Years ago we were founding members of the McHenry County Corkers, an amateur wine-making club. Over time some members came and went for various reasons, but a core group has hung together. These people are some of our closest friends. But people are going different directions. We are wandering vagabonds, another couple is moving full-time to Florida while a second couple is splitting their time between Florida and the Chicago. Others are no longer making wine. In short, it is time to celebrate the club and hold our last official meeting.
Donna and David volunteer to host the meeting at their home. William and I judiciously choose to Uber to the event and arrive with half the group already started. Shortly all eleven who are able to attend are enjoying a glass and chatting away. David and Jim are our official grill masters and the green egg is fired up. The awesome steak meal is a capstone for the group. At the end of the evening we know that the club is disbanding, but the friendships never will.
Our son Paul has been working primarily from home since February when he was told not to come into the office because he had been in Japan, and they had some of the early cases of Covid-19. By the time he completed his 14 day self-quarantine his company was already making plans for employees to work from home (or anywhere outside of the office with a good internet connection and decent workspace).
Paul reserves a couple of weeks at an Airbnb in Racine for his work from home location and his wife Kara joins him a few days into the stay. This gives us a wonderful opportunity to see both of them. On their first weekend in town Gina and Jerry host a family party by the pool. William’s Mom joins in, but declines a dip in the pool. One afternoon William, Gina and I take Kara on a tour of places we experienced in our childhood and early adulthood. We’re not sure if Paul is happy or sad that he has to work and therefore misses the experience. One evening over dinner Paul and Kara inform William and I that we will become grandparents in January!! We are very excited.
One Friday we are able to meet up with my brother Dan, his wife Martha, and some of their family - including our new great-nephew Emmett who is seven weeks old. It’s a fun dinner during which Emmett is well-behaved (well...for an infant.). :-)
We also see some of our friends. William and I meet up with Lois for lunch several times and Lois and I sneak in 9 holes of golf one day. We also have opportunity to have dinner with our dear friend Gretchen, once at her home and once in “our” apartment. Both are delightful evenings. It’s a hot evening the night at the apartment so we dine al fresco in the backyard around a card table.
We spend a week in Mesa, helping Anne’s Mom get ready for her trip and then onto a plane to Bismarck, ND where she’ll spend time with her sister. On Saturday we have a delightful evening at Randy and Sally’s which includes dinner and a trivia game with friends via Zoom. Sunday William and I spend most of the day performing the tasks to close up the house for a few months then grab a Lyft ride to a hotel near the airport.
Our experience traveling in this Covid-era is frustrating. In normal times the hotel has a shuttle which travels to the airport and nearby restaurants. It is not running due to Covid-19 measures. The closest restaurant is 1.5 miles away and it is 105 F - not a reasonable walk. I load up the Door Dash app on my phone and we try it out for the first time. It turns out to be a good experience - we have some good Indian butter chicken and garlic naan then put in a second order for cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory. Thank goodness we get a $60 annual credit on Grub Hub orders from our Chase Sapphire Reserve card!
Although the website for the hotel said they were providing a grab-and-go breakfast instead of their usual breakfast buffet, that isn’t the case in Arizona. Sigh - we’ll grab something at the airport. The Lyft driver for the 3.5 mile ride to Sky Harbor Airport takes over 30 minutes to arrive. He explains that the number of drivers is way down because drivers make more from unemployment and the $600 per week Federal unemployment supplement than driving.
We put on masks as we enter the airport. Disappointingly, we find only two restaurants open in the terminal, and each is offering only two or three items from their standard menus. Mostly breakfast sandwiches. The food is delivered on disposal plates or in boxes and coffee is in paper cups. The restaurants do not allow seating - apparently we are expected to take our meal to the gate seating areas and balance them on our laps. It feels worse than a step back to the airport dining experiences of the 1970’s. We remove our masks while we eat and like most people leave them off until closer to boarding.
The Southwest Airlines gate attendant pre-warns everyone that no beverages or food will be served on the flight due to Covid-19. We are encouraged to purchase items in the terminal. As boarding begins we are reminded that masks are required for the flight. We are reminded once again in the pre-flight announcement from the flight attendant that masks are required throughout the entire flight. After we land William adjusts his mask and poses for a photo prior to our deboarding. The mask/no mask issue has become so scientifically muddied and p o l i t i c a l !
Gina and William’s mom pick us up at the airport in Milwaukee and we drive to Racine where our home for the next month is in our nephew Jerry’s duplex. We’re happy that his renters moved out and he’s provided us with the opportunity to rent for a month.
Sunday night we have dinner with James at José Muldoon’s, a downtown Mexican eatery. We have fun then say our sad goodbyes - it has been wonderful to spend so much time together.
We leave the Airbnb at 6 am Monday. It’s only been three weeks, but it feels a little like we are leaving home. Google Maps tells us that if we drive straight through to Mesa, Arizona it will take 12 hours and 10 minutes. But we will make a few short stops and hopefully a longer visit to the Petrified Forest National Park.
Our first stop as we drive south on Interstate 25 is the Dunkin Donuts in Pueblo for some caffeine and a jolt of sugar. With Covid-19 restrictions we aren’t allowed to eat in the restaurant so we inhale our donuts in the parking lot and save the caffeine for the ride.
The scenery changes as we drive south. Around Trinidad, Colorado the landscape is filled with pines. South of Raton, New Mexico and Wagon Mound, New Mexico the landscape reminds us of the Patagonian Steppe around El Calafate, Argentina. The high desert is even dotted with elk or possibly deer which from a distance remind us of the guanaco we saw in Argentina.
At 2 pm Arizona time we arrive at Petrified Forest National Park, just off of I40. I am happily surprised to find that the Visitor Center has reopened. After receiving an overview of the park from a ranger we pull up to the Entrance Station, pay for our pass and begin the 51 mile road that winds through the park from north to south.
The first section provides short trails, lookouts and phenomenal views of the Painted Desert. It seems that we only drive a mile or two before we want to stop and take in a different desert scene. The wind is wickedly blowing at a gale force. On one of the lookout points William is afraid I’ll be blown off the edge, but we brave the weather.
The old Route 66 used to run through the park, now I40 divides it. The remains of a 1932 Studebaker mark the location of the old road, as do the old telephone poles which form a line in the reclaimed desert. William’s parents drove Route 66 from Chicago to Las Angeles (and back) for their honeymoon in 1954. They borrowed a car from a relative for the trip - we’re pretty sure it wasn’t a Studebaker.
South of I40 we enter the petrified forest. First we take a small hike to see the puebloan homes and petroglyphs then back in the car take a small loop to see the Blue Mesa.
The petrified remnants of trees become abundant and we make stops at the Agate Bridge, Jasper Forest and Crystal Forest.
As we exit the South Gate to find Arizona 180 we realize we spent two and one-half hours in the park but could have spent a full day, possibly two, hiking and taking photographs. Perhaps we’ll return on a day when we do not already have a 12 hour drive.
We continue our drive to Mesa, making our way through the Apache-Sitgreaves and Tonto National Forests. As we descend in altitude the sun is low in the sky. We arrive at our destination in Mesa an hour after the sun has set.
When we are not together on our phone calls with James he often comments on shenanigans. These activities cause him to be of high-spirit and are always interesting. Some of his latest shenanigans are related to the garden he is developing in the backyard.
Last Fall he built planters from scrap wood and pallets. During the Winter he collected free wood chips from the city and built up a bed of chips over the sandy soil of Colorado Springs. The Spring found him driving in his Mazda 3 with buckets to an alpaca farm for free (aged) manure.
Today we have opportunity to see the results of such shenanigans. James has lettuce, baby spinach,radishes, broccoli rabe, and tomatoes popping up in the planters and auxiliary buckets.
Hi. I'm Anne. I wander around the world with William.
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