Saturday, June 16, 2012

Even Lonelier On America's Loneliest Highway

It was such a bad week! Sorta. In one sense. I even outright lied to my own mama! Oh, it was intended to be for her own good, but when she video Skyped me the other night and we talked for a while, she, as she always does, inquired as to how Marilyn was doing. I said, "Well, she's OK, a bit under the weather - probably just a little altitude discomfort." At the time, I knew darn well it was more than altitude sickness, but I didn't want to worry her clear across the country, since I didn't really have a handle on what was going on myself at the time. In fact we had taken her to the ER a few nights earlier. When we first arrived in Lonely Ely (Eel-ee) we had set about sightseeing and exploring and you have seen those posts already. We have both been a bit bothered by altitude- spending the better part of the last couple weeks between 7000 feet and 10,000 feet, and that makes it a bit harder to breath and a bit easier to feel physical stress from any activity. So we weren't feeling our best to begin with. But Marilyn's discomfort became much worse. And since she is not one to take downtime unnecessarily for any minor illness, her condition began to concern us some. By Sunday night she was a hurting unit so we went a few miles down the road to The Loneliest Hospital in America, the 25 bed, 35 doctor facility of William Bee Ririe. It was evening. There was one girl on the desk who talked to us from a different chair and different window in the same office depending on what it was we wanted or needed. We told her. Medical matters being private by nature, I intend to tell this tale without those types of details, but fair to say Marilyn was extremely uncomfortable and symptoms were problematic. With paperwork out of the way, we hit the waiting room, a lovely little 5 X 7 area (slight exaggeration) or so with three magazines, and sat there just a short while before the only doctor on duty could see us. He was very thorough. He gave her a good exam and narrowed the field on what could be wrong, did tons of blood work right there right then, and then sent us home with something designed to get us through until morning at which time we should return, meet with a surgeon and do some further tests and procedures. Sounds simple? Not really.

Our insurance is accepted by the hospital. Only problem: our insurance does not have a contract with this small rural hospital so it is out of network. Suffice it to say that the out of network deductible on our plan is unreasonable, so this had the potential to be a real problem for us. Especially since only last month we upped the premium considerably so that we would have better coverage while traveling out west. No matter. That didn't work here either. So the next morning we got up early and went to meet with a surgeon. Why? Because in Nevada you MUST have a Nevada primary physician who can do anything and everything before you can have any tests (other than blood) or any procedures. Our primary doctor from Florida? Of no consequence here at all. So we met a nice surgeon, he reviews the results from the previous night's ER visit, gives us some comments and concerns and advice and schedules necessary tests and procedures. Sound simple? Not really.

In a small hospital, all tests and procedures are apparently in the same OR. It was booked. Until Thursday. The day we were supposed to leave for our next stop. Change those plans! Thursday we reported as instructed at 9:30 for a 10:00 procedure. That was moved back from 8:30 because the doctor who had scheduled the room earlier works quite slowly apparently. No problem. Then came 10. Then 11. Then 12. I was finished with all three magazines and the ones I brought with me. Then a Code Blue somewhere in the hospital redirected all resources in a different direction- at least that was my read on what happened to the schedule. Long story short, we left the hospital around 3:30 after her "short" procedure and she seemed much sicker than when we went in. In a way I can understand that. She is a stubborn little thing, and the nurse later told me she kept fighting the anesthesia and spent most of the triple the normal time awake during it instead of sleeping through it. Painful. Nauseating. Dizzying. But done. Diagnosis confirmed. Will take some managing. But not life threatening despite the symptoms that made it seem that way for a short while. It's all good. Except that she spent all Thursday night sick which made me think we can also not leave on Friday, even though I negotiated a cash deal with the hospital which, in fairness, was a Godsend and a deal. Thank you Delores in the business office! Scary how fast a few tests can hit the 5 grand mark and how fast it can come back down if you offer to pay it instead of making them file with the insurance company.

But, Thank you, Lord, Friday morning comes and she is feeling fine. We wrap it up, run through the check list and are on the road by 8 AM with a full tank of fuel and ready to head out. West toward Reno. Seven mountain summits and 7 basins ahead of us. The engine sounded good. I set the on board computer to read out engine load and temperature- mountain crossing mode. Smiles on our faces. More travels on the pony express of yesteryear. But 48 miles outside of town - not far by the odometer but a long way measured by the clock because of mountains, switchbacks and roads without shoulders- the stop engine light comes on and the Dutch Star audible alarm begins to scream at us. The engine temp maxes out. Shut 'er down now. Right smack dab in the middle of the road, because the shoulder is A) too soft and too narrow and B) steep enough that if I even put the right side tires on the soft shoulder we're gonna roll over.

So there we sit. Antifreeze all over the place and can't find where the harry it's coming from. Just know there's none left in the engine. For Sure! A couple guys passing by that work for a local energy company stop by to help. Between the four of us now we have a few marginally decent cell phone signals. First call goes to Nevada Highway Patrol. They come asap, lights flashing, siren screaming. You want some concept of how far out there we really are? Full speed, lights and sirens takes 40 minutes to arrive. Yep, it's THAT lonely. We make a few calls to tow company, insurance company, and get everything lined up. Sound simple? Not really. Because the tow company of first choice cannot make it with a big rig friendly unit because they are working the truck roll over we passed just a few miles back before we had a problem of our own. I have never seen that many charcoal briquettes on the road in my life!

By now we are personal friends with Officer Gamberg. Nice guy. Remember growing up when you learned the policeman is your friend? He is that guy! Helpful, knowledgeable, courteous, professional - hey if I could have put out the slides Marilyn was gonna bake him some cookies. He was very concerned about our not being able to move off the roadway, so he "made things happen" while standing guard by calling the next big rig tow company that could reach us same day (actually the ONLY other one that could) and dispatching them from his police band. Now on any other day or with any other insured towing company that would have been great. But hold on..... Our insurance company is on the other line saying that if the police dispatch the tow truck instead of the insurance company, they will not pay the bill. Insurance carriers have seemingly made an art of this kind of crap, and so we now cancel the police dispatch and then re dispatch the same guy with the same truck- just from a different phone number and that makes everything all right with the world again. Wanna know how much it costs to tow a 38,000 pound, 43 foot long rig 48 miles across the basins and over two mountain ranges? Did you guess 800 dollars? Well good for you!

It took considerable time for the tow truck, I mean flatbed, to reach us, way more than an hour. The driver told me he uses the flatbed because the roads are so steep and so curvy that the boom on a tow truck does more harm than good to the RV's he has to tow. He also told me that if he must use a smaller tow truck he uses it only on the RVs that have already rolled over and already been damaged. That's encouraging! Now by this time we knew the ages, likes and dislikes of Officer Gamberg's 4 wonderful kids, what he does in his spare time teaching and coaching wrestling, and I swear if I ever come back here I'm looking him up because we liked him a lot!

Loading the rig was a slow process, but very interesting as it was a first for us, being carried back to the mother ship instead of being dragged back. It looked rather precarious, but it was all snugged up and actually it was the first time we ever got a tow that we actually felt pretty good about. And we came back SLOWLY. Slowly enough so that we made it to the diesel repair shop just as the quitting bell went off, the beer bottles were opened, the garage doors closed and the crew took off for the weekend. They were good enough to give us a fill of water and offered to let us plug in but I couldn't find an outlet that read as properly grounded so we opted to dry camp it until we see what's up when they open first thing Monday morning.

If you decide to watch the slide show, take a note of the clouds. They really tell the story for the week and the day we had. Because, my friends, in the high desert, the hot desert, the arid land of basins and mountains where not much more than sage brush and some small pinyon pines can grow- in a land where rain is a stranger, it began to pour out across the basin as we pulled away in our appointed "Coach Limo" and headed "home" to Ely from our middle of the road resting place on the Loneliest Road.

Now just a bit of perspective, if you'll allow it. Was a week in and out of the hospital a pain in the butt? Yes it was. Was a week of fighting with insurance companies over health care and then car care a pain in the butt? Yes it was. Was it a pain in the butt to break down on the Loneliest Highway? Yes it was. BUT: Marilyn's problem turned out not to be what we feared it might have been. And in the long run, the finances got worked out. And we broke down on a flat, straight stretch of highway instead of on a 12 degree blind hairpin turn. Point being: it could all have been much worse. Sometimes, even when you think you are taking it on the chin, the good Lord is taking good care of you all along. So- next week sometime hopefully we will face this challenge yet again. But not to worry, I put Officer Gamberg and the flatbed driver on speed dial. All I have to do if I break down again is make sure I do it in range of the cell tower.

Closing notes: In the amount of time we sat dead on the road, there were two additional accidents on that same road in addition to the charcoal truck that flipped over. When you see the icon on the yellow sign of a truck rolling over- slow down. Seriously, slow down!  And Ely is home to the Shoshone Indian Tribe. If I spend much more time here, I think I will wish to become a blood brother. The people here have all been very nice!!! And nothing I said about the size of the Ririe Hospital should be construed to imply that those folks do anything other than a splendid job- because that is EXACTLY what they do.

Before the slide show gets to the meat of the matter, there are a few shots of our venture to Garnet Hill, where we did find a few nice garnets and also the Robinson Copper Mine tailings across the basin on the other side from Garnet Hill. I hope you enjoy the show. I admit to viewing it in more than alittle discomfort!

1 comment:

Donna K said...

Wow, that is quite a week. What a sight seeing that big motorhome going down the highway back to front. I can see why you couldn't pull over.