View from the top of Lenox Crater

A Summer Day-Trip from Phoenix During CoVid in 2020

Four months after we stopped traveling or even taking a short day-trip because of CovID, we finally had to get out of town. Even if it meant planning a trip – or not planning anything, just impulsively driving somewhere (anywhere) -, without much interaction with other humans.

Staying Safe During CoVid

For the past four months, we’ve only left the house to pick up groceries. Lately, we didn’t even walk into a store, used curbside pick-up most of the time.

In the beginning…

At first it didn’t bother me at all. Or any of us. I had four of us always at home, and I enjoyed it. I always wanted the family to be together. As they used to tell me, I wished we were all together twenty-four seven. Now I got my wish.

My husband started working from home every day. My oldest daughter got laid off from one job as a physical therapist (they had to close the business to half capacity until CoVid was over), my ninth grader started her second semester fully online. I’ve been already working from home, no change there. But no one was leaving the house now. Mom was happy – for the wrong reasons, but at least I had everyone here all the time.

Keeping busy…

I found a new hobby, making reusable cloth face masks. With plenty of new patterns available, I tried a few until I found one that worked for everyone.

Searching the internet, I found world-class museums that suddenly offered virtual tours. So we visited art museums virtually, the Met among them, then we took a tour of the British Museum. Later, we even visited National Parks and Maya ruins virtually.

We cooked meals together, experimented with new recipes. For mealtimes we could always be together. We read more books, and discussed them.

Life wasn’t too bad during lockdown. For the first two months.

By the third month…

But eventually we started to get on each other’s nerves. My daughters went from being best friends to brief interactions ending in screaming matches and slammed doors and everything in between.

We went from having long conversations to binge-watching any show that had even a likeness of a storyline, to rearranging furniture, to fighting over everything and even quitting mealtimes together. I went from making healthy meals and gathering everyone together for mealtimes to grunting to my kids to get their own meals.

Everyone seems to have their own eating and sleeping schedule these days, all different from the rest. Some of us get up at dawn while others sleep past noon (with even online school out, I have no reason to ask my teen to get up in the morning), bedtimes vary from midnight to four in the morning. We started out with healthy eating and sleeping habits to occasionally reminding my girls to take their vitamins and go outside for ten minutes of sunshine to get their Vitamin D.

Then the city opened up – briefly

And then, by the time the city opened up briefly, the summer heat arrived to Phoenix, which meant even if we could leave the house, we had nowhere to go.

Now, even spending the ten minutes outside has become a struggle. Getting my teen motivated to get out of bed seems impossible.

But screens keep us from being bored

We had a problem with phone and computer addiction with my older ones, years ago, when they still went to school, and weren’t sitting home, cut off from their friends. Now, the screen addiction has a whole new dimension. Not being able to leave the house for long, teens – and the rest of us – find it very comfortable to stare at some type of screen all day.

I am guilty of it myself, I admit it. I am on my computer or my phone almost all day long. Yes, I am working – about half of that time. But I found word games – they keep your mind from turning into mush, is my excuse – I downloaded on my phone. With the libraries closed and four months to read all the books in the house, I started reading e-books. My eyes are red and watery almost all the time, but I find excuses for it every day. I have allergies, I cut onions, I feel like crying. All true, but staring at the screen doesn’t help.

Getting out in nature – after a two-hour drive

In a moment of clarity, we decided to take a day-trip, go out of town, anywhere, CoVid or no CoVid.

A Day-Trip on Fourth of July

We didn’t plan on leaving town on the Fourth of July weekend though. We never do – on a regular year.

In our experience all the roads are too busy, every place we want to visit is overrun. But, as we all know, this is no regular year.

On the morning of Saturday, the Fourth, my husband looked at Google Maps and noticed no traffic going north. This was our clue. If we could wake up the girls, we could leave for a day-trip to the pine country.

As soon as I said we were going to Sunset Crater, they both opened their eyes.

“When, now?”

“As soon as you guys get up. There is no traffic going north.”

Within a half-hour, we were on the road.

On the Road

We’ve never seen the I-17 going north so clear on a Fourth of July weekend, as long as we’ve been living in Phoenix, close to thirty years now. We figured the crowds left on Friday and would return on Sunday, but we saw no holiday traffic on Friday either. Not as much as usual. Although apparently people were still celebrating, holding gatherings, not many got on the road.

I remembered to pack food for a snack lunch, while the girls were getting ready, which I thought was enough. Halfway on the road, someone asked where we would eat. We had food, but we could stop and get more. We all have masks. By now I’ve made plenty. But when we finally left the house, no one remembered to grab one.

We were on the road, out of the house, with our face-masks sitting at home. Everyone forgot to grab one, I forgot to remind anyone. Well, at least I grabbed my handbag I always carry. I had one in it. Only one for the four of us. Still, more than nothing. If we had to interact with people, only one of us would.

But our plan didn’t involve meeting people – even if it was a half-baked plan. We had no intention on getting out of the car except on a trail – and while we drove, we decided on a trail we knew as usually empty. Besides, if we saw other hikers, we could always avoid them. Social distancing is easy in the woods.

In Sunset Crater Volcano National Park

The trail we were talking about was leading up on Lenox Crater, in Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, our favorite National Park in our state. I don’t ever remember meeting other hikers on that trail, even when the park was busy. Everyone tends to walk the better-known trails in the park.

So we didn’t stop until we got to Sunset Crater. With a National Park Pass, we didn’t plan on stopping at the booth. We’ve rarely ever seen a ranger sitting there, even on the busiest days.

But now we did. She was wearing a mask and had a basket with a long handle reaching to the cars driving up. She was handing out brochures in the basket. Clever, I thought, but why was she even sitting there?

Multiple signs in large letters told us it was a no-fee day at the park. So, we thought we’d wave to her, and even show her our pass through the closed window, but she stopped us. I handed my husband my mask, since he was on her side, and he explained to her that we didn’t need a brochure, it would be a waste of paper. We knew the area, having visited it many times over the years. When she understood, she smiled, waved us in, wishing us a great visit.

Lenox Crater

We didn’t stop at the Visitor Center, and didn’t go to the main parking lot. Instead, we stopped at the parking lot for Lenox Crater, and walked up to it as soon as we got out of the car.

Hiking in Lenox Crater on a day-trip in Northern Arizona
View from Lenox Crater – after the rain

The smell of pine was so overwhelming, I had to stop and touch a tree. I breathed deeply, and I am fairly sure I had tears in my eyes. Before anyone noticed, I started up the trail behind my family.

Turned out, we weren’t alone on the whole stretch of the trail. We did meet another group of hikers. Neither of us was wearing masks, so we avoided each other; I stopped off the trail, showing them my back. Under normal circumstances this would have been extremely rude. Now, we just smiled from afar, before they got close enough. Social rules are changing…

But for the most part we were alone on the trail. Weather was perfect, we even got rained on (we loved it – desert dwellers appreciate rain), and our spur-of-the-moment day-trip turned out as the best outing.

A Short Stop in the Forest

But after our hike we weren’t ready to go home. So we took a side road, and looked for a pull-out where we saw no other cars. It ended up being a dirt road leading to nowhere it seemed.

We got out and spent another hour just sitting around in a ponderosa forest, until a nice old man came by in a truck and told us he would be closing the gate (we passed a gate to get onto this road). Turned out, we were enjoying an outing on his property. Not that he cared. He didn’t have any no trespassing, private property notices, so we thought it was a forest road. No harm done though, we were ready to leave anyway.

A Burger King Drive-Thru

By then, we spent most of our day outside. And it was close to dinner time. We were all hungry, the snack lunches I packed weren’t cutting it. So, when we noticed a Burger King, with its drive-thru, we decided to go for it. For the first time in about twenty-five years we stopped at a Burger King. Rather, drove through, so we wouldn’t interact with anyone. I couldn’t get myself to eat a burger though. Fortunately, they have salads now, and that’s what I had.

As we drove up to the window, I had to tell the kids the story of my first time at a drive-thru. I’m sure they heard it before, but they humored me, didn’t complain about me repeating myself.

About thirty years ago…

About thirty years ago, my first time on the American continent, I had a first date with my now-husband (yes, he was sitting in the car as I told the story). We stayed out so late everything was closed except fast food places, and we got thirsty. As it must’ve came naturally for him, when he noticed a Burger King, still open, and drove through to order us two drinks.

I’ve never seen a drive-thru before, I didn’t know they existed. To me, it seemed like something out of a sci-fi movie, driving up to what seemed like a wall, talking to the wall, getting an answer back – from the same wall, then driving up to a window and getting our drinks. Yeah, it was one of those quirky American things that left me scratching my head.

And here we were again, at another BK drive-thru, waiting for someone in front of us to decide what they wanted – it took them so long, we would’ve left if we didn’t have a line of cars behind us, locking us in.

Drive-thrus and being hangry…

In the end, we did get our meals and drinks – and remembered why we never go to Burger King or McDonalds or any such establishment.

But this time it worked out, it kept us from interacting with people without masks, and from being hangry – I learned the term from my kids: it comes from hungry+angry, someone who is angry because they are hungry. I thought it was clever. Then again, I think many things the younger generation comes up with are clever. Also true that I sometimes think the younger generation comes up with something that has been around since before my time…

Just Another Day in Arizona…

After four months – and we normally never go four months without a trip – we finally took a short day-trip. To familiar territory, true, but sometimes that’s all you need to keep your sanity. A drive out of town, a bit of nature.

Now that we did this, we might repeat it more often. It turns out, we don’t need to rely on screens to keep us busy. Nature is always there for us, even if we need to drive for it.

Day Trip N. Arizona
Scroll to Top