In the early morning of July 9, 2020, I spoke with my friend Ralph in Washington to decide on whether to cancel my planned trip via Amtrak to Tacoma, Washington last minute. I hade not packed a thing at this point and the train was scheduled to depart Santa Barbara in about 3 hrs. The previous day, Ralph had called to warn me he hadn’t been feeling well over the past few days.

On the morning of the 9th, I reluctantly returned Ralph’s call, expecting to hear that the trip was a no-go, but instead he said he felt better. It was the chaos of COVID-19 this year that proceeded to make the next 20 minutes perhaps the most indecisive moment in my life. I had ample reservations about decisions in the past, but this year was different. Between the chaos of the current White House administration and the political biases of the news, I instinctively assumed the worse; that Ralph had COVID-19 and despite him feeling better, it was irresponsible to head north.

This is where the decision should’ve been easy. The CDC, over the past months had urged people to stay home. It was nebulous however, depending where you lived, whether ban on travel was mandatory or optional. It was instinct that told me, error on the conservative side and stay home. Instead, I proceeded to vacillate on whether to go or not. I told Ralph that I appreciated his honesty and assured him that I was ok postponing the trip, despite it being last minute. Then I flipped my reasoning thinking that I’d winged it any time there was risk, most memorably my decision to hike over the south end of the San Juans via the Creede cut-off in a day. A succession of poor decisions following the initial decision to attempt to hike 35 miles to Pagosa Springs in a day, lead to a near predicament in a blinding snow storm on an exposed 12,000 ft ridge. I knew the risk back in Creede, but made the decision off the cuff because I had already stayed 2 nights in a motel and was bored.

Perhaps it was boredom that pushed me to end up going, or that life, lately seemed to be passing me by at increasing speed. When would the next opportunity be if ever, that I’d enjoy an adventure with Ralph and his two oldest sons before tgey left the house. Statistically, at least lately, the chances were better than zero. Twice, Ralph rendezvoused with me on the PCT, the first time, July of 2016, and the last time in 2019 about the same time as this visit.

In the end, I reasoned that I had the ticket, Ralph was feeling better, and if he were to digress back to illness, I would turn around and head home. Ralph agreed with that reasoning. Finally, despite all the fear mongering fired up by the media, there was reason. Reason to believe that Ralph had been mindful enough to take all the recommended precautions prescribed by the CDC, unlike half the country’s population who followed the president’s irrational claim that the virus was going away.

I boarded Amtrak from the Santa Barbara Station at about 12:40 pm. I had walked from my garage on Pedregosa up to State Street and through the barricaded, apocalyptic zone, where the traffic signals were perpetually flashing red and the street closed to through traffic over the remaining 4 blocks. Local restaurants had constructed temporary wood porches towards the middle of the street. I met with Cristina for a quick bite to eat at The Project, a newly opened, pricey Mexican fusion cuisine. topographic map of Mt Rainier, WA and the Wonderland Trail

south view of Mt Shasta, CA, from the Amtrak lounge car, July 10, 2020

Klamath Falls, OR Amtrak station, July 10, 2020

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