That Time We Got Our Campground Neighbor Arrested

One other thing of note happened while our caravan of five was at Oak Flat Campground near Castaic, CA. We had to call the cops on one of our neighbors.

The number one biggest reservation I hear from single women thinking of hitting the road is personal safety, And this incident was exactly in line with what I’ve written about the subject.

To set the stage: It’s February 25th, a Sunday. All is quiet. Near 11 am a very noisy (it sounds intentional) older vehicle comes tearing through the campground. A guy’s voice yells out: “Wake up everybody, it’s my birthday!” The vehicle makes a loop of the campground, there’s some more hooting and hollering, and then they leave.

The five of us are in a group chat together, all working in our separate rigs. We all agree: what an A-hole.

All goes back to normal. But then a few hours later, we hear the distinctive sound of that car coming back. Ugh.

The vehicle stops next to another nearby campsite where a guy has been tent-camping since we arrive. A couple gets out of the car, and talks to the tent camper for quite a while. The man continues to be obnoxiously loud, it’s clear to all of us that he’s under the influence.

Then, the tent-camper takes off in his car, and the couple starts setting up camp next to one of our crew. They quickly get into a very loud argument that drags on. There’s a lot of swearing and name calling. At one point the woman, we can’t hear her end of the argument because she’s more soft spoken but can guess because of what the guy’s yelling, must have brought up that she was worried about leaving the tent alone, that someone would steal their stuff.

Why do we think this is what she said? Because the man goes off about how all the rich RVers around here (that would be us) wouldn’t want to steal their crummy tent. It morphs into a tangent about how he wishes he had an RV and nice things but he doesn’t have that kind of money.

It’s at this point that Kelly, who’s in the camp spot right next to theirs, decides to call the cops.

People fear killers and professional criminals on the road, but in reality this is the kind of deviant you’re most likely to encounter. Not the methodical, experienced criminal – they aren’t going to come out to a campground or the boonies just on the off-chance that there will be something good worth stealing. No, it’s the drunk guy who isn’t in his right mind.

Probably, nothing will happen but words. There’s been no hint of physical violence and he hasn’t tried to interact with any of us at all. But we don’t know him or what he’s capable of, and even if he’s just loud all night, that’s not something we want to suffer through.

While Kelly is on the phone with the cops, the woman pulls a gun out of their car. We can’t tell from a distance what kind, here’s where I start to get nervous. They continue to shout and make a ruckus. The woman gets into the car with the gun and locks the man out. They shout some more. Then he gets into the car as well and they both drive off, leaving the tent and some gear behind.

The cops are on the way, and the five of us pack up camp. If the cops arrive and the couple is still out, there’s little they can do and we don’t want to camp overnight with them. If the cops arrive and give them a ticket or some such, they’ll probably guess it was one of us RVers and may hold a grudge.

The couple comes back with some logs for a fire before long. We continue packing up camp as quickly and quietly as we can. But we don’t get out before the cops arrive.

Two cop cars pull in. One takes each side of the loop to block the vehicle. One cop gets there first and we hear shouting: “Drop it! Drop it!” Then all gets quiet.

Messages fly back and forth in our group chat, apparently, the man was chopping wood with an ax when the cops showed up and they thought it was the gun. Then we hear laughter, it sounds like the cops are getting chummy with the couple, what’s that all about?

We can’t leave because the cops are parked so as to block us in as well. We wait to see what happens.

Then the cops put the man in cuffs. Phew, we won’t need to pull out after all. The cops come over to talk to us and we get the full scoop.

The man had a warrant out for his arrest, they were talking to him and keeping him calm while waiting for those results to come in. It turns out that this campground, ostensibly a pay campground but not enforced, is a regular destination for ne’er-do-wells based in the LA area, this is not the first time the cops have had to come out here. The woman (also legally drunk) will be staying put tonight and sobering up. The gun it turns out was just a pellet gun.

The cop in charge is friendly and helpful and gives us directions on other places to camp in the area (the picture for this post). We end up staying three more nights at Oak Flat without a problem, the woman is there most of that time but it’s not an issue.

So, what are the lessons here?

  • Common sense is your best defense. Lock up your valuables and your door at night. Stay alert to your surroundings.
  • If a situation arises, stay calm. Panic makes good decisions nearly impossible. Keep a clear head and think “what’s the best action to take next?”
  • As an RVer your house has wheels. If you feel unsure about a situation or an area, you can always just pack up and leave. If you’re a newer RVer who doesn’t have the moving routine memorized, keep some sort of list to refer to in case a situation like this arises where nerves may make you forget steps.
  • Traveling frequently, you probably won’t have the number handy to call the cops. But you can always dial 911 and get transferred to the right place.
  • Being alone in the middle of nowhere may feel less safe, but actually, you’re more likely to encounter undesirables near populated areas. The fact that this was an unmanned campground also increased the risk.

I’m still strongly of the opinion that the world is not as scary a place as it’s made out to be and that people are fundamentally good. I don’t share this story to induce fear, but to educate and inform. In five and a half years of full-timing, mostly alone, this is the worst situation I’ve been in and while I experienced a healthy dose of fear and it wasn’t a fun situation to be in, none of our caravan were directly threatened and likely, if we hadn’t called the cops nothing would have happened but a sleepless night while the drunk couple squabbled with each other. Actually, we also found out later another person in the campground was also in the process of calling the cops when they arrived… but you get the point.

And there you have it. The story of how we got our campground neighbor arrested. After it was over we all agreed that it was an exciting evening, but not one we cared to repeat.

Related Video

Related Links

Other Articles You Might Enjoy

Finding a Boondocking Rhythm

March 11, 2016 |

Boondocking has a different rhythm from other types of RVing, one I’m still getting the hang of. While I expected it to be more spontaneous, I actually find myself planning more. Routes and routines greatly influenced by the weather. The temperature has to be within a certain range to be comfortable without hookups to rely…

Read More


February 12, 2013 |

A light rain falls on the roof, the pitter pattering not quite heavy enough to mask the sound of the occasional car flying by on the highway. Yellow incandescent light softened by opaque covers illuminate a mess that is in the process of being put away. Heavy winter gear sits in one pile, paperwork to…

Read More

2016 Health Insurance Update

December 15, 2015 |

Last year, I wrote a pretty lengthy article on South Dakota health insurance for pre-retirement RVers. You can review that article for the full story but here’s a recap: Up until 2015 I had a low cost, high deductible plan that would cover me in case of emergency only, everything else I paid out of…

Read More


At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.


  1. Nigel William on March 26, 2018 at 7:41 am

    I am sorry you had such a hard time! At the end could you go camping as planned?

    • Becky on March 26, 2018 at 5:35 pm

      Yep we stayed a couple nights at this campground after this incident without problems.

  2. Cinn on March 15, 2018 at 9:10 pm

    Wow!! I’m glad you are all safe!
    This is why I plan to avoid camping near cities.

  3. Mary ~ Reflections Around the Campfire on March 15, 2018 at 8:35 am

    Thanks for sharing your experience. It’s easy to become complacent about safety when situations like this are (thankfully) few and far between. There is a reasonable point between a false sense of security (nothing is going to happen) and abject fear (everything is going to happen). I believe that remaining aware, trusting your gut feelings and being comfortable with calling in law enforcement all go a long way toward keeping yourself and others safe.

    We’ve only had to call 911 once – when we found a woman who was most definitely under the influence wandering around our campsite in the middle of the night, in the rain, looking for her vehicle and boat trailer. Apparently, the husband sent her to get the truck since he was in worse shape. We called 911 even though she begged us not to. Hmmmm. We found out from the park supervisor the next morning that, in trying to bring their boat into the dock in the dark further up the lake that night, they had damaged someone else’s. Thank goodness it was just property damage and no one was injured. Calling 911 allowed the County Sheriff’s Department to locate and detain both of them before either one of them got behind the wheel again.

    Continued safe travels to you and your friends!

    • Becky on March 15, 2018 at 4:13 pm

      It’s a good thing you called Mary! I’m glad it was just property damage and nothing worse.

  4. Linda Renk on March 14, 2018 at 8:26 pm

    At least on wheels you can leave and go somewhere else. When you live in a stick built if you have bad neighbors, you just have to live with the barking, loud music, and worse.

  5. Jodee Gravel on March 14, 2018 at 6:48 pm

    Staying calm and calling the police is usually the best idea – especially once you’ve seen a weapon. Glad it didn’t escalate and they took the idiot away.
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..First Rally – First BoondockingMy Profile

  6. Rick & Brock the dog on March 14, 2018 at 1:24 pm

    Typically I avoid campgrounds. For me the biggest thing is people letting their dogs off-leash. My dog has been attacked by off-leash dogs and is defensive. So in a campground setting with people drinking, etc I can see a dog fight spilling into a bad situation. Consequently I camp off grid most of the time.

    • Becky on March 14, 2018 at 5:23 pm

      Yes Rick, that bugs me too! I hope your dog’s injuries weren’t too severe and I definitely see the merit in your solution.

  7. Deena on March 14, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    Very happy to hear all is well! Thank you for sharing. For someone like me who is researching and hoping to Full-Time RV in the future, it’s good to know the truth over the rumors.

    • Becky on March 14, 2018 at 5:16 pm

      Happy to help Deena! I wish you all the best as you prepare to hit the road.

  8. Mary on March 14, 2018 at 8:13 am

    Thanks for this. I have often wondered about security on my own and camping with my husband. We have had to deal with some things on trips, but have had to deal with multiple incidents in our own neighborhood ha ha. I guess security is an illusion, yes?

    • Becky on March 14, 2018 at 5:15 pm

      I look at it from a statistical standpoint Mary. At any given time, there’s a slight chance that something could happen. That chance might increase or decrease depending on where you are but it’s ALWAYS there – at home, at the grocery store, on the road, anywhere. But it’s always very small, a fraction of a percent. The best you can do to be prepared is follow my above advice: practice common sense and keep aware. Beyond that it’s out of your control, and therefor there’s no point worrying about it. 🙂

  9. Dawn in Michigan on March 14, 2018 at 7:47 am

    Last summer, while I was camping with my dog at a state park the people next to us got into a yelling spat that morphed into vulgarity and then shoving, then dumping stuff around their site while continuing to fight, then she got in her car and backed it up into his. Meanwhile the four kids who had been riding their bikes around the park came back and huddled at the entrance to their sight. It obviously wasn’t something they were unfamiliar with. When she drove off she drove over some of their bikes.

    When I saw the kids huddled there my heart broke, and when she got in her car and used it for a battering ram I called the park headquarters. By the time they sent out two kids that looked to be about 16 she was gone and the guy said the problem had left. But I walked down the road and met up with the park ‘rangers’ and told them he was just as much a part of the problem as she was.

    No one did anything, and when we packed up to leave Sunday morning she was back, and they were all six of them going for a walk down the trail across the street looking like any happy family. I feel so bad for those kids.

    • Becky on March 14, 2018 at 5:11 pm

      Yeah Dawn, in my previous experience with similar campground neighbors there were two little girls involved. Made me very sad. It went down about the same way. The woman drove off and left the kids with their dad. The next day she came back and they packed up and left.

  10. Rene Kipp on March 13, 2018 at 11:47 pm

    An exciting day for you five! Safety is definitely of utmost importance. Keeping calm is the best advise because becoming a ‘hot head’ can only exacerbate the situation. I’m glad that it turned out well for your group.
    Rene Kipp recently posted..He’s Almost Here!My Profile

  11. Judy Blinkenberg on March 13, 2018 at 8:15 pm

    Wow! Exciting story. I would be very nervous and stay locked in my trailer I’m happy all is well!! Mentioning you in my prayers.

  12. Marilyn on March 13, 2018 at 5:09 pm

    Well reported, Becky. I must say your tribe handled the situation well.

    Thanks for posting.

    • Becky on March 14, 2018 at 5:06 pm

      You’re welcome Marilyn.

  13. Wendy N. on March 13, 2018 at 5:02 pm

    So glad things worked out well for you and your friends, Becky. I am a solo female full-timer. Last summer I was camped alone at Wanoka Lake USFS campground, between Superior and Ashland, WI. A similar couple, drunk, arguing, and loud, plagued the campground for several days. I overheard him threatening any and all law enforcement with “my two guns”. At that point, I called the USFS office and reported him. Three officers came out in SWAT gear to arrest him! (Also on an outstanding warrant) This is the only ‘scare’ I’ve had in almost two years of traveling. This campground is pretty remote and did not have a camp host. ALL of the people I have met while traveling have been lovely human beings… except this one guy.

    • Becky on March 14, 2018 at 5:05 pm

      About two years ago at a different campground in California I had another similar experience with a loud drunk couple with two kids. Seems to be a common theme. They didn’t have a gun though.

      I feel kind of bad for people like these. Addiction makes life hard.

  14. Ann on March 13, 2018 at 4:40 pm

    I do love your calm common sense! I appreciate your telling this.

    • Becky on March 14, 2018 at 5:02 pm

      Glad you found it helpful Ann!

Enjoy what you just read? Have new blog posts delivered right to your inbox!

Your email is safe with me and you can unsubscribe anytime. :)

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.