Summing up my vagabond life in 2020 is pretty easy: accident, pandemic, six and a half months in Florida. By the time 2020 was done with me, I had blown through Plan A, Plan B, and parts of Plan C. So to make this 2020 retrospective a bit less depressing, I’ve seeded it with some of my favorite photos from the past year.
Plan A: Start Here
Plan A was to get from Arizona, where I spent New Year’s Eve camping with friends, to Florida by end of February, then stay for six weeks while I did checkups and stuff, then get back on the road, aiming for a summer trip over the top of Lake Superior.
Then came the accident in mid-February (click on that bold word to read that post). I limped home to Gainesville, repaired and sold the Outback, and bought a Honda Ridgeline. In my mind, I was still operating on Plan A, leaving Gainesville in mid-April. My shiny new pickup had a solid hitch and tonneau cover. The trailer had a new electronic sway controller and electric tongue jack. I was ready to go back on the road.
Plan B: Shelter in Place
And then the pandemic got real. Gainesville went into lockdown in March and most campgrounds in the Southeast closed as well, so I spent the next two months living in my Alto in my friends’ backyard.
While Gainesville is my legal domicile, I don’t spend that much time in the state. And I certainly never planned to spend a SUMMER in Florida. Lordy, it gets hot and humid. Living in a tiny tin can that wasn’t moving anywhere became unbearable for many reasons, so it was off to an airbnb for two months. It was awesome to have central air conditioning, fast, reliable wifi, and a huge flat-screen TV. I spent a lot of time binge-watching all the things while quilting like a madwoman to try and keep sane. It mostly worked and I got a nice cotton quilt out of it.
Plan C: Shelter in Campgrounds
The thing about airbnb rentals, even monthly ones, is that they aren’t cheap. By mid-June, I started plotting a tour of Southern campgrounds, mostly places I had been to before so knew I could self-isolate pretty easily. As each state reopened their campgrounds (or most of them), I was able to pick up reservations pretty easily. Overall, I think this plan worked out OK.
By the end of October, I was back in Gainesville to pick up my vote-by-mail ballot and personally walk it over to the registrar’s office. I then six weeks camping around Gainesville and then 3 weeks in another airbnb to give me some space to clean the trailer, re-sort belongings, and prep for going out in 2021. And so ended the weird vagabond year that was my 2020.
States Visited: By the end of 2019, I had camped in 40 out of 48 continental US states. By the end of 2020? 41 states total. Yep, exactly one new state in 2020. Thanks, Mississippi, that one-night stay kept the year from being a complete washout.
Campground Stats: In 2019, I stayed at 99 different places. In 2020? 57 places. I’m actually kind of surprised it was that high a number, but then I did have January and February as camping months, even though that time feels a lifetime away now.
Gas, Food, and Lodging Stats: 2020 was so weird that I’m not even going to bother doing a month-by-month breakdown. Let’s just summarize by saying I spent a LOT less on gas and a lot more on lodging (again, airbnb stays are budget-busters). Food? No eating in restaurants did save me some money. Which I mostly spent on quilting fabric.
Trailer Miles: In 2019, I did just over 11,000 miles towing. In 2020? Barely 6,000 miles.
Things That Went Well
I’m still here. Seriously, that seems worth noting after all the crazy shit that happened in 2020.
I learned you can buy a new vehicle by internet, phone, and email, stopping by the physical dealership just long enough to sign the final paperwork and drive away in the new toy.
I learned that plans are made to be broken and that most places will refund your entire reservation cost when there is a pandemic going on. I learned that Florida in summer is so hot that gardeners surrender until the fall and that it rains almost every damn day, ratcheting up the humidity to almost inhuman levels.
I learned that some friends are really good at zoom. Others are better at voice calls. All of them were important to keeping me grounded and reasonably sane in 2020. Honorable mention goes to that one friend who scheduled biweekly calls that gave me something to look forward to even in the worst of weeks.
Things That Didn’t Go Well
Also, driving in windy weather. And injuries (piriformis, knee, both shoulders, all at different times, thankfully).
Oh, and food poisoning.
Looking Ahead to 2021
I’m back on the road, once again staying mostly at known campgrounds where I can pick a site nicely spaced from the others. I’ve planned a “round Lake Superior” trip again, staying in the US and not counting on Canada to open their borders any time soon (I sure wouldn’t right now if I was Canada).
I have no idea where I’ll go after that. I’d like to head back to the west coast, but for now, I’m waiting to see how things go with the vaccines and the weather and the mood of the country, and my own mood. It’s gonna take a while to get over 2020.
In memorium to those who died from COVID-19 in 2020.
Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
Edna St. Vincent Millay, Dirge without Music