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We thought we could get through last night running Ernie’s electric heat pumps, what with a forecast low of 30°F and all. That proved to be wishful thinking — by morning we saw 28°F with a “feels-like” temp a few degrees lower. We switched over to gas around 2am.

Yesterday morning the LP gauge showed the tank was empty, so experience tells us that we had five-ish gallons left. After last night’s use we’re probably down to three. A refill is in order, probably Friday or Saturday.

It’s the last day of February, and here in The Ozarks we have a spectacular, springlike week ahead of us. Overnight lows will be tolerable and heat-pump-friendly.

Deb and I are still on our vitamins-and-supplements regimen. The last change we made was in mid-November when we added turmeric to my daily gulp of multivitamin, B complex, C, D3, zinc, quercetin, baby aspirin and PreserVision. I take all that with an eight-ounce protein drink.

Though I’ve remained relatively healthy over the last year, I still deal with the effects of age — my joints ache from the moment I get up in the morning, and after exertion (which I’ve been getting a lot of up on The Mountain) it takes me a long time to recover.

It was something I’d decided to live with, even knowing that it’s likely to get worse over time. Deb got tired of watching me shuffle around like Tim Conway’s “Oldest Man” character and ordered me a three-week trial of Relief Factor, the miracle stuff advertised incessantly on cable-news channels.

There are four components to Relief Factor: icariin, resveratrol, turmeric and omega-3. Each individually packaged “dose” consists of two capsules and two softgels. The “QuickStart” program requires taking three doses a day (a total of 12 capsules) for the first seven days, followed by two doses daily thereafter. Because Relief Factor includes a big shot of turmeric, we pulled that supplement from my everyday regimen.

I want to say right here that I was skeptical (to put it mildly) about this. Nothing — and I mean nothing — has put a dent in my chronic pain. I don’t even bother with over-the-counter analgesics anymore, and I’m not remotely interested in experimenting with prescription meds.

Five days into my “loading dose” course of Relief Factor my nagging joint pain was almost completely gone. That’s no exaggeration. My recovery from significant exertion was reduced from a couple of days to one good night’s sleep.

And according to the monitor on my smart watch, I slept better. My every-morning creakiness didn’t last as long. I even noticed that I was standing up straighter.

No one’s more surprised about that than I am. I’m now into my second week taking the product, the fourth day of regular maintenance dosage, and I’m still relatively pain-free.

We’ve ordered Deb her own QuickStart supply. There are no guarantees, of course, but I’m curious to see if her experience matches mine.

Be advised, the stuff ain’t cheap. We’ll find a way to accommodate it in our budget, however, because anything that simple and that effective is worth it to me.

You may consider that an unsolicited, uncompensated recommendation.

This morning we left the campground like we’d been shot out of a cannon — being away from The Mountain almost a week was far too long. During the drive over we listened to a CD of patriotic music, singing along and getting misty-eyed with pride.

That’s just who we are.

When we arrived we lingered a long time in Deb’s cousin’s garage. The topic of conversation, naturally, was Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Then we ran the Ranger up to the summit and hiked down the south side, discovering another shallow sinkhole. Down at the cleared area later we relaxed in our camp chairs and basked in the warm sun.

Across from us a pile of large rocks (it’d be fair to call them small boulders), uncovered by December’s backhoe work, drew my attention, There were odd shapes and strange features, along with the fossil record of grasses or perhaps undersea plants. Absolutely fascinating.

Before we left The Mountain there was more conversation back at the garage, this time centering on local topography, gardening and other more pleasant (and less consequential) matters.

Our late-day meal was Frito Pies at the Neighborhood Diner in Harrison. We’ve found it a warm and easy place to be, offering classic fare served with playful smiles. Today our waitress, who’d served us only once before, couldn’t wait to tell us that she’s pregnant, due in November (though she hopes the kid enters the world on Halloween).

It’s a small joint, and this afternoon only three of the ten tables were occupied. An elderly couple sat at the corner table, chatting loudly to overcome the husband’s apparent hearing problem. We, on the other hand, could hear every word.

They talked conservative politics in general and the invasion of Ukraine in particular. Deb and I smiled and nodded with each back-and-forth. Eventually I turned toward the woman and engaged, and before long the whole diner couldn’t help but be involved in the conversation.

“Trump was the best thing to ever happen to America,” said our twenty-something waitress as she breezed by with a stack of dishes.

We love it here.

A stop at a local vape shop wrapped up the day with more hospitality, more easy conversation.

We’ll be back on The Mountain again tomorrow.

Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath

#LetsGoBrandon #FJB

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