This is a good time to be alive. This is the best time to live in a van.
We have an app called "Free Campsites." That's how we found the dirt road. At the end of the road is a campground that is only open for a few months each year. When it's closed, the entrance is blocked by a heavy yellow gate. Perfect. We parked in front of the gate, at least a quarter mile back from the road. It worked well. We own the Earth, along with all the others who roam over its dirt. Alligators.
Last night, we began heading west on the Tamiami Trail, aka route 41. We are as deep in the Everglades as a tall majestic van can get. I was diligent in working the words "Tamiami Trail" into every possible conversation. I did not miss an opportunity to say "Tamiami Trail."
Fast forward 24 hours, and our tires rested in the soft dirt of some state-owned panhandle land. The "Free Campsites" app wins again! We arrived toward the later half of the nine o'clock hour. Another dirt road, this time with deep potholes, required us to crawl very slowly indeed. Signs posted a mile or so in claimed that we should "STOP" and "REGISTER" but it was unclear where or how. A single RV rested underneath a seemingly built-to-size roof, making the setup appear at least semi-permanent. This was between our van and the place we were supposed to park.
A woman stepped out of the RV, and I tried to pull on my dirty Keens quickly and not keep her waiting. Kristin and I exited the vehicle, and stood facing a cagey lady standing on the steps to her RV. Our dogs barked a bit, and so did hers. She sized us up, while we stood at the gates; hats in hand.
The land was closed for a few weeks. Some biologist organized a turkey hunt. I swear I am not making this up. We were told that this biologist has a brother who wants to do what this lady is doing - staying full time on public land somehow; details fuzzy - and they are looking for any way to get her out of there. Clearly there is more to this story, but approaching 10pm with dogs barking was not the time to eek out each detail.
I thanked her and said going back to the truck stop would be okay with us: we were used to that; didn't much mind, in fact. I looked down and sideways, and assured her we didn't want to get in the way of her good thing.
Her heart was pure. After sizing us up, she said she hated to turn people away. She'd seen that we weren't serial jerks, and she couldn't stand to kick a puppy. We agreed that if anyone asked we'd say we got there late, and we only knew that we could park on state land. We basically agreed that this conversation never happened.
Vast land surrounded our domicile, and we let the dogs sniff and circle. We never saw a biologist or his brother, and the perma-parked RV is still safe for another day.