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The Day Our Camper Left Without Us...


1984 Rockwood Model 1460

The Story

December 15th, 1992:  On a Monday morning, the wife and I drove off to work (we carpool together), thinking all was fine.  At 10:00 AM that morning, two morally challenged individuals, drove onto our additional lot next to our house and hitched up to the Popup.  The curious neighbors across the street stopped in their tracks and gave the motley crew a filthy look.  The thieves smiled and waved.  The (silly) neighbors thought thieves wouldn't be so bold, so everything must be fine as we must have loaned it to friends.  They watched as the thieves drove off with our camper.

Nothing was mentioned to us when we arrived home.  It was a typical Monday at work and we were tired when we got home.  Didn't notice the camper was missing at that point.  The next morning, I was standing in the driveway waiting for the wife, when I noticed that my freshly cut grass (cut on Sunday) was rather tall in one particular spot in the side yard... where the camper lived!!!  I ran around behind the house, hoping kids pushed it back there as a prank (yes, I know this sounds silly now).  I then could see the compressed grass ruts where the camper had been pulled away.  This wasn't good.

I saw one of the neighbors outside and asked if they had seen anything.  "Oh yes, we saw them...".  I felt ill when I learned the truth.  They were rather embarrassed when I told them it had actually been stolen.  Turns out another neighbor had also witnessed the whole deal as well.  So much for the "Neighborhood Watch" signs, eh?  Yep, they watched.

I called the police and filed a report.  I then called State Farm and filed an insurance claim (another long story). I eventually did okay on the claim but it took a couple of months.

The camper did have a hitch lock, which I thought would discourage theft.  Not so.  I have since learned that thieves replace their hitch ball with a bolt and simply place the locked hitch on the bolt and throw a strap over it to secure it.  Another popular deterrent is to cut the threaded portion off a tow ball and place it into the coupler.  Once a hitch lock is added, it appears that this would work quite well.  The problem is the coupler is designed to be adjustable.  If you look at the underside of the coupler, you will see a nut that adjusts how tight the "underjaw" clamps onto the hitch ball.  With nothing more than a socket and ratchet, it only takes 10 seconds to remove the nut, underjaw, and your modified tow ball.  Unfortunately, this is common knowledge.  See the images below.

The only good part of the story was we had just returned from a camping trip and the porta potti hadn't been emptied!

Doesn't that Master Lock look tough?  Can't cut it with bolt cutters.  Put in a modified receiver ball (no threads) and it can't be hitched.  Think this will slow a thief?

Here's what the underside of the coupler looks like.  Notice the nut on the underjaw.  With the lock still in place, it's a simple matter to bypass the lock by loosening the nut.

A Few Lessons Learned...

1.  Keep copies of all your receipts and pictures of anything you don't have a receipt for.  Makes filing a claim much easier.

2.  Homeowners insurance only covers up to a $1000 for a trailer (at least State Farm).  Anything not physically attached to the trailer can be a separate line item on the claim.  A separate policy for the camper is CHEAP and covers a lot more.  

3.  Please inform your neighbors if they see a strange vehicle at your house, write the tag number down.  Don't confront strangers, just make note of what's going on.  Do the same for them.  We have a neighborhood watch program, unfortunately, that's all my neighbors did.

4.  Don't assume a hitch lock will even slow them down.  You need to prevent the camper from ROLLING.  They only need to connect the safety chains to take your camper to a secluded spot to cut the locks off.

5.  Just because there are much newer and nicer campers in the neighborhood (with roof A/C even), don't assume that thieves are smart enough to tell the difference.

6.  Never empty your porta potti.  At least you'll get a grin knowing they stole your black water  as well! 



The Aftermath

May 12th, 1995: We purchased a new Coleman Royale.  Our financial responsibilities (we were newlyweds, just bought a house, wife was going to school, Church obligations, etc.) had prevented us buying a new camper before then.

The new Popup has a separate insurance policy ($50/yr and worth every penny).  

I poured 300+ pounds of concrete in the ground with rebar crisscrossed through the largest chain I could find.  I lock the frame of the camper to the chain in 2 places with Master Locks.  They'll have to work to steal this one.  

We still miss our old camper and I find myself looking at Rockwood Pop-Ups on the road to see if they're ours!  It had some exterior modifications that would easily identify it.  I'm certain I never will know who took it and where it went, but can't help looking anyway.

The Coleman now sits in place of the old Rockwood, chained to the ground.  I check on it every day.  Until you've had something significant stolen, this may seem like paranoia.   Where's your camper tonight?

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Last updated July 2nd, 2001