Sunday, November 22, 2020

Road Trip

It seems the sudden demand for campers and RVs has depleted the supply and naturally increased the cost. We took delivery of our custom built Promaster last March just as virus lockdowns were starting and we congratulated ourselves on our totally unplanned great good fortune. Indeed the van, if you can accommodate your sprawling life to 21 feet makes an ideal travel companion in a time of plague. We can go hither and yon and hardly have contact with another human being. Gas stops, 18 miles per gallon at $2:00 a gallon, are affairs of the mask, a quick hand sanitizer, and back to the comfort of our own toilet, our own refrigerator filled with better foods than gas station supplies, and then back on the road in minutes. That's the good news but the bad news is all those attractions, those small pleasures in travel destinations are now closed to mask wearing cautious virus wimps like us.
Florida Keys
Sure we can, and do buy restaurant food to go and eat it in the comfort of our own living-room-on-wheels, but its not quite the same as being spoiled by strangers, especially when you know restaurants are all teetering on the pandemic brink. Museums? Attractions? Shop explorations? Not likely these days and that makes a destination a tough place to select. The paradox of the approaching vaccine counter balanced by 2,000 deaths a day and innumerable more painful side effects, mixed in with crowded hospitals and exhausted medical staff, leaves me wondering how there can still be those who ignore the suffering and shrug off the virus as a hoax. Normally I would question my own choices, second guess myself, wonder if I was worrying too much, a bad habit I am prone to, but for me the modest privations I suffer to avoid viral contact seem not that harsh at all compared to hospitalization, ventilation, and no human contact at all.
 Florida Keys

So when our Thanksgiving plans with socially isolated friends collapsed suddenly and at the last minute there were no hard feelings. First one then the other members of our generation with suitable medical issues for their age, said they were getting spooked by the numbers  and we understood, disappointed that one more modest holiday tradition bit the dust in a year of savage disappointments for some, and far worse for others. So we found ourselves with time off, a packed van and no destination in particular. Well, we said, let's make it up as we go along.

Florida Everglades I-75
Luckily our first planned stop in St Petersburg didn't cancel so we remained motivated to get on the road and we set course for Dale's place seven hours north. Actually we had been wanting to get out on the road for a while so the absence of a destination hadn't really put us off getting behind the wheel. The sun was shining the breeze was blowing and there were big white puffy clouds overhead as we cross the Everglades in the middle of the state. This was going to be our first stab at mooch docking.
I-75 Alligator Alley
The speed limit on the four lane highway across the Everglades is 70 mph and as usual Florida tolerates five miles an hour over and perhaps a little bit more but I, traveling sedately at the speed limit to improve my mileage, spotted one Seminole Tribal Police officer writing a ticket. The Florida Highway Patrol sit in their cream and black Dodge Chargers looking for all the world like alligators waiting for someone foolish to zip by. Then come the blue lights and a burst of acceleration worthy of a hungry dinosaur. The prey never escapes as this highway is a 80 miles long with one set of ess curves on an eighty mile straight roadway. Where the Interstate bends first left then right was where the two halves joined up a few decades ago. I remember when the middle bit was all dirt and construction and you had to pick your way from one finished section to the next across half a mile of off roading. 
St Petersburg Downtown, Florida
St Petersburg on a Friday looked fairly normal. A high percentage of people were wearing masks but enough weren't to make me wonder. My wife went to Publix to get dinner for ourselves and our bachelor host Dale while Rusty and I went exploring.
Florida Streets
I like St Petersburg very much, a great deal more than I did when I lived here thirty years ago. At that time I thought there should be more to this city wedged between two bodies of water and I guess people with more commitment than me decided I was right. There is art and culture, museums and theater, young people and students in a. town that used to be the butt of jokes about being "God's waiting room."
Florida B&W
I can't wait to get back here and enjoy whatever amenities the virus will have left in its wake. I know they keep telling us the world will be different and I suppose it will but people can risk eating out in the middle of a pandemic then I suppose restaurants will be in demand after this is over, and I trust the other cultural amenities will pull through. 
St Petersburg Florida
Our destination was the home of Layne's college friend who lives alone at home and has sporadic contact with his children and who willingly wears a mask and was outfitted with lanai seating so we could sit far apart and talk and eat Publix roast chicken. Dale was so impressed by our camper he ordered on himself from Custom Coach and he said he wanted us to park behind his house to see if the Promaster fit.
Custom Coach Creations
Dale's will be two feet shorter so he will have no trouble parking his in the alley. Mooch-docking is the term used to spoof boondocking, the term used for camping in your vehicle in the wilderness without amenities. We were mooching a free spot at a friend's place and I have to say we slept well there. Rusty even let me sleep in till 6 in the morning. The visit with Dale went on into the night with much to catch up as Dale lived an active life of business and travel which has been curtailed by the pandemic. He is a technology wizard so communicating by computer obviously comes easily but meeting face to face is such a rarity. The absurdity of all his distance meeting, no contact, masks up close and so forth will be a bad memory one day. That will be a decidedly good thing.