With our bags packed and our intentions clear, we set off for our first post-COVID jaunt, headed to Sonoma. We found the most affordable flights out of an airport that is a three hour drive from our home. Luckily, the flight didn’t leave until early afternoon, giving us time to sleep in a bit before hitting the road. The sky was blue and the roads clear when we set off on our way (definitely not a guarantee here in early spring). All signs were indicating that luck would be on our side.

We arrived at the airport early, parked our car and proceeded inside. Having not flown during the pandemic, I was curious to see how air travel would feel. The processes inside the airport were basically all the same, except that, as expected, everyone was wearing masks. The lines all looked longer because of the distance between people but they moved along just about as (in) efficiently as usual.

In my mind, I was trying to normalize this adventure as much as possible, both for myself, and for my girls. I wanted proof that the outside world was still there, and still humming along as usual. I had to admit, though, that things didn’t seem quite normal. First, the airport read more like a ghost town than a bustling transportation hub. There were empty seats to sit on and an abundance of bathroom stalls to choose from. While this actually makes flying more enjoyable, it also makes it…..well…. weird. Second, many of the retail shops and restaurants are shuttered, leaving a lonely Hudson News and a solitary Starbucks to provide preflight refreshments. The final clue that something wasn’t quite right was the repeated announcement to “Please wear your mask IN and ON the airport”. Ummmmm……IN and ON the airport??? Are there people ON the airport??? Weird.

Regardless, we quickly adapted to our surroundings. We’ve had practice after all. The planes were maybe 50% full (weird). The flights were quick and drama free. The layover was painless and baggage claim and rental car pickup were efficient. Again, weird.

After some fumbling with the navigation system of our rental car, we entered in our destination and took off for Healdsburg. By this point, it was dark and pouring rain and I was really thankful I had driven these roads a few times before. Needless to say, it was still kind of stressful. I managed my stress successfully with a playlist curated by my 14-year-old, Gardetto’s snack mix and some Mike and Ike’s. Road trip food of champions. Finally, I was starting to feel a little more normal.

It’s a nearly 2 hour drive from San Francisco to Healdsburg. By the time we arrived, we were tired and hungry. We were also really, really lucky because my sister had driven up from San Francisco earlier in the day and had already settled into our AirBnB and was well on her way to cooking us dinner. Our little house for the week was situated on a quiet country road and the navigation system delivered us there flawlessly. We stepped inside to delicious aromas and a well-plated charcuterie board. My sister handed me a glass of wine. Bliss.

It felt surreal that night to sit there, vaccinated, in a vacation house, with my sister and daughters, talking, plotting, eating, drinking and laughing. It seemed surreal that just a year ago, we were hunkered down at home, alternating between worrying, crying and trying to hold it all together. It seemed surreal that I could, finally, gingerly, sit down, and take a breath.