By Annie Lindgren

The below is a compilation of two articles written and published in North Forty News, making up my blog about this part of my journey. There is more of the story to tell, and that will come out later. Here is a link to photos from this leg of the trip:

During this time of chaos with the COVID-19 outbreak, we are challenged to act with resilience. The only constant is change, and we must adapt, and embrace the new opportunities that life gives along the way. Our ability to cope and remain hopeful, depends on our willingness to embrace change. 

It was late October when I booked a trip to Australia, planning to spend the entire month of March ‘down under’, a perfect finish to the long winter months, and a marvelous way to spend my birthday month. The fires threatened the trip, and then the virus. It was three days prior to departure when the virus hitting Australia made traveling too risky. I wasn’t so much worried about my own health, I am middle-aged and healthy, but I did not want to impact the health of others, or find myself sick or quarantined in another country, and not being able to return to my own at the end of the trip. The airline reimbursed the ticket, and I felt relieved knowing the fate of my trip and not having to stress anymore about the decision. 

When one plans for a month out of country, and the trip is cancelled, it leaves a void of not really knowing what to do with one’s time. The first week was filled with signs that I had made the right choice. I was able to help a friend out who needed farm sitting, I volunteered at what would be the first and probably last time trial bike race of the year, where I also completed my first race. I took care of some medical needs, a skin cancer scare, moving up an appointment that had been postponed until I returned. I knew I was where I was meant to be. 

I still felt the aching need for adventure, something I do often, but hadn’t had the opportunity for since my Ireland trip in November, due to saving up and preparing for this big trip in March. So, I started planning for a road trip south, to warmer weather and ocean. I honed in on Texas, a state I had visited, but never thoroughly explored. It felt like a mini version of Australia. Ocean coast, desert center, and varying terrain in between. 

I set off for a camping road-trip on March 9, in a Subaru Outback loaded for a month of wherever the road leads. Was shortly after the first case was documented in Colorado, but before all the cancelations, closings, and empty store aisles. I was grateful to be gone, but was quickly filled with sympathy for my friends, many of whom were parents, business owners, or worked in the education field. So much change and worry in such a short period of time. Events that have been long in the works, now cancelled. 

I found many treasures in Texas. Spent my birthday exploring Palo Duro Canyon, and then went on to see Lake Texoma, and mosey down the eastern side of the state, where the terrain was lush and midwestern, with farm land and lakes. The air got muggy the further south I got, until I saw marshes and tropical plants. Then, there was the ocean, and the animals that live along the sandy shores and boggy coast. Dolphins, sea birds, jellyfish, wild hogs, and alligators. Texas is a large state, and I have many more places on my list to see, and plenty of provisions to stay out for a few more weeks. I have daily moments of awe and gratitude, for this change in plans that led me to Texas.

I am seeing signs of the pandemic response in Texas, a  state with less cases than Colorado, but a growing number. My visit came during spring break, so am still seeing crowds at popular tourist locations, but I am avoiding crowds, opting for the more private camping options. I have all my food in my vehicle and at camp, so I avoid eating out and only have to stop for a resupply about once a week. I wash my hands and use hand sanitizer anytime I am in a place where I could pick up germs, and I take good care of my health in the process. Avoiding humans and being out in nature go together naturally. 

I hope that folks are able to find ways to cope with this time of social distancing. My heart is warmed seeing businesses act with resilience in coming up with creative new ways to reach their consumers. I am hopeful that schools and universities will quickly adapt to a venue change, so that children and adult learners continue to learn. We adapt, and grow, and I anticipate a shift coming from all this, hopefully to a lifestyle of even greater connection with our environment, our loved ones, and the things that are truly important. 

Meanwhile, I remain on the road, exploring the treasures of the great outdoors, within our country’s boundaries. Embracing this change of plans to deepen my connection with America, enjoying the endless musings of the great outdoors, and spending time with my loyal travel companion, a Golden Retriever named ‘Maverick’. 

This article is a follow up to ‘Annie on Assignment: Texas, a Comforting Surprise in an Act of Resilience’ published on March 24, 2020

When I set out to explore the great state of Texas, I didn’t consider all the treasures I would find in a varied landscape. I also didn’t realize how the pandemic would impact my trip, leading to an eventual need to move on from this beautiful state. Check out Texas, a Comforting Surprise in an Act of Resilience for more on the first week of my trip, and the events that led up to it.

After visiting north and eastern Texas, I traveled down the coast, starting in Port Arthur, and leaving in Corpus Christi. The weather was beautiful, I mostly camped for free along the beach, with a hotel stop in Bay City, and ending in a two day stay in a campground on Padre Island. I played in the ocean, had no problem finding spaces with no humans, and got lots of sun. Each day started with a beautiful sunrise and warm air. The coast was stunning, filled with plants and wildlife I had never seen before. I drove countless miles of beach, with windows down, taking in the warm salty air. It was heaven compared to winter in Colorado. But not perfect. It was windy, and ocean air was wet with saltwater making everything damp, the terrain covered in fine sand that attached to all surfaces. I spent hours cleaning it out and off of the car. Things were rusting, I was sunburned, and my hair had reached a new level of frizzy. 

Mid trip, as news of constant changes in rules and restrictions filled my head through radio and social media, I struggled with guilt, anxiety, and worry. I didn’t feel as negatively impacted as many of my close and distant connections had been. I already work from home, my child is grown, and on his own, my business and life are mobile and flexible. I saw many face business closures and job losses, complete changes in life as they knew it, and children in the midst. I let go of the guilt, found a new way to help, decided to continue my trip, and made a plan to move forward with purpose.

Traveling alongside my handsome people-loving golden retriever companion regularly leads to conversations with others. I enjoy these moments and often learn as much as I pass on. People are kind, helpful, and looking for connection, and I am grateful for these refreshing reminders of the good in humans. Maverick, my dog, is always thankful for a belly run, even the dainty kind from tiny hands. I also meet people who travel full-time, or much of it, as I do. I enjoy learning what works for them, their ingredients for success, and what they have learned from others. These people are easy for me to connect with, and I felt saddened by how social distancing kept me from spending more time hearing their stories. Conversations steadily included more talk about the virus, the impact, and what the future may hold.

I left the ocean coast the day rain was to move in. I decided to head over to Big Bend National Park. I had heard National Parks were closing, and that it was in the process having stopped taking fees for park entrance. I had a successful resupply in Corpus Christi, finding my favorite Sprouts grocery store, and a store that carried Maverick’s dog food, the one brand that doesn’t aggravate his many allergies. I had a meeting at work that left me feeling hopeful and energized for the story I had to share, and I got a hotel room in Uvalde to get caught up on work.

I heard about what was happening in Colorado with hoarding and closures. I began experiencing similar empty shelves during resupplies, grabbing the last bag of lettuce on two occasions. I saw lines in toilet paper and cleaning product aisles, where store clerks had to assure moderation. Signs proclaimed how many of an item you could purchase. I had trouble finding sanitizing products. State parks were closing, which meant no entrance fees. Signs posted at gas stations, about how many were allowed inside.

I arrived at Big Bend on a Saturday afternoon. The signs at the park entrance said all campgrounds were full, but the park offices were closed, and I doubted the signs were updated. I found camping at the first campground I came to, and a sign up stating that sites could only be inhabited for one night because the campground was closing at noon on Monday, March 25. A park volunteer confirmed, adding that the county was closing down all lodging. I stayed at a different campground in the park the following night. 

I had two days to explore Big Bend National Park, which was enough considering my dog was not allowed on trails. It was an absolutely beautiful area, with an interesting history, and plants and wildlife that I had never seen before. The Rio Grande River runs through the park, separating the United States from Mexico. There was border patrol all along my drive across southern Texas. It made me wonder what this beautiful terrain would be like with a wall erected cutting off the river from the US side. 

I moved west to the next county towards Big Bend State Park and found it already closed, as was all lodging in the county. I saw similar beautiful terrain following the Rio Grande River. I headed north to the next county, where I found Davis Mnt. State Park, and a perfect campsite where I could wash and hang some clothes, and shower. That night a Park Ranger came around, letting everyone know that the county was closing all lodging by noon the following day, and everyone needed to be out. This part of Texas is rural, and only has one hospital serving the three counties I had just visited. It has a limited number of beds, and the counties were being proactive in avoiding a future crisis. There were no COVID-19 cases in this part of Texas yet, but it was anticipated as cases around the US increased rapidly.

I am grateful for the two weeks I had in Texas. It was time to move on to New Mexico. A state that had already closed its State and National Parks, and was initiating stay orders, but had a low number of cases. I was up for the challenge of finding resources under these conditions and was excited to explore more of southern New Mexico.

You can find photos of my trip through Texas on Sunshine Ink’s Facebook and Instagram page. Check out my travel blog at Stay tuned for more pictures and updates, shared via North Forty News. 

Photos to go with this blog:

San Luis Island