Pandemic: Road Trip

On June 3 we were to be flying from New York to London arriving June 4 with an overnight stay at Heathbrow. Our traveling companions Randy, my brother, and Chris, our sister-in-law would depart for Portugal on June 5. We would be headed to Rome. On the 5th we were to meet my son, Craig, and his family, Nicole, Olivia, Evan, Ella. Craig had arranged a private tour of the Vatican. On the 6th his family was departing. Sandy and I were to have visited Rome until June 9 when we were scheduled to reunite with Randy and Chris at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris.

June 10-11 in Paris. June 12 we Chunnel to London. June 13-15, we enjoy London including watching the St, Louis Cardinals vs Chicago Cubs game on June 14. The trip was thoroughly planned by brother Randy. Tickets purchased. Accommodations selected. Deposit money paid.

Then came Covid-19, and what is now described as a pandemic. By June 30, more than 10,000,000  have gotten the virus worldwide. More than 2.6 million have contracted the virus in the United States, with more than 128,000 deaths. Advice to American citizens, stay home, avoid crowds, where a mask.

Sandy and I have stayed home, avoided crowds, and worn a face mask when in grocery stores for the past four months. We haven’t been ultra-conservative and extremely safe as some we know, but we have not been dismissive either. We have been to a few outdoor restaurants and we do shop for groceries a few times every week. We visit friends. I play golf weekly with my friend Gerry and Tom. Sandy still volunteers weekly to feed the poor. We feel safe

So, now comes an opportunity and a dilemma. Emily will have foot surgery July 7. Sandy and I want to be there to help with Amaya, our six-year old grand-daughter. We also want to see Brian and Fisher, Kelly and Mark, Kerry and Kris, Rumi, Teo, Sienna, and Seba. Should we fly? Should we drive? Should we go or stay home? For the past thirty days we have asked those same questions. We have had numerous conversations with our kids, our family, and our friends. Every person has a different opinion. Each day we wavered. We are going for sure. No, we are not going. Yes, definitely going. No, we changed our mind.  Well, maybe.

We bought airline tickets. We cancelled airline tickets. We bought a new car, a 2020 Subaru Outback equipped with all of the new safety eyesight gear. We are going to test it out. We depart Tuesday June 30. Destination, Anacortes Washington, approx. 2150 miles. First scheduled stop, Omaha, Nebraska. Stay tuned. We’ll let you know what it’s like to road trip during a pandemic.

DAY 1

I got out bed by 7am. Sandy had her first cup of coffee by then, which was like any other day. After one cup of home brew Java we turned on Miranda Esmond White, Classical Stretch. By 8am we had finished the 20-minute stretch exercise. I took a quick shower. We finished packing and we were out the door only to be met by a torrential  downpour. I was soaked just getting to the car. Fortunately, we had loaded the majority of our bags the night before. Two back-packs fully packed and a food cooler was the last loaded. I dried out at our first stop just a block away. We needed a full tank of gas to start the day.

The Subaru highway ride was the first thing we noticed. It was better than our previous Legacy sedan. The thunderstorm continued for another 15-minutes with rain flowing off the windshield with ease. The day on the road was mostly uneventful, save this. We were listening to music from the 1970’s for an hour when Sandy said, “ I don’t remember any of these tunes”. Of course not, she had a baby in 1970, another in 1972, two more in 1974 and 1975 and the a fifth one in 1979. The 70’s were a blur. Craig, Brian, Todd, Kelly and Brent were all born in the 70’s. If any of you reading this can fill us in on what happened between July 1970 and December 1979 please let us know.  

Back to the trip. We had a nice lunch stop at a little park near Blue Springs, Missouri. It was called Burr Oaks State Park. This was just the kind of place we sought. It had a covered picnic bench with wooded area for ambiance.

We arrived Omaha, Nebraska at 4pm. After a quick unload of essential bags we headed out for a nice walk through the Old Market Square downtown Omaha, If it wasn’t for the pandemic this place would be rock’en. Despite our objective of avoiding restaurants we couldn’t pass up the Upstream Brewery with outdoor seating. There were only two tables occupied. We were at least 30 feet apart from everybody accept the waiter.  Good meal. Good brew. Time for bed. Tomorrow, our destination is Cheyenne, Wyoming.   

DAY 2

Omaha, Nebraska to Cheyenne, Wyoming is 498 miles on Highway 80 West. After we passed Lincoln I cant remember seeing anything except farm land. To be fair to Nebraska we did find a little park to have lunch called Sandy’s Creek.

So, now we are in Wyoming in time to a beer at Daniel Mark’s Brewery.

   Day 3

I forgot to mention what it’s like staying in hotels during the pandemic. In Omaha we stayed at a Hyatt. Very clean, very safe. The morning breakfast was served in a box. We selected yogurt, hard boiled egg, cereal, milk, orange juice, blueberry muffin and coffee. In Cheyenne we stay at a modern Tru-Hilton. The breakfast was individually served hot scrambled eggs, sausage, juice, and coffee. For dinner last night we shopped at Safeway to purchase chicken and fruit and a nice salad. We ate in the hotel room to avoid people.

As I write this, Sandy is driving and I am the passenger. We are both drinking Wild Pony Coffee. The terrain is wild west mountain foothills. Horses who live in Nebraska would definitely prefer Wyoming. In fact, I note the cattle, deer, antelope, and horses all seem to wear a smile. They like it here.

The speed limits in Wyoming on Highway 25 are 80 mph and it takes time to get used to. Sandy sets the cruise control at 77 mph, her comfort level. As a passenger I notice how many camper van’s we have passed along the highway. Evidently, American families are hitting the roads this summer. I’m afraid our National Parks will be packed. We are taking the shortest path to Anacortes avoiding parks which means we will skip our favorite destinations in the US like Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Park in Montana. We will skip all tourist destinations—just drove past Custard’s Last Stand battlefield in Wyoming without slowing down. Zoom by at 80 mph. It’s gone in minutes The drive through Wyoming into Montana is beautiful. The snow-capped Rockies are in clear sight and fast approaching. We will be passing over the mountains tomorrow. For tonight it’s a steak dinner and beer at a very safe outdoor restaurant called Ale Works in Bozeman, Montana. Lights out soon. Good night all.  

Day 4.

For the first time in my life I wish I had learned to be a fly fisherman. As we roll through the mountains of Montana, we pass Billings, Bozeman, Butte. All along the way we see inviting fly-fishing streams parallel to the highway. A far as scenery goes Montana gets an A plus. This has been a gorgeous traveling day. Mountain temperatures from 58 degrees up to 82 degrees. Blue sky. Powder white clouds.

The highlight of the day is stopping in Missoula, Montana. The last time we came through Missoula we were heading south from Glacier National Park and off to our right we saw a grizzly bear running down the mountain side. No such luck on this pass through. We did, however, find a nice river side Boone-Crockett conservation area to sit down and have our lunch. The fried chicken purchased in Cheyenne has provide lunch for three days in a row.

I did the bulk of the mountain driving today. But Sandy started off the morning drive. At one point she reached 88 mph to pass before she noted the OMG speed. Yes, you read it right! Sandy was the first person to drive 88 mph! I calmly sipped my coffee.

According to automotive research 32% of all pickup trucks are the color white. Then 28% are silver or grey. Sandy and I can verify these facts via our drive today when without doubt or exaggeration we believe we passed every white truck in America. I believe drivers in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Washington have bought all of the available stock of White trucks. If you want to buy a pickup truck you will have to order black, red or blue. The White ones are all out west.  

Now, on to other important facts when driving west during the pandemic. We just passed the beautiful city of Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho. Sandy is driving to Spokane or beyond as I type on my computer while sitting in the passenger seat. I know we could have flown to Seattle in 4 hours but when you drive you see sights you’ve never seen before. Today has been a special day of witnessing God’s beautiful creation. As we drove, we passed a Moose crossing, Little Black Feet River,  Beaver Tail Camp Grounds, a sign telling me where to get my Elks tag and another place offering to buy my antlers. But, alas, we have no antlers.

Tonight, we settle in at a Holiday Inn Express in Ellensburg, Washington. We have traveled far beyond our planned drive for the day. Tomorrow, July 4th, we will have a 2 ½ hours drive to Mount Vernon, WA.

Day 5.

Happy 4th of July everyone. To friends and family who live in St. Louis we want you to know its 58 degrees at 8am. It may get into the 80’s as we travel throughout the day. The evening temperature forecasted for tonight is near 50 degrees.

What a spectacular morning drive through the Cascade Mountains! We can see a snow-capped Mount Baker as we head westward. We are driving through the Wenatchee National Forest with the Mount Baker National Forest just south of us. We go through the Snoqualmie Pass with Mardee Lake off to our left, babbling mountain streams follow the road off to our right. The speed limits have dropped to 70 aa we cut through the forest mountains.

We did it! We arrived in Mount Vernon at 11:15 this morning. Kerry, Sienna, Seba and their new dog, Coot, greeted us. Kristen is working today. He is Captain of a boat used as the barge which will launch a $20,000 fireworks show at Friday Harbor tonight. Kelly and Mark have taken their boat up to Friday Harbor for the weekend. So, they with Rumi and Teo will see the fireworks from their boat. 

We have settled in at the Potlatch house on the Westshore of Guemes Island. Our view for the next few weeks will be ocean front with Cypress Island off to the west.

Sandy enjoyed gathering fresh greens, carrots, cucumber, peapods, raspberries from Kerry’s garden and Kelly’s garden. We will also enjoy fresh eggs tomorrow morning thanks to Kerry’s chickens. These are the best eggs I have ever eaten.

Dinner is almost ready. Wild Salmon over our home-grown garden salad. Add a beer. Perfect meal. Stay tuned. I’ll probably add more to the blog weekly rather than daily now that we have arrived.

HAPPY 4th of July 2020 to all. Relax and Enjoy!

5 1/2 Months- Week 22

Sunday July 8 is SashBash week!!!

July 7–all 24 of us are in route to Breckenridge, Colorado. Sunday, we have an 8-bedroom house waiting for the Shasserre family onslaught. Craig, Nicole, Olivia, Evan, Ella have flown into Denver Saturday night and they are spending the night with Johnny O. an old soccer buddy of Craig’s. Brian, Emily, Fisher and Amaya have flown in from Seattle. They are spending the night in Denver with friends. Mark, Kelly, Rumi and Teo flew in Thursday and they have been with friends everyday since. Todd, Jessica, and Scarlett arrive in Denver late Saturday night. Kris, Kerry, Sienna and Sebastian are traveling from Mount Vernon, Washington by vintage VW van. They blew a tire on the way. So, they are camping near Salt Lake City Saturday night. They will have a long drive on Sunday. Brent and Dani left from Saint Louis today and they are driving a Subaru all the way without an overnight stop. We drove from Salt Lake City to Grand Junction, Colorado today. It’s been a wonderful day of R&R. We are happy to be spending the night in a nice Clarion. We had a brief swim and a pizza dinner.

 

Olivia turned age 20 the day we all arrived at Breckenridge. Craig, Kris and Sienna  have birthdays in July. So, we had continuous days to celebrate. The home cooked dinners for 24 went along flawlessly thanks to great cooks and great planning by all.

The house was magnificent….8 bedrooms, 11 bathrooms, huge 12 person hot tub, downstairs rec room included pool table, video games, shuffle board, foos-ball, and a theater room (great for watching the World Cup games).

Each morning certain people left the house for hiking destinations, shopping, or whatever. Some groups went to Vail, Colorado and some did not. Some did the eight mile hikes and some (like me) did the three miles hike. We all stayed active in family groups but still had space for ourselves.

This was such a special SashBash. Special because this week in Colorado was the last week of our 22 week journey. Special because our time with family was the first time everyone could be together in one place in the past 10 years. It was special, of course, because Sandy and I were celebrating 50 years of marriage and all of the kids made a commitment to be together.

Remember the game called Roses and Thorns? One night as I was quietly observing all of the wonderful personalities that make up this large family of twenty-four I thought to myself, our “Roses” are those who have come into the family one by one, i.e., Nicole, Emily, Jessica, Mark, Kris, and Dani. They have joined our children and created grandchildren that make this very large family such a blessing.

Sandy and I are so grateful. To our children and their spouses and significant others. And to our grandchildren. Thanks for being special people. Thanks for loving each other. Thanks for making Sashbash 2018 the best one ever!

5 1/2 Months – Week 19

It’s Fathers Day! I wish I could be with my father today. He just turned 93 this past Wednesday. My dad is a good honest man who struggled throughout life to support his family by pounding nails and lifting ladders–hard work. He owned a small General Contractors business and as I have come to learn over the years running a small successful business is no easy task. He worked as a carpenter for 40 years and ran the business for more than 20 years. Congratulations Dad! Best to you.

Sandy and I will enjoy Father’s Day on Guemes Island in her favorite cabin–the Baker House. We enjoyed a special breakfast prepared by Kerry and Kelly. Salmon berry (picked off the bush) pancakes, eggs, vegetarian sausage, potatoes and homemade bread. My health conscious kids splurged this morning! Brian and Amaya came across to Guemes in the afternoon so the kids could all play together. We enjoyed some homemade cobbler that Kerry had made with blueberries from last year’s crop. We put ice cream on top for a great desert. Then, everyone had to leave to make the Ferry ride back over to Anacortes where there is a more normal civilization.

Monday morning started, like many mornings lately, with a cup of coffee and a beautiful view from the porch of our cabin looking east across the water and small islands to the glorious snow capped Mount Baker. Jessica came by at 1:30pm for my afternoon massage ( a Fathers Day gift from Mark and Kelly). Then, I rushed to get on the 3:15 Ferry and barely made it.

At 6pm we had a nice Salmon dinner at Kelly’s with Mark’s parents Calvin and Patty Linnemann. Teo, the seven-year old, initiated a family favorite conversation starter at dinner called name your Roses, Thorns and Blossoms of the day. Roses are the good things that happened. Thorns are the bad things. Blossoms are things you are looking forward to.

We all took part in revealing the good, bad and things to look forward to….when all was said and done it was clear that family gatherings comes first. And, we are fortunate that the Roses far outweigh the thorns.

Tuesday morning we left the island and Anacortes for the three hour drive to Mazama. The drive, all on Highway 20, heads east through cities like Sedro-Woolley, Concrete, Rock Port and Marblemount. We passed through Porcupine Lake, Blue Lake, Diablo Lake and Beaver Marsh to get here. I never get tired of this beautiful drive and the cabin in the woods destination.

Wednesday we spent the day with Emily and Amaya at Pearrygin Lake near Winthrop. This was our first day in Washington with temperatures near 90 degrees. The cool lake water felt chilled but perfect for such a day.

Thursday we returned to Mount Vernon to spend a few days with Kerry and the kids at Big Mama’s Farm. I hopped on the tractor to cut the grass again and Sandy and Kerry did the heavy labor moving dirt and mulch on a new garden.

 

Kerry and the family have blueberries, cherries, raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes and watermelon. They have new vegetable gardens of peas, broccoli, cucumbers, cabbage, chard, cilantro, basil carrots,beets, and hot peppers. And, for good measure there are rose bushes in abundance. This place is looking good and the hard work is paying dividends.

Then, finally, Sienna wants you all to see her bearded dragon lizard. His name is Norman. Lovely creature. Sandy just loves hanging out with Norman.

And, Sebastian just loves getting his picture taken. So, he jumped into the picture frame just as I clicked.