31 Jul 2008 @ 8:56 PM 

I have spent innumerable days and nights in private, state and federal camping areas, and for the most part it has been enjoyable. When you have young people in your entourage, the facilities offered by the typical family campground are perfect to connect with their usual activities back home. And to relieve any boredom they might feel travelling…particularly for long distances.

My first choice for “camping” will always be the state and federal forests. Second comes the state and federal parks. The facilities offered by the private campgrounds are terrific if you need electric and water hook-ups. Maybe you want to be connected to the sewer lines. Perhaps a camp store is on your list of camping requirements. A swimming pool, on-site laundry, air, cable, computer plug-in?

My vehicle is equipped with a bank of golf cart batteries that supply all my electrical needs. House current (115 volts AC) arrives on-line throughout the RV via a sizable inverter, that changes the automotive current (12-15 volt DC) to power any small appliance in the kitchen. Everything else is low voltage, that is to say, all lights and fans in the kitchen, lighting throughout the interior are powered by those batteries. If I need to use the microwave, or to make the morning coffee, I fire-up my small Honda 2000 watt (quiet-running) generator. The coffee could be done through the inverter power, but the electric draw is high. The solar panel on the roof keeps the source topped-up for most of my needs. So much for electric hook-ups.

If you have sufficient holding tank capacity for a short duration, you do not have to be connected to a sewer umbilical. And all RVs have pretty good tanks for fresh water (filtered, of course). There is a commercial laundry nearby almost everywhere (within a week’s travel), and I can find a library, or connect to the internet at myriad hot spots around the country. My satellite TV dish provides perfect reception even in the desert. And I do not need air conditioning for the few uncomfortable nights I might have to experience in a typical year, since I travel to Florida or to the southwest for the winter, but head north to visit my daughter, son-in law and his Mom,in the late spring, until the early fall.

That FINALLY brings us to WALMART. Sam Walton, when he was still with us, held that travellers were good business for Walmart, and that he would never disallow an RV owner a parking space for overnight. When I am on the move, and do not require any of the aforementioned amenities…look for me at the nearest Supercenter!

To date I have spent the night at well over 180 Walmarts and Sam’s Clubs. They get my business for groceries and neccessities; I buy my gas there (hard to find in the northeast,though), have purchased tires, oil and filters and some RV supplies there. Sam was right….it is a transactional arrangement that makes good sense.

Okay, now that we’ve generalized on that subject, if you are one of the Walmart haters, you can move along….no hard feelings! Most supermarkets,that have the room in their parking lots, will allow one night. Just be sure to check it out with the manager. Sometimes there are specific restrictions. More often now, there are local ordinances prohibiting sleeping in a vehicle at night.They are probably unconstitutional… but just move along. I do not want to be where I am not welcome. My business sense doesn’t want to reward anyone who cannot appreciate that millions of RVs are out there. Even if everyone wanted to spend every night in a campground, there simply is no room!

Today’s self-contained RVs are equipped with all the comforts, and needn’t impinge on anyone’s sensibilities….as long as the owners are reasonable, do not overstay their welcome, do not spread out across multiple sites unneccessarily, do not tie-out their animals or fail to pick up after them, or themselves. Don’t even talk to me about esthetics. There are very few Partridge Family psychedelic buses out there, and the majority of the RVs are pretty good looking, and certainly do not detract from the street scene.

Most Walmarts make you welcome. What I have said previously is what most of the managers expect when you arrive to stay over. Just stay back out of the way of shoppers’ spaces (most stores are, or are converting to Supercenters that stay open 24/7), and try to be UNOBTRUSIVE. That isn’t asking much, and if when the morning arrives, you are not on your way, you should be. There are some exceptions…check out the local rules, but move around, or move out!

There are circumstances where a Walmart management does not make the rules. I stopped for three years running, on my way through New Jersey , at a Walmart at Hamilton Shops. It was very convenient to major highways,Trenton, restaurants and services of all kinds. This year I was met coming out of the store by a new security officer. After a friendly chat with this gent, he informed me that the owners of the property no longer allow overnight parking at any area there. Walmart does not own the property, Same is true just north of Jacksonville, Florida, and at many places where you might expect to be welcomed.

The most effective way to save yourself ,and the security service, any embarassment, or a knock on the door at 1 AM, is simply to ask. Every year I buy the Walmart version of Rand McNally’s Road Atlas. In the back you will find a listing of all the Supercenters, smaller stores, Walmart neighborhood grocery stores, and Sam’s Clubs throughout the entire North American expanse. I keep track of where I have stayed, notes about the location, comments about unusual features, and proximity to points of interest. My personal rating system employs words like “GREAT!”, “LOTS OF ROOM “,”POSTED-NO PARKING OVERNIGHT”.

Often, the reason signs have been posted in the Walmart lot is to keep TRUCKERS out! There are also an insufficient number of truck stops, I’m sure, but these large commercial rigs,that are not even delivering to the store,certainly don”t belong. Even with the diesel prices in the stratosphere, many of these truck drivers run their engines all night, drop their trailers to go elsewhere for food, drink…even accommodations. Do you blame Walmart for trying to control this practice?

Posted By: Bob
Last Edit: 18 Mar 2009 @ 04:16 PM

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