In the Northeast, about half of the folks at the hotel where I was staying wore masks and practiced social distancing. In the South, just a handful of people wore masks, outside of the hotel staff.
Major airports are crowded and congested, but almost all people, no matter how they felt, wore masks as required by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). I witnessed one older gentlemen argue with an airline employee, who had reminded him that his bandanna mask did not meet the TSA requirements.
To the airline employee's credit, she explained she didn't make the rules; she was only there to enforce them. And she said she would not engage in a debate with the customer.
That sounds like a great approach for tire dealers, especially for areas of the country where mask mandates are being enforced.
All of the staff at the Mexican resort near Cancun, where the Conti Gold Trip was held in late September, wore masks and made it a point to social distance whenever possible.
Those attending the event — myself included — gathered together freely, without masks or social-distancing protocols. It almost seemed normal again.
Kudos to Conti, by the way, for maneuvering through the international barriers that Mexico put in place recently in order for travelers to exit the country. One such rule is that travelers must take a basic antigen test — and, of course, the result must be negative — within 72 hours of departure.
Canada, however, is a completely different animal.
In case you didn't know, U.S. travelers can enter Canada now for recreational reasons — I was there simply to do some pike and walleye fishing in Lake Nipissing, near North Bay, Ontario — as long as they provide the necessary information in advance. (As of this writing, the U.S. border remains closed to Canadian motorists for recreational purposes. Essential travel continues unabated.)
One of the stipulations is that any traveler must have a negative PCR test, performed within 72 hours of crossing the border.
I entered Ontario outside of Buffalo, N.Y. The Canadian border patrol agent questioned me remotely, keeping his social distance. The questions mostly were routine, except when he asked me where I would be "quarantined" for 14 days should I contract the virus.
Once in Ontario, I found the differences between the U.S., Mexico and Canada extremely striking.
Ohio, where I reside, and Ontario roughly have the same population, between 12 and 14 million. Whereas Ohio reported around 5,000 new COVID cases a day during my stay, Ontario had around 500.
In Canada, however, every restaurant or bar requires patrons to show a vaccination card and photo ID. Masks are required inside every establishment, whether you're vaccinated or not, and social distancing is practiced religiously (although not within the confines of an 18-foot aluminum fishing boat ...).
Canadians, like their U.S. counterparts, seem to be traveling in droves. We made a quick stop at Niagara Falls, Ontario, and tourists crowded the streets as if it were 2019 all over again.
This is born out by the Automotive Industries Association (AIA) of Canada, which reported that travel in the second quarter of 2021 increased significantly, with 118 billion kilometers traveled. The report said that can be attributed to an increase in road trips as domestic and international air travel remains limited.
The AIA said the more often a vehicle is used, the more there is a need for maintenance. So it appears tire and auto service enterprises will continue to see business increase in Canada as kilometers driven go up.
The return home brought the contrast in countries to full circle. I pulled up to the U.S. border patrol agent, who was standing outside of his station.
He talked to me, maskless, standing a few feet away. And the word "COVID" did not enter into our conversation.
Now comes word that masks are going to be required at the upcoming Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in early November. It will be interesting to see how attendees react to that.
In the meantime, enjoy the surge in business that, in many ways, has been pandemic-induced. And don't forget your mask when you leave for the airport. ...