Photo courtesy of BigStock/IvanSpasic
Hitting the road in 2020 proved to be a desolate, self-driven experience. I loved every minute.
More than in most years, I made the road my home in 2020. I’m easily talked into a road trip, usually restless, and I love a good drive. Certain, global events tried to put a cramp in my travel plans—but I had stories to cover. Here are the highlights:
February 2020: Chicago
This one was for me. I brought a pal along to my favorite U.S. city for a weekend of urban exploration and fine dining. This was pre-pandemic, so coronavirus was still just a buzz word, not even mentioned during the trip.
We ate at The Palm, Gibson’s, and Columbus Tap; we stayed at the Swissotel. Our daytime hours were spent exploring the city and shopping—while I talked her ear off and showed her all of my Chicago places. We moved slow; I told her it would take a few trips to the city to get the lay of the land.
April 2020: Downtown Minneapolis
This was a mix of work and restlessness. Pandemic-driven boredom had set in; I decided to write a story about (safely) staying in a hotel during a global pandemic. I rode my bike to the Radisson Blu and checked-in for the night. It happened to be Easter Sunday, which proved to be a perfect storm for food delivery options. I ended up ordering chicken from a place that I’d never heard of and didn’t have a physical address. Perfectly safe.
The weather was awful, and everything was closed. The hotel wasn’t allowed to offer any amenities due to restrictions related to COVID-19. I watched a lot of TV—less than three miles from my own TV.
December 2020: Denver/Vail
By December we were fully engaged in COVID, but we were practiced. I opted to drive to the Rockies; I didn’t want to miss the opportunity of seeing how the pandemic looked on a town-by-town basis. At ground level.
Four days, four different hotels, and countless examples of differing pandemic opinions. I stayed at Le Meridien in downtown Denver, and the Grand Hyatt in Vail. I bookended my boutique accommodations with a pair of stays at the Holiday Inn Express. Both in Nebraska.
New Year’s Eve 2020
Back to the Holiday Inn. I rang in the new year at the Holiday Inn Suites in Lakeville, Minnesota. This was a last-minute idea between a fellow single-parent and myself. We gathered our littles for a night of empty-hotel-shenanigans: take-out, sugary drinks, and hallway sprints.
We got the big room: double suite with bunkbeds. Upgrades come easy when the place is empty. Our balcony overlooked an abandoned pool/waterpark. Beautifully eerie.
January 2021: Back to Chicago
This was less about a story and more about getting a good steak with my friend. We stayed at the Thompson Hotel in the Gold Coast neighborhood. We were steps from Gibson’s—and took advantage of that. To satisfy capacity restrictions, we were ushered through a back hallway, and into an adjoining property. It felt special.
February 2021: Yep.
Back to Chicago, this time covering a story. I was by myself (usually am), so I ate sandwiches and stayed at the Holiday Inn Express (always will). I couldn’t leave in the morning because the entire parking lot was under two feet of snow. My check out time was extended by a full day (seriously). I was dug out and on the road by noon.
April 2021: Fort Myers Beach, FL
My first flight during the pandemic. Pure vacation. I brought my son to the beach where I first saw the ocean as a kid. We stayed at a couple of beach-resort-motels straight out of the ’60s, and we had an unforgettable time. Fun in the sun, food, and family. A much-needed break from reality.