The Ugly Truth about Living Life to the Fullest

I hear it all the time … “YOU truly live life to the fullest!”
Yeah, way to go, Roaming Bobcat! You are such an inspiration. Way to be free from society, jobs, obligations and Old World expectations, roaming by the will o’ the wisp in your valiant Catmobile, all smiles, gratitude and high vibrations.

Well, I’ll tell you what: I DO live life to the fullest. And it is not all you’ve cracked it to be…

2 days ago. My facebook status read “Sometimes, I feel so blessed, that my only hardship is humility.”
Last night. A friend offered I sleep in his driveway because I was cold, hopeless, and crying.

Crazy Free - new cover from Scott.

“Hi. I am doing a study on the homeless population in Sedona. May I ask you a few questions.”
The lady with the clipboard picked me first. Maybe because I was standing nearest the entrance at the Food Bank, waiting for my number to be called for a free bag of food to sustain me for the week. Maybe because of my three layers of down vests and jackets, the classic look of those of us without a heated space on cold winter nights. Or maybe it was my matted hair – she couldn’t guess of my choice to grow dread locks to celebrate my passage through menopause. Or something about my unhurried pace – letting mothers and people with jobs get ahead in line. I have nowhere else to be, and nothing else to do.
“I’m not homeless.” I told her. “I live in my truck, so I always have my home with me.”
She had a checkbox for that on her form. Vehicle dwellers count as homeless.
“No, I have no income.”, “No, I don’t have health insurance.” “No, I don’t pay taxes” “No, I don’t have electricity.” “No, I don’t use any substance, no drugs, no alcohol” … She had a checkbox for each of my answers.
“Well, I’m not your typical homeless person though,” I could hear the defensiveness in my voice. I mean, I live the way I live “by choice.”
She had a checkbox for that too.

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2 days ago, the Catmobile and I pulled into Slab City, California. The “City” appears on Google Maps as a small cluster of square blocks, complete with streets (Loners on Wheels Rd, Tank Rd, etc.) and neighborhoods (East Jesus, West Satan, etc.) But, in fact, it’s little more than a haphazard congregation of  “homeless” people of the wheeled kind, a mingling (not mixing) of nomadic hippie artists, air-conditioned northern sun-seekers, off-season disoriented burners, and Alexander Supertramp followers.


I fall slightly in all categories, but mostly in the latter.
The first time “Into the Wild” landed in my hands, I was a National Science Foundation Fellow with more annual grant money for my geophysics research than all the paychecks and under-the-table money I have earned combined in the 7 years since I threw caution to the wind and leaped into this strange life I now call my own. That book sparked something wild and unstoppable in me. I didn’t see the tragedy of a troubled young man’s untimely death; I read of a vibrant explorer with the balls to go for it, explore the edges, and follow only his own footsteps, to whatever end.

In time, I’ve become my own Alexander Supertramp. I’ve lived as I pleased, following nothing but my own wishes. I’ve run out of money, repeatedly – to a documented low of $2.62. I’ve slept in the dirt (as a thru-hiker) and on sidewalks (in Cuba). I’ve forgone showers and piled hundreds of thousands of miles on my odometer. I collected friends all over the country, with names as strange as Last on the Bus, the Big Elf, Grey Wolf, Weathercarrot, Quest or Rapunzel. Enough money has always appeared when needed, and not once did I use any one of my 4 college degrees. I taught yoga, posed as a nude model for art classes, worked as a Grand Canyon guide, painted buildings and houses, restored historical windows, dug trenches, shoveled pig and chicken shit, weeded organic gardens, trimmed marijuana, wrote a book about my adventures, and lived off the royalties for a while … and, I’ve had to borrow money, dumpster-dive (mostly for pies). I’ve sung Hare Krishna songs for a free meal, and occasionally relied on food banks and the kindness of strangers. Like Alexander, I joined the ranks of society’s misfits, roamed the desert southwest, and even moved to Alaska.

But our parallel stops there. Because his life stopped then, and mine hasn’t.

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Standing on top of Salvation Mountain, I sent Alexander Supertramp my love and gratitude for the inspiration. gratitude for all the adventures, the friends and the overwhelming freedom inherent to living life this way – our way! I then parked the Catmobile among my misfit peers, and basked in the glow of a gorgeous sunset from the comfort of my pillow. I felt like the Grand Winner of the Jackpot of Life, and fell asleep fully contented about everything in my world.

Alexander was older now. He was walking through the desert, but only I could see him. The rows of RVs had their generators going. That was in the world. So, the noise from the world was in my dream. I was relatively sure this was a dream. I could date Alexander since I could see him. He’d be my invisible boyfriend.
“You died just in time.” I told him. “If you had continued on, you’d have run out of steam, eventually.” He wasn’t listening, but he held my hand as we walked. “All that freedom, it’s exhausting after a while.” Still not listening. “It’s like having so many options paralyzes you, because how can you choose when everything is available?”
There was a banquet for a wedding. A table covered with delectable meals. All of which I had tasted already. He sat and ate.
“Alexander, I think I don’t want to be homeless anymore. I want a kitchen, and a bathtub, a garden to grow my own food, a room for my sewing machine, and a yoga studio nearby where I can teach, and a steady income to buy gear and pay for adventures.”
“Then stop.” He kissed my temple just before I drifted elsewhere, to another dream.

supertramp
skinny slit separatorThere were no restrooms anywhere in Slab City, and no bushes thick enough to hide behind, so I left before sunrise, at the urgent request of my bowels. Then I drove 2 hours and almost ran out of gas before finding both gas and a bathroom.

“Then stop.” he had said. Well, but, I can’t. Just like I can’t stop in Slab City if I need to poo. There’s this urge to always move on. A fear of missing out if I don’t. I can’t go back to where I was before I got on this journey, because, at this point, it’s so far ago and I’m such a different person that I wouldn’t even fit at all “back there.”
And, also, I don’t want to stop for the sake of stopping. I want to stop because I find a spot or situation that I deem worthy of stopping. I’m not just gonna pull in the middle of the desert and say “I stop here. Here’s just fine.”

And what if I did stop? There were towns along the way where I’ve considered stopping, like North Conway, NH or Sedona, AZ. Would I build a peaceful hole to call my own? Get a steady job? A job would bind my daily hours, and the assorted taxes, insurances and utilities would bind my income. So I’d have the money for adventures and gear, and no time to partake in them. The eternal dilemma … I think I’d just shrivel up under the weight of a life ill-fitted to my particular genetic makeup. In fact, I’ve tried to stop in each of these towns. It didn’t take.

When I finally pulled into Sedona, and caught my first glimpse of Thunder Mountain, tears welled up in my eyes. Tears of sadness. An overwhelming sense of stagnation washed over me. I was here again. I always returned here when I didn’t know where else to go. Why? Why always Sedona? Because it’s easy. Because I know I can camp out in the desert, and get my mail at friends’ addresses, and meet people for tea, and hike trails I’ve hiked a hundred times without having to buy a map or ask strangers. I have a “spot” here. Just having this “spot” made me feel stagnant. So, not only I can’t stop, but I can’t return too often either. A pretty dire case of wanderlust!

Then I drove through town – for the first time in over a year. My favorite yoga studio is now closed, as is my favorite coffee shop. Most of the pullouts in the desert now have “no camping” signs, and worse … there is a “camping” sign on my secret road, leading straight to my secret spot – “My” spot, where I have spent months, where I know each cat-claw bush, coyote song and firewood pile. There was a massive camp in “my” spot, with enough water to last an entire season.

So, here is where it stands. The Sedona I always return to no longer exists. It changed while I was gone. So, I can stay here and pretend it’s a new town. and I know I’d discover new “spots” and meet new people. I could even find work here – I have contacts- and save enough to hike the CDT – my next dream adventure.

Oooor … I could go somewhere else, someplace new. Anywhere. I can go anywhere at all. I can go soooo anywhere that I don’t even know where I’d go.

And THAT is the ugly truth about living life to the fullest. How do you define who you’d like to be when infinity represents the boundary of what you can create? How do you narrow it down? How do you remain content with your choices when you can just look over the fence and see the green grass of a small home with a kitchen and a bath? How do you ward off stagnation when movement becomes your norm? How do you reconcile growing your own organic vegetables when you are addicted to the view outside your 32 square foot window to always, always, always be different?

What would Alexander have done, if he hadn’t died?

desert

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P.S: So … I started writing this posted “The Ugly Truth about Living Life to the Fullest” intending to write about how, often, people think I live in a state of La La Land-happiness about how awesome my life is. And anyone on Facebook could easily think that, because I only post when I’m happy. The “Ugly Truth” I wanted to write about is that life comes with great joys and deep sadness, moments of despair and confusion, the whole gamut. The key to “living fully” is NOT to be happy all the time, it is to live everything that happens. Reject nothing, it’s all good … that’s what I came here today to write about, and then, my fingers wrote something else entirely. Probably something I needed to read myself, to know where I’m at. Live Blog Therapy, of sort.

And also, this morning, as the story was writing itself, I got an offer to go live in a cob house with a friend in Colorado. I’d still have the truck as a bedroom, but there would be a kitchen and bathroom, and a wood stove, and a room I could make into an office to finally record that audio book I started years ago. And it’s in a spot I’ve never visited before. So … ??? Stay tuned.

Thank you for reading! XOXOX

[drawing of the two ladies on the cliff by my friend N.Scott Driscoll as a potential new cover for Crazy Free]

 

 

 

 

 

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Trail journal from the most beautiful highway in the world

Day 1 – 10 pm. Both Kristo and I got lost right after crossing the border, and that was the last of our hardships. Traveling up the Cassiar hwy was a dream. No unfamiliar places. I have been up these parts before. But my eyes are different – these eyes now are on their way to Alaska. And everything tastes just that much more delicious.
We are sitting on coolers and tailgates in old western caravan style with Ally, a new vehicle-dwelling friend from Victoria. Kristo is strumming the guitar,  elks are singing the song of their people. We have shared bear stories. Summit Lake is pure Stillness. All is peace and quiet … Except for us, according to one local. He came up the hill to see “what the ruckus was all about”. He said he’d worry about us more if we were quiet. Obviously, if we were up to no good, we’d be more discreet. In other parts, this would have been a “you can’t park here. Move along.” but, this is Canada. Instead, he gave us recommendations on what not to miss on our journey north (Liard hot springs, a must-not-miss) and welcomed us to use the toilet behind the hall. “There’s even toilet paper.” Oh Canada!
The 10 hr drive went by in a flash. Every ten minutes BC outdid itself in beauty. Especially down by the border where the road climbs up in pines trees along the Fraser River and the freeway clings to the flanks of snow-capped mountains. And that sunset. It went on for 3 hours with 2 sets of double rainbows. For a while, it looked like the end of one rainbow was right on Kristo’ s truck.  It probably looked like it was on mine from Ally’s, whom we hadn’t met yet.
Today was a very good day.
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Day 2 – I kept a list today. 12 bears (including one in a tree), 3 cubs, 7 moose, 5 elks, 4 bighorn sheep, 7 porcupines … then I realized how ridiculous. How very human of me to reduce this experience of pure happiness to a list. It cannot be comprehended, so let me catalog it. Numbers are safe. We drove for 14 hrs. It felt like 2. Kristo’s truck passed 250,000 miles. Meanwhile, the spectacle explodes my mind. I already now it is futile to try to describe it with words and possibly rude to try to capture it with a camera.
Gratitude for perfection. We are parked across the road from the Liard Hot Springs.
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Day 2 – I want to meet a man who makes me feel the way the Alaska Highway makes me feel. I would marry that man.
It goes beyond the hot springs before breakfast, the remote untamed wilderness, the glaciated peaks, the forest, the lakes, the adventure, the freedom, the quiet stillness when the engines are off, and that space, so much space … It’s not about any of that. I don’t think it can be explained. It only can be experienced.
A magic journey anchored by dramatic landmarks. “welcome to the Yukon” Yes, Yukon, you are indeed larger than life. A reunion with the Yukon River, like a visit to a former lover for whom I still have feelings – too brief, too superficial, too much time has gone by. My favorite coffee shop in Whitehorse was closed. I found a baby pine tree in the trash at the gas station. I will plant it at the ranch.
It’s 11:30 pm, broad daylight. The view from my pillow is of the Kluane National Preserve, with the Wrangell mountain range framed in the opening of the truck.
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Day 3 – “Pinch me” Kristo said when we got here. I don’t think he’s leaving – ever. Today was a short driving day by our standard. We got into Tok in mid-afternoon and stopped by the grocery store. Goose and Pinky recommended the 3 bears grocery store –  5 aisles of guns, amno, fishing gear, camo clothes, bear spray, 1 aisle of potato chips, 1 cooler of beers, 1 cooler of ice creams. I expected as much. It felt like a stamp on my passport. Yep, I’m in Alaska. I walked around minding myself to not look too much like a tourist. I looked at all the guns, and all the knives, got some fuel and drove on. 100 feet further a second 3 bears grocery stores, with actual food. ahaaaah!
We are here.
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2,800 miles in 3 days later. I live on a ranch in Alaska.

Wow.

And so it begins …

Fearless – 5 secrets to survive your new love in a tiny home

“2 people. 32 square feet. And barely enough cash to get to where we’re going. What could go wrong?”

Previously, on the Roaming Bobcat … remember how I met a man in Maine, a new sparkly love, and invited him to travel back to the desert Southwest and live in the truck with me for the winter? Right, because living in 32 sq feet wasn’t challenging enough by myself, I guess.
I seriously questioned my sanity at the time, and I panicked a few times before departure. But in the end, you know what killed the cat … There was no way I was leaving without him. We left fearlessly on December 1st and traveled “all over this great Earth”, as Jim liked to say. Here’s a map of our roaming adventures. jimandmeltravels

8,700 miles in total we traveled. From the sand dunes of Death Valley, to the gigantic Redwoods of northern California, via the Sierra Nevada, the rocky mountains, the Cascades, the wind-swept Wyoming plains, through a couple of hot springs, a sunset over the Pacific Ocean, a years’ worth of Brussels sprouts and a new love for green chilies.

Jim flew home a week ago, a month later than he had originally planned.
“Come here, Lovey Bumpers.” he said right before crossing the TSA queuing line. I cried as I watched him leave, and that was a good thing. That meant we still loved each other, after all this.

So here is a short list of advice for you, if you wish to embark on such an adventure. 5 lessons I’ve learned from our wild journey, and also a few insights on what I wish I had done differently.

  1. Unjustified confidence.
    Before we left, Jim predicted we’d make it. When I asked how he was so sure, he replied “unjustified confidence.” He was right, as long as we both chose to believe that we would make it, our perspective-goggles remained focused on what did go right instead of what could go wrong. This self-congratulating attitude set the stage to create more of the same. If there are ups, there must be downs, and vice-versa. So as the roller-coaster goes, keep your eyes on the horizon. I failed at this a little bit. When it was up, I assumed it would keep going that way. When it was down, I quickly jumped to cutting bait conclusions and threatened to fly the man home. I wanted justified confidence, but sometimes, I’ve learned, keeping the peace just takes good ol’ blind faith.
  2. Com-mu-ni-ca-tion.
    You cannot sit and stew, when you live in 32 sq. feet with someone else. You might think you’re avoiding an argument, but your heart is emitting the energy of the unspoken words you’re attempting to save your partner from. And said partner picks up that energy unconsciously and projects onto it much worse than the actual problem at hand. So speak up, whatever it is. Clear up the air early with truthful, calm, open communication. After a month of adapting to each other, Jim and I established a daily “check in” – a safe place where whatever was coming up or moving through us could be shared. I loved the daily check-ins. In hindsight, I wish I had learned sooner that if frustration reaches a boiling point, it is best to walk out into the desert or the forest and discharge that energy first, before the check-in. I mean, isn’t that why we live in our vehicles? So we can have all this open space at our disposal? Use it. Open space doesn’t mind loud noises, but your partner does.
  3. Respect all Alien life
    Living with someone in the truck’s tiny space is like having a microscope on full zoom on each other’s quirks. 90% of the time, these quirks will make no sense to you whatsoever. Why do you need to keep this desiccated piece of wood? He just does. Why must I wear pajamas in bed? Because it’s my bed and I said so. Men are from Mars, women are from Venus, but your beloved will suddenly seem straight outta Alpha Centory’s third left moon. This is a good time to sit back, relax, and dismantle. We are all programmed from birth to what society and our parents deemed right and good. Others’ programs might overlap, or they might not. We only get upset if we believe that our programming is superior. Understand, it is not. On the partner’s home-world, that quirk is what is right and good. And if you can laugh at the differences, you get bonus points.As a recommended extra step… Reinforce respect with daily small appreciations.
    “Thank you for packing the truck this morning.” “Thank you for the hot water for tea.” “Thank you for driving me all over this great big Earth.” Feeling seen and appreciated fills up the space with good vibes and makes the aliens feel at home.
  4. Space and your personal frontiers
    No matter how tight you like to snuggle, you will need breathing space to survive. And it might happen that it is pouring rain out, for days, and that neither of you feels like walking out into the cold. In such times, a good skill is the ability to create a bubble of privacy in your mind. Quiet space is private space. You can also sleep in opposite directions. Having someone’s feet by your face somehow feels more private than breathing their breath. Keeping a private journal and separate social media are essential. One partner can also get dropped off at a coffee shop or a library for a few hours. If the rain stops, then go ahead and walk away. Hike different trails, find each other at the top. Consciously choose different experiences to ensure that you always have some exciting stories to share with each other.
  5. Strap yourself in and feel the Gs.
    If this was a “normal” relationship, one or both partners would go to work all day and reunite for a few minutes between dinner and some TV show in the evening. On the road, a two-year relationship gets crammed into each week. So, you can expect two years worth of “stuff” coming up in that time-span. Here you are, thinking you’re on a geographic journey … 8,700 miles, 20 states, 5 national parks, etc. That is nothing compared to the internal space explored. The person with whom you started at mile 0 is gone by mile 1,000, and they’re not coming back. They were changed by the shared experience and by the constant contact with you. And you are different too, even if you don’t see it. Feelings, expectations, plans, preferences – everything changes. Your partner is not inconsistent, he or she is evolving. So, support their growth with love, and honor yours with self-respect, because in the end that is what the journey is all about – that, and nothing else.These are the biggies on my mind at the moment. But Jim only left a week ago, and I suspect I will continue learning as layers of memories are revealed in order of increasing subtlety, like layers of an onion.

    Until the next adventure …
    Jim and I
    To Jimmy James. Thank you!
    XOX – Loves.

AT final debrief. And the next adventure …

I finally updated the AT 2016 stories page, linked to the menu above. Here is a prologue of sort to the next adventure …

I had the means, the time and the gumption. I was going to hike the Appalachian Trail (the AT), all 2,200 miles from Maine to Georgia. My plan was to start at the summit of Kathadin in early July and roll on down south to Georgia for Thanksgiving.
But you know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and bobcats … I made it to the top of Kathadin, across Maine, New Hampshire and half of Vermont. 500 miles I walked. Then I landed in the hospital. Here are the stories of my hike and its unexpected left turn –> here.

As I update this page in the fall from my temporary home in New Hampshire, I now know that the sickness that landed me in the hospital was a gift. This is still 2016. The year when I asked the Universe to “surprise me”. It might even surprise you … but hold on a little bit. The next chapter is being written, and I don’t have a full grasp yet of its extent. For now, I’ll tell you that it comes with delicious green eyes (or grey, or orange, depending on the weather) and an air of certainty, of game-change, of uncharted territory.

So, stay tuned. The adventure ain’t over yet, even if the AT is temporary (or permanently) on hold.

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AT – day 44 – the unposted story 

[I still had one story written on the trail saved in my phone.  This was the day that started it all. I hiked another entire day after that one with belly pain before deciding it’d probably be wise to exit, especially since the rotten egg burps and frequent runs to the woods I had expected never came.]

Some days, I fly 20 miles up and over steep rocky mountains. Others, I drag my sorry ass 10 miles on almost perfect level terrain of soft easy pine needles. I guess it’s called balance. 

This all started last night. I knew a big storm was coming,  and I knew a nearby trail angel offered hikers dry space in a barn and breakfast in the morning. But I was enjoying my solitude in the Vermont open forest so much that I made a conscious decision to stop short a mile from town and brave whatever storm came my way instead of facing yet another crowd of new hikers. 

The storm came, and what a storm! Vermont went from drought to flood warning in a few hours. The rain was so heavy and thick that it collapsed my tent immediately. I had feared this would happen. I had pitched the tent stakes at an angle through a few inches of leaves over a solid bedrock of granite. In dry weather it probably would have held,  but in that storm, not a chance.

I got out in the downpour and dragged my tent to an area with thicker leaves. There were no loose anchoring rocks anywhere in sight, but eventually, after the n-th collapse, the tent finally stayed up. I was soaking wet by then, and still needed to hang my food bag up in a tree. Lighting crashed just over the next hill. I quickly coiled my bear line for the throw and found a worthy tree. The first two branches broke under the weight of the wet food bag – a nice full bag replenished that morning in Hanover – but the third one held. I was very pleased with myself – I can take care of myself in the wilderness. Yay! – and crawled back into my then still dry home.

I slept on and off,  woken up often by some of the loudest thunder I have ever heard. The clashing traveled from one side of the sky to the other, creating shock waves that shook the ground under my sleeping pad.  I had to contend with the usual tent leaks, and kept count of the time between lightning and thunder to gage the storm’s proximity. The closest it got was 3 seconds,  so still about half a mile away.  I don’t worry until it’s less than 3. I felt safe, in spite of the situation.  

I awoke this morning to clear skies, a dry pad and quilt (my sleeping bag is off to Western Mountaineering for refluffing of feathers – that’s another story). But, by my feet, my pack swam in a inch-deep indoor lake. The area had been level and dry the night before, but leaves cannot be trusted to hold up weight. Everything aside from my pad, borrowed quilt and the electronics in a ziplock bag was dripping wet. I sat up to assess the damage and was immediately shot back down by a sharp pain in my lower right belly. 

My brain quickly ran through its experiential files. Period cramp? Nah, too localized. Muscle cramp? Nope, too internal. Well then, I guessed I was in for some fun times ahead – rotten egg burps and frequent runs to the woods. I have a pretty good guess which of the water sources did it too. The stagnant one below the beaver dam, right after the steep uphill where I lost half my own body weight in sweat,  and 9 miles away from the next water source. That one.

This isn’t my first sick belly rodeo. I don’t filter. I treat my water by loving it. It works 99% of the time. I have long ago accepted the consequences of my unusual choices.  

So I started the day in pain,  with a pack heavy with wet gear. My pack belt occasionally unsnapped, forced open by the growing girth of my bloated belly. I just walked slower and focused instead on the beauty of rural Vermont, its sugar maple forest,  little barns and open fields of wild flowers. I was slow and bloated, but not unhappy … Until I climbed down the bank of a stream, slipped on rocks and landed smack on my tail bone. 

That pain was so intense that I laid right where I fell for a minute, with tears in my eyes and both shoes in the river – damn it, those were my dry socks! A moan escaped my lips, the polite emissary of a rising flurry of curses. I kept them all in. A family of day hikers with kids was approaching. 

“Are you alright?” The mom yelled down from the top of the bank.“I don’t know yet.” I crawled back up to her on all four and asked her to look down my pants. Nothing broken, she said, just a bit of blood from a cut right on my tail bone. “You’ll probably have a bruise.” Yep.  I expect it. 

I slowed down even more after that. Bruise in the back, bloat in the front. The forest was still beautiful. I was still mobile.  

A few painful slow miles later,  I came upon Sweet Toots, Monster and their dog, Beast, in a river. 

“It’s only going to be a 9 mile day,” Monster said,  “but we’re going to camp right here.  Look! There are pools where we can bathe!”

Good enough for me. The water was frigid, but it was nice to get the sweat and blood off my body. 

Sweet Toots (the man of the couple) built a fire,  and Monster (his wife) recounted how they met in China, where she once ran a sex toy import business. I was full of questions, and, in the back of my mind, grateful to the slow miles for the opportunity to camp with these two.

So, overall, I think this day still comes out in the positive. Now, I’m not sure how I’m going to sleep. My belly wants me on my back, my tail bone won’t have it. Also, there are mice here. I haven’t had to deal with mice in a while. 

Should be another interesting night. 

Lights out. 

Xox.

The Bobcat. 

Vermont, the beautiful. 

VT – day 1.  

Well, folks, I just moved to Vermont. 

My hospital room has been looking more like an executive’s office this morning. I’m up, in no pain, unplugged from the IV, eating solid food and I have pants on. There’s been an almost constant parade of people with paperwork in and out of the room.

J.R. from financial assistance visited.“Are you moving to Vermont?” “I can, I’m mobile.” “Good. I looked at your file, with your income (royalties from Crazy Free), you qualify for Medicaid.” – So, that’s it. This entire hospital bill, all associated follow up meds and the upcoming colonoscopy are covered. See Dad? You worry, and I tell you it’ll all work out, and it always does. 🙂

I also had the visit of Virginia, the hospital dietician. Get a load of this … I’m on a restricted fiber diet for at least a month. The anti-Melissa diet, only grain products made from white or refined flour, and as little vegetables as possible. The irony makes me giggle whenever I look at the list of food I can and can’t have. Thank God it’s temporary. If I’m gonna be moving to VT, I want to be able to indulge in all its farmers markets.

The transition/release facilitator lady was here. She is going to find me the most alternative, health-based doctor in town (Rutland). This will be my doctor when I get out of here. I don’t know what she heard out there in the corridors,  but she came in very excited to meet me. She said I’ll just love Vermont in the fall and that Rutland is a very progressive town. I guess I’ll find out. I only had time to see about one city block of it before I landed here.

Lisa the social work had to wait a bit – I almost need a secretary at this point! – but finally got to see me. She’s arranged for the last of the antibiotics to be ready at the pharmacy when I get out of here. She says I should have no problem finding work as a yoga instructor here. Two friends of hers just opened a cross-fit gym. They have a team training for the Spartan Race. She gave me her number and invited me to come and check it out when I’m all better. 

Doctor Bruce was in also. She said we might never known what I had, but all my ongoing lab cultures will be forwarded to my doctor in town, now that I’ll have one. 

And finally, Lynn, my friend Brian’s mom, who is a nurse on the 3rd floor, came by. She’ll be taking me home tonight and keep me until I get a ride to my truck, which should be later this week when my North Conway Elves come to get me. In the meantime, Lynn said I’m welcomed to use her truck for my errands. I think Brian is concerned about all the embarrassing childhood stories his mom is about to share with me. But he’s too far (on the PCT) to do anything about it. Bwaahaaaha 😁

Seriously! Why wouldn’t I want to stay in this lovely town of delightful people?  

Maybe this all thing – walking the AT, getting a bellyache, landing in the hospital, etc … was just a ploy to get me to Vermont. And North Conway is still only 2 hrs away.

So, here ends this section of my journal, and the next adventure begins. 

Thank you all for being by my side in spirit and through the electronics during this most strange of adventures. You sure know how to make a Bobcat feel loved. ❤

Xoxoxoxo. 

Rutland … for an undetermined bit. 

AT – off trail day 5 – Move to Vermont?

The nurse in charge of nurses just visited, she wanted to know how her staff is doing.  I gushed goodness about them,  of course. On the way out she said “You look way too good to be in here!” 

I feel as I look.

The doc came by yesterday and said I’ll most likely be able to get out Monday. They still dont know “who donnit”, but I’m improving by leaps each day, with only a little pressure left in that one abdominal spot.  I’ll still have to take antibiotics for 2 more weeks after I get out, and I’ll need a colonoscopy after the treatment is over. He made me promise I’d get one, looking me straight in the eyes for signs of evasion. That doc sure figured me out fast.

I promised, but also explained my financial situation. He said “I understand you are mobile and can live anywhere. If you move to Vermont, our social worker, Kate, can set up a full coverage medicare for you and you could have the colonoscopy done here.”

Well, why not? Vermont is a beautiful state and I’ve liked everyone I’ve met from here … Mmmh. Wouldn’t that be a twist in the plot?

My plan thus far is to retreat from here to The Bobcat Rehabilitation Center in North Conway, NH (i.e. my truck). I’ll have paperwork to fill and phone calls to make. Just a bit of adulting, not too much. I’ll also need to rebuild. Get all sorts of good bacteria back in my belly, healthy food in my system and get my legs moving uphill again. 

The AT’s on hold for now. I’ve got too many unknowns, financial and otherwise, to know yet what I’ll decide about it. I’m pretty confident I’m no longer thru-hiking it, but I might still catch the Smokeys in the fall, maybe Ashville to Georgia, or maybe I’ll go back to Sedona, or elsewhere, or stay in North Conway, or move to Vermont. 

The antibiotics have eradicated all former plans. Blank slate … reset. Not a bad place to be. Not a bad place at all. 

From here … Infinite possibilities

Sunset through the window of the room at the end of the hall, on the 5th floor of the Rutland Regional Medical Center. My home for a week.

AT – Off trail day 4 – Dr Mustard, in the kitchen, with the …

Good morning world! Its sunny, bright and warm in the room at the end of the hall,  on the 5th floor of Rutland Regional Medical Center. 

The IV was moved again – my hand couldn’t take the amount of substances injected, especially after the spine-arching painful dye for the CT scan traveled through. The IV is now on my left forearm  (4th location!) and my right hand is free again for writing. Yay. 

Yesterday, I had 2 CT scans (for a total of 3), 4 more blood cultures, 2 more blood tests of other kinds and  1 stool culture. I now have 3 doctors working on the case, including the general surgeon (because if the antibiotics fail, I’m going under his knife) and a newly hired specialist in infectious diseases, in case I have something of the sort. 

The CT scan shows a large inflammation in the lower right corner of the abdomen.  “The kind that would cause massive pain” the doc said – why yes, that would be the kind. Behind that,  a bit of the appendix pokes into view and it looks fine. Usually, with appendicitis, the whole thing would be inflamed, so it doesn’t look like appendicitis, but they can’t rule it out either, because they can’t see it. If it were an inflammation of the colon (forgot the name), the antibiotics should have cleared it by now, so it might not be that, but they can’t rule it out. If it was cancerous, an abscess or tumor, the sides of the inflamed area would have a definite line,  and they don’t see that, but they can’t rule them out either. I could just have an atypical one of any of those.

The blood cultures show nothing yet, but they’ve only been brewing some for a day, some for two, so nothing in there yet, or at all. Same with the stool culture. 

My blood count is normal,  vital signs of a healthy person,  still no other symptoms except for a bit of diarrhea – but then my last solid meal was roasted corn on the cob, cooked over a fire in a lookout cabin on the AT, 5 days ago. 

If it’s Giardia or another water-borne diseases, I’ve got none of the symptoms. It’d be a very atypical one, but again, they don’t rule any of them out.  

So, that’s that. Until they know, they feel the best course of action is to keep the drip of antibiotics going and keep looking. 

Meanwhile, I am actually doing much better.  I can sit up by myself,  move around, and no longer need help to the bathroom. Talk about an exercise in vulnerability and trust. Nothing like a bit of pain to drop all “I can do it myself” pride. 

The nurses and nurses aid have all been exceptional angels of love, respect and patience. Each comes with a precise unique mix of qualities they all possess. All are professional, efficient, caring, comforting, etc. but draw on these qualities in various ways. In short bursts of visits to change IV bags or take vital signs,  I get glimpses into their world.  Here, it’s all about the patients,  but outside, they are mothers, wifes, girlfriends, mountain hikers, motorcycle riders, maple syrup fudge recipe inventors, travelers, with a whole spectrum of adventure dreams and plans. My surgeon is a mountaineer and climber, waiting for his kids to be old enough to become his rope guns. I imagine not everyone gets to find out all these juicy bits, but I’m curious, and my backpack with all my gear (brought to me from the Yellow Deli Hiker Hostel by Trail Angel Tom yesterday – thank you!!!) sits on the chair reserved for visitors,  first in view when you come in the room. It’s a great conversation starter, that’s why I leave it there. 

I see the nurses the most,  but really, everybody that has come into my sphere has been absolute top-notch personel, from the transport-technicians who gives me bed rides down to the CT scan room, to the cleaning ladies, to the handsome green-eyed maintenance man who came to unclog my toilet – right, because I totally want to meet handsome men while wrapped in a saggy hospital gown, with dreadful fever bed hair! Luckily, he was also very efficient,  and out of here in two flushes. 

I’ve also had the visit of the hospital dietician – how cool is that? This hospital has a dietician! She came to enquire why my tray of mostly sugar and high fructose corn syrup water was returning to the kitchen intact. I told her that it seemed to me the last thing my body needed right now, it the midst of this epic fight to heal itself,  was nutritionally empty substances I don’t trust or usually consume. Now my tray comes with hot water, herbal tea, wedges of fresh lemon and chicken broth. 

So, overall, I’d say life is good and getting better!

Thanks again for the deluge of love and support. I am sure it’s helping, in one way or the other. 

The last solid supper – the night before I got off trail.  

AT – off trail day 3 – the mystery thickens 

This will be a short post.  They’ve moved the iv to the top of my right hand,  which makes doing phone things difficult.  

A doctor was just in here. The massive antibiotics they have me on seems ineffective (so far). Still in pain, but better than yesterday – yesterday was epic! Now I’m spiking fevers. So,  they don’t know what I have. But kudos to the doctors here for how hard they are working on it. They’ve checked for tick-born diseases,  bacterial infections … several blood tests, urine tests, etc. and now back to the CT scan in a few minutes.  I have no symptoms aside from the pain in the one spot in my belly.  

I’ve just been sleeping a bunch. I even finally befriended the incessantly beeping iv machine. I’m hurt but not unhappy. Just having a very different kind of experience than what I’m used to. Also, I can see mountains out the window (I’m on the top floor). And the moon was full last night and hovering right there.  The outside world is not too far.

Thank you for all the love making my phone buzz like mad whenever I turn it on.  

Xoxoxoxo 

AT – Off trail day 2 – The facts. 

WordPress alerted me that a whole lot of you have visited my site, looking for info, I surmise. 

I’ll write the full story when I’m in less pain and have a little more perspective.  This is just a bottom line of facts.  

I got off trail two days ago because of increasing pain in my lower right abdominal area.  I figured I’d better be in town if the apendix was the problem. I landed at the Yellow Deli hikers hostel, in Rutland VT, and slept for about 18 hrs before deciding to go to Urgent Care.  Urgent Care took one tap at my appendix and sent me to the Emergency Room. Nice people too, didn’t charge me for the visit (I have no health insurance), and the doctor gave me his cell number in case I need anything. 

I spent all afternoon yesterday in tests. CT scan, blood,  urine,  etc. The verdict is that it is most likely not the appendix,  but an inflammation of the lower colon.  Pain is the same, and the usual method is also surgery.  The doc said that, at this point,  if he was to perform surgery, he’d have to remove a big chunk of my colon,  so instead, he’s bombarding my body with antibiotics for a few days and hope that does it.  The pain is pretty intense. I think my pain scale went up a notch. I get morphine at night. 

Silly and Long Spoon, two nobo hikers I just met, and Angel Tom “plans too much” have been visiting me.  And my friend Brian’s mom, who happens to be a nurse here (what are the chances?) visited too. Tom said he’ll come back later with Miss Janet. Not how I thought I’d meet the famous Angel Miss Janet, but pretty cool still. Trail family is the best! Thank you all, trail family or not,  for your love and support!

The doc said I’ll be here a few days. I don’t know how long.  I talked with the financial dept. They said they’ll work with me to get me the most financial assistance they can. 

I’ll decide what to do about the AT when I’m back on my feet.  

That’s all.  The iv machine is beeping again,  driving me bonkers! 

Love to all. This is just an experience among many. I’m feeling good mentally. Xoxoxoxo 

The beeping nemesis.