We haven’t even passed the city limits of Austin, Texas, our home town, before our three-year-old daughter announces, “I’m done with this trip, I want out of the car!” Fifteen minutes down, 70 hours to go. This seems daunting.
It’s our first road trip with our two young children, and we’ve decided to go big, driving from Texas to Montana for two months in the middle of a global pandemic that has turned any type of travel into a risk. Our family and friends think it’s nutty. But since our kids were born, we’ve spent a chunk of each summer at a cabin in the mountains outside Missoula, Montana to escape city life and the oppressive Texas sun. Now it seems we are escaping the virus. And as a photographer, I’m ready to create a document of what is happening across America at this moment.
The first thing we see is that there are more RVs on the road than normal, but overall traffic is way down as we head across Texas. A rest stop outside Amarillo is eerily almost empty. We try to put some distance behind us, but even a 500-mile day doesn’t get us out of the state. We stop at Palo Duro Canyon State Park, a beautiful place that impresses as you suddenly find yourself standing along its rim after driving for hours across the flat plains.
We’ve tried our hardest to plan out our nightly stops at someplace beautiful and interesting for the kids, who discover cacti and a snake that is a little too close for comfort.
After ten hours speeding across Texas, we finally reach the state line and enter New Mexico. This corner of the state is always quiet, but as we cross the state line, we can really feel a change taking place. In Texas, maybe half the people at a gas station might have masks on, but in New Mexico people are more cautious, with signs along the highway urging people to practice safety precautions. Then in Colorado, things are busier. There’s more traffic and things just generally look more alive and bustling. Licence plates from every state east and south of this famous mountain destination fill the gas stations and rest areas.