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.