it's easier to find the walmart, the mcdonalds, the public library and the trailheads before the sun goes down.
i'm in claremont, new hampshire, which is a town that's seen better days.
it's usually not too hard to find the corner of the parking lot where you can sleep at the walmart. it's the out of the way corner where pretty much nobody would notice what you were doing.
at the walmart in claremont that corner is set off from the rest of the lot, and it looks kind of like the low rent district even for a town where there are a lot of "STORE CLOSING- EVERYTHING MUST GO" signs.
there's a car that has clearly been parked there since before the snow storm, which means it's been there at least overnight. there's a pickup truck on the inside edge, jacked up and missing a tire. a window is down, but there's nobody nearby.
it is thanksgiving afternoon.
i am here looking at this corner because my grandmother lives across the river and it is far enough from my home that it's a PROJECT to drive down and back for thanksgiving, but if i take two days and find some geocaches, it's almost like a vacation, but i need somewhere to sleep.
so here i am. i turn out of the parking lot, looking for a public library because that's how i get internet connection when i'm away and those things are easier to find before the sun goes down. when i find the public library, i have good connection to their router, but for some reason they need to reset their router and i have no connection to the internet.
when it happens on thanksgiving, though, you're pretty much out of luck unless you can find another library.
the trailhead i was to use is in andover, so i go there and i find a public library there as well. i can get connected to the internet, but the signal is too weak to do me any good. i go to look for the trailhead.
when i get there, i realize that i should have brought skis and not a bicycle and now i need to rethink my plans. i punch my home coordinates into my map and i realize that if i leave now, i will get home around seven thirty, which is early enough if i can just go to bed but the idea of carrying the pillows into the house and taking a shower just seems like too big a project.
plus i'm TIRED and at this point what i really need is to crawl into bed and i don't know if i have the energy to stay awake until six or seven and i don't like to sleep in a walmart lot before then because there's no place to get out in the night if you need to pee.
not that i ever do, but somehow if you CAN'T, invariably you need to.
and now that i know i'm not going to ride a bicycle in the morning, i need an internet connection so i can form a plan B.
it's dark now, having passsed suddenly from the blue light of snowy afternoon to snowy night, and there's nothing open.
you know how mcdonalds is always closed on thanksgiving?
well, in claremont the mcdonalds is open 24/7, even on thanksgiving. it's the only open business on that stretch of road. i sit in their parking lot for a little while and use their internet. it's a busy place. why are all these people in the mcdonald's on thanksgiving night?
clearly, some of them are travelers. but some of them are just hanging out. whole families, with kids.
it's still kind of a lonely place.
the restrooms are clean.
eventually it's late enough for me to use the restroom and assume that i will be able to go safely until five AM without needing to pee again, so i head back to the walmart.
traffic in the left turn lane is backed up for a mile or so into claremont because THAT many people are trying to get to the walmart on thanksgiving night and the lot is nearly full but that out of the way corner still has spots in it.
the overnight car is still there. the pickup truck without the tire is gone, which makes me happy. i pull into my spot and get ready for bed. cars pull in and out around me. a couple pulls up next to me and they get out and walk their dog. they're still there when i fall asleep.
snow falls. people come and go. there's a friendly anonymity, a camaraderie of darkness.
in the morning the lot still has cars in it. the overnight car has been pulled out, driven somewhere, and has returned. there's a minivan parked near me, and it clearly has somebody sleeping in it.
it's dark and still going to be dark for a while as i make my way to the mcdonalds, which opens at five. i use the bathroom, change my clothes, and i buy breakfast. i sit at a table in the quiet with my computer and a cup of coffee, comfortable and happy.
the workers are friendly and polite to each other and to the customers. most of the other people who file in are regulars. they are greeted by name.
after a while it is almost sunrise. i pack up and get on my way.