Heat, Smoke, and COVID in a Van

Our west coast loop was detoured by the need to navigate through heat, summer fires, and avoiding COVID risks. We had a brutally hot driving day in Nebraska when the AC in the van failed — especially wicked for our husky on board.

Initially, our goal was to attend a wedding in South Lake Tahoe, but by the time we reached Denver the Caldor fire was circling Tahoe and the ceremony was moved to San Francisco. Finding a route to northern California that did not track through fires and hazardous smoke proved impossible, so Betsy flew to the wedding and Eddie stayed with van and dog in Colorado. More heat and smoke pushed us to hurry north (North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan).

Our effort to avoid smoke and heat led to an extended stay in the Upper Penninsula of Michigan — an amazing, relatively uncrowded region, even during the late summer. Lake Superior, its geology, and the casual friendly attitude of the Yoopers was such a great alternative to heading west. We met other van travelers in the UP who had made the same choice.

Highlights of our abbreviated west coast loop included an immersion in the RINO neighborhood of Denver (where our son Casey lives), the landscape and history of the Leadville Colorado region, the landscape and bison of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and the foliage and vistas of Painted Rock National Lakeshore. We saw the extraordinary consequences of fracking and oil boom towns in North Dakota. The politics and divide of the Country are on open display over the road as evident in our camping neighbor’s tailgate stickers (see below). Everywhere we went, the demand for workers was also on display — jobs from school bus drivers to restaurant staff to bankers to farm workers.

Click on any images below to see the full resolution and dimensions.

2 thoughts on “Heat, Smoke, and COVID in a Van

  1. Life in America these days…

    Thanks again for your support Eddie. I have attached my CV and my Michigan cover letter. Next Saturday is open if you and Betsy are available for dinner. We can host or go out—our treat.


    Tonya E. Edmond (pronouns: she/her/hers)
    Associate Dean for Social Work
    Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis
    Hillman Hall 245
    Campus Box 1196, One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO 63130

    [o] 314.935.8131 [e] tee1@wustl.edu

    Brown School | Washington University in St. Louis | Social Work

    If you are a Washington University employee or student whose physical presence is required on campus to perform essential services, you are required to self-screen daily for COVID-19 symptoms before coming to campus. COVID-19 restrictions and screening for campus access


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