Today marks my one month anniversary of RVing full-time. I began my journey in Virginia, and then ventured to Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois. My next stop is Wisconsin. And what a summer to begin my RV life. Not only must I contend with coronavirus – and the wild variances in rules and practices – but the early summer is boiling over with protests in major cities. How does it affect RVing?
The Divided States of America
If ever there was a time for leadership, it is now. After traveling through five states, it is obvious that many people will not wear masks or take precautions unless they are ordered to do so. Variances in practice are not only extreme from state to state, but many in rural areas seem to think they are immune from catching COVID-19.
- Virginia requires masks to be worn in public places. Restaurants with open air seating could serve customers, provided they kept tables six feet apart. For the most part, people adhered to the requirements. But when I stopped at a small restaurant in the country, I noticed a group of men of a certain age sitting together at the bar sharing drinks, conversation, and maybe Covid. And when I stopped at a small rural gas station, the clerk had no mask, no plexi-glass, and apparently no worries. Score: A –
- In Tennessee, I ventured into the grocery store and was rather shocked by how few people wore masks. Maybe ten percent of us wore masks. But when I walked into a Kohl’s, all of the clerks wore masks and gloves. And from what I could tell, certain stores had more stringent requirements for customers and staff. So even within a state, there was variance from store to store. Score: C –
- In Kentucky, masks were required in public places and it seemed most adhered to the policy. I suspect that, much like Virginia, the rural areas are a different story (I was in Louisville). Score: A –
- Indiana is a free-for-all. There were no signs at any stores requiring masks and only a few people wore them. Yikes! Score: F
- Illinois has their act together. Masks are required in all public places. Outdoor dining is okay, but most restaurants can only do take-out if they don’t have patio seating. I visited several rural towns, and they were in compliance. Score: A
Who’s in Charge?
My next stop is Wisconsin, and I am most worried about contracting coronavirus while visiting family in the state. Why? Because the Republican legislature and Supreme Court struck down the Governor’s stay-at-home orders in May, and taverns and restaurants immediately lit up their ‘OPEN’ signs. In fact, Wisconsin will be a curious experiment, as each county was left to grapple with coronavirus protections (or not).
What is obvious, is that lives will be lost, the medical system will be overwhelmed, and lessons will not be learned. A national public health emergency is being pushed onto the shoulders of state and county executives and politicians who most often, do not have the resources, or will, to place restrictions on the general population. It’s a mess, and maybe an early signal that this nation is in decline. Time will tell.
Is it Safe in the Campgrounds?
Of all of the places I could be, the campground may be my safest option. I am self-contained in my 32-foot motorhome (along with my three cats). While campers are friendly, there is no one invading my space. And when I am not inside my RV, I am outside, usually exploring nature. The biggest danger comes from my treks to the grocery stores and dining out. Regardless of local practices, I protect myself with a mask when I enter a public building.
So far, I’ve stayed at a Corps of Engineer campground, a state park, two private campgrounds, and a Harvest Host site (referral link). I’ve used the bathhouses to enjoy a longer (and warmer) shower at three of those sites. And I used a laundry room, which was sanitized after each customer. I have found all of the facilities to be clean and sparsely used.
Thanks to the combination of self-quarantining in a motorhome, being separated from neighbors, and spending my recreational time in nature, my chances of contracting coronavirus at a campground are extremely low. It’s my ventures into the unmasked world that put me at higher risk, and I try to minimize those encounters.
More on the Divided States of America
My business coach told me I was “living in a bubble.” She’s correct. I don’t watch daily news and in fact, seldom flip on the television. I’m in rural areas where things move at a slower pace and it’s easier to shut out the “real” world. But I get my news every day on the Internet and I’m very much aware of the protests that have struck many major cities in the country.
Anyone who believes they are immune from racism was raised on another planet. I don’t think we should be surprised by the protests, after decades, or more like centuries, of disregarding Black lives. The good news is that many are becoming introspective, as evidenced by the rise of How to be an Antiracist (affiliate link) on the bestseller list. The bad news is that the great American leader continues to support white supremacist organizations, thereby empowering openly racist individuals to engage in outrageous and hateful behavior.
Whiteness in the Campgrounds
I am an oddity. I am a single woman in the campground. I hitch up and unhitch my Jeep, all by myself. I set up camp, all by myself. I walk along the canal, all by myself. I’ve “met” plenty of solo women RVers online, but I have yet to find a kindred spirit in one of the campgrounds. And so I can’t help but notice how rare it is to see People of Color in the campgrounds. What must it feel like to be the only Black family camping?
Can the RV Community be More Inclusive?
People have been very friendly to me, helping me back into my RV site and offering hitching advice. But I can’t help wonder how I would be treated if I had been born Black. Would they be so helpful? Would a solo Black woman RVer be accepted? So I was extremely interested in a post in one of my Facebook groups in which someone asked about the whiteness of campgrounds. I believe that diversity makes us stronger, so I was delighted to learn that there’s a growing community of Black RVers.
It may not be widely known, but yes, Black people do RV and Camp! Yes we are out here/there Fulltime, Part-time and Weekend RVing, Vanlifing, Tent camping. … We have RV clubs and National Organizations and Rallies that promote the RV and Nomadic lifestyle as well. We have numerous RV FaceBook groups and Youtuber’s who vlog about their RV, Vanlife journey. Our numbers are not huge compared to our Caucasian brothers and sisters but we are out here for sure, living the lifestyle.Nathan L. Jones
The Practicality of RVing as Protests Erupt
Today I had a conversation with the Park Ranger in Dane County, Wisconsin. I’ll be camping at their county park on Sunday, and I wanted to find out what was happening since the National Guard was called in to control the streets. Should I cancel my reservation and find a campground further out of the city? Or perhaps the protests and violence are restricted to the capitol area? After speaking with him, I decided to stay the course.
One of the things that surprises me is that so many RVers feel the need to wave the American flag, or some other symbol that might feel oppressive to some. Why? Do you not know you are in America? While I am friendly with my fellow campers, I don’t wave a Peace sign from my RV. And I would never start a conversation about politics in the campground – unless I had a clear inkling that the individual shared similar views.
I have learned that it’s okay to share logistics. For example, the campers next to me (flag-wavers) told me they were changing their driving route to skirt Atlanta, after hearing that people were throwing rocks from the freeway overpasses. Okay, that’s good to know. Logistics, okay. Politics, no way.
Research … Research … Research
I’m a researcher. And a planner. That’s what I do. What a wonderful asset during these times. I’ve had to research on the fly – looking at mask policies and the latest happenings in cities along my route. And the rest of my summer will depend on my ability to research and adapt to changing situations.
The other day I got a notice that Acadia National Park was set to reopen on August 1. Great news for me, because my check-in date is August 2nd. But even more significant is Maine’s extreme response to coronavirus, which requires a 14-day quarantine unless you can prove a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours prior to entering Maine. Wow! How am I going to satisfy that requirement? Things may change over the summer. If not, I’ll figure it out!
Should you put Life on Hold?
Once my house sold, RV life began. But what if you are a part-time RVer? What if you own your own house and can RV on your own sweet time? Many are staying home, riding out the storm until we have a vaccine or a better handle on the virus. Or hoping a new President will bring in competent people and policies that address racial inequities and minimize the eruption of protests. Wait? Or go?
Segue here. Yesterday morning I rode my bike to the old canal lock. An elderly gentleman took a break from fishing and asked why I was making a video. I explained that I was RVing full-time and recording my experiences. He said, “you’re much too young to be retired.” So I told him my story, and he followed up with, “you and I have a lot in common.” He had left his small town decades ago to live the California life. But he returned to his roots to help his dying brother. We were both seekers, travelers, adventurers.
We all have a story. I am free to pursue this life. And that’s why I am jumping at it. I’ve met my obligations to family and to society. Now is the time to live my life. But you may have people depending on you and be nervous about traveling outside your area. That’s okay too. Do what is right for you.