On my recent 25-day road food trip to Colorado and back, I spent about $1,800 on food and gas. For the whole trip, I spent exactly $50 on accommodation. And I did this in October, when many of the national forest campgrounds, which would be cheap or free, were closed.
Did I mention I did this in October, often at high elevations and during a couple of early-season snowstorms? One early-October night in Laramie, Wyoming (7,165 feet), the temperature plunged to -8 Celsius (18 Fahrenheit). I had no motorhome/camper or even a winter sleeping bag and tent to keep me toasty. Indeed, I slept in the back of my Toyota Matrix, sliding the passenger seat as far forward as possible, inflating a Thermarest mattress, then crawling into a three-season sleeping bag and stretching nearly fully out. So how did I manage this, paying for camping at only two state parks and one KOA, as well as staying a few nights at a friend’s place in Colorado?
Thank you, Walmart! Many of you who blithely plunk down your plastic at comfy motels and hotels may be unaware that this bastion of retail capitalism allows free camping (formally known as “overnight parking”) at many of its stores. I think it started as a corporate gesture to customers, plus it doesn’t hurt that campers crawling out of their RVs in the morning are likely to head inside and buy some bananas, milk and maybe a t-shirt of the local college football team. Continue reading