Like so many others, I have cabin fever and am impatiently waiting for the first signal that it’s sufficiently safe to travel.
Of course, It won’t be entirely so until vaccinations are available.
But as infections and positivity rates decline in some states, and as we’ve become better at following the precautions of social distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing, it now seems possible to take a trip with minimal risk of infection.
A married couple and friends of ours completed a successful weekend trip to La Crosse, Wisconsin, several weeks ago. The ostensible purpose was to tour the breathtaking bluffs along the Mississippi River and get a preview of autumn’s colors. But the primary purpose was therapeutic: to get out of town and experience the rejuvenation of mind and body that results from my version of Einstein’s theory of relativity, E=MC²: Ecstasy=Miles in a Car, squared. My friend loves to drive, has even moonlighted as a cabbie just for fun, and gets visibly restless when there’s nowhere to go.
They drove without stopping until arriving at the Radisson Hotel, which follows all CDC safety guidelines, including a mask mandate in public areas. Those areas did not include the pool or workout room, which are closed for the duration of the pandemic.
But they brought their bicycles, both for exercise and sightseeing. They either dined alone, using the Radisson’s room service, or they biked or walked downtown to outdoor restaurants.
Ultimately, they were happy with how the trip turned out, in spite of the front and back wheels of one of the bikes being stolen as it sat locked to the rack overnight. And they are both safe and well, and my friend conceded that his wanderlust is abated for the time being.
My daughter Jackie and her husband Gene took an entirely different tack. They also love to travel, especially overseas, having completed separate tours to Italy, Germany, Norway, Mexico, and Austria in the past 10 years. But flying these days, whether two hours or six hours in an airtight cylinder with 150 others in close quarters, is out of the question for them.
Jackie is particularly cautious with respect to the virus, seldom leaving the house, and she teaches her college English classes online. Since her husband is a first responder, they are hyper alert to any and all chances of viral contagion. Their solution for traveling during the pandemic — to avoid hotels, restaurants, and rest stops altogether — was to purchase a small travel trailer.
Jackie has a fuzzy memory of our family staying in a tent and a pop-up camper when she was very young. She has always cherished independence and solitude and used to bunk by herself in our stand-alone tool shed at our Bluegill Lake home outside Winter, Wisconsin, with her trusty black Lab for security. Certainly, a modern travel trailer would be a step or three above the old tool shed. Gene had never camped recreationally, but he served in the Marines. Enough said.
So they shopped RV dealers on the internet and discovered that they weren’t exactly the first to come up with the idea. There have been record-breaking RV sales this year, and stocks are in short supply. Nonetheless, they managed to find a small, lightweight trailer at a local dealership with all the options they wanted for $12,800. Certainly pricier than a week’s stay at the Radisson, but the trailer is their hotel, and they figure it will pay for itself in savings on lodging and restaurants in a couple of years.
Novice RV owners, they had to learn the subtleties of backing a trailer into a campsite and how to access a dump station. But after their first shake-down “cruise” at an RV campground nearby, they were sold on the travel strategy.
Because their petite 2021 model Sunset Park Sunray Classic 149 is equipped with a stove, fridge, beds, toilet, shower, heater, and AC — all powered by batteries, plug-ins, or propane — they’ve been able thus far to take three weekend trips with zero close contact and close-to-zero risk of infection.
Along with safety, they realized other bonuses: “Instead of going inside to museums or restaurants, we walk hiking trails and seek out historical landmarks nearby,” said Jackie. “It's a safe change of scenery, too, which is especially restorative after working all week by video and email. And unexpectedly to us, we've joined a very friendly club of other camper-trailer people, who give us thumbs up as they pass by on the highway or call out, ‘We won't watch,’ from the next site over as we back into our spot — all of them as respectful of pandemic precautions as we are.”
I’ve been inspired by my daughter’s solution. But her mother, Marianne, says our camping days are over, and we must wait for a vaccine to resume travel.
Jackie’s father says, “We’ll see.”
David McGrath is a former Hayward resident, an emeritus English professor at the College of DuPage in Illinois, the author of "South Siders," and a frequent contributor to the News Tribune Opinion page. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.