By Russ and Tiña De Maris
When RVers think of “pavement camping,” it’s often in terms of a “necessary evil,” sort of way. We need the sleep, we need a place to put up, and we don’t care to spend a small fortune to get a few hours of Zs. Walmart is likely to be the first place to drop anchor. But truck stops, too, can fill the bill. But few of us want to spend any more time than necessary in a truck stop. Trucks are running in and out, 24/7, and “reefer” units sounding off can just about kill even the hopes of the deepest sleeper. But hey, sometimes that’s about all that’s available to the weary wanderer. But are they a safe place for us?
We’ve spent our fair share of nights in truck stops, and we know plenty that have. How safe staying in a truck stop often depends on the attitude of the commercial drivers who bring those big rigs through. Witness the case of Dave and Shirley, who rolled their motorhome into a big truck stop one night. They got a rude–and jarring–awakening at around five in the morning. Their car alarm was bleating like a sick sheep, and Dave, bailing out of the motorhome, watched a rapidly retreating semi-truck skating for the exit–just moments before he spotted the remains of the rear end of his toad car, lying in a number of pieces in the parking lot.
Witnesses told Dave that a semi-driver had looped around the rear of the toad car, which had been neatly mounted on a tow dolly. The trucker caught the rear of the car, working hard to yank it of the dolly. The driver then stopped–presumably for a better look–and then headed out of the lot. The mystery hit-and-runner was never caught. Dave’s insurance company paid the freight for the trucker, and the couple were toadless for several days while the car was repaired.
So is the moral of the story, “Don’t park in a truck stop”? Not necessarily. Commercial drivers mention that drivers rolling into truck stops are often tired out, bored, and under pressure to get their mandated off-road time done. Paying attention may not have as high a value as getting paid. If you park in a truck stop, try and find a quiet corner. If you have a rig you can back in (obviously out for Dave), you’re probably better off putting yourself in a back-in spot. Don’t park on a “corner spot” where your rig will be exposed to the danger of every passing rig making too close a cut.
Where truck stops–like Flying J for example–have a designated “RV” parking area, avail yourself of it. Nothing “chaps the hide” of a long-haul driver when he rolls into a truck stop that has dedicated RV parking and finds that instead of taking advantage of it, RVers are needlessly parking in the big-truck lot, which may already be crowded. All it takes is a hot-head with a grudge and 65,000 pounds of mass and 300 horsepower to ruin your whole day.