What’s It Like Road Tripping Through the US Because of COVID?
On Friday September 18th, I embarked on a roughly 3,700 mile road trip through nearly a dozen states (Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico) and I noticed something...every state is handling COVID completely different. It's wild, at least to me, that one country can vary so much on how they approach the same issue. You can literally go an hour down the road, but with the rules and regulations, it's like visiting a different universe.
For months now, many have been critical of the way Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has handled the coronavirus pandemic. Heck, I've been one of them. Some of the rules and guidelines that have been put in place just don't make sense to me. However, after traveling around a bit, it's clear that Louisiana does not have the strictest or most restrictive rules in place. That honor, hands down, belongs to New Mexico. Probably in my journey, Louisiana has the 3rd most restrictive COVID rules.
Me and my buddy were just driving around and going place to place with little to no plan. My only real goal was to see a heard of wild buffalo (which I did, by the way, in Wyoming), otherwise, we were out just seeing what we could see. So, when we rolled into New Mexico, we didn't know what to expect. But it became quickly apparent we should have skipped the wrong turn in Albuquerque.
Compared to Louisiana, New Mexico is pretty much still in Phase 1. Many businesses are still closed. The ones that are open have STRICT capacity limits and hours of operations. Many businesses we saw only allowed a dozen or so people in at a time. Plus, due to the hour restrictions, restaurants were opening in 3-4 hour shifts to meet local requirements. Literally, at 3 pm in Roswell, there was only one dine-in restaurant open. Everything else was closed completely or waiting to start their second 'diner' shift at 5 to comply with statewide ordinances. Plus, and we didn't hear this on the radio until we were heading out of town, there was a mandatory 14 day quarantine for out of state visitors. If you get caught without quarantining, the state can lock you up in a hospital for 2 weeks. Luckily, none of our hotels turned us in...which is something that is happening there.
Second on the restriction list is Colorado. They are similar to Louisiana but a bit more strict. For instance, masks are mandatory. And if you're not wearing one, you won't be served. Bars and restaurants also have capacity limits and must quit serving by a certain time. This is where Colorado (at least Denver) is a bit more strict than Louisiana. Bars and restaurants there seemingly must close by 9 pm. Downtown Denver was like a ghost town once the clock struck 9 pm. It was eerie walking around the 19th biggest city in the country and hardly seeing any other people.
Everywhere else on our journey was pretty much wide open. There was a full blown music festival happening in Downtown Deadwood, South Dakota with thousands of people dancing and having a good time in the streets. After being deprived of public gatherings for 7 months now, it was kind of beautiful to see. In Louisiana, most places won't let you refill the same soda cup. In Deadwood at this music festival, there were beer kegs on every corner for revelers with special cups to refill their glasses. It was literally like going back in time to a pre-COVID era. Also, in a lot of different businesses, there were signs praising SD Governor Kristi Noem for not forcing them to close and lose their livelihoods. Which is a STARK contrast to the way Louisiana business owners feel about John Bel Edwards and his approach to the virus.
But, really, all this just illustrates the beauty of the United States. That States have the right to do what they feel is best for their people. However, if you plan a road trip, be sure to check those local restrictions. Or else you might end up locked away against your will in a New Mexico hospital for 2 weeks.