Wednesday, December 12, 2012

We're Jobless, Homeless and Sleeping Around

Ritten Clan 2012

Joan and I have been back in Florida for 2 weeks and we've been on the move every day. When last I blogged we had just surprised our families in Alabama and Georgia while they were celebrating Thanksgiving.

Crowe Clan 2012

We spent a couple of days in Alabama after Thanksgiving before heading to Atlanta to visit with my family. My oldest son Doug and his wife Erin moved to Atlanta in September. We stayed with them a couple of days at their new house. It was really different staying with them....we got to take our time and just enjoy being with them. When we lived in Florida we would see them often, but usually for a quick evening to eat out or play cards. This time it was fun to watch the Gator/Noles football game; drive down to the corner for ice cream; and spend time playing in the backyard with Salem (the Wonder Dog).

Alas......all good things must end and they had to return to work (they've got a few years before they can retire). So we packed up the car and headed across town to my sister Vickie and her husband's house. Vickie retired from Coca Cola last year and prior to this trip it's kind of been the same...up for a quick weekend; visit Stone Mountain or see a Braves game before rushing back home. We spent a couple of days just playing board games and cards; eating too much and catching up. While we were in Atlanta we got a follow up phone call from Las Vegas. While in Vegas we had submitted applications to work for the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. We interviewed over the phone and were subsequently offered a volunteer position which we accepted. So after the holidays we'll be headed back to Vegas to pick up the MH and start our new job. We'll be working about 60 miles north of Vegas for 2 months; wrapping up at the end of March in time to travel to Colorado for our summer gig at Chalk Creek Campground.

But Atlanta could only hold our attention for so long. Something was calling out to us......."Did you hear that?" Joan would ask. Something that was just out of our sight...."Did you see that?" Joan would say. A force so strong we couldn't resist it......"Did you feel that?" she would ask. Something pulling us....something only felt by special individuals...something wonderful...and at times was.....

Ryan & Bradley

The Grandkids! 

Emily and Joan

The power children have over grandparents cannot be explained or under-estimated. After 9 months the pull was just too great to resist. So we once again packed our bags and headed south to Florida.

We're going to be staying in Florida at least through Christmas and probably through New Years. With both our families in town we had numerous lodging choices so we had a hard decision to make...where do we stay so that no one is offended or burdened (more likely the latter). So we decided to flip a coin.....and Jim and Debbie lost.

Jim & Debbie's Door
We knocked on their door and announced our presence. "We'll clean house and mow the grass" we offered. "We'll take care of Abbie (the uber dog) and cook the meals" we negotiated. "We'll paint the kitchen and wash the cars" we begged (I think that's what convinced/swayed/enticed them to let us stay. I beg pretty good and Joan can make the saddest puppy-dog eyes when she needs to). So we unpacked the car and moved into their spare room.

We've had a great time so far. We've been able to catch up with most of our friends and family. We've completed our annual physicals and have started some of our Christmas shopping. We're excited about Christmas and glad to be in Florida to share it with our families. Hopefully we've got all of our ducks in a row and we'll be ready to head back towards Vegas and our real home (the MH) as soon as the holidays are over.

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

Friday, November 23, 2012

As Gomer Would Say..."Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!"

Sorry about the deception but Joan and I made a couple of decisions 2 weeks ago and decided to keep them quiet until we could execute a couple of surprises on our families. So after week 3 of Amazon we decided to take Johnny's advice (Johnny Paycheck that is) to say "Take this job and..........." After 240 hours of standing in a noisy assembly line we decided we'd had enough. Joan had tried every pair of shoes she owned; we had bought the expensive Dr. Scholls inserts; Joan had even gone so far as to purchase an expensive pair of shoes commonly used by nurses with springs in the heel and soles; all to no avail. Joan was miserable and I wasn't feeling that good myself. We talked about whether we could finish the entire holiday season and knew that we would  not be enjoying life the next 6 weeks if we tried. So we decided to start our holiday trip back to Florida early. We went into Amazon HR the next day, submitted our resignations and headed towards warmer climates.

We drove to Las Vegas and set up in a campground intending to research storage options there and in Tuscon hoping to avoid having to winterize the MH. Since we're working in Colorado next summer we elected to leave the MH out west and only take the car back east. After speaking with the campground manager they offered us an intriguing option; leave the MH there parked in a site with power for the frig and heated water bay. The MH would be located between 2 long-term tenants of the park and directly across the driveway from 2 park employee's homes. And the rate was better than the majority of quotes we'd already gotten. OK!

While we were in Vegas we did some of the touristy things. We visited the Lake Mead Recreation area and took a tour of Hoover Dam. We drove the strip and you should have seen the line of people waiting to get into the Pawn Stars shop! It's amazing the affect TV has on folks. We also got to visit with Joan's cousin Theresa and her husband Brian. We went out for a great steak dinner and they took us up to a lodge in the mountains for after dinner drinks. We're planning to see them again when we return to pick up the MH; maybe even get in a little off-roading in their extreme 4X4 jeep. We finished prepping the MH and bikes for storage; making sure the batteries were charged and adding fuel stabilizer. Packed up the car and headed east.

Most of Joan's Family
(there were only 27 attending)
Joan is the oldest of 7 siblings and all 5 brothers. her sister, their spouses and children, her mom and dad were traveling to Alabama for a Thanksgiving reunion. We hoped it would be great fun to surprise them. After 4 days of driving we arrived at her brother's house near the reunion site in Alabama. And as everyone showed up over the next few days we did manage to surprise them; all but one who heard about Joan being there from someone who's name will be withheld to protect their safety.

Doug, Steve, Sue
Our original plan was to surprise my family in Atlanta the week after Thanksgiving as they were all meeting in NC for the holiday. My sister and my oldest son live in Atlanta and my parents would be driving through there, staying with my sister for a couple days after Thanksgiving. But fate stepped in and gave us another wonderful opportunity.

Jim, Erin, Vickie, David
The plans for them to spend Thanksgiving in NC had to be changed and all of them met in Atlanta instead. My son and DIL's house is only 90 miles from Joan's brother's so about an hour after eating with Joan's family we jumped in the car and drove to Atlanta to surprise my family. When we arrived everyone happened to be on the back deck so we clandestinely walked around the house and stepped around the corner and smiled! My sister was stunned; I thought she was going to fall down. And my parents were really surprised as well. We spent the rest of the afternoon with my family.

Our plans now are to spend a couple more days in Alabama; then a couple of days in Atlanta before heading to Florida. We'll be in Florida through Christmas and then head back to Vegas.

Stay Tuned. More to Come.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Oh Happy Day!

Week 4 and Amazon hasn't changed. 'And that's all I'm going to say about that'. Joan and I just had to get out of the city for a while to try and relax; recharge our batteries. So we took a drive in the country. It was a nice drive and really helped us recoup; kinda changed our perspective a little.

Today is a big day. November 16. Yeah, November 16....that's it. "What oh what could it be?" you ask. It was the start of something big. Really big. Something special. Really special. Something so wonderful...."How wonderful is it?" you ask......something so wonderful I hope it never ends.

On Wednesday November 16, 2005 I knocked on Joan's door and we proceeded to go out on our first date! It was the first time we had met. On one of our first dates we went out to a movie. "What movie?" you ask....The remake of King Kong starring Jack Black. Joan was the tallest girl I had ever dated and I still remember how awkward it was holding her hand during the movie. Usually my dates' arm was short enough to fit inside of my elbow when I held their hand. Not so with Joan. But we got past that awkwardness and here we are on the date of a lifetime.

Happy Anniversary!

Stay Tuned. More to Come.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

On a More Serious Note...........

When Joan and I came home Monday night after finishing our second week at Amazon we were both extremely tired and sore. Joan's feet are still giving her a lot of trouble and for some reason my shoulder was bothering me. I didn't mention it in the blog but the last week we were in Mt Hood I took a tumble while getting down off the back of one of our work trucks. I had put my hand down on the bed of the truck for stability. For some reason the material of the glove and the sand on the bed of the truck didn't like each other and my hand slipped just as I put weight on it when I jumped down. This resulted in my left arm being pulled into what felt like an unnatural position and for a few days my shoulder was stiff. I guess all this lifting, moving, stretching, etc has aggravated it and it aches. That being said, please consider I didn't sleep well last night as you read the blog... I may not be my usual sunny self...........

Several things happened at work this week. With the increase in the number of temporary workers, the employees have been split into two groups for breaks and lunches. I don't know why but Joan and the other two members of our carpool are in one group while I'm in the other. And all of us got our information on overtime schedules. If we go to a 50 hour workweek, we'll be asked to work a 5th 10 hour day each week. If we go to a 55+ hour workweek we may be asked to work some 12 hour days. On days when orders are slow Amazon does allow voluntary time off; unfortunately we are unable to take advantage of it as our carpool members work in different shops and we can't be sure all of us could get off. So let me give you an example of one of our typical days.........

5:00 am - First alarm (I have another set for 5:05 just in case)
5-6:00 am - dress; fix, eat and cleanup from breakfast; fix and pack lunch;
6:00 - 6:40 am - carpool to work; arrive at Amazon (it's still dark outside)
6:40 - 7:00 am - place lunch, jackets, keys, phones, etc in locker (none of this is allowed in the warehouse). Walk to work location (keep in mind this is a 1 million sq ft facility with 3 floors; we're on the 3rd floor) clock in before 7:00 am
7-7:10 am - morning announcements and stretching
7:10-9:30 am - work-STANDING
9:30-9:45 am - break (keep in mind a 5 minute walk each way and pass thru security if you go to the break room
9:45-11:30 - work-STANDING
11:30-12:00 pm - clock out for lunch; (same 5 minute walk each way to break room/lockers to pick up lunch)
12:30 pm - return to work location; clock in by 12:30 pm; new work assignments and stretches
12:35-2:45 pm - work-STANDING
2:45-3:00 pm - break (same as morning break)
3-5:30 pm - work-STANDING
5:30-6:30 pm - clock out; pick up stuff from locker; carpool back to RV (it's already dark again when we leave Amazon)
6:30-bedtime - fix and eat supper; do whatever we want if we're able; prepare for tomorrow

That's about it 4 days a week; 5 when we go to Mandatory Overtime

And while we're working it's almost like sensory depredation. At least for me that's what it seems like. The department we work in is extremely noisy. It's mandatory we wear ear plugs. The noise includes:
- multiple older mechanical conveyor lines
- thousands if not millions of little roller wheels in the chutes along the conveyors
- hundreds of forklifts, golf carts, floor dolly/jacks; all of which are constantly moving, blowing their horns at every intersection of walkways, driveways, storage aisles, etc (safety process)
- and all the other thousands of mechanical devices you would expect to find in this type of an environment
- and don't forget the loud speakers. I know Amazon is trying to make the environment as pleasant as possible so they allow music to be played in the various work areas; but to be heard over the noise in our area it must be blared; and blared it is. Don't get me wrong, it's not the type of music they play, it's just the decibel level it's played at.

All this while having little pieces of foam stuffed in your ears. We are given light gloves to wear if needed; and for us they are. So your sense of touch is distorted as well. There are productivity goals; and they are challenging. Amazon gives new employees 4 weeks to meet their goals. And the work environment does not really allow for conversation with the person working next to you (at least not in our department. This may be different in other areas.

So to summarize:

- Long days that start before the sun rises and end after it sets. Sometimes we feel like vampires
- Short breaks and lunches
- Little or no interaction with others; no meeting new friends or developing new relationships; not enough time
- Loud, noisy work environment
- Standing for 10 hours a day
- The work itself is not that hard. It is however repetitive and sometimes boring
- Little or no time (or desire) after work to go out, shop, clean, do laundry or explore
- Lots of house cleaning and normal chores to do on your days off
- The pay is good compared to other workamping positions we've investigated; not so good compared to our previous jobs before we went full time
- Amazon gives employees a discount on anything they order online

Please don't get me wrong. There are lots of folks working for Amazon; both full time and workamping, and it seems to work well for them. Amazon provides a great opportunity for workampers, but it's real work. Our specific work responsibilities may result in Joan and I having a very different perspective from other Amazon workampers. If we can just get past the extreme discomfort from standing all day I think we'll be OK. But for now its really kicking our butts!

Other than that we haven't done much this week to talk about. We went to one of the local casinos; not to gamble but to eat. It was really good, and reasonably priced. We've heard about another casino that has some great restaurants and may try it while we're off this week. We attempted a short drive out into the country on one of the side roads, but we were forced to turn around about 7-8 miles out as the road shown on the GPS entered a private rock quarry. The weather forecast is for temps beginning in the high 30's and approaching the 70's the next few days. Thursday and Friday is forecast for 20's and possible snow.

We're still looking for a Saint for Tired Feet. Let us know if you have any suggestions.

Stay Tuned. More to Come.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What Is an AOPT? You Know What I Mean

Well, week 1 of the Amazon adventure is in the books. And it's not exactly what we thought it would be. Don't get me wrong, we knew it would be work.....real work. We've read the blogs from other workampers enough to know it wasn't like working at a campground or our previous job in Mt Hood. But I don't think either one of us was ready for the reality. On our applications we stated that we would prefer a job walking, not standing. That's not exactly what we got. We're considered 'shooters'. Or maybe the correct spelling is 'chuters' as in we manage chutes. We are in the shipping department and work along an assembly line where customer orders containing multiple items are pooled together to be boxed. Example: a customer orders 2 tubes of toothpaste, a pack of batteries, a romance novel, ski gloves and....let's say an adult oriented personal toy (and you know what I mean). Other employees 'pick' these items one at a time from the warehouse stocks and they are loaded individually onto a conveyor. The conveyor is smart and knows to pool the individual items at a single chute. Once all items are pooled into a chute (this may take a couple of hours) the chute lights up telling 'chuters' (us) the order is ready for boxing. We scan the chute with a bar code reader and the computer tells us what items should be there and what size box is needed. We form the box from flat stock, scan and package the individual items, close, tape and bar code the box before placing it on another conveyor to be addressed and shipped. That's not the hard part. The hard part is that we basically stand for 10 hours a day doing the work....neither one of us is used to that. We're a little sore from the bending and our age is showing in how our fingers and hands feel....but we expect that to get better. What really hurts is our feet. And we're really hoping that gets better quick. Our normal schedule is Fri-Mon, 10 hours a day. We've formed a car pool with two other workampers and one of them has already been asked his preference for which day of the week he could work should mandatory overtime be required. And from what we've read this is a likelihood for all of us.


Today is our day off and we're taking advantage to get off our feet! We still have a lot of chores to do.....laundry, grocery shopping, etc......but we fully intend to rest. Might even get a massage....foot massage! We'll see. OOOO Baby that sounds good.

When our job at Amazon ends we've decided to drive our car home for Christmas/New Years and stay for several weeks. We should be working into the week before Christmas so we've been researching what to do with the MH while we're gone. We looked at winterizing and storing; leaving the MH hooked up in a campground, etc. We think we've found a good solution; indoor climate controlled storage. We've found a place where we can store both the MH and bikes without having to winterize either; and it's indoors.... quite a bit more secure than most storage lots. And the cost is quite reasonable. That way we can relax while we're home, not worry about things freezing or being damaged while we're gone. And rather then a flight back to Nevada we can take our time returning, enjoy the drive and sight-see a little along the way. We want to stop at my son's new home in Atlanta and see Joan's brother Jimmy and his family in Alabama. And when we get to Sparks we just stock up on groceries and head out to our next location. We're researching what to do between our return to Sparks after the holidays and the start of our summer gig in Colorado. We're thinking we'll try our hand at a volunteer job (no pay, just a free site) for a month or two somewhere between here and there.

Wednesday we're meeting some of our fellow 2013 Colorado workampers for lunch. Sandi and Joe are in Fernley working for Amazon as well, but with more than a thousand seasonal workers just starting we haven't met them yet. They've worked at Chalk Creek in Colorado for two years and are returning next year. Joan and I will be the rookies at Chalk Creek as the other 3 workamping couples are all returnees.

That's all for now. If you are aware of a Saint for Ailing Feet (or Amazon workers) please let us know. We're going to be buying gel inserts for our shoes and I figure we'll take all the help we can get.
Stay Tuned. More to Come.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

It's Always Something

Joan and I got our confirmation email from Amazon scheduling us to attend orientation Wednesday the 24th. With the wonderful temps here in Nevada we decided we would take a quick trip to Yosemite before we started work. We left Sunday with temps in the 60's. After driving a couple of hours we arrived in Lee Vining just west of Tioga Pass. We stopped for lunch at Whoa Nellie Deli and I noticed the gas prices next door...


Fortunately we had filled up in Sparks so we continued on our way through Tioga Pass.

Tioga Pass

Absolutely beautiful. The temps dropped into the 40's as we climbed to the summit at 9943'. We drove along higway 120 through Yosemite and decided to get a room on the west side of the park in Mariposa, CA before we explored more of the park on Monday.

If you look close you'll see the snow on the
mountain tops further down the valley

When we woke up Monday it had begun to rain as a winter storm was crossing the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We drove into Yosemite Valley hoping to get a glimpse of Half Dome, El Capitan and the other wonderful sites. Alas it was not to be. The clouds were very low and we could only see 100' - 200' up the slopes of the surrounding mountains.

Low Clouds, Short Vistas
Wish We Could Have Seen More

We decided to head home and headed back towards Tioga Pass. At least that was our plan until we started to see snow along the roads and in the surrounding trees. After marveling at the sights and taking lots of pics we called the Traffic Update phone line and discovered that Tioga Pass was closed due to snowfall, so we started checking the other pass's....Sonora Pass; closed unless you had snow chains or 4-wheel drive with snow tires (what are the chances a pair of newby Floridians would have snowchains?). So we checked on the next pass...Ebberts Pass; closed without 4-wheel drive or snow was the next pass Luther Pass. What that means (to the folks back home in Florida) is that all the roads across the Sierra Nevadas to the east and our shorter route home were not an option for us. We would have to drive about 150 miles north to just east of Sacramento and pick up I-80 to return to Sparks. The traffic line stated that I-80 was open.  We found a scenic road that would get us where we wanted to go and headed out.

The drive was pleasant but long. Except that the temps were in the 50's I would have loved to have been on the bike. Nice curvy scenic roads through the mountains and valleys and great pavement.....this drive is going on my 'To Do' list one day in the future. We got to I-80 and turned east towards home.

We were traveling along just fine climbing in elevation as we headed towards Donner Pass. Then we started to notice snow in the trees. Then snow on the ground and along the sides of the roads....and it was getting deeper as we drove further. Apparently it had snowed quite a bit overnight. Traffic was getting slower and slower. The temps continued to drop into the 20's as we climbed.

We started to notice the truck drivers and local entrepreneurs stopped along the interstate installing snow chains. The roadway was wet but there were still lots of cars continuing without chains so we followed along. I knew I would need to stop for gas before we got home so we started looking for a place to pull off. The snow was over a foot deep along the exits and I didn't want to pull off only to get stuck. Then just before the pass (did I say Donner Pass?) traffic was being stopped and checked. Only vehicles with 4-wheel drive or snow chains were being allowed to continue. I guess things had gotten a little worse since we had called the traffic information line.

It's always something! Snowchains
We pulled off and into a Shell station. We filled up with gas and noticed all the people stopped and either installing or buying snow chains. It was a madhouse. Joan was really concerned when someone pulled up next to us and then began to slide as they tried to maneuver their car. Our options were to A - turn around drive back towards Sacramento looking for a motel hoping the pass would be open Tuesday, or B - buy snow chains and attempt the pass (I did say Donner Pass didn't I?). We opted for option B.

The situation being what it was, the gas station was the only place to get their prices weren't what we would hope to find at Walmart or NAPA. The chains went on and we headed out at 35 mph. We climbed our way through the pass and a few miles down the road we removed the chains before continuing our way home.

On Wednesday we reported to Amazon at 6:45am (yes I said AM) for orientation. We took a tour of the facility; attended presentations and watched short films to ensure we understood what Amazon was all about. We signed our employment contracts and got our job assignments. Joan and I will be working Shift 7 (Fri - Mon) 7am-5:30pm in Shipping. We met two other workampers who are staying in our RV park and work the same shift. We're going to be carpooling as the drive is 30 miles one way. The temps tonight are forecast to be in the 20's so it will be a cold start when we leave for work Friday morning. We're headed out to run some errands and pick up some cold weather supplies to insulate our water line.

Stay Tuned. More to Come.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

I'm Givin' Her All She's Got Captain! If I Push It Any Harder the Whole Thing's Gonna' Blow

Joan and I finished our first workamping job on Monday the 8th and headed out for a few weeks of relaxation before reporting to Amazon in Fernley Nevada.

We headed out east through the Columbia River Gorge stopping at Emigrant Springs State Park just east of Pendelton. This was the second Oregon State Park in which we've camped and one of several that we've driven through or visited. I've got to say that the Oregon State Parks we've seen are excellent facilities. In speaking with the camphosts we've learned the parks are funded by the Oregon Lottery. And great care is taken to ensure the parks are in great shape, both in the quality of the infrastructure and the visual aspects of the parks. I was unable to get a Dish signal through the trees so we missed Tuesday nights episode of SOA, but we did get to visit Wallowa State Park and the small community of Joseph just west of Hells Canyon.

On Thursday we drove further east along I-84 before stopping near the Idaho/Oregon state line at Catfish Junction RV park. We stayed here in April on our way west. We'd hoped to take the motorcycles for a ride, but decided to take the car on a sightseeing trip Friday. And we're glad we did.

We left early for a trip to Hells Canyon Dam about 90 mile north on the Snake River. We knew it might be cool, but we weren't expecting the 39 degree temps we encountered just a few minutes after we left the campground.
Later in the day the temps got more comfortable, but an early morning bike ride would have been very cold. Even though the maps indicated about half the drive would be on unpaved roads, we were pleasantly surprised to have pavement the entire route. The drive was pleasant and the views were great. We stopped at one of the overviews and had lunch.
Saturday we headed south into Nevada. We figured we'd find numerous parks and campgrounds to stop overnight along the way, but the drive down US95 offered few options unless we were willing to take side roads (most of them unpaved) for several miles to the campsites. We stopped in Winnemucca and on Sunday spent a lazy day hanging around the RV. Monday we drove to Fernley where we will be working until Christmas. We decided to boondock at Walmart Monday night before driving into Sparks to explore the Reno/Tahoe area before we report to work. Tuesday dawned bright and early.
Old Batteries (Yuck!)
We had a quick breakfast and prepared to leave. We had parked at the outer edge of the Walmart lot so we could push out the slides on one side. The bedroom slide came in very slowly. The living room slide ( a little larger) would only move about 2 inches before it ground to a halt. "Come on" I said to Joan, "push the button." Using the famous words of Commander Scott she replied "I'm Givin' Her All She's Got Captain! If I Push It Any Harder the Whole Things Gonna' Blow!" Apparently the boondocking (inverter use) had drawn down the batteries to where they would not power the slide.  

New Batteries (Yeah!)
Over the last year we've had several issues with the batteries and to the best of our knowledge they are the originals from 2005. All things considered they've paid their dues so we decided to replace them. 4 hours and several hundred dollars later we now have a new set of batteries (both house and chassis) and things are working great.

As soon as the batteries were replaced we pulled in the slides and headed west for Sparks Nevada, where we will be parking while we work at Amazon. The park is really nice, but the WiFi is not the best we've ever had access to. We got an email from Amazon on Wednesday stating that we would be starting work on 10/24. We are supposed to show up at 6:45am for training and will be working Shift 7 Friday-Monday.

Lake Tahoe
Wednesday we hopped in the car and headed to Lake Tahoe. The drive was short and once we got there very scenic. The water color in the mountain lakes is spectacular. Both Crater Lake and Lake Tahoe are beautiful.

Thursday we hung around the RV park fixing some odds and ends in the coach. On Friday we unloaded the bikes and headed for Pyramid Lake about 35 miles north of Sparks. Not much traffic, especially on a short side trip on Eagle Canyon Rd before we got to Pyramid. Again beautiful blue water.

Only a few more days before we're back to work. Not sure what we'll do tomorrow, but....

Stay tuned. More to come.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

And the Answer Is......"We're Going to Hell!"

Monday will be 5 Months, 3 weeks and 4 days since we arrived in Estacada, Oregon. Even though the work has slowed down quite a bit in the last few weeks, our time here has really flown by. Of the 17 campgrounds along the Clackamas River, only 4 are still open; and 3 of those will close next weekend. On Monday I've been asked to assist the maintenance supervisor close and shutter a 2-story cabin. Monday will be our last day working in Mt Hood National Forest this season.

This season we both learned a lot about workamping. After all when we started in April we didn't know anything as this was our first workamping experience. We met some wonderful co-workers and some unusual campers. We drove tractors, felled trees and herded bats and birds. We cleaned campsites and restrooms. We collected camping fees and lots of memories. And we explored, explored, explored.......As much of Oregon as we could; including a couple of short jaunts into Washington and California. We feel as though we got to see everything we intended to; even though we're sure there is a lot more stuff that we didn't know about. Maybe we'll see that stuff on our next trip through Oregon.

On Tuesday Joan and I will be headed towards our next workamping experience. We are scheduled to report to work at Amazon in Fernley Nevada the week of October 28th. For the next few weeks we plan to cruise around looking for interesting places to visit between here and Amazon. We've been asked several times if there's anywhere specific we're going and Joan keeps telling everyone "We're going to Hell"; Hell's Canyon that is.....It is the deepest canyon in the US, deeper than the Grand Canyon. It's located a little ways off I-84 in eastern Oregon/western Idaho. There's also the small community of Joseph found in an area called the Oregon Alps that we're hoping to explore.

Would we workamp again?
- That answer is obvious as we've already accepted a position in Buena Vista, Colorado for next summer. Chalk Creek Campground.

Would we work in Oregon again?
- Yes, but not anytime soon as there are lots of other western states that we want to explore over the next few years. And there's the trip to Alaska we'd like to make in the next 2-3 years.

Would we work for CLM again?
- Absolutely. We really enjoyed working for CLM and feel as though they offer workampers one of the better compensation packages.

All things considered this has been a great experience for us. We're really happy we made the decision to fulltime. And we're looking forward to our next adventure.

Stay Tuned. More to come.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Things Are Thinning Out

Things are really thinning out as the season nears its end. We're starting to see some color in the deciduous trees and the fir trees are dropping lots of small brown needles. We've closed 6 of our 17 campgrounds, with 6 more scheduled 10/7 and the rest closing 10/14. The number of campers has dwindled as well. All of our camphost couples have left leaving 4 of the original 18 hosts to manage the store and remaining 11 campgrounds. We've got 1 host working the store 5 days a week and Bud, Joan and I covering the campgrounds. We're flexing our schedules to keep everything caught up.

We do have some new helpers in managing the campgrounds, Iron Rangers. Normally camphosts make at least two passes each day through each campground to check in campers. Over the last week we've been switching to the Iron Rangers; small metal posts located in each campground that allow campers to self-register by filling out their information on an envelope into which they place their camping fee.
Colecting an Iron Ranger

Then they place the envelope in the Iron Ranger which we collect on a random basis. We're still visiting each campground daily to police the empty sites, clean  restrooms and ensure the Iron Ranger registration process is being followed.

Joan and I took a day trip to the town of Lake Oswego. just south of Portland. We had driven through a few weeks earlier and wanted to take a little time of explore it further. There were lots of small sculpture located throughout the downtown area and a nice shopping village on the lake.

Joan and I stopped this young lady to ask directions but she wasn't able to help us much. We did manage to find a small restaurant and really enjoyed a quick lunch while we were there. 

Right after we arrived in April Joan started a small garden. Now just weeks away from leaving we're 
starting to enjoy the results of her hard work.

Tomatoes, zucchini and a few herbs

Joan driving the switchback below the one on
which I'm standing

We had the opportunity to visit one of the more remote sites on the Mt Hood side of the forest; Keepsmill Campground. After driving 6-7 miles down one of the few paved forest roads, we turned off onto an unpaved rocky trail for a couple of miles containing numerous hairpin turns descending from the mountain to the stream bed.

Two shout outs this week: The first a belated Happy Birthday to my oldest son Doug. Good luck on your move to Atlanta.

The second to Bradley. Happy 10th Birthday. Hang in there Buddy, we'll be home at Christmas and looking forward to spending some time with you, Ryan and Emily.

Stay Tuned, More to Come

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Who Are Those Strange People Wandering Around the Woods?

Time really does fly by! Joan and I are down to our final days of working here at Mt. Hood National Forest.  With campgrounds closing, camphosts have begun to leave. Most of them have been workamping for awhile. We learned alot talking to them about their previous workamping experiences and picking their brains about 'how and why'. And a side benefit is that we now have new friends and places to visit (their homes) throughout the southwest!  Let me introduce you.
Sandy & Jim
Headed back to Arizona after working the Nascar Races in Vegas.
This was their 1st Workamping Job

Gerry and Phyllis
1/2 of the team that ran the store
Don and Donna
The other 1/2 of the store team. This was
their 2nd year here

Bud. Everybody knows Bud
Originally from this area with more years workamping
then he cares to admit. Can't tell you how many
returning campers asked us "Where's Bud?"

Jerry and Sharon
Jerry worked Maintenance while Sharon hosted
Lazy Bend Campground

Hosted 3 campgrounds and didn't take 'stuff'
off of anybody
Headed back to Ohio to work with his son

Another local who started later in the season

Wyatt & Heather
Also headed towards Ohio
Michael & Anna
The Man in Charge and the Woman Who Knows
What's Going On!

Jean & Larry
2nd season in Oregon headed to Colorado Springs
Larry taught me everything I know about
So you can blame it on him!
Mel & Teri
Maintenance Supervisor & Operations Manager
Joan and I will miss everyone we worked with this year. It's been a season we won't forget and we  look forward to meeting up with our new friends somewhere down the road