Thursday, November 12, 2009

Picky about our Wal-Marts

We are at the Wal-Mart in Lake City, Florida (map).

Yesterday morning we heard from our friend Charles the air traffic controller that he had arranged a tour for us at 1pm. Knowing it was a good forty minutes away, and we'd have to park and pull the scooters out, we started packing up the bus for travel right at noon.

Just as I was starting my walk-around, one of our readers pulled up and walked over to me. Apparently, he had also stopped by the afternoon before, when we were out getting our massages. I felt bad that we did not have the time to linger and talk, considering that up to that moment, it had been a lazy day in the parking lot. If I got it right, he is converting an Eagle; it was nice to meet, as brief as it was.

We drove most of the way to Hilliard and parked Odyssey at the Winn-Dixie supermarket south of town. We were already a bit behind at that point, so we only took out one scooter and rode up to ZJX two-up. While our drive up in the bus was pleasant and sunny, as luck would have it, the rain (from Ida) started just as we rode the last mile to the facility. Oh well.

After a screening not unlike what is required to board an airplane (I had to leave my Leatherman in the bike, and we had to clear through metal detectors), we passed through security and Charles met us at the gatehouse. He gave us a most excellent tour lasting nearly two hours, which included some time sitting at a scope and listening in to the communications with the aircraft, a visit with the National Weather Service forecasters, and even a tour of the massive computer complex that makes it all work (he knows we are total geeks). Thanks, Charles!

By the time we got the scooter stowed and started rolling back south, it was past 3pm. We were out of water, and so we stopped at a truck stop in Baldwin to put some in, making it past 4pm by the time we were rolling west. Also, the skies were very dark from the massive cloud cover Ida brought with her. We decided to make it a short day and stop early, rather than try to make it all the way to the Suwannee.

Our GPS and guide both said there was a Wal-Mart in Macclenny, and the map showed several restaurants nearby. When we rolled up, though, we found the store had moved. There were no other services near the new location, and I did not feel like cooking in the parking lot, so we pressed on to this location. We tried to have dinner at Applebees, a block away, but they were running a promotion for Veterans Day and the wait was 45 minutes. We ended up at Texas Road house a few doors down, where we waltzed right in.

In a few minutes we will pull up stakes and head over to the Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park, and get settled in for the weekend.

Photo by US Army Korea - IMCOM, used under a Creative Commons license.


  1. You might give a try. It's the only user verified and moderated accounting of parking conditions at WalMart and elsewhere. Not only yes/no/maybe parking information (with addresses, phone, and GPS) but also obstacles like overhead bars and tight curbing. The Maccleany, FL (new) location is verified (latest info Nov2008) as a yes parking location. Yes the site is some $20/year (you earn 2 free weeks for every report you personally submit) but when you positively have to know the parking conditions at a WalMart or similar location before arrival, it is your only true source for actual reports. As an avid WalMarter I've paid only once and keep earning new/confirming report time extension credits!

  2. @Anonymous: OK, I have to confess here that my first impulse upon reading this comment was to simply delete it, because it has all the hallmarks of being posted by Jim O'Briant, the owner of the web site you've linked. And, Jim, if this is you, be advised that advertising your site here is not appropriate and not welcome, so please cease and desist.

    Assuming, however, that this is an innocent comment by one of our many like-minded readers, let me say that, yes, I am thoroughly familiar with the site you mentioned, and I subscribed to that site back when it was mostly a user-driven forum that was free to all.

    Unfortunateley, Mr. O'Briant chose to become mercenary about the site, which is his prerogative as the founding moderator. However, myself and many other former subscribers were very unhappy with the bait-and-switch nature of the sudden conversion of the forum to a for-profit enterprise, especially considering the fact that the underlying content had been freely provided by the very users that were being asked to fund Mr. O'Briant's little venture.

    Things were made much worse by Mr. O'Briant's advertising tactics, opening user accounts under pseudonyms on many RV-related forums to post glowing recommendations for the site, in order to boost revenue. He has been effective banned in several places for this behavior.

    I might point out, BTW, that the statement "t's the only user verified and moderated accounting of parking conditions at WalMart ..." is incorrect (or perhaps disingenuous), as there is, in fact, a completely free forum, founded and moderated by other disgruntled former subscribers to Jim's site, that does exactly this,

    So I will say that, for myself personally, I see little benefit in participating in Mr. O'Briant's little retirement fund, when most of the information is available for free elsewhere, and I certainly do not want to support someone who uses "spam" as a marketing tactic.

  3. No, I'm not Jim. I am sorry to have hit a nerve. My only point is that the difference in accuracy, completeness, and quality between the myriad of free sites (the Yahoo-group included) and the paid site is more than significant. Again, sorry to raise a hackle here, not my intent. Nor is my intent to bash the current Yahoo-group, or Jim, you, or anyone. I simply point out that whatever (implied "free") sources you used gave poor/incomplete information about the Macclenny, FL location which the paid site nailed precisely. The adage, you get what you pay would seem to prevail. Yes, I am very familiar with the entire Yahoo-group debacle. For me, I rely on being able to park my 45'er at my destination WalMart as I plan the stop at the limit of my safe driving endurance. Hence, the option to move another couple hours down the road and scout is less than desireable.

    Safe and enjoyable travels...

  4. @anonymous: No worries, and, again, I left the post because (1) there was a good chance that someone other than Jim posted it and (2) I think it's valuable for our readers to hear about this stuff.

    As I wrote earlier, I won't send Jim money, for much the same reason I won't spend money in towns that legislate against RVers: I don't agree with or want to support the tactics.

    BTW, not sure how the Yahoo group would have helped here: the information that was out of date was in our GPS (not free; the last update from Garmin cost me around $90, IIRC) and the Wal-Mart directory in the front of the atlas they sell in their own stores. We were driving at the time, and not on-line.

    We do print out the no-parking list from the, ahem, "other" Yahoo group (which I have found to be quite accurate, for the most part) from time to time, but this sort of store closure due to relocation (or, for that matter, a sudden change of heart by store management about parking) is always going to be an issue with anything less than real-time access.

    We think it is a bad idea to count on any Wal-Mart (or, really, anyplace else for that matter, unless you have an advance reservation) without a backup plan. Too many times we have found a place unsuitable for whatever reason, and had to move on.

    Thanks for your comments; we hope you continue to enjoy the blog.


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