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