I thought I would take a few minutes to walk you through my average day, since many people who are contemplating work kamping may wonder about that.
I get up around 7:30am and take about an hour in the morning to drink my coffee and relax with some computer games or Facebook. During this time Lee (who works 8-5 generally) is getting his shower and finishing up his morning so I tend to just hang out on the couch until he leaves. After he is gone, I make some toast (occasionally I will throw in some bacon for a protein kick) and then take a shower and get dressed. This whole routine is complete by 9am and then I have a decision on how to spend my free 1-1/2 hours until I start to prep to go to work.
Some days I blog, other days I clean the house, and I try to get out as much as I can. 1-1/2 hours isn’t a lot of time to work with so the activities need to be short in duration. I have done a couple of cool things though. One day I planted some herbs and a tomato plant in a Topsy Turvy that I found at the local “everything” store. Tomatoes don’t grow well in this soil so I bought the hanging kind to plant and then, bonus, saw it had additional holes for herbs. I have always wanted a fresh herb garden, so I thought let’s give it a try and when Lee was in Anchorage getting the brakes done he bought me some herbs.
Another day when I was feeling particularly antsy I drove down to the Tazlina “mall”. Now don’t get too excited. It’s called a mall because it actually has multiple stores in the same building. There is a liquor store, hardware store, hair/nail place, and Casa de la Arte which was my real destination. I met the owner at the Chamber of Commerce meeting and really liked her, and since she has products made by local artisans I wanted to check it out. It’s a cool little store filled with Alaskan made products, and I enjoyed my chat with the owner Naomi. She is in the process of moving up to Glenallen (which I think is a great choice) and since she lives here year round is also working on offering classes in the winter to the locals. It was a nice little side trip and the Tazlina Mall is right off Hwy 4 so it only took me 15 minutes to get there.
The other thing I really want to work into my routine is to drive down and check out the Copper River where we saw the eagles. Once the fish are fully running I hope to get some more great shots and this is something I can get up early and do. As a side note, I have been wanting to mention how many abandoned US Army vehicles are up here. The military built these roads during WWII, and you find old ambulances, Jeeps, and trucks everywhere. Many have been restored and are being used by locals, but it’s always interesting when you run across them. Since Copper Center was a military supply town for a while it has several of them, sort of strewn around in various stages of decay.
At 10:30am I eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I tried holding off eating until my lunch break at 3:30, but I just can’t wait that long so a small sandwich tides me over until then. Since most of my physical activity is during the start of my shift (mosquitoes are much less prevalent in the mornings) I need the extra energy. I walk over to the office and get a quick hand off from whoever started the day, then I check the emails for any reservations. Confirmed reservations are printed and put in our reservation book, and if they are for the same day I make sure I assign them a spot, and place a pink slip on the board to reserve the spot. Then I take the cordless phone (it works all throughout the campground) and walk the sites looking for trash in the fire pits. I am amazed by what people throw in there, and since a dirty fire pit is a pet peeve of mine I make that walk every morning. Next I grab the weed eater and start working on a section. I try to keep an eye on the office, but there’s a sign on the door letting people know that if there’s nobody in the office they can pick any open spot. I’ll walk up to them at that point and take them up to the office and check them in. Luckily there is usually someone near the office at this time and since we only get a few check-ins before 2pm it usually isn’t a big deal. After I weed whack it’s back in the office and another check of the emails for reservations. As a side note, I would normally be cleaning bathrooms and cabins during this time, but Darlene hired a local retired person to take care of that. I am certainly not complaining, as I would much rather do yard work and working in the office than clean restrooms. I didn’t ask her to hire someone, but I certainly appreciate it.
The next hour is spent on administrative tasks, and then I have my lunch. It’s been an adjustment but I enjoy my 3pm lunch time. I eat heavy or light depending on whether Lee is cooking that night, and have enough time to watch a television show. Then it’s back to the office, and that’s when things start to get really busy. How busy we are and how early the “rush” starts depends totally on the weather. On cloudy/rainy days people stop driving earlier, and we start getting check-ins as early as 3pm. On sunny days people drive longer and we will get very busy between 7pm-8pm. Check-ins are my favorite things I do here. Lots of our guests are from other countries and have varying levels of English. I love helping those folks, and the less English they know the greater the challenge, which I enjoy. So far I have met people from England, Australia, Germany, Holland, Finland, France, and Belgium and Switzerland. Germans are by far the most common and since I have some German ancestry in my background I feel I am particularly good with them. I am friendly and helpful, yet as efficient as possible, and really think I am pretty good at this. As I have learned more about the area I love giving first-hand accounts of places I have seen or eaten at, but I also know when people are extremely road weary and just want to be checked in with minimal fuss.
The reservations process is multiple steps, and really only one person at a time can be checked in. Oddly, people usually come in batches, and the couple of times I had multiple groups waiting Darlene or Marc (the owners) would come over and chat with them while they waited. They fill out a form while I look at their rig and determine which spot is best. We try to put them in a slightly larger spot than they need but save the really big ones for people with big rigs who might come later. Then I process their payment (usually a credit card, which I have gotten pretty good at) and while doing that I draw on our map their location and explain how to get to their site. I give them the Wifi password, and their faces usually light up when I say we have strong Wifi, and it is throughout the campground. Then if they want more information I will make a recommendation on a place to eat or see in the area. The check in takes around 5-6 minutes, but information can take a while longer and those conversations are really fun.
There is downtime in between guest check-ins though, and if I have time I love to listen to Caribou Clatter. This is absolutely the coolest thing because many people are in the bush with no cell coverage, and the local radio station allows people to communicate with their loved ones via the airwaves. Four times a day they read off emails from folks, and they range from “Love you Papa, will see you soon,” to long messages about what’s going on at home. It’s absolutely charming and is available on streaming, so if you have a few minutes around 12:20pm or 5:20pm Alaska time (4 hours earlier than eastern time) take a listen. It reminds me of another time, and is really, really neat that the local station offers this service. I also read the local paper, the Copper River Record. At 75 cents per week it’s a bargain and everything a small town paper should be. This week one of the headline stories was about a rainbow that occurred at 9:30 pm! Breaking news. They are also ran an article on how the town was formed ( building the highway through what was then swamp sounds horrendous) and there is lots of local information on happenings in the region. Listening to the local radio station and reading the local paper make me feel more connected with the town and what is happening.
On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday we have dessert nights. I premake the evening’s desert after lunch, and then put it in the oven at the appropriate time. I am cooking for 10-50 people, depending on reservations, and have never made such large desserts before. I do have a full kitchen and nice oven to work with in the owner’s cabin though, which is great. I don’t think I could make such big batches in the RV oven. Then at 7pm we ring the triangle, yes there really is one, and I serve desserts and chat with people. The second person makes the bonfire and keeps an eye on the front desk, and depending on how long service takes I stay and then pull the remaining desert and wash the dishes. I like to cook , but I never was much of a baker so this should be interesting for me. I am looking for easy and good in the recipe department and the ones I think fit the bill I will add to the recipes here.
My first dessert night was Rhubarb and Apple Crisp and folks said they really liked it. The vanilla Tillamook ice cream certainly didn’t hurt, and the rhubarb itself was local and very, very good. It has a nice tartness, but not overwhelming. There were some women from Texas and I told them to be honest, and they said rhubarb reminded them of their childhood, so that is nice. On the second dessert night I made Swedish Applesauce cake, and we still had leftover rhubarb and some watermelon. We were almost full that night, so we got quite a crowd. After serving all the desserts I wander around and chat a bit. It was nice seeing a couple of very young french hikers meet a much older Swiss couple, and they all happily chatted in French for awhile. Meeting folks is fun, and watching them meet each other is even more rewarding Finally, at the end of the night I close out the drawer. Occasionally people are coming in late, and closing gets delayed a bit, but usually I can finish in around 15 minutes. Then I go home and have dinner with Lee at around 8:30. Lee’s cooking most of the dinners, because he’s done at 5pm. It’s nice to be fed, but I don’t think I will ever get used to eating dinner so late. It doesn’t bother Lee in the slightest though.
So that’s my day. My favorite part is definitely helping the guests and there is enough variety in every day I am not bored. The combination of some physical activity and office work is good for me and definitely keeps things interesting.
Rhubarb and Apple Crisp
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 TBL cornstarch
- 3 cups “small bite-sized” sliced fresh rhubarb
- 2 cups “small bite-sized” cut apples (blueberries or strawberries can be substituted)
- 1 cup old-fashioned oats
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 real butter, melted
- 1/3 cup all purpose flour
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- Vanilla ice cream, optional but recommended
- In a large bowl combine sugar and cornstarch, mix well.
- Add chopped rhubarb and apples; toss to coat
- Spoon into an 8 inch square baking dish
- In a separate small bowl combine oats, brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Mix well
- Add melted butter and mix until resembles coarse crumbs
- Sprinkler crumbs over fruit
- Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until bubbly and fruit is tender
- Let sit for at least 15 minutes
- Serve warm with half a scoop of vanilla ice cream or by itself.
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