By Scott Linden
“Dog is my co-pilot,” says the bumper sticker, and for RV travelers it’s literally true. They share our adventures, buoy our spirits and are best friends on this journey called life. Like ourselves, our four-footed traveling companions need to get out of the rig and stretch once in a while, for physical and mental health and, um, to “do their business.”
Roadside rest areas are a hornet’s nest of dangers for pets: traffic; toxic substances on the ground; roaring, gear-grinding 18-wheelers; sketchy “pet areas” harboring everything from parvovirus to fleas. Drive away as fast as you can! Refueling stops are even worse. Fill up, pay, and get outta Dodge.
Find better spots
I’ve been driving long distances with dogs and RVs for almost 30 years, and have compiled a short list of tried-and-true stopping places for pets than the usual rest areas. They’re safer, quieter, more peaceful, secure, and relatively convenient. I make a habit of searching on Google for these types of locations as I sense a potty stop coming on, and seldom have to go more than a couple of miles out of the way.
Here they are:
• Church parking lots
• Athletic fields
• Public schools after hours
• Public parks (unless expressly prohibited)
• Gun clubs
• Municipal “campuses”
• Office parks
• Colleges in summer
• Little League fields
• Elks Clubs
• Shopping mall parking lots, early in the morning
Many of these places are enclosed or fenced, making them even safer. Seek permission (or forgiveness) and don’t wear out your welcome – it’s a rest stop, not a campsite. To assuage your conscience, pick up someone else’s litter while you’re there. And certainly clean up after your pet.
This land is your land
In the rural West, it’s often easier. Much of the land off the interstate is yours and mine – public – so check your GPS and enjoy a quick hike, guilt-free. Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Forest Service, National Grasslands, state parks, offer wide-open spaces to exercise a dog and its human. “Wild” public land has its own set of rules, mostly common sense. Some residents would love to eat your pet, sting, bite or chase it. And vice-versa. If you’re not totally confident in your dog’s recall, keep him on a leash.
You and your pet are, hypothetically, on a journey of peaceful relaxation. Why not your rest stops, too?
Host of the RV Travel podcast, Scott Linden and his five German Wirehaired Pointers have traveled 42 of the 50 United States, usually towing an RV.