Monday, August 10, 2020

A small wedding and a socially-distant honeymoon

Well, we did it.
Corinne, myself, and the sunset over Lake Pontchartrain, just as we had planned.

On the evening of Saturday July 18, Corinne and I had our formal wedding ceremony at Lakefront Airport in New Orleans. We had about 35 people in attendance: mostly close friends and family, and less than half the number we were expecting for our originally-planned March ceremony, but still within the State of Louisiana's limit of 50 attendees for events such as these.

This was good, as it gave people a chance to spread out; we encouraged social distancing and mask-wearing as much as we could (although it gets hard for people to comply as food is served and champagne flows), and our awesome venue caterer was very good with their sanitation protocols. Over three weeks after the ceremony, we've gotten no reports of any of our attendees falling ill from COVID. We're thankful and relieved.

Our wedding occurred almost two years to the day from
when I proposed to Corinne in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia.
I celebrated by posting on that village's Facebook page
and received a wonderful response from them.
To be sure, the decision to go forward with the rescheduled ceremony was agonizing for both myself and Corinne. We knew that a lot of people wouldn't be able to attend and we knew that we could be putting ourselves and our loved ones at risk. As we watched the infection rate increase both in Texas and Louisiana, we even considered postponing again or canceling entirely (after all, we were already technically married). But in the end, for reasons both contractual and psychological, we decided to press ahead, to make the best of it while being as safe as possible, and to give our family, our friends and ourselves a small bit of enjoyment in the middle of this otherwise-interminable Coronavirus bleakness.

In retrospect, it was the right decision. The ceremony and reception were everything Corinne and I had planned (see here for some early pictures from our wonderful photographer). The food and cake were delicious. Our vendors were happy to be working a wedding again. Everybody in attendance had a good time. Nobody got sick. And it's all behind us now: no more stress of planning and preparing, no more agony of waiting.

We had our wedding, and it was good.

We stayed in New Orleans for a couple of days after the wedding, visiting with family and friends who remained. Then, on Tuesday July 21, Corinne and I got into a rented Chevy Impala and embarked upon a honeymoon roadtrip that we were probably looking more forward to than the wedding itself. After spending the night with friends in Knoxville, Tennessee, we made our way to Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We spent a few nights at a secluded cabin on the Tennessee side of the park before heading south and spending a couple more nights at another secluded cabin on the North Carolina side, and spent the time hiking, relaxing and enjoying the scenery. While there were lots of people in the park itself and mask-wearing was not universal, we were generally able to keep our distance as we hiked. Car-based excursions such as the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail and the Cades Cove Loop also allowed for social distancing. The only big crowds we encountered were at Clingmans Dome, and even those weren't horrible. I was also finally got to see what the view from the observation deck looks like when not completely obstructed by fog, although the walk up there brutally reminded me how fat and out of shape I am.

Th observation deck at Clingmans Dome without the fog
After spending several days in the Great Smoky Mountains, we spent a few more days driving the Blue Ridge Parkway. This was a much better experience for me than my first drive along the road eight years ago, as there was no fog to obscure visibility and the Impala handled the curves much better than my previous rental. However, it turned out that three days is still not enough to see all the sights and take all the hikes along the Parkway; it was also a bit disappointing that most of the visitor centers along the Parkway were closed due to the pandemic or that a particularly scenic section of the Parkway around Roanoke was closed due to mudslides. Nevertheless, we enjoyed what we were able to see; the Blue Ridge Parkway is fascinating in that you can learn about biology, geology, geography and history all at once as you drive along it, and the views (as long as they're not obscured by overgrown vegetation) are spectacular.

A view of the North Carolina countryside from the Blue Ridge Parkway
We ended our trip with a brief drive through Shenandoah National Park, and spent the last two nights of our honeymoon in Fairfax, Virginia. The original plan was to spend a day in Washington DC, as Corinne had never been there. However, after the Mayor of Washington issued a decree requiring anybody entering the city traveling from "high-risk" areas (such as Texas or Louisiana) to self-quarantine, we decided that entering the city would not be a good idea. Instead, we went to the National Air and Space Museum's Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles Airport. I enjoyed it, since I hadn't been in over a dozen years and wanted to see some new items that had been added to the collection since then. Corinne enjoyed it, too, because she got to see the Space Shuttle Discovery and other NASA artifacts that greatly interested her. The Smithsonian limited crowds by requiring people to make reservations in advance and required visitors to wear masks at all time, so we felt very safe visiting.

A Concorde, among other aircraft at the Udvar-Hazy Center
The following day we drove up to Baltimore-Washington International Airport, dropped off the rental car, and flew back to Houston. While flying on an airplane may have been the riskiest part of our trip (or maybe not), Southwest is taking things seriously by limiting their boarding groups to ten people at a time, keeping middle seats open, requiring passengers to wear masks at all times, and reducing points of contact as much as possible. That meant, unfortunately, no beverages (other than water) and no working the crossword in the in-flight magazine. But the precautions appear to have worked in our case, because Corinne and I are showing no symptoms of any diseases a week and a half after the flight.

All in all, it was a wonderful and much-needed vacation. But now, unfortunately, the fun is over and it's time for me to get back to work. Due to the high infection rate here in Houston, my employer has abandoned the practice of allowing some of us to go into the office a couple of times a week on a rotating basis. This means I'll be working from home full-time for the foreseeable future, and I'm not excited about that. I did get my computer repaired (a failing hard drive was causing it to operate slowly), so I'll be able to be at least somewhat productive here at home. But it's just a matter of time before I start to go stir-crazy again, and it will only be worse if I don't have any college football to look forward to this fall.

Which begs the question: is it too early for Corinne and me to start planning our next roadtrip?

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