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Monday, July 8, 2013

Day 10 continued: Overnight at a Walmart, a traveler's rite of passage

Following my harrowing afternoon and the Gillette hail storm, I continued on to Bozeman, MT.

I drove right up until dark. John Denver was my music choice that day and I was tickled pink when "Wild Montana Skies" came on as I was driving through Montana!

I did hit patches of rain approaching Bozeman. There were still some decent hills left to drive and as the highway got wet I was really glad I'd done my research and learned how to downshift to slow the car instead of using my brakes. In fact, I barely touched my brakes going through any of the passes at all.

My destination that night was to stay overnight at a Walmart parking lot. I think it's a rite of passage to do so. It used to be that every Walmart nationwide would let travelers with campers and RVs spend the night for free in the far corners of their parking lots. In recent years some stores have banned the practice due to damage to their property by inconsiderate travelers. The other reason this practice is no longer nationwide is due to a loss of revenue by campgrounds. Some cities have passed ordinances banning businesses to allow overnight camping in their lots for this reason so be sure to call ahead or go in and ask before parking for the night at a Walmart.

I'd called ahead that day and was told that the Bozeman Walmart did allow overnight parking, just to please park at the far end of the lot and don't block any traffic. There were probably close to two dozen large RVs and motorhomes there. The Glampette was the smallest of the bunch.

We had a terrific stay at the Walmart. It was far enough from the interstate that with the vent fan blowing out creating it's own white noise, highway noise wasn't a problem, I loved that we had a paved parking lot, there were no mosquitos, and it wasn't raining. I took Kitai on a short walk when we arrived and we walked around the entire parking lot in the morning. In the morning I also went into the store and purchased a banana and some plastic bins for my overhead storage shelves. It only felt right to go in and purchase something since they were allowing me to stay in their lot at no charge.

Did I mention it was cold? It was. I wasn't sure I would be warm enough that night. I figured I would use my comforter and if that wasn't enough I could grab an extra polar fleece blanket from the car and the silver windshield sun blocking screen and lay them on top of me.

If they wren't enough I'd go check into the Comfort Inn across the parking lot. LOL. But Fred built me a well insulated trailer. With 1" foam board in the top, sides, and bottom. Combined with my 3" latex foam mattress, a small down comforter, and a small furry dog, I had all I needed to stay warm.

These are some of the pictures of the construction of Fred's Northern Lite Traveler (it's currently for sale) that made me want to convince him to let me hire him to build The Glampette for me.

They show how he lays the foam board between all of the hollow metal tubing. It keeps his trailers cool in summer and warm in winter.

And it's how he built my trailer for me.

It was late and I was too tired to go out and get something for dinner so I made a can of soup. Because etiquette dictates you not cook outside of your trailer or RV when staying in a Walmart parking lot, I had to get creative when it came to how to heat the soup inside the trailer.

There is definitely a risk of fire when using any type of open flame in a trailer. My propane burner isn't even a consideration for indoor use. What I did consider though is lighting very small candles with extreme caution.

I found a way to use tea light votives in what I think is a manner safe enough to mitigate the danger to very low. 15 minutes later and I had steaming hot soup for dinner.

Here's what I came up with. I use an 8" wide metal pot with high sides and what I think is a small, 6" wide, metal, tea light chaffing stand I found at an estate sale. I used the built in candle holder in the center of the stand and added three additional tea light candles to three glass votive holders, ensuring the flames will stay put and nothing can accidentally touch them.

Trailer Candle Safety Checklist:
  1. Windows closed to keep curtains from blowing inward if there is a breeze
  2. Long hair fastened up and out of the way tucked into hat or a bun
  3. Roll up sleeves or wear a short sleeved or sleeveless shirt
  4. Place cork board under pot to diffuse heat from candles
  5. Use lighter, not matches as match heads can snap off and fly across the room
  6. Use the smallest candles possible
  7. Make sure candle flames are contained in a vessel whose sides exceed the flame height (in this case I did this twice, once with the glass votive holders, then even higher with the metal pot)
  8. LIght all candles directly over large pot so that if you drop one it's falling onto a non-flammable surface
  9. Make a piece of flame retardant fabric that I can use as a drop cloth to cover my bedding on the rare occasions I use this indoor heating method.
  10. Blow candles out and place fitted lid over pot until morning.
  11. If you leave a candle(s) burning in a small space you have to make sure you also have fresh air coming in as the flame(s) can use up the oxygen in your trailer. In this case I did leave my vent lid open and The Glampette has two passive vents that allow fresh air to flow into the cabin at all times.
  12. I do have a fire extinguisher within arms reach in the trailer at all times along with a smoke and carbon monoxide detector.
  13. Use this method only when absolutely necessary. If I can cook just outside my back door or in an approved campground fire ring they will always be first and second choices.

After dinner my other cabin warmer was happy to cuddle up beside me. Even with the vent lid open slightly to reduce the interior temperature to control condensation build up inside the trailer, and the fan on blowing outward all night long, we slept as snug as two bugs in a rug. I looked up the low that night online and it was 40ยบ.

To be continued.

To follow my Michigan or Bust road reports here they are:

Days 1-3: Picking up my tiny travel trailer: 2364 miles to happiness :)
Day 4: Be still my glamping heart: The cutest vintage grill ever!
Days 4-8: Meeting Fred and The Glampette for the first time
Welcome to The Glampette: A peek inside
Day 8 Part 2: Around the lake and on to Wisconsin Wine Country
Day 9: A suspenseful night at the Kennebec KOA
Day 10: It could have been worse
Day 10 continued:  Overnight at a Walmart, a traveler's rite of passage
Day 11: Montana to Washington car don't fail me now!
And my favorite RV Park was: Hi-Way Haven in Sutherlin, OR
4974 miles later our adventure comes to an end

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