Saturday, August 8, 2020

Where our road is leading …

Another road trip has been postponed. Planned for next month it would have taken us up into the North West of the country, to the islands that lay between Canada and the US. We wouldn’t have gone through Seattle or Portland, but otherwise it had looked to be a good opportunity to revisit places we like. Unfortunately, there were no guarantees that the bars and restaurants we wanted to visit would be open. Even as we have been stocking supplies to safeguard us, the time just wasn’t right. Then again, those storm clouds appearing on the horizon are hard to ignore.

The effect of the global pandemic isn’t visible at all here, where we live. When you read headlines from newspapers published July 24, 2020, for instance, decrying the visit to the US by a couple of Australian politicians then you cannot help but wonder. After reading that headline Two senior Australian Government ministers will fly to COVID-ravaged US next week
I stepped out onto our patio and looked around. Poetic license by that Sydney newspaper, or written with all seriousness? COVID-ravaged US?

Margo and I live in the village of Windsor, Colorado. It’s a small town just to the south east of the much larger Ft Collins. Our home sits alongside the local golf course where there is an almost constant stream of golfers passing by. It’s a bucolic setting that lends itself to peace and quiet and yet, apart from the self-distancing the golf course imposes all by itself, there are no outward signs that anything has changed.

And here is the paradox; as with many other countries there is tragedy emerging from a number of hot spots, but for many of us living across the west, where urban living is far less dense then no, there is little evidence that much has changed at all apart from facemasks, which we put on to enter a bar or restaurant (Colorado edict), before removing them once seated. Having said this we sure do miss our road trips and perhaps even more, our time together in our cars. This latest postponement was understandable and yet, there were still signs of nostalgia in the conversations that followed.

These days, even as we look around us at golfers darting furtively across the fairways looking to play their next shot, it seems like road trips have taken an unexpected turn for the worse and time on track simply isn’t happening at all. It was two years ago that on August 8, 2020, that I posted Ridin’ the storm out … Little did we know at the time that it would be our last outing in the Corvette.

The road course at HPR had become Margo’s and mine favorite track and we enjoyed many weekends away from home camped out on the parking lot. Track weekends had also been the catalyst for buying our RV, but again, it had always been about the cars. That last outing saw us dealing with a different cloud formation as a tornado made its appearance. 

Margo and I happen to live nearby a local craft brewery. Launched by Dan Miller, the son of our good friends, Jim and Dale Miller, we were uncertain over its fate in these times. However, there were no signs of a COVID-ravaged US as we spent an evening with the Millers even though to go up to the bar to order drinks, a mask was required. And yes, many of the tables had been removed so that a degree of social distancing could be maintained. Once seated, with adult beverages on the table and discussions covering almost every topic imaginable well under way, it was hard to correlate this to anything that appears in newspaper headlines.

All of which makes the postponement of this latest road trip more puzzling. Understandable, mind you, but still puzzling! Mighty River, as our local pub is called, is now a favorite and it’s worth discussing at this point the many favorites we have enjoyed over the years, be that road trip destination, the hotels and restaurants or even the cars. We have taken a hiatus from track weekends for now. Will we ever return to the track? It’s still far too early to contemplate the future without a track toy but then again, the passage of time is certainly reminding Margo and me of tour times on track.

For a decade we had packed up our car and headed out to tracks across the west and looking back, it was something that was not a hobby so much as it was a shared interest in being able to empty our minds from all that we had been doing the week before. Over that period of time, we had tracked a C6 Corvette we had supercharged, the Infiniti G37S, a C5 Corvette Z06 and the Viper.

HPR may have been our favorite track, but when it comes to which car was our favorite car then hands-down, the best just had to be our fourth generation Viper SRT/10. Then again, it didn’t have cruise control so road trips had to include regular driver changes but then again, that was a burden Margo and I were quite prepared to share. 

When it comes to favorite destinations we have pretty much seen most of the US and Canada. We haven’t been to Maine and we haven’t crossed the Canadian prairies opting to skip both Manitoba and Saskatchewan. As for all the rest we have driven through them, enjoyed the sights and bought the tee shirt. There really isn’t one destination that stands out as our all-time favorite but there are still many places we want to see.

As for roads then there was the Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap (US Hwy 129), the Million Dollar Highway between Silverton and Ouray (Hwy 550) and Mulholland Drive, California (not forgetting Decker). And then there was the Moki Highway, Utah (Route 261) that over the course of just three miles dropped more than 1,000 feet with 10 percent grades on a road that was mostly dirt and gravel. If you have to leave civilization, concerned over the COVID-ravaged US, then there are plenty of ways to get lost on America’s highways.

No topic featuring a ravaged US could be complete without a reference to the biggest bike rally of the year. It was back on this weekend in 2011 when our road trip home took us from Omaha and Minneapolis to Sturgis. Back then, there were more than half a million visitors to this sleepy little village of 7,000. You can always tell when this event is about to happen as the many groups of motorcycles passing us on the interstate highway were heading north.

This year, amid what some are calling the height of the global pandemic, the 2020 ride to Sturgis continued unabated although some of the planned activities were being scaled back. Expectations were that this year, the crowd would be cut in half but even so, there was no mandatory order to wear masks. And let’s be serious; who among us would want to challenge that many bikers. It came as no surprise then that our friends, the Millers, made it to the event as they trekked across the northern states on their way to Indiana.

As for their son Dan he opened up his Mighty River bar to a local radio station. They were broadcasting a pre-game broadcaster discussion and from where we were seated, it looked to be a lively affair. We never did find out the game that they were previewing but it had to be a local affair and here in Northern Colorado, there are plenty of sports still being played. A short drive to our favorite car wash saw us pass a local high school were the visiting team had been bused in and the game was under way. No spectators in the bleachers mind you, but then again, we haven’t seen too many attendees present for this game even at the best of times.

We hear so much about home field advantages. In cricket, the home crowd is often referred to as the twelfth man as the raucous nature in supporting its team cannot be ignored by any visiting side. It’s hard to imagine cricket, like golf, breaking any social distancing rules as the fielding side are so spread out and yet, there are still no crowds in the stands. Even as England played Ireland and is now playing Pakistan, it was all the commenters could do to instill a sense of excitement in those tuned into the matches. Seeing as we did the broadcast team at our local hunched around microphones as they were and without a mask in sight, well, it was hard to make out any storm clouds gathering nearby.

Our newly installed Weber grill is up and running but it’s not the only station we turn to for a sausage-sizzle. As we drove into a local burger place that we thought we could tap for a burger or two, we just happened to park alongside a C5 Corvette Z06. In torch red, no less and a perfect copy of the Vette we tracked during most of that decade of track weekends. We sold it last year along with the RV and trailer and who knew!

How advantageous having an RV would have been in these times. No need to worry about the absence of rest areas alongside the highway. No need to disinfect all the surface areas. And no, absolutely no need to be concerned about touching anything foreign at all – we would have been taking our home right along with us.

And this is the biggest stumbling block in the way of us taking to the road any time soon. Living outside of major cities and far removed from the COVID-ravaged US we are being warned about, Margo and I are still trying to make sense of it all. Our families express concerns about our activities – planned or otherwise – even as they are frustrated from our apparent lack of concern about it all. But then again, as we sit with our neighbors on driveways enjoying an afternoon cocktail party what else should we be doing?

The worst news of all happened just a few days ago. The magnum of 1993 Chateau Lafite had well and truly corked; a byproduct of the many moves we had made and of our inability to keep temperatures under control. Even so, we did have to snap off a picture as I tipped the bottle down the sink. On the other hand, the magnum of 1997 Joseph Phelps Insignia held its ground and proved to be really good as did the magnum of 1997 Duckhorn Merlot. Fortunately, our driveway get-together ensured that there were plenty of thirsty neighbors on hand to share our two-out-of-three impromptu wine celebration!

Stumbling blocks aside and cognizant of the fact now that our last road trip was back in January when we took in the sites along California’s Pacific Coast, we really aren’t fooling ourselves. If you have read this post all the way to this final paragraph, rest assured we are taking this global pandemic very seriously. We have now been tested twice for COVID-19 with an early result in March informing us that we both had contracted Influenza B, but we are spending a lot of time at home. We are fortunate that for more than a decade we have worked out of our home offices, but all the same, like many of you we are social creatures who thrive on interaction with you all.

Where our road now leads, who can say? What car we will chose as we head out onto the interstate is still unknown but what we can say, we have never put less miles on our vehicles in all the time we have been married. Those clouds continue to billow as summer storms have erupted most nights but come sunset, the sky still paints a pretty picture. So perhaps, even as we all make adjustments to our lives knowing that returning to our former normal times might never happen, there will be less talk about the ravages of disease and more talk about how we all are keeping watch over each other. Here’s to many more sunsets yet to come!

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