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?

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.