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A Pandemic Road Trip: Part 2

In case you missed Part 1 of this adventure, where my husband, my two children, my son’s girlfriend, and I drove 2,000 miles in 48-hours, you can catch it here.

The executive summary from Part 1 — it wasn’t fun and I don’t recommend it.

And yet, no matter how much I would have preferred to stay in Colorado, we somehow had to return to Massachusetts. This time our trip was 200 miles longer, this time we traveled 700 miles with a new kitten, and this time we had to do it without air conditioning — and this trip was still be better!

“No, I’ll just drive. You hate being hot and I don’t mind. It’s not a problem,” I said to my husband who was growing more irritable every minute.

It was 3:00 in the afternoon and the heat from Colorado's high desert sun was rising in waves off the parking lot asphalt. Instead of icy blasts, the air conditioning in our SUV was only giving off cool spurts. My husband had replaced at least 4 different parts, each time thinking he’d found the faulty bit, but none of it helped and we couldn’t delay. We wanted to be home before August 1st when Massachusetts would start enforcing a mandatory 2-week quarantine for travelers. I clicked the remote to unlock the car doors.

Everyone climbed in and I turned the ignition. I was ready to go. We only had to drive a 1,000 miles this time! There was a hotel waiting for us in St. Louis. I had my audiobook queued up, my peach milkshake in hand, and a bag of presents on the floor behind me. I smiled.

My mom, always 100% supportive of whatever crazy thing I do, had taken my nephew to the dollar store where they picked out twelve different gifts for me and then wrapped them individually.

These were my rewards for driving, every time I finished a shift, I would get to open a present. It was pretty cool!

(BTW - this is also a great road trip tip for kids! We did this for my little brother when he was ten and we had to drive 24-hours to visit my grandparents. We bought 24 small gifts and he was able to open one every hour.)

Over the Rocky Mountains and the Great Divide we went, the temperature dropping with each mile. I passed the helm to my husband and opened my first gift: dry erase boards and markers.

The sun went down, the moon came up, traffic thinned and we rolled passed hundreds of miles of corn fields in the dark.

At 7:20 the next morning, I pulled up to a Starbucks in Topeka, Kansas and opened my third gift of the trip. A knock-off version of the game Speak Out.

A new experience — I have never started my day like this before!

By 2:00 in the afternoon, just as planned, we arrived at our hotel. It was empty. I felt like an intruder. The gilded, revolving doors had been blocked. There was just one way in; a small door near the front desk that could be opened with a room key, or if someone at the front desk hit the magic button. The dining room was closed, and our room had a little seal on it like some jars of food do.

Inside the room, I opened my next gift — silly string. So much for the clean room :-)

Next was spa time, I felt like I’d earned it.

In the morning, my husband and I took our coffees and went walking along the Mississippi. It was only ten o’clock, but it was hot and the rain from the day before had left the air heavy. My shirt clung to my lower back and my legs suffocated under the black lycra of my yoga pants, but I didn’t care. I never tire of being at Gateway Arch National Park.

The arch itself is the perfect marriage between art and engineering. At 630 feet tall, it’s over twice the height of the Statue of Liberty.

There wasn’t a crane tall enough to lift the pieces that high, so the arch builders had to create a crane that could travel up and down the outside of the arch; a feat all on its own.

But this stunning piece of architecture isn’t the only thing to love; I love being on the Mississippi and watching the barges traveling at snail’s pace up and down the river. I love that my kids know where the stuff in the stores comes from.

Did you know that one barge can carry the same as 60 semi-trailers, and one towboat can push 15 barges!

This is why, even though it’s more difficult and far slower than air travel, my family often travels by car. There’s a lot you can’t see from 30,000 feet.

But I digress!

The man behind the hotel desk greeted us as we came back in from our walk. “Fine thanks. It’s a bit hot, but it’s a beautiful morning,” I said, “So how is business going these days?”

He was the general manager and shared with us that the place had run at 82% capacity year round, but for the past few months it was at about 30%. And this was tourist season; it should be their busiest time. Business travel was down to 1% of normal. He’d taken on 4-days a week at the front desk and kept his laptop beside him so he could do his regular work too. He said they were maintaining optimism while trying to be realistic.

He was the only person we saw in the hotel during our stay.

Humans love to classify events as good or bad. Sometimes, the ones that look bad, we like to label later as “a blessing in disguise” when we’ve changed our minds about the final outcome or found a way to look on the bright side. I wonder what we will say, what we’ll remember, and how it will feel, ten years from now when we’re looking back on today?

Stay tuned for the last 1,000 miles…

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