October 30, 2021
I’m getting ready to take a trip into the sunshine before ski season starts, so decided I’d better get down a few notes about the trip I took in August that I never got around to writing about. We’d planned this journey earlier in the summer, before the Delta variant was rampaging all over, but given that most places are doing better with COVID than Idaho, it didn’t seem like it was that risky. We packed a box of N95s and hit the road. Unlike the road trip Mr. Karen and I took around Idaho in June, where we spent the whole time together, on this one, we left home together, but in two vehicles, caravanning across the country, talking to each other on FRS radios. This was mid-August, the same week as the Sturgis motorcycle rally, so we took the northern route, wanting to avoid all that mess. We still ran into a few souvenirs for the rally and some riders going to or from there in Montana, but since we were eating outside or in our vehicles and masking any time we had to go into a building, it seemed no more risky than being at home in Idaho. We spent our first night on the road in Butte, heading off the next morning toward North Dakota after the monkeys posed with the plane across the street from the hotel.
When we got off the freeway for our stop the next night in Bismarck, North Dakota, Mr. Karen was following me to the hotel. The brakes in his truck chose that stretch of road to fail to work properly. He was able to limp to the hotel, where we researched places we might be able to get it looked at the next day. He got up very early that next morning and went to see what he could arrange while I stayed in the hotel, ready to do more research if needed and watched a polka show on local access cable. Fortunately, he was able to find a place that could fix it, and we were on the road again not too much later than we would have been without this frustration. (It was extra frustrating because the root cause of the problem was some bolts not being tightened down correctly by the folks where we’d taken it to get brake work done before the trip, figuring it was better to get things taken care of then than risk needing to do it on the road.) Once that was behind us, the rest of our drive through North Dakota went smoothly, and we pushed on through Minnesota and Wisconsin, too, stopping for the night in northern Illinois.
We’d really had to make it that far, as weeks before we’d bought tickets to the Cubs game that next day, an afternoon start just like back in the day when all the games were day games. We got up early and headed toward Chicago, allowing what we thought was plenty of time to make it to Wrigley Field. But no, Chicago traffic did what Chicago traffic often does and conspired to slow us down to the point where we walked through the turnstiles after the national anthem was sung, after having found parking for both our vehicles in an alley, giving our money to somebody’s grandpa for the privilege. It wasn’t quite the game we’d hoped, unfortunately. The Cubs had traded Rizzo and Bryant and Baez away before the trade deadline, so we missed seeing them. We did get to see Hendricks pitch, but he didn’t have a great outing, giving up 5 runs in the second inning. After he left the game, the Brewers scored eleven more runs before the Cubs “rallied”. It was fun to see Wisdom and Schwindel homer, though they were solo efforts so there wasn’t any real hope at that point that the Cubs would win and we’d get to sing the Go Cubs Go song. Still, with so many folks leaving early as the score got more and more lopsided, we were able to wander the stands and take in parts of the game from different vantage points. Final was 17-4, Brewers, and the L flag was raised on the scoreboard rather than the W we’d seen the last time we took in a game there. After the game, we picked up a deep dish pizza from Lou Malnati’s and took it to Humboldt Park to eat. Then it was on to Indiana to spend the night.
The morning after the game, Mr. K and I went our separate ways for a while. He stayed in greater Chicagoland to hang out with various friends for a few days before driving east to hang out with other friends in Pennsylvania and environs. I drove to Michigan to attend a weekend craft conference and hang out with friends there, though not as many friends as I would have if there weren’t still a pandemic on. Despite the restrictions, I did enjoy being back in a more diverse area, where it’s possible to do things like get delicious takeout African food and shop in Indian grocery stores (I found that one of those had opened not too far from our old house).
More photos from Michigan (and one from Indiana).
After a week in Michigan, with not a little trepidation, I got on a plane for the first time since the pandemic started in order to have a vacation inside my vacation in the form of a quick weekend trip to Florida to meet up with a friend there. Most people were following masking requirements in the airports and on the planes but it was still stressful. The planes were mostly full and the gate areas weren’t any bigger than pre-pandemic, so distancing was impossible a lot of the time. It was a very odd trip to Florida in that I didn’t go to the beach, nor eat in any restaurants, nor visit any attractions (we did drive by some things but that’s not the same). Still, it was nice to hang out and chat and see palm trees. I would like to go back to Pensacola sometime and actually be a proper tourist.
Back in Michigan, Mr. Karen and I reunited and spent the next several days seeing friends and family (and family’s pets). I went to a movie theater for the first time since the pandemic started on one of those outings. Eating dinner and hanging out in the backyard of some friends reminded me how little I miss the mosquitoes and humidity of a Michigan summer. We did take a risk and eat indoors once, at a favorite middle Eastern restaurant where we were the only customers seated at the off time we were there.
Mr. Karen and I split up again for the last weekend before heading home. He went up north for a guys’ weekend and I went to Chicagoland for not as much socializing as I’d hoped but that’s okay. I did get a really good chorizo burrito at a favorite spot and a bit more Culver’s. My last morning before driving to Wisconsin to meet back up with Mr. K, things got off to a bad start when I got a call from the receptionist at the hotel saying some boys were throwing rocks and one hit my car and could I come down to talk with the family. It was worse than I expected, the whole back window cracked with a trim piece knocked off where the glass had started to fall off in tiny pieces. I got the phone number for the mom of the kid (he was there with other relatives), made contact, then did my best to stay calm while I figured out what this meant for my trip home. No where to get a new window on a Sunday. I walked to a drugstore that was conveniently a block away and got several kinds of clear tape. I walked back, carefully moved the car to a spot in the shade to let the window cool down some, then completely covered it outside and then inside, securing it around the edges as best I could without putting tape in places it might damage the paint. Then I very carefully starting driving towards Wisconsin. The tape held. I didn’t open any windows and didn’t drive over 70 mph just in case.
The drive home was nicely uneventful. My tape repair job stayed in place the whole way home. The highlight was a stop at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, which I just find so interesting to look at and always want to stop at if we go by when it’s light out.
It wasn’t quite the trip I’d hoped for when we planned it. With the COVID resurgence, I couldn’t do all the things I wanted to, and at times I wondered if a shorter trip would have been better. That said there were some good times to be had and we were able to avoid getting sick.