home again!

It is certainly time for me to let you know that I’ve made it to Tucson safe and sound.  I’ve been here three weeks now and have spent most of that time unpacking, organizing and resting.  I might have been done with it all if I had the shelving I needed but it hasn’t arrived yet.  Well, technically the shelves are here but the upright parts aren’t yet so the shelves are useless in this moment!

Our very trusty and comfortable Penske rental truck with my less than trusty car behind it!

Our very trusty and comfortable Penske rental truck with my less than trusty car behind it!

I feel quite at home here, not just in Tucson but specifically in our apartment.  Given that I rented it sight unseen that’s a good thing!  One side of the apartment faces desert which makes me quite happy.  Every evening as the sun descends the coyotes can be heard singing their good night song.  I’ve seen a family of quail right outside my bedroom window!  Just tonight I saw an owl sitting on a chimney (yeah, we all have wood burning fireplaces in our apartments, something I doubt I’ll ever use but who knows?)

A rainbow as we left Sarasota.  I took this to be a good omen!

A rainbow as we left Sarasota. I took this to be a good omen!

The trip cross country couldn’t have been any better.  The weather was near perfect, the drive uneventful and I had only one questionable day.  That’s one day out of fifteen, two if you count the day we arrived here but that was just stress and overwhelm.

Storm clouds gathering as we left Sarasota, FL.  Our weather was near perfect with very little rain.

Storm clouds gathering as we left Sarasota, FL. Our weather was near perfect with very little rain.

There were several high points during the trip.  My favorite thing was finally getting to meet a Facebook friend (Linda Van Kampen) in Florida.  She was exactly the wonderful person I expected her to be.

A rainbow as we left Sarasota.  I took this to be a good omen!

A rainbow as we left Sarasota. I took this to be a good omen!

We spent extra days in San Antonio and Carlsbad, NM where we got to do the Riverwalk and explore the caverns, respectfully.  The caverns were a really amazing experience.

The Riverwalk in San Antonio, TX

The Riverwalk in San Antonio, TX

 

The Riverwalk.

The Riverwalk.

We ate wonderfully during the trip and neither of us gained any weight at all!  We ate at a Chinese buffet, had stromboli/calzone, indulged in filet mignon, enjoyed a night of Mexican food with a mango margarita and I had my first In-N-Out burger!  We had fun driving in the truck, talking about just about everything we could and singing Willy Nelson’s On the Road Again each morning!  Davette, my trusty driver and friend, now considers herself to be Picasso’s second mother.  They became close friends during the trip.  Davette took a video of Picasso jumping from bed to bed and has shown it to quite a few people like a proud mother showing off her kid’s newest antics.  And speaking of Picasso, he was nothing but a perfect gentleman on the trip.  I even felt comfortable leaving him by himself in hotel rooms, something I’ve not done before.  It was clear that he was going to be okay with it and, yes, he was perfect.

No photograph could ever capture the majesty of Carlsbad Caverns.  It is something that truly has to be experienced.

No photograph could ever capture the majesty of Carlsbad Caverns. It is something that truly has to be experienced.

 

The dim lighting in the caverns made for some interesting standing for me!  Let's put it this way - darned good thing there were handrails throughout!

The dim lighting in the caverns made for some interesting standing for me! Let’s put it this way – darned good thing there were handrails throughout!

Another one of the high points came when we were in our room in Carlsbad.  We hadn’t even gotten settled yet.  I was coming out of the bathroom while Davette was fiddling around when a man suddenly walked into the room!  Woohoo!  The first man I’ve had in my bedroom in quite a while!  Sadly he was there by mistake, the front desk having assigned him the same room they just gave to us minutes before.  Thankfully we were all dressed although Picasso certainly gave him a good barking, all while wagging his tail.  Great watchdog, ready to lick a intruder to death.  Good thing he’s so cute!

Sugar cane fields in Louisiana.  We just had to stop at a distillery where they make rum from the sugar cane.  Of course we had to test out their wares!

Sugar cane fields in Louisiana. We just had to stop at a distillery where they make rum from the sugar cane. Of course we had to test out their wares!

So here I am in Tucson…or is it Florida?  My brain has known I have “gone back” but sometimes thinks I went back to Florida, not Tucson, so at any moment I might be thinking of going to Publix rather than Albertson’s.  My driving has been limited to a very small area but I do manage to get out a bit more than I had been.  My trusty steed, my car, has been back in the shop for the last two weeks.  The loaner car looks exactly like mine except for the fact that it has been emasculated by having been given an automatic transmission rather than a stick shift.  Supposedly my car’s clutch is just fine, thank you (I’ve heard this before), but a part of the roof (an air dam) needed to be replaced and has taken a whole lot longer than I would’ve expected.

The clouds were truly awesome during our trip.  This is but one example.

The clouds were truly awesome during our trip. This is but one example.

While I’m quite tired and my body is complaining about all I’ve been forcing it to do (packing, sitting in a truck for hours on end for two weeks, unpacking) overall everything is good here.  I’ve gotten to spend time with old friends I’ve not seen in a while, rekindled lost friendships and appear to be heading toward making some new friends.

Arizona!!!

Arizona!!!

Picasso loves it here.  As much as he hates the heat he seems to be doing quite well in the desert.  He has developed some new routines and has resurrected some old ones (howling in the morning as I grab the leash for his first walk as well as howling when I’m getting his food ready).  There is a “racetrack” in the apartment, extending from the kitchen to the dining room to the living room to the hall and back to the kitchen again.  Picasso especially loves to run the racetrack whenever I grab a paper towel to clean his face after he has eaten.  Perhaps he thinks I need the exercise but all it does for me is make me more dizzy than I already am!  He has also found playing “monster” to be a whole lot more fun here.  Of course I am the monster and he is running away from me.  Seems that running away from me is a real theme here!  On any given evening Picasso can be found in his kennel in the bedroom after having abandoned me in the living room.  He seems quite content.

Again!  The only reason my car was back on the tow truck was for a dead battery which was completely covered by warranty!  Whew!

Again! The only reason my car was back on the tow truck was for a dead battery which was completely covered by warranty! Whew!

Well that’s the quick version of how things have been.  I’m going to try to get this up on my website right away since the previous ones I’ve written never got posted.  I’ll throw in a few photos taken with my iPhone and call it good.  My camera has been taking a rest while I unpack.  I’ll try to get back to you again soon, after I’m done with the whole unpacking and organizing thing.  I will say that I’ve no doubt I’m exactly where I need to be right now.  It is good to be home again.

A Tucson sunset as seen from my apartment.

A Tucson sunset as seen from my apartment.

© 2016 deborah kauffeld

…and just like that – KABOOM!!!

It was the fourth of April, a beautiful spring day, and I decided to take a ride to town to finally go to the Division of Motor Vehicles to get my driver’s license and then register my car.  I had three days to spare before my registration from Florida expired so time was of the essence.

Top down, visor on, enjoying the day when all of a sudden…

The white Ford 150 in front of me stopped for a left hand turn into a parking lot.  I stopped behind him with plenty of room to spare.  The guy behind me in a red Toyota pick-up failed to slow down and slammed into me – TWICE – at 30 MPH, pushing me into the truck in front of me.  I immediately knew that it wasn’t a good thing for my car but was less sure about myself since there were no obvious issues.  Yeah, I was sore but nothing broken.

No damage at all to the truck in front of me, thankfully.

No damage at all to the truck in front of me, thankfully.  It is hard to see the ball hitch since it is hidden in the shadow.  

 

It doesn't look all that bad from behind, does it?

It doesn’t look all that bad from behind, does it?  The bumper, bumper cover, back-up sensors and trunk lid had to be replaced along with a bunch of hidden parts.  

 

So sad!  That ball hitch sure caused a whole lot of damage.

So sad! That ball hitch sure caused a whole lot of damage.

 

And  you should've seen the other guy!  Totally most likely.

You should’ve seen the other guy! Totaled most likely.

An officer was there immediately to ask me if I was okay and then asked me to drive into the parking lot, the same one the man in front of me was heading for when this whole thing started.  It turned out that the officer actually witnessed the whole accident and even videoed it, something I figured would clearly be in my favor. Unfortunately the truck in front had one of those ball hitches on the back of his truck which impaled my poor little car, effectively killing the front bumper, grill, radiator and a bunch of associated parts.  Thankfully, the air bags didn’t deploy.  The officer told me my car was not drivable.  A little while later my car was yet again on the back of a flat bed tow truck, the third time since moving to North Carolina.

Maybe my car is just lazy and likes to be driven around!

Maybe my car is just lazy and likes to be driven around!  She’s a DIVA CAR!!!  Note that the top is still down!

Three days after the accident I realized I wasn’t really okay and went to the ER where I was diagnosed as having blunt force trauma to the abdomen as well as post concussion syndrome (PCS), the diagnosis given after one has had a concussion and the symptoms haven’t abated within 72 hours.

It is now five weeks since the accident.  I have been to my primary care physician twice as well as a neurologist.  The neurologist confirmed my PCS diagnosis, added vertigo to the mix and has set me up for an EEG this week.  Hopefully there’s something left in there for them to measure!

I have all sorts of cognitive symptoms at this point.  I’m not going to elaborate since I don’t want anything taken out of context.  I’m not happy that I still have symptoms and I hope they go away.  The neurologist is hopeful but acknowledged that there is also a chance that there will be no improvement.  Bottom line is there is no way of knowing now.

At this point I’d say I’m about 60-75% optimistic that I’ll be good enough in a while, potentially a while longer than I’d like.  But then there’s that other 25-40% of the time when I’m overtired or have just overdone it in some manner or just plain frustrated.  It’s those moments when I feel like my life has been taken out of my hands and I’ll never get back to where I was the morning of April 4th, prior to the accident.  I fear I may not get better and the issues I’m now having will interfere with the writing I had been doing every morning before the concussion.  I keep expecting the symptoms to ease up.  So far they haven’t.

I waited to write this post, hoping I’d have some kind of better news to share but it has already been too long without my sharing so here I am.  For the most part I’ve done okay enough with my mood.  At first I was sure I was more or less okay until the symptoms started to ramp up in intensity.  The day I went to the ER my whole front right side was so sore I could barely move.  The seatbelt, while doing its job, must have dug into my right side and caused some real muscular contusions.  The adrenaline that kept me going right after the accident has now been replaced with something else.  I’m terribly disappointed that I hardly got myself back on track after mom’s passing when I find myself derailed again.  As I said before, I’m also scared.

Like you've never seen this view before (from my RV window) but you've not seen it in spring yet!  You can see one of the four barrels I planted with flowers, herbs and tomato plants.

Like you’ve never seen this view before (from my RV window) but you’ve not seen it in spring yet! You can see one of the four barrels I planted with flowers, herbs and tomato plants.  Things sure did get green!

I have managed to get some photos of spring.  It really has been beautiful but more of that in my next post.  I will say that each of the seasons I’ve experienced so far (fall, winter and spring) have been extraordinarily different.  Surprisingly, my favorite season at this point has been winter.  Why is that a surprise?  Winter was always my least favorite season.  Spring was my second favorite season but it has been booted to third place with autumn now coming in second.  I suspect that summer will remain in last place since I’m not really a fan of the heat.  Things really can change.

Home again!  All fixed good as new.  Well, almost!

Home again! All fixed good as new. Well, almost!

I’ve gotten my car back after over three weeks spent at the body shop and nearly $7000 worth of repairs.  I suppose one good thing to come out of it is finding that the guys there were surprised to see how well my car held up in the accident, calling it “over engineered” (referring to what they told me was more of a truck bumper as opposed to a normal car bumper) and a “brick sh*t house”!  Thankfully the other insurance company already accepted liability.  I neglected to mention that the guy who hit me was cited for failing to slow down.  My “repairs” (doctor bills) are not initially covered by the other insurance company so everything is out of pocket for now after my insurance pays their share.  I’ve already received bills that I have no way of paying right now.  I receive no money for them until a final settlement is reached and who knows when that will be.

Okay, funny stuff – my car has been on the back of a tow truck three times, my car has spent seven weeks away from home being repaired in one way or another (spending time at one dealer and two body shops), I have now had a total of six different vehicles in my driveway (my car, four rentals and my original RV) and my car’s rear bumper and backup sensors were replaced less than a month prior to having to get them replaced all over again…all since I moved here!  I’m starting to think my car believes that getting repaired is vacation time!

Well, I guess that’s about it for now.  Hopefully I’ll be back soon but if not, at least now you know why I’ve been missing!

[A week has passed since I originally wrote this post and I am very slightly better.  Still not close to normal but at this point movement in a positive direction is better than none at all!]

© 2016 deborah kauffeld

a change in direction…

So here’s the thing about journeys – you never know when they might change directions on you.  And so it seems to be with this journey.

I’ve always had more than one agenda with this whole RV thing.  The first and most obvious agenda was to travel and get to see the country.  Then there was the thought that this would be a healing journey. Another agenda, which in the long run just might be the most important one for me, was to find a place that would become “home” to me.  I figured I’d travel for a few years, more or less, and find my place during that time.  Well, that’s where things may have changed.

A few posts ago I mentioned that as I was coming up to the top of the hill on the highway approaching the campground where I am now I saw the Appalachian mountains for the first time. I couldn’t help but feel I was home.  I felt that to the core of my being and it hasn’t changed.

Sure there has been a major hiccup in the process given my car’s lack of drivability, first with the clutch pedal falling to the floor and not working  and then with a secondary injury inflicted by the second tow truck driver.  But even in the midst of all the craziness I’ve been through, I still found myself feeling home and couldn’t imagine leaving here.

The "major hiccup" as it is being pulled on to the flat bed for the second time in less than a week.

The “major hiccup” as it is being pulled on to the flat bed for the second time in less than a week.  This is just prior to the “incident”.  Thankfully I took a lot of photos!

Let me fill in a few of the gaps for those who might not know the whole story.  My car blew a clutch nearly two weeks ago.  I was on my way to get it fixed when it did it again in Boone, only 30 minutes into a 2 hour trip.  However, when it finally got to the Tennessee dealer via flatbed tow truck (two hours away over the mountains), it decided not to replicate the issue so they returned the car to me unfixed five days later. I drove 40 minutes and it failed yet again.  This time I left the clutch pedal down on the floor as proof of the failure.  Unfortunately when the tow truck driver picked up the car this second time he broke off part of the face plate that the safety chains attach on to.  I cannot safely tow the car until that part is totally replaced, a $1,000 fix.  The owner of the tow company is not being cooperative so I got the state troopers involved since they called the tow company.  Now that the dealership has seen the clutch down they were finally able to get approval from Fiat to pull apart the transmission to get to the clutch master cylinder.  They had to order parts and it should be fixed by the beginning of this week – finally!  It will be nearly two weeks without my car at that point.  However, the part the tow driver broke is another story!  That could take up to two weeks before it can be replaced since they first have to verify the exact part (leave it to my car model to have two possibilities!) and then order and replace it.   There is so much more to the story but that is enough to catch one up on the overall details.

If you look really carefully you will notice there is a whole in the grill with  nothing sticking out of it which is where the part broke off.  The broken part cannot be replaced without replacing the entire piece.  Think of the part as a bumper with tow parts sticking out of it.

If you look carefully you will notice there is a hole in the grill with nothing sticking out of it which is where the part broke off. The broken part cannot be replaced without replacing the entire face plate. Think of the face plate as a bumper with tow parts sticking out of it.

 

This is the part that he broke off by using it for towing the car up the flatbed, something he was not supposed to do.  By towing it upward and onto the ramp, he put too much upward pressure on it and snapped it right off.

This is the part that he broke off.  He used it to pull the car up the flatbed, something that part is not designed to do. By towing it upward and onto the ramp (a combination of horizontal and vertical), he put too much upward pressure on it and snapped it right off.

This delay (close to 4 weeks in total) puts a real dent in my original plans.  So what’s a girl to do?  Time to check out the area!

I moseyed up to Boone, NC (as in Daniel Boone), a mountain town I hoped could meet some of my needs for both Picasso and me.

The Pet Place.  Photo taken from their Facebook page since it was pouring when I was there.

The Pet Place. Photo taken from their Facebook page since it was pouring when I was there.

First up – a pet store that is a distributor of the raw food Picasso has been eating.  I went to The Pet Place and quickly met with and spoke to one of the owners.  Yes, they can get Picasso’s food without issue although they do not carry it but they do order it for other customers.  They have all sorts of healthy items there, most all of which are made in the USA.  They regularly have professional visitors and today was no exception.  I got to meet with a veterinarian and his wife Debbie.  Together they operate the only 24 hour emergency veterinary hospital in the area.  Besides getting information about their services (regular vet by day who magically turns into an emergency vet by night!), Debbie was able to provide me with a whole bunch of other information including an amazing acupuncturist, a man I really would like to see soon!  He sounds beyond fantastic from what she was telling me.  Debbie also gave me the name of a nurse practitioner she swears by in the area.  What a great start!  Then, before I left, I got the name of a holistic mobile vet but I do not know yet if she would come down to us or if I’d have to go to her. She has won “best veterinarian” in the area recently so that sounds quite promising.

The owner of the pet shop told me there was no way she would ever, ever, ever move off the mountain!  That’s how much she loves it.  Both of these women were wonderful in the information they shared with me.  I am so grateful that I got to meet them both today.  Gotta love perfect timing like that!

Bare Essentials Natural Market, photo from internet.  Again, too much rain to take a shot today!

Bare Essentials Natural Market, photo from internet. Again, too much rain to take a shot today!

Then it was off to the human natural food store after having made sure Picasso’s needs could be met.  This is a locally owned shop called Bare Essentials Natural Market.  It is a wonderful, clean store with very responsive staff.  I was told that basically if they don’t have it, they can order it!  When I asked about getting raw milk or cream I was told how to legally go about finding it.  I then asked about finding pastured, healthy beef and was told that it was best to buy it directly from the farm since they had to purchase it at retail and then add their profit on to the cost.  Evidently it is available at the local farmer’s markets and she said it is really good beef!  Got that all covered!

Local beef that I'm told is really excellent.

Local beef that I’m told is really excellent.

After taking care of things in Boone it was off to Mass for me.  I knew I needed to do some church exploration.  I’m in the south and naturally Catholic churches are few and far between.  The church I wanted to go to was over an hour from where I was in the moment but I had the time so off I went.  The church is well attended by a large Hispanic population.  Half of the masses are in Spanish and the pastor clearly speaks Spanish natively with English as a second language.  This would probably not be my “home” church but one I would visit on occasion.  Nevertheless, it exceeded my expectations.  At some point I expect I would also consider attending a local Baptist church only because all the Catholic churches are so far away.  I want the opportunity to meet people locally, not an hour away!

St. Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church in Lenoir, NC

St. Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church in Lenoir, NC

So this is all to tell you that I’m seriously considering moving here – soon!  This is still in a really early stage but it has some very real possibility.  I have already checked into what it would take to make my RV winter worthy (information for another post).  I might also consider trading this one in for a travel trailer which, for the same money, would not only be newer but roomier.  Again, this is really early in the planning stage but if I was to do this, it would have to be a relatively quick thing since winter isn’t all that far away and I’m not open to freezing to death!

The balance of my trip, by necessity, has to change.  I still hope to get to Indianapolis to visit my son and family but it will probably have to be without the RV since I won’t be able to tow my car for a while and the campground there closes by the end of October.  It would also only be for a week rather than the planned month.

Assuming I end up doing this truly crazy thing, I will also have to find out if and how I can move mom up here.  I know she would love it here even if she couldn’t see too much of it.  The air alone would be so helpful for her and the COPD she suffers from.  Everything, however, has to be one step at a time.  First, me!

Trooper JD Boone, the man who came to my rescue the second time around!

Trooper JD Boone, the man who came to my rescue the second time around!

As always there is so much more to tell but it will have to wait until another time!  I will leave you with this – since I’ve been on this journey (not even a month yet), I’ve driven four different vehicle types (RV, SUV, van and my non-performing performance car) with tags from three different states (Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee), rentals from two different rental car companies (Hertz and Enterprise) and towing by two very different towing companies.  I have met two state troopers and one local cop, dealt with two other state troopers on the phone and two different insurance companies  I have had to deal with two separate warranty issues (the clutch is under warranty while the face plate on the car is not a warranty issue since it was misused).  I had to pay for the first car rental since at time they could not determine the issue was under warranty.  Hopefully I will get that money back although the night I had to stay at the hotel will not be refunded to me.  I am now good “friends” with both the Fiat dealer in Tennessee as well as Fiat USA.  I have learned that there is something called a Wrecker Sergeant, a position that deals exclusively with tow truck companies ensuring that they have insurance and are complying with the various in and outs of the laws.  It has been one helluva learning experience.  But out of it all I may end up with a new home.  That would work for me!

© 2015 deborah kauffeld