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Places to stay

We bought our Airstreams so we could explore. It turned out that ownership also offered a lot of other benefits we hadn’t expected, such as making a lot of new friends, saving money, and an entirely new lifestyle — but the desire to explore is still a main motivation.

In the first few months of owning our little 1968 Airstream Caravel (which we still have), I was intrigued by the idea of parking it in exotic places. I came to realize that the Caravel gave us the ability to spend nights where we otherwise couldn’t stay, and I began to seek out those spots.

One night in New Hampshire, we stopped at little city-owned marina on a river and made dinner in the parking area next to the water. There was a light fog and the lot was silent. A few boats were tied up and glowing under the streetlights, and there was a perfect spot for our little combination to park.

It was early in our experience and so we were all a little nervous about staying somewhere that wasn’t clearly a campground, although there were no signs that overnight parking would be disallowed. Boaters had left their boats and trailers parked overnight, and I felt we probably could stay too, if we were stealthy, but we chickened out and moved on. We didn’t know enough to judge the hints, or how to check with locals. Today I would have casually walked up to the police cruiser going by and struck up a friendly conversation.

Another time we were tipped off to a lovely parking area at a beach in Connecticut where we could stay if we could prove we were fully self-contained and promised not to leave anything behind. There were no hookups or facilities or any type. All night long we heard the sea breeze and the waves, and smelled the cool salty air coming in our windows. Since then I’ve been constantly on the lookout for other isolated seaside spots like that, whether in backyards, state parks, bridges, or parking lots. There are plenty of seaside commercial campgrounds, and some of them are nice, but it’s a big win when we can find a quiet spot more or less to ourselves.

A sampling of seaside campgrounds we’ve visited:

St Augustine FL (first stay | second stay)
Ft Myers FL
Bahia Honda FL
Beaufort SC
Destin FL
Ft Morgan AL
Crescent City CA
Carpinteria CA
Huntington Beach CA
Virginia Beach VA
Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico

The fever for exotic locales goes beyond beaches. It’s equally satisfying to take the Airstream to a very remote location, or near terrific hiking, or in a private spot of beauty. I like camping at marinas, near boats and listening to the hooting of a distant lighthouse. I like an occasional night where the wind rocks the trailer and reminds us we’re on a mesa in the desert. I like being far from everything once in a while, and near natural beauty.

Most of these locations require some small compromise in lifestyle. They don’t usually have hookups, or even dump stations. I don’t care, in fact I appreciate that because it keeps a lot of people away. The Airstream doesn’t need hookups. The point is to experience things we won’t otherwise feel or see, and that means getting out of the campground once in a while. The real challenge is in finding these places, because they are rare and becoming rarer.

There are still a lot of spots we have never tried, but which were common overnight stops in the 1950s. We’ve never spent the night in a random farmer’s field, behind a church, in the heart of a city, or at a ferry dock. But we have spent the night parked behind a gas station, at a marina, at a casino, on a fishing pier, in the open desert, at a beach, high up in the mountains, and below a dam.

With our last few months of full-time travel ahead, I want to try even harder to find interesting and unusual spots to camp. I am starting to feel like every night spent in a generic campground — campsite, laundry room, dump station — is a lost opportunity to experience something really special. We’ll be looking for interesting opportunities to stay at the less-visited spots, to courtesy park, to boondock, to stay in places we’d never be able to visit without our trailer. If you have any suggestions along our western route to Montana, let us know.

One Response to “Places to stay”

  1. Bill Kerfoot Says:

    If you stay off the interstate and go through small towns, you can sometime park at the local park overnight.


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