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Day 15/16/17/18: Road Trip in the Time of Covid

Day 15: Salt Lake City > Alpine, Wyoming

It was a nearly 300 mile drive from Salt Lake City to Grand Teton National Park. For some reason, I was super tired along the way. (Might have something to do with the late liquid night before.) When I got up to the Bear Lake overlook, I was just dragging, so I decided to pull over and take a nap.

Bear Lake is honestly that color blue due to the local limestone in the region. They call it the "Caribbean of the Rockies."

The nap ended up being 4 hours long. Whoops. Oh, well. When I got up, I was super refreshed, so I cued up in the very long Saturday afternoon line in Garden City, Idaho, for one of their famous raspberry shakes.

While I waited, I did a little calculating about my plans for the next few days. So far, I hadn’t really been looking at my weather app since I just assumed it was going to be the typical Southwest hot and dry. I was disheartened to find that there was hard rain scheduled for the next four days. Nertz. The cool overnight temps (high 30s), combined with wet conditions did not sound appealing. I could just imagine the muddy mess I would drag into my bed if I tried to bravely hike in the rain.

So, I made an executive decision: I was gonna find a cheap motel to hole up in to wait out the rain. Now, Jackson, Wyoming, is the nearest town to Grand Teton National Park - it is a super cute, super expensive town. Hotel prices were way too much for me to justify. Fortunately, the internet exists, so I started searching all the small towns within an hour drive of the Tetons. Unfortunately, it was late afternoon on a Saturday which meant everything was booked up. I finally lucked out in the little village of Alpine, Wyoming, about 45 minutes south of Jackson. I ended up at a no-frills motel where the front desk was separated from the family home by a sliding door (which was never closed). But, they only charged $65 a night - not even bothering with silly things like adding taxes or asking for ID. If I had been in a city, I have a hunch they would have gladly charged by the hour. Fortunately, the room seemed clean and the walls were thick, so I figured it was a good place to take shelter. I held off booking more than one night, just to be on the safe side.

Day 16/17/18: Crisis of Conscience

Since I wasn’t murdered in my sleep or eaten alive by bed bugs, I decided to spend the next three days playing quarantine and checking the weather forecast every hour. I did venture into Grand Teton National Park one day, but the rain made the mountains difficult to see and I spent most of my time driving around, mentally willing the clouds to MOVE.

I did have fun chilling out, reading, and sleeping in late at the motel for a few days, so I feel the time wasn’t totally wasted.

I did check out the news a lot more than I had previously on the trip...yikes. I really love my country, but I’m super embarrassed about what I was seeing. The most alarming thing was the Covid spiking after having spent two months under stay-at-home orders. Since I had time to think, I started to second guess what I was doing out on the road. Once again, I reminded myself that I was being super careful: wearing a mask (always), washing hands frequently, standing six feet apart, not unnecessarily touching things when I did venture indoors, eating picnics and ordering takeout (instead of eating inside), etc. I concluded I still felt comfortable being on my road trip.

But it got me thinking about the future of travel and led me to a bit of a crisis of conscience in regards to potentially going back on the road as a guide in the autumn. Keep in mind - I’m “borrowing trouble” right now since I haven’t gotten official word from my office one way or another. (We should find out in the next couple of weeks if we’ll have trips running in September and October.) But I had nothing but time to think during my rainy lockdown, so my mind went there.

It’s almost ironic that for the past three months I have been regularly polling my coworkers during our Zoom trivia nights: Do you think we will have any tours this season? Most of them were pretty skeptical about the prospect, but I was always hopefully optimistic. It didn’t occur to me to wonder if I actually wanted to be stuck intimately together with 30-50 people on a motorcoach for two weeks. That is the opposite of social distancing.

Add in the fact that our key demographic is around 65 years old and it starts to look downright irresponsible. I know that guests are adults and able to make their own decisions; but, with the current state of things, I think it’s a bad decision and I don’t think I want to be a part of it. At the risk of sounding judgmental, I’m pretty sure the only people who would even want to travel in the next few months will be pandemic deniers and anti-maskers. Frankly, I’d rather be a part of the solution (continuing to social distance), rather than a part of the problem.

So… This leaves me in another uncomfortable position: telling my office I’m turning down work (if there ends up being work). I have always prided myself on being as low-maintenance an employee as possible. I never want to cause my bosses a headache. That said, I know that there will be very few trips that actually run and there are plenty of other guides who will want to work and my company is great so I’m sure they would understand and respect my hesitation. Even though I wouldn’t be leaving my office in the lurch, I’m still struggling with the feeling of I’m a bad team player.

I guess I'm in a wait and see mode until I hear from the head office.


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