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Back on the Coast

Back on the Coast

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

More Night Parking - Some Stealth, some Not.

Since night parking is one of the main concerns for a vandweller, here are some more ideas you can use. I have already posted an article (Jan. 17th) about stealth urban camping. You get kinda' tired parking on the street, so you start looking for alternatives. Because I reside in a specific area for several months to years, I take extra precautions. Here are a few suggestions, their pros and cons.

More Stealth Night Parking:

1/ Industrial Areas - Some vandwellers like industrial areas for night parking and with good reason. If you have a box or white cargo van, you look like you belong there (important). There are usually few people around (business done daytime), and lots of no restriction parking. But, the people that are around, alarm me. You gotta' really choose your spot wisely; some industrial areas are known for prostitution and drug trafficking. Some companies or industrial malls have inquisitive security services, which will scope out your van wondering why it is the only vehicle there. Same for the police. I like to remain under the 'radar' of these groups, so I only park where I know my presence won't attract them. For myself, I don't care much for industrial areas; don't like the vibe!

2/ Shopping Malls - Depends on the size and parking restrictions. A huge parking lot with one lonely van parked for the night, is just asking for trouble. Instead, I like small strip malls, with usually no parking restrictions, where you sorta blend in. It's attracting the wrong elements you want to avoid; thieves, rowdies, security and police. So I go to some casual little suburban lot, where things are low key and maybe there are some other vehicles parked.

Left: You gotta' pay attention to signage!

3/ 24 Hours Stores (And Walmart) - In my area, there aren't any large 24hr. stores, with large parking lots, where you could utilize stealth sleeping mode. The convenience stores which stay open 24 hrs., usually attract a lot of people I wish to avoid. Some places there are 24 hour food supermarkets, where you could definitely use their lots.

I mention Walmart here. That's because, although you are allowed to use their lots for overnight parking, I only do so as a last resort. I don't like being on display for the local cops as a van owner, who is also an urban camper; they check out these lots and pay attention to who is there. Then if they spot you on the street later on, they might hassle you. If I use a Walmart lot, I use one that is far out of my usual area, or when I am travelling on the open road.

4/ Around Nightclubs and Bars - To some degree, this makes sense. Patrons who get too drunk to drive, may wisely choose to leave their vehicles behind. So you can usually park overnight. But, the area will be noisy with drunk patrons, and may be watched by security, police and staff. You gotta' scope it out to see if it feels right.

5/ Hotel/Motel parking lots - The idea is that you just drive in and park like you belong there. But, do you homework first. Some hotels have security with night watchman and live video cameras. Some hotels have parking passes which must be displayed on the dashboard. I don't use this method, unless I've stayed at the place, and thoroughly know how they operate.

6/ Hospital lots - I kinda group this method into the above. In the cities where I live, they are all pay parking lots (not a frugal choice), and there is security around. However in smaller towns, the opposite is quite often the case; no fees, and no security.

7/ Apartment/Condo complexes - These can be good and bad. You must know where the guest parking is, so you don't attract negative attention. You gotta' know the rules of how they operate; do they allow overnight parking?; do you need to have a note on the dashboard indicating who you are supposed to be visiting? There are quite often a lot of inquisitive residents to hide from as well. But, once you get past those challenges, you should be OK. Just don't park there very often.

Non-Stealth Modes:

Some night parking doesn't require you to be stealthy at all. That is because you are allowed to be there legally; sometimes a fee is required, sometimes not. Here are a few ideas:

1/ Campgrounds - I'm sure you know what's involved here. But, there are some aspects you might consider. In the off tourist season, campgrounds quite often drop their overnight rates by 2/3; as an occasional stay, they are economical and a welcome respite from the street. Private campgrounds may rent you a spot monthly, which could have reasonable rent and possibly hydro, showers and laundry available. Depending on costs, it's an option to consider.

2/ Friends or family homes - These folks are my network, and we all rely on each other for support. They usually have a bedroom ready for me, so I can do work on my van, which I can't do on the street. But, they are a safety outlet as well. If I am being hassled by the police for urban camping, this network has given me permission to call their homes, my home. Then when police inquire about my present residence, I state that I am couch surfing at one of the 'network' places. I can drive and park there anytime, if necessary.

Above: This aeriel view is a private property I once camped on. I worked a little in lieu of rent, and I was located only seven miles from my resort employment. The area to the lower right was my corner; it was shranga-la-di-da! I loved staying here.

3/Private Property - If you can get permission from an owner, this can be a great opportunity. I had a casual corner on a Whistler property for 3 months once. I did a little work in lieu of rent, and there were no neighbors that could see or care about my presence. I loved it. This can be an ideal camp spot.

4/ Employment - Sometimes you can find a gig, where someone wants a 'presence' to be on a specific site or property. That 'presence' could be you, in the form of some casual security. Just what kind of security services you want to provide is up to you; it could be dangerous dealing with desperate thieves.

As you can see, the options available to the vandweller are many and varied. In stealth mode, I like to mix up where I sleep continuously, so it's hard for anyone to become aware I'm around. By the time they do, I'm gone and they forget about me. That's because I never sleep in the same place two nights in a row, and I usually don't return for at least a month.

Parking in places where you have permission is obviously more comfortable. You don't have to hide and you can settle down. That is what I am doing right now. When I go to the next city, I will be checking out all private property options available. As a modern nomad, I take advantage of good opportunities, as I find them.

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