SEP 20 2021    
Fulltiming During a Pandemic
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Fulltiming During a Pandemic

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In December 2019, Will and I set out on the adventure of a lifetime, launching as full-time RVers after selling our home/Bed & Breakfast in Prince Edward Island, Canada. We had been looking forward to this day for three years! Since 2016, we had each listed approximately 500 items on Kijiji, the Canadian equivalent of Craigslist, and had sold nearly everything we owned, saving only a few family heirlooms and priceless keepsakes. Finally, we settled on the sale of our house and embarked on this exciting journey.

After celebrating the holidays with family and friends in Ontario, we headed south for warmer weather. We toured Motown (on musician Will's bucket list); rang in the New Year on Beale Street in Memphis; visited friends in Little Rock; went skiing in New Mexico; visited the Grand Canyon; and finally reached California in February when we encountered the disturbing news of COVID-19. At this point, there were many unknowns, but everything was still operating as normal.

On Friday the 13th of March, we arrived in Monterey to discover the acclaimed aquarium we were looking forward to visiting had just closed to the public that morning. Returning to our campground, Will and I debated whether we should stay put or continue our plan to travel northward along the Pacific Coastal Highway; we had learned some campgrounds were not accepting new arrivals but were allowing those who were already there to stay. What a dilemma! After agonizing deliberation, we decided to push ahead; despite the potential closures, the natural landscape would still be “open” for us to enjoy along the way.

Having overnighted at the State Park at Half-Moon Bay on March 17, we were alarmed to see park rangers visiting each campsite the next morning, demanding everyone leave right away as the park was closing indefinitely. We thought this policy counterintuitive as being isolated outdoors in a tin can seemed, to us, an especially safe place during a pandemic. Where were all the fulltimers to go? Were we not being forced into a more precarious position with nowhere safe to stay?

Fortunately, the RV industry in the U.S. lobbied on behalf of us 1,000,000+ full-time RVers. We were also extremely grateful to Campendium who kept us all informed of which campgrounds remained open for business and the reopening status of the ones that had closed. Additionally, many sympathetic hosts with Boondockers Welcome and Harvest Hosts continued to offer their properties where those caught up in the lockdowns could still find a place to stay.

Meanwhile, our family was growing concerned for our safety and well-being. Will and I were anxiously uncertain where we should plant ourselves to wait out this pandemic. How long would we need to wait? Our original plan had included a visit with my aunt and her family south of Seattle, but if we continued to this destination, would we not be putting my 82-year-old aunt in jeopardy, perhaps unknowingly being carriers ourselves of this dreaded virus? Moreover, were we not driving into the eye of the storm with Seattle being the first place COVID-19 had been reported in the U.S.? After my aunt, my cousin (her daughter), and my mother (her sister) all encouraged us to proceed as planned, reassuring us that we would all play it safe and social distance, we hesitantly continued our path northward, sadly omitting several stops along the way to visit long-unseen friends.

Needing to stop for respites, we sporadically found open campgrounds en route, with offices closed and mandated online check-ins. One of these overnights was at a National Forest in Oregon where we were the only ones in the entire campground other than the camp host. We placed our payment in an envelope and deposited it in the secure payment box. We were completely isolated! It was the beginning of months of eeriness to come.

Uncertain of the length of time we would spend at my aunt’s and our accessibility to groceries, we decided to stop to resupply at Fort Lewis, Washington. (Will and I are both U.S. Army veterans.) We were surprised to see Military Police posted at both the Commissary and Exchange, controlling entry to only those wearing a mask. Portable sinks -- the type with foot pumps you see at outdoor concert venues -- were placed at the entrances where all customers were required to wash their hands before entering the stores. It gave us a strange sense of security to see such precautions being taken by the military.

We finally reached my aunt's where, fortunately, we were able to moochdock (i.e., plug into her house for electricity while still living in our RV). The same night we arrived, the governor of Washington announced a statewide “stay-home order.” Experiencing a mechanical problem since northern California, we knew we needed to have our RV repaired before eventually returning to the road, but we would now have to wait for businesses to reopen.

We ended up staying at my aunt's for two months! To show our appreciation, we offered to pitch in around the house. Will is an electrician, so he quelled my widowed aunt’s concerns by checking her electrical wiring. He also did various other installs and repairs, and we even cleaned her roof and rain gutters. She seemed to welcome our help and company.

Attentively observing the situation in Canada, we strategically scheduled our border crossing. (We are Canadian citizens and would be allowed to return, but not without a mandatory quarantine upon arrival.) At the time of our launch, we had originally planned to travel across Canada from British Columbia to Newfoundland, but the pandemic would force us to postpone this final destination. Instead, we intended to drive as far as Ontario to visit our son, and held out hope that we would still be able to visit iconic locations across Canada on our shared bucket list. When Canada declared the National Parks would reopen on June 7 and the Premier of British Columbia announced the gradual reopening of the province, we decided to cross the Canadian border on May 24 so that, after our required two-week quarantine, we would then be able to begin our travels across the vast and beautiful country, hopefully with less restrictions.

After completing our quarantine on Vancouver Island, we spent two months enjoying the highlights of British Columbia. We were amazed at the lack of traffic on the roads. We had heard the various marketing campaigns encouraging residents to travel within their own provinces to support local businesses and, consequently, had expected to encounter more fellow travellers.

During our entire trip across Canada, we would frequently find ourselves the only people at the campgrounds or on the streets. While enjoying a stroll one Saturday afternoon in Winnipeg, Manitoba, the streets were barren; it was eerily apocalyptic! We travelled throughout Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia; Banff and Jasper National Parks, the Hoodoo Trail and Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta; Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; Riding Mountain National Park, Manitoba; Pancake Bay Provincial Park, Ontario; and many more locations, all without reservations! Normally, this would have been nearly impossible.

Finally, October 2020, we arrived at a campground north of Toronto where we were able to spend the entire month near our son, reassured he was safe and well. We were permitted to attend a few of his hockey practices, but sadly, the hockey season was cancelled soon thereafter due to the pandemic. From a parent’s viewpoint, one positive effect of his heartbreaking disappointment would be his having more time to dedicate to his online courses. (Do not let him know I said that!)

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a trying, and often devastating, experience for all. From a personal perspective, we were able to spend precious time reconnecting with my aunt/godmother, her family, and our son; certainly, the duration of these visits would have been much shorter had we simply been “passing through” these areas. We also benefitted by taking extra time to appreciate the spectacular landscapes and to savor the beauty Canada has to offer. Enjoying the vistas without crowds and travelling without traffic was an unanticipated positive, albeit self-centered, consequence of the pandemic for Will and me.

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