Have Twins, Will Travel

Covid-safe Road Trip

Somerville, Mass – It’s a long drive back to Boston from Michigan (13 hours), so we decided to make it a proper Covid-safe road trip and break it up with a few outdoor-activity stops along the way.

Niagara Falls

When I was about 20 years old, I took a road trip with a friend to take her back to school in Toronto. On the way, we took a detour to see Niagara Falls, although we stayed on the Canadian side. It was a cold and rainy January – not the best conditions for viewing the amazing waterfall – but we felt we had accomplished something by seeing this most famous tourist site.

Nearly 30 years later, I did something similar with my kids. This time, we stayed on the American side, as the border remains closed. The town of Niagara Falls, New York does not have too much going on, except for the spectacular Niagara Falls State Park. This impressive park shows off amazing views of the falls. Most of the attractions like the Cave of the Winds and the Aquarium were not open, due to Covid; and we had no desire to endure the wait to ride the Maid of the Mist boat tour. But we did spend a few hours hiking around the parkland and snapping photos of the falls. The weather was perfect and there were no crowds. We all loved the fresh air and the photogenic scenery. And yes, we felt like we had accomplished something by seeing this most famous tourist site.

We ate lunch in the view of the Horseshoe Falls, scarfed giant ice creams, then climbed back in the car to continue our Covid-safe road trip.

Niagara Falls

Covid Travel

New York is a wide state. The kids watched The Hobbit on their computer and I went into the driving zone. My goal was to make it to the other side of New York before stopping for the night. It was dark by the time we rolled across the state border into Massachusetts and started lookings for somewhere to stay.

Somehow, we missed the easy-access chain hotels near the highway exit (if there were any). Google was directing us to these little roadside mountain motels and B&Bs. Normally, I am not against this type of accommodation; on the contrary, I prefer it to a chain hotel for my own travels. BUT arriving at night with two kids and no reservations during a global pandemic… was feeling pretty sketchy. None of the places appeared to be open. Van said “I think we should stay at a BIG hotel, not this kind of place.” I had to agree with him. So I revised my search and we ended up at the Courtyard by Marriott in Lennox, Berkshires, which was open and inviting. And big. We all climbed into the big bed, put the Red Sox on the big screen, and we were asleep within minutes.

This was our first Covid hotel experience. It felt mostly very safe. Nobody congregated anywhere. Everybody wore masks. The front desk staff worked safely behind pexiglass barriers. My only concern was at breakfast, when guests lined up at the coffee counter in the lobby (which was the only breakfast option on site). The one worker was overwhelmed, the line grew longer and longer, and the lobby became more and more crowded. We thought we were choosing a quick, safe breakfast option, but in retrospect, it wasn’t ideal.

The Berkshires

For our last adventure, I wanted to do a hike in the Berkshires. I chose the Keystone Arch Bridge trail, which connects a series of picturesque stone railroad bridges that date to 1841. The trail is 2.5 miles one-way, passing five different bridge sites. I figured we could do at least half the trail, and we had a picnic lunch to sustain us. The KAB trail is woodsy, flat, and pretty. It is lightly trafficked (on a weekday) and not super clearly marked. But it suited our purposes just fine, as we set out to discover the old railroad bridges. (The first one is visible near the parking lot, for inspiration.)

As usual, Twin S took the lead, and Twin V was not the most enthusiastic of hikers. But all that changed when we finally reached the impressive 65-foot keystone arch bridge that was our first landmark. The bridge is in remarkable condition, and it was easy to imagine an old steam engine trundling past, though now only hikers travel o’er. There’s something irresistible about exploring the physical remains of bygone days.

Keystone Arch Bridge Trail

The bridge towers high over the river, with a small trail leading down to the water’s edge, which the twins quickly discovered. I was up top, snapping photos, as they scrambled down to explore. Suddenly, Twin V’s terrified screams shattered the peace. He was in my view, but I couldn’t tell what happened. He was flailing wildly at the air around him, screaming and crying uncontrollably. Twin S was a short distance away, staring at him, paralyzed.

I raced down the steep rocky hillside, all the while hearing V’s desperate cries. When I finally reached them, I could see hornets (or wasps?) buzzing around. Both boys were still, seemingly afraid to move. Apparently, V had stumbled on a hornet’s nest, and he had felt their wrath. He had been stung three times.

We carefully climbed back up to the main trail, taking cautions to avoid any more stings, and stopped to recuperate. V was traumatized, but he seemed physically fine. Of course, the hike was over. But we still had to get back to the car. The going was slow and excruciating, because V was petrified by every bug or moving piece of grass. Poor kid. We ate our picnic in the car with the windows up.

The good news is that V had a heroic war story to share with Daddio when we got home. And so ended our Covid-safe road trip, complete with some adventures and some injuries, but no coronavirus.