Friday, March 27, 2020

Safe Pandemic Camping? These Folks Discovered Their Backyards and Driveways

We were going to go camping this weekend, but they closed the campgrounds around us.
So we did the backyard camping thing! (John Koch photo)

Starting around mid-March, the last week or two of the coronavirus epidemic has focused on the need to hunker down and stay home, to not travel because travel is the chief mechanism through which contagion spreads. In my earlier article on camping and COVID19, "Camping in the Time of the Coronavirus," besides providing information and strategies for staying healthy--and keeping others healthy--I advocated camping in your driveway or locally, and some folks are safely doing so. This post shares the way some folks are being socially responsible yet who are also still finding some ways to lighten the moment . . . in their campers.

If home is where the heart is, then our camping home can be anywhere. From what I've heard (or haven't heard) Antarctica has no recorded cases of the virus. That would require winterizing the rig, though. How about the garage?

"Took a lot of reconfiguring all the garage storage and purging anything not necessary to keep.
Good motivation for that is when all is done both ALTO and RAV4 can sleep in the garage." (Fred Jacob photo)

Everyone looks comfortable in the above photo, even the grand old golden retriever. The garage looks nice and neat, the campers relaxed and happy, and are those garden starting pots to the right, ready for more spring weather? I bet they've got shore power, too--and great shower and toilet facilities!

Plans change as information changes (Alissa Levenberg photo)

Some folks were out weekend camping when the world changed, such as the Levenbergs, who were on a weekend getaway.
"We’re ok. We went into last weekend in a different universe than all of us came out in, but still, doing ok."
Lake Berryessa, California, enjoying the ides of March (Alissa Levenberg photo)

In rapid succession their relaxing camping weekend at Lake Berryessa in California turned to a stocking up move with a longer stay to allow their family better access to their home. Then state campgrounds were closed, lockdown was implemented, the planned three-week stay at Berryessa was in question--and my blogging information grows thin. Below is my last communication with Alissa Levenberg.
"This campground is under the Bureau of Reclamation. We heard from the camp host that there are no plans to close it, so we are cautiously optimistic. Eventually work will require me to get back into my classroom, most likely without students, so we’ll have to go home at that point. But every day we are isolated is another day we’re probably not carriers. So I’ll feel a whole lot better about going home."
Quite a few of our travelers had to journey from their camps to home before settling down. One camper, Rob Dickerson, was camping out with an original plan to camp through the South, eventually traveling from Florida to his home in Missouri. Because of health issues, after the U.S. began hunkering down, he considered traveling his route home but utilizing boondocking for increased social distancing. The third option was to blast the journey in three days, with just parking lot stops till he got home.

Other folks from our community are making it home, too. Roamer-of-open-spaces Mark Busha made the trip from the Southwest back home to the upper Midwest, practicing safety precautions while on the road.

"Took a few rubber gloved days, but home at last!" (Mark Busha photo)

I've had reports back from two full-time campers who have found stationary safe havens for hunkering down. World traveler Annie Wynn of Wynn Worlds blogging fame is parked in the side yard of a friend's house, which is also her legal domicile in Florida. She is getting car and medical issues taken care of and is glad to be out of the whirlwind of events with a chance to settle in. Annie's comments below were written on March 13, which was early in the information curve for what's happening in North America.
"As a full-timer, I'm relieved to be stopped for a while, so I don't have to worry about moving every two weeks, as I would be doing at campgrounds. At this point, I am taking things week by week. I have camping reservations going up the coast starting in mid-April, but I am prepared to cancel them if travel is still not advised. While I am in good health for someone over 60, I don't want to be part of the spread in any way, so if authorities are recommending no unnecessary travel, I'm perfectly fine with that. It's all about thinking of other people, like my two sisters who have health issues, lung issues, and are both over 60. 
"We need to be aware of more than just our own travel plans and being 'inconvenienced' by changes. Some of the most infuriating comments I've read on groups are those who say 'I'm bugging out till this is over' which is so ironic considering the spread of coronavirus has mostly been by people traveling between an infected location and a new destination. With the lack of testing in the US and the long lead time after you are infected and before you feel symptoms, no one should be traveling unless it is absolutely necessary.
"I am encouraging people to stay in place, not travel, and think of the big picture. Yes, I would LOVE to get to the South Carolina beaches and this summer see Lake Superior, but if keeping everyone alive means those plans are put on hold, I'm absolutely fine with that. Lake Superior will be there next year. People dying of this because we didn't do the right things fast enough (see Italy, for starters) would be shameful. Perhaps I am on the very conservative side of the scale with coronavirus strategy, but hell, I'd rather be wrong and more people live, than do nothing and the death toll mounts as I insist on keeping to my 2020 camping plans."
 Another full-time camper, Cass Beach of Tails of Wanderlust, has found a place to stay in order to get off the road. She lives in her Airstream Basecamp with her two traveling companions, her dog and cat. Her comments show just how fast our lifestyle routines are changing--like, over the weekend!

March 3 photo, before lifestyle changes. (Cass Beach photo)
"I returned from a ski trip with family on Saturday and came back to the social distancing recommendations and barren grocery stores. After visiting five different stores, I was finally able to gather enough food for 2-3 weeks. I'm currently stocked up with a food and water and am out boondocking on BLM land in AZ. I am concerned if places continue to shut down how I will dump/fill in the future, but as of right now that is not impacted.
"I am going to drive the 900 miles to my boyfriend's house and park in the driveway.  At this time, I'm slowly making my way back, enjoying boondocking spots along the way.  But if interstate travel becomes restricted, or dump stations are hard to find, I'll head quickly back to his house to hunker down.  During this time, I am following the CDC guidelines and am staying to myself in the RV or when taking Jasper on a hike.  
"I'm staying in touch with other full-timer friends via social media or texting.  Many of them are hunkered down on BLM land in AZ, CA or NV.  We stay in close contact to check on each other and ensure everyone is doing well.  I do not plan to travel to see any of them face to face until this calms down a bit. With traveling myself over the past couple of weeks, I'm self quarantining at this point."
"We had plans for our annual SW trip in two weeks. However, dispersed camping is closed over a broad area.
You can't buy gas in Moab unless you live there. (Tony Latham photo)

Some might be choosing our "big backyard,"  boondocking on national forest and BLM land.
Since I've written my last article on the epidemic last week, though, readers have made some insightful comments. One camper reported the following information about Moab: "Overnight Lodging. Effective at 10 pm (MST) on March 17, 2020, all overnight and short-term lodging facilities (including but not limited to hotels, motels, condos, townhomes, guest homes, RV parks, and all camping on public or private lands) within Carbon, Emery, and Grand Counties may only check-in, rent, or lease to Essential Visitors and Primary Residents."

Although there was some criticism on social media of the local closures, folks came around when the situation was explained by one social media comment: "Look into Moab’s infrastructure, locate the nearest hospital and its capabilities. You may then understand why they don’t want a million tourists clogging up the already-strained medical/emergency system with bike crashes and hiking accidents. Throw even a couple hundred cases of coronavirus in the mix, and they’re overloaded and unable to help anyone." Website High Country News wrote an article about the dangers of self-isolating on public land--and the focus was much like the above comments, identifying the danger to rural community support infrastructure.

The big dangers of travel are spreading the virus when heading into town for gas, food, and other supplies. Then if there is a vehicle breakdown or accident, the local community will get involved. Finally, what if you get sick and require medical attention? A camper and health professional put it best in the comment below.
"As a lifelong camper, I fully support [self-distancing by camping]. As a public health professional, I beg everyone to please use caution. Traveling is one of the main drivers of spreading this disease. More and more data is coming out that Covid19 is contagious without symptoms, perhaps up to 14 days. That means that you can feel healthy, be infected and travel to an area and introduce the disease. Many rural areas are not equipped to handle this. Many lack hospitals, much less ICU beds and ventilators. I would also encourage everyone that’s planning on traveling to be prepared to stay put for a few weeks or months."
Some folks, though, like the two camping in the garage, have found that camping is just fine for the time being outside the house, in the backyard, out of the house but not off the property. Seems like they're having fun to me--and it's safe fun for themselves and others.

"We're staying in our backyard. That Kubota is my husband's baby." (Christine Knox photo)

Not everyone has such a wonderful big backyard. I suppose the tractor gives away the fact that this "backyard" is more rural than most. Even if you live in the suburbs, though, you might find spending a night in the camper fun. It looks like those folks relaxing in their garage in the earlier photograph are enjoying! I've been working outside in my garden area, converting garden row space to raised bed box gardening . . . when it hasn't been raining or snowing, that is!

Iowa, my state of residence, has not yet closed its campgrounds, but the DNR has published online a statement regarding COVID19 and the state parks, canceling events and reiterating current restrictions. The thing is this--Iowa state parks have cold-weather, off-season procedures that include closing the shower/flush toilets. Therefore, what is available during the off season are the following amenities: dump station, electric hookups, water, and pit toilets. Camping during the off season in Iowa is the safest time--empty campgrounds, the high-contact areas closed, yet still with the basics of water and electricity. With a portable toilet, a someone camping doesn't even need to enter the pit toilets. Once the weather warms, though, in a few weeks--the DNR says it will reassess the situation.

Future campsite and rest area for the Green Goddess

You can see the Green Goddess in the background, and I just know that I'll be spending the night there sometime soon. I'm heading over to my step-son's place to pick up a metal fire pit. I've got a couple of great camping chairs. I think I can fix up a great place for a break while I'm preparing the soil and planting. Why not! Being socially responsible doesn't mean being glum. I'd rather be an Ernie or a Kermit while I weather this time. Oscar the Grouch can stay in his trash can.

Ah! Spring in Iowa. Photo taken one day after the photo above.

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  1. Thank you for the blog post links to the two female RVers. I used to follow 3 or 4 but every one of them have now left the road (way before the current crisis) and I miss reading about new camp spots and ways of living full time on the road.

    1. Interestingly enough (for me, at least), I've found women easier to write about because information is more accessible. There are a lot of both men and women who have interesting camping lives, but women seem to be a bit more verbal. Men are sometimes more busy and engaged in the camping experience but not so quick to share by writing responses to my questions. I'm always happy when I make contact with a camper who wants to share their interesting life--no matter what gender identification. Thanks for sharing, Dawn, and I wish you and your circle safe times.