The Heart of the Matter

The Heart of the Matter

Wednesday, May 8 Through Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Long ago, when we were much younger, we drove between San Antonio and St. Louis in a single day.  A single long 16 hour day.  We never did that again.  Since then, we had been doing the drive in two days.  Typically, we spent the night in Oklahoma somewhere along US-69.  Depending on where we stopped for the night, we were on the road between 7 and 10 hours.  Sometimes longer if the traffic or weather was bad.

This trip, we split the drive over three days.  The three day trip is much more pleasant than the two day version.   Each drive day, we were able to get off the road before the afternoon rush hour avoiding the crushing crazed traffic including badly behaved 18-wheelers.  With the reduction in driving induced stress, there was very little crabbing at each other.  The dogs seemed happier with shorter drive days too.

The first night, we stayed at the Denton La Quinta.  Denton is just north of Fort Worth and Dallas where I-35W and I-35E join back up into I-35.  We ate dinner in our hotel room.

OMEALS Self Heating Food
OMEALS Self Heating Food

For dinner, we brought camping meals that heat themselves.  After tearing off the top of the pouch, pour water in and some chemical reaction in the outer pouch heats the inner pouch containing food.  Steam escapes from the steam vent located on the upper right hand side of the outer pouch.  Once the steam stops, pull the inner food pouch out of the outer pouch and eat.  Food tasted good.  These are a bit pricey at $8 for a single portion.

The big advantage to the OMEALS packaging concept is the ease of preparation.  It cooks itself after adding about 8 ounces of water to fuel the heating process.  This is something I would carry with me (in addition to water) in the Jeep when exploring the remoter parts of Big Bend Ranch State Park and Big Bend National Park.

The disadvantage is the relatively short shelf life (one to two years) compared to Mountain House freeze dried foods (decades).  With freeze dried foods, water needs to be boiled and added to the freeze dried food for rehydration.  One has to carry a stove.

On the second night, we stayed at the La Quinta in Joplin Missouri.  By noon, we arrived at our house in St. Louis.

Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery
Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery

On Mother’s Day, we visited Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery where Linda’s mother and grandfather are buried.  I find the scale of this cemetery to be sobering.  It helps me remember the sacrifices made by servicemen and their families.

Paddle Boats and Ducks On Post Dispatch Lake In Forest Park, St Louis, Missouri
Paddle Boats and Ducks On Post Dispatch Lake In Forest Park, St Louis, Missouri

Friday afternoon, we went to Forest Park to ride the paddle boats and eat lunch.   Paddle boats can be rented at The Boathouse, a restaurant on Post Dispatch Lake.  After on hour of paddling about, we ate lunch at The Boathouse.  We would have eaten lunch first but the wait for tables was over 20  minutes.  By the time we got back  from paddling around the lake, there was no wait.  We were seated immediately.

2019 Mizzou School of Engineering Graduation Ceremony
2019 Mizzou School of Engineering Graduation Ceremony

Saturday, my nephew graduated from Mizzou (Missouri State University in Columbia Missouri) with an engineering degree.  Linda and I drove the parents-in-law to the graduation and back.

Larry in Crane's Museum & Shops/Marlene's Restaurant
Larry in Crane’s Museum & Shops/Marlene’s Restaurant

On the way there, we stopped at Crane’s Museum & Shops/Marlene’s Restaurant in Williamsburg, Missouri, halfway between St. Louis and Columbia.  The food and service were good.  People friendly.

1960's Toy Ford Econoline With Truck Camper
1960’s Toy Ford Econoline With Truck Camper

From our table, I could see a 1960’s toy Ford Econoline pickup truck with mounted truck camper.  You don’t see these everyday.

Luke and Larry After Graduation
Luke and Larry After Graduation

After the graduation ceremony, we waited for my nephew in the foyer of the auditorium.  My brother and sister in-law were so proud.  Grinning ear to ear.  Probably relieved as well.   After taking pictures, we made our way outside.

Storm Coming Fast To Mizzou Campus
Storm Coming Fast To Mizzou Campus

A serious thunderstorm was blowing in.  RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!  Before we could get back to the car, it was raining buckets and the wind was powering big surf in the parking lot.

It took some time to get out of the parking lot and over to a nearby Chinese food restaurant.  After being seated and drying out a little, we celebrated this important milestone together.

By the time we got out of the restaurant, it was only sprinkling rain.  We drove back to St. Louis.

After two weeks in St. Louis, we left for San Antonio.  On the way back, we stopped again in Joplin, Missouri and Denton, Texas for overnight stays at La Quinta hotels.

On Saturday, we picked up to-go hamburgers at an Oklahoma McDonald’s.  While driving and eating my double cheeseburger, I cracked a tooth.  Initially, I thought the filling had popped out.  The pain at times was unpleasantly sharp.  Not a good time to have problems with teeth.  That evening, we bought Orajel and Extra Strength Tylenol.  These helped me manage the pain but didn’t entirely remove the pain.  I ended up taking small bites of food and chewing them on the other side of my mouth.  I was taking two times longer to eat less food than normal.  Since this was a holiday weekend, I wouldn’t be able to call my San Antonio dentist for an appointment until Tuesday morning.  When your teeth hurt, three days is a long time.

Texas Sized Waffle
Texas Sized Waffle

One  of the many fun things about Texas is the breadth of products made in the State’s likeness.  The Denton La Quinta had a Texas shaped waffle iron.

Back in San Antonio on Sunday, the day before Memorial Day, we found ourselves staying at the KOA again.  My broken tooth was still hurting.

While in St. Louis, we ordered a set of four Torklift S9500 FastGun Locks.  Those got installed Sunday afternoon.  Now I don’t have to worry about the FastGun turnbuckles walking off.

Tuesday morning, after Memorial Day, I dropped the Jeep off with Mark Ramos at Texas Hitch.  The fuel can mount, Rotopax mount lock, and Rotopax fuel can had arrived and it was time for installation.  The mount fits between the spare tire carrier and the rear door.  The fuel can sits to the side of the spare tire.  The lock keeps the fuel can from disappearing.  It looks good. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture handy to share.  Mark’s crew was done with the installation before lunch.

I also made the earliest appointment I could to see the dentist that didn’t interfere with my cardiologist appointment.  Thursday at noon.

Tuesday afternoon, we met up with our San Antonio real estate agent to see a townhouse that had been on the market for several months.  Even though the townhouse needed a great deal of work, we decided to make an offer.  Over the next few days there was a bit of back and forth and we settled on terms.   This property could become our San Antonio winter home.  More on the rational in future blog post.

Wednesday morning I showed up early at the cardiologist’s office for a nuclear stress test.  The procedure normally takes about four hours and requires fasting.  Radioactive dye with a half life of six hours is injected into the blood stream.  After waiting for a half hour, a series of color X-Rays were made while I was “at rest.”  The dye concentrates in the blood vessels feeding the heart and shows up in the X-Rays.  I was given a half hour to go eat breakfast.

I rushed off to McDonald’s for a Big Breakfast with Hotcakes.  I was starving and I know that isn’t the most heart healthy breakfast.  Comfort food is how I rationalize that.  Also, most of it would be relatively easy to chew.

Returning to the cardiologist’s office, more radioactive dye.  More sit around.  Then the stress test.  For preparation, I didn’t take any Beta Blockers for 24 hours.  I needed to be off Beta Blockers so my heart rate could rise to above 80% of maximum.  I was wired up to an EKG.  Walking on the treadmill as fast I could go (I’m a fast walker), my heart rate wouldn’t go up to 80% of maximum.  They asked me to run.  I hate running.  I ran anyway.  As soon as I started running my heart rate jumped up to above 80%.  The cardiologist, watching the EKG, immediately told me to stop.  He had what he needed.

After another round of X-Rays, I was released and told to make a followup appointment.  I wouldn’t know the results for another week.  ANOTHER WEEK!

I made the appointment for the following Wednesday.  The same Wednesday we were planning to leave for Alaska and be gone for five months.


Finally, Thursday arrived.  The day of my big appointment where my broken tooth would be repaired.  X-Rays revealed that the filling hadn’t popped out as I had originally thought.  Examination by Gregg the dentist showed a hairline crack through the tooth.  Apparently, hairline cracks in teeth don’t always show up in X-Rays and there is no way of knowing how deep the cracks go.  If the crack goes down  to the nerve, the tooth is gone and probably needs an extraction.  Otherwise, a crown would work just fine.

My tooth is the lower left wisdom tooth.  The tooth all the way in the back with no tooth behind it.  This wisdom tooth has curved roots.  Tooth extraction might break off the root.  Then the dentist would have to dig the bone fragment out of the gum.  Not so wonderful.  In my case, the best bet would be extraction by an oral surgeon.  Another delay waiting for an appointment.

What happens when the crack goes down to the nerve and a crown is used to cap off the tooth?  The tooth continues to hurt like crazy.  What are the odds?  Less than 50% I’m told.

Situations like this always bring to mind the Dirty Harry movie where Harry Callahan tells the suspect holding a gun “I know what you are thinking.

I know what you’re thinking. “Did he fire six shots or only five?” Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being as this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: “Do I feel lucky?” Well, do ya, punk?

I asked myself if I felt lucky.  I answered by asking to go with the crown.  After grinding off the top and some of the side of the tooth, Gregg could still see the hairline crack.  Still no idea if the crack went down to the nerve or not.  I was fitted with a temporary crown.  The temporary crown will be  replaced in a few weeks by a permanent crown made from porcelain or similar material.  I have another appointment date after we leave  for Alaska.

On Friday, after dropping the dogs off at the kennel, we drove to the airport for an afternoon flight to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania for our annual visit to see my mother, sister and  brother.  The flight to Pittsburgh was uneventful.

Saturday morning, we met my brother and sister at Cracker Barrel for the annual pre-visit meeting.  My mother  has advanced Alzheimer’s Disease. I like knowing what I’m walking into.  No  surprises.  Her memory is slowly getting worse every year.  She doesn’t know who I am without an introduction.  She doesn’t know  Linda but she knows she likes her.

In The Living Room With Brother Rob and Linda

In The Living Room With Brother Rob and Linda

We meet back at the house.   My brother managed to get mother up before we got there so she  is waiting in the living room for us.  Even though she has to ask me who I am over and over and over and over again, it still feels good to see her.  She is in  better spirits this year than she was last year.  We hung out and talked for hours.  I found it satisfying.  Mother was in good spirits.

Linda and Sister Beth Waiting For A Table At Cheesecake Factory
Linda and Sister Beth Waiting For A Table At Cheesecake Factory

Mother,  tiring by the afternoon, needed to be quiet.  We left her at home (thankfully she  doesn’t wander) and went to dinner at Cheesecake Factory.   The restaurant was busy so we  waited outside for a table.  The weather was real nice.

We had an early Sunday flight.  After we landed, my brother called to tell me that mother remembered that we had  visited and was still in good spirits.  Small  blessings.

We managed to get the San Antonio townhouse inspected on Monday.  The air conditioner appears to be toast.  There are termites.  Additionally, there were a number of other items that will need to be addressed before we can winter there.  We did another round of negotiations to address the AC and termite problem.  We should be able to close soon but not before we are scheduled to go to Alaska.

On Wednesday, the day we were supposed to leave for Alaska, the cardiologist delivers the bad news.  I’m going to need another procedure to resolve blockage in my heart.

I need a cardiac catheterization during which one or more stents will be placed in my heart.  I’ve done this procedure before and already have one stent.  While I’m being clinical, I find the whole thing frightening.  It is also a sign that I’m aging and lifestyle changes can’t keep heart disease away.  Lifestyle changes can only slow the inevitable.  Heart disease is the family business and I get it from three out of four grandparents.  After the health insurance agrees to pay for the procedure, we can schedule it.

There is a silver lining.  In the ten plus years from my first stent, the technology has improved, the procedure is much less invasive and the recovery is quicker.  The whole summer won’t be lost.

The temporary crown must be replaced by a permanent one before the temporary crown fails.  We are buying more real estate, a townhouse.  A home we can lock and leave.

At this point, it is clear we won’t be going to  Alaska this year.  Our fallback strategy is to skip the Alaska part of the trip and keep the part that starts in Bellingham Washington in September.  The new plan has us leaving for Bellingham the third week of August.

Thursday, we leave for St. Louis.   We plan to spend a few weeks in our St. Louis townhouse to wait for closing.

We arrive in St. Louis on Saturday after a leisurely three day drive.  It is nice to be at home with all our stuff.

We spend a few days working out our plan to get the San Antonio townhouse closed and ready for occupancy.

Hope to see you on the road  ahead!




One thought on “The Heart of the Matter

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