How we've traveled during Covid
We've been home a few days after traveling approximately 6,000 miles for about 6 shows during these insane times. Was it worth it? Yes. Would I do it with a full band right now? Probably not. We pondered that question a month prior and decided against it. Did I feel safe? Yes. Did I feel uncertain at times? Yes. I made a promise to myself to examine my choices and actions daily, and uncertainty is a by-product of that genuine promise. The biggest threat posed to me is myself and my comfort level.
I'm going to keep blogging about our last trip and thoughts about the industry as a whole, in particular live music. But several people have asked, without skepticism or judgement, "How did you travel safely"? Sometimes with concern but more often from curiosity.
If you've ever gotten sick on a vacation, its about 500x worse to be sick on the road during tour. Being responsible for other people's income, stuck in a hotel with nothing nearby but a Denny's and wondering if you should see a doc, go to the hospital, will your insurance cover it.... Its something I never care to experience again. So I've already been good about washing my hands until they are pruny, already had a literal gallon of hand sanitizer for the van, and took to covering my face on planes - my last plane trip being in December when some "really horrible flu" was going around..... wow. I went 2 years of extensive travel without a virus until this year which I feel is a good track record especially considering I have an underlying health issue.
Survey Says: Lysol Wipes
Answer in a nutshell is: Cooler, Lysol, hand sanitizer, masks.
We did take extra precautions, keeping the attitude that people were welcoming us into their proverbial "homes" - giving us a place to make music and welcome us into their town. That's a responsibility that weighed heavily on me and I'd rather experience a few judgmental stares along the way than become a news item.
We typically eat from grocery stores as much as possible on the road for health reasons. This time we packed a large cooler and stocked it, along with a box of non-perishable snacks (thanks to the friends that stopped by the day before we left, bearing gifts <3). I had beans and rice from scratch and other home made stuff that lasted into day 6. I made a salad for the first day, we had boiled eggs, hummus, carrots, snap peas, cucumbers, bananas, avocados, tuna, and travel sized sriracha, a frozen bag of protein blends from Birdseye and other stand bys. Dylan brought our cold brew pitcher and actually made cold brew as needed for me - liberating us from late night gas station coffee. In Wichita we were gifted Elk Sausage to add to our bounty! If we stopped, we got ice and salads from the grocery store and did everything at once.
What about going to the bathroom?
Everyone wants to know about bathroom and gas stops. So did I! We assumed many rest stops would be closed, but we found many open, except for hard hit covid hotspots which we had planned ahead to drive straight through already. Since the van was outfitted for us to sleep in with a loft, we actually slept at a couple rest stops instead of Wally-docking as we anticipated. Wait, what?
What is Wally-docking? Well, in much of rural and small town America, Walmart allows overnight parking of RVs, Semi Trucks, etc. Which isn't a bad thing. We took advantage on our way home from the last tour, which ended as the NBA announced the cancellation of their season. I wasn't comfortable with a hotel and we just wanted to get home, so we slept at a Walmart and woke up at the crack of dawn to take advantage of a toilet paper shipment and stock up on food for home as we typically leave our shelves bare when we leave for tour. Love or hate Walmart, they are often the only choice in small towns and they also are the largest single employer in the U.S. outside of the U.S. Government. I do some Googling on the road....but I digress.
Back to the bathroom - Lysol, Hand Sanitizer and Masks
We targeted the nicer truck stops as much as possible that are known for their good layouts with hand- sanitizer outside bathrooms and doorless entries. Masking up was mandatory for me. The last thing I want to do is screw up and bring covid to my family, my music family, strangers, venue employees, by extension their families, and others who make their living serving drinks, running sound, and are keeping the music alive. As much as I tried, it is next to impossible to keep track of all the statistics and mandates from state, to county, to city so I choose to err on the side of caution. Yes, I did get some nasty and judgmental looks. I was told by employees in one case that they wouldn't hold me to the state mandate to wear a mask. I just thanked them and carried on. I know some people want to look at a mask as a political statement or virtue signaling but that is just not the case for me and many others.
Lysol. Lets face it, gas stations can be germy places and so are most rest stops. You come to understand once you spend a few minutes behind someone in line at a gas station that is clinching a porn mag and has squeeze cheese nacho sauce dripping from their chin as they are picking their nose. Doors aren't getting wiped down every hour, let alone 15 minutes. So, I discretely took a lysol wipe in my hand as to not insult anyone, and used it to grab door handles, bathroom doors and locks, etc. I have to say, some places during slower times were incredibly clean and you could see the paper towel lint on surfaces from cleaning... so there are people out there doing their damn best in essential services to keep things germ free.
After washing and hand sanitizing (hey - free hand sanitizer at Love's) I used the same lysol wipe to handle the door to leave the bathroom, exit door got a booty bump, and I wiped off the exterior van door handle before getting in. If we got water or something, we wiped it down with a lysol wipe and used the same wipe to clean the interior door and dash, steering wheel. So yeah.... we lysoled the hell out of stuff - and used hand sanitizer like it was holy water during the vampire-pocalypse.
We did bring a package of gloves we had at home to pump gas but it seemed redundant and unnecessary to us.
A room with a view
Sleep in Peace
We had some very generous venue owners cover the majority of our lodging in our own private space. So between that and utilizing the loft in our van, we only had a few nights in hotels. The hotel stays we did have, were budget chains and they were extra clean, fare cleaner than I anticipated, even one that was in need of updates. And at each place I only was in contact with one employee, and service was great. Still, we used lysol wipes to clean off the hard surfaces and fixtures, door handles, and light switches. And we made sure we cleaned the places that venues gave us to stay. Thats S.O.P. for me, I prefer to leave a place better than we left it.
Did we spend much time indoors? No. Most of our downtime was outdoors, hiking. We ate charcuterie at an uncrowded spot one day, a breakfast place in a blinker light town, visited a few lonely antique shops and made a quick pop into a few places in Jerome, AZ - every place required a mask and hand sanitizer at the door there, and this was pre-mask mandates. That was a surprise and I thought it was nice that they opened their doors to us and provided hand sanitizer. One of our stops was to Caduceus Cellars - a few doors down from a place we play in Jerome. It's owned by Maynard of the band Tool. Check out the pic below
That's part of my covid tale. Keeping it safe on the road. That being said, there are no guarantees' and things change day to day... I'm thankful, I'm grateful for all the kind people we know that helped us along our way. I feel like I owe them the world for all their friendship and giving us hope <3