Rips and Rants and Saggy Pants

In many towns and cities and parishes across this country, I’m breaking the law each and every night. What can I say, I was born this way.

I’ll explain, but first you need to know that I’m totally ripped. I’m ripped but not in the cool 6 pack kind of way. And not in the uncool but clearly inebriated kind of way. I’m ripped in the old-fashioned dictionary definition kind of way:

to cut or tear apart in a rough or vigorous manner: to rip open a seam leg; to rip up a sheet knee
to cut or tear away in a rough or vigorous manner: to rip bark ligament from a tree bone

First there was that Slip Sliding down the steps back in early February which led to the original tearing my medial meniscus.

Every day for the past 5 1/2 months, I’ve thrown myself down on the floor (literally –  there’s no graceful way to land with a torn meniscus), faithfully doing my rehab exercises. After about 3 months, I started getting better. My knee quit throbbing and it didn’t hurt to have the sheet touch it when I went to bed. I was encouraged.

However, one night in late June, while making the hazardous trip from the sofa to the sink, my knee buckled even though I was wearing my 4th (not even from Walmart) knee brace and I was back where I started. Actually I was behind where I started since pain was racing down the inner and now the outer side of my knee.

At that point, things started getting loud. I was thumping a lot when walking and dropping and plopping when attempting sitting. All of this extra commotion put a serious scare into Heidi. She started getting up multiple times every night to see if I’d fallen and become road kill.

It was time to build in some extra safeguards. This is what I’ve come up with.

I dress carefully – often, but not always –  wearing my special shirt to send out an advance warning to any who may encounter me upright or prone at the gate.

I always wear my knee brace. This is a picture of the 4th one. I have a 5th one now. I’ll get to that later. Both personal experience and a Google search confirmed that frozen vegetables stay cold longer than more conventional ice packs.

It turns out Sugar Snap Stir Fry stays frozen even longer than peas. Who knew? The biggest draw back (besides the smell when they thaw and leak) was that I didn’t always have time (or remember) to take the bag out of my brace on the way out to the gate. It’s funny how people don’t really know what to say to someone walking around with vegetables dangling from their leg.

Because of Heidi’s fitful sleeping, it seemed prudent to take a few additional precautions. Personally, I don’t think all of these are necessary but she sleeps better this way.

If I fall down the steps again, the long-handled hoe should be within reach. That way, if there are rattlesnakes under the RV, I won’t even have to get up to chop off their heads. (That is SO not happening but I pretend like I would do it to pacify her.)

One of my bosses bought me BLUE pepper spray that he strongly believes I should wear during all the dark hours. To be honest, unless it’s a real breeze-less night, it hangs by the door. The wind here (and there’s almost always wind here) is constantly changing directions. If I’m not real precise, I could be the one streaming blue tears. And no one will let me practice on them so I don’t even know for sure that it works.

In my leg pocket, I’m required to wear my phone so that I can call Heidi and say: Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up! – just like in the commercials. She sleeps with her phone. Of course, she also sleeps with a sound machine rumbling, the air conditioning humming and ear plugs jammed in her ears. Just sayin’.

Anyway, we recently received a package from Swayback Ranch that included a CRKT knife. I wear this on my vest in case I fall and get hungry. I figure I can whip it out and skewer a grasshopper or an over-sized beetle or take a stab at a scorpion if it flips it’s tail at me.

So with my fair warning shirt glowing, my brace full of stir fry, the mace hanging around my neck nice and handy, my phone in my pocket, and the hoe and knife ready to be brandished, I felt pretty prepared for just about anything.

Just about anything except a TROM. Since my knee was still buckling with my hinged brace, I went all bionic and bought some serious hardware.

With this latest brace, I can pretty much just lock my leg in place. I have it set on zero which allows for barely bending at all. This has made navigation interesting.

I’m a very average 5 foot 6 inches tall, but I have remarkably short legs and a long trunk. Until now, the worst part of this has been that my pants sometimes drag. But as you can kind of tell from the photo, this new brace goes almost all the way to my hip.

With short legs and a telescoping brace, even UN-telescoped, there are issues. For one thing, I have to balance myself very precariously on the edge of the toilet seat. At least If I fall off there, odds are, Heidi will hear me and I won’t have to call her on the phone or eat bugs.

I’m re-learning how to walk, making sure I have a clear path to swing my leg. Sometimes I just shout out Look out, leg coming through. No one but Henry is listening to me but I feel better saying it.

I’ve always been a step bounder. Heidi says the RV shakes a lot less now that I have to two-step the steps. That’s a plus, I guess but it’s slowed me down some. When I get to the door, I stick my arm out and start waving right away, so people will know that the rest of me will follow eventually.

The worst part has been the Sag-Factor and this is where I could get into some legal trouble if I lived in, say, Terrebonne Parish, LA or Wildwood, NJ or Houston, TX. This is one heavy brace and it pulls my pants right down when I walk. And I do mean down. I’d be in a world of hurt if it weren’t for my fairly substantial hips.

I’ve tried wearing the TROM under my pants but it’s really not possible. This is a BIG brace and I’d need to buy pants 2 sizes larger which I think would just increase the Sag-Factor. I’ve tried it over my jeans and over my ultra cool black- fabric- that- breaths pants. That’s all I own so that’s all I can try. No luck. So I called the DonJoy Company.

In retrospect, I suppose this should have been an embarrassing conversation but that didn’t occur to me then. Desperate measures for desperate times.

Me: I just got my new DonJoy TROM Brace which is very nice and sturdy but it pulls my pants down and I was wondering if you had any tips?

Beth: I think I’d better transfer you to John.

Me: Thank you.

I repeat my dilemma to John who is the customer fit specialist. John and Beth and I are on a 3 way call – for quite a while. They say they’ve never encountered this problem before.

After a fair amount of brain storming, John decides to send me (at no cost) 6 feet of Velcro that he thinks I can stick on my pants. I tell him I have short legs so 4 feet would probably do. He insists on 6. I say thank you again.

The Velcro hasn’t arrived yet. In the mean time, I hope to find another means of victory over the sag because, well, you know – as the billboard says, RAISE YOUR PANTS RAISE YOUR IMAGE.

I’m considering suspenders…

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Momma Said There’d Be Days Like This

I was going to write about Sugar Snap Stir Fry tonight but other things came up.

Momma said there’d be days like this…

It was very hot.

Then the rains came and that was a good thing. The temperatures dropped into the 90’s and the caliche tamped itself temporarily down.

Then the wind changed. The rain rained itself sideways right into the vent on the kitchen slide making the refrigerator go out.

Heidi still had the phone number of a roving RV repair man that she talked to a few months ago when the rig washers were washing oil based mud off the RV and soaked the vent, knocking the frig out the first time.

He had talked her through a magical magnet resetting trick over the phone. We sent him a thank you check for $25. She called. He called back and said he’d forgotten how to do it. Maybe we should have sent $35.

She asked him how we could prevent this from happening in the future (it rains sideways a lot on the Oregon coast).

He said, next time you buy an RV, get one with the vents on the top.

OK.

While I was sleeping and Heidi was running back and forth between the gate and the soggy vent, one of our guys stopped by and offered to help.

He accidentally dropped the magnet inside the vent where it found a metal home and he lost it completely.

When I woke up yesterday afternoon, that much of the drama had unfolded. I hobbled out with the umbrella that we were surprised to find still tucked under the front seat (not really much need for it in Texas between the wind and the drought). I held it while Heidi fished around with dueling screwdrivers, trying to grab the magnet.

The sun broke through making the umbrella even more superfluous than usual so I worked the gate while Heidi continued her vent project. She found the magnet, took a guess and, viola! the frig came back on!

We were relieved not to have to haul all of our food down to the Company Man’s extra frig (we did have to do that after the rig washer incident). We were celebrating Heidi’s magnet magic with a close game of Whist when we heard a LOUD thunk.

Heidi went out to find water gushing out from under the RV. She came inside with this:

The filter canister cracked and plunked right off. We called our dealership in Iowa to see if we could still use internal water. Well, that would be a no but they did assure us that it was an anomaly, a defective part and  it wouldn’t happen again.

OK.

Next we called the other roving RV repair guy who had just replaced our grey water valve and toilet this month and our micro/wave convection oven last month. He never called back. Heidi will start the phone calling over again this a.m. The part will have to be ordered so we’ll be waterless for a while (we have plenty of drinking water – just no tap).

Sooo, Heidi bleached a bucket that had previously held who knows what – probably rattlesnake heads – and filled it from the tank outside so we’d have water to do dishes. While she was beaching the snake and scorpion remnants out of the bucket, our mud logger stopped by to tell her to tell me to be careful tonight because they’ve seen 5 rattlesnakes in the past 2 nights under their trailers (about 100 yards from us).

Heidi came in with the bucket and the snake news.

By this time we no longer cared about health and fitness so we ate an entire DiGiorno’s thin crust pizza. Heidi was pretty tired by all this problem solving and went to bed.

A little later, I opened the freezer to get an ice pack for my knee. When I opened the door, a bag of ice cubes fell out on Henry’s head. It wasn’t a very big bag but he doesn’t have a very big head. It didn’t hurt him but it did scare him. He jumped backwards, into his water dish and flipping his dog food all over the floor.

Seeing his dog food all over the floor didn’t make him hungry so I picked it up. But seeing his water all over did make him thirsty which led to Henry drinking a quart and needing to go right outside where the rattlesnakes are gathering in the dark to rumba. They call a group of rattlesnakes a rumba. I have no idea why.

Momma said there would be days like this…

Just  now, as I was finishing writing, there was a knock on the door. I’m used to the bells but a knock on the door at 3:30 in the morning is always a little startling. There was a man with all gold teeth standing on my fake green carpet perilously near the potential rumba. He said in a semi-desperate voice:

Ma’am, I don’t suppose there’s any chance you have jumper cables? There’s gotta be at least 50 men on this site and not one of them, I’m not kiddin’ now, not one of them has a set of jumper cables.

Our frig is iffy, we can’t take a shower or flush the toilet (well, we can but without water so it’s more of an inside outhouse) and I suppose, before it’s all over, we may smell a little ripe, but by golly WE have jumper cables!

I got them out of the truck and he said:

Ma’am, you just saved my life. I mean it! Really!

I’m not sure why the cables were a life line but hey, any day that ends by sharing life saving jumper cables is a really fine day!

Heigh-ho, Heidi HO

It’s been a while since I’ve written so it may take a little time to catch you up. I’ll start with Heidi HO. Heidi HO is her legal name, which she gave herself. It’s a long story…

Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho
It’s home from work we go…

Do you remember the Seven Dwarfs whistling and singing this song?

Well, it’s just like that here except there are no diamonds or rubies and we’re never off work and the lyrics are more like:

Heidi HO, Heidi HO
It’s home at work she goes…

Believe me, this woman works! And ever since the first week of February when I ripped my meniscus, she’s been working overtime, fighting the elements, the intruders and warding off the possibility of any misconceptions (I’ll get to that part in a bit).

For starters, Heidi finds multiple reason to walk around on the roof. First there were bees gathering in the vent (she had a can of hornet spray too, not just the fly swatter). Then there was the squeaky bathroom fan.

Then there were two tiny, tiny leaks.

The bees are gone. The squeak is better and the leaks are sealed but I’m sure there’ll be something else up there to check on any day now.

I’m not allowed on the roof since I fall off the  steps.

And when she’s not on top of the RV, she’s often under it.

Oops, wrong legs! Too hairy. That pair belongs to our mobile RV repairman that had the less than glamorous task of replacing our grey water valve and our toilet.

This is the picture I meant to use. Heidi is very diligent when it comes to warding off the encroaching caliche, making sure our slides slide and our jacks jack and our steps don’t freeze in place.

She’s constantly baking – for us and for the guys on the rig. She bakes so much she wore out the microwave/convention oven and we had to buy a new one.

This one is scary smart. It may be even smarter than my phone. It can sense when I’m looking at it with confusion and it starts frantically flashing messages at me. Press, Set, Choose etc… This makes me nervous so I push Sensor Heat and let it have it’s way.

Heidi’s also been doing more adventurous things. There was the recon trip which included ditch diving, rolling under barbed-wire and crawling through burrs and stickers to get what she thought was a right-side-up wild bore’s head. It turned out to be an upside-down cow skull but she was still very, very proud.

You already know about the onslaught of rattlesnakes. Heidi Ho is very comfortable with a hoe. Just sayin’…

For a day or two we had a rattlesnake head coming out of the eye socket of the recently procured cow’s skull. She says: Hey, we’re just two women with a hoe a long way from nowhere. Heidi is very symbolic and loves to send “messages”. Pretty sure this is supposed to mean best not mess with me.

The problem with the snake’s head in the skull, apart from the fact that it was truly creepy, was that most likely, the resident bobcat would come at night and snatch it like he did the first one. And if not the bobcat, then a hawk or raccoon or coyote or something…

So she planted the head in a bucket (not in hopes of growing baby rattlers). We’ve been told, but are somewhat skeptical, that in the bucket the ants and things (?) will eat all but the skull which Heidi wants to add to the cow skull to make sure we’re truly sending the right message. Hmm…

It’s been there for a while now and grass is starting to grow on top. Haven’t dug any deeper yet. Last time she looked, the nose was still intact.

Heidi’s also been fending off cows with bowls of water again. I don’t know why the cows here are so adverse to water, but they are and if we don’t deter them, they munch on our fake green carpet and eat our satellite cables.

Catch you on the backside – a good ole southern saying takes on new meaning when Heidi has a bowl, or a swatter or a hoe in her hand! While Heidi’s been doing all of this and so much more, I’ve mostly just been stylin’ in Stir-Fry. More on that next time.

Slip Sliding Away

I’m not clumsy. It’s just the floor hates me, the tables and chairs are bullies and the walls get in the way. ~ unknown author but it could have been me

Three months ago, on a dark and stormy night, much like this one, I took an embarrassing tumble – more of a slipping sliding landing on my seat stumble, down my RV steps. I was pretty sure this fall was a little more complicated than the last or 20 or so I’d taken. Usually I fall over and bounce right back up like a Bozo the Clown punching bag.

Maybe my problem is that I still cling to the imagine of an entire P.E. history of A+’s and I haven’t come to terms with my past mid-life clumsiness. Truth is, I tip over a lot. In this instance, however, the steps were wet, I was in a hurry so the guys at the gate wouldn’t have to wait, I went down and I didn’t bounce back.

My not so subtle landing on the last step (there are only 4) shook the RV like an explosion (always a possibility in our business). Heidi woke up, got dressed and was out the door in about 57 seconds. I’m pretty far past stoic when it comes to pain but this time I just sat there. It’s hard to describe. It felt like someone had just rammed a fiery poker through my knee.

I wrote about this back when it happened. I fell the first week of February which was fortuitous, if a fall can be fortuitous, since 10 days later we had a week off between the stacking of our old rig and our Company Man calling us to follow him at his new rig.

During the week off I did all the things you do with a bum knee. I sat – a lot – with my leg elevated and wrapped in ice.

I tried Ibuprofen and Aleve and Aspercreme.

When it was time to get back to work, Heidi bought every kind of knee brace Walmart carries. I have 1 that I can wear under my black pants which are loose and 1 that I wear over my jeans which aren’t and 1 that I sleep in so the other 2 can air out.

After 3 months of being afraid to exercise or move really, our rig came back to the area where my PA is located. I went in this week and it took her about 2 minutes to determine that I have a torn meniscus – a common injury of athletes and old people.

My PA referred me to an Orthopedic surgeon who would do an MRI and then would prescribe surgery or PT. Self employment has it’s benefits but medical insurance isn’t one of them.

For some reason, the diagnosis discouraged me. I don’t know why? After 3 months of quite a lot of pain, what was I hoping she would say? I already knew it hurt – a lot – so why I thought a torn meniscus was bad news, I’m not sure.

Here’s what happened that night. The gate was quiet at my TSL.  I watched 3 old episodes of Glee and 2 of Jeopardy. Pathetic, I know. It’s was during the “Think music” that I got over myself and started thinking.

I made the uncharacteristic decision to be ‘pro-active’ – a word I’ve never even used in a sentence, let alone applied. I Googled torn meniscus, read about 20 articles and looked at 5 or 6 sites with rehab exercises. I picked the WebMD exercises because they have a good reputation and pictures. I need pictures. I get confused without pictures.

I wrote every  exercise out in detail. Then I got the great idea of putting the computer on the floor (so I could study the pictures) and I plopped myself down beside it. The first exercise was called a Quad set. The exercise required a towel under the ‘injured leg’. I started to get up to get a towel and found out that, well, no, getting up wasn’t really an option.

I know me. I was pretty sure that once I managed to get up, I wouldn’t get back down again so I scooted over to the chair and grabbed the yarn, needles and all – stuck the yarn under my leg, prayed for no traffic and began my rehab.

During those 30 minutes, the bell didn’t ring even once. I eventually rolled myself over to the sofa and dragged myself up. I felt entirely better. My leg hurt maybe just a little worse but my attitude changed completely.

I was very impressed with myself. When Heidi got up I shared my new rehab plan with her. Ever the practical one, she thought probably it would be better to carry out this choreography while she’s up and can get the gate. True.

Yesterday was rehab day two!

Secret Agents

Before I share anymore about my recent travels, I think I’ve reached the point with Fork where it’s necessary to establish a TSACTop Secret Agent Code.

A certain simplicity of thought is common to serene souls at both ends of the social scale.
~ Joseph Conrad, The Secret Agent

In the spirit of simplicity and serenity, I’m keeping the codes to a minimum. You’ll see them re-occur from time to time in future posts. If this is your first time at visiting The Fork in the Road, you should know that 413 of the past 417 posts have been classified as TS – Top Secret, which is the answer to the mystery of 98,000 views on 4 entries.

Those of you who are continuing to read, in spite of my recent reclassification as an SA, will understand the necessity of the code.

My job, which is now classified, will simply be referred to as my TSJ – Top Secret Job.

My location, which is also classified, will be known only as my  TSL – Top Secret Location. Clearly I’m not code clever, but I am simple.

The weather, which isn’t classified, will continue to be referred to as The Weather.

All of this SA talk, makes me think of Johnny Rivers.

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As a SAW – Secret Agent Woman, there is something about all this Top Secret-ness that’s givin me a false sense of importance and intrigue in what heretofore had been a rather mundane job. The recent reclassification seems to have had the same effect on my SA companions – Heidi and Henry VIII – who will be going by the code names Heidi and Henry VIII.

As FTs – Full-Timers, YRSAs Year-Round Secret Agents and TYsTerminally Yankees, we try to take a week or two off from our TSJ on our TSL about every 6-9 months. My next few posts will be about our most recent adventure.

After leaving the RV at another nearby TSL, we spent the first evening of our break getting lost and crying over dinner. Actually, only Heidi cried when she saw the hamburger, but that’s a story for another night.

Although we were officially on vacation, we must have still been feeling very clandestine-ish because we left the following morning at 4 a.m.

There’s a (wo)man who leads a life of danger.
To everyone (s)he meets (s)he stays a stranger.
With every move (s)he makes, another chance (s)he takes.
Odds are (s)he won’t hit another palm tree.

It was very, very dark. We were very, very stealth.

It’s now time for me to return to my TSW – Top Secret Work at my TSJ. More on our not top-secret adventures to come!

Secret agent (wo)man
Secret agent (wo)man
They’ve given you a warning,
and taken away your plans.

SAW, Debbie

Going Dark

When I’ve been in New York City (once) 😉 and San Francisco a few times… it happened on Monday nights.

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When I was in London (once) 😀 it was on Sunday nights.

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I believe that most cities have a night when many of the theaters go dark. The show doesn’t close. They just take a night off.

Today I received a call from Gate Guard Services corporate offices, requesting that The Fork in the Road go dark as well.

While I’m free to keep the blog, I need to abide by their cease and desist request re: any future posts that are in any way related to the industry, gate guarding or to Gate Guard Services. They expressed their preference that this also includes all past posts (400+ ).

I may come back to Fork at some point with a different focus. I’m uncertain right now.

SO – one last thank you for being such an amazing group! I’ve truly been flabbergasted by your readership and support. Although I’m sure that you all don’t love musical theater (you know  how it is with me and music), I keep thinking of this song from Wicked so I’ll end with this and go dark, at least for now.

Warmly,

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And the Winner is…

I enjoy all aspects of it, I don’t have a preference for any medium. I think each of them has its attractions and I would hope they each inform the other in some way. ~ Cillian Murphy
Clearly, this quote is taken entirely out of context. I don’t know what the context was, but I’m guessing he was talking about acting roles and not RVs.
Still, it does seem to largely come down to preferences and perspective, doesn’t it?
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Thank you to all you who voted in the : Your RV of Choice for Full-timing poll.
Final results were: 5th Wheel 0 53.13%  and Motorhome 46.88%.  I don’t quite get these percentages since they equal 100.01%, but I’m sure you math folks do.
I’ll try to summarize the pluses and minuses (the ones I understood)
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+ Plus for a 5th wheel
No engine worries (or at least only one, not two engines to worry about)
More interior room
Feels more like ‘an apartment’ and less like a ‘bus’
Doesn’t look like Dumbo, ready to take flight
Easier to gas up the truck than pull all the way through w/ a motorhome
Easy to tow
~
– Minus for a 5th wheel
Hard to back up
Hard to park in tight spaces
Hard to tow – too much weight for truck
Hard to unhitch and hitch up for quick departures
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I guess it does look a little like Dumbo...

+Plus for a Motorhome
No need to stop for a restroom or sandwich break
Easy to tow car behind
Easy to move
Easy to park
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– Minus for a Motorhome
Engine worries
Feels like a bus ‘with wings’
Bad gas mileage
Less livable space with engine casing and rarely used captain seats
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In the end, most folks seemed to be happy with whichever they own; although there were several of you that would choose the other option, now that you’ve been full-timing for a while.
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Thank you.
As always, I appreciate and value your input! You know what they say:
Home is where the heart is.