Today has been, without a doubt, without even a close contender, the worst day of my journey so far. I’m not sure I even want to write about it, because I don’t feel well enough yet to feel like it’s over. But I’m safely camped at a nice campground, staying here for two nights, plugged into electricity, and it’s only 4PM, so maybe I should just be counting my blessings instead of mourning my misery.
I woke up in the night to stomach pain. Indigestive-type stomach pain. At first it wasn’t so bad, I wondered what I’d eaten. But it got steadily worse and worse until I was tossing and turning and trying to figure out how I could possibly have given myself food poisoning. I was going down the list of every food I’d eaten, trying to think how it could have been contaminated. Was the pesto too old? Did I not wash the radishes well enough? Was the water in my tank — which I don’t drink but did use to wash the vegetables — contaminated somehow?
At various points through my entirely sleepless night, I wondered whether I could be having a heart attack, whether I was dehydrated, whether it was my gall bladder, whether I had a kidney stone, whether I needed an emergency room, whether I should be calling a ranger for help. I checked my own medicine cabinet for something, anything, that would relieve some of the pain and found, unsurprisingly, nothing.
The dogs were, of course, as restless as I was. My squirming around trying to find something like a comfortable position kept them on the move, trying to get back into their own formerly comfortable positions. Eventually B wanted to go out — still dark and temperatures in the 20s. I didn’t even care. I was awake anyway and thought maybe the cold air would help. It didn’t.
Then, of course, Z wanted to go for her walk. Really wanted it. We’d had a terrific walk yesterday and she loved the cold weather. She was bouncy and energetic and all ready for morning to begin. I eventually wound up literally snarling at her, because I was face-down, knees to chest, some sort of modified child’s pose, trying my best to breathe, and she kept sticking her nose under my arms and trying to lick my face. But even the sweetest dog understands a snarl; after that she curled up on the dog bed and watched me attentively, trying to decide what I was doing and if I was ever going to take her for a walk.
Answer: no. I wasn’t sure I had walking in me.
But I did let her out on a tie-out, while I tried to decide what to do. I was pretty sure at that point that I had food poisoning. I didn’t know how I could have food poisoning and it was obvious that I was just going to have to throw away everything in my fridge because I had no idea what had gone bad, but what else could it be? And there’s no cure for food poisoning. You ride it out and stay hydrated. Not fun, but it’d be over eventually. Unfortunately, my reservation at the North Rim was over and the campground was completely full, so I needed to move on. But there were other campgrounds nearby — maybe one of them would have room.
I did one thing at a time. One item put away, one job done, punctuated with sitting on the floor and rocking. It hurt. It really, seriously, fucking hurt. It felt like my intestines were tying themselves in knots. Not to be too graphic, but my system had completely cleaned itself out except for copious amounts of gas. Ridiculous amounts of gas. I could have won a belching contest against a world contender, but it only ever alleviated the pain for a moment or two.
And then I realized — yesterday, my bag of gluten-free crackers had inflated. It was really strange. I had to pop it to open it. And the top popped off my plastic container of balsamic vinegar as if expelled by an invisible force. Gas, in other words.
Could I have altitude sickness? In what is not irony, because it is not funny, I’d worried about R facing altitude sickness when he went to Colorado, but it had never even occurred to me that I might get it. Was the Grand Canyon even high enough to get altitude sickness?
Unfortunately, I had no internet and no cell service to find out. Also unfortunately, my generator refused to start when I’d tried to use it to make coffee the previous day and my computer was totally out of charge. But if my problem was altitude sickness, then finding the nearest campground wasn’t going to be useful: I needed to get to a lower elevation.
I started driving. After an hour, I stopped and took a nap, because yes, the pain eased off some. Not entirely. I feel like someone punched me in the stomach a bunch of times and food is unfortunately still not an option. (I tried. Bad idea.)
And then I kept driving. Because the generator wasn’t working, I didn’t want to stop until I’d found a place with electric hook-ups, so I could charge the computer. And I definitely wanted a place with some decent cell reception so I could look up generator repair & altitude sickness & elevations of my projected destinations. And I also kind of really wanted a pharmacy to get something, anything, that might help me feel better. Plus, I was having a caffeine withdrawal headache, which only added to my misery.
Exhausted, aching, nauseous, I kept driving and driving. Watching the odometer. One mile at a time, that’s all I needed to do. And then another mile. And then another. I kept checking my cell phone as I drove for a Verizon signal that didn’t show up. I hate the No Service message. I get it less often with Verizon than I do with T-Mobile, but it’s still awful.
It was the longest drive through pretty scenery ever.
I wound up driving straight past Flagstaff — at 6900 feet, I could tell from how much it hurt that I wouldn’t be sleeping there. I’m now at Homolovi Ruins State Park and it’s still a little too high. At 4900 feet, it’s exactly where elevation sickness can start. I think I’d probably be better off a few hundred feet lower. But there’s electricity and a cool breeze and hot showers and I was seriously wiped out. I just couldn’t keep driving.
I still feel worried about eating any of my food — maybe this is food poisoning? — but I’m pretty sure from the way my body responded to the hills and valleys during the drive that nope, it’s altitude sickness. It really, really sucks. I thought altitude sickness was a headache, but wikipedia assures me that nausea and “excessive flatulation” can go along with the headache.
And you know, I know I should count my blessings: the worst day of my journey did not include an emergency room, a morgue, the police… it could have been so much worse. But it still sucks and I still feel miserable and I really wish someone would miraculously show up and deliver some soup and painkillers.
On the good news front, though, the Winnebago Travato Facebook Owners and Wannabees Group totally came through for me on the generator. Turns out the generator also suffers from altitude sickness, which is fine, because I am never going near a mountain again. (Probably not true. Probably a situational exaggeration. But I’ve definitely lost all my Colorado enthusiasm for now. Maybe I’ll be taking the southern route back east.) Ten minutes of reading old posts and I found exact instructions for how to get it going again. (Thanks again, Jake!)
I really want to write more about the Grand Canyon, but there is a bee buzzing around the van. Seriously, universe? Seriously? But I am going to go help it find freedom or else mercilessly slay it, ideally without getting stung. And maybe tomorrow I’ll try to write some more.
Oh goodness…. You know, when Robert and I went to Colorado to visit my cousins, I had altitude sickness, but I just had trouble breathing. I felt smothered and weak. Horrible… when we went back down the mountain (we were in Cripple Creek) to a lower level, I began to breathe easier and my fatigue gradually improved. Not fun… I feel for you but am grateful I didn’t have the intestinal side effects or I would have really been in trouble because I have Crohn’s & IBS. Did not need either of them to kick up on the trip. Glad that you’re feeling better and you didn’t wind up in the ER (or the morgue!). Take care and give yourself a day of rest if you can squeeze it into your itinerary.
<3 Thinking 'bout you and sending you light and love and strong vibrations for ease and healing. Your experience with altitude sickness was _way_ worse than mine when I went to Albequerque (or you know, however you spell it! :/ ). Hope you're more comfortable soon! <3
Thank you! And thanks for the reminder that Albuquerque is high enough to cause problems — I’m headed in that direction. And paranoid, of course!
Sending all thoughts for your recovery. My bought with altitude issues was in Albuquerque — a bloody nose! Glad you figured it out!
bought = bout. Typokinesis strikes.
🙂 I do that, too. My fingers go faster than my internal spell check. And thanks — a bloody nose wouldn’t faze me, but I’m glad for the double reminder that Albuquerque might be trouble. I’m headed that way, so I may need to take my time about getting there. (Taking time to acclimatize is, apparently, the best cure for altitude sickness.)
Oh, you poor kid. I am so sorry you went through this. And alone. And disconnected.
You must have been so frightened.
But, of course, you did all the right things. I hope they’re paying off and that you are a new woman by now. Or at least, back to the woman you were a few days ago.
You know, I actually wasn’t ever scared. If it had happened on the night when I couldn’t see any other lights, I might have been, but the park was full. Help was close at hand if I decided I needed it. But thank you and yes, I am feeling much, much better! I hope you’re enjoying your trip!
Kyla Bendt said:
At 5300 feet, Albuquerque isn’t much higher than where you’re at, so once you’ve had a few days to adjust there ABQ shouldn’t be a problem for you.
P.S. if you’re looking for a driveway, or someone to have a cup of coffee with, or walk the dogs with in Albuquerque now or any other time, send me an email.
Also, the balloon fiesta is right around the corner and totally worth going to at least once: http://www.balloonfiesta.com/