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Our 2020 Travels
tbutler posted a blog entry in Tom and Louise on Tour in North AmericaDespite COVID we hit the road June 11, 2020. We felt that we would be able to travel safely in our motor home. In fact, that proved to work well. We left Edinburg, TX headed north for Missouri. The first thing we noticed is that there was very little traffic of any kind. We drove through San Antonio on I-435 and I-35 at the posted speed limit during "rush hour." This continued as we drove through Austin and Waco. We stopped for the night at a Walmart in Georgetown, Texas. A brief visit to the store confirmed we were allowed to stay. There were no other RV's on the lot that night. In fact, we saw only a few trailers the previous day, not a single motor home traveling with us or on the southbound highway. This continued to be the case until we got to the Oklahoma Turnpike and I-55 in Missouri. Travel through Dallas was at or near the speed limit with the exception of one small delay for an accident. We stayed at an RV park in Oklahoma. Check-in was at a motel office. The office personnel were not masked, there were no barriers (plexiglass) so we stayed as distant as possible, wearing our masks. Fueling was pay at the pump so that required no contact. We made a brief stop at Walmart when the DEF indicator showed us getting low on DEF. The afternoon of the third day we pulled into our daughters home in Foristell, MO. We had them install a complete RV site, concrete with full hookups when they built their home. It is a rural area and there was plenty of space. We paid for the improvements as we have several family members in the area and normally spend a month or more there. With family now, we quarantined for a week, talking only at a distance and with masks on. Early on in the COVID outbreak I started using a infrared thermometer to monitor our temperatures and I also purchased an oximeter to monitor our oxygen levels. I did the same for our families we were visiting. Temperature monitoring was easily understood. The oximeter took some explanation. My doctor recommended it as a way to determine when to seek medical help if you were feeling ill. COVID attacks the lungs and when oxygen levels in the blood drop below 95%, the danger of damage to the brain increases. That would be time for help. I continue to monitor those conditions today. We left Missouri in mid-August, headed for Colorado to visit our family there. We were going to provide support for our daughter who had foot surgery scheduled in early September. We have been staying at a humble but affordable RV Park in Aurora, Denver Meadows. Office and maintenance staff at this park were always masked. Once surgery was completed and our daughter was able to fend for herself again, we left Denver. That was September 6. During the entire time in Denver we were never able to see the Rocky Mountains. Fires in the area had us in a smoky haze the entire time. At times it got somewhat better but then the wind would shift and we were back in heavier haze and smoke. We even had a small fire break out just across the creek from the RV park. That was extinguished without danger to us but there was a fire department vehicle parked on our side of the creek the whole time. The next leg of our trip was to Oregon where we had service scheduled on our coach. We traveled through Utah, staying a couple of days at Golden Spike RV Park in Brigham City, UT. Again we found staff masked and following COVID protocols. We had passed the area of the Golden Spike National Historical Park near Promontory Point, UT, numerous times. Each time we remarked we'd like to see that monument. We spent an afternoon at the site. The visitors center was closed except for the gift shop. The outdoor exhibits were well worth the stop. They had one of the two replica steam engines out for display. The engine (one of two replicas) is an exact replica of the original engine used by the Central Pacific Railroad during the building of the western part of the Trans Continental Railroad. The other engine is a replica of the engine used by the Union Pacific Railroad which built the eastern part of the railroad. While the engines are exact replicas, they were way to beautiful to look like the working engines that were actually used. The engine was under steam and we had a nice visit with one of the staff when they came out to release steam from the engine. We could have stayed to see them move the engine back into storage, something that is done each evening. As our journey continued into Idaho, we could see evidence of the fires on the west coast. We were once again in a cloud of smoke. We enjoy the trip across Oregon on US 20 and this was our plan on this trip. Our daughter who lives in California and has relatives in Oregon advised us to check on the fires as they were near our destination. We found that roads we normally travel were closed due to the fire. We made an overnight stop at a rest area near Brothers, OR. The next morning a quick check of road conditions indicated one route that would not take us too far out of our way to Coburg, OR. That route took us up and over mountainous terrain. One stretch had over 30 switchbacks, none too severe and traffic was light so our slow speed didn't back up a huge line of traffic. We reached I-5 about 30 miles north of Coburg. As we continued, the smoke became heavier and visibility dropped. When we parked at Cummins that afternoon, I got out to hook up the power and found that there was more than smoke. There was ash falling in fine flakes. I was leaving footprints in the ash. We stayed indoors until time to check in the next morning. A day later we were at the REV Group service center. There we could monitor air quality by how far we could see across a neighboring parking lot. There were four large light poles that served as markers of the air quality. For several days we could only see one of the four light poles, about 200 feet away. Things began to improve and a week later we could see all four light poles. Then the rain came and the air cleared. Several more rain showers had most of the fires under control. At both service centers there were waiting rooms and we used them. Distancing and masks were required. There were a few people who couldn't talk without removing their mask temporarily. One couple who refused to wear a mask were isolated in a separate room at the REV Group facility. Later we learned that COVID is rarely transmitted through contact with surfaces. It is almost always transmitted through the air. Still, we were conscious of touching surfaces and kept hand sanitizer with us in the waiting rooms. We had a week off from the service center while they were waiting for parts so we drove south to Sutherlin, OR. We stayed at the Umpqua Golf Club and RV. Again, everyone was following COVID protocols, masks and distancing. We played golf almost every day while there. We also got in a family visit and had lunch at a restaurant in Roseburg one afternoon. We found early on when restaurants were open that if we ate at off hours, we could be almost alone in the restaurant. In this case we also had an outdoor table. Once repairs were completed, we headed south for our Texas home. Traffic remained light to moderate and we made good time. We left Coburg on the 16th of October and were in Edinburg on the 22nd. We and our families remain COVID free and both Louise and I have completed the vaccine regimine. We made our first trip of 2021 to Tallahassee, FL for a Monaco International Pre-Rally before attending the FMCA Convention in Perry, GA. Our summer travels will begin in late May and we plan to be out over much of the same territory during the summer of 2021.