Quarantine Diaries — Chapter 4

Sierra Pacific lumber mill on Oakland Bay, Shelton, WA.

Cinco de Mayo.  Today, the governor lifted some restrictions on commerce and travel. State parks are open for day use, except for the ones too close to Oregon, too tempting to border jumpers.  And, of course, the beach parks remain closed.  And, no camping, yet.

White dogwood and red rhododendron in our front yard, in late afternoon sun

The weather cleared, so we went for a walk today.  Traffic was almost back to normal, and many people were out in the streets or also walking or sitting on their porches.  The Stay At Home orders become difficult when the outdoors beckons.  It’s hard when you live in a small town with few cases, but we personally aren’t ready to expose ourselves just yet.  We’ve been hiking in the wooded trails surrounding our neighborhood, but have exhausted most of them, and the good weather brings our more users.  The flowering dogwoods and other flowering shrubs are in full bloom, the camellias are nearly done, and the rhododendrons are starting to bloom in earnest. so wandering the neighborhoods seems a better option.  We have often been gone on walk-about, bicycle touring or adventuring in other parts of the continent this time of year, so it is especially gratifying to be forced to enjoy the beauty of our own home town.

Pink dogwood above our driveway.

Last week, we ventured into a seldom-visited area south of Arcadia, and threaded through barricades on old roads closed years ago, back into our neighborhood.  This week, we ventured down the hill to the east.  First Street, which is Washington State Highway 3, was filled with cars as it was in the old days, and we joined clots of pedestrians waiting–at a respectful distance–for the traffic light to change.  We took a detour to avoid being in a queue up the hill.  We donned our quilt-fabric masks a couple of times meeting others headed down the hill.

At the first cross street, Fairmont, which follows Oakland Bay at the top of the high bank above the railroad toward Hammersley Inlet, we turned east until we reached the last street, then threaded our way through the east side of the Hilltop neighborhood, climbing to the summit before angling back across Hwy 3, past silent Bordeaux Elementary School, and back into our neighborhood again.  On the residential streets, we walk down the middle or shift sides to avoid other people, which is better than the busy sidewalks along high-traffic roads.

Grocery shopping remains a bizarre exercise.  We’ve departed a bit from the rigid schedule of last month.  I went on Thursday last week, and we held off a visit to the produce stand until Sunday.  Even though Safeway still observes Senior Shopping Hour, there are a number of younger, maskless folk wandering the wrong way up the aisles.  The rules may have relaxed a bit, or maybe because of fire rules, both entrances were open today.  Today, there was tofu, for the first time since this started, 50 days ago.  I picked up two of the four packages.  I forgot the coffee creamer, which we ran out of several days ago, and the yeast shelf was bare, as predicted by the hoarding reports, but I got everything else on the short list, and the berries were still on sale, so we have plenty of fresh fruit now.  I did get commercial oat milk, which can double as creamer, so we may be able to hold out more than a week before another trip.  I thought about more flour, since there were two 10-lb bags on the shelf, but we have plenty for now, especially with the low yeast supply.

A lot of our supplies are in the UPS pipeline, with dates, printer paper, and vitamins due tomorrow, along with lentils and wheat arriving at the produce market with their bi-weekly freight delivery.   Yesterday, the kids and grandkids came to visit.  It’s against the law, but it’s family.  We haven’t seen them for a month, and they need somewhere to go when their house cleaner comes every two weeks.  Judy baked cookies to send a few home with the boys.  I baked bread in the morning, and naan in the afternoon, but they didn’t stay long, just a visit on opposite sides of the room, so we have our bread supply for the week.  I have some yeast left, but, with the shortages, I’m reviewing good sourdough recipes.  It takes a week to get a good sponge that’s usable for baking, so I’ll have to start soon, and we need to order some more supplies soon, since everything takes two weeks, if available at all.

The other highlight of the day is mail.  There isn’t much, since many businesses are closed, so few ads and the few bills are just copies of on-line invoices and payments.  Yesterday, I went out, as the USPS email notification said there was mail on the way.  There wasn’t.  Our neighbor was waiting, expecting mail also, so we chatted, shouting across 25 meters of social distancing to be heard above the traffic, comparing notes on how we were getting by.  I hadn’t seen her probably since last summer.  Such is urban life in America.  The neighbors on the other side of her place, a young couple, jogged by on their morning run down to town and back up the hill.  I had seen her running, last week, but didn’t know where they lived.  We are a city of strangers, seeing each other for the first time, now that we are confined to our town and neighborhood.  They had mail.  The mail truck went by, headed for another neighborhood, calling out “no mail today” to the two of us, and we went our separate ways.

Last week, Judy’s new bike saddle arrived, so I installed it on our Bike Friday, with the old one destined to replace the saddle on our old tandem, now that we’ve gotten the frozen seat post broken loose so it can be set at the right height.  She had put up with the old saddle for decades, but, having gotten a good fit with modern saddles made for women, a new one is a necessity on the old bike. We  took a short test run, at the airport, instead of driving out to the county park, as the grid of streets and roads in the industrial park never gets far from the truck in case we needed to do more than minor adjustments.  The adjustments went fine, and we had a good ride, but riding circuits just to ride is not our idea of *real* fun.  Still, it was a bit surreal.  We ride at the airport in winter, so we can cut the ride short if it’s too cold, and see a lot of people walking, with or without dogs.  This time, there were a lot of cars just driving around, parking here or there, driving to another spot, etc., but nobody was getting out and walking, except workers from the industrial park on lunch break, with nowhere else to go..  It’s like people just have to get out to dispel cabin fever, but dare not go far, or just need a place to eat take-out lunch in the car.