With NYC’s incessant spread of COVID-19 cases, O and I decided to temporarily move to LA until restaurants open/I have to go back to the office (the cue that it’s “safe” to roam + work outside) I deeply love NYC; I wanted to stay, push through to save cost and soak in the Big Apple. But after about a week of talking it through, I’ve realized that we should just drive across America (Read the end if you’re that interested) Even with remarkably cheap plane tickets at less than $50, it wasn’t worth risking our health and possibly infect others. Also, a cross country road trip was on my bucket list and something I wanted to check off. What better time is there than when there’s practically no traffic?
[Baby, I got a plan; run away fast as you can…]
Leaving our home happened so quickly; I packed about a month’s worth of clothes, toiletries, as much food and homemade meals, work supplies, entertainment, and my air plants. With 3 packed luggages and bags of various food for the road (1.5 lbs of mozzarella balls, 10 spicy salmon/smoked salmon onigiri, 2 avocados, 2 clif bars, a box of apples, and more) …we left.
With swarms trying to leave NYC as if it was the apocalypse, we took the last car available at La Guardia’s National- a Jeep. I can’t express how hilariously painful it was to ride in it, nor imagine what it would’ve been like driving our 2871+ miles across the country, but fortunately, we exchanged it for a free upgrade later that night to a Mercedes GLA250. Since Trump had just considered closing New York’s borders earlier that day, we quickly packed at least 15 days of quarantine-2 months worth of prized belongings and left New York State by midnight. I don’t know about you, but I deeply didn’t and don’t want to be stuck at a random state during a nationwide season of chaos.
While it would normally make sense to plan an itinerary for a multi-day trip, we had to improvise much more than we’d normally do. Neither O nor I planned any pit stops, nor knew where we’d stay each night because we wanted to leave as soon as possible that weekend to avoid a NY parking ticket and arrive O’s LA home as quickly as possible so that I could rest before working by Wednesday 6AM. While switching off drivers throughout the night might make sense to get to our destination ASAP, I didn’t want to pull an allnighter because that could potentially put us into danger, accidents, and/or more costs. Thus, we began our journey across the United States AKA the 21st century version of Oregon Trail.
Driving from LGA through SoHo and out was surreal and weirdly reminiscent of Star Tours. After we passed the state line, I felt a rush of adrenaline that helped us navigate to a hotel in Pennsylvania by 2AM.
Day 1 (PT 1) New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania
Start Time: 11:58 PM
Time: 2 hrs
Distance: 950 mi
After inhaling some homemade milk tea with mozzarella balls, we breezed through several northeastern states. We passed through West Virginia so quickly that I forgot to even play <em>Driving Home, Country Roads</em>. Because we wanted to check out the Mississippi river and we’d finished about 12 hours of driving, we decided to check into a hotel in St. Louis.
Day 1 (PT 2) PENNSYLVANIA, WEST VIRGINIA, OHIO, INDIANA, ILLINOIS, MISSOURI
Start Time: 9:48 AM
Distance: 1050 mi
Thanks to Dosh, we were able to stay at the gorgeous Drury Plaza Hotel St. Louis at the Arch for just a small handful of dollars than the cigarette infused motel down the street. While the crime and homicide rate in St. Louis was a little unsettling, I felt really relaxed and relieved in the hotel and woke up to one of the most gorgeous sunrises.
While we did hope to snag some BBQ through Amarillo, Texas, 2 out of the 3 were closed/sold out of food. So, we settled to drive through Crazy Larry’s BBQ. Did it fulfill my cravings for southern food? ..Sadly, it didn’t (I wonder if it’s because I didn’t have baby back ribs) But hey, who knew New Mexico sunsets were also stunning?
Day 2: MISSOURI, OKLAHOMA, TEXAS, NEW MEXICO
Start Time: 9:10 AM
Distance: 1050 mi
Out of all gorgeous views of the sky and everything that we drove by, the ancient petroglyphs at the petroglyph national monument in Albaquerque were the highlight of the trip. I didn’t know what to expect in New Mexico, but stepping out from our car a bit to do a peaceful hike by ourselves while seeing various art engravings on glyphs was so personal and mesmerizing. What were these artists thinking and what was their motivation? What were they inspired by? How did they survive 300+ years? Who knows…
..and along Arizona’s Route 66, we grabbed some of the most delicious tacos + churro (thank you Tacos Los Altos!) and headed for our last stretch to California with some of the most stunning sunsets along Led Zeppelin’s Going to California and 2Pac ‘s California Love.
Day 3: NEW MEXICO, ARIZONA, CALIFORNIA
Start Time: 11:24 AM
Distance: 812 mi
I couldn’t help but think damn, this is why people love California. It never felt so good to be back in masks and to quarantine. With the 4 day car rental of our sweet GLA, GLA’s mileage of ~27 mpg, 9 gas station stops, 4.5 tolls, occasional food/drinks, everything cost about $900. I’m sure if you strategize and plan your itinerary, you could make it across much cheaper.
But would I recommend a cross country road trip? Absolutely-if you have at least 1 fun partner, good podcasts like Conan Needs a Friend, Office Ladies, a singalong playlist that includes Weezer’s Blue Album, Radiohead’s The Bends, and the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack – oh and of course, hopefully a comfortable car like our GLA. Of course, nothing screams Welcome to California more than IN N OUT.
Fast forward to a week after arriving LA-With the whole stay v. leave NYC, controversy, I do understand the sensitivity and extent of “stay home saves lives.” There is so much talk about why leaving NY is selfish, but do I regret coming? No.
I deeply love NYC and left a part of my heart there. I wanted to endure everything and happily cook and paint in my tiny little apartment. At least a handful of us couldn’t even step outside nor order food without wondering if a door knob was infected or a delivery person/groceries/package might be COVID19 infected – which could ultimately lead to paranoia, angst within my building or apartment itself. It’s almost appalling that some residents believe that the truly devoted and selfless New Yorkers are those who stick in tiny NY homes through the hell.
With the ongoing xenophobic “Chinese virus” talk and various assaults happening throughout the country, I also believe that we have to look out for ourselves and our loved ones, which hopefully includes our community. If we have to step out for a few days in a car to be in a larger, brighter home …and that lifestyle that could strengthen my relationships + build new ones, then yes x1000.
Summary of our cross country ride:
Total Distance: 2812 mi
Time: 68 hours