Life has a way of twisting itself so you never really know what is going to happen. Take this past year 2020 as an example. It was been full of stress, shock, and surprise because of the pandemic, politics, and potential. When Scott and I started 2020 we had no clue what was going to happen at the end of the year. We were making plans to stay in the borrowed RV at the brother-in-law’s place giving us time to pay off bills and then purchase land somewhere close by. However, life had other plans for us.
In April of 2004, we left Oklahoma quickly. We did not feel we were achieving anything; jobs were dead-end, bills piling up, and life was frustrating. After a short trip to Fort Worth, Scott and I found ourselves moving to Texas where life took a bit of a different turn than we expected. During 2013 we found ourselves visiting Texas State Parks, getting involved with a state park non-profit organization, and beginning to park host in those parks. Then we discovered YouTube and blogging. It was not the life we thought we were going to have.
Take Me Back To Tulsa
It was August of 2017 when we moved back to Tulsa. Surprisingly, it was good for us to go back. Here we were able to explore the hometown. We both found this was not the same place we had left; something had changed. We were seeing the city and state with different eyes; travelers’ eyes. This enabled us to appreciate the historical sites and tourist destinations more and it helped us find a new love for the state we both grew up in.
Both Scott and I have a love for history and travel, Oklahoma opened up a lot of opportunities for us. The state parks in this state offered plenty of camping. There are some locations that offered hiking, but not as much as other states. Fortunately for us, we had not really found hiking yet. We were more into the historical sites such as the Route 66 locations, museums such as the Woody Guthrie Center, and tourist destinations like The Gathering Place. It opened our eyes to see how much history and fun Oklahoma had to offer.
Because we were in a centrally located area we were able to branch out to other states. We collected all of the counties in Arkansas, 87% of Kansas, and ventured into New Mexico, Nebraska, South Dakota, and even Wyoming. Unfortunately, it was taking us longer to visit places because the drive time was five to six hours just to get to places we had never been. This was one of the issues we had found frustrating about our Texas travels. However, we were happy being in Osage County, Oklahoma; it was beautiful, historic, and home.
A Legen—dary Trip!
A friend had recently taken a job at Pikes Peak and she invited us to visit the area. Taking a four-day trip we drove to John Martin Reservoir State Park and camped in our “improved” hammock set-up. The park is located in the southwest corner of Colorado in Bent County near Las Animas and it is perfect for star gazing and fishing. When Scott woke up he felt a little strange and his eyes were not focusing properly. We didn’t think much about it because we were climbing in elevation and we had a lot more to do over the next three days.
Heading towards our next camping site, Lathrop State Park in Huerfano County, we were able to get a good view of the desert landscape. We continued to focus on the Spanish Mountain Range ahead of us but enjoyed the view around us. There were storms all around and we were a bit nervous because our hammock stands were made from fencing top rails and with lightning all around us, it could become potentially deadly.
Finally arriving at Lathrop State Park, we found our campsite to be on the top of a rather large hill and the forecasted weather was rain with lightning. We abandoned our campsite and decided to look at a hotel in Cañon City (pronounced Canyon City) later that evening. We were going to be following the Highway of Legends first.
The Highway of Legends, now a National Scenic Byway, runs along CO 12/U.S. 160 through the Spanish Peaks. This road took us through small towns like Le Veta and Cuchara. Spending time in the San Isabel National Forest in the Cuchara River Recreation Area was exactly what we needed. We were surrounded by pines and aspen trees while we explored the Blue Lake and Cucharas Creek enabling us to relax and breathe in the fresh mountain air. It was one of the moments of this trip that caused me to seriously think about moving to the area someday.
Hours later we found ourselves at an American Inn in Cañon City. It is a basic motel, but the owners have taken care of the property and their prices are not high. We were able to get some rest safely as there were major storms all around us. The next morning, Scott was still having issues focusing and he was not feeling great. I was beginning to feel the elevation a little so neither of us thought twice about the issue. I was able to drive and we still had a big day ahead of us. We would be heading to El Paso County to visit Pikes Peak.
Pikes Peak rises above Colorado Springs to 14,115 feet. It is one of two “fourteeners” you can drive up; the other is Mount Evens near Denver. I was fine driving this until we got out of the tree zone. I had never driven that high and the twists and turns were a bit unnerving at that height. Upon reaching the peak, I found myself in tears of relief gripping the steering wheel. Scott, on the other hand, was calm, but he was having terrible issues. We got out of the car, took the obligatory sign photo, went into the gift shop to pick up postcards and the famous donuts. At one point Scott told me he was going out to the car while I completed my purchases.
Arriving at the car, Scott said he did not feel well, he wanted to get down the mountain to a lower elevation. Unfortunately, fear took over me and I was not able to drive down so he had to do this. If only I had known what was going to happen days later, I might have done things differently. We made it safely down to Colorado Springs and fell in love with the area. I am known to cry out, “I want to live here!” when we travel, but this time I was sure I wanted to live there.
The next day we headed home to Oklahoma. The drive was long, but we came across many interesting places in Kansas and crossed off many counties and courthouses. Arriving home late, we headed to bed so Scott could rest; explaining that he felt fine and was ready to head back to work the next day.
When the Heart Attacks
Scott works for a company that does maintenance and building management for other businesses. He deals with HVAC (air conditioning) issues mainly, but there have been days he deals with normal issues. The location he has been working for since August 2017 has been at one of the local Tulsa hospitals. All throughout the day, he felt extra fatigued even though he slept well the night before. Because we had been in the car for ten hours the day before, he thought this was nothing more than the post-travel blahs the two of us deal with after many long trips.
About the time for him to leave for the day, he began to see flashing lights in his vision, soon after he had a panic attack. Because of my stroke in 2018, he was concerned he was having the same type of issue so he went to the emergency room. I showed up soon after and found a man who was scared. They assigned him a room soon after and there were so many tests done. Fortunately, we found he had not had a stroke, but he did have a small heart attack.
Heart attacks are caused by the build-up of plaque in the coronary arteries. The process of this plaque build-up is called atherosclerosis (pronounced: a·thr·ow·sklr·ow·suhs). Because the arteries are getting a build-up of plaque, there is less oxygen that can get to the heart which causes the damage. Many things cause this smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy diet, and the like. Men and women are both at risk and they need to be looking at the warning signs. Often warning signs differ quite a bit between men and women, but there can be some overlap.
Scott had been having issues for a while, but we never really thought about it as being heart issues; with him being diabetic, we assumed it was because his numbers were too high. He was always so exhausted, his legs and arms always felt “weak and sick”, he was having issues with momentarily blurred sight, he seemed dizzy and balance was off, and it seemed heartburn was a daily issue. While we were on the trip to Colorado, he had these issues more than normal; we assumed it was nothing more than elevation sickness. We now know it was because he had severe atherosclerosis. It was causing his heart and the rest of his body to not get the needed oxygen.
They did a series of tests to verify what exactly needed to be done. They did blood tests to check his cholesterol and triglycerides. An echocardiogram and EKG were done to check his heartbeat, heart size, and test the blood flow. He had a Coronary Angiography performed as well. This was to see if they would be able to use a “balloon” to open the arteries then place the mesh to open up the blockage, increasing the blood flow. Unfortunately, every one of his coronary arteries was blocked 80% or more. They established at that time he would be receiving five bypasses or Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG).
Between the emergency room, three days on the neurological floor to make sure he wasn’t having a stroke, and the next six days at the Oklahoma Heart Institute for his surgery and recovery, he was exhausted. He was ready to be home, but would I be able to take care of him as I should? What was going to be needed done to ensure he lived a healthier life; one that would help him be with me for a long time. I was promised that between physical therapy, dietary education, and exercising daily he would live a long and happy life.
The question it left us with was what was a healthy lifestyle. If you go to the American Heart Association’s “Lifestyle Changes for Heart Attack Prevention” page you will find a thorough list of what should be considered a healthy lifestyle:
CHOOSE GOOD NUTRITION
WATCH YOUR CHOLESTEROL
LOWER HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
BE PHYSICALLY ACTIVE
AIM FOR A HEALTHY WEIGHT
These nine things can help you keep a heart attack or stroke at bay. We found a few of the items easy to do. Neither of us smokes and Scott will have a couple of fingers of whiskey a couple of times a week. Both of us are on medication to help lower our cholesterol and we have found our numbers are good for the HDL, LDL, and Triglycerides, plus neither of us has high blood pressure. The issues we seem to have are maintaining a healthy weight, choosing a good diet, and being physically active. We are working on this issue and there is a lot of learning to be done. While he was home and going to physical therapy, he was walking up to 30 minutes a day three times a day.
On The Move Again!
The company Scott works for, as I stated before, manages and maintains maintenance for other businesses. He started working in Texas and was able to transfer to the hospital in Tulsa. Unfortunately during the time Scott was off work due to his heart attack, the hospital decided not to renew their contract. He had a choice to make, stay in Tulsa as a new employee of the hospital or stay with the company transferring to another business. Because our family lives in Oklahoma and he was up to five weeks of vacation and other benefits, we had a tough choice to make.
When we decided to collect all the counties in the United States, the thought process was to collect as much as we could as close to where we lived. That cut off for us was about six to ten hours away; we had reached that time frame for any new counties to be obtained. After speaking with our families, Scott decided he would not sign on with the hospital, but stay with the company he already had a nine year history with. So it was time to start the job search for a transfer.
Looking in Arkansas, Utah, Colorado, and a few other states Scott put in applications for three locations: Jonesboro, AR, Salt Lake City, UT, and Grand Junction, CO. He had an interview with the location in Salt Lake City and it looked very favorable. The job would be something he had never done before and he would be helping to create the new policies. The positions in Jonesboro and Grand Junction had been filled so, after talking with my mother, Scott filled out an application for a Colorado Springs position. My mother was thrilled when Scott was offered the position in Colorado Springs because she had always wanted to live there and she had decided to move there once we were settled and her lease was up.
Once the decision was made, we had thirty days to sell, purge, and pack everything we owned. We would get a 10-foot moving truck and leave on November 23. There was plenty to sell such as the outdoor table and chairs, grill, lawnmower, and such, and we gave a lot away to a charity such as dishes, furniture, and items not needed. Cordie, the Chihuahua, was happy to help put things in boxes and was not going to allow us to leave her behind. We knew there was going to be a need for a small storage building until we were able to sort through a few things we just could not part with at that point in time.
On the morning of November 23, we got in the moving truck and car, then headed west to Colorado Springs. We had made a basic plan on where we would stop for the night and then would play it by ear the rest of the time. Cordie was safely attached to her new car seat while Scott and I had our audiobooks ready to be played. The day was going to be cold and snow was expected at one point during the trip so anxiety was up for that, but none had happened as we arrived in Hays, Kansas, where we would stop for the night to rest.
The next day we were up early and headed to our final destination. We would arrive in Colorado Springs, Colorado, within five hours of leaving Hays, then we would find our hotel. Once settled we would be able to find a good meal and explore our new home town. As we drove on Highway 70, we began to see snow and snowplows. I was definitely nervous about it, but this was one of the reasons we wanted to move to Colorado; we wanted to experience real winters! Fortunately, there was no real accumulation and by the time we arrived in Colorado Springs, the day had turned sunny and warm. We were able to see Pikes Peak ahead of us, welcoming us home.
Knowing where we were moving and the date, we needed to find a place to live quickly. As I started my search I knew there specific things we wanted in an apartment: small square footage, close to Scott’s work, not expensive, and safe. There were a couple of complexes very close to his work, but they were so expensive. I then came across a small complex of one bedroom apartments. The location and size were perfect and it was exactly where it needed to be budget wise. All we needed to do was connect with the manager and get everything set up.
As you can see, the apartment is a small 400 square foot living space and we needed to figure out how we would set it up. There was not a lot of storage space so we would need to be creative to find places for everything we brought. If you look at the diagram, the kitchen seems to be huge, but that is the kitchen and dining area. We had already decided to use the dining area for office space so the kitchen ends up being about the size and set up of an RV kitchen. Unfortunately, an RV kitchen is a bit better in the setup.
As you can see, the refrigerator and stove/oven is smaller, however, it enables there to be a bit more storage space. Fortunately, we were able to get creative in how we managed the lack of storage. One was the magnet shelf/paper towel holder. It has enabled us to use the side of the fridge as storage. It opened up the under cabinet area around the sink. A friend of ours gifted us the over sink draining/storage area enabling us to keep our dishes stored there. It helps us keep the kitchen counters uncluttered by not using a traditional drainer and a place to keep those things we use daily. Then there are the cabinet step organizers in the cabinets themselves. This has helped us organize the spices and canned goods. We were able to get these off of Amazon at great prices and they delivered!
I had purchased some interesting premade shelves at a garage sale once for Scott to use in his music room in Oklahoma, but I absconded them to use just under the cabinets. They fit the space perfectly and it has helped us to get things off of the counter. Just love the look of them and how they match the black drainer. It was exactly what we needed in the tiny kitchen.
Both Scott and I had decided we would be doing hammocks in the bedroom. We were so uncomfortable in the RV bed. Even when we sleep in hotels as we travel, our backs are very sore from the flat mattresses. The hammocks help keep our back muscles relaxed and in line. The only thing we really needed for the hammocks were stands. Our homemade turtle dog stands would not work in this small space. So we purchased two hammock stands from Amazon that fit perfectly in the bedroom. We will be adding two clothing racks and a shelf or dresser beside each bed so the items in storage can be put into the closet for sorting through. Our goal is to be able to have just what we need and no more.
The Work Areas & Living Room
Coming up with specific work areas was not really difficult; we just had to figure out what to do to fix it. I saw it in my head and was able to purchase one of the twelve cube Ikea shelves from the Facebook Marketplace and we then found two desks at Wal-Mart for about $30 each. We already had the chairs and that was really all we needed.
Because the living space is open from my work area, we purchased a rolling ottoman with storage for $10 at a local thrift store and it enables me to turn my chair around and enjoy an evening watching the shows we enjoy. This space works out really well for what we need and that is what it is all about.
What Are We Doing Now?
Since we have gotten settled in, we have been exploring Colorado. We went from 11 counties collected before we moved here to 35 in just a few months. The desire to see everything is great and we are taken with the snowy landscapes. We try not to allow the lack of experience of driving on the wintery roads keep us away. We have purchased the necessary tire cables just in case we need them and we try to keep an eye on the weather so we do not get caught in unexpected snow storms as we travel.
There is so much to do and see here in just this one state that we are exploring to see what is out there. For example, we have been to Rocky Mountain National Park a couple of times so we can experience the different types of weather and views. On one trip we just drove around to see what was there and on the second trip we hiked around Bear Lake and up to Nymphs’ Lake. We were able to experience lakes so frozen people were ice skating on them! It was just magical for us.
After collecting all of the counties in Arkansas and Oklahoma, we felt we were able to concentrate on the many different things and places in each of the states instead of trying to collect all the counties. Scott once said he felt a freedom to explore each state more. So, we have decided to do this with Colorado. Once we have collected all the counties, we will feel we can focus more on each little place we have fallen in love with.
We love Colorado so much and I often wonder if we will ever get tired of this place. I truly hope not, there is something about mountains that makes both of us happy. That is, however, what this journey is all about. We don’t like sitting still and being stagnant so we will continue to travel and see what is out there. Because, as travel writer Bill Bryson says, “There is something about the momentum of travel that makes you want to just keep moving, to never stop.”
Thanks so much for joining us on our journey and reading our blog and watching our video.
Scott & Ren