Friday, October 21, 2022

"An apple a day keeps anyone away, if you throw it hard enough."--Stephen Colbert

Fall is here! Highs: 50's, Lows: low thirties   Site: C-48 pull thru

The trees are turning quickly. They are especially beautiful in Bristol, IN. There sure are some spectacular large trees with gorgeous color all around the area. 

Eldy is done with cataract surgery and all is well. For anyone younger who might not know, ) a cataract is a cloudy growth over your lens in your eye that occurs with old age. You don't start thinking about it or hearing about it until you get to be in your sixties and beyond most likely. Everybody eventually gets them. There comes a certain point where you need to get them removed and an artificial lens implanted called an intraocular lens or you might go blind eventually. There are many different types of lenses with different prescriptions they can put in and you get to choose which one you like based on your doctor's recommendations. As you age, you think your vision is just getting worse because of old age, but the clouding of the lens which occurs normally over a period of years, starts making things look like you are looking through a cloudy or dirty window. You also need to know that exposure to sunlight WITHOUT WEARING SUNGLASSES can speed up the development of cataracts. Sparky is TERRIBLE about not wearing sunglasses. We knew we were both close to being ready for surgery the past year, because each of us kept cleaning our glasses MANY times a day, thinking we had bad or dirty glasses and needed a new prescription. Other signs are: trouble with night vision, light and glare sensitivity (BIG halos around street lights and car lights at night), more frequent glasses prescription changes, double vision sometimes, or the sense of colors fading or yellowing. In addition, the cataracts have to be at a certain stage for insurance to pay for the surgery. This year it was time.

Eldy only has one good eye, so it was a little nerve wracking when the good eye was operated on. (He is legally blind in his left eye.) It's a quick operation, about 10-15 minutes and he was given an anesthetic. He says for the first eye he was totally out, he thought, but he really wasn't. He reports that for the second eye, the doctor talked to him and asked him to "look up," or "look to your left", things like that, so he felt he was much more aware of what was going on, but still couldn't feel anything. ( He just remembers the conversation the second time, haha.) Eldy was in and out of the surgery center for the whole check in and check out procedure in under two hours. He was given a special prescriptive eye drop medication to use 3 times a day at home for the first week, tapering off little by little the second week. He was to continue using over the counter Systane eye drops 4 times a day for two weeks and then that tapers off as well. A special medicinal implant was inserted in the eye to minimize infection at the time of surgery, and the purpose to lessen the amount of prescriptive eye drops needed. It gets gradually absorbed by the eye and you can't even tell it is there. He was amazed at how much improvement there was with both eyes. He still can't see very well out of his bad eye, but together using both eyes, he is thrilled to be able to see a lot of things without his glasses. Our Medicare plan covers the cost of replacement glasses because your vision changes quite a bit after surgery, so we are happy about that!

Sparky was up next. We both went to Boling Eye Care Center in Elkhart, IN, an excellent facility that has state of the art equipment and their own in house surgery site plus the optometry department. It's an interesting process, that's for sure. All measurements and pre-op are done now mostly with machines. We probably each went through a line of 6-8 machines to get ready for eye surgery. They measure your pupil reaction time to glare, they measure and map your cornea, they check your current eye prescriptions not only with "Is this better? One, or two? How about three? Or four?"  but with another machine as well. They also check your eye pressure before and after surgery. Increased eye pressure is common after surgery so they want to keep an eye on that. (Ooooohhhh, sorry about the bad pun. Sparky couldn't resist.)

Our Medicare plans pay for the entire surgeries ($5,000 per eye) IF we opt for scalpel removal of the cataracts and not laser, and IF we don't elect to pick special lenses that pretty much guarantee that you won't need glasses any more. That's a hefty out of pocket expense at maybe $3,000 per eye for special prescriptive lenses. Neither one of us minds still having to wear glasses, we've worn them pretty much all our lives. Eldy actually can see things without his glasses at all and now only needs a bit of prescription for closeup. So he's using cheater readers until his eyes finalize and work together optimally, about a month after the second surgery. Because he has only one good eye, he is going to keep wearing glasses all the time with a new prescription to protect the good eye. So for the both of us, Medicare covers the entire surgeries at zero cost to us by electing the "no frills" cataract surgery.

Sparky had trouble with her first eye, the left one. Apparently, a cataract that wasn't quite ready for Medicare coverage last year, rapidly developed into a dense cataract this year. Sparky had a brunescent cataract which is a dense cataract that has gotten "crusty", brittle and brown around the edges, and was much harder to remove. For every extra minute in eye surgery, the recovery time is an extra day or two longer, said the doctor. After three days, the blurriness was still bad. At the day after followup appointment, Sparky was told they "really had to dig it out". (!) Glad they told her that AFTER it was all done! Sparky worried and fretted as the week went on and the blurriness continued so back to the doctor for an extra consultation. The lens was good, there was no infection, but because the cataract was so hard to remove, there was more corneal swelling. Sparky was given ANOTHER set of eye drops, a sodium chloride solution to help reduce the swelling. That makes THREE sets of eye drops to keep track of, but Boling Eye Care Center gives you a little calendar for each eye with little boxes to check off by the names of the eye drops so you don't get mixed up. 

The second eye surgery was scheduled one week away. Sparky had a tough week trying to see with two VERY different eye prescriptive needs. She was still wearing her glasses with far and near prescription for the right eye, and nothing for the left eye. It's a waiting game between the first and the second surgeries, so it's like taking the training wheels off the first eye to make it start working differently. (They popped the left lens out after the first surgery, so Sparky's brain could start coordinating a new way to see things), but the week was tough, as the blurriness continued, and both eyes did not want to work together to see anything close up. Sparky is not great at being patient, she was hoping for results YESTERDAY! (Glad SHE said that and not me, says E.) If the eye is still blurry in three more days, Sparky is going to delay the second eye surgery for a week.

In addition to all the eye drops, we both had to wear a clear plastic eye "patch" with perforated holes taped around the surgical eye for three nights so we wouldn't rub our eye in our sleep or bump it. After surgery each of us experienced very little itchiness or achyness. That was the good part.

Good job, Eldy!
While waiting in between appointments and followup visits to the eye doctor, dentist and regular doctor checkups, we went visiting one of the fall apple orchards in the Elkhart area. There are several in Michigan, but we like the ability to "U-Pick" at Kercher's Apple Orchard in Goshen, IN. You can pick the low lying apples off the trees, or get the best ones at the top with a pole. Just stick the pole up into the branches, entrap the apple in the center of the basket, twist the pole handle a couple of times, and the apple comes right off. Eldo has the technique down pat!

Indian corn

Cool gourds!
They have all kinds of delectable fall goodies as well in the store--pumpkin whoopee pies, fruit pies, apple pies, candies, and really great cider! They also have heirloom gourds, Indian corn, and pumpkins, too. We really enjoyed the orchard the day we went! There is also Miller's Cider Mill in the area for an Amish cider making experience with a really old school cider press. You can even take your own apples to the mill to have super fresh cider made. Very cool! It's near the end of the season for apples, so glad we got a chance to go and pick some.

                                            Happy fall, y'all!

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Back Home Again in Indiana...

 "Back home again in Indiana, 

And it seems that I can see, 

The gleaming candlelight, still shining bright,

Through the sycamores for me....

The new-mown hay sends all its fragrance

From the fields I used to roam,

When I dream about the moonlight on the Wabash,

Then I long for my Indiana home."--McDonald and Hanley, 1917

This is a refrain from an old song that is sung at every Indiana 500 race each year. It's almost more popular and well known than the state song. Indiana really is home for us. Sparky spent all her years from the age of 18 almost thru her late fifties in the state, and Eldy has lived in Indiana most of his long life, too! Plus a lot of family is in Indiana. We will be here awhile, having to do dentist, doctor visits and cataract surgery for the both of us.

Site: 39 Whispering Pines section, Twin Mills Encore Park. Cost: free!

Highs: 50's to low 60's, Lows: high 30's (!) to low 40's

We are at Twin Mills, in Howe, IN, one of our favorite places to be because of all the Amish in the area, the great Elkhart restaurants and RV suppliers, family and friends, etc. We got a different area of the park this time, over in the Whispering Pines section across the street from the office. The best area for big rigs is in Campers' Cove near the office, which has a lot of pull thrus, but it's getting harder and harder to get those, particularly if you are staying through a weekend, and almost impossible during the weekends in October due to their massive Halloween month long celebration. Several seasonal/annual families spend thousands of dollars to put out the most fantastic Halloween display you will ever see. Check out some of these Halloween decorations!

Sparky's favorite is the old "Bone Collector" truck which shows up every year, full of skeletons. 

Eldo checking out the decorations
The Whispering Pines section, which is across the street (Highway 120) is a heavy seasonal area, (seasonal or "annual", they call it). People have bought lots and park their rigs on them and then they travel back and forth from their homes to their rig during the good weather or stay all summer here in the park. But in the month of October, you can see it's a fabulous place to be due to all the Halloween celebrations and decorations that go on for three consecutive weekends ending the week BEFORE Halloween when Twin Mills closes for the season on October 31st. Each year, the decorations seem to grow and expand. There are many interactive sites that can be a little scary if you aren't expecting it, even for a grownup!

Our only disappointments with our site are: 1. It is VERY unlevel. We had a terrible time getting level. With a heavily forested, mature campground, the roots cause the ground to be super uneven.You have to be level so your slides will go out and come in ok, and so the refrigerator works properly. If you are very unlevel, and you have a combination propane gas/electric fridge, which is common in many RVs, it won't cool properly.  On one side at our site, both tires are off the ground and that's a big NO-NO. It puts great stress on the jacks and could bust them. So we wedged boards under the tires to stabilize them as best as we could so they won't spin off the ground. A lot of the sites in this older campground section are very uneven.

We plan to get some boards while we are here to drive up and on to help get the coach more level for the next uneven spot. 2. One of the main sewer tanks is directly behind the RV and when the wind blows a certain direction, it smells like the neighbors are dumping their sewer tanks all at the same time. Phooey! or should we say, "WHEW-EEE!" But hey, isn't this a nice looking site? Luckily, we really haven't smelled it much at all since we've been here.

Unfortunately, this whole section (Whispering Pines) will be reserved for seasonal people by the end of next year most likely. It seems as though available, transient spots are shrinking in the Thousand Trails system of parks for people who travel more frequently, like us. Some day we will pick an area to "season" in for the summer months, then pick another seasonal area to winter in, but we are not there yet and are still able to travel, so that's what we intend to do! We hope we can still have choices of spots when we get to a park, and that there will be some available for us. So far, so good!

Sparky has been riding the Pumpkinvine Trail, one her favorite trails in the country, quite often. If you ride from downtown Shipshewanna trailhead to Goshen, it's about 18 miles or less one way. Sparky wishes she could take some photos of the cute Amish kids and their families that use the trail as one of their main transportation routes to and from Shipshewanna, but the Amish do not wish to have their photographs taken. The other day, school let out during Sparky's afternoon ride. Two little Amish girls in black bonnets and rather colorful but plain long dresses down to their ankles started on the trail, carrying their Igloo cooler lunchboxes, to head towards their home. BOTH were barefoot, and it was barely 50 degrees! Sparky has seen all kinds of bicycles with the Amish. Sometimes it's a bike with another smaller one attached to the main one, with a young one pedaling behind mom or dad. Another time it's a dad with his little toddlers in a cart, being towed. They always have such rosy cheeks from all that fresh fall air! And Sparky has even seen, (GASP!) Amish or Mennonites on electric bikes! Guess they can ride them because they are battery powered. Times they are a changin'! Wonder if the Amish and their hard working lifestyle are much healthier as a general population than the rest of us? Hm-m-mmm....but they do love their ice cream, just as we do!

Amish ladies leaving the ice cream shop
If you travel the bike trail from Shipshewanna all the way through Middlebury to Abshire Park in Goshen, you will pass a country lane ice cream stop. It's called Mooey's, it's on a farm, and the Amish love it. There are usually as many Amish as there are "English", which is anyone who is not Amish. Good cheeseburgers, and lots of great ice cream flavors. There is also a section of the Pumpkinvine near the ice cream shop that was supposed to open by this time, fall of 2022, so you don't have to take a 1.7 mile jog out on county roads to cross over to the next section of the trail, but it's not done yet.

Sparky loves the scenery along the Pumpkinvine trail....Amish farms, horses grazing, cows grazing, the Amish riding or walking the trail, Amish buggies on the intersecting county roads and the laundry hanging out on the lines. Sometimes you can even see barefooted Amish kids playing softball at recess. The trail changes a LOT--from beautiful forests to wide open farm fields to city sidewalks and paths. And parts of the trail go into "spurs" through some towns like Goshen, IN. Sparky found some art installations this time that were really pretty and thought provoking in Goshen. The photo to the left was artwork by a sewer drain! Sparky found out later this is part of a many talented gathering of artists who are joining a celebration of art here in Elkhart, IN, by painting colorful playful art in interesting places-like the sewer grate above left. 

The leaves are turning AMAZING colors in the past week. New England may have the rest of the country beats far as the fall foliage, but we certainly are having a beautiful fall here in Elkhart, IN!
While you are in the area, be sure to get your "crack donuts" at the Rise and Roll Bakery, between Shipshewanna and Middlebury. We did. (Sparky said we can only get them one time during this stay, fusses Eldo, who LOVES his donuts, but so does Sparky). Our sugar levels say uh, nope! to more than just once in awhile. These are so good, probably everybody's sugar levels say, "Watch it, kids!"
More things to do--back to the artwork! Check out all the elk artwork on parade around the area...It was a fundraiser for Child and Parent Services of Elkhart in 2017. There are 38 elk and you can get a map online to find them all....This one is at the Middlebury Library....(And it's Sparky's favorite because 1. it's covered with literacy symbols, 2. it's at the library, and 3. because she's a former teacher, explains E.)

last summer
Not only is Elkhart a city with "heart" in it, it has a lot of ART. There is the Elkhart County ART trail.....Fifteen fabulous years of quilt gardens are here, (come in the summer for the most amazing displays of flowers that makes quilt pattern displays all over town) AND check out and find all the quilt tile patterns on walls of buildings and plazas all over town as part of the Heritage Trail. 

Now, this year, the works of renowned sculptor, Seward Johnson, are paired at each quilt garden site. His works are amazing realistic life like bronze statues. Not sure how long they will be on display, but it's great to see all the art in the area totally available out in the open to the public.
"Crossing Paths" by Seward Johnson

From a distance, Sparky thought this was a real guy trimming the bushes at Kryder Gardens, another beautiful stopping point on the Pumpkinvine Trail. It's another Seward Johnson sculpture, but a title was not spotted.
One more....Love this jubilant little girl statue, hula hooping. It's called "Attic Trophy".

What else have we been doing? We took out our very black faux leather sleeper sofa and replaced it with two lighter colored chairs--rocking recliner chairs! Eldo loves to rock and so does Sparky. Eldo loves to rock so much, he eventually breaks every rocker he's had, indoors and out! But hey---life is short, especially with us now, so we get another one when they break. It was a JOB getting the old couch out. We took it all apart. There were lots of hidden screws that made it tough to get them all out but we persevered and that's how we got our 80" long sofa out our skinny little 32" wide entry door in the RV. 
Here is the new look! Sparky is one happy camper now....It's so nice to walk in and see the lighter chairs by the window instead of that big ole black couch! And with that, we will say goodbye for now....See you down the road!