When we lived in a sticks and bricks, I bought in bulk and kept a large stock of essential items in the garage. That ranged from toilet paper and paper towels, to masks (which, to be fair, were for use in my shop), to canned goods and dried bulk beans and grains, to two freezers full of food. I had a large seed stock and a planted garden large enough to supplement a good portion of our diet and even provide produce to the neighbors. On top of that, I bought and stored freeze dried meals.
I kept a well stocked RV with generator, both for recreation and preparedness, a truck with 50+ gallons of diesel at all times, a household generator with enough fuel to run the house for a day, a full stock of tools to work on anything I owned and made sure that I obtained the knowledge to fix just about anything that could ever go wrong.
This didn’t occur overnight, but slowly accumulated over years of diving into hobbies, researching new things, and expanding my planning for inevitable events.
I can’t say that I predicted COVID-19, but I can’t say I was at all surprised by it. It’s been a hundred years since we’ve been hit by a global pandemic, and with the way that we’ve expanded our population, global trade, and travel practices, it was only a matter of time. On the same token, I wouldn’t have been surprised had any number of other events appeared and interrupted our society as it has.
When I was in a house and working on all of these things, I carefully avoided the terms “prepper” and “prepping”, for the most part. A lot of the preparations I had were just extensions of hobbies, and I let that suffice as a casual explanation. Spending money and effort being prepared for events that may never happen tends to comes off as a crazy and extreme to a lot of people. And then when these events do occur, you’re the first person those same people turn to.
When we sold our belongings and moved into our RV, we left a lot of those things behind. We don’t have the luxury of being able to store bulk food and essentials, and are forced to rely much more heavily on store runs and deliveries. You can’t grow enough vegetables in an RV to supplement your diet, never-mind replace most of your grocery list, and can’t carry enough tools to fix any problem that may come to you. Still, picking and sorting through priorities, I came up with a decent selection of things to store and tools to bring. We’ve needed very little since the restrictions and stock issues began.
There are a couple things I’d really like to highlight that we’ve done, and how they’ve served us or I see them helping us in the near future.
The first is our Thousand Trails (TT) membership. Thousand Trails is a campground membership that has a high up front cost and small annual dues, to provide varying levels of campground access. Our specific plan allows us to stay 21 days at any given campground, with no time between campgrounds. There are no annual limits, so we can stay at Thousand Trails campgrounds 365 days of the year, as long as we move every few weeks. Our plan is subject to “high use” restrictions, where certain parks are limited to 14 days, during peak seasons. If you use it enough, it pays for itself and then some – making it ideal for full-timers.
We looked at a TT membership for a few months before buying one – they have very mixed reviews, which I generally attribute to expectations being set extraordinarily high when you’re paying all that money up front. We’ve been really happy with our membership, but are exceptionally happy with how it has helped us during this outbreak.
We were set to check in at Thousand Trails Verde Valley in Cottonwood, Arizona around the time the outbreak started to take hold in the US. It was the high-use season, which limited our reservation to two weeks, and we had some plans afterwards to head into California for a while. When they mandated shelter in place in California, TT extended our stay to a month, giving us a safe place to stay as our plans were derailed. They did this at no cost aside from a few upgraded amenity fees we opted to pay, and even those were at a steep discount. The entire month here is on track to cost us $130 out of pocket (so not including the membership), and that includes filling a few empty 30# propane tanks at their onsite fill station. They’ve suspended various little fees – like package handling – and overall made the stay low cost and welcoming.
With stay at home orders now coming down in Arizona, it looks likely, based on what other TT camps in locked down areas have done, that they will extend our stay further and cancel incoming reservations, essentially locking down the camp but providing current tenants a safe place to ride out the order. We’re waiting to hear on this, but regardless of what they do, we feel that TT has been more than accommodating for us, and we are very thankful that we joined just before the outbreak started. We anticipate that TT parks will prove to be some of our best options for finding places to stay over the next six months.
On a similar note, the solar and AC projects we’ve been working on are coming into their own as solutions that flesh out any TT limitations. If we have to leave a park after 21 days and can’t come back to the same park for two weeks, we’ll be able to live those two weeks comfortably on BLM land around Sedona or Flagstaff before coming back to Verde Valley – if that’s where we ride choose to ride this out. That is our tentative plan, with a few backup plans in the works.
Those same solutions can work together for us in many other ways – if we choose to buy our own land to park and stay on, without any hookups – we have that option. If we decide to moochdock at family or friends, who don’t have RV accommodations, that is an option. The thing is that we have an enormous amount of flexibility due to the solar and septic upgrades we did, which were multi-faceted. One of the many reasons we chose to do them was to prepare for something exactly like this.
If this goes on long enough that infrastructure begins to suffer, we’ll be able to use the solar, water, and septic upgrades to avoid the issues. Our infrastructure in many places is crumbling and teetering on the edge of failure, and in many cases there are only one or two people able to actually run critical systems. If you’re in a house, tied to a water supply that only has a couple people sufficiently skilled to keep the treatment plant running, and they both fall ill, the water for your house is tied to that single fallen source. The same does not apply to an RV, especially with large portable storage tanks. The same theoretical failures apply to electrical grids and sewage. Being agile is an asset.
I think there is massive value in self-sufficiency and readiness. We’re not subject to the same limitations and panics that a lot of people are, including other RVers. That’s not to say that everything will go perfectly for us and we won’t need assistance, or that something can’t happen to change our circumstances in flash. But, by being resourceful and planning for hypothetical could-be scenarios has worked out well for us and I am thankful that we’ve taken all the steps we have to be where we are.
I hope that when this is all behind us and things are returning to normal, we see a few changes (a couple are pipe dreams):
- Self-sufficiency will be seen as essential. Our current society is built on paying others to do tasks I think many people should know how to do themselves. This leads to lost knowledge, wasted money, and ultimately promotes excessive reliance on others.
- Prepping will no longer be considered an edge-case. A lot of people think you’re crazy for keeping a few months of food, water, and essentials on hand. I believe that is the opposite of how it should be seen.
- Companies will realize how wasteful office space is and continue to promote telecommuting. Not only do modern collaboration tools and computers provide suitable replacements for cubicles, they waste an enormous amount of real estate, energy, commute time, and personal resources that could be better spent elsewhere.
- More people will realize that being tied to a house and a fixed community isn’t necessarily the only way to live and will embrace more flexible lifestyles that allow you to have more short-term control over your circumstances.
- People won’t look at all tangibles as investments. When some people buy RVs, naysayers say they lose value too fast. When we bought solar, people told us we’d never make our money back. When we spent all the money we did to grow and long-term store our own food, we were questioned by more than one person why we couldn’t just go to the store. Some things shouldn’t be looked at solely in dollars.
- Healthcare and UBI will be revitalized and considered essential to support our population moving forward. Preparations will inevitably fail, and we need safety nets for all people.