Road Tripping 2020 Style

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“Camp in the mountains, not the left lane.” So requested a sign on I-70 East in eastern Colorado. Short and to the point. Humorous. Non-partisan. Just one of the small pleasures on our epic 2020 road trip from suburban DC to Denver and back via car.

Our initial plan was to drive our old SUV out to Denver and leave it with our daughter and son-in-law who had just moved there. We were then planning to stay several days to help them move in, play a few days in the Rockies, and then fly back. Covid-19 changed that. Instead, we drove out, helped a bit post-move, did a minor hike or two near Denver, and then rented a car and drove back. Thirty-four hundred miles in total. Six days of driving, each about 565 miles or so, and four days in Denver. Not the way we initially planned, but it worked.

Now that we are fourteen days clear of the trip with no sign of Covid-19, we can call it a success. Another new concept. Like with many things we do in life, some of what we experienced was expected, some was not. Following are my takeaways for road tripping in the age of Covid-19.

• Life is about making adjustments and living and traveling in the days of Covid-19 are no different. Whether it’s parenting, developing a marketing plan or coaching youth soccer, those who have the greatest success are those who adjust. The other team might be playing a defense you’ve never seen before. That’s what halftime adjustments are for. Or, despite what you thought was a brilliant marketing plan, your product isn’t selling. So, you go back to the drawing board and tweak or even make wholesale changes. The same holds true in planning a road trip in 2020. Our first major adjustment was the decision to rent a car and drive home instead of flying. Next, we bought a cooler and packed enough food for pretty much every meal. Finally, we avoided the larger, more commercial rest areas. Instead, we used the rest areas that we’d always driven right by. You know, the ones that have nothing other than picnic tables and bathrooms.

• Life is also about making risk/reward calculations. Everyone does this differently. We decided that driving to and from Denver was a minimal (in our view) risk and the reward—visiting our daughter and son-in-law and dropping off the car–was worth it. So, we went. I feel confident that some of our friends raised their eyebrows at us. Others expressed envy and indicated that they couldn’t do what we did, for whatever reason. I have more than one friend who has gone sky-diving. And, many of our friends ski, some in the backwoods. Risk reward. We each make our own judgments. In our case, we tried to take into account as many facts as we could and to base our decisions on those facts.

• Perspective is a huge factor in, well, pretty much everything. We chose to view the trip as an opportunity, not a hassle. We were going to see our daughter and son-in-law, we were going to get to spend time in Denver and the surrounding mountains, and we had the luxury of being able to take the time to drive in both directions. We listened to albums. Remember those disc-like things? First, “Tommy” by The Who. Later “The White Album” and Billy Joel’s “Turnstiles.” There’s a reason musicians put out albums not playlists. Just sayin’. We also listened to a number of podcasts. And, we learned some things. Like what sorghum is and where it grows. And, how long Kansas is. And, that it’s legal to set off fireworks in Topeka until midnight on July 4th. Our only brief detour was to the schoolhouse that was the subject of the Brown vs. Board of Education 1954 Supreme Court decision where I learned from the placard out front that the teachers in the all Black school were pretty well united against desegregation. That was news to me. Of course, I could have learned that by doing some research, but somehow it was more powerful to learn it while standing in front of the school in Topeka.

So, that’s it. Adjustments, weighing risk vs. reward, and perspective are the major factors in road tripping during Covid-19. Meaning, that as different as a 2020 road trip is, in many ways it’s not that different at all.

Stay safe and be smart out there.

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