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Socially distant road trip: This Gainesville couple exploring America during pandemic
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David Waldrip, left, and Amanda Brock, right, stop in Canyonlands National Park in Utah during their trip across the U.S. Photo courtesy David Waldrip

Instead of keeping to their homes during the pandemic, David Waldrip and Amanda Brock decided to leave Gainesville behind and travel across the U.S. while living inside a 96-square-foot Airstream trailer.

Since June 9, the couple has driven over 11,000 miles and visited 16 states.

“My motivation was to continue to live life the way I wanted to live it and not be stuck at home and stuck searching for toilet paper,” he said. “An Airstream trailer is the best way to quarantine and be socially distanced on planet Earth. You’re self-contained.”

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Waldrip said he has been able to keep up his job as a real estate agent, taking calls on the road and working inside the vehicle. 

Despite spending months traveling, Waldrip said he hasn’t mapped out any of their stops — everything is left to fate. 

“I’ve never planned a trip ever,” he said. “My first motorcycle trip, people said, ‘Where are you going?’ I said, ‘I’m going west of the Rockies and when I hit them, I’m going to take a right and go to Canada.’”

Because of the couple’s spontaneity, he said they’ve come across towns they’d never expect to encounter otherwise. At one point they ended up in Ouray, Colorado, which Waldrip said lies inside a canyon. 

“There’s only one paved street in town, and there’s no franchise — no Wendy’s, no Walgreens, no Publix. But, they have some of the world’s best off-road four-wheel drive trails.”

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Amanda Brock, left, and David Waldrip, right, decided to spend the last six months of 2020 living in a mobile trailer and traveling across the U.S. Photo courtesy David Waldrip

Along the route, the two have made sure to stop at national and state parks including Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, Glacier National Park in Montana, Arches National Park in Utah, Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado and Death Valley National Park, which straddles eastern Carlifornia and Nevada.

Instead of staying in hotels, the two have parked their trailer, pulled by a Jeep Rubicon, at RV sites, boondocking locations, private campgrounds and anywhere friends will allow them to set up camp.

Waldrip said they cook most of their meals on a two-burner gas stove inside the trailer, and have even prepared their meals over an open flame. 

Luckily for Waldrip and Brock, the two said they have enjoyed living in close quarters with one another on the road, something they had never done before.

“She tries to brush her hair, and I’m making breakfast, and her elbow is touching my back — it’s that small of an area,” Waldrip said. “Almost nothing bothers her, which is amazing. That’s her strength. We haven’t gotten tired of each other.”

While driving hundreds of miles a week, Waldrip and Brock have seen a different side of the pandemic, one that most haven’t experienced while staying socially distanced in their homes. 

Waldrip said they’ve driven through towns with public mask mandates, and others like Victor, Idaho, where no face coverings can be found, even among restaurant staff. 

All in all, he said people seem tense across the nation.

“People who are trying to live life prior to masks, they’re having a tough time,” Waldrip said. “People who are able to adjust and be outside more and not go into stores as much, they seem to be doing better.”

So far, he said they haven’t come across any states with travel bans. 

Waldrip and Brock are currently passing through Arizona and intend to stop for a Thanksgiving meal at the closest Cracker Barrel restaurant, 285 miles away in Amarillo, Texas. 

Although the two had planned to stay on the road for a year, Waldrip said they’re having to cut the trip short because the Airstream trailer has experienced a lot of issues.

He intends to be back in Gainesville by mid-December.

Despite putting his life on hold to travel the U.S. with his girlfriend, Waldrip said he wouldn’t trade it for the world.
“I probably will have to work for the rest of my life to make up for this year,” Waldrip said. “But, the bottom line is, as you get older, you may have more money or be smarter, but you probably won’t feel like sleeping in a 96-square-foot aluminium trailer. Money, energy and time, all that is just a test to see who is really willing to push to go get what they want.”

Even if people can’t take off work or don’t have the financial means to travel far, Waldrip encourages them to start small, save money and focus on their destination.

“If you have a tent, go in your backyard and sleep in it or go to a park on Lake Lanier,” he said. “Test it out and then take a local, regional, then a bigger trip. Trust me, you’re going to be better off. If you travel, you’re going to have those memories, and you expand your mind.”

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