I forgot to mention something very important in the last post. I got to be on the radio to talk about my cookbook! I had to get up pretty early to be interviewed since there was a 3 hour time difference, but it was a ton of fun talking about our lifestyle, the website, and the cookbook to people we knew in our previous life. Plus Danny and Luca made it very easy for me, asking all the right questions and jumping in whenever I faltered, which was super sweet. The interview is available on podcast if you are interested (see link here) and of course my cookbook is available for purchase in ebook or paper format on Amazon. For those who have purchased a copy I wanted to say “Thank you!”. We seem to have settled into a pattern where we sell a book every few days and that is pretty gratifying. That shows me it isn’t just friends and family who are making the purchases. At this pace, the projected royalties for the year might be around $1,000 which, on our budget, would certainly be welcome.
Plus, since we can get mail now, I received my paper copy of the book and I have to say holding it in my hands was really a special feeling. I had been concerned about the formatting since we didn’t pay to have that professionally done, but it turned out pretty nice. The pictures look good, the print is nice and big, and the paper stock has some substance to it. It really was cool sitting and holding it in my hand, and if nothing else that feeling made all the hard work to get there worth it to me. OK, back to the blog, and let me start with the disclaimer you will be seeing a lot of this summer:
The company we are working for this summer has a very specific media policy which I am adhering to. This includes not mentioning other employees by name, so I will do the best I can to recount our experience using people’s roles or titles. Also, because it’s not really that difficult to figure out who we are working for, I want to be clear that I in no way speak for the company, and am only recounting our unique personal experiences. Also, any details I get wrong (and I am sure there will be many) are due to misunderstandings on my part. When researching any job or place to stay/visit I highly recommend going to the source and starting with the company website for information.
After two days of group training, Lee and I spent Friday and Monday on the job training with two experienced seasonal employees here. Even though I am not currently scheduled to work in the campground office, I was trained on their computer system Reservation Friend. I was pretty excited about that because although I have years of computer experience, I have never worked on a campground reservation system, and wanted to put it on my Work Kamper News resume. As I have mentioned before, we are a big fan of Work Kamper News and I pay for a Gold membership to get their daily updates and keep a resume on file with them. The resume serves the dual purpose of giving me an up to date and easily accessible couples resume (which most employers will accept although occasionally we run into an employer that needs individual resumes) and potential employers search that database looking for workers and we have been contacted several times by potential employers because that information is out there. More and more of these jobs require experience on Campground Master or some other camping reservation website, and after receiving this training I have a better understanding as to why. Oh, and as a complete side note, before I forget, both of the couples we are working with this summer use Working Couples.com. I had never heard of it before, but since both work most of the time on the road like us and they both independently mentioned it, I am going to check it out. At first glance it looks like there is a fee, but it also seems to provide a more comprehensive list of opportunities than “traditional” work kamping jobs which is of interest to us. Don’t know anything more than that so if anyone has used it, please leave a comment and let us know how it worked.
Anyway, back to the training. The trainer and materials were both very good, but the system itself was more challenging than I expected. I have years of experience working on Oracle Customer Relationship Management software and built two call centers from scratch in my career. So I thought it would be super easy for me. It started off pretty well as a standard reservation is pretty easy and they provide lots of ways to create that reservation depending upon your preference, which is great. For example, you can look at the existing schedule from a grid view (think Excel spreadsheet) or from a map view. Pretty cool. Where it got complicated though was when multiple reservations were linked and payment for them was through one credit card. This is a pretty common scenario for weekenders, and I just found the series of steps tough. That would all be OK if you were able to take the reservation on paper and then add it into the computer afterword, but because the reservation system is available online to customers you can’t do that. You need to be live on the phone with the guest while you take the information and follow the series of steps. I am sure after some practice that will be second nature (it certainly was for our trainer), but it was a little intimidating.
Thankfully the trainer spent all day Monday working with us on the system and we got lots of hands on practice. Not all of their camp host positions require computer work. The National Forest sites are all on the Reserve America system, which is a third party company, but two of the campgrounds are 100% owned and operated by the utility company and are on this system. Despite the challenge for the employees I do think it is the right way to go. Having customers “self-serve” online has significantly decreased the workload in the office and I am sure improved customer satisfaction. But it also (in my opinion) turns the office position into one where some level of computer experience is required. The level of computer expertise in the camping workforce is changing as more people use smart phones and the work force is getting younger, but as I said, this program was not simple. When we got to a point where we wanted to try working with live customers, one of my fellow trainees made the call and the customer wanted to change 5 different reservations over the phone. The trainer and my co-worker did an awesome job working through it, but it showed the level of complexity some of these phone calls could have. Anything easy is probably being done online so the calls that come into the office (although fewer than before online reservations) are mostly more complicated.
Aside from the computer work, which I am glad I was cross trained in but will only be using when I need to cover someone’s days off, you are probably interested in hearing about what we will be doing all day. Since I was in the office, Lee got an overview from the husband of our trainer on Friday and then we spent Saturday and Sunday getting acclimated and doing a first and second pass on our daily route. I thought the best way to describe it was to show each site with pictures and I have to say I have the most amazing “office view” to date. The work on most the sites is pretty basic, stock and clean toilets, pick up and empty trash, weed, etc, but there are a few extras that I will explain as we go along. I am presenting these locations in the order they are along the river but we will be using visiting them in different orders depending on the day/need. Three sites are upriver from us and the other three are down river and we are located right in the middle which is nice. Since a picture really is worth 1000 words in this case, let me jump in.
Sandstone Creek Boat Launch – This is a new site for the company and is a boat launch and fishing area. There are no toilets here as of yet, so we just check the area and pick up trash.
Hole in the Wall Boat Access Site – This is a very popular site with rafting companies and is a day use area. It has a pit toilet, boat launch area and 4 picnic tables. This site will require quite a bit of weed whacking which is a high priority since a White Water event will be held in this area on May 20th and 21st. More to come on that later.
Moore Creek Boat Access Site – This is our busiest rafting site as it not only has a pit toilet but two changing rooms. The rafting companies meet their customers here, and they use the changing areas to put on wet suites. We’ve met some of the rafting company employees and they are very nice, which is great since we will be working with them all summer. We are giving them business cards with the campground office phone number and encouraged them to call us if they see any problems. They informed us the common times they use the site are 9:00am -9:30am and 12:00pm -12:30pm, which was very helpful, because we will know when to schedule our cleanings. This is an older site and doesn’t have the modern boat launch stairs yet, but instead has a cool rock path.
Those three sites are upriver from us, but downriver from the campground are three other sites. Since these are closer to town, not in the National Forest, and are used mainly by fishermen they have a totally different vibe. They also have gates which complicates things a bit, so let me spend some time on a couple of these.
The Culvert – This is a beautiful little fishing spot that unfortunately turned into the weekend drinking spot at some point. They have really focused on getting that under control though and there is a gate that closes at night at the location. Folks can still park at the top and walk down, but its clear who is hanging out down there on Friday and Saturday nights. It took us awhile to do trash pickup at this area. Our very first volunteer gig was for a BLM day use area and the manager Stan taught us all about micro trash. Water bottle tops, beer bottle tops, and small pieces of trash buildup over time, and can be harmful to wildlife so were a major focus of his. Taking that mentality into this particular area was a bit challenging, but I collected 2/3 of a five gallon bucket full of “micro” trash before I was done. Hopefully this was mainly from the winter and having a clean area will encourage people to keep it clean. We also added a second trash can down there to help encourage folks to deposit their litter, cans etc. One good thing, at least from our perspective, is the restroom is a port-a-john which is serviced by a third party, so we just give it a quick look and then mainly focus on the trash.
Next is the Lower Marina which many of the locals use to put in fishing boats. There is also a very small beach area and lots of places to fish. This area was in the process of being cleaned of winter river debris and since it doesn’t open until May 22nd we have spent minimal time there. We do know there is a gate and have heard there is some boat traffic waiting in the morning. We also know you have to wait for the parking lot to clear before you can shut the gate at night. It has one pit toilet and 5 trashcans cans and supposedly gets quite a bit of use. I will provide a better description and pictures once this area is open and we have a better idea of how it all works, but I did take a couple of pictures to start off with. This doesn’t come close to capturing the area though.
Finally we have Faraday Lake. This is a very large area with two toilets, 7 trashcans, three picnic tables, and a lake. Although we were told this area doesn’t see much use, both times we have gone up there lots of people were fishing it or walking their dogs, and that was before the fish were even stocked. Thankfully the large lake area is mowed by someone else, but we do clean the restrooms, empty trash, and weed whack around the picnic tables. By the time we got to the lake area the day I was taking these pictures it was pouring, so unfortunately don’t have pics of that either, but again promise to talk more about this area in a later post. The good news about this area was people seem to keep it very clean, so although it is geographically our largest site it may not require a ton of time. Will need to wait and see on this one.
So it’s multiple sites and a lot of ground to cover, but there are two of us and all of the sites don’t necessarily need checked every day. My mind always goes towards putting together a plan, so after surveying the areas and talking to the more experienced employees who have covered these sites I put together a rough plan of attack. I also documented the specifics of all the sites and our perceived job responsibilities, and then put all of that in a Word document and sent it off to our immediate supervisor. The main thing we have learned in these jobs is to have clear expectations of what constitutes success from the beginning. We like that we have flexibility in our schedules to complete the tasks, just want to be clear on the priorities. And of course you’ll be hearing a lot more about this as the summer progresses, and hopefully about some fun stuff outside of work too, but I think this overview will help give you an idea of what I am talking about as we go through the season.
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Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks You can preview the kindle version on Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes. It is also available in paperback.