Our pre-pandemic plans for 2020 were as follows: bounce around Florida during March and April visiting friends and family, then head west all the way to California, followed by a run up the coast to Whidbey Island, and finally complete our summer with an exploration of Western Canada. Sometime in September we would have begun our journey back east and south, reentering Florida in late October. Obviously, almost none of that is going to happen now, and our first glimpse of why would occur during the week of March 16-23.
That week saw total confirmed US cases of coronavirus rise above 30 thousand with the numbers accelerating, and this despite a limited testing regime. Total US deaths, a number which dramatically lags total cases, began their own exponential rise, breaking 500 that week, which sounds quaint as I write this, the death count having crossed the 50 thousand mark yesterday, just a month later.
Those numbers, along with the alarming statistics coming our of Italy, are some of the background facts that various government agencies and leaders, along with private enterprise, had to assess in deciding what to do about the whole mess. That assessment, and the choices they made, started to have an impact on us the morning we left Koreshan State Park. We checked with the rangers regarding rumors of total park closures we were hearing, and sure enough, they were just getting word that FL state park campgrounds would close down completely this week.
That was a big uh-oh for us, as our plans for the rest of the month and April included a lot of state parks. At that point we decided to continue with our plans for the week, but also reach out to family regarding our planned visits, and to other campgrounds so as not to end up homeless. That started with a stop in Port Charlotte to drop off our motorhome at Mr Mobile RV for some brake work and a few other punch list items. He was kind enough to let us leave our stone crab traps beside his building, freeing up room for us to pack up Loki to the gills and complete the drive to Gloria and Jerry’s in Venice.
During our three day stay there we would hear of a growing list of county parks that were also closing. We talked to Rose’ dad and stepmom, and given that their county was one of the most effected by the coronavirus, it might be advisable for us to not come there the next week. We agreed entirely, and a bit panicked, we decided to just head back to Key West and hunker down. We made a one month reservation, only to hear two days later that all new and existing reservations were cancelled unless you were already in the campground. Other military campgrounds in the state were already closed or in the process of doing so.
After three days in Venice we packed up and headed back to Port Charlotte, where we would spend the next four days in Mr Mobile RV’s parking lot, but hooked up to his power and water until he could get to our brake job. (When we dropped the rig off, his lot was absolutely packed with RVs, so we were not exactly at the front of the line.) While there we considered our options, with private RV parks about the only choice (though rumors were swirling that they might get caught up in government ordered closures as well.)
We contacted Periwinkle Park in Sanibel, one of our favorite places, and secured a full month there. Later in March Key West closed the military campground entirely, giving guests about three days to get out. Eventually, Key West city leadership closed the entire island to tourists.
My dad and stepmom were also in a pickle: they were in a state park that closed, basically kicking them out. They shifted to a county park which also closed, kicking them out. Like us they made the decision to secure a full month reservation at a private park in Central Florida. We were all relieved to hear that the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds had managed to get the governors of Florida, New York, California, and Pennsylvania to reverse course on pending orders to close private RV parks.
Whew! I mean, the decision to close any of the public or military parks is, in my mind, questionable. I think it comes from the common misconception that all these parks are filled with nothing but weekenders and short term vacationers. It would make sense to send them all home to isolate if that were the case, but many of us are long term RVers, and it would have made better sense to do the opposite: remove stay limits and let seasonal and full time RVers ride it out exactly where they currently were. Ah well.
Anyway, that was our confusing and stressful week. The day before our departure from Port Charlotte I consulted with Bill regarding my degrading 12 volt house system, and he agreed that my cheap house batteries were shot. I picked up two new ones from a specialty shop up the road and installed them that evening. All of our weird 12V issues disappeared immediately, so progress!
Next up, we begin a lengthy stay in Sanibel.