Travel During COVID (Part One)
Updated: Jul 3, 2021
If you have happened upon my blog, you may be apprehensive about traveling during COVID… I know I was.
I have traveled to Las Vegas twice since the pandemic began. The first trip was a very long drive and the second was a much shorter plane ride. This blog is part one. There will be 3 blogs all together about my travel experiences during COVID.
The first trip we took was a marathon drive from Chicago to Vegas… and when I say marathon I mean we (my husband and I) drove straight though with no hotel/motel stays. It was September and I was fearful of staying in a hotel that I don’t know. I have an auto-immune disease and am a cancer survivor so I’m in the sweet spot for becoming extremely ill or dying from COVID. I also work in the medical field, though I’m fortunate to be working from home. When I say that first trip was terrifying to me, it really was. But, my husband’s mother lives there and we missed her so we took the journey.
The first aspect of a car trip that I have to mention is preparation is the key to success. Items you would need to ensure a safe and fun trip are vast. We packed both healthy and unhealthy road snacks, soda, water, Gatorade and some cold brew coffee. Hand sanitizer, a fifty pack of throw away masks, a box of gloves and a travel urinationdevice for women that allows you to pee standing up if you are in a remote area (Utah and Oklahoma… I’m talking to you.) I also purchased the iFly travel kit with the sleep mask to block the light to rest during the day since he and I were alternating our naps/driving. We brought a travel blanket I crocheted the week before, two travel pillows, paper towels, tissue and lots of bags for garbage. We had the other necessities; luggage, toiletries, iPad, printed directions just in case the GPS or phones lost their signal, but even with the preparation we were not prepared for Colorado and the white-knuckle drive that ensued.
The states we traveled through on our way to Vegas were: Illinois (obviously,) Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah and lastly Nevada. Iowa and Nebraska were pretty, but very flat. One thing about Nebraska for those of you who live in a state where Marijuana is legal, they have signs on the road that say, “State Patrol checkpoint, DRUG DOG in use.” These signs are strategically placed near an exit ramp where state police are waiting to bust people who turn to avoid the checkpoint which is a ruse. The philosophy is, if you pull off it is because you have drugs in the car, so just keep driving, it’s fine. However, until it is federally legal you can get in trouble for having it, even if you have a medical card, so avoid brining it with you if at all possible.
Colorado… this is a state that I drove though as my hubby was resting. It may not have been so bad had we have driven through during the day, but we pulled into Denver around sunset so it was definitely a challenge. Not only are the roads treacherous with steep declines, but the drivers are crazy. Imagine going down a mountain, your foot off the gas and your car wants to go 90 (miles per hour) mph. Given that we are from the flatlands, I exercised caution and was burning up my breaks to keep the SUV at about 70 mph. At the bottom of these declines were very sharp turns and crosses were illuminated on the sides of the road. That in itself is challenging. But in Colorado, the locals throw in another unique issue, which is they want to fly down the mountains at 90-100+ mph and will ride your bumper when they feel you are going too slow (psst 70 is not slow.) If that wasn’t bad enough, we traveled during the fires and when a 21 mile stretch of road was under construction. When I entered the 8th circle of hell (yes, this is an add-on to the 7th circle of hell) I first noticed that the speed limit had decreased to about 35 mph. I was thankful for that. But after a mile or two I noticed the red glow in the sky, the smoky smell and ash that was falling into my vehicle. I generally would have closed the window, but just at this point the lanes narrowed, there was about 3 feet between the two opposing lanes, about a foot between the car and orange barrels to the right and a steep drop beyond the barrels. Then came the tunnel. Miles and miles of tunnel, where you are blinded by oncoming headlights and reflectors that become somewhat hypnotic after the first few minutes. At this point I needed red bull to give me wings, or I was going to earn my angel wings for sure. After the miles of white-knuckle driving, I was ready for a break. We found a rest stop that went up into the mountains. The air was extremely thin, but the bathrooms were very clean and aside from the stall, there were no doors to touch. At this stop, I left one of my hand painted kindness stones and reluctantly continued on. Next stop, UTAH.
I started our drive in Utah but swapped with my hubby and was able to get about a two-hour nap. When I woke (in the words of Forest Gump) I had to pee. We saw a rest stop sign and pulled in. It was pitch black out and there were more stars in the sky than I have ever seen in my life. I walked up the brightly lit path to the women’s restroom and opened the door to what can only be described as the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. The smell was otherworldly and I was legitimately afraid I would find a body. Thankfully I did not. Not sure what exactly happened in there, but I decided that it would be better to exit the bathroom, take a bath in sanitizer and use my handy urination device outside.
After that terrifying rest stop, I again rested for a while. When I woke we were nearing the Nevada state line and daylight was approaching. My husband has a wicked fear of heights to the point where if we are watching tv and the camera pans across a mountain or off a building, his knees will become weak. So, him driving through mountains at night was not as bad as driving through the mountains in Nevada during the day. He made it through, but he did not enjoy the scenery as much as I did from the passenger seat.
The time we spent in Vegas was primarily off strip. We have a hotel/casino we love in the Summerlin area. The name is the Rampart Casino/J.W. Signature Marriott. I will have a later blog post about why we love staying off strip as opposed to on the strip. The protocol at the casino/hotel is great! The main clientele consists of older adults who live in the area, so they really are doing everything they can to protect their valued customers. They conduct temperature checks whenever you walk into the casino or hotel, they sanitize the machines constantly, have sanitizer available everywhere, the bathrooms are continually being cleaned and they have security and staff walking around to make sure each person is properly wearing their mask and social distancing. They also have protocols in place in the event a guest begins feeling ill during their stay. Again, I will go more into all of this in a later blog.
Stay tuned for part two.