Staying Safe on the Road, During a Pandemic

Photo taken by Annie Lindgren, Padre Island National Seashore

Annie Lindgren

I left for a desert county road trip, March 9, supplied with three week’s worth of provisions. I headed to Texas first, excited to see more of the terrain, culture, and history of this previously unexplored state. When I first arrived, I was dealing with campgrounds full due to spring break. When I left two weeks later, I was dealing with countywide lodging closures due to a lack of health infrastructure to handle a pandemic.

I consider myself an outdoor adventure junkie. I have been engaging in a variety of outdoor adventures since I was a kid. I grew up on the back of a horse, exploring midwestern woods and countryside, from my home state of Missouri. I moved to Colorado in 2007, following a near lifelong obsession with mountains. Here I fell in love with hiking, mountain climbing, and backpacking. My happy place is in the mountains, having everything I need in the pack on my back, disconnected from civilization. I began exploring the United States through road trips when I was 16, and I never stopped. In 2019 I spent 12 nonconsecutive weeks on the road, camping my way through previously unexplored territory. 

I drive a Subaru Outback, which is big enough for my Golden Retriever and me to sleep inside of, with plenty of space and amenities to suffice. It is reliable, safe, and has decent clearance for some off-roading. I have everything needed for minor repairs and survival, as well as comfort items that make traveling this way more enjoyable. A variety of methods for personal protection keep me safe, including a SPOT emergency beacon for communicating with contacts while out of cell range and notifying emergency services if needed. I have a dedicated check-in person, and others are keeping track of my whereabouts. I always have a way to tell someone where I am. 

The COVID-19 breakout has impacted my road trip in many ways. Places are closed that would normally be open. Resupply items are not always available. I have to be extra careful remembering to sanitize my hands and surfaces before and after leaving the vehicle or touching anything that may have germs on it. I see signs up everywhere about rules for how many people can be in a place at a time. Finding basic resources, like water, electricity, wifi, and a shower, are far more challenging with campgrounds closed. Rules constantly changing has led to daily needs for researching what is happening where I am heading, making sure I can find what I need there.

I am coping with all this by adapting. I no longer stay in campgrounds, and instead, stay on BLM land or National Forest land. I avoid getting hotel rooms, unless I have to, with longer spans between this need as I learn of other ways to get internet, electricity, and shower needs met. I am a writer and photographer working while on the road and need internet to update websites, social media, and send articles to the publisher. I take bucket and wet-wipe baths between showers. I rely on battery packs, diligently charged while on the road, to power my devices while off-grid. I keep at least 5 gallons of water, sometimes more, and I refuel at a half a tank. There is an element of survival in every day. 

I have a cooler that runs when the car is running and no way to keep perishable foods cold during prolonged layovers in a warm climate, limiting the amount of fresh food I can carry. I am stocked with plenty of food to sustain my vegan diet, but take vitamins to make up for what’s missing. I have had trouble finding the food I am looking for, with small-town stores or half-empty shelves, so I am just doing the best I can and feeling extra grateful when I find what I really wanted. I usually enjoy the local beer along my routes, but I have quit drinking, to avoid another stop in town, and to protect my immune system. I have not eaten out on this trip. 

I have a fantastic support network through my friends, family, and the Wellington community. I have received words of support and encouragement near and far. Through emails, messages, and phone calls, I stay connected and get my social needs met. I have interesting conversations with people I meet on the road, regarding the situations faced during this pandemic, resources available, and good places see. I am incredibly grateful for the companionship of my dog, with whom I share a steady supply of attention and love. 

Outdoor time and exercise opportunities are abundant, and social distancing is quite easy when in nature. I believe I am exactly where I am supposed to be, and that I have an opportunity to help bring beauty and interest into the lives of others who may want to be out adventuring but are not able to due to the circumstances. I have a unique perspective to share in all this, and I plan to continue, despite the challenges. 

North Forty News is sharing articles, blogs, and images from my trip, but if you want to be further connected, please visit my blog at SunshineInkLLC.com, or follow Sunshine Ink on Facebook or Instagram. 

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