A Guide to Sleeping in your Car

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A Guide to Sleeping in your Car

Post by Flack » Wed Oct 05, 2011 8:32 am

[Introduction]

My job requires a certain amount of travel, and I hate to fly. I will fly when forced or when time and/or distance limitations require it, but if it is at all possible, I will drive. I'll always drive if the destination is less than 1,000 miles (one way). My 2006 Chevy Avalanche has 95,000 miles and has been to 40 of the contiguous 48 states (plus D.C.).

My employer is required to allow me to travel any way I see fit, but is only required to reimburse me for whichever method is most advantageous to them. I get reimbursed somewhere around fifty cents per mile, but if the airline ticket to wherever I'm heading costs less than what they owe me for mileage, they will only pay me the cost of the ticket. Even with that caveat I don't believe I've ever lost money on a trip. (It's always close when I drive to Las Vegas; airline tickets to Vegas are so ridiculously cheap and it's a 1,100 mile drive for me so, depending on which way the wind is blowing, it's a close call.)

Like the mileage, my employer will only reimburse me for the same amount of time it takes to fly. Fortunately, most people can easily justify an 8 hour travel day. If it takes me 12 hours to drive, well, I get paid for 8 hours, and 4 hours are gratis on me. I don't mind, and consider it the price I pay for having a stupid (albeit common) phobia.

The problem comes when I drive to places that I cannot do in a single day's drive -- like Vegas, for example. Theoretically I could (and have) drive 1,100 miles in a single day, but it's neither safe nor healthy. If I break the trip into two days and stay in a hotel overnight, I have to pay for the hotel out of my own pocket. On occasion I do that, but more often than not, I end up sleeping in my car. I sleep in my car because (a) if I stay in a hotel room I'm going to be there for 8-9 hours, whereas if I sleep in my car I will most likely only sleep for 4-5 and can get back on the road more quickly, and (b) the money factor, as I already mentioned.

And so, without further ado, here is Flack's guide to sleeping in your car.

[Location]

So you've been driving for 8 (or 10, or 12) hours and you've decided it's time to get some shut eye. The first thing you will need to do is find a safe location in which to do so. If you were thinking "hey, how about a rest stop?" then you are a dummy. Rest stops are filled with (a) people driving across country, and (b) people wanting to rob people who are driving across country. Oh, and horny homosexuals ... who may or may not want to rob you. Point is, there are safer places to nap.

The ideal location is one where people can see your car, but not you. Many people equate sleeping people with drunks and cadavers and will call the police after spotting either one, and trust me, if the cops show up there will be no sleep for you that night.

Locations I recommend: truck stop parking lots, hotel parking lots, and casino parking lots.

- Hotel Parking Lots: these work well because typically they have security cameras, there are a lot of cars around and people coming and going, and there's no way the people at the hotel know who every car belongs to. I try to find a parking spot somewhere near the front, but not in direct view of the lobby. No need to attract attention to yourself. You're sleeping, not trying out for reality television.

- Truck Stop Parking Lots: Even in the middle of the night, there are people coming and going, getting gas and so forth. Typically there will be an area just off to the side where you can park and get some shut eye. Again I try to stay away from directly in front of the store as I don't want to tie up customer parking, but usually just off to the side you will see an area set aside where you can park. I have done this a dozen times and no one has ever run me off.

- Casino Parking Lots: Not always an option, but if you find one, these work great too. Even more than hotel parking lots, casinos have plenty of cameras and enough foot traffic to deter anyone from messing with you.

The key is to avoid dark, isolated places. Parking in a dead end with your lights out looks suspicious and is likely to force a visit from Johnny Law.

[Supplies]

In a perfect world, you planned on sleeping in your car and brought a pillow and a blanket with you. If you did, you're in good shape. If you didn't, jackets and hoodies can become either one of those things. I keep my Snuggie under the back seat of my truck, just in case I end up roadside somewhere. Pillows help make the transition between "I am sleeping" and "I am uncomfortably lying somewhere."

Also, keep your cell phone handy. Sleeping in your car will disorient your sense of time and you will often think you have been sleeping for 8 hours when in reality it's been 2. Unless your car displays the time with the keys out, you'll want your phone at your side.

I also keep a baseball cap handy to put over my face. A lot of those parking spots I mentioned can have bright lights.

[Front or Back?]

Next, you'll need to decide if you'll be sleeping in the front seat or the back seat. Each has advantages and disadvantages.

If your front seat is comfortable and reclines, you might opt to sleep up front. The disadvantage of this is, if people see you, they might think you're dead and come tap on the glass to see if you're okay. They might also say, "hey, let's go rob that sleeping guy!" Also, if you've been driving for 8-10 hours, your tailbone might not appreciate another few hours of your fat ass putting pressure on it. In smaller cars there will more likely be more room in the front seat, which can make it a more comfortable option.

Typically in my truck I sleep in the back seat, lying down, and facing the rear. With my knees bent I can fit on the entire seat. A pillow under my head makes it almost feel like home. Note that if you've planned this out and space permitted, you brought a blanket to lie down on as well. Car seat padding isn't what you think it is, and you're liable to end up with an imprint of the seat belt fastener in your gut if you're not careful. Regardless, know that the bench seat of a car is nowhere near as comfortable as even the oldest, hardest bed, and realize that you will be tossing and turning in a futile attempt to get comfortable.

[Windows]

So, here's a little known fact. You might think of your car as being a somewhat comfortable mode of transportation, but at night, depending on the outside weather, it turns into either a steamy hot bath of miserableness, or a refrigerator. At some point you will have to decide if you wish to sleep with the windows up, down, or cracked.

Sleeping in a car with the windows up, even when it's cold outside, is one of the most miserable experiences known to man. The inside of your car will be foggy and resemble the inside of a Betty Crocker Easy Bake Oven. It sucks. And when it's warm outside, you'll find yourself waking up frequently to wipe the sweat off your face. If you have vinyl seats, expect to be painfully stuck to them.

No matter what you do, the climate will change after you go to sleep and your car will either get warmer or cooler. This is one time where manual windows would be preferable to electric ones, especially if you are now in the back seat of your car and cannot reach the controls and/or ignition up front.

I once slept in my car just outside of Biloxi, Mississippi, and it was so awful that I still remember it today. It was so muggy in the car that I had to keep rolling down the windows, and every time I did giant mosquitoes would fly in and bite me in the face. There are times when getting a hotel room is probably worth it.

[Valuables]

Sleeping people are pretty easy to surprise, so to lessen the odds of you getting robbed, hide your valuables. This means putting away your wallet and your keys and hiding your phone. If someone sees your keys on the dash (or in the ignition) they may break into the car (same with the wallet). Also, put your GPS away.

[Guns]

I do not currently own a gun so I can't give any advice on this. I would hate to be awaken from a deep sleep and be forced to make a life or death decision in a groggy state. That's just me. Until you've done it a few dozen times, you will be jumpy as hell when sleeping in your car, and it's very possible that you might end up putting a 45 slug into a mosquito. YMMV. Be safe.

[Pee]

If you are like me, when you wake up, you will need to pee. If you're at a gas station, you can waltz in and take a whiz -- otherwise, you may end up trying to pull off a "nature pee", as my wife calls them. Chances are by this point that you've had about 4 hours of sleep and it's probably freezing cold so you will be shaking and shivering and your bladder will be hurting from being so full, so, enjoy that experience.

[Time to hit the road!]

Congratulations on sleeping in your car! Think about how much it sucked the next time you see someone sleeping under a bridge or on a piece of cardboard, you fat, spoiled American.

Resist the urge to immediately hit the road the minute you wake up. If you're at a gas station, walk inside, use the restroom, buy a coffee, and drink it before you hit the road. Keep in mind, 2 minutes ago you were dreaming about electric sheep, so hopping right in to heavy machinery and barreling down the road might not be the best idea. If you slept somewhere else, find the nearest McDonald's and do the same thing -- pee, splash water on your face, and drink some coffee. Unless you don't drink coffee, in which case drink the water and splash the hot coffee on your face. Either way you'll wake up and be ready for a few more hours of driving before you reach your final destination.

The best part of driving for two (or three) days and sleeping in your car is that, no matter how much you hate it, you will begin to appreciate the wonders of speedy and safe air travel.
"Jack Flack always escapes." -Davey Osborne

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Post by pinback » Wed Oct 05, 2011 8:44 am

1. Front page.

2. Homos always be robbin' me.
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Post by Tdarcos » Wed Oct 05, 2011 9:05 am

There may be less likelihood of robbing a 6' 2" 400 pound man, but I never had a problem with rest areas.

I like your idea of using parking lots which would have monitoring and being a little out of the way.

In Robert A. Heinlein's "Time Enough For Love" it's suggested one place to sleep (in good weather) is a graveyard. I thought how that's a great idea: even hardened robbers are not going to be trolling a cemetery for (live) victims.
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Post by Flack » Wed Oct 05, 2011 11:27 am

Cemeteries are actually pretty popular places. That's why they have fences around them, you know -- because people are dying to get in!

Perhaps it's overblown in the news, but if you Google "robbed at rest stop" and "killed at rest stop" you get a LOT of hits. And I know people get killed at convenient stores too, but usually not while sleeping at one overnight.

Not only does my truck have pretty dark tint, but it also has a really high and tough to see in rear window. (I've often thought that cops must be scared to death to approach an Avalanche after pulling one over -- there's no way they could see inside one, and when I do get stopped, I turn on my interior light and roll down all the windows. No need to make a young cop with an itchy trigger finger more nervous than necessary ...)

Image

The back seats in my truck fold down, allowing access to the rear of the truck. I did, on one occasion, decided to flip the seats down and sleep in the back of my truck, with the hard top on, and my head sticking out into the truck. It was awful! First of all, sleeping on a 1/32" layer of rubber on top of a metal truck bed is not comfortable. And second of all, a truck's pickup bed is not insulated, so it was freezing (FREEZING) cold. If I ever try it again, I will throw a futon mattress back there and an artic-rated sleeping bag.

They actually sell an Avalanche-specific tent for the rear of the truck that, sadly, looks as comfortable as it does stylish (read: neither).

Image
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ICJ

Post by ICJ » Wed Oct 05, 2011 12:00 pm

What do you do if there's like a pea or something under the cushions? Does it ruin your sleep for the night?

realitycheck

Post by realitycheck » Wed Oct 05, 2011 1:44 pm

ICJ wrote:What do you do if there's like a pea or something under the cushions? Does it ruin your sleep for the night?
duh, Fack doesn't eat peas, they're vegetables.

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Post by Flack » Wed Oct 05, 2011 1:59 pm

I eat wasabi peas, which are good, and hot.

Also I'm pretty sure the pea under the mattress thing only affected princesses, something I am surely not.

Also I am pretty sure the back seat of a Chevy Avalanche is 900x less comfortable than any mattress with a pea under it. Or stained by it.

---

Here's the first "dirty" joke I ever learned: "How do Eskimos catch fish? First, they cut a hole in the ice. Then, they toss frozen peas in the hole. When the fish come up to take a pea, the Eskimos punch them in the ice hole."
"Jack Flack always escapes." -Davey Osborne

Observation

Post by Observation » Wed Oct 05, 2011 6:18 pm

Sleeping in one's vehicle (as in: planning for it) sounds like the worst fucking idea ever.

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Post by Flack » Thu Oct 06, 2011 6:25 am

realitycheck wrote:duh, Fack doesn't eat peas, they're vegetables.
Had you been checking in on my reality last night you would have seen me eating a salad and some chicken soup for dinner.
"Jack Flack always escapes." -Davey Osborne

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Post by Flack » Thu Oct 06, 2011 6:25 am

Observation wrote:Sleeping in one's vehicle (as in: planning for it) sounds like the worst fucking idea ever.
Right, so:

A one way airline ticket to Vegas from OKC costs around $150. If I drive there for work, theoretically, I should get reimbursed $550 (1,100 miles x $0.50). But, since $150 is cheaper, that's all they'll pay me. On the highway my truck averages 18mpg. Rounding down, that's 60 gallons of gas. Using an average price of $3.50/gallon for gas, that $210. So I'm starting off the work trip with a net loss of $120 ($60 each way).

For government travel we use GSA travel rates, which sets a limit for (a) how much you can spend on a hotel, and (b) how much you per day for MI&E. MI&E stands for meals, incidentals, and expenses. People assume it's just for food, but anything you need to buy comes out of that fund.

For Vegas, the hotel rate is $99 and the MI&E rate is $71. The difference between these two things is, if you save money on the hotel, you do not get to keep what's left over. If you do not spend all of your MI&E for a single day, you DO get to keep what's left over.

When I went to Vegas last month, I stayed at the Stratosphere. Rooms, during the week, were $44 (which is incredible). That is less than $99. I did not get to keep the difference. That money goes back to the government. HOWEVER, I got $71 a day for food. If, god forbid, I went an entire day without eating, that $71 goes directly into my pocket.

Assuming you don't run in to any serious expenses, it's pretty easy to make money off of your MI&E, especially in a town like Vegas. For breakfast every day I had a breakfast burrito and an iced coffee from McDonald's for around $3.50. Lunch at the seminar was catered, and thus free. For dinner we went to nice places and I spent, on average, about $30 for dinner. I bought a few cups of coffee here and there, but I still ended each day about $30 up. $30 x 4 is $120, which, when added to the previous deficit means I broke even for the trip. And that's all I'm asking for. Losing money on a trip is wrong on SO many levels.

That breaking even doesn't account for two additional hotel nights that would have to come out of my own pocket. I never find $40/night rooms on the road -- or if I do, they are so unbelievably scary that I wouldn't get any sleep in the room anyway. Usually I end up finding Holiday Inns and la Quintas for $80-$100 a night. That's $200 out of my pocket for the privilege of going on a work trip. That's just ... it's just fundamentally wrong. I just can't deal with that reality, that I would pay to work somewhere.

That's one reason that, occasionally on long drives, I sleep in my car.

The other reason is, not so much on the drive there, but on the drive home, I want to see my wife and kids. Badly. The drive back from Vegas ia approximately 18 hours long. Let's say I leave at 8am, and drive until 10pm. That's 14 hours down, leaving me with another 4 hours to go. So I could, in theory, get a hotel room, get checked in and ready to go to bed by 11pm, sleep until 7am or so, get up, pack my stuff up, get breakfast, and be back on the road by 8am or 9am, depending on how well I slept, and get home around 1pm the following day. Or, I could have just pulled over around 10pm, slept for 4 or so hours (trust me -- there's no comfy "sleeping in" going on), hit the road again around 2am, and got home at 6am.

Sleeping in one's car is totally utilitarian. There's nothing fun, exciting, or romantic about it. It's like the difference between writing your name in the snow with urine and having your bladder drained with a catheter.
"Jack Flack always escapes." -Davey Osborne

The Happiness Engine

Post by The Happiness Engine » Thu Oct 06, 2011 7:06 am

You have an Avalanche with a hard cap. I INSIST you go to a store and buy a $20 Coleman air mattress. If you want to be fancy get the car adapter air pump to go with it. You now have all the comforts of sleeping in a real bed. If you're going someplace cold you could even got nuts and get a sleeping bag instead of just bringing a pile of blankets.

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Post by Tdarcos » Thu Oct 06, 2011 7:55 am

Flack wrote:Assuming you don't run in to any serious expenses, it's pretty easy to make money off of your MI&E, especially in a town like Vegas.
Uh, it's been probably 30 years since I was in Vegas, but the two times I was there, food was relatively cheap and there were a number of all you can eat buffets there, and the food was fairly good. Has this changed?

Also, I don't see why they don't use a per diem rate, since they'll pay $99 for a room and $71 for M&I, why not just make it a per diem rate of $170 or even $160, you slice it any way you want, but you eat the difference if it's more than this. Or better: if they are sending you out there for a certain number of days, they would know what it was and include the trip costs, then it's your responsibility to get there. So if a flight is $150, four days on the trip, the office will voucher you for $980 with the cashier's office cutting you a check, and it's your responsibility to get there, stay and return. You spend more, you eat it; you spend less, it's yours.

Maybe they think the way they are doing saves money, but it also denies flexibility, if someone can find a hotel for $125 that includes some sort of free breakfast or free meal, it might make sense to go that route. Or that they get a slightly more expensive hotel but it's much closer than other places and saves trip time.

An associate of mine used to go to meetings of the Concrete Manufacturer's Association as a speaker. So they'd pay him for the plane trip and per diem. Well, he's planning to go anyway so he'd book the ticket months in advance, and the difference between the business rate and what he booked it at usually meant he'd put about $500 in his pocket. And if the meeting place was close enough he'd rent a car and drive there (unlimited mileage, no wear and tear on his own vehicle, and all he had to do was buy gas, back when it was under $1 a gallon).

He was one of the cheapest sons-a-bitches in town. I rented a room from him back around 1999 when his house was in foreclosure, and he gave me a good rate, in exchange for not having to figure out an adjustment once the place was taken back, he gave me one month free. So he knew how to cut deals. I learned quite a bit over the roughly eight months I stayed there. But some of the stunts he pulled were really sleazy.

On Sunday, he'd go out of his way to get to a specific Washington Post vending machine because the lock was broken and he could steal the Sunday paper! You get something on the order of $3 in coupons in the newspaper and I think he used most of them, but he still wouldn't pay $1 or $1.25 for the paper, he'd drive the extra three miles so he could steal it.

Right now the guy runs an underground car service and Travel Agency, and he finds the best rates for people. One time he found a rate that blew both of us away. The one-way rate from Terra Haute, Indiana to Dulles Airport was around $110 on essentially no advance notice. The flight changed planes in Chicago, and the price for the same ticket on the exact same plane, Chicago to Dulles was like $400.
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Post by pinback » Thu Oct 06, 2011 8:42 am

Tdarcos wrote:
Flack wrote:Assuming you don't run in to any serious expenses, it's pretty easy to make money off of your MI&E, especially in a town like Vegas.
Uh, it's been probably 30 years since I was in Vegas, but the two times I was there, food was relatively cheap and there were a number of all you can eat buffets there, and the food was fairly good. Has this changed?
Yes.

About ten or fifteen years ago, everyone decided "hey, instead of being famous for having cheap food, I bet we can make more money if we make everything SUPER-EXPENSIVE!!!" So they did. And they did. And everyone kept coming.
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Post by Flack » Thu Oct 06, 2011 8:57 am

Tdarcos wrote:
Flack wrote:Assuming you don't run in to any serious expenses, it's pretty easy to make money off of your MI&E, especially in a town like Vegas.
Uh, it's been probably 30 years since I was in Vegas, but the two times I was there, food was relatively cheap and there were a number of all you can eat buffets there, and the food was fairly good. Has this changed?

Also, I don't see why they don't use a per diem rate, since they'll pay $99 for a room and $71 for M&I, why not just make it a per diem rate of $170 or even $160, you slice it any way you want, but you eat the difference if it's more than this. Or better: if they are sending you out there for a certain number of days, they would know what it was and include the trip costs, then it's your responsibility to get there. So if a flight is $150, four days on the trip, the office will voucher you for $980 with the cashier's office cutting you a check, and it's your responsibility to get there, stay and return. You spend more, you eat it; you spend less, it's yours.
Pinback already answered the first question, but yes, Vegas has changed in the past 30 years. If you don't believe me, check out the buffets at either the Sands or the Sahara.

As for the second question/suggestion, I will submit it to the federal government and see what they say.
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Post by Tdarcos » Thu Oct 06, 2011 6:47 pm

pinback wrote:
Tdarcos wrote:Uh, it's been probably 30 years since I was in Vegas, but the two times I was there, food was relatively cheap and there were a number of all you can eat buffets there, and the food was fairly good. Has this changed?
Yes.

About ten or fifteen years ago, everyone decided "hey, instead of being famous for having cheap food, I bet we can make more money if we make everything SUPER-EXPENSIVE!!!" So they did. And they did. And everyone kept coming.
Well, with the exception of possibly yours truly, nobody goes to Vegas to eat. (Actually, I wasn't going there on purpose; the two times I was there it was because the Trailways Bus from Long Beach, California to Denver goes to Los Angeles where you change to the bus from LA to Denver which goes through Las Vegas, and either there was a bus change, a meal stop, or both.)

It was that long ago there actually was a national Trailways System. In fact, coincidentally, the movie "The Big Bus" (about a non-stop trip, New York City to Denver) was released just when I was going (from Los Angeles) to my sister's place in Denver. They actually had the Coyote Bus Lines "Nuclear powered" bus on display in the parking lot of the Los Angeles Trailways depot when I was there, which the movie used to substitute for the New York depot.
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Post by Flack » Mon Jun 13, 2016 6:37 pm

I slept in my truck last Friday night, and it may have been for the last time.

My deteriorating vision doesn't allow me to drive after dark, especially in places I'm unfamiliar with. Before, sleeping in my truck wasn't such a big deal because we were talking about 4-5 hours. Now, it gets dark between 9-10pm and the sun doesn't come up until around 6am, so instead of 4-5 hours in the truck we're talking about 8-9.

After spending a week in D.C., I hit the road and made it to Lexington, Kentucky. It was 70 degrees all night long and there was no breeze at all, so even though I had cracked my windows, it was still muggy as hell inside the truck.

I sat in the driver's seat. I sat in the passenger seat. I sat in the backseat. The longest stretch of sleep I got was fifteen minutes. It was awful. If the layers of sweat didn't wake me up, the pain in my tailbone did. Finally, I laid down in the backseat, using my laptop bag for a pillow. When I woke up a couple of hours later, I had a crick in my neck and my shoulder was absolutely on fire. Today, three days later, I'm positive I tore something. I'm having trouble raising my arm above my head, and any time I move it the muscles burn and the joint pops.

All of this took place in the parking lot of a Ramada Inn, while I had ~$600 cash on me. I think those days of sleeping in the truck may be coming to an end.
"Jack Flack always escapes." -Davey Osborne

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Post by AArdvark » Tue Jun 14, 2016 5:11 pm

Like dropping in an eight foot half pipe in a church parking lot, there are some things that you have to give up with age.


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Post by Flack » Wed Jun 15, 2016 6:12 am

I guess now's not the time to mention I've been scouring Craigslist looking for vans with rear seats that convert into sleepers... ;)
"Jack Flack always escapes." -Davey Osborne

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Post by Jizaboz » Wed Jun 15, 2016 12:59 pm

Ha! Not a bad idea at all Flack. Sort of like when I realized I just can't sleep on the ground anymore when tent camping without my hip bones screaming in agony.. I just bought an air mattress!

People occasionally injure themselves more tossing in their sleep than they realize, even in ideal situations.
AArdvark wrote:Like dropping in an eight foot half pipe in a church parking lot, there are some things that you have to give up with age.
Did you do this? Did something go wrong?

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Post by Flack » Wed Jun 15, 2016 2:07 pm

It's a reference to a story I told on the latest episode of You Don't Know Flack.

http://podcast.robohara.com/ydkf-episod ... dest-hits/
"Jack Flack always escapes." -Davey Osborne

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