(Road)Tripping in the Age of Covid

Today I was supposed to be driving through Wyoming as part of an elaborate, multi-state road trip. From Yellowstone, my next stop would have been Grand Teton National Park, followed by Shoshone Falls in Idaho. But we all know what this year has done to our travel plans.

Thanks, pandemic.

While those plans were put on an indefinite hold, I am currently on another adventure — albeit smaller. The universe must have wanted me on the road, as I found myself driving from Georgia, the Deep South, to Virginia, the northernmost southern state.

Among the many observations and suggestions I could possibly offer, I think there is really only one question that is top-of-mind for everyone planning a drive in the age of Covid:

Where to pee?

The plague of every road trip is the functioning bladder. Pre-Covid, these bio-breaks would normally be tied to a quick meal at local restaurant, a photo-op at a kitschy site that conveniently had facilities, or an impromptu game of miniature golf…especially if the course looked slightly haunted. But as most attractions are closed and very few restaurants are open for dine-in, peeing (and the dreaded number two) is now way more complicated.

On my mini-drive, I made a stop in Greenville, South Carolina. Pre-pandemic, I would’ve taken a peek at the Falls Park on the Reedy and maybe even grabbed a bite at Mary’s at Falls Cottage, but this is now and a lovely Publix Supermarket will have to do.

Upon entering I was greeted warmly, everyone wore masks, the facilities were clean, and a magical Pub-sub was made to my exact specifications right before my eyes. 11/10 I recommend this attraction.

From one Carolina to the other (do we really need two?) a few hours elapsed and my bladder once again engaged in attention-seeking behavior.

Nearing Durham, I could’ve taken advantage of the near-perfect weather (and free admission) to pop into Duke Gardens to stretch my legs and tinkle, but these are far-from-perfect times. Instead, thanks to many informative and detailed Yelp reviews, I found a Walmart.

Using the entrance-only side of the building, I walked along a barricade and was promptly allowed inside by an employee with a tally counter in her hand. I did not collect a cart, but many were available. I walked the length of the store until I found the restrooms. I opened a stall and found a toilet seat festooned with at least seven layers of paper covers (why can’t people clean up after themselves?), but found a more suitable situation in the next one over. I wouldn’t normally recommend, but as I walked out of the restroom, I got a thumbs up from an employee. 8/10

The next stop was scheduled for a highly-rated Target in Richmond, Virginia, but the expected happened.

Off the highway, I spotted a rest stop. As an avid road tripper, I must tell you that not all rest stops are equal. There are monster facilities that look like super malls along Florida’s Turnpike and there are port-o-potties tied together with rope on I-40 between Oklahoma and Arkansas. I was pleased to find that Virginia offered the exact middle option. Nonetheless, this was the perfect opportunity to break out my disposable “stand-up-to-pee” cone/funnel. After all, I had (drunkenly) ordered thirty of them.

I walked in, found a perfectly suitable stall, unbuttoned my pants and positioned the funnel. I took a deep breath and convinced my bladder to release even though I was standing up, but the force of the stream was too much for my hands. The pee-pee snow cone flew out of my hands, bounced off the toilet and onto the floor. In a panic, and to avoid further spray, I sat on the rest stop toilet. Adding virus to plague, I had to clean myself up and pick up the funnel from the floor, but I’m not entirely sure in what order that happened.

Undoubtedly, the next stop on my road trip is the CDC, so they can get a jump start on whatever it is I’ve contracted on my drive.

9/10 I would recommend the Virginia rest stop, but as for the vagi-urinal, meh.

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