HITTIN’ THE ROAD (THANKS TRIP ADVISOR!)

Soon, Bruce and I will be hittin’ the road in Scarlet (our Prius V) on a six-week adventure that meanders through 18 states in an odd-shaped loop.  (Note the lack of East Coast stops.  These will be covered on a future road trip.) 

RoadTrip

It’s been in the planning stages for six months, and now we’re excited to see our plan through, especially since most of the states we’ll be visiting will be firsts for us.  (I’ve been to 26 states so far.)

For the longest time, I couldn’t quite figure out how to plan for such a trip.  We had a (very) loose idea of where we wanted to go; however, I just didn’t know where to start.

Is there a right way to organize this long of a road trip?  As the old saying goes, there are many ways to skin a cat.  (Where did that saying come from?  The visual in my mind when I hear that… oh, never mind.)

After reading several blog posts and internet sites, I learned there are as many ways to plan a road trip as there are people who have done it.  After I pondered them all, I hit the delete button and decided to do it my way.  Bruce agreed—

a good thing since he’s leaving all the planning to me anyway!

The first place I started was sending an e-mail to my family and friends asking for recommendations after giving them a loose idea of the states we hoped to hit.  As it turns out, most of those recommendations made the cut, and we are planning our travels around them.  (Take Niagara Falls, for example.  More than one of them said, “Bring your passport and see the falls from the Canadian side, because the American side is TACKY!”)

While researching on the computer, I also visited the tourist bureau of each state and requested a map and guide.  Sure, all of the same information is available online, but the paper guides were for Bruce who spends as little time on the computer as possible, thanks to burnout from a computer-intensive career.

As for the maps, they’re going with us in a file box with a folder dedicated to each state.  I will be adding AAA maps where needed, and I plan to file keepsakes that I collect along the way such as chocolate labels from chocolatiers I hope to visit (and sample!).

My favorite source for planning this road trip has been Trip Advisor (www.tripadvisor.com).  You can find my reviews there as “ElaineK-SunCity-GA.”

Skeptics out there will claim that many of the reviews on Trip Advisor and Yelp are fakes posted by friends and family members of the business owner.  Sure, there are probably plenty of restaurant reviews posted by the Aunt Bobbi Sue’s and Uncle Billy Bob’s of the world to help out their entrepreneurial nieces and nephews who just opened up rib shacks off some godforsaken highway.  I’ve seen them myself, and those reviews are easy to spot.  Type in the restaurant’s name on the site, and you see ten restaurant reviews giving the joint a perfect rating.  Not one of those reviewers has ever written a previous review about anything else.  That should be your first clue.

Now, type in “Boldt Castle” (located in Alexandria Bay, New York) into Trip Advisor’s search engine.  The castle was recommended by two friends, so I thought I should check it out.  Bingo!  590 people have reviewed it, and it gets a 4-1/2 out of 5 rating.  In addition, many reviewers posted photos, so I can see for myself how beautiful and photogenic it is.  I immediately added Boldt Castle to our itinerary.

When reading reviews, I give the most credibility to other top contributors who are experienced travelers and have posted a lot of detailed reviews.  I also make sure to read a selection of the positive AND negative reviews on a particular listing, so I can evaluate whether a particular restaurant or hotel is worthy of our business.  (I will ignore one bad review of a Mexican restaurant, for example, if the reviewer criticized the margaritas, especially if all of the other dozens of reviewers raved about the excellent food.)

Thanks to Trip Advisor, I now have a seven-page Word Document filled with recommendations for places to see, things to do, restaurants to dine in, and accommodations where we can crash each night (if we don’t stay with other Affordable Travel Club members www.affordabletravelclub.net ).  I organized it in itinerary order, and I’ve included the driving time required to get from place to place.  Finally, using www.SwimmersGuide.com , I found pools to train at throughout our travels and listed their locations, and lap swimming times.

The itinerary is just a loose guide; weather and our moods will dictate how closely we follow it.  One thing for sure, though; we will definitely be visiting the Canadian side of Niagara Falls and Boldt Castle!

Stay tuned for future posts from the road IF/WHEN I have time and feel like writing.  Otherwise, I’ll catch up with y’all when I get to it!  A big THANKS to my friend Cynthia who will be watching over the house while we’re gone!

POKIN’ AROUND THE PANHANDLE (FLORIDA)

Since moving to Georgia, one of our favorite things to do each year is rent a cottage through one of the websites such as Home Away or Airbnb, pack up our kayaks, and head to the water. Although we enjoyed Sanibel so much we visited there twice, we decided to explore new places each time in the future and enjoy new experiences.
This time, we headed to Laguna Beach, Florida to spend two weeks kayak fishing, swimming, walking, and exploring the state parks.

The following are some of my favorite photos from our visit. The complete photo album of 79 shots can be viewed at . Scroll down to the bottom and look for PINK!

The "Think Pink Cottages" were our home for two weeks in Laguna Beach, Florida, along the panhandle. Our pink kayaks fit in perfectly, don't you think?

The “Think Pink Cottages” were our home for two weeks in Laguna Beach, Florida, along the panhandle. Our pink kayaks fit in perfectly, don’t you think?

 Bruce snagged a nice slot-sized redfish, but threw it back. When fishing from his kayak, he is a catch-and-release fisherman.

Bruce caught a nice slot-sized redfish, but threw it back. When fishing from his kayak, he is a catch-and-release fisherman.

Osprey

Osprey

The view of Panama City Beach from St. Andrew's State Park

The view of Panama City Beach from St. Andrew’s State Park

An aligator catching a few rays at St. Andrew's State Park

An aligator catching a few rays at St. Andrew’s State Park

Blue heron

Blue heron

Pelicans waiting on a handout of fish scraps from the cleaning table

Pelicans waiting on a handout of fish scraps from the cleaning table

Grayton State Park

Grayton State Park

The view of Panama City Beach from the pier

The view of Panama City Beach from the pier

Panama City Beach Aquatic Center was my training site on a daily basis. It was a beautiful facility, and I especially enjoyed getting the opportunity to practice block starts.

Panama City Beach Aquatic Center was my training site on a daily basis. It was a beautiful facility, and I especially enjoyed getting the opportunity to practice block starts.

GETTIN’ MY KICK ON

Farewell, pull buoy, it’s time to get my kick on!  You became my new best friend on January 3 when Dr. Andrachuk said I could return to the pool after hip arthroscopy surgery, “…but NO KICKING!”

On February 9th at my follow up appointment, Doc gave me the green light to start working with my physical therapist, Chip Ransom on a more advanced strengthening-focused program.  Still, though, I was told I had to wait another month before I could add hip extension with resistance to my program.  My blue and white-striped pull buoy (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pull_buoy) would have to continue being my pool buddy for another four weeks.

Is it March 9th yet?”  Not to rush time (It’s already going by fast enough!), but that was the question I felt like asking each day leading up to the magic day my legs would be allowed to do their horizontal happy dance.

Don’t get me wrong.  Any day I can be in the pool doing anything is a happy day.  It has been pure joy, even if I had to create an entirely new framework for what a “best time” was for a practice race.  Swimming a best time with only my upper body is entirely different than having all four limbs running full steam ahead.  My pull buoy best time for my 500 yard freestyle is 50 seconds slower.  It didn’t matter, though; it was just as exciting to hit the wall and look up at my watch at a new best pull buoy time as it was when I was running on all four cylinders.

In memory of my last two months of rehab, here’s a look back by the numbers:

2,000 – The total number of yards I swam each day, averaging six days per week.  Even if I felt like swimming more, I limited my yardage to protect my shoulders.  (Swimming with a pull buoy and no kick is ALL shoulders.)

200 – The maximum number of total yards I swim butterfly for the same reason.

55 – Miles I have swum since I was allowed back in the water on January 3rd.

51 – Days I have swum since my plunge back in the pool.

45-60  – The number of minutes I average each day doing my physical therapy exercises for both lower and upper body.

45 – The number of repetitions I do of each exercise.

30 – The number of different exercises I learned in PT that I added to my master list to pick and choose from on any given day.

1 – The number of shoulder-friendly stroke revisions I made to reduce stress on my rotator cuffs.  I adopted the Scapular Plane Swimming Technique which emphasizes keeping the hands and arms within my peripheral vision at all times.  On recovery, the elbow stays lower to the water but is still kept higher than the wrist.

0 – The number injuries I sustained while training exclusively upper body with a pull buoy and no kick.

HIP HIP HOORAY…!

…for my hip! Thanks to my physical therapist, Chip Ransom of Benchmark Physical Therapy (and my by-the-book daily exercise sessions); I abandoned my crutches today when I went to the pool.

Life’s little victories are sweet.

Today marks my 6th week anniversary since undergoing hip arthroscopy for a labral tear and psoas (hip flexor tendon) release, and it’s been a slow process of weaning off those crutches. Two weeks post-op my surgeon, John Andrachuk, gave the green light to start that process; so, I started leaving them in the car while I was at home. The short treks around the house were doable, but nothing more.

At first, I needed them all of the time when I wasn’t at home, but I slowly progressed to needing them only for “distances.” By “distance,” I mean the distance from my car to the pool at Club Peachtree where I swim each day, or the distance from my car into a store. Believe me; that distance is far when you are recovering from hip surgery!

Yesterday, I finally felt good enough to carry my crutches to the pool. I thought I would need them for the return trip; however, I carried them all the way back to the car. Woo-hoo, I was finally ready to leave my crutches behind today!

Last week was a big turning point in my recovery, and I attribute it to the success of Chip’s manual therapy. I appreciate that he trusted me to let him know if he was stretching me too far. It was a constant banter of, “Does that hurt?” “No, Chip.” Does that hurt?” “NO!” “Does THAT hurt?” “Nooo. I’ll tell you if you’re hurting me, Chip!”

He pushed it further than he would with most patients; however, I was fit and flexible going into surgery, so I seem to be bouncing right back.

That’s the moral of this story: If you want a successful recovery after surgery, be as fit and flexible as possible before your operation.

Oh, and make sure you get yourself a good surgeon and physical therapist.

Most importantly (that is, once you have had a successful surgery), DO YOUR PRESCRIBED PHYSICAL THERAPY EXERCISES, and don’t forget to ask your surgeon and therapist what else you can do to get better faster.

In my case, with the blessing of Dr. Andrachuk, I was back in the gym the day following surgery to work my upper body. Using the SciFit to “peddle” with my arms kept my upper body fit and the endorphins pumping. I also made sure to keep up my prior physical therapy exercise routine to keep all three of my other limbs fit and strong, while my fourth limb was on restriction.

The day following removal of my stitches, I was back in the pool swimming. I’m on a no-kicking restriction for a total of 3-4 months post-op, so I dusted off my pull buoy, and it has become my new best friend. It’s just a figure eight-shaped solid piece of foam rubber that sits between my legs while I swim; however, it keeps my legs buoyant and prevents them from kicking.

Since my upper body is stuck doing all of the work, I limit my yardage to 2,000 yards per day (six days per week) which is two-thirds of my normal training volume. Between the reduced yardage and my daily routine of shoulder physical therapy exercises, my shoulders are managing fine. I limit my butterfly yardage to 200 yards (broken up) per day, though, and I do a LOT of sculling to take the load off my shoulders and strengthen my forearms.

Some of the sculling I do is face-down sans snorkel, and it must look funny to those in the gym who happen to glance out the window while they’re pumping iron.

My body and neck stay relaxed while my arms are straight in front of me, and I’m looking at the bottom of the pool. Only my forearms move, and they make a quick figure eight pattern out to the side and back in. I do move forward, but it’s admittedly pretty slow. It’s so slow that I need to lift my head a few times in a 25-yard stretch to catch a quick breath.

When my head is down, the bubbles are coming out my nose and mouth in a relaxed way. It must look funny on the surface though, as my still body floats slowly down the pool with bubbles coming out on each side of my head.

Meanwhile, from my perspective, I’m just sightseeing through my goggles as I make my way down the black line. I’ve done it so many times, I am confident I have every crack in the tile and concrete memorized. I have also become quite familiar with the feet of every noodler from the water aerobics class on the other side of my lane.

It’s all good. Hip hip hooray!

Elaine-iaK’s Travels: 2014 blog stats

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

(Looking at the stats, it appears as if my blog traveled further than I did!)

Thanks to all of you for reading my blog this year and for posting such nice and supportive comments!  Jean, you were the top comment poster, so you have earned the title “Queen Jean” once again!

Happy New Year!

Cheers!

Elaine-iaK

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,000 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 5 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

GOIN’ DOWN IN A BLAZE OF GLORY: POST-MORDEM

Although I only needed to complete one race at the St. Nick’s Dixie Zone Short Course Meters Championships this past weekend, I was determined to win the Georgia Championship Series for my (50-54) age group with an exclamation point. That’s just me; do it right or go home.

In my case, the only way I would have gone home early was if my bad hip wouldn’t have allowed me to complete the 10 races I had signed up to race. Fortunately, Dr. Andrachuk wrote me a medical note to give the chief official, so I wouldn’t get a DQ for not being able to kick breaststroke. Instead, I had to use an easy dolphin kick and basically let my legs drag behind me. Of course, eliminating the frog kick slows the stroke down to tadpole speed rather than frog speed, so I had a huge disadvantage in my 400 Meter Individual Medley Relay race. I lost a full minute having to pull my way through the breaststroke during the 100 meter leg of that race. As slow as it was, though, I completed it without getting disqualified, and the Georgia Championship Series was in the bag; signed, sealed, and delivered, it was MINE.

The remainder of the day was a blast! I managed to clock my worst times ever in the 100 Freestyle, 100 Butterfly, 100 Backstroke, and 400 Freestyle, but I sure had fun doing it! It felt so much better being horizontal in the pool rather than vertical on land. What a relief it was to get in and swim each time, even if I had to drag my right leg along for the ride as practically dead weight!

Sunday was a tougher race line-up for me: 1500 Freestyle, 100 Individual Medley back-to-back with the 200 Butterfly, and 50 Butterfly back-to-back with the 200 Freestyle.

Once I completed the 200 Butterfly, I was over the hump with my no-DQ race record intact! Not being able to kick butterfly, I wasn’t sure how long my shoulders would hold up, but I did it! It may have taken five minutes to do it, but I DID IT!!

By no means am I the fastest swimmer in my age group, especially now with my bad hip. There are other swimmers so much faster than me that it would be completely unrealistic to think I could ever by fast enough to beat them, even if I trained much harder than I already do.

That’s why I strive to win the Georgia Championship Series; it gives us slower gals and guys something to shoot for each year. Competing at all four meets doesn’t guarantee a win, but to have a fighting chance, it’s a must. It’s also advantageous to sign up for the maximum amount of races allowed at each meet to get as many points as possible. Two of the gals I beat for the series are not only faster than me; they are Top 10 swimmers IN THE WORLD. They didn’t compete in the open water meet though, so I gained 10 points (of a maximum 40 for the series) on them by competing in the 3K and 1K at the Georgia Games Open Water Meet.

Their goals are loftier than mine; they are racing national and world rankings. I’m not fast enough for that, so I thoroughly enjoy training and competing in the four different strokes and all of the distances. It also kills me to miss a meet, because I miss out on all the fun!

Today was my last swim of the year, and I enjoyed it with gusto (including a hefty dose of butterfly). Tomorrow, I undergo hip arthroscopy. My 2-1/2 weeks out of the pool will be my longest dry streak in more than four years, and I’m hating the idea of that!

My three-year Georgia Championship Series winning streak comes to an end due to being forced out of next year’s early meets, but I’ll be back in 2016!

Meanwhile, congratulations to my buddy Mark Rogers for winning the series in his age group. It’s been a fun year at the meets with you, Mark! Keep your streak going in 2015, buddy!

GOIN’ DOWN IN A BLAZE OF GLORY

As I read in another blog post (http://goingdowninablazeofglory.tumblr.com/meaning), “…most people would describe ‘blaze of glory’ as a very spectacular downfall, but it is more than that; it’s about choosing to fight back, even though the chance of winning is very slim, and not just surrendering but going down fighting.”

That clearly describes me. In my book, it’s all about the fight. I’m not one to take the path of least resistance and give up.

Coming back to swimming after surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome was one case in point, as my story on Page 19 demonstrates (http://issuu.com/kitchendrawer/docs/6_3_final?e=0/8465165).

This time around, I’m scheduled for hip arthroscopy for psoas (hip flexor tendon) release and to clean up whatever mess my snapping hip caused as my hip flexor rubbed over the joint’s labrum of my right hip. Twenty years of this finally caught up with me.

Although the cause of my too-tight hip flexor tendon is unknown, it sure wasn’t due to a lack of effort in trying to keep it strong and flexible. My snapping hip was probably the result of many factors: genetics (I probably inherited my connective tissue issues from my dad), leg length discrepancy, a pelvis that tilts forward and to the right (no matter what physical therapy exercises I do to try to correct it), a life-long habit of walking fast with long strides, spending too many years as a treadmill rat, and did I mention genetics? Surely, having back surgery at the age of 25 was an indication of things to come…

Swimming is a great exercise for whatever structurally ails you; however, as much as I love to train (and I do so six days per week, 2500-4000 yards per day), I can’t live my life as an “Aqua Dog” all the time. Too bad my body doesn’t love being on land as much as it does being on the water. (My tussle with Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome was one indication.)

My body also doesn’t love my physical therapist any more (no offense to my PT), nor does it respond to my diligent 30-45 minute post-swim PT deck exercises. I’ve run out of options, so it’s time for the operating table.

Dr. John Andrachuk was a fellow under the famed pro sports orthopedic surgeon, Dr. James Andrews, so I believe I’m in good hands. Hip arthroscopy is his specialty, lucky for me.

I strategically scheduled my operation for December 17—after the U.S. Masters Swimming Dixie Zones Short Course Meters Championships at Georgia Tech. With permission granted from Dr. Andrachuk, I’m going to do in-water starts, swim my races rather than “race” my races, and push off the wall on my turns very lightly with my LEFT leg. I am also going to give breaststroke kick a big miss. This is how it’s been for me in the pool since the Georgia Senior Games in September.

Obviously, I won’t be breaking any personal records, but this meet won’t be about racing best times. It’s about participating to the best of my current ability and winning the Georgia Championship Series (for high points) for the third year in a row. (I can kiss 2015 goodbye, thanks to a 5 month ban from competition issued by the doc.)

I’m leading in points after the short course yards meet at Georgia Tech, the long course meters meet in Athens, and the Georgia State Games Open Water Meet where I won silver medals in the 3K and 1K races. All I need to do is complete one race cleanly at Georgia Tech, and I’ll have the series wrapped up with a bow (and a trophy).

Somehow that seems like a cop-out, knowing that I do more than that in the pool during my training sessions. I am still able to “race” the three most difficult races in the pool (400 IM, 200 Butterfly, and 1650 freestyle), even if they are raced at more like my 3k pace. Breaststroke kicking is really the only thing I can’t do without pain unless I severely modify the kick (or eliminate it), so I’ll make the adjustment.

I’m signed up for ten events over the two-day meet, but I’ve left the three breaststroke races off the line-up, opting for the less painful strokes instead. (I never would have thought butterfly would actually be easier on my hip!)

No, I have no chance of winning any of my races, but I’m not going to surrender. I’m going down fighting in a blaze of glory.

SUN CITY PEACHTREE GETS “HAPPY”

By now, you have probably heard the song “Happy” by Pharrell Williams, and I’m guessing you couldn’t get it out of your head after you heard it. Well, imagine how Sun City Peachtree’s Lifestyle Director, Stan Heaton felt after wrapping up editing of this video: http://youtu.be/i77miEDbRxs . I appear (very briefly) at the 2:07-2:08 mark.

The video is fun, so check it out!