My Tortuga Backpack – Love it!

Originally submitted at Tortuga Backpacks

The Tortuga Travel Backpack 45 is a secure, carry-on bag designed exclusively for travelers, by travelers. Backpackers, international travelers, vagabonds, and study abroad students will find it perfectly suited to their needs. Carry everything you need for a one week vacation to Rome or a year-lon…

Perfect bag for a couple weeks in Europe

By Meggerroo from Washington, DC on 12/30/2011
5out of 5

Pros: Good Padding, Easy to Pack, Durable
Best Uses: Airline Travel, Backpacking, Extended Travel
Describe Yourself: Casual Adventurer
What Is Your Gear Style: Minimalist
Was this a gift?: No

I used this bag for a recent 4 week trip through Europe. I was hopping on and off planes, trains, and automobiles and this bag worked great in all situations. I was able to stow the backpack straps away and check the bag on airplanes, which was awesome! It also fits on all overhead compartments on the trains and planes.

I had absolutely no issues with the bag the entire trip!

In addition, the bag really does hold a lot of stuff. As I picked up additional items on my trip, I was able to smoosh my things around and get the bag zipped up every time, no problem!

My tortuga bag in Venice:

Tags: Picture of Product

Bucket List

1. Hike up to Machu Picchu on the Inca trail.
2. Galapagos Islands
3. Antarctica
4. Hike to the base camp of Mt Everest, Nepal.
5. Backpack along the coast of Ireland.
6. Stay in one of those huts on the water in Bora Bora.
7. Take the Orient Express and get off in a small town in the middle of Russia.

Can you recommend some more travel bucket list items?

The Plan

Just found out this morning as my dad and I were leaving for the airport that my Mom had no idea where I was going. So I thought it might be appropriate to list it out. Mom, please see below, LOL:

Milan 1 night
Venice 2 nights
Rome 2 nights
Monte Carlo 1 night
Montpellier 1 night
Madrid 10+ days

And then I’m never coming back! Ciao!

Appendectomy, Piece of Cake

Please see my previous 2 posts for the beginning of this story.

I woke up with oxygen in my nose and I was shivering.  Shivering uncontrollably!  The nurse tells me to concentrate on breathing the oxygen.  It’s just a side effect of the anesthesia wearing off.

In through my nose, out through my mouth, repeat… Still shaking!

She reassures me it will go away soon and that I shouldn’t panic.

As the shivering subsides, I realized that I felt like I really did have an accident down south.  I ask the nurse to check so they roll me over and it’s dry.  Faked out again!

At this point it’s after 5 AM.  I start worrying about my mom being alone and worried for so long.  I concentrated on my breathing and listened to the nurses talk about their kids in college and how one of them was playing football at Villanova.  They said before the surgery that I wouldn’t remember anything that happens for a while after the surgery, so I was concentrating really hard to prove them wrong.

They finally were ready to wheel me over to the recovery ward.  I asked the nurse what position her son plays in football.  She was enthusiastic to share.  They wheeled me into my new room and introduced me to the RN. She took a couple vitals, blood pressure, temperature, etc.

I ask to see my mom and she let me know that someone had already gone to fetch her.  My poor sleepy mom walked in a few minutes later.  I tried to look awake and happy and alive as much as possible with a big smile, “HI MOM!”

Behind my mom, my younger sister appeared.  Hello to you too!  I was happy to see that my sister had come to the hospital to keep my mom company in the surgery waiting room.  They hung out for 15 minutes, until my mom finally felt comfortable that I would survive, and left to go home.  My sister hung out a little longer and I told her about my Dr. House experiences with the CT scan and all that.  As we were talking my adrenaline from the excitement of waking up from surgery and seeing my family began to wear off and I felt a little sleepy.   My sister headed home and I sipped on some ice water contemplating if I would actually be able to fall asleep.

My nurse had given me a cup of ice and a cup of ice water.  Going into surgery I had been starving, but right now all I wanted was the cool liquid to numb my throat from the pain of having a breath tube in during surgery. I kept adjusting the ice pack they gave me for my stomach and was ecstatic that I wasn’t in pain.

Before I tried to fall asleep I needed to use the bathroom.  I looked up at my IV hooked up to my arm and frowned at how much work this was going to be.  I pushed the nurse button and asked to go to the bathroom.  She asked if I wanted to use the commode.  I was like, the what?  And she pointed to the chair with a piss pot in the seat.  NO THANK YOU!  She helped me slowly stand up and followed me to the bathroom with the rolling IV bag.

I went into the bathroom with my IV and said I didn’t need any help.  I rolled over to the mirror and tried to look at my incisions.  At first I didn’t see them.  Where did they go?!  But I found them and they were small red lines covered in clear glue.  I used the bathroom with relief and rolled myself back to bed.

Since I had arrived in the Recovery Ward my nurse had been offering pain pills if I needed them and had been commenting on how quick I was recovering.  Until this point I didn’t want them and didn’t need them.  But I did want to get some sleep and the other people in the Recovery Ward were beginning to wake up and make noise.  I asked for one pill and the nurse helped me order some breakfast from room service.  She said if I was able to eat and hold down breakfast and lunch my doctor would release me.  Challenge ON!

I ate all my oatmeal and saved my yogurt for later.  The pain pill kicked in and I passed out.  3 hours later I started to wake up.  It was almost noon.  My sleep had been restful.  I had constantly been interrupted by someone taking blood, or someone giving me a breathing exercise, or taking my temperature.  But with the pain pill, it was all a dream, so I felt rested.  Time for lunch!

I ordered lunch from room service, the options were horrible for a vegetarian.  I ate my yogurt from breakfast and took a stab at the squishy mac n cheese with broccoli on the side.  Over cooked, ugh!

Appendix Diagram on my pillow

At this point I started getting antsy, I rolled out of bed and started pacing up and down the Recovery Ward with my IV bag in tow.  I went back to my little room and rearranged the furniture so I could sit on my visitor chair with my feet propped up on the bed.  My nurse realized that I was ready to go!

She called my doctor and started putting together my release papers.  At this point my dad finally showed up to visit, after going to the wrong hospital…  I made my dad sit on the hospital bed and told him all about my journey.  I showed him my pillow that the surgeon had tried to draw a diagram of where my appendix was and we laughed and hung out until it was time to go.

Finally, the nurse gave me a huge packet of post-op instructions and walked us to the front door of the hospital.  In 16 hours I had walked in with a bad appendix and walked out with the problem solved.

Piece of Cake!

From the ER to the OR

My journey began in my last post called, Spaghetti and Pepto for those who want to catch up.

It’s getting late in the ER and so far I’ve only given a blood and urine sample.  A very painful blood sample if I might add.  The nurse or aide that tried to get a vein couldn’t find one.. destroying my left arm.  So a very nice ER doctor came in and got a vein right away on my right arm.

The ER doctor started asking me questions about my symptoms and then she started pressing on my stomach.

Does this hurt?

No… No… No… YESS!

She pressed all over my stomach and finally pushed down right over my appendix.  It hurt so bad I sat up in the hospital bed and my eyes bugged out a little bit, but not like that scary lady with the bug eyes in that commercial.  She shook her head and said I was going to need a CT.

In my mind I got excited because I was finally getting to do all those things the patients do on the TV show House.  My first CT and I’m excited… I guess I’m kind of a dork like that.

It wasn’t exactly like the one on the show.  The machine was shaped like a big huge plastic donut, with a bed that slides through the hole.  I think this machine was designed to make claustrophobians more comfortable.  The x-ray tech lets me know that whatever he’s injected into my arm is going to make me feel very warm in my nether regions like I peed my pants.  But he assured me that I wouldn’t actually pee my pants.

Well he was right.  I was lying there alone in the CT room while he’s off in the control room and I was trying to hold back my giggles.  It really did feel warm down there… like I had an accident!  My laughter turned into snickers and then I was instructed to hold my breath for the scan.  He wheeled me back to my room in the ER and I shared my fun times with my poor sleepy mom.

At this point, it’s past 1 AM.  Way past my mom’s bed time.  But I’m very lucky to have a mom that cares enough to make me walk into the hospital in the first place and then keep me company through the whole experience.  I probably would have been a lot more nervous about the whole thing if I had been alone.

Then the surgeon on call walks in.  He’s a very friendly smiley guy.  His smile made me relax.  I realized that it’s part of his job to make me feel comfortable, so I don’t run away screaming from surgery.  I tell my story of the symptoms again and he pushes on my appendix.  Ouch.  He explains the surgery and how he’s going to give me a laparoscopy.  Only 3 small incisions: 1 on side of belly, 1 in belly button, 1 on bikini line.

I was getting kind of gitty from staying awake so late at this point.  For some reason, I thought it would be a good idea to send a quick email to some close friends, letting them know that I was going into surgery and that if anything went wrong that I loved them.

Around 3 AM or so I get wheeled off to prep for surgery and my mom, poor thing, got escorted to the surgery waiting room.  Last thing I remember is talking to some nurses and my anesthesiologist on the operating table..Wow that’s a big light…it’s cold in hereZzzzzz

Spaghetti and Pepto

    So it started out as a normal family dinner. We had spaghetti with yummy marinara. I took an acid pill before I ate to prevent acid reflux.  On my way home, I picked up my room mate at the metro.  While I was waiting for him in the car, my stomach started to hurt.  It started to hurt really bad!  I was sitting in the pick up area, trying to figure out what the cause of the pain could be… gas, indigestion, food poisoning…  Maybe if I just ignore it, it will go away… Maybe I just need to go to the bathroom.

    My room mate got in the car and we stopped by Costco on the way home.  Walking made it feel a little better, but by the time we got to the medicine section, I grabbed a bulk sized bottle of Pepto Bismol and had at it.

    By the time  we got home, the pain was only getting worse.  I got myself a glass of ice water and went up to my room.  I tried to drink some water… it rose back up into my mouth… I couldn’t keep my water down?!  I hadn’t eaten that much spaghetti, had I?  Nothing was comfortable, I couldn’t sit down, fetal position wasn’t doing it for me, so I paced around my room… thinking… how do I get rid of this pain?!  What medicine will work?  Pepto is failing me.

    I hear my roommate wish me well as he leaves to go out with friends.  At least I can suffer in peace without disruption now..  hopefully he discovers my body before my cat gets curious and hungry…  I called my mom.  I tried to blame her cooking, but that didn’t go over well.  She advised I called the 24 hour nurse line on my health insurance card.  Thank goodness I even have health insurance.  Being self-employed I had considered trying to go without the expense, but luckily everyone yelled at me and convinced me otherwise.

    The nurse on the phone was very helpful.  She walked me through some questions and finally advised that I go to the ER.  She mentioned that if I started to vomit or piss blood, to call back.  Thanks!  So I called my mom and asked her to come pick me up to take me.  In mid-sentence, I hung up on my mom and ran to the toilet, where I proceeded to violently puke my guts out.  I had been feeling seriously nauseous for the past hour, but it didn’t feel like I would actually puke.  I’m not sure if it happened because I was nervous or because it was time, but it happened.  It was gross, my dinner in the toilet with globs of Pepto Bismol floating on top… yuck!  I cleaned myself up, packed my purse with essentials: iPod and iPod charger and phone charger.

    I arrived in the ER and the triage nurse smelled like a stale pack of cigarettes… very healthy.  I didn’t even want to walk into the ER when we first arrived.  I walked in circles in the freezing parking lot debating the symptoms with my mom.  The pain had almost disappeared after I vomited.  The pressure was released I suppose, so the only pain I felt was when I pressed down on the right side of my stomach.  My mom convinced me to go in so we could at least get confirmation that something or nothing was wrong.  I was nervous that I was overreacting and didn’t want to be embarrassed.  The smokey nurse took my blood pressure and temperature and next thing I knew I had my name on a bracelet and a private bed in the ER.

    At this point I realized that maybe something serious was going on.  They wouldn’t admit me in the ER if it was just gas, right?     OK, I’m not crazy and not embarrassed, yet..

Rain at Swallow Falls

    On a rainy weekend in June, my friends and I went camping at Maryland’s Swallow Falls State Park.  It’s very close to Deep Creek, which I’ve been to multiple times, but I’d never been to Swallow Falls.  Now that I’ve been, I’m disappointed that I hadn’t been there sooner.  It’s very beautiful, with 4 waterfalls on an easy hiking trail.  Now if any one mentions they’re going to Deep Creek for the weekend, I tell them to take an hour and stop by Swallow Falls.
Swallow Falls
    Most people would be extremely dissapointed if they were camping in the rain, but we had a different experience.  We had plenty of tarps and ropes, so we set up our little tent city with a tarp roof system over our picnic tables.  During the day it was only a drizzle, but at night, it was a heavy downpour, each night.  Thank you Coleman, for a sturdy tent by the way.
     While hiking around the falls during the day, it felt like we were walking through a rain forest.  I haven’t been to the rain forests in the north west US, but I imagine this is what they’re like.  It was very beautiful, admiring the waterfalls in the mist.  While walking along the trails, under the thick tree cover, you couldn’t tell if it was raining or not.
    We went swimming at the falls pictured above and the first picture below.  The water is quite shallow but a little chilly.  We were able to walk up to the falls on the right side and popped underneath the falls into a little alcove beneath.  The alcove or cave is not very big and it made me a bit claustrophobic with the pounding water right behind me, but it made feel brave for a moment.  From the right side, we slowly worked our way to the left, where you can sit down on large rocks, with only 3 inches of water flowing accross the top.  The only trouble is fighting the current on the slippery rocks.  One slip and you’re floating away in the quick current.  But we made it and sat down in the white water on the flat rocks and enjoyed the scenery as tourists hiked by taking pictures.
Swallow Falls, panoramic from the top of the falls

Just past Swallow Falls, the trail follows a creek, to Tolliver Falls, pictured below, which was actually my favorite part.  This was the most beautiful set of mini cascades.  The forest encompasses you so well at this fall, that you feel like you’re in a private room, with a water fall.  There’s less traffic at this fall, so it’s a great place to relax.  Our campsite wasn’t far from the falls, just 200 feet up hill, so we could hear the roar of the falls in the distance and revisit the falls easily whenever we wanted.

Tolliver Falls in Swallow Falls State Park

Sunday morning I woke up early and walked down to Tolliver by myself.  It was so beautiful and peaceful.  The perfect place to enjoy my cup of coffee, before breaking down camp.  Standing there by Tolliver Falls, I made a promise to myself, that this would not be my last visit.

Message in a Bottle

    I feel like I’ve picked up on how to really use Twitter a lot slower than I did for facebook.  I don’t know why it took me so long.  There are millions of users on Twitter, sharing info, tweeting with each other every day.  But I know very few friends that actually use Twitter.  Who are these tweeters?  I want to tweet more, but I don’t know who to tweet to, what to tweet about, or who’s going to read me tweets?  It’s depressing to tweet and realize that no one is looking at it.  Are my tweets messages in bottles in a big ocean?  That may or may not ever get found!?  What’s the point?


Election judging. Never again.

So my friend talked me into becoming an election judge this year. Little did I know how hard election day would be!

I went through the training with no problem. I thought it would be a piece of cake and it was. The system is almost dummy proof.

What I failed to think about were the voters and the trouble they would cause. OMG. Who are these people that live in my neighborhood?  Really. Really? 

Election day is a LONG day for the volunteers.  I had to show up at my polling location at 6am…  It’s dark and I’m sleepy.  We setup and get to our stations..

The day goes on and things are fine until the afternoon.  I can’t go into detail for sure about what was happening, but it was like curve balls from every direction.  A voter left a political flyer on the check-in desk and went back to a voting booth.  Immediatly this guy walks up and starts yelling at all of the volunteers that we have to be more careful and all this mumbo jumbo about democracy and unfair polling location… So I picked up the stupid piece of paper and walked to the trash can threw it away and sat down.  Meanwhile, the other volunteer explained that we’re volunteers doing our best and he doesn’t need to treat us like dirt and so on. 

Oi!  So then a republican watcher shows up and these people are registered and are allowed to sit behind the people checking in voters and watch.  He sitting there for a while just watching, doing his crossword and seemed like nice guy.  Then this man and woman walk in and they nod at him and then they start yelling at us when they’re not in the system correctly and we informed them they have to use paper ballot.  After huffing and puffing they nod to the watcher and he walks them out… Nice show people!

The icing on the cake is when this guy has to fill out a paper ballot, because of the same mishap the system had this year for many voters, from both political parties, starts talking about a conspiracy against him.  He tried to mess with the paperwork at my station and was ranting about how we don’t want his vote to count.  He almost walked out without casting his vote, but I asked him to put his vote in the confidential vote bag thingy.  And then he stormed out and yelled at me that he was coming back with more of his people. 

I took that a bit personally, so the chief judge called it in and we had a police officer oversee our poll through closing and he walked us to our cars.  Thank God!

Never again.