Thursday, February 16, 2017

Back From South Carolina and Beyond

Nothing takes you higher or farther... than ADVENTURE!

I feel like a hobbit! We're finally back in RI after a journey to PA to SC to OH to PA to NYC to back here. It was our first big journey and we were gone over a month. We were able to stay with beloved family down there for much of it, (thank you!) and also had some nights sleeping at rest areas and Walmart parking lots and the like. While it isn't for everyone, me and Brooke really enjoyed roughing it a bit. We slept comfortably enough, avoided dolling out around $100 a night for hotel rooms, and got to drive, rest, and get up whenever we pleased.

For this post, we'll get into a little info about rest areas and staying at Walmart parking lots for travelers.

What are highway rest areas?

Rest areas are spots along highways where you can get off the road, park your car or truck, and go inside to use the bathroom, buy vending machine snacks, (some of them have coffee machines!) and access local info and maps. They often have separate sections for big trucks and RVs and small passenger vehicles.

Some have a service desk that runs during normal business hours, and the people there are usually kind and helpful for directions or asking about local stuff.

The bathrooms were all amazingly well kept in every state we went through, specifically Pennsylvania, Ohio, and the Virginias and Carolinas.

We even have a funny story now about Brooke leaving her ring at an Ohio rest stop and us miraculously circling back over 40 minutes later and still finding it there, just sitting! Either no one noticed it, or anyone who did was nice enough to leave it. What do you think? Either way, boy was she lucky!

Can you sleep in your car, RV or camper in Walmart parking lots?

You can sleep in a lot of Walmart parking lots, but not all of them.

Traditionally, Walmart's policy is to allow overnight stays from travelers even in larger vehicles like Class A campers. With how common Walmarts are in America, this is a big deal for lower income travelers especially, because it provides a lot more rest areas around the country. Usually the parking lots are well lit, and since many of the stores are open 24/7, you can go in to get cheap supplies day and night... and help wreck our economy a little more each time. Yay!

Some Walmarts do not allow overnight stays, and some will indeed enforce this policy. Anytime you're sleeping anywhere in your car there's a chance you'll wake up to a police officer checking on what you're doing, and sometimes you'll be rudely told to move on, but it all depends on where and how you stay.

Don't look sketchy and there's a way higher chance you won't be bothered. If you're parked in a higher crime area, you're more likely to be targeted by cops and robbers, while if you look normal and sleep out of the way for a night in an area where people aren't always looking over their shoulders, you should be good. Whether you're a prim and proper traveler who only stays where they're officially allowed or whether you're a diehard boondocker who will sleep in someone's cupboard unless there is a no trespassing sign up is up to you.

How was the trip?

It was exhilarating and rejuvenating just to get out on our own and leave our troubles behind us. Driving and eating junk food is always hard on the body, but we took steps to maintain a somewhat healthy diet by staying hydrated, eating greens and avoiding carbs as much as we could, etc. (Which was not very much when you're staying in the south for a month. Has anyone else heard of Cook Out? Human biology isn't meant to stand up against these things...)

We got a lot of time to work on personal things like self-education and creative/art projects. And despite the availability of cheaper, way more delicious southern/midwestern food, (did I mention Cracker Barrel?) we kept pretty consistent with our diets, and we got more into workout routines. Brooke is definitely beating me in both departments, working super hard on online schooling and a rigorous workout routine.

Super Bowl LI: How bout them Patriots?

Holy crap man! We had the best Super Bowl party night with some great friends we just met in NYC. Our buddy had a Chinese restaurant rented out for the night, full of his peeps from Hong Kong. They graciously had as guests.

The place was all theirs for the night, and the food and drinks flowed beyond belief, during the craziest Superbowl I have ever seen. It was the almost glamorous New York City experience you only hear about in books and movies. It was really out of this world.

All we can usually do about going through NYC is crying about it, but this time it was worth the soulcrushing $15 Washington Bridge toll and $4 NJ tolls before that. I couldn't do NYC, with all the parking, traffic, tolls, too many people, not enough privacy or space. But some people like the city life. And they're getting free tuition in New York I hear.

In closing

It was a wonderful trip, although we're anxious to get the van finished and try long term living out of it. The cold is frustrating each step of the project by making our adhesives fail. But van or no van, we're going to have plenty of fun outdoors this summer with our tent and sleeping bags, and whatever friends want to come along!

What are you doing this summer?

King's Mountain, NC

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