Ironically free parking…

In between other tasks, I do a lot of reading about the topic of camping, RV’ing and related issues, just to stay on top of what’s going on. I just got a Google alert that the city of Casper wants all vehicles off the streets for snow removal… a reasonable request. But that’s only the start of my post today.

As I do my research,  it is obvious that there are many other cities and subdivisions out there that absolutley refuse to allow RV’s on their streets at all, and when they do it is for very limited time, such as loading and unloading. Some places won’t even let you park them in your own yard, even if it’s the back yard, where no one can see them! THAT borders on the ridiculous! As an RV’er, I would never EVER buy a house in a closed-minded neighborhood like that! Obviously the people who have the biggest majority of the vote in those areas are not RV’ers or campers, or they would understand how much trouble that causes for those who are! But they don’t care!  That’s all right. They probably wouldn’t want me to buy a house in their neighborhood, anyway. Live and let live. I just wouldn’t want to live there!

What’s ironic, is that some of these same towns whose homeowner’s associations and subdivisions won’t allow campers… are perfectly fine with people passing through to park overnight AND CAMP (discretely and without hookups, of course)… right on their city streets… in business areas. and city parks… and say nothing about it! I say, as long as they aren’t hurting anything, and may even be bringing some revenue into the area… what does it hurt?

There are tens of thousands of campers and RV’s on the road every day, many times passing through small towns. The ones who chase these people out are foolish! These travelers need to eat, they may need parts, they may want to visit a museum, or other attraction in the area. or even get a haircut or other service! Why not make it attractive and convenient for them? I’m not saying that they have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars putting in water and sewer for them. The majority of RV’s don’t even need it. They’re already self-contained! Many can even do without 120-volt power for a few days or more.  All they need is a simple parking spot that’s safe! THAT’S ALL!  What is it going to hurt?

One blog that I have just started reading, and still have a few months to get up to date on, is Glenn Morrisette’s “ToSimplify.net“, without a doubt, one of the most interesting bits of reading I have come across. I went clear back to August of 2008, when he first decided to move out of his apartment, into a Falcon Class B motorhome full time… in Burbank, and I started reading from day one! Beware, it will take an average reader about an hour per month of posts to catch up… and that’s without reading all the comments! (I may go back and do that later!) I thought surely that without a membership or monthly site fee, the camping expenses would eat him alive in a city like that!

After all, it’s California!

Would you believe that he went for an entire year, and is going on a second one, without paying more than about two days in camping fees (if that)? If you want to learn how to “stealth” camp (if that is even possible in a rig that clearly looks like what it is) then you need to read his story. I would have never thought about some of the places he has camped for free, and occasionally, even with power!  Some places also had free water and dump facilities nearby! Un-believable!

Now, obviously, the bigger the rig, the less “stealth” you are going to be! A van sized rig doesn’t seem to attract a lot of attention, even when it “looks” like a motorhome. A plain, ordinary minivan is even better.

Personally, my idea of “stealth” is a plain van with a very low (as flush as you can get) pop-top on it, and none of those ugly utility panels that you see on the sides of regular campers. Then it really does look like an ordinary “transportation” van, and no one will give it a second thought in ANY parking lot. You just leave the top down when you don’t need it. But he actually pulls off his stealth activity with a factory made, high-top camping van! Amazing!

Of course, every RV traveler these days knows about Wal Mart parking, but his ingenuity goes way beyond that!

One of the places he mentioned that was one of those “slap yourself in the forehead” moments for me was… (are you ready for this?)… hospital parking lots!

BRILLIANT idea!

No one in their right mind is going to run you out of there! For all they know you could be staying overnight visiting a sick relative! If someone asks, simply tell them you didn’t feel well when you pulled in, and thought  you may have to check yourself into the emergency room! I can guarantee you, no one is going to argue with that! And the great thing about it is that any town of any decent size is going to have some kind of hospital or urgent care center! That means no more driving 50 miles out of your way to find a campground for the night!

Another thing to watch for, especially in these times, is shopping centers that have gone out of business or are nearly empty. One reason is that if they are simply “hurting” for business, it is doubtful they are going to chase off a potential customer! And the second reason is that if they are hurting or out of business totally, they aren’t going to be able to afford security for their parking lot! Provided there’s no city ordance against parking there, it’s a win/win situation for RV’ers!

There are many other places he mentioned in his blog for finding places in cities and other crowded areas, from light industrial parks to residential neighborhoods. But it isn’t just the places… it’s the techniques he uses in not only finding them, but in making sure he isn’t breaking any laws. You really need to read his blog and study his techniques. They are simply BRILLIANT!

The most amazing thing is that he is a total amateur on the whole camping thing! He is totally new to RV’ing and camping!  He picked up on the tricks of the trade very quickly, and proved that anyone can do it!

And I haven’t even mentioned the places that are free in less congested areas, from BLM lands to city parks. When you start getting outside the city limits, the possibilities are almost endless! Many people don’t realize that many parking lots and city parks have light poles with electrical outlets on them. They use them for maintenance, as well as Christmas lights and advertising. But guess what! Most of the time, they are never shut off! If you happen to park next to one, and discretely sneak a small extension cord over to it, you can have power all night! If you don’t feel right about using someone else’s power, simply make up for it by patronizing the local businesses. It’s a fair trade! It’s usually the shopping center owner, or the city that provides the electric anyway, and many times they do it as a convenience for those businesses.

Granted, Glenn’s rig has it’s own shower in it, which makes it that much more convenient. Without that, you may have to get a little more “creative”, at least every other day or two. But even with our minivan camper, we can go park out in the country for a day, put the rear tent up, and have standing room with privacy, a shower, porta-potty, and all of the luxuries of home, including a sink and microwave! My free book can show you how.

And FYI, in case you are wondering what the advantage is to a minivan… the difference between 12 MPG and 24 MPG at $3.80 per gallon for gas… is $158.00 (+ or -) SAVINGS for every thousand miles traveled! I don’t know about you, but I can find a lot of things to spend that money on in every thousand miles that I travel! Or you can just save it… your choice!

So if any of you think you don’t have the money to get out and travel, guess again!  Our gently used but near perfect ’94 Chrysler Town & Country only cost us $3250 in 2006. It was in excellent shape and had all the maintenance records with it. I can even tell you when water was added to the battery last! There are deals out there like that every day! Any brand or year of minivan will work!

The camping components that you need to supply can be bought a little at a time. You can get as much or as little as you need, and once you buy them, they are YOURS… even if you trade the van later. Every single component, right down to the curtains, can be pulled out and put right back in another van in about 15 minutes… without drilling even one hole in the van! How cost effective is that? And better yet, it’s no more work than buying one ready made!

You never lose your investment in the components, and if you buy a good used van, you will lose very little on depreciation. And you will have a vehicle that gets roughly 24 MPG on the highway, and can go almost anywhere or park anywhere… and most of the time… park for free!

There’s no need to spend tens of thousands of dollars to buy a huge camper or RV, unless you have some special needs, or you just want to waste money. You can get out and see the country, and travel nearly every day, and spend no more than you would spend at home in your driveway! In fact, with the money you save, you can go farther and more often, see more of this great country we live in, and not have all the stress or expense of paying for a larger rig, or getting a larger rig from point A to point B!

Need income? I have another entire post dedicated to ways to make income on the road, and I haven’t even begun to cover all the ways. Remember, it isn’t how much you make… it’s the quality of life you buy with what you have.

Life is short. Enjoy it while you’re young enough and healthy enough. You don’t have to be rich. People like Glenn are proving that every day. By the way, he happens to be the guy who writes the television score for the cartoon show “Family Guy”(among many other talents). But reading his adventures in his own words is best. Enjoy!