In a way I’m glad it’s over . . .

While crossing the northern tier of the country the week before last in “The Beast,” as a buddy has named our RV, I had too much time on my hands to think. Mist and Smoke were asleep on the floor (on a soft rug, one of two I’d put in just before the trip). And I was listening to iPod music while driving east on a two-lane highway.

It had been almost ten months since Di (Charlie) passed away, and I was thinking about her and our previous journeys. Looking to the seat where she usually rode, I couldn’t help thinking how different our experiences of countryside were.

I have never tired of gazing at people and animals, cars, trucks, license plates, roads, towns and cities, lone houses and other structures decayed by time, farms, fields, trees and forests, rolling hills, buttes and mesas and the plains which separate and, yet, tie them all together.

Di, on the other hand, couldn’t have cared less about most of the scenery. She buried her nose in a book, or a dozen of them, and, in the last few years, her iPad and played games (primarily Candy Crush and Mahjong). Occasionally, when I spotted something out of the ordinary, I’d bring it to her attention and she’d look up, comment and go right back to her previous activity.

Even so, this trip was far, far lonelier than any I’d taken before; even lonelier than those I’d ridden, alone on a motorcycle, before our marriage.

As an aside, my iPod contains some 19,000+ songs and tunes encompassing most music genera. I cannot abide rap and hip-hop; although some of them appear due to Di’s Grammy award disks and movie soundtracks. Most of my music consists of classical, jazz, pop, oldies and country.

At any rate, while I was thinking of Di, Willie Nelson came on singing a song by Jan Crutchfield: It Turns Me Inside Out.

I know the song dealt not with life and death but with the end of a relationship, a love affair. So, maybe it was life and death.

It hit me.

In a way I’m glad it’s over,” begins the song, and I thought of all the reasons why I was glad: Di was no longer in any physical pain, her back no longer hurt; her arthritis and osteoporosis were no longer a concern. She was no longer confined to her chair(s) and dependent on me for fixing meals, bathing her, and helping her to the bathroom, even to use the toilet.

Parkinson’s had completely taken away the independence she had cherished her entire life. She couldn’t drive, couldn’t golf, couldn’t teach.

She’d been forced to retire several years previous after falling three times in as many weeks in her classroom.

Prior to that we both thought that when she retired she’d be able to go golfing several times a week. (Our home on Lake of the Woods sits on the 12th hole dogleg of the local course; almost a 500 yard back lawn.) I’d accompany her, if nothing else, to drive the golf cart. The illness robbed her of that.

I like to take long walks. And, occasionally, she’d meet me on my return route and we’d hold hands and talk about everything and nothing, the way old friends and lovers do. It hurt, and hurts so much, when I see other couples walking hand-in-hand, to think even that was denied us.

. . . and to continue a week later

I don’t have the words to describe my feelings over the last decade of watching her physical condition deteriorate to the point of being unable to take of herself. From a vibrant air of being able to handle everything, usually with a smile, to an inability to take care of almost anything and the realization that such was the case.

But her mind was okay; she was still here in every mental sense. But that was another kind of pain. We both knew what was happening, and was going to happen to her. (Her father died from Parkinson’s.)

Her world narrowed, not just physically, but mentally as well. She’d play on her iPad ignoring her books and TV shows; visits by her friends grew infrequent and, eventually, they stopped coming by at all.

She began to lose her ability to concentrate. She’d read a paragraph or page over and over; yes, sometimes without turning the page for an hour or more . . . and, sometimes with the book upside down.

A couple (?) of years ago she began to have “anxiety attacks.” I’d help her into the car, and we’d go for an hour’s ride which seemed to calm her. She liked the roundabout in Long Beach; it reminded her of England. She also liked to stop at Starbucks for a white hot chocolate or at Dairy Queen for a chocolate shake.

I, also, took her on “walks” at the beach or around the neighborhood, pushing her wheel/transport chair. As with the drives, a hot chocolate or shake was often included. And, of course, I always had a supply of humbugs, or other British sweets, with me.

I don’t know when I first noticed it. But Di began to make comments on our walks about the location of our house, or our “other” house and about neighbors having furniture like ours, even though we’d never been inside said neighbor’s house. A, yeah, . . .

It got to the point where a month or so before she died, she got her rollator (rolling walker) and telephone out in front of the house. (Yes, I was hovering over her every step of the way.) She refused to go back in the house as it wasn’t “her/our” house.

She called 911 and told the dispatcher that her husband was trying to get her into a house that was not hers/ours. She then handed me the phone and said the operator wanted to speak with me.

The dispatcher asked if I really wanted a police officer to stop by. I told her that it would probably be a good idea. A few minutes later a young HB patrolman pulled up to the curb and asked how he could help.

Di and I shared our points of view, and he was able to persuade her to enter the house. By pointing out the pictures showing us and other family members (and, of course, her cats), he was able to “convince” her that it was, indeed, her house and that we lived there.

A part of me died that day. I began to seriously look into options for her care, both part- and full-time care. . . . I knew I could no longer handle it by myself.

A month later she passed away. So, both expected and unexpectedly sudden. “Alone” in a hospital bed at one in the morning as I pulled into the parking lot after a doctor’s call that they were losing her; prevented from being with her by COVID restrictions . . .

So, yes, in a way I’m glad it’s over, but . . . in so many ways it turns me inside out.

And, on that two-lane highway headed east? Well, for the next few miles I just let the tears come.

RV Trip with Di, Joe, Mist, Smoke — Summer 2018 — 5

RVing Trip — Part 5

Check-out time is the usual 11:00 am. So about 9:00 am after coffee and tea, Di and I scoot and walk back to the casino so she can get a last dose of slot machine video gaming.

10:45 am and we’re back on the road and headed north along US 101. It’s a beautiful day and traffic is comparatively light.


Usually we turn inland at Reedsport and stop at the Dean Creek Elk Viewing Area on Oregon 38 paralleling the Umpqua River. There is a year-round resident herd of 60-100 elk and a large parking area with restrooms. Pleasant to spend time watching and photographing the animals.

OR 38 leads to I-5 and from there to the Columbia River Gorge and I-84.

Today, however, we’re continuing along US 101 and enjoying the coastal road and its scenery. This takes us past the Sea Lion Caves, which we’ve seen previously, and is well worth an hour’s stop. (Just be careful crossing the highway from the parking area and take a jacket with you.)

To McMinnville

I fuel up the RV in Florence (19.00 mpg) and our RVing turns inland just after Lincoln City on OR 18 (Salmon River Highway) on our way McMinnville, OR and the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum.  (Evergreen Aviation Museum Website.)

Next to the museum is the Olde Stone Village RV Park. It is a quite nice venue and just about everything looks new. There is a paved path from the RV park to the museum and we take her scooter. We purchase tickets and enjoy some time there, deciding to come back the next day and spend another night at Olde Stone.

Upon our return to our RV there is a light rain and I unfurl the awning so Di can read and smoke at the table along side. Dinner is a pair of Subway sandwiches from a few miles up the road.

Alongside us is a trio in two vehicles plus a towed dune-buggy. They are an older couple (like us) and their adult daughter w/small dog. While mom and dad sleep in their camper, the daughter has a rooftop tent on her car for herself and the pooch.

To be continued . . .

RV Trip with Di, Joe, Mist, Smoke — Summer 2018 — 4

RVing Trip — Part 4

The next day is going to be a short trip into Oregon — North Bend, so we have no need to leave early. Feed the cats, tea and coffee, disconnect the electrical cable and we’re off.

We stop for fuel (17.35 mpg) in Eureka and head up US 101, mostly along the coast.

Trees of Mystery

Our one stop is at the Trees of Mystery tourist stop. In my opinion this is the best of the “tourist traps” along the coast. (#2 — Confusion Hill) It’s worth taking the walking tour and seeing the various trees and the skyway ride is worth the stop in and of itself (jitney ride to the skyway for those unable to walk to it). The statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox are a great photo-op. And Paul Bunyan talks. If you wish to spend more money, there is a large gift/souvenir shop and museum.

We’ve been here before so Di doesn’t spend much but I fix her a cup of tea and she smokes a couple of cigarettes and we’re off.

RVing Travel

Being as we only have a couple of hundred miles to travel today, I take it slow and enjoy the scenery. There are many beaches, parks and viewing areas to park and take photos or just relax a bit. A great deal of the road is tight and curvy, so take it easy.

Some days there is a great deal of traffic: bicycles, motorcycles, cars, RVs and commercial/logging trucks. This is the main highway for the coast, so the traffic is year-round. There are turnouts (which most ignore) and passing lanes, but it’s best to not be in a hurry. When you pass slower traffic, you can be sure you’ll just catch up to more slower traffic in a very few minutes.

The Mill

Our destination was the Mill Casino and Hotel/RV Park in North Bend, Oregon. Check-in was easy and our spot was close to the office. Full hook-ups, Wi-fi and TV. And Di, of course, wanted to spend most of our time in the casino playing (throwing money away) at the video slot machines. So I got out her scooter, called the shuttle and away we went.

The last time we came north, three years previous, she was still able to walk with her cane and I only had to check on her once in a while. Now, however, I have to stay with her to help her out of her scooter and into the game’s chair and the reverse when she wants to switch games.

Watching her play the games is boring in the extreme and I can’t help but add up all the money she puts in — grrrrr. The facility is not smoke-free and she smokes almost constantly. Occasionally, I’ll be able to take a break and get a breath of fresh air.

We have dinner at one of the restaurants in the casino/hotel facility and then it’s back to the machines. Somewhere around ten or eleven pm we return to the RV and the cats and then to sleep.

To be continued . . .

RV Trip with Di, Joe, Mist, Smoke — Summer 2018 — 3

RV Trip — Part 3

RVing we go — Had a leisurely breakfast, re-loaded the RV and Di and I and the cats headed for Points North. Back over the Pacheco Pass to US 101 and then through Oakland and over the Richmond Bridge rather than over the Golden Gate. Traffic to get on to the Richmond Bridge was awful but then it was back to 101 and then a bit of a drive through wine country.

The day was beautiful and the scenery as well. We stopped for fuel in Cloverdale (16.86 mpg) and took a break. Then it was back on the road.

The new by-pass was open at Willits, so we didn’t need to travel through the city and its, usually horrendous traffic backup.

If you’ve never been to Willits, the one thing I strongly recommend to do there is to take a ride on the Skunk Train. The long trip is to Ft. Bragg on the coast or you can stop half-way and return. Rec: take the long way — stay overnight in Willits or Ft. Bragg and enjoy the day.

Once past Willits it was a leisurely journey to Fortuna where we had a reservation at the Riverwalk RV Park. It’s just a few hundred feet off the freeway but we didn’t notice any traffic noise coming our way. We were the last of the day’s reservations to show and quickly found our space. Full hook-up and a nice table. I fixed some soup and noodles and, of course, a cup of tea for Di.

Rving advantage

It is quite nice to be able to fix her a fresh cup of tea whenever we stop. There is no need to enter a restaurant nor do we have to fix a thermos to last the day.

We have regular electrical outlets for her electric kettle to boil water and milk in the fridge. And, of course, biscuits and crisps in the pantry. Any place to pull over on the side of the road, rest area, gas station, parking lot or curb becomes a full-service break.

To be continued . . .

RV Trip with Di, Joe, Mist, Smoke — Summer 2018 — 2

RV Trip — Part 2

I wanted to leave around 9:30 am — after rush hour — figured we’d actually leave about 11:00 am; we succeeded in setting out on our RV trip about 12:30 pm. Traffic wasn’t bad, for a Friday but it was hot. The RV’s outside thermometer gave readings of 120°F+ on the I-405 North. We threaded our way through the traffic headed to the Grapevine and the Central Valley of California. Our AC worked fine.

Di appreciated being able to smoke in the RV. When we pulled over into a rest area/stop, she could use the RV’s toilet without having to get out into the heat and I didn’t have to get out her scooter or push her in the rollator/walker. She can no longer walk any distance (more than a couple of dozen feet, and sometimes not that far) even using the rollator/walker.


The RV’s ride was quite nice and stable and fairly “easy” to maneuver in traffic. The caveat being when one enters or exits a “driveway” — you know the steep/abrupt changes in levels from parking lot entry to street level. Go straight, the front tires (together) and then the back tires (together) rather than turning while entering/leaving (left front, right front, left rear, right rear) and the RV rides OK, but, if you are turning, the RV rocks and rocks.

The trip north was without incident but as the fuel gauge reached the 1/4 mark a warning light and message came on telling me to stop for fuel soonest. Yeah, there are still 4 or 5 or 6 gallons of diesel in the tank but warnings come on. Pulled into a Shell station off I-5 and fueled up (14.02 mpg).

The RV handled the Pacheco Pass well and on the other side the smell of garlic permeated the air.

A few minutes later we pulled into our friends’ driveway.

Moved the cats and our overnight gear inside. We shared some drinks, conversation and dinner with our friends; a pleasant evening before re-embarking on our journey the next morning.

To be continued . . .