The Misplaced Hoosier

New to Florida by way of Indiana

How Can You Vacation During the COVID-19 Shutdown?

The current COVID-19 shutdown — in the spirit of Sherlock Holmes, I’m calling it “The Great Hiatus” — has thrown everyone into disarray. Restaurants and clubs are closing down, theme parks are shut, and the tourism and hospitality business is in a tailspin as they’re trying to figure out how to recover from what should have been a very busy Spring Break vacation season. Here in Orlando, I’ve got several friends whose businesses have been upended because their performance contracts were canceled.

So how do you vacation when we’re supposed to be practicing social distancing?

The first thing to remember is that social distancing does not mean isolation. It means you shouldn’t get too close to people or gather in public places. That means if you want to go anywhere, you can’t fly, you can only drive. It means you can’t go out to restaurants or to theaters, it means you should eat at home. It means you can’t take a cruise, especially since all cruise ships have shut down operations.

That does limit your options quite a bit, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some sort of vacation. So here are a few ways you can take a modified vacation in March and April while still keeping yourself, your family, and people around you safe.

As I said earlier, planes are out as a form of transportation, but your car is perfectly fine. So a there-and-back road trip is not out of the question, and neither is driving to your destination. As long as you’re not trying to get from Miami to Fairbanks and back in a week, you should be able to drive to wherever you’re trying to go in a day or two.

Right now, many of the major hotel chains are taking extra precautions in the way they’re cleaning their hotel rooms and public areas. The Rosen Hotels in Orlando are cleaning “. . .with quick acting hydrogen peroxide-based disinfectants instead of standard alcohol-based disinfectants used previously and clean more frequently on a modified schedule.” The Radisson Hotels are increasing their cleaning and sanitizing frequency. And many hotels are changing their cancellation policies, allowing people to cancel their reservations for free, if the reservations were made before a certain date.

This means that many of the larger hotels are going to be a decent option when it comes to cleanliness, although you still have to practice social distancing while you’re there. And since many of them are going to be nearly empty, you could have the whole pool to yourself! Just perfect for sitting and relaxing. (Just stay out of the hot tubs.)

You could also stay in a cabin at one of the state or national parks around the country, if they’re still open. Spend time in the cabin and go for hikes, cook all your own meals there, and spend the days relaxing.

italian-pizza-restaurant-italy-3498Eating in a restaurant may not be an option, unless you can go to a restaurant that’s not very busy and can sit in a section of the restaurant that’s not very crowded. Be sure to pack some disinfectant wipes and wipe down the chair, armrests, as well as both the tabletop and the underside. Also, please tip the servers well — this is how they make their living, and their incomes have been cut, if not eliminated.

Another option is to order your food to go, and then find a place to eat. Depending on where you’re staying, you could either eat back at your house or room, or you might even be able to find a public place to sit, like a park or an outdoor seating area.

Go out for a picnic. Find a park nearby, pack a lunch or dinner, and spread a blanket out on the grass. Enjoy a couple hours outside, safely away from other people, but still enjoying your time off.

You won’t be able to see many sights, as many museums, theaters, and other attractions have closed down. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be entertained. You can watch some past plays, musicals, and operas on different streaming services, including the Broadway Shrek musical on Netflix, any number of old and new Broadway musicals on (they even have a 7 day free trial!), or the Metropolitan Opera streaming a different opera on their website every night.

You can also virtually tour different museums around the world, including the Guggenheim Museum in New York or the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. You can mirror your Apple laptop to your Apple TV device or beam your browser to a Google Chromecast device on your big TV and tour the museums in high definition.

There’s nothing wrong with relaxing and reading. Dive into that pile of books you’ve been buying and promising to read, but never getting to. Or download some books from your local library using the Libby app. Or even order a few Kindle books and read them on your phone or tablet. If you’re on vacation, find a secluded spot outside or in a nearly-empty coffee shop, and read quietly for a couple hours. (I recommend Mackinac Island Nation on your Kindle or in paperback.) Remember to wipe down the tables and tip the baristas well.

Of course, you can just go for a walk around the place you’re visiting. Do some window shopping, hike the trails, see the historic sights. Or go for a nice long drive and explore the countryside, or drive around a historic neighborhood and admire the architecture. Or as someone said on my Facebook page, “Top down, radio up, just cruise.

Finally, be sure to purchase trip cancellation insurance before any trip. Your vacation can be canceled for any number of reasons, but if you had to cancel because of a family member’s illness, you could lose everything you paid for the vacation. Trip insurance will let you recover those costs, as long as you bought the insurance before the illness set in. Cancellations made by your travel provider will be refunded.

Whatever you do, it’s very important that you’re safe, and that you keep family and friends safe. Don’t go into crowded settings, like busy restaurants or businesses. Wash your hands, sneeze into your elbow, and practice social distancing. And if you’re feeling the least bit ill, it’s important that you stay home and quarantine yourself completely until you know what you’ve got.

Vacation isn’t all about jamming yourself and your family into a crowded theme park, standing in lines, or racing around to see as many sites and attractions as you can. It can be a time to rest, relax, and take yourself out of your home space for a little while. You can still have a vacation that’s fairly secluded, separate from other people, and gets you out of the house or hotel.

Photo credit: Skitterphoto (, Creative Commons 0)

In Which The Misplaced Hoosier Visits Pensacola, Florida for Vacation

When you move to the place where you vacationed, there’s no need to leave.

When you move to the place where the rest of the world comes to, why do you need to go anywhere else? Sit here long enough, and your former part of the world will come to you.

While I’ve left Orlando a few times in the two years I’ve lived here, it’s always been for work or to visit someone, never because we wanted to “get away from it all.” Orlando is the place where “it all gets to.”

So it felt a little weird to drive seven hours north and west to Pensacola, Florida for a short vacation.

I was scheduled to read at the Funny Side Of Florida event as part of Pensacola’s Foo Foo Festival, the annual arts festival put on by different arts organizations in the Pensacola area. The West Florida Literary Federation was putting on this year’s humor-themed literary event, and they were good enough to invite me up to read a few of my humor columns. We had worked this out way back in the summer, and I had been looking forward to it.
Continue reading “In Which The Misplaced Hoosier Visits Pensacola, Florida for Vacation”

I May be Misplaced, but Orlando is My City

In the 10 months since we’ve left Indianapolis, Orlando has just been the town I moved to.

Indiana was home, and Indianapolis was my hometown. I was here with reservations, and my heart wasn’t in it.

But last night, after 49 people were killed and another 53 wounded at Pulse,  a local gay nightclub here in Orlando, this has become my city.
Continue reading “I May be Misplaced, but Orlando is My City”

The Time I Had an Overnight Guest

I had an overnight guest last week at the Kerouac House.

His name was Adam, and he was traveling.

Not on vacation, not on a trip.

Just. . . traveling.

He didn’t have anywhere to be, he just wanted to keep moving.

So I took him in because he was living the Jack Kerouac life. And I knew if I didn’t, I’d kick myself for years to come.
Continue reading “The Time I Had an Overnight Guest”

In Which I Make My Workbench

My house isn’t a home without a place to work in the garage. In the last 20+ years of home ownership and renter-ship, I’ve always had a workbench. Whether it was a small work table I built out of 2x4s and plywood, or a large, complex bench built with 2x6s and bolted to the wall, I’ve always had “my place” in the house.

Moving to Orlando from Indianapolis meant leaving my old workbench behind. This one was the best I had ever built — 17 linear feet, L-shaped, and was so solid, I could stand on it. I built it with 2x6s, 2x8s, and 2x12s for the top. The top was lauan plywood, which had three coats of polyurethane on it for durability, and I wrapped the whole top in 1×3 pine. This is where I worked on my projects, stored my woodworking tools, and even kept my books.

I wasn’t too happy when I had to leave my bench behind.
Continue reading “In Which I Make My Workbench”

That Time We Rescued a Dog, Sort Of

I’ve always wanted to have the kind of house where stray animals just showed up. Like they recognized it as a beacon of safety and love, and knew that no matter how bad their life had gotten, they could come here and be taken care of.

Alas, that’s never happened to me, even growing up.

I’ve known people who have helped numerous dogs and cats over the years, because a stray or abandoned animal just showed up at their house. It’s one thing when it’s in the middle of the country, on a cold autumn night. But these are people in the city, where the animals had literally hundreds of houses to choose from, and yet, they all chose the same one over and over.

Until last night. Last night was almost my moment. Almost.
Continue reading “That Time We Rescued a Dog, Sort Of”

In Which I Make My First Sugar Cream Pie

There are two foods distinct (or nearly so) to my home state of Indiana: the breaded pork tenderloin and the sugar cream pie. In fact, those are the official state sandwich and state pie. They were voted on by the legislature and everything!

And Thanksgiving has come and gone for me without a single sugar cream pie. I spend two weeks before Thanksgiving searching the local grocery stores, but they don’t carry sugar cream pies. Also, their pumpkin pies look a little dubious.

I check Google for anybody in the Orlando selling sugar cream pies, but no joy. None of the local bakeries make them either. Wicks can ship them, and it’s only $23 for a box of 6. Problem is, it costs another $75 to have them overnighted and refrigerated, so it’s nearly $100 for a box of 6. Still, that’s only $16.33 per pie, so it’s an option if we ever get a bunch of homesick Hoosiers together.
Continue reading “In Which I Make My First Sugar Cream Pie”

Day 61: In Which We Search for a Church

The hardest part of moving to a new city where you don’t know many people is searching for a new church. You can’t ask just anyone, because walking up to someone in the street and asking where they go to church is both awkward and impolite.

Er, or so I’m told.

We start our search a couple weeks after we arrive, trying one church after another. A good friend introduces us to his sister and brother-in-law, and we visit their church. It’s a nice church, very big, and everyone is very friendly. But we’re more liberal than this church, so we agree to keep looking. However, we also agree we may want to revisit this church once in a while. Sometimes there’s something cool about being in a big church.

The following Saturday, we Google “progressive church Orlando” and try to choose from the most liberal-sounding ones that don’t delve into the hippy-dippy.

That didn’t work.

If there was a church created specifically for hipsters, we find it the next morning. There are so many lumberjack beards and flannel shirts here, I think I’m in Portland, Oregon.
Continue reading “Day 61: In Which We Search for a Church”

Day 31: Creative City Project Orlando

We must have come to Orlando at the right time, because we’ve managed to catch a lot of art celebrations.

From the Third Thursday/Dio de la Muertas block party.
From the Third Thursday/Dio de la Muertas block party.
Whether it’s a mural painting party at Sam Flax, the local arts supply store, or Third Thursday Dio de la Muertas (Day of the Dead) celebration, we’ve done something arty every weekend.

Last Saturday the 17th was the Creative City Project Orlando, a multi-stage festival that shut down Orange Street right in the heart of downtown. It’s a four block stretch, the restaurants are open, there are a few food carts, but no food trucks. (I have yet to see a food truck downtown.)

If you time it right, you can park anywhere for CCPO. We arrive about an hour before the first performance, and park in the lot across from my office in The Exchange Building. It’s $1 per hour, which isn’t great, but it’s only 4 blocks from where we need to be. Down here, that’s pretty close.
Continue reading “Day 31: Creative City Project Orlando”

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑