By Bonnie Neely
I married a man whose middle name is “GO” and he loves to drive and has built-in mental radar, which usually out-thinks GPS. He is fearless and the more unfamiliar the territory, the more alluring to him. One bright, hot Texas afternoon in late May he came home from our ranch and announced: “Guess what! We are going to Mexico with our whole family next month!” I responded, “But we can’t afford it. How could we pay for plane tickets for our three children and us? And besides that is June and Mexico is HOT! Our baby is only three months old!” Undaunted, he caught my hand and said, “Come see what I got!” He had excitedly brought home a used, 17 foot RV he had purchased on the spur of the moment without consulting me.
There in the driveway stood this RV and my response was, “Guess what you are going to get? A divorce!” I was a city girl and had never thought of camping, never been inside an RV. Not many people had except HIPPIES in 1975! Our six and eight year old kids ran out and happily explored the “playhouse,” and I could quickly see I was outnumbered. I had to acquiesce because the trip would advertise my rancher husband’s big cattle sale to potential buyers in Central America.
Although the baby bed took up the total floor space, we managed to squeeze in the absolute necessities and my brother, just out of Army basic training, agreed to go along as our protection, since my husband did not own a gun. (I learned much later along the Mexican roads that Bill had forbidden Jim to bring his gun along, but both of them had a sturdy walking stick to protect us! For the first two days I was angry and fumed vocally, all the way to the border and I realized I was not winning, so I better make it fun.
In the six weeks we rolled along we had many adventures, including being robbed twice when we were out of the RV; our baby having terrible diarrhea in Mexico City’s altitude; a flat tire in the middle of nowhere; coasting to a gas station when our gauge flashed Empty; being forced by border patrol at El Salvador to give a ride to a bandit-looking man…But we survived it all without any life-threatening dangers and all of us LOVED the RV experience! Since then Bill and I have worn out eight new RV’s and he has driven the equivalent of the circumference of the equator more than ten times, including all 49 of US States, all Provinces of Canada, Mexico from North to South and East to West, and nine other countries! We have loved every minute of it and our children learned so much, as did we.
During the 2020 Pandemic many tourists have discovered the wonders and safety of RV travel, since you can shelter in place by taking your own “home” with you! Venturers appreciate the safety of sleeping in their own bed and using their own bathroom and preparing their own meals, while enjoying new places and the great outdoors while taking all COVID-19 precautions. RV sales and rentals have sky-rocketed, and campgrounds and parks across the USA have put in strict measures to encourage and enforce social distancing and wearing masks. We were lucky enough to find state parks near us when we just needed to get a change of scene for the day or the week. And we hiked on trails when we were the only people out, and visit loved ones who came to have outdoor picnics with us with masks and 10 feet separation.
We found highways had far less traffic than normally. People were friendly behind masks. And we discovered lots of waterfalls, mountains, trails, and beauty of the seasons while staying safely away from scary Pandemic germs. It made us realize we were very blessed!
However, the conditions of this treacherous 2020 year have posed other travel interruptions. We had driven carefully across the USA from South Carolina to Colorado, never getting out of the RV except to pump our own gas and pay at the pump. All went well and we finally found the last campsite available in Durango, as we had forgotten it would be the peak of fall color in October. Many people had the same idea and destination since schools and many jobs were virtual and available through WIFI in campgrounds. We spent several lovely 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 get-away was invigorating.
Our destination was 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, and raging forest fires were making air quality dangerous. Sadly, we turned around and headed back to South Carolina. It was fortunate because we got home and learned that if we had delayed we would have encountered floods on the Southern route or ice and severe storms on the Northern route. In an RV you must keep track of weather forecasts and other potential pitfalls, but RV travel is truly a blessing and a great diversion during the drastic precautionary period everyone MUST observe now: social distancing, not gathering in groups, wearing masks, washing hands well, until we are well out of the Pandemic. The normal situations of happy times with friends and family WILL return, but much sooner IF we follow the safety rules. We can all learn to be tourists in our own home town and even treat your home and surroundings as a museum, observing each detail and memory evoked by familiar surroundings which seldom get a new careful look. Stay safe! It’s 2021!