Back when I embarked on my summer-long cross-country van trip, I slept in my conversion van most nights in order to save funds. Usually, this meant parking on a nondescript residential street and pulling the shades. Sometimes, it meant pulling into a Walmart parking lot and settling in near the RVs that were allowed to park there overnight.
On a few rare occasions, I had trouble finding a place to stay. This usually happened in suburban areas where there was no “town” to speak of, just streets of ritzy houses where my vehicle would clearly look out of place and perhaps elicit nervous phone calls from locals to police.
I was somewhere between Birmingham, Alabama and Pensacola, Florida on the night of April 28, 2009 when I realized I didn’t have a convenient place to settle in. Paying for a night in a hotel would’ve blown my $10/day budget. But as I drove around and realized there was virtually nothing in this town except for gas stations, supermarkets and hotels, I had to make a decision.
So I scanned the hotel parking areas and made the decision to pull into the Comfort Inn lot, where I immediately pulled the shades and went to bed, hoping they wouldn’t notice that I wasn’t an actual hotel guest.
In the morning, I woke with the daylight, as usual, and hightailed it out of there around 7 am. I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the hotel sign as I left since it made me smile. The sign read, “Thank you for staying with us.” I replied out loud, “No, thank you, Comfort Inn!”