The long arm of Covid continued to impact our travel plans well into 2021, even as California “reopened” June 15 and some aspects of social life transiently assumed a near-normal aspect. Our long-planned Philippines dive trip, a longer than usual charter to remote Tubbataha, had been on the calendar since August of 2019. With the advent of vaccines in December 2020, faint hope glimmered that our trip would go, but as spring wore on, that began to seem unrealistic and finally, very late, in mid-April, we received the official word: cancelled for 2020, rescheduled for 2024 (!).
We had finally made it back to New York in late March/early April, after a pandemic-induced 16 month long hiatus, and New York was re-opening as well, so that decision was an easy one. Covid had cancelled plans in May 2020 to visit the Wieners in the Berkshires and to attend the Berkshire Film Festival. The Wieners would be in the Berkshires when we were in New York, so our side trip to the Berkshires was re-scheduled, our first time to western Massachusetts. The final piece of this 3-part travel puzzle was a wildflower season return trip to the lovely Methow Valley of Washington, where our friend Dave had been spending more time than ever during the shut-down.
Wednesday, June 16, 2021
It was a busy day at work, with an unusual number of “private” patients who specifically requested me to do their breast biopsies. Weirdly, this was my first day in over a month to work in the Breast Center, thanks to the cyber emergency which consumed the month of May and the acute need for neuro readers 24/7. Juno picked us up at work for the ride to San Diego airport, which was strangely deserted, thanks to an accident Howard called to warn us about. We approached from the Pt. Loma side and could see the road from the San Diego side was empty. Our first surprise was that the lounge was closed. The second was after walking over to Terminal 1, thinking we’d get Saffron for dinner, finding it also closed, as was everything in Sunset Cove.
Our flight on Alaska was mellow and mercifully free of the on board misbehavior making headlines and we made it to our AirBnB on Mercer Island without event. It was pleasantly decorated with Japanese artifacts and we awoke to a beautiful blooming garden.
Thursday, June17, 2021
The drive through the North Cascades National Park to the Methow Valley was beautiful. Just as we passed the Welcome to Winthrop sign and I went to dig out my phone to figure out where our meeting place at the Lost River Winery was, I saw it and in the next second, the tall silhouette of our friend Dave, in the parking lot. His house is remote enough that GPS isn’t a reliable guide to it.
We shared a flight of wines before picking up a few bottles to accompany our delicious, Dave-cooked dinner of filet mignon, risotto and asparagus.
Friday, July 18, 2021
We rented bikes with VERY fat tires from Merle at North Cascades Cyclewerks for a ride on the Methow Valley community trail system.
This mostly level ride took us through forest, across the Methow River on a suspension bridge and past luxuriant stands of ferns, punctuated with vivid wildflowers enlivening the brilliant green.
Tiger lilies (lilium columbianum) and mountain lady’s slippers (Cypripedium montanum) brought me to a halt on the trail, to dig out the Olympus TG-6.
Back at the house, Rasa and Gedi had arrived from Seattle from the weekend, as well as Rasa’s sister Milda and her husband, another Dave (“Super Dave”) in their Sprinter van. Super Dave chopped a colorful array of tomatoes and peppers to color the salad, while Dave procured a delicious array of pizzas from East 20 in Winthrop.
Saturday, July 19, 2021
Steve, Dave and I did a long ride from the house, Dave on his gravel bike and Steve and I on mountain bikes borrowed from his neighbors, Art and Michele (Steve riding Dave’s old mountain bike which he had sold to Art). There were some sustained climbs up amazingly deserted gravel roads, where they left me well behind. They did stop and let me catch up periodically. Our circuit took in local sights, including the gorge site of a massive mudslide, Campbell Lake and Pipestone Canyon. There was cloud cover initially, giving way to unshielded sun later.
Dinner was steelhead salmon, Rasa’s delicious version of “healthier” risotto (brown rice with sauteed onions and peppers) and salad.
Sunday, July 20, 2021
Steve turned the leftover pizza into pizza-brei (eggs scrambled with cut-up left-over pizza instead of matzo) for a sustaining breakfast, before we set out from the house on the mountain bikes borrowed from Dave’s neighbors. The highlight of this ride was a fun, flowey singletrack around Lake Pearrygin, which was wreathed with flowers. Rasa and Gedi were already on their way back to Seattle and Whigby Island for Father’s Day with her father.
Afterwards, we relaxed over beers and cider at the Old Schoolhouse Brewery in Winthrop, overlooking the Chewuch River.
Winthrop is a cute, Western style town with an excellent bookstore, where I picked up an engrossing novel of uneasy race relations and privilege, Kiley Reid’s Such a Fun Age, which I would finish in a record 2 days, thanks to travel induced spaces of time.
Dave sauteed red peppers and onions, broccolinii and balsalmic glazed chicken for another satisfying dinner. His neighbor Rich (a retired urologist married to a breast radiologist) came over and we hung out on the sunset side listening to Dave’s newly mixed jazz standards (Salmon Bay Duo accompanied one night by a flutist and another by an 80 year old but still-swinging-despite-a-stroke saxophone player) as the sunset heated up and then slowly receded. We were far enough north that it doesn’t become completely dark in summer. We enjoyed chatting with Rich, who in retirement has developed a men’s health podcast called (appropriately enough), the Original Guide to Men’s Health.
Monday, July 21, 2021
Our departure was near-disastrous-the car wouldn’t start! It would have a full on disaster if this had happened the following day, when we originally planned to leave. Flickers of life misled us into thinking the problem was the keyless ignition and not something simple, namely a dead battery. It was hot and Steve was disproportionately vexed. We couldn’t even open the trunk to retrieve our luggage or laptops while waiting for the AAA truck, dispatched after we eventually called the rental agency. Dave didn’t have jumper cables. He offered to drive down to his neighbor’s for theirs but by that time, the rescue service was on the way from Winthrop. Fortunately, the man that responded seemed to know the area, as GPS does not work well in this remote area.
This chewed up a couple of hours. It was so hot when we did arrive at Leavenworth that we went straight to Sleeping Lady. Steve hid out in the highly air conditioned room while I started the book I had bought in town the day before, Such a Fun Age, sitting in the shade on a boulder by the cooling river.
Dinner in town at the Watershed was uneven. It was early enough we qualified for happy hour priced $9 cocktails. The bruscetta with mozzarella balls, cherry tomatoes and pesto were a juggling challenge, but tasty, as were my oysters. Steve’s meatloaf with mushrooms and mashed potatoes rivaled his long-time standard, Florida’s Mrs. Mack’s, but my vegetarian offering of eggplant with coconut basmati rice, sunflower sprouts, apple, a rare almond and weak chimichurri was….puzzling. Not objectionable, it just didn’t hang together. It was also mystifying why my token vegetarian offering was the same price as all of the other entrees, $29 .
Tuesday, July 22, 2021
This was a long travel day, beginning with a 2 hour drive to Sea-Tac, which was a mob scene, with terminal crowds at near pre-pandemic levels, at least visually. Our flight was also drawn out, initially leaving on time, only to return to the gate with failure of the second engine to fire up. The pilot even came back at one point to explain the precautions to a nearby concerned passenger. Eventually, we were on our way, arriving an hour and 45 minutes late, after midnight. The prolonged stay in the aircraft did speed my reading of Kiley Reid’s debut novel, Such a Fun Age, which I bought in downtown Winthrop and started the prior day, while dealing with the dead rental car battery. It was late when we made it to JFK, where Gideon was waiting for us, but good to be back…to be continued.