We’ll, it happened. After more than two years of successful avoidance, we got Covid.
It was three days into our latest nomadic outing, this one a planned loop through Utah’s Uinta Mountains, a long-awaited visit to our friends’ place in Yellow Pine, Idaho, for the annual Harmonica and Music Festival, through Pinedale, Wyoming, and Flaming Gorge, to a stop in Corrales, New Mexico, to visit two other camping couples we love, and back to our Scottsdale perch for a week. Then, out to Big Sur and up the California Coast to Washington to visit family, and on to Oregon for our annual beach cottage reunion with friends.
We were thrilled to hit the road, back in The Epic Van, wind in our hair.
Then Tom got the sniffles. Then I did.
“Allergies,” I told myself. “Something we’re not used to in the Mormon Lake area or near Bears Ears National Monument or at Fred Hayes Lake State Park at Starvation, near Duchesne, Utah, where we stopped on our third night out.
But then, Tom said, “Something is not right,” like Miss Clavel, the nun, said when Madeline (in the Madeline book) was sick.
We bought a thermometer, and I took his temperature. Slightly elevated, but not terrible. I got out the Covid test I’d brought along to use just before our arrival in Yellow Pine, to reassure everyone we were “clean.” After 15 minutes: Negative.
“Maybe you have a cold, or some other virus,” I said, hopefully. My sniffles had stopped, and I felt fine. “Still, we’ll proceed as if you have it.”
Masks on, windows open, fan circulating fresh air throughout the van. Tom took some Advil and went to bed, where he spent a fairly sleepless night with muscle aches and chills, not helped by the cool air being sucked through the van.
Next morning, another test. This time, clearly positive. I took one: Negative.
Full red alert. I called the Walgreens pharmacy in Vernal, Utah, the nearest “large” town, and they said we needed a prescription to get the anti-viral Paxlovid, either from our doctor, or from an urgent-care clinic. I called our doctor, in Scottsdale, who is a saint, left a message, and within a couple hours she had called in prescriptions for both of us, mine to be used only if I eventually tested positive. I ran in to get the prescriptions and we headed back to camp.
I was still thinking maybe I could escape. I had, after all, for more than two years. I read a recent Washington Post article about “Novids,” those people who had, so far, avoided Covid. They feel lucky, grateful, a bit self-satisfied and maybe, just maybe, a little superhuman. I could relate. We’ve been very careful, in part, because of my 93-year-old mother, with whom we stay in Scottsdale when not on the road, and because we REALLY didn’t want to get it and face unknown difficult outcomes. We’re still wearing our masks EVERYWHERE, even at a drive-through window picking up fast food. We’re often the ONLY people wearing them in the grocery store/drug store/hardware store/book store. We very rarely eat in restaurants, rather ordering takeout from our favorites and eating at home for birthday or other celebrations. When we do go out, we sit outside, and wear our masks through the space until seated. We still haven’t gone back to a movie in the theater, which was a regular outing pre-pandemic. Or a concert. We went to an anniversary gathering of Mothers Who Write, a writing group/class in which both Mom and I have participated. It was a wonderful get-together of many of the writers, with several reading in person, and celebrated with a published anthology, in which Mom and I each had pieces. Still, we wore masks, sat apart, stayed only a few minutes after the readings were over and went back home. Tom had gone back to the gym, with his mask on except in the shower or steam room. We had resumed some nomad trips, which is the perfect isolation activity. For months, all was well.
But with the new highly contagious BA.5 strain, things are not the same. All around me other superhuman, Novid friends were succumbing. One, on a cruise to Scandinavia, which had been postponed for two years because of Covid, even though all passengers and crew had to be fully vaxed and test negative before boarding. She was confined to a special isolation room for days, while her husband and friends carried on without her. Another, in California, started feeling ill and still is, after several weeks and a series of Paxlovid, finally ending up in the emergency room and spending two nights in the hospital. Her daughter, who had been staying with her, tested positive, and had to cancel a long-planned trip to Costa Rica. Another friend traveled with her grown children to Mexico to visit relatives and, upon return, both kids tested positive, one continuing to test positive after nine days.
Then, I tested positive, too. Damn. So none of us are superhuman. I felt pretty rough, slightly elevated temps, scratchy throat, and listless.
Tom and I both started the Paxlovid, and holed up in Uinta Canyon Campground for our five days of recommended isolation.
Fairly quickly, we felt better. And on Day 3 of the regimen, I tested negative. Tom didn’t test negative until Day 6.
In all of this, I remain grateful:
• That we developed Covid after leaving my mother’s. She and my sister, Nancy, who lives with her, both have tested negative and appear to have escaped. Our son, Nate, who lives nearby, also seems in the clear. All, so far, retain their superhuman badges.
• That all our former superhuman friends appear to be recovering, albeit some quicker than others.
• That Paxlovid exists, and that we were able to get it quickly and at no cost, yes $0, and that it appears to be working well.
• That The Epic Van is an Epic Isolation Pod. We had plenty of food, ice and drinks on board, our own bathroom, comfy camp chairs and a campsite next to a running creek, pine trees and grazing deer, and were entertained by afternoon monsoon showers that plinked on the roof of our metal cocoon. (To the a-hole who stole our camp table while we were out getting life-saving drugs, the first theft we’ve experienced in eight years of leaving stuff at camp when we’re away, “You, sir, are not a gentleman.” And I’m really glad I didn’t leave my NEW camp chairs. The table, by the way, is a beat-up, 8-year-old, piece of crap that I’d been considering replacing, but couldn’t justify environmentally even though pieces of it were missing.)
• That Tom is an excellent cook, even at camp. We had a camp-chili favorite, with ground turkey and fresh veggies, chicken and apple sausage with a side of corn/chilis/beans kind of succotash, fresh squash, tamales, spinach, egg sandwiches for breakfast, and a sweet-potato tagine.
• That Tom and I are compatible, even in illness, and aren’t claustrophobic even in The Epic Van, which has lovely 360-degree windows to see our ever-changing view.
• That we have portable hobbies, reading, writing and knitting. Covid talley so far: Finished three baby hats and two red-and-white dishcloths. Finished multiple books together and alone, including: In Morocco, by Edith Wharton, a highly recommended, but racially insensitive, Victorian travelogue, in anticipation of a trip to Morocco in January; The Lost City of Z, by the New Yorker’s David Grann, an amazing Amazon basin adventure story that Tom picked up at Changing Hands before we left and which kept our Covid-dulled brains totally absorbed, Craft, An American History, a fascinating analysis by Glenn Adamson, revealing makers’ central role in shaping America, Ordinary Grace, by William Kent Krueger, a lovely story told from a young boy’s view of a summer of many too-close deaths in his small town in Minnesota, some essays from Nobody’s Looking at You, by Janet Malcolm, including the title one on clothes maven Eileen Fisher, and from Tom’s personal bookshelf, The Age of Extremes, by Eric Hobsbawm, a political and social history of the 20th century from World War I to the splintering of the Soviet Union.
• And that we were able to recover and test negative in time to get to the Harmonica and Music Festival in Yellow Pine, Idaho. (More on that in my next post.)