WALMART VS. BOONDOCKING ON A
STRANGER’S DRIVEWAY? SURPRISE!
Written by Tom Gorham
former Executive editor of the Sun newspaper in Las Vegas, Nevada and reporter/editor for the Los Angeles Times/Tribune.
The RV community is filled with amazing and generous people. And sometimes you encounter them under the most unexpected circumstances.
Take, for instance, our recent research into whether Walmarts in California allow overnight boondocking. We knew that it’s a store-by-store decision — unless local laws prohibit overnight parking. That’s the question we posed to this Facebook group of RV lifestyle enthusiasts, in adva…nce of heading over to Southern California from Las Vegas for a journey up the Pacific Coast into Canada. We already had made reservations at various state beach parks in California and Oregon, but for our first night in SoCal, knowing we’d be arriving hot-and-tired, we would be content with a free piece of Walmart’s asphalt, well positioned to begin our fun travels fresh the next day.
We received all sorts of responses about Walmart from you folks, but only one that went like this: “Hey, how about boondocking in our driveway?” The invitation came from a lovely woman who lives in the rolling hills of Camarillo, along the coast north of Los Angeles. And then she mentioned feeding us, teasing with “some lemon brownies with pistachio brittle crumbs.”
Maybe you already see where this story is going. Her name was Mary Jane Curry. Yeah, her — the chef who creates those terrific recipes especially suited for RVers. So, doh! we accepted!
What fun, meeting Mary Jane and her husband of 40 years, Jeff. They connected when both worked in the Santa Monica Hospital emergency room — she as a charge nurse, he supervising the emergency medical technicians. They started seeing each other after hours, married, and realized each had a desire to explore the West in an RV while raising a son and a daughter who presented them with six grandchildren.
Fast-forward to today: they are retired, with Mary Jane — who has a very readable cook book to her credit — still generating new and amazing recipes while Jeff —whose career had shifted into workplace safety and risk management — now takes to the hills in his electric-power-assisted mountain bike. Oh and yes, he is proud to serve as Mary Jane’s Chief Dishwasher.
I wondered what possessed them to open their driveway — and house — to boondockers they’ve never before met. For starters, they love RVing, having bought early in their marriage a boxy, 20-year-old Pace motorhome. They sold it after a year and transitioned in 2013 to a Roadtrek RS Adventurous with seat belts for seven that they own to this day, safely parked beneath a tall carport in their side yard. It allows them “mini-vacations,” with trips to the beach on a whim. “It’s our instant relaxation,” Jeff says. “The sense of freedom, the chance to exhale, where the journey is the destination.”
Mary Jane and Jeff enjoyed boondocking, joined “Boondockers Welcome” and realized they’d earn a year’s free membership if they offered to host boondockers. Heck yeah! A dozen or so different RVs have cuddled up to the Curry driveway, just as we did the other day. What everyone discovers is that Mary Jane and Jeff are easy-going, warm people who easily cultivate friendships with strangers that are likely to last for many years.
Mary Jane’s interest in food preparation was nurtured at the Westlake Culinary Institute, where she focused on wedding cakes and tea parties. Because of her affinity for RVers, Mary Jane now focuses on two objectives: to prepare delicious food using tasty and seasonal herbs, fruits and vegetables (especially if she can use ingredients hiding out in the fridge), and developing recipes that can be prepared ahead of time, put in a fridge or freezer, and enjoyed on the road. Thus the success of her cookbook, especially among RVers. For Mary Jane, coming up with recipes is not unlike an inspired musician experimenting with different instruments and genres. in other words, she basically jams in the kitchen, uses her ability to profile flavors to mix-and-match, and finds a rift to her liking. Then she’ll reverse-engineer her creation and prepare the recipe’s ingredients and portions. The evening she hosted Jeanne and me, Mary Jane steamed clams to load atop portobello mushroom caps, accented with minced red bell peppers, celery leaves, red onion, garlic, cayenne, salt, butter cream and crushed butter crackers. As Jeff grilled a tri-tip outdoors, Mary Jane popped her creation into the oven for a few minutes. Another side dish: a pasta salad featuring fresh mango salsa and English cucumber.
Man, I love boondocking! And we will never forget this evening filled with laughter and good conversation among instant friends, brought together randomly because of our love of RVing and good food. Mary Jane’s and Jeff’s driveway was the best ever.
P.S. You can follow Mary Jane on her blog: smallkitchenbigflavorsblog.wordpress.com