Would I rather be on Delta, in a First-Class seat, tucked away with my laptop, masked and sanitized to the hilt? Hell, yes. We’ve flown Delta during Covid and I felt safe. But there is the airport, security, and all the other moving parts that, while I was diligent and constantly wiping down my things, washing my hands, etc., was still a “risk” that we didn’t need to take.
“I just worry,” our daughter, now in her third trimester of pregnancy, said to us as we “distanced” in our garden. “When you guys fly, I just...” Her voice lowered with emotion, her eyes teary. “Don’t want you guys to get Covid. I want you to be able to be with my baby.”
Our daughter has been so steady in her pregnancy during this challenging time. I think back to when I was pregnant – all those years ago. I was a mess. Worried about every little thing. Had I had a pandemic on top of it? God only knows. So, her words hit home. Her needs. I’m her mother. It’s not a big ask to drive ten hours to Park City to take any stress away for our pregnant daughter.
We cancelled our flights.
Two hours in, I remembered what these road trips with Hank were like. It had been so long since we’d done one, I’d forgotten how carefree, in a way, they can be. Although we talk all the time, it’s different when you are gazing out a car window. Random thoughts. Things that you don’t often think about come up. What’s your favorite album? Tell me about that deal. What will life look like after this is over? One question or thought leads to ten others.
Our airport routines are independent. We each do our thing as if by rote. Phone. Laptops. Plug in to charge. I’m getting some magazines, I’ll be right back, etc... There’s not a lot of chit chat. Whip, whip and we’re on the plane. A whisper now and again, then back to our reading or laptops.
By contrast, the car is a setting. One where there are few distractions beside the road ahead.
Driving trips are different now, though. Covid has changed that (and everything). Where to find a rest stop that’s clean and safe?
McDonald’s. “They’re likely to have a protocol for cleaning,” I tell Hank. All good except North Las Vegas, which was a little shady, but hey, nothing’s perfect.
After our quick stops, all gloved and masked, Hank asks: “Where was I?”
“The big conference hotels through this pandemic? What do you think will happen to those?” I repeat.
“Oh, yeah, so…”
I take the wheel after we leave Las Vegas. “They don’t miss a beat here in sin city,” I laugh as we pass a candy storefront touting: “Sugar. You know you want it.”
As the road presses on, the heat rises outside. Hank’s tapping away on his computer next to me as I fall in line with another speeding driver. 85, 87, 92, 97… I love to go fast.
“Woah,” he says, looking up. “Heath, try to stay under 90.”
And, I’d been worried about his driving? I’m way more cautious, I’d thought. How was I going to survive ten hours with him at the wheel? Who knew it would be me to be the dangerous one? Like a bat out of hell, I sped past Winnebagos stacked deep with bicycles in back, long-haul trucks and slow-moving vans. Our black SUV whizzing by, now neck and neck with a tricked-out shiny-rimmed Ram truck all the way to the Welcome to Arizona sign - that little slice of Arizona between Nevada and Utah. I slowed only when Hank looked up from his work.
As the desert terrain changed, highlighting mountain ranges, Hank takes over. “Want me to drive?” he says with a pointed glance. “You know, be aware of the speed traps.”
“I was going with the flow of traffic,” I reply in defense.
“Heath…you were doing the upper 90s and a couple of 100s.”
“Ok. Ok,” I say and slip into the passenger side and check my text messages. There’s one from my close friend, Wendy, responding to my earlier text after she’d asked how far we’d gotten on our drive.
“So, it sounds like you are making great time!”
I cringe, thinking I got lucky not to get a ticket. Or, worse. “You’re right,” I turn to Hank. “What’s the hurry? Why the lead foot?”
I’d slipped back into pre-Covid Heather, speeding, rushing – and, for what?
In Provo, the home of my mother’s ancestors, it’s 114 degrees. I scan the main road, retelling Hank about my grandfather’s parents, Mormons, who, in the first part of last century, left this town to migrate to Los Angeles.
Heading north, as we make our way up the mountains and the curves to the Jordanelle Reservoir, it feels different as we close in on Park City. Instead of a quick flight, a swift jolt from city to mountain, it’s been a gradual ten-hour transition and I don’t feel that same “wow, I’m here. Look at the mountains!”
Do I miss the summer afternoon turbulence coming up from the Salt Lake, bouncing all over the sky in the airplane? No. But, I’d gotten used to it, embraced it. Landing was a reward. Made it!
Nothing is the same right now. It’s all about adjusting. Adapting. Steering clear of the virus.
This won’t last forever. And, I wonder, when I am back to flying, will I long for that time with Hank in the car, our long talks about things that spring from random thoughts. Will I miss balancing an iced coffee and a soggy sandwich on my lap, laughing at the adult playground that is Vegas?
Or, the color around the landscape near Zion, the deep reds and soft pinks that color the mountains passing the town of Nephi?
I don’t know. Yet, I do know that slowing down has been good for me. That going 100-miles-an-hour is no way to go through life.