For the night.
How do I pick a campsite and do my best to stay safe?
First I try to get travel and campsite advice from my friends. Often my plans include stopping where I think someone else I know will be for the night.
When that is not possible - like on this trip...I check websites that are trusted sources of information. Freecampsites.net, cheaprvliving.com etc. I pick a direction and then aim in that general direction.
Now I have had to learn to use instinct and gut feelings. They are pretty important to my process. If I have an odd or uneasy feeling about an area I will either move on immediately or if it is a mild uneasyness I will create an emergency plan or escape route. Where I am tonight is beautiful and its in the mountains/hills. The air feels like rain. I checked with neighbors who were out hiking as I was driving in and inquired about the safety of the area as well as the potential problems in a rainy situation. You know - am I going to get stuck with no way out until it dries up. (Smile) Armed with that information as well as checking my cellphone signal and battery life, I then check weather updates and emergency reports (none in this area).
I drove past the area where I decided to camp so that have a general sense of the area. It is pretty steep further up although I was able to safely maneuver the van in first gear. The road intersects with other rural roads that have houses on them. In fact one of the hikers pointed out his house if I had any problems.
I came back down the hill and choose a campsite. Then based on the wind gusts predicted and the direction of the wind. I parked the van as level as I was able and pointed the nose of the van in the direction of the forecasted wind. This way the van shouldn't rock too much.
I then roll up the front windows. I lock the doors. Put on the parking brake - just cause. And take Ozzie for a walk.
While we are taking that first walk, I am checking out the camping area and Ozzie is marking territory to protect.
I try not to travel alone on Friday nights or weekends mainly because free camping areas can be teenagers Friday night hangouts and I am woman basically traveling alone. Tonight is a Sunday. While walking we noticed the beer cans and boxes that indicate this area as just such a place. Though I have no sense of unease except for the weather. Comfortable with our choice we return to the van, Ozzie gets tied out on a lead to be safe or to comply with BLM camping area rules. Then I put the water kettle on to boil. I straighten up from the day's driving and neaten the van and I text/email a friend about my location. I keep aware of our surroundings, noises, traffic etc and keep my shoes on. The water is ready for making tea and I switch to a pot and prepare dinner. Tonight is cauliflower, carrots, Libby foil pouch ground beef and rice. Half of dinner gets put into the thermos to save for breakfast. Yum! Ozzie is waiting to see if he gets to eat with me! I bet today's dog food gets stale!
Tonight because of the rain I have looked up directions to the nearest grocery store just in case I think I need to leave before my original plan..
That's kind of my usual way of keeping us safe.
When dusk starts to settle in we bring in Ozzie's tie out and close the door. We then relax with tea and sometimes a book or just enjoying the sunset from the safety of our window filled van. Shades are used as necessary when we are outside of town.