The trip from Key West to Ocracoke took three days. We left on Tuesday morning from a rather unsettling and disorienting first night in the van. We couldn’t get our bearings and seemed a little confused while gathering the remainder of our belongings so we decided, “To hell with it. Let’s just get going.” So with that attitude we drove out of our southernmost island and began the journey.
We stopped in Key Largo to have the sprinter van checked. Bruce knew of a Mercedes repair shop and arranged for the mechanic to take a peak under the hood before we began our 9,000-mile journey. He filled our transmission fluid (something hard to do without the help of a mechanic) and replaced a few hoses. The stop took much longer than we expected, and so it was past 5 pm when we finally hit the road again.
We made it to Boca Raton before a massive rainstorm forced us to call it a night. We pulled of the turnpike and parked in the first parking lot around. We put the window shields in, turned out the lights and fell asleep with rain beating on our tin storage unit that we call home.
Around midnight we heard a knock on the van. Bruce opened the door and was greeted by a security guard. “This is private property.”
“Well it was raining so hard we just had to pull off the road,” Bruce told the man. “Our daughter fell asleep in her crib and so we had to call it a night.”
“OK, OK,” He said with a thick Bahamian accent. “No problem. I will tell the other security guards.”
Even though our van blends right into a parking lot full of cars – one of the benefits of having a sprinter van and not an RV or a westfalia – we are a dead give away because of the running engine. Diesel motors are able to run continuously without fail, and we do this regularly to keep the air conditioning going. So, just a few hours later, we received another knock. This time it was two police officers. Bruce told the the spiel again and they also let us stay sleeping.
From there we knew we had to be a bit more selective. The next night, after a monster 7 hours on the road (No small feat with a toddler), we found a truck stop and pulled alongside massive 18-wheelers. We luckily spent the night undisturbed, used clean and convenient toilets in the morning, and even prepared coffee and breakfast in the back parking lot of a nearby Harbor Freight Tool shop. Another night we enjoyed the quiet and security of a Walmart parking lot.
Stealth camping has been going well so far. We stop multiple times throughout the day at rest stops or state parks. Summer and Bonnie run around for a few hours while we cook dinner and hose off. It’s a slower pace, but one that is more comfortable. By the time we arrived in Ocracoke, North Carolina 3 days later, we were ready for a shower and some laundry, but not exactly travel weary. Our nights are restful and convenient, and so far our wallets are happy too.