Out on the Trail During a Time of Social Distancing

I rode my bike on one of our area trails yesterday. It was my first time out on a trail in 2020. The start of the outdoor season was delayed for me due to a lot of traveling between the first of February and the twelfth of March as well as the usual bad weather that we live with around here. I did make the most of the indoor season, riding a stationary bike three or four days a week over the last few months at a local health club and at home in the friendly confines of our house.

My ride was relatively short and slow, 15.5 miles in 66 minutes. It was a sunny day, temperature in the mid-60s, with a south breeze 10-15 miles per hour, nearly a perfect day to ride or drink beer. I picked a trail that had a few hills and promised some stretches that would have few if any other riders, walkers, runners, or skateboarders. I was not disappointed. I began my ride near the top of a trail, next to a well-used park. The area was busy, but not so much that I could not escape quickly and keep a safe distance from the other riders and walkers. Within one-half mile, I was riding alone, although from time to time I had to slow down as I approached folks who were out for an even more leisurely experience.

Overall, there were many more people on the trail than I would normally find on a weekday. People are home, at the same time venturing out to get some exercise and to enjoy the fresh air. The CDC recommends exercise in these COVID-19 days, just as long as we keep our distance from others. The only groups that I observed on the trail were families out for a walk or ride, and they were observing the new social distancing expectations. There were no packs of riders, those who normally ride in larger groups often at distances of only one or two feet apart as they talk about riding and the events of the day. The largest group of riders I saw had only four members, and they were lined up single file.

Normally, people on our trails are fairly mellow. For the most part, they understand and respect that all out on the trail seek enjoyment, a bit of exercise and a change of scenery. Only when a trail gets very busy, do tempers flare a bit. On some of our trails, walkers are known to scowl at cyclists during the busiest of times.

I felt a different vibe as I observed individuals and families during my ride. It was as if a blanket of melancholy was over us. Yes, we were outside on a wonderful day. And, yes there were families that were riding or walking together who otherwise would have been scattered across the city at work or school. Yet, we all know what brought us together, COVID-19. It was there in our faces and behavior; a smile, but not so bright, an expression of warmth, but not too close, and that look that says don’t get too close to me, not being sung by Sting. I don’t know how long this will last. We have another month, at the very least, of social distancing. Perhaps in another week or so, we will relax more, and our brightest smiles will return. I will be back out riding a trail today and the weeks to come. I’ll be looking to see if it’s the same. Let’s not forget that the observer, me, has changed as well. It’s not so easy to know exactly what’s going on when the observed and observer are changing their perspectives at the same time.

One last item. My sister flew from Dallas to Tampa and back to Dallas Wednesday of last week. She was traveling to meet with a dog breeder, and to pick up a Blue Heeler that one of my cousins had selected. When my sister arrived at the breeder’s place, she fell in love with another dog, so two dogs flew back with her from Tampa.

I talked to her about what it was like to fly last week. There were fewer than ten passengers on each flight, and in one instance there were more pilots (three were flying as passengers) than passengers. All of those along for the ride were spread out, no problem regarding keeping an appropriate distance from all others. The airports, DFW and Tampa International, were nearly deserted. Have a look at these photos. No lines, no anything. No TSA-Pre, no problem. Just step right up and we’ll get you through right away. Everybody has an A boarding pass. And, there are no lines in the rental car areas, especially in Ft. Myers where the big fire left them with no cars at all. She didn’t check any bags, just an out and back the same day, but I’m sure that it was quiet down there as well. Strange.

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