When I was wandering around the country in the spring and summer of 2013, one of the first places I spent significant time in was Denver. I arrived on April 19th of that year, the first 4/20 after Colorado legalized the recreational use of cannabis. You can check out my video of the rally at the Civic Center, or not:

I subsequently spent about 40 days in various parts of Colorado, a good portion of that in or around Denver. While I did occasionally get a hotel room, I mostly slept in my car, and I grew to love the experience; waking up in the morning in the car, refreshed, relaxed and already out in the world, ready for a new experience. It’s similar to the feeling of camping, but different. You can be in, or relatively close to civilization, just sleep in your car and then wake up and get on with your day. It can be intellectually and physically invigorating. I guess it’s not for everyone, but I’ve loved every moment of the time I’ve spent living out of my car, being a nomad, wandering around.

When I got to Denver, the first thing I did was rent a storage locker so that I could clear out my car and feel like a normal person while driving around in this place that was new to me that I was going to explore, and so that I’d have room to sleep in the car. I had mostly everything I owned stuffed in my little Mazda 3. Luckily, it was a 4 door, so that helped, but it was stuffed with musical instruments, clothes, camping supplies and other miscellaneous items I had with me.

Once I had a car that wasn’t overstuffed with things I didn’t need every day, it was theoretically a good place to sleep, but some adjustments had to be made along the way. For one thing, I learned after only a night or two that a car cover was going to be essential to accomplish the type of urban and semi-urban stealth car camping I was looking to do. Not only would this give me privacy, but it provided a bit of a barrier against the police taking notice of me.

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It also took me a bit to find the most comfortable way to sleep. Nothing was ideal. I wound up settling on the passenger seat reclined all the way back, but it didn’t go all the way, so I had to find positions where it worked. I’ve never been particular good at falling asleep on my back, so this was difficult, but I managed. Of course, the weed helped.

Though I did a lot of traveling around the state, the place I found myself sleeping the most often was at the Dinosaur park and ride lot in Morrison, just north of Red Rocks. This spot was an incredible place to stay. It was a chill, relaxed lot, outside of the city, and I always felt like it was a good place to call home for the night. It was a bit of a drive from Denver, but it was worth the drive to have peace of mind, and some days were spent exploring and biking around Red Rocks anyway. I give the spot bonus points because there’s a little coffee shop right up the road from the lot, called Full Steam Ahead, and they have good coffee and free WiFi.

rob cotton red rocks

I have great memories of holing up in my little car with the cover on, getting high and watching a movie, or reading, or just thinking about stuff before dozing off. Admittedly, it would have been far better with a van or something like that, where I could lie flat instead of having to fall asleep in some weird position, but I got used to it.

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Waking up was the best part; being able to just step out of the car, breathe the fresh air, chill for an hour or so and then go explore; freedom of time and freedom of movement; the only real American dream.

(Edit: A number of people have messaged me asking exactly where the par and ride is. Here is a google maps link to the area. Apparently, it’s called ‘T-Rex park and ride’ though I could swear it was called Dinosaur park and ride at the time I was there. Or maybe all that good Colorado weed is fogging my memory.)

Sleeping In My Car Outside Denver

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