Single Man Endures Cold Showers for Adventure

As I am sitting here in my bus, in the air conditioned bedroom, on my queen mattress, jamming out to Bob Dylan, running my little fridge and charging this laptop, I figured I could write a bit about what it takes to keep the interior of a Skoolie powered along the highways of America.

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I quickly came to realize there are a lot of highways throughout America, but I was not able to properly power the bus for many of those miles.
Ill post all the specifics and particulars about all the parts that were used in the conversion in a separate detailed post, but in this article ill try and keep it simple.

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To give you a better picture of my electric needs, I consider myself an outdoors-man. Trekking through the Appalachian Mountains, mountaineering, kayaking, camping, those all require very little electricity and power usage. I’m perfectly OK with that environment. Wet wipes. Simple meals. Pooping in interesting places. So in terms of that, I am living luxuriously on the bus. I always have light. Running water (although not usually hot). I am able to charge my Bluetooth speaker, iPod, and other devices. I have a toilet, a camp stove for cooking fabulous meals, and the ability to (sometimes) use my air conditioning.

So clearly, my electricity needs are different from others. I am a single guy, who bends the rules on cleanliness by a few days, so frequent hot showers become unnecessary. I do not bake, or cook fancy meals. I do not use an electric razor, coffee machine, microwave or television.

But even without all those energy suckers, I simply did not have enough power.

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The basics of my system:

I have 200 watt solar panels, which charge 4 6-volt golf batteries, which power the interior. These are separate batteries from the 3 that run the motor. I also have an isolator on the alternator, which charges all 7 batteries while the engine is running. I knew that 200 watts would not be enough, and it turned out to be entirely true. Someone told me that as a rule of thumb, you should have one 100 watt panel per battery. I would need at a minimum 200 more watts for my 4 batteries. I definitely need more solar and more batteries.

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In short, the batteries drained too fast, and were unable to always be fully charged. What that meant for me was, anything that needed a lot of power really fast, like the space heater, the hot plate, the water heater, I was unable to use those if I was not plugged in at a campground. So anytime I was off-grid, or parked along a street, I would have to take cold water showers, use my gas camp stove instead of my appliance hot plate, and simply put on more clothing to stay warm. The air conditioner has an energy saving mode, and if the batteries were fully charged, I would be able to comfortably use it. Otherwise, I was sweating like a pig in the 100+ degree Nevada/California weather. I usually did not keep anything in my mini fridge, in fear of not having enough power to keep it cold. I mostly snacked and ate less perishable items.

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Clearly, this is not reasonable to most people, especially families. When I am plugged in to power at an RV Campsite, the bus is the perfect tiny home. Warm showers, hot cooked meal, the electric fireplace is on. But to have that experience on the road, I would need to make a few changes. I am thinking about buying higher quality batteries. These were on the lower end of the price range. Also, I need a lot more solar power. Serious Skoolie owners, with their job related to their bus, usually have over 1000 watts of solar, and 8 or more batteries. All my appliances are energy efficient, so there is nothing to really change there.

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The whole point of this Bus Life is to downsize and live small. In the last few months I have been able to accomplish that. Ive adapted my life to live in a 189sq ft bus. I may not always have enough power, but ill take that any day, in order to be able to call the road my home.

Thanks for stopping by 🙂

 

 

 

 

Have a good one

Living in the Bus has allowed me plenty of time to be creative, to sit alone in my thoughts, listen to music, and write. I cannot wait until I can say that I am a writer. Its what I would love to spend my life doing. I never realized it was a passion of mine, until 2009 when I kept a journal of my Appalachian Trail hike. I wrote for most of the journey, and enjoyed it. Ive been keeping a journal of some sort on and off since then. In High School and College I dreaded starting papers, but once I was writing, I ended up with papers much longer than the requirement. I remember writing a paper about German Expressionism in Film, and the paper was supposed to be 13 pages. When I first read/heard about the assignment, I probably thought I should drop this German film class, that’s highly not do able. When I got into writing it, I believe I came out to 16 pages, with really not much material to cut. I really enjoyed the writing part. Not the idea of starting, not the idea of all the writing. Not the actual start of the writing process. The editing and revision was pretty fun, I don’t mind it that much. But the writing. Researching. I did enjoy all that.

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Anyhow, the past week I only left the bus a few times, for some work at the Bonsai Nursery, Goodwill shopping for neat little recycled arts and crafts. I have had plenty of opportunity to spend with myself, reading, writing, creating. Thinking and imagining. Hypothesizing. I would love to be a writer.

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One of the things that I have been thinking about for a long time, is these silly little things we say without even thinking about it.
Have a good day.
Have a good one.

Have a good day. I know its a nice gesture, and it shows something. It definitely comes in very useful in the Customer Service sector. But I don’t know what it truly brings across. Its a natural reaction at this point. Its almost an afterthought. It doesn’t mean anything. Some people are super enthusiastic when they say it, and I am sure they mean it. They want you to be so excited and happy and have the best day of your life. And its cool. Its awesome. If you’re excited and you mean it. You are genuine about it. Immediately after someone says “Have a good day,” the “you too” response comes too quick, without really listening. Its an automatic response to an automatic response almost.

Have a good one. You too.
A good one what? Im not even quite sure what it means?

Be genuine about what you say during your interactions. Or don’t say it. I have been wanting to use “Make it a great day” more. You are actively involved in making a better day. You’re not “having” some inherited experience, undergoing some transformation. You are making it a great day. Constructing. Creating. To cause happiness and positivity to exist and come about.

We are part of an overwhelming culture of “have a good one.” Not as creative as we could be in our daily interactions. Most people never create. That is not a curriculum taught or allowed in school anymore. They just do. Don’t think. Go on now, break your back for the next some odd 40 years and then retire with your 401k and none of your health. See you later. Yeah, have a good one. Thanks, you too.

You probably wont see that person later. Yeah, have a good one. A good one what? I am assuming day? Have a good day? You can’t tell me that? Cool man, thanks. You too. I wish you the same questionable nice gesture.

Anyhow, we can do better than that! Why don’t we upgrade the little words and sayings we use most often. Something that small could have a huge impact. In the way we think, the way we interact. The little social slices of our daily life. There are many of them. Let’s improve just a tiny bit of those little moments. Ive been thinking of saying “Make it a positive day.” We could use conscious, or mindful instead of positive. But I feel that’s not as generally applicable/acceptable everywhere. Everyone knows what positive is. There is positive and negative. 1. 0. Dead or alive. Great has no measure. It’s an amount above normal or average. What is normal? What’s a normal day, and what would make it great? It has nothing to offer. Having a positive day, I would assume that most everyone generally has an idea of what a positive day is compared to a negative one.

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Make it a positive day. Even saying Make it a great day. Make it a good day is giving yourself and the other person more value than Have a great day. If you don’t have it, it wont be great. But if you actively participate and MAKE it great, there’s something there. You took part in the creation of a better moment.

Lets actively participate in having better moments.
Make it a positive day everyone,
Skoolie Love

Dumping the poop tank :(

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At some point or another, if you have a home on wheels, you will have to deal with your waste. Many people are choosing compost toilets over standard flush toilets, and that’s awesome. Its something that I considered, but since we were plumbing water anyway, we decided to install an RV flush toilet. My dad and I chose to go with a single 32 gallon waste tank, to hold the black water, which is your personal waste, as well as the gray water, which consists of your shower and sink water.

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On the nearly 3 month road trip through 30 states, getting rid of the waste tank, also known as dumping, was not as much of an issue as I thought it would be. But when I couldn’t find a dump station, it became a bit of a problem.

I didn’t spend much time at campgrounds with a full hook up (water, sewer, electric) but when I did, that became my opportunity to shower, cook bigger meals and be able to wash all the dishes as well as making sure that the plumbing is all flushed through. When I was on the road, I used an app to find dump stations. The app seems to be a little older, and wasn’t very accurate. I would get to the gas station that was listed as a dump station, and they don’t offer that service any longer. I would drive out of my way to get to a rest stop that was listed on the app, just to pull in to read the sign “No Dumping Available at this Rest Site.” So I kept looking and driving.

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On the 2 or 3 times when I really needed to dump, I considered going to a campground just to dump, or ask if they wouldn’t mind if I used their facility. At one point I was willing to pay the daily fee at a campground just to be able to dump the tank. The odor from the tank crept into the bus, and I just didn’t want anything to spill in through the plumbing. This was when I kept water use to a minimum on the bus. I would use facilities whenever I would stop. Basically, really needed to dump the tank.

I don’t have meters installed on the tank, so I kind of have to remember how many times I have showered, done the dishes, gone to the bathroom, and so forth. I only have that 32 gallon combined tank, but a 40 gallon fresh water tank. There is a bit of an odor that comes out of the vent when it’s getting full. I haven’t had any spillage issues whatsoever. There was only 1 time that I paid for dumping, and it was $10 at a gas station. I was kind of ticked off that I came here, to pay $10 when its free at several rest stops in a couple states and other places. But! Right across the street was an International Truck Repair and Sales. I needed a new filter for a leak that I was having, and because the app finally lead me to this gas station, I was able to take care of the engine at the same time. Worked out perfect.

Parked at my friend’s house, I bought myself a 32 gallon travel dump tank, so that the bus can remain parked, and I take the portable tank to get dumped. Pulling around 32 gallons of waste water is quite a workout in itself. Perhaps ill create an e-book on staying fit by keeping a Skoolie road worthy and free of poop.

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Make it a great day 🙂

Florida is my home yet again. And its wonderful.

I lived in Florida for 16 years, and was extremely excited when I was finally ready and able to leave for Seattle, Washington. I told myself that I would not move back to Florida ever, if not for a long time. Fast forward to the other night, where I began writing this blog, from Florida. It’s for a really great reason though.

Moving back to Florida is allowing me to spend some time with my closest friends. They recently bought their house, and one of the prerequisites was that it was big enough for my bus to park comfortably. So for the 11 days, I have been parking in their driveway, in the middle of nowhere Florida. It’s starting to get cooler, which I cannot wait for. When I left on the road trip, Vegas was super hot. Then California was a little less super hot. Washington was hot. I followed heat all the way to Colorado, then I froze my butt off the first night in New York. Then it was hot all the way down the east coast. So basically, for the entire road trip, I knowingly yet as unplanned as it was, followed the heat up and across America. I don’t actually love it when the inside of the bus is over 100 degrees. But, it’s all worth it at the end of the day. I have no rent to pay, no mortgage, and a home where ever I am.

Its been a little different the past week, not having driven the bus at all. This past week has been a total immersion into my friend’s life. I have done things I never thought of ever doing or being able to do. On Sunday, we went to Hornsby Springs near Gainesville, Florida and we were researching the turtle population at the spring. They have been declining the past few years. Never thought I would be holding so many different species of turtles and finding out their claw sizes, the age marks they get on their underside, which is like the idea of counting rings on a tree. It was a truly amazing experience to be able to number and study the turtles.

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I’ve also been heavily involved in the local Bonsai culture. It’s amazing to meet the people who, year after year, tend to these tiny trees. They have a desire to understand more about these wonderful gifts from nature. They truly share a bond I have never seen. Keeping a tree styled, trimmed, healthy and looking beautiful takes quite a bit of work and effort. It also takes a lot of patience, and lots of time. But from what I have learned from the smiles on people’s faces, and the stories of how and when they got their first tree, it truly is time well spent. These Bonsai trees are living, ever-changing works of art. DSC_0163

I really love the bus and what it has allowed me to do. I am especially happy of the fact that I have the chance to meet people who love what they do, and are leading lives filled with love and passion. They love their life and what they do, and want to share that love, passion and excitement with people. It’s a beautiful thing, to love how you spend your time.

What are you passionate about?

Parked outside your friends house

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One thing I have noticed living the bus life, sometimes its questionable when or when not to hang out with someone. Especially when you are parked on the street outside of their house or apartment.

I’m currently parked in my friends driveway, and will be until March. So when I am on the bus, I am home. This is my place of residence. The bus is my tiny home. I cook here, I sleep here, I write and work here. It’s not unlike being in your apartment, this is your domain. Mine just happens to be very close to my friends.

Sometimes I feel that I am being rude when I want to go home, or simply want to stay home. I don’t want to send the wrong message. It’s a hard balance because I am in their driveway. They still see me, even if I or we don’t want to necessarily hang that day. And I don’t want to come across as anti-social either, but I need quite a bit of alone time now and again. Recharge my batteries. Its different when you live further away, there would be an understanding that it would be a bit of an effort to come over. Here, it’s basically just walking outside. So I have to work on finding a balance to where I get some alone time, but spend as much time with my friends as possible.

The cool thing about having my tiny home parked at my friend’s house, is I never have to worry about getting home. No traffic, not being worried about being too tired, etc. I really have the maximum time with my friends, and then I just walk outside and go home. It’s a thing of beauty.

Bus Life is real enough for me.

What’s SkoolieLove all about?

Canadians on my home.

     “And if I die in Raleigh, at least I will die free!” My new Canadian friends had started an impromptu karaoke session for “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show. We were singing and dancing on the roof-deck on my converted school bus, overlooking Ralph Wilson Stadium off in the distance. This was the second night being parked here, and the only reason I had this experience happened because two people were curious about the bus. They decided they wanted to find out what the bus is all about, and knocked on the door. What is  a blue school bus with the license plate SKOOLIE, doing at the Bills camper parking lot?

Welcome to the Bus Life.

For the past few months, I have been living in a 1990 School Bus. Picked up the bus, nicknamed Big Blue, in Long Beach California on March 18. Drove it to Vegas where my parents live, and started converting it into a tiny motor home at the beginning of May. My dad and I did all the work ourselves, sourcing mainly Home Depot and Amazon.

Since August of 2015, I have covered nearly 10,000 miles through 30 states on the highways and byways of this beautiful country. The road trip started in Las Vegas, headed over to California, then continued up the West Coast to Seattle. From there I drove quite a few miles to Fort Collins, Colorado and over to Buffalo, New York. From there I had a few spots I visited in Boston, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. I celebrated in Rhode Island, as that was the last of the 50 states I needed to visit. It had been a goal of mine for the past few years, to see all of the 50 states. Done. Next! I then headed to Arkansas, and now my home is a driveway at a house in Ocala, Florida.

So whats Skoolielove all about?

Skoolielove came about the beginning of March of this year. It’s the lifestyle that I want to live. I want to live fully on a bus, and make that my life. The road trip that I just took is over, now its on to living in a bus while parked. Figuring out how to make money, and function in society while  living in a small space. Skoolie is a nickname/slang for Converted School Bus, taking a school bus and converting it into a tiny motor home. Love is about spreading positivity, being compassionate, and caring about yourself and the world around you. You matter. Your actions matter. Being conscious of what you do, what you say, how you act, how you behave, and what impact your mood and attitude has on your life. As well as the impact on the Earth we all share. I felt like downsizing my home and the amount of stuff I have, while living on a school bus, would allow me to figure out what i’m looking for. I may have found it.

As a philosopher once said, “Life is a Highway, I want to ride it all night long.”
I don’t actually enjoy driving at night, its blinding and nerve-wracking. But yes, my life currently is a highway.

Living on the bus has been exactly what I was looking for.

I hand washed most of my laundry. I listened to more music, and wrote more than ever in my life. I went wine tasting in the hills of Santa Barbara, hiked in the Rocky Mountains, met friends in Boston and ate home-made pizza and drank local beer, jammed out to Tom Petty at the Niagara Falls with my best friend. I met moms, dads, brothers, old people, young people. Students, teachers, construction workers, bus drivers. You name it. People from all walks of life, in some of the coolest places America has to offer.

I ate a lot less meat. I stopped using plastic bags from grocery store purchases. Used less water and electricity than I would in a regular home. I do not have a television on the bus. I ate healthy, bus cooked meals. In general I consumed less, but more on that in other entries.

At the end of the day, after all the miles driven, the sights and the sounds of everyday life on the road, its nice to be home. I look into the rear view mirror, and there is all my stuff, my tiny bus home. It’s nice to finally have place that I can call home. I have moved over 20 times since I was born, and I feel like in the bus, I came home. It’s a wonderful feeling. It’s only a small 189 sq ft, but its plenty enough for me. It allows me to live more.

Since my home is mobile, I get the rare opportunity to be home where ever I park. I’m home in the State Parks of Colorado, the streets of Rochester, the rest stops in Wyoming, Connecticut, Virginia. The lots in South Dakota. The scenery changes, but my home is always with me. I can head to the bedroom, close all the curtains, turn on the A/C and I am comfortable in familiar surroundings.

This journey, my new bus life, is a journey about less. Using fewer resources, wasting less. But also more. Listen more to people, music, and nature. Also find out what I am all about. It is a journey to figure out what I want for my future, but more importantly, to live more in the moment. Its a journey to explore America. Its big cities, and its little towns. Meet the everyday person. Meet the special, extraordinary people. Most of all, experience. Life is experience, and I very much fee alive. This blog will be about all that. Write about Bus Life and for all that it is, and isn’t. The building, upkeep, and life in a 189 sq foot blue school bus.

Join me on this Journey.

Patrick

Bus Life: Parking

One of the many parking spots.

Parking was by far one of the bigger challenges on the road trip. When I left my parents house in Vegas on August 15, I had no idea where I would be spending the night. Somewhere in Santa Barbara, but I was definitely worried. The friend that I was visiting lives in a house in the hills, and there was no way that my 35ft school bus would fit around all those treacherous curves and switchbacks. So along the way, having trouble finding diesel, I stopped along the road, to google some campgrounds. Found two campgrounds and made some calls.

It was still prime time weather in Santa Barbara, and it didnt help it was saturday night. To that end, I landed at the Rancho Oso campground. It was pricey at $60 per night, but I parked there for a few nights. Right off the bat, I was off to a great learning experience. Not to worry about parking so much, as I had found a great place in the hills, with shooting stars, and pot luck dinners with the random people around me. I got to feed horses, and everyone was so exciting and loving on the bus. It all worked out better than perfect. This is the life for me.

However, parking does require some trial and error, reading signs, and trusting your gut. And at times, you have to spend a little more money.
Obviously, I stand out. I’m rolling around your towns and cities in a light blue School Bus, with a wooden roof rack carrying a kayak. There are curtains and an AC unit in the back. License plate “SKOOLIE.” Something is happening in there. This is cool. Different. As one guy put it “Oh, you’re the bus man?! We were all wanting to know what that guy is all about!” So where ever I park, I have to be conscious and aware of the fact some people might come knocking on my door, to see it and ask questions. But if anything else, they’ll remember you standing or being parked somewhere for a long time.

Rancho Oso, Santa Barbara, California.
In the 30 state road trip, 121 miles short of 10,000 miles driven, I mostly stuck to Rest Stops along the highways when I was actually moving from one place from another. In Seattle I parked in one of the northern neighborhoods, along the street. I had to fold in the drivers site mirror for clearance to the road. In Boston, I had my home parked across the street of a park in marked street parking. In Fort Collins, near my friends apartment, I parked by the school across the street, which was street parking for the apartments. Ive parked the bus in the smaller cities and towns quite a few times, never an issue.
However, READ THE SIGNS! In Boston the issue became street cleaning. I was there Monday night, and Tuesdays they have street cleaners come through. One side is every 2nd and 4th Tuesday, the side I was on was every 1st and 3rd Tuesday. In Buffalo, it became an issue of not being able to park along the neighborhood streets from 7pm to 6pm the next day. Be mindful of fire hydrants, loading areas, and any other hazards or places you might be asked to move. I have also come to realize that a 35ft school bus is not designed for downtown areas.

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Also, not all the Interstate Highway Rest Stop areas are the same. Heading West on Interstate 40 into Tennessee, it was getting late and I just really wanted to park, eat and relax. Now, when I say late, this is adventure/bus time. Wake up early with the sun (The sky’s awake, so i’m awake!) So late was maybe 8 or 9pm, but the sun had already set. So I got to the Visitor Center rest stop, and it was a strictly enforced, 2 hour parking minimum. So I drove to the next one, which had a huge area for parking. No visible signs anywhere. Some of the signs posted near the entrances to some of the stops say there is no camping, and no overnight parking. Make sure to follow all posted signs. There are a lot of people on the road, and its a nice thing to know that if you’re on a highway, you will be able to find refuge somewhere for a few hours at night.

Rest Stops on the same highways, but through different states, are also different. Some have huge lots for a separation of campers and truckers. Most allow idling engines, so you have to listen to that all night. Others don’t allow it, so those are nice. You don’t ever quite know what you will come across. There were times I rolled in at 7 pm, and did not leave until 10am or so. I don’t say this as a recommendation, but I was never talked to.

Signs are confusing. Some say “No Camping.” So I thought, well, cant park here. Not necessarily what the sign means. Camping to me, means a tent or something on or near the ground. You don’t camp in a trailer, bus, or van. You are parking. It does, however, mean that people traveling and living in tiny homes, dont bring out your lawn chairs, pee outside, set up your grill, etc. You get in at night, park for a few hours/overnight and then you’re gone. You are not setting up “Camp.” So, doing some research and reading peoples articles and posts from long term RV’ers, and seeing all these signs myself, you want to look for the “Strictly enforced” “No overnight parking” and most definitely, always “No Parking.”

I parked at bigger store lots, such as Wal-Mart and Lowes or Home Depot for a couple hours during the day, but never overnight at any of them. Wal-Mart has a reputation for allowing Tiny Home/Home on Wheels to park in their lots overnight. Many of the ones I drove by, or pulled into, had signs for “NO Overnight or Extended parking.” Some said “NO unauthorized parking by trucks, campers or RV’s.”  There are sites that list all the Wal-Marts and if they allow overnight parking or not. I chose to be more on the road and be at rest stops, than park in those lots. I wanted a different experience, in the cities, in the woods.

Some of my favorite parking/campsite/homeishwereyouparkit I randomly found, either by driving around, or through an app I came across, which links to http://www.freecampsites.net
The site linked me to a really gorgeous spot, some sort of California State Recreation Area. It was a bit off the path, windy sand roads through the trees, and then coming up into magnificent views of the local hills and landscape. Sunsets, sunrises. Free. Solar panels providing the little energy I need.

I found a spot just off the local highway in Virginia. Pulled into the lot, did not see any signs. There was a commercial house building of some sort, the interior was not finished, but it wasn’t a construction site. Anyhow, I backed in, parked around 4pm that day. I’m pretty much always ready to move, if not within 15-20 minutes, so if someone comes and asks me to leave, I will gladly do that. So, there is always a bit of an uneasy feeling. Worried that you might have to find another spot. So, some nights, it was a bit hard to relax.

The next day, a cop pulls in as I was eating dinner. I had planned to stay another night, since I was just standing there, and I wasnt able to talk to anyone about it. So he talks to me about the area, asks for my ID, and just asked me kindly if I would’nt mind moving. I left within 15 minutes to a rest stop a bit down the highway. The only other run in I had with police, was in New York at my friends Grandmas house. One of the neighbors just wanted to make sure she was aware there is a 35ft Blue School Bus in her driveway.

In Santa Barbara, CA, Leavenworth, WA, Erie, NY Hot Springs, AK I paid for campgrounds, usually KOA’s. There is usually WiFi, you can do laundry, and they’re clean. I’m not usually  a fan of these campgrounds, Id rather be somewhere further away from people and not just in a lot somewhere, as was the case in Seattle. I was literally on a rock lot, with metal fences, in the middle of a busy city. But that was the only thing in that area, and it was fairly cheap. So, unless there are things I need to take care of, like fully charge the house batteries, hot shower with the ability to dump the black water tank, laundry, etc, I try to find free things along the highways and the cities.

The ABSOLUTE sweetest spot was in Aurora, Nebraska. Site with maybe 10 RV back in sites. FREE electric, water and dump station. 3-4 night maximum. That was the coolest place. There are spots all over the US that are hidden and a real treasure when you find them. Word of mouth, through internet research, etc. I quickly lost all the initial worry that I had. I would find parking somewhere. The last night before I entered Florida, I pulled off a less busy road and got as far into the grass as I could. I was on a slant and did not sleep well. But It had been dark for a while, raining, and I had been on the road for 11 hours. I needed to pull over. If parking in a lot somewhere, you might be asked to move at some point. Which is alright if you are tired, at least you aren’t driving on the road, frantic, nervous, in fear. Simply pull over. You will always find somewhere to park.
In Summary:
Take someone with you. You drive, and they worry about researching and navigating.
You will always find a place to park.
No Camping does not mean No overnight Parking
Google where ever you are “This city/area free camping”
Rest Areas are great for stopping, not very good for getting a good nights rest
Waterfront property.