Camping out in your car while chasing

Discussion in 'Advanced weather & chasing' started by Devin Pitts, Apr 8, 2018.

  1. Devin Pitts

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    So this year will be my first year solo chasecationing in the plains, and to save some money while on the road I'm looking at camping out in my Forester, and I've got my car prep done for the most part(privacy covers for the windows, air mattress, sleeping bag, cooler, ect.). My question for other chasers who camp out in their cars is: Where do you guys usually park to camp out for the night? What are your preferred places, and what places should be avoided?
     
  2. MikeD

    MikeD EF1

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    Hi Devin, back when I started chasing, I camped out in a car too. Try to avoid RV parks as there will be some chaos around that might hassle your chasecation. Stay away from the center of the city, except for the parking lots because there is a high chance of being robbed. I usually went to sleep *peacefully* in a pay parking lot; not the kind that is on the ground floor, but the kind that can hold at least 200 cars, maybe 5 floors up.
     
  3. Warren Faidley

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    I did this a few times back in the day when it was late and impossible to find motel rooms and I did not feel like driving another 100 miles. The BIG problem now days are security cameras. Parking lots everywhere are monitored, including large multi-story garages and airports. Some Walmarts use to allow overnight parking / sleeping but I'm not sure about today. Truck stops are simply too noisy. You can get away with it in some motel parking lots, but not always, especially if you get up at 2:00 am to stretch take a leak and the security guard sees you... not that this ever happened to me.
     
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  4. B. Dean Berry

    B. Dean Berry Moderator

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    Truck stops are OK, if you can find somewhere that's relatively quiet. Big if, though. WalMart parking lots are still favorable, for the most part. Highway rest stops are also alright for that sort of thing, and there's an acceptable latrine there.
     
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  5. Drew T

    Drew T EF4

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    I've done this on more than one occasion when I've made chases in the Midwest where I drive up the evening before and drive part way back after the chase. Prime example was my March 15, 2016 chase in western Illinois (one of my more successful marathon chases actually). I decided about 3pm the day prior that I was going to play that setup. I drove till about 1am and stopped at a rest area near mm 30 on I-55 in Illinois. Woke up around 10, was in the target area slightly after noon, and had a very good chase. Headed back, stopped at the I-44 rest area at mm 112ish in Missouri, woke up the next day and drove the rest of the way home. The Missouri rest area wasn't as bad as far as too much light goes, the Illinois was better lit than I would have liked. There wasn't a dark corner that I could find to sleep.

    Now granted, I've had a CDL for a couple years now and drive semis for my regular job, so I get free showers at Love's truck stops. So sleeping in my vehicle and catching a shower isn't a big deal to me. But even back in 2016 before I got my CDL, showers are $12 at Love's, $11 at Pilot/Flying J, and $13 at TA/Petro. Some of the unaffiliated truck stops are less expensive, but they're also hit or miss as far as cleanliness goes. That said, I do tend to gravitate to truck stops and rest areas to sleep overnight, if only for the simple fact that I'm a trucker and like to have some type of restroom available for when I wake up. I've never been bothered at truck stops or rest areas, but it can also be difficult to find a dark corner. If I do that in the future, I may get some towels to cover up at least the windows facing any lights to help that.

    Walmarts have gotten a lot more strict in recent years about people parking there overnight. If you get on google though, you can find out which Walmarts are friendly towards truckers and RVers. If they allow truck and/or RV parking, you should be good to go there. Just make sure they allow overnight parking, as some that don't ban them outright only allow semis and RVs to park just long enough to shop and get out. Personally, I avoid spending my money at those locations that don't allow overnight parking. But again, that's me being a trucker and thinking like a trucker.
     
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  6. Dan Robinson

    Dan Robinson WxLibrary Editor
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    I still do this occasionally, especially if I only have a few hours to sleep or if there aren't any decent hotels around (I'd rather sleep in my car than stay in a junk hotel). Truck stops have become my preferred location because they are safe, no one will ever bother you there and they have showers/restrooms/food. Most truck stops have some type of corner lot out of the way that doesn't have people and vehicles passing right by you. For the car, I made cardboard cutouts (spray-painted black on one side) for the windows that block out all of the light (and keep people from looking in), and I run the AC/fan for white noise. It's not the most comfortable thing especially as I get older, but it works.

    I don't do the rural roads anymore because it always takes forever to find a spot, and there is too great a chance that some local resident or police officer is going to come up and knock on your window. It always looks suspicious to people when you're parked for a long time in the middle of nowhere.
     
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    #6 Dan Robinson, Apr 9, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2018
  7. Devin Pitts

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    Yeah, was figuring truck stops/rest stops were going to be the places to stop. Thanks for the input guys!
     
  8. Jeremy Perez

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    Alternating with hotel stays, I’ll also do a mix of truck-stops, rest stops, and farm grid car camping, depending on where I’m at. Out on the western plains/high plains where homesteads are a lot less dense, I think it’s a lot easier. For whatever reason, I enjoy finding some lonely place to pull over and sleep for the night. I love waking up next to an empty field, with the sun rising, damp air blowing in, birds calling out…it’s something I look forward to when I can manage it.

    I’m sure it would make other chasers uncomfortable, but I haven’t had an issue with it so far. I definitely don’t want to make locals suspicious, so I’ll pause after a chase to check Google maps for spots that are either pretty remote, or down in a crevice not screaming look at me, or on a wide gravel pullout that looks like it gets used for occasional equipment unloading. That kind of thing. I recline the driver’s seat and sleep up front with the car aimed to get out quick if by chance it does bug somebody. Which it hasn’t to this point.

    I put together a Google Map that shows locations of some of the places and pics to go with them. There are others, but I couldn’t find GPS logs for some of them.

    img20140520_IMG_1000-Edit_lg.jpg
     
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    #8 Jeremy Perez, Apr 9, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2018
  9. Dan Robinson

    Dan Robinson WxLibrary Editor
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    Another place I've used many times in the past is the top of interstate on-ramps where semi trucks are already parked for the night. I'd pull in behind the last one (closest to the start of the ramp) and never had issues. I've since learned that this is technically illegal in most states, which would give an LEO a good reason to wake me up - so I don't do it any longer. Though according to truckers, if you see them parked on a ramp it means the state doesn't enforce any such law (they'd rather not have the fatigued drivers).

    Rest areas are a mixed bag. The dimly-lit ones are shady. I once had someone come out of the shadows and ask me for money at one while I was prepping the car for sleep. There is not much light, traffic and security at rest areas so they are likely much less safe than a well-lit and trafficked truck stop. In general I don't like using them.
     
  10. Mike Marz

    Mike Marz EF3

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    I love staying at the huge rest stops / truck stops that are in the middle of Interstate 35. There are 3 or 4 of them that start near El Dorado, Kansas, and go all the way down to Wellington. I have also seen one in Oklahoma. I think they are pretty common in the Southern Plains. They have 24 hour gas stations with tons of food and snacks, as well as 24 hour fast food options. They are very busy and well lit and not once have I felt unsafe at these places. I see lots of other cars parked there for a night of rest, and people walking around with their pets and stretching. I have come to love these places, as they remind me of chase season. It may sound silly, but I always get excited the first night back in the plains as I am pulling into one of those rest stops for sleep. It's that time of the year again...
     
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  11. Marc R. O'Leary

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    I've done this as well. As some have suggested, I'd also slept at truck stops, hotel parking lots and on the on-ramp. The key is to get to a safe and secure and well-lit location. I've yet to try the deep back roads camping as Jeremy mentioned, but there are places one can dispersed camp legally in Colorado, namely Pawnee Grasslands. I'm hoping to mix a camping/chasing trip up there despite it not being that far from home.

    Curtains are key. Something that can be quickly deployed and taken down. I like the idea of painted cardboard. I've used white fabric that wraps the entire perimeter of the car, and while it works for privacy, white was a bad call for blocking light. Works as a natural alarm when the sum comes up and don't want to linger too long however.

    I always gear up as though I'm going to be camping. Sleeping bag, food/water, toothbrush, etc...A couple years ago after chasing Eads, I followed a storm into Kansas before calling the chase for fatigue. As I was deciding to head home or camp, my wife called and said there was a blizzard happening back in CO, so that made my decision for me. Slept in a hotel parking lot in Goodland and made the post-snowstorm drive home in the morning after roads had cleared.

    Car camping is a good alternative, just be aware of your surroundings. And don't watch that new show that talks about how there could be hundreds of unknown serial killers in the US, many of whom are thought to be truckers (sorry Drew!). :)
     
  12. B. Dean Berry

    B. Dean Berry Moderator

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    As an aside - I love truck stops. Truck stops are one of my most favorite things, ever. I love gas stations, and truck stops are like giant gas stations that also have showers, CB radios, and clothing.
     
  13. Devin Pitts

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    Just going to update, I had a test run on the Iowa setup(ie. Bust) on 4/13 and camping out in my Forester worked GREAT at a truckstop. I've never had trouble with noise levels in the first place so that wasn't an issue, and the cutouts I made for my windows to block out the typical truck stop flood lights worked extremely well. Very comfortable overall, looking forward to applying this to my Chasecation in late May to save some money! Thanks guys!
     
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    #13 Devin Pitts, Apr 15, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 15, 2018
  14. Jeff House

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    Hospitals might work. We have left cars there after meeting and consolidating into one vehicle. Also done that for multi-day ski trips and no trouble. Perhaps they expect unfamiliar cars and people coming and going, visiting hospital patients or other visitors. They do not really question washing up or brushing your teeth in the bathroom, for the same reasons.

    I am not sure about sleeping in the car at a hospital though. We only left vehicles and/or used hospital restrooms to wash/brush/groom. Hospital pluses include fairly safe, reasonable lighting, somewhat quiet, and being used to visiting vehicles.

    Have to concur truck-stops are most likely to let you stay overnight. OK to stop and sleep there and they are used to travelers. Just wanted to add to the discussion perhaps hospitals.
     
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  15. Jonathan Beeson

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    I actually really like that idea. I wouldn't be opposed to a camping trip, especially if I chase out in New Mexico again with how beautiful that terrain is. The highways are a little iffy, but the dirt roads and small rural ones that branch off the highway seem like they can go several days without traffic from what I've seen.
     
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  16. Greg McLaughlin

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    I have camped out a few times while chasing. I have had success finding remote spots on county roads in the middle of wind farms. I have camped in the middle of the wind farm on I-70 west of Salina a couple of times.
     
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  17. Mike Johnston

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    Yeah, the one at Matfield Green, Kansas is legendary. They even have a big weather radar screen inside.
     
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  18. Mike Szentes

    Mike Szentes Lurker

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    Haven’t seen state parks mentioned yet. Plotted my chase for this last 4/13 setup in Texarkana partly around TX state parks. I have an annual park pass but do need to pay the ~$15 overnight fee. Got me a water only pad. But showers and electricity at the restrooms. Late arrival to one south of Wichita Falls (came from SATX) just filled out the envelope and a note to settle up in the morning. Pick sites in a park on a lake shore that faces your storm for a better photo op. Arrived at Lake Arrow Head park south of Texarkana next morning to just shower and stretch legs. Felt very safe (also CHL) and have easy going chats with other campers. I’m in a F150 with a cap over the truck bed. So the windy thurs nite in Wichita Falls I don’t think a tent would have held up! Are parks too few and far between? Yeah. Could they be worth it? Was for this last trip. Just a thought haven’t seen mentioned. [​IMG]


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  19. twista

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    Many times we have used county or township parks. They at times can be hard to find. Not sure if there are many along the chasing corridors. A good map will leave hints. Many of these parks we have in Michigan/ Midwest are on the edge of a little towns, on a pond,lake, or river. Usually very affordable and cheaper than state parks. Some free. Usually have decent bathroom and showers, electricity if you need it.
     
  20. Randy Jennings

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    Here is another option I didn't even know existed:

    While taking a look at one of my local TV stations website's today, there was a brief story on how camping on top of your vehicle was a hot new trend. I googled it, and they actually make tents that store on top of your vehicle and deploy quickly and come with their own ladder. Story with pics at: https://www.popularmechanics.com/adventure/outdoors/g2585/8-roof-top-tents/
     
  21. Matt Tottle

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    There's actually a collaborative directory/map of Walmarts that don't allow overnight parking (http://www.walmartlocator.com/no-park-walmarts/). There aren't many in the Plains, the biggest cluster is in Fort Worth. The ones that prohibit it I think it might be related to city ordinances re: camping and free parking. Ours in Hays allows passenger vehicles and RVs but no semis (those signs are common). I've camped in my truck many times. The back of my Durango is big enough for an air mattress, and I have blackout curtains that I just velcro over the windows. However unless I am actually going "camping", I do prefer public places with lights and at least a small amount of round the clock activity if it's a place I have to/decide to stop at in lieu of a motel.. I'd advise against stopping on/near oil lease roads, as you run the risk of being confronted by the sheriff - or worse, an armed landowner - in the middle of the night. Same with roads that provide access to turbines. Transients are another hazard you could encounter on less traveled roads.. We get a LOT of them here (we seem to be Grand Central of the bum railroad). Most are tame, but some are nuts. I'd rather not have to deal with them lol.

    Another thing to be aware of if you camp in your vehicle is if you need to run the heat or A/C, the engine must be running.. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a real danger in this situation, so have a battery powered detector in the vehicle. Make sure your exhaust system doesn't have any leaks, make sure your tailgate/trunk weather seal is in good shape (especially if the tailpipe comes straight out the rear), and leave a window or two cracked on the side OPPOSITE the tailpipe. Also make sure you do not use the MAX A/C or RECIRCULATE setting - as it closes off the fresh air intake.
     
    #21 Matt Tottle, Apr 28, 2018
    Last edited: Apr 28, 2018
  22. Jeff House

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    To avoid using AC we once slept with wide open van doors (dome lights off) in a DFW office park. Police kicked us out with a stern lecture about safety and sleeping with the doors open. Well, we had a zero carbon footprint!

    If Walmart is becoming more strict I would consider hospitals still. Hard to imagine trouble makers in a somewhat somber place. At the same time be respectful of families who may be going through stressful times.
     

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