Comparing the “Big Five” Work Kamping Jobs

When we started the full time lifestyle, I was still working my corporate job, but I always very interested in seeing what other types of work were out there.  Fast forward one year, I voluntarily chose a buyout, and Lee and I started down the path of trying to fund our lifestyle with work kamping jobs. I am an analyst by vocation and nature, so early on I stated I wanted to try everything at least once.  Lee agreed, although in all fairness neither one of us had any idea what we were getting into, and two years later we finally completed what I consider the “Big 5”  With current technology there are all kinds of jobs you can do to support yourself on the road, but the “traditional” work kamping jobs are all onsite positions.  In my mind they included Camp Hosting, working at Amazon, selling Christmas TreesGate Guarding, and the Beet Harvest.

Let me start by saying, this comparison is based upon our experience.  I have met people who had a terrible time at the Beet Harvest, couldn’t stand Amazon, or made tons of money selling Christmas Trees.  Camp hosting in particular is an incredibly wide category and our few experiences in no way represent the large variety of working environments you could experience.  Our experiences are also only one season in a place.  Work Kamping in the same place can vary from year to year based on factors that change, such as weather, fellow employees, guests, and managers/employers.  And finally, our thoughts and feelings are of course subjective.  I did the best I could to provide a balanced view in the summaries (linked above), but if you really want to get a feel for each day-to-day experience I do recommend you read the daily logs which are linked in each summary post.

So why take the time to compare them if all of the information is situational?  Well, partly because I can’t help myself.  Analysis is what I do.  But also because I would have loved to have read something like this before I decided to quit my corporate job.  I don’t regret leaving that position; the company was poised for another buyout  and if I would have stayed there’s a good chance I would have been forced to quit or come off the road. More importantly, I had been there for 15 years and it was past time for me to try new things.  But if I had to do it all over again knowing what I know now, I probably wouldn’t have jumped right into work kamping jobs.  There is a huge difference between being a senior manager/knowledge worker and being the lowest level employee in physically demanding jobs.  And of course there is a big difference between working these positions a few months a year to supplement income and working them 10+ months a year to fund the lifestyle.

So please keep all of that in mind as you read this comparison.  Hopefully you will find value in it, but even if not, writing it has allowed me to put a cap on the “Big Five” experience, before we move on to figuring out the best way for us to fund this lifestyle, long term.

Money Earned

The main reason we do these jobs is to earn money. But unlike our old life, we are looking for more of a work/life balance, and money alone isn’t the biggest factor.  If it was we would go back to our old professions as none of these jobs come anywhere close to what we used to earn.  Instead we weigh every job on a Time versus Money versus Quality of Life scale.  So let’s start with the money earned.  Unfortunately, there isn’t a simple answer to the question of which job earned the most money.  So instead of a simple answer let me look at the revenue in multiple ways.

  • Hourly Wage – The highest wage we have earned was when we camp hosted in Alaska where Lee made $15 an hour.  At that same job I only made $12 so our “couple” average was $13.25 an hour.  We both made $14.25 in Oregon, but we were only guaranteed 34 hours per week.  We made $12.15 an hour during the beet harvest, but since we worked 12 hours days (with the last 4 hours of each day being overtime @ time and a half, and the full 12 on Saturday and Sunday being overtime @ time and a half) our hourly rate ended up being $14.58 an hour.  So depending on how you look at it, any of those three could have been our highest hourly wage.  Our lowest wage came from gate guarding, which was $5.21 an hour.  It is fair to note that this was for a $125 a day gate.  Our current gate is $175 a day or $7.29 an hour.  It’s also worth noting that Christmas Trees was the only job where we did not receive a set hourly wage.  The compensation was $2500 base pay and then commission, and bonus on top of that.  At the end of our season that worked out to $7.13 an hour.
  • Season Totals – I have provided the gross income from all of our jobs and then calculated a daily rate for days on the job location.  My rationale is that in order for us to work these jobs we have to be there, and often we were so tired on our days off we couldn’t do much in the way of sightseeing. The one exception to that was Alaska where we absolutely made the most of all of our days off.  As far as taxes go, two of the jobs we worked were 1099 jobs and the other 4 jobs were W-2.  The highest tax burden by far was Amazon where we ended up paying 21% in combined taxes.  Even our 1099 jobs weren’t that high because we were able to use deductions to offset some of the tax liability. 
    • Beet Harvest$10,082 W-2 Gross; 39 days $259 per onsite day
    • Amazon$11,825 W-2 Gross; 56 days  $211 per onsite day
    • Alaska Camp Hosting$16,899 W-2 Gross; 110 days   $154 per onsite day
    • Gate Guarding$9,750 1099 job; 79 days $123 per onsite day
    • Oregon Utility Park Camp Hosting$16,527 W-2 Gross; 136 days $121 per onsite day
    • Christmas Trees$6002 1099 job; 55 days $109 per onsite day
  • Fringe Benefits – Our campsite was included with every position, but it is worth noting that none of the jobs included a campsite I actually would have paid for.  Trees, Gates, Alaska, and Oregon all involved staying in a site that was newly created, and in all cases we did have some initial issues with getting all the services we needed.  Beets and Amazon provided a site in a traditional campground, but in both cases these were “parking lot” type RV parks that had minimal extras.  Here are some additional benefits we received:
    • All of the jobs included at least one free group meal and most included additional snacks or food items, or coffee/cocoa.
    • We received free wifi at Beets, Amazon, Alaska, and Oregon and free firewood in Alaska and Oregon.
    • All the jobs provided workers comp insurance except for Christmas Trees, which was a concern because there was some danger.
    • Amazon, Beets, and the Utility Park all offered some sort of medical benefits after 60 days.  We only took advantage of this in the Utility Park getting free dental which we were able to use for cleanings.
    • Amazon was the only job where we earned any paid time off, and received 4 hours of pay while we were there along with getting paid a full day on our last day even though we were released early.
    • We received “stay” pay at Beets, where we were paid for a half day if they called off the work due to weather.
    • We received gift cards and presents at season end from the Utility Company equaling around $35 each and we received over $70 in gift cards from Amazon, along with some Amazon logo items.  We received  lunch boxes from the Beet Harvest at end of season, and free salmon and moose meat from our Alaska job.

Working Conditions

  • Shifts – Despite the fact that these jobs are relatively low paying they have some of the most challenging schedules I have ever worked in my life.  The Beet Harvest was a mandatory twelve hour day for 16 straight days , Amazon and Christmas Trees were 10 hours a day, and gate guarding was a 24 hour shift which Lee and I split between us, generally resulting in a 12 hour day for each of us.  Alaska was an 8 hour day and Oregon was a 7 hour day, but the Oregon job had split shifts on the weekends so we both worked in the mornings and then again in the evenings.  Gate Guarding, Trees, and Beets were all 7 day a week jobs although the others gave us two days off, generally Tuesday and Wednesdays.  The exception to this was Amazon who gave us Fridays and Saturdays off, along with Sunday if we didn’t work overtime.
  • Environment – All of the jobs had a percentage of our time being outside except for Amazon which was in a climate controlled building.  The camp hosting jobs allowed for some flexibility so that tasks could be completed to some extent around the weather conditions and Christmas Trees had a large tent which helped protect us from some of the weather.  Gate Guarding was done from our rig and although we did have to walk outside in weather some of the time, again we were able to change our process some when the weather was particularly bad. I will say though that gate guarding was very dusty and it took months to get our rig clean.  The beet harvest was 100% outside and the weather was a significant factor as we experienced rain, snow, hail, heat, and lightning in the few weeks we were there.   We did have some days off if it was too cold, hot, or muddy but we worked many unpleasant days outside in difficult conditions.
  • Physical Exertion – Most of these jobs are physically demanding.  Christmas Trees was by far the most difficult as we had to lift and stage hundreds of very heavy trees with minimal staff to help us.  The Beet harvest was also difficult for me as I had to repeatedly bend over and pick up beets ranging from 5 – 30 lbs, and Amazon required that we walked 10-12 miles per day, with no sitting.  The camp hosting jobs were less strenuous, although I did have some difficulty with certain tasks like weeding and floor scrubbing that were a little more demanding.  The notable exception in this category was gate guarding, which required minimal physical effort.
  • Pace – Except for a few stages of the process, gate guarding had the slowest overall pace by far.  Since we worked out of our rig, all down time could be spent on personal activities.  Christmas trees was similar.  We had to keep an eye on the lot, but when there were no customers we could work on personal tasks.  Alaska camp hosting also had downtime, and I could use that time for personal activities, and we did have the occasional slow periods in Oregon as well, although the weekends were very busy.  From a pace perspective, the most challenging by far was Amazon.  Unlike the Beet Harvest when extra breaks were given during slow periods, Amazon was almost always a constant stream of work.  The breaks were strictly limited and there was absolutely no sitting while we were working.
  • Safety – All the companies we worked for cared about safety, but despite that we saw or experienced numerous injuries in every job we had.  Lee developed a serious shoulder strain working in Alaska and I fell into a gate and scraped my leg pretty badly while gate guarding.  Several people we know left Beets and Amazon because they had a serious strain or sprain and at Christmas trees one of the employees at another lot broke their foot. We saw several people with cuts serious enough to require stitches, and a really nasty case of poison oak in Oregon.  The worst safety incident we personally witnessed was at the beet harvest.  A truck rolled over and thousands of beets flew out of the truck bed.  Thankfully no one was seriously hurt, but the incident definitely gave us pause. The important thing to note here is with a single exception these jobs were not office jobs.  They required physical exertion, the use of power tools, and often exposure to heavy machinery.  They also often involve vehicles such as trucks or fork lifts and all the inherent risks associated with that exposure. That being said, in all cases we were provided some level of safety training and safety gear was also provided.

Quality of Work

This is a tough one, because more than any other category it is so subjective.  So, I can only speak from our experiences.  It’s also tough to sum up quality in a few sentences, but I am going to give it a shot.  They are listed below in order of which ones we liked from most to the least.

  • Gate Guarding –  Actual task time is generally pretty low, and you have lots of down time where you can work on personal projects. The work itself is pretty boring, checking people in and out isn’t rocket science, but the people were mostly nice and we did enjoy all the down time. There is also very little oversight, and as long as people are being checked in and out in a timely manner folks leave you alone.  If the weather is bad it isn’t fun, although you can often minimize your outside time by learning the names of repeat workers and waving them in and out from your RV. Wildlife is definitely an issue, and I mention it here because it did impact my quality of work.  Coyotes, rattlesnakes, cougars, vultures, and other birds of prey are all very common and although the lights and generator noise help to discourage them getting too close, you do have to be situationally aware.  Both of our gates had strong wifi and TV, which isn’t always the case, but we did experience several instances where our water or fuel was late and in one case we lost our power altogether.  These conditions do impact the work because it is not fun doing this job with minimal lighting or after not being able to shower.
  • Alaska Camp hosting  – Lee really enjoyed this job because he predominately did maintenance and his work was much appreciated by the owner.  They also largely left him alone, and allowed him to schedule his own day.  I, on the other hand, was severely micromanaged by the owner’s wife.  Almost every day she had specific tasks for me and her involvement in the minutiae drove me crazy.  That being said, I did love dealing with the customers.  We had lots of people from different countries who stayed at the campground and getting to meet them was wonderful.  I had lots of down time, which was initially difficult for me, but once I was allowed to bring my laptop in and work on personal projects during slow periods things got quite a bit better.
  • Beet Harvest – We both actually enjoyed the challenge of the beet harvest and despite difficult environmental conditions and the job being physically demanding we were never bored.  I liked the truck drivers, Lee loved running the piler, and I felt good about being up to the challenge.  The hardest part of this job was the team dynamics.  We were matched with a team of people at the beginning and with minimal instruction we were just thrown into working.  It took some time to find a working structure that everyone could live with and there was definitely some conflict until we got it all sorted out.  Overall though we did pretty well in comparison to other groups.  Several people had to be separated because they simply could not work together and dealing with “people drama” was a major part of the supervisors day. What was nice about the job though was we could actually see progress every day and our beet pile grew.  Both of us liked that.
  • Oregon Camp hosting – Our job here was “running the river” and our primary responsibility was keeping the pit toilets clean.  I don’t think I am too good to clean toilets but that was the bulk of what we did all day every day.  We did have some maintenance activities which were more fun and since we got to drive from location to location along a scenic road our views were stunning.  The people we worked for were also very nice and professional and we were given a list of tasks and largely left to accomplish them in our own way which was nice. We did have some very hot days and working outside in the full sun was difficult, but the truck was air conditioned and we were encouraged to complete our tasks during the coolest parts of the day.  My major problem with this job was definitely the lack of mental stimulation.  Since we were not able to do personal tasks during our down time we spent a ton of time babysitting the various locations. The people we interacted with were a mixed group.  Many were on vacation, but others were locals who knew more about the area than we did.  Consequently we spoke to numerous people who had complaints about how things were being managed.
  • Amazon – The work was physically demanding, fast paced, repetitive, and largely boring.   We experienced the largest amount of micromanagement of any work kamping job, and our time was tracked and reported down to the minute. The supervisors and fellow workers were mostly very nice and the company did lots of extra things to help and improve the work conditions, but just getting through some days was very difficult. We were able to cross train, which allowed us a little variety in our work, but mainly we did the same basic task all day every day.
  • Christmas Trees – More than any other job we have had, this job did not live up to my mental image.  Selling Christmas Trees sounds like fun, but it is hard damned work, and since our pay was dependent upon our sales, often very stressful.  More than any other job we have had, our roles were delineated by gender, and when I tried to cross those boundaries I was severely rebuffed.  I liked talking to the customers and I enjoyed decorating and spraying the Christmas trees with fake snow, but the rest of the job was miserable.  I spent an inordinate amount of my time with personnel issues which including hiring, scheduling, and firing people.  We were told we would put the tent up and folks would just show up to work, but that absolutely did not happen.  Our labor targets were also extremely low, which required Lee and myself to do a significant amount of the physical labor ourselves.  Worst of all, we had no idea how much money we were going to make until the very end of the season, and more than any other job we have had, we felt like we couldn’t just walk away when things got bad.

Surrounding Area

  • Alaska Camp Hosting  – More than any place we have worked, Alaska afforded us the opportunity to see many amazing things.  The short nights worked to our advantage because we had very long stretches of daylight to explore the area.  Most of these trips did require 12 hour days though.  The nearest large town was 3 hours away, and many other towns were over 5 hours away. The local town we lived in was very nice, and had a wonderful view of Mount Drum from right outside the campground. We also saw numerous moose in the local area and were able drive a short distance to see the copper river and eagles. The one thing that was lacking in my estimation were good restaurants.
  • Oregon Camp Hosting – Our campsite was right along the Clackamas river and our daily work view as we drove from place to place was absolutely gorgeous.  We were 7 miles outside of the small town of Estcada which had a nice grocery store and numerous small town events and we were about 30 minutes from a Portland suburb that had everything we needed.  It was also a great jumping off point for numerous day trips.  During the summer we saw Crater Lake, Mt. Saint Helen’s, the Oregon Coast, and numerous waterfalls.  Because we had 2-1/2 days off in a row we were able to spend time exploring the area.  Towards the end of the season though weather was a factor.  Once it got hot we were very tired from our daily jobs and did less and less as the season progressed.  Still we definitely made the most of our time there and once it stopped raining we really loved the area.
  • Amazon –  We worked in Cambellsville, Kentucky which is a nice town in the middle of Kentucky bourbon country. The town itself was very nice and had grocery stores, restaurants, and a ncie college where we were able to buy a meal ticket to their dining hall.  The town and college have numerous local events and many work kampers attended those.  It’s also in a beautiful part of Kentucky and many people went to several distilleries along the bourbon trail. We were only able to go to one, but we had a really nice time and enjoyed the experience tremendously.  The big problem for us was we were working 50 hours a week and too tired to do much of anything.  After walking 10-12 miles a day the last thing I wanted to do was walk any more, which is why we never saw Mammoth Cave National Park, even though it was only 45 minutes away. Many people we know did have the energy for sightseeing and there was plenty to see and do.  There were also numerous social events with other work kampers and happy hours galore.
  • Beet Harvest –  The beet harvest was in Sidney, Montana, which was pretty close to  Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  The town itself was very friendly towards seasonal employees and they had one of the best local grocery stores I have ever seen while we have been on the road.  There were also several very nice restaurants in town.  Since we did not have any days off (unless the weather was really bad) once we got started we were unable to do anything else in the area.  
  • Christmas Trees – We were in New Braunfels,  a very nice suburb of San Antonio, but aside from one trip to the Riverwalk prior to opening the tent for business we didn’t go anywhere.  That was because we worked long, hard days and even in the mornings when we were off we never knew when a tree delivery was going to come.  Leaving to go to the grocery store, the bank, or get a  haircut was a major challenge, and invariably if one person left something would happen that would require them to come right back.  So even though we had all of the basic necessities close to us, we weren’t able to take advantage of them.  The site itself was by far the worst we have stayed in.  It was on the corner of a lot next to a gas station and on a major road.  Traffic noise was omnipresent and there was a fire station right behind us, and alarms were not uncommon. Even though we were 15 minutes away from some very good friends of ours we were only able to see them a few times as we we couldn’t leave and when they visited it was just too busy to spend time together. This job was all about the work.
  • Gate Guarding – This was by far the worst from the standpoint of exploring the surrounding area for two reasons.  First these gates are generally in isolated areas and you are lucky if there is a small town nearby.  Secondly, because we didn’t have any days off together we couldn’t drive and explore, but even if we could have there really wasn’t much to see nearby. We were near the small town of Dilley, Texas which is a very depressed little town, and didn’t have any of the local events or charm that we saw in Alaska or Estacada.  The closest grocery store was about 40 minutes away and it was 1-1/2 hours to San Antonio,  which was the closest town. The best thing about the local landscape was the sunsets, but these ranches are generally lots of dust and grit and minimal vegetation.

So, that is my summary of all of the summaries, and I hope you found it helpful.  Again, everyone’s experience is very different so please keep that in mind when you are thinking about which jobs to try.  I’m going to take most of this information and update my Revenue on the Road page with it, but then I think I will be ready to move on.  I will still be writing about our jobs as they are obviously part of our lives, but I don’t feel the need to make that my focus.  We completed what I set out to do and going forward hopefully I will find more interesting things to write about.  For some of you I am sure that will be a welcome change, but for others I know you like reading about all these crazy jobs we do.  And that may still be a big part of what I talk about, I really am not sure at this point.  What I do know is that I won’t feel compelled to write about it anymore. That may not make much sense, and may not look any different to the casual reader, but it is an important distinction to me.

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First Time Working In A Utility Co. Park – Summary

Disclaimer: The company we are working for this summer has a very specific media policy.  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.  

Overall, it’s been a really nice summer working and playing in Oregon, but as we are heading out soon I thought this would be a good time to write up our summary. If you would like to read our daily account you can start here.  I’ll start by saying these are absolutely the nicest seasonal employers we have worked for since being on the road.  We have had direct contact with managers/supervisors and every single interaction with them as been professional and pleasant.  Not that we haven’t had moments of frustration or conflict in this job, but because we are working for a corporation, those situations were handled with a “rule book” that I was familiar with, and very much appreciated.  This type of behavior has not been our experience with most of our seasonal positions, so for me it was one of the best benefits of the job.  It wasn’t all great of course.  The work was harder than I expected, and cleaning bathrooms and emptying trash all day every day was definitely not something I would sign up for again, but the overall experience was so positive that for the first time we are planning on coming back to the same place for another summer.  This is no small thing, as we have a list of places we would like to explore during our summers, but the combination of the people, the pay, the weather, and the many places to explore in this area make us both want to return.  Ultimately that is the highest praise I can give a position. The devil is in the details though, so let’s walk through it.

PayLee and I both earned $14.25, which is the highest hourly  wage I have earned while on the road.  Lee earned $15 an hour while in Alaska, and of course we earned more with overtime during the Beet Harvest.  Despite the high wages though, we barely broke even this summer.  Yes, we earned more, but we also spent more as there were many places to explore in the area. We also only worked 35.5 hours a week and the combined loss of 9 hours per week definitely had a financial impact.  Overall we made a combined $16,527 and our expenses for the same time period were roughly $14,333 for a net gain of  $2,194 for the summer. I say roughly because we started getting paid on May 10th and left on May 24th, so I removed some of the monthly expenses like fuel and food at each end. Also, if you remove the $750 we spent on a new cell phone for me we would have made around $3,000, which isn’t quite enough to cover our expenses prior to starting our next job, but that’s also because we are traveling across country back east.  Again, our choice.

 I knew coming in we would be breaking even because of the hours, I was fine with it because I thought we would be working a light schedule.  What I didn’t understand was we would still be working 5 days a week and split shifts on the weekend, and as I told our boss in the exit interview it felt like we were working at least 40 hours.  We never really went anywhere during our long break on the weekends and I at least couldn’t just turn off the work switch and turn it back on when it was time to go back in.   So a lesson learned for us is to have a handle on the work schedule prior to accepting the position and not to assume because we would be working less hours that would mean we would have more available time off.  And to be clear I in no way felt we were taken advantage of here.  We made assumptions and didn’t ask the right questions and since many people don’t have an issue with split shifts, how could they know? Going forward we will definitely ask more questions in this area. 

Benefits – Every seasonal job we have worked has some extra benefit, but this company by far had the most available to us.  We had a free site and it was a really nice one with a beautiful view of the river so this was about $1,400 in savings. Medical insurance was an option, but we stuck with our ACA plan. We did sign up for dental and life insurance.  The dental coverage was an amazing bonus and very inexpensive; only costing $2 per paycheck.  We took full advantage of the insurance and because we both had cleanings and X-rays, and I had some detailed periodontal work, I estimate those benefits alone as being at least additional $1,200 in savings, which is no small amount of money especially for a seasonal job. We could have signed up for 401K, but we chose not to. If we come back next year we will be vested for 1 year and the 401K match is pretty good based on that.  We also receive a small “profit sharing” bonus at the end of the year and that is based on hours worked and hourly wage.  Again, it’s not a ton of money, but those small extras do add up and it’s nice as a seasonal to be eligible for “regular” employee benefits.   We also had access to a company vehicle which we drove for work every day and since we were allowed to stop in Estacada for a quick errand here and there I estimate saving at least 20 miles a week on wear/tear and gas for our personal vehicle.  We had a couple of potlucks (free food) and an end of the year party where each of us received a gift and a $25 gift certificate.  We could have rented a boat down at the marina and gotten a 20% discount and the marina also provided free coffee to the employees.  Plus, for my job I was able to grab recyclables as we emptied trash and I think I made around $250 over the summer, although I could have made more if I would have started sooner.  But my favorite benefit of all was free firewood.  On the one day each week each of us worked in the campground proper, when we cleaned up the sites we were allowed to keep any firewood campers left behind, and since so many people were weekend campers that was quite a bit.  We had enough for tons of fires and enough to fill up our truck for departure which saved us about $100.  I don’t put any of these extras into revenue column in the accounting, but it was definitely a few thousand dollars in benefits which was very nice. 

Working Conditions –   Of all the jobs we have had this category was the most varied depending on several factors.  We worked outside, so of course weather played a huge part.  It wasn’t much fun doing our jobs in the rain during the beginning and ending of the season, but then we had a stretch of almost 90 days where the weather was nearly perfect.  We had a couple of weeks where the heat was pretty intense, but compared to other places in the country this was minimal.  Towards the end the smoky days were really unpleasant, but since the entire state was being affected by fires, not much we could do about that.  The most important thing was that throughout the season, our boss gave us a ton of flexibility on how to handle the weather.  He encouraged us to do our tasks when the conditions were the best and the company provided weather specific information and gear to help.  That being said, there were times when we just had to power through, but being given the flexibility to use our best judgement went a long way for me. 

Type of Work – It’s worth noting we received more training in this job than almost any other we have had so far and that included getting First Aid certified and some cool “Verbal Judo” training to help with customer interactions.  I also received three days training on the Hercules Reservation system which was another nice thing to add to my work kamper resume.  Despite the training, since our position was somewhat new, we kind of had to figure things out on the fly.  Lee didn’t mind so much as he likes working with minimal supervision but I could have used some more structure in the early days.  The work itself of course was not that difficult.  Cleaning bathrooms and emptying trash cans isn’t rocket science, but because of the large amount of traffic our locations were experiencing there were many days where I felt stressed that we couldn’t keep up.  There is no doubt in my mind that we overthought the job, but since that’s how we do things, finding an efficient route and schedule took a while.  That pressure was largely self imposed, by the way, and our bosses seemed very happy with the quality of our work, but I don’t know that it ever came up to our own personal standards until we started working opposite shifts on the weekends.  We also worked one day a week in the campground and that was largely a mixed bag.  Although we both enjoyed the variety that came with doing something different, walking into other people’s work routine is always a little tough.  Overall, the best part of the job was the river view, which never failed to please, and the worst part was when we would open a bathroom door and get a “surprise.”  Never fun, and ultimately we judged our days on whether or not the bathrooms were a mess.  I also struggled with how physically demanding the job could be at times.  Big trash bags are heavy and mopping floors can take a toll.  Again, it all depended on the size of the crowds, with many days being a cake walk and others leaving me wrung out and very tired.

Living in the Area – We liked the small town of Estacada very much, and the local events they had were definitely fun.  Our Tuesday/Wednesday days off were perfect for avoiding the crowds and we were able to run some errands during our breaks on the weekends.  The very best thing about our schedule was having Monday afternoon/evening off, then Tuesday/Wednesday off and having between Thursday afternoon and Friday evening off.  That gave us lots of time for grocery shopping, doctors visits, etc during non-peak times which was good because Portland traffic is pretty crazy, and we didn’t waste many of our days off running errands. We also got to see lots of friends who were passing through the area.  Most of our errands were in Gresham or Clackamas/Happy Valley, and both of those areas had almost anything we might need.  The people were also very nice and my experiences at the grocery store, local gas station, and getting my hair cut were all very pleasant.  That’s how I judge a place, by the way, by those common, everyday interactions.  The only downside to the area was a pretty weak ATT signal, even in town. Without our WeBoost on the 22 foot FlagPole Buddy, we wouldn’t have had any signal at all. 

Exploring the Area –  Of all the places we have been, this area had the most to do and see.  When we came to town I made a list, and there are still many items left on it, which is a main reason we are interested in coming back.  We used our new Coleman Steel Creek tent a few times to explore different areas and took several long driving trips to see new things.  Unfortunately, we did not do nearly as much hiking and exploring as I originally intended.  Part of that was that we were physically tired on our days off during peak season.  We also lost a couple of weekends to smoky conditions or extreme heat and although we certainly could have pushed through, neither one of us felt up to it.  Thankfully we had a beautiful site off by ourselves with a nice view of the river, so we still felt close to nature while we stayed home and “vegged out”.  And we got to see some pretty cool things.  As always, I judge our life based on the pictures, so here’s the pictures of our summer. As always you can decided for yourself if you think it was worth it. 

Our office for the summer

Which included watching a nest of baby Ospreys grow

And numerous beautiful sunsets on the reservoir







And thankfully Lee got to see this before much of the vegetation was destroyed by the gorge fire

We got to see several sections of the beautiful Oregon coast

There was some mist on the ocean which made for beautiful pictures

Which included an amazing sunset with our friends Rick, Jim, and Diana

And culminated in an amazing camping spot right next to the ocean

Plus of course lots of lighthouses

Including a magical moment standing underneath Hecata Lighthouse at night


We visited the Stonehenge Memorial

Several museums

We experience chills as we stood on the Oregon Trail

And the end of the Lewis and Clark Trail

And explored downtown Portland

We saw Crater Lake with our friends Bert and Kat

And Mt. St. Helens with Diana and Jim


Plus lots of people came to see us including Sue and Jonathon who came twice!



We attended a white water festival


A lavender festival

A Timber Festival

And saw bunny agility at the Clackamas County Fair

And Rick and I got to explore the Fruit Loop which is like a fruit festival everyday


Plus of course we stood in the totality of an eclipse which was an experience I will never forget!

And all throughout we had numerous views of beautiful Mt. Hood


So was it all worth it?  Absolutely yes.  Certainly we cleaned a lot of toilets and emptied a lot of trash, but we also got to explore a beautiful state and reconnect with many friends in the process. It was a jam packed summer and there is enough left to do here in this beautiful part of the country that we hope we will be able to come back next summer.

Now that the season is over, the workload is significantly lower, and we’ve been busy this week wrapping things up, taking care of last minute pre-travel details, and getting ready to hit the road for our 2300 mile drive back East. Tomorrow we roll out headed for Indiana, where we’re getting our rig suspension replaced, and then on to Ohio and possibly Charleston, SC to see our oldest daughter before we head to Campbellsville, KY for the Amazon Christmas season.

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 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 here

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








First Time Working In A Utility Co. Park – Getting Ready to Leave

It never fails. When we settle into a place for a few months, we are rushing at the end to get everything done.  We come to a job or location with a list of things we want to get done and places we want to see and we have months and months stretching out in front of us, and then suddenly……”Holy Crap we only have TWO weeks left” and the mad scramble begins. With experience we have learned that sometimes it is OK to leave things left undone, but both of us try to check as many of the boxes as we can. (I also try to do at least 2 purges a year, and mini-purges in between. I also like to pull everything out of the various storage compartments and nooks and crannies and put my hands on everything. Partially to remind myself of what we have and where it is (you’d be AMAZED at how easy it is to “lose” things in a 40 ft box!) and partially to see if i can rearrange things to make them fit a little better. Plus I just like to organize and putter. – Lee) 

This time around it’s not only personal tasks though, but it’s also a few work projects that we didn’t get done through the season.  As you know from reading, this job has been much busier than we originally thought it would be, and the pace coupled with heat and smoky conditions have delayed several projects.  Our bosses have been totally fine with this by the way, but there were a couple of things they mentioned at the beginning of the summer that I really wanted to try and get done.

So when I had some extra time last weekend, I decided to tackle one of the projects. At Moore Creek the roof colors on the bathroom building and the changing room building are mismatched, one is grey and the other is green.  I know that sounds kind of silly, I mean who cares about the roof color at a bathroom, but since it was mentioned more than once at the beginning of the season, I always noticed it and it started to bug me too.  Lee thought I was nuts, by the way, starting something major this close to the end of our season, but I was determined, and after some conversation with my boss, I headed out with a plan.

The weather thankfully cooperated, with relatively smoke-free skies and moderate temps.  And about one o’clock I headed up with an 8 foot ladder, two brand new cans of paint that hopefully were the right color, an extension roller, and lots of energy.  Two hours later I wondered what I had gotten myself into.

The bottom of the roof was relatively easy, as it was a smooth surface and the ladder reached easily.  What I didn’t count on was the small section between the building frame and the roof, which would need to be done with a brush by hand.  That was a bummer, and since it was pretty hot by 4pm, I decided to stop and regroup for the next day.  I also didn’t count on the bugs that hang out near restrooms, and since the wind chose that time to die down, towards the end I was being attacked by one particularly tough biting fly.

On Sunday it was a little cooler and there was more of a breeze, so armed with more supplies I headed back up.  This time I was determined to pace myself and started on the top of the roof.  Lee had warned me that this was going to be pretty tough, because the roof mold had a shingle like appearance and there were lots of nooks and crannies.  He wasn’t wrong about that, but I couldn’t stop once I started and with lots of paint and lots of breaks in between I managed to get a first pass done.

Thankfully the wind kept the bugs away, but the sun became a real issue as the day progressed.  The original roof was green and the new color was grey, so at certain angles it was hard to tell what was painted and what wasn’t.  The top of the roof was difficult in particular and since it was at the outer limit of my arm length I just did the best that I could.  After several hours I called it quits and overall I felt pretty good about the job I had done.  The colors matched almost perfectly, and although I knew a third trip would be required for touch up, I planned on using the company intern to help on Thursday.

All season long we have had an intern help with summer programs, and as he was almost finished they had scheduled him to shadow several of us as we did our normal jobs.  My turn was Thursday and I was excited to have the help to finish up.

Here was the ladder I used and the VERY long pole. Those are the intern’s legs and feet.


As you can see the roof was so steep using a roller was the only way to make it work


But the fake shingles had lots of nooks and crannies that required several passes.



The green to the right was the old color and the grey to the left was the new one, so it was tough to differentiate in bright sunlight. Pretty happy about how it ultimately turned out though!

Along with work projects we had several personal ones to get done.  Lee spent several hours, organizing and washing the truck inside and out (The last time I did a thorough interior detailing on the truck was before the beet harvest last fall, so there was a LOT of dust from that and south Texas. It turns out that the interior of the truck is a lovely gray, not brown. – Lee) and doing a mini purge in our RV storage area.  We are constantly reassessing what we actually are using and it’s not uncommon for us to get rid of things at the end of a season.  I have been focused on paperwork, doctors visits, and job searching, but I also have been making lots of new recipes.

I rarely want to try something new when we are traveling, so I took advantage of these last couple of weeks to try as many recipes as I could before we left.  I also needed to make/freeze spaghetti sauce and chili as these are common travel day meals for us. You’d think that after all the time practicing last summer I would be better at picking “winning” recipes, but I have to say my “failure” rate is still pretty high.  Failure generally doesn’t mean the food is inedible by the way, it just means that the taste, amount of work, or availability of ingredients doesn’t make the cut for me to add it to the next recipe book.  For every winner there are at least 7 losers, and as usual Lee is being a good sport about trying new recipes.  I do make sure I throw in a tried and true recipe though to make sure he gets something he likes and I made one of his favorites from my cook book, Crazy Marinade Pork Chops, last night.

Along with all the chores I was also dealing with pretty sore teeth.  It took about twelve hours for my teeth to stop hurting and the front ones in particular were so sore I had to eat all soft foods last night.  (More pork chops for me. – Lee) One of the nicest things that happened was around 7:30pm I received a call from Dr. Compton checking in on me.  I can’t remember the last time a doctor called to follow-up, and the fact that he did rates him pretty high in my book.  Finally around 8:30pm I took some Tylenol PM and just went to sleep and actually ended up getting the best night’s sleep I have had in a long time.  Wednesday morning, as promised, the pain was gone, and although the front teeth are still a little tender things are largely back to normal.

That was good because Wednesday morning we needed to go get our drug tests for the upcoming Amazon jobs.  After our last experience trying to get drug tests while traveling, we were thrilled this was scheduled while we were still in the area, but shortly after we headed out I noticed the experiation date on the paperwork said September 12th.  Well double crap…it was September 13th and when I called Qwest they confirmed I needed new paperwork.  So we turned around and went back to the house and I started making calls.  Luckily we were able to get new paperwork reissued very quickly and I rescheduled the appointment for 11am.

Off we went again and despite pretty heavy traffic (they really need to upgrade the highway system around Portland) we made it to the location.  Well, we made it there but we drove past it initially because it turned out the drug test facility was a small 1950’s cape cod style house tucked in an industrial park.  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate people who run businesses out of homes, but for a drug test facility it was kind of weird. There was only one guy, and although he looked professional and was very nice, it was just weird and the house itself was a real hodge podge.  There was a mix of personal and business stuff throughout the rooms and the whole thing badly needed a fresh coat of paint.  I will say the one bathroom itself was very clean, but the sink was in another room and he ran out of soap after I washed my hands.

Seriously, the whole thing was weird, but at least we go it done and hopefully we have no issues with the test like we did last time.  Afterwards we stopped at Panda Express for some lunch (still leaning towards soft foods at this point) and then we got back around 12:30pm and I started on the job search.

Things have been a little slow in this area, but I am hoping that is because it is fiscal year end for so many companies.  I recently heard on NPR that 27% of the companies are planning on hiring starting in October, so that might be a good thing.  There are jobs out there of course, but at this point I am still trying to find something on the East Coast and wanting a job that only lasts a few months is very limiting.  I’ll keep plugging away and let you know if anything breaks free when it occurs.

One thing I have been doing while searching for job is watching/listening to Project Management educational videos.  As I mentioned before I need to complete continuing education to keep my Project Management Professional certification, and I have another 21 hours that need to be done prior to March 2018.  I did apply for a volunteer job with the National Organization, and have discussed trying to take a Scrum Master class to add that certification to my bag of tricks, but the easiest and cheapest alternative is to just watch online training videos.  Thankfully they are available for free with my PMI membership and the only downside is it’s 1 PDU per hour. I am a big fan of “double dipping” when it comes to getting things done, so I have been listening to a webinar as I have been looking for jobs.  Two birds, one stone…a major tenet of my life philosophy 🙂

We also put together our upcoming route for getting to Mor-Ryde in Indiana, and it seems that finally we have a solution that works for us.  We’ve tried every combination of routing (me doing it alone, Lee doing it alone, us doing it together, and all of those seemed to be pretty burdensome.  Lee and I think about things differently, so we bring different ideas and tactics to any task which can either make things easier or more difficult.  Our current methodology for planning our route seems to work perfectly, so I thought I would share it.  Lee picks the general areas we will stop every night based on attempting to have roughly 300 mile travel days when we’re traveling on a deadline. For whatever reason I have a really hard time doing that, but the way he thinks makes it easy for him.

I then take that list of cities and try to find us campsites in the general area.  I look at Ultimate Campgrounds first (for BLM, City, and State Parks) and Passport America second for half price, easy to access campgrounds. For whatever reason this is very easy for me and I fill in the gaps with campground suggestions.  He then takes the list of campgrounds and double checks availability, location, reviews etc and we are locked in. Really pretty simple with our divide and conquer strategy and it only took us 2-1/2 years to figure out the best method for us. One of the coolest things about getting ready to go somewhere is that suddenly you realize you may cross paths with friends.  We are going to be “near” Cori and Greg, Deb and Steve, and Jo and Ben, and although we may not be able to work the schedule so we can see all of them it’s nice knowing that we are all that close to each other.  I’ve said this before, but it’s worth mentioning again that in my head I see all of our friends like little points of light all around a map of the United States.  I don’t always know exactly where everyone is, but I see those lights moving and I find that amazing and very comforting.

But back to travel scheduling.  Doing it in advance definitely makes travel easier for us and doing as much prep work in advance accomplishes the same thing.  Because despite being on the road for almost three years we can still find travel days stressful.  Lee has gone to a significant amount of work to minimize that as much as possible and we have learned to just accept that about ourselves and roll with it.  Part of it may be the way we travel of course.  Our “hub and spoke” approach usually has us staying in an area for a quite while, and using it as a jumping off place to explore so we have less “true travel days” than many of our counterparts.  But we have certainly experienced enough of them to know that a day here and a day there is never our preferred method of seeing a place.  Your mileage will definitely vary on that one of course as there are many people who are perfectly content moving every few days.  That’s just not us and so we take steps to make those days as pleasant as possible.

Anyway, this time is preparing to leave is definitely more mellow than in the past.  I believe a big part of that is knowing we might come back next summer, but I also think we are just getting better at the logistics of the lifestyle. Either way I’ll take it and hope that the stress level doesn’t rise as we get closer to the departure date. This time I even had time to fit in one last trip to the Farmer’s Market and local book store and it was nice to say farewell to both of those activities.  Estacada has been a very nice home base for us and I will miss some of the people and places we have gotten to know this summer.

Disclaimer: The company we are working for this summer has a very specific media policy. I will not be mentioning them by name, or mentioning the specific names of anyone I am working with, except for Lee.  Also, because it’s not really that difficult to figure out which company it is, I want to be clear: I in no way speak for the company or my co-workers, and am only recounting my personal experiences.  Also, any details I get wrong in this or any other post are due to a misunderstanding on my part.  

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 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 here

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


First Time Working In A Utility Co. Park – Smoky Labor Day Weekend

Disclaimer: The company we are working for this summer has a very specific media policy. I will not be mentioning them by name, or mentioning the specific names of anyone I am working with, except for Lee.  Also, because it’s not really that difficult to figure out which company it is, I want to be clear: I in no way speak for the company or my co-workers, and am only recounting my personal experiences.  Also, any details I get wrong in this or any other post are due to a misunderstanding on my part.  

I haven’t written about the job much lately, so before starting on the labor day weekend I am going to take a couple of minutes and catch us up.  At this point we have have the job pretty much down, which is nice from a work standpoint, but things were a little boring.  We all knew it was the calm before the storm though, as Labor Day is always a big weekend in a campground.  The most exciting thing that happened was I dropped my phone and broke the glass in it.  I can’t remember ever breaking a phone before.  Not that that I don’t drop them, but I am a big fan of the Otter Box case so when I do drop them they usually bounce! This time the phone landed face down and since I was in a gravel parking lot a rock hit the bottom just perfect and a large crack formed near the button.  The phone was still usable thankfully, but since it was an Iphone4 from 2012, Lee thought it was time I bit the bullet and bought a new IPhone.

I actually can’t remember ever buying a new IPhone before either.  I had a Blackberry at my old job, then was issued an iPhone, and when I took the buyout I bought a pretty basic Samsung to use with our Verizon account.  Ultimately we got rid of the Verizon account (turned out we didn’t need two carriers as we traveled) and when I got on Lee’s AT&T account I used his old iPhone 4.  So it was kind of exciting getting a new phone, and although I looked online for something used, ultimately I just drove over to the nearest AT&T store and purchased an iPphone 7.  $750 later I had a new phone, new Otterbox case, and an installed tempered glass protector.  Yes, I could have done it cheaper, but the experience wouldn’t have been easier and the customer service I received was very, very good at the store. Plus, as blase as I tend to be about all things electronic, I have to say I really like the phone.  I went with the 7 (versus the 7s) because I really like the smaller screen, but even the small one was MUCH bigger than the tiny screen on the 4 I have been working off of. And after getting all my contacts and programs moved over, I have to say I am a huge fan. Plus they made it so very easy, compared to my other new phone experiences and I really appreciated that.

The other exciting thing that happened last week, was we had an exit interview with our boss. That went extremely well and not only were our thoughts about improvements for next year taken seriously, but we also had an opportunity to talk about future opportunities.  Up until this point, we have never liked a job enough to commit to a second season, but with this company we are seriously considering it.  There are so many parts of the country we haven’t explored yet that we are always looking for what’s next on the horizon, but the company is really great and our boss is the best I have personally worked for since starting this lifestyle and that matters to me. It helps that there is so much to do in this area.  When we arrive at a new place, I make a list of Things to See and usually get through at least 75% of it.  That hasn’t been the case here, and there is enough left on our list that I am confident if we returned there would be plenty of “First Times” to carry us through another summer.

The job itself wasn’t that great of course.  It’s hard to get excited about cleaning toilets and emptying trash all day, but thankfully they have several locations and other jobs we might be a good fit for.  It was also the first time any employer really looked at us as individuals and talked through our options with us.  That scenario was pretty common in our old lives, but in the world of seasonal employment, generally the jobs are what they are and you either want them or you don’t.  This boss and company had no issue with “tweaking” a position to help make it work for us as  individuals and the fact that they would go to that much trouble was frankly very gratifying.  We left the meeting with high hopes about opportunities for next year and will be having a follow-up meeting as we get closer to the end of the season.

Oh and we were finally able to change the closing time on the Lower Launch from 9pm – 8pm.  We have been struggling for a couple of weeks with it getting dark sooner, and trying to clean up and clear the Lower Launch in the dark was stressing both of us out. We pushed back the closing time a few minutes every night and mostly people were OK with it, but every once in awhile someone got fussy because the sign said 9pm.   Yes, the sign said 9pm, but it was pitch black by 8:30 and at that point they had to stop fishing anyway.  It didn’t help that for some reason the Dept. of Fish and Wildlife chose not to stock as scheduled during eclipse week.  We were supposed to get 16,000 fish in the North Reservoir and people were pretty upset that the schedule changed.  Now normally I don’t have a ton of patience for all of that…it is called fishing not catching..but since the schedule was posted online well in advance and they didn’t change the schedule until last minute it really wasn’t very cool.  Many people had scheduled family trips based on that information, or they made a long drive down just to find out there were minimal fish.  They were still in there of course, but the ones that remained were pretty canny and often they didn’t start biting until late evening. Of course frustrated fishermen didn’t want to be chased out of the lower launch “just when they started biting”, but it’s not legal to fish here after dark and we had to worry about people’s safety in any event.  It just wasn’t a good situation and could have been avoided if they would have simply stocked on the published schedule.  I am sure they had a good reason, but it’s not like they didn’t know the eclipse was going to happen much sooner.  It’s all anyone talked about for months.

Thankfully they did stock right before Labor Day weekend though and since we also were able to put up the signs stating 8pm closure of the gates, we were feeling pretty confident about how the weekend would go.  The forecast called for high temps, which we knew would bring big crowds, but Lee and I had decided to start our new weekend schedules which we thought would help.  A couple of weeks ago, Lee and I decided we needed more alone time, so as soon as the gate closing went to 8pm we were going to work opposite shifts.  Lee would be working 5:30am -11:30am and I would work 1:00pm – 8:30pm.  After much discussion we decided  Lee was going to come back at 7pm to help me close the gates.  This would give us both several hours of alone time, which at this point was desperately needed.  One of the downsides of this particular job is that we are together a lot especially on the weekends. And since our separating gave us more coverage time on the river, our boss was totally fine with the change.

I took the later shift, because Lee is more of a morning person and although I knew it would be hotter I was hoping I could use the AC in the truck to keep myself reasonably comfortable.  What I wasn’t counting on was the smoke.  Friday we had some, but we have seen worse this summer, but by Saturday it was really bad.  And our sites were packed. What I mean by that is the parking lot is full by 2pm, tons of boats and inflatable crafts in the water, and lots and lots of people in the water.  This meant lots of toilet paper and lots of trash and I was out of the truck way more than I was in it.  I was surprised by the amount of smoke of course, but to be honest was more focused on the task right in front of me, and it completely escaped my notice that a huge fire had broken out on the Columbia River Gorge, which is just 20 “crow” miles north of us.

What I discovered on Monday, and yes I am that clueless or busy, was that a fire broke out at Eagle Creek  and stranded 153 hikers.  The hikers were cut off from their return path and rescue workers had to setup a temporary base camp for them to spend the night and then they all walked out 14 miles out on the other side. Because of hot, dry conditions the fire grew quickly and was eventually 4,400 acres causing several communities to be evacuated and a section of I-84 to be closed down.  That is a major deal as there aren’t that many interstates here in Oregon and this was a major East/West route for truckers.  Although we have visited the Columbia Gorge area numerous times since we have been here, I didn’t really understand how close it was “as the crow flies”.  It takes us about an hour to drive there, but that’s because we have to drive up and around.  Our fellow camp host told us it was only about 20 miles away, which is why we were seeing so much more smoke.  Again, totally clueless.  All I knew was air quality was getting worse and worse and by Sunday at 5:30pm I had too take an extra long break in the RV.

Smoke on Saturday. The picture really doesn’t do it justice as the smoke haze was like a wall that ended at the dam

The only up side was we had two pretty sunsets and again the picture doesn’t show how much smoke hung in the air, but as you can see the sun was totally obscured by the smoke.

(Update: Right before publishing this post we checked the news and as of 9/5/17 9pm PST the fire has grown to over 10,000 acres and over 40 miles of I-84 is closed. Below is a link to a local news channel with a gallery of photos of the fire.)

Overall though I felt great about the service we provided over the weekend.  Couldn’t do much about running out of parking spaces, but with vigilance we were able to make sure the boat spaces stayed open for boat traffic.  We didn’t run out of toilet paper anywhere and we kept the trash mainly in hand and for the first time in weeks I cleaned up on recyclables, pulling out at least 7 bags of bottles and cans.  Monday though was a concern, because I was in the campground and Lee only worked the morning on the river, but since we were both pretty tired at that point, we did the best we could and then the sites had to ride through the evening.

Turns out Labor Day Monday is not the best day to work in the campground as I had 36 sites I had to turn.  Everyone else was busy starting the tear down of the yomes, so I was on my own to clean all the sites.  Air quality was particularly bad that day as well, and I was hopping as I turned site after site.  Thankfully, I could skip the yomes, which made it manageable and ended up getting all the sites except three cleaned by the end of my shift.  The deal with the yomes is that they have to be completely disassembled by the end of the season and this is a multiple day process.  The beds have to be disassembled and all of the mattresses stacked in a cabin.  The sides have to be power washed, dried, and then treated with water proofing, before the sides are taken off and stored. Then the top portion is lowered and rests on the base and finally tarped for the winter.  So even though we have two weeks of campground left, they started the process at labor day because the one thing that can really screw with the schedule is rain.  The tarps have to dry between the various stages and obviously can’t be put away wet.  The whole thing is a pretty labor intensive process and overall I am thankful we are largely out of it, especially because the weather conditions are so hot and smoky.

The tarps are power washed, then treated, the the sides are taken off and stored

The bed frames are disassembled and left. The top comes down and the whole thing is tarped

I was super impressed by how many mattresses they fit in one cabin. That’s efficiency!

Also based on the weather we aren’t planning any activities on our days off, but just hanging out and getting caught up on some things.  I need to spend more time on job searches (throwing resumes out there but it’s slow going) and need to get caught up on housework, blogging, etc.  One really nice thing though is Sue reached out to me and she and Jonathon are going to stop by on Tuesday.  They are getting close to finishing the US leg of their adventure and are planning on heading overseas soon.  We are in the home stretch now and both happy about that as our feet are starting to get a little “itchy.”

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 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 here

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




First Time Working In A Utility Co. Park – Fire and Rain

Disclaimer: The company we are working for this summer has a very specific media policy. I will not be mentioning them by name, or mentioning the specific names of anyone I am working with, except for Lee.  Also, because it’s not really that difficult to figure out which company it is, I want to be clear: I in no way speak for the company or my co-workers, and am only recounting my personal experiences.  Also, any details I get wrong in this or any other post are due to a misunderstanding on my part.  

Thursday I was back to work and thankfully it was a slow day.  I didn’t feel any discomfort at all, but wanted to make sure I didn’t overdue it, so I focused on detailed litter pickup as my “extra task” for the day.  When we have slow days we try to fill in our time with extra tasks.  They include maintenance, hanging signs, watering trees, spraying our bathrooms, and putting water in the pit toilets.   Although we pick up big litter as part of our daily duties, on occasion a detailed walk through is called for.

It’s surprising how much litter can “hide” in the vegetation surrounding the parking lots, so walking slow and really looking hard at the details is called for.  I walked Moore Creek and Hole-In-The-Wall (our main river sites) and ended up with a bucket full of small trash.  Since the temperatures were much cooler, this wasn’t an unpleasant thing to do and it feels nice to look over an area after it is complete.  Lee worked in the campground on Thursday and he ended up having a very busy day.  One large group had rented the entire campground starting on Friday and there were numerous checkouts along with additional cleaning at the day use areas.

I was excited because Friday I was going to get to work in the office for the first time.  One of the office people flew up to Alaska for the weekend for a wedding (people do that here in Oregon, you can fly round trip to Anchorage from Portland for $250!) and I had volunteered to cover some of her hours.  I had spent a couple hours training the last two Mondays and felt pretty confident about my ability to handle what was thrown at me.  Plus, since only one large group was checking in, it was going to be an easier day, which turned out to to be a good thing because I was surprised by how busy the phones were. I opened the office at 10am and before I even had money in the drawer had my first walk up.  They were interested in extending (which unfortunately we could not accommodate due to the large group) and we were off tho the races from there.

For the next two hours the phone was ringing and folks were stopping by wanting to see the campground or see if we had any openings and things were in general pretty excited.  It did slow down after a couple of hour, but I spent the rest of my time making courtesy calls to upcoming reservations between answering incoming calls.  Not kidding, three times I picked up the phone to make a call and someone was already on the line.  Like I said it was fun though and as I told my supervisor when he called to check on me later in the day, “It beats cleaning toilets lol.”  Really it was nice to do something else and I very much appreciated how the other office person stayed available and was very helpful to me.

Lee and I also got some alone time, because I worked 10am -3pm and Lee worked 3pm – 9:30pm, with me joining him at 7:30pm to help close the gates.  I know I have mentioned it before, but we are spending a LOT of time together and having some time apart was really nice for both of us.  He had a very nice day working the river sites and was even able to help a couple with small kids who were biking in the area and looking for a place to camp.  Lee’s a big softie when it comes to little kids and thankfully he helped them find a place to stay.  I can’t imagine heading out from Portland on bikes with two kids in tow and no firm place to camp for the night, but obviously people do it, and although I appreciate their adventuresome spirit, the mom in me cringes at the thought.  Thankfully he was able to find them a place and made sure they both made it there.  What folks don’t really get about this area is that outside of Estacada there is zero cell service.  So if you are winging it, and your first choice doesn’t work out, you can’t just start calling other places.  We run into this all the time with folks who are looking for a last minute campsite or more commonly made arrangements to meet friends and then can’t find them.  Phones are such an omnipresent part of all of our lives now you don’t really think about not having them, and folks come out here and when they run into difficulty are a little lost.  We do what we can, when we can, but we don’t have cell coverage on the road either and usually there isn’t a lot that we can do.  Thankfully in this case, Lee was able to help.

Saturday we were a little worried about because there was a big event down at the main marina and some of the boat trailer spaces would be taken by the event.  On hot weekends both the main marina and ours have been maxxed out with boat trailers, and losing parking spaces was a serious concern. Luckily one of our fellow camphosts got involved in the marina event early on and he made sure the boat trailers who usually go there parked in the campground overflow parking lot.  This stopped many of them from going down river to our marina and definitely helped with traffic control for the event in general.  We also were super lucky because it was the first overcast day in weeks. So although we had many fisherman out on the reservoir the number of recreational boaters was lower than it has been in awhile.  I’m not sure what would have happened if we would have had our normal weekend traffic levels, but the combination of our camphost getting involved and the weather made the morning manageable.

The day wasn’t without incident though, as when we were leaving the campground for our evening run a young couple came into the campground and pulled up to us.  They told us a car had flipped into a ravine upriver near one of the Forest Service campgrounds and there was a fire.  They had been unable to call for help because they had no cell service and stopped at our campground because it was the first place they saw.  Lee immediately called 911 (who was already aware of the incident) and we finished grabbing our stuff and headed upriver.  Before we could leave the campground a second car pulled up and they said “15 trees were on fire.”  OK this was worse, because forest conditions have been very dry and the fire was only 10 miles upriver.  We assured them 911 had been called and then headed upriver to check out the scene.

For the record, dealing with fires is definitely out of our job description, but we are living less than 10 miles away and Hole-In-The-Wall was 2 miles downriver from where it occurred.  When we arrived, they had just closed the road and smoke was definitely billowing.  Lee and I got out of the car and walked up towards the Forest Service Law Enforcement truck where we were told, 2 people had been seriously injured and were being taken to the hospital, the fire was not under control and they would be “dealing with it for a while”.  The Ranger also asked us if we could help clear a “hole in the traffic because he was getting ready to evacuate the forest service campground this was next to.  We were happy to provide assistance and told the folks in waiting cars it was going to be a while.  Many couldn’t leave because there was no other good way to get to their destination and several of them were staying in the campground and had just come back from boating.

What we saw when we pulled up


One water truck on scene and lots of smoke.  What we didn’t realize at the time was the fire was on both sides.

I really felt bad for them because I knew there was nowhere else to stay close by because this time of year all the campgrounds are packed on the weekends.  After getting the cars to move, went on about our route and made sure Hole-In-The Wall and Moore Creek were fully stocked.  While we were doing that several cars who had turned around stopped and used them, so I was glad we were able to provide a place for people to wait it out at least. I was also glad that evening when it started raining.  We had gone 57 straight days without rain (second longest streak in Oregon history) and the fact that rain came on a day when we needed it for traffic control in the morning and to help with the fire in the evening felt like providence.  Plus I like the sun, but I was longing for a little bit of cooler temperatures and the rain means we wont have to water the trees this week.

The next morning Lee drove up and saw that the fire was still not completely out although it was well contained.  The road was open to one-way use and they had folks in place directing traffic. Thankfully they had it under control, although we did see that there were signs of fire on both side of the road.  We are not exactly sure how that happened, but one anecdotal report we heard said they hit an electric pole which is what actually started the fire.  It could have been so much worse, and everyone was really thankful it was responded to so quickly.  On Monday morning he was finally able to get some pictures when the fire was completely out and it was clear there was impact on both sides of the road.

This is the right side of the road where the car flipped.


The left side saw much more fire damage though


A long swath was burned along the road

This is what it looks like when fire response is onsite in less than 20 minutes, I can’t imagine what could have happened with a longer delay. The fire crews also had lots of available water from the Clackamas River and all in all we felt pretty lucky how this all turned out.  Our campground is 1 mile from the edge of the Mount Hood national forest, which is over 1 million acres of largely undeveloped land.

Sunday continued to rain and was overcast and Monday was the coolest day we have had in a couple of months.  I enjoyed the change in temperature, but was surprised by how much colder I was without the sunshine.  Crowds were also low because it has been almost a month since they have stocked trout.  The water is warm this time of year and there is a big break between stocking, so although some fish are there even the most experienced fishermen are having some trouble catching their limit.  This should change next week though as we have three big stocks scheduled starting August 22nd and over 20,000 trout will be going in the reservoir in the next few weeks.  Fish = fishermen and warm temps = recreational boaters, so when we combine those two things crowd levels are high.  Plus of course we have the eclipse and since we are only 4 miles from totality the next couple of weeks should be a little crazy.

We all appreciated the little break from the crowds and heat this week although my recycling certainly was impacted.  I only got 4 bags of recyclables this week (less than $10 worth).  I’m fine with that, happy to have the break, and I even had time to take a few pics of the osprey babies.  Still haven’t caught them flying, but they are getting pretty big and hopefully I’ll get to see that soon.


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 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 here

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

First Time Working In A Utility Co. Park – Long, Hot Summer Days

Disclaimer: The company we are working for this summer has a very specific media policy. I will not be mentioning them by name, or mentioning the specific names of anyone I am working with, except for Lee.  Also, because it’s not really that difficult to figure out which company it is, I want to be clear: I in no way speak for the company or my co-workers, and am only recounting my personal experiences.  Also, any details I get wrong in this or any other post are due to a misunderstanding on my part.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to 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 here

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


First Time Working In A Utility Co. Park – Fourth of July Weekend

Disclaimer: The company we are working for this summer has a very specific media policy. I will not be mentioning them by name, or mentioning the specific names of anyone I am working with, except for Lee.  Also, because it’s not really that difficult to figure out which company it is, I want to be clear: I in no way speak for the company or my co-workers, and am only recounting my personal experiences.  Also, any details I get wrong in this or any other post are due to a misunderstanding on my part.  

This week we voluntarily changed our days off in order to be able to help out on July 4th.  We had no plans and since the newbie camp hosts would be alone, we thought we could switch our days off and help out. I didn’t really take into account though how tiring that 6th day would be, but despite that I don’t regret it.  It’s always nice to be able to help people and since it was an even switch of days and hours it cost us very little. I also decided to take everyone’s advice and do a little recycling.  My thought was to pick out what was sitting on top or on the sides of the cans and see where we ended up at the end of the week.  It was stinky, but with the pickup sticks wasn’t too terribly bad.

The weekend started off slower than expected, mainly due to cooler temperatures, so we had time for a few special projects.  Lee, at my request, taught me how to use the pole saw, which is basically a chain saw on the end of a long pole.  It wasn’t as heavy as I thought it would be, but it is of course super dangerous and I paid close attention to what I was doing while I used it. It’s good to learn a new skill and it felt really good when I cleared Hole-in-the-Wall, but it isn’t something I would want to do on a regular basis.  Still, something to add to the work kamping resume.

You can extend the pole even farther but I was too chicken. As you can see the face mask was a little large for me and kept slipping down, which kind of defeated the purpose

Even did one branch from the back of a truck

We also placed two new trashcans at the lower launch.  The first was down on the beach which we hope will help with the crazy amounts of traffic being generated there and the second was up behind the gate where we kept finding trash and broken beer bottles.  By sheer luck we met a group of kids up at that spot and found out what the allure was.  Apparently they are jumping into the water from this spot (about 20 feet) and then climbing up the bank with the rope used by the fishermen.  As these things go it actually seemed pretty safe and if I was a little bit younger I might even give it a go myself.

New trash can

It’s hard to show how steep this is, but I climbed down once and trust me the rope is VERY necessary

This is the view from the jump. The wood boundary that people fish off is to the left. To give you an idea of scale, those logs are each over 2′ in diameter.

Saturday, was also relatively quiet so I spent some time filling the water up in the pit toilets.  At my request, most of the pit toilets were emptied before the holiday weekend and this really helped with the smell.  They did need some water added though and I took the large trailer with me.  I also watered the trees at Moore Creek, since it hasn’t rained in a while here.  The trees are only two years old and need some extra help to keep them alive.  The best part of Saturday was I finally got to go to the local farmer’s market.  My morning shift ends at 12:30pm and since we are back on at 5:30pm I usually don’t want to go, but this week I found the energy.  I was really glad that I did!

The farmers market

Unfortunately there was only one vendor with vegetables but their selection was good and prices were very reasonable

The main building is an antique shop and I really liked it. Each section was it’s own little room and it was really nice

They even had this cool chicken coop out back

Sunday got much hotter and things were much busier.  Not as busy as last weekend, but busy enough for sure.  We didn’t do any special projects, just kept up on the sites.  I did take the time to take a few pictures of Faraday Lake though.  The water was released and for the first time we can clearly see the fish channel.  This channel is actually pretty interesting as it was built by the company to protect the fish.  They don’t like warm water, so the deeper (and cooler channel) helps them live longer.

The picture doesn’t really show how huge it is

The geese are still hanging out. They like walking on the ledges

I also took this picture of the bridge that we drive over to get to Faraday. It’s a pretty tight fit

The most interesting thing that happened all day was the large booming noises that were coming from near Moore Creek.  There is a forest service area where people shoot guns right down the road and since it is in a canyon the sound really carries.  It can be startling to the white water rafters that come down from Portland, but we have gotten used to it.  Still today was a little different as these deep booming noises were going off.  When I arrived one of the raft drivers was visibly upset and since I was in “uniform” he thought I should help fix the problem.  That happens pretty frequently, as law enforcement is pretty scarce here, so the truck and uniform make us somewhat official looking.  Even though the shooting “range” wasn’t our area, I told him I would check it out and with some hesitation drove down to that area.

There is a little pull off and a huge hill which blocks the area where they shoot, so I VERY carefully walked up around the corner.  I didn’t go far, because there were at least 20 people up there and they were shooting quite a bit.  Thankfully, a couple of young guys were walking out and I asked where the booming noise was coming from. They explained that some people had Telluride targets, which according to them were not flammable just really loud and perfectly legal.  I thanked them and went back to the rafting driver, who was not happy and stated it was ruining the experience for the rafters. I didn’t disagree, in today’s climate hearing gunshots and having no idea where they are coming from, is alarming and the giant explosion sounds were worse.  But I explained it was National Forest Service land and they would need to register a complaint with them and then went on my way.

Monday was a campground day and it was my busiest one yet.  I thought it would be slow because people would be staying the entire four days, but that wasn’t the case.  I had 15 ins/outs and a full campground besides.  I was super busy and barely stopped all day, but I got all, but two of the sites clean.  People were very nice and there were lots of kids in the campground, so it was pretty pleasant until (skip the rest of this paragraph and the next one if your squeamish)  a gentleman walked up and said there was a used tampon in the men’s shower. He was so nervous and slightly embarrassed to tell me, but I thanked him.  I really would rather know these sorts of things so I could address it right away.  It’s not fun dealing with a used tampon, but at least it was quick and I don’t even want to think about why it was in the men’s shower.

Apparently it’s our weekend for that sort of thing as the newbie camp host closed the lower launch Monday night and someone pooped right on the floor in front of the toilet.  He only covers that bathroom one night a week and I don’t blame him that he wasn’t thrilled.  I heard the story when I went out on my run and found the exact same thing at Faraday.  This was a first for me, as it definitely looked deliberate and it was definitely not the way I wanted to start my day.  The only good part of the shift was when I came back to the campground and Lee told me his story.  He was getting ready to get off his shift and a woman came up and said there was poop in the women’s shower.  Lee went in to take care of it and saw a “log” laying in the drain.  He decided it looked a little too “perfectly shaped” and looked a little closer, then started laughing. It was an unopened pine cone!!  He brought it out holding it in his hand and the woman initially looked horrified, but then he let her in on the joke.  So apparently Lee has better karma than me or the other camp host, and hopefully that will be our last encounter with poop outside of a toilet for the rest of the summer.  It’s not likely though.

On the plus side I turned our recycling in and we made $13.60, which covered  the cost of the visit to the farmers market.   The recycling station is at the local super market and there was a line to recycle, so the concept is working at least in Oregon.  I’ve never really done it before, but you feed each item in one at a time and there is a pretty high tech conveyor belt and bar code reader and a slip with your total pops out at the end.  It goes faster than you would think, but it’s pretty smelly in the recycling station as well.  Stale beer is not my favorite odor.  I will say though that if nothing else this job is toughening up my olfactory senses.  I was always pretty sensitive to bad smells, but the sort of continuous assault on the senses has actually benefited me in this area.  Gotta look for the positives. And it’s a few extra bucks so I may keep doing it.  Our fellow camp hosts are also looking for ways to make some extra money.  One couple has created fire starting kits which are actually pretty creative.  They are cutting a slice of a Duraflame log, adding some newspaper and kindling and charging $4.  Pretty smart idea and one we are tucking away for the future.


Anyways,  we are off for a couple of days and we are going to the Timberfest, going to see fireworks and Kay is coming to visit before she heads to Korea.  So hopefully we will have a nice couple of days.  I’ve also got a couple of projects to work and that will keep me busy.

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