Monday, January 01, 2001 Road Junkies 0 Comments

It's safe to say that 2020 has been a year unlike any other in our lifetimes. Like so many people across the breadth of the planet, we had to trash most of our travel plans and adjust our lives and expectations to the reality of a worldwide pandemic. No, we did not make it to Greenland this year, nor Patagonia, Brazil or Northern Ireland, as we had planned. Our much-anticipated road trip from Boston to Newport, Oregon (on US-20 in 2020), and back east across the width of Canada also had to wait. Our “Meals on Wheels” road trip to visit and share meals with family and friends in the spring was shut down like the restaurants we hoped to patronize. But 2020 also went a long way toward restoring a perspective we sometimes lose sight of. Though we missed the travel we love and opportunities to make memories with family and friends, we were safe, we were healthy, and we had a pleasant home to quarantine in. 

Our first (and, as it turned out, only) journey of 2020 took us back to South America in February and March. This time our focus was on the northern part of the continent. Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Guyana, and Suriname were on our agenda, focusing primarily on cities in each country. Highlights of the trip included visiting Colombia’s Las Lajas Sanctuary, a Gothic Revival church built inside a canyon of the Guáitara River near the Ecuador border; boating through the Panama Canal; seeing the remarkable data-driven transformation of Medellin from the world’s most violent city to a model for urban reform and a prosperous, inclusive and livable metropolis; standing on the equator in the country named for it; and a harrowing, left-lane drive on a truck-filled, poorly-maintained sliver of a Surinamese road that featured a drempel (a bulky mound for traffic calming) every 200 yards. 
Perhaps the most surreal and foreshadowing experience of the trip occurred when our plane landed in Georgetown, Guyana. Unbeknownst to us, the country had held a national election the previous day. Results had yet to be an-nounced but were expected at any moment. The country deeply divided, locals worried about extreme reactions to the outcome. Acquiring a taxi for the 30-mile trip to our hotel required finding airport personnel who could persuade a driver to transport us on a day when violent demonstrations were feared. In that atmosphere and after learning about armed robberies on the street near the hotel, our few days in Georgetown were spent almost entirely within the walled compound of the heavily guarded Marriott. As it turned out, the incumbent president refused to accept that voters had denied his bid for re-election, despite numerous international observers who verified the validity of each step in the election process. Lawsuits on his behalf wound through the courts until August, when the new president was finally sworn in, five months after the election. 
Shortly before borders were closed due to COVID, we cut our trip short and fled Ecuador in mid-March. Since then, we have spent our time at home. Like so many others, we’ve reorganized closets and drawers, assembled dozens of jigsaw puzzles, read twice our typical number of books, and binged on Netflix, YouTube and Amazon. We’ve maintained our fitness routine at home and on local hiking trails and done a little letterboxing. 

With plenty of time and no excuses, we organized our estate planning and made sure our documents were in order for that final phase of life.  Every chance we get, we encourage others to do the same, to make matters more manageable for loved ones when that inevitable day comes. 

Anticipating 2020, we were looking forward to a fun-filled year of travel and making memories with friends and family. Just the sound of it—2020—made you think it would be unprecedented. And it was, for all the wrong reasons. Momentous family events could not be celebrated together this year—cousin Doris’s 90th birthday, cousin Bobby’s wedding, and graduations of grandnieces Karoline and Whitney and grandnephew Andrew. We mourned the death of cousin Jean in February, the elegant and wise matriarch of her family, whose presence and guiding influence are missed by many. We grieve for the many who have died of COVID and are thankful for the recovery of our loved ones and others.  And we hope for better conditions in 2021.

2020 Summary:  Major Trips
  • The North of the South  (February 21-March 13).   An exploration of the northern countries of South America, cut short by the COVID-19 pandemic.

States We Visited in 2020

  1. Alabama
  2. Georgia
  3. Mississippi

Countries We Visited in 2020

  1. Colombia
  2. Ecuador
  3. Guyana
  4. Panama
  5. Suriname

Other Events in 2020

  • March-December - Coronavirus self-isolation at home