I am one of the many Americans whose response to Covid has been to pack up my house and head for the hills. Fresh, mountain air, is the cure, I tell myself. And in the divine way that the Universe does sometimes give you just what you need, an opportunity materializes. A short term rental in a place I can drive to, with soaring mountains and places to escape in a State, where a friend says it is easy to isolate because everyone is so spread out anyway. Isolation is normal here, she reassures me.
As I am getting ready to depart, I realize it is also a State with a growing number of Covid cases.
Will that stop me? No.
I will mask up, put on gloves and wear a face shield. I carry wipes.
The first hurdle isn’t medical or mental. It is learning how to drive at night in a place that has an official dark sky designation. A place where, even as I navigate my passage through Santa Fe – a place that has streetlights – and wind thru the downtown area until I find the mountain road to Taos, it hits me that I cannot see two cars in front of me. No one else seems to have a problem with this. So, I pause, book a hotel and decide to finish the final stretch of my journey by daylight. I make a mental note to put driving at night in N.M. on my list of goals. Dark sky designations are admirable. It puts the World to bed when it is supposed to wind down, reduces what is artificial or disruptive and brings the stars and other nocturnal wonders to life. I’ll figure it out. It is worth it, right?
I realize I need to get a Covid test.
I listen to the local solar powered radio station (how cool is that) initially for the great mountain music but realize in short order, this is my lifeline for local updates on the virus. I hear free tests will be given out the following Weds. I search the website and even call the station. Can I get tested in a state where I am just visiting? Do I need to be a resident or at least, work here?
I am willing to drive. I call hospitals, pharmacies and Google drive-thru Covid testing.
The first person I talked to shares that she lost her Uncle to the virus. And she is hoping she still has a job once everyone is vaccinated.
I came here to ski.
The second person I call for an appointment thanks me for being willing to get tested and isolating before heading out to ski. He wishes more Covid escapees would do the same. I’ve taken some risks. Ate out in a big City over the Christmas holidays. We were outside, but still. I have flown twice since last March, had several overnights in hotels along the way, and grocery shopped.
Most of the hotel rooms I stayed in were sealed with labels that look like a band aid stretched over the door frame and door itself. Covid Clean! The only hotel stay that gave me pause was one in a room that thankfully had two full sized beds. Thank God there were two because when I pulled the covers off the first one, the sheets looked slept in! Maybe they came out of the dryer too soon and were wrinkled? They smelled fresh but I wasn’t going to chance it. I slept in the second. And its sheets were taut and free of wrinkles.
Otherwise, the rooms reflected what is the new high bar for what clean means. Hospital level sanitation. A clean with light or sheen that literally sparkles. It isn’t something that smells like antiseptic, it’s something for all five senses. From the band-aid like adhesive used to seal the door and provide a visual cue upon arrival to the hand sanitizer dispenser inside the elevators, it’s a clean new World out there.
Personally, the chance to ski is the perfect antidote for Covid-Anxiety. To be in the fresh, mountain air, in a sport where being six feet apart isn’t a new normal but has been the normal forever, is magical.
I wear my mask when cross-country skiing and wonder why? I am alone on the trail. I wear it because the Governor is asking us to. The good news is most skiers usually have face coverings on anyway. It is cold out there!