It was October 2020 and I had been very cautious since March. Although still an essential worker, my field work had been scaled back and I was fortunate to be able to get tested whenever needed. But what I needed was a trip out of town. As well as contact with humans that didn’t live under my roof. After careful thought & precautions, I decided to leave the family at home and travel to New York to meet up with some equally cautious friends for an off-season trip to Montauk. Less people, an empty resort, and weather that would scare off most beach-goers, it was the makings of a much needed reset for all of us. *For those interested, please scroll to the bottom of the post to read about the safety precautions I took during this time.
My friends and I had the perfect girls’ weekend, tailored just to our interests; mainly coffee, true crime, books, and good food. If you happen to be interested in what a criminal prosecutor, true crime podcaster, and a forensic psychologist like to do when they are going stir crazy during a pandemic, read on.
First rule of a road trip: find yourself friends who will veer off track to show you their weird, local roadside attraction. The Big Duck of Flanders (Long Island) was our first stop and we spent way too much time there when someone couldn’t find the car keys. After that debacle, it was straight on to Montauk, a village of The Hamptons at the very east end of Long Island, also given the sinister nickname The End. It’s the town that inspired writer Peter Benchly to write Jaws. However, prior to getting to the end of the world, a stop in Bridgehampton was in order to scour the used book fair while children made Halloween crafts on a nearby lawn. This California girl was already feeling like she was a world away.
It was then onward to our lovely accommodations at the super low key Sole East Montauk. It was a bit of a bear finding a place to stay during a pandemic, but after some failed Air BnB attempts, we landed on this gem that was quiet, quaint, and perfect for three girls looking to get away and to not socialize with anyone else. Sole East was a comfortable home base, nestled in a neighborhood and abound with greenery (and baby deer!). A huge perk was that it had best little restaurant on site. It may have been Fall in New York, but that Aperol Spritz hit the spot at a sunset dinner by the fire. For summertime, there’s a great pool in the middle of the property.
Our time in Montauk was very chill. We wanted good food, robust coffee and to see a few sites, but padded time to just wander too. Our first morning quest for caffeine landed us at Left Hand coffee shop before heading down to the water to stroll the iconic coastline on a bright, yet cloudy day. A solid oat latte and buttery croissant made the crisp morning more tolerable. The vibe on the beach with the sand-blasted fencing and long grass rimming the properties was very moody (think murder mystery involving a wealthy, and equally shady, east coast family). Not long after taking in the calm waters, surf shops and general stores were calling our names downtown.
Cold, sometimes wet weather kept us inside much of the time, but we made more than one trip to Bluestone Lane Coffee, the Australian company known for their pastel-perfect shops and cafes in smartly strategic neighborhoods. As the only non-East Coaster on the trip, I was also on the hunt for the quintessential beach town meal, so lunch at the Shagwong Tavern fit the bill. “I’ll take the lobster roll, Montauk Pumpkin Ale AND the clam chowder.” The Shagwong has been a staple of downtown Montauk for nearly 100 years and was a great place to warm up. Bellies full, we drove the short distance to the Montauk Lighthouse, mostly because, well… lighthouse! This lighthouse is located at the very tip of eastern Long Island and is a National Historic Monument as it is the oldest lighthouse in New York State (1796). The Shaker-style home next to the lighthouse is a museum and the grounds are worth exploring with its sweeping views of the Atlantic. Our dinner plans for the final night in East Hampton was at Moby’s, a staple of the social scene during the high season. It’s “Italian Coast meets relaxed beach town” with warm & airy open spaces decorated as you would your dream Hamptons backyard. We opted to share the whipped ricotta app, a kale Caesar, and the fusilli cacio e pepe and it was one of the top vacation meals of my life. Maybe it was the pandemic, maybe it was the flawless setting. It was definitely the company.
It was time to get back to the real world, but first we hit up Babette’s in East Hampton for a full breakfast, tea, and coffee. It was going to be a few hours and my friends were nice enough to entertain my desire to travel to Gilgo Beach to get eyes on the location of one of the most recent infamous unsolved cases, the Long Island serial killings. This case, and true crime in general, is an intense interest to all of us so it wasn’t like I was twisting anyone’s arm to make the detour. The long stretch of Ocean Parkway was back-dropped by the dreariest of days, which gave extra ambiance to the sorrowful location. A row of homes encircled by brambles and wetlands was our area for a moment of perspective and pause. I was able to end the trip on a more upbeat note, in Queens for a day, before heading back to California and the realities of the stressful world in October of 2020. I don’t regret traveling during the pandemic, but know it was a risk that paid dividends for my emotional health.
I understand it was a risk at that time of last year, but here’s the precautions I took, that made it less anxiety provoking for all involved (me, my family, my friends, other passengers, travel workers).
- Got tested before leaving and two days after returning.
- Wore a mask the entire time. Disposables were great for traveling so I could change them out whenever I wanted. I saved my cloth ones for my destination.
- Carried sanitizer & wipes with me and washed hands often at airports. The airports and planes felt very clean, with observed cleaning happening non-stop.
- Distanced from other passengers when waiting at gate. Even those I had gotten to know during a hellish layover.
- Renting a car was obvious for our road trip, but also helped cut down on getting in and out of numerous Ubers or taxis.