On Choosing Places to Stay

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Sure, we own an RV, but we don’t drive it other than to get from one park to another. It’s not a vehicle we use to hop on over to the grocery store or take a leisurely Sunday drive around town. We have no tow vehicle, and haven’t owned a car for about five years. We mostly walk, and do quite a bit of it. Four or five miles a day isn’t particularly far for us, though I wouldn’t say that’s a daily average or anything. For longer journeys we’ll take our bikes or ride the bus. Life is good, our waistlines are as they should be, ta da.

When we’re looking for places to stay for any extended period of time (a week or more) I typically check to see if there’s a grocery store within a mile, a coffee shop or two in the area and whatever other amenities we might be needing at the time (post office, drug store, fully automatic hunting range, etc.). In the northeast, cities are built this way naturally, because they started out as small towns that all grew into one big city. Houses were put near business districts because in the 1800s people still walked everywhere.

Once you hit the Midwest, much of Texas and the Southwest, and nearly every new development anywhere in the US since 1970 or so, you start to run into the horrible planning of just about every city planner alive today: preplanned suburban housing areas — easily recognized by the obesity of the home, the drab tan color each one mistakenly boasts, and the lack of visible life in the front yard — placed far away from the preplanned shopping districts — easily recognized by the massive sea of parking lots surrounding them, making it nearly impossible to walk from shop to shop, so you see people driving similarly massive vehicles as they themselves grow to match their obese homes. I hate to sound so “rustic” but it’s true.

So finding nifty places where you can still walk and bike and live a life sans car can be difficult, but this is definitely my main priority when choosing a place to stay.

But we don’t just put our finger down on the map and start rooting through towns looking for a Whole Foods and a bike shop. We often refer to this list of “hippy” towns we found early on in our travels, as well as keep a running list of recommended places as people dole out their traveling wisdom to us along the road. Apply the rules above to any place on that list and if you get that magical combination of cafe, groceria and RV park in one place, you’ve got a potential RV spot.