Cross-country Road Trip Day 3: Car Camping

Dallas to El Paso, TX. 6 hours and 13 minutes. 385 miles.

Guys. I just had my first car camping experience. It was totally fine! Well, almost. Around 11 p.m., I woke up to a police car shining a blinding spotlight into my car window. It turns out that he was just checking to make sure I was alive. But it still scared the living daylights out of me.

I tried to get out and talk to him to find out if I needed to move, but when he saw me sit up in the backseat, he turned off his spotlight and drove away. Panicking, I immediately called the local El Paso police department and explained what happened to the operator. I told him that I was happy to move to another location to sleep. The operator assured me that I was not in trouble and proceeded to explain that the officer was just trying to check on my safety. It was then that I realized I had been sleeping with my feet in the air in the back of my car. The officer probably thought there was a dead body inside.

Before I embarked on this trip, I did an extensive amount of research on car camping, specifically about where and how to do it. Here are the major basics:

  1. Find a safe place to park for free
  2. Elevate your head
  3. Keep your car organized
  4. Control the airflow as best you can
  5. Find creative ways to block the light.

Location is by far the most challenging part of car camping. I read that rest stops and shopping complex parking lots are usually the best places to sleep, so I chose an outlet mall parking lot and pulled into a spot just a few spaces away from an RV. I figured that if there were already people there, then it was probably okay.

If you’re going to try car camping, you need these black mesh window shadesThis pack of four only cost me $13 on Amazon, and they really helped me sleep better. What’s awesome about these window shades is that they help block the light while still allowing you to roll your windows down and control airflow when you’re boondocking in hotter parts of the country. And they do an excellent job of keeping people from seeing inside, which made me feel more comfortable.

Aside from the spotlight scare, the El Paso trip was otherwise uneventful.

I left my cousin’s house in Bedford around 7:00 a.m. and arrived in El Paso just after 4:00 p.m. It was a full day of driving on a very long, hot and dusty road littered with pumpjacks and one horse towns and strange metal towers on fire and, well, not much else. Truthfully, West Texas is an entirely different brand of boring. I went six hours without seeing a single geographical formation, and every time I rolled down my windows, I could practically taste the dust and diesel. It’s the perfect route for a classic rock and country road trip playlist.


The most exciting thing I saw on this portion of the trip was my childhood friend Mitch, who recently returned from deployment and is currently living on base in El Paso.

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