Second Time Gate Guarding

After leaving Columbus and getting our furnace fixed (which is working great…hooray!) we made a beeline for Texas.  A couple of reasons for that.  First, we made less money than we thought we would at Amazon, and we needed to get some funds in the bank as quick as possible, but we also felt like the sooner we got there the better our chance of getting a gate. Lee has been monitoring the gate guarding Facebook group we are a part of and was seeing some opportunities in West Texas.  Unfortunately, you need to physically be in Texas to qualify for one of those since the need is almost always immediate, so we knew the sooner we got there the better.

The big question was where would we stay while we were waiting. We have friends who are spread throughout Texas, but most had plans for the holidays and we also didn’t want to go to a place just to turn around and leave.  And Texas is a pretty big state, so when we hit Texarkana Thursday night I asked Lee to call one of the Gate guarding companies and nail things down a little bit.  I liked the company we worked for last year, but they are only offering $125 and Lee wanted to maximize how much we made so he reached out to another company that was offering $175.  We knew about them from people on the group and since most folks were positive about their experience we decided to give them a try.  This decision was further reinforced by the fact that they have a “yard” with full hookups so we could park there and wait until a gate became available, so we headed south of San Antonio.

We knew it would be a long driving day, and since we were essentially going in a diagonal we had a couple of choices.  Take Texas State highways through a variety of small towns, or take the interstate and skirt Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio.   Neither choice was great for a long driving day, but ultimately we decided to go the interstate and thankfully we timed it so we missed quite a bit of traffic.  We also spent a bunch of time on a toll turnpike that bypassed Austin, which which was good, since we hit that area right around 5pm on Friday. It’s definitely not the way we like to travel and we really don’t like arriving at our destination in the dark, but in this case we just wanted to get there.  We switched drivers at every stop, which is one of the advantages of only having one vehicle, and rolled into the yard at 8pm.

Unfortunately it wasn’t that easy to find the entrance gate, and then Lee couldn’t get the lock to open with the combination we were given, but thankfully another guard rolled up and showed him how to open it. Since there are only three rigs back here, that was pretty amazing, and we thankfully backed into the spot and sort of collapsed. The only exciting thing that happened the rest of the night was Lee got up from his chair at one point and almost stepped on a mouse.  Lee said that right before that he saw some quick movement near a tire out of the corner of his eye while he was outside smoking, so he’s pretty sure it just came in to check us out after we got here, and hopefully it has left since the trap he set was empty this morning, and we haven’t seen or heard the little guy since. It’s 52 degrees here at 7am, which is like a heat wave compared to up north, so hopefully he will go back into the field he came from. (There’s also a cat that lives on the property, so we’re not too worried. Lots of people we know have had mouse issues over the years, and we’ve been very lucky with only two in all the time we’ve been on the road, and both of those were only in residence for a short time. I find that a little peanut butter on these works really well. – Lee) 

Parked in the yard

Lots and lots of extra tanks sitting around. These trailers are what they park on the remote site for water, electric, and sometimes sewer. The orange-ish tanks are diesel fuel, the short blank tanks are water, and the large green tanks are sewer. The tiny white tanks are treated water, part of the sewer tank system.

Thankfully we didn’t see the mouse again…Lee scared him I’ll bet, and we did have a full day to get some errands done.  We were initially told someone would be onsite to do our paperwork, but when no one showed by 2pm we called and learned they wouldn’t be coming until Monday.  That was fine, since Lee still had time to go to Costco and along the way he stopped at a couple Half Price Books Stores. We knew we would have lots of time on our hands and books are a great way to fill that time, so we had stopped and picked up some books in Columbus.  I was missing a few to complete a couple of series and luckily Lee found exactly what I needed.  I was pretty excited about that, and even more excited when we picked up all of the network affiliates with our antenna, because finally I was going to get to watch a game the following day.  I haven’t watched a football game all year because we couldn’t get TV in either Oregon or Campbellsville, and was pretty excited about just chilling on Sunday and organizing the RV.

That was not meant to be, because at 9am we received a call from the Gate Guarding company.  They had a placement they needed to fill immediatetly because of a last minute cancellation and wanted to know if we could head to West Texas.  She was very clear that we didn’t have to accept the position and felt pretty bad about making us drive so far, but we figured we would end up in West Texas anyway and the $175 daily rate was what we wanted. Last year we only made $125 a day for South Texas, and that extra $1500 a month is significant.  So we packed up quickly and were on the road within the hour and headed towards Odessa, TX.

Because it was Sunday and New Year’s Eve the roads were pretty empty, but Texas is a big state and things just take time.  We knew we wouldn’t get there until after dark, and talked about stopping somewhere close, but after talking to the company rep and the folks we were replacing we decided to head directly to the site.  We were a bit surprised that they were going to pull right out, but it made more sense when we got there.  The pad is small, as in we weren’t sure we would fit small, and no way could we both be there.  Plus it got colder and colder the farther north we went and by the time we got to the site it was 17 degrees, snowing slightly, and the wind was really bitter.  They helped us back up and get hooked up to electric (water was frozen, but we learned from last time and came with a full tank of fresh water) and gave us a brief overview of the gig.  Each gate is totally different, and this one seems much busier than the one we were on last year, so this should be interesting.

Unfortunately I wasn’t dressed for the cold at all.  I was shivering as we talked it through and finally ran inside the rig to get some ear muffs, which helped a little. Needless to say we got set up as quickly as possible and then said our goodbye’s and they headed down the road.  So here we were in the freezing cold, barely sure what we were doing, but hey we were in it together!  I was feeling like things would work out OK, when Lee casually mentioned that I shouldn’t be afraid if a coyote came to the door.  What?!!???!??  Apparently the guy we took over for has been feeding the coyotes at night and according to him he was feeding them out of his hand.  Since I work nights, that means they might be looking for the same treatment from me but that is absolutely not going to happen.  At first I thought he was kidding Lee, but Lee said nope he was dead serious, and I think the coyote story kind of put me over the edge a little bit.  Eventually I calmed down a bit but I’ll be honest it was touch and go for a minute.

This won’t be the worst thing we have done in the last three years.  It is going to be cold for the next couple of days, but we held onto our beet harvest clothes, and more importantly it is supposed to warm up significantly later in the week. so if we can just get through the next couple of days, we should be fine. Did I mention I didn’t have a chance to adjust my sleep schedule so I’ll be pulling an “all nighter”? Well there are worse things.  The woman I am replacing is 72 years old and she was standing out in the cold getting on with it so I definitely can as well.  And along those lines there are a couple of good things I wanted to mention.  First Lee found a warm spot by the generator.  The side of the generator cabinet has an grill where the air filter is, and nice hot air comes out of it. If you look closely at the picture below, you can see Lee’s hat next to the driver’s door of the truck, he’s standing right in front of that “heater”. It’s also less windy there, so that’s nice. Also the lighting is very good, which I appreciate, and best of all doesn’t completely light up the back of the rig where we sleep.  Lastly, we have an old fashioned hose and bell chime which is what used to be used at gas stations back in the old days when someone would come out and pump the gas. What’s great about it is that’s operated by air pressure in the hose, so no worries about “falsing” due to cats, birds, hungry coyotes, wind etc.  That was a huge problem for me at night on the last gig and I was really happy they provided us this kind.

Settled in for the night at least. Need to unhitch and level but that can definitely wait until tomorrow.

 

Our lights are across from us so one side of the rig is dark which is nice.

 

Old fashioned bell

 

And this is the hose that stretches away in both directions so we can hear if anyone is coming in or out. Working great so far!

 

Lee taking advantage of the heat.  You can tell by the smile he is happy about that.

So it isn’t all bad, and I am sure we will get acclimated quickly.  The good thing about doing this for the second time is we have a much better idea of what we are doing.  Stay tuned for future updates and Happy New Year to all of our readers.  If I don’t say it enough, we really appreciate your following along and all of the support!  We have a strong cell signal here at the gate, so as long as you keep reading, we will keep the posts coming.


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 available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

Amazon Work Kamping Overview

Disclaimer:  We  are not spokespersons or officially affiliated with Amazon in any way. This account is of our personal experience as seasonal employees in the Cambellsville, KY distribution center in 2017.  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 and are not intentional.  

For those who are only interested in the summary of our experience at Amazon, we have provided this post.  It is important to say that our experience is a subjective one, and is based on one season, in one fulfillment center.  Many people we met had a different experience so please keep in mind your mileage will certainly vary based upon the job you pick, the hours you work, the fulfillment center you are in, and the season you work in.  If you would like to start at the beginning and read the daily detailed posts of the experience you can start here. So let’s get started!

# of Days in Campbellsville – One of the nice things about Amazon if they have a truly wide variety of start dates (anywhere from late August to early December) and are pretty flexible with when you start.  This year the earliest start date was later than in previous years, which of course had an impact on how much money people made.  Since it was our first season and we had concerns about how much we would like the job we chose to start on October 30th, and with two non-working days on the front end we were there for 56 days.   Most of the people we met started earlier than us so keep that in mind when you look at income potential. 

# of Days Worked – The first week both of us worked a 6 day week, and every week after that we worked a 5 day work week. The good news is we were able to get overtime consistently, because last year we heard from several people that they were only able to get a few hours of overtime throughout the season.  The bad news was the hours were available to work 60 hours a week, but we never felt that we were physically able to do that. We ended up working 40 days which resulted in 377 paid hours each.  Of those hours 64 were overtime and the rest was straight time. 

Income Generated – Our gross income earned (including the extra $1 per regular hour and $1.50 per overtime hour we received as an end of season bonus) was $11,825.  On the surface that is a nice chunk of money, but I want to break that down a little bit.  Taxes in Kentucky are on the high side.  We claimed zero exemptions and between the 1% county tax, 5% state tax, and federal,  they withheld around 25% in taxes, and more on the bonus check.  From a cash flow perspective this was significant. Most our our work has taken place in states with little or no taxes, and we were surprised when our weekly pay checks came in at $495 each for a 50 hour week.   Ultimately our combined net income for the job was $7953.50, which was the number we used to determine whether the job was worth it, in our view. To give you some basis of comparison we netted around $410 per week at our summer camp hosting job and were only working 34 hours per week. So the extra 6 hours of straight time and 10 hours of overtime each week at Amazon, netted us only about $85 per week each. 

Physical Exertion –  The physical exertion of our job as Pickers was pretty intense.  When picking we walked on average 27,240 steps or roughly 12 miles each shift.  Most of that walking was on concrete, which for me caused some major issues.  In order to combat this I invested in new shoes ($64), special pain reliever foot cream ($20), epsom salts ($8), compression socks ($20), several types of sole inserts ($50), and went through an entire bottle of Advil ($18) for a total of around $180.  These items helped me avoid planters fasciitis, but didn’t stop my feet from hurting.  The pain started a couple of days in and didn’t stop until nearly a week after we left, except for the week that we worked solely in pack.  For the record we also walked much less while we worked in pack, averaging roughly 3.25 miles a day.  We also experienced a variety of other pains and minor strains while we were there, but thankfully avoided any injury that required us to miss work.  Those types of injuries were somewhat common though, as the pace of the work was somewhat unrelenting.  In contrast, Lee held up very well physically.  We were concerned about his back, which has given him problems in the past, but aside from a few minor aches and pains he held up very well. There was also an upside to all that activity as Lee lost 8 pounds and I lost 5 while we were there.  My legs (calves in particular) also gained some great definition from all that walking. 

Work Pace – More than any other job we have had the pace of this job was relentless.  Unlike most jobs, where slow periods allow for extra breaks or working slower, this job required near constant movement.  When the pick volume was low, the computer would lengthen your walking routes, actually adding more steps to the day.  There were the occasional slow periods where we could move a little slower, but there never was a time when we received an extra break or were allowed to sit down.  This is in direct contradiction to most work kamping jobs we have had and the 10 solid hours on my feet was tough for me.  The pace was also set by a bar on a hand held scanner.  Although as Camperforce we were only required to do 85% of the productivity of the regular employees our pacing bar did not take that into account.  So you have to deliberately slow yourself down and although many people were successful at doing this, neither Lee nor I seemed to be. We routinely worked at 130% of the daily productivity metrics which resulted in an average of 865 picked items per shift.

In order to really get a feel for the physical toll the job took on me you will need to read the detailed posts, but I consider myself in decent shape and this job kicked my butt! Neither one of us felt capable of working a 60 hour week and aside from a few dinners and one trip to a bourbon distillery, we didn’t have the energy to explore the area.  That was a real disappointment to me.  I was very excited about working a job where we were near friends and had days off to explore the area, but that didn’t happen.  Mammoth Cave National Park was very close by and we had several nice weather days we could have gone, but I couldn’t face any additional walking.

Weather/Campgrounds – Speaking of weather, for the most part we got very lucky there.  Kentucky is a bit of a mixed bag weather-wise this time of year and we had a good season.  Lots of sunshine, minimal rain, and it didn’t get really cold until the very end. Temperatures were below freezing though towards the end and we had a couple of very cold days.  The temperatures inside the facility were mostly good.  The management team tried very hard to regulate temperatures and although there were hot and cold spots in the warehouse it was much better than working outside would have been.  The campgrounds were also very nice.  They had several to choose from and depending on your personal preferences, there seemed to be something for everyone.  Our campground was right across the street from where we worked and had excellent 50 amp electric.  They also did a great job with our mail and the campground was nice and quiet throughout the week.  

Quality of Work – More than any other category this is very subjective so please keep that in mind as you read my thoughts.  I thought the management team was excellent, and liked all of the people we worked with.  Likewise our experiences with the locals was largely positive and we found the small town atmosphere very appealing. The company absolutely understands work kampers and did a nice job of working with our particular constraints throughout the season.  The problem for us was the work itself.  In our particular job, there was a ton of time to think and very little opportunity to socialize.  This is different in the different jobs, but in picking you are largely doing your own thing throughout the 10 hour day.  For some people this was a huge advantage, but for others like Lee is was pretty unpleasant. The atmosphere of micro management can also be a major problem for some people.  I like rules and am fine with them as long as I understand upfront what needs to be done, but I have never worked for a company that was this rigid.  They have reports for almost everything, and any time your stats or behavior deviate from the norm, it’s likely someone will be talking to you about that.  They have a points system for attendance (clocking in and out is regulated by minutes) and daily reports on productivity stats.  Although these rules are relaxed somewhat for Camperforce, the overall atmosphere is one in which you are closely monitored.  Add to that mostly boring job tasks and the physical exertion and this can be a bad combination for some people. Again, some people are totally fine with the atmosphere, but others struggle, and it is not uncommon for people to start the job and then leave prior to the end of the season.  If you leave before the end you generally do not get your bonus, which makes the job much less profitable. 

Safety – This is one area that Amazon does very well in my opinion.  We had daily meetings before our shift and after lunch and they always talked about safety tips.  The facility is well marked with different types of safety tape and there are areas you cannot be in without a safety vest on.  Any time there was a safety issue, they took great pains to discuss the incident with us and more than any company I have ever worked for, seemed committed to providing a safe environment. 

So what are my thoughts overall?  I liked the people and the management team very much and spending time with other work kampers was very nice.  I think their Camperforce program is very strong and appreciated all the extras they provided like free T-Shirts, gift cards (we received $70 worth), Amazon logo items, and a couple of free lunches.  At the end of the day though, I just don’t feel we made enough money for the work that we did.  Coming from the west we spent $1,000 in gas to get there and then another $800 to get back to Texas, and we didn’t make enough to cover our monthly bills and pay for the gas, let alone put money back in the bank.  The work was physically hard, it took a mental toll that neither one of us was prepared for, and ultimately we didn’t have the energy to explore the area.  Experiences do vary wildly though. We met people who were returning for their seventh season and we met others who only lasted a few days.    So my recommendation is that if you are on the East Coast already, and you were looking to supplement your income, it might be a good choice for you.  It’s just very important that you are honest with yourself about what you can handle physically and be prepared to move on if it is more than you bargained for.  

Start up meetings

 

Our new home at Heartland Campground

 

Pretty sunsets were pretty common

 

Thanksgiving dinner with our fellow work kampers

 

Joint birthday celebration

 

Visiting the Jim Beam distillery

 

Margarita’s with Bill and Kelly

 

My new shoes which were a lifesaver

 

Picking

 


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 available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

 

 

 

 

Finally Got Our Furnace Fixed

After leaving Amazon we had two choices.  Go north to Columbus for Christmas, or head straight to Texas to get started gate guarding. After some discussion we decided to head north for a quick visit.  Two main reasons for the decision.  First, my brother’s son was three this year, and I really wanted to be with his family Christmas morning.  Two years ago I had the opportunity to be with my sister’s son for his first Christmas and the opportunity to be with my brother was important to me.  For me, Christmas with little kids can’t be beat, and it definitely didn’t disappoint.

The second reason was our furnace is still not working.  The blower comes on, but it is not firing consistently.  Even the few times we could get it to work, it would stop working after a while.  So once again we were faced with when and where to get it fixed.  We called the company in Columbus who “fixed” it the first time when we were there October and they are closed for the holidays, but open to walk-ins only on the 27th.  Essentially we show up without an appointment and it’s first come/first serve.  Since the warranty company will not pay for the same work twice, we felt we should at least try to get these folks to fix the problem, but based on past experience neither one of us is very hopeful.

(For anyone who is wondering why I didn’t just fix this myself, especially since I went to RV tech school, there’s a couple of reasons. First, the actual removal of the furnace is just ridiculous. In addition to the very hard to reach location, there are 6 duct hoses that need to be removed, as well as the gas line and the wiring. On one of our “repairs” to the furnace, the tech left all of the hoses  disconnected, and it took me four hours to reattach them. If you’ve never done something before, there’s a learning curve. And I had to come out 4 times to reposition my body to to even that small thing. Second, the furnace sits on a wooden platform, which has to be disassembled to take out the furnace, while the furnace is supported with one hand. I honestly don’t think I have the forearm strength to do that. And finally, while I could definitely swap out a sail switch, or a limit switch, or a blower, or maybe even a gas valve, I have no way to test a control board. Add to that the fact that we have a warranty, and it just made sense to have a pro do it. Sadly, the pro experience is often not what it should be. – Lee)

We got into Columbus Friday evening and spent some time with family.  Lee is helping his parents with a few projects and I went to lunch with my Mom and her family.  Mom did sell her house by the way, and she bought a place near Myrtle Beach.  My mom doesn’t mess around when she’s made a decision, and before we even got here she had moved out of her house, sent most of her stuff down with the movers, and on December 27th she is heading to her new oceanfront condo.  Really excited for her, because she got exactly what she was looking for at a price she could afford. I spent Christmas morning with my brother and his two kids which was great, Christmas isn’t the same without little kids around, and then we hung out an extra day waiting for the RV Dealership to open after their holiday break.

When we go to my in-laws we park in front of their house, and stay in the house with them, which is usually not a problem if it is for a short stay.  It’s rare that the weather gets this cold this quick in Columbus, so we rolled the dice and chose not to winterize the rig before traveling up.  Winterizing is not a small project and since we were only going to be there a few days we definitely didn’t want to mess with that.  So we hooked a small space heater up to a long extension cord, put it in the basement of the rig and that was enough to keep the temperatures above freezing.  But the day after Christmas the temps plummeted and suddenly we were dealing with temps in the single digits and -6 windchill.

These rigs really aren’t meant to work in this kind of cold and although you can set them up and live in them in winter conditions (our friend Jim wrote a great post on how he got through a winter in Michigan), this is not something that can easily be done when your RV is on the street in front of someone’s house, especially when your furnace isn’t working.  So we crossed our fingers and thankfully, got through the first cold night, but we knew if we stayed longer we would definitely be pushing our luck. So we packed everything up, said our goodbyes, and headed to the RV dealership about 20 minutes away with the very faint hope the issue could be found and solved in one day. (The space heater worked really well, it never got below about 40 in the “basement” and a lot of the heat worked it’s way up into the kitchen and bathroom, which never got below freezing either. – Lee)

Before I go any farther let me explain that last comment.  We were talking to my father-in-law Denny about this and he was having a hard time understanding why we were so concerned and after we ran him through our history with getting work done on the rig he said he hadn’t read any of that in the blog. It occurred to me I have shied away from this particular issue, but Denny said “Let them have it” so here I am going to talk about this a bit.  Please keep in mind, all experiences are different and I don’t speak for all RVers, but my thoughts are based both on our experiences, what I have personally witnessed happening to others,  and anecdotal stories from our friends.

In my opinion, one of the worst parts of being a full time RVer is when you need repairs.  First, it is my home, so while the work is being done I need to find someplace else to be.  If the work strings over multiple days, I need to not only be gone during the day but also move my home every night or if I am lucky I get to stay in the bay or on the dealers lot. If I am lucky enough to have someplace else to stay, I have to pack up my stuff and hope I have everything I need since everything I own is in my house.  Compare it to having major construction done on your house, where you can’t live there, or if you do stay you have to be gone at the crack of dawn since most service departments start working at 7am.  Same thing. Yes, some service bays have nice waiting rooms, but you still need to buy food and find something to do while you wait.

Which takes me to the next problem.  These are recreational vehicles and, in my opinion, the sense of urgency just isn’t the same as if you have a major home repair.  Even if the repair shop is familiar with full time RVers and even if they tell you they can accommodate the fact that you live in the RV, in general these repairs aren’t quick.  A couple of reasons for that.  First and foremost these businesses are generally in the business of selling RV’s first, and fixing them second.  Most have service bays to perform repairs on RV’s they sell and their money is made on supporting that customer base.  As a person who bought their RV somewhere else, you get in line with the locals, and in my experience will get bumped by one of their local customers if something comes up.  Most service centers also don’t stock a ton of parts.  They will have some common ones, but anything complicated and you need to wait and depending on the problem you are experiencing you may not be able to move the rig independently until the work is done.

So let me run you through how this happens, and again this is based on both our own experience and many other people we know.  You are going down the road and develop some kind of an issue that needs to be resolved.  If you are lucky you can continue to travel until you find a service center that works with full time RVers.  You know this by calling them, telling them you are traveling and living in your RV and ask how they handle this.  They will either have answers on how they handle this or they won’t.  You’ll know pretty quickly. If they don’t have answers and it is an emergency situation, you will just have to work with them to figure it out.  Either way, the person you talk to on the phone is generally a service coordinator and regardless of what they say your experience may change when you arrive.

You arrive on site at the dealer and walk into the service area.  The first question is, do we unhitch?  Many dealers use their own vehicles to pull you into their bay, and once you unhitch (which takes a while), you go inside and wait.  In my experience it takes at least an hour to even get you into a bay and that is if you are lucky.  Even if you have an appointment, their bays are full, and it’s only until someone else’s work is done that a spot becomes available. Even if it’s pulled into the bay it doesn’t mean the work starts.  Rarely are there enough techs to cover everything in the bay, so they work from a priority list.  This is where the RV’s who were purchased locally come into play.  Even if you have an appointment and arrive on time, if someone who bought there comes in that morning, odds are they will be pushed to the top of the list.  This I have seen personally on more than one occasion, especially at busy service centers.

At this point you have two choices.  You can leave and find something to do, or you can wait in the waiting area.  The problem with leaving is “out of sight out of mind”.  Most people in that service bay have homes to go to, so they drop them off and pick them up when they are done.  Their repairs can take weeks and unless they have a vacation or something coming up they may not care.  We are different.  We can’t wait weeks, but since we are the exception, we need to keep that fact right in front of the service folks.  So we sit and wait.  We talk to employees.  We ask for status updates on our rig.  It helps, especially in the smaller service centers, but it isn’t perfect.  And it isn’t perfect because of the knowledge levels of the technicians.

Most basic problems we handle ourselves.  The only time we would go to a service center if something major is wrong and that means we need a senior tech.  In my experience, most service centers only have a couple of those, so not only are you waiting your turn for a tech, but you are waiting for a senior tech.  Despite having called and given details on the problem he is rarely assigned to the rig. So here is how it goes.  You arrive and wait to get it pulled into the bay.  A junior tech works on the problem for a while.  He diagnoses the simple thing, which you know isn’t it because you have already looked at that.  Right before lunch time they finally call in a senior tech.  The senior tech doesn’t trust what the junior tech did, so he starts the diagnosis all over.  He’s much faster though and eventually determines the problem.  At this point they go see if they have the part.  If you are really lucky it’s in stock, but even if they do have it, the senior tech can’t necessarily fix it that day because he has to finish the job he was pulled from when they called him to look on your rig.  If they don’t have the part it generally takes a couple of days to get in, even if you are willing to pay extra.

Now you have to figure out what to do for the night.  Are they leaving it in the bay and you are staying in it or are they pulling it out and letting you stay on the lot?  Or worst case, do they not allow either and you have to hitch up, go to a local campground, and come back when the part is in.  And all of this is assuming, by the way, they figure out the problem the first day.  At this point you might be thinking, what is the big deal?  The idea that we are all footloose and fancy free and have nothing but time is a nice one, but for most people that is actually rarely the case.  We have people we are supposed to see, campground reservations to change, weather related issues, or  work commitments we need to meet.  So we have to choose.  Do we kick the can down the road and live with the issue, or do we change our schedule and get the work done?  Either way, it’s rough to have your plans turned completely upside down and it’s stressful.  In our case we tend to avoid stressful situations when we can, which is why we haven’t had a working furnace for over a year.  We have tried on three occasions to get the problem fixed, and it hasn’t been.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that.  If they say they think they have fixed the problem, but it reoccurs, this can be a major issue.  Not as big of a deal if you are still in the same area, but if you have moved on, which is likely, now you have to start all over.  And our warranty company won’t pay for the same repair twice, so the second time it is on our dime.  Yes, I suppose we could turn around and go back to the place that did the work originally, but that doesn’t always work with our travel schedule. Let me put it this way:  Have you ever had a red light come on in your car and your service tech couldn’t figure out why?  You take it back multiple times and they just can’t figure it out, or worse, it doesn’t happen in their shop…frustrating right?  Now imagine the same thing was happening, except you have to take it to a new tech in a new city every time.  Oh, and all your stuff is in your car and you can’t access it while they are working on it. And you are not sure where you are going to sleep that night because they keep your car and don’t have a loaner program. I know I am pushing the analogy here, but you get the point.

So taking all that into account, perhaps you can see why we weren’t hopeful when we pulled into the dealer at 9am.  It started with their computers were down and they had to dig through files to find our hard copy paperwork.  Then they had to “open a space in the bay” for our rig.  That in itself is telling.  9am appointment, and they weren’t ready for us when we arrived. Hmmmm.  The reason they did this quickly was because it was below freezing and there was no heat source in the RV.  When the service manager told me not to worry and that  it would take some time to freeze up, I countered with are you willing to accept responsibility if it does?  That at least got us into the bay a lot faster?  And to her credit, she assigned us a senior tech first.  Since they had done the original work and I made it clear we were on our way out of town, she pushed me to the front of the line.  That could have gone a different way, but I am grateful that she did.

Then Lee had to remove items from the basement.  You can’t access the furnace without removing stuff, and since it was too cold to do that outside, he got to go into the bay.  Initially they said they would do it, but he was having none of that.  And once he was out there he just stayed.  This, by the way, works really well.  If you are standing there, you can watch what is happening and make sure they stay focused, but it is a little tricky.  Many service centers won’t let you in the bay, but some will turn a blind eye if you don’t cause any issue or slow down the techs.  So basically Lee stood there for two hours while they diagnosed the problem. (I just smiled at everyone a lot, and sort of strolled around the rig, looking harmless. Quite a few people looked like they were wondering why I was back there, but if I made eye contact for more than a few seconds I just turned around and looked intently at some part of the rig, and they wandered off. Path of least resistance, let someone else tell me I can’t be back there. I also lucked out because my tech was just a really nice guy and had lots of questions about full timing and wanted to tell me all about his awesome kids. I listened, and offered to hand him tools or just stay out of his way. I also asked lots of questions, without being a pain in the ass, because most people like to talk about what they are doing. And for anyone interested, here’s what it looks like when a person has to get to the furnace. – Lee)


They pulled out the furnace, put it on a bench and hooked it to a battery and a propane tank, and were able to immediately duplicate the problem.  That was good.


Then multiple techs got involved trying to figure out what it was.  They spent well over an hour fiddling with it. Finally the lead tech came out and told them to “stop screwing around playing detective” and just replace the easiest part and see if that worked.  (I actually appreciated that they were being so thorough. I think the number one problem with these places is that they want to get people in, and get them out, and that often results in partial or misdiagnosed problems. And usually when someone is “tinkering” it means they are invested in what they are doing, and that’s how things get done well. The hardest part for me was staying out of it. Not my playground, not my swing set. – Lee) So they replaced the sail switch.  Important point here.  Two of three times we have had service on the furnace the last year they said the replaced the sail switch but we don’t know if that was actually done. The part didn’t look brand new.

(Here’s a picture of the inside of the blower cover. The sail switch sits in the path of the air, and as long as the blower is moving air at the right speed, it pushes the long metal piece (the “sail”) and that pushes down the teeny tiny black button that can barely see on the right side, just to the right of the “123P”. If it doesn’t work, the gas valve won’t open. This is a safety feature, and an important one, because without the blower moving air, the heat just builds up inside the furnace until it catches fire. Well, technically that’s not likely, because there’s also a high temperature limit switch, as an additional safety feature, but I wouldn’t risk bypassing any safety feature. – Lee)

One teeny tiny little part.  Those are my fingers for scale, which are pretty small.

The tech replaced it and then tested the furnace outside the rig for an over an hour and could not get it to fail.  Then he put it back into the rig and again Lee and he tested it for an hour and it did not fail.  During all of this, they gave me a loaner car, which was very nice, and I went out and got Lee some lunch.  I sat in the waiting room, but he never left the rig.

We pulled out around 2pm and then we drove south until around 8pm trying to hit some warmer weather.  Even with a working furnace, there are still concerns about freezing and even though we made it to Franklin, KY (just a couple of miles north of the TN border) it was still pretty cold.  We used the furnace and a space heater under the rig, just to be safe, and I am glad we did because it was cold enough last night that the insulated and heated water spigots at the campground froze.  So, no showers for us this morning, but we are headed for warmer climes.  I know it’s only 45 degrees in many places, but I will take anything above freezing at this point.  It is just a lot simpler. (We’re headed to the Corpus Christi area, but I’m not going to stop driving until it’s above freezing, I don’t care if we end up in Bahia Thetis. I’m not kidding. – Lee) 

 

 


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 available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

 

Merry Christmas from DeDe’s House

I love Christmas and I learned that love from my Mother who also loved Christmas.  But no one I know, and I mean no one, does Christmas like Dede.  Walking into her decorated house is like walking into a Christmas store…but one you want to sit down in and hang out for a while.  It’s amazing in both scale and detail and there is no way I could adequately capture it in pictures.  But I did my best and I thought I would share it with you.   Merry Christmas everyone and I hope you have a lovely day.

There are 9 Christmas trees this year in the house and this one rotates slowly so you can see all the ornaments.

 

It contained both our North Pole Christmas ornament we sent her

 

And she turned the bird feeder we bought her into a temporary ornament. She added birds of course!

 

The fireplace mantel next to the tree

 

And every available space has small, carefully crafted vignettes

This light-up picture was so cute

 

And the bucket of snow balls were fun

 

Plus everyone’s favorite the giggle snowman which sits right next to Denny’s chair. It’s laugh is an actual child’s and is infectious.

 

None of the rooms get ignored. This really cute set was in on top of the guest toilet

 

And this little guy is new. When you go into the bathroom, he starts talking to you, which freaked me out a little the first time it happened 🙂

 

And what’s a master bath without its own Christmas tree?

 

 

The master bedroom has a beach themed Christmas tree and the details on this are exquisite

Glass puffer fish ornament

The base of the tree is covered in net and shells

One of my favorite trees was this little guy in the dining room that was in a popcorn bucket. So cute.

There was also this hanging one for the back door

 

And kitchen specific decorations of course

 

These Santas are made from gourds. Really neat

 

Love this little guy

 

The formal living room has so much I couldn’t capture it all.

 

And of course its own tree

Love the square snowman

And there is a giant train over the front door

And that is just the downstairs. The steps going to the second floor are full

Leading to my favorite tree which is candy themed

And I asked her if there were any elves left in the city of Columbus lol

Each of the bedrooms has its own tree

And I love this one which is actually half a tree and goes right up against the wall. Never seen anything like this

Very full and just ends at the wall. Great idea for small apartments

If anyone is wondering how she can possibly have all this stuff, after Christmas she hits the 90% off sales.  At those prices all of these things are much more affordable and of course this is a collection built over many years.  When I went to the store to get some presents for my niece and nephew and I wanted to contribute to the collection, and was lucky enough to stumble across an ornament of a camper, which is not something you see every day. It now has a place of pride on the tree in the living room and it made me happy that she liked it so much.

So Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of our readers.  I didn’t really do her house justice, but I hope you enjoyed this sneak peek.


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 available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

 

First Time at Amazon Day 37 – 40…The End

Disclaimer:  We  are not spokespersons or officially affiliated with Amazon in any way. This account is of our personal experience as seasonal employees in the Cambellsville, KY distribution center in 2017.  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 and are not intentional.  To start at the beginning of our Amazon experience, click here for the first Amazon post. 

Day 37

Before I start I wanted to share some TV we have been watching.  A friend of Lee’s recently participated in a Food Network show called Guy’s Big Project and won the opportunity to have his own show on the Food Network.  The show is called Grill Dads and it’s really really good. Despite my love of cooking I am not a huge fan of cooking shows, but this one is different. The two dads know lots about food but because they aren’t professional chefs, they explain the food in a way I can understand.  Plus they are FUNNY. If you travel, it’s a great way to find unusual restaurants (they are focusing on “out there” food) and if you cook there have been a few items so far even I think I can replicate (hamburger with grilled cheese for the bread anyone!)  Either way it’s a great show and I really recommend you check it out. (There was another contestant on the show that also won his own series, and it’s also very good, called Eat Sleep BBQ. Check them both out! – Lee)

We also took the recommendation of our kids and watched a how called The Marvelous  Mrs. Maisel.  It’s an Amazon show, and available to stream on Prime, and for my money the best written and acted television show I have seen in a long long time.  So glad that they picked it up for another season because it is definitely on our most watched list. The show is set in New York in the 60’s and the details and nuance are spectacular.  Seriously, it is so good, I don’t even have the words to adequately explain it, so try and episode and see for yourself.

OK, back to Amazon.  We are in the home stretch now, and hanging in knowing this is our last week.  We are slowly saying our goodbyes to people (we don’t always see the folks who work other shifts every day) and putting one sore foot in front of the other.  Our morning was pretty normal, with picking, although we found out at the end of the day that Lee won last night’s power hour.  They divided the winners between the three groups (Camperforce, regulars or “blue badges”, and Integrity, the temp employees), which in my mind gave me a fighting chance.  I tried and did 147 that hour which felt pretty good considering my pick paths.  Lee, who didn’t even try and barely knew it was happening, was one of the winners.  Figures!  So that was another $10 gift card which takes us up to $60 all told.  I think it’s really great that they do that, and although we haven’t won any of the larger prizes ($100 gift cards, Kindles, or 50 inch TV’s) we do personally know 4 people who have won them. Personally I appreciate that they are doing the giveaways and the fact that they are spreading the winners out among all the groups and shifts.

For the first time I put my name on the volunteer list (a list to volunteer to work in another area) and was called to go to pack.  They sent me to the Studio (which is an area upstairs I had never been to) and I did singles for the rest of the night.  Singles are much easier from a mental standpoint than multi’s, but the pace is faster and I definitely was feeling it in my back and shoulders.  Still my feet were happy with me for standing on thick rubber and I wished I had signed up sooner.  I am pretty sure you have to be officially cross-trained in an area to be eligible to be moved, but since we are cross-trained in pack that works for us.  It’s also nice to split the day doing something else, although I can definitely see how doing any of the jobs all day would take a toll.

The problem for me is the pace.  It’s pretty relentless, and set for the blue badges, and even though we are allowed to work at 85% of that, it’s hard to make the mental adjustment.  I just don’t have it in me to work slower than those around me, especially when the workload is high, and although I can force myself to slow down for short periods, I just naturally fall into a rhythm that matches those around me. Lee, by the way, is doing much better than I am physically.  He excels at packing and picking and his pace matches or exceeds most of the full time employees, with minimal physical effects.  His problem lies more in the atmosphere of the place and I really should take a moment and explain that.

Lee has never been a corporate guy, and except for a year long stint at a bank when we were kids has always worked for very small companies. And for the past 10 years of our sticks and bricks life he essentially worked for himself, answering only to a board of directors that left him completely alone to do his own thing with no interference. He is also a creative person and hates micro management in any form, so for him the constant oversight is very challenging.  He’s not alone in that by the way.  I met someone at the beet harvest who talked passionately about how much he hated that, and although I like those sorts of things and in an odd way find them comforting, Lee finds the atmosphere “toxic.”  OK, I know that is a strong word, but he has used it several times and I want to be VERY clear that the people are not causing this reaction.  He just doesn’t like working under such tight controls, and this whole season has been a real struggle for him mentally.  I’m going to leave it at that, but if you have a similar personality, please take that into account.  Yes, you can do anything for a short period of time, but don’t be surprised if you have a strong reaction.

Tracy:   17,988 steps ( 7.55 miles) (spent half a day in pack)
Items Picked:  474 due to a half day of picking.  No idea how much I packed. A lot.

Lee:    steps ( miles)
Items Picked: ()

Interesting Item Picked:  I ran across a Vecton hard case for Cards Against Humanity that I thought was cool.  We have all the expansion packs, but all the boxes are loose in our rig since they were purchased separately.  It would be nice to have a place to put all of them and it’s reasonably priced.  But the absolute winner is a Tyrian T-Shirt from Game of Thrones that Says “That’s what I do. I drink and I know things.”  Kelly you absolutely need to buy Bill one of these!!

Day 38

We worked half a day today, used our 5 hours of personal time, which was pretty great.  The most exciting thing was when I learned I had won the power hour from the previous day.  Hooray me!! I also won $10 more dollars in Burger King gift cards so that takes us up to $70.  We clocked out at 5:15pm, which was 5 hours from when we arrived, and then went to grab Kelly and Bill.  They also took half a day off, and after some discussion we all decided to go out and have Mexican food at Garcia’s. For a small town in Kentucky, the food was really good, and reasonably priced and my Margarita was yummy. In case it’s not clear by now, I absolutely adore these people.  They are wonderful friends to us and I feel incredibly blessed to have them in our lives. We are going to miss them terribly when we leave, but will see them at the reunion rally so that’s something. It’s hard leaving friends when you aren’t sure when you will get to see them next.

Bill and Kelly.  We are friends for life!

The margaritas were super yummy and Kelly and I both got a little tipsy but in a fun way 🙂

 

Tracy:   11,720 steps ( 4.89 miles) (half day)
Items Picked:  654 half day of picking.  

Lee:  8,100  steps ( 3.57 miles)
Items Picked: 425

Interesting Item Picked:  Once again I saw something new that completely stopped me in the aisle and this time it was a Phillips Home defibrillator machine. After learning about the new ones and how easy they are to use in our first aid class this summer, I can understand why it would be a benefit to have one of these in the house.  I picked three of them, and thought about how often we are in remote areas and with Lee’s medical history (his biological father has had nine heart attacks) would it be a good idea to carry one in the rig.  Then I started wondering about how to keep them charged (would prolonged boondocking have an impact) and where we would store it. I came home though half convinced on having one and then I saw the price tag.  $1200!!!  No disrespect to the makers, I am sure this is a very complicated machine, but this is completely out of our price range. The good news is now that they are out there I am sure they will go down in price eventually, but in the meantime there are many people who could use one of these but simply can’t afford them.  I can envision a day though where they are a common item in every house with people over a certain age, but they definitely need to work on that price point. 

Day 39

We went to bed early and woke up early so that we could meet our friends Georgia and Jim for breakfast.  They are a couple we raised our kids with in Keene, New Hampshire and they have finally taken the plunge, sold everything, and are moving to California.  Georgia’s son lives in California now and she loves the west coast, so they decided to make the move.  It is no small change.  Years of stuff to go through and sell, long time jobs to quit, it is a major move and we were so happy that they were able to route themselves so they could see us along the way.  We met them at Druthers, this little breakfast place we had heard about, and wow was it good.  Paper plates and counter service, but for $4.99 we had a spectacular breakfast and the coffee was very very good.  We sat for over two hours talking and catching up, but finally wished them a safe journey because we had to go into work.  I am sure we will be seeing them again soon.

Jim and Georgia…footloose and fancy free

Druthers even has a drive through and it was busy the whole time we were there

Old school diner counter

Oh my..so so good and perfect over medium eggs.  You know it’s good when I start eating before I take the picture.

When we went into work we found out the the fulfillment center had set all-time records the previous day, and was on pace to set more.  The team had processed a mind-boggling amount of packages and we spent a busy morning in pick.  The one exciting thing that happened was I turned a tight corner and knocked a plastic cover off of one of the conveyor belts.  It made a god awful racket and the day manager quickly came up the stairs.  I told her I had to break something before I left, but she just laughed and had someone call maintenance.  Then she stood there until they arrived to make sure no one hurt themselves.  If I haven’t said it enough before, I really, really like these managers.  I didn’t see any of them lose their patience one time and they really get work kampers.  I made sure I took the time to thank them all individually and I was glad I did because we ended up being in pack the last half of the day.

Tracy:   17,976 steps ( 7.51 miles) (half day)
Items Picked: I don’t know the numbers but we did get our percentages.  I was 173% productivity in pick and $132% in pack.   

Lee:    15,643 steps ( 6.91 miles)
Items Picked: 532. 188% in pick and 192% in pack.  The manager’s eyes widened a little when they read our numbers, which was gratifying. 

Interesting Item Picked/Packed: The weirdest thing I did all day was a very small gas mask repair kit. All I could think was “who has a gas mask?” and why would they need a repair kit for it.  Pretty strange.  My pick of the day though is a robe.  I like robes, and think they are a wonderful gift and throughout the season I have picked tons of them.  I was always pretty picky about the type of robe though so have looked with interest for the “perfect one” throughout the season.  It’s actually kind of funny because I don’t have a robe anymore. Since my bathroom is literally two steps from my bedroom and closet it doesn’t make a ton of sense, but I still like them.  Anyway, I found one today that I liked called Towel Selections. It’s 100% cotton, which is important in a robe, and has pockets, which I personally like.  So that’s my pick for best robe of the season, and I am glad I finally nailed this down before we left.  I have seriously looked at hundreds of robes and this one came to me at the very end. Of course this is based on sight only.  To really choose a robe you need to feel it, but I liked this one. 

Day 40

Kelly and Bill knocked on our door at 8:30am because they had been released early!  Apparently the bottom fell out of the orders (I think once you can’t get the item for Christmas anymore things really flatten out) and they were all released early.  The cool thing is they got paid for the whole day.   We had been told to make sure we said our goodbyes early and I am glad we did, because for them at least it was very sudden.  We aren’t sure when we are going to do our release meeting at this point, because there are only 6 Camperforce on our shift, but are planning for anything at this point. Lots of people must have been ready to go because folks started driving out of the campground less than an hour later.  Kind of a bummer for the night shift folks, since people were pretty loud, but nice for those who got early release.  Kelly and Bill are headed to Florida, so they were packing up and heading out, so we said our goodbyes, knowing we would see them again at the rally in March if nothing else.

On a side note, we weighed ourselves this morning and here are the results.  I started at 139 and now weigh 134 so I lost 5 pounds.  Lee started at 189 and is now at 180 so he lost 9 pounds.  Not bad, but not really the dramatic results we were both hoping for. I also took a few minutes and filled out our exit survey, so I thought I would share some of what I put here.  Our friend Kelly said they made some changes from surveys that were done two years ago, so obviously they read these.

What did we do well?

My Answer: The managers were excellent. They all did a terrific job.  They understand work kampers and were ALWAYS respectful and helpful in their dealings with us.  Big Fan!!  I thought your processes were really strong and liked how detailed the training was in particular our safety training.  I liked the emphasis on safety throughout the season and the fact that we had an opportunity to cross train in packing.  The full time employees we met were very helpful and the overall atmosphere was really good.  We felt welcomed and wanted which is no small thing.

What Can We do Better?

My Answer: There is a ton of information given but the communication could be stronger.  As mid-shift employees we had the opportunity to see all of the shifts and everyone wasn’t always on the same page.  Plus a ton of acronyms were used and as first time Amazon employees we often didn’t understand what people were talking about.  One-on-one communications were very good, but the group communications need some work. My major complaint about this was the lack of follow-up.  If the person I was talking to knew the answer it was fine, but many questions resulted in an “I’ll get back to you” and that often didn’t happen.  It’s important that every interaction results in an answer and this is definitely an area for improvement.

Additional Comments

As relatively  younger work kampers (51 and 49) our productivity stats were pretty good.  We routinely worked at over 130% productivity and as much as possible tried to keep pace with the regular employees in both pack and pick.  We were aware as work kampers that we could slow down and work a little slower, but it is in our nature to contribute as much as possible.  Unfortunately, for me, this led to some long and exhausting days and although I avoided any major injuries I was in pain a lot.  This is one area where I didn’t feel like I could go talk to someone and get some help.  The AmCare folks were very nice and provided bandaids, etc but unless you had a serious injury I felt like I was on my own.  And that’s when I really started to feel like a cog in a wheel.  We had the desire to work, the ability to contribute at a high level, but no ability to make minor job changes to help make the job easier physically or mentally. I see this taking place with your blue badge employees.  Folks are given different jobs (water spider, tote team, etc to change things up), but with work kampers those opportunities are pretty limited. This is where the system broke down for me.  I know we are here for a short time, and I know we need to be placed based upon business needs, but for us a little bit of work variety would have worked wonders.  I definitely think that would have been possible if a little more personal attention was given to the individual workers state of mind and physical well being.

Are you Interested in Returning Next Year?

I don’t think so.  We don’t mind hard work, but for us the compensation wasn’t high enough to warrant the physical toll the job took on us.  We worked 50 hours every week we were here, and I was in pain almost all of the time.  The opportunity to work in pack on some days helped quite a bit, but changing our job out was largely based on luck rather than strategy.  If we had the opportunity to cross train early and you offered more variety of jobs for work kampers I would definitely consider it.

We went into work and since we only have 6 work kampers on our shift I wasn’t sure what was going to happen.  Our manager, who had been out on paternity leave, came back and we were all glad we got to see him before we left.  He was obviously in catch up mode though and no one was sure when we were leaving.  We worked through first quarter (only picked 63 items per hour) and then worked most of 2nd quarter.  Managers came to talk to both Lee and I and our question was when were we going to get to leave???  It looked like they were going to make us wait until night shift left (probably around 8pm) and that was really bothering both of us.  Then at 4pm we got a call to go to the pick desk and were released from the shift.  That was awesome.  On the way out we were grabbed by our coordinator at the break room and brought in for a quick meeting.  All the department heads were there and even though there were only 6 of us, they took the time to talk to us and thank us.

As much as I appreciated the thanks, I really do feel like they missed an opportunity.  With such a small group they could have asked us a few questions about our experience, but instead we listened to them and then were given candy bars and we left.  It felt pretty routine, but again I did appreciate that they went to the trouble and I really appreciate that we got paid for the remainder of the day.  Lee went and got a haircut and I worked on getting the house buttoned up so we could leave first thing in the morning.  We heard some bad weather is coming in and we wanted to beat the storm.

So this ends my daily posts about Amazon.  We will be with family over the next few days and then heading down to Texas hopefully to get a gate guarding job. I will be writing up a summary as soon as we get our bonus checks, but since that is a significant part of our compensation for this gig I want to make sure I include that in my summary.  I also want to let a few days pass and get some perspective, so I can be as balanced and fair as possible.

Thanks to everyone who followed along and who found our accounts interesting.  We have now finished the “big five” work kamping jobs and I will be writing a summary of those experiences in total as well.  When we started this journey our goal was to try everything and see what we liked.  So we have Camp Hosted, sold Christmas Trees, done the Beet Harvest, Gate Guarded, and now Amazon.  I am glad for those experiences and the opportunity to write about them, but I am also glad to be done with them.  We have gathered enough information to know what works for us and will be focusing in 2018 on finding ways to finance this lifestyle that provide us with some level of professional satisfaction and balance.  Thank you for following along and I hope you stay with us in the next phase.

Tracy:   12,629 steps (5.28 miles) (half day)
Items Picked: 350  

Lee:   13,793 steps (6.09 miles)
Items Picked: 377

 


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 available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

 

First Time at Amazon Day 35 – 36

Disclaimer:  We  are not spokespersons or officially affiliated with Amazon in any way. This account is of our personal experience as seasonal employees in the Cambellsville, KY distribution center in 2017.  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 and are not intentional.  To start at the beginning of our Amazon experience, click here for the first Amazon post. 

Day 35

In case I am not mentioning it enough, by our last day of the 50 hour week, my body is really hurting. I don’t know how those people who are working 60 hours are doing it, because at this point I would give anything to take an extra day off. It’s not just losing the OT money though that keeps me going in, because they are also having an attendance raffle.  If you have perfect attendance the first week, you can win $100. If you have perfect attendance the first and second week, it’s $200. And perfect attendance three weeks in a row is $300. That’s pretty serious money just for clocking in. The first week two work kampers I actually know won it.  It’s a pretty smart way to keep people coming into work in the home stretch. Plus I keep telling myself we are almost done, which does help.  It’s not only us that are stressed though, the pressure is being felt all along the supply chain.  We know someone who has a husband that works full-time at UPS and they are working crazy hours to keep up with Amazon. We also have a friend who is working seasonally for UPS and he just wrote a terrific detailed description of what that job is like.  It’s really good, you should check it out.

My point is that the concept of Amazon Prime and two day shipping sounds great, and usually it is, but the seasonal stress it puts on the distribution system is pretty amazing. It never really occurred to me before doing this.  I just liked getting my stuff by Christmas and was always annoyed when the last minute shipping wasn’t available. I had no idea how much went behind that click of a button, and if nothing else, I am grateful for all I have learned in this job.  I am not kidding about that.  I have learned a ton about process that I am not sure I could have learned any other way, and I am 100% sure I will be a better process analyst going forward because of it. It’s a major silver lining for me.

(When I was in the Air Force I worked for the military version of the postal service. For part of that time I supervised mail transfer between commercial airlines and a military air mail terminal, and for part of it I worked at the air mail terminal itself, about an hour from Heathrow airport near London. I don’t know how it’s done now, it’s been 30 years, but back then all mail between the US and overseas military bases was transported via commercial airlines, and the carrier depended on where it was coming from/going to. So the mail would come into Heathrow from the US via these six or seven airlines, and would be transported by truck to the air mail terminal, where these big 70lb bags of letters and small packages would be sorted according to what base in England it was headed to, then a smaller truck from each base would pick it up, and drop off mail going out, and then those bags would be sorted according to where they were going in the world, and the truck would take it to Heathrow.

Pretty simple process handled almost exclusively by a bunch of kids not even 21 yet. And it happened day after day after day after day. And that was just tiny old England, there were other terminals all over the world, much larger ones. The Frankfort one was legendary for the volume it processed through western Europe. This was still the cold war, after all, and we had lots of bases there. I was always amazed at how smoothly it all worked, and how much volume there was. Every day the equivalent of a 50′ semi trailer would go back and forth. Once it was all sorted out into the various containers for each base, the piles of mail sacks would vary in size based on the size of the military base, anywhere from 1 or 2 bags for a tiny installation, to 30 or 40 for a large base with fighters and bombers. And then I experienced my first Christmas season. For two months, there would be two semi trailers ever day instead of one, going in both directions. Sometimes three. Every day. For weeks. We had scores of temporary help from bases all over the world to handle the volume. The larger bases had piles of mail bags that would literally be stacked 20 feet high in pyramids, and took several people working in a vertical chain gang to pass the sacks from one to another to build these pyramids.

It was mind boggling, a truly staggering amount of mail being moved every day. I would stand there and look at the terminal when it was full and just shake my head in amazement at how a single envelope with a Christmas card in it would multiply to the point where it created a stack that big. I remember thinking how important it was, what we were doing, that every one of those envelopes was something special between two people separated by thousands of miles and multiple time zones, in a time when there was no internet, no email, no texting, and overseas phone calls cost a fortune, and every time I would sling a bag of those envelopes to or from the conveyor belt I was a small part of the chain that brought someone a moment of home, a bit of good news, a picture to be cherished, or a little extra money. It was pretty damn cool. Of course, this is all just leggings and beanies and gift cards, but it’s kind of the same thing. Anyway, Merry Christmas. – Lee)

Our last night of the week started out a little rough.  I felt a bit like I had the flu (tired and achy all over) but it was just being tired.  They had fruit again on break, which was nice, and that and a cup of coffee at lunch really perked me up.  The tight pick paths helped as well, and I spent quite a bit of time in every area I was in.  I also had a stretch where I was going in right after the stowers and not only were my items right on top (love that) but the bins themselves looked really great.  I picked an entire tote of beanies at one point which was pretty easy and fun and in general my whole mood lightened. One thing that happened throughout the day that was interesting was several of the locals came up and talked about when we were leaving.  Then they started talking to me about their long term plans (which usually included leaving the area and going someplace else) and I was happy to listen.  I know from first hand experience how hard it is to leave the place you grew up in, but it’s a big wide world out there and certainly there is more economic opportunity in other areas of the country.  I’m used to people being curious about what we do and how we did it, so it didn’t surprise me that since we are leaving folks wanted to talk about our lifestyle, and like I said I am always happy to talk about it.

Lee had an interesting day, because for some reason he was moved to the A building.  No idea why, but after weeks in the E mods he was suddenly in a new section and it took him a while to get acclimated.  Probably a good thing, since he had something else to focus on and he got to pick some non-apparel items he had never seen before which is always fun.  Speaking of that, I am enjoying my time with non-apparel but it is definitely taking a toll on my body.  More concrete floors, poorer lighting, and lots more stairs, but overall I am willing to pay that price for the variety.  I was on one floor though where at least 15 light bulbs were out and I felt strongly enough about it that I felt I needed to say something.  The fulfillment center is having a large capital project to replace lighting next year, but in the interim some sections are really dark.  I talked to the shift manager first, but when I was told an outside company replaced the bulbs I felt I needed to do more.  I was on my way to the Voice of the Associate board, where you can write down concerns, when I happened across the operations manager.  I was surprised he was there so late, but when I asked to speak to him he immediately stopped what he was doing and came over.

I made my case that poor lighting was both a quality and a safety issue and he took notes while I was speaking to him.  I used my best professional tone, which seemed to get his attention, and ended with the statement that I could live with issues caused by bad ballasts (they would be upgraded with the project), but if it was just a burned out bulb, “For God’s sake just replace the light bulb.” He smiled when I said that and repeated it with me, and I felt pretty good about saying something and being heard.  Once again I will say the management team here is really great about that and I had his undivided attention while I was talking to him. Hopefully he will follow up the conversation with some action, but if nothing else I tried and expressed my concerns in a constructive way. So things ended up good, but I am really glad we have a couple of days off and then one more week and we are done!!

Tracy:   20,108 steps ( 8.88 miles) (estimated based on 85% of Lee)
Items Picked:  839

Lee:    23,657 steps ( 10.45 miles)
Items Picked: 753

Interesting Item Picked:  The funniest thing I picked was a Belly Stuffer. It was a large fake belly and the box said good for “beer bellies, Santa suits, and fake pregnancies.”  What an odd combination lol.  That’s not my winner for the day, it is definitely a beanie.  I picked a tote full of this particular kind and I have to say they are really cute. I seriously think that for the rest of my life whenever I see a beanie I will think of Amazon so it’s only fair that they made it into my top picks. 

Days Off

We spent Friday going to the Jim Beam Distillery with Kelly and Bill (which I wrote a separate post on), but Lee also squeezed in some time to start packing up.  Towards the end of the day we all learned our last day would be Thursday, which was great for us because it was a regular day.  It meant one more 50 hour week, but we were fine with that especially when we learned we had earned 5 hours of paid time off.  After 320 hours you get 5 and we needed to make sure that we took it prior to our very last day.  We must have just squeaked in, because we didn’t think we were going to earn it, and I decided I wanted to take it Tuesday evening, because it would break up the week.  One of the nice things about paid time off is you don’t have to ask anyone’s permission.  You just schedule it on the HR hub and then write it on a board when you go in (if you are leaving early one day) and that’s it. I like this method very much because it takes the supervisors personal preferences out of it.  You earn the time and you take it when you want.  In a company this size that is the way it should be.

Saturday we got our mail in the morning and I had a present from my oldest daughter Kyrston. It was a hard copy of Eat Real Vietnamese Food Cookbook, that I mentioned in an earlier post.  Not only did she read my post, but immediately sent me the cookbook for Christmas.  I really am a very lucky Mom and was so touched by her thoughtfulness. And I plan on trying every single recipe in that book and NOT cutting it up!  Love you sweetie!

Lee spent the rest of the morning packing things up and then 3pm we met up with Karen and Al at Brothers BBQ.  They are longtime friends of Bill and Nancy’s but since they work night shift we have not been able to see them outside of work.  They suggested this time for lunch/dinner and the restaurant because they think it is the best restaurant in town.  I’ll be honest I had my doubts, especially since I am not a hug fan of BBQ to begin with,  but was I pleasantly surprised.  I had The Dude (a mixture of pulled pork and brisket in a sweet sauce and it was really really good.  Plus the conversation was fantastic.  Al and Karen have been working RVers for 7 years and we spent lots of time talking to them about their experiences.  They gave us lots of great information on how they have been traveling and we absolutely learned a lot from them.  And since our friend Nancy really wanted us to spend time with them (as much as possible I try to do what Nancy tells me to do), I was so glad we managed to spend time with them before we left.

Lee (who is always annoyed when I make him wait to eat to take a picture), Al, Karen, Bill, and Kelly

My sandwich was really really good

Day 36

The day started off really great.  I was feeling very peppy, mainly because the end was in site, and with two days off I felt pretty good.  And two really nice things happened. First off, I was passing by one of the managers and noticed someone had left a tote with items in it on the bottom of a cart.  I stopped and put the tote on the conveyor belt and the manager called me over.  He thanked me for doing that and said he really appreciated how positive my attitude was  and then gave me a $10 gift card.  It was very sweet of him and I appreciated his taking the time to do that.  As I’ve said before, I think being a nice and positive person is important regardless of how my day is going and it was really touching that he recognized that.  Not that long later we were buying our items with our Cambellsville cash and unfortunately they were out of the coffee mug I wanted.  I went outside on break, but when I came back in one of the HR people caught me and told me she had found a few mugs in the back.  Not only did she remember that I wanted one, but personally went back and grabbed them for us and we got the last two with handles.  Again very sweet, and it was so nice of her to go to that kind of trouble,

With those two experiences fresh in my head I really wanted to take a moment and answer the question I have been getting from most of the full time employees I have met.  They all want to know if we are coming back, and although I will answer this question fully in my recap and summary, my short answer is: probably not.  I like the people here very much and I am impressed by the managers in particular.  I like the overall atmosphere, the way we are treated, and the campground is just fine.  I don’t even mind the work most days and appreciate all the little things they do to try and keep it as fresh as possible.  What I can’t handle is the pain.

I’m not a completely stoic person when it comes to pain, but I have had three children (one of which was with no drugs at all), so it’s not like I am not familiar with it. But every day we have worked (and most of our off days) my feet have hurt pretty bad.  I expected some level of discomfort.  I have done my stretches, taken Advil, and paid particular attention to any area that is bothering me and changed my work habits to help.  So I have avoided the strains and sprains that many people have experienced.  What I haven’t been able to do anything about is my feet.  They just hurt.  And since the pain is not muscular there isn’t much I can do it about it.  At this point I understand what is causing it, but walking on concrete is part of the deal, and even on those days that I am mainly on upper floors they still hurt.  Most days I start the day with them hurting, end the day with me hobbling along, and I go to bed hurting to the point where it frequently wakes me up at night.

To net $10 an hour I am not OK with that. Many people are.  Many people are older than me and seem to be handling it just fine, and the full time employees all say that “you get used to it.”  Maybe so, but it’s been over a month now, and I’m not used to it.  I’ve taken some flack in the comment section about how we take these jobs and then complain about them and that’s really been bothering me. First I wanted to say, I’m doing everything I can to not let my attitude spill over onto the people I work with, and it appears to be successful as you can see from above.  But more importantly, you as readers should know that this experience has been colored by that pain.  I try to break things down as objectively as I can, and as much as possible provide a balanced view, but it’s hard for me  to focus on the positive when I am hurting.

So let me summarize my thought process.  Lots of people like it here and come back year after year.  I like the people, especially the managers.  Almost everyone has been very nice to us.   The work is OK and there are opportunities to try different things.  The money we make will barely cover our expenses and will not cover our costs to get here.  My feet hurt all the time.  For me, most days, the last item trumps everything else.  If we were making more money I would probably feel differently. If the work was more interesting I would probably feel differently. But on balance that is where I am at.  Simply put (and the short answer I have given people who ask) it isn’t enough money for how hard the work is.  I feel slightly embarrassed saying that to people who do this day in and day out for a living and I always add (and mean it) that I have an incredible amount of respect for those people who do this for a living.  But I am too old for this.  And again feel slightly embarrassed because there are many work kampers much older than me doing this. So I start to think I am a big wus and then I stand up to get some more coffee, wince in pain, hobble to the coffe pot, and think no…for me it’s not worth it.  So to the critics out there I don’t know what to else to tell you.  As my kids say, “You do you, boo.”

Tracy:   27,909 steps ( 11.65 miles) (Lee found my fitbit…hooray…it was actually in the truck)
Items Picked: 856

Lee:    17,807 steps ( 7.86 miles)  Lee got to go to pack in the fourth quarter
Items Picked: 812

Interesting Item Picked:  I ran across an item that I know everyone has someone in their life that needs this.  It was a windup poop emoji toy that poops out little pieces of candy.  I know, it’s silly, but it made me laugh and seriously you know someone who would love this. 


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 available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

First Time at the Jim Beam Distillery

I am not a big drinker and have never drank bourbon, but I love to see how things are made, and since we were in Kentucky a bourbon tour was definitely called for.  Our friend Bill actually worked and lived here for many years at one of the distilleries so going with him made the experience really special.  Bill and Kelly were trying to finish the six tours they needed for a special Bourbon Trail T-Shirt and had saved one of the best ones for us, the Jim Beam Distillery.  Even though Bill was in the industry many years ago and had actually been inside the plant, he had never taken the tour.  The tours didn’t exist until 2012, so for him it was a new experience as well.  And of course, we were complete newbies to the whole process so I took lots of notes and pictures and will try to recreate the experience.  To all of you aficionados out there, if I get something wrong that is totally on me. We were inside and outside during the tour and since it was chilly I was taking notes and pictures with my phone.  Plus, If I get something totally wrong I am sure Bill will jump in on the comments and set me straight 🙂

We pulled into the facility and I really loved the campus.  It is a large area with rolling hills and numerous buildings.  Not only was it extremely picturesque, but it also had history as some of the buildings were there in the 1920’s.  This property was bought by the Beam family towards the end of prohibition and they ran a rock quarry from it (to keep their employees in jobs) until prohibition ended.  The original family home is still on the property and is protected as an historical site.  I really liked the statues of people they have added and although it was cold we did spend some time walking the grounds.  I think it would be wonderful in the summer, because it is laid out like a large park.

The gift shop and entrance with the statue of Jim Beam

 

They had several of these snowflakes made from bottles and they were lit once it got dark

 

Booker Noe, Jim Beam’s grandson, and sixth generation distiller with the homestead in the back.  Loved that they included his little dog.

 

The original well for the homestead which they named Jacob’s well

The grillhouse wasn’t open unfortunately, but I’ll bet they have great BBQ in season

We started by walking inside the gift shop and bought our tour tickets.  It is $14 for the tour and tasting, which I thought was a bargain since the tour ended up being over 1-1/2 hours. I loved the gift shop, which was two floors and included some historical items along with a wonderful selection of products.

The entrance

 

Billed as the smallest working still in the county

 

You know I bought one of these barrel magnets!

 

Bill was in his element. Love that smile!

 

The names of the main family members who have run the distillery. Jeremiah Beam had no son and passed the business to a nephew which is how the Noe name came into play.

 

They had a selection of grilling items, smaller than I expected.

 

Their bourbons.  I bought the vanilla, which I loved at the tasting and I can’t wait to cook with.

 

For the true bourbon lover…bourbon smelling candles!

We timed it just right and didn’t have to wait long for our tour (they run on the half hour except at lunch time) and we were lucky to get Travis.  He was extremely knowledgeable, but explained things very simply and I really enjoyed our time with him.  The tour is inside and outside and covers several buildings, so we started by getting in a small truck and driving down to the crafting warehouse.  This is a small version of the distillery and used to make craft batches, but it was perfect to explain step by step how the process works.

The bus

 

Travis our tour guide

 

Bill and Kelly are excited

 

Short drive down to the factory portion of the grounds

 

Like I said earlier, I knew nothing about the process, but Travis walked us through it step-by-step.  It all starts with the water though, and the reason 95% of all bourbon is made in a few counties in Kentucky is the limestone filtered water.  Iron in water is bad for making bourbon, but the naturally occurring limestone deposits filter it out.  So we learned that even though bourbon can be made anywhere in America, and still be called bourbon, most of it is made in Kentucky. That was another thing that I learned.  There are 5 rules that are mandated by the government in order for an alcohol to be classified as bourbon.  First it must be made in America, but there are others.

  • Corn must be the main ingredient
  • It cannot be above 160 proof (they are allowed to add water to dilute it if it turns out too strong)
  • It must be aged in a brand new white oak barrel.  The brand new is important and they do sell the used barrels to all kind of companies including Tabasco which we saw when we visited Avery Island and took their tour.
  • And all the ingredients have to be natural

Pretty interesting and he explained that if those rules are deviated from the alcohol is then classified as whiskey.  I never knew that. Once we got into the building we walked through the various stages.

Three types of grains are used corn, rye, and barley. Jim Beam uses around 70% corn.

 

These are then turned into a mash which is cooked for about 8 hours to break it down. The smell was pretty interesting…a little like stale beer

 

Next yeast is added and it is fermented for an additional three days. The concept is similar to sourdough bread and their yeast starters date back to the 1930’s which was pretty interesting.

After fermentation it goes through a distillation process.  This part got pretty technical and there are multiple steps, but what I gathered was the liquid is turned into steam and passed through copper tubes.  The copper picks up the sulfates, and the process is repeated until the liquid turns into “low wine.”  Once again it is turned into gas, then back into liquid and becomes high wine.  I loved the machine that did the process.  It was really pretty and the whole thing was fascinating if a little over my head. Bill of course was nodding intently!

The spirit still  in the craft building

The high wine is then put in a charcoal lined oak barrel and sits for a minimum of two years.  Each barrel is completely different (which is one of the cool things about bourbon) and they lose as much as 20 gallons in the process.  When they are ready to open the barrel, they filter it once again (to remove the charcoal) and then it is bottled.  We watched him pour from one of the barrels and then we were allowed to “nose” the bourbon.  Unlike wine which you breathe with only your nose, for this you also breathe in with your mouth.  I had a pretty bad cold so I am not sure what I got from the experience, but some people were obviously into it.

Travis is showing how the liquid is put into the barrel.  All of their barrels are handmade by a company called Independent Stave.  I guess it’s a dying art and only a couple of companies still make them by hand.

 

He let us “sanitize” our hands with what splashed on the outside. Lee liked the smell.

 

You can see the charcoal on the inside of the oak

 

There is around $15,000 worth of bourbon in this one barrel. Wow!

 

We also got to go inside one of their main distilleries and see the process at volume.  They have more than one site currently to keep up with the volume and the amount of alcohol they are producing is a bit staggering. The larger distillery creates a barrel every 90 seconds.   In this building the mash cookers hold 20,000 gallons and the main still is 6-1/2 stories tall.  The scale of it is impressive.

There were 15 of these of these fermentation tanks.

 

Bill, Travis, and Kelly for scale

 

It’s hard to see through the grate but they were at least two stories tall

 

Lee looking at the mash. The smell was pretty intense in that room and made my eyes water a bit.

 

The output from the big room was these large flows of low and high wine. We were allowed to take a picture with them.

We also got to go in this room that had a great collection of decanters.  In the 70’s the popularity of bourbon began to decline, and that continued for several decades. So custom decanters were born as a way to get people to buy the alcohol.  I really enjoyed looking at these and felt like I remembered some from my childhood.

The classic cars were a huge hit

 

They also had a line of trucks

 

Each state had it’s own decanter

 

And National monuments

 

My favorite was the I Dream of Jeannie bottle and I definitely feel like I had seen this someplace before

After seeing the decanters we went into a small bottling line where for $50 you could bottle you own bottle of bourbon.  Initially we felt the price was too high, but after everyone was done Lee decided he wanted to do it and videotaped the entire process.  It was pretty neat, especially when he got to help put the wax seal on and since it was a once in a lifetime opportunity (for us) I thought why not.

The bottling line

 

This gentleman was making a bottle of bourbon to keep for when his daughter turned 21. I loved that and check out the look on her face as he was bottling it.

 

First the line filled the bottles

 

Then put the cork in them

 

This is a better picture of the thing that dispensed the corks

 

And finally the labels were put on

Here’s the video of our bottle being made and some pictures.

Lee rinsing it out with bourbon

 

Videotaping the process

Here it is

 

He was really enjoying himself

 

I love the look on Bill’s face behind Lee

 

They dipped it in wax

 

And Lee got to put his thumbprint in

 

Tada!!

(The baby bottling line was really cool, and the video is a little sloppy because I didn’t have my stabilizer gimbal with me, but it’s still worth watching. At about 2:37 you can hear a noise that sounds a little like a quick blast of air, and that’s a laser etching a code into the bottle that tells you a bunch of information about the batch and location and date and stuff, which I thought was really cool. – Lee)

I know it was a lot of money, but it was really cool, especially because Lee timed it so our bottle went by itself.  Afterwards we headed down to one of the warehouses and saw some barrels.  This particular warehouse has 100 million dollars worth of inventory in it, which really boggles the mind.  What I found particularly interesting is the bourbon is not temperature controlled so the higher floors have higher temps.  Each barrel reacts differently while aging depending on it’s location (and other factors) and it isn’t until they open it that “they know what it will be.”  Pretty cool.

The black on the building is a fungus that happens near all distilleries. It’s not harmful but it is unsightly

 

All of the nearby trees are also covered in it

 

The barrel storage was definitely old school and unlike some other bourbon makers they never rotate the barrels. They like the unique difference in flavor that are caused by location. For example our bottle probably came from the center of the 4th or 5th floor

After the warehouse we finally got to do the tasting. Travis talked about each kind

 

And then we received a punch card for three tastings and a shot glass that was ours to keep!

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t that into the flavor.  I hoped I would like it, but it was way too strong for me.  I did however like the vanilla flavored liqueur, and as I mentioned earlier ended up buying a bottle for cooking.  Despite the fact that I will probably never be a bourbon drinker, I did love the tour and thought it was well worth the $14. Plus we stopped on the way home at the Green Bamboo Restaurant and had some excellent Chinese which made for a completely special day.  Thankful we got to experience it and especially thankful we were with Bill and Kelly.  It will definitely be a highlight memory and earned us our Kentucky state sticker!

Lee, me, Bill, and Kelly

 

Shrimp Lo Mein and Crab Rangoon.  Delicious!!

 


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