Backroads and Byways: Bringing Back the Sunday Drive
Four weeks ago, my husband Mark was losing it. Which is understandable, given he’s an extrovert and we are 20 weeks and 139 days into this COVID-19 dumpster fire. (I’m an introvert — content to spend every single day, all day with my nose in a book — which works against him.) Also, phase 2 didn’t change anything for us. We are effectively still in lockdown, due to Mark’s asthma keeping him in the at-risk category of humans. Poor guy. Our activities since said lockdown have included: Neighborhood walks and bike rides; socially distant porch sits with friends; two picnic dates; a socially distant, no contact solo staycation at a cabin in the forest and, of course, reading. It definitely has gotten routine, even by my standards. We took up coloring a few weeks ago, which was a smash hit, but for his mental wellbeing, we needed to add a little more adventure into the repertoire.
Enter: The Sunday drive.
Yes, driving around aimlessly qualifies as adventure these days. My grandparents would definitely approve of this pastime. I know this for a fact, because I used to go on Sunday drives with them every week. They passed this love of hitting the backroads to my mom and she in turn handed it down to me. Why I didn’t think of it until 16 weeks into pandemic mandates is beyond me.
Each week, we brainstorm a destination. There are no rules, other than bringing masks and hand sanitizer, avoiding anything that involves setting foot inside or being around too many other humans. A road-worthy playlist is optional. Game on!
For our first drive, we meandered through the French Quarter. We live in Uptown and I hadn’t been to the Quarter since before lockdown. One of my favorite things to do is amble around the Quarter taking pictures and people watching. Generally, I’d add ducking into Erin Rose and grabbing a slice at Cosimo’s or one of our other favorite places to nosh, but we aren’t going inside anywhere these days, so taking pics and people watching from the car would have to do the trick. And it did. What a thrilling diversion! I’m not even kidding.
On week two, we wandered through side streets from our neighborhood to West End, parking the car in a front row spot on Lakeshore Drive to gaze out on Lake Pontchartrain. There were more sailboats out on the lake than usual, which prompted us to daydream about how great it would be to have one right about now. Or any boat for that matter. Quite a few folks had the same idea, so we stayed in the car again this time, too. But it still provided a little visual novelty and also a bit of Zen, as watching boats float across the water is a calming endeavor.
We had to skip the third week, because Mark was tied up with work. We both missed it and made sure to plan better next time. Cut to this past weekend, when we decided to visit City Park. There are few places more beautiful in New Orleans, so this was a spectacular change of scenery. Nature, art and people watching combine all in one spot with this locale, plus we were able to get in our daily walk. (Note: The sculpture garden closes at 4:30 p.m. on Sundays.) I cannot recommend a stop at City Park enough, especially if you need to spend some time in the great outdoors — which we all do. Vitamin D is essential, people.
This Sunday, we are tossing around a drive out River Road, but it’s still up in the air. Thinking up a location is part of the fun, after all. Having something to look forward to is also a huge chunk of the allure. The longer we endure the pandemic and its restrictions, the more I appreciate simple thrills like getting out of our neighborhood for a couple of hours. I’m a firm believer that it’s important to feed our souls in any way possible — within safety and reason, of course. Who knows what things will look like 20 weeks from today. But right now — 20 weeks into this thing — coloring and Sunday drives are keeping us from being driven crazy (or driving each other crazy). In fact, I’m not keen to look too far ahead, because it’s all so uncertain. As a rule, our lives tend to whiz by in a blur, like those historical landmark signs as we zip down the freeway on our way from point A to point B. What was that? What did it say? Even though right now, time seems to have slowed down, or even come to a standstill some days, I’m sticking with a policy of staying present, embracing what comes day-by-day, moment-by-moment, Sunday drive by Sunday drive. Life is still happening all around us, as our Sunday drives have proven. It’s just a little different right now. Don’t blink, or you’ll miss it.