Never did I imagine a government request to wear a mask while in public, and when it began, I never imagined I would have an opinion about the design of a mask, but I do.
I expect most people own at least three masks and maybe a dozen or more. For those like my wife, Erica, who wears a mask nine or more hours a day while teaching at school, fit, comfort, and protection are important.
A friend, Johanna, is making masks and gifted one to me. I’ve worn store-bought and homemade masks, and Johanna’s mask is, by far, better than any other I’ve worn. This is why…
My previous masks are not shaped to fit my face. They are basically a strip of material with ear loops on either end. Some have a little shape for better coverage, but none have a place for my nose and chin, and have large gaps around the edges.
Before making my mask, Johanna asked for a measurement from the tip of my nose to the tip of my chin. I expect that is part of the secret sauce.
A – Pocket for the nose B – Pocket for the chin C – No gap around the nose D – No gap on the cheeks E – No gap around the neck
Other than using an N-95 mask, I’ve had trouble with my glasses fogging. Without a gap at C, fogging is not a problem.
Since the mask fits well, it’s comfortable and easily worn for longer periods of time.
I’m not an expert in clothing, but the mask feels well made. It’s my daily driver. It’s been through the wash many times and still holds its shape.
For more information, and to order your own custom-made mask, visit Johanna’s website at www.rayojohis.com. Tell her Stephen sent you!
In 2008, my daughter Allie and I recorded seven episodes of a podcast called With Liberty and Justice for All. Allie was in 5th grade learning about the election in school. It was my idea to create a podcast and she was enthusiastic, for seven episodes anyway. Enjoy!
I recently returned from a trip to Arizona, helping my daughter, Allie, move to Phoenix to pursue a PhD at Arizona State University. We drove from Rhode Island to Arizona. We drove 2,699.3 miles, over three and a half days, with two cars, a UHaul, four adults, a cat, and, a hedgehog.
Day 1 – Bristol, RI to Springfield, OH – 764 miles Day 2 – Springfield, OH to Emporia, KS – 764 miles Day 3 – Emporia, KS to Albuquerque, NM – 674 miles Day 4 – Albuquerque, NM to Phoenix, AZ – 419 miles
With the first day being the longest drive, we traveled approximately 12 hours on the first three days and 6.5 hours on the last day. We lost an hour each day with the time zone change. Choosing “no tolls” when planning the route took us off the main highways and only added an hour to the overall trip. I believe we took a more scenic, rural route.
While I expected the drive to be tedious and exhausting, it was relaxing and enjoyable. We switched drivers about every 3-4 hours and stopped for bathroom breaks and gas every few hours. As we started each day at 5 am, in the dark, we ended each night around 5 pm, had dinner after the day’s drive was complete, and got proper rest each night.
Traveling with Pets
Draco is a 20lb, easy-going, cool, black cat, but we didn’t know how he would tolerate a four-day road trip. Fortunately, he remained cool, thanks to his mom’s preparation. Allie outfitted the back seat with a pet hammock that covered the backseat and prevented Draco from getting on the floor. He had comfortable blankets and a portable litterbox, which he never used in the car. Draco and Winston, a hedgehog, slept all day, which is what they do anyway. We stayed in pet-friendly hotels each night. Some charge a fee, and others are free. Winston had a full setup each night with a five-foot cage, running wheel, heat lamp, hay, food, and water. It was easy, but I didn’t do anything.
The year 2020 will be memorable for the global pandemic, Covid-19. It wasn’t the best time to drive across the country, sleep in different hotels every night, have an extended stay in the country’s hottest zone, and fly home. Each US state has different guidelines and is in various phases of re-opening. To our dismay, there were no indications of a serious pandemic in our mid-west stops. Many, maybe most, people did not wear masks. We stayed at national chain hotels, and they were all excellent at following guidelines. My wife, Erica, did a thorough cleaning of the room each night, and we were all cautious.
New Mexico was the standout for implementing guidelines. Everyone wore masks and stores strictly enforced distancing. In Arizona, we had the impression they just realized the country was in a pandemic. There was a sign in the hotel indicating masks are required as of June 20. Really? In Rhode Island, they have been required since April.
Thanks to a doctor friend, we had two N-95 masks for the trip home. Both flights were full, with not an empty seat to be found. We wore the N-95s for 11 hours, with only a few minutes of relief for water and a small snack. Moving to the exit row with just two seats for the five-hour flight made is feel safer, but it likely didn’t make a difference.
Unfortunately, the most entertaining moment was provided by me. Each day started with coffee and a gas fill-up. I pulled into the gas station, started the gas pump, and went into the store for milk. After paying for the milk, I hopped back in the Jeep and pulled away, taking the gas line with me. The hose, which was once connected to the pump, was now dragging behind the car. As gas poured from the pump onto the pavement, I ran inside to alert the attendant of the pending ‘breaking news’ explosion. I was a little panicked. Little did I know this was a regular occurrence; the hose has a quick release and shutoff. The attendant casually walked out with a bucket of sand to clean up the gas and had the hose reconnected with a minute or two. In the other car, my daughter was disappointed she didn’t get a photo of the event and proceeded to laugh for 20 minutes and share the experience with family via text.
The last day’s drive from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Phoenix, Arizona was fantastic. While the terrain changed by the day during our journey, it changed by the hour for the last 420 miles. We went from 65 degrees Fahrenheit to 117 degrees in six hours traveling from the flat desert of New Mexico through the mountain ranges and into the desert of Arizona. We didn’t see cacti until we started to descend from the pine tree rich 6,000 ft mountain elevation into Phoenix’s valley. As the temperature rose, the cacti appeared. It was a breathtaking view for us New Englanders.
Because the purpose of our trip was moving, not sightseeing, we are thinking about a more leisurely trip across the US in the future.
It’s July 1st. In most parts of the US, that means three days until a day off to celebrate the nations birthday. In Bristol RI it has a very different meaning. The 4th of July is a significant event, it’s THE event. Planning for July 4th, starts on July 5th the previous year. The celebration begins in June and climaxes with the oldest parade in the country.
I grew up in Bristol RI. I marched in the parade as a member of the Bristol Highschool drumline. Growing up in Bristol is like growing up as an elf in the North Pole. You know it’s special, but it gets old, and you want to get out, to be a dentist. I moved out of Bristol in my early 20s. Over the next 15 years, I didn’t regularly return for the 4th. As my girls became teenagers, they had friends that lived in Bristol and we started returning for the parade, then fireworks on July 3 AND the parade of July 4th. For the past 10 years we found ourselves in Bristol on or around the 4th of July. The charm of this small town, with a proud identity, began to look like home.
There is a “what if” conversation you have with your spouse; “If we could move anywhere, where would it be?”. For Erica and I, Bristol was always on the short list. A very short list it was. In 2016 we found ourselves with an opportunity to relocate to Bristol. We celebrated our first July 4th with family and friends in 2017.
We are days away from our second 4th hosting. It’s exciting to have family and friend join us for this purely American, hometown celebration.