Cruising north in the Sea of Cortez, first edition

Today we’re writing from our slip at Marina Puerto Escondido, just south of Loreto.  We’ve paused our cruising as we watch to see what happens with COVID-19 in a location with WiFi and cell service. As we all know, it is impacting everyone, and everything.  For us personally, we are concerned about the impacts to our business and to our incredible employees in Washington, to our families, to friends and low on the totem pole – to the freedom of cruising.  We’re worried about our communities and our world.

Marina Puerto Escondido is a beautiful place to be, and we’re healthy and practicing social distancing to remain so.  It’s not terribly hard to be socially distant as people are evaporating all around us, heading back to Canada and the US.  It is very quiet, and we believe it will only get quieter. Any interactions with other boaters have switched from “where are you cruising to next,” to an angsty discussion around intentions and what might happen.  Are you going home (or in most cases, when are you going home)? What if the Mexico/US border closes to boat traffic for US citizens?  What if the Port Captains start closing ports to new boats (as is happening in some countries)?  What if we are stuck in / out of port and there is bad weather?  What if (or when) COVID-19 becomes a huge problem in Mexico and how will they manage?  How will that affect us?

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The buildings of Marina Puerto Escondido as seen from Red Rover, in what we would call “pole position one.”  N60 Ship Faced in the background.
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Red enjoying a little rest on the dock at Puerto Escondido
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The Sierra de la Giganta mountains behind the marina
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View from the rental car on the way back from Loreto.  The marina is in the bay back behind the small sailboat – you enter from the other side, but the bay, and therefore the marina, is almost entirely enclosed.

We don’t have answers to a lot of these questions, but we have booked a month of moorage here and believe that we can stay longer if we need to.  We are not headed back to the US and will stay in Mexico on the boat for the foreseeable future. We’re thankful that we have this incredible boat as our home, and as a resource that can take us safely wherever we want or need to go.  We can (and do) make all of our own water, have two generators for power and every comfort of home in our floating home.  At the moment, we have plenty of fuel and all of the boat’s systems have been working beautifully.

Just add food, right?  So, we rented a car and after a thorough disinfecting with Clorox wipes (so glad I bought a ton of that stuff before we left the US!) we drove north 14 miles to the absolutely charming town of Loreto to go to the grocery store.  The town was pretty quiet but the grocery stores were busy.  We hit two stores and a liquor store and drove back to the marina with a car full of stuff to add to the boat that was already full of stuff.  We’re definitely set when it comes to tequila and pasta.  Ha!

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Grocery store TP shelves in Loreto
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This little mule seemed cute… until we saw the sign…

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At any rate, I did write a story on our way north about the first few stops in our trip from La Paz.  And we thought it might be entertaining for people to read, so we’re sharing it now.   Here it goes!  Enjoy!

La Paz to Agua Verde – the first portion of our trip to the Loreto area

A first world problem delayed our La Paz departure on Sunday, March 8.  The washing machine went on strike.  We couldn’t go cruising without a washing machine now could we?  Reality check – of course we could.  Nonetheless we Ubered out to Home Depot where I found a kind looking associate and said, “Necessito un parte de lavadora” while showing her the part.  Head shaking ensued.  They only sell lavadora completa!  Of course.

We trekked back to the marina with a new jug of liquid soap and a tub, thinking we could do laundry in the Rubbermaid tub.  No Bueno.  Upon returning to the boat Kevin decided to get deeper into the laundry problem and see if he couldn’t fix the part himself.  A little two-part epoxy later and we were in business. Laundry, 2020 style, shall continue.  Dark ages begone!

After celebrating with another delicious dinner at Las Tres Virgenes, we headed out of La Paz on a blustery Monday morning, March 9. Now, we are not planners.  Not when it comes to cruising anyways.  We have to force ourselves to come up with a cruising plan.  This becomes a little difficult as at the start of every journey I send my brother Greg a text with our destination and ETA.  Greg is our first point of contact on our EPIRB and our PLB’s (and now with the US State Department too).  If the rescue organizations want to verify that we are in an area before they send the helicopters looking for us, they’ll call Greg.  So, it would be helpful if he knew where we were!  Greg is a 911 dispatcher so we figure he can handle it if the USCG or Mexican Navy calls to say we’ve sunk somewhere. The “Greg Text” does force us to determine where we are going.

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The outdoor wood fired grill at Las Tres Virgenes
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Beautiful lemon tart

After a bit of conversation, we decided that we would skip by Espiritu Santo and head to Isla San Francisco and its beautiful anchorage, “the Hook.”  As we headed north the wind continued to increase and the seas became chunkier and chunkier.  We anchored in this beautiful bay in 20+ knot winds that only built as the evening went on, with a high of 32 knots.  It seems that all of the warnings about wind in the Sea of Cortez are indeed true.  One person told us, “You can have wind at night, or wind during the day.  You choose.”  In our Sea of Cortez cruising in February and early March, we had wind during the day AND at night.  We’ve become pretty accustomed to 20+ knot winds while hanging out in our cockpit consuming obligatory margaritas.  It isn’t an issue really.  Our Rocna holds us in place beautifully.  And the winds keep the no-seeums away but require the use of a fleece now and then.

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The Hook at Isla San Francisco
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Red and the shore landing craft
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This would be an amazing beach for hours of beachcombing. We’ll stop on our way back south in better weather to really enjoy it.

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At 6:30 am we woke up to 25+ knot winds, overcast skies and a bit of “sailing” on our anchor.  Whatever, we grumbled and pulled the hook, heading north 9 nm to San Evaristo, a beautiful small fishing village with reportedly better north wind protection.  We snuggled up into the north “lobe” of the harbor and after a few hours, the winds dissipated.

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Our pelican neighbors in the anchorage

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Red is back behind that rocky point!

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Zoe sniffs the new turf on the small beach in the anchorage

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We spent two lovely days in San Evaristo, lounging about, reading, exploring in the dinghy, hiking with the dogs and eating at the awesome small restaurant on the beach. San Evaristo is home to approximately 20 families who fish, herd goats (we didn’t see any and I really wanted to!) and run the nearby salt evaporation ponds.  The town has a small tienda, a family-run restaurant that we simply loved, a school and a church.  The people are friendly and welcoming and reflect the beauty of their location.

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Out for a walkabout
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The town of San Evaristo

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The town store
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A very lovely home, seems to belong to some expats who were not there.

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Fishermen return! 
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This friendly dog went hiking with us.  Her kids drew eyebrows and a heart on her.  She didn’t seem to mind.
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The town school
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As we see in all parts of Mexico, a roadside shrine
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Salt evaporation ponds
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Zoe and Max and our new eyebrow friend on our hike

The restaurant celebrates the cruisers and provides the opportunity to paint a shell with your boat name to add to their collection.  The inside of the kitchen area is wallpapered with images of cruisers and families.  Fernando, a teenager came out to greet us in a chef’s hat on our first visit.  He took our photo “for Facebook,” and asked us what we’d like to eat – a choice of desayunos (breakfast), and various forms of fish and shrimp. Fernando’s two sisters help to make the meals and Fernando makes margaritas after asking his mom what they cost.  Mom stands by and supports her kids as they practice English on the visiting boaters.  We all smiled and applauded when one of them completed a difficult sentence.  While we are gaining in our Spanish abilities, sometimes it is more important to help a teenager practice their English and provide them with the kudos they deserve.

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The restaurant!

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Kika, the family’s new puppy.  Fernando warned us that she gnaws on hands… as puppies do!
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View from our table – Red in the upper right.
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Fernando!

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Inside the restaurant
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Shells with painted boat names

On Wednesday we decided we had better come up with a more thoughtful cruising plan.  Afterall it is now spring and we only have a few more months until we have to be out of Mexico for hurricane season (July 1) per the friendly folks with our insurance company.  With our planning chart (funny that we have an actual planning tool and are using it) spread on the salon table, we decided that we needed to get rolling north quickly if we wanted to explore the region beyond Loreto in any meaningful way.  We also determined that we wouldn’t be able to get as far as the Bay of Los Angeles unless we wanted to spend a lot of time underway.  We have guests coming to meet us in Loreto in mid-April and our northern explorations will likely mostly take place prior to their arrival.  Santa Rosalia will likely mark our northern point this year.  UPDATE:  as of right now, 2 of our 3 guests are not coming and cruising plans are on hold, but… this was the intent!

As a result, on Thursday we made coffee, took the dogs to shore and we were off!  Agua Verde was our destination, a bay with stunning geography and gorgeous aqua and green waters.  We passed countless beautiful and compelling anchorages that we will return to in the late spring, and enjoyed an absolutely gorgeous run north.  The Sea of Cortez is a feast for the eyes.  Stratified layers of rock meet a blue and green sea.  Countless types of seabirds ride thermals and dip down to fish in the ocean.  Rays aka “majestic sea flap flaps,” rise out of the water and belly flop back down. Whales blow.  The sun rises and sets, creating yet more diversity in the colors of the rock, the cacti and the stunning sand beaches.  I could watch the scenery here for the rest of my days and never be bored. It is a very, very special place.

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The view as we rolled north

I have to say, I really don’t want to leave Mexico and go to southern California for the summer. I’m sure we’ll have a wonderful time, and we’ll get a bunch of boat projects done, but I love it here.  I love being surrounded by friendly, happy people who smile, wave and say “Buenos Dias,” not because we are visiting gringos but because they are generally kind and welcoming as a country.  I love the food, I love the scenery, I love the laid back “tranquilo” vibe and the pace of life.  I love being a part of the cruising community, which although it continues to be almost 99% sailboats, is comprised by a group of people who genuinely want to help one-another, and who are immediately friendly and gregarious. We belong.  Finally.  I think we might be in shock upon return to the US.  For example, we might faint when someone wants $20 for a salad and we can’t divide by 20 to get the USD price. Highly likely actually.  COVID-19 Update:  you never know, we might still be here this summer!  Um, insurance company? We need a rider…maybe…time will tell.

We arrived to a busy anchorage at Agua Verde, and some wind-driven east swell, coming right into the bay.  No matter.  We anchored at about mid-bay and didn’t choose to join the myriad of sailboats stuffed into the NW corner behind a reef.  What might happen when the wind comes up with all of these boats so close together?  We would soon find out (everyone was fine) as the wind DID come up to about 28 knots, jostling the anchorage. The late afternoon/evening plan was to check out two beaches, one that was rocky and enclosed by cliffs (aka a dog enclosure) and one that sat at the head of the bay by all of the sailboats.  We met a nice young couple from New Mexico who were camping in their tricked out Toyota Land Cruiser with their two huskies.  I have an interest in pursuing off-road camping at some point, and it was fun to chat with them.  We also met a fun gentleman, Rod, on his small Catalina, who we promised to connect with on the following day with a goal to transport ice cubes from Red to his vessel, aptly named, Minnie.

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The town of Agua Verde

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Agua Verde – green in the hillsides too
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Max on the beach.  Long dog!

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I spy a Red Rover!

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Zoe doing a little sunbathing

In the evening we could watch the main beach that the village of Aqua Verde sits upon and behind.  It was truly interesting.  Wives waited for pangueros to come home on the beach.  Dogs ran amok, having a fabulous time.  And after 5 pm, it appeared to be physical fitness hour.  We were impressed with the number of people working out, running, and power walking in La Paz.  Fitness is a priority there.  And, it seems, in the tiny village of Agua Verde where ladies strode with purpose up and down the beach, making sharp turns at each end, followed by a pack of perros barking and cavorting in the ocean.  The ladies did squats, stretches and push-ups followed by more rounds of walking.  On our second night, we saw them again, dressed in fitness clothes and working hard.

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The ladies and their workout. Using an old fridge that was on the beach as a prop.

While watching the fitness squad, we finally saw what I had been looking for all along… the resident GOATS and free range cows!  We could see them roaming the hills through our binoculars but could not hear their “tinkling bells” as promised in the guide book. What what?  Come on goats.  Show yourselves.  Come out of those hills and tinkle around the beach.  Apparently the resident families of Agua Verde are also goat herders and make a mean goat cheese.

That night it was still.  STILL.  No wind.  No noise.  Just a slight rocking swell, which was perfect for sleeping. And that was it.  We slept like rocks.  The morning dawned to a gorgeous day, with blue skies (and a few clouds), a rising sun highlighting the green and tan mountains and the pangueros starting their day.  Perfect for some drone shots…

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We took the dogs on a dinghy ride over to a southern anchorage in the bay and explored the beach, finding interesting turtle, fish and pelican skeletons, shells and gorgeous water.  We then left the dogs on the boat and headed to see our way around “town.”

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Max has a new favorite game – tunneling around a small tennis ball in the sand.

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Turtle 
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Looks to be a turtle flipper?
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Pelicano

The beaches around Agua Verde appear to be a camping destination for people in overland camping vehicles like the couple we met the night before.  The main beach in town provides further insight into this trend with palapas, two restaurants and “wayfinding signage” to things of interest such as showers, bathrooms, tiendas and WiFi. WiFi? Ah ha!  We chatted with the purveyor of the first restaurant, Leonora who runs Brisa del Mar, a small palapa place at the edge of the beach.  Her five dogs including one with three legs greet customers and everyone else!  The WiFi sign had perked our interest and Leonora directed us to the tienda to find our fix.

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The colorful walls of the restaurant

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On the way we saw… THE GOATS!  The goats were wandering about the bushes behind the beach, and yes, they were tinkling!  Well maybe one was tinkling.  The lead goat?  Who knows.  I had to shoot a quick video.

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We passed by what we thought might be a tienda, but along the way saw a sign that ensured us that yes, there was yet another tienda in town. Which one had WiFi?  A quick check on the phone noted that both offered WiFi service.  Hmm… we wandered through town noting the tidy homes, the colorful paint choices, the school, a temple, a church and yes, a police station substation for the Loreto police with two ladies sitting outside dutifully knitting.  Crime is not likely a concern.  It isn’t in any of the small towns we have visited.

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This small building was on the beach – the red fish appeared throughout town.

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Kevin walks down the main road in Agua Verde

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Oh look, another dog with eyebrows!  Funny kids!

We stepped into the first tienda after a round-about-route around town and looked at the merchandise ranging from vegetables (onions and tomatoes) to hand soap to pancake mix to refried beans in a microwavable container.  Oh and Cup-of-Soup ramen noodles.  Those make an appearance in all tiny Mexican town tiendas.  Interesting.  We asked the shop keeper about WiFi, to which she replied “$30 pesos por una hora.”  That’s about $1.20 USD for an hour (As of March 22 the peso is over 24 pesos to the dollar).  Well, ok, sign us up for two devices!  We then stood out in the dirt road frantically trying to download.  What silliness.  Two local girls carrying a basket covered with a colorful hand towel saw us and figured we might need sustenance.  They uncovered the basket which was filled with what turned out to be fig empanadas.  Might we like some?  Ah, yes!  $12 pesos a piece.  That’s two empanadas for less than fifty cents.

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How we surf the internet. 
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My empanada sales girls disappearing into the brush to find more customers.
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Mmm. Empanadas!

When we are without WiFi or cell service, which we had been since we left La Paz, our only form of communication with the outside world is via our IridiumGo! Satellite connection.  This is a basic satellite connection allowing us to have very slow (dial-up level) email, texting (which we don’t trust) and echo-ing voice calls.  It also allows us to download weather, which is a HUGE benefit.  It is trustworthy and reliable.  And really, it is all we need.  When we decided that I would stop working we also decided not to upgrade our satellite communications.  So, we are in the dark much of the time, and generally we like it.

We had several emails with our daughter Kirsten earlier in the week via the sat phone.  Kirsten gave us an update on the crumbling world of the Coronavirus.  She is engaged in a year-long fellowship in Boston that is focused on high-level coaching for rowing, and she has been an assistant coach at Harvard University.  Well, Harvard is now closed for the rest of the year… and as the rest of you probably know, the world is changing and closing down quickly.  Kirsten gave us the low-down on sports impacts, a ban on European travel, the NBA and more.  We really couldn’t believe it.  We then received an email from Darren, who runs Kevin’s company, with more detail on what was happening in Seattle.  It is just crazy.

Being on our own escape-pod, self-quarantine boat with very little information on the outside world had been blissful.  We focused on the here and now.  The introduction of the emails began a conversation about what could happen and what might be in the future.  And, about the angst that 24/7 news brings.  And, our relief not to be a part of that, even at the same time noting our concern about family, friends and Waypoint, Kevin’s company.

So it was with some trepidation that we logged into our phones with our newfound $30 pesos codes.  Beeping, buzzing and crazy downloading began, full of bad news and unhappiness.  It wasn’t too awful when our time was up and we were ready for lunch, albeit a quiet lunch as we pondered what the outside world was experiencing.

Leonora was delighted to welcome us back, and presented us with her menu of fish, fish and more fish.  And desayunos, which of course Kevin wanted to have.  He loves breakfast for dinner, breakfast for lunch, breakfast for midnight snack and of course, breakfast for breakfast… After the best fish tacos I have ever eaten, and Kevin’s delightful Huevos Mexicanos we returned to the slobbery kisses of the boat dogs on the Nordhavn escape pod.

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Lunch with a view, guest book to the left, Red in the left middle.
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Kevin and one of the restaurant dogs.
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Kevin using the restaurant’s binocs.

The day ended with a stunning sunset, something that felt a bit surreal as we were now back in awareness of the changing world beyond us.  At the same time, it was good to be present with each other and with nature, a reminder of all of the good things in our world.  As my mother used to say to me, “this too shall pass.”

 

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3 thoughts on “Cruising north in the Sea of Cortez, first edition

  1. Kevin & Alison,

    Bob Danelz, Nordhavn dreamer here in Sacramento, CA. Just recently found your blog from the Nordhavn web site. Just an FYI on Mulege, Mx. You will go by it on the way to Santa Rosalia. My wife and I spent a week there as guests of our Sacramento Yacht Club friends that have built a beautiful house in the town. Our first experience of not being in a Mexico border town. Friendly people and we felt safe. You know what I’m talking about. We had a ball. There is no harbor, and I don’t know if you can get into the mouth of the river to anchor. And dingy to the hotel. But, the Hotel Sereidad is right there walking distance, next to the river. It sits next to a airport runway where we landed our Bonanza for our trip down and back, probably 5 years ago. After riding Honda quads in the sand dunes all day, boy did the margaritas taste good at the bar. Anyway, wanted to give you a heads up if this stop sounds appealing to you.

    I am enjoying your blog very much right now. We are quarantined in our homes and are not supposed to leave for anything less than an emergency. Food, medication, gas. ALL restaurants, bars, wineries are closed. Only “essential” business are to be open. We tried to go to Costco and the line wrapped around the building, with social distancing being 6 ft. apart. We left. People are hoarding. It’s crazy.

    Sorry to bitch. I envy you guys with your life right now.

    Bob Danelz

    1. Hi Bob,
      Thanks for sending us a note!! This is a gorgeous part of the world for sure. We had planned on making our way up to Mulege and Santa Rosalia. You can anchor in a bay near the mouth of the river down to Mulege and dinghy in. We aren’t sure if we will get there or not this season now that we are sitting in the Loreto area while we sort through the coronavirus impacts. But at some point we will be there! Looks lovely!! And I am always up for a good margarita. 🙂

      I am glad we can provide some quarantine reading material. Things are also locked down at home (in Seattle) and we are now starting to see closures and rules here too. Only one person from a family can go into a grocery store at a time for example.

      We are working on a few little projects, wandering in the dinghy, taking the dogs to the beach and staying in touch with our company, family and friends. And it is lovely and sunny. So! Not too terrible. I am sorry for your lock down and hope that it passes soon and we see a healthy, happy USA on the other side. Stay well and stay safe!!!

      Alison

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