Monthly Archives: August 2017

Down the Stairs

One of the things I do with this website is chronicle my aging process.  Last week was a big one.  It rained Thursday followed with a brief hailstorm.  The hail was mostly pea sized, but it came pretty hard for a few minutes.

I went outside to look at the damage (not bad), and came back in.  I headed downstairs with some urgency to get to the toilet.  My shoes were wet and I stepped on the front edge of the top step, the part without a nonskid strip.  My feet went out and somehow I ended up bouncing down the stairs face down and feet first.  It seemed to take a long time to go down one flight of stairs, cussing all the way.

I broke a rib on the left side of my chest, scraped both shins, bruised my right lower leg, and really whacked my left hip.  My hip grew a good-sized lump and my rib hurt like hell.  The rib may not be broken after all.  A few days later it feels a lot better.  My last excursion on the stairs resulted in two broken ribs on the left side of my back.  They hurt a lot longer than this one.

I spent a couple of days mostly in bed.  It was hard to walk with my hip and that rib hurt every time I coughed or laughed, not that I was doing much laughing.  Tylenol did nothing.  Tramadol helped quite a bit, but I don’t like taking very many.  My hip really objected going up the stairs.    Right foot on the stair, left foot up to the stair, rinse and repeat.  Now, I am pretty mobile.

I guess the incident could be described as shock and awe.  After several falls in 2015 I got several weeks of physical therapy which helped tremendously.  The therapist was good and fun to,work with, and I got a lot of balance back.  It seems as one ages, the tendency is to rely much more on visual cues for balance, not using the proprioceptor nerves in the feet or the inner ear.  The PT brought most of it back.  my additional task to be mindful at all times.

It turned out I may have some damage to the vestibular nerve v in my right ear.  I use hearing aids due to hearing damage when I was in the army.  Armies tend to make loud noises, and back then no attention was paid to hearing protection. The vestibular nerve carries auditory and balance signals to the brain.

When I turn right, especially in the dark, I get wobbly.  Lately the problem is a lot worse.  I have to brace every step on the way to the bathroom at night.  I’m going back to physical therapy.  The head therapist where I go says she can help with the vestibular nerve problem as well.  I wish physical therapy worked for tinnitus.

I am also headed out to the Disabled American Veterans office to look into having my service connected disability reassessed.  I have a 10% disability for tinnitus, and hearing loss as service connected with 0% disability.  It took five years of appeal to get the 0%.  It may work for me now.

About the Department of Veterans Affairs, I have always had good providers, but the bureaucracy is worse than the U.S. Army.  The waits are long as well.  I pretty much stopped using the VA because it was such a pain getting my Ritalin prescription for ADD refilled.  I guess I’m going back.  Ain’t aging fun?

The Upper Peninsula

Recently we visited Michigan.

Grand Marais and Lake Superior

Michigan is two realms, downstate and the U.P. as the locals call it, where we visited.  They call themselves yuppers, for U.P., the Upper Peninsula.  It’s the North Country, well north of Toronto, heavily wooded and bordered by Lake Michigan and Lake Superior.  My wife has an old friend who is from Grand Marais, a tiny town on the south shore of Lake Superior. It is 40 miles to the nearest supermarket or hospital.

Patty grew up there, and like most natives, had to leave to make a living.  After a career, she went back home.  I can understand why.  The U.P. is a magical place, and Grand Marais, with its 400 people, is one source of the magic.  The land, the lake, the history, and the yuppers combine to make a spot unlike any other.

Historically a fishing and logging town, it is now a retirement and tourist community.  The campground, with its tents and RV’s, has as many people in summer as the rest of town.  There is a K-12 school with 28 students, a few stores, restaurants, and motels; small houses with no fences, some new houses seeming out of place, and that’s about it.

The people talk funny.  Lots of Finns and Swedes settled there, and that Nordic accent prevails.  No one says yes, it’s yah.  The word the becomes da, and the vowels are round.  They are friendly, open, welcoming people with no pretensions.  I fell in love with them.

The land is second growth timber, still supporting a logging industry.  The trees are a mix of hardwoods and conifers.  The larger trees are about 24-30 inches in diameter.  Walk into the woods, and there are old stumps around four feet across.

The Old Coast Guard Station, now the National Lakeshore Ranger Station

 

 

 

We did some wandering at the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, just west of town.  The Park Headquarters is in the old Coast Guard Station in town.  The lakeshore has a waterfall, views of the lake and its lighthouses, the sandstone bluffs giving the park its name, and the log slide.  It is the first National Lakeshore.

 

Lake Superior Log Slide

The log slide was used to slide logs into the lake from sand dunes about 175 feet above the lake.  There is a trail with wooden steps leading down to the waterfall and the lakeshore.  We watched the young people frolicking in the water and running/sliding down the log slide.  The beach is rounded cobbles up to about softball size.  Just away from the beach is sand with people looking for agates that formed from water trickling through ancient basalt lava flows.

Another day we went blueberry picking in a logging clear cut.  Lots of blueberry plants were hiding in  west the bracken.  We kept an eye out for bears attracted to the blueberries. The berries went into pancakes and muffins.  Driving off the pavement is a bit dodgy due to the sand.  We had to back down one hill.

Another notable thing was the silence.  I live in the city, with a constant background of noise.  Grand Marais was quiet.  I am sure the town is even quieter in winter with three or four feet of snow on the ground on the rare day with no wind.

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

 

The logging and fishing history is important, but the shipwrecks are a thing of legend.  The south shore of Lake Superior is a lee shore.  A lee shore is when the shore is leeward (downwind) of a sailing vessel.  In the days of sail, Lake Superior schooners were often blown onto the south shore by the fierce north and westerly winds.  It is difficult to sail upwind in a big blow, and the lake is famous for its storms.

Lake Superior Schooner

You probably know Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”.  Ships under power weren’t immune to the storms.  Standing on the shore of that immense lake, I could feel the draw of that big lake, and began to appreciate both the beauty and the danger.  Today, the shipping is well offshore.

I never felt I could fall in love with flat country, but I do love the U.P.