Some of you may be wondering why I have titled this entry the way that I have. I too have often thought of Walmart as the bane of the small business and a goliath of consumerism in America. It has much to atone for, despite the small steps it is taking in the direction of sustainability. That being said, I will most likely be forever indebted to Walmart for the service they have provided and will no doubt continue to provide for me on this trip.
As some of you are well aware, I have outfitted Sam so that I can sleep just about anywhere. When I am on National Forest land, I can cover the windows with bug nets and fall asleep just about anywhere. If I am in an urban setting, I can black out the interior, hiding myself away from prying eyes. Last night, I had to do the latter. There is nowhere to camp for free anywhere near Niagara Falls, or at least nowhere that I could find. So, I decided to put Sam (and myself) through the Walmart test. Walmart, for quite some time, has made its parking lots available to RVs and campers. On their website, they say that RVists and campers are some of their best customers, so, while they do not offer hookups, they are welcome at most Walmart stores for an overnight stay. In the end, it is the managers decision, so you have to check around before committing to any particular knowledge. Pretty cool though right?
Armed with the notion that Walmart would be watching over me as I slept, I made a beeline for the Supercenter in Niagara Falls. Its parking lots were immense, as they often are. Just to be on the safe side, I decided to get my car set up elsewhere, and then drive slowly and very carefully into my sleep spot. Luckily, there were a few RVs already resting for the night, so I just hid out next to them. I did my final preparations and then confidently walked towards Walmart to make my ceremonial purchase. I figured that since I was staying the night I might as well be a customer. After purchasing a 22 cent banana, I was back in my car.
Once inside, my world closed in around me. I had plenty of room to blog, move around, and sleep, but it felt significantly smaller than my normal tent. Undeterred, I scribbled down some notes on the day’s events, and then prepared for sleep. Shortly thereafter, I realized that I had forgotten to go to the bathroom when I collected my banana. Putting my clothes on once more, I walked back into Walmart for the last time that night. This time, when I pulled my tailgate closed behind me, I was there for good.
The night was hot, so I started off sleeping without any covers. It took me a little while to actually fall asleep, but it did eventually come. After playing around with ear plugs for about 20 minutes, I realized the parking lot itself was almost silent, so I went without. Twice during the night, I awoke to add layers. First, I squirmed into my silk liner, then I pulled a blanket over me a few hours later. The next thing I knew my alarm was reminding me that it was 6:30 in the morning. I had done it! I had successfully slept in a Walmart parking lot. I felt well rested and ready for anything. To celebrate this success, I returned to Walmart for a few more veggies before getting on the road.
Some of you may wonder why I am so terribly excited about the notion of being able to sleep in a Walmart parking lot. It doesn’t sound very inviting, nor is it really. The benefit is that Walmarts are everywhere, whereas National Forests are few and far between. Attaining a level of comfort with Walmart camping would allow me to sleep more easily in a vast number of places without having to drive well out of my way for a good nights sleep. It is not my first choice of accommodation, but it is free and frequently available, both of which I hold in high regard.
In other news, I made a glorious discovery today about yet another set of places that I will soon be able to sleep uninterrupted and at low cost. Although I will share this information with you later, rest assured that I am supremely excited about it!