Survival Guide to Homelessness

No matter where you go, there you are.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Truck Stops

There is an exception to the rule that gas stations are bad places to clean up, and that is a truck stop. These were never on my radar until recently, and tonight was my first time using one for a shower. One thing you'll find is that you don't have to find all the possible solutions to your problems. You'll find solutions that work, get a routine going and look no further. When you do that, you're home. You aren't homeless anymore. You've found your comfort zone. Tonight though, for the sake of research, for you, I put my body, and my pocket money, on the line.

There are certain franchises that have set up specifically to cater to the needs of truckers. They've got phones and phone cards, internet connections, special fueling areas, attached fast food restaurants, trip insurance, video game arcades, snacks, ephedra supplements (legal, though dangerous, stimulants), and most importantly showers. One of these chains is Pilot. I'm sure there are others, depending on where you are in the country. They space themselves out about every 100 miles, and all the truckers know where to find them. There are even maps that list their locations, available on their website and I'm told, predictably, at truck stops.

For seven bucks tonight, at my local Pilot, I got a key to a small room, number six in a hall filled with eight or ten identical stalls, and one larger stall set up to accommodate the disabled. Well lit, the rooms have a beautiful mirror and sink, a toilet, an oscillating fan, hooks to hang clothes on, and a shower stall. Conveniences include a fresh towel, a washcloth, a paper bath mat (one is tempted to ask why), some of those tiny soaps you might find in a motel, a built in place to sit down, and plenty of hot water. After each shower a maintenance crew cleans the stalls and sets out fresh towels and soap. I brought my own shampoo, and used that instead of the soap, because frankly, soap is just nasty.

The place was identical to a good motel room without the bed and t.v. For seven bucks, I have no complaints. It's too much money to use daily, but for that time when you haven't got a gym membership, if you have a local truck stop, this beats a day pass to the gym. Private, safe, and clean, this is a five star solution to the problem of getting clean. Treat yourself sometimes. A good shower can change your whole outlook on living.

Bonus! Reader Tip

65 Comments:

At 11:46 AM, Blogger Jordan said...

Concerning the paper bath mat, I recall one of the first bits of advice when I went to college was to wear flip-flops to the shower, since you can get athlete's foot from the floor from the person who showered before you. I suspect that the paper bath mat operates on a similar principle.

By the way, this is a very interesting site; I've enjoyed reading it very much.

 
At 11:49 AM, Blogger emily0 said...

another comment from me - i wanted to say that i just drove cross-country and ALWAYS stopped at trucker stops. they had everything you could need whilst shooting cross country, from bathing to gasoline to cheap but good food to healthy snacky-cakes and beverages for the road. they even had mechanics, but there was no need for that service (whew).

 
At 10:09 PM, Blogger Ethan32 said...

I am not homeless. I have never been homeless. I have never even been close to homlessness, but I love this blog. It's very empowering to have this kind of knowledge at your disposal. Kind of like knowing how to make fire. You hope you'll never REALLY be in a situation where you have to make your own fire, but how empowering is it to have that ability. I thank you, Prometheus.

 
At 7:19 AM, Blogger nyx said...

i am totally with what ethan is saying. thank you so much for your well-explained, down-to-earth survival guide. i live in asia, not in america, but many of the basic concepts you discuss here are applicable. and the knowledge is empowering. thank you. thank you. thank you.

 
At 4:28 PM, Blogger theinfamousj said...

While I am not homeless, I have done some public land camping to accomodate myself on vacations. I discovered a rather cheap way to get a shower, if it is just a shower that is sought. You have to shell out $20 on a Solar Shower (local camping stores will have these) and fill it up with water. Then either boil a cup of water, or get a cup of hot water from a fast food place (I went to Starbucks and they gave it to me for free). Add it to the water and it will make the shower warm. Then, wearing a poncho for concealment, shower away.

 
At 8:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

THIS IS APRETTY COOL SITE. I ENJOY READING YOUR ARTICLES.IAM A HOMELESS TRUCK DRIVER. WHEN IM WORKING I SLEEP IN MY TRUCK,WHEN IM NOT WORKING I SLEEP IN MY VAN.IDONT HAVE TO BE HOME LEES ITS JUST THE WAY I CHOOSE TO LIVE.I JUST WANTED TOO LET YOU KNOW THAT YOU DONT HAVE TO PAT 7 DOLLARS FOR A SHOWER,JUST ASK ONE OF THE DRIVERS AROUD THE FUEL DESK AREA IF THE HAVE AN XTRA SHOWER ON THERE PILOT CARD.THELL HOOK YOU UP. BEWARE OF ASSHOLE DRIVERS. GROOVYHOOVY@HOTMAIL.COM

 
At 6:56 AM, Blogger Chester Paul said...

I was actually going to write about my homeless time in my blog & came across yours while googling "homeless tips". Good tips here although regarding lying I will say one should NEVER lie to cops (take it from experience). :(

Another way to shower which has worked for me in the past is to enroll in a one (1) credit PE course at your local community college. It is only a semester/quarterly fee and gives you consistent access to a shower.
Your milage may vary of course.

 
At 11:54 PM, Anonymous The 48th Ronin said...

I am a truckdriver, and came across this entry as it was placed in a truckers forum.
The national chains and even most mom and pop truck stops have showers.
As another driver has already stated, if you need a shower, go into the fuel desk area and ask most drivers have extra showers on thier drivers reward cards and will gladly offer you one. ( I said most).

One other feature of truck stops specifically in the rural areas.. If you ask to speak to the manager, and ffer to pick up trash around the parking lots or some other small work, they will usually feed you for the effort..

Beware of those who say you can beg from the drivers, this might not be a good idea, but a truck stop manager will usually allow you to pick up paper etc for a meal!

 
At 4:08 PM, Anonymous Sweetheart said...

This is a cool site. I am scheduled for my road test in two weeks for my CDL. I have history driving with my husband, but never got my license. As far as showers go, when you fuel up, ask for a reward card for that particular truck stop chain. When you fuel and get a minimal amount of fuel (usually around 50 gallons)a shower is automatically put on your reward card and it won't cost you one red cent. Also most major chains will give you a complimentary co-drivers shower, so you can both shower.

Yes, I have heard to wear flip-flops in the shower too. Not a bad suggestion. Sure beats using that nasty athletes feet powder spray. Most truck stops especially the smaller ones have great cheap food. Can't beat it with a stick. Be safe and get plenty of rest.

Sweetheart

 
At 1:59 AM, Anonymous formerly homeless in a2 said...

I agree with Groovy Hoovy with the addition of "watch out for the prostitutes" also. They'll knock on your window every 20 minutes or so if you (try to) sleep at the truck stop (the only hassle to sleeping at the truck stop)Also, if you're mechanicially inclined (one of the few classes I took in high school that done me any good)you can offer to do simple repairs on the trucks for a nominal charge.

 
At 1:06 PM, Anonymous the 48th ronin said...

Be carefull offering to do "simle repairs etc.. Many truck stops have "rules" about soliciting in truck stops.

As to prostitutes, I have been driving for 35 years and can say I have had this problem very seldom..
In the major chain truck stops you can park a van in the car parking lots and I would bet never have the first "offer".

Rateing showers by chain

Flying J Best over all
Petro some have large showers and always clean
Travel centers of America so so
Pilot worst of the major chains tied with
Loves also tied with pilot

Independent truck stops can range from closets to hot tubes with whirlpool baths ( Hopi Travel Center Holbrook Az) cleanliness standards do vary.

 
At 4:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just returned from a learning trucking experience. I'm seriously considering the profession. Being female, one of my big concerns was showering and being able to blow dry my hair.

We stopped at Flying J, Pilot, and TA Travel Center and I was able to shower and blow dry my hair in a clean shower room. I did have to bring my hair dryer -- no hair dryers in the shower rooms -- I guess that's due to the fact that trucking is a male dominated profession.

What I am really interested to know is if any of the truck stop chains have gyms where you can work out. Are all truckers uninterested in getting a work-out while on the road? Working out de-stressing and increases mental clarity and stamina, something I think is very important when driving 60,000 lbs.!!!!

 
At 2:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't you have to be a 'trucker' to use a truckers shower service?

In other words, I find it hard to believe that a person can just walk into a Pilot or other place and ask to pay for a shower.

Am I wrong?

 
At 10:41 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

No, you don't have to be a trucker. They don't ask to see your class A commercial vehicle license before you can use the shower. If you can pay, you can shower, at least at every truck stop I've ever been to.

 
At 1:38 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As an ex-trucker, in my experience, many drivers do not use the free shower ticket they receive with a fillup. You can probably find them in the garbage, or for $1. buy them from a driver who will not be using it anyway.

 
At 3:21 PM, Anonymous Wanderer said...

I traveled Europe for a year with my friend in a van. We used to rock into a town, look up the nearest backpacker hostel, walk in as if we were guests, head straight for the shower room & clean up, then hang out in the common area to meet & socialize with other travelers. Later on we'd retreat to the van for sleep. We got caught out twice in a year and that was cos we spent too long in the same spot. Between towns a lake, river or beach would more than fulfill the shower gaps. Our only expenses on the road were van (gas / repairs / insurance) & food related. I know the situation varies to those without any means of finance but I had the best year of my life being homeless in this manner!

I always thought if i ended up full-time homeless I'd try and make the most of it by traveling around. You never know you may find your niche somewhere unexpected :)

 
At 10:13 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having been a trucker for over 35 years I know how important a good shower can be. For a free shower I recommend Loves FUEL STOPS, their frequent fueler program gives truckers unlimited use of showers if they buy 1000 gallons of fuel each month. So catching a trucker that will treat you to a shower would be easy. I would also like to mention Loves rewards gives drivers unlimited free refills on coffee or soft drinks, the bigger the thermos bottle the more free coffee you get, there is still a few good guys driving that would treat you to that too. Then there is all those free condiments, napkins (emergency T/P) and most have free teabags and hot water. Plus free T. V. in the truckers lounge, free outlets to recharge your Mac battery or that broken window thing. And at Flying J truck stops you may even get a $2.00 coupon if you call their 800 number and take a short survey. Oh don’t forget the ketchup in the bowl of hot water with crackers - tomato soup. It’s all free at your local truck stop.

 
At 4:27 PM, Blogger Kurt said...

I'm a trucker. You dont have to pay for the shower. When we buy 75 gals of fuel or more, we get a shower coupon that is good for about 3 days.
We usually have more than we need or are going to be home and dont need another one. All you do is ask a few truckers if they have an extra coupon and you will get one. If you ask a trucker to ask for you on his CB, that usually is no problem and he will get a reply in seconds and directions to the truck with the coupon. I have driven a cubevan over the road expediting and the fuel capacity was only 35 gals, so I had to bum a coupon just about everyday and never, never had a problem getting a coupon in about 3 mins or less. Hope this helps.

 
At 6:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a trucker. Yes, anyone can use the showers at the truck stops. Most don't refer to themselves as truck stops anymore. They prefer to be known as Travel Centers. What I want to add here is if you are truly homeless, rare is the occasion you are going to be able to lay out the $ for a truck stop shower. Here is an alternative. Most retail stores have a 'sink' shower real cheap. I bought mine for 3 bucks. It is a simple hose with a small shower head on one end and the other end is designed to slip right over any sink faucet or outdoor hose faucet (sure, just use the hose if it's there. Anyway, I used one of these 3 mornings a week while I was being unloaded at a major chain store. I would walk next door to the local gas station. Go to the rest room, strip down and do my deal! Most bathroom floors in gas sations, warehouses, etc are all tile anyway. You can shower up pretty good. Take time to clean up behind yourself and you'll never have a problem with the staff. Just ask for the mop bucket. Tell them the toilet overflowed and you'll clean your own mess. Just a thought for you if your money is tight for whatever reason.

 
At 5:23 AM, Anonymous Rosy said...

I use to shower all the time in truck stops showers when I had lived in Virginia, remembering it wasn't much of a problem, no questions ask by any of the employees, they tend to knew really that I weren't a trucker after awhile, but still all the same I still can remember how it was for me at that time.

This is my first visit here and I am glad I stumble across your blog, you have some really good and useful reading here. Thanks for sharing.

 
At 6:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dude, nice blog with great info and all, but you seem entirely too caught up on showering. And soap is icky? Shampoo is mandatory? What is that?! You must have been a snobby homeless person! (I kid.)

Probably a billion people around the world shower simply with a bucket, a water scooper and a small bit of some form of soap. Just wet yourself, lather up, and rinse off with the scooper. If it is cold, wash in portions. I guess if you are a snob, you can rinse twice. It really is no different than showering. If you can find privacy somewhere you can get clean. In rural areas showering by this method is almost mandatory, since there are no gyms or truck stops for miles.

Anyway, I have been homeless more than I have had a home in the last 25 years. The times I've had a traditional "home", have actually be the most miserable of my life.

It is funny that when I was a slave for Uncle Sam all over the planet, I lived like a vagrant pretty much, but here in America "land of the free" I would be potentially beaten and arrested if I got caught without a home.

Just goes to show ya how screwed up this society is...

 
At 2:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I washed in the handicapped stall of any public bathroom. You have privacy, the sink is large and there are plenty of large size napkins in the dispenser. I usually kept my own bar of soap, but occasionally had to use the hand soap.
I prefer being homeless to paying rent to buy a house for a stranger. I charged my cell and laptop battery at hotel lobbies, Starbuck's, or bookstores.

 
At 9:15 PM, Blogger evilimp said...

I am going to be homeless in a few days. I have a backpack almost packed and am going to leave my laptop with my family. I live in New York City and can not find a job. Do you have any suggestions as to direction to take? I do not have a car and $20 in my pocket. I am willing to work in a farm or something, just so that I can eat and have a bed. Any suggestions would be most welcome.

 
At 4:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would keep the laptop if it has a wireless card. This will be you main means to communicate or even get directions. There are a lot of free wi-fi places. You can go there charge your battery and stay connected. This blog has great ideas for showers. This is still my main problem but there are some great ideas on this blog. I find the key to feeling homeless is to keep all ID current and set a routein. If you have routein, you can get a job. Sorry to read about your situation. Be sure to check for shelters espcially when the snow season starts.

 
At 6:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a recently retired longhaul trucker. You can shower in any truck stop by paying $5, but please do it early in the day when there aren't any long lines. Most TS put driver shower credits on their card, so don't waste time looking for throw-away shower tickets in the trash. Others accept the fuel ticket for a shower ticket, and no driver can give you that. Just pay the 5 bucks and get a shower. Wear shower shoes, and don't touch the scummy shower curtain more than you have to.

 
At 11:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

FYI - Recently drove cross country (and about to do it again) There are State "Rest Stops" on I-80 in OH that have FREE showers. They are technically for truckers, but the don't ask for your I.D. Just don't be obvious or abuse and you'll be fine.
There are probably others out there, but I haven't found them yet. Will post again if I do.

 
At 5:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was living out my car, traveling across the country with my boyfriend last summer. When we were able to shower at a truck stop, no one ever said anything to us when we'd both sneak into one shower room, to avoid paying for two separate showers. I guess this may be an obvious move, if you happen to have someone else to do this with, but i figured i'd share it anyway.

 
At 5:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Traveling I-80 was a nightmare for me because of all the tolls!

 
At 6:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Most truck stops i've slept at have been great. No one has hassled me, even when there are signs posted saying you may not sleep in your car. you have to choose the right parking spot. Only one night was it hard to sleep. There was a car across the parking lot where several people were blatently smoking crack and seemed paranoid knowing I could probably see them.

 
At 2:01 AM, Blogger Panda Bear said...

One of the Pilot truck stops in Florida kicked out a group of truckers that had just been laid off (in the parking lot, apparently) and wouldn't even allow them to use phones or the bathrooms, according to a reliable relative. They are on my sh*t list at the moment.

I stayed at a Sinclair truck stop in Oklahoma for a month and it was far superior to the homeless shelter. It is usually considered dangerous for a 5' tall, scrawny young girl to stay at a truck stop, but the truckers actually looked out for me while I was there. Just be careful and trust your instincts.

 
At 9:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just a thought or two I had while reading this. Sometimes especially in summer you can try asking truckers if you can wash there windshiled for a couple of dollars. Most will be in a hurry and probably say no but there are some who will let you. If they do let you please do a good job, it makes it hell when your driving and you cant see lol.
One girl mentioned sneaking into the shower with her b/f. You didnt have to do that if they know your with someone they will offer you extra towels. Also if your alone you can ask them and they make sure you get them. They want you to be happy.

 
At 4:16 PM, OpenID imtheprisonerofhope said...

What a phenomenal blog! I have you bookmarked now. I was homeless at different times in 2008 due to a divorce (after 36 years of marriage). Now I am traveling with my 31 year old son. We do live in elder care, which by the very nature of the job leaves us homeless at times. Everything we own is in our cars. When this job is done we will get down to one car.

Now I say I'm homeless by choice......

 
At 6:15 PM, Anonymous TerriM said...

This is an awesome blog. Great tips, none of us ever know when we could find ourselves homeless either by choice or circumstances. I can only imagine how scary it would be and it's nice to know there is a resource in case we need to share with friends or loved ones. Thanks

 
At 8:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lawrence, KS there are free showers and fitness centers meaning ROOM to do yoga, lift weights(they provide the weights), play basketball, at Holcomb Recreation Center off of 27th and Lawrence Avenue, East Lawrence Recreation Center 15th street between Haskell Avenue and Harper, and downtown Recreation Center 10th& Vermont St. Big diesel truck parking at Walmarts that's the best I know THANKS for sharing

 
At 3:59 AM, Anonymous Truck Rental said...

Hi evilimp ..I read your post and find it quite tough situation. Why don't you find out any small work in the starting. And then you can go for internet connection and search for any new good job according to your qualification and caliber.

 
At 9:39 PM, Anonymous Moving Company said...

My experience of last time of using this truck facility was fabulous. I used this moving company facility and was able to transfer all my stuff on truck with ease in no time. And on top of that the quality of service they provided was really impressive.

 
At 11:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I am really interested to know is if any of the truck stop chains have gyms where you can work out.

Just buy a kettlebell and learn the moves. Would pack easily in a truck and offers a taxing and effective workout.

 
At 1:16 PM, Blogger John Boy said...

Well here is the second time around,should have set up my account first. I tried the Pilot T.S this morning after finding this site last night. I had just paid my 10 bucks for a shower and this guy next to me asked if I was having a shower and I said yes, having caught me a little off guard. He said that he had it covered so the cashier gave my 10
back which was like a gold bar had been given to me. Assuming he was a trucker or not I gave him a big thank you and a God bless. What a swell guy, sorry I like to say corny things now and then, because
it is good old fashioned compassion, and caring for someone else. Maybe people are waking up and thinking about others who are less fortunate. Our church moto is
"HE IS ABLE" and that proved it today. This site is the real deal!

 
At 1:31 PM, Blogger John Boy said...

I still haven't read everything in here yet, just found the site last
night netting at a coffee shop.
I just relocated to a town I used to
live in a couple of years ago, about
an hour and a half from where I was
living with my sister and husband.
I decided to leave on my own becuase
my money was running short, just
wished it hadnt been the start of
winter. I did find a Pilot center
about 9 mls. outside of town and
headed there. Walked up to the counter to pay for my shower 1st one in 5 days and this guy at an
Mini looking ATM asked me if I was
having a shower, and I said yes,after having paid my 10 bucks.
He said that he would pay for it and not to worry, so the cashier gave my 10 back which I used later on for some food and snacks. What a heck of a nice guy, my gosh, I thanked him and God blessed!!
That had to have been one of the best in my top 5 showers of all time. I will put him in my prayers.

 
At 2:12 PM, Anonymous Sam said...

I got used to hitting the showers at a truck stop decades ago when I was on college. There was a small independant place about 2 exits from my home. It was not a long enough trip for staying over night, but long enough i'd be pretty grubby by the time I got home. It had a small shower/locker room out back and I'd pay them a couple bucks and get clean towels soap and be able to shave and get a good hot shower. I have to laugh as in winter it could be a bit hazardous. At times the water would run from the shower room through the locker area right out the side door and freeze. You'd literally slide on ice from the showers to the lockers. Never been homeless, thankfully, but agree a good hot shower can definitely help your outlook on things.

 
At 1:02 PM, Blogger charlette said...

I became homeless last night. After shelling out $60 for a hotel I decided it's better to stay at my office. There is enough room for a cot, and there is a bathroom and sink. The only problem was not having a shower. As a manager I have to look well kept for my employees in the morning. Fortunately, for me, I do have an extra $30 every month. I joined a gym less than 2 miles away and for about $1 a day I will be able to shower. I appreciate your article because the thought of joining a gym did not enter my mind until I read your blog... and it sure beats $7 truck showers. I get to work out at the same time! Good luck to you all.

 
At 1:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad I found your site. I recently became homeless last night and had to shell out $60 for a hotel. I knew I couldn't keep up with that on the salary I make so I made a decision to sleep at work. There is a bathroom and sink, internet, a/c, and enough room for a cot. My only problem was not having a shower. After reading your blog I got the idea to look up our local gym. For less than $1 a day I have access to their showers, plus use of weight equipment. How sweet is that? Thanks for postings and I hope everyone the best.

 
At 11:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a 50+ year old woman and getting ready to make the trip of my life and so thrilled that my idea to use travel center showers isn't completely idiotic.. this whole journey is in search of a job and will need to look presentable for the interviews that I have lined up from Dallas to San Antonio to Jacksonville, Florida...
My biggest concern is how and where are the best places to get sleep safely.. I noticed years ago that some of the rest stops in certain states had a "guard shack".. that completely put me on guard..I have to watch each cent I spend but, still need to be safe.

 
At 1:01 AM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

My best advice on finding a safe place to sleep is in my post Parking. Check over under the table of Contents. Good luck to you.

 
At 7:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, I like the joining-a-gym idea. When applying, wouldn't they ask for my address or for an i.d. with my address (where I don't live anymore)? What if the gym I'm applying for is in a different state than my i.d. address (I could say I'm "on the road for business"...)? But then wouldn't they ask for my business info.? I guess I could make it all up - what's the difference anyway if I'm paying;) What are your thoughts? Great resource and contributions, thanks!

 
At 9:04 PM, Blogger Mobile Homemaker said...

For my answers to those questions, please see my articles "Employment" and "Get Comfortable Lying".

 
At 4:08 PM, Anonymous brown eyes said...

i am living in my car just me and my dog and its been a strange eye opening life but it has worked keeping warm has been a issue but i have a buddy heater and warm blankets i also use hand warmers for my small dog under blankets this works be strong ppl living out there always no that you are not alone ( brown eyes out)

 
At 6:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

About 15 years ago I was homeless for 18 months. After a while I was able to buy a car to sleep in. I found a gas station in an area where there wasn't a lot of traffic after business hours. I had a nylon swim suit I would wear and after the station closed at 10pm I would shower using the coin op water hose. It worked quite well and cost 25 cents. I showered every day. cold or warm weather.

 
At 12:08 PM, Anonymous byah1087@yahoo.com said...

I recently traveled from Buffalo, NY to Denver, CO to visit family. I refuse to fly, so I decided to drive out with my dog. However, I had limited funds for the trip and I knew I was going to be sleeping in the car at least once, in the winter of course. Gas was going to cost me $150-200 each way, so I had $400 in the bank and about $50 pocket money. So here's a recap of my cross country trip on the cheap:

Directions were pretty simple; all I had to do was stay on the i-90 in Buffalo, heading south through PA & OH until it became the i-80, which goes cross-country. Also note that along the trip at certain cities there are weird exits and highways that I had to take in order to stay on the i-80. As far as the tolls go, they were completely asinine the first half (mostly on i-90). In total, I probably dropped $15-20 on tolls. This was my biggest complaint of the whole trip. Did it really cost them $20 to let me roll over the pavement?

Regarding fuel, I actually drove 5-10 under the speed limit “taking it easy”. This will actually save you money, and it DID because the estimate online said I was going to spend $211, and I only spent $150!!! All you have to do is find the “sweet spot” between 1.5 and 2.5 thousand RPM’s. Another thing… in NY, there really aren’t any “full service” stations, so I didn’t even know what I was getting into when I stopped at one in PA. In addition to wasting money on fuel, I had to leave a tip. You’re going to want to avoid those to save extra cash!

Now let me tell you something about Indiana. It might be the most backwards state in the union. NY, PA, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado… all had welcome centers at each end of the state and proper rest stops along the way. Indiana had neither. I was expecting to stop and sleep at the Indiana welcome center when I got across the border. There WAS NO Indiana welcome center. About 50 miles in I found a “rest stop”, which was a noisy & bright gas station and McDonalds. They did not have any real rest stops in Indiana. Couldn’t even find a decent map! Worst sleep I ever had; don’t bother planning on sleeping in that state. And here’s something else: most people on the i-80 drive 5mph over the 70-75mph speed limit, and in Chicago they drive 15MPH over the speed limit and give you dirty looks if you’re doing the actual limit.

Everything else was cake when I stopped at several rest stops along the way. “Modern Rest Stops”, which are marked on maps, were the best! You can use a limited amount (time) of free wifi internet, there are also dog walking areas marked, maps and clean heated bathrooms, and you can sleep right there in your car. I have an Army sleeping bag rated for winter conditions, so I was ok. The dog got covered up in blankets. I actually did stop at a hotel one time to give myself a good night’s sleep and a hot shower when a family member paid for it. Still, I didn’t feel right about them charging almost $100 to stay for a few hours and rest my head. And most will charge you a BS $10-20 pet fee! What a ripoff! Why don’t they go and confirm there was no damage to the room, and give you your money back?

Other than that, I would recommend taking these types of trips in the summer instead. I saw several camping locations a long the way that were closed for the season, and I would have much rather slept in a tent than in the car. I hope this helps for anyone traveling cross-country along i-80. I wish truck stops had cheap rooms for rent (seriously, what about guys who drive car haulers with no sleeper cabs?). Oh yeah, most Wendy’s and similar restaurants have locked single bathrooms that you can clean up in privacy!

I am planning on heading home soon, taking this trip again. If anyone has any tips for me, feel free to let me know. I really don’t have much cash after spending the last of my money on gas for the trip back. Also if anyone is also making this trip and wants to maybe split some expenses, let me know! We could help each other out. My email is byah1087@yahoo.com

 
At 10:29 AM, Blogger Leslie said...

Concerning the travel plazas with resturaunts on I-80 in Ohio. Yes the showers are free. If you aren't traveling on the toll road you can get to them off the back roads. I go to one to visit a resturaunt. How do you think the employees get to work? There is good parking.

 
At 3:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

have done the homeless run before, have learned more & am setting off today Feb 1, 2012. I have a big old van. If u hav not shaved like armpits. try gel alcohol squirt bottle, knocks out bacteria which causes odor, voila, clean. I can charge laptop, cellphone in any library, McD's, truck stop. I sleep @ truck stops (small town) never been bothered, or Walmart. You can heat a pan of water (start fire in cookout area). It's amazing how much heat put off with a candle and large coffee can. (think safety, don't burn self). I luv 2 learn 2 B self sufficient. I like winter vs summer to "roam" then work thru summer as RN. I'm 55.

 
At 12:07 PM, Anonymous VanDwellingJ said...

I found this on Walmart's corporate website: http://walmartstores.com/317.aspx#Park_RV

Q: Can I park my RV at a Walmart store?

A: While we do not offer electrical service or accommodations typically necessary for RV customers, Walmart values RV travelers and considers them among our best customers. Consequently, we do permit RV parking on our store lots as we are able. Permission to park is extended by individual store managers, based on availability of parking space and local laws. Please contact management in each store to ensure accommodations before parking your RV.

I have seen other vehicles parked in the same parking lot and nearby the RVs that are parked there over night.

 
At 4:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sweetheart, thanks for your suggestion. I did not know about the rewards card.

 
At 4:43 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just did it. Cost $10.

 
At 7:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I.m homeless living in my truck lost everything ca n you tell me were i can park at night with out any hassle here in austin tx

 
At 8:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been "homeless" for years. Actually I sleep and keep my stuff in a temp controlled storage unit. I've lived in many and they never cared enough to say anything because I was very discreet, and I NEVER go there except between about 7pm and 3am. I always say it's for business use and even have an actual PC repair business website and cards. I have a membership at a gym about 1/10 mile from the unit. I shower there and work out, watch TV at times, etc. There are hot spots at bookstores and coffee shops and libraries all around. I hang out at those places, post free ads on Craigslist for PC repairs and other handyman stuff, and it's worked great for me for a long time. A good gym membership is GREAT if you're "homeless."

 
At 2:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I appreciate this site so much. I never thought I'd find myself homeless but I came to a new city with my partner for school, when that relationship became abusive I had no choice but to leave, with no money or job and knowing nobody here I've been donating plasma and sleeping in my car, using local hotspots to connect to the internet and job search. It amazes me how much we can do without and still hold out hope for better times with a smile. I hope this site empowers people who find themselves in a seemingly hopeless situation or in danger...to pack a bag and find a way forward.

 
At 4:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

First off, I just want to say how helpful this site is. Really glad I stumbled upon it. My question is... does anyone know of some good truck stops or travel centers with showers by Clearwater Beach, Florida? They don't necessarily have to be free but cheap would help immensely.

 
At 11:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ive been homeless 4 days now. Im a 23 year old female dancer. I live out of my car. the hardest thing for me is sleeping as well. Being a female, Im very afraid that men will notice me with my out of state tags plus all the junk in the car its obvious I live there! Earlier today, a big van passed by and looked at me in my car twice. Then the 3rd time they actually parked right beside me. And they seemed to be pretending they were trying to figure something out. Squinting and looking at the store. It felt so wrong. So I started my car up and got outta there! Immediately after they left too but they didnt follow me.. That I knoW of...

 
At 5:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Im not technically homeless because i live in a small camper on my friends property. I also work at a truckstop in waddy, kentucky. If anyone needs a shower or i can help them in any way while passing through let me know. We throw away a lot of good food all night long. Seems like such a waste. This site is REAL. God bless and take care.

 
At 3:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had to travel on a dime (my own two feet) a year ago.

Truckers offered me their shower coupons without my asking when they saw me walking and pulling a rolling suitcase behind me into the Flying J.

Also the store manager told me I could sleep overnight on a restaurant booth if I didn't make trouble and bother other customers or his staff (I didn't). I was exhausted from sleep deprivation and basically went into a coma in the back of the restaurant.

From picking up change on the roadside during my travels, I could buy myself a little breakfast and continue on.

Other than this, gas station, fast food, and bus and train bathrooms afforded me the opportunity to really scrub down. The trick is to do it early in the morning 4-6am.

On occasion, a trucker would give me a lift along his/her route. I never had a problem and I never gave problems.

 
At 1:17 PM, Blogger Eric Barnhart said...

I do it all the time. I've never been rejected. I'm not a truck. I work in the oil feilds...

 
At 4:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have traveled across, and around, the country more than a few times. I am too cheap to pay for a hotel room and do use truck stops to shower, and rest stops to sleep; however, I have to point out that there are a few states in the south where they hassle those who nap at rest stops. Gee, what are rest stops for, only using the rest room? Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana were the states where I had enforcers shaking and banging on the car windows. I'm not sure about Georgia or Florida, but the other states mentioned above are very unfriendly when it comes to even napping in their rest stops. The only thing to a lot of this advice on this blog is to be careful, when taking advantage of advice on this site or blog, is to not abuse the privileges for yourself or others so what is advised on here becomes extinct. I hope this makes sense. General society is sadly put off by homeless people or those who might appear as if they are homeless, and they don't want to see them. Make your car look as if you are just in it for the day or on a vacation. I think some people who live in their cars get used to what's in there and don't realize that their car looks as if, not only they live in it, but they have been living in it a long time. If you can't store your goods in the trunk then you have too much that you are carrying with you and need to purge, because you have blown your cover as a homeless person; also empty your garbage multiple times per day, just as a person would who's on the road traveling. Truck Stops are a great place to shower, but I have been told in the past at some places that they give truckers priority over travelers (their reasoning: that not all hotels or motels will take truckers so they have a greater need for showers); be prepared for that, but not all that common. ASK, at Walmart, truck stops, etc. if you can sleep there for a while when you are purchasing a cup of coffee or gasoline, describe your car and tell them you are out on the road and are a danger to be on the road because you are so tired; but PURCHASE something when you ask. Asking, especially late at night those people have always said yes to me, and many have thanked me for asking (again, not abusing the privilege by just assuming it's okay). Night shift personnel are usually not the ones pushing for management positions; however, that's the time you can have a run in with an over zealous lot security guard, who can ruin your nights sleep.

 
At 4:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I noticed lately that there are some Walmarts and this is becoming more frequent with Walmarts where they are no longer allowing people to overnight it in their parking lots. Check via WiFi ahead of time if you are wanting to sleep there for the night. Generally it's the ones who are open all night long that allow people to use their parking lots, but even that isn't 100% all the time. I happened to notice this the last time we were out on the road (we sleep in our car a lot when traveling).

 
At 10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a truck driver - when we fuel, we have a card from the truck stop that we accumulate showers on - we get a free shower for every 50 gallons of fuel we put in our trucks. Since I drive with my husband, we both fuel and we share a shower - so we usually have several on our card saved up - all you have to do is ask around a few truckers If they have one on their card - most would have no problem giving you one of their extra ones.

 

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