As we wander our way across Mid-America, we’ve been noticing how the practice of Wal-Docking has been changing.
Walmart has long allowed overnight parking at many of their stores. Cracker Barrel, Lowes, REI, Safeway and Flying J/Pilot truck stops also allow such parking. Since Walmart was the first to have an official policy on the subject, the term Wal-Docking stuck.
Our preferred mode of traveling cross country is moving a limited number of hours each day, usually 4 or less. No marathon overnight driving sessions for us. This pace allows time to make impromptu stops along the way (usually thrift stores for Peg to browse) and still settle in before dark.
In the plains states there are few RV parks and those are often full. Rigs that are self-contained only need a place to park for the night. So rather than plan a trip around RV park availability, we look up the nearest Walmart.
Either because there are more, or because we are noticing them more, some are Wal-docking because they are living out of their vehicle. Whatever the reason, these folk are sort of mobile homeless.
There is an accepted etiquette to Wal-Docking.
Do buy something: We try to do some business at each store we visit. Groceries at Walmart, dinner at Cracker Barrel, fuel at truck stops, etc.
Don’t “set up camp” by putting down jacks, opening sliders, extending awnings, setting up a grill, arraying lawn chairs, running generators, etc.
Don’t park near the store and don’t park so as to block traffic.
Unfortunately, more and more cities are banning overnight parking due to people abusing the system. The municipalities are increasingly zoning away the practice of Wal-Docking. Denver has banned the practice in the whole metro area.
I have been reading “The Grapes of Wrath” on this trip. Like the displaced and unwelcome Okies in that novel, sour grapes generated by those abusing the free offering may make Wal-Dockers similarly unwelcome in the near future.
Luckily, away from metros areas, towns are usually more welcoming, especially to those spending money in local stores.
In Fargo, North Dakota we stayed with several half-million dollar RVs.
In Vermillion, South Dakota, we spent the quietest nights ever at a Walmart. In the morning a stiff wind and open field demanded some kite flying before we hit the road again.
In North Platte, Nebraska we found a corner of the lot away from traffic.
In Northglenn, Colorado, we found the only stay-over place available near Denver: a Cracker Barrel restaurant. For the price of dinner we enjoyed a quiet night after a killer sunset over the Rocky Mountains.
We also met some local inhabitants Wal-Docking in a different way.
Our twin cities friends may appreciate the humor in this road sign from the middle of Nebraska.
Next we’ll be pushing across the Rocky Mountains west of Denver, our our way to Moab, Utah.