Tohono Chul Park: Nature, Art, Culture, and a damn good brunch.

22 Sep

Yes, I have been a complete blog slacker in the past few months, I know. Let’s just pretend that a fresh new blog post is like waiting for a fine wine to ferment. Or for a long lost love to realize what they were missing all those years. Or like finally hitting it big after all those losing lottery tickets. No?? Well, it was worth a shot. Admittedly, this lapse in blogging has had more to do with my weekend social life than being an avid adventurer living the dream. Don’t judge! I contest that part of the adventure of being a travel PT is the blending into a new culture and, in my case, falling into the role of a Tucsonian townie in recent weeks. Rest assured, my dad’s ongoing prodding to post some updates and photos to my blog hasn’t gone completely unnoticed. Here’s the start of some good (and photo worthy) stuff that I’ve been neglecting to share…

A couple months back, I visited the Tohono Chul Park here in Tucson. This botanical garden (and tea room) is tucked just off of regular city streets and provides a unique blend of nature and art in a desert oasis. I keep hearing this reference to “there’s something spiritual about the desert”. Well, this place is truly unique and enticing. Perhaps what I assumed was the sweltering sun pushing me toward a heat stroke was actually a spiritual desert moment.

We started off with brunch on the patio before wandering the park…

History and Hokeyness in Old Tucson

12 Jul

Winding on the mountainous road leaving Tucson in the distance, I blithely anticipated Old Tucson would be a hidden treasure tucked between the hillsides.  Certainly tucked away… in the middle of nowhere… it dawned on me that I just might be entering that pesky force field that sucks me into tourist traps once again.

Famed as the studios where many classic westerns were filmed (Arizona , in 1939, was the first), there is an interesting veil of movie history draped over this hokey, low budget theme park.   More than 300 films/tv productions have been created here, but it was a little hard for me to imagine film casts and crews making well known scenes amongst the western facades that seemed so cheaply staged.  The movie credits are quite extensive (check out the Old Tucson website for a full history) with a steady stream of productions flanking the Western primetime of the 1950’s.  Most in that era were unfamiliar to me, but there were quite a few productions that caught my pop culture interest.   I wandered around recognizable sets from Three Amigos, Tombstone, Young Guns, and Little House on the Prairie.  I posed beside “The Reno”,  an 1872 locomotive that carried passengers from President Roosevelt to John Wayne and starred in nearly 100 features. Character actors reenacted a shootout scene from The Quick and the Dead.  Horrendous cabaret ladies made me wince as they sang classic numbers accompanied by film footage shot at Old Tucson.  A miniature train ride around the perimeter of the studios provided many a view of desert dirt and scattered props.  Overall, I think the hokey outweighed the history.

Flexibility is key. And I’m not talking muscle length.

5 Jul

As my first travel assignment was coming to the end of its term, I finalized my next assignment: an extension for thirteen more weeks here in Tucson. Yup, no trip to Colorado for now!

An underlying theme to travel PT is flexibility. I had every intention to spend my summer in Colorado Springs, Denver, Boulder, Grand Junction… certainly not the desert heat of Tucson! But with a dry job market in my desired areas and a dry climate sadly setting Colorado a-blaze, my plan became flexible. With all the recent changes to find the right “fit” within the RV’ing lifestyle, staying put now grants me more time to explore all the things still left to discover in Arizona. I also had to use my week between assignments for the not so fun task of driving to/from Austin just to register my vehicle and RV I purchased here in Arizona. Quite the headache, but yet another exercise in flexibility.

I find it best to approach travel PT with a global plan because without thinking about life panned out in a few thirteen week intervals, it’s easy to lose grasp on how few travel assignments actually suck up a whole year. But the best laid plans need to be flexible. Here are some questions I have asked myself during this assignment transition:

• What is the back up plan if an assignment is ended early?
• What if your goal destination doesn’t have available positions in the time frame you need?
• What other state PT licenses do you hold as options, and is there such a thing as maintaining too many?
• How far away can you go while not breaking the bank with unpaid travel time and the expenses to get to your assignment?
• Can you take time in between for a road tripping adventure?
• What changes can you make to the plan to squeeze in those unexpected “taking care of business” hassles?

If you consider traveling as an RVer, also be sure your primary and secondary plans take into account seasonal differences. Driving conditions, freezing hoses/pipes, tornadoes/hurricanes are all examples of Mother Nature’s impact on the plans of a RVing travel PT. These regional and climate considerations are also key when building your potential travel route across several assignments.

Sedona Photo Essays: Fay Canyon Trail – Part Two

17 Jun

After doubling back, we kept our eyes peeled for a trail that was only marked by small piles of stone.  This trail, which leads up beneath the Fay Canyon Arch, was once a marked trail until there were rock slides that created its current condition. 

A moderate climb to the natural arch (photo center, in the distance), steep at times and with precarious footing…

Half way up… and a hesitant moment to ponder the trek back down…

Exploring behind the arch… a piece of history…

Absorbed in the magnitidue and character of the red rocks…

Cradled  in the shade of the arch…

Sedona Photo Essays: Fay Canyon Trail – Part One

17 Jun

Fay Canyon Trail (perhaps about a mile) was the first of several short hikes we did throughout the span of one day.

From the roadside, with sprawling red rocks in the distance, the dusty trail begins…

Skirting jutting red rock formations…

Weaving along the tree shaded path… 

With a dramatic view at the end of the trail…

From here, we back track about half the way in search of an unmarked trail that will lead us to the Fay Canyon Arch…

Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes for a travel PT…

11 Jun

Choosing your travel housing and getting it right the first time (especially when trying to figure it from a distance in an unfamiliar place) doesn’t always happen. For me, my originally planned location was a good starting point because of its proximity to family despite its significant distance from my workplace. But with the passing of time, getting to know your surroundings, and getting to know the (not so hospitable) people within your new community can lead you to the conclusion: “Get me the hell away from this place!” I’m still sticking to my recommendation to fellow healthcare travelers to strongly consider the RV-ing route for this exact reason. Lower cost rent, monthly/weekly/daily rate options, and the ability to take your “house” with you at the drop of a hat continue to be an advantage.

However, I am learning the challenges to RV’ing in the Tucson area, where you really have to be selective about the community you pick in the sand sea of senior citizens. At my last location, the (older) population was not of the hip variety (if they even had their real hips) and pretty intolerant of a 30-something professional in their lair. (Mind you, I was not in a community exclusive for 55+. There were hellians tearing around on trikes and 40-something trailer trash milling around—that’s right, I went there.) It doesn’t take long to pick up on the vibes of the “regulars” who reside at an RV park that are not interested in a transient person invading their space. I actually got confronted for “casing” one of the mobile homes while trying to take photos of the Super Moon with my telephoto lens. These experiences, culminated with a climactic over-dramatized incident involving my dogs, led me to speed up the process of moving on to sandier pastures. As a PT and an RVer, I’m grateful for the housing freedom to be able to scope out other options and pick up and go as I see fit. Currently, I’m settled in to an RV park that is in a much more desirable location, managed by welcoming and professional folks, and doesn’t appear to have an express ticket on the gossip train. All pluses in my book!

Watching the sun set behind the mountains from my RV site…

The “learning to live with less” mantra only works so long in < 23 feet of space

2 Jun

A little housekeeping post to start the update on one of several living arrangement transitions… Over the past month, it has dawned on me that a 23 foot motor home didn’t, in fact, offer that equivalent in living space. I quickly learned how tight the quarters were when my phone-chat pacing habit became quite dizzying. That, along with the constant shuffle of personal items, furniture, and gigantic dog crate, started those cogwheels in my head to turn. As often happens on a journey of self-discovery, I found myself discounting my entire original rationale then crunching numbers and making a plan to somehow upgrade my RV living space in the fall when I returned to Austin for a hiatus.

Then, as if by divine intervention, the opportunity to purchase a practically new fifth wheel RV and trusty pick-up truck as a steal-of-a-deal fell in my lap. At the mercy of the classically unpredictable acute care PT schedule, I orchestrated the purchase and move from ol’ MH to the new fifth wheel in a series of evening and one-day-off stints. God bless the insane American dream that allows a 30-something to have in her possession 4 vehicles and a tow dolly at the same time. (It’s actually anxiety producing even just typing the scenario. Deep breaths.) Although the logistics of financing, purchasing, licensing, registering, and selling my former vehicles can easily be considered a nightmare, I will gladly trade my week between assignments to trek back to ATX for vehicle mayhem in exchange for the added space. Remind me of this when I’m 1.) still financially spread thin, 2.) freaking out while attempting to hitch the fifth wheel solo, and/or 3.) trying to parallel park the truck in an urban locale.

From cramped and cluttered  (packing/moving day!) …

… to rollin’ with the big dogs!

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Feels a little bit more like a “home” on wheels now!

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Montezuma Castle: An Arizona Cliff Dwelling

30 May

A little history…  In 1906, President Roosevelt declared four sites in the U.S. the first National Monuments.  Montezuma Castle, near Campe Verde, actually has no connection to the Aztec empire that is its namesake.  This cliff dwelling, which was inhabited by the Sinagua people for over 400 years, is nestled in limestone along banks of Beaver Creek.  From Tucson, it was easy to catch this monument en route to Sedona.

 

 

 

Butterflies of the Desert Botanical Gardens

28 May

Delicate, vibrant, and a symbol of change, butterflies delight me!  I could have spent all day photographing these whimsical creatures in the butterfly garden of the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix, Arizona.

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, and your illegal border crossers…

26 May

With this post, I am bringing back into focus one of the key themes of this blog: exploring new professional practice. Although I have written posts on learning the logistics of travel PT, this is my first to catalog new perspectives I’ve gained from my clinical/professional experiences. Although this post focuses on my experiences with healthcare and illegal border crossers, I love my work and I respect those I provide my services to– regardless of their circumstances, social status, origin, etc.

Despite my years living in central Texas, my first professional exposure to the issues of the U.S.-Mexico border has been here in Tucson. Seeing the dark green clad Border Patrol trolling the hallways and parked beside hospital beds has become nothing out of the ordinary. But with growing experiences and conversations, I feel more and more like a five year old whose reply to every statement is, “But why?” On any given day, the glaring perplexity makes me want to give America an open-palmed slap on the forehead and say, “Are you for real?! This is crazy!”

So let’s get a few things straight about the lingo. When I interviewed for my travel assignment, I was delicately told I would work with a significant population of “undocumented immigrants” to primarily assist with discharge planning. Okay, an interesting choice of nomenclature, I thought. Up on the hospital floors, you hear “border crossers” mostly. Without sounding too insensitive, I don’t understand why we must mince words. These folks are illegal immigrants. (As a side note: Not all border crossers are Mexican. People from many countries attempt to use the U.S.-Mexico border as an illegal gateway.) They are crossing the border with no respect for a (failing) immigration system or the laws/regulations of our society. Although my opinion is a common one, the public’s opinion is quite varied. There is a mix of distain (of the “free ride”), frustration (with a flawed U.S. system), and sympathy (for those who “surely are fleeing a place where they can’t get the care they need—how sad!”). I can understand and have personally experienced each of these feelings during my time here. But, instead, let’s look more closely at the ass backward approach to healthcare for those injured during their ill-fated border cross.

While attempting to cross the border, many get injured. Most often these injuries occur by trying to scale the fence (I mean, really, how likely is that plan to be successful anyway?) or when running away from Border Patrol. Frequently we see spiral fractures of the tibia, trimalleolar fractures, etc. So these folks are brought to our hospital and receive all kinds of diagnostic testing and medical consults for their injury. They occupy our hospital rooms, watch cable, and receive good care. Then they get orthopedic surgery. Some with external fixators placed, some with internal fixation, almost all with a weight bearing restriction. Who pays for these services? America does. Then comes the “PT eval and treat” order. We provide our skilled services for evaluation, assessment, patient education and discharge recommendations for durable medical equipment. Who pays for these services? America does. We communicate with the physician, the case manager, the social worker. They want to know our recommendations for mobility to be able to cross back to Mexico. But in the next breath we are told, “Well, they are a border crosser, no funding, so we can’t get them anything.” Crutches are usually the only guarantee. They want to know what type of vehicle they can mobilize into for transport back to the border, and if they can safely walk (or hop) back into Mexico’s custody since U.S.’s Border Patrol cannot physically cross the border with them to assist. The orthopedic surgeon gives the patient discharge instructions. Some state a follow up is required in a few weeks—a follow up for which some patients have in fact attempted to re-cross the border. It’s a bitch when this time your external fixator gets caught in the fence (true story). This last bit makes me want to slap some ortho docs in the forehead. Where is the awareness to their patient’s situation? Where is the responsibility to the patient to make reasonable recommendations for follow up? Where is the social responsibility to the U.S. to not encourage abuse of our systems?

Given this scenario, the greatest frustration amongst the physical therapists I work with is this: Why is it that a U.S. and/or hospital system will pay for thousands of dollars of medical and surgical care for illegal immigrant (who choose to climb the fence, who are running away from being caught for something illegal) but then refuses to see it through and provide assistive devices that cost less than $100 to ensure their safe mobility?

I, along with many of my PT colleagues, will tell you that it doesn’t take an Oprah “a-ha!” moment to see that this is a ridiculous system and misappropriation of U.S. / healthcare dollars, physical resources, and clinician time. A fellow PT posed a novel concept: As military personnel are frequently trained in medical care and triaging, why isn’t Border Patrol utilizing a medical triage where these injured folks can be stabilized with essential care and returned to their country of origin for further medical intervention? We can provide care to meet the emergent, basic needs all humans deserve. But must we provide medical care that many of our own American citizens cannot afford or do not receive?