Life on the road thus far has been pretty exciting and filled with many positive and amazingly cool adventures, with much luck and good faith on our side.
Today however, we started out on a rocky road learning some valuable hard-earned lessons that left us feeling a bit shaky and a whole lot foolish, as we wind our way back home to Canada.
Last night we decided to spend the night at the Kentucky Welcome Centre, just an hour or so north west of Knoxville, Tennessee. It was a busy rest stop with lots of both RV and truck traffic flowing. One RV couple that we stayed with said that they felt quite comfortable here, even though no security monitored the area. The night was uneventful, apart from the sounds of loud trucks coming and going. And I marvelled this morning at how well the facilities were maintained and cleaned. At least 2 staff seemed to be on duty whenever I wandered in to the bathrooms to freshen up. So all in all, I felt quite safe and in turn foolishly let my guard down.
As we were about to leave, 2 guys approached us, excited by something they wanted to show us. The story: this big trucker guy from London Ontario had just won $100,000 from a scratch lottery ticket and was playing 3 card Monty, giving his money away. We thought, how strange. Just as a note, we were boxed in by a couple of trucks, meaning that the ‘game’ could be well-contained and kept from the eyes of the local workers and traffic passing through.
Two other ‘players’ flanked the dealer and before we knew it, the dealer had us guessing which card was the red one. It seemed simple enough and the the guy to my right gave it a couple of tries. At one point in time, the trucker to the left jumped down and crimped the corner of the red card when the lottery dealer guy looked away, making it ‘apparent’ which one was the red face of the three cards. I was about to protest and say something about that tactic being rather unfair, but for a still unbeknownst reason, I kept quiet. At this point, I was feeling somewhat uneasy and dubious (whilst also falling victim to actually believing his exciting story — call me a naive Canadian). But unfortunately, I didn’t listen to my gut. Ding, ding, ding, ding — red flag, red flag. However, we foolishly played along. And before you know it, the dealer had some of our greenback (which he happily slipped in with the HUGE wad of cash he was sporting — part of the initial draw, I suppose). At this point, another massive thick-necked dude comes around the truck, yelling and threatening us with breaking the law, gambling in his lot, telling us to get the heck out of there before he called the cops. In the flurry of heated words and scrambling, the dealer and other dudes had scattered with our money, and it was then that we realized, we indeed had been scammed by a total of four really BIG guys. Foolhardy, naive Canadians!
Once the reality of what had just happened settled in (can you say upset and deflated?), I ran up and down the parking lot, looking for the culprits (all to no avail), and then approached a staff member with our story. Sadly, our hoodwinking had not been the first time such fraudulent hustling had happened at this Kentucky Welcome Centre. Supposedly, the last time this had transpired, a trucker had lost $2500 in one fell swoop, literally. We thought about alerting the cops, but without a vehicle to identify the culprits with or clear concise descriptions of them all, we were up the creek without a paddle.
Lessons We Learned:
1. Follow our instincts — if a twinge in our gut is telling us that the situation is just too good to be true, take a step back, because it is.
2. Don’t play 3 card Monty, especially with strangers!
3. There is no such thing as free money.
4. When stopping at Welcome Centres / Rest Stops / Truck Stops = do our business and move on.
5. When someone asks you to bet your own money, see the red flag, and run (don’t forget to grab your partner when you do run :)).
6. Be ever vigilant about our surroundings (i.e. be very wary of someone that follows you to your vehicle).
Indeed, we were truly lucky not to have our persons / rig robbed (apart from our pride), kidnapped, injured or left for dead. So much worse could have happened, and we walked away with many a valuable lesson in our pocket (no receipt required).
As characterized by RV.net , life on the road is best depicted by these words: “There is a pulse, a certain and definite energy that comes from traveling [across] country, listening and learning from the people you meet along the way … [which] you only get from living in a house on wheels.” Here’s to one lesson that we hope others can learn from in our misadventures! And you can bet that the next time a scam comes sniffing our way, we’ll be sure to listen to our gut and keep on trekking. Check out ‘Scam: Truck Stop Three Card Monte’ for more information.
RV There Yet?
As an addendum, this advice is a security notice issued by privateofficer.com:
- Be alert.
- As you pull into the rest area, take notice of its name or the closest mile marker, in case there is an emergency and you need to tell authorities where you are.
- Avoid parking close to tractor-trailers, which need a lot of space to maneuver and which could also block other people from seeing your car, providing the kind of cover that criminals often seek.
- Parents traveling with young children should use family restrooms, when available, that allow adults to accompany children. At the same time, older children and adults should have someone go with them to the rest room or wait outside.
- Travellers who find themselves at a quiet rest stop at night should try to flag down a security guard or a state trooper and ask them to keep an eye out as you use the facilities, especially if traveling alone.
- If the rest stop is particularly isolated and empty, try to avoid stopping there at night. If possible, opt to use the indoor facilities at a fast food restaurant or convenience store.
- RV travelers should never open their camper door to strangers. Keep the door locked, and when someone comes knocking, talk to them through a window or from behind the camper door.
- It’s illegal to sleep overnight at rest stops in Florida, not that authorities would recommend doing so.
- In other nearby states, it may not necessarily be illegal to park overnight at a rest area, but many have signs warning against it. Instead, drivers should map out campgrounds or state parks along their route where they’d be able to enter for a small fee and get some shuteye in the car.
- The bottom line police say is that you are responsible for your own safety and security and you need to be aware of your surroundings at all times.