Sunday, September 07, 2008

"But it's a PARKING LOT!"

That was the wailing teenage voice next door as the grandparents and I assume granddaughter were getting ready to leave the site. The grandmother had explained that they were heading for another Thousand Trails preserve in Oregon but they didn't want to drive straight through. They were planning to park overnight at Wal-Mart. Grandmother countered with, "Honey, we have to save a little along the way so we stop there sometimes."

"But it's a PARKING LOT!"

"I know, but it's free."

"No it's not. You always go inside and buy stuff."

"That's right. We're thanking Wal-Mart for letting us park there."

"Then it's not free."

Teenage logic was trying to argue with elder wisdom.

"Honey, we only get what we need."

"Last time you bought toilet paper. You didn't need toilet paper."

"Yes we did. You can always use extra."

"Grandma, you have 48 rolls of toilet paper. No wait--47. I changed one this morning."

"Really? That many?"

"Yes! And a whole bunch of paper towels. They're everywhere, even in the closet." She stomped into the motorhome and closed the door.

The grandmother saw me sitting in my RV at the laptop. "Teenagers. They don't understand."

I shrugged. "Do you like parking in Wal-Mart?"

"Sure. It's usually close to the freeway and easy to get in and out of. And they always have stuff I need."

"Are you going up 101 or I-5?"


I noticed she had the Wal-Mart Locator. "OK. Here are the Wal-Marts that don't allow overnight parking from the Free Campgrounds website." I read the names and she wrote them down.

"I thought all the Wal-Marts liked RVers."

"Most of them do but we have a listing of those that don't permit overnight parking due to city ordinance or some other reason."

"Oh. I didn't know that."

"Have you ever stayed at a truck stop or travel center? They're pretty nice."

"Oh, they're noisy and the trucks run their engines all night long."

"I see." I didn't, but I didn't want to point out the obvious.

"Do you travel much?"

"Sometimes. I've been in five states in the last year."

"Don't you stay at Wal-Marts sometimes?"

"Nope. Never stayed overnight and I've only been inside one once."

She looked at me like I just dropped in from Jupiter.

"But where do you spend the night when you travel?"

"I usually stay in a campground or RV park where I have a discount like Happy Camper, Passport America or Camp Club USA. The most I've paid is $12 a night. If there isn't an RV park nearby when I need to get off the road for the day around 2 or 3, I'll stay at a truck stop."

"2 or 3? We leave around noon and drive until it's dark or we're tired. Then we look for the nearest Wal-Mart. We don't need to pay for a campground just to sleep."

"You always go into the store and ask permission, right?"

"Oh yes! Then we buy something to thank them."

"How much do you spend when you do that?"

"Last time, I think it was $79, wasn't it, Ed?"

He yelled from the other side of the coach. "Yeah, you bought a bunch of stuff."

"That was an expensive campsite. You could have stayed at an RV park for half that and had full hookups."

Silence. Oops. I had said too much. "You have a safe journey."

"Thank you. And thanks for the stores that don't allow us." She went into the rig and they left.

Call me dense but I'm with the granddaughter. I still don't understand the attraction of a Wal-Mart parking lot. Since I maintain the Free Campgrounds website as well as Wal-Marts That Do Not Allow Overnight Parking site and book, I also don't understand why some RVers become so angry with a city that doesn't permit overnight parking at the Wal-Mart store. RVers have vehemently stated that they will not spend a dime in any city that doesn't allow them to park at Wal-Mart.

I'm a full-time RVer and appreciate all the amenities of my motorhome. I'm a big fan of electricity, running hot and cold water, a propane stove and oven, a refrigerator that runs on electric or propane, a furnace, an air conditioner, a flush toilet and a sewer hookup. I boondock when I must but I really enjoy hookups. I can work from anywhere using wi-fi (free or prepaid), an aircard and a comfortable location. Why would I pass up a reasonably-priced park with amenities for a Wal-Mart parking lot?

Be kind, Wally World fans. I know you're trying to save money and you travel later in the day than I do. Some of you use the lot as a base to explore the area for several days. And I'm sure there are items you need. I want to understand.

But it's a PARKING LOT.


  1. I"m with you! Only stayed once, hope to not do it again!!

  2. We are not RVing - yet. I have read so much about staying at Walmart. I can understand staying there when you need to buy something anyway and are too tired to continue, etc., but I do appreciate you sharing the teenager's wisdom, never dawned on me, but she is so right - and I would have fallen into the same trap as her grandmother had I not read this!

    I have been reading your blog feed for some time now, enjoy reading it. Thank you.

  3. "Why would I pass up a reasonably-priced park with amenities for a Wal-Mart parking lot?"
    Very simple: for those who don't require or particularly want the 'amenities' of an RV park (I'm self-contained and I do not want to pay $30.00 - $50.00 for a space to park the rig for a few hours!), a 'parking lot' at a Wal*Mart, a truck stop, or a casino, can be very handy! If I'm just 'going to get somewhere' on an interstate, I just want a place off the road, but still convenient to the freeway, for a few hours rest. I pull in, close up, eat, sleep, and be on my way. YMMV.

  4. I spend a lot of time living in parking lots due to my work, so it's not that I want to CAMP in one when I'm not at work - but lots of times, here in the east, there aren't any campgrounds, much less reasonably priced ones, near where I need to be. And I really DO only buy things I actually need at WalMart - or anywhere else. I surely do appreciate retailers that welcome my little motorhome. And the ones that don't - once I was almost towed because store where I was working was not the owner of their own parking lot.

  5. When in travel mode, we like to stay at Walmart or Flying J or rest stops where allowed. After a long day's drive, we will pull in late, get ready for bed and sleep til daylight. Before heading out, we will shop for something we need, one time it was window cleaner, another time it was coffee supplies, or breakfast food. We usually aren't staying long enough to use any amenities, and wouldn't if we were in a campground, either.

    I think that is the same mode the grandparents were in, having a many hours drive to distant destination.

  6. another reason to use Wal-Mart lots: we do quite a bit of volunteer work during the summer, and must travel from one venue to another, often with less than a week between events; and these events are quite some distance from each other; the second event every summer is 2000 miles one way from the first one, and we usually have five or six days to make that distance; to save gas in our older motorhome, we try to drive 55 mph or less -- so we are driving from very early morning until well after dark.

    we feel it's rude to pull into a camping area or RV park at 10 or 11 at night, then bother neighbors while we coordinate backing into a slot, getting utilities hooked up, etc ... not to mention flashing headlights into rigs where people are just getting to sleep, as we arrive and try to find a slot to park that is relatively level and big enough

    also, many offices of RV parks are closed before we stop at night, and do not open until hours after we need to leave in the morning; we don't want to leave without paying, but many parks don't have provisions for those who arrive late and must leave early

    naturally, the "amenities" are closed too --- we are unlikely to use minigolf layouts, or the swimming pool in the moonlight, even if those areas weren't locked up tight; most laundry facilities are closed too, as is the mini-store ...

    thank goodness for Wal-Mart or other stores that let us park so we can get a bit of shuteye without bothering anyone else