Where I’m Not

Linda Lou Burton posting about Seattle, Washington from Little Rock, Arkansas – I am NOT on Delta flight 978 for a 5-hour 53-minute flight departing Seattle (SEA) at 2:55 PDT this afternoon, and arriving in Kahului, Hawaii (OGG) at 5:48 PM HST. I will NOT be sleeping at the Maui Seaside Hotel at 100 W Kaahumanu Avenue in Kahului tonight. And I will NOT be getting up at 2 AM in the morning for a Haleakala Sunrise Tour.

This was to be the second stop in my Round The World journey; the first stop on July 7 would have begun a week in the Seattle area visiting no less than a dozen family and friends. A visit to the Space Needle was on the agenda, a ferry ride across the Sound, a play at the Taproot, and lots of Asian food. (Hard to come by in Arkansas.) Friend Carmelita planned to cook lumpia and other goodies for my entire family! I was planning to meet new “significant others” and to stand back to back with grandchildren for pictures confirming that yes, I’m the shortest member of the family now.

Seattle was my home for 25 of my 81 years. The University of Washington was the original draw; and then I stayed. And stayed. The Seattle that I moved to in 1980 has changed tremendously in 40 years. The house I bought for $80K in 1986 is now valued at over a million dollars, and it is just an ordinary house. The population of Seattle in 1980 was almost half a million, and though it was the largest city by far I’d ever lived in, it quickly felt like home. Today’s population is nearing 800,000 with more than 12,000 homeless, and that count was before COVID-19 struck this spring. The full metro area is approaching 4 million, so congestion now, and crowding.

Still, Seattle scenery hasn’t changed. Puget Sound, surrounded by the Olympic Mountain Range on one side and the snow-covered Cascade Range on the other. Mt Rainer 100 miles to the south, the prettiest, most perfectly shaped mountain you will ever see.

I’m glad I lived there. I loved the scenery, the people, the food, and the diversity. And especially, I loved the WEATHER! No bugs, no tornadoes, no thunderstorms and gully-washing rains. No it does NOT rain all the time in Seattle! Annual rainfall in Seattle is 37 inches. Annual rainfall in Little Rock, where I live today, is 50 inches. Put THAT on your rain gauge!

Gardening in Seattle was a joy. Since the area is temperate (did I mention, little snow and few winter days below freezing) things just grow and grow and grow. Rhododendron blooms year round, with every color you can imagine; the fir trees are tall, and gorgeous; it’s like God made several trips around that part of the world dispensing beautiful things.

My kids nearly bought out REI the first year we were there; we went camping at Frog Lake, a mystical spot at the foot of Mt Hood; snowshoeing at Hurricane Ridge out on the peninsula; picnicking beside mountain lakes in a meadow of purple lupine. Heaven! Three of my grandchildren were born while I lived in the Pacific Northwest, so sharing their first minutes of life was a supercalifragilistic experience. All good stuff.

It will be 11 PM in Little Rock tonight by the time that Delta flight would have landed in Kahului; midnight at least by the time I would have arrived at the Maui Seaside Hotel.

I won’t be there.

Governor David Ige announced today that the reopening of Hawaii’s tourism industry will be delayed until the end of August. Ige first implemented quarantine measures back in March, requiring any passenger on any flight landing in Hawaii to spend 14 days in isolation to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. As a result, the number of passenger arrivals statewide fell from an average of nearly 30,000 per day to fewer than 400 by the middle of April, according to data released by the Hawaii Tourism Authority. The governor has faced mounting pressure from several corners, including all four county mayors, to push back the planned reopening of tourism.

The governor did eliminate travel restrictions that pertained to inter-island travel last month, as the first step toward ushering in the return of the tourism sector in Hawaii. The second, the state hoped, was that in lieu of a 14-day quarantine, the state would require passengers to produce a negative coronavirus pre-test, taken within 72 hours of departure to Hawaii.

But as coronavirus cases on the mainland have surged in recent weeks, including in some of the markets that typically send the highest number of travelers to Hawaii, the state’s plan was criticized for being too weak to prevent a rash of new cases.

So I’m not in Hawaii tonight.

It should be noted, Hawaii has had only 1,115 total coronavirus cases and 19 deaths, the fewest of any state. This is mind boggling when you consider what is happening on the mainland. Good job, Governor Ige.