June 27, 2020 at 6:30 am EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
PHOTOS: A road trip during a pandemic and national reckoning
Two men hold their fists in their air during an anti-police brutality protest in downtown Miami on June 1, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

It was eerily quiet at around 10:30 p.m. on June 8 when I drove into D.C. from Rosslyn. There were only a handful of cars on the streets as I drove through Foggy Bottom and around Farragut Square. I passed dozens of boarded up businesses and a handful of Metropolitan Police Department patrol cars before I arrived home in Dupont Circle and officially ended my 10-day road trip to South Florida.

It was also eerily quiet at around 6 a.m. on May 29, the day I left the nation’s capital. The city to which I returned was very different.

The stated goal of my trip to South Florida was to work with Yariel Valdés González, a Washington Blade contributor from Cuba who spent nearly a year in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody before his release from a privately-run detention center in rural Louisiana on March 4. My trip was also an opportunity to document a country in the grips of a deadly pandemic that also finds itself at a crossroads.

I had planned to go to South Florida at the end of March, but the coronavirus pandemic delayed this trip by more than two months. I am not yet comfortable on an airplane, so I decided to rent a car and drive. I left D.C. on the same day it entered the first phase of reopening. A then-Minneapolis police officer, who is white, four days earlier kneeled on the neck of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, for nearly nine minutes and killed him.

Reminders of the grim human and economic toll the pandemic has exerted in this country were clearly evident in the six states through which I drove. Signs of the national reckoning over racism in response to Floyd’s death that was underway were also palpable.

Here are some photos from my trip.

Driving over the 14th Street Bridge on May 29, 2020 (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Michael K. Lavers at the Virginia Welcome Center in Fredericksburg, Va., on May 29, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A sign at the Virginia Welcome Center in Fredericksburg, Va., on May 29, 2020, advises motorists not to take toilet paper, paper towels and soap from the men’s bathroom. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Headlines of newspapers from Richmond, Va., and Raleigh, N.C., on May 29, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A Wawa convenience store in Chester, Va., on May 29, 2020, advises customers that Virginia law requires them to wear a mask inside the store. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Writing a story in the car while in the parking lot of a Wawa convenience store in Chester, Va., on May 29, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Gas at this gas station along Interstate 95 in North Carolina on May 29, 2020, was under $2 a gallon. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
The front page of the Wilson Times newspaper in North Carolina on May 29, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Traffic on Interstate 95 near Eastover, N.C., on May 29, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A “Blessing Box” outside a store in Santee, S.C., on May 29, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
River Street in Savannah, Ga., on May 29, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Several businesses in Savannah, Ga., have “Savannah Strong” posters in their windows as the city begins to reopen after the coronavirus shutdown. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A store in Savannah, Ga., notes how it is protecting its customers and employees from the coronavirus. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A memorial to Ahmaud Aubrey at the entrance to the neighborhood in Brunswick, Ga., where he was killed on Feb. 23, 2020, while jogging. Travis and Gregory McMichael have been charged with murdering Aubrey, who was black. William “Roddie” Bryan, who recorded the shooting, also faces charges. The three suspects are white. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A street in St. Augustine, Fla., on May 30, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A nearly full parking lot near Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, Fla., on May 30, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
This reporter enjoys a Corona Extra beer in St. Augustine, Fla., on May 30, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A sign in support of President Trump’s re-election campaign in St. Augustine, Fla., on May 30, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
The makeshift memorial at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on May 31, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Heavy traffic on Interstate 4 near Walt Disney World on May 31, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
The front page of the Orlando Sentinel on May 31, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A car fire on Alligator Alley near Ochopee, Fla., on May 31, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Watching an interview with D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser on “The Today Show” from the hotel in Miami on June 1, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A security guard at the Bayside Marketplace in downtown Miami walks past boarded up storefronts on June 1, 2020. The businesses were damaged two days earlier during protests in response to George Floyd’s death. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Yariel Valdés González speaks with LGBTQ migrants who live at Jardin de las Mariposas, a shelter in Tijuana, Mexico, on June 3, 2020, from the hotel in Miami. The Washington Blade is working with the Organization for Refuge, Asylum and Migration to encourage the shelter’s residents to share their stories with journalists. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A museum and performing arts center in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood notes it remains closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A bar in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood notes it has reopened. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Downtown Miami’s skyline from the Rickenbacker Causeway that connects Key Biscayne, Fla., to the mainland on June 3, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdés González)
The front pages of el Nuevo Herald and the Miami Herald on June 4, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
The front pages of Diario las Américas, a Spanish-language newspaper in Miami, on June 4, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Pride memorabilia for sale at a Target in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on June 4, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
From left: Yariel Valdés González, Sebastián Cabral and Michael K. Lavers at Serafina’s, a waterfront restaurant in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on June 4, 2020.
Georgie’s Alibi Monkey Bar in Wilton Manors, Fla., on June 4, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
From left: Yariel Váldez González, José Juan Blanco and Michael K. Lavers at a Venezuelan restaurant in Hallandale Beach, Fla., on June 5, 2020.
From left: Yariel Valdéz González, Carlos Alejandro Rodríguez Martínez, Michael K. Lavers, Ledier Armas Martínez and Norges Rodríguez in North Miami Beach, Fla., on June 5, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Yariel Valdéz González)
The intersection of Collins Avenue and 18th Street in Miami Beach, Fla., on June 6, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
The road leading to the Krome Service Processing Center in Miami on June 7, 2020. Eight U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detainees at the Krome Service Processing Center, which is located in the facility’s grounds, had confirmed coronavirus cases as of June 14. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A Black Lives Matter protest in West Palm Beach, Fla., on June 7, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago’s estate in Palm Beach, Fla., on June 6, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Support for the Black Lives Movement on a beach in Palm Beach, Fla., on June 7, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A boarded-up storefront in downtown Palm Beach, Fla., on June 7, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A sign of the times while driving north on Interstate 95 near Daytona Beach, Fla., on June 7, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Florida newspaper headlines on June 7, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
The front page of the Daytona Beach News-Journal in Daytona Beach, Fla., on June 7, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A hotel in St. Simons Island, Ga., takes precautions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Two men fish from a pier in St. Simons Island, Ga., on June 8, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
T-shirts for sale at a store in downtown St. Simons Island, Ga., on June 8, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A mural in Brunswick, Ga., on June 8, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Brunswick, Ga., remains closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A church sign near Bowman, S.C., on June 7, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Two independent newspapers in Asheville, N.C., on June 8, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A Black Lives Matter mural on a boarded-up restaurant in Asheville, N.C., on June 8, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A tribute to Tony McDade in downtown Asheville, N.C., on June 8, 2020. McDade was a Black transgender man who was shot and killed by a white police officer in Tallahassee, Fla., late last month. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
The Cherokee National Forest from a scenic overlook along Interstate 26 near Erwin, Tenn., on June 8, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A monument to country music in Bristol, Va., on June 8, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
A sketch in the window of a spa in downtown Bristol, Va., on June 8, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)
Michael K. Lavers at the fence that surrounded Lafayette Square Park in D.C. on June 9, 2020. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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