For now we have the van, no complaints as it suits us well, and we have limited destinations which remain better than none and we can manage to feel like we are traveling for a little while at a time even if we are not strictly exploring. I read about loneliness and despair and a drive to risky behavior to get past the pandemic and I feel lucky to be weird. I feel lucky my wife and dog indulge me and as we close the year with one last small trip I hope next year, my last full year in the Keys, will do better than this one.
Monday, December 21, 2020
The idea had been to drive to St Augustine to meet my sister and brother in law and park the van in their hotel lot, sleep in it and visit the city taking care to eat outdoors and take the normal precautions against the coronavirus. I never thought much of this plan as I considered it highly risky with no certainty of Covid compliance in restaurants where we might end up sitting indoors. My in-laws are in their seventies and my wife has no immune system so I was of the mind that such a plan might end up leaving me as the sole survivor - possibly as coronavirus works in mysterious ways and my wife could easily outlive me...we live in weird times.
Happily the sisters saw sense long after the family eccentric wrote this plan off and they joined me on the sensible side of the coronavirus fence and called off contact for this holiday season. My sister in law sounded genuinely disappointed she wasn't going to see me which is an emotion that fills me with surprise. My unfortunate habit of speaking my mind and only later realizing what stupid shit I said makes me a difficult dinner table companion among polite company that doesn't know, or is not married to, my personality quirks. The van in the company of my ever patient wife and adoring dog is actually quite relaxing for a socially incompetent individual. Coronavirus justifies all sorts of behavior usually considered mildly to severely eccentric among the socially well adjusted. The virus has been great social cover for me at horrible expense to normal people.
As we drove my wife and I discussed travel and we came to a conclusion that has always swirled around our heads: we are travelers. We traveled by sailboat when we were younger but as capable as we were we neither of us lived to live on the water. We sailed in the company of a man who lived to sail, and even though his wife reined him in, Bob would have been happy sailing in circles, through the eye of the worst storm he could imagine, at night, in the vicinity of a reef. He was happy pulling up the anchor, where I was happy putting it down and looking at the shore and wondering what we would discover beyond the Customs office of the new culture we had landed upon. Webb Chiles is the same way: he would be just as happy to never stop sailing as he would be to step ashore and see things or places he has already seen ( and he has seen far more than have I). He is a sailor, I am a traveler.
"If we weren't practicing for retirement I'm pretty sure this isn't how I'd spend my weekends," I said to my wife as we searched fruitlessly for a wild campground away from General Gun Season in the forest. Rusty knows gunfire and remembers farmers chasing him with homicidal intent in the Redlands of Homestead. He doesn't even much like cameras so I can safely say he is a dog with his own phobias. The restrictions imposed by the virus have cut us off from our preferred explorations, a wide ranging mixture of urban and woodland. We cannot stop to visit museums, we cannot get closer to a restaurant than pre-paid curbside which does work very well with a van to use as a private booth. Visiting the wilderness is no longer part of a balanced mix of destinations, it is the only one at the moment and is another reason I hope the vaccination program is swift and efficient.
That we ordered the van built for us by Custom Coach in DeLand before the virus was pure coincidence but that we have it now is a great good fortune. We are still working out the details, practicing driving on sand, figuring out how to boondock which means camp where we can and leave no trace, learning to move around a small space without treading on each other even as we watch Rusty create his own new routines for a new life.