Category Archives: North Dakota

Fun with Mom; North Dakota — August 31 – September 30, 2018

Before we discuss our visit to Bismarck, let’s review what we already know. We had driven to Las Vegas from Parks, where we had left our RV. I flew from Vegas to San Francisco where I visited my son Wil over the weekend. Barb flew to Bismarck on Aug. 31, arriving just in time to be with my 99 year old mother while my sister Zona went to Europe. I flew to Bismarck on September 4. (Barb later flew back to Vegas to help her father celebrate his 83rd birthday.)

So now that we are all caught up, let’s talk about our visit to North Dakota. Friends and neighbors of Zona, Jerry and Jeanne, were attentive and welcoming. We joined them a couple of times at a restaurant for dinner. They brought over fresh home-baked caramel rolls. They brought over sausages and frozen pheasant. They are both retired, but Jerry still putters at farming. Zona has a huge yard, and Jerry on September 10-12 brought over his swather and then hay baler and then pickup to gather the bales from Zona’s front yard.

While I was still in San Francisco, Mom and Barb drove out to Lake Isabel to see Jon and Cathy and their kids Kate & Cole. The apples were ready, and so they all picked apples to be made into cider.

In other miscellaneous news, I saw my dermatologist and escaped without any surgeries or freezings. Barb had her toe X-rayed and finally got assurances that it was healing and that she could abandon the boot.

On September 13, Barb and Mom and I drove south to a spot along the Missouri River that the locals call ‘Desert’ presumably because there is a large sandy area along the inside of a sweeping turn of the river.  Its more formal name is “Kimball Bottoms OHV Area”.

On September 15 we got up early to drive Mom to a one-day religious meeting in Fargo. After dropping her off safely, we met Barb’s cousin Geri and her husband Denny for an early lunch. After lunch Denny excused himself to attend a football game of the North Dakota State Bison, who are having another wildly successful year. Geri and Barb and I then retired to an adjoining coffee shop where we spent a number of enjoyable hours until it was time to fetch Mom.

(On September 16 Barb flew to Vegas for her father’s birthday, returning on September 20. While Barb was gone, it fell to me to curl Mom’s hair every day.)

On September 21, childhood friends Lynne & Monica came to visit Barb. Our Norwegian friends will recognize those names; those two accompanied us to Spain in 2011 to help Lars Helge & Tove harvest their almonds, to be sure, but mostly to celebrate the birthdays of Barbara and Tove. Our blog of that unforgettable event, made when we had a different blog system, can be found here. (Use the ‘<‘ key to return to a former page in this old blog; some of the links are broken.)

Lynn’s husband Steve came with Lynne and shared a meal with us, but then had to return to Valley City. The girls spent the night. It is always interesting to stay quietly in a corner and watch and listen to these long-time friends reminisce. We also taught the girls how to play 3-to-13 with Barb, Mom and me. Of course, Mom shellacked us.

Barb’s brother Tim stopped in for a nice visit on his way from Carrington to watch his son Preston compete at the Jamestown Speedway. We later learned he took first place on the last night of the season.

Zona returned on Tuesday evening, September 25, pleased with her trip but bushed from the long flight back.

On September 27 Barb and I drove back down to the ‘Desert’ area, knowing that the Cottonwood trees were turning. Barb patiently waited in the car and read while I took an extended walk through the ATV park and along the river, toting my camera and tripod.

We flew back to Vegas on the 28th, and drove back down to Parks, AZ on September 30th. But our stay at Parks is a topic for a later post. Stay tuned, or take advantage of the new subscription option.

Catching Up with Loved Ones — August 26 – September 16, 2018

When it was time to leave Barb’s brothers in Washington, we made our way back to Bill’s home near Parks, AZ.  We left the RV Bus there and took our toad to Las Vegas. I flew to San Francisco to see my son Wil, and Barb flew to Bismarck to be with Mom while sister Zona spent about three weeks in Europe.  I spent the weekend with Wil, and then flew to Bismarck to join Barb and Mom.  Later, Barb flew back to Las Vegas to help her father Cliff celebrate his 93rd birthday.  

San Francisco

My son Wil has gotten into wall climbing, and has been very happy with what the new hobby has done for his level of fitness.  Unfortunately, he slipped one day and fell onto folks below who should not have been there.  Their presence prevented him from executing a momentum-absorbing roll and hence he sustained the “crunch” of two broken bones in his ankle.  When I arrived he had just gotten out of a rigid cast and was in a new boot and learning to use a peg leg.  

His new condition changed our plans, but we still got out to local coffee shops and one of Wil’s favorite local restaurants in the famous Castro district: Delfina.  We have been there on previous visits as well; it continues to be fantastic.  Not so good was a more remote restaurant that Wil had been to some time ago: Front Porch.  We went back because it features southern cooking and we thought it would be a fun way to recall our eating experiences in Savannah, GA.  Alas, not so. The boiled peanuts were saturated in something resembling soy sauce.  The fried green tomatoes were overcooked.  Even more so the tiny bits of okra so overdone as to be near lumps of charcoal.  The mashed potatoes were cold and lumpy.  The collard greens were drowning in overpowering vinegar.  The fried chicken, instead of having a tender tasty interior, was stringy and dry.  Folks, this ain’t southern cooking the way we knew it.  To taste the real thing, go to Mrs. Wilkes Boarding House in Savannah, GA.

On one of our excursions we walked past a member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.  Alas I din’t have my camera with me.  I had to ask Wil later what we had just seen.

From Wikipedia:

Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (SPI), also called Order of Perpetual Indulgence (OPI) is a charity, protest, and street performance organization that uses drag and religious imagery to call attention to sexual intolerance and satirizes issues of gender and morality. At their inception in 1979, a small group of gay men in San Francisco began wearing the attire of nuns in visible situations using high camp to draw attention to social conflicts and problems in the Castro District.

Las Vegas

A number of Barb’s family gathered in Las Vegas to celebrate her father Cliff’s birthday. They included her brother Mike, her sister Audrey, her son Jeff, Cliff’s brother John and his friend Barbara, and Cliff’s brother Joe and his wife Rita.  Cliff was presented with a special gift from a niece: a printed copy of a commissioned  painting she had done for a former school mate.  Now a successful eye doctor and a world traveller, he requested a painting with multiple scenes from his North Dakota upbringing.  The copy, by Theresa Stahl, now graces a wall in Cliff’s apartment.

A few days later, when the birthday celebrants  had dispersed, Audrey and Barb joined Jeff for a ride on Lake Mead on his new boat — a boat which bore strong resemblance to the one we owned so long ago in Savannah, GA.

We’ll write about our Bismarck visit in a subsequent post.  Here are some pictures from our two visits to Loved Ones:

Back in the States — April 30 – June 9, 2018

While still in Bonaire, we bought a 40′ 2011 Allegro Bus, sight unseen (by us).  After months of searching on the web, it was the first (and last) to meet our desires.  It had less than 23000 miles, and virtually no hours on the generator.  We wanted a single-bathroom floor plan.  We wanted a propane stove, the better to support boon docking.  We wanted a propane/electric refrigerator, for the same reason.  Paradoxically, Barb also wanted a dish washer.  And a stacked washer/dryer.  Barb wanted more counter space than we had on the 32′ gasser.  We wanted a queen-sized fold-out bed/couch for guests.  I wanted Diesel power to better handle hills.  We wanted a bigger Diesel pusher than Bill’s 36-footer.  🙂  (Just kidding.)  We had a contact in Eugene, OR, who took an initial look and reported back positively.  On March 13, Bill (nee Dolce Vita) and Bruce flew to Eugene and took delivery at RV Corral and drove it all the way back to Parks, AZ.  How amazing are that kind of friends?  After winterizing, Bill took it to Rt. 66 RV Storage in Belllemont, AZ, to await our arrival.

We left Bonaire about a month earlier than we had planned, because 99 yr-old Mom was experiencing some health problems.  Spent a few days putting Tusen Takk II to bed at Curacao Marine, and then flew to Bismarck, ND on April 30.

After about a week, when it appeared that the crisis had passed, we flew from Bismarck to Phoenix, where Bruce and Jan Dodge put us up and let us use their car so we could search for a vehicle to tow behind the bus.  On May 10, we chose a 2013 Honda CR-V, because we were impressed with it, and because Bruce and Bill had each also recently purchased CR-Vs and had already successfully modified theirs for towing by adding a base plate and braking system.

On May 11, 2018, we arrived with our new Honda in Parks, AZ, at the home of Bill and Colleen.  Next day, we began a month-long project to get the Allegro Bus and Honda CR-V ready for extended travel.  Why did it take almost an entire month?  Because we undertook so many tasks.

We

  • Replaced the transmission oil and filter
  • Installed an Eez tire pressure monitor system (EEZ-RV-TPMS10) on the bus and auto
  • Installed a Blue Ox baseplate for Honda CR-V
  • Installed a Blue Ox BX7365 Alpha 6,500 lb tow bar
  • Installed Blue Ox lock
  • Installed an Air Force One Braking System in coach and car
  • Installed a Cobra 75WXST CB radio in the RV
  • Replaced the Fleetguard CV50628 Crankcase Ventilation Filter in the RV
  • Added two additional Interstate GC2-ECL-UTL house batteries to the existing four
  • Checked air filter to replace, but it was in good shape so we stored the replacement
  • Installed Progressive Industries EMS-LCHW50 surge protector in the RV
  • Installed two Canadian 310 watt solar panels on the roof of the RV, sending wires down to the controller in the basement via the inside of the vent pipe for the grey water tank
  • Installed Victron solar controller
  • Installed battery monitor in the RV
  • Replaced all four slide toppers (Tough Toppers)
  • Replaced the seal on driver’s side front slide
  • Installed Pioneer MVH-1400 NEX radio in the RV
  • Installed SiriusXM tuner in the RV
  • Installed Garmin 770 LMT-S GPS navigation system
  • Bought a 50 amp extension cord and a ‘ 50 to 15 amp’ dog bone
  • Repaired HWH hydraulic pump (for the leveling jacks) that was leaking, first replacing three o-rings and re-installing and then removing again and replacing another set of o-rings, this time with more success
  • Drained the RV coolant and replaced five different hoses
  • Replaced the alternator belt
  • Replaced the fan drive belt
  • Replaced virtually all tungsten bulbs in the coach with LEDs.

A large cast of characters was involved in the efforts.  The “service center” was provided by Bill & Colleen, who live on a large tract of land at an altitude of 7300 feet adjacent to public forest.  They have a beautiful home, and of significant relevance to the RV project, a very large “garage” that is well-equipped with all manner of tools and three bays, one of which has been expanded to accommodate the full length of their 36′ Tiffin Allegro Bus.

Bruce & Jan, long time friends of Bill & Colleen, often come for a visit, and they were there for some of the effort.  Bruce is as much of a gear- and electronics-head as Bill.  They had parked their “new” 43′ Allegro Bus, purchased just after we bought ours,  at the extra electric pedestal and sewer line that Bill installed near the garage.

Casey, a “homeless” free spirit who Bill met on a hike a few years ago, often stops by for a visit.  He owns no house, and sleeps in his car and subsists by eating mostly cold canned goods.  He is sympathetic to some aspects of Buddhism, is philosophically inclined, and seems to believe that by engaging in meditation he is not only attending to his own spiritual needs, but is also somehow helping the Universe to progress.  His role in the RV project was limited to being a bemused and benevolent observer.

Buck also became acquainted with Bill by virtue of their having met on a hike.  Periodically during the project he would take a day off and go charging up a mountain, sometimes carrying extra weight for training purposes.  He is a gentle giant of a man with a self-effacing humble attitude, despite the fact that he is every bit as mentally sharp as he is physically capable.  He is also interested in Buddhism, with an emphasis on becoming “mindful” and learning to tune out distractions.  He just retired early from a career as a lineman for a utility company.  His ex-colleagues and Bill call him “Meat”.  He recently purchased a class ‘A’ RV and accepted an invitation from Bill to park it back behind the garage and live in it for the summer.  He became an instant friend of Barb and me because of his attitude.  When my arthritis hindered my efforts, Buck would take over.  Soon, anticipating my handicap, he initiated his participation.  He was a tremendous help during the project.

Bill & Colleen and Casey (before he left) and Buck met in the house almost every morning for an hour-or-so of meditation.  Afterwards, they would be joined by Barb and me and (when present) Bruce, for a 2+ mile hike along a circular path in the woods.

Toward the end of the project, Bill and Colleen’s long-time friends Jeff & Donna joined the group.  They appeared in their new-to-them fifth wheel camper, pulled by their new-to-them truck, both of which they bought from Bruce when he traded up to the Bus.  Jeff brought along his tools for concrete work; Bill & Buck joined him in pouring a floor in the extension for Bill’s RV.

This enormous RV project could not have been completed were it not for Bill, who provided the tools, the know-how, and — frankly — much of the labor.  Bruce was there for some of the early projects,  providing important how-to check-lists for operating the RV and contributing specialized tools, since by the time we arrived in Parks, he had also accomplished many of the same tasks.  In order to continue to provide continuing service for the impressive fleet of three Tiffin Allegro Buses, Bruce and Bill purchased and invented important support tools, such as large tanks to capture fluids and a pump with appropriate attachments for fluid transfer.   I cannot overstate my gratitude to Bill, Buck and Bruce.

Barb was the de facto supply officer for ordering the to-be-installed stuff from Amazon and Tiffin. She installed the tire monitors and replaced the light bulbs.  And she made a thousand trips to Flagstaff to buy parts and/or supplies.  She found new homes in the new RV for the stuff we had in the old RV.  She advertised the old RV and the old tow vehicle, and successfully oversaw their (independent) sale in remarkably little time.  She also sold the Honda bumper that we removed while installing the baseplate.

We left Parks on June 9, driving up to the KOA campgrounds at SamsTown Casino on Boulder Highway.  Barb’s dad Cliff lives here in Vegas, as does Barb’s son Jeff.  Jeff’s son Zane will join us soon from Utah.  Barb’s granddaughter Abigail has already flown in from Rincon, near Savannah, GA.  In a few days, Norwegian friends Rasmus and Kari will be here, and we will all attend a Cirque du Soleil performance.  At the end of the week the Norwegians will return with us in the RV to Parks, where we will visit for some days before we all head out (in our two RVs) on a leisurely tour of some of the National Parks on the way toward Salt Lake City, from which Rasmus & Kari will fly back to Norway.  But that account will have to wait for the next installment of “the travel adventures of Chuck & Barb”.

With Family & Friends — Las Vegas & Bismarck, Sept. 15-28, 2017

Bill & Colleen accompanied us to Las Vegas, where we both took spots in Sam’s Town KOA. Barb’s sisters Audrey and Mary were in town, as was Barb’s son Jeff. We all gathered to do some bowling in the extensive lanes at Sam’s Town Casino. The family celebrated the birthday of Cliff, father of Barb & Mary & Audrey. Jeff had asked Cliff what he wanted for his birthday, so when we gathered for cake, Jeff presented him with a (model) Mercedes. Later in the week we  RV-ers helped Audrey pack up a truck in preparation for her move to Kansas City.  We also partook of a number of Vegas’ attractions, but no significant gambling. We had some inexpensive meals at various casinos. We saw a movie. (Dunkirk) We spent some time walking the gaudy casinos on   the strip. We visited the Springs Preserve, much of which contained displays targeted towards youngsters, but that also contained an excellent Nevada State Museum. And we attended the Cirque du Soleil tribute to Michael Jackson. Pretty good tribute, but not really in the awesome tradition of the other Cirque du Soleil programs we have seen that featured such an intriguing combination of bizarre costumes and amazing physicality.

After Bill & Colleen returned to Parks, AZ, Barb and I focused on our parents. I flew to Bismarck to see Mom (and Sis Zona), and Barb focused on helping her father get more comfortable with his new iPhone and, more importantly, get hearing tests and then hearing aids. We both had good visits.

When I returned on Sept. 28, we caught our breath and then took our RV out to The Valley of Fire. But that will be the subject of our NEXT post.

Heading West — Theodore Roosevelt National Park; June 8-11, 2017

South Unit

On the first leg of our passage west, Barb and I spent two days camping in the Cottonwood Campground of The Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  On the second day we joined a ranger-led hike to a little-known formation called Eye of the Needle.  That evening we drove up to the Wind Canyon Overlook to watch the sunset.  Alas, a cloud bank arrived from the west just before we did.  We hung around long enough to catch a photo of the full moon rising from the opposite direction, however.  (No captions needed on the photos.)

North Unit

We then drove the 80 miles up to the North Unit, for our first experience in that portion of the park.  We were impressed.  True, that portion of the park is considerably more remote; no quick trips into a store for an ice-cream cone.  No drinking fountain in the minimal trailer-hosted visitor center.  But a gorgeous wooded campground down in a flat valley, where we found a site right next to the river.  The hills surrounding the valley feature quite dramatic badland formations.  We hiked one trail that took us up onto a ridge with spectacular views on both sides.  We also observed cannonball concretions, large spherical concretions which resemble cannonballs. They were created by early cementation of sand and silt by calcite.  

We will be back, ice-cream or no ice-cream.  

(Again, with the exception of the photo of the cannonballs, no captions are necessary.)

Friends & Family; North Dakota — May 18 – June 8

We spent a fair amount of time in North Dakota, moving in with Mom and Zona in their huge home south of Bismarck.  We drove out to fetch our RV from Marvin Bodvig’s voluminous storage building at the Tappen Farm and Implement Dealership.  I helped Zona with some home repairs.  We attended a track meet sponsored by the Recreation Department for graduating 5th graders of a number of Bismarck’s schools.  Cole Dockter excelled in a number of events, including a 100-yard dash and a 4×100 relay, both pictured below.  Several times Zona took the opportunity to get away to Minneapolis; on one such occasion at about 4 in the morning we were awakened by a loud bang and the sound of running water.  A panicked (and naked) quick check revealed that a pipe connection in the basement that supplies the extensive yard watering system had burst.  Water was gushing into the basement.  A panicked call to Zona in Minneapolis was not immediately productive; she couldn’t remember how to shut the water off.  But she called her son-in-law Jon Dockter, father of budding athlete Cole, who called us with a description of the appropriate valve,  located through a chest-high opening onto a dirt-floor crawl space.  (See photo below, taken after clothing.)  It took hours to mop up the mess, and would have taken much longer had there not been a slow-draining sump.

On May 27 we drove via back roads from Bismarck to Carrington in order to visit Barb’s brother Tim and his sons Tyler, Preston and Austin. Along the way I did some quick photography, pulling off onto the shoulder and grabbing a few shots through the car window. Not very professional, but fun. Although we spent the evening at a new motel across from the Chieftan, it was the Chieftan itself where we ate our evening and breakfast meal, not the least due to the luscious caramel rolls that are available there (if one asks before they all disappear). When we left Carrington we drove down to Jamestown, where we had lunch with Barb’s high school friend Lynne and her husband Steve. That afternoon we got together with my cousin Karl and his wife Julie, who took us out northwest of Jamestown on a “wild” asparagus hunting expedition! By having asked in years past the right people for advice, and by hunting for tell-tale signs in the fall, Karl and Julie knew just where to go for the hunt. On the way back to Jamestown we stopped at a cemetery to view the grave of my father, Wilbur Stokes Shipley.  After a delicious dinner at Karl & Julie’s (of pizza and, yes, asparagus), we returned to Bismarck.

We played a lot of cards with Mom and sometimes Zona; it continues to amaze us that Mom, despite her age (98!) and her very severe problems with sight, can so often be a winner without any of the rest of us giving any quarter at all.

Medora

On one of the occasions when Zona was in Minneapolis, Barb and I and Mom took the RV to Medora to spend the weekend of June 3 at the Medora Campground. We were joined by Zona’s daughter Cathy and her husband Jon and their chillin Cole and Katie, camping in the spot next to us in their fifth wheel. Early on the morning of June 4, Barb and I rose to join the 63rd annual bird watching effort sponsored by The Theodore Roosevelt Park at the Cottonwood Campground. Barb and I saw few of the birds that the leaders reported hearing, but it was a very pleasant outing, made even better by the complementary pancake breakfast hosted by the Park at the conclusion of the event. And I won a Sibley bird book and Barb won a pair of lovely earrings in the post-breakfast raffle. And I have started studying bird calls.

That afternoon Cathy and the kids and Barb and I drove up to the petrified forest. It was a fairly long walk under a hot sun, but we strongly recommend the visit. (Just go earlier in the day.)

Back in Bismarck — October 7-20, 2016

By the time we made it back to Bismarck, Mom’s cracked/broken ribs had healed enough that she was largely free of pain.  We were delighted to see how youthful she looked — almost back to where she had been before the awful summer of her ill health began.

Our outside activities during the period of this posting were minimal — we stayed home with Mom during several periods when Zona spent some time at Lake Sakakawea and Minneapolis. We took the RV out to Tappen, ND, where it was stored away for the winter in a huge building owned by Marvin Bodvig as part of the complex that comprises the Tappen Farm Supply Company.  We had a nice visit over lunch with Marvin and Violet after tucking in the RV.

We spent quite a bit of time with Jon and Cathy Docktor and their children Katie and Cole, including meals at Zonas and a meal at the Dockters and a farewell dinner at the Bistro in Bismarck.  We attended Katie’s last basketball game of the season.  And when Zona returned from Minneapolis she brought along some brun geitost (brown goat cheese).   We had brought along tyttebær syltetøy (lingonberry jam) from the Ikea store in Las Vegas.  So when Zona made fresh norske wafler (Norwegian waffles) we all gorged ourselves with waffles eaten by hand and spread with the jam and brown cheese.  Yum yum yum!

Barb mostly doesn’t appear in the photos below; the last picture reveals the reason:  she was in the throes of a multi-week treatment to remove persistent pre-cancerous growth on her blue-eyed visage.  As I write this she is back to her beautiful self.

 

Heading East & North, Part 2 — Rapid City, the Badlands & Pierre, Oct. 3-6, 2016

Continuing east on October 3, we paused briefly to re-inact a remembered photo that featured my father, Wilbur (Bill) Shipley, in which the young man rode on the snout of a triceratops dinosaur.  Actually, a concrete triceratops, one of seven dinosaur sculptures on a hill overlooking Rapid City, South Dakota, created to capitalize on the tourists coming to the Black Hills area to see Mount Rushmore. Constructed by the Works Progress Administration, the Dinosaur Park was dedicated in 1936.  Dad was riding a grey beast, but it turns out that the seven were painted green with white undersides in 1950, so when Dad took his ride I either didn’t exist or was under the age of seven.

After our brief stop, we continued to Wall, South Dakota, where we settled into an RV campground and revisited the legendary Wall Drug.  Next day, we disconnected the toad and drove the loop though the South Dakota Badlands.  A comment by a ranger in the visitor center reminded me that we were close to the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre.  She remarked that there was a photographic display at the Oglala-Lakota College near Kyle, SD.  So we spent the rest of the day motoring south through some of the Pine Ridge Reservation, searching for the College and then the right building, and then experiencing the somber exhibition.  Did you know that after the Lakota were finally pacified — largely because the whites had virtually wiped out the Bison — the Lakota were told that the entire portion (of what would become South Dakota) to the west of the Missouri River would be theirs.  Just another treaty with the Indians broken by the Government.

After our drive through the badlands and some of the Reservation to the south, we returned to the campground in Wall.  Next morning, we proceeded further east, stopping in the capitol of South Dakota, Pierre (pronounced “pier” by South Dakotans.)  We conducted a self-guided tour of the capitol building, constructed between 1905 and 1910.  We learned that the building was patterned after the Montana State Capitol in Helena, Montana.  We then turned and headed essentially straight north toward Bismarck.  While still in South Dakota, we stopped at the private RV campground at South Whitlock Resort near Gettysburg, SD and the Oahe Lake.  We were the only campers in the 71 full-hookup facility, and so we could “parallel park” our camper and avoid having to unhook the toad.  But the campground would not stay empty for many days, since the pheasant hunting season was imminent and the area is prime pheasant territory.  Opposite the resort office and store was a supper club which we could not resist.  I had one of the best New York Strip steaks ever, and Barb had grilled walleye, presumably fresh from the nearby lake.

I write this from Bismarck, at the home of Mom and sister Zona. Mom, by the way, has regained much of her energy and all of her positive outlook. Both Barb and I feel that she looks healthy and much younger than her actual 97 years. Her secret? Staying active and involved (and playing lots of Progressive Rummy). We will put the RV to bed here in North Dakota, and then fly to the Savannah area to see friends, family and doctors. But that is a topic for another post.

Clearing Skies — July 17-31, 2016

Mom continues to improve.  Karl & Julie Bergh stopped in to see Mom on the 17th, and the Tadewalds stopped in again on the 19th on their way back to Minneapolis after vacationing in points west.

On the 20th Barb and I drove to Rochester, MN, so that I could see my rheumatoid arthritis doctor at Mayo Clinic.  After my appointment we drove back on the 21st as far as Wahpeton, ND before stopping at a motel.

Next day we met, at Ft. Ransom, Karl & Julie, who took us to see North Dakota’s only waterfall.  Lovely 2 mile walk in through prairie and forest, and then back out the same way.   By any standard, the maybe six-foot spring-fed falls themselves are less than impressive, but the day was beautiful and our wine and cheese picnic at the destination was a welcome bonus.   On the way to the trailhead, we passed a “tractor trek” traversing the Scenic Byway.

When we left the falls area, we followed Karl and Julie up to the old farm near Kathryn where Mom spent some of her early childhood living with her Norwegian grandparents.  (When Mom entered the first grade, she could only speak Norwegian and had to learn English.)  On the way to the farm we stopped at the former site of a mill.  Across the road was a log cabin that has been restored.  We also stopped at a rural Lutheran church, where we found the gravestone of Torbjor Hovde Bergh (originally spelled Berg), Mom’s mother.  There were a lot of Norwegian names in the graveyard.

Mom’s old home was last occupied by two Norwegian bachelor farmers, Ole & Clarence Hovde, uncles of Mom.  When they died, the home was abandoned, leaving farm equipment in the yard and a remarkable amount of “stuff” in the house.

In this final picture of this post, you see Cathy’s kids Cole & Katie, as well as Zona and Mom. Mom has been declared “graduated” from Home Care, which means smom-2he can venture out in public.  We had a nice Italian dinner.  We must remark on what a tremendous host Zona has been during our stay in Bismarck.  (Photo by Cathy.)

 

Storm Clouds — June 19 – July 17, 2016

Our previous post was entitled “Before the Storm”.  This post is about the storm.  Not easy to write about, but our blog is designed to keep friends and family informed about the events of our life, and the events described herein have definitely impacted our life.

Those readers who normally check in to mostly read about “living the dream” in the Caribbean, such readers may want to skip this post.

To set the scene, remember that we are in Bismarck, staying at the home of sister Zona and 97 year old mother Evelyn.

6/19

Mom wakes up with a sore back.  We all think she had “slept wrong”.  We had planned on going to Lake Isabel (Zona’s cabin, west of Bismarck and just a little south of the tiny town of Dawson), and ask Mom if she feels up to the trip.  She says she wouldn’t hurt any more in the car and at the lake than at home, and so we should go.

Cathy (Zona’s daughter) and her husband Jon and their kids Cole and Katie are already at the lake when we arrive.  Mom settles into a recliner at the cabin, and the rest of us lounge around and later go out on the boat.

6/20

Mom’s back is worse.  We take her to the office of her primary physician.  She is unable to see Dr. Stein, but an X-ray is ordered.  Mom sees Stein’s Physician Assistant, who decides the problem is muscular and prescribes a muscle relaxant and schedules an appointment with a physical therapist.  The p.t. meets with Mom, tells us the X-ray revealed a compression fracture at T-9 and gives us xerox copies of mild exercises designed to help Mom to strengthen and straighten her back.  A CT scan and bone scan are ordered for Friday (6/24).  Mom has a very uncomfortable night.

6/21

Mom is in agony.  We still cannot get her in to see Dr. Stein, and so decide to take her to the Emergency Room at  Sanford Medical Center.  There, the two scans are done immediately, instead of waiting until Friday.  She is admitted to the hospital.

6/22

We meet Dr. Lwu, who tells us that there appears to be a tumor at the site of the fracture.  She recommends a procedure called Kyphoplasty, which involves inserting needles through the back from the side of the backbone and inflating the collapsed cavity to its former position and then cementing it in place.  This should reduce the pain in and of itself, but will also offer a chance of collecting enough material from the presumed tumor to be able to effect a diagnosis. The Kyphoplasty is scheduled for Thursday (6/23).  Mom’s kidney function appears compromised, and so a larger CT scan with contrast (to look for other possible tumors) is rejected.

6/23

Dr. Keys is assigned to Mom to deal with her weakened kidneys.  Tests are ordered.  The Kyphoplasty is performed and Dr. Lwu reports that all went well.  She predicts a lessening of pain but reports that preliminary indication from the sample is plasmacytoma.

6/25

Mom is visited by my Bergh cousins and their spouses and by Zona’s daughter Cathy and her husband Jon and their children Katie and Cole.

6/27

Plasmacytoma is confirmed.  Dr. DuFan from Bismarck Cancer Center recommends radiation treatments to lesson pain and shrink the tumor.

6/28
first_discharge

Mom visits the Bismarck Cancer Center to be measured and marked for the radiation treatments, and is then discharged from the hospital.

 

 

 

6/26-7/8

mom_chuck_hosp_walkOn 6/30 Zona’s son Erik and his wife Cindy and their children arrive.  Mom has her first radiation treatment.  On 7/1 Mom has trouble breathing, so we take her back to ER.  Her kidney function is now normal, so she gets a CT scan with contrast, where it is discovered that she has a blood clot in her lung.  She is readmitted to the hospital, since heparin and later coumadin must be administered until her blood is sufficiently thin to prevent additional clots.  These drugs mean that she cannot undergo a bone marrow biopsy, an option necessary to determine whether the cancer is also in her bone marrow (making it multiple myeloma).  She had pretty much already decided not to undergo chemo- or immuno-therapies anyway, so the determination is largely irrelevant.

Although most of our attention was focused on Mom and her health, there were other experiences during this period.  On 7/3, Mike & Roberta stop in for a few days, on their way out west in their new-to-them camper.  7/4 Barb’s son Jeff arrives and spends the weekend.  7/5 Mom has her first radiation treatment, with very little change in her pain.  July 8, the Tadewalds and the Pruddens arrive from Minneapolis to see us all, but especially Grandma Shipley.

7/9 – 7/19

July 9, Mom is released again from the hospital, her blood having finally gotten thin enough to minimize the chances of another clot.  She must continue with coumadin and be taken in to the lab for blood test, but she is home!  She has about a week in which she suffers occasional bouts of extreme pain, usually after having been on her feet for a bit.  The only thing that seems to help is to get into just the right position in a bed with a raised head or in a recliner with a lowered back.  And then one day, after about 9 or 10 radiation treatments, the pain is largely gone.  From that point on, she slowly begins to regain her balance and her strength, thanks to the assistance of three different home care specialists that each visit several times a week.  From that point on, we celebrate Mom’s freedom from pain by playing Progressive Rummy multiple nights a week.

Mom is not out of the woods yet, since there may be cancer lurking elsewhere and since she is still much weaker than before all of this started.  But she had three weeks of radiation, and on the last day of treatment we learned that it generally takes two weeks of recuperation for every week of treatment before the fatigue is totally gone.  Meanwhile, her spirits are high and she is exercising with dedication and she is largely pain free.  We are so glad.