First Time Working In A Utility Co. Park – Father’s Day Week

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 promising a walk through of what we do on campground days, and since Monday is my campground day, and it finally stopped raining so I could get some pictures, I thought I would share those details in this post.  Many people think camp hosting jobs are easy.  Heck, I thought they were easy, and on some days they can be.  Campground host duties are very much driven by how full the campground is, and since this campground is largely used on weekends, those are the busiest days.  We are seeing more people during the week though now that school is out, and the workload has increased exponentially.  It’s a pretty simple equation.  More people means more campsites to clean, and the bathrooms and showers see heavier use.  There are more questions to answer, more firewood to sell and deliver, and more time spent on making sure folks are following the rules.  Since we only work day shift, I can’t speak to the evening duties of the camp hosts, but I can give you a run down of what an average mid-week day shift looks like, at least for us.

During the week, the camp host opens the gates to the campground, the marina next door (you can see the gates to the marina just beyond our gate in the picture below), and the lower boat launch, which is about a mile down the road. Since all gates are supposed to be opened by 6am, we get up and out the door by 5:30am and drive to the three locations to allow plenty of time to get all the gates by 6am.

Campground and Marina Gates

 

Lower Launch Gate

 

This one is tough for me because of this heavy bar, but with the use of a crowbar I can do it by myself

 

One of the nicest things about mornings on the river is the mist.  Almost every day the mist hangs above the water, and it is really pretty in the mornings.  After opening the gate at the lower launch we unlock the bathroom and I always like to take a minute to look around and enjoy the mist on the water. It’s much prettier than the pictures below suggest. We’re pretty low in a canyon/valley, so it takes several hours for the sun to finally hit the water on the reservoir.



After opening the gates, we come back and check the marina.  We look for trash and check the dog bag holders, but anything major is left for the evening shift.  There is a large fish cleaning station, picnic tables, and a significant amount of weeding down there, but since we just fill in one day a week that is not something we tackle. After checking the marina, we unlock the bathrooms at the campground day use area and check the playground, again looking for trash or mess from the night before.  Rarely do we find any issues there, because the evening shift cleans and locks those areas prior to locking the gate.

Doggie bag dispensers

 

 

Next is Small Fry Pond and this takes a little longer.  This pond is for children under the age of 18, stocked with fish, and is open to both campers from our campground,  and the public.  The amount of traffic it gets varies wildly, so it requires a morning check of the three trash cans and picking up litter along the trail.  It’s a beautiful little path down to the pond, and not the worst way to start a morning, but not so fun on a rainy day because the path is a little steep and can be a bit slippery, especially when hauling out a full trash bag. This area also has it’s own fish cleaning station, which see some use, but thankfully I rarely have to clean it.  The evening camp hosts usually check this prior to closing the gate and so far I have been lucky not having to deal with fish guts that early in the morning!

Path down to the pond

Small fry pond has a path all the way around it which I walk looking for litter

A thankfully clean fish cleaning station. Mr. Newbie and Mr. Kayaker do a great job of keeping the fish cleaning station clean.

Next up is another large day use area.  This area can be booked for the day for a small fee, but can be used by anyone if it is not reserved.  Generally it is in pretty good shape, but needs extra attention the morning before or the evening after a booking.  Again, I have been pretty lucky with this as well, but always check it, because sometimes folks hang out there or have an impromptu gathering and it can get messy.  It’s a really nice day use area with a huge fire pit, lots of picnic tables, including some under a roof, and a fireplace under the roof, a large charcoal grill, electric stoves, large sinks, and two bathrooms (which are only opened if someone books the site). Below is a picture from the river edge looking back up at the day use area.

 

Beautiful views of the river from the bottom of the day use area.

Once the day use area is cleaned I head back to our RV.  I take the company truck to complete the first set of tasks and then hand it off to Lee who runs up and down the river on Monday.  Usually I get all of those areas checked and cleaned by 6:30am, but occasionally it pushes closer to 7am.  Once I hand the keys over, I walk down to the campground to start my day down there.

The first thing I do is open the maintenance garage and pull out the Gator.  It’s pretty early and the gator makes a pretty loud beep when you back it up, so I try to back it out very quickly.  I make sure it is stocked with a wet mop, dry mop, rake, and squeegee along with making sure the black tub has full cleaning supply bottles.  I then take a quick run down to the two sets of bathrooms and poke my head in and make sure the toilets, sinks, toilet paper, and showers look OK for the morning rush.  It’s too early to do a complete cleanup, but I will spot clean areas I think need it. Most of the time the real issue is the sinks or empty toilet paper rolls, so I can take care of that pretty quickly and quietly.

One of Lee’s first project was organizing the shop. He even added the top shelf and made sure there was enough room to park the gator inside.

 

The gator with the nifty mop holder that the guys created from PVC pipe

 

Main restroom with showers.

 

Modern toilets and showers

 

After the morning restroom check I come back to the office and wait until around 9am when folks start waking up and I can make more noise.  I use this time to read work emails, look at the communication log, look at the ongoing maintenance list, and look at today’s check ins and outs.  The number of campers checking in and out will largely drive my day, so on days with less check in/outs I can work more on the task lists, but other days that (along with cleaning the bathrooms) is the bulk of what I get done.  At 9am, I head out with the cleaning supplies and start working on the sites.  All sites are cleaned as soon as the campers leave, so theoretically sites that weren’t occupied the night before shouldn’t need to be touched, but it never hurts to take a second look.  Sometimes campers “spread out” into adjoining sites if they are unoccupied and the Yomes are not completely airtight so needles and dust can get in. Cleaning a Yome involves sweeping or blowing the floor, mopping it, and spraying the plastic mattress covers with disinfectant and wiping them  with the dry mop.  Generally they don’t take that long, but they do take longer than a regular campsite.

Office

 

Desk area with the well maintained communication log. Everyone here does a great job of using this

 

The maintenance list is ever changing, but there isn’t much on here that I have the time or skill set to work on. I do try to jump in where I can though

 

I make this map with the Ins and Outs every Monday and then check off the campsites as I complete them. Of particular interest is any campsite with an In and an Out as those need to be turned as soon as possible

 

The Yomes are very popular

 

They have two sets of bunkbeds in them and most have electric

 

We spray with disinfectant and then use this dry mop. Very effective

The campsites are generally pretty easy.  They have a tent area which may need raked and a fire pit that needs cleaned out.  One of the perks of the job is we get to keep any leftover firewood, and we carry a metal bucket on the gator to put pieces in.  Since checkout time is not until 1pm many people start fires on their departure morning and it’s not uncommon to walk away with 5-6 pieces.  The only tough cleaning job for me is the cabins.  They are incredibly nice and only a year old, but the bunk beds are tall and it’s hard for me to climb up and clean the top bunk.  For whatever reason those just wear me out and I am always grateful when there are just a few I have to work on in a day.  They also take the longest and for me it’s about 20 minutes each, so when we have lots of check ins and check outs it can be hard to get done before my shift ends at 1:30.  It’s fine if we don’t get everything done and have to pass some things along to the next shift, but I like to get as much done as possible so they can focus on guest interactions and the maintenance list.

Campfire rings. It’s amazing what people leave in them. The worst is half eaten food though and the worst of that I have seen so far is when someone poured beans all over a piece of wood. Gross!!

 

The cabins

 

They have electric and a small electric stove. They still smell like new wood and although they are rustic they are really nice and very reasonably priced.

 

Great river view from one of the cabins

While touring the campground we also clean the 4 cook stove areas.  This is a really nice feature and all campers have access to two hot plates, a counter, and a sink.  Some folks keep these areas very clean, but others are kind of messy and it requires Easy Off and a scrub brush to get them somewhat clean. Along with these cook stations are two more fish stations, but again I rarely have to clean those.  Have I mentioned I am super thankful for that!!

The green cone in the front is the dump sink and takes the grey water from people washing dishes  to a tank. One of the guys cleaned this the other day and wow was that a gross job. The rotting food smell was pretty intense.

Campground days are an 8 hour shift and since most of that is working I am definitely pooped out at the end of those days. But we have our two days off so I can rest up and then the rest of the week is river sites.  Thursday is Lee’s campground day now and we mainly switched because of moving the dumpsters.  I took some pictures of that process so you can see it, because it is really hard to explain.

Back the gator up to the small dumpster. It’s easier if you can roll them, but they are too heavy for me to move when they are full

 

Use a GIANT ratchet strap to attach the can to the gator, getting it as tight as possible so it doesn’t move side to side

 

The giant ratchet strap was super intimidating for me, but now I feel comfortable. If nothing else I think I have finally gotten over my somewhat unreasonable fear of these things.

 

This steep hill is the worst. It goes down to where the dumpsters can be emptied by the garbage truck and going down this hill with the rattle of the wheels and the push of the weight is a little nerve wracking. After doing this a few times I was happy to trade days with Lee

The whole thing feels a little Beverly Hillbillies to me, but it does get the job done.  Not much fun in the pouring rain for sure though and the last two Thursdays Lee has worked it was raining pretty hard.  Still he is a trouper about the whole thing and since he was worried about me getting hurt was happy to make the switch.  Now on Thursdays I run the river alone and it is one of my favorite days.  Although no one checks our river sites on our days off, generally they are still in pretty decent shape and I actually have some extra time.  This week I decided to ride over to an area we don’t technically cover, because there are no trash cans, but several regular dog walkers have mentioned there was trash over there.  There certainly was, and I picked up three 5 gallon buckets worth of what looked like “picnic trash”.  I also unfortunately found my first needles and drug paraphernalia.

2 needles and a metal plate

 

Needle disposal box

I have actually been expecting this since the beginning and thankfully had ordered a needle disposal kit which we carry in the truck. Thankfully I never pick up trash with my bare hands and always use the quik pickers and since they were capped there was no danger.   Let me be clear here, these are public areas, and we all know that drug use has become an epidemic in all areas of the country.  It’s not surprising then that in this out of the way corner I found the needles, and in a way it is good news because I think it shows the areas we are focusing on, the drug users are staying away.  In keeping with that premise, we decided to add an additional trash can in this corner of a day use area we cover and we also let our supervisor know so he could tell security and the authorities.  It was mildly unpleasant though, and not something I wanted to run across on my favorite work day.

Friday and Saturday it rained and/or was overcast so we followed our route but couldn’t do any extra projects, but finally Sunday was bright and clear.  It was also Father’s Day which we knew would be a busy day, it was also the first non rainy day in 10 days and we desperately needed to weed on the river sites.  After doing some initial traffic control at Lower Launch Lee went and borrowed a trailer with a John Deere riding mower and a powered 45 gallon weed sprayer and we set off to Hole in the Wall.  Lee is a really good teacher and showed me how to use the tractor, trailer, and sprayer and I felt pretty confident by the time his shift was over.

The sprayer had three bars you could position which made spraying the rocks much easier.

Unfortunately though I had to do the beginning of the late shift by myself (Lee had used his hours earlier in the morning) and every site was packed.  I emptied 14 very full garbage bags from the various sites and most were very heavy because they were full of beer cans and bottles.  I also was scrambling to clean floors and restock toilet paper because we were almost out at both Faraday and Lower Launch.  Still I managed, but I was super tired by the time I went to pick up Lee and for the first time we had some difficulty clearing the lower launch and shutting the gate.  Despite three polite time checks, there was one boat who didn’t even come in until 9pm and then we had to wait an extra 15 minutes until he put his boat on the trailer.  Long day and a physically demanding one, but we did get a bunch done.  Lee went back with the sprayer and did Moore Creek on Monday so at least the two worst sites are done.

But it wasn’t all hard work this week.  I took a few minutes to get some bird shots. I have been waiting for a sunny day to get a few bird pictures and they include a Violet -green swallow which was kind enough to stay still on the gas pump for me and is a first for me!!

The goslings are so big. Many of their faces turned black practically overnight

 

This Osprey looked smallish so I think it is the partially grown baby.  Not 100% sure though

 

Super excited about this Violet -Green Swallow

 

Violet Green Swallow

 

 


 

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First Time Working In A Utility Co. Park – A Rainy Week

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 started the week off with a firm mental commitment to myself to try and just focus on doing the job and stop analyzing everything so much.  My friends are all going to smile when they read this.  They know what I am like and that this was a tall order for me, but I wanted to try if for nothing else as an experiment to see if it improved my quality of life.  I’ll get into my conclusions at the end, but will say from the beginning it wasn’t easy.

Monday was my day to work in the campground because Lee and I have switched campground days.  Thursday (Lee’s ne day) involves moving all the trash dumpsters out of the campground and I was finding that a little physically challenging.  Lots of things we have done have been a little tough for me, but since our boss has made it very clear he doesn’t expect me to do anything I can’t physically handle, I have gotten pretty good at just looking at a task and saying, “I can’t do that one.”  Unfortunately, the downside of that is the bulk of what I can do is largely scrubbing toilets and cleaning floors.  Oh, and picking up trash.  I am pretty good at using the grippers to pick up “micro litter”.  Our campground days are 8 hour shifts and start at 5:30am when we open the gates.  Once this is done, we check the campground day use area restrooms, walk around the small pond and pick up trash, and check trash cans and clean the fish cleaning stations.

The fish stations are a metal sink with a grate in the bottom and are used by the fishermen to clean fish.  This is by far the least appealing part of the job for me, but thankfully they don’t usually need cleaning on Monday mornings.  Next we check the two main bathrooms in the campground for large messes, or missing toilet paper, and once that is done we have some free time.  You can’t really start roaming around the campground until at least 8am so I used that time to read the pass-on logs and look at campground emails.  During this time period I have lots of time to think and that’s when ideas about improvement start to flow.  Still, I was sticking to the plan, and just read the logs and replied to some direct questions and then headed out to start cleaning around 8:00am.

We have a list of campsites people are coming into that day and a list of campsites people are leaving, so I did some rounds and cleaned the incoming campsites.  They are cleaned after use, but sometimes people “spread” into other campsites, so another check of the fire rings and for litter is a good thing.  Around 9am we can start cleaning the bathrooms and I decided that the smaller restroom really needed a deep clean.  So I pulled out mop buckets, a hose, cleaner, etc and sprayed the bathroom down.  The walls already looked really good thanks to the efforts of Mr. Kayaker earlier in the seasons, but the baseboard needed some extra attention so I spent the next hour and a half working on those.

Not much else to do while you’re cleaning bathrooms other than think, and I spent the time working and thinking about stuff. By the time that was done I was pretty tired and hungry, so I packed up and took my lunch break.  Once lunch was done I started working on the sites people had left, but still had several sites that were still occupied.  Check out time at the campground is 1pm and check in time is at 4pm, and people actually stay here right until 1pm.  Unfortunately we had two cabins and one campsite that were being turned over to new people that same day and they were the ones who chose to stay right until the last minute.  This was my first opportunity to clean the cabins, so I scrubbed floors, cleaned beds and tables, and cleaned the campsites around them.  That was a tougher job than I thought it would be but I managed to get all the sites cleaned and turned by 2:30 when I was done for the day.

Afterwards I was very tired, but decided to take advantage of the sunshine and walk down and sit by the river.  I took a chair, book, and some water, and spent a couple of hours sitting in the sun.  That was nice, especially because a beautiful woodpecker landed on a tree about three feet from me.  I have only seen one other woodpecker this close the entire time we have been on the road and I took it as a sign I was headed in the right direction.

Afterwards I was still tired though, so I took a nap and then we watched some TV and went to bed.  The next day I had my appointment at a dermatologist.  I’ve never been to one, but my mom was concerned about a patch on my right cheek so I drove into Clackamas to get it checked out.  The doctor was great and the appointment was very quick, with them using a spray liquid nitrogen on the place on my cheek.  It was pre-cancerous cells but nothing too serious as there is only a 1% chance they will become cancerous.  Still they like to get rid of them when they can and the spray is a fast and easy way to get the top layer of your skin off.  It stings quite a bit going on but since then no issue although I do have a scab on my cheek which makes it look like I got in a bar fight 🙂

I also received information on all my tests with my other doctor online and once again I have to commend the medical coverage in the Portland area. In other places my Florida license raises eyebrows and sometimes issues, but here everyone has been very nice.  It seems pretty common that people come and work here for the summer and I don’t get treated any differently than any other patient.  The most amazing proof of this was my mammogram.  They found a small cyst during the test and they immediately requested my previous mammograms from New Hampshire.  Within 4 business days, and yes I am still amazed as I type this, they not only had my scans from 2011, 2013, and 2014 but also had done the comparison and determined there was no change and everything was fine.  Wow…impressive!!  The government has been pushing very hard for all medical information to be online and for doctors to work together to share results and I am a happy beneficiary of that.  If those scans weren’t available, they probably would have wanted to do an MRI and/or a biopsy which I know from previous experience runs thousands of dollars.  This way they could clearly see there was no change and all of those tests were unnecessary.  The whole experience was top notch and made me very happy.

Wednesday we explored, which you saw in my last post, but Thursday it was back to work. My favorite day of the week is the day I am in the truck alone (I am sure it is Lee’s also) not just because it is a short day, but because it is during the week and I get to set my own route.  Working with a partner, even when it’s your husband of many years, requires discussion of routes and priorities that simply don’t apply when we are alone.  To start the day I went to get gas and since our badges still aren’t in, I stopped to borrow my supervisor’s.  We had the opportunity to have a nice chat and he told me how much he appreciated the information I was providing to him.  That was great to hear, and I opened up a little bit about what I used to do for a living, but said I don’t want to bother you with this stuff if it doesn’t matter.  I told him, this is just how I think, and I am as surprised as anyone that it didn’t just stop once I left the corporate life.  He was happy to have information about what was going on at the sites though and I felt much better.  Not every boss we have had is interested in my analysis and on occasion it has caused me some issues, so I am very tentative on what information I offer and when.  Our supervisor was happy to get the information though because “we are closer to the job” than he is, so I felt that I could at least drop him an email when these things occurred to me.

Just to be clear, my emails relate to traffic patterns, challenging in providing a great customer experience, and the occasional idea (such as adding a third toilet paper bar to a couple of restrooms).  They are not rocket science.  But, as I said, I have learned the hard way that some bosses take the feedback as criticism no matter how careful you are and that rarely goes well.  Thankfully our current boss doesn’t fall in this category.  What I realized by Thursday was this is just the way I think.  My earliest job memories (at the age of 16) include me trying different ways of making cheese plates at a racetrack, and bussing tables different way to see which one took the least amount of time.  What I realized was this is not a new thing.  All I did (and it was largely subconscious trust me)  was find a job and education path that honed those skills.  Not that surprising really.  Lots of people pick jobs that enhance their innate abilities and being a business analyst is the ultimate end result of honing that particular skill.  So it is part of how I think and I don’t think that is a bad thing, but what I can control is what I focus it on and the level of frustration I have when the thoughts/ideas never get acted upon.

So Thursday was a good day, despite the fact it started raining and we headed into the weekend.  Although Lee and I like being done early on Thursday and not being back until 3pm on Friday, Friday nights are our least favorite day.  The sites don’t get any attention for 24 hours and at least one of them is a mess when we finally get to it. We never know which one that will be though, so opening that door initially on Friday night we kind of hold our breath (literally and figuratively).  This week though we got some warning, because one of the drivers for a rafting company warned us about the changing rooms at Moore Creek when we walked up.  Moore Creek sees a ton of use, because most of the rafting companies meet their guests there.  They use the changing rooms to get ready and leave their personal vehicles, while they are driven upriver in the van with the boats.  When the ride is finished they usually stop here as well, so the site probably gets double the traffic of any other river site.  It’s not uncommon for the toilet paper to be practically empty on Friday nights and the toilet and floors always need scrubbed, but this night was a new level.  And I am going to stop right here and give fair warning.  If you do not like reading details about restrooms cleanup stop here and skip the next two paragraphs!!

The driver apologized for the state of the restrooms as a group of young boys they were with had made a mess earlier in the day.  She looked embarrassed when she said she thought they had peed on the floor of the changing room, but we were totally unprepared for what we saw when we opened the door.  One side did have urine on it, but since I have a strong set of rubber boots that wasn’t a huge deal.  The other side was full of dirty towels though and for some reason this really bothered me.  Since the incident occurred early in the morning when we were off the room had looked like this all day and why she didn’t at least pick up all the towels I am not quite sure.  Lee saw the look on my face and to his credit said he would handle it, and I went over and cleaned the toilet area.  This is not the first time we have been taken aback by what we had found, but until now I didn’t feel right about mentioning it. Twice we have found piles of human waste within steps of a pit toilet and in both cases we just sucked it up and cleaned it up.  Toilet “explosions” are somewhat common and a long handled scrub brush along with a mental attitude of someone couldn’t help themselves go a long way in that situation.  But the condition of these changing areas seemed deliberate and frankly malicious and my overall attitude was “Seriously, as if this isn’t bad enough.”

There is a difference between cleaning campground bathrooms and bathrooms open to the public.  Sure these types of things can happen in either place, but it’s much less likely in a campground.  For these roadside toilets, lots of people stop throughout the day and night and since they are not manned there is a certain amount of anonymity involved. I have been hoping that the first two instances were an isolated case, but this third made me realize that this type of behavior was more common than I thought and was definitely going to be part of our summer. And that’s why I am mentioning it.  It would be disingenuous to just show pretty pictures of the river and not talk about this kind of thing because for some people they might be a deal breaker. And to be clear, if you take one of these jobs you have to be the one that cleans it up because that is what we are being hired to do. There is no one else, it’s us.

That realization hit me pretty hard, and since it rained Friday, Saturday, and Sunday so distracting  side projects were largely off the table, we spent a lot of time cleaning the bathrooms and scrubbing floors. And since I wasn’t thinking about work, I had quite a bit of time to think about my life, where I was, and the choices I had made. I want to be perfectly clear here.  I in no way think I am too good to clean a bathroom.  But this job, more than any other we have had, is about as opposite from my former life as possible.  The idea was if we made decent money, people were nice to us, and we were in a beautiful place it wouldn’t matter what we did all day long every day. And since working these jobs we have met lots of people who have found their way to that place.  I, as you know have struggled, and have often felt like I was doing something wrong, because I couldn’t just settle in.  “Life is too short” and “Worry less you will be happier” have been pretty common themes in feedback I have gotten either online or in person from folks and although I know their hearts are in the right place  something in me rebelled against it.

But when I was focusing on the minutia of the jobs, and essentially distracting myself, I didn’t really think too much about it.  Well that’s not fair I did think about it, but shied away from it because in some ways it felt like a rejection of earning money this way meant a rejection of the lifestyle itself.  This time though really forced me to face it head on and the stripped down nature of the job itself didn’t give me any place to hide. The conclusions were ultimately pretty simple.  At 50, I am not willing to commit the next 15 or so years of my life to earning money this way. Once the novelty of these jobs wears off, and that cycle is getting shorter and shorter, I am generally not happy.  The sole exception to that experience has been gate guarding, which was good for me because I had lots of time to write. The other jobs have been physically demanding with challenging schedules, and compared to my old life low paying.  If we were in a situation where we were working occasionally to supplement existing income, maybe it wouldn’t be such a big deal, but since we are spending about 10 months of the year working these jobs and have only a couple of months of “down time”, for me at least it is a high price to pay. Yes, I love this lifestyle and I absolutely feel lucky to be able to spend my life traveling from beautiful place to beautiful place, but for me it is not enough.

Saying this out loud to myself, was a pretty big deal, and I really felt like I needed an objective opinion on it and called my friend Jo. She is a working full timer and a psychologist and although I called her as a friend, her background certainly didn’t hurt.  I laid the situation out and then asked her as a friend and a fellow RVer if I just “needed to get over myself and suck it up” because enough already this was what the life was.  Her response, and wow do I love her, was to say essentially say they are your feelings…own them. And then she said  something that really resonated with me, “Who says you need to do these type of jobs.”  I know that sounds simple, but it disconnected the lifestyle from the type of work we are doing which, for me at least, is a very important thing.   She also helped me to remember that I had a job that “fed my soul” and just because I was burnt out and wanting to try other things didn’t mean those emotions were any less valid.   She recognized that I am a person who gets quite a bit of my self-identity from what I do for a living, and just because I became a full time RVer that didn’t mean that would go away.

She and her husband Ben work as a traveling nurses and not every contract has been a good fit for them.  Plus, because they do different work (she is a hospice nurse and he is a surgical nurse) one of them can be content and the other less so.  I can relate to Ben’s situation in particular because he was previously working in a large city in a trauma hospital and had to be at the top of his game.  Many of their contracts now are at smaller hospitals and the work is often less challenging. The work conditions are also different, because they, like us are temporary.  Even in a professional environment, it is common for the “scut work” to go to the temporary employee so they have to be really careful when they are choosing their jobs to try and find out what the nature of the day to day work will be.  So she gets it and talking to her was exactly what I needed.

I don’t want to rush into anything.  I want to find a contract in a cool place where I think the work will be fulfilling.  That is a tall order and I am ok with waiting for the right thing.  After all we have determined we can live off other types of employment so it’s not an emergency.  What has changed for me is I no longer feel I need to prove anything to myself or anyone else. I am also fully aware that if I am not careful contract work could end up being the same for me, but I am hoping it will give me more opportunity to “feed the soul.”   We will see where it all leads us, and in the meantime I will fulfill my current obligation and continue to enjoy this beautiful area of the country. There really are worse places to have an emotional crisis 🙂

 


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

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

First Time Working In A Utility Co. Park – Free Fishing Weekend

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

Before I jump into the job stuff, I wanted to mention I got my blood test test results back from my physical.  I really like their My Chart online system, because I was able to see the actual test results and read the doctors comments.  My LDL cholesterol was a little high, but my 10 year risk of heart attack/stroke was only 3.3%. That was awesome.  Everything else looked great except my Vitamin D levels were low.  This is not uncommon for older women and I am finally going to start taking a supplement for it.  Lee got me a big bottle of One a Day Vitamin Supplement Gummies. I never was a fan of taking vitamins, mainly because I don’t like to take big pills, but these gummies are delicious.  Plus the doctors note said increased Vitamin D could help increase my mood, and I am all for that.  We spent months in the sun down in Texas and Arizona and the near constant sunshine did make me happier.  When we came to Oregon, with more clouds and rain, I did get a little crankier but really didn’t think much of it.  Now it makes sense because my Vitamin D levels were probably borderline, but the constant sun kept them elevated and they dipped once we hit the rain here.  From the research I have seen the best way to get Vitamin D is 15-20 minutes in the sun every day and I am totally ok with that! If that’s not possible then the supplements should help. 

Ok back to work. We spent this week trying to find a rhythm in the job, but there were a few complications thrown in.  The couples working in the campground are still learning their positions and the days we cover for them have been less than seamless.  In order to make sure everyone was on the same page, they were putting together a daily task list (which I appreciated) and our supervisor provided what was done last year.  Turns out there were several campground tasks on the list no one was aware of and everyone was scrambling a bit trying to figure out when those should be done. In general, There seems to be a basic spectrum of response people have when they are new to a job and learn after the fact that they are missing essential job responsibilities.   Some people shrug it off and figure out how to add the tasks (Lee largely falls into that category), but others (myself included) get defensive and vaguely feel as if they have done something wrong. The longer the time period between initial training and when you find out about a missed task the worse this reaction can be, especially because folks are getting settled in and finally feeling comfortable.

In this case the work was not insignificant.  The list we were sent called for two deep cleanings a week on the three sets of bathrooms and weeding of a largish area between the marina and the campground.  Mr. Kayaker suggested a meeting with the group to work it out and it turned out to be a really productive one.  The weeding is a big job but an occasional one and Mr. Newbie stepped in and said he would take care of it at least initially.  That was awesome because we just finished initial weeding all of our sites and since the weed killing spray we have been using hasn’t been that effective are looking at having to do another round soon.  The larger issue was deep cleaning the bathrooms. Last years schedule had the deep cleanings falling on Monday and Thursday when Lee and I cover the campground.  Initially I didn’t understand that last years schedule was just a recommendation and got pretty agitated about it.  As I am sure you know by now we spend a large portion of our time cleaning bathrooms.  The one day a week we spend working in the campground had bathroom duties as well, but also allowed time for us to do some other things, which I really enjoyed.  Faced with spending the bulk of our campground time deep cleaning more bathrooms did not make me happy.

Plus this is where my sense of fairness kicked in.  We are already doing trash on Thursday, an interesting process where the campground trash dumpsters  are ratchet strapped to the Gator and slowly driven out of the campground to where the main trash area is so the trash truck can access them.  This process takes roughly an hour each times (they are moved out of the campground and then moved back in when emptied) and happened on the day I covered.  Doing that work along with regular campsite turns and a deep clean was a stretch and didn’t make a ton of sense to me.  Luckily everyone else agreed and after talking it through they understood where we were coming from. I would love to say that I took a step back, approached the problem unemotionally, and was a leader in forming the resolution but that would simply not be true.  I was able to hold onto my emotions enough to not cause any rifts with my coworkers but I was obviously agitated about the situation.

Interesting enough, Lee was once again “a cooler head” in the situation and helped find a workable compromise. We would start the deep cleanings on Monday but the Thursday deep cleaning would be moved to the evening or another day.  Everyone was happy with the result and no one was too upset at the end of it.  What amazes me is how Lee has consistently handled these jobs while we are on the road.  He seems to have been able to find some kind of internal switch and keep these jobs in perspective.  He does a good job if largely left alone, is very productive, and avoids all the drama.  Part of his success is he has a great “jack of all trades” skill set which pretty easily allows him to provide value.  My skill set is being hard earned as we learn the various positions and I always have more trouble finding my footing.  But I realize it’s not just the skill set that gives me trouble.  My search for constant improvement really does not serve me well in these positions.  I would be better off just learning the job, and settling in and doing it. I really did think that once I left the high pressure corporate world that would naturally happen for me, but it simply has not.  I know other people that have.  Our friend Bill, for example, left a high pressure job as a plant manager and seems perfectly content in his work kamper positions.  Of course, he like Lee has a valuable handyman skill set, and once people discover that they seem to largely leave him alone to do his own thing. He also takes all that mental energy he used to have and puts it into personal things. I admire the tactic but have had a harder time doing it.

Maybe it’s because I tend to be more social and worry more about the relationships with the people around me.  That brings it’s own sort of pressure and Lee pretty consistently doesn’t get that involved unless its absolutely called for. I don’t think it’s as simple as a male/female issue by the way, despite the fact that it largely seems to fall down those lines.  I have met lots of women who settle right into these jobs and lots of men who struggle.  It really seems to be based on personality type and an inability to just let things go and exist in the moment.  I will say in my defense I am better at not sweating the small stuff.  I can take a moment to watch the ospreys dive or enjoy the beauty of the moment and not feel guilty about doing so.  That is a major improvement for me and one that did seem to happen naturally with changing my work environment. And I know I keep writing about this and you are probably all sick of hearing about it, but I do think it’s important.  Not everyone just settles in and just because you sell everything, by an RV, and start traveling doesn’t mean all your problems will be solved. On the plus side I think it is an excellent opportunity for me to work on personal improvement in an environment where the consequences of a mistake are minimal.

So with that in mind I am going to try and “turn down” that analytical part of my brain and just do the job.   Whatever creative mental energy I have,  I will put into other things,and we will see how it goes.   I honestly can’t remember doing that consistently in any job I’ve ever had, but who knows.   Maybe I’ll love it and the switch will flip and problem will be solved. If not well I will learn something about myself.  I will let you know how it goes.

As far as the job went this week, by the way, it was fine.  It was busy again because Saturday was a no license required fishing day across the state, but people were largely polite and helpful.  Lee and I split up which helped considerably and I spent most of my time at the lower launch and Faraday.  Lee wanted me to have the work truck since it implies authority and he used our personal vehicle to run the river.  We also staggered our shifts by a couple of hours, so there was less no coverage time in the middle of the day. Lee used our personal truck for most of the day and before you ask, my understanding is getting mileage reimbursement is a bit of a pain so yes we will be paying for the miles and the gas, but it was worth it to us because it made the day much less stressful.  We covered twice the ground and were able to keep up with the bathrooms with no issues.  We also both had time to have more one-on-one interactions with people throughout the day which we both enjoyed.  People seem to like what we are doing and are helping with the ground trash which is nice, and there were no major parking issues despite the crowds.

During the week, we also had some time to explore the local National campground s and were so inspired by what we saw we decided to try something new.  It all started with one of our river runs where I saw this across the river.

 

This is my absolute favorite spot along the river and here were a couple of people camping.  Despite having explored the area some I have no idea how they got there but I just had to stop, cross the road, and take a picture.  Something in me really yearned for that, so I started talking to Lee.  We have seen several friends “rustic camp” as part of their RV adventure.  Jo and Ben have a second truck which holds a truck camper they call the shuttle craft and they use it to explore on their time off from their nursing jobs.  Howard and Linda have taken several overnight trips using their boat or by hiking in and of course there was Jim and Barb in Alaska.  They bought a truck camper specifically for that trip, which they sold upon returning, and we were incredibly jealous of all the places they could camp at that we simply couldn’t with our 40 foot monster RV.  But it was a little intimidating, because unlike many other folks in the lifestyle we were not campers prior to starting this journey.

We have been tent camping a total of three times in our lives and we like sleeping in a real bed and all the other luxuries our home on wheels has to offer.  That being said it can be confining on long work assignments, because it’s a big hassle to pack everything up and take the rig places.  Plus in the summers it’s harder to find big camp spots and of course there is the associated costs.  Having a tent and some sleeping bags seemed like a nice solution and we are particularly interested in trying it out because there are some amazing National Forest campgrounds in the area that only large enough for tents and very small RV. Here are a couple of our favorite campsites we saw while exploring and since our days off are Tuesday and Wednesday there is a good chance we will be able to get them at least once this summer.

We also wanted to go and visit friends on the coast. Through sheer coincidence two of our RV-Dreams friends have the exact same lighthouse volunteer gig at the same location.  Despite being members of the class of 2014 Jim and Rick had never met each other (they attended separate rallies that year).  I was communicating with them separately because they knew we would be in the same area and finally realized they were in the exact same place.  They had just met each other briefly the night before, but neither put together that they had mutual friends.  I am sure they would have figured it out eventually but it was fun to virtually introduce them and of course we knew we had to plan a visit.  This seemed to call for more than an afternoon’s stay and since they are 3-1/2 hours away from us we initially thought we would take the rig.  Lee wasn’t super thrilled about that plan, but he was resigned to it until the tent camping idea came up.

In true Perkins form we started researching and this is actually harder than you might think.  I have the whole claustrophobia thing so I was sure I could use just any old tent.  I also wanted something that was relatively easy to put up and down so we spent some time watching You Tube videos where people reviews the tents and put them up.  This was extremely helpful and I was pretty grateful for the extra input, but with so much choice it took awhile.  Initially we wanted used so we drove to Next Adventure  where we had heard great things about their bargain basement.  Their prices might have been great for serious outdoor people, but even the used gear was way out of our price range.  So next we tried Dick’s Sporting Goods where the selection and prices were great but all they had were little models to show the tents.  These models are nice, but couldn’t really help me figure out what would make me feel claustrophobic so we tried Sportsmen’s Warehouse. Finally, we found a store that had several tents setup and a huge balcony area where we could walk inside and check them out.  

It’s a good thing we did, because it turned out the 4 and 5 person tents, while wide enough at the base, simply were not tall enough for me and it was an issue.  That meant we needed a 6 person or more tent and we had to pay careful attention to the height.  Unfortunately one of the three models we were leaning towards was in stock but not on display and as tempted as we were to ask a salesperson to allow us to take it out of the box and set it up, after a quick Amazon check we knew it was $50 cheaper online.  I am a big fan of buying directly from retailers in situations like these and don’t mind paying a little more, but $50 was too much for me.  Plus, I have been saving the money we have made from our blog advertising for just such an occasion and if we got it online we could use those points.  My take all along on that money was it had to be spent on something directly related to the lifestyle and since the tent and sleeping bags would hopefully lead to many new adventures and corresponding blog posts that made a lot of sense to me.

So we went back to the house and re-looked at our three choices.  I will share them here using the links we used to make our decision.  The first was the Coleman 6-Person Instant cabin, which is very easy to put up because the poles stay attached and is 6 foot tall.  The price when we looked was $199 (I see as of posting this it has actually gone down to $129 which is a bummer) and the packing was larger than Lee would have liked.  Whatever we buy we have to store and at this point when something comes in something else is going out.  In this case we are giving up 4 of our outside bigger chairs and replacing them with smaller ones.  This is still a major contender and the great thing about Amazon Prime is they have an awesome return policy, so if we don’t like the tent we bought we may return it and buy this one.

Our second contender was a Coleman Sundome 6-person tent.  The price was great and I love that the poles and rain guard were somewhat integrated, but I was concerned when I saw videos of the inside.  They have large screens in the front and back but the rain guard covers those and after being inside a similar model at the store, it definitely felt more closed in.  Plus the height was on the short side and the inside space was the smallest, so ultimately we dropped this one out of the running all together.  It’s a shame, because this is exactly what I mentally pictured when camping, but we have learned through experience claustrophobia is a real factor for me.

Finally, we settled on our third and final choice the Coleman Steel Creek 6 person tent with sun screen.  It’s fast pitch although not as fast as the instant ones (instant take less than 3 minutes fast pitch take about 7 minutes) and has the added bonus of a little sun porch.  Despite some reviews online that stated these porches do get wet on rainy days. I liked the idea of having slightly separated living space.  In a perfect world it would never rain when we are tent camping, but this is unlikely so having a little “outside area” really appealed to me.  Plus the packaging was actually smaller than the cabin and although the rain guard isn’t integrated it was included in the price which isn’t always the case.  Plus it was available on Prime so we ordered the tent (with the intention of returning it immediately if the setup didn’t go well) along with two sleeping bags (that can zip together and are flannel lined) and a small propane burner stove.  That’s really all we think we will need since we have almost everything else and the total cost came in at $241 which we had enough points to cover.  So thanks everyone who has ever bought something from one of the links in this blog.  We really are very grateful because it is allowing us to try out something new without taking a hit to our already stretched budget. Will let you know in the next post how the tent tryout turned out.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

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

First Time Working In A Utility Co. Park – Memorial 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 actually like working holiday weekends.  Because you are competing with the casual camper, it is a pain in the butt to find a campsite and on top of that all the nature places we like to go are usually very crowded.  Good for those folks for getting out in nature, but for us who live this way it can cause some challenges.  That’s why I think having a campsite and things to do on these weekends is one of the very best benefits of working a summer camp host job because we are covered for Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day.  That being said those weekends are quite a bit of work, and because the six of us were brought in pretty late everyone was scrambling to get ready.

Our focus had been on the river sites because of the festival, but fishing season opened on Monday and we needed to squeeze in cleaning the lower launch area. This was complicated by the fact that on Monday Lee was helping in the campground, we were off Tuesday and Wednesday, and Thursday we were split up again as I worked in the campground. Monday actually went very well.  Lee opened the gate at 5:40am (posted time was 6am) and there were already 6 cars waiting in line.  They were very happy to see him and when I went back a little later in the day everyone was very friendly.  The lower launch and culvert are used mostly by locals and I wanted to start off on the right foot with them.  Later I went to do a river run and all in all it was a pleasant day.

We were off Tuesday and Wednesday  and when we came back Thursday things had held up very well.  I worked in the campground that day (I will talk about what that looks like in another post) and Lee made the river runs.  He emptied trash, restocked toilet paper and made made sure all of the sites were ready for the big weekend.  He also spent some time trying to get a hitch for the truck for the water trailer we need for filling pit toilets and watering plants, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.  So we left some loose ends, but nothing that we thought was major.

Friday I had the doctors appointments and we started our day at 3pm.  That’s tough for us as we are both early morning people, but it makes sense because that’s when the crowds are. The first thing we had scheduled was going and picking up a new refrigerator for the campground.  The old one didn’t work anymore and it’s a nice benefit that the six of us have a full size refrigerator to use.  I wasn’t looking forward to loading it though, and was thrilled when our supervisor came out and helped Lee load it.  Very nice!!  After dropping that off and Lee and Mr. Kayaker getting it into the office, we filled up the large weed spray tub and headed out.  By this time it was close to 5pm and we knew we had alot of work to do.

Unfortunately in the 24 hour period when Lee stocked everything and we came on, the bathrooms had really taken a hit.  There are two of us but we share one company vehicle and every bathroom needed attention.  We also wanted to tackle some weeding at the culvert and spray the rocks we had done last week on the river sites before the weeds grew back.  Long story short we only managed to stock and clean the restrooms and spray Moore Creek before we ran out of time.  Part of that was the Culvert was a mess with lots of trash to pick up.  That appears to be a party site for the locals and there were lots of beer cans and bottles laying around.  Since kids come in with their parents to fish in the weekend mornings that was a priority to me, but it takes awhile to clean up that much trash, especially broken glass.  There was the sweetest little girl who was fascinated by the trash picker and after seeing her in these weeds I really felt that was a priority.  Also I am hoping it will discourage folks from throwing trash on the ground.  My thought is keep it nice and neat and people will be inspired to help with that.  If it is overgrown they will be less likely to do so.

We did what we could and closed the culvert gate at 8pm (the gate is closed to cars but people still walk down at night) and went to the lower launch at 8:15 pm to start the closing process.  This is a huge area and you start by backing the truck in which makes a loud beep beep noise and then final cleaning the restroom.  The restroom was really rough by the end of the night and I can see this one will be a challenge.  Plus we have been unable to fill the pit toilet with water because we don’t have the water trailer hitch, and the deodorizers are back ordered, so the smell was a little intense.  Still people were very friendly and many started packing up as soon as they saw what we were doing.  We had two cars parked down near the walkway though so we knew we needed to find some folks.  You can fish all along the reservoir, but because the bank is very steep it’s hard to see people and let them know we are closing soon.  We found one couple and they headed back but the other car was a mystery.

This is the area that the walkers use to park so when we drive past the gate we look for groups that correspond to the amount of cars down in this section. It’s an inexact science but works fairly well.

Folks fishing along the bank.  Pretty steep climbing down there, but there are areas with paths and/or ropes to help.  Others take boats in.

Another hang out spot is these log barriers.  Since it takes some time to walk back from this spot we drive up there first and let people know we will be closing in 45 minutes. Sound carries over water so we don’t always need the bull horn to communicate.

This is a pretty big deal since we need to clear the lot to lock the gate, so when we only had one car left at a quarter til 9pm and no idea where that person was, we pulled out the bull horn.  It’s a heavy duty police style one, but needs to be used carefully because you don’t want to upset people.  We discussed whether or not to use it and what to say and finally Lee said, “Good Evening.  The gate will be closing in 15 minutes.  Thank you.”  Polite, but to the point.  We started back down the path when we saw a kid with fishing poles flying towards us on his skate board.  He was very nice about it and packed up quickly so we actually were able to close the gate 5 minutes early.  Perfect!!  I have no expectation every night will go like this but it was a great start to our summer.

We knew the next morning would be rough though.  We are scheduled Close/Open every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday which means we have to get up and out the door in the morning no later than 5:30am.  I had a hard time going to sleep and didn’t sleep well at all, but we were up and ready to go at 5:30.  We opened the gate to the campground, then the culvert (two women getting ready to walk down were very happy) and then went to lower launch.  There were only two cars waiting but by the time we opened the gate and checked the restrooms the parking lot was 1/3 full.  Everyone was very friendly and we spent about 45 minutes making sure everyone was parked in the right places and there were no boat “traffic jams” as folks were putting them in the water.  Once again everything went flawlessly and we headed to the culvert.

Since we couldn’t weed eat the day before we wanted to get it done in the morning but we knew this might be a problem with the morning fisherman.  We were hoping to squeeze it in but the parking lot filled up fast and there were around 30 people fishing on the lake.  I started picking up trash and it was even worse than the day before.  Tons of beer cans and bottles, which honestly I can live with because the company sends the recyclables to a charity, but there were several broken bottles. In case you think I am exaggerating, I picked up half of a big black trash bag full of trash from the ground, including a pair of underwear.  So here we had young kids fishing on the bank next to the trash the night before and it made me crazy.  Lee started weed eating and the closer he got to the water the more folks grumbled about the noise.  Finally someone said something and I went to try some of my verbal judo.  I explained I was concerned because of the broken glass and the kids and the only way to see all the glass was to get the weeds down.  He was having none of it though, despite being there with his daughter who looked like she was 5-6, so we stopped weed eating and left.  It was upsetting for me, although I certainly can sympathize with his despite for a peaceful morning, and eventually Lee and I decided to cut our AM short by an hour and go back at 7pm and try to get it done.  I know Memorial Day Weekend is not a good time to do this, but we’ve seen folks down there at all hours all week.

The whole situation upset me, mainly because I felt bad we hadn’t gotten to it sooner, so we went out to Faraday and checked the restrooms there.  I mopped the floors and weeded a small section around the sign and doggy bag area that had been driving me crazy and then we went back to lower launch.  At this point lower launch was almost totally full, but thankfully we still had a few boat spaces empty.  Folks from the morning were leaving and new folks were coming in and the schedule seemed to be working fine.  A couple of people did park cars in boat launch spaces and we had to find them and ask them to move their cars and one couple asked me to talk to the family fishing from the dock.  Since putting the no fishing sign up was one of the things Lee had not got to, I apologized for the confusion and then Lee was able to get the sign up.  The whole day it seemed like everything we had missed was coming back to bite us and since the locals know exactly how things should be they were having none of it.  Rightly so, and I appreciated how nice most people were but I still spent the whole day feeling like I was “a day late and a dollar short.”  The lower launch restroom saw a ton of use and in the short time it took me to weeds around it, at least 20 people used it.  I replaced three rolls of toilet paper that were used between 6am and 9:30am both Saturday and Sunday so there definitely seems to be a pattern there.

Folks waiting in line at 5:40am when we open the gate

The parking lot at 6am. Already several cars there getting prime parking spots down near the beach.

The parking lot at 9:30am

 

The smell in the restroom was much worse as well, and despite bringing 4 pails of deodorized water throughout the day it didn’t seem to help.  The pit toilet requires around 150 gallons of water and I wasn’t really making a dent in it.  Lee sent a text to our trainer (who is off on Saturdays) and hopefully we can get some help resolving the issue on Sunday, but I apologized and at least kept it clean but it was tough when kids were complaining about it. By then it was 11am and we had to knock off for the morning and I still felt we had so much more to do.  We didn’t even touch the river sites, but hopefully they will hold up throughout the day and we can start working on the culvert at 7pm this way.   Our supervisor is open to discussing rearranging the schedule, based on our feedback but we both feel we need a couple of weekends under our belt before we make a recommendation. It is a holiday after all, so I can’t say it will be this busy every weekend, but based on what I saw in traffic on the weekdays I wouldn’t be surprised if it was.  Folks love to fish up here and everyone was catching some beautiful trout so I can see why it’s a favorite weekend past time.

Part of the problem with splits of course is what do you do with your down time.  Both of us sort of collapsed as soon as we got home, but around 12:30pm we started moving.  I put a pot roast in the Instant Pot and Lee ran to the hardware store to pick up one more thing he needed to hang the last sign.  Running into town takes time we really don’t have so he just took our personal truck and made the trip.  I wrote one and a half blog posts, watched the finale of Dancing with the Stars, and tried to chill.  I did appreciate the time to write, but not sure how this will work throughout the summer.  It’s too much time to not do something with it, but I don’t know how much energy we will have with the close/opens.  Will just have to see.

We started working again at 6:30pm and once we stocked up the truck with toilet paper and  cleaning supplies we headed to the culvert.  There were many people there swimming, but this crowd didn’t seem to mind the noise.  Lee weeded and I picked up trash and sprayed some weed killer behind him and the area looked sooo much better.  The folks we talked to were really happy and cooperative and we managed to get the weeding done and clear the parking lot so we could close the gate by 8pm.  Having this done made me super happy, even more so when the next morning we saw lots of families taking advantage of the newly cleared spots and there was relatively little ground trash to deal with.

Saturday night when we locked the gate

And Sunday morning!! So much better once it was weeded.

It was rough getting up early Sunday morning and we were both definitely getting tired.  We opened the lower launch and immediately headed up river.  Moore Creek was low on toilet paper, but thankfully we were able to clean and stock it before the rafting boats started showing up.  We also we able to spray the border rocks which we hope will cut down on the need for further weeding.  Next a trip to Hole in The Wall and then back down to check lower launch again.  After lower launch we met with our trainer to put gas in the truck which was almost empty.  Unfortunately the large tank we use to fill the vehicles was also empty so we scrounged some gas from the timber fuel cans.   We had 3/4 of a tank going into the holiday weekend, which we thought would be plenty, but those extra trips up and down the river took more gas than expected.  Thankfully the trainers hooked us up and we had enough to get through the rest of the weekend.  Mr. Trainer also put 55 gallons of water in the lower launch bathroom and my deodorizers I had been waiting had come in, so the smell was much, much better at lower launch.  So we cleaned Faraday (women’s toilet paper was empty) and then made one last check at lower launch before stopping for the morning.

I know this is all a ton of detail and probably pretty boring, but I can tell you it wasn’t in the moment.  It was hard to keep up with the crowds all day and when we didn’t it bothered me.  Yes it is a job cleaning restrooms, but I take that as seriously as any other job I have had especially because I have used these pit toilets and know first hand how awesome it is when they are clean and lousy it is when they aren’t.  What I didn’t know until now was how difficult it can be on a busy weekend to keep up.  In one 40 minute period at the lower launch for example I watched at least 20 people use the restroom.  That’s a lot of people.  So here’s some rough stats to get you a feel for how busy it was.  Assuming toilet paper was used and not stolen that’s a lot of folks using these areas.

  • We replaced at least 48 rolls over the weekend and had three instances where the 6 rolls in a toilet were completely gone during our off time.
  • We emptied at least 22 full bags of trash with every trash can emptied at least once.  We only had one instance where the trash was overflowing and that was at the beach trashcan on our busiest day.
  • We filled a minimum of five 5 gallon buckets with ground trash.  The culvert continues to be our trouble spot for ground trash, but seems to be getting better especially after we got the weeding done.
  • We mopped  the floors of every restroom at least once and Lower launch and Moore Creek we did daily.

Sunday was more of the same and even busier if possible.  Tons of boats and the beach area was completely full, but we were both thankful folks did a good job of getting most of their trash into the cans.

Beach area

Full house

My favorite part of the weekend was when we saw the osprey out during one of our runs up the gate.  We were taking pictures of the dam and fish ladders when he started to fly around.  Our picture of the nest was on the outer edge of our range and we are not sure if that was a baby or the mom but we could hear the chirping from in the nest.

Looking for fish

Could see a head poking up in the middle

Beautiful birds in flight

The North Fork Dam was built in 1958 and is a thin-wall construction

The North Fork fish ladder is 2 miles long and one of the longest type construction in the world. It also includes a recently added adult fish sorter which sorts native from hatchery fish.  Here’s a video on what they invented to solve the problem. Very cool.

The fish ladders are very cool

On Monday Lee worked the campground and I covered the sites alone.  It was busier than a normal Monday, but not too bad because of the heavy mist in the morning.  Up at Faraday I got to watch an Osprey circle and dive into the water several times for fish.  It was absolutely amazing, but unfortunately only had my phone with me so the pictures are not very good.  Loved, loved that though.

It made a big splash of water every time it went in

Finally after numerous tries it finally caught a fish (which you can see hanging down) and flew off. It was a great moment.

So yes I cleaned a bunch of toilets, mopped floors, and emptied trash this weekend. I also saw an osprey along with it’s nest and watched another one dive and catch a fish.  The drive has not lost it’s magic (more pictures in a later post of the amazing river), and almost all of the people we met with were friendly. I lost count of how many people thanked us for what we were doing and how many made it clear that they “carried out more than they brought in” which I always thanked them for.  It is absolutely true that in my corporate life I was nicer to the cleaning lady than I was to the President of the company.  Her job was harder than his in many ways, she often knew more about what was going on than he did (people talk about all kinds of stuff in the bathroom), and most importantly I like clean bathrooms and she did an excellent job.  Now that I am the cleaning lady,  I hope folks treat me the same way and do what they can to help out.  We will see how it plays out and as always thanks for reading, despite I am sure being tired of hearing about toilets!


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

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

First Time at Montezuma’s Castle and Well

After Tuesday we both decided to take a day off from exploring.  We finally heard back from our summer job, and despite extensive communication on our part, the drug test/physical was scheduled for Friday.  Worse, my appointment was at 7:30am and Lee’s was at 10:30 am.  Since we were scheduled to move on Friday the timing couldn’t be worse, and I spent some time talking through the options on how we could change the day/time.  The problem was our schedule for the next few weeks has us moving frequently thus scheduling required a nimbleness that few large companies have.  We had told our contacts this could be a problem early on, but were assured they did this all the time and it would be no issue.  That turned out to not be the case, and instead of forcing the issue, we decided it would be easier to find a way to make it work.

We drove down to the medical center and not surprisingly there was nowhere to park our truck and RV, but there was a Christian School next door with a large parking lot and Lee went inside to see if they could help.  It turned out they were closed for Good Friday and they were absolutely fine with allowing us to park in what would be an empty parking lot.  It was extremely nice of them and at least got us to the day.  Then I flexed those out of use corporate muscles and tried to get them to rearrange the appointments so we didn’t lose most of the day.  Making a personal appeal to the right person generally works, but since there were 5 people on the email chain I wasn’t sure who was who.  After a couple of phone calls, I finally discovered that Victoria was the person who could actually fix the issue and asked politely if she could see what she could do with the understanding if she couldn’t change the appointments we would make it work.

The personal appeal, along with an explanation that we would be sitting in the parking lot for three hours between our two appointments worked, and she called another patient and asked them to switch appointments.  Now I was at 8am and Lee was at 9am, which wasn’t optimal, but definitely more workable.  I was surprised by how dealing with layers of bureaucracy to get a relatively  simple thing done impacted my mood, but reminded myself that if I was going to reenter the consulting arena I had better get re-used to it.  I used to navigate those waters as effortlessly as breathing, but I was out of practice, and to be honest, patience.  My life is much simpler now.

We weren’t done there though.  Wednesday we also had an email from Amazon and had to go online and fill out some tax forms (nice website design and pretty simple) and then we heard back from the background check company.  This summer job is for a large energy company and they are treating our hiring the same as they would treat any of their employees.  Since most of their facilities are secured they require a background check and three professional references, versus simple employment verifications.  The background check was no big deal, but the professional references were a bit difficult since originally Lee and I wanted to keep our career references separate from our work-kamping references.  Neither one of us was that thrilled with using people from our former lives to reference us for seasonal campground positions, but we also hadn’t built a solid three work kamping references yet.  The employment service for the Beet Harvest for example doesn’t provide references, and at the time we provided the information we hadn’t started the gate guarding job.  This left our volunteer position in Susanville, Alaska, and Christmas Trees.

I wasn’t surprised when the third party background check company called and said they were having trouble getting in touch with our references.  One problem that was complicating the issue is that Lee’s legal name is Shannon.  So when they called Stan from Susanville and asked him about Shannon Perkins, he said he didn’t know who he was.  Not surprising, Stan didn’t complete our paperwork and probably has no idea that Lee is actually Shannon.  Also, I eventually saw the email they were sending and it was a two line email that was asking for personal information about us and frankly looked like a scam.  One of our references actually sent it to us and asked if it was legitimate, which we verified, but we certainly couldn’t expect the others to do the same.  If I saw it, I would have dismissed it and since prior to the phone call we had no idea who would be doing the reference checks or in what format it wasn’t even like I could give folks a heads up. So when the woman from the background check agency called, I gave her our new gate guarding reference and then went ahead and provided a couple more from our professional careers.

It had been a long time in our professional careers since we needed the standard three references and most jobs at that level are obtained through network contacts making references checks largely pro forma.  I knew when we started this life out we would need to build new references. but since most of our early work kamping jobs asked for personal references we focused on getting that group together.  That was relatively easy to do as we have a good group of friends to rely on there, but always in the back of my head I knew this type of request might come in. Solid professional references require a level of relationship with an employer that we simply have not experienced to date.  Simply put, you need to rely on that person to take the time to answer the inquiry, and not every employer is willing to take the time to do that.  Add to that not every work kamping experience we have had has been positive, and it’s tougher.  Don’t get me wrong, I know we have done good work every place we have been, but getting a solid professional reference isn’t about the work you do.  It’s about the relationship you built with the employer and that is a completely different thing.  The whole situation makes me feel like a young kid again, and I really don’t like it.  I am trying to not let it bother me and just allow events to unfold, but it’s tough.

One thing that made me feel quite a bit better was looking at Work Kamper News.   There are quite a few last minute positions available and if this falls through we will explore one of them.  Plus Lee is going to call before we leave Vegas and verify we are all set, and if not we can boon dock in that area until something comes through.  It’s hard not to let things like this throw you and put you in an old world mindset.  Lee is really good about helping me push past those slightly panicky feelings and remember the reality we are living in now.  He’s good about that. 

Unfortunately while I was dealing with all that he was dealing with his own issues.  You may remember that we had our furnace “fixed” at Camping World but they left the duct work un-assembled.  Rather than go back, Lee committed to reconnecting the duct work himself and spent 4 very unpleasant hours crammed into the very tiny crawlspace under our rig, replacing torn furnace duct hoses, and reattaching them to the furnace. He would have be fine with that except when he turned the furnace on it still didn’t work. So not only were we no better off than when we went into Camping World service he had spent 4 hours doing something the next service tech would have to undo.  Needless to say he was extremely upset and both of us were ready to call it quits on the whole day.  

The next morning we bounced back and went to Montezuma’s Castle and Montezuma’s Well. I wasn’t expecting much, but couldn’t leave it undone and WOW were we pleasantly surprised.  We went to the well first (which is free) but when we saw four tour buses parked in the lot we turned around and went to the Castle which was less crowded. I know I said I wasn’t into ruins, but this one is awesome.  You can only see it from the ground, but it is very impressive and well worth the $10 in my opinion although it was free with our America The Beautiful pass. 

Really nice little visitors center and the staff was great

Amazing. The picture doesn’t show how big it is

This diorama shows what it looked like

There is a nice walkway with trees and flowers

These are swallow nests, unfortunately didn’t get a pic of one of those

This sign shows where the posts were

The natural cavates in the cave were used for storage and living space

This river is where they got their water

We were walking along and suddenly heard this music coming from everywhere. At first we thought it was speakers but this one man was back by the gift shop and because of the amphitheater shape of the cliff the sound carried throughout. Loved it

We left just as the tour buses from the other site were pulling in, and by the time we got back to Montezuma’s Well it was cleared out, hooray!  There was one group of elementary school kids, but they were working on answering a question sheet and were pretty well behaved. This site is deceptively simple, because it is a big water well the native Americans used for irrigation.  They couldn’t drink the water though because it had such a high CO2 content and the only animals that live in it are a miniature shrimp-like amphipod, tiny snails, water scorpions, one-celled diatom, and leeches!!  Oh yes, it’s full of leeches and it’s great for irrigation (they use it for the lawn today), but the nearby river water is what they drank.  I loved this site though because there were two places to walk down and get right inside.  It’s steep and I would recommend a bottle of water, but really worth it.

Loved this tree right at the top

The well

Beautiful views

Ruins in the cliffside

The American Widget family was happy in the water. Maybe they were eating the leeches 🙂

 

Steep walk down into the well

White Crowned Sparrow on the rocks.  He was tiny and zipping all around.  Happy I got this shot

Great rock formations

Ruins at the base

Afterwards we walked up and then around the rim to a path down on the other side.  Don’t skip this because it takes you to another path where the water comes out of the well, and that was the coolest part for me.

Path down to water source

These irrigation cannals have been reinforced but were made in the 1200’s. Amazing

Lee loved this Arizona Sycamore that grew across the irrigation ditch

The water source which comes from underground is around this corner

And check out this beautiful 300 year old tree. It was a beauty, and was worth the visit in and of itself

Two great visits and totally free with the America the Beuatiful Pass.  Next up, finally I will be standin’ on a corner.  Been wanting to do that for a long time!

 


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

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

First Time Gate Guarding – Days 56 -59

Day 56

 

It was another slow day in gate guarding land.  The only folks we have seen were the guy who brings diesel for our generator, which does not require us to open or close the gate, and some guys who are coming to finish the fracking pond. They are still figuring out the job though, and haven’t actually started the finishing work, so I think we still have a few more days of this peace and quiet.  Oh, and to give you an idea of exactly how slow it’s been, here are last week’s numbers.  Initially we logged all the “wrong gate” traffic, but we got pretty lax on that this week so this doesn’t include every time we had to direct people to the next gate down, but as you can see it was amazingly slow. And yes we get paid the same regardless, which is nice! (I have never logged a a wrong gate vehicle. It just seems silly to log a vehicle that I turn away. It’s one step away from logging vehicles that just drive by without even slowing down. – Lee)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 57

The guys who are putting the liner in the pond stopped by, and I tried to get a feel for when the liner would be put in.  They were extremely noncommittal about the timeline, but one guy did say that they couldn’t do it when it rained and it was supposed to rain all week.  Hard to complain about having another week of all this free time and getting paid for it, so we’ll take it.  The unlimited data is working out great so far, by the way.  We are 10 days in to the new plan, and well over 240GB on the WiFi hotspot and no throttling so far.  Of course we are in a remote area with an under taxed tower so that helps.  Lee has been taking advantage and uploading all these home movies he has been working on to You Tube, hence the huge amount of data we have been using. We will continue to see how it goes and I’ll let you know. So far it’s been awesome. (Awesome doesn’t even begin to describe it. After two years of watching our data usage every day and carefully thinking about whether or not to download things, now I just don’t. It’s delightful. – Lee)

Day 58

It’s funny how the volume of trucks makes all the difference in both of our moods.  Last week when it was so busy I couldn’t wait to be done, but now it’s been very pleasant.  I think that shows, at least for us, that it’s less about having to stay in one place or even being “on call” 24/7, but more about how much down time we have during the day. Lots of down time and it’s an OK gig.  Under those circumstances we don’t mind the negatives so much.  Minimal down time and those restrictions start to bother both of us.  I actually think that’s pretty normal. Things were a little more active today with several of the folks who are laying down water piping coming in this morning.  Nothing too major, but enough activity Lee put his yellow vest on!  We also finally saw the company man and were told what the schedule will be.  For the next 9 days they will be doing “workover” (3 wells – 3 days each).  Workover will only involve a few trucks per day and then once that is done the fracking will start, assuming the frack crew is available to start immediately. It’s great to know what is happening, but a bit of a bummer because we were really hoping we would get out early so we could meet friends in Apache Junction, but I doubt that is going to happen now.  It depends on how long fracking takes, of course, but I am guessing with three wells that might take a while as well.  We do have some extra time set aside to just relax, but we can extend our time a bit if they still need us.  Not sure how we will feel about that at the fracking pace, but if it was like this that would be hard to turn down. (My understanding is that the fracking process involves a more or less steady stream of trucks all day and night. I am happy to stay until the end date we gave them, but I’m not interested at all in extending. We need a break before we settle in for a whole summer of work on May 9th. – Lee) 

As a side note,  I received several comments from folks that they didn’t know how to view the recipe book preview.  Thank you for your interest.  There are two ways.  Either click on the “Look Inside” link on the upper right hand side or “Send a Free Sample” on the right hand side.  I took a screenshot of Amazon and have highlighted both of those places in a red box. Unfortunately you don’t get to choose which pages get previewed so perhaps my idea of starting each chapter with the simplest recipes kind of backfires here.  Because the preview only shows a few recipes and all of the beginning ones are very simple, it might give the idea that they are all that simple. It would be nice if the preview allowed for picking out specific pages but that doesn’t seem to be an option, which makes sense I guess in a novel.  If I could go back and change that I might start with a mix of recipes from different sections, but then again that would be confusing if you purchased the book.  Ah well, I am learning here.  Who knew all this would be so complicated and I still feel like I haven’t even scratched the surface of it?

One last thing, then  I promise to move onto other things going forward.   I was invited to be a guest on a talk radio show back in Keene, New Hampshire where we spent the fifteen years prior to going on the road.  A restaurateur friend of ours read about the recipe book on Facebook and invited me on his weekly radio show, so I will be doing that after April 1st.  I think that will be fun, to talk about full-time RVing, and since it’s a small town and it feels like everyone knows everyone else,  I can’t wait to tell the story of how I met someone from Keene that I didn’t know in Tuscon, Arizona at a dump station.  Liz,  I think I will need to change the story a bit though, and just say I met you checking out of the campground.  I don’t think I want to explain dumping poop on the radio lol!!

Day 59

Well we had some excitement in gate guarding land this morning.  Lee took over for me about 4:15am, and right about the time I was falling asleep the power went out.  It was obvious because I lost the air conditioner, but I thought it was one of the temporary power fluctuations we get occasionally.  I was right at that point where I was falling asleep, so I didn’t get up, but my sleep was restless and then at some point it got really hot so I got up and turned on the Fantastic Fan in the bathroom, opened a window and went back to sleep.  I should have just gotten up and talked to Lee at that point, but I was pretty out of it so just fell back into bed. Big mistake because I woke up several times from that point, but never enough to find out what was going on.

Lee was dealing with the problem.  Unlike the power fluctuations we have had that impact the rig only, this power outtage also took out the floodlight tower, which also runs off the provided generator trailer. The generator was running fine and he restarted it several times, but no power was going from the generator to the lights or our rig.  Finally he sent a text to our coordinator and then just waited.  He thought about turning the inverter on, but was concerned about how long the outtage would last so he just read, looked at his phone, and tried to stay awake.  Around 6:30am he heard back that a tech was on his way and the service guy from the generator company was onsite by 9am.  At this point, it was clear it was going to be a muggy, but overcast day so Lee still just hung out with no power.

The service tech spent about an hour diagnosing the problem and eventually stated he had never seen this particular issue before and they would have to replace the service trailer.  Unfortunately, that also meant a new water tank since those two items are on the same trailer.  He did state that he would make sure and scrub the tank out since he knew we had issues with the water before, but obviously this was a concern.  Still, the guy was very nice and since they were jumping on the problem Lee just let it play out.  Around 11:30am they were back with a new generator and a new tankful of water.  We were both pretty impressed by their turnaround time, especially considering how long things took in the beginning, and I am happy to say everything is working great.  We have power, the water is flowing just fine, and things are back to normal.  The only negative is Lee spent his whole 8 hour morning of quiet time dealing with this and I didn’t really get any decent sleep. But truly, it was handled beautifully and we couldn’t ask for more responsiveness.

I wish I was the kind of person who could change her sleep schedule easily because for the next 8 days I could technically sleep in the night-time and since I was up most of the night now would be a good time to do it.   But Lee and I both think that is a bad idea, so I am going to continue staying up all night even though there is no traffic at all.  I am trying to take advantage of the time and have started writing the book about how we became full timers.  I am viewing it as sort of companion piece to the blog and the format allows me to go into more detail, especially about the early stages.  To that end  I have spent some time trying to remember the sequence of events and have reread journal entries and forum posts.  One of the problems is that we kept it a secret in the beginning, so although my early posts don’t lie, they definitely do not tell the whole story.  I was able to be much more honest in the RV-Dreams forum though, and have gone back and found some very interesting posts from the early days that have helped me put together a mental picture of where I was at back then. (I have to say that that entire year was really unpleasant and awful. Here we had made this huge decision and were excited about a whole new life, and we had to keep it a secret. That’s no small task in a small town. Our kids knew, and I told two people that I trusted completely, but other than that it was like the Manhattan project. I do not like lies, or people who lie, and that entire process made me very unhappy and miserable. – Lee)

Oh, and on a completely different note, I am dying to get some Pizza Hut pizza.  Sometimes you just want to order in food, and doing that on the road usually requires pick up.  The closest Pizza Hut is 30 minutes away, and of course they don’t deliver.  When I get these cravings (usually for Pizza or Chinese) I try to tell myself not to spend the money but it’s hard.  I’ll usually hold out for a few days and then after obsessing usually break down and go ahead and get it.  I always feel very conflicted about these food purchases, because unlike an “experience” dining event they feel pretty wasteful.  Plus in a case like this where we are making $125 a day it’s hard not to translate $25 worth of pizza into 5  hours worth of work.  That way lies madness though, at least for me.  If I looked at purchases like that I would never buy anything.  It’s important to remember that we are working off a larger budget and we do have money set aside for this. Of course that needs to be balanced with not overdoing it in any spend category, but sometimes you just have to give yourself a little treat.  My feelings about this particular budget line item surprise me more than any other because not so long ago I lived a life where I routinely spent money on convenient food.  When I traveled for work, that is all I ate.  Now every purchase has to be really considered and sometimes to be honest it bugs me.  I can be honest enough with myself though to recognize that I blew a ton of money on this in my former life, which I wish I could have back.  (I used to spend a ton of money on Chinese food, and I still have the result of most of it. I carry it with me everywhere I go. Physique by General Tso. – Lee) I have to find a way to separate out when I am being lazy and when I truly have a craving, because there is a difference.  And yes, I know these are “First World Problems”, but it doesn’t change the fact that it can be a struggle. So today I choose to get the pizza and enjoy it.  Lee said he will eat something in the freezer, which will actually make is closer to $15 and only 3 hours worth of work.  See, it’s crazy!


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

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

Time vs Money vs Quality of Life

Now that we have worked on four different work kamping jobs in a row I wanted to take a step back and talk about how things were going in general.  This post (as many of them do) actually comes out of a conversation Lee and I had along those same lines.  It’s easy to look at every job as a unique set of circumstances (and I am trying to do exactly that in my “First Time” posts), but it’s also important to not get so caught up in the immediate that we lose sight of the big picture.

I think it’s fair to say at this point that this life looks very different than we both expected it to. We didn’t start this life just because we wanted to travel (although there is nothing wrong with that), we chose it because we wanted to improve our quality of life.  For a long time we believed that when you looked at life as a triangle of money/time/quality we could only pick two.  But we thought with this life and “coloring outside the lines” we might get all three. And because I like pictures, our old life looked something like this.

Obviously these categories are completely subjective, but since we are judging our life, subjective is really the only thing that matters. We had lots of money, very little time, and the quality was so-so. These are oversimplifications, of course.  Defining quality of life in particular is challenging, and personally we include both work and home life in this equation.  Some people would feel differently of course, but again, our life, our definitions.

old-life

                                                 OLD LIFE

This is our frame of reference.  And since we spent a solid 10 years living in that reality, it’s what we are comparing our current life to.  And I think it’s important to do that once in a while.  Not only because this is so new, but also because it’s easy for two people to not be experiencing the same thing.  I thought that might be the case with Lee and I, so that is what prompted the conversation.  But let’s go back a little.

The first year we spent on the road I kept my corporate job and Lee worked on getting his business started.  Working the corporate job on the road radically changed the time category from red to yellow.  We did more things because we were geographically closer to them on the weekends, and we had more energy for it.  Quality of life also vastly improved although we did have additional stress from working and moving that kept it in the yellow but closer to the green.  The money of course was stayed green.  That triangle looked like this.

mobile-corporate-job

                                          MOBILE CORPORATE JOB

After I quit my corporate job I continued to get paid for quite a while as part of the buyout, and we did some volunteer jobs (that was awesome), but eventually took our first work kamping job camp hosting in Alaska. I didn’t write a summary for that one (although I did write a summary on visiting Alaska), but it was a pretty good experience.  The quality of life was very good, the money was good, and although we worked slightly different shifts we had time to see things.  Lee really liked what he was doing, and my job got better as I settled in.  So far it is the closest we have come to experiencing “green” in all three categories and the triangle would look something like this.

alaska-camphost

                                        ALASKA CAMP HOSTING 

We made enough money to cover our costs and saw amazing things.  Time is only yellow, because obviously we would have loved more time off to explore, but that would have impacted our money.  Of course we were jealous of our friends who traveled there and didn’t have to work at all, who wouldn’t be, but even taking that out of the equation I would still give it a yellow because we were on slightly different shifts. We could have changed that by moving Lee to 11-8 with me, but still working a swing shift did reduce the amount of things we could do on work days.  The longer daytime hours really helped with that though, and overall even this category was closer to green than red.

Next was the beet harvest and I wrote a really solid summary of our experience there. The money was great (although this could be different in a different harvest year or piler yard) and there was absolutely no time.  Lee and I disagree on the quality, because we did different jobs.  He really liked being an operator (except when they changed pilers on us), but I struggled with being a helper.  As a couple I am giving it a yellow though, which may surprise some people, but I was never bored, and that goes a long way for me towards making a quality experience.  Plus I was in the best physical shape of my adult life when we ended, which is no small thing.  Call it an orange for me, but for Lee definitely a yellow, so I am moving it into the yellow category for us as a couple.

old-life

                                       BEET HARVEST

Then there was Christmas trees, which we both hated.  I wrote my summary here and unlike beets and Alaska, which have gotten better in my memories with some time, this has actually gotten worse. Again, totally subjective, but no time, so-so money, and the quality of life was terrible mainly because we were working so hard and simultaneously uncertain about what was going to happen.  Terrible way to live.

christmas-trees

                                          CHRISTMAS TREES

And now gate guarding.  Two weeks in, I think we have seen enough to rate this experience (preliminary at least).  The money is so-so, time is great, but quality of life only so-so.  We are in an uninteresting place, somewhat at the mercy of the elements, and because of the opposite shifts can’t go anywhere together.  The work itself is easy though, boring but easy, and because we work from the rig we are able to accomplish chores during our work day.  All of that combines to raise quality from a red to a yellow in our minds, pushing it closer to green.  I say that with the understanding that the weather has been absolutely great.  Give me several days of bad weather and it would push it more down into towards the red. This is where we are right now though.

gate-guarding

                                          GATE GUARDING

So what are we looking for?  And are we being too picky?  Trust me, it’s a question we ask ourselves all of the time.  Obviously we would love to see this, but maybe we don’t get that.

ideal

                                           IDEAL LIFE

I certainly never had it in my old life.  Never even expected it, to be honest, but this life…well we thought it would be different.  That’s not totally true.  I was pretty skeptical from day one it was possible, but I believed in the dream enough to quit my job to try and find it.  And we certainly haven’t given up hope. We believe it is certainly possible, at least for short periods of time, and that is more than we ever had in our old life.

And for the record I still don’t regret giving up my old job at all, and as of today’s conversation Lee doesn’t regret giving up his either.  We both believe that taking these jobs will allow us to improve some areas of our work personalities.  Lee says it’s like the movie Groundhog Day. We get to try new things out without having our mistakes follow us like in a typical job.  Also, being put into all these different work environments with different types of bosses really stretches us, usually in a good way.  Plus Lee feels he is beyond the need for external validation (I’m still working on getting there), and that allows the conversation to really be about the work.

Lastly, I know our situation is different than most people.  Lots of folks look at these jobs as “fillers” or extra income and as such their rating systems would be totally different.  Others are just biding their time until their retirement and/or investments kick in.  For us though, at 48 and 50, we need to continue to take the long view.  For us it’s not just about whether the lifestyle is financially viable long-term, but also whether or not our quality of life (on balance) has improved.  It may be a simplistic way of looking at things, but over the last year we have had less red in our lives (Christmas Trees aside). That’s a good thing.


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