A Knock on the Door – at 2am…

We pulled out of Atlanta-Northlake Elks before noon – our next planned destination Myrtle Beach!  We had never been to Myrtle Beach before so we were quite excited to have more time near the ocean, plus fellow Heartland owners, Elizabeth-Anne and Morris were in the area.  

Considering that destination was over 350 miles away, we decided to break up the trip and include a stop-over in Florence, SC.  I found a Cracker Barrel on Allstays app that was right on the way and called to ask if it was ok for us to park overnight.   Gary, the manager on duty, said he was happy to have us come and asked that we check in with Will when we arrived.   

Our drive to Florence was an easy one and we arrived at Cracker Barrel before 5pm, and went in to meet Will, the current manager on duty.  He greeted us with a smile and said where we parked – which was along the grassy edge of the lot – was perfect.  


After enjoying a delish dinner, we watched some TV before bedtime.  We heard/saw 2 other rigs pull in and park, one in front of us and the other around the back of the store.  By 10pm, except for the train nearby, all was quiet.  

We were both fast asleep when we woke to a knock on the door.  I was out of bed first, and said “hello” through the closed door – wondering if it was police telling us we needed to move.  I found myself trying to remember the managers name – Will!  We had Will’s permission to be here!  A mans voice started talking, and I realized quickly it wasn’t the police or anyone else “official”.   Bill was pulling pants on and I yelled “just a minute”, again through the door.  Bill came down the stairs and said – again though the door – “can I help you?”.  The man outside started talking again, going on about how he ran out of gas and had his kids and 80 year old father with him and he was a Vietnam Vet and on and on.  While he’s talking, Bill is digging in his pocket for money, and I had my phone in hand.  Bad thing is we have no view of the front door with our slide in, so we really have no idea how many people are actually out there.  Bill had one hand on the money and opening the door and the other on our can of bear spray as he handed the man $10.  I had mixed feelings about opening the door,  but Bill was prepared with the bear spray.  He believed, and I agreed, that it was better to give the guy a few dollars and hope he went away, than send him away, which could have made him (and possibly buddies) angry and wake to something outside damaged.  We agreed if we heard or saw anything else we were going to call the police.  We could see him walking away after thanking us profusely.  

Some may think it may have been a good idea at that point to pack up and move on, but we had no idea if there was anyone else out there, so we stayed put inside.  This is one situation where having a motorhome (Class A or C) is better, as we wouldn’t have to go outside to leave.  It was VERY difficult to fall back asleep, but eventually we did.  

We could debate all day long how we handled this situation.  Some may argue that’s a risk you take parking at Cracker Barrel or Walmart or similar place vs a campground.  That is a valid point.  This is the first time in 2 1/2 years of full-time life, and many many years of being weekend warriors that we’ve had a problem.  

Some may say we should have not opened the door and just told him to leave and call the police.  Another valid option, but the man sounded – I don’t know – broken?  Real?  Bill said when he opened the door, the man had tears in his eyes and seemed genuine.  How does one know?  He seemed very grateful – saying thank you thank you bless you bless you over and over, even after Bill pretty much slammed the door in his face.  I peaked out the window and could see him walking back toward the Shell Station, where he said he ran out of gas.  

Some of you may be thinking “guess you’ll never stay outside a CG again!”   Bill and I want you to know – yes we will and here’s why:  this could have happened anywhere.  Things happen everywhere.  At the end of the day, the most dangerous thing we do is drive on the road.  How many of you stay home and never drive?  And – to those of you that may consider staying home – things happen there too.  Our last house was broken into – IN BROAD DAYLIGHT!  Thankfully no one was home when they entered the house, but my Mom and cousin came home (they were staying with our kids while Bill & I were on a cruise) and they ran out the back door.  It took months for me to start feeling safe in my own home again.  Fear is a horrible feeling, but I cannot and will not let it rule my life and dictate how we live.   When that happens – then we’ve lost a little and they have won.  

That doesn’t mean I am not alert and paying attention to things – we will still be careful and when a place doesn’t “feel” right – we will keep moving.  We’ve done that a few times.  Sometimes a place just gives you the creeps and when either one of us feel that way – we don’t stay.  That won’t change.  We didn’t feel that way here.  

I guess we will never know if he was telling the truth or not, if he put that $10 in his gas tank or if he bought drugs or food or vodka.  For me (us), I’d like to think we have $10 in positive karma out there, should we ever need it some day.  What that man does with that money is on him, the fact we gave it to him was the right decision for us in that moment.  

0 thoughts on “A Knock on the Door – at 2am…

  1. We had a couple of interesting incidents this week as well. One where a guy was screaming for his girlfriend at 11:00pm and another where we woke up to gunfire within 100 yards of our rig at 4:30 in the morning.

    Even so we are not afraid to spend the night at a Walmart, Cracker Barrel or in the middle of the desert. It would take a really crazed person to actually try and break into an occupied rig as they don’t know what may be waiting for them on the other side of the door either.

    1. Gunfire? Now that’s scary!
      Good point – they don’t know what we have!
      Some have suggested taking them for gas vs giving money – if we had been at the station I could have offered that but wasn’t willing to leave the rig.

  2. We are fulltimers as well, and we have thought about how to handle this a dlfew times. We happen to have a window by the front door (we did not intentionally buy it for that reason). You make really good points about it being easier to give them some cash and hope they move on. I am surprised they had the nerve to knock, you may be in a parking lot, but it is essentially knocking on the door of a home. We typically do not appreciate anyone knocking on our door, and many RV owners who own guns would have them ready. Bear Mace was a smart move too! Thanks for the read, great blog post.

    1. We also have a window that looks out at the stairs (most 5th wheels do) but the slide was in so we couldn’t use it – guess we could have put it out a bit now that I think about it.

      1. Maybe, but it would use a lot of your battery and if the RV jacks aren’t down/level it could be a different problem. I wouldn’t have thought of it either and I didn’t know most of them do! It’s smart. Our RV has a peep hole… I don’t know that it will ever be used or effective given how high it is, it made me laugh a little when I first saw it!

  3. I would have not answered the door at all…..but would have had something in my hand to protect my family. ..

    1. While I agree in – if they thought no one was home, may have given them license to attempt a break in. We had never really discussed what we might do in that situation, which is part of why I blog – to bring things to others attention they may not have thought about before. Having a conversation is just the beginning though b/c you don’t truly know how you will respond until you are in the situation.

  4. We were at a state park when a similar incident happened. An intoxicated gentleman knocked on our door at 3am saying he could not find his campsite. Things happen in public parks, state and national parks and overnight stopovers.

  5. None of us are guaranteed personal safety anywhere, we just have to listen to our heads and the creepy factor. Our first year we pulled into an RV campground at a casino in northern Nevada. Nice place, felt very safe. Then in the middle of the night we wake up to sirens and a police helicopter landing less than 100 yards from us! There had been a gun fight inside the casino! Wow! Who knew that could happen!

  6. Last night as campground hosts in a very empty state park. Three different sets of semi automatic rifle fire very near by. Called rangers who came and didn’t find anything. Scary experience!

  7. Kelly, so glad you and Bill are ok. That sounds scary but seems you handled it well. I love Myrtle Beach. One of my favorite places. We have been there many many times. We are going this summer and staying at Ocean Lakes campground. If you have time you should go to Ella’s in Calabash. Great seafood and the best Cole slaw and hush puppies I have ever had. They are very inexpensive and some great shops to look around. There is a huge Christmas shop right there that I love to explore. Enjoy your time.

    1. Thanks Chris! We are enjoying Myrtle Beach – we are close enough to the ocean we can hear the waves as they crash – sitting out now listening while we have a campfire! Thanks for the tip – maybe we will check out for lunch!

  8. I don’t think there is one right way to deal with situations like this. You have to trust your gut and do what works for you in the moment. So, it sounds like you handled it just right and maybe made a difference in a man’s life. I like to think we did the same in Williams Lake when we called the cops. It was also the right thing to do. 🙂

    1. I thought about that day in Canada – wasn’t as scary b/c it was daytime and we were with you guys – but we did the right thing that evening – that guy wasn’t right!

  9. That was a risky thing the man did in the middle of the night, knocking on your door. He must have been in bad need of something to do that. You guys did the right thing helping him out and having a back-up plan (bear spray) in case needed. In over 30 years as law enforcement I can recall but maybe four or five times when someone went inside someone’s home to commit a crime when they were home (other than crooks stealing from crooks such as dope dealers). And in three of those they ended with the homeowner shooting them within the law. It’s a very rare thing to happen.

    I think getting involved with some drunk arguing with his wife at a campground would be more dangerous unless it can’t be avoided. And in those cases and all it would be a good idea to know the phone number to call for help. Although 911 is fairly universally available.

    It’s sad when people are in need the chances for help are less because of crooks taking advantage of others causing fear.

    1. Some have said we shouldn’t have answered at all, but if the guy thought the rig was empty – he may have attempted to break in – who knows?
      Bill and I debated owning a gun a few times but I really like bear spray better – if it’s able to knock down a 1000 pound bear – it can take down ANY man – even those on drugs!
      I don’t mind helping those who need it, and we generally do not give cash, preferring instead buying a sandwich (one time I bought a guy a wrap and his dog a can of food) or giving them extra clothes, whatever vs cash, even filling a gas tank at a station – but this time it seemed like the best option.
      We had a moment to make a decision and Bill made the best one he could – and I stand behind him on it.

      1. I have heard several times about people who knock to test out empty trailers to rob. I hope that’s not what the guy was actually intending but $10 bucks to get him to go away seems like it would be worth it to me. I probably would have stayed up all night after that, or just left. I know 2am is awfully early!

  10. Another great blog. Like you and Bill, we have stayed at Wal-Mart’s and Cracker Barrel’s parking lots. We are alert, always have a ‘plan’ in place for different situations. Being alert, aware, and having some intelligent plans to counter negativity brings us through situations as the ‘successors’.
    Love being with the two of you for a few days, and spending quality time together. Creating memories for a lifetime! We are blessed.

  11. Scary situation for sure. Probably was best to give him some money and let him be on his way. George has ‘enforcement’ in our RV, but still I wouldn’t be able to sleep after that!

    1. Very scary! Love that – George’s “enforcer”! I love the bear spray! If it can take down a bear – a man doesn’t have a chance!

  12. Sounds like you handled the situation well. Scary things can happen no matter where you are. Like you said, you can’t live your life in fear. I’m sure good karma is headed you way!

  13. Scary, but I think you did the right thing. I know when we stop at a Walmart or Cracker Barrel or any of the other stopovers I’m always wondering if we will get a knock on the door in the middle of the night. But, I always think that knock will be to ask me to move along not someone in need. Although alarming you probably made a difference in someone’s life that night.

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