Tuesday, July 7, 2020

RV Travel + Covid: All The Good Things!

"COVID" and "GOOD" don't usually appear in the same sentence, but after 27 stops over 3 months throughout the Carolinas, Georgia and Texas during the early stages of the pandemic, we feel qualified to say there is at least a tiny bit of positive fallout!

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We gained new skills.   
With trailhead and visitor center restrooms closed, we somehow avoided public indecency charges!



We learned to embrace undertainty.  
The fine art of flexibility is finally in our wheelhouse! 



Gas was cheap!  
When your RV gets 6 miles to the gallon, you do a tiny happy dance with every fill-up!


The National Park Service made us better humans, one clever message at a time.
Sending the right message, in the right way, one park at a time.



#maskingup of public art for the win.
Because you can't be too sure who is contagious and who isn't.




So many messages of hope and optimism.
Because everyone need all the encouragement we can get right now! 



Ooooooh la la!
When you can't count on much of anything, at least you can count on the soothing power of nature.




Big rig coming through!
Covid really put the "open" in "open road"!


Places that would normally be jammed with people, were ours-all-ours.
Like toddlers, we don't really wanna share anymore!



We spent a lot more time with Sprinkles.
With most attractions closed, 24/7 doggy snuggles were a regular "thing"!



Lots more safe areas to bike ride!
Like, down the middle of deserted Main Streets, even in large towns!


Quaranting in an RV is easy ... 
just be sure you have Netflix.


We saved a lot of money!
No admission fee, no problem.



Who needs restaurants anyway?
Not RV'ers, that's for sure!


Less people = more wildlife.  
Vehicle deaths of animals decreased by 58% during March and April!  Score for the critters!


Social distancing is easy in your very own RV!
If nobody can find you, nobody can infect you!



Outdoor recreation NOT cancelled
In three months, we logged 164.58 miles hiking, 67.26 miles biking, and 8.75 hours kayaking.


American ingenuity on display at every turn!
A solution for every problem!


Someday Covid will all be just a faint, dumb memory!
We never knew what day it was or where we were going, but we'll never forget the RV trip of 2020!




Now members of the "in-crowd"!
So-called "Covid Campers" and their newfound interest in road trips are expected to lead to 46 million Americans taking an RV trip in the next year.  Are there 46 million campsites available?  There sure are NOT!  So when competing in the future RV Reservation-Making Hunger Games ... "may the odds be ever in your favor!"



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A writer from Farmers Insurance researching this very topic, RV travels during Covid-19, interviewed us for a feature article.  Here's the article which appeared in May 2020!

They Love #RVLife. When COVID-19 Struck, This Couple Prepared for the Worst and Hit the Road for Three Months
As national parks and other attractions began closing, these seasoned RV travelers chose to reroute on the fly and stay put longer. Their report from the road might be a roadmap for other vacationers.




On March 27, Tessa and Philip Miller left their Arizona home with their dog, Sprinkles, in an RV named Elsie for a three-month road trip through the South. They had face masks sewn by their daughter, sanitizing wipes, disposable gloves and a fully stocked freezer. “Only a few states were sheltering in place at that point,” says Tessa. “The government was just beginning to communicate the severity and likely length of the situation.”



“We also knew that self-isolation would be easy in an RV if it came to that,” says Philip. “You don’t have to use anyone’s kitchen or bathroom but your own.”
“We already had plenty of toilet paper onboard,” says Tessa. “RVs use a quick-dissolving paper that you can’t find in regular stores, so we always have that covered before we take off.”
The Millers remained on the road — with significant changes to their itinerary — and stayed with their original return date of June 28. 



They’d planned a year in advance. Then the cancellations started pouring in. 



Tessa and Philip spent a year planning their trip and made reservations at RV parks six months in advance. Soon after they departed, their phones started blowing up with cancellation notices from state and national parks. “Twelve out of our first 16 scheduled stops were cancelled because the parks had closed to the public,” says Tessa. 
They pulled out the laptop and started reworking their route to include privately owned RV parks. “We decided right then to go all private,” says Philip. “Most private places have full-time residents, so they may not be affected by shutdown orders. There was talk about reopening national parks in June, but you can’t plan a trip around what might happen.” 



During their seven years as RV travelers, the Millers have made advance reservations at every park and campground they visit. “Beginning in early April, we saw a big reduction in the number of RVs on the highway,” says Philip. Enough travelers canceled their plans this year that the Millers could find a place to stay by calling a day or two ahead, although the check-in process changed. 
“They usually ask you to call when you’re five minutes away,” says Tessa. “When we arrive, there’s a packet of information sitting outside the office with our lot assignment. Sometimes it’s an actual person standing at a distance who points to where to park. The only ‘hello’ we’ve received was from a parrot perched outside a locked office in Georgia.”  

So much for apps. They plot with a pencil now. 




As they wind through a patchwork of private parks across the South, the Millers have gotten used to rerouting on a dime. They skipped Louisiana upon news that New Orleans was experiencing a spike in cases. A weeklong stop at North Carolina’s Outer Banks went by the wayside when the barrier islands closed to visitors over concerns that the local health system could be overwhelmed if an outbreak occurred. They had to cancel a two-day visit to Virginia when the state placed a 30-day minimum on campground stays. 








“Every place has been generous with their cancellation policies,” says Philip. “Normally non-refundable deposits have been returned.”   
Tessa has stopped using her trusted travel-planning apps. “I now use a pencil and a piece of paper,” she says.  
The cancellation of upcoming stops has meant less movement for the Millers. They prefer to change locations at least every four days, but, says Philip, “We spent 10 days in Fredericksburg, Texas, and then 16 days in Columbia, South Carolina — our longest stretch ever.” Should restrictions ease, the Millers will attempt to reconstruct their original travel plan, although they’re not counting on it. 



Their usual haunts are locked, but they can still buy the T-shirt online



The Millers had planned to spend their days at national parks, presidential libraries and roadside attractions, like the 38-foot filing cabinet they saw last year in Vermont. “Almost nothing like that has been open on this trip,” says Philip. Now, when they unhitch their Jeep from Elsie, it’s for a photo-taking safari, a windshield tour or scavenger hunt they devise themselves. And if they can visit an attraction, they might buy the T-shirt online afterwards, since the gift shops have been closed.
“For last year’s trip, I didn’t pack a single T-shirt because I knew I would pick one up at every place we visited,” says Philip. “I played it safe this year and brought a supply from home.”
“Restaurant closings haven’t bothered us,” says Tessa. “Unlike our previous RV, Elsie has a residential-size refrigerator and freezer, and we prefer to cook all our meals on her grill anyway.”
“But we do miss the music festivals, farmers markets and quaint shops,” she adds. “The supermarkets and big box stores are generally open. It’s the small local places we love that are usually closed.”




Outdoor activities have occupied so much of their time that they’ve started keeping a chart. In the first 30 days, they hiked 49.79 miles, biked 49.61 miles and kayaked for three hours. Many of those miles were logged in federal forests, which the Millers have found to be open, though not in every instance. “We had just completed a section of a trail in South Carolina when a sheriff came up to us said, ‘It’s a beautiful day, but you can’t be here,’” says Philip. “He told us that particular passage was closed because there were no volunteer workers to clean the bathrooms or patrol the trail.”  
“Of course, we’re also doing a lot of the same things everyone is doing,” says Tessa. “We have satellite TV, [e-readers] full of stuff we’ve been wanting to read, and at least a hundred DVDs donated by friends. And there’s always campfires and stargazing.” 




For the Millers, sheltering-in-RV was still a vacation



The Millers have also spent time on the phone, counseling friends looking to take an RV trip of their own this summer. “People still want their vacation, but they’re also being cautious,” says Philip. “Everyone wants to know what kind of RV they should rent and where they should go.” 
“That makes sense to me,” says Tessa. “Elsie has served as a rolling isolation chamber for us on this trip. And even though the RV parks are less crowded right now, we’re still seeing license plates from all over the country.” 
“RVers are friendly people by nature,” says Philip. “But everyone seems to understand that we can’t really socialize. So we wave and toast each other from a distance.” 











They enjoy every minute (really). 



The Millers are sticking to their usual routine of rising early and embarking on the day’s activities by 8:00 a.m. They still try to follow what Philip calls their 330/3:30 rule. “We travel no more than 330 miles a day,” he says. “And I have to be relaxing under the awning by 3:30 p.m. each day.” With fewer places to visit now, Philip admits that relaxation time can come an hour or two early, an adjustment he’s fine with.  
Whether it’s because they love the RV life or have embraced what Tessa calls their “inner flexibility,” the Millers are enjoying this trip as much as any other — including their five-month, 8,479-mile loop around the Northeast in 2019. “Not once have we regretted our decision or wished to be home,” she says.
In late May, the Millers reported that they were in South Carolina, where the state seal features Spes, the Roman goddess of hope, and the Latin motto Dum Spiro Spero — While I Breathe, I Hope. “We’re still breathing freely out here on the open road, while hoping for a return to normalcy,” says Tessa. “We plan to continue doing both.” 



Written by

John Diether



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So, what's next for Elsie?

That's a really good question!  Our reservation-making skills are already getting a little rusty, as advance planning has lost some of its luster. We have a six-week trip already booked for California in September and October, but are fully resigned to its cancellation, if the state of things continues to decline through the fall.  So where will Elsie be for the rest of the year?  Only God and Stupid-Covid TM  know for sure!






2 comments:

  1. Well my RV friends, although I have been very lax in commenting, I haven't missed any of your travel logs and enjoyed reading every word!! The photos, as usual, were amazing!!!!! So glad that you had such a great time in spite of the covid nightmare! Glad you made it home safe and sound.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I must be doing something wrong as it says anonymous but it was really me Nancy Bowen.haha

    ReplyDelete

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