Newbie questions on highway mobility, improvisational parking, etc

The friendliest place on the web for anyone with an RV or an interest in RVing!
If you have answers, please help by responding to the unanswered posts.

luchy72

New member
Joined
Oct 23, 2006
Posts
2
Hello all...

For awhile I've been trying to convince the wife that various RV-based fantasies of mine (ranging from selling the house, quitting our jobs, and living on the lam to merely buying a vintage travel trailer to restore and then use on occasional weekends) are great ideas but she hasn't been at all receptive. Finally I came up with an idea that has her agreeing with me somewhat in theory...she gets very bummed out that we don't visit her parents enough as they live halfway across the country, but neither one of use enjoys the flying experience and it's often prohibitively expensive and now that we have infants, lots of hassle. So I pitched to her that if we rented an RV, we could just drive there in relaxed comfort.

The good news is, she's finally in favor of one of my RV-based ideas. The bad news is, I know absolutely nothing about RVs and don't even know anybody who has any experience. So I turn to y'all, oh wise internet folks.

My most important question is: I pitched a scenario where I'm driving the mighty slab, happily humming along to XM radio and keeping an eye on the road. She's in the back seated at the table with the kids, helping them with their homework or tucking them in for a nap. Is this realistic? Is it road-legal to have people milling about in the body of a Mid-to-large Class C or a smallish Class A, without any kind of seatbelts or elaborate bungee-cord setup restraining them?

Second question: I live near a Wal-Mart that's right off the highway. Often I see an RV or 2 on the far end of the parking lot just hanging out. As our goal would be not camping for the beautiful forest experience but merely driving as much as one can stand in a day...we'd probably NOT be planning out our day-to-day stopping points and reserving scheduled campgrounds. Is this kind of parking lot squatting legal and/or generally approved? Or are these folks just waiting for a friendly local officer to come knocking on the door and tell 'em to shuffle along?

Thanks in advance for your help.
 

Carl L

Moderator Emeritus
Joined
Mar 14, 2005
Posts
7,239
Location
west Los Angeles
My most important question is: I pitched a scenario where I'm driving the mighty slab, happily humming along to XM radio and keeping an eye on the road. She's in the back seated at the table with the kids, helping them with their homework or tucking them in for a nap. Is this realistic? Is it road-legal to have people milling about in the body of a Mid-to-large Class C or a smallish Class A, without any kind of seatbelts or elaborate bungee-cord setup restraining them?

The short answer:  No.  Especially kids.  You should have anchored seats with approved belts and child restraints for every kid, and adult, in the unit.  RVs are not commericial or school buses.  Visits to the john and for a drink should be made in a stationary motorhome.


Second question: I live near a Wal-Mart that's right off the highway. Often I see an RV or 2 on the far end of the parking lot just hanging out. As our goal would be not camping for the beautiful forest experience but merely driving as much as one can stand in a day...we'd probably NOT be planning out our day-to-day stopping points and reserving scheduled campgrounds. Is this kind of parking lot squatting legal and/or generally approved? Or are these folks just waiting for a friendly local officer to come knocking on the door and tell 'em to shuffle along?

It is done, and generally Wal-Marts go along with the idea -- tho some towns outlaw the idea.  Just do not set out any furniture or otherwise set up camp.  And do not use streets or highway rest areas -- there are real security issues there.  Actually, regular campgrounds are not all that hard to set of for an evening stop.  We have always avoided the need for impromtu camping by using the Trailer Life directory and a cell phone to set up a reservation for a stopover in commercial campground.  Usually that morning can nail down something in the evening.
 

scottydl

Site Team
Joined
Jul 1, 2006
Posts
8,937
Location
Land of Lincoln
And although having your kids bopping around in the rear may be legal (depeding on what state you're driving through), it certainly should not be considered safe for the reasons Carl stated.  Those bungee-corded-seatbelt-restrained contraptions are crash tested and really do work.  BTW, how old are your kids?  My wife and I are planning to embark on RV-ownership with boys ages 5 and 2, which should be quite an experience.  :eek:

Parking lot boondocking (i.e. dry camping with no hookups) can usually be cleared by checking with the store manager.  He/she will generally tell you if that store/town has any restrictions on overnight parking.  Highway rest areas & truck stops are an option too, just pull in with the semis and lock your doors.  ;)

Speaking of knowing nothing about RV-ing, I was in your shoes not six months ago.  I have picked up oodles of knowledge and met some great folks at this forum alone, both reading old threads and posting new questions.  I've never owned an RV or camped on my own (yet) so that will be a whole new adventure when it happens, but at least I'll be a *little* more prepared. :)

You want to convince your wife?  Mine was always kinda interested, but she was really convinced by the movie "RV" with Robin Williams (seriously... it's a comedy but there are some good solid family lessons in it), going to an RV dealership and checking out some rigs, and the free informational DVD from GOrving.com.  It's really quite well done, and shows all the different types of RV's and some stories of the people who use them.  It can be ordered (free) at their website here.  Check it out and good luck!  :D
 

Carl L

Moderator Emeritus
Joined
Mar 14, 2005
Posts
7,239
Location
west Los Angeles
And although having your kids bopping around in the rear may be legal (depeding on what state you're driving through), it certainly should not be considered safe for the reasons Carl stated.? Those bungee-corded-seatbelt-restrained contraptions are crash tested and really do work.? BTW, how old are your kids?? My wife and I are planning to embark on RV-ownership with boys ages 5 and 2, which should be quite an experience.

Seat belt laws are pretty general in the states.? ?Certainly the Feds have been forcing them for years.? Click HERE for the National Highway Traffic Administration's table on currrent state laws.? That table is The Word on the subject.? ?

? Highway rest areas & truck stops are an option too, just pull in with the semis and lock your doors.?

Truck stops yes.? However, you will be surrounded by big diesels running their engines all night.

Highway rest stops, NO!? ?They are too risky and you are too vulnerable in them.? In fact, they are so dangerous that the State of California has outlawed camping in them and closes them down at night.
 

scottydl

Site Team
Joined
Jul 1, 2006
Posts
8,937
Location
Land of Lincoln
Carl Lundquist said:
Highway rest stops, NO!  They are too risky and you are too vulnerable in them.  In fact, they are so dangerous that the State of California has outlawed camping in them and closes them down at night.

I guess it's a state-by-state thing, depends on the area you're in too I'm sure.  It's quite common to see 2-3 motorhomes at Illinois rest areas early in the morning.  The ones (in the central part of the state anyway) are clean and maintained by highway workers who have no other duties, there are at least two active "blue light" emergency phones (dial straight to 911 with the push of a button) at each one, and the state police roll through several times per day.

The key to safety wherever you might be boondocking is somewhat simple - keep the windows covered at night and do not open the door to ANYONE you do not know.
 

Carl L

Moderator Emeritus
Joined
Mar 14, 2005
Posts
7,239
Location
west Los Angeles
I guess it's a state-by-state thing, depends on the area you're in too I'm sure.

Well the problem is how do you know what areas are safe to camp in?  Rest areas tend to be out in the boondocks and on major highways.  Furthermore, while 3-4 units in convoy camped as a group would be just fine, a single unit in the wee hours by itself in the boondocks, sort of has a bullseye painted on it.

Formal campgrounds are cheap and they have their own sense of community, and I cannot stress how much even casual membership in an obvious community increases security.  I did a hitch on the LAPD Community Police Advisory Board for Downtown Los Angeles.  We had offices on skid row that I was facility manager for.  We worked mightily the foster our employees' identification as members of a particular and numerous community.  It worked, assaults on our people and operations dropped to nil as we adapted to the rather nasty environment of skid row.
 

scottydl

Site Team
Joined
Jul 1, 2006
Posts
8,937
Location
Land of Lincoln
Carl Lundquist said:
Well the problem is how do you know what areas are safe to camp in?

I agree completely... what I meant was that the rest areas I am familiar with (in IL) are pretty safe.  So if I want to boondock at one a few miles from my house, I'm all set.  That's my limited experience for ya.  ;D  You're right though, the community/security that comes from a farily inexpensive night at a CG is well worth it.

Plus with CG shore power you won't spend money burning gas through the generator.  Even more savings. ;)
 

King

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 30, 2006
Posts
354
Location
MA
We have relatives in MO, TN, AL and CA.  We usually overnight at Flying J truck stops (they cater to RVs usually have propane and waste dump, and RVs are kept separate from the trucks in the larger ones).  Where you can't find a Flying J, a Super WallMart is an option, but we will walk in and ask first.  WallMarts in high population areas often do not own the parking area, and cannot authorize overnight parking.  Also some cities/towns have ordinances as well.  We also use the cell phone and campground listing if we need a break (or a shower).  The Microsoft Streets and trips with GPS for a laptop is great..  there are websites that offer Flying J and Super WallMart locations for the maps.
Art
 

Mike in Texas

Well-known member
Joined
May 15, 2006
Posts
56
Location
New Braunfels, TX
luchy72 said:
Second question: I live near a Wal-Mart that's right off the highway. Often I see an RV or 2 on the far end of the parking lot just hanging out. As our goal would be not camping for the beautiful forest experience but merely driving as much as one can stand in a day...we'd probably NOT be planning out our day-to-day stopping points and reserving scheduled campgrounds. Is this kind of parking lot squatting legal and/or generally approved? Or are these folks just waiting for a friendly local officer to come knocking on the door and tell 'em to shuffle along?

Thanks in advance for your help.

Luchy - I would like to suggest that you stay in RV parks rather than in parking lots or rest areas. At the end of a long day behind the wheel or strapped into the passenger seats it is nice to take a shower and use the toilet in an RV park's facility. Even though we now have a 40 foot Monaco with shower, two sinks and a china toilet, I still use the bath houses at the parks whenever possible. Also the RV parks often have swimming pools, TV rooms, and other amenities that will help you unwind. And they will usually be relatively quiet. If you're trying to save a few bucks, join Passport America. It costs $40 and gets you 50% off normal rates at RV parks all over the country.
 

BernieD

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 1, 2005
Posts
5,876
Location
Goodyear, AZ
Mike in Texas said:
it is nice to take a shower and use the toilet in an RV park's facility. Even though we now have a 40 foot Monaco with shower, two sinks and a china toilet, I still use the bath houses at the parks whenever possible.

Mike, please bear with me. My wife and I can never figure out why people with nice private toilets and showers in their motorhome (and 5th wheels) would leave the comfort and convenience of their RV, trundle whatever distance to the bathhouse, use a public facility and then trundle back to their RV. Could you please explain ???
 

King

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 30, 2006
Posts
354
Location
MA
We have a class b and the shower is tight at best, but when your shower is perfectly clean, you may decide to use the campground facility rather than your own.  As the man of the house, I guess you don't have to clean the bathroom.  In addition, a shower moves considerable water from the fresh water tank to the gray water tank, necessitating additional chores.
Art
 

BernieD

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 1, 2005
Posts
5,876
Location
Goodyear, AZ
Art

The size of the shower stall in Class A's is usually large enough. When I am the last to use our shower, it is my job to clean it, I would still rather use it than the bath house. If we are at a campground, the water tank and holding tank issues are irrelevant.
 

Tom

Administrator
Joined
Jan 13, 2005
Posts
48,823
Ditto Bernie. I much prefer using the shower in our coach and usually clean it after me each time, just as I do at home. OTOH we have different habits when it comes to laundry - we prefer to do laundry in the coach ;D  Each to his/her own.
 

KenR

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 28, 2005
Posts
45
Location
Greenbrier, Arkansas
Well, I may be going against the prevailing responses a bit. I travel in a class A with a wife and an 8-yr-old daughter and have owned RV's for over 12 years. Most of the time they are properly buckled up, always when we are going through traffic in a city. But when we are on an interstate and they need to use the restroom or get a drink from the fridge or get a snack from the pantry, they get up and go. We usually stop at a rest stop to eat and everyone goes to the bathroom before we get back on the road, but since their bladders are about the size of a pea it seems, I don't pull over every time they need to get up. Also, they often sit, buckled up, and play games or read or work on crafts. In short, traveling in an RV with children is so much easier and better than by car (no constant "are we there yet," "I have to go to the bathroom," "I'm bored," etc), that I can't imagine driving a significant distance in a car with a child anymore.

When we are just going from point A to point B, I sometimes drive into the night and want to get up early to get back on the road. We have often spent the night in roadside rest area's and have never had any troubles at all. Of course, I use common sense - I only do it if the rest stop has 18-wheelers there also and looks to be clean, well lighted, and not in a bad area. I would not do it if I was the only one there or felt uneasy for whatever reason. I've also stayed at a few Wal Marts, Flying J's, and other truck centers. I always ask for permission at these places and buy fuel and or food. Yes, the idling trucks make it a bit noisy, but usually I'm pretty tired and do not have trouble falling asleep. My daughter can sleep through anything and if it bothers my wife, she just puts in those little sponge earplugs.

Having said that, most of the time we prefer to stay in campgrounds. Stop driving around 5:00, relax a bit, fix dinner, visit with other campers, and get a good night's rest. We rarely make reservations in advance and have rarely not been able to find a campground with space available whenever we decide to stop for the evening. If it is a holiday, we sometimes look in the guide and call in the afternoon to make sure we have a place for that night. Of course, if you are going to a popular destination - Disney World, a national park, or something like that, early reservations are usually a must.
 

John From Detroit

Well-known member
Joined
Apr 12, 2005
Posts
25,087
Location
Davison Michigan
BernieD said:
Mike, please bear with me. My wife and I can never figure out why people with nice private toilets and showers in their motorhome (and 5th wheels) would leave the comfort and convenience of their RV, trundle whatever distance to the bathhouse, use a public facility and then trundle back to their RV. Could you please explain ???

I will take a stab at it.  For one thing in RV's the facilities tend to be "Compact" Toilets have standard size seats but they flush differently using far less water and, speaking from a man's standpoint, some men do not like to SIT on the toilet (They have no problem standing in front of it though)  Hopefully you can figure out what I'm saying.

Personally........ I do what needs to be done, and I don't waste time running to the campground's toilet where there is a perfectly good one right there in the rig and it all ends up in the same hole once I pull the "T" handle.

Of course,,, If I'm walking through the campground and happen to be passing the facilities and feel the need... I go to the closest facility.

Now: as for showers.  I have a class A

Some Class A's have larger showers, mine has a medium.  I'm a Multi-XL (6'3" by 330 lbs) so the shower is just, barley big enough for me to shower in (it is big enough, but just)  Many campgrounds have larger showers.

On the other hand. The shower in my rig is a whole lot nicer than most campgrounds  Way nicer,  Far nicer in many cases.
 
Top Bottom