COVID Road Trip

It was finally time to move my daughter back to college in Ohio, which meant a family road trip during COVID-19 times. Considering we hadn’t really been more than 15 miles from the house for the past 6 months, going on a 2,000 mile roundtrip drive across 5 states during a global pandemic was a slightly daunting.

We left last Thursday evening, right after my wife and I finished up with work and we got the car packed, to get a head start on the drive. We packed a small cooler with drinks and snacks so we could limit stops to just filling up the gas tank and bathroom breaks at rest areas, hopefully avoiding most crowds. We didn’t have a set distance to go, just as far as we felt like driving, although my wife had to participate in some Microsoft Teams meetings as we went. Traffic was good and I ended up going further than expexted, stopping in Warner Robins, GA about 11:00pm.

Friday morning we checked out of the hotel and after a quick side trip to Starbucks for breakfast (only pre-packages pastries at the hotel) we were back on I-75 by 9:00am, letting my daughter take a driving shift. She got us through Atlanta (where there’s always traffic) around 10:45am and crossing into Tennessee just after noon. My wife had more Teams meetings (I had taken the day off), so I drove next, through the Cumberland Gap around 2:30pm and then crossing into Kentucky just before 3:00pm and then crossing the river into Cincinnati, OH at 6:00pm. We went slightly out of our way up I-75 to Mason to grab take-out pizza from Marion’s for dinner in the car and (conveniently!) right next door was a liquor store so I also snagged some Great Lakes Brewery six-packs to take a little Ohio back home with me. Pushing on, we drove through Hamilton (insert Broadway musical references here) and finally pulled into our hotel in Oxford around 8:00pm. It was 53 degrees out … nice fall weather compared to the 80s we still have in Florida. After getting our bags into the hotel we drove over to get ice cream from Graeter’s, another one of our Ohio favorites.

On Saturday morning my daughter had a 9:00am slot for her dorm room. In a brisk 40 degrees we first stopped at the Oxford Donut Shoppe for breakfast and then drove to campus to start moving her in. It only took two runs to the storage unit (technically three, to put back all the empty boxes) to get all of her stuff moved into her room. Her roommate had already moved in two weeks previously with the first wave, so around 2:00pm my wife and left my daughter to finish unpacking and do some socializing while we made a Wal-Mart run for supplies. For a late lunch (3:00pm) we put in a mobile order at Bagel & Deli (another must visit) and ate back at the hotel. After eating we walked across the street to Ace Hardware to pick up some more things we couldn’t find at Wal-Mart and then took everything back to the residence hall. As a family, we walked around campus for a bit taking in the fall colors (something else we miss in Florida). Leaving my daughter to do more unpacking, we drove to check out Hueston Woods before sunset (and saw deer!). Back at the hotel I replaced a burned out license plate bulb on the car while my wife coordinated with my daughter for dinner plans. We picked up her and her boyfriend, ordered take-out from Phan Shin, and had a socially-distanced meal outside on campus. We returned the kids to the dorm and drove back to the hote where, unfortunately, I suffered an allergic reaction … I think there was some peanut sauce cross-contamination in my meal. I took some Benadryl and managed to sleep through the worst of it though, whew.

Sunday morning we got up around 8:30am, checked out of the hotel, then picked up my daughter to drive her across campus for her check-in COVID-19 test. While she was getting that done we popped over to Starbucks to grab breakfast, then went back to drive her back to her dorm where we said our goodbyes for the semester. By 9:30am we were on the road. The GPS estimated we’d be home by 10:30pm, so even accounting for stops and traffic making that later, we decided to go all the way instead of stopping somewhere Sunday night. We were back in Tennessee by 1:00pm, and then going through Atlanta (traffic again!) at 5:00pm. We stopped in Adele to gas up and grab dinner (Wendy’s) and eventually crossed the border into Florida just after 9:00pm. A few hours later, just after 12:30am Monday morning, we were pulling back into our driveway … 2,038 miles total.

So it wasn’t the most “fun” road trip, but it was nice to actually get out of our 15 mile radius for a bit and see how some of the rest of the country is faring during the coronavirus pandemic. Most people we saw were wearing masks and socially distancing and we also used the new overlay in Google Maps to figure out what counties were safe to stop in (“safe” being relative, of course) And unlike past family road trips where we’d take our time, stop to see some roadside quirks, or have a nice meal, we mostly stayed in the car and avoided contact with other people when we could. It’s hard to believe it’s been six months! Hopefully we can all get back to some sort of normality soon. Stay safe!

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