The pandemic has driven us all indoors. It’s good practice for the summer.

In my book, summer starts with the season’s first 100-degree day. That was Sunday before last in Casa Grande. Summer ends around the time kids break out their Halloween costumes.

It’s a long, hot lockdown. You won’t see people out mingling and enjoying the great outdoors on a July afternoon. Rational people shelter in place. Sure, there are always a few who think it’s a good time to hike the Superstitions. They give the sheriff’s posse something to do.

Summer lockdowns differ from a coronavirus lockdown in a number of ways. A summer lockdown, strictly speaking, is voluntary. With a coronavirus lockdown, you can’t get a haircut, dine out or go to a movie or your favorite bar.

If bars opened up this summer, I wouldn’t go anyway. Been there, done that.

Few things are more jolting than walking out of a darkened tavern into the searing light of an Arizona afternoon. You could say the same about coming out of a movie theater, though at least you’re sober.

Overall, I’d have to say, the pandemic has been a real downer. People have lost jobs en masse. Businesses have suffered. And nothing gnaws at a person like money woes.

But here’s the silver lining. The pandemic has drawn people outdoors. People seeking to escape all that Zoom and TV binging. And at least this virus showed up when it was still nice out. March and early April.

Dogs and kids probably think it’s great.

I usually take my own dog, Maggie, out for a morning walk.

On a recent drive to Encanto Park in north central Phoenix, I made my way up a well-appointed neighborhood street. Every block, it seemed, had somebody walking a dog. When I got to the park, more people were out with more dogs.

Moms and dads were on bicycles, riding alongside their kids. It was a weekday, ordinarily a school day. Parents new to homeschooling must have arranged for an extra long recess.

But summer’s closing in. Playtime in the park won’t be such a treat. Kids will want to head to the city pools. Parents will want to head to the gym. Everybody will want something akin to life as it used to be.

A life in which the pools and gyms are open.

A life in which people are back at work. Doing things I didn’t miss until now, like waltzing into a local Verizon store to get help activating a new phone. I called instead and ended up arguing with a computer. Best not to think about it now. I’d rather talk about my walk in the park. Much more pleasant in these trying times.

Encanto Park, like Dave White Regional Park, has a water feature. An assortment of foot bridges cross a meandering lagoon. You can rent paddleboats. You power them with your feet, like a tricycle.

I remember manning an Encanto paddleboat as a kid, probably with my mother. She was up for that sort of thing. It must have been when the family passed through Phoenix. I was born here, but didn’t stay past the age of 2. The family went wherever my Air Force father was needed. We didn’t return for good until I was in the eighth grade.

I was a teen by then, probably too old for paddleboats. But we would stop in Phoenix between transfers. My mother’s aunt and uncle lived here. They raised her from a tot. We stayed with them when in town. We’d go to Encanto Park and I’d command a paddleboat. For a 6-year-old it, it was adventure on the high seas of a lagoon.

My mother probably steered us clear of bridges. In later years, I teamed up with my daughter on a paddleboat. She kept me from crashing into bridges.

The paddleboats weren’t out this day. The park rents them on weekends, so the ducks and geese had the lagoon all to themselves. I paused to watch a mother duck with her two little ones. They looked like windup toys, though without a sense of direction.

I think I bothered the mother duck. She began a leisurely swim to the other side of the lagoon. One baby duck followed. I wondered what happened to the other one. I wasn’t too worried. The lagoon isn’t filled with alligators. Still … where was baby duck No. 2?

Then I saw it, speeding toward its mother like a little powerboat.

Comic relief.

Maggie and I continued our walk. A nice break from a lockdown.


Reach contributing writer Bill Coates at