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Sky’s 2020 and traveling for work during the pandemic

2020 turned the world upside down for most people, but Sky (@sky_blu_it) traveled though it, albeit with some government restrictions and creativity that let him continue to ride in whatever place his work led him. 

I feel real lucky having traveled to 24 locations in 2019 between the United States and overseas. Work sometimes turns into holidays and the last few months were spent in an amazing way in Slovenia, Croatia, Amsterdam and Spain. I am an Engineering Rep for a company that manufactures cranes and rescue davits for marine vessels based out of Portland, Oregon. Which means wherever those vessels are in the world with our equipment, I get to go to inspect or oversee a project on them. This also means my travel is in a coastal city somewhere in the world and for the most part located in a place that would be more of holiday destination of the sort, not always but for the most part.

2020 rolls around…pretty normal at first, we hear on the news about a virus, don’t think much at first, not really even exercise caution since it’ll never affect us, right?

Then the news is getting closer to home, my wife and I had a weekend trip to Nashville to see her favorite band, Archers of Loaf back in March. We started to see some sanitizer pop up here and there, but no masks were being worn at the time, no 6-foot rule in place, life was still kind of normal, barely.

The next week I had to fly to Virginia Beach for a weeklong project with a coworker. I remember sitting in the car with him on our way to work and listening to NPR. The subject was getting more and more frightening. We actually sped the project up a little to get home quicker because the way it was sounding at the time, we weren’t sure if the world was going to be shut down, all flights included. We pack up and fly home to Portland in an almost hasty fashion as we reevaluate our future travel scenarios…that was the last time things were normal.

I did not travel on an airplane for two months after that, and like most, I started to wonder if I would have a job since my job is 75% travel. Luckily, since we have many military contracts, I fell under the essential worker category somehow.

My first trip out was strange, eerie, and filled with extreme caution by all. Sanitizer to the max, everyone had a mask on in the airports and thankfully, that remains in place to this day. You could look down any terminal of the airport and not see a single person walking down it, even in big hubs like Atlanta. Delta blocked out their middle seats, giving travelers a slightly less sense of anxiety.

With these restrictions and precautions in place, I was relieved knowing that I was walking into a much more sterile environment than I would be in at the local grocery store or gas station.

Slowly travel started to pick up for me and my job schedule was starting to be normalized. Very soon after in late June I got an assignment to one of my favorite countries, Japan!

I love Japan in so many ways, the country and its people are beautiful and I always smile as soon as I step off the airplane.

This trip was a little different though. There is a little thing called a quarantine that was starting to pop up with travel. In the beginning, quarantine for us just meant that you had to remain in the vicinity of the final destination for two weeks after you provided a negative COVID test result.

I was very excited about this trip, in my head all I had to do was limit contact with people for two weeks and ride my bike! It was perfect. I was excited to tour around the Tokyo area on my bike and just safely observe the country on wheels, but the rules changed while I was in the air.

As soon as I landed I was herded into a quarantine room, then another, then got tested for Covid, then back to a quarantine room while I waited for my results. My results came back negative, what a relief!

After about 6 hours of that, I then went to customs. Oh boy, that was something else. I was held in customs for another 6 hours, battled back and forth with customs agents about the validity of my essential paperwork, this felt more like an interrogation and in the end was told I was not allowed in the country, even though I carried all the paperwork required for my essential entry. After a very long night, I escorted to my departing gate that was not scheduled to fly out until the next day. I accepted my fate and was too tired to care anymore and just wanted to be home at that point. I slept in the darkest corner I could find in the terminal and waited, and waited, and wait…here comes someone from my customs fiasco. Turns out I was allowed in the country and the customs officers from the night before were just going by what they thought was protocol by not allowing any foreigner’s in the country. I think in total that was a 12 to 16 hour ordeal before I stepped foot on Japanese soil. Yay! I am in! But wait, I have to quarantine in my hotel room for 14 days. Oooh nooo, that wasn’t a part of the deal, but it is now.

I was so exhausted and crushed at that moment. I got to my hotel, stared at my Transfer Case with all my crushed dreams inside. This was a mental struggle for me and took me a couple days to figure out how to find sanity. I have never been a Zwifter and never wanted to, but now I needed it more than ever. I spent days trying to navigate Japanese websites to try and figure out how to purchase a trainer so I could set up on my balcony, breathe some fresh air and Zwift my life away while looking out at all the free people enjoying themselves below in a bustling harbor that was filled with shops, restaurants, roller coasters and a huge brightly lit ferris wheel tucked in between the bay and its skyscrapers. Luckily, my room had that amazing balcony overlooking Yokohama Bay, which was a bigger savior than I could ever have imagined when I booked the room.

After 14 days of Zwift, yoga, HIIT exercises, tons of reading and watching everything I have ever been interested in on Netflix later, I was free….to go to work, but they only get 8 hours of me a day. I hit up my friend Taka who I had met while riding around Yokohama my trip a year before and he made that 14 day waiting period worth it, by giving me an amazing tour of his local area by bike.

Japan was by far the most extreme travel experience I have had, but it’s now just kind of the norm. For those who haven’t traveled lately, I honestly believe that it is safer to fly now than going to your local grocery store. The planes are so empty and everything is sanitized so well, you won’t have anti-maskers comingling with the crowd and in your space and if you’re traveling across country or internationally, you’re more likely to have your very own row to stretch out and lay down in since the flights are so empty.

I recently had an assignment in Bahrain. My bike showed up unscathed yet again in the Transfer Case. I have never slept so well on any flight, the whole way there I had ample space to pick a row and crash out. I cannot sleep sitting up, it doesn’t matter if I get a domestic first class upgrade, it’s still just a chair to me. Selfishly I love the emptiness of traveling these days, but I would trade that extra comfort in a heartbeat for us all to be healthy and free to roam.

I love that I am able to take my bike with me anywhere in the world and thanks to being able to have that simple possession with me, brings me lasting friendships and memories that can’t ever be wiped away.

I can’t wait for the freedom to be restored to all, so we can continue making new friends around the world.

- Sky (@sky_blu_it

The water and rain-resistant Handlebar Bag protecting against a heavy Japan monsoon!