My husband dodged a COVID bullet

My husband plays volleyball with a group of adults here locally in Colorado. Their volleyball facility closed down for a while But in the summertime they still got together and played at outdoor sand courts. They returned to playing at the club in the fall. It was operating at reduced capacity and requiring masks while they played.

My husband hasn’t gone in a few weeks. He did consider going this week but because we have contracters in our house, he thought it would safer not to go. Talk about a smart choice! He got a text from one of the team members this past Friday notifying people she had tested positive for COVID. Then another team member who had opted out this week said she was quarantining due to possible exposure.

I’m hoping my husband stays home all month now. We’re going to Arizona the first week of March and don’t want anything throwing a wrench into our plans. It seems like it’s getting harder and harder to avoid it as more people are letting their guard down.

One thing people must remember is that even if you have had the vaccine, you can still pass it on to others. The vaccine activates your body’s immune response but does not prevent you from being an asymptomatic carrier. Please please please continue to wear your mask and socially distance. I’m not crazy about my husband’s volleyball team. They’re Trump supporters and really don’t think COVID is a big deal. However, this might be a wake-up call for some. One was bemoaning the fact that he was going to miss a pickle ball match and a birthday party. The woman who caught it at first wasn’t going to notify the facility but reluctantly she agreed.

Stay safe! We still have a long ways to go!

Traveling in Florida during the Pandemic

My husband and I often do a January getaway to celebrate his birthday. Several months ago we decided to go to St. Augustine. While we knew it probably would be chilly as it is further north (it was!), we felt it was a bit safer than some other spots in Florida.

The plan was to fly directly to Jacksonville, the closest major city to St. Augustine, but sadly Southwest canceled our direct flight and put us on a route that went through Atlanta. Changing planes and being exposed to more people didn’t seem like a good plan. So we decided to fly to Orlando and do a 2-hour drive up to St. Augustine.

Thankfully, our flight to Orlando was not full, so we did have some spacing between us. However, the return was packed. It looked like a lot of people were returning home from Disneyworld. But people were all masked up and I’m keeping my fingers crossed. We flew in October on another packed flight to Tennessee and did fine. However, Florida is more of a hot spot now than Tennessee was then. Nonetheless, I am lying low since my return (which is pretty much all I do now anyhow) and limiting contact.

My first observation when I got to Florida is that people in the airport were generally good about mask wearing and social distancing. However, once outside, that seemed to change. As a resident of Colorado (more specifically, the very left-leaning county of Boulder) I am used to seeing people wearing masks pretty much everywhere. Even outdoors, many people wear them or will pull them up if they see people coming toward them on the walking paths or sidewalk.

But that was not the case in Florida. We stayed in a condo that we rented out through AirBNB. I was surprised that our property owner actually did an in-person check-in. Nowadays that’s pretty rare here in the US it seems. (AirBNB encourages property owners to allow self check-ins, although it’s not required.) The issue I had was that he did not wear a mask when he met us at the condo. Wow! That was very strange.

When we were out sightseeing it seems that people did comply with mask-wearing rules at attractions with paid entry. However, it was hit or miss at stores. Signs were posted that mask wearing was mandatory, but I saw people in stores without them. In grocery stores all the clerks wore them, but some customers did not. Back in Colorado they would be asked to leave or put one on. On St. George Street in St. Augustine (a popular tourist area) only about 50% of the people wore masks. What I found most astounding was that some shopkeepers had signs up about wearing masks, yet they did not wear one themselves. Okaaay! I also had clerks standing outside with samples approach me, sans mask. Talk about unacceptable! No wonder Florida is having problems. It’s like they are living in an alternate universe.

As for restaurants, all the servers I saw wore them. Like in Colorado you are asked to wear masks at your table until you order (although compliance there is not always observed) and if you get up to go to bathroom. We ate out only once per day at lunch since we wanted to do patio dining and it was a bit chilly, even with heat lamps. It seems like that was a popular choice with most people, although I did observe a large group of senior citizens (at least 30) eating inside at one restaurant. They were all seated closely and at the time had no masks on and no food in front of them (I don’t know if they had finished or had just ordered, but I would have thrown a mask on in that situation). I did observe at one coffee shop in St. Augustine, City Perks, that the baristas did not have on masks. That would be a big no-no in Colorado.

For the record there are roughly 4.5 million seniors in Florida. From what I saw in St. Augustine they were some of the worst offenders. Most of the younger tourists wore masks. I also was very impressed one day when I walking on the beach where they were doing some beach restoration work when the young construction worker pulled up his mask to talk to me to tell I couldn’t pass at that time. Good for him. I wish all of the residents in Florida would adopt this attitude. I love this state and I have traveled here many times, but some folks still seem to be in denial.

I really am baffled by Governor Noem

Yesterday I watched a clip from the “The Ingraham Angle,” a Fox News program (something I rarely do) that featured Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota. I listened to the interview after I read about the plans for the famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally to continue as planned from August 7-16. Usually they get about 500,000 people pass through this small city of 7,000, but this year they’re expecting half that. Masks won’t be required and you can pretty much toss social distancing out the door.

I was flabbergasted when I heard Gov. Noem state the following in response to her critics (this is a direct quote): “What works is washing your hands and making good decisions.” Literally, my jaw dropped to the floor. Yes, we all have become diligent hand washers and users of hand sanitizers, but unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you should know that the real problem is that this disease is spread through the air. The early zealousness about sanitizing surfaces has subsided somewhat and now the focus is on masks. And by the way, good decisions don’t happen when fueled by alcohol.

Yes, South Dakota has a much lower death rate than New York (15 vs. 167 per 1000) but have you ever been to South Dakota? I have. It’s basically farm land and plains. The biggest city is Sioux Falls with a population of 190,000. The population density of South Dakota is 2,109 people per square mile. In New York that number is 26,403. Quite a difference. Comparing the two states is ridiculous.

Futhermore, once the Sturgis Rally is over, those people will go back home and potentially carry the virus with them. It’s irresponsible and demonstrates once again the selfish behavior of Americans. So sad.

Trip to Spain officially cancelled

I knew it was coming. First there was the news that the EU was not allowing travelers from the US. Then I got an e-mail from Norwegian Airlines. Our roundtrip flight to London-Gatwick in the fall was cancelled. While England is not a part of the EU, I figured that Norwegian would cancel the flight anyhow. The UK has announced that visitors must do a 14-day quarantine and not many people are going to want to do that.

Fortunately, the e-mail had a link to request a refund. I immediately filled it out and they have already sent a reply stating my refund has been processed and will be posted to my credit card. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ll check every day. I’m keeping all my correspondence in case it doesn’t come through. Norwegian has had a lot of financial difficulties and I’m more than a little worried. We took them last year to Europe and while the price was good, the service was not the best. I swore I wouldn’t fly on them again, yet I get sucked in to another good deal before Covid-19 struck.

Now I just have to wait and see what happens with my EasyJet flight. It might not be cancelled (London – Barcelona) but I did manage to find a refund request form specifically for passengers affected by Covid-19. I hadn’t yet booked our return flight from Madrid.

Vacation Planning in the Pandemic

I was very fortunate to travel to Italy last September.  In a nutshell: my husband and I flew into Milan, took a quick side trip to Lake Como, then continued down to Florence for a few days, hopped on another train to Naples, transferred to the Circumvesuviana train to Pompei and Sorrento, and ended our trip in a wonderful 400 year-old apartment (updated of course, but still with original wooden ceiling beams) in Rome. So many wonderful experiences. We couldn’t wait to get back to Europe, with the planned destination being Spain (with a sidetrip to Morocco).

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Outside our apartment in Rome

Then Covid-19 happened.

Even my spring birthday getaway to Arizona got cancelled. Fortunately, however, I had made campground reservations for this summer. Campgrounds book up quickly for the weekends and typically you need to do it 6 months in advance. Fortunately, we’re allowed to go camping here in Colorado and judging by the line at REI the other week, a lot of people are opting for this.

We’ll be camping near Twin Lakes just south of Leadville. The campground is at 9,500 feet – I think that’s the highest elevation I’ve ever camped at. Leadville itself is the highest incorporated city in North America (10,152 feet).

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Lakeview Campground, near Twin Lakes and Leadville

As it so happens, my oldest brother will be passing through on the Colorado Trail (part of the Continental Divide Trail) that same weekend. It’ll be nice to meet up with him.

His hike also presented us with another opportunity to do another Colorado staycation. The CT terminates in Durango, about 6 hours from Denver. Since I volunteered to pick him up, naturally I decided to  turn it into a mini getaway. We’ll sightsee  on some of the scenic mountain highways and visit the former mining town of Silverton. We’ll also stay a night in Pagosa Springs. Their hot springs resort has been on my bucket list for years.

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The Springs Resort at Pagosa Springs – check this one off the bucket list!Silverton-Valley-COSilverton, Colorado

Once September comes (when we had planned to go to Spain) it would take nothing short of a miracle to make it to Europe. We still have our tickets as Norwegian Airlines has not officially cancelled our flight to London Gatwick. But we’re expecting that to happen. So in the meantime we’re talking about some things we can do here in the US. One is to rent an RV and do a road trip to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It’s a 2-day drive. I’m not sure if I could stand my husband’s driving. But it might be fun as we could bring our pug. He’s almost 12, getting up there in years, and he’s never been on a road trip. We’ll see.

In the meantime I hope you all manage to do something fun and still STAY SAFE!