LIVING THE DREAM, Part 20b: View from ‘the Bell’

July 29, 2019

Hiawassee, GA.

So here I was, at 11:30 a.m., rummaging through last night’s dream  in search of  fodder for future books when Jeff woke me up.

“Hey, babe, Get up and get dressed! Dorothy and Phil want to drive up to Bell Mountain before they have to go home. Let’s get ready and go with them.”

About five minutes later, I wriggled into leggings, a comfy tee-shirt, and Skechers, splashed water on my face, brushed my teeth, and was ready to go. After we stoked up on roast beef sandwiches at Hardee’s, in town, we started out for the one-lane road straight up to the top.

Pictured above is the highest point of Bell Mountain County Park and Historical Site, an eighteen-acre summit located in Towns County.  Below, the Hal Herrin Overlook, which, according to a plaque placed there, exists to “preserve for all to enjoy its beauty “as described in 1883 by J.A. Gant, an Athens, Georgia newspaper editor who described the overlook of mountains encircling Lake Chatuge as the GRANDEST VIEW IN AMERICA.”

Campers Russ and his faithful Jack Russell terrier, ‘Corky’, joined us once we arrived.

As if the steep climb to the top weren’t dicey enough, the six-plus flights of steps to the very top and the breathing techniques that the climb required rewarded us with a breathtaking view of the three states — Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee — connected by the bottomless, emerald waters of Lake Chatuge capped it off.

So far, we have taken in some breathtaking sights in Georgia. There will be more to come, including a swing-by to Vogel State Park, a place we happened onto on the way to Blairsville. Until then, stay tuned!

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“TIME IN THE TUBE”: Making My Time in the MRI Machine Count

10-2-18

Hiawassee, GA

After a skirmish with a runaway duffle bag knocked me on my butt, last year, I should have called a ‘time-out’ to get x-rayed at Care Now. But, after Jeff helped me up from the carpeted bedroom floor and I remained upright until time for bed, I expected the problem would eventually go away.

But it hasn’t. Not by a long shot.

Since the past two or three months, our favorite activities — browsing arts and crafts festivals and trade shows and shopping in grocery-store aisles (with Wal-Mart being the worst) and simply talking to folks while standing on hard surfaces or on uneven ground have become excruciating and even embarrassing. For the harder I tried to walk upright, the more I felt like “Mrs. Wiggins”, the stiletto-wearing, gum-chewing, empty-headed blonde secretary to “Mr. Tudball” (played by Tim Conway) on The Carol Burnett Show.

Before long, because of lack of exercise, I began packing on more weight onto my 5’0″ frame.

Not to worry, I reassured Self. Synthroid’s got this one. Synthroid, a synthetic form of thyroid I started on in 1996 once I began recovering from successful brain-tumor surgery.  Besides regulating my thyroid gland, it helped me maintain a healthy weight. Thyroid-deficient since I was two years old, I expected to take it for the rest of my life until two successive blood tests showed I now had too much thyroid in my system.

The next day, the doctor called with the news: that x-rays showed three compression fractures in the lumbar (or lower) region of my back, as well as arthritis in my hips. She faxed over orders for an MRI and a bone density scan at Chatuge Regional Hospital in Hiawassee.

Three fractures? Wow! No wonder I’ve been hurting!

Yesterday, as the young man arranged me on the table and propped me here and there, I remembered four tips offered by friends who had undergone recent MRIs:

*  Use the bathroom first.

* Request a face towel to cover your eyes.

* Ask for earphones to blot out the noise.

  • Try to catch a nap.

Remembering my last MRI, a forty-minute procedure, during which I lay, arms crossed over my chest, as if rehearsing for eternal rest, I planned out the best way to spend time in the “tube”.

After “Rick” (not his real name) situated me properly but comfortably, I asked for the face towel and the earphones. He nodded.

“Sure! What kind of music would you like?”

“Boot-Scootin’ Boogie”, a Brooks and Dunn country hit, was on the tip of my tongue before I considered how that song always made me forget how sore my hips already were and that I’d have the whole thing to take over again if I partied too hardy in that high-tech contraption. Besides, I had weightier matters on my mind such as “What happens if this turns up something serious? Something requiring major surgery, months of downtime, and major life changes?”

“Soft and instrumental,”!I answered. “You know — ‘Easy-Napping’ music.”

So with earphones in place, cloth over eyes, and arms crossed over my chest, into the tube I slid to have a little talk with Jesus, take a nap, or both.

Only fifteen minutes later, the machine stopped its banging and unfurled me from its cavity where Rick was waiting with a wheelchair. Stepping away, he allowed “Laura” (again, not her real name, either) to take charge.

In the bone-density scan room, where “Laura” asked me some questions before she positioned me on the table.  As with the ‘dreaded’ MRI, we were through in record time.

As she walked with me to the waiting room and Jeff, I asked her when I could expect to receive the results.

“Probably in a couple of days.”

So far, I haven’t heard a word. I’m hoping that’s good. During my time in the tube, I prayed that, if the problem required surgery, that it would at least be on out-patient basis and that I would soon be “in, out, and on with Life”, as per the old Chili’s Bar and Grill advertising slogan.

My next step in this health-care journey? A thrilling ride to Gainesville, fifty-some miles away from Hiawassee, on Thursday, October 11, where I expect to meet with a highly-recommended endocrinologist about my “wascally thyroid” and find out the answers to my questions:

  • What measures can I take to lose weight and get back into shape while my back heals?
  • How can I cope with fatigue?
  • What’s really behind the 180-degree change?

When Bette Davis actress of stage and screen from the 1930s to the 1960s and author of The Lonely Life, said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies,” she wasn’t just a-whistlin’ “Dixie”.  At some point, our “bods” — like our cars — threaten to shut down if we fail to  care for them in the way they deserve in order to stay on the road of Life.

Whatever gender you are, what are some all-important health-care examinations would encourage friends or family members to be sure to check off their lists, and why?

I can hardly wait to see what you recommend!

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 19: “Back in the Driver’s Seat”

Hiawassee, GA.

June 5, 2018

Since May 25, 2017, when we bought the Ford F350 pickup for pulling our fifth-wheel RV, Jeff was its only  driver. I knew that, if push came to shove — like if I had to outrun zombies after an apocalypse —  I could manage to drive it. Still, the idea of wrangling with the “beast” was intimidating. So, when we sold our fifth-wheel, we sold the truck, too.

On May 12, when we arrived at Appalachian Campground, in Hiawassee, Georgia, all we had to get around in was our motorhome, which would have been cumbersome for  grocery-store runs. So later in the same week, one of the campground owners drove us to Blairsville to look for a “runner” to drive to the grocery store, etc. Although we were looking for a junker to get us by until November 1, we revised our plan when we  saw the metallic grayish-green and gold 2002 Subaru Legacy Outback on the lot of Blackwell Automotive. Because of Subaru’s reputation for being one of the safest cars on the road, I knew we’d want to hang onto this baby long after we moved onto the next camp, wherever that would be. When daily rainstorms made the roads slick, I was in no hurry to brave them in any car. That is, until today, the second day we have had clear skies.

Invigorated by the sunny, yet cool, day, I struck out for a long-awaited pedicure at Julie’s Spa Nails in Hiawassee.  Well, my luxurious pedi was over entirely too soon, but I was still too revved up to go home. So I swung by the Towns County Library to inquire about doing a book-signing.  Although the person with whom I spoke didn’t hold out much hope for such an event,  she did suggest the Mountain Regional library in Young Harris for such an occasion.

Well, who would have thought that my li’l ol’ junket to Hiawassee would turn into an out-and-out quest! After grabbing a single-meat Patty Melt at The Huddle House in Hiawassee to silence my growling tummy, I struck out for Young Harris. After all, it was just “down the road a piece”. Once again, the librarian at Mountain Regional Library sent me to the next stop in the road to the Union County Public Library in Blairsville where I was able to schedule a book-signing for August.

Chest puffed as I walked back to my car, I was bursting with self-confidence.

What did I tell you, back in Young Harris, Kim? You can DO this!

As soon as I buckled myself back into the car and  pulled out onto the road, my moxie melted. Yes, I had been to Blairsville plenty of times, but  only with Jeff driving.

Now, in spite of the dubious guidance of “GPS lady” (on my iPhone X)  directing me with her whispery voice and rapid but poor enunciation, I  wound up at a garage with a bunch of junked-up cars. I half expected mutant mechanics named Bubba and his other- brother Bubba, in their overalls, to attack me with monkey wrenches oozing grease.

C’mon, ol’ girl, I hissed. Get a hold of yourself.  The same GPS who threw you off track can just as easily lead you home.

So,  I was once more back on track and driving out of Blairsville when  a light on the dashboard caught my eye: the “Check Engine” light. As I clicked off the miles, I ticked off the reasons it could have come on:

  • that the ‘safest car on the road’ would self-destruct with me in it
  • that the dealer where we bought the car had programmed the light to pop on so we would bring it in for a check-up to make sure it was safe.

Clinging tenaciously to Reason Number-Two , I drove the rest of the way with bated breath until I finally pulled up to the safety of our humble but cozy motorhome, reminding me of the last line of an old Nineteenth-Century song:

“Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.”

 

 

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LIVING THE DREAM, Part 16: New Home, New Inspiration”

Monday, May 21, 2018

Hiawassee, GA.

We have completed our first week as “workampers” (camp hosts) at Appalachian Campground and are now plowing into Week Two, our most demanding week, yet, with Memorial Day up ahead. Many have called to reserve spaces at our campground. Still, we are glad we are here. Although we received offers from camps in Alabama, Tennessee, Colorado, and both ends of South Dakota, we chose Georgia, as neither one of us had ever been there. As it turned out for two newbie camp hosts, we could not have asked for more breathtaking scenery!

We arrived in Georgia on our third day of travel, just as Jeff predicted. After maneuvering dark, curvy, shoulderless, mountainous roads and winding up, down, and round and round after midnight on Friday, we stumbled across our destination. We had planned to find a park and and turn in early, but, after navigating dark streets with poorly-marked signs in a city and state we were not familiar with, we turned right into the first campground we found, only to discover that — BOOM!—we had reached our destination. Eyelids drooping, we hurried through water, electricity, and sewage hook-ups before tumbling into bed.

Now that our camp-hosting job is underway, we’re answering calls on the park phone, taking reservations and collecting money. We’re also mowing, cleaning the cabins and restrooms, and greeting campers in tents, RVs, and cabins. Although Jeff does most of it, including the mowing, I expect to fill in with anything else that needs doing.

Appalachian Campground is peaceful and primitive. Note the key word: primitive. Although the Bearbottom Bathhouse is equipped with flush toilets and showers in both the men’s and women’s restrooms, campers must bring their own shower caps, shampoo, and conditioner, and anything else they need.

A washer and dryer are available outside the bathhouse for $1.50 per load.

Like the rest of the park, cabins ‘Nappin’ House’ and ‘Hemlock Haven’ are likewise primitive.  ‘Nappin’ House’, as its name implies, has only a bed, a small refrigerator, and a television that plays DVDs only. This smaller cabin is meant to sleep two people. It does not have a toilet, but the Bearbottom Bathhouse is nearby. Bringing a flashlight for those nighttime nature calls is essential, as Appalachian Campground has no street lights.

‘Hemlock Haven’, a larger cabin that provides not only a queen-sized bed but also a loft for adventurous extra guests and, especially children. Meant to sleep four to six people, the ‘Hemlock’ is the only one of the two cabins equipped with a toilet, sink, and shower.

In keeping with the campground’s rustic flavor, neither cabin has a kitchenette nor a coffee maker. Guests are encouraged to bring their own instant coffee and snacks. In other words, the only coffeemakers in these cabins are the guests, themselves.

When Jeff and I first looked inside these cabins, I saw an author’s retreat waiting to happen.  Both cabins feature porches with rocking chairs and barbecue grills that overlook the gurgling headwaters of the Hiawassee River.

Living in this new surrounding stimulates my writer juices. I can hardly wait to bring my Mac Airbook home from the ‘hospital’ — Mountain Mac in Hayesville, North Carolina — attack my current work-in-progress with renewed vigor as well as newer works with a new zest.

Eager for more information? Click on the links for Appalachian Campground, Workamping News, and Mountain Mac.

Next up, people have since asked us the two most expected questions: “How do you like living in your motorhome? How does it compare with your fifth-wheel?”

Stay tuned for Part 17 of my “LIVING THE DREAM” series. In the meanwhile, I do love receiving comments and questions from all of you.

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