Saturday, May 24, 2014

Still at Park Sierra

5/24/14 This will be a short report because we are still at Park Sierra, on our RV lot. Elaine is doing fine and has been seeing an orthopedic doctor and a physical therapist. This past week she was released by both of them. She knows all the exercises she needs to do regularly to get her range of motion back, and she has been good about doing them. The doctors want her to keep wearing the splint until 8 weeks post-op, so that is about 3 more weeks. She takes the splint off a lot and has been able to help with things around the place, such as cutting up veggies, making salads, doing dishes, etc. We have been having good social interactions with the neighbors and friends here too.

      Because she is adamant that she can heal just as well on a cruise ship, she has booked us for 2 Alaska cruises in June. June 11 we will drive up to Fremont, where Tarra, Elaine's daughter lives. June 12 2 of her step-daughters are graduating, Analy from grade school and Ari from high school. So we will attend those, and have a quick visit with that family, and also my son, Thomas, who is coming over from San Francisco. June 13 we fly from San Francisco to Vancouver, BC to board the Radiance of the Seas. The first 7 day cruise takes us up to Seward, AK and then we will stay onboard for the return.

     Elaine's first biological grandchild (a girl) will be born in San Diego either the end of June or the first part of July. Once that has happened, we will have a quick visit down there to meet her, and congratulate her parents. Then we will start our RV travels, heading east. More on that later.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

An M&E Update And A Cruise Report

5/4/14 My apologies, Blog Readers. I should have updated you before now. Things have been a bit unsettled for us and also, I have been busier than usual because I have to take on more of our everyday tasks, with Elaine injured. The last time I posted, Elaine had not been in surgery yet. She ended up having a radial head implant because there were too many small bone fragments to pin together. The doctors did a block on the nerves to her arm, so she didn't feel any pain until about midnight on Sunday when the block wore off. That was a pretty bad night for her, and she was glad she had oxycodone pills for pain. Here is a picture of her recovering on Darran's couch:
The next few days she did much better, so we drove our car back to Yuma, where we had left our RV on Ron & Carol Leonard's lot. They have a small house on their lot where we have had many fun times, but they had left to return to their home in Sacramento. Happily, Jim & Diane FisherBaker were still at their place, nearby. They provided a delicious dinner for us the night we arrived, which was a life saver. We had to reopen our RV, get hooked up to water and electric again, get the refrigerator started again, and get our car emptied out. Plus we had no food because we didn't have time to go to the store. It was great to have a good meal and conversation with Jim and Diane. Before we left our RV to go to the cruise, our starting battery was dead again. When we returned from the cruise it was still dead, and we had to jump start it in order to get our steps out. That battery was less than 2 months old, so one of our chores in the next few days was to get Sears to exchange it. We also discovered that we needed a new fuse so that our battery could get regularly recharged by our solar panels. We also had to get our satellite TV system up and running. We had removed our radio and tried to get a new one before the cruise but they were back ordered. This time we were able to get one and our friend Eileen's step-son installed it for us. There were also 2 Happy Hours with friends, another dinner with Jim and Diane, and a Boomer movie and dinner out, all during the 6 days we stayed in Yuma. It was a BUSY time; plus Elaine was trying not to over-use her arm, and let it heal. Monday we drove the RV and car back to San Diego and parked in front of Darran & Marielle's house. Tuesday morning Elaine had an appointment to have her staples removed, but they wouldn't do it because the wound hadn't closed enough yet. Then she had a physical therapy appointment and she learned some exercises they want her to do. She has to remove her splint 5 times a day to do them. We decided that we wanted to return to our lot at Park Sierra, so Wednesday we drove back to Coarsegold. Our wonderful neighbors across the street, Dave & Brenda Neil had dinner waiting for us when we arrived. It was good to be back on our own lot, and back in the company of so many good friends and supportive park members. Friday night we attended the park social hour and had a good time catching up with a lot of our friends here. The night before there was a gathering at Dave and Brenda's so we could schmooze with other neighbors, Jeanne and Carol. It was about 90 here for the first 2 days we were back, but now it is starting to cool down. We have contacted Kaiser and Elaine has an appointment on Tuesday with an orthopedist in order to have her staples removed. She will also be having more physical therapy appointments. Since we don't know how long we will have to be here, or how fast Elaine will heal, we aren't making any plans yet for the rest of our summer travels. The cruise we were on when Elaine fell and fractured her elbow was the Panama Canal cruise from San Diego, through the Canal, and ending in Ft. Lauderdale. April 1 was the day we left and it was a gorgeous day in San Diego.
The ship was The Legend of the Seas, and it is one of the smaller ships in the Royal Caribbean fleet. We didn't know whether any friends would be on the ship, so we were very pleasantly surprised when Janice & Alvin Vidrine, and Sharon Wylie & George Lamson were in the Concierge lounge. They introduced us to Gene and Rose Craven, and here we all are at Happy Hour:
One of the events the Crown & Anchor Society has for frequent cruisers is a nice lunch with the officers. On this ship people were assigned to tables and we were at the table with the Captain and the Hotel Director. The food was delicious, and the officers were interesting and pleasant.
Later, after Elaine's injury, they sent us a very nice note and an excellent bottle of wine. There are several formal nights and we don't usually wear a formal, but we do dress up a little:
There are always a couple of good specialty restaurants on each ship, and our favorite is the Japanese one called Izumi. We went one day for lunch with Sharon & George, and Janice & Alvin, and had some delicious sushi rolls, such as this:
Roy and Kathy Gilbert have been RV friends of ours for many years and we have camped with them in many states and several foreign countries. They were on the ship because they also have an RV in Europe and they were heading back there to spend the summer there. Here we are together:
There were quite a few ports on this cruise that we had been to before: Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala, Puntarenas, Costa Rica. We mostly just walked around the towns because we had already spent so much time in these areas that we had seen everything included in the very pricey shore excursions. The weather was quite hot, and that became a problem for some people. The next event on the ship was cruising through the Panama Canal. In 2004 we drove our RV down to Panama and parked near the yacht club, very close to the Bridge of the Americas, and right at the entrance to the Canal. We went to the Miraflores Locks for brunch, and enjoyed the very informative exhibits there. We drank beer on the patio with the yachties and watched the ships sailing through. We also took a bus up to the Gatun Lakes, midway in the Canal, boarded a mid-size boat and went through two sets of locks. So we had been looking forward to this part of the cruise so that we could go all the way through the Canal. Another nice couple we met on the ship was Michael and Mario, from Florida. We spent a lot of the day the ship was in the Canal with these guys, looking out from the Viking Crown Lounge.
The concierge gave us this schedule for the day:
You can see that the pilot came on board at 5:30AM, and our ship entered the canal area early. So we missed seeing the yacht club and passing under the Bridge of the Americas because we weren't up early enough, darn it. Here is the bridge after we passed it:
The locks in the picture below are the ones currently in use, but new bigger ones are being built nearby in order to accommodate today's larger ships. They were trying to have them ready for the 100 year anniversary of the Canal on August 15, but they are behind and it won't be ready.
Here are 2 ships which have just left the locks:
In this picture you can see the lock doors opening:
To propel the ship through the locks they use some engines which they call "mules" and they attach cables to them. Generally for a ship as big as ours, they use 8, 4 on each side.
They also use tug boats to keep the ships lined up to enter the locks straight.
After our ship had been through the canal, when we got off at the next port, we noticed a lot of big black marks on the side of the ship where the tugs had pushed it, and the crew was rapidly painting over them. One of the nice things during the day of cruising through the Canal was that they showed the view from the front of the ship on the very large movie screen out on the pool deck, so people could hang around out there and still see what was going on.
When we weren't going through locks, we were cruising through the "cut", which was a narrow canal cut through the low hills, or cruising through the Gatun Lakes. The Gatun Lakes are where all the water comes from for the locks, and is also the place where the ships wait to finish their passage through the canal. This is because ships move one direction in the morning and the other direction in the afternoon. Here is a picture of some of the scenery when we were between locks:
It costs a lot to go through the canal. For a ship the size of the one we were on, the cost was about $300,000. The container ships pay according to how many containers are aboard. This is why Panama Canal cruises are somewhat more expensive than other cruises - the cost is passed along to the passengers. After going through the canal, the next port was the city on the other end of it, Colon. There really isn't anything to see there, but they do shore excursions to places such as Panama City because it is only about 45 miles away. Some people also returned to the locks for more information and different views, or went to the surrounding rainforest to see some of the flora and fauna. We walked to the shops in the port area. There were some indigenous people there selling some of their creations, such as these:
The port we were really eager to see, because we had never been here, was Cartagena, Columbia. This is the view of the city as our ship approached:
The port area had some nice restaurants and stores, plus an area where they had native plants, animals, and birds on display. The first birds we saw were some flamingos:
There were several cages full of very colorful birds:
In an area where we could walk around among the animals, there were some deer:
One of the birds wandering around loose, near the restaurants, was this peacock:
This scarlet macaw was also outside its cage:
This colorful bird is an Andean Cock of the Rock, and is the national bird of Peru, but is also found in other South American countries:
We took a taxi to the Old City, where we could see the old city walls:
A distinctive feature in the walls is this old clock tower:
This was one of the oldest churches in Cartagena:
There were many old Colonial buildings which had been beautifully restored. The corner place in the following picture is now the Hard Rock Cafe.
Near the central plaza, this woman vendor was selling fruit and wearing a traditional costume:
We walked through the old town and wanted to go up on the city walls to look at the view of the ocean. Here is Elaine and some of the old cannons:
One theme that gave the restored buildings a lot of charm and character were the balconies:
At the San Francisco Plaza the nude statue by Butero was a big hit with the tourists:
One of the interesting free museums was the Gold Museum. Many of the indigenous people through the ages had developed different styles of jewelry making using gold. Here is one of the examples on display:
Although we enjoyed walking around the city, it was very hot and humid. So we returned to the ship in the early afternoon. The next two days were sea days, in the Gulf of Mexico, on our way to Ft. Lauderdale. There was some "motion in the ocean" at times. It was at 8:15AM on the way to the gym to work out, when Elaine fell in the solarium and fractured her elbow. We spent some time getting x-rays and a partial cast put on her arm. The safety officer and guest relations manager visited us while we were still in the medical facility. The Captain and Hotel Director sent Elaine a very nice bottle of wine and a conciliatory note. Of course, the next few days Elaine did a lot of resting and I was trying to make travel arrangements for us, since we had decided to fly back to San Diego. The day the ship landed in Ft. Lauderdale, we took a taxi with Michael and Mario to the airport, and despite nearly every flight leaving late, we arrived in San Diego by 9PM. Darran & Marielle picked us up - too bad our luggage didn't make it. Got it later. It was a good weekend to be back because Saturday there was going to be a big baby shower for Marielle & Darran and my granddaughter, Paige, and her fiance, Allison, flew in from Seattle to attend.
Marielle and her sister, Maegan, had painted the wall in the baby's room:
Paige had made a special quilt for the baby (which is a girl). It has the world map on one side and the USA map on the other side. I want one!!!!
The next day, at the shower, Marielle opened lots of gifts:
Marielle's sister, Maegan, is also pregnant and is due about 5 weeks before Marielle. The due dates are May 17 and June 30. The shower was at Maegan's house and she did a lovely job of being the hostess. Here they are together:
The next day, Easter Sunday, while Elaine was having surgery, Paige and Allison helped Darran put in his garden:
Before we left San Diego to return to Park Sierra, we visited Darran and his partner, Brian Lowe, at their new shop and office. Clemlowe is a compilation of their last names. They also got a brand new truck to use for the business and it has a big back seat so Darran can have a place for the baby seat.
Darran & Brian have been great friends for years, and happily, their wives get along fine as well. They do a lot of social things together, and also with Maegan and Ben. Here is a picture of Brian & Jen, and Darran & Marielle:
The Moms couldn't leave until we had a picture with Darran & Marielle too:
We have made no future travel plans because we don't know how long it will take for Elaine to heal.