Virginia to Florida

Sent on May 14, 2015

Hi all,

I am cheating this time, and emailing everyone at once. Some of this may be repeat info, so bear with me.

The last time I emailed, we were in Virginia Beach, at Indian Cove Resort, which was just lovely. While there, Mandy went off her food and stopped being perky, even on walks. A few times we had to carry her to the dog park just to see if being out and off her leash would help. She’s an old dog, and she’s been struggling for a few years off and on, and we thought she was just finally feeling her age. But we decided that, if it didn’t get better, we would look for a vet.

We left Virginia Beach on May 7th, having stayed two extra days to let DH unwind after his trip away. While there, I visited my friends J and H and their six (!!) kids, and fell in love with Caleb, who is 15 months old and about as adorable as any baby could be. I had a lot of fun hanging out when the whole family came to the campsite and grilled burgers one day, but when they all left, my entire body hurt, and I was exhausted. I was so happy I had kids when I was young enough to keep up with them!

From Virginia Beach we headed down through the Carolinas, stopping for the first night near Kitty Hawk, in a place called Kill Devil Hills. Kitty Hawk was about as pretty as a place could be, and we visited a monument to the Wright Brothers at a rest stop. We couldn’t get a campsite there, so we spent the night in a Kmart parking lot, where they gave us quasi permission to stay the night (a lot of these places say, “We can’t authorize it, but no one’s gonna stop you,” with a wink and a smile). Mandy seemed to be perking up a bit, and she was eating baby food, but DH had to hand feed her most nights.

The next morning we drove through the Alligator River National Wildlife refuge, on the coast of North Carolina, which is home to a bevy of wildlife, including alligators, turtles, frogs, and various other creatures. I saw an alligator swimming along in a creek/canal thing next to the road, but didn’t manage to get a photo – we were on the move. We did stop and let the dogs pee on a grassy spot while DH had a cup of tea, but the only exciting thing there was an old turtle shell and a few frogs Youngest spied.

We spent the night of May 8th in a Lowe’s parking lot in New Bern, North Carolina. We intended to sleep in the Walmart lot, but it didn’t have much shade or open spots, and it was getting warm by then, so we tried Lowe’s. We were happy we did – they had excellent wifi signal all the way out! That night I made chicken enchiladas in the oven of the RV, and it was a strange experience, cooking dinner in a parking lot, but they turned out really well, and we had some rice to go with them.

The next day we hit up a rest stop called, “South of the Border,” which sits on the border of North/South Carolina, in a tiny town called Hamer. It had tacky fibreglass statues of everything from elephants to giant men wearing sombreros. There was a “reptile house” and a big godzilla and inside one of the shops I found a cow statue with a slot machine set into its body. Weird, and fun, and so very very tacky. I convinced DH that I needed a pair of five dollar sunglasses with a moustache hanging below them, and when he said, “You’ll never wear them!” I wore them all day long just to spite him. And I had fun doing so, although the moustache makes it tough to drink, since it dangles right over my mouth.

The night of the 9th was spent in Santee State Park, near Lake Marion in South Carolina. When I say near, I mean *right next to* – we had a view of the lake from where our RV was parked. It was very pretty, and there were robins everywhere – and they didn’t seem too concerned about people. A few times they flew past so close to my head I could hear every flap of their wings. The water in the lake looked pretty mucky near the shore, and we didn’t go in. But if you didn’t look at the edges, and just looked out over the lake it was beautiful. That was also our first sighting of spanish moss, which we took a lot of photos of, not realizing what it was and just thinking it looked interesting. Mandy was perkier, and ate a bit, and seemed to be on the mend, and we were suspecting a virus by this stage. I’m not mentioning Milo much because, well, he’s always just thrilled to be with us – especially DH, who he sees as the alpha, and his best friend.

The next night we headed for Savannah, Georgia. Talk about your spanish moss!! It was gorgeous, and everywhere, and we looked it up because Youngest was worried it was hurting the trees. It’s a bromeliad, which I didn’t know, and it doesn’t even attach to the trees – it just hangs on their branches. When it came time to find a resting spot, we went to Skidaway Island State Park. DH was having some stomach issues and we stopped earlier than usual so he could lie down and we could all take a breather and try to decompress. We plugged into power and water at Skidaway, got the AC going, and he took a nap while Youngest and I walked the dogs and took photos of a hundred million squirrels and birds. OK. Maybe that’s an exaggeration. It was probably more like a few dozen. When DH and I took the dogs out for their last walk of the night, there were millipedes wandering all over the road, and I was amazed. I’d never seen one, and DH teased me when I said, “I thought they just lived in the jungle or something!” 🙂 If you didn’t know, Georgia is really wild. I mean, its practically a jungle. Skid away Island is home to deer, squirrels, millipedes, raccoons, and an assortment of other creatures, including deer ticks, which we didn’t realize at the time. We had dosed both dogs with a monthly dose of Advantix before we set out, which is supposed to protect them from ticks, fleas, mosquitos, and all those other little pests.

In the morning DH was feeling a bit better, and we headed off to Jacksonville, Florida. By this point, we’d discovered our under hood AC wasn’t working very well and the generator was no longer powering the main cabin if we started it, so DH found some repair places, and we were going to stay the night at Cummin’s Power, where they had offered us an overnight spot in their parking lot, with power and water hookups. Mandy was again on the downturn, so on the way to Jacksonville, I found a vet with a high rating on a review site, and we made an appointment for her, for that evening.

This is where it all got a bit sad. Mandy had a mass in her abdomen. The vet, Dr. Timberlake, told us his dog had the same thing, and it ended up being hemangiasarcoma, which is an aggressive cancer. He said the mass appeared to be attached to her spleen, so we could have that removed, and she might be OK for a while. The only other thing it could be, besides hemangiasarcoma, was a result of trauma – a car hitting her, or something drastic like that. Knowing she’s never been through that kind of trauma, it seemed entirely too likely it was cancer, and the vet said her prognosis was poor, even if we had it removed. He sent us on to a vet he knew at an animal ER place, and we had an ultrasound down, which confirmed it. We absorbed all of this, and took Mandy “home” to the RV, got take out from a burger place, and parked for the night at Cummin’s around midnight. We all talked, and we all cried, and we all petted Mandy, and thought about how she’s had 13 years and a really nice life, and how so many of the things she loves have been gone from her over the last year. She hardly ever ran anymore or played, she seemed so tired a lot of the time, and she’d lost interest in food. Leaving the tumour alone was not an option – it was bleeding, internally, off and on, and would only cause her pain. DH, Youngest and I all agreed that the best possible option was to have her put to sleep now, before it made her even more unhappy, before it could hurt her worse. So the next morning I called Dr. Timberlake and he made a time for her at 5pm. We spent the morning at the home of the guy who fixed our generator, and while he and DH poked at the generator, Youngest and I took Milo and Mandy to run in his backyard, around a pond, with his two dogs. Milo got absolutely filthy rolling in mud, and Mandy seemed tired, but enjoyed the sun and the grass. We had to bathe them both under the hose before they were allowed back in the RV.

Then we took Mandy to a park and fed her little sausages, some tunafish – neither of which she’d ever be allowed under normal circumstances. She trotted about in the sun, and sniffed the wind, and Milo got jealous because he was leashed and she wasn’t. Then we drove to the vets, and held her, and said goodbye.

I expected to feel guilty. I didn’t. She was just so tired, and she’d lost her spark a long time ago, and I think we were all in denial about it. When she went to sleep she just looked…relieved, somehow. It felt right. And while I don’t know if there is any kind of afterlife for dogs, I prefer to imagine there is, and that she’s with Pucho somewhere, or she’s running full speed through a field of grass. Silly, probably. But there it is. I really loved that dog. She’ll be cremated, and we’ll have to travel back to Jacksonville to pick her up. Youngest wants to scatter her ashes in the grand canyon, or the redwoods. We regretted not doing that with Pucho, so we made sure to do it this time. Even if it isn’t Mandy anymore, it will help us all find closure, I think.

That night we got chinese take out and ate in the same lot at Cummins. We had only been given one night’s permission, but none of us much cared if they got mad. They didn’t even notice us, I think, or if they did, we were fine there.

That night we found two engorged deer ticks on the carpet of the RV, where Milo had been lying. I can’t possible express how disgusting and alien they looked. Youngest thought they were bits of plastic – they were the size of large raisins, and you could only see the tips of their legs, they were so full. We checked him all over and found one small one in his ear, and the next day we took him to Dr. Timberlake, just in case. He found another deer tick and removed it in the office (with DH observing to “learn the technique”), prescribed antibiotics, and told us ticks in Florida were so scarce, they didn’t even test bloodwork unless there were symptoms (and it was too soon to have him tested anyway), but he understood we were traveling on, so the antibiotics would help with the bites themselves. We’d done a lot of online research, and it appears lyme disease is pretty rare around where we’ve been, so we’re all just hoping like mad that he’ll be OK. Research suggests deer ticks need to be attached for quite a while before transmitting lyme, as well. This was when I researched and felt like an idiot when I discovered Skidaway had a massive tick population. He hadn’t even been off the leash there! Milo wasn’t due for the next dose of Advantix for another week, but the vet told us to go ahead and dose him again, so we did. If I never see another deer tick for my entire life, I’ll be quite happy.

While at Cummins, Youngest found a moth on the tree right next to where we parked, and it had to be 5-6 inches across on its wingspan. We got quite a few photos of it, and though I generally don’t like moths much (they always end up divebombing my head for some reason), this one was beautiful.

IMG_1495

We were all happy to see the back of Jacksonville. Youngest had been messaging back and forth with his paternal grandma, and talking about the old camera I gave him, and how he wants to save his money and get the newer version. She texted me and asked if I would object to her buying him the new one, and I said no, I would be OK with it. After all this kid has seen in the last few days, and with the passion he has for photography, it didn’t seem right to say no to that. One is being shipped out to our campsite here in Kissimmee, Florida, and Youngest has been told, in no uncertain terms, that he must take very good care of the camera, and take A LOT OF PHOTOS.

So yes, from Jacksonville we headed through Orlando to Kissimmee. We’re staying in an RV resort called Mill Creek, and there are a lot of permanent residents here. It’s mind meltingly hot, the lizards are everywhere, and DH spied a dragonfly longer than his hand in the camp bathroom, beating against the screen and trying to get out.

My nephew (my step sister’s son) lives in Orlando, and he works at Universal Studios, and has offered to get us free tickets and discounts if we want to go, but with everything that’s been happening, and with DH away again this morning to another event, I quite like the idea of sitting still, in the AC, and catching up mentally with all of it. DH’s stomach is better, but he’s struggling with a sore rib, and he’s worried he’s recracked it from an old injury. He tells me there is nothing the doctors would tell him except to rest, so I’ve been trying to do as much of the heavy lifting as possible, and he said he’ll be taking it easy while away – just “sitting at a table” and using his laptop. He better take it easy – he carries entirely too much on his shoulders.

Milo was quite sad when DH got into the taxi this morning – he hates it when DH leaves. But I’m hoping he perks back up to normal by this afternoon. He took his antibiotic no problem last night and ate a full meal happily, so I am not too worried about him. DH returns on the 18th, and we drive to our next spot on the 19th. We’re aiming to see the Kennedy Space Centre, Cape Canaveral, and DH has a contact at Pompano Beach, down south, who has graciously offered to let us hook up to power there near his workshop, and borrow a car, if we want to drive around and see more of Florida. I don’t know if we’ll take him up on it, but its an option that sounds a bit appealing.

We’ll be checking out the pool here – it’s lovely – and wandering around hoping to get photos of lizards, and I’ll be updating my resume and getting the job search under way, now that we have found a site with fast internet. Expect another long update as we travel on. 🙂

I’ll keep you all posted. I hope you are all well and happy. Much love.

Xo

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