Sniffin, Bill (2020)

Travel times can be nervous times in the time of COVID.

We were anxious about going to a wedding and then going farther, but what about the booster shot?

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that the Pfizer vaccine’s long-term protection against COVID was not quite as potent, over the long run, as the Moderna shot.

As recipients of the Pfizer vaccine back in January, both my wife Nancy and I were eligible for the booster shot.

We were headed to our grandson’s wedding in Grand Junction, and this seemed a good time to get the booster. We loaded up our old motorhome (nicknamed Follow My Nose) and headed south. Our ultimate destination on this trip was Las Vegas, where we store the coach during the winter months.

But before we left, we were concerned about COVID.

Three elderly Lander friends, all of whom were vaccinated, recently had gotten sick from COVID. Although none died or were even hospitalized, this got our attention. They reported severe headaches and the need to sleep for about five days. One friend says he is still very tired after two weeks.

A story in the New York Times reported on this:

“Roughly 221 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have been dispensed thus far in the United States, compared with about 150 million doses of Moderna’s vaccine. In a half-dozen studies published over the past few weeks, Moderna’s vaccine appeared to be more protective than the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the months after immunization.

“The latest such study, published on Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine, evaluated the real-world effectiveness of the vaccines at preventing symptomatic illness in about 5,000 health care workers in 25 states. The study found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine had an effectiveness of 88.8 percent, compared with Moderna’s 96.3 percent.”

Ryan Hedges, the CEO of the Lander Medical Clinic, set up procedures for those wishing to obtain the booster shot, and we were able to get ours before we left on the first leg of our trip to Grand Junction. We experienced no side effects at all.

Weather guru Don Day said that if we left on Sept. 23, the conditions should be perfect for driving a 13-foot-high rig across a stretch famous for brutal westerly winds. He was right. Outside of incredible construction between Baggs and Craig, Colorado, the trip was uneventful.

Aspen trees in Carbon County were just starting to turn. That excellent paved highway from Saratoga to Baggs features perhaps the best gold aspen viewing in the state. I have never seen so many aspen trees as on Battle Mountain.

The famous Aspen Alley is located in that area. Cowboy State Daily recently published the best photo ever taken of Aspen Alley by noted Cheyenne photographer Randy Wagner. It is a spectacular photo of a brilliant site.

The entire state is showing great color. The Wyoming Black Hills up by Newcastle and Sundance are amazing.

Mountain ranges from one end of Wyoming to the other are showing off this time of year. If you can, get out and drive the Big Horn, Wind River, Wyoming, Teton, Owl Creek, Sierra Madre and many other mountain ranges. The canyons are wonderful, too.

After Baggs, we drove down the Yampa River Valley in Colorado through Meeker and Rifle. Color was just coming out there, too.

As I write this, we are still feeling fine, and we got through the wedding ceremony, reception and various other gatherings in excellent shape.

From Grand Junction, we again checked with Don Day, and he said weather should cooperate. He was right until we reached that long stretch from Mesquite to Vegas. It was windy, but we managed.

We are spending a few days in Sin City before putting our rig in storage for a few months. We hope to go back in February for some time. More than $1 billion was wagered in Vegas in August, and while that total is below pre-pandemic levels, it still shows that business is coming back.

When it comes to COVID, Nevada is California Junior, with everybody ordered to wear masks just about everywhere. It was common to see folks wearing masks outside and even while driving. It was frankly a little shocking after enjoying Wyoming’s pretty much mask-free environment.

We are looking forward to our trip home, especially through some of our favorite towns, like Evanston, Kemmerer and Fort Bridger. I am pondering taking a route which would feature a stop at Flaming Gorge. The road from Fort Bridger to the Flaming Gorge dam is a scenic gem that few Wyoming people have traveled. If they do, they are in for a gorgeous trip.

Fall is my favorite time of year in Wyoming. In recent years, it stretched to the end of October before winter snows. We can only hope.

Bill Sniffin is a longtime journalist from Lander and publisher of Cowboy State Daily. Email: bsniffin@wyoming.com.

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