Oh Nine

Last year was the first time I ever wrote down any so-called resolutions for the new year. I think I should make more tangible resolutions for 2009 as most of them last year were cognitive, but I feel I did a pretty good job at sorting them out.
Firstly, I have set one of my wild ass plans into motion, and am now playing the waiting game with that. I will hopefully have more to tell, but I'll wait until there is something to tell, lest I look stupid.

I did quit my crappy job about two weeks after I resolved to, and I am now about to happily celebrate my one year anniversary with the not crappy job.
I got a flashlight for work, but it is still pretty bad. It is bright, but works only when it wants to and sometimes not even then. I find myself shaking it violently to life while on calls. So, I'll keep that resolution on the list for this year.
I find myself poised to enter a relationship, where things now are still tentative, shy, new, and exciting.
I felt exhilaration many times this year. Whether it be kayaking in the wind, intubating people, sharing international experiences with loved ones, making it to the end of the Great Glen Way, or finding out my best friend is pregnant. It is the best emotion, I'll keep it on the list of things to do this year.
I definitely take less crap from people these days. I don't have time for it.
Mucinex is my cold medicine of choice.
I'll keep learning on the list too, it's good stuff.
I haven't found a permanent exercise partner, but I'm getting there.
For this year,
I'd like to show the people I love how much I love them.
Be more generous.
Laugh more.
Read the Bible. I'd better get started.

Nothing says Christmas like

A playmobil nativity scene, a leg lamp (aka 'electric sex') , and a kayaking Santa.

Whole lotta nothing

My day so far has been kind of, well, basic. I did a transport in the AM (a 36 year old getting a cardiac cath. Scary stuff) From there um, I have actually completely forgotten half of our calls. I have even just asked my partner and he can't remember either. I guess that the calls don't need any more explanation than that. How sad is that? Oh, that's right! The one with the pushy daughter, he has reminded me.
We walked into the so-called "sick person" and were greeted by the daughter who demanded our names and that we shut the front door before we could even see the patient. That kind of behavior puts a bad taste in my mouth from the start. In actuality, the daughter needed to take her mom to the doctors office, but was afraid she'd fall down and she didn't want that responsibility. So, we dutifully sat her up, and walked her to the cot, as 'doctor's office' quickly turned into 'hospital' after we got there. I asked the daughter if her mother had been sick lately and I got a (what had the potential to be a 30 minute) explanation of all of her maladies from the last year. I stopped her quickly and got her to focus for five minutes on the present. Then we just left.

The next call was for the so-called "unresponsive." Here, we were greeted by a visiting nurse. She had been there for hours, and suddenly decided to call us. Why? I'm still not sure. She claimed that when she got there the patient was 'resting' and proceeded to give her a bath and change her bed. When we got there, she did indeed appear to be resting and responded to her name. I couldn't find anything wrong with her other than being a stubborn old lady who refused to open her eyes or talk.

We just got back from another crap call, and I now am playing games on my pimp new zune.

Drugs are (still) bad.

Last night I met a man at work who is in the running for biggest idiot of the year. I call him a 'man' to reiterate that he does not have the excuse of youth and inexperience to fall into drugs. We were called at 0330 this morning because he decided it would be a good idea to watch relative strangers mash up "pills" melt them down into a spoon, draw them up into a hypodermic that might have come from a used sharps box (or God knows where), and inject it into his vein. Doing this, rightly so, made him classically "feel funny" and have a period of severe chest pain. Thank you, Mr. Idiot, now I am awake and my 3am mind is trying to wrap around a 35 year old guy who would do this to himself.
I couldn't find anything wrong with him, as by the time we arrived, his funny feeling had subsided. Now he didn't even want to go to the hospital. Fine. Easier for me.
Somehow he was spared from the long version, of "Do you know how stupid it is to do this?" speech and got a general 3am version of "What the hell is wrong with you?" Both include, but are not limited to, that drugs basically can kill you, not to take drugs from strangers, dirty needles give you incurable diseases that you can pass on to what I may assume now is your ex-girlfriend. Also, burial plots are expensive, but maybe you should get one now and spare your family the trouble.

EMS Tree

Behold! This years' EMS tree.
There are needles on my Christmas tree....no really. I might have gotten a little carried away with the picture taking. But it is fairly fabulous.












R.O.U.S.

I have a cat. She is cute but useless. About two weeks ago, I noticed little teeth marks in my bar of hand soap that is on the kitchen sink. Tiny, rodent sized teeth marks. So, I put out a little trap. A few days later, I heard it in between the walls loudly chewing its way through, well, something that must have been very difficult to chew through, because it was making a lot of noise. At midnight. On this day, kitty was inordinately fascinated with staring at the sound coming from the walls. A cat possessed, she stared and stared, waiting for it to burst forth or something.
The next night, I came into the kitchen, flipped on the light, and had just enough time to see this rodent jump out of my recycle bin and under my oven. I'm afraid I may have screamed like a girl. At this stage, Kitty was sleeping in another room. Completely uninterested in our visitor now that it was in plain view. What's with that?!
So, I redoubled my efforts to capture the thing, and became worried that it seemed quite large. I bought a fancier trap that covers up the gruesome and business end of it. I left it out and few days later I had the back feet and tail of the thing sticking out of the trap. What is the point of having a cat if she won't even come through for the most basic of feline tasks? Well, she is pretty cute.

Sonnet

An class assigned sonnet-like response to "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun" by the bard himself. It's not perfect iambic pentameter, but amusing.

Some may want those abs to be a six pack,
oh, but yours, I’m afraid is two liters;
that and your tattoo of some womans’ rack,
are barely hidden by your wife beater.
You drive a tractor all day with a frown,
you farm; in your trade no man is wiser;
a hard worker from sun up to sun down,
sadly your product is fertilizer.
A solid education, you have not,
you won’t be, nor can name the worlds leaders;
most of your schooling spent with some ink blots,
avoiding the stay with bottom feeders.
But I love you, you idiot, you know.
You have harvested our love, row by row.

Aging

Why do we fear aging?

We try to prevent it, to stave it off.
We wish to be younger, to pull the reins of time.

We damn the wrinkles,
dye the hair,
cover the spots.

We can’t wait to grow up,
then can’t wait to stop. Still,
we covet our parents’ experience,
and long for our grandmothers’ wisdom.

I do not fear age, no,
I embrace the passage of time,
as the older I get, the
more I realize how
stupid I was yesterday.

Blogging for the sake of blogging

When I started this blog I swore not to blog unless I had something of interest to blog about. I think I've pretty much stuck to that. Except for right now. It has been a long time since my last post, and I don't really have anything interesting to post now. Technically I am wasting your time.

The best thing to happen at work recently was when we got PEEP valves for our vents. Also, I got a few more items for my, what will now be, annual EMS Christmas tree. Still holding out for a good topper though. Any suggestions?

Next week I should have the last of the pottery class pots ready for your visual enjoyment. They are more pot-like than the first batch.

I have made small steps toward what I am calling "Wild Ass Plan #1." More on that later, I hope, but the stars must align for it all to happen. It would bring an interesting chapter to the blog though. There I go again, blogging about nothing.

I have recently gone on a pretty successful 1st date. Second to follow soon. Maybe we can talk for another five hours and not notice.

Today I opened the box of 160 bags of P.G. Tips tea I imported this summer. It is glorious.

I am almost out of the whisky I imported this summer. That is sad.

The writing class is to blame for the recent influx of poetry to the blog. What do you think?

I rode my bike for the first time (for a long distance) yesterday. It snowed and rained and I was nearly blown off the road. I deserved it for being lazy. At one point I stopped and shouted "I am ridiculous!!" I'm not sure why, but I was half frozen at the time.

I got the new Coldplay EP for $1.

I bought a pineapple today.

Happy t-giving.

That is all.

Oops

What happens when you open the side door of an ambulance into the screen of the zoll E series? It cracks the screen and makes it useless! What happens when you leave it on the desk of your boss and run away? Well, I'm not sure yet. I didn't have a bow to put on it as an early Christmas present, but I did leave a note offering my apology and first born child.
At first glance I didn't think it was too bad, then I turned it on.


Single

I am good at being single.
I am getting used to it.
I heat pizzas for one
and laugh at my own jokes.

I am independently minded,
and find fun as the third wheel.
I watch demoralizing chick flicks,
have daytime fantasies of serendipitous meetings.

I am self sufficient.
I eat lucky charms for dinner
and sleep late
in the middle of the bed.

I am bad at being single.
I look and wait, but
I don’t know where to find him.

And when I do find someone I like,
I have named our children,
before I look at his left hand.

When I feel lonely
I don’t know where to turn.
I settle for my cat.

Some search terms to cheer the heart

Old search terms that I've been meaning to publish, but had not gotten around to it. I'm not sure these actually get you to the blog anymore, but they did at least once!

"free pictures of full English breakfast" I'd rather have it in real life than in pictures. If I had any pictures, I wouldn't charge.

"pictures of paramedics in England" I love that this yields my blog and pictures of soccer.

"my health work in progress" Health is indeed a work in progress.

"Surgical Crike and Pictures" Yahoo wanted to change this search to "surgical crimes and pictures."

"aberrantly conducted" which google tried to changed to "apparently conducted" haha, sounds like pulseless elctrical activity to me.

"work in progress good to go shirt" When the blog is popular enough to need a t-shirt, I'll keep this in mind.

"what it means to carry junk in your pocket" A deep philosophical question indeed. Well, first I'd want junk to be defined. I often have chap stick, gum, 33 cents, and a girly penknife in my pockets. I think having this junk means you are super awesome. And have incredibly moist lips.

"premarital counseling where there is little progress made" Don't do it.

A terrible loss.

A few days ago my state trooper preceptor was hit by a car while taking a jog on vacation. He has subsequently died from his injuries. I can’t begin to take on the feelings of his wife and children. But I know that he was a good man, and for a few twelve hour shifts three winters ago, he took me under his wing, showed me how to be a good paramedic, and kept me safe.
He told me that with integrity, I could go anywhere in this business. How right he was. He was a preceptor who told me “You’re in charge.” and from there let me make decisions and run his scenes.
How ironic it is to work on a medivac helicopter and die in a vehicle accident.
I am sick with this loss.

Link

Link

Out on the water

Wind chilled wet hands
steady the paddle against the wind,
rhythmically slicing it into the choppy waters.
The swell pushes me forward clumsily,
as the spray leaps into my face.
I am exhilarated, nervous, excited.

The everyday produces a hard shell.
Too many interactions with lifeless people.
But here out on the water,
I am freed.
I shout it to the trees,
to the heron in flight above me,
to the sandy shoreline.

I can still feel.
My fears are put aside for one more day.

Yes, we actually can!

Major excitement and good vibes to my countrymen. I am extremely proud to be a part of history. Good history. I'm pretty much beside myself right now. There are more poetic things to say, but for now I'm too tired and exhilarated to form them. How far we've come. How far we have yet to go. But this is just a monumental step. I'm hoping that the results will be the same when I wake up tomorrow. I'm also hoping that things will indeed change in this country.

Now for you viewing pleasure, the beating of our current president in effigy, before and after. It was surprisingly therapeutic. Turns out his head is full of paper and gum.

I voted!

I've never had such power in one finger as I used our fancy touch screen to vote for president today.
If you are American and reading this, please take the time to vote today! If you are not American and reading this, please pray that we have the sense to get it right this time!
I saw a promising number of these stickers as I did some final shopping for my election party today. We are able to agree on at least one thing, we should all vote! I took my 92 year old grandmother to vote today, which made me warm and fuzzy inside. She has seen so much change in this country and is still excited to vote.
Lets hope that there are no hanging chads, the electoral college works for us rather than against us, and for a decisive victory that can be declared today and not two weeks from now!
The blog is usually not political, but today I can't help myself!

This Job

This job can wear on the heart.
Can cause one to harden,
and grow cold against the world.

Everyday traumas and dramas,
melt together, and even the extraordinary
becomes a fading memory.

Bloody gloved hands
unconsciously go through the motions,
methodically carrying out their tasks.

I am from

I am from a regular town full of regular people.
People satisfied with purely living life.
Sometimes I yearn for such simple desires
as a two car garage, a dog, a big television.

I am not special, yet feel unfulfilled.
I’m a wannabe gypsy, a transient
who fears the permanence of real life;
of matrimony, contracts, escrow.

But I have roots.
Roots that are deep and don’t want to be exposed.
Covered in the dirt of childhood,
of old friends, of young and aging family members alike.
I cannot just shake them off
and plant somewhere new.

I fear looking back with disappointment,
but it spares my tail from being between my legs again.
Still I search for the courage. A matter of
closed eyes, trust games, and gambles.

I take stock of where I’m from
knowing I will inevitably leave again.
Though I am inexorably tied
to its people, its weather, its street names.


But when I leave,
I learn that where I’m from
is where everyone else is from too.

Pot Post

Not that kind of pot, silly! Per request, here are some glamor shots of what I've been doing in pottery class the last few weeks.











400

Today I took a walk after work. It was a beautiful day, and although I never thought I'd voluntarily take a walk again, I enjoyed it very much.

Today for the first time, someone thanked me for saving their life. I'm not convinced I did, but she was feeling better after some adeosine slowed her heart from 190 beats a minute and her symptoms went away. I was glad it worked out because the call didn't start well. First, I got lost on the way there. I'm going to go ahead a blame the lack of rural road planning. At one point I found myself at the junction of Hilltop Road and Hilltop Road. I threw up my hands and the ambulance crew took mercy on me an met me there.
Once we found eachother, the compartment doors of my truck wouldn't unlock. I spent several futile seconds attempting to unlock them with my keys, but Iam generally key retardent, so I tried the switch for the 20th time and thankfully it worked.

From there, I stepped into the ambulance, hoping that I hadn't set the tone for an altogether bad call. The patient was clutching her chest and had a heart rate of 190. Sufficient not efficient. She was really anxious and kept asking me if she was going to die. I was pretty sure we could sort out her problem without issue. But then again, I had already been locked out of the gear compartment of my truck. I got her IV started and warned her that adenosine may make her feel funny, but it wouldn't last. She asked "Funny like what?" "Um, funny like your heart is stopping." Just kidding. Oh so many differences between what I want to say and what actually comes out of my mouth. I pushed it and we watched the monitor with excitement. I watched as her SVT went into a couple short runs of VT and then settled into a sinus tach. I was relieved. I would have been freaked out if she had actually died, even though I never told her she wouldn't.

Today I finished my 400th blog post.

Arrests

Apologies for the lack of updates. No time to update, nothing to update, no internet at work, catching up on episodes of 30 Rock...one of these excuses should do.

I have had some good calls recently. Including the suicide and the ROSC, I have had four tubes in as many weeks which is very exciting for me. The whole time I was at my first job I had one opportunity for a tube and managed to mess it up. That is the only problem with an all ALS system, skills are spread over so many people that often a great number don't get any at all. There is something to be said for suburban EMS.

I had an arrest two weeks ago, and we abided by the rule of 'if we have to think about whether or not we should attempt resuscitation, we probably should do it'. He really was too far gone, but we got him intubated, cannulated, and gave him some drugs. When that didn't work we called med command for permission to stop. This was the first time I successfully used a Miller type blade. It worked great, but I still reach for the Mac first.

Last week I had a guy who collapsed suddenly after dinner. The ambulance was there within minutes, and he got good CPR from them. He was in a pulseless electrical rhythm. Again, intubated, cannulated, and got some drugs. Unfortunately, we were not able to resuscitate him, even after continuing efforts in the ER for another half an hour.

Last night I had a CHF patient who made me a little nervous. She was full up with fluids and even with loads of nitrates and lasix (it's all we have) on board, and CPAP, she didn't seem to be improving. She did alright though and a few hours later she was off the CPAP. Horray for CPAP stopping us from tubing everyone!

ROSC

With the exception of getting lost in a cavernous apartment building, the call couldn't have gone better. It came out as chest pain, and rapidly declined to cardiac arrest. There were no signs pointing us toward the correct apartment and we were left wandering around briefly cursing and looking generally confused in a creepy apartment building.
We finally found the patient sitting on a chair looking not so great (and by great, I mean alive). We lifted her to the floor and I put her on the monitor, VF! (a deadly, yet treatable rhythm) We ended up shocking her six times. My partner gave her a host of drugs as I intubated her and when I looked up at the monitor again she was in a 3rd degree block (a very dangerous, yet treatable rhythm) I immediately fiddled with some buttons on the monitor and began to pace her. (giving her heart a little electrical encouragement) and she had a pulse! And a blood pressure! We had an interesting trip out of the ridiculous building as the cot wouldn't fit into the elevator at all. But we were able to squeeze backboard in at a weird angle and celebrated when the doors successfully shut.

She remained alive for the about half a mile drive to the hospital, and after that, well, I'm not really sure what happened. The 12 lead showed a huge inferior MI, and shortly after we got there she was taken off the pacer without a problem.
All in all, it was a pretty cool call.

Litter

I was walking to the store and passed by a line of cars waiting at a stop sign. As I passed, a back seat passenger rolled down his window, stuck his arm out and dropped some trash on the ground. Shocked, I stared open mouthed at him as my timid mind considered what to do. Impulsively, I turned on my heel and headed straight for him. I stopped for a second at the door staring into the car of teenagers.
“I’ve got it.” I said angrily as I bent down and picked up the offending litter, and I walked off.
“I’ve got it?!” that was my hard-hitting retort to this idiots selfish act. Freaking typical. Far better things ran through my mind as I walked away, almost prompting me to jog back to the car and go into an insane tirade about how dumb, spoiled emo kids are what’s really wrong with this world. Of course, I wouldn’t have taken the trash, I would have thrown it in his face, and informed him that he was in serious need of a haircut. At the very least I could have added “you jackass!” to my original lame statement or shouted other curses at random toward the car. Oh well.

My only conciliation was the horrified look on his face as I suddenly turned toward him. Ah, that was pretty good. But seriously, “I’ve got it.” is super sad. Silly pacifist Ellie.

Inescapable reality

There was a medevac crash in Maryland last week. Four people were killed including the medic and the pilot. Miraculously, one patient survived and is expected to recover. This is the first medevac accident involving the state trooper system in Maryland since 1986.
I don’t really know what to say about it. Helicopters crash. It is the number one cause of EMS personnel death. But not here. I immediately, selfishly, thought it was some other service. I was wrong.
I have spoken to several of my old classmates about it. The trooper system holds a special place for us as we all rode with them for clinicals. We are left feeling vulnerable, shaken, scared. They were untouchable. We are left incredulous, full of questions. How could this happen anyway? All supplied explanations seem doubtful to me. It is a frightening reminder, and we inherently don’t like to be reminded of our own mortality.
My thoughts and prayers go to the victims and their families. I hope that their deaths will not become a political bargaining chip in the state and that they are remembered and honored for what they were. Those who were committed to serving their community, even at great personal risk.
It's not much, but it's all I can think to say.

Little interactions

The grumbling diesel engine of our ambulance brought us to a stop at the light. On the corner there was a little boy waiting to cross, holding his mothers hand. I could see him staring at us. I looked over and with his free hand, he waved tentatively. I smiled and waved back at him. Leaning over, I touched a button and lit up the ambulance like a Christmas tree. It was nothing compared to his grinning face. I had never been so proud as the light turned green and we pulled away.

Why updates are in short supply


(because this is not a snake)
Although this sounds like a made up story, I assure you it is not. Last week, a garbage truck clipped the cable line going into my house and tore it off the pole. It has been hanging languidly and uselessly off the building since then. I have been watching movies and have read a lot more than usual in the last few days. I am writing this update at work, where at least I have the internet. They are allegedly fixing it on Tuesday, but I'm not holding my breath. Maybe I'll have something to blog about by then.

Red bagged pants

I was nervous. I actually felt nauseous driving to the call, dreading what I would see. I was headed to a self inflicted gun shot wound to the head. I knew I would be the only ALS provider on scene and the dispatcher reported that he could hear agonal respirations over the phone. It was raining hard and all I could think was to drive carefully and breathe.

When I arrived, the scene was crawling with people; cops, firefighters, neighbors investigating the commotion. I dropped my bags in the foyer and headed upstairs, deciding already to get the patient out as soon as possible. On the way in I passed whom I assumed was the patients mother. She was covered in his blood, and a police officer was with her. One more thing I could cross off my list of worries.

I was met with a rather horrific scene where the patient had sat in a chair and pulled the trigger with the gun to his temple. There was a large blood stain on the chair and a bullet hole was in the wall next to him. He had fallen on the gun, and a note simply addressed to a girls name was on the bed. Absentmindedly, I picked it up. It was strangely clean and white compared to the rest of the now red and disheveled room. It was folded over and neatly taped on the edge. I put it back on the bed. The first responders had already gotten him onto a backboard. “Does he have a pulse?” was my only question which was met with several mournful ‘yeses.’ “Okay, let’s just get him in the truck, there’s not much to be done in here.”

They began to carry him down the stairs as the mother shouted words of encouragement to her son. She reached out to him at a loss for what to do. It is with a heavy heart that I know I give hope where there should be none.

I went ahead and into the ambulance to set up. I pulled out my intubation kit, IV kit, turned on the suction and got my community hospital medical control doc on the phone. They were loading the patient in as he picked up. From here, I had probably the most useless conversation with a doctor ever.

Despite brain matter herniating out of the gun induced hole in the head, our patient was still breathing on his own and had a pulse. This alone was amazing, but more vexing was that he also had a gag reflex. This meant that I couldn’t secure his airway without some drugs to calm and hopefully suppress this reflex.
When I called the doc I had nothing but a compromised airway. I needed orders.
I quickly explained my situation and was interrupted a few times by the patient giving a rattling horrid sounding breath; the brains’ last efforts to keep the body alive. The doc was slow to answer me.
Firstly he asked me if I could fly this patient to the trauma center. “No. It's raining.” This was apparently not obvious from where he was.
Then he gave me orders for ativan, which would have been fine, except that we don’t carry it.
“I don't have ativan. I have versed or valium. Which can I use?”
He asked me the patients blood pressure. Basically I didn’t know and I didn’t care. His airway needed more attention. My exceptional adopted partners at the time were giving it their best efforts to get one. I reached for the patients wrist, “I have weak radials, so at least 80.” About here the patient took another long and conversation interrupting agonal breath that was gurgling and loud.
There was dead silence on the other end of the phone. “Are you still there?!” I asked desperately.
He asked me how far I was from the trauma center.
“An hour probably.” My frustration was mounting, because I was learning I can only do so much while balancing a phone between my ear and my shoulder. “Please. I need orders.”
“Well, you know we can't really handle that, he will need a trauma center. You’re sure you can’t fly him?”
“Yes, I am sure. Everyone is grounded. I know he needs a trauma center, but I don’t think he’s going to make it that long.” I wasn’t even asking where to take him, but somehow it came up.
“Okay, well do what you have to in that case.”
“If I lose pulses, I'll be transporting to you.”
There was another long pause causing me again to ask if anyone was still listening as my patient breathed more blood into his airway.
“Okay, I still need orders for something, this airway sucks.”
“Yeah, okay, well if his blood pressure is over 110 give him versed, if it's under give him valium.”
“Great, valium it is. I’ve really got to hang up now.”

I threw the phone on the counter. I was giving orders of my own to my extremely helpful crew and started an IV. “Guys, I don’t want to come off as a bitch, but I need to do a lot of things right now, so please don’t take my ordering you around personally.” They were all totally cool and understood my stress level.
I gave him the valium, but it didn’t do it, and now I was worried about his pressure, so I nasally tubed him. It worked great, lovely, perfect. Breath sounds, Co2 and all that. Happy paramedic. From there I popped in another line, filled him with fluids and did some deep suctioning. That was all we could do. I packed trauma dressings onto his head, but they were all eventually soaked through. Like water on the deck of a ship, the blood leaked onto the floor and flowed into streams formed by the motion of the ambulance.

Nearly an hour later we pulled into the trauma center. Our patients’ pressure was terrible, his heart was beating fast and I frankly couldn’t believe he was still alive at all. I handed over to the trauma team, where I hear they waited for the family to arrive before terminating efforts.

I went in search of scrubs to wear home as I was sure my pants had blood on them. I got some from the ER and put my pants in a red biohazard bag and tied the top. It then took the three of us almost an hour to clean up the ambulance.

Its calls like these where I try to disassociate myself from the reality of the situation. I tell the story freely as with each retelling it seems the actual events are slowly archived into the annals of my life. Becoming more legend than true happenings.
This call was still with me when I went to bed that night. It was still there when I woke up the next morning.
As I drove home in my borrowed scrub pants, I couldn’t help but relive the call. I was proud of handling it on my own. Glad to have gotten the skills in, but the whole thing was still truly sad. There are so many people who want to live and yet are sentenced to death from cancer, heart failure, stroke or a myriad of other ailments that this patient didn't have. And yet he chose death over life. I will try, but I will never understand.

Commuter

If anyone was worried, no I haven't died or retired from blogging. I just don't have a lot to say. A few days ago I got my sweet new bike panniers so short of going to work I can use the bike for all of my other daily chores. Check out the super bright blinking taillight too! I do have at least one eventful call to blog, but I haven't decided how to word it yet. Working on it.

9/11

Seven years ago I wondered how long it would take for 9/11 to be dramatized on TV or film. Five years ago I wondered if it had been long enough. “Flight 93” and “World Trade Center” together grossed over 100 million dollars. Only one million of that was donated- to build a memorial.

Were these movies made in case we had forgotten? Because I have not forgotten. I have not forgotten how vulnerable and afraid I felt. I have not forgotten the whine of firefighter motion detectors going off in vain, I have not forgotten the frantic faces of people as they searched the dusty crowds for their loved ones.

But I have also not forgotten how truly unified I felt with my neighbors. For awhile we were all friends, we saw ourselves in each other. It was practically utopian. Even I, who am not particularly patriotic, felt of one mind with the citizens of this nation.

I remember television being suspended for days. I remember Dan Rather crying on Letterman. I remember pausing to watch every plane as it flew over my head.
I remember hearing, “Osama dead or alive” and seven years later I don’t remember him ever showing up.


But maybe we do need reminding. All memories will inevitably fade, as humans we have short attention spans and short memories. We should remember as we are poised to elect a new leader for this nation. We should remember because those responsible still roam free.

I still see faded "United We Stand" stickers on cars but I think we’ve forgotten what we’re standing for. Because the president puts a wreath on ground zero we're supposed to feel safe and comforted? I do not because I know that the 9/11 death toll is still rising. My brothers and sisters who toiled for hundreds of days hoping to find a single survivor are dying from materials they inhaled on ground zero. Rare types of lung diseases, asthma, and cancers plague them. Dedicated firefighters who have been forced into retirement from the job they loved. Paramedics lost in debt because by some insane stretch of the imagination they are not covered by workers comp as they suffer with debilitating respiratory problems. Our heroes should not have to describe themselves as “ticking time bombs” or “the walking dead;” they should not be let down by this country.

Maybe they could use some of that 100 million.


(a new and improved version of the original from 06)

The Right Place

It was hot and he had walked for a while
looking for just the right place
secluded and out of sight
this was a private party.

It hadn’t rained in weeks
but he wouldn’t have noticed that.
The hot gravel crunched under his shoes
and nothing could distract him.

He felt for the back pocket of his jeans
where hard metal jutted out awkwardly.
It barely fit, but he wouldn’t have to hide it much longer.
The wind blew and made little change to the treeless landscape.

He finally stopped and sat with his legs crossed
like an expectant child in school
but he had nothing to look forward to
only one more task to carry out.

He dragged his hands on the unpaved ground
one last attempt to feel.
It was full of little stones
appropriately hard and uncomfortable.

He pulled the gun from his pocket and felt its weight.
He raised it to his temple, surprisingly cool against his skin
one more dry, ragged breath
squeeze and pop.

His hand fell
and he slumped sideways.
When the wind blew,
dust stuck to his sweaty and bloodied face.

Class

This semester I returned to the classroom and am taking a writing class. Here's where all three of my regular readers exclaim "Ellie, your writing is already so awesome, you don't need a silly writing class!" Ah, but one can always improve. Ha Ha. I'm also taking the class for fun and because I missed learning which apparently moves me into the "super dork" category. I can't help it. It's been fun so far, at the very least there are some amusing people in class.
I worry that the more I learn, the more I over analyze my writing, and I don't want to get hung up on writing like a writer if that makes any sense. I don't want to get stuck in over detailed cliches like Flora Poste in "Cold Comfort Farm" struggling to get the right details for her 'golden orb.'
So, I had to write a little something and then our teacher didn't even collect it in class. I was sad, as every writer cannot wait for people to read and critique their writing. Seriously. Well, it would certainly be preferable for the teacher to read it and be so struck that she wrote A++++++ all over the classroom and then called her publisher friend immediately because the world could not wait for such moving writing. But if I keep writing run-on sentences like that, the chances are slim.
I figured since no one else has read it save a couple people in class, I'd 'publish' it here. I am afraid though, that it is a rather dreary piece, such is the nature of a paramedic writer. But, what do you think?

Camping

This weekend I went camping with some friends old, new, and in between. It was good fun. The last time I camped at Shenandoah National Park I was lost in the woods and nearly froze to death. This time was quiet the opposite, as the weather was pleasant and I got to retrace my steps somewhat and see the park in the sun, instead of the snow.
We took a nice hike, saw a few deer and drove past a black bear. Sweet. The last black bear I saw was up in a tree, but this one was just walking along the road oblivious to all of his excited human followers snapping their cameras like maniacs.
I also got to do some serious butterfly stalking, they were everywhere! Pictures to follow, I haven't yet put them on my photo site.
Despite the fact that the campsite was nearly full by Saturday, it was very relaxing to just sit in front of our ludicrously hot fire and read. I really aught to camp more often.

The Tube

The tube is held in such high regard; the defining skill of a paramedic. In school it is drilled and practiced over and over. It is the benchmark of our professional success; how we measure our overall proficiency.

At each opportunity, methodical steps are followed, materials assembled and checked, anatomical landmarks found. But patients don’t read the textbook; sometimes we miss.

So much rides on its success that when we fail, it is like the airway becomes our enemy, it haunts us, it ruins our day. Regardless of the outcome of the call, the tube is what we remember. If I had gotten it sooner, gotten it faster, gotten it at all. Would the outcome have been different?

But algorithms are followed, responsibility is passed, egos stand aside; it just might not be our day.
Deep down we know it is okay, but it is hard to let it go.

Fore!

I spent yesterday doing standby for a golf tournament. It was about as exciting as I thought it would be. I brought two books. I did end up learning a lot about golf. Way more than I ever really wanted to learn, but maybe it will come in handy some day to know that a bogey is not just something that comes out of your nose.

My partner seemed pretty into it so I couldn't spend the whole day making fun of golf. But it was still fun. I even did do a bit of EMS, I gave out two bandaids. . .to the same person.

We had a couple run ins with the 'golf nazi' (as we took to calling her) We were out in our cart watching golf, trying not to be bored to tears or get in the way, when she came up to us and basically asked us to kindly stop exploring the course. I don't know why, as we weren't disturbing anything, I didn't even let my pager go off while we were near the greens. We left since I got the vibe that if we actually disturbed anything she would cut us.

People kept coming up to me and asking questions that I had no clue about. It was like they were speaking a different language. More than once, I had to say "I don't know what you're talking about" like an idiot. Or, I'd just give them a blank stare and then ask "I'm sorry, are you hurt?" I mean the stethoscope 'round the neck apparently isn't a dead giveaway that I don't actually work for the golf place.

I love Scotland and well done them for inventing golf, but if I'm going to watch a Scottish sport, I'd rather watch people throwing telephone poles.

In the end I did get a lot of free food, a golf tee, and drove a golf cart. What more can I ask for?

Problem Solved.

"I can't breathe, my right foot is swollen, my sugar is high, and my neck feels weird." The patient announced as we entered her door.

For these reasons she called 911 and got an emergency ambulance.

I went down the list of complaints with her.

I listened to her clear lungs, I put her on the pulse ox, I took her blood pressure.

I examined her foot, determined there was no trauma, strong pulses, good sensation, no swelling at all.

I took her blood sugar and discovered that she was due for her insulin shot which would put it back to normal.

I palpated her neck, I counted her pulse, I listened for bruits, I felt nothing.

We talked, I joked, she laughed.

I wondered why I was there appeasing a classic time waster.

After all this, she still wanted to go to the ER.

I walked her to the cot and on the way out she asked if she could take a bag of sugar free candy with her.

I punched her in the face.

One legitimate patient

We were called for a headache. 98% of headache calls are migraines, or just plain complainers. I was skeptical as we entered the narrow house and found a guy holding his head. He had no history of migraines, and had taken some aspirin without relief. The headache came on suddenly and was crippling. I was skeptical until we took his pressure which was over 190 systolic. He stood and walked across the room to the cot and had a severely ataxic gait. Then he threw up a few times. My concern grew and we just went to the hospital. We didn't waste any time because what he needed, we couldn't give him in the ambulance.
He almost immediately got a head CT and he was having a massive hemorrhagic stroke. He was quickly flown to a hospital with neurosurgery capabilities.

I can't tell you what happened to him, but I can hope that he will be able to be there to raise his young children, to teach them, to hold them, to talk to them. His full recovery is the scenario that I must believe in.

This is green living.

I am totally on the 'green' bandwagon. I switched to those coil light bulbs, I recycle like a fiend, and I have taken to riding my bike to everywhere except for work. I am getting these sweet grocery bag panniers for the bike but they are on back order (probably because I am not alone in riding the green bandwagon.)
So, I needed a couple things from the grocery store, and although I don't have the bags yet, I do have a shiny new rack that is quite useful. So, I biked up there and as I walked into the store I was greeted by coke 12 packs were on sale for a ludicrously low price. Such that I couldn't pass them up. Without hesitation I stacked a few in my cart and spent the rest of the shopping trip considering my options.
1. park the cart and get my car.
2. attempt to stack four, twelve packs on a bike rack.
3. steal a grocery cart (temporarily)

It felt absolutely stupid to go and get my car to drive the short distance to the store just to get some sodas. 12 packs on a bike rack simply do not work, all I could see in my mind were 48 soda cans rolling down the street as I futilely attempted to round them up. I decided that stealing the cart would look far less stupid in the long run. So, at great personal risk of either being chased after by the store cart wrangler or developing a great look for my future career as a crazy cat lady, I stole the cart. I left my bike as collateral, not that the store knew that, but it worked out okay.
All in the name of saving energy.
As you can see from the picture, other than the cokes, I was getting some supremely important supplies.

Short hiatus

My computer is being upgraded at the moment, hence the lack of updates. (and thanks to nothing terribly interesting happening at work) I have a few posts in the works ('the works' here being notes scribbled on bits of paper) but nowhere to type them. How is Ellie typing this update then? One could wonder. I am at our public library simply to check messages and read magazines for free. It's a nice place to ride the bike to, and I think the only place in town that has a proper bike rack. I smell a letter to the editor brewing...

Hopefully I'll have the computer back sometime in the coming week, and then I will be too busy marveling in it's lightning fastness to write an update. "Is a 160 gig hard drive big enough you think?" asks my computer guru. "Um...yeah." Considering that that is more than four times the size of my current hard drive, I'd say that's large enough for at least another five years or so. But, I fear, like an empty room in a house, it will fill up, and with hundreds of 10 megapixel pictures already waiting to be put on the computer, I hope it will last me.

I wasn't going to take any

Again, after hours of uploading, pretty much all of the pictures of Italy 2008 are online.
In Rome, I had free internet in the hotel which was awesome considering that one could pay upwards of 3 euros (5 dollars) for half an hour elsewhere. Those updates were hasty but pretty much cover everything else we did. I've improved their spelling and added a little info where it was needed.
I've also added a few posts to better explain what I was doing in Italy in the first place, and what we did on those long internetless days. I hope you find it interesting/entertaining.

Italy 2008

Italian Ambulances

Really old stuff

Assisi is a quiet hill town in the central region of Italy called Umbria. Umbria is highly underrated in terms of beautiful terrain, often overshadowed by Tuscany's popularity. It is easy to understand why Assisi is a popular tourist and pilgrim spot. It is situated on the top of a mountain yielding absolutely unbelievable views of the surrounding area.
St. Francis was born here and established the Franciscan order. The basilica itself is beautiful, built in 1230, it is actually two basilicas, one on top of the other. It survived a large earthquake in 1997, and was closed for two years to fix it. Inside the lower basilica, there are several great frescoes by Giotto and others showing the life of St. Francis, Jesus, and even Mary Magdalene.

We had a leisurely afternoon exploring the town and I got a meringue that was as big as your head. It was awesome. Dinner, as usual, was pasta, chicken, and french fries. Carb it up!

The next morning we drove south to Pompeii. I should not even get started on the coolness that is Pompeii, the town that was tragically covered in 40+ feet of 800° F volcanic ash in 79AD. I learned that it is special not only because it gives us a look into live nearly 2000 years ago, but a look into one single day that ancient people led. The ruins were discovered in 1700something and are still being excavated. It is amazing how much survived the eruption, frescoes, buildings, mosaics, pots, loaves of bread. Even bodies remained intact, forever frozen in the ash.

Home of the Renaissance

With all of us fully recovered we headed to Florence next. Florence is the absolute mecca for Renaissance art. When I was there eight years ago, we were in such a rush, that we were in the Uffizi gallery for about 45 minutes which is an absolute crime against nature. I was determined to see it properly this time. We ended up getting in without waiting in line and having a personal two hour tour of the most important and influential art of the renaissance. It was great. Botticelli, Lippi, Giotto, DaVinci, Michaelangelo, Rafael, and Caravaggio. Priceless, beautiful works of art that I was overjoyed to finally get to spend some quality time with. Okay, I'll try to stop nerding it up.
The next day we had a walking tour and saw a lot of the city including Pointe Vecchio, a large bridge over the Arno River. It is the only bridge in Florence to survive world war II, and is a very interesting place, with little shops build right off of it. We also visited Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore and Brunelleschi's Duomo. I later climbed the 400+ stairs to the top, getting a great view of the frescoes inside the dome, the architecture of the dome itself and an absolutely incredible view of the whole of Florence. It was truly unbelievable and the best six Euros I spent. I felt no sway, no shudder, no hint of instability as I stood 375 feet in the air on a 37,000 ton dome that was raised in 1436 without the use of wooden scaffolding. Sweet. It was here I learned that when you're alone, the best way to get a picture of yourself is to ask someone who has a more expensive camera than yours to take your picture. 1. they won't steal your camera because they already have a better one. 2. they probably know what they're doing.
We also saw Dante's house, and went inside la Basilica di Santa Croce where we saw great sculpture and the graves of Michaelangelo and Galileo. We also visited the Duomo museum where we saw the original golden "gate of paradise" baptistery doors completed by Ghiberti in 1422 after 21 years of work.

Once again, from the top

Long before my friends proposed hiking across Scotland to me, my parents and cousins planned a trip to Italy. It happened to work out that the trips didn't overlap, and I actually had five days in between, three of which I spent working, two of which I spent nursing my painful ankle.

I left for Italy limping like an old lady, worrying everyone in my party, and worrying myself that I had a stress fracture.

Thankfully my mother had an extra ankle brace that I wore, and the foot feels much better now. How a sore ankle got better through more walking, I can't explain.

I took the same trip in 2000 when I was in high school. I was really excited to be able to finally share my experiences there with my parents.

So, we flew into Milan after hopping over the Alps, and drove to the east coast of Italy. We stayed in the fairly small town of Caorle, where we could dip our feet into the Adriatic Sea. From there we went to Venice, a fascinating town, of course due to it's lack of roads, cars, and the utter insanity of living on a cluster of sinking islands. It is a beautiful place, and we spent much of our time in the Doges' palace, (the Doge was the king of Venice). (It's a museum now, we weren't having tea and biscuits or anything.)

Around midday, my cousin suddenly fainted, which altogether isn't an exciting or happy thing to happen. But I quickly assessed that she hadn't had more than maybe 16 ounces to drink that day and it was very hot. We were assisted by the staff there who called an ambulance. I was sure that she could refuse if we could fix her up so I made her the same deal as I would make for any other patient. If she could walk out under her own power, then I would be satisfied that she was okay.

Unfortunately, that didn't happen as she continued to feel lightheaded for more than half an hour even after drinking a lot of water. What I didn't realize at that point was that there are truly no wheeled vehicles in Venice, so the paramedics arrived in a boat. A boat! Thankfully I knew that my cousin was okay and simply needed more fluids than a water bottle could give. Because of this, I could turn my attention to the giddy feeling I got when I realized that I would get to see the Venice EMS Ambulanza Boat.

I was very impressed with their EMS. They had lifepack 12s, started an IV on her, and were generally very thorough.

She was taken downstairs in a very strange looking, what I called, a stairchar/wheelbarrow. It was the oldest wackiest thing they had. Outside I followed them through the crowds of tourists to where their ambulance boat was parked. I am shamed to admit that I was so excited at my cousins expense, but she understood.

She was rehydrated in the ER, and rejoined us later that evening. All was well.

Arrivederci, Roma

So, tomorrow we are heading home after a fantastic trip. Today I put my hand in la bocca della verità. This is a really old sculpture (old like BC) which legend says could tell who was a liar, and if a liar put their hand in its mouth, it would be cut off. Luckily I kept my hand, which makes typing this fairly easy.
We also visited Ostia, a very ancient city that was pretty fascinating. I'm out of order now, but we also saw a church that had some huge beautiful paintings by Caravaggio. Oh, I'm a nerd. It was cool.

Tomorrow we have an early start so I am off to organize my things and make sure that there is no limoncello in my carry on, lest I have to drink it all at airport security. Hmm, not a bad idea.

Buongiorno!

Yesterday was fantastic, starting in the Vatican museums, and seeing the Sistine chapel which is simply unbelievable. From there we visited the Coloseum and the roman forum, seeing ruined buildings from a city established in 753 AD.
These buildings are not ruined solely because of the decay of time, but because, among many other things, Romans invented recycling, and would take building materials from old buildings to make new ones. If only they knew what a money maker the Coloseum would be today. Maybe they wouldn't have changed it. But, the Coloseum also had materials stolen from it. The small holes in the facade are from people stealing metal out of the walls. The metal was originally used to give the walls some, well, give.
We saw Trajan's column, the Trevi fountain, the Spanish steps, and the pantheon. The pantheon was built in the first century BC, BC! That is crazy.
I also got to spend a little time in an Italian ambulance. I know one sentence in Italian, Io sono una paramedica americana. Worked like a charm.

Today, more roman adventures await us.

Ciao

Roma, Roma, Roma

We have just arrived in Rome, and have lots of touring to do tomorrow. Today we were on the lovely isle of Capri. This is a small island 6 miles off the west coast of Italy. We had a great boat ride around the island and had wonderful views of sheer cliffs and clear blue water. We are all doing well and having a fun time. Tomorrow, we'll hit pretty much every major site in Roma including the vatican, colleseo, roman forum, trevi fountain, etc.
Well, there is a long queue of internet hungry teenagers forming behind me. If I don't get off soon, they'll mutiny and write something nasty on my facebook wall or something.

Buona Sera.

We are here

We are in Assisi in Umbria Italy. Internet has been in short supply and extremely expensive. But all is well. It goes without saying that everything is beautiful, and more detailed, picture filled updates will follow.

That is all for now, here for your enjoyment are some weird keys on this italian keyboard. à ° ò ç è é ì ù § £

Ciao!

Feet don't fail me now

Oh, day five! On the last day we went from Drumnadrochit to Inverness, at least 20 miles. In my notepad I wrote two things: 9:01 when we hit the trail, and 6:50 when we reached the GGW sign declaring the end.
The trail started out on our new favorite roadway, the A82, which we had seen quite a lot of, and narrowed to a single track trail in the woods which was beautiful, but all uphill. Eh, it sucked. The trail opened up to a double track logging road leading us to the highest point in the trail. I was already totally busted at this point. We walked a while longer and had lunch at a mountain bike park which was actually pretty cool. There were people there with their kids playing on the playground. It almost felt like we were near civilization.
We continued on a long rural road through sheep fields and moores. We were on this road for probably two hours and didn't see a single car. The trail then went back into the woods where we took a snack break and I think I nearly died. Well, I felt pretty bad all around. I ate a pack of starbursts which fortified (I use the term lightly) me for the remaining, maybe five miles. I was going at a literal snail's pace and shuffled to the end. Oh, it was bad. We reached the outskirts of Inverness which just teased us, as we still had pretty far to go. I was surprisingly energized when I saw the sign at Inverness Castle telling us it was over. We celebrated for about five seconds before attempting to find the B&B.
We seriously vegged for a while and then Louisa inspired us to go to dinner. It was a great idea, just difficult to carry out, as we had to go down some stairs to get to any restaurants. I am sure we looked crazy as we carefully lowered ourselves down each stair, clinging to the handrail. We definitely needed a sign explaining that we had walked 20 miles to justify our silly gait. We did have a delicious dinner of Spanish tapas and sangria.
The next morning we caught a train back to Edinburgh and from there had a leisurely lunch before Andy and Louisa had to catch their flight. In the afternoon, Jenn and I went to the Museum of Scotland for a while before our legs gave out completely. We bought dinner at the Tesco and stocked up on food like souvenirs. (160 bags of PG Tips, sweet!)
I had a great flight home, but there was a delay in getting our bags down to us. I didn't get my bag in hand until 3:45, and my connection was at 4:10. Needless to say I was freaking out and ran through customs, rechecked the bag, busted through security, hastily tied my shoes back on, and ran quite a distance to the gate. I made it with eight minutes to spare.
I am now nearly fully recovered, I still have some pain in my ankle that is getting better. Hiking the Great Glen Way was fun, beautiful, tiring, and painful. It would have been fun on a bike, and a lot faster. I wouldn't trade the experience, but I probably won't repeat it.

GGW official site.

Demand the A82 upgrade.

Support GGW improvement projects.

Day 4 and Nessie

We left the next morning for Drumnadrochit (pronounced Drum-na-drock-it, or just Drum to the locals). Day four was a hard one for hiking with several areas of moral killing switchbacks.
It was at some point in this day that I resorted to drinking whiskey straight out of the bottle. I think it helped.

When we reached Drum, after 14 miles, our B&B was a beautiful sight. The owner was super nice and fixed us some tea right away (because tea fixes everything). He then drove us "downtown" to the Loch Ness Discovery Centre.

This was as campy and silly as I had expected and the gift shop was larger than the exhibit itself. It was a series of videos that told the history of the legend of Nessie which more or less began in 500 something when St. Columba spotted a water monster causing some trouble and forbade it to leave the loch or hurt anyone. Since then, Nessie has been spotted over 1,000 times! Allegedly. I mean, she'd be pretty old by now for one thing. (many of the "sightings" have been proven hoaxes. Can you believe it?!)
Some believed that it was a plesiosarous left over from back in the day, but they died out 65 million years ago. Many expeditions have been led under and on top of the water to find Nessie and everyone has come up empty. Also, apparently there is not enough marine life in the loch to support the life of even one water monster.
I asked one of the employees if he thought there was anything in the water. "Oh there's something in the water alright." he replied laughing. "But probably not a monster." Even after walking the whole length of the loch, we didn't have one sighting or even a false alarm. Bummer.
Here is the "original" modern sighting of Nessie. Her first picture from 1933.

Day 3

On the third day, we were on the trail by 9:20. We started out going through sheep pasture and farm land along the banks of loch Oich. It was cool to be in with the sheep who didn't seem to mind us too much. We returned to the caledonian canal for a few miles, and here we experienced our first and only proper Scottish rain storm. Our lunch goal was Fort Augustus and we marched there in relative silence, rain dripping from our jackets. We made it to Ft. Augustus and had our one and only sit down lunch as we had nowhere to buy our usual ploughman's lunch in S. Laggan. Here, Jenn officially declared that she was 'busted.' And I was too. Busted became part of our GGW vernacular to basically describe that we were hurting, blistered, and generally tired of walking. Unfortunately, at this point, we still had eight miles to go that day.
Here we got our first views of Loch Ness which is an absolutely huge body of water. We ended up walking its entire length of 23 miles. At its deepest, it is over 700 feet down, plenty of room for the elusive waterhorse to hide.
We left the relative civilization of Ft. Augustus and headed back into the mountains. It was a steady climb for a little while, offering us fabulous views of the loch. It was beautiful!

We arrived at our end point for the day, Invermoriston, at 5:15, after 18 miles of hiking. I was really hurting, but a hot shower and drugs can do wonders. We took a few minutes to enjoy some whitewater on the river Moriston which was cool.
Oddly, when we got to the B&B, an ambulance was parked out front. I asked, of course, and in such a rural area, the ambulance is staffed by local people who leave it at their houses while they are on call for a week at a time. Cool.

Day 1 and 2, less brief

When we arrived in Fort William, we had a nice lunch and walked to the Ben Nevis Distillery and had a really cool tour. I sort of figured out the differences between types of whiskey. Some random facts were that scotch whiskey is aged in used oak casks (preferably sherry casks) for at least three years and a day. (American whiskey can only be aged in new casks) Single malt is one "batch" from one barrel. Blended can be from several different barrels from the same distillery, or from different distilleries. I got some and it was good, and that's all that really matters, right?

We set out from Ft. William around 9am after a great breakfast from what we decided was the best B&B of those we stayed in. There was a honed process for rating the B&Bs consisting of kindness of the proprietors, availability of tea, hot chocolate, and biscuits, amount and quality of breakfast, comfort of pillows, and number of bedcoverings.
The B&B bar was set high.

We had beautiful views of Ben Nevis for many miles and at all angles. "Look, there's Ben Nevis." was a common phrase when things got boring. We found ourselves at the beginning of the Caledonian Canal which basically cuts Scotland in half. Boats travel through many locks, canals, and lochs. Locks are the things that transport boats through the canals where water travel would be impossible without them. Lochs are basically long, skinny lakes.

A boat could technically get all the way 'through' Scotland in about 14 hours, but the lock keepers only operate 9-5 so it takes a week. The most impressive series of locks is called Neptune's Staircase. This is eight locks in a row, raising the boats 64 feet in 500 yards. It takes a boat 1.5 hours to get through.
From here, day one was mostly canal tow path that was easy to navigate. We arrived in Gairlochy which consists of a lock keepers house and I think that's about it. We had to walk an additional three miles (bringing our total for the day to 13) to Spean Bridge. Here we had a nice stay an were able to have dinner and get lunch for the next day.


In the morning, our B&B owner drove us back to the trail, saving us a few blisters and an hour or so of walking.

Here the trail left the canal and wound to the shores of Loch Lochy (which is basically like calling it Lake Lakey) which was beautiful. I was wishing that I had a kayak to play on the windy surface of this loch. We went about an extra mile to see a double waterfall called Eas Chia-aig meaning "Water of the old witch" Where apparently a witch had been run out of town and fell down these falls into the pool below to her demise.

The rest of the trail on day two was in the woods of Clunes and Sough Laggan Forest. It was beautiful, old forest and the trail was a double track logging road, which wasn't too bad to walk on.

We arrived, 14 miles later at South Laggan at 3:45. This town is so small that we had dinner and breakfast at the B&B, because there was literally nowhere else to eat. Great food here and an "honesty bar" which was great mostly because it was loads cheaper than regular bars.