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Lessons from the Road

Updated: May 3, 2021

"I went on a road trip and I learned a few things. Number one I love to drive, number two I love my wife, number three it’s really cool to shelter in motion." ~ Christie Hardwick takes us on her road trip across the United States, from Florida to California.

Road Trippers Christie and Jane

Join regular contributor and founder of Inspirational Gatherings, Christie Hardwick on her first road trip and learn her discoveries on the road during a pandemic.

First, I love to drive. Who would’ve thought the idea of putting on driving gloves and sitting up high and having a vision of the road would feel so good and freeing. Each morning that we woke up in our rig (as I’d like to call it) I would be excited to get my cup of coffee and get on the road. The van was easy to drive, even though it was long it was only about six feet wide.  We could park it on the street or in a persons driveway, so it was manageable.  We didn’t feel competent enough to tow anything! We drove up to 600 miles a day until our preplanned stop at an RV park. After plugging in and hooking up we’d make a little dinner with all of our prepared food in the pantry and refrigerator of this 24 foot RV camper van. We had home made baked goods in the freezer and lots of roasted veggies and fresh greens and fruit to use in our meals.  We’d sit in the chairs (that we drove in) swiveled toward the kitchen area, eat our meal, sometimes take a walk around the RV park and then climb into the tiny little beds that can lift up into seats and allow you to watch a movie on Blu-ray- it was delightful.

We brought all of our favorite movies with us, 20 in all. Including “My house in Umbria, Cinema Paradiso, The Sound of Music, As Good As It Gets. He’s Not That Into You, Jerry Maguire, Somethings Gotta Give, Moonstruck and Bridget Jones Diary ." We didn’t bring our Christmas ones but we brought a lot of those that we like to watch over and over. I noticed new things in these movies because I was watching them without the distraction of being at home. It was really like being a teenager again, tucked away in your little room doing what you like to do with no one to disturb you. Most of the movies continued to hold up under scrutiny, a few we noticed how truly cheesy they were!

Christie in the driving seat

This road trip started in Florida and was to end first in California and then back around through Chicago and North Carolina so we drove through “ The South”- something I said I would never do. We live in Florida so you think I would be ready to travel through the south, but we chose a town (St. Petersburg) that feels like a  metropolitan city working to be a welcoming and inclusive place. There are so many people here not originally from the South that it feels different to me. I experienced Alabama and Louisiana to be more ’southern’ and I had never been to Mississippi and I admit a prejudice against it based on its current and historic nature. But at the end of the day I wanted to see our children and grandchildren more than I was afraid to do something I said I would never do. In light of all the social unrest and the movement for black lives I expected a lot of tension in southern states and did not want to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I called ahead to RV camps in Mississippi and Alabama and asked specifically if I would be safe there.  One park did not call back, the others were friendly and kept to their word when we arrived. We had families that offered us help when we were setting up and I saw nothing that made me feel uncomfortable.  It was a relief because we drove through a  signs for Gun Shows, places with confederate flags and other markers that we were in a different culture.  

As it turns out we were never stopped on the road. All of the RV parks were welcoming and safe and clean. Pumping out our black water wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and we only had to do it four times in the month we were driving. So all in all this RV experience was pretty cool and now we’re wanting to do it again! One of the things that was especially good about it was that I got proximity with something that I was afraid of and now that I’ve driven through Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas -I can do it again. When we were at a Civil Rights Conference in Alabama in February, we met and listened to Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, he says if you want to solve anything or resolve anything you have to get proximate with it.  I am on the journey to resolve my relationship with the South and this road trip went a long way. 

Number two, I love my wife. There’s nothing like 24 foot camper van for 30 days to let you know how good your relationship is while driving for 8 to 10 hours a day. It flowed with chatting, listening to books on tape, feeding each other, changing drivers every few hours, finding our way with GPS or maps and really over 30 days having no more than a few mild abrasions (someone got cranky, usually me). Mostly, we were happy to be with each other and were silly while going live on Facebook at the beginning of each day and at the end of the evening to show that we had made it safely to our destination. We talked, we laughed we watched movies and we drove and we drove and we drove. We saw the landscape and appreciated the country since neither of us had ever done a big road trip before. We had so much fun trying to catch the signs of the different states we were crossing, sometimes we were successful sometimes not. I loved a lot of the views, all of the adventure but most especially the company. We made some agreements up front that helped things go smoothly.  I would do more driving and she would do more navigating.  She packed the rig and found a place for a months worth of food items so we had limited shopping to do. I did the black and gray water pump outs and she kept the rig clean and tidy. When I drove I kept to the speed limit, she went above.  Neither of us coached the other. (For the most part!) 

Number three, it was really cool to shelter in motion. This trip would not have happened had we not been in the middle of a pandemic. We were able to drive over 6000 miles and not interact with any strangers. We had all our food, we had a bathroom, we had our bedroom and we had our vehicle all in one. We stopped for gas using gloves and masks. The only people we interacted with were our family, who were ready to be safe and sane spending most of our time outdoors. We tested for Covid before we left and again when we returned. We’re happy to say we made it intact. Being in our 60’s its great to keep trying new things, keeps the adventure alive and helps us see that we made a great decision marrying each other. I’d do it all again.

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