Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Traveling Across the United States During the Covid-19 Pandemic

  



January 2020



Two Months Prior to the Pandemic

Driving My Daughter to Walt Disney World


This year my daughter was awarded an internship at Walt Disney World in Florida.  
She started her internship in January of 2020.  
Since she wanted to have a car while she was in Florida I offered to help her drive out there.  


We live in the Las Vegas area, so this was a trip of 2,400 miles. 
 I thought it would be fun to take our time and see the sights.  
    We chose the southern route so the we could visit family.  
We stopped in Wickenburg, AZ for lunch with my parents.  


We spent the night in Benson, AZ with my son and his kids.  
We even got to celebrate my grandson's 7th birthday with him.  


Then we stopped at The Thing Museum outside of Benson, AZ.  



This is where my daughter got the fun idea to collect key chains from everywhere that we went.  You can see our entire collection at the end of this blog.




We spent the night in Alamogordo, NM where we tried some Hatch green chili burgers.  
We woke up early and saw the sunrise in the White Sands National Park. 

 Then we drove through the mountains to get to 
Carlsbad Caverns,NM.  



    That was just the beginning!  
In Texas we stopped at Chip and Joanna Gaine's Magnolia Farms for some cupcakes and a few souvenirs. 


 As we drove through Texas we tried some Texas BBQ on our way to New Orleans.  


Since it was the off season we got to stay at a four star hotel right on Bourbon Street. 


 I really have to say that this was the highlight of our trip!  We ate at a couple of the restaurants, listened to Jazz, and ate beignets!  The best part were the amazing beds that we slept in.
    The next day it was on to Orlando.  We made it there in record time.  We chose to stay at a Universal Orlando hotel where we bought season passes since we both would certainly be coming back.  We spent a day riding all the Harry Potter rides as many times as we could, mixed in with a few of the other Universal rides.


We drove to the coast to see the Atlantic Ocean and then off to do the NASA tour. 


I even got to meet an astronaut!  



The last day we ate at the world's largest McDonald's before she drove me to the airport.  


This was a perfect vacation to start the new year and to 
bond with my daughter. 

February 2020


   During the next month or so I would get texts and snapchats from my daughter.  Every waking moment, that she wasn't working at Epcot, she spent at either Disney World or at Universal Orlando. 




March 2020

The Beginning of the Pandemic


At the same time that I was enjoying the fun reports from my daughter the News was reporting about a new virus that was devastating China called COVID-19.  My friend's from Australia serving in a Japanese Mission were posting news of being quarantined and of toilet paper shortages. 


 That's when I started to worry.  
 I was worried about what was inevitably headed towards the United States.  
Las Vegas is a world wide tourist destination.  
So is Walt Disney World.  

I began stocking up on some essentials such as toilet paper, canned meat, Lysol, etc.  As I was shopping I started to notice that the generic toilet paper was being cleared out, along with the big bags of rice. I remember wondering why rice and not flour or sugar? Was this the work or our local Asian friends who were seeing the news of their distant relatives?



    The week before COVID really hit the US I went down to visit my parents in Wickenburg, AZ.  



I took my mom grocery shopping and made her get toilet paper, plus a couple weeks worth of supplies.  She thought that I was nuts, but indulged me.  She kept insisting that her small town was very far removed from a virus that was in China.While we were shopping in Phoenix we met family at the Cracker Barrel Restaurant.  I posted this picture on Facebook with the caption "Our last family get together before we all die from the Coronavirus."  I remarked that the accidental squares around our heads was our defense against the Coronavirus. 




    At that same time that I was in Arizona we sent our daughter to the store to stock up on supplies in the event that Disney World employees would be exposed to the virus.  At the time we were thinking a two week quarantine and then back to business as usual.  We sent her a list of essentials to buy just in case she was exposed to the virus at WDW.  After a little convincing, she did what we asked.

    A few days later my daughter got word that WDW was going on a two week quarantine, but that she would be going back to work.  The next day, Saturday, she was told that WDW was letting go of all the college interns.  My daughter's last day would be Sunday, then she had to be vacated by Wednesday.  Wow, that was devastating news!  My daughter was by herself on the other side of the country.  Somehow we had to get her home, and I was the only one who could go and get her!  I was really nervous to drive her home across the United States in a pandemic.  

March 14

Retrieving My Daughter From Orlando, Florida


    I bought a ticket to fly to Orlando within two hours.  My husband drove me to an empty Las Vegas Airport.  I have never seen it so empty, especially on a Saturday afternoon.   I boarded a plane where every person got their own row.  




The atmosphere was eerily quiet.  
Everyone was cautiously friendly.  
It was such a contrast from my last flight to Orlando.
    When my flight arrived at the Orlando Airport there were no signs of other flights.
The airport corridors were empty.  
In this normally packed airport we were the only people walking through an barren airport.  
The feeling continued as we waited at the luggage carousels.  
My daughter waited for me, parked on the curb, just outside of baggage claim.  
There were hardly any other cars, and no one asked her to move, on a Saturday night!



March 15, 2020


Walt Disney World's Last Day Before Shut Down

My Daughter's Last Day of Work


    The next day, Sunday, was the last day WDW was open, and my daughter had to work that evening to help close the park.  Since she had several tickets that would go to waste we decided to get in one last WDW day. 


We got up early and hit the park.  First on the agenda was the Pandora ride at Animal Kingdom.  



 We rode a few other rides.





Then we headed to Magic Kingdom.




We were riding Space Mountain when my daughter got word that they were allowing the interns into Disney Hollywood. Disney Hollywood had been closed to the interns the entire time because of the new Star Wars Land.



We ran over Disney Hollywood to ride the Star Wars rides, but I couldn't get in because I was on a guest pass. 



I headed alone to Epcot to hang out.  
At the time they were have the Garden Festival.  




I walked around enjoying the topiaries and the fun booths, while riding a few of the rides. 




The day was beautiful and the people were so friendly. 
My daughter met me at Epcot before she left for work.  
We got in a couple more rides at EPCOT before her final shift of work.


I was going to head back to the hotel to rest up before our long drive back to Las Vegas the next day.  Everything was so peaceful and beautiful that I decided to explore EPCOT.  I didn't really know if I would ever go back, so why not see what it had to offer. 


My journey took on a melancholy mood as I came across employees and interns around the park hugging and saying goodbye.  I have to admit that I choked up as I realized the gravity of the situation that was occuring in our world.  How long would it be before we could all meet together?  How bad would this virus be?  Is it really as bad as we are being told?  Will we lose friends and loved ones?
    As I made my way around the park I ran into my daughter as she was working.



I spied on her as I grabbed some pizza from a nearby restaurant that I was told had just barely opened.



As I was eating my pizza I could hear a band in the distance playing and thought that they sounded really good.
I headed toward the music and sat and listened.  
I was one of maybe 30 people listening.  
As I watched I noticed that the signs all said, "The Guess Who."  
Was it really the original band?  



After they were done playing I found my daughter and she informed me that all the bands that play during the Garden Festival were original bands.  Who knew?  I have always loved The Guess Who and they hold a special place in my heart because I had given my teenage son one of their classic hits albums.  We would listen to them on our drives to Disneyland. Who knew that I would be sitting 10 years later listening to the actual band the last night before Epcot would be closed indefinitely.




Luckily the band had one more performance before the the park closed.  After doing a little shopping for souvenirs, I headed back to listen to the last act of the Guess Who.  It turns out that they stayed a few extra days to fill in for another band that wouldn't travel during these COVID times.  I sat there with the other 30 people.  The band was amazing!  They performed like they were playing in front of a sold out crowd!  I loved it!  My own private performance!  
I would love to go back and see them perform there again.



    I stayed to see the final fireworks.  It was easy to get a great view.  As we left the employees lined the exit waving their goodbyes.  Again tears welled up in my eyes as I thought of the uncertainty of our world's situation.



    My daughter didn't get off work until midnight.  I headed to Walmart to stock up on a few things for our ride home.  Most everyone in this area of Orlando seemed fairly calm, but you could see a few signs of panic shopping.  



Organizing Our Supplies



    In my mind I was thinking that we weren't sure what the drive home was going to be like so we had better be organized.  I found 5 clear buckets to separate our supplies into categories.  I had a snack bucket, paper goods bucket, food supply bucket, medical bucket and a bucket for cleaning supplies.  The buckets helped us to have easy access to what we needed as we traveled.  

As I was headed back to Epcot my husband called panicked.  He had me pull over to talk to me.  He had gotten word that the country was going to be shut down in the morning.  He's was worried that we would be quarantined in Florida.  I was too!  Luckily I had been shopping and felt like I was prepared for whatever we were about to face.  Wow!  Now what?

    In the morning we waited for the President to announce whether we were going to be locked down.  Since no announcement had been made, we thought we better hang out until we knew for sure.  My daughter checked out of her apartment and was given a mouse ears graduation cap for her service.  



I divide up our supplies and left the bedding in an area that could be easily accessible. That way if we had to sleep in the car, we could find what we needed without a hassle.  We also kept a small backpack for each of use to grab if we needed to go somewhere in a hurry.  We wanted to be prepared for anything!

  We headed back to the hotel to wait for some sort of announcement.  If we were going to be on lock down we wanted to be somewhere that we were familiar with.  As time neared check out, I panicked and got the hotel for an extra day.  I felt like they couldn't kick us out if we went on lock down, but they probably wouldn't let us check back in if we left.

    We went to a nearby restaurant for lunch, thinking that it might be the last time in a while that we would be able to sit down and eat.  As it turns out it was our last sit down meal at a restaurant for the next two months! 

Then back to the hotel for a nap while waiting to hear.  Finally the announcement was made.  The country was not going on lockdown, but we would be quarantined by state.  What does this mean?  Would we be able to find hotels? Or gas?  What were the rules in each of the states that we were going through?  So many questions.

March 16

Our Journey Across the U.S.


    Even though we had our hotel for another night, we decided it was best to get on the road.  We drove to Pensacola, Florida that night.  All through the hotel there were signs posted that in the event of a lockdown the hotel would be shut down and all guests would be referred to the WHO organization.  Well that didn't make us very excited!



Protecting Ourselves Against COVID-19


   As we travelled we had a plan to limit our chances of getting the virus.  We carried a can of Lysol, baby wipes, vitamin D and hydrogen peroxide.  We washed our hand when we got back to the car.  Sometimes we would even spray down with Lysol.  We each took several vitamin D a day.  At night and in the morning we would gargle with hydrogen peroxide.  I'm not sure if we were ever exposed, but at least it felt like we did everything that we could to prevent becoming infected.


Changing Course


 We got up early on Tuesday and hit the road.  We made it to New Orleans where we felt we should stop for gas, food and to go potty.  We found a McDonalds, tried to go in but it was locked.  Luckily there was a Walmart across the street where I could go potty while my daughter got gas.  While I was there I picked up some extra supplies.  

    We had made the decision earlier to take the I-10 on the southern route to Arizona, even though it was longer.  My parents and my son lived along that route. but both had asked that we not stop by since we had had so much exposure to groups of people.  While waiting at the Walmart I looked at Google Maps again, and decided that we should save a couple of hours by heading north to the I-40.  
Who knew that would be a horrible decision!

    We got in the car and headed toward Dallas.  Immediately it started raining.  That should have been a sign to turn around, but we kept on going.  The rain lightened up and we made it to Arlington, TX where we stopped at Blaze Pizza for some food. 




I love their keto pizza, so it was perfect.  When we  walked in all the tables and chairs had been stacked up, but we could still walk through and order.  Thank heaven for that!  They even allowed us to use their restroom.  Yea!



    Back on the road we thought if we took turns driving maybe we could make it to Vegas.  


The Apocalypse


Then about an hour later, when we got to Vernon, Texas. 
The rain was coming down so hard that we could barely drive 30 mph.  
Our car was hydroplaning!  
Things were beginning to feel apocalyptic!  


Our location was in the middle of the dark red blob on the above weather map!
We looked at Priceline and found a hotel at the next exit.  
What a blessing!  
    When we woke up the next morning the rain had cleared and everything felt fresh and new.  
It was a new day and we would be home late that night.  



Once on the road we found out that there wasn't another major hotel for about a hundred miles .  
We were so lucky to stop when we did.  
Not only that, but the storm that we had been in was so bad that there were tornados in some places!  

As we were driving we were getting texts from my son who lives in Salt Lake City.  
They had just experienced an earthquake!  



 On the above meme Moroni is the angel you see at the top of The Church of Jesus Christ's temples.  He is normally holding a trumpet up to his mouth to usher in a new millenium.  Because of the earthquake in Salt Lake City, the horn that Moroni is holding fell off, so it makes him look like he's checking his watch. 

Ok, this definitely must be the apocalypse!

    

New Mexico and Arizona


The next stop for us was Gallup, 
New Mexico for gas.  



Yes, I said Gallup, NM. 
 It's the same location that was later shut down due to the overwhelming number of Coronavirus cases!  Luckily I don't think that we had had much exposure since we only got gas and used the bathroom.



We had to get a picture in Tucumcari!  
We drove through Tucson in January on our way to Orlando, so it's true that we literally had been from 
Tucson to Tucumcari!!



 Detouring to See Such Fine Sights



Then we had to stop in Joseph City to see where our ancestors had lived and to take a few pictures.  



The next town, Winslow, had a corner that we couldn't pass up! 
 Being Eagles fans we definitely had to get our picture there.  




Since we were hungry we might as well eat a burger and a shake also!



An Unwelcoming Spring


    Now it's time for some serious driving.  
It would be late by the time we get to Vegas, 
but at least we could sleep in our own beds. 

NOT! 

That's when it started snowing!
  



Not just a little snow, but like a major snow storm with trucks backed up on the interstate and not moving type of snow storm!  



Since it didn't look like we were going to get very far, and it was starting to get dark, we looked at Priceline and luckily there was a hotel at the next exit.  




We were completely unprepared for snow!  
Maneuvering the best we could in flip flops we grabbed our things and got into the hotel as fast as we could! 
When we got into our room we were able to finish off that Blaze Pizza that we had bought the previous day.  
Luckily we had put the leftovers in the cooler so that gave us something easy to eat for dinner.  
It was so nice to get out of the snow and rest up for our last day of driving. We only had a few hours of driving left, so tomorrow morning we will be back home! 

Yea!

Since our bodies were still on Florida time, 
we woke up at 4 am and headed out.  



After uncovering our car from under the 6 inches of fresh snow, thanks to a very helpful stranger, we headed towards our home on the first day of spring.


About ten minutes down the road we hit a traffic stall.  
Nothing was moving.  
We were in between a line of huge trucks, all delivering much needed supplies to the western united States.  



We sat there for over an hour with no sign of any change.  
We managed to maneuver around several trucks to make it to a median where we could barely see some old tracks of a car that had previously used the turn around.  
We headed back to the hotel to asses our situation and figure out our best options.

A Hundred Miles From Now


  As we sat in our hotel, we were getting antsy and just wanted to get home.  
We decided to go south to get out of the snow.  
We drove down to Prescott and then back up to the I-40.  
This added at least an extra hundred miles to our trip! 



It felt so good to be out of the snow! 
We stopped for a quick bite to eat in Chino Valley.  
By this time we almost forgot that our country was in the COVID-19 quarantine. 
Luckily Sonic is designed for COVID! 



Waking Up In Vegas


We finally made it home!
Las Vegas never looked so good!



Such a strange trip in such a strange time.  
Arriving home felt sooooo good!  
When we were in New Orleans and changed our course for driving from the southern route to the northern route we added two days to our trip instead of saving two hours!  
Who knew that we would hit such crazy weather?



Now that we've made it home and have quarantined for weeks on end we can look back and see how lucky we were to be able to find hotels when we needed them. 
We could also find food, gasoline and bathrooms along the way. 
When we left on our journey home we were so worried about not getting home because of a lockdown, or getting COVID-19.  
We are so grateful that we made it home safe and that our loved ones are safe!


Reflections of Our Travels


It was kind of fun, but terrifying at the same time.

 Every day that we started on the road we began by listening to the Harry Styles' album "Fine Line" followed by listening to "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire". 

I will look back and remember spending time and bonding with my daughter in a turbulent time and trying to make the most of our situation.  
The problems we anticipated were not the problems we encountered.  
The towns that we stopped in on our way home ended up being some of the worst hot spots for the COVID-19 and we weren't exposed!  
For this I am extremely grateful.

Eventually the panic did hit Wickenburg, AZ.  
The shelves were cleared out, and my parents were so grateful that they had stocked up on supplies.  
My mom keeps telling me that I saved her.  
I know that I didn't but it is nice to know that they had everything that they needed while I was off on my crazy road trip.

Since I had stocked up on supplies before I left for 
Florida, and then both my daughter and I had bought supplies for our driving home adventure, we ended up with a lot of supplies.  I was able to take all of these extra supplies and make four large boxes full of items for homeless families during the quarantine.  It made me feel useful to help families that are in need.

During our quarantine we did a lot of art projects.  One of our projects was to put together a shadow box of all the key chains that we collected on our trip to and from Orlando.  We missed a few states because we didn't stop in them, but we found a lot of fun keychains.  We will always have this shadow box to remember the good and the bad of 2020!



I'm so thankful for this experience.  
It made the beginning of our long and boring quarantine very exciting!
I feel so bad for those people who are suffering from COVID-19, and especially for those who have lost loved ones.  
I pray every day that we will be able to find a cure or vaccine for this horrific pandemic.

I also pray for those families who are suffering from the effects of the the shut down.  
I hope that we can all work together in building this incredible country back to normal.