Monday, February 19, 2018

The CO Detector Got Old




You can’t tell in this photo of the CO detector in The Van, but the green light is actually alternating between green and red.

I know the 12 volts feeding the detector isn’t low so the dang thing must be telling me it’s ready to retire.

These things operate off a heated platinum wire which is a catalyst for this chemical reaction:

Sensing: CO + H2O -> CO2 + 2H+ + 2e- 
Counter: ½O2 + 2H+ + 2e- -> H2O 
Overall reaction: CO + ½O2 -> CO2

Cool huh!!! (Oh man, what is wrong with me that I like figuring things like this out????)

And eventually that wire is going to have had enough with all this reacting and quit.

Because of this, and in order to play it safe in our litigious society, the manufacture prints right on the front of the detector that it is to be replaced 60 months after installation, but that reactor inside there knows when it isn’t reacting well anymore, hence the alternating red/green light when it really goes bad.


As always, the first step in the replacement process was to disconnect the power.  I could have pulled the fuse when I started this replacement but it’s easier just to flip the 12 volt disconnect switch

As you can see, my old detector was manufactured the last day of July 2009, but not installed and heated up, which is when the clock really starts, until sometime in early-2011.

Because the detector is mounted up high, clear of the worst of dust and other contaminants, my little platinum wire lasted about 12 months longer than the stated 60 months.

If you look close at this photo you can also see where I've cut the power-leads off flush with the case. I’ll get to that in a moment.


I found it difficult to find a replacement detector that just does CO.  Since most RV’s also have a propane system on-board it’s not surprising that the combo-detectors are much more popular.

No big deal, it’s not going to hurt to have a propane detector as well as the CO detector.

I made sure to buy the replacement from the same manufacture as the original so it would have the same footprint. In fact the old and new detectors share the same case, just different printing on the front.


The Van’s detector is mounted above the electrical panel in an enclosure above the kitchen counter-top.


Despite there being loads of room for wire-slack up there in the enclosure, when Sportsmobile installed the detector they kept wire-lengths to a minimum which meant the barrel-splices they used were buried inside the enclosure and difficult to reach.


Also, since everybody knew this detector was going to have to be replaced at some point, I’m not sure barrel connectors were the right choice.

So I dug up some spade connectors to use on the new detector instead. Fully insulated spade connectors since right there next to the electrical panel is not a place you want bare electrical connections hanging about!

I could have used standard spades and wrapped them in electrical tape but during the summer around here it can get pretty dang hot up there just under the metal roof. Just the kind of conditions that weakens adhesives and lets electrical tape unwrap.


The new detector got the male spades on the ends of its leads.



Then, in order to have enough wire to work with comfortably, I cut the leads off right at the case of the old detector and crimped on female spades.

Technically I should have put one male and one female spade on the detector and the corresponding mating-spades on the power leads, that way even a complete idiot can’t screw up and connect the power backwards. But when buying insulated spades in small quantities (Remember, I’m going to need spades for a new detector in 5 or 6 years) they come packaged as either males or females. By using males on both leads of the detector, now I only have to buy one small package of males when it comes time to replace it, rather than one small package each of male and female, only to use a single spade out of each package and have the rest sit around until I’ve forgotten where I put them and have to buy a set of new packages all over ag—well, you see where this is going.

Besides, complete idiots should not be messing around with electrical stuff anyway.


Anyway – the new detector slipped right back into the slot the old one came out of and I even used the original screws to hold it in place.

After turning the power back on it took about 10 minutes for the little platinum wire to heat up to operating temperature. Not because the wire gets that hot, but because the current though the wire is so low (remember, battery powered detectors can run for a year on one small battery) it takes that long for it to heat up. Once the green light was burning steady I gave the ‘Test’ button a push to make sure the detector was working.

It was. . .

I did this without thinking of hearing protection beforehand so it was several hours before I could hear The Wife calling me to lunch.


The last step was to replace the old detector’s paperwork in The Van’s folder of – well, paperwork and manuals, with the new detector’s.

Good for another five or six years!






Thursday, February 15, 2018

Today Time Was Driving A Mack Truck


Time mostly just marches on, but once in a while it breaks-step and folds, bends, mutilates, spindles, and, as I found out today, sometimes just plain runs you over!

The first time I got spindled by time was a good 20 years ago when another Vet and I were standing outside the computer-room talking about Vietnam. Some just-out-of-school computer operator wandered by, stopped, and said "Vietnam? I think we studied that in history!"

The next time I was mutilated by time was years later when, for the first time ever, I was given the senior discount without asking for it.



And today time ran me over with a Mack truck with my name on it!

As is our custom, when we make a city-trip for supplies we eat out somewhere. We had just sat down at our table when the waitress walked up and said " Oh! For a moment there I thought you were another elderly couple that eats here. . ."

Now to be fair, this waitress was a very young slip of a thing and her understanding of age hasn't yet fully formed, to her most everybody is old, but once you've been run over by the Mack truck there's no taking that back. . .



Monday, February 12, 2018

The Changing Of The Guard


There comes a time when even the most < frugal, cheap, persistent, thrifty, stubborn > (choose your adjective of choice) of us must admit it’s time to let go.


On the left are my shop boots, the ones I wear around the property and – well, shop.
In the middle are my combination hiking/Sunday-go-to-meeting/out-in-public/dress boots.
And on the right are the boots I just bought today. A little more expensive than I usually go for but they're wider in the toe, have a little more toe-protection, and are American made. Ask me in a couple years if they were worth it.

The new boots will become my hiking/Sunday-go-to-meeting/out-in-public/dress boots, after I remove the 54” laces that came with them and move the 72” laces from the middle pair of boots over to them. There's a little bit of fraying where these laces have sawed against the metal eyelets, but they're perfectly serviceable for now. (Just don't tell The Wife!)


The reason I use the longer laces on my hiking boots is because I wrap the extra length around behind my ankle and back to the front again before tying them off. This not only gives a little extra security and support at the ankle, but I also find that when done like this they are much less likely to need retying before the day is over.


But not to worry. Those brand new 54” laces don’t go to waste. I use them to lace up the eyelets of my former hiking/Sunday-go-to-meeting/out-in-public/dress boots, (On the right above) which will now become my shop boots. Having laced the eyelets up I tie them off securely securely, ensuring they stay that way with a little heat from a lighter, then cut the excess off.

Now these boots have been converted to slip-ons

As for my original shop boots, (On the left) alas there’s not much left to do with those faithful old dogs other than to toss them into the trash, laces and all.


I don’t know if it was coincidence or not, but the same day I got the new boots and permanently retired my original shop boots, I was compelled (By The Wife)  to retire one of my shop-shirts too.

The Wife tells me this particular shirt is at least 10 years old. I don’t know for sure, but I do know that it was originally one of my work shirts – you know, back when I had a real job. After years of serving me in the office I cut the arms off and used it in the shop. That was at least 5 years ago and I have to admit that the fabric is getting a little thin lately.

Clearly shop-work has been hard on the shirt, adding permanent stains from paints and glues, and wearing it through where I lean against my workbench, (Shop-shirts are never tucked in!) but if it was left up to me, I figure that shirt has a good 12 to 18 months left in it. But if The Wife catches me wearing it again she will stick her fingers through those worn spots and rip the shirt to shreds right off my back. (I know this because she’s done it before. . .)




Sunday, February 4, 2018

Conversations With Elmer

(For those that just stumbled onto this page, [though from my page-hit counter I can tell that never happens] Elmer is my nearly 90 year old father-in-law who's spending the winter on the Gulf Coast a couple hours away from where The Wife and I live.)

This is just a random smattering of Elmer-isms

But first, to fully understand a conversation with Elmer you need to be aware of a couple Elmer-idiosyncrasies:

“Never” as in “I never do that!” means at least not in the past few hours

“Oh, no, no, never!” means not in the past few minutes, but you can be sure he will do it again soon!

"I don't want to do that, or go there, or any other similar 'I don't wana's', means there is a 73% chance he will change his mind in the next few hours.

Elmer tends to parse out his stories in pieces, never quite repeating the same story twice. Afterwards, to get the full picture, or at least a more complete picture, the three daughters have to confer with each other to pass on the bits they were told but the others weren’t, and to get the bits they were not told but the others were. Often this results in conflicting details as Elmer tends to modify his stories as he goes, and then it’s up to the three daughters to pick through the mess and decide which one, if any, is the most likely truth.

For something technical, like cleaning fish or nuking his Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwich, or mopping the trailer floor, or the best way of tying a lure onto his fishing-line now that he's more blind than not, Elmer will give you the step-by-step procedure in excruciating detail, then he’ll repeat the telling of those steps every time you see him, and sometimes twice in the same sitting. So go ahead; ask me how he prepares his Jimmy Dean egg, cheese and sausage muffin in the morning, right down to scraping the melted cheese off the plastic wrapper with his teeth. I dare you, go ahead!!

Telling Elmer not to do something is - well, counter productive. ( Don't touch that plate, it's hot - Dang! That damn plate it hot! Leave the settings on the TV alone - I don't know why but the TV isn't working anymore! Don't pick that up, it's too heavy - Oh damn, I think I just hurt my knee!)

--------------

The ending of pretty much every phone-call with Elmer (Unless he has something of his own he wants to do, such as watch The Wendy show, then you’re lucky if he doesn’t hang up on you in mid-sentence.)

OK dad. Well you have a good evening and I’ll talk to you soon.
                       Ok dad, by.
                                Oh really?! Well by dad.
                                                Love you too dad, by.
                                                                Well I’ve got to get dinner on the table dad, by.
                                                                              You have a good night too, by dad.

Because he won't stop talking, on average from the first “by” to actual hang-up takes 2 minutes and 43 seconds, 8 “by’s”, and 4 eye-rolls.

-------------- 

Elmer (on the phone): Just wanted to let you know I drove over to ‘B’ ( Because I’m such a security freak I’m leaving out the actual place names ) and picked up that prescription you called into the Walmart there. ( Elmer has clearly lost track of which daughter he’s talking to as it is Dale, not The Wife, that handles all of Elmer’s medical stuff. )

The Wife: Did Ike drive you over?

Elmer (Somewhat defensively now that he is back on track as to which daughter he is actually talking to): No, Ike was busy so I drove over there by myself because I needed the prescription. It’s just around the corner anyway.  ( ‘B’ is 30+ miles one way and The Wife reiterates her concerns about Elmer driving any distances.)

Elmer: You’re just going to have to get over this concern about me driving. Your sisters both accept that I’m fine to drive places on my own, you should too.

The Wife: Dad, it’s not that I don’t think you can drive. If you would put both hands on the wheel and pay attention you can drive just fine, but instead you’re always messing around with cigarettes, dropping lighters under your feet, flicking burning butts out the window, leaning over and messing around in the glove box, talking on the phone, and just generally not paying attention.

Elmer: Oh no, no, no! I don’t do that stuff!  ( Yeah right! But to be fair, Elmer’s style of driving isn’t an age thing. The first, and last, time I rode in a car Elmer was piloting was nearly 40 years ago, back when he had two eyes and fairly normal blood-flow to the brain. Even back then pin-balling wildly between the white lines and panic stops were the norm, not because he can’t drive, but because his attention is everywhere but on the road.)

--------------

Elmer (On the phone the next day): I got a stone-chip in my windshield yesterday. Right now the cracks aren’t blocking my view ( Not saying much since he only has one eye to view with! ) but I’m going to have to get it replaced here soon.

As is Elmer’s way, we heard about this stone chip repeatedly over the next couple weeks. The one he got during that illicit trip by himself to ‘B’. All that time I’m thinking no big deal, stone chips are not unusual around here, but when I finally had an opportunity to make a personal inspection – well Holy Crap!! This so-called “stone chip” was a section of windshield the size of a quarter that was pulverized into glass fragments and dust with a half dozen cracks radiating out that had nearly engulfed the entire windshield. It would have had to have been a pretty damn big rock to cause that kind of damage! And rocks that big generally done lift off and go flying around.

The only thing that kept the windshield from caving in altogether on impact was that the “chip” was located in the very bottom-right corner of the windshield where it’s glued onto the car and backed up by the passenger-side A-pillar steel.

After looking things over I walked away pretty sure that someone, somewhere along that drive between Elmer’s trailer and ‘B’, came out that afternoon to find their mailbox mangled because Elmer clipped the corner of it on his way by.

--------------

Elmer (On the phone): I’m still at the trailer, but I’ll be leaving to meet you in ‘E’ for lunch in just a few minutes. ( Since, when it comes to food, Elmer is usually there a half hour before the appointed time and impatiently calling to find out where we are as if we’re late, I’m pretty sure he got distracted that morning and forgot he was supposed to meet us for lunch )

The Wife: Well take your time and stay off the phone until you get there.

Elmer: Oh I never talk on the phone when I’m driving

15 minutes later the phone rings and I’m thinking ‘oh crap, he hasn’t even left yet and we’re already here waiting for him.

Elmer: I’m just passing through ‘M’ now and will be there soon! (Yep, “Oh I never talk on the phone when I’m driving!!” He also told The Wife, as she chewed him out over that that illicit trip to ‘B’ a few weeks ago, that he never drives over 50 MPH anymore. Well ‘M’ is 20 miles away and he pulled up 15 minutes later. . .you do the math. . .)

--------------


Elmer: I really want to call Elvira over in Florida but I can’t find her number. I’ve torn this trailer apart and looked everywhere. Do you have it? I really need to make this call!

The Wife: I thought we put that number in your contact list. Oh wait, I forgot, your contact list went into the bay along with your phone. (The Wife walks over and flicks on the switch that powers up our WIFI and satellite internet modems ) Let me look up our Friends and Family list on the Verizon account. The number is in there. I’ll call you back in a few minutes. (of course by the time this call is actually finished [ see the first conversation ] the modems have had plenty of time to do their start-up things)

Only when The Wife pulls her laptop out it won’t connect. We walk out into the barn to use my laptop, (The Wife’s is very old and cranky. Mine is just old) except mine won’t connect either. The WIFI is working but the internet connection isn’t, despite what the lights on the satellite modem say. This happens sometimes but rather than waste time screwing around with it I pull out my phone and connect through our one-to-two bar cell signal, though it takes a couple tries to get into the Verizon account because apparently I screwed up the password once and the security question another time.

Verizon makes it difficult to find your Friends and Family list at the best of times, trying to do it on the tiny phone screen only makes the process more difficult. After quite a bit of frustration, many fruitless screen-taps as we worked back and forth through the menus with both of us trying to huddle into the same space over the tiny screen at the same time, and just before we admitted defeat, we finally find the list and get the phone number.

Aht-aht-isch!!

That was me waving my hands and hollering at The Wife just after I handed her my pen.

She was already not in the best of moods and this didn’t make her any happier, but you see, she has a habit of writing on any randomly available surface ( we often go shopping with our list written in spiral fashion in the blank spaces of advertising flyers and Netflix mailers or even ripped off cardboard box flaps ) because she was about to tear a corner off our newly arrived 1095-A tax form to write the number on.

The Wife: Hey Dad, I’ve got Elvira’s number for you.

Elmer: Oh that’s OK. I had the number after all and have already talked to her.

The Wife: (after politely, and carefully, hanging up the phone) Aaahhhhh!!
                                                                                                             
--------------

The Wife’s phone rings Wednesday morning. She checks the caller ID

The Wife: HEY DAD, EVERYTHING GOING OK FOR YOU THIS MORNING? (Elmer has graduated beyond forgetting to wear his fancy hearing-aids that used to blue-tooth right to his phone – you know, the phone that mysteriously jumped out of his pocket and into the bay a month ago –  now he’s lost the hearing-aids altogether.)

Elmer: Well I went out to go fishing around five this morning (Over the past couple months he has repeatedly, [ and believe me, nobody can repeatedly like Elmer can repeatedly! ] told us that he has quit fishing in the dark anymore. . .  Well last time I checked, on Wednesday sunrise wasn’t until 0716. . .) but the car was broke. It started just fine but every light on the dash lit up, ( he told one of his other daughters only one light lit up )   the headlights wouldn’t turn on, and the windshield wipers wouldn’t wipe. I don’t know what’s wrong with it!   ( a few days later he eventually admitted to yet another daughter that he had been out driving in a terrible storm the day before –  “But don’t worry, I pulled over and waited for hours for it to pass!” which means that at best he slowed down for 10 minutes during the worst of it. –  and the car was apparently struck by lightning.)

The Wife: Did you drive it? (Cringing at the thought of him creeping though town in the dark with one eye, no headlights, and a dew-covered windshield with a fishing pole sticking out the side-window like a Knight’s lance ready to spear something .)

Elmer: Oh no, no, no! I wouldn’t drive it like that!
                             – (23 seconds later)
                                                 I’m not real sure what’s wrong with the car, but when I drove it around the block the brakes felt funny too.

The Wife: (Exasperated eye-roll)

Elmer: I guess I’ll drive it up to the Ford dealer in ‘E’ and have them take a look at it. (‘E’ is 37 miles of rice-paddies and cotton-fields away.)

The Wife: I’d hate for you to get stuck alongside the road for hours until I can get there. Why don’t you take it over to the garage the fixed your stripped oil-drain plug a couple weeks ago? (A garage that’s 4 blocks away and drops him back at the trailer while they’re working on the car )

Elmer: I could but I do have that prescription waiting for me at the ‘E’ Walmart and I really should get that picked up soon.

Well there’s a reason that prescription is still sitting there in the Walmart and not in Elmer’s collection of drug-bottles sitting on the dining table in the trailer.

For various reasons Ike is not available to chauffeur Elmer around right now and ‘E’is about the only place The Wife is semi-comfortable (OK, least terrified.) with Elmer driving to on his own since there’s little traffic and Elmer has been making that drive for 20 years so knows it pretty well. So the prescription was sent to the ‘E’ Walmart instead of the ’V’ Walmart which is farther away but has better restaurants nearby. But it has been sitting there for a week now because Elmer keeps blowing us off while he plays with his girlfriend.

Not the Missouri girlfriend mind you, this is his Texas girlfriend we’re talking about!

I just don’t get it. I’m under no illusion about being a pretty-boy, but I never have women buzzing around me, yet Elmer. . . well, it’s just not good for my self-esteem to see Elmer effortlessly collecting people that end up wanting to be around him while I sit here ignored by anybody that’s ever known me.

I mean just what the hell is the attraction of a nearly deaf, one-eyed old-man that smells like a week-old ashtray from a 60’s era cocktail party, shuffling along in the slippers he wears everywhere with the cuffs of his old-man saggy-butt pants dragging the ground at his heels (Except when he’s wearing his girl-jeans that “fit him just right”. Those end 4 inches above his shoes)???!!

OK, enough; because if I keep thinking about Elmer and his collection of girlfriends I’m going to end up in therapy, and since I could most definitely benefit from it, for a variety of reasons beyond Elmer and his octogenarian bevvy of beauties, I really don’t want to go to therapy. After all, why risk ruining a good collection of psychosis?

  --------------

So that’s a sampling of conversations with Elmer – at least so far, but stay tuned since he’s still ticking along down there doing Elmer things like he’s got energizer batteries up his butt.



Monday, January 29, 2018

I Did A Bad Bad Thing


I would have added a little audio clip of Chris Isaak here to really punch this post up, but I can’t afford the royalties.


Normally I don’t go for 500 piece puzzles because just when I start to feel like I’m getting into them, they’re suddenly finished, but when I saw this one – well, to quote one of the Macbeth witches; By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes.


You see, my nephew is die-hard green.

I’m pretty sure he has a T-shirt or hat or something that says Friends don’t let friends drive anything but green tractors, so when I saw this puzzle I couldn’t resist aggravating him. 

Besides, he recently banged himself up by crashing during a snowmobile race so I figure a little outside aggravation will take his mind off being sidelined for a moment.

There are a number of strategies for putting a puzzle together.

You can dump the pieces out, turn them all right-side up, then go for it.

You can separate the pieces by shape, setting the edges aside as a starting point then working through the rest.

You can sort the pieces by color, which works well on those Norwegian fiord, or Newfoundland harbor puzzles.



You can sort the pieces by subject then work the puzzle from there

Or you can do the challenging ‘pick and stick’ method, where you pick a piece out of the box, check it against the image to figure out where it goes, and stick it directly on the puzzle board in its approximate position.


The puzzle I'm working on now lends itself well to the sort-by-subject method.


Though I did mix it up a little by doing pick-and-stick for the tracks and train.


Here I've completed emptying out the sky and mines boxes and am working on the mountains.


For the tractor puzzle, the New Holland (horrified gasp) tractor puzzle, I decided to make it a little more challenging for myself by doing it strictly by the pick and stick method.



So this one is for you, my thoroughly green nephew.


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Wall of Shame: Dangerous Driver



I understand that some may not consider the recent actions of a 'professional' driver (and I use the term with more than a touch of sarcasm here) as dangerous. For instance I assume that the driver in question didn't think of his/her actions, excessive speed, failure to maintain safe distance from other vehicles, failure to maintain lane, as reckless, or at the least thought those actions were justified in some way, but from where I sit; you know, down here close to the road in a smallish car; those actions were highly questionable and downright scary!


I was eastbound on a piece of I-10 where the speed limit is 65 and while doing the speed limit I was in the left lane passing a cement truck. Notice the K-barriers on both sides of the main lanes in the image below? That's because, not only is the speed limit here 65, but this part of I-10 is currently under construction which makes this a double-fine zone.



How do you know how fast I was really going? Because our front and rear dash cams are equipped with GPS so date, time, and speed are embedded in the video. (And with the proprietary app rather than a generic MP4 player, so is location) Another feature of the cameras is that because of the 160 degree viewing angle, things are a lot closer than they appear in the video. A lot like that right-hand side mirror.

As I was passing the cement truck another truck was coming up behind me at a high rate of closure, which means he/she was doing well over the posted speed limit with no visible intention of slowing.

The rear camera is mounted on the vehicle's center line, Notice that half of my vehicle is still in the left lane as the driver of the truck begins passing.

Because of this I signaled and began to move into the right lane before I was comfortably clear of the cement truck, but that clearly wasn't good enough for the approaching driver who moved partially onto the left shoulder and proceeded to pass before we had cleared the lane.




Yep, this was my driver's eye view as the 80,000 pound truck (heading into the city like this these gravel trucks are carrying a full load) blasted by a few inches to my left, roaring along the rumble-strips out there on the left shoulder.

Taking the tractor # and the door plaque, DOT number and TXDMV numbers off the recorded images as this driver blew by me, (OK, time to change the underwear!) I contacted the trucking company with the details of the incident, including the fact that I had GPS-confirmed video:

Since I did get a response back from them, albeit several days later, I've blurred the company name as well as DOT and TXDMV numbers in the image above. If they hadn't responded my plan was to plaster their details here and on other social media sites.

I am a skeptic by nature, so maybe it's just me, but though the trucking company responded with all the right things: thanks for taking the time; safety is our number one concern; the incident has been reviewed with the driver; etc., I still have my doubts since they were not interested in a copy of the video.


Rear camera video
(the 'exciting' part is about mid way into this 60 second clip)



Monday, January 22, 2018

Some of My One-Night Stands


OK, for those of you that were thinking that kind of one-night stand; thanks for the vote of confidence, but really? Even at the foggy knell of last call I’ve never been the kind to attract that sort of salacious, or maybe it’s predatory, attention, and as for me being the instigator in this bump-in-the-night then founder-in-the-morning-but-what-a-great-story-in-the-afternoon ritual, well – never been there, never done that – which is maybe why they keep taking away my man-club membership.

Though they share some similarities; like swooping in after dark and slinking out at first light; using them for you own selfish needs then never calling again; or leaving them with nothing but a faint impression and taking nothing away except a smug smile; the kind of one-night stands I’m talking about have more to do with 4 wheels and miles of road rather than two balls and highly-exaggerated inches of - - - well, you know.

Even though it’s not always made clear in blogs and forums, even by those that know better, there’s a big difference between camping and overnighting.

I don’t want to get into a whole discussion here about that, but one of the things that separates camping on a paid-for spot (Either directly or through tax dollars) from overnighting, which is often done on private property, is that, as with the other kind of one-night stand, there are, if not rules, at least expectations of a certain etiquette that goes with overnighting, though it’s clear not everybody agrees with me on that one.


For instance, even if I had such accouterments, I would never dream of pulling into Walmart in the middle of the afternoon, edging up as close to the doors as the local shoppers cluttering up the parking lot with their annoying cars will allow, dropping the jacks, extending the slides, racking out the awning, breaking out the fairy-lights, grill and lawn-chairs, swinging open the doors on the ‘outside entertainment center’ and kicking back with beers and margarita’s while watching an R-rated movie on the 65” flat-screen in full view of paying customers of all ages. (Sadly, not only have I witnessed every one of these things, there have been a few times when I’ve seen all of them done at the same time!)

Overnighting is not an item at the top of my list of fun-things-to-do, but sometimes, mostly when trying to cover a lot of miles between here and there, it just doesn’t make sense to pay a campground for a few hours parking while I grab a some sleep.

Personally I’ve overnighted at Walmarts, rest-areas, Cabella’s, truck-stops, and once or twice when nothing else was available, even in the parking lot of an ungated apartment complex. The latter falls more into the category of stealth camping rather than overnighting and I can only get away with it because The Van looks more like another daily transport vehicle than screams RV.

Some people avoid truck-stops like the plague, but if carefully selected I don’t find them any worse than a Walmart and a whole lot better than some rest-areas I’ve tried, but lately I’ve noticed Love’s truck-stops putting up One Hour Parking signs in the car/camper/van parking areas. I haven’t bothered asking inside if this is enforced at all; instead I’ve just dropped Love’s off my list of one-night stands, which means they don’t get any of my travel dollars anymore either.

What follows are some of the one-night stands I’ve hit over the years. Many are just that, I’ve been there once, both of us parting in the morning only slightly worse for wear, but some I’ve been back to more than once. Repeat wham-bam-thank-you-mam’s if you will.



Forest City, AR

There is a Walmart at exit 241. From the ramp go south to the second traffic signal and turn right onto Deaderick or Deadrick Road. (I’ve seen it spelled both ways on different maps and have no idea who Rick was or why he’s dead and haven’t asked) Walmart is about a quarter mile down on the right.

 

But my favorite one-night stand here is the eastbound I-40 rest-area at MM 235.

Like a steady-drinking, hard-smoking regular, she can be counted on to be there, ready and willing, at last call. This is not the newest facility in the system but the restrooms aren’t completely disgusting and the car/camper/van parking is well back from the interstate with little pockets of 4 or 5 car wide parking slots sprinkled along a winding access road that is farther away from the interstate noise than most rest-areas. The truck/motorcoach lane is not quite so nice, consisting of parallel parking on either side of the access road which is tucked up close to the interstate. I have seen small motorhomes and tow-behinds squeezed into the car parking on occasion but wouldn’t recommend trying it in modest to large rigs as there just isn't enough room.

There is a corresponding west-bound rest area at MM 243 but it's layout is reversed with autos up front and trucks to the rear so isn’t as nice. Because of this even when west-bound I use the east-bound rest area by making a U-turn at exit 233. In the morning I do another U-turn at exit 239 to get headed the right way again. A couple extra miles but hardly a blip in the overall scheme of things, and worth it.

Charleston, MO


As you approach Charleston Missouri on I-57 from either direction you will be inundated with signs for the Boomtown Travel Stop.  Skip it. Even if you are in a small rig skip it. The front parking lot is tiny and the fuel pumps are laid out for cars and cars only with a tight-radius turn sandwiched between the east end of the pumps and a dedicated windshield washing station. There is a larger lot on the east side but between the trucks(for which this place is not laid out) using it as a hap-hazard free-for all and the 24 hour security dude constantly lurking around, it’s not very restful.

If you do need to overnight around here there is a Flying J at exit 12 that’s not too bad. As for Sikeston 10 miles east, I wouldn’t recommend overnighting around there at all. The whole place just has a bad feel to it. Although maybe the billboards they used to have up years ago asking you to turn your neighbor’s meth-lab into the sheriff's office have something to do with that.

Texarkana, TX

OK, the rest area at Texarkana has to be one of my favorite spots for overnighting even though getting into it is slightly unusual, what with access to the rest area being off the frontage road rather than the main lanes.

Westbound on I-30 you take Exit 222 (Summerhill Rd.) then shortly after merging onto the frontage road take the ramp on the right to enter the rest area. Frankly there’s not a lot of room between the frontage road merge and the rest area ramp so a less stressful alternative at high traffic times is to take Exit 223 (US-71/Stateline Rd.) and stay on the frontage road through the light, past the KOA, to the rest area ramp.

When Eastbound also take Exit 223 and use the U-turn lane to cross over to the westbound frontage road.

 

Because the truck parking is between there and the interstate, the car/camper/van parking is nice and quiet, especially if you stay towards the east end, away from the facilities building. If you are in a larger rig, rather than turn into the truck parking, go straight through the car lot then turn left at the facilities building. Just after you turn there is a bus lot (Don’t go in there! The only way out is to back out.) and just beyond there are  4 or 5 parallel slots for RV’s

Avoid this rest area on I-30 at MM 143 if at all possible! Cramped and very noisy all night.

Note that if you are westbound on I-30 there is only one more rest area, at MM 143, before reaching the Dallas metroplex but it is one of the original rest areas, way too small for the traffic it sees, no dedicated car/camper/van parking, and sits right next to the interstate. This one is worth avoiding!!

Hillsboro TX

Frankly the I-35 corridor from north of Dallas/Ft Worth to south of San Antonio is a miserable road. There’s way too much traffic for the road to handle, which is made worse by the nearly constant construction in an attempt to ‘fix’ the issue. If there is a bright spot it is the newly renovated section just south of Hillsboro which includes nearly identical twin (north and south-bound) rest-areas at MM 362.


These rest-areas have more truck parking than many truck-stops. The car/camper/van parking is not separated from the main lanes as much as I would like, but it’s not a horrible one-night stand. North or southbound, I’ve found the quietest parking by passing up the first two car/camper/van lots and heading for the third lot past the facilities buildings. Not many people pulling in and out around me back there.

US-87


In addition to the ones along the interstates, Texas has some real gems of rest-areas tucked away along some of its highways and one of these sits out there in the lonely spaces on US-87 between Big Spring and San Angelo. Servicing both directions, it sits roughly 15 miles south of Sterling City and about 5 miles north of a very tiny place called Water Valley.

The facilities at this recently renovated rest area, strategically located for the West-Texas traveler, are top notch and though it’s not the largest rest area out there, for this sometimes lonely stretch of road there is plenty of parking for small and large vehicles.

Ft. Stockton, TX



For most travelers, Ft. Stockton, out there in Pecos County, smack dab in the middle of West Texas, is just a place to pass through on that grindingly long trip across the state on I-10 (In El Paso you are closer to the California surf than you are to Houston traffic, and from the eastern border of the state you are closer to the Atlantic Ocean than you are to El Paso) This makes the town’s Walmart, on business I-10 towards the west end of town, a popular one-night stand.

In keeping with the modest size of the town, this is not the largest of Walmart’s and some evenings the parking lot looks more like an RV show than a local store! But if there's no room left, the road that wraps around the west and north sides of the Walmart is wide and  lightly used so is often used by overnighting trucks and late-comer RV’s

Marshal, Illinois


Illinois has its faults, one being the habit of closing rest-areas for long periods of time as a miss-guided budget-cutting measure disguised as renovation, but, if they happen to be open, there are a couple of rest-area gems in the state. And one of them is near Marshal at MM 149 on west-bound I-70.

If you happen to be east-bound in the area do not rely on the rest area ahead of you just over the Indiana state line. That one has been closed for years now. Instead U-turn at Exit 154 to get to the west-bound rest area then U-turn again at Exit 147 to get headed back the right way in the morning.

For cars/campers/vans the appeal of this rest area is the parking situated at the back, well away from the interstate. For the quietest night (Of course quiet is relative in a rest-area) I like to drive past the facilities building and park where the building is between me and the truck parking area.

Rend Lake, Illinois

But by far the best rest-area in Illinois, and one of the best in the country, is on south-bound I-57 at MM 79. (If northbound do the U-turn dance at Exit 83 to get there and Exit 77 when leaving in the morning)


This rest area sits right on the shores of Rend Lake and is laid out so that there is a whole lot of separation between car/camper/van parking and the interstate.

Unfortunately it has been a victim of closure lately (Supposedly these closures are for updating and renovating but I rarely see anything more than the care-taker's pickup parked back there.) It was scheduled to open again late in 2017 but I’ll believe that when I see it.

Iowa 80 Truck Stop

For the non-commercial traveler, generally speaking truck stops are truck stops, but I have run across a few worth mentioning.


One of those is the Iowa 80, near Walcott Iowa at Exit 284 off I-80, supposedly the largest truck stop in the world. Well, it is pretty big, but what makes it worth mentioning here, besides having  one of the few remaining truck stop sit-down restaurants if you are so inclined, is a recent renovation that resulted in a whole lot more car/camper/van parking as well as a dedicated RV parking area, all nicely separated from the truck parking.

Diesel users beware though! This is a BP fueling station so don’t grab the green handle like you would most any other filling station because here it’s gasoline!

Grand Island, NE


Another truck stop worth special mention is the Bosselman Travel Center off I-80 at Exit 312. It’s not as big as the Iowa 80 but it is a supersized truck stop with loads of parking. Though there isn’t any dedicated RV parking there are some 400 truck slots so there should be some room. Anf for Car/camper/van parking, in addition to the lot out front, there is a nice little cul-de-sac lot on the north side lined with a grass-and-tree strip on three sides that keeps traffic to a minimum though there's not much to be done about the noise of a busy truck stop

North Platte, NE


Get off of I-80 at Exit 177 and take US-83 north. Shortly after crossing the Platte River turn right onto East Leota and the North Platte Walmart is on the left. This is a really big Walmart with an equally large parking lot, but if you are a large RV they ask that you park over towards the Dollar Tree.

Wichita KS


I-35 through Kansas is a toll road, but if you find yourself out there between Wichita and El Dorado anyway and are looking for a spot to overnight, the service area at MM 65 is just the ticket.  It’s got a reasonable amount of car/camper/van parking and has recently been updated to add a whole bunch of extra truck/RV parking.

This is one of those between-the-main-lanes centers so when you leave in the morning pay attention to which direction you’re going because if you don’t – well that could suck!

Kingdom City MO


There are a handful of truck stops off I-70 at Kingdom City Missouri (Exit 148) but the Petro has the most car/camper/van parking with the lot south of the building being the quietest.  There is no dedicated RV parking, but if your rig's total combined length is in the 40-45 foot range you can fit into a pair of end to end parking slots there to the south of the building. Unfortunately larger rigs often tangle this lot up a bit as the two, too-large rigs in the image above show, so pick your parking spot carefully.

Blytheville AR 

The Walmart at Blytheville in the north-eastern corner of Arkansas has a bit of a split personality. It has a large parking lot and overnighting is OK, (preferably over on the far eastern side of the lot) but they also have height barriers on most the entrances so anything over 10 feet high better pay attention!

Height restricters at red X's, yellow shows best tall-vehicle path into the lot.

The best way for tall vehicles is to go east on Armorel Dr. and turn in the entrance between the Murphy’s gas station (Which doesn’t take Walmart cards for some reason) and the Burger King. Drive straight back through the Lowes parking lot and just before you hit the building take a hard left into the Walmart lot.

Fort Wayne IN

Fort Wayne is a big place and there are 5 Walmarts in and around the city, but the one-night stand I like best is the one on Maysville Rd. off of Loop 469 (Exit 25)


This is another one of those big Walmarts with plenty of parking. On top of that, right now the store beside the Walmart (to the right in the image) is empty so that lot is a good choice for staying out of the way.


This Walmart has something I haven’t seen elsewhere. See that turquoise roofed building in the top right corner of the Walmart lot? That’s a buggy barn where the Amish of the area can safely leave the horse and buggy while they’re shopping. It’s been in use every time I’ve been there.

One more note here. There’s a Cracker Barrel across the road from the Walmart but it’s pretty small with no space for RV parking.

Cecil, OH

If Walmart’s just aren’t your thing there’s a somewhat hidden little rest area not far away, near US-24 a little east of Fort Wayne near Cecil, Ohio.


This quiet little rest area is now actually on Ohio- 424 which used to be US-24 before the highway was moved a half mile south during a rebuild. Exit the current US-24 at US-127, go north to 424, hang a left, and the rest area is just over a half mile on the right.


It looks abandoned what with any facilities, other than parking, that may have been there in the past now gone, but I’ve actually seen people in there cutting grass, planting flowers, and trimming brush, so apparently not.

If your quest is a quiet spot, this is it, with only local traffic on the road out front.

Alamogordo, NM

There is nearby BLM as well as State Trust land, not to mention the dispersed camping available in the nearby Lincoln NF,


but if it’s to be the modest Alamogordo Walmart, look to park in either the northwest corner of the lot or in the less-used area on the east side of the gas station.

Dundee MI

And finally, I would be remiss is I left out the Cabela's in Dundee.




This Cabela's is only an hour or so from my most common Michigan destination so I don't normally have cause to use it as a one-night stand but it is laid out pretty nicely for that with a lot tucked well away from the highway, and even far from the activity out by the front door, that is specifically reserved for RV's. And, like many Cabela's, there is a self-serve, token (Ask when you make a purchase) or for-fee dump station available as well.


When you’re covering miles in a hurry, and on a budget, and in the right kind of rig, one-night stands make sense sometimes, and those were a few of the ones I've used.