Health Hazards of Travel

hummingbirdsOne of the concerns for folks that travel regularly, is health.  I know it is for me.  I’d like to think I could travel anywhere in the world without a thought of getting sick or injured.  Unfortunately, that would be naive on my part.

What I can do is prepare and educate myself on potential health hazards for a given country or region I plan on visiting.  For instance, its common knowledge we American’s can’t seem to handle the water in Mexico.  Thus, to avoid Montezuma’s revenge, most American’s stick to bottled water, soda, or alcohol when visiting Mexico.  I’m sure the same can be said for Mexicans visiting America.  It’s all about what our bodies are used to.birds of preyIf I were to visit certain foreign countries, I’d probably undergo a slew of shots in an attempt to protect myself from hepatitis, typhoid fever, meningitis, or any other serious medical conditions which might be considered rare in the United States.

mountain wildflowersI remember during my airline days when I would frequent tropical paradises like Hawaii and St. Thomas.  The first five days were always sheer joy and tons of fun.  As the week progressed, I’d be overcome with an unease or even an ill feeling; almost a sense of claustrophobia.  Toward the end of my stay, I couldn’t wait to board that plane for the mainland.  Come to find out, there’s actually a condition called “rock fever”.  Ok, this isn’t anything serious other than a mild phobia, but it did enlighten me. You won’t find me moving to a tropical island anytime soon.  I’ll opt for miles and miles of endless roads any day.

Since I enjoyed plenty of international travels when I was younger, I have no plans to travel outside of North America.  As a full-time RV’er traversing my homeland, what health concerns could I possibly have?  Surprisingly, more than one might think.

prairie dogsLet’s talk about those adorable Prairie Dogs found in the western United States.

I love watching these little guys pop up and then down …. in and out of their mounded burrow.  And their little defensive squawking barks accompanied by the flipping tail is quite entertaining.

I’ve found myself more than once hanging around a prairie dog colony being entertained by their cute antics and trying to capture them on film (film sounds so much better than media card ).  These delightful little rodents can be quick and captivate the attention of not only us two-legged creatures but also our four-legged family members.  I’ve seen many a blogger post about doggie sticking his head in a prairie dog hole or trying to chase these furry rodents.  It’s all I can do not scream at the computer, “NO”!hummingbird

Prairie dogs are known plague carriers.  Yes, you heard me right, Bubonic plague still exists in the United States and is usually contracted from fleas living in the fur of prairie dogs.  These fleas are easily passed on to our pooches, compromising everyone’s health.  Recently near Fort Collins, Colorado, a teenage boy passed away from contracting a rare case of Septicemic plague contracted from prairie dog fleas.

So if you’ve recently been near a prairie dog village and develop flu-like symptoms, it would be wise to seek medical attention immediately.Falcon

There was a time when contracting Lyme disease from deer ticks was an exclusive worry to those living in America’s northeast part of the country.  Although it’s still a huge problem in New England, the disease can be contracted from any infected tick throughout the United States.

BroncoLyme disease is a serious bacterial disease with debilitating consequences.  Thus, a tick bite should never be taken lightly and should even be followed up with immediate medical attention.  You can read about singer – songwriter Avril Lavigne’s Lyme disease journey and struggles here.

Valley Fever?  I don’t know about you, but I never heard the term Valley Fever until we started traveling regularly to Arizona.  Every now and then we would encounter someone informing us they needed to visit a friend in the hospital who was suffering from Valley Fever.

Since we spend our winters in Arizona, I was quick to educate myself on the signs and symptoms of Valley Fever and the fungal spore behind the illness.  Some folks grow up in Phoenix and never ingest a spore while others may visit for a few days and return home with these nasty guys imbedded their lungs.Canadian GeeseThe spores causing Valley Fever live in the dirt of the arid desert southwest and become airborne during windstorms, construction, four-wheeling, or even gardening.  Once airborne the spore can be inhaled – ingested and imbedded in the lining of the lungs.  Depending on the number of spores ingested and the overall health of a person, determines the severity of the symptoms and illness.  Some folks never know they have Valley Fever while others are hospitalized.  It can be fatal.

RobinYou can read more about it here, but there’s one huge fact to understand about Valley Fever especially for travelers.  After returning home, weeks later a person might develop a nagging cough.  The fungal spores on a lung X-ray can mimic cancer and lead to a misdiagnosis. Doctors outside of an arid climate might not be familiar with Valley Fever.

So before jumping to the Big C conclusion, a doctor might need to be informed by the patient that further testing would be prudent to rule out Valley Fever.  Thus, it’s important for anyone traveling to the southwest section of the United States, to be aware of the signs and symptoms of Valley Fever.

ButterfliesAnd last but not least, there’s West Nile.  No one likes being bit by an irritating mosquito.  The itchy welts are bad enough, but now, after being bit, I have to be concerned about contracting the West Nile virus!

So there you have some of “my” health concerns while traveling around the country in our RV; plague, Lyme disease, Valley Fever, and West Nile.  I’m sure my friend Mona Liza would add chiggers to this list.  You can read about her chigger attack here and make sure you don’t meet a similar fate.

Is there a disease or bug where you live that is of particular concern?  Have you ever traveled someplace and been exposed to an unusual health risk?  Feel free to enlighten us in the comments 🙂

Blue Jay

Disclaimer:  I am not a doctor or a nurse.  This post is merely meant as entertainment.  It is meant to enlighten and provoke awareness of geographical health concerns and nothing more.

1001 Natural Remedies (DK Natural Health)
Straw Packable Sun Hat with Black Sash- Wide Front Brim and Smaller Back

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Getting Wet

RVingThe gentle sound of rain hitting the RV is some how relaxing.  I stare out the window as the rain leaves a random pattern of water droplets on the pane.  I can almost sense the cacti smiling, arms stretched, rejoicing in the much-needed moisture.

We’ve been camped in the Phoenix area for about a month now.  This cold, rainy day allows Al and me to reflect on the past month of travel.Grand Canyon

In November we were exploring the Grand Canyon.  Wow, what an awe-inspiring place.  Did you know the canyon is about a mile deep and 277 miles long?  The north rim of the Grand Canyon sits at an average elevation of 8,000 feet, while the south rim sits at about 6,800 feet (2072 meters).Grand Canyon

The average distance between the north rim of the Grand Canyon and the south rim is about 10 miles with the greatest width measuring 18 miles and the nearest a mere 5 miles.  The diverse landscape and abundant wildlife, make the Grand Canyon a MUST SEE at least once.  I know Al and I will return.Bighorn SheepOur journey takes us from Grand Canyon National Park to Cottonwood, Arizona.  After a little research, Al and I decide on Dead Horse Ranch State Park as home for a few days.  This turned out to be the perfect campground for us to regroup.Dead Horse State Park

The weather is sunny and warm.  We have hiking trails literally in our backyard.  The restrooms have nice showers.  Ahhhh….after weeks of Navy showers, I’m able to bask in gallons and gallons of hot water.  Hey, with my long, thick, curly hair a long hot shower is indeed a treat. Dead Horse State Park

Oh, but it doesn’t end there.  There’s a skylight perfectly positioned above the shower stall.  So as I tilt my head back and revel in the glory of tons of hot water streaming over my head, I watch the thin, white fluffy clouds slowly drift by against a gorgeous blue sky.Dead Horse State Park

The shower felt wonderful.  However, it was never my intent to resemble a raisin, thus all things must come to an end.  After all, tomorrow is another day.  And speaking of tomorrow….we have some serious exploring to do….. Sedona here we come!

Land of Great Extremes

Death Valley has long been on my short list of places I have wanted to see.  So when Al and I decided to hit the road, Al wanted to know my top choices of locations I’ve always wanted to visit.  Keeping time of year and weather in mind, February in Death Valley seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

Have you ever wanted to do something or go somewhere really badly only to be disappointed once achieved?  Well that’s kind of how I was feeling about the trip to Death Valley.  I thought, “this is a place I’ve wanted to visit for the last twenty years, and am finally able to do so.  I bet it will be anticlimactic”.  NOT!!!!  So worth my while.  Absolutely loved it and plan to return next year for further exploration.

Badwater Basin - 282 ft. below sea level - salt flats

From Lake Havasu City we traveled north on Hwy 95 to Interstate 40 west.  We took exit 78, Kelbaker Road, north through the Mojave National Preserve.  Filled up with gas in Baker, California, before crossing over Interstate 15 and headed north on Hwy 127.

The land is vast and the road free of company.  As Al and I sit in our climate controlled truck with cushioned leather interior, we marvel at the Pioneers who first discovered these lands on horseback and wagon.  I don’t dare complain about the lack of cell phone coverage.  Yes, that’s right folks…no cell phone service in Death Valley or a good 100 miles around.  There’s actually pay phone booths at a couple of the resorts.  Flat tire?  You’ll need to fix it yourself cause AAA ain’t coming!

We had planned to camp at Furnace Creek.  However, the Furnace Creek Campground is closed for the next year for repairs/updates.  So we stay at the Sunset Campground.

Sunset Campground

It’s pretty much just an organized gravel parking lot, but at $12 a night I

Camp Site

can’t complain.  We just need a level spot to park the Rig and crash for a couple of nights.  They have a tiered overflow lot that provides the most spectacular sunset set views from your RV.  We spent a total of three nights in Death Valley and each night we sat outside to watch the sunset and once down, the sky would turn an amazing red.  We would also watch the sky darken to the most incredible deep, deep midnight blue.  The stars were bright and the crescent moon amazing.  There are some things in life that can’t be captured on film and must be experienced first hand.  This was definitely one of those moments…..a vision I’ll remember and highly recommend.

Our first night in Death Valley, we sleep well and look forward to our explorations the next day…..

Lake Havasu City

Al and I have wanted to visit Lake Havasu for quite sometime.  We also wanted to check out Quartzsite, AZ.  With no firm plans or commitments, we depart Desert Edge’s RV and head to Interstate 10, westward bound.

on the road again!

We stop in Quartzsite for gas and I hop into the Rig, make us a couple of sandwiches, take Bear for a short walk, and after eating check the place out.  Quartzsite is an interesting, eclectic sort of place.  The RV parks are jam packed this time of year.  So we decide to head north on Hwy 95 toward Havasu and make several notes about the Quartzsite area for next winters excursion.

Lake Havasu City is loaded with RV Parks and just outside of town are numerous spots to boondock.  It is a playground mecca for adults.  There are endless places for ATV/Four Wheeling.  All sorts of water activities are available from boating, jet skiing, sailing, paddling, etc.  If you don’t have your own toys, there are dozens of places to rent the toy of choice.

Lake Havasu

We want to camp as close to the water as possible and pick Crazy Horse Campground to spend a few nights.  Fortunately for us, the campground is all booked up and we are sent to their overflow lot.

Our home for five days

When I say we were fortunate the campground was booked, I sincerely mean fortunate.  The RV’s in the campground are packed in like Sardines.  Hardly enough elbow room between units…..not my cup of tea!  The overflow lot overlooks the lake and there’s plenty of room for everyone.  The ATV trails provide excellent hiking for Bear and me, that is, until all the ATVer’s show up.

young girl on her ATV near our site

Saturday some young kids have fun tooling around on their four-wheelers.  They drive slow and responsibly and we’re not bothered by their activities.  It’s nice to see kids being kids and playing out in the dirt instead of sitting in front of a computer/TV screen.

Although I would not recommend Crazy Horse Campground, I would recommend staying in their overflow lot.  The Campground is old, the staff and guests were less than friendly, but the location is awesome.  We were able to walk to the famous London Bridge and stores.

London Bridge

The RV Park is on an island/peninsula and we need to cross the London Bridge for access.  The shoreline along the island and mainland is a lovely park setting with walking trails, a dog park, marina, beaches, and picnic areas.  Lake Havasu City was developed by Robert McCulloch in 1963 on the eastern shore of Lake Havasu.  He later purchased the London Bridge, which was dismantled and shipped to Lake Havasu City.  It was completed in 1971 and connects the peninsula to the mainland.

activities of all kind!

Al and I take advantage of the beautiful, sunny weather and walk the London Bridge and shoreline.

If you can think it, they do it!

Later back at the campsite, we are buzzed by what I call flying lawn mowers.  There are about half a dozen buzzing around and Al is totally infatuated.  I believe the proper term is powered gliders and Al is ready to return to the skies.  Yeah right, I don’t think so!  Although Al does not

powered glider

miss his commercial aviation days, he does occasionally miss those daring Navy missions and flying on and off an aircraft carrier.  Aah, to be young again!

I leave Al to his thoughts and have him build me a campfire while I prepare dinner.

Green with Envy…

Oh, Mother Nature!  Today we awake to four inches of snow cover. Wednesday we had a beautiful, sunny day in the mid sixties here in southern Colorado.  We were able to enjoy a nice hike in Lake Pueblo State Park and get some much-needed fresh air.  We also spent time cleaning and reorganizing the Rig for our trip to AZ next week.  We’ll leave it winterized for now.

cove, Pueblo Reservoir

Yesterday around noon the weather front started rolling in and by late afternoon the ground was white.  Why, oh why aren’t we in AZ already?

It continues to snow lightly and temps are around 25 degrees.  The satellite dish did not work last night due to freezing rain and snow blocking the transmission.   As I check my emails this morning and look for updates from fellow bloggers, I become green with envy at all the lovely photos posted……desert sunsets, desert sunrises, desert hikes, desert cactus, desert mountains, AND desert warmth.  Oh, how I need to remind myself just a few more days and we’ll be on our way.

I’m also very inspired by the personal stories I read on blogs and thankful for the inspiration.  Perhaps today I can muster up some ambition to go through a few boxes in the garage.  The purging must start……again.  I did a great job last year unloading lots of “stuff”, but find myself left with still plenty.  The problem is, I like my “stuff”.  Al and I are thinking, once we return from this road trip, he and I will be more ready to unload more things.  AND next winter, we’ll be enjoying a glass of wine around a campfire in the southwest and I too will be posting desert photos on my blog.  Until then, I remain green with envy!

P.S. South Texas and Florida are on the short list as well.  I continue to take notes from fellow bloggers and already have plans for winter 2012.

Green Desert Sunset

Green Desert Sunset (Photo credit: nebarnix)