Oh-Hi-Oh

Dawny (she says hello!) and I are on vacation.  We are taking the month of August off from our workamping duties to roll around the middle parts of our beautiful country.

We have greatly enjoyed our recent travels through Ohio, and this post is offered to give a short review of three Ohio state parks.  Everyone’s camping/RV park preferences vary widely.  Dawny and I love state parks the best.  There is usually plenty of space to take long walks.  Often lakes and/or rivers are involved, which enhances the beauty and the “my-oh-my!” factor by several satisfied sighs or so.

Many state parks, including the three discussed in this post, do not offer much beyond electric hookup, but that is fine by us.  We operate off of our tanks and fill up and dump when we arrive/leave.  The parks listed here range from $26 to $28 per night.  While that is on the high side for me, it is still better than parks in Pennsylvania and Virginia which are well into the $30’s for simple electric hookup.

Beyond the price, Dawny and I place great value on the beauty of our surroundings as we take our many walks (bingo Ohio!) and the overall upkeep and cleanliness of the premises (kudos to Ohio state park maintenance teams).  Oh, and I do require a good Verizon connection for my internet and at least a couple of TV channels to keep from going totally bonkers inside of the silence in my head (Dawny couldn’t care less).  All three parks met these basic requirements.

Here are the three Ohio State Parks that rate high on our list from this trip, starting with our favorite:

Harrison Lake State Park, Fayette, Ohio (link:  parks.ohiodnr.gov/harrisonlake):  I love it when the campground is on or within easy walking distance of the loveliness that gives a park its name.  The campground at Lake Harrison is perched uphill from the lake and, while most of the camping sites don’t enjoy a lake view, it is a comfortable stroll away.  For campers with children, playground equipment is scattered throughout the park and camping loops.  There is a swimming  beach, although one day I noted the “white” water from children’s splashing was tinted bright green/blue due to lake algae–swimmers beware!  They even have a dog beach (non-fenced), which Dawny enjoyed surveying from a respectful distance.  Poor dear hates water.  Perhaps wise, given the algae situation.

The campground was kept immaculately clean and the entire park was beautifully tended.  Considering my recent Lyme Disease struggle, I truly appreciate all those conscientious lawn-mowing souls.  It seemed that as soon as a camper vacated their site, staff/workampers were on the spot cleaning up.

On the most mundane yet critical of notes, whereas the two other parks in this post have vault toilets to supplement their single bath house/flush toilets, Harrison Lake’s North Campground has flush toilets located in the camping loops.  (Note:  This is not the case in the smaller South Campground, which still has vault toilets.)  I have to admit that long ago I left the rough camping years of my youth way far in the distant, barely remembered hinterlands eons and miles, ages and galaxies behind me.  I now prefer certain creature comforts.  A flush-toilet and a warm shower with lots of good water pressure so that I don’t have to worry about conserving the water from my on-board water tank are high on that list.  Thank you, Harrison Lake!

Mosquito Lake State Park, Cortland, Ohio (link:  parks.ohiodnr.gov/mosquitolake):  The feature that impressed me the most about this park was the dog park/beach.  And I don’t even have a dog that likes water or can enter a dog park if another dog is in it (she would try to eat him/her).  It was very refreshing after being in Pennsylvania, which tended to have entire areas totally off-limits to dogs, to be in a park that granted a big chunk of valuable lake-side real estate to it’s canine visitors, fenced it in, and then plotted out a bit of beach area (buoys and all) for those intrepid four-legged guests who enjoy a good splash.

The fine-print caveat to this apparent pet-friendliness is that Ohio state parks have a two-pet limit.  I have a good friend who travels with two dogs and two cats.  If you ask me, cats shouldn’t count against that limit as long as they are not outside being walked with their doggies in a fur-coated gaggle-gang.  Really now, how often is that going to happen?  Never!  Can you imagine the twisted leashes and bruised/scratched egos and legs and other body parts?  I asked at the office about that policy, and they said that if you call ahead and describe the members of your menagerie, an exception can be made.  (P.S.  I met a camp host at the park who had three cats.  Three.  Wicked.  Cats.  Just sayin’…  God, I love my dog.)

As for the two-legged guests, this is a really beautiful park.  Mature, tall trees provide shade to most of the camping sites.  Compared to the other two parks in this post, the sites were spacious and the roads very accomodating to bigger RV rigs.  The only downside would be that there is only one shower house/flush toilet location for over 230 sites.  Otherwise, people need to rely on their own household plumbing (take care of those tanks upon entering/exiting!) or the vault toilets located in the campground loops.

Findley State Park, Wellington, Ohio (link:  parks.ohiodnr.gov/findley):  Smack in the middle of north-central Ohio, Findley State Park is a very convenient stop-over on your trek from wherever to wheresoever, should it happen to be on your path.  Like many other Ohio state parks, there is only one shower house/flush toilet location, in this case serving over 250 camping sites.  A few vault toilets are located elsewhere in the camping loops.  Big rigs, beware.  Many of the sites are fairly short and some are quite sloped.  For my shorter rig (25 feet with no toad) it worked out fine and was a welcome stop between eastern and western Ohio.

That’s it for Ohio this trip.  Afterwards, Dawny and I visited Elkhart, Indiana and got our annual honey-do list done.  Thank you, Phoenix USA (link:  www.phoenixusarv.com) and Doug for putting up with all of our questions and for keeping our little house-on-wheels rolling smoothly along.

We are now meandering towards Missouri to join two dear friends for a camping get-together that serendipitously coincides with the upcoming full solar eclipse.  We will be somewhere around the 98th percentile-coverage point.  Cool, eh!?!?  I just think it’s cool Dawny and I will be basking in it together with these particular friends.  They are two of our favorite people.  And, while they like me plenty, they adore Dawny.  Which is as it should be.

Doing Sick Solo

So… about that stupid joke at the end of my last post…  Well, I got bit all right.  Not by a bear, thank goodness.  By a tick.  I usually save the bodies, wrapping them in a little paper with a date on it.  Then I freeze them, just in case I have to get them tested one day.  The latest addition to my tick morgue is dated 6/1-6/3/17, one month before I came down with classic early Lyme Disease symptoms:  fever bouncing between 101 and 104, headache that painkillers wouldn’t touch, chills, extreme fatigue, rash, etc.  I got better after six days.  Six days after that, I was sick again.  Then better.  Then sick.

I thought this would be a good time to share some thoughts and tips for others who might find themselves in a similar situation:  sick, solo, and away from home.  As a full-time RV traveler, my actual home is always with me, so it might be more accurate to say away from family.  In any case, most of what I have to contribute would apply whether you are on the road or stationary.

You are your own best (and only?) advocate.  I am grateful that a friend reminded me of this early on.  It helped give me the spirit and strength to wrestle with the doctor who saw me at the local urgent care clinic during the first spell of sickness.  Yes, I wrestled with a doctor.  Read on.

You know your body best.  This was different from any flu virus I had ever had before.  I also recognized a rash on my chest as out of the ordinary, including a faint “bullseye” pattern that the literature associates strongly with Lyme’s.  I took a picture of it and showed it to the doctor.  He barely looked at it before quickly dismissing it as just red, ugly, splotchy, old lady skin.  Ok, so he didn’t really say the words “ugly” and “old lady,” but I heard them all the same.  The rash disappeared along with the first batch of flu-like illness.

Take notes, in writing!  Don’t rely on your memory.  There is no such thing as a reliable mental note after the age of 33.  During my doctor visit, they took blood to test for Lyme Disease.  I asked the doctor how I would know if I might have Lyme’s even if the test came back negative (false negatives are very common in the early stages).  He said I wouldn’t get better.  I wrote that down.  The test, indeed, came back negative.

Research, research, research.  And take more notes.  Since I spent so much of my adult life in Virginia, I already knew about the dangers of Lyme Disease, especially when not treated early.  When I felt up to it, I got on the computer and googled (I love you, Google!) for more on early symptoms, late symptoms, tests, and treatment. Consistently, the information warned against letting the disease get established in your system without treating it early, even without a positive blood test result.  It also confirmed my symptoms as highly consistent with early stage Lyme’s.

With all due respect, do not back down…  Wrestle if you must!  When I got sick again six days after the first bout, I called the doctor to ask for a prescription for the antibiotic used against Lyme Disease.  He refused.  He said it could be a hundred other things.  I responded that my symptoms tracked very much with early Lyme’s, including the point he made during my office visit that I would not get better from the initial virus-like symptoms.  He said I didn’t have the rash.  I responded that yes, I did… remember the ugly picture?  He said there was no proof I had been bitten by a tick.  I reminded him that almost one month prior to becoming ill, I had a tick latch on for at least 48 hours.  He said he would “mollify” me by prescribing one week’s worth of antibiotics.  I responded that one week would do no good since proper treatment required one month’s worth.  He finally relented.  Yay.

When you can, DO.  I felt better after throwing up, which usually happened in the morning.  So that is when I would get critical stuff done (rather than climbing back into bed, which is what I really wanted to do), like emptying the RV’s waste tanks, adding to the fresh water tank, shopping, and preparing batches of Dawny’s home-cooked meals ahead of time.  Luckily, my workamping job here is very simple and flexible and I was able to do the minimum to get by.

While you are well, prepare for when you are not.  A list of emergency contacts should be placed in several obvious locations (wallet, glove compartment, fanny-pack if you hike with one).  As a workamper, I give my emergency contacts to the office or head ranger when I arrive at each new job.  I also try to let someone there know how to access my RV in an emergency, which is especially important if you have a pet and/or are unconscious inside.  Make sure your emergency contacts know of each other and have each other’s contact information.  Let them know where your important info is (health insurance card, financial stuff, will, spare keys).

Along similar lines, be a proud, practical squirrel.  RV’ers are supposed to travel as lightly as possible.  Nevertheless, it is important to load up on at least a week’s worth of “sick-supplies” to always have on hand (pain reliever/fever reducer, cough medicine/lozenges, other first-aid basics, ginger ale or whatever helps your nauseous tummy, tea/honey, bread/butter for toast).

Finally, yes, good squirrels save ticks.  Wrap the body of any tick that bites you–especially if it has had a chance to feed for 48 hours–in a dated piece of note paper and file it in a discreet corner of the freezer.  If, after my antibiotic course is finished, I continue to get sick, I now know what to do with that body from early June.  East Stroudsburg University’s Wildlife DNA Laboratory (link:  www.esu.edu/dna) will test that tick for Lyme’s for $50.  It will test for three possible pathogens, depending upon the tick, for $125.  For $175, it will test for all pathogens.  The tick can be from anywhere, not just from Pennsylvania, and even after several years the lab can still conduct the tests.

Thank you for reading.  Wishing all of you good health and tick-less happiness.

(Anyone who would like to contribute a tip on dealing with illness while alone and/or traveling, please feel free to use the comment section.  Keep in mind that each comment needs to be individually approved, so it won’t show up right away.)

Eau la Tique de la Grrrrrr

“Mmmm, what is that fragrance you are wearing?” you may well ask should you happen upon me and my sweet doggy any time soon.

“It is Eau la Tique de la Grrrrrr,” I shall readily reply, a slight blush of pride at my inside joke spreading across my cheeks and nose… or is that a mild sunburn acquired during sunny summer walks with Dawny Virgil?  Yes, for those of you who have been traveling with us for a while and are curious, Dawny has had a wonderful stretch of good health these past few weeks.  I think the home-cooked diet is agreeing with her.

Dawny and I are now enjoying ourselves in the great state of Pennsylvania.  We have worked our way from the farmland and rolling hills that decorate the southern region to the magic of the Pocono Mountains in the north, visiting with family and friends along the road.

We are also settling into a new workamping job.  It is a nice mixture of physical labor and fresh air.  The only problem is that there is a lot of long grass and underbrush where we walk and surrounding the campsites where I need to work.  And that means ticks.

Did you know that Pennsylvania ranks first in the number of cases of Lyme Disease reported each year since 2011?  I believe it!  I forgot to apply Dawny’s weekly dose of anti-tick/flea spray before we took our first walk upon arriving at the campground near my brother’s house.  Dawny, great huntress that she is, forged deeply into the roadside brush, chasing the scent of Eau de la Groundhog.  Over the next three days I picked half a dozen ticks off of us both and found several more strolling leisurely around our little house.  Smoking tiny cigarettes, no less.

Lesson learned, I sprayed the herbal flea/tick spray that I use to supplement the monthly topical drops I apply to the back of her neck.  My favorite brand is Sergeant’s Green Natural Flea and Tick Spray, but it is very expensive.  Some Walmarts carry a cheaper version, Natural Care Flea and Tick Spray, which has a slight variation in ingredients.

Unfortunately, I continued to find ticks as we worked our way northward.  So I sprayed her every time we went out.  Then I started spraying me.  At this point, I spray both of us at least once a day, from the tips of our toes to the flaps of our ears, including my walking hat and work cap.

These natural sprays have a very strong aroma, consisting of peppermint, clove, lemon grass, and cinnamon oils, leading me to ponder the law of unintended consequences.  Dawny and I are basically strolling around in a thick herbal cloud through an area heavily populated by black bears, who have extraordinarily sensitive noses and curiously inquisitive tastes…

Eau la Tique de la Grrrrrr.

I sure hope my attempt at humor doesn’t come back to bite me.