Pause Update No. 3: Erik in the Black Hills

Posted from Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Mexico.

 

Sporting my new brace and cane at Badlands National Park

As promised, the VA has provided me with a custom-made leg brace. The name brand of the brace is Arizona Brace.  And yes, the company resides in Arizona.  The brace is rather large, hot, uncomfortable, and is much like wearing a leg cast; however, the brace is helping to lift weight off of my ankle joint in addition to adding compression to the ankle, which will hopefully help to reduce pain.  The current plan is that the new brace, the cane, and I will attempt to get along together for the next few months in order to determine whether or not this partnership will be a workable long-term option.

Bison in Custer State Park demonstrating that walking is more fun than sitting in a car

Rather than spending the winter in the cold, snowy, northern hinterlands of Minnesota, in mid-October Apollo and I will be returning to meet up with Pepe in warm, sunny Oaxaca.  If the brace and cane are working well, Apollo’s (and our) journey will continue onward towards South America.  But if the brace and cane are not providing sufficient benefits to maintain a decent quality of life, surgery will be pursued sooner, rather than later.  I think we’ve said this before, but because our travels are about getting out of Apollo and experiencing these wonderful places, including walking, hiking, and scaling pyramids, it’s important not only that I be able to participate in our activities but also that no further damage (read: pain) hinder our ability to continue.

As for the surgical options… they are another story for another day.  Do stay tuned.

Erik (and brace) at Black Hills National Forest

Hiking trail at Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park

In an attempt to put the new brace and cane into use, spend time with my mom, and visit my brother, my mom and I recently took a road trip (in mom’s car; Apollo was able to rest for a few days) from Minnesota to the Black Hills of South Dakota. Despite my hopes of doing a fair amount of hiking in the Hills with the new brace in place, I quickly learned that I am able to walk only for a short while, but not without pain and not without using the cane.  Hiking with a totally immobilized ankle inside of a rigged brace was challenging. Seeing other hikers heading out on the trails was, to be candid, frustrating because I wasn’t able to do the same.  But as challenging as this ankle situation is, I work hard to stay positive (thanks, in part, to our 11-day meditation retreat last fall) and I know that everything could always be worse.

The Game Lodge at Custer State Park

Blue Bell Lodge in Custer State Park

Aside from the increased ankle pain, spending time with my mother, brother, and friends in the Hills was great.  When we were not all out eating together at one of the lodges in Custer State Park, we were usually planning where to eat next.  Mom and I were even able to stop at two different locations to do some wine tasting. Yes, there really are wine tasting rooms in the Black Hills!  Who would have thought?

Erik on stage during the lighting ceremony at Mount Rushmore

There was one evening in particular that I will never forget because it was so unexpected and also so meaningful (and, curiously, very relevant considering my current situation with my ankle):  During the nightly lighting ceremont at Mount Rushmore National Memorial, I found myself standing on stage with dozens of other U.S. veterans.  We were all being honored for the time that we served in the U.S. military, my service having occurred in the Air Force during Operation Desert Storm.  In total, there were about 75 armed forces veterans on stage that night.  After being on stage for the lowering of the colors, each veteran stated her or his name, branch of service, and operation/war that he/she served in, if any.  This moment in time has really been my most memorable moment all summer.  It really was a very moving experience and certainly not without a few tears all around.

“Where can I get some of that homemade bread?”

Having been back in the States for over two months now, I have prepared and consumed a lot of homemade bread, both multigrain and rye.  (Meanwhile, poor Pepe is surviving on a store-bought bread called Bimbo that has a frighteningly long shelf life.)  When staying with family in Minnesota or at HQ in Wisconsin, I’ve made it a point to always travel with bread yeast and unique flours.  Although baking bread does require a bit of time standing on the painful ankle, the benefits of baking bread far outweigh most anything.  The process of creating something is therapeutic.

The Needles Mountains at Custer State Park

Up next for me: along with my two new accessories (or accoutrements?), I’ll be visiting friends in Milwaukee, Chicago, and the lake country near Brainerd, Minnesota. In addition, there are several more appointments to attend at the Minneapolis VA Medical Center, one of which is with my new orthopedic surgeon, who happens to also be a professor of orthopedic surgery at the University of Minnesota.  For this appointment, I’ve been doing my homework and currently have two full pages of questions for my new surgeon, to prepare for possible surgery.  As Alexander Graham Bell once said, “Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”

Badlands National Park

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10 Responses to Pause Update No. 3: Erik in the Black Hills

  1. JoAnn says:

    Erik, So happy that you are at least up and around. I feel that your journeys have only begun. Best of luck as the next phase of your adventure begins.

    xo
    JoAnn and Michael

  2. Rachael says:

    It was a fantastic trip, Erik! Getting to spend time with my boys was awesome! And the lighting ceremony at Mt Rushmore was wonderful and proud tears were shed. It really was the unexpected highlight of the trip!

  3. Alice Williams says:

    Erik,
    I, too was at Mt. Rushmore this summer but your experience was far more meaningful. I’m impressed with your bread-making! I learned to make bread in the 70s but I haven’t done it in about 3 decades. What a treat for your friends and family!

    Here’s to a speedy recovery and a safe journey south.

    Alice

    • Erik says:

      Thanks for the comment, Alice.

      Three decades since baking bread? No worries! Baking bread is like riding a bike. Once you learn, you never forget. As I bake the next batch I’ll be sure to send positive bread baking energy to you. :) If you’re ever in the mood to bake again, I’ve got a great multi-grain recipe for you.

  4. Robin Yurske says:

    Erik, I am so pleased to hear your update!!! I am glad you are doing good. You have the best out look on life!!! Thanks for sharing that with my family and all those you touch!! Thanks for sharing your trip to S. Dakota that sure is a beautiful place in our country. What awesome thing you you got to experience while being there with that honor ceremony. Truly well deserved!! If and when you are in Milwaukee feel free to contact Ken & I. We love to see you at the very least for dinner. We are about a 1/2 from Milwaukee. We could meet you or what ever. Just let us know when you are in the area. Your are family so what ever you need while in the area just give us a shout!! Keep that great attitude going and you will be back with Pepe soon!! Power of postive thoughts is healing!! Sending prayers & good thoughts!!
    Love Robin & Ken xoxoxo

    • Erik says:

      Robin,

      Thanks for taking the time to write. I’m glad you find my life outlook positive. If we remain mindful during each moment, life really is rather enjoyable. There’s no need to worry about the future or cling to the past. Accept where we are at any given moment and the worries of tomorrow slip away. Enjoy today, for tomorrow it will be no more.

      Be sure to say hi to Ken, from me. And, thanks for the invite. I’ll keep it in mind as I make my way.
      Peace.

  5. Patrice pakiz says:

    Erik,

    Nice to see you update!

    The Mt Rushmore trip sounds great. I add my thanks to you for your military service. Al & I got there for the first time for either of us 2 years ago. Did you get to Crazy Horse, too? We stayed in a funky little B& B cabin south of Custer City and Pringle. We only had 3 days plus 2 of motly driving traveling, so we didn’t get to see everything we wanted. We did get to Deadwood, tho. That was cool.

    I’m in my hometown this weekend for my 40th class reunion later today at a park! should be fun!

    Take care and keep the positive attitude.

    Patrice

    • Erik says:

      Hola, Patrice.

      Crazy Horse was on my itinerary years ago. I used to live in Custer shortly after my time in the Air Force. Hopefully you enjoyed your time in the southern Hills near Pringle- a funky little area with great scenery on the road going south, towards Wind Cave National Park.

      40th reunion? Are you sure you don’t mean 30th? I never would have thought.

  6. Jennie says:

    Erik,
    You certainly are making the most of a difficult circumstance. That is so admirable.

    Glad to hear that the Veterans are recognized at Mt. Rushmore. What a great experience.

    Best of luck with the new brace!

    • Erik says:

      Hi, Jennie.

      Thanks for your comment. It’s great to hear from you and I do, very much, appreciate your well wishes with the new brace.

      Difficult circumstances certainly are difficult and rather dark. But, If we allow ourselves to focus on the pain and find strength in it, we can only become stronger.

      Thanks again for writing. It really is great to hear from you. Hi! to Andy!

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