Monday, September 28, 2015


Ever since we started thinking about buying an RV, we'd been hearing about "boondocking at Walmart." Until we decided to invest in a motorhome, we didn't worry much about the details that boondocking might entail, although we did notice an occasional travel trailer or motorhome positioned at the edges of parking lots at the Evil Empire. Once we acquired the Guppy, though, the notion of finding places where it would be possible to spend a night for Free moved way up the interest scale. So I researched it online, looked at various blogs to see what other RV-ers had to say on the subject, and more or less decided it would be doable on an occasional basis, like while in transit from home to Missouri. 

Boondocking, for the uninitiated, refers to camping where there are no amenities such as electricity, running water, or a sewer hookup. Until I started hearing about spending the night at Walmart or in an Eagles Club parking lot, I tended to think of boondocking as heading out into a national forest or some other remote area. You know, doing basic camping. Rustic camping. Not pulling into a huge parking lot and sleeping there. A Walmart parking lot definitely strikes me as being the antithesis of the boondocks.

Anyway, I did the research, checked out the various web sites that explained the protocol for boondocking at Walmart, and then looked at the lists of Walmarts that do or do not allow the practice. I noticed in my online wanderings that some people seemed to believe you can park at any Walmart. Not true. There are whole bunches that say No to boondocking. However, there are also whole bunches that say Yes.

There are established protocols, of course. If you want to boondock, even if there are other RVs already parked on the periphery of the parking lot, you should go to the service desk to confirm that it's okay. If they say yes, you park in the area the service desk tells you to. You live with your RV being lopsided -- no putting out jacks or dropping landing gear to level the trailer or motorhome. If your equipment has slide-outs, they stay slid in. No digging out the lawn chairs and rolling out an awning, no setting up the barbecue grill. In short, no camping behavior.

 We got directed to the far side of the parking lot, about as far as possible from the entrance doors, which meant it was the part of the parking lot that would naturally have the fewest cars wanting to park there. Because we had a vehicle in tow, we had to straddle a row of angle parking spaces on the west edge of the lot. This particular Walmart is one that also welcomes semis (not all stores do); if you look in the background in the photo to the right, you can see two of them lined up in the background. There was a third semi parked to the east of us. There was also a large sign on every light pole saying no truck parking allowed, which was an interesting contradiction.

There were also a couple other RVs in the lot, one pretty close to us and one that was far enough away that we figured that either they were just passing through (i.e., not planning to spend the night) or not familiar with the rules. It didn't surprise me that other RVs were in the same general class as the Guppy, which is a polite way of saying sliding into Randy Quaid territory and appreciating a low budget space.

So what was our first boondocking experience actually like? Well, among other things we figured out that we need to get a ceiling vent cover. We'd been talking about it anyway -- getting a vent cover that would help keep the Guppy warmer in cold weather -- but realized Saturday night that it would also be nice to be able to block the glare from parking lot lights. I could read a book by the light from those parking lot lights; they did not make it easy to sleep. We have good blackout curtains on the bedroom windows; I never thought about doing a blackout for the ceiling vent, too.

Besides the parking lot lights, the other annoyance turned out to be the Illinois Central Railroad. We knew there'd be some noise in the evening -- we were spitting distance from a Taco Bell, close to a highway, and it was Saturday night -- but figured once it got to be after midnight, things would be quiet. We were wrong. I don't know how many trains Illinois Central runs, but it did seem like the noise from one set of cars would just be fading away when we'd hear the locomotive whistle from another train. I like trains, but there are limits.

In any case, it was a good experience even if it wasn't the most restful night we've spent in the Guppy. Live and learn -- I worried about parking lot noise; it never occurred to us to worry about trains.

1 comment:

  1. I always wondered about Walmart's RV "facilities." Now I know.


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