Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

When COVID-19 alters summer plans August 6, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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Nearing Madison, Wisconsin, in early July.


THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO BE our summer. The summer to explore. The summer of no broken bones and physical therapy and health crises. Three years in a row of challenges left us yearning for a good summer. Randy and I already had tentative plans to spend time in Madison—where two of our adult children live—and explore that region of Wisconsin.


Plans to spend more time outside of Minnesota this summer changed. This sign is located at the entry point to our state near La Crosse, Wisconsin.


But then COVID-19 happened and all summer plans vanished. Poof. Just like that.


Along the interstate in Wisconsin in July, returning home to Minnesota.


Now, rather than discovering Wisconsin, we are simply traveling from Point A in Faribault some four hours to Point B in Madison. And once there, our activity is restricted to visiting with family. No touring museums. No dining out. No anything that will put us in contact with the general public.


I never tire of appreciating and photographing the beautiful farm sites in the valley east of La Crosse.


Except we still have that matter of needing to stop at interstate rest stops en route and back. The newly-constructed one in La Crosse gets a gold star rating for easy access and overall cleanliness. The eastbound one near Mauston…won’t ever stop there again.


One of my favorite barns looms on a hillside along the interstate near Madison.


A longer trip like this also requires one gas up. While Randy filled the van in Madison, I went inside to grab a bottle of lemonade, and then waited in a long line marked with social distancing circles. Most customers were complying and wearing masks. (This was prior to Madison, and now Wisconsin’s, mask mandate.) But then two unmasked young men walked in and stood right next to me. I gave them a look, looked intentionally down at the social distancing circle and then back at them. They got the message and stepped away. No words necessary.


A farm in Amish country in southeastern Minnesota.


It’s interesting how, in a global pandemic, even stopping to get gas or pee or to picnic raises concerns and takes thought. And care. Masking up, grabbing hand sanitizer, dodging people… I’ve never felt so anti-social.


Wisconsin offers plenty of places to pick up cheese as seen on this interstate sign.


East of La Crosse and in the Wisconsin Dells area are particularly stunning rock formations jutting from the landscape.


Anyone remember supper clubs? Every time I see this sign along the interstate, I think, “I want to dine there.”


All of that aside, wouldn’t you just love to hop in your vehicle now and drive away from it all? Drive to see loved ones. Drive to explore some interesting natural place you’ve never seen before. Dine out. Stop at cheesy attractions. And I mean that literally when it comes to Wisconsin. Or drive away into the future, when no COVID-19 exists.


Look at all the places these campers have traveled.


Westbound on the interstate, nearing La Crosse.


More campers…saw lots of those in July on the interstate in Wisconsin en route to and from Madison.


I expect some of you have gotten away. Still vacationing. Still traveling. If that fits your comfort level and you’re being careful, then good for you. Just be mindful of mandates and quarantines and everything you can do to protect yourself and others.


A lock and dam on the Mississippi River by La Crosse, on the river that separates Wisconsin from Minnesota.


Life goes on. Even in a lockdown. And as cranky as too many people seem over restrictions and shutdowns, I’m grateful for those requirements. Health and safety are more important than temporary inconveniences or sacrifices or whatever argument spewed. I don’t need to send more sympathy cards to friends who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. I’ve already mailed two.


Nearing Claremont, Minnesota, as the sun sets upon our return from Madison.


Maybe next summer will be my summer to explore Wisconsin…


TELL ME: What did you intend to do this summer before COVID-19 changed your plans? Or did you continue as planned? If you could go one place right now, where would that be? How are you coping with everything?

© Copyright 2020 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


14 Responses to “When COVID-19 alters summer plans”

  1. Ruth Says:

    At least you and I are socially distant to one another without any impact on our blogosphere friendship 😀

  2. Jillian Says:

    I had planned to drive up to Minnesota to visit with my dad. long drive across the U.S. but it has been a couple years since we have been together. Covid changed all of that. I miss my dad and step-mom and both are failing in health. In the midst of that my nephew passed away and my sister is struggling with the loss of him. I wasn’t able to go up for the funeral or to comfort her. None of us want to chance giving or receiving the virus but we all want to be together for comfort. it is difficult. We have been given a challenge that is for sure. Each morning brings a new chance for renewal and hope.

    • Dearest Jillian, first, I extend my sympathies to you at the loss of your nephew. That is difficult any time, but especially during COVID. That is one of my fears, that I will lose my mom or my father-in-law during this pandemic. While restrictions have loosened, many challenges remain. And I know you recognize that. I am so sorry for your loss and that you can’t be together to grieve and support one another.

      I’m also sorry you can’t visit your dad and step-mom. But you are making the right decision for their health and yours. Are you able to connect in other ways?

      Thanks for ending your comment with such a positive statement of each morning bringing a new chance for renewal and hope.

  3. JanBeek Says:

    Thanks for sharing those “stunning rock formations jutting from the landscape” and other lovely photos. Our plan was to visit out daughter in Switzerland this summer – and Bob had a fishing trip to Alaska with two buddies planned for September. Of course, all was cancelled. Our son and his family were going to come here. That was cancelled. We are praying 2021 can see a safe return to travel, family and neighborhood gatherings, and general health for our world.

    • I’m sorry, Jan, for all your travel plans canceled, and that of your son and family coming for a visit. I think those are the hardest, the missing out on seeing family.

      Your prayers are certainly valid and needed and I include versions of those in my daily prayers, too. Be well.

  4. Kathleen Cassen Mickelson Says:

    Hi Audrey, how lucky that you still got to go visit your kids in Madison. We’ve cancelled all travel plans this year, including a trip to Ireland that we were supposed to be on this week. I’m really grateful my kids live nearby. I’ve been missing road trips lately, though. Missing being up north by Lake Superior, where we spent time in a rented townhouse with all our kids last August. And I’ll miss the State Fair! But, like you, I’m glad for the mask mandates and any safety measures that can help stop the spread of COVID19. A little inconvenience is nothing compared to losing one’s life.

    • Kathleen, it’s good to hear from you. I’m sorry for your cancelled trips. Thankful your family lives nearby.

      We recognize there is some risk in going to Madison. Our son lives in a mega apartment building, which concerns me the most along with those restroom stops and getting gas. Thankfully Madison passed a mask mandate some time ago, before Wisconsin did, and before Minnesota. People there seem to, for the most part, abide by that (although my daughter told me the guys at the garage didn’t when she recently got her oil changed).

      I fully agree with your statement regarding wearing masks. It’s the least we can do along with social distancing, not attending gatherings, etc. Stay well, my friend.

  5. jhc1218 Says:

    COVID has certainly changed many of our plans including cancelled trips to Maui in the spring and Colorado in July. The kids summer camps were cancelled. The county and state fairs were cancelled. It was going to be a summer of concerts and those have all been cancelled or postponed. Katherine was signed up for some extra schooling help this summer, but that went strictly to online we opted out. While a family reunion goes ahead, we’ve decided to stay home. We are now weighing options for back to school. Our current options are hybrid (two days per week in the building) or full distance learning. We are leaning towards the latter.
    I wish we could get away from it all on the North Shore. Lake Superior soothes my soul. But we will hold off for now, as the North Shore is extra full of tourists this summer. In the meantime we stick to day trips to state and regional parks.
    While we are disappointed we are also thankful that we are able to make decisions for schooling, working from home, new hobbies (vegetable gardening), and our health.

    • Jocelyn, you definitely have a good perspective with appreciating that which you can do and your good health. But I’m sorry for all those missed trips, concerts, school, etc. I think we’re all grieving the loss of so much.

      Like you, we’re also not attending the family reunion.

      I am thankful I don’t have kids at home with all the challenges and decisions you as parents now face. But, if I had to make a decision on school, I would go for distance learning. The risk seems too great to make another choice. Izzy is not attending preschool this fall and I am so thankful.

      Stay well and much love to you and your family.

  6. Susan Ready Says:

    Yes life is definitely on pause with many adjustments. I would love to get in the car and drive somewhere where COVID does not exist. But where would that be?? Even up north there is no escape. Let’s hope 2021 looks brighter.

    • We went for a Sunday afternoon drive and picnicked on the front steps of an historic country church surrounded by a graveyard. It’s the first time I’ve had a picnic lunch in such a setting. Afterwards we walked around the graveyard. I was doing fine until…I encountered two garter snakes. That was the end of my exploring. A blog post will be forthcoming at some point. On drive-arounds like this, I feel like COVID doesn’t exist.

  7. Jackie Hemmer Says:

    We had no big plans other than the normal cabin trips! Less company this summer, just our good friends Ruth & Kerry and our family. We haven’t invited our “older” friends, as they are more at risk! We are still dining out, on patio’s only and continue to follow the social distance and masking as required.

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