What It’s Like to Vacation During a Pandemic

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Escaping to the desert to run from the smoke and the monotony: Is it worth the risk?

I know I shouldn’t have gone, but I did.

I know we are in a pandemic. I know we should stay inside. They’ve got a damn DH in the NL; I realize how upside-down we are right now and why.

Two hundred thousand Americans died from a disease they didn’t even know about a year ago. I’m a believer.

I wear a mask everywhere I go. I wear gloves any time I step inside a store. Then I wash my clothes when I get home.

I get it.

My favorite thing to do in life is to walk around and talk to people and tell you what they said. And for six months, I’ve been lucky to do it via the phone, but it isn’t the same thing.

And as much as I love my apartment and girlfriend and cats, after six months we needed to get the hell out.

But I knew I shouldn’t. I knew I should just suck it up. But when I did, I coughed because the smoke from the fires made it so we had to shut the windows.

Suddenly I was asking Alexa what the air quality index was in L.A. And suddenly she was saying, “Do you really wanna know?”

That was the last straw. If you can’t breathe the air, it’s time to go.

But go where? I am a cheapskate. Normally, I’d look for the greatest steal on Airbnb or Priceline, but is it a good idea to risk cleanliness during a plague to save a few bucks?

So no to cheap, hello to fancy.

We had stayed at the La Quinta Resort near Coachella before. And we loved it.

One of the 41 pools at the La Quinta Resort. Photo by Tony Pierce.

Very clean and best of all, they have like 40 pools, so if someone is in one, you walk about 100 steps in a different direction and there’s another pool.

And every pool has a hot tub next to it.


But it can also be crazy expensive unless you catch a deal. Fortunately, we got lucky on a mid-week rate.

Apparently, unhealthy air managed to make its way to the desert, but it was about half as bad as it was in L.A. — but still bad enough to turn off the resort’s normal clientele.

Thankfully, the smoke had cleared by the time we arrived. You could even see the stars at night. It was a dream. But also nerve-racking.

Cardi B should be in all our heads.

You could almost hear Cardi B saying coronavirus as you passed maskless dude-bros carrying their golf clubs.

You could hear her again as you opened the mini-fridge, wondering how well it had been wiped down. Had to be, right?

Of course, the bedding, towels, countertops and door handles were sanitized, but what of the outdoor furniture? It was 100 degrees at 11 p.m., and like most men, my shirt comes off in those conditions. Was I killing myself by having my bare back on those outdoor couch cushions?

And I was sweating.

Wouldn’t that give the virus an easier way to slip in?

Is that how I’m going out? How would I explain that to St. Peter?

I was trying to relax during an overdue vacation in a super stressful year, but all I could think about while staring at the stars was, “Isn’t laying here the opposite of wearing gloves at Jons?”

The Starlight Casitas cost a bit more than the basic rooms, but they come with an outdoor patio deck and two fireplaces. Worth it. Photo by Tony Pierce.

I didn’t Google it. I thought about it. But I also thought about all the other times I’d Googled anything that could have a terrible result. This seemed to be one of those times.

If I was going to use my mind to imagine horrible things, why not also imagine wonderful scenarios:

No, really, it was 117 degrees outside.

The sun bakes the shit out of germs when it’s 117 degrees in the afternoon. The dead germs keel over, and as the man said, it just disappears.

There were rules in the hotel that everyone seemed to be obeying.

If you were in a pool, you had to swim 6 feet away from everyone.

Hot tubs were closed. 🙁

Checking in and out involved masks and front desk clerks behind plastic barriers.

All of the employees and staff wore masks, including the groundskeepers who were out in that sun. Respect to them.

Either by design or circumstance, the resort seemed to be about 25% full, which actually made things nicer. People tend to keep their guard down when on vacation. I wouldn’t want to be in a hotel at full capacity right now.

Imagine the ice machine button.

To keep the flow of foot traffic going in a route that prevented guests walking into each other, the entrance of the La Quinta was on the side of the lobby. Photo by Tony Pierce.

Were the restaurants open? I don’t remember. A cup of coffee at that place is like $8, no way was I eating dinner there.

Also, KFC was just down the road, as well as Vons and Trader Joe’s.

If you were going to eat on that badass Starlight deck all night anyway, why not load up on all the things you really love? Including a bucket from the colonel.

As time went, on I learned to relax.

But I washed my hands a lot.

Typically, guests receive a little tile as part of their welcome gift. Now, it also comes with hand sanitizer. Photo by Tony Pierce.

Ultimately, do I recommend driving into the desert so you can breathe clean air and decompress for a few days so you can get back in there and deal with all this crazy amount of crap that we have to deal with?

And hole up in luxury with the most professional staff you’ll find?

And sit under the stars and contemplate and sigh and take a load off?


No, I don’t.

We need you. We may need you soon, more than ever.

Vacations are vital and peace of mind is underrated but, no, it wasn’t worth eternal death or suffering forever.

If you just have to, then yes, do it at a super clean hotel like this one. Beautiful views, quiet nights, gentle breezes. Safety, security, peace.

If you’re lucky, you might even see a real-life roadrunner scoot by when you check out.

But life is precious, and quick.

The day after we returned home, news got out that 548 employees at the swanky Wynn Las Vegas tested positive, and three of them died.

Wouldn’t you think it’d be safe there?

Where is it safe?


Where I should have stayed.

  • Threw that brown thing right on the ground. Photo by Tony Pierce.
  • The big bathroom had a tub, shower and two sinks. Photo by Tony Pierce.
  • Mountain views afforded a look at smoke that was trying to come over the range, but couldn’t. Photo by Tony Pierce.
  • A tinge of smoke in the distance. Photo by Tony Pierce.
  • Beautiful lobby that I was too afraid to sit in. Photo by Tony Pierce.
  • Plastic panels protect the mask-wearing front desk clerks from the mask-wearing guests. Photo by Tony Pierce.

Los Angeleno