Tennessee Road Trip Cut Short


Although my family and I took off our mask’s off for this picture, we continued to wear our masks throughout the whole trip in Tennessee.

Samantha Goicochea, Editor

After months of quarantine, our family needed a break and had decided to escape to the mountains of Tennessee. So, in late August, we packed up our beat-up ford eco sport  with cool-weather hoodies, snacks, comfy blankets and our family dogs, Leo and Max. Oh, one thing we also packed plenty of? Hand sanitizer and masks.

At that time, coronavirus cases in Florida had reached 602,829 cases, the second highest number out of all of the states in the USA. 

After 16 hours on the road, we stopped at a gas station to use the bathroom. I obediently fixed my plain black mask, making sure it looped over my ears and that it was tight. Coming from a hot-spot, I didn’t want to get anyone sick in case I was asymptomatic… I swung open the door of the convenience story and was greeted by a swamp of mask less faces. Not even the cashier had one on. 

This was the norm throughout our whole trip as we traveled to different tourist places in what is known as “the volunteer state.” Even though coronavirus cases in Tennessee at that time were numbered at 25,715, no one was volunteering to wear a mask. 

We were starving when we arrived at our humble, Smoky Mountain cabin, so we dumped our belongings in our rooms and headed out to grab some food at Southern buffet.  

I’ve always been taught to wash my hands before I eat, but guess the people of Tennessee don’t practice the same habits, because even in a pandemic there wasn’t even any hand sanitizer. It’s pretty bad when the state of Florida, which does provide hand sanitizer in restaurants, is more prepared than you are.  

Our waitress came over and as she took our order, my Aunt Lesly noticed her mask was hanging below her nose..

She was upset, so she left our table to complain to the manager, telling them:, “I can’t believe you guys aren’t taking this seriously enough to enforce these rules.” she stated.

After we ate, we headed to Gatlinburg City, a tourist area with shops, kiddie rides and southern food. We were relieved to see signs reading “Required to Wear a Mask While Entering,” which we, of course, followed.

But we were the only ones following directions. Not even the store clerks inside the establishments were following their own stated rules. 

My boyfriend, Steve Zuniga, who had joined us on our family trip, was incensed.

“This is so annoying how people are so ignorant not to think of other people and their safety,” he said. At every turn, when we tried to enjoy ourselves, we were frustrated with how no one was following the guidelines for this pandemic,

 My cousin and I felt a little like we were risking our lives as we waited in a crowded line of mask less people to ride the Ferris wheel. 

“This is too crowded. They should limit the amount of people going on the ride,” said my cousin. And I agreed with her.

Even though the view of the city was amazing, we decided that was our first and last ride.. 

And so it continued. At the food truck where we went to get pizza. At scenic photo ops. At knickknack shops. No masks. No hand sanitizer.

Even when we did see people wearing masks, like another family we saw walking by the shops, they weren’t wearing them properly. 

And so, although we had originally planned a five day visit, we ended up cutting it short. We finally went back to our cabin and my family and I decided it was best to leave the next day back to Florida. We didn’t want to put ourselves more at risk then what we were already exposed to, especially since we had toddlers with us on this trip. 

August 21st, the following morning our alarms sounded at 8am, we rushed to put our clothes on and shoved all of our belongings in the car so we wouldn’t miss the Chick-fil-a breakfast that ends at 10:30 am. On the road after enjoying our delicious breakfast, we decided not to make any more stops till we left Tennessee.

The car ride back to Florida was so peaceful, especially since everyone besides my dad driving was sound asleep. I ended up waking up and reminiscing on the beautiful view I saw from the Ferris Wheel in Tennessee, and the breeze I would feel from sitting outside on the wood bench looking upon the Smoky Mountains at night while hearing the crickets chirp in the lost woods. It was such a fun and different experience that I will forever cherish in memory.

Overall my family and I loved the trip, but we decided we won’t be coming back until the pandemic ends, the reason why we decided to leave days earlier.. We didn’t feel safe while being there and seeing how the state of Tennessee didn’t follow the required procedures for the pandemic compared to Florida where they di