Mountain knight stars, part two

The first part of this multifaceted story delineated our sally into the cool mountains while a storm was brewing back home where the San Diego Opera was fighting for its life, even as some were trying to bury it while its heart was still beating.  It was expected to begin closing down after the last performance of Don Quixote* on April 13, but now has a reprieve until May 19 while ways are explored to save the San Diego Opera.

I continued reading Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote,* seeing parallelisms, and appreciating the main character, the romantic dreamer who often faced crossroads and chose adventure over shelter.

DSC_0048 At the crossroads

We continued our Airstream Safari adventure into the mountains by hiking along the park roads and trails that permit dogs on a leash.  We had been disappointed with the scarce wildflowers seen in the Anza-Borrego Desert this spring due to the ongoing California historic drought.  Most of the late winter/early spring rain that moved through our county was intercepted by our local mountains, which resulted in some spectacular displays of flowers here, such as St. John’s wort, Hypericum perforatum, known by herbalists as a remedy for a variety of ills.

DSC_0039 Saint John's wort

Seen below is the Western Redbud, Cercis occidentalis, next to a wood fence where I had photographed jumping mule deer last fall.

DSC_0042 Red Bud

After hiking, we returned to our campsite, which was surrounded by blooming Palmer Lilac, Ceanothus palmeri.

DSC_0092 Palmer Lilac

Larry prepared langostino/pork bean curd skin rolls for dinner that were cut up, steamed, and lifted out in a stainless steel bowl by a Chinese steamer plate holder.

DSC_0109 Bean curd skin rolls

This was served with a delicious salad and dipping sauces (sriracha, hoisin, and sweet chili).

DSC_0114 Dinner table setting

We savored this and other dinners while watching beautiful sunsets and the many birds of this wooded park, such as the Western Bluebird (below) and enjoyed their songs and calls, such as those of the Spotted Towhee* and the Dusky-capped Flycatcher.*

DSC_0128_4 Western Bluebird

Each night after dinner, the mountain air quickly cooled as the stars began to shine* and my mind began to wander and dream of adventures and of the great stories and operas such as Jules Massenet’s Don Quichotte (Don Quixote).*

DSC_0082 Mountain stars

In the final act, La mort de Don Quichotte (Massenet)*, Don Quixote dies of a broken heart.  Hopefully Don Quixote will not be San Diego Opera’s swan song, but will mark the crossroads where San Diego Opera resurrected itself.  San Diego Opera makes music worth seeing and supporting!

*This is a YouTube video.

Shifting sands and disc

Just a few days before our return to Agua Caliente County Park earlier this month where we encountered 5-inch deep loose sand in our campsite due to a flash flood here in August, we noticed that our tricolor Corgi, Tasha, was coming up the back deck stairs slower than usual.  I first thought that maybe it was a pulled muscle, because she seemed better after I gave her aspirin (following cautions such a these).  But while walking our Corgis at Agua Caliente, we could see that Tasha could not keep up with Mac, so on the last day we made an appointment with our local veterinarian, Dr. Helen Green, DVM, and promptly brought her in to the Mission Valley Pet Clinic upon returning to San Diego.  Her wobbly rear legs suggested a back problem and she was started on Tramadol and Methocarbamol for the weekend and was to return for further tests.  Over the weekend she lost control of her bladder and was not using her rear legs to support her weight.

We read about intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) and knew we were about to face a very difficult decision when we brought Tasha back to the vet on Monday.  Dr. Green tested Tasha and found that she still had deep pain sensation in her rear legs and could benefit from surgery, but that window of opportunity was closing with every passing hour.* While we were in the exam room, Dr. Green called Dr. Robbin Levitski-Osgood,* Veterinary Neurologist and Neurosurgeon, at Veterinary Specialty Hospital, and conveyed to us the good news that there was a 95% chance of successful surgery if we acted now.  Even though we were originally leaning toward a conservative, medical approach, we were persuaded by the good prospects of our 6-year old Corgi walking again.  We immediately drove Tasha up to the Veterinary Specialty Hospital.

DSC_0157 Veterinary Specialty Hospital

“The Veterinary Specialty Hospital is a multi-specialty, state of the art, full service hospital.  We truly are the Mayo Clinic of veterinary medicine,”* says Dr. Steve Hill.  This 3-story hospital has 18 exam rooms, 6 operating rooms, specialty rooms, ICU, neurosurgery suite, radiography suites, a full service laboratory and much more, including a complete Oncology Center.

A caring and attentive staff quickly admitted Tasha.  Dr. Levitski examined Tahsa and ordered a MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)* that demonstrated a T13-L1 disc herniation.  That same evening, a left T13-L1 hemilaminectomy* was performed with fenestrations from T12-T13 to L2-L3 to remove large amounts of herniated disc material.  Immediately after the surgery, Dr. Levitsky called and said that the surgery went well and called again in the morning with the good news that Tasha was moving her legs!  She continued to do well and was discharged home on Wednesday where her activities are restricted as she continues her healing process and recovery.

DSC_0171 Tasha Post-Op Day 3

To facilitate the healing process, the detailed Discharge Instructions specified that she should remain in a crate or small area for the first two weeks, except when she is carried outside for short toileting breaks.  Howdy Doody came by to cheer her while showing off his new makeover done by Larry.

DSC_0199 Howdy Doody visits Tasha

Larry made a corset-like sling to help support her back while on potty breaks.

DSC_0217 Tasha in homemade sling

DSC_0233 Homemade sling materials

Mini drip irrigation tubing was used as boning in the medial part of the towel sling and bamboo sticks were used in the ends of both slings (an old blood pressure cuff was later adapted as a backup sling).  Boning prevented gathering of the fabric, allowing for even weight distribution.  On Post-op Day 3, Tasha was able to briefly and independently bear weight on all four legs.

A makeshift gate made from parts of a metal crate ensures that our Corgis only use the side dog ramp versus stairs when going outside.

DSC_0208 Mac using ramp

DSC_0276 Post-op Day 12

Tasha is now walking and taking time to appreciate the garden.  We are thankful for the wonderful doctors and staff, who have helped her on her way to recovery!  We are happy that she is able to walk again because something in the way she moves, moves us.*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Cool… and wireless

Maintaining the right temperature* (33 to 39 °F) in our Airstream Safari’s 5.0 cu. ft. refrigerator is important to keep food from spoiling or freezing.  The cooling process of RV absorption refrigerators* is different than compression driven, household refrigerators.  Absorption refrigerators have a relatively low coefficient of performance, which makes it especially important to keep the RV refrigerator in peak operating condition.  To properly monitor our refrigerator, we need to know the temperature of the inside of the refrigerator at all times without opening the door, which would result in a temporary loss of cold air and decreased efficiency.  Our first refrigerator thermometer in 2007 had a thermistor probe on a wire that connected to a digital display panel mounted on the refrigerator door and served us well for 6 years.

When the thermometer’s probe failed to register temperatures accurately last spring, we did our research and selected the AcuRite Refrigerator/Freezer Wireless Digital Thermometer, #00986.

DSC_0095 AcuRite Wireless Thermometer

This thermometer comes with a digital LCD display on the main unit (receiver) and two remote sensors, labeled 1 and 2.  I chose to use sensor #1 to monitor the refrigerator temperature and sensor #2 to monitor the room or outside air temperature.  The image below shows the thermometer sensor on the middle shelf and the refrigerator’s thermistor probe on the right side, which I raise or lower to maintain the right temperature as noted above.

DSC_0004 Wireless sensor & thermistor

The main unit has a strong magnet on the back that firmly holds it on the side of our stove exhaust fan/light fixture.  The sensors send out a strong signal, and at home, I found that I could bring the main unit and sensor #2 into the house and monitor the house and trailer refrigerators at the same time!  The image below shows the temperature readings of the trailer refrigerator (34 °F) and the outside air (39 °F) during an evening last April while camping at William Heise County Park.

DSC_0010 Main unit receiver

Although we do not use the alarm feature, we do like the main unit’s display that shows the lowest and highest temperature since it was last cleared.  We have found that there are many variables that affect the refrigerator’s temperature, including the size, amount, placement and temperature of food going in.  Knowing the highest and lowest temperature since the display was last cleared helps me to position our refrigerator’s thermistor for the optimum temperature range.  See “Tips to Improve RV Refrigerator Efficiency“.*

We have solar panels that work best when we are in a campsite that gets full sun most of the day, which provides additional incentive to find ways to help the refrigerator work better,* such as propping the outside vented doors open with clothes hangers to increase heat dispersal.

DSC_0004-2 Fan, switch, & hanger

Our custom-built Airstream trailer came with with two factory-installed solar panels, and we were glad we also chose the Full Awning Package, which provides awnings on three sides…

DSC_0029 All awnings & vents open

And helps us with our goal of keeping cool, even in the desert.*

*This is a link to a YouTube video.

Barefootin’ about

While we are marking time, awaiting the passing of the Dog Days of summer heat and the beginning of our fall camping season, we continue to step out with our dogs on a healthy exercise program of brisk walks and trots around our local tree-lined lake.  I do this wearing minimalist footwear.  Summer is a great time to go about barefoot or almost barefoot.


As mentioned in my article, “Footnotes“, I enjoy going barefoot in our Airstream Safari travel trailer and about the house, and increasingly, out in the backyard, so last February I started wearing minimalist footwear, Vibram FiveFingers, on our walks around parks and campgrounds.


Seen above is my favorite style of Vibram FiveFingers (VFF) footwear, the Sprint.  (See Barefoot Ted run in them here.)

On the advice of a commenter to my “Footnotes” posting, I read with fascination the national best seller, Born To Run – A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, by Christopher McDougall (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2009).  I continue to be amazed at the growing interest in walking and running barefoot that was sparked by this book, such as this local San Diego article, “No socks, no shoes, no problem?“.  This article includes barefoot hiker and runner Glen Raines’ story and photo (read his article “Going Barefoot“).  See and listen to author Christopher McDougall and The New York Times’ The Roving Runner (and blogger) Brian Fidelman as they run barefoot in Central Park in this New York Times‘ video, “Health: Barefoot Running“.

For Christopher McDougall (hear his Authors@google talk on YouTube), “It all began with a simple question that no one could answer… ‘How come my foot hurts?’”  His book Born to Run takes us on a journey to the Barrancas del Cobre, the Copper Canyons of the Sierra Madre in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, home of the Tarahumara Indians, the Ráramuri – the Running People, the world’s greatest distance runners with uncanny health and serenity, who have few injuries wearing flat sandals cut from rubber tires compared to the sky-rocketing injuries of those who wear modern athletic shoes (invented in 1972).  There he learned their secrets and, with the help of Caballo Blanco (a.k.a. Micah True – see and hear him in the YouTube video, “Super Athletes Of The Sierra Madre“), Christopher participated in the first 47-mile Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon set up by Caballo Blanco.

For Ted McDonald (hear his Authors@google talk on YouTube), the problem was “Every time I ran for an hour, I had excruciating lower-back pain… It was so discouraging.”  His eureka moment occurred while reading Barefoot Ken Bob’s The Running Barefoot website.  He found by running barefoot, his form improved and he was able to run marathons.  He became one of the most famous barefoot runners in the world and is now known as Barefoot Ted.  He admits that there are some places that require some foot protection, so he brought along Vibram FiveFingers to run the Copper Canyon Ultra Marathon.  While there, Manuel Luna taught him how to make Tarahumara sandals.  Barefoot Ted now has a company in Seattle that makes Luna Sandals inspired by the Tarahumara Indians of Northern Mexico’s Copper Canyon.


I now have my own Luna Sandals from the first batch shipped in early July.  I tied mine using the Slip-On Tying Method #1.  I did not shorten the leather lace so that I have the option of tying my huarache running sandals in the Traditional Method.


This week I walked and trotted 4.8 miles in these sandals, which kept my feet cool and comfortable.  Going mostly barefoot since last February, I feel my feet are becoming stronger and healthier, and seem to know just what to do when coming in contact with anything; everything just seems to fall into place naturally and comfortably.

Christopher McDougall tells in Born To Run how the human body evolved as an efficient and exquisite running machine and how modern shoes encase and weaken our feet.  Modern running shoes with cushioned heels entice runners to take longer strides and land on their heels, resulting in more injuries.  He incorporates the foot strike and treadmill studies of Harvard anthropology professor Daniel Lieberman (The Barefoot Professor), who published a new study on toes, which gives credence to the endurance running hypothesis (the Running Man theory) that humans evolved as long-distance runners, enabling them to be successful in persistence hunting and their own survival.

The bottom line for me is that going barefoot can be joyful and fun and healthy (especially since I do not have a medical condition or sensory impairment, such as diabetic neuropathy, which could preclude it).

Barefootin’…  Even a five-year old knows how to do this intuitively.

Sunscreen safety

Two years ago my “Sun safety” article discussed the importance of protecting our skin from the harmful effects of the sun by using protective clothing, sunglasses, and sunscreen.  I thought I had made a good choice in using a broad-spectrum UVA-UVB sunscreen, with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.  But now I am learning that there are many conflicting reports about the effectiveness and safety of sunscreen products.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released its fourth annual “Sunscreen Guide” last month, which recommends only 39 out of 500 beach and sport sunscreens for this season.  According to EWG, many sunscreen products contain red-flag ingredients, like vitamin A (retinyl palmitate) and oxybenzone.  The sunscreen that I had been using contained oxybenzone 6% as an active ingredient, so I now use one ofEWG’s top rated sunscreens.

Of course, the best sunscreen is a hat, shirt and a good pair of sunglasses, which I wore while doing our annual big wash and wax job on our trailer, upon our return from the beach last month.


The hat is Tilley’s broadest brim hat, the LTM2 Tilly Airflo Nylamtium Hat.  It is comfortable, lightweight, and comes with a tuck-away Wind Cord.  The white shirt is Silver Ridge II by Columbia Sportswear Company.  It is lightweight, comfortable and super-ventilated.  My extra-large SolarShield sunglasses are comfortable while providing Advanced UV Protection (and can fit over Rx glasses).  These items always travel with me when camping.

EWG points out that their “sunscreen database is dynamic, which means that the sunscreen ranking numbers may change based on evolving science, new information on UVA, UVB radiation and sunscreen ingredients, marketing conditions, or other factors.”  Light might be shed on the sunscreen controversy over the effectiveness and safety of sunscreen products if, and when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issues sunscreen industry regulations, which they began drafting 32 years ago, according to The Huffington PostCongresswoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) has called upon the FDA to finalize sunscreen regulations.

One of the latest health concerns is the use of nanoparticles of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in sunscreen products, as discussed in the AOL News article, “More Bad News About Sunscreens: Nanoparticles“.  This further underscores the importance and need for the FDA to develop and publish new sunscreen guidelines and regulations.

See this excellent YouTube video, “Go Green with Sunscreen“, for tips on staying safe in the sun.


Now I think I’m ready for those bright, sunshiny days!