Covid Car Trip? Be Safe and Have a Blast.

WooHoo!

Are you tired of looking at the same four walls? While you can’t exactly hop a plane to Paris these days, no one says you can’t go on a drive. Maybe even a long drive – say 6 days? That’s what we did in October, and during that time we visited the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore, Devils Tower, Little Bighorn Battlefield and Yellowstone Park, to name just a few.


You may be thinking, how do I see these amazing sites during a international pandemic? VERY CAREFULLY – but it’s doable. Just like life in general these days. Here’s how. Get together with some good friends who are also being careful about Covid exposure. Do a lot of research, map out a route, and make your plan. If you’re aware of the risks and how to avoid them, you can have a good time, be safe, and see the world (or whatever part of it you’re currently allowed to inhabit).

Here’s a Few Helpful Hints

GETTING THERE – On the plus side, road tripping is safer than travelling by plane or other methods of public transport – namely because you don’t have to share the air with crowds of questionable people. It’s also much less complicated. Does anyone else break out in a cold sweat at the thought of booking a plane ticket online? I once did it backwards and ended up with a ticket from the place I was going, to the place I already was. It cost a lot of money to fix it. With a road trip it’s simple. Gas up your car, kick the tires and hit the road.

Did I mention road tripping is cheaper than flying? You can, of course pretend to fly while you’re driving, but that may result in a speeding ticket which will not be cheaper.

LODGINGS – Choose high quality hotels and ask ahead of time what their policies are for cleaning and sanitizing. Next – don’t believe them. While we’d like to think everyone is as concerned with our health as we are, it’s probably not true. We brought our own cleaning supplies and sanitized everything – doorknobs, countertops, bathrooms etc. – as soon as we entered the room. Once you’ve done a thorough job, you can relax and enjoy the space.

Germs Beware! Sanitizer and cleaning supplies are required for Covid road trips.

SLEEPING – Bring your own pillow and blankets if you have room. I actually thought about bringing a sleeping bag but realized if there were germs on the bedding it would just get on the sleeping bag and then on me, so decided not to stress over this one. Most hotels have removed the bedspreads and wash their linens in super-hot water.


yellow bagel 2FOOD – Pack a cooler with sandwich supplies and treats to avoid having to stop at restaurants. We brought Bagels, cream cheese and lunchmeat, apples, bottled water, beef jerky, chips, licorice, and much much more. One of our party insisted on bringing carrots and humus. I wasn’t excited about this blatantly healthy snack, but it grew on me. When your supplies run out or you just can’t bring yourself to eat another bagel, there’s always the drive up window at McDonalds. 

Do not, I repeat, do not buy elk dogs from the convenience store when you stop to buy gas. These may look tasty, but they aren’t . . . possible secret ingredient of sawdust. (Thanks anyway Ed. It seemed like a good idea.)

Not as good as you think.

REST STOPS – Eeeew. No way around it, you’re going to have to use public restrooms. The best advice – basically, try not to touch anything. You can turn on faucets with your elbows and its O.K. to carefully flush the toilet with your foot. Do not stomp on it and break the handle though or you’ll be in for a world of trouble.

Also NOT recommended, the previously unheard of option of squatting on the toilet seat. Wait . . . what? I’d never even heard of this practice until I saw the sign in a restroom at Yellowstone.

Why would anyone want to squat on the toilet seat? It’s a seat – for sitting. Do you squat on your couch and chairs at home? Someone help me with this . . .

yellow gumbyApparently, many people think squatting on the toilet seat is a good idea, so many in fact, that the park service had to make a sign discouraging the practice. If you’re concerned about germs – and who isn’t these days – use the disposable seat covers available in every public restroom. Honestly dear readers, while actual physical contact with a public toilet seat is not recommended, neither is squatting.

IN CLOSING – As always, wear a mask, carry plenty of hand sanitizer and wipes, and socially distance from those outside your immediate group. While there’s still a chance of getting sick, this can also happen on a trip to the grocery store, and frankly, I’d rather be struck down doing something fun. If you follow these tips and use a little common sense you can still get out and leave those four walls behind.

I’d love to hear about your road trip. Keep in touch!

Authors Note: I know, some of you may still be in lockdown and travel of any kind is not possible . . . sigh, my thoughts are with you. Hang in there though, your time will come.

Nova Scotia – Spirit of the Fiddle Concert

Oh Danny boy, the pipes the pipes are calling . . . “

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The mournful tones of a bagpipe filled the air and we followed the sound to our gathering place in Cape Bretton, Nova Scotia. As people assembled, the tune changed to a reel. Toes tapped and hands began to clap to the jaunty music, and it wasn’t long before this pied piper had a captive audience. Finally, with a nod of his head, he motioned for us to follow as he walked past the world’s largest fiddle and into the Cape Bretton Music Hall. We were going to a concert!

 

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Cruising with Royal Caribbean in October 2019, we boarded in Quebec Canada and sailed down the Eastern seaboard to Florida. We’d had lots of adventures so far but were especially excited about our musical excursion to this windswept island. 

Cape Bretton played an important role in the revival of Celtic music. In the late 1700s, it became home to a steady stream of Scottish refugees who were evicted from their homes during the clearances. The Scottish fiddlers introduced a unique style of fiddle playing characterized by up-bowing, which forever changed the sound of many traditional tunes.

Eager to experience this legendary music in person, our group of 20 wound through the concert hall and up the stairs to a meeting room where our musicians waited.

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After a warm welcome and a brief history of Celtic music, they got down to business.
“We’re playing the same music our ancestors played 350 years ago,” said guitarist Chris Garrity. “This one’s called Cutting Ferns, and it’s about a man who walks through a forest filled with fairies. They agree to let him go only after he cuts down all the ferns in the wood – an impossible task.”

With that, the players dove into a bouncy tune that filled the room and lifted everyone’s spirits.

Kimberly Fraiser – fiddler, singer, and stepdancer extraordinaire, told of another favorite melody. “This is so beautiful that brides often ask me to play it at their weddings. I always hate to tell them the title of the song  – Heavy is My Fate.” The lovely melody that followed was anything but heavy and it was easy to see why a bride would choose it for  her special day.

It wasn’t long before the musicians, energized by their own music, were on their feet singing and dancing as they played.  We were tempted to join in and eventually got to do just that as they called a few audience members up to learn the steps to a folk dance. We were soon twirling and stomping and feeling very Gaelic. Laughing and out of breath, we returned to our seats to enjoy the rest of the excellent performance. When the concert ended we sampled traditional oatcakes, and visited with the musicians. We were sorry to leave, but while the concert was over the music lingered, and I often catch myself humming the catchy tunes.

cape brettonThe remainder of the day was spent wandering the town of Cape Bretton, tasting local delicacies and enjoying the geriatric grandeur of the architecture in the Heritage District.

I would love to return and spend more time in Nova Scotia. The very name brings back childhood memories (fueled by music-loving parents) of a haunting tune by Ian and Sylvia called Nova Scotia Farewell.

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Have you ever been to this beautiful part of the world? Where did you go? What did you see? I’d love some recommendations for my next trip.

That’s all for now. Happy travels!

Wait! The Glasgow Gallavanter just sent me this great link to a post about her travels in Nova Scotia. Check it out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Doors of Salt Lake City

 

Is traveling a thing of the past? I sincerely hope not, but for now my travel plans are on hold. As much as I love to see new places and breathe the rarefied air of somewhere else, I still hesitate to set foot on a plane. It’s not just the thought of sharing germs with other passengers – since we’re all wearing masks and being considerate about social distancing right? No, the fear is that I’ll get far far from home and everything will shut down again, trapping me in Tangier or Uzbekistan or any other place that’s fun to visit, but definitely not my living room.

So, since uncertainty is a certainty these days, I’ve decided to stick close to home which in my case is Salt Lake City, Utah. That being the case, I’ve compiled a Doors of Salt Lake post for Norm’s Thursday Doors. The following are just a few of the fun doors I’ve come across in my local wanderings. Hope you enjoy!

The door to the First Presbyterian Church is a real beauty, as is the rest of this Gothic Revival style building.

The Up House is actually in Herriman which is not quite Salt Lake, but pretty close. This is a fun recreation of the house owned by Carl and Ellie in the Pixar movie “Up”. The colorful home is an exact replica inside and out, of it’s movie counterpart, and the owners are very patient with photographers.

This is the door to a Salt Lake City landmark. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints temple took 40 years to complete and was dedicated in 1893. The details are amazing. Look at this door, and the metalwork on the doorknob – no wonder it took so long to build.

From simple to spectacular, you see a wide variety of homes in Salt Lake. The one on the left, is a refurbished settlers home, with a pretty wooden door and decorative storm door. On the right, the Mckune Mansion located near Capitol Hill. Both date to early 1900’s.

More doors to downtown dwellings – eclectic styles that just shout “stop the car and take a picture of me!”

The Victorian Gothic style Assembly Hall is located on Temple Square and has been around since 1877. Its 24 spires add a definite touch of drama.

Here’s a closer view of one of the Assembly Hall doors.

These imposing entryways belong to the Salt Lake City and County building, and the city’s Capitol building.

Of course we’ll wrap up with one of my favorite places – the Salt Lake City Library. Admittedly the doors are rather modest, but made special by the fact that they lead to worlds of adventure.

” Books are the plane, the train, and the road. They are the destination and the journey, they are home. ” Anna Quindlen

With that I’ll close. Wishing you happy travels whether abroad or in your own back yard.

For more fun doors, click on Norm’s Thursday Doors, where Door Lovers of the world unite.

Will You Choose to Cruise?

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Cruising in happier days.

Photos courtesy of Viking Cruise Lines

Four months ago, I wrote a travel article that began like this –

32 million people can’t be wrong. That’s the number of travelers who booked cruise vacations in 2019.  Statistics show this figure has increased 7% annually since 2007, and it’s not hard to see why. Life on a cruise ship is about as good as it gets . . .

How times have changed.  In January we were blissfully unaware of what was coming and completely unprepared. Well, to be perfectly honest the cruise ship industry probably had a clue. They’ve been quietly dealing with onboard epidemics for a while now, think Legionnaires Disease, and gastrointestinal bugs like Norovirus, Salmonella, and Shigella, any of which can wreak havoc in a cruise environment.

For the most part, these isolated incidents flew under the radar and die-hard cruisers like myself turned a blind eye to the warning signs. It won’t happen to me, right?  Wrong. Now the problems are impossible to ignore. It’s absolutely nobody’s dream to be stuck in a floating piece of jetsam that bounces from port to port unloved and unwanted. The very thought of being quarantined to the tiny windowless room we usually book gives me claustrophobia in the extreme – excuse me while I run outside and take several deep breaths.

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Next time I’ll book this room. (I wish.)

O.K. I’m back – so now, what’s to be done about this? I have no idea. To me, it seemed the cruise lines were already bending over backward to keep things sanitary and hygienic. On our last cruise, I noticed employees constantly disinfecting every surface from stair rails to elevator buttons.  There are spiffy touchless water faucets, and super strength hand dryers at the entrance of every dining area, not to mention the armies of cheery but INSISTENT purveyors of hand sanitizer sprinkled liberally throughout the ship.  Despite all these precautions, the entire cruise industry ran aground in a matter of weeks. The culprit, a microscopic virus called Covid 19.

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Duck Takes a Walk (During COVID 19)

A Silly But Serious Story

As I got ready to go on my morning walk, my granddaughter stopped me and said, “Duck needs to get out of the house (don’t we all) would you take him on your walk?”

I agreed, and this is what happened:

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Duck leaves the house for the first time in forever.

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He stops to enjoy the flowers.

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He chats with a friend at a local watering hole.

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Don’t Miss This!

How to Travel When You’re Stuck at Home

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Images by the Library Lady and Pixabay Photos.

For one strange moment in time, we are all required to stay home. This means no work, no socializing, and especially no travel. For those who yearn for adventure in exotic locales, this can be a bit of a problem. It was for me anyway, until I discovered Google’s Art and Culture website (not being paid to say this, I just love the site). Now I’m traveling again without even leaving my home.

Admittedly, virtual travel is not quite like the real thing, but it can be pretty amazing.  With this site, I can sit on the couch in my pajamas and visit India or tour Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum. I can stroll through Queen Victoria’s Durbar Room,  or learn about the art of making a Kimono. I can even watch the bones of a Sea Dragon – or Rhomelosaures – come to life and swim away from its display in the Natural history Museum of London. (More links at the end of this post.) All this from the comfort – and hopefully virus-free setting of my own front room.

Viking Museum – Oslo Norway

How is This Possible?

 

Simply go to Google’s Art and Culture website where you’ll find an astounding collection of artwork,  museum tours, rare collectibles, and cultural experiences. I was amazed by all the options. You could literally spend weeks clicking through this information.

My favorites are the videos. Shot in 360-degree mode, you can scroll around the screen to get the big picture of backgrounds and surroundings. You can even pause the narrative and search a particular scene in more detail before resuming the video.

How to  Play

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Ronda, Spain: a Small Town that Puts on a Big Show

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I’m especially excited about this Library Lady post because it was published on Go World Travel, a site I faithfully follow! 

Photographers beware: Leaning out to get the perfect shot of the magnificent Puente Nuevo bridge in Ronda, Spain, can result in a long drop – 390 feet to be exact. And while the bridge may be the star of the show in Ronda, the supporting cast of awesome views and medieval splendor also draws quite a crowd . . . Read more at Go World Travel.

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Doors of Kauai

It’s time for more of Norm’s Thursday Doors, where door lovers of the world unite!

We’ve recently returned from a trip to Hawaii where I found some interesting doors. Well O.K. not all of these are doors, some fall into the category of entryways – but I think you’ll like them.

shark door

SHARK DOOR!

Shark door was my favorite. Unfortunately, I have no information.  It looks like a residence, although there might be some kind of sign behind that fence. All I know is we were driving down the road, I spotted shark door and our driver kindly screeched to a halt and backed up so I could take a picture. Don’t you wish you had a supersize sea creature hanging in your front yard? The door is pretty amazing too.

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From the wild and crazy shark residence, we go to this lovely and dignified door. It was adorning a 4 million-dollar home in an upscale Hawaiian neighborhood. I believe I could live quite happily here.

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This is the door/entryway to Kauai’s Hindu Monastery. A peaceful oasis that features two Hindu temples and the Himalayan Academy. It’s free of charge and a must-see if you’re in the area. Continue reading

Banning Group Hugs? & Travel Signs

Today’s post is an eclectic combination of odds and ends, but I’ll start by sharing my Rosanne Rosanna Danna moment. Does anyone remember Roseanne Rosanna Danna from Saturday Night Live? (I know, it was a long time ago).

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As I was listening to the radio this morning I heard the announcer say, ” Today the city of Provo will vote on whether group hugs should be allowed within the city limits.” then they cut for a commercial break.

Someone wants to ban group hugs? I thought. Why would anyone do that? Group hugs are a positive thing, we need more positive things. That’s crazy! What’s this world coming to anyway!

As the announcer returned, I listened with angry ears. “Today the city of Provo  will vote on whether to allow BREW PUBS within the city limits.”

Brew pubs?

Oh. Well.

Never mind.

For those who never saw Gilda Radner / Rosanne in all her glory, I’ve included a  Youtube link at the end of this post.

Next on the agenda are the signs. These are signs I’ve either liked or laughed at in my travels.

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Truer words were never spoken.
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Carry On: Packing Light

These people are bringing too much stuff on their plane trip. Some of it will get lost or broken.

Turning Over a New Leaf

19 Inch Travel Bag and Matching Case

On our trip to Paris France (See Carry On: The French Connection) we experienced the luggage mix up of the century, where – long story short- my husband traveled across town in the middle of the night to exchange suitcases with a complete stranger.

On our next trip, we traveled to Spain. This time we resolved to play it safe and keep our luggage with us.  John and I each brought a 19-inch upright bag with a matching tote that sits on top for easy transportation. You’d be surprised how much stuff will fit into these expandable cases, especially if you do your research and learn how to pack correctly. There are all kinds of ‘travel light’ packing lists online, along with endless YouTube videos, but for now, I’ll share a few things I’ve learned about traveling with carry-on bags.

A Mental Shift

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Day two – same outfit!

Over the years I’ve been conditioned to think its taboo to wear the same outfit two days in a row.  Well, guess what? I did just that in Spain and the world didn’t come to an end. News flash – I travel to see the world, not to have the world see me. So, rather than taking weeks’ worth of clothing and accessories, I learned to pack light.

Mix and Match

carry on clothes

Figure out the minimum amount of clothing you can get by with, then choose items that mix and match. Include a variety of scarves and lightweight accessories that will go with everything and create different looks. The items pictured here fit easily into my suitcase along with lingerie etc. Here’s a surprise, I didn’t even wear all the clothes I brought.

 Consider the Season

Tne reason I didn’t wear all the clothes I took to Spain was that I packed for the wrong season.  Once again, a mental thing.  I was in Utah where the average daily temps were in the 60’s.  Even though I could see online it would be 80 to 90 degrees in Spain, I couldn’t get my head around that and insisted on packing a sweater and too many long pants.

Great Shoes
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Bring 2 pairs of comfortable walking shoes, black goes with everything, but that’s up to you.  I brought one pair to wear with casual clothes and another that worked well enough with skirts and sundresses. (I love my Clarks Cloud Steppers. This pair walked from one end of Spain to the other and is still as comfy as ever.)

 Shoulder Bag

I always roll up an empty canvas shoulder bag like these and stuff it inside my carry-on tote, so I’ll have something to use on a daily basis. You need a small bag to hold necessities like phone, camera, hand sanitizer, and I.D. Your tote is too big to carry around on a daily basis, besides, it’s stuffed with toiletries back at the hotel.

Wash and Wear

One thing that helped us was the fact we usually had access to laundry facilities. If that’s not an option, purchase a small bottle of dish soap to wash items in the hotel sink, then hang to dry on a shower rod or portable clothesline. If you’ll be doing lots of handwashing, make sure to pack clothes that are lightweight and quick to dry.

Carry-On Converts

By the end of this trip, we agreed that traveling with carry-on bags was the best idea we’d ever had.  I for one will never check luggage again.  Carrying my bags with me made it easier to make tight connections, and I was happy to save the time of checking suitcases and claiming it (hopefully) on the other end. But best of all, with this system, my spouse will never again have to rendezvous with a complete stranger, in the middle of the night after stealing her suitcase. Happy travels everyone and Carry On!

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Another reason I will always keep my luggage with me.

On returning from an overseas trip two days ago, I sat in the plane and watched airport employees unloading luggage from the cargo hold onto a trailer. They threw things willy nilly – including skis and a musical instrument – which crashed down on top of each other. The icing on the cake was a stroller, which banged onto the trailer rail. A wheel broke off the stroller and went skittering across the tarmac. The employees did not notice and drove away.

Ever had a problem with items being damaged while in the care of an airline? Any suggestions on packing light? I’d love to hear from you.

(For more great travel tips, read Globetrotting Grandpa’s excellent post!)