Saturday, December 19, 2020

Surgery #23

Sutter Health Roseville
December 2020

Lisa noticed Kellisa's left breast was swollen to 3-4 times its normal size one night while changing her shirt at bedtime. Since we help Kellisa get dressed and shower, this increase in size happened literally overnight. It was too late to do anything and ERs are too scary in the middle of a COVID-19 surge. Of course we were worried about breast cancer and I couldn't help but do some Internet searches. I found several logical explanations, I also found a rare type of beast cancer that seems to aggressively grow out of nowhere. Lisa called Kellisa's doctor first thing in the morning and Kellisa's awesome doctor saw her right away.

The doctor thought it was just fluid built up in the areas where breast milk would be stored. She was confident that a duct got pinched and closed the area. This made sense because Kellisa has a natural lean to her left side and never seems to get tired or uncomfortable in that position. In her wheelchair, her left chest area leans up against the metal arm and in bed when she props up on her left arm, her breast could become pinched between her bed and elbow.

I can't describe how relieved I was at the diagnosis and the cure was 10 days of antibiotics and warm compresses.

Several days went by and we didn't see any improvement. We talked to her doctor who became very concerned and ordered an ultrasound. I had to bring Egypt with to the ultrasound because Lisa was at work. I prepared Egypt to be left alone in the lobby area, but to my surprise, the ultrasound lady invited her back and Egypt gladly accepted.

My nerves and anxiety took a blow when the technician started asking about breast cancer in Kellisa's family. She didn't ask about pinched duct history, so while she left and we were waiting for the radiologist, I was preparing for the worst and wishing Egypt wasn't in the room with us. I wanted to control how she heard devastating news about her sister and wanted Lisa there, but there was nothing I could do but wait and deal with it.

Notice Egypt's hand getting ready to get too close to the ultrasound machine.

It seemed like hours before the radiologist entered. I was hoping for a smile or something to relieve my worry as she entered, but her face was like stone. Before she explained anything, she pulled up images on the screen. I forced myself not to look during the ultrasound. I learned many years ago to resist those temptations because I don't know what I'm looking at and it will always look bad when you are fearing the worst.

As the image came up, I could see several large black spots. I feared cancer and was waiting for the diagnosis. I was also trying to keep my composure for the benefit of both Kellisa and Egypt.

"See these black areas?" the radiologist asked.

"Yes," was my trembling response.

"It's fluid built up from a pinched duct." The diagnosis we wanted to hear!

I'm pretty sure she gave me the medical term, but I was too busy having 13 tons of bricks removed from my shoulders. I started to cry because the dreaded C word wasn't part of that sentence. My relief didn't last long.

"It's a significant amount and she needs emergency surgery."


We were sent home and told to wait for a call with instructions. The radiologist said it might be several days because the hospital is overloaded as they struggle with the COVID-19 surge.

Shortly after arriving home, Kellisa's doctor called and told us to go to the hospital and check-in through the main entrance. It was determined surgery was necessary as soon as possible. Besides the risk of many sick and potentially COVID positive patients in the ER, the wait just to be seen was hours long. Kellisa's awesome doctor pulled strings so Kellisa could avoid the ER and we were thankful.

Lisa rushed home from work to be with Kellisa. I had a small bag packed and 30 minutes later we were settling in a private room on the peds floor, far from the COVID-19 units. Kellisa and I had to wear masks when anyone else was in the room. It was a constant and steady flurry of activity, so the masks remained mostly on our faces. 

Kellisa loved all the attention, even if it was blood draws, blood pressure tests, IV starts, etc. This was around the 10th time Kellisa left the house since mid-March and was by far the closest she was to people not named, mom, dad, and Egypt. 

It wasn't until after a consultation by the surgeon that I realized how serious Kellisa's situation was inside her left breast area. Besides being filled with fluid, they were worried about truly nasty infections that were spreading to other parts of her body. The nurse checking her in noticed her left leg was red and warmer then her right. The surgeon told us they would take her to surgery as soon as she was fully admitted. I heard the surgeon call several times for updates after he left.

Everything was happening fast and Kellisa was a champ like always. Things settled down for a minute and I removed our masks. I left Kellisa's in her bed. As she heard a knock on the door, she immediately picked it up and started pointing to her face and yelling "Me". She gets it!

It was the surgeon and he was ready. To my surprise, he started wheeling Kellisa out of the room towards surgery. Along the way, he picked up two nurses to help transport Kellisa's bed and her IV machine. I would later learn that the transport team at the hospital was overworked due to the surge and it could take hours for them to arrive to move a patient and the surgery couldn't wait.

We were in a holding area as another nurse went through more pre-surgery checks. I talked to the anesthesiologist who was interested in Kellisa's previous surgeries and want a strict accounting of everything she ate and exactly when in the last 24 hours. I also talked to the nurse who would be there during the surgery. She did her best to explain how things happen and I tried to listen attentively, but this was Kellisa's 23rd surgery and if you could Everett and Egypt, this was the 26th time I was hearing how the process goes down.

This was the first time I watched alone as my child was wheeled off to surgery. Lisa had been there with me the previous 25 times. It was difficult to suck it up to kiss Kellisa, tell her I loved her, and confidently tell her, "I'll see you soon!" 

After Kellisa disappeared around a corner, I was led to a large waiting area that was empty because it was around 8pm. I asked if I could get something from a vending machine because I hadn't eaten or really even drink anything on this whirlwind day. I was devastated to hear I couldn't leave the area due to new COVID-19 restrictions.

The difficult time of waiting was made far more difficult because I was not only alone, but I was worried about how Lisa and Egypt were doing at home so far away from Kellisa even though our house is probably less than a mile away as the crow flies. I know from past surgery to not ask how long it will take and I do not watch the clock. I resist those urges at all costs for my mental well being.

I can only guess, but it was probably between 60 and 90 minutes before the surgeon found me. He didn't waste time and started by saying, "She did great and the surgery went well."

He went on to explain that he removed approximately 12 ounces of fluid and samples were taken to determine the exact type of infection so they could use the best antibiotics to attack it. He also explained we would be there for 2-3 nights and that he left the incision open to continue draining. We would go home with it open and it would close by itself.


It wasn't long before I was escorted to recovery to be reunited with Kellisa. While I waited, I sent Lisa text messages with the update. Kellisa was waking up when I entered her area and she was not happy. Her looks could have killed a dozen grown men. Once the nurse was confident her vitals were stable, Kellisa was free to return to her room. Once again, they didn't want to wait for hours for transport, so two nurses wheeled Kellisa back to her room.

By the time we arrived back in her room, Kellisa was starting to laugh a little and almost giggle as the nurses struggled with her bed. They even bumped it a few times which was alright with Kellisa. I was waiting on the other side of her room as the nurses were doing their thing. I noticed a meal tray in the room and hoped I could eat it for dinner. I knew I was stuck in the room until at least the morning and I was struggling at this point and needed fluids more than food. 

After a few minutes, the nurse told me the meal tray was for me. She explained that they wanted to take it away, but she asked them to leave it because she knew I was in a bad situation between when we arrived and how I'd been on the go the entire time while planning to spend the night. It was the best hospital food I've ever had and shortly after finishing, Kellisa and I settled in for a long night as nurses would be coming and going as they kept close watch during the first hours after surgery.

Kellisa would spend two nights in the hospital and we went home last on a Saturday night. I stayed the entire time with Kellisa and the hours passed slowly, but we enjoyed watching many movies. Kellisa liked watching Happy Feet and my favorite was Daddy's Home 2. It was just easier for Lisa to stay home with Egypt since they couldn't visit due to new hospital policies. Since Kellisa is 21, strings had to be pulled to allow me to stay. Kellisa was excited to go home and see mom and her sister. She was also excited to get a new reclining leather chair for in her room. We are hoping it will be a comfortable way for Kellisa to spend time in her room and lower the risk of pinching off her ducts.

Ice cream is the best medicine!

Watching Happy Feet.


Wednesday, October 28, 2020

My first book, Rugged Access for All is being released today, October 28, 2020. To go along with this huge event, I'm also going live with my author's website. I've written my first blog post capturing some of the moments that led to writing a book. 

Kellisa's Path Blog will still be our main platform for sharing our stories, but I needed a page for people to hopefully find the book and me as an "author". 

Please check out the new page and sign up for updates. Thank you!

Here's the link to the first post:

Saturday, August 1, 2020

1 - California

Death Valley National Park
November 2010

With less than 12 hours before our flight, we were anxiously awaiting a phone call to see if a judge would grant us permission to leave Duval County for 10 days with Egypt.

It was difficult to keep my eyes on the open road in front of me as I drove across Death Valley in September 2009. I couldn’t help but stare at the many earth tone colors rising from a barren desert to high peaks breaking into the deep blue sky only broken by fluffy white clouds. The views were long. I felt small in my rental car as I stopped at a visitor center to learn more about this alien landscape.

I was met with temperatures I never felt before. The large thermometer outside the visitor center was registering an outrageous 124F. I could feel the heat rising from the asphalt through my shoes making it impossible to stand in one place for more than a few seconds.

I explored the visitor center where rangers were spending their time warning people about the dangers of Death Valley. I asked about short trails and was strongly advised against venturing out, even for a short hike. My eyes were drawn to Darwin Falls on a map of the national park. There was no way a flowing waterfall could exist in this desolate land free of any sign of water, but I was told water flowing underground worked its way out of a rock wall year round forming Darwin Falls.

I loaded up my small backpack with 8 bottles of water and drove to the trailhead. Not surprising, I was the only car in the lot. Not wanting to waste time, I was on the trail moving at a serious clip. I held a bottle in each hand to force myself to take a sip every minute or so. I only paused to take a few pictures of a large lizard who appeared to be sunning on top of a large rock.

The trail moved deeper into a canyon. My eyes were constantly focused on the ground in front and to the sides of my path looking for rattlesnakes and any other creatures able to survive such harsh conditions. The first sign of a waterfall was the darker color of the soil from being damp. The deeper I pushed, the wetter the ground until there was flowing water and dense foliage spanning the entire narrow width of the canyon.

The waterfall was still out of sight, but I could faintly hear the water falling. My body was so hot, it was impossible to know if this was real or just a mirage. To proceed, I had to force my way through the jungle-like greenery while climbing around and over large boulders. After a few minutes of bushwhacking, I was standing before Darwin Falls. If I didn’t see the falls with my own eyes, I doubt I would believe such a place exists in the middle of Death Valley. I snapped a few pictures and decided it was best to turn around towards the safety of my rental car.

Still worried about rattlesnakes and other creepy crawlies, I was startled to see two people approaching as I made my way out of the lush forest. From the expressions on their faces, I could tell they were just as surprised to see me emerge less than 20 feet in front of where they stood. We passed each other and only exchanged smiles. They were on a mission to reach the falls and I was anxious to get back to my car to finish the long drive back to Las Vegas to catch my flight home to Jacksonville, FL.

The rest of my day was filled with the idea that I had to return to this magical place with Kellisa and Lisa. I wasn’t home more than few minutes before I started researching flights and lodging options to return a couple of months later during the week of Thanksgiving when I hoped the temperatures would drop to less dangerous highs. Even though it was a holiday week, I was able to book three airline tickets with frequent flyer points and reserve a small motel room situated in the middle of Death Valley.

A couple weeks went by without any really planning for our upcoming trip when our phone rang unexpectedly. Less than 48 hours after that fateful call, Egypt was a member of our family. She was 16 months old and needed a forever family. We needed an addition to complete our family and the social workers in charge of Egypt thought our family would be a perfect match.

To say all our lives were turned upside down, in a good way, would be an understatement. We had qualified to be foster parents with the idea we would adopt a child for years and despite trying multiple times for kids, we were never matched. By October 2010, I had given up hope we would ever receive “the call”.

Even though Egypt was placed in our home, I cautioned Lisa not to get attached because there was no guarantee that we would adopt her. Not that we would pass on her, but you never know what the “system” will do in the best interest of the foster child. As hard as I tried to follow my own advice, it took Egypt less than 24 hours to break into my heart. I knew she was my daughter from the beginning.

Egypt and Kellisa had to figure out their places. Kellisa had been an only child for more than 10 years and was used to all her parent’s attentions. Even though she wanted a baby in the house, there was an adjustment period.  Egypt’s past was mostly an unknown to us, but I doubt she lived with a kid in a wheelchair. She quickly learned to keep her toes out of the path of Kellisa’s wheels. Despite not being able to see around or over Kellisa chair, Egypt would try to help push Kellisa.

A few weeks turned into a month and it looked like we would legally adopt Egypt sometime in January. Our trip to Death Valley had been in the background, but as Thanksgiving approached, we needed a plan. Since Egypt was under 2 years old, we didn’t need another ticket since she could be a lap baby.

We asked Egypt’s social worker who was like a guardian while we were her foster parents about taking her on a trip. She told us we would need permission from a judge to travel out of our county with Egypt. We would need to provide all supporting documents of our trip including where we were staying, everything we planned on doing, and return tickets. We didn’t have a problem with any of the requirements, but the contact told us it was rare for such permission to be granted with such a newly placed child, especially one so young.

The social worker told us to take the trip without Egypt and they would find a temporary foster home for her. We did not consider this option, not even for a second. Egypt was an important member of our family and we considered her an equal even though we didn’t yet have the legal paperwork. We submitted everything for the judge to consider and if permission were denied, we would cancel the trip.

We were scheduled to leave on a non-stop flight from Jacksonville, FL to Las Vegas early on the Friday morning before Thanksgiving. I was getting close to giving up hope the judge would allow us to travel and it was taking everything not to bug Egypt’s social worker. I showed restraint because I trusted she would call as soon as she had an answer.

Our living room was packed with luggage, Kellisa’s travel wheelchair, off-road stroller, and a pack in play sleeper. At this late hour, we had to plan like we were going so we wouldn’t be up all-night packing if we received the green light.

Finally, just before 5pm on Thursday night, the phone rang. I think I picked it up before the first ring even finished. It was the call I was desperately waiting for and I could tell right away the news was positive. The judge granted permission. In making our case, the social worker told the judge we would not go without Egypt and this convinced him she would be perfectly safe with her family.

Egypt stayed with Lisa as we passed through security and I told them we would meet at the gate since it takes a little extra time to get Kellisa through screening. At the time, I would carry Kellisa through the metal detector and wait for her travel wheelchair to clear. This seemed to be easier and faster, but not on this day. For some reason, it was taking extra long to get her chair. Our bags were ready, and I need to place all the medicine and electronics back in their places. I was also getting tired from holding Kellisa’s 78 pounds over my shoulder.

I decided to sit Kellisa down on a bench for a minute. She has the ability to sit on her own but can’t be totally trusted. A laugh, a cough, or simple gravity has been known to knock her over or worse, fall forward and land on her face. Since she never developed to ability to crawl, walk, and run, she never fell face forward which is how and when kids learn the saving ability of bracing with your hands. So, when Kellisa falls headfirst, she lands on her face.

I stood there looking at Kellisa and she was upright and serious. I made the judgement call that I could leave her for a second while I grabbed our stuff and brought it over for repacking since I still couldn’t see her chair. I wanted to be ready when the chair finally arrived because we still had to check in at the gate and it’s important that Kellisa is the first passenger on the plane.

I took a few steps towards our gear and despite all the noise in the airport, my stomach turned when I heard a thump. I knew what it was before I even turned around to see Kellisa crumpled on the floor face down.

I ran back, picked her up and sat down with her on my lap so I could assess her injuries. When Kellisa is scared and/or hurt, she does this phony smile while trying to laugh to sooth herself and this is exactly what she was doing. 

Kellisa had blood coming down from her nose and a little was coming out of her mouth. We had a crowd of people gathered around us including several TSA agents who were offering their help. They already called for medical assistance.

Once we could all tell Kellisa was free from serious injury, one of the agents offered to help by bringing our stuff. While I sat there, I was fearful we would miss our flight due to my dumb mistake. I also felt like the worst father in existence as my body filled with a paralyzing guilt.

It took paramedics less than 60 seconds to respond. I only know from the paperwork because it felt a lot longer. They checked Kellisa out and determined her nose took the brunt of the fall and luckily it wasn’t broken. She loved the attention and was flirting with a couple of the male responders. They also checked out her mouth and she still had all her teeth. Thankfully, none were chipped or loose.

They offered to take her back somewhere for further observation or even transport her to a hospital. It was our call. I could tell by the flirting, giggles, and all the kisses being blown by Kellisa that she was perfectly fine. I declined further assistance and placed Kellisa safely in her travel wheelchair.

Lisa had heard some of our commotion and just knew it was us. Since she trusted us and had her hands full with Egypt, she wasn’t worried until she saw some of the now dried blood on Kellisa’s face. Lisa smiled and asked Kellisa if she was ready to go on a plane? Kellisa responded with a huge smile and shouted, “Yes” in sign language. Lisa knew Kellisa was good to go.

As far as we knew, this would be Egypt’s first ever flight and she flew like an expert. I had a stack of free drink coupons which we gave out to the surrounding rows just in case Egypt struggled, but she never once cried or made any noise. She was a little restless and had to move around a little, but overall was an angel. Egypt already fit right in with our family and little did she know this would be the first of hundreds of flights. We were able to get a “First Flight” certificate from the captain and wings from the flight attendants to make the flight a little extra special.

Since we were staying in the middle of Death Valley, I planned to cook most of our meals. I packed our camp stove and utensils. We stopped at a grocery store to buy a weeks’ worth of groceries and then we were on our way to our desert destination.

Unlike my visit just two months earlier in September, we found the desert freezing. In fact, there was an extremely rare and cold system parked over Death Valley that also extended to Las Vegas. We would return to Las Vegas for our Thanksgiving dinner and it snowed. I cooked gnocchi and sauce outside our cramped room while everyone else huddled inside while getting us situated.

Because we booked our reservation for a holiday week so late, we had to settle on a room with one full bed. It would be tight, but Lisa and I shared the bed with Kellisa. We barely had room to set the pack and play up for Egypt’s sleeping accommodations. Because we were staying at a rustic facility, the room did not have a TV, but we did have a private bath with a shower. I was hoping we would be so tired from our days of adventuring that we would return to our room each night tired and quickly pass out for the night.

We started our first day in the park with a trip to the visitor center so we could collect a passport stamp, buy a few souvenirs, grab a map, and see the numerous displays. Death Valley is home to Badwater Basin, at 282 feet below sea level, it’s the lowest point in North America and our second stop of the day.

With Kellisa loaded up in her jog stroller, I placed Egypt in a backpack carrier, and we proceeded to walk the short distance to the sign marking the lowest spot for the obligatory pictures documenting our visit. Beyond the sign, you can hike for miles across the salt crusted desert. Not counting short walks around our neighborhood a few times with Egypt on my back for practice, this was our first real hiking experience together and she loved it.

Most parks say the majority of visitors never travel more than a mile from a paved road and this was definitely the case during our visit to Badwater Basin. Kellisa enjoyed the crunching sound her wheels and my feet made as we ventured about a mile from the rest of the tourists. It felt like we had the valley to ourselves. I could hear Egypt giggling and my guess is she enjoyed the gentle wind in her face just like her sister did at a similar age when we would visit the beach near our home in Florida.

The rest of the day was spent touring the park and enjoying a couple other short trails including the Devil’s Golf Course and the beautiful Artist’s Palette trail which featured our first taste of elevation gain. I had climbed 14,000-foot mountains in Colorado and pushed Kellisa up and down steep trails from Maryland to Oregon, but I never pushed Kellisa up and down a steep trail with Egypt on my back. The trail only gained just over 100ft. in a short distance, but that’s the equivalent of a 11-story building. It was a workout and both girls were having a great time which kept me motivated to continue. Lisa captured several cool pictures of us out on the trail and like usual, we were the only ones doing what we do on the moderately traveled trail.

On our way back to our motel room, we stopped to explore the ½ mile Salt Creek interpretive boardwalk. It was fascinating to be in the middle of a wet area in the middle of such a dry environment. I carried Egypt on my back because she was tired from our long day, but I could tell she was constantly leaning over for a better view of the water below us. I was wondering if she was straining to see fish.We ended an adventurous day with hot dogs and beans outside our motel room. I didn’t have any doubts that Egypt would enjoy and love the outdoors, but if I did, they would have evaporated in the dry desert air.

Something extraordinary happened the following day at breakfast. I took the girls to the restaurant at Stovepipe Wells allowing Lisa a little extra time to rest and enjoy some peace. Kellisa can use her fingers in a pincher grasp to lift small objects including food, but rarely does she bring food to her mouth independently. Kellisa is more than happy to allow others to help her.

The breakfast offerings were simple. I grabbed a box of Cheerios for Egypt and a box of Froot Loops for Kellisa and spread them in front of the girls on a table. Kellisa was in her travel wheelchair and Egypt was next to her in a highchair. I was about to start feeding Kellisa one Froot Loop at a time when she reached beyond her cereal and grabbed a Cheerio. This was surprising, but I thought maybe Kellisa wanted Cheerios instead of Froot Loops. What she did next blew me away.

Kellisa raised her hand and brought it to Egypt’s mouth. Egypt at 17-months old was more than capable of finger feeding herself, but she sat there while Kellisa shoved a Cheerio into her mouth. I say shoved because everything is a struggle for Kellisa, and no one would describe her as graceful. Egypt was more than happy to just sit back and let Kellisa feed her. I could tell Kellisa was proud of herself and it wasn’t long before she was looking for praise and clapping. She had no interest in her own cereal, she was all consumed with helping her baby sister. To our knowledge, this was the first time ever that Kellisa helped someone else. I also lost interest in my breakfast temporarily as I sat back and watched this amazing sister experience.

As I was doing limited research for this trip, I knew driving the Titus Canyon Road was a must do adventure. The road is 27 miles of mostly one-way travel through a mountain range, past a ghost town, near petroglyphs, and passes through a narrow canyon which at points is barely wide enough for a large SUV to pass. The park recommends 2-3 hours for this drive, but we planned on spending most of the day to allow for photography and a picturesque lunch at the ghost town.

The rough road was filled with rocks and washboard making it a bumpy experience. We knew from past excursions that Kellisa loved this kind of road and the giggles coming from Egypt told us she was enjoying all the bouncing around in her car seat. I had to take the road slow to avoid the biggest boulders and deepest holes, so I took advantage of all the pullouts to stop for pictures. Sometimes we just sat there speechless in awe of all the colorful patterns running along the mountain range and hills far below spreading out towards the desert floor.

I stopped for lunch at the parking area for the ghost town. I think Lisa appreciated the break from the rough road and after a light breakfast, we were all ready for some lunch. I squeezed in between the girls in the backseat so I could help them with the bite size cheese and lunch meat I had prepared back at the motel. We enjoyed a few cookies as a treat before we finished our tour of Titus Canyon.

It didn’t take long before I was driving through Titus Canyon and past petroglyphs, but the best was the final mile or two where the canyon walls close in on visitors. At it’s narrowest, the walls are only 20 feet apart. After taking some pictures, we continued along the road until it spit us back out into Death Valley.

On our way back to our room, we stopped at the Mesquite Flats Dune Trail for a little sand dune exploration. It was difficult to push Kellisa through the deep sand, so we didn’t venture too deep. I was appreciative that Egypt wanted to walk around and explore on her own a little. Lisa kept her eyes on Egypt while I struggled to get Kellisa to the top of a dune for an impromptu photo session taking advantage of the soft twilight glow of Death Valley.

Our last day in the park was spent exploring Scotty’s Castle. We didn’t take a guided tour but enjoyed walking (and pushing) around the grounds of the 1920’s winter vacation villa of Chicagoans Albert and Bessie Johnson.

While making macaroni and cheese for lunch at the adjacent picnic area, we were surprised to watch Egypt go off exploring on her own. Up until this point, she stayed pretty close to mom or dad. I guess she was building up her nerve during all the new experiences of being outdoors on this trip. She was playing with a large stick maybe 25 feet away from where I was cooking when a coyote ran in between us. I thought Egypt would be scared by the encounter, but she ran off chasing the coyote.

After lunch, we talked to a ranger about visiting the Racetrack and were strongly advised not to go. The ranger guaranteed we would get at least two flat tires and it would cost us at least $1,500 to receive help on the remote gravel road that leads to the Racetrack. I knew from my own reading that flat tires were a risk, but I had the feeling the ranger was being over the top to discourage us because we had a baby and a kid in a wheelchair. I understood his reasoning, but it had the opposite effect. His words made me want to visit the Racetrack even more.

We had a large rental SUV with one spare tire and a full tank of gas. I also made sure we had food, water, and medicine to last a day or two if we became stuck on the remote road far from help and cell coverage.

The 28-mile gravel road was rough, but far from extreme. As a 4-door sedan was approaching us, I lowered my window to flag the car to stop, which it did. I asked the older gentlemen for a road report since we were just starting out and he assured us that we could easily make it to the Racetrack since they were returning from there and found the road quite accessible. I thanked him and gave a thumbs up before continuing. I’m not sure if the reports are exaggerated or if we were just fortunate enough to visit when the road was in the best possible condition.

Despite my confidence, I still drove slowly and paid close attention to the road. I was prepared to turn around if I felt the risk was too much. It took almost 2 hours to reach the parking area for the Grandstand. The Racetrack is a large valley and the Grandstand is a large island of rock sticking up in the middle. It was cold and windy, but I loaded Kellisa in her jog stroller and hoisted Egypt on my back for a little exploration. We hiked around the entire Grandstand. The ground was so hard and flat making it an ideal surface for pushing Kellisa.

We returned to our SUV and drove another two miles to reach the Moving Rocks. Again, we all got out and hiked around the large rocks on the playa that leave long tracks from their mysterious movements. We observed the rocks and wondered what combination of forces could come together to move these rocks great distances. There were a few other people doing the same as us and we asked a man to take a family picture of us. Looking at our faces and how we’re dressed, you’d never believe we were at the hottest place on earth.

Egypt was also suffering from severe allergies. We hoped the dryness of the desert would help, but it didn’t. I still tease Egypt that she enjoyed using my shirts and even my hair as tissue while she was riding on my back all week. The desert and mountains glowed a magnificent array of coloring as we enjoyed our long drive back to our room.

Our trip to Death Valley ended the following day with a little sightseeing on our way back to Las Vegas where we would spend Thanksgiving in the middle of a rare snowstorm. Kellisa loves trains and we rode the monorail from end to end several times. We learned Egypt shared Kellisa’s love for riding the monorail endlessly. We hoped off the monorail at the MGM for our Thanksgiving buffet dinner. They wanted to charge us $65 for each child, so after a very brief conversation, we settled on a less expensive and faster meal at the food court. We didn't need fancy since we were so full of thankfulness after spending an entire week in remarkably close quarters for the first time since Egypt joined our family. We returned home a closer family. It would be another two months before Egypt was legally a Kain, but she was an important member of our family long before it became official.

Note: We returned to California for a vacation in the summer of 2014 where we visited Lassen and Redwoods National Parks. We pushiked many trails during our two-week visit. We didn’t know it at the time, but we would relocate to Northern California in early 2016. Since our move, we’ve pushiked many trails throughout our beautiful new home state.

Friday, July 24, 2020

4 States in 1 Day

Like so many things, COVID-19 has delayed the release of our book. I've been wanting to build some excitement leading up to the October release, but wasn't sure what to post. I started thinking about how the book went in alphabetical order instead of sequential order. It seemed like there might be stories to be shared that didn't make it to print if I just changed how I looked at our adventures. While looking at a map of the trails included in the book, I realized our record for most states pushiked in a day was 4.
Kellisa and I were way behind schedule and needed to do some crazy trips with everything working out perfect or at least very close to perfect. We were in danger of leaving some of the New England states without finishing a trail due to rain in Connecticut and two rocky trails in New York. We needed to successfully pushike in Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island on our last day in the region before returning home to California with less than 3 weeks before the completed manuscript was due.

If everything went as planned, I would give us excellent chances to finish the task. But, there was a powerful nor'easter just off the coast with winds between 50 and 60MPH pounding the mainland. At least one of our planned trails was along the coastline. In addition, I didn't have an alternative trail selected for Connecticut and didn't have a solid plan for Massachusetts or Rhode Island. 

After a long day, actually after a week of long days, we woke up early in a beautiful seaside motel. We had already pushiked in Oklahoma, Texas, Washington DC, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire on this whirlwind trip. We only had four states to go east of the Mississippi and a very early flight home to catch in less than 24 hours.

Our first trail started out along the rocky Maine coast before going through a deep forest in full autumn display of vivid colors. The trail popped out of the trees for a short loop near the water again before returning on the same path back to our rental SUV. The wind and waves reminded me of bringing the girls to the beach to experience tropical storms passing by the Jacksonville, Florida coast.

I had an idea along the Massachusetts coast for a trail, but then I saw a sign for Walden Pond, "THE" Walden Pond. I took a chance and pulled off the highway knowing we couldn't afford to waste even a minute of time. We were relieved to find a suitable trail around one of the most famous ponds in the world. 

Sunday, July 19, 2020

25 Trips

Kellisa was well on her way to visiting and hiking in all 50 United States when Laurel joined our family in October 2010. Laurel started joining her sister on some of our trips while both girls also enjoyed their own trips. We weren't really going out of our way to visit new states since the goal was to complete all 50 for Kellisa by May 2017. It always seemed like we had time. 

The plan was to get Kellisa to the finish line and then work on Laurel's list since she didn't turn 18 until June 2027. Everything changed when Laurel started feeling left out and Kellisa was only ahead by a dozen or so states. We made the decision to have both girls finish the goal at the same time. This required Kellisa to visit about a dozen states for at least a second time. 

It took us exactly 6 years (November 2010 - November 2016) and 25 trips for both girls to visit and hike in each state together. There were many other trips during this time frame, but we are only counting the trips were they traveled together and shared a trail for the first time in a state. Since we make up the rules, some of Laurel's early states were completed on my back or in a stroller. By the end, Laurel has hiked in all 50 states and has pushed Kellisa in most (sadly, we didn't keep track of this statistic). 

We drove to many of the states and flew to the rest. Our journey started while we lived in Jacksonville, FL and we completed the promise after we moved to Roseville, CA. Below are the flights we took just for the purpose of visiting and hiking each state with both girls at the same time.

One regret, Laurel hasn't hiked in Washington DC. We planned to hike in DC when the girls visited VA, WV, MD, DE, NY, and PA, but our short window was filled with thunderstorms. Laurel was in a rental SUV that drove through DC, but hasn't hiked a trail. Since DC isn't a state, Laurel still completed all 50 states, but it would have been nice to check this box since Kellisa has hiked in our nation's capitol three times. 

Jax - Las Vegas (RT) 
Jax - El Paso (RT)
Jax - Chicago
Cleveland - Jax
Jax - Detroit (RT)
Jax - Minneapolis (RT)
Jax - St. Louis (RT)
Orlando - Jackson, MS
Jax - Nashville (RT)
Jax - Houston (RT)
Jax - Hartford (RT)
Jax - Denver (RT)
Jax - Oakland (RT)
Jax - Portland, ME
Manchester - Jax
Jax - Baltimore (RT)
Jax - Minneapolis
Denver - Jax
Jax - Seattle (RT)
Sacramento -Albany
Manchester - Chicago
Chicago - Sacramento
San Jose - Honolulu
Honolulu - Anchorage
Anchorage - Sacramento

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