We took a road trip. A real road trip. Not a quick, five hour jaunt from Chicago to Michigan, but an actual two-day drive through the Midwest, into the Appalachian mountains and finally ending on a small, blue-green island in North Carolina’s Outer Banks.
To be clear, it has never been my dream to take a long road trip with my two children, five- and eight-years-old — especially during a pandemic. Prior to this moment, we flew! Still, as I prepped for this drive, I remembered my own childhood road trips with my dad in his burgundy Cadillac back in the 80s and 90s. We drove to Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, the Great Salt Flats, Okefenokee Swamp, Niagara Falls, the Hoover Dam, Temple Square, Arkansas and Georgia for family, to a log cabin in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota for more family and to both Disneys. (That’s the short list.)
Of course back then, we didn’t need to pack our own sheets and towels, cups and forks because: pandemic. Still, we took precautions back then and often peed on the side of the road because Black folks weren’t welcome everywhere and rest stops weren’t as plentiful as they are now. Under my dad’s tutelage I’d visited every contiguous landmass state in person by the time I was in 8th grade. That’s a LOT of driving. A lot of Four Tops and The Whispers and Bobby Blue Bland on tape. A lot of mermaids, Jesus sightings and odd-yet-glorious “roadside attractions.” A lot of lessons and memories.
The good bits fueled my plans for this post-vaccine road trip, even though the idea of driving through several states and staying at hotels with two littles too young for a Covid vaccine, especially at a politically-, medically-and racially-volatile time, made me a smidge apprehensive. But Covid-19 and one immuno-suppressed+ special needs child made it hard for me and my husband to wrap our heads around kids on planes. So in April we loaded up the SUV and headed for the Crystal Coast to see the grandparents.
I placed my fears of falling off a cliff in West Virginia into a small box in my mind, bought emergency…