The Traveling Steve's

End of Summer and into Hurricane Season!

It’s the last day of August as I write this, and we’ve officially had our first name hurricane of the season in Florida: Hurricane Idalia. Hurricane Idalia seemed to form out of nowhere, meaning it happened and strengthened so suddenly, offering those in its path little notice to evacuate. Thousands of people did evacuate along the west coast of Florida, seriously heeding warnings to what would become a Category 4 hurricane. Like all hurricanes, Idalia started as a tropical depression, but what was unusual for Idalia is how rapidly in gained strength in a mere couple days, forcing the quick evacuation of people in its’ path. t

Hurricane’s in Florida seem to strike late in the summer season, typically late August and early September, although the hurricane season for Florida officially goes until November first.

It’s Thursday now, and it’s two days after Idalia struck landfall at Keaton Beach, Florida. Idalia was originally expected to make landfall early Tuesday morning in the Tampa Bay Area, which would have been even more disastrous with the large metro population there, coupled with the infrastructure of many low-lying bridges and causeways to some of the chain of islands and beach communities in the area (i.e. St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island, Clearwater etc.) and it would have been truly catastrophic for the metro region.

Fortunately Hurricane Idalia moved in a north easterly course and and mostly brought lots of rain, some flooding and storm surge, and heavy winds to the Tampa and west coast of Florida, but Idalia did not make landfall until well north of Tampa, in the “Big Bend” area of Florida, specifically Keaton Beach, Florida.

I learned a new term about Florida while watching the news the last couple days: “Big Bend” is the unofficial name where the Florida west coast curves over to the panhandle portion of Florida.

Big Bend area of Florida shown in RED. Courtesy Wikipedia By Donald Albury – Own work,
CC BY-SA 4.0, commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37283695

Fortunately this area is sparsely populated as Idalia made a direct hit there, and while it caused extensive damage, so far there has been no loss of life reported. Still, thousands of people are still without power across the state, and many others are in shelters waiting to return to check on the condition of their home, which may or may not be inhabitable.

I can truly sympathize with those who have lost so much, as my house suffered heavy damage in 2004 due to 3 hurricanes that hit my area in Central Florida in one month; Charley, Frances, and Jean, with a fourth hurricane Ivan not far away. Due to the extensive damage (roof, flooding, drywall, cabinets, etc), I could not live in my house for over 4 months, and I was one of the lucky ones thanks to my neighbor Kenny who was a contractor and could arrange for his contacts to work on my house. I also stayed with Kenny and his family during this time, and looking back I actually have good memories as hard a time as it was, due to them and the community all coming together to help out in a crisis.

My house circa September 2004. All hope and smiles until the second Hurricane Francis hit.

Kenny and my neighbors helping to re-patch the roof after the first Hurricane Charley hit in August 2004. One week later, Hurricane Francis hit, and all that work was futile. I had to get a new roof to go with the rest of the house damage.

My Bedroom ceiling after Hurricane Francis, Labor Day weekend 2004.

My bedroom after Hurricane Francis hit in 2004 and collapsed the ceiling and roof.

A month later (after Hurricanes Jean and Ivan also made an appearance), work began on the house, starting with my bedroom. Everything was stripped to the bare concrete.

This was my pool after the first Hurricane Charley struck in 2004. I was out of town that week on business, and came home to broken screens and roof shingles, nails, and debris in the pool.

As you can see from some of my hurricane photos from 2004, the damage is swift in the making, but can take months in clean-up and rebuilding. One last photo from last year while I was in the hospital in Seattle from Hurricane Ian’s aftermath at Daytona Beach Shores. We got there a few times a year, and even months later this year, the pool area is still devastated from the hurricane in September 2022.

Daytona Beach Shores Hyatt Place Hotel Oceanfront’s pool area and boardwalk, as seen in January 2023, with the damage leftover from Hurricane Ian in September 2022.

Please keep those affected by this year’s Hurricane Idalia, as well as the people affected by the recent fires in Maui and British Columbia, Canada in your prayers. Also consider sending aid via a recognized aid charity if you feel inclined to do so. I donate monthly on a recurring basis to Samaritin’s Purse as well as extra during catastrophic events, and know my funding goes to a much needed cause. This Christian organization, now led by Franklin Graham does wonders for disaster relief worldwide. They have a fund drive set up for Hurricane Idalia as well as the Maui Fires you can donate to online. There are also many other charities such as the Red Cross and Faith-Based charities that will accept donations as well.

I also saw this link to the Maui fire’s assistance from the Red Cross site: Maui Nut Strong, which provides local information about the situation in Maui, and ways to help as well.

Hurricane Idalia has now moved across the state and up towards South Carolina, where it has been downgraded to a tropical storm (down from a category 4 hurricane with 125 mph winds), and eventually will move out to sea towards Bermuda. In this photo below I downloaded from one of the news sites on the internet, you can see the path of Idalia on the left, and Hurricane Franklin, which is fortunately out to sea and not expected to make landfall. There are a few other tropical depressions in the Atlantic, including Jose, and Gert, but are not expected to make landfall in Florida.

Here in the Orlando area, we did not get the brunt of the expected weather fortunately, and mostly a good deal of rain yesterday, with occasional gusts of high winds. Today (Thursday), we are still getting some rain, but nothing heavy like what was expected. We did lay our flamingo statues down out by the pool so they won’t get blown over though, and Steve (DOS) reset these to their happy standing positions today.

Our poolside flamingos (top right) waiting for Hurricane Idalia to pass over our area on Wednesday.
DOS resets the flamingos on Thursday, now standing tall poolside.

One nice thing about Hurricane Idalia’s passing, if you can call it that, is it we needed rain after many dry days, and it cooled the hot summer weather off a bit here at home. For the last few weeks at least, it’s been close to 100 degrees F, which has made it too uncomfortable to be outside for any lengthy period, or even walking. Steve (DOS) and I have been walking in the mall for our exercise since I “flunked out” of physical therapy (PT).

I guess I’m the only person I know who had to discontinue physical therapy after a single sessions due to inflamed ankles and pain. I was ok at the PT evaluation, and with a few simple ankle exercises to get started. I then started to supplement the therapy with home exercises they recommended which caused severe pain and inflammation to my feet and ankles.

I’m still recovering (although doing much, much better) from the open heart surgery I had nearly a year ago in Seattle, and as the physical therapist (PT) explained, I lost a lot of muscle mass during my two months there where I was confined mostly to the bed. PT is now trying to work the muscle groups in my feet and ankles so I have more endurance, without the feet swelling from inflammation. I was doing well in the cooler Spring months of this year, but in the last few hot summer months I have had inflammation in my ankles at least four or five times to the point it was very painful to walk. In most cases I was limping around and had to use a walker just to get around the house or to the Doctor’s office.

Each time my ankles flared up, I was prescribed a short treatment of six days of Prednisone, which helped clear it up every time, usually within two or three days. I’m not supposed to take Advil (an anti-inflammatory drug) due to the effects it may have on my kidneys, nor Tumeric as it interferes with my Coumadin (INR) numbers. I’ve watched umpteen You Tube videos of PT Vloggers, nutrition for anti-inflammatory etc, to the point DOS makes me turn off the TV, as I think every video pertains to my condition; i.e. Planters Fasciitis, arthritis, injured ankles etc. ? I seriously tried learning about the causes and treatments of inflammation via the You Tube Vloggers, in lieu of more medication, but always ended up going back to the Podiatrist.

Anyway, I went back to a couple doctors last week; one was my Podiatrist, and the other was an another Cardiologist my primary Cardiologist recommended to check my pace-maker monitoring, which is done at their location. I still go to my primary doctor, and primary Caridioligist on a semi-regular basis, which along with monthly lab work and INR screenings, my heart health and medications/interactions can be actively monitored and adjusted if necessary.

First, my Podiatrist told me to discontinue the Physical therapy immediately, and to STOP WATCHING THOSE YOU TUBE VIDEOS!, which was just after DOS showed him a video by a PT Vlogger that recommends using a “butter knife” on your ankles! The Podiatrist laughed like, you can’t be serious! ?. (The butter knife was for massaging the ankle area, but it did sound rather funny I must admit).

The Podiatrist laughed and said: “You know I’m not being paid to be a marriage counselor between you two”!, as DOS and I argued about the benefits of the You Tube self help videos. ? Anyway, the You Tube PT’s and Podiatrist’s videos made sense to me, although they all have a disclaimer to discuss this with your doctor first. No more self help or PT therapy for me right now, LOL!?.

I did have a custom Ritchie brace made for my right ankle at Hanger Clinic, but when I went back to the Podiatrist, my ankle was temporarily too swollen to wear it. The Podiatrist prescribed Prednisone, and within a few days I was walking much better, now using the Ritchie Brace on my right ankle for support.

The Podiatrist (and the PT staff member) also said I can and should do “aqua therapy” at home in the pool, which can be walking, swimming, etc as the water takes the weight off of my feet. I’ve been doing the swimming/pool walking etc regularly, with the exception of the last couple days due to Hurricane Idalia.

I also had my MICRA pacemaker checked and evaluated, and the Cardiology staff ran an EKG. The EKG was normal, but the Cardiologist (both my primary and this one), want to see me later in October after I’ve had the next six month heart Echo appointment.

My tiny MICRA Pacemaker, which was installed July 2022, prior to my
aortic valve surgery in Sept 2022.

In between the doctor appointments, hurricane, walking in the mall, and dining out a bit, we’ve been packing for our Alaska trip this week. Retirement can be so busy!

We did meet up one evening for dinner with our friends Ben and Tom, and went to “jail” for dinner; actually a restaurant called The Old Jailhouse, located in Downtown Sanford. The restaurant was originally a jail in Sanford, and is now a nice restaurant with the jail theming. If interested, you can read about it’s history here, from their website.

Downtown Sanford has really added a lot of food and drink venues over the last few years, and DOS and I went back one afternoon for a late lunch at “The Station“, which is a sports pub located next door to “The Old Jailhouse”. The Station was originally an old Fire Station, and it too is themed appropriately with many fire-related items, badges from various Fire Departments across the country etc. Not a fancy place, but a fun sports bar with character, history, and plenty of big screen TV’s to watch one of the many live games. Built in 1887, The Station is also one of the oldest fire stations in Florida, prior to its restoration as a sports pub. And their freshly made burgers are wonderful! You can read about The Station’s history here.

Now DOS and I are getting ready for our Alaska cruise, which departs Vancouver on Tuesday, Sept 5th for 10 nights on the Crown Princess. It was just a year ago (September 2022) when we last took an Alaskan cruise on the Grand Princess (also sailing from Vancouver) that I had to be admitted suddenly onboard the ship’s hospital for two nights, and then air-evacuated from Ketchikan Alaska’s Emergency Room once we made our next port stop. We had no idea when we boarded the Alaska cruise we would later be air-evacuated on a Lear jet for a two hour flight to Washington State. I spent over a month in a Seattle hospital after a major 12 hour open heart surgery, followed by nearly a month in a hotel there after being discharged, while I further recovered before flying home to Orlando in November.

Ironically, there were two hurricanes last year while I was in the hospital in Seattle, (Hurricanes Ian and Fiona) although that was the least of my worries at the time, and fortunately we had no damage to the house when we came home in November.

I must say, I’m a bit apprehensive about going on the Alaska cruise again after all of that happened last year; no one goes on a cruise and expects to come off in a stretcher, or have their house hit by a hurricane, but I do want to “finish” the Alaska cruise from last year, and I’m in much better health now nearly a year later.

Debarking the Grand Princess via stretcher in Ketchikan, September 2022.

Getting loaded into an ambulance dock-side in Ketchikan for the start
of a 2 month journey into the unknown.

I do worry a bit about extended walking this trip in Alaska, but I need to build up my endurance, and hopefully my ankles won’t flare up. I think I’m concerned with the cold weather, not that I don’t mind it, but both on our Norway cruise last July 2022 and on the Alaska cruise last September 2022, I seemed to have breathing issues in the colder weather, which I thought was asthma-related. Unbeknownst to me, however, it was actually heart trouble (my aortic heart valve replacement surgery from the previous year Sept 2021, failed for whatever reason.) It’s probably just a coincidence as all the doctors I’ve talked to, including my Seattle surgeon, said that the cold weather wasn’t an issue; most likely the heart issues were due to some type of infection (I suspect the mild case of Covid we had last March 2022, or perhaps the booster shot I had in May 2022, but who knows; I guess we’ll never know.).

Again, I am really looking forward to “finishing” our Alaska trip from last year. Alaska is so beautiful, and truly as they say, “the last frontier”.

September 2022, last port stop for me where I got off the ship in Skagway.

DOS and me heading back to the ship from Skagway in Sept 2022.

From the Grand Princess Sept 2022, a photo from our balcony of Glacier National Park. The next day I would be admitted to the ship’s hospital, prior to being air-evacuated to Washington State.

Anyway, on a more positive note, DOS and I are finishing our packing this week for our Alaska trip. We are staying at the Hyatt Regency Orlando Airport on Saturday night, as we have an early flight (8:45am) on Sunday morning to San Francisco, and then connecting to Vancouver, Canada. We will be staying in Vancouver two nights, and then our cruise on the Crown Princess leaves on Tuesday for 10 nights to Alaska, returning to Vancouver, (which I did not make it back to last year unfortunately, being airlifted from Ketchikan.)

Ironically while packing for this trip, I discovered a full suitcase of clothes in one of our closets, (as well as DOS’s suitcase and duffel bag) from the Alaska trip last year! We had to ship those 3 bags home from Ketchikan due to the space limitations on the Lear jet, prior to being air-evacuated to Washington State. Last year we were actually taking a 12 night Alaska cruise, followed by another back-to-back 7 night Princess cruise that was sailing along the West Coast of California, ending in Los Angeles, so even for us we had loads of luggage for the combined trips. At first the pilot said we could only take one bag total on the Lear jet, but DOS talked them into letting us take 3 bags, and shipping 3 bags home from Ketchikan! Space was a premium on the Lear Jet with 2 pilots, 2 paramedics, DOS, and myself (lying down on a stretcher), but we fit in ok, and the weights and balances were good to go.

Not much room for the bags on the Lear jet that evacuated us from
Ketchikan Alaska to Washington State.

Two hour flight from Ketchikan to Washington State.

We obviously had to cancel that second leg of the California cruise last year (which is a quick reminder to ALWAYS PURCHASE TRAVEL INSURANCE), so we had clothes for two different climates, cool Alaska, and warmer California. This week we re-washed the clothes in the suitcase, and then packed some of the clothes again for this Alaska cruise. As much as we both travel, neither one of us likes to pack. Packing can be downright stressful, mentally as well as physically, especially for somewhere you don’t go often or has mixed climates from your home base. Flying also adds challenges in luggage weight and liquids as well.

So that’s it for now. We’re so thankful we weren’t severely impacted by the storm, and offer prayers for those that were affected, especially in the Big Bend area of Florida. We’re still having major thunderstorms as I write this now, at 4:30pm, Thursday night, and the lights have flickered a couple times, so hopefully the power holds up.

Stay safe and dry, and have a great upcoming weekend!

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