“Boondocking”- a cute moniker for squatting somewhere for free and the ultimate end-goal in cheap, alternative, living. When we first took to the road, we were keen to take advantage of our solar paneled, composting toilet equipped, self-contained camper and duck “off-the-grid” for as much free boondocking as possible. And then, reality set-in.
Most of the land in the U.S. where you can dry camp for free (boondock) is sectioned off into parcels of land managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The vast majority of BLM land is found in the Western half of the U.S. and most is located in remote sections of the country, far from major towns, amenities, and most crucially, cell phone towers. We have done some boondocking on BLM land throughout our travels, but have to limit it to weekends, if at all, because Cay is a full-time remote worker and our idea of “off-grid” must always include internet connectivity. Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) land is often a better option, as it is frequently located near major roadways and towns, and thus cell towers. Also, it is more likely to have some basic amenities not found on BLM land, such as vault toilets. However, ORV land is more scarce, and those that permit boondocking, more so. Then there is the Walmart/ Cabela’s/ Home Depot category, which is a good option if you want to knock-out some shopping errands along with your free overnight accommodations. Lastly, for a small membership fee, you can boondock via the HarvestHosts network highlighted in this prior piece. However, the ultimate “on-grid” boondocking, for our purposes, are casinos.
We discovered early on through chat forums and sites like Campendium, that casinos were a boondocking option. This has worked out well because they are often situated along major roadways, are safe, and become an instant date night interlude to break-up our travel between destinations. Activities, in addition to gaming, vary but may include dining, bars, movie theaters, shopping, and live entertainment. Most operate 24 hours a day, removing the stress of arriving at a particular time.
Another aspect that has made casino boondocking desirable for us is that casinos often have free Wi-Fi, which may stretch into the far reaches of their parking lot. Safety is often a concern with any boondocking, and casinos feel like a safe bet as their parking lots tend to be well lit, have numerous security cameras, and employ security patrol cars that circulate throughout the night. Not to mention the safety in numbers effect, as campers and RVs are clustered into a designated section of the parking lot (normally the far corners, for obvious reasons).
Back to the date night point. We have come to look forward to casino boondocking as an impromptu “night out”. Neither of us gamble, but we always make it a point to support the business we are boondocked at, so staying at a casino is an excuse to go out to eat, grab a drink, catch a movie, or even see a live show, depending on what the casino offers.
Our first boondocking experience was at the Seven Feathers Casino in Canyonville, OR. We stayed there one Tuesday evening and the next morning awoke to find that a farmer’s market full of local goods had sprung up around us in the parking lot. Instant shopping and breakfast at our feet! Since then, we have stayed at several other casinos and we’ve enjoyed a movie night at the sprawling complex that is the Wild Horse Casino in Pendleton, OR, caught live musical performances at the CasaBlanca casino in Mesquite, NV, and ogled at the “Las Vegas-esque” interiors of the Casino del Sol in Tucson, AZ. Each one offering a fun, safe, space to boondock for the night and entertainment at our bumperstep!
Finding a casino is a combination of checking GoogleMaps to see what is close to our route and cross-referencing with other helpful sites, like Campendium, FreeCampsites, and Allstays. I always call ahead to confirm that overnight parking is allowed (no one wants a knock at 2am with a verbal eviction notice!) and check-in with security when we arrive, if needed. In many instances, we have discovered that we are welcome to stay for up to 72 hours, but so far, we have only stayed for single night durations. And here is a kicker, not only do many casinos permit RVs to stay overnight, they encourage it, and your gambling, by providing shuttles to bus passengers right to the casino door.
In the world of boondocking, casinos don’t get as much mention, especially when it is much more hip to “Bear Grylls” it out in the wilderness, but for those of us who need to be connected (or just want some urban flair), casinos are a great option with adult playgrounds!