Well, technically there was a rule that no camping was allowed outside of the designated sites. But we weren't camping, were we? Pitching a tent is camping, sleeping in your car is a step away from homelessness. We decided to go for it, found a pullout, and got out sleeping bags and pillows. (Ok, I guess that makes it seem a little bit like camping…)
We took some time to journal with the dome light on, then turned it off and reclined our seats. Animals outside screamed like demented hyenas. We tried to figure out what they could be, but were clueless. Kelly was restless, worrying about animals attacking us in our sleep.
"Really, animals?" I asked. "I'm more worried that some crazy loner who loves nature and lurks in parks will see us sleeping here, break the window and shoot us."
Kelly gave me a look I roughly translated to mean "I hate you."
The thing is, I wasn't really worried. I think about serial killers a lot. I read a lot about them, I seek out news stories of mysterious/random murders, I watch specials about them eluding police for decades, I studied their psychology as an undergrad. They're almost always in the back of my mind, though not in a paranoid "They're going to get me!" way. Therefore I promptly fell asleep, leaving Kelly to toss and turn in her reclined driver's seat.
We were woken an hour and a half later by a bright light illuminating the car and making it impossible for us to see what was outside. "Ranger!" a voice said, and Kelly promptly opened her door, even though I later told her that is exactly what a serial killer would have said to get access to us.
The ranger told us sleeping in a car counted as camping outside of designated areas; Kelly said we didn't realize that since we had seen other cars parked around and all the sites were full. He let us off with a warning, saying that it would disappear unless we got caught doing something else dumb in the park. He added that he wasn't coming back to check this area of the park if we wanted to stay, but he couldn't guarantee another ranger wouldn't catch us and turn the warning into a ticket. Pretty nice of him to give us a heads up, but we decided to leave.
We headed down the main road, past motels since it would be pointless to pay for a room when it was already 1.30a. We found a space in a campsite at 2.30a and, too worn out to even contemplate pitching a tent, reclined our chairs again. I slept really well for being on a car seat six inches from another person, though I did have a nightmare: Donald Trump had hired my mom as a hit woman. Strange, yes, but overall not the worst car-sleeping experience one could have.