Sleeping in Cars

I’m finding that “sleeping in walmart parking lots” is one of the most common search terms that results in leading people to my blog. Considering this, I feel that perhaps I should write more about these experiences, as to perhaps assist these blog-searchers a bit more in their quest for information. 🙂

Yes, it is legal to park your car at Walmart for the night, and sleep. It’s an urban myth that Sam Walton out this allowance in his will, but indeed, it is up to the store managers whether they allow trucks and RVs to park for the night. It is recommended that you go and get the manager’s permission, which they often will give. I usually go in, walk around, purchase something, and make sure that I feel safe in the area.

Also, many stores are 24-hour Super Walmarts, which makes this a safer place than, say, a rest stop, to spend the night. In fact, although my blog indicated otherwise, I highly discourage anyone from sleeping at a rest stop, especially on the east coast. In many cases this is illegal (however, you can often get away with grabbing a few hours if necessary), but furthermore, VERY dangerous. Your best bets are either the car lots in truck stops, a 24-hour diner, or, my personal favorite, a Walmart Superstore.

I always made sure to park in a partly secluded, yet well-lit spot in the parking lot. If I could park by truckers, I preferred that. In my time as a manager working off the Mass Pike, I found the truck drivers to be the most considerate and safe of the bunch. I have a sun shield, which I always made sure to put up before I went to sleep. Make sure that you do not leave your car keys in the ignition, or your car idling. If I had more preparation time, I probably would have made some make-shift curtains, or taped some cardboard paper to the windows, so people couldn’t look in and see me laying there. I also kept my bottle of mace (or pepper spray) by my side, sometimes even in my hand as I fell asleep, and my cell phone at the ready. Safety first!

Yes, I usually cracked the back windows a bit, for some air current. Make sure they are not open enough for a hand to sneak through. I would not recommend car-sleeping in the South, unless you want to die of heatstroke. It can be done, but the one time I slept in Picayune, Mississippi, it was torture – and I probably got about 2 hours of total sleep throughout the night.

Another alternative would be to sleep in campgrounds – pay the $10-25 fee to park your car, and sleep there. I have yet to do this, but often considered it. Many of these places have security, and showers. Some are even free:

http://www.freecampgrounds.com

Hostels are another great option – but unfortunately there are not too many quality ones located in the United States. However, they’re occasionally worth looking into. I almost stayed in a one in Taos, New Mexico (www.abominablesnowmansion.com) that looked great, but ended up having a friend who took me in.

http://www.hostels.com

I’ll try to update this post, since there is so much random information on the net about this phenomena of sleeping in one’s car, but I understand the importance of (a) saving money and (b) ensuring one’s safety. They key is to always be aware of one’s surroundings, and make sure to listen to that instinctual feeling that says to “get out of there.”

Carlsbad & Roswell, NM & James Dean as he pulls her close by her scarf…

There are no words to describe where I am right now. Other than on the side of the road in the middle of New Mexico, 50 miles away from any town or gas station… and my tank is empty. Everywhere I look, the mesquite, cactus-covered desert plains are illuminated by the light of the full moon.

I started crying a little while back, but realized the futility of this, and started praying, instead. I know many of you would argue the futility of such an act, as well, but I have been shown otherwise in these past few months.

I started crying because my gas gauge was on empty, and my cell phone was receiving absolutely no service. I was driving at exactly 55 miles per hour, since my mother, as well as others, have told me recently that this is the exact best rate to be driving to get the best mileage (I thought it was 60). I figured they told me this for a reason, so I followed their advice. I started crying, however, when I realized that there was no gas stations for 50-70 miles in ANY direction, and that my cell phone had ZERO service. To top it all off, I’d like to add that it’s 2:45 in the A.M.

How I find myself in this predicament is a long, complicated, and useless story, so I’ll save myself the embarrassment, and you the time and pity.

If I have posted this entry, it means, however, that I have survived. So bully for that.

I hear the crickets, or whatever they are, outside my window, and a light, cool breeze is flowing into my car. Approximately a handful of cars have passed by in either direction. I couldn’t be much further away from civilization. Yet after a few prayers, my cell phone got service and I connected with AAA. I pulled over quickly to the side of the road and shut off my car, just as the gauge was dropping dangerously below the red line. I’ve kept driving forward for the past ten minutes, even though I knew that I would never make it to a gas station.

AAA should be here within the half hour, she said. I told her I was scared, and she sounded sincerely concerned. And then we lost service, so perhaps that will help her speed up the process.

A met a man in Roswell, New Mexico a few hours ago. I would like to blame him for the predicament I’m in, but it’s not really true. The truth is I’m an idiot. And even if I hadn’t spent hours talking with him, I probably still would have left Roswell without filling up. And after passing Roswell, the next station is around over 100 miles away. I’ve never experienced anything like that.

Earlier in our conversation, Scott (that was his name) had me hold out my hands, and he held his out above them, doing some sort of shakra-something thing. Then he looked at me, and said, “You’re more non-human than I thought.”

Which I suppose isn’t the strangest thing to hear in Roswell, NM.

He continued on to say I was an intuitive person, and we did end up having some fantastic conversation. The sort of conversation I needed – profound, soulful, and metaphysical. We talked about the things that matter, and how I should go after them. We talked about personal strength, and the ability to determine our own future and do what needs to be done to heal our souls.

On the other hand, he really freaked me out.

And now I’m abandoned on the side of an empty highway somewhere in the desert plains of New Mexico. In a way, none of that metaphysical stuff matters at this moment, but on the other hand, as the bluish tint of the sky twinkles and the haunting melody of the moon sing downs to me, that metaphysical stuff seems to be everything.

I’m not a normal person; I’m never going to be. I’m never going to be fulfilled by a good job and an even tan. I need to accept that, embrace that – no matter how people judge me for it. I need to live the life I was destined the live – the life that God gave me all the gifts to make a reality.

I thought typing might make the wait seem shorter, but I feel like I’ve been waiting a while now. I didn’t even check the time when she gave me the estimate.

Okay, it’s been about 20 minutes. Everything is still fine.

This really isn’t how I saw my day ending. I really had a fantastic day, up until the past couple hours. And even they weren’t that bad. I woke up in the Walmart parking lot (in my car, at least) actually refreshed, having gotten about 8 hours of sleep in my back seat. I bought some tasty goods from the local Cheerleaders outside the store, and I headed over to Carlsbad Caverns.

They were amazing.

What disturbed me greatly for about the first 30 minutes of my self-guided tour through the caverns was the fact that I couldn’t take it in. No matter how hard I tried, no matter how I looked at it, I was unmoved. Yes, I could admire its beauty, and the wow factor, but I couldn’t feel it. It disgusted me – about the world. That we are so bombarded with the fantastic – with the melodrama and hoopla of the entertainment world, predominately television/movies. Seriously, The Dark Knight had felt more awe-inspiring, and instilled a deeper sense of appreciation in me than million-years-old caverns whose beauty could devastate the unsuspecting. It made me sick, but mostly it made me terribly frustrated – I felt as one does when you are being adored by someone you can not feel anything back for – trying desperately to bring up the feelings, but they refuse to rise to the surface.

And I thought to myself – if I feel this way, and I am a very sensitive person, aware of the nuances of light and color and beauty – imagine how the rest of the world must be, especially the younger generation. Imagine how desensitized they must be from the air around them.

Randomly, I just smelled the scent of bat guano. The smell was almost overwhelming as you entered the cave entrance. Weird that it should come back to me right now. Perhaps I should have stayed in Carlsbad, but the local clientele worried me a little. Currently I’m hundreds of miles away from anyone, so that should relieve me. ::sigh::

I don’t know what I’m going to do. Between you and me, I still consider the futility of this life, and my wish that I did not have to continue it. The thoughts are few and far between, but they worry me, since I don’t want a future filled with such thoughts. I feel closer to making the decisions necessary (even if they are merely shiftings inside my soul) to change the course of my life, yet still I am not quite there yet. I am still too affected by other people’s opinions and feelings towards me. I still do not have the power necessary to be the person I know I can, and should, be. I could be… something great. I know this, and God whispers it to me, but my false sense of humility and fear barricades me.

30 minutes.

I’m getting tired. It’s 3 AM. I talked to grandpa around 6:00 mountain time, and he told me to get a hotel room. I should have listened to him.

One should always listen to Grandpa.

I’m going to watch Rebel Without A Cause while we wait.

Panda’s pissed.

* * *

Now it’s been an hour and a half. They called and said I can expect them in another hour and a half. I gave them my exact location – mile marker and all, and somehow that wasn’t good enough. They tried calling me, but I have no service. It only goes through every now and then. Some guy is driving from Santa Rosa to bring me gas. But that means he won’t be here until around 5 in the morning. I really can’t believe I’m in this situation. Strangely enough, however, I don’t feel anxious. I feel… calm. I’ve been watching Rebel Without A Cause. I’ve never seen it before. It sort of annoys me.

Anyways.

I don’t know what I’m going to do about my life. I want to go home, but as the girl in the movie just shouted, it “isn’t my home anymore.” I know I might have to become the black sheep of the family, since no one really understands me. But maybe that’s okay. Maybe being the black sheep will… allow me to breathe. I just need to get to the point where I’m comfortable doing that, without needing people’s approval. Even though I know that deep down I’ll always be waiting… waiting for people to be proud of me. Waiting for the people I love to recognize my talents, and say they are good. That I am good.

I wonder if I could have made it to Vaughn, NM with what’s left in my gas tank. Gosh, that would make me feel stupid. But I guess I’m supposed to be doing this. I’m sure there’s a reason.

I feel a cold coming on, too. My throat is really sore. I don’t know what I would do if I got sick on top of everything. I sort of want to go home – go to my bed, and sleep for a few days. Read a book. Take a walk. While at the same time, I can’t imagine being back there, driving those same streets, with all those memories… all that history.

I want to leave the history behind.

I’m surprised I’m not more tired. I woke up at 8:30, and spent about four hours walking through the caverns. My legs hurt, but I should be exhausted. I know this is going to catch up with me in the morning. I think I’m going to find a hotel and stay there for a couple days – recuperate. Try to figure out what the hell is going on.

walmart parking lots and late-night transcendentalism

Left Murfreesboro yesterday – it was really hard to say goodbye to Kelly, Tim, and Amelia. Living with them felt really natural and wonderful – I felt like part of the family. Amazing how someone I could have easily never met in person could become someone I feel I have known my entire life. 🙂

Headed over to Birmingham, where I went to Vulcan Park, a large statue from the World’s Fair that now overlooks the entire city – it was a beautiful view. The woman selling tickets down by the bottom randomly asked me questions about me and my trip, and was really encouraging. She was a young black woman, but she was like “oh, honey, when I was 23… uh huh, I should have done what you are doin’ but I was too scared. You go, girl. Go with God.” It was really encouraging.

Afterwards, I headed over to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, which were simply beautiful. I’ve been to gardens now in Raleigh, Asheville, and a couple other places, but I think Birmingham might win for the most peaceful and beautiful setting. I had a wonderful time (per usual) walking around and taking pictures of the flowers. I found it slightly humorous, however, that part of the Gardens were entitled “Alabama Woodlands.” I don’t know why that was so funny, but it was.

As I was leaving, I spotted this elderly couple (and I mean elderly – mid-80’s) walking hand in hand through the rose garden. Well, obviously my heart stopped and went “awww!” I was able to snap a picture of them, but then we ended up near each other, so I said hello and before I knew it the woman was talking away. She must have been starving for some human contact, because she enjoyed talking to me so much, even without her hearing aids in, haha. Her name was Lenore, but everyone calls her “No No” which was kind of cute, even though a more positive spin would be “Yes Yes” but I suppose that really doesn’t make any sense. Hm. So we walked around parts of the gardens, Lenore, her husband, Bill, and I, and then met up with one of the groundskeepers who they know from their visits there, who then escorted Lenore and the rest of us back to the car. Lenore was talking about Father’s Day and her family and how she came from a small town in Mississippi called Picayune (I tried not to laugh at the implications of the word and the way she called it a “small town” – mostly because my humor is becoming very skewed, haha).

Afterwards, I had given up on my couchsurfing woman (who ended up having to rush to the hospital because her mother had a stroke) and then called up another couchsurfing guy named Marcos. He said I was welcome to spend the evening, so I drove to his house, but he was not there yet. As I was sitting in the car talking to Kara I realized, however, that I really wasn’t ready yet to settle down for the night. There was still about 8 hours or so to drive until I reached Eunice, and I wanted to get some of those hours down that night. So I called up Marcos, said I was hittin’ the road, and proceeded to drive into the early hours of the morning.

It was ridiculous and it was silly and it was tiring and it was wonderful. I really do enjoy those times by myself (and Panda, naturally) where it’s just me and the road and the endless expanse ahead of me. 🙂 It’s very freeing, and thought-provoking, and peaceful.

The most intense part happened around 1 AM, when I decided to start playing an audiobook which Scott had given me back in Knoxville. It was Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, and… well, let’s just say life suddenly became surreal and my mind was blown out of my head for the next hour and a half. I felt as though I was driving through alien territory, in the dark of the night, on highways by myself, listening to this strangely-accented man talk about deep existential philosophies that have lain latent in my heart for years and were suddenly being thrown back at me, blowing me away.

Way intense. Way.

When I couldn’t take any more of that, well, I shut it off, and then realized it was almost 2:30 in the morning and I had no real plan on where I was going to sleep. I had considered the idea of sleeping at some random Walmart parking lot, since it was legal and most of them down here are open 24 hours. Then I look at the road sign, and I see that not only am I in Mississippi, but I’m… in Picayune, Mississippi.

Yes, sirree bob.

And right off the highway in Picayune, Mississippi is a Walmart. Where I proceeded to bunk down and sleep haphazardly for about three hours. Haha.

Just ridiculous.

And let me just tell you – the birds in the Walmart parking lot have a completely skewed perception of the world and need medical attention. Because I think they believe that it is constantly dawn, due to the parking lot lights that are always on. And, well, they just chirp away all night.

Bastards.