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.

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20 thoughts on “First Time Working In A Utility Co. Park – Free Fishing Weekend

  1. Hey Tracy – another idea for your getaways while in OR is there state parks. They have several, including many along the Coast that have yurts or cabins. You need to bring your sleeping bags, etc, but the structure is there and you are off the ground if it rains. Years ago we did an Oregon Coast vacation and stayed in the OR state parks with Yurts the entire time. I think we stayed at 4 different parks and it was an awesome way to explore without towing our trailer.

  2. I have to comment on the lack of sunshine up here. When my wife and I moved here from the San Francisco bay area, in early autumn, within six months of rain and lack of sunshine, we were ready to sell what was our one chance at a house, and move back to California. There is a several year learning curve to fully acclimate to the long rainy season. It takes a definite change of mindset to accept the weather up here. It’s always special when the sun does come out. One thing that still baffles me though, is restaurants will drop their blinds when it’s sunny.

    You’re are correct, that area is gorgeous. If not for my work schedule, I could spend days on end out there. However, as of tomorrow, the 10th through the 17th, we’re heading off for the week to Bandon and the southern Oregon coast, also a beautiful area. I hope you get the chance this summer to get down that way. And remember, the stormier the weather, the more memorable the experience. The waves are awesome.

  3. You just had a WIN-WIN, you used your analytical-process improvement skills on something other than your job!! You used it to figure out how to improve your free time and that really is a great idea:o)) Love the tent and can’t wait to see how you make out. It is just another wonderful adventure!!

  4. One more gear suggestion: a double air mattress or other type if sleeping pad.

    Please let us know how your camping adventures go. I’ve been a tent camper my whole adult life, until we starting full-timing in a 20′ trailer last summer. I have to admit that I do love the luxury of sleeping on a mattress!

    We lived in Portland for 10 years before moving to Alaska, and I have very fond memories of our tent camping experiences there. Enjoy!

  5. I also recommend an air mattress or pad, it can get really cold sleeping on the ground and very hard on old bones! Rick is my brother so be sure to say Hi from Jean when you visit.

  6. I’d also suggest some kind of air mattress. You can get one that gets you up off the ground and you’ll both feel 1000% better come morning. I sure hope you enjoy tent camping and that the claustrophobia isn’t too bad. I find mine doesn’t kick in in a tent at all.

  7. A million times over, air mattress is the way to go! We camped with a tent several years ago for 5 weeks out west. That trip is what lead us to the decision that we didn’t really need a big RV! Enjoy!

  8. Congratulations on your tent purchase!

    FYI to keep an eye on your vitamin D levels. Mine were too low and I thought over the counter supplements would be enough, but they actually got worse and contributed to fatigue before I got tested again and then put on a prescription strength supplement. NH winters particularly were awful for it.

    Now that we are on the road getting my daily vitamin D is easier. Mid-day is the best time for your sun. Good luck!

    • Oh thanks that is great advice!!! It is much easier when you are on the road for sure. Trying to get it different ways including OJ, vitamins, and 15-20 sun time a day when possible. I will definitely keep an eye on it though. I really do feel better now that I am taking the vitamins, could be psychosomatic but I don’t think so.

  9. I think the tent is a great idea. Talk about going from one extreme to the other! My claustrophobia gets worse as I get older, but tents are no problem for me.

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