Wednesday, March 31, 2021

The Angst of Life with Covid and Re-Entering the Travel World

It's been a tough year, hasn't it? Staying home isn't easy for anyone especially for travel writers. After attending the SATW travel writers' conference in El Paso and making some great contacts with destination folks who had filled my imagination with article ideas from places like Monterey, San Francisco, Santa Fe, and even the Gulf Coast of Alabama, I planned my upcoming year of travel. I love to travel, photograph, and write. Sharing stories and travel tips with you are what excites me and keeps me going. 

The Pandemic Hits

So much for my travel calendar and my dreams! March 2020 ended all that with the pandemic. Instead of traveling, I sat transfixed to the television watching CNN reports of hospital horrors in New York City and the ever-growing statistics of the infected and the dead as the COVID-19 spread across the world. Stay home and mask up were the buzz words. Even online travel magazines I love to write for said they were not accepting travel content. We pivoted to stay at home content, most of which was filled with exciting decorating ideas based on what we had seen on our travels... in the past.

I decided to write about things like Zapotec rugs and Mexican pottery using photos from my travel experiences.

My days filled up with gardening, dog walking, messaging good friends who were also home-bound, and playing Words With Friends. How boring! It scared me as friends and family contracted Covid, but fortunately I did not and they recovered.

Garden scenes became my typical Instagram posts.

During this time even travel to pick up groceries curbside and go to a dental appointment was anxiety-producing. Would I even travel again?

Cabin Fever Wins Out

Long about June, we knew enough about precautions and things started to open. Rules on mask-wearing and distancing became common. So I decided to break out of my self-imposed imprisonment and start some local fact-finding forays for articles. Close to home, yet interesting, I thought. Something people could do safely, I planned.

My first trip was north, just a half an hour to Wickenburg, the Dude Ranch Capital of the World. The Desert Caballeros Western Museum had decided to re-open and enticed me with their annual Cowgirl Up exhibition. Western-themed paintings all done by women artists were featured. I masked up and drove north, savoring every sight along the way including the Mexican pottery shops.

Wickenburg, Arizona

The museum was ready for me. Hand sanitizer was strategically placed with the pencils and papers used for voting for the favorite piece of art and volunteers reluctantly donned masks when they saw me... the only visitor in the museum!

Cowgirl Up! is an annual show in Wickenburg

Having the opportunity to see fine art close-up was a marvelous experience. On the way home, I decided I must risk again!

So my second day trip was to the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, about 40 minutes from my home. They had just implemented a mask requirement and asked that guests register ahead for open time slots for their visit. Sounded safe to me! I had a great time wandering the garden and photographing cacti. While I did notice a few mask-averse rebels on the paths, overall it was safe. I came home with fodder for yet another colorful article.

 

Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden

Missing Sedona

I spent more days enjoying mild mornings on my patio but yearned to go to a higher altitude to avoid some of the desert heat. I thought of driving to Sedona for a day to glimpse the Red Rocks and actually take a walk in the middle of the day.

But there could be more! My elderly dog, Cinnamon the Coonhound, yearned to explore along a creek in the middle of the day and get a change of scenery too. Her big brown eyes reminded me that she was 13 and I should be working on her bucket list. So I agreed to take her.

How could you resist this face?

I checked out the Covid precautions at the pet-friendly Amara Resort and decided that it looked like a place we'd both enjoy. And, by now, I was dying for a chef-directed restaurant meal. 

The Amara Resort in Sedona
 
I drove several hours to beautiful Sedona and had a relaxing two days hiking in the early morning before others got out and savored an evening margarita and dining on the cool patio offered by the SaltRock Kitchen at the Amara Resort. 

Enjoying a margarita in the early evening on the patio would not have been a possibility in hot Phoenix this time of year. This was sooo refreshing!
 
I even ventured to quaint Tlaquepaque to enjoy the art and scenery (and dodge non-mask wearers). But between you and me, after each outing, I worried a little about Covid for about a week after. All went well, fortunately.

Vaccine Time

Just when I wanted to "break out of Covid jail" again and go somewhere, Arizona began planning major vaccination efforts. I patiently waited until my age group qualified for vaccination and went through the many attempts to sign up for a time slot just like everyone else. I finally scored an appointment at the huge Safeco Field Stadium. 

Vaccination day rolled around and I went to the car at 4:30 a.m. I wanted to make sure I got there early for my 5:45 a.m. appointment. I jumped in the car with my mask, ID, and appointment code and... THE CAR WOULDN'T START! I pulled out my trusty portable battery to jump start the car and THE BATTERY DIDN'T WORK! After I calmed down and went back into the house, I cancelled the appointment on my computer and found that I could get another one at the end of the week at the Arizona State Fairgrounds. Whew!

 

So I got vaccinated in the animal barn at the Arizona State Fairgrounds!

All was well, and I sailed through both Pfizer vaccine experiences with only minimal side effects. And, April 2nd is the date I am fully vaccinated. Will I go wild with freedom? The CDC suggests I should not. But I want to take a trip... just a little one!

Travel Plans

I read everything I could get my hands on regarding COVID, the Corona Virus variants and how to remain safe. I decided to venture out with a few press trips in 2021 but take precautions and go to places where I would be relatively safe. Travel can be done as more and more people become vaccinated, but carefully and planfully. I'm sticking relatively close to home and don't plan to join any large groups of people for events like the Coachella Music Festival, for sure (it's cancelled for this year anyway). But there are trips I can take and writing I can do and I'm looking forward to sharing all that with you.

When I visited with destination representatives at the SATW conference, I made my list and on that list was Palm Springs, California. I looked through my notes and focused on the cultures of the Greater Palm Springs area. There were colorful Mexican-American murals in Coachella, a new Native American Cultural Center, and, of course, the mid-century modern architecture. Add in a little patio dining and a dip in a resort pool and that's what I'll be looking forward to very soon. And, my hope is that I will discover some surprises along the way to share with readers. 

Palm Springs awaits!

Covid-Safe Travel Resources

Yes, you can travel safely if you know what you are doing. Some of the best resources for Covid-safe travel include:

CDC Covid-Safe Travel Information by Destination

CDC Travel during Covid-19

How to Wear Your Mask Correctly

Monday, February 8, 2021

Pandemic Discoveries: Dryer Balls Actually Work

What does a travel writer do during a travel-inhibiting pandemic? Well, lots of things can be done at home… solo! All of a sudden, I found myself looking forward to such mundane tasks as folding laundry. But my laundry came out of the dryer with sheets of Kleenex sticking to jeans and dog hair decorating my boring grey sweatpants. Folding laundry wasn’t as satisfying as I hoped it would be.

 

Advice Ignored

Over the years I heard that you should put tennis balls in the dryer to keep wrinkles down. I ignored that and tried dryer sheets. While dryer sheets were great to reduce static, it was recommended that you not use them for man-made fabrics, and, thanks to their low cost and easy care, I had plenty of these synthetic wonders. And, besides, the scents were overwhelming. (I can smell my neighbors’ dryer sheets when I sit outside on my patio and they live two houses away!)

 

And then I started hearing more and more about wool dryer balls. The claims were endless. They:

  • Cut drying time by a third
  • Clothing came out with less wrinkles
  • Things like Kleenex and dog hair wouldn’t stick to the fabrics
  • Laundry doesn’t stick together
  • They were inexpensive and could be used for about 1,000 loads before needing to be replaced
  • They are not harmful to the environment or your skin

 

So how do they work and why didn’t I try them before? Dryer balls tumble between the layers of your washing and separate the fabrics. This action allows warm air to circulate better which can even help reduce drying time. This bouncing around in the dryer also helps fight wrinkles, prevents static and softens clothes.

 


Testing, Testing

So, since I wasn’t traveling, I decided to add a bag of wool dryer balls to my Amazon order. After all, if they didn’t work, I could return them. Amazon has been good about that. Since I am an Amazon Prime member, they arrived the next day.

 

Into the washer went jeans, t-shirts, towels, cloth napkins and socks. The cute cotton bag the balls came in directed that I should use 5-6 balls for large loads. I opted for 4, as a test. It took me a few minutes to get used to the soft sound of the balls bouncing around but when I checked the load…. It was already dry!

 

I pulled out each item and noticed that Kleenex sheets fell away from the jeans (I have a life-long problem remembering to check pockets before I do laundry), there was very little dog hair, all fabrics were less wrinkled and the static was pretty much gone. I was sold!

 

The Down Side of Dryer Balls

In an attempt to continue as an ethical journalist, I have to share both sides of the dryer ball story. There are a few things to know:

  • You will want to order new dryer balls after about 1,000 loads and if they start fraying.
  • Be super careful adding essential oils to the balls for a scent. One drop is OK and you will be instructed to use the oils when the load is on low heat, and almost done. If you douse your dryer balls with essential oils, you may just start a dryer fire!

 

Buy quality wool balls that are tightly made. Mine are made with wool from New Zealand and constructed in Nepal. I’m linking to my Amazon find and, yes, I get a teeny percentage if you purchase them through my page here (Thank you!).


Sunday, November 3, 2019

Favorite 2019 Instagram Travel Posts


2019 was a year of traveling the west. Many of these photographs have been used to illustrate articles on Wander With Wonder.