Here are some thoughts about the current state of the world after driving halfway across the country with my wife and three kids:
Covid is also an opportunity. While not a luxurious trip, the act of taking it was a luxury for us, since the newsletter can be written from anywhere and my wife’s work enables her to work remotely, too. I’ve never spent three weeks anywhere but my house in one sitting, so this trip was unlike any our family has ever taken.
I realize we are extremely fortunate to both have jobs at a time when so many Americans are looking for work.
It’s hard to decide to travel. Despite an occasional piercing guilt about traveling during the pandemic, the time away from our house was much-needed. We’d all been cooped up together for months, and it’s been a real challenge figuring out what to do with these kids to keep them active and engaged. It’s always hot and often stormy in DC, but the pandemic has limited access to pools, and the camps to which we’d normally send our kids were either canceled or pared back. Plus, they hadn’t seen their West Coast grandparents in 10 months.
So, we poured the money we would have put into camps and childcare into a rental house, packed up our laptops to do work during the day, and set off to the lake to meet the grandparents in the sort-of middle part of the country.
This decision to see the grandparents was also difficult. Would we be putting them in danger? Would they be putting us in danger?
Going to the bathroom takes on new meaning. Normally, you’d pull over and go wherever you stopped for gas. But these days, the dingy service station restroom makes you much more nervous. We spent much more time than we normally would thinking about bathroom breaks.
Indoor destinations are in trouble. We were unable to go inside the Hayes museum. Same with a lighthouse, which was closed. While there is a lot to do at the lake outdoors, it drove home the point that many indoor places aren’t currently available and probably won’t be for some time.
There needs to be more testing. We wanted to get Covid-19 tests before leaving. But we waited too long. I looked into going to a CVS, a doctor’s office and the city. But most required a referral for a test within days, and I had waited too long to schedule a pre-travel screening. Speaking to people who have been tested, it often takes more than a week to receive results. So, they’re not all that useful when it comes to clearing yourself to do something. It seems like a huge area for improvement until we have a vaccine.
Hotels are not empty. We had planned to stop one night in South Bend, Indiana, but were booted from a hotel where we had a reservation because the room had been given away. We found another hotel, and that one was mostly full too. I was really surprised.
People wore masks indoors. This is not a scientific statement, but rather what I saw in Wisconsin, at rest stops and during single-night hotel stays in South Bend, Indiana, in early July and Pittsburgh in early August.
Many people weren’t wearing masks on the street. Stores and gas stations mostly required mask-wearing on my trip, but most people walking on the street in public areas were not. I’ve spent a fair amount of time paying attention to the Covid news and honestly, I’m not entirely clear whether you’re always supposed to wear a mask in an open-air setting when you’re six feet away from other people. But I can say that, for me, you feel much sillier wearing a mask when people around you are not.
Some restaurants and businesses are doing better than others at face masks and distance. We went out to eat. This felt almost naughty, but we sat outside and ate dinner several times. I felt much better in places where every server wore a mask, where only outdoor tables were in use and everyone was distanced. A lot of stores had hand sanitizer at the door. Most kept a limit on the number of people who could be inside.
Trump supporters still really love Trump. This is a non-scientific tally. But in a rural vacation town in Wisconsin, this normally city-going journalist noticed a clear advantage to Trump in yard signage. Although our street had a Biden sign, it was offset by a large “Trump 2020 No More Bullshit” flag a person was flying from their dock. At one gas station, they were selling Trump 2020 car magnets, and I could not find Biden ones. Wisconsin is a clear prize in 2020