I have arrived in New York, Rockland County, some 20 miles north of Manhattan.
Here are the highlights of the road trip. First, there is an apparently functioning world outside of our shelter-in-place circles. From a car window, there is not much to indicate that a pandemic is in progress: gas stations, restrooms, convenience stores, and fast food drive-throughs are open and traffic exists on and off freeways. And there is road construction. It seems that every state is taking the opportunity to do highway maintenance. The one difference is face masks — rare but not eyebrow-raising in some places, near-ubiquitous in New York. The road trip was unexceptional, mostly, despite COVID Time and despite our rapid transit across the vast American continent.
The US is a beautiful and varied country. I recommend crossing it by land every 25 years or so just to remember its size and differences. Even though I’ve been a California resident for 45 years, seeing the Sierra give way to arid basin-and-range topography followed by increasing broadleaf greenery felt like coming home. Green fields and skies with puffy clouds is what I still expect of the Earth.
What wasn’t expected of the trip was our involuntary 45-minute roadside stop while a Pennsylvania State Trooper interrogated us and searched the car for illegal substances. Admittedly, my driving at the time was less than perfect and a lecture on not driving while tired might have been appropriate. But apparently, the California license plates and the oddity of two middle-aged women driving nonstop cross-country triggered something in this cop’s expectation bias profile. He searched extensively, through bags and trunk, under seats, under the hood, under the car: right side, left side, front, and rear. We were clean, however, and it was a warm sunny afternoon by the roadside. Being well-tanned but not black, I have not acquired the fear of “driving while black”, but this is enough of a taste to make me appreciate my privilege.
Meanwhile, I’m quarantining in New York and busy helping my friend, B, clear out her deceased parents’ house. I hear reports of rising numbers of COVID cases in California and continued closure of indoor dining, etc. So I’m thinking of my California friends and wishing the best for all of us.