I’ve written plenty of times in this blog about the fact that we as a family are taking a very cautious approach to COVID. Just a few weeks ago, I wrote about my own anxieties around the fact that more parts of society are starting to open up and more and more people are pushing for life to get back to normal.

It’s so hard to know how to best navigate this moment. We’re all feeling cooped after…(checks blog headline)…97 days of being in some version of quarantine. We’ve done a few little things here and there, like a picnic in the mountains, or maybe a short hike, but in general have continued to play it pretty conservatively.

This is an issue I’m sure every family and individual is grappling with. How cautious is too cautious? Where’s the line between living your life and being reckless with a pandemic on the loose. As a very science-driven guy, who also is naturally risk averse, I struggle with the fact that the basic conditions of the virus haven’t really changed much. It’s still out there, still extremely contagious, and we still don’t have a reliable treatment, cure or vaccine.

On the other hand, while there is a lot we still don’t know about the virus, we do at least have a better understanding of safety measures, we do know that masks make a difference and know a little more about how it spreads. Like I’m finally starting to cool it with all the intense disinfecting of everything coming into the house since it’s pretty well established that surfaces aren’t the big issue.

Still, being out in public myself, much less with the whole family, has seemed intimidating. That’s in part because it does create opportunity for the disease to spread, and it’s also because we can only control our own behavior. We do know that masks make a big difference, but only if everyone is wearing them. And with each passing week, I feel like I see the number of people wearing masks decreasing.

That is the backdrop of the debate going on in my head. While the risk averse part of me avoids taking steps out, I also realize that locking the whole family up for a year isn’t super realistic either. Erin and I have been talking about it and trying to find ways to take steps that are progressive, but safe.

We planned some camping trips for later this summer, which is one thing. But in the shorter term, we started thinking about taking a different step. What if we try taking a day trip and (gasp) eating at a restaurant.

Not just any restaurant, mind you. I’m not comfortable stepping out of my ironclad comfort zone to eat at TGI Friday’s. But Erin and I have always loved a place called Mountain Standard in Vail, and she suggested  considering going up there for a Father’s Day weekend lunch.

My first reaction was to be nervous about the idea. But we talked and I gave it more thought and did some research. We checked the restaurant’s website and talked to them, and found that they are carefully spacing tables, requiring masks, and enforcing distancing. It’s a great restaurant with an amazing staff, so we thought this might indeed be a good place to start.

So we made a reservation for Saturday lunch. Frankly, the fact that I was able to get a reservation with just a few days notice made me think that probably there still aren’t all that many people hanging out up there. I was nervous, but I thought OK, it’ll be good for us to take a drive to the mountains and get out of the neighborhood for a while.

The kids were excited, and I was even able to put aside my fears and was excited, too. We got in the car and drove up. It is such a beautiful drive, and in normal times we probably go up that way at least every couple of months, but it had been quite a long time. It felt restorative to just see those peaks again. While of course I couldn’t take photos while driving, I did at least grab this snap at a rest stop on the way.

The traffic gods were forgiving and we got up there in pretty good time. When we got to the parking lot, though, my earlier theory of things possibly being pretty quiet in Vail was burst. The lot was packed. OK, we’ll take it a step at a time.

We parked, put our masks on and walked out into the town. There were lots of people in the streets. Very few were wearing masks. The old anxiety started to rise a little.

Actually, the very common phenomenon we saw was people wearing masks around their necks instead of on their faces. Sort of like carrying a leash while walking your dog, but not actually attaching the leash to the dog.

Now look, I know it’s outside and that does limit transmission rates, but still. We were able to keep our distance and walk safely to the restaurant. On the way, we passed a few places where we saw diners packed in pretty close and we started to get more nervous. If we got to Mountain Standard and saw something like that, we agreed, we would abort the mission.

Thankfully, when we got there, we discovered that the good people at Mountain Standard were indeed doing things right. There were people inside, but spaced out very well, and staff and folks in common areas were wearing masks. We were shown to a table very nicely off on its own in a corner, right next to big open door to the outside. We had lots of space and air flow to ourselves.

My anxiety dropped, and we felt good about choosing this place for this latest baby step. I felt even better when my Bloody Mary and beer back arrived.

We had an excellent lunch and really enjoyed ourselves. It was great being there, and a fun family afternoon. I also have to give huge kudos to the kids for being such great mask wearers. They both handle that whole oddity very well.

After a lunch in which I ate entirely too much (sorry diet, I’ll try again later) we walked around. Once again, we had to take active steps to avoid groups of non-maskers, but we were indeed able to to do that and enjoy a beautiful afternoon in the mountains.


One small step, accomplished. It was scary and not without challenges, but we’re glad we did it. A little change of scenery helps, and we’re thankful we live in a place where we can visit somewhere like this. We got back in the car, busted out the hand sanitizer and headed home.

It’s still scary out there, and we’re still be extremely careful. I frankly would feel better about stepping out in general if more people were serious about mask wearing, but the situation is what it is right now, so we will have to continue to do our best to choose the safest scenarios. One small step at a time.