Friends, Romans, all y’all: Welcome to THE GREAT SOUTHERN ESCAPADE.
Over twelve days, my wife Becca and I traveled from home in Brooklyn to Houston, TX and back, visiting family, taking in the culture, and exploring new sights along the way. We had wanted to take this trip since last spring, but of course the world prevented such an adventure from happening.
The pandemic was part of what made this trip possible. Our original plan was to fly down to Houston during Spring Break of 2020 and spend a long weekend with Becca’s sister and niece, whom I had not yet met. But then we all spent well over a year cooped up in our homes doing all that we could to protect ourselves from getting COVID. We got our vaccines and boosters, we masked up, we kept our space from folks in stores and on the street. This past summer, we began to explore the idea of a Houston trip again, but instead of a flight, we asked ourselves: What if we took our adventure on the road?
A road trip was something we’d wanted to do for a long while. Most of our driving had been either to Boston or Upstate New York to visit our respective parents. We weren’t going to get back on a plane just yet, considering the nightmares of flying even beyond anything COVID-related. (Have you seen Karens at airports lately? They’re off the hook, folks.) Plus, the idea of traveling 4,000 miles in our own car, being able to control our travel, and hit up destinations unknown sounded much better than sitting on a plane. And we both had the time off to spend, so the decision was made: We would drive to Houston and explore the South over the last two weeks of 2021, getting back to New York with plenty of time to ring in 2022.
Some questions we had to ask ourselves:
- Will we feel safe staying in different places, especially in parts of the country that may be less mask and vaccine-friendly? We knew that the different variants would create some anxiety, especially in the later months of the year when Omicron really started to take over. When looking for places to stay, we researched hotels and AirBnBs that took safety precautions to heart. We had credit card miles that helped us book some nicer places, and for a couple of places we called upon family to house us. Having taken our own precautions, we knew that we would stay somewhat protected going into stores and restaurants. Our mindset was – and is, going into 2022 – that we’ve done all that we can to prevent ourselves from getting sick barring another total lockdown.
- Could we make it from Brooklyn to Houston and back in a reasonable amount of time, as well as handle the long drives between stops? We had between December 19th and December 30th to make the trip, or twelve days and nights. We wanted to make it Houston by Christmas, if not Christmas Eve, in order to celebrate the holidays with family. So while we knew we wouldn’t have much time in each stop, we figured we could make the drives – some of which would take over ten hours – without getting too tired and swerving into a cow pasture in Alabama. It would take frequent stops for food, fuel, leg stretching, and back cracking. But we knew we could manage so long as the weather and traffic cooperated. We had help from my sister, who’s taken many road trips in her time, and my brother who works with maps for a living. But we found that many of our drives were straightforward on major interstates and U.S. highways, and that in the South, the speed limit was as high as 75 miles per hour. We took great advantage of that.
- How much of a plan did we want to set? We did some research into what made a good road trip. Some sources said that setting an agenda would provide structure, and that we should decide on intermediate stops between destinations (such as roadside attractions, restaurants, etc.) ahead of time. Others said that trying to stick to a strict timetable would drag down the trip, and that having looser plans would increase the sense of adventure. Our final agenda blended these two approaches: We decided on in-between stops the night before setting out to the next location, and we fell into a good groove with our driving schedule. This made the trip comfortable with regard to our schedule and time constraints, but kept our curiosity high.
We also had a box of COVID at-home tests with us, so we tested before and during the trip and continued getting negative results. When we got home, we received negative results on our at-home test and our rapid tests from the MedRite in Cobble Hill. We’re still waiting on the PCR results, but we’re feeling pretty confident – and surprised, frankly – that we made it through the deepest parts of the South without catching the bug. Some of these places didn’t seem to register that there was still a pandemic going on. (I’m looking at y’all, Nashville.)
Here was our path over our twelve days of travel. I’ll try to link up these posts for seamless reading as I publish them, but I can’t make any promises.
- Charlotte, NC
- Day 1: Travel to Charlotte from Brooklyn
- Day 2: Explore Charlotte, the Brooklyn of the South
- Clarksdale, MS
- Day 3: Touch down in the land of the Delta blues
- New Orleans, LA
- Day 4: Hurricanes and hand grenades
- Day 5: The bad bitches of New Orleans
- Houston, TX
- Day 6: Bow down to Buc-ee’s, our Lord and God
- Day 7: An 82-degree Christmas in Texas
- Day 8: A family foray around Houston
- Memphis, TN
- Day 9: Walking with our feet ten feet off of Beale
- Nashville, TN
- Day 10: The terrible Times Square of the South
- Point Pleasant, WV
- Day 11: All hail Mothman, protector and savior
- Brooklyn, NY
- Day 12: One last Waffle House for the road
I hope I can retell this adventure through America and reflect as much energy and excitement as we had while we were on the road. And I hope you’ll join along for the ride. After all, this trip was a fantastic way to close out 2021 and – I suppose – this era of the pandemic.
Stay tuned as the rest of this series gets posted over the next few weeks. Bless your heart.