What is it with camping in this part of the country? I may look like a vagabond, but I'm no kind of riffraff. Harumph.
Take Winnie, TX, where I slept just a few nights ago. The one RV park in town wouldn't allow tents. "Discrimination!" I spluttered. "How am I penalized for not needing a giant space and sewage hook-up for my gas-guzzling mobile home??" (Okay, that was an interior monologue, I was actually very polite.) Luckily there was a well-traveled, and thus fairly safe, city park, which aside from its lack of showers (or doors on the bathroom stalls) worked out just fine. There were even water spigots and electrical outlets at each site. And it was free. Not bad. Stinky but safe: it could be worse.
[Note: I am not anti-RV. In fact, I have a number of friends who travel by mobile home. Some of them are actually kind of snazzy, like Joel's veg-powered trailer. But come on, if I'm willing to pay too much for an RV spot to pitch my little, no-impact tent, why can't I camp there?]
Then there was Orange, TX. I had hoped to make it over the border to Vinton, LA yesterday, but the stormclouds roiling overhead for hours had me nervous that a major storm was going to break before I covered the final 30 or so miles. (I'd already biked more than 50 and wasn't moving too fast.) So I decided to stay in Orange for the night. Oh my. Again, the one RV park I found online refused to allow tents. Suggestions I received from folks when I stopped in at the Farm Bureau office to ask for help included:
1. Tenting on a boat ramp: on the bad side of town. This was suggested by an older guy who worked for the county and who admitted that *he* wouldn't camp there, but at least it was lit up at night. Thanks, sir.
2. A homeless shelter: they take anyone. Except I'm not technically homeless, and also it was run by a pretty evangelical church group that would probably feed me pentacostal bible teachings along with my boiled collards -- no thanks. Also, we couldn't find a number to call them. And there was the issue of the woman giving me directions there being, well, terrible at giving directions. (She'd insisted it was only 4 miles to Vinton, Louisiana; in fact, I learned when I passed through there earlier today, it was 35. Thanks but no thanks, lady. I'm glad to have dodged that bullet.)
3. The city park: this, in a town known for assaults and shootings. It was another winning suggestion from the gentleman who came up with the boat ramp scheme. Does this guy have it in for me? He seemed nice enough....
4. The hospital: if I stashed my bike somewhere -- where?? -- I could pretend I was waiting on someone to come out of surgery and doze in the waiting room. This was suggested by a not-particularly-helpful, not-quite-local woman.
Seriously, I know I've slept in haylofts and on plastic tables in abandoned gas stations, but these were the worst suggestions I'd ever heard. I didn't mention my research, but maybe they sensed that I was plotting the end of conventional agriculture as we know it....
Luckily, a stop by the local Chamber of Commerce office set things right. Danielle called the other RV park in town and Sallie, who runs things there, said I was welcome to pitch my tent for ten bucks. Not only that, but there was a laundry room *and* a shower that I would be more than welcome to utilize. Ah, it's good to have friends in high places.
There are some challenges I'd foreseen before I started this trip, but I had no idea how challenging finding a place to sleep would be. I mean, nearly all of California's parks had closed due to budget cuts, you may recall, but not allowing tents at campgrounds that are open in other parts of the country? I'm hoping I have better luck avoiding anti-tentites as I make my way through The Deep South in coming weeks....
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