We had hoped that, by now, it might have been safe to get back to some semblance of normal life, normal summer. Surely we said, back in April, by July and with the heat, Covid-19 will be on the wane and we can have our vacations after all.
But, of course, it was too iffy and uncertain and everything was buttoned up besides. We couldn’t make reservations, didn’t know which states would be opened, closed, opened but requiring outsiders to quarantine, it was a right royal mess.
Even so, after months of being cooped up with our loved ones — home-schooling, isolating, zooming and meeting in Teams — there is a pent-up demand all across the country for families to get outside with their kids for a change of scene, recreation, some fresh air and family time, but different from the family time we have endured since early spring.
Enter the road trip.
According to AAA, while travel is down overall, over 94% of travel this summer will be the old-fashioned road trip. As a nation we have just about had it, we are eager to get out and see something new, but we plan to drive there to do it.
We will take to the open road, most of us in cars, but a lot more than usual in RVs, with sales for the behemoths on the upswing since the start of the pandemic. Many of us are antsy, sad, suffering from worry and fatigue . And we want to get away.
And so we are. Many of us are planning trips at the last minute, closer to home and with real consideration for safety. Suddenly a driving trip to the Lake of the Ozarks is as attractive — no, more attractive — than a tour of the British Isles. Because we can be in control of it, we can have our families with us, and if we rent a condo we can cook every meal.
My old high school chum and her family did just that to celebrate a retirement and to get away. She sent photos of water skiing and tubing, and was inordinately proud of the fact that she did not step foot inside one single shop or grocery or restaurant the entire time.
I ran across a website called Travel Pulse, highlighting 50 scenic road trips, just in time for the July holidays. It is only one — there are lots more. As I scroll through the articles, I can just see it, and in my imagination, every such trip features a 1950s Woody station wagon and kids’ heads bobbing through open car windows.
I remember such trips. Leaving in the early morning dark, a well-stocked cooler in the footwell of the back seat with the shortest kid crossing his legs atop it. We argued about that a lot, took turns sitting there because after about 30 miles it felt like your legs had locked into place and you would never walk again.
We ate at roadside overlooks, sandwiches and soft drinks and bags of chips. Sometimes there were cookies. I liked car games but my siblings did not, so I spent great spans of time looking out the window and sulking.
I was so hopeful when states began opening up, but now there are new spikes in certain places and it feels scary all over again. Yet, a pal has convinced me we could do a road trip, head to a safer, more outdoorsy destination, and it would be good for us.
It will be good for me, I know, because I have almost developed a thing about leaving town for anything but the most essential travel. And there isn’t much of that. She, too, has traveled with her family recently and swears by the restorative benefits of it. They wore their masks in public, ate out rarely, kept to the plan, and just relaxed into each other as families do.
She and I will both get tested before we spend hours together in the car, just in case. We have mapped a route and discussed protocols for bathroom breaks and pit stops, have researched the safety measures of our destination hotel. I double-checked with my health care professionals about risks.
We will pack a cooler. A 1950s-type cooler, although probably less bologna and more chicken salad. We will head for open spaces. I’m a little scared, but I’m going.