Thursday, October 28, 2021

Moochdocking In St Pete

There are different ways to park your camper for the night, you may be surprised to learn. The proper and sensible way is to find a campground, make a reservation and hand over a sum of money usually between say $30 and $60 for one night. You get to plug in your power cord, a water hose and most likely a cable TV cord into your camper parked on a neat pad equipped with a picnic table and neighbors equally equipped sitting right alongside you. We try to avoid this sort of camping. Paying to sleep in a crowd seems a bit daft. It can be useful if we need to stop for a few days and need lots of electricity to run the air conditioning for several nights in a row.

There are paying camping spots that are quite appealing and you find those courtesy of the government in parks of various sorts, not excluding national forests. Formal organized national parks are fabulous and we have the seniors parks pass which is all to the good. The downside is they don't like Rusty. Essentially a dog can only go where vehicles go in National Parks, and you can see why. Inconsiderate owners, people who don't pick up after or control their dogs spoil the situation for the rest of us as usual so I'm not going to run down the national parks service for their policy but it does mean we can't do much more than drive through National Parks. Bummer. 

State and National Parks, and I'm generalizing, tend to offer cheaper and more rustic sites which need to be reserved usually. Some have plug-ins others offer only a picnic table and communal loo of the basic pit toilet type, but they generally have bigger spots with more trees and less emphasis on packing the site with as many paying customers as possible. Florida has some excellent state parks, well worth visiting. Water management districts in Florida have some great camping possibilities too. Even the Army Corps of Engineers offers places to park for the night.

Then you get to dispersed or wild camping, also known as boondocking which is usually found in Bureau of Land Management Lands, mostly in the west and National Forest lands scattered all over the place. Rules vary and the most popular spots are being trampled to death of course, but in these places you park for free for up to 14 days before you have to move (at least 25 miles) and you are supposed to leave no trace and not expect any facilities at all. Find your spot within the local rules and set up camp undisturbed. More our speed.

Then there are approved parking lots where you can stay, with an understanding that you will buy some stuff perhaps. We do Harvest Hosts and have visited wineries breweries distilleries farms and so forth that allow you to park, offer no facilities expect no payment and allow but one night. Other places include the parking lots at Walmart and Cracker Barrel. These places have been disturbed lately by overnighters being rowdy, pulling out chairs and tables and leaving trash. These socially stupid moves have shut down many Walmart lots for casual overnight camping. We haven't yet bothered with these types of store parking lot stops.

Freeway and roadside rest areas are our preferred quick stops. Some people are fearful of the evil that lurks within but Eileen Wuornos has long since been executed and we find rest stops to be quick easy and reliable. We park in the car lots to avoid the comings and goings and overnight rumblings of 18 wheelers.

Finally there is wild camping, stealth parking or street docking. We do this when all else fails or if there is a nearby attraction or if we are tired and need to stop. Arrive late, leave early, is our mantra and we typically stop between 11pm and 5 am. We are discreet, leave no trace and don't even walk Rusty.  We first stop nearby and I walk Rusty and we prepare for bed. Then we drive till we find our spot, go straight to bed and I get up at five and move the van at least a few blocks before I walk Rusty.

In St Petersburg we have stopped to see Dale, Layne's college friend and he has a spot for us to park the van, so you could call this moochdocking, which is one way of describing parking your van in a friend's driveway. He actually has a pool house so we are living in his home essentially and the van is parked in his alleyway. Sort of moochdocking.

When we do visit friends we prefer to stop half a day away at a truck stop (another noisy location for free overnight parking) where we buy showers for $15 to $25 (for both of us), do laundry if we need to and freshen the van up. Then we arrive at our friend's place not demanding to use their facilities as if we really were mooching. Sometimes we spend a night at a hotel, usually on credit card points and complete our ablutions there before showing up fresh as daisies at our friends' place. I find it rather objectionable to appear and immediately demand to use the facilities as though we are seeking a freebie.

So having settled in for a few days I have been walking Rusty, Layne the former lawyer has been transferring the title of the Fiat 500 to Dale who went for a drive and came home grinning ear to ear. He even got a second glance from a passing blonde totty he said, suddenly feeling full of himself and dropping the years with all his middle aged cares. I never thought of my commute car as a tool of seduction but there we are.

I like Dale's upper class neighborhood with lots of sidewalks and alleys and varied architecture so I like to photograph this area around 22nd Avenue as we walk.

Romantic seating tête à tête with security fencing:

I see faces:

Rusty is adapting to houselessness. He is feeling his way as he always does, so even though he is now an old hand at van travel and will sleep in his bed on our bed underway, he has suddenly developed a certain nervousness when away from the van and the familiar. I encourage him to walk as normal but we are confident that after a while he will learn to trust the process and enjoy the road with us. After five years together we have come to learn his patterns, Layne learns his ways faster than I do. This time I'm not worrying about him adapting.
He looked pretty relaxed in the sun while we cleaned up and sorted out Dale's van for him with some ideas we have learned to improve our home on wheels. Dale's van is his tool to visit his sons at college and to see his friends along the east coast so he is a mooch docker par excellence you might say. Over grilled salmon last night he introduced me to Anna Akhmatova a Soviet refusenik poet. Luckily there is Kindle or the van would be sunk as we pick up bits and pieces as we mooch our way along.


Rachel said...

St Pete looks really beautiful. I am looking forward to your travels!

lys93 said...

When you come here you are welcome to come as you are. We are happy to have you use the laundry and shower!!

Bruce and Celia said...

One explanation for Walmart refusing overniters has been complaints from local RV parks e.g. Santa Fe... concerns about loss of revenue. Probably better explained by poor management or exorbitant pricing. The merchants have the ear of the city council/county board so guess who wins that round? Walmart expects the same consideration as Harvest Host: buy something, don't sprawl, be quiet, respect their property. Kinda the same as BLM & US Forest Service.

Mike Pettee said...

My weekly check in since you've left. Look forward to your adventures.

Native Floridian said...

I saw a Fiat 500 today, something that's become an extremely rare occurrence. It was painted an ostentatiously '1950s-bright' hue of blue to capitalize on the old 500's heritage. You forget when you don't see them often, how truly tiny they are beside every other car. 2019 was the last year FIAT USA offered the 500, and I can't imagine how frustrating the life of a U.S. Fiat dealer(ship) must be now, stuck with just 2 models that together can't even motivate 10,000 vehicle purchases in an entire year... the 124 Roadster (a reskinned Mazda Miata) & the 500L SUV, an amorphous blob that in human form would have no sexual identity. The 100% mechanically identical & platform-sharing twin-brother called the Jeep Renegade sometimes sells over 100,000/year just in the USA alone (and as the highest MPG Jeep it's quite popular overseas as well). But it doesn't have an identity crises. It cries out, "I am a JEEP!" And therein lies an important marketing lesson.

Native Floridian said...

What a (seemingly) private & peaceful little area of St. Pete! The dock situation reminded me of Balboa Island in Newport Beach, CA. There's not a road, but just a public sidewalk separating the waterfront homes from their docks, where perhaps half opt for 'PRIVATE' signage whilst the others (probably wisely!) have gated security fencing.

It seems entirely alien to me, but I've known several people in my many years who think there's absolutely nothing wrong with taking another person's stuff!!! And so, fencing it is!

Conchscooter said...

You lot are a wild bunch. Read and noted.

roadlesstraveldguy said...

Remember you have lots of followers who would be glad to host your family for some "moochdocking"! If you ever get up to Minnesota we have plenty of parking, are dog friendly and have a mother in law apartment at your disposal. Enjoy the adventure!

Conchscooter said...

Cool. Thank you . We plan to head to Maine from Alaska next summer so Minnesota might be directly on the way. Imagine that! Send me a note when we pass Banff on our way south if you don't change your mind between now and then...