I’m pretty sure John has alluded to it before, but it is time to finally come clean about our dirty little secret.
We have stayed at Walmarts nearly every night of our journey. In fact, we seek them out. We program “walmart” into our little GPS (thank you, Victor!) and find the nearest location. The justifications are many: Walmart allows overnight RV parking, with the added bonus of security types patrolling all night, it is free and ample and they usually have a McDonald’s right next door.
That is the other half of our dirty secret. We have spent a lot of time in McDonald’s. A lot of time. What with free wifi, often with outlets to plug in while you surf the web, and usually a Play Place ™ to occupy Max.
With the exception of one night at a Kmart (because the Walmart the GPS directed us to was actually some type of regional corporate office) one night at a tire center waiting for it to open so we could replace our aged tires, and a few nights at rest areas and surrounding Golden Gate park during the music festival, we have stayed at Walmart.
I’m not proud of this, but we need to be honest. We have mostly avoided purchases from Walmart (the same can not be said for McDonald’s, however. We have been swayed by the McCafe. I’m sure the McFrappuccino is loaded with high fructose corn syrup and various chemicals that alter the brain into thinking that McDonald’s is a fantastic place to eat, but boy is it delicious. And at least a dollar cheaper than its Starbucks counterpart.)
But I digress. What I really wanted to write about is the wildlife of Walmart. We noticed that just about every Walmart hosts a colony of stray cats. We fed them on one occasion, since we have a giant bag of dry cat food. I think Lester got nervous that we were going to invite some in.
I’ll admit, the thought did cross my mind, but after the Callie fiasco (by the way, if anybody reading this wants to take a smelly, gluttonous, asshole cat, a sort of Ignatius Reilly of cats, into their lives, please contact the site administrator) we couldn’t do that to poor Lester.
The only explanation I have for this phenomenon is that people try to unload their kittens in front of Walmart, and when there are some left over, they just leave them there.
My brother and I, ages about 6 and 8, were made to stand outside the Lancaster County Farmers Market with a box marked “free kittens.” Due to the persistence of my brother and the absence of any parents (my father wisely waited in the car where he could see us but not be seen) every one of those kittens got a new home.
But the Walmart outside of San Jose takes the prize for its wildlife menagerie.
We had settled in, tucked into a dimly lit corner of the lot off of a busy intersection. It was Friday night, and the local teenagers were reveling in the parking lot, almost certainly harmlessly, but they still sounded menacing to a worrier like me.
I was certain that as part of some gang initiation, they would break into our camper and kill us all, or at least slash our tires. Suffice it to say, I had trouble falling asleep. I would begin to drift off, only to be jolted awake by car lights right next to our camper.
It could only mean one thing: they were coming for us.
Eventually, I managed to fall asleep, only to be awoken by a curious sound sometime before dawn. I couldn’t place it at first, having spent nearly all of my life in suburbs or cities. But it was continuous. Every 5 seconds or so, the peace would be rattled by this noise.
“What the hell is that?” I nudged John, who was snoring next to me, blissfully unaware of the danger we had narrowly escaped just hours before. He mumbled something and fell back to sleep. Max and John are blessed with the ability to sleep through anything. There they were, snoozing away, while the cacophony raged.
Finally, I realized what it was: a rooster. A sodding rooster, in a Walmart parking lot, off the highway, many miles from any type of legitimate farm.
And, as I discovered later, not just one rooster. At least two, and they must have been taking turns. The sound a rooster makes is not unlike “cock-a-doodle-do,” but not as much like it as the Fisher Price farmhouse would have you believe. But it is loud, and it is unending, and it starts, at least from my Walmart experience, well before dawn.