For many #RVers, 2020 was a year we would like to forget. It was the year of COVID…tragedy for many…dislocation and disorientation for most.
As RVers, we felt unwanted in many states…treated like the worst of the homeless. That took some getting used to. But it was humbling. John and I own houses (five rental properties) yet we had nowhere to go, for we had sold our primary residence. Our RV WAS our home, as it is for many of you on the road.
So…where do you go? We were lucky to belong to SOWERS, a faith-based group of RVers who work all over the country to provide volunteer support (such as building renovation, construction, repairs, maintenance, sewing, cleaning, kitchen work, etc.) at Christian camps and schools. Thanks to SOWERS, we were able to hunker down at Aldersgate Christian Camp in Oregon for two months.
We haven’t caught COVID so far (thank you, God). The single biggest impact of the virus was the closure of the Canadian border which prevented us from heading to Alaska and Western Canada for six months.
And that led us to one of the busiest and most productive travel years ever. God closes one door and opens another. Our plans completely changed, and we were able to roll with it.
2020 made us reevaluate what is really important in life, and we made some changes…which we mention below (this is a combo post between John and I).
Our year started in Giddings, Texas and ended in Mandeville, LA, just 445 miles away. Boring, right? Well not quite. Somehow during the intervening 363 days we managed to:
Trade our almost new RAM 3500 and 45’ fifth wheel toy hauler for a 2007 40’ diesel pusher motorcoach and 2013 Honda CRV “toad” on Feb 1
Drive 13,912 miles in our RV
Take additional side trips accumulating 10,400 miles in our CRV
Travel through 29 states
Visit 14 National Parks – Joshua Tree, Death Valley, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Redwoods, Craters of the Moon, Mt. Ranier, North Cascades, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Mesa Verde, Great Sand Dunes, Badlands, Pictured Rocks Natl Lakeshore, and Great Smoky Mountains
Finish five 3-week mission projects (AZ, OR, OR, TN, FL) with Sowers. Five projects is quite a leap for us. We usually only do two or three a year. Once again, God has a plan and we were able to turn a disaster into something positive.
A few of the highlights included walking across the Mississippi River (at its headwaters in MN), exploring in virtual solitude the historical site of Appomattox Courthouse (VA) where the Civil War essentially ended with Lee’s surrender, catching our limit of Kokanee Salmon at Flaming Gorge reservoir (WY/UT), an amazing train ride on the small gauge Durango-Silverton Railroad, camping on the beach at Jalama Beach State Park in CA, and
capping the year off in Key West, FL to celebrate John's 70th birthday and Christmas. The three-hour Christmas Eve lunch at the Key West marina with John's niece, Jennifer, and her three grown kids was a special treat.
The following link maps our route for 2020 along with each campsite:
On a more somber note, John’s 78-year-old brother, Tom, died. The hardest part of his death was having to notify John’s 96-year-old mother, Ruth, who was isolated in a nursing home under COVID lockdown. They made an exception to allow John and I, and one of her grandkids, Leeanne, to see her in person—though socially distanced. It broke my heart that I wasn’t able to hug her. The loneliness and isolation felt by so many of our elderly parents is in many ways the most devastating part of the COVID pandemic.
At least the week-long stay in Memphis allowed us to reconnect with four of Tom’s kids (the fifth is stationed in Hawaii with the Navy and was unable to return). It has made us all a lot closer as we begin to comprehend the brevity of our time together here on earth.
The year also featured a family gathering with our kids, Caroline and Michael, and their spouses, Justin and Allison, for Thanksgiving in Eastern Tennessee, including visits to #Gatlinburg and #Dollywood. We were able to spend time with our best man, Ron Alexander (and Dana), in Oregon. We also managed to visit with a variety of friends from previous SOWER mission projects – Skip/Jan, Gary/Vicki, Don/Connie, and Perry/Toni.
Remember me mentioning twists in our plans?
The other big development occurred on Dec. 10 when we closed on a lot in #Tellico Village, TN, about 30 miles from Knoxville. We’re planning to build our next home there in the community of about 8,000 homes (John says it’s the “final” home, but God seems to laugh at our plans, so I’m not being that definite). T.V. has a beautiful lake, three golf courses, and nearly all of the amenities of our previous retirement target of The Villages, FL (now too big in our eyes at 130,000+ population).
Our new home will also put us closer to our children. Both are trying to give me grandchildren this year!!!! Since they got married within a year of each other, I expect them to be competitive about birthing babies. Maybe 2021 will bring me two new grandchildren to love.
Our house will be backed by a wilderness area, with another wilderness area across the street. We will live on a cul-de-sac with just two neighbors. It’s the closest I can get to camping in a state or national park and yet have a nearby grocery store and hospital.
Growth in Tellico Village is so explosive right now that the architect can’t start plans until June and the builder can’t start construction until Oct. 2021. Due to materials shortages/delays, they anticipate a finished home that we can move into around October 2022!
At that point, we anticipate “downsizing” our RV to a 24-28 foot Class C which would allow us to continue to participate in our SOWER mission projects as well as to complete our COVID-postponed six-month exploration of Alaska and the Western provinces and territories of Canada.
In the meantime, we have to fill the first nine months of 2021 before camping in East Tennessee to monitor our home construction. Here’s the current plan – five Sower projects:
Jan. and Feb. in Texas—we are on the Gulf, with our RV overlooking the water. We bought annual fishing licenses. Fishing is scheduled for this week. I hope I catch something. I’m dying to fry some fish.
March in Louisiana (at the camp I attended while growing up—so excited to be able to serve there and return some of the blessings I received as a child)
June in NY—Broadway here we come--if COVID allows.
August in Maine—can we say lobster? I also must go visit Thoreau’s Walden Pond while on the upper East Coast. It’s a major bucket list item.
And we will explore the Mid-Atlantic states (March/April), attend to repairs/maintenance on our Ohio rental properties (May), visit the Canadian Eastern and Maritime provinces (June/July), and enjoy New England (Aug/Sept). Then back to Tennessee for groundbreaking on our new home.
At that point, we will have camped in all 48 contiguous states and the eastern half of Canada.
We’ll take off 2022 to build and settle into our new home, then head out spring 2023 for Alaska, Western Canada, and more #SOWER projects.
We hope to see you along the way. If we’re going to be anywhere near you during this odyssey, we’ll certainly try to connect. We hope you are all well and your lives are beginning to return to normal.
God Bless you all,
John and Druann
For a look at our travels over the 3 years we’ve been on the road, try this link: