Like many, I’ve chosen not to fly during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic. But that does not mean staying home. The great American road trip is hip again, and I’ve racked up thousands of additional miles on the odometer this year. I’ve taken road trips within the US around the eastern half of the country from Pennsylvania to Tennessee, Kentucky and down to Florida.
The silver lining of the past year is that more people have been able to work away from their offices. So, it has been a great time to take responsible road trips and to work remotely while socially distancing. I even worked remotely on a horse farm just outside Louisville, Kentucky that we rented off Airbnb.
I enjoyed traveling around West Virginia, a beautiful state often overlooked by travelers. Capon Springs and Farms is a wonderful getaway for families and perfect for a digital detox. WiFi is only available around the main building, not in the cabins. Highlights of the getaway included a dip in a private thermal spa and enjoying a delicious grilled buffet at sunset atop their beautiful golf course. I even received a fling golf lesson from fourth generation owner Jonathan Bellingham, who loves giving lessons to his guests. Fling golf is a new sport that is like a cross between traditional golf and lacrosse. The property has a dedicated fling golf course adjacent to a gorgeous regulation course built along rolling hills.
Another West Virginia highlight was staying in a CCC era cabin. The Civilian Conservation Corps existed between 1933-1942 and was a voluntary work program established as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. The CCC gave millions of unemployed men jobs during the Great Depression. And they helped shape the national and state park system, including building beautifully crafted cabins.
Friends from Florida joined us to escape the summer heat. The Seneca State Park pioneer cabin offered us an opportunity to recharge, along with experiencing what life was like for our ancestors. Flickering gas lighting, a wood fire stove and a gas refrigerator provide sufficient conveniences, as there is no electricity in the cabins. The bathroom is an outhouse and water is pumped by guests, from a nearby well. Showering meant driving 30 minutes, round trip, to the ranger station. Seneca State Park is in the radio free zone of West Virginia, so there was no cell reception for around 13,000-square-miles.
Especially these days, it’s liberating to have time free of social media and the news. Our group of four swam in the river, kayaked, grilled outside, and caught up over drinks and s’mores at night. For a few days, with barely anybody else staying near us for miles, we almost forgot the world was being held hostage by a pandemic.
Many of us have missed international travel to Europe and other destinations. As the son of a Greek immigrant with family in Europe, I’m no exception. But the pandemic has offered an opportunity to explore European style attractions in our own country thanks to road trips.
The Nashville Parthenon was a significant highlight of my road trip travel last summer. The world’s only full-scale replica of the Greek Parthenon was built in 1897 for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition. As I have family in Athens, the Athens Parthenon in Greece is one of my favorite places to visit. In Tennessee, I marveled at the full-scale replica of the Statue of Athena, and it helped me imagine what the ancient Greek structure looked like when it was originally constructed around 2,500 years ago.
The past couple months I’ve hunkered down in Florida, doing my best impression of a Florida snowbird. While some beaches in Florida have received bad publicity for being overcrowded, with around 700 miles of beach you can find your own off-the-beaten path spot to socially distance and be relatively safe. Beachside state parks like Smyrna Dunes Park charge a small fee that keeps beaches uncrowded. You can rent a beachside apartment on Airbnb and cook your meals or pick-up takeaway and eat on an outdoor terrace, paired with sunshine and fluttering palm trees.
Eventually we’ll get through the pandemic. In the meantime, hitting the road can be a safe option to explore your own backyard or even a little further afield. Just exercise caution for yourself, your loved ones, and people you encounter in a responsible way.