Tom Blake

By Tom Blake

It seems that every time my partner, Greta, and I plan a trip, situations arise beforehand that make us ask ourselves: “Should we go?”

In 2004, we planned a train trip from Madrid to other cities in Spain. A couple of weeks before our scheduled departure, terrorists bombed Madrid’s Atocha Train Station. The bomb was detonated on the tracks from which our train was scheduled to depart. 

In a column, I asked readers: “Should Greta and I go on this trip?” Readers responded with a resounding “Yes! If you cancel, you let the terrorists win.”

Greta and I decided to go. However, we canceled our train reservations and rented a car instead. Navigating hundreds of confusing roundabouts likely made driving more dangerous than taking the train.

This year, we canceled an 82-day, round-trip cruise that was departing in October from Ft. Lauderdale. The ship’s itinerary included crossing the Atlantic Ocean, navigating the Suez Canal and the Red Sea, circumventing the coast of Africa, then back to Florida.

You’re probably thinking: “COVID-19 must have forced you to cancel.”

But that wasn’t the reason. We canceled before the pandemic arrived, because a 737-passenger airliner was shot down with a missile over Iran in January 2020.

Our thinking: Tensions in the Middle East are heating up again. Our itinerary takes us into the Middle East. If a commercial airliner can be shot down, what’s to stop some crazies from shooting a missile into a cruise ship with the words “Holland America” emblazoned on the smokestack? In addition, the itinerary was taking us through places where pirates had attacked ships recently.

As it turns out, Holland America canceled the cruise a few weeks later due to the pandemic.

We still had a yen to travel. In February this year, we made reservations to take the train to Seattle for a week beginning March 9 to visit relatives. In early March, when COVID-19 first surfaced in the U.S., Seattle was the initial hotspot in America.

We wondered: “Should we go?” We thought that being on a train for 33 hours going to a pandemic hotspot was not a good idea. We canceled.

In late August, the pandemic seemed to be easing somewhat. We had a one-week timeshare to use before the timeshare expired in October. So, we booked a resort in the Napa Valley wine country for Sept. 20-27.

Our plan was to drive from Dana Point up the 5 Freeway, stop a night at Harris Ranch, and then continue on to Napa. On the return trip, we planned to spend a night at the Davenport Roadhouse (a few miles north of Santa Cruz), which is owned by friends of ours. And other friends were going to join us for dinner at the Roadhouse. And yet we wondered: “Should we go?”

Of course, we knew we’d have to be careful with the still-active pandemic. To avoid public restroom stops along the way, we purchased a portable camping toilet that fit in our CRV. We even tested sitting on it in the car. We were ready to roll.

I promised Greta if the portable was necessary to use along the way, I’d even pull over and stop the car. We wanted no backseat tumbles or mishaps while the car was moving!

And then, about a month ago, the heatwaves hit California. We thought, “What happens if our car breaks down? Maybe we should rent a car? If a rental car broke down, the rental company would provide a replacement.” But, with the pandemic, we didn’t want to drive a car that other people had recently driven.

And then the fires hit California. The two places we were going, Napa and Santa Cruz, were, respectively, where the second- and third-largest fires in California history were burning. The air quality in both places was terrible.

On Sept. 7, California closed several national forests due to new fires. Who could forecast what Sept. 20 would bring fire-wise? Would we have to worry about fires and air quality? Again, we asked: “Should we go?”

All these considerations kept nagging at us. We thought: “For now, we should just stay home. Why chance it?”

We decided South Orange County is the place for the perfect quarantine. I do my stand-up paddleboarding in Dana Point Harbor, and Greta does water aerobics when the pool where she swims opens.

So, we opted not to go, at least not now.

Oh, does anyone need a portable camping toilet that’s never been used, for a cheap price? I suppose we could have a yard sale.

Tom Blake is a retired Dana Point business owner and resident who has authored books on middle-aged dating. See his website at findingloveafter50.com. To comment: tompblake@gmail.com

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