I started writing this blog post in July 2020 but was not motivated enough to finish it. It's now almost the end of the year. I want to document what happened in this unforgettable year.
2020 has been a unique year that everyone hope will never repeat again. It's the year of the pandemic, with the COVID-19 virus ravaging around the world. It froze all normal human activities - businesses, schools, recreation, travel, etc. Travel, especially international travel, is pretty much frozen, due to social distancing guidelines. Every country and every state has their own rules regarding outsiders coming into their territory. Air traffic came to a halt. It is a very sad time for the world.
I was lucky to have traveled to Singapore and Sri Lanka at the beginning of the year before the crisis started escalating. In March almost all travel, both domestically and internationally, shut down.
Because of restrictions for international travel, most Americans decided to stay home and travel domestically. Even then, you have to make sure you don't go to crowded places and hopefully, most people wear face masks. One type of travel that became popular during this time is traveling with a Recreational Vehicle (RV). In some countries this is called a caravan but in the US, it is commonly know as a RV, whether it be a big motorhome, a trailer, a 5th wheel, or just a camper van. The reason being that you are isolated from others most of the time so that you won't be infected with the COVID-19 virus.
Doris and I decided to take our Casita Travel Trailer around the southwest for three weeks in July when cases in Arizona were spiking. We did not have any planned itinerary but mostly, we'll travel to Colorado and Utah. Our first stop is at Mesa Verde National Park (NP). Although I've traveled through this area many times I've never felt the desire to stop here. I found a nice campsite, Mesa Verde RV Park. It is only about a mile from the entrance to the Park and provided all essential amenities - water, electricity, and sewer hookup. It's a very well-run and clean RV park. In normal times this place would've been fully booked in July.
We visited the park after we arrived. It is not as grand or scenic like the Grand Canyon or Zion but it holds some ancient Indian ruins. It was not crowded but some of the ruins were closed.
|Cliff Palace where the Ancestral Pueblos lived in the 1100s'|
The next day we drove about 1 1/2 hours to Durango. We walked around the downtown area, then drove about 30 minutes to where we took the Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Train. Normally, we would've taken the train from the downtown train station but because of road construction we had to board the train at a different station. This railroad was built in the late 19th century to transport silver and gold mined in the San Juan mountains. It was about a 2-hour train ride one-way through some beautiful mountain scenery.
|Durango-Silverton Narrow Gauge Train|
We took a side trip to Telluride where I ski almost every year. It's a very different look in the summer, the ski slopes being used for mountain biking and golf.
We then spent 2 nights at friend Sally and her husband Greg's beautiful ranch property just outside of Durango.
Following Durango we started heading north towards Gunnison. On the way we stopped briefly at Silverton, then Ouray, sometimes called the Switzerland of the Rockies. Having been to Switzerland several times I'd say it's not even close.
|Stopping in Ouray|
It was a beautiful climb through the Rockies, passing through Montrose and finally camping at the Mesa Campground just outside of Gunnison. The next day we drove to the beautiful town of Crested Butte and spent the day walking and enjoying the views.
|Downtown Crested Butte|
Next we drove north towards Breckenridge to meet with my IBM friend Felix and his wife Sharon in Dillon for lunch. That night we looked for a nice place to park our RV but ended sleeping in the parking lot of the Walmart at Frisco. It's the first time we camped at a Walmart but the experience was very pleasant. Of course there was no hookup but for 1 night it worked very well.
|Lunch with Felix and Sharon in Dillon|
Since we were so close to Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) we decided to head that way. It was a little over a 2-hour drive and we booked 3 nights at the Spruce Lake RV Park, just outside the entrance to the park. The first day we drove into the park and stop at many of the view sites to enjoy the scenery.
|One of the beautiful views at RMNP|
Estes Park is a town just next to the RMNP. I've heard a lot about how beautiful the town is and it sure was. We took a shuttle bus from the RV park to town and found a Farmers' Market. We also strolled along the river walk and through the downtown area. Normally, at this time of the year, Estes Park would be very crowded. Not so this year.
|Strolling along the river walk in Estes Park|
We decided to drive through Utah on the way back to Arizona, stopping at Arches, Bryce and Zion National Parks. Our next destination was Grand Junction, which would put us less than 2 hours from Arches National Park. We had a very nice experience camping at the local Walmart. There is a Texas Roadhouse restaurant right across the street, where we had a nice dinner. The store was closed and the parking lot was empty by 8pm. In the morning we went into the store to buy some essentials and breakfast from the McDonald's restaurant inside the store.
|Camping at Walmart|
We parked our trailer at the Arches National Park Visitor Center and drove around the park for about 2-3 hours. It was enough to give Doris a glimpse of what it looks like and take some pictures. We didn't have time to hike and even if we did, we wanted to social distance from others.
|One of many arches at Arches NP|
From Arches we drove to Bryce Canyon National Park where we were lucky to find space at the Ruby's Inn RV Park for 2 nights. The RV park is literally just outside the entrance to the park. We took the park shuttle to different viewpoints around the park. Surprisingly, the park was not very crowded.
|Hoodoos at Bryce Canyon No Problem|
About 2 hours from Bryce Canyon NP is another very popular national park - Zion. It is always crowded and even with the pandemic it was still very crowded. The shuttle buses were running in the park and masks were required. However, they were not enforced so many visitors after getting on the shuttle buses took off their masks. At the shuttle stops many hikers congregate together without wearing masks and no social distancing. We quickly decided to leave the park.
|Zion National Park|
Our next destination is the north rim of the Grand Canyon National Park. Most visitors going to the Grand Canyon go to the south rim, which is more accessible and open year-round. We had a choice of camping in Kanab, UT, or Jacob's Lake, AZ. Not knowing what time we'd leave Zion NP I made reservations at the J&J RV Park so that we can set up camp before it gets dark. We were hungry when we go to Kanab and had one of the best Mexican meals at the Escobar's Mexican Restaurant nearby.
It looks us about an hour and a half to drive to the north rim of the Grand Canyon. In the past you could see bisons grazing along the highway into the park. However, this time there weren't any. They have probably gone to graze somewhere else. We hiked to some viewpoints and had excellent views of different parts of the canyon. The lodge and most of the restaurants were closed and the park was not very crowded. We left after about 3 hours and started driving towards Flagstaff.
|North Rim of Grand Canyon NP|
We gained an hour driving back across Arizona and arrived at the J&H RV Park in Flagstaff early enough to check-in. This is a small family-run RV park just outside of Flagstaff. We've stayed here previously and like the cleanliness and amenities it provides. This includes wifi, cable TV, clean bathrooms and showers, full hookups and friendly service. I always need help from Harvey, the owner, to backup into my trailer spot. We spent 4 nights here enjoying the cool weather and some hiking. We were in no hurry to go back to Phoenix, where it had been over 110F almost every day.
|Enjoying a hot-pot dinner in Flagstaff|
After 3 weeks of travel we were ready to head home to Phoenix. Certainly we were not looking forward to the heat. 2020 is not only the year of the pandemic but also a year of record heat for Phoenix.
In spite of the pandemic I traveled to NYC to see my kids and grandkids in August. I had to quarantine for 2 weeks when I got there but it was well worth it. I went with my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter to Vermont for a week and spent the rest of the time in Manhattan. Restaurants were opened for take-out or outdoor dining. Things were started to get back to normal but everyone followed the rules, mainly, they all wore masks. I went to Chinatown several times to buy dinners or groceries. We even went to Costco, a treat for my son's family, who have never been there.
|A Family Dinner in NYC|
In November Doris and I took our trailer to Silver Strand Campground in San Diego. We camped for 3 nights then drove to Monterey Park to visit her parents. I took the trailer to Yosemite by myself and was planning to stay 3 nights but ended up staying 2 nights. Camping at a RV site in Oakhurst it was a longer drive to Yosemite Village then I expected. Although the distance was not long, around 20 miles, it took an hour to get from Oakhurst to the Village. The road was winding and you can drive at around 25mph most of the way. Some of the popular spots were closed for the season. It was a disappointing trip.
|Yosemite National Park|
In late November the number of COVID-19 cases started to spike again and it's time to stay home. I am finishing this post on Christmas Day. The next few months look bleak. About 330,000 have died and cases are rising all over the US and the world. Two vaccines have been approved and vaccinations are starting. I am hoping to get my shots by March.
2021 should turn the corner - with a new Biden/Harris administration. Trump's influence would be dying and hopefully, will disappear from American politics forever. America MUST NOT have another president like Donald Trump again. It's been a rough 4 years and a disastrous 2020.