After taking an evening walk around the Panera Bread cafe and into the back parts of the mall, I saw a large Class A motorhome parked under some trees in the corner of the parking lot with its generator running, and thought “Gee, if they can camp overnight there, I should be fine if I park somewhere not too far away.” And there was also a semi truck that was parked and idling not too far away, so it all looked like the perfect car-camping location. I drove the rental car to a spot under the trees only 150 feet from the RV, and settled in for a comfy night’s sleep.
Somewhere around 2 a.m. I awoke to a bright flashlight shining in my eyes. I put my hand up to block its glare, and a heavily armed and thickly padded female police officer questioned me what I was doing. “I was sleeping,” I said, thinking “what the hell do you THINK I’m doing?” She asked to see my ID which I got for her, being very careful to move my hands and body in a way not to alarm her or her male counterpart who was standing behind the car with another brilliant flashlight illuminating me from behind. I gave her my drivers license through the car window, which was down about 2″ for fresh night air – I gotta breathe fresh air at night – can’t stand to be closed off from it.
She gave it a look and proceded to tell me it was against the law to sleep in my car, which I countered with “I saw the RV over there…” and would have mentioned the semi truck, but he had already skedaddled. She countered back with “Technically they’re breaking the law, too.” She mentioned the transients that were sometimes in the woods nearby and how unsafe it was around there, but that if I felt safe in my car she would let me stay there. That was after I had told her I’d gotten in late to the airport to pick up the car – which sounded like I’d flown in and hadn’t had a room lined up…whatever…I was trying to make a lame excuse for why I was car-camping. She let me off the hook, cuz technically she would have had to go after the RV folks, too, and since my very plush car was a rental and I was a tourist…the two cops walked away and I breathed a big ol’ sigh of relief! But then they stood outside their cop cars with their headlights shining brilliantly in my direction while they visited together for about half an hour! I was worried they might change their minds and come back and arrest me or ticket me – she had said the fine for sleeping in your car is $1800.00! Can you imagine? One would think there would be a warning before a fine, but it didn’t sound like it! What has this country come to? Pretty sad statement! A person can be doing something totally harmless and completely insignificant and be fined or arrested for it! I decided then and there I would have to be extraordinarily careful about where I parked for the night in the future! I thought I had been, but clearly not so when it came to the night patrols.
The next morning finally dawned and I headed to Cape Canaveral to experience the simulated feelings of a shuttle launch! Blast off! Whoo-whoooo! Hold on for the next post!