"How do you just show up to a new town?"
"Where do you park?"
"How do you know where to shower?"
These are the first 5 things I do when I get to a new town!
I have, over the last year and a half or so, developed a method for arriving in a new town that helps me get settled into a new place.
The Coffee Shop
Every town has the coffee shop. I guarantee it. The coffee shop is where the young and bohemian like to hang out. They have slam poetry readings on Thursday nights, the girl behind the counter went to art school, and the guy who makes the bagels in the morning has plugs the size of .50 cent pieces in his ears and someone who works there has a radish tattoo. The coffee shop is my first stop because it also happens to have Wifi, cheap coffee, 4 walls and a bathroom. The wifi might be slow, the coffee might be watery, the walls are most definitely covered in local band posters and the bathroom might be gross, but its where I call home now. Or at least, it's where I work now.
The coffee shop takes care of my three most basic needs: Coffee, internet and a bathroom. In that order.
The gear store (Or climbing gym)
The gear store! Stop two is about finding water and getting information on a town. Typically, gear stores know their target audience needs water so there will be a spigot or a fill up station near by. If there happens to be no water at the gear store specifically, they definitely know where you can fill up for free. The gear store is the perfect place to get information on a new town. I usually have a conversation with the guys/galls behind the counter and it goes a little something like this.
"Hey! I'm new in town and I'm trying to get myself settled in. Do you know of a good place to take a shower around here? I'm also looking for a place to park my van, is there a good place to do that near by as well?"
I can add more or less depending on the circumstance, sometimes I ask about the best place to get cheap groceries, I ask about the post office, I ask which laundromat has the best wifi, if I need a guide book I'll see if I can buy one from them, and I ask if they have a used gear section I could buy/sell things at. The gear store is my information stop over.
The Rec Center
Typically, the rec center has the most reliable shower in town. Every town I've ever been to has one, but it is not always the cheapest. I need to know where I can shower and how much it's going to cost. Some hostels have cheaper showers than the rec center, but that's not always the case. Sometimes the rec centers showers are cheaper, but way worse water pressure. I'm willing to pay an extra dollar or so if I know I'll be warm and comfortable for my entire shower. Oh and if I have to be on a timer? There is no way in hell I'm going to pay for it.
The Grocery Store
Good eats! The cheapest grocery store in town is my next stop. I am super cheap. I don't buy alcohol or junk food (except chocolate), but I like to buy lots of produce and proteins. I need to find somewhere I can get good produce, lots of lacroix and hopefully some local hummus.
The Parking lot
I find it to be a weird rule of the universe that where there are climbing destinations, there are also parking lots with pit toilets near by. The parking lot is where I like to make my home. It's also common to find other van people and rock climbers there. We gather around a common destination where we can put our cars and poop in peace. Parking lots are a safe space for cars, and often become the space for communal dinners, a place to buy and sell gear and just a place to hang out and sleep while we prepare for the next day.