Folly Beach and James Island: Choosing Peace and Quiet

“If you have a bad feeling about someone, don’t worry about offending them. Just run. Being polite is how you get your purse stolen or your “purse stolen”.”

-Lena Dunham’s mother, as quoted in Dunham’s new book, Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman tells You What She’s “Learned”

I read that last night, lying in bed, looking out my window at the star-filled sky, in the overflow parking of the James Island County Campground. (I wasn’t reading and looking at the stars at exactly the same time, obviously. I’m not quite that good at multi-tasking.)

By happenstance, running is exactly how I ended up in the overflow parking of the James Island County Campground.

I had spent the day at Folly Beach. I parked right by the ocean and worked from my Roadtrek.

Since I didn’t really need hookups or the hassle of checking into a campground, I stopped for the night at the nearby Walmart (which can be a pretty low maintenance way to enjoy an area).

My approach to everything on this adventure is to not do things that stress me out for no reason. I mean, what’s the point of that, right? People often ask me if it’s scary to park for the night at a Walmart or truck stop or whatever but it’s not. In fact, I’ve mostly only gotten that apprehensive, an axe murderer is on the loose and and tracking me down feeling at campgrounds, not for any other reason than they tend to be absolutely pitch black at night. And apparently I’m afraid of the dark.

Places like Walmarts and truck stops are well lit and have people coming and going at all hours, so while my curtains give me a dark, peaceful cocoon for a restful sleep, if I hear a noise, I can just look out and see the lack of monsters and axe murderers around me.

But if I feel nervous, I just drive away. Not because I actually think I’m in danger, but who can get a good night’s sleep if they’re worried about monsters under their Roadtrek.

They Walmarts I’ve stayed at have felt really safe. Most are open 24 hours, generally other RVs and trucks are there, and they’re surrounded by roads and street lights and civilization.

Once, I drove up to a closed Walmart at about midnight and the parking lot was completely empty. A McDonald’s in the parking lot was still open and was surrounded by partying kids, hanging out by their cars. I’m sure those kids were all sweet and lovely, even in a rowdy drunken state, but I drove on to a quiet truck stop and had a restful night surrounded by truckers.

Back to the Walmart at Folly Beach. I read in the Allstays app that the store wants RVers to stay in one particular corner, and sure enough, I saw a travel trailer parked there. The corner was far from the store and a little hidden, surrounded by trees. As I drove past the trailer, it didn’t look like it had pulled in that day. It looked more like someone lived there. Several shopping carts full of 5 gallon paint cans and other assorted items surrounded it and it may have been on blocks rather than levelers (I didn’t want to slow down too much or look too closely). No one seemed to be around, but it looked a little sketchy. I normally park just a few spots down from other RVs (as a courtesy to Walmart so RVs don’t scatter around the parking lot and take it over), but this time, I parked pretty far away and in a different row. All was quiet, so I settled in for the night.

Then the owners of the trailer came back. And brought their friends. They roared in, and once they got out of their trucks, they started yelling at each other across the parking the lot the way drunkish bros tend to do (which I get is a stereotype – some drunkish dudes get quietly weepy and play love songs about ex-girlfriends on their acoustic guitars, but these weren’t that kind of bros). One guy was carrying a case of beer.

And then they started up their generator. At 11pm. I looked out from over my curtain and saw one guy sort of ambling around the parking lot, smoking. He wandered somewhat close to my RV then away again, then sat on a curb for a while.

Nope.

Now, these guys had no idea that I was a woman alone. And probably they were so caught up in their revelry that they’d never even notice my Roadtrek. Even if they knew both of those things, they’d probably not give me a second thought.

By why stay someplace that makes me uncomfortable if I don’t have to? That’s certainly something I’ve finally learned after 42 years.

So I drove off.

I had heard good things about a county campground a couple of miles away so I drove over. You know much I am not into driving up to campgrounds late at night, and it was after 11pm. But James Island county campground is a delight. You drive through (flat, nicely paved) winding roads to a gate with a call box. A ranger is on duty 24 hours a day and is available all the time by cell phone. I picked up the phone and the ranger came over. He told me the campground was sold out, but that overflow parking was available. That sounded dismal, but better than the sketchy dudes, so I paid my $25 and followed him. We ended up in a beautiful meadow, surrounded by woods. This is overflow parking?

James Island Overflow Parking

Several other RVs were parked in the lovely, peaceful meadow so I pulled in at the end and watched the stars while I read my book.

$25 might seem steep for parking in a meadow, but you get access to the dump station, bathrooms and showers, miles of hiking trails, game room, and the rest. You can rent a bike and meander around the lake. Go fishing. Do you laundry. Grab some wifi (they have free wifi!). Basically take full use of the campground in all ways other than electricity and water. Plus you get to camp in a beautiful meadow.

The campground also has a daily shuttle into Charleston, and after driving through the city and finding it a little troublesome in my Roadtrek, that sounded like a good idea too.

So the next morning, a spot had opened up, and I booked it for two more days. Honestly, I would have been happy hanging out in the meadow a couple more days. But this is pretty good too.

James Island Campground

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