We had the unique experience of having our first long tour during a pandemic, from January 27 to May 27. We had already experienced shorter trips, since COVID hit the world, last year, so we knew generally what was in store for us. Of course, we assumed that by March or April, it would nearly be behind us and were wrong. By the time we were in St. Augustine, FL, in early April, Michigan had become the new COVID epicenter in the US. I realized that was possibly the reason people were keeping a very large distance from me, while out walking or running and wearing my Detroit logo gear. We began telling everyone we happened to be talking to, that we had been in FL all winter, so they would not be afraid we would contaminate them.
Lockdown was tough for full-time RV’rs
The pandemic made us quite aware of issues that might arise for someone RVing full-time. Fortunately, all of the campgrounds had reopened by the time we headed out for the tour, but we know of people who literally had no place to go when all of the campgrounds were shut down. In those cases they had to stay with friends or relatives, aka mooch-docking. We have not considered RVing full time, but knowing this further ensures we will not.
Getting vaccinated in another state
Throughout our winter tour I had been working on a strategy for us to get COVID vaccines. It was challenging, as many states, including Georgia and Florida only allowed vaccines for residents of their states. Proof of residency was required. We met many snow birds along the way who had either flown to their home state or had driven many hours to get a vaccine (to no avail). I knew that South Carolina did not have a residency requirement, so our “plan A” was to get the Johnson and Johnson vaccine (single dose, only), if it was available. That was the quickest way to be fully vaccinated. When safety issues were raised for that vaccine I started searching for a place that had Pfizer or Moderna. By the time we had an appointment for the Moderna vaccine at Walmart in SC, I learned that North Carolina no longer had a residency requirement, allowing us to plan our 2nd dose there. The plan worked out well and we are happy that Walmart recently sent us a digital vaccine record. We may need it to fly to Maui this coming winter.
What we missed out on
The greatest drawback to traveling during a pandemic was not doing or seeing everything we normally would have. Mask mandates were looser or nonexistant in most states we traveled through and few people wore masks. We didn’t go indoors anywhere that was not open air (windows and doors open) or that seemed crowded. On bad weather days windows, doors and outdoor patios were closed and people were crowded indoors. There were countless times that we went to a restaurant or microbrewery and just turned around and left. A rainy, cold day would normally be a good day for a museum, a long leisurely dinner out or even a movie theater, but not during a pandemic. I think we quickly went through a couple of visitor centers, but otherwise, no museums, historic homes or indoor dining.
The pandemic also resulted in many people camping, who otherwise would not. Our impression of the normal snowbirds, who migrate south annually, is that they are experienced campers with no small children and who usually have some awareness of campground etiquette. Typically, there are campsite vacancies that allow for some people to maintain a less defined schedule. This year all of the campgrounds were fully booked. There were many large families who were presumably homeschooling and either “working from home” or not working. There were also vacationers who were camping rather than going on cruises or resort vacations. We believe this generally resulted in a less peaceful, quiet experience.
Still worth it, for us
The benefits to RV touring during a pandemic outweighed the drawbacks. We got to see something new almost every day and we made a point to do so. We walked and cycled every trail and every section of each park that we could. We regularly took walks around the campgrounds, checking out the multitude of rigs and camping styles and talking to countless interesting, cool people from all across the country. We saw and met so many cute traveling dogs and cats. We checked out as many hiking trails, cute towns, beaches and ocean front tiki bars as possible. We found all the best local fish markets and became skilled at cooking in our RV, as it was usually too dark, windy and/or rainy to cook outside).. None of these experiences would have been possible if we had stayed home and stuck to our pandemic lockdown routine.
Reposting some of my favorite pictures of uncrowded places: