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.
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