A gas station pump’s dial showing $45 for 8.655 gallons of gasoline.

Filling up the car yesterday would’ve been cheaper where we went, for several reasons I don’t mind. If we’d been there with the car, we’d still be driving back. On the whole, it’s better to pay more for this and less for other stuff on the back end.

A tree with faint pink flowers blooming along branches

I spent most of the day at home either reading, sleeping and trapped in the jaws of this illness. Other than a short trip down to a BART station, I don’t feel great about being anywhere but home. I need a better plan for time off that doesn’t leave me vulnerable to this stuff.

A close up image of the head, ears and left paw of a small black cat, sitting on a dark blue sheet

I don’t want to tell anybody about my food and travel experiences, but thank you for asking me via several emailed questionnaires, large national railroad provider. Perhaps I’ll feel differently once I’ve recovered from those oncoming symptoms of illness that have only intensified over the last two days. My cat is showing concern, but not smothering me so far.

A small black cat sits atop a well clawed cat tree platform beside a rain splashed window with a dark pulled back curtain and looks toward the camera with baleful eyes.

I’ve not been in any shape to be perceived, but the cat hasn’t been willing to let either of us out of her sight. The rains today blew some things around outside, but we were dry and still, marveling at sea-level physical comfort and bracing for returns to the working week.

A terminal full of gates at an airport with blue skies outside waiting for arrivals and departures.

There was simply too much walking, too little comfort and too low odds of avoiding illness, so we made it home, me with my lovely parting gift of a cough and headache, lozenges crammed into my jaws and fear of in-flight turbulence distracted by illness, a middle seat’s worst nightmare and a renewed perception of the walking, BART riding and driving from my last gate to my front door.

A brass plaque set in a Boulder, Colorado plaza sidewalk teases a time capsule with a reopening date of July 4, 2075

We caught a bus north and west out of town from a bus depot under the train station, arrived in Boulder and walked to get coffee and croissants before jaunting along the creek. On a whim, we clambered past a closed trail sign uphill to a vista point, caught a ride downhill to a teahouse, and stretched our sore legs along the main drag plaza, hitting a record store, bookstore and cafe before riding back to the city, scoring burgers near the station and collapsing at our room. More miles, but somehow less energy, whew!

A bowl of ramen at a restaurant across the street from Denver’s Union Station

We walked for five miles through several neighborhoods, striking out on street art in River North, catching a car downtown to the state capitol building and wandering along one side of things as the skies darkened, hitting a stand to repair my wristwatch hinge, waiting out rain in a cafe before checking out a couple of Tattered Cover bookstores, then threading between brief hail to sit at a happy hour and chow down in peace.

The exterior of the eastbound entry to the Moffatt Tunnel

We wound up in Denver after always having lived on this train, sliding through fractal snowy landscapes, cliffs and remote mountain towns and somehow getting higher in elevation together without actually being onboard a plane (or driving to Mount Lassen’s trailhead) by going across (or under or through) the Continental Divide. Now, we try to adjust to a larger space than a roomette, and much less rattling.

Train tracks and ties in a raised gravel bed in Winnemucca, Nev.

Arriving almost an hour before the train, we sat on the platform and covered our ears against freight traffic before our California Zephyr arrived. Then we headed eastbound, backwards and uphill, away from the bay, up through the Delta and into snowy piney stretches before settling into empty purply desert sunset. The scenery should have been the focus for all that we saw of it, but the rails remained never present, rattling under our car and rocking in a steady tempo.

A small white pot, with bright green fake plastic leaf shoots, sits on a brown fake leather stool beside a cardboard box with an orange-on-white illustration of a portable room heater’s ambient circulation

The first day of a stretch off is more theoretical than practical. Resolutions and possibilities float through the air around you, even as you consider what it feels like to miss the steady routine of war and struggle to make real rest and downtime out of everyday time. Throw in the whole ‘I’ve never done this thing before’ on top of that, and well, it’s even more of a challenge.