I’m a kid again. And I owe it to Walmart.

And a crabby kid who needs a nap. Badly!

Well, that was fun!

In a non-fun kinda way!

Story short, I hit the road as this gypsy-nomad girl is wont to do. Has gotta do.

For me, it’s more than just the sweet music of the wheels goin’ round ‘n’ round. It’s complex. It’s therapy. It’s release. It’s my blood. My nature. The love of the road intertwines with every single part of me. Take away my mobility and freedom and I’m a dead girl. Or an entrapped one at the least.

So yesterday I answered the call of the road. Packed my Subaru with the bare essentials (got it down to a science) and a few extras for fickle weather. And hit the road with loose destinations in mind. Meaning everything’s subject to change as the wheels roll and I ride with the flow.

I travel alone and usually on the byways and backroads and into remote areas. Truly, the biggest challenge of any road trip is the research in locating free dispersed campsites — aka primitive sites, aka boondocking. That’s how I roll.

Such places are often out in the so-called middle of nowhere. Just learning of their existence, never mind location in the woods or wherever, is half the battle, if primitive/budget road travel be the project. Learning of their locations online, without assistance of proper boondocking or RV books and/or Forest Service Road maps, is very time consuming.

Anyhoo, that’s the setup. Yesterday I was a girl with a plan. (Which, trust me, isn’t always the case!)

The plan was to spend the day in the little historic mining town of Jerome (AZ), then head on to nearby Cottonwood and throw a tent and sleeping bag on the boondocking dirt at Thousand Trails.

Dusk is dropping — fast. I go into to my uber-organized road-trip goodies. Pull out the tent bag first. Unzip the bag. No tent.

Shiiiiiiit! I’ve got the rainfly and the stakes. A lotta good those’ll do!

Having just moved and not used my tent in about half a year, I forgot that the tent is separate. I know right where it is too! Neatly folded in its own bag and tucked inside my military green duffel bag. In the storage closet back home. Some 2 hours away!

Shit shit shit! In all my many, many road travels and adventures through the years, I’ve never forgotten an integral element of camping! Ever!

I weigh my options. Sleep in the car. No. Not gonna happen for various reasons.

Or sleep in the open air. Also no. Among needing my privacy, I also need the safety and separation from the world a tent provides. Moreso in a crowded boondocking site like this one.

I don my thinking cap. I passed through a town on the way in. Maybe there’s a Walmart? I type it into my car GPS. Bingo!

Some 5 miles up the road.

Dusk looms heavy. I hightail it down the dirt roads to get to Walmart, get the cheapest tent in stock, hightail it back and get the campsite set up before desert night drapes all in black!

It’s a Walmart Supercenter. If you’ve ever been to one, you don’t need me to tell you that you practically need a GPS (speaking of GPSs) to locate an item!

Bingo! I spot down the Sporting Goods section. Bingo! Tents!

But where are the tents?!?

The shelves are all but empty. Oh. It’s gotta be the nice weather and approaching spring.

All that’s left are two types of tents.

One holds 8 people.

The theres for kids. Two tykes side by side, as the illustration shows.

So a pricey 8-person tent. Or the cheapest kiddie tent. What choice have I got?!

I’ll tell you what choice I’ve got. Dinosaurs on hot pink or flowers on dark blue. I pick the latter as “less conspicuous” in the “wilds.”

With tent in hand — along with a can of beer and a McDonald’s coffee cuz it’s that kinda night — I pull back into the campsite JUST as dusk is surrounding to night.

The tent design sucks. I won’t go into how. Trust me, it sucks big time! This tent is NOT a keeper. It’s going back to Walmart when this trip’s done. For now, it’ll do. It’ll have to.

It’s dark. Between my night blindness and progressive lenses, which lose functionality at night, the Arizona desert sky and what moonlight?!, I’m groping around like that proverbial blind man learning an elephant by touch to singlehandedly erect a new tent and tweak the stakings.

Fortunately there’s no shortage of hammers They’re everywhere! They’re called rocks!

At last I get the kiddie tent up … my mat and sleeping bag unrolled. I do some journaling in the shallow light of a battery-operated lantern. Sip my beer. Enjoy the starry clear skies.

Then I call it a night around 8:30 p.m. It’s camping. What else do you do?!

Such was the plan.

I doze off maybe 10 minutes. When I awaken — at a guesstimated 9 p.m. — there I remain. All night long. Wide awake.

ALL NIGHT LONG.

One, I cannot get troubles out of my mind. Two, and most importantly, those online reviewers are wrong. Dead wrong. This place is not “quiet” like they wrote!

This place is noise ALL NIGHT LONG. From truckers, cars, motorcycles. It’s 1/4-mile away from a busy state road! And if you know anything about Nature’s acoustics, sounds are magnified and carried across spaces. Especially wide open spaces like canyons. And deserts. Duh.

So ALL NIGHT LONG I lay listening to the roar of traffic. On the move. From 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. I toss and turn. I wonder if I’ll sleep AT ALL. I’m at the start of a road trip. This is not a good beginning!

I refuse to look at my phone. I don’t wanna know the time.

Eventually, just as dawn is cracking, I doze off. And awaken early. It’s camping! What else do you do?!

Result: A guesstimated 2 hours of a light doze. During nearly 12 hours inside a kiddies’ tent. Bought on the fly at a store that just happened to be in the area! Walmart to the rescue!

Because of how I travel — i.e., often by the seat of my pants — I always favorite boondocking sites. Ya never know when I may pass this way again and need some dirt and some sleep.

Or “sleep” in the case of the Thousand Trails boondocking site near Cottonwood, AZ. Those reviewers are insane to call it quiet! I’ve but one suggestion to them: Get your hearing checked.

+ + +

Needless to say, I packed it up and rolled out there first thing this morning. Being this tired and whacked-out from no sleep is neither conducive to safe driving or observant travels.

Where I’ll sleep tonight, I’ve no idea. One things for certain. It won’t be on any reviewers’ assurance that the boondocking site is quiet!

+ + +

This comes to you from a coffeehouse in Flagstaff. Three espresso shots won’t cure what ails me today.

The clouds have rolled in, promising rain in a day or so. Best to travel eastward and stay ahead of the storm.

Most likely will end up in Winslow, Arizona. Yes, THAT Winslow, brought to fame by the Eagles:

“Well, I’m a-standing on a corner
in Winslow, Arizona
and such a fine sight to see
It’s a girl, my Lord, in a flatbed
Ford slowin’ down to take a look at me.”

Hope that girl won’t mind if I look back at her with one eye closed. ‘Cause me, well, I’ll be a-sleeping on a corner, standing up, in Winslow, Arizona …”

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