Well, I guess I should just start at the beginning. We talked about going maybe during spring break, but that didn't happen 'cause everything just broke loose, we ran out of time. And then that's when COVID was really starting to take root.
About two weeks before school ended, we thought, "Well, maybe it would be a good time to go now." We'd just gotten married in December and some of Mike's stuff was still in Florida. He had left about two years ago to come up to the Minnesota region, Minnesota area. And so, we needed to go and get his belongings from there, but also to visit family. So they live in Cape Coral, his mom and sister. And then my sister and brother and her family live in Fayetteville, Georgia. So, we kinda planned what day we would leave, but really not a time in which it would end, so we knew that we would take some time to get down there.
The time that we chose to leave, we couldn't even leave because Mike looked down at my tires, the day that we were going to leave and said, "You still have snow tires on." I'm like, "Oh. Oh no! We can't go to the southern part of the states with snow tires." The car wouldn't have lasted. So we actually even delayed the trip for another day, but then we hit the road.
We went through Wisconsin and then Illinois, and I believe it was through Illinois where we first saw the signs about, "Go home" -- digital signage over the highway. They were like "Go home. Stay Home," so we started seeing a lot of those in our travels. We tried to take a picture. We weren't successful in getting them.
Our trip ended up being from May 19 to June 6th or 7th. So we were gone for a little while visiting with his family, visiting with my family.
We first stopped, our first night was in Paducah, Kentucky. And at the time, we saw some cars at a hotel, and so I stopped there initially, and it looked like it was open to the public. We went through the first set of doors and then the second set of doors were closed and it said Currently Under Renovation and due to COVID we are also closed and we're taking this time to renovate, basically. So then we ended up going to another, to a motel, which they were open. The clerk was very nice. She was chatting us up a little bit and couldn't understand why things were closed in Kentucky when things were open in Tennessee. They were crossing the border to go over to the restaurants and go shopping and things like that, so it was a different mentality being down there.
BM: So Kentucky was more closed than Tennessee, although they share a border?
Yes. In some of the southern States that we were in, it seemed like people were running around without their masks on and not understanding why things weren't open. I guess we did encounter some of that going down on our trip, and even on the way back up. We went through Wisconsin, Illinois... I can't keep all of the states in order, but Kentucky, Tennessee, and then Georgia, and then Florida, and then, same route back home with a 16-foot truck with Mike's belongings, which only took up maybe 20% of the truck. And my car on a car dolly. We wanted to travel in the same truck together rather than one person drive the truck and one person drive the car. That turned out... Yeah. It turned out to be very less stressful that way, I'm glad we did it that way.
At the time, when we were ready to leave, I had been reading that gas station handles, those dispensers, that Corona can live on those for a while, so I had some nitrile gloves left over from a couple of years ago from when I was undergoing a breast cancer treatment, so I had those gloves available. I had a lot of hand sanitizer still, so I was using those, so any time we dispensed gas, we had gloves on. We wore our makes into the stores, if we had to go into the convenience store for the restrooms and things. We were ripping off paper towels in the bathrooms, so when we would open doors...
It was very stressful until we got to Florida... Or when we got to my sister's place, I could relax a little bit, but even then, I hadn't seen my sister, her husband, and our brother since 2006, so there was a little anxiety there seeing family after all this time, but it was great. And then going to meet my new mother and sister-in-law, that was a little anxiety-producing too. [Laughs.] It was wonderful though; it was wonderful to be with family in this time of uncertainty. We were just there for each other.
—Katharyn Rolfe with Michael Rolfe
Stories of Wisdom from Bodies in Separation (SWaBS): Archiving the Coronavirus Pandemic Through the Lens of Humanities has been made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this project, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.