What if COVID had come a week later?

Trying hard, with little success, not to think of the timing of this COVID attack.  Kathy and I went two and one half years into this pandemic without a whiff of COVID. Then a week before our rafting trip through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River, I come down with COVID and spread it to seven of 10 family members. The only ones spared are two who have already had it and a 21-year-old who has a cold but refuses to test positive.

I also think about what would have happened if my first symptoms were a week later in Flagstaff.

Night 1: Feeling tired but it had been a long day with the orientation for the rafting trip.

2. Next morning: Some sniffles but nothing so serious that I could not get on the raft with the other 15 or so people who would be sailing down the Colorado.

Day 3 and Day 4: I would have spent these days sleeping, coughing and gulping down anything to sooth my sore throat. Muddy Colorado River water? Not a problem. Can I hang over the edge of the raft with my mouth open like whales sucking krill through their baleen?

Day 5: Guides would have pushed me overboard. If not. . .

Day 6: All guides, clients, orchestra sick in quarters. Section of river roped off to incoming rafters, who have to walk out of the canyon while the rest of us are left on our own to suffer.

I also thought about whether we canceled our trip too early. What if we had kept pushing on to Flagstaff? No travel on Days 3 and 4 (see above) when I was the sickest and Kathy came down with her first symptoms. Then it would be Friday. We’d still have time to stretch our two-day trip to Flagstaff into four driving days. We’d arrive tired and coughing, but with enough cough syrup we might get on the trip. If the company asked us to show a negative COVID test, we were sunk – probably by the other clients who saw the worst coming their way.

I’ve been over this a couple hundred times, and eventually we did what was right: Canceled, infected our family (who took wonderful care of us), then started a slow trip back home. I’m testing negative, Kathy still positive. Mostly holed up in the truck, masked when not, eating outside or in our rooms like bums under a culvert.

View from our culvert

Also hard not to dial through everyone I met leading up to getting infected. Was it the person who sat behind us in the theater Friday night and coughed all through “Hamilton”? On the bus and light rail to my doctor’s appointment Friday morning? The clerks in the camera store where I bought three new memory cards and multiple batteries for the hundreds of pictures I was going to take in the canyon? The U-Haul clerks? Some wisp of air that had lost connection with whoever put it out there to travel up my nose. To them I say: May a bird of paradise fly up your nose, may an elephant caress you with his hose. Remember that song? Long-term memory is still intact. And I did fix my own car key (see post two back). I can read instructions. Wait. That’s new. My behavior has changed. A new COVID symptom?

A rafting trip before the river dries up

Canyon Explorations found a spot for Kathy and I on the 2023 trip. Maybe they read this piece in the Denver Post. https://www.denverpost.com/2022/07/21/colorado-river-drought-water-crisis-west/

Here’s a scary line for river rafters: “If the reservoirs drop even lower — to a point called ‘deadpools’ — officials at the dams will no longer be able to send water downstream at all . . .”

So much for future river rafting. Hoping we make it through 2023 and our once again scheduled trip.

And so much for the 40 million people who depend on the river for food and water.

COVID just keeps on ruining things for me

I thought about burying the lede here, keeping the awful news behind other bad news, but then I thought I would never do that if I were getting paid to write this blog, So here is the awful news: Both Kathy and I have COVID, and we have canceled our 15-day trip rafting on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

The trip started like all trips do: Why do these bad things happen now. And here comes the other bad news. We got to the U-Haul place to pick up the van we used to move Kathy’s grandson and girlfriend to California now that they have completed Seattle University. They said we have your reservation but you have to go to West Seattle to pick up the van. Since the West Seattle bridge cracked, West Seattle is in a place far, far away. The GPS route looks like red spaghetti with touches of gold and yellow. But we arrived, got the van and reversed the spaghetti route back for the first load of furniture.

We also discovered that the canopy latch on my truck was no longer latching. Why do these things happen on the first day of a trip.

Then came the call from the security system that the alarm had gone off at our house. That happens when you leave the front door wide open. Our son is staying at the house and corrected our hurried exit fallacies. We do this a thousand times and why did it have to happen now?

Kathy offered to buy us Dick’s hamburgers and left order them. We drove to Dick’s, and found Kathy complaining that the automatic truck key would no longer open the truck. Why do these things happen now? I dug out the old-fashioned metal key ensconced in the modern key, climbed into the unlocked canopy to dig out the extra key I had packed just in case a bunch of stuff might happen now. I can get the bad key fixed in Petaluma at a Ram dealership I have used before.

Off to Portland, loaded the second set of furniture and headed for Eugene. We went somewhere to eat, I ordered too much food but did not collapse into it. I ended up in the truck snoozing until others got done eating and drinking. Long drive in a big, unfamiliar van, but should that make me that tired?

Woke up Tuesday with a river pouring out of my head. Sneezing, dripping. Where did that all come from? A cold, I thought, let’s push on.

On to our regular lunch stop on our way to Sebastopol, CA — The Olive Pit in Corning, CA. You can tell the muffuletta sandwiches were good by the olive oil that dripped all over my cell phone camera lens. On to Forestville, CA, and the delivery of the furniture.

Great dinner by Grandpa and Grandma, and this may have been where I infected five people with COVID. Tried to get some social distance, but we were inside and I was still under some delusion that this was a cold, and nothing more.

A cold until I took a COVID test that night and the T strip came on, blinking and in enlarged red type saying, “What were you thinking?”

This is Day Four since I started symptoms. All five of us are in different rooms in three houses trying to isolate ourselves. Joe, who had COVID before, is delivering food and medicine to our doors. My meds are not Paxlovid, which reacts with Warfarin — doesn’t everything? I will not be getting a new key for the truck any time soon.

Canyon Explorations offered us three options: 1. Get to Flagstaff with no COVID symptoms and a negative COVID test on Aug. 15. That will not happen now. 2. Hike in on the Bright Angel trail with all your equipment and enjoy the rest of the trip down the river. A chance to infect another 16 people. Hiking now when I can barely walk to the bathroom six feet away does not sound like something we could do 10 days from now. 3. Reschedule.

We chose option 3. We are on the waiting list for 2023 and on board for 2024.

This has been a huge disappointment. I learned of this trip in 2010 while working for the Census Bureau. Raft down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon with a string quartet aboard to play each night. We got on the waiting list for 2018. Nothing available. Same in 2019. Yes, for 2020, which is when COVID first happened. Same with 2021. But on for 2022, if COVID did not happen now, which it did.

On July Fourth, the kind of “originalism” we should keep in mind

“Fellow citizens: Pardon me, and allow me to ask, why am I called upon to speak here today? What have I or those I represent to do with your national independence? Are the great principles of political freedom and of natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us? And am I, therefore, called upon to bring our humble offering to the national altar, and to confess the benefits, and express devout gratitude for the blessings resulting from your independence to me? . . .

“What to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer, a day that reveals to him more than all other days of the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation of the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour.

“Go where you may, search where you will, roam through all the monarchies and despotisms of the Old World, travel through South America, search every abuse and when you have found the last, lay your facts by the side of the everyday practices of this nation, and you will say with me that, for revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, America reigns without a rival . . .”

— Frederick Douglass, on July Fourth 1852, quoted in “A People’s History of the United States” by Howard Zinn.

These biking women are at it again

Carol writes a better blog than I do. She rides her bike a lot better than I do. And she is doing it again — probably at the instigation of my sister. As Carol says in the first entry on her new blog:

“So, we’re riding again. Close to 1,500 miles over 21 days of riding. We will ride around Cape Breton Island on the Cabot Trail. We will then head along the coast of Nova Scotia and make our way to Prince Edward Island. We will cross the island and head back to the mainland of New Brunswick, where we will trace the coast northward. When we reach Quebec, we will wind around the Gaspe Peninsula, and then end our adventure in Quebec City.”

My sister assures me that I was not invited on this trip because of my poor showing on last year’s ride. I am still dealing with that. But never mind. My therapist has it covered.

Instead, I will be following Carol’s blog, and I invite you to do the same.

And Carol, Mary Jo, Don and Kurt, be careful. Ride and drive safely.

The blog: https://cyclecanada2022.wordpress.com/home-3/

After the Kentucky Derby: Another weather detour

As we head west, we have been keeping track of the weather report for the Yellowstone National Park. It has not been good for two days of hiking we had planned, and the final report today was for snow and a high of 38 degrees. We talked to a couple from Minneapolis in the dining room at the Crazy Horse Memorial, where we had stopped to check on the carving’s progress. They said they walked the boardwalk among geysers in horizontal snow.

Then we received this email from the park: “As we are faced with workforce shortages, we are modifying our food service as well as operating dates and times at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel. . . . Considering the fluid situation in the park, you may wish to travel with some extra food items and snacks.”

We do carry food, but the prospect of being in an area of food insecurity was frightening to two people who have gained a pound for every day on the road.

We canceled our Yellowstone reservations and headed north to Billings. Drove through lots of rain, but no snow.

Some progress on Crazy Horse’s face since we visited 30 years ago, but it will still take another 100 years to finish carving the mountain into the chief’s head, hair, body and his horse’s head. We’ll check back in another 30 years.

Today’s bad weather was the first on this trip. It rained at the Kentucky Derby, but the mostly winning bets there have made that bad-weather memory fade away. Here’s what it’s been like as we traveled West:

Sunset from our cabin’s porch at the Lake of the Ozarks
Moon and Nebraska’s capital building in Lincoln, just across from where we stayed.
Alpenglow on the rocks across from our porch in the Badlands National Park.
This person is wanted in three counties for stealing rocks. However, she pocketed one here without charges.

Steve ruined my Derby bets — and saved the day

Steve at Emerald Downs.

When Rich Strike read what the pundits had written about him Saturday morning, it made him so mad he’d run like hell to prove them wrong.

That’s how Steve, my horse-race betting partner for years before he died in 2010, would explain how Rich Strike won the Kentucky Derby on May 7, 2022.

Steve always bet long shots, especially on horses with names that amused him or reminded him of his wife. As a steady reader of the Daily Racing Form and horses’ past performances, I would try to talk Steve out of his more “strange” bets, often by reading what the professional handicappers wrote. Kind of like they said about Rich Strike on Saturday:

“Poor speed figures. Best speed rating well below the average winning speed. Return to dirt might offer some hope for improvement.”

Steve would see such an assessment and say, “When the horse reads that, he’ll be so mad he’ll run like hell to show ’em.”

Nothing could persuade Steve to stop betting the looongest shots available, $2 to show on the least chalky choice. He didn’t hit often. But when he did, he’d signal “loo-ser” with an L to his forehead and wonder why I spent so much time with the racing form.

Nothing can persuade me to abandon the DRF. I can’t watch a race without an overnight session with the past performances. Leading up to the Derby, I had watched all the prep races, bet them, did OK and had a plan for the first Saturday in May: A Pick 3 with one horse in the first race (Jackie’s Warrior), four horses who might win in the second race (Shirl’s Speight, Cavalry Charge, Adhamo, Santin) and six horses who I thought could win the Derby (Mo Donegal, Epicenter, Messier, Tiz the Bomb, Zandon, White Abarrio) for a $24 bet. An Exacta boxed with Epicenter, Zandon and Tiz the Bomb for a $12 bet. And a graduated across the board bet on Epicenter, my fav: $5 to win, $10 to place and $15 to show.

Sixty-four dollars coming into the Derby. More than I usually bet on a race — or in a whole day at the races. But it’s the Derby, and I’m splitting my bets with Michael, my new horse-racing partner.

And things looked good coming into the Big Race. In the first race of my Pick 3, Jackie’s Warrior had gone wire to wire at even odds in the 10th race and in the 11th, Santin won by a neck at 7-1 odds, which would fatten up the payoff for my Pick 3.

Things looked even better when the horses were coming down the stretch in the 148th running of the Kentucky Derby. Epicenter was in the lead, holding off Zandon on the outside. A No. 3 (Epicenter) and No. 10 (Zandon) finish would complete my Pick 3, win my Exacta and pay off all three positions in my across-the-board bet. Just to win three bets on one race would be a first-ever accomplishment in my handicapping career.

My eyes were on Epicenter and not on what jockey Sonny Leon was doing with Rich Strike on the inside. Take a look at the great NBC overhead shot to see what a thread-the-needle ride Leon had on Rich Strike, which ended with 3 and 10 in second and third place. I tried to read the numbers of the winning horse. Was it No. 1, Mo Donegal? A possibility that Michael had bet because that was the hometown of his grandparents. Or No. 2, Happy Jack? A long shot but not out of the realm.

But No. 21? The horse that sneaked into the race at the last moment when Ethereal Road scratched? With odds at 81-1, ignored by betters even though he finished third behind Tiz the Bomb in his last race? This was the horse that destroyed all my carefully laid plans?

It was.

But who cared? Friends of Steve had kept his betting peculiarities going since he died. If we were ever at a track together, we’d place a bet in the last race on the horse with the longest odds. Just before Kathy and I left for the Derby, we had dinner with those friends and agreed to bet the longest odds in the Derby.

That would be No. 21. Rich Strike and Sonny Leon. We had placed a $10 show bet on the horse, which returned $147. Yeah, I lost all my well-planned bets (except for the place and show on Epicenter). But watching this race, having a bet on this uncertain winner and dancing around at the finish was the best race ever.

Thank you, Steve.

After Rich Strike had won the Kentucky Derby.