My family is notorious for waiting until the last minute to plan our summer trip; that’s why this summer was so surprising. In November 2019 we had tickets to Madeira, and over winter break we began to very informally plan. While I was supposed to be finding hotels and hikes, I was too busy dreaming of all the passion fruit and tabaidos I was going to be eating.
Unfortunately, our summer plans came to a screeching halt in mid-March. Instead of daydreams of Madeira, my mind was occupied with finishing up school, applying to summer jobs and remembering a mask when I went to the grocery store. After weeks of uncertainty and slight cabin fever, my dad began looking for RVs online. Our last RV trip was 6 years ago, and is remembered with fond memories of the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. Although this trip would be very different, an RV seemed like the best way to have a safe and socially distanced vacation.
In classic Austin-family fashion, we drove to Pennsylvania to buy an RV, and 10 days later we set off towards Silver Spring, Maryland for the weekend, with absolutely no idea what we were doing next — only that we were heading south.
Before we left, we knew that we wanted to limit our time in supermarkets and would avoid going into any restaurants in order to truly make this a safe trip. We stocked (a very generous term considering this was a 24 foot RV for five people) our refrigerator with condiments, pickles, eggs, yogurt, cheese and a tray of grilled chicken, rice and stir-fry for dinner our first night. Underneath the RV, was a giant storage space where we had a bin filled with pasta, sauce, chips, mac ‘n’ cheese and other things that we mostly did not end up eating and just took up our very limited space. And I can’t forget about the travel barbeque that saved our stomachs more times than I can count.
In terms of the actual RV, there were many hiccups: the AC broke on our first day, we lost the passenger side mirror, the bathroom door broke, we mangled the ladder on the back, and there was a whine in the alternator belt. However, we only had one teeny-tiny hiccup when it came to food: our oven was broken. Our dreams of fresh baked cookies and personal pizzas were squashed and instead we lived off of barbeque and pasta.
A week and a half in, we realized it wasn’t our oven that was broken, just our understanding of how the oven turns on. Eureka! We could now have french fries and pizza! Even with this new development, we still mostly barbequed. After nearly three weeks of hotdogs, burgers, and Beyond Meat for dinner, eating cold takeout when we got home was the equivalent of a Michelin star restaurant.
To go with the endless barrage of barbecued food, we of course had to build a fire. These fires provided a backdrop for my newfound whittling skills (or lack thereof) and the perfect oven substitute for us to roast anything we could get our hands on. We had blackened marshmallows (the best and only way to eat them, extra points if you choke on the ash), regular s’mores, s’mores with peanut butter and s’mores with potato chips. Our fire roasting was not just limited to marshmallows though; we roasted hot dogs, pastrami and even Sour Fruit Smiles from Walmart (Spoiler alert: they tasted like what you would think a warm tide pod tastes like).
Finally, I would just like to say that I’m as big of a fan as any when it comes to the childhood cult classic: PB & J. Since we were hiking most days, the easiest lunch to pack was trail mix and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Because I insisted on mixing it up, I had my own jelly from Smuckers’ Mosaics line (highly recommend the peach/raspberry flavor) and we ate A LOT of Walmart brand honey wheat bread and peanut butter. Honestly, Walmart should just sponsor this article given how much of our food we got from there. However, with all that said and done, I am completely, totally, utterly sick of sandwiches. There are only so many processed peanuts one person can take before tapping out.
For anyone thinking of taking their own RV trip, I have a very extensive list of tips that I would be more than happy to share. Let’s start with: Know how to work your oven, and if that fails, buy a barbeque.
Sarah Austin is a freshman in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected]