This wasn’t the way I had hoped to come home.
The plan had always been to return to Seattle by way of a few days in New York City. I grew up in New York, and my father and stepmother still live there. I meant to visit them for a few days, show off all my pictures from the trip, and then return joyfully to my family in Seattle.
While I was in Amsterdam, I heard from my stepmother. My father, who has always been healthy as a horse, had a massive collapse during the preparations for a routine orthopedic surgery on his shoulder. He’d needed quadruple heart bypass, and had developed pneumonia in the aftermath.
Suddenly the trip to New York was crucial, but no longer a joyful homecoming. It was a chance to visit my father in the hospital… if I could satisfy said hospital’s understandably strict Covid prevention requirements.
So I got in touch with my travel agent and asked him to find me a Manhattan hotel that wasn’t too expensive, had a bathtub and a fridge in the room, and allowed you to accept food deliveries. He found me the Warwick, an old-fashioned midtown hotel that had everything I asked for, and was within fifteen minutes’ taxi drive from the hospital where my dad was. I booked my stay in New York there and prepared to hole up and quarantine for three days. That would leave me only the last day of my stay and maybe a little time on the day when I flew out again to see my father, but it was better than nothing.
I flew into New York in Delta business class, same as the way I had flown out. Thankfully, they have terrific privacy in the business class seats — a full 360-degree barrier if you want it (or you can open your door, but I didn’t) and good air circulation, coming fresh into your private compartment from above. So, once I boarded, I felt pretty safe from obnoxious viruses. Virii?
When we landed at JFK airport, it was snowing. New York is magical under snow… always has been, and I hope it always will be. I took a handful of photos from the taxi on the way through Queens. Then we got to the Warwick and I checked in, and had a brief but terrifying scramble in which my bags disappeared for an hour, including the carry-on with my medicines in it. I put them down for a minute in the lobby to do check in, and when I came back they weren’t there. I panicked for a good 45 minutes while the staff tried to figure out where the blazes my bags had gone… then they finally tracked down the bellhop on duty, who had apparently carried them off to storage. He said he’d been told some lady in the lobby wanted her baggage stored, and assumed that my pile was it, taking them away without checking his assumption.
For a while, I was fairly upset by the whole thing — that’s the kind of mistake a good hotel employee doesn’t make. But the Warwick mostly did well by me. I did have a second minor mishap with the bellhops’ department, which thought I’d only given them two bags when I had really checked three. Since they did get my stuff back to me — both times — before I really needed it, it didn’t do me any harm, but a hotel of the Warwick’s level should do better.
The next two days, however, were blessedly boring. I read and wrote and hung out in the bathtub soaking my tired muscles. I slept late. I didn’t leave my room, not after a brief trip out the first day right after I got my baggage back, to stock up on food.
I wish I had been able to see more of my city this trip. I grew up in New York, and have always loved it more than anywhere else. But I was trying to stay inside, locked away from other people as much as possible when I wasn’t with Dad, to protect him. So mostly what I saw was the inside of my hotel room, or the inside of Dad’s hospital room. By the time I had to leave for Seattle, he was doing considerably better.
And then it was one more plane ride — domestic business class to Seattle, relaxing and easy — and I was collected by my husband at SeaTac and went home to my family. The first big trip I’d taken in years was finally over.
So what’s next? Where is this blog going now that I’m not reporting from Africa anymore?
Well, there will definitely be more trips — in fact, one is already in the planning stage. I’ll tell you more about that in a minute. There will also be columns about travel and trip planning… everything from how you conserve energy on a trip to reviews of places and of travel gear. I’m hoping to have some guest posts from other writers as well. (Take a look at the “Work With Us” page if you’re interested in doing one!)
There are going to be big trips and little trips. Local restaurants or nearby small towns, or a trip to the Galapagos to see their wildlife, or the orangutans of Borneo. Those last two won’t be happening in the immediate term, but they’ll happen.
So what’s this next trip I’m taking? And why does it involve buying a van? I said something about that last time, didn’t I?
Yep, I sure did. My 21-year-old foster son is going to be moving in a couple of months from Seattle to Colorado to join some friends in an intentional community. I’m going to be helping him buy a small motor home to drive and live in, and then hit the road with him, to help get the whole kit and kaboodle down to Colorado safely.
So of course being me, I’m making a travel experience out of it. We’re not going through the Rockies; we’ll go south to Los Angeles, seeing the sights on the way. Then we’ll turn east to Albuquerque, where I have some old friends I’d like to see, and then we will at last be able to make that notorious “left turn at Albuquerque” and go north to Alamosa, Colorado.
But first, we need that motor home. I’ll be writing about that process too. RVs are a popular form of travel for people with medical conditions, because they let you bring your bed and all your necessary equipment with you when you travel. I’ve never really owned or traveled in one before, though I’ve slept in them when we rented them as extra space for a big event sometimes. It’ll be interesting to find out what it’s like, and I’ll tell you all about the whole process, from buying to prep to the trip itself.
In between, there will be other posts — some leftover bits and pieces about Africa, and a lot about traveling in general, or about living with chronic illness, or both at once… because the two of them together are mostly what I do.
I’m also already planning the trip after the road trip to Colorado, and it’s another big one, though not quite as big as six weeks in Africa and Europe! There will be a lot more information about that coming up soon.
Keep following along! It’ll be a lot of fun.