What Happens to ‘Stay Home’ When the Home Is on Wheels?

Not only do RVs provide a sense of distance from other campers, they also provide a sense of containment

First of all, the good news is that most RVers are prepared for national emergencies such as the the COVID-19 (coronavirus). That said we know the wave after wave of news updates, stricter camping and travel guidelines rolling out across the U.S. and Canada, and the associated stress are not things we often encounter as RVers.

The Jackson Rancheria Casino Resort in Jackson, California is closed and that includes its RV park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When national, state (and in Canada, provincial), and local governments issued stay-at-home orders shutting down many private and public campgrounds and public lands an estimated one million to two million full-time RVers were potentially left homeless. Across Facebook full-time RVer groups the sense of fear and panic was obvious. 

The 12 Tribal Casino Resort in Omak, Washington is closed and that includes its RV park. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Full-time RVers consist of thousands of construction, energy, and medical workers, living mobile out of necessity for their jobs, as well as seniors and folks who sold their “sticks-and-bricks” homes to live a nomadic lifestyle.

The 7 Feathers Casino Resort in Canyonville, Oregon is closed but its RV park remains open. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A week after inviting RVs to camp in Winton Woods, Great Parks of Hamilton County (Ohio) ordered them gone by Thursday (April 2). No exceptions. Great Parks made this call Sunday afternoon to match moves the state made last week: closing all campgrounds to slow the spread of coronavirus. Great Parks had shut down campground cabins and bathrooms more than a week earlier but allowed self-contained RVs to stay. Until they didn’t! That put people in RVs in limbo again, some for the second or third time. Private RV parks like nearby Lebanon KOA are limiting space while wondering how long before the governor shuts them down, too.

The Gila Bend KOA in Gila Bend, Arizona is open and accepting reservations for one night only. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

One of the challenges full-timers face in securing a camping site is the lack of clear and uniform directives between states and within localities. For example, some campgrounds can accept long-term visitors while others, depending on the municipality, cannot. 

Hacienda RV Resort in La Cruces, New Mexico is open and accepting new reservations. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Virtual communities also have taken up the cause in connecting full-timers with open campgrounds.

Ambassador RV Resort in Caldwell, Idaho is open and accepting new reservations. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And many Canadian snowbirds are finding they have no place to land. The early return because of coronavirus fears has left thousands of RVers stranded. The snowbirds were heeding the federal government’s call for Canadians to return home from the U.S. and self-isolate themselves for 14 days in the midst of the COVID-19 emergency.

Nk’Mip RV Park in Osoyoos, British Columbia is open but is not accepting any new registrations. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But as they neared the border one problem became increasingly clear: They had nowhere to go. Thousands of stranded RVers many who have no brick-and-mortar residences have been calling RV parks and campgrounds all around the country looking for vacancies. Either they’re not open or they’re open and they’re already full or not accepting new RVers due to the fear of further spreading the virus.

Waltons Beach RV Resort in Osoyoos, British Columbia has delayed opening and is not accepting new reservations. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Part of the problem is that the vast majority of Ontario’s 420 or so private campgrounds are prohibited by municipal statute from opening the season until May. And the few that do operate year round have not been listed as essential services by the province so it’s unclear whether they’d be allowed to take in new RVers.

Hilltop RV Park in Fort Stockton, Texas is open and accepting new reservations. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

National and provincial parks—another potential refuge for returning snowbirds—are closed until April 30 at the earliest. The mandatory isolation order and the parks not being open are terrifying for many. 

Whispering Oaks RV Resort in Weimar, Texas is open and accepting new reservations. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We found ourselves in a similar situation when the RV Park at which we had made reservations informed us that they had cancelled our reservation. We were left scrambling as we contacted dozens of parks. Finally due to a recent cancellation an RV park was willing to accept us.

Frog City RV Park in Duson, Louisiana is open and accepting new reservations. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While tenting is still the primary form of camping for most people, the data reveals that 24 percent (or 1.8 million individuals) camp in an RV. They come into outdoor settings bringing their own living quarters with them which are fully self-contained units that house everything they need to sustain life including their living rooms, kitchen, bedrooms, and their own bathroom, and hopefully in present days…their own toilet paper.

Worth Pondering…

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.

―Marie Curie

Southward Ho! Snowbird RV Tips for Migrating South

Learn the basics of RV snowbirding

As Neil Young once sang, “the summer ends and the winter winds begin to holler all around the bend…”

The snow doth fly © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Yes, it’s that time of year once again when the cooler weather sets in and the truly cold and snowy months of winter loom ever closer on the horizon. Residents of the northern half of North America have long found respite from winter’s chill by fleeing to the southern half.

Angel Lake RV Park, Wells, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Snowbirds are already preparing for the journey south for the annual escape to the sub-tropical climates in southern states that include Florida, Arizona, Texas, and California.

Quail Ridge RV Park near Sierra Vista, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Following are several key tips to keep in mind as you prepare for your journey to gorgeous coastal regions, inland escapes, or breathtaking desert areas.

RV and Tow Vehicle/Toad Preparations

Columbia Sun RV Resort, Kennewick, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ensure that your RV and tow vehicle or toad are in top operating condition before leaving for your winter destination by following several practical tips:

  • Have a local auto shop inspect your tow vehicle/toad before departing; you never know if you may have missed something and it’s always a good precaution to take
  • Have a local RV service center inspect tires, brakes, axle bearings, and other moving parts
  • Check the air conditioning to ensure it is working properly. A broken air conditioner in a hotter climate makes for an uncomfortable snowbird experience
  • Add tank cleaner to your rig’s waste tanks

Winterize Your Home

Gila Bend KOA, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Preparing your home for an extended absence requires thorough thought and planning. Before heading south for the season, snowbirds must take steps to secure and winterize their homes.

Rio Bend RV and Golf Resort, El Centro, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check with your insurance agency to determine how extended absences may affect coverage. Determine if your insurer requires a regular walk-through during your absence and if so, how frequently.

Coastal Georgia RV Resort, Brunswick, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arrange with a mail forwarding service to have your mail forwarded to your winter destinations.

Arrange with a neighbor, relative, friend, or snow removal service to keep your sidewalks clear of the white stuff that Northerners know all too well.

Palm Springs Joshua Tree KOA, Desert Hot Springs, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ask a friend, neighbor, or relative to be the contact person for your home. The contact person should have access to your home. It’s important to have someone check your home on a regular basis, remove sales flyers, be available in emergency situations, and make repair appointments if necessary. Your home should look like someone is living there.

Canyon Vista RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Turn down the thermostat on your heating system.

Unplug lamps, TVs, radios, and all electric appliances.

Hacienda RV Resort, Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Adjust the gas water heater thermostat to “pilot” or turn it off. Turn off the water supply at the main valve. Upon returning home, relight the pilot if you turned it off, and gradually turn the thermostat to the appropriate setting. Don’t forget to turn the water back on before restarting the water heater.

Lakeside RV Park, Livingston, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Check outdoor security lights to ensure the motion sensors are functioning correctly.

Finally, lock all windows and doors, and activate the alarm or security system.

Pack the RV

Vista del Sol RV Resort, Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The best way to ensure you have stowed aboard you RV all the essential items is to use a checklist. Following is a starting point for creating your own personal checklist:

  • Clothing for all types of weather
  • Toiletries
  • Fully stocked first aid kit
  • Tool box (stow on curb side of RV)
  • Essential house wares (dishware and utensils, cooking supplies, garbage bags, cleaning supplies, fire extinguisher, batteries, LED flashlights)
  • Technology (smart phone, laptop, tablet, ebook reader, printer, camera, batteries, battery chargers)
  • Outdoor recreation/hobby items (hiking boots and poles, fishing poles, cameras and camera supplies and equipment, knitting/quilting/sewing supplies)

Canadian Snowbirds

Lake Osprey RV Resort, Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to all of the usual preparations, Canadian snowbirds must deal with extra details that include:

  • Passports and other travel documents
  • Extended health care insurance (Don’t leave home without it!)
  • Smart phone and internet service
  • Buying U.S. dollars/U.S. dollar credit card
Casa Grande RV Resort, Casa Grande, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

I’ll take heat rash over frost bite any day.

—Ken Travous