On the Road

When Doug and I became a couple during college, our very first group purchase was a spatula. We were heading out on a camping trip and realized we would have no way to flip the pancakes we were making for breakfast the next day. We stopped at a grocery store en route to the park and pooled our funds to acquire the best turner that $1.99 could buy.

Our next group purchase was a bit more substantial — a slightly beat-up 1985 Toyota 4×4 truck. The lakes of northern Wisconsin, wilderness of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, and craggy climbing areas outside of Madison were calling us, yet we had no reliable way of getting there. The truck became our key to adventure. Every weekend we would load it up and head out to the wilds. During a couple of college summers we hit the open road of the western United States for months on end — living out of the back of the pickup and stopping at every climbing area we could find along the way. Those weeks of roaming freely and opening the map each day to decide where we wanted to go next provided some of our most beloved memories together.

One of the things I longed to do most after surgery was to go on a climbing road trip again. I wanted to remember what it felt like to climb all day, cook up dinner at camp, talk about the day’s adventures over a crackling campfire, and then get up to do it all again the next day. Last summer, I wasn’t quite strong enough to rock climb. After training and gaining strength over the winter, my body finally felt ready to spend day after day doing climbing routes. In the beginning of September, Doug and I set out on a 17-day adventure that would include a week of climbing at City of Rocks in Idaho and several days of climbing at Smith Rock in Oregon. While in the Northwest, we also planned to spend time with some good friends who lived in Bend, as well as meet up with my parents for some sightseeing.

As we were traveling and climbing, I noticed that quite a few things had changed since our road trip days long ago:

  • There is now something called the internet. In our college days, I carried a small leather address book and actually wrote to my friends on paper while on the road.
  • Cell phones have replaced pay phones. We used to have to to load up our prepaid calling cards and look for a pay phone to let our parents know we were still alive. Now we just searched around Almo, Idaho, until we discovered the cell phone reception sweet spot. (It was pretty good at the northern-most table on the patio of the Rock Stop general store.)
  • Our trip food budget expanded to include things other than rice and ramen noodles. Though we still cooked most of our meals on this vacation, it was nice to have enough funds to enjoy the food and drink at some of Bend, Oregon’s great brewpubs with our friends.
  • We looked at some of the climbs we did at these areas in our early 20s and wondered how we had the nerve to get up them.
  • Our truck has been replaced by a tiny, fuel-efficient Toyota sedan. It is amazing how much camping and climbing gear we squeezed into that little rig. However, we did bottom out on some three-inch-tall rocks on Idaho’s back roads.
  • I now had an ostomy.

It was easy to forget about this last big change because things felt so much like they had in the past before I had gotten sick with UC and before I had surgery. I was just out there having fun and my stoma did not diminish the joy of a road trip one bit. Other than changing or emptying my appliance, or having to drink extra water to prevent myself from getting dehydrated, I hardly thought about my ostomy at all. It proved to be no trouble during long days on the road, while living in camp or while climbing long routes.

We shot a lot of footage on our road trip and will be putting together a video about the adventure soon. Until then, the following photos share some of the great times Doug and I had on the trip.

Climbing Theater of Shadows on Jackson’s Thumb at City of Rocks. This was my very first lead climb after surgery.
Rappelling off of a route at City of Rocks in Idaho.
Our very cool campsite at City of Rocks.
Sketching at camp.
I love donkeys. We encountered this cutie while walking near our friends’ house in Bend, OR.
Showing off a fresh wound after a full day of climbing at Smith Rock, OR.
Enjoying the McMenamins salt-water soaking pool in Bend, OR.
Spending time with my parents at Crater Lake.
Exploring the mile-long Lava River Cave near Bend, OR.
No road trip is complete without at least one stop at a giant roadside sculpture. Doug and I getting silly during a major windstorm at the huge Conestoga wagon near John Day, OR.
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8 thoughts on “On the Road

  1. Wow… Wrote whole comment before I filled in email info so it cancelled it all. So much like me. I never read directions. When I have to put something together, I try to put it tigether first and then when it doesn’t work, I go back to the directions. Oh well. Some things never change.
    Heidi I am so sorry you have been going through such a tough time. I didn’t know. It has made me realize how self absorbed I have been. I am so sorry about that.

    I love reading your blogs and articles. I don’t think you realize how much you help others. I know you help me all the time.
    I so admire your strength and courage.

    I look forward to seeing you at ostomy support meeting. Can’t wait to visit and talk to you.

    My wound vac is finally off. They think it will be healed in next 3 weeks. Yeah.

    I have to add turkey jerky to the list if devil food along with those evil green beans.
    I also have problems with all those sugar things. I am even finding that anything with a lot of any kind if sugar gives me diarrhea. I do use Imodium when needed. It does help me.
    Ok I have babbled enough.

    Thank you so much for sharing your feelings. It is so helpful. You really make a difference. Happy new year to you, Doug and everyone. Luv and hugs. Eileen

    1. Hi Eileen,

      So good to hear from you. I almost called you on one of those first nights after I found out about the AVN because I was feeling really down and know you always cheer me up! But on the other hand I was just too tired and exhausted to talk. Ahhh emotions. So complicated:) I got your phone message today. I had to be to work early today and am a little sleepy tonight, but I will give you a call one of these evenings.

      I am feeling a lot better about the whole thing. Time puts things into perspective. I got the grief out and now I am looking ahead and ready to accept the new challenges.

      I am so happy to hear that you got to ditch the wound vac. Seeing it on you at the last Ostomy Association Meeting was taking me down memory lane ha ha. You need to throw a party for your wound now that it is healed:)

      Oh no! Not Turkey Jerky!!! It is crazy how we all have different food experiences. I can handle jerky, beans and sugars just fine, but sugar-alcohols like sucralose, maltitol and xylitol give me instant watery output… unless I drink them with a starchy food. Then they are fine. Immodium makes me a bit nauseated so I only take it for really watery emergencies. Figuring out what one can eat is like a giant science experiment!

      Thanks for your kind words. I will talk to you soon!

      Best,
      Heidi

  2. Wow. This made my day! I’m having a long, drawn out UC flare and am contemplating surgery but wondered about giving up swimming, biking and running (not that I can walk around the block at this point!). You inspired me. Thanks!

    1. Hi Liz,

      I am glad you found the post helpful. I had the exact same questions when I was deciding on surgery. UC had so swiftly wiped out my health and strength. I saw my ability to work and recreate quickly slipping away with the disease, but was also terrified of what surgery might mean to my outdoor-focused career and lifestyle. I did as much research as I could and discovered that there were lots of people out there living life to the fullest with ostomies. I did a lot of reflecting on what was best for my lifestyle and values and made the choice to have a permanent ileostomy. I won’t sugar coat it… things were tough in the beginning. It was difficult learning to manage the ostomy and I had some surgical complications that slowed down my recovery significantly in the initial four months. Through it all though, I held on to the vision of what I wanted—to be back out there in nature doing the things I loved with the people I loved—and worked patiently towards it. To think that three years ago this week, I was in and out of the ER on fluids and about to be admitted to the hospital for my final severe UC flare….I have made it so far since then and it has all been thanks to my surgery. Yes there were uncertain moments but they were so worth the heath that has been restored to me. Keep researching the options and listen hard for that inner voice that speaks to you about your own values and desires. It can sometimes get lost amongst the voices of the doctors, family members and friends that care about us. Believing in your choice as fully as possible and having a positive attitude about the outcome makes a huge difference.

      Take Care,
      Heidi

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