By Ryan Freeman
Sleeping in Wal-Mart parking lots is getting surprisingly easy for someone who always needed his room to be as close to pitch black as possible. It’s become a routine. Fire up my “ONP Walmart” app on my phone, find a place that allows truck/RV parking, and input the address in my GPS — aka, my phone, naturally. I find the place, circle the lot to see what it looks like, check out where all the trucks are parked, and park as close to the trucks as I can without being a nuisance. Oh, and always parking facing the northeast so the sun rises to the front of my car, instead of baking my legs as I sleep.
I’m realizing that I severely underestimated how much money I needed to undertake this trip. Having to get an oil change so early (and who knew Jiffy Lubes were so expensive?) and get my radiator coolant filled (as I was apparently way past scheduled maintenance) really ate into my budget. The hotel rooms, however, I’m having extreme luck with finding cheap, both coming in under $40. Food has been low cost too — I’ve spent only ~$20 on food since I left, as I stockpiled enough Soylent to last the whole trip. It may be Silicon Valley-esque in its “function over form” efficiency, but it’s cheaper and way healthier than what I would be eating on the road anyway. And I no doubt feel much better drinking it.
I’ve been doing a lot of driving the past few days. Since my money isn’t lasting as long as I hoped, I decided I wanted to touch the ground on all 48 states. That seems like a wicked accomplishment and something I can do easily within a months time, give or take. Writing this from the Wal-Mart parking lot in Topeka, Kansas, I’m halfway there: 24 out of 48 states down. I think I was a bit hard on myself before, calling 500 mile days “soul sucking” because driving in unfamiliar places is actually quite fun. The lonely isolated highways of the midwest, the jam packed traffic in Jersey— it’s all new to me and it’s an adventure.
Tomorrow I’ll be making a 500 mile drive to the Dallas area to meet up with one of my friends and cross another couple states off the list. After that, I’ll be moving into the proper southwest. This trip has both satiated my wanderlust and at the same time stimulated it. I’ve already hesitantly starting planning my next trip for next summer with one of my friends — much less of a barebones expedition as this one and more of a proper sightseeing expedition. That being said, I think this kind of rough solo adventure across thousands of miles and Wal-Mart parking lots everywhere is the exact way I wanted this trip to be.
At this point, I’m mostly just hoping my car holds together. There’s really no reason it shouldn’t, but this is reality we’re talking about, and naturally it’s expected.