20 Fricken 20.
How does one wrap up a year like 2020?
Personally, I tend to think of years in terms of themes or trends, and this year’s theme has been a game called “Calamity Whack-A-Mole.”
No, not like that.
For us, in 2020, we were the mole, ducking and disappearing before popping up elsewhere as various challenges rained down on the country. We bobbed and weaved to avoid everything from campground shutdowns to viral outbreaks to terrible weather to civil unrest.
While we cancelled plans more frequently than ever before, and rerouted multiple times, overall, we recognize we’ve been very fortunate. Really, the west coast wildfires were the only major disaster that impacted us significantly.
It’s even weirder because I kind of think I might have brought this whole social distancing nightmare down upon humanity.
And no, I’m not just being dramatic.
I started 2020 by mercilessly mocking a certain subset of folks who post ridiculous pictures on Instagram. And, importantly, I ended that post by imagining myself standing on top of my RV surrounded by a commune of friendly possums raising a glass of wine and toasting 2020 (If you have no idea what the hell I’m talking about, you can read the post here.)
In the meantime, in February, in what has since become known as history’s greatest illustration of the saying “Be careful what you wish for because you might just get it,” I actually complained about spending too much time socializing.
That’s right. This schmuck, right here, wrote a post about how, after several months of traveling up and down the East Coast meeting up with friends and family, she could really use a break from all the socializing. In fact, after explaining our plans to rent an Air BnB in Austin for two months, I said we were looking forward to “making like monks” and not talking to anyone for a while.
Seriously. I said that.
To which, by all indications, the universe responded, “Oh yeah??? I’ll fix your ass, you ungrateful jerk!!”
And then followed through. In epic form.
I am SUCH an asshole.
Lucking Out During an Unlucky Year
Anyway, speaking of Austin, our visit there was the first of several times this year when we felt we’d lucked out. We were already in the city, moved into our rental, when, without warning, hundreds of other fulltime RVers were evicted from their campgrounds and left scrambling for somewhere safe to go. Not only did campgrounds close down, but many public lands and utilities (fresh water, dump stations, highway rest areas, etc.), and even state and international borders closed, leaving countless nomads desperately searching for some sort of solid ground upon which to land.
We knew we’d dodged a bullet.
Austin has always been good to us and this time was no different. In fact, when our house stay was over, we decided to stick around for another six weeks at a local RV park. We couldn’t do much, but we got a nice space, in a nice park, and we had everything we needed. We were incredibly thankful to have landed where we did when we did.
Eventually, though, the relentless Texas heat chased us north. As we sought out cooler weather and beautiful hiking trails, we traveled through Idaho, Montana, Washington, and Oregon – all of which had relatively low infection numbers during our visits. In fact, until this month – December – we’ve managed to stay in areas that were comparably safe and where people, for the most part, were taking public health measures seriously:
Unfortunately, our luck ran out this month. While our first couple weeks in San Diego were good, the numbers throughout California have now exploded. Most of the state is under some sort of lockdown order, local ICU capacity is at 0%, and we find ourselves in the epicenter of the current surge.
And that leads me back to my January Instagram post.
Ricky and Rhonda
Remember how that post ended with me imagining myself standing on top of our motorhome with a bunch of possums? Well, funny story…
About two weeks into our visit to San Diego, Kevin goes outside one day and notices a bunch of paw prints on the table he uses for his grill. The following day, I pick up Thor’s outside water bowl to change out the water, and I find it’s full of dirt. We assume a stray cat or some other animal has been wandering onto our patio in the middle of the night making a mess of things.
No big deal.
The following night, right around midnight, we hear squeaking noises outside, and Thor starts getting really agitated. Kevin and I look at each other, completely perplexed. There are plenty of other dogs in the campground, so it’s not unusual to hear squeaky toys, but at midnight? Not so much. Plus, the sound seems to be coming from somewhere really close, and none of our immediate neighbors have dogs.
I say, “You know, we left Wubba outside on the patio.”
If you’re unfamiliar, a Wubba is a particular dog toy that looks like this:
Thor loves them and has had many different versions. Small Wubbas, large Wubbas, and, in the case of the one on the patio that night, extra large Wubbas.
Was our visitor the previous nights a stray dog rather than a cat? Was it a cat who liked squeaky toys? Was there some weirdo sitting on our picnic table playing with Wubba? (Unlikely, but it’s 2020. Anything is possible.)
Kevin goes outside to check things out and, again, from inside the RV, I hear squeaking.
Thor proceeds to lose it completely. Barking, whining, running from the back of the motorhome to the front door, over and over again.
Kevin comes in laughing. He says our visitor is not a dog or a cat or a weirdo, but rather a raccoon.
Kevin says he found the raccoon (who we’ll call “Ricky”) hanging out behind our RV in the grass. Unfortunately, however, Kevin doesn’t see Wubba. Perhaps Ricky has carried Wubba onto one of our neighbor’s sites? He doesn’t know and he’s not about to start poking around other people’s property in the middle of the night.
Just then, we hear ‘squeak, squeak, squeak’
“What the hell???”
So, Kevin turns around, opens the door, and heads outside again. This time, Thor and I hear a ton of squeaking. “Squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak!!!”
Poor Thor is apoplectic.
Kevin comes back in. “We have a slight problem.”
Turns out, in addition to Ricky standing behind our RV, there’s another raccoon (we’ll call her “Rhonda”) hanging out in the undercarriage of our motorhome, and Rhonda has stolen Thor’s Extra Large Wubba off our patio and – somehow – brought it up into the undercarriage with her. She’s now sitting on top of our gigantic gas tank (which is suspended from large brackets) having a FABULOUS time playing with Wubba.
“Squeak, squeak, squeak, squeak, SQUEAK!!!!”
You have got to be kidding me.
Given that the gas tank is basically under our bed, and our dog is having a veritable stroke every time he hears his toy squeak, we quickly conclude it’s gonna be a long night if Rhonda keeps this up.
So, back outside we go. Kevin hands me a flashlight with instructions to keep an eye on Ricky while he investigates the Rhonda situation (What I was supposed to do if Ricky decided to go out in a blaze of glory, I have no idea, but, fortunately, it didn’t come to that…)
After crawling under the rig, Kevin tells me he can’t get a really good look at Rhonda (or he could, but not without possibly coming face to face with a ticked off rodent), but he hears chittering, and he’s wondering if Rhonda may have babies up there with her.
No, seriously. You have GOT to be kidding me.
Off to the Google: “How to get rid of raccoons”
Answer: (Among many options that we didn’t have on hand at 1:00 a.m. on a weeknight in the middle of a freaken pandemic), Peppermint oil!
And why do we have peppermint oil on hand? Because in 2018, another banner year, a mouse decided to move in with us and we learned that peppermint oil was an effective deterrent.
So, I dig out the peppermint oil, we douse some cotton balls with it, and go back outside to try to strategically launch them into the undercarriage of our house.
And that’s when I noticed the connection to the Instagram post.
Specifically, I had started 2020 imagining myself standing on top of our motorhome, communing with a bunch of friendly possums, while we toasted the beginning of the year, and I would end 2020 crawling around on the filthy pavement beneath our motorhome at 1:00 in the morning, trying to lob peppermint grenades onto an 80 gallon gas tank in an effort to to evict a bunch of trespassing raccoons.
Could there be a better metaphor for the crushed expectations and disappointing realities of 2020?
Anyway, sure enough, between the commotion, the light, and the overwhelming smell of Eau-de-Christmas, Ricky and Rhonda made tracks and headed off into the night.
Unless they left a pile of baby raccoons up there.
Whatever. We were too tired to worry about it at that point.
The next morning, Kevin crawled under the RV again and found zero tiny raccoons. Good news!
Bad news: Rhonda, the little klepto, had also been quite rude. She’d abandoned Wubba at the far back corner of the gas tank, and there was no way for us to get to him. Between the size of the tank, and the various accoutrements of a giant, complex motorhome, Wubba was impossible to reach.
This has left us two options:
Option 1: Try to find or fashion some sort of device to grab Wubba.
Option 2: Ignore the problem and hope like hell Wubba doesn’t get flung out onto the highway.
“Sergeant: How did the accident happen, officer?”
“Officer: A 90 mile per hour Wubba to the windshield, Sir.”
“Sergeant: I see.”
Looks like we’re gonna have to find a way to get Wubba out of there before we hit the road again.
Thanks a bunch, Rhonda.
I would typically try to say something thoughtful and hopeful about the upcoming year and maybe toss around some plans, but last time I opened my big dumb mouth, I wrecked the world and, honestly, we have no plans because we have no idea what we’re doing and I’ve just given up on trying to figure it out. So, I’m just gonna say nothing, other than Peace Out, 2020…
…and it’s nice to see you, 2021.
Happy New Year, everyone! See you on the other side.