Justice Thomas maps own course, at wheel of his 40-foot bus

FIILE - In this Nov. 30, 2018, file photo, Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, appointed by President George H. W. Bush, sits with fellow Supreme Court justices for a group portrait at the Supreme Court Building in Washington. Thomas has never been afraid to turn right when his colleagues turn left, or in any direction really as long as theres a place to plug in his 40-foot refitted tour bus. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) (Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

WASHINGTON – Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has never been afraid to turn right when his colleagues turn left, or in any direction really as long as there’s a place to plug in his 40-foot (12-meter) refitted tour bus at the end of the day.

Thomas is the only justice with a second home on wheels. And while it’s unclear how he’s using it during the court’s break, he still might be the envy of his colleagues during this pandemic-limited summer.

Justices have canceled trips to the Czech Republic and Ireland, as well as the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Northwest because of the coronavirus outbreak. RV travel, meanwhile, seems to fit with the national mood — a country cooped up and needing to get away but leery of being too close to strangers.

RV rental companies report big increases in their business, and Kampgrounds of America, with 525 private campgrounds in the U.S. and Canada that cater to RVs, is seeing its bookings begin to rebound after it was swamped with cancellations when the virus spread across the country in the spring, said Michael Gast, KOA’s vice president of communications.

“People are saying, ‘I got to get out of here. I still want to take a vacation this summer, something that allows me to socially distance.’ Camping just became the thing to do, and, for some people, the only thing they could do,” Gast said.

The 72-year-old Thomas has the KOA discount card and a bunch of others for older Americans, he said in a conversation with businessman and philanthropist David Rubinstein at the Supreme Court in 2019. “The senior citizens have looked out for themselves. You get every possible discount you could get,” he said.

He was in his early 50s when he and his wife, Ginni, got the RV bug. They’ve had their vehicle since 1999 — technically a motorcoach and not an RV, Thomas told Yale alumni in 2014. They regularly spend their summers on the road, making it to nearly two dozen states in 2018, he said last year.

In years past, they might spend the night in a Walmart parking lot if the battery had enough power.