By Amy Geiszler-Jones
Retired mail carrier Linda Barnes doesn’t care for dealing with the wind, cold, ice and snow that can mark a Kansas winter.
For the fifth year in a row, Barnes, 71, and her 72-year-old husband, George, a retired Wichita police officer, will migrate south to spend the early winter months of the year.
The Barneses are snowbirds, the term used to describe retirees who travel from colder climates to warmer southern parts of the U.S. According to AARP, more than 30 million people typically head to Florida, while Arizona — where the Barneses are headed — generally gets about 10 million snowbirds.
Several major news outlets along with Arizona tourism officials are reporting that snowbird migration numbers are likely to be down for 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly among those who use air travel and stay at properties that cater to snowbirds.
The Barneses from Derby and first-time snowbirds Cathy and Ricky Beverage from Mulvane are going ahead with their migration plans, primarily since they will live in their recreational vehicles.
“Our philosophy is that we can quarantine just as well as we could here,” said Cathy Beverage, 62. The Beverages plan to spend two months living in their drivable motorhome in an RV park in Alamo, Texas.
Linda Barnes said she’s always stocked up their towable motorhome with food staples to avoid grocery shopping runs, a practice that will now help her limit being out and about during pandemic times.
“We have an extra freezer, and I pack it up,” she said.
Officials at the Apache Junction, Arizona, RV park where the couple is staying have advised her that they will need to quarantine for two weeks after they arrive.
The Barneses’ favorite pastimes are also well-suited to life in an RV during a pandemic. George listens to audiobooks, while Linda likes to sit outside knitting.
Besides avoiding the weather conditions she didn’t like when she was delivering mail, Barnes said wintering in Arizona has other benefits.
“I won’t be stuck inside like I would be in Kansas,” she said. “Plus, you can see the mountains, and it’s beautiful.”
Barnes likes to spend her mornings in Arizona sitting outside, drinking coffee and watching for the hummingbirds that stop by the feeder she sets up for her winged visitors.
Barnes said it always was her dream to spend retirement traveling, which is why the couple bought their first RV shortly after she left the U.S. Postal Service in 2015. After spending a couple of years wintering in Texas, the Barneses started spending winters in Arizona.
Like the Barneses, the Beverages have also wanted to travel in retirement.
“This is our fourth year of having an RV,” said Cathy Beverage, “and in the other years I said I wasn’t ready to head south but this year I said, ‘Let’s try it.’”
Beverage, who is the secretary for the Kansas Good Sam Club, said she contacted “Good Sammers” in other states to research possible RV parks. Good Sam Club is a national RV membership organization.
“Ricky and I have good health, bless the Lord, and we camped all summer long” with other Good Sam members, she said.
Beverage said she and her 63-year-old husband will continue their pandemic precautions while on the road and in Texas.
“We do not take risks at all. We wear our masks, and we don’t hang around big crowds,” she said.
“But by golly, I want to get out and be active while still being safe. We’re looking forward to going, and I hope we’re not exposed to COVID or have other health issues come up that would make us disappointed in our first trip.”
Contact Amy Geiszler-Jones at email@example.com
By Amy Geiszler-Jones