Traveling Through The COVID-19 Pandemic (8 minute read)
11 weeks at my home base in Minnesota and it’s time to get on the road again. I had only planned to come back for a month this spring, but, of course — COVID.
As time went on I realized I had two choices; find a place to live back in MN and store my trailer indefinitely or learn how to live on the road with the threat of COVID. I’ve decided that I have to learn how to maneuver through the pandemic because this will all continue on for quite some time—and I’m not ready to throw in the towel. Just because states are opening up, doesn’t mean I will risk my health or the health of others in order to live my life the way I have in the past. That would be rather selfish of me. But I can continue to travel and modify my ways. My number one goal, is, and always has been, my safety. Even though the majority of the population is “over” the pandemic, the pandemic is FAR from over. So my rules are as follows;
- Self-isolate as much as possible. (Easy to do when you live this way.)
- Wear a mask in any indoor location.
- Wear mask and gloves in big box stores and grocery markets.
- Avoid all crowds.
- Avoid being indoors (in public) as much as possible.
- Wash my hands and sanitize often.
- Explore during the week when it’s quieter and stay home on the weekends.
- Keep my immune system strong (most important!) by eating healthy, walking, yoga, supplementation, and immune boosting herbal support.
When the coronavirus first exploded I was just leaving San Diego and planned to stay in Palm Desert for two weeks to explore Joshua Tree and other parts of the desert. I left early Monday morning to check out Slab City and Bombay Beach on my way up through the desert but by the time I got to my campground — the entire state of California was ordered to shelter in place.
I remained here for five more weeks.
I was fortunate that I was in a great area with perfect weather and fun camp neighbors. This made self-isolation a bit easier to handle and the time go by faster. But after a few weeks I started to feel uneasy and I realized I was missing Klink terribly. He was always so good in a crisis and not having my “person” to talk with throughout all of this was making my heart incredibly heavy. It took me awhile to understand that what I was actually feeling was grief. But this time it wasn’t just grief for my husband and partner, it was coupled with grief for my life as I knew it. I was also feeling grief for the entire world and for the first time since I left home, I felt truly alone. I decided it was time for me to get back to Minnesota and be near my family to ride out the pandemic. This is when I started to receive messages from Klink. “Patience” was the first message. It came through a friend via the Guns N’Roses song of the same name (but sung by Norah Jones) and in such an unusual way that I couldn’t deny it was him speaking to me. Or should I say singing to me. I settled in, knowing that the timing wasn’t quite right yet for me to go. And then a week later—through another friend—the message was urgent and clear. “Get back to your community, get back home.” A few other messages solidified it. It was time.
I began planning my escape.
I got my rig ready for the 2000 mile journey and on the Saturday before I was to leave, I experienced my first earthquake. And then 4 more on Sunday. I felt as if Klink was saying, “OK Lorri Jean, last call. It’s time to go.” I was gone within 36 hours.
I have a bathroom, fridge, and propane stove inside my trailer so there was no need to stop anywhere on my drive home except to fill up for gas. I could self-isolate the entire way. I was driving 2000 miles in three days — alone and towing. When we tow, the rule is to add 30 minutes on our travel time for each hour we drive and so my 28 hour drive would technically be closer to 42 hours for three days. I typically plan a 4-5 hour drive per day when towing so this was gonna be a stretch for me. So as to not add any pressure on campgrounds (most were closed at this point anyways) I planned to park both nights at Walmart to sleep.
The moment I set off, I felt I was the protagonist in some weirdly disturbing dystopian movie.
My first night I made it to Edgewood, NM and slept under the security cameras in a Walmart parking lot with other weary travelers. I awoke at 4 AM to Led Zeppelin blaring over the PA system above my head and the parking lot near empty. The following night I had some creeper park right next to me so I found another lot closer to the freeway and slept a few more hours. I noticed many more folks sleeping in their cars here than in RV’s, but I never felt unsafe.
I took afternoon naps at truck stops and learned that you have to be incredibly exhausted to sleep through all of the noise. Which, of course, I was. I’d manage a good hour and then be refreshed and on my way. My days were 14 hours long—on the road around 4 AM and parked no later than 7 PM.
Driving home, the roads were eerily empty with only overly-tired truck drivers and a few folks like me towing their homes behind them. In New Mexico and Colorado I noticed many of the small towns had roadblocks at their entrances; brightly lit signs saying, “Closed! Non residents and visitors not allowed.” Every bridge underpass in every state had new signs with blinking warnings, “Stay home, stay safe, shop alone.” I started to notice the erection of the plexiglass barriers for the gas station clerks, yellow caution tape around communal areas, and except for the stations and Walmart’s, every business I passed was closed. I encountered a homeless man sitting on the side of the road in Colorado who believed that the combination of acid rain and some local excavations caused the coronavirus and the only way to cure it was with an antibiotic called amoxicillin. He also looked like he hadn’t eaten in a week so I went inside the gas station and bought him a few sandwiches and a gallon of water.
As I drove off, I looked out my passenger window to see him biting happily into his sandwich and waving goodbye to me.
On the first night my water pump broke, which meant no running water for the rest of the trip. The second night I had no electricity which meant no heat and it was near 30* in Denver (found out later a rusty connection on the battery.) And on the afternoon of my third day, I realized after 8 hours of driving that I had accidentally switched on the heat for my passenger side seat in my truck, melting not only the upholstery, but three expensive lipsticks to the interior of my leather purse.
Of course, that put me completely over the edge.
At the moment I pulled into my friends driveway— just before midnight on Thursday—Klink started singing to me again. This time it was John Prine (who had died from COVID while I was on the road) singing We’re The Big Door Prize. I laughed out loud at the memory of this song we shared together, and then started sobbing in relief. I had made it. And he was with me the whole time.
Snow greeted me the next day. I am parked 20 feet from my friends’ kitchen door and after I decontaminate my tiny house and myself, they welcome me as part of their family unit for the next three weeks—allowing me access to all of their facilities, their home, and their fresh backyard chicken eggs. They are to be my best campground hosts ever.
I finally make it to the Disabled Veterans Rest Camp where I had first launched off on my journey last year. As a widow I am privileged to be able to stay here for a month and because of COVID, I was able to extend an extra two weeks this year. I settle in, spend time with my friends and get some home improvement/maintenance projects done. I watch the trees bud and and the leaves unfold as spring arrives in Minnesota and wonder when—or if—I will ever get back out on the road. We are still shelter in place here and will remain this way until early June. I miss my life and my journey desperately. I try to remember that everyone else feels the same way about their own lives right now and I put myself in check.
And then I watch in absolute horror as George Floyd is murdered and my city burns.
The weeks during the protests and riots are like living in a vacuum and I begin to understand racism like never before. I have heated and healing conversations with friends and family as we try to process all of what’s happening based on our own belief systems; protests, riots, looting, burning, politics, violence, hatred, conspiracy theories, white privilege, police violence, black anger. But there is also love, kindness, healing, and community. We don’t have any answers and cannot always find the words. I drive through the city and see the burned and boarded buildings, now with tributes to George Floyd; flowers, murals, beautiful graffiti. My heart hurts for his family along with every person and business affected by this tragic event. There is so much change and healing that needs to happen.
I can’t sit still anymore and find it’s time for me to finally move on.
Nova Scotia has been on my bucket list since I began this adventure and it was always part of my plan for this summer. I’ve modified a few places and had to shorten it up a few weeks but the goal is to get there by early September. Hopefully the border will be open by then. After that it’s a trip down the east coast through the fall and then winter in Florida. This, of course, all depends on hurricane season.
First stop out is Door County Wisconsin, then around the north side of Lake Michigan to Torch Lake, on to Pennsylvania for a camp out with other owners who have teardrops like mine (so excited for this!), on to Niagara Falls, and then over to Maine and Nova Scotia—possibly hugging the St. Lawrence Seaway along the way. I plan to go sailing on the Great Lakes, eat lots of fresh Maine lobster, hike part of the Appalachian Trail and dive into some historical sites along the coast.
Stay safe and well and healthy my friends. I’ll see you on the road!