Every once in awhile, a friend will raise the question, “How are you taking a cross-country trip with your family in the midst of COVID-19?” Moreover, “Washington? Oregon? Really?”
I get it.
For many, the idea of traveling during the ultimate age of uncertainty is mortifying. ‘Rona is scary enough when you are at home. Adding the variables of travel could make virtually anyone feel like Monk in the great outdoors.
Admittedly, being a road warrior during the pandemic requires a bit more planning. You learn to view each rest stop as a recon mission into the battlefield. You put on safety gear for simple missions like pumping gas.
For perspective – it’s important to realize that every decision we make in life is about managing reasonable risks in relation to the values we hold. We get in a car every day to go to work so that we can take care of ourselves or our families. But, each mile in the car increases the likelihood that we could be in a life-ending car accident. We get on airplanes to see the world, even though tin cans shouldn’t fly. We go to the beach for respite from the stresses of life, despite sharks. We eat food from restaurants even though we can’t see them making our meals (and we’ve all read those stories). We trust complete strangers to drive us places in cars. We go to rallies or protests in the midst of COVID-19, because the lives of black people matter.
Every day, we make decisions about reasonable risk in relation to our values. Some decisions these days seem more acute because it is in our cultural consciousness.
Our family decided a half-decade ago that we wanted to visit every state of the US with our children by the time our oldest went to college. That goal wasn’t about a number. It represented a desire to spend time together as a family; to see things as a family; to collect memories as a family. It represented a desire to expose our kids to people and places outside of their own, personable bubbles.
One day, when we finish the 50 states, we may expand those travels to the country while our oldest is in college. Who knows?
At the end of the day, I understand people who want to stay securely at home in these scary times. I also understand people who feel a need to continue semi-reasonable daily lives, knowing full-well the risks.
And so, as I write this, our Texas family finds ourselves sitting along the Oregon coast enjoying 60-degree weather and listening to waves, as our friends and family face the inferno of Texas in June and July.
Here are the things we’re doing to stay safe on the road
QT Fast-food Baggies
This isn’t what you might assume. We learned long ago that those little plastic baggies people use to get a hotdog at the convenience store serve other purposes. In particular, when I am out of disposable gloves, they become a convenient glove for pumping gas that I can then dispose of.
Children Don’t Open Doors or Drink Cases
Our children have already learned that they are to look, not touch. For the majority of the trip, we already required water – simply because the children don’t guzzle as much and it results in fewer bathroom stops. But, on the final stop about 2 hours from our destination, we allow a special drink. They tell us what they would like, and we use some sort of hand protection when we open the cases.
Wipe Those Drinks Before Using
We have also developed the habit of disinfecting drink bottles before handing them to our children. We keep a steady supply of wipes available and take a moment before passing them back to get the plastic clean.
It likely wouldn’t surprise you how few people around the country are wearing masks. We have found throughout Utah, Nevada and Oregon that we are often the unicorns. Still, we have our masks ready and put them on before we venture into any rest stop or restaurant.
Some states like Oregon have already taken measures to limit how many people are using public restrooms. For example, the state campground we are in as I write does not allow use of the showers. That is certainly an inconvenience. But, we came prepared with full-body wash cloths that contain enough soap for a dry bath.
And, when that doesn’t quite hit the right level of creature comfort, we use the camper shower. It isn’t much. But, we turn on the water heater (which we normally don’t use), pull the cloth around the small shower area, and take turns feeling that wonderful warm water.
Full disclosure, however. We don’t swear off showers altogether. There was one fantastic campground on our route that had the cleanest showers we have every experienced. Plus, they had rain head shower fixtures! What?!
Still, in public showers, we always wear our flip flops.
Limit Use of Public Drinking Fountains
These water filters are amazing.
We drink a lot of water while camping, so we usually have a couple of jugs of water with us when we travel. It’s cheaper than bottled water. And, each member of our family has an insulated travel bottle that they use on the road.
Using some of the water fountains or spigots to fill those bottles can seem a little sketchy. So, we purchased these dandy water filters for our campsite faucets and use them as often as we’re able.
We Avoid Large Crowds
This one should go without saying. But, we avoid large crowds. Our friends know we’re not huge fans of places like Disney or Six Flags anyway. So, this is an easy one to manage.
Being in your small family unit in the middle of the woods adds a certain level of ease to social distancing. So, if you haven’t yet become a camping family, maybe now is the perfect opportunity.
Thanks for reading.