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After years of sloth, I am now a mama who runs and practices yoga. I write about exercise; parenting a grownup child as well as two little kids; and whatever is annoying me at the moment.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Embracing new adventures in the COVID world

How's everyone getting ready for year two of the pandemic? Whimpering is permitted.

There's a couple of dates from last year that stand out as "we-had-no-idea-what-was-coming". February 9 is my mom's birthday, and it was on that date in 2020 that I last saw her or any of my other Omaha family. A stroke victim from several years ago, she had been transported from her nursing home to a local hospital for a recurring health issue. 

I easily walked into the hospital early that morning -- before COVID settled on all of us like a stubborn fog and back when COVID was still  largely happening somewhere else. She was able to look at me and smile a little. I had no idea that it would be the last Omaha visit for more than a year.

Then there was March 17, 2020, the day after Chicago Public Schools did what seemed unthinkable at the time -- they closed all schools for two weeks because of COVID. That day was also my daughter's ninth birthday. 

(Remember when we thought this pandemic thing would blow over in a few weeks?)

We got our nails done at our favorite neighborhood salon and stopped by Trader Joe's, where the store was packed like it was Super Bowl Sunday and the shelves were eerily stripped bare by shoppers grabbing anything they could.

The cashier, who appeared weary from the crush but was still cheerful, gave us a small potted shamrock plant that my cat continues to eat whenever he can get to it. It's still alive, despite his rascally ways.

That nail salon closed last summer for good, like a lot of small businesses around us that just weren't been able to make it.

For me, those dates demarcated the period of what life was and when it would change, followed by a period of grieving, before adjusting to our new normal.

Over time, many -- maybe all -- of us began to hear of people who tested positive, who had to quarantine because they had been exposed to someone, or who had lost a parent or other loved one to COVID-19. As I'm writing this, the newspaper on my coffee table's front page includes a story about how the death toll is expected to top 500,000 this week, a number that is just freaking hard to digest.

My husband and our two kids have been super fortunate to stay healthy. My other child, who is 28, did get COVID-19, but thankfully recovered. 

Staring down another pandemic spring and summer makes me think of the ways we had to get creative as a family last year, to stay healthy and not go crazy being at home all the time together. 

Last summer, we got our newly purchased Honda CRV ready with crossbars and a hitch to haul luggage and bikes. I found a pretty sweet bike rack to carry four bikes.

And we were off. A few new traditions and places we found included old and new camping favorites. We upped our camping trips to four last year from the typical 1 to 2 and tried new places that turned out to be pretty great -- if you need some ideas, borrow these!

Mt Baldy, Indiana Dunes
Kettle Moraine in Wisconsin. We camp in either Kettle Moraine South or Kettle Moraine North every year. Great hiking, small lake swimming, biking. New Glarus Moon Man IPA. It never gets old to us.

Richard Bong Recreation Area in Wisconsin. Bong is the closest Wisconsin camping to Chicago. We've camped there before, but really came to have a new appreciation for it when we camped there in September and we did a ton of hiking though the southwest Wisconsin fall foliage.

Pokagon State Park
, Fort Wayne, Ind. This park is a beautifully maintained camping and hiking area about three hours from Chicago. There is a fun little camping store for the kids. I loved this place so much.

Bong Recreation Area
Coon Creek State Park, Shelbyville, Ill. Illinois is a long state, nearly 400 miles. Chicago is located in the far northeast corner and we pretty much never go south of, say, Starved Rock State Park, so there's a lot of state we haven't seen. But we have friends who talked 
up Coon Creek, and we were lucky to nab a leafy tent site on a warm
October weekend during which the leaves were in full fall color splendor. Oh my gosh, this area is gorgeous and lovely. I can't wait to go back.

Miller Beach path to the Dunes
We were fortunate to be able to stay at a friend's home near South Haven, Mich. last summer in what has become our annual summer 
vacation. I love SW Michigan so much.

We didn't camp here, but we did do a lot of day trips last summer and fall to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Historically, the closest we ever got to the Indiana Dunes was driving through Indiana to get to southwest Michigan for a vacation. 

This year, we decided that maybe Indiana didn't have to be drive-
Pokagon State Park, IN

through country, and we would actually go to the Dunes. 

We fell in love with the Miller Beach area of Gary, Ind. Thanks to the guidance of a friend who lives in the area, we found the perfect 3-mile roundtrip hike to lakefront beach that was remote enough to be away from the nearby crowded (and unnervingly unmasked) beaches. 

We made day trips as often as possible, and never failed to stop by the 18th 
Street Brewery, with awesome craft beer and food, sunny patio and super safety-minded staff. We always brought along our Scrabble game (another
new pandemic time hobby we picked up) and enjoyed a good meal. 
Near South Haven, MI

More recently, we did a weekend winter getaway to Starved Rock, which we've visited many times. What we discovered, though, was the very underrated, less crowded and lesser known Matthiessen State Park, which is also incredible and gorgeous.
Coon Creek, IL
With all of the trips, we followed the same formula. If we weren't camping (which is automatically social distancing), we rented small homes or cabins on VRBO, to keep us safe. Interestingly, we found that every time we left city limits, there were a lot of maskless faces, despite the creeping death toll. 
Matthiessen State Park, IL
Every year about this time, when I am burned out on winter, I start making plans for warmer days ahead. This year I am pumped for our planned trips to Shawnee National Forest, Warren State Dunes Park and Dunewood Camground in the Indiana Dunes.  The Shawnee trip will be right after what will be my fourth 50K race, the Lakefront 50K. With a 17-inch snow dump last week and frigid temps, training for that race has been interesting.

And if we can get everyone vaccinated and get life closer back to normal -- I can't wait to take some adventures back in Nebraska, and hug the heck out of my mom, dad and siblings. 

1 comment:

  1. I've never been to Starved Rock. I need to get there post-pandemic!