"it's like trying to sleep in a beehive"
November 6, 2013 1:12 PM   Subscribe

"[Walmart]'s policy of allowing overnight stays in their parking lots is intended to boost sales, but has the tangential effect of creating a subculture around its locations... The two separate Walmart parking lots in Flagstaff, Arizona are specifically known for their long-term residents, and this past summer photographer Nolan Conway spent several days making a series of portraits of both the overnighters and the people who call these asphalt grids a temporary home."

Waking Up At Walmart (via)
posted by Atom Eyes (89 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite

 
"I awoke to the sound of motor vehicles around me, beginning the 8 a.m. rush for bargains, and I knew getting back to sleep would be impossible. Wearily, I started my car's engine, pulled out into the late, and drove for the exit to the parking lot.

When I got to the intersection, I noticed that across the street was another Wal-Mart, and the next store down was also a Wal-Mart. It was then I realized I had died in the night, and was in hell."
posted by JHarris at 1:21 PM on November 6, 2013 [41 favorites]


So Walmart IS doing good for the world!
posted by ReeMonster at 1:25 PM on November 6, 2013


It's like the most depressing Springsteen song you can imagine.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:25 PM on November 6, 2013 [47 favorites]


(not all of them mind you -- but the stories behind the sad ones... ugh)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:26 PM on November 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I and 12 of my closest friends slept in a Walmart parking lot just last month in Thompson, Manitoba in our school bus converted into an RV, because half of our transmission fluid had poured out after a particularly bumpy part of our road trip, and it was either stopping there at 2am to buy some fluid when the store opened, or drive 500 miles in second gear until the next stop. It's hard to be grateful to Walmart, but we very much were.
posted by Pwoink at 1:26 PM on November 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


That's surprisingly tolerant of Walmart. Not sure if it's a life I'd choose for myself, must get freezing in the winter. When you picture life on the open road, Walmart isn't the first thing to come to mind.
posted by arcticseal at 1:27 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I slept in a Walmart parking lot in my car when I drove from Michigan to Atlanta and was too poor to afford a hotel. It was loud as hell with all the semi trucks pulling in and out, and I didn't sleep much at all. It's amazing that anyone can or would put up with that long-term.
posted by polywomp at 1:27 PM on November 6, 2013


Sunrise in a Wal-Mart parking lot/it can be so beautiful
posted by drjimmy11 at 1:28 PM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wonder if Neal Stephenson actually spent a night imprisoned in the back of a terrorist's RV parked outside a Wal-Mart for, you know, research purposes.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:30 PM on November 6, 2013 [14 favorites]


I was surprised about this policy, too. It doesn't seem very Walmart of them.

BTW, the title of this thread is not talking about Walmart parking lots; it's from the trucker in the piece who said that trying to sleep in a truck stop is like trying to sleep in a beehive.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 1:30 PM on November 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Spending a night in the Reno Walmart's parking lot became a tradition I looked forward to every time I went to Burning Man. There was always a colourful mix of characters around, both Burners and Non-Burners, and several times I got to check out parts of the largescale art installations up close on their way out there.

One of my friends still cites sleeping without a blanket on the pavement between two of our cars as one of his favorite travelling memories. (Yeah he's a bit of a weird one).
posted by mannequito at 1:30 PM on November 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


From the slideshow on Nolan Conway's site:

"Rick Keller (75) says he doesn't live in his R.V. for economic reasons, 'I belong in the woods.' He lives in the woods, but comes to Flagstaff weekends to restock. 'I just pray that the Lord keeps me alive one more year, because these are such exciting times,' he says, referring to the Arab Spring."

He sounds like an interesting guy. Although there's also a picture (at the top of the Wired article in fact) of a guy with his wife and young son in the car, and the look on the kid's face, looking at his dad out of the corner of his eyes, is like "Can you believe this guy?"

Wal-mart does have some positive aspects. Their return policy is fairly good, and they cash paychecks, which I myself have had to rely on.
posted by JHarris at 1:30 PM on November 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Regarding the picture at the end with no caption, I guess it's because the cats wouldn't talk to him.
posted by exogenous at 1:31 PM on November 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


Add some security and some say in voting for the management for a nominal fee and you're on your way to Mr. Lee's Greater Hong Kong.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:32 PM on November 6, 2013 [21 favorites]


I slept in a wal-mart parking lot when driving from SF back to Seattle. Nice enough place to doze.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:32 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Santa Fe Reporter (free, local paper) did an article on what they called "Walmartians."

My favorite quote from the article:
Riders of the bus say they spend money at Walmart. They've parked overnight at many of its stores across the nation. But they oppose any number of the retail giant's corporate and labor practices, particularly its ability to undercut locally owned shops in small towns and how it treats its employees. Asked if they felt like parking overnight there endorsed those practices, Potter responds: "We're kind of like bottom feeders, if you look at it in fucking anybody else's bigger way."

"We park at a Walmart," he says. "We beg money off of people that are coming out of the Walmart. We usually spend money in the Walmart. You know what I mean?"

"I mean it's easy, it's accessible, just like any other bullshit, like McDonald's, fucking Wendy's," Pixie adds. "Like, yeah it's bullshit. But it's there. It's everywhere."

A young woman who didn't want to be identified by name adds: "It's got a dollar menu and all I've got is a dollar."
posted by backwords at 1:34 PM on November 6, 2013 [18 favorites]


The parking lot for your average suburban Walmart is so large it won't be fully filled but 3 days a year. That says something about the cost of free parking, but in general Walmart has the space to spare.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:36 PM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


backwords I want to read the article you mention but your link points to this post.
posted by ian1977 at 1:37 PM on November 6, 2013


Fixed the link to the Reporter article.
posted by backwords at 1:38 PM on November 6, 2013


We live in an RV full-time and just stayed in a WalMart parking lot last month en route to South Dakota. It was pretty uneventful: there were a couple of semis parked nearby and it was quiet other than the noise from the generator. I certainly wouldn't want to make a habit of it - I like a good supply of running water - but it's a very convenient option when it's midnight and there's no campground nearby. We used an app that shows all the WalMarts that accept overnight guests.

P.S. It's a really weird experience knowing you're sleeping in a parking lot but waking up in the exact same home.
posted by desjardins at 1:45 PM on November 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


This has depressed every cell in my body, so thanks for that.
posted by turbid dahlia at 1:49 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Wired article seems to be mostly cribbed from Nolan Conway's website with a little info from a NYT interview with him in September.

Neat stories. That giant RV looks fancier than most apartments I've lived in... Made some of the other situations look kinda harsh though. Still, when it's warm and you're not facing emergencies, there's something very appealing about being out on the road.
posted by mdn at 1:50 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was surprised about this policy, too. It doesn't seem very Walmart of them.

But think about it... People who camp there need to buy basics every day they stay there: bread and juice, toiletries, items for repair. That's revenue they wouldn't get if the campers moved on. And the parking lots are huge, so there's little to no resource cost to the store. Plus, loyalty.
posted by mochapickle at 1:52 PM on November 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


That giant RV looks fancier than most apartments I've lived in...

Ours looks pretty similar to that. The RV payment + monthly campground rent is about half of what we paid for the apartment we left behind. Of course, you also have to buy a big-ass truck.
posted by desjardins at 1:52 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


That giant RV is a glorious palace, my god. The square footage alone is larger than easily 50% of NYC apartments.
posted by elizardbits at 1:53 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


being able to sleep in the walmart parking lot has been a lifesaver for me before. i was making a trip from texas to new york as fast as i could in an attempt to get home and visit my family before one elderly member passed on. i could barely afford gas - in fact i'd had to have gas money wired to me by my older sister the day i left - and i certainly didn't have any money for a hotel room. it was a 32 hour drive - longer than i expected, i'd never made that particular trip before and overestimated my ability to stay awake. i needed to sleep somewhere in virginia, and i stopped at an interstate rest stop.

because, stupid child that i was, i assumed that interstate rest stops were for resting at.

i'd been there for about an hour when a police officer came up and knocked on my window and asked if i was sleeping and told me i was not allowed to sleep at the rest stop and i had to move along. i didn't even make it to the next rest stop before i caught myself dozing off and i took the nearest exit - which ended up having a walmart in it. most interstate exits probably have a walmart in them, come to think of it.

anyway i managed to sleep in the walmart parking lot and not drive off the road and kill myself so thanks walmart!
posted by titus n. owl at 1:56 PM on November 6, 2013 [18 favorites]


Of course, you also have to buy a big-ass truck.

So what you're saying is you've got a cheap and spacious place to live, plus a big-ass truck?
posted by turbid dahlia at 1:57 PM on November 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


Fixed the link to the Reporter article.

I know Walmart ≠ my lawn but Potter and Pixie need showers and jobs, good grief. Nothing I hate more than play-acting at suffering, when there's real suffering all around you. Those dollars you beg for? The genuinely poor & homeless people you're sharing that parking lot with could really use them.
posted by headnsouth at 1:57 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've always wondered why there are so many RVs parking in our local Wal-Mart parking lot. Didn't realize it was a "thing".
posted by blue_beetle at 2:01 PM on November 6, 2013


Gotta love the contextual text ads running on MeFi: *

Wal-MartJobs - Hiring Now
Walmart.Joblinker.net/Jobs
Complete your online application today. Start your new Job tomorrow!


* They're everywhere, really. Not unlike Walmart.
posted by wensink at 2:02 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Somehow it reminds me of Kerouac's On The Road... "emptiness they saw all around them", quite fittingly. It's the make-self-belief, relentless human tendency to adapt to the worst and try hard to see good where there's little good. Except these guys call a spade a spade ("It's got a dollar menu and all I've got is a dollar.")
posted by elpapacito at 2:05 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


BTW, the title of this thread is not talking about Walmart parking lots; it's from the trucker in the piece who said that trying to sleep in a truck stop is like trying to sleep in a beehive.

Good catch. I needed a pullquote for the title but the one I initially picked was too long, so I settled on this one. Still, I'd wager it's not too far off the mark.
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:07 PM on November 6, 2013


We've spent a couple of nights at Wal-Mart in our RV. Once when we were just too exhausted to drive any further and there was no available space in the only RV park in the area, and once when my wife and daughter wanted to get their hands on the last Harry Potter book when it was released at midnight and we were on vacation. It's OK for parking overnight and then moving on. I can't imagine making it a long-term thing.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 2:10 PM on November 6, 2013


This is fascinating. My MIL recently started living in an RV and has mentioned parking overnight at Wal-Mart as an option. I had no idea that this was A Thing!
posted by joan_holloway at 2:12 PM on November 6, 2013


I love this, the fact that America has nomads, many living that way through choice as well as necessity. I'm likely romanticising but there's spirit there. Not just cheap vodka.
posted by Caskeum at 2:15 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


WalMart can do whatever it wants to buy public approval, but I will not shop there. Ever.
posted by Cranberry at 2:23 PM on November 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


There is a campground just down the street from our Wal Mart and this practice drives the owners absolutely insane.
posted by davey_darling at 2:31 PM on November 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


I love this, the fact that America has nomads, many living that way through choice as well as necessity. I'm likely romanticising but there's spirit there. Not just cheap vodka.


I remember watching Roam Sweet Home many years ago and being fascinated by that pocket of US culture; I've never done the RV/fifth wheel thing but it's always seemed at least superficially appealing to me, at least for an extended vacation road trip. Maybe someday! It's a sweet film and narrated through the persona of the filmmaker's aging dog, whose mantra "Elsewhere is better. Elsewhere better be." has stuck with me all these years. I think I'm too much of a homebody for an extended nomadic existence, but I can appreciate that wanderlust a little bit.
posted by usonian at 2:33 PM on November 6, 2013


I'm sort of surprised Wal-Mart hasn't set up separate lots with sewer and electric hookups people can rent. Work at Wal-Mart. Shop at Wal-Mart. Live at Wal-Mart.

I guess that supposes you're posh enough to have an RV though, and not a truck-bed with a topper
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 2:33 PM on November 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've wondered about the economics of driving around in an RV versus staying in cheap hotels. Renting an RV is really expensive, and buying one can be a huge investment, too, unless you're comparing it to buying a home, but there are a lot of other costs to balance (vehicle maintenance and fuel versus utility costs, difficulty in parking any sizable vehicles anywhere besides large parking lots, open street-side parallel parking, and similar unrestricted spaces).

One reason truckers park in Walmart lots is because of federal hours of service requirements, and if there's not a rest stop, truck stop, or other designated facilities in the right place (or if they're all full), you have to find something else.

And folks who think this isn't very "Walmart" of Walmart, at least some Walmarts don't allow truckers to take their mandatory breaks in their parking lots. I randomly met a trucker who was going into a casino to use a bathroom there, after he was booted from a Walmart parking lot.
/transportation planning geek
posted by filthy light thief at 2:48 PM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


buying one can be a huge investment, too, unless you're comparing it to buying a home, but there are a lot of other costs to balance...

Related: Albert Brooks's Lost in America
posted by Atom Eyes at 3:00 PM on November 6, 2013


I've slept in WalMart parking lots on road trips before. If you can't find a free campsite, don't have a couch to crash on in the area, and there isn't an available rest stop (Some states make spending the night in rest stops either de facto or de jure illegal, those fascist assholes. Looking at you, California.) then it's as good as anywhere else. Truck stop parking lots are good too, there's often a big field o' dirt off to one side and you can just tuck yourself in among the semis.

Hotel? Whaddaya mean, hotel? Don't those cost money?
posted by Scientist at 3:14 PM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I was unaware of this policy but it explains a couple of grisly incidents locally over the past few years, where people died in their cars but no one noticed for a few days.
posted by TedW at 3:15 PM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've wondered about the economics of driving around in an RV versus staying in cheap hotels.

I think it's difficult to compare the two, unless you can put a price on the subjective experience of staying in your own space. You'd have to pay upwards of $100/night (in the midwest) to get a room that's comparable in space and quality to my RV. Plus I don't have to pack/unpack, I can cook all my own meals, I don't forget anything at home that I then have to buy on the road, I don't have to pay for pet boarding/sitting, I don't have to tip the cleaning staff (on the other hand, I have to make my own bed).

But yeah, we have the truck payments/maintenance, RV payment/maintenance, diesel fuel, RV insurance, etc. Hotels probably would be marginally cheaper when we were traveling, but for full-time living it's absolutely less expensive, long-term.
posted by desjardins at 3:19 PM on November 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


My city is one of those that bans overnight parking. It was basically a concession to the adjacent subdivisions (not at all tony, but certainly nice enough) which predated the commercial development, and essentially belies the class issues that are at the heart of this. That is, it isn't the RVs with satellite dishes they're worried about, it's the people living out of their last-gasp pick-ups.

Personally it's way down my list of objections to Wally World (although I live in a downscale neighborhood and one of the things you get is huge amounts of unnecessary noise -- just now there was some screaming match down the block that ended in a vehicle storming off). The neighbors insisted on an enormous tree-lined berm, and there was very nearly a federal lawsuit over some stormwater runoff issues.

On the plus side, my internal urban planner likes the way that unused parking lot space is actually finding a viable use, and of course most of this takes place not all that adjacent to residential areas, so the social objections should be limited in most cases.

Overall, though, I think this reflects fears of a relentlessly grinding economy and a permanent underclass. I don't think it's any accident that the right wing celebrates a certain type of nomadic American and tries to deny the existence or importance of any other.
posted by dhartung at 3:20 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


It doesn't seem very Walmart of them.

-Wal-Mart Now Draws More Solar Power Than 38 U.S. States
-Solar panels are sprouting on business rooftops across the US: "The way was led by Walmart"
posted by kliuless at 3:39 PM on November 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


Good catch. I needed a pullquote for the title but the one I initially picked was too long, so I settled on this one. Still, I'd wager it's not too far off the mark.

The trucker's point was that he preferred sleeping in the Walmart parking lot over the beehive-like truck stop.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 3:47 PM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's probably right, that Wal-Mart lets people stay there because they actually turn a small profit from those people buying cheap food and stuff in the store. All I know for sure is, there is no way no how that Wal-Mart is doing it out of any tiny little bit of kindness. Wal-Mart can do crushing indifference and horrifying malevolence very well, but kindness is not in their repertoire.

In a way, Wal-Mart is kind of refreshing in how comfortable they are with being evil. Other corporations equivocate and try to do some good in the world to compensate for all the evil crap they do, but with Wal-Mart it's like, "Fuck you. Fuck everybody who isn't us. Money."
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:09 PM on November 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


I saw the photos when they were featured in the NYTimes magazine a month or so back (linked above). Striking photos, and similar to what you can see in my local Walmart parking lot on most mornings.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:26 PM on November 6, 2013


i'd been there for about an hour when a police officer came up and knocked on my window and asked if i was sleeping and told me i was not allowed to sleep at the rest stop and i had to move along.

Yeah, this is one of those doofy laws some states have.

The key, if you ever find yourself in that situation again, is to avoid looking like you are actually settled in.
That is, don't get in the backseat, don't wrap yourself up in a blanket or jacket, don't take off your shoes or other accoutrements.
To avoid being hassled, make it look like you're just "resting". Have a book or map on your lap or immediately handy. Turn the car off unless you're going to freeze.
Open your windows just a crack, if weather permits. It prevents the build-up of tell-tale window fogging.
Finally, if it's possible, tuck yourself over in the truck section, not the passenger car section. If you can, find the "no man's land" between the two.

But remember, for safety's sake, lock your doors, don't park well away from the activity, and stay near (or under) a light. It might be harder to catch a few hours sleep, but you'll thank me when you don't wake up in the back of a serial killer van.
posted by madajb at 4:40 PM on November 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


We spent several nights in an RV in the parking lot of the Walmart in Fruita while on a mountainbiking trip. It was totally fine, quite pleasant actually.

And the Walmart is damned close.
posted by sweet mister at 4:40 PM on November 6, 2013


(Some states make spending the night in rest stops either de facto or de jure illegal, those fascist assholes. Looking at you, California.)

It's not illegal to spend the night in California rest stops- you just aren't allowed to camp. I've spent many nights in rest stops and have never been hassled.
posted by oneirodynia at 4:40 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are there toilets/washrooms/showers at Walmart? That are open 24 hours? How does that whole aspect work?
posted by dontjumplarry at 4:47 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I drove the lower 48 and Canada in a semi for a couple of years. A Walmart, an interstate rest stop that allowed overnight parking or the property where I would unload in the morning were my favorite places to sleep.

Truck stops are noisy, expensive and DANGEROUS. Half awake drivers trying to park in the dark ran into my truck while I slept at the for profit truck stops more than once. In some areas, they were also crime magnets. East St. Louis? (shudder). I learned to draw an X on one of my headlight in cheap lipstick, and throw a wet paper towel on the ground outside the passenger door to stop the hookers knocking on my window all night long.
posted by bert2368 at 4:58 PM on November 6, 2013 [10 favorites]


I don't understand the implication of bert2368's procedure, but I like how it sounds like a folk remedy. That's how you dissuade hookers, now to get rid of fire ants, try....
posted by JHarris at 5:10 PM on November 6, 2013 [25 favorites]


The only times I have ever been in a Walmart have been 3 am diaper shortages and prescriptions.

3-4 years ago my boy and I were walking a trail along the Swannanoa river and we came up on the lower end of a Walmart parking lot and there were all these kids playing in the river. Boy waded in.

I looked up the hill and there were some old RVs and people grilling meat. Lawn chairs under shade trees. I walked up there and wound up with a beer in my hand and a free lunch.

Maybe this is just the very best Walmart parking lot in the country. It's where I take boy when I can't get a playdate with one of his school chums on the weekends.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 5:14 PM on November 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Due to life issues (I won't elaborate), I'll be moving into a vehicle next month. The problems I see in the future are:

--Campsites are quite pricey $20-35 a night is common. National and State parks are often higher. Higher still if you want electricity and water hookups.

--Almost all cities, including those along major highways, have some kind of "no overnight parking" signs in any pullout, rest area, parking lots, etc. It is enforced anywhere within city limits.

--"Legal" and safe areas to park are disappearing at a rapid rate. Palo Alto, California just passed an ordinance that there is "no parking from 10pm to 6am" in all of the city owned lots and many streets. A few of the remote lots around the area had a few vehicle sleepers there...and they wanted them all gone.

A Walmart lot is just like boon-docking (dry camping). That is, you have no electricity, no water, etc. So your vehicle has to get power some place to charge the batteries after a day or so (assuming you run a light, radio, tv, or laptop, etc). You can't run a generator (and most don't have one), so leaving and driving around or plugging in somewhere to 110v is the only way to charge the batteries.

There will always be a few who pull in, park, then not leave...those are the ones that attract attention and often cause entire areas to be "closed" and shut down. Rest Areas (they have water and a toilet) on highways would look like occupy camps if those in vehicles were allowed to stay longer than a "rest" time.

Living in your car or vehicle is pretty much the last stop before living on the street with a shopping cart of your stuff. Although sure, there are a few people out there with 6-figure luxury RVs who will ghetto in a Walmart once in a while. Those I've met living in vehicles are pretty much down on their luck for various reasons and hoping to get their lives back together.

Whatever the reasons for doing so, and whatever else they are doing with their business, I think Walmart gets props for being one of the last places those down on their luck can just be legally. Almost anywhere else and you'll get rousted, ticketed, or towed.

OK, I'll move along now....
posted by CrowGoat at 5:26 PM on November 6, 2013 [16 favorites]


I once arranged for my patient's family to stay at the local WalMart in their RV while he was hospitalized. The manager just very carefully asked that they not be taking up parking spaces on the Thanksgiving weekend.

Which seemed reasonable, all things considered.
posted by SLC Mom at 5:27 PM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


My husband was formerly a truck driver in the northeast. He notes that walmarts that allow o/n parking became sparser and sparser during his driving years. He says parking at Walmart used to be a thing and now it is less of a thing...
posted by Tandem Affinity at 5:35 PM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I love seeing the campers lined up at the local WalMart this time of year. There have been dozens the last couple times I've been past. I imagine them full of happy retirees on their way south for a chatty, boozy winter. That was the plan my grandparents had, with their little boler trailer when they finally retired. And then my grandfather had a series of strokes, slid into dementia and died. And was followed soon after by my grandma.

I'm depressing myself here. Feel like I need to grab another beer and write a three chord country song.
posted by Cuke at 5:40 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's like the most depressing Springsteen song you can imagine.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:25 PM on November 6 [28 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]


I would totally buy that album - maybe like every track is a story about a different one of the parked vehicles' inhabitants
posted by Bwithh at 5:47 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


May I also suggest the poem WalMart Supercenter by Erika Meitner, also about the goings-on in walmart parking lots?
posted by Tesseractive at 5:50 PM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


My girlfriend (now my wife) and I drove her 1978 VW camper van from British Columbia back home to Ontario one summit. We went south, visited mount Rushmore (no dead presidents, it was foggy), and then headed east.

At Sioux City we found a Walmart. Cheap stop for sure, but oddly beautiful, right next to a cornfield, and as luck would have it we were the only ones there.

It felt a little tacky at the time, but 10 years gone I remember it sort of fondly. I can't ever remember being closer to her than that night, after sharing some cheap pizza for dinner, and walking back to the bus next to the fence between the parking lot and the corn.
posted by Pazzovizza at 5:56 PM on November 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


That giant RV looks fancier than most apartments I've lived in...

I lived at home during university. I remember getting locked out of the house one freezing night after stumbling home drunk, so, in order to not wake up my parents, I slept in our trailer (it was a nice one).

It was fucking cold.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:59 PM on November 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I would totally buy that album - maybe like every track is a story about a different one of the parked vehicles' inhabitants

Someone here needs to get this idea to Tom Waits immediately.
posted by JHarris at 6:17 PM on November 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


What desjardins is failing to mention (and which happens to be the very best part of owning an RV) is that you get to take YOUR OWN BATHROOM with you EVERYWHERE YOU GO.

That's right, no more questionable gas-station restrooms, nossirree. I poop in MY OWN toilet, no matter where I happen to be.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:28 PM on November 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Hotel? Whaddaya mean, hotel? Don't those cost money?

Hotel? Whaddaya mean, hotel? Don't those cost money have bedbugs?

FTFY
posted by BlueHorse at 6:53 PM on November 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


I hope that the majority of those vehicles have a dog-eared copy of "Travels with Charley" tucked under a seat. Maybe not the ones who are homeless by necessity--so I'm hoping there are more by choice than necessity. Now to read the article and find out...
posted by TreeRooster at 6:54 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, bed-bug avoidance is ALWAYS a plus!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:21 PM on November 6, 2013


I keep forgetting about this trick on long trips. Getting a motel room is nice, since you get a hot shower and all that, but I'm only going to be there a few hours and I can't justify spending $70 on that. We've caught naps at rest stops and hospital parking lots, but I'll have to remember the Wal-Mart trick.
posted by azpenguin at 7:38 PM on November 6, 2013


Work at Wal-Mart. Shop at Wal-Mart. Live at Wal-Mart.

"Welcome home, I love you."
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:52 PM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


New country tune in the works:

I'm-a gonna move to a Walmart parking lot
every day I'll go inside, and see what they got
I'll get whatever I need, it'll be right there
sunscreen, Ziplock bags and underwear
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:19 PM on November 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sometimes I eat at the diner downtown
Most times I buy cool ranch corn chips from Walmart in my dressing gown
You might call me crazy but I ain't no fool
I do my bathin' and shavin' in a $19.95 kiddie pool
(Which was only fifteen after coupons)
posted by turbid dahlia at 8:54 PM on November 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


There are always people camping at the one Wal-Mart in St. Paul, MN. It's in a dense urban area, with a 20 story apartment building, an 8 lane sunken freeway, and a new light rail line all within one city block. You can see the skyscrapers downtown and the state capitol, a couple of miles away. It's like a little patch of the not so great parts of the country right in the middle of a decent sized city.
posted by miyabo at 8:55 PM on November 6, 2013


It seems as if the Walmart brand is what bothering people on MeFi about this policy.

Would this be so depressing and horrible if it were Costco or Whole Foods parking lots?
posted by sideshow at 8:58 PM on November 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


There are two different sets of folks doing this, which you can see pretty well in the pics. There are people who choose to stay there and people who have no other choice. People with RVs, especially of the retired variety, stay there to save a few bucks, or when there isn't a RV campground nearby, or if they just don't want to bother looking for one. And hey, it's Wal-Mart, they will need to stop and get groceries sooner or later, so...you do the math. My parents have an RV and have "camped" at Wal-Mart parking lots a number of times. They told me it's kind of weird the first few times, but really convenient.

Most of the pictures here seem to be the latter group, of people who are homeless and have nowhere to go. Seeing kids there really breaks my heart. But as long as we have such wealth inequality, this kind of thing will only increase.

As for Wal-Mart, they get to look like a good guy, and there's a bunch of loyal customers that are good for business. Cops will often patrol Wal-Marts at night, just as they do donut shops and convenience stores, so I imagine there's not a lot of real danger.
posted by zardoz at 9:11 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's a vehicle-specific issue with many commercial and some public campgrounds; many do not permit VW Westfalias and other VW Microbus/Vanagon/Caravelle-based campers (Eurovans seem OK - maybe it's the front engine, or they look like mid-90s Astro vans?).
I've been given an incredible number of different reasons - we're not "real" RVs (too small?), we're campers not RVs (umm, what?), we don't have our own toilets or showers (except some do), we don't have proper utilities hookups (except Westfalias and some Weekenders do)...
The real reason is historic: VW buses were "dirty hippie"/pothead cars. RVs are for proper-haircut beer-drinking citizens.
So, sometimes it's Walmart or nowhere, though my personal, middle-aged-crewcut white person-who-cocktails experience is camping is any parking space I fancy. Including "closed" seaside parking lots, and alleys in Civic Center SF.
posted by Dreidl at 9:46 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Would this be so depressing and horrible if it were Costco or Whole Foods parking lots?

Good luck. There isn't enough spare room to park a Smart car in my Costco parking lot, let alone a trailer.
posted by madajb at 9:58 PM on November 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


There's some aspect of life on the road in an RV that deeply appeals to me. On the other hand, it seems like a way of life that could, with just a couple mis-steps, be very difficult to get free of once you've gotten into it. Obviously, I don't know from experience, but I imagine it would be hard to go back into living at a fixed address, just needing references, credit history, all of that, just to rent a place, let alone buy. Some people in the article are doing it because it's their dream, but that must be a vanishingly small portion.
posted by Ghidorah at 12:00 AM on November 7, 2013


"Fuck you. Fuck everybody who isn't us. Money."

Isn't that just the American Dream?
posted by colie at 1:02 AM on November 7, 2013


Would this be so depressing and horrible if it were Costco or Whole Foods parking lots?

Yes - because I'm sure some of those people aren't doing this by choice, and if there are people who are so destitute that they are forced to live in a superstore parking lot, the proper response isn't to get all warm and fuzzy over how nice the superstore in question is.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:07 AM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


My wife and I sold 80% of our crap and moved into a 40' fifth wheel in May of this year. We are both working professionals so we have steady incomes. This is how we have handled the adventure so far.

Income:
I am a project manager so I can take contracts postions that last from 3-18 months. We have to save to cover any gaps between contracts. Ultimately I would like to get a 100% remote position so we can roam as we much as we would like to. Right now we are limited to the where having a short list of places we want to live next.

Permanent address, ID, etc.:
We have South Dakota drivers licences that are for non-residence resident. South Dakota recognizes a "true nomad" status. Another benefit no state income tax. Handy for not being double taxed while working in other states that have income tax. Our address is a mail forwarding place. We get our snail mail sent to use every two weeks via ups.

RV - Buy used. Most RV's loose 50% of their value after 3 years the about 5% after that. We bought an extended service plan that is essentially a warranty on the entire unit and all of the appliances. We financed ours we pay about $300/mo for a really nice unit. Terms can be upto 20 years depending on the type and age. If it's your sole residence you can write off the interest, just like a mortgage.

Truck to pull the RV - Went with a used 1 ton diesel dually pick up with 75k on it. This is about $500/mo for 5 years. It already had the hitch and other towing equipment from the previous owner so we saved about $1000. The truck should last us to arround 300,000 miles. We bought a power train warranty because a new motor runs $7-$10K to replace.

Lot - We stayed at a campground this summer for $400.00/mo with full hookup (water, electric, and sewer) plus internet. We are now at the only place we could find that was open for the winter ~$700/mo. Right now where we live is essentially a parking lot with electric, sewer and water connections. It's not too depressing when you see the other RV's out there. I guess it feels less different, still prefer the trees and grass.

Walmart - Not all Wal-Marts will allow you to over night park. There are apps out there that let you know which ones do/don't. Mainly due to local laws that prohibit this. We use these for laying over when we're going from point A to B. We always call ahead to avoid any suprises. We've never had a problem running the generator. Seems like the long term this is getting on their radar. Last time we parked at one they asked us how long we would be staying.

Cold weather - Most RV's are not meant to handle tempratures below 20 degrees. We have spent about $650 getting ready to winter over at our current haunts - where it can get down to 10 below. This was all DIY except for the heater to keep the fridge from freezing up (oh the irony). Having someone do all of this would be about 3X the cost.

Other costs - Insurance, diesel fuel, repairs and maint., all have added up. I think we are almost done with the initial stuff. We are saving about $2000 a month over our apartment lifestyle, most of that has been eaten up by this initial stuff we had to procure.
posted by empty vessel at 8:52 AM on November 7, 2013 [11 favorites]


i think it's super hecked up when they don't let you actually REST at a REST STOP and it's super hecked up that walmart has to step up and supply a basic need like "a place for people to sleep that isn't behind the wheel on the highway." like we must not do anything that might encourage THOSE PEOPLE, those filthy POORS, to actually EXIST NEAR US. no sleeping at rest stops or a POOR will live in the rest stop. hustle everyone along. if you can't afford a hotel room then you shouldn't be driving at all you filthy poor. get back on the highway and fall asleep at the wheel and kill yourself and the occupants of the other vehicles you crash into, that's what you deserve for being so poor you can't afford a hotel room in the united states of america
posted by titus n. owl at 11:22 AM on November 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


everyone knows that interstate rest stops are for trucker sex.
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 12:06 PM on November 7, 2013


I know that one of the concerns with the rest stops is security. Anecdotally I remember reading something about a serial killer stalking people sleeping at rest stops. I also have seen safety warnings that advise women against sleeping in a car at rest stop to avoid being sexually assaulted. It puts the state in a postion of providing 24 hour security or prohibiting sleeping in a car.
posted by empty vessel at 12:57 PM on November 7, 2013


i've been to rest stops that HAVE 24 hour security and announce right there on the sign that there is 24 hour security, and the form that security takes is the police officer telling you you're not allowed to sleep there
posted by titus n. owl at 1:05 PM on November 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


i also have to laugh at the idea that "there are safety warnings telling women not to do this unless they get raped" has something to do with it like i mean there are safety warnings telling women not to step outside after dark in order to avoid being sexually assaulted and yet it remains legal to be female outside after dark without a cop near you
posted by titus n. owl at 1:07 PM on November 7, 2013


It seems to be enough of an issue to warrant considering closing them down. I do think it is stupid to have someone there to push people out who are sleeping. Especially when many states have or are considering laws to treat driving while tired like DUI.

The whole don't drive tired, don't sleep here is definitely a problem.
posted by empty vessel at 1:16 PM on November 7, 2013


like we must not do anything that might encourage THOSE PEOPLE, those filthy POORS, to actually EXIST NEAR US. no sleeping at rest stops or a POOR will live in the rest stop.

I'm sure that may well be some part of it but of course they aren't designed for that and if it isn't deterred in some way that the intended use may be crowded out entirely.

The main thing, though, is criminal activity and cruising. Cruising is also a problem at isolated parks and deters legitimate users.

It's the same sort of tension that exists other places where there is a real intended public use that can be negatively impacted by a non-intended public use (basic, related example: homeless guy sleeping on subway bench). I have sympathy for the homeless, I am not against gay people or even gay sex, but I'm pretty sure that these things can take place someplace else and that the fact that there may be limited opportunities for that is not an argument for making rest stop users per se rest stop users bear the social cost of those externalities.

In a lot of ways Walmart, then, is providing a useful public service by (there's a useful word here I'm forgetting) essentially creating a space in the gray zone where a nomadic lifestyle (voluntary or not) can operate with less direct impacts on other parts of society.
posted by dhartung at 10:39 PM on November 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


« Older Stalin's Story, by Victor Gijsbers, is a game comb...  |  Researchers using eye-tracking... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments