In normal times this headline would probably be a bit of a bore. But these are not normal times, and since I’ve been back from our trip people have wanted to know what it’s like to fly and what it’s like in Florida as their coronavirus cases go through the roof. I approached our trip to the Pensacola area with considerable anxiety. Could I really take six people on an airplane for a week at the beach during perilous times? Could our family and friends be safe when we arrive in their bubble, especially my 83 year old mother? My friend, Kerry Sanders, posted a Covid meme that showed the Panhandle to be like a Category 2 hurricane while South Florida was like a category 5. Well hell, lots of people don’t bother to evacuate in a Category 2. Surely, we could be safe.
A week before our trip United Airlines informed us they rerouted us from a non-stop flight from Denver to New Orleans to one with a stopover in Houston coming and going. Not ideal as we were trying to minimize our time in airports and on airplanes. To its credit, United did work to seat us all together so we had minimum interaction with other passengers. They notified us the day before we traveled that our flight would be fairly full and offered us options to change. We chose to continue on our journey as scheduled. On board, everyone wore masks. For extra protection jerry and I wore face shields too. We were the only ones I saw on the plane who took the extra precaution.
The airports we traveled through (DIA, Houston and New Orleans) were moderately busy. Definitely not the ghost towns we saw earlier in the pandemic. You were hard pressed to find a Starbucks as many concessions were closed. Everyone I saw was wearing masks. Upon boarding passengers were given a wipe so they could clean their hands or their spaces. On the longer flights from Denver to Houston and back we were served a snack. It was tightly wrapped in saran or a Ziploc. A small bottled water, a sweet and pretzels. Flight attendants moved through the aisles repeatedly collecting trash. As we took off and landed in Houston, we could see many United planes parked along the runways while they wait to be put back into service. On a scale of 1 to 10, I would say I felt safe and our flying experience was an 8.
The part of Florida that we visited is Perdido Key. It’s on the border between Florida and Alabama and is referred to as Florabama or the Redneck Riviera. It is the Gulf heart of Trump Country. On a day of boating we counted 35 Trump flags on pleasure and fishing craft. We stayed in a condo right on the water. We were on the ground floor, so we did not have to ride elevators. We walked out of our door and were on the beach. There were plenty of people on the sand, but they kept to groups. We mostly ate in our condo or on patios of restaurants. As we moved carefully around the community, we noticed most visitors were wearing masks. In Alabama it is required. In Florida, not yet. Some merchants chose not to which was uncomfortable coming from Denver where it is required in indoor spaces. One ice cream parlor seemed defiant. Others wore masks under their nose or chin when no one looked.
We are home now and these next few days will tell us whether we all managed to stay safe while we were traveling. Before we left, we got tested for Covid. My test came back negative. Jerry still doesn’t have his results almost two weeks later. Everyone is healthy so far. I’m hoping that this trip shows that masks, social distancing and care in travel will allow people to start moving around some. We really did not see the flaunting of orders and scofflaws that we expected. Everywhere we went were reminders to wear masks and social distance. After months of sitting mostly at home it felt great to get back out in the world and back to a more typical summer. From what we observed people are trying to make the best of the moment and carefully balance having a life with coronavirus. I am not recommending folks head to a hot spot like Florida. I realize traveling at this time is a very personal decision, but it can be done with consideration and caution.