If in doubt, check it out before parking – or pay a hefty price

Dear RV Shrink:rvshrink
I am very upset with my husband. We were just fined $150 for illegally parking overnight in a Florida marina parking lot in the middle of nowhere. He says it is partly my fault because I should have seen the sign. I’m 78 years old. I’m just happy if I can see tomorrow.

I told him when he decided to spend the night there that it didn’t seem right. If it was legal, why weren’t there several other RVers enjoying this same spectacular view of the Gulf of Mexico?

My husband is tighter than a wax doll’s ear canal, so he convinced me it was fine. When the officer rousted us in the middle of the night and issued a ticket, he pointed out a sign about the size of a small business card. I think it bordered on entrapment. I could have stayed at the Ritz for that kind of money.

I have been giving my husband the hot tongue and cold shoulder for a week for trying to put the blame on me. Do you think I should be mad at him or the Florida authorities? —Too Old to be Caught Parking in the Panhandle

Dear Too Old:
If you were parked where I think you were, I wouldn’t place the blame on your husband. I’ve seen that sign and it always left me with the impression that the county couldn’t afford a normal-sized sign or they had other motives.

Your experience is something many of us dedicated boondockers have experienced. Usually it is a verbal warning, but these are hard times and many local governments are feeling the pinch and pinching more people to plug up their economic plumbing.

There are areas that you should always be suspect. The whole state of Florida is one of those areas. It does not have the wide-open spaces and massive Federal lands of the western states. It is brimming with RVers in the winter who have already worn out the boondocker welcome.

If something looks questionable, and you have internet and cell connection, call the local authorities and check. You would be surprised how many nice places exist for safe overnight parking by just checking in with the local authorities. They can also give you a heads up if there have been any problems in the area lately. Many small towns have city and county parks that are free, or reasonable, just to welcome visitors.

Part of the problem today is that those same authorities are dealing with their own residents who have lost their homes and have moved into these parks with RVs as a means to survive.

So, c’est la vie! Scat happens. You will make it up with the next dozen free nights you can find. Think of boondocking like geocaching. Most of the time you find a treasure, but on occasion you get skunked. I know it stinks, but you just got skunked. —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink

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7 Thoughts to “If in doubt, check it out before parking – or pay a hefty price”

  1. John Connaughton

    Definitely the officer should have warned them and given them like 30 minutes to leave. Sounds like a way to garnish more funds, more than anything.

  2. PennyPA

    Many times when you find a place where spending a night is questionable, the business is closed and there’s no contact phone number. Calling the local police department may…or may not…get you an answer.

    1. Lee Ensminger

      For me, what you’ve described IS the answer-if the business is closed and the police decline to give you an answer…move on. Squatting on personal property without permission is trespassing. Not trying to be nasty, it’s just that private property is just that-privately owned. I never park on private property unless I have secured permission.

  3. JimD

    Some of the nicest overnights we’ ve enjoyed have been odd parking lots where we called and ASKED PERMISSION.
    Ferinstance, one night in some small town in Kansas we were finishing doing laundry and, since no one was around, we wondered if we could just sleep over right where we were. We found a number on the wall, asked and were granted permission, and we had a wonderful quiet night.
    Most recently, we followed our GPS to the “nearest RV park” and found not only was it already full, but also very seedy and run down. We pulled into a grocery store lot across the street to have room to turn around, and wondered if THIS almost-empty parking lot might be available. The store was still open so I went inside and asked for the manager. It took him almost 20 minutes to show up, ut graciously granted permission, saying they almost always allowed it when RV’ers ASKED PERMISSION FIRST.

  4. PeteD

    I have lived in Florida 40 years. I can remember years ago, long before I owned an RV, people camping in the Walmart parking lot. They were there for weeks in some cases. They had awnings out, grills going, trash cans around them overflowing. We used to wonder why Walmart put up with it. Eventually the trash cans disappeared and signs went up, no overnight parking. Had people not abused this benefit in years past, it might still be available today. Florida is over run with RVs in the winter and parks can be expensive. If there were no restrictions the state would look like a migrant camp. I agree that an undersized sign sounds like entrapment but I know why it’s there in the first place.

  5. Ann DeHart

    I think you should ask this writer to become a member of your “staff”. She sounds like a witty lady whose articles I would enjoy reading on a regular basis.
    I read your posts daily. Thanks for keeping us up-to-date with all things RV (and lots of non-RV, too). Happy New Year, and safe travels wherever you roam.

  6. M Miller

    Why not tell name this place so all RV folks can avoid it and maybe the whole town if that’s the game they want to play?

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