but I will continue to counter it with a big old glass of celery juice.

One glass for now and a second dose saved in my recycled bottle!

Medoc Mountain State Park

There are a lot of things I love about truck campers, but the one that comes to mind at the moment is the ability for us to pick up and go on a whim. We have two plans for this year. The first is to visit as many North Carolina State Parks as possible and secondly, we want to camp 40 nights in our camper this year. To accomplish both of these things, we are going to have a lot of spur of the moments get-a-ways when we can.

We knew earlier in the week we wanted to go camping over the weekend, it was just a matter of where. We thought about going west because there are several nice state parks we want to visit. We really wanted to do some walking and since it was calling for the weather to be a little colder west we headed east. I do not like to walk outside when it is cold.

We arrived at Medoc Mountain State Park in Hollister, North Carolina.  https://www.ncparks.gov/medoc-mountain-state-park/home

We stopped by the park office and were directed to pick out our camping spot and then we could go back to the park office to pay. We circled the park twice and settled on #34. They have a lot of really nice camping spots and I honestly do not think any of them would be a bad choice. Ours was not close to the bathhouse but we did not plan on using the bathhouse anyway since our truck camper has a full bath with all the amenities one would need. But for anyone who is interested, the bathhouse is nice. It is heated which is very important this time of the year. It had 3-bathroom stalls and 3-shower stalls.

It was a gorgeous evening and we decided to take a quick hike before dinner. We decided to do the Bluff Loop Trail which was 3 miles long. It was labeled as easy to moderate. Because it was going to be a quick walk, and I was in my tennis shoes, which are so comfortable to walk in, I did not see the need to change shoes. We had not gone too far before we came upon our first very wet area. After the second mud hole and me trying to figure out how to dodge the mud, Chip asked why would I wear my best tennis shoes into the woods anyway. He knew I had hiking boots in the camper and asked why I did not wear them. Other than being lazy, I had no other response. The trail had a lot of wet areas, from all the recent rain.

It was very windy so a little cooler than expected but we were prepared with scarfs and gloves, for me anyway, Chip thinks I am crazy until he holds my cold hands and quickly understands how cold natured I am.

The trail was beautiful. It went down by the creek and back up the hill overlooking the creek. The pine trees were huge, and not just one or two, but a lot of huge trees. I am sure Chip was thinking cha-ching, as he looks at trees differently than we do. He looks at trees as the value, how many board feet, and other “forester” kind of thoughts. Overall, I think I would consider the trail more moderate than easy, not that it was hard by any means, but it did have hills and steps, which would make it a little more difficult for anyone with knees or hip problems.

As we walked, we, of course, talk non-stop, about everything from the beautiful area to what we are going to have for dinner. I usually get quizzed during the walk, about trees. Here is how our discussion usually goes.

Chip: What kind of tree is that?

Me: Oak.

Chip: What kind of oak?

Me: I do not know because it does not have any leaves right now.

Chip: You should be able to tell from its bark.

Me:  Sorry I do not remember that one. I take a picture of the tree.

Chip: Why are you taking a picture of it?

Me: So, I pass the test the next time.  Heck, I was impressed I even knew it was an oak.

In the course of the walk, I mentioned I was looking forward to the appetizers and Chip asked what appetizers. I smiled and said roasted marshmallows. He didn’t think much of my appetizers but said he would start a fire as soon as we got back to the camper.

We recently purchased a portable stove/fire pit. We purchased this stove for many reasons. These are in no particular order, but were selling points, and we have truly fallen in love with our solo stove. It is an “almost” smokeless stove. Wow, that is definitely a selling point, because I always smell like smoke at bedtime when camping, which then means my pillowcase smelled like smoke and even after washing my hair several times, I could still smell smoke. Another reason is that when we are boondocking we wanted to be able to have a fire. You cannot just build a fire on open grass, so you would need to build a rock ring, etc., and we did not want to have to spend time looking for rocks and having to create a fire ring. Another reason why we love our solo-stove is when you have an open fire you have to really pay attention to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand, especially on a windy evening, and you then have to pour water on it if you decide to call it an early evening. With the solo stove, though it was very windy, it was not a problem at all. We were able to enjoy a nice warm fire with no worries. Another reason we love our solo stove is we could use many different things to burn. Though we could get plenty of firewood from home, because of insects, parks no longer allow you to bring wood into their parks, so you must buy the wood at the park. It is not that expensive, usually 5.00 a bundle, but I do not like to spend the money, especially when I usually am picking up small sticks around the campsite to use for “starter” wood. With the solo stove, you can pick up all kinds of sticks and have a fire. It was so easy to pick up a lot of twigs and keep it going. 

Check out Solo Stove

But Chip did bring his portable DeWalt chainsaw and was able to cut up a lot of trees that had fallen from storms around our campsite. It was a win-win. We cleaned up the dead-tree limbs and we had wood. The size of wood we needed was easy to cut-up to fit the solo stove perfectly. The DeWalt is small enough to travel with us in the truck camper and it uses the same battery that we use in our vacuum cleaner, so we always have a battery charger and can easily recharge if we needed to. The chainsaw worked without any re-charges the entire weekend.

DEWALT BATTERY COMPACT CHAINSAW

The solo-stove was hot enough in no time to roast my appetizers for dinner. We safely left the fire outside unattended while we ate a quick dinner inside. Of course, we then sat outside for dessert, more roasted marshmallows of course. It was a perfect evening, but what was even more perfect is we went to bed without smelling like smoke.

Saturday morning was cool and windy, again. After eating breakfast, it was too cool to going walking, so we drove to Weldon, NC.

https://www.historicweldonnc.com/

As we were driving into Weldon, I noticed in front of a motel a large colorful fish “yard decoration” and thought how odd. It was not something you would typically see in front of a hotel of all things. We went a little further and there was another large fish and I made a comment about it and Chip said, “oh Weldon is the rockfish capital” and I bet that is why there are fish yard decorations around town. Of course, I wanted to ride around and see all of them, but he did not seem interested. I was able to get him to slow down enough for me to capture a few pictures.

We rode around town and down by the river. We read about the Roanoke Canal Museum and Trail.

https://www.roanokecanal.com/

We took a short walk to see some of the canals. The section we chose was unfortunately by the local sanitation department and for the first part of the walk, it was not very pleasant. It may have been because it was so windy.  Neck gators came in very handy to help filter the smell.

Nature test. What is that tree with all the bumps on it?  I did not even have a good guess. It was a Hackberry tree.  I should remember this one, or at least I hope I do.

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We then went to the museum which was a wonderful “find.” It was so interesting to see how they used the river to transport their goods “back in the day.” It was not as easy as it is today and was a lot of work. Even to build the canal, the work that went into cutting rocks to even build a wall was a monumental task.

Another great find at the museum was the Bicycle Loaner Program. We were able to use two bicycles to take a ride on another part of the canal trail. Greg, who was working at the museum during our visit, told us about the bike program and completed the paperwork for us to borrow the bikes. It was very simple and took no more than a couple of minutes. Greg told us our trail options, we could go down the canal and it is easy riding until you have to come back, and it is uphill the entire way or we could go up the canal and there would be a few hills, but overall a better ride. We put on our helmets, which was a requirement and hit the trail. For a short distance, it was easy riding, and then we came to our first hill. Though it was not a big hill by any means, I was not able to make it up and had to push my bike while Chip waited for me at the top. Let’s just say I lost count on how many hills I had to push my bike up. The trail ended at the power plant. There were large signs displaying the area was under constant surveillance. I am sure I was someone’s entertainment as by the time we reached the end, and of course another small incline, I was tired. Chip turned around and asked, “did you say something” and of course I had not said anything, what he heard was me grunting trying to muster up the strength to make it to the end. My Deddie always called me granny grunt, and I lived up to my name. The ride was wonderful and though at times it took a little more strength than I had to give, I was glad we did it and would definitely do it again. I thanked Greg that we went the direction we went because I sure would have hated to have pushed my bike all the way back had we went the other direction.

We grabbed a snack out of the camper (an advantage to carrying your home away from home with you) and ate as we drove. We arrived back to the campground shortly after lunch and we hit the trails. I already had my hiking boots on, and we had our walking sticks ready to go. We purchased our walking sticks at Lidl a couple of years ago and have they been perfect. They are well-built and have withstood a lot of hikes.  https://www.lidl.com/

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We decided on a long walk today which was going to be five miles long. It was beautiful as you can see in the pictures. And yes, thank goodness I had on my hiking boots today, as we crossed a lot of muddy areas.

When we started out it was cold to me, so I had on my puffy jacket, my neck gator and gloves. We, of course, had not walked far before I had gotten hot, so lucky, for me, Chip had room in his backpack for my coat. After further hiking, I was able to use my neck gator as a headband. When one trail would end, we would decide to take another one. In the end, we rode the bike for 3 miles and walked 7 miles. If it was the summertime, we could have gone for a swim in the river and made it a triathlon for us.

Today’s nature test was a large tree with carvings. I made a wild guess but was wrong. But what I did learn is most of the time when you see a tree with carvings it is an American Beech.  People are drawn to carve on the beech tree because of its smooth bark. It is harmful to the tree though and people should not do it, as tempting as it may be. 

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My second nature question was turkey poop. Did you know you could determine the sex of a turkey based on the shape of its poop? That’s right, a male turkey’s poop is male produce spiral-shaped poop and females’ poop is shaped like the letter J. Yep, I flunked that one too. I did not take a picture, but here is one from the internet that will show you what I am talking about.

turkeys-06

We got back to camp early enough to gather up firewood and get the solo stove fired up and ready for more appetizers, aka roasted marshmallows. Chip cooked a wonderful dinner of tuna, lime-cilantro rice, and salads. We enjoyed more roasted marshmallows. Another wonderful night by the fire, without smelling smokey at bedtime.

Sunday morning was so easy to pack up and leave the campground. One of the many things we love about the truck camper. We explored the Bridle Camping section and trails. The campsites there are for campers with horses and are beautiful and private. The area would be perfect for a group of campers with horses as the picnic shelter had a large grill and the riding trails had multiple benches. We walked the trail because there was no one around and we wanted to do some walking before we headed home. I would definitely recommend this area for anyone with horses looking for somewhere to ride.

Our last stop was at the main office to see the exhibits they had and to talk a walk on the Habitat Adventure Trail. The exhibits are a great learning experience for all ages, and the trail is perfect for a family as you can see from the pictures and videos. It is also wonderful for those that are kids at heart. 

These are the inside exhibits.

Outside exhibits.

 

A lot of interactive areas to give the children hands-on learning. 

Me being interactive with the trail, but Chip told me I wasn’t doing it right, that I was supposed to do it fast like a squirrel. His version of pretending to be a squirrel. He is so funny when he is playing around because he is usually a pretty serious person.

I could not help but think this would be a wonderful idea for my Rotary Club to do in our hometown of Danville, Virginia, in collaboration with the parks and recreation department. I will make sure I pass the idea onto my fellow Rotarians.

Medoc Mountain was the perfect weekend get-away, and we will most definitely visit there again someday.

 

Backroads are the Best Roads

Good Morning! Staying in the Cracker Barrel parking lot was wonderful. It was quiet but the best part was the fact that we splurged on breakfast. On the bright side, we had a gift card we have had forever, at least so long that we have no clue who gave it to us or when. I think I will start writing on the back of them the date we received and who gave it to us, so when we eventually do use it, we can think fondly of the person and their gift.

We rode the interstate from Bloomington, Illinois to Louisville, Kentucky.  Kentucky is a neat place to visit, and luckily for us, we have been to it before and had visited the Lousiville Slugger Museum, so we only passed through today.

https://www.sluggermuseum.com/

But then, it was time to hit the backroads. Backroads are where we love to drive. We saw a lot of beautiful countrysides and of course, I took a lot of pictures. Here are just a few.

We thought we were almost home when we saw the sign for Danville, just kidding, there are a lot of towns named Danville in the USA. I sent this picture to a friend to make them think we were almost home, they knew we weren’t.

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Going through small towns you always find interesting things to talk about. Here was a tractor on the road, which as you know we have seen a lot of, a large Liquor Barn and, in another town, these antique Volkswagen beetles that were restored beautifully.

We actually had a little harder time than expected to find somewhere to boondock tonight. We could have driven a little further into Tennessee but found out “boondocking” is not allowed in parking lots in Sevierville/Pigeon Forge area. So, we stopped early and stayed at the Cracker Barrel in Knoxville.

We had $8.00 left on our Cracker Barrel gift card and frugal me found a four-piece southern fried chicken dinner with two-sides and biscuits or corn muffins for dinner for $10.79.  Since it was mainly going to be Chip’s dinner, as I had some of my “healthy food” I was going to eat, I let him choose the sides. He ordered cream potatoes with gravy and fried apples.

https://crackerbarrel.com/order-online

I ordered it on-line, so it was ready when we arrived. It was nice to be able to go inside and pick it up, bring it back to the camper and enjoy a nice hot meal with no work and no cleanup. I failed to take a picture of it, I guess we were so hungry we just jumped in, but this is what we ordered, compliments of the  Barrel website. Mmmm doesn’t that just make you hungry thinking about it.

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The Cracker Barrel card was now zeroed out so it went in the trash Maybe we will be lucky and get another one for our future Cracker Barrel stays.

Tomorrow we head into Sevierville to visit Chip’s Mother’s homeplace.

Great Lake and Great Cheese

Good Morning. No problems wallydocking last night. Today we went to Lake Superior and walked a trail along the shore.

 

We walked from the parking lot to the lakeside underground through this tunnel. I just thought that was neat.

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We rode the scenic highway and stopped at various places to see views. We went to a visitor information center and were given a map that showed all the cheese factories in Wisconsin.

We stopped at a cheese factory and creamery that was very interesting. We saw the process from the beginning to the end.

 

The cows waited patiently for their turn at the automated milking machines. It was hilarious to watch as when the gate opened and they were able to go into the area they walked down to their stall area, turned around and walked backward until they had their teats lined up, I guess. It was like they knew exactly what was expected of them. Then a man hooked each one up, and the machines did the rest. There were viewing areas and information on each step of the process.

We purchased several different items made locally including chocolate maple candy, sugar cone caramel cookies and of course cheese. The best purchase was the fried cheese curds, and yes even though I am not supposed to have dairy, I had to taste it, which was my downfall because it was incredible. The ranch type dressing (more dairy) was simply amazing.

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We took backroads the rest of the trip and saw a lot of dairy and Amish families.

I thought it was interesting the roads and highways were letters instead of numbers like we see in NC. You know me then it became a game where I was looking to see if I could get all the alphabet, unfortunately I had missed the first part of the alphabet, but I did pay attention long enough to go into double letters. Here are just a few.

Chip drove hard, and we ended up in Bloomington, Illinois, where we stayed at a Cracker Barrel. It was 9:30pm and we were tired.

Waterfowl Expedition

Today was again a travel day. We were up early, refilled the gas tank, again, and had our path mapped out taking back roads toward the Devils Lake area. We were hoping to see waterfowl. We took back roads the entire trip and did get a chance to see a lot of waterfowl.

We had seen huge trucks full of what we thought were sweet potatoes, but then the more we saw the more they looked like potatoes. So, upon research, we discovered they were sugar beets and happen to be driving by the museum on our back roads. Unfortunately, we could not figure out if it was open or not, so we stopped at a gazebo adjacent to it and ate lunch at a picnic table. Here is an article that I found interesting about the sugar beets. (A sugar beet is a plant whose root contains a high concentration of sucrose and which is grown commercially for sugar production.)

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These are not pictures that I took, but I wanted you to be able to see what we were seeing a little better.

https://www.gjsentinel.com/lifestyle/columns/white-gold-long-a-staple-for-farmers/article_6350e644-c7be-11e9-b99c-20677ce05640.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=user-share&fbclid=IwAR2uchoA28QRKDvFr5mCBIXNMMFjH5g58raONkqhvGCzgI9PvY7OarjhkSM

One of the things that caught our site today was the size of the liquor stores. We could not pass up the chance to go into several of them and did find a liquor one of our friends was looking for and had not been able to find in NC or any stores nearby in VA that Bailey had checked out. But we struck gold, peach gold that is when we found a large stock of Peach Crown Royal. I was amazed at the size of the liquor stores and was constantly sending Bailey pictures. She did ask me why I was spending so much time in the liquor stores when we didn’t “really drink” and I really didn’t have an answer other than they were pretty amazing.  They were pretty turn-key meaning they sold everything from cups, stirrers, olives, salt, sugar, of course, the mixers, and then they even sold supplements for hangovers.

Along our ride, we saw a lot of unique looking campers and after we saw several, Chip said he thought they might be ice houses. So, you know me I google it and sure enough, that was exactly what we were seeing. Of course, I spent a lot of time researching them as it was fascinating to me. We may have to travel back that way someday just to go ice fishing as I think it is pretty cool that you are in a camper, hut, or cabin, that is heated, with a hole cut in the floor of whatever you are staying in, and then a hole in the ice to fish. I can not imagine catching a fish while reclined back inside and then reeling it in. Just the thought of it is so funny to me and a must-try someday.

We did not find any neat boondocking opportunities for tonight and ended up planning to wallydock in Duluth, Minnesota. I had read on-line that Walmart had signs posted that specifically said no overnight camping, but suggested calling the store manager for permission, which I did. I spoke to Ed and he assured us that it was fine and said there would probably be other campers there when we arrived.

Randomness pictures I took on this leg of the trip were these clouds. They were just so beautiful to me, even though they did bring rain.

We saw this amazing rainbow en route to Duluth. I took a zillion pictures because it was so vivid. But here are a few.

Before going to Walmart, we decided to grab something to eat as it had been a long day and we were tired. We wanted to be set up and ready to watch Survivor. Yes, we are die-hard, Survivor fans, and try our best to never miss an episode. We decided to Chipotle which was at the local mall. While we were cutting through the mall, we saw an icehouse on display and captures a couple of snapshots.

All the black circles in the inside picture are removable to fish from. Doesn’t that seem cool?

We were glad to get to the Walmart parking lot, which did have signs on every post about no overnight camping, but with Ed’s name written down just-in-case, we settled in to watch Survivor while enjoying Chipotle.

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Tomorrow we will visit around Duluth, adding to our list seeing a great lake and continue our journey back home.

 Morrow Mountain State Park Cured My Cabin Fever

The days and weeks seem to last forever after the holidays, so I find it easy to get a case of cabin fever when you are a gypsy at heart. So Chip and I decided that we love camping, and we see campers on the road all the time, so why is it that we winterize ours when the weather begins to get cold in the late fall and we don’t open it back up until sometime in April. Well, not this year! We decided we were going to try to camp at least 40 nights in our truck camper this year and getting started now was exactly what we needed to cure our cabin fever. We did not even care what the weather might be when we took the time off. If we could get out of the driveway, we were going somewhere camping. Luckily for us, the weather has been very mild and the forecast for the weekend was highs in the 50’s and a low around 32. That is perfect weather for camping. Our goal was to hike during the day and sit by the fire at night, so great temperatures for both. It was calling for rain on Friday through Saturday morning, but that wasn’t going to stop us.

All campgrounds are not open in the winter, so we had to decide on a destination. Initially, we were going to set our camping trip around visiting some friends but then they had plans that could not be changed the weekend we had off, so we were more open on our areas to camp. Through researching NC State Campgrounds, we found one open that I had actually seen a program about a while back on a Saturday morning, it is called Morrow Mountain. They are open year-round and have a lot of hiking options. We had wanted to check out Uwharrie National Forest as they have OHV riding (off-highway vehicle) don’t worry we didn’t know what it meant either and had to google it. We have a side-by-side and thought it would be fun to find somewhere to take it locally. We hopefully are going with some friends this spring to West Virginia where they take their side-by-sides riding and camping.

We set out on Friday all packed and ready for our weekend. It rained off and on during the two-hour ride. We stopped by the campground office upon our arrival and were told which sites had already been reserved. I thought this was very helpful, so we could make sure we didn’t choose one that someone else would be coming to on Saturday and we would have had to move to a different site. Not that it mattered too much since we did not intend to take the camper off the truck. It was easy to find an available campsite as most of the campsites were very level and surrounded by trees. There were quite a few campers already set up, so we found one as far away from everyone else as possible. We went back to the main office to pay and visit the museum.

https://www.ncparks.gov/morrow-mountain-state-park/home

The museum exhibits include Native Americans, area plant and animal communities, early explorers, and rocks and minerals. It is self-guided which was nice because we took our time reading, watching videos and observing the artifacts.

We then saw a sign for the Kron House and drove up the road to see what it was. It was not raining at the moment, so we decided to explore. The Kron House is actually a reconstruction of the original home built for Dr. Francis Kron in1839. He and his family lived there until his death in 1883. He was well known not only as of the area doctor but as a pharmacist making his own medications and a gardener. He was well-known in the area as a horticulturist and had a beautiful wooden greenhouse where he grew a variety of plants. Literally, as we started down the steps to leave the rain started and we made a run for the truck.

 

It is an old state park but well maintained. The way I know it is old is because we saw these in several places around the park.  But really, the park was opened to the public in the summer of 1939.

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Chip and I are easily entertained so sitting in the camper on a rainy evening is enjoyable for us. The phone reception was really good at the campground, and the tv reception was equally as good, so we could have played on our phones or watched tv, but we decided to work a jigsaw puzzle. It was very relaxing as we could listen to the rain on the roof as we both worked on the outside pieces first and then the tough part, the inside. Chip is a master at jigsaw puzzles and finds twenty pieces to my one, but that’s okay, we have fun spending time together.

Here is a short video of the rain on the roof, and it is short because that was as long as Chip could be quiet so I could tape it.

Ongoing rain most of the night was very relaxing and made for great sleeping.

Saturday morning brought clear skies and the promise of a beautiful day. We started the day with a wonderful breakfast cooked by Chip of course.  The table cloth is a towel covering the puzzle as we did not finish it last night and had nowhere to eat breakfast, so we just covered it up and ate on top of it.

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Our first trail walk was the Quarry Trail. It was a little over a half a mile and was an easy walk. It went down into an area where in the early 20th century it was mined for rocks. The buildings show the actual rocks mined from the quarry.

So I love to walk and could walk a zillion miles, as long as I am outside. I hate to walk on a treadmill. The pictures of the trail are gorgeous, but here is an example of our music provided by nature.

The next hike was the Hattway Mountain Trail which was about 2 miles long and was a bit more strenuous. It was a loop and we choose to go the right of the trail, which had a lot of switchbacks making the climb not as difficult. Chip made the comment about the number of switches, and I laughed to myself as I thought these were definitely switches where the more the better, unlike switches growing up that my Deddie used on my brothers and me. Them more than me because I was so sweet, I didn’t need a switch as much as they did. The hike back down was a bit harder as it was often straight down which is much harder on the hips and knees. Overall it was a really nice hike, and I would definitely do it again.

We then decided to drive over to Uwharrie and look at the OHV area as well as the trails, campgrounds, and boondocking opportunities in that area. Though we did not see the OHV area as the one, we drove to was closed, we did find a campground we really liked and several boondocking areas that were spectacular. If we had not left our chairs at our campsite at Morrow Mountain, we would have had set-up camp at one of the boondocking areas we found. We definitely will go back there at some point and camp one weekend when we have another bout of cabin fever.

Reluctantly we headed back towards the campground as we wanted to get back before dark. We stopped at a neat store, Moonset, not far from the campground, and purchased some marshmallows anticipating Chip was going to build a fire. You cannot have a campfire without marshmallows. Moonset had everything you might need while camping, including natural bug repellants, food, and many other items. They had handcrafted items, local honey, and hand-scooped ice cream. Chip was most excited about the diet Cheerwine they had. You would have thought he was a kid tasting a soft drink for the first time. I was excited about my marshmallows of course but I also purchased a teeny, tiny bear-shaped jar of local honey.

Chip cooked dinner on the grill and built a nice fire. Dinner consisted of tuna he caught last fall on a trip to the outer banks, cilantro-lime rice, and a salad. I ate a light dinner as I had to save room for my marshmallow or two. Chip thinks he is the world’s best marshmallow roaster, and he doesn’t even like marshmallows, but tonight I think mine turned out just as good as his. After eating too many marshmallows, as we enjoyed the nice evening outside, it was time to retire for the evening. We finished the puzzle, watched a little television and called it a night.

Sunday morning, we actually slept in a little later than usual, had another wonderful breakfast and decided to walk the rest of the campground before we left for the day. We camped in Loop C as that is the only loop open in the winter. It is also the only loop that has power on some of the sites. Both loop A and B were really nice and definitely had some sites we would love to camp on the next trip to the mountain if they are open.

Before we left the park, we rode down to the lake and walked the Three Rivers Trail. It was a little over a half a mile long and went through a marsh area, up a small mountain and back down through the marsh area, by the lake and back to the parking lot. There was a blue heron that I wanted to take a picture of so Chip humored me and walked back to the truck with me to get my camera and then back to where we saw the blue heron drying its wings. The entire way back across the marsh he was telling me it would probably be gone by the time we got back, and I kept telling him to quit talking or he was going to scare it off. This went on all the way back as he would talk, I would remind him to shhhh and he would stop for a half a second and start back up. Luckily the blue heron was still on the edge of the lake, and I was able to get a few pictures.

We may not go back to Morrow Mountain until next Winter, but we definitely will go back again and walk some of the many other trails throughout the park. If you are looking for a neat place to go in North Carolina, I encourage you to let this be one of your stops. In the summer months, they have a huge swimming pool, as well as kayak rentals at the lake. There is something at this park for everyone.

By the way, we did finish our puzzle and here is the final picture.

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The little things that fascinate me…

The morning was as wonderful as the evening. I cannot say enough about the Red Shale campground. The weather was beautiful and Chip cooked breakfast outside. There were two other campers who came in during the night, but the campground had enough space no one was even close to each other’s campsites.

Today’s travels were just that, traveling. But not without seeing a lot of interesting things, including some things most people wouldn’t even notice.

We covered over 400 miles of roads today, saw a lot of pronghorn, a few mule deer and we saw miles and miles and more miles of corn, sunflowers, and soybean.

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Here is a cool sign that we saw. The first sign we saw, that I missed getting a picture of said next 50 miles. You know me, I really wanted to turn around and go back to get a picture of that sign. Chip assured me we would see another one and twenty miles later I saw this one. You will have to trust me about the 50 miles since I don’t have the picture to prove it. I am pretty sure nowhere in North Carolina would we see a sign for this many miles.

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We saw fields that were so big there were five combines working at one time. That was quite a sight to see. Though I did not get a picture of it. I think Chip was tired of us turning around because “I missed it.”

We saw a lot of huge tractors on the highway and natural gas wells as far as you could see. It was really neat to see because the wells were per Chip “firing off.”

The other thing we saw a lot of were white trucks. Now, I know you are thinking there are a lot of white trucks on the road, and yes, we have a white truck. But this was hundreds of white trucks, and they were all filthy, so it was easy to draw the conclusion the white trucks belonged to the oil refineries.

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The third interesting thing we saw was all of the trucks, even the big rigs, had huge bumpers on them. Some were plain and some were fancy, but they all had the same purpose, to keep from damaging the truck when they hit wildlife, which must occur often, based on the numbers of vehicles with these bumpers.

There are certain things that you see that make you think of others, and when I saw these trains, I thought of our friend Rob who loves trains. I had never seen engines these colors so I had to snap a picture.

We ate lunch in a truck stop parking lot and was looking for boondocking opportunities for this leg of the trip. We surprisingly found an interesting opportunity that had camping. It was at the Prairie Village Museum in Rugby, North Dakota. I called ahead of time to make sure it was okay to camp in their parking lot and they assured us it was fine. We arrived after it had closed, so we weren’t really sure where we were supposed to “boondock” but figured we would be gone before anyone arrived, so it didn’t really matter. The museum did not open until 10:00am, and though I would have loved to have toured it, yes, I googled it, we would be long gone before it opened.

If we are ever in that area again, we will definitely check it out, and you will want to as well.

https://www.prairievillagemuseum.com/

Also, in Rugby, you will find the Geographic Center of North America.

We had settled in for the evening and was sound asleep when I heard an alarm and quickly realized it was our truck alarm. I punched Chip and startled him as he jumped up and grabbed the keys to cut the alarm off. I was relieved that it went off so quickly. It was like I was worried about waking others up, when we were in a parking lot, all alone, and no other campers to wake up. But then it went off again and now I was a little more concerned, especially when Chip grabbed his gun and opened the door. I was like “what are you doing”, and he said, well it went off for a reason, so I am making sure no one is messing around outside. Well then, of course, I got scared. Here I am laying up in the bed of a truck camper, and the back door of the camper is now open, and my husband is wandering around outside with a gun. Thank God he came back quickly, he had not seen anything, and I spent the next hour listening to him snore while I was googling ford truck alarms, which I learned can at times have “issues” that cause them to go off for no reason. He amazes me at how quickly he can go back to sleep. Once I was satisfied, it was an alarm issue, or at least I prayed, I finally dozed off, with one eye open, just in case.

Counting Blessings

Sometimes you do everything right, and ole’ Arthur will still rear his ugly head and throw a monkey wrench in your day. That was my Friday. I had gone to bed on Thursday night with a mindset of what all I planned to get done on Friday. I was lucky that I would be working from the home office and had my tasks set for office work. My goal was to get up as usual and start a load of clothes before going to work in my home office. But unfortunately, I woke up during the night with excruciating pain in my left wrist. It was so bad that I had to lay there and think back about my day and what I could have done to it. It was almost like I had injured it, but I honestly had done nothing out of the ordinary. I found nothing was helping, not a heating pad, not even my prescription Voltaren cream, nor spray-on icy hot, nothing was working. I did not want to take any ibuprofen on an empty stomach and was hurting so bad I felt nauseated so the last thing I wanted to do was eat. When it was time to get up, I could not bring myself to get up and start rolling as I had planned. Instead, I put the heating pad on high and wrapped it around my wrist and laid there in self-pity about how my plans were ruined. My left wrist and hand were double the size of my right wrist; my fingers were so swollen that my rings were definitely not coming off anytime soon. I could not think of anything, except why did this have to happen. I laid there for longer than usual and decided I really needed to get up and get dressed the best I could because I was going to have to go to the doctor if I could get an appointment. I could only use my right hand to do anything which quickly decided my attire for the day. I had to settle on a pair of yoga pants and a long-sleeve t-shirt. I was able to get my hair pulled up into a clip, and I was ready to go.

When Chip left the bedroom, I was still lying in the bed with the heating pad on my wrist and he told me once I got up, he would make the bed up. I like my bed made up every day. It makes the room seem cleaner. Once I was dressed, I decided I would tackle the bed myself. I had seen an infomercial during the night for St. Jude’s children hospital, and it showed children with missing limbs accomplish a multitude of tasks and if they could do it, so could I, and I did. I thought how blessed I am compared to the children I had seen on the infomercial. The bed may have not been perfect, but it was made up. Chip later fussed and said I was hardheaded, and I reminded him I was strong-willed.

I did have to accept the fact that there would be no chores done today, no clothes washed, or folded. I was able to work with one hand in my office. I had to do some typing but I type faster with one hand than a lot of people do with both hands, but my hand did tire, so I would type some, do some handwritten work I had, print some forms I needed and then type some more. I was very productive and got everything done that needed to be done.

I was watching the clock and could hardly wait for 8:00am to get here so I could get an appointment to see a doctor. Lucky for me one of my besties works at the orthopedic clinic and she was able to get me an appointment for 10:00am.  I had a rice bag that you heat in the microwave that I was keeping on my wrist and the excruciating pain did ease up a hair, and I mean a hair as fine as the hair on a frog’s behind, but any little bit counted.

Driving with one hand was not too hard until you have to make a 90-degree turn and you had to make sure you had your hand on the wheel low enough you could get a big turn out of it. I circled the parking lot a couple of times and saw someone leaving the building, so I stalked them across the parking lot and thought, “could they possibly walk any slower.” If I see someone looking for a parking place, I will indicate to them where I am parked and walk a little faster. But I guess I shouldn’t have even thought they were walking too slow because no kidding they took longer to get their car started and reverse out of the parking place than it did to walk across the parking lot. I had pulled to the side and was waiting with my turn signal on, so they knew I was waiting. Another car started to go around me and slammed on their brakes when they saw the reverse lights come on as if they had hit the jackpot and found a spot coming open, and I immediately thought, oh no you don’t, because I swear as bad as I was hurting I would have pulled out my can of whoop butt. Thank goodness they thought twice about it. Maybe they saw the look on my face in their side mirror and were terrified because they drove off.

When I had circled the parking lot, I had seen a lady at the bottom of the parking lot slowly walking up the hill toward the door and could tell she was struggling. As I was going across the parking lot, I saw a she had not made a lot of progress and still had quite a way to go to get up the hill. I walked down to where she was and asked if she had an arm to hold would it help and she said it would. I put out my right elbow, and she said asked me if I could get on her right side. I moved to her right and extended my elbow area out for her to hold and she reached out and took my wrist. I thought oh lord, what do I do, I did not want to make her feel bad and my wrist could not possibly hurt any worse, so I didn’t say a thing, as we slowly walked toward the entrance, her telling me that she had rheumatoid arthritis and her knees were killing her. She said she should have brought her cane but did not think she would have to walk so far. We made it to the entrance where it was flat, and she said she could make it on her own and I thought thank God, but honestly, it didn’t hurt any worse than it already did. I again counted my blessings because I believe I would rather have one wrist hurt than both knees because I could tell she too, was in a lot of pain. I was able to share with her that I too had RA and that I had found certain foods made my RA worse. I told her the primary things to watch were dairy, pork and red meat. I am not sure she was interested, but maybe it will spark some curiosity in her to learn more about it.

I didn’t even know what doctor I was scheduled to see but was pleasantly surprised it would have been my first choice. Unfortunately, his nurse, who I personally know, was currently out of work with her husband who is going through a far rougher time than I could ever imagine, so once again it reminded me to count my blessings.

The doctor assessed the wrist, and I told him on a scale of 1-10 it had been about a 15 all night, but the swelling had gone down some with a combination of heat and Voltaren, and the pain level was now only about a 10. He told me he thought a cortisone shot would help and he left the room. When he came back to administer the shot, he said it would be a little stick. Now, if you have never had a cortisone shot into an inflamed joint, then you don’t know what pain is. As I felt the tears building, I reminded him there was nothing little about it and that it was the worst pain an orthopedic doctor could inflict on an awake patient. He laughed, I think at the part about an awake patient because surely, he wasn’t laughing at the pain he was inflicting. By the time I got to my car, I had thought I was going to die the pressure in my wrist was so bad. I only live about five miles from the clinic, but it was the longest five miles of my life. My wrist was now back up to a pain level of fifteen, and I thought if someone cut my hand off it surely could not hurt any worse.

I came straight into the house and heated my rice bag, took some ibuprofen and went back to work in the office. I was glad to see the end of my workday, but I had scheduled an impromptu birthday get together for Bailey’s birthday (which is 01/13) but knew more of the family could get together on Friday than could any other night that weekend. Chip and Bailey both got dressed in jeans and boots and there I stood in yoga pants and a t-shirt. I felt so underdressed, but I knew I would never be able to pull up and down a pair of jeans and decided it was dark outside, and hoped I would not see anyone I knew, which is impossible in your hometown. I decided to wear my wrist brace because I told Chip if anyone accidentally bumped into my wrist, I would probably fall to a heap on the floor and cry like a baby, that’s how bad it was hurting.

Though my wrist was hurting, the night was a lot of fun. We ate dinner with one of my brothers and his family at our favorite Mexican restaurant, El Vallarta, and yes, I did see several people that I knew.

We then went to Ballad Brewing (AKA Ballads) to kill some time as we had a lane reserved at Grizzly’s Hatchet House with the rest of the family for 9:15pm and it was a surprise for Bailey and I didn’t want her to know until the last minute we were going. Little did I know someone had already mentioned they would see her later, so she knew something was up, she just didn’t know what it was.
At Ballads, Chip and Bailey had fun throwing darts. Chip won, but Bailey was closing in on him.

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As it got closer to 9:00pm, I kept giving Chip the look, “we have got to go.” He finally told Bailey that he wanted to try throwing something sharper and suggested they go try some axe throwing. She was excited about that as she had been wanting to go back to Grizzly’s Hatchet House.

Everyone was there when we arrived, and we had just enough time to get checked in and grab a drink. I, of course, was not participating but enjoyed watching and talking. I am blessed to have a family who enjoys spending time together.

If anyone in the Danville area has not been to either Ballads or Grizzly’s Hatchet House, you are missing out. Ballads’ has lots of games, including a large connect four, corn holes, a giant Jenga, outdoor fire pits, food trucks, and of course, it is a brewery, so they have beer on tap. Grizzly’s Hatchet House, of course, has axe throwing, a huge fireplace with comfy chairs to visit with friends, a bar and great food. Within the same complex is also River City Escapes. We have not done the escape rooms there, yet, but have at other venues and it is so much fun.  The next time you are looking for something to do, get a few friends together and check out these venues, you will not be disappointed.

Even though I was in a lot of pain, I counted my blessings, time and time again, and as usual, I stand by my philosophy, “I have RA, but RA doesn’t have me.”

I will end with a funny story I always think of when I have a lot of extra pain and talk about “Arthur.”

The (Other) Men in My Life
I typically am seeing 5 gentlemen every day.
As soon as I wake up, Will Power will help me get out of bed.
As soon as I am up, I must go see John.
Occasionally Charlie Horse comes along & when he is here, he takes a lot of my time & attention.
When Charlie Horse leaves, ole’ Arthur Ritis shows up and always seems to want to stick around the rest of the day. The problem with Arthur Ritis is he doesn’t like to stay in one place very long, so he takes me from joint to joint.
I can honestly say that by bedtime, I’m tired & glad to go to bed with Ben Gay.
If that is not enough men, I’m also starting to flirt with Al Zymer, as I have been accused of having CRS (Can’t Remember Stuff).
Sometimes I think about calling on a couple of other men, Jack Daniels or Johnny Walker, to come and keep me company and drown away my pain, but they would just cause even more problems, later, so I will reluctantly accept my time with ole’ Arthur.

Holidays Bring Pain

Holidays bring pain, and that means a lot of things to a lot of people. I know holidays bring the pain of loss for those of us who have lost loved ones. But this posting is about a different kind of pain that the holidays bring, the pain that makes you say “ouch.” As you know, I have Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), which is also known as “crippling arthritis” which unfortunately brings pain. Thank God that RA no longer has the crippling effects it once did, as today’s medication has come a long way in the fight against RA. Though the medication controls the inflammation which causes pain, it doesn’t come without its own set of risks. I take Enbrel and Methotrexate, which unfortunately come with a lot of side effects, some that can be deadly.

So, in saying that, I decided to try to figure out a way to lessen my pain without using medication. I researched a lot of information and found a man named Clint Paddison, who had basically cured himself of all the symptoms of RA and has since helped thousands of people. I have a lot of determination and drive in me and I was determined to come off my medication. I purchased the Paddison program and stuck to most of it faithfully. The part that I could not bring myself to do is a daily enema cleanse, as his theory is you have to keep the gut clean. The other thing he promotes, which I wish I had time for is hot yoga. I say that I wish I had time to do it, but I can also tell you I hate to sweat. I will exercise for hours, but as soon as I start to sweat, I am done. I am pretty sure he promotes sweating as it is a detox for your body. Maybe I will give it a little more thought and not be so quick to grimace at a little sweat. It’s not that I completely hate sweating it is I just don’t like to sweat in clothes. I even looked into a home sauna and have not completely ruled that out. I could sweat in the privacy of my home while reading a book, and then go straight to the shower, and not have to get in my car and drive my smelly self, home. I know you are thinking, a lot of gyms and yoga salons have showers, but that is just an excuse I am using, when in fact I know I cannot actually do yoga, like others and would feel completely out of place. I can assure you I cannot get up or down gracefully. So, in reality, it is not that I don’t have time or hate to sweat that bad (though I do), it is the fact that I would be awkward in front of others and even at my age, there are some things that do bother me about being different.

When I first started the Paddison program in May 2017, I did try making my own hot yoga program at home. I cut the heat on in the bathroom, put on sweat clothes, a lot of them, and shut the door. I did a few yoga moves I had seen on YouTube, and I did break a sweat, but I just had a hard time making myself find the time. Or better yet make the time, as we all know if we want to do something bad enough, we make the time.

What part of the plan that I did find easy, was food elimination. Many of you have heard my story about my parents taking me to a specialist in 1981 who specialized in a holistic approach to disease. He was our answer to what was a devastating diagnosis to my parents, I was too young to understand. I now completely understand and would have felt the same way had it been my child. This doctor told me to avoid dairy, flour, red meat (unless it was wild) and nightshade plants (which include but not limited to tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers). He said if it swam or walked on two legs it was okay. Today, this would be an easy lifestyle to follow, but in the 80’s not so much. Going out as a teenager there were no options. McDonald’s did not have grilled chicken on gluten-free buns; heck gluten-free food didn’t even exist. I don’t recall fast foods even having salads back then. So, following this diet was difficult, to say the least. Fast forward to the 1990s when I was at home recovering from a hip replacement and was watching one of the morning shows who had a special on RA. They were interviewing a rheumatologist who said before he started any of his patients on medication, he changed their diet first. My ears definitely perked up on this. Not surprisingly he pretty much said the same thing about foods, no pork, no red meat, no dairy. I don’t recall him saying anything about flour because I specifically remember getting hot dogs without the weenie for years after that. I remember driving from Roxboro where we lived at the time, to the Kroger in Danville to purchase rice milk. But again I did not stick to it whole-heartedly and eventually wasn’t following it at all. It wasn’t until I worked with a hospice and had so many young people who died on our program and having met people who died who had taken Enbrel shots and Methotrexate, did my perspective change. I had always focused on the quality of my life outweighing the quantity, but for the first time the reality was that I wanted to live a very long time, and maybe I needed to try to find a way to get off of my medications.

So back to the Paddison program, I followed the food elimination to a “T.” I was determined to follow the Paddison program perfectly, as far as food went. If we went out to eat and they did not have anything I could safely eat, I simply didn’t eat. I had no desire to eat things that I should not. I could watch others eat hot fudge cake and not even be tempted. The first Thanksgiving and Christmas on the program I did not cheat at all. I was doing so well and having zero pain while on the medication. I thought I could just stop my medication since I was not eating anything I was not supposed to, but unfortunately, it did not go so well. Though I was not cheating at all on the food, I was still having pain and ended up having a bad flare-up. I was so discouraged and cried when I had to go back on all of my medicine, plus steroids to decrease the inflammation. My rheumatologist told me to get my inflammation back under control and then we would choose one of the two medications and try to slowly taper one of them down and see how it goes.

I decided to do more research and found the AIP program, which is an anti-inflammatory food elimination program as well. What I found interesting was though there were similarities in the program, there were also some stark differences. Things one program said you could eat, the other program completely disagreed. I knew there must be some truth to it because though I was not eating anything I shouldn’t, I still could not get through coming off my medication without increased pain. So, I decided that it came down to more about what as an individual I was allergic to. After talking to a friend who had recently been to see a doctor about food allergies, I decided I was going to look into that as well. What I didn’t know is the insurance will only pay for a few food allergy tests. The specialist started with some of the most common foods that people are allergic to and then added a few more at my request. Interestingly some things I knew I was allergic to, did come back positive. I knew every time I ate pistachios sitting at a ballgame, I experience increased pain. I had even quit buying them because I couldn’t resist eating them and wanted to avoid the pain. A couple of things that I did find interesting was I was allergic to brussel sprouts, which I was eating on a regular basis. He said if you are allergic to brussel sprouts, you are most likely allergic to cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage. You guessed it; these were a lot of the vegetables I was eating daily. The Paddison program focuses on vegetables, so, trust me, I was eating a lot of these. So maybe that was why even though I thought I was following the program perfectly, I wasn’t paying attention to the changes in my body when I added new foods in and was going onto the next food additions. I was too focused on adding things back into my diet to quickly.

I knew beyond a reasonable doubt that I could control most of my pain through food and by eliminating the foods even after once, I could see a difference. But unfortunately, the more knowledge that I had about doing this the easier it was to allow myself to cheat. I slowly started back eating things that I shouldn’t and allowing myself to cheat when it was convenient. I would say to myself; I will just hurt a day or two and it will be okay. And that is true, for a couple of days, I would have increased pain and then the pain would settle down. I did really well and would only cheat once in a while and for really special times or foods. I still did not eat red meat or pork and for the most part, was pretty good. The key to it I realize is that it was just a treat or a meal, and never more than one day. The problem is the holidays are more than just a day of eating wrong. It started at Thanksgiving and did not stop until the day after Christmas when I woke up to my hands hurting, so badly, I could hardly pull the covers up over me. By being bad, and I mean really bad, for weeks, my gut had no time to recover before I was adding more “salt into the wound” so to speak.

It was then that I decided I must get back on track. I immediately stopped eating all the goodies still left in the house. On the day after Christmas, we still had a lot of goodies, and I mean a lot. Many that were some of my favorites including fudge, a red velvet cake that Bailey made, a lemon cake, blueberry muffins, spinach dip, butter cookies, and the list goes on. I decided to go back to the few basic foods that I knew I could safely eat and am determined to try to be good. I already know I will not be perfect because we have a lot of events that I will participate in over the next week, but what I know I will avoid for sure is red meat, pork, and sugar. Sugar definitely causes me pain and until the holidays I did not consume it hardly ever. I don’t even use Splenda and simply used honey when a sweetener was necessary. I even avoided sugar-free gums and candies for a while, but got off track with that as well, but have not had a piece of gum, candy or even a cough drop in a few days now. Sugar I think is one of my biggest pain contributors, but also my biggest weakness.

Though I thoroughly enjoyed the holidays, the food, the parties, the get-togethers and drinks, I refuse to let food control my pain and instead I choose to control the food I eat. I will let you know how it goes as when I went to my last rheumatology appointment, before the holidays, my doctor told me I could cut back on my Methotrexate if I wasn’t hurting. I, unfortunately, have not been able to cut back on it yet, as I promised I would only cut back on the Methotrexate if I wasn’t hurting and I cannot lie, I have been hurting even though I have not slowed down, but that is another story for another day. My New Year’s goal is to cut my dosage in half, if I can, by my follow-up appointment in six months.

 

Leaving Yellowstone, reluctantly

Like everyone, we were looking forward to a couple of days at Yellowstone, but honestly, we thought that was all we needed, a couple of days, but to our surprise, we would have loved to have had at least a week. Yellowstone has so much to offer, whether it is riding the roads to see wildlife, hiking the many miles of trails, or visiting the museums and lodges, there is just so much to see and do. We personally would have liked to have had more time to hike. Seeing wildlife from the roads was amazing, but it would have been more spectacular to have walked up on wildlife, in their natural habitat, especially a big old grizzly. I know, everyone that I tell that to tells me “you wouldn’t say that if a grizzly got after you”, and you are right, I would probably have even more to say if the bear repellant actually worked. Can you even begin to imagine what kind of story I would have to tell if I had an encounter with a bear and lived to tell it? See to go hiking in Yellowstone, you are required to carry bear repellant. When I think of repellant, I think of bug spray. And you and I both know how bug repellant doesn’t seem to repel bugs one hundred percent, especially at picnics and camping. You can put out multiple citronella candles, which are “repellants” and inevitably someone is still going to get bit by a mosquito.

Bear repellant isn’t like bug repellent, in the way that it would repel bears away before you see them, but it repels them in the way that when you do see them and you release the spray at them, they supposedly turn and run away, there being the “repel” away. I would hope it works well as much as it cost to buy it. If you are planning a trip to Yellowstone, don’t worry about buying any ahead of time, you can actually rent it in the shops in the park. We didn’t know that when we bought ours ahead of time, but honestly knowing how much we like to hike, it is not a bad idea to have it on hand, just in case we get lucky enough to even see a black bear while in the woods.

 https://www.sabrered.com/bear-spray

When we got up this morning, we had two surprises. The first was that it had frosted overnight, the second was there was a line at the campground entrance for people waiting for camping spots. We did not realize how lucky we were to have gotten a camping spot so easily within the park on the Saturday morning that we arrived, especially being a weekend. Here it was a Monday morning and here are the campers lined up waiting.

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Here is a beautiful photo of a buffalo with frost on his back and head. I felt sad for him. I hope his fur keeps him warm.

Most people take their pictures on the way in, but we were so eager to find a camping spot, and there were a lot of people taking pictures at the time, so we took ours on the way out.

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As we were walking off the camera was still snapping pictures, so I had to be silly.

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One of our goals for this trip was to see the bear tooth highway. Chip had read a lot about the bear tooth highway, and it was definitely going to be one of the highlights of our trip, but unfortunately the snow, you know that snow I was so excited about, well it closed the highway.

http://beartoothhighway.com/wild-beartooth/

Once the highway is closed to snow in the early season, it typically takes a while to open back up. Because Beartooth highway has such a high elevation at 10,947 feet, it is common for it to get as much as 12 inches of snow even in August and September, of snow. It is definitely closed every winter and does not open back up to Memorial Day. Here is a link that shows the difficulty in cleaning the highway and how much snow was still on the highway in May of 2019.

https://www.mdt.mt.gov/travinfo/beartooth/

On the bright side, when we came through the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway on our way to Yellowstone, it was overcast and raining so we couldn’t see as much as we would have liked to and leaving it was gorgeous so much better views. Plus, going back in the opposite direction you see things differently.

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This is one of the stops along the scenic highway where we stopped to enjoy the view. I absolutely do not like heights, so this was an unusual picture for me to take. Chip said he saw me “sneaking up on it.”

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The curvy road you see in the picture is the road we traveled both going to Yellowstone and leaving. This is part of the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway.

We meet this cute little fellow at the overlook. The first picture has two in it, but at one point it had five.

There were no buffalo on the road, but the cows now owned the road. We had to stop several times to allow them to cross. Animals out west did not seem to be in a hurry like animals in North Carolina, but then again I have never seen a buffalo on the road, and it has been a long time since I saw a cow on the road, so maybe I should not compare.

Chip humored me when I saw the sign for Montana because just a short walk away was the Wyoming sign, and since I did not get the sign going to Wyoming because we were on a backroad, I was able to get both in one stop. I know he was glad to “kill two birds with one stone.”

We enjoyed the ride, took some pictures, of course, had lunch at a rest area, and visited Little Bighorn Battlefield where we were able to see where the encounter between US Cavalry soldiers and Northern Plains Indian tribes occurred in the 1800s.

https://www.nps.gov/libi/index.htm

We were going to be walking through several exhibits on the battlefield, and here was the first sign we saw. I took this for my friend Wendy.

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Of course, this is just a few, of the hundreds of pictures that I took at the Battlefield.

As usual, we had no definite destination that evening to stay, but while Chip drove, I was looking for boondocking opportunities. To our surprise, we found the most amazing campground in Custer Gallatin National Forest called the Red Shale Campground. Not only was it beautiful, but it was also free, yes you read it correctly, free. A free campground, not a parking lot, not an off-road trail, but a real campground with picnic tables and all.

 https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/custergallatin/recreation/camping-cabins/recarea/?recid=60853∾tid=29

As you can see the view was amazing. I even got to have my gluten-free fish sticks, compliments of Lidl. Chip threatens to make me cook outside when I cook them at home.

It was fun to actually get the chairs out of the camper, Chip cooked outside, and we enjoyed the view before snuggling in for the night.