|Come on, you know you've done it at least once before, pulled into a Wal-Mart parking lot and caught a few minutes or hours of sleep before hitting the payment once again in search of fun and adventure. Who hasn't?
And that's not a bad thing. Not so very long ago the Wal-Mart Corporation encouraged it as a way to get weary drivers off the road (and into their stores). And that was an honorable if not enterprising thing to do.
But alas, times are changing. In some towns and cities ordinances have been passed prohibiting RVers from nesting in the parking lot. A few shady RVers have taken advantage of the "free overnight parking" and have set up nests where they either stay too long or trash the parking lot with refuse - or both. And in many cases local RV parks have complained that the corporation giant was encouraging business away from their establishments and have asked the practice to be banned.
So - do you wheel into that Wal-Mart parking lot the next time you're weary on the road or do you pass it by in search of some other temporary resting place where you can catch 40 winks of desperately needed sleep?
Truck stops and roadside parks seem to be less safe than ever before for the family RVer, according to the National Transportation Safety Board, who issued a 2005 report indicating crime and unwanted vagrancy is becoming a problem along the more popular highways of America. And it's not always easy to find an RV park on the more desolate stretches of highway. So what to do?
Actually, Wal-Mart is still an option - depending on the store and local attitudes. While there are many Wal-Mart stores that don't want you stopping for the night, others are still waving the welcome flag.
But how do you know which ones do and which ones don't?
You'll find a new Web site presented by FreeCampgrounds.com useful in helping you determine the answer to that very question. The site maintains a user-friendly directory on the subject. You can even post your own experiences and encounters and share them with others.
You can find the site here.
RGVBookstore.com also publishes a printed directory to help with the paradox. Connect here to purchase an inexpensive copy of this quality guide. Or you can opt for another guide that helps you find a Wal-Mart store if you're having trouble locating one (which is hard to believe). Check out the Wal-Mart Locator.
If you're not equipped with the guide and don't know whether rules allow you to park overnight at any particular store, you can always inquire inside. We have found most Wal-Marts, for all the bad press they receive these days, are still helpful when they can be. Doesn't hurt to ask!
The preferred choice is, of course, to stay in a quality RV park where the security and amenities are better. If you do a little advance planning, chances are good you can locate one in the near vicinity of your stop over. But if sleep overcomes you and there is no reasonable alternative, then check out the "Big W."
Either way, happy parking!