Opinion: On the road again

Some people have been chomping at the bit to get back to normal. Arenas are full of spectators who have been deprived of live sporting events. Restaurants and bars are full of people who couldn’t wait to get out of the house. Everyone has their own comfort zone. As someone who has family members that are elderly and immunocompromised, I tend to be on the more conservative side when making these kinds of decisions.

Even with the U.S. border open to non-essential air travel, I wasn’t really in a hurry to get on a plane again. I adopted the strategy of letting others storm the beach first to see how they fared before taking the leap myself. Regardless of the fact that passengers have had to show proof of vaccination and a negative test result, there was something about being confined to a pressurized metal tube
surrounded by hundreds of strangers that didn’t quite appeal to me. Truthfully, the biggest source of my apprehension thus far has been the videos people have been sharing online of unruly passengers going mental, causing flights to be delayed, aborted, or re-routed.

Travelling for business wasn’t high on my list of priorities, so a trip for pleasure ranked even lower. Agreeing to attend a wedding in San Francisco with my shockingly better half, I thought it would perhaps provide an opportunity to make use of the robust fleets of motorcycles our American media counterparts enjoy on a regular basis.

The bride had spent the better part of a year planning, but restrictions seemed to be changing daily. As the day of our flights loomed, many questions remained unanswered. Would our travel be refunded if we weren’t able to make our flights or had to cancel altogether? What would happen if one of us tested positive? Not the least of our concerns were the logistical hurdles of how long it would take us to get through security and customs. Would the wedding even be able to happen? At some point we just had to get comfortable with the idea of leaving things up to chance.

My partner booked her departing flight for earlier in the week to enjoy the various festivities leading up to the big day. She put the fear of the almighty in me by relaying the trials of her four-hour pilgrimage through security and customs. Our experiences couldn’t have been more different.

Bringing only carry-on luggage, I also benefitted from my Nexus trusted traveller accreditation, so my experience wasn’t as bad. Nevertheless, expect longer wait times than normal.

The possibility of the wedding proceeding to plan was touch and go right up until the day of the nuptials. As it turned out, an abbreviated program was able to transpire that included a condensed guest list with limitations in place. As for my plans to get some riding done while I was in California, well Mother Nature had a different idea altogether.

Prior to our trip, Northern California had been suffering from a severe drought. That all changed upon our arrival as the skies opened to unleash what was called a “Monster Weather Event.” Not just hyperbole, the records showed 750 percent more precipitation than the average normally experienced for that month. Those familiar with the topography of San Fran won’t be surprised to learn that roads flooded, and sewers overflowed as rivers of water rushed down the steep streets. That, and our hotel wanted to charge me $50 USD a night for the privilege of using their parking facilities. Needless to say, any thoughts I had of arranging a bike while in town were squashed.

As has often been the case throughout Covid, we couldn’t get too bent out of shape over things not going as planned and simply made the most of it. Rather than exploring the city by motorcycle, we travelled by foot which allowed us to take in the vibe of each neighbourhood. The city has a number of Segway tours that offer the ability to explore the city on two wheels, but we decided to forego that option. As much as we were willing to compromise, we weren’t that desperate. If a motorcycle is the coolest way to explore a city, a Segway must be the lamest. I digress.

We stopped regularly to enjoy a coffee or a cocktail and consumed our weight in seafood. Seeking refuge from the rain during one particularly heavy deluge, we indulged in a couple Bloody Mary’s and some delicious crab chowder served in a fresh sourdough bread bowl that was still warm from the oven. Many restaurants were closed entirely due to staffing challenges, while others operated on a reduced schedule. Supply chain issues often meant menu items were in short supply or unavailable altogether. Staff that showed up to work were being run ragged. Far too often we overheard patrons berating servers over issues that were clearly out of their control which is never acceptable behaviour.

Overall, the most consistent thing we experienced was inconsistency. Some service staff painstakingly reviewed our vaccination documents and identification, while others didn’t even ask for it. Wait times for tests at pharmacies differed drastically and things rarely moved efficiently anywhere we went. Nearly everything took longer than it did pre-pandemic. If you plan on flying anywhere or eating in a restaurant anytime soon, you’ll have to make peace with that.

Take a deep breath, relax, and enjoy the fact that we’re finally able to travel again. If you can’t see fit to be nice to people, maybe you should stay home and spare everyone else the aggravation until you can.

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