Welcome to our Adventure!

Al and I are thrilled that you have found your way to our blog. We hope you enjoy reading our journal and viewing our photographs of the natural wonder of our United States of America. Let's hit the road together!
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

And Happy New Year to all my wonderful followers...family, friends, co-workers, new friends! Thank you all, for making this wonderful journey even more wonderful. We are looking forward to a GREAT 2012!

Hugs to all!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Done!

Yes, I have made it! I was done at the end of my shift, Monday night. Al finishes tonight at the end of his shift. He was originally scheduled to work Friday, but we have finally received word that the correct holding tank has arrived, and will be installed upon our arrival at Sunrise RV on Friday. Not knowing how long the install will take, Al arranged to have Thursday as his last night. So this afternoon, in the rain, we packed everything up and got the trailer ready to roll bright and early tomorrow morning.

So, as of this moment, two out of my three items have been ticked off...we have survived peak at Amazon,and  the New York house has closed. Tomorrow should be the end of the black tank saga as well. I am so happy to get it finished here, as I'm sure it would have been a hassle to start all over again in Florida.

Thoughts on the Amazon experience: I am really surprised at the number of folks who have stated that they won't be back, the work was too hard, or that we were treated badly. Yes, it was physically hard on your body, no matter what job you had. It shouldn't have been a surprise, though, if you had read the job description you were sent when applying. It specifically stated you would be on your feet for 10 hours, more during overtime. There is no sitting down job there. I found the overnight shift difficult to adjust to at first, and certainly would not want to do it full-time! It was especially hard being that we didn't work the same nights, and we only had one night off together to get our errands and chores done for the week. And I am sorry that we didn't have the opportunity to explore the area more than we did.

On the positives, I think Amazon did try to make a hard job as pleasant as possible. I mean, let's face it, its a warehouse job, how much fun can it be? The breakrooms had plenty of drink and snack vending machines, a ton of microwaves, and condiments and utensils if you forgot yours. We had two dinners, a turkey dinner during Thanksgiving week, and a chili&baked potato dinner in mid-December during our meal breaks. The last two weeks they had boxes of fruit put out for us to snack on during our last break. The local high school choir came over and sang Christmas carols during the meal break. Tokens for the vending machines and gift cards to Kroger's grocery store were given out for good performance, sometimes the whole shift receiving a gift card if the department met or exceeded goals for the night. We were given gloves, kneepads, earplugs, whatever would make work more comfortable for us. Communication could have been better, particularly for our group of workampers that were shuttled around to different departments, but it was getting better towards the end.

Some of the statistics they showed us that we broke the week ending 12/18/2011:

·         Pick:  2.54M units picked, crushing the old record of 2.26M
·         Sortation:  1.467M units through Crisplant and Rebin
·         VDF: 303K though VDF, first time every over 300K.  The old record of 239K was broken with one day tied behind our backs.  We only needed six to break it.
·         Toys:  496K…WOW.  I should have packed faster so we could have gotten 500K.  That’s my fault.  The old record was 357K……+39%. 
·         Gift Wrap: Although not a record, we wrapped 68,537 units last week, which is the most in one week since 2005. 

·         Shipped:  And the big boy record, 2.24M units shipped in one week from SDF1!  The old record was 2.11M from last year. 

That's a lot of stuff! And from just one fulfillment center! American consumerism appears to be alive and well.



Will we return? The question on everyone's lips as we say our good-byes. Yes, at this time we do plan on returning here to Campbellsville next year. They are especially happy with Al's work in AmCare, and I believe I have proven myself to be a pretty decent worker. There's a board on the wall as you go through security showing the associates who have met or exceeded goals each week, and my name has been on the board each week since starting. I've received two progress reports (when they could find me...I keep joking they could never find me the way they keep moving me from department to department) that showed I was working over 100%. And Sunday night I was one of the top "chuters" for the night (packing an average of 167 orders an hour). Monday I ended in my favorite department with my favorite manager, Bart in ReBin. He gave me a hug at the end of shift and told me to request assignment right away with him next year :-).

It won't be my favorite two months of the year for sure, but we have made some good friends here...Laura and Nona who worked with me and were my carpool buddies, Brenda and Bill Mims...really nice folks!, Joy and Shawn Creasy, or next door neighbors at the park, Cheyenne and her golden retriever Helo, who had great times playing with Casey, Lana and Michael whom we may see again in Florida, Gary who worked as a safety officer (thanks for the earplugs, I really appreciated them!) and of course the folks who worked with Al in AmCare, Terri and Jaimie. And so many others that we chatted with during breaks.

We should be arriving in sunny Florida for Christmas Day. We report to Otter Springs on the 30th to start our winter camphost gig, and I promise, we will have many more pictures to come soon! I plan on thoroughly exploring the area while there this winter, as well as a quick trip to Disney the end of January, and a trip down to the Everglades in March. Can't miss the RV Supershow in Tampa either! We will also be buying a house in Sugarmill Woods, and setting up domicile in Florida before heading off to Colorado in April.

So, lots of excitement still to come, interesting things to do and see, pictures to be taken and experiences to be recorded. Stay tuned, life is still good!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

That's About It

Work, sleep, eat. Take two Tylenol and repeat. That's life right now. Tonight gets even better...12 hour shifts start for the next week. Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday I will be fulfilling your Amazon orders from 5:30PM until 6:00 AM. Oh boy!

No more news than that, except the lake is finally receding. They are releasing water a little at a time from the reservoir. Al took a little video of the torrent for your viewing pleasure.


Hopefully my next update will show that 1. we've survived peak season 2. the house closing is finally done, and 3. our holding tank has been replaced. Until then, please cross your fingers for us!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Bits and Pieces From Kentucky

It's the middle of my "week-end", and  my system got all messed up. We were scheduled to take the trailer up to Shepardsville to have the holding tank replaced. Debbie had called last Friday with the welcome news that Keystone was going to cover the work under warranty. Kudos to them for that, and many thanks to Debbie for her perseverance in discussing the matter with them. We worked the night shift Monday night, so we arrived home at 4AM, slept for a couple of hours, and left the campground at 7:45 AM for the trip up there. We arrived shortly after 9AM, and of course, you do know there's a "but" coming again, right? Keystone had shipped the wrong tank! Oh, arghh. So, we are rescheduled for next Tuesday, provided the tank arrives by then. I was rather frustrated, as I was looking forward to having a working toilet again, especially as its supposed to get cold here over the next few nights. So instead of holing up in a hotel room sleeping while the trailer was worked on, we turned around and drove back to the park and set-up again. Its amazing what the body will do on two hours of sleep if it has too!

Speaking of the park, we have an issue here as well now. With all the rain we've been having, and even more to the north, the rivers are full to overflowing, and the lake has been rising. A lot! A couple of weeks ago the COE released water through the dam to lower the level, but they can't do that again without causing severe damage below the dam. So our water levels are rising here. We've been given a notice about it, telling us the park is monitoring the situation, and we need to be prepared to evacuate if necessary. Goody. Less than 3 weeks to go, and we may have to move. Again, oh arghh. Some folks have moved to Heartland RV Park today, but we are going to wait. We are in the highest area, so hopefully it won't come to that.

I was moved back to Receiving last Friday for my work week. We were told that the plants in Tennessee and South Carolina were having difficulty keeping up with shipments, so trucks were diverted here to Campbellsville. They then needed more help in Receiving, so us trainable, flexible camperforce people were asked to help out. Alrighty then! Monday night our department actually broke the record for number of units processed on shift, so we all received a reward at the end of the shift, which was really nice. I received a $5.00 gift certificate to a restaurant downtown. Not too shabby, right? They also treated each shift Sunday night to a chili and baked potato dinner at meal break, and there's been Christmas carolers entertaining us during meal breaks. Nice.

On the New York front, it looks like we may be finally closing on the sale of the house. My lawyer called yesterday with the news that we should be closing Friday morning. Yay! That will be one more thing off the list of things that need attending to. Welcome news indeed.

So, 18 days from now and we will be making tracks for Crystal River for Christmas, and then on to Otter Springs for our first camphost gig. I so have fingers crossed for a nice winter in Florida. The weather there has been good so far! Just two more work weeks to get through ;-). I can do it!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Guess What?

My personal Amazon adventure continues :-). My work week started Black Friday.  Our first inkling of the mayhem to come was the traffic backed up to enter the parking lot, the jockeying for a parking space, and the line to simply enter into the warehouse. I was a half hour early, having driven in with Al, and watched the day shift masses departing. Wow! There's a lot of people working here now.

I wasn't sure of where to report to, as I had ended my week working in receiving. A phone call to the CamperForce office manager informed me to report back to CrisPlant for packing. So that's where I went. Would it surprise anyone to hear that my name wasn't on the roster...and neither was Laura's name. We reported to our PA (Process Assistant), explained our situation, and he said "oh, you're supposed to be in Singles". Uh, no, we were transferred to Crisplant last week. "Oh, that's right, you went to Receiving. That's where you'll be from now on". Uh, no, that was just for the weekend. "Oh, ok, wait here". Finds the manager and finds yes, we belong to Crisplant now." Ok, well, you're extras tonight. Come with me. " Wow, this can't be good.

Well, we ended up working in SLAM that night. IF you want a mind-numbing, brain-cell killing job, this it it. For 10 hours, I stood at the beginning of the shipping conveyor, as the bar-coded packages came up from Crisplant, and made sure the boxes were straight and right side up so the bar code scanner could properly read the bar code in order to affix the shipping label to the box. I never say this, but...O..M...G!!! I would rather be back in ICQA again (and for a humorous view of that wonderful job, check out Darrell's blog here) than ever do that again! I was so frustrated at the end of that shift that I was thinking of going to HR and see if they would transfer me back to Receiving...at least I know that, I'm pretty good at it, and it occupies a few brain cells. But I decided to wait and see how Saturday went.

Saturday, again, no names on the roster. Again, check with the PA. A different PA. A PA who was truly wonderful! Finally! Heard our story, and talked to John the manager. He made sure we were assigned to CrisPlant, and then adopted us into his area. So Saturday we learned a new process, "buffering". This section of CrisPlant, "Rebins" is where orders are manually sorted rather than by the conveyor system. As the totes full of goodies come down the conveyor, we grab it, scan the tote with our scanner, and the scanner tells us what "buffer" to put it in. A buffer is a marked out space on the floor, and there's anywhere from 5 to 20 totes in a buffer. There's 40 buffers laid out. There's a total of 8 orders in each buffer. When a buffer is finished, it gets moved to the "rebin" area, where it is sorted into the 8 separate orders and then sent to a packager. So Laura and I buffered until the second break, and actually had a decent time. The people working there were fun, the work was fast so the time went quickly, and you used your brain cells to keep track of everything. The last 2 hours of the shift we worked on packaging the orders.

Sunday we were actually on the roster, and worked at Crisplant order packaging all night. And Monday we were on the roster again, but assigned to Rebin again. We buffered until the meal break, and the last half of the shift we were taught another new task, the rebinning sortation. This is the sorting of the buffers into the 8 individual orders.

So, in the 5 weeks I've worked here, let's see what I've done:
Receiving
ICQA
Prep
CrisPlant packaging
SLAM
Buffering
Rebinning

Am I versatile or what :-)? Al is still applying band-aids and ice packs, and knows everyone I think!

Thanksgiving was nice, with about 40 people from the campground gathering at the restaurant for dinner. The weather that day was beautiful, but has been lousy again, raining for the last 3 days. It doesn't really matter, as we've been doing not much besides working, sleeping and eating, but a glimpse of sunshine would make you feel better. We are still waiting for word on our holding tank, and I surely hope it will be a swift shipping and repair, as it does get old schlepping down to the bath house to use the restroom. Especially in the chilly rainy weather.

My mandatory overtime night this week of Wednesday has been changed to a voluntary overtime night, and I have elected to not take it. There's a couple of personal issues have cropped up that I need to be available for, so I won't be on again until Friday. We'll see what new adventures the new workweek will bring :-).

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

It's Not All Fun and Games

It's been an interesting and not so fun past few days here in Green River Lake State Park. I knowt full-timers know this, but I am here to testify that even in of the relaxed world of  rv'ing there certainly are "those" kind of days.

About the first of the month I was detecting a whiff of unpleasant odors. Not a lot, and not all the time. I attributed it to the decaying leaves on the ground, especially as wet as it has been around here. Early last week, it became quite strong at times, and pervasive. We cleaned out the pantry, looking for spoiled food. We cleaned out the basement, looking for critters. Cleaned out all the closets and cabinets, looking for anything! I cleaned and disinfected the bathroom to an inch of its life, but still smelling that smell. Now, we have no sewer hookups here, but we do have the honey wagon once a week come and pump us out. I was thinking maybe he wasn't flushing it out good like Al does when he dumps the tanks, and there was a clog or build-up of nasty stuff. We asked around for suggestions, and decided that on Monday when the wagon came, he would completely fill the tanks with water in order to give it a good flushing out. So, on Monday, he was busy filling the holding tanks to the brim while the pump-out was getting ready to start. He went outside, and as the gentleman was getting ready to start, he says to Al. " there's water draining out of the bottom of the rig". Uh-oh.

Now, our rig has the enclosed underbelly, so you can't see  anything underneath. I wasn't sure if this was good or bad but I'm definitely leaning towards "bad" at this time. Al drills a small hole in the board underneath the black water holding tank, and the liquid just comes streaming out. This is NOT good.

The owner's manual is basically useless, as most RV'ers can testify, so I quickly looked up online the nearest CampingWorld, which is in Bowling Green. Why CampingWorld, inquiring minds? Well, we bought the rig from CampingWorld, in Syracuse, NY. We also purchased an extended warranty through CampingWorld, assuring us that work would be done and covered at "any CampingWorld or licensed repair facility" wherever we were. So we called Bowling Green, discussed the issue, and was told that if we could bring the rig in that day, Monday, they could take a look at it and see what they could do...otherwise, it would be after the weekend...holiday and all, you know.

Now, bear in mind, I worked Sunday night and had just gone to bed at 4:30AM; it's now 11:30AM. I work again on Monday night, and start at 5PM. Bowling Green is 1 1/2 hours drive from here, and we still have to prepare the trailer for travel and get hitched up. No way could we do this and get back for work on time. Sooo, I call the sick hotline and report us both as unable to come in Monday...like we were instructed to do. We got the trailer ready and hitched up, and headed for Bowling Green...oh, and also, its raining just to add to the fun.

I will give the Bowling Green CampingWorld credit where it is due. They did have a bay empty for us, and as soon as we backed in, they went to work on it. As I was in the office filling out the warranty information with the manager, the tech came in with the bad news: we need to replace the black water holding tank. Apparently, where the pipe and flange come together at the tank, the glue was either not done properly and has come undone, and the liquids have been leaking out of the tank and into the belly of the trailer. Man, I'm telling you, all I was envisioning was this massive mess of paper, liquids and you know what under there! Thank goodness, it wasn't that bad, but the crack is big enough for liquid to come through, and can't be fixed because of the way it is built, it doesn't come apart. The whole thing needs replacing. Ok, so how long is this going to take? Now, we get to the really fun part.

Bowling Green CampingWorld is only a store; it's not a dealership, it doesn't sell rv's, sooo, Keystone will not ship them parts. I need to take the trailer to a Keystone dealer. Oh, joy. And where is a Keystone dealer? The manager calls Keystone and they give him the names of the two nearest dealers...both an hour and a half in the OTHER direction from the campground. Ok. So we go back out to the trailer, and the tech tapes the cut-out back in place while I call the first dealer, RightStop RV in Lebanon Junction. They weren't very helpful. He told us to take pictures of the damage, email it to him, and he'll see what he could do, but it would be a month before he could "work us into the schedule". NOT acceptable. We then called Keystone directly, and talked to Jamie, a customer service representative. Explained the situation, that we are on extended travel, can't return to the selling dealership, and not receiving much help on this end from their closest dealer. Jamie was very nice, and actually got in touch with the next closest dealer, Sunrise RV in Shepardsville

Tuesday morning, still raining, with some thunderstorms thrown in for good measure, and we re-hitched and set off for Shepardsville. Debbie at Sunrise RV was great, getting all the paperwork ready for the extended warranty. She's even putting it through on the manufacturer's warranty, being that its only two weeks after the warranty expired...can you believe it?? It's fairly evident, though, that its been leaking for awhile, so she's hopeful, which is good, as I'll explain in a bit.

It had stopped raining, thank goodness, as the tech had to work on it outside. He almost thought he would be able to fix it, but as he investigated it further, reached the same conclusion as the tech at CampingWorld; the way it is built, it can't be fixed, it has to be replaced. So he and Al went into the office to work up an estimate  which came to almost a thousand dollars between the tank, parts, shipping and labor. Debbie submitted the estimate to the extended warranty company. Soon, Al came back to the truck with steam pouring out his ears. The extended warranty company will only cover the tank, not the parts or shipping, and only half of the labor costs. About $300 out of the $1K. He was ready to call them himself and cancel the whole policy, we kind of feel that its useless at this point. But Debbie told him not to call, YET, while she works on it more, and works on Keystone as well. So that is where we're at, waiting for parts now. We can still use the shower and galley sink, we we purchased a port-a-pot for the "middle of night and its cold out" nature calls.

As for work, they are still bouncing me around. Last Wednesday I did training in Crisplant, which is the order packaging facility. We do orders with multiple items there; orders with only one item go someplace else. Its very interesting, and I enjoyed it. I have a rolling cart, with a scanner, a computer monitor, a tape dispensing machine, and about 10 different sizes of boxes. The cart goes up and down the order aisle, where items are deposited down chutes into separate orders. When an order is complete, a light flashes on the chute, and I go to that chute with my cart. I scan the code on the chute, it tells me on the computer monitor what should be in the order, and what size box to make. I make my box, the tape dispenser shoots out the exact size piece of tape I need, and then I scan each item as I place it in the box. I fill in empty space with the air bags, then seal the box, slap a barcode on the package, and put it on the conveyer, where it goes down to shipping. Its pretty easy, and kind of interesting to see what items are actually being bought, and what is ordered together.

So Friday I did my regular shift in Crisplant. Saturday, they rotated me back to Receiving for the rest of the weekend...they are training a ton of new temps ( from temp agencies, not camperforce folks) and needed the space in Crisplant for training, whereas they needed help in receiving and I'm already trained on that. Sunday
I went in and looked for my name on the receiving roster, couldn't find it. Then I saw I was doing Prep for the night. Prep is anything breakable that needs bubblewrap, anything that could get soiled that needs to be bagged, new barcodes on anything...stuff like that. So, I worked on Prep for awhile, then they came and put me back into Receiving, then after the second break I finished the night in Prep again. I can't even guess what I'll be doing when I start again Friday :-).

Most of the camperforce workers here in the state park are having Thanksgiving dinner together tomorrow. There's a restaurant in town that sets aside a room for us and serves a buffet style dinner. It sounds nice, and whereas its not family, at least someone is thinking about it being a holiday! I will let you know how it is.

That's it for this time. Hopefully, everything will work out in due time. I hope everyone has a great holiday. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

More Rain and More Changes

The weather here has been abysmal lately. We've had at least 3 inches of rain since Monday, and some pretty good thunderstorms early this morning. I have a hurricane candle holder on our picnic table and it looks about 5 inches full of water from here! At least its not too cold, but over the weekend we had some howling winds. White caps in the lake anyone?

Amazon sure does like to keep me on my toes :-). Friday was all receiving, Saturday was receiving until the meal break, then VTO...they shut the lines down at 9:30PM. Sunday was all ACQI work. Up and down, kneeling and stretching for 10 hours...I got my workout that night! Monday was all receiving again. I'm getting pretty good at both jobs now. So guess what? Yes, I'm switching departments again. I stay on my same H night shift, but I'm moving to outbound Crisplant. I will now be packing orders to be shipped out. I go in tonight for training, and believe I start regular shift on Friday, so I will have a night of overtime this week. Now I will have a new process to describe for you :-).

A few people have commented and are watching to see how it is, as they are interested in doing it themselves next year. Will we do it again? Yes, probably. It isn't hard work, per se, but it is physically demanding on your body. The processes are fairly easy to pick up, and after a few nights nights become habit. The work is repetitive, and can definitely cause aches and pains in spots you didn't know you had :-). As our liaison Phil told us, pick your analgesic of choice, and use it! The hardening process did help, I think, in that you had a few nights of half shift work to become accustomed to it before starting the 10 hour shifts. I am finding the hardest thing to get used to is the night shift hours and eating. We pretty much go to bed between 4 and 4:30AM, rising at noon. We have some breakfast, then a hot meal at 4 before going in, and our meal break is at 9:30PM, when I usually have a sandwich. I am also hungry when I get home, so I'll have a small snack before going to bed. But I still have a hard time deciding what I want to eat and when...nothing feels quite "right" yet.

The folks here at Amazon in Campbellsville are also very nice and helpful. The girls in HR are very nice, and are actually giving those of us who ask last year's seasonal camper t-shirts :-). This past Monday Amazon had a catered Thanksgiving dinner for us at our meal break. Monday night was also "DJ" night, where we could hand in requests for songs to be played, and all during our shift we heard quite a variety of music :-). Supposedly there will be a pizza night coming up, and BINGO games at various times. They do seem to be trying to make it as much fun as possible. The managers have all been great in both departments I've worked in, and whereas we do have our production numbers posted after each break, there has been no pressure from anyone to get those numbers up, at least not from what I've heard. I have had some of the PAs that I've talked with tell me that they really appreciate the seasonal campers, and that we do a great job. Nice to hear!

That's about it for now. We haven't done anything interesting the past few days, but there isn't much free time for it anyway. I'll start Christmas shopping soon, from, where else, Amazon :-). We'll be busy in Florida after this, and will try to see and photograph some of the great areas on the "Nature Coast". So, until next time, have a great day!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Amazon Life Goes On

I really apologize; there just isn't much to write about! With our schedules seemingly set, we have one day/night off together: Tuesday. And most of Tuesday morning will be spent sleeping :-). I have returned to receiving work as I started my week on Friday. Last night, however, most of the shift was sent home at the meal break as they closed down receiving and stowing. We could stay and be re-assigned to ICQA, but I was car-pooling with two ladies that didn't wish to stay, so we all went home early last night. Its 5 miles from this campground to Amazon, too far for me to walk, at 3:30AM, after working 10 hours! I may take our truck in tonight, as it may happen again tonight. The managers say that starting the end of next week, peak season should be kicking in, and then there's no down time or VTO (voluntary time off) offered. In fact, an email was sent around asking for volunteers from inbound (which is where I am) to move to outbound, but I decided to stick to what I'm doing. With Al making the extra $$$s as an EMT, I don't really have to kill myself with overtime if I don't have to. Plus, I feel settled in with receiving. My manager came by Friday night with my first week's audit, and I had worked at 95%, which is great, and earned my first Amazon vending coin reward...worth $1.00 in the vending machines. Woohoo :-). Hey, a buck is a buck, and my competitive nature was pleased that I am doing a good job. Last night I felt a bit stuffy, almost like I was catching a cold, and didn't feel like I was moving as fast, but my meal break stats showed I was doing 103%. So I must be "getting it".

Al has settled into the clinic, although he finds it a bit boring...there is so much emphasis on safety and safe procedures here, that he hadn't seen any patients at all on his first 3 night shifts. I'm sure as peak arrives and the warehouse fills, there will be incidents to fill his time :-) .He did find out some interesting facts I can pass on:

How big is the Campbellsville Fulfillment Center?

Nearly 740,000 square feet
Roughly the size of Fenway Park or almost 4 Statue of Liberties
More than 16 acres or 13 football fields
Over twelve miles of conveyors
Capacity to ship 100’s of thousands of units/day

Kind of neat to know.

Anyway, we met some fellow blog writers today, Darrell and Judy Patterson who write Wandering America. They have arrived and are starting Monday with their training. We had a chance to chat for a short while yesterday before we had to get dinner ready and then I went in to work, or w*rk as Darrell writes it :-)! Once they get their schedules we'll be able to find time to have a longer visit. One of the things making the whole experience more pleasant is the great people we've been meeting here. Al works mostly with full-time Amazon employees, who have been really great and interesting...he met the overall building manager Friday night, who used to work for the CIA before retiring...bet he's got some cool stories! The folks on my shift that I work with are all great rv'ers...but I am really finding out that it is true...full-time rv'ers are wonderful folks! Its just something about the mindset. Even with the hard w*ork we are doing here for a few weeks, I am so happy, and have not got a single regret in making the leap to do this. Somewhere I saw a questionnaire and one of the questions was, what is your favorite, place/thing. I answered, I haven't found it yet, and I plan on searching my entire life until I can no longer move before I decide what it is :-)!!

If the weather isn't too rainy on Tuesday, we may try and find something of interest to do for the afternoon. Overall the weather is decent, but it is windy a lot of the time. I have no new wildlife sightings, except I don't know if I wrote about the huge flock of bluebirds that hang out in the fields. They are so pretty! And no run-ins with the polecats yet, thank goodness. Aiden is doing well walking the dogs at night, so that is good. Casey has a bit of a limp again, probably from running so much! He goes out and plays with Helo, a young golden retriever, most afternoons, in the big field next to the campground. They have a grand time playing ball. Chelsea spends her time investigating all the holes in the field...I don't know what lives in them, but she is quite obsessed with them. 

Well, thats all the news that is fit to print so far. We shall continue to trudge along, crossing off the days until its time to join the tail-light parade out of here at Christmas! Flip-flops, wait for me!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Amazon Adventures Continue

It's always an adventure, right?

Al went in Sunday morning at 6AM, and I reported at 5PM for my first 10 hour night. From the time I went to bed Saturday night, we only saw each other for about 1 1/2 hours while sleeping until Tuesday morning! The good news is, even though we can't bring our phones to work, he does have an email account and while he is in the clinic, I can send off a message. And yes, he is working in the clinic itself now. The paperwork was expedited through headquarters, and he is back working in the clinic and not in safety. Tonight, Wednesday, he starts his first night shift. He is working Wed., Thu., Fri., and Mon. nights. I work Fri., Sat., Sun., and Mon. nights. So we have Tuesdays off together, and work the same nights Fri. and Mon. We have a nice young man in the campground, Aiden, who is earning money by walking dogs for us workampers, and he is doing "test-walking" under our supervision last night and the next couple of nights. So the pups will still get their evening duty walk and milk and cookies on the two nights we work together.

I had my first 10 hour shift on Sunday. I was ready for it. I was "hardened", I felt pretty confident in that I remembered the skills I've learned for receiving, I was fairly well rested, and ready to go. You do sense that there is a "but" coming, don't you? When our shift arrived, and reported to our "start-up meeting", we found the receiving conveyors shut down and empty of activity. Seems there was no "receiving" to be done tonight. After what appeared to be alot of discussion on the part of our supervisors, our group was sent to a different department to work that night..we were going to do ICQA. Inventory Count Quality Assurance, I believe, is what the letters stand for. We were given hand scanners, a push cart, a footstool, and sent out into the warehouse (remember, 3 football fields long by 3 football fields wide) to find merchandise bins, and verify that the count of items in that bin was correct. Over and over and over  again. Scan a bin, remove its contents, count it all, verify the count, replace the contents in the bin, start over. The scanner tells you what bin to go to next, what "pick mod" its in(in other words, what section of the warehouse), which shelf its on (from kneeling on the floor, concrete by the way, to standing on the stepstool reaching over your head), and which floor to go to ( 4 floors). Over and over and over. Sounds great, doesn't it?

Once I figured out a "system", I was going along pretty decently, but by the end of the night my knees were killing me from kneeling on the concrete, and my jeans were filthy from crawling around the floor.  I crawled into bed at 4AM, and fell sound asleep! Al was up an hour later, and gone by 6AM. The dogs, however, had some ideas about when the wanted to go out, and had me up at 8:30, even though I really could have slept some more. I did try taking a nap, but never really got to sleep good, and was back on the floor at 5PM Monday night. dearly hoping that there was receiving to be done! Alas, it was not to be, and our group did another round of wonderful ICQA work. This time, though, I went down to the clinic and got a pair of kneepads to use. It did help a lot in the beginning, but even so, by the end of the night I was still wincing as I knelt down to those bins on the floor.

Tuesday we were both off! It was a nice day, so we did some errands, grocery shopping and filling the propane tanks. Caught up on some of our TV shows we like. Made some grilled chicken taco pizzas for dinner which was excellent! Al took a couple of pictures of the sunset that I will leave you with, and we will continue the adventure. Wish me luck that I get back on receiving when I go back Friday night :-)!



Thursday, November 3, 2011

Time for Sight-seeing

Yesterday, we both had the day off together! Yay! In looking around to see what there is interesting to do, we decided to visit Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park in Hodgenville, about a 45 minute drive from here. It was a nice day, and we headed off around 11AM after doing some morning chores.

The Historical Park is actually in two different areas. The birthplace is at Sinking Spring Farm, which Lincoln's parents had bought in 1808, paying $200.00 for 300 acres of stony land on Nolin Creek. On February 12, 1809, Abraham Lincoln was born in a cabin on this property.

In 1894 a NY businessman purchased the Lincoln farmland, and had a cabin presumed to be the Lincoln cabin moved to a site near Sinking Spring. It was soon dismantled and reassembled for a traveling exhibition. In 1905 Robert Collier, publisher of Collier's Weekly, purchased the farmland. Together with Mark Twain, William Jennings Bryant, Samuel Gompers, and others, he formed the Lincoln Farm Association in 1906 to preserve Lincoln's birthplace and establish a memorial to the nation's 16th president.

That same year, the group purchased the cabin and raised over $350,000 from 100,000 citizens to build a memorial to house the cabin. President Theodore Roosevelt laid the cornerstone in 1909. In 1911 President William Howard Taft dedicated the marble and granite memorial designed by John Russell Pope. The memorial and Sinking Spring Farm were established as a national park in 1916 and designated Abraham Lincoln Birthplace Historic Site in 1959.
This is the memorial building housing the cabin. It is all climate controlled to preserve the building. There are 59 steps leading to the memorial, symbolizing the 59 years of Lincoln's life. 

The cabin that was once thought to be the Lincoln cabin, but upon being researched by carbon dating, it was determined it could not be the actual cabin itself. It has still been placed in the memorial as old an typical of the area and time, and the National Park Service considers it a symbolic cabin.


Typical of Kentucky's karst topography and hydrologic systems, the spring is a significant natural resource. Its water drains through the subsurface and empties into a branch of the Nolin River a short distance from the park. Sinking Spring is a part of a network of springs and subsurface streams in and near the park. Because the spring's cave supports a variety of fragile cave biota, it is particularly sensitive to pollutants and encroachment. The National Park Service monitors those threats, which effect the cave and its environment. (NPS website)

The Sinking Spring was the most likely deciding factor of the placement for the cabin on the property. It was the primary source of daily water for the family, and most likely the source of Lincoln's first taste of water. The appearance has changed dramatically since the Lincoln era, but the rock formations on the back wall of the spring have been altered only by nature.

In the summer this is a small museum open with memorabilia, and you can also rent one of 4 small cabins to stay in overnight.

There are two walking trails here, the Boundary Oak Trail and Big Sink Trail. We did them both, and the dogs had a great time!

A newer addition to the park, Lincoln Boyhood Home at Knob Creek, is 10 miles north of the birthplace location. Due to a disputed land title, quite common at the time in the frontier, Lincoln's father was forced to give up the Sinking Spring farm. He leased 30 acres of farmland at Knob Creek, and moved his family and belongings ten miles to the new property. The family eventually lost the lease to this, and being disgruntled with the slave trade in Kentucky, Thomas Lincoln moved his family to Indiana, leaving Kentucky behind forever.

The Howard family, interested in memorializing Lincoln, purchased the property in 1931. A cabin was moved onto the property that is representative of the one Lincoln lived in as a child, and an adjacent building was constructed to supply refreshments and gas to travelers. The Boyhood Home became a successful tourist site and began to began to be recognized for its significance in Lincoln's life. It was listed on the national Register of Historic Places in 1988. Congress authorized the acquisition of the site in 1998, and the National Park Service officially assumed management on November 6, 2001. 
The Boyhood Home

The valley that the Lincoln family farmed in at the Boyhood Home

Close-up showing the construction of the cabin

It was a very interesting day, and I learned quite a few things about Lincoln that I didn't know. It makes me want to learn more! We also took this opportunity to purchase our National Parks Passport book, and start collecting the stamps and cancellations of the sites we visit. There are currently over 400 National Park Service historical sites, monuments, parks and memorials to visit. It will keep us quite busy for many years finding our way to all these places :-)!

Back to work tonight! See you soon.






Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Life at Amazon Continues

Training is continuing on. I am getting my work routine down...not the schedule, but at least what I am supposed to be doing :-). All you folks back on the East End should get a good chuckle, knowing the kind of work I left behind and what I am doing now!

As I said, my job is in the "inbound receiving" area. As the trucks delivering stuff unload. their packages are placed on conveyors coming into the warehouse. There are several lines of these conveyors, and the receiving area has rows of computer terminals lining the conveyor. My station is one of these terminals. As the packages come down the conveyor, you grab one, slide it onto your workstation, open it, unload the contents, scan it into the computer, counting the quantity and checking the UPC codes to make sure the items are all the same, then load it into your juicecart. Over and over and over again! We work 10 hour shifts, with a 30 minute meal break, and two 15 minute break. I have two more nights of the "hardening" 5 hour shifts, and Sunday is my first ten hour shift. And 7 weeks to go! Then the taillights hit Kentucky as we flee to Florida!

Al is having some issue with his position, although not of his making. The paperwork needed for the workampers in AmCare didn't get done properly, so until it makes it way through headquarters he is currently working safety. He is hoping to get back to his training soon, but in the meantime is still working full day shifts at his pay grade, so its not too bad. He still works with the same people, and in doing safety audits is getting to meet a lot of the workamper force here.

The State Park is now empty except for us Amazon workers and a couple of walk-ins, mostly fisherman from the looks of it. The camp store has closed for the season, but the park manager and rangers are still here at the office, as well as the camphosts. They are very nice, Barbara and Jim, and deliver our mail each day, if we have any. Jim also walks around with the honey wagon folks, making sure we all get pumped out each week. They are now also offering propane delivery to your site, which is really helpful.

I now have two co-workers staying here in the park, Nona and Laura, that work the same shift as me, so we can car-pool in together on the nights I don't work with Al, if he makes it to nights at all. So far he is remaining on days. I am also meeting other workers here as we go about doing our thing, and we all like staying here at the park rather than being crammed in at one of the other RV "resorts"...more like RV parking lots to me! We have a great big area to walk the dogs, and birds all over the place, and wildlife. I saw a gorgeous red fox at dusk a couple of days ago, beautiful red coat and the fluffy white tip on its tail. And each night when Al takes the dogs for their evening duty walk, they see a skunk...or "polecat" as they're called here. Lots of white-tailed deer along the road going out of the park, you really have to be careful driving at night. I haven't seen them yet, but Al saw a flock of bluebirds as well.

Today we both have off! I don't know what we'll do, but we'll see if we can find something interesting to get into. And maybe take a picture or two again! See you soon.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Training

The past couple of days we have been busy training for our positions. Al has been thrown straight into the fire, working days from 6:30AM to 5PM. He did find his first day very interesting, as he was assigned the "shadow" someone from each department for an hour or so, in order to see what different positions do and what kind of injuries may arise. So he got to see it all, from receiving docks, inbound receiving, stowing, picking, sorting, packaging, shipping distribution and shipping docks. He was amazed at how much "stuff" goes in and out in one day...he says its actually unimaginable until you actually witness it! He was off yesterday, but will now be on every day through Tuesday. I hope today, now that he will be in the AmCare office, that his supervisor will be able to give him his permanent schedule.

I have done two nights of training in "receiving". My mind is in a complete whirl, as they throw a lot of information at you in a short amount of time. Unlike "stowing" or "picking" which involve miles of walking, we are stationary at a computer terminal next to a conveyor belt, which has the boxes off the shipping trucks coming down the belt. We need to grab a box, slide it onto our station, enter the contents into the system, and load them onto carts for the stowers to take back into the warehouse. Thank goodness there are good anti-fatigue mats to stand on while working! The actual process is easy-peasy, but it's all the "weird" things that happen that complicate the process. Damages, no PO's on the boxes, items needing prep work before receiving, and there are some items that are high-value that we are not allowed to received, and must be removed to a different area for receiving. But we do have trainers working with us this week and next week, before throwing us out on the main lines, and even then, there are "problem solvers" working each line during shifts to assist with the oddities that come your way.

The one thing I find really confusing is the shifts. This week I'm working Wed. Thu. and Fri. Next week is the regular "H" shift of Sun. Mon. Thu. and Fri. Then, starting Nov. 6., my regular "H" shift hours of 5PM-(supposedly) 4AM start Sun. Mon. Thu. Fri. But THEN, starting Nov. 12, Saturday night shifts start, and "H" shift switches to Fri. Sat. Sun. Mon. So, I'm not sure if that Thu. I still go in, as the Sat. would put me at overtime. I have to find out about that, and who we need to ask. I also say supposedly 4AM, because that would actually give to a half hour of overtime each shift. I've been told that "inboard" hours are 5PM-3:30AM (ten hour day plus 1/2 hour meal break) and "outboard" hours are 5:30PM-4:00AM. So I need to clarify that as well.

So far, I am rating the overall experience an "ok". I've never dealt with this kind of a work experience before...that is, inside a warehouse with no views to the outside, rigid adherence to a time clock, and the overall "sheep being herded" mentality. But, for a workamping gig, it does pay well, they go out of their way to see your needs are met ( they do pay for your site in full, they've provided honey wagon service once a week here at the state park, they've given us free wireless internet passes to use here, we are allowed to receive mail directly at the park, the camp host delivers it to your site), so no complaints about that. I'm not happy with the fact that we were both given night shifts, but hopefully we won't have the exact same nights each week and the dogs will only be alone for a couple of nights. We have started to meet others in the park, and there are several more coming in the next wave of workers coming next week. I think we'll do all right, and I just need to remember, it's a job, not a career, its fulfilling a need that we have (make some money!) and each day gets me closer to being back in my flip-flops in Florida for the winter!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

First Few Days

We have settled into our campground here at Green River Lake State Park, and we really enjoy this one, especially compared to the Heartland RV Park across from Amazon itself. It's only perk there is that you are able to walk to work. Otherwise it's a gravel parking lot with RV's set together as close as possible. Even though this gig is all about the job, I would have really hated it there, and I also feel the dogs would not have liked it either. Here in the state park we have a little bit of room, green grass at our site, a beautiful view of the lake, and plenty of space for the dogs to play. There are not too many of Amazon's "CamperForce" (our new name) here, I think many people didn't like the fact that there is no sewer hook-ups here. They do pay for a weekly honey wagon service though. So far we are quite satisfied at our choice of a campground for this gig.

Monday we attended Amazon's "social", which was a gathering of this week's starting workers at the Heartland RV Park. We were given preliminary information, and our department assignments and work schedule. Unfortunately, I was given the night shift along with Al, even though we had asked for separate shifts to better accommodate our dogs. See, we work 4 ten hour shifts a week here, which will actually be closer to 11 hours by the time you account for the lunch break and traveling to and fro ( its about a 15 minute drive from here).  We are very uneasy about leaving them alone for that long period of time! I have inquired about being put on day shifts instead,  but I don't have high hopes of that happening. Fortunately, we have met a few of the other campers now at this park, and there is a son of a pair of workers who is doing dog walking, so we will have to talk with him. There is also another woman with a golden retriever, who works days, so we may be able to swap off doggie care with her as well. I'm sure we'll figure out a way to manage.

Tuesday was our safety/orientation day, where all the new workers attended the same day and hours. Amazon is extremely safety conscious, and we were walked all over the warehouse and taught how to safely use the equipment that we will be handling. It was a bit overwhelming, the warehouse is so large! I'm really hoping I won't get lost!

Today, Al is working all day training in the clinic processes. I do think he may have the more interesting job out of the two of us! Then I go in tonight from 5-10PM, training for my job as a "receiver". For my first two weeks, I only work 5 hour shifts, as a "hardening" process. They were finding that if they started people out on full 10 hour shifts that people weren't used to the standing/walking and were more prone to injuries. It makes sense. Al's first two weeks of training are full time, but during the day. He starts his regular nightly shifts November 9. I start my regular shift on November 6.

So, that is what we are up to so far. We have found the grocery, WalMart, post office, propane and most important, pizza :-). We met up with our friends from Michigan Sunday afternoon, who are staying at Green River Stables Campground, just outside the park. They have been here for two weeks now, so are starting their full shifts this week. Their campground has a pot luck each Saturday night, and we've been invited over there this weekend. It should be fun.

So, that's it for now. I should have a few first impressions of our jobs to tell you about in a few days. Until then, have a good one!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Exploring

Green River Lake State Park
Campbellsville, Kentucky

Yesterday was spent in exploring the immediate area, finding the shopping areas, and taking a walk on one of the park's 28 miles of trails. We haven't met any other Amazon workers yet, but the campground is full to the brim with Halloween weekend campers. Once they clear out today, we will hopefully see who is left that will be working with us!

The day started out brisk, in the 30's, but brilliantly sunny.

Our temporary site...we move to our permanent site next week. I think they close off half of the campground at the end of the month.
View from the front. You can see the lake in the background. The site is terribly unlevel, we used every block we had to get it to sit straight.

View down one row towards the lake

For a state park, the sites here are pretty close together.

There are full facilities here for kids, from the mini golf course to basketball courts, playgrounds, swimming, a recreation room.



Views of the lake at our end of the campground

We walked the windy ridge trail that runs right out of the campground, and found this tree full of turkey buzzards. Ugly birds.


The dogs had to go for a swim. This is good water, they can drink while swimming :-)

There was a site decorating contest going today, some people really go all out. This was a tent in the primitive section.

A small corner decorated

Chelsea was intrigued by this spider....one of it's legs would move

Now this site was done to the max. 

Same site..see the trailer at the back? It too is decorated up like a dungeon. They must have this all set up and packed in here to bring out each year.

Close-up of the display. I can't imagine how long it must take to set all this up.

At 6PM trick-or-treating began. I had bought some candy, and we sat at the end of our site and handed it out. I ran out in about 20 minutes! I gave out more candy last night than I did in the 30 years I lived in Sag Harbor! Too funny. So we brought in our chairs, and started dinner. For dinner, we tried a new way of cooking cornish hens. I saw Alton Brown do it on Good Morning America a few weeks ago, and was intrigued. You cut out the backbone and keel bone, flattening the hens. Season with salt and pepper. Take out your pannini grill (we have the cuisinart griddler, love it!), have it heated up on high, spray the bottom grill with PAM, put the hen on skin side up, spray the hen with PAM, close the grill, place a 10 pound weight on top ( we used the pumpkin lol) and cook for 10 minutes. Perfect! The meat was juicy and the skin real crispy. It was so easy and tasted so good!

After dark, we took a walk to see the decorated sites while lit up.




It was an interesting experience for our first time in a campground during Halloween. For one weekend, it wasn't too bad :-). I definitely would not want that much noise all the time!

Tomorrow we start at Amazon, with the introductory stuff. Should be interesting! Until next time, have a great day!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Catching Up!

Green River Lake State Park
Campbellsville, Kentucky

I was planning on doing a catch up post on Virginia Beach on my "down day" Thursday, but we were at Douthat State Park, in Millboro, VA., near the Virginia/West Virginia border. It's a spectacularly beautiful park, but while there we had no cell service (ATT), no internet service (Verizon aircard), no satellite service, and two stations on the antenna, WHEN it wasn't raining. It was a quiet two nights :-).

We had perfect weather while in Virginia Beach, right up until the last night. Monday we did a little exploring of the area, as the family members that lived there had to work. We decided to visit the Cape Henry area, down the road from the state park. The historic area is actually on the grounds of Fort Story military base, so if you come, be sure to bring a photo ID with you and be prepared to have your vehicle searched. It's no big deal, and the young men doing the search are pleasant, but very serious.

The Cape Henry Memorial commemorates the first landfall at Cape Henry, in Virginia Beach, Virginia, of colonists bound for the Jamestown settlement. After landing on April 26, 1607, they explored the area, named the cape, and set up a cross before proceeding up the James River. A stone cross, set up in 1935 by the Daughters of the American Colonists, stands in the quarter-acre site. The memorial marks the First Landing, the very beginning of what would become British North America and subsequently Anglo Canada and the United States of America. (wikipedia)

The Memorial also overlooks the scene of the Battle of the Virginia Capes, in which the French navy prevented the British from reinforcing General Cornwallis, and led to the Franco-American victory atYorktown. A statue of Admiral Comte de Grasse and a granite memorial honor those who fought in the battle. (wikipedia)

The Battle of the Chesapeake, also known as the Battle of the Virginia Capes or simply the Battle of the Capes, was a crucial naval battle in the American War of Independence that took place near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay on 5 September 1781, between a British fleet led by Rear Admiral Sir Thomas Graves and a French fleet led by Rear Admiral François Joseph Paul, comte de Grasse.
The battle was tactically inconclusive but strategically a major defeat for the British, since it prevented the Royal Navy from reinforcing or evacuating the blockaded forces of General Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia. It also prevented British interference with the transport of French and Continental Army troops and provisions to Yorktown via Chesapeake Bay. As a result, Cornwallis surrendered his army after theSiege of Yorktown. The major consequence of Cornwallis's surrender was the beginning of negotiations that eventually resulted in peace and British recognition of the independent United States of America. (wikipedia)

The old Cape Henry Lighthouse. It was the first lighthouse authorized by the U.S. government, dating from 1792. It was also the first federal construction project under the Constitution, for an original contract amount of $15,200 (an additional $2,500 was required to finish the lighthouse).

Al and I walked up the 192 steps to the top of the lighthouse. Can you see the rest of the group, along with the dogs, waiting for us at the bottom?

The new Cape Henry lighthouse, constructed in 1881 and sits 350 feet southeast of the old one

The two lighthouses, and the cape memorial in the same shot. The cross is out of view on the left hand side.

We had also gone to visit the Adam Thoroughgood house, the oldest brick building in Virginia and one of the oldest in the country, but unfortunately it was closed. Oh well, win some lose some!

We all had dinner together at Max and Erma's, a restaurant down off of Virginia Beach's boardwalk area. It was very good and reasonably priced, we enjoyed it very much.

Tuesday was a chore day. I needed to get some laundry done, we took the dogs down to the beach for a last romp in the water, and picked up the campsite, putting everything away as we were leaving on Wednesday and it was going to rain on Tuesday night, quite heavily at times. After a last dinner together with the whole gang, it was time to depart and go our separate ways. The ladies continued onto Florida, and Al and I left for parts west.



Pictures of the dogs playing courtesy of my brother-in-law, Tim.

Wednesday was a travel day, from First Landing State park to Douthat State Park, where we stopped for 2 nights. As I said, it's a beautiful park, especially this time of year with the leaves in their full fall foliage mode. Unfortunately, the weather did not co-operate this time, it was raining for our drive, it rained heavily all night, and was still cloudy, gray and cold on Thursday. We did take a ride to see the Natural Bridge of Virginia. It was very touristy and actually crowded for a cold weekday I thought, but the dogs were able to come with us and it was something to do and neat to see.


Douthat

The Natural Bridgeknown as Natty B by locals, in the eponymous Rockbridge County, Virginia is a geological formation in which Cedar Creek (a small tributary of the James River) has carved out a gorge in the mountainous limestone terrain, forming an arch 215 ft (66 m) high with a span of 90 ft (27 m). It consists of horizontal limestone strata, and is the remains of the roof of a cave or tunnel through which the creek once flowed. Natural Bridge has been designated a Virginia Historic Landmark and a National Historic Landmark. (wikipedia). The property was once surveyed by George Washington, was owned by Thomas Jefferson, and is now owned and operated by a private company.

Cedar Creek, the unassuming body of water that formed the arch over millions of years, and dumps into the nearby James River

A re-constructed Monacan Indian village on display. There was an Indian guide dressed in a traditional raccoon coat, with the tails hanging down, that really had Chelsea very interested!

Lace Waterfalls, at the end of the gorge that we were permitted to walk to. 


We found this guy fishing in the creek. He didn't seem to care about the people walking around, he was intent upon catching some lunch.

Some beautiful fall color

Friday was another travel day, the last for a couple of months now. We arrived at Green River Lake State Park, KY, our home while we are working here at Amazon in Campbellsville, KY. Our first days are Monday and Tuesday, when we go through a "social", testing and orientation/safety talks. Then we start in earnest on Wednesday. It should be interesting, and I'll post about our experiences here and anything we find interesting in the area as I have time. I'm expecting to be working hard! Today and tomorrow will be learning about the town and finding our shopping areas. The campground is very busy, it's a Halloween weekend and the sites are all decked out. I'll take some pictures as I go along!