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by Dave Galey

When in route from one place to the next, often it requires several days to complete the journey. Thus we are compelled to find a place to park our rig and spend the night on the road.

Obviously the common choice is the profusion of RV, or trailer parks dotting all the major routes through-out the country. But, what if you do not want to hook-up or even need to hook up while en- route, or are just plain cheap and don't see the need to waste the money on an over night parking place? Still, there is that breed of camper that doesn't feel secure parked outside of a KOA. But, if you are the adventuresome type, and would like to keep a few bucks in your hip pocket, read on!

One of the slickest ways to find free parking en-route is to cultivate a host of friends all over the country and park in the street in front of their house, or their driveway or backyard. If you do this it is important to insist they throw you a land line so you can hook-up to electricity. Also, if they have a sewer clean out handy, be sure to demand your right to use this as a dump station. This approach may take a couple of years to develop, but I know of a few people who have achieved this remarkable feat.

The simplest place to locate for an over night stay is a regional shopping center. They are almost always just off the super slab and easy to spot. Many major malls, however, do not allow over night parking and a notice of this fact will be posted. One morning in Ventura, California, we were rousted out at 3:00 a.m. and ordered off the premises by a Rent-A-Cop who informed us of a city ordinance against sleeping in a vehicle. Although this was a blatant self-serving lie, it turned out to be a good thing since we got a jump start toward our home, which was another 100 miles on the other side of L.A. The Ventura Freeway into Los Angeles at that time was under construction and we breezed through between three and four in the morning, whereas the morning rush hour lasted nearly three hours. When we got home we just parked in the backyard and crawled back into bed. Since then, when we wish to spend the night in Ventura, we use the J.C.Penney back parking lot.

There are several type of shopping centers that actually welcome RV over- nighters. Foremost among these are the K- Mart stores. It does two significant things for these stores. It increases their parking lot security to have an over-nighter and the next morning they have a potential and grateful customer. It also improves their public image.

Once we entered a regional shopping mall in a large city and noticed a No Over Night Parking sign as we came in. So, looking around, we noticed a Sam's Club across the street. We proceeded there and inquired of the manager and learned that almost every night they had two or three RV rigs in their lot. No doubt, a reaction to the snobby mall across the street. He assured us we were welcome. I won't identify the city, but it is located in the southeast corner of South Dakota.

One of the most common over night parking spots is the ordinary rest stop. This is also one of the most disagreeable locations to try to get any sleep. Many rest stops are posted for no over night parking; possibly due to the penchant of some natives for murdering tourists The only place worst than a rest stop for over night parking is a truck stop. The rest stops are unpleasant because of their proximity to the highway and the all night-long-traffic noise. The truck stops are worst because of the large number of trucks with their motors running and their refrigeration generators going, and the incessant din of trucks coming and going all night long. Sometimes, however, you have no choice. I recall one time in a West Texas truck stop. We had looked for a suitable stopping place without success and it was getting late so we couldn't be choosey and had to park in a truck stop. After all, there is safety in numbers. That night the trucks were but a minor irritation compared to the blue norther, a wind that pounded the coach all night to the degree I felt we may capsize. Little sleep was had that night.

One guaranteed over night parking place is in front of your kids house. Of course it is seldom they live in a location which is a convenient stopping place while en-route to further destination. But, they are family, and cannot refuse you. Be prepared, however, to have your electrical hook-ups from the garage to the coach disconnected at any time. This is guaranteed to happen with all the grand- kids, neighbors kids and dogs running around. One time we were in Utah in sub- freezing weather comfortably ensconced in front of one of our children's place. Our electric toe-kick heaters were functioning beautifully along with our propane units. We awoke one morning to discover our pipes in the baggage compartment had frozen, despite a 100 watt bulb burning near our water pump. So the next day we decided to improve our chances by picking up a 1500 watt cube heater from Wal-Mart to keep the baggage compartment nice and cozy. Alas, a kid or a dog kicked our electrical connection loose in the night. This time our pipes froze solid and din not thaw, even by that afternoon. So, we broke camp and headed south. That night we parked in a casino parking lot in Mesquite, Nevada and were awaken the next morning by our water pump continuously evacuating our fresh water through the breaks caused by the freeze.

I could discuss the private camping membership parks but they are kind of like your kids place, i.e., normally off the beaten path seldom on the way to your destination and simply do not lend themselves en route over night parking. And they are designed more for a resort style vacations.

One of the neatest membership organization is the Elks Club more properly known as the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE). Almost all of the lodges have internal camping clubs and many of the lodges have mini-camp grounds with full or partial hook ups. We have stayed in Elks Lodges parking lots as humble as a strip shopping center with three business tenants (The Elks being one of them) to several lodges sporting eighteen hole golf courses with 50 amp electrical service. As a visiting Elk, we have always been made to feel welcome and many locations without camping facilities have run an electrical cord out a window to give us all the service we could use. One time, we could not locate an Elks Lodge in a certain city. We spotted an Eagle's lodge, inquired and learned that the town no longer had an Elk's club. We were, however welcomed to spend the night in their parking lot if we wished. How's that for hospitality?

Another really neat place to park is a marina parking lot. This is especially great if you are a boat lover and aren't most of us? One fabulous location which should be mentioned is Winchester Bay just south of Reedsport on the Oregon coast. There is a fee for parking over-night but this spot not only has the greatest atmosphere but fresh water for your holding tanks and a dump station. One time, by accident, we stumbled upon one of those idyllic locations you dream about. We had pulled off I-90 near Snowquamish in Washington and got lost looking for the small town. (You've heard the old story, "I come from a really small town." "How small was it?"). Turning down a dirt road we ended up in an isolated area parking next to a running stream with a pair of bald eagles soaring overhead and total privacy. We have been back a couple times since and it hasn't yet been spoiled by a developer.

Another safe way to find a place to spend the night when you are in a remote location is to track down the local police station or hail a passing cruiser and ask for their advice. One time in Mexico (where we always stay in campgrounds) we came to the small town of Caborca and discovered both campgrounds listed in our Woodall's camping guide were closed and out of business. We contacted the local Federales and were directed to a park next to a church across the street from the army barracks. We felt very secure. Another time in Lovelock, Nevada the local cops had us park in a vacant lot across from the police station. This is not to accuse Lovelock as being a remote location and they may have a campground by now. How's that for defusing some angry letters?

Finding an over night spot while en-route is always a challenge and is limited only by your imagination and your daring. Of course you may always play it safe and use the Woodall's camping guide or a KOA handbook but we enjoy the excitement connected with discovery. I hope the ideas contained herein will stimulate your adventuresome spirit.


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