First Time Working In A Utility Co. Park – Father’s Day Week

Disclaimer: The company we are working for this summer has a very specific media policy. I will not be mentioning them by name, or mentioning the specific names of anyone I am working with, except for Lee.  Also, because it’s not really that difficult to figure out which company it is, I want to be clear: I in no way speak for the company or my co-workers, and am only recounting my personal experiences.  Also, any details I get wrong in this or any other post are due to a misunderstanding on my part.  

I’ve been promising a walk through of what we do on campground days, and since Monday is my campground day, and it finally stopped raining so I could get some pictures, I thought I would share those details in this post.  Many people think camp hosting jobs are easy.  Heck, I thought they were easy, and on some days they can be.  Campground host duties are very much driven by how full the campground is, and since this campground is largely used on weekends, those are the busiest days.  We are seeing more people during the week though now that school is out, and the workload has increased exponentially.  It’s a pretty simple equation.  More people means more campsites to clean, and the bathrooms and showers see heavier use.  There are more questions to answer, more firewood to sell and deliver, and more time spent on making sure folks are following the rules.  Since we only work day shift, I can’t speak to the evening duties of the camp hosts, but I can give you a run down of what an average mid-week day shift looks like, at least for us.

During the week, the camp host opens the gates to the campground, the marina next door (you can see the gates to the marina just beyond our gate in the picture below), and the lower boat launch, which is about a mile down the road. Since all gates are supposed to be opened by 6am, we get up and out the door by 5:30am and drive to the three locations to allow plenty of time to get all the gates by 6am.

Campground and Marina Gates

 

Lower Launch Gate

 

This one is tough for me because of this heavy bar, but with the use of a crowbar I can do it by myself

 

One of the nicest things about mornings on the river is the mist.  Almost every day the mist hangs above the water, and it is really pretty in the mornings.  After opening the gate at the lower launch we unlock the bathroom and I always like to take a minute to look around and enjoy the mist on the water. It’s much prettier than the pictures below suggest. We’re pretty low in a canyon/valley, so it takes several hours for the sun to finally hit the water on the reservoir.



After opening the gates, we come back and check the marina.  We look for trash and check the dog bag holders, but anything major is left for the evening shift.  There is a large fish cleaning station, picnic tables, and a significant amount of weeding down there, but since we just fill in one day a week that is not something we tackle. After checking the marina, we unlock the bathrooms at the campground day use area and check the playground, again looking for trash or mess from the night before.  Rarely do we find any issues there, because the evening shift cleans and locks those areas prior to locking the gate.

Doggie bag dispensers

 

 

Next is Small Fry Pond and this takes a little longer.  This pond is for children under the age of 18, stocked with fish, and is open to both campers from our campground,  and the public.  The amount of traffic it gets varies wildly, so it requires a morning check of the three trash cans and picking up litter along the trail.  It’s a beautiful little path down to the pond, and not the worst way to start a morning, but not so fun on a rainy day because the path is a little steep and can be a bit slippery, especially when hauling out a full trash bag. This area also has it’s own fish cleaning station, which see some use, but thankfully I rarely have to clean it.  The evening camp hosts usually check this prior to closing the gate and so far I have been lucky not having to deal with fish guts that early in the morning!

Path down to the pond

Small fry pond has a path all the way around it which I walk looking for litter

A thankfully clean fish cleaning station. Mr. Newbie and Mr. Kayaker do a great job of keeping the fish cleaning station clean.

Next up is another large day use area.  This area can be booked for the day for a small fee, but can be used by anyone if it is not reserved.  Generally it is in pretty good shape, but needs extra attention the morning before or the evening after a booking.  Again, I have been pretty lucky with this as well, but always check it, because sometimes folks hang out there or have an impromptu gathering and it can get messy.  It’s a really nice day use area with a huge fire pit, lots of picnic tables, including some under a roof, and a fireplace under the roof, a large charcoal grill, electric stoves, large sinks, and two bathrooms (which are only opened if someone books the site). Below is a picture from the river edge looking back up at the day use area.

 

Beautiful views of the river from the bottom of the day use area.

Once the day use area is cleaned I head back to our RV.  I take the company truck to complete the first set of tasks and then hand it off to Lee who runs up and down the river on Monday.  Usually I get all of those areas checked and cleaned by 6:30am, but occasionally it pushes closer to 7am.  Once I hand the keys over, I walk down to the campground to start my day down there.

The first thing I do is open the maintenance garage and pull out the Gator.  It’s pretty early and the gator makes a pretty loud beep when you back it up, so I try to back it out very quickly.  I make sure it is stocked with a wet mop, dry mop, rake, and squeegee along with making sure the black tub has full cleaning supply bottles.  I then take a quick run down to the two sets of bathrooms and poke my head in and make sure the toilets, sinks, toilet paper, and showers look OK for the morning rush.  It’s too early to do a complete cleanup, but I will spot clean areas I think need it. Most of the time the real issue is the sinks or empty toilet paper rolls, so I can take care of that pretty quickly and quietly.

One of Lee’s first project was organizing the shop. He even added the top shelf and made sure there was enough room to park the gator inside.

 

The gator with the nifty mop holder that the guys created from PVC pipe

 

Main restroom with showers.

 

Modern toilets and showers

 

After the morning restroom check I come back to the office and wait until around 9am when folks start waking up and I can make more noise.  I use this time to read work emails, look at the communication log, look at the ongoing maintenance list, and look at today’s check ins and outs.  The number of campers checking in and out will largely drive my day, so on days with less check in/outs I can work more on the task lists, but other days that (along with cleaning the bathrooms) is the bulk of what I get done.  At 9am, I head out with the cleaning supplies and start working on the sites.  All sites are cleaned as soon as the campers leave, so theoretically sites that weren’t occupied the night before shouldn’t need to be touched, but it never hurts to take a second look.  Sometimes campers “spread out” into adjoining sites if they are unoccupied and the Yomes are not completely airtight so needles and dust can get in. Cleaning a Yome involves sweeping or blowing the floor, mopping it, and spraying the plastic mattress covers with disinfectant and wiping them  with the dry mop.  Generally they don’t take that long, but they do take longer than a regular campsite.

Office

 

Desk area with the well maintained communication log. Everyone here does a great job of using this

 

The maintenance list is ever changing, but there isn’t much on here that I have the time or skill set to work on. I do try to jump in where I can though

 

I make this map with the Ins and Outs every Monday and then check off the campsites as I complete them. Of particular interest is any campsite with an In and an Out as those need to be turned as soon as possible

 

The Yomes are very popular

 

They have two sets of bunkbeds in them and most have electric

 

We spray with disinfectant and then use this dry mop. Very effective

The campsites are generally pretty easy.  They have a tent area which may need raked and a fire pit that needs cleaned out.  One of the perks of the job is we get to keep any leftover firewood, and we carry a metal bucket on the gator to put pieces in.  Since checkout time is not until 1pm many people start fires on their departure morning and it’s not uncommon to walk away with 5-6 pieces.  The only tough cleaning job for me is the cabins.  They are incredibly nice and only a year old, but the bunk beds are tall and it’s hard for me to climb up and clean the top bunk.  For whatever reason those just wear me out and I am always grateful when there are just a few I have to work on in a day.  They also take the longest and for me it’s about 20 minutes each, so when we have lots of check ins and check outs it can be hard to get done before my shift ends at 1:30.  It’s fine if we don’t get everything done and have to pass some things along to the next shift, but I like to get as much done as possible so they can focus on guest interactions and the maintenance list.

Campfire rings. It’s amazing what people leave in them. The worst is half eaten food though and the worst of that I have seen so far is when someone poured beans all over a piece of wood. Gross!!

 

The cabins

 

They have electric and a small electric stove. They still smell like new wood and although they are rustic they are really nice and very reasonably priced.

 

Great river view from one of the cabins

While touring the campground we also clean the 4 cook stove areas.  This is a really nice feature and all campers have access to two hot plates, a counter, and a sink.  Some folks keep these areas very clean, but others are kind of messy and it requires Easy Off and a scrub brush to get them somewhat clean. Along with these cook stations are two more fish stations, but again I rarely have to clean those.  Have I mentioned I am super thankful for that!!

The green cone in the front is the dump sink and takes the grey water from people washing dishes  to a tank. One of the guys cleaned this the other day and wow was that a gross job. The rotting food smell was pretty intense.

Campground days are an 8 hour shift and since most of that is working I am definitely pooped out at the end of those days. But we have our two days off so I can rest up and then the rest of the week is river sites.  Thursday is Lee’s campground day now and we mainly switched because of moving the dumpsters.  I took some pictures of that process so you can see it, because it is really hard to explain.

Back the gator up to the small dumpster. It’s easier if you can roll them, but they are too heavy for me to move when they are full

 

Use a GIANT ratchet strap to attach the can to the gator, getting it as tight as possible so it doesn’t move side to side

 

The giant ratchet strap was super intimidating for me, but now I feel comfortable. If nothing else I think I have finally gotten over my somewhat unreasonable fear of these things.

 

This steep hill is the worst. It goes down to where the dumpsters can be emptied by the garbage truck and going down this hill with the rattle of the wheels and the push of the weight is a little nerve wracking. After doing this a few times I was happy to trade days with Lee

The whole thing feels a little Beverly Hillbillies to me, but it does get the job done.  Not much fun in the pouring rain for sure though and the last two Thursdays Lee has worked it was raining pretty hard.  Still he is a trouper about the whole thing and since he was worried about me getting hurt was happy to make the switch.  Now on Thursdays I run the river alone and it is one of my favorite days.  Although no one checks our river sites on our days off, generally they are still in pretty decent shape and I actually have some extra time.  This week I decided to ride over to an area we don’t technically cover, because there are no trash cans, but several regular dog walkers have mentioned there was trash over there.  There certainly was, and I picked up three 5 gallon buckets worth of what looked like “picnic trash”.  I also unfortunately found my first needles and drug paraphernalia.

2 needles and a metal plate

 

Needle disposal box

I have actually been expecting this since the beginning and thankfully had ordered a needle disposal kit which we carry in the truck. Thankfully I never pick up trash with my bare hands and always use the quik pickers and since they were capped there was no danger.   Let me be clear here, these are public areas, and we all know that drug use has become an epidemic in all areas of the country.  It’s not surprising then that in this out of the way corner I found the needles, and in a way it is good news because I think it shows the areas we are focusing on, the drug users are staying away.  In keeping with that premise, we decided to add an additional trash can in this corner of a day use area we cover and we also let our supervisor know so he could tell security and the authorities.  It was mildly unpleasant though, and not something I wanted to run across on my favorite work day.

Friday and Saturday it rained and/or was overcast so we followed our route but couldn’t do any extra projects, but finally Sunday was bright and clear.  It was also Father’s Day which we knew would be a busy day, it was also the first non rainy day in 10 days and we desperately needed to weed on the river sites.  After doing some initial traffic control at Lower Launch Lee went and borrowed a trailer with a John Deere riding mower and a powered 45 gallon weed sprayer and we set off to Hole in the Wall.  Lee is a really good teacher and showed me how to use the tractor, trailer, and sprayer and I felt pretty confident by the time his shift was over.

The sprayer had three bars you could position which made spraying the rocks much easier.

Unfortunately though I had to do the beginning of the late shift by myself (Lee had used his hours earlier in the morning) and every site was packed.  I emptied 14 very full garbage bags from the various sites and most were very heavy because they were full of beer cans and bottles.  I also was scrambling to clean floors and restock toilet paper because we were almost out at both Faraday and Lower Launch.  Still I managed, but I was super tired by the time I went to pick up Lee and for the first time we had some difficulty clearing the lower launch and shutting the gate.  Despite three polite time checks, there was one boat who didn’t even come in until 9pm and then we had to wait an extra 15 minutes until he put his boat on the trailer.  Long day and a physically demanding one, but we did get a bunch done.  Lee went back with the sprayer and did Moore Creek on Monday so at least the two worst sites are done.

But it wasn’t all hard work this week.  I took a few minutes to get some bird shots. I have been waiting for a sunny day to get a few bird pictures and they include a Violet -green swallow which was kind enough to stay still on the gas pump for me and is a first for me!!

The goslings are so big. Many of their faces turned black practically overnight

 

This Osprey looked smallish so I think it is the partially grown baby.  Not 100% sure though

 

Super excited about this Violet -Green Swallow

 

Violet Green Swallow

 

 


 

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Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback.

First Time at Heceta Head Lighthouse

A few weeks ago I realized that three of our RV-Dreamers friends were both volunteering at Heceta Head Lighthouse at the same time, and were both staying at the Carl G. Washburne State Park.   This was pretty amazing, since they had never met each other, and it was a sheer coincidence that they would be at the same place at the same time.  We immediately knew we wanted to spend the weekend with them but weren’t quite sure how to work that out, and after considering moving our rig, or staying with Rick in his Class A, or taking our tent, we decided to take the tent. Not only would be get to hang out with them, but we would have a place to take our trial run with the new tent, and if things went horribly wrong, at least we would be with friends. At the end of our work day Monday afternoon we headed for the coast.

It was a 3-1/2 hour drive to their location near Florence, Oregon, but since we packed up the night before, we made it in plenty of time before dark.  After seeing everyone and exchanging hugs we started to set up the tent. Our experience with tents is very limited so we bought an “easy up” version, but “easy” is a relative term, so it did take awhile.  They had a fire going and gave us plenty of time to figure it out so eventually we did. It certainly was much easier than the tent we used when the kids were small but it did require some reading of the directions.  The good news is the tent worked great with plenty of space for  us.  We had an absolutely fantastic weekend with our friends and since I took over 1,000 pictures, I am going to largely let some of them tell the story.

Beautiful sand dunes near where they were staying

Rick and Jim/Diana’s sites were right next to each other. We stayed on Rick’s site but walked next door to get coffee in the morning at Jim and Diana’s!

Beautiful State Park one of the cleanest and best maintained I have ever seen

Lee was trying to figure out the tent. There were lots of strings we never really figured out how to use.

I liked the sun room area

There was plenty of room inside, lots of head space,  and yes, we took everyone’s advice and bought an air mattress Good call!!

They made dinner for us, so after getting set up, we sat around the fire and exchanged stories.  We all write blogs, but not everything is covered in those, so we filled in the blanks on what had happened since we last saw each other, and Rick and Jim and Diana got to know each other better.  Jim and Diana had been carrying around a present that they bought me when we were doing the beet harvest, which was so incredibly funny and sweet and Rick brought out a hard copy version of my cookbook and asked me to sign it.  That was the first time as an author anyone had asked me to autograph my book and was so kind it really brought tears to me eyes.

Diana, me. and Jim

And the very cute (and practical) spatula they bought me.  How cute is that!!

Signing Rick’s cookbook.  I really had to think about what to say and where to sign it.

The fact that they cared enough about us to go to that much trouble meant the world to me, especially since it has been a rough couple of weeks, and I will say again how blessed we are to be part of the RV-Dreams family.  They didn’t stop there though.  They really rolled out the red carpet.  They fed us dinner every night and breakfast in the morning, plus Rick let me use his shower. We even had an electric cord we could use to plug in a space heater at night and the site was free with them picking up the $7 per night cost of our parking pass.  It was a great way in which to try out our tent, and their generosity was amazing.  Hopefully we can return the favor in the near future, although it will be pretty hard to top!

Tuesday morning, Lee, Rick and I headed out to explore because Jim and Diana were volunteering at the lighthouse that day.  We knew we wanted to see Jim’s tour later, but Rick (who was off) also wanted to show us  the area.  First stop was Strawberry Hill a beautiful little day use area with lots of tide pools and seals. This are of the coast of Oregon is chock full of Day Use areas and campgrounds and it is all designed to allow the public easy access.  Fantastic!!

Walking down from the parking lot.  Rick’s very cool walking stick is made from part of a Yucca cactus.  It is strong but incredibly lightweight.

Beautiful coast views

These rocks are treacherous and we had to watch our footing, but so worth it

Maxine, (Rick’s dog), loves the ocean and exploring the tide pools

So many mollusks

We were able to get very close to seals on the rocks

Maxine couldn’t help herself though she had to get in the water near them. See the guilty look on her face when Rick tried to get her to come back

The seals were having none of it though and they all went into the water

They kept a watchful eye until we backed off a bit

We moved down to a different section of the beach and let Maxine fetch a stick for a while to get rid of some of that energy. She loves the ocean and is a joy to watch

Breathtaking! I did my best to capture the coast. All I can say is it is wild and untamed

This view from the Cape Perpetua scenic lookout does a better job of capturing it

Strawberry Hill is around the corner but the rocks we were standing on earlier are like these

 

We wanted to get down to the lighthouse when they first opened so we headed over the Heceta Head.  Volunteering at a lighthouse is one of those work kamping jobs that almost everyone wants to try at least once and there is quite a bit to recommend it.  This volunteer job has them working 4 days with 4 hour shifts and they give lighthouse tours all day.  Our friend Jim is a major history buff and his great-grandfather helped build a lighthouse, so this job was perfect for him.  I won’t get into all of the history of the lighthouse, referring you instead to Jim’s excellent blog post on the topic, but I will share some pictures of our experience there.

The only downside is the volunteers have to walk 1/2 mile each way to get to their job. It’s a beautiful walk, good exercise, and dog friendly

These two rocks are bird sanctuaries and were covered with sea birds

The views along the way were very special

 

This lighthouse keepers house has been turned into a bed and breakfast. It’s pricey but they serve a gourmet breakfast and they have wonderful views of the ocean and lighthouse

You can tour the B&B, but we were eager to get to the top and turned the corner to see Jim and Diana.

Rick, Lee, and Diana

Picture I took later of the area.  There are volunteers at the lighthouse and they take turns doing tours so in between they can stand at the rail, talk to folks, and enjoy these amazing views.  Nice gig!!

 

The parking lot we started at is down by the bridge, but despite the elevation change the walk is not that steep

Me by the lighthouse for scale. Jim took this picture and he has gotten pretty good at it since that is something they do for visitors

Jim gathering everyone for the next tour group

Lee was fascinated by the tour and Jim did an excellent job

The only bummer was you can’t go up to the top of the stairs. Still well worth the visit even if we didn’t have friends there

Next we went into Florence and treated Rick to lunch at Chen’s Family Dish.  This was the best Chinese food we have had on the road in three years.  Seriously, I gave it 5 stars on Yelp.  The restaurant was simple but immaculate.  The service was great and the food was reasonably priced, extremely tasty, and best of all, piping hot.  Really, really good and if you are passing through the area I highly recommend it.  After food we headed to Sea Lion Caves.  This is a really interesting attraction that has been in existence for over 75 years and has an elevator leading down into a giant cavern with sea lions in it.  The price was a little too high at $14, but the views were great, and the cavern itself was really neat.  I have never been in a sea cave before and really enjoyed it, although I did hear some people complaining about the smell. 

Walking down to the elevator we could see the lighthouse in the distance

These painted sea lions are around the area. This one was really beautiful

The elevator replaced the stairs that formerly went to the bottom and this drawing shows how big the cave is

 

It was tough to take pictures in here and no flash was allowed, but Lee managed to get a couple of decent shots

There was a neat waterfall on one side of the caves and a view of Heceta Head lighthouse in the distance

After the cave we stopped at a large pullout and I took a picture of the lighthouse.  This is one of the most photographed lighthouses in Oregon and bonus we got to see sea lions and a huge flock of Brandt’s Coromants on the rocks below.

 

Next we went back to the Cape Perpetua Visitors Center and learned that there were blowholes nearby and it was still high tide.  We raced down to the blow holes and had a fantastic time taking pictures of the action.  Lee and I could have stayed there all day.  Rick headed back to get dinner ready and let Jim and Diana know we would be a little while and we spent a very enjoyable hour exploring the blowholes.

Visitors Center

This berry guide will come in handy later on

The skull of an Orca. Jim said he saw 4 of them off the coast the other day and although we didn’t see any of these or whales the bones were pretty interesting

View from the visitors center

As you can see these holes were huge, and there were several of them

There was a hand painted sign stating people had died getting too close to these, but these folks weren’t detered

I hung back a bit, but Lee got right up in the action

There were holes and deep canyons, and lots of rocks. So very beautiful

One of my favorite shots of the day

And the coast itself was absolutely stunning of course, plus the skies cleared up and we even had a little bit of sun while we were there

Rick made us all fish he had caught on a recent deep sea fishing cruise and we had delicious Linc Cod and Rock fish

The we all decided to walk down to the ocean and watch the sunset

There was some mist on the ocean which made for beautiful pictures

 

And Maxine loved running and playing on the beach

We went back and talked and enjoyed a campfire until we saw that it was fully dark and the stars were out.  The five of us drove back to the lighthouse and walked up the path (with flashlights) so we could see the lighthouse at night.  One of the volunteers had told Jim to sit right under the lighthouse and look up, which we did, and it was truly magical.  We couldn’t really capture it with a picture, but it was like being under a kids crib mobile as the spotlights rotated and the clouds appeared to move. We were expecting to see a single beam of light rotating like at an airport, or a flashing light, but the lens rotates around the light, so you get 8 beams of light that spin and spin and spin. Very cool.

We all sat on the ledge and looked up at the night sky. That was a moment I will always remember.

We walked up to the top of the path and Lee took this shot at eye level with the light

This was as close as Lee could get to what we saw. In order to get any picture at all he had to take a long exposure, so the beams are really wide, but this is showing how far each beam travels in about 4 seconds. In reality the beams were much thinner. The beams are pure bluish white light and they bounced off the mist. You could also see them in rainbow colors when they hit the trees and hill behind the lighthouse.

We have been blessed to have many magical moments on the road, and doubly blessed that so many of them were with good friends.  This moment is one I will always cherish and Lee, who has always loved lighthouses, said it was his new favorite “on the road” experience.  Plus, we are really grateful that Jim, Diana, and Rick went out of their way to see us and made us feel so very welcome.  Rick will be coming our way and staying in our park for two weeks, and we hope to see Jim and Diana once they move onto their next volunteer gig in Oregon.  These moments really remind me of why we became full time RVers in the first place, and it couldn’t have come at a better time! Thanks guys, and can’t wait to see you again. Below is a short video with highlights from the trip. As always, it’s better to watch it in 720 or 1080.

 

 

 


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Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback.

First Time Working In A Utility Co. Park – A Rainy Week

Disclaimer: The company we are working for this summer has a very specific media policy. I will not be mentioning them by name, or mentioning the specific names of anyone I am working with, except for Lee.  Also, because it’s not really that difficult to figure out which company it is, I want to be clear: I in no way speak for the company or my co-workers, and am only recounting my personal experiences.  Also, any details I get wrong in this or any other post are due to a misunderstanding on my part.  

I started the week off with a firm mental commitment to myself to try and just focus on doing the job and stop analyzing everything so much.  My friends are all going to smile when they read this.  They know what I am like and that this was a tall order for me, but I wanted to try if for nothing else as an experiment to see if it improved my quality of life.  I’ll get into my conclusions at the end, but will say from the beginning it wasn’t easy.

Monday was my day to work in the campground because Lee and I have switched campground days.  Thursday (Lee’s ne day) involves moving all the trash dumpsters out of the campground and I was finding that a little physically challenging.  Lots of things we have done have been a little tough for me, but since our boss has made it very clear he doesn’t expect me to do anything I can’t physically handle, I have gotten pretty good at just looking at a task and saying, “I can’t do that one.”  Unfortunately, the downside of that is the bulk of what I can do is largely scrubbing toilets and cleaning floors.  Oh, and picking up trash.  I am pretty good at using the grippers to pick up “micro litter”.  Our campground days are 8 hour shifts and start at 5:30am when we open the gates.  Once this is done, we check the campground day use area restrooms, walk around the small pond and pick up trash, and check trash cans and clean the fish cleaning stations.

The fish stations are a metal sink with a grate in the bottom and are used by the fishermen to clean fish.  This is by far the least appealing part of the job for me, but thankfully they don’t usually need cleaning on Monday mornings.  Next we check the two main bathrooms in the campground for large messes, or missing toilet paper, and once that is done we have some free time.  You can’t really start roaming around the campground until at least 8am so I used that time to read the pass-on logs and look at campground emails.  During this time period I have lots of time to think and that’s when ideas about improvement start to flow.  Still, I was sticking to the plan, and just read the logs and replied to some direct questions and then headed out to start cleaning around 8:00am.

We have a list of campsites people are coming into that day and a list of campsites people are leaving, so I did some rounds and cleaned the incoming campsites.  They are cleaned after use, but sometimes people “spread” into other campsites, so another check of the fire rings and for litter is a good thing.  Around 9am we can start cleaning the bathrooms and I decided that the smaller restroom really needed a deep clean.  So I pulled out mop buckets, a hose, cleaner, etc and sprayed the bathroom down.  The walls already looked really good thanks to the efforts of Mr. Kayaker earlier in the seasons, but the baseboard needed some extra attention so I spent the next hour and a half working on those.

Not much else to do while you’re cleaning bathrooms other than think, and I spent the time working and thinking about stuff. By the time that was done I was pretty tired and hungry, so I packed up and took my lunch break.  Once lunch was done I started working on the sites people had left, but still had several sites that were still occupied.  Check out time at the campground is 1pm and check in time is at 4pm, and people actually stay here right until 1pm.  Unfortunately we had two cabins and one campsite that were being turned over to new people that same day and they were the ones who chose to stay right until the last minute.  This was my first opportunity to clean the cabins, so I scrubbed floors, cleaned beds and tables, and cleaned the campsites around them.  That was a tougher job than I thought it would be but I managed to get all the sites cleaned and turned by 2:30 when I was done for the day.

Afterwards I was very tired, but decided to take advantage of the sunshine and walk down and sit by the river.  I took a chair, book, and some water, and spent a couple of hours sitting in the sun.  That was nice, especially because a beautiful woodpecker landed on a tree about three feet from me.  I have only seen one other woodpecker this close the entire time we have been on the road and I took it as a sign I was headed in the right direction.

Afterwards I was still tired though, so I took a nap and then we watched some TV and went to bed.  The next day I had my appointment at a dermatologist.  I’ve never been to one, but my mom was concerned about a patch on my right cheek so I drove into Clackamas to get it checked out.  The doctor was great and the appointment was very quick, with them using a spray liquid nitrogen on the place on my cheek.  It was pre-cancerous cells but nothing too serious as there is only a 1% chance they will become cancerous.  Still they like to get rid of them when they can and the spray is a fast and easy way to get the top layer of your skin off.  It stings quite a bit going on but since then no issue although I do have a scab on my cheek which makes it look like I got in a bar fight 🙂

I also received information on all my tests with my other doctor online and once again I have to commend the medical coverage in the Portland area. In other places my Florida license raises eyebrows and sometimes issues, but here everyone has been very nice.  It seems pretty common that people come and work here for the summer and I don’t get treated any differently than any other patient.  The most amazing proof of this was my mammogram.  They found a small cyst during the test and they immediately requested my previous mammograms from New Hampshire.  Within 4 business days, and yes I am still amazed as I type this, they not only had my scans from 2011, 2013, and 2014 but also had done the comparison and determined there was no change and everything was fine.  Wow…impressive!!  The government has been pushing very hard for all medical information to be online and for doctors to work together to share results and I am a happy beneficiary of that.  If those scans weren’t available, they probably would have wanted to do an MRI and/or a biopsy which I know from previous experience runs thousands of dollars.  This way they could clearly see there was no change and all of those tests were unnecessary.  The whole experience was top notch and made me very happy.

Wednesday we explored, which you saw in my last post, but Thursday it was back to work. My favorite day of the week is the day I am in the truck alone (I am sure it is Lee’s also) not just because it is a short day, but because it is during the week and I get to set my own route.  Working with a partner, even when it’s your husband of many years, requires discussion of routes and priorities that simply don’t apply when we are alone.  To start the day I went to get gas and since our badges still aren’t in, I stopped to borrow my supervisor’s.  We had the opportunity to have a nice chat and he told me how much he appreciated the information I was providing to him.  That was great to hear, and I opened up a little bit about what I used to do for a living, but said I don’t want to bother you with this stuff if it doesn’t matter.  I told him, this is just how I think, and I am as surprised as anyone that it didn’t just stop once I left the corporate life.  He was happy to have information about what was going on at the sites though and I felt much better.  Not every boss we have had is interested in my analysis and on occasion it has caused me some issues, so I am very tentative on what information I offer and when.  Our supervisor was happy to get the information though because “we are closer to the job” than he is, so I felt that I could at least drop him an email when these things occurred to me.

Just to be clear, my emails relate to traffic patterns, challenging in providing a great customer experience, and the occasional idea (such as adding a third toilet paper bar to a couple of restrooms).  They are not rocket science.  But, as I said, I have learned the hard way that some bosses take the feedback as criticism no matter how careful you are and that rarely goes well.  Thankfully our current boss doesn’t fall in this category.  What I realized by Thursday was this is just the way I think.  My earliest job memories (at the age of 16) include me trying different ways of making cheese plates at a racetrack, and bussing tables different way to see which one took the least amount of time.  What I realized was this is not a new thing.  All I did (and it was largely subconscious trust me)  was find a job and education path that honed those skills.  Not that surprising really.  Lots of people pick jobs that enhance their innate abilities and being a business analyst is the ultimate end result of honing that particular skill.  So it is part of how I think and I don’t think that is a bad thing, but what I can control is what I focus it on and the level of frustration I have when the thoughts/ideas never get acted upon.

So Thursday was a good day, despite the fact it started raining and we headed into the weekend.  Although Lee and I like being done early on Thursday and not being back until 3pm on Friday, Friday nights are our least favorite day.  The sites don’t get any attention for 24 hours and at least one of them is a mess when we finally get to it. We never know which one that will be though, so opening that door initially on Friday night we kind of hold our breath (literally and figuratively).  This week though we got some warning, because one of the drivers for a rafting company warned us about the changing rooms at Moore Creek when we walked up.  Moore Creek sees a ton of use, because most of the rafting companies meet their guests there.  They use the changing rooms to get ready and leave their personal vehicles, while they are driven upriver in the van with the boats.  When the ride is finished they usually stop here as well, so the site probably gets double the traffic of any other river site.  It’s not uncommon for the toilet paper to be practically empty on Friday nights and the toilet and floors always need scrubbed, but this night was a new level.  And I am going to stop right here and give fair warning.  If you do not like reading details about restrooms cleanup stop here and skip the next two paragraphs!!

The driver apologized for the state of the restrooms as a group of young boys they were with had made a mess earlier in the day.  She looked embarrassed when she said she thought they had peed on the floor of the changing room, but we were totally unprepared for what we saw when we opened the door.  One side did have urine on it, but since I have a strong set of rubber boots that wasn’t a huge deal.  The other side was full of dirty towels though and for some reason this really bothered me.  Since the incident occurred early in the morning when we were off the room had looked like this all day and why she didn’t at least pick up all the towels I am not quite sure.  Lee saw the look on my face and to his credit said he would handle it, and I went over and cleaned the toilet area.  This is not the first time we have been taken aback by what we had found, but until now I didn’t feel right about mentioning it. Twice we have found piles of human waste within steps of a pit toilet and in both cases we just sucked it up and cleaned it up.  Toilet “explosions” are somewhat common and a long handled scrub brush along with a mental attitude of someone couldn’t help themselves go a long way in that situation.  But the condition of these changing areas seemed deliberate and frankly malicious and my overall attitude was “Seriously, as if this isn’t bad enough.”

There is a difference between cleaning campground bathrooms and bathrooms open to the public.  Sure these types of things can happen in either place, but it’s much less likely in a campground.  For these roadside toilets, lots of people stop throughout the day and night and since they are not manned there is a certain amount of anonymity involved. I have been hoping that the first two instances were an isolated case, but this third made me realize that this type of behavior was more common than I thought and was definitely going to be part of our summer. And that’s why I am mentioning it.  It would be disingenuous to just show pretty pictures of the river and not talk about this kind of thing because for some people they might be a deal breaker. And to be clear, if you take one of these jobs you have to be the one that cleans it up because that is what we are being hired to do. There is no one else, it’s us.

That realization hit me pretty hard, and since it rained Friday, Saturday, and Sunday so distracting  side projects were largely off the table, we spent a lot of time cleaning the bathrooms and scrubbing floors. And since I wasn’t thinking about work, I had quite a bit of time to think about my life, where I was, and the choices I had made. I want to be perfectly clear here.  I in no way think I am too good to clean a bathroom.  But this job, more than any other we have had, is about as opposite from my former life as possible.  The idea was if we made decent money, people were nice to us, and we were in a beautiful place it wouldn’t matter what we did all day long every day. And since working these jobs we have met lots of people who have found their way to that place.  I, as you know have struggled, and have often felt like I was doing something wrong, because I couldn’t just settle in.  “Life is too short” and “Worry less you will be happier” have been pretty common themes in feedback I have gotten either online or in person from folks and although I know their hearts are in the right place  something in me rebelled against it.

But when I was focusing on the minutia of the jobs, and essentially distracting myself, I didn’t really think too much about it.  Well that’s not fair I did think about it, but shied away from it because in some ways it felt like a rejection of earning money this way meant a rejection of the lifestyle itself.  This time though really forced me to face it head on and the stripped down nature of the job itself didn’t give me any place to hide. The conclusions were ultimately pretty simple.  At 50, I am not willing to commit the next 15 or so years of my life to earning money this way. Once the novelty of these jobs wears off, and that cycle is getting shorter and shorter, I am generally not happy.  The sole exception to that experience has been gate guarding, which was good for me because I had lots of time to write. The other jobs have been physically demanding with challenging schedules, and compared to my old life low paying.  If we were in a situation where we were working occasionally to supplement existing income, maybe it wouldn’t be such a big deal, but since we are spending about 10 months of the year working these jobs and have only a couple of months of “down time”, for me at least it is a high price to pay. Yes, I love this lifestyle and I absolutely feel lucky to be able to spend my life traveling from beautiful place to beautiful place, but for me it is not enough.

Saying this out loud to myself, was a pretty big deal, and I really felt like I needed an objective opinion on it and called my friend Jo. She is a working full timer and a psychologist and although I called her as a friend, her background certainly didn’t hurt.  I laid the situation out and then asked her as a friend and a fellow RVer if I just “needed to get over myself and suck it up” because enough already this was what the life was.  Her response, and wow do I love her, was to say essentially say they are your feelings…own them. And then she said  something that really resonated with me, “Who says you need to do these type of jobs.”  I know that sounds simple, but it disconnected the lifestyle from the type of work we are doing which, for me at least, is a very important thing.   She also helped me to remember that I had a job that “fed my soul” and just because I was burnt out and wanting to try other things didn’t mean those emotions were any less valid.   She recognized that I am a person who gets quite a bit of my self-identity from what I do for a living, and just because I became a full time RVer that didn’t mean that would go away.

She and her husband Ben work as a traveling nurses and not every contract has been a good fit for them.  Plus, because they do different work (she is a hospice nurse and he is a surgical nurse) one of them can be content and the other less so.  I can relate to Ben’s situation in particular because he was previously working in a large city in a trauma hospital and had to be at the top of his game.  Many of their contracts now are at smaller hospitals and the work is often less challenging. The work conditions are also different, because they, like us are temporary.  Even in a professional environment, it is common for the “scut work” to go to the temporary employee so they have to be really careful when they are choosing their jobs to try and find out what the nature of the day to day work will be.  So she gets it and talking to her was exactly what I needed.

I don’t want to rush into anything.  I want to find a contract in a cool place where I think the work will be fulfilling.  That is a tall order and I am ok with waiting for the right thing.  After all we have determined we can live off other types of employment so it’s not an emergency.  What has changed for me is I no longer feel I need to prove anything to myself or anyone else. I am also fully aware that if I am not careful contract work could end up being the same for me, but I am hoping it will give me more opportunity to “feed the soul.”   We will see where it all leads us, and in the meantime I will fulfill my current obligation and continue to enjoy this beautiful area of the country. There really are worse places to have an emotional crisis 🙂

 


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Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback.

First Time in Washington State

Wednesday we decided to take the advice of fellow RV-Dreamer, Ruth, and explore the Washington side of the Columbia Gorge. I was particularly excited because Washington is one of the few states I have ever visited in any capacity.  Lee and I were trying to figure out how many states were left and at least for him we thought there was only Arkansas, but I still had Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska, and Washington.

The day was a nice one, although the river area was a little hazy.  I tried to clean up the pictures the best I could, but unfortunately they don’t do justice to how absolutely beautiful the landscapes were.  Still it was a lovely day and a busy one (we started at 9am and didn’t get home until past 8pm), so I am going to jump right in and take you on the picture tour.

As soon as we crossed the river I was struck by how different the two sides of the gorge are.  The Washington side was much more developed and there were numerous houses along the banks for the river.  State Route 14 also runs closer to the river and along a busy train track so we saw several trains throughout the day.

The river and the landscape on the Washington side

One of the many houses we saw along the banks although I wouldn’t want to be that close to the railroad tracks

The views of the other side and the occasional peek of Historic Route 30 gave us a different perspective on the Oregon side

You can see the train tracks were here before the road from this view of the two tunnels

Our first stop was a little St. Cloud day use area.  Although the area was mowed it was very overgrown but since it allowed us an opportunity to walk down to the river bank we walked through the weeds.  The difference between this day use area and the ones we have been looking over was not lost on me, and I wondered about the folks that were watching over this little place, because it had lots of potential but obviously needed lots of work.

Beautiful views of the Oregon side

I loved the wild roses

There were lots of this giant butterflies

Unfortunately I needed to use the restroom and this is what I walked into. It pretty much reinforced for me that even though what we are doing isn’t glamorous, it does impact people’s nature experiences. It certainly impacted mine.

Next we stopped in the Bonneville Dam area. Initially we were just stopping by to snap a few pictures but on a whim Lee decided to go inside and check out the dam and I am so glad that we did.  Visiting the dam was totally free and not only are huge chunks of it accessible without taking a tour, but they also have the largest fish ladder system I have ever seen.  We really enjoyed our time there and even had lunch at their very clean picnic area.

Along the drive I was able to get a picture of some waterfalls on the Oregon side. I think this is the area near Multnomah Falls although I am not 100% sure. It was on the very edge of my long lens but looked amazing.

COE fishing area.

Beautiful views of the Oregon coast

You can see Hwy 30 right in the middle forefront of the picture

The dam

Huge fish ladders

All of those little dots along the waterline were people fishing at the end of the fish ladders. Huge crowd for a Wednesday at noon

Great view of the generators

They had to put  lights in this fish tunnel, because the fish won’t use it if it’s totally dark.

More fish tunnel

The coolest thing was we could walk down into part of the dam and through viewing windows see fish going through the tunnels

No fish but we did see these lamprey on the windows waiting to catch a ride

Great display and educational area

After the dam we crossed the Bridge of the Gods to the Portland side and viewed the historic locks.  We really should have done this when we were on the Oregon side, but somehow we missed this the first time around.  It cost $3 each way to cross the bridge ($2 if it’s a regular car or truck), but despite the cost I am glad we did it because by sheer coincidence we got to see a Native American dip net fishing from the locks which was a great moment.

Bridge of the Gods which has significant historical significance in the area

Native American folklore talked of a time when a landslide allowed for a natural bridge across the river. While it existed the people were able to catch many salmon

The local tribes believed that Coyote the creator changed the nature of the river to help the people

Since these are ancestral fishing grounds, local tribes people are allowed to dip net fish from the river and use these platforms

 

Lee waving me forward to see the dip net fishing

The nets had a string attached and by feeling the string move the fisherman could tell how many fish were in the net and how big they were. Amazing. Every net pull he made had at least 4 fish in it

He pulled the huge net onto the dock which took some strength

Then he put them in a bucket which was pulled to the top of the lock

The natives are allowed to sell their fish and this gentleman bough two coolers full, fresh from the river.

Even without the dip netting the park is still a cool place.  There is a small museum, which we skipped (cost is $3 per person), some walking paths, and wonderful rose garden.

The roses were huge and smelled wonderful

Paths along the river

After the locks we crossed the bridge back to the Washington side of the river and drove down to the Columbia Gorge Interpretive Center.  I can’t say enough about this wonderful museum.  We have been to many small museums throughout the country in our travels and this is one of the absolute best small museums we have ever been to.  Usually these museums “pick a lane” and stay in it, but this museum covered a variety of subjects, yet managed to remain cohesive in the whole by following a timeline of the events in the area.  Through generous donation they also had a couple of very unusual collections including an amazing rosary collection, which is the largest private collection of rosaries in the United States. 

The museum. The glass was wonderful because it allowed for wonderful views of the river

Beautiful 3 story tall carvings are on one corner of the building

Lee and I both loved this quote. No offense to our friends in the east, but this has been our sentiment

Several collections of native artifacts including pieces of petroglyph

I loved that they had an historical library

This was one of my favorite pieces. A map of the area as drawn by Lewis and Clark and two of their many medallions they handed out during their travels

There was a giant two-story high commercial fish wheel you could walk up into

This life-sized statue of a native on a platform dip net fishing had even greater significance since we had seen the modern equivalent that same day

One of the local citizens of Stevenson was editor of Stars and Stripes during WWII

There was also an extensive Asian collection on loan from several county residents

I really loved these Japanese reed boots

Beautiful bicentennial quilt

An a beautiful centennial quilt for the area

The quilt version of a beautiful Mount Hood picture I have taken

One of my favorite parts was the rosary collection which started as a curiosity and turned into a life long project of deep devotion

So many cases of rosary beads, each bead set cataloged and displayed

This one was life-sized wall art

The “bead” was as big as my hand

He had numerous rosarys owned by famous people, but this JFK owned one was very special

They even had an outside area with numerous items including this train

And a pill box which armed guards stayed in during WWII

Next we stopped at a small parking lot called “Swell City” and watched the windsurfers on the river which I enjoyed taking pictures of.

 

And somewhere along the way we passed the line between the west side of Oregon/Washington and the east side. It was really interesting because the landscape changes and the temperature jumped from 85 to 92 degrees.  It was much hotter, but beautiful in it’s own way, but we kept on until we reached a site recommended by our friend Ruth.  It was pretty far from everything else, and I was tempted to turn around, but Lee really wanted to see it and I am glad we did.  Stonehenge is a life sized re-creation of the original and was the first WWI war memorial in the United States. Sam Hill was a local patron in the area and a pacifist and Quaker.  He visited England during WWI, saw Stonehenge, and was told that pagan sacrifices were made on the altar.  He built this memorial to honor the fallen from his county, but also used the Stonehenge image to make a statement about the war.  Knowing today that Stonehenge was probably not used for pagan sacrifice but was rather a sundial, I didn’t expect to like the memorial very much, but surprisingly I did.  It was very well done and absolutely honored the fallen.  The good news is you can easily visit this monument by exiting Highway 84 and it has a large parking lot that will support big rigs.  I highly recommend it if for no other reason than there are stunning views of the river and the valley from here.  I also found it extremely photogenic and I know this is a picture heavy post already, but I have to share some of these.

The changing landscape

 

There was a beautiful waterfall where this bridge now stands. We read that the tribes were paid a one-time payment of $26M when the dam system destroyed the falls

Stonehenge

View from behind the monument

They also added a smaller monument with the names of country residents who died in other wars

I loved that they had recently added Afghanistan to the monument. I think this is the first time I’ve seen this and hope other towns do the same

 

It was an absolutely lovely day and once again the Columbia Gorge did not disappoint. I am so glad that we went all the way to Stonehenge because it was a perfect capper to the day. And the weather (despite the haze) was very cooperative.  Good thing too, because the forecast calls for rain the next 6 days so will let you know more about working in the rain in the next post.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback.

First Time Working In A Utility Co. Park – Free Fishing Weekend

Disclaimer: The company we are working for this summer has a very specific media policy. I will not be mentioning them by name, or mentioning the specific names of anyone I am working with, except for Lee.  Also, because it’s not really that difficult to figure out which company it is, I want to be clear: I in no way speak for the company or my co-workers, and am only recounting my personal experiences.  Also, any details I get wrong in this or any other post are due to a misunderstanding on my part.  

Before I jump into the job stuff, I wanted to mention I got my blood test test results back from my physical.  I really like their My Chart online system, because I was able to see the actual test results and read the doctors comments.  My LDL cholesterol was a little high, but my 10 year risk of heart attack/stroke was only 3.3%. That was awesome.  Everything else looked great except my Vitamin D levels were low.  This is not uncommon for older women and I am finally going to start taking a supplement for it.  Lee got me a big bottle of One a Day Vitamin Supplement Gummies. I never was a fan of taking vitamins, mainly because I don’t like to take big pills, but these gummies are delicious.  Plus the doctors note said increased Vitamin D could help increase my mood, and I am all for that.  We spent months in the sun down in Texas and Arizona and the near constant sunshine did make me happier.  When we came to Oregon, with more clouds and rain, I did get a little crankier but really didn’t think much of it.  Now it makes sense because my Vitamin D levels were probably borderline, but the constant sun kept them elevated and they dipped once we hit the rain here.  From the research I have seen the best way to get Vitamin D is 15-20 minutes in the sun every day and I am totally ok with that! If that’s not possible then the supplements should help. 

Ok back to work. We spent this week trying to find a rhythm in the job, but there were a few complications thrown in.  The couples working in the campground are still learning their positions and the days we cover for them have been less than seamless.  In order to make sure everyone was on the same page, they were putting together a daily task list (which I appreciated) and our supervisor provided what was done last year.  Turns out there were several campground tasks on the list no one was aware of and everyone was scrambling a bit trying to figure out when those should be done. In general, There seems to be a basic spectrum of response people have when they are new to a job and learn after the fact that they are missing essential job responsibilities.   Some people shrug it off and figure out how to add the tasks (Lee largely falls into that category), but others (myself included) get defensive and vaguely feel as if they have done something wrong. The longer the time period between initial training and when you find out about a missed task the worse this reaction can be, especially because folks are getting settled in and finally feeling comfortable.

In this case the work was not insignificant.  The list we were sent called for two deep cleanings a week on the three sets of bathrooms and weeding of a largish area between the marina and the campground.  Mr. Kayaker suggested a meeting with the group to work it out and it turned out to be a really productive one.  The weeding is a big job but an occasional one and Mr. Newbie stepped in and said he would take care of it at least initially.  That was awesome because we just finished initial weeding all of our sites and since the weed killing spray we have been using hasn’t been that effective are looking at having to do another round soon.  The larger issue was deep cleaning the bathrooms. Last years schedule had the deep cleanings falling on Monday and Thursday when Lee and I cover the campground.  Initially I didn’t understand that last years schedule was just a recommendation and got pretty agitated about it.  As I am sure you know by now we spend a large portion of our time cleaning bathrooms.  The one day a week we spend working in the campground had bathroom duties as well, but also allowed time for us to do some other things, which I really enjoyed.  Faced with spending the bulk of our campground time deep cleaning more bathrooms did not make me happy.

Plus this is where my sense of fairness kicked in.  We are already doing trash on Thursday, an interesting process where the campground trash dumpsters  are ratchet strapped to the Gator and slowly driven out of the campground to where the main trash area is so the trash truck can access them.  This process takes roughly an hour each times (they are moved out of the campground and then moved back in when emptied) and happened on the day I covered.  Doing that work along with regular campsite turns and a deep clean was a stretch and didn’t make a ton of sense to me.  Luckily everyone else agreed and after talking it through they understood where we were coming from. I would love to say that I took a step back, approached the problem unemotionally, and was a leader in forming the resolution but that would simply not be true.  I was able to hold onto my emotions enough to not cause any rifts with my coworkers but I was obviously agitated about the situation.

Interesting enough, Lee was once again “a cooler head” in the situation and helped find a workable compromise. We would start the deep cleanings on Monday but the Thursday deep cleaning would be moved to the evening or another day.  Everyone was happy with the result and no one was too upset at the end of it.  What amazes me is how Lee has consistently handled these jobs while we are on the road.  He seems to have been able to find some kind of internal switch and keep these jobs in perspective.  He does a good job if largely left alone, is very productive, and avoids all the drama.  Part of his success is he has a great “jack of all trades” skill set which pretty easily allows him to provide value.  My skill set is being hard earned as we learn the various positions and I always have more trouble finding my footing.  But I realize it’s not just the skill set that gives me trouble.  My search for constant improvement really does not serve me well in these positions.  I would be better off just learning the job, and settling in and doing it. I really did think that once I left the high pressure corporate world that would naturally happen for me, but it simply has not.  I know other people that have.  Our friend Bill, for example, left a high pressure job as a plant manager and seems perfectly content in his work kamper positions.  Of course, he like Lee has a valuable handyman skill set, and once people discover that they seem to largely leave him alone to do his own thing. He also takes all that mental energy he used to have and puts it into personal things. I admire the tactic but have had a harder time doing it.

Maybe it’s because I tend to be more social and worry more about the relationships with the people around me.  That brings it’s own sort of pressure and Lee pretty consistently doesn’t get that involved unless its absolutely called for. I don’t think it’s as simple as a male/female issue by the way, despite the fact that it largely seems to fall down those lines.  I have met lots of women who settle right into these jobs and lots of men who struggle.  It really seems to be based on personality type and an inability to just let things go and exist in the moment.  I will say in my defense I am better at not sweating the small stuff.  I can take a moment to watch the ospreys dive or enjoy the beauty of the moment and not feel guilty about doing so.  That is a major improvement for me and one that did seem to happen naturally with changing my work environment. And I know I keep writing about this and you are probably all sick of hearing about it, but I do think it’s important.  Not everyone just settles in and just because you sell everything, by an RV, and start traveling doesn’t mean all your problems will be solved. On the plus side I think it is an excellent opportunity for me to work on personal improvement in an environment where the consequences of a mistake are minimal.

So with that in mind I am going to try and “turn down” that analytical part of my brain and just do the job.   Whatever creative mental energy I have,  I will put into other things,and we will see how it goes.   I honestly can’t remember doing that consistently in any job I’ve ever had, but who knows.   Maybe I’ll love it and the switch will flip and problem will be solved. If not well I will learn something about myself.  I will let you know how it goes.

As far as the job went this week, by the way, it was fine.  It was busy again because Saturday was a no license required fishing day across the state, but people were largely polite and helpful.  Lee and I split up which helped considerably and I spent most of my time at the lower launch and Faraday.  Lee wanted me to have the work truck since it implies authority and he used our personal vehicle to run the river.  We also staggered our shifts by a couple of hours, so there was less no coverage time in the middle of the day. Lee used our personal truck for most of the day and before you ask, my understanding is getting mileage reimbursement is a bit of a pain so yes we will be paying for the miles and the gas, but it was worth it to us because it made the day much less stressful.  We covered twice the ground and were able to keep up with the bathrooms with no issues.  We also both had time to have more one-on-one interactions with people throughout the day which we both enjoyed.  People seem to like what we are doing and are helping with the ground trash which is nice, and there were no major parking issues despite the crowds.

During the week, we also had some time to explore the local National campground s and were so inspired by what we saw we decided to try something new.  It all started with one of our river runs where I saw this across the river.

 

This is my absolute favorite spot along the river and here were a couple of people camping.  Despite having explored the area some I have no idea how they got there but I just had to stop, cross the road, and take a picture.  Something in me really yearned for that, so I started talking to Lee.  We have seen several friends “rustic camp” as part of their RV adventure.  Jo and Ben have a second truck which holds a truck camper they call the shuttle craft and they use it to explore on their time off from their nursing jobs.  Howard and Linda have taken several overnight trips using their boat or by hiking in and of course there was Jim and Barb in Alaska.  They bought a truck camper specifically for that trip, which they sold upon returning, and we were incredibly jealous of all the places they could camp at that we simply couldn’t with our 40 foot monster RV.  But it was a little intimidating, because unlike many other folks in the lifestyle we were not campers prior to starting this journey.

We have been tent camping a total of three times in our lives and we like sleeping in a real bed and all the other luxuries our home on wheels has to offer.  That being said it can be confining on long work assignments, because it’s a big hassle to pack everything up and take the rig places.  Plus in the summers it’s harder to find big camp spots and of course there is the associated costs.  Having a tent and some sleeping bags seemed like a nice solution and we are particularly interested in trying it out because there are some amazing National Forest campgrounds in the area that only large enough for tents and very small RV. Here are a couple of our favorite campsites we saw while exploring and since our days off are Tuesday and Wednesday there is a good chance we will be able to get them at least once this summer.

We also wanted to go and visit friends on the coast. Through sheer coincidence two of our RV-Dreams friends have the exact same lighthouse volunteer gig at the same location.  Despite being members of the class of 2014 Jim and Rick had never met each other (they attended separate rallies that year).  I was communicating with them separately because they knew we would be in the same area and finally realized they were in the exact same place.  They had just met each other briefly the night before, but neither put together that they had mutual friends.  I am sure they would have figured it out eventually but it was fun to virtually introduce them and of course we knew we had to plan a visit.  This seemed to call for more than an afternoon’s stay and since they are 3-1/2 hours away from us we initially thought we would take the rig.  Lee wasn’t super thrilled about that plan, but he was resigned to it until the tent camping idea came up.

In true Perkins form we started researching and this is actually harder than you might think.  I have the whole claustrophobia thing so I was sure I could use just any old tent.  I also wanted something that was relatively easy to put up and down so we spent some time watching You Tube videos where people reviews the tents and put them up.  This was extremely helpful and I was pretty grateful for the extra input, but with so much choice it took awhile.  Initially we wanted used so we drove to Next Adventure  where we had heard great things about their bargain basement.  Their prices might have been great for serious outdoor people, but even the used gear was way out of our price range.  So next we tried Dick’s Sporting Goods where the selection and prices were great but all they had were little models to show the tents.  These models are nice, but couldn’t really help me figure out what would make me feel claustrophobic so we tried Sportsmen’s Warehouse. Finally, we found a store that had several tents setup and a huge balcony area where we could walk inside and check them out.  

It’s a good thing we did, because it turned out the 4 and 5 person tents, while wide enough at the base, simply were not tall enough for me and it was an issue.  That meant we needed a 6 person or more tent and we had to pay careful attention to the height.  Unfortunately one of the three models we were leaning towards was in stock but not on display and as tempted as we were to ask a salesperson to allow us to take it out of the box and set it up, after a quick Amazon check we knew it was $50 cheaper online.  I am a big fan of buying directly from retailers in situations like these and don’t mind paying a little more, but $50 was too much for me.  Plus, I have been saving the money we have made from our blog advertising for just such an occasion and if we got it online we could use those points.  My take all along on that money was it had to be spent on something directly related to the lifestyle and since the tent and sleeping bags would hopefully lead to many new adventures and corresponding blog posts that made a lot of sense to me.

So we went back to the house and re-looked at our three choices.  I will share them here using the links we used to make our decision.  The first was the Coleman 6-Person Instant cabin, which is very easy to put up because the poles stay attached and is 6 foot tall.  The price when we looked was $199 (I see as of posting this it has actually gone down to $129 which is a bummer) and the packing was larger than Lee would have liked.  Whatever we buy we have to store and at this point when something comes in something else is going out.  In this case we are giving up 4 of our outside bigger chairs and replacing them with smaller ones.  This is still a major contender and the great thing about Amazon Prime is they have an awesome return policy, so if we don’t like the tent we bought we may return it and buy this one.

Our second contender was a Coleman Sundome 6-person tent.  The price was great and I love that the poles and rain guard were somewhat integrated, but I was concerned when I saw videos of the inside.  They have large screens in the front and back but the rain guard covers those and after being inside a similar model at the store, it definitely felt more closed in.  Plus the height was on the short side and the inside space was the smallest, so ultimately we dropped this one out of the running all together.  It’s a shame, because this is exactly what I mentally pictured when camping, but we have learned through experience claustrophobia is a real factor for me.

Finally, we settled on our third and final choice the Coleman Steel Creek 6 person tent with sun screen.  It’s fast pitch although not as fast as the instant ones (instant take less than 3 minutes fast pitch take about 7 minutes) and has the added bonus of a little sun porch.  Despite some reviews online that stated these porches do get wet on rainy days. I liked the idea of having slightly separated living space.  In a perfect world it would never rain when we are tent camping, but this is unlikely so having a little “outside area” really appealed to me.  Plus the packaging was actually smaller than the cabin and although the rain guard isn’t integrated it was included in the price which isn’t always the case.  Plus it was available on Prime so we ordered the tent (with the intention of returning it immediately if the setup didn’t go well) along with two sleeping bags (that can zip together and are flannel lined) and a small propane burner stove.  That’s really all we think we will need since we have almost everything else and the total cost came in at $241 which we had enough points to cover.  So thanks everyone who has ever bought something from one of the links in this blog.  We really are very grateful because it is allowing us to try out something new without taking a hit to our already stretched budget. Will let you know in the next post how the tent tryout turned out.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback.

May 2017 Budget (with Revenue Numbers)

We did better than I thought this month with $3556 in expenses. We also received our first paychecks which brought in $1640 in revenue leaving a monthly deficit of $1917.   I was very happy to see though that our net cash flow YTD is $967.22.  This does not include the week in Vegas which we treated as a vacation and used savings to pay for. The numbers tell a pretty good story.  We are breaking even so far this year, but to stay on pace this summer we will need to sock away enough for the month of down time in October.  We also have scheduled a $3500 Mor-Ryde upgrade in October, but we are working Amazon in November and December to help recover some of those costs.  I’m pretty excited though because I would have bet money we would be in a negative cash flow position once we received our first pay checks.  The detail of the month is listed below.

 

Campground Fees – Just a little bit at the beginning of the month as we traveled here. We kept those costs lower by boondocking and using Passport America.

Groceries – We went over by about $20 overall in this category.  We always have a bit of a spike when we move to a new area as we learn the grocery stores, but some great advice and Winco really helped us out here.  Love, love that grocery store. You’ll also notice our alcohol bill is back to $0 now that we are no longer camping with friends.  Just saying 🙂

Dining Out – We went over by $55 which was pretty good considering the desire to try new restaurants in the area.  We held each other accountable in this category and avoided the urge to get fast food. This was definitely helped by the fact that the local grocery store has a fantastic 10-piece chicken meal for $6.99 and I got that twice to give myself something fast to eat on long work days.  Lee also took advantage of the freezer we have access to for stocking up on frozen meals, something we rarely have the freezer space for in our rig.

Internet – Hooray the new pricing kicked in and we are $216 under the previous budgeted amount.  I will change the budget next month going forward but wanted to show what a game changer that has been.  And for the record we are thrilled with our unlimited data plan with AT&T.  Unlike many of our friends on Verizon plans we have had minimal throttling and only occasionally during peak period run into network management issues.  Super happy about that and yes Lee super happy is the right term in this case.

Memberships – Lee slipped in a $195 annual fee for the American Express Gold Card.  I really wanted to talk about that this year because I really think AmEx blue is a better choice for us, but he really likes having a Gold Card. 

Truck Fuel – Part of our $39 was travel, part was long car rides when we first got here, but gas is very expensive here.  That being said he discovered a 50 cent per gallon variance in the diesel price on the main road in Estacada versus the gas station up the hill.  $2.34 versus $2.89 is nothing to sneeze at and reinforces the need to bargain shop even when you are in rural areas. 

Clothing – We went over in this category by $106 mainly because we bought raincoats for work (a necessity here) and Lee had to buy a new pair of hiking shoes from REI for $89 because the soles separated.  Those shoes were totally worth it though and I don’t mind spending the money on those ever.

Miscellaneous – We broke down and bought a mount for a motor for our Sea Eagle Kayak.  We were able to get a used one which helped with the cost and the motor itself was purchased in June. This was a big topic of discussion, but at the end of the day we like rivers much more than lakes and since we don’t have two vehicles (and our attempt to find companies to transport have not worked) we decided to go ahead and bite the bullet.  Hopefully this will lead to using the Sea Eagle more  in the future, especially since we are living next to this beautiful river, but if not we might end up selling what we have.  It takes up space we could always use, but we are finding we can only use it when we are with other friends.  Will let you know how that goes.

Good month and good year to date numbers.  The cost of living here is pretty reasonable all things considered and my list of summer activities are almost all nature related.  I may end up spending a ton of money on farmer’s markets though.  I stopped at my first one today and the local produce is amazing!!  I’ll blow my budget any day of the week on fresh fruits and vegetables though!


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback.

The Team Dynamics of Work Kamping Jobs

The following article was written as part of my continuing education requirements for my PMI certification and since it relates to work kamping I felt the information would be valuable to share here.  Since it is a professional article, it is not written in my normal first-person “blog voice.”

As a person who spent most of her adult career as a project manager,  I am very familiar with team dynamics.  And yet, despite having years of experience managing successful teams, I often find being a team member in a work kamping environment to be challenging.  There are some basic team dynamics that apply no matter what your work environment, but seasonal work kamping jobs do bring their own set of unique challenges, and this article is  that I wanted to explore. 

In 1965, Psychologist Bruce Tuckman first coined the phrase “forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning” to describe basic team development. Most people have at least heard that expression, and almost all us with a management/project background  have received some training in recognizing the stages.  Even if you have never heard the term,  you will probably recognize the pattern.  New teams start, everyone gets to know each other, there is conflict,and  then people either settle in, change teams, or leave the position. Although these phases are necessary they can be frustrating for all involved, but the good news is there are things we can do as team members or managers to help make the process smoother.  

The first phase of team building is Forming. Most team members are excited about the job and eager about the tasks ahead.  In this phase, team members are usually positive and polite, although some can be anxious and uncomfortable, especially with any ambiguity surrounding their new roles.  Returning employees may want to jump right in and start performing, but the new people are focused on learning the job and trying to figure out where they fit in.   Managers play an important role in this phase by hopefully providing a solid orientation, specific information on goals and expectations, and detailed training on how to complete tasks.

In a work Kamping environment this phase is also complicated by  new employees getting set up in their living space.  Not only are the employees learning a new job, they are often adjusting to a new area.  New Work Kampers are learning where the grocery store, laundromat, and/or post office is.  They want to know where they can get a haircut, where the closest hospital is, and what is fun to do in the area.  The need for that type of information is just as important as learning a new job and the first few days can be spent learning a new job during the day and learning a new area in the evening.  Even though most RVers have experience with moving to new places and enjoy the nomadic lifestyle, learning an area during “off-hours” can be tough.  One of the best things managers or other co-workers can do to help with this is provide a list to new people.  Names and addresses of basic services in town can be really helpful and save the new work kamper the time and energy it takes initially to find those places.  

Once people start to feel a little comfortable with what the area and what the job entails, the difficult phase of Storming begins. Everyone has a natural work style, and conflict often arises when these styles don’t mesh.  Human beings work differently which can be an asset for a team with good communication and high levels of trust but can cause dissension and even anger when team members do not know each other very well.  Insufficient training can complicate this issue, as people start to form work patterns based on assumptions of conflicting directions.  Many people start to feel overwhelmed by job responsibilities and workload and relatively simple problems often turn into emotionally charged issues.  Many managers in the work kamping environment provide initial training to the teams and then step back and “let them work it out.”  This may be a response to the fact that most work kampers are experienced workers or because the jobs are considered to be simple.  In either event, the lack of management involvement in this phase often leads to a leadership vacuum which one or more team members will try to step into.  Power struggles often occur, and conflicts are very common.  It is not surprising that this is phase is when many teams fail. 

This phase is especially complicated, because in the work kamping environment employees often come in pairs.  As each member of the partner team struggles to find their equilibrium, they are also worried about how their partner is being treated.  Because the roles and responsibilities are often different, partners  cannot always to help each other and if one member of the partnership is not happy the other person usually suffers as well.  When major conflict occurs many managers  have limited options on how to help resolve the issue. Changing teams, shifts or days off may be an option, but more often the work kamping jobs have very specific hours associated with them. Worse if a team member decides to leave their partner will generally leave with them and the manager has to replace two employees.  If the positions cannot be filled the remaining team members and managers have to take on additional tasks putting additional pressure on the remaining team members.  Despite the challenges of this phase there are things team members and managers can do to help work through it.  Team members can take a step back and realize that some conflict is normal and try to work through it in as constructive as way as possible.  Managers need to stay engaged with their teams and provide feedback to encourage conflict resolution.  When conflicts can’t be resolved by the team members, managers should act as arbitrators with the goal of finding a resolution that everyone can live with so the team can move forward.  If that is not possible, they should decide which team members to retain rather than running the risk of losing either the best team members or worst case all of the team members. 

The Norming phase starts when people want to resolve their issues, feel comfortable expressing their ideas and feelings, and start to appreciate their fellow team member’s strengths.  People develop a stronger commitment to team goals and start to develop a team identity.  Hopefully, team productivity will rise during this phase which will further reinforce the idea that the team is stronger when everyone is on the same page. Personal relationships may start to form as people learn more about each other’s backgrounds and team members may spend time outside of work together.  One thing for managers and team members to watch out for though are people who are still in the storming stage.  If only four people in a team of six start normalizing the team as a whole is still in the storming stage.  Extra time and attention should be given to the team members who are struggling to allow them to catch up to the other team members.

In a work kamping environment this stage is especially crucial as many team members are both working and living near each other.  Team pot lucks or happy hours can help people get to know each other on a personal level, but it is also important to allow people their personal space and boundaries. Camp hosting jobs in particular can require interactions during “off hours” and respecting people’s personal time is critical to building trust.   Managers should acknowledge the increased performance of the team during the norming phase and make sure any lingering issues are addressed.  This will help the team move into the next phase rather than regress back to the storming phase.

Performing is the most effective phase in a team’s development and for most people the most pleasant stage.  Team members feel satisfaction in the team’s progress and are largely working without friction.  Issues that occur are resolved with amicable solutions and the manager is generally pleased with the team’s results.  This phase is particularly important because if a team member needs to leave or an additional one is added, there will likely be little disruption in overall performance.  Manager’s can use this phase to work on developing employees and team members can be cross trained in other positions.  

Once work kampers reach this phase it most closely resembles working in a traditional environment.  Emotional bonds are often formed and team members feel comfortable with each other and the tasks they are performing.  Indeed, the desire to spend more time in this phase often results in work kampers returning to the same jobs year after year, with entire teams often choosing to return together to mostly avoid the turmoil of the earlier phases.  Managers should provide opportunities for special project work during this phase, but ensure employees are not overloaded with with too many extra tasks.  

Finally the team enters the Adjourning phase.  This stage can be difficult for some people especially if they have uncertainty about their next work position.  If the team has been highly successful members often feel sadness or loss.  Some members will become less focused on the tasks at hand and overall team productivity can drop.  Managers can help with this stage by being present more and providing feedback and encouragement around the importance of team contributions.  Clear communication about special end of season tasks is very important as well, so the team can start incorporating those activities into their standard routines. 

Work kampers are not immune to feelings of sadness and loss when a good seasonal job ends.  Personal relationships that have developed can be maintained via social media, but many people know it will be a long time before they see each other again. Those feeling can conflict with very strong feelings that it is time to move on. Most RVers are nomadic by nature and staying the same place for several months can often lead to “hitch-itch” or thedesire to pack up and move to a new place. An end of season celebration can help with these feelings.  It allows managers and team members to formally acknowledge what was accomplished during the season, and to say goodbye.  It also gives the manager a final opportunity to show the employees their appreciation, make a positive “last impression”,  and help reinforce the idea they would like for them to return next season.  

Working as part of a great team can be a very rewarding experience, but working on a bad team can be absolutely miserable. Understanding the stages can help make the transition easier and lead to less team failure hand happier seasonal assignments.  Although work kamper teams do have some unique challenges,  they also have the advantage of being staffed by team members who have a similar nomadic lifestyle.  Thus successful work kamper teams can often result in long lasting personal and professional relationships.   

Tracy Perkins, MBA is a PMP Certified Project Manager and a Certified Black Belt with over 15 years experience managing successful small teams.  She and her husband have been full time Rvers since 2014 and have had numerous work kamping experiences including camp hosting, beet harvest, selling Christmas trees, and gate guarding.  To read more about their work experiences and their lifestyle check out their blog at http://www.camperchronicles.com.  


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is also available in paperback.