October 24 - November 2, 2010 -- North Dakota

Click on the thumbnail for a map during this time period

Big (and Bad) News

We left the boat on the hard at Curacao Marine, and flew to Bismarck, North Dakota, via Miami and Denver.   We came to visit friends, family, and doctors.   Concerning the latter, there have been unanticipated developments.  As we have mentioned in previous posts, I have had sore shoulders (caused by too much lifting of scuba tanks in Bonaire) and a very tender right knee (caused by ... um ... cough ... old age?).

I saw on October 27 the same surgeon who had done arthroscopic on my left knee just a little over a year ago.  He gave me cortisone shots in both shoulders, and that has largely relieved the pain.   I can now sleep nights.   But, the shoulders were inflamed for so long (and therefore not fully used) that they have become partially frozen;  I now have very limited motion.   I am working with a physical therapist and doing, multiple times a day, stretching exercises for the shoulders.   Eventually, when I have recovered more range of motion, I will also graduate to strengthening exercises.  Meanwhile, my shoulders and arms have shrunk to an amazing degree; "use it or lose it" has proven to be true.

When the doctor heard the description of my symptoms, and when he looked at the x-rays, his diagnosis surprised and shook me.  I had anticipated another arthroscopic surgery.  Instead, he was insistent:  the knee required total replacement.  So a relatively simple procedure has been replaced by major surgery that will entail several days in the hospital and several months of intense rehabilitation, with the probability that full recovery will take a full year.

This is a very busy time of year for surgeons in this part of the world -- farmers delay elective surgery until after the harvest, and then are anxious to get the procedure done in time to recover before the calving, etc. season.   But my doctor remembered me from last year, and has been very supportive in terms of finding an opening ASAP, so that we can get back to the boat without too much delay.   Incredibly, the surgery is scheduled for THIS Thursday, Nov. 4.  Stay tuned.

Chuck's new knee

Indian Summer Gives Way to Dakota Winter

Everyone has been telling us what a glorious Autumn North Dakota had this year.   Mild temperatures, sunny skies, brilliant and long-lasting Fall foliage.   That's what they say.   They have to tell us, because when we arrived on the 24th, it was cold, windy, and wet.   And then on Tuesday, Oct. 26, North Dakota had its first blizzard of the year.  Bismarck got 3.2 inches of snow, breaking a previous record of 2.4 inches for that date.   Wind gusts were up to 61 mph.   When the storm abated, I took this picture of Barb and sent it to the Caribbean magazine "All At Sea".

On the swing set in Zona's back yard

North Dakota's economy

Seems like North Dakota is always a little "atypical", and now there are positive aspects to that trend.  The unemployment rate has been lower than 4% for the last six months, less than half of the national rate.  It has not been above 4.4% in the last decade.   ND's Commerce Department has been trying to recruit workers to the state because of a labor shortage, and analysts have predicted the state's treasury will have a $1 billion surplus by June.   What is the reason?   One huge factor is the development in the energy sector.   Oil and coal.    Here is a quote from a recent article:

"Pushed by high crude prices, companies in just four years have nearly perfected technology to tap oil trapped in a thin layer of dense rock nearly two miles beneath the surface in western North Dakota."

You can read the article here.

Our Hosts

We are staying in the spacious home of Zona (my sister) and Mike Robb.   Here is a picture of Zona in her kitchen.

Zona baby-sits during the day for her grandchildren Cole and Katy, offspring of daughter Cathy and Jon, who live on the north side of Bismarck.  Barb grabbed this shot of Cole recently:

Note that all the snow has melted

Mom lives here too, having moved from Jamestown into a lovely "mother-in-law" annex a year ago, an annex that was created by converting an unused former home office.   Here are pictures of Mom and I doing stretch exercises on our partially-frozen shoulders.

Speaking of conversions, a huge space that was formerly an indoor swimming pool is currently being turned into 1) a downstairs bedroom for Zona and Mike, 2) a laundry room, 3) a storage closet, 4) a bathroom, and 5) a gigantic family room.   Barb snapped a few pictures the other day:

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