A special report from Dave Hunter
"Along Interstate-75" The Florida-bound Snowbird bible
- Revised April 4, 2020 -
As news continues to flow around the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) situation, we Snowbirds who have driven to
Florida for the winter and are still here, are faced with a number of unknowns as we plan to head back up I-75 to our homes in the North.
Are rest areas open? Will state borders be closed so we cannot travel through them on the way home? Will my
pets catch the virus? Are all the lodgings closed?
I receive these and many other emailed questions from my readers on a daily basis and as a journalist, only use
credible sources such as Atlanta's Centers for Disease Control, various Governor's offices and Dept. of
Transport websites for answers.
In these dangerous times, the strategy is to travel in our car with minimal contact with other folk who may or may not already be affected, so let's break our journey plan into small steps, and see what we can do to minimize our contact with potential virus carriers.
Coronavirus particles range in size from 0.14 to 0.06 microns (for comparison, a human hair averages 50 microns in width) so unless you have a special HEPA car cabin filter installed (Bosch sell these for some makes and models), the interior environment of your car can probably be penetrated given certain circumstances. But for practical purposes, think of your car as a self-contained "space capsule."
We therefore suggest . . .
Keep your car windows tightly closed at all times.
Set your car's interior control to recirculate air and turn on your a/c. In older cars, make sure all
external vents are closed.
We have heard so many rumors about state borders being closed and control points established to only allowing those with the subject state's driving licenses, to enter. The most recent rumor was Illinois - and it's absolutely not true.
We are on the Department of Transport and state Highway Patrol media circulation lists for all the I-75 corridor states (FL, GA, TN, KY, OH & MI) and receive their daily emailed notification about many DOT matters.
Regular follow-up phone calls to our contacts at these DOTs indicate that there is no plan to control access at their borders. Interstates are considered "essential services" and are being used by many trucks as they keep the nation supplied from various distribution centers.
Of course, this situation could change overnight however since the U.S. Interstate system is administered at a Federal Level, we believe any state cross border travel restrictions would be extremely unlikely.
These are controlled at a federal level and there are many new restrictions now in place. Canadian Citizens and Canadian Landed Immigrants intending to cross the Canadian Border should click here to read my special report. www.i75online.com
Until you get out of your car, you are relatively safe. Think your moves through first. For the purposes of this section, right is the dominant hand; if left handed, just reverse the instructions).
In the car - remove your credit card and place it in your left pocket
AT THE GAS PUMP
- Put on your mask and a disposable glove on your dominant hand
- Get a sterilizing wipe to take outside with you just in case you need it
- Open the car door, and step out.
From this point on, your left will be considered "clean" and your right handed glove, contaminated.
- Use your left hand to take out your credit card from your ("clean" left pocket)and insert it in the pump's reader slot without touching the physical machine
- Right hand - key in your zip code (if required), open the car's gas cap
-Left hand - return your card to you left pocket and keep your left hand in your pocket to protect it from contamination
-Right hand - lift the handle and insert it into your car, choose your gas type and pump your gas.
-Right Hand - once finished, return pump handle to pump, secure your gas cap.
- Left hand - carefully pull your receipt out of the pump without touching the unit
- Right hand - open the car door. Once open, remove your glove by pulling it down from the wrist so the exterior surface is now on the inside. Carefully dispose of it in a waste container.
Get in your car and close the door with your left hand. Apply Purell or a similar hand sanitizer to your hands.
Rumors persist that rest areas are closed; they are not. A check with our DOT contacts indicate that with the exception of a couple which are undergoing renovation (see my change-by-page notes), all rest areas are open.
The confusion arises over those welcome centers and rest areas which have staffed information desks, often in a separate section or different building. These area or buildings are definitely closed but rest rooms remain open.
Some new rules to follow:
- Remember to wear your mask and a pair of disposable gloves
- Most modern rest rooms are designed without doors. Instead, several wall wings lead you into the
facility - the passage way is often only 4 feet wide.
- Remember social distancing, do not enter the rest room if you hear activity of somebody coming out.
- Also remember social distancing while in the facility.
- Use paper towel, or better still, a sterilizing wipe to open and close cubicle doors.
- Ladies, do not place your purse on the floor; keep it on your body.
- Either use a small spray bottle to spray the toilet seat with the CDC recommended solution of 9 parts water to 1 part bleach, or use a paper toilet seat protector.
- Unless you absolutely must, do not use the taps or sinks, instead use Purell or another hand sanitizer
once you get back to your car.
- Do not use an air dryer. They can spread a virus many feet around the facility.
- Remove your gloves before getting back in your car, and dispose of same.
- Once back in the car use Purell again on your hands.
Another suggestion. After being stuck for hours in an I-75 traffic jam a number of years ago, we always carry disposable urinal pouches in our car. Readily available from Amazon, Walmart and adventure sports stores ... and yes they are "female friendly" and can be used while sitting in the passenger seat.
REST AREAS and REST ROOMS
We carry cold meals we have prepared ourselves to use on our trip home. Paper plates, cups and plastic cutlery has also been added to our car inventory. We also carry enough water to last us for our trip.
A practical way of obtaining a warm meal with minimal human contact is via a fast food drive-thru, but restaurants? No. If you have a smart phone, download various fast food apps before you leave. You can then order ahead for parking lot pickup service.
Many long term snowbirds travel with their pets. Are they vulnerable to COVID-19? According to our Canadian vet, no, but it is unknown at this point of time whether they may carry the virus if they have been in contact with an affected human or other carrier animal.
Our pets remain indoors while in Florida so we know they are not potential Coronavirus carriers. But we are really going to have to monitor them if we stay overnight in a motel room.
First, try and change your itinerary so you have fewer overnight stays while traveling north.
Is it safe to stay in hotels along the way? As my readers know, I strongly recommend the family-owned Drury Hotel chain of I-75 corridor facilities described in my book, "Along Interstate-75."
I've been in personal contact with a Drury Hotel vice-president at their St. Louis Corporate office and am assured that the company is taking every precaution to ensure their facilities are as safe and disinfected as possible. And yes, all their properties are open. With low occupancy rates you will have no difficulty obtaining a room as a "walk in" guest.
In addition to adhering to the hospitality industry's guidelines and standard set by the nation's Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Drury is going the extra distance of using Sterigent sanitizing chemicals in all guest rooms after each departure. All linens and terry products are laundered with chlorine bleach. Housekeeping staff is given much more time to thoroughly clean each room and all public areas, elevators, food prep and serving areas are undergoing frequent and deep cleaning processes. In fact, Drury sent me a complete list of their new cleaning and sterilizing protocols much too long to list here.
What would we expect from a company which has won the JD Power Award for guest satisfaction, for 14 consecutive years.
Have a safe trip home … And stay well,
Dave Hunter, author
The Florida-bound Snowbird bible