RV Podcast 305: What RV travel during COVID is REALLY like

 RV Podcast 305: What RV travel during COVID is REALLY like

RV Travel during COVID means wearing masks and gloves in many places

This week in the RV Podcast, we hear what RV travel during COVID is like.

RVers from across North America candidly share their experiences, what was open, what was closed, how welcome they were, and what it’s like trying to do the RV Lifestyle in these challenging times. 

This week in our interview of the week segment we turned to our RV Lifestyle social media followers for their insight into RV travel during COVID as they encountered restrictions and shutdowns in various locations.

There is lots of RV-related news to report.

RV PODCAST NEWS OF THE WEEK

Congress passes Great American Outdoor Act which is expected to send much-needed money for national park maintenance
Congress passed the Great American Outdoor Act last week, sending it to President Donald Trump’s desk where he is expected to sign it. The bill will provide $900 million a year to the Land and Water Conservation Fund. It will also provide up to $6.5 billion over five years to help pay for the many maintenance needs of the nation’s national parks. Look for more details out this week, when it is expected to be signed into law. 

Campfire-caused wildfires on the rise in several places throughout country
In several parts of the country, officials are reporting more campfire-caused wildfires than normal. In Maine, there has been a 170 percent increase in campfire-related wildfires this year compared to 2019. A campfire is also suspected as the cause of a wildfire near Clayton Beach in Washington’s Larrabee State Park last week. And some places, like the Tahoe National Forest, are seeing an increase in illegal campfires causing officials to say they are responding to the second highest number of campfire-caused fires ever recorded.

Too many people risking injury by jumping into posted Yellowstone waters, officials warn
Yellowstone National Park urged visitors last week to stay out of the water. Apparently more people than normal are ignoring posted signs at Yellowstone and swimming in water where swimming is clearly prohibited. Park officials are reminding visitors the signs are there for a reason. Some Yellowstone water is boiling – in 2016 a man is believed to have literally dissolved after trying to soak in a prohibited thermal area. And in other places the water is extremely frigid – a literal snow melt. Other times people are told not to go in because the water is infested with organisms that will make them sick. As always, if the sign says stay out – we advise you to stay out. 

West Virginia police arrest two men connected to international RV theft ring
West Virginia police arrested two men involved in an international RV theft ring last week. The men were arrested for stealing two stolen camping trailers. Police also found two other stolen camping trailers abandoned by their drivers. The thieves are part of an international crime ring that steals RVs and campers in southeastern states then ships them to Mexico and other foreign countries.

In this summer of pandemic camping, remember to check ahead
We have an update on what is open and what is closed. As of today, July 29, 2020, 91 percent of the campsites listed by Campendium are now open, with New Mexico remaining the only state park campground system closed. But according to Campendium, which is doing an excellent job keeping track of things, many other popular spots throughout the country remain closed because of COVID-19. Theodore Roosevelt National Park campgrounds are closed, for instance, as are Point Reyes National Seashore campsites, Mount Rainer National Park campgrounds, Navajo Nation Tribal Parks and many other spots. As always this year, things are fluid. We recommend checking before heading out and be sure to listen to our interview of the week coming up in which you will hear from numerous RVers exactly what RV travel during COVID is like.

This part of the podcast is brought to you by RadPower Bikes, America’s #1 e-bike brand, offering direct to consumer pricing on powerful premium electric bikes. Now with free shipping  

RV PODCAST QUESTION OF THE WEEK

 This question comes from Heather and was posted on our RV Lifestyle Facebook Group:

QUESTION: What is the app called that will scan for campsites that open up?

ANSWER: The website is called Yes You Camp and is at https://www.yesyoucamp.com/

The site claims that 92% of their users are able to get reservations at sold-out campgrounds.

I’m a bit skeptical of that. Just spot testing some of the more popular campgrounds we like didn’t even bring them up in the notification box to check for availability.

Basically you are supposed to enter the details of where and when you want to camp, and the service, which claims to be constantly scanning camp space availability, says it will send you a text when there is a cancellation or a site opens up.

It is then up to you to swoop in and make a reservation.

Like we said when we recently tried to get into two of the Michigan Upper Peninsula campgrounds we like – the Munising Tourist Park on Lake Superior and the Straits State Park in St. Ignace – the site showed them in the initial listings but had no way to sign up for an alert or even discover availability.

I tried the same thing with the Kentucky Horse Park Campground in Lexington, KY and it didn’t even display in the listings.

These are all extremely popular campgrounds. If this Yes You Camp service was really helpful, you’d expect it to work as advertised.

Heather’s question on our Facebook RV Lifestyle Group brought several answers from our members.

Melanie wrote: “Point is I will verify availability with the source instead of 3rd party programs/companies that may be outdated, behind,

Mark, though, said he has used Yes We Camp and “ it has helped us get sites on several occasions.”’

Bottom line… try it if you want. But based on our experience, don’t count on it being 100% accurate.  Again, it’s https://www.yesyoucamp.com/

This part of the RV Podcast is brought to you by Battle Born Batteries, maker of quality, safe and reliable lithium batteries that can be installed in just about every RV. Get in touch with Battle Born to find out what lithium batteries and an upgraded energy management system can add to your RV Lifestyle. 

RV PODCAST INTERVIEW OF THE WEEK – RV travel during COVID

This week in the RV Podcast, we hear from real RVers who have traveled all over the U.S. and Canada over the past five months. They tell us what RV travel during COVID  is really like. They’ll candidly share their experiences, what was open, what was closed, how welcome they were, and what it’s like trying to do the RV Lifestyle in these challenging times.

We asked our social media followers to update us on real conditions and what follows is a compilation of their reports of what they encountered as they have crisscrossed North America.

Here’s the transcript:

What RV Travel during COVID is like in Michigan

Hi Mike. Hi, Jen and Bo, this is PJ. I am from mid-Michigan.

I have been traveling mostly around Michigan in the last couple of months. I would say I really started the bulk of my travels in late April. I‘ve been taking day trips to Cadillac Alpena Traverse City Frankfurt, St. Joseph and on, and so forth. I’ve been to Mackinac Island twice.

Everything is pretty much open right now.  Businesses are encouraging social distancing. Everyone is requiring you to wear a mask. Now I have had no issues traveling nor have I had any health concerns and I am just you know, continuing to enjoy Michigan.

I think it is perfectly safe to get out and travel right now as long as you take precautions. So, I would definitely encourage your audience, as long as they’re being safe. The road is wide open again. I can only speak for Michigan. But the road is wide open.

What RV Travel during COVID is like around Rocky Mountain National Park

Hi. This is Alan and Nancy from Eastern Nebraska. We just spent four days at the Stillwater campground near Rocky Mountain National Park.

It’s a US Forest Service Campground with very spacious, nice sites with a great view of the lake down below and easy access to Rocky Mountain National Park.

We made the reservation in February before the pandemic and so we decided to go ahead and use it. The campground was fine. The restrooms were open, but there were no showers. We spent about two days touring Rocky Mountain National Park in the afternoon and evening. I

n order to enter the park you need a reservation. The campgrounds inside the park were closed. But even if you wanted to drive on Trail Ridge Road, you still need a reservation. Those reservations had to be made online. If you don’t have a reservation, you can’t get in.

What was great about the experience is that we saw fewer vehicles in the park. At times we felt we had the entire park to ourselves. The only crowds we saw were when there was an animal like a moose or an elk on the side of the road and there was like a group of cars and people with their cameras and binoculars trying to see it.  It was just a good experience and the nearby town of Grand Lake was pretty busy. We didn’t really do any shopping we just stayed at the campground and visited the park. Overall, it was good experience. Hope this helps.

What RV Travel during COVID is like in Florida

Mike, this is Richard and Deborah from Spring Hill, Florida. We stayed at a couple of state parks since COVID had started. The parks are very good about leaving the material outside, social distancing, and wearing masks. So we’ve had a very positive experience. Hope this helps, bye-bye.

What RV Travel during COVID is like in Montana, Wyoming and South Dakota

Hello Mike and Jien. My name is Harold. I’m from Colorado. We just got back from a trip up towards Glacier National Park.

We experienced a lot of rest stops that were closed. We were rebuffed at Glacier when we were there, but waited in line and were turned around saying the park was full.

We had to come back later,  which was a bummer after traveling as far as we had.

We then traversed and stayed in a couple of Harvest Hosts places in Montana. Gracious hosts. One golf course, one winery. Things were great. In Great Falls, Montana we wanted to go to a museum at the Air Force Base was told that we had to have an appointment and the first one was four days after we were there.

We found most of the campgrounds pretty full, the commercial ones. We then traversed down to the Rapid City area. Got a good campground and went out to the Badlands and again found that the visitor centers were only partially open, the gift shops were open but we couldn’t get any information from them.

Went down to the other venues there in Rapid City and found the gift shops open, but the visitor’s centers were not. We then went to Teddy Roosevelt National Park. The South portion of it was open. The campgrounds were closed, the north part of Teddy Roosevelt was not even open when we were there.

On the way home, we wanted to stop it a Stagecoach Museum in Wyoming and when we got there, it was also closed. So a lot of things are not open.. You kind of have to take advantage of the things that are, but all in all, it was a good trip. 

What RV Travel during COVID is like in Ontario, Canada

Hi, Mike, and Jennifer. My name is Martha. And I’m from Ontario.

I just wanted to call in and just talk about our travels, or lack thereof within Canada. We drive a little Roadtrek and we were actually supposed to travel all the east coast but obviously couldn’t do that due to COVID restrictions. So we’re basically just traveling around our area of Ontario.

We come from a little tourist town in Ontario close to Goderich. We’ve done a bit of day-tripping like to Goderich and Bayfield. Beaches are open so we can go and enjoy some of the places there, but I would just encourage anybody before you travel in Canada to check all of the provincial guidelines.

The east coast of Canada has its own bubble, like Nova Scotia, New Brunswick,  PVI, Newfoundland. They can travel within their provinces as we can in Ontario.

We have a lake close to our house called Lake Conestoga. It has a beautiful little beach, but unfortunately, they’re not open for camping at all. But everybody seems to be social distancing in this area. I went into the bathroom in that little beach and you have to have your mask on.

Basically in our area of the world and throughout Southwestern Ontario, like, you know, Toronto, Kitchener, Quelph, Stratford, Goderich, we have to wear masks when we go into stores. We have to wear a mask to go into church and then when we get in and sit down, then we can take it off. In our restaurants, we have to wear a mask going into the restaurant and we can take it off when we sit down.

Our little area is terrific for social distancing. We have a beautiful little tourist town with a lovely little river and lakes. So that makes it nice. But our travel is restricted. We don’t go anywhere.

Our government still says you really shouldn’t travel around that much if you don’t need to, so they’re still doing that. Also, you know, it’s great being in a Roadtrek because then you can just you have your bathroom. Same if you have or any Class B or motorhome, I guess. You have everything you need there. So we tried to take everything we need when we go anywhere, but for the most part, we’re just doing day-tripping here in Ontario.

So that’s my stuff. Thanks for letting me share my life for always enjoyed everything you guys are doing. Bye for now

What RV Travel during COVID is like from Ohio to Arizona and back

Hey Mike, this is Danielle from Silver Lake, Ohio.

Just saw your post on Instagram and wanted to talk about my experience. A good friend of mine from high school from way long ago and I were chatting. Both of our kids live out in Flagstaff, Arizona. We were going to go try to see them since it was In the Heat of COVID.

We left on April 10th. I picked her up in Chicago, rented an Airstream Interstate on Outdoorsy. And we went South to Missouri and a private campground for the first time ever. From there, we went to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, which was amazing, but mostly everything was shut down.

We were fine and found another private campground. We headed across to the Salt Plains of Oklahoma, which was amazing. We dug for crystals and we then moved on towards New Mexico. We had no problem at all with a KOA, which was super fun. It was really crowded.

It was my first experience ever at a KOA. Super fun. We went to Angel Falls, New Mexico next, which was gorgeous and no problem getting anything. Everywhere we went people were wearing masks were very talkative about social distancing and made sure we were aware of it.

We wore gloves at the gas station, masks at the gas stations, as everyone else did.

We made it to Mancos, Colorado and we were able to get into the state. No one bugged us. We weren’t quarantined. Although we were always self-contained, and then made it on over to Lake Powell on the border of Utah and Arizona. It was gorgeous. We were the only people at Lake Powell. We just put our boards in that we rented at Lake Powell Paddleboards. It was awesome.

And from there are we popped on up through Utah, which was so beautiful and finally made it to Flagstaff. And from there we busted across to Jackson Hole.We stayed at a friend’s , which was super-duper, just across from Driggs, Idaho. We moochdocked in the driveway and we started across the South Dakota to Custer State Park.

No problem at all. And we went April 10th and I got home May 15th. After South Dakota. I can’t even remember what was next but finally dropped my friend off in Chicago and made it back home on May 15th.

And since then have bought a Leisure Travel Van Unity Corner bed. Thanks to you guys and everything I’ve learned from you on your super awesome YouTube channel and Instagram.

Got a great tutorial at my dealer and we are busting all over mainly in our state of Ohio, but we’re going to go back out to Arizona, back to see people in Florida. And everyone I know in my neighborhood wants to get an RV now or rent one or use ours, and it’s been just a great experience.

What RV Travel during COVID is like in New Mexico

Hi Mike, this is Susan. We live in Sherman, Texas, and we went from Sherman to Flagstaff, Arizona to Phoenix, Arizona to Show Low, Arizona to Ruidoso, New Mexico back to Sherman, and then we have driven all the way to Connecticut.

And every place every state has been wonderful. We Boondocked three nights in Walmart parking lots, and we never had any trouble. Most people were wearing masks. But we did cook all of our food. We never went out to eat. All in all it’s been a very good experience. Thanks. Bye.

What RV Travel during COVID is like in Georgia and Tennessee

Hi, Mike, and Jen. This is Susan Johnston. We’ve been traveling the last three weeks from Atlanta for RV repair to Nashville. And then into southern and western Missouri camping.

We are full-time RVers. We haven’t really had any problems finding places to stay, just crowded campgrounds on the weekends.

The services have all been fine. Everything is clean for the most part. The state parks do their best. We have worn masks everywhere we go,  out walking around, checking into RV parks and stuff like that. Not everyone else is wearing their masks. And that’s a little concerning for us. But everything really is going along. Camping and full-timing continue to be our main lifestyle and we’re going to continue doing that COVID or now. Thanks, you guys… look forward to the podcast.

What RV Travel during COVID is like in Georgia

Hi, Mike, and Jennifer. This is in response to your question on Facebook regarding plans and what we see happening with COVID. My husband and I have been campground hosting in the Georgia State Parks since February and when it first started and I will tell you the campground has been filled to capacity during the week and on weekends. We’re now hosting at cabins at the state campground and we’re finding the same thing. So I think people are on the road  and may be staying close to home, but they’re enjoying the outside.  Have a wonderful time and thanks for all you do.. bye

What RV Travel during COVID is like in Ohio

We have camped once this year at a beautiful state park in Ohio, near our hometown. It was wonderful. Although it was crowded. We had a very bad site and the facilities were all shut down, other than the bathrooms and a couple of shower houses.

Although we made the best of our trip and enjoyed this beautiful state park, we will camp in our backyard. We will do some backyard camping for the rest of the year during the COVID crisis. In my opinion, that’s the safe way to go. Thank you. 

The interview of the week is brought to you by SunshinestateRVs.com, where every new  motorhome is delivered to the customer free, anywhere in the country

OFF THE BEATEN PATH REPORT   

BY TOM & PATTI BURKETT

Patty with the Lyman Hall sign… he is her ancestor!

We stopped late one evening at a movie theater on the outskirts of Savannah.  Having made our arrangements ahead of time, we went in and saw a movie, then spent the night in the parking lot, finishing our popcorn and dissecting the remake of “Doctor Dolittle” before turning in.  

It just seemed convenient to get on the freeway in the morning, as we were in the suburbs and the smaller highways were difficult to identify.  About an hour later, Tom said, “Let’s get off this road, I’m not loving it,” and we exited to US 17, which was paralleling our course down the coast.

Shortly thereafter, we passed a historical marker—you know, the brown ones with tiny print.  I can’t say we stop at every historical marker along the road, but I suspect we stop more than most people, and we’ve learned some fascinating things when we did.  

You may remember that we came across one in Texas that was dedicated to Tom’s great-great-great grandfather, and it opened up a new chapter of his family history to him, and made for several days of exploring.  I  saw the marker as we went whizzing by,  but thought “oh, it’s not worth turning around.”  Luckily Tom was driving, and once he knew it was there, he wanted to have a look, so he turned around.

Midway Congregational Church

Sure enough, the marker was next to a small pavilion with a display case underneath.  We pulled off, driving partway up a side road that was gated off a few yards ahead.  “Hall’s Knoll,” the marker stated.  It went on to describe the nearby home of Dr. Lyman Hall, the site of which was just up the gated road. To which I said, “What?!?!?”  I couldn’t believe it.  My maiden name is Hall, and I am a direct descendant of this man, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence.

I grew up in Wallingford, Connecticut, and being in the Hall family was my own little claim to fame.   My ancestors were founders of the town in 1670 and their name was on a rock in the center of town. I grew up on a dairy farm that had been in the family since 1790 and I went to Lyman Hall High School.   

Hall had lived in Connecticut until after he graduated from Yale, and eventually served in the Continental Congress and as governor of Georgia.  The sign informed us he was a member of the nearby Midway Congregational Church, so we headed on down the road to have a look.

Sure enough, the church sat at a nearby crossroads, with more historical markers telling about Hall and his role in founding the coastal town of Sunbury.  Now a picturesque and photogenic ghost town, Sunbury was a major port during the Revolutionary War, traded hands between the British and the Patriots, and fell into decline after the war.  

Next door to the church is the Midway museum.  We climbed the steps to this repurposed coastal home and had a full tour and much discussion with the guide, who was very excited when she discovered that I am a Descendant.  The church, it seems, is not open for visiting, but will always be opened for Descendants. 

 So, after the one other visitor to the museum had departed, we walked across the lawn and were admitted to the building, which looks almost exactly like any number of Congregational churches we’ve seen in New England.

“Don’t forget to take a card and register with the Descendants group,” the guide told us. “They have a reunion here every spring and will be excited to have you join them.”  Sadly, rather than an invitation, what arrived was a notice that this year’s event was canceled because of the coronavirus.  Ah well, next year will come soon enough.  It was a real treat to find and get know one of my ancestors, just hanging out here at a nondescript crossroads in Georgia, off the beaten path.

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Mike Wendland

Mike is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road. He enjoys camping (obviously), hiking, biking, fitness, photography, kayaking, video editing, and all things dealing with technology and the outdoors. See and subscribe to his RV Lifestyle Channel on YouTube, where he has hundreds of RV and travel related videos. His PC MIke TV reports, on personal technology are distributed weekly to all 215 NBC-TV stations.

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