Best overnight options for long distance trips?

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Jake Sharkey

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We are soon to be new to RV'ing and have heard it is not safe to overnight at rest areas on interstates.  If that is true, where does the saavy RV'er stay overnight on a long journey, e.g., travelling across the country?
 

Carl L

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My wife and I always stay in commercial campgrounds.  The country is full of them, in non-resort areas they are cheap, $20 is a good average, and they are a whole hump safer than parking lots or rest areas.  The judicious use of a Trailer Life Campground Directory and a cell phone make it easy to make a reservation in the morning for a stop in the evening.

Of all the places to stay, a highway rest stop is  the worst.  They are so dangerous that California has outlawed overnightiing in them.  City streets are not much better. 

Some of the folks here are afficianados of Wal Mart parking lots and truck stops.  I will leave it to them to tout their choices.  ;)
 

Ray D

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Opinions on this subject will vary, all over the map. One issue is "What kind of RV? We use a motorhome. No need to get out, if we feel the need to move. No jacks down, no slides or awnings out. Just start the engine and go.

There are no reasons I can think of that would pursuade me to stop overnight at a rest stop, and few that will get me to stop there, at all. Even in the daylight, I am wary. Have stopped at rest stops in daytime, to change drivers and take a break. Don't need the rest room, and rarely use it. Prudence is the opperative word, here.

We are willing to stop, overnight, at truck stops. Done that, several times. Mostly at Flying J. You may notice some illicit business underway, but if you are not in the market, it's not a threat to you. Again, we don't put jacks down or slides out. Largely, that is due to space, but wouldn't, in any case. I think Truck stops are pretty safe for a prudent person.

We haven't used Walmart, but many do. We just haven't had the occasion to consider that, as of yet. I wouldn't hesitate. There are a few Walmart horror stories, but they are very few. I think Walmarts, where permitted, are quite reasonably safe.

The best is to seek out an RV park and stop, there. There is no doubt that it is the safest, most restful, choice. Almost any RV park is going to be OK for a night's sleep, and get underway in the morning. And, you can level the coach and put the slides out for more room.

Wherever you stop, use your head. Look around. See anything you don't like - move on. There's another place to stop, just down the road. Not going to sleep well, if something doesn't look right, and you spend your dreaming hours worrying about that. Our subconscious minds are wonderful. Pay attention. Do what your gut tells you to do. Don't second guess it!

Ray D.  ;D
 

John From Detroit

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There are a number of choices... Wife and I often overnight at a Flying-J truck stop when we are on the road. (Though we like to hit a proper camping ground from time to time.. Shower,,, Shave,  That kind of stuff)

Many folks "Wall-Mart" in this context Wal-mart is generic for any BIG parking lot, Shopping malls, Sam's Club, Costco,  Meijer's.  it has to be big and have lots of extra space and no signs that say "NO OVERNIGHT PARKING"  Church lots are another place in some areas.

If you are a member Moose, Eagles, VFW and many other faternal orginations have parking in many cities

If you are a member of a campground and thus eligable for Coast 2 Coast membership, there are hundreds of C2C campgrounds.  Many guarentee you one night parking for 8 bucks reservation or not (you may be stuck off in overflow, or even the sales parking lot) just one night, no more w/o a reservation.  (I have to research that rule)

There are lots of options other than rest areas... Many rest areas say "no overnight parking" by the way or NO camping.

Rule,  If you are at a Flying-J, Pilot, Loves or other truck stop, Or a Wal-Mart, (Or other store/mall parking lot) do not drop jacks, do not Set out "Stuff" (Grills, lawn chairs, mats and the like, Keep the awning rolled up, and unless you have a rig like mine with a transverse bed where you have to put out the slides to sleep.. Don't put slides out (I put out just one of my 3 slides, Often the wardrobe) Unless there is a specified RV parking spot (Flying-J has those) park in the most unused section of the lot (Out of the way) do not park right in front of the store.  And do shop the host.. Of course at a Flying-J you will often drive till a late dinner, dine at the eatery, sleep, breakfast at the eatery, fuel the rig at the pumps.  (This is why they want you parking there)  At other stores, try to give them business if you park there.

I avoid Wal-mart because I do not like giving them business... They have given too many people "THE BUSINESS" If you know what I mean, very unfair to labor, most sued company in history when it comes to labor issues, and they loose more than any other company in history too.  I don't like their advertising, misleading decor and several other things.  So I try not to stop, or shop there.  Though I have, from time to time, found they had what I needed and nobody else did, or I parked along the edge in back of oh, say, Sammy's Pizza, for lunch (At the pizza place) Note, name of restaurant is fictional
 

Jake Sharkey

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Thank you all for your kindness in answering my "newbie" question.  You have really helped me form in my own mind a better understanding of how people RV long distances safely and enjoyably.  I get it.  As my wife and I discussed this, she pointed out that it is similar to a long car trip in that you plan your trip and choose stopover points and make reservations in motels, but in this case RV camps.  You check-in, park and hook-up, instead of check-in, park and bag drag.  And, of course, the big difference is that you trade the negatives of motel jumping with all the benefits of RV'ing.  But I'm obviously preaching to the choir.

I will do more studying of the info in this forum before I ask more dumb questions.  I've looked around a little and it looks like there is a wealth of information here.  (It's starting to look more and more to me that this is going to be a whole lot of fun.)  Thanks again for your gift of time and words.  it meant a lot to me.  Jake
 

Tom

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Jake,

There are no "dumb questions", so please fire away with the your questions.

Meanwhile, in addition to browsing, try using the Search feature above if you have a specific subject in mind. Also, click the Library button above and check out the numerous articles (many of them illustrated for added clarity) in our library.
 

John From Detroit

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I will say this about hook up v/s bag drag.  It's easier

Plus if I'm doing the cross country bit where I stop for just one night,,, I might hook up once per week (V/S every night)  Other than plugging in power I can go a week without hookups on this rig, in fact I've gone nine days  This is enough time that if I don't stop and smell the roses (or see the sights) I can dump and fill here in Las Vegas,  Drive across country and dump and winterize when I finish backing onto the rig's storage pad in Detroit (I have a dump station at my house)
 

ArdraF

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Church lots are another place in some areas

Yes, just make sure it's not on Saturday night!  ;)

Years ago when we were still working and had to drive longer days we occasionally stayed at truck stops.  Yuck!  Between the noise and the fumes they aren't very appealing.

I would add NOT to go onto school grounds or even on nearby streets.  With all the things happening to kids these days, you don't want to raise anyone's suspicions.  Best to avoid them entirely.

Several of the RVing organizations have gotten together and devised a list that is an Etiquette for RVers.  It includes some of the items mentioned above, e.g. when in parking lots patronize the business, do not put out awnings, BBQs, etc.

ArdraF
 

Shayne

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While traveling  I like to locate a policeman or Police station and ask them where to park and if they would please spot check on us thru the night.  Works great.
 

Jeff

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Jake:

We also avoid rest areas but occasionally are part of the Wal-mart crowd when on the move. If we are traveling late and want to get back on the road in the morning it saves a lot of time to find a Wally World SuperCenter near an exit.(Open all night with security) We call ahead to make sure it alright to spend the night. It is also to pick up those few thing we always seem top need while on the road.


Some of the Flying J truckstops have separate parking areas for RV's but most are way too noisy for us to get much rest.

 

Wendy

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We also avoid rest stops unless we're on a fast trip via interstate and it's the only handy thing available. Even then, sleep isn't quality. We have no problem stopping at Wal-Mart (or other large parking lot) while traveling. We don't 'camp' there, tho (slides stay in, no awning, no external goodies like bbqs and chairs), just overnight. We prefer quiet, out-of-the-way places, which really aren't that difficult to find.
 

Smoky

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We avoid campgrounds at all costs when we are on a long haul.  Too much time wasted with hookups, checking in, checking out, etc.  Campgrounds are for resting, not for traveling.

Our preference is Wal-mart, casinos, and truck stops. 

A bonus is that you meet more interesting people there than at campgrounds, as they are all on a long haul as well.  Most are either coming from where you are going to (so you get advance road reports) or going the same way you are (so you get travel companions).

Our weekly routine when on long hauls is to check into a campground early Thursday afternoon and rest up until Sunday.  Then we are on the WM circuit for the next 5 days.

 

cuts_up

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So far our Walmart parking has only been for short times.  I usually go in and pick up a few things while DH has a nap.  But we did recently find one on one of our driving routes where we won't mind staying overnight if we need to.  There were a few trucks parked there already.
 

Howard R

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Hi Jake,

Welcome to the world of RV'ing ... I'll bet your going to like it!!  ;D

We've only been at this a couple of years now with a Class A, previously used a popup which precluded stopping most anywhere for more than a nap unless we were in a campground.

We seem to be in the minority with Smoky in the replies so far, but do make use of rest stops, Flying J's.  I've only did one overnite parking at Wal-Mart, but lots of stops ... and let me tell you, it ain't free!  ;D    But is usually convenient and accessible for supplies, etc and near major highways.

We have a son in the Minneapolis area and have made several trips from Denver.  As I am the only driver normally we do need to make a stop or two on the way.  I rather like to drive into the evening if we are going somewhere "to get there" vs a more leisurely pace at other times (plus we always seem to get a late start).  I will drive until I get tired and look for a rest area or Flying J to stop, park and get some rest.  As others have mentioned you need to use some common sense, look around and if it doesn't feel right, move on.  I have done that on one or two occasions.  Later in the evening most rest stops tend to fill up with trucks and other cars, sometimes to the point there is no place to park ... mostly I relate to I-80 through Nebraska, Iowa as that is usually the "get there" route for us.  I often sleep a few hours and whenever I wake up, head out again ... what the RV is made for! 

And yes, when we are at a destination or travelling at a more leisurely pace (preferred) we will make use of campgrounds, be it commercial, state parks, some city parks, etc ... because we are then "camping" vs "parking" for a quick rest enroute. 

So for what it's worth ... our $ 0.02  :)

Howard
 

Jake Sharkey

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Howard, Jeff, Smoky, CutsUp, forum staff, et al.  All of you that were kind enough to share your thoughts and guidance, thank you!

I love it....this is all about common sense.  There is no single right answer.  I get it.  Taken all together, your answers really stress the flexibility of this mode of travel (again, with a good dose of common sense and a concern for safety.)  Wonderful comments and great learning for me.  Thank you all, Jake.
 

Smoky

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Good point Jake... there really is no one right answer in this aspect of RVing.  A lot depends upon what you are looking for and how you like to RV.  One observation I made this past year is that most of the folks who did not really like boondocking at QZ are the same folks who do not like overnight stops at places like WM, and vice versa.  I think a lot of this has to do with each of our own expectations about how we like to set up for the evening.

The Admiral and I love boondocking/drycamping.  Yes, there are times we get worn out and then we look for a CG with all the amenities... so we can recharge our body batteries.  But when we are on the move across the country, we love just pulling in somewhere without having to register, hook up, plug in, level, set up a camp site, etc.  I can't speak for Sharon, but I know the feeling I get when we move about this way is sort of like being a cowboy on the open range.  We can get on the move in seconds, and don't have to put up with a lot of fol de rol.  Just pull in, wash up, maybe go get something to eat or eat in... and always pay our respects by picking up supplies from whoever has given us parking space.  It is just a fun way of traveling and has nothing to do with saving money.  In fact, as Howard alluded, we probably spend more than at a CG. 

And the real fun at this way of travel is meeting other people who have the same sense of freedom and open road that we do.

Before I went Rving I used to think WM was sort of a third class place and we almost never shopped there.  Rving really opened my eyes about this.  Now my observation is that campgrounds are 75% weekenders and short haulers, but WM RVers are about 98% long haulers with lots of fascinating stories to tell.  Everything turned out to be the complete opposite of what I initially expected.  One caveat... I believe this atmosphere is pretty well restricted to the WMs and other places of business that exist near the Interstate exits.  Once you stray away from the Interstates you will not meet many long haulers at the local neighborhood WM.

Like many other aspects of RVing, it is a whole different world than anything I dreamed of during most of my life.  I hope it never changes.  Rising fuel prices and the continuation of growth and urban development are the only worries I have these days.

I sincerely hope in the years to come we do not lose the "freedom of the open highway range".
 

ariverwalker

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Generally speaking, I wouldn't be too concerned about getting some rest in rest areas in Washington and Oregon.  We do it all the time and have never had a bit of trouble.  We also didn't know California rest areas were considered dangerous so have stayed in a couple on I5 for six or seven hours worth of rest.  After all - they are "rest" areas. 

My dear partner never meets a stranger and we have asked permission several times to just pull up next to the fence at the gas station where we fueled up.  Often we are welcomed as long as we park the motorhome out of the way.  Sometimes Corp of Engineers Parks are free and there is a website online that lists free parking in various areas.  I can't remember the url, but if you do a google search you could probably find it. 

The first summer we traveled, I was nervous about boondocking so we used Passport America a lot.  We would figure out about where we thought we might be at the end of the day and then would find an RV Park in the catalog, call ahead and make a reservation.  That worked out pretty well except for the RV Park in Magdalena, New Mexico.....but that is a whole other story!

Good luck and have a whole boatload of fun!!!!
K.C.
 

John From Detroit

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One thing I will suggest.. If you plan on using parking lots, Flying-J, Wall-Mart, Moose, Elk, Other,  You may wish to get an inexpensive GPS and teather it to your computer,,  Or better yet get a GPS/Software bundle such as the one offered by Deloren or MicroSoft (Streets & Trips)

Then you go to Discovery Owners Map Overlays

And download the proper overlays for your map, (Data imports in Streets and Trips)

I now have a map with a whole lot of "M"'s on it (i'm a member of the Moose) and a whole lot of "J"'s on it (Flying-J) and one "D" on it (Damon Factory plant 12) which is where I was at 7:30 this morning
 

cuts_up

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I have pulled over in rest areas alone in my car to shut my eyes for a few minutes.  The problem for me is that if I turn the engine off I lose the urge to sleep, but if I get back on the road I'm sleepy again.  If I leave the engine running I can sleep, but I run the risk of letting it run until it overheats, runs out of gas, or I asphyxiate.  When I do pull over I call DH and tell him where I am so that if he never hears from me again he'll know where I was last.



 

Ray D

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To each his/her own. I don't use rest areas, much. I'll stop for a driver switch and a brief break from the white line blindness. But I'd rather stop at a nice truck stop and have a cup of coffee or quick nap, for a break. Much safer. Rest areas have about ruined themselves for me.

My last and most unpleasant rest area was in Idaho, not far from Twin Falls on I 84. We stopped for the restroom break, while driving a car, coming home to Boise. I watched my wife go into the rest room, quickly followed by a man. I got out to go join the meeting. Didn't get there in time. He came out running and jumped into a car, and left. She came out, right behind him and we met. "Did you see that?" she asked, angrily, when I got there. He had pulled out something to frighten her. She had reached in her purse and pulled out something to frighten him. He decided hers was better.  :eek: Sometimes, things just don't go by the original plan. (I stood by the door while she went back in for the original purpose.)

A couple of years before, I stopped at a rest stop between Sacremento and SF. (Kept a sort of bed in the back of my station wagon, traveling. Station wagon RV!) I was awakened after a two hour nap, by a CHIP. He told me I was legal, but not well advised. They were having a problem with violent rest stop crime in California, at that time, and were advising people not to sleep there. I left and drove on to a motel, nearer Frisco.

Several years ago, Kansas had a problem with a serial rest stop killer on I 70. Haven't heard about it in quite some time and don't know if they ever got him.

I have several more, but those examples will do. I do think it would be safer in a motorhome or other RV. Still, rest area is a last resort, for me. YMMV

Ray D  ;D
 
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