I ran for the hills this 4th of July weekend (well, drove). Here are my observations from my first trip anywhere since quarantining at home as part of the COVID-19 including some promising signs of life in the travel industry.
Me, a fishing pole, an Avis rental car, Holiday Inn Hotel, and the Sierra Nevadas
After traveling nearly every week for business, I went into a complete and total travel shutdown as part of the COVID-19 protection measures here in the States. Since early March I’ve been working from home and traveling precisely nowhere. That included business and leisure travel.
The family and I canceled our family vacation to Europe, our normal family vacations to Arizona and Utah, and of course all business travel was canceled as well. While my company has started to reopen business travel a bit, my first planned trip was canceled on account of an outbreak in Arizona (my customers stopped taking visitors). I was looking forward to getting back out for some sort of travel – any sort, really.
On a whim, I booked a hotel in Bishop, CA, snagged a rental car from Ontario Airport and headed for the Sierra Nevada’s. A solo fishing trip and much needed time out of my house. Here’s my observations from my 24 hour road trip to the greater Mammoth Lakes area, including a hotel stay, social distancing, rental car, and traffic!
Trip Report: July 3rd – 4th Road Trip
Here’s my collection of semi random observations from my trip since the near total travel lockdown thanks to COVID.
Observation#1: Ontario Airport was desolate
The ONT is my “home” airport and where I would most often travel out of for work. I will occasionally rent a car from there as well because I can usually park my personal vehicle extremely close to the rental car facility for a very affordable price.
However, the “cheaper” ONT airport parking lots were all closed meaning I had to park near the terminal in the more expensive parking. It was a little eerie seeing those lots empty and the main lots were sparsely populated. Additionally, the Park n Fly (which I don’t normally park at, but drive by on every trip) appeared to be closed with what looked like either rental cars or dealership cars filling up a portion of it, but otherwise hundreds of empty spaces.
If I’d been thinking…I’d have snapped some pic, but I didn’t. 🙂 #clutchtravelblogging
Observation #2: Rental Cars are hot right now
Instead of taking my personal vehicle on a 6 hour drive, I rented a car from Avis. And it was busy. The cars were not cheap and Avis advised me that inventory was limited. Folks have been claiming that the road trip is the “big thing” right now and people are renting cars instead of flying. It certainly seemed that way.
The lines were busy and the car lots seemed like they were being pretty well used.
Everyone seemed to be wearing their masks, mostly practicing social distancing and generally in a good mood.
I used a combination of points and money to rent the car and Avis was kind enough to upgrade me to a nice Jeep Wrangler which was fun (although I forgot how hard Jeeps ride…).
Observation #3: I wiped the heck out of that Jeep with Clorox wipes
I’d brought some Clorox wipes with me on the journey (mostly for the hotel room), but I was definitely conscious of how many surfaces there are in a car and started wiping the heck out of that thing.
I know Avis is using enhanced cleaning measures, but I wasn’t taking any chances. Steering wheels, seat belt buckles, nobs, door handles, dome lights, etc. You sometimes forget how many surfaces there are in a car…
This was the first time I’d ever wiped a rental car clean like that and I was a little grossed out thinking about the last 20 years of business travel and all the rental cars I’ve used. COVID or not, I imagine the could be a little gross…
Observation #4: the roads were busy, but not crazy
It was Friday on a busy holiday weekend and I hit the road on Interstate 15 around 1PM. There’s a longstanding rule in my SOCAL household. Never try to leave Southern California on a Friday after 12PM. Basically, it’s traffic insanity trying to get out of Cali at this time.
However, while there was traffic, it was not crazy standstill. There was a small pocket of stop and go, but that was related to an accident. So, while there were a decent amount of cars, boats, RVs, etc on the road, it was not total insanity, nor was it completely empty. I viewed it as “signs of life.”
Since many companies gave their employees the Friday off, it’s possible that traffic was worse the prior Thursday or that there simply were not as many people out for the weekend.
Either way, it was more than I expected and it was nice to see people out and about and spending money – while, for the most part, appearing to try to be safe about it.
Observation #5: it was still pretty busy…hotels and campgrounds seemed full and there were a lot of people out and about
I was driving to the greater Mammoth Lakes area which consists of the town of Mammoth and the surrounding areas like Bishop, June Lake, Lee Vining, etc. In a non-COVID world I would not have dreamed of even considering visiting this area on a holiday weekend, as it would be utter madness getting there and being there.
I figured it wouldn’t be too bad though. I was half right.
When booking a hotel I had some trouble finding anything that wasn’t super sketchy. The hotels were mostly full. And when I got into the actual area, I saw a lot of No Vacancy signs and full parking lots.
For Bishop and the Mammoth Lakes area it seems people have decided hotel stays are just fine. There was traffic in the Mammoth Lakes town – not the kind of traffic you’d expect on a “normal” holiday weekend, but it was still pretty thick. Lots and lots of people out and about at resteraunts, stores, hiking, walking, boating, fishing, etc.
Most seemed to be doing a great job social distancing and wearing masks and all seemed to be generally enjoying themselves.
Observation #6: It was weird staying in hotel at first, but then normal
I booked a night at the Bishop Holiday Inn which was nearly full. They charged we north of 250.00 for the night (which is about a hundred more than I would have expected to pay for a hotel like that). They were fully booked when I arrived with no vacancy signs taped to the door.
The check in process was NOT touchless – I still had to sign my hotel agreement and write in the make and model of my car. There were two containers of pens: one marked as sanitized and one marked as used. Once you were done with the pen you dropped in the used bin.
The clerk was nice enough and friendly. She was wearing a mask and went over the new rules which were mostly that things like coffee cups and coffee were removed from the room, and no food in the morning – bagged meals instead.
As I walked to the room I was reminded how small hotel hallways were when I passed a group of teens. We squeezed by each other. This hotel’s elevator was located in a bizarre location and nowhere near the main desk. I was reminded how many surfaces you touch along the way….elevator buttons, doors, etc.
Once in the room, it was clean, sparse and appropriately appointed for a Holiday Inn Express.
I used my Clorox wipes again and wiped everything down again including light switches, AC controls, shower handles, faucets, etc. It turns out there’s a lot of surfaces you can touch in a hotel room – I’d never really considered it before.
There were no bars of soap in the room and instead I had to use the bulk use squeeze bottles in the shower to wash my hands. That was weird. I am not a fan of the reusable soaps and shampoos that are becoming more popular, but these appeared to constructed in a way that would have made it difficult to tamper with.
If I had it to do over again I’d have probably brought my own soaps.
All in all, it was briefly unnerving as I hoped the room had been cleaned properly, but that passed quickly and it soon became another night in a hotel with a noisy AC. There were only two pillows on the bed which may be a thing for Holiday Inns or not – I honestly don’t know as I don’t stay at them all that often. Usually hotels have 4 pillows, but maybe this is a thing Holiday Inns are doing right now.
It was nice to sleep in a hotel bed again…something I’ve not done in far too long.
Observation #7: I was hyper aware of staying sanitary
I don’t know about those of you who have traveled recently, but it seemed like I was hyper aware of everything. From touching my face, to the light switch in the hotel room, to the elevator buttons. Pumping gas, wiping down the cold brew I bought at the gas station, etc.
Pre-COVID I never really thought about any of this, unless it was obvious something was gross (like a tray table). Not that I was unsafe, I just didn’t pay it much attention. On this trip, my first since lock down, I was hyper vigilant. I noticed people not wearing their mask and gave them a wider berth. I sanitized my hands after getting back in the car, etc. Maybe I was just being a nervous nelly, here, but as I sit back and reflect on it, it was definitely a different mindset.
I wonder if that awareness will stay once the pandemic is over. Will folks remain hyper vigilant once the dust settles?
Observation #8 & 9: Dang…I needed that (plus for a travel blogger I kinda suck at taking pictures)
After being cooped up in my home for months on end, and really only venturing out to go shopping or for a bike ride or walk, it was so very nice to get out and go somewhere.
I thoroughly enjoyed being in a car, driving, seeing the sights, and of course, I loved sleeping in a hotel.
I love fishing and had a chance to get out by myself to a few fishing holes and even snagged a few. It was delightful!
Mentally, I feel refreshed and rejuvenated. For me, the mountains, and specifically the streams and rivers are my sanctuary. While I don’t get out as much as I like to, I can always “go the mountains” for peace, sanctuary, alone time, reflection, etc. It’s almost spiritual for me. The sound of running water, the thrill of hooking a trout, the lure of “whats around the next bend of the river” – all of it it so very important to me.
If you’ve not left your home for a while I would strongly encourage you to figure out how to get out somehow, someway this summer. You can do it safely. Spend a few dollars, if you can, but most importantly, just get out. You mind and body will thank you.
Here’s a few more pictures (which as a travel blogger I am clearly NOT crushing it…I simply forgot to take many pictures on this journey…a rookie mistake! LOL):
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