I love road trips. Or at least, I used to.

Right after college, before there was an internet, I used to keep a collection of maps. On an given weekend, I would pull my maps out, pick out an interesting place I’d never been before and take a road trip.

Something about hitting the open road, leaving the city behind and going someplace else, made me feel free.

This tradition of road tripping continued as I grew older, and I now have a co-pilot for my many road trips. Lucky for me, my husband has the same sense of adventure I do, and so we’ve made many memories exploring the states around Colorado.

A trip to the Black Hills led us to find old ruts from the Oregon Trail, and find a gem of a state park.

A trip to Santa Fe, led us on a seldom driven road through northern New Mexico and a hike down to the Rio Grande River.

But road trips have been fewer the last six months. And they definitely aren’t carefree.

Due to some medical issues with my mother, I’ve had to make a road trip from Colorado back to St. Louis, Missouri.

I’ve done this drive many, many times dating back to my childhood, where we headed west to pursue the beauty of the Rocky Mountains.

More recently, we’ve driven back to Missouri to celebrate holidays and even a Stanley Cup Championship parade. We have our tried and true pit stops along the way, where to stop for a meal, a coffee, or even spend the night.

But all of that has gone out the window now. I try to limit my stops to as few as possible, to limit my exposure to others. I fear stopping for the night in rural Kansas, not knowing how seriously they take Covid.

I stopped at a truck stop to get a coffee, and found no one wearing masks inside, despite a state-wide mask order. I drive another hour and finally find a drive through Starbucks. Not wanting to go into a fast food restaurant for meals, I carry a cooler with me and fill it with drinks, sandwiches and fruit.

It’s about a 13-hour drive without breaks. Too long really or one person to drive straight through. It’s too hot to camp, too scary to sleep in my car at a rest area.

In the past, I had my set motels in certain towns that I knew took dogs. They were my tried and true places where I knew they were clean and comfortable. But now, I wondered, are they safe in the Covid era?

Before booking motels, my go to website has been Tripadvisor. But reviews for the last six months are few and the ones I read leave me more confused. “I walked in and the front desk clerk wasn’t wearing a mask. I walked out.”

As the purpose of my trip is to provide assistance to my elderly parents, I feel the need to be extra careful.

I finally settle on a Sleep Inn and carry a canister of Lysol Wipes. After checking in, I proceed to wipe down every surface I can find. I’ve brought my own pillow with me, as an extra precaution.

In my previous life, pre-pandemic, road trips brought such joy and a sense of freedom.

Now, I feel exhausted from all the extra work and am just hoping to survive.