Last week, I did something I hadn't done in seven months.
I hopped on a plane and traveled for work, having been invited to the media introduction of the redesigned 2021 Rolls-Royce Ghost in Austin, Texas.
Automotive News readers may recall a time when our pages were populated with seemingly random datelines from across the U.S., and sometimes around the globe, based on events known colloquially as "ride and drives."
They're a first chance to get up close with a new or updated model but also an opportunity to interact with the folks behind it and bring home a story we might not otherwise have known about.
Like other large gatherings, they quickly ceased once the pandemic took hold.
But vehicle launches have continued. Some automakers have adjusted by lending vehicles to individual media outlets in conjunction with virtual presentations and phone or Zoom interviews, which is how I experienced the freshened 2021 Bentley Bentayga. Others have held smaller, regional events so journalists can drive to a central location, test a car and drive home.
For last week's event, Rolls-Royce brought in groups of about six people at a time, allowing for ample space.
My temperature was taken multiple times. Masks and hand sanitizer were plentiful. I had previously tested negative for COVID-19 but took the provided finger prick test and again tested negative. Everyone else in the group underwent the same process, so I felt comfortable. Even more so once I settled into the Ghost's massaging seats.
With just one person per car, no one could object to my music selection — Fleetwood Mac sounded superb in the cabin of a $430,000 sedan — or critique my driving on the designated route along Austin's surprisingly twisty roads. And yes, I still got to ride in a Ghost, albeit in the back on the way to a dinner.
As with most events in the world, I have no idea when the ride-and-drive circuit can return to "normal."
But Rolls-Royce and some other automakers have demonstrated that such events can still safely take place, just with a mountain of extra logistics.