A road trip during the time of COVID

July 18th, 2020

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The road to Idaho’s Little Camas Reservoir; June 20, 2020

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…..I recently went on a two week road trip.

…..A few months ago such a casual bit of news would have aroused only the slightest interest.  Select friends would display a polite enthusiasm, a question or two about the destination or accommodations would be raised, and perhaps a handful of pictures would even be endured.

…..However, in the age of COVID, where the world is shut out while we shut in, news of a road trip is greeted with a degree of surprise and a hopeful interest not ordinarily seen.

…..“You went…out?  You lucky son-of-a-bitch!  What was it like?  How did you eat?  Where did you go to the bathroom?  Were people wearing face masks???”

…..Such is where we are now, where an otherwise ordinary road trip is a subject of genuine curiosity, of awe and envy, and the traveler is treated as a courageous, conquering hero.

…..Like many of us approaching true elder status, I have basically shuttered myself in my basement since March, only emerging to walk the dog in our leafy neighborhood, sit in the nearby park, grill dinner on the barbecue, and occasionally greet those wonderful souls delivering life’s essentials.  Such a routine can result in a general lack of energy, what a friend refers to as  “COVID Brain,” which he defines as ”a deprivation of social and environmental nutrients.”  My hunch is that most of us can check that box.

…..Adding to this affliction, of late I have too often found myself brooding over America’s ineptitude in dealing with COVID and the twin plagues of systemic racism and sexism.  (With very little argument, our parents’ generation was proclaimed the “Greatest.” I have hardly a doubt that historians won’t see ours in quite the same light).  In between this brooding I seek hope in the future for our kids, wish that employment opportunities return before homelessness captures scores of innocent families, and imagine the day when people can once again safely congregate – perhaps to even board airplanes for some faraway adventure.

…..Meanwhile, since adventure is currently scant, I leaped at the chance to join a friend who asked me to travel with him in his camper van to North Dakota, where he has business interests.  After carefully determining that the states we would be traveling through had (at the time) only a handful  of COVID cases, and once we had each tested negative for COVID, we embarked on a journey that included many glorious back roads of Oregon (where we live),  Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, and eventually North Dakota — places where Netflix is not required because the sky and the light and the birds are the show.

…..We camped, we hiked, we talked, we imbibed.  We watched in gratitude while two young strangers changed our flat tire (in the middle of nowhere), drove to the top of Yellowstone and back down again, and even endured an intense tornado warning.  And, within the snug confines of the van, we listened to jazz, blues, gospel, and rock and roll, all the while taking in the infinite grandeur of the West.

…..It felt wonderfully normal.  Inspirational.  And yes…Hopeful.

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…..Things that I am working on, soon to be published…A collection entitled ”Poetry reflecting the era of COVID, Black Lives Matter, and a heated political season – Vol. 2”.  To read Vol. 1, click here…Also, a  summer collection of poetry is upcoming, scheduled for mid-August (you can read the spring collection here).

…..I will soon be interviewing Nicholas Buccola, author of The Fire is Upon Us:  James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., and the Debate Over Race in America (which accompanied me on my trip, and is an absolutely essential and timely read).

…..In anticipation of an upcoming interview with the author, I have also begun reading Will Friedwald’s Straighten Up and Fly Right:  The Life and Music of Nat King Cole.  I am also cooking up some ideas that involve a look at the life of pianist Errol Garner.

…..Meanwhile, stay safe and healthy…and be hopeful.

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….Now, about those handful of pictures to be endured…A few shots from my travels:

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Unity, Oregon

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Shaniko, Oregon

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Vale, Oregon

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The Little Camas Reservoir, near Mountain Home, Idaho

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Irwin, Idaho

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Grand Teton National Park

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The Yellowstone River, Wyoming

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Highway 12, near Martinsdale, Montana

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Watford City, North Dakota

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Watford City, North Dakota

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Capping off the trip in Lolo, Montana, with a taste of lemoncello, a Father’s Day gift

 

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Listen to a 1966 recording of “Road Song,” by Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery

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2 comments on “A road trip during the time of COVID”

  1. en·vi·ous
    /ˈenvēəs/adjective
    adjective: envious
    feeling or showing envy.
    A terrific essay; a terrific adventure; and, yes, I am envious of the adventure, but also happy that you made it through unscathed.

  2. Hey, great post on the travel scenario amid this pandemic. Safety is the main concern these days. I am also planning a road trip to Idaho with my Jeep Wrangler.

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