How I salvaged my birthday celebration during a Global Pandemic

True story, when Covid-19 hit hard in March I was laughing at all the Aries babies.  Just knowing they had to shut down their birthday party plans cracked me up.  Fast forward to July and just look at us… LOOK AT US! How do you ‘turn up’ during the hottest months of the year at home? <insert crying Michael Jordan meme>. I seriously had no idea what I would be able to do or if my friends would be comfortable doing “it” with me given the current circumstances.  I thought about brunch on my deck, but you know… Coronavirus.  Then I thought about brunch at a restaurant, but you know… Coronavirus.  To keep it safe, I figured it would be best to just not do a thing with anyone else outside of my family.

So now that I knew who I was rolling with, my husband and our son, it was time to figure out where we were rolling to.  A quick Expedia search let me know that international traveling was still ‘a thing’ and is cheaper than ever if you want to risk it – and I’ll be honest, we almost did.  Uh-uh, don’t judge me… LOL.  It was hard passing up a 5 day stay in a premium suite, all inclusive resort hotel in Jamaica with roundtrip airfare included for 3 passengers for only $1500! See, now you’re rethinking your travel plans too!

Since traveling internationally would be too risky I instead started to research some national landmarks that were within driving distance and decided to visit Niagara Falls, D.C and Central Park. We kicked off this week-long road trip by spending the weekend in Niagara Falls.  Now, being born and raised in New York… you know… REAL New York, visiting Niagara Falls was never on our bucket lists. In fact, we consider any part of New York outside of the city (all five boroughs and parts of Westchester County) to be Canada.  It doesn’t matter if you live in Buffalo, Rochester, Albany, etc.  If you’re not from the city, you’re from Canada.  Ask a New Yorker.

The drive to Niagara falls from Maryland took about 7.5 hours.  We drove through western Maryland which is absolutely beautiful by the way, then through the mountains of Pennsylvania and over to western New York into Buffalo.  We booked our hotel on the U.S. side and once we arrived at our hotel we hit the ground running and immediately headed out to cross Rainbow Bridge (the bridge that connects the U.S. to Canada) but you guessed it… Coronavirus. Unfortunately only essential personnel were allowed to cross so we were left stuck at the gate with no way to enter – whomp, whomp. From there we visited Niagara Falls park which to my surprise places you extremely close to the edge of the falls. If you’re afraid of heights, then this may not be a good look for you.

G and I attempting to cross Rainbow Bridge into Canada
Team Gross ready to kick off our Niagara Falls adventure

Our last day in Niagara falls happened to be my birthday, so to celebrate we purchased tickets for the Maid of the Mist boat tour.  Alright, I’ve been dying to tell you all about this experience so here goes. This boat tour is not truthful with its name…. LOL. There was no ‘misting’ involved except for what you may feel while waiting in line.  Riding on this boat gave me horrible flashbacks of the opening to Gilligan’s Island. It rocked, it shook, people screamed (with excitement I assume) and then….. the downpour! I mean buckets and buckets of water splashed all over the boat and on ME! Yes, we were all wearing upside down blue hefty trash bags but we might as well have worn nothing. I swear I quickly tucked my lil ponytail in my plastic hood, threw on my shades and secured my mask for dear life.  I was looking like the Unabomber in all my gear… LOL. Where’s the lie?

Next up, Washington, D.C.  So this is sort of a freebie for me because technically I already live about 15 minutes away from our nation’s capital so traveling here is effortless however, there is still so much I don’t know about the city so exploring its history is still on my to do list. And what better way to explore than to do it on a bike? 

With four bikes strapped to our SUV (we brought along our nephew as well) we set out to cruise the city in 90+ degree weather.  I swear this idea sounded a lot better when we planned it a week before when it was 75 degrees. Because of the current global pandemic, tourism is currently down which made it extremely easy to find parking.  We parked adjacent to the Monument and began our journey from there. Now, the fun begins. 

Picture it, my grown butt on a pink and purple bike with a super narrow seat peddling my heart out around the monument, the white house, Black Lives Matters plaza, the MLK memorial and more.  Read this part slowly, my rear end is not a perfect match for my narrow bicycle seat. When I tell you I ached….. I tell you NO LIE!  We rode for nearly 9 miles, dodged a flock of angry geese, ducked under the limbs of low hanging trees one of which nearly claimed my ponytail, and I narrowly lived to tell this story…. Whew! It was definitely an experience to remember but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy it. Luckily, I had 3 days to rest my … yea.. before we closed out my birthday week with another trip to New York. 

Me after riding all the way up to the base of the Monument.
Black Lives Matter street mural

Our final stop on my birthday week tour landed us in Central Park. My husband is a big Law & Order fan and has seen corners of Central Park on the show countless times.  It’s been a big deal for him to see it up close and personal so we figured this would be the perfect time to check it out.  I say we because as a native New Yorker that was born and raised in the great borough of The Bronx just 17 miles away from the park, I’ve never been there either. Just wasn’t something we desired to do growing up I guess. 

Gassed up yet again, we hit the road for our 4 hour trip where we made our first stop in The Bronx – of course.  There’s no way I’m coming to the city without seeing my family! After a few greetings, jokes and dropping off our son we jumped back in our SUV to our intended destination. Nope, not catching the train this time, because you know…. Coronavirus. Unlike D.C, tourism has picked back up in New York and we were unable to find parking on the street so we paid a ridiculous amount to park in a garage.  Small price to pay to be able to travel in the city without riding the subway riddled with viruses I suppose.  As we walked towards the park I quickly realized that this is not going to be an easy leisurely stroll through the park.  For starters, it’s 96 degrees and the humidity was awful.  Next, half of the city was already in the park, skating, bike riding, skateboarding, tanning, picnicking, celebrating, dog walking and who knows what else.  Social distancing did not exist in the park this afternoon but luckily it is large enough for us to keep our distance from others. We walked a bit until my husband spotted the sponsored bikes by Citi Bank and had the nerve to ask me if I wanted to ride around the park.  Ride? Me? On another bike? Sir! Not a chance…LOL! Not knowing where to go, we grabbed a map from a nearby information booth and began our walk through the park.  We visited a few iconic points of interests such as, Sheep Meadow, the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain, the Reservoir, and the Bow Bridge where someone set up a beautiful memorial for the late Naya Rivera. I must say, the park is absolutely beautiful. It really is, and it holds so much rich history that I wished we had more time to explore it all. Sadly, it was still very hot and we were tired of dodging people coughing or simply not wearing a face mask so we decided to head back to our SUV to begin our journey home. 

Melting in the sun in front of the Bethesda Fountain

My 39th trip around the sun couldn’t have been better or spent with better people.  Although the Coronavirus is still running rampage throughout the world, I was glad I was still able to enjoy my special day by doing things and exploring places I normally would not have.

Has your birthday plans been interrupted because of the spread of the Coronavirus? Did you celebrate in a different way this year? Let me know below.  Don’t forget to subscribe and follow me on social media @WithLove_Meek for more candid conversations and daily lifestyle updates.

With Love, Meek