For the 50+ Traveler

What a strange trip it’s been. Here I am in North Central Texas between Waco and Dallas. I feel like I have been dropped like Dorothy in Oz. I had an itinerary for March that included reservations at this location. When everything started to crumble under the weight of COVID-19, I called to see if I could extend this reservation to a month. I had planned to stop for a week to visit a good friend nearby. I had no idea this would become my safe haven.

When I pulled into this park, it was pouring. It had been raining the entire trip. Towing a travel trailer by yourself requires a level of energy on good days. Rain and heavy rain are very tiring. I quickly realized that the large parking lot in front of the office would be my new home. It actually is 25 full-hookup sites. No greenery, no picnic tables, no trees. The rest of the park is made up of leaseholders, and they have lots of trees and grass. The parking area was designed for overnight guests or those spending a couple of days.

This park agreed to open up to travelers who needed a place to be during this emergency. Four of us made it in before it closed its doors.

It’s a surreal experience for an RVer to be in this situation. We are used to either being remote and in a scenic locale or in a full and bustling campground. This is neither. I am grateful to these folks for letting us stay with them, though. There are not too many other options out there.

An RV park with no people in sight.
Robyne Stevenson

Experiencing Oz

My parking lot neighbors and the leaseholders in the park are all very nice. Some are willing to strike up conversations and some are not. Social distancing is observed and that is strange, isn’t it? It takes some getting used to. I take walks every day through the park, which is basically walking paved streets through a neighborhood. People wave and say hello. The recreation room is closed but the laundry room is open (thank goodness) with a limit of one person occupying it at a time. The office is staffed, but again, only one person is there at a time. This park is mostly retirees, so there is a great effort to ensure that the virus does not enter.

I’ve ventured out a few times in my truck to see the small town and try the grocery store, which seemed to have missed the notice that a pandemic was afoot. People were nice but social distancing was not practiced. I haven’t been back. I went to the senior shopping hour at the Walmart, which was following protocol with distance markers on the floor in the register lines, gloves on the cashier, and wipes for the carts. One of my traveling neighbors orders her food online and has it shipped here. By the looks of the many boxes delivered each day, I think lots of neighbors are doing the same.

My county does not have a stay-at-home order, but who wants to chance it? The big cities in Texas all have shut down.

A mostly empty RV park.
Robyne Stevenson

If You Plan To Travel, Think Twice

RV parks are basically landing pads right now. There are no programs; there may not be any facilities beyond your site and your RV. This is the third park I’ve stayed at in March since leaving my winter spot. Two of these three are closed to new visitors. Many state and national parks are closed to camping. Surprisingly, Texas state parks are still open.

Small towns do not necessarily want RV visitors in their midst. Many small towns don’t have enough supplies, like groceries, or services, like healthcare, to support nonresidents. Many commercial parks are not taking reservations for less than a month right now, unless you need to stay for only one night as you pass through. Tourist places, such as those in the Keys in Florida and Moab in Utah, have closed hotels along with the campgrounds, trying to keep people away. Oregon closed all campgrounds, public and private. The state let long term RV parks stay open.

This is a time to be relatively self-sufficient. I came into this park halfway through my stash of a month’s worth of groceries on board. I have gone out to get a few things I was low on. I should be good for another few weeks. I’ll consider shipping options at my next, more urban location.

A bench and flowers near an RV park.
Robyne Stevenson

I’m Going Back To Kansas

RVing solo can be very liberating and fun. I meet lots of people and do as I please. Even though I am basically isolated, I did find that two of my traveling neighbors are people I knew from Airstream groups on Facebook. Small world. I have lots of phone calls with friends and family and am thankful that this park has excellent Wi-Fi.

That said, I’ve decided that being out here where I don’t know anyone well was not the best place for me to ride out this pandemic. I’m leaving next week for Kansas City, where I have a full network of friends and family who I could call on if need be. Having a tether close by is what I need right now, and I’m willing to make the drive to have that. I would have gone earlier, but like many of us, I had not fully wrapped my head around what was happening. When I got here, I actually shifted an April reservation at a Texas state park for a few weeks. I was still operating on the assumption this would end soon.

Most RVers who are not full-time are staying at home. Most full-time RVers are doing what I’m doing: finding a place where they have support while we wait. One of the people in my little parking lot tribe was supposed to leave this week for a summer work camp spot, but it may be up in the air now. The other is staying here through May before they even try to venture to their home in Michigan. I can make my trip in one very long day, if necessary. I’m hoping the rest stops are open.

The Crystal Ball Is Dark

Many of my friends ask me where I will be this summer and what my plans are. I tell them I can’t plan a thing. None of us knows how long this is going to last or when we might be able to venture out. I’ve already canceled everything I had reserved in April and May. I have two national park and US Forest Service reservations in the Dakotas for June. Maybe things will be better by then and I can keep my plans. I hope to get back to the Lake Superior area as well to enjoy cool weather. If not, I’ll be fine wherever I am.

All my RV social media feeds are filled with pictures of favorite camping trips and discussions of getting back on the road. I hope we get there sooner rather than later, but until then, I’ll keep dreaming of destinations.