Overnighters – Free Places to Stop

Rv Cartoon 1

My last article on overnight parking at Walmart created a flood of emails and comments and many of you said that there was other places to spend the night free. As I said in my last article it rubs me the wrong way to spend more that $20 to park for a night just to grab a few hours sleep.

women chasing

If we are planning a trip for more than a weekend, an overnight stop or two is usually on our agenda. When a trip is planned I think all of us like to leave as soon as possible, no matter what time of day it is. Sometimes Lynda and Buddy are running behind trying to jump aboard as I head out the driveway.

Not quite that bad but close.

 

Lucky for me Lynda is well organized with a master camping list and various sub-lists depending on our destination and what kind of activities and weather we are expecting to encounter.

Our favorite stop is a casino. Casinos normally have a designated free RV parking area and many have a casino shuttle that cruises by often. It’s a treat to wander around and drop a few coins in the one armed bandits and maybe hit the buffet for dinner. The RV area is usually quiet and perfect for a good nights sleep.

Our second choice is Walmart, or sometimes its our first choice if we are in need of supplies. If the Walmart parking lot displays no parking signs we will approach the manager and more often than not he will let us stay for a night. The signs seem to be there to discourage long term camping.

Rest area

Next choice is rest areas although some states and provinces do not allow overnight parking and it will be posted. Also if the rest area is deserted we will think twice before staying, safety in numbers I suppose.

Tourist info and state welcome centers will often allow overnight camping. On our trip east from Arizona we parked for the night on the New Mexico-Texas border at the tourist welcome center. A great spot with security patrols and free Wifi.

A Bad Experience

Our experience on the return trip was not so comforting. It was the same spot just on the other side of the highway. I will never forget our experience. We arrived an hour or two before dusk. As we entered the parking lot I took a quick count of the vehicles, one RV, a older model van and a semi-trailer close to the entrance. We took up a couple of spots close to the center that was just closing.

It seemed like a decent spot for the night with one other RV. Lynda took Buddy (our dog) for his nightly ritual walk around the large parking lot. While she was gone I readied our rig for the night. Soon the parking lot was deserted except for the semi-trailer.

I was not concerned in the least as we still were not alone and I figured the semi would spend the night and if he left his reefer unit running through the night he was far enough away the noise would be a distant din. We opened a bottle of wine and sat recapping our route and anticipating the following day’s adventure.

Just as dark was descending on the parking lot I heard the semi’s engine turn over and belch to life. I thought at the time he was leaving us………..not so.

Phantom semi

The truck pulled forward making a wide turn towards our side of the parking lot. Slowly it edged the pavement across from our rig. I was at a loss as to what the driver was up to. He slowly came closer and circled behind our rig, at the time I didn’t think there was enough room behind us to make this maneuver.

I was correct, but his plan  was not to continue past us. The big truck jerked to a stop with the cab of the tractor directly beside our window  where we were sitting with our wine.  The truck was so close if he opened the passenger door it would slam into our RV. The trailer of the truck extended behind our rig so close that we were blocked from behind.

The passenger window of the truck was too high to see inside and the other window seemed to have a black tint on all the windows or maybe it was just the darkness. I pulled down the blind on our window and peered through the remaining crack at the bottom.

There I could see through the small window that all these trucks seem to have on the passenger door. The inside of the truck was pitch black except for the glow from a small TV facing us.

As I squinted to make out the image on the screen I saw a naked woman in a very revealing position. A porno.

I said to Lynda, ” we’re otta here!!” We were under way in minutes leaving this crazy behind. We drove in silence to the next town where we saw with great relief a Walmart filled with RVers. More wine was consumed as we dissected the pervert’s intentions. Gradually our fears subsided, we were both exhausted from the ordeal and a long day of driving. Lynda was able to sleep, but not me.

I managed to memorize the name of the trucking company but googling the name the next day turned up nothing.

As I am writing about this disturbing experience I remember a fleeting thought I had of approaching the large dark truck with the blackened windows. I am glad it was just a fleeting thought. The wack job in the truck was probably armed and I was not.

safe sign

That was definitely the worst experience we have ever had in many years of traveling and a multitude of one night stops. We have always been careful of where we park and now we are even more cautious. We have not parked for the night anywhere since that time where we have not felt perfectly safe.

Back to the Topic

There are many more places to stop for a free night’s sleep. Cracker Barrel restaurants have been mentioned by one reader who says there is designated RV parking and you can have dinner or a great breakfast in the morning.

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BLM lands are perfect and free although as always be cautious if there is no other RV around. Museums are sometimes an alternative as well as county parks that are often free. We have stayed at fairgrounds or small town areas for free or minimal charge and if you are lucky there may be some kind of live stock show or other kind of performance to enjoy in the evening.

Truck stops were mentioned by someone although you may risk listening to a semi’s reefer running all night or trucks coming and going. If you can park on the perimeter to escape the noise it may work.

Camping World also offers free camping although the spots are limited in size and availability, call ahead. I have seen some with hookups, not sure if these are free. I was surprised to see one in downtown LA.

Chuch camping

We have stopped for the night in church parking lots as well as on the street in front of a school. Although these spots may be hard to find they are usually in a quiet part of town. Hospitals can work if you are away from the emergency entrance where ambulance sirens will wake you. Ask at emergency or hospital security before you settle in. Believe it or not some hospitals even have RV spots and hookups, we have stayed in one when our grandson was having heart surgery.

There are many websites that list many of the free or minimal charge overnight stops. Allstays.com is one I use although downloading the app is a better way to check it out than the website. In my previous post I listed another one that I use freecamping.com.

I hope this article is some help for your overnight stops. The secret to any good trip is planning especially if you want to stay for free, many areas do not have free overnight camping.

I have created a comprehensive list of equipment and items you may need for your RV travels click here to check out my list.

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Thanks for visiting.

Gord B.

snoopy

 

6 thoughts on “Overnighters – Free Places to Stop”

  1. We were able to purchase a paperback from Amazon.com that listed all North American campgrounds priced at $12.00 or less. It was called Camping for $12.00 and under. We used it from Pa to Utah and back. Another book listed free campgrounds, all without hook-ups, in each state. Never found any of them that made us feel uncomfortable.

  2. I have been researching and trying to decide whether rv traveling is for me, at 66, I believe I would enjoy, although my wife has MS, recurring relapses puts a damper on our travel plans. Somehow we will overcome that, and enjoy the rest of our years, or at least have some quality time traveling.

    1. Hi Bob
      I am 65 and have been RVing for years, a cheaper and more intouch way to travel. If your are not sure maybe renting an RV first may help you decide.
      Thanks for your comment

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