"Weirdest Honeymoon Ever": Couple Returns From Rafting Trip To A Changed World

Apr 3, 2020

Laramie residents Shealyn and Austin Woody left for a five-day rafting trip on San Juan river in Utah on March 13. They had just eloped and wanted to celebrate that along with some birthdays while relaxing on the water.

March 13 was an important turning point in the U.S. response to COVID-19. That's when the federal government declared a national emergency and Wyoming began to see tighter restrictions. In the five days the Woody's were gone and without cellphone service, Governor Mark Gordon recommended all schools close, created coronavirus taskforces, and ordered the closure of public spaces.

As they returned to Laramie newlyweds, it was already changed.

Shealyn Woody: It was me and my sister's birthday. We like to go on a rafting trip for our birthday each year. We were going to the San Juan [river] and everybody that we invited bailed except for… there was four of us. We launched on the 13th. And we were on the water until the 17th of March.

Austin Woody: Friday the 13th.

SW: Friday The 13th.

Cooper McKim: That's kind of interesting timing. So you guys got married on this trip... was that expected, planned?

"They were really just trying to encourage people to not come to Moab. So that was where it really sunk in that things had changed while we were on the water."

SW: We had decided to elope, but in Wyoming we needed to get legally married. My sister wanted to marry us, but it had to be in Wyoming. So, one of the anesthesiologists that I work with at Premier [Bone and Joint Centers]… shout out to Lance Proctor… he came over on short notice that Thursday morning, and he married us in our living room, and then that afternoon we left for the river.

CM: So, when all of this was happening, I guess when did you first start hearing about the COVID concerns?

SW: Kind of before we left for the river. We had heard about it going on, but it had been more of like in a joking manner like: have you heard with the cure for coronavirus is? It's Lyme disease. Things like that, but it hadn't really become a legitimate concern at that point. We were still able to get a hotel room in Moab on our way down to the river and there really wasn't anything major going on.

CM: When did you guys realize that things were not as they were when you left?

AW: We were listening to the radio once we took off the river quite a bit in realizing how much more dire it had become. But when we got to Moab, Utah, they're really trying to shut town down there. The only place we could find to eat that was open was Denny's and they were closing that night at 10 pm. And they had an order that nobody is allowed to check into hotels, just being as remote a town as that is and all the spring break rush I think they're really just trying to encourage people to not come to Moab. So that was kind of the… where it really sunk in that things had changed while we were on the water.

CM: Did you did that make you nervous?

SW: Yeah. I mean, just seeing like the signs coming into Moab like lodging restrictions and then go into stores and seeing the signs on all the doors that they were closing at a certain time and there was just inavailability of everything kinda.

AW: Certainly, when we got to Moab there's kind of a sense that we were supposed to be home and we needed to high-tail it and get home and not use any other towns' resources... try to get our own our own hometown.

CM: In that sense, are you glad you guys took the trip and got some fun in before you couldn't?

AW: Of course, I wish we could have stayed on it a lot longer now. Three weeks would have been great.

SW: Yeah. We've just been at home. Weirdest honeymoon ever get locked down.

"I wish we could have stayed on [the San Juan] a lot longer now. Three weeks would have been great." "Yeah, We've just been at home. Weirdest honeymoon ever."

CM: Yeah, I imagine you guys were not expecting this.

SW: No. We're kind of expecting to go back to work. When we got home and just have somebody be like, Oh, you know, how was your trip? Did you get anything good for your birthday? I got this husband over here. So that was nice.

CM: I know that you guys didn't have a big honeymoon plan, but I imagine it's kind of a bummer not to be able to hang out with a ton of people right now.

SW: Yeah, it's kind of weird coming off the water and being married and then not seeing any of our friends or anything. 'Cause usually we're pretty social people generally, and we would have normally seen a lot more people and to not see hardly anybody has been strange. And the wedding on the river was really fun. My sister married us on the river. So, that was cool. We got two weddings out of this whole deal.

Have a question about this story? Contact the reporter, Cooper McKim, at cmckim5@uwyo.edu.