Grass, its almost impossible to find in the west. But when you do find it- oh how heavenly it is, sometimes one who car camps for long periods is so accostmed to sleeping on a styrafoam pad that when they find grass or any other soft material- they may seem like one who once every couple months gets to sleep on a waterbed. When I car camp its simple- find a pull off throw my pad and bag down, strip my clothing and hop in. Nah no tent unless rain is imminent, in which case I try to find an over hang, abandoned building, big pipe, or any other creative item that one could shack up in for a night.
Theres nothing like waking up in a rest stop, yanking your stove out cooking some oatmeal and then walking around in your underwear in front of all the fine albeit welathy folks who own campers or sleep in motels. Yes I do feel cool when I hop out of my frost ladden bag to find a bunch of people looking at me like I came from the moon. I can almost hear them saying “Oh honey, I told you he wasn’t homeless, see he owns that car, and no its probably not loaded down because of dead bodies”,
“Oh honey thats so cute theres three of them, and look they have a girl with them”.
“I wonder how she does it, they must eat out or something?”
Rest stops not only offer grass, but they offer toilet seats, and water. Theres nothing like waking up and taking a sink shower, you know wash cloth and soap. Yes I’m sure you do. Oh and toilets are a true luxury for the morning runts, especially after a warm bowl of maple oatmeal.
There is no grass in Alaska, but there are wood chips- ah the springy wood chips that adorn rest areas to make up for grass are unforgettable, they cushion your body and make for a great matress. We found some on the way to fairbanks- beside a nice lake with clean water for filtering. In the morning while Davening a man came over and wanted to shoot pictures of us while we were cooking and filtering our water. We felt hardcore even though this is the norm for me- hard core is when its 20 below- not 20 above- any way. We got to talking and he gave us some salmon and invited us to his house any time we would bein Delta Junction- probably never I thought but hey who knows. His wife was a homeland security women who used to work for the pipeline- everyone works for the pipleine- kind of like in Albany where everyone works for the State.
The problem of car camping in Alaska is bears- you never know when that toothpaste is going to attract a 1500 pound grizzly to your side. We slept with a loaded 12ga shotgun- but how the hell would you get a shot off if the bear was eating your friends foot already- well we “felt” safer with it. That shotgun provided us with peice of mind. For all the bears we saw none were closer then a hundred yards- but every creak at night brings heart rates up and fingers closer to the trigger.
Car camping also brings fond memories of the few times when upsetting things happen. Like the time I was sleeping in a park in Moab Utah- the sprinklers went off in the middle of the night twice bringing me to a long rant using mostly expltivesand forcing me to run in my underwear to my car clucthing my soaking bag andsoaking clothes. Not fun!
Then there was Aspen CO, where we pulled over in the middle of the night in some pull off- set up our tent and were woken up by cops in the morning asking us if we knew that we had camped in a bus stop- no we hadn’t, and let me have my two hours extra sleep thank you. Pulling over at night always brings suprises- because you never know where you really are. In wyoming I woke up to find I was ten feet away from a 2000 foot cliff- yes an invisible plateau at night it had been. Then there was Sedona AZ last year in parking lot thought to have belonged to a church- ion the morning I woke up to find myself in the backyard of someone, who had obviously not woken up yet.
Sometimes no good spots yield sketchy places, like a couple years ago in downtown San Francisco at a construction site right next to the freeway or this time in Alaska in a little league dugout- or on a controled burnt field next to a railroad tracks- freight trains are frightening when you are 20 feet from them.
Another aspect of car camping is the never ending fear that some sex deprived trucker will rape you- I dont worry about this- but every one I take with me always worries. This time was different I had a girl with me, whos brother was quite paranoid about her being carried into the cab of some trucker while we slept at a rest stop. Yes I sleep without a tent at rest stops, construction sites, city parks, parking lots or any other venue that features minimal noise, minimal traffic and soft ground for sleeping. No hostels for me just the great outdoors.