Summer Travel Map

Friday, May 31, 2013

May 14-31: Maya's Surgery

May 31, 2013
Windsor and Broad Brook, Connecticut

With graduation out of the way, we turned our attention to Maya Lynn's health. After chemotherapy treatment back in Arizona that showed early promise but didn't pan out, we were anxious to get her evaluated here. Using information we got from her Arizona oncologist, we were able to make arrangements at a veterinary cancer center in Windsor, Connecticut, right near where we're staying.

Well, we found that the second chemotherapy drug wasn't much more effective than the first, so we switched her to a third. This one is a weekly injection as opposed to the daily pills she was on. She went through two treatments, including a full day stay so they could check her blood glucose over a 12 hour period. Because the third medication did help shrink the tumor, after discussion with the oncologist and the surgeon, we concluded that earlier was better than later for her surgery to remove the lump.

We dropped her off on the 29th and the surgery went well. We picked her up on the 30th, complete with the "cone of shame" to keep her from licking. Early pathology confirms a low-grade 2 Mast Cell Tumor. The technique they used involves inserting 9 "beads"with yet a fourth kind of chemotherapy drug into the incision before closure. The beads release the medication over the course of about four weeks. This helps ensure that the tumor doesn't re-form later. It's not as tried-and-true a technique as radiation therapy, but it is about half the cost and doesn't take 8-12 weeks.

Now, all we need to do is keep her quiet for the next 3 weeks. Hmmm...

Sunday, May 12, 2013

May 12: Britt's Graduation

May 12, 2013
Storrs and Broad Brook, Connecticut

Well, the big day is here: Britt's college graduation. We've missed a couple of graduations in the past few years (Sorry, Annette and Erik!!!) but have made many of the May/June festivities.This spring it was Britt's turn and we managed to make it here with a couple of days to spare.

I can honestly say that this was the first time I've ever been to the University of Connecticut (UCONN, not Yukon) campus before. I know I had a few years back in the '70s where things were fuzzy, though. The weather turned bright and sunny and it was a great day. We carpooled out to Storrs and met up with Britt and Brian, then found our way to the Gampel Pavilion. Originally opened in 1990 as the home of UCONN's Men's and Women's Basketball teams (although they now play most home games in Hartford), it's been a pretty good home for the sport: through 2012, the Huskies have a record of 151-22 at Gampel.

With thousands of students graduating, there are multiple sessions held throughout Graduation Weekend. We lucked out as Britt's group was scheduled for Sunday afternoon.  We secured a good parking spot with Brian's help, then got right in and selected good seats.  Pretty soon, the graduates filled their seats and the festivities began. Britt walked about 2/3 of the way through, and we were on our way out in a few hours.

Back at the house, Pat put on a small feast for a few guests, including Brian's Mom and Dad who came up from East Haven. Al fired up the chimenea to ward off the evening chill, and it was a nice end to a great day.

Here's a short video of Britt getting her diploma...

Thursday, May 9, 2013

May 1-9: You'd think we were in a plane the way we're flying

May 9, 2013
Broad Brook, Connecticut

You know those things you say you'll "never do again"? "We learned our lesson"? "I'm too old for this $&@/"? Yeah, well, never say "never".

We knew this was going to be a tough drive when we started out. In retrospect, it wasn't as bad as it could have been, but we wish we'd had a little more time to get from Place "A" (Arizona) to Place "B" (Broad Brook, Connecticut). We did it in about six driving days, way off our record pace of 3.5 days set between Christmas and New Years in 2005 but still much faster than we're used to these days.

The route was pretty simple: north on I-17 out of Phoenix, then east on I-40 from Flagstaff. We've followed this route before, and it's a pretty easy drive. The last time (April-May, 2011), we were trailing strong storms and tornados that caused a significant amount of damage. This time, we were just following a slow-moving soaker of a rain storm.

We caught up to the rain by the time we got to Texas and had some heavy weather for several days. I tried to get pictures of how high the level of the Mississippi River was when we crossed near Memphis, but my photographer was "indisposed" and I'm pretty sure I wasn't supposed to stop in the middle of the bridge on I-55, so this is all I got.

Past Memphis, we swung south on US-78 (partially I-22) and headed for Birmingham. We had a nice visit with our friends Linda and Wendell, then shot northeast to Albertville to see Rick and Annette. We appreciate "driveway camping" with both, but wish we could have stayed longer.

While in Birmingham, Linda and Wendell were gracious enough to host a small birthday celebration for my nephew, Erik, who turned 21 this month. His sister, Alyson, and her friend, Kat, drove up from Auburn (college "kids") to join us, and a good time was had by all.

Leaving Alabama, we headed out on another familiar route: I-59 to Chattanooga, I-24 and I-75 back to I-40 in Knoxville, then I-81 all the way to Scranton, PA. Then east on I-84 to Connecticut, where we used the I-691 bypass to I-91 north through Hartford to Pat and Al's place in East Windsor, near the Massachusetts border.

We ran into two medium-sized traffic jams, both on I-81. The first was near Winchester, VA, and the second was in Harrisburg, PA. Both were caused by tractor-trailer accidents. The Virginia one was a simple tow-it-out-of-the way affair, but the Pennsylvania accident involved a huge fire after a tanker flipped and dropped 7,500 gallons of diesel fuel on overlapping bridges. I just read that repairs won't be completed until November.

We made this cross-country run "on the cheap", using one casino, two rest areas and a Walmart, plus friends and family in Alabama, for our overnights. Not wanting to be overly rigid in planning but still wanting to have an idea of what to expect, I researched the stops and fuel options before we left Arizona and things were pretty much as expected. The only issue we had was on the long stretch up I-81, where we pushed a little further into the evening than we'd like in order to shorten up the last leg into Connecticut. Unfortunately, the rest area I'd targeted was chock full of trucks by the time we arrived, so we pressed on and ended up in the Walmart in Shipsburg, Pennsylvania, about 75 miles farther than planned for the day. But, we have new iPhone apps that help locate places to stop so it was an easy find, plus it helped get us into Pat and Al's at a reasonable 4:22 PM the following day.

So, we know we've still got what it takes to do the cross-country run and we know we don't plan to use this approach any time soon. Now, we rest up!