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Mimi and Papa's Covid-19 Road Trip

By Dennis Rainey

Our offices remain closed, so I’m working from home on our porch and enjoying a break from the heat while a herd of thunder showers march and rumble through our neck of the woods. The pristine solitude interrupted by the thunder reminds me Who is in control. I’m also reflecting on a recent road trip that Barbara and I just completed, and of the importance of the next generation.

We’ve been very careful about the pandemic and “SIP-ing” (sheltering in place). For three months we didn’t go anywhere. Okay, we did go to Sparkman, Arkansas, a couple of times. I dare you to find it on the map. And to Memphis to babysit our 19-month-old grandson, Lincoln. But …

It was time …

… time to break loose and hit the road and see our latest granddaughter, two-months young “Lillian Love Rainey,” four of her siblings, and five of her cousins … and, oh yes, connect with our adult children and their spouses. All of whom live on the Front Range of Colorado.

How do you spell LOVE?

Because of Covid-19 we weren’t sure what, if any, restaurants would be open on the road, so Barbara and I packed a cooler with thin sliced turkey and Havarti cheese, fresh tomatoes, mayo and horseradish (my fave on a turkey roll-up) mustard, salt and vinegar chips (Barbara doesn’t like those chips) and a few diet A&W root beers (her fave). Which turned out to be a very smart move.

And we headed out.

The temps soared to 100 degrees and the chilled air of the Rockies was calling.

Empty roads, empty hotel

Our first night was in Oklahoma City. The interstate was creepy … not in speed, but in how few vehicles were traveling. I thought maybe the rapture had occurred and we were “left behind.” The Marriott hotel we stayed in was even creepier … 13 percent occupancy. Nothing echoes like an empty hotel. Virtually no one was wearing a mask. That was really creepy.

After unpacking we hunted for the endangered species: Safe restaurants with some good food. Those diners were AWOL.

We checked out the next morning and headed northwest, in hopes of getting Barbara some time to do some watercolors of the landscape near Raton, New Mexico.

Lesson #1: Watercolors do not work in New Mexico with winds gusting to 45-55 mph. We abandoned going north and traveled further west. At our son, Benjamin’s, recommendation, our second stop was Eagles Nest, N.M., altitude 7,000 and change.

That small mountain village had few hotels and even fewer restaurants open that evening for dinner. As in none!

Back to the cooler and our tasty peppered turkey-and-cheese rollups.

The temperature the next morning was in the low 30’s and with the wind made it feel like 20 below zero! Lesson #2: Temps like this are conducive for ice sculpting, but not for WATERcolors.

So packed up and headed to Red River, where it was snowing. Lesson #3: Snow adds interesting texture to watercolors that Barbara wasn’t the least bit interested in.

And then we meandered on to Taos where every resort was closed and B&Bs were only allowed to sell 50 percent of their rooms. Our B&B already had 500 cancellations for the summer and the owners were wondering how they were going to make it.

Our cooler was getting lighter. Fortunately we found Orlando’s restaurant, where we ate three times in two days! Their fish tacos were superb. Lesson #4: Tex-Mex is necessary for survival!

Over the next two days we enjoyed the beauty of this artsy, mountain community and then journeyed west out of town, visiting the Rio Grande Gorge. Pretty cool. Then we “dropped in” on the nearby “Earthship” community. Pretty interesting.

On to Colorado

We then traveled north for six hours in search of fulfilling our mission as grandp