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The WEST Side of Health🚗🏜🏞

As of May 3rd, I changed my travel direction and headed west. Before that, I spent the entire month of April down at Table Rock Lake, in a quiet, remote, Cape Fair cove. I cherished this time of reflection, and regrouping for upcoming travels. I would be lying if I said I wasn't hesitant to leave. I was happy, content and at peace, but knew my adventure wasn't over.

Born and somewhat raised in the Bay area of California, I was familiar with the western part of the United States, and had made the trek from California to Missouri several times as a child. But it had been awhile since I headed west on a personal adventure, especially alone with a 65lb Vizsla. I was excited--still excited, but day to day on the road has truly been a new experience, challenging me on many levels. The world is changing at turbo speed, and people are being stretched thin to keep up with the chaotic rotation--including me.

As you might remember, I spent a month getting to know most of Texas earlier this year, but had not hit the upper north or northwestern part of the state. As I headed west out of Missouri, my first stop was Amarillo. Anyone who has traveled with a father, husband or brother in this direction, knows this city is known for The Big Texan Steak Ranch, where if you can eat 72oz of steak, plus shrimp cocktail, baked potato, salad with roll, you get it free😲 Yes, you must eat the entire meal in one hour, and must be consumed--swallowed, or you lose!

Not my favorite kind of place...eating large quantities of beef, destroying my colon. I also learned Amarillo's key industry is "food processing"...UGH! Love Texas, but not my favorite city. People were kind, and accommodations nice and clean, but the fact Amarillo is also considered to be among the top ten most dangerous cities in Texas, got me packing and headed west to New Mexico.

COVID deaths of Native Americans linked to limited access to resources and healthcare.

This is when my trip turned really sad. I had forgotten my history, or maybe never realized the large American Indian population that still inhabits this area. We all should remember what our government did to a huge Indian population with the Trail of Tears, taking their land and pushing them to live on reservations all over the US. But I don't believe we can fully understand their reduced quality of life unless we live close to what is happening. I can tell you, I didn't realize what was happening to the health of the American Indian until I witnessed the "extreme fear" of Covid-19, a long year after the infection began. People everywhere were still very seriously "masked", afraid, and there wasn't any exception. It wasn't/isn't necessarily political, simply life or death for this population.

In reservation areas of New Mexico, health care is underfunded, and this population is at extreme risk for COVID-19, and multiple illness and disease.

American Indians and Alaskan natives have experienced disproportionate rates of infection and mortality during the Covid-19 pandemic. The excess risk, specially this group of males and persons aged from 20 to 49 years, should be considered when planning and implementing medical counter measures and other prevention activities.

Few places in the world have been as scarred by the coronavirus pandemic as McKinley County in New Mexico. By September 2020, the county ranked first in the state and sixth nationally for COVID-19 deaths per capita. Roughly 74% of McKinley County’s 71,367 residents are non-Hispanic Native American, mostly Navajo and Zuni. The majority of land within the county’s borders is part of the Navajo Nation reservation. The Navajos, who call themselves Diné, are descendants of people who outlived colonization, smallpox, massacres and resettlement. They take pride in a history of resilience.

Large portions of Navajo Nation reservation lacks basic infrastructure

Then came the Big Cough, or Dikos Ntsaaígíí-19, as coronavirus is known among Diné tribal members. The federal government, which oversees health care for Native Americans under treaty obligations, used a modified influenza plan to address the pandemic. And as the COVID-19 crisis began to overwhelm McKinley County, medical experts and others say federal authorities were slow to respond, a judgment call that cost lives and fueled the spread.

This failure was no accident, experts said. It was the direct result of centuries of neglect, that has left the county's health care system chronically underfunded, understaffed, ill-equipped and outdated. And all in a community grappling with multigenerational housing, preexisting medical conditions, substance abuse and poverty, where many live without running water, electricity or enough food for their daily nutritional needs.

During the peak of the pandemic, doctors at the Gallup Indian Medical Center were forced to reuse personal protective equipment. An emergency room and intubation tents were set up in the parking lot. Mothers in labor were diverted to other hospitals to make room for coronavirus patients.

As the federal facility filled up, some overflow patients went to the one private hospital in the area, which also was overcrowded, prompting nurses and doctors at one point to protest in the street against unsafe conditions. For weeks, critical care patients were flown daily to better-equipped facilities in Albuquerque. Delayed medical care can, in some instances, lead to complications or death. “I am sure if the federal government had intervened a lot quicker, things would have been a lot better. It’s obvious there was a lack of support,” said Jonathan Nez, president of the Navajo Nation.

The U.S. Civil Rights Commission, National Indian Health Board, Government Accountability Office, congressional committees and tribal leaders warned for decades that Native American health care was anemic and primed for catastrophe. Yet, year after year, Congress failed to allocate cash to meet the medical need. Centuries after the United States traded land for health care and other services with sovereign, Native nations, federal officials spend nearly three times as much per person on non-Indian medical care than on health services for Indigenous people.

More recently, when Congress passed a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus package to help the country get through the beginning of the pandemic, only $714 million was earmarked for the Navajo Nation. That amounts to $4,552 per each Diné on the reservation, compared with $6,703 per capita in stimulus funding nationwide. And most of the money didn’t arrive until months later. This continuation of neglect of the American Indian population is evident all across the US. Their health is compromised for a reason.

After visiting Santa Fe and a small, quaint, hippy town called Madrid in New Mexico, I headed out to Prescott, Arizona, where I felt an instant feeling of belonging. Surrounding at 5000 feet by majestic mountains, granite rocks, magical blue waters and pine trees, this beautiful city welcomed Avie and I with incredible dog friendly restaurants and an extremely hospitable community. We made friends, hiked trails and Avie had a few glorious swims.

I honestly hadn't experienced breathing such clean, crisp air, with zero humidity, in such a long time. And the sky....OH MY... breath taking clear blues--colors you usually only see in paintings. The temperatures were cool at night, warm during the day--PERFECT, actually. But what was immediate noticeable to me, Arizona and New Mexico are both home to many Indian natives, and reservations, but Arizona didn't seem to be as affected by Covid-19 as New Mexico. Restaurants were open for business with no mask mandates, which was just the opposite in New Mexico. People were sitting close in restaurants, walking down the streets, with very few, if any, wearing masks. It seemed like life before Covid-19, and I have to admit, felt wonderful.

Some might remember the tragic loss of life for the Granite Mountain Hotshot firefighters of Prescott in 2017. The memory of this horrific tragedy is still very real to a community who lost husbands, fathers, sons, and friends. If you haven't watched this wonderfully made movie, it is definitely worth the watch. Bring your tissues😥 I haven't lived in an area that fire danger is constant since I left California is the 70's. All residents take prevention very seriously, and are eager to share the dos and don'ts with tourists. I will forever walk the trails of any natural forest with sincere appreciate and gratitude. So many REAL HEROES give their lives to make ours so much better. Grateful 🙌 I so wanted to stay in Prescott longer, and most certainly will return, but California was next up; with anticipation to see family so long over due.

Born in Oakland, California, and living in the Bay area for much of my youth, I felt the old familiarity rush in as I crossed into California. Lots of sunshine, no humidity, and produce growing EVERYWHERE! Yes, most homeowners have at least one fruit tree, and it isn't unusual to have lemons, oranges, avocados, pomegranates, cherries, nectarines and plums growing in your yard. Commercially, California produces 13% of the total cash agricultural receipts for the US, and is sole producer (99% or more), for the following crops: almonds, figs, olives, peaches, artichokes, kiwi, dates, pomegranates, raisins, sweet rice, pistachios, plums and walnuts. I have always been fortunate to belong to a family who takes pride in using outdoor space to grow as much produce as possible. Avie 🐕‍🦺has developed a fondness for strawberries, oranges, and standing in just the right spot when the sprinkles come on early morning and evening. But even in produce paradise, there are signs of mass inflation--Gas $4.69 per gallon at most places, and residents anticipating water shortages soon. When there isn't lots of good snow fall over the Sierras, the aqueducts and water supply will be low, and rationed. This is the yin and yang of the Californian.

Because of heavy taxation on personal property, gasoline and all consumer goods, much of my family have moved out of California and into Nevada, and other parts of the US. This made way for a perfect excuse to visit Reno and Lake Tahoe. At 8000 feet, with temperatures that went from 80 to 50 degrees in about 10 minutes, the AWE of the Sierra Madres never

disappoints. I believe they are the most majestic of all mountains, and enjoyed driving through the winding roads, climbing higher and higher, and catching a glimpse of remaining snow cover that has yet to melt. Even Lake Tahoe was rather low from the lack of snow fall, but incredible just the same.

Until I passed by the sign leading to Squaw Valley, I had forgotten how exciting this area truly is--home of the 1960 Olympics, and favorite skiing location for millions. But the tourists crowd this natural wonderland year-round for boating, hiking, bike riding and just enjoying nature. I saw so many just sitting and soaking it up. Quiet beautiful to see actually. No fear at 8000 feet--Nice:)

This is what I miss about living in California and the west: mountains, ocean, dessert, HUMONGOUS pine, redwood and sequoia trees; hiking, skiing, camping, and all the fresh produce you can eat🍋🥝🥭🥦🥑🧄🍅 It is wonderful to live free in America, and I try not to take any of this beautiful life for granted.

Reno surprised me! It has grown and changed so much. So many people outside, walking, running, riding, kayaking, fishing, YES, right in down town Reno. There were Farmer's Markets, and lots of wonderful cafe's that welcomed Avie in their outdoor seating areas.

Nothing better for your health than being outside with incredible nature🏞

As I prepare to press "publish" on this latest Travel Blog, I want all of you to know building and maintaining great health is constant, and not always a simple task, even for me. But I promise you, it is worth it. I have had to adjust many things in my 2021 journey, in regards to my own health. What worked before doesn't work on the road, so I am learning and adjusting my own routine, sometimes daily. What I won't compromise is my level of energy, and that comes from quality sleep, nutrition, exercise and hydration. There is a limit to what I can travel with, so I really have to pack wisely--the basics, for myself and Avie.

This weekend we are going camping, and next weekend to the coast, visiting Monterey Bay and Carmel. I promise to take great photos, and share with you all the juicy details. Know my mission for this trip; to share "simplified health" with the country is happening. I have been blessed to share my Healthy U message with many, and will continue to do so. Health is our most valuable possession. When we have great health, life is so much more beautiful, less stressful and filled with peace of mind. Journey with me, and live the healthy life we all deserve. Be Well🌻

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