April, 2020 – Wichita, Kansas

To all of my readers who like to keep up with our traveling adventures, enjoy learning about all the places, both historical and natural, that we have explored, there is not much to talk about during the month of April.  We spent the month staying at All Seasons RV Park near Wichita, Kansas waiting out the Covid 19 pandemic.  Our days were filled with maintaining social distancing, which for us amounted to staying in and around the RV.  Once or twice a week we would walk around the area behind the RVs with mowed trails to get some exercise.  Once every couple of weeks Kal did laundry and I cleaned the RV and every few days we would grab our home made masks and brave infection at the grocery store.

Near the end of the month, we did get really brave and drove and hour and a half northwest to the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge.  Maintaining social distancing was very easy as we saw only a few vehicles in the refuge and one couple doing some fishing.  We spent a very nice, cool spring day outside looking for wildlife in a very interesting location in central Kansas.  Even though we both grew up in the area, neither of us were familiar with this unique location.  Quivira National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1955 and consists of over 22,000 acres of salt marshes and sand dunes.  Yes, I said salt marshes!!  It may be hundreds of miles from the closest ocean, but depending upon the water levels can have a similar salinity to the oceans.  Back in geological times Kansas was the center of an inland sea that led to extensive salt deposits.  In fact, the main industry in Hutchison, just to the southeast of the marshes, is salt production.  They have some of the riches salt deposits in the world within a hundred feet of the surface.  These salt deposits seep into the marshes and mix with rainwater and runoff to create some very salty water.  In addition, low sand dunes dot the landscape between the marshes, which are also a unique feature of the region.  Finally, this area of Kansas is within the transition zone between the Eastern and Western prairies so you have both the long grass of the eastern and short grass of the western along with a mix of species.  For instance, you find both white tailed deer and mule deer within the refuge.  There is also a prairie dog town on the refuge which is more common to the west.  On top of all this, the refuge is a critical location for waterfowl migration since water is generally scarce throughout the prairies.  Unfortunately, we were too late in the spring to see the sand crane and Canadian geese migrations which is suppose to number in the thousands of birds in the fall and spring.  However, we did see a large number of ducks, wading birds, and diving birds of various species in the marsh.  Of course, the Visitor Center was closed due to the pandemic, however, there were brochures outside the center so we had a map of the refuge.  We started with a short walk up on an observation platform on the Little Salt Marsh.  Most of the rest of the day was spent driving the 15 mile Auto Drive with many stops on both the Little and Big Salt Marsh.  There is also a 1.5 mile hiking trail called the Migrants Mile Trail.  It consists of an inner loop that is paved and level with an offshoot grassy trail that goes over a sand dune.  The walk is an easy trail through the grasses and hedgerows that dot the refuge.  After our hike we left the Drive Tour to cut to the east along the edge of the refuge and north along dirt county roads to the location of the black tailed prairie dog town.  The town comes right up to the road, so you can see a number of dogs from the road without having to walk out into the town.  We spent a good half hour watching the dogs digging, foraging, and watching for predators.  Then it was back to the Drive Tour as it went along the edge of the Big Salt Marsh.  It was certainly a great day spent outside and we stopped for a late lunch getting take out at a MacDonalds in Hutchinson that we ate at the location of the first well that discovered the salt deposits back in 1887.

I suppose the other purpose of this blog is to record our thoughts and experiences, so the rest of this blog is about the Covid 19 pandemic.  The month of April began with just a few reported cases in the state of Kansas and ended with thousands.  However, we did not know the real infection rate as testing was still around 10 per thousand in Kansas by the end of April.  By the beginning of the month deaths nationwide was in the hundreds and by the end it was over 60,000.  The worst was in New York City, but there were other hotspots.  With nearly all the states in lockdown, the economy was collapsing and President Trump was all about reopening the country, even calling for rebellion against some of the Democratic governors who were being extra cautious.  However, without reasonable testing there was no way to know if it was time to reopen the economy or not, especially with the 1-2 week delay in finding out the cost of these decisions when we have to wait for hospitalization numbers or deaths.  President Trump absolutely refuses to use his office to nationalize the production of “personal protection equipment” such as masks, shields, and ventilators, as well as, the shortages of swabs and reagents for the testing kits.  Instead, he left it all up to the states who spent outrageous funds trying to obtain supplies all month.  While his actions seemed criminal, he was at least consistent in shifting blame while maintaining his rhetoric about how good a job he was doing.  He consistently underpredicted the outcome of the pandemic having to revise his estimates of the number of deaths and the length of time until it would be before we could “return to normal.”  However, he kept pushing and by the end of the month nearly every state had begun to reopen the state, all without any idea of the current situation or the impact of their decisions.  Over the next month we will see the outcome of this decision and I fear it will not be good.  Consequently, we have no plans to move from our location for at least the next month.

On a personal note, we are doing fine physically and financially.  Since we are staying for a month at a time we are actually saving money on site fees and diesel fuel.  Staying at home all month also saved on nearly everything else as well.  So far, state retirement and social security are solid.  Of course, my IRA has taken a beating, but we did not need to draw from it so we can wait for the stock market to come back.  Our oldest daughter was furlough from Disney about the middle of the month and she is still waiting for unemployment payments to start.  However, we have her covered so she will be fine.  Our middle daughter still has her job as a hospital pharmacist and the brewery is limping along, especially since they got one of the first loans for small businesses.  All of their employees are being paid and they are stilling making beer for wholesale and local or mail order deliveries, which have picked up.  So they are doing fine.  My son is still being paid for his job, although he spent most of the month at home.  So far, they are fine financially.  AND everyone is still healthy in our immediate family.

The only good thing in this whole terrible situation is that everyone has the ability and time to be in closer contact.  Over the month we have gotten all of Kal’s family together online, as well as, my family.  It was the first time in over a decade that my sister and two brothers have spent time together.  We have also downloaded a card playing app on our devices and by the end of the month it was nearly a daily occurrence to get together as a family to play some spades.  It has been a great experience I will always remember.  We have spent more time with all of them then we have for years.  I just wish so many wouldn’t have to die or get seriously ill for us to have this opportunity.

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