Life Lessons during the COVID Era

Here are some lessons for life to be learned from the pandemic. Many we probably should have known all along, but the current situation has brought them out again in sharp relief.

We all thought this was a temporary thing. But here we are. People are already calling this the “COVID era” as if they are reading about it in a history book. But we’re still going through it. 

Saguaro Lake, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For us the social distancing and handwashing aren’t that bad. We got used to that stuff quickly. The tough part about this era is that life has changed permanently for many folks. 

Salton Sea, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rifts are created between people with different beliefs on wearing a mask. Complete industries are swept away and will probably never be the same. The world has truly changed. 

In this article, I’m sharing life lessons I’ve learned from observing these changes. Hopefully, these short reminders will make life during this era easier for you.

Mount Dora, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s hard on everybody

I know your life is hard. But so is the life of your neighbor. That puts us all in the same boat. So go easy on yourself and others.

St. Marys, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nothing is forever

It seems like this will last forever. But everything dies. And so will pandemics.

Harvesting in Parke County, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights

Make the best of your time

Accepting circumstances doesn’t mean we give up. Make the best of it. To be clear: Worrying and thinking about stuff that’s outside of your control is NOT a good use of your time. Yes, easier said than done. I know.

Snake River at Twin Falls, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights

Take a breather

Take a moment for yourself and breeeeath…. Aaaah. Yes, that’s the feeling.

Hiking Catalina State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights

Exercise every day

Go for a walk or hike. Stay in shape. If you’re not injured or ill, it’s your duty to take care of your body. Never take this lightly. 

Fraser River at Hope, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights

Get off social media

Social media is a waste of your time. Always! Pretty much so!

Gilroy Garlic Festival, California © Rex Vogel, all rights

Read books

Reading is a better use of your time. We all have reading lists with hundreds of books on them. And we’re not going to live 200 years. That means you need to make some tough choices. Which books will you read before you die?

Boyds Bears, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights

Learn new skills

Technology is improving and changing so fast that we’re not aware what’s going on. We just learn it after the fact. But that may be too late. Stay on top of your game and keep learning new skills you need to do good work.

Gaffney, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights

Keep a daily journal

The COVID-19 pandemic will probably be one of the weirdest times of our lives. Don’t you want to document this? Even if you never read it again, it’s still worth writing because it makes you a better thinker. 

Cathedral Rock, Sedona, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights

Inspiration comes from within

“I need to go to Sedona for inspiration.” Or replace Sedona with any city or place. Why do we think inspiration comes from the outside? Look inside!

Truth BBQ, Brenham, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights

Good food improves your mood

Looking for something a little out of the ordinary and adventurous? Try a Philly cheesesteak, poutine, crab cake, gumbo, alligator, jambalaya, boudin, étouffée, crawfish, Texas BBQ, green chili cheese burger, tamales, chimichanga, or hushpuppies. On the sweet side, try Key lime pie, kolaches, sweet potato pie, goo goo clusters, apple pie, pecan pralines, Ben & Jerry’s, or Blue Bell ice cream. Take your taste buds for a tour!

Don’s Specialty Meats, Scott, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights

Objects will not make you happy

STOP BUYING CRAP ONLINE! You need to tell yourself that after a few too many useless purchases.

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights

More money is not the answer

I’m not going to lie. Having a little bit of money will lighten the load. So start that online business or side-gig you’ve been thinking about. But don’t expect that money will make you happy. It just solves your money problems. Nothing else!

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights

Do work you enjoy

Just because you need to survive, don’t say yes to the first available job you encounter. And also don’t start some kind of soulless online business so you can make a few bucks. Find something you enjoy—and that pays the bills. 

Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights

Appreciate what you have

Grass is always greener on… So here’s a reminder: If you’re reading this on your smartphone in the comfort of your home, life isn’t so bad!

Walterboro, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights

Give back

Do something altruistic. It’s fine to give money to charity. But I’m not talking about that. Talk to your elderly neighbors, hold the door for someone, do a small kindness. Small things have a positive impact on people.

Change is good

Life is hard when your job is no longer there. But remember, change is a part of life. And in the long-term, it’s good. We just don’t see the sunshine when we’re going through a storm. 

Corpus Christi, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights

Stop consuming. Start creating.

The world never changed for the better by doing nothing. Right now, our biggest challenge is paralysis by consumption. We’re over-consuming everything: News, food, clothes, entertainment, you name it. To get through this era, we need more action. So stop sitting there and go create something. Without creation, there’s no progress.

Hopefully we’ll also feel a new sense of appreciation when we get to act normal again. And hopefully that, and the other lessons we pull from this over time, will stick around for a long time. Let’s hope we’ll be smart enough to remember these life lessons over the long-term.

Worth Pondering…

To re-create yourself anew in every moment in the grandest version of the greatest vision ever you had about Who You Really Are. That is the purpose in becoming human, and that is the purpose of all of life.

— Neale Donald Walsch, in Conversations with God

Anxiety and Depression: The Fall-out from COVID-19

Health impacts of pandemic were felt first; now, effects of lockdown, social isolation are starting to appear

It is official: COVID-19 has left us sick with worry and increasingly despondent and our youngest adults—ages 18 to 29—are feeling it the most.

Along Dike Road, Woodland, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

California provides a snapshot of what much of the nation is experiencing. Weekly surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau from late April through late July offer a grim view of the toll the pandemic has taken on the nation’s mental health. By late July, more than 44 percent of California adult respondents reported levels of anxiety and gloom typically associated with diagnoses of generalized anxiety disorder or major depressive disorder, a stunning figure that rose through the summer months alongside the spread of COVID-19.

Red Rock Canyon, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

America at large has followed a similar pattern with about 41 percent of adult respondents reporting symptoms of clinical anxiety or depression during the third week of July. By comparison, just 11 percent of U.S. adults reported those symptoms in a similar survey conducted in early 2019.

Dauphin Island, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The findings reflect a generalized sense of hopelessness as the severity of the global crisis set in. Most adults have been moored at home in a forced stasis, many in relative isolation. The unemployment rate hit its highest rate since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Thousands of families across California and tens of thousands across the U.S. have lost people to the virus. There is no clear indication when—or even if—life will return to normal.

“The pandemic is the first wave of this tsunami and the second and third waves are really going to be this behavioral health piece,” said Jessica Cruz, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness California.

Cave Creek Regional Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The surveys were part of a partnership between the National Center for Health Statistics and the Census Bureau to provide relevant statistics on the impact of coronavirus. In weekly online surveys over three months, the Census Bureau asked questions to about 900,000 Americans to quantify their levels of anxiety or depression. The four survey questions are a modified version of a common screening tool physicians use to diagnose mental illness.

Joshua Tree National Park, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Respondents were asked how often during the previous seven days they had been bothered by feeling hopeless or depressed, had felt little interest or pleasure in doing things, had felt nervous or anxious, or had experienced uncontrolled worry. They were scored based on how often they had experienced those symptoms in the previous week ranging from never to nearly every day.

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In both California and the nation, symptoms of depression and anxiety were more pronounced among young adults and generally decreased with age. For example, nearly three in four California respondents between the ages of 18 and 29 reported “not being able to stop or control worrying” for at least several of the previous seven days. And 71 percent reported feeling “down, depressed, or hopeless” during that time.

Lovers Key State Park, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Interestingly, respondents 80 and older—an age group far more likely to suffer and die from COVID-19—reported nowhere near the same levels of distress. Just 40 percent reported feeling down or hopeless for at least several days in the previous week, and 42 percent reported uncontrollable worry.

City Market, Savannah, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cruz said that may be because young adults are more comfortable expressing worry and sadness than their parents and grandparents. However, even before the pandemic, suicide rates among teens and young adults had been on a years-long climb nationwide and California emergency rooms had registered a sharp rise in the number of young adults seeking care for mental health crises.

Amish Country, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some researchers have cited the ubiquitous reach of social media—and with it an increased sense of inferiority and alienation—as factors in the rise in mental health struggles among younger generations. COVID-19 could be exacerbating those feelings of isolation, Cruz said.

Bluegrass Country, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Census surveys also found higher rates of depression and anxiety among those who have lost jobs during the pandemic. Young adults in the service sector have been hit particularly hard by the wide-scale economic shutdowns. In July, the unemployment rate among U.S. workers ages 20 to 24 was 18 percent compared with 9 percent among workers 25 to 54, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Others noted that many other young adults who would normally be immersed in college life are stuck on the couch in their parents’ home staring at a professor online with little social interaction and no paid work after class.

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Californians with lower incomes also reported higher levels of anxiety or depression. About 72 percent of California respondents with household incomes below $35,000 reported “little interest or pleasure in doing things” for at least several of the previous seven days, according to an average of survey results from July 2 through July 21. These increasing rates of depression and anxiety could outlast the pandemic itself, particularly if the economy lapses into a prolonged recession.

Worth Pondering…

I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.

—Martha Washington

Get Outside and Enjoy Nature

Finding joy in the outdoors

The world was flipped upside-down when COVID-19 spread to the US and Canada affecting each aspect of human life and social interaction. As humans we have a weapon to fight against the negative effects that come with social isolation—the great outdoors.

Cades Cove, Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many cities across the country issued shelter-in-place orders, directing individuals to stay home to decrease the spread of the coronavirus. The resulting loneliness often led to higher stress levels, increased depression, impaired immunity, or other negative health impacts.

As days go by without social relationships, our mental and physical health is at risk. These ill effects can counter by spending time in the outdoors.

Trapp Family Lodge near Stowe, Vermont © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In a study conducted by the University of Exeter in England, researchers found that people who spent more time outdoors were less likely to feel anxiety or depression. Another study found that exposure to sun rays was associated with lower blood pressure. People who feel more connected to nature tend to feel more life satisfaction, vitality, and general happiness.

Forest bathing, or nature therapy, has become a popular technique to promote the health benefits of being outside. Exposure to green space has been proven to induce relaxation.

Brasstown Bald Scenic Byway, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Since COVID hit, people have been taking the opportunity to explore the outdoors more. A survey conducted by Civic Science found that 43 percent of Americans 13 years or older said they have participated in more outdoor activities because of social distancing rules.

Shenandoah River State Park, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

So what can you do during this time to combat the stress and fatigue that follows social isolation? Go outside! Go on a scenic drive! Go to a state park! Go for a hike! And find the peace that nature provides!

As the weather cools get outside and soak up the beautiful sights and sounds of the autumn season. The yearly spectacle of fall puts changing leaves at the forefront of our imagination but you don’t have to imagine the beauty.

Valley of the Gods, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Here are several great suggestions for fall trips to help you get the most out of this amazing time of year in America’s most beautiful places. So, come along and find out what to do and where to go this fall. Step out of summer and into an autumn adventure. And snap some photos while you do!

Roaring Fork Nature Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee

This 522,427-acre park straddling the border between North Carolina and Tennessee comes alive with red, yellow, and orange from mid-September to early November thanks to a collection of 100 tree species, most of them deciduous. The best way to view the likes of flaming cove and northern hardwood, maple, and beech trees is via a scenic drive along the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail or Cades Cove or a hike along area trails such as the Appalachian Trail or Oconaluftee River Trail.

Cold Hollow Cider Mill, Vermont

Vermont

The state’s loveliest drive might just be its largest highway, Route 100—a 200-mile-plus thoroughfare that vertically dissects the state from Massachusetts to Canada. In fact, nature photographers from all over the country hit the highway for guaranteed peak foliage photography. But the main event comes when you turn off Route 100 onto the Green Mountain Byway which takes you from Waterbury to Stowe. This means leaf-watching against a backdrop of bucolic mountains and farmland, cider donuts from Cold Hollow Cider Mill, and a detour into the Ben and Jerry’s Factory (for pickup orders only).

Brasstown Bald, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway, Georgia

Surrounded by the beauty of the Chattahoochee National Forest, the Russell-Brasstown Scenic Byway runs 40 miles from Blairsville to Brasstown Bald, the state’s highest peak, and access points along the Appalachian Trail. This national byway winds through the valleys and mountain gaps of the southern Appalachians. From the vistas atop Brasstown Bald to the cooling mists of waterfalls, scenic wonders fill this region. Hike the Appalachian Trail or fish in a cool mountain stream. Enjoy spectacular views of the mountains and piedmont. Several scenic overlooks and interpretive signs are features of this route.

Shenandoah River State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah River State Park, Virginia

Just 15 minutes from the town of Front Royal, Virginia awaits a state park that can only be described as lovely. This park is on the South Fork of the Shenandoah River and has more than 1,600 acres along 5.2 miles of shoreline. In addition to the meandering river frontage, the park offers scenic views of Massanutten Mountains to the west and Shenandoah National Park to the east. A large riverside picnic area, picnic shelters, trails, and river access make this a popular destination for families, anglers, and canoeists. Ten riverfront tent campsites, a campground with water and electric sites, cabins, camping cabins, and a group campground are available. With more than 24 miles of trails, the park has plenty of options for hiking, biking, horseback riding, and adventure.

Valley of the Gods, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Valley of the Gods, Utah

Often described as a ‘miniature’ version of Monument Valley, Valley of the Gods is arguably, equally spectacular. What Valley of the Gods may lack when it comes to the size and volume of its free-standing monoliths, spires, and fins, it makes up for with solitude. It would be a rare occurrence to pass through Monument Valley without seeing another visitor but at Valley of the Gods you’re likely to have the whole place to yourself to explore and enjoy. Take in a scenic hike or stop for a picnic in the crisp fall air.

Avery Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Avery Island, Louisiana

Lush subtropical flora and venerable live oaks draped with Spanish moss cover this geological oddity which is one of five “islands” rising above south Louisiana’s flat coastal marshes. The island occupies roughly 2,200 acres and sits atop a deposit of solid rock salt thought to be deeper than Mount Everest is high. Geologists believe this deposit is the remnant of a buried ancient seabed, pushed to the surface by the sheer weight of surrounding alluvial sediments. Today, Avery Island remains the home of the TABASCO brand pepper sauce factory as well as Jungle Gardens and its Bird City wildfowl refuge. The Tabasco factory and the gardens are open for tours.

Jungle Gardens, Avery Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

It’s a beautiful day for it.

—Wilbur Cross

Wildness is a Necessity: Interest in Camping Is at an All-Time High Following COVID-19 Outbreak

Now, more than ever before, it is evident that the outdoors is vital to our wellbeing.

The international ripple of COVID-19 has dealt a crippling hand to select businesses and industries. And yet, unfamiliar circumstances have simultaneously provided others unparalleled profitability—and not just those in the toilet paper or hand sanitizer industries.

Meaher State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sales of bicycles, for example, have spiked so significantly in the U.S. that the nation is now facing a shortage—especially on low-end models—as overworked suppliers struggle to keep up with the never-before-seen demand.

Along the Colorado River, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Similarly, public interest in camping has increased exponentially in the months since the nation first locked its doors. A dread of at-home confinement has led to the American public turning its eyes toward the outdoors, according to recent data.

Along the Mississippi River, Arkansas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some families have spent decades loading up the camper and heading to the lakes and forests for a week or two of relaxation. But thanks to a drastic change in travel habits, some folks are now getting that first camper and discovering state parks. It’s the kind of family getaway that’s been around for a long time, hitching up the camper, or loading the motorhome, or packing a tent and heading to a state park. Those campsites are tucked away in piney hills, laid out along clear-water lakes or streams, or nestled among the oak trees in a mountain hideaway.

Parker Canyon Lake, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The renowned naturalist John Muir wrote that “thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”

The world has changed immensely since he wrote this in 1901. People, now more than ever, seek the benefits of nature.

Pinnacles National Park,California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Safe Ways to Recreate Outside This Summer

Now, more than ever before, it is evident that the outdoors is vital to our wellbeing.

Laura S. Walker State Park, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As states and local communities continue to manage the COVID-19 pandemic, guidelines about what activities are safest and where people should visit continue to evolve. Many are seeking opportunities for outdoor recreation, including visits to the nation’s public lands, waterways, and public spaces like parks and trails.

Artisan Village, Berea, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With the summer season in full swing, the Recreate Responsibly Coalition released an update to its tips, initially released in May, for safely recreating outdoors. The coalition first came together two months ago as a group of two dozen organizations based in Washington State. Since then, the group has grown into a diverse, nationwide community of over 500 businesses, government agencies, nonprofits, outdoor media, and influencers. The coalition’s common ground is a shared love of the outdoors, a desire to help everyone experience the benefits of nature, and a belief that by sharing best practices, people can get outside safely and help keep our parks, trails, and public lands open.

Along the Tech at St. Martinsville, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The overall #RecreateResponsibly message remains simple: We all have a role to play in keeping people, places, and communities safe as we enjoy the outdoors this summer and beyond. 

The latest #RecreateResponsibly guidelines are:

  • Know Before You Go—Check the status of the place you want to visit. If it is closed, don’t go. If it’s crowded, have a backup plan.
  • Plan Ahead—Prepare for facilities to be closed, pack lunch, and bring essentials like hand sanitizer.
  • Explore Locally—Limit long-distance travel and make use of local parks, trails, and public spaces. Be mindful of your impact on the communities you visit.
  • Practice Physical Distancing—Keep your group size small. Be prepared to cover your nose and mouth and give others space. If you are sick, stay home.
  • Play It Safe—Slow down and choose lower-risk activities to reduce your risk of injury. Search and rescue operations and health care resources are both strained.
  • Leave No Trace—Respect public lands and waters, as well as Native and local communities. Take all your garbage with you.
Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Wilderness needs no defense, only more defenders.

—Edward Abbey

How Will People Travel After the Coronavirus?

With people still concerned about COVID-19, social distancing away from home can be easier in an RV

With travel restrictions loosening all around the country, where and how will vacationers get out and go? Many will get behind the wheel.

COVID-19 has left most travel industries like airlines, hotels, resorts, and cruise lines struggling for business. International travel is essentially dead on arrival now with numerous countries in Europe alone requiring or planning to require travelers to quarantine for 14 days after they arrive. Setting your sights on a tropical isle isn’t a good idea either.

Camping at Goose Island State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But one is doing surprisingly well, the RV industry. We’re going to take a lot of road trips. Some one-tank trips where we can go just for the day and come back, not even do an overnight. Cooped-up Americans and Canadians desperate to get out after months of lockdowns are dreaming of doing something—anything—that resembles a vacation.

Camping at Edisto Island State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many are ready to get back to normal and travel. AAA predicts more Americans will hit the highway instead of the skies this year. A recent study by the U.S. Travel Association found 68 percent of people feel safe traveling in their own car but only 18 percent feel safe taking a flight to somewhere in the U.S. It’s good news for the RV industry.

Freightliner Custom Chassis Service Center, Gaffney, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to recent Ipsos research examining consumer interest and planned actions on travel choices in light of the COVID-19 crisis, 46 million Americans plan to take an RV trip in the next 12 months. This positive news for RV manufacturers, dealers, and campgrounds reinforces what dealers are already seeing at the retail level.

Two Rivers Landing RV Resort, Sevierville, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV dealerships are seeing a surge in sales and campgrounds are seeing an increased number of reservations as people plan for summer vacation during the pandemic. The attraction to recreational vehicles is that no one’s slept in that bed except you, you’re using your own private bathroom, and you can still be outdoors. It’s hard for a virus to jump across a campfire.

The Old Bag Factory, Goshen, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With an RV you really know what you have. You can clean it to your personal standard and let the people of your choosing share the space with you. You have a lot more control and yet you still can be outside enjoying nature.

For decades, sales of motorhomes and travel trailers were a reliable indicator of the beginning—and end—of a recession. Sales would dip as a downturn approached and rise ahead of a recovery. But this time, it’s different: sales are rising as America enters its worst contraction since the Great Depression.

Historic Adairsville, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most sales have been reflective of the desire to wring as much recreation out of a socially distanced summer as possible. While more than one in five workers has filed for unemployment, some people are shelling out upward of $100,000 so they can hit the road while staying away from everyone else. Social distancing is a lot easier when you can bring along your own kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom.

Along Bush Highway, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to providing a personal space that allows people to maintain social distance in a safe manner, the RV life also allows people to connect with loved-ones, provides the ability to get away for short, frequent breaks or longer adventures, and helps people reconnect to nature or explore some of the many attractions that are often just a drive away. That’s what RVing is all about. It’s a lifestyle that you never can get going to a hotel or resort as far as camaraderie with other people and that sort of thing.

Arizona Oases RV Park, Ehrenberg, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And social distancing away from home for families can be easier in an RV.

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The U.S. has about 13,000 private RV parks and an estimated 1.23 million individual campsites according to estimates from the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (and that doesn’t include campsites in state and national parks). Prior to the pandemic, it was estimated that 60,000 new camping spots would become available.

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

It’s not just purchases that are climbing according to Jen Young, co-founder of Outdoorsy which matches 40,000 RV owners with people who want to rent. Though bookings fell during the early stages of the pandemic, they have since skyrocketed.  Outdoorsy rival RVshare also reported a surge in reservations.

The Lakes Golf and RV Resort, Chowchilla, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

People say “‘I won’t visit any place where a lot of people will go,’ so that pretty much (cancels) out all the big city centers and air travel,” she said. “There’s just so much more flexibility in recreation vehicle travel.”

Worth Pondering…

Our nature lies in movement; complete calm is death.

—Blaise Pascal

COVID-19 Road Trip: Best Places for RV Travel this June

Like a bear emerging from hibernation, many of us are taking our first steps outside for the first time in weeks, eager to shed our quarantine garb, pack the RV, and travel again.

June takes its name from Roman origins. Juno, the wife of Jupiter, is the ancient Roman goddess that reigns over marriage and childbirth which may explain why June is such a popular wedding month.

Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The summer season officially arrives and the sun is out longer than ever––providing hours of daylight for exploring a new area. To visit a destination in June is (often) to see it at its joyful best. If you’re looking for a destination worthy of your June vacation days consider places with generally good weather this month.

Frankfort, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

By now, it’s clear that the road trip will be the most popular form of travel this summer. Though it is not without risks, it has the potential to be one of the safest forms of travel in the current COVID-19 era especially if you target wilderness areas, camp, and keep to yourself as much as possible. So, where should road trippers look to explore? Here are a few ideas.

Kentucky

Bourbon Country © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Yeah, the bourbon and fried chicken in Kentucky are superb but so is the adventure. Kentucky has a unique geography that has turned the state into a honeycomb of caves and rock formations. It is home to Mammoth Cave National Park, the world’s largest known cave system.

My Old Kentucky Home © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you prefer sunlight, there’s Red River Gorge Geological Area which has the most sandstone arches outside of Arches National Park not to mention hundreds of sport-climbing routes. In between these two superlatives, you have 49 state parks including My Old Kentucky Home, massive lakes, and, yeah, really great bourbon and fried chicken.

Utah

Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With five national parks and an uncountable amount of nooks and crannies, Utah is one of the best states in the country for a road trip. That said, considering that the State’s national parks suffer from overcrowding when they are fully operational, don’t expect complete solace or unlimited availability when they are only partially open (especially Zion, Arches, and Bryce Canyon). As an alternative, head to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument or Glen Canyon Recreation Area where you will find it easy to disappear (in a good way).

Texas

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re looking for open space, Texas might have more than anyone. Keep an eye on the reopening status at Big Bend National Park. Normally, it’s one of the most out of the way national parks but maybe time is now not as much of an issue as it usually is.

Big Thicket National Preserve © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Otherwise, consider heading to the southeast part of the state towards the Louisiana border where four national forests—Sam Houston, Davy Crockett, Angelina, and Sabine—hide between Shreveport and Houston.

North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Young Theodore Roosevelt had the world to choose from. Where did he come to satiate his yen for wild open spaces? North Dakota. The state’s badlands, wooded valleys, mighty rivers (featuring the Missouri and the Little Missouri), and rolling hills are the perfect backdrop for “the strenuous life” that T.R. endorsed. Whether that manifests as an epic bike ride on one of America’s finest off-road trails or a session of walleye fishing in a quiet lake is, of course, up to you.

New Mexico

El Malpais National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s been a long time since Breaking Bad, but it’s time to get reacquainted with New Mexico. On a normal road trip combining Carson National Forest with a couple nights in Santa Fe would be an ideal pairing. But for these times I suggest something more remote, perhaps the sandstone cliffs of El Malpais National Monument or the unexpected, rugged mountain terrain of Lincoln National Forest. Perhaps no road trip to New Mexico should skip some time spent in Gila National Forest which covers much of the landscape in the southwest and leads into Arizona.

Arizona

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (Lake Powell) © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona’s favorite tourist hot spots are trickling back to life with safety protocols in place as the state’s economy continues its reopening this month. The Grand Canyon seems poised to continue its gradual reopening which will no doubt draw many road warriors to Arizona. Nearby Lake Powell will also be a big draw in the next few months and between the two there’s plenty of room to find your own space via hiking, biking, and boating. Check out the two million acres of forest within the boundaries of Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, the red rock formations of Coconino National Forest, or the big, desert cacti of Tonto National Forest.

Red Rock State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Planning an RV trip for a different time of year? Check out our monthly travel recommendations for the best places to travel in March, April, and May. Also check out our recommendations from June 2019.

Worth Pondering…

I wonder what it would be like to live in a world where it was always June.
—L.M. Montgomery

What Will Travel Be Like This Summer?

Like a bear emerging from hibernation, many of us are taking our first steps outside for the first time in weeks, eager to shed our quarantine garb and travel again

Will this be a normal summer? Definitely not! The #stayhome brigades are shaming travelers but summer travel may be what the country needs. With the traditional start of the summer travel season—Memorial Day weekend—behind us, what can we expect from the travel industry?

La Connor, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you choose to travel by air, expect higher fares and new procedures at the airport before you even board your flight. More than 6,100 planes are currently parked on runways from coast to coast. Many of those planes will not be returning.

Montpelier, Vermont © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travelers should be prepared for something new at the airport: Temperature checks for every departing passenger in hopes of preventing those with COVID-19 from boarding. What’s still being decided is whether the TSA or individual airlines will conduct the checks. Either way, expect to be charged an extra fee to pay for them.

Gloucester, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s also a logistical problem that will need to be addressed. If you’re going to practice social distancing, and everybody has to get their temperature taken, there are some airports that are worried that the lines might stretch more than a mile.

Upper Colorado Scenic Byway, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The warm greeting you’re used to receiving when you arrive at a hotel will likely be out the window. The idea of having contact with a bellman, or room service, or any other human being is getting withdrawn. Expect the check-in process to be done online. Some hotels already allow you to unlock your door with your phone.

Luling, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For the hotels to create an image in which you feel safe and secure, they’ve put the word hospital back in hospitality. For instance, Hilton Hotels have partnered with the Mayo Clinic to create a branded cleaning process for its rooms. When it comes to housekeeping, staff will not enter your room unless you make a request. Hotels still offering room service will leave your meal outside your door for you to bring inside.

Gaffney, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many things you’re used to finding in a hotel room will likely disappear. Pens, paper, magazines, that extra pillow that used to be in the closet, coat hangers—kiss them goodbye. Necessary items such as the TV remote, the telephone handset, and water glasses will likely be enclosed in some kind of wrapping with a seal.

Applegate River Valley, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s hard to forget the awful stories of cruises wrecked by the coronavirus earlier this year including that of the Diamond Princess which was quarantined for two weeks in a harbor in Japan. The cruise lines have a very steep hill to climb based just on optics and public perception. They have a problem because a lot of folks think of a cruise ship as nothing more than a floating petri dish.

Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A no-sail order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expires at the end of June but cruise lines are required to submit a detailed anti-coronavirus plan to the CDC for approval to sail again. Few cruises—if any—will likely happen during the remainder of this year but expect a turnaround next year as people who love cruises are very loyal.

Woodstock, New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cruise ships which emphasize loads of shared experiences need to make major changes. Expect to see them change with limits of people in the pools and the Jacuzzis and a buffet in which you will never go near the food. You will point to what you want, and a uniformed staff member will plate it for you. Prices may not increase initially because the focus will be on getting passengers to return. But eventually, prices will likely rise.

Waterboro, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meanwhile, demand for recreational vehicles, whether to buy or rent, will go through the roof. Families will want to travel together and an RV gives them the opportunity to be in their own self-contained quarantine-mobile, if you will, to rediscover their own country.

Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many families will stock up on groceries ahead of their RV trips so they don’t have to stop at any restaurants along the way. Camping will be big at the national and state park level. State parks will be rediscovered because the national parks will be full. You can count on that.

Custer State Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wherever you live you have many options. Take a look at the map and consider a 3- or 400-mile radius from where you live. You will be surprised at what’s available that’s not crowded and will offer a wonderful travel experience at an affordable cost.

Medora, North Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Aim for a small town that doesn’t have big high-rise hotels, theme parks, or a crowded beach. Social distancing is almost the definition of a small town anyway. You’ll learn about American history, you can go antiquing, and you’ll have a better chance of having a better experience within the boundaries of what’s acceptable social distancing.

Midway, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

There is nothing permanent except change.

—Heraclitus, ancient Greek philosopher 

Quarantine on Wheels: Families Turn to RVs to Save Their Summer Travel Plans

The summer getaway theme of 2020 is staying safe, healthy, and in control

It’s become clear that far-flung international travel isn’t going to be as common as it once was for quite some time. Four-hour wait times to get on a plane will be the norm with as much as twice that to get out of the airport when you arrive. That’s before you take into account that most international travel will require 14-day quarantine on arrival and once you return home or consider which borders will to be open to tourists from our continent. (For example, it’s looking more and more like Europe will only allow internal tourism for the rest of the year.)

Katy Lake RV Resort, Katy, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With international travel pretty much off the books for the rest of 2020, it’s time to look to the highways and byways of the good ol’ US of A to get your travel fix (assuming you’re lucky enough to get a couple weeks of vacation this year and feel able to afford it). That means the Great American Road Trip is back in a big way. A chance to see the ever-changing nation in a time of massive upheaval, use your tourist dollars to support struggling communities, and get a little elbow room as quarantine winds down. A chance to stay socially distanced without going stir-crazy.

Along Newfound Gap Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to a recent GasBuddy survey 36 percent of respondents are canceling trips that require flying and 24 percent plan to make shorter trips by distance. 31 percent are planning to take a road trip. Not to mention, gas prices are the cheapest they’ve been in almost 20 years, AAA says.  

Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s not a surprise that summer vacation will look at lot different this year but perhaps what no one saw coming was the rise of RV travel. A recent survey of 4,000 U.S. and Canadian residents by KOA showed the pandemic sparking interest in camping especially among first-timers and younger generations. 

Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Once it is safe to travel, it’s likely the camping market will get a greater share of leisure travelers’ trips in 2020,” reads the May 11 report measuring the effects of COVID-19 on the campground industry. (The study showed camping drawing 16 percent of leisure travelers for the rest of 2020, up from 11 percent before the pandemic.)

Monahans Sandhills State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In March, as RV buyers evaporated and manufacturing plants—mostly in northeastern Indiana—closed, the RV industry pivoted toward crisis management. Dealers and manufacturers sent vehicles across the country for use as isolation units, housing for critical health care workers, command centers, and mobile testing labs. 

Along Highway 12 Scenic Byway, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

California ordered 1,309 to house the sick should hospitals be overwhelmed. Louisiana state police ordered nearly 100 for command posts. A dealer in Texas sent RVs across the state to municipalities. Florida health officials retrofitted RVs as rolling testing labs. 

Bird Island Basin Campground, Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 418 businesses that make up the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association pushed federal and state lawmakers to keep RV manufacturers and dealers open as essential businesses to meet this new demand. 

The generally accepted plan for reviving the country’s tourism industry starts with people traveling closer to home. It’s not likely vacationers will be jumping in planes anytime soon, so the RV industry is hoping more people start looking at self-contained motorhomes and trailers as a way to vacation while distancing and controlling their own environments. 

Wind Creek Casino RV Park, Atmore, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV production was strong in January and February with shipments pacing ahead of 2019. Even after the collapse in mid-March, the RV association reported a slight increase in shipments for the first three months of 2020 over last year. After a dormant April, the industry is seeing a revival in May, driven in large part by a surge in demand for RV rentals.

Capitol City RV Park, Montgomery, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 3,000-plus members of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds in recent years have seen a majority of their RV visitors traveling within 150 miles of their homes. This most certainly will be the case going forward in the age of COVID-19.

Tom Sawyer RV Park, West Memphis, Arkansas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The association’s latest survey of private campground owners estimates there are more than 1.2 million private campsites across the country and owners plan to add more than 60,000 this year. Private campground owners are preparing for wary visitors by scripting specific plans for cleaning, disinfecting, and maintaining distancing. Most communal facilities including pools, gyms, and game rooms remain closed.

The MotorCoach Resort, Chandler, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As restrictions begin to ease we will see people get outside, stay closer to home, and be as safe as possible. The RV is a self-contained way for them to do that.

It’s like everyone was in a holding pen and as things begin to open up, there is a definite and growing demand for RVs and RV travel.

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

Happy (and safe) adventuring!

Worth Pondering…

Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course, of action and follow it to an end requires courage.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

National Parks Are Slowly Reopening. Here’s The Status Of Our Favorites.

America’s greatest outdoor treasures are slowly starting to reopen

When COVID-19 took hold of the world the closures came fast. But the idea of a global pandemic shutting down America’s biggest, often extremely isolated natural spaces seemed unfathomable. It turned out that when the world’s health was at risk even Smoky the Bear had to do his part to flatten the curve. 

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Now, as the Memorial Day weekend kicks off a summer that will almost certainly be full of scenic drives, some national parks are slowly reopening their gates following months of closure. To help you track what’s open, we’re keeping tabs on our favorite national parks. We’ll keep you posted on what’s open (hint: not many), what services are available (if amenities are marked “limited,” chances are it has toilet facilities but no visitors center), and what you’re allowed to do once inside the park. And, in most cases you can drive the scenic roads and hike the trails. But we’ll take what we can get!

Hopefully, this list will change quickly as more and more of these national treasures open up to responsible, respectful, and safe use. The list is current as of the Memorial Day weekend. We’ll be updating as things progress. 

Arches National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arches National Park, Utah
Status: Closed. For the moment, the closest you can get to Balanced Rock, Devil’s Garden, and the other glorious spires is via Google Earth. Phased re-opening begins May 29.

Badlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Limited. The visitor centers, entrance fee stations, and South Unit of the park are currently closed. But other than that, this SoDak icon and its rugged geologic beauty is mostly open for business as usual.

Big Bend National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Big Bend National Park, Texas
Status: Closed. This hiker and kayaker paradise along the Rio Grande is hoping to begin phased reopening in June, so chances are you’ll be able to explore its waters right around the time temps hit 300 degrees in the Lone Star State.

Bryce Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: Limited. While visitor center occupancy is limited and overnight stays are prohibited, the main park road and all viewpoints to Rainbow Point are open. The majority of trails (other than backcountry) remain open as well, so consider yourself lucky if you’re anywhere near this Utah showstopper. Plan your sunrise around it.

Canyonlands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Canyonlands National Park, Utah
Status: Closed. Phased reopening of this oft-overlooked Utah gem (the least visited of Utah’s famous “big five” parks) starts May 29. Social distancing is a breeze in this park where the ravens outnumber the humans on any given day.

Capitol Reef National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Capitol Reef National Park, Utah
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: No. This International Dark Sky Park combines the best of Utah’s more famous national parks into one lesser-visited package of surprises. While Scenic Drive, the visitor’s center, and most campgrounds are closed, you can still pitch a tent at Cedar Mesa and Cathedral Valley campgrounds.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: No. Public trails, picnic areas, and roads are open across the park. Still, this isn’t called Carlsbad Picnic Area, so it’s probably not worth a journey just yet unless it’s close enough to justify a day trip.

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Congaree National Park, South Carolina
Status: Closed. The nation’s oldest hardwood bottomland didn’t keep its 500-year-old cypress trees alive through multiple plagues, yellow fever, and the Twilight Zone by taking chances. It remains closed until further notice.

Grand Canyon National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: Limited. The Grand Canyon has begun extremely limited access. You can enter the south rim viewpoints between 6-10 a.m. for now and go as far as Pipe Creek Vista, Twin Overlooks, Duck on a Rock, Thor’s Hammer, No Name Point, and Navajo Point. The rest of the Canyon is closed. Ditto for visitor centers. 

Great Smoky Mountains National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina, Tennessee
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: Limited. The nation’s most popular park (on a technicality, but whatever) allows access to most of its sprawling trails though this has always been a park most utilized as a scenic drive, so go forth, but keep an eye on their site for any changes. 

Joshua Tree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Joshua Tree National Park, California
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: Limited. Now back in the business of helping claustrophobic Californians “find themselves” after a painful couple months, this gloriously trippy desert playground has opened up its trails, roads, bathrooms, and individual “family” campsites, which in California parlance ranges from actual family units to cults. 

Lassen Volcanic National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
Status: Closed. When California emerges from quarantine, make a point to discover this remarkable national park in Northern California’s Shasta Cascades which is rich in rugged wilderness and rare geothermal delights.

Mesa Verde National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
Status: Closed. With more than 5,000 sites including its famous ancient cliff dwellings such as Cliff Palace, America’s largest archeological preserve has been around since 7,500 BC. So it can wait out COVID-19.

Petrified Forest National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona
Status: Closed. Travelers along Route 66 (or Interstate 40) would be wise to pull over at this stunning park that suddenly pops up along both sides of the highway in eastern Arizona. Until the park reopens, however, it’s just more roadside oddities and vintage motel signs for Mother Road enthusiasts.

Pinnacles National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pinnacles National Park, California
Status: Open
Camping: Yes
Amenities: No. This Central California park is one of the lesser-known National Park Service destinations possibly due to the fact that it’s often 100-plus degrees and half of it is in an eroded-out, extinct volcano. Right now, day use passes are a no-no and the park’s largely open only to people helping in protection efforts. Still, the campgrounds are open to people with reservations. So if you scored one a while ago, you kind of have the run of the park. Just, you know, bring a ton of water.

Saguaro National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Saguaro National Park, Arizona
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: Limited. Located on either side of Tucson, this cacti-laden gem has opened all roads and trails though groups are limited to 10. Visitor centers and restrooms remain closed.

Sequoia National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Sequoia National Park, California
Status: Closed. Like its neighbor Kings Canyon, the densely forested Sequoia is closed until at least May 25. Highway 180 which runs through it is open for through traffic to private property.

Shenandoah National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Status: Closed. Renowned for its fabled Skyline Drive, this national treasure encompassing part of the Blue Ridge Mountains is working on a phased reopening. It makes wonder how you open the Skyline Drive in stages.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: No. Look, it’s not like they named this ultra-underrated park—where the prairies and the Badlands converge where Buffalo roam and the sky’s one big panoramic light show—James Buchanan National Park. It’s named after Theodore Roosevelt. Of course it’s open.

White Sands National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

White Sands National Park, New Mexico
Status: Closed. America’s newest national park didn’t pick a great time for its coming out party. Transitioning from a national monument to a national park in the final days of 2019, the park was forced to shut down just a few weeks later. Thanks a lot COVID: you’re a real jerk.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Zion National Park, Utah
Status: Open
Camping: No
Amenities: No. One of America’s most beloved parks has just started to reopen in recent days with the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive and many park trails currently open (with Zion’s often-packed shuttles mercifully suspended.)

Worth Pondering…

One of my favorite things about America is our breathtaking collection of national and state parks, many of which boast wonders the Psalmist would envy.

—Eric Metaxas

Will It Be Safe to Travel This Summer? Consider Your Options

People are turning to RVs to save their summer travel plans from coronavirus

Most of us have been social distancing for weeks if not months now and between coronavirus anxiety and the weather getting warmer, a getaway sounds pretty nice right about now. Dirt-cheap flights and discounted hotel deals are even more tempting when you add a little cabin fever to the mix.

Saguaro Lake, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But should you really book a summer vacation now? Whether you’ve already booked a trip or are itching to take a vacation as soon as possible, this post will answer your questions when it comes to traveling this summer, from safety measures and travel restrictions to creative alternatives.

Old Town Temecula, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When will we be able to travel? Because the situation changes every day, it’s hard to give an exact date. But right now, many countries are still experiencing severe coronavirus outbreaks and have extended their mandatory quarantines and border closures. To get a better feel for summer travel and where and when you can go, it’s best to continue checking every day as the situation develops.

Jekyll Island, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s important to take your departing location and your destination into consideration. For example, if you live in an area where things are improving but want to travel to an area where they’re not, you should consider pushing back your travel dates or changing your destination.

Yuko-En Japanese Friendship Garden, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) placed a No Sail Order on cruise ships until the end of July but could be extended even later. Given the nature of cruises—living in close quarters with thousands of people, eating buffet-style food, and not having access to major healthcare facilities, it’s safer for everyone to avoid being out at sea for the foreseeable future.

Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Park, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This summer will be the summer of ground transportation. Both Amtrak and Greyhound are still operating and requiring employees and passengers to wear masks, providing extra sanitation methods, using a digital ticketing process, and waiving all change fees. To ensure social distancing on board, Amtrak has reduced its sales to 50 percent of its normal capacity and Greyhound is said to be operating at just 35 percent of capacity. However, workers and passengers on both train and bus companies have contracted coronavirus despite these efforts.

Hyannis Harbor, Cape Cod, Massachusetts © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Few things having to do with travel will be unchanged in the post-coronavirus world but of all the ways we travel the road trip will be least affected—at least from a regulatory standpoint.

Roosevelt State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No one will tell you to wear a mask or take your temperature or demand blood work before you hit the road this summer. But questions abound about this American institution including whether it’s safe—at least safer than airline travel.

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Data from MMGY Travel Intelligence in partnership with the U.S. Travel Association seems to bear this out. In a survey taken April 17-22, 47 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to travel by car, an increase from 35 percent in data collected April 4-11.

El Moro National Monument, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For all travelers, safety is a priority and many are asking whether driving is safer than flying these days. In terms of the coronavirus, probably, said Dr. Robert Winters, a Southern California infectious disease specialist.

“Car travel has to be safer than airline travel when you factor in controlled boarding/exiting processes, number of people on the airplane, unknown health status of people on the flight, uncooperative children sitting near you, etc.”

Champlain Canal, New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Paula Cannon, virologist and USC professor at the Keck School of Medicine, said that “being alone in your own car is going to be the safest way of travel.” Road trips not only provide a safe way of transportation, but allow you to choose a safer, less common destination. It’s also an inexpensive option, as gas prices are the lowest they’ve been in years. The national average has stayed under $2 per gallon during the pandemic (in some states, under 99 cents a gallon!) and is predicted to stay cheap over summer.

Welcome to what could be the year of the recreational vehicle, more commonly known as the beloved RV.

Ohio River at Marieta, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With experts predicting that any return to travel will likely start with short, domestic trips, the RV could become the go-to vehicle for travel this summer. Though the outlook for RV sales entering the year was grim—504,000 RVs were sold in 2017 and that number slipped to 364,000 last year—many dealers across the country are reporting an unexpected uptick in sales.

Cowpens National Battlefield, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As so many try to keep their distance and avoid crowds during the coronavirus pandemic, peer-to-peer RV rental company RVshare said last week bookings had increased 650 percent. The spread of COVID-19 has made air travel and public transportation mighty unpopular options while personal vehicles feel like more of a safe haven. Other recent studies have shown travelers feel more comfortable in a personal vehicle where they can control the scenario, unlike shared transportation.

Kerrville, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Americans and Canadians love the space and freedom of the outdoors and the enrichment that comes with living an active outdoor life. RVs not only enable this lifestyle, they also provide a self-contained existence that other forms of travel don’t allow.

Mount St. Helen’s National Monument, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While we wait to see what the future holds, stay safe and take a road trip this summer. Who knows, it may turn into a bucket-list trip after all.

Worth Pondering…

I hear the highway calling. It’s time for a road trip.