Tag Archives: Road tripping during Covid

Covid Impressions from our Road Trip

19 Oct

On the Porch

Onisha Ellis

September 24th my husband and I set off on a three-week road trip. Due to my husband’s health challenges we chose to do a fairly short trip in miles,  over an extended time period.

 I will be writing about the places in we visited in future blogs. Today is just about Covid and it’s effects on travel. 

We began our trip in Western North Carolina and our first overnight was in neighboring Alabama. According to news reports Alabama had a low vaccination rate and high Covid numbers. Our small town was enduring a rise in Covid numbers and although not mandatory many were wearing masks when out in the community. To my surprise only a handful of the Alabamians that we saw seemed to feel masks were needed. We chose to take our meals in local restaurants when possible, and they seemed to have adequate and cheerful staff.

After Alabama we moved on to northern Mississippi, very close to Memphis, Tennessee. Once again, low mask use but unlike Alabama, finding restaurants that were staffed well was a challenge. One evening we tried two national chain restaurants. One had an hour wait due to lack of staff, the other wasn’t allowed to seat diners unless the hostess cleared all of the tables first. No one was busing tables. Kind of gross actually. We said no thanks and moved on. Another restaurant was drive through only. After three tries we found a local restaurant that was open, staffed, clean and the smoked beef brisket was delicious. Most disturbing, in the chain restaurants, I sensed a feeling of dark heaviness.

We traveled further west to Arkansas. We like to stop at McDonalds on road trips as they usually have clean restrooms but several of them were drive through only, although their bathrooms were open.( Travel tip-chainstore pharmacies tend to have adequate restrooms as well)   Once we arrived at our VRBO in Arkansas we set out to explore the town. We found an excellent BBQ restaurant where one orders at the counter and the food is brought to your table in disposable  containers. When finished, the diner throws containers, cups etc into the garbage. The food was good and the atmosphere was cheerful. Masks were worn but not in great numbers. We drove through a high tourist area and there were a lot of people exploring historic sites and checking out shops.

Our next destination was in north central Arkansas. When we arrived at our rented time-share the road was blocked due to the communitie’s October Fest. We spent a week exploring the area and except for one crafter, no one seemed concerned about Covid. Shops and restaurants were open. Staffing was not optimal but it was adequate.

The first legs of our road trip were fairly short due to my husband being the driver and tiring easily. A week into the journey our daughter and a friend flew into Arkansas to share our trip. Fortunately our daughter was able to help my husband with the driving as we traveled to Franklin, Tennessee to tour an historic home from the Civil War era.

Masks were not required. After leaving the historic home we had planned to indulge in Krispy Kreme( Husband’s vice) doughnuts and coffee. Sadly the indoor seating was closed and a limited variety was available in the drive through. We made the best of it by finding a shady place to park and enjoy our treat. Then it was on to Kentucky, our final leg of the trip.

During our McDonald’s stops we found it interesting that most that allowed inside dining had disabled the self ordering kiosks to prevent the spread of Covid. Imagine our surprise when a McDonald’s in Kentucky asked customers to use the kiosks to prevent spread. We visited The Ark Encounter and The Creation Museum and masks were worn by around 25% of the people. The Ark philosophy was for guests to respect individual decisions.  We found restaurants open and staffed.

Now that I have talked about masks and restaurants, I want to mention hotels. Consistently the hotels appeared to be understaffed with the front desk clerk working on folding towels and managing the breakfast room. I’m not sure how they didn’t lose their minds. More than once we saw housekeeping trying to clean rooms with a small child in tow. 

If you are pondering a road trip, I would encourage you to do it. Life has to go on. Take the precautions that will make you feel secure and safe. We wiped down our rooms with alcohol  wipes and used hand sanitizer obsessively.

Take your spirit of adventure. Some places will delight but others may be different, but isn’t different part of the adventure?  We usually opt for free outdoor activities over crowded  indoor ones. That made it easier to manage our expectations.  Find joy in being with people you love. Build memories to savor.

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