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11 February 2015

The Road To Nowhere, Unless Walmart Is Somewhere

Scamper Walmart New Iberia
Scamper parked in yet another glamorous Walmart parking lot.
In general, we’re pretty laid back when it comes to traveling. Although we usually have a high-level plan about where we’re going, we prefer to take things as they come. We like to take side roads, see where they lead us and if we like the place, stay a while. For example, since picking up Scamper in mid-December in Minnesota, our plan was to head down south and then along the seaboard to Florida and up the East Coast, looking for a sailboat along the way. There isn’t a whole lot more detail to our plan. We’ve loved having the flexibility of rocking up to a new place and finding a campsite for the night - without booking anything in advance!

That’s how we ended up in Grande Isle. Neither of us had heard about it before, but Scott saw this Louisiana barrier island on the map and suggested we head down there before going to New Orleans. All we knew about Grande Isle was that it was on the Gulf of Mexico. Seriously, that was it. Does that seem strange to you? We did a quick internet search on the cell phone, saw there was a state park there, headed on down and snagged ourselves a campsite. Easy peasy.

Our laid back approach had been serving us well. Then we got to Florida. That’s when things began to go pear shaped. Turns out Florida and laid back don’t go together. Which is surprising because you see all these pictures of happy people lounging around on the beach looking completely laid back. Do you know why they’re so laid back? They planned and booked everything 17 years in advance. These snowbirds are a a completely different species from us. We’re more like dodo birds these days. Soon to be extinct if we stay in Florida much longer.

We realized something had to give the other day when we spent all day on the road to nowhere. After two nights in Walmart parking lots (one too many in a row), we decided to head down to Babcock-Webb Preserve near Punta Gorda in southwestern Florida. Along the way, we stopped in Arcadia and had lunch in the city park. After a quick drive through the town, we decided that, although it was a nice enough town, we had probably seen enough. So we continued down to the preserve. We read on their website that you can camp there seven days a week during hunting season. When you click on the link to read more about hunting, it says that all of February is raccoon and possum season. We were all set – we had finally found a place that was first come, first serve and cheap ($3 per person). Hurrah!

Sounds too good to be true doesn’t it? It was. We picked up one of the pamphlets when we got there with the regulations and it said that you can’t camp there during the week. So we called to clarify. Turns out their website needs to be updated. With no place else to stay, we called around to all of the Walmarts in the area to see if we could overnight in their parking lots. Nope. Not a one. They would love for us to stay there, but local regulations prohibit it. And by “local regulations”, I think they mean that all of the big RV parks in the area have ganged up and successfully lobbied to keep people form parking for free at Walmart instead of paying big bucks to stay with them. Even though it’s still pretty hard to find a place at an RV park unless you booked 17 years ago.

So guess what we ended up having to do? Drive back up to Arcadia and spend the night at their Walmart. Turns out there was more to see in Arcadia, like the Walmart parking plot. A zillion miles and pretty much a full tank of gas just to find a place to stay for the night.

Now we spend all of our time online and on the phone trying to find places to stay. It’s pretty darn frustrating. And even when we do find a place to stay, they want a lot more money then we would like to spend. We were so hopeful that we could decrease our average per night camping cost, but it looks like that’s won’t be happening anytime soon. So frustrating to own your own tiny home on wheels but can’t actually find a place to live in it.

Will we stay in Florida or head on out? Stay tuned.

We took the road to nowhere on 3 February 2015.

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12 comments:

  1. We have never been to Florida..don't think it will be high on our list..no offense to those snowbirds lounging by the pool....
    but these Dodo birds are going to stay in the west, at least till we get our wings!

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    1. Very sensible Sue! Good to know there are other dodo birds out there :-)

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  2. Florida seems kinda funny that way. For a state that depends on tourism income so much, they do their best to try and make it painful to be a tourist there. I assume you guys are aware of the anchoring regulations they are trying to enact that will basically close down many of the free anchorages. And, heaven forbid, if you buy a boat there you will either have to agree to leave or pay their extortionist sales and use taxes. I could have stayed there and worked on my boat, but the cost was too high so I left and am just now preparing to go back for a short period before their tax laws chase me away again.

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    1. Hi Mike - yes we're aware anchoring issues. Scott wonders how they can do it given international laws. I guess Florida gets away with it all because its one of the few places in the States warm and sunny this time of year. Were hoping to catch up with you once we make our way north which may be sooner then we hoped.

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  3. Have you tried using the app "rvparky"? We've been spending considerable time on the computer trying to book camp sites in state parks for next January. Very difficult!

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    1. Such a pain spending souch time trying to book something isn't it! Thanks for the rvparky tip!!

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  4. Head to Okeechobee. Laid back and cheap. The downside is there is a lot of trashy people and drugs. You will be only an hour from either coast to.

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    1. Thanks Mark - we may be heading that way soon :-)

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  5. Good Luck! We were able to do Florida this year without reservations too far ahead, but we didn't go as far South this time.

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    1. You are so lucky to do it without reservations. So jealous!

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  6. Love your blog! We also try to avoid advance registrations because they limit our options and can be a headache, but your florida description is spot on and the 17 year thing made me laugh out loud. My favorite resources to find either quick or free camping are rvparky, boondockers welcome, and harvest hosts.

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    1. Thanks Michelle! Will check those resources out. Hard when you're not used to planning 17 mins in advance let alone 17 Yeats :-)

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