Roller Coaster Marathon

I woke up on Tuesday morning to the breaking news that the Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine was on ‘pause’ in the U.S.  Six cases of a rare blood clotting problem have been reported in young women who were recently vaccinated.  A further look is in order.

This news caused chills up my spine and not in a good way.

I first heard the term, ‘roller coaster marathon’ when I was receiving my cancer treatment and it was pretty descriptive.  It seems to be a good descriptor for the pandemic, as well. 

I know I had my hopes up as the vaccine roll out was going smoothly after a few initial bumps.  Pretty much every state is opening up eligibility to everyone 16 and older.  Millions of people are getting vaccinated every day.

Of course, infections and hospitalizations are up too as more people shrug off the pandemic even if they aren’t vaccinated.

And now we have the Johnson and Johnson news.  I have confidence that it will get sorted out and these are rare events – 6 events in 7+ million doses. But any ‘pause’ could have a chilling effect on people who are reluctant to get vaccinated or are down right vaccine refusers. 

I think we are going to hit the wall soon in that regard.  I predict most people who want to get vaccinated will do so soon and then we will have more vaccine than takers.  I have two friends who live in Montana.  That is already coming true in their communities.  That is when the really hard work begins for public health and others.  That work includes multiple communication strategies to reduce reluctance and refusals and hard-core outreach into underserved communities who may have difficulty accessing vaccine for a variety of reasons.

So I said to myself, self I said, self, ‘what can you do about this?’ 

The answer is probably not a heck of a lot.  While I am not an expert by any means, I can certainly convey my confidence in the vaccine and my knowledge about COVID 19 to people who come my way.

I have been vaccinated, I wear a mask when I am out and about and I wash my hands.  My husband and two of our daughters are fully vaccinated and our third daughter is halfway there. Three of our grandchildren (16, 18, and 19) are up next. 

This dilemma made me think about the brilliant Brian Andreas, the Story People founder (unfortunately he is no longer associated with Story People).  I have always loved his ‘Illusion of Control’, pictured above.  I think all of us are on a ‘roller coaster marathon’ when it comes to COVID 19 and trying to control any of it is an illusion!

If you hold on to the handle, she said, it’s easier to maintain the illusion of control. But it’s more fun if you just let the wind carry you.

Illusion of Control, Story People

So we let the wind carry us at Penrose Point State Park. Check out my Instagram at travelswithallene for the photos.

And Happy Birthday to our Montana daughter!

See you on Friday,



Seattle…in transition

We decided to brave downtown Seattle on Saturday.  We haven’t been downtown since early February.  And so much has changed since then and will continue to change. 

It was kind of a gloomy day, which probably added to my gloom.  Most of the parking garages are closed, but we found a spot at Pacific Place.  Pacific Place is an upscale downtown indoor mall.  I don’t know what the mall capacity is, but only FOUR stores were open today (lululemon, Aveda, AT&T and L’Occitane).  It had a pretty cavernous feel.

From there, we walked down to the Pike Place Market.  There were more signs of life there.  We got in line at La Panier for some fantastic French pastries.  We weren’t alone in line.  A lot of people had the same idea.

From there, we walked to our favorite restaurant, Etta’s Seafood.  I knew Ettas was closed, but I wanted a picture.  Another Tom Douglas restaurant is next door and it was open.  And Tom Douglas was standing outside!  I asked him if I could take his photo and he insisted on a selfie with me.  He is shaking his head about the current situation and really misses all of his staff. He has 10 restaurants in Seattle and 3 are open.

We walked through the market which was pretty lively.  Not like a typical Saturday, but there were people wandering through.  Some of the vendors were there and we got some good photos of the last flowers of summer.

We then walked through the ghost town that was downtown.  Most of the stores still have boards on their windows from the summer protests.  Many of them are closed, but a handful are open.  We went into the flagship Nordstrom for a look around.  There were people and merchandise.  Again, it wasn’t as busy as a typical Saturday, but it could have been worse.

For more photos of today’s ‘adventure’, check out travelswithallene on Instagram.

I have to take a paragraph to talk about people who are unhoused and spend time on the downtown streets.  I imagine some of them are mentally ill and outbursts are frequent. This is nothing new, but it is one more deterrent to shoppers and others who might still be willing to give downtown a try.

No one has a crystal ball right now, least of all me.  I do imagine that downtown Seattle will come back in some form.  It always does.  But I don’t think we are going to be rewinding the tape to 2019 anytime soon.  I think many of the changes are here to stay. Who knows what will emerge in the after times?

On that cheery note, see you on Wednesday,


Indoor Malls – End of an Era?

I went to Tacoma Mall this week to pick up a few things.  Tacoma Mall was pretty marginal and struggling to ‘reinvent itself’ before COVID.  I think a number of malls are in re-invention mode. But it is looking like it this one is on its last leg!

The volume of foot traffic at the mall is gradually increasing but it is far from bustling.  Like I have noted before, the only busy business is the Apple Store.

I used to enjoy shopping at a mall as a pastime.  But another reason to go bricks and mortar is the ability to browse through a variety of merchandise and to try things on.  Neither are possible right now at Tacoma Mall. There are a lot of empty storefronts. Nordstrom has very little merchandise.  Macy’s has stuff, but it isn’t displayed very well.  And you can’t try things on at Macys!  So, I bought some things to try on at home and will need to return them.  This is now an errand that I dread.

On a side note, I was in the shoe department at Nordstrom at about 2 PM.  A guy who works in their café came down to chat with a buddy working in shoes.  I overheard him say that they had sold only $25 worth of food in the last hour.  I doubt that is very sustainable business model!

In all fairness, I haven’t been to Bellevue Square since the pandemic.  It is the flagship of the indoor mall fleet in the Puget Sound.  I don’t know how it is doing.  It might be faring better due to the variety of stores and the far more upscale environment.

I am not sure how even outdoor malls are going to weather the COVID storm. My husband went to University Village just after school started at UW (pictured above).  It was a beautiful, sunny day and the mall was far from buzzing.  But I do think the outdoor malls are going to fare a bit better because people may feel more comfortable in an open-air environment. Outdoor malls just aren’t that plentiful in the northwest due to our rainy weather.

I can’t help but think that COVID is going to hasten the demise of most indoor malls, particularly the marginal ones.  They were already struggling to compete with online shopping.  And if they can’t offer a wide variety of merchandise for one stop shopping, I am not sure people are going to make the trip, even die-hard shoppers like me!

King County COVID 19 data over the past 14 days (as of 10/14):

  • Positive tests – 2063 (2.4% positivity rate; up .1% over last week)
  • Hospitalizations – 60
  • Deaths – 20

Between September 11 and October 13, the University of Washington confirmed infections in 242 students belonging to 10 sororities and 7 fraternities.  The UW is considering a ‘harsher’ response to the Greek system.  And all this is while the Seattle Public Schools are operating remotely.  I certainly see why parents of school age (K-12) children are frustrated!

With new worries that we are having a resurgence of COVID 19, please stay the course by wearing a mask, physical distancing, avoiding crowds and washing your hands.

See you on Monday!


3 of Cups

I am ever so slightly into Tarot cards.  Every now and then a card strikes a chord.  The 3 of Cups does that for me.  If you go online, you will find a lot of interpretations for this card.  My favorite one is from Galaxy Tone Tarot cards:

Three of Cups means friendship, celebration, fun, ritual.  It is time to rejoice in your friendships and indicates that you have friends who truly care about and support you’.

The reason I like this interpretation is the ritual aspect. It speaks to me about how important and meaningful rituals with friends are.

Prior to COVID 19, I had a number of rituals with my friends.  We would schedule happy hours (Steilacoom, anyone?), try cider flights at Locust, meet for movies at the Grand, connect for a little shopping, have coffee in certain spots and meet for lunch.  At times, we would even hop on a flight to meet up.

One of my favorite rituals has been 1-2 times a year trips to Portland by train with 3 friends from work. We have a very specific itinerary and chose not to change it up much because it worked well for us! One of our rituals is to do a face mask and drink a glass before bedtime. Who knew that our 2019 definition of face masks would shift so dramatically in 2020!

Obviously, most of those exact rituals have gone away since March.  Our trip to Portland and flying have definitely gone by the wayside for now. But, I am happy to report that we have managed to modify many of our favorite activities, not all, but some. 

Instead of restaurants or bars, we meet in each other’s back yards for cider flights or lunch at a favorite park. We look for spots where we can enjoy our coffee outside. No luck on figuring out a movie plan (cue Netflix) and nobody is hopping on a flight, but we have hopped in the car for a 7 hour drive. But still, we are figuring out how to safely connect outdoors.  Living in the northwest, the outdoors is a limited field during the rainy season.  So we will need to continue to improvise. 

Enter ZOOM.  One of my favorite weekly rituals is having a glass with my Montana friends.  We are pretty faithful about our weekly schedule.  I am also zooming with my Steilacoom crew.  We decided to start a monthly check in and try out a new cocktail recipe each time.  On Monday we are each making a Apple Cinnamon Whiskey Smash to welcome fall. And instead of meeting for lunch, ZOOM tea is an option.

Now is my time to rejoice in these friendships and know that I have friends who truly care about me and each other!

See you on Friday,


It’s Diarist Time

What is a diarist? It’s a person who writes a diary.

I recently read The Splendid and the Vile and, to be redundant, it was splendid!  One of the interesting things about this book about the London Blitz was how Erik Larson used information from diaries throughout his book.

Starting in 1937, people in England volunteered to keep diaries for a project called ‘Mass Observation’. Here is a great article in Time Magazine that describes this in detail.  These diaries left an invaluable record as to what life was like in England during WW 2.

Diarists basically noted on a regular basis what was going on in their lives from the mundane to the sublime.  They went shopping, had tea, the air raid sirens went off, they went to a bomb shelter, they had more tea. 

Here we are in 2020 during the largest pandemic in 100 years.  It has been likened to the London Blitz in many ways. 

Back in April, the New York times wrote an article suggesting we all keep a Coronavirus diary as a way of helping us make sense about what is happening and to look back on when this is in our rear view mirror (thanks JLMH for the tip). Instead of calling them diaries, they can be called ‘jottings’.  That works for me.

I know some people keep journals on a regular basis.  I don’t happen to be one of them but I do faithfully keep a calendar and have for years.  After reading the NYT article, I am doing more than just writing down my ZOOM meetings/ cocktail parties.  I am including where I went each day, what I did, what I had for dinner and my wine consumption (😊)! I also write down what books I am reading or listening to and what I am watching on the screen. I note any major changes in the COVID landscape, as well.

Thanks to our daughter who has used one for years, I find my Moleskin Weekly Planner works just fine.  I prefer the soft sided version, but the hard sided one has more cover options.  One side of the page is a space for each day and the other side is just a lined page.  It is perfect for my ‘jottings’. 

And if, heaven forbid, I am diagnosed with COVID 19, I can easily retrace my steps and see who might have been in close contact with me.

So, think about taking up ‘jotting’ and I will see you on Wednesday.


Happy birthday to my first friend and to two of our son-in-laws!

Cavalier about COVID

How many times have we all heard something to the effect of ‘if I get COVID, I get it’ or ‘its no worse than if I get the flu’ or……..?

Those sentiments don’t work for me, because it is not about you! 

This is not a self-limiting disease.  If you get COVID, you may or may not survive, but you can pass it on to people you care about or people caring for you. They are the COVID innocent bystanders.  I assume most of them don’t have the same cavalier attitude you do about getting sick and potentially dying or infecting their loved ones.  And they may not enjoy the same access to high quality health care either. I seriously doubt the families of the over 211,000 Americans who have died from COVID 19 so far are cavalier about this deadly disease.  All of them are grieving and probably didn’t have the chance to say goodbye to their loved ones properly.

Mask wearing and other measures have finally given us some semblance of freedom to engage in our normal activities and to safely reopen our economy.   I am concerned about the upcoming elections and ‘pandemic fatigue’ and that we will also become cavalier about wearing facial coverings, physical distancing, and hand washing.  It is important to remember that these measures are a two-way street.  They protect me and they protect you. 

I posted about my recent trip to Hood River in OR.  We crossed the Columbia to WA and then back to OR.  Both states are led by governor’s who aren’t cavalier about COVID.  The rules are pretty much the same in both states and the consistent safety measures we observed were welcome and gave us some freedom to travel.

On a related note, the flu is nothing to be cavalier about either.  During the last flu season, as many as 62,000 died from the flu and it’s complications. But unlike COVID, there is a vaccine.  So get it!

Keep up all the COVID prevention measures, get your flu shot if you haven’t done so already, and have a good weekend.

See you on Monday,


COVID 19 in King County over the past two weeks (as of 10/7/20)

  • Positive tests – 1791; 2.3% of tests (up .3% from last week’s post)
  • Hospitalizations – 59 (up 19 from last week)
  • Deaths – 15 (up 11 from last week)

There is an ongoing COVID 19 outbreak on Greek Row near the U.W, with over 200 infections in 15 fraternities and sororities.  It is tough to get college kids to play ball with masks and physical distancing, and to limit gatherings. I also heard from a nurse at a local hospital that they are already pretty full with a variety of patients.  It could quickly become a hospital capacity issue if COVID cases needing hospitalization continue to increase.

Hood River – Curated!

We spent a delightful weekend with our daughter and her husband in Hood River, OR.  The weather was perfect for early fall with cool mornings and evenings and warm days. 

Our daughter had a wonderful itinerary planned for the weekend.  We felt very well cared for and couldn’t have had a better time!

Hood River is about an hour drive east of Portland and, we found out, a major mecca for urban escape!  We stayed at the Best Western right on the Columbia. I was armed with my Clorox wipes and took a swipe at every surface.

We started our adventure off by driving over an extremely scary and old truss bridge to the WA side.  It opened in 1924 and is the second oldest bridge crossing the Columbia (a very big river) – it is pictured above.

Once my heart rate returned to normal, we found a good spot for a salad in White Salmon.  From there we went to Syncline Winery in Lyle.  We had been there before, but it is even more lovely now.  Our daughter is a member and had reserved us a table in the garden for tasting. We enjoyed a great flight of wine!  We, of course, added a couple of bottles to our stash, including a Maurvedre (red) and Picpoul (white).

That evening we had dinner on the deck of the hotel.  We watched an incredible moon rise over the river and headed back to our room to rest up for Sunday.

Sunday morning, we took a hike on the path that runs along the river.  It was fun to see fisherman out and get a taste of the wind that makes Hood River famous for wind surfing.  After our hike, we took off for more exploring on the OR side of the river.  We saw incredible vistas of Mount Hood at every turn.

We had an amazing experience drinking wine at the Phelps Creek tasting room!  We had a lovely outdoor table and enjoyed a bottle of 2018 pinot gris and a 2019 bottle of Rose of Pinot Noir. On our way back to Hood River, we stopped at Fox Tail cidery for a cider flight.  It was fun to taste some new ciders.

Our trip was capped off with a great dinner at Celilo in Hood River to celebrate 3 birthdays – our daughter, my husband, and our son-in-law.  The special treat that night included chanterelle mushrooms and I had fresh tagliatelle with mine.  Our son-in-law treated us to a magnum of bubbles from Syncline to top it all off.  Overall, it was a wow!

Please check out my new Instagram account @travelswithallene for more photos of the trip!

It was a fantastic weekend and we were so happy to celebrate a milestone birthday with our daughter!

That being said, in retrospect I do have some COVID trepidation about the crowded hotel and the indoor dining on Sunday night.  I knew then and we all know now that COVID can be transmitted through aerosolization, with indoor spaces and poor ventilation being a risk. I will be laying low for a bit to make sure we are still safe.  Travel in the COVID era presents a new set of challenges, especially as we move into our rainy season making outdoor dining less feasible.

See you on Friday.