I married a man whose middle name is “go.” He loves to drive and has built-in mental radar, which usually outthinks our GPS. He is fearless, and the more unfamiliar the territory, the more alluring it is to him. One afternoon, he came home with a surprise.
“Come see what I got!” he said.
He had excitedly brought home a used, 17-foot RV he had purchased on the spur of the moment without consulting me.
My response was, “Guess what you are going to get? A divorce!”
I was a city girl who had never thought of camping or been inside an RV, but once our 6- and 8-year-old children had happily explored the “playhouse,” I could see I was outnumbered.
We set off for Central America with two children and a 3-month-old baby whose bed took up all of the floor space. We also managed to squeeze in the absolute necessities and my brother, just out of Army basic training. For the first two days, I was angry and fumed vocally all the way to the border. Then I realized that if I had to make this trip, I might as well have fun.
As we rolled along for the next six weeks, we had many adventures. We were robbed twice when we were out of the RV, our baby became ill in Mexico City, we had a flat tire in the middle of nowhere, and we coasted to a gas station with our gas gauge flashing “empty.” We were also forced by the border patrol in El Salvador to give a ride to someone we had never before met.
But we survived it all without any life-threatening dangers and all of us loved the experience. Since then, Bill and I have worn out eight new RVs, and he has driven the equivalent of the circumference of the equator more than 10 times, including 49 of the 50 U.S. states, all provinces of Canada, Mexico from north to south and east to west, and nine other countries. We have loved every minute. Our children learned so much, and so did we.
Since the pandemic began, a lot of travelers have discovered the wonders and safety of RV travel. You can shelter in place by taking your own home with you. That means you can enjoy the safety of sleeping in your own bed, using your own bathroom, and preparing your own meals, all while enjoying new places and the great outdoors. RV sales and rentals have skyrocketed, and campgrounds and parks across the country are full—all of them following strict protocols to encourage and enforce social distancing and wearing masks.
For a while, we stayed close to home, visiting state parks near us when we needed a change of scenery for a few days. We hiked on trails where we were the only people out and visited loved ones who came to have outdoor picnics with us while wearing masks and sitting 10 feet apart. As we drove, we discovered lots of waterfalls, mountains, trails, and the beauty of the seasons while staying safely away from the virus. A lot of other people were doing the same thing since schools and many jobs have been virtual and available through Wi-Fi in campgrounds. Another plus was that the highways had less traffic than normal because people were staying home.
The pandemic and bad weather did combine to make for some travel interruptions, however. When we decided to wander farther from home, we drove from South Carolina to Colorado, never getting out of the RV except to pump our own gas and pay at the pump. In Durango, we got the last available campsite since it was at the peak of fall colors. We ended up spending several days there, amazed at the bright yellow foliage and the path of gold on trails below the autumn tree branches. National monuments and normal tourist attractions were closed except for what we could see along the trails, but the getaway was invigorating.
Our final destination was to have been California to see family, but just as we were leaving Colorado to head farther west, we received the news that the COVID-19 “shelter-in-place “and “no gathering” measures were much stricter since the virus spread had peaked again. Added to that, raging forest fires were making air quality dangerous. Sadly, we turned around and headed back to South Carolina.
When we got home, we learned that if we had gone on, we would have encountered floods on the southern route or ice and severe storms on the northern route. In an RV, it’s critical to keep track of weather forecasts and other potential pitfalls.
Something else to keep in mind is that even in campgrounds and RV parks where you isolate in your own vehicle, it’s so important that everyone observe social distancing, not gather in groups, wear masks, and wash hands frequently and well. It’s what we would be doing at home, and it’s small positive changes like these that will soon get us all back out on the road.
When You Go
Check the internet for “RV travel routes,” and you’ll find many sources to help you get out on the highway.
Bonnie and Bill Neely are freelance writers. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at Creators.com. Copyright 2021 Creators.com