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Saturday, March 17, 2012

Odd Ball RV Use

Back in my working past as a special agent, I was involved in a wide variety of criminal investigations. Drug smuggling, illegal alien human smuggling, environmental crimes and many others.  Often, these types of investigations had a common thread (besides bad guys).  They required hours and hours of surveillance.

On TV, the cop shows often have scenes of surveillance, usually the cops or detectives are sitting in a large, police type car right across the street from where the bads guys are.  They are drinking coffee and having a pleasant day out of the office.  In no time, the bad guys walk out and never see the cops and quickly find themselves in handcuffs.  Case solved.  Reality?  Not a chance.

Reality, sitting in as non-descript type of car you can get your hands on.  Weather?  You are either freezing to death because you can't run the engine to keep warm, or you are slowing becoming a roasted chicken because the summer day is hot and humid, really humid.  Yep, you can't run the engine to keep the air conditioning on.  Why can't you run the engine in either of these circumstances?  Bad guys are not stupid and you'd attract their attention with the engine running.

Then there is the large thermos of coffee (or a large cup of Diet Coke).  That creates its own problems.  Remember, what goes in must come out.  Where do you find a bathroom when you need one?  Answer:  You don't.  That is what a large bottle is for.  You use the bottle...very carefully.

Then there is the technique called "Hiding in plain sight".   Use something that is so unusually normal that in plain sight it is invisible.  A taxi cab, a mail truck, or a pickup truck with a flashing yellow light on top and a couple of orange cones around it while you slowly strip the paint off a nearby fire hydrant.  If the surveillance takes long enough, you might even have time to give it a fresh coat of red paint...very slowly.  After all, you are simulating a city worker. ;c)

I was the proud owner of a new Four Winds Class C RV.  It had all the comforts of home.  Comfortable seats behind the front seats offering a clear view out the windshield.  A refrigerator for all those Diet Cokes.  A propane stove to heat some soup or stew, a propane furnace to keep warm with.  Best of all, a bathroom.

It was a cold October night.  We were conducting surveillance of a nightclub to ascertain its use as a drug distribution point.  We had identified some suspects and we needed to observe them going in and out of the nightclub selling drugs to customers that would drive up to the door.  We also needed to get photographs of the action.

Being that it was going to be a long night, it would require me and my surveillance team to be on this location for hours.  What did I do?  I drove my RV over to the nightclub in the afternoon, parked in the parking lot almost directly in front of the nightclub door and watched all the action that night from real comfort.

 I was nice and toasty, when the temperature dropped, I turned up the heat.  Cooked some food on the stove.  Sitting in the dark behind the front seats, I was invisible to anyone looking in. I took all the pictures we needed.  Best of all I drank all the Diet Coke I wanted because I had my own handy bathroom, no bottles needed this time.  I almost felt bad for the other members of my team sitting around the nightclub in cars (he he).

 Yes, it all worked out and we built a great case that led to many arrests and convictions.  I hid in plain sight and no one took any notice of me.

I only used my RV that one time, but you can bet there were many other surveillances when I wished I was using it.  Because the bottle was full... :cO

What out of the ordinary ways have you used your RV?

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.


  1. Now THAT was one fine story and lots of fun to read! Not that your other writings aren't fun as well, of course. But this was a change of pace for a dark Friday night reading. So glad you wrote it.

  2. We had just gotten our travel trailer back from repairs on Saturday June 19 2004. The rear driveway was full of Lanscaping material so I parked it in the front Driveway.

    The next day June 20th after my midnight shift and a short nap our daughter took us out for Fathers Day dinner. After she left I headed in for my final night on that shift, but I was back home before it started.

    Monday the Fire Marshall deemed the fire Arson as witness had seen two young looking kids running from our backyard just before the fire was discovered.

    If the trailer had been on it's own driveway it would have been destroyed, but because it was in the front driveway and the front wall of the house was still standing it protected our trailer. That was where Kathy and I and our buddy Mr. T comforted one another and slept that night.

    The following day the insurance company found us a temporary home until ours was rebuilt. Other than the odd nightmares of that night the blessing was that Kathy and our cat made it out safely by somebody pounding on the door to alert her.

    It's about time.

  3. Great story. Makes using ours for travel or the occasional "guest cottage" seem very dull!! Why did you not use the motorhome more often? sounds like a great plan to me.

  4. Sounds like you had a really soft job .. sitting around in an RV. I guess that prepared you for retirement and what was to come. Cute story.

  5. Great story. Other than fishing, ours doesn't get used for anything other than home. And you actually put a lot of the bad guys away. That's even better.

  6. great use of your Rv..catching the bad guys! the way?
    I don't have OCD..I don't have OCD..well maybe a little?
    have a great weekend!!

  7. We had a 1985 35' Pace Arrow Motorhome. It was park in our drive, right outside the kitchen door. On two ocassions, it served us well.

    First, it was the perfect party place for our teenage daughters Pajama Party. It had more TV's and VCR's than our house and a better stero system!!

    Second, when Hurricane Hugo came through in 1989, it served as our command center. We lost electric for 17 days;o(( Propane stove and oven were a wonderful thing!! One lesson learned: be sure and exercise your generator so it works when you need it. We hadn't done that;o((

  8. Another great story from the Dahl annals of USCG history. Now, we'll be wondering if the motorhomes we see parked on the streets of towns and cities are "hiding in plain site."

  9. Interesting story. We have never used ours for anything nearly as interesting or unusual as that!

  10. Great story! Lucky you're a guy, using that bottle and all :)

  11. Having always been a tent camper and never even been inside an RV until we bought one two years ago, I have no unusual uses but I like yours and don't understand why it didn't go "under cover" more often. Seems like a great idea, unless you are in Charlottesville Virginia where there are zero RVs and you'd stick out like a sore thumb.

  12. What a great and interesting story ~ we have only used ours to have fun!
    Travel safe

  13. When my ex-husband decided we shouldn't camp anymore, I plunked my pop up trailer in the middle of my ten acre bird sanctuary and used it for a permanent bird banding shed. It served me well for about 20 spring and fall migrations.

    Oh yea, got rid of the ex; he didn't hold up as well. :)

  14. Surveillance in style! Who loves ya baby?

  15. I read mysteries like most people read the daily newspaper... sounds like a great use for an RV to me. I've been thinking that when we go back to Maine this summer we could park along a game trail and use ours as a blind... why not?

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