A Pause in Saint John

A Pause in Saint John

 

Need to really really get away even when you’re already in Saint Thomas? Consider a day trip to Saint John.

 

 

Beginning with a 7am taxi pickup from our lodgings in Charlotte Amalie, we arrived at Red Hook’s Ferry Terminal at 7:30am.

 

 

Because the ferry was a bit delayed due to the higher volume of people getting on this morning, we were able to buy our tickets quickly online via a QR code they displayed on a sign by the queue and catch one of the hourly ferries at 7:30am. The fare costs $8.15 per person.

 

 

The whole ferry ride takes 20 minutes.

 

 

We arrived at 7:50am into the main town of Cruz Bay on Saint John.

 

 

From there the differences from its sister island of Saint Thomas was palpable: tinier, less bustling, more relaxed, and more nature.

 

 

After having a quick breakfast at Cruz Bay Landing, we got picked up by Spencer of Island Buddy on a last minute booking for their 3 hour tour of St. John.

 

 

Definitely don’t miss the following sights —

 

Trunk Bay:

 

 

Caneel Beach:

 

 

Cinnamon Bay:

 

 

If you got a great guide as we did, you can also feel like getting a private beach all to yourself to swim in. This was at Lameshur Beach:

 

 

It’s snorkelin’ time!

 

 

After half an hour here, we packed up and headed out to explore one of the sugarcane plantations and ruins of old windmills back in Saint John’s colonial days:

 

 

Returning back to Cruz Bay by 12:30pm, we spent the rest of our day on Saint Johns eating and sampling one of the most bomb smoothies at Our Market Smoothies.

Once we had our fill of the slow life, we took the hourly ferry back to Saint Thomas, arriving back at Saint Thomas at 5:20pm.

 

 

And at the recommendation of a college friend, we booked 5:45pm dinner reservations at The Easterly:

 

 

Some of the best food of the trip so far:

 

Grilled Avocado with grilled corn, Jicama, baby heirloom tomatoes, pickled onion, ginger-lime vinaigrette

 

Bone Marrow with roasted wild mushrooms, carrot top remolata, seeded sourdough

 

Wahoo/Ono with Tomatoes, Onion, Jasmine Rice, and Passion Fruit Aioli

 

The return back home was uneventful.

 

 

Unlike arriving into the USVI which requires a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of travel, there is no need to retest for COVID prior to returning from the US Virgin Islands back to the United States mainland (they consider this domestic travel). Furthermore, rates have remained near to zero here for the past 2 weeks which made me comfortable knowing I was very unlikely to be bringing anything back to NYC.

 

 

And it helps to get on empty flights.

 

 

- At time of posting in Saint Johns, it was 23 °C - Humidity: 72% | Wind Speed: 21km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy

 

“Croix”-ing Over Back to Saint Thomas

“Croix”-ing Over Back to Saint Thomas

 

After beginning my weekend in Saint Croix, I began my journey back to Saint Thomas with breakfast arepas at Toast Diner by the Christiansted boardwalk. Probably the only thing open for breakfast on a Sunday at Saint Croix during shoulder season.

 

 

While having breakfast, I had the pleasure of meeting locals Kelly and her son Dylan who stopped by to say hi! Both residents of Saint Croix, they reached out when they noticed on my IG stories that I was in the area.

Nice to meet you both and thanks again for the dolphin poop Dylan!

 

 

After chatting and letting them walk me over to the seaplane terminal at the end of the boardwalk, I boarded the 10:40am Seaborne Airlines seaplane to the main capital city island of Saint Thomas for $140 USD one way per person.

 

 

This was a far cry from the 2 hour ferry ride on the way to Saint Croix from Saint Thomas; we arrived at Charlotte Amalie Harbor’s Blyden Terminal 20 minutes later at 11:00am.

 

 

Walking over to our lodging at Frenchtown, we dropped off our bags and walked back over to explore the rest of the capital city of Charlotte Amalie.

 

 

For a walking tour of downtown, you can begin at the Danish built, 17th century Fort Christian:

 

 

There’s a few exhibits on the slave trade that occurred here:

 

 

Their roof is a good start to the layout of downtown:

 

 

1 block north is Frederick Evangelical Lutheran Church:

 

 

…Then from here you can climb the historic 99 Steps for historic watchtower views:

 

 

We then returned back to sea level and walked over to the second oldest synagogue in the Western Hemisphere:

 

 

If you enjoy viewpoints, rent a car and head out to Drake’s Seat north of Charlotte Amalie:

 

 

You can see the British Virgin Islands from here:

 

 

And even more to the north lies world famous Magens Bay Beach for white sands and water sports:

 

 

If you enjoy your beachin’ while watching planes land, there’s one right next to the airport at Brewers Bay Beach that’s great for sunsets and spotting sea turtles:

 

 

If you’re also the romantic type, grab a sunset dinner at Lanai at the Limetree Resort:

 

 

My favorite part was feeling as if I had the whole island to myself, especially at sunsets:

 

 

But true to safe pandemic travel, this was exactly what I needed: no crowds, no indoor dining, no fuss, no drama, and a seemingly secluded island with low COVID-19 rates (how about zero for at least the incubation period of the past 2-3 weeks in all 3 islands) all to myself.

 

- At time of posting in Saint Thomas, it was 26 °C - Humidity: 69% | Wind Speed: 16km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy

 

Gotta Get Away Before I “Croix” Myself To Sleep

Gotta Get Away Before I “Croix” Myself To Sleep

 

During the heydey of the pandemic, I was nominated to be one of the 100,000 Healthcare Workers to receive a pair of of roundtrip flight certificates offered by JetBlue. I almost forgot about the expiration dates, if it weren’t for a reminder in the middle of a random ER shift one day that I had less than 2 months to use them before they’d be gone for good.

 

 

Scrambling to find worthy and safe locations to travel to with my weekend off in May, I concluded that the single-digit, low % rate of COVID-19 infections in the US Virgin Islands the past month was even safer than the rapidly decreasing rates in my own hometown of a very vaccinated Manhattan (which I feel has been the safest place to be in the entire country since last April).

I feel that even if I were to stay on the mainland, there are more than plenty maskless states down south that would be better off for a post-pandemic visit instead. And if I were to travel solo and spend most of my time in COVID-19 approved properties and outdoors, I should remain safe especially as a fully vaccinated individual. Can I recharge by travel still if I do it as responsibly as possible?

 

 

So here were my first steps in re-emerging into travel in 2021:

1. Ensure that the local infection rates of both the place of origin and destination are similarly low. It’s important that wherever you’re flying from is low in terms of infection rates (aka no outbreaks or single digit prevalence), that you’ve ideally stayed there for at least 10-14 days without symptoms and tested negative for COVID-19 right before departure so you know that you haven’t carried over an infection from somewhere else. Make sure you then choose to depart into areas with low infection rates, just as is the case regarding NYC and USVI, so you maintain that “travel bubble.”

 

 

2. Clear with any local laws regarding screening. Namely, USVI has a COVID-19 specific travel portal where you have to legally (and ethically!) clear your arrival before your trip.

 

 

3. Choose a flight that would be most likely be as empty as possible — how about a flight at a nearly civilized departure time of 6:40am in the morning?

 

 

4. Minimize the layovers. The danger is less on the plane, which cycles and filters out air more often than most land-based offices, trains, and subways. Instead, there is more of a danger in older and crowded airports, which variables you can control for much less than on a plane (for as long as it flies, it filters). We landed at STT after a 3 hour direct flight at 10:00am.

 

 

Before entering arrivals, they check if you have the pre-approval QR code that lets you bypass all the health checks. If you happen to forget, you go through another line requiring testing, temperature checks and questionnaires.

 

 

Welcome to the USVI!

 

 

5. Stay outdoors: Promptly headed out into downtown for a 10 minute, $8 per person taxi ride ($2 per bag in the trunk) right outside arrivals. Private taxis to downtown cost $55.

 

 

6. After a 10 minute drive into downtown, checked in our bags and picked up ferry tickets for the QE IV Ferry at Blyden Terminal for $60 USD per person one way to Saint Croix.

 

 

Then spent the next 4 hours exploring Charlotte Amalie (about a 10-15 minute walk from the ferry terminal) and nachos at open-air The Green House Bar & Restaurant.

 

 

Make sure wherever you go, return no later than 2:45pm as the boat promptly sets out at 3:00pm. They’re strict with enforcing the mask policy here.

 

 

Enjoy the bumpy 2 hour and 20 minute ride across the sea! They provide vomit bags for every row, and even advise you that “it’s normal to vomit” on the intercom and plead that you go outside if it happens.

 

 

We docked at Gallows Bay at 5:10pm EST.

 

 

Then walking over across town towards our lodgings at Sugar Apple Bed and Breakfast, we checked ourselves in for the night without having to encounter anyone (all our check-in details were provided by text).

 

 

So far I haven’t had any suspicion of coming into contact with a superspreader event.

 

 

I also highly recommend dinner at the intimate vegan-friendly plant based Ital Paradise:

 

 

It’s also where I would have my first time drinking juice made from a cashew apple!

 

 

The next morning we set off to explore Saint Croix, the largest island of the USVI complex. Starting in the capital city of Christiansted itself . . .

 

 

. . . we then walked around the Christiansted National Historic Site, a waterfront park featuring the landmark 18th-century Fort Christiansvaern and a warehouse where Alexander Hamilton worked as an orphan before moving to New York.

 

 

We then picked up a rental car at Centerline, contemplating a drive west to Carambola Beach Resort St. Croix where a 2 hour hike begins out to the Annally Tide Pools.

If you’re less inclined for a strenuous hike, consider laying out on Rainbow Beach instead:

 

 

Nearby the beach about a 3 minute drive south lies Fort Frederik located in the “second town” of Frederiksted.

 

 

Frederiksted is also somewhat of a ghost town when we visited:

 

 

After a lunch at Polly’s at the Pier here (while casually watching a 20 something year old spend a nearly an entire hour asking someone out on a date), we returned east driving by the also currently shuttered Estate Whim Sugar Mill:

 

 

Finally driving all the way east towards Goat Hill you can reach the easternmost point of the United States of America: Point Udall.

 

 

It’s designed so that at noon, wherever this sundial of a structure points with its shadow, it’s the truth north:

 

 

Don’t miss the curiously named Very Long Baseline Array Telescope either on the way there or back.

 

 

We finally finished our long day around the island back at Christiansted with dinner at Too. Chez:

 

 

…and is that a Blockbusters?!

 

 

The next morning we took out breakfast arepas at Toast Diner by the Christiansted boardwalk.

 

 

Then during breakfast, Kelly and her son Dylan stopped by to say hi! Both residents of Saint Croix, they hollered when they noticed on my IG stories that I was in the area. Nice to meet you both and thanks again for the dolphin poop Dylan!

 

 

After chatting and having them walk me over to the seaplane terminal at the end of the boardwalk, I boarded the 10:40am Seaborne Airlines seaplane to the main capital city island of Saint Thomas for $140 USD one way per person.

 

 

- At time of posting in Saint Croix, it was 27 °C - Humidity: 65% | Wind Speed: 16km/hr | Cloud Cover: partly cloudy

 

Love In The Time Of Corona/COVID-19: A COVID Holiday Season

Love In The Time Of Corona/COVID-19: A COVID Holiday Season

 

Thanksgiving

6 days ago on my birthday, I was having dinner with a few friends who simply wanted to catch up before a possible 2nd NYC lockdown; none of them knowing that it was my birthday at the time. I was okay with that; I guess as you get older — especially during a worldwide pandemic — you don’t need to be reminded anymore that everyday should be a celebration of life and we should just be grateful for the company.

That’s when I got the late night dinner-interrupting phone call from the NYC Marathon Medical Director asking I could at the last minute organize a ragtag crack squad of medical volunteers for a never-done-before pandemic-proofed Macy’s Thanksgiving Day (Virtual) Parade by the next day. I said yes without hesitating.

Within hours, the 45 of us — whether from the annual NYC marathon or via a random DM on Instagram — rallied together as strangers and colleagues for a common purpose. As if the universe was dancing to the familiar tune of irony, it felt like the past 5 days have become that delayed birthday celebration I was supposed to have all along.

And with this experience already becoming another memory, I’m grateful for another birthday I’ll never forget, as if I have been celebrating the past 5 days with so many wonderful souls that make this city what it is, who remind me what’s worth living for in a year like 2020. So on a day like Thanksgiving, in a year like no other, all I can say is: Thank you, thank you, thank you. Without you, this could never have been.

 

 

New Year’s Eve

To my badass NYE medical team:

It’s become nearly cliché these days to pen one more diatribe against 2020, especially on the Eve of a New Year. But allow me to express bittersweetness when tearing myself over how this will be the only time we’ll ever work something like this again, let alone if these state of affairs weren’t as dreadful the many of us would never have even met in the first place. The sweet is never as sweet without the sour.

I’d still much prefer that we didn’t have to suffer during these uncertain times, whether it’s secondary to a pandemic or toxic individualism. However if we must play the hand we’re dealt, then alas let me at least affirm the profound privilege I’ve derived from this year to have gotten to know and worked with all of you.

Many of us met less than a month ago, whether by referrals or a message on social media. And yet without so much as a first name and first impression, we rallied as strangers at the last minute to become haphazardly assembled ragtag crack squad without any blueprints from years past. We flew by the seat of our pants when somehow asked to be *the* medical screening for both the NYC Thanksgiving Day Parade and the NYE Ball Drop in Times Square while the world watched amidst a worldwide public health crisis. You took on new roles and skills without a moment’s notice. Y’all were flexible, adaptable, and did this all with a smile, whether it was 4:30am in the morning or if the donuts slowed us down. And all this within 4 weeks: We pulled it off, twice.

Therefore, thank you all for being my resolve to stay in this fight, and thank you for helping demonstrate to this damaged world there remains good people out there who are willing to shoulder a horrible year through to the end. Although I again wish that we all could have worked together under better circumstances (annual NYC Marathon anyone?), I nonetheless will be eternally grateful how our trajectories collided. If our last week together is how 2020 wants to bid us farewell with, then I’m already blessed for that much. Better us than never.

Looking forward to better times. Stay in touch. We’ll work together again someday.

 

 

- At time of posting in NYC, it was 13 °C - Humidity: 73% | Wind Speed: 8km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear

 

Zephyr-initely a Trip to Remember — From SF to NYC on Amtrak: The California Zephyr & Lake Shore Limited

Zephyr-initely a Trip to Remember — From SF to NYC on Amtrak: The California Zephyr & Lake Shore Limited

 

 

Day 1: Emeryville, CA

 

“Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again; we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.”

 

After we returned from LA yesterday night at 11pm, we turned in at our lodgings situated immediately next to the Emeryville train station, which provided us a false sense of security in making the 9:10am 3-day long Californian Zephyr train tomorrow morning.

Because right as everyone woke up at 8:30am, Sina and I headed out with our rental car to the local Avis (also located at the train station) thinking we had plenty of time.

  • 8:35am – Then we remembered we had to fill up the gas tank
  • 8:45am – Return the car to a closed office despite it having a posted opening time at 8:00am
  • 8:50am – Try to get the car into the garage, which was locked
  • 8:55am – Sneak in behind another car that did have access to the garage
  • 8:57am – Leave the car behind in that garage hoping for the best (luckily the Avis person would return a minute later with her coffee berating us for coming 5 minutes early…yeah makes no sense)
  • 9:00am – Run to the train station
  • 9:03am – Arrive to meet up with Evie and Mihaela who had brought us coffee, with only 7 minutes to spare before the train would leave us.

 

 

Thank goodness the train station is tiny at Emeryville, otherwise we would’ve very likely missed it.

Here’s the posted timetable on their website, even though the Californian Zephyr is frequently late.

 

 

Once we boarded and as the train was about to take off, we were led to our 3 roomettes that were thankfully switched around at the last minute so we could all be together:

 

 

And just like the trains Mihaela and I (and 16 others) rode in Egypt only 9 months prior, each roomette fits 2 beds with the top bed being able to flip up to provide more room during the day.

 

 

About an hour into the train ride we were asked for our lunch orders and time slots to eat in the dining car (to provide ample physical distancing):

 

 

We began our lunch at 11:45am:

 

 

Despite what you may have heard and if you manage your expectations well, the food on the train was surprisingly good:

 

 

Each meal starts off with a salad:

 

 

And some favorites were the red wine braised beef:

 

 

Shrimp in Lobster Sauce:

 

 

Chicken Marsala:

 

 

…and more controversially, the Creole Shrimp & Andouille:

 

 

The viewing/observation car, located just past the dining car, is where most of us would spend our time:

 

 

If you need more food, snacks, beverages, or liquor, there’s a bar car downstairs below the observation deck where you can pay for items with a credit or debit card.

 

 

And once you have your setup ready (whether it’s music, speakers, headphones, a book, a laptop, a phone, snacks, a beverage, or any other combination), kick back and enjoy the views.

The first “sight” would be Donner Lake of the morbid and infamous Donner Party incident.

 

 

Nearby is the cute town of Truckee, California:

 

 

The sunset over the plans of Nevada:

 

 

And by 8:30pm it was completely pitch black. Although the observation car is open all night for socializing, movie watching, or staring off into the abyss, it remained completely empty on our first night.

 

 

So make your bed and sleep in — this very well may be the best sleep of our trip!

 

 

Day 2:

 

“My whole wretched life swam before my weary eyes, and I realized no matter what you do it’s bound to be a waste of time in the end so you might as well go mad.”

 

The next morning I woke up at 6:30am, mountain time:

 

 

And in the back of the observation car, I set up my home office for the morning:

 

 

Once we arrived at Grand Junction, CO, we assembled a SWAT-style strike team at 11:30am to pick up our pre-ordered food at the adjacent Puffer Belly Restaurant within the 10 minute window we had before the train would leave us.

 

 

Mission success!

 

 

By 2:30pm we reached the valley past Glenwood Springs, CO. Commonly regarded as the most beautiful parts of the California Zephyr, we instead witnessed the profound devastation of the Grizzly Creek wildfire; a currently active (at the time of posting) wildfire that has now been regarded as the worst in Colorado’s history.

 

 

It will take over 200 years before the trees here will grow back.

 

 

Then by 2:45pm we had come across a boulder that had fallen onto the tracks, damaging them. Our train thus backed up into Glenwood Springs where we disembarked for a few hours as the maintenance teams arrived to remove the boulder and repair the track.

 

 

Not a bad town to get stuck in for a few hours:

 

 

It was at this point our train conductor Brad, walked up to me and asked if our group really did bring a guitar (Evie brought her ukelele!). When I answered in the affirmative, Brad became excited about the prospect of an physically distanced jam session outside the station as we waited for the tracks to be repaired.

Within minutes he was on his phone giving his credit card information to buy a $498.99 Ibanez guitar at a local music shop in Glenwood Springs, after which Evie and a new friend we made on the train, Crosby, took an Uber to retrieve it.

When they returned, the next 2 hours was all magic (remember what I wrote about COVID not spreading well outdoors, as well as the fact the all Amtrak staff and our group have all tested negative before going on this trip)

 

 

The impromptu concert then continued inside after we were back on our way at 5pm, and it made all the feels as the sun was setting outside:

 

 

Day 3:

 

 “I felt like lying down by the side of the trail and remembering it all.” 

 

The next morning we woke up an entire day of this as we traversed across Nebraska and Iowa:

 

 

Endless cornfields as we finally took this pause to reflect on an adventure still unfolding.

As the sun began to set on our final night of the trip, we begin to receive and give one another feedback on how to do better on future trips. This is after all, our first monsoon since the pandemic began and there was no way any of us would be able to execute anything perfectly the first time — let alone during a pandemic.

In fact, we’re grateful to know that as things could have been much much worse leading a travel group across the country twice during these uncertain times, we knew we would and could always make the best of it. Although at the time of positing I’m currently unsure how much I can convey without the consent of others onboard the train, let’s just say when the right humans collide in the right way, that is everything.

 

 

We then say goodbye to our new friends:

 

 

…and rush over with 20 minutes on the clock to catch our 9:30pm Lake Shore 48 train from Chicago to NYC.

The train is newer than the California Zephyr, and hence the roomettes are a little spruced up:

 

 

Unlike the roomettes on the Zephyr, each roomette has its own toilet and sink:

 

 

But it didn’t matter as our onboard wagonmaster was able to score us a proper full sized bedroom since nobody else was on our train:

 

 

Unlike the roomette with the toilet, the bedroom also has a shower:

 

 

Although there’s no observation car with ceiling windows on the Lake Shore, it makes up for it with a larger, swankier lounge car:

 

 

But in order to get food during off hours, the snack bar is 5 train cars away:

 

 

And despite 3 days of trying, we finally make time for movie night with one of my favorite travel films:

 

 

Day 4:

 

“I realized these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming the raggedy madness and riot of our actual lives, our actual night, the hell of it, the senseless emptiness.”

 

Our final day on the roads across America. Once we woke up after our late night movie night, this was our office for the rest of our train ride:

 

 

And unlike previous trip endings, where there would always be the next “cab” and “flight to catch” that would rush our goodbyes, this first purely overland monsoon on RVs, vans, and trains would now have us instead waiting for our goodbye; the ending came to us.

The slow farewell thus left us a lot of time to reflect on not only the past 3 weeks of traveling together but also the preceding 5-6 months of lockdown that prevented us from even leaving our homes. And from that juxtaposition I can’t describe the feeling any better than Mihaela (who’s been on 10 of these monsoons with me now) when she writes: “This trip doesn’t feel real . . . like it was a long dream.

I felt like we were in an alternate dimension; one where the pandemic is real but also distant — we traveled within the confines of the pandemic yet there were so many moments of what felt like freedom or some type of liberation from the confines of the virus even though the type of travel was because of the virus. I feel like the closest thing I could relate to is it felt like I was in a comic book and we would sometimes break the 4th wall.

And now I’m crying again.” – Mihaela

You’re not alone.

 

 

Once we arrived at Penn Station at 6:30pm, we were received by none other than our vlogger Noeleen (from the first part of the trip!) and then our videographer Raubern (also from the first part!) at the very spot where we had our orientation 22 days ago:

 

August 7, 2020

 

Oh how time flies:

 

 

We stayed out until midnight, just because saying goodbye will always be just too difficult.

 

 

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The Big “Sur’ved”

The Big “Sur’ved”

 

“Something, someone, some spirit was pursuing all of us across the desert of life and was bound to catch us before we reached heaven. Naturally, now that I look back on it, this is only death: death will overtake us before heaven. The one thing that we yearn for in our living days, that makes us sigh and groan and undergo sweet nauseas of all kinds, is the remembrance of some lost bliss that was probably experienced in the womb and can only be reproduced (though we hate to admit it) in death.”

 

 

We woke up bright and early to a smokey San Francisco haze, remnants of nearby wildfires that’s currently regarded as the “worst in history.”

The morning’s overpowering smell of burnt ash triggered both memories of past travel as well as the symbolic novel sentiment that I feel like I have been jumping from one wildfire to another this year.

 

 

But somehow, by regaining autonomy for our lives and standing in line for breakfast at popular bakery Tartine somehow helped alleviate the apocalyptic feelings that we’ve long been associating with 2020.

 

 

With breakfast and coffee in our stomachs, we set out from San Francisco at 9am for a 2 hour drive to Monterey.

 

 

We spent about half an hour here walking around Old Fisherman’s Wharf and watching random otters lying on their backs.

 

 

Then another hour driving down Highway 1:

 

 

Once we saw Bixby Creek Bridge we knew we had reached the grand finale of the Pacific Coast Highway — The Big Sur.

 

 

Some traditions don’t change —

3 years ago:

 

Sampson and I: January 2018 in Uluru, Australia

 

Today:

 

 

After passing through the photogenic and recognizable Bixby Creek Bridge, we took our time down this road, taking in all the splendid sights this legendary highway has to offer.

 

 

By 2pm we reached Nepenthe for a well timed, much needed lunch:

 

 

Although our original plan was to continue onwards to McWay Falls (a unique, 80-foot-tall waterfall flowing onto a small beach), and the seals at Elephant Seal Vista Point, the current wildfires in the area made Highway 1 inaccessible less than a mile past Nephente (the red shaded areas are the active fires).

Not wanting to get in the way of essential work and evacuees, we turned our car around towards Salinas:

 

 

Hopping from Highway 1 to the 101 and then onto I5 (currently devoid of traffic given a combination of the pandemic, wildfires and that it was a Sunday), we made good time on a 5 hour drive south towards Los Angeles where an impressive welcoming party was waiting for me at Chosun Galbee BBQ’s outdoor patio in KTown:

 

 

Balkans trip 2017 reunion!:

 

 

Finishing off our long road trip down the Pacific Coast, we had one more round of drinks outdoors at La Ddong Ggo:

 

 

The next morning we woke up at our accommodations at The Huntley Hotel in Santa Monica where we finally took our time with a lazy breakfast:

 

 

And after giving ourselves an entirely free day in LA, we eventually set back north again towards San Francisco for our 5 hour drive and a step closer to the end of our journey: a 4-day Amtrak train on the California Zephyr from SF to NYC via Chicago.

I gotta say, even with all the half-hearted grief I’ve given to Los Angeles as a biased native New Yorker all my life, the past 21 hours in this city on our last official stop on our Pacific Coast Highway itinerary have been nothing but cathartic — and it appears to be not just for myself. Witnessing so many people directly and indirectly pour out pent up emotions from their lockdown/pandemic experiences in front of us have been sobering; keep in mind as a group of COVID-negative, antibody-positive, or naturally immune New Yorkers we’ve been relatively liberated from our single prolonged lockdown for almost 4 months now, whereas Californians are currently in the midst of or emerging from a second lockdown. Therefore for many of our friends in LA, our arrival and dinner together was the first social interaction (and for some, a real hug) they’ve had in months.

After my 21 hours here I’ve now viscerally internalized the difference to not only “know,” but also feel through these human connections that we’re not alone and that there is light at the end of this long long tunnel.

So if our brief sojourn into your lives from NYC made any difference for you to keep going — even if it’s just for an hour we had together — then I’m already more than thankful that we came.

 

 

And somewhere out there, a mother and her son just found the random note I left behind at Sea Level Bakery in Oregon!!

 

 

- At time of posting in Big Sur, it was 23 °C - Humidity: 56% | Wind Speed: 16km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear