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Almost stranded in San Francisco

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Well, my first trip to San Francisco was short-lived because of the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down the city for 3 weeks as soon as I arrived.

Originally, I was supposed to be visiting my dad in California for a couple of days before we took our first guys’ trip to Las Vegas with some of his old friends and my uncle. But with the cancellations of all of the sports seasons, including the NCAA tournament, the group decided to reschedule until the virus slows down. This changed the agenda quite a bit. My mother rebooked my flight for a shorter time span because we were aware that where I was headed was one of the "hot zones" of the coronavirus and the city was starting to take precautions to ensure the safety of everyone there.

Although Las Vegas was out of the equation, I hadn’t seen my dad in a little over a month because of his new job, so I figured we’d turn a “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” trip to a father-son week of exploring the sights and scenery in San Francisco. My flight left Austin-Bergstrom International Airport at 6 a.m. on Monday and for the first time on a flight, I got to choose which seat I could sit in. Most of the front rows were empty, kids and families had on masks. It was nothing like I had ever seen before. I even had a full row to myself with plenty of legroom.

I arrived in the bay around 9 a.m. PST with my dad waiting to pick me up from the airport. We got in the car and drove to the hotel he was staying at. Unfortunately, adults still have to work when their sons come to town, so my dad went to work while I relaxed at the hotel after a long flight.

At 4 p.m., my phone rang and it was my dad. I’m assuming he’s calling to see if there is anything I wanted to see on my first day here. Well, I was halfway right.

He informed me that we would have to leave town by midnight. The City of San Francisco was implementing a 24-hour lockdown, meaning everyone in town could only leave their homes in order to get groceries or stop at convenience stores for any essentials they needed. No flights, in or out. I was in shock. I had just arrived and now we were going to have to find a way back to Texas in a short amount of time.

Speaking with my dad, Leroy Hartley, he was just amazed at how quickly things moved throughout the process.

“The day you got to San Francisco, everything was still kind of normal,” he told me. “We still had some normalcy. We can move around and do different things. It's amazing how in an 8-hour period, things can change so quickly. You got there at (nine) in the morning, and by 4:30 in the afternoon, we were hearing there was going to be a (shelter-in-place). And we would be locked in for 24 hours at a time, only being able to leave for food, medical emergencies and just necessities and that was a little bit scary. We had to make an adjustment quickly to get out of the area. So we would have a little bit more sense of normalcy.”

Before we even had a chance to realize how serious this got, my dad and I decided to go walk Pier 39. It was beautiful. The only thing was, almost everything was shut down. Food trucks, bars, the arcade and even our plan to take the boat to Alcatraz for a tour was ruined. So we just decided to walk and look at the sea lions — who sleep as if they live in a one-bedroom apartment with an 11-person family.

We grabbed some chicken from a local spot afterward and took a trip down to the main attraction of San Francisco: the Golden Gate Bridge. There we sat and enjoyed our meal, looking at the giant bridge that appears in so many movies. When I saw it, all I could think about was the scene from “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” when they completely halted the bridge up. It was awesome.

Sadly, that’s all we really had time to see as time got closer to midnight. We made the split decision to drive a couple of hours in a rental car, which we could drop off at Enterprise. We figured if we couldn’t enjoy Las Vegas, we’d at least drive through it. We arrived in Topock, Arizona, at 5 a.m. after an 8-hour drive full of father-son talk. We stayed for the night, planning to find a flight out. The next day we found cheap tickets back to Austin and we got lucky because San Francisco was on full lockdown.

Currently, with no sports going on and everyone social distancing, I am taking the time out to learn some new skills and find a new show to binge-watch. I might just rewatch the six seasons of the greatest show of all-time, “Prison Break.” On the other hand, my dad is having to work from home until it is safe for him to travel back to San Francisco.

The moral of the story is that this pandemic has affected the lives of many and my story is nothing compared to people who are out of jobs, have family members that have contracted the virus or families who don’t have the necessary income to not work for as long as this virus continues to spread. But with the experiences my dad and I went through, we learned just how serious this is. We were just blessed to get out of San Francisco before being stuck in a hotel for 3 weeks.

San Marcos Record

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