We assume that most of you reading along with our adventures do not live in an RV and that many of you have not spent time in them. So we wanted to explain some of the basics of our new life.
One of the most apparent differences from our stationary life is where we spend our nights. On the one hand, no matter where we go, we are home and are sleeping in our bed. On the other hand, we never know where we’ll be parked in a couple of days (or even that night!) Here are a few of the places we’ve stayed over the last 14 months.
Walmart parking lots
Prevalent and convenient, Walmart provides a dual offering of both a place to spend the night and a chance to pick up whatever we might need (and bring it right back to our front door). Occasionally they won’t allow (or the city ordinances forbid) overnighting in their parking lot but you can quickly tell if it’s allowed when pulling in, based on the other RV’s already gathered. The lights are constant, as are the traffic sounds – Walmarts seem to be generally located on one of the busiest roads in the area. As a place to stop while en route, they’re hard to beat, though.
Apparently Sam’s has a similar appreciation of RVers, but we have yet to stay at one. They’re on our radar as options when needed, however.
Truck Stops (yes, the big gas stations)
Another good place to stay en route, these are conveniently located near the interstate. They often provide numerous services including showers, laundry, fast food, and more (other than bathrooms, coffee, and gas we haven’t yet utilized any others). As you might expect, they’re pretty well lit and earplugs are handy as you’ll be listening to big rigs moving around all night long.
Rest Stops (picnic areas on the interstates)
We’ve only stayed at a few of these so far – so many of the smaller parking areas don’t allow for over-night stays and some states have limits on how long you can park (ranging from 15 minutes to 12 hours). They can be far enough back from the road to mute the traffic noise but are often close and thus have a constant background noise. They do make great places to stop and stretch or prepare a meal (just as when traveling in a car) and we generally try to find one as we enter a new state so that we can grab the official state map.
The outdoor retailer has parking areas for over-sized vehicles and often provides stations to empty and fill tanks. We stayed at one while slowly making our way to the Bad Lands (pausing due to Sturgis). It was far enough back from the interstate to be quiet, but we were staying in a big parking lot, so it’s not the kind of place you’d want to spend a lot of time at. Very convenient while traveling, though.
Apparently, CB has an overnighters-are-welcome policy. We have yet to stay at one (they are few and far between up here in the north west) but they are on our to-try list. A chance to peruse the knick-knacks in the store and grab a hot breakfast sounds good to us. Plus, they close at night, so we’re hoping they would provide security with the lights in the parking lot but a good rest with little background traffic noise.
We’ve spent a lot of time staying out in the wilds in National Forests, deserts, and wilderness areas. Free camping with beautiful views – it’s a hard combination to beat. This is commonly called “boondocking” or “wild camping”, though the forest service calls it “Dispersed Camping”. With no utility hook-ups, we have to be self-containing and rely on our storage tanks, generator, and batteries for our needs. So far we’ve been able to stretch our 37 gallons of fresh water to 10 days. Especially here in the west, there are a lot of national forests and a lot of places we can stay, so we have greatly enjoyed exploring a lot of wilderness from within.
Oh yes, there are also plenty of campgrounds scattered around the country thus far. We are members of Passport America, a discount organization that gets us half off for at least a couple of nights at grounds that are members – so we use their guidebook regularly. Sites have ranged from new to old, shiny to worn-out, working to questionable. Not everywhere has a Passport America campground, so we have a collection of apps and directories that we use to find sites. Many cities and counties seem to have a small campground for travelers, as do National Parks and Forests. Campgrounds generally have the advantage of electricity and access to water and dump tanks for our waste.
Who knows where we’ll stay next! We have spent time parked in family’s driveways or the street nearby and left the RV in a church parking lot while staying in a delightful cottage on the lake. So far we have felt safe in our home, no matter where we’ve been parked. Occasionally we use our ear plugs to help provide a better night’s sleep but those nights are more than made up for when we get to wake up and appreciate a grand view of nature’s wonder during our morning’s beverages.
Exploring the world doesn’t mean we’re always staying in grand locations. It does mean that we’re happy in our home, though, wherever it might be parked at.