I travel solo with my cat. We explore the Desert Southwest in a Toyota FJ Cruiser and we sleep in the comfort of a Keystone Bullet Crossfire. Unlike almost everyone else I encounter on the road, the first RV I ever slept in is the one I bought. I trusted the process and trusted myself and drove my RV a whopping 600-plus miles away from Atlanta, before even spending a night under its roof.
Last night, it rained all night. The sound of the heavy pitter-patter on the skylights brought me back to my early years of living in a Jamaican mountain town. We had a zinc roof (tin roof, for North Americans) and I loved the sound of the rain on that roof. I now love the sound of the rain on the RV roof; I slept like a baby. This morning, I woke up to snow on the peaks of the mountains. I could see them from my bed, while Shadow purred next to me.
I would love to tell you that every day is like this, but I’m sure you already know that rain in the desert and snow in Southern California are rarities. I’d also love to tell you that everyone is friendly and all the connections I make are wholesome, but neither of those is true. So, here are the five biggest challenges I encounter as a Black woman traveling solo in rural America.
1. White Supremacy
I am a slow traveller. I like to bask in the natural glory of an area before moving on to new pastures. But, so far, I have had to leave two campgrounds because of White Supremacists. In Arizona, I butt heads with the Confederates. Then, I left Quechan lands, after running into one of the men who helped plan the failed coup at the Capitol.
Not only did this man casually use the N-word in my hearing, but he told me he had heard enough about Black struggles in his 54 years of living and, “F**k BLM and f**k ANTIFA” because he didn’t give a damn. As far as he was concerned, racism was hardly worth complaining about and America had bigger fish to fry. Funny enough, he insists he is not racist and says, “I have Black friends!” But, of course, most true racists do.
2. Internet Connectivity
If you have been following my blog for some time, you remember my sparse posting habits in October. During that time, I had very limited signal in the Nevada mountains and simply could not load the WordPress editor. To add to this, I need internet for work and to stay connected with a mom whose only child is running loose in the desert with White supremacists, coyotes, and rattlesnakes.
In fact, I have two cell phones: one for business and one for personal use. Between the two of them, I have switched to six different carriers in the past four months, just trying to find a data plan that works for my needs. Aside from work and blogging, I have my vlog. Moving videos between servers takes a lot of bandwidth and data. Right now, I’m using three different phone companies so I know at least one of them has to work at a campground. Needless to say, internet connections create my second-highest bill.
3. Financial Recovery
When I first decided to buy an RV and park it in Vegas, I had no intentions of purchasing a truck until a year or two later. I wasn’t initially planning on moving from place to place until I felt safe enough manoeuvring 35 feet of trailer space. After the pandemic, I downsized my RV plans in favour of mobility. My RV is 21 and a half feet long outside, with 18 feet of interior length. Additionally, mobility meant buying a truck at the same time I bought the RV, so I bought my FJ Cruiser outright, in cash.
Moving to a new place is expensive, RV or not. My insurance is higher in Nevada than it was in Georgia. My registration fees were high and I had to repay excess Nevada taxes on my RV. These Nevada moving costs alone were almost $2,000. For fiscally responsible retirees, that’s probably nothing. I’m a millennial who has only earned a First World salary for four years, so I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel that pinch in the purse when I swiped my card three times at the DMV.
4. RV Repairs & Upgrades
I have full faith in Samson that he will last me another 100,000 miles at least. I have no such faith in my RV. Like all RVs, it breaks. That’s what RVs do. So far, I’ve had a leaking pipe. The strip around the door has started to come undone. One of my plumbing compartment covers came flying off one day. I also had to replace the cap for my sewer hose compartment and two valves. I have, however, had no serious repairs (knocks on wood!).
Upgrading the RV isn’t easy either. Everyone keeps asking me when you’ll get a tour and the reason I refuse to do one is the brown drives me absolutely crazy. It’s not an ugly brown, but it’s still brown. Why older Americans like this colour so much will never make sense to me. Who wants to be in a coffin, this early? I’m currently changing the colour of things to the neutral colours I am used to in Jamaica: white and grey.
But anyway, want to see me figure out how to install water filters? Check the Instagram video below. If it doesn’t play for you, use this link.
5. Pandemic Restrictions
I want to be clear that my issue is with the fact that we even have a pandemic — not responsible measures to get rid of it. Whether a governor or mayor says I can eat inside a restaurant, drink at a bar, or attend a music festival, you won’t find me doing any of these things in a pandemic. Nevertheless, I miss being able to explore an area without restrictions. There are many national and state parks we can’t even camp in, right now: forcing RVers to pay for accommodations at pricey RV Parks.
It also means I can’t fly my mom out to experience my world through her own eyes. She had a four-day taste of it and was grateful for the experience. She tells me all the time that seeing me handle the RV for those four days is what gave her peace of mind when we parted ways. But, she didn’t really get the full experience of enjoying new places, especially the places I’ve come to love. I can’t wait for the pandemic to be over, controlled or treatable, so she can experience more of this with me.
When I first started RVing, I thought my biggest challenges would be my personal safety and backing up my RV. Neither of these things ended up being of any concern to me. I also thought people who RVed would be more friendly and open. They absolutely can be, but I’ve met far too many a**h***s on the road to believe the RV community is the safe haven I once thought it was. Either way, I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else!