July 17, 2006 Sheridan, Wyoming

What a crazy couple of days it's been!

Sometime last week (I seem to lose track of days being on the road) a friend of Andy's (and now our friend as well!) Susan Fain and her dog Gus pulled in and joined us for of couple of days. While she had planned on staying at the Marina Campground (with electric hookups) once she saw what a great campground we were in, she quickly changed her mind and decided to join us dry-camping in the Homestead Loop.

Susan drives a 1979 Lazy Daze named Smokey. Those of you on the LifeWithaLazyDazeRV Yahoo Board might know Susan as the brave woman who undertook the daunting task of rebuilding the overhead in her rig. And what a great job she did! It was wonderful meeting her, and right before she left, we took pictures of all three rigs together at Keyhole State Park.

For the last week or so, the heat has been enormous (as apparently has been the case across the country). Here in Keyhole, it's been topping 105 for the last week or so. Then, out of the blue (literally) we had a severe thunderstorm and rain. It came upon us in the late evening and the lightning was something to behold. Here in Wyoming, the skies are so vast, when nature performs, it's a spectacle for miles. While Terry can sleep through a 7.1 earthquake, I'm a bit more sensitive and was up till the wee hours, watching the lightning put on a show. Then the next morning it was like it had never happened. The heat returned, and Andy and I went into town to check on the mail. On the way we noticed a fire in the distance, but the horizon is so broad, we had no idea how close it was.

So now, in addition to the heat, we had huge amounts of smoke. For the next few days, we were really undecided about what to do. Andy had made an appointment in Sheridan to get Gertie worked on (her belts are slipping a bit) so our original plan had been to stay at keyhole till Sunday morning, then we would go to the campground at Devils Tower for two nights, then up to Sheridan to get Gertie tuned up.

But keep in mind that during this time period, Andy had made a HUGE decision. For some time now, he has been considering buying a new rig. While Gertie is a great rig, lately Andy has been feeling the strain of not quite enough space. While a 22 footer can certainly be adequate for a single full timer, Andy runs a business from his rig, and this requires a bit more space.

He had just about decided to order a new Lazy Daze in the spring. In talking about it, he was considering a used rig, but there were constraints (and these were exactly the ones we had considered when ordering Cholula). In 2002, Lazy Daze had made the change to lighter wood interior, started using the new Onan Microquiet generator and also upgraded to a new solid state converter. Then in 2003, they had made the change from dual pane windows to actual thermal pane windows. When we were looking to buy our rig, we know that if we could find a 2003 or newer that fit our other criteria, we would have bought one, but in our case, we just couldn't find what we wanted in a used rig.

Then last week, on the LifeWithaLazyDazeRV Yahoo Board there was a 2003 26.5 Mid-Bath, and with only 15,000 miles! The rig had loads of extras and to make it just perfect, it was red, Andy's first choice. Within an hour, it was a done deal, and everything changed.

We had originally planned to split up for a while, with us going up to see my nephew in Missoula, then heading home to Felton to take care of some business. Andy had planned on going to see his good friends Gary and Judy in Oregon, but the purchase of the new rig changed the plans once again. You see, Andy's new rig is located in Fremont, California which is just about sixty miles from our home. So our plans changed again. We decided that we would stay together and all of us head up to Missoula, then over to Eugene Oregon, where Andy could visit his friends (and we could finally meet them) and where we could visit AM Solar to have two more panels put on Cholula (for a total of 400w solar). After that, we'll all head down to our place, pick up Andy's new rig, and store Gertie at our house till her new owner can come and claim her.

After that, we will go down to the Factory to have our awning replaced (a warranty item), then over to Albuquerque for the Balloon Fiesta in October, where we'll meet up with everyone once again.

But as they say, the best laid plans . . .

On Friday, (07.14.06) it was hellaciously hot at Keyhole, with lots of smoke everywhere. Terry and I started the generator early and it ran all day, trying to keep the rig livable. We called Andy (on our new wrist radios, which we all use constantly), and told him to come and spend the afternoon in our rig as we were able to run the air conditioner using our generator. He answered that it was well over 100 degrees in Gertie, and that he would be over soon. He also mentioned that he wasn't feeling well, which he attributed to the heat. So that afternoon, we settled in and watched movies and ate ice cream. While the fires are a terrible thing, I admit a fondness for the sunsets they produce

The next morning, Andy called and said he had encountered a bad night, and said he still wasn't feeling well. We all decided he should come over in the early morning, thinking that if he was able to beat the heat early in the day he might feel better. As the day wore on, Andy felt worse and worse, and we finally decided that the pain in his abdomen required medical attention. While we both have internet via satellite systems, at Keyhole, we had been without phone reception for the whole time whereas Andy was able to use his phone using his phone amplifier/booster. After this experience, we have decided a phone booster is a must. If you dry-camp out in the wilds often, a phone amplifier is a VERY good thing to have. The one we bought (on Andy's recommendation) can be found here.

I was able to call several hospitals and we determined the best place to go was into Gillette. While it was forty miles away, the hospital there had a surgeon on call. Since the fires were still going strong, we decided that Andy and I would go into Gillette in the Tracker, and Terry would stay with the rigs, just in case the wind shifted and they needed to be moved.

When we got to the hospital, they took him in pretty quickly and started liquid and tests. By this time, judging from the pain, we were pretty sure it was a kidney stone. Since Andy was in a great deal of pain, they gave him something into his IV which improved his spirits considerably. Up until now, they had just kept Andy in his street clothes, but they decided they needed pictures, so it was time for Mr. A to change into one of those very attractive hospital gowns. By now his spirits were so improved, he decided we should have a picture to commemorate the occasion, so here it is! Does he look happy or what?

Sure enough, it turned out to be a big old hanging kidney stone, and it seems to be pretty well lodged. They gave him some drugs and told us we would need to consult with a urologist on Monday. While Andy was zoning off on his drugs, I went to visit the restroom and saw this poster, which I thought was pretty apropos for Wyoming. Pardon the off-center photo, I did the best I could to straighten it out, but I could only do so much. Even though the picture isn't perfect, I wanted to include it here. I just thought it was interesting, that here in the middle of Marlboro country, they'd have a poster like this.

All in all Andy was in the hospital for about five hours, not too bad considering. Eventually, we went back to Moorcroft and settled in for the evening. As we pulled neared Keystone State Park, we could see that all the wildfires were still going strong.

The next morning, I woke up at 5:00AM and looked out the window. Right away, I know it was going to be an incredible sunrise. Since I'm the early riser in the group, I decided to take off and see what kind of shots I could get. I spent a few moments shooting in the meadow, then decided I would take off down the dirt road that we had discovered days before.

And am I ever glad I did!

Once again, I really can't describe how beautiful this country is. While I am acutely aware of how horrific wildfires are and the terrible havoc they wreak, I can also attest to what beauty they create. I've included several pictures in this narrative, but if you'd like to see more, click here.

Along the road, I saw Pronghorn Antelope, Deer, LOTS of rabbits, and a ton of cattle. When we had traveled this road less than a week before, we had seen less than a dozen cattle, but Terry had met a woman ranch owner in town who had said that she had already lost 1,700 acres of her land. Now she was busy moving her beef to new feedlots, so I assume that's why there was this sudden influx of cattle. And, boy howdy, were these cows interested in me and my little Tracker! They were all over the land, but also taking full advantage of the road. At one point, I became somewhat involved in a showdown with a rather large cow, who was disinclined to move from the road. After about five minutes, she finally decided to let me pass, but it was touch and go for a while.

I was out for about ninety minutes and it was indeed a mystical morning.

This was Sunday and we knew that Andy would need his prescriptions filled and also need to visit a urologist soon. Also, the fires were still going strong. We could certainly feel and smell the smoke, so we decided that it was time to hit the road and go to Sheridan. This was where the appointment for Gertie would be on Wednesday and where, according to the internet, there were two Urology Clinics.

There was just one problem with this plan. While Andy was no longer in pain, the meds made it a pretty safe bet that he had no business being behind the wheel of Gertie. The decision was reached that Terry would drive Cholula and tow the Tracker and I would drive Gertie, with Andy as my co-pilot to apprise me of any potential problems. So about 1:00 in the afternoon, we started out. Before we began, Andy generously sprayed the squeaking belts with dressing. Gertie drove fine, but the belts made her pretty temperamental, so our speed limit was mostly between 40-45 miles per hour.

But the country is beautiful and I am constantly amazed at the landscape. The names of the creeks (Crazy Woman Creek, Dead Horse Creek, Little Goose Creek) stir my imagination and my curiosity is constantly aroused.

The good news is that we finally arrived in Sheridan, where we pulled into a KOA (NOT our favorite, but in this case, a welcome spot). We are now safely ensconced, running our air conditioners with electricity and waiting for the next stage of our journey.

For now, we are all well. Terry and I are fine, Andy will see the Doctor tomorrow, and Gertie will see her Doctor on Wednesday. After that, we will just have to see where the adventure goes from there.

Life is good.

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