A year of traveling while facing a coronavirus pandemic: September - December, 2020

Caroline stretching after a bike ride to Great Falls Park, Maryland.

Before we left Utah to travel back to the District of Columbia for Thanksgiving, we continued to enjoy the fall weather. Except, of course, the rain that lasted ALL DAY during the Logan Marathon. Like a lot of racing events, the finisher medals in 2020 reflected the novel coronavirus pandemic. Note the mask on the moose head on this medal!

My training partner, Wesley, was still in DC, so he ran a solo marathon the day after my race (his first). Below, he takes his first step on his 26.2 mile journey, mostly run in Rock Creek Park to the Maryland border and back. Katelin presented him with a finisher medal, and then she drove him to a country brewery for some relaxation time. Congratulations, Wes!

Then our last race of the year was the annual Halloween Run in Logan, with our neighbors. We all performed well!

From left, neighbors Jana, Caroline, me, Andrea, Onya, and Brent showing our place ribbons.

In October, before the presidential election, the "covid-19 wars" were in full bloom.  Masks were a symbol of government overreach or tyranny, or else a solution to a pandemic. Then...

Obviously, the pandemic was real. But in the fall, with cold weather settling in and universities opening, the cases were increasing. The presidential election was a referendum on the battle against this novel coronavirus. Indeed, elections all over the world were affected by this pandemic. Just after the election, the grim milestone of deaths exceeded 234,000 in the US alone.

My friend and colleague, Rex Baker, died of Covid-19 on November 27th. He was the first person I knew to succumb to this disease.

We traveled back to DC to be with family for Thanksgiving. We had some great bike rides with our new friend Becky, who was the perfect guide on the urban trails.

We cycled to Great Falls Park, MD.

Caroline, Becky, and Wesley, on our way to Vienna, VA

One bike ride was a real adventure. First, a flat for Wesley. We noticed that a seam had opened in the tire itself, and after patching the tube, we used the temporary fix of a dollar bill on the inside of the tire. We called ahead, and asked Elan to pick up a new tire and meet us at the Great Falls Tavern in Maryland. But there was a cyclist killed after colliding with a car at the entrance (sad), and the investigation meant the entrance to the park was closed. Caroline and Becky rode up to meet him, but were told if they left the park, they wouldn't be allowed back in. So, Elan parked and ran down a trail, and Caroline ran up. She picked up the tire, and ran, then cycled it to Wesley. Success! But Elan couldn't join us (he had planned to ride back to DC from Great Falls Tavern), so we rode back to the Fletcher's Boathouse parking lot, switched riders, and... bam! The chain on his bike broke! Wesley and Becky rode home, and we crammed in the 4Runner and... bought ice cream!  Again, success (except for Wesley and Becky)!

Caroline stretching at the Jefferson Memorial before a ride to Mt. Vernon, home of George Washington.

The incidence of Covid-19 in DC was deceasing, while the cases in Utah were on the increase. In short, the philosophy of people in DC was "put a mask on when you leave your house or apartment." In Utah, it seemed to be "wear a mask when you have to." Those are different approaches, and it was reflected in the cases. Cache County and Utah, a severe outbreak is happening now. DC, "merely" at risk of an outbreak. Where is the safest place to be?

I'm in the high risk category, and I was mostly troubled with the high positivity rate in Utah. According to the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, "The higher the percent positive is, the more concerning it is. As a rule of thumb, however, one threshold for the percent positive being “too high” is 5%." And Utah is... 19.3%?!

My recommendations for Covid-19 prevention and control (and my family heard me repeating this often) were:

1. Be vigilant and cautious. Ask yourself, are you entering a safe or unsafe situation?
2. Wear a mask as both protection and as a symbol of your concern for your neighbors.
3. Wash hands, use hand sanitizer, and space yourself from others.
4. Be a role model, and support community leaders who are role models.
5. Be tested. Support testing.

As the oldest in our "bubble," I volunteered to be the canary in the coal mine. As I write this, I've been tested for the novel coronavirus 13 times. The first was a saliva test prior to a minor surgical procedure in Utah, required by the hospital. The next 9 were DC tests. Testing centers were available all over the District. My closest one was the Engine 6 fire station, 3 blocks away, with tests offered MWF afternoons, no appointment necessary. I don't know if the interest in these tests was holiday related, but I suspect people were anticipating meeting with friends and family, and the demand for tests was high. For example, if the testing station opened at 2, I would walk over and get in line at 1:30, and I would generally get my test at 2:30.

Katelin and Caroline in line with me. The testing station is at the end of the block.

I've had the saliva test, the shallow nasal swab, and the deep nasal swab. In DC, they use the Covid-19 Antigen test, "intended for the qualitative detection of the nucleocapsid protein antigen from SARS-CoV-2 in nasopharyngeal swab specimens." I had a test about once a week, and in DC you received results generally about 3 days later. I didn't interact that much with other people, but on the occasions you do, your bubble overlaps with their bubble. You take your chances! Plus, there is the trip to the store, touching the features in the playground, and who knows what else you miss. Ironically, and I'll blog about this later, I felt most exposed when... I volunteered at a vaccination clinic in 2021!

What else happened in 2020? Oh, yes.

We stayed in DC until January 5th (yes, the day BEFORE the January 6 insurrection), and flew back to Salt Lake City. There was still a lot of space on our Delta flight (they were not booking the center seats unless people were part of the same booking).

We came back to a leaking shower. Neighbors Brady (above) and Mindy stopped the leak, and got the bathroom ready for a remodel while we were in DC. Thanks, guys!

We spent about half of the year living out of our suitcases. We were cautious but adventurous, wore our masks in line with CDC guidance, quit cruising (easy, since the ships were refused entry all around the world, and there was a no-sail order issued by the CDC in the US). We got to spend a lot of time with family, in Utah and in DC. Caroline learned the ukulele (and Wes and I started to pick it up), we visited the National Zoo with kiddo, and we ate a lot of Elan's great cooking. This will be a year for the books, in many ways. I've barely touched on the sobering issues affecting people and communities, but I wanted to share of bit of my travel adventures for 2020.


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