Travel in the Time of COVID: Part 2

December 17, 2020 by Paul Byrne

Business Environment COVID-19 Personal
paul byrne

Vintage minivan

Despite CDC recommendations, we, like many people, travelled over the Thanksgiving holiday.

I know, I know. I can hear the objections now and I wouldn’t want people to think we’ve just been traveling willy-nilly and are COVID deniers. Quite the opposite, actually. We had a good reason to brave the virus-torn open road: we were, once again, travelling to support a family member who needed our help.

And, sometimes, you just have to take the risk.

COVID Road Trippin’

Because of COVID, we decided to take this trip via car, more specifically, our Tesla Model S. I only bring up the model because we stopped to supercharge rather than gas up, which changes the experience and planning of a road trip. It’s a long drive from Dallas to Phoenix and back, about 20 hours each way with charging.

When you’re making that trip you have two possible routes:

You can go up the Texas panhandle through Amarillo, Albuquerque (be careful about that left turn), and a whole lotta nothin’.

Or you can go for the southern route through Midland, El Paso, and Tucson. We opted for this route, mainly because we were trying to avoid the cold weather and potential snow of New Mexico. The warmer temperatures are both a personal preference and boost the Tesla’s range just a bit.

In the years before Corona-gheddon, we made quite a few road trips and are used to supercharging. We actually like the longer breaks in the trip because we travel with a Yorkie that needs to do his business and stretch his legs.

Yorkie in travel purse

On prior trips, because the superchargers are often near restaurants and shops, we would just leave the Tesla plugged in and wait for the app to tell us charging was complete while we enjoyed a nice lunch. Obviously, this now had to change. We ended up hitting drive-throughs and eating in the car to maximize social distancing. The psychological effect of this change was undeniable; the trip felt eerily isolating.

Welcome to the Hotel Cali-COVID

We stayed at the Hampton Inn in Van Horne for two reasons: to avoid El Paso (which was going through a major outbreak) and because there was a supercharger in the parking lot.

The hotel experience was weird.

There were plexiglass shields hanging everywhere and numerous precautions had been taken to avoid people touching the same object. Pens used to sign the hotel agreement were moved from the clean pen holder to the dirty pen bucket, supposedly to be sanitized at night. The pool and gym were closed. Fellow guests wore masks in the hallways. The free breakfast was all pre-packaged foods. No make-your-own waffles or trays full of grits.

The list of changes was all encompassing and made the experience feel a lot more sterile. Honestly, what more could you ask for during a global pandemic?

El Paso Lockdown

The outbreak in El Paso started out pretty dire and has only continued to worsen. As our journey continued, we realized that though we tried, we couldn’t completely avoid this high risk area because we needed to charge.

The supercharger was in a parking lot between a Ruby’s (gas station + restaurant) that had just shut down indoor dining completely and a couple of hotels. The Ruby’s employees were talking about how they were going to handle the lockdown for the restaurant. They were figuring out which part of the parking lot to put tents in and how to expedite curb service. Gotta love their can-do attitude.

Though my tone may seem cavalier seeing some of those most affected by the pandemic first-hand was rough. We’re all doing our best to fight this thing and keep our fellow Americans safe and healthy as best we can.

Trading Spaces

Once we reached our destination, I began looking for a place to work in Phoenix during the day for the next three weeks. We were staying with family and the environment was, ahem, distracting. Fortunately, I have a membership to Spaces that allows me to work in the common areas of any Spaces or Regus property. This was a lifesaver!

Each location has these little half-cubicles in the lobby area. I just showed my Spaces app to the manager at the reception desk and I was good to go. Regus wifi is plug and play, no hunting down a password since it just authenticates me based on my MAC address. They even all have the same ice machines.

Office desk adapted for covid

There were five locations to choose from within 25 minutes or so of our family in Gilbert. I was impressed with the cleanliness and consistency of the locations. The Hayden’s Ferry location was the most beautiful with a 9th floor view overlooking the Rio Salado riverwalk in Tempe. The building, however, was on lockdown so I had to wait for security to let me in and escort me to the elevator. Bonus: free Tesla charging in the parking garage.

CEO Paul Byrne view of Phoenix

Other than that, the people of Phoenix (Phoenicians if you will) seemed to be a little more relaxed about the pandemic, even compared to Dallas. Of course, mask orders were everywhere and most people complied. Restaurants were open with appropriate spacing. Hospital visits were basically impossible – but that seems to be a world-wide thing.

The way back home was essentially the same as the way out, though we did stop to do some bouldering at a scenic rest area.

CEO Paul Byrne in Arizona

So, was it worth it? The key takeaways from this experience were pretty straightforward:

Travel, at least by car, seems pretty safe as long as you stay in a hotel that takes its responsibility for your protection seriously. America is still amazing and a fantastic place to both live in and travel through. Despite the divisions portrayed by the media and by politicians, Americans care about Americans. Even strangers. The upside of remote working is that I can work effectively while travelling to help family. It’s going to continue to be tough for a while, but we’re going to get through this. And I hope it is with an increased sense of compassion for each other.

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