I suspect that if, on Monday, I could have seen three days into the future, I would have said, “Florida, what a lovely place to hang out, despite the heat. I believe I’ll stick around.” But I could not see into the future and even though I did anticipate that the coronovirus situation was going to keep getting crazier, I kinda thought it would take a few weeks. Wow, what a difference three days can make.
Not that anything is particularly different in my life. I’m not sick and the highways still have plenty of cars driving down them. And the grocery stores still have plenty of people. It does seem rather strange that everyone said, “Hey, pandemic, let’s go shopping,” but I guess that will taper off once everyone starts hunkering down.
Speaking of hunkering down — it is not easy to hunker down in a van. Well, or maybe it’s really easy. I can’t stock up for two weeks of self-imposed quarantine, much less the decade the people buying out all the toilet paper seem to be planning for, but I can avoid human beings. And I am doing so. I had decided before I even left Florida that this was going to be a solitary trip: no stopping to visit friends or online acquaintances. I’m not sick, but I can’t know that I won’t be sick ten days from now, which means I might be contagious now. So no visiting people I know and potentially giving them germs. And mostly avoiding interactions with other travelers, too. I can’t avoid getting gas or groceries, of course, but I’m being very careful with my social distancing and avoiding touching things as much as possible.
On Tuesday, I decided I’d stay at my trailhead for another night and settled in with my book. Then I tried to cook some rice for lunch and realized that my propane wasn’t working. No!!! But before I panicked, I checked the tank level, and discovered it was empty. Alas, that meant it was time to get on the road. So I packed up, started driving, found myself a dump station, some propane, some gas, and some fresh salad greens, and a comfortable rest stop in Louisiana (the Atchafalaya Welcome Center) to spend the night.
It was actually a really nice rest stop. I parked in a line of other RVs and campers, surrounded by loads of green space. Zelda and I had some nice walks in the grass, chatted with some other travelers with dogs (from a healthy distance) and spent a reasonably comfortable night.
But in the morning, the propane still didn’t work. ARGH! This time, it really isn’t working. It worked when I started my journey — I made myself coffee at the Bethel Bicycle Trailhead — but it shows no signs of life now. I’ve tried all the switches, all the possible ways, and yeah, my propane is just not functioning. So I’ll need to get that looked at, either somewhere along the way if it gets too frustrating to bear, or when I get to California.
I was super annoyed by this — it wasn’t working the last time I went camping and I was going to get it looked at, but then it started working again, so I didn’t. Things that work erratically are so frustrating! But then I could hear my mom’s voice in my head, saying, “If that’s the worst that happens…” We’re in the middle of a pandemic and apparent economic collapse, so I think I can probably manage without a working stove for a while. (I have a working generator, so this doesn’t mean I can’t cook, it just means I have to make a lot of noise when I’m cooking.)
I have campground reservations for the weekend, so I didn’t need or want to drive too far on Thursday. I took my time leaving the rest stop, then found an HEB where I could buy the world’s best spice gum drops (yep, still delicious), then drove a little farther and stopped at a county park that sounded nice, Whites Park in Wallisville, Texas.
It is nice. Also, really weird. There are no signs, no ranger station, no place to check in, no visible instructions anywhere — just a lot of grass and trees and some posts that look like they should mark a row of campsites. I would hate it if it was filled with people: the posts are close together, lined up in a row, parking lot style. But it’s not filled with people. In fact, I am the only camper here. I drove around the park, puzzled by my solitude, then pulled over and read the reviews again. The first review said, “I might not camp here if I were a woman camping alone, but I feel totally safe with my partner with me.”
I did feel safe, though. It’s empty, but nothing about it felt scary to me. Also, there was water so I could fill my tanks. Also, there was lots of grass for Z to hang out on. I took my version of reasonable precautions, so when I went to sleep, everything was packed up and ready to go, nothing left outside, all storage latched and ready. If necessary, I could have hopped out of bed, turned the key in the ignition and been gone. But mostly I enjoyed the solitude and all the green space. Z and I had a nice long walk on the roads, too.
And somehow this morning is rapidly slipping away from me. I didn’t want to start driving until after rush hour, because I’ve got to go through Houston and I’m not a fan of Houston traffic, but it’s time to get on the road. Stay safe, wash your hands, and I’ll do the same!