Since early March, my husband and I had been under the ‘Safer at Home’ initiative in LA County. We were working from home, only leaving our apartment once a week for a grocery run and maybe, splurging on a bagel and coffee from our favorites spots on Larchmont. We wore masks anytime we went out, sanitized our hands constantly and wiped down all our purchases once we returned to our apartment. We had very little contact with other people, except through Zoom calls and FaceTime Happy Hours.
Now, let’s fast forward to our first day on our cross country trek, where we drove from Los Angeles to Cedar City, Utah. We stopped along the way for gas, food, and restroom breaks, and encountered a multitude of interesting circumstances. I’ve always been a fan of road trips, as I love to travel. The last time we took a cross country road trip it was to move from Chicago to Los Angeles back in 2004. With our trailer in tow and my cat meowing the entire time, we didn’t know what was ahead for us, just as now, we had no idea what was to come. The main difference between then and now is that in 2004 there was not a worldwide pandemic during our trip.
As we left California and entered Nevada, that is really when the reality of the pandemic hit us even harder.
Las Vegas was a ghost town.
As we drove by the famous Las Vegas Strip, it was dark and desolate, with only a few hotels lighting up a few rooms in the shape of a heart and spelling out the word HOPE during the shutdown. The parking structures were empty and the signs on the highway read, “Stay home. Stay healthy.”
In the 2 months leading up to the trip, while in Los Angeles, I hadn’t thought about Las Vegas at all. Vegas has always been a special place for us. It is about a 4-hour drive from LA, barring traffic, and we would often travel there for summer getaways. We even got married there at a beautiful Italian villa-style venue called Chapel of the Flowers.
Seeing this fun, memorable place dark and shut down was devastating to me. The economic impact of closing non-essential businesses, like casinos, restaurants, and hotels, is so huge, I can’t comprehend the magnitude nor how long it will be until the economy is thriving again. (Now that it is June, I know some casinos have reopened with strict guidelines. Read more HERE.)
At about 10 pm on our drive, we stopped at a gas station that happened to be on an Indian Reservation in the northwest corner of Arizona. Donning masks and pumping gas, we were greeted with a fireworks show that brought smiles to our weary faces. Seeing the fireworks gave me a sense of normalcy that I hadn’t experienced in a while, so it was a welcome surprise!
The urgency of packing all our belongings in a matter of days and beginning this trip was a bit stressful, as you could imagine. The fireworks gave us a surge of energy, so that we could forge ahead and continue the journey with a little bit of hope. I couldn’t help but be excited for what was ahead. The stress of the previous days was released with each pop of color that lit up the sky and I was reminded of how God was and is still leading us.
Taking this LEAP is a true testament of our faith and to how much we trust Him.
As we crossed into Utah, the highway sign greeted us with, “Seat belts save lives. So do masks.” It was almost 2 AM by the time we arrived to our very clean, relatively empty hotel in Cedar City, Utah. Grateful that we had a safe place to stay and a bed to sleep in, we passed out, dreaming of what was to come in the next stretch of our cross country journey.