Spiraling – Alzheimer’s in the Family

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After several weeks of mom having better days, she has begun the downward spiral. I had been warned that she would crash but it was still a surprise. The spiral started over the last several days. Mom isn’t speaking to me very much and she is lost in her word find books all day until bedtime.

It is a struggle to get her to eat and when she speaks at all it’s low and hard to hear. She is sleeping about 75% of the time and is now walking away from her Rollator so I constantly have to remind her that she can’t do that. It is just a matter of time until she falls again. I’m doing the best that I can. So is she but she isn’t safe.

We had a weigh in on Tuesday and mom had lost 3.6 pounds in 2 weeks, 2 days. I weighed her again on Friday. Even with rollers in her hair she had lost over a pound since Tuesday. Her BP is around 90/62 with pulse ranging 40-52. Between her heart and other issues I don’t know how long this can go on.

She is still on the waiting list for assisted living and we’ve done all applications except for SSI at Social Security. That appointment is November 1. I’ve called all nearby offices and couldn’t get an earlier appointment. One agent told me that the powers that be ration these appointments and for me to call back every afternoon to see if a new block of appointments has been released. Bureaucracy at its finest. Seems they make it harder than it needs to be for already stressed out families. Sad.

Mom at times beaks out in forced and inappropriate laughter. It’s so odd to witness this. Her whole face has an exaggerated expression. It is both heartbreaking and weird. Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease.

Ilona has helped with mom and given me a much needed respite for a couple of days this week. This time away is much needed and rejuvenates my spirit. Even while away my phone is always on in case of a mom emergency. Mom will talk to Ilona more than me.

Mom told Ilona that I was selling her car and she needed it so that she could drive. Ilona told her that her doctor took away her driving privileges. Mom said that never happened and she is angry that I’m selling her car. Truth be told, mom’s driving was taken by her doctor in June (past due) and my son gave her the car when mom’s car was totaled. I’m simply signing it back to him as it doesn’t need to be a temptation for mom to drive. It’s all about safety and the fact that tags, taxes, and insurance are now an unnecessary expense that I don’t need to pay.

Mom also told Ilona that she isn’t happy with the current living arrangements. She still thinks she can live alone. She can’t, ever again. Ilona told her that she should be more appreciative of the sacrifices that are being made for her. I know the disease affects mom’s responses and it’s like reasoning with a 4 year old but it still causes emotional hurt.

So many challenges, so much exhaustion, so many sad days and the rare moments of glimpses of my real mom that makes me smile.

More later.

The Battle of Greasy Grass or Little Bighorn…. Hardin, Montana June 2-4

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We did a stopover at the Crow Agency near Hardin, Montana. Our base of operations was  Grandview Campground , $42/night with Good Sam’s and is cash only. The plan was to visit the Little Big Horn National Monument and take a tour with Apsaalooke Tours to get the Native American point of view. We were not disappointed.

The Native American’s call the Battle of Little Bighorn the Battle of Greasy Grass because the grass in the area is so tall that it rubbed the bellies of their horses and caused a shimmer on the grasses. We went on a tour with the Apsaalooke Tours, run by the Crow Indians and includes visiting the Crow Reservation. We had three Crow guides and Ray and I were the only people on this particular tour. It was an excellent two hour tour and we learned so much. I highly recommend going and engaging with the guides to learn a more complete picture of this Battle. I also recommend reading Lakota Noon by Gregory F. Michno. He used recorded Native American accounts of the battle to form a timeline and give their perspective on what really happened that day. It’s a fascinating account and well worth the read.

After the Apsaalooke Tour we went to the visitor center/museum and watched the introductory film. It was interesting that the Park Service now indicate that the Native Americans were protecting their homes and their way of life. Afterwards we went on our own self-guided tour, which was also very informative. The Monument has changed over the years and brown markers have been laid to indicate where Native Americans fell in battle. These were added well after the white markers of the US Calvary. On the knoll we saw a number of white and brown markers and the marker for General George Armstrong Custer. One thing I noticed while touring was that visitors were quiet and reverent as this was a place of loss of life and the magnitude of what actually transpired here.

The battle was on June 25-26, 1876 between the US 7th Calvary, led by General George Armstrong Custer and the Lakota-Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes who were camped together at the Little Bighorn River, while hunting. The Native Americans were led by Crazy Horse in battle and Sitting Bull at the camp. Other tribal leaders were Gall, Red Horse, American Horse, Two Kettles, and Two Eagles. The Calvary led by Reno attacked the unsuspecting encampment, which was full of women and children, and the battle began. It didn’t go exactly like the Calvary expected. The tribes fought back fiercely to protect their families and homes.

Six women and four children were killed in Reno’s original attack. During the battle thirty one Native warriors died in combat or from wounds. The 7th Calvary lost sixteen officers and 242 troops, with one officer and fifty one wounded. The 7th Calvary lost 52% and suffered a massive defeat with Reno becoming the scapegoat after the battle. I encourage you to read credible sources as to what really happened. I promise that it will be an eyeopener for you.

I do encourage you to read more about this battle and the Indian Wars. Our history books painted a much different picture than what actually happened during this time. Live, learn, grow. Thanks for reading. Next up Rapid City, South Dakota, a beautiful and historic place.

Too Much to See… Too Much to Do… Yellowstone Days 5-9 Part 5

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Day five was an errand day in Idaho Falls (Ammon), Idaho. I was to get two new tires put on the truck while Ray went to his eye appointment. We had a slow leak in one of the front tires and we were also having that checked. It simply couldn’t be a patched tire. We had cracked a rim on our off-road adventures. So two new tires and a new rim later, we were back on the road. $$$$$ to “Cap the stack,” as my mother says, they didn’t have any chrome rims to fit so we ended up with a charcoal colored one. Three chrome rims and one dark rim made for a stylish ride. We did order a matching chrome rim and had it delivered to Arkansas to be installed when we arrive there a few weeks later. We did see some pronghorns and elk on the errand adventure, which was great.

We spent the last few days exploring more areas in and around Yellowstone. It did not disappoint us. We started every morning around eight AM, packed a good lunch with snacks, and we would get back to the RV around nine PM. Glorious days and we were enjoying more and more sun. One of the days included going back out to Tower Falls Road, where we were blessed to see a Big Horn Sheep with her days old baby. I didn’t know the babies are gray but the are and they are adorable. We watched the two of them walk down the steep rock face, cross the road, and then disappear in the direction of the river below. The lamb did not miss a step on the steep slope. It was impressive! As with the other photos, we used a telephoto lense and stayed a good distance away.

We managed to see a Whistling Swan, Sandhills Cranes, another Moose on the loose, elk and bison. We also visited more geothermal sites and watched a few geysers. Everyone wants to see Old Faithful but there are many more great geysers to see, without the crowds of Old Faithful. All in all I rate Yellowstone National Park a 12 on a 1 to 10 scale. I will return again and again. It’s officially my favorite of the places we visited.

I really enjoyed Yellowstone and can’t wait to go back and share it with my family. It is a spellbinding place, full of wonder. Next up: Cody, Wyoming! Thanks for reading.

Cubs and Calves and Stampedes, Oh, My…. Yellowstone Day 3 Part 3

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We left very early for the Tower Falls area of Yellowstone National Park on the 3rd day. We had packed a lunch, as usual, and planned to stay until early evening. This was a spectacular day for wildlife viewing. Two grizzlies, five black bears, pronghorns, elk, and stampeding bison and calves. We also saw some outstanding geothermal features and enjoyed the Mammoth Hot Springs area. It was a wondrous day!

What a fantastic Day 3 in Yellowstone. So much to see! Stay tuned for Day 4 – Jackson Hole and The Grand Tetons. Lovely!

It’s Baby Season in the Park…. Geothermal Features…. Yellowstone Day 2 – Part 2

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Day two in Yellowstone National Park took us on a route down Firehole Canyon Road, alongside the Firehole River and Falls. It was early in the morning and we were in for a big surprise. Down on a little peninsula in the Firehole River was an Elk who had just given birth to a beautiful calf. We parked and slowly exited the vehicle and sat quietly on a rock on the ledge above the river. We watched as the calf got up and nursed for the first time. It was a surreal and spiritual experience, a sacred part of nature. Please note that we used a telephoto lense and were well spaced away from the event out of respect for nature.

Once we could tear ourselves away from the miracle of birth, we completed the trek down Firehole Canyon Road. We stumbled upon a coyote hunting rodents in the meadow, bison, and many geothermal features, including geysers. We also saw Old Faithful and while it is a big attraction at Yellowstone, there are many other geysers that are more impressive and have fewer tourists vying for a good spot. I love exploring!

How in the world can one have a better day than day two at Yellowstone? Well, day three was bear day… Grizzlies and black bears. One with her yearling triplets. Stay tuned. It’s awesome! I love Yellowstone!

Bison & Pronghorns & Bears…. Oh, My! Yellowstone May 18-30th

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We made one stop at Deer Lodge, Montana, Indian Creek Campground at $31.34/night, to break up the distance to Island Park, Idaho. We broke camp early on the 19th and headed to Jared’s Wild Rose Ranch, $45.46/night with Good Sam’s, just 20 minutes from Yellowstone National Park and on Henry Lake. What a beautiful place. The park had full hookups but the spaces were very small. That didn’t matter when you saw the view of the lake and the Mountains. We also had eagles visit us right at our campsite each day. I would definitely stay there again. The staff was also very accommodating and while we didn’t fish, the fishermen (and women) were making many big catches of trout.

We spent several days in Yellowstone and made day trips to the Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole. Everything was so picturesque and being spring, the wildlife was in full bloom too. Calves, cubs, fawns, etc. You name it, we saw it. All this means is that the Yellowstone blog will be broken in to several parts. This is Day One – Part One… I must have taken a thousand or so photos. If you are interested in avoiding crowds and seeing a lot of wildlife, I recommend going early in the morning or staying later in the evening. It will make for an amazing visit. We did a little of both and slept well at the end of the day. Please respect the wildlife and stay a respectable distance away and please do not feed them. It causes many of the bears,etc to become dangerous and they sometimes are removed but sometimes they are destroyed. RESPECT! A bison can weigh up to 2,000 pounds and can run up to 40 miles per hour. Watch for their warning signs and do not get too close. It will keep you safe.

Yellowstone National Park is the first national park in the USA, founded by President Ulysses S Grant on March 1, 1872. It is known for it’s abundant wildlife and it’s geothermal features. It is a hotbed of volcanic activity and is absolutely beautiful. Ancestral Native Americans inhabited the area about 11,000 years ago. The Park is 2,219,789 acres, with 96% in the state of Wyoming, 3% in Montana and 1% in Idaho. The Yellowstone Caldera is known as a “supervolcano” and the largest volcanic system in the USA. It is expected to erupt sometime in the future, which would have devastating effects on the world. Something to look forward to?

The first day we took the route to Madison, Norris, and Canyon Village from the West entrance. It was beautiful. Some of the roads were closed due to late snows but those roads opened in a couple of days. The best way to experience our trip is through pictures, although the pictures cannot capture the beauty. Yellowstone is my very favorite of the national parks that we visited. I want to go again and again. I will!

View of Mountains at Yellowstone River

This concluded day one. Stay tuned for day two and the birth of an elk calf. Phenomenal!!!

Springtime at Glacier National Park and Polebridge Montana! May 15th-18th

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We were off on our capers in and around Glacier National Park. Our base of operations was the lovely and well maintained Columbia Falls RV Resort, $35.83 per night with Passport America. Columbia Falls is the gateway to Glacier National Park. An adult bald eagle and a juvenile entertained us during our stay there and the owners of the Resort were very nice and helpful.

We spent 2 days in Glacier National Park and due to the late snows many roads and trails were impassable and closed. If trails weren’t closed for snow, they were closed for bear activity! Glacier National Park (the Park) is one million acres located on the Canadian border in two sub-ranges of the Rocky Mountains. It was formed 170 million years ago by tectonic plate activity and glaciers. In the Mid 19th century there were 150 glaciers in the Park, today there are 25 glaciers remaining.

The Park was inhabited by ancient Native Americans 10,000 years ago. They were ancestors to the Blackfeet, Flathead and Shoshone Native Americans. The Blackfeet ceded the land under duress to the United States Government in 1895. The Blackfeet and Flathead Natives are now on reservations adjacent to the Park.

Glacier National Park receives 2.2 million visitors each year. It is a gorgeous area with many species of wildlife and flora. 95% of the Park is designated wilderness area but as of yet has not received protected status. It has the best preserved Proterozoic Rock in the world and is visited by experts for study. It’s a fascinating place, spanning the continental divide.

One of my favorite places was visiting Polebridge, Montana.It is on the National Registry of Historic places and is half way down a 50 mile dirt and gravel road, Outside North Fork Road, between Canada and West Glacier. Polebridge is the Gateway to the wilderness areas of Glacier National Park, known as the Bowman Lake and Kintla Lake Gateway. All roads in this area are maintained in a primitive state to preserve the wilderness. The speed limit is 20 MPH and the roads can be impassible. We were lucky as the road opened the day before we arrived. There were handmade signs on the road near sparce cabins that read, “Slow Down, People Breathing!” It was a bucket list experience and really and truly “off the grid.”

Polebridge was founded in 1914 by William Adair. Mr. Adair had a reputation for growing huge cabbages, fishing, and drinking. He built a general mercantile, homestead cabin (which is now Northern Lights Saloon), and a barn. Today there are other small cabins there but none, including the saloon and the mercantile, have cell service or electricity. The population is listed as “somewhere between a handful and 90.” The Mercantile is now home to a fabulous bakery and rumor has it that it’s “the best bakery in Montana!” I’d have to say it’s one of the best bakeries anywhere. I had a Chunky Monkey turnover and Ray had a sticky bun. Heavenly! This area is really worth the trip! I got the tee-shirt!

Thanks for reading! Next adventure is the fabulous Yellowstone National Park! Don’t miss it!

Oh, Give Me a Home Where the……. National Bison Range, Montana – May 13-15

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Our next adventure was visiting the National Bison Range in Montana. To break the trip up we spent one night in Cheney, Washington at Ponderosa Falls Resort, $10/night with Coast to Coast points. We broke camp early the next day and headed to our base of operations for the bison caper, St Regis, Montana. We stayed at the St. Regis Campground for $43/night with Good Sam’s. This is a beautiful area in a beautiful state.

After setting up camp we decided to tour the area and then head over to the Bison Range early the next morning. The afternoon local tour was great. The area has Quinn’s Hot Springs Resort on the Clark Fork River, many scenic drives and trails. We really enjoyed the afternoon.

We got an early start the next day and were on the way to the National Bison Range by 8 AM. The Bison Range was dedicated in 1908 as a National Wildlife refuge, the oldest in the United States. It is the top bison research center in the US. A little history about the bison, also known as the buffalo. Bison is the correct word for this majestic creature. Buffalo is also an accepted term but the purist out there may give you a little grief over it. By 1890 the bison were nearing extinction due to the US Government’s efforts to eradicate the bison during the Indian Wars. The plan was to kill off the Native Americans by starvation by getting rid of their major food source, then move the survivors to reservations. It was a land grab by the European settlers, aided and abetted by the US Government. Sad.

The National Bison Range is 18,800 acres in the Lake and Sanders Counties of Montana. It is in the Mission Mountain Range and is located in the area of the Glacial Lake Missoula, a glacial lake formed more than 18,000 years ago. There is a small remnant of the glacial lake in the valley. The valley is spectacular, as are the views, the fauna and the flora. This National treasure only gets 250,000 visitors a year. It’s a little known gem.

We decided to take the Red Sleep Mountain Drive through the bison range. The drive is a 19 mile, one-way dirt road which winds over the mountain and valley. It did not disappoint us! Magnificent! The area was in full spring bloom and we had a great experience there. I highly recommending a day there. You can drive the road through the range in 2.5 hours but if you travel that fast, you’ll miss so much. We spent about 6 hours taking everything in. It was exciting. Ray had a small encounter with a teenage bull. The bull side eyed him, snorted and pawed the ground. Ray slowly and quietly moved inside the open door of the truck. Trouble averted. Please enjoy the following pictures. I had fun taking them.

We enjoyed this area very much. We watched animals interacting with each other. The Pronghorns were nestled for their rest right in the middle of the bison herd. The valley was full of song birds that we sat and listened to as we watched the herds. What a great way to spend a day.

Next up: Glacier National Park. Thanks for reading!

You Can’t Get to Mount Saint Helens From Here…….. Randle, Washington and Late Snows!

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On May 10th we pulled in to Cascade Peaks RV Park at Randle, Washington, $10/night with Coast to Coast. Our stay there was shorter as we had the truck repaired while in Lincoln City, Oregon and lost one day. We only had until the 12th to see the sites. We had been warned of late snows that had closed some of the parks on our itinerary. We did attempt to see Mount St. Helens but we couldn’t get any access. We talked to a park ranger on the roads leading to the park, which were closed. He thought it was very funny when I told him that I thought the barricaded road closed signs were “just a suggestion.” The drive was scenic up to the closure and we got to see it from the opposite direction when we turned around. Mount St. Helens was not in the cards for this trip.

Mount Rainier National Park was open but many roads and trails were closed. It was ironic that the closures were due to late snows and snow was everywhere but the daytime temperature in the lower elevations was 71 degrees. Tee-shirt weather! Mount Rainier is the highest mountain in the Cascade Range and stands at 14,411 feet elevation. It is also considered one of the most dangerous active volcanoes in the world. Mount Rainier is the first mountain in the Cascade Volcanic Arc, with 80,000 people in the Puyallup River Valley at risk in an eruption. The Mountain has 26 glaciers and 2 volcanic craters, measuring over 1000 feet each. It’s a stunning sight.

Mount Rainier last erupted in 1894 but continues to have debris flows, which has the consistency of wet concrete with rocks. These flows take down massive trees as it flows down the mountain via the rivers. It makes for a starkly interesting landscape.

I need to mention that humans, ancient Native Americans visited, hunted and camped in this area and have had a presence for at least the last 8,500 years. Please enjoy the pictures below.

We had a large time visiting here. Stay tuned for National Buffalo Range. It was a fun caper too. Thanks for reading!

3 Months on the Road and Here We Are – Yosemite & Crescent City, CA

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As of May 2, 2019, we have completed three full months of touring the beautiful USA. We parked our RV at Yosemite Westlake RV Resort, $30/night with Passport America, and began our fun. We took a little tour around the area to get our bearings and planned to head over to Yosemite in the morning.

Due to late season snows many roads and trails throughout Yosemite (the Park) were closed but we decided to make the best of what we could see. The Park is gorgeous but at the time we were there it was very, very crowded. With all the signs around about “Beware of Wildlife,” I believe they should have signs “Beware of Clueless Rubes.” Yep, we interacted with some!

Yosemite National Park was the first area designated as a national park when President Abraham Lincoln signed the bill on June 30, 1864. The 38th Congress passed the bill in both houses, to protect the area from commercial exploitation and preserve the area. The park is 748,436 acres, 95% is wilderness area, and is visited by about 5 million people a year. 9,500 people a year try to climb El Capitan and about half of those make it to the top. Yosemite was designated a World Heritage Site in 1984.

Yosemite is in the Sierra Nevada Mountains and was formed over time by volcanoes, plate tectonics, and glaciers. I did enjoy the Park very much but Yosemite is not first on my list of parks that we have seen so far. Maybe it’s because we were limited by trail and road closures, I don’t know. This just means that we need to go back when we can see more.

After leaving Yosemite we headed up to Willets, California where we stayed at Sleepy Hollow RV for $20/night (cash only) with Passport America. This was a stopover to breakup the trip. Next stop: Crescent City, California and it was a great coastal location. We stayed at Sunset Harbor RV Park, $13.50/night (cash only). It was a pretty nice place with harbor views and we could hear the fog horns at night. The people were so friendly, which makes me want to make a trip there (in the summer) and spend some time.

The Crescent City area, with a population of less than 8,000, is also known as Del Norte County and is about 20 miles from the Oregon border. It is still home to the Yurok and Tolowa Nations of indigenous peoples. The topography of the ocean is such that the area is prone to tsunamis. I so enjoyed the Battery Point Lighthouse, the oldest continuously running lighthouse in the US, operating since 1855. You can only tour this lighthouse at low tide. We ate some great seafood at North Coast Grill on the harbor, with a great view which included sea lions. It is a small local’s place where we met two women who had lived in Beaufort, SC. If you go try the mud pie. Good lord, ya’ll. They also had the best calamari that I’ve had in ages and all the seafood was excellent. “As god as my witness, I shall return!”

Well, Crescent City was a great place. I do hope to go back again. I also hope that you have enjoyed this blog. Stay tuned for Oregon adventures. Up soon!