If getting to a destination was truly the easy, rollicking experience portrayed in countless travel ads, movies like Lampoon’s Vacation and Planes, Trains and Automobiles wouldn’t exist, nor would stand-up comics have material about bad airline food, screaming kids and skanky hotel rooms.
People who don’t travel in campers/RVs view those of us who do as free wheeling gypsies who stop on a whim if something looks interesting. With the expolsion in RV travel it’s become a necessity to plan travel destinations a year in advance. Campgrounds and parks nationally are reporting record numbers. All our stops along what I’m calling our #Summerpalooza21 road trip were planned and reserved last November. Still, our time is not all regimented schedule and opportunities for the unexpected do present themselves. Because of that I most enjoy is the time we are in route, especially when we have to be on the road for several days. Nightly travel stops depend on our route and what is available when we’re passing through a particular area.
One of our failsafe overnight stops is Wal Mart. Don’t turn up your nose; we have met many fellow travelers in Wal Mart parking lots. My blog has a category called “We Met at Wal Mart,” For years the store has promoted itself as a place for RV travelers to ‘rest and restock.’ Proper Wal Mart etiquette is to call ahead for permission, park well away from the store, keep a low profile, and only stay one night. We’ve run into Australian and German visitors, truckers and their pooches, a woman on her way to Oregon to build tiny houses and a guy who converted his big RV to burn spent french Fry oil as fuel. Sadly many stores are no longer as welcoming, caused by spectacularly bad manners of some travelers. It seems like an epidemic in all forms of travel. Bad behavior from some RVers like trashing the parking lot, setting fires on the asphalt (!) and dumping their sewer tanks (!!!) has soured the stores on allowing overnight parking, and recently stores either discourage or ban the practice entirely.
There are lots of other places to stop. Museums, Breweries, Distilleries, farms, golf courses and other attractions are part of a network called Harvest Hosts that offers free overnight accommodations to through travelers. It’s a closed network; you pay an annual membership fee for access to a directory of locations, and a badge that identifies you as a Harvest Hosts member. Poor conduct gets you booted off the membership list. We’ve stayed at an apple orchard in New York, a winery in Kentucky and a distillery in Illinois. Proper etiquette is to meet your hosts and thank them by purchasing something from their business.
At some point on a longer haul to a destination it’s nice to stop where you can spend a day or two to regroup, flush your tanks and move on. County fairgrounds can be a great place to stop for a day or so. Cost per night is minimal. The surroundings aren’t always glamorous but you never know what you’ll see. We’ve seen sulky racers practicing, and a goat show. The coolest thing about the sulky racers was taking to the owner-trainers and meeting the horses. Goats are just cool to be around, period.
Robert Louis Stevenson said “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.” This quote is my current favorite. I love to go. Generally we travel to a destination and stay for a while; it’s impractical to move a large vehicle like ours frequently. The destinations are great; I mean, we wouldn’t drive all these miles if we didn’t have an idea about what we wanted to see, but really interesting things happen when we are on the move. These United States are amazing, and each state has its own beauty and culture. People have such interesting lives and they are willing to share with anyone who asks. At the moment it’s time to get going. Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Don’t worry, I’ll keep you posted. #Summerpalooza21 awaits!