Dial-A-Ride, Or Dial-A Problem

As many of you already know, our daughter, Shantel, is totally blind. She recently was hired at a large company, that can accommodate her computer needs, and she is currently in training for a new position that will allow her to take “live calls” regarding declined purchases and/or reporting fraud… She loves her job and looks forward to getting to work everyday.

Because Shantel is blind, and cannot drive, Bill and I help her out by paying $65.00 a month to Dial-a-Ride that is supposed to allow unlimited trips for her to travel to and from any destination throughout the Valley for $4.00 each way…

However that is not always the case. And what happened this past week, is but one example of what continues to happen over and over again. And, I’m sure this type of thing is not only happening to our daughter, but to many other people that depend on Dail-a-Ride throughout the Valley. In fact, I know for a fact, that the other two blind co-workers that Shantel works with report the same type of poor service from Dial-a-Ride.

Here is what happened to Shantel just today: She scheduled a 4:30 a.m. pick-up that would allow her to get to work at 6:00 a.m. (allowing for all the other folks that have to be picked-up and delivered along the route) but, keep in mind, that when you schedule your ride in advance, you are supposed to be guaranteed delivery to your destination “on time”. But, today, Shantel didn’t get to work until 6:25 when she is supposed to start at 6:00 a.m.

Of course Shantel was upset that she was late for work, due to circumstances beyond her control, and of course she called Dial-a-Ride the first chance she could to make a complaint. She explained the situation to the person taking her call, letting them know that the person that scheduled this ride should have to be put into the same position to lose their job as she is put into when they cause her to be late.

Shantel went on to tell the person taking her complaint that on the return trip home, her pick-up time was supposed to be 3:00 p.m. but Dial-a-Ride notified her that they couldn’t get there until 4:45 -5:00 p.m. So Shantel decided to take Lift ride service home (costing her $30.00). She had already been riding Dial-a-Ride since 4:30 a.m. and just wanted to get home at this point… I don’t blame her.

However, when she made her complaint, she was told the ride service was over 25 miles from her home  (which we have never been made aware of that making any difference ..) and “Rules are rules”,… and that perhaps she should move closer to work… then they hung up on her!!

Yes, this job is more than 25 miles from Shantel’s home, but that should not make any difference when we are paying a monthly fee to make sure she can get to and from her destinations on time… This is but one example of how our daughter, who is not the only person out there that could just sit home and collect Social Security Disability payments and food stamps every month and not work…, but wants to work, and earn her own way in life… but is met with more obstacles than you and I could ever imagine dealing with each and every day just to get to work..

There has to be a better way for people with disabilities that want to work to be able get to and from work safely, and  on time. Shantel can’t take a bus or light rail because that requires her being able to cross a street by herself, and because she lost hearing in both ears due to the chemo she received while being treated for the cancer that took her sight, she wears hearing aids in both ears so she is not able to pick up on the traffic surge when the light changes to cross an intersection safely, and now with the electric cars, she can not pick up on them at all.

Shantel, Papa and I continue be amazed at how hard you work to get to work… We love you and are so very proud of you, and we continue to pray that things get better for you and all people with disabilities that just want to work… Never give up on your dreams baby girl.

Merry Christmas!













Looking For Common Sense

Anyone that knows me, or follows my blog, knows my husband, Bill, and I legally adopted our first granddaughter, Shantel. She had both eyes enucleated due to cancer before she was two years old. If anyone reading this doesn’t know what enucleated means. The dictionary says it means ” removal of an organ or other mass intact from its supporting tissue”. In layman terms, it means both of her eyes were taken out. I hate to be that blunt, but as you read this post you will understand why.

I cannot even begin to tell you how many people, from the time Shantel first lost her sight, to this very day, come up and ask what caused Shantel to be blind. When she, or I, explain she had to have both eyes removed due to cancer, and that what they are seeing when they look at her are prosthetic eyes… These folks will actually ask if she can see anything through her prosthetic eyes?I have to say, I think sometimes, the folks Shantel ,and/or Bill, and I come in contact with when we are out together, just don’t grasp what we are telling them about Shantel’s loss of sight. They ask questions before they really think about what they are saying…

But I will never, ever, excuse that kind of questioning from people in agencies, that are supposed to be there to help people in their time of need.

To say the very least, Shantel losing her sight, and all that followed trying to help her become the contributing member of our society she wants to be, was a horrific experience that I would not wish on anyone. But it was a journey both Bill and I were willing to take with Shantel to save her life and because we love her.

Because Shantel is totally blind, she can, and does, receive social security disability insurance from time to time. I say from time to time, because Shantel doesn’t want to depend on any government assistance. No, she wants to make her own way in life.

Shantel went to a Community College, and graduated with two AA degrees. One in psychology, and one in general studies. And, she also has a license to sell life and health insurance in Arizona…

All Shantel wants to do is work. When she graduated college, she made it her job to find a job. She went on endless interviews. I took her to these interviews, so I know first hand what she was told.

Over and over, Shantel was told ” you don’t have enough work experience… Of course not, when she was in High School, like all her High School peers, she applied for jobs in every burger joint etc. around our community, and not one place would hire her stating “we have more qualified applicants”…

Fast forward several years… Shantel is out on her own. Living in a one bedroom apartment. She finally got a job working in a Call Center. She LOVED working there even though they couldn’t support her need to have a screen reader on her workstation. She went through two training sessions, because they were not ready for her to take active calls after she graduated the first class… So, finally, she was assigned to listen in on calls with new employees and help them know what to say to the customer… She worked there for about nine months when the company was sold, and the people in the division Shantel worked in where let go.

So, what now for Shantel? Well, she applied for unemployment benefits, and was told she would have to go to get a note from a doctor that says she is “visually impaired” before she can receive unemployment benefits.  Shantel told the unemployment office she has a doctor’s letter from Social Security stating she had both eyes enucleated before she was two years old.

This is where I’m looking for  “common sense”. .. The unemployment agency actually told Shantel,  “you need to have a letter stating that you are still blind today”. Apparently the unemployment agency does not understand what enucleated means…

So Shantel had to go to yet another Doctor today, just to give her a letter saying… YES, YOU ARE TOTALLY BLIND, and your EYES ARE NEVER GOING TO GROW BACK!!!

OMG, as her parents, and going through all that we have gone through just to get Shantel where she is today, which is where we are so PROUD of her to be… We just can’t believe she still has to deal with this kind of incompetence …

If you know where common sense is… please let me know!

Beyond belief…







A New Friend!

Bill and I have met so many wonderful people since we have been here at McDowell Mountain Regional Park. All of the staff, and hosts, are so welcoming and friendly. But I want to dedicate this post to my new “huggie” girlfriend, Bonnie.

Bonnie, and her husband, Craig, have been hosts here for about 10 years. They are both very friendly and willing to help in any way they can. Craig always stops by the visitor center when Bill and I are working and asks if we need anything, and always tells us to call him if/when we do need anything. He is really a great guy and we appreciate all he does.

Bonnie is one of those people you meet, and immediately feel a connection, and just know it won’t be long before you become friends. Bonnie is beautiful inside and out, and she has a personality that just lights up any room she enters.

Bonnie trained me to make camping reservations and/or changes to reservations for our guests that visit our park. She has the patience of a saint and never seemed to mind the endless questions I had while I was being trained.

Bill and I were scheduled to work Christmas Eve. We didn’t mind because we are one of the new host couples here and we know we all need to “pay our dues” and take our turn working holiday’s… However, Bonnie knew Bill and I were going to spend Christmas Eve at our daughter, Shantel’s home, in Phoenix, and a big storm, with heavy rain, was predicted to arrive in our area within a few hours of the time we would finish our shift at 4:00. The problem with big storms with heavy rain in this area is that we have three washes to go through to get out of the park and make our way to the highway to get to Phoenix.

Bonnie and her husband were not planning to leave the park on Christmas Eve, they were going to have a little after hours gathering at the visitor center with some of the other park hosts. Bonnie had already worked her scheduled hours for the week. But, Bonnie knew Bill and I were a bit worried about getting out of the park before the heavy rains came that could flood the washes we needed to cross. So, Bonnie, being Bonnie, sent me a text around 11:30 yesterday morning letting me know that she was going to come in around 3:15 and take over so Bill and I could leave and get to Shantel’s home to start our Christmas celebration!

Both Bill and I were very happy to be getting off a little early. Now, imagine our surprise when Bonnie walks in at about 2:00 and said she had finished up the things she wanted to get done and decided she would just come on in and let us go even earlier!! OMG, both Bill and I were so surprised, happy, and very appreciative. We both hugged Bonnie, and told her how much we appreciate her, and wanted her to know what a great person we think she is. I mean how many folks do you know that would give up their Christmas Eve afternoon off to go and let people they just recently met get off early…? I’m sure there are a few folks out there like Bonnie that would do that, but let me just say, Bill and I have found that those kind of people are few, and sometimes hard to find… And when we meet people like Bonnie and become friends, we never for one minute that that friendship for granted!

So, a BIG shout out to my new girlfriend, Bonnie. THANK-YOU for being the beautiful, fun-loving, kind-hearted person you are. We were blessed the day we met you, and we look forward to many years of friendship.

Merry Christmas!


As most of you know our daughter, Shantel, lost both eyes to cancer when she was two years old. If you follow my blog you also know how hard she has worked to become a strong, independent, contributing member of society. She is entitled to receive Social Security Disability benefits (which isn’t even enough to pay the rent and utility bill for her small one bedroom apartment), and she receives a small ($77.00) monthly food allotment which she can only use for what she can eat. She cannot buy personal care items, cleaning items etc. Only what she can consume… I don’t know how they expect anyone to live on that… And for those that say “get a job” well, again if you read and/or follow my blog, you also know how hard Shantel works at trying to “get a job”. She has two college degrees, and a licence to sell health, life, and medical insurance in the state of Arizona, and still she can’t get a full-time job even answering phones in a Call Center… But, Shantel is determined that she is not going to live on Social Security benefits for the rest of her life. She is tenacious, and she never gives up. She recently was offered a sessional position in a Call Center working through the end of the year, helping people choose the Medicare plan that is right for them… She gave up her Social Security benefits and food allotment card when she accepted this temporary position hoping it will turn into a full-time job, but if not, at least it will give her more work experience for her resume…

Bill and I could not be more PROUD of how hard Shantel works to be independent, and it just absolutely breaks my heart when I hear how sometimes people that she is forced to depend on to get her to and from work, to and from the grocery store etc. can sometimes be so unkind.

Shantel uses Dial-a-Ride when she can, meaning if she has the time to schedule Dial-a-Ride in advance… But, sometimes she is forced to use other transportation services like cabs, which are very expensive, so she recently started using Uber which only charges her $11.00 to take her to work and $11.00 to take her home from work as opposed to paying $28.00 for the same distance using a cab. And the $11.00 charge for Uber includes the tip!

Shantel told me Uber offers two types of services. Regular Uber and Uber assist. Uber assist drivers are trained to help people with disabilities and are required to offer to walk a blind person to their door. The only drawback to using Uber assist is that like Dial-a-ride, there is a bit of a wait time if you can’t schedule the service well in advance… Regular Uber drivers are not “required” to walk customers to the door. However, Shantel told me that every time she has used the regular Uber service, the driver has always offered to walk her to her door which she very much appreciates. One of the regular Uber drivers even told her that if she can’t get Uber assist in a timely manner not to worry about it because most regular Uber drivers will get out and assist a blind or disabled person to their door. He went on to say “if they don’t then they have to be a complete moron…”

Why am I sharing all this with you, you might ask? Well last week, Shantel was called into work early so she had no choice but to call the regular Uber service to take her to work. When she got off work that day, she needed to stop at the grocery store to get her food for the following week. She called the regular Uber service to take her from work to the grocery store. That driver walked her into customer services where she asked for someone to help her select her groceries. Then, after she purchased her groceries, she called for Uber assist but was told she would have a long wait time. Since she had some cold and frozen food in her bags she decided to call the regular Uber service. That driver, a woman, picked her up at the grocery store, drove her to her apartment complex and told her the ride was over and she needed to get her groceries and leave the car. Shantel asked the driver if she would help her to her door, which is approx 75 yards from the parking lot (not a real long way, but a long way for a blind girl carrying four bags of groceries, her purse, lunch bag, and trying to use her long cane…). The driver told Shantel it wasn’t her job to help her to her door and that if she wanted that kind of service she should have called Uber assist!

Now, I understand that that Uber driver wasn’t “required” to help Shantel…or any other disabled person… But for the love of God, what happened to kindness, understanding, empathy, and compassion for our fellow human beings…?

Both Bill and I have spent most of our lives doing things that “were not our jobs”, or were not our responsibility etc., but we always try to step up and do the right thing when we see someone in need.

I can’t even begin to explain how it made me feel when Shantel told me how hard it was for her to make her way to her apartment carrying four bags of groceries which made it impossible for her to use her cane so she had to try to follow the walkway with her foot until she got to her door. Then she had to put all the groceries down so she could find her key in her purse and open the door. Then she had to go back outside and try to make sure she found all her groceries off the door step because some food rolled out of the grocery bags… It broke my heart and still brings tears to my eyes as I write this just thinking about what all Shantel has to go through just to get through her day doing what so many of us take for granted.

I started writing this blog years ago, mainly for Shantel, as a way to document our lives for her so she can read back on our lives when I’m gone. Because of course, being blind, photo albums would be of no use to Shantel.. But sometimes, like today, I share this story as a way to bring awareness to others of the difficulties people with disabilities face each and everyday, and to perhaps encourage you, if you don’t already, to step up and do the right thing next time you see someone in need, even if it is not your responsibility. It costs nothing to practice kindness!

Stay Tuned!


This is a picture of our beautiful daughter, Shantel. For those of you that may not know, Shantel had cancer in both eyes and had to have both eyes removed when she was two years old, leaving her blind for life. Bill and I spent our lives helping Shantel accept her blindness, and learn to live blind in a sighted world. The beautiful smile you see on her face has never faded throughout all the years of challenges she faced and overcame. I never saw Shantel spend one minute complaining, or feeling sorry for herself, and she never wanted anyone else to feel sorry for her either.


Bill and I fought long and hard to ensure Shantel had everything she needed to get through her school years from Kindergarten through earning two degrees in College. We had to attend endless Individual Educational Plan (IEP) meetings, to get everyone on board with what would be expected of Shantel in the classroom, as well as what would be expected of the teacher, and the support team hired to braille Shantel’s books, worksheets, test papers, etc. All this was done to ensure Shantel’s rights were upheld in the classroom so she had a fair and level playing field to compete with her peers. I can tell you nothing we fought for, and won, to support her needs came easy, but neither Shantel, or Bill and I would ever give up.

Now, fast forward… Shantel is 23 years old, lives in her own apartment, and all Shantel wants is to obtain gainful and meaningful employment. She does receive Social Security Disability benefits which isn’t even enough to pay the rent on the one bedroom apartment she has, and she receives a very small food allotment card. Shantel could sit home and just draw her Social Security and food card benefits, but she wants to work. She spends her entire day applying for jobs, and going on interviews, only to be rejected over and over again. Keep in mind, she has not one, but two degrees, and can’t even get hired to work in a call center. All she needs to do a job working with computers is a voice over program installed that will read the information on the screen to her. Then she can do the very same job that any sighted person can do…

Finally, after months and months of searching, Shantel signed on with a temp staffing agency. The temp agency was able to get her a seasonal job in a call center not far from where she lives. Both the temp agency and the call center company know she is blind and agreed they could accommodate her needs with the voice over software. She is earning $14.00 an hour even as she goes through a six-week training class. Shantel was overjoyed to say the least. Of course she will need to give up her Social Security and food allotment benefits while she is working but she can have it reinstated if she gets laid off. She doesn’t even mind the fact that the training classes are from 4:00 p.m. till midnight which means she has to pay for a cab to take her home every night because Dail-a-Ride stops running at 10:00 p.m. I can tell you I pray her home every night because I’m so worried about her being out all alone at that time of night. Bill and I live over an hour and a half from Shantel or I would go pick her up and take her home myself.

When Shantel’s training class started, the very first thing she was told was that they did not have the voice over software installed on the computer she needs to use for training. They said it has been ordered but has not arrived yet. This is NOT good at all. Shantel cannot learn, and keep up with the class if she doesn’t have that software on her computer. The instructor told her to “just sit and listen and do the best she can to keep up… ” That is exactly the type of thing Bill and I had to fight the school system about when Shantel was still in school…. Promises made that were not kept and Shantel was the one that paid the price. As her mother, it just sends me over the top because it’s just not right!

I talked to Shantel yesterday, and she told me “mom, you’re not going to believe what happened last night at work.” I asked what happened, and she told me that the voice over software has arrived but now the ITD department said they are not going to install it twice which means they will not install it on the training class computer, only the production floor computer she will use once she completes her training.” Then she went on to say the training instructor said Shantel needs to repeat the six-week training class because if she goes out on the training floor at this point she will not be able to handle the call volume because she has not had a computer to practice on… Are you kidding me!! How is another six-week training class going to benefit Shantel if ITD won’t put the voice over software on the training class computer? I told Shantel to get a meeting with the training instructor and her supervisor/manager and the production floor supervisor/manager and ask if she can have someone on the production floor give her one-on-one training on the computer she will be using that has the voice over installed in it… I don’t know why, after all these years, it still amazes me that people that are managing companies, and people, can be so lacking in common sense!!

I asked Shantel if she thinks all she is going through to have this temporary job is worth it? Shantel said “mom, 70% of blind people never get a job, I’m going to be in the 30% of the blind people that do get a job. I don’t want to live on Social Security and food allotments, I want to be financially independent, and this job at least is paying me $14.00 an hour, and I’m hoping it just might work into a full-time position. But if not, at least I’m gaining more work experience…” My heart bursts with pride for her.

Papa and I love you Shantel, we are so VERY proud of you. You face more challenges in one day than many people face in a lifetime, and you never give up! YOU are our HERO!!!

Stay Tuned!

That 1%

While Bill and I were working one of our shifts in the Fee Booth/Nature Center at San Tan Mountain Regional Park this week, I encountered a woman who became my 1% of the public that came in pissed off, and wanted to spew her hate and discontent on the first person she came in contact with, which just happened to be “yours truly…” me!

This woman received a “failure to pay notice on her car because she came into the park, parked her car, and went hiking the trails without paying the $6.00 fee. When she returned from her hike, she stormed into the Nature Center waving her failure to pay ticket in the air, and without regard to any of the other customers in the Nature Center, she started her rant about how do we expect people to pay when the fee booth wasn’t open (we open at 8:00 a.m.) and she didn’t have the cash because if we knew anything… we would know that no one carries cash these days…

Bill was working with another customer who was buying an annual pass, so I mentioned to the woman that when people don’t have the cash, they can put their credit card information on the self-pay envelope and deposit it into the self-pay locked box, or I told her that if she uses the park often perhaps she might want to purchase an annual pass. Well, that set her off like a cannon, and she threw her arms up in the air and shouted “oh no, you are not going to force me to buy your annual pass”. I said ” I’m not trying to force you to buy anything, I’m simply letting you know how you can use the park without paying in cash”. At that point she tossed her credit card on the counter and said “just process this ticket and let me get out of here”. I ran her credit card which failed to go through twice then I let her know her card failed to go through. She said “well I have another one and stormed out the door to her car. When she returned she literally threw the card at me and said just get this ticket paid and let me get out of here and I will never be back here again. She went on to say “I pay taxes and you still want to charge me to walk around in your park”. I tried to let her know that San Tan is a county park and is not supported by any tax dollars. All park fees go directly towards the upkeep and maintenance of the park. I also told her that most of the staff working in the park are volunteers. She said “well your volunteering your time for the wrong place” and out the door she went!

What I wanted to say to that woman was ” I can see that you are having a really bad day, and we want our customers to come here to this park and enjoy the experience, and nature…, so I’m going to let this ticket be on me and I will take care of it for you because it just isn’t worth $6.00 to let this ruin your day or mine… so if you will just go out and try to spread a little joy into your surroundings instead of leaving here with all the anger, I will pay your ticket myself”. However, before I could get a word in edgewise, she stormed out shouting that she would never be back again. All I could get out was “I hope the rest of your day is wonderful”. Thank God it really is only 1% of the public that ever come in acting like that woman. When someone acts like that, it not only makes your day less fun, but I would think she had to have left there feeling miserable within herself… I can’t imagine anyone acting like that and feeling good about it… Just my thoughts..

But, on a happy note…

The very next day Bill and I made a trip to Scottsdale to pick up our medications. While we were there we stopped off in Fountain Hills to pick up our mail, and have a quick visit with our dear friends Holly and Chuck. Chuck wasn’t there because he was working. Holly was working too, but she works from home and we made arrangements to arrive at her lunch hour so we could get a short visit in with her.

Just before we had to leave to get back to San Tan, Holly surprised me with this adorable birdcage welcome sign she got me as a gift for our new winter home outside space when we get back to McDowell Mountain Regional Park in Fountain Hills.


And check this out… it lights up! How cute is that! Thank you Holly. I just love it, it makes me smile every time I look at it…, and I love you too!


And speaking of things that make me smile, we got the word from the East Side County Parks Superintendent that we are needed back at McDowell Mountain Regional Park in Fountain Hills. They are gearing up for their busy season… So, the Superintendent told the Supervisor here at San Tan that he needs to be ready to let us return to McDowell Mountain Regional Park by the end of October!

We were happy to come here to San Tan and help out while we could. But now we are anxious to get back to McDowell Mountain Regional Park, get settled in, and get our outside living space fixed up there, because that will be our winter home going forward.

Stay Tuned!



Wild-Fire Update

The wild-fire that has been burning all week just a few miles from where Bill and I live here in Cody Wyoming, is at last report 30% contained now.

Bill and I took a drive around the backside of Sheep Mountain where the fire was raging just a few days ago. Now the fire is burning further west, but the destruction it left behind will be visible for years to come. The areas where the fire didn’t reach is beautiful, thanks to the round the clock work of the brave men and women firefighters that are here from all over the country fighting to save this beautiful landscape.

Here are a few pictures to show how beautiful the areas are that remain untouched by the wild-fire.




We saw beautiful ranches like this that were spared from the flames that burned most of the mountains in the distance behind this home…


Don’t you know these people are truly thankful for the great work the firefighters did to keep the fire away from their families, homes, and livestock?


But, as you can see by all the dark areas in the picture below, the entire mountain just behind many of these ranches has been burned.


And if you look closely in the center (just behind the green trees) of this next picture, you can see where the field in front of a ranch home is completely burnt black, but the home is still standing.


And the wild-fire is still burning, although it has moved several miles west from where Bill and I live.


As the fire continues to burn, more and more firefighters are arriving to help fight it. Our North Fork campground looks like a small town within itself. This is just one of many areas the firefighters are occupying. We are so happy and proud to have them here with us.


Just down the road from the campground where the firefighters have their command center set up, they have also set up a staging area for helicopters that dip water to dump on the fire to land and take off, and where they can park their water trucks for refueling etc.


Hot Shot teams are here from all over the country as well. The green trucks in the picture below belong to the San Juan Hot Shots. This whole wild-fire fighting operation is just amazing. What an up close and personal education Bill and I are getting as we watch and learn what it really takes to fight a wild-fire…


I will continue to  provide wild-fire updates from time to time if anything major happens, but for now I just want my family and friends to know that Bill and I, and all our friends/neighbors and co-workers, are all safe.

When you see the firefighters coming in after their shift fighting the fire, their faces are black with ashes, they look worn out and it just overwhelms you with emotion for them and what they do… So I will ask that you please continue to keep the firefighters fighting this fire, and all the great people that are here taking care of their needs, in your thoughts and prayers.

Stay Tuned

Fighting The Wild-Fire

A wild-fire is burning here in Wyoming, just behind Sheep Mountain seen in the background of the picture below, which is located right in the Buffalo Bill North Fork Campground where Bill and I are living and working for the summer.


What started as a grass fire quickly reached the trees and spread into National Forests and has already consumed over 13,000 acres of land.

Ever wonder what it takes to fight a raging wild-fire? Well I captured a few pictures to share. Please know that the pictures are not as good as I would have liked because I was taking them from the inside of our work truck and I didn’t want to disturb the firefighters in any way.

Hundreds of firefighters poured into our campgrounds.


Bill got a chance to talk to a couple of them. This young man said his team was from Oregon. But there are firefighters here from all over the country. Montana, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Arizona. Hot shot teams are everywhere.


They sat up their main command center in one of our day use areas where there are tables and fresh water.


It is amazing to watch how quickly they got their command area set up and to see how much support equipment is needed to fight a wild-fire like this.



Even the Wyoming Homeland Security is here with them.


Huge trucks brought in lights.


Truck loads of food was delivered.


Bob, our neighbor and co-worker (he and his wife, Becky are such great people), helped mow the fields where more trucks and supplies will be. The dead grass had to be cut short so no sparks from their catalytic converters would start yet another fire…


And truck, after truck, after truck load of firefighters kept rolling in… Along with helicopters and planes that fly back and forth dipping water from our reservoir to dump on the fire.



These men in the picture below just came in from fighting the fire. They told Bill they are hot and tired and all they wanted to do was get their boots off, get something to eat, and find a place to lay down and rest…



Some were so tired they were not going to be picky about where they slept. They just popped up a tent in the middle of a field.


Like I said, these pictures are not near as good as I wanted, but they are the best I could get under the circumstances. But my Frissy said she wanted to see firefighters so GG, this one is for you!


Right now Bill and I and our neighbors are safe. We believe as long as we are surrounded by all these firefighters we will continue to be safe. Right now all we see is a lot of smoke. But rest assured, if we see even one flame at the top of Sheep Mountain, we are all out of here!

Please keep all these brave men and women fighting this fire in your thoughts and prayers.

Stay Tuned!

Safe Landing Zone Training

Yesterday Bill and I participated in a training session with a life-flight crew here in Buffalo Bill State Park. Anyone that works here in the park could potentially find themselves in a position to be the point of contact person that might need to create a “safe landing zone” for the life-flight crew to land a helicopter, pick-up a patient, and take off again within seconds…

As part of our on-site training, we were instructed on how to create a safe landing zone for an incoming life-flight helicopter. We were told that even though a helicopter can, and will, land on top of a mountain, or cliff, if necessary.., if at all possible, they want us to try to find as flat of a surface as possible (making sure there are no ditches within the safe landing zone we are trying to establish). Because, if the helicopter lands with part of the landing feet in a ditch… of course, that could cause the helicopter to tip. Safety of the life-flight crew, and anyone assisting, as well as the patient, is always the number one concern.

We were told that if we have orange, yellow, or red cones, we are to place one cone across from each other, 60 ft apart. To establish this, we were told to pace off 25 paces, by walking the distance, between each cone. This will establish a circle big enough to land the life-flight helicopter safely. In addition, if we have a large orange, yellow, or red, triangle landing material (several of these will be supplied by the life-flight crew at after training so we have them throughout the park for emergencies use), we are to place that where we want the nose of the helicopter to be…

How do we know where we want the nose to be you might ask…? Well, we were instructed (if there is wind, and there is almost always wind here in Cody Wyoming), we are to stand with the wind at OUR backs, and place the triangle landing material at the place in the landing circle that is directly in front of us when the wind (if any) is at OUR backs.

The next thing we need to do is quickly look over the landing zone, and remove anything that could fly up and get into the helicopter blades… Things like tin cans, plastic bags, loose ropes, etc. All of these things, if swept up into the helicopter blades, will damage the blades, and put the helicopter out of commission, thus causing the life-saving rescue to be aborted on the spot…We also need to be mindful to stay away of power lines when establishing the safe landing zone..  The life-flight pilot told us that they have military grade night vision goggles, so if they have to land at night, and we don’t have any of the reflective cones, or triangle landing gear.. the best thing the military used was reflective glow sticks, but not green or blue, because that would interfere with the pilots instrument panel.

The life-flight crew we trained with consisted of the helicopter pilot, who obviously is in charge of the flight from take-off to landing, a flight nurse (my late brother, Tommy, was a flight nurse at one point in his military service, but I think he operated an ICU in an airplane instead of a helicopter…, so this training so touched my heart…), and a flight paramedic, that take care of the patient on site, in flight, and until they hand off the patient to the hospital staff..

Once the safe landing zone has been established, and cleared of anything that could fly up and damage the helicopter, we are to get all bystanders out of the safe landing zone, with the exception of the one point of contact person that will stand by the triangle landing material. When that person sees the approaching life-flight helicopter, they are to put both arms in the air over their head, and begin moving their arms back and forth indicating the direction the helicopter will land… The helicopter pilot told us that he/she will be looking for that one person that is making the appropriate hand/arm movements to direct his/her landing… They don’t want to see bystanders waving hi, or giving the thumbs-up gestures, or trying to take pictures… etc.,  as that is distractful when every second counts.

This is a picture of the life-flight crew landing, and coming over to direct our park staff on how to secure the patient for loading him/her into the life-flight helicopter…

Safe landing zone

Once the flight crew had the patient stabilized, and were satisfied that the patient was secure for transport…,they gave us step by step instructions on how to keep out heads low while transporting the patient into the life-flight helicopter… Special note… the patient was a real, live, woman, and had been strapped to the lift cage for a total of 3 hours during the training period… what a trooper she was..

Safe landing zone 2

When the patient had been securely placed into the life-flight helicopter, the flight nurse, and paramedic, joined the pilot in the helicopter, and they were ready to transport the patient to the nearest hospital…

Safe landing zone 3

If all goes well with the landing etc..,. The patient is assessed, and loaded into the life-flight helicopter within minutes…, which really brought home to me, how important it is to establish a safe landing zone, if at all possible, for the life-flight crew to land…

Safe landing zone 4

It was amazing to watch just how fast the life-flight helicopter crew landed, assessed the patient, guided us through how to help them ensure the patient was loaded safely into the life-flight helicopter…, And within minutes, they were up, up, and on their way to the nearest hospital, all while taking care of the patient in flight… What HERO’s they are!!

Safe landing zone 5

We also learned the difference between a “hot and cold” landing… A hot landing is when the helicopter lands with the blades still operating, and the patient is loaded with special precautions to “keep your heads low”, at all times, when loading the patient. We were told that when every second counts… this is the best approach if it is safe for the patient, crew, and anyone assisting in the rescue…

A cold landing is when the helicopter comes in, lands, and turns off the blades… Still, everyone involved in transporting the patient, needs to be well aware of the helicopter blades, because the wind, if strong enough, could still move the blades and cause severe damage…

This was one of the most amazing training sessions I ever participated in. I am just in awe at how well the flight crew works together to make these remote rescue’s happen within minutes, and as efficiently as possible .

When I asked Bill what he thought was the most interesting thing for him about our training session… he said “getting to talk to the pilot about how fast the helicopter goes (134 miles per hour), how they come in for a landing and take off again… ”

Amazing day for sure…

Stay Tuned!!


What Was I Thinking?

This is week two of our summer work/camp position in Buffalo Bill State Park, which is about six miles from the adorable western town of Cody Wyoming, shown in the next two pictures.

busy day 3

busy day 2

Bill and I are Site Stewards at Buffalo Bill State Park which, on paper, looks like it would a great outdoor summer job to have. We both love being outside, and how could you not love working outdoors here where everywhere you look there is something beautiful to look at…? The spot in the next two pictures is one of my favorite places to take a little break during the workday.

busy day 5

busy day 6

This next picture is what we wake-up to every morning. It changes constantly throughout the day as the clouds move in and out and as the sun touches different spots of the mountain creating lovely shadows…

busy day 4

The people here are all very nice. And, after work, we sometimes have little happy hours, and we even have a picnic table and b-b-q area right behind our RV that some past site stewards built out of reclaimed wood.. How nice is that!

busy day 10

busy day 9

They even made a little bird house and birds of every color come to visit everyday…

busy day 7

But “what was I thinking”, when I decided (and convinced Bill) that being site stewards would be something I would love above all else in the work/camp world? Well, according to the job description we received on day one of our jobs, we are to clean and sanitize about twelve bathrooms, mow grass, hand water where irrigation doesn’t reach, and “special projects” as assigned… three days a week/eight hours a day… That’s where it all went south, when the “special projects were assigned…

The first thing I let us get roped into was working a split shift on Tuesday’s. The Park Assistant Manger asked us if we would mind working from 7-11 in the morning on Tuesday’s, then go to help out at the Buffalo Bill Dam (shown below) Visitor Center from 3 p.m. 7 p.m. He said Bill could drive the electric cart that transports visitors from the parking lot to the Visitor Center, and I would be perfect to greet visitors and help sell stuff in the gift shop… I agreed because we want to be helpful, but I really never have liked working split shifts… when I get home from work, I don’t want to have to go back again in the evening… but I agreed so now that is what we do…

Explor Cody 10

But, OMG, what “WAS I thinking” when we were asked to take down snow fences and pull out the fence poles that hold them up…? The picture below is me trying to operate the pole puller, which weighs about 25 lbs all by itself. You have to lift it over the pole to get it on, push down with all your might (which at my age I dont’ have a lot of might now) then when you get the pole up out of the ground, you have to hold on to it with one hand while you try to hoist the 25 lb pole puller up and off of the pole you just pulled out of the ground.. OMG it is hard, manual LABOR, and not anything like I could have even imagined it would be… They told me, “oh, it’s easy, we have a pole jack that does most of the work for you…” Most of the work my A##! I hurt in places I didn’t even know I had after even a half a day of working this “special project”…

And, of course, before you can even begin to start pulling poles out of the hard ground…, you have to first undo all the little rusty wires that are tied around the poles that secure the snow fence to the poles and keep it around the trees… Once you get all the rusty little ties off, well then you have to pull all the fencing down, roll it up, and try to carry it to the flat-bed truck that we haul it back to the shop yard in…There is NOTHING easy about this kind of work. But, I’m doing it, and I even do it with my lipstick on… I might have to work like a man…but I don’t have to look like one…

Yesterday while Bill and I were taking down snow fences, a man working with our Park Manager, asked us how we got selected to do the hardest jobs in the park? I said “well because I’m stupid comes to mind”. I told him that I wanted to try being a site steward for a summer without having any idea of what it would involve here at Buffalo Bill State Park. He said he is a Park Manager at another park not far from here and wanted to know if we would be interested in being Park Host there? He said he would hate to “steal” us from this park but he has two open positions and he can clearly see we are great workers… He said all his Park Host have to do is clean campsites after campers leave and be there in the park four days a week to answer questions for visitors… I said it sounded GREAT to me right now, but we already committed to this Park and we will honor that commitment.

However, our Park Manger did come and ask us if we were being worked too hard and I VERY quickly said YES! So he said next week we will get trained on how to operate the big John Deer riding mowers and just do that from now on. He said he will let the younger, full-time, maintenance staff take down the remaining snow fences. YEAH!!! I wasn’t about to argue, but the fact of the matter is there are only about 15-20 fences left to come down… Bill and I already did about 40 all by ourselves…

So, next week Bill and I will still clean bathrooms in the morning, but in the afternoons we will be mowing all the dark green areas you see in the picture below.

busy day 8

And, we will be doing it on big John Deer riding mowers… Sounds like a perfect plan to me, and just maybe I won’t have to be saying “what was I thinking”, anymore..!

Stay tuned!

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