Saturday, December 7, 2013
No More Free Parking
Okay, it's been a while since I've done the car living thing. Now it's van living, so one would think it'd be easier.
In some ways it is. On my southward trip, it wasn't too hard to find legal or at least semi-legal places to park for the night. Of course, what was I getting? A place not too far off the highway where I could shut down for a night's sleep. A vacation destination it was not.
It wasn't that many years ago it was possible to stay overnight, for free, in tourist areas. People think they can pull into a Walmart and spend the night. While it's possible in a lot of places, don't expect to do so near the beach. My lovely wife and I were looking into maybe spending a free night somewhere on our trip down south. Homestead Florida used to have some free overnight parking at big box stores. My information tells me that's no longer allowed.
Florida used to have some free campgrounds in the Everglades. The only free ones I could find are out in the back country that require a hike. Very basic drive to sites with nothing but primitive pit toilets charge money. Might as well stay someplace with services.
It wasn't all that many years ago that there were places to park overnight in the Florida Keys, for free. One could park for the night at a number of places and no one would bother you. That's over. Last time I was in Key West, I discovered that even places I used to be able to park for a few hours now have meters. Forget about trying to spend the night.
There are a couple things at work here. Governments are hurting for revenue, so they are charging for anything they can. Campgrounds and hotels put pressure on big box stores to close their parking lots at night. Then there is the general hate and fear of the gypsy, vagabond, or homeless person. Anyone living a different lifestyle is suspect.
Camping in general has gotten more expensive. My lovely wife and I can manage it for a week, but we used to go camping for months at a time. That's no longer in our budget. Between my income going down and prices going it, we feel the squeeze.
There are people who stealth camp. Right now that works best with minimal gear. Backpackers can head into the brush and disappear. Even kayak campers, if they are careful, can find places to hide for the night. That doesn't mean one won't run afoul of the law or private security. Most of the time a person will be told to move on. However, this is Florida, so one could also get shot. The risks are higher than they used to be.
A boat at anchor is still free, but there are areas that have put in mooring fields and banned the practice. Even so, it's a big coastline and there's still prime anchorages. As long as a boat meets Coast Guard safety standards, there's not a lot to worry about. I hear that some of the more popular hobo sailor areas get raided by the law. As long as there are no drugs on board, there isn't a lot they can can to you. It's just harassment. The guy with big mansion on the water, who has to look at the decrepit boats, pays the law's wage through taxes. Some of my favorite anchorages are away from those mansions, so we haven't been bothered -yet.
I do miss all the free camping spots I used to go to.