Thursday, July 24, 2014

Book Review: The Pearl Diver

I have been in a reading slump. Most people pick up reading in the summer but I find myself pulled in multiple directions with little spare time. Feeling guilty about this, I downloaded The Pearl Diver by Jeff Talarigo and started squeezing reading back into my life.

I like historical fiction and this book promised me that. The cover spoke to me as soon as I saw it: muted photo of a woman sitting on a boat looking out at the ocean with mountains in the background. As is typical of me reading historical fiction, I quickly found myself googling various pieces of history as the author weaves a fictional story

                                             

The Book: The Pearl Diver by Jeff Talarigo

The story begins with a nineteen year old girl living in Japan. Her job is that of diver. She dives the ocean around her village daily to find sea urchins, lobsters, and oysters.  She is the youngest diver and hopes to become the best learning from the older divers. In her short time diving she has already found pearls, not as many as some of the other divers but she dreams of more.  One day after diving, the other divers notice that she has a mark on her body; not suspecting the horrible truth they tease her that a boyfriend left the mark for her. It was not until she suffered a diving accident that left her cut and bleeding that she realized anything was wrong; for she knew she was cut but there was no pain. A doctor informed her that she had leprosy. In 1948, at the age of nineteen, after a huge diagnosis, she is forced to leave her job, her family, her home and her dreams to go live at the Negashima Leprosarium. She is subjected to chemical baths and public humiliations. She is forced to stop using her birth name and becomes a number. The officials at the  leprosarium even take her birth date away and forces her to select a new name.  

She becomes known as Miss Fuji, a name selected by a happy moment in her life, and becomes a caretaker to the other 2,000 patients on the island.    Miss Fuji’s life and story is told through artifacts found on the island of Negashima. Some of the stories are painfully sad while others offer a glimpse at the strength of the patients who lived in the leprosarium.  Miss Fuji is one of the lucky ones whose disease reacts to the painful treatments. As she cares for others she struggles to make sense of her world and the world she was forced to become a part of.

My reaction to the story:

I will admit I knew what leprosy was before I started reading the book but that was the end of my knowledge. I did not realize people were forced to go live in colonies. They could marry but not have children. I had no idea their families turned their backs on them and treated them as if they were dead.  Of course, in my lifetime, the medical community has educated themselves on leprosy and our understanding of the disease and treatment has much improved since 1948. It is with sadness that I read about how Miss Fuji and the other patients were treated.  

Having not lived through this event the only thing that I can relate it to is the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 80’s.  Initial reaction then was to separate, shun, and protect ourselves by shutting the door to others.   History is full of our mistakes as a society: Leprosarium’s, Japanese Internment Camps, pregnant teens, gay/lesbians, even children with polio were all viewed as dangerous  or burdens to the general population and separated from their families and support systems.  

 Fear is a dangerous thing. If we face every single situation from a place of fear are we not likely to repeat the mistakes of our ancestors?  Can we reach a place of concern where we worry about everyone including the ones inflicted? Can we set aside ourselves long enough to learn from others?  Can we organize ourselves quicker so we react to facts and not hysteria?   Yes, the medical community has more resources now than we did back then. Most of us do. But, I am not sure those resources change the way we initially react to new things. Fear is a powerful emotion. And I am left wondering just how different are we than those who were in control and made decisions back then?


These are things that I am pondering after reading The Pearl Diver by Jeff Talarigo.  Does anyone else have these reactions to books?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Tour of Missouri: The Katy Trail State Park




Our third ride on The Katy Trail took us back to where we actually started: Sedalia, MO.  We have previously completed a 35.6 mile ride from Sedalia, MO to Clinton, MO and a 22.3  mile ride from Booneville, MO to McBaine, MO. Since we skipped the 37.2 mile stretch from Sedalia to Booneville. 

In planning for this ride, water and the temperature were two main concern. We would be visiting four total trail-head: Sedalia, Clifton City, Pilot Grove, and Booneville, MO. Each leg was approximately 12 miles apart and there would be no access to water at Clifton City and the temperature was projected to be 92 degrees. 

We got an early start; well as early as you can get when you have to drive an hour and half to get to the trail-head. We biked the city streets until we found the trail. The streets were marked with a bike path clearly marked for the Katy. 


The elevation was in our favor departing Sedalia and heading East. We dropped 180 feet in 13.6 miles. Unfortunately, before we could get 5 miles into the ride, we had our first ever flat tire.  Flat tires were one of the concerns The Husband had so we were plenty prepared for a flat. What we were not prepared for was the snapping in half of the tools needed to change a bike tire.


So, with a tire that leaked air and no tools, our friend Mike had no choice but to turn around and walk back to Sedalia to the nearest bike shop. Thankfully, Mike is from this area and he had a host of relatives to call and he was able to get a ride back.

Mike's tire was not the only thing that challenged us on our first leg. Just west of the Trail Head I noticed that my water bottle kept rubbing against my leg. My water bottle cage lost a screw. Thankfully the screw had not worked it's way to the ground and The Husband was able to quickly fix the water bottle cage.



Our car support, my Mother and Brother, drove Mike out to Clifton City as they drove our vehicle to Booneville. The Husband and I made it to Clifton City in great time and because we were waiting on Mike to hook back up with us we had an hour to rest before taking off again.  The bonus to the flat tire is that Mike was able to bring us extra water and I got to see The Short Chic again.


We passed over the Laramie River using a tressett bridge we have become familiar with on The Katy Trail.


If the elevation was in our favor from Sedalia, MO to Clifton City, the exact opposite is true of the leg from Clifton City to Pilot Grove were the elevation raises 90 feet in 12.1 miles.  It was a challenging ride as most of it was going up.


Passing this old signal provided us an opportunity to stop for a breath. It also brought me the first encounter, but not the only one with frogs.  There were lots of frogs in the cement square next to the signal. As the day continued I would encounter other frogs.  I also encountered squirrels and even a deer.  A deer jumped onto the trail right in front of me!


Besides a few bridges we also passed through a few tunnels.  The tunnels were a brief, welcome relief from the heat.


Two hours and one minute after we left Clifton City, we made it to Pilot Grove, MO. We were hot and hungry. Our original plan was to eat lunch at Becky's Burgers and Ice Cream but when we got into town we learned that Becky's closed at 1:30 (we were one minute past the close time). We sped up to Becky's to see if we could obtain sandwiches to eat on the porch but the owner was so nice and stayed open just for us.  We ate Chicken Salad Sandwiches with cold cucumber and onion salad and drank ice tea in an air conditioned restaurant.  Becky's even filled up our water bottles, which were all empty following our stretch without water.


We left the Pilot Grove Trail Head shortly before 2:30 p.m. We had 11.5 miles to go to our destination and the elevation chart showed we would be decreasing elevator 220 feet. The Husband noticed the sign posted at the trail head that said riders felt the track between Pilot Grove and Booneville is the most challenging of the entire trail.

Given the fact that we had just spent the past two hours biking up we wondered how in the world the next leg could be worse than the one we had just completed.



Leaving Pilot Grove we expected downward inclines but what we found were mostly flat trails. The rock was larger in parts. But for the most part, we were left wondering why this was considered the hardest section of the trail.


Passing over I-70 was a happy point of this section. This is the most visible part of the Katy Trail. I have passed under this bridge many of times as I have traveled here and there. It was an accomplishment to cross over the interstate on the trail.

Four miles west of Booneville, the heat caught up to me. I started having cold chills. I could not catch my breath, nor make my body work any longer. We had to a long break while The Husband kept pouring water on my head, neck and shoulders.

It took a while but I cooled down enough to keep going. We passed one last tunnel about three miles from the trail head and the decline we had been expecting the entire section came. The final three miles of this leg went by in a blur of downhill fun. I easily put the bike in third gear and found speeds close to 20 mph.


The Husband wears a sports watch. He keeps track of statistics. He says we averaged 6 mph in the first hour of our first ride. 9 mph during the first hour of our second ride and we managed to shave another hour off our third trip.


Other fun statistics: we biked a total of 37.2 miles this ride.  We have completed a total of 95.1 miles on The Katy Trail since Memorial Day Weekend. I have completed 134 Missouri Miles this year.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Bird Watching



I love bird watching. Some are hard to catch...with my lens. But I sure try. 


I chased this woodpecker all over our campground at Table Rock State Park before I could get a shot of him. 


This woodpecker thinks he is a hummingbird. I found him outside my kitchen door. 


Every morning when this little bird shows up I smile. I can almost set my clock by her. 





Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Our Experience with Rabies Therapy

If you have hung out here for any length of time you might know that we are biking The Katy Trail across the state of Missouri this year. We started over Memorial Day Weekend biking from Sedalia, MO to Clinton, MO. You can read about it here

On this leg of the trip as we approached our first little town after leaving Sedalia, The Boy was attacked and bitten by a dog. The dogs (there were two) ran up to him on the Katy Trail, chased him, ran him off the trail, and one of the dogs eventually bit him on his right ankle.  The whole exchanged happened in a few moments and as soon as the bit occurred, the dogs ran off out of sight as fast as they approached him. 

                                                         

Being on bicycles we opted to not go chasing after dogs that were biting. We went to the local Casey's store and called the local police officer. We got his voice message. We then called the local sheriff's office. Having seen my share of injuries I did not think this bite was bad enough to need emergency medical treatment.  We were advised to walk-in a report at the end of our ride. The staff at the local Casey's store gave us band-aids and triple antibiotic ointment and we continued our ride. 

Upon the conclusion of our ride, we re-evaluated and decided The Boy was up to date with his tetanus vaccine and he did not require emergency medical treatment. We decided we would wait until we were home to see him primary care physician. We did however, visited Pettis County Sheriff's Department to file a police report. 

The Deputy who came to speak to us never once introduced himself to us. Instead he completely ridiculed us. Why were there? Why did we not chase down the dogs after this occurred? What did we expect him to do? Why did we not seek the services of an emergency room? It did not matter to this Deputy that we were on bicycles and chasing down dogs that were biting was not a great option for us. It was so obvious this Deputy had no intention of helping us that we finally walked out of the Pettis County Sheriff's Office. 

After we arrived home, Miss Medical Student advises us to head to an Emergency Room or at least an Urgent Care Center as we should have the Rabies Vaccine administered since we knew nothing about the dogs. 

We visited our local Urgent Care Center and found out that the only place to get Rabies Vaccine is  only available through the Emergency Room. So, despite efforts to avoid the ER, we were now stuck going there! 


The Boy received 9 shots that night. One Rabies Vaccine in one of his upper arms. Eight of the shots were for one drug called Immune Globulin. It is a thick drug that has to be spread out among different muscle groups. The Boy got four around the dog bite, one in one of his upper arms, one in each butt cheek, and one in the thigh. 


We thought the Immune Globulin was the worst thing about the Rabies Therapy. Until they told us that we had to return to the ER three more times as we had to have more Rabies Vaccine on Day 3, Day 7, and Day 14. There is no quick trip to the ER!!

As we were preparing to return to the ER on Day 3, I got the best phone call. The small town police officer had returned from vacation and returned my phone call. I described the dogs, the direction they came from, the direction they disappeared to, and the location of the trail we were on and he knew immediately (as most small town folks do) whose dogs they belonged to.  Before we arrived at the ER for our Day 3 shot, he had found the dogs, confirmed their identity with photos, confirmed their vaccinations, and placed the dogs in quarantine.  He even secured the home owners insurance for us.

The ER and Infectious Disease released us moments after we arrived from any further treatment. They did warn us that if the dog became sick during the quarantined period, The Boy would once again have to have the rabies vaccine. 


Thankfully, a veterinarian determined the dog to be disease free after it's quarantined amount of time. Sadly, the local police officer found out that The Boy is actually the third person this dog has bitten. He bit another Katy Trail visitor and an elderly woman who lives in the same small town. The dog was determined to be a viscous animal and was put to sleep. 

We just got the bill for the Emergency Room Services and Vaccines. I thought I would share it with you. The  one dose of Immune Globulin cost $7,173!!!!  Holy smacks! Really! $7,000 for a vaccine!!


I have so many random thoughts on this situation. I was angry that no one would assist us the day it occurred. I was especially angry that we were made to feel guilty that we did not ride around that small town on our bicycles looking for these two dogs that had already bit my son. I was angry because in all of my preparation for riding The Katy Trail it never occurred to me that pet owners would allow their pets to roam free and potentially attack visitors.

I love that the Katy Trail travels through small towns in Missouri where a railroad use to stop. I love that all these bicyclist visit these small towns and provide some economic growth to their small community. But, I was angry because in order to keep us coming to your small town we have to feel safe! I am thankful for the small town police officer who assisted us.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Tour of Missouri: Watkins Woolen Mill Reprise


 We first visited Watkins Mill this spring for our first camping trip of the season. It was a quick trip and we did not have enough time to explore the entire park, so we looked forward to returning. We visited the same park over the July 4th weekend.



We enjoyed a sunny mild day on July 4th. We biked five miles around the lake, gave The Short Chic a bike riding lesson (she can't bike The Katy Trail if she does not know how to bike),  and enjoyed the company of our friends. Saturday, July 5th was cloudy and rainy. The Boy was able to spend a few days with us before he left for a summer vacation with his dad.  So, we headed out to expose him to some history before he left. The Short Chic has to bring Elsa with us everywhere we go.

We visited the Visitor Center and learned about the Watkins family and their farm and mill. We chose to do the self guided tour but guide tours were available as well.

The rain passed over us as we were in the Visitor Center.


During the summer months at Watkins Mill volunteers participate in a living history program. As part of this program, as we approached the Watkins family home we were met with young people wearing turn of the century clothing and playing turn of the century games: croquet, ring toss, and stilts. The girls partook in a quick game of croquet on the front lawn. 


The grounds were beautiful and fresh after the rain. The volunteers had been cooking up lunch in the summer kitchen. Just the smell of the freshly baked food made The Boy hungry. Well, I am not sure what doesn't make The Boy hungry these days!


The Watkins farm still grows a heritage garden each year using seeds collected year after year just the way The Watkin's family did. We enjoyed walking around the garden and enjoying seeing many varieties of fruits, veggies, and herbs. Not since my Grandma Cooper's garden have I seen such a wonderful garden!


Not only are there plants at the Watkins family farm but there is also animals. The kids enjoyed talking to the turkey and chickens. There are beehives on property but they are replica's of the ones used by the Watkin's family. 


Many artifacts have been replicated or maintained. It really is a very pretty place to walk through.

Besides the farm house, the Woolen Mill has been restored. The windows were very unique and looked wavy. We were able to walk around and peek into the windows. Our friend Allen told us his family actually has some blankets that were made at this very mill a long time ago. 



Of course a woolen mill needs wool. On grounds of the property are sheep. 



The camping at Watkins Mill is actually very nice. We highly recommend making your reservations early and camping in the cul de sac. Take a ride around the lake.  Then go explore the farm and mill.



Missouri Miles Completed This Year: 98.
State Parks Visited this year:  6 (We have spent the night at 3. This one does not count as it is a repeat)
Miles of Biking This Year:  89.75

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Tour of Missouri: Katy Trail State Park: Booneville to McBaine

I am obsessed. I can't stop thinking about it. It is sorta like a drug to me. I am perpetually planning how to get more. I am not talking about a food. Or drink. I am talking about the Katy Trail State Park in Missouri.

Over Memorial Day Weekend the family and I rode our first 40 miles. It was the longest I had ever rode my bicycle at one time. We hit the trail again the end of June for a shorter ride. Our goal was to go 23 miles; from Booneville, MO to McBaine, MO.


The Boy was not able to go with us on this leg; it is his father's weekend. But a few new faces joined us on our journey. Our friends, Angie, Allen, and Mike were all geared up for their first ride on the Katy.

Biking the Katy takes a bit of coordination. You either bike end to end, which I am not in shape to do. Or, you park at one trail head, bike to a point and turn around; or, you have car support (which we did last ride); or, you use multiple cars and leave one at the starting trail head and one at the ending trail head.

We chose the last option for this ride. We dropped the men and bikes at the beginning trail head to prepare the bikes while we women caravanned to the ending trail head and back.


We started off a little before ten a.m. The first thing we did was cross the Missouri River. The bikers and cars share the bridge but the bikers have their own lane.


Someday soon the Katy Trail will travel a new bridge.  The photo below is the newly acquired bridge that will someday soon welcome the Katy Trail. 


We arrived at the first trailhead just moments after crossing the Missouri River. There isn't much of the Franklin trail head other than a sign to let you know you made it. We soon found ourselves on our way to New Franklin, MO traveling past field after field of Missouri crops. 


Shortly after the New Franklin trail head we passed Katy Roundhouse. Katy Roundhouse is a campground and RV park frequented by bikers.  Remember the Katy Trail is a Rail to Trail trail and remnants  of the railways can be found  on the trail. Behind the Katy Roundhouse sign is a wooden structure used to lift trains off the tracks. 

Railroad remnants are not signs of history on the trail. This old grain elevator are signs of a thriving town that no longer exist. 

I changed a few things from the first ride to the second. I purchased gloves for my hands and they worked great in providing support. I also purchased a new bike. The bike is lighter and faster than the old bike.The Husband told me I averaged 4 mph faster this ride than the first. 


Rain clouds followed us all day on our ride. As we approached Rocheport, MO we got sprinkled on but the rain did not last long. We were very happy to see the stone tunnel that welcomes you to Rocheport. We were super hungry and ready for lunch. 



We enjoyed an hour long lunch break at The Trailside Cafe. The owners were super great about letting us fill up our water bottles. 

Outside Rocheport is this old railroad ammunition storage room built into the massive cliffs that line the Missouri River. 


Years of exposure to Missouri weather has mostly worn down the Native American pictographs but if you look closely, you can still see them on the cliff. Right below these pictograpshs is a cave with a creek running through it. The cave is on private property so we did not explore any part of it.  


Right after we left the pictographs, Allen started experiencing leg cramps. Luckily we found a bench and Angie helped him stretch out. The Husband got leg cramps really badly on the last leg.  I guess these old bodies just need to get use to all this biking.



Shortly after Allen got better, we rode past a clearing to view the river. We could see that right up ahead of us it was raining and there was no way we were going to miss it. So, we put our heads down and rode straight into the rain. It was no soft gentle sprinkle of rain. This was a hard, completely drenching rain. The fun part about biking in the rain is the tires through the mud back up on you!  By the time the rain cleared we were all soaked and muddy!


We stopped along Terrapin Creek  to whip off our glasses and laugh about the rain.  We also took a few moments to check out the creek to see if we could actually find any turtles. True to its name, the creek was full of snapping turtles. 

The rain should have been the highlight of this leg. However, a few miles down the trail, we pulled over to stretch our legs one last time before we reached our destination trail head. In fact, we were three miles. That is when Angie asked me the question that had been gnawing at her for miles. The second she asked me if I did remember to pull the keys to the vehicle at the destination trail head from the vehicle at the beginning, I knew I had not. 

We were about to reach our destination, a truck waiting for us, but no keys to drive that truck. I was not looking forward to breaking this news to The Husband or the other members of our biking party. 

We arrived in McBaine in great time and I had to break the news to The Husband. The Husband thought I was joking. When he realized I was not joking he immediately starting working out solutions. His solution required him to bike another 23 miles back to the keys. Then some complete strangers offered to drive him to the keys if he would bike a few miles up the MKT Trail (a spur off the Katy that goes into Columbia, MO).  The Husband redid the math and figured that their offer was way less miles to bike than his original plan of 23. 

The Husband took off with these nice strangers as the other four of us waited at the McBaine Trail Head.  For 2 1/ 2 hours we waited. The wait allowed me to double back on the trail and visit the oldest tree in Missouri. It can be found 1 1/2 miles west of McBaine and off the trail about .15 of a mile off the trail. 


The tree is huge. I am really glad I doubled back to visit it. 





This time, after visiting the tree, my approach to McBaine was filled with a lot less tension. I did not have bad news to break as soon as I arrived. So, I leisurely made my way back. I saw a lot of bright blue birds on the trail (they were really hard to get a photo of with my point and shoot!).

This old bridge is at mile marker 169.7 and crosses Perche Creek. Just east of this bridge is the McBaine Trail head.


Two and half hours after we first arrived at McBaine, The Husband arrived by vehicle with the keys to the truck that was meant to take us all back to Booneville.  The Husband and I have now completed 60 miles on The Katy Trail. And I have reached 92 Missouri Miles.


I think this day, which started with us leaving our homes at 6:00 a.m., biking 23 miles (33 miles for The Husband), getting rained on, forgetting keys and getting home at 11:00 p.m. deserved a cheers. This is one for the record book!


Cheers!