Vern and I made our first longish road trip in many months, to visit our son for a couple of days. Planning for the unfortunate necessity of limiting our contact with people, we filled a cooler with food for all our meals on the way down and back. At home, air quality was poor due to wildfire smoke, and we hoped to leave that behind as we headed east.

Day 1

Following our usual habit, as Vern drove, I pulled a book from my bag and began to read aloud. This time I chose Steven Ambrose’s book of essays, To America, published in 2002, the year Ambrose died.

Hazy day on the road, Day 1.

As we crossed the Cascades the smoke remained, but we became so engrossed in reading American history from the view of a lifelong historian that we missed a turn on our route to Boise. We put the GPS through its traces getting back on track.

In a treeless stretch of Eastern Oregon, we passed Woodpecker Truck & Equipment. We wondered if it should be renamed the Starving Woodpecker.

We passed several Oregon Trail historic sites—places I would have loved to stop and explore. But our schedule did not allow, some were closed anyway, and the air was still at “unhealthy” smoke levels. The smoke didn’t block an herbal aroma in the air—sign of a harvest we couldn’t quite identify.

Almost ten hours on the road—then Boise overnight. The hotel parking lot was filled with Jeep Wranglers and Rubicons. An event, or is this just what everybody drives here?

Day 2

With respect for Covid-19, the hotel breakfast was a ‘grab and go’ affair, eaten in our room as we finished packing. Still some smoke haze on departure, but we hit clearer air through Twin Falls, and headed south into sunny, clear eastern Nevada. Over 6,000 feet elevation.

Miles of sagebrush. Sign: “115 miles to next gas.” Reminded me of signs on the Al-Can Highway on The Drive in ’65!  But here we had to mask up to get it.

Pony Express marker on US Hwy 93 in Nevada. Day 2

Pony Express trail marker. We made a roadside stop for lunch from our cooler. Lots of trash. I’d been watching for wildlife, and here we saw our first, aside from birds. A gray and black chipmunk trying without success to drag away a wadded-up gray napkin nearly his size.

Farther south, great rock formations. Then into the northern sprawl of Las Vegas.

Days 3-4

We enjoyed two great days visiting with our son, and met his girlfriend and her family.

Day 5

Then we hit the road back home. We stopped to photograph the rock formations, and gassed up in Ely, Nevada. Then we sought out a city park with a picnic table to eat our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, couple of cheese sticks, and soda.

Rock formations north of Las Vegas. Day 5.

Headed toward Boise again, we sped along, read some more, and talked about where to pick up a nice dinner near our hotel. By the time we arrived, ten hours of travel had done us in. We hit McDonalds drive-through and ate in our room.

Day 6

Restless night, another grab-and-go breakfast, and we headed home. On the clear air, the aroma of onion harvest in western Idaho. We read part of an essay on Vietnam from Ambrose’s book as we crossed eastern Oregon.

Just over the Columbia River, finally back in Washington, we came to signs of a truck crossing on a rural road. A long line of trucks loaded with potatoes crossed from a distant field toward a big warehouse.

The air in Western Washington had cleared while we were gone, and we arrived in time to check our mail before the post office closed at 5:00 p.m.

I enjoyed being out in the wider world again, despite the social distancing required. Where we would normally have struck up conversations at rest areas or gas stops, we smiled behind our masks and gave a nod to other travelers. I’m thankful for the freedom to travel. Here are CDC guidelines and suggestions for travel during the pandemic.

Have you traveled this year? What’s changed for you? Your comments are always welcome!