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CAMPING IN SUBURBIA PEEK INTO THE CULTURE BEYOND THE CARTS AT MEGASTORE
Central Park Wal-Mart parking lot gives through-traveling RVers a place to sleep for the night

 Kathy and Joe Handerhan wheel a shopping cart through the Cental Park Wal-Mart's parking lot on their way into the store. The happy campers try to be helpful by picking up trash and carts.
Photos by REBECCA SELL/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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Date published: 11/12/2006

By LAURA MOYER

The first two RVs roll into the parking lot about 3:30 on a fall afternoon. The occupants get out, chat with each other and take a bloodhound for a walk.

A few minutes later, another RV shows up, a 37-footer with popout kitchen.

This night, they'll call the parking lot of Fredericksburg's Central Park Wal-Mart home.

Jim Pollard and a toy poodle named Bailey emerge from the 37-footer with a tennis ball, which Bailey chases and drools on tirelessly.

Bailey is a conversational ice-breaker, so Pollard is never surprised when someone comes up to chat when he parks his RV--even on this day, when it is a reporter and photographer doing a story about RVing in a Wal-Mart parking lot.

Pollard, wife Cathy and Bailey are heading from their home in Ontario, Canada, to Myrtle Beach, S.C., where they vacation for a month each fall.

It is their second full day of driving, and the Pollards have only just survived the rush-hour crawl from Washington to Fredericksburg.

This morning, they awakened at their first overnight stop, a Wal-Mart parking lot in Erie, Pa. Four hundred miles later, here they are.

They're contented partakers of what Jim Pollard calls "the Wal-Mart RV culture," an informal community of travelers who take advantage of the chain store's ample, lighted parking lots instead of paying to park overnight in commercial RV campgrounds.

Wal-Marts across the country generally allow overnight RV stays except where local ordinances prohibit it, company spokeswoman Jami Arms said via e-mail.

The parking lots offer no water or electrical hookups, of course, but the Pollards and other RVers say pretty much everything else they might want is close at hand when they're parked at a Wal-Mart.

In turn, the RVers make cash registers beep.

At the Wal-Mart stop in Erie, Cathy Pollard says, she spent about $75 on groceries and other necessities for the trip.

She plans to spend another $30 or so at the Fredericksburg Supercenter; Jim Pollard figures he'll buy a couple hundred dollars' worth of gas.

Not every Wal-Mart allows RV parking overnight, the Pollards say. When they pull into a lot and see a "no overnight parking" sign, they pull right back out.


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