Let’s Go Get Un-Stoned

I apologize for not posting for a while. For those who asked here is the deal. My gall bladder stones continue to be an issue. I’ll need to have to have surgery to rid myself of this problem forever. The issue is that my current insurance will only cover the surgery if I go back to Vermont. Unfortunately I would have to have appointments with my regular doctor, consultation with a surgeon and then schedule and have the surgery, which could take a month or more. I would need to go by myself to save money and so Olga could take care of little Eva. An old manager I worked for in Vermont has graciously offered to let me stay with his family if I go back which is a really big deal. I just hate to be away for that long. Meanwhile in the background we are trying to rush to become residents of Arizona so we can get insurance out here and have the surgery done without having to cross the country. We have our licenses and will have our truck registered here next week. I got online yesterday and applied for health insurance in Arizona. Residency is always the biggest thing to try and prove. Between getting the licenses and registration as well as registering to vote we are hoping we are good to go. Until this is settled we will be staying close to home here in Congrress and the Escapees North Ranch. We have survived our first 100 degree days with no problem so I think we are in a good place

As things progress I’ll post about the latest
Thanks to those of you who asked.

Good Plan Gone Awry Part 3

Where to? Good question. We finally decide that we will go to Cottonwood where we had been late last year. Not my absolute favorite place but good enough for a week or so. So we get there and it is ten times more crowded than last Fall. We managed to find a spot to camp though so we were content enough.
So we are having dinner one evening and at the end I had a cookie. I don’t even remember what we had for dinner that night but I started to get a strange feeling in my gut. It kind of felt like there was somebody in there – probably a gremlin – who had a vice and kept making it tighter and squeezing my insides. So I tried taking some TUMS but the gremlins just laughed at that. I did my best to live with it that night but it gradually got worse and it kept me from sleeping. Finally at about 7 the next morning I woke up Olga and said I think I need to go to the ER. So off we go to the hospital.
I have to say that this was the most efficient trip to the ER I’ve ever had. As an active young kid I spend many days in the ER. Two knee dislocations, two broken collar bones, and enough blood and stitches to last a lifetime. I was taken in very quickly by the staff at the hospital and was in a bed within minutes of my arrival. I was asked for my pain level which felt to me like around an 8. They offered me morphine which I had never had before. I decided to go for a “cocktail” of stomach stuff like Maalox and some other stuff first. Unfortunately that did no good at all so I finally decided to go for the morphine. If there is one thing I know from all my ER time it’s that I am very resistant to pain meds. With both of my knee dislocations they had to give me twice as much Demerol as they originally gave me before it had any affect. So in goes the first shot of morphine. Nada, zip, zilch, nothing. So they give me another shot of the same amount. Still nothing. In the mean time they are zipping me around for different tests. I got a CAT SCAN, abdominal ultra-sound, blood tests and urine tests. Then more morphine, about half the original amounts this time. Finally I start to feel a little bit of relief. So after about six hours the only thing they can really tell me is that my heart is fine but I have gallstones. They give me some kind of meds to take before meals to settle my stomach and a pain killer.
We run to the pharmacy and get the scripts filled. I take the pain meds immediately as prescribed. I don’t know if it was the morphine or the combination of that and the other pain killers but the cure rapidly became almost as bad as the original problem. I was scared to eat anything at all so for the next couple of days I starved myself. My stomach was not giving me much of a problem but the meds made me feel like absolute crap. For the next 48 hours my brain was in full scale revolt. At one point I swear I actually hallucinated. I was just seeing an all white background with random letters, numbers and complex mathematical formulas just bouncing around the space in all directions and speeds. That really freaked me out. I spend one whole night lying there with my brain continually playing a game of solitaire with a deck that for some reason had 12 black 9s and 12 red 7s. I could NOT make it stop!
After that first night I didn’t take any more pain meds. It still took almost a week to get my head screwed back on straight. I did a ton of sleeping. While I’m doing this the worst thing that can happen while camping in Cottonwood happened. It rained. The place is OK when it’s dry, but when it rains there it creates the world’s worst mud. This stuff is like no mud you have ever seen. If you take one step outdoors your shoe is suddenly covered with mud making it about as big as a small snow shoe, and it’s damn near impossible to get off your shoes. Then some cattle came through as often happens there and they decided to do a Mexican hat dance right by our solar panels which became covered in mud. Feeling the way I did I couldn’t get out of there fast enough.
That brings us nearly current of that saga. I’m still very shaky about eating and have lost a lot of weight as a result. My energy is still pretty low but I’m trying to take in some protein as I know that will help. So it’s back to our adventures. We are in Prescott to get a problem with one of our slide outs fixed and then we’ll figure out where to head next.

I’m baaaaaaack

To the literally tens of people who I’m sure read this blog I apologize for not keeping up much lately. I’ve been rather ill for the last couple of weeks and ended up in the emergency room for a day.. Details will be revealed in Part 3 – Yes Part 3 – of Good Plans Gone Awry to come soon. And I really, really hope this is the last part of this string of bad luck so I don’t need to write a Part 4

Thanks

Good Plan Gone Awry Part 2

So as I said in part 1 the reason for moving north was the temperatures. It was getting very hot in the middle of the state and we wanted to get cool. The temps up near Flag (so called to those in the know) were perfect for a couple of old Vermonters. Mid 70’s during the day and generally around 40’s at night. Sounds like heaven. So after we cross the southwestern Himalayas we get to our destination. We figured that we would hit our old spot on A1 Mountain Road and scout out some new places from there. We got there around 2:30 in the afternoon and headed down the road. Then things got un-fun. To get to the wide open spaces out of the woods where you can take bigger rigs you need to go over a cattle guard. Only the cattle guard had a fence with a lock across it this time. Nuts! So we took one of the side roads before the gate after turning around. Not an easy task here by the way. While there were spots available there were none that would accept anything bigger than a van or truck camper. Nuts. So we took our lives in our hands and tried a couple of things from campendium.com. One provided GPS coordinates which we followed to supposedly take us to a Forest Service owned area where we could camp. The only problem was that the coordinates landed us right in the middle of downtown Williams where I am 100% sure there is no Forest Service camping. While we were there we stopped at a 76 Gas station on old RT 66. Very cool little place. Maybe one of the few left in the world where they still come out and wash your windows while you gas up. Then I went inside to pay and they gave me a free bag of fresh pop corn.
So back we go to try another place. It’s starting to get a bit darker now. We follow instructions to get to one place that led us down a road to nowhere that just kept going with no access roads into the forest at all. After following this for quite a while we were faced with the need to turn around. Always an adventure in itself. Much like death and taxes another thing that you can always count on is when you get halfway turned around on a rural forest road, the one person within 50 miles will come tooling down that road looking to get by. I was in a position where it would take me about 37 more turns to complete the about face and only 25 or so to go back to the beginning so that’s what I did. Rather than trying the same thing again I decided to go just a bit further down the road. Amazingly just about a mile down there was a pair of tire ruts heading into the woods. Not enough to drive down but just enough of a widening in the road that I could put Bettty in 4WD and swing her through there as much as I could through the muck and come out the other side. Betty came through for us once again! It was a few minutes of bumpy and ugly but we got turned around.
Still it’s getting darker and we are running out of options. So we finally concede defeat for the day and get online to search for a campground. We find one called Canyon Motel and RV Park and luckily they had a place available. Since we were both needing a break we splurged for two nights instead of one. We got to our spot, unloaded our stuff and started to settle in for the night. We turned on the water heater and started to put together a little dinner while we waited. We could not WAIT to take a nice hot shower after a long day. Olga went in first and I heard a moan but it was not to be a moan of pleasure. We had no hot water. Nuts. I believe the words I used were somewhat more decorative than that but you get the idea. So we very unhappily got washed ala Little House On The Prairie, which I never saw but I have seen how it was done in those days.
We got up the next AM and fortune had shined on us. Our water pump was working again! Sweet!!! So we did the dishes and went out for a short scouting trip. Upon returning, once again, no hot water. Nuts! So I called a Camping World place not too far away and set up and appointment for the next day. We got there first thing in the AM and they took Firefly in to the bays. We went to a nearby place to grab some breakfast and use the Wifi. Then we came back and waited several hours for the verdict. Six hours and $175 for a broken connector (which I’m sure had to be made of Adamantium) later, we were out of there and happy to be on our way. But where to?
Find out where and the rest of the whole sordid affair in Part 3 now in process.You’d think things would HAVE to get better………..you’d be wrong.

Good Plan Gone Awry Part 1

After we left Joshua Tree we headed to Quartzsite…again. Olga loves the place and feels comfortable there. I’m ready to move on. Unfortunately it’s still Winter in much of the west so we had to kill some time before heading to Montana. So we decided to kill a couple of weeks in Quartzsite….again. The weather very quickly became unbearable. It was in the 90’s outside and even hotter inside the RV. We were burning through gas using the AC off of the generator and even Olga had to admit it was no longer really comfortable. We are from Vermont after all and melt in anything over 80. We eyed Flagstaff again where we were in November last year. There are several other pieces of Forest Service land there where you can camp so we figured we would try one of them.

People who do this lifestyle will tell you that they often use places like Campendium to find places to stay. These sites are great but has one small flaw in my book. People will often tell you how pretty a place is, how close to amenities, road noise, you name it. What often happens though is you really don’t have a good idea how much room there is for actual campers. Some places like Plomosa Rd in Quartzsite has limitless places to go and park your RV. Others have VERY few.

So we left Quartzsite and decided to take a different route this time. Rather than going to Phoenix and heading due north we took Route 89 which would take us through Congress and Prescott which we have never seen. Off we go on what for the first third was a very pleasant ride through the desert which is very green this year due to all the rain we bought with us from Vermont which usually has more than enough to go around. Anyway, we were riding along, tunes playing, sun shining and loving life. Then we got to a part in the road where it looked like it may get smaller. We pulled over and looked to see who else was going up there. Finally we saw a 5th wheel about our size go up and we said – or to be fair I said “well if they can do it so can we”. I’ll take a moment here to explain that I have a wife who is not at all fond of steep climbing roads with switchbacks and hairpin turns. I think she is 100% convinced that we will go sailing off the cliff a la Wyle E Coyote at every turn making a spectacular exploding fireball at the bottom. I on the other hand am far more practical in these situations. I doubt very much that there is more than a 27% chance of disaster. Combine that with extreme tiredness and it adds up to a chance in my mind that I am willing to take.

So off we went headed up the road. There was a sign saying no trailers over 40 feet. Ours is only 34 so I figure we are good to go. In my defense we DID make it because I’m here writing this and we are alive to the best of my knowledge. I have to admit that this was a doozy. There were quite a few places to pull out of the road if need be. Interestingly many of them held trucks with 5th wheels just like ours. But I have tremendous faith in Betty and we did it non-stop. Olga white knuckling it the whole 25 miles or so and hugging Eva so hard that now poor Eva is permanently bug eyed.

Philosophy 102 – How The Game Is Rigged – Projections

Anyone who has ever run a business knows that one of your highest costs is people. That’s why so many business are putting so much effort into getting rid of them. Automation, robots, services you have to perform yourself and pay somebody else for and so on. But the funny thing is how many of those businesses rely on people to buy their goods and services. So they all run around shooting each other in the foot and wondering why it hurts. They figure if they cut somebody they will save money and if the other guys business suffers from lack of customers then that’s his problem. Of course they all think the same way which is where all the foot shooting comes in.

If you are like me, a boomer who’s parents grew up in the 40’s and 50’s you have no doubt heard something like this; ” If you just work hard and be a good employee and loyal to your company you will be successful” I’m here to call BS on that one. My father used to tell me that you need to get a job and stay there. That’s what he did. It didn’t work. There is a reason that young people move jobs so often these days. When they get a better deal they take it. They have already learned what it took their parents and grandparents years to learn or never learn at all. The game is to get as much as you can regardless of the consequences. The days of company loyalty to it’s employees are gone, as is the reverse. If you have to fire 5,000 people to bump up your stock price so you can buy that third house in the Hamptons, so be it. “It’s just business, I’ve worked hard and I deserve to get that new yacht, Mercedes, (Insert goody here). This is nothing new by the way. Greed has always consumed mankind. The only real difference is the methods. In today’s lesson we will learn about projections.

For my money projections are the worst thing to come down the pike. I admit that for some businesses projections are important. You need to be able to project work output in your factory so you know when and what amounts of parts and raw materials to buy to keep things humming.

I’m more talking about what we’ll call Corporate Projections or Sales Projections. For one thing most business people suck at making them. Let’s face it, when we are talking about sales projections we are really talking about a guess. It should be an educated guess but often it is not, at least not completely. In my experience I have seen the projection used and abused more than anything I can think of. People like to make their bosses happy. One way to do that is with rosy projections. The key thing seems to be with many to “over promise and under deliver”. It gets them a pat on the back from the happy CEO who may even give you a raise and a promotion. The problem is that they usually come back to bite somebody in the ass. At those times when I had to make performance based projections for something, I practiced exactly the opposite, ‘under promise and over deliver’. The initial reaction was so so, but I always beat my projections which makes people happy. Go figure. Unfortunately it’s not the CEO or the guy who came up with the rosy projection who pays the price when it doesn’t happen. It’s always the employees. This comes in several forms. In the businesses I’ve worked in it is usually a salesman. A salesman will typically say ANYTHING to get a sale. So your sales guy goes to one of your clients and says “We can get this project done in two months!” Often without ever talking with the people who actually have to do it. Sometimes they will talk to those folks, but if they don’t get an answer that they like they will just change it. They thing about projections is they more often have the ability to hurt rather than help. I worked for a company once who had made some very lofty projections based on very little other than hope. At the time I argued against using this hope. For my argument I was told I was just a “naysayer”. This company went on to spend a tremendous amount of capital on inventory based on these projections and as a result when they didn’t come true, a lot of people lost their jobs. As the best boss I’ve ever had once told me “Hope is not a strategy.”
Sometimes projections can have a silver lining for the company. Not for the employees mind you but the company. This is generally only true for privately held companies. Public companies get punished by the market if they don’t hit their projections, or even more importantly, the market’s expectations. The silver lining works like this. ” Yes, we had some aggressive sales goals this year and while we did beat last year’s numbers we still didn’t reach our projected income so there will be no raises this year. But you can rest assured that the people who actually failed to meet their goals for the year will get a bonus.

So next time you are in a company meeting and the powers that be start talking about projections, just take it with a grain of salt and read between the lines.

And remember, you DO have choices.

We spent a few days exploring Joshua Tree. I loved it. As much as I love the lush green forests of the northeast I have a special place inside me for the wide open spaces of the west. The sheer enormity of it is mind boggling. 792,510 acres to be exact. As far as the eye can see in some places. If you are interested in that kind of thing it’s a geological wonderland. Giant rock formations just pop up out of the desert in the middle of vast flat lands. Gigantic alluvial fans created by ancient ice age rivers seem to flow out of the mountainsides. I just love this kind of stuff.
If you have a 4WD vehicle there are even more things you can see. There are a number of 4WD only dirt roads crisscrossing the park. They claim to be unmaintained but they appeared to be graded to some degree. There is a bit washboard in some places but I’ve seen much worse. At least where we went we didn’t have any serious ruts to contend with.
We stopped by the Cottonwood Visitor Center and purchased our Interagency Pass which will grant us admission to the majority of federal parks in the US. It’s pricey at $80 but when you figure that a day pass to JTNP is about $30 it’s not too bad to have if you are traveling.
On our last day we went to Keys View in the park which gives you an outstanding view of the valley with Mt San Jacinto in the background. It still amazes me to see snow on the mountain while you are in the desert next to Joshua Trees and cactus.
I would really like to come back here at some point and explore even more of the park. You could take several weeks and still not see it all, especially if you do a lot of hiking.

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