Safer in Serena

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Imagine my shock when, on the day the COVID-19 stay-at-home order was partially lifted in Colorado, I received a call from my health care provider saying that my surgery was still on for the following week. What?! We’re still social distancing and wearing face masks, and they’re going to anesthetize me and operate? And to top it off, I had to be in Denver, two hours from home, at 6:30 a.m.

“Maybe we should stay overnight?” Manny suggested.

“I’m not staying in a hotel or an Airbnb,” I said. “Who knows how well-sanitized they are!”

Then, I learned that the lifting of the stay-at-home order included Colorado state parks. Fortunately, Chatfield State Park is beautiful and only 16 minutes from the hospital. Since this virus has prevented any trips in our beloved LTV Serenity, Serena, we decided to make it a two-day stay so we could at least have the semblance of a camping vacation. I had my pick of sites, and for $38 a night we would have a couple days of wide-open spaces. And, we would be much safer in Serena.

Three days before my scheduled surgery, I got a call that the state parks would be closed until further notice. Our reservations were automatically cancelled.

“It doesn’t matter,” Manny said. “Instead of having a two-day camping trip, let’s find a parking lot close to the hospital and use our comfy Serena as a hotel. We will be much safer in Serena.”

We left home the day before my procedure with plenty of time to scope out the local commercial lot possibilities, park for the night, have a nice dinner, and retire early.

One of the wonderful things about a Leisure Travel Van is that once inside, you really don’t know if you are in a park or a parking lot. And there were many empty lots – shopping center after shopping center had plenty of spots.

We decided to stay in a friendly Walmart parking lot – always good in a pinch, and there were two in town. Except these two Walmarts weren’t so friendly and didn’t allow overnight parking. I’ve learned that when that is the case it is sometimes a county ordinance and not a store policy, so I called the local police department. The hospital is in Douglas County and unfortunately, Douglas County does not allow overnight parking on any commercial lots without permission.

I checked the map. The hospital is fairly close to Jefferson County; perhaps their regulations would be less stringent. I really wasn’t overly concerned though, as we always have an ace up our sleeve – or maybe I should say an angel in the wings – as we’ve stayed in numerous church parking lots in both Canada and the United States and have never been bothered or questioned by anyone. Not once. And since it wasn’t a Saturday night (the eve of Sunday services), a church lot could be a viable option for us.

We decided to at least see where the hospital was located, so that at 6:00 in the morning we wouldn’t have the additional stress of finding it. When we arrived at the UC Health Center in Highlands Park, we were greeted by a huge, empty, and most importantly, level parking lot. Would they let us stay? Manny gloved and masked up and went inside to seek permission. When the security guard looked outside and saw our clean, small, good-looking Serenity, he smiled and gave Manny a thumbs up.

I set the table with the lovely Middle Eastern meal I had planned: homemade tabbouleh nestled in romaine leaves, hummus, yogurt dip, olives, feta cheese, crackers, and a glass of red wine, all items that require no heating. Although we have a relatively quiet generator, it does make a bit of noise. We have learned that when you are free camping – sometimes referred to as “boondocking” – it is best to keep a low profile.

How much more convenient could this be?! Shower at 6:00 a.m. and at 6:30 a.m. stroll over to the entrance to the hospital, only 50 yards way. Thank goodness for our little LTV Serenity. We were much closer — and safer — in Serena.


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