July 2017 Budget

I know some of you guys find the monthly budgets boring, and trust me it’s not fun for me either, but I continue to think it’s important to “prove” the finances to the folks who are researching the lifestyle, and it continues to prompt Lee and I to communicate about our finances. So I am going to keep doing this, but I understand if you skip these posts because they don’t really relate to you.  This was a really good month with only $2400  in expenses, and since we made $3311 we were able to put around $1000 back in our savings account.  We also made $68 in book royalties (thank you very much to everyone who bought a cookbook!) and around $90 in recycling, but I am not going to add that to our revenue figures here.  I will report out on the royalties at the end of the year along with our Amazon Associate revenue ($283 year-to-date and again thank you for those who clicked our links), but the amounts at this point are small enough I think it would just muddy the waters.  I feel the same about recycling.  Yes, I am making about $28 a week in this, but since I am turning around and spending the money at the grocery store or farmer’s markets it’s a bit of a wash.  Technically I should add the purchases and subtract the recycling, but since some of those purchases are “splurges” it would muddy things a bit.  Plus it’s not really worth all that effort.  Suffice it to say I get my money and then buy staples and the occasional ice cream with the money. Occasionally I buy myself some fast food lunch.  Anyway, for those of you who haven’t already nodded off, the details are below.

 

Food – We were about $48 to the good, which is largely due to the recycling money.  Prepared meals for our long work days and the lack of time to cook dinner is taking it’s toll, but we are holding our own.   I am also finding the time to keep working on new recipes for hopefully a second recipe book in 2018, and those special ingredients can add up.  Considering all the extenuating factors, I am just fine with where we landed in this category. 

Dining Out –  We were a little bit over ($23) but not too bad. It’s hard not to grab fast food when you are working these long hours, but the recycling money has helped there and the lack of decent restaurants close by has been a life saver in this category.  If there was a McDonald’s nearby we would be in trouble 🙂

Entertainment – We were under in this category by $57 but still felt like we did stuff.  National Parks are free for us since we have the America the Beautiful pass, and the only thing we really did was go see Dunkirk for Lee’s birthday.  Between the movie costs, popcorn, and lunch it was a $100 splurge, but since we had done little else this month didn’t feel bad about that either. 

Truck Fuel – Truck fuel was amazing this month ($74) and a big reason we spent so little.  Since we have the company truck and usually grab local groceries at the end of our shift we rarely use our own vehicle. I take it into town once a week for recycling and Lee took it to the WinCo once.

Home – We did great in this category this month only spending $19.47 and it was another reason we spent so little.  Working so much and traveling so little meant we didn’t really need anything and Lee isn’t working on any special projects. What creative energy he has in this category is being spent on work-related projects and those costs are covered by the company expense account.  He’s happy either way and it costs us nothing and is a benefit to the company we work for.

 


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.

 

Looking for a Consulting Job – The Beginning

I had set the somewhat arbitrary date of August 1st to start looking for a consulting job, but as the date approached I found that my anxiety around the whole process increased.  Theoretically the entire exercise should have been something I looked forward to.  After all, it was something I was interested in doing for a very long time, and I had gone to a considerable amount of trouble to put myself in a position where finding a job wasn’t an emergency.  I have no kids depending on me, low monthly expenses, no debt, and could work and live anywhere in the country where we could handle the winter weather in the RV.  Lee was totally on board, my skill set was solid, and after a year of working other jobs I was definitely ready to jump back into the professional world.  Even with all of those factors in place though, I was very nervous.

It wasn’t just that I had been out of the market for almost two years, but more that I hadn’t seriously looked for a new job in more than 10.  I worked for the same two companies for 22 years and occasionally I would look and see what was out there, but I was never willing to take the plunge and make the switch.  Plus, we lived so far from a major city, Lee had a job he loved, and we had kids in school, so relocation wasn’t really a good option…at least not for a voluntary job change. Now I can look across the entire country, and have way more choices, which is overwhelming in its own way.

I have been faced with seemingly overwhelming tasks before, and the best way for me to handle them is to break them down in smaller chunks and just start the process.  And instead of waiting another week, I woke up on Wednesday (after another restless night) and decided to begin.  Most of my work information is on my laptop, which rarely gets used, so the first step was making sure I had a clean platform to work from.  That meant checking a separate work email account I had ignored for several months, updating my resume on Linked In and several other sites so it would come up in employer searches, and making sure my information was up to date on professional websites I was associated with.  This was no small task itself and took a few hours.

It is important to note here that the process of finding a job takes time, and that time is uncompensated.  For those who are working in a white collar environment with a computer, some of that can be done during the regular work day, but for those of us who are working “blue collar” jobs all of that must be done during our time off. And it requires some research on how to use the job search tools out there.  Don’t get me wrong, tens of thousands of people do it every day, but just like I had to set up Work Kamper  to look for work kamping positions, I need to reacquaint myself with Indeed and other job search sites.  I am not starting completely from scratch here though.  I have spent time talking to some folks who are in my field and who have looked for positions to hear about what worked for them and once I get into it I am sure it will get easier, but unless I am tremendously lucky I expect to spend hours on finding a job.  Since we are already working 35 hours a week, those hours will need to come from our free time.  I’ll make sure and keep track of how many hours it takes to find that first job and include that in the final analysis.

And yes, there will be a final analysis. It is my intention to look at consulting just like I have looked at every other job and weigh the pros and cons as it relates to the lifestyle. And maybe that is why I am so nervous about the whole thing.  Consulting isn’t a “no-brainer”.  Sure, if we look at jobs simply from how much money we can make it would be, but that’s not how we look at jobs anymore.  We look at jobs based on a much more complex matrix now.  Location, hours required, and stress level are all big factors.  Whether a job is omnipresent or whether it can be put away during off time is another one.  I am still judging my life by the WOW moments and pretty pictures I take, and if I am tied to a phone 24/7 that will have an impact.  It did in our first year on the road and I am in no big hurry to sign up for that level of stress again.

The question is, can I find a consulting job in a great location, for a relatively short stint, that makes me feel like I am making a difference while still allowing me to have a personal life?  That is a tall order, and ultimately may be next to impossible to find, but I am committed to trying to find it.  And of course I am completely aware I could have worse problems.  Unemployment rates are pretty low and having lots of choices to wade through is much better than the alternative.  So it’s time to stop thinking about it and start doing it .

I sat down at the computer at about 8:30am and dove right in.  First I went to Linked In (which I had ignored for over a year) and was pleased to see I had a couple of private messages from folks I used to work with.  I replied and let people know I was getting back into the professional world and then made sure my contact information was up to date.  Recruiters have the ability to see when the last time you updated a site and generally skip folks who aren’t active so any kind of update is important at least once a month to keep the connections active.  I also downloaded the Linked In app on my new phone so I could keep in contact easier and opened my professional gmail account which I also hadn’t looked at in over a year.  This account had 663 emails, but since most were notifications I was able to clean it out in about 20 minutes.  After doing that I downloaded the Gmail app for my phone so I could have both the Camper Chronicles email and my consulting company email on that device.

Looking at email led me to Flexjobs.com which was a tool I used to use for the occasional job searches.  Thankfully the account was still active and I updated my information on their site as well, including uploading a 2017 version of my resume.  I chose to not list my work kamping jobs on my professional resume, but there are no gaps in employment as my consulting company employment will cover this time period.  This is a bit disingenuous since I haven’t strictly been consulting, but I am more than happy to discuss that in the interview process.  Having a big gap in employment is a bit like having your house on the market for a long time period; it makes people wonder.  How I am handling this is akin to taking a house off the market for a month and then relisting it to reset the dates.  It’s just how the game is played, and I am past the age where I feel the need to do everything strictly by the book.  If this lifestyle has shown me nothing else it is how to color outside the lines and make it work for me.

My answer by the way for what I have been doing the last year is pretty simple.  I took advantage of a buyout and took some time off to travel.  I’ve done some volunteering, worked the occasional seasonal job, and traveled the country, including spending a summer in Alaska.  All of that is completely true, and the specifics of what those various jobs entailed is really not relevant. There is a possibility of course that some employers might be concerned that I took the long break, but with my prior work history showing long-term commitment to two companies I really don’t think it will be much of an issue.

As I was wandering through the various sites and job postings things were a bit haphazard, but in a good way.  I didn’t make myself crazy by needing to see every single posting out there before applying, instead anything that looked interesting I submitted a resume to.  I know this may lead to a deluge of responses, but I wanted to cast a wide net and see what came back.  One of the first recruiters I signed up with was Kelly Services.  By submitting my resume to them, and making it clear I could travel, I was showing I would be open to multiple positions. I also set myself up with a profile on their website which put my resume into their database, and hopefully while I was looking for them they would also be looking for me.

This initial “refresh” of my information took about three hours.  Just to be clear, that would have taken tens of hours if I didn’t have a resume, Linked In account, and website already in place.  That work was done during my last few weeks of my prior job and in the first couple of weeks after my transition.  Even though things have just sat I am glad I did the heavy lifting back then, because dusting it off was relatively easy.

My next chunk of time was spent setting up more refined job searches. I wanted to make sure I was getting daily emails on new opportunities, but in order to not miss anything you need to be very careful about how your searches are setup.  I played around with different criteria and saw the results and ultimately decided on what worked for me.  This process is a bit frustrating as the search criteria didn’t quite match what I was looking for.  I found Flexjobs.com to be pretty friendly because they only showed legitimate companies who had “flexible” positions, but I wasn’t 100% confident my search criteria was inclusive enough.   Indeed.com was even worse.  It is probably the number one site people use, but their search engine choices were not very helpful for me and my results were either really small or many hundreds of jobs.  I needed to be honest with myself on how much time I would have to go through job descriptions so a strong search engine was a must.  Finally, I reached out to fellow Dreamer Ruth who had recently completed a successful job search, and she recommended Virtual Vocations.com.  Even though the cost was somewhat steep at $15.99 per month, I decided to give it a try because she had such a good experience with it.

So on Friday I spent another 3 hours setting up job searches and applying at a few positions, including another large staffing company.  Virtual Vocations is a great resource when you are looking for full-time work, but since I am looking for temporary work at this point I prefer Flex Jobs.  I tried to spend some time on Indeed, but there is so much out there it was pretty overwhelming.  It’s definitely a rabbit hole and you could spend an entire day searching and looking and still have more to look at when you were done.  I did set up a couple of job searches there as well, so we will see how that all plays out over time.  And the best news of all was I contacted by Kelly Services to submit my application to a company.  Unfortunately their recruiters cover specific geographic areas (which makes sense for local employment) but at least I talked to someone.  What really excited me was when I did some research on the company it was polar opposite of the very conservative New England company I worked for.  Not surprising since it is based in California, but that is exactly why I wanted to try consulting in the first place, to have exposure to different industries and different corporate environments.  Don’t worry, I am not going to jump at the first thing I see, but it is a nice start, and I am particularly excited about the fact that the job is a 3 month position. Yes, there is a ton of work out there, but most of the jobs are 6-18 month commitments.  If it was virtual I would be more willing to start with a longer time commitment, but for something onsite, short-term is better, at least to start.

So that’s it for now, I will let you know how things progress over the next few weeks.  We have our heavy weekend schedule, of course, and then Jim and Diana are coming to visit and we are taking a trip to Mount St. Helens.  Lots going on here, hopefully I can keep all the balls in the air!


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 – Long, Hot Summer Days

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 toying with writing this post for a while and because I wasn’t quite sure how to present my thoughts, I kept shoving them back in the corner and sticking with the easy stuff.  This happens on occasion.  It’s much easier to write about the pretty stuff, and the fun stuff, and even the not so pleasant events than to talk about personal shortcomings.  I’ve always been a person who prided myself on good customer service.  I have tons of experience, starting with my earliest jobs, and although the necessary patience doesn’t always come easily to me, overall I think I am above average in this area.

It’s relatively easy to be pleasant when you are in a good mood, fulfilled in your work, being paid well, and the people you are dealing with are being decent.  It’s not so easy of course when you are under stress.  My worst experience in this was a job in my 20’s when I worked a “retention” position.  It was with a company who gave you a “free” service for 90 days as part of a new credit card, and then after the 90 days if you didn’t cancel they charged your credit card. I started almost every phone conversation by being yelled at.  People were upset their credit card was charged, didn’t remember signing up in the first place, and wanted that charge reversed immediately.  My job was to talk the person into keeping the service (and the $39 charge) and a 40% recidivism rate was considered excellent.

It was brutal and I think I lasted about 9 months before I had to leave and I only lasted that long because I was pregnant with my second daughter at the time.  The job had good benefits (which I needed), I could sit in an air conditioned environment all day, and the supervisors did whatever they could to make a crappy job more pleasant.  Plus, with the retention bonuses, I was making decent money at the time and with a 1 year old at home and another on the way, we needed the money.  Still, it took it’s toll.  Minute after minute, hour after hour, getting yelled at every 5 minutes or so wore me down.  There were people who seemed to be able to completely turn off any emotions associated with the other people, but I was too young and too empathetic to just ignore it.

Nothing in my work experience has ever come close to how horrible that job was, and this is not even close, but as I am writing this I am reminded a bit of how there was a cumulative effect on my overall ability to provide good customer service.  In a perfect world we would treat every customer encounter as our first and use all of the positive energy we had to resolve it amicably.  But unless you are one of those rare people who seem to have a boundless store of energy, that simply isn’t the case.  I’ll give you a simple example.

For some reason whenever we pull up to clean a bathroom, people see the truck and immediately run over and get in line.  I get it, and have absolutely been guilty of it, and asking the cleaner to “wait just a minute” seems totally reasonable.  The problem is that the time we spend waiting for them delay other cleanings down the line and if there are enough of them we get behind schedule.  Initially I waited for everyone.  I was being a good guy, but then I found myself rushing through the jobs, or worse not getting to a location because of those delays, and now generally if someone isn’t already in line when I pull up I make them wait.  There are exceptions of course.  Little kids, pregnant women, folks in obvious “distress”, I will even stop mid cleaning and allow them to go, but I try to keep those to a minimum.

And if you think that is crazy I’ll give you an example from this week.  I pulled up to the restroom at Moore Creek, which is used by the white water rafting groups and because I was running a bit behind I was barely in front of three large groups of rafters.  I let a young girl go and by the time she was done there were 7 people in line.  25 minutes later (and no I am not kidding about that) the line finally diminished and I was able to clean the bathroom.  Yes, this was an extreme example, but it happens on a smaller scale almost every single day.

And not for nothing, it’s not fun cleaning a bathroom when someone “jumps in” and then is in there for awhile.  All the guys in the campground have had people come into nearby stalls while they were cleaning and I was cleaning the men’s toilet one day, was in a stall, and a guy walked in and used the urinal.  I waited until he was done to leave, but I had no idea how awkward something like that could be.  I never understood why people made such a production out of closing down the bathroom and always thought they should leave it open while they cleaned other toilets, well, now I totally get it.  I’m still trying to use good judgement and err on the side of the customer as much as I can, but when you are doing something unpleasant to begin with, and just want to get it over as quickly as possible, it’s pretty tough.

And that’s sort of my point overall.  There is a perfect way to handle almost every single customer interaction and I am certainly capable of it, but when it’s crazy hot, I’m physically tired, we are at the end of a very long day, or it is one challenging interaction after another I start to feel stretched.  Interestingly, Lee seems to have a much longer fuse when it comes to these interactions.   If you had to pick who was better with people overall, I think I would win that one, but he is steadier overall and seems less prone to allowing environmental pressure to get to him.  (I’ll take the credit, but I don’t really deserve it. Most of the time the useful part of my brain is occupied with my own bizarre thoughts and I am barely aware that there are even other people in the world. And every time I finish an interaction I reset back to whatever I was thinking about and people don’t exist any more. So each subsequent person pretty much feels like the first one, to me. – Lee) 

Even when it does get to him he is able to compartmentalize those feelings and stay remarkably even keeled when dealing with customers. In all fairness part of that is as a smaller guy dealing with somewhat drunk people, he is hyper aware of the fact that at anytime if an interaction escalates someone could take a swing at him.  (Something like this happened a week or so ago. We pulled up to our most remote spot, which rarely has anyone at it, and it had one car. Male and female sitting inside. We got out, and I locked the truck, and we went down the boat launch stairs to check the trash, keeping one eye on the couple in the car. When we came up the stairs, the guy got out of the car, because of course he did. I moved a little quicker up the stairs, to get to the top before he did, and I kept myself between him and Tracy while she unlocked the truck and we exchanged the standard pleasantries at the back of the truck. While we chatted he kept moving just a teeny bit closer to me, like a lean that turned into a step, and I would compensate by leaning/stepping back to maintain that ever important personal safety bubble. This happened enough times that we traveled this way, almost imperceptibly, from the passenger side at the tailgate, to the fuel tank door on the driver’s side. And the whole time talking about nothing of any consequence, but nonstop chit chat, which was very distracting. By this time, Trace had actually gotten into the truck and was just sitting there, so I decided I was done with the pointless chit chat and didn’t want to move forward of the driver’s door, so in the middle of his next pointless sentence and lean I gave him a great big smile and said “You have a great night, drive safe!”, opened the door and got in and we left. – Lee)  I was completely oblivious to all of this by the way.  I rarely worry about my physical safety, although I am more aware now than I ever was in my youth.

When I am tired, hot, and cranky I tend to get a little short with people.  (I can attest to this. – Lee) The “mom mentality” kicks in and it takes energy (which I have little of at the end of these long weekend days) to keep my voice on an even tone. Usually I am able to keep my cool, but I’ll be hones,t occasionally some “tone” leaks out.  I am not rude or abusive, but I definitely step on the customer service line in these instances and it bums me out.  Closing the gate at night is a particularly difficult time for me because we are at the end of a very long day.  Lee starts at 4:45 am, and the day ends at 9:30 pm. And we do that every Saturday and Sunday. Even though we aren’t working that entire time, it’s still a long day.

We aren’t eating well (dinner is a quick sandwich grabbed on a 15 minute break or eating at 9:30pm) and I am not sleeping well at all.  You would think we would fall into bed exhausted at the end of the day, but I’m still “keyed up” and usually can’t fall asleep until after 11pm.  Fridays and Sundays are generally OK because it’s mostly locals who know the end of day drill, but Saturdays are always tough.  We have lots of out-of-towners who don’t really understand we close the gate promptly at 9pm and despite giving numerous warnings starting at 8:15pm they often wait to start packing up until the last minute.  I get that they don’t know we have been going since early morning, don’t understand we have to get up first thing the next day, and probably wouldn’t care if they did.  But we aren’t done when we close the gate and still need to do a security sweep of the campground, empty any trash we have, and eat something before going to bed.  It’s a long day.

This Saturday was the worst we have had so far from that perspective.  It started off busy because a local combination AA /Veteran’s group was having an all day BBQ down on the lower launch beach.  They started arriving to set up their pop-up canopies and food stations at 6am. We had no idea this was happening, but swung into action to help handle the additional traffic.  Lee and I both spent all of our morning shifts down there and worked with the group to make the most out of the existing parking space.  The group organizers were great to work with and by 11:15am every car and boat space was full, I had cleaned the bathrooms twice, and we had emptied many bags of trash and given them extra bags for later.  I even asked one of the guys at Timber Park  to do a mid-day sweep while we were on our long mid-day break and I actually felt great about the level of customer service we provided.

Fast forward to 5pm when we came back on and the first thing we did was go back to lower launch to scope out what state it was in.  The bathrooms had held up pretty well, but we cleaned them again and we removed 4 huge bags of trash from down by the beach.  The group had completely turned over at this point and now we had several small groups at the beach area.  Because we hadn’t touched any of the other sites we ran up and dropped off the full bags of trash we had in the bed of the truck and then we hustled to make our rounds.  The culvert area was completely packed and that trash was overflowing.  Someone had added a third bag which really helped, but it took a while to pick up the overflow and now we were really running behind. We didn’t even have time to recycle, plus it was crazy hot in the full sun and we dealt with the bags and got back in the air conditioned truck as quickly as possible.   Thankfully the river sites were in better shape so we got back on schedule and headed down for another quick sweep of Lower Launch.  More trash removal, and then a quick bathroom clean and sweep of Faraday.

We made it back to the culvert by 7:30 and there was music blasting from two cars and at least 12 vehicles in the lot.  Lee started to make closing announcements on the bullhorn and I started trash pickup and asked the folks with the music blaring to turn it off.  Everything was going fine, with most people leaving, but there was one truck that simply wouldn’t leave.  We waited and waited and finally I gave last warning and we headed up to the gate.  At this point the people in the truck trotted over and making crappy comments about being rushed out they finally departed.  Lee saw a campground parking sticker on their window though as they left, and later I made it a point to ask the hosts about this particular vehicle because they were obviously pretty drunk.

We made it down to the Lower Launch by 8:10pm and it was still very busy.  5 boat trailers in the lot and at least 15 cars, which is a lot for that time of night, even on a Satruday.  Several groups still had pop-up shelters up and two groups were BBQing.  We started making announcements at 8:15 and then headed up through the gated area and made announcements to folks fishing and the boats up there.  By the time we got back down to the beach at 8:30pm I was pretty annoyed that the largest group on the beach was still grilling.  I walked over with my bucket and trash pickers and politely mentioned they really needed to start packing up now because they had a ton of stuff and they made some drunken comments to the affirmative and I started picking up litter.

By the time I made it to the end of the beach the trash cans were once again full and there were several boxes of trash on the ground.  I went and called Lee over and we drove the truck down into a parking spot and started picking the trash up.  While we were doing that someone pulled a small car up and completely blocked us in while they were “packing up.”  I say that because what they were really doing was standing around talking to each other and now it was 8:45pm and we still had to clean the bathrooms.  Lee tried to get the truck out, but couldn’t get past them and they just sat there talking and looking at us.  At this point I had had enough and jumped out of the truck and told them to move their vehicle because we had work we needed to do.  One of the guys looked at me and said, “Relax Lady,” and I swear I saw red.  I said, “We have been working all day and we still have work to do before we leave” and then I shut my mouth… with effort,  and jumped into the truck.  They finally moved and I was fuming as we went up to clean the restroom.

Something about his tone and demeanor really pushed my buttons, but I knew I had said too much and nothing I would say would make it any better.  So we cleaned the bathroom, saw all of the boat trailers were out of the water, and headed up to the top of the gate.  At this point, most people get a clue and the locals at least (including the “Relax Lady” guy got out of there, but the big group down on the beach was still taking their sweet time.  Finally we were able to shut the gate and then we headed back to the campground.  Turns out they had a rough day too, and the guys from the lower launch were in one of their “problem sites” but they had already addressed their concerns with them.  We made our security sweep, threw away 8 bags of trash in the dumpster, dropped off some items in the lost and found and went back to the rig.

I know in the grand scheme of things losing my temper is not such a big deal and it happened under extreme duress but it bothers me.  (Personally I wouldn’t describe it was losing her temper, I would describe it as being another two lines of conversation away from losing her temper. – Lee) It’s not like I was unbearably rude or cussed the guy out, but I hate feeling that upset and certainly hate showing it. More concerning is as the season progresses the fuse is getting shorter and shorter and I know I really need to get a handle on this now. Deep breaths are definitely called for, and remembering that although it is my 100th such conversation, for most of the visitors it is their first. And I really need to figure out how to get better sleep on the weekends.

Oh, one last thing, and for those of you with sensitive stomachs, stop right here.   We made it through the whole week with no major messes and then our second to last bathroom on Sunday night Lee opened the door and immediately put up a hand to stop me from entering behind him.  That’s part of the problem.  Despite our best efforts, when we open the door we never really know what we will find and this was something new.  There was tons of bright red…material spattered all over the toilet, seat and lid, with spatters on the wall at the men’s room at Faraday.  Lee walked in to get a better look and at first glance it appeared to be blood.  I then took a look and it was not good.  We have a special blood cleanup kit for instances involving blood, but the quantity was way too much for the materials we had on hand.  It looked to me as if someone might have had a miscarriage (which does happen in public restrooms on occasion) and although the color was still bright red neither one of us felt comfortable getting right on top of it and examining it.  Plus it was getting late and we needed to close some gates so we took pictures, locked the bathroom, and awaited further instructions from our supervisor.  Both of us felt this was the best solution, because there is another bathroom at this location and it was getting close to closing time.

The next day our supervisor took a look at the pictures Lee sent him. If I haven’t made it clear I really, really like this guy.  He is by far the best person I have worked for on the road and has gone out of his way to make this experience as pleasant as possible for us.  He told Lee he thought it was not blood, mainly because the mess had not changed color, that it was more likely thrown up berries.  There are tons of berries in the area and not all of them are safe for people to eat, and unfortunately someone appears to have eaten some bad ones.  That was much better than the alternative, but still not great, and on Monday Lee took the water trailer, lots of disinfectant, and a mop bucket to clean it up.  It wasn’t fun for him and I was really grateful it was my campground day, but he got it done and we were both glad we received clear instructions on how to handle it.  (I didn’t mind so much. It couldn’t have been blood, blood would have been much darker by the next morning. And there was no odor, so I just told myself I was cleaning up spilled food. I hosed everything out with pressurized water using a plant food dispenser on the hose to add lots of disinfectant and than used a mop and squeegee to take out the water. By that point it was so diluted there was no color at all. No big deal. I’ve cleaned up worse from my own kids. – Lee) So if you are keeping count, that is at least three weeks in a row with a major bathroom mess and if the universe is trying to tell me something I’d like to say back: I get it!!

On the plus side, we have lobbying pretty hard for a 100 gallon tank  to carry in the truck so we can add the gas powered pump and always have a pressurized water source, and after this incident our boss ordered one.  Plus I made $20.70 in recycling (not so bad considering how crazy it was) and we have some fun stuff scheduled for our days off, including a visit from a friend of Lee’s that he hasn’t seen since our wedding.


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 at Crater Lake and Rogue River

I travel with what I think of as a a “Big Bucket List” and a “Little Bucket List”.  The Big List are things I knew about and wanted to do even before becoming a full time RVer, and the Little Bucket List are things I only learned about once we started researching the lifestyle.  Little bucket list items are rewarding because I probably would have never even known about them if I wasn’t part of this community and traveling, but Big List items really validate for me what a great choice we made in this lifestyle.  I mention it because Crater Lake was definitely a Big Bucket List item and the number one thing I wanted to do while we were in Oregon.

What I didn’t understand was how far away Crater Lake would be from our temporary home. Even with our new tent and spending the night, a solid 5 hour drive is a stretch. Thankfully our friends and fellow RV Dreamers Bert and Kat were doing their first ever month-long volunteer stint about 45 minutes away from Crater Lake, so a plan was born to travel down and spend some time with them, and see the lake.  Initially I wanted to camp near the park, but they were totally booked in the month of July and the first come/first serve sites usually fill up before noon.  That wouldn’t work for us since we wanted to come down Monday night after work, so Kat and Bert asked their boss if we could stay on their site.  Happily he said yes and on Monday night we headed down to Klamath Falls.

Beautiful tent site, and I loved this old tree, plus we had electric and access to a bathroom.

 

They are volunteering at a wildlife area.

 

Where they plant trees, weed, build bird houses and other fun nature stuff.

 

Plus beautiful views of Mt. Shasta

 

Amazing full hookup site and they have the area all to themselves

 

I did make the mistake of leaving the rain fly off the tent the first night and even with the heater it got very cold.  Cold air “poured” into the tent (they made fun of me for saying poured but that’s what it felt like) and I didn’t get the best night’s sleep.  I drove 15 minutes into town and got myself a McDonald’s breakfast sandwich to start the day and when I came back saw they were gone getting Lee a HUGE cinnamon roll, so I drove down the road to the dock and took some great pictures of birds.  I saw hawks, egrets, pelicans, and Killdeer (a first for me) along with numerous small birds I couldn’t identify.  It’s basically one large marsh and depending on the time of year sees heavy bird traffic.

Oh yes, this was as big as his head. He did share it though.  The girls know their audience!

 

The Killdeer let me get pretty close

 

And the pelicans flying across the water were amazing

We wanted to get an early start, always recommended for any National Park, so started driving around 9am.  The drive into the lake was pretty and there were several places to stop, but nothing really jumped out at me until we saw these cool rock formations and an intensely green meadow.  The rock formations were caused by steam blowing up through the lava and it’s important to note that this entire area (including  Crater Lake) were formed by the volcanic eruption of Mt. Masuma over 7,700 years ago.

This information sign really surprised me because we have been to Lassen and had no idea Mt. Mazama had a larger impact.

Soon we arrived at the Crater Lake entrance and it was $10 to enter but free with our America the Beautiful pass. We stopped at the visitor center and wanted to watch the movie, but the small auditorium was already full.  I will say the visitors center was a disappointment.  It was very small and had very little information.  There is another visitors center in the lodge that we didn’t see that might be nicer and it was a little confusing when we came in which way to go.  The road around the rim is a circle, but because of heavy snow and a major reconstruction project not all sections were open.  Finally we determined we needed to get on the East Rim road and very soon there was a place to stop.  I will let the pictures speak for themselves, but WOW, WOW, WOW!

Our initial views

 

First Look

 

Lee and Kat walked down to the edge

 

Have to have a little truck porn

 

Lee’s panaorama shot

 

What is so special about the lake is Wizards’ Isle

 

Which had amazing turquoise water in it’s cove

 

There are also very cool rock formations along the banks.  I don’t know what that light colored water is.

 

The neatest of which is shaped like a pirate ship, but unfortunately we couldn’t get any closer than this

Yes, the water is that blue and yes it is even more amazing than it looks.  We stopped at almost every stop and took tons of pictures, because none of us could get enough of the view.  Plus what is great about the lake is it looks different depending on when you come.  I would like to visit it again in May when the peaks are still snow covered, but in order to drive the entire road will also need to visit it in August.  Plus they have boat tours that run (you need to book well in advance) and one hike that leads down to the shore.

 

There were large patches of snow left along the mountainside and people were playing in them where they could reach them

 

Snow along some of the banks

 

Some remaining banks showed how high the snow was and even in May most of this road was still closed

 

We got lucky on the portion of the road that was under construction and only had to wait about 10 minutes

 

Tiny tour boats racing across the water

 

And two boats doing a scientific survey of the water clarity and depth

 

The non lake side was also very nice with huge plains and mountains in the distance

 

The scope of it was amazing…Kat’s response says it all

 

And there was beauty in the small details

 

The view at our lunch spot

 

Another panoramic view

 

Me, Lee, Bert, and Kat taking a selfie

Around 1pm it really started to get crowded and we had made it to Skell Point which was the last place open by car.  While we were there two couples who were frequent visitors were pointing and exclaiming, and it turned out that they were looking at the Old Man of the Lake.  This is a tree stump that has been bobbing around the lake since at least 1896 and because the lake is so huge sightings of it are incredibly rare.  One couple told us they had been coming at least once a year for 15 years and this was the first time they had seen it.  Usually I get super excited about stuff like this and I do acknowledge that it was a rare sighting, but to be honest it was a log in the lake and Kat and I were kind of taken aback by their excitement.  Lee and Bert got it though and were very into it, so here’s the picture so you know what you are looking for.  This was taken with a long lens, so you need to have sharp eyes to catch it. In reality it was just a tiny speck. We were at least 100′ above the water, and it was only visible if you stood in a specific spot. Move to the left or right a few feet and it disappeared behind an outcropping.

The old man in the lake. The bobbing up and down was pretty cool

Since it was still pretty early, we decided to take the north entrance out (and avoid the construction) and take a longer way back to Klamath falls.  Since we were in two trucks we had walkie-talkies and Bert took the lead with Kat navigating.  It’s always hard to know where to stop when you are on an unknown scenic drive, but they stumbled across two incredible places along the Rogue River and that surprise of those sites was a perfect way to end the day.  I love gorges, but this one was very special and although small was full of raging water.  Plus we had never seen a land bridge and we all thought that was really neat as well.  I’ll be honest the pictures don’t come close to capturing either experience, but Lee took some video and that does a much better job of giving you an idea of how special it was.

Nice walkway along the Chasm and it’s only 1/4 mile long

 

The Chasm

 

The top was absolutely beautiful with multiple water sources and HUGE logs

This rock was fantastic. Lee got some great video of it

 

The end of the gorge with a humongous tree

 

My absolute favorite part was this living stump

 

The sign explains how the roots are intertwined so the stump is still alive. It has bark on the top of it. Very, very cool

 

A little ways down the road was the land bridge

 

The sign showed how lava created the bridge and then the water came through

 

This lava cave was big and amazing

 

Where the water goes into the land bridge

 

The bridge although it was hard to capture in its entirety

 

Where the water comes out on the land bridge.  Again the video does a much better job of capturing it

 

 

Finally we made it back and were all starving so we ate around 5:30pm.  Bert and Kat bought us some huge T-Bones and, no shock, Lee was very happy.  We had a wonderful time staying with them and are looking forward to the next time our paths cross. Although the drives there and back were super long and this is not something we could regularly do, combining amazing sites with great friends totally made it worth it.  Kat and Bert thank you very much for helping me put a big check mark on the bucket list!

The next morning we got up a little after sunrise (after a much better night of sleep, with the rain fly on the tent the heat stayed in better) and packed up and headed home. We intentionally chose a different route back which took us through Sisters, Oregon which is a pretty amazing area itself.

The three sisters. Much prettier than the picture I was able to get


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 Kayaking on the Clackamas River

Conventional wisdom recommends that anyone who is becoming a full time RVer invest in three things; good hiking shoes, bikes, and kayak(s).  With visions of all of those activities in our heads we started our full timing journey with two of the three.  Oddly, the one item I skipped (decent hiking shoes), I came to regret when I sprained an ankle during a hike and hobbled around for three weeks.  Now my Merrill Hiking shoes get tons of use and I will absolutely replace them with a like pair when they eventually wear out.  On the other end of the spectrum we went to quite a bit of trouble to bring our bikes.  Lee had a custom bike rack built and we carried them everywhere with us the first two years.  Unfortunately we never found a good way to cover them, so every time we wanted to use them we had a rusted chain, flat tire, or some other bike issue and despite our best intentions they saw little use.  Finally, we gave them away last summer in Alaska, and only rarely do I wish we had them.  The main problem for me is that I like to take pictures, and I am not coordinated enough to ride a bike and stop frequently with a big camera around my neck. It just wasn’t fun for me.

Finally, we purchased a Sea Eagle Kayak. Lee liked that it was inflatable (thus easier to store) and I liked that it was a two person kayak.  I had this vision in my head of riding in style (and barely paddling) as Lee moved us down beautiful rivers, but again, the reality did not live up to my fantasy.  First and foremost, when we went to one vehicle finding a transport company to give us rides, was much more difficult than we thought it would be.  Also, Lee made it pretty clear he wasn’t interested in doing all of the work.  Setting up an inflatable takes some time in and of itself and with our work schedules neither one of us was super interested in the tons of manual labor paddling upriver entails.  Don’t get me wrong, we love floating downstream, but the upstream was just too much work.  We tried some lakes to avoid needing to go upstream, but neither one of us was getting the experience we wanted.

Let me just take a minute here and say LOTS of our friends kayak, bike, and hike on a regular basis.  We definitely fall outside of the “normal” curve on this one, but we are also working physically demanding jobs on a regular basis.  Even if we weren’t though I am not sure we wouldn’t have the same issues.  I think my main point is we didn’t completely change who we are overnight simply because we became full timers.  As big a fan as I am of buying everything you need upfront, you might want to hold off on these items until you get some experience with the lifestyle.  Except the hiking boots.  Definitely buy those, because even if you aren’t planning on tons of hiking, odds are you will experience lots of places with uneven ground.

All of this really came to a head this summer, because we are living on a beautiful river.  We both wanted to get out and kayak, but the idea of paddling against the current (especially after our long, hard days of hauling trash and scrubbing bathrooms) was not appealing.  So it was get rid of the boat (which was super pricey at $850) or find another solution.  Lee really wanted to try a trolling motor, and although I had some major concerns about throwing good money after bad I agreed that it was worth a shot.  Lee did the research, found the motor, and figured out the mounting and finally we took it for a maiden voyage.

All the boat stuff including new motor and battery case

 

Lee put on the mount

 

Strapped on the battery

 

And added the motor

We launched from the Promontory Marina next to the campground and since we had no idea how long the battery would last we headed upriver.  I’ll just jump to the end here and say it was a huge success.  Lee loved having the trolling motor and we had enough battery power to go upriver and get most of the way back.  I was able to take lots of pictures and we only paddled when we got into shallow areas or if I wanted to add a little speed.  The view from the river was also really cool, and as familiar as I am with the river at this point, being in it gives you a totally different perspective.

The view from the marina

 

The Clackamas River

 

I loved these trees, not sure what they are but very pretty

 

It was fun seeing the campsites from the river

 

The Day Use Area

 

And you can see a hint of our camper in the upper left hand corner

 

We made our way up to these wooden structures which we think are there for the fish to rest in

 

Several people were in the area either fishing or paddle boarding

 

I loved these structures

 

They were really fun to kayak in and out of

 

And super photogenic

We went far enough to get some great views of the cliffs

 

Found the base of this waterfall by hearing the water trickle into the river

 

And saw this area on an island where people sometimes camp

 

It was fun and Lee had a really good time with the trolling motor, so hopefully we will be doing more kayaking in the future.  Time will only tell, but my personal favorite is still the scenic drive for seeing an area.  This was nice because you get into nature and see things with more detail, but we only covered a couple of miles of terrain while doing it.  It really comes down to personal preference I suppose.

After kayaking we started our weekend and mostly it was a really good one.  I made $27.70 recycling, which was great, and despite the heat and larger crowds we managed to keep up OK. One of the most exciting things was they finally cleared the slide on the road between Lower Launch and Faraday and we are now able to drive straight through.  Not only does it make our lives easier, it is also beautiful and on Thursday I stopped and took a few pictures.  Right before getting on the road I stopped and checked on my ospreys and discovered three large sized chicks in the nest.  They were on the outer edges of my range but I got a couple of decent shots!

Can’t wait until these guys start flying.  If you look close you see three heads

 

The parent was keeping an eye out


The road to Faraday

 

Good signage around where the slide was

 

They only have half of the road open

 

What’s left after the slide. The rocks with metal netting are used to stop any further slides

 

Really long area which is why it took so long to open the road

 

Some beautiful views of the Clackamas

 

Ending at the dam

 

We even felt good enough to have lunch with fellow Dreamers Julie and Casey who we had met briefly at the 2016 rally.  They are full-time and living in Portland where Casey is working and they were willing to come down during our long break on the weekend.  Julie even brought lunch (which included pie!) and we had a great time getting to know them better.  Casey is a scrum master, which is somewhat similar to what I do and I picked his brain about working while living on the road.  They asked us questions about Alaska and other areas they hadn’t experienced yet and it was a great exchange of information.  Plus they are really nice people and we just enjoyed the company.

Julie, Casey, and Lee who is excited about his pie!

 

So the week was really good with only one sour note.  I thought about leaving it out, but I need to include it because it was kind of a big deal at the time.  On Sunday, we ran out of toilet paper at the Lower Launch and someone wrote “Poop” with a giant “X” in excrement on the wall.  I scrubbed it off, but it really was a bummer way to end the week, because seriously who does something like that?  It obviously happens though, and for those of us who clean bathrooms, it is not pleasant at all.  It isn’t just dealing with the fluids, it’s how intentional the act is.  Craziness. And don’t get me wrong, Lee and I both know these sorts of things are going to happen, but we also shake our head and think who does something like that?

Well, next up is our Crater Lake trip, and we are both very excited about that, and since we won’t be cleaning any bathrooms there I am sure it will be amazing 🙂

 


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 Sampling the Fruit Loop

Our friend Rick came in to stay in our campground for two weeks and since he was such a wonderful host when we visited him at Hecata Head, I felt pretty bad that we barely spent any time with him when he arrived at our campground.  He knew our schedule was crazy though, and he was mainly using our campground as a jumping off point to explore the area, and with our work schedule he didn’t expect us to be tour guides.  He’s really great about exploring on his own, so I loaded him up with information and in no time he was off exploring the spots I mentioned.  I did want to hang out with him though, so Tuesday I planned a trip for us to explore the Hood River Fruit Loop.  Lee was welcome to come of course, but after the intensity of the weekend he really just wanted a day to himself, so Rick and I jumped in his convertible and off we went.

I was pretty excited about the convertible.  We used to own one before we went on the road and although I don’t regret having only one vehicle there are lots of drives that would be wonderful in a convertible and the fruit loop was definitely one of them.  The first place we stopped was Trillium Lake.  It is one of the National Forest service day use areas, and from what I had read it has the best views of Mount Hood in the area. Wow, they weren’t kidding!  It was a little tough to find, but once we got there the views were absolutely spectacular.  We also stopped along the way to take a Mount Hood trip and through sheer luck stumbled across a piece of the Oregon Trail.  The trail meanders all throughout this area, and I have to say that standing on it felt historical.  Some places we visit just carry the weight of their history (Kitty Hawk comes to mind) and standing on the Oregon Trail felt the same to me.

This picture is not color enhanced in any way. It actually looked like this.

 

The ducks liked it and since it is stocked with trout there were several fishermen nearby

 

Standing on a little slice of history

 

All along the drive we had several glimpses of Mount Hood. I never get tired of seeing it.

 

That was just the teaser because the real purpose of the journey was the Fruit Loop.  It is a road which surrounds the picturesque town of Hood River and because of the river valley soil it is known for it’s fruit trees and wineries.  I wanted to travel the loop for myself for the fruit trees, but I also wanted to stop at a couple of wineries and see if I could get my Dad a bottle of wine for Father’s Day.  My Dad is not really hooked into what we are doing and generally only has a vague idea of where we are, but he does like it when I send him presents from our travels and since this part of Oregon is known for it’s wine, and he loves wine, it seemed like a good fit.  Unfortunately what I know about wine could fit in a shot glass, and the whole process is a little intimidating to me, so having Rick as my wing man was a good thing!

A map of the fruit loop with 29 different sites to stop at. This doesn’t include the restaurants in the town, just the local farms and vineyards

 

Our first stop was the Draper farm

 

The cherry trees were absolutely beautiful and the free samples were amazing. The metallic strips are to keep the birds away

 

Yes they were this red!

This store had cherry cider, but no samples unfortunately, but I did buy some Rainier cherries which were yummy but a steep $6 a pound.

 

Next up was Packer Orchards

 

Which had beautiful views of Mount Adams. There are 5 mountains that are visible in this area at times and almost all the farms had a beautiful view

 

A hill full of fruit trees!

 

Packer had some amazing homemade cookies and we bought some for Lee

 

And these amazing cinnamon rolls although I had to pass or I would have been in a sugar coma.

 

Almost every farm stand had preserves and other canned items for sale and all the produce came from the farm. Love that!

 

We nibbled our way through many of the farm stands and I bought some homemade honey mustard for Lee and found some bing cherries for $2.99 a pound which I got to select from a huge bin. We also stopped at Fox Hard Cider, but it was too early in the day for me to start drinking.  What I really needed was lunch, and since it was 12:30pm, we headed into Hood River to find a place to eat.  I had heard that Hood River was full of great restaurants, and I hadn’t really done much research, so we just drove through town until I saw a restaurant I liked from the outside (with a parking place nearby) and we walked in.  We had no idea what the menu would be, and were both surprised when we saw it was a Swedish restaurant named Broder Ost.  I have never been in a Swedish restaurant in my life, but Rick (who is from Wisconsin and whose wife was of Swedish descent) was very familiar with the food.  He was excited at the menu and I was excited for him so we ended up ordering some traditional menu items.  I had Lefse ( a first for me) and Rick had hash with smoked trout.  Mine was really good, but I had no basis of comparison, but Rick of course did and he was VERY happy with both items.  Lefse is a potato pancake and making it in the traditional way is pretty time consuming.  Rick took one bite of mine and said it was absolutely made the traditional way and he loved his hash.  What a pleasant surprise for both of us and it was nice because it felt like Rick’s wife Sonya (who passed away several years ago) was with us in spirit.  Seriously, what are the odds we would randomly walk into a Swedish restaurant?

The hash.  The walnut bread was really yummy.

 

Lefse. Have to say I don’t like fried eggs, but these were baked and outstanding! I didn’t like the pickled onions much, but I did like that my breakfast came with a salad.

 

After lunch, we walked across the street, because I had to stop at the olive oil place.  Whenever we travel and see an olive oil store, I have to stop because my friend Deb owned one and has convinced me how much better their olive oil is.  This one had teas, spices, olive oil, and vinegars and I ended up buying a Tuscan olive oil which will make a great bread dipping sauce.

The picture is dark, but there were tons of olive oil tanks to sample from.

I didn’t want to spend more time in town, because we still had to get to the wineries and we continued our drive to the top of the fruit loop.  My first stop was billed as the oldest winery in the area and since their fields were close to the Columbia River and their vines are 35 years old, I thought this would have the best wine.  Don’t ask me why I thought that, seriously know nothing about wine, but we made our way there and despite several twists and turns  showed up at the door.  All I can say was the whole place looked a little sketchy.  I know smaller vineyards are no frills, but the tastings were $5, and the whole layout was not very clean.  I just had a bad vibe from the whole thing and we left and went on to one more place.

The tasting room was no frills which I could live with but didn’t look clean which I couldn’t. Plus the woman who was running it wasn’t very nice

My second choice vineyard was called Marchesi Vineyard and was interesting to me because they had Italian vines.  I like Italian wines and I know my dad does because he had gone to Italy, so I thought maybe this would be better.  This setting was more like what I was expecting with the vines within eyesight and a very nice tasting area.

Unfortunately it also had the air of pretentiousness that I hate about wineries in general.  I walked up to the counter and while I was waiting my turn the manager asked the woman in front of me if she liked the rose.  The woman replied “It was OK,” and the manager said in a snotty tone (and this is a direct quote) “You must not have an Italian palate.  The rose is an excellent wine.”  Seriously, give me a break.  The customer started stumbling and said something about not being new to Rose’s and then someone walked up to help me.  I tried the Pinot Grigio (reasonably priced at $2) because I know what I like in that wine and thought if it was good maybe I could trust the reds were good.  Seriously no clue what I doing here.  Rick, my supposed wingman, witnessed the Rose conversation and went and sat down with his phone and waited for me to be done.  So I was on my own when the manager walked up to me and started asking questions about shipping.

She said I didn’t want to ship it, because the cost would be as high was the bottle of wine and I wanted to pack it in my suitcase.  I took a breath, put on my best corporate voice, and explained I was traveling and I wanted to send my father a present from my travels.  I asked how much the shipping was for two bottles and she quoted the same price.  I raised an eyebrow and she explained it was $30 to ship one or two bottles because the packing was for two bottles.  OK. She softened at this point, when I talked about sending it to my father and I explained I knew nothing about reds. I asked what she would recommend, flattering her a little on her expertise, and she started with a $42 award winning bottle of wine.  I pivoted asking about the Pinot Noirs, which the region is known for and she stated those were also award winning.  Ultimately we decided on the Noir and a Barbera and the wine plus shipping cost me $100.  Normally I wouldn’t have spent this much, but her attitude was annoying and I was willing to back up my attitude with some coin.  That’s what is dangerous about wineries in my opinion, maybe it’s all part of their selling strategy, I just hope that the wine is good, since I still have absolutely no idea.   I am never doing that again though unless I have someone with me who has a palate.

The winery incident aside, it was a beautiful day and Rick and I headed back to the campground.  Lee enjoyed his time off and he really liked his presents and a few days later I took the cherries and decided to make my first ever cherry pie.  I thought with such a sweet and fresh ingredient I couldn’t go wrong, so I found a recipe online and started in.

I read you can pit the cherries with a chopstick. It was messy but it got the job done

 

They were beautiful

 

My pie wasn’t perfect looking

 

But the inside was beautiful

 

It took me two hours to make the pie, an hour to cook, and another 3 hours for it to cool.  Basically it was an all day project.  We were both very excited to taste the pie, and after all that work, it really wasn’t that good. Yep it’s true.  I am sure it was the wrong kind of cherries (I used Bing) and/or the wrong amount of sugar (I used 2/3 of a cup), but I ended up throwing it away.  I know, crazy right? But when Lee, the lover of all things pie, doesn’t like it, it’s not good.  It wasn’t awful really, it just didn’t taste that good and although I am happy to add the mechanics to my skill set, it is not something I will be trying again in the near future.  It’s a ton of work.  Still it was fun and I am really glad Rick and I got to spend the day together.  Next up, some kayaking on the Clackamas River.


 

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.

 

Reader Question: Would We Do it all Again?

Stacey sent a very thoughtful question and although I answered it in the comments, I think it deserves a longer answer, hence this post.  The question was “If you knew then what you know now,  would you still trade your former careers / work life including sticks and bricks living for your current lifestyle? I guess I’m wondering if work camping experiences are an acceptable trade off for living the full timing RV lifestyle instead of waiting to do it after retirement. I know that the preference is a uniquely individualized choice, but I’d like to hear your personal opinion now that you’ve done it for some time and experienced varied work camping jobs.”

The short answer is: Yes.  If you are a person who likes brevity you might want to stop right here, but there is of course a much longer answer.  First and foremost I am a person who believes in “the journey”.  Every decision I have made, every challenge I have experienced has led to who I am today.  Looking back on my life, the most interesting times were the most challenging and the times of personal growth usually came from something difficult or scary.  So I am not a person who carries around a lot of regret.  Most of my decisions, good and bad, I can live with because they were my decisions and I learned from them.

That being said, I don’t have to experience everything the hard way anymore.  I can learn from others and I am not averse to taking the easier path once in awhile.  I’m older and hopefully wiser now.  So if I knew would I do it?  It’s possible I wouldn’t have had the courage to do this if I knew exactly what I was getting into, but I hope I would have.  This lifestyle is the biggest risk I have ever taken in my life.  That statement should be put into context, because I have never been much of a risk taker, but for me it has challenged me in almost every way.  I don’t think that would have happened if I would have waited until retirement.  I know it wouldn’t have happened if I would have waited until I had tons of money in the bank.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the transition is tough for people regardless of your income level or savings account, but for me some of the biggest lessons I have learned have been around living without a safety net.  Many people have already learned that lesson.  They were fired, started their own business, dealt with a major illness, or got divorced.  I have never experienced any of these things and as thankful as I am for that, I also didn’t know that I would make it out the other side.  Not intellectually know, because of course I believed that, but know deep down in my gut I would be able to handle major changes. My life was relatively stable and sedentary and I was comfortable. I think it’s pretty clear I am not comfortable now, and haven’t been for the last 3 years.

But people rarely grow when they are comfortable.  Yes, they avoid the lows in life, but often they don’t experience the amazing highs either. Life was bland and vanilla and for many, many years I loved it that way.  Looking back on the last three years I see a series of images.  Things I absolutely know I never would have experienced, because going on vacation cannot buy them.  It’s just not the same.  Those moments have to be part of the equation and frankly I can’t imagine many things that would tempt me to give those up. You might think I could have experienced them if I would have waited, and maybe that is true.  Or maybe I could have experienced equal or better experiences just at an older age.  Possibly, but I have always been a bird-in-the-hand kind of person and to me it would have been riskier to wait until I retired.  Too many things could have happened in the 18 years between now and then.

Plus, my life as it existed was about to change anyway.  My youngest daughter was leaving the nest to go into the Air Force and Lee and I would have been in a big empty house that we didn’t like very much.  Yes, we could have downsized into something smaller, but in our case that change wouldn’t have been enough for us.  More importantly for me at least, my former company was about to be bought by a larger company.  I didn’t know it at the time I took the buy-out, but within 6 months of my leaving, Tyco would be bought by Johnson Controls.  My boss, who I really liked, took a totally different position and in order for me to stay with him I would have probably needed to relocate. If I would have stayed in the same position, I may have survived the cut, but it would have meant longer hours, more travel, and definitely more stress.  I survived two major mergers in my 15 years with Tyco and  I honestly don’t know if I had another one of those in me.  Even if I did manage to survive the deep personnel cuts that always come with a merger,  it’s brutal watching colleagues lose their jobs.  It’s very possible that if I have stayed I would have been looking for new employment anyway, but with the liability of Lee needing to stay in the area and a relatively high mortgage hanging over my head.  Knowing what I know now,  selling the house and becoming debt free was the smart move and I am pretty sure we would not have been able to do that if we had stayed in the area.  So the short answer is I don’t regret at all leaving our sticks and bricks lifestyle.

To answer the second part of the question as to whether the work kamping jobs are worth the full-time lifestyle, I would say the answer is largely no.  If we were supplementing other income and could work them, yes, probably.  If we were volunteering for fun, social interaction, and to help with costs, definitely.  But working the amount of hours we work and the types of jobs we have, absolutely no.  I’m not sure how Lee feels about that so he’ll need to jump in here.  We believed we would be able to work a little and play a little when we started doing these jobs, but its mostly been 10 months of work and 2 months of play, and that’s not a fair trade-off to me.  It would be if the jobs were easier and/or more interesting, but they aren’t, and unless we were willing to stick with the same jobs year after year and follow a set route I can’t see that changing.  That’s a great compromise for many people, by the way, and I respect it.  If you want better pay and more interesting work you can always spend your summers and/or winters in the same places and eventually you will get there.  Nothing wrong with that, but we get the big WOW moments from seeing new places and without that travel I still don’t think I would like it.  I think Lee would be fine with that though, but again he needs to jump in.

(I take a longer view, overall. I think it’s possible to have something resembling a route, and also have the freedom to get the WOW moments, but if I ever feel like I’m chasing something, then I know it’s a losing battle. I’d rather stalk it. I also think that while the WOW moments mostly come from being in new places, I think that we have nothing but time to see new places, and I’d rather get all the WOW I can in a place before I go searching for new WOW. I agree that at the moment, the “recipe” we have is not a good one, and I often wonder how many people start off and give up at this point, because it’s so far away from what they imagined. I’m pretty stubborn, though, and I am convinced that the right recipe is out there, and I constantly remind myself of how unhappy I was before.-Lee)

(Most of the time I feel like my worst day here is still better in the grand scheme than my best day before. The grass is greener syndrome is powerful, and I am avoiding it with everything I’ve got. I do think that if you break the year into two longer seasons of summer and winter and two shorter seasons of fall and spring, then it’s logical that part of the recipe might be that you find a recurring gig in either summer or winter, and intellectually I lean toward summer for that. That would have the added benefit of giving you an anchor point for medical/dental stuff. I know some people might recoil from the idea of spending years experimenting to find that perfect repeating summer gig, but for me it beats a life of grind every time.-Lee)

(Overall, I’m looking for a combination that allows some freedom to travel, but also gives me a little stability. Ideally, a combination of hammering the budget down to the point where we can use the two long seasons to make money, and make enough to play during the short seasons, or some combination. I agree that working 10 months, and taking 2 off is not a good deal, especially if some or most of those of those two months is dedicated to getting from one gig to another. Anything that gets us closer to a 50/50 split would make me happier. I’m also willing to have less in general to get there. For me the trick is to fine tune and tweak until we’ve squeezed as much as possible out of the time we have and the money we can get.  I’m the kind of guy that turns a dish soap container upside down and lets it sit for an hour to get all the soap out, but I think bending over to pick up a nickel is for suckers. I can do something else while gravity gets the soap out for me, but I’m never getting back the ten cents worth of time I spent picking up that nickel. For me, seconds add up faster than nickels.  – Lee)

What isn’t covered in your question is are there any other ways to make money?  The answer is demonstrably yes as we have met many people (mostly younger) doing all sorts of interesting things to cover their costs.  We haven’t even started exploring those options, because we were focused on the most common traditional work kamping jobs, but our focus going forward will be doing exactly that. I’ve never really had an entrepreneurial spirit and again I’m not much of a risk taker, but there are lots of mobile jobs that while out of my comfort zone are not a complete stretch for me.  We believe most work kamping jobs are designed for people who are trying to supplement existing income.  That makes sense because in the past the majority of the work kamping community was in exactly that position.  The demographic of full timers is changing, however, but the work kamping job market has been slow to change to accommodate those of us are financing our travels by working seasonal jobs. We do see some small changes in this area and I expect big changes in the next 10 years, but for right now few of these jobs have been a good fit for us.

What I have learned from trying them though is we can support ourselves that way if we need to.  It isn’t our preference, but it is workable.  (What we’re doing this summer is an excellent example of that. It pays $14.25 per hour and we each work about 35 hours per week, but between the type of work it is and the split shift schedule, it takes enough out of us that it feels a lot more like a sticks and bricks lifestyle. – Lee) This gives me the freedom to be choosier about what types of mobile professional jobs I take.  We aren’t desperate and we know there is work out there, so I can be sure I am not jumping from a less than ideal situation into a worse one.  One thing I absolutely have achieved is less stress.  These jobs may be unpleasant and they are not totally without some stress, but it doesn’t come close to what I was experiencing in my former profession.  My ideal job would be something of relatively short duration, in a nice place,  where I could use my skills and contribute to the betterment of society in some way.  I am fully aware that is a tall order, but at this point I don’t believe it is an impossible goal.

I’m not sure what Lee is going to choose to do. He has talked about trying to get a small business off the ground, but that will require some stretching on his part and a considerable amount of non-revenue generating time to get it started. We have some money in the bank, a really varied skill set, and relatively low monthly costs so whatever we decide to try I think we will be OK. We just need to stretch ourselves.

Which sort of brings me back full circle to my original point.  Once again our desire for this roving lifestyle will be the catalyst for change. We don’t know where that change will lead us, but as long as we love each other and take care of each other, things will be alright and probably we will end up in a better place than where we started.  We usually do.  That alone makes me grateful we started down this path.  Plus, as we are walking along the path,  the view is really amazing.  Seriously, you cannot put any sort of price tag on that.

Thanks for the question and giving us a chance to write about it.


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.