By Melanie Peeples
Photos by Russell Lewis & Amy Holditch
Back in March, Amy Holditch saw the corona summer coming down the pipe as, one by one, the camps she had signed her son up for began cancelling. She had a decision to make: sit back and watch it happen—let this summer be the one her son remembers as the time coronavirus ruined everything—or take the wheel into her own hands.
She had been planning a big vacation this summer: Hawaii. She knew she didn’t feel safe flying. She thought about places she could drive, but that still meant having to depend on public facilities. Then she saw an article in The Wall Street Journal that mentioned how a huge number of people were renting RVs this summer. She imagined herself behind the wheel of a house on wheels. She could see herself doing it.
But mostly, she didn’t want to wait another year to make great memories with her family. Her mom has some progressive memory loss, and she didn’t want to risk waiting another year. “I don’t know how many trips we have left in us,” she says.
She and her mom have always taken trips together, including driving across France a couple years ago. But driving a big RV would be different. A lot of single moms would be too afraid to do it, to take off on a 10-day trip in a 27-foot-long camper, but not Amy. She’s not the kind of woman to back down from a challenge.
“No, she’s not,” says her mom, Sandra Gillis. “She pretty much gets her mind made up on something and does it. And I’m proud of her for that. I like to think she gets it from me,” she chuckles.
Amy’s 12-year-old son, Duncan, was all for it. He’s at the age where the memories he makes now with his grandmother will stay with him the rest of his life. He’s also getting old enough to be a real help to his mom. An inspiration, even. She recently had to rent a kayak at the beach, and drag it into the water, something her husband had always done before. She was nervous about going too far out in the water, but Duncan talked her through it.
Like the kayak, Amy knew this RV trip—an adventure, actually—would be a growth opportunity for all of them. “I just kept thinking about it,” Amy says. “and I just kind of jumped off the cliff and did it.”
The three of them hit the road July 18 and drove all the way up to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and back. Around 2,500 miles in all. It wasn’t without adventure, and it was definitely memorable.
“It was good,” Amy says, just 24 hours after arriving home and still tired. “Like having-a-baby tired. Tired to my bones. Like after being up nursing a baby all night tired,” she says, laughing. But she has no regrets.
“It feels pretty badass. I feel pretty good about it,” she says. “The high point was just some of the togetherness. We played charades, and Duncan and I had a lot of late night giggles in the cab above the driver’s seat. I’m glad that I did it.”
The Trip, According to Amy
Day 1: Homewood to Cleveland, Tennessee
Feels good to be behind the wheel of Megachop (yes, the RV has a name the owner gave it) with miles to go and an open road to clear my oft-jumbled mind. Can’t help but wonder if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew as I roll into the Holiday KOA in Cleveland.
I already wrecked it—just a small crunch with a metal, upside-down U bar at the gas station near Chattanooga, so no need to worry about THAT anymore. Onward.
Day 2: Cleveland, Tennessee to Roanoke, Virginia
Made it to Roanoke with ease. Megachop is a beast but purrs like a kitten. Virginia is like a pastoral painting, complete with rolling hills, tiny, faraway red barns and silos looming in the distance.
Day 3: Roanoke, Virginia to Mystic, Connecticut
I drove Megachop through the Lincoln Tunnel in New York City, and it just about broke me. I had Frank Sinatra belting out “New York, New York” because I thought it would be “fun” to listen to as we drove through the mouth of the beast, but boy was I wrong. “Fun” does not describe the process of driving a behemoth through one of the most crowded cities in America.
Then, because I wasn’t stressed enough, Waze spit me out on the lovely Merritt Parkway in Connecticut where cars/trucks over 8 feet were prohibited. What?! I shrunk in my seat every time we went under an “architecturally elaborate” overpass. There were bridge warnings everywhere! Megachop fit but just barely. Definitely a guardian angel on my shoulder today.
Mystic is amazingly beautiful and quaint, as is most of Connecticut. Could totally live here.
Day 4: Mystic, Connecticut to Cape Cod, Massachusetts
Everything is so New England-y. It takes FOREVER to get to our site, and it is a bit more remote than I anticipated. We are in the sticks!
Took a nice hike to some cliffs that overlooked the Atlantic and to see Cape Cod’s first lighthouse. Turns out it’s under construction and closed until 2021. Of course it is. Thanks, 2020.
Trails are beautiful and lush. We saw some rabbits scampering about the RV park around sunset tonight. Yurts and tents are scattered throughout the park. So peaceful. Really happy to not have to drive Megachop for a few days.
Day 5: Cape Cod
Provincetown was super cool. Lots of quaint shops and everyone is friendly and super progressive. Sat on the beach in the harbor watching the boats while eating yummy lobster salad and truffle fries from the Lobster Pot. Duncan loved the truffle fries and said they reminded him of Jo Jo’s in Homewood. (RIP Jo Jo’s truffle fries.)
Day 6: Day Trip to Salem
We rented a car and drove to Salem today. It poured, but we saw a few sights like the Salem Witch Museum and the Witch House. Most restaurants were curbside, and the town seemed really dead. Took the long way home through Boston and made a mental note to definitely revisit in the future. By plane. Or ferry from The Cape.
Tomorrow is our last day in Cape Cod. My friend described it as a very subtle beach experience compared to the gulf, and he couldn’t be more right. The whole vibe of this place is so laid back and progressive. Just fantastic. I bet it’s magical in the fall, all cold and crisp outside.
Day 7: Cape Cod
Yikes. Went to Head of the Meadow Beach but could only stay for 15 minutes because of permit requirements. It’s $75/week! I kept noticing how everything is so undeveloped here, almost like 30A was 30 years ago. The dunes are protected, and over building is not a problem at all. It’s a sleepy little beach town, and I love it.
Days 8 & 9: Cape Cod to College Park, Maryland
Rolled into the inferno that is Cherry Hill RV Park and will spend two days at this luxury resort that has a café that delivers! Groceries delivered? Yes, please! Would you like a golf cart to get around in, too? Sign me up! This little gem of a place is like the Ritz after wheeling and dealing in Megachop’s tiny kitchen for so many days.
Day 10: Asheville, North Carolina
After a long day on the road and a couple of pop-up dance parties, we are all pooped and ready to climb into (and up to) bed. I am lulled to sleep by angry 18 wheelers making their way East and the midnight racers crossing back and forth down I-40. As cramped as my cozy above-cab bed is, I really do love it. Most of all, I know that I will miss the closeness of having Mom and Duncan with me every night.
Being on the road always clears my mind in the best way. I love thinking about the thousands I pass, each enveloped in their own unique world and living this life on their terms, much like we all do. I’ve got say, I feel pretty damn accomplished. I can successfully drive long distances and know how to do lots of groovy RV stuff, like making sure I give myself enough room when turning corners. I can empty tanks and plug in with relative ease. I can feed my family with the help of my trusty knife (when it turns out our can opener is broken) and also break into a locked bathroom, saving us all from truly roughing it outdoors. But, I think the most important thing I have learned is that I am, without a doubt, a room service and hotel kind of girl.
Day 11: Asheville, North Carolina to Homewood
Woke up, loaded up and began the slow crawl back to the ‘Ham. Happy to be going home. One of my favorite things about traveling is missing home. It always gives me such perspective and appreciation for my hometown.
Exhausted. Exhausted. Exhausted. Would 100 percent do this again but not without someone to help me with driving. I mean, I love to drive, but what was I thinking?