I have returned from Key West, a 22 ½ hour marathon. With the help of my nephew, we drove straight through, stopping only for hygiene breaks (for us and the dogs) and food.
Here is our story.
Due to COVID 19; I was reluctant to stay at hotels. But the rigorous drive and my health precluded me from driving straight through. My nephew graciously offered to fly down and share the drive with me. He is a college student from Michigan and has experience in long drives. I will always be grateful for his help…I couldn’t have done it without him.
We agreed that I would leave from Key West and pick him up at the Fort Lauderdale airport (about 4 hours).
First, the airport. Ft. Lauderdale is a large, spacious airport, yet I was the only person at the entire arrivals pickup. Remember how difficult it is to find a place to stop and pick up an arriving passenger? Not during a pandemic. It was eerie, there were no cars, no taxis, no attendants, no law enforcement.
I entered the terminal wearing my mask and gloves. The clicking of my dogs’ toenails and my footsteps were the only sounds echoing through the cavernous terminal. During my 35-minute wait, I saw a single cleaning attendant.
My nephew was one of seven passengers on the jumbo jet. Each passenger got his own row; except for the absence of food service, it was like a private jet arriving at a private airport.
We embarked on the driving part of our journey, stopping at rest stops that were spotlessly maintained. We were the only travelers wearing masks or gloves; even in Florida, which has a mandatory mask rule. Many travelers were elderly, yet they wore no protective gear.
Despite my focus on the environment, we used disposable gloves and masks for safety. As we traveled through Georgia, the Carolinas and Virginia, we remained the only people wearing either masks or gloves. Some residents and fellow travelers eyed us suspiciously.
The Interstate had less traffic than usual, but the drive was daunting and after a while, my nephew, not content with my nut and fruit diet; needed to stop at a McDonalds for some “real food.” In one of the Carolinas, we ordered from the drive-up window, only to discover that the McDonalds was open. The customers were observing social distance to some extent; but only the employees were wearing masks.
We finally arrived in St Michaels at 2:30 in the morning exhausted and confused. It was as if there were two worlds, one with COVID 19 and one without.
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.