Planes, Trailers, and Automobiles

For those truly following me and my journeys, especially those on the social media channels, there is probably some confusion about photos I’ve posted. Am I actually at Grand Teton National Park or in Redfield, NY? What’s with posting photos of Black Sand Basin in Yellowstone National Park and then food in Central New York?

Where am I? Here’s your answer.

Oh, by the way: What you’re about to read comes from a good place, even my sarcasm and dark humor. These are my viewpoints, my experiences. If any offense is taken, it may stem from jealousy wanting to take such an adventure.

Part 1: My Dilemma

Writing — working up to putting words to paper/screen in the last few months has been tough. Putting my thoughts down is scary because personal points of view, not just opinions, are criticized. I’m fine with criticism. Many can say, Chris, you’re not a good writer, and I’m fine with that opinion. I’ll even agree with you. I’ve also have had the privilege of working with and learning from editors. Constructively, negatively, and even viciously — I’ve endured all the criticisms.

Even attempts to tie in related articles to back my thoughts up — I’m wrong.

There’s been much hesitation on my part. Reluctance is a plague. Call it being my own worst enemy. Call it stress, unhappiness, and perhaps frustration. Does it relate to being overly tired? Perhaps it’s all subconscious. Could it be fear of societal pressures or lack of caring?

Sometimes I feel confused about feeling confused.

What about the times we are in? What is it that drives people to be more subjective, judgy, biting, and even hypocritical? It’s easy to blame media-induced fear and political nastiness. My wife and I were criticized for having our wedding. However, some of these naysayers attended other weddings — masks or no masks. People expressed fear about being around people they don’t know, and yet they went still camping, went to public pools, stayed in hotels, and still shopped at grocery stores.

I’m not pointing fingers. This has been seen. This is life.

This portion of the story begins in May and the weekend of Katey’s Ohio shower. When living in a year of a pandemic, planning and appropriately spacing things out become critical. Having to pump the breaks with some aspects and rework others was and is inevitable. Break once large gatherings into multiple events to safely accommodate showers, bachelorette/bachelor parties, etc.

Weddings, however, no one can divide that up. There’s only supposed to be one of those.

It was a decision by us, Katey and I, to update our wedding website to inform attendees about what’s going on, how we’re adhering to the guidelines, to talk about efficiency of the venue and caterers, and why we’re still going through with it. Information from New York and Ohio’s health departments were included and linked; however, this was wrong.

In retrospect, perhaps including information from Texas’ or South Dakota’s Departments of Health would have been a better option.

The sun sets in Spokane

Part II: Blame Me

I decided to go on a trip — certainly an adventure. It allowed time to get to know a brother-in-law better plus give him someone to travel with. Katey had to work but she encouraged me to go. You need this, she said.

I did.

I was discouraged and encouraged by others. My decision was frowned upon, presumably, by outside parties who were clued in. Some readers may frown while skimming through this.

This was kept somewhat of a secret until now. Actually, well, a month or so ago featured visual mementos of the cross-country journey that began in Spokane, Wash. The sunset photo (seen above) taken the first night of the trip made it onto my feed but location was kept discreet.

Before I go on, here are some perceptions and personal takes. After already hearing the words in bold, there’s no need to serve them back.

  • This is careless. Yes, it’s can be deemed risky to travel during this time. It’s equally as risky to go to a grocery store — uh, yes, it is. Consider the ever-popular Wegmans: At any moment and at any store these supermarkets on steroids welcome well over 400 shoppers and they’ve done nothing to improve ventilation systems. Opposed to popular belief, police are not lined up to ticket at state lines. I have not witnessed anyone stationed or asking passengers to fill out paperwork at train or bus stations. Governor Andrew Cuomo said out-of-state fliers will be checked at the airport and will have to fill out paperwork — well, this not true in Syracuse. This wasn’t even true in Wisconsin, Michigan, Washington (state). A Georgian on my flight home from Detroit to Syracuse had his necessary paperwork for travel. However, after exiting the plane, nobody was waiting in Syracuse’s Hancock International Airport to meet with him.
  • You’re surrounding yourself with strangers. Everyone is surrounding themselves with strangers when going out to a grocery store, retail store, park, or wherever. COVID-19 doesn’t affect only strangers. Just because people are strangers doesn’t mean they’ve been reckless. Just because you know people, it doesn’t mean they’ve been careful.
  • Planes are a hotbed for COVID-19. Not really. Delta Airlines did an amazing job with providing safe travel. The planes seated 50 percent capacity at most, incredibly clean, and staff’s actions while boarding, during, and post-flight were diligent. I’ve never felt safer. Plus, recent news reports state that catching COVID-19 while flying (with precautions) is not high.
  • Your brother-in-law lived in Los Angeles. If a person lives in a large city, it doesn’t mean they’ve been careless or contracted COVID-19.
  • COVID-19 exists and is serious. Yes, it is. COVID-19 is a virus as much as the flu and common cold are. During 60 Minutes, Dr. David Ho stated there are about 100,000 new cases daily, worldwide. It’s pretty real and no denying it. Still, the flu kills thousands upon thousands of people per year. Granted it’s not 200,000-plus people (in the United States) but 12,000 to 61,000 deaths per year is still a lot.
  • You’re putting people at risk. I’ve been diligent this year. I wear masks everywhere except when I’m outside (save volunteering or mass gatherings) or out for a run. I wouldn’t put my family in danger by giving enough time with separating myself. I have a wife who works with children, and I don’t want to put those families at risk.

This is not my joking about catching COVID-19 or death. Granted, I have no underlying conditions that’d put me at severe risk. I don’t have a death wish. Frankly, the thought of death is scary, if not more intense than Indiana Jones’ fear of snakes. This fear was once so prominent that I’d have to leave conversations mentally and even physically to subdue the bubbling gait.

Part III: Generally Speaking

A lot of ground was covered in July — Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. Glacier National Park, Grand Teton National Park, Devil’s Tower National Monument, Wind River, Apostle Islands, and St. Ignace — who knows when the next visit to these places will be? (I’ll get into these experiences in later posts.) Let’s not forget about the motels, campsites, and the random/sketchy late-night cash deal that landed us a beautiful lakeside cabin in the woods.

The road trip unfolded as it should’ve. The ability to bond with my wife’s brother, who I haven’t spent much one-on-one time with, was wonderful. There was no shortage of good music and beautiful sights. Inside jokes were plentiful. The sights, sounds, and peace were incredible.

We stepped into Lake Michigan, Lake Superior, and Lake Huron. In the weeks following, I was able to step into Erie and Ontario. All five great lakes in a couple months. Many can say they’ve dipped their toes into these five bodies of water but not the majority. These simple things are special.

The trip was bookended by two flat tires, the first in Idaho and the second in Michigan. The tread of one U-Haul trailer tire successfully peeled off the first time and we waited for a few hours at a random gas station, which was next to a tire center. Unfortunately, the specific tire wasn’t in stock. Isaac noticed the tread on the second tire looking worn and cracked. The repair guy said it should be fine, not to worry about it.

Last day of the journey: While en route from Petoskey to Detroit, where I was supposed to fly back to Syracuse and make a job interview the next morning, the second tire’s fate was similar to the first one. Isaac made it to a Flint tire shop as it was closing as I was rescheduling my interview and securing an inexpensive room at a dingy Howard Johnson.

Part IV: Sanitized and Sane-itized

Isaac and I spent the majority of these 10 days on the road, in a car, accompanied by each other and a band of hitchhiking prairie dogs. With the exception of Grand Teton National Park, we spent less than 24 hours in each location. When we spent more than 24 hours in a location, most of our activity was outdoors and in sparsely populated areas.

Upon arriving back to Syracuse, I continued to do what I normally have done — staying home unless needing to go out for groceries. Granted it wasn’t a 14-day intensive but more along the lines of what I call the “Chris Cuomo Quarantine.” Again, we didn’t attend a concert or sit in a produce section for a day.

Hey, if it was according to the Gov. Andrew Cuomo quarantine, I technically didn’t have to quarantine. It’s a respectful nod to his trip to tainted Georgia, his refusing to quarantine and follow his own rules, and contradicting desire to lead by example. He requires (a.k.a. mandatory) a voluntary self-quarantine, a bigger oxymoron than jumbo shrimp. He didn’t step up.

If it’s possible to continue to live life in a town or city, travel can be accomplished. If you can wear a mask in Wegmans and be safe, you can travel across the country in a car and experience nature. Life does not have to stop. You can wear a mask, not touch your face, wash your hands, and be safe. Do your part to be cognizant.

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