Up and down weekend

I’ll start off with the good news! My oldest son rode his bike up Mt. Evans! That is one of the two 14,000 foot peaks in Colorado that have a road to the top, the other being Pikes Peak. Now, of course, he didn’t start at sea level, but his elevation gain was just over 7,000 feet and total round trip mileage was 58 miles. The elevation of Mt. Evans itself is 14,271 feet (4348 meters). This summer the road to the top is closed to cars due to Covid-19, so it did make it an ideal time (if there is such a thing!) to do it.

Doing this bike ride would be an accomplishment for anyone, but for my son, it is especially amazing. He has been a Type 1 diabetic for nearly 20 years. While he was young it was hard for him to compete in sports due to managing his blood sugars. But since he started wearing Dexcom’s Continual Glucose Monitor (CGM) five or so years ago, he has started to become more active. He now can look at his phone and know exactly what his numbers are without doing a finger prick. It’s truly an awesome medical device.

at the top of Mt. Evans 14,271 feet

Now about the downside of my weekend. I cut my finger on Saturday and required five stitches. I was cutting a watermelon and the knife got stuck. I yanked it out and it hit my finger. This is the second time I have cut my finger during the pandemic. The first time was on the tip of my pinkie while cutting an apple with a serrated knife. While not as deep it was a really tough one to bandage. I thought about going to the ER but I was a bit concerned as it was early on in the pandemic and we were in lock down. Fortunately, this second cut was easy to stitch, but it was sure painful when the doctor gave the lidocaine shots to numb my finger. I have put a picture below but don’t scroll down if you get queasy. I’m happy to say I haven’t had any throbbing at night, but I have to be careful still as it hurts if I knock it in to anything.

Ouch!

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.

Moving day and getting ready for camping

Today my youngest son (22 years old) is moving back home. But don’t think badly of him. He graduated Cum Laude in Computer Science from University of Colorado in May and has been continuing to work on a research project with a prof there. Most leases in Boulder run from August to the end of July, so he was enjoying a few months of down time before moving back home. I’m looking forward to it. Not sure if he is. But he is a very goal oriented person and plans to apply to grad school so he can move out next summer. In the meantime, we have a pet sitter!

That’s a good thing, as we’re taking off tomorrow for a 3-day camping trip. All very coincidentally,  we will happen to meet up with my brother who is hiking the Colorado Trail. He’s 2 weeks in. I’ll be bring him more JetBoil Fuel which is in short supply this summer as the CT has increased traffic this year.

He requested his favorite hot dogs with sauerkraut, potato salad, and baked beans. While I won’t be making my mom’s recipe, I’m sure he’ll be happy. with Bush’s Baked Beans. I also found pre-mixed Bloody Mary’s for the next morning. He’s taking a zero day (no hiking) but perhaps we’ll go to Leadville which has quite a few geocaches. It’s the highest town in North America and just half an hour away.

In the meantime, I pray for everyone to make to make good choices. Wear a mask, don’t go to crowded events, and don’t be a whiny baby. Yes, many of us would rather be on a plane traveling to our vacation destination, but one summer of sacrifice is not asking a lot. My friend’s daughter is starting college next month. As much as I ‘d love to meet up with my friend for lunch, I’ve decided that’s not going to happen. It’s not worth the risk. We all need to make sacrifices to contain Covid-19.

I am getting my EasyJet refund!

Back in June I got notification from Norwegian Airlines that my round trip flight to London from Denver in the fall had been canceled. While they were encouraging people to apply for credits for future travel, I opted for a refund (it was buried in the e-mail at the bottom). They refunded me within a week.

Once I got notification about my flight cancellation with Norwegian, I immediately started working on getting a refund on an EasyJet flight I had booked for Barcelona to London. This proved to be a difficult task but after a lot of searching I found they had a Covid-19 Help Hub. Like Norwegian, they were pushing vouchers and discouraging refunds. But with some digging I found a refund request form. I filled it out and waited. After two weeks I had no response, so I filled out another one. Still no response. I knew calling EasyJet would be a difficult task. I had done that once in the past and it meant getting up super early as it wasn’t a 24-7 operation. So I decided to contact my credit card company. They told me they would give a conditional credit, but it was not guaranteed since it was a non-refundable flight. I pointed out that there was no way I could use this ticket (yes, this route is still being flown) and given the circumstances I felt it was a legitimate request due to pandemic.

Two days ago I finally got an e-mail from EasyJet saying they were processing my refund. I don’t know if this was because of my refund request or because of the action taken by my credit card company.

I have heard that other airlines such as British Airways are using shady tactics just like EasyJet to make it difficult to obtain a refund for American citizens, instead offering vouchers. Don’t give up! Since I first applied for my refund with EasyJet I noticed that they have changed the form and no longer have it up in the help hub. However, you might try this contact form.  Explain to them that as a US citizen you can no longer fly to Europe and request a refund. I believe they took the refund request form down because they probably got hit with a ton of requests and want to discourage people from asking for them. Don’t let that deter you.

On the trail again

Last Thursday, July 16, my oldest brother started hiking the 485 mile Colorado Trail. It’s part of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), but not many people hike the entire CDT in one shot. It’s considered the most difficult of the 3 thru hikes in the US, which also include the Pacific Crest (PCT) and the Appalachian Trail (AT).

My brother did the PCT when he was 19 and 40 years later he did the AT. He had planned to hike the PCT again this year but then Covid-19 hit. (Hikers need to resupply and clean up at small towns along the route, and with the virus, many were closed down to hikers) So he decided on the CT instead. Colorado towns are open now so he’s keeping his fingers crossed than our numbers stay down and we don’t have any more closures. It should take him about 6 weeks. Younger hikers can easily hike it 4 weeks, but my brother is now north of 60.

He flew into Denver on Wednesday and we took him to the Waterton Canyon trailhead southwest of Denver on Thursday morning. He’s starting slow – 10ish miles a day – until he gets used to the altitude. We’ll see him in 2 weeks when we go camping at Twin Lakes. I had planned that camping trip back in January before I knew he was hiking. When he told me he was doing the CT, I remembered that the trail passed right by our campground. So we’ll bring him a resupply box and treat him to a beer and burger in Twin Lakes Village.

I’m following his progress on Garmin GPS upload. In Colorado cell service is pretty poor in the mountains so this is an essential tool for hikers. So far he appears to be on schedule.

Here are some pics from the sendoff:

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!

Reopening: how’s it going for you?

My county in Colorado started a gradual reopening on May 8. That’s when hair and nail salons were allowed to reopen. Since then restaurants have opened but they are encouraging patio dining whenever possible, with inside capacity set at 50%. No worries for us. We’ve fallen into a take-out routine as we enjoy dining on our patio. My husband will be working from home until the end of July. I’m used to him being at home now. He was working from home about 50% of the time anyhow so it wasn’t a big adjustment.

So far so good in Colorado. We’re all holding our breath and praying that the protests don’t result in a spike again. The number of new cases yesterday was only 157.

Here in Boulder County mask usage in stores is mandatory. Outdoors is optional but suggested if you cannot maintain 6 feet of distance. They did close down one park by a creek that is popular for tubing because people were too close. But so far I think people are being cautious and smart about reopening.

Here are my experiences with reopenings so far.

Hair Salon – Grade: C

I had an appointment 4 weeks ago. My stylist (owner) and the other four woman who work there were all busy working, in some cases within just a few feet of each other. They all had masks except for my stylist. She had a cheap plastic face shield – no where as good as a hospital shield. She claimed she sanitized the station before I came in but it didn’t look like it. There was hair on the floor and it just felt unclean. With 5 clients and 5 stylists in a relatively small salon, I felt uncomfortable. People had to wait outside, which was good. But she had not informed clients so people kept on walking in and sitting down. I heard later that she should not have used a dryer but she did. The good news is I am still healthy.

Nail Salon – Grade: A

I was very impressed. They had installed shields everywhere. They are also not using stations next to each other to ensure social distancing. The technicians wore masks (not uncommon in nail salons anyhow). Just felt super clean.