1/ Proverbs, observations, advice, and theses from a family road trip during the COVID-19 pandemic:
2/ Consider a rest area or travel plaza for restroom stops because they are spacious. Wear a mask. On the one extreme, some people use the toilet with a bucket or the side of the road. On the other extreme, others wear no mask in the gas station restroom.
3/ Use hand sanitizer after touching the gas nozzle and key pad.
4/ Consider getting cans and bottles of coffee and other drinks from the grocery store and putting them in your cooler so you don't need to stop for caffeine.
5/ When staying at a hotel, call to make sure they are not full or housing first responders or covid patients. Ideally, you don't want to take the elevator. Ideally, you don't want to stay in a room someone else stayed in the night before. Wipe things down.
6/ If you are camping, you will likely need to wait in line to use the restroom because it may be only one person at a time. Consider bringing bucket with garbage bag and toilet paper just in case. Plan to brush teeth and wash up outside.
7/ *Do* visit old friends outdoors! Old friends remind you of who you are and what's important.
8/ Do not meet with people outside your household indoors. You can meet people at a park or lake or backyard. You can take a walk. You can social distance with croquet, badminton, bean bag corn hole, horse shoes, fish, frisbee golf, swimming, paddle board, and kayak.
9/ If you meet in someone's backyard, the guests will invariably need to go inside to use the nearest bathroom. Clean it beforehand. Only the guest family should use it. They should wear masks. Clean it after they leave.
10/ Do not plan to share food with people. Each family should bring their own food and then eat outside across from each other. If you try to share and have people serve themselves buffet-style or with family-style-passing around a table, you will pass germs.
11/ If you do share food with people, there should be two tables / coolers: one for one family and one for the other. You do not want people serving themselves from the same serving dishes or grabbing drinks from the same cooler. Two separate tables.
12/ People will want to provide food or drinks or dessert if you are visiting them. Guests may bring something to drink. These are great social instincts but sadly the answer in a pandemic is: "No, we'll bring our own food and drinks." It feels wrong.
13/ Sadly, don't hug. No group photos. (We did try a couple selfies with one family way crouching in front of the other other one standing a ways behind).
14/ If you were planning on an outdoor gathering with people and it rains, have umbrellas or an awning or tent canopy. It is not an option to head indoors.
15/ If you take these precautions and meet outside, then you do not need to spend a lot of time questioning each other about "how careful they have been." EVERYONE THINKS THEY HAVE BEEN CAREFUL.
16/ People think their carefulness is why they have not gotten COVID-19. But most everyone has taken some risks where they could have become infected.
17/ It is understandable if people want everyone to wear masks even if everyone is outside because loud talkers and close talkers can spew droplets and spread the virus. If someone wants to wear masks outside, readily comply.
18/ You may like us want to fill up your water bottles with ice and water at the person's house you are visiting. Generally don't do this because it is hard not to pass germs in this process. Have gallons of water in your car. Buy bags of ice. You will need a cooler.
19/ If someone were to show signs of being ill, you will want to be mentally prepared to drive straight home before the whole family is ill. It seems better for the family to be ill with covid at home rather than at a campsite or a hotel far from home.
20/ For most of us, our bodies are not accustomed to being outdoors for hours. You will want to make sure that especially the youngest kids are hydrating. When mesmerized by an iPad in the car, they will drink very little.
21/ Being able to download movies or whole seasons of TV shows from Netflix or Disney+ to a tablet or phone; plus video games; tends to make boredom in the car less possible. Kids are so immersed they miss scenery and have great difficulty detaching.
22/ Previous generations of kids complained on long car rides, "Are we there yet?" and "I'm BORED!" Today they complain about the destination, the stops, and the family audiobook. They want to be back on their individual screen. They still like candy and ice cream.
23/ Though the kids typically complain about everything (historic sites, National Parks, beach, backyard gatherings, canoeing, hiking, and camping), they end up liking most / all of it. Consider their complaints. Sometimes give in. Usually though stay the course.
24/ (a) It does not feel like a "vacation" when you are full-time parenting. (b) One can keep remote working via phone and computer while away out-of-town with family. (c) But when you realize that you did not get much work done, you did "vacation" from work.
25/ Three conversation thread pet peeves: (a) When was the last time we saw each other? [It doesn't matter exactly!] (b) How is your family doing? [We have not yet heard about each other!] (c) How careful have you been with covid? [Everyone thinks they're careful!]
26/ Conversational threads I like: How are things going with your work? with kids? What are you learning / processing / musing about? What has been discouraging? What do you like about the city you live in? Beauty. Affirmation. Gratitude.
27/ If you are a family of five, you can often stay in a room with two queens designed for only four people. Call the hotel and ask if it is okay. Usually it is. Then bring your own air mattress and sheets for the fifth person.
28/ When you are driving off the ferry, it does not matter that a bottle of hand sanitizer is balancing precariously on the arm rest, keep your eyes on the road or you may hit the side of the ferry and give yourself a flat tire.
29/ You will need a lot of sunscreen and insect spray. You will also need a lot of band-aids and tools for getting out splinters.
30/ Your kids will generally like the kids of your friends.
31/ It is good to have a cheap cell phone provider like I do. But on a road trip, the spouse's Verizon is great because its network has such good coverage.
32/ Take me home Google Maps to the place where I belong, West Virginia, Montana, take me home, Google Maps. It is dependable and accurate. But our stops and spontaneous explorations still make us regularly late.
33/ It is a marvelous mercy that there are not more crashes with the fallible human beings who are driving.
34/ It is amazing that cars do not break down on the road very often.
35/ In one rain storm in Indiana, many cars just stopped with their flashers on the shoulder because the drivers could not see.
36/ Many people in the United States live "in the middle of nowhere." But they can "sit under their own vines and fig trees" (Hamilton musical quoting George Washington quoting Micah 4:4). It is fulfilling to have your own property to putter on, maintain, and improve.
37/ The number of semi-trucks on the road is massive. The country depends on truckers.
38/ Washington DC on Monday morning was empty. Few tourists, very few professionals in suits, lots of law enforcement and runners.
39/ When a kid says: "We should get a picture of that," whether it be a sunset, the Lincoln Memorial, or big crabs, that is a very high compliment.
40/ There was a tremendous amount of construction happening at Duke University in Durham, NC and in Pittsburgh, PA. Pittsburgh is spectacularly beautiful with its bluffs, rivers, and bridges.
41/ Runners have impressive discipline. Even at a gorgeous beach, many people were running on the side streets in the mornings. I thought playing in the waves, walking the beach, and throwing the frisbee was sufficient exercise at the beach.
42/ We saw many Trump flags on boats. We saw a few Trump yard signs. We saw one Biden yard sign. One Trump bumper sticker. We did not see much considering the consequences.
43/ Thesis: Teenage boys are open to talking about a whole range of topics between 10:30 pm and midnight.
44/ You don't fully appreciate the fun of the awesome dangerous huge waves until they're gone.
45/ It is very exciting to find a sand dollar. We found 1.
46/ If you have kids at the beach and there are rip tides, you are not going to get a lot of reading done.
47/ Bring swim goggles to the ocean in case the water is clear enough to see underwater.
48/ I recall a time when like my teenagers I cared about the sun tinting my hair, the state of my tan, and how my muscles looked. Now I want a big hat, plenty of sunscreen, and not to pull any muscles getting out of the car.
49/ We saw Wilbur Wright's birthplace in Indiana; the Wright bike shop in Dayton, Ohio; the site of the first flight at Kill Devil Hills, NC; and the outside of the Air and Space Museum in DC; and listened to most of David McCullough's book. It was a nice outline.