Monday, March 23, 2009

Personal Hygiene

I have already claimed that in spite of my homeless existence, I do not smell too bad (at least in as far as I can smell myself). To what do I attribute this mellifluous non-odorousness?

Simple: I belong to a health club chain and shower regularly. My current club, 24-Hour Fitness™, has gyms all over the West and a few cities in the East, including most of the warm places I hang out (like Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Diego and Miami). When I'm driving cross-country, I'll often plan my journey so that I hit one at regular intervals.

If I spent more time in other parts of the country, I might choose a different chain, like Bally Total Fitness™. The actual "gym" component is not significant, since I only use the treadmill, the shower and the hot tub (if available). The important thing is that the chain have a wide network of locations. My current membership costs me only a pittance, since I signed up years ago and get a low annual renewal rate, but if you came in off the street, you might expect to pay $40/month for a national membership like mine (less if you pre-pay for longer periods). That's still a small price to pay compared to $600+ rent on a room or apartment with a shower attached which would tie you down to one location.

I don't find it necessary to be excessively clean, though. I don't mind going a few days without a shower. To bathe every day, especially when you haven't been sweating or doing anything dirty, often seems a bit excessive and culturally driven. Back in the good old medieval days (the inspiration for much of my lifestyle), you'd be lucky to bathe once a month! Since I am frequently on the move, I shower when it's convenient, and skip it for a day or two when it's not.

When traveling in Europe, I'll usually stay in a hostel at least every other day, where (semi) hot showers are provided. Hostels are certainly easier to find in Europe than health clubs and are probably cheaper! (More on hostelling later.)

Many truck stops have showers for rent, but for non-truckers the price is usually high: $15 or more. It might be something to consider in long cross-country hauls.

If none of these options were available, I might consider checking into a conventional motel for a shower (preferably a unit of the French-owned Motel 6™ chain or their sister in Europe, Hotel Formule 1™). but I haven't been pushed that far in long time. If I have solved the safe-sleeping problem and the shower problem, a dedicated room seems a waste to me. There are usually better things I can do with the money. (The only times in recent years that I have used motels was when traveling with teenagers. I stick the youth in the room so I can sleep in the car in peace!)

Of course, showering is only one element of personal hygiene. I also own a battery operated toothbrush (a SonicCare™). I carry it everywhere with me and brush my teeth regularly, regardless of the circumstances. A little-known fact is that you DON'T NEED WATER to brush your teeth; you just need toothpaste, and your own saliva provides the only wetting agent required. Running water is handy only to rinse off the brush afterwards, but lack of water never prevents me from brushing.

I shave with a brand-name rechargeable electric shaver. If you are used to shaving with a wet blade, the electric takes some getting used to, but it works almost as well with a lot less mess and effort. Having the razor always in my bag means I can shave every day and never skip some days like wet-razor users often do (making them look like cavemen).

I wash my clothes when needed, usually at a facility called a "Laundromat". At this independently-owned commercial business, found in all cities and significant towns, you can rent a cleaning or drying appliance by placing quarters into it. (You should visit a supermarket first for laundry detergent.) For me, this event happens twice a month at most.

My standards for clean clothes may differ from yours. I change my socks and underwear every day, but the outer clothing is negotiable. When I go away for a trip of several days, I may carry no change of clothes except socks, underwear and whatever special attire I need for the climate (typically short pants, which are also used as a swimsuit, or an extra sweatshirt in colder climes). All of this fits in my carry-on bag. I usually wear the same pants for the whole trip. The next thing to go rank after the socks and underwear is ones shirt so I may bring an extra one.

Naturally, my wardrobe is chosen for its functionality not its fashion sense, but I do make a reasonable attempt to appear superficially normal. I avoid drab "homeless" colors and try to look colorful and country clubish. For the socks and underwear, I go First Class, buying them directly from the Evil Mega Mart™, but I tend to acquire other clothing along the way at thrift stores and garage sales.

My clothing inventory is stored at my "Supply Base"—currently a storage unit in Las Vegas. (I have often considered adding units in other cities, but this one serves my needs for now.) I return here at regular intervals and exchange my dirty clothes for clean. When my generous supply of clean socks and underwear is exhausted, I make a Laundromat run (which is only a couple of blocks from Supply Base).

Now, as to that other delicate element of personal hygiene, human waste, I could write an extensive treatise on the subject, and I very well might someday, but it's really quite simple: You use public restrooms when available and nature when they are not.

Since I tend to gravitate to the woods of suburbia when I camp, the same isolation that hides my presence also allows me to freely eliminate. It's ALL NATURAL, for chrissakes, so what's the big deal? Nature can absorb a reasonable amount of urine and all the poo you can dish out. The only thing besotting to nature is the big wads of toilet paper that non-professionals often leave behind. I try to use small amounts of t.p. and discretely bury mine under the leaves so it can degrade invisibly.

Every major highway has rest areas and every Evil Mega Mart™ has rest rooms. The only place you might find yourself in a bathroom bind is in a dense urban center like mid-town Manhattan. In this case, you have to plan ahead, as well as limiting your fluid intake so you don't have to pee so often. (It is better to carry a bottle of water than to drink it when you don't need it.) Since I don't dally for long in any urban center (except when staying at a hostel), the lack of rest rooms is rarely a problem for me.

A major factor in restroom need is fluid intake. Most people tend to take in far more liquids than they need, due largely to their caffeine and alcohol addictions. I contend that if you can eliminate caffeine alone from your life, you'll cut your bathroom breaks in half.

Occasionally, you may be trapped in an enclosed area, like a storage unit or a van, where no bathroom facilities of any kind are available. What do you do then? Well, the pee goes in a bottle and the solid waste goes in a plastic grocery bag. The bottle can be dumped down a drain or into some bushes when it is convenient. Just make sure it's an area exposed to rain so it eventually washes away, avoiding "subway odor". (Incidentally, urine has almost no odor in the dry desert, only in damp and humid areas.)

And getting rid of the plastic bag? That's more complicated.

I've conducted extensive research into the matter, and here is my essential finding: Poop stinks. Okay, everyone in the world knows that, but what you probably didn't know is that poop stinks even in a plastic bag. Turns out, plastic holds water inside but is permeable to odors. If you sealed the bag and threw it in a trash bin or dumpster, the whole area would soon stink to high heaven! The bag prevents the waste from drying out or decaying, so it continues to actively generate odors. And it's the worst kind of odor known to man, permeating everything.

The odor-passing characteristic of plastic was illustrated by an old television ad comparing two brands of food wrap. On one side was a slab of meet wrapped in a hundred layer of saran wrap (i.e. plastic). On the other side was a similar piece of meat wrapped in only a single layer of Brand X wrap. A bear is presented with both packages, and he goes directly for the saran wrap, because he can smell the meat inside. He ignores the Brand X-wrapped meat, because no odors get through.

What is Brand X? Reynolds Wrap™—i.e. aluminum foil! It passes no odors.

So now you know that if you want to discretely dispose of human waste—or for that matter, baby diapers or dismembered body parts—you should wrap them in aluminum foil to hide any telltale odor.

Is it morally or environmentally wrong to throw away human waste in the trash? Baby diapers are routinely thrown away, aren't they? That's all you can do with them. Nowadays, in industrial countries, nearly all trash goes to secure landfills where it is essentially entombed for eternity. There is no significant biological activity in a landfill; it just sits there, compacted, for centuries, but at least it isn't using up any resources apart from the land it's on. On the other hand, whatever you flush down the toilet requires huge resources for processing. There's the 2-4 gallons of water you flush down with it and the complex, energy-consuming treatment process at the other end. If you add up all the costs, landfilling your ordure is probably much friendlier to the environment.

But the most environmentally friendly solid waste disposal method is to shit in the woods. It's your patriotic duty, so do it often!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

How to Sleep at an Airport

Tom Hanks in the movie The Terminal demonstrates how NOT to sleep in an airport. (He needs to work "with" the furniture, not against it.)

The worst torture to most air travelers is to be forced to spend the night in an airport, due to bad weather, canceled flights, etc. I see it as enormous good fortune! Airports are safe, dry, well-heated places where you can often sleep comfortably if you are reasonably flexible and prepared. If you find yourself without affordable lodging, you can sometimes even "arrange" to be stranded at an airport—say, by not leaving security after your plane lands.

Many (but not all) major U.S. airports are open all night, and on most nights there are passengers sleeping at the gates. It's a fact of life that flights get canceled or overbooked, and often the airline cannot accommodate the affected passengers until morning. Airports usually accept this and do not harass anyone sleeping inside security. Sometimes they even hand out pillows and blankets!

As an airline industry traveler flying stand-by, I am often stranded when the flight I had intended to board is full and I can't get on. I can also DECIDE to strand myself at an airport if that is the best accommodations available. You can't argue with the price: $0 per night!

(In a separate entry, Where to Sleep in an Airport, I review some specific airports. In this entry, I discuss equipment and techniques.)

Here is the most important equipment to have with you…
1) Warm clothing! You should always travel in warm clothing, regardless of the season or the tropical destination you are traveling to, because airports and airplanes are kept at a constant "room temperature" of about 78 degrees. This is comfortable when you are active but unbearably cold when you are trying to sleep. I always travel in long pants and a sweatshirt.

2) A light blanket. Even warm clothing is not enough to keep you warm at night at room temperature. You will also need at least one light blanket—like those on airplanes. I find that one such blanket is sufficient and two make me positively cozy. Perhaps you can "borrow" a blanket from the plane or even ask for one from the airline customer service agents on the ground.

3) A knit cap. At night, most heat escapes through your head. Whether or not you have a full head of hair, a cheap winter-style knit cap could greatly decrease heat loss and improve comfort. (Being follicly-challenged myself, I find it essential.)

4) Foam earplugs. In most airports, the music and recorded safety announcements continue all night, and sometimes CNN is blaring at you from monitors at every gate. Earplugs cut down this audible clutter and may even protect your hearing from the constant noise.

5) A sleep mask. In an airport terminal, the bright fluorescent lighting is on all night, and it penetrates right through your eyelids. I avoid this with an eye mask (less than $5 in the travel section of the Evil Mega Mart) or by pulling my knit cap down over my eyes.

6) A travel pillow is nice, but not essential. If you don't have one, there is usually some article of clothing you can roll up and use as a pillow.

7) Toothbrush and toothpaste. Travel is no excuse not to attend to dental hygiene. Always carry your toothbrush and a small tube of toothpaste in your carry-on bag. (In the U.S., the toothpaste has to be 3 ounces or less to pass through security.)
If you have all of the above equipment, how do you actually "sleep" in an airport? You just lie down and do it! Preferably you choose a location that is fairly quiet and discreet, but you don't have to hide. Usually, this is going to be the waiting area at one of the gates.

The accommodations differ from airport to airport. The most significant difference between them is the seating: "armrests" or "no armrests." If all bench seats in the airport have fixed arm rests between each seat, it is impossible to lie down flat on them. When the seating has no arm rests, then you can stretch out full length and sometimes sleep as soundly as you would at home.

In most airports, you can find at least some seating without arm rests, but you may have to search for them. For example, in Philadelphia most seating in the "A" concourse has armrests, but most seating in the "B" and "C" concourses does not. In an airport like this where all the terminals are connected, you can wander around until you find a neighborhood that suits you.

A few other airports have armrests on 100% of their seating, which makes sleep difficult but not impossible. Seating with armrests looks like this…
It looks impossible to sleep on seats like this, but I have managed it! One requirement of sound sleep is that your whole body must lie at about the same level. Although you don't have to lie "flat", your feet have to be at about the same level as your head to prevent blood pooling in them. If you are limber, you can sleep on seats like these by forming your body around an armrest in a fetal position. It doesn't sound like it would work, but it does! Your butt is hanging over thin air, but the rest of your weight is on the seats and keeps you from falling. It takes some getting used to, but I have spent a number of sound nights in this position, shamelessly defeating the purpose of the armrests.

Another option is to sleep on the floor. This is not nearly as comfortable as a padded seat, but on a carpeted floor, it is often passable. Finally, you can try to sleep upright on the seats, like you were sitting on an airplane. At least you'll have more space than you would in Economy Class!

If you are sleeping at a gate, check the departure board to see when the first morning flight is leaving from that gate. Later is better, since it gives you more time before the crowds arrive in the morning. You can also look out the windows of the gate to see if a plane is parked there overnight. If there is no plane present, there unlikely to be an early morning departure.

Personal security isn't much of an issue inside the secure (or "sterile") area of the terminal. Everyone there has already passed through the screening process and has a legitimate reason for being there. You should keep your personal belongings close at hand, but you don't need to be paranoid. Your most valuable possessions, like your passport and electronics should be stored under your seat in such a way that someone would have to wake you in order to steal them.

Visible security within the sterile area is remarkably lax. You would think in the post-9/11 world, security officers would be everywhere, but they're mainly at the security checkpoint. Once you're in, you're in, and no one has ever asked me for a boarding pass or identification after entering. (This is true for U.S. airports, although I can't speak for overseas ones.) The only time an airport employee has ever woken me up was once in Philadelphia—to give me a pillow and blanket!

In the U.S., most airlines don't issue boarding passes until four hours before the flight, so you can't sleep overnight at the airport before your flight. (Online, you can check in up to 12 hours before the flight, but I'm not sure security officers would let you in with tomorrow's boarding pass.)

When getting off a flight, however, you can simply decline to leave security. This only works, of course, if the terminal is open all night. (You can find out by asking a customer service agent.) If you have luggage heading for the carousel, it will be held for you. (You might get a call from the baggage service office, but you just tell them you are delayed and will be back for the bag in the morning.)

Airport food is usually horrendously priced, but your aim isn't to live at the airport, only to squeeze a night's sleep out of it. Water and maybe a snack are all you need. Once you are rested and refreshed, you can head out into the world.

A few overseas airports actually have hotels or simple sleeping quarters available inside the sterile area. Singapore, for example, has free recliners available and Amsterdam has low-cost "sleeping rooms" (or did when I last passed through 10+ years ago). The accommodations and security arrangements differ by airport. You should check the airport's website for clues, but you usually have to actually visit to know what is available. (Some international airports may send you directly to customs and then to the outside world.)

Outside the sterile area, you will often find people sleeping in the baggage claim area or in various indoor non-secure areas of the terminal. The wisdom and acceptability of this varies greatly from place to place. After I found all Dublin hostels full, I spent the night with dozens of other travelers in the public area of the airport. I've also stayed several times in the baggage claim area of the Charlotte (N.C.) airport, where the sterile area closes at night. Whether you can get away with this often depends on how far the airport is from the city and whether everyday vagrants might abuse the privilege. Outside security, there is a greater likelihood that someone will wake you up and ask for credentials. If you have ticket for a early morning flight, that might sufficient to let you spend the night outside security. (Again, no one has ever asked me for credentials or a ticket when I slept at an airport.) There is also a slightly greater chance of theft outside security, since anyone can walk in off the street. Still, the public areas are usually well-lit and well-patrolled, and I don't feel that safety is an issue at any modern airport.

When the choice is a finding and paying for a $100+ hotel room or lingering in the airport for the night for $0, the airport can often be an acceptable alternative. The skill can also be handy if your flight is oversold and the airline asks for volunteers to give up their seats in exchange for a future free ticket.

It's just one more weapon in the arsenal of the Free Sleeper.

For reviews of airports I have personally slept in, see a separate entry: Where to Sleep in an Airport.

Update 8/16/09

Wow! There's a website dedicated to sleeping in airports:

Mentioned in LA Times: "Best Airport for Napping: Singapore" (8/16/09)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Requirements of Sleep: Overview

We spend almost a third of our lives there, but few of us understand it or have made any serious attempt to. We just "go to bed" at night and "wake up" in the morning. We don't really know what sleep is or why we need it. All we know for sure is that our life is hell if we don't get enough of it.

To learn how to sleep in a variety of circumstances, you have to at least understand its parameters. What makes the difference between a good night's sleep and a night of fitful wakefulness? I have experimented quite a bit with sleep and think I know what works, at least for me. It's a surprisingly complex topic, so I'm going to start with the basics for now. In future entries, we'll explore each requirement in detail.

This is what you seem to need for sound sleep…
1) Safety. Before you can comfortably attempt sleep, you have to be in an environment where you know you can be safe during your long period of unconsciousness. You have to be safe from predators, thieves, rapists and other threats to your life and health. This is both a matter of actually being safe and believing you are safe, so you don't lie awake in fear.

2) Warmth. During sleep, your body slows down, so you need more insulation around you than you do during the day. This doesn't necessarily have to be active heating, just enough batting around you to retain your body's own heat.

3) A level sleeping platform. To sleep comfortably, all of you body has to be at about the same level—that is, lying down, although not necessarily flat. (Sometimes you can sleep in a curled up position.) While you can sleep in a chair, blood pools in your legs, making it uncomfortable and even dangerous to do for extended periods.

4) Padding beneath you. You can't sleep well on a hard surface but need a certain amount of padding below you. This distributes your body weight over a wider area. You don't necessarily need a water bed, but concrete won't do.

5) Fresh air! You need to be able to breathe at night. You can't sleep in a totally enclosed space.

6) Protection from rain and wind. You can't sleep in a downpour or a puddle, even if you are warm enough, but the main problem is that these elements rob you of heat.

7) Protection from insects. It's mainly the mosquito to worry about here. Just a couple of mosquitoes can keep you up all night, and a giant cockroach will do it as well!

8) Relative quiet. You can't easily sleep in a noisy environment, and it is a threat to your hearing even if you can. (Earplugs can solve this problem.)

9) Relative darkness. Even though your eyes are closed, you can't sleep in a very bright environment, because the light passes through you eyelids. (A sleep mask can solve this.)

10) Freedom from interruption. Once you go to sleep, you don't want to be woken from it, or the quality of the sleep will suffer.

11) The opportunity to turn or shift position. When the body is stationary for long periods, certain parts of the skin are placed under pressure, and eventually "bed sores" will develop. To combat this, your body knows to turn at regular intervals, perhaps a dozen times a night. Your sleeping arrangement has to account for this.

12) Opportunity to pee. This is somewhat negotiable, since you shouldn't have to urinate while you are sleeping, only before and after. (If you are waking up to do it, it usually means you are taking in too much liquid during the day, probably due to your caffeine addiction.)

13) Privacy. This is also negotiable, but you do need to know, for example, that your utterances while dreaming won't be recorded and used against you.
There are many things not on the above list that some people regard as essential. For example, some people may think they need a certain kind of padding under them or a certain style of sheets. Largely, these are "invented needs," not real ones. The body is remarkably adaptable if you give it a chance. In fact, all around the world humans sleep in a wide variety of circumstances, from hammocks on the trees to shelved cut in the ice. The requirements above, however, seem to be universal.

You may still be able to get SOME sleep even if all the requirements aren't met. For example, you may be able to sleep sitting up in an airplane on a long flight, but it probably won't be comfortable sleep that gets you through the whole next day. To sleep comfortably night after night, you'll probably need all of these elements.

The length of time required for sleep varies with the individual and the kind of lifestyle he leads, but seven hours a night seems common. Whether you need more or less seems to depend on the quality of sleep, especially during deep "REM" sleep when dreaming occurs. If your quality of sleep is poor, you may need more naps during the day to make up for it.

I believe you should sleep for as long as you want, without an alarm waking you up. If you wake up naturally, this is a good indication that your sleep needs have been met. If you force yourself to wake up, then you are probably cheating on those needs, and it is bound to work against you in some way.

Nonetheless, real world constraints and travel schedules often require you to waken before your body wants you to. Therefore, I would add an additional requirement for sound sleep…
14) A reliable alarm clock! If you aren't sure you'll wake up on time (to catch a flight, get to work, etc.) you won't sleep comfortably, so you have to know your alarm clock will work. (A cell phone alarm are fine, as long as you know it will work and successfully wake you.)
Because the topic of sleep is a complicated one—and critical to homeless living—we'll go into some of the above requirements in more detail later in this blog.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Case Study: Free Sleeping in South Florida

The ultimate way to test a survivalist is to drop him off in the wilderness with only a hunting knife and see if he can stay alive. I do pretty much the same thing but in an urban environment. As a furloughed airline employee flying standby, I often find myself spending the night in cities I never intended to visit with little more than the clothes on my back and $20 in my pocket. My test is to see if I can sleep safely and comfortably in these places using the limited resources I have.

I faced just such a test about three weeks ago when I left San Diego for something resembling "work" in Miami. I had to get to the Miami airport to pick up a car to drive a few states north. The only trouble was this was February school vacation week, the peak travel time to South Florida, and all of the flights there were fully booked. Getting into Florida seemed darn near impossible.

Instead of a hunting knife (which would never pass airport security), I travel with a backpack full of electronic equipment, assuring me some sort of connection to the internet. In my current "adaptively homeless" lifestyle, internet access can often mean the difference between success (a good night's sleep) and failure (a miserable sleepless night).

First, I had access to my airline's load factors, so I could determine just how full the flights were. All flights to Florida were fully booked and most were also "overbooked," meaning more seats were sold than were actually available on the plane. Airlines routinely overbook flights on the assumption that some passengers won't show up, and if everyone actually checks in, they have to ask for volunteers to give up their seats. My chances of getting on an overbooked flight were next to nil, especially if other employees were waiting to fly, but if a flight was merely "booked" (the same number of reservations as seats), I might have a chance, since some passengers might not check in.

I had a choice of four airports to land at, traveling by ground to Miami if necessary, but only one destination stood a chance: a commuter flight to Key West. I listed myself for the flight, went to the gate, and got on!

A couple of hours later, I was in beautiful Key West, the "Conch Republic," the southernmost point in the continental U.S. and the nearest thing to a tropical island this side of Havana. This was February, but it was HOT in Key West, at least 80 degrees and humid. The only little problem now was getting to Miami.

Furthermore, it was getting late in the day, and I certainly couldn't afford a hotel room in this neck of the woods. I had a sleeping bag in my checked luggage, but it was already in Miami waiting for me. What was I going to do?

No problem, mon! This is the Caribbean. Life is slow. Things will work out.

I had been to Key West a couple of times before, so I knew the ropes. In those previous trips, I secretly slept in the bushes near the airport in the shadow of a "No Camping" sign, but I had a sleeping bag then and wasn't pressed for time.

Key West is a long way from Miami: about 4 hours if you drive yourself. However, you can also get there via a series of public buses taking a minimum of six hours and sometimes a whole day. You're not traveling with the chickens but pretty close to it. One advantage, however, it that it is cheap: only about $10 for the whole one-way trip.

I knew I couldn't get all the way to the Miami Airport by the end of the day (before the closing time of the office that was holding my luggage), but I could make it most of the way. I took one bus to the local community college in Key West where I knew they had WiFi. I plotted for an hour, then started my long journey up the Keys to the mainland.

The Florida Keys are a lot more interesting on the map than they are on the ground. Because they are very flat, you don't really get the sense that they are islands. There are a few nice beaches, but most of the coast is mangrove forest. Mangrove is a dense bush that grows in seawater about a foot deep. It's a fascinating plant in isolation but dull in repetition. The islands are connected by long concrete causeways, which are also more interesting from the air then at the surface.

Don't get me wrong: I love the Keys. They are easy tropical islands to get to and a fine spot for Free Sleeping if you know the environment, but in this case I just wanted to put them behind me.

After some missed bus connections, I finally reached the mainland about 8 hours after I started. It was about 11:00 at night and too late to approach the Miami airport. This was when I put my free sleeping skills to good use.

The last stop for the bus from the Keys happened to be the Evil Mega Mart in Florida City, at the southern outskirts of the Miami area. What providence! At the EMM, I knew I could get a sleeping bag for $9, which was all I needed in a balmy environment like this.

Although it's warm in South Florida, you do need some bedding at night, when the temperature drops into the 60s. The other main issues are rain and mosquitoes. The online forecast told me there was no rain on the horizon, but I was worried about bugs. Just one mosquito can totally ruin your night.

The EMM sold bug repellent, but over the course of the day I saw it wasn't necessary. There were no mosquitoes! Winter is the dry season in Florida, and apparently without rain there are no stagnant pools for the critters to breed in. I have been in the Everglades in the summer when the mosquitoes were deadly, but not here and now.

I went to the EMM and bought a sleeping bag. Now where should I sleep? That was easy. There was a big open field immediately adjacent to the EMM parking lot and I camped there!

During the day, the site was totally exposed and I could not have done it, but the nighttime is a whole different universe. My analysis of the field told my no one was likely to walk through here (no trails and no trash), and the darkness made me completely invisible, even to the security guards circling in the parking lot.

The photo above shows my set-up, about a hundred yards from the lighted parking lot. (The blue thing isn't a pillow; it's just an airline blanket.) It doesn't look like much but it worked! The grass provided adequate padding, and not a single mosquito visited me. I slept soundly until my cellphone alarm woke me just before dawn. I rolled up my sleeping bag just as the sky was getting light then continued my journey to the Miami airport.

Mission accomplished! Against impossible odds, I got from San Diego to Miami via five planes, six buses, one train (in Miami) and a lot of walking. All together, it took me 48 hours and cost me little more than $20 including the sleeping bag.

So what did we learn from this experience?
1) Everything you need for survival can be found at the Evil Mega Mart.

2) You should research everything you can on the internet, but you actually have to test the environment before you know for sure what it is like (re: the lack of mosquitoes).

3) Understand the differences between the daytime and nighttime environment.

4) Know your sleeping requirements.

5) Don't hesitate to sleep "in plain sight" if you can get away with it.
Remember: The only aim is to get a safe, comfortable night's sleep, by whatever means necessary. It doesn't have to be pretty. Martha Stewart would be appalled, but that's why we don't invite her!

BTW: He are some photos from an earlier Key West visit.