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We are home

Well we’ve been home about a month and a half. I’ve had this post about our trip home during the onset of the Covid-19 shut downs written for a while but just haven’t felt like getting it to print. But now with places starting to open up I want to post it and maybe give you a little insight on our experience traveling during a pandemic.

We found at the time, State Parks were only following about half of the safety measures that they were supposed to be following as stated on their websites. My hope is that with some time under the parks belts that things and polices have improved and are and will be running a little smoother. 

Traveling during a pandemic. 

On March 12th were evicted from our campground in New Mexico due to Covid-19 shut downs. We spent the two weeks, which honestly seemed like a month, trying to decide what to do. Campgrounds were closing down daily, news was bad, there were talks on state borders closing. On March 24, we looked at each other and said it’s time and on March 25 we left our little home on BLM land in Arizona for our sticks and bricks in North Carolina, 1980 miles away.  (On March 13, US declared national emergency and on March 26, US had the most cases in world) 

The decision to return home was bittersweet. There was so much we hadn’t done. Places that needed to be explored, history to be learned, flowers and birds to be seen, breweries to be visited! But we wanted to stay safe and well, we wanted to be with our kids, and we wanted to make sure we weren’t spreading the virus to small communities and depleting their resources.

We were also returning home to family members with compromised immune systems and we wanted to make the trip with as little contact with people as possible. This proved easy except for the actual campgrounds. We chose to overnight at State parks for a few reasons: 

  • Campgrounds and public lands were closing daily. We wanted to stay somewhere that we could make a reservation the day before arrival. Hoping that if the state closed all public lands to camping we would hopefully still be able to keep our reservation for the night.
  • It was starting to get warm on our route home. Our first night in Texas, it was 97 degrees (F) when we got to the campground. So electric was essential.
  • We were thinking that State Parks would be implementing better safety measures than private campgrounds.

It was a crazy time folks. There was a lot of unknowns at this time. We stopped before we left in a small town in Arizona to restock. It was obvious that we were outsiders and although no one said anything to us we did get the feeling people did not want us in their community stores depleting their supplies, which I totally understand. At this point finding four rolls of toilet paper to get us back home was a cause for celebration. 

The long haul

Our trip back involved leaving Southern Arizona, traveling through part of New Mexico, across the state of Texas, southern Arkansas, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina to North Carolina. The 1980 mile trip took us 7 days 6 nights. The last two days were 10 hour days because a planned night in-between was canceled when one of the states closed their campgrounds. 

  • Start: Left Indian Bread Rocks BLM, Arizona after 14 days of self isolation. 
  • Day 1: 123 miles. Harvest Host Winery, New Mexico. Only person in winery to check in. Only overnight guest. (We had stayed at this winery two weeks earlier, where there were about 8 RV’s overnighting and they were already implementing the 50% capacity and 6 foot rules inside the winery building.)
  • Day 2: 340 miles. Texas, Monahans Sand Hills SP.  Full campground. Not following social distancing guidelines, campground host approached car window within 2 feet and had to be asked to step back. Guest ask us to take photo with her phone, which didn’t happen. 
  • Day 3: 288 miles. Possum Kingdom SP, Texas. Had to get receipt from host at campground station. Camp store was open but no one allowed in. You would “order” your items from outside at a window. Host bagged them and you paid. Bathrooms were open. 
  • Day 4-5: 308 miles to Atlanta SP, Texas. No in-person check in, drove straight to site without having to interact with anyone. A large group of 30 were having a group camp out. The host was seen delivering fire wood to camper and shaking hands. People not observing the 6’ rule. The bathrooms were open, but supposed to be closed. We spent two nights here to take a rest from the road. 
  • Day 6: 478 miles to Lake Lurleen SP, Alabama. No online check in. Had to receive clipboard with pen attached to fill out paperwork. Then return inside of camp building to pay and get 3 different pieces of paper for dashboard. The playgrounds were roped off. 
  • Day 7: 460 miles to Home, North Carolina

Our drive home was made without going in to any store, eating only from the camper at rest areas or at campgrounds. We did not use public washrooms, only our porta potty. And our gas was pumped with doggie bags and credit cards wiped with Lysol.

It was a very stressful seven days, some areas did not seem to be taking things very serious and we were so worried of being exposed to the virus and bringing it home to family members. We drove a route to avoid as many of the major cities and areas reporting high cases as possible. We planned gas stops outside of metro areas. Not the way you really want to travel.

Stay or Go

Now with campgrounds across the states starting to open up with restrictions, people are starting to think about getting back to the woods, us included. (Neighbors are starting to question why I’m standing in the shrubbery at various time during the week! #pretendwoods) It is a tough decision, do we stay home or do we venture out. We enjoy the outdoors part of our travel the most, hiking, biking and kayaking. With those activities it is a little easier to maintain social distancing. We also enjoy meeting and talking to people, strolling in the towns and cities we visit and supporting local business. If and when we do venture out camping again, the plan, as of now, is not to go any more than a very long days drive from home. That way if we need to return for any reason it will be viable. We do not plan to use any public washrooms and we will not be “touring” any towns.

Camping is and should be a relaxing time to get away and enjoy nature, but things have changed. We thought we’d share with you some of the things we’ve been thinking about before we head back out that might help you make that decision also:

  • What travel restrictions are the state and local government in your home base and where the campgrounds are located asking you to follow?
  • Whats your comfort level? Can you follow the rules? Are you ok with people not following the rules?
  • If it’s important to you, are you ok enforcing your own comfort level/boundaries? Asking someone to step back if they are to close or telling someone you won’t take a photo with their phone?
  • Have you researched what is and isn’t open at the campground you want to stay at such as bathhouses, stores, visitor centers and trails.
  • Do you want to use the public bathhouse and showers? Are they open? Do you have an alternative and are you prepared to use it? TIP: Test your porta potties at home BEFORE you leave. Ours had not been used in a while and the gasket dried out and started to leak. Yay for Thetford and the RV store in AZ that had a free replacement for us.
  • If you head to a trailhead are you prepared for the toilets to be locked? Do you know and understand how to use the bathroom in the woods? Leave No Trace
  • Water fountains may be turned off, do you have enough water?
  • Will you visit laundrrymats? How will you wash and dry clothes if you are out for extended times.
  • Supplies. Are you able to pack and carry all your supples from home? Most campgrounds are located in small towns with only small stores. Restocking during a trip might be difficult and items might be depleted. Camp stores might be closed or have limited items.

That’s all folks

So that’s it in a nutshell, our rv trip across the country with hand sanitizer and lysol in record time. I hate that we didn’t get to see everything that we planned, but I’m thankful for the things we did see, the people that we met and our time together in our little home on wheels.

I hope that everyone stays well and healthy.

And don’t forget to find the good, everyday!

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