RV Living During the Coronavirus
We have been blessed to go on a trip like this and we're grateful that we made it as long as we did. Unfortunately, like everyone else, we had to figure out ways to shelter-in-place while being on the road without a permanent residence.
Our last days at the Everglades National Park came quickly. We found out the National Park Service was shutting down the park. At the time, we still had some reservations planned for South Carolina, North Carolina, the Smoky Mountains, Mammoth Caves, and Acadia National Park. Florida had also shut down most of the state parks, and what was left was mostly full along our route. Although, we did find a Harvest Host that was a goat farm.
Leaving there, we found that Georgia still had state parks open so we thought we would try to wait this out a bit there. We stayed at Crooked River and Skidaway State parks which were near St. Mary’s and Savannah, respectively. Altogether, we stayed over 2 weeks at those two parks and never left the campground other than to get groceries, and on the first night, Jen and Lila visited with Jen’s cousin and her family, from a distance, of course.
We also had our first “save” with our TireMinder, which is a tire pressure and temperature monitor we use for the trailer tires. When we were leaving Florida, I turned it on to make sure all the tire pressures were set right, and one was reading low. If any of the tires are low, I use our Viair 12V air compressor to fill them, I went ahead and filled this one. After being at Crooked River, I checked the tires again, and again, the same tire was low, actually really low. It was nearing checkout time at Crooked River, so I thought I would take the chance, fill the tire again, and keep an eye on it throughout our short drive to Skidaway. The tire made it to Skidaway, no problem. We had another first with our tire repair kit that I bought before the trip. We were able to get the tire off, find the nail, remove it, and install the plug. Easy Peasy!
If you are interested in other items we purchased for this trip that we think are must-haves, check out this post.
By this time, we had found out that our reservations at all but Mammoth Caves and Acadia were canceled, and more and more was starting to shut down as well. Not that we wanted to, but it seemed it was probably best that we start heading home and, sadly, cut our trip short.
Actually, we felt we should be just fine given we had been pretty isolated this entire trip other than the grocery trips that everyone else was still doing. But given the whole country was shutting down, including the great outdoors 🤔, we figured it might be time to go home.
We planned on getting back home within the next month. There is one positive out of this that only Lila and I agree on, and that is bugs SUCK, and they really suck in Georgia. Jen is impervious to bug bites! She thinks she may have gotten 1-2 bites the whole time we were in Georgia 😡, while Lila and I were breakfast, lunch, and dinner at an all you can eat restaurant for no-see-ums. Check out Lila's neck after 2 days in Georgia.
We figured out a driving route that got us back across the states as quickly as possible, mostly to miss tornado alley. We drove 467 miles in one day, from Skidaway Island State Park to a cattle ranch in Northern Alabama, which was part of the Harvest Host network.
The following day we drove 452 miles to another Harvest Host location in NW Arkansas. This was a winery that wasn't offering tastings because of COVID, but was allowing wine orders via door pick-up :)
We drove one more full day before we took a break for a few days, and that was at Oklahoma’s Great Plain State Park near Altus, OK. Jen likes to look at her book, “1000 Places to Visit Before You Die” quite often, and this time she found the Cattlemen’s Restaurant in Oklahoma City. This restaurant has been around since the early 1900s and is located in Stockyard City. We called ahead to see if they were doing carry out, and they were. So, we pulled the trailer into their empty lot and had a great steak lunch. It was pretty darn good too. We hadn't eaten out anywhere since before the Everglades, so it was a nice change of pace.
The Great Plains State Park was pretty nice, and it sat on the Tom Steed reservoir. It was very windy and a bit cold for most of the 2 nights we were there, but it was a nice break from driving.
The following day, we headed to Caprock Canyon State Park in Northern Texas. This park was very cool. It had a couple of Bison herds that were free-range within the park.
We had reserved 5 nights there, unfortunately, as I drove back from town on the 3rd day, I was stopped by a Texas State patrolman who told me they were closing the park. We had until 10 pm that night to leave. Lila was sad that we had to leave, but she was happy that it got her out of the hike we were supposed to go on that day.
We got everything packed up right away, filled the trailer full of freshwater, dumped the other tanks, and got on the road. Jen drove for the first couple of hours so I could research where we could head to next. On our drive, I noticed that one of the tire flares was flapping in the wind more so than usual, so we had to pull over and replace a couple missing screws. Shortly after this, we stopped for diesel, and I went to check it again, and a couple of different screws were missing, and the tin siding was split at the seam on the driver's side 😖. I swear that RV manufacturers use pre-rusted staples and screws to cobble together these things. Granted, we have put more miles on our trailer than most do in a lifetime of ownership, but you would still think they would hold up a little better. Thankfully, I was able to get a couple of screws in on the studs and pry the lower piece back together.
We decided to head back to an area where we had been before, just after we finished the Hot Air Balloon Fiesta back in October. We found a BLM dispersed campground called Angel Peak just SW of Farmington, NM. The BLM spot we stayed at last time in Farmington was closed, so that was out, but based on the spot we got at Angel Peak with this view, we were fine staying here. We were able to enjoy 5 nights here.
As we left this great spot, we had to drive back down the 6-mile dirt road that was very rough at times, and at the last tenth of a mile, the truck warned us “trailer disconnected”. WHAT!?? We pulled over to inspect and found everything on the surface looked fine. We checked all the fuses and the output on the 7 pin connector, and it all seemed fine. All of our lights on the trailer worked including the brake lights, but once we tried applying the brakes, the truck gave us the same warning. Hmm…. We decided to drive the 45 minutes to our RV park in Kirtland, NM, where I started to troubleshoot the rest of the wiring. I finally crawled under the rear axles of the trailer to find not just one, but three of the four brakes had broken wires from the connectors they used. 🤔
After a bit of investigation and removing the cover material on the bottom of the trailer, I came up with a plan to get us back on the road and hopefully not have to deal with this for a long time. I am sure there is a better way to do this brake wiring job, but I went with heat-shrink, crimp butt connectors on each individual wire from the brakes up to the main brake wires from the truck. From there, I used a closed-end crimp connector for hot and ground wires. I also replaced the cheap 18ga jumper wires they used with 14ga to match the 14ga that came from the wiring harness. It would have been great if the weather was warmer (55°F), and the wind was calmer (25-30mph gust), but I am grateful it is done and it works. Now we are ready for our last leg(s) home.
As I was writing this tonight, I was also watching Trouble getting ready to pounce on something behind the storage area under Lila's bed. I decided to open the door for him to see if there might be something under there. Turns out there was a good reason to bring him along. Not only did he get one mouse, but he chased another one out for me to get rid of. I also think there might have even been 3 total and Trouble ate one. LOL! Bob…well… he just stood there for the most part.
As I was packing up the trailer the next day, I found another mouse running around the outside, but I took care of that one too. I found a place in Southern Utah for us to continue our social distancing as we move closer to home. This BLM location is called “Valley of the Gods” and includes a 17-mile dirt road that allows dispersed camping, and was once part of Bears Ears National Monument. It was amazing! We had the place pretty much to ourselves. In the 6 miles we drove in, we only saw 5 other campers. It was all good until the second night at 10 pm when a Sheriff from San Juan County visited us and very nicely told us we had to vacate the land within the next 24 hours. Actually, though, he was really nice and said since he came upon us so late, it would be ok to stay an additional night before we left. So, of course, we did stay one more night.
We never made it on our cruise, so Jen and Lila took this opportunity to dress up for a photo shoot in the desert. ;)