Dan and Hannah, the Delta Variant, and the Wildfires in California – September 2021

Yesterday morning (September 1, 2021) Hannah and I were preparing for our Saturday departure to LAX for two weeks of friends and hiking in California.  I’d just set up pickleball with our Santa Barbara friends, Bill and Claudia, while the confirmation of our Air B&B lodging in Mariposa, at the gateway to Yosemite National Park, had arrived.

Yesterday afternoon everything changed.  The straws of not traveling to California became too many.  (Sort of straw vote!)  The Delta Variant of Covid and the wildfires outweighed the excitement of our Golden State fortnight adventure.

Straw One, so much had changed since I made our Delta Airlines reservations in March of 2021.  The vaccine was readily available and returning to our active lives, sooner than later, seemed like a given.  First the Delta Variant, and then the wildfires.

Straw Two, Tuesday we learned that all national forests were to be closed in California so that meant hiking into the Santa Ynez Mountains above Santa Barbara was out.

Straw Three, already the Caldor Fire blocked our drive from Yosemite to South Lake Tahoe; ten thousand people have been evacuated from the area.

Straw Four, with the wildfires still out of control, we were looking at the possibility of Yosemite closing, having to hike with masks, and breathing intolerable smoke.

Yosemite NP is to the south of the Caldor Fire

Straw Five, the realization that getting to the McArthur Burney Falls in northern California may be impossible and if we did, we’d likely see a trickle of water due to the historic twenty year drought in the West.

Straw Six, vaccinated folks like us are getting Covid, which was an unknown development this past March. 

There was just too much hanging over our heads to make it the 75th birthday national parks vacation that I was hoping for.  True, I’m just 73, but you get the point. Covid has made many of us wanting to travel now before the next pandemic or climate catastrophe.  Yes, climate change is real.

So how much money did we lose?

We don’t pay for our 15-day $1276 Enterprise rental car until we actually get the car.  Cancelled with no charge.

All the motels we signed up for allow us to cancel until the last day or two.  No charge.

The $315 two-night Air B&B in Mariposa for our September 9 and 10 stay had a full refund policy if we cancelled by September 4.  No charge.

Delta gave us e-credit for our plane tickets that we can use on another Delta flight if we make reservations by December 31, 2022.

Money was never the issue, the possibility of hiking with masks, breathing nasty wildfire smoke and closed trails were ultimately the key straws that has us postpone our two weeks in California.

California, we are not giving up on you!  Winter 2022!

Dan’s Wearing a Mask Again (August 2021)

Though fully vaccinated since February 2021, this morning I wore my cloth mask into our gym, Coastal Fitness, in Kittery due to the emergence of the Delta variant.  I didn’t see any other masks among the seniors or the young dudes lifting weights.  I wore one into the Nike Outlet store when I was buying new athletic shoes for pickleball; a few others were wearing masks, including all the sales staff.  Even for fifteen seconds, I slip on my mask to pick up take-out chicken burritos from Loco Coco’s Tacos. 

There is no mandate to wear a mask indoors in Maine as of August 13, 2021.  As it turns out, Mainers are getting the message being second in the country having 97.7% fully vaccinated adults 65 and over.  (Vermont blows everyone out of the water at 99.6%!!  You go Green Mountaineers!) 

Maine is second for adults eighteen and over that are fully vaccinated at 68.8% while Vermont crushes it at 70.3%.

Let me say that I don’t wear a mask outdoors playing pickleball, biking on our country roads, walking on the Maine shoreline, nor when friends are over on our front deck.  I don’t wear it at our gym when I am stepping on the elliptical nor pedaling on the recumbent.

So why do I wear a mask indoors when I don’t have t? 

I just want the people I come in contact with to have a better chance of not getting Covid.  As a vaccinated Mainer, I know I could be asymptomatic and pass the virus to another.  If I do pass it on to a vaccinated one, it’s unlikely they will have any more than mild cold symptoms.

If I do pass the virus on to an unvaccinated one, I’m sorry, so be it.  They chose not to get vaccinated when there are vaccines for everyone!  By wearing a mask, I am looking out for the greater good and the unvaccinated as well, who are the reason I am wearing a mask at all.

Wearing a mask is my small rock thrown in the pond rippling good health for us all.

Dan’s Top Ten – KGUA #49

For the May 17, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour hosted by Mark Gross and Peggy Berryhill in Gualala, California, we are asked to freewrite about what we have learned about ourselves during the pandemic.  I give you my Top Ten!    

Top Ten

10. I’ve learned that when I think I’ve hit a home run in life, I remember that as white guy I was born on second base.

9. I’ve relearned how much I love my Fitbit tracker.  My Fitbit encourages me to continue to be the crazed exerciser that I’ve been ever since my days as a grad student working in the Human Performance Lab at Arizona State University. 

8. I have relearned the timeless wisdom of Don Miguel Ruiz in Four Agreements that two of the keys to happiness are to make no assumptions and to not take anything personally.

7.  I have learned that a margarita or two is just fine, but more is asking for trouble. 

6. Rather than immediately react emotionally when I’m challenged by life coming at me, I’ve learned to take a breath and think about the truth of the situation for me.  Giving myself advice in the third person helps (e.g., Dan, you know that…).

5. I’ve learned the importance of having a knife at every meal to cut my food up to avoid said food from lodging in my throat.  I am not far from a steady diet of mush, oatmeal, and apple sauce.

4.  I’ve learned that my longstanding passion for pickleball has been refocused.  I love playing the soft game with opponents who see the game as a cooperative venture to challenge all players rather than a competitive battle where winning is all that matters.  Also, I like to play pickleball not slamball.

3. I have relearned how fortunate I am to have good health and ample resources to really enjoy retirement.

2. I have learned that a beer with friends after ping pong and pickleball makes the experience a royal flush.

1. I am reminded that I have a traveler’s heart.  I look forward to California’s sunshine and blue skies in the months ahead.

Dan and the Voices in His Head – KGUA #45

For the April 19, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour, we are asked to free write about what that voices in our head are telling us. 

Yo, Danny Boy.  Sup?

I gotta say it’s been a tough year.  All this coronavirus stuff.  But, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

What!  That’s the best you can do, that tired old cliché.  There’s got to be more stirring around in your noggin!

Okay, here’s a thought.  In the main, I think too many Americans don’t give a rat’s patootie about other Americans dying from the coronavirus and that’s why they bristle at the restrictions.

Whoa.  You know, over half million have died.

Oh, no question.  But after 14 months Americans have done the math and like their odds.

Back up.  Explain that one to me. 

Think about it. There are 340 million Americans.  If 600,000 die from the coronavirus, that’s less than two-tenths of one percent who go to the Great Beyond.

And if that’s the calculus, people think why mask, avoid restaurants and concerts, and miss out on big weddings?  They just don’t care because they think it just ain’t going to happen to them.

While I chew on that, got anything lighter to end on?

No, I don’t.  Can you believe that Americans were really paying that much attention to their seventh grade math teacher!

Words – 201

Dan and the Pandemic One Year Ago – KGUA radio #41

For the March 22, 2021 KGUA radio Morning Writer’s Hour, we are asked to free write about the day we learned of the Covid-19 pandemic last March. 

The First Time the Pandemic got Real

Something felt different as Hannah and I settled into our Jet Blue flight from Los Angeles to Boston on March 4, 2020.  Surprisingly, this popular non-stop coast-to-coast flight was only 85% full; and for the first time, I saw four or five people wearing masks.  I didn’t think much of it; maybe this pandemic is just all hype and will have little more effect than the seasonal flu.

Eight days later, having bought tickets for the Banff Film Festival at the Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire months ago, Hannah and I still felt reasonably safe, though packed tightly, with 600 others for these short indie films.    

Coming home that Thursday night, I paused and wondered about our upcoming trip to the national parks of Utah with our daughter Molly’s family just five weeks away.  I’m still feeling hopeful. 

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Utah

The next morning, I was taken aback by the news that Molly’s Lexington, Mass school district was shutting down for two weeks.  Maybe I had underestimated the pandemic’s reach and intensity. 

Over the weekend on a FaceTime call, Molly figuratively grabbed us by the lapels and said it’s time for you two to take this seriously.  By that she meant, stop going to the gym, which we reluctantly did.

Within days, we postponed our family trip to the Arches and Bryce Canyon National Parks.  I had no idea that it would be two years (2022) before we’d all be ready to go again.

Words – 237

Dan and Hannah Pay It Forward – Pandemic Style – KGUA #40

Winter evening in York

Funny how paying it forward works.  Let me explain.

The best gift, bar none, Hannah and I ever received as parents was when someone would take our young kids so we could get away for some “us” time.  League leaders in this category were my mom and dad.  Regularly, they would settle into our house in York, Maine with Molly, Robyn, and Will while Hannah and I would take two nights going up the coast to Camden.

Circa 1945 My mom and dad in the Pacific during WWII

With the light at the end of the tunnel of the pandemic, Hannah and I have a chance to pay it forward with our daughter Molly’s family.  Our grandsons, Owen (8) and Max (6), have been remote schooling and hanging with their parents going on 12 months. 

Now that Hannah and I are two weeks past our second Pfizer vaccine for Covid, we are set to have the boys for our famous 24 Hours of Owen and Max.  Molly and her hubby Tip get to do whatever they want, whenever they want.

The first weekend in March is still winter in Maine.  Highs this Saturday are in the upper 20s; though the sunshine adds a few degrees, the wind takes away a few more.

The Home Depot Kids’ Workshop has been cancelled, the York Public Library is not an option.  Basically it’s the great outdoors.

Taking the boys to the mailbox, Hannah turns toward the icy pond in our front yard.  The boys have their plastic sleds and we all have struck outdoor gold.

After an early lunch, we pile into our Prius for George Derby’s place on the Atlantic where we hunt for sea glass, explore the rocky coastline, and get nicely surprised by George just returning from clamming. 

Sea glass hunting
With Owen, George is just back from clamming with a peck of clams, which is about 15 pounds of clams
Owen with the clam fork

Just north of George’s place is the Fort McClary State Park for further exploring and a short trail hike.

A wintry 28F on the coast of Maine at Fort McClary State Park
Cannons that protected the Maine coast in days gone by
Owen, Max, and their Omi at Fort McClary

After three hours outside, we all return to our Chases Pond Road place.  The boys settled in with a Netflix movie, Bigfoot Family, while I go to the York House of Pizza for dinner.  Then Hannah and I have a glass of wine to toast our extended family.

After their large pepperoni pizza and our mushroom, we play cards, Sevens and Sh-theed.  Bedtime by 730P leaves us all ready for a good night’s sleep.

Next morning, Hannah makes omelets-to-order.  Max choses cheese while and Owen opts for onion.

Twenty fours after I picked up the boys, I return them to their pop.

It was one of the best 24 hours of the entire winter!  As you can see, paying it forward has multiple winners!

Max and his cheesy omelet
Owen digs onions in his omelet

By the way, when asked to rate Bigfoot Family from one to ten (ten being high), no surprise that the children of a math educator (their mom Molly) would rate the movie a 9.7 (Owen) and 9.9 (Max).

Dan’s Tiny Love Story

Ithaca, New York

Each weekend, I go to Mr. Mike’s convenience store on Route One in York, Maine for the Sunday New York Times.  A favorite section of ours is Sunday Styles.  Within it, there is the Modern Love essay, a personal narrative about love, loss, and redemption.  Their words, not mine.

In 2018, the Times added a 100-word mini called Tiny Love StoriesTell Us Your Love Story.  Just Keep It Really Short.  We’re looking for all the emotion that’s fit to print — in no more than 100 words.

I thought I’d try my hand at one.

Montecito, California

We had the time of our lives sophomore year.  As juniors, we broke up; she needed time and space, I left for Arizona with my broken heart.  A couple of years later she came west, we married, eventually to return east to raise a family.  In retirement we spent winters in California.  All set to go again this Covid year, we learned that California was under a Stay-at-Home order.  Technically, we could have gone if we quarantined, but Hannah didn’t want to go.  I did.  It was my Covid valentine for her.

Words – 92

I submitted my Tiny Love Story to the Times earlier this week.  They asked for pictures so I included these two. I’ll keep you updated. 

Click here to read past Tiny Love Stories. Click here for the guidelines for the Tiny Love Stories

Dan and Hannah Get Their Second Pfizer Vaccine Part 3 of 3

As members of the 70+ roll out in Maine, Hannah and I got our ticket punched for the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine three weeks ago. 

That first dose opens the door to resuming the weekly Covid pod with our daughter Molly’s family that has been on hiatus since November. 

Charlotte and Reese (and yes we can tell them apart)

Since fall, one day is pretty much indistinguishable from the next; often each day seems like a Saturday and every evening as a Friday night during the November to March winter in Maine. Settling into the indoor life during this global pandemic, I typically (and by that I mean every day), with Hannah, stretch, lift light weights, breakfast on oatmeal, workout at the gym, nap, walk the beach, drink wine in front of the fire, and dine with Netflix. Wash, rinse, and repeat. 

Brooks in snow

Dreaming of other possibilities once we are fully vaccinated gets me through winter’s dark and cold.  A trip to New York to see our daughter Robyn who we haven’t seen in over a year, then traveling to see our identical twin granddaughters and their big brother for the first time since last summer.

Max and Owen

Hiking Mount Major with our grandson Max and later climbing Mount Monadnock with his big brother Owen, traveling to California for a national park hiking tour in September, and celebrating the lives in-person of my Aunt Ilene (101) and my Uncle Bill (88).

Though February has been stormier and colder than January, it will take a massive nor’easter to keep us from driving to the Covid clinic in Sanford thirty miles away for our second dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

Hannah barely feels her vaccination

On Thursday, February 18, 2021, with not a flake or an icy patch, we drive inland to the Southern Maine Health Care clinic. Checked in, we quickly complete the paperwork to acknowledge that we’ve been healthy since our last vaccination. Literally within 10 minutes we are lifting our sleeves for our second Pfizer vaccination as among the first 6% of American adults to receive both does.

A disinterested (in us!) gull awaits her evening clam at Wells (Maine) Beach

After waiting fifteen minutes to be observed for immediate reactions, we then head to Wells Beach to walk to the breakwater. Maybe the activity is the reason that five hours later we are still feeling no symptoms. Just like my brother Richard who got his second Pfizer shot in New York State, I feel no more soreness in my upper left arm than the first time. The day after I am not so spunky and take it easy while Hannah is just fine. Two days I ready to rock and roll.

The golden ticket

Until our son Will’s family feels comfortable with us coming to New York to see our grandkids, not a whole lot will change. We’ll still go the gym and mask up as they require. Fully masked, I’ll pick up chicken burritos take-out at Loco Coco’s in Kittery; we are not even close to happy hour margaritas and nachos at Ruby’s in York. We would play indoor pickleball in Westbrook if and when they open up.

But still I can dream! California here we come, just not until late summer!

We spot this encouragement as we leave the Covid clinic in Sanford

Dan and Hannah Get Their First Covid Vaccine Part 2 of 3

Eight days after getting our appointment for a Covid vaccine, we have a simple 40-minute drive from our home in York up the Maine Turnpike, then heading inland to Southern Maine Health Care in Sanford, Maine. 

Earlier in the week we had learned from a good friend of her vaccination experience.  After the first dose of the Moderna vaccine, I had a heavy arm and headache along with a metallic taste for about 30 hours. 

After the second dose, my experience was magnified with chills, fever, fatigue, and muscle aches.  After two days, I was feeling great!

Whoa!  This may not be a walk in the park I had hoped for, but bring it on.  

After a morning of light snow on the last Thursday in January, we arrive at the Goodall Medical Office Building in plenty of time for our early afternoon appointments.

Confirming that we are in good health, we complete the necessary paper work in a waiting room just off a larger room with curtained-off medical bays where the shots will be given.  A little before one, a scheduler asks if anyone is done with their paperwork.  I raise my hand as she says endearingly, Come with me honey.

Seated in a treatment room with the RN Anita, I strip off sweatshirt and long sleeve tee. Putting me at ease, she asks me which arm I would like to use.  Knowing there could be a reaction, I opt for the left since I need my right hand for the remote for Sports Center.  Though Hannah said she didn’t even know that the needle went in, I feel a slight sensation that wouldn’t even get to one on the 1 to 10 pain scale. 

And that is it.  She signs my card which notes the Pfizer vaccine and I am led to another waiting room for the fifteen minute observation period.

Without symptoms, as it is with Hannah, we shoot the breeze with the scheduling nurse who let’s us know that her mom is still behind 40,000 other Mainers for the vaccine.  The center schedules eight vaccinations every 15 minutes and does 240 vaccinations each and every day as one of the many locations providing this service.  Earlier, we had learned that there are 193,000 Mainers over 70 ready for vaccinations. I don’t hear of many people refusing the vaccinations now that they are here.

As we leave the clinic, I’m walking on air. It feels like Christmas. We just hit the daily double. With the Pfizer vaccine, we only wait three weeks for our second dose.

Han at Moody Beach with storm-thrown lobster traps

Driving to Moody Beach to celebrate, we walk the shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean at 32F under threatening skies, We know this is the time to walk since tomorrow morning the wind chill on the coast of Maine will be -9F.

On Friday morning, my upper left arm is tender similar to what I felt with my Shingles shots but no big deal.  I found it mildly uncomfortable to roll over onto my left arm in the night. That said, I am able to do my morning stretches, lift my small weights, and later workout at the gym.

This Saturday morning (January 30, 2021) before I post this blog, I have no side effects but one.


Dan and Hannah Seek a Covid Vaccine Part 1 of 3

I am workshopping a new mantra – Expect the Good.   Let me show you what that looks like.

While waiting for the run-off to the two Senate races in Georgia, I expected the good that during the nine weeks between the presidential election and the run-off the two Democrat candidates would win.  This time it was one for the good guys.  But if it hadn’t been, then I’d find the good in what happened.

At the last minute Hannah and I chose not to go to California this winter.  After inquiring about a refund for our two month rental, we waited for eleven days expecting the good.  If that didn’t happen, then we’d find the good in what did happen.

In both cases, I spent no time fretting and coming up with worst case scenarios.  Whatever the results, I enjoyed the time being upbeat by expecting the good.

Then on January 18, 2021 our valiant Governor Janet Mills decided that those over 70 would be placed in the 1b category for getting the Covid vaccine (1a was frontline health care workers and those in nursing homes). 

We live in York County. Portland is in Cumberland County

As septuagenarians, Hannah and I began calling MaineHealth Services for an appointment again and again.  We heard either, There are no more vaccines for today, try again tomorrow or the phone call was immediately disconnected on their end.  News reports of limited Covid vaccines and none in the US stockpile made it uncertain when we would get a vaccine. 

But…we expected the good, be that that good would come in January, February, March, or April.

After calling Tuesday, we got little encouragement and the same routine.  Emailing our primary care physician about when they would let us know when vaccines would be available for us 70 year olds, I learned from the nurse it may be February at the earliest in York.

In the meantime, we made a deal with our friend Howie that if we heard anything about vaccine sign-ups, we would let him know, and he would do the same.  Our friend Bob sent us another phone number to try.  Our friend Corky told us to be persistent.

Come Wednesday, we phone early and heard for the first time, leave your number and we’ll return your call in the order it was received.  Hmmm.  That sounds good.

With our iPhones on loud, we went to the gym on that Inauguration Day to pedal and watch the inspiring Biden/Harris festivities.  Twenty minutes in, Hannah gets a call, dismounts the elliptical, confirms her availability, and has a Covid vaccine appointment eight days hence.  Just like that!

Handing me her phone, she says, they want to set up an appointment for you, too!  Hallelujah.  In short order I, too, am scheduled for a Covid vaccination next week.

Part II – Today (January 28, 2021) we head off to Goodall Hospital in Sanford, Maine for our Covid vaccination. Details of the experience and our reactions to the vaccination will be posted this Saturday.