Social Distancing for 2,600 Miles
My parents have been coming to Florida for three months a year for the past 26+ years. For the past five years, I’ve flown up to Canada in December and driven them in their fully loaded car down to Florida, then driven them back early April.
I look forward to that precious 1,296-mile drive with my parents — mom is 88 and dad is 85. This year, the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to ask, “What should we do?” Should the folks stay here? If so, they would have to extend their expensive health insurance, pay more rent, get their prescriptions sent down and not know if or when Floridians may be confined to their homes.
One of the biggest problems during the crisis has been misinformation. We kept hearing the border was closed, Canadians had to be back into the country by midnight on March 29, New York was under lockdown and we couldn’t be out past 8 p.m., and a host of other misinformation.
I feared that we would drive the 1,300 miles and my folks would not be able to cross the border…then what? Turn around and drive them back?!
We decided they needed to leave two weeks early and we’d take our chances at the Canadian border. I convinced my husband to drive their vehicle and I would drive the folks in his comfy SUV. This would eliminate a flight back and provide minimal contact with the outside world.
There was a lot of traffic on the road, but it thinned the further north we got. Welcome centers were closed, bathroom breaks consisted of everyone trying not to touch any handles and thorough hand washing.
The southern states — Florida, Georgia, North and South Carolina — almost seemed like there was no pandemic. Lots of cars on the road and people out. The only thing consistent in every state, except Florida, were electronic signs “Save Lives Now, Stay Home” or “Practice Social Distancing” or “Stay Home and Limit Travel.”
It was eerie being out on the roads. All restaurants were closed, but most drive-thru windows were open. Gas stations were open and you could go inside for purchases. Hotels were mostly empty.
Turnpike toll plazas were empty, but someone was in the booth when we got off, manually writing down our license plate and where we had gotten on — a bill would be mailed out to us, thus limiting physical contact.
It was definitely eerie driving so far with so little human contact. People stayed in their cars and kept their distance. There was a massive amount of trucks on the road, road warriors saving us all with their vital deliveries. With grocery stores being cleaned out after every shipment, it seems like the horror/sci-fi novels I read as a kid became reality.
We all know COVID-19 will pass and become part of our history books. The question is how quickly and at what cost. As much as we are social creatures, social distancing for a few weeks is certainly better than the alternative.
Nancy Peltonen serves as President/CEO with The Greater Palm Bay Chamber of Commerce. She also serves on a committee for the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, while always finding time to volunteer with local organizations and travel the world.
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