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

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Two in One Day!

I just stumbled across this post and thought it was really worth passing on!

40 Things to Say Before You Die

Enjoy!

Recipes and Packing

Thank you to everyone for the kind comments and well wishes for our hometown. The worst of the storm has passed, and now the clean-up must begin. From what we've been able to hear, our families and friends are all ok, and no major property damage reported at this time. Pictures of the flooding and damage can be seen posted at The East Hampton Star. It could have been so much worse, but I've read that the storm, even though it had picked up strength as it approached, it also picked up speed, and as a result passed over the island faster than expected. We wish everyone back there our best, and hope for a speedy recovery, especially power!

I'm back to packing orders in Amazon. I work in the department called Crisplant, which is named for the company that designed the system.
This is a stock photo from Amazon showing the chutes that orders come in on. I work a rolling packing cart that moves along the row of chutes. As items are dropped into the chutes (double row, the chute above is an order and the chute below is a different order) the computer keeps track of them and when the order is completed the light at the end of the chute flashes on signifying to me that the order is ready to be packed. I verify that the order is correct, pack it into the correct size box, slap on the SP00 label (the white barcode label on the side of the box) and place it on the conveyor which takes the package on to the shipping department. It's not hard at all, just repetitive and hard on your feet!

Al has also started this week. He finished Safety School yesterday, and then had a meeting with his managers  at AmCare. He starts tonight, but doesn't get the "luxury" of starting half shifts for two weeks, he goes right to 10 hour shifts. I still have two more half nights, then start full shifts on Sunday night.

Gail from Gypsy Turtles requested the recipe for the Crockpot Lemon Poppyseed Cake, so here it is.

Lemon-Poppy Seed Bread
Makes: 12 to 16 servings
Prep 15 mins
Slow Cook 1 hr 30 mins to 2 hrs  (high)
Cool 10 mins

Nonstick cooking spray
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup poppy seeds
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1/2
cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup plain Greek-style yogurt or sour cream
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon finely shredded lemon peel
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla

directions
1. Coat a 4- to 5-quart oval slow cooker or a 4-quart round slow cooker with cooking spray. In a large bowl stir together flour, poppy seeds, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.
2. In a medium bowl whisk together sugar, eggs, oil, yogurt, milk, lemon peel, lemon juice, and vanilla until sugar dissolves. Add sugar mixture all at once to flour mixture. Stir just until combined (mixture should still be slightly lumpy). Spoon batter into prepared slow cooker.
3. Cover and cook on high-heat setting for 1 1/2 to 2 hours or until top appears set. Turn off slow cooker. Carefully remove lid so condensation from lid does not drip onto bread. Cover opening of slow cooker completely with paper towels; place lid on top. Cool for 10 to 15 minutes. Run a knife around edges of slow cooker; remove bread from cooker. Cool completely on a wire rack.
nutrition facts (Lemon-Poppy Seed Bread)

I did cut this recipe in half as there is only two of us and my slow cooker is a small 3 quart one. It came out great, although I shortened the cooking time to 1 hour 45 minutes.

We also tried a new meatball recipe last night that we really enjoyed, and thought I would pass along. If you like Asian style food you should enjoy these. I would recommend cutting back a little on the ginger unless you REALLY like ginger...it's very strong!

Teriyaki Meatballs

For the Meatballs:

1 lb ground pork
2 inches fresh ginger, grated
1 egg
1/2 cup Panko (or plain) breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon soy sauce
2 green onions, chopped finely
1/8 teaspoon or 15 cracks of black pepper
2 cloves of garlic, grated

Start by preheating the oven to 400 degrees. 

Add the pork, ginger, egg, bread crumbs, soy sauce, green onions, black pepper and garlic into a large bowl.  Using your hands smash until completely combined. 

Form into small balls and add to a large oven proof skillet on medium high heat.  Brown a few of the side of the meatball.  After you have done this, cover with an oven proof lid and place in the oven.  Cook for 20 minutes. 

For the Sauce:

1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 tablespoon toasted sesame seed oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar (or regular white vinegar)
2 inches fresh ginger, grated
1/2 cold water
2 tablespoons corn starch

Star by adding the soy sauce, brown sugar, water, sesame seed oil, vinegar and ginger into a medium sauce pan on medium heat.  Bring to a simmer. 

In a small cup, add the cold water and corn starch.  Stir until combined to create a slurry. 

Slowly pour the slurry into the sauce whisking as you go.  This will thicken the sauce as it heats so go slowly.  If you want a thicker sauce add more slurry.  If you get too thick of a sauce add more water. 


To serve, remove the meatballs from the oven and carefully pour the sauce over the meatballs.  Toss in the sauce.  Serve the meatballs over rice, garnish with sesame seeds and additional green onions. 

Enjoy!

Recipe slightly modified from: Budget Bytes  

Hope everyone enjoys the recipes! See you soon!


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Devastation

Many of my readers don't know where our hometown is...that is, where we lived before we set out on the road. We lived in a beautiful old historic whaling town on the eastern end of Long Island, NY, Sag Harbor.

It has been very hard watching as the huge storm Sandy has been bearing down on our lovely hometown. We've been thinking about all our family and friends back in the area, and hope that  physically they are all doing all right and that there will be a minimum of property damage done to their homes and businesses.

It's never a good sign when a major news station comes to town: CBS. I guess a saving grace is that Jim Cantori from The Weather Channel wasn't in the vicinity!

Even all the way here in Campbellsville KY we have some effects from this massive storm. The wind last night was the worst we've seen here, and it's going to be lasting all day. Some rain is moving in this afternoon, but thankfully its not cold enough here to get the blizzard. I just can't believe the scope of this storm. The economic effects will be felt for a very long time, I'm sure.

Otherwise, things are going fine here. I'm breaking into my shift, and Al is starting today at Safety School, and begins his shift tomorrow. I will have a more complete description of my work in the packing plant soon. Be safe out there!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Ready, Set....

GO!

Monday was the "Meet and Greet" day here at Campbellsville. There's a meeting room at Heartland RV Park, the gravel parking lot campground across the street from Amazon's fulfillment center here in Campbellsville. Many folks choose to stay here for the convenience of having full hook-ups and the ability to walk to work. We prefer staying here at Green River Lake State Park and having the spacious sites, grass and beautiful lake view :-). To each their own. Monday's meeting was all about meeting other workampers who are starting at the same time, the Camperforce staff, receiving your shift and department assignment, and answering any questions that anyone may have. They also lay down some of the ground rules, pertaining to dress and conduct codes,and what you can and cannot bring into the facility. There's a pizza buffet provided for lunch, clear plastic fanny packs given out for carrying any personal (approved) items to work with you, water bottle clips (cold bottled water is provided to all workers any time they want it on the workplace floor)  and Bingo was played for a couple of prizes to round out the afternoon (I didn't win). Al attended with me as well, and had a chance to speak to two of the Camperforce reps, Jenifer and Kelly, about his status. Jenifer assured him that she was hounding the Seattle staff about the background check, and would let him know as soon as it came through. We did meet three more folks that are staying here at Green River Lake, two single ladies that will be working in Stow, and a single gentleman who is working with the IT staff.

Tuesday was Orientation and Safety School. I arrived at the Amazon facility just after 8AM, and waited outside with everyone else for Kelly to come and collect us. There's 50 workampers starting this week. Kelly came out with our ID badges, and promptly had us "badge in" to the breakroom. From there he explained the clocking in procedures, and we proceeded to the Camperforce meeting room for orientation. Here we handed in our payroll tax paperwork, filled in the I9 paperwork that proves you are a bona-fide citizen, watched the two "award-winning" videos on workplace harassment/violence, and generally learned about the various departments throughout the facility. Rules and regulations were discussed, and the "point system" for attendance was provided. This is Amazon's system for tracking attendance, and points are put on your record for various infractions such as returning late from lunch or not showing up for a shift. If you receive a total of 6 infraction points you are let go.

After the meal break we headed off to Safety School. The first part of this was a walking tour of the facility, with a trainer pointing out the various departments, how areas were marked off with different colored tape on the floor, vending machines that provide your water, gloves and boxcutters, and the all important restrooms! We were taken through the stretching routine (stretches are mandatory at the start-up meeting the beginning of your shift and after your meal break). Then we went through the five safety stations that demonstrated things such as lifting and moving pallets in a safe manner, proper conduct around conveyors, proper lifting of totes and boxes, and maneuvering your carts safely throughout the facility. A short quiz was given, and that was the end of the day!

Al picked me up from the warehouse, and we went grocery shopping for the week. Upon arrival back at the campground, we were delighted to see an email from Jenifer that he had been cleared to work, and would start with the group next Monday, and go straight into AmCare on Wednesday. That's a good thing! For the rest of the week I work tonight, Thursday and Friday, 5:30-10:30. Here in Campbellsville they start you on half-shifts, to help you build up a tolerance to spending all those hours walking on concrete. This is supposed to reduce the amount of injuries. It eases you into the long workdays, at any rate :-). This weekend, Al is going to Lexington to take a two day refresher course for his Kentucky EMT license, which will keep him certified for another three years after his license expires next year. Another good thing! So long as Amazon keeps wanting him in AmCare, its definitely worth keeping his license here in Kentucky valid.

So we are keeping ourselves busy. The patch on the galley water tank worked very well, so he closed up the belly of the trailer again. We have been getting swarmed by ladybugs the past couple of days, and whereas I really like them and they are supposed to be good luck, I can't deal with having a couple hundred walking around in my trailer! So we've been sucking them up in a clean vacuum bag, and then releasing them back outside. Sure hope they migrate away soon!

Does anyone like Lemon Poppyseed Muffins? I tried an unusual recipe last night, for a Lemon Poppyseed Cake that you make in the crockpot! It came out very good. I'll post the recipe if there's any interest in that.

Stay tuned for the further packing adventures to come :-).

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Repairs, Trees and Halloween

I have to thank Dave over at Flip Flop Vector as he started the whole "dark side" conversation that got flowing here, there, and everywhere :-). I always thought that my posts about the sights we've seen were the most popular, but apparently everyone does like hearing about our issues as well!

Al did find a crack in the galley gray water tank. It's on the top of the tank, and it could have been there for quite awhile and we didn't know it. This is the first time since last fall that we haven't had sewer hookups, and usually he leaves the galley gray tank open. Now that we fill it, up pops the problem. With careful management of the tank, we probably could have left it....we would just have to make sure it didn't fill to the top. But, I do have a handy man here, and he decided to fiberglass the crack to resolve the problem. We had fiberglass supplies leftover from the shower pan repair this summer. I don't think I wrote about that, but during the summer we noticed a crack starting in the bottom of the shower pan near the drain. Does anyone else have one of those shower floors that 'flexes" when you stand on it? That is really annoying, and I believe ultimately led to the pan cracking. Why can't they put adequate support underneath these things? Anyway, he had ordered fiberglass materials for that and fixed that up, so now he did the same thing to the tank. I felt like an operating room nurse, as I stood next to him and handed him the tools and materials as he needed it. It was especially interesting as he was on his back under the tank, and fixing the top where he could only see with the aid of one of those bent mirrors :-).

Meanwhile, while he was underneath the trailer moving things around, another issue cropped up. I noticed the power would blink off now and then. He traced that back to a loose ground wire in the electrical panel, and fixed that. And as I was giving the shower a super scrubbing, some of the silicon caulking was peeling off, so we re-caulked the shower. So the only thing left is the ugly crack on the outside fiberglass, and that will have to wait for professional help in Florida.

We also had a couple of physical things to take care of. Chelsea has developed a hot spot on her leg, and was busy chewing on it, so off to the vet she went. Antibiotics and some prednisone should take care of that.  He did say that she probably has some arthritis and that may have been what she was chewing at, and we noticed while she's on the prednisone she is perkier and her limp isn't as noticeable, so we may have to investigate some arthritis management this winter for the old girl. And I went for an eye exam, and they prescribed GLASSES! Oh no! So I picked those up and have been trying to get used to them. Bifocals. Ugh. I am having a hard time with reading my kindle with them. I can't make the whole page come into focus, and the edges of the page are a bit distorted, like a funhouse mirror. I sure could use some advise on using them!

We did go out geocaching a couple of times as well. We pulled out our SeaEagle Runabout for the first time this year, and went to Sportsman Lake near here. There's a set of geocaches placed around the lake, and you can only retrieve them if you have water access. It was fun, and a nice day, and felt good to be back on the water. We are really looking forward to doing kayaking down in Florida this winter :-).

We also took a day trip to The Bernheim Arboretum in Clermont, about an hour and a half drive from here. The campground is very busy this weekend, it is the "Halloween in the Park" festival taking place, and the campground is full to capacity. It seemed like a good thing to leave for the day :-). Little did I know I was jumping from the frying pan into the fire, as this weekend is "Colorfest" at the Arboretum, and it was jam-packed there as well! It was very pretty, though, but sadly the day never cleared off like the weatherman said it would, and it remained cloudy and chilly all day. The colors were beautiful, and I did take some pictures, although it would have been spectacular with the sun shining.

We did some geocaching around Lake Nevin. There were several caches placed here. There are many trails throughout the arboretum, and we hope to get back to explore some more of them when it is not so crowded.

Pretty colors

I really like these red trees in the lake

Closer look

Chelsea loves the grass!

 
We did a multi-part cache, and the last spot told us to go "20 feet straight from the thing". Well as we were searching for the co-ordinates, we kept wondering, what is the thing we're looking for? Well we knew it when we found it :-).

When we returned to the campground, it was almost dark and trick or treating was in full swing! I went out this morning and took some pictures of the campground and the decorated sites. Some of these folks really go all out.

This is our row this morning. By this afternoon, it will be empty except for 4 of us Amazon people!




Individually decorated sites

I categorize this under "really!!??". Looks sturdy to me, what do you think :-)?




These four pictures are all one site decorated. That's a lot of work for one weekend!

Another row with those beautiful trees at the end. 

Well, there's a mass exodus out of the campground now. The line at the dump station is rather impressive! Glad I'm not waiting in it :-). After this weekend it stays pretty quiet and peaceful here, and after November 1st its pretty much all Amazon workers here. Speaking of which, I go in for paperwork tomorrow, and start on Tuesday. I know I'm working the donut shift to start, Monday Tuesday Thursday Friday. Once peak sets in, we'll see what happens. I'll find out tomorrow which department I'm starting in, although we know from last year that can and probably will change :-). The key here is flexibility, and who knows better about that than RV'ers? 

That's about all from Campbellsville today. I really appreciate all the comments and well wishes from everyone. Mike and Anne, great to hear from you. Please drop us an email, we'll be going through Massachusetts next spring and would be great to meet up with you. Stay tuned for the further Amazon adventures to come!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Days of Wine and Roses?

I've been thinking a lot lately about a post I read a couple of weeks ago, by Dave over at The Flip Flop Vector. He's been on the road now for six months out of a planned 12 month trip around the country. Its been interesting to read his perspective on the RV lifestyle and how they are adjusting to it. Its still amazing to me the number of folks who set out to do this who have never RV'd before! He's finding it a bit different from the way they've imagined it, and the jury appears to be still out as to whether they will continue the journey up to and after the 12 months.

What was so thought provoking, though, was that he felt reading all the blogs of other folks, like us, that are living the lifestyle, makes it sound as if we are all leading an idyllic life of leisure as we progress through the country. And I've been trying to decide if my blog is guilty of this as well?  I certainly don't mean to :-)! Are we enjoying our life? Much more than we used to, yes! Our life in New York was great as well, and we will never complain about the business we had, it provided us a very nice life and gained us the savings we needed to get to this point. It became "not enough", though, and we wanted to slow our pace down at this stage, and enjoy our traveling while still young and healthy enough to do so.

Would we like to "lounge back in our leather recliners sharing a glass of fine French wine with our two AKC award winning Pomeranians fast asleep in our laps as we discussed how to invest our lottery winnings while viewing the seagulls outside of our Prevost coach scooping up their meal as the sunset disappeared along the Oregon coast".? (Thanks Dave, that's a beautiful visual!) Well, sure, it would be nice...but truly, how boring would that get day after day after awhile. More dollars would help, don't get me wrong on that count, but we all do whatever it takes to make our lifestyle work. There are many full-timers out here who don't work and don't have to, but I think for us, even if it wasn't necessary for us to work, we still would. So far, the experiences we have had have been good, and the friendships formed treasured. (well, except for the beets, didn't particularly care for that experience!)

Do we have problems? Sure do! Maybe I try to paint them as lighter than they are, I don't know. We've definitely had our share of issues with the trailer. When we first picked it up, we discovered a propane leak in the furnace. Not good! Especially as I have a phobia about propane (all electric in the sticks n'bricks, and oil furnace) and I had to learn to get comfortable sleeping over two propane tanks. Last fall while here at Campbellsville we had the black water holding tank crack, and it took six weeks before it was repaired. All I'm going to say about that is after working 10 hour shifts, towards the end it was getting harder and harder to rise up off the port-a-john! This fall we have two new issues that we have discovered in the past few days.  As we were leaving Hillsboro, and Al was cleaning the leaves and snow off the roof and slides, he noticed a crack in the fiberglass side going from the top of the living room slide towards the roof. That will have to get checked out as soon as we get to Florida and hopefully isn't anything extremely serious. And on today's agenda is a repair to a crack we found yesterday in the galley gray water tank. This repair he's doing himself. It is good to have a handy person around :-).

I did find the emotional toll of leaving worse than I had expected. We didn't have children or grandchildren as so many others have, but we've always been very close to our families and for the most part have lived close to them all the time. So that was difficult. We had attended the RV-Dreams Rally in Tennessee about 3 weeks after we had left New York...I actually had Linda tell me I needed to stop crying! :-). Well, I did, and as I see everyone is doing just fine without us, I've adjusted just fine :-). We both really look forward to visiting family and friends, whether we go to them or they come to us.

I wish I had a bigger refrigerator. I do miss my washer and dryer. There are definitely times I miss the fenced in yard where we could let the dogs out by themselves. Long hot showers are to be treasured. But as I sit here looking out my window at the beautiful lake (no sunset, its morning) I think its not such a bad trade-off. I really enjoy that our days off of work are really days off, not days to be filled with lawn mowing, leaf raking, chores and errands.

Anyway, that's just some ramblings I have as I wait to start here at Amazon. I start next Monday, and hopefully Al does as well. He is waiting on a background check, and then will be cleared to start. Let's all raise those wine glasses and have a toast to the good life, whatever it may mean to each and every one of us.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Another Waiting Game

Well, we are playing the waiting game once again, but we are in a much nicer place to do so :-). Here at Green River Lake S.P. we have several miles of hiking trails to explore, and the dogs, especially Casey, have enjoyed romping through the woods. I am also finding that the hills here that busted my buns last year are much easier to climb up and down this year! I guess I'm in a bit better shape, and there's much more oxygen down here than there was at 7700 feel and higher :-).

I do have a start date at Amazon, 10/22. Yay! And Al is awaiting his super-duper background check to be done, as he needs more rigorous checking than I do...he will be dealing with 'injured" people after all. We are hoping that it gets done as quickly as possible, so he can start at the same time that I do.

In the meantime, we are doing a little exploring and hiking. Last Thursday we visited Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, about 1 hour 45 minutes away from here. We were talking to our friend Joy, and she suggested this as a pleasant place to spend some time. And it certainly was. The main entrance to the park is lovely, and deserves kudos for being accessible to disabled folks. There are a couple of very well maintained paths that are paved, enabling anyone to have a great view of the falls.

Cumberland Falls, sometimes called the Little Niagara, the Niagara of the South, or the Great Falls, is a large waterfall on the Cumberland River southeastern Kentucky. This is the top of the falls, at the first viewpoint. 

The view downriver from the falls.

Continuing down the paved paths, you can view the falls from the level of the river. Cumberland Falls are also known for a unique feature called a "moonbow". The 125 foot wide waterfall has a 68 foot drop that showers onto the boulders below. The mist rising from these falls creates this unique natural phenomenon that is not visible anywhere else in the Western hemisphere on a predictable schedule. The falls are situated in such a way, facing north and flowing north, as to reflect the light of the moon and make a rainbow-like arch, an optical phenomenon called a moonbow. The moonbow can be seen here on clear, strongly-lit nights, usually the full moon.

We decided to hike to Eagle Falls, on the other side of the falls. This is the top of the falls from that side.

It was quite an uphill climb for awhile, and we ended up high above the falls!

The trail wound around and under several large rock ledges.

The trail went close to the river at one point, and it was beautiful with all the rocks and the leaves starting to change.

We reached peaceful Eagle Falls, and just sat and rested for awhile admiring the scenery. They weren't nearly as awesome as Cumberland Falls, but beautiful as well. 

We finally headed back to the truck. I was glad it wasn't warmer than it was, in the low 60's, as the hills definitely gave us a good workout, and we need to get adjusted again to the humidity levels of this part of the country :-). As we drove home we made a well-deserved stop at Culver's for some frozen custard :-).

Over the weekend we've been exploring some more trails in the park, and doing some geocaching. Geocaching doesn't seem really big here, there aren't too many caches and some haven't had finds since spring! We have dropped a couple of trackables though, and replaced some wet logs, so we're doing our part :-). An interesting thing happened yesterday though. As we were coming off the North Trail near Green River Stables, a truck approached, and then slowed down. Al and Casey were ahead of me and Chelsea (pokey puppy) and I saw him lean in and start laughing. As I approached, I saw it was Miss Vicky, who I worked with at Waldenwoods in 2011! It was so nice to see her again. Vicky and her husband Tim are working at Amazon this fall as well. They're staying at the Stables campground, so they'll be close to us. We visited for quite awhile, and hope they come over to see us again. One of those random meetings on a backroad that could only have been meant to be...we had to be coming out of the woods at the exact moment she was driving by, otherwise we probably wouldn't have crossed paths. 

Today its very windy, and a possibility of thunderstorms tonight. We hope they go around us! In the meantime, as we have another week to wait before starting, we are doing some projects, and trying some recipes we haven't had time to try. We'll let you know how the meals come out, and as for projects, hopefully at the end of the week we'll have a Mickey Mouse light pole to show everyone :-)!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Thank You!

Thank you so much to everyone for the kind words of support. I'm not sure the company would be too pleased with me, judging by the number of comments that "we wouldn't do that", but I believe in going into something with your eyes wide open. I think the two things that I really didn't get before actually arriving and working the job is 1. yes, they said we would be working outside in the elements....I was prepared for cold, not for working in a blizzard! and 2. we were told we could expect to work 3, 4 weeks tops, basically the month of October. We were NOT told that we'd be sitting around for days on end, not getting paid. I sort of assumed (and yes, I know what that word breaks down to!) that we'd be actually working that whole time. Oh well, we had the experience, and know better now :-).

I really liked our interviews with Dave at Bar Harbor Camping Resorts. He went over the job thoroughly, trying to explain, as he put it, the good the bad and the ugly. He feels that if folks are going to drive quite a distance for a job, they should hear all about the job, not just the fun details. That way both sides can decide if its a good fit, and hopefully reduce the number of no-shows and early departures. I think that is quite a sensible way of doing things.

So, we arrived here at Green River Lake State Park in Campbellsville KY Sunday afternoon. We may qualify for "PDD"...we drove 1115 miles in three days...how about it, Sherry?  Funny how it felt so "comfortable" as we were pulling in...our fall "home" :-). Our friends Laura, and Joy and Shawn are already here, and we are set up on the same row. There's a few other Amazon people spread out over the park, but I'm sure there's more arriving in the next few weeks. We're about three weeks earlier than last year, and you can see the difference in the campground. There's still quite a few weekenders and vacationers staying here, whereas that drops off by the first of November.

All set up in our lake view site again :-).


We had to get into the fall spirit...and everything is 50% off at Lowes!

Our first couple of days we spent getting settled in and attending to errands that needed to be done. First thing Monday morning we drove to Bardstown, where the nearest LabCorp is. Amazon requires drug screens from all employees, so that has to be done and sent in before we can start here. Hopefully that doesn't take too long. At least this is a pleasant area to sit and relax while waiting! While in Bardstown, named by Rand McNally as Most Beautiful Small Town in America (very nice, but I will have to put in there that I think our home town of Sag Harbor NY is prettier), we stopped by the My Old Kentucky Home State Park to check it out....no tour as we had the dogs with us, and no pictures as I didn't realize I had no card in the camera! We tried to find the bakery that Joy had written about last week, but it was closed on Mondays! Darn! We did go to the Bourbon City Bistro for lunch, and tried a local dish, the Kentucky Hot Brown. Delicious!

Tuesday morning we hiked the Lakeshore Trail here at the park with the dogs. Casey quite enjoyed romping through the woods for a couple of hours, and we found six geocaches along the way. I was quite pleased to find that the hills that had winded me so badly last year, didn't even faze me this year. I may not have lost any weight, but I guess I'm in better cardiac condition since last year. Thanks, Colorado! After lunch was time to stock up the refrigerator and pantry. Oh, how nice it was to shop in Kroger! We had City Market in Buena Vista, which is affiliated with Kroger, but it was very small, the aisles were crowded, and there just isn't the choices you have in a large supermarket. It was fine, don't get me wrong, just not what we're used to. And let's not even go into the grocery store at Hillsboro...I guess it was good that the town even had a grocery store ;-). And its funny, last year I didn't really care for the Kroger here, after shopping all summer in the super awesome Kroger in Michigan, but this year, it's like heaven! Just goes to show, you don't appreciate what you have when you have it. Laundry rounded out the day's chores. 

So now we're just waiting for the call to get started. It may not be until next week, but as I said, at least it's a much nicer place to hang out :-).

Friday, October 5, 2012

They Beet Me

I really really hate to admit this, but....the beets beat me. I'm writing this tonight in Osseo, Wisconsin, and we're on our way to Kentucky to report to Amazon early. I can't stand being a quitter, it really galls me, but I couldn't do it. I especially feel bad for the many readers who are interested in hearing about it, but having put in a couple of nights, I will attempt to explain the job, what it entails, and why we've made the decision we have.

The Good:
Hillsboro Campground was nice. It wasn't fancy, but the sites are shaded, level and full hook-ups. The laundry room was very nice, with 5 nice sized front loading washers and 4 large dryers. There's a "Chicken Shack" on the property open Tuesday and Friday nights selling fried chicken dinners that were pretty good. We met several nice folks that were also working the harvest, some for several years. We were assigned to Larry and Betty Harmon's team, workampers who also blog at Mountainborn. Really nice folks from Arkansas, who will also be joining us at Campbellsville. Woodland Park in Hillsboro was a really nice town park, that seems to be severely underused...but we were there every day, and the dogs had a great time. Just before our decision to leave we found two lovely young ladies in the campground who were very happy to walk the dogs for us. The foremen at the sites were very nice, and seemed to appreciate that we were there. We found a few geocaches while waiting to start. Cell service (ATT) was great, and my Verizon aircard picked up 4G no problem.

The Bad:
The town of Hillsboro was downright spooky...there never seemed to be anyone around, no matter what day or time. The area has been hit very hard by the strike that is over a year old by the union workers in the processing plant. There's a small grocery store in town that isn't bad, and a small hardware store, several bars, a drugstore. There's a museum, but it was closed as of Labor Day. The campground was right on the interstate, and the road noise was hard to get used to, especially when some of the trucks going by were actually making the trailer shake. The train tracks were fairly close, and several went by at all hours, whistles blowing. The closest "real" shopping is 45 miles south in Fargo. We had hoped to be assigned to the Hillsboro site, but ended up going to Reynolds, 20 miles away (although better than Ada which was 40 miles away).

The Ugly:
You are out in a completely open field. You are at the mercy of the fierce winds sweeping across these fields. The dirt is blowing in your face. You must be comfortable being in close proximity to huge trucks, and always be watching for the skidsters buzzing around in the bobcats. The beets are huge!
These are not your little red beets you have for dinner!
If the piler happens to break down, or its wet out and everything clogs up with mud, you have to climb up onto the piler and clean it all off. You're wearing layers of clothing to stay warm, making it difficult to move easily. During your breaks ( officially 20 minutes for meal break, and 3 10 minute breaks) there is no place to go except into your vehicle to get out of the elements. There's a port-a-john for restroom needs. Have you ever tried removing layers of clothing in a port-a-john that's shimmying around in the wind? I don't advise it. 

That being said, our first night at work wasn't too bad. The harvest officially opened at 12:01AM Wednesday morning, so we were to report to our stations at 10PM Tuesday night to make sure everything was ready to go. Temperatures were in the 40's, and the wind was only blowing lightly. The trucks started arriving right on schedule, and our team went to work. 
This is the piler, clean and ready to get going.

The conveyor that the beets go up, and you can see the boom out front...the beets spill off of the boom, and pile up on the runway. This is before we started, note there are no beets yet.

 
A truck at my station, unloading the beets into the hopper. What I've done before he starts dumping is wait for the truck to come through, back up to the hopper, and set their brake...I don't go near the truck until I hear that break set. Then I walk over to their window, take their ticket from them, mark the piler they're at, my initials, and sample if they have a sample ticket. If they have a sample ticket, I have to go to the other side of the piler, collect a sample (about 20-25 lbs. of beets) in a bag, seal it and set it aside for collection. Then I run back and direct the truck under the dirt conveyer so the dirt can be dumped back into their truck. Hopefully they watch and get the truck under correctly, otherwise the dirt dumps on the ground and then we have to clean it up!You can see in the picture how the beets spill out of the hopper and collect all over the ground. We also have to keep this cleaned up, using the shovels you can see hanging up on the left side of the picture.

Betty, myself and Maria waiting for the first trucks to arrive. Like I said, our first night wasn't bad. It was cold, but not too bad. It was dry. Once it started there were always trucks waiting to dump, but we took care of them in a calm, orderly fashion. The work isn't hard, per se, but at times the shoveling could get heavy, and the bags holding the samples were hard to get fastened closed. Oh, the conveyor you see going up from the right side of the picture is the dirt conveyor that we back the trucks up to. Sunrise was absolutely beautiful, both for the scenery and the fact that it meant our shift was almost over :-)! I really thought at this point that I could do this!

The Really Ugly:
During the day Tuesday the weather forecast had put up a winter weather advisory. Snow was possibly coming into the area starting Wednesday night. Wednesday morning we stumbled into the trailer at the end of our shift. Thankfully, the dogs had done just fine overnight without us, no messes to clean up. I checked the weather, and we now had a winter storm watch in effect...rain, changing to snow, with high winds Wednesday night into Thursday. We went to bed, and unfortunately did not really get a lot of sleep, the bodies were rebelling against going to be at 9AM. Got up mid afternoon, and now we have a winter storm warning: high winds (40-50mph), rain, changing to snow by early morning, possibly 6 inches accumulation. Blizzard conditions. Really??!!

So, I hear you say...how can they harvest beets in those conditions? My question exactly, but we reported to work at 8PM as directed. They were kind enough to hand out rain gear, overalls and jackets. Once I got those on over my other layers, I could barely move. I felt like the little kid in "A Christmas Story". Out at the piler, the trucks were coming fast and furious. And it wasn't too bad. The wind was the worst, blowing so hard, and dirt was blowing all over the place. We had a thermos of hot chocolate, and that did make me feel better at break time and meal break. At midnight things started to go south. The rain started, and the mud started building up. It was making it quite slippery walking around, which I didn't care for being around those trucks. It was also making it difficult for the drivers to see me in their mirrors as I was trying to back them up. So dirt was going everywhere between the wind and the dumping. That was making matters even worse with mud. Then, around 2AM, the freezing rain started. The wind was blowing so hard it was going sideways, and smacking you right in the face. It really hurt! I couldn't imagine that they would keep going...but they did. Around 3AM we were told we should be shut down soon, as the trucks were starting to get bogged down in the fields. By 4AM we were still going,although not a steady a stream of trucks. Unfortunately, out of the three pilers at our site, the other two were broken down, mostly due to weather. We took our break, although we had held off thinking we'd be finished soon. I had to go back to the truck, I couldn't feel my toes anymore, and my second pair of gloves was soaked through. When we returned, we found our piler had broken down as well. Joy of joy. I thought maybe this would get them to shut down, but no dice. Ours was the easiest fix, so once we were up and running again, our piler took care of the last 7 trucks that needed dumping before the site finally shut down. I am eternally grateful to Larry and Al for letting us wait it out in our trucks, and even once it was fixed, they took care of it as I couldn't move by that point. I just wanted to go home. I've never been so cold in my life. And we still had to drive 20 miles back to the campground in blizzard conditions. You could hardly see. It was unbelievable. So it was 6:30AM when the site shut down, and almost 8AM by the time we got back to the trailer. 

The next night was forecast to have more rain/snow, and windchills in the teens. Thank goodness, no, they did not call us in to work. As a matter of fact, its been shut down since then, and may possibly start tomorrow night, although at this point I'm going to be cynical and say they won't start again until Monday so they don't have to pay people the overtime rate for Sunday.

This is really hard to explain, but I just didn't feel that it is worth it. Thank goodness we are in a position where we don't positively HAVE to have that money in order to survive...I have a feeling many of the folks doing it are in that position. After being subjected to those conditions and, in my opinion, unsafe conditions, I feel that management doesn't give a rap about the folks working on the ground. The site should have been shut down long before it was. I can understand not cancelling harvesting on a forecast, but once it became apparent a blizzard was in effect, it should have been called. Al and I are in this adventure not just to work, but to enjoy ourselves while doing so. To be physically and mentally miserable is not in the game plan, and what we left behind us. Knowing that Amazon wanted him ASAP, we double checked with his boss there, who said "come!", talked to Larry and Betty, and then called our rep at Express and put in our resignation. I personally feel that if we had been shut down when the weather first started deteriorating, I may have felt like I could stick it out. But I never want to be in that condition again. And I'm not taking a chance that I will.

The other thing that is misleading is that they tell you that the harvest takes between 2 and 3 weeks and you're done. So you're expecting to get there, work 2-3 weeks and get out. They don't tell you that if harvest conditions aren't right, you don't work. And don't get paid. So like we got there 9/23, trained the next day, and then sat for 8 days. Doing nothing. Then worked two nights. Now they're down again for at least 3 nights. It just isn't for us, and I feel bad saying it. But there it is. 

I hope I have accurately portrayed our experience. I know many of you are interested in it. I always like to think that I adequately research things before I decide to do it...but I feel I dropped the ball on this one. Now I know better. 

On a happy note, we had a great summer in a wonderful place, we didn't waste our trip across the Dakotas as we took some time for sightseeing in the beautiful Black Hills, and we're on our way to Kentucky where we'll start a little earlier at Amazon. It's all good.

I also feel secure enough at this point to announce we have set our plans for next summer. We have accepted positions as second lead workampers at Mount Desert Narrows Campground in Bar Harbor, Maine. We will be working there from May 1 until Columbus Day. We had vacationed in that area a few years ago, and absolutely loved it. So we are quite excited to be spending the whole summer there. It also means we will be able to stop on Long Island in April and visit family and friends that we haven't seen in quite awhile. So...Life is Good. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

And So It Begins

We officially start the harvest tonight, at 10PM. We have started trying to adjust our bodies to the shift in time, but I know it will still be a rough couple of nights! Tonight isn't going to be too bad, clear and in the upper 40's. Thank goodness the 40 mph winds we had today are subsiding. Ahh, but tomorrow night will be the interesting one...would you believe we have gone from days in the 80's, to a winter weather advisory tomorrow night into Thursday?! It's true! Wednesday we're supposed to have showers starting in the late evening, and as the temperatures drop in the the wee morning hours, we're expected to have snow mix in with the rain...and threats of a "significant" winter event if the storm tracks just right. Ugh!

That's all I have to report for now. Stay tuned for events as they unfold.
A reminder of summer :-)

Best wishes to Laurie and George as they are headed out on their adventure after waiting three years!