Yes. It is indeed crazy that we’re traveling during a pandemic, but this week brought risky to a new level.
Remember the woman who gave massages from her living room in the house where we were supposed to sleep? That was nothing compared to this.
Here’s what happened.
Last we spoke, we were in St. George in an Airbnb that we loved. Nonetheless, we dragged ourselves out of the jacuzzi, packed our Brita water jug, grabbed a smoothie for the road, and piled into the car heading north.
On our way we passed through spectacular parks. We marveled, hiked, tantrumed, sang, and snacked. The usual. Utah continues to amaze.
We spent a couple of nights in a tiny town called Escalante. Tourism season is long over so we were lucky to find a gas station deli open to get a loaf of bread in this desolate three-restaurant town. I’m not complaining. Sure we can’t hit the canyons with the ATV touring company, but the trails are ours alone.
We liked the hotel. Even with the air mattress there was still plenty of room for an isle to the bathroom. 5 stars in my book.
I did my classes, Tsuri took his calls in the car, the kids did school, and we picnicked with pasta on the floor. In the afternoons we ventured to the canyons.
We then continued north toward Moab, We explored a gorge on the way, drove a couple more hours, and arrived at our lodging for the night tired and hungry.
As we drove up the dirt road it all came back to me – we had booked a Bed and Breakfast, something we’d refrained from doing until now, because there weren’t any other options. It had a bunch of great reviews so we went for it. But it was in the middle of nowhere.
I mean NOWHERE. The nearest towns were 30 miles to each side. It was at the top of the hill, on a farm. As we cruised in we spotted a trampoline and a swing, some kids bikes. But it was perfect for star gazing. NO LIGHTS AROUND for miles.
As per our usual protocol I put on my mask and went to check in while the family waited in the car. Until now almost all of staff in hotels have worn masks so checking in has felt fairly safe.
But not this guy. He opened the door, made no mention of masks, and seemed to stare at mine as if it were a strange foreign practice.
I was taken aback but figured we would go straight to our room and close the door. It was late, the kids were hungry. The pasta needed to be made.
But the guy didn’t leave us alone. He showed us to our room and then lingered there FOREVER, in our room, WITHOUT A MASK.
I think he was being welcoming? Or was he scoping us out for the murder that would go down that night? I didn’t know anymore. My inner compass was malfunctioning. All I could think about was the COOOOOVVVVVIIIIIIIIID!!
He awkwardly small-talked, mostly with the kids. Behind my mask my jaw was on the floor so I wasn’t too talkative. How could he be chatting about pancakes right now? By next morning we won’t even have a sense of taste!! Never mind working lungs!
He finally left and I went berzerk. I swung open the doors to the terrace hoping some extra forceful door-waving would send those deadly droplets outward. I sprayed down everything from the faucets to the Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid map. I closely examined the denim bedding. The kids went out to play on the trampoline as if nothing and left me to my obsessing. I had some time to wonder how one of them was going to get to the top bunk without a ladder (it was impossible. We ended up putting the mattress on the floor.)
I berated myself through the night – why didn’t I ask the guy to put on a mask? How could I put his comfort ahead of my family’s health? And then my fears got away with me – Should we get in the car and flee immediately? Is this guy insane?? He had a strange vibe. I told my brother to keep his phone on through the night.
The next morning we were still alive. Possibly carrying COVID but full on pancakes.
the guy’s family was gone. It was Sunday. They had gone to worship the lord.
Everything looked better in the sunlight. The kids jumped on the trampoline for hours, played on the swings and pet the horse. We had time to imagine what that place would have felt like under normal circumstances. We probably would have thought it was quaint, with the three pianos in the parlor, the cowboy themes in each room, the communal breakfast table, the quiet surrounding the house. Or maybe we would have thought the guy was crazy then too. I’ll never know.
And then to counterbalance that nightmare we met our kind at the next stop.
We drove half an hour and arrived at the tiniest town you can imagine. EVERYTHING was closed! Even the gas station. It was the day of the lord, after all.
But we were out of food. We had eaten all of the pasta, turkey sandwiches, and ritz crackers that three days will allow and had half a box of oatmeal left. And then we saw an oasis – a small mexican restaurant that was open, with a sign on the door that said “Must Wear a Mask.”
Halleluya is right.
The owner ended up being a transplant from Salt Lake City. She said something about how “most of the people in this town lean a certain way politically,” which was code for – I lean the other way, and I think you do too.
My daughter said “We’re Democrats too!!” The woman shushed her with a smile and looked around to see if anyone was listening.
She was lovely and we chatted for a while. She told us about the family who owned the BnB we had just left – generations of that family lived in the town. They pretty much ran the place.
We talked about how it was to be a business owner during COVID in that town and she pointed to the restaurant next door. She said it had a sign that said “NO MASKS ALLOWED.” Say no more.
It reminded me of a town we passed right outside of Zion National Park called Virgin. Believe it or not, it is ILLEGAL NOT to own a gun in Virgin.
There is no doubt that this is a challenging time to travel the US. The country is divided and mask wearing has become political, even as the numbers go through the roof in the very states we are in.
Without the COVID cloud we would have been charmed by the omnipresent Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid paraphanelia and wouldn’t have had nightmares about our maskless host. But sadly we are living in a time where there is legit stranger danger.
At the same time COVID is the very reason we were able to go on this trip. So…
Now we are in Moab, a backpacker’s town. We aren’t canoodling with anyong but I have a feeling these highliners agree that wearing a mask is a small price to pay for continuing with this adventure called LIFE.