© The Cedar Journal, 2021, all rights reserved.
Hello fellow bloggers and subscribers! It has been a very long time since I was last officially online. I had more adventures than I would like to share this fall durning my travels to the USA.
I finally got to Minnesota after a year and half of COVID restrictions that limited my travel internationally. I did some kayaking, hiking, and spent some downtime with some close friends.
I also have run out of 13GB of storage space on my blog site and have had to make some hard decisions on the future of this site. Making some hard financial decisions is never easy when I have a limited income and things that seem to suck the money out of my wallet. Don’t fear the my blog changes, as my site will continue to be advertisement free and still be my original content of our adventures.
Look for some of the changes in the coming weeks as I get things cleaned up, add some additional items to increase and help with the cost of running this international site. I would be interested in ideas from my readers (many of you have been blogging longer than I have), please shoot me a private message on my contact page if you have something you would like to see on this blog or an idea on how I can finance this site in the future. For now, I have increased my storage to the WP Business level of 200GB. That should help retain access to my older content.
Now that all the rough stuff is out of the way, how was my vacation? More like a nightmare of a trip!
Flying internationally is not fun at all during these times of COVID and being an American citizen has advantages but still the hassle of travel is just that, a hassle!! I will not be traveling to the USA again until things change in requirements of flying!
Here was a small taste of the travel process.
COVID Vaccination 2x in the Spring of 2021. Second shot placed me in bed with the most horrible headache and body aches for two days. Better than hospital with COVID! Plus, I felt so much better once I was vaccinated with being able to move around without the constant fear of catching the virus, maybe passing it to my Hubby or worse giving it to his elderly mother who suffers from dementia and is in a care facility. It was a relief to finally not have to constantly worry. The additional benefit was I was able to start back at my old volunteer job at the Historische Tuin (Historical Garden) in Aalsmeer.
Close to our scheduled vacation (yes, the Hubby planned on traveling with me to the USA and took three weeks of vacation) the USA still was only allowing US citizens or green card holders into the country (the Hubby is neither). We watched both the travel and airline news. I logged into the State Department site daily for weeks prior to travel in hopes that changes would allow the Hubby to fly with me. I purchased my airline ticket and paid the highest price I have ever paid for travel between The Netherlands and Minnesota ever!
Yes, I most likely could have gotten a cheaper flight but at my age I don’t like hopping from airport to airport for more than 24 hours just to fly cheap. Eight hours of travel is enough! I booked a non-stop to MSP with the hopes that the Hubby would still be able to fly and enter the country. As the time got closer, our hopes of a vacation together disappeared.
Then it was the COVID test time. The first test I had taken since the start if this insanity of a virus decided to ascend on our global lives. The rule here for entering the USA was to be tested 72 hours prior to flight. So on the Friday before my Monday flight I was probed with the long cotton swab into the brain tissue just on the other side of my nasal passage. My only thoughts are “why the heck do people get this done weekly for their jobs without going nuts?” “I hope I don’t have anything that would stop me from traveling! That would suck!”
Cost of the test is paid for through the Dutch government, so it was a free test. For those of you living in the USA please remember this fact as I continue on this journey.
I waited 24 hours and received a link to a QR code. That was my secondary ticket to getting on the plane here in The Netherlands. Maybe that should be third ticket as the vaccination also was needed for flight.
I flew on American Labor Day, 6 September. But, I needed two more pieces of paperwork in order to fly. A declaration of health (paper format) so that US Customs had all of us legally if we lied about COVID prior to getting on the plane. I also had to fill out another piece of paperwork for my quarantine requirement upon return to The Netherlands.
I could quarantine for five days and then take a test if it was negative then I could resume normal life, or I could quarantine upon return for 10 days and not take a test. My option after being violated with the Q-Tip was the 10 day option. I only needed to hold onto the last piece of paper, just in case someone asked for it while I was in transit.
The return flight to Amsterdam was even more crazy due to changing requirements and limited test facilities in Northern Minnesota. The fact that most test facilities were overwhelmed with people with an over 3 hour wait even if you have an appointment. It was soon apparently obvious to me that I would not be able to get a rapid test until I got to the Minneapolis airport. The Minneapolis airport has three test facilities (I didn’t know that at the time of scheduling an appointment to be taken during my 5 hour layover). I paid my $200.00 and got the last appointment available for the Sunday afternoon. If I had known about the other test sites I maybe could have gotten an appointment but it was very unclear if the results would be ready prior to my flight.
On the day of my flight out of Duluth, Delta airlines would not let me fly without my COVID test. I explained that I had one scheduled for my layover in Minneapolis and they still wouldn’t let me fly without talking to customer service.
When Delta customer service agent came on the phone he explained that due to Federal Law they could not allow me to fly but I could buy a separate ticket to Minneapolis and then get my test. I purchased an additional ticket if $340.00 plus a $30.00 suitcase charge. To say I was a bit upset at this point would be a huge understatement. Knowing that my Hubby works for an airline I was even more upset as I know there is always a way around the stupid rules without charging a customer double for a ticket. That day was not the day to fight that issue so I paid the money, got on the plane in Duluth and when I got to Minneapolis I went in search of the COVID test site.
I rented a car in Minneapolis as I knew that the testing site was somewhere in the parking garage of the airport. I drove to the test site and soon after I exited the vehicle I saw a sign that told me that if I had an appointment with a certain company for a rapid test then I was at the wrong location.
Now, I was pissed, tired, and even as tough as I am, darn close to tears. It had already been a vacation riddled with medical issues and travel woes this was nearly the last straw.
I took some deep breaths and refocused my efforts to find the test location. Parking level three. Once I found the location it was crowded with people.
At one point during my wait I was approached by a young lady who was escorting a wheelchair bound lady to Paris and had been bumped from three flights due to testing requirements and time limits running out. Could I help, she asked. I listened and told her that if she didn’t receive results in 1/2 hour to go and ask the desk. At this point I got my results and wondered if once I headed to my flight if this lady in distress would be granted her flight.
Once I got to the Delta desk things went smoothly. I was checked in documents checked and boarding pass issued. I was very happy to have my military ID to go through the fast lane but TSA stopped and searched me because my 4 pounds of wild rice set off the detectors.
So I was once again violated by a body search and complete undoing of my carry on luggage that was neatly packed.
It is no wonder that people have lost their minds on flights over the last year. As a well travelled person that is very flexible when it comes to all the changes I was pushed almost to my breaking point.
I was never so glad to be on a plane and headed back to the Hubby.
Safe and sound back at home with the Hubby.
More blogs to follow on my hiking, kayaking adventures in Minnesota in the weeks to come.
Have you ever had a horrible flight during COVID? Share in our comments section.
© The Cedar Journal, 2021, all rights reserved.
Nope, I am still in shock from what happened last week. Which makes the fact that for two days I have seen the following even more spectacular.
The rainbow can only be seen when conditions are just right. Light, water, angle, and being in the right place at the right time are all elements to being able to witness such a thing.
From a dark sky full of gloom to be suddenly blessed to see all the colors that are contained in each rain drop, a spectrum of color. What a simple joy!
So many only want to see only the dark sky, the rain clouds, the windy conditions that keep them inside (ok, a virus is also keeping many inside), or only see what is binging on their phone. As we all put down our phones, and look at the sky I hope we all see are rainbows in this darkness that has invaded our world in the last year.
My hope is that each of my blog followers will also enjoy a rainbow of any sort in your travels today. Be kind to one another and be safe.
Another rainbow from my walk this morning 12 January 2021.
© The Cedar Journal, 2021, all rights reserved.
The hardest part of the year was not kayaking. This blog is about how on Wednesday I had my first kayak paddle of the season and most likely the last kayak paddle of the season.
I don’t have a Dutch drivers license. I am at the liberty of the Hubby’s time availability for getting to a kayak location. After our weekend canoe paddle in the Weerribben I knew needed to find my way into the water in my kayak for a day. Kayaking was my first love and it was part of my PTSD therapy recovery plan. The healing properties of water and nature are well documented and amazing. I needed some “me” time.
I arranged to be dropped off at my favorite local lake, the Westeinder in Aalsmeer. We have featured this lake several times before on this blog. It was the training lake where the Hubby and I spent several days paddling in preparation for our BWCA trip, three years ago.
The fall days are getting shorter. The Hubby dropped me and my equipment off at the beach before the sunrise.
As I waited I had a very friendly goose approach me.
I had enough equipment for a five day trip but the plan was only to paddle to the Historic Garden in Aalsmeer where I volunteer. My first visit to the garden since April.
I always get a bit of a thrill when my kayak hits the water for the first time in a season. I am always a little nervous. The weather, wind, and muscles all have to once again tune into each other. It is like meeting an old friend after not seeing them for awhile. Excitement and also caution as you know it has been awhile since your last solo paddle. Plus, kayaking is not canoeing.
As I paddled from lake into harbor the sun was changing the reflections and sky as the seconds ticked passed. I pulled around the corner to find the sun putting on a spectacular display of color as it crested above the horizon.
In my own special place, alone on the water, I thanked the heavens for health and ability to paddle. To be able to experience this special place in this time, even though it has contained such heartbreak and misery for so many all over the world.
As I entered the canal that takes me directly to the Historic Garden I was reminded of my mantra… Carpe Diem.
I silently slowly paddled my way closer to the garden so my arrival time at the garden would be timed perfectly. I knew the garden bridge over the canal opened at 8 am. My timing was perfect as I was greeted by one of my co-volunteers lowering the bridge.
Pulling my kayak onto dry land my co-worker greeted me and jokingly asked if I paddled all the way from the USA.
I laughed, “nope just from the lake beach“.
I sat and had my coffee then toured around the gardens. I trimmed and deadheaded the roses for the first time this year. Then the day outing was over as the Hubby returned to pick me and the equipment up.
Sadly, this might have been the last day this year I would have an opportunity to kayak. Who knows what the coming days or weeks will bring?
My last thought on First and Last…today 28 years ago my first son was born in the shadow of Mount Rainer in Washington State. Happy Birthday son!
© The Cedar Journal, 2020, all rights reserved
We have accomplished another short escape from the Amsterdam area. This time we headed to Limburg.
Normally we stay at a wonderful B&B (Meens B&B) in Schinnen but this time of the year, most vacation lodging is booked far in advance. This year with Covid running rampant in European vacation locations outside of the Netherlands, many Dutch have decided to stay and vacation here inside the country. This has made getting accommodations (even camping spots) challenging.
We decided on very short notice to go to Limburg. We were very lucky to find a farm camping location in the outskirts of Landgraaf.
I worked in Limburg for a couple of years prior to my retirement and knew that Landgraaf has a downhill ski facility and hosts a summer music festival (that didn’t happen this summer). As in most locations where I have worked sometimes I didn’t really explore as much as I would have liked due to time constraints. It is nice now to really enjoy the areas around where I spent my last two years of employment with the US Government.
We were nicely surprised at this camping location. Large roomy bathroom facilities. Trees between the camping spots that provide some much needed shade as the temperatures creeped towards 30C. A expansive view of the Limburg landscape reaching into Germany. The German border is only 2 kilometers (approximately 1 mile) from where we camped.
The differences in Limburg from Amsterdam area are vast. Hills instead of flat land make it great for bicycle training. The Dutch language also changes here into something that is part German, local Dutch and influenced also by the Belgium speakers of French, making hard even for my Dutch hubby to understand.
It was a nice getaway. Biking in the Limburg area, relaxing at the campsite. Too short in duration, different too from other vacations as we can’t just shop without a mask or are constantly thinking is this or that safe. It was a time to regroup, reconnect, listen to nature and re-energize.
Loaded down with the last of my American shopping for the year we head home to Amsterdam.
©️The Cedar Journal,2020, all rights reserved