These times during the COVID-19 Pandemic have up-ended our intention for adding new updates to our 12mph blog. Thanks for hanging with us!
On Friday, March 6, 2020 with a smidgin’ of phone service available at our campsite at Kartchner Caverns State Park, we placed a call to an RV park in Santa Fe, New Mexico to secure the final reservation as part of an upcoming 12-month, 56-stay, 31-state trip. What a huge relief! It had taken us months with dozens of hours in coffee shops or public libraries for WiFi in order to accomplish this immense task. Unbelievably, we began making some of our reservations in October and November 2019.
Why plan so far in advance? We learned during our first year of full-time RVing that it was necessary for us to plan nearly a year prior to reserve in private, state park, and national park campgrounds depending on their reservation window. Reminders were added to our Google calendar as to when the reservation needed to be secured. We devised a list of all 50 states and the earliest a reservation could be made in each state park campground. Another rule of thumb was national parks are typically six months in advance UNLESS they are managed by an outside vendor who can take reservations sooner i.e. Florida Everglades National Park. Another list indicated when to make reservations for private and national park campground stays. Then from these lists, we knew when to reserve. It was kind of bizarre to be making reservations in Texas for March at the same time we were making reservations for a campground in Georgia for a November visit. Plus, we reached out to family and friends months to a year in advance, mainly because of planning for an entire year for an extended trip not likely to be done of this depth or breadth again. Details, details!
The evening before, we would review the campground website (namely county, state, or national parks where one selects a specific campsite) to see which sites would work for our situation using advanced search filters: hookups required, length of trailer, and having one slide. With the campground map that included site numbers juxtaposed with a Google map of the campground in satellite view, we’d look at each potential site. We often were able to discern which site provided the most direct sunlight. Sometimes this was desired and other times we’d be looking for shade. We also learned over time that if possible, a longer site really made it easier with our big pickup truck. A list of sites was created and kept handy for reserving bright and early the next morning.
The morning that we’d need to reserve, our alarm would be set 30 minutes prior to the time and time zone for the earliest a reservation could be made. (Sleepy-eyed in Arizona for the Florida reservations). Learning early in the reservation process that it takes roughly 10-15 additional seconds for the “I’m not a robot” CAPTCHA to complete before the reservation is submitted was a helpful caveat. Unbelievably we lost a couple of reservations to others making reservations early in the morning. Kind of crazy! Yet it worked fairly well and our year was planned! Whew!
The trip was created with several goals in mind: visit family and friends; camp near the southern edge of each of the five Great Lakes; prefer county, state, or national park stays; conduct genealogy research; visit numerous cemeteries related to Diane’s heritage in OH, PA, NY, CT, WV, and MA; help Diane pick up VT, NY, MA, RI, and CT for her list of states visited; have Thanksgiving with cousins; spend December-March along the southern Atlantic and Gulf Coasts; welcome Christmas and New Years in the Florida Everglades; take a couple of day-trips to the Florida Keys; spend a month in one place near Gulf Shores, Alabama; tour NASA near Houston; visit Big Bend National Park, Guadalupe Mountains National Park, and Carlsbad Caverns National Park.
Fast forward to March 19 in the midst of Plan B and the first three days of sheltering in place at our friend’s home in Colorado. We spent hours over those days emailing or calling all family and friends, campgrounds, state parks, and national parks to cancel our 56 stays. It took two weeks for the last of the credits to be applied to our credit card. It seemed absolutely surreal that everything was cancelled! Not one reservation remained on the books or in the works. The good news is that we were able to recover 89% of what we put down as deposits, some stays being completely pre-paid in-full. It’s still a loss, but it could have been worse.
Vanished. Just like that 56 stays were off the calendar!
Yet, the good news was that there was hope building on the horizon! By Friday, March 20, we had a gut feeling that we needed to keep the engine moving and commit to the next plan, our Plan C. Knowing that we wanted to find a home base abode to rent in Pullman, Washington, we explored our camping options between our arrival in the Pullman area and actually finding a place to rent. Not only were we in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we also knew that there may be other full-time RVers needing a longer term site or an influx of snowbird RVers heading north prematurely. We discovered several longer term RV park communities in the surrounding towns. The closest was in Moscow, Idaho, 10 miles from Pullman, placing us strategically with easy access to Jeremy and Michelle and looking for a home. We paid a month’s non-refundable deposit on March 23 in order to hold a spot for an open-ended time at the RV park with our arrival set for May 12. This was a huge relief. At least we had an anchor at the other end.
Throughout our 52-day stay at Barb’s home south of Denver, we kept tabs on the home rental market in Pullman. Thankfully between Trulia, Zillow, and Craigslist, we had a nice list of 15 rentals by the time we left Denver. Trying to imagine what a home-base would look like after having downsized as much as we could, we knew that we’d like ample space to resume projects once we were settled. A three-bedroom or 2 bedroom plus den would provide room to spread out. Having at least a one-car garage would be helpful for storing much of what was in the pickup bed, bicycles, etc. A yard that would require minimum upkeep would certainly make it conducive to hitch up Tranquility the Trailer and at least enjoy some camping trips in Washington, Idaho, or Oregon.
How did the hope on the horizon turn out? Stay tuned for the next post!
Diane & Steve
Living Life at the Speed of Sanity….even after full-time RVing!
Much like other people, we were rapidly faced with a conundrum during the week of March 9, 2020. We had been following the COVID-19 Pandemic outbreak with watchful eyes as much as we could. Unfortunately, inTonto National Forest and at Kartchner Caverns State Park, we had little to no TV reception for the better part of three weeks and cell service was challenged except for texting.
March 2: We had arrived at Kartchner Caverns State Park, near Benson, Arizona for a two-week stay. Friends from Texas were due to arrive on the 4th and stay not far from us. There were reports of a couple of COVID-19 cases in Phoenix at that time. We tucked that information aside. Family texted us from Los Alamos, New Mexico that when they grocery shopped, some shelves were depleted of products and that there were long lines at check-out. We thought it odd that this was happening in a smaller city in New Mexico. And, there were no reported cases in New Mexico as far as we knew.
March 3: With company coming, Diane headed to Benson’s Safeway supermarket to purchase some additional food. It struck her as odd that when she pulled into the parking lot, it was 80% full in early afternoon on a Tuesday. Once inside, she noticed grocery carts piled high with toilet paper, paper towels, Gatorade, Chlorox bleach, cereal, meat, baking ingredients, bread, etc. She thought, “Gosh, could this be in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic?” After shopping for what she needed on the usual list and a bit extra for our company, she joined the ranks of being prepared by also selecting pain relievers, Muscinex, cough drops, Saltine crackers, and Jello just in case either of us contracted the virus. Once in line at the cashier, it was perplexing the number of people waiting in line with grocery carts brimming with groceries. It was spring break time, which may have explained the number of people, yet the types of purchases didn’t look like spring break items.
March 4-7: To our delight, our company arrived. We enjoyed day trips together. One day to Tombstone with its overflowing Big Nose Kate’s Saloon crowd for lunch. Another to the bustling town of Bisbee with retirees and spring breakers crowding into little shops and outdoor cafes. We treated our friends to a cave tour at Kartchner Caverns, which included 25 other visitors.
March 8: Our friends left to return to Texas. Our day was spent hiking and then preparing for a concert venue later that evening in Sahuarita. At the concert, we sat next to two cousins in a lovely auditorium with 1,000 other concertgoers. We soaked up the music of the concert band, which included two other cousins playing in the band. Afterwards the six of us went out for dessert and coffee at Denny’s restaurant. It was very enjoyable. Although we flinched at any coughing that we heard in the audience or at the restaurant.
March 9: The news headlines on our New York Times apps indicated COVID-19 cases in Washington state, namely in the Seattle area, were mounting. Having been away from the news the past few days, we were wondering where this pandemic was headed. Additionally, we received news that a family member in Iowa was critically ill and hospitalized, thankfully not with COVID-19, yet of great concern. It reinforced the challenges of our full-time RV lifestyle including the distance from family and our not being in a position to quickly be there to lend support, if needed. To relax before turning in for the night, we took an evening stroll of the campground with the full moon adding some extra light.
March 10: We took a six-mile hike into Coronado National Forest on the Guindani Trail. It gave us time to explore a canyon, enjoy the sound of a narrow stream, witness the beauty of early wildflowers, and experience the scent of blooms. There’s nothing like stimulating one’s senses in nature! Additionally, we began considering what COVID-19 might mean for us, our family, and friends.
March 11: We needed a town day to do laundry and find reliable Wi-Fi. We opted for Sierra Vista. One laundromat was packed with people plus all washers and dryers were taken. Luckily, there was another laundromat with only two other patrons. Two hours later we were at Livia’s coffee shop, which was a welcomed and familiar refuge, having spent two afternoons there last February (2019), while staying at Kartchner Caverns. At Livia’s we continued making reservations for our March 2020-March 2021 Extended Trip through the Midwest, New England, East Coast, and Gulf Coast. It felt great to have nearly all 50 stays booked or arranged for 12 months!
March 12: The news brought additional COVID-19 statistics and growing concern. Our thoughts shifted to questioning whether we needed to consider and execute a Plan B. To have a lower-key day seemed to match our general mood. Over lunch at Benson’s Horseshoe Cafe & Bakery, we considered the “what-ifs” of our full-time RV lifestyle in the midst of a growing pandemic. Most importantly was not to contract the virus, nor spread it. Our “What-ifs” took several explorations of thought in conversations throughout afternoon and evening. We were definitely “seeking wisdom between a rock and hard place.”
What-If, perhaps we stay the course and finish the next four weeks of stays in Arizona and the one week in New Mexico, since we already have reservations.
What-If, we really should consider heading to Colorado because that’s where Diane’s health insurance is tied geographically; unlike Steve’s insurance which is Medicare and a Medicare Supplement that can be used throughout the country.
What-If, we keep saying that we should change our domicile state/residency while we are full-time RVers rather than keeping our Denver residency with its higher vehicle registration fees and vehicle insurance rates.
What-If, maybe we need to take a year off, cancel our extended trip, change our state of residency, find a place to stay with the trailer for several months, and then resume full-time RVing.
March 13: It was Friday the 13th. (Just noted it, don’t believe in it having ill-will.) We learned that friends, who were camping at a New Mexico state park, had a knock on their camper door from the ranger. The ranger said that the state park was closing the campground and everyone needed to leave that morning. Receiving this news really drove home our decision. Off we returned to Livia’s Coffee Shop for Wi-Fi to explore Plan B, for time was of the essence with our stay at Kartchner Caverns concluding on Monday the 16th. Our next two-week stay was Patagonia Lake State Park in Arizona.
Our Plan B After considering the What-Ifs, we came to the conclusion that none were an option. Instead, we decided that it was time to return to the Denver area where Diane would be near medical providers tied to her health insurance, should care be necessary. A call to our dear friend, Barb, had us asking if we could stay at her unoccupied home in a Denver suburb. “Yes,” she said. “You are welcome anytime.” (Thank you, Barb! We also stayed at her home for a month in November-December last year.) A call to the RV storage that we used in 2018 had us asking if they had a space open for an open-ended time beginning on Wednesday, March 18. “Yes, they did have a space.” Clarity arose from the What-Ifs. We decided that not only was it time to strive for a new state of residency, we were ready to embrace having a home base that didn’t depend on family or friends to provide. As much as we appreciate having stays in their homes or on their driveways, we really could see ourselves with a solid place to hang our hats in between travels. At some point during the summer, our goal is to rent a house in Pullman, Washington where we’ll be near our son and daughter-in-love.
We had phone calls with our family, Jeremy & Michelle and Stephanie & Shane to gain their input as to our plan. Given the COVID-19 situation and our not having a home base, they were quite supportive. Needing to pinch ourselves seemed appropriate as our world tilted.
March 14: Steve called and canceled our upcoming reservations at Patagonia Lake State Park. It felt odd that we were concluding our winter stay abruptly. We took advantage of the gorgeous weather and beauty of Kartchner for a last big hike and picnic that took us to the overlook and beauty of the San Pedro River Valley surrounded by several mountain ranges. We were grateful, yet feeling a bit emotional that plans changed so quickly. Yet, we knew in our guts, this was what needed to be our Plan B.
March 15: We began shifting gears by breaking down camp as much as we could and canceling other reservations for our Fool’s Lake State Park and Gilbert Ray Campground stays. To decompress from the day, we took a short hike near dusk to enjoy the desert landscape and a stroll around the campground one more time. After dinner when the crowds might be less, we went to the Walmart in Benson to pick up additional items for our pantry, not knowing what grocery stores would be like in the Denver area. Walmart looked like a giant warehouse with pallets down larger aisles, Walmart employees were working at break-neck speed to restock shelves that were depleted. We couldn’t believe our eyes! We thanked every employee we saw for their efforts. One said, “Our truck from the warehouse arrived several hours late so we are actually behind in restocking overnight.” Bless them all.
March 16: Denver was 850 miles away, meaning two long days and one very short day of driving. It was of no surprise to us the number of vehicles that passed us with Canadian license plates or those from the Midwest or Colorado. Many people who were “snowbirds” in the south leaving their winter stays early or perhaps spring breakers heading home. Our goal was to overnight park at a rest area south of Santa Fe. Once we arrived, we found ample space for trailers and truckers. Santa Fe was near enough that we could see the city lights.
March 17: We waved from Interstate 25 towards our siblings and their families in Los Alamos and Santa Fe, as we passed their exits. We were greatly disappointed that the change of plans had us unable to visit this time. Thankfully we visited them in January as part of our Vehicle Registration Escapade! By late afternoon, we pulled into the KOA in Fountain, Colorado, where we’ve stayed before. Once we knew our Plan B, we made reservations ahead as we weren’t sure of the demand for campground stays in the midst of the COVID-19 exodus. This placed us a couple of hours to RV storage so we could time our arrival the next day without hitting Denver metro traffic.
March 18: We finished packing items that would be difficult to access with the slide retracted. Off to RV storage we went. Because snow and cold temps were forecasted, we packed up anything liquid or aerosol that could freeze. Steve winterized the trailer while Diane thawed the freezer and packed up the frig and freezer contents. While unloading Tranquility the Trailer once at RV storage, we had a few tears and feelings of sadness. We couldn’t believe how quickly life had changed in less than a week. We shifted items from the truck bed to the trailer and vice versa. We knew that we’d return the next day for more clothes and other items needed for what could be an extended stay at Barb’s.
April 8: Fast forward and it’s been three weeks ago that we flipped the battery kill switch on Tranquility and left it nestled quietly in storage next to other seemingly lonely rigs. In these three weeks, it’s been gut-wrenching and heart-breaking to watch the numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths rise around the globe and in the U.S. Equally concerning is the rise in unemployment and businesses closing. Like many other states and communities, we have been living under a Stay at Home order in Colorado since late March. For the meantime, we stay hunkered down in Barb’s beautiful home that is 10 times larger than the trailer AND with a view of two lakes, cottonwood trees, and a hawk perched like clockwork on a high branch. Geese and ducks, herons and magpies, even a solo pelican keep us entertained with their honks or quacks and evening glides on the lakes or walking among the cattails.
We drive to Whole Foods once a week for groceries during the 7-8 a.m. 60+ age shopping hour. Thankfully being just 25 minutes from Steve’s Mom, we’ve been able to deliver groceries to her twice. And, Steve’s made a run to Walgreen’s once. Otherwise, we adhere to Stay at Home measures to protect ourselves and others.
From Barb’s front door, we have a 2-3 mile route by sidewalk in lieu of hikes. We wave, smile, and say hello to others on the same trek. This is our temporary community! Many we now recognize because we’re all striving to get fresh air and exercise. Colorado’s ample sunsine and bluebird skies bring healing warmth to our souls. Daffodils are blooming and flowering trees are bursting with sweet blossoms. As a way to be in community much like the Italians on their balconies singing, some of our evenings include stepping onto the deck and howling with others in the community as part of the Howl at 8PM effort. Our Colorado governor likens the effort as to a pack, all in this together, plus providing a way to acknowledge the sacrifices of medical first responders in the line of fire with COVID-19, the many patients, their families, and the essential businesses and employees that continue to provide for everyone.
Our prayers and warm thoughts go out to everyone. May you and your families and friends have good health, escaping COVID-19. May those in the biomedical field collaborate to find an immunization for COVID-19 as well as a therapeutic measure that will reduce the severity and length of COVID-19 for those who contract it. May our economy bounce back with rigor. And, may all of humanity reflect on the fragility of life and the interconnectedness that binds around the globe despite the distance. “Together. All for one, one for all.”
We anticipate heading to Washington in early May. Until we meet again….happy trails to you, separated by at least 6 feet!
Diane & Steve
Trying to embrace life at the Speed of Sanity!
After changing travel plans for part of November and December, 2019, we caught up with our original schedule on December 30 at Cattail Cove State Park south of Lake Havasu City, Arizona. Last June we spent a day looking at January-April 2020 and made reservations at Arizona State Parks. Reservations can be made 12 months in advance. As it turned out, because we were behind on reserving, there were a few state parks into which we couldn’t book and a couple in which our stay isn’t as long as we hoped. Arizona continues to be a popular Winter Haven!
Our 10-day stay at Cattail Cove State Park was lovely. The campground is tucked along a cove on Lake Havasu. Mature trees provided shade, which was especially welcomed during the afternoons. The first three days we were in a campground loop where many of the sites were close together. Our last week was scheduled for a site in another loop with more space to each site. The park staff were some of the most attentive who we’ve met over our various state and national park stays. The comfort stations a.k.a restroom and shower buildings were spotless. The grounds were immaculately kept. And, we were greeted by friendly smiles, hellos, and wonderful conversations.
We arrived in the area a day after rainy weather. Beginning with our first day, each morning we were welcomed by prevailing sunshine and bluebird blue skies. Occasionally we would have clouds. Jet contrails criss-crossed the sky by the dozens each day. Often their lingering patterns created a more intense sunset. Overall the stunning colors of the sunset were mutually noteworthy to many fellow campers during evening strolls or hikes. The sunsets treated us to some of the most brilliant that we’ve witnessed since beginning our full-time RVing.
One of the most appealing parts of our Cattail Cove stay were the numerous hiking trails. Getting back into our hiking groove was at the top of our list after an intense six weeks prior to arriving in Arizona. During our stay, we hiked 35 miles over the hilly terrain. Within a 2-5 minute walk we could access two trailheads. The trail nearest the lake had several stretches of sand, reminiscent of hikes along Lake Michigan dunes. The wind off of Lake Havasu could be stiff enough to create white caps.
As for memorable hikes, we joined 43 other people for the state parks First Day Hike on January 1, 2020, led by rangers and park staff. We occasionally paused along the trails where they shared tidbits about the terrain, the habitats, and the history of the area.
The trail that we hiked most often was Whytes Way, which ran closest to Lake Havasu with commanding views of the lake, mountains, and hilly landscape. Occasionally little whiptail lizards would zip across our path and scurry beneath vegetation or into a small hole leading to their homes. There were stretches of the trail that had us trekking through sand, so a good workout for our legs. The outer terminus of this trail was Whytes Retreat on BLM land, complete with a vault toilet and picnic table beneath a ramada for shade. The picnic table was near lake level, serving as a pleasant pause to hear the lapping water and watching waterfowl busily diving for lunch.
Other hikes took us over and around some of the hills. Barrel cacti, saguaro, palo verde, mesquite trees, brittlebush, and buffalo grass were the most popular vegetation.
For a more interesting and lengthier hike, we took Ripley’s Run. We walked through some washes, up some stretches of jagged volcanic rock giving us views over the desert, and rock scrambling through skinnier spaces between walls of the washes. In the sunlight we quickly warmed up, yet once in the shadows of the rock faces we cooled easily.
Several days we also hiked McKinney Loop and Whytes Trail to add more mileage. It was fantastic to get into the fresh air, the stiff breezes off of the lake, and clear our minds of a busy stretch in November and December.
Overall, we will recall the contrasts between the desert and lake along Whytes Trail. The entire hiking system was pretty solitary and one can see why mountain lions might enjoy this area. Despite the solitude, we occasionally met fellow hikers, all of us commenting on the beauty. On one late afternoon hike with sunset quickly approaching, we came upon two hikers, who we sensed appreciated us buddying up with them to lend our assistance with one of our trekking poles and taking the remainder of the trail at their pace until all were back to the trailhead.
Yes, we had our share of “town days” in Lake Havasu City for laundry, truck/trailer wash, refilling L.P., taking our recycling to the Republic Services community recycling station, making new acquaintances at a local Starbucks, grocery shopping, and taking in London Bridge, to name a few.
Thank you Cattail Cove State Park and Lake Havasu City for making such an enjoyable stay!