Ngoc X Doan
Thinking about traveling during the pandemic? Tips to stay safe and enjoy nature
Updated: Jun 17, 2020
We finally started our cross-country trip back to the east coast! After staying in quarantine in Los Gatos for 2 months, we packed everything and started living in our tiny home full-time again.
Life on the road, during the pandemic, has begun.
How do we keep ourselves safe from Covid-19 while we are on the road? Here are our tips and ways to stay safe on top of CDC and WHO recommendations. Germs and Covid-19 are invisible, thus, we must take extra measures to keep ourselves safe on the road. We treat every surface as if they are contaminated.
In the ideal world...
1. We follow CDC and WHO guidelines strictly.
2. We always carry tissue to open doors and hand sanitizer whenever we leave our tiny home.
3. We wash our hands with soap and water as often as possible.
Paying with Credit Card
1. We wipe or use hand sanitizer to clean our credit cards after each use. The credit card slots could be contaminated from previous users' credit cards.
2. We try to use contactless payment as much as possible. This minimizes touching surfaces.
1. We wear gloves whenever we pump at gas stations. My aunt gave us a box of gloves. We ran out but luckily we were able to find gloves at Costco.
2. In order to not be wasteful, we only wear 1 glove for pumping. We use our other hand to pay with a credit card.
3. We keep the driver's door open to avoid accidentally touching it with our dirty gloves while getting gas.
3. After we use our credit card to pay, we clean it before putting it back in our wallet.
2. We have to carefully and slowly take our gloves off and dispose them immediately at the station. Most gas stations have trash bins. Some do not. We always have a spare trash bag placed in our car door just in case we need to dispose any potential contaminants.
3. We also leave a hand sanitizer in our cup holder and we use it immediately after pumping and disposing gloves. Note: We do not leave our hand sanitizer in the car when it is hot outside in order to maintain the alcohol content.
1. We wash our hands before and after eating. When in doubt we also use hand sanitizer after.
2. We do not touch our phones while we are eating.
3. We take pictures of our food, then we wash our hands. And then we can enjoy our food.
4. We try to wash our hands with soap and water whenever possible. Our last resort is to use our hand sanitizer.
5. We carry our hand sanitizer with us every time we eat - at restaurants, trailer, parking lot, you name it. When there's food, there's our hand sanitizer. Most restaurants should have hand sanitizer available, but some maybe not be easily accessible or they just feel gross. It's always good to be prepared.
1. We often start with a scenic drive, if we do not have a lot of time. It's safer to tour in a car.
2. Whenever we leave our car, we carry our hand sanitizer and tissue with us just in case we need to use the bathroom and open doors.
3. In small areas and narrow walkways, we wait for others to pass before entering or exiting.
4. We avoid walking next to people who cough or sneeze, especially if they do not have face masks on.
5. If others ask us to take photos for them, we share our hand sanitizer after just to be safe. We also sanitize our hands and devices after contacting others.
Using Public Bathrooms
1. We always carry a tissue/napkin and hand sanitizer with us everywhere just in case we need to use our hands to open doors and faucets.
2. We wear old/dirty clothes into stores and public areas. We change into our clean clothes and put away dirty clothes in our truck.
3. We use our feet to open doors whenever possible. Some places have feet opener on doors!
What are new struggles driving across the country because of the pandemic? And how do we solve them?
Water: We can only refill water at rest stops and national parks. We use Google to search for rest stops on the way to our next destination. We look through reviews, images, and street views to see if they have running water and/or a spicket outside. Most places stopped allowing the public to have access to drinking water due to Covid-19.
Power: The only way for us to power our trailer, fridge and devices is by driving. Luckily, we have been driving between 4-6 hours everyday which is enough to charge a 12V battery. We also only run our fridge when we have food that needs to be refrigerated - usually at national parks.
Internet: We rely on our data plans for internet. We have to be conservative since we need to work during the day. It means no more watching Youtube videos and limiting social media usage.
Food: We cook at national parks and order take-outs at local stores whenever possible. We cannot do a lot of cooking since we need to save our water for daily hygiene routines. We also have to rely on fast food such as Five Guys because they are more reliable on store hours and stay open later than most restaurants.
Shower: We shower at friends' places and Planet Fitness. Our last option is to use our camp shower and shower at rest stops and/or at national parks. Our route depends on where we can shower. We mapped out a Planet Fitness locations that are open in the middle of the country and check often to make sure they are open. We also try to plan our days around Planet Fitness hours since they close at 10PM - no longer open 24 hours.
Laundry: We plan to do our laundry once during our trip back to the east coast. My friend, Kelly, who lives in Denver, CO is our midway point. If we run out of clean clothes, we will use our machines to do small loads. And we plan to use water at rest stops.
Beautiful Landscape of Week 18
1. Redwood National Park
Redwood National Park was our first national park visit after quarantine. It was a wonderful getaway from the congested city in SF.
Wildlife, plants, and interesting finds at Redwood
2. Grand Teton National Park
We decided to visit Grand Teton National Park because it was on the way to Yellowstone National Park. It was a breathtaking view to see the mountain ranges half covered in snow. We got to dip our feet in the Emerald Lake. The water was freezing cold, but it was worth it! If you like to bike, Grand Teton NP has a nicely paved bike path that runs along the park. Visitor centers were closed. Most bathrooms were open.
Wildlife at Grand Teton
We were lucky to see two bears at the park. The park was almost empty but all of the sudden a decent number of cars piled up along the road to take a glimpse at these two cubs from a safe distance.
Wildlife watching with the professionals.
I had never seen so many large lenses until this day.
Feet dipping time!
Freezing cold water is the best therapy. It never gets old.
Our Lunch/Dinner at Grand Teton
Mark made steak at a picnic area. We only had time to eat one meal a day. We used pepper and salt packages from fast food restaurants because they are free and easy to pack. Mark also made dark and stormy. It was a delicious meal that took us 3 hours to prepare, enjoy, and clean. A minor problem came up. We sat in the shade, under a species of tupelo trees (I believe). We got attacked by small orange flowers with tough saps. It took us a while to clean our cookware.
I am addicted to Angie's Boomchikapop Salty and Sweet Kettle corn. It's so good.
3. Yellowstone National Park
We're glad we got to visit Yellowstone National Park during this trip. It was absolutely wonderful to see geysers, wildlife, and hotsprings. We only spent 1.5 days at Yellowstone and wished we had more time. Since campgrounds were close, we definitely recommend camping inside the park and stay longer than 2 days! We managed to visit almost all of the major attractions. Most facilities in the park was closed. Half of the park was still closed on our first day. Luckily, phase 2 opened on the second day. We managed to visit Mammoth Hot Springs. It was pleasant to drive through the park with very few visitors. The only traffic we encountered was bison crossing.
Wildlife at Yellowstone
We saw a lot of white tail deer and bisons while driving around the park. We only saw one coyote and bald eagle. We wished that we had binoculars with us! Wildlife photography was shot by Mark.
Our picnic meal at Yellowstone
We chose a picnic spot by the river. It was a nice getaway from the heat and sulfur odor.
Week 18 - Memorable Restaurants
1. Toreros Famosos Mexican in Eureka, CA
The food was unexpectedly good since it's located in a remote town.
2. Crescent Seafood in Crescent City, CA
If you are looking for fresh and local seafood, this is the spot to get grilled fish taco and crab cakes.
3. Persephone Bakery in Jackson Hole, WY
Delicious Fried Chicken Sandwich and Seeded Avocado Salad. They also have decent kouign amann.
Week 18 Random Tidbits
1. We met a generous Mormon couple, Sydney and Tyler, in Idaho Falls, ID. Sydney came up to our trailer at a Walmart parking lot. We had a long conversation about tiny home living. She was interested in our trailer. She offered her place for us to shower! Sydney and Tyler were interested in vanlife. They just bought a sprinter van and had questions about how to build it. Of course, we were more than happy to offer our experience. I was worried about accepting Sydney's offer at first because of coronavirus but I really needed to wash my hair! I took my chance and it worked out great. They also recommended we visit Idaho Falls downtown. We had a nice walk along the river during sunset before we headed to Grand Teton and Yellowstone.
2. We hit 10,000 miles on the road. We waited for the digits to change to 10,000 miles but it reverted back to 0.0 miles.
3. We finally ate inside a restaurant (Five Guys) in Idaho Falls, ID. It had been 2.5 months since we dined inside. It felt strange. People were not wearing masks except for workers.
4. We saw many sea lions at Crescent City, CA.
5. Some of our behind the scene shots.
6. We stopped somewhere in Idaho to take photos of cows.
7. The first shower we took during this week was at a rest stop. We used our camp shower and water from the rest stop. We heated about a quarter of the water but it was freezing cold because of the wind.
8. We accumulated a lot of dead bugs driving through Idaho farmland. It rained in bugs. It even sounded like it was raining, but it was not. We also tried to "disinfect" our masks by leaving them on our dash. It works great when it is hot and sunny outside. At the minimum, this method gets rid of bad odor.
9. We drove through Napa Valley without visiting the vineyards because of coronavirus.
10. We stayed in Eureka, CA before headed to Redwood National Park. We found a nice boardwalk. We made it to the west coast!
11. Eating at parking lot became the new normal.
12. One of the many cherry stands in California. Cherry was in season.
13. We met up with my cousins, Anna and Belinda, and their partners in Oakland, CA before we headed home. We got to shower. We did our laundry. Most importantly, it was so great catching up with these wonderful humans and wished we had more time!
14. Mark spotted a cat while getting his bubble tea.
15. We finally made it to the east coast after 2 months staying in quarantine in Los Gatos, CA. Beaches were closed to the public so we just drove along the famous scenic route 1.
16. One of the pets we saw living in RV's. A lot of RV'ers own cats and dogs.
Overall, I am glad that we finally made the decision to drive back. Looking back, it was the right time. I wanted to give our host space. As soon as most of the country began to open, we were ready to plan our trip back. We were getting used to the luxury lifestyle of not having to worry about water, food, driving, safety, etc for 2 months. I was worried at first. My parents were worried. And I knew it would be hard for me to sleep at night because I am always concerned about our safety in the middle of the night -- in an unfamiliar place. We knew we needed to be more careful and it was important to plan ahead.
Next week, we will be visiting our friends, Kelly and John, in Denver, CO. I have been looking forward to seeing them and we are so grateful that they are welcoming us to their home especially during this time.
Next stops: Capitol Reef, Arches, and Canyonlands National Parks.
Stay healthy and happy everyone,
Tiny home traveller during pandemic