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  • Writer's pictureJefferson Graham

COVID Travel tales

After three months of quarantine, I was ready to flee, get back out on the open road and see new sights.

You’ve probably had the same feeling and have probably wondered, what’s it like out there?

Well, I’m there now. In majestic, lush green and cloud filled Oregon. So let me fill you in.

The short answer: it’s definitely worth it to get out there. But the further you get from urban environments, the more likely it is to see social distancing ignored.

Small business is hurting in a way you can only imagine, but when you walk into the stores in the small towns and strike up a conversation, you feel it much more profoundly. I’m glad to be able to support them in any way we can, and that getting out has made a tiny contribution.

It was a long drive and I wouldn’t have done it any other way. I wasn’t going to step onto an airplane right now, and I’m thrilled I got to ditch the pain of the cattle like experience that is the airport.

Leaving LA for route 5, we made our first stop at the Harris Ranch, a great half-way point between LA and San Francisco. Good news: lots of picnic benches, so a great place to have a roadside lunch (from Trader Joe’s) without worries of getting too close to other humans.

Next stop: Sacramento, to see Ruth’s brother Denis, where we stayed in an Airbnb. Again, perfect for the COVID era. The door to the unit was left open for us, the key was by the coffee maker and we didn’t have to make contact with anyone.

In Sacramento, we were advised to wear masks before entering stores. But as we left and headed up 1-5, you could start to see the COVID guidelines start to melt. I entered a 7-Eleven type store, just north of Redding, and not only were the patrons not in masks, neither were the staff.

But then we got to Ashland, where the Best Western motel clerk was in a mask (thank you!) and we ate at our first restaurant (inside) since COVID struck. The good news: the tables were separated to make for lots of room and distancing. The bad news: we were the only people there. There were at least 4 staffers, and no way our order of chicken tortilla soup and a salad would pay their bills for the night.

But it sure felt great to be in a booth again.

Next stop: Forest Grove, Oregon, to visit our friends Anthony and Carol, and we stayed at another Best Western, where we were greeted by a clerk in a mask. But the next morning, six staffers at the motel, and not one of them in a mask. Ruth complained to them about it, and they shrugged. I complained too, and got a similar response. So I tweeted. And read the corporate policy, which differs from how the staffers were garbed.

Now we’re in Cannon Beach, Portland’s favorite beach town, with miles of a really wide beach and one amazing 250 foot high rock by the sea. It’s just 2.5 hours up the coast from Newport, where an outbreak at a fish processing plant sadly has shut the town down completely. And we’re west of another outbreak at a Northeast Oregon church, where some 236 people tested positive after a big sing-along.

Oregon is one of the states that has recently seen a spike upwards of COVID infections.

COVID has hit Cannon Beach hard. Some 7 businesses have shut down, already, due to the virus’s impact on tourism. One local retailer told me he was working hard to hopefully get to the end of the year at 30% of his normal revenues.

It’s that rough out there.

Meanwhile, most people walking down the streets here are not in masks and stores don’t require one, but ask gently for you to please wear one. The local Chamber of Commerce, however, has put out a cute flyer of a rare Puffin bird in a mask.

Thank you Chamber.

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