A Solo Overnight Road Trip To Jasper Was Just What I Needed

Last Updated on March 31, 2021 by Kari

Before the pandemic, I used to go to a hotel for a night or two to be alone. Getting away from home and other people was what I needed to think more clearly and feel more connected to myself. Since the pandemic started, I haven’t done that, and I needed to do it badly. But, I was scared to go to a hotel. So, we bought an air mattress that fits over two seats and I headed out to the mountains for an overnighter by myself! It was something I’ve never done before, and it was amazing! I just want to share a few of the things I used and experienced on my own out there.

The Air Mattress I Slept On

We have a van with three rows of seats. We tend to keep the last seat tucked down, so I wanted an air mattress that would fit between the second seat and the door at the back of the van. We measured it, and the best fit we could find was this AutoTrends Air Mattress from Canadian Tire.

Funny enough, I had decided that I didn’t want a mattress that went across the seats, and when I ordered this, I didn’t realize that exactly what it was.

I thought the big long grey thing was a pillow or buffer of some sort. I just didn’t take the time to read exactly what it was because the measurements of the air mattress were the only ones that would fit in the back of our van. Moreover, it said the mattress was 17.7 inches high! That meant it would be as high as the second row of seats folded down and it would give me extra room.

It wasn’t until my husband blew up the mattress that we realized it wasn’t 17 inches high. He kept trying to get it bigger, but it just wouldn’t go!

Then, after some thinking, and looking, and more thinking, we realized that grey thing was a wedge to go in where your legs go so that you can put the air mattress on top of the seat, which is exactly what I didn’t want.

BUT it turned out to be amazing.

Here’s a quick shot of it covered with blankets and pillows. I have a lot of pillows in there. You can see at the bottom right it has the wedge to add that extra support for the full width. That wedge hasn’t deflated at all.

Air mattress

I’m 5’4 and the mattress is 4.43 feet long. I add a few inches by tucking some blankets into the space between the sliding door and the seat and then throwing some pillows on top. I tend to sleep with my legs tucked anyway, so I didn’t think it would be a big deal.

Before I left, my husband and I tried to get onto it together. It was a little tight, and while it might be fun for 20 minutes, it would get annoying for the rest of the night to try and sleep together there. We are thinking we are going to buy another one of these mattresses and put it on the third seat in the van. It will be a little more cramped because there’s no way to make some extra space lengthwise, but I think I could manage to be there for a night or two.

There were a couple of times during the night that I desperately wanted to stretch my legs out. Unfortunately, it was -10 degrees Celsius that night, and it was cold to touch the side of the van doors, so I did the best I could with stretching out sideways… and I did it quickly. But for the most part, I was very comfortable on the mattress.

I had blankets tucked around me and sleep mostly with my back pressed against the back of the second seat.

There were a few times I flipped around and put my back against the back of the front seat.

Either way, the mattress held up for me all night and during the day as I used it to sit on and work and read. I just stacked up the pillows behind my back and it was so comfortable.

In fact, we had blown up the mattress 5 days before I left, and it never lost any air whatsoever. We still have it in the van, and it’s still holding the air.

Update: We bought another one of these mattresses so that we could both go for an overnight trip. The second mattress and the wedge wouldn’t hold air. We only realized that when I got onto it for going to sleep. It was the worst sleep ever! We had to return it to Canadian Tire. But, the first mattress is still working great.

This is my first day on the road at a roadside stop.

sitting on matress

I didn’t know it at the time, but there are two Eagles in that shot sitting on a tree. It wasn’t until one eagle flew away that I saw the other one.

Eagles are a sign of my deceased Grandpa, so I was glad to see it. It made me feel like I was going to be safe for the trip. It stayed in the same spot for the whole two hours I stayed there. I wish I had my camera with the telephoto lens, but I didn’t. So, I did a lot of staring at it through my binoculars.

Where I Slept For The Night

As a single gal, I didn’t want to put myself at too much risk. I wanted to be somewhere that had some lights and where other people were going to be.

I knew that Freson Bros in Hinton allows RV parking, but I wasn’t sure if they would let me stay there in my van. I couldn’t find a reliable review to let me know if parking in a passenger van was going to be alright.

So, I wrote them an email asking them if it was OK that I stay there, and this is the response I got back.

Just in case you can’t read that, it says:

Absolutely you can spend the night. We have a parking lot that sits between our building at the highway that you can tuck into. We even offer free coffee in the morning when you wake up. We open at 6 am.

I travel by van as well and have noticed a few places not being friendly to vans.

What a relief!

When I got to Freson Bros, I went inside and asked the lady behind the service desk just to make sure and she thought it would be OK too.

So, I bought some groceries, parked under a light, and settled into my van for the night.

There was only one camper there when I pulled in and he stayed all night too.

As I was talking about in my emotional month article, there were two police cars that parked not too far away from me. The police officers talked to each other for about 25 minutes. I was a little concerned that they would approach me, but they never did.

There were big trucks that came and went throughout the night (I think Freson Bros has about 5 or more stalls for bigger trucks and RVs), but I didn’t mind the noise. I didn’t hear a lot of noise, to be honest.

I think because I back onto the only road into my neighborhood, I’m pretty used to the noise of cars and can tune it out. Plus, I probably felt safer subconsciously when I heard more trucks pull in as I felt the more people stay there, the less likely anything would happen to me.

At one point during the night, I woke up and noticed that a ton of big trucks had appeared along the street by Freson Bros. I never heard any of them come in.

I also woke up and noticed a pickup truck that had parked a few stalls over. I kept checking to see what that was about, but I never saw anyone in the truck, and it was still there the next day as I was heading home in the afternoon.

I can say that I felt as safe as I would in a hotel there. Maybe safer, because I could get in the front seat and drive away if anyone tried to break into my ‘room’.

I will definitely be staying in the Freson Bros parking lot the next time I go there. I felt safe. Their bathrooms were ridiculously clean. And while they are known for their meat, they have a lot of great vegan options too. I’m grateful that they allow vans to stay there.

I Didn’t Have The Best Sleep

The first night sleeping somewhere different is always hard for me. If I had slept another night, I’m sure it would have gone a lot smoother.

It was cold that night and windy. It was so windy that the van was rocking at times.

I kept waking up and starting the van for a few minutes so that I could get some heat. I had my computer and was scared that it was going to freeze to death.

I went to bed around 9 and I would say I woke up every two hours or so to look around and start the van for a few minutes.

I woke up around 3 am and had to go to the bathroom so bad. I was kind of awake, so I thought about heading into Jasper. I decided to drive to Petro Canada and go to the bathroom and get some gas. But, when I got out of the van to pump the gas, my hair stood straight up it was so windy. I decided that I should wait to drive until there was at least a little bit of light and I could see where I was being blown to if I got blown off the road.

I went to the Walmart parking lot to see if there was anyone parked there. It was all big trucks. No cars. I parked for two minutes and a police offer drove around me.

Hinton police really monitor what’s going on! I wouldn’t try to do anything stupid there as the police seem to be able to spot something off very quickly.

I did notice that a ton of big trucks had come in for the night. All the streets along the main highway were full of trucks. But, I didn’t feel comfortable parking on those streets. I felt like the police wouldn’t like it for some reason. I’m not sure if this is true or not, but it seems like big trucks are the only vehicles allowed to spend the night there.

So, I went back to my spot in the Freson Bros parking lot, hopped back onto my air mattress bed, and fell asleep almost instantly. This time I slept for almost 2 1/2 hours. I woke up at 6:10 am and headed into the Freson Bros to use the bathroom. Nobody even looked at me. I didn’t feel like I was imposing or doing something I shouldn’t be doing. It was really nice to have a place that allowed me to enjoy my night there.

A Car Plugin For The Computer

We always have a cigarette lighter adapter for our phones. But, I didn’t even know you could buy an adapter that allows you to plug in an actual plugin cord! I just knew that I was going to need to plug in my computer at least once somewhere. After a quick search, I found this one on Amazon.

It worked great. I plugged my computer in at about 20% and it had it all charged by the time I checked, which was an hour and a half later.

I had the van running while it was plugged in, so I can’t say how it would do if you are not running the van. I didn’t want to risk something happening to the van in the middle of Jasper where there’s no cell service, so I was as careful as can be.

My Drive To Jasper In The Morning Was Awesome

I wanted to get into Jasper before the sun came completely up so I could watch it come up in the mountains. I LOVE waking up in the mountains. It’s the best thing ever to me. My husband and I have always wanted to move to the mountains so we can wake up there daily… and someday we will.

drive towards mountains

I managed to get a coffee and situated as the sun started to come up. As you can see through my dirty window!

waking up in mountains

And then I spent a few hours working in the van on my comfortable air mattress.

work mountains

And as I drove home in the afternoon, I became so tired that I could hardly keep my eyes open. I stopped in a road turnout close to Edson and jumped onto my mattress and fell asleep within seconds. I love that thing so much! It’s so much easier than trying to get comfortable on a reclining seat.

We plan to leave the air mattress there so that if there are any impromptu road trips in our future, we have a bed available.

I enjoyed this solo trip so much better than I ever did at a hotel. Yes, at a hotel you get a bathroom and, in my case, I always booked with a Jacuzzi. But, being out in nature in a small space with not much to worry about is definitely more of what I need on my solo trips. Looking forward to the next one.

One More Thing About Freson Bros

I don’t know why they have a sign that says open 24 hours if the hours are from 6 am to 11 pm. I never did ask. In fact, I didn’t even check if they were open when I got up in the middle of the night because I assumed they weren’t! I had checked their hours repeatedly online and it was 11-6 each time. I only saw the 24-hour sign in the morning. Next time I’ll dig into that more.

Update: I’ve been back a few times since writing this article. Once by myself and once with my husband. This last time, I noticed that the sign no longer says open 24 hours. It says open 11-6! I forgot to take a picture, but obviously, one of two things happened. Either I was in another reality or the sign was changed that quickly. In any case, I wish they were open 24 hours. It would be better.

Update: I remembered to take a pic on my last trip.

I’ve stayed there a few times since my first trip and it’s been good most times. Other vans, cars, RVs, and even one guy with a truck and a boat stayed there.

One time (the only time my husband came) a guy had a generator running all night which was super loud. Even the trucks that come and go are not that loud.

But, for the most part, everyone is there to sleep and they do it quietly. I am much more comfortable there now so I sleep much better than I did my first time.

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