Saturday, April 30, 2016

4/20/16-Leaving Texas, Hord's Creek & Avalon Reservoir

Bentley loves to navigate.
After Georgetown, my original plan was to drive to Lubbock. That would be my first stop on my trek back West to meet up with Colvin. I was going to stay overnight at Camping World and stock up on some supplies while in town, but I did not make it that far. I was very tired.

I was tooling down 153 when I drove by, in the middle of nowhere, Hord’s Creek Lake campgrounds. Realizing I would not make it to Lubbock, I did a u-turn and enjoyed a beautiful campsite for the night.




I would have stayed longer than one night but there was NO cell phone or internet coverage for miles! Before it got dark, I drove back to Coleman, the nearest town, hoping to send out a group text to my tribe to let them know where I landed for the night, but the town didn’t even have a signal. I couldn’t believe it! I went inside the store and asked, and they confirmed it – no coverage within 20 miles in any direction.

I drove back to the campground. Concerned that I might worry my loved ones, I stopped at the entry booth to ask about options. Thanks to the camp hosts on duty, I ended up borrowing the Ranger’s sat phone and contacted my friend, Cathy. She then sent out a text to everyone. Thanks again Cathy! The Ranger and the camp hosts were wonderful. Here is a pic of the friendly and helpful camp hosts.


The next morning we headed out. I was excited that in just two short days, we’d be with Colvin again. Plus he was going to treat me to a tour of Carlsbad Caverns!

The furbabies and I had fun along the way, stopping often. Here is a pic of a historical marker we sent to my cousin Judy (Crews).


And here is a pic of a unique camper/trailer combo we saw during one of our gas stops.

Sorry about the dirty windshield.

Thanks to freecampsites.net, we found a place to stay just outside Carlsbad, Avalon Reservoir. Colvin met up with us the next day, but we didn’t go to the Caverns. He checked and found out that the elevator is out of commission for repairs until May 31. I was disappointed, but always the white knight, Colvin was looking out for me. His concern was that walking down into the caverns and then back up would be too much for me on top of the Texas Tour. He got us a hotel for the night instead. Thanks hon!

By now I was already missing my friends and family that I had been so blessed to spend time with. I saw this meme on FB and it is my sentiment exactly. Love you all!


But being with Colvin, and mapping out our travel plans, got rid of any leftover blues.


Stay tuned to see where we go next!

TBI HS SYMPTOMS

This post only covers 3 days, and it was just me and the furbabies so I’m proud to report NO major symptoms! :))

The Rest of the Story

I felt safe at Hord’s Creek Lake. It was a U.S. Army Corps Park and as familiar to me as any State Park. The reservoir was a different story. It was the first time for me to experience remote boondocking by myself. The dogs did not get their evening walk (except around and around the van a few times, lol), and we stayed inside, but I did it! I was so proud.


The next morning, when we drove back out to meet Colvin at the highway, I felt like superwoman. If I can do this, anyone can. To you, my wonderful readers, I  say, “Live your dreams now. It is never too late. Go for it!”

Love always, d

Thursday, April 28, 2016

4/28/16-Texas Trip-Part 3, Georgetown


While I was in Georgetown, I stayed at a variety of places. I did city stealth camping – staying at the WalMart two nights, and the Pilot truck stop in Jarrell two nights. I also treated myself to a stay at Berry Springs County Park and Preserve for two nights (link below). The other two nights were spent parked at friends’ homes.

The WalMart stay was uneventful which in my book, after the incident in Graham, counts as a huge success. This time I parked near other campers and truckers. It was cold so I had to run my heater, but this time I did not put the Reflectix up on my driver or passenger door – just the front windshield. My blackout curtains cover my side doors and back doors so I had complete privacy and felt secure.

I raised some eyebrows when I chose to stay in Jarrell. It wasn’t the truck stop that concerned some of my friends as much as it was the weather. Except for a day or two, it stormed all week and we were constantly under tornado warnings, not watches. Jarrell is known as tornado alley and has had extensive damage over the years. In fact, most of the town was wiped out in 1997. But there aren’t a lot of camping options in Georgetown – at least not ones that fit my small budget. Since it was an official truck stop, I couldn’t park with the truckers, but I parked as close to the main door as was feasible and stayed under parking lot lights. It was noisy, but I felt safe. No storms hit and the furbabies and I rested well.


While in Jarrell, I was able to get an oil/filter change and I got my van inspected. I was so happy to learn that in Texas you can get the inspection done up to 90 days prior to registration renewal. Check; Done; Woohoo! It was a small shop so it didn’t take very long, and the owner let me park on the back parking lot and clean my van – inside and out. It was so nice of him! It was very convenient since he also owns the adjacent car wash: Cougar Lube and Wash. I was very grateful to be able to take all the time I needed and not have to hurry. It was perfect! After that, I stopped at the corner market and a bunch of kids came running up to pet the dogs. It freaked Nonni out a bit, but not Bentley. He’s such a ham.


Berry Springs Park is a hidden gem in Williamson County. I found it through freecampsites.net. It costs $15/night, and is well worth it. They have trails galore, resident donkeys, a fishing pond, showers, firewood and friendly staff. They have only a few sites available for overnight camping (water but no hookups), and they are spread out. During our stay the sun was shining and I couldn’t believe it, but I was the only one in the overnight area. Sweet!

It’s a great day park too. And get this! The resident park manager grew up in Goliad! It was fun reminiscing with her and learning more history about that little town I love so much.




Imagine what the park looks like when all the pecan trees are in bloom!

The trails have all kinds of tracks stamped in the concrete. Fun!



By now you may be wondering what the pic is at the top of this post. Earlier in the week, my BFF Cathy and I chose to meet for lunch at the Georgetown IHOP one day. It turns out that it was National Pancake Day! What a surprise! I’m not sure if they made that up or not, but the Shriners were there in full force, handing out beads and offering photo opps ... and yes – a short stack was indeed free. Who knew?!? I’m not sure how it worked as a fundraiser since the pancakes were free, but the signs indicated that all proceeds were going to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. Thanks for taking the pic, Cathy, my camera shy friend.

The next day I got to see my cousin, Sandy. She knew this wonderful place in downtown Georgetown – all organic, health food - Nancy's Sky Garden. I thought that was appropriate since it was a healthcare week full of doctor appointments for me. Thanks Sandy! It was awesome!


In keeping with tradition, on Saturday, after all my doctor appointments and all my “business” was taken care of, the Scrapmaniacs got together at Cathy’s. I don’t scrapbook anymore, but I wouldn’t have missed this for the world. We’ve been meeting off and on for 7 years! We had such fun and ended up playing games. I couldn’t believe it! I was firing on all cylinders well enough to play games! It made me so happy. I can’t remember the names of the games, but they were similar to Pictionary and Charades. I sure do remember laughing a lot though. Such fun!


I spent the night parked at Cathy’s. It’s a good thing since I ended up having to bathe Bentley. Here is a pic of him and Nonni peering through Cathy’s back door. Can you see Bentley - the dog formerly known as white? He found their fountain. Ugh. Sorry Cathy!


The next night I drove to Bobbie’s house and enjoyed a peaceful night parked in the country. Here’s a pic of her son sitting outside with Nonni and Bentley, and another of us taking a walk while watching a beautiful sunset.



The next day, before leaving town, I got to spend some time with my other BFF, Leslie. Here’s a coinkydink for you... We both locked our keys in our vehicles that morning. LOL. Love you Leslie!



TBI HS SYMPTOMS

I am happy to report that I came close a few times, but I didn’t have any seizures while in Georgetown - at least not any that I remember. Ha! I think one of the things that helped is that with the exception of Scrapmaniac Saturday, I did not have any evening activities. That allowed me to have lots of quiet, solo time and get plenty of rest. Awesomeness!

I did have memory lapses for very short intervals off and on throughout the week, but that is normal for me.

I will share one funny with you. We planned it so that I would drive to Cathy’s (from Jarrell to Pflugerville) when the traffic was predicted to be light. And it was. Especially because I told Siri to avoid highways and road construction. Once again, just like in my last post, I took a very circuitous route. It took forever, but I didn’t care. There was very little traffic; it was low stress; and I could do it. I felt like Chevy Chase in European Vacation though. You know the scene – the one where he keeps circling the Eiffel Tower. Well, I did that too.

To meet my instructions, Siri kept taking me past I-35. I’d be driving along and think to myself, “Oh look. There’s I-35 again. Oh look. There it is again.” I think I crossed over or under I-35 at least 3 times. I didn’t care as long as I didn’t have to get on it. When I shared the story with the Scrapmaniacs, everyone laughed. They tried to figure out my route but we never could narrow in on it exactly. I came in through the back of Cathy’s neighborhood which was very unusual. Siri got me there though! With ease.

The Rest of the Story

While I was in the Georgetown/Austin area, I saw my PCP – not once but twice. I also got a flu shot, pneumonia shot and a shingles shot. Whew! And my doctor put me back on Aricept for Alzheimer’s. I share that because I have several people with brain injuries following this blog. He also isn’t happy with my current neurologist and wants me to see yet another one, but with my insurance the referral takes forever and that hasn’t happened yet. I’m so glad I didn’t stick around waiting for the referral to go through. I’d still be there!

I also passed on getting a mammogram – not wise, I know, but I tried. I went to the hospital lab as instructed and they were crazy, crazy busy. The lobby was extremely loud. There were crying babies everywhere and at least 3 (!) TVs were blaring. My earplugs were not effective against that onslaught. I froze in the middle of the lobby and had to will my legs to turn around and get me out of there. I thought I was going to have a seizure right then and there. I got back to the van and had to sit for over an hour before I could drive again.


I’ll try to get it done on the road – somewhere, somehow. I’m open for suggestions on how to do that. I also still need to see a dentist, and I’m not quite sure how to go about getting that done either, but I have all year to get that done.

All in all, it was a wildly successful healthcare week, and a much needed week of connection with wonderful friends. I am SO blessed. So are you my wonderful reader. Glad you're here - thanks for stopping by. KOKO!

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

4/26/16-Texas Trip-Part 2, DFW Family & Friends


I hope to catch up on my blog soon. Thank you for your patience. This post is about my 2nd week of my "Texas Tour."

Tuesday, 3/1

What does one do when you have a brain injury and can’t drive in traffic but need to get from Denton to the other side of Dallas? You go around, of course. WAY around (pic above).

After a long, difficult week in Denton, Colvin provided some much needed relief in the form of a wonderful campsite at Cedar Hill State Park. The furbabies and I enjoyed it immensely. Thank you Zippy!


The following are pics with friends and family throughout the week – lots of love and joy.

Wednesday, 3/2

Keli manages the Animal Hospital & Clinic of Arlington where I volunteered in 2013. We’ve been friends ever since. Love you Keli!


Thursday, 3/3

Steve and I have been friends for 35 years.


And Sharon and I have been friends since high school.


I also got to see two other high school friends while staying at CHSP – Randy Frazier and Mary Ann Milner. But duh me – forgot to get pics. Next time guys!

My nephew and his wife came to my campsite one night. They brought pizza and built one of Bubba's famous fires. Awesome!


Friday, 3/4

My sister Sheree camped with me Friday night. We stayed up late talking – as usual. Such fun!


Earlier that evening we went to a house concert presented by The PosiLounge. It was an extreme privilege to hear Jana Stanfield perform in such an intimate setting. Thank you for continuing this wonderful venue Dennis Persons. I first heard Jana in concert at Unity of Dallas in 1998 with my friend Robin Baker. What a wonderful experience – both concerts!



Saturday, 3/5

Lunch with my sister Shirley, Sheree and Mother. 

What fun it was to spend time with Sheree's family!








Sunday, 3/6


After spending time with Sheree and family, I got to see Charlene, my niece, and her family. Nonni & Bentley loved playing in the backyard with their two dogs. Thanks guys! We love you!



Monday, 3/7



After taking the kids to school, Scott helped me check the fluids in my van, and then went with me to Auto Zone and Wally World to get groceries and supplies. After that I headed south to Austin feeling rested, secure about my van, and fully stocked with food and water – a wonderful wrap-up to a wonderful week. Thank you, Scott!

TBI HS Symptoms

I would be remiss if I did not write about the symptoms I had during all of this. After all, this blog is about vandwelling while coping with a TBI. I am going to try this format out for awhile: I will write about events and vandwelling, appending any TBI info at the end. That allows my wonderful readers the option of skipping this part if preferred.

I had several symptomatic episodes during the week. For example, I wore my earplugs during the Jana Stanfield concert but was still only able to stay for half of it. I get nose bleeds and/or debilitating vertigo with too much noise. Sheree held my hand all the way to the car when we left. Without her help I would have just wondered around or stood staring until the ‘whirring’ in my head subsided. I never know how long it will take and in the meantime I’m like that old cliché, “the lights are on but nobody’s home.” Later, Sheree told me that before the concert started I repeatedly kept asking everyone their names. It was people I should have known. I don’t remember doing that. The brain has always fascinated me. Mine is an enigma and sometimes a stranger.

While at lunch with mother and Shirley, I was having a really hard time. Part of my HS issues sometimes involves my thermal regulation system not working. During this trip my doctor gave me a great explanation as to why it happens, and I was excited to finally understand, but now I don’t remember what he said. I can at least tell you what happens when it goes haywire....

If I get too cold, it can end up feeling like hypothermia has set in. That happened one time this winter and I was shivering so badly my teeth were chattering. I bit my tongue and cheek so hard they bled. At the time I was wrapped in several blankets and sitting directly in front of a stove. Weird!

Likewise, if I get too hot, I take immediate steps to cool down because I have a very small span of time before I pass out. There is no warning, no rhyme or reason as to why it happens, and it comes on within seconds. I can be in a perfectly cool room with a/c blasting and still overheat. For the record, it’s not hot flashes – not even hot flashes on steroids. It’s much worse than that. It feels like my body has reached a flashpoint that’s about to lead to spontaneous combustion. If I didn’t know better I would think that my blood was boiling. I realize how dramatic that sounds, but it is what it is.

It happened at the restaurant during lunch with my mother and two sisters. Sheree hurried to wet down one of the cloth napkins for me, and then wrapped it around my shoulders. I was struggling to not keel over right there in my chair. Unable to walk, all I could do was sit there and fan myself with the menu and work on controlling my breathing. The manager came over. I was embarrassed to be causing such a ruckus, but he ended up cranking the a/c down real low for a little while. That helped immensely and soon the crisis was over – only for Sheree to look at me later and hand me another napkin. This time I was having a nose bleed. Soon after that happened we headed for the car, and instead of getting to visit some more we took mother and Shirley home.

We decided it was best for me to stay at Sheree’s that night so after a long rest I followed her to her house. My van fit perfectly in her driveway and once we got there I took another nap. As you can see in the pics above, my nieces and nephews came by later to see me. What a special treat! It was really good to see everyone, but I hardly left the couch and was not as present as I would have liked to be. By that, I mean I don’t remember much. I hope it doesn’t offend my family to know that I actually don’t remember most of the evening. Right now, while writing this, I can't even remember all their names. Things like that make me very sad. We got some great pics though!

I ended up calling it an early night and slept for 12 hours.

The next day several of us met for breakfast. It was a small, local diner or I would not have risked it. I still had to wear earplugs though. That means that once again I didn’t get to visit as much as I would have liked to, but once again we got some great pics! Love you ALL! Thank you for such a wonderful time and for looking out for me with such great care.

After breakfast, I took a nap and then headed to Charlene’s. With Siri’s help, I took back roads. I got a little lost so it took longer than expected, but there was NO traffic so that was awesome.

Wesley gave up his bedroom for the night (Thank you, Wes!), and after a spa shower and a relaxing visit, I slept like a baby. The extended R&R was much needed. I felt much better by Monday morning.

I mentioned above that Scott helped me with my van and got me to the store. The truth is, I didn’t have it in me to do all that running around by myself. It would have depleted what reserves I had built up. Usually though, before heading out, I have ingrained the habit of always checking the fluid levels and tires (thanks to Colvin), but this time I would not have been able to do all that. I could not remember how, and even after looking at the notes I had made with complete instructions, I was still confused. Thanks again for all your help, Scott.

I realize that some might think this lifestyle is unsafe for me, especially when it comes to the driving. Around that issue, I sometimes feel like an elderly person whose loved ones wants them to hang up the keys. There may come a day when I have to do that, but it is not today. For now, vandwelling is the only way I have of living independently. It is far better for me than any other scenario, especially assisted living or being dependent on others day-to-day. I hope you saw the positive aspects of my life as you read about my symptoms. Life is good. There is always, always, always something to be grateful for.

The Rest of the Story

What I learned this week is that unfortunately, in the future, I need to micromanage socializing being very particular to plan ahead of time and stay in quiet environments while visiting with only 1 or 2 people at a time. It worked best for me when people came to my campsite, but I know that’s not always possible. It may come to that though. For me to see loved ones, they may have to come to me, wherever I am. We shall see.

I also learned that I cannot compromise on peace, quiet and rest – plenty of rest. If I compromise on those factors, or push the envelope too hard for too long, I have episodes every time.

I am writing this post after having left Texas over a month ago. I have enjoyed several weeks of quiet rest, and it amazes me that it took me all this time to write this post. I had to retrain my brain on how to write. I was concerned that I had lost the ability, but I seem to be doing better with it now. I am just very, very s-l-o-w.

Obviously, the remote locations vandwelling affords are healing for me. It seems my world is getting smaller and smaller in what I can do and can’t do in the realms of “norm” but I am so blessed to have the opportunity and ability to live in a way that not only meets my needs but also allows me such great freedom. As I have mentioned before, assisted or dependent living would kill me.

I am very, very grateful to live in this day and age of modern technology. I text my tribe every few days &/or every time I change locations. Plus I have Colvin to travel with, but if I didn’t, I have many vandweller friends that would welcome me in their camp. I am blessed to have so many wonderful people in my life – traditional and nomadic. I truly do not take for granted a single person in my life that has made it through all of this with me.

To do the things I do takes daily, minute-to-minute, and second-by-second concentration. There is nothing I get to do by rote anymore. For example, I do a lot of counting. When I put things outside, I have to keep a running count: footstool, dog water bowl, patio mat and stake = 4. If I take the water bowl inside, the outside count becomes 3, etc., and I can’t be interrupted until I get the new count straight in my head. It gets complicated and frustrating – for me, and I’m sure, anyone around me.

Likewise, when I get ready for the day there are 9 steps. After that, there are 7 steps to my morning routine – breakfast, feeding the dogs, etc. If I get interrupted and lose count, it takes me quite awhile to reconnect with where I left off. In whatever I am counting, if I don’t get to complete the sequence for whatever reason, it is distracting enough for me that it takes extreme focus to keep me from being immobilized. More and more, I also am noticing that I tend to be mute during times of distraction and confusion. If that happens too often in a day, I am in danger of a seizure. Sometimes I wonder if unrelenting routines will become my whole world – much like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man.

To be honest, when I have episodes, I get scared sometimes because I never really know how bad it’s going to be or how long it’s going to last or even if the symptoms will ever end. But they always do. For that, I am very grateful, and blessed.

I don't know why I can do some things well, and then turn right around and can't do other things at all. Sometimes I can wait and figure it out, sometimes not so much. I have good days and bad days, and sometimes I can pinpoint the reasons why, but often I can't. Sometimes I forget things I did 5 minutes ago, 5 days ago, 5 years ago, and then turn right around and have stellar recall that astonishes even me. I don't get it. I certainly don't expect others too. It is great practice for living in the moment.

Oprah once said, "Surround yourself only with people that lift you higher." I also have to make sure that the people in my life are willing to allow me to just be - however that appears at the time. I have no room for people that judge me, question me or try to change me. I'm hard enough on myself and am growing more and more confused by my symptoms. I am doing the best I can and for those who don't get that, or can't accept that .... Well, it seems my world is getting smaller and smaller in that respect too. I am learning to be okay with that. Otherwise, I stay in a constant state of grief.


I know and meet people all the time that focus on what is wrong in their lives, especially if they have a medical condition. I may forget my commitment of staying positive from time-to-time, and visit a funk zone fleetingly, but I refuse to stay there. I believe we have to be willing to focus on what is right, what feels good, and bask in love and joy as much as possible. It is crucial to mental, physical and spiritual health. In that, synchronicity flows. From that, anything is possible. I believe. I hope you do too. KOKO!

Monday, April 4, 2016

4/4/16-Ran Out of a WalMart Parking Lot


Texas Trip-Part One, continued

In my last two posts I mentioned the delays along the way from AZ to TX that were necessary for my health. The delays also made improvements to my trip and brought wonderful surprises! This post is about the night before I arrived in Denton. When you live in your home, unexpected travel extensions are usually not a problem. You just find a safe, legal place to park and get a good night’s sleep.

As I pulled in to Graham, TX, I realized I was getting tired and needed to stop for the night. As it turns out, I found a great place to park in Graham, but I did NOT get a good night’s sleep.

I scoped the town for a safe place to park overnight, and found a few spots I thought might work. When I stopped for gas, I also asked the clerk for a recommendation. She shrugged her shoulders and said, “Most people just use Walmart.” I personally have issues with that as a default. Not because it’s a Walmart parking lot, but because I think a lot of people abuse the privilege. Still, I needed supplies so I went to Walmart and checked with the manager on duty while in the store. She was awesome and so friendly!

She said, “Hon, you park here and rest up. ‘Folk’ do it all the time and you are welcome to stay as long as you need until you are safe to be back on the road.”

A Side Note: I did not for one second take her offer to mean I could set up camp there. She was being generous and I’m certain she meant that I could stay for a night (or two) – at the most. The few that abuse this hospitality are ruining it for the rest of us.

Please, stop it. Enough said.

Because she seemed genuinely concerned, I couldn’t help but wonder if I looked as tired as I felt. I was looking forward to getting a good night’s sleep. I thanked her and when I got back to the van I moved it to the perimeter of the parking lot, away from traffic and the bulk of customer parking, and settled in for the night.

A few hours later...

In the middle of the night I was brutally awakened from a deep, peaceful sleep to a group of teenagers pounding on my van. They were also egging my van while yelling obscenities. From what I could tell there were about 7 of them in 2 bubba trucks. They were shouting things like, “There better not be any of our friends in there you pervert.”

It was cold that night so I had turned my heater on. It in turn had fogged up the windows. Idiot kids.

The take home lesson: After receiving approval (check), park in a well lit area (check), near other overnight visitors (oops), and where you can be seen from the street (oops).

Back to the event...

With my awesome setup (thanks again Colvin, Bob, et al), I was able to leap out of bed and roll out within a few minutes – without leaving the safety of my van. In the meantime, the troublesome teenagers had sped off as they shouted, “We’ll be back. Get out of our town.”

I was eager to do just that. With my adrenaline pumping, I drove to the next major town almost 2 hours away before I stopped to check on the van and wash it. (Thank you Colvin for staying on the line with me, in the middle of the night, grounding me and making sure I was okay. Once again, you’re my hero. Muah!)

The whole thing really rattled me. It wasn’t just that my van was vandalized, I felt violated – my home had been invaded and my security threatened. I was very grateful however when all of the eggs washed off and there was no permanent damage. The van got a good, long scrubbing, while I too began to let the fear roll away.

Several days after this incident a friend who is a veteran of fulltime vandwelling pointed out to me that I probably could have just stuck my head out the door, told them to knock it off, inform them that I had the manager’s approval, and emphatically state that they needed to leave before I called the cops. His thought was that once they saw it was just an older lady trying to get some rest that would have been the end of it. (I’m proud to say he is still alive even after the “older lady” comment.)

The truth is he’s probably right, but in the thick of it, being awakened from a dead sleep, I couldn’t think that quickly. And, since (as previously mentioned), there are so many overnight campers at WalMart giving the rest of us bad images I don’t know that I would have called the cops anyway. That would have contributed to the plight of overnight campers being seen as a problem. With more and more WalMart stores putting up signs prohibiting overnight parking, I decided it was best just to move on. You know, since I can.

After washing the van, I was still unable to sleep and ended up driving all the way to Denton which was just another 2 hours away. I found a great place to park in Denton, in an area I knew well, and I made sure I was next to other overnight truckers. I set my alarm and got a few hours sleep before I headed to the storage unit.

As you know from my previous post, I ended up staying on-site at my storage unit for 5 days with the manager’s approval. I got rid of everything I owned that wouldn’t fit in my van, and you can read my previous post (here) for the details on that arduous, life-changing process.

After Denton, Colvin treated me to a wonderful stay at a nearby State Park. Whew! It was much needed. Thanks hon! Stay tuned for info on my Texas Trip-Part Two. In the meantime dear readers, KOKO!