In late June I went to North Dakota to visit family. Ordinarily a trip like this would be just another plane ride, a few meals out, some social functions, some events, then a plane ride back home. However, this trip was during a pandemic, so things were a bit different. I am originally from Eastern Montana and have quite a lot of family in Western North Dakota as well as in Montana, but I live in Texas. At the beginning of 2020 the plan was to take Simon to Montana for a fun week of fox hunting culminating in attending the World Famous Bucking Horse Sale. Coronapocolypse changed those plans (as well as myriad others) causing the fox hunting and the BHS to be canceled. I still wanted to see family this year and it’s a milestone birthday year for me and my Mom, so we settled on 4th of July weekend when more of my family would be in town. To prepare for my trip I only went to work, the feed store and did curbside pickup for groceries for two weeks leading up to the trip. Since I was coming from a known hotspot of cases I absolutely did not want to risk exposure.
It seemed weird to take pictures in airports and on airplanes, so you’ll have to just take my word for the experience and enjoy some lovely photos of North Dakota. Texas has been experiencing a significant spike in COVID-19 cases, but when I left there still were not masks required except in certain cities or counties. Nearly everyone I saw at DFW airport was wearing a mask and wearing their masks correctly. I saw a couple people doing that weird thing where they have their mask over their mouth, but not their nose. I avoided those people. The airline required all passengers to wear masks and from what I could see all passengers abided by the rules. People always say the air on airplanes is bad, but with the HEPA filters and rotating air out and into the plane I’ve always believed them to actually be safer than say a classroom or small nail salon. At least the air moves and is filtered!
The airport in North Dakota was a very different story. Only a few people wore masks outside of the secure area for boarding. North Dakota was not seeing anywhere near the spike in cases that other states were seeing. The area to where I traveled has had very few cases, so the locals were noticeably lax about masks and social distance. It felt very odd to me.
I spent most of my time in small rural areas with my family and the only place I regularly saw people wearing masks was at the grocery stores. Some retail stores had signs and were limiting the number of shoppers, but things really looked like business as usual. I did notice that most store employees were wearing masks, especially at stores that were large, national chains.
One very interesting horsey tidbit was a rodeo we attended. It was a PRCA rodeo and it was during the 4th of July weekend, which is referred to as Cowboy Christmas. The weekend is called Cowboy Christmas, not the actual rodeo. In a normal year cowboys and cowgirls will travel all over the United States going to 4th of July rodeos on the weekend of the 4th in hopes of winning money towards their qualification for the National Finals Rodeo in December. This year was a VERY odd year for 4th of July rodeos and there were only 6 or 7 rodeos to attend in the entire United States when there are usually dozens to pick from. That meant that the rodeo we attended in a generally sleepy rural town was the biggest rodeo of its 97 year history! It ran almost non-stop for 3 days so that everyone who entered could compete. I grew up going to 4th of July rodeos, so it was pretty fun to attend one with all the current rodeo greats in attendance from all over the U.S. As for corona prevention, it was a pretty safe venue in that there were not many spectators and it was outdoors. Attendees brought their own picnic blankets or chairs to watch the action.
By the time I headed back to Texas the Governor had issued a requirement for people in counties with more than 20 cases to wear masks. My flight back to Texas was very full, I don’t think any seats were empty. Everyone was wearing a mask on the flight and when I got to DFW hardly anyone was there (thankfully) and everyone was wearing a mask. The lack of people made it easy to keep social distance, which I was grateful for because I checked a bag and had to wait a bit for it to get to baggage claim. I also parked my car at the gate rather than in the Express or Remote parking areas to limit the amount of time I had to be in close quarters with other people. The parking garage was more full than I thought it would be, so perhaps travel has picked up a bit.
All in all I’m glad I went, it was really lovely to see so many of my family members. If my travel plans had been later in the summer I might have changed them due to the continuing spike in cases in Texas. Many of the family members I was visiting are over 60 and while they are generally a very healthy bunch, I’d feel awful if I was an asymptomatic carrier and got them sick. I felt like the airlines and airport did a good job of upholding CDC and state/local guidelines. I’m sticking to my pre-travel self-quarantine for a bit and only going to work, the feed store and doing curbside groceries. Just to be safe. And I’m really glad I went to a place that is MUCH cooler than Texas in the summer and had a very local COVID diagnosis rate.