Photo Friday on Saturday

Hi friends! I have so many recent photos to share, but this is my favorite.

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Atticus and I went on a solo hike to Rampart Reservoir last weekend. It’s such a beautiful place, and I’d highly recommend it. To get to the reservoir proper, you have to pay $6. It’s totally worth it if you want a good hike around a beautiful reservoir full of wild flowers and staggering rock formations. If you just want a great photo opportunity, take a right at the fork in the road instead of a left toward the reservoir road. Follow that road for about 45 minutes, and there are two places where you can pull off the road for some of the most scenic views I’ve ever seen in Colorado. You’re welcome 🙂

Warmly,

Maegan

 

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Travel Tips: Packing Lightly

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My favorite way to travel is the cheapest. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I will sacrifice comfort for the cheapest price every time. This makes Spirit Airlines perfect for me. They get you from A to B without charging you for all the extra stuff you don’t need. How much are we really paying for that child-sized cup of Coca Cola and peanuts? These options are still available on Spirit if you’re in the mood, but I like the idea that I don’t have to pay for things that I don’t need.

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That being said, Spirit charges not only for checked bags but also for carry on items. If you’re going to have a carry on or a checked bag, don’t forget to purchase those online BEFOREHAND. If you don’t, they charge about $100 when you get there. They do allow one personal item which can be a small purse, bag, or backpack. On a recent extended weekend trip to Dallas for a friend’s wedding, I opted for the small backpack. Here’s everything that I packed into the small backpack:

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-Pair of wedding heels from Modcloth
-Winter thick green dress, also from Modcloth
-Old Navy jean jacket circa 2005
-Formal Belk dress found during my trip to be worn at a future military ball (it is thick and has a full skirt)
– Pair of black jeans
-Crossbody bag
-One thermal (which was WAY too hot in Dallas in October)
-One beanie
-Two necklaces
-Make-up bag
-Wallet
Dear Daughter paperback book
-Underwear and shapewear not pictured

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When I type it all out, I’m even impressed with my ability to get all that into one backpack. I thought several times while packing that I should just pay the $36 for another carry on. But my cheap side won out, as it always does. So how did I do it?

I’ve read many articles discussing whether the rolling or folding method works best. I’ve done both many times, and I am here to tell you that it depends on your suitcase or bag. With this backpack, I tried folding, but it didn’t give me the room that I needed. I was also looking for my bag to somewhat resemble a non-overstuffed backpack (I don’t want my luggage to alert everyone to my thriftiness), so rolling worked best for me in this instance.

First, I stacked my heels on top of each other like they come in the shoe boxes. I find that gives you maximum space. I put those on the bottom near the back to give my bag some sort of shape. In backpacks, I like to put flat things near the back so I don’t have bulges of clothes pushing on my back when I’m wearing it. I then rolled the formal dress as tight as I could without wrinkling it. I do have to wear that thing in two weeks, after all. Then I rolled things and put them in according to their bulk. I always put the bulkier things at the bottom because that looks more natural when you put on the backpack. Don’t forget to put your wallet, phone, boarding pass, chapstick, or whatever you think you will need quick access to on the top! I had to unpack the whole thing because I put my wallet with my ID and credit card on the very bottom.

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Nerdy confession: I really love packing. Packing boxes for moving, packing suitcases, packing storage items, you name it. I love it because it’s just like a puzzle. Sometimes I have to pack and repack it to get it just right, but I enjoy the challenge. As long as it’s not last minute packing, which is what I do 95% of the time. I’m also a procrastinator when it comes to packing, so it often doesn’t feel enjoyable. I’m working on it! Personal growth and development and all that.

That bag looks awfully grumpy, doesn’t it? Want to hear another confession? Because of the way the bag is made, I couldn’t actually close the bag all the way for my return trip (that dress is going to be beautiful, but it sure was a huge pain). I walked around DFW very conscious of who was standing behind me at all times because someone could have easily reached a hand in and grabbed something. I ended up putting my book on the very top so pick pocketing was a little harder. Whenever I could, I stood up against a wall or a window. My mind was torturing me with thoughts like, “Well, whatever they steal better be under $36”.

I’m happy to report that I got back with all of my items and only spending $100 on my plane ticket from Denver to DFW. Take that, expensive airlines and your “complimentary drinks”.

Thanks for letting me share!

Maegan

Where the Locals Go: Hillside Gardens, Colorado Springs

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The summer concert series at Hillside Gardens is one of Colorado Springs’s best kept secrets. Tourists just do not know about this spot. It’s about 90% locals. But I’m going to share this with you. No extra charge 🙂

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Every Wednesday from 6:30-8:30 PM, you can pay $5 (cash only) to enter this place that leaves me spellbound every time. Five dollars buys you entry and one drink ticket that you can redeem at the old bus that’s converted into a bar or at this bar:

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There’s a main stage that hosts the more popular acts, and there’s another area that hosts lesser known musicians or local high school talent. Rain or shine, Hillside is open. You can sip locally brewed beer or wine, eat cheap local food, and listen to local music while watching the sunset from one of the best views in the city. I can’t oversell this place, guys. IMG_3328

One of the things that I find so charming about Hillside is the vintage things and random art strewn about the property. Whenever I go, I usually spend my time wandering around the grounds to see what new antique has been added.

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There are several private corners, gazebos, or clearings in the trees that make you feel like you’re the only person, or people, there, especially when the sun sets. It’s a romantic site for dates because you can steal a kiss or two among the flowers, under the ivy arch, or behind the larger pieces of art.

To sum it all up, this place is perfect. You won’t regret going, trust me.

Happy travels,

Maegan

Where the Locals Go: Colorado Springs Breakfast Edition

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Colorado Springs gets a good amount of tourist traffic, especially in the summer. The Colorado Springs area is home to several tourist draws like Garden of the Gods, Manitou Springs downtown, The Incline, and Pikes Peak. I recommend visiting all of those places if you’re in town, but I suggest that for food, drinks, and desserts that you stay away from the tourist areas. They often have lower quality food for higher prices. Here’s a list of some of my favorite places in town where you can always find a friendly local to chat with.

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Mountain Shadows- Mountain Shadows is a little restaurant in a charming house of Colorado Ave. in Old Colorado City. I go there so often, the waiters and waitresses know my name. They have a mean Country Omelet  with hashbrowns in the omelet, served with a delicious country gravy. You can also get their delicious green chili served on just about any breakfast menu. They even have a pancake option for a side instead of bread that comes with every meal. Maybe this is just exciting to me, but A PANCAKE COMES WITH EVERY MEAL! And the pancakes are award winning. I’ve never seen a better deal. They are reasonably priced, dog friendly, and have a nice sized patio with umbrellas for shade. I love sipping on their regular mimosa or their Manmosa on the patio in the late Spring, summer, and autumn. Perfect breakfast/brunch spot. They open early in the morning and close at 3 PM, so make sure to get in your brunch fix before the late afternoon hours.

Bon Ton’s- Located in Old Colorado City as well, Bon Ton’s is a favorite spot for locals and tourists alike. Get there early to enjoy their Early Bird Special menu which features smaller portions of food for less money. Their regular breakfast menu options range from old fashioned breakfasts to southwestern plates smothered in mild, medium, or hot green or red chili. They also have gluten free options and a lunch menu, though I would highly recommend their breakfast food. Everything I’ve had there is tantalizing. They close at 3 PM as well.Their patio is one of the best in the Springs, so I’d suggest sitting outside if you can. There’s usually a wait, but it’s worth it!

Montague’s Parlour- If you’re like me and enjoy a kitschy, grandma’s living room feel for your dining atmosphere, then Montague’s is for you. They only serve breakfast on the weekdays until 10:30 AM, but they have a coffee and tea selection that rivals even the best of chain coffee stores. The breakfast options are lighter than the last two restaurants and they offer gluten free options as well. The stuffed french toast is amazingly light and fluffy. They boast a variety of quiche as well, which you can order all day long. But when they’re out of something, they’re out. Try again later. They sell cute antique dishes and coffee cups. Also, there’s no parking in the front, but there is a small lot in the back. Take the alley on the left side of the building to the little parking lot.

Stay tuned for Where the Locals Go: Colorado Springs Lunch Edition.

Happy traveling and eating,

Maegan

Salida, Colorado

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After a long stretch of little to no solo travel, I decided that I would make the three-hour trip to Salida Colorado to explore. It’s a beautiful little mountain town with lots of shops with local artists’ work, a gin distillery that makes a mean cocktail, and beautiful views.

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It rained for most of my drive in, but it was still breathtaking. The road to Salida from Colorado Springs is rocky with enjoyable curves, juxtaposed next to a vivacious river. When I arrived, I spotted a double rainbow. I have seen more rainbows since I moved to Colorado than I ever have in my life. Calling all LGBTIQA+ people!

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After visiting Wood’s High Mountain Distillery, a swanky little distillery and bar that serves their freshly distilled gin and organic ingredients, I took a sunset stroll around town. The little downtown area is filled with cool coffee shops, quaint bookstores, and old antique shops that seem to have a mysterious layer of dust, which adds to the magic of antique hunting. The river that you can spot almost the entire journey to Salida culminates in a wide, picturesque river perfect for rafting.

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Salida is a charming town full of life and loveliness. It’s a wonderful spot for a short, slow-paced weekend trip. Slow-paced solo travel is by far my favorite kind of travel. I would HIGHLY recommend checking out this little town if you’re in the area.

Happy Travels,

Maegan

 

Road Trip Rest Stops

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I have been talking, thinking, and dreaming about road trips a lot lately, if you haven’t noticed (here, here, and here) in preparation for my road trip to the beach in Gulf Shores, Alabama. Now that I’m back, I have even more to say about road trips! This was a particularly challenging adventure because the trip was SO long (21 hours there, 24 hours back) and I went with two other people.

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By the time we got home, we had stopping for bathrooms and getting gas down to a science. Our stops ranged from upscale, very clean stores with lots of options to small convenience stores that I have literally had nightmares about this week. Here are a few tips that I learned on our journey:

If you have a travel stop favorite, stick with that as much as you can. Before we left, my girlfriend was overjoyed about driving through Texas because that meant we could stop at Buc-ee’s. I have seen many a rest stop before, and even a Buc-ee’s but my favorite up until this trip has been Love’s. After one visit to Buc-ee’s, my opinion was forever changed. It was amazing as far as rest stops go. It had a wide selection of everything you could ever want, it was very clean and well-lit, there were lots of gas pumps, and the employees were friendly. What else could you ask for in a rest stop? We stopped at many a Buc-ee’s on the trip, and they never disappointed. It was only when we passed through small towns that we had to compromise and stop wherever we could find which landed us in a gas station bathroom that had a serious bug infestation and plumbing issues. I’ll spare you the details. Just know that it was the stuff of nightmares.

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Found at a rest stop in West Texas

Try to time bathroom breaks with filling up for gas. This may seem obvious, but I find it VERY difficult to do so and often forgo this. If I don’t have a lot of intellectual stimulation, I tend to drink water or whatever’s around me. For some reason, consistently drinking water or juice during a trip is also comforting. When I’m by myself I can stop as much as I want, which is usually too much if I want to get anywhere in a reasonable amount of time. But this time, I was with two other people. On the way back, I became very good at monitoring my beverage intake to coincide with gas stops. Now, if I can only remember the ratio of water to depletion of gas for my next road trip.

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Stop for gas when you have a quarter tank left. In my early twenties, I had a very bad habit of driving my car until the gas light came on. My stress level steadily rose as I sought out the nearest gas station. This is not only bad for your car, it’s also bad for being choosy with gas stations. Waiting until the last minute resulted in far too many uncomfortable stops at seedy gas stations late at night. If you start looking for gas stations before you reach a critical point, you can pass on the shadier looking places.

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Pay attention to your intuition and surroundings at all times. If you feel uneasy at all about stopping at a particular place, just don’t stop if you can help it. I have talked myself into going to way too many places that gave me the creeps. I remember telling myself in these instances that I was just paranoid. Luckily I’ve only had a few weird run-ins that never led to anything serious. Our intuitions are our early warning signs, and if it’s telling you something, there’s usually a reason.

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Also, keep in mind that not all places, especially in the southern United States, are friendly to all races or to the LGBTIQA+ community. While driving through east Texas, my girlfriend would not let us stop in Vidor because there are still regular KKK meetings and rallies that take place there. As a half black, half white woman, she was adamant that we needed to get gas long before or long after passing through Vidor. Being a white woman, I’ve never had to worry about that. I am so glad that she was in tune with that because Vidor looks like any other small town off a major highway in Texas. Though it might not have been dangerous for me, I do not want to take my business anywhere that allows a hate group like the KKK to flourish.

Happy travels,

Maegan

Road Trip Playlists

I don’t know about you guys, but I always compile playlists before I travel, whether it’s for a short plane ride or a long road trip. I will be roadtripping with my significant other and one of our friends in May for a music festival, so I’m currently rounding up solid road trip playlists for our 22 hour journey one way (yikes!). Here’s what I have so far:

  1.  Can’t You Wait – Geographer
  2. Anna Sun- WALKTHEMOON
  3. On Our Way – The Royal Concept
  4. Indian Summer – Jai Wolf
  5. Molecules – Atlas Genius
  6. Atomic Man – Portugal. The Man
  7. Shake it Off – Florence + the Machine
  8. The Wire – HAIM
  9. Ghengis Khan – Miike Snow
  10. Often – The Weeknd

(This is just a piece of one of the many playlists I’m making. This particular one has all the bands that will be playing at the music festival. Can you believe that all of those people will be there?!)

I always find that you need playlists that convey different moods, depending on the ambiance of road trip when you listen to it. I usually go for upbeat and optimistic as there are frequently unexpected challenges that pop up that can be stressful to deal with. I tend to make a lot of rookie mistakes, hence my whole “Rookie Mistakes” category, so I find it best to have positive songs on hand that I can listen to while I’m dealing with whatever fallout that’s happening. Like getting lost. Have I mentioned that I’m AWFUL without my GPS? Let’s just cross our fingers that we have 4G the whole way…

What do you like to listen to while traveling?

-Maegan

Où Manger à Montréal

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There’s something enchanting about Montreal in the winter. In late December and early January, there was a steady dusting of snowfall which made everything sparkle in the moments when sunshine peeked through the heavy clouds. Though I had to buy proper winter boots upon my arrival in order to walk anywhere, the powdery snow enhanced the sightseeing experience. But because of the cold, there were times when I just wanted to curl up with a crepe in a warm restaurant. Here are three restaurants I would highly recommend visiting in Montreal.

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The menu at Le Cartet
  1. Le Cartet- This place has such a great atmosphere. It was a bit unnerving to be seated in their communal dining, but it seemed to work so cohesively as a whole. The breakfast menu items were all delicious, but that’s not why I highly suggest that you visit.
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The best bowl of coffee

You have to go because the coffee is the best that I’ve ever had. Hands down. I’ve been a coffee connoisseur for quite some time now, and I’ve never had coffee that smooth with just the right amount of rich flavor. And it comes in a bowl! It’s an entire bowl of coffee. There was a long line out the door, but I’d gladly wait in the snow again just for that coffee.

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The Billy Goat

2. Universel Déjeuner & Grillades (Peel) –  Just look at those portions! This restaurant has a fun atmosphere whether you’re sitting outside or inside. The Billy Goat, poached eggs with salmon, spinach, goat cheese, and Hollandaise sauce, was delicious. The creamy Hollandaise sauce paired with the fresh, smoked salmon and perfectly poached eggs made the rather hefty price worth it. Because I was traveling with three people, I got to sample more than just my dish.

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2 oeufs, crepes ou pain dore ou gaufres, bacon

Normally I would not order a plate of meat like my friend did, but everything on the plate was delicious. The bacon was especially crispy and smoky. This was served with a tiny cup of custard in which you could dip the crepes. It was so creamy and buttery but not overwhelmingly sweet. As I was sampling the custard, I imagined myself digging into an entire bowl of nothing but the custard. It was that good. IMG_59513. Schwartz’s Deli – If you read any guides on where to eat in Montreal, they inevitably include Schwartz’s Deli. As my group was full of meat lovers, we had to make the trek there to check out their “World Famous Original Smoked Meat”.

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Poutine with a side of fries

We had poutine just about everywhere you can order poutine. I could have taken or left the poutine here. But their fries are homemade and had that crispy crunch on the outside.

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Liver steak that comes with bread and a pickle

My friend ordered the liver steak to be adventurous, but it turned out to be a bad decision. Unless you are really into the texture of liver, I wouldn’t recommend getting this. She left most of it uneaten because she couldn’t get past the chewy, greasy texture.

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The meat sandwich

So why do I recommend eating at Schwartz’s when it’s a bit of a taxi/uber drive from downtown? This. The smoked meat sandwich. I’m not much of a meat eater, but I devoured this sandwich. It’s served with mustard which brought out the rich, smoky flavor. It’s the best sandwich with any type of meat on it that I’ve ever had.

Montreal boasts some pretty lofty claims about their food. And the boasts are true, if you know where to go.

-Maegan

On Taking Travel Photos

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This is something I’ve thought about a lot since I started traveling, solo or otherwise. I have mixed feelings about taking pictures while traveling, but my perspective has shifted somewhat since I decided to start a blog.

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When I first started traveling I had a tendency to take pictures EVERYTHING. Sunsets, shops, streets were all captured by my low quality cell phone camera. I felt the need to document all of my experiences so I could share my trip narrative with visual aides. I liked the idea of the vacation slide shows of the 1960’s. I soon realized that my friends were all humoring me through the painstaking explanation of each of my trip photos. It also quickly became apparent that I was spending too much time focusing on snapping memories than actually being present in the moment. When trying to recall what it felt like to witness a  sunset on the beach, I found myself having difficulty. What did it feel like to have a Chicago style hot dog in Grant Park? I couldn’t tell you. But I have a plethora of pictures that are all mysteriously slightly blurry. And I feel no connection to them.

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On my next trip, I challenged myself to take less photos in order to focus on soaking up the experience. My first trip that I really exercised this was on my first solo trip to Seattle. I have vivid memories of hiking up my first “mountain” just south east of Seattle proper. And I only took five photos of that entire journey. And for someone coming from flat land, it really was a journey. On the way up I took one of my favorite pictures, though admittedly, not my best. A foggy mist permeated through the pine trees, and a cloudy sky cast a gentle ethereal glow on the trail. Fresh dew drops cascaded from green and yellow leaves of all shapes and sizes. The smell of pine and fresh rain floated through the air, just subtle enough to remind you that it was there every few breaths. Instead of stopping to take pictures every fifty steps in order to capture glimpses of my trip for other people, I paused to consciously absorb my surroundings. After I was satisfied I had experienced that moment to its fullest, I grabbed my crappy cell phone and took five seconds to take two pictures. This was the raw, unedited result:

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I am confident that I will remember the details of that glorious moment, not because of the picture, but because I took the time to let the moment wholly envelop me and my senses.

Now that I’ve started my blog, I realize how important it is to take numerous pictures. But I’m finding it rather easy as long as I focus on being present first, then taking a quick photo to remind myself of how I felt.

-Maegan

Sleeping in Your Car: Do or Don’t?

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New Mexico

When I first told my family I planned on sleeping in my car on my first solo road trip, they were very concerned. After telling me every horror story they had seen on the news since 1985, they offered to pay for my hotel. As a poor college kid living off cheese, crackers, and macaroni, I did not see the point of paying to stay in a dingy cheap motel for less than twelve hours while I made my way across the country. Since then, I have slept in my car several times. Here’s my advice on sleeping in your car.

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Estes Park

1. Unless you cannot find anywhere else with which you feel comfortable, don’t sleep in a Walmart parking lot .
I have had many successful naps in a superstore parking lot; however, I would not recommend it for overnight. There are constantly people walking by and talking about how creepy you are like you can’t hear them. Because of the constant flow of people walking near, you are also more likely to run into someone who might want to take advantage of the situation. Yes, there are a lot of people around. But then again, there are a lot of people around.

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Atlantic Ocean

2. Think Ahead.
There were several things that I did not think through the first few times I opted to sleep in my car. The first time, I did not bring a blanket or a pillow. I ended up sleeping with my purse as a pillow and my sand covered, slightly wet towel as a blanket. Bring what you need to feel comfortable.
The second time I slept in my car, it was winter. This, my friends, is not a good time of year to sleep in your car unless you are in a part of the world that does not get below 45 degrees at night. I only slept for four hours at a time because I woke up shivering every so often.
I also didn’t have any ideas where I would stop. I thought I would just stop when I got sleepy. However, I was not in a safe place when I got tired. Then I was trying to make a solid, logical decision when I was tired which can lead to bad decision-making. I recommend picking a small to medium-sized town and stopping around 9 or 10 PM.

Salida
Salida

3. Find Somewhere You Feel Comfortable
A friend of mine once gave me the brilliant idea to sleep in a hotel (not motel) parking lot. She told me that you can go inside to ask them if it’s okay that you sleep in your car in their parking lot. You can tell them that you don’t have enough money for a room, and they might even offer you a room at a discounted price. It actually worked when I tried it! They always say yes, and they did offer me a discounted room once or twice. Find a well-lit spot and get comfy.
Pay attention to the neighborhood. This is where your intuition comes in handy. Do not sleep in a place that makes you uncomfortable in the slightest.
You can also try a camping site. I have only done this once, and I’m pretty sure I was supposed to pay to stay. Sorry, little town in Oklahoma.
Also, if your seats lay down, lay those suckers down so you can stretch out. It only took me three trips to figure this out.

Sleeping in your car is a DO if you do it safely.