We’d been staying in a Ramada Inn off I-24. The help was surly and they fought loudly with each other in the hallway. All we wanted was air-conditioning, thick curtains and cable TV, a reprieve from the relentless heat and sun. But now we lose even that as, after exactly one month, our travel budget can no longer cover a hotel or meal per diems. As we move from the Chattanooga area farther north, Allison, Jason and I track down the cheapest hotel in Dayton, TN while I try to find us somewhere to stay for free. Jason drinks a Bud Light he found in the mini-fridge while he and I watch Deadliest Catch for the last time and tell ourselves that it could be worse: we could be hunting for crab in the Bering Sea in the middle of winter.
Our new (and very temporary home) does not offer a continental breakfast and we’ve taken to eating at gas stations, the Huddle House and now the Donut Palace. It is not healthy. Allison is rarely very hungry and I realize that she can’t go on feeling this bad for much longer. On Thursday I set up a meeting with the manager of a wildlife refuge in the area and he shows us the deer check-in station and the garage. We go with the check-in station. But we won’t move in until the following week when we’ll have groceries and air mattresses. We put in a day’s work and go home.
The next day is Friday, my day off, but, as usual, I go into the lab. When I get in Allison is preparing to go out and complete some amphibian surveys for an academic project, but she is clearly very ill. She tells me that she has developed a rash on the back of her leg but won’t let me see it. Finally, I insist and in a moment know she has Lyme disease and has had it for nearly three weeks now. Worse, on the advice of a doctor, she has been taking steroids, which will have just served to accelerate the disease. I tell her to get in the truck because we’re going to the ER and she agrees without too much of a fight. The nurse at the desk asks if Lyme disease is serious enough to warrant a trip to the ER. We tell her that the condition has been misdiagnosed and has now gone untreated for far longer than is safe. After we mention the neurological implications of untreated Lyme disease, which include confusion, speech impairment, loss of motor control and death, she admits Allison. A couple hours later I return to find that the new doctor didn’t really know what to do either, but had at least prescribed strong antibiotics. This will be the start of quite an ordeal for Allison and the end of her summer of walking, crawling and climbing through the woods of east Tennessee. Jason and I are suddenly down to a crew of two, at least temporarily. “Temporarily” will soon turn out to be most of the summer.
The top photo is from outside our room in Dayton, TN. The middle shot is the deer check-in station that became our home for four months. The last photo was taken behind our hotel in the still o' the night.