Staying Safe While on the Road
Staying safe is a priority when traveling. There are many precautions Lee and I take to stay safe while on the road. Our first precaution – our dogs, Akiro and Scarlet. Just like in your home, a dog is a deterrent. Thieves want easy access; well, with RVing it is the same thing. When you see two big dogs sitting in the window, thieves are more likely to find an easier target. Our dog’s safety is also important, so our parents always know where our RV is parked in case of an emergency involving both Lee and I. We want someone to know where our dogs are, even if they are across the country.
Lee and I pick our destinations based on what our interests are at the time. Last year we focused on National Parks, the year before that was more event-based stops (Mardi Gras, Sturgis, ABQ Balloon Fiesta). We mostly stay at RV parks, and the nice thing about that is most RVers take care of each other. We look out for one another and watch for suspicious behavior. We have stayed at a few questionable RV parks, but generally speaking, they are safe. Some are gated, some aren’t, but by reading reviews of the parks written by other RVers, you can get a general feel for the place.
Most of the time, I live off google reviews, campground reviews, and word of mouth to know where to stay and go. I have become a master at reading reviews. I also look up the local news to see what is happening in the city we are heading to. Is there a sporting event, a festival, protest etc., that we want to stay clear of?
As for major events, like the ABQ Balloon Fiesta, for example, we felt perfectly safe. Our RV was parked next to the police motorcycle unit’s RVs and a few SWAT RVs the second year we went. They leave their RVs at the campground during the day so the guys can come back to rest without having to go home. They were a really nice group of guys.
As far as safety is concerned, I trust my gut. We are often in new towns, where I don’t know much about the area. Our first RV didn’t have a washing machine, so I had to use the local laundromat if the RV park didn’t have a laundry room. A few times, I would google search a local laundromat, drive there, pull up and say, “nope” and drive away based on the way it looked, the neighborhood I was in, or people outside. I hate to judge a book by its cover, but as a lone woman in a new city, I will not put myself in a potentially unsafe situation. One time, I had to run to the grocery store, and when I pulled up, cops were sitting in front of the door. Again, I just turned around and left, finding a new grocery store, because I didn’t want to know why they needed police at their entrance.
We have had a few interesting events happen to us. One RV park stole our mail. Apparently, after talking to the postmaster, packages turn up missing from this address so often the mailman taking time-stamped pictures of them delivering packages to prove they had been delivered. This was also the park where someone threatened to shoot Akiro. Thankfully a neighbor witnessed the threat. We have been at an RV park where police (including a police K9) surrounded an RV, guns drawn. They ended up forcibly entering the RV since the people wouldn’t come out. It turns out they were squatters living in someone’s RV. We watched it all unfold safely from the inside of our RV.
Over the years, I have gotten better at reading situations and am very aware of my surroundings. If I do go for a walk outside of the RV Park, I bring Akiro or Scarlet with me (usually Akiro) to add that sense of security. Plus, if you know Akiro, he is protective of me when we walk alone.
One of the most dangerous aspects of RVing is being caught in a tornado or high winds. Over the past few years, we have had some pretty close calls. Our first was in Georgia when we had our fifth wheel. The RV park owner knocked on our door and told us a bad storm with the potential for tornados was coming and we needed to prepare. They had a tornado shelter if we need to go there. We quickly filled up the freshwater tank to add weight to the RV, pulled the Harley into the garage to not only protect the bike but to add weight to the RV. Lastly, we unhooked our sewer, water and electric and pulled in our slides. We sat and waited. We contemplated going to the tornado shelter but didn’t know how the dogs would do, we do have Akiro muzzle trained so in the event he can be around other dogs. I won’t leave my dogs, so for this storm, we stayed in the RV. I did what my mom always did when we had to go to the basement when we were kids…prayed the rosary. We have an antenna so we will turn on the local news to watch the weather forecasts. The next day, we heard a small tornado touched down just north of where we were. Another time, we were in Red Bay, AL and this time we were in the motorhome. Again filled up our freshwater tanks, ran water to fill the grey tank too, unhooked everything, and closed up the slides. The police were telling people to seek shelter, so we packed up a few essentials for us and the dogs and headed to the shelter. Thankfully, there was room and we could sit in the corner with Akiro and Scarlet. Surprisingly, the dogs did fine. Akiro was actually scared and hid behind the chair. We stayed in the shelter with all the other RV owners for a few hours.
When you are new to the area, you don’t know the weather patterns, so we have learned to watch the weather and talk to the locals. In the Florida Keys, if you see the birds disappear you know a storm is coming. In Utah, we watched thunderstorms roll in every night, they looked like they were heading straight for us, but always ended up off in the distance. So when it comes to weather, Lee and I have the better safe than sorry mentality. We watch the direction of the wind, the speed of the wind, and will typically start prepping during a tornado watch and will seek shelter for a tornado warning. In heavy winds such as 40-50mph gusts, we pack up chairs, the grill, and other misc things we have outside, to prevent them from blowing away or blowing into the RV.
This past year, being safe was a bit more complicated due to the pandemic and civil unrest. We decided to stay away from big cities, assuming that in major cities people are closer together and more likely to spread covid. So we stuck to small-town America. What we found was that in some towns, you wouldn’t even know there was a pandemic. No masks, hand sanitizer or plexiglass barriers. In these situations, we were more cautious. We wore our masks, social distanced and washed our hands. Other stores were great, one grocery store had an employee standing in the frozen aisle wiping down each door handle after a customer touched it. Many cities that were reliant on tourism had policies where stores were required to have hand sanitizer at the door, with masks available. Also, depending on the store’s size, some had cues to follow to get around and many limited the number of people, so as long as I didn’t touch more than I needed to, I felt safe. After having the norovirus, a few years ago when I was the sickest I have ever been (even sicker than when I had cancer), I have stopping touching unnecessary things.
As for the civil unrest, Lee and I started googling the local news of towns we would be driving through since we didn’t want to get caught somewhere we didn’t want to be. Videos have surfaced of RVs getting stuck in traffic and people climbing the ladders to get on the roof or trying to open bay doors or get inside. So we avoided driving through all major cities, even if it meant our trip would be longer.