Summer 2020 COVID Escape Trip Summary

While not the 5 month Alaska adventure we had hoped for this summer, we had a great trip. And it was way better than staying home and being frustrated about everything being closed or cancelled.

We ended up driving 5200 miles, across parts of California, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, and Oregon. We stayed in the following places over a total of 72 nights:

  • National Forest free dispersed camping: 51
  • AirBNB: 8 (6 in ID, 2 in WA)
  • RV parks: 7
  • BLM dispersed camping / wide spot in road: 3
  • City Parks with free camping: 1
  • Public parking lots that allow overnight: 1
  • Truck Stops: 1

Our goal was to mostly avoid any town of more than 10,000 people, and stay in an RV park or AirBNB about every 10 days to do laundry and get a proper shower (rather than quick showers in back of the van or bathing in lakes / creeks). We mostly cooked all our own meals, but did eat at restaurants with outdoor seating about 10 times over the 10 week trip.

My favorite spot of the trip was the Sawtooth Wilderness near Stanley, ID. Some summer I’d love to go back there for a month. But everywhere we went was great.

If you are feeling cooped up from staying home due to COVID-19, I highly recommend buying or renting a camper van or small RV and hitting the road for a few weeks. There are tons of great free places to camp, and gas is cheap at the moment. If you are lucky you can buy a camper and sell it next year for about the same price you paid for it.

One of the most interesting aspects of traveling around this part of the country at the time was observing the huge differences in the response to COVID. Wyoming and South Dakota had few people wearing masks, and few signs asking people to wear them. Montana had signs on the door to every business declaring a mandate by the governor to wear a mask, but outside of Bozeman, many people ignored this. Idaho varied a lot from county to county, and several places were still holding outdoor events like rodeos and county fairs. Restaurants were open with reduced seating in Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, and Idaho. Washington was very strict, with no indoor dining anywhere. South Dakota was the most open, to the point of holding the Sturgis motorcycle rally, which around 440,000 people attended, and is being called a ‘super spreader’ event that is already linked to at least 1 COVID death as of Sept 1.

What next? We plan to avoid air travel until there is a vaccine that seems trustworthy and readily available. Will this happen in time for next summer? Who knows? We still want to go to Alaska, but maybe not until 2022?

In the meantime I’m going to go back to work at LBL for 10 hrs/week for 6 months. I figure working will help avoid the frustration of not being able to do the things I planned during retirement.

Here is a google map link to the full route.

Favorite photos from the entire trip will eventually be here.

full route

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Posted by travel_b1p6zj

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