I ran. As soon as it looked like restrictions were going to be put in place, my first instinct was to run. I packed my camper truck and was primed and ready to go at a moments’ impulse. I continued going to work. I continued to meet once or twice a day with a close-knit group of friends. I couldn’t tear myself away from those daily gatherings. I felt more drawn to cling to my fellow workplace habits and associates, the normal routine of each day seemed more precious than ever.
As I undressed Wednesday night, work all done for a few days or maybe for an unforeseen amount of time, a sudden pain hit me in the chest. I though uh oh, this is about to get very real. I imagined surgeries, deadly treatments, endless doctor appointments, but no, Covid-19. I would not be able to see a doctor for three months or more. I would die not from Covid-19, but because the virus occupied the hospitals and the doctors and my ills would have to go untreated. That was the impulse I needed to get on the road. I would leave in the morning when the sun had melted the ice.
I drove off at 11 a.m. into the distance, heading for the far away east or perhaps the Florida Keys where it would be warm and dry. I pondered my life as I drove, running from the disease that was actually more in front of me than behind. I heard the news reports of each area as I traveled, more cases than the zero number that were in Plumas County.
I figured I would isolate on a warm beach with my dog running freely. I would be miles from anyone. I was loaded up with 16 smoothies I made at home and various other snacks to hold me for a week’s travel at least. I could get anywhere in a week. I was cautious at gas stations, cleaning my hands after touching the pump, never purchasing inside the store, cautiously using the restrooms.
I was on 395 near Adelanto, basically the middle of nowhere. My credit card was causing me trouble at the pump. It was near midnight. I went in and gingerly approached the clerk. She tried my card three times; I grew impatient to exit the store. A girl came up behind me, much too close. I turned to look at her as she stood just a foot and a half behind me, a disheveled tweeker with rotting teeth and greasy hair. I turned back around. And then … she coughed on me. I wanted to crawl out of my skin. I failed. I had not kept myself safe. I paid with my debit card and got the heck out of there. I felt like I was doomed. I had received the death sentence. I pumped my gas and realized the girl had probably been holed up somewhere for weeks, exposed to no one, didn’t know what was going on, and was probably less likely than myself to have picked up the virus.
I drove on, thinking about how I had fouled my own plan. I thought about the doors I had opened with my shoulder, the knobs turned using my sleeve. I thought those were protective measures but I was exposing my clothes to germs. If I had used my hands I could have washed or disinfected them. I thought I was being smart but I missed those aspects traveling over 600 miles.
I continued on and slept at the rest stop in Palm Springs. It had stopped raining. It was indeed warm. What should I do? Would I get sick on the road away from home? I continued driving east, finally on the desired Hwy. 10. Dang. I goofed. I really messed up. What should I do? I pondered as I drove.
I was just outside of Phoenix around noon and stopped to rest. I was not driven forward anymore. I was full of doubt about my direction. I lay in the back of the truck with the dog, warm breeze blowing. It was pretty great. I couldn’t do it. I was afraid I was doing something bad for the country. Maybe I was spreading something I picked up along the way. I didn’t want to hurt anyone.
I pulled out of the rest stop to go home. I was going to take what I thought would be the quickest (definitely the simplest) route home, Hwy. 10 to the 5 and straight home.
My phone had another route in mind. I wondered, “may have dirt roads,” hmmm. I took it. A few back roads eventually ended me up on Hwy. 93. I was treated to fear, surrounded by barrel cactus, desolation and Vulture City! I came in the back door of a retirement community and made sure not to stop for anything in case I was a vessel of contamination.
Las Vegas looked like something out of a science fiction novel, all quiet. Everything seemed to be painted with a certain hue that revealed the crisis. I continued to listen to the news the whole way. I grew tired as I pulled into Area 51 and there was a rest stop. I was growing tired but imagined myself disappearing in the night; so I continued west.
I had an entirely delightful adventure home. I drove 21 hours in a straight shot from that rest stop outside of Phoenix. I was driven by a hundred forms of fear, but felt I would be safer to be home.
NOW I had the motivation to stay away from my friends, my co-workers and the world at large. Isolation came natural after the mini road run, just Clover, the dog and me.
I began connecting online through Zoom meetings with friends across the country, across the world actually. Even my pals in Quincy were able to stay in touch through the medium. Instead of meeting them once or twice a day, I have been “meeting” them five times a day sometimes. I love the international groups that meet 24 hours a day, perfect for my head that has woken me up more than once at 1:30 a.m. thinking … about the state of things.
Much has changed since my reemergence in Plumas County March 21. I am the Sports Editor and alas, there are no sports. Plumas now has a couple cases in the east of the county –it wasn’t me, my last stop was somewhere east of Fallon. I am 16 days in and feel confident that I did not bring anything home from the road except some dust on the dog. I have stuck to myself and will continue to do so. I am missing baseball and softball, but the garden is appreciating my attention. It seems very important to comply utterly in hopes of shortening the impact, suffering and fear that folks are experiencing, folks that it seems I can do nothing for except extend compassion and extra caution.
The Florida Keys still sound like a wonderful place to isolate but a Floridian friend let me know after I was home from my 1600-mile hiatus, they closed the Keys; if I was to have made it there, it would be who knows how long before I could have come ‘Home.’
Hang tight Plumas. We are in a beautiful spot. Of all the places to be, we have clean air, clean water and beautiful scenery. Even at a distance, we still have each other. Here’s a hope that we all come out safely on the other side of this pandemic with more compassion for one another and a higher sense of gratitude for all that we have. Namaste.