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 > Sleeping in a minivan at Wal-Mart and police harassment?

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mileena

California

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Posted: 08/19/10 06:50am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Hi, I have a large 2007 7-passenger Toyota Sienna minivan with the 3rd row bench seat folded all the way down, and the two middle row seats removed from the car. So basically my car only has the two front seats and the rest is like a sleeper/camper van or a commercial van with nothing else in the back.

I refuse to stay in a motel when traveling, and I always sleep in my van. It's very comfortable actually with all the seats removed. I have slept in my car many, many times as I have traveled the country, even in the middle of winter. I have secret locations where I park and am never bothered, as I am a regular car that blends in with the others. For showering, I go to the local YMCA since I am a member and members can use any Y in the country. I can recharge my cell phone, iPod, and laptop as I drive, via the power sockets of the car or an inverter.

When I sleep, I pile Rubbermaid storage tubs super high on one side of my minivan so no one can see in, and I put a windshield folding sunscreen in the front. Then I have some things like suit coats and other stuff hanging on the other side where I sleep at. I do usually roll down the window on that side half way so I get air, unless it is winter; it gets stuffy in most places, even at night. The rear window is exposed; however, I park so that it faces the back of the parking lot, usually against stuff like trees or fences, so no one will be walking back there. Pretty much it is hard to see me unless you walk right up to the car and purposely look in on one side I sleep at. For anyone else, it just looks like my car is stuffed with stuff and I am moving. Also, I sleep very low, at floor level and well below window level, since the seats are removed. I park very carefully so people will not notice me, and have never been caught, except twice through my own stupidity.

But I see all kinds of people here posting they park overnight at Wal-Mart or Target. Would this be possible with a car/minivan?? If I were parked at one end of a Wal-Mart parking lot, and there were no other RV's or cars nearby, this would be highly suspicious, wouldn't it? A car all by itself in a parking lot at night is suspicious. If I were a cop, I would be wondering if the car is abandoned, someone is hiding out there, someone needed help, or if there were teenagers in it having sex. However, if I parked near RV's, I don't imagine a problem.

So if I parked at Wal-Mart, and there were no other RV's around, would this be an invitation for cops or store employees to harass me, even if I had permission? And how is letting an RV park there any different that a car parking there with someone sleeping in it? Or is it perfectly fine, and am I imagining all of this?

One time I did park one time all by myself in a large hotel parking lot, well away from the other cars, but a security guard came by and was suspicious, since hotel guests usually park as close as possible to the hotel. He ended up waking me up and made me leave. I can imagine it would be worse at Wal-Mart.

Thanks!

WhitehouseLV

Big Sky State

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Posted: 08/19/10 07:00am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I have seen other people sleeping/napping in their car at Walmart. why not just stay in your secrect locations where you are never bothered?


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mileena

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Posted: 08/19/10 07:03am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I will do that. But I just like to have options sometimes in case it is late and I need to crash. I wonder if the Wal-Mart management tells the police that people are allowed to stay overnight at Wal-Mart so they do not bother people.

tonyandkaren

pennsylvania

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Posted: 08/19/10 07:09am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

We've stayed overnight in many Walmarts all over the country along with an assortment of other people. Most are RVers on vacation but we've also noticed people who seem to be living in older RVs as a last resort. There have been people like you ,traveling in vans or cars and stopping to sleep , but also people obviously living in their cars. We've never seen the security people ask anyone to leave ,most likely because none of these people were disturbing anything or making a mess.
Try to keep an appearance of traveling and I don't think that you'll be bothered.

You seem to have the whole thing down pretty good but here's a website with some more tips - http://cheaprvliving.com/


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Posted: 08/19/10 07:24am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Why do you call it "harassment"? According to the dictionary, harassment "is commonly understood as behaviour intended to disturb or upset".

The police & security folks are just doing their job in accordance with the rules they've been given.

Anyway, I doubt you'd have any problems at a WM where overnighting is permitted.

kohldad

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Posted: 08/19/10 07:25am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Before I upgraded to a TC, I used a grand cherokee for making weekend trips. Fold down the rear seat, inflate a twin air mattress and roll out a sleeping bag or two. Next to the air mattress was a cooler, tub for groceries, and a second one for clothes. Would park anywhere that someone would expect to see a vehicle overnight and never been bothered.

I would rather have the inside visible to a police officer than stacking/hanging stuff like I'm trying to hide. Also, a vehicle that looks like it is packed to the gills will be more noticeable than a vehicle that looks empty to the casual passer by.


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pigman1

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Posted: 08/19/10 08:17am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Stop at the WM Service Desk and ask the people if it would be OK to spend the night in the parking lot. Some cities and towns have an ordinance against it, but the WM people will tell you right. If they say it's OK, but the local LEO's are liable to roust you out, you take your own chances, but if they give you the OK, they don't care what you're in. Even if the law shows up, they'll ask a few questions and send you on your way, so the only thing you lose is a full night sleep.

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korbe

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Posted: 08/19/10 09:02am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

If I was in your situation, I would park in a motel parking lot. Your car would look just like all the other cars.


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mileena

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Posted: 08/19/10 09:28am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

tonyandkaren wrote:

We've stayed overnight in many Walmarts all over the country along with an assortment of other people. Most are RVers on vacation but we've also noticed people who seem to be living in older RVs as a last resort. There have been people like you ,traveling in vans or cars and stopping to sleep , but also people obviously living in their cars. We've never seen the security people ask anyone to leave ,most likely because none of these people were disturbing anything or making a mess.
Try to keep an appearance of traveling and I don't think that you'll be bothered.

You seem to have the whole thing down pretty good but here's a website with some more tips - http://cheaprvliving.com/


Thanks for that site tonyandkaren and thanks also for your kind words. I try to be inconspicuous.

mileena

California

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Posted: 08/19/10 09:33am Link  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

kohldad wrote:

Before I upgraded to a TC, I used a grand cherokee for making weekend trips. Fold down the rear seat, inflate a twin air mattress and roll out a sleeping bag or two. Next to the air mattress was a cooler, tub for groceries, and a second one for clothes. Would park anywhere that someone would expect to see a vehicle overnight and never been bothered.

I would rather have the inside visible to a police officer than stacking/hanging stuff like I'm trying to hide. Also, a vehicle that looks like it is packed to the gills will be more noticeable than a vehicle that looks empty to the casual passer by.


You make some good points. I have debated this with myself many times. The problem is if you walk somewhat close to the vehicle, if nothing is stacked up, you can see me sleeping.

I try to make it look more natural/organized. For example, the storage bins are stacked neatly and make it look like I am moving. They are only noticeable if you walk tot he side of the car. And the front sunscreen blocks a lot...except it would look out of place in the winter. The hanging jackets look like I just had them dry cleaned. It doesn't look too bad actually. I guess I am trying to reach a balance between being inconspicuous and privacy.

I hope you fit ok in the Cherokee. I am tall, and had to remove the 2nd and 3rd rows of seats to make room for myself to lie flat.

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