The grand plan after visiting Carlsbad was to drive a little further south to our final National Park: The Carlsbad Caverns. We were all set to go, until the thing I had been avoiding for approximately 7 months of traveling through 17 different countries happened: My back went out.
It happened in the most glamorous way possible. After finishing the first pee of the morning, I bent down to collect my drawers…my lower back clenched, screamed and then weakened. “Oh no oh no oh no please please please no” I gasped…I’ve experienced this feeling often enough to know I would be on my back for the next couple of days. This time, I was 1000 miles away from home, although fortunately we were in a country with a Walgreens on every corner and an ice machine down the hall. I couldn’t have picked a more inconvenient place to break down…our crappy hotel room was $130 something bucks a night and we were in the middle of nowhere, New Mexico. I staggered out of the bathroom in tears and collapsed onto the bed. After comforting me through a big blubber, John called the office and extended our stay another night.
That day was spent lying down on a leaky bag of ice, watching a Pawn Stars marathon on the History Channel, full of muscle relaxers. John explored the local pharmacies and brought back cold compresses, a new back brace and a portable TENS machine which was permanently attached to my lower back for the afternoon. We spent the evening trying to figure out how to get me back to Nashville as quickly as possible…our tour of America was officially over. The options consisted of 1) clear a space out in the back of the jeep so I could lie down while John drove, 2) pump me full of Percocet and Skelaxin, strap me into the back brace and get me to the closest Southwest hub (Dallas) or 3) pump me full of Percocet and Skelaxin, strap me into the back brace and just drive as far as we could. The next morning, I was able to sit up for longer than the day before, so we opted for choice number 3.
Doped up on pain meds and muscle relaxers, I spent the next 7 hours flitting in and out of consciousness while John drove through Texas. I know y’all know this…but John is pretty much the best…just wanted to make that official. The first night, we ended up east of Dallas in a truly bizarre hotel. Absolute crap-hole from the outside…modern European brilliance on the inside.
The next morning, we did it all over again and made it back to Nashville where I hugged the dogs, hugged Burton and promptly went to bed with an icepack. The next 4 days or so were spent either lying in the bed, lying on the couch or tottering around the house pinched into two by my brace. I could tell I was improving, but it was unknown as to whether we would be going to Asia in a two weeks time.
So what happened? Well, sitting down for 7 hours straight every day is not the best formula for a healthy back, especially when you have three severely degenerated discs in your lower back. We were also a lot less active than we have been on previous journeys, so combine the compression that occurs while sitting (even with good support) with the weakened muscles from a sedentary 6 weeks, you end up exploding your back as you pick yer knickers up off the ground. Lesson learned.
I headed back to the chiropractor for the first time in a year (gasp!) and was welcomed back into the fold with open arms. Cracked, crunched, adjusted, rolled around and sternly talked to, I was back to about 70% within a week and a half…which is about where I am now. The good doctor threw this passing shot as I left my last appointment: “sitting down for more than an hour is not going work for you.” This is not what you want to hear when you are about to get on several long haul flights.
So…what to do? Punt Asia? After our passport snafu, I was beginning to think that the universe did not want us to experience Thailand. Unfortunately, we can’t really support this type of lifestyle for more than 12 months, so we’ve got to start bringing in the bacon in the spring. Delaying the last leg meant we wouldn’t be able to pick it back up for at least another year. So…in typical stubborn Brace-Levy style, we’re headed off to South East Asia in a couple of days…15 hour flights be damned!
While we were home, we did all the usual holiday stuff: bought and wrapped lots of presents for the family, ate a lot of good meals with good company, squeezed the pups until their eyes bulged and spent all our Christmas money on vinyl.
In two days time we fly out to L.A. for a night before we catch our first long haul flight to Bangkok, via Hong Kong. The previous days have been spent laying out itineraries, making lists, booking a remarkable amount of flights on 6 different airlines and moving around at least once an hour (I promise!).
For those of you that are interested, I’ll be posting a full itinerary before we leave…mainly to wrap my head around our whirlwind tour of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and Australia in a little under 2 months. Thanks, as always, for following along.
Happy New Year!
Categories: USA Roadtrip