Enjoy a Safe Road Trip in Times of Covid: Bring a Portable Bathroom!

Lots of things are on hold right now, including (and these are the frivolous things), buying a new RV and taking overnight road trips. But maybe we could take day trips if we could control the variables? We could get out and see the world in the safety of our own car. Maybe you’re wondering the same thing.

Of course, we can’t control all the variables. If you drive at all, at some point you’ll have to stop at a gas station, for instance. (Unless you really thought ahead and bought an electric car and only take round trips that that your battery can support. Which, if so, very smart forward thinking.)

But maybe we can control most of the rest.

I’ve been working on that and I’ve come up with a plan that works pretty well to stay in a safe and protected bubble that lets me explore the world around me (and sleep in my own bed at night).

I haven’t had my Roadtrek in a while and (in the before times) had been taking lots of long distance car trips instead. That’s given me lots of time to test out what works and what doesn’t work (and what I miss most about having a class b).

Bring Your Own Portable Bathroom

I for sure wish I had a class b right now for day trips. In terms of staying safe in a bubble of protection, the biggest thing a car is missing is a bathroom.

So we got a portable bathroom to take along with us and it’s been working great!

Would you even know a toilet was in that little tent? The tent pops up in about 30 seconds (and collapses just as quickly). The portable toilet works great and basically the same way as an RV toilet.

We got this tent on Amazon, but a lot of popup tents are available.

We got this Thetford toilet (it’s out of stock on Amazon — we found it on, where it is now also out of stock, but really any portable toilet should work). The Russo’s talk about portable toilets here (they use — or did use — one as their primary RV toilet). A couple available online at least as of now are:

If you have maintained an RV toilet, then maintaining this toilet will be familiar:

  1. Put deodorizer in the water tank (we are using this from Amazon).
  2. Fill the water tank.
  3. Put deodorizer in the holding tank.
  4. Attach the holding tank to the toilet.
  5. Use the toilet as usual (ours has a pump flush button).
  6. When you get home, detach the holding tank from the toilet and use the spout to pour the contents into your home toilet. Rinse out the holding tank and refill.

In addition to the deodorizer, you also need RV toilet paper. To make transporting the toilet easier, you can get a carrying bag.

If you are driving a van, you probably don’t even need the tent!

I’m sure attachments of some kind enable you to dump the contents at a dump station instead of at home. Watch this space for what I find out or comment below if you’ve figured it out.

You can really set up the portable bathroom anywhere. We mostly have been stopping at state parks and finding parking spots without people around. Highly recommended!

Bring Your Own Portable Kitchen

OK, our “kitchen” is less compact than our bathroom.

For sure if you’re just going for a few hours or a day, you can just pack snacks like protein bars and chips. But here’s our full set up:

  • water dispenser
  • Yeti cooler (or a more hard core cooler – we have this one)
  • towels (for a table cloth or a picnic or to spread out in your car and prep your food on; I use my quick dry towels I used with the RV)
  • Stuff to eat on: we have these silicone collapsible bowels/plates, and we bring a bunch of plastic utensils we’ve collected from take out, napkins, etc.
  • Stuff to prepare food with: this depends on what you bring, of course, but for instance, if you bring cans of food, don’t forget a can opener and strainer! We normally have a cutting board (from the RV) and a knife.
  • Trash bags and ziplock bags.
  • Water bottles and travel coffee mugs.
  • Travel kettle (great for heating water for tea or cups of soup or for coffee)
  • Portable stove (super optional, but useful if you prepare food at home to take with you; we’ll often bring breakfast burritos and then heat them as we drive – we have a 12 volt outlet in the back of the car so we keep the stove plugged in out of the way)
  • portable camping chairs (preferably something small and quick and easy); we are using these
  • portable table (also optional, but nice if you really want to keep the bubble in place and don’t want to use public picnic tables or eat in your car; we have this one)

A while back, I wrote a post about road trip food on one of my other sites. The post seems rather quaint now, with all the references to restaurants and hotels and stopping at grocery stores along the road trip route. But the part about what to prep and pack from home in advance is still pretty applicable.

Enjoy the Drive

We don’t really have a destination when we drive around. We’re extremely lucky to live within an hour drive of mountains and lakes and wilderness, and we tend to just follow random roads and see where they lead us (within reason!). I’ll often just open Google Maps and look for roads that lead away from towns.

We use the Allstays app to find good spots (such as state parks) to stop at for lunch or to set up the bathroom. We try to find spots without people, and always have our masks handy in case we do counter anyone unexpectedly.

Here are places we’ve encountered lately:


The Accidental Stolen Coffee

I just got back from a three week car-based road trip (I’m researching my next class B – more on that in another post!), where I stayed in the typical highway-adjacent hotels each night. Generally, these hotels have a free coffee station in the lobby and I filled up my travel mug each morning before heading out. I refilled my travel mug at truck stops along the way. So far, so good, no criminal activity here!

But habits form quickly. Apparently. At least in my brain.

I walked into a Flying J. Filled up my travel mug. Walked right out. And drove away.

It didn’t even cross my mind to pay.

When I was several miles down the road, happily drinking my coffee, the scene replayed in my mind. Walked in. Filled up the coffee. Walked out. As though I were in the lobby of a roadside hotel.

So, I’m sorry Flying J. I didn’t mean to steal your coffee. It was great and just what I needed for a Thursday afternoon drive. I really should have paid for it.


Entering Construction Zone


That’s me, sitting in front of my grandparents’ camper. I am pretty sure that is not my coffee.

I’m taking a break from traveling, although I don’t want to take a break from writing (there’s so much that’s happened that I haven’t written about yet!). I realize I’m already taking a break since there’s never any time, but I have hope for some open windows of writing time soon.

My house has been under construction for the last two years and it’s in the final stages (I can hardly believe it). Even though I’ve got a full crew of people working on it, I feel like I’m working on it full time too — getting all of the loose ends figured out and tracked down and fixed.

I’ve moved in and if you’ve ever lived in an RV or a house under construction, then you know the particulars of day to day living have a lot in common. I didn’t have a shower for the first month and a half, and I couldn’t drive my house to the nearest truck stop to take one. Instead, I relied on the gym and the kindness of friends.

There’s also only so much you can cook with a microwave and single burner hotplate, no prep space, no dishwasher, and only a tiny sink. And only so much you can store with a tiny refrigerator.

All of my RV experience has been put to good use, although I miss my snug cocoon  and waking up wherever I want every day. Also countertops and running water.




Peach Ice Cream Is Finally Here

One of the great joys of driving through the United States is the vast variety of billboards and signs: hand written diatribes, blinking traffic directives that warn of wildlife, the absolute assurance to you, the captive driver, that the attraction at this exit is nothing you have ever seen and to miss it would be the aching loss of your life, your haunting regret, the ultimate betrayal to your children, so patiently sitting in the back seat in hopes of only petting a buffalo or walking beneath a real teepee.

My great regret is that by the time I see the sign, it’s almost always too late to take a photo. Almost always, but not always always.

Of course, this trip isn’t the first time I’ve wanted to capture the wonderment of road signs. For instance, I came upon this great sign when driving around Iceland last year (in a rental car; not in an RV). In case you can’t tell, those two cars are about to hit head on at the top of that hill in a fantastic imitation of every great three stooges sketch, but with cars instead of each other:

iceland road sign

I took this picture at a rest area in California last year. It’s still one of my favorites:

rock throwing

Here’s one of my least favorites, at a rest area in the south earlier this year:


This isn’t exactly a sign, and it’s not exactly on the road, but it entertained me, nonetheless (this was at my very first parking lot overnight).


Some signs are direct, if inexplicable (this was my welcome to Nevada):


You learn about lots of cash making opportunities you had no idea existed:


I like when whoever writing the road signs takes a more personal approach:

2014-08-14 14.47.43-1

Stillwater, Oklahoma must be the only place where video rental stores are “growing”, right?

video stores

Oklahoma also has dueling trash cans:

fish only

no fish

You learn about things you never knew were all you ever needed:

frito pie

You pass places you’re too afraid to venture into alone:

precious moments chapel

I admired the childlike enthusiasm:

peace ice cream


water trampoline

This isn’t so much a sign as a cornerstone for a hopeful life against all evidence to the contrary:

blind faith

More snakes in Florida: a kinder, gentler set of signage:


And then there are the signs, such as in Savannah, which teach you about city laws you otherwise would never have even dreamed existed:


And then other times you learn that not every town has the same kinds of street names as you do:

street signs

I did not have time to stop:

pork center

I tried to stop. If only time weren’t ever stretching away from us.

porter sculpture park