Staying at the Walmart Inn

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walmart parking lot

Friendly people and no bedbugs. Photo by Matt Beldyk; Creative Commons license

Just a few weeks ago my Texan brother-in-law died and I felt like I needed to pay my respects. Considering all the unpleasant ways there are to get to Texas from here, I thought I’d rather just drive it. A long drive gives a person time to think and for me the best part of a trip is often the drive to somewhere, not the place where I end up. So I set aside all the worries about whether or not an aging Hyundai with a rebuilt transmission can actually survive a trip to Texas, threw some clothes and my bugout bag in the back seat, loaded every tool I thought I might actually need into the trunk, and set out on a very long road trip.

In the days when I was gainfully employed and had extra money to spend I used to enjoy motel camping on vacations, just driving as much as I felt like during the day and stopping at a convenient inn about sunset. That doesn’t seem so attractive now that bedbugs have invaded most of the country. Having grown up in the Ozarks and dealt with every bloodsucking insect in the world except bedbugs I’m reluctant to chance bringing some of the beasties home with me. The alternatives to motel camping aren’t numerous. You pretty much have two options: you can camp at a state park, which is usually like sleeping on pavement except you pay for the privilege; or you can sleep in the car.

Car camping isn’t usually as pleasant as motel camping used to be, although I do have plenty of entertainments and the Tiburon is pretty comfortable to stretch out in. I probably would not want to live in my car permanently, but if I ever wound up homeless I’d prefer the car over a tent in most situations. Legally and practically, car camping tends to be discouraged. Park on a lonely road at night and you’ll draw the attention of all sorts of people, including the police. Rest stops on the Interstates are noisy and also have a reputation for attracting the wrong type of customers. I spent one night at a rest stop near the Missouri/Oklahoma border and it was pleasant enough except for the traffic noise, but actually the best place I stayed on my trip was a Walmart parking lot just over the Texas state line.

Walmart probably officially discourages overnight stays on their property but the only signs I’ve seen regarding this are the ones that say “No Overnight Truck Parking.” If it’s a store that stays open 24 hours a day and the parking lot isn’t packed then you’re certainly not causing any harm. I always buy something from the store if I’m staying long and as yet nobody has complained. If you’ve been driving for 16 hours, a Walmart seems pretty nice. I park on the fringe of the activity and trust the security cameras to keep an eye on things. I figure anyone who’s working for the low wages they pay isn’t going out of their way to find extra work, and will leave me the hell alone. So far at least, I’ve been right.

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About JTHats

Avid backpacker and outdoorsman with old skills and interests in old ways of doing things; equally fascinated by electronics, from the days of Sputnik, to the Zilog Z80A, to the present day of black box circuitry. Sixty years of experience with growing my own food and living simply. Certified electronics technician, professional woodturner, woodcarver, and graduate of two military survival courses -- Arctic and Jungle.

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