Saturday, September 24, 2016

Summer Update - The Black Hills Are in Our Rear Window

Black Hills, Custer, SD
Our summer in the Black Hills is done. We have started another adventure that I will be blogging about next time, but for this post I just wanted to update about our summer. From our previous posts you may remember that our trip to South Dakota was more of a 'fall back' trip as our intended summer job mapping BLM roads cancelled at the last minute.

Jim & Deb

We had been in South Dakota in 2014 and really enjoyed our adventure there; because of our previous experience and the fact that our friends Jim & Deb were working at Crazy Horse this summer we decided to spend another summer there. We were so fortunate that positions at Crazy Horse came available and we had jobs at Crazy Horse 2 weeks after we arrived.

That's Joan & I at his chin
Good opportunity to understand the scale
of the work being done

We quickly settled into a routine of working again. Crazy Horse is open 365 days/yr; in the summer from 7am until as late as 11pm depending on what time the nightly laser light show finishes. Joan and I had the same work days and similar work schedules (at least at first). As the season progressed Joan was asked to work the ticket booth, which kinda' messed up our similar schedules.

Sometimes working at Crazy Horse
can be a hair raising experience!

And as fate would have it, between Joan & I, Jim & Deb, and Phil & Rudee the schedules were so different that Joan & I only had 1 day off together with Phil & Rudi. Bummer! We've realized over the last few years full-timing that the friends you make and get to spend time with are as important as the places you go and the things you do!

On our days off we continued to spend time driving the back roads throughout the Black Hills. We saw lots of wildlife.....

Between last year's work mapping BLM roads and the traffic throughout the Lake Mead area Joan had not ridden her motorcycle very often. Just before we left Lake Mead to head north, she decided to list her motorcycle for sale. When we took her bike out of the trailer to clean it up and take pictures, we noticed one of the front forks was leaking. By the time we had this repaired it was too late to sale the bike. Just after arriving at Custer we broke out the bikes and took a ride. It didn't take long before we encountered excitement....(check out this video)...

As soon as we got home, Joan commented "I forgot how much I enjoyed riding here! I'm glad I didn't sell the bike."

We got to take in a local play "Nunsense" with Phil & Rudee.....

George, Laurel, Pam, John, Joan, me, Bev & JC

......we were able to take a group of friends to the top of Crazy Horse.

Jim (barkeep), Pam, JC, Bev, John & me

We made a new friend at Heritage Village, Jim. Jim was employed to clean up and open a long-closed tavern called Heritage Village. We think he did a great job.

We celebrated my birthday while we were here and Joan got me a fantastic gift....a helicopter ride flying over Mt Rushmore and Crazy Horse. It was great.

Look close and you'll see the helicopter
just out to the right of his hand

All in all Joan & I are very proud to have worked at Crazy Horse. We were especially grateful we were offered the opportunity to work mid-season. We finished up the year with a little melancholy as our experience this summer was not as positive or fulfilling as our first time around. Some of the 'shiney' was off the penny this year as it was kind of a 'been there done that' season. Our intention from the beginning was to try and do something different each season as there is so much for us to see in this great country. We'll have to keep that in mind as we choose future work opportunities.

Motorcycle Momma!
Her 2nd ever ride at age 79

Joan and I decided that it was time to spend a little more time with family and friends in Florida, so we made plans to take the motorhome and travel back to Florida, intending to stay for several months this winter. We also decided to invite my mom to join us and travel cross-country with us as we made our way back to Florida. She accepted and flew into Rapid City the Friday before we left Custer. We got to spend a little time showing her the sites in South Dakota before we headed out to start our next adventure. "What is that adventure?" you may ask.....well you'll just have to check out our next blog!

Well, that's it for now. Stay Tuned. More to Come!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Golly Gee Whiz Batman....

Crazy Horse, Custer, SD

Yeah, we're here....and we're here to stay the summer!

If you recall our last bat-blog we were in South Dakota without gainful employment for this summer. Our scheduled job mapping BLM roads was stopped before we could start do to BLM retracting a significant percentage of the miles scheduled for inventory.

We started researching potentials jobs in the Black Hills while acclimating to the cooler temps and higher elevations. We stayed in touch with our former co-workers at Crazy Horse and exploring some of our old haunts from 2014.

Our 2nd week here one of our friends called and left us a voicemail......"Don't leave. Stay put, something is in the works!" The next day we got a visitor late in the afternoon......"Call Crazy Horse today. I think they need you to work tomorrow". Rather than call I drove over and spoke with the director "Can you work tomorrow?" "Absolutely" I replied. One Down (I had a job), One to Go (Joan).

My new job was in Visitor Services working in the Welcome Center; greeting guests, manning the information counter directing guests and answering questions; stepping on arriving tour buses and narrating the drive to the base of the mountain; and one of my favorite jobs......guiding guests to the top of Crazy Horse mountain and out onto the arm of the carving. I worked Friday and Saturday, took Sunday-Monday off and then we got .....The Call! For Joan....."We would like for you to start work on Tuesday!" Yahoo! Success.

Success is not always easy to achieve. Life takes you on unusual and challenging twists and turns. You just need to be able to roll with the punches and take advantage of the opportunities that come your way.

So Joan and I are working together again, both of us in Visitor Services. I've been taking guests to the top of the mountain, sometimes 4 trips a day. Joan has been learning the ropes, shadowing the tour bus step-ons, and she's ready for her 1st step-on any day now. We got our first pay checks yesterday and our check book is extremely happy! As are we! What Fun!

And for those of you that don't know, I'm now a grandpa times 2. Greyson Cade was born 5/16/16.
Tristyn and her brother Greyson

Well, that's it for now. Stay Tuned. More to Come.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Holy Guacamole Batman! What Next?

Custer, SD
Mt Rushmore

Yes that's right sports fans, Joan & I are in Custer, SD!

"What is going on?" you might be thinking. "You guys are supposed to be starting your summer job driving the back country BLM roads!"

Well if you recall the last episode of our blog you'll remember that Joan and I were delayed starting our summer job due some unexpected doctor appointments that we needed to return to Las Vegas to take care of. The appointments and follow ups went fine, everything is OK.

So now we're ready to work. We are not ready for full retirement mode just yet and still need to earn a little somethin' somethin' each year to make ends meet. After a very good summer last year we had several large expenditures such as extended warranties for the motorhome and jeep; and we remodeled and bought some new furniture. With all that our checkbook is also ready for us to go to work!

Strike One!

We called our employer to update them on our availability and determine when & where we would be starting. But wait....all is not well in Gotham City! It seems as though BLM decided to withhold/delay a lot of the miles that the company was scheduled to inventory this summer. And with the fewer miles to be driven, another team (that would be Joan & I) would not be needed to complete the work scheduled. Well that certainly burst our bubble!

So now what do we do? We really hadn't made any other plans for this summer. And it's already May! All the preferred jobs are already filled. We're drifters without direction. No home base, no job! Oh woe is me! What will become of us? What shall we do?

Wait just a minute. No need to worry. Just come up with a plan. We're mobile! We're smart! We're strong! We're capable! We can do it! What would we really like to do on short notice? Hell, let's go back to the Black Hills and see if we can find something there! We enjoyed our summer at Crazy Horse; great place to work; great area for motorcycling and off-roading; lots of friends there including Jim & Deb. We could spend a great summer there. So we packed up and headed north.

Strike Two!
We called Crazy Horse and spoke with the HR recruiter. "We find ourselves without a summer job and wanted to see if there might be an opportunity at Crazy Horse" we say. "That would be great" he says, " Give me a day or two to see where we're at with our current work group and I'll get back to you." So we set up and start calling friends to catch up. The HR recruiter calls us back a day later "Sorry guys, but we have a full compliment right now. But I've got you at the top of the list if an opening comes up."

So now we're in a holding pattern. Looking at options and opportunities. We're going to give it a couple of weeks here in the Black Hills. After that? Who Knows!

But Tune in Next Week. Same Bat Time. Same Bat Bat Blog!

That's it for now. Stay Tuned. More to Come!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Debbie! What Did You Say?

Boulder City, NV (again?, still?)

Capital Reef NP, Utah
Joan and I wrapped up our volunteer jobs at Lake Mead the 1st week in March, just as our friends Jim & Deb arrived from Florida. Jim & Deb have been our best friends for many years. We've taken many motorcycle vacations together; several of them with our RV. They've followed our blog since we began full-timing in 2012 and we've stayed with them during our holiday trips back to Florida every year. All that changed last year when they sold their house and moved into their 2007 Country Coach to prepare to begin their full-timing life style. They both retired in January of this year and hit the road headed west in March.

Jim & Deb
Kolob Reservoir Road & their Jeep's 1st taste of snow
While they had hoped to join us this summer mapping BLM roads, that plan hadn't come to fruition, So they accepted a position working at Crazy Horse Memorial in South Dakota which they start in early May. Since our BLM job wasn't to start until late April, we decided to show them around Utah for a few weeks; helping them get acclimated to the lifestyle and gaining some off-road experience in their jeep.

Over the next 3 weeks we visited:

4 national parks

Tower Arch, Arches NP
Onion Creek, Capital Reef NP

Pleasant Creek, Capital Reef NP

Our 1st Rescue

While we were driving Kolob Reservoir Rd just east of Zion, we climbed in elevation into some winter snow that hadn't yet thawed. We drove a short distance further up the mountain until we reached a point where someone was working with a small front end loader attempting to clear the roadway. We decided to turn around and head back when a tourist came walking up the road asking if he could drive further up. We recommended he turn back as the snow was too deep for his small car. He returned to his car and during his attempt to turn around, he managed to get stuck. We tried to push him out a couple of times to no avail. So Jim pulled out a chain; I hooked to his undercarriage and proceeded to pull him to pavement.

Onion Creek, Capital Reef NP
Climbing the switchbacks into Canyonlands NP

4 national monuments -  Hovenweep, Escalante-Grand Staircase, Cedar Breaks, Canyon of the Ancients
Puebloan  Buildings (circa 1200AD)
Hovenweep NM

1 national recreation areas -  Lake Mead

2 national forests -  Dixie, Manti La-Sal

Dixie NF

3 state parks -  Valley of Fire,  Dead Horse Point, Sand Hollow,

Valley of Fire

and places such as Monument Valley and Moab.

It took a little while for Jim to get the idea that
keeping all 4 wheels on the ground was
a 'good' thing!

Deb has had a challenging time getting used to driving off-road. She's not fond of heights with sharp drop offs. And there are lots of those out west. She's doing great (even though we've had to edit some of her language from our videos!)
It's not often you drive under rather than over the rocks

Joan's slightly edited pic of Monument Valley
(from the spot where Forest Gump stopped running)

According to the National Park website, there are 410 'units' in the national system; only 58 are National Parks. Others are considered National Monuments, National Recreation Areas, National Lakeshores, National Memorials, etc. So many things to do and such a short amount of time. Guess that means we'll just have to keep on trying to visit them all.

Over the last few weeks Jim & I have tinkered with his RV. The trip west was their 1st road trip and a couple of small issues made themselves noticeable. We have temporarily repaired their living room slide. All 4 mounting bolts broke out of the slide motor housing, tearing the electrical connections loose and preventing the slide from operating correctly. We used some 1/4" stranded cable wire and a hose clamp to secure the motor to its mounting bracket. That should allow them to operate their slide until they're set up in South Dakota and can get some warranty work done. We also finished replacing their slide toppers ( a job we started in Florida last November, but had to stop as one awning cover had a bolt we were unable to remove). This time we resolved that by using a sawz-all to cut the bolt and remove the cover. We secured a door awning that began extending itself while they were driving with Gorilla Tape (more warranty work). And a few other odds and ends....just normal full time stuff!

But, all good things must come to an end. Wednesday Jim & Deb headed north towards South Dakota with stops planned at Mesa Verde NP, Denver, Rocky Mountain NP and other places along their route.

Joan & I? Well we headed back towards Vegas. It seems a couple of doctor's appointments await us there before we can begin our summer job. We'll be here at Lake Mead for most of April. Not all bad though.......called a couple of my softball buddies and it seems as though there are a couple of opportunities to play some more softball, including the LVSSA-SSUSA Southwest Championship Tournaments here in Vegas in 2 weeks! Wahoo!

Well, that's it for now. Stay Tuned. More to Come!