Walmart is a popular overnight layover for road-weary, RV travelers. Affectionately known as Wallydocking, it’s a great way to rest without having to pay an exorbitant price to stay overnight at an RV park or campground. Unfortunately, stringent city ordinances are making it harder to take advantage of this popular freebie because local RV parks and campgrounds are losing out on valuable business. Indeed, one news outlet recently reported that only 58 percent of Walmart stores still offer it. This lower percentage might be a good thing, however, because as we experienced recently, Wallydocking can sometimes be a nightmare when inconsiderate RV owners take advantage of this generous perk. Remember the old 80s TV show, Nightmare on Elm Street and Freddie Krueger? Yep, our recent RV visit to Walmart was kind of like that.
We were totally spent after a 10-hour day on the road, seeing the sights in our new Roadrunner truck camper. It was dinner time and Rock Springs, Wyoming, looked like as good a place as any to get some takeout and much needed shuteye at Walmart. When we arrived at Walmart only one other RV was parked there, a small class-B owned by a couple from Phoenix who were on their way Yellowstone National Park. With a rambunctious, 11-week-old Pug with us, we opted to park in the back of the parking lot next to a freshly-mowed swath of grass. With a few trees positioned in front of us to the west—providing much-needed shade—it was the perfect Walmart parking spot, or so we thought.
After dinner, I climbed up into the cabover to relax and catch up on the news and read a few emails. I soon drifted-off into happy land, only to be awakened 30 minutes later by the wife who nudged me saying that the rock bed just inches from us had just got sprayed with a heavy dose of Roundup. I hate that stuff. The weed killer invariably gives me a colossal headache. Staying in our “prime” Walmart location, obviously, was no longer an option, so we relocated the rig a good 50 feet from the greenbelt. Surely, we were safe and comfy for the night, or so we thought.
Soon, the sparsely populated parking lot began to fill up with vehicles for the night. First, a travel trailer arrived, then a large class A motorhome, then a massive fifth wheel. Eight more RVs trickled-in as the sky started to darken, then a half-dozen truckers pulled in with their heavy loads to get some much-needed rest. Even the adjacent dirt parking lot was filling-up with 18-wheelers with idling diesels.
Summer can be a hit or miss affair when it comes to overnighting at Walmart. This is due not only to the heat, but also the summer crowds. We can handle temperatures in the low 80s with our two, strategically located 12 volt fans, but some people can’t and need to run an air conditioner. Then there are those who have to run a CPAP machine and don’t have the 12 volt battery system needed to power one throughout the night. All of this usually means one thing—the dreaded generator. Not a problem when there’s enough distance between you and other RVs, but this wasn’t the case on this warm summer night with a dozen RV packed together like sardines.
Like a low-hanging cloud, the noxious fumes from the 18-wheelers and the generators began to thicken over the now crowded parking lot. Predictably, the two fans in our camper began sucking-in these offensive fumes. Even the wife, who rarely complains about such things, was getting upset. So at 2230, I threw on some clothes, hopped into the truck, and slow rolled the rig to the opposite side of the parking lot where only one small class B was parked. Ah, peace and quiet. Was it to last? Fortunately, it was. We ended up getting a good night sleep and were able to get some much-needed supplies from Walmart the next morning.
So what’s the moral of the story? When staying at Walmart, be prepared for the worst, or at the very least be prepared to move. The fact is overnight camping at Walmart can be a welcome respite from the road—we use Walmart a lot when driving long distances in unfamiliar areas—but it can also be nightmare when crowds and inconsiderate RV owners visit. One thing we’ve noticed over the years is that some RV owners like to be near other RVs when it comes to boondocking in unknown locations—you know, birds of a feather flock together—this means when things become too crowded you might have to move to another spot in the parking lot or leave the Walmart parking lot entirely.
We actually had this happen to us last summer at the Walmart in Aberdeen, Washington. We pulled in late afternoon and found a nice secluded spot in the back corner of the Walmart parking lot. Fifteen minutes later a class-A motorhome pulled-up right next to us with his front window facing our dinette window. The parking lot was practically empty, yet here was an motorhome literally parked just 6 feet from us. This wasn’t surprising knowing how some RV owners are. What was surprising is that the owner had the unmitigated gall to fire-up his generator when we were there first and had all four of our windows wide open.
Generators… if only those who use and operate them around others knew.
Fortunately, when it comes to “urban boondocking” there are better overnight alternatives than Walmart. We actually prefer parking at a Cracker Barrel or at a Bass Pro Shop—less people, less crowds. Due to COVID-19, the Cracker Barrel we stayed at a few weeks ago delivered our meals directly to our camper. You can’t beat that. And the great thing about a Bass Pro Shop, of course, is that they have fresh water spigots, excellent camping gear, and a terrific selection of outdoor clothing. Absent one of these—or a vacant parking lot—we’ll have to be content with an occasional overnight stay at Wally World. We’ll just have to be on the lookout for Freddy Krueger lurking in the shadows with a generator and a container of Roundup in-hand.
Have a Walmart story of your own? We’d love to hear about it here in the comments section.