There are virtually thousands of recreational vehicles that arrive in Orange County and Orlando each month to visit Disney World, Sea World, Universal , the Convention Center, and myriad other attractions in the environs. There are few private campgrounds, fewer county campgrounds, and still fewer city facilities where RVers might check in. The City of Orlando doesn’t want them….Orange County doesn’t want them. Osceola County doesn’t, either….or Kissimmee. They just want the MONEY generated by these visitors, not the issue of where they will park for the night!
Ask any WALMART manager about the parking of RVs in their lots overnight, and they will tell you that RVers spend lots of cash in their stores and gas stations. They cause no trouble, and have little impact on the shoppers’ activity. Sam Walton, the venerable founder of this phenomenal chain, always maintained that he would not turn away an RV needing a parking space overnight. And that stated policy has carried over the decades, so that all RVers look for a Walmart for their groceries, their automotive needs and for general shopping. The only problem is one created by local governments. WHY?
If RVers have families traveling with them, they might prefer to have the amenities found in campgrounds. But a retired couple, or a single person living full-time in his RV, have no use for slides and swings, wading pools and game rooms. And they didn’t buy the expensive vehicles to have to pay tribute to campground owners with high-priced overnight charges. One could rent a motel room for less, and not use the RV facilities. But that is not what this is about.
I have been a full-time RV traveler for over 35 YEARS. Only recently have the counties,cities and towns begun to flex their muscles (often at the behest of campgrounds) and threatening stores with violations of codes, real or imagined, and the imposition of fines. (Just another REVENUE PRODUCER in tough times??) In one town I am familiar with, there are state statutes cited that have to do with regulations for the operation of a campground. Stores that operate all 24 hours, 7 days a week, can certainly allow their customers access during all those open hours without being accused of running a virtual campground.
But these entities operate under the cloak of secrecy. Taking pictures of “violating over-nighters”, and cowing the stores into measures to come “into conformity.” These are akin to NAZI TACTICS to achieve political will. There have been ANONYMOUS CALLS to Walmart, at different echelons of management, complaining about RVs parking in their lots. From WHENCE COMETH THESE CALLS??
Campground personnel? Jealous non-RV folks? Or could it be S A T A N ?
Walmart needs to MAN UP…and refuse to accede to these nonsense harassment tactics, which amount to nothing but a tempest in a teapot. Anonymous call = UN American, in my view.
We of the RV community, a group in the millions, need to take a circumspect look at whether our motoring dollars are well-spent at places that no longer seem to want and welcome us. And the ACLU and other rights organizations, need to face off against blatantly UNCONSTITUTIONAL ordinances and restrictions.
Lastly, I must mention that Orlando is the infamous city that has ARRESTED AND JAILED people who have tried to feed the homeless and other needy individuals downtown, in a park adjacent to a chi-chi neighborhood. This action ordered by a wealthy mayor, Buddy Dyer, who lives in one of the city’s most affluent areas (previously Tiger Woods hang-out). Will they now start to arrest and jail those who are accused by anonymous callers of parking overnight at the local Walmart Supercenter?
If they hate the hungry and homeless…..it seems they also HATE RVers...even if they’re not penniless.
I often stay in New Hampshire until the first part of October. There are some real cool nights after Labor Day, but I don’t heat the RV…I prefer for it to be cool for sleeping, anyway. I generally head south to Boston. I pass Manchester on I 293 and join I 93 for the first leg of the journey. I time my departure with a last doctor’s appointment in Beantown, a last dinner with friends and a stop to see relatives before departing the area.
The first choice for a route depends on weather, and can take me down I 95 to Rhode Island, and on to the Foxwoods or Mohegan Sun Casinos. These are good places to spend a free night, and there is great dining as well. Otherwise, I will go west on the Mass.Turnpike, or the slower U.S.20, to Springfield. My sister lives in Suffield, CT, so I pick up I 91 south, and after a visit there, my second choice intervenes. At Hartford one can break for the Hudson River by continuing on I 91 to the Connecticut Turnpike (joining I 95 at New Haven), or go west through Danbury, CT on I 86, to I 686, just inside New York state. You’ve got to get into Jersey somehow (SORRY), and these are my default routes.
Both routes lead to the Tappan Zee Bridge (FREE going west!) and the Garden State Parkway, the best way to circumvent the metropolitan NY-NJ cities, and around to my next choice of stops: the Walmart at N.Brunswick, NJ. Get off the G.S. Parkway at Edison, US 1 south (Gas-up here, cause you won’t find it cheaper). You might go farther on US route 1, to Trenton, re-joining I 95 there. You’ll cross the Delaware River near where the first George W did it, standing- up in a tippy boat. Don’t get out to throw a coin across the river or you’ll never make it to the warmth. (This bridge is FREE) It isn’t far to Philadelphia Park, just off I 95, for my third night, at this stop north of the city. There is track,and a new casino with acres of parking.
My fourth day brings me along the Delaware river past the Philadelphia skyline on I 95, and into Newcastle, Delaware (Don’t head into Wilmington by mistake). Join US 13. Just past the airport ,I turn west (right turn) and head for Delaware Park, still another casino and raceway with free parking.Follow the signs…you will go under I 95, but you’ve avoided another toll!
My personal selection for the succeeding leg of the trip: back to US 13 in Newcastle, and down the state of Delaware and the eastern shore of Maryland and Virginia. The Delaware Turnpike is inexpensive, and congestion-free. Jump back onto US 13 just above Dover. You can park at the Dover Downs raceway and casino, or the Walmart/Sam’s Club just north, near where you exit DE route 1 . Just beyond Dover you will find a Walmart Supercenter at Camden. My next stop is in Harrington,though, at the state fair location there. There is a raceway there, and a 24/7 casino. I slow down even more on this route since I like to stop at Salisbury, MD. There is a Walmart Supercenter/Sam’s Club with a gas station there (usually the best gas prices until the Tidewater area), and good outside dining choices, too.I like the Chinatown Buffet. There are also Supercenters at Fruitland ,Farmington,Seaford, and Pokomoke City, MD. I go over and under Chesapeake Bay using the bridge/tunnel complex. and arrive in Virginia Beach.There is a newly renovated rest facility before you pay the toll for the bay crossing where you can overnight if you choose. On the mainland again, you can stay at the Walmart on US 13 ,Veterans Highway in Norfolk, or continue to Battlefield Road in Chesapeake, to the Walmart/Sam’s Club there (w/gas station). Another Walmart Supercenter is found in Chesapeake, off US 13 south, just before Dismal Swamp, and the North Carolina line. We’re headed for the Ocean Highway. You want to go a little farther, you say? Okay, proceed through farming country on the Elizabeth City by-pass, and you’ll come to Route NC344, Halstead RD., and still another Walmart Supercenter with fuel. Then we are headed for Ablemarle Sound. Side trips to the Outer Banks, anyone?
For years I followed the other good possibility from Newcastle, DE. You go south on US 13 to the curving right turn onto US route 50, for a few miles to US 301 South. Bang a left! For decades, until I 95 was completed, US 301 was the alternative to going south via US 1 all the way ( Maine to Key West!) and seemingly through every population center east of Chicago, and it’s still a good way to go. You cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge (you gotta pay in this direction) and continue to Waldorf,MD.( I have stayed overnight, without incident, at the K Mart near Kent Island, just before the bridge, or in Waldorf at the shopping plaza behind Wendy’s). 301 is a nice drive. It goes through Annapolis, the Capitol. Don’t bother stopping at the Walmart in Waldorf,as overnights are verboten. ,
You like traffic? You can continue on toward DC and the Beltway on US 50, where you join I 95 south to Fredericksburg, VA. There’s the Central Park shopping area there, where I95 meets VA route 3. You’ll find a Supercenter with good gas prices, and many shops and restaurants. History abounds in this area for Civil War buffs,too. Keep on I 95 to E.Parham Road (VA 73) and the Northgate Shopping Center (Walmart Supercenter, of course) at the US 1 intersection. Or take the I295 by-pass to Petersburg to avoid city traffic. This fast way south is good for making time and distance. At Colonial Heights there is Southpark Shopping Area . Again…all the stores and restaurants and a Walmart and Sam’s Club. Petersburg National Battlefield is close by. Crossing into North Carolina this way,I always head for Dunn, NC. Ernie’s Restaurant is there! It’s a buffet-style presentation of some terrific southern cooking. There is whole -hog pulled pork to die for, greens, corn bread, fabulous spicy sausages, and all the favorites you would expect, including fresh fried chicken with all the fixin’s. You won’t find closer to home cookin’ ! Need RV fuel, too? There is a Walmart gas station at Dunn, just west of town on US421.
If you had stayed on 301, you’ld cross the Rappahanic on the narrow and scary Nice toll bridge, and west into Fredericksburg on Route 3. This area figures prominently in the early life of George W (the smart one). Or keep on truckin’ 301 to Richmond. Either on the by-pass I295 or south on I 95 from the smokin’capitol of the country to Petersburg, and Colonial Heights,and Southpark, where you find those good parking and eating choices. A Sheetz gas station on the other side (east) of Southpark has good prices.
Back to the Ocean Highway from Chesapeake, VA. The little-traveled US 13 beyond Elizabeth City, NC is a fine highway now. It is joined by US 17, and continues to these NC Walmart locations: Williamston, Washington, New Bern, Jacksonville and Wilmington, where you can find gas at the Market Street location. There is also gas at the Sam’s Club on College Ave., a few blocks away.
I am a fan of buffet-style restaurants, mainly because of the variety in choices. I probably dine out more than most, because I am single, and don’t find cooking full meals-for-one an easy thing to do without dealing with tons of left-overs. Good Chinese buffets are my personal favorites, and there are many on this route (Google ‘em, they’re easy to find). All the Golden Corral restaurants on the Delaware stretch have closed! But you find them again when you get farther down the peninsula. Sure, you’ll probably eat too much; it can be difficult not to.
I like to stay overnight at the Walmart Supercenter in Leland, NC. It is just over the bridge from Wilmington in a new shopping area. It is quiet and uncongested, and also has fuel. Unless I go on, to stay at Shallotte; this is the last night in NC. The next will be in Myrtle Beach, SC. Stay at the Walmart in North Myrtle Beach, at King Road where there is an outlet center, a Golden Corral and gasoline at the Supercenter, and on the US 17 Bypass, at Sam’s Club at 10th Street,and a few other locations along the highway. After I have “done” the ” Grand Strand”, it is on through Pawley’s Island, to Georgetown. As you approach Mount Pleasant you begin to see the roadside stands offering sweetgrass baskets that are woven by the native Americans of this region. They are quite elaborate or charmingly simple, but each is unique. I hope that you’ll consider buying something; help sustain this wonderful tradition (they are NOT inexpensive,however).
One can spend lots of time in Charleston. If you’ve got to just pass -through, stay on the highway and over the elegant Ravenel Bridge. But be advised…..there is a heap of history in this area, and before you head up and over, you can stop to see the USS Yorktown moored in Charleston harbor at Freedom Park, and take a ferry tour out to Fort Sumter. If that tempted you to stop, you’ll have to go downtown to the Battery, where the guns of the bombardment of the historic island are placed. The bayside homes will have you marveling at the antebellum architecture preserved there. Also lots of other historic sites nearby; the French Quarter and Waterfront Park.You can stay overnight in North Charleston, near the airport.From I 26 take Exit 213B. From I526 take Exit 16B onto International Blvd. to Colluseum Drive (Opposite the Colluseum )There is a terrific chinese buffet there, next to the Dollar Tree, and near the Supercenter/Sam’s/gas station/outlet center/convention center/fire museum. Whew! It’s all just off the interstate. From I26, continue on Montague to International Blvd. and Mall Drive (at the Starbucks). If you are drawn to tools and Harbor Freight, there is one within a mile, guys!
I get back onto US 17 south toward Savannah. The “low country” doesn’t get any better than this part of SC, and a side trip to Beaufort is worthwhile. This lovely spot can be toured easily in your RV. Many bridges to many pretty islands. Parris Island is also here, with its Marine base and a Marine airbase. You can cross the Savannah River (after your side trip to Hilton Head) by heading for the clouds on the steep US 17 suspension bridge. It brings you right into the picturesque city, where myriad city ” squares ” abound. Stay on US 17, or better, follow Abercorn Blvd. all the way to GA route 204. Get off onto US 17 south here, toward Richmond Hill, and you find a Walmart Supercenter with fuel, and a night’s stay if you choose.
After Beaufort and/or Hilton Head, you can do what I do, as a rule. I go through Hardeeville,SC and through the GA wildlife preserve to Garden City, and then Savannah. If passing through, I get back onto I 95 and pass by to the west. There are truck stops just beyond the Richmond Hill exit, at the re-joining of the Ocean Highway US 17. The newly -widened I 95 is super from here to Florida. Wait a second!…I didn’t say I was taking that road! No, I roll at a leisurely pace on US 17 with LITTLE or NO company, to Brunswick. I go out to I 95 on the Golden Isles Highway, Route 25,(Walmart here!) and head south to US 17s (AGAIN), thereby avoiding another hummungeous steep bridge on US 17 from the city. I follow that little traveled, mostly forgotten artery, to Kingsland. Left on E.King Ave (GA40) to Saint Marys. and more less-expensive gas. There is a nice State Park here near the Submarine Base. Yes, there is a Walmart with fuel, as well. Git yer petrol afore y’cross the river into the Sunshine State.