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A Covid Summer Driving Across America (2020)

I had never been a road trip person. Probably a symptom of my mom loathing long road trips. Even when I was visiting South East Asia, the mecca of long and cheap bus rides. Anything over about 8 hours would make me fidgety and uncomfortable, but I was willing to do it because I was in Thailand, or Vietnam, or Cambodia, and it was the cheapest way to get from North to South.

It was never something I would consider doing in the United States. For a number of reasons, the biggest being how it was the opposite situation financially. Driving across the United States is expensive, and everything in between was too. My family member would ask me, why don’t you travel in the United States for a bit and I’d scoff as if to say, “why the hell would I want to do that?”. A mentality that I can still understand, considering it is the most expensive place I’ve ever traveled by far. That was that lovely pandemic decided to stroll on through the globe. On the day that everything shut down, March 13, I was supposed to be on a flight to Barcelona. I had been in the United States for a grand total of two weeks before the world came to a screeching halt. It left me wondering what to do next, for months on end.

That resulted in spending stretches of weeks with my two best friends from home and the guy who would become my boyfriend. After about two months of indulgent lounging and believing that this whole mess would blow over soon enough, I started getting antsy. I couldn’t wait the entire year of 2020 sitting in my hometown at my Mom’s house waiting for it to be over. That’s when the idea of driving across the country to find an apartment in California sprouted with my boyfriend. It seemed like the only accessible and safe adventure for the summer of 2020. Plus, it had the bonus that I could finally put those voices to rest saying, “but you haven’t been everywhere in the US yet? What about exploring the United States?”.

We decided, what the hell, we weren’t doing anything better. We left on June 28th to start driving from New York in a Hona CR-V we bought the week prior. By the end of the first driving haul, we made it to Knoxville, Tennessee where we stayed the night. Nearly twelve hours. It wasn’t too bad, but we had much more to go.

We ate the standard breakfast and spent the morning deciding that we wanted to cut through Colorado, even though it was a little bit off track. This trek was a little bit longer at about 18 hours. We wanted to get straight through to make good time to the West Coast. That one definitely knocked the wind out of us. We all but collapsed on the bed of the hotel once we arrived. After a brief nap, we went out a got a few of the treats that were good around Denver. Ate some Vietnamese food (Bánh Xèo to be exact, a delicacy I hadn’t enjoyed since the streets of Ho Chi Minh City) and perused a local pot shop. We only stayed overnight and set off again in the morning. For some reason, we were in a rush. It’s funny to think about that now, nearly a year later. Before leaving Colorado, we did one of the state’s notable hikes, The Garden of the Gods. It was a fun enough excursion to entertain our afternoon before heading towards New Mexico.

New Mexico ended up being little more than a pit stop. We arrived at our Airbnb at night and decided to just check out Santa Fe in the morning, which definitely was an enchanting little town, even though I suspect we were in the most touristy section of it.

After lunch, we started driving again with the intention of arriving near the Grand Canyon. I say near because there was no way our budget could include staying within the boundaries of the Grand Canyon Park. Instead, I found a camping location buried under a series of comments and questions on a forum website that I can’t quite recall. It was up a treacherous road with many harsh twists and turns, but once it broke up into the flat scape on the edge of the mountains I knew it’d made a great find. The area had a few small makeshift camping locations that faced the hollows of the Grand Canyon. I’d never been there before and I could see why it was one of the most popular destinations in America.

We camped overnight, most of which was spent in our car since we didn’t realize how cold it was going to be at night. We were left with a shortish 8-hour drive in the morning and arrived at our pre-booked Airbnb absolutely exhausted. An Airbnb that didn’t last long after we found a massive cockroach in it and were refunded for our 2-week stay. After being disgruntled from leaving our stay in the middle of the night, we decided to just make the drive to San Francisco and stay there. That was the main place we were considering moving to, so we decided to just head over there for two weeks instead. It was a good time, but by the end of it we decided, we didn’t want to live in California. It had many of the negative aspects to traveling in America that wasn’t ideal, at the top of the list is how expensive it is.

The final decision was to drive back to Colorado to find an apartment there. A decision that came with its own negative consequences later on, and probably won’t be outlived past the end of our lease. While the trip was a costly endeavor, and frankly underwhelming in a lot of places, it was still a solid adventure with someone I love. Hopefully, the world will allow for more soon.


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