Adventures, Covid and Staying Safe

I should be packing my bags right now. I was supposed to fly to Denver Thursday and meet a friend before taking a solo road trip home.

Covid cancelled that.

So I decided to take a shorter road trip to some place I’ve been wanting to go. Charlottesville, Virginia has rich history. Ashtabula, Ohio has covered bridges and a drive along the lake to find lighthouses sounded fun. I thought about Harper’s Ferry or Gettysburg.

But none of these options excited me when I considered how many sites are closed and that I would need to wear a mask on outdoor guided tours of historic sites in the July heat.

My indecisiveness and the logistics were starting to stress me out. Long story short- Covid has cancelled this too.

Instead, I’ll hold onto my vacation for another time and will settle for a long weekend for now.

Friends have been asking about my approach to safe adventuring in the time of Covid. I’m not thrilled to spend a lot of money traveling far to stay in hotels and mask up at Monticello. However, I do enjoy day trips and local adventures to get me out of the house and keep me somewhat engaged with the outside world.

Here’s a rundown of what I do:

Local state parks have been a true blessing. Before allergies ran me out of the woods for a few weeks, I was hiking regularly. Fresh air and a good stretch of the legs felt amazing after being cooped up all winter.

Photography has provided a great excuse to go for a drive. Sometimes I visit local places that are familiar but my favorite thing is to travel a new road. I like photographing old barns, churches, streetscapes and anything else that draws my eye. It’s fun to travel with a map and camera on the seat next to you and good tunes blaring from the radio.

Social distancing is easy when it’s just you puttering around on a quiet hiking trail or in the car.

I have also ventured to a handful of small businesses. For example, I took my first horseback ride at Uncle Bucks Riding Stable this spring. The average horse is six feet long so it’s perfect for social distancing. I’ve been in a few local antique malls as well. With the economy sputtering and small businesses struggling, it is important to me that I support small businesses when possible.

I don’t go anywhere that’s crowded and work to protect my personal space wherever I am. Of course, I’ve always done that and am kind of enjoying the new six foot rule.

There are some logistical issues if you’re going to be gone for a while. You can either adventure for as long as your bladder will allow and go home – or you have to find a restroom. There isn’t an abundance of restroom options in small towns or on back roads. Fast food restaurants have been closed and there aren’t many rest areas off the highways.

My approach has been to find either a Walmart because the restrooms are close to the door or, if I’m in a town with options, nicer stores like TJ Maxx usually have clean restrooms.

I mask up, carry hand sanitizer in my pocket and dash in and out somewhat quickly.

Another practical matter is food. Depending on my mood and devotion to eating healthy, I either pack a lunch or opt for something quick. Vegetarian and vegan options are limited but Taco Bell will make its entire menu vegetarian just for you, BK offers the Impossible Whopper, and if you feel like venturing into a store, some grocery stores like Meijer have fabulous salads and fruit options. Most local dairy bars have walk up windows where you can order a tasty shake and grilled cheese. A lot of mom and pop restaurants will take phone orders and some will offer curbside pick up.

There’s often a city park around for a picnic. If nothing else, I find a corner of a parking lot and people watch while enjoying lunch.

Gas pumps always seem filthy (especially now) so I either touch them with a paper towel or sanitize when I’m done.

I have a short list of things that I always take with me and have added a few items since Covid found us.

– Maps – I always take my atlas and any county maps that might prove useful. You never know when you’ll be in a place without cell service and will need help navigating.

– Extra shoes and socks – Uncomfortable feet are irritating and I’ve found myself with wet feet after a ramble through a dew covered churchyard more times than you would believe.

– Pen and paper- I jot down things along the way including topics to research, unusual road names and places to check out another time. Any belief that I’ll remember this stuff on my own is a pipe dream.

– Practical stuff – I always take my camera with an extra battery, phone charger, cash and cards, paper towels, a garbage bag, a couple of plastic grocery bags, an apple, and an insulated water bottle. You never know when you’ll have muddy shoes to clean or stash and those plastic bags come in handy. I’m really bad about finding plants and dirty old antiques that I don’t want touching my nice upholstery but a garbage bag covers the seat nicely.

Since Covid. I’ve added to the list a gallon jug of water, some masks and plenty of hand sanitizer.

So there you go – my guide to staying safe while adventuring during a pandemic is pretty simple. Keep your distance, stay clean, be smart but don’t be afraid. Living in fear isn’t healthy. We all need fresh air and an occasional change of scenery, even if it is just a drive around the neighborhood to get an ice cream cone.

What adventures have you enjoyed recently?

What I Learned From The Pandemic

It’s June. Our world here in Ohio (and the rest of the country) has been screwy since March. Some of us have picked up new hobbies, found new passions and maybe even have begun to self reflect. Here’s what I have learned from the pandemic:

1. I do well on my own. Years of experience as an only child have served me well because I’ve had no trouble living alone and not seeing others. Who knew this life skill would come in so handy?

2. Dressing nicely is something I miss. Jury duty recently offered me a court ordered excuse to put on a dress and leave the house. Fellow jurors complained but I was excited to wear something other than shorts and a t-shirt.

3. The ability to move about freely is something we take for granted. Lots of cancelled plans and other inconveniences are disappointing but the real frustration is being unable to just move about freely. I used to hit the road on Saturday mornings for fun, roaming freely in a variety of directions. During the shut down there was nowhere to go and nothing to do. I’ll never take for granted my Saturday meanderings again.

4. I am fortunate and privileged. With no kids to educate or spouse in the way, I’m free to manage my time as is best for me. I’m employed and staying busy with plenty of interests to keep me occupied. My life is good compared to many others.

5. Constant dependence on the store can be minimized. Back in March, when it was clear that things were about to turn serious, I stocked up on all sorts of things – cat food and litter, toiletries, pantry items, frozen foods, trash bags, and anything else I could think of that would keep. By doing this and by managing fresh produce wisely, it became possible to hit the store every couple of weeks. While there, I would replenish supplies used from the pantry and pick up produce, thus keeping myself in a constant state of stocked up. It has saved me a lot of money not running to the store whenever I need a few things.

6. On a lighter note, I learned that the pickles pictured above are positively addictive. I don’t know what they put in these things but they’re amazing!

What have you learned from the pandemic? I would love to hear your stories!

Time For Some Changes

When this blog began almost two years ago, it was partly an answer to calls from friends who wanted to know about my adventures. It was partly a distraction from a major life change. It was partly an outlet for sharing words and pictures that matter to me.

In the beginning it was mostly about my travels both far from home and in my own backyard. The blog has evolved some. I still tell those stories but occasionally share about other things happening in my world – food, books, Scout, and the random things that turn my head.

Daffodil 2020It’s time for things to shift again, at least for a while. As I type, I’m staring at my hands which are dry and sometimes bloody from the near compulsive hand washing that has become socially acceptable. The sun is shining and it’s a beautiful day for adventure but there’s nowhere to be. It’s too windy to go outside so when I get up from this desk, it will be to go to another room to perhaps read a book or organize something or maybe just take a nap.

I’m not complaining because I’m safe at home. I’m not a victim of this pandemic but a lucky human who is healthy, who has a safe place to live, and plenty to eat. There are a ton of things to do in this house and one day life will go back to normal.

Meanwhile, plans are on hold or perhaps just cancelled. Book talks and concerts have been postponed. My list of museums, restaurants and junk shops to visit keeps getting longer. I’m looking at small businesses in my community – a riding stable that does guided trail rides, an antique store, and a host of others that I worry for because times are always tough for a small business without having all their customers quarantined. How much can I afford to support these businesses when this is all over?

Plans for my epic summer vacation are now on hold to the degree that I gathered up all the brochures and maps and stuffed them in a drawer. It’s almost too much to hope that I’ll be able to go.

Obviously, I have no new adventures to tell you about right now.

Part of me wants to just live in this quiet world I wake up in every day. And it is quiet. It’s made up mostly of books, music and birdsong. I’m currently working from home so that keeps me busy. Scout entertains me too but there are days I don’t even turn on the tv except to hear the governor give his daily briefing. While others are going stir crazy, trapped in prisons of their own making, I’m perfectly fine. Disappointed about lost adventures, but fine because I know there are better days ahead.

So I’m going to shift things again, just a bit, and hopefully for not too long. When this is all over, I want all of us to be prepared to do something important. For those who can, I want us to go out into the world, boldly and without apology, to do all the things we cannot do today and to support the small businesses that need us more than ever.

Shop. Eat in a restaurant. Stroll through a museum. Fly. Stay in a hotel. Take that guided trail ride. Sit in a crowd of like minded people and listen to beautiful music. There’s so much to see and do. We need to go out and be part of it.

So I’m going to start talking about the places I want to go when this over and then I can tell you more about them after I visit. Someday.

There’s also probably going to be more stuff about what I’m reading, maybe some about music, and a little about what’s going on here in my very small corner of the world. Perhaps by looking more closely at my everyday life I can start to appreciate it more.

Life will return to normal someday and we need to be prepared for that inevitability. We also need to embrace the world we wake up in now because there’s no point in wishing our lives away by waiting for tomorrow.

It’s sort of a tight rope to walk.

Who’s with me? Comment and tell me how you’re coping and what you’re looking forward to doing when this is all over.

Adjusting Expectations

Today’s theme is adjusting expectations.

Since the first of the year, I have been living very quietly and enjoying this time of a No Spend Challenge which has allowed for more self care, planning, reading and lots of other activities at home. I’ve been saving money for this year’s adventures too.

Lunchtime walks, upcoming events and the promise of travel have given me something to look forward to. Plans include one of my favorite old(er) movies on the big screen, a weekend trip away, an author talk, and a concert.

And then this little global pandemic hit, containing me to home at least for a while longer. While the last couple of months have been centered on voluntary self seclusion, I’m not thrilled about the involuntary kind.

In fact, I’m downright irritated that my adventure season isn’t starting this week as planned and am already concerned that my summer trip won’t happen either.

That’s why it is time to adjust expectations.

Here in Ohio, the governor has closed schools and banned gatherings of a hundred or more. Limitations have been placed on restaurants too. Churches are cancelled or holding services online. Communities like mine are scrambling to provide lunches to low income kids, and many working parents have no clue what they’ll do with their kids for the next few weeks. Lines are long in stores and people are clearing shelves of everything from toilet paper and medicines to ramen noodles and pizza rolls.

The messaging surrounding this virus has been unclear. We’ve been told to wash our hands and to be smart about germs while we’re watching Italy and China shut down entire cities. No one knows what the future holds but, from what I’m seeing, there’s potential for a lot of bad to find it’s way to this country before it gets better.

From what I’ve seen of my Facebook friends, people seem to be continuing life as usual when it comes to recreation and fun. We’ve closed schools but parents continue to drag their kids to the store, to the movies, out to eat, and basically anywhere else they wish to go because they don’t want to be stuck at home.

When I started my January No Spend Month, I jotted down a list of things to that didn’t involve spending money and most of them were things I could do at home. For me, that list included household projects like organizing kitchen cabinets and weeding my clothes closet. I had a list of recipes to try and a list of fun things too! Taking my camera for a walk, puzzles, movies, books, playing the piano, and long bubble baths are just a few things on that list.

This is a great time to spring clean and to freshen up your house by rearranging things you already own. If you have kids, give them art supplies and ask them to make cards for residents of nursing homes and hospitals who aren’t getting any visitors right now. That should entertain them for a few minutes anyway!

And remember, you’re still able to go outside. I’m making a mental list of work that needs to be done in my yard and there’s a shed that needs cleaned out and torn down.

Yesterday, I experimented in the kitchen, making up my own potato soup recipe, tried making tomato jam, roasted broccoli, chopped up some salad veggies and made a few biscuits. I read, did some laundry, began researching cruelty free companies (this has been in the list for a while), strategized for the week, and watched a little tv.

Exciting? Hardly. But I was busy, productive and completely disconnected from the mass hysteria that has caused so many people to lose their minds. 

It was a good day.

So I am going to dig in and devote this time to getting some stuff done and getting back to basics. If nothing else, I’ll be well read and rested by the time this madness is over.

I have an inner old lady who survived the Great Depression who believes in the Depression era mantra – “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” She sits in the back of mind every day but I’m hoping that I don’t need her services more than I already use her.

Look at the bright side – we may find some wonderful new hobbies, authors, recipes, family traditions and habits! Meanwhile, stay calm, avoid people when you can, and wash your hands. This too shall pass.

And one more thing – our communities are filled with people who are older, who have mobility issues or who have weakened immune systems. If you’re healthy and able and going to be out anyway, offer to run some errands for them. They might really appreciate the helping hand!

Have a good day, friends. It’s all going to be ok.