Since retiring from full-time employment in 2013, I’ve enjoyed many road trips with my husband. We’ve particularly loved exploring old highways, including Route 66, plus other U.S. Routes such as 6, 20, 50, 80, and the entire Old Lincoln Highway (from San Francisco to New York City).
Like most, we were sidelined for a few years due to the pandemic, and were anxious to get back on the road. My husband’s college reunion in Annapolis, MD, over Labor Day weekend 2022, presented us a golden opportunity. In the past, I’ve found a specific route (like U.S. 50) that will take us where we want to go (or at least a large chunk of the journey) and then look for guidebook(s) that assist with logistics plus interesting history and adventures along the way. Why reinvent the wheel if someone else has done the legwork?
This road trip developed differently. We decided to visit people back East along the way to Annapolis and back. The route became more “Destination driven” and morphed into a bigger trip as the list of visits grew. Part of it was the pent-up desire after COVID to actually visit with others in person again.
I initially envisioned flying in and out of Atlanta (our first eastward stop), renting a car, and then driving a big loop connecting the stops. But my husband insisted we drive the entire way in our own car, starting and ending at our home in the Los Angeles area. That immediately added about 20 extra days to the journey (we try to avoid driving more than 200 miles a day).
The other new approach we tried on this trip, to avoid the Interstates, was to enter our next “destination” into Google, with settings on “Avoid Highways” and go wherever it took us. Since I wouldn’t have the benefit of guidebooks to find interesting places to see along all the roads we’d be on, I downloaded an app called Roadside America, which allows you to input your route and find sights along the way.
So how did it go? Initially fairly well. We avoided the Interstates, drove through beautiful back country, incredible to this California girl as we entered the Deep South, and Roadside America gave us some amusing things to see along the way. But the trouble started as we arrived at our first major Destination in the Atlanta area. After 10 straight days of driving, my husband’s neck and back were hurting him, to the point where he couldn’t turn his head. Which is a problem since he’s our driver, which put me in charge of looking for traffic at intersections.
After a delightful (other than the sore neck) five-night stay in Atlanta with family, we stopped for a two-night visit with friends in South Carolina, and then proceeded to Annapolis for another four nights. Hubby’s neck was still bothering him, although not enough to keep him from rowing with his former crew teammates in an impressive display of muscle memory. He vowed to go to Urgent Care if his neck was still bothering him that Monday, but decided he was good to go for a 2-night visit with my brother and his family in the Philadelphia area.
We left Philadelphia for New York, and that’s when the proverbial wheels came off the bus (or SUV in our case). Our plans were to stop for lunch at some friends’ in Nyack, NY, and then head to Poughkeepsie, NY, for the night to see our grandniece who recently began her freshman year at Vassar. After that, we would drive to Ithaca, NY, for a weekend with our son.
But, as we pulled into the Costco gasoline line outside Nyack, my husband suddenly announced he felt terrible and asked me to administer a COVID test. I pulled one of the (12) test kits I brought with me from my bag and he swabbed his nose in the gas line. After I dropped the solution into the test, the line indicating a POSITIVE result appeared almost instantly (I joked later that it was flashing neon as alarms sounded). Certain I was also doomed, given my close contact for the previous 3-1/2 weeks, I nevertheless donned a face mask on the off chance that might save me.
Fifteen minutes later, we showed up at our friends’ house for lunch. My brain was reeling trying to reconfigure all our plans, in light of this giant monkey wrench that just fell into the cogs of our itinerary. Our Nyack friends later said they were surprised to find me alone at the door wearing a facemask and looking fairly disoriented. I explained my husband had COVID, was resting in the car, and I wasn’t sure what to do.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of Trial by Road Trip.