• Leigh Gerstenberger

When Life Hands You Lemons…

Updated: Aug 11, 2021


(View from the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge, Taos, NM)


My wife and I had a unique experience recently. We had been planning to visit the Hawaiian Islands in early July. With travel outside of the United States a bit challenging these days we thought, “Why not visit the 50th state!” as it was a place we’d never been.


On our planned day of arrival, Hawaii was in the process of transitioning from the requirement of having a negative COVID test result to accepting proof of vaccination as the only requirement needed to enter the state. While we didn’t think we’d need to present the COVID test results since we had both been vaccinated, we got tested anyway prior to our departure from Pittsburgh.


After spending a few days in the San Francisco area visiting with family and doing some sightseeing, we were up early the morning of our flight to Honolulu. Prior to leaving for the airport, I checked my phone and noticed that our COVID test results were available. Opening the emails, I was pleased to see that my results were negative but couldn’t have been more surprised to see that my wife had tested positive!


After her assuring me that she felt fine and had no symptoms we spent some time deciding what we should do. It didn’t take long for us to determine that continuing our trip to Hawaii was out of the question. Even though there was the chance that we wouldn’t be required to share her COVID results, we didn’t want to find ourselves in a situation where we would not be able to document that we had both tested negative should we be required to do so. More importantly, in the event my wife did start to exhibit symptoms and needed medical treatment, we certainly didn’t want to be that far from home.


As a result, we cancelled our flight and our hotel. Southwest Airlines and Marriott Hotels couldn’t have been more understanding and gave us full refunds for our cancelled reservations.


Now our decision was what to do. After some discussion we decided to work our way back east and in doing so visit an area of the continental US to which we had never been. After a couple of hours of research, later that day we began working our way to New Mexico and ended up spending the next seven days “quarantining” in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Taos.


Known as the “Land of Enchantment”, New Mexico proved to be even more than that for us. For the first time in almost 45 years of marriage we awoke each morning with absolutely nothing on our agenda. We’d start the day surfing the web for the best breakfast spot near our location. Then we’d decide what museum, national park or shopping area we wanted to explore. We immersed ourselves in the history on the Native American Indians and developed a deep understanding and appreciation for their art, culture and religion. We were blessed with great weather and some incredible views while traveling the “High Road” from Santa Fe to Taos and beautiful sunsets each evening. We got our fill of southwestern cuisine and learned that the headwaters of the Rio Grande River are in Colorado and over thousands of years the river has made a huge canyon in the New Mexico terrain as it works its way to Texas.


Prior to returning to Pittsburgh, we got tested again for COVID-19 and were pleased to both receive negative results. While disappointed that we never made it to Hawaii, we’re grateful for what we believe was a “false positive”. Had this COVID curveball not come our way, we would have missed out on one of the most special weeks of our married lives.


We are grateful that when life handed us a “lemon” we were able to make “lemonade”.


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