Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Doctors, Doctors, More Doctors

OMG! I've turned into my mother!

OK, I know. I've been working on that one for decades. But do you remember back in the days when their primary topic of conversation was your parent's health? We reacted by pitying how narrow their worlds had become, hoping that ours never became like that. Of course it wouldn't. We had jobs, were raising kids, stayed young and healthy... until we didn't anymore. Just like them.

I still try to keep busy with other things. But on returning to Arizona, where the health insurance kicked in full time again, there were a series of medical tests and doctor visits. And now the verdicts are in.


For me, it was the cardiologist. There was an echo, then a stress test, then an interview. The tests showed I was perfect. It was a head scratcher. Why was I even in his office, anyway? Lucky for a productive conversation, I had asked for, received, and brought along a copy of the EKG tape from my June ambulance ride.

After a brief exam of the patterns, his comment was, "This is not a flat-line." Of course it wasn't. There was nothing flat about any of it. And, folks, I watch TV. I know what a flat line is on an EKG. So do you. Before I could comment, however, he added, "It's just as bad."

Do you know how hard it is to be relieved that you feel justified in being scared by what happened when you are busy going back to actually being scared all over again by remembering that night in the ambulance and the way I felt at the time? Not to mention wondering what might happen next time?

We discussed a few details. Yes, I could feel my arrhythmia. No, it hadn't happened beyond a beat or two since the new medication. I could feel it start and as quickly stop. That being the case, if it continues that way, with the medication working for me, I was to make another appointment for late December (aka before insurance changes may kick in, when... who knows which docs will be included in the plan?) and if it held true, he would recommend that I stop taking warfarin. It was, after all, to prevent strokes formed by blood pooling while the heart misbehaved, and if it wasn't misbehaving.... So we'll see. This would be my second medication change, and after each one, things were better for a while and then got progressively worse, both in severity and frequency. So we'll see.

Steve went through the same kind of thing with his primary care doc. He's had this cough, along with other symptoms, for a while now. They did all kinds of tests, finally sending him to a lab for blood work. It took him a week to feel well enough to actually go get blood drawn. He's had days meanwhile where he's felt better, then days where he felt worse.

We thought it couldn't be contagious, whatever was causing it, since I hadn't gotten anything. That was both reassuring and worrying. Steve packed away his pipes. He had x-rays taken. Much was ruled out. Questions remained.

Then two things happened. Two days ago I picked up some kind of bug. I'd say maybe just an increase in allergies, but there's a bit of fever with it. No joint aches, so likely not flu. Maybe a cold? I get so few of those now that I'm not around those walking germ incubators called kids so much these days. But it feels like a cold and it's getting home treatment like one: sugarless cough drops, more chapped lips goop, going through tissues, gravelly voice that I'm trying to use less despite having people that I want to keep in touch with while they are going through their own stuff, liquids and vitamin C. Comfort stuff.

This afternoon the lab called with Steve's results. First, he's borderline diabetic. Just like me. We can work that out together. He's paying attention. He's already been reading labels for carbs and portions to see what he could share with me. We've been discussing options. The second thing is that his doctor requested he be tested for Valley Fever. The results came back at intermediate levels. Whatever that means. He has it a little bit? He had it before? They can't quite tell?

Since they didn't bother to give him A1C levels or blood sugar levels, or tell him just what the other actually means, he's going to ask a few questions when he sees his own doc on his follow-up visit. I can suggest a few for him if he needs any ideas.

Meanwhile I'm gonna go lay down. Take another cough drop. Some ibuprofin. Turn on the ceiling fan to blow the AC air my way. Try to sleep in in the morning, despite a dog who sincerely believes that If I get up to go, then she should get to be let out to go, when by then I'm fully awake.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fond Memories (Of Things Now Deemed Dangerous)

Remember mercury fever thermometers? They started their lives as a tool for telling Moms just how sick their kid was. Occasionally (well, frequently, actually) one broke, and they changed from tool to toy. Kids gleefully scooped up all the little drops of mercury, stored them someplace safe - from discovery and/or loss, that is - and when time and parenting permitted, took the precious treasure and - GASP! - played with it! No gloves, no face masks to prevent inhalation, no school evacuations when drops taken to school were rolled around on desks, split and shared with friends,  rejoined, rubbed onto pennies in an attempt to fake nickels if the two metals finally consented to bond.

Imagine the scandal if that happened today.  Mercury was such fun that many in my generation find it hard to take spills seriously as any kind of danger. Close the school? Ridiculous! Decontaminate a factory? Hey, can we get in there first and grab a stash of our own to take home? Look, we spent as much time as we could playing with it, experimenting with a property some of us later learned to call surface tension because that was the strongest and cheapest example of it around. We're still here, still healthy, still whole, still sane.

OK, maybe not so much sane when you look at election polling, but still.

Since returning to Arizona, I'm redeveloping a fondness for the old No Pest Strip. It was a yellow slab of (plastic?) coated in insecticide, a bit gooey on the surface but who cared? One opened the foil packet it sat in waiting for use, then - barehanded again! - slid it into a heavy paper box with lots of air openings on the sides to let the chemical out into the air and hung it up. About 4 months later it came down and if bugs were still incoming, it was replaced.

They hung in the house. Near food, even. After all, they kept bugs at bay, killing flies way better than rolls of sticky flypaper hung from ceilings and way less work than a flyswatter. More sanitary too. Flies are so-o-o-o disgusting! We'd seen the filmstrips in school showing us how nasty flies were, and we surely didn't want them anywhere near our food.

They were so effective that my grandparents-in-law told how, every spring when they left Arizona for their cabin in Minnesota, they'd hang one or two in their mobile home. When they returned in the fall, they didn't have to shake scorpions out of shoes in their closet before putting a foot in. No flies. No tarantulas. Heck, they were so strong that they'd even kill a rattlesnake if one crawled in!

No Pest Strips were so strong that they disappeared from the market decades ago. It seems that they could damage people as well, especially when improperly used. Who knew? I used them regularly for years with no ill effects.

I think.

Anyway, the environmentally correct substitute became the sticky trap, whether on a flat sheet or inside a little "house". No chemicals, just adhesive. Really strong adhesive. I still recall finding one in the garage with a chipmunk partly stuck on it, thrashing around until it managed to work itself with trap into a plastic grocery bag. Of course, I found the thrashing bag before I identified what actually happened. That was fun. Once things calmed down a bit, we took such pity on the poor chipmunk that we pried it off the sticky board and turned it loose in the garden, quite a feat when one is trying not to get bit, before, during, or after. We have no knowledge of what else it may have stuck to after vacating the trap, as it still had adhesive blotches, or even whether it survived. I kind of enjoy imagining it stuck to a neighborhood cat. Likely it just carried around a layer of dirt and bits of dried leaves for a month or so.

The nostalgia kicks in now because I've spent much of my spare time since arriving finding and removing bug residue from the cupboards, tossing foods we thought were sealed effectively, scrubbing shelves and drawers, washing all their contents, including towels and potholders, that we didn't toss.

I'm not done.

Yes, the sticky traps caught a whole bunch of critters. Just not enough. And I still have not managed to locate the 8th trap that was set out last spring. I have my suspicions, but....

I'll let you know if Steve ever cleans his room down to the floor and finds a trap stuck to the bottom of whatever he brought in from the car and tossed onto his floor in the dark. But meanwhile he's been sick, so I'm still waiting to find out. And I'm not absolutely positive that's where the 8th trap was placed. It's just the only spot I haven't checked three times.

Out of intense dissatisfaction, I hit the internet to see if anybody anywhere still sold No Pest Strips. Legally or not. And they do! Of course, one warning label would cover a whole set of strip holders even without the holes, but they are still out there. I'm planning to order a bunch, while I can. Next spring before we hit the road - the last available second before if the warnings are to be heeded, and not forgetting a thorough hand washing - I will set out two or three, depending on square footage covered, and lock the doors. Once back, they get removed, all the windows thrown open for a few hours before turning on the AC, and I should be able to confidently expect an end to the endless search and destroy in the kitchen, larder, the bathrooms, the closets, the library, the....

Ahhhh, sweet fantasies!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Waiting For The Sun To Rise

The clock says nearly 5 AM. I need to be up at 6, and I've been awake trying to get back to sleep for an hour. Pointless. My bladder reminds me it's been a whole hour since it was last given attention, and it's about to get cranky. May as well get up.

While in the bathroom I take my morning pills, all but the one which needs food first. My activities today include brunch, so it'll be something light. I open the window to check whether it has cooled down enough to allow in some fresh air. It was still too warm last night when I went to bed. It must be low 70s, so both bedroom windows get opened. They'll have to be shut by the time I get dressed, but some fresh air is still welcomed.

By now my dog is up, fully believing that since I relieved my bladder, it's only fair that she get a chance to do the same. I can't disagree. I also get Steve's dog out of his room, not bothering him despite his noisy door. I've figured out that if you lift slightly as you open it, the noise is much diminished.

The house is still black, barring the tiny glowing LEDs on various appliances. With them I navigate. First the front door is opened, leaving the locked grill to filter fresh air from intruders. I feel for my water cup and fill it from the fridge door, borrowing the trick of a finger inside the cup to tell when it has filled. Then we all three go outside.

Outside it is as dark as it ever gets here. There is a perpetual glow from the city to the east. Phoenix needs its lights. Otherwise the sky is black, everything is black or the slightest shade of lighter black in the deeper black to tell where you are. I pick the chair nearest the sliding door, the one with a nearby table for my cup. The dogs, seeing I have come out with them, start to roam the yard.

Fred wanders a bit before laying down in his favorite spot under the big pine. To me he is just a darker shadow among black shadows. I have no idea whether he may have lifted a leg on his wanderings or not, but I assume he's tended to whatever was needed. Ellie is invisible but her jingling collar tags pinpoint her location. Eventually she comes to sit by me, as always seeking reassurance I'm still there. Plus an ear scratch. Fred somehow senses those are in the offing and hauls his black shadow in for his share.

By now the faint glow has resolved itself into a patch of cloud on the horizon, and darker sky that isn't cloud. The cloud is hinting at the merest touch of color, not even enough to tell what it might become, yet. Behind me, since I've angled my chair to the east, all is still dark. No stars there, so I assume clouds cover much of it also. A lighter patch also resolved itself between branches on the pine to my south, so I presume cloud there also. Again, no color, but foreground silhouettes begin to emerge against the faint lightening of their background. 

I can now see clearly Fred's black and a hint of white feet against the ground where he lays, once again back to his favorite spot. The paving stones leading out there begin to form. Ellie dashes past me, barking, Fred joining her briefly. Something has banged a block away. Perhaps an offering to the garbage can deities?

To the east, a suggestion of dusky salmon forms under the big cloud. The sky has lightened enough to trace the cloud's edges, revealing a smaller one a bit closer to me, still just a darkness in the sky. I realized I hadn't noticed when it switched from the sky being darker than the clouds to being lighter. As I wait for color, I notice that the faintest of lighter spots have emerged in the western sky, revealing the tops of a cluster of fluffy cumulus clouds, their bottoms now darker than the sky they float in.

Back to the east, pale yellow forms at the lowest part of the sky visible through the neighbors landscaping, while the sky above it has become blue. The big cloud remains a dusky salmon, no longer a hint, but never bright, never reaching toward any shade of pink. The distant foreground is still only silhouettes, but my own yard emerges in shades of grey now. I can pick out the rock beds, find the other chairs on the patio. The neighbors' concrete slap heading from their screen house to their grill glows white, its surface finish catching the available light.

The dogs bark at a few neighborhood noises, but mostly the background is the freeway a mile away. Even on a Saturday morning, there is plenty of traffic. No birds sing yet, but I find the solitude a perfect opportunity to hum the earworm that has been plaguing me for a week now. I used to know all the words, but the years and lack of refreshing the memory have left me able to dredge up only one verse and the chorus.

The puffy clouds to the west have turned light grey with a few white tops now. I can distinguish both shapes and height by the changes in color. No salmon encroaches here, but the glow behind the pine has picked up the color even as the eastern cloud has gone grey again. No fancy color show on display today, then. Even the bluing sky to the east has gone to just light, no more color. The first birds have begun their singing, first one off to the northeast, then filling in from all around. No doves yet, though, our usual noisy morning chorus, punctuated by the quail.

Colors have emerged in the yard even as they've left the sky. I'm finally getting chilled by the lovely temperatures. It's time to get busy. The sun will rise on its own without me, just as every other morning, and indeed, while I write this  it sends a ray sneaking through the clouds to land on the stems of the large ocatillo in the back yard before it hides behind the clouds again.

Thus the morning begins.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I Too Stand With Ahmed

You've likely heard the story by now. A young Texas student built a clock at home and took it in to school to show his teacher his talents. That should have been the end of the story. But the school had him arrested in suspicion of being a terrorist bringing in a bomb. Handcuffs, even.

They claimed that his being a Muslim had nothing to do with it. Any student would have been treated the same way, they insist.

Of course they do.

Even when their idiocy has been pointed out to them, Ahmed is still suspended until Thursday.

He is looking to change schools.  Maybe he should look outside Texas. After all, a state that values religion above science in its public school curriculum can perhaps be understood when they mistake a clock for a bomb.

Understood, yes. Forgiven? Not so much.

Friday, September 11, 2015

How I Spent My Birthday

“So, what did you do on your birthday, Heather?” you ask, all unsuspecting, like it’s a perfectly normal question. Which it is, sort of. But it’s never really that simple, is it?

“Hey, funny you should ask”, I reply. “There’s quite a story there.”

Long sigh. Your most patient sigh, as you know what that means. Better settle in, get comfy. Need to grab a beverage? Blow your nose first? Make a phone call?

“After blogging, which since we didn’t have internet yet meant saving it as a word processing file to be copy-pasted afterwards, I headed over to Wally World for groceries and a badly needed Rx refill. Astoundingly, I managed to find everything on my list! That’s not to say the list was complete, or even that my shopping is complete with the items I added. But we’re good for a couple days, until I find out what I missed.

“Now, a funny thing happens when you arrive home in the dark, tired and ready to unwind for sleep, in a hot house with a zillion things to do before actually hitting the pillow. You rush, trying to hit all the essentials, not really noticing the small stuff. Not even some of the big stuff.

“We were in a hurry to clean things out of the freezer where they were stored for the summer, not to freeze, since the power was off, but just to keep them away from bugs and wildly fluctuating temperatures. If  some of them actually froze, we’d have a monster mess. So we shifted them to other locations, some into the fridge in another hurry, since with the power coming on, and the door propped open to let it air out for the summer, it needed to be shut so not to waste energy. With the AC also coming on, that bill was already going to be sky high.

“Once home from shopping, the freezer items went in first, starting with the most important: ice cream. It already sat in the shopping cart while I tried to locate that final item I nearly forgot, then for the long checkout line, and then rode home in a very hot car. Even that early, outside was 93. I shudder to think what inside was, even with the car’s AC full blast.

“Then I opened the fridge.  OMG! Seriously. OMG! Bugs, stuck-on food, crumbs, onion skins, and I didn’t want to even imagine what else might be in there. In full light of day, those shadowy corners weren’t just shadows. But, there were several bags of groceries that were in dire need of a good chill.

“Gag. Gulp. Shudder.

“Of necessity, they went in anyway, but I compromised. The groceries all stayed inside their bags. Steve and I had lunch out: KFC.

“Then, I spent my birthday washing the fridge, inside and out. Of course, this was after doing the dozen dishes left from the morning we headed north. And after, on a hunch, seeing the mess on the counter and stove and cleaning up every surface there too, I checked the silverware tray and washed it and all its contents as well.

“Hey, we could almost eat here now. But it’s my birthday, and Steve is taking me out to dinner at his favorite Mexican restaurant.

“Wait, where did you go? Is that a snore I hear? Or are you just throwing up in the bathroom? Don't you want to hear about...?”


Well, we’re home! 2500 miles from our start in Minnesota, by way of Greeley, CO, Rocky Mountain National Park, Salt Lake City, Bryce Canyon National Park, Over the Navaho Bridge, and HOME!

Dang, it’s hot! The AC and fans are chugging away inside, but letting the dogs outside this morning felt like midday summer in Minnesota. In fact, it was a bit of a cool summer up there, making Sun City even hotter. Walking barefoot through the house, the concrete floor is warm, as opposed to it being the coolest part of the house usually.

A quick glance at the plants last night in the dark seemed to indicate that at least some of them made it through 3 months of relying on Mama Nature’s water supply. We watched weather radar regularly all summer for down here and there was a lot of rain falling... everywhere but here!

There is no TV (satellite) or internet yet, despite requests to have them started by now. We’ve been mostly out of cell contact, especially through the mountains, and there’s been no email reception. Anybody we’ve been ignoring, that’s why. I’m still waiting to read the deluge of emails backed up, mostly special financial deals and enhancers for body parts I either don’t own or don’t care about enhancing. I’m writing this in advance of being able to access my blog for posting. It’s really 6-something AM here. Steve is sleeping for now, bless him. He did most of the unloading of the car - the little we actually did - last night, in exchange for my doing the night driving. After a bit I’ll head out for some groceries to get us through breakfast at least. The fridge is cooled down so we can store food, and the microwave works.

The gas gets turned on sometime tomorrow. We scheduled it for then since we have to be present to let him check inside the house to be sure no leaks have developed or blockages in the line to cause problems. We just weren’t sure how ambitious we’d be, leaving Salt Lake City during rush hour, hitting at least one national park before continuing southward. But the dearth of motels actually welcoming dogs in the area helped decide us, and since Flagstaff was our first overnight option and I was still fairly perky and alert, plus both of us anxious to be home and only have to unload those suitcases one final time, home it was.

The dogs were relieved as well. In both senses. Finally off leash and able to sniff around inside a fence again instead of getting tugged on by a couple old folks with very painful knees after all the wear and tear put on them by packing, loading and unloading the car, dog walking every stop, plus a tiny bit of walking when we couldn’t actually get the pictures we wanted through car windows, even rolled down, they finally had outside freedom. At least Steve and I got a break when we hit his brother’s house, four kids vying for the “privilege” of walking at least one of them at a time on the leash until they were empty.

We relished the break. So much, in fact, that we have actually started talking about the possibility of life and travel without any dogs, once that days arrives.

We did bare minimum last night. Most of the car is still full. the only stuff we brought in was what we four couldn’t live without for the night: clothes, meds, dog supplies. The back of the car was pretty full already after loading nearly all of the pictures from the walls to bring down, finally. (They’ll come in, sit a while, then get unwrapped and hung. Eventually. Possibly with younger bodies helping. We’ll see.

The succulents we’ve been nurturing all summer are still in the back and will get set where they can get some sun and watering until I feel like planting them. First I have to see what the rabbits and neglect have done to the existing ones around the house. We’ve already seen that the one we call a pencil plant, locally called a lady slipper, has grown taller and then drooped over its chicken wire cage, So I have to decide just what is required there: a new location with more sun for sturdier branches? At any rate, the present ones will be chopped where they bend and potted for rooting so we can have more plants.

Only two patio chairs were moved outside to the actual patio last night, one for each of us to sit and enjoy the back yard. And the heat. Sheets need to be removed from the display cabinets where - hopefully - they’ve kept dust off for the summer. This involves washing and folding as well. It might wait a bit.  Our scooters need to be rolled out to the carport and plugged in, in the process checked for functionality.

All the counters have to be washed, freed from all the little presents left behind by our summer visitors. The sticky traps did catch an enormous amount of those, including holding three very detailed and tiny lizard skeletons. I don’t know how those guys get in, though I’m sure there are holes enough around the foundation. I’m mostly disappointed that they had to die, plus that I never get to see them anywhere around alive. Any mice have avoided the traps. At least we think so. Two are missing, though it’s hard to imagine a mouse stuck on one of them could have moved it far. Chipmunks, yes. We’ve witnessed that in Minnesota, many years ago. But not mice. Perhaps when we actually locate those missing traps....

Cockroaches have managed to avoid the traps too. Three of them didn’t manage to avoid me, however, while I was wiping off the counter. Boy those things are fast! But I persevered and finally mushed all three in the sink. And again. And again. They’re immortal too! Or close. Somehow they seem to go away once we move back in, since after two days of washing counters, etc., there are no more of their smears to clean up. We never leave any kind of food crumbs out for them, and since they can’t penetrate glass containers with screw tops, we’re pretty certain there’s no reason for them to invade in the summer, but for whatever reason they do. Perhaps they nibble on lizards trapped on sticky boards? Their flesh has to go somewhere!

But hunger is triumphing. so it’s time to figure out what and where breakfast is this morning. Let’s see: where do I keep those clothes down here?

Hey! We’re back!

Addendum: I have now located the 7th sticky trap. One is still missing. Internet finally got turned on this evening, much later than promised due to a company office screw up. Their support staff fixed it, however, and here I am.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Nearly Packed

In fact, the packing started two weeks ago. I have this thing about having my daily pills readily accessible. Snack sized zip lock bags are key. One bag, morning pills. One bag, bedtime pills. Quart bag, all morning or all evening pills, and marked AM or PM. Then more snack bags hold a daily ration of instant coffee with sugarless cocoa mix, tucked into another quart bag. Just add water, take with morning pills, and I'm ready for the road.

Well, clothes and shower - not in that order - help too.

I pack my pill packs for a few extra days. Then I can pack all the bottles into a 2-gallon zip lock bag a couple days ahead of time. This way I don't obsessively stay awake at night mentally making sure I didn't forget them. And if something delays us, there are still enough pill packs to meet the unexpected need. If they aren't needed, I just use them the first couple days home while we're busy dealing with the chaos of unpacking, getting mail, unpacking, starting gas, unpacking, doing laundry, unpacking.

Hey, I did say chaos. I hate chaos. I've found I'm happier if I can anticipate and deal with problems before they arise. That way there's energy left to deal with the mundane, as well as the stuff nobody can anticipate. So: the pills are packed already.

Then, being me, there are the lists. Even after camping, crossing the country or whatever so many times, there are still the lists. The to-do list is getting checked off, piece by piece. Day before yesterday it was all about wrapping the pictures we left on the walls on previous trips due to lack of room in the hatchback and higher priority items going. Two months ago (!) I bought two rolls of brown paper with the idea of wrapping and combining pictures into packages of two or even three if the frames nested, so all frames at least have a good chance of arriving unscratched. I've been staring at the two rolls sitting in the living room, but finally got around to the wrapping on Monday.

A separate line item was putting all those pictures in the back of the hatch. Paul obliged last night, hot and sticky-sweaty as it was. Yes, he's quite the son, earning every bite of the chocolate ice cream we're leaving behind uneaten.

The ice cream never made the packing list. There is plenty of food on it, all staples so we don't need a cooler. And yes, portioned and bagged. What those don't cover, McDonalds will. Or Wendy's with its great salads. Or....

Another set of items on the to-do list was visiting those folks up here in Minnesota that we mostly won't see for 9 months unless they manage to find the cold so repulsive and their budget so flexible that they can come down and visit us in Arizona. These involved two trips and two bonfires in the back yard. Done, done, done, and done. Oh, and taking one person 50 miles to her see her Minneapolis surgeon because she is not allowed to put any kind of load on one foot and thus can't drive. It's a great time for conversation.

Then there was the shopping, the cleaning including laundry, the putting away so Paul get's his house back the way it was before we arrived, We even cleaned out the inside of the RV so we have our camping gear in the basement and he can get rid of the RV and gain another parking spot on the driveway. A couple last fishing trips got onto the list, but scratched when Steve got a really nasty cold. (Of course he breathed on me, so I'm anticipating my own about the day we start the trip and need to cover 600 miles.  Whee.)

Ellie got groomed so she doesn't have heatstroke on returning to Arizona. A side benefit is she's so much more cuddly when shorn, combining body heat to cope with the AC. Once it grows out half an inch, I'll have to hunt around to locate her.

Some things need to wait until just before to be done and/or packed. Electronics needs to be first charged, then packed. Chargers made the list separately. We discovered years ago that this was necessary. Once this posting is done and the charging light on the laptop says green, off it goes into the suitcase. I backed it up last night. Check. Cameras are ready to go. Cells and Kindles are either charged or near enough to take us into the car where the cigarette lighter sports a charger with the proper fitting. Well, except Steve's cell has a weird one and needs to be charged in the motels.

Speaking of, those reservations were made a couple weeks ago. Then changed for one night after we found a better route, shorter and more scenic both, but refunds are easy in advance. Motel 6, we love/hate you. Love for the price, decent accessibility, ubiquity, and tolerance of dogs. Hate for sometimes noisy rooms, small beds, and poor climate control. We don't even try to have breakfast in, even when they claim they offer one,  but there is always an Egg McMuffin nearby.

All the little packages and boxes got put in the car last night. Water bottles and plants too. Yes, it's a whole day ahead of leaving. But now all that's needed is that last carry-on - or is it carry-in for motels? - with clothing and toiletries. I knew that I, at least, would want a whole day to rest my knees as much as possible before tackling that first/worst day of driving. There will be a plethora of stops to "exercise" the dogs, all of which involve somebody hanging onto leashes, keeping them from peeing on each other if possible, and always in the farthest corner of the rest area away from the people facilities.

Hey, we love being spoiled by having a fenced back yard at both ends of our snowbirding travels.

Now, we actually find ourselves thinking about - heresy! - a time in the future when there will be no dogs to travel with. It seems like a perfect time to drive up into Alaska on our trip between "home" states.

But right now it's time to finish packing everything and load the car so there's time to relax. I plan to fall into the car hassle-free by 7AM. And have a worry-free night's sleep.

As if.