Car-Camping at Walmart

This past weekend, I drove my youngest to Cougar Quest at WSU. I don’t know why we encourage our children to like a school that is six hours away. I guess when they leave for college, I want their closet space and the only way to guarantee that is to have them be far far away. This time, though, Skyler actually drove the whole way, I just was along for the ride. She needs to practice getting herself there and back so that I can quit doing the mind (and butt) numbing drive. Brett graduated from WSU and with Skyler currently a student there, we’ve had five and a half years of driving back and forth; it’s familiar territory, to say the least.

Skyler’s apartment is all set up and waiting for school to start in August, so when we got into town at midnight, we just crashed at her place. The next morning we had breakfast and then checked Lizzie in for camp and helped (code: watched) her get her stuff all unpacked. When we were done there, we said our goodbyes and headed out for another road trip, this time to my sister’s place, which is about 20 miles north of Sandpoint, Idaho. Driving three hours  to see my sister and nephews did not sound like a ton of fun, since we were going to be turning right around after visiting for three hours to do the return trip, but it was my nephew Theo’s birthday, so we wanted to be there, or we felt obligated. Whatever.

The drive through the Palouse is beautiful, but the drive through the Coeur d’alene Indian Reservation and north from there, is stunning. Every time I do that drive, I am awed by the beauty of northern Idaho. I am also awed by their highway system. Yes. It is possible to be awed by a highway system. Oregon has much to learn from Idaho about highways. In Portland at 2:45pm, it can take you and hour and a half to get 24 miles, from my house to the Portland airport. That is if there are no accidents. When I say it can take you, I mean you better plan on it. The second you are on the Highway 26, you are in wall-to-wall traffic, lucky to be going 5 miles an hour. All lanes are full of tired, cranky drivers who don’t want to let anyone change lanes, and who wait to merge until the last possible second, because riding the shoulder will get them to their destination 12 car lengths faster.

Highway 95N in Idaho, on the other hand, is a marvel of open space. Granted, there are four people that live up in Northern Idaho, but there is a lane for each one of them, and they are building more!  I actually wonder why in the world they need all of the road that they have. Either they are planning for extreme, astronomical growth in that area, or they are wanting to make sure that the whole state can evacuate north to Canada, at the same time. Seriously, there is that much real estate available on the highway. I’m not complaining. It gives you plenty of room to dodge the deer and moose that seem determined to hit your car. Speaking of hitting your car, did you know that there are porcupine in Northern Idaho? In all my hours of driving up there, I didn’t know this, but this time we saw no less than 12 porcupine that didn’t make it across the road. FYI. Northern Idaho is where you go if you want to see a porcupine. It might be dead on the road, but you’ll see one.

AnyWHO. We drive north, see the family for a couple of hours and then hit the road back to Pullman, leaving an hour later than we had planned. After the previous day’s 6 hour drive, we are both wiped and as it starts to get dark, we are having to be more and more alert for the kamikaze deer. Finally, at one point, I told Skyler that I just needed to pull over because I was having a hard time keeping my eyes open, which makes it hard to stay on the road, let alone see the deer who are trying to play Frogger.

It was at this point that we made the decision to try out my Honda Element’s camping ability, which we have heard so much about. Did we pull into a campground? No. We pulled into the Hayden Walmart. First of all, we needed supplies, since we had not left home with the plan of camping it overnight. Second, everyone knows that Walmart is THE place to camp.

We bought our necessities, which included a pair of yoga pants and slipper socks each, two $2.50 pillows and a $10 queen sized blanket. Oh, and we each bought a bottle of water. Then we headed out to find our perfect camping spot. We drove to the edge of the parking lot, where all of the other campers were set up and found a spot that looked good. Why it looked any better than the other empty parking spaces, I’m not sure, but it did.

We parked and procwalmart3eeded to fold the back seats flat and then we had to figure out how to get the front seats flat. After a bit of struggle (Do the head rests come off? No. I guess they don’t), we figured out that if you scoot the front seat all the way forward, you can lay the back of the seat flat. Perfect. We then locked the doors, changed into our comfies and spread our blanket out and set our pillows out and laid down. Hm. Not exactly a sleep number bed. Is that a seat belt digging into my hip? We need an air mattress.

Skyler tried flipping the other direction, laying her head on the front seat, but that definitely was not going to work. She flipped back around and that is when we noticed another issue. The sunroof, which is the advertised place that you can fall asleep looking out at the stars, was lit up like an operating room by the parking lot lights. Actually, the lights were shining bright through all of the windows. God. Bless. America. We are trying to sleep here. I need an eye mask.  I took my sweater and tied one arm to the back seat seat belt at the ceiling and the other arm got tied to the ‘Oh Sh*t’ handle. That helped block some of the light on my side. Then I tied the legs of my pants in similar fashion to Skyler’s side. This is not white trash at all. If I would have had more clothing, I would have rigged up something for the front windows too, but short of stripping, we were out of options, and I did still have SOME pride left.

We laid back down in our new and improved, slightly darker car-camper. Skyler asked if she should set her alarm, which we both laughed about, since we were certain that we’d never be able to sleep with the bright light of God coming through the sun roof. We decided to just see if we could even fall asleep, because now that we’d had a shopping spree, a change of wardrobe and a decorating party inside the car, we were feeling pretty wide awake. As we’re laying there, we were laughing and Skyler was telling me that she was going to buy a Honda Element and travel the country, sleeping in Walmart parking lots. I told her that she could cross this adventure off of her bucket list, and in hysterics, she had the gall to say that sleeping at Walmart had never been on her bucket list. What?!

At some point, we actually fell asleep, only to be awakened by our neighbors in the next isle over, who’s alarm was going off, complete with honking horn and flashing headlights. Groggy, I was not at all concerned that someone might be breaking into their van. More likely, they had woken up and had to pee and opened the door without turning off the alarm. And now we were ALL awake. It took them for-ev-er to find their keys and turn their dang alarm off, but fortunately, we were able to fall back asleep.

At some point, we had new neighbors move in, next door to us, and they sat outside shooting the breeze, right at the back of our car-camper. Seriously, people. It is after 1am. Do I need to file a noise complaint? I will call the police. Right to the Walmart parking lot.

We eventually woke up again, realizing it was 6:45am and light outside. We had actually had nearly a full night of sleep. Amazing.

Some valuable lessons we learned, in the event that you decided to camp at Walmart:

1. Pick a corner parking spot. Just like an apartment, it will be the quietest possibility

2. Even with that, bring ear plugs. Walmart camping is noisy, and not all of your neighbors are considerate

3. Bring an eye mask. Being blinded while you sleep is not relaxing

4. Bring an air mattress. These seats are definitely not of the tempurpedic quality

5. Set your alarm. You might just be so comfy you sleep past noon!

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