Nearly 30 million Americans travel the country in those self-contained suburban homes on wheels known as recreational vehicles, or RVs. Itís not always easy to find a place to park your Winnebago for the night. But sleepy RVers need look no further than the nearest Wal-Mart. For years, the mega-chain has let weary travelers camp in its parking lots for free. Dave Gilson recently met some of the people who have taken it up on the offer.
TAPE Ė Estimated time: 4:31
[Bring up store ambiance]
Itís Friday evening at the Wal-Mart in Livermore, California. Inside the store, a nice old lady greets customers at the door and suburban families push shopping carts through the mazelike aisles of clothes, tools, DVD players and toys.
[bring up parking lot/generator ambiance]
Outside, beyond the rows of minivans and SUVs, a scraggly-looking 29-year old named Rufus Luker [ROO-fus LOO-kur] has just cranked up a portable generator, getting ready for another night in the parking lot of Americaís biggest retail chain. For the past three weeks, he and his wife and two young kids had been camping out here in a 35-foot RV. To hear Rufus talk about it, crashing at Wal-Mart is almost like a religious experience. (0:16)
Rufus: My aunt used to drive trucking for Wal-Mart and she was the one who enlightened me that before Wal-Mart died, Wal-Mart said, ďAs long as a driver needs a place to stay, heís got my parking lot to use.Ē
Dave: Youíre talking about Sam Walton, the guy who founded the place?
Rufus: Yes, yes! Mr. Sam.
Thanks to Mr. Samís generosity, Rufus and his family will always have a free place to park as they make the grand tour from Florida to California and back again. And in return, Rufus makes sure he puts a little something back to Mr. Samís multi-billion dollar empire. (0:10)
Rufus: Most of our money is spent at Wal-Mart on their food products, household products, cleaning, toilet paó whatever necessity we need, we usually find it at Wal-Mart. Although this isnít a Super Wal-Mart. The Super Wal-Marts are the best.