March 15 – 24, 2020 Entering the Twilight Zone

One of the great things about this journey, is reuniting with boat friends who we may have met weeks or months ago.  First meeting in Brewerton on the Erie Canal, and then reuniting to cruise together in Georgian Bay and the North Channel in Canada, we were happy to again meet up with Nancy and Gary of Summer Lynn.  This time, they were without Summer Lynn.  They had finished their Loop and left the boat for sale in Michigan, but were in Fort Myers with their RV.  We had lots of fun catching up and also making plans to visit them at their home in Alaska.  They have been telling us so much about the beauty and fun of the Alaskan winters.  We’re looking forward to experiencing it for ourselves.

The talk of the Corona Virus was increasing and causing increased concerns.  We weren’t really sure why there was such a big deal about flu.  There have been outbreaks of various kinds of flu and it hasn’t previously warranted the hubbub that was currently going on in the country.  Time will tell.

St. Patrick’s Day usually brings lots of reveling in downtown Fort Myers, but not so much this year.  Some of us Loopers got together for dinner at the Marina.

We had signed up to stay a month at Fort Myers.  So there we sat, with not much to do.  While riding bikes, we came across the Harry Chapin Food Bank, so I signed up to volunteer.  We had seen local news clips about a spike in distribution of food to families and individuals, so I knew there was a need for volunteers.  Many of the retirees who were the usual volunteers were now staying home.  So I went and sorted food and packed bags, and did an assortment of other jobs.  We decided Ed would stay close to the boat.  With a history of heart issues, it wasn’t worth taking any chances.

On the 20th, we were walking downtown in the early afternoon.  It was a beautiful day with sunshine and comfortable temps.  People were shopping and eating out – the sidewalk tables outside of restaurants were filled with people enjoying lunch.  We made plans with Paradise Falls to return for dinner.

When we returned for dinner, the scene was entirely different.  We felt like we had entered an episode of The Twilight Zone.  There wasn’t a single table or chair outside any restaurant.  When we went to the restaurant where we planned to eat, we were told that they were only doing takeout orders.  We asked “What happened?”  The hostess said they got a call at 3:45 that all restaurants were to immediately stop table service and that they could only do takeout and delivery orders.  Totally shocked, we went ahead and ordered.  In a nearby courtyard, there were picnic tables, so we took our food there to eat.  There were a few other people doing the same.  As we ate, some restaurant employees came out and started stacking the unoccupied picnic tables.  

Over the next few days, stores closed, tourist sites closed, and something we never thought – churches closed.  It was understandable; viruses spread from person to person and one way to contain a virus is to limit contact between people. Other countries were already enforcing mandatory “shelter-in-place” orders.  Grocery stores in the area had instituted “senior only” times for shopping in hopes of keeping vulnerable individuals away from the general population. The problem was that the time was 7am to 8 am. It was dark outside at 7 am – not the best circumstances for seniors to be driving.

We checked on the status of marinas, and some were not accepting new boaters.  There was talk that some might be closing.  So many questions going through our minds about what to do.  Would we be able to get the boat back to Beaufort?