Almost 25 million Americans hit the road in their RVs last spring and summer, according to a survey by Go RVing. That means a lot of people were on the road when the COVID-19 pandemic derailed the country.
There are a few things the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdowns have taught us during what the media calls “this unprecedented time.” The ability to easily avoid the big cities is a definite advantage. However, that did not help as the federal, state, and local governments proceeded to lockdown campgrounds.
The Government is Your Biggest Roadblock
Similar to the federal government shutdown of 2013, national parks were quickly shut down. Likewise, both cities and states closed parks and campgrounds. However, many campers were left perplexed as to how camping would spread the virus. Doesn’t camping seem like the ultimate in “social distancing”? Even worse, some jurisdictions aggressively enforced the “new normal”, by actually arresting people for simply going to a park.
To make matters worse, some jurisdictions designated RV parks as “nonessential businesses” forcing them to close. That left RVs on the road with nowhere to “shelter in place.” In response, Campendium.com kept a running list of the growing number of campground closures.
However, experienced boondockers found places to park on public lands. Boondockers were well prepared to weather the storm, unlike those who prefer established campgrounds.
The bottom line is, the government could be your biggest roadblock during a crisis. Rather than assisting those they serve, public servants are more likely to make your life difficult.
First, set up your RV for boondocking. Second, keep a list of public lands where will not be bothered. Also, keep a list of small-town RV parks in jurisdictions unlikely to execute draconian measures whenever the opportunity arises.
Keeping Up to Date
The ever-changing rules for the “new normal” were also a challenge. Some states even closed their borders to out of state travelers. Some places required people to wear masks, even when walking alone, out in nature. Even worse, some jurisdictions completely locked down, and anyone caught outside was fined. Rules changed day-by-day and avoiding extreme, draconian jurisdictions proved to be a challenge for some RVers.
Facing Local Hostility
Some out of state RVers and van dwellers faced hostility from locals fearful of the spread of the virus. Also, some states closed their borders to travelers, or restricted their citizens from leaving. Interstate travel became a gamble. The carefree, RV lifestyle became an obstacle course overnight.
Walmart Got Weird
Parking overnight at Walmart went out the window during the “unprecedented time.” From wearing a mask to newly devised shopping restrictions, shopping became a nightmare. Of course, we all remember the robot-like run on toilet paper. Ramen noodles and bottled water also flew off the shelves.
Once again, keeping your rig prepped and stocked up is smart. If you travel the west, you also know it can be 100 miles between Walmarts. When you can, restock your food supply with healthy options.
Arbitrary Store Closures
Grocery, hardware, and pharmacies remained open, but other stores were forced to close. And the list of “nonessential businesses” often seemed arbitrary. During a health pandemic, health food stores would seem “essential.” Yet, stores specializing in vitamins and health supplements were forced to close. At the same time, marijuana dispensaries remained open, because they sell “medicine.” Liquor stores also remained open in many places, deemed “essential.” Sadly, many of the businesses deemed “nonessential” may never reopen.
RVers are Lucky When it Comes to Money
Of course, not every RVer has a pension, but those who do work often work online. Overall, full-time RVers did not lose their incomes as did “nonessential” workers. Watching the growing unemployment numbers were worrisome. However, the closing of small businesses would eventually affect online incomes. There would be far fewer businesses in need of advertising, blog articles or other online services as the shutdown continued to take its toll.
The Bill of Rights Means Little
One thing this crisis revealed to the entire country, is that the Bill of Rights means nothing to our elected officials, who all swear to uphold the Constitution.
There is no justification for taking away individuals’ freedom in the guise of public safety. Thomas Jefferson
While many people applauded the draconian measures implemented to “keep us safe,” others railed against it. In order to abide by the newly minted “social distancing” rules, car protests popped up across the country. And, a few RVers joined in, draping their rigs with signs, banners and Old Glory.
In the end, Americans learned a few hard lessons about the true nature of our government and what it means to be free. And if you ask most RVers, it’s the freedom of this lifestyle that they love most. Hopefully, the “new normal” will die along with the virus.