We did not move into our Airstream because we love being confined to a 25 foot metal tube and spending extended periods of time in private RV parks, but a global pandemic has a way of forcing people into situations that are less than optimal.
When Florida state parks closed back in March, pushing us out of Blue Spring State Park early and cancelling our plans for the next 5 weeks, we scrambled to come up with a new plan. Public and private camping facilities were closing all over the place as pandemic terror gripped the nation. As I wrote about back in April, the fear of travelers that led to islands cutting themselves off from the mainland and checkpoints at state borders left a lot of RVers struggling to figure out where to shelter in place. We were very relieved to secure a month-long stay in a private RV park along Florida’s Forgotten Coast, near where we were already planning to build a home this winter.
Even though we will eventually be calling this area our permanent home, it took us some time to get comfortable here. Every time a vehicle from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department cruised through our campground, we imagined them eyeing the license plates on the rigs and were grateful for our Florida tags. When the county closed off access to public boat ramps to all people other than Franklin County residents and property owners, we started carrying around the deed to our property in our glove compartment.
Over time, we became more comfortable with our situation and extended our stay for several months. We have curtailed our contact with other humans, but in this rural area there is plenty of opportunity to get outside without being close to other people. We’ve made good progress on cleaning up the wooded area of our lot, where we want to retain as much of the native plant material as possible. We’ve been clearing vines, cutting dead palm fronds, and removing downed branches and it already looks much better — at least to me. A casual observer would probably conclude we still have a lot more work to do. We have enjoyed daily outdoor activity in the form of walking on St. George Island’s bike paths and back roads and — now that the beaches have reopened — walking on miles of white sandy beach. The Apalachicola River delta is a spaghetti-like network of creeks and tributaries with miles of paddle trails to explore, and most are accessible from different boat ramps within 10 miles of our campground. Our inflatable kayak has basically paid for itself over the last few months. We’ve made several kayak journeys with our friends Laurel and Eric, fellow full-time RVers who happened to be in this area for family reasons (check out their blog), and we’ve only encountered a handful of other boaters during these adventures. We limit our grocery store visits to once every 12-14 days, and shop at off-hours. It might not be as thrilling as the travels we experienced over the last several years, but we’ve found ways to keep ourselves safe while not going stir crazy.
Now that things are opening up again, we have the option to get back on the road. And the pull of the highway is strong. Being trapped in one place has been an unwelcome change from our lifestyle of the past few years. Full time RV living for us means being constantly on the move, particularly since we strongly prefer staying in public parks and those parks have stay limits. Even though our typical stays have stretched out to 10-14 days, allowing us plenty of time to explore an area thoroughly, there is always a finite limit on each visit and a new destination visible on the horizon. For the past several months, our horizon has been an unbroken line of nothing. We’ve struggled to find ways to occupy ourselves when things we want to explore in the area, like local restaurants, shops, and nature centers, are all closed. Plus it’s hard to feel motivated to see and do things on any given day when we know our stay will stretch weeks and months into the future.
We have been extremely tempted to travel again. When Florida state parks started reopening, I eagerly searched for availability. In the future our travel plans will not bring us to Florida in July, so now is the time to get a spot at those parks that are so darn full in the winter, right? But the more we looked into our options, the more we were reminded about the potential pitfalls of moving around. We don’t want to be trapped somewhere without a place to stay if a new flareup causes closures again. The angst of feeling homeless in March is still fresh in our minds. We certainly don’t want to expose ourselves to this dangerous virus and possibly deal with serious illness on the road. Our one hospitalization in Moab in 2019 was fairly traumatic, and we really don’t care to repeat the experience. And of course we don’t want to be part of the problem by unwittingly becoming a vector for transmission of the disease. Add to that the fact that half of America has apparently decided to take a safe-feeling RV/camping vacation this summer, and the appeal of hitting the road started to wane.
Despite desperately longing to travel again, we decided that the prudent thing for us is to stay put on the Forgotten Coast for the rest of the year. Our booking in our current spot was through June 30, and we were already planning to return to the area on October 1 to commence house construction, so we just needed to settle on an itinerary for July, August, and September. Ultimately, after much discussion, we decided to stay right here in the same RV park for the summer months. While those are not exactly the ideal months to be in Florida (hot, humid, buggy, and a chance of hurricanes!) and our RV air conditioner is not nearly as efficient as a household unit, we’ll make the best of it.
I try to remind myself that we are still extremely fortunate. Unlike people who take a fixed-term sabbatical or who may face increasing age-related limitations, we expect to have plenty of time ahead of us to return to exploring. We were so disappointed to cancel our plans for visiting the Great Lakes this summer, but the Great Lakes will still be there next year or the year after. Our private RV park is pretty nice as far as private parks go. The property sits right on the immense Apalachicola Bay, so we have sweeping water views and persistent breeze. Daily free entertainment includes watching pelicans diving into the bay and a resident bald eagle tangling with some very assertive blackbirds. Site spacing is generous, so we have plenty of room to sit outside without being right under our neighbor’s window. We’ve become much more familiar with the area, so if/when a wave of cases hits this area we know how best to keep ourselves safe. Plus, if there are new lockdowns we can honestly say we are not out of town visitors but have been here since March.
It’s also very positive that we’re making discernible progress on the house. Walking the lot and measuring out the footprint of the house helped us make smart decisions about where to place stairs, driveway, etc., and we are very happy with our final plans. We were not planning to start construction until fall, based on our builder’s availability, but since we’ve been in the area he’s been open to putting early steps in motion. He’ll be able to get site work done this summer (grading, dig septic field, order and install pilings, etc.) so there should be a seamless transition to our build once he finishes a home that is just getting started now. If the economic situation causes some construction work to dry up in the area, our project might even be able to move more quickly if craftsmen have more availability.
So I guess the only question now is, who’s ready for a construction blog?!?!?