Where have I been, you might be wondering? A full-time traveler in time of pandemic is not the role to be playing, as it turns out. Four years ago, when I was getting ready to becoming a full-time vagabond, I worried about a broken leg, a blown tire, a stolen whatever. Never in a million years did “pandemic” show up on the list. But here we are… and it’s been an interesting four months dealing with life taking a hard left turn.
I arrived in Gainesville, Florida on Feb 27th, thinking I would buy the Ridgeline, get the Outback fixed and sold, and then head back out. Six weeks in my friends’ side yard, then off to beaches and kayaking, stops with friends, and a tour around Lake Superior. Yeah, that was the plan.
We all know what happened next. COVID-19 showed up, the sheltering in place started, and everything changed. By mid-March, I had admitted the long-planned Canadian tour wasn’t going to happen and started canceling the 20+ reservations I’d made last winter. Also by mid-March, Gainesville and Alachua County had gone into lockdown mode, so I was “stuck-in-place” as I thought of it. I did what I could before the lockdown started. I got the Outback fixed up and sold it to Carmax the next day, right before the bottom dropped out of the new and used car sales markets. I bought a tonneau cover and lock for the Ridgeline so I could safely stow stuff in the truck bed and got side steps installed so I can get in and out of the cab easier. And then I waited.
While I was stopped, I figured I had time to make some changes to the interior and exterior of the trailer. I bought a deeper, bigger sink and a faucet and installed both of those, learning way too much about plumbing in the process. But the sink is worth it, and that cutting board cover is so handy.
Then I made a quick run up to Home Depot and bought two boxes of stick-on floor tiles. I had floor tiles but they weren’t matching throughout the trailer because when I updated my table mount last summer, I couldn’t find matching tiles. Now I had the time to do it right. Two days, a lot of cutting and templates, and pulling up two tiles that I knew I could do better on (and did), and I had a really nice floor.
Gainesville is a fun little city when you can go out and have sushi, play mini shuffleboard at the bar across the street, or hang out with friends and have good food at the local pub. With everything in lockdown and an 8:30PM curfew, it wasn’t quite so fun. Casting about for what to do, I started two projects, one shorter and one longer-term. The short term was a picture a day in April, which did help pass the time and also sharpened up my “writing short posts” skills. The longer-term was a quilt, inspired by my friend Peg’s quilts up in Lancaster, PA. Like any good enabler or drug dealer, she got me hooked up to a quilting store that mailed orders quickly and suggested a pattern that was “quilt as you go” so I could avoid the need to lay out a quilt in a big space becaue, let’s face it, a 17 foot trailer doesn’t have big spaces!
Yes, renter. When the weather got hotter in Gainesville and the COVID-19 picture wasn’t clear enough for me to feel comfortable getting back on the road, I decided to rent an airbnb apartment for a few months. It’s been a bit weird to be in a house so much, but with the heat and humidity of a Florida summer, it was the right choice instead of trying to stay in my trailer with the A/C going 20 out of 24 hours (at best!). It’s in the same area as where my Alto is, so same post office, grocery stores, etc., which has been good. And it has free wifi and a big-screen TV (well, bigger than my iPad or laptop!) so I’ve binge-watched a few series and several movies, which has helped ease my stir-craziness from (a) being indoors so much and (b) everything being on lockdown for so long.
It’s also been nice having a real oven, although I haven’t used it that much. But when I want a pizza, yeah, that oven rocks.
Alachua County, where Gainesville is located, had a lockdown from third week of March until May 4th, when the governor opened up the whole state as a Phase 1 deal. Even then, the county kept stricter standards on store occupancy as well as bars and restaurants. Both those actions helped keep our COVID-19 infection rates and mortality rates lower than other counties in Florida.
My plan was to wait 4-6 weeks after that May 4th opening and see how things were going. By early June, it was clear that infection rates were rising as more things got unlocked, including bars and restaurants. And then came Memorial Day, when apparently everyone else in Florida decided to gather in large crowds at beaches, bars, and backyard BBQs. Here we are five weeks later and Florida has become the new COVID-19 hotspot in the US, with cases more than doubled in the last two weeks. Yikes. Not good.
At this point, I figure I can socially isolate myself in my trailer, at my campsite, staying at selected state park campgrounds where I’ve been before. It can’t be any riskier than staying in Florida as the numbers climb and the governor still won’t require everyone to wear masks. #WearTheDamnMask
I’ll be using my own bathroom and shower, not any campground facilities, so that means the tanks will fill up faster. I’ve bought a dump tank so I can stay longer in places and not have to move the trailer to dump tanks, which will make life easier. I’ll stock up as much as possible when I do grocery shop, to limit the number of trips I have to make. And I know visitor centers and tourist attractions may not be open, and that’s OK by me. The real reason I want to get back out there is to escape the heat and humidity of Florida in summer. It’s hot here. I don’t do heat well at all, and so I’m pretty miserable when the temps climb up into the 90-95F range. And when the overnight lows are crazy numbers like 77F.
I’ve decided to head for the Blue Ridge mountains, where it’s cooler by far than here. I’ll stay at three campgrounds to get there, then stay up in the mountains till sometime in September.
So it’s 10 more nights till I am back in my Alto full-time and parked at a real campground. I can’t wait.
I’m a charming coward; I fight with words.
Thanks, Mr. Reiner,
for all the laughs you gave my Dad and me
watching Your Show of Shows on DVD.