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!
As I sit here through some severe storms, glad its not snow, but really not too excited to have to run to the tornado shelter with Casey at 11:15PM, I thought I would post one last entry from Kentucky. Friday night shift was my last shift of the season...yay!! Everyone wore their special Camperforce t-shirts on Thursday night, and our manager Josh graciously took our picture at the end of shift. Now, bear in mind that we really should have had a "beginning of season" picture to compare to the "end of season" picture :-). But, we're all still standing (mostly) and survived with all major body parts still attached, which is always a good thing. So, without further fanfare, the best Camperforce group at SDF1 Peak season 2013:
Single Toys Department Camperforce...18 members strong.
Thanks for the great memories, and we'll see some of you next year, if not sooner!!
at the end of the tunnel, that is! 4AM Saturday will be my last time punch for the season. We're still waiting for Al's exit day, however...he is the last "pending" camperforce personnel waiting for for exit. They really like him here...for the third year in a row, they've asked him to if he can stay on longer! Unfortunately, we can't, again. Our jello plans are not that changeable.
There have been two very good parts to this year's Amazon season; the very good friends we've made while here this season, and the Single Toys "D" shift. Our managers up there (singles is on the second floor) were terrific, and the full time workers were the most friendly and helpful out of any department I've worked in the last three years. Guess where my request to work next season will be :-)??
We will be here in Campbellsville through the weekend. We have much to do; packing up most of our stuff into yet another u-haul, taking the truck and trailer to their storage are for the next two weeks, and getting it winterized. The trailer has a January 6 appointment at the factory for more repair work ( replacing the driver side wall that they forgot to do last spring being the main item) and I can't see driving it 700+ miles to Florida and turning around and going all the way back to Indiana. So it will wait here for us, and after our holiday with family we'll be heading back to the cold climes of Indiana for a week. I'd much rather stay where I can wear my flip flops, but you gotta do what you gotta do.
The next post will be coming to you hopefully from sunny Florida! Stay safe and have a wonderful holiday season!
I really am sorry! I know many of you like to read about the Amazon experience, but quite truthfully, after working a shift there, one really doesn't feel like sitting down and writing about it :-)! This year, my feet are doing fine, but my fingers and forearms are getting very sore and stiff. I'm working a new department this year, called single toys. The single part is accurate, however, we don't pack just toys...although we do pack many many toys! In this department, it is orders of single items only, larger than a gift card, cd/dvd or small book...those items are packed somewhere else, called VDF. One item, one box. I'm on the slower side of packing, averaging between 60 and 70 boxes an hour. Yes, my over-achiever status from the first season has fallen by the wayside...I am at the point of being happ doing a correct, quality wrapped package rather than speeding through everything. Even so, that is quite a few boxes made, taped, packed, surrounded by cello (airpacks) taped again and put on the conveyor to shipping. I do like Single Toys department very much. The managers are very nice, the full time workers are nice and helpful, the music (generally) isn't too bad or overly loud, the packing carts are much bigger and neater, and the equipment (generally) is in working order. There's fatigue mats to stand on while working, which makes a huge difference in how your feet and knees feel.
Unlike Crisplant, the multi-item packing plant I've worked in before, the items come to you in totes, rather than you bringing the cart to the packing chute. When I first started, Singles wasn't as busy and we quite often found ourselves being shuttled off to other departments to help. But now, it's like the item faucet has been turned on full blast, with the totes coming one after another after another, seemingly never-ending. The march of the green and yellow totes, all attesting to the thriving market of American consumerism. Ah, I shouldn't be that way, after all, it provides me with a seasonal job and I also am a user of Amazon, quite often as a matter of fact :-). As a full-timer, it is so convenient to use their Prime service, and have my brand of toothpaste delivered to me wherever I am :-). If you missed the "60 Minutes" segment on Amazon last Sunday, you can watch it here, it was pretty interesting
It is cold and raining from winter storm Cleon as I woke today. It could be so much worse, but we are forecast to have lows in the teens for three nights after these storms pass through. I am so not looking forward to that. What happened to my flip-flop strategy??
So, anyway, just wanted to give everyone a quick update on where we're at...we're alive, relatively well, looking forward to getting back to the warmer weather in Florida :-).
Just a short note to wish one and all a Happy Thanksgiving. We are thankful indeed for the ability to lead the life we have chosen, and grateful for the many many great people we are meeting as we travel around the country. We are missing our family on this day, but know we will be together with several of them in four weeks! Have a safe, happy and gourmet experience today :-).
Our million dollar view while here in Kentucky..one of the things I am thankful for!
It happens every fall around this time; all of a sudden I realize its been days, if not weeks, since I've written anything. And I always feel bad, neglecting my journal in this manner. After all, not only do I write to keep interested folks current on our whereabouts, but also to keep a record of where we are, what we're doing, and how things are going. So even if things aren't all rosy, I really need to keep things updated. I think every single one of us in this lifestyle is always assessing how things are, and where we go from here; figuratively, as well as physically!
I'm always saying this nomadic lifestyle is a constant work-in-progress. Howard and Linda Payne over at RV-Dreams constantly say no one way of full-time rv'ing is right or wrong, and this is true. What works for us may not work for someone else. Sometimes, even what we think will work for us, doesn't, and has to be adjusted. This has been a radical change of mind-set for me. I've always been a planner, thinking through a process, deciding a course of action, and once decided, seeing it through. Change was always difficult for me...if something is working, why change it? It was so much easier just to flow along with things the way they always had been.
But after awhile, it wasn't enough. Thankfully, Al and I have always seemed to evolve to a new level at the same time. It is way too easy for partners to move in different directions and not realize it until it is too late. I am grateful that we were able to make the decision together that this is what we want to do and find the means to do it. We had always dreamed of roaming the country in our later years (but not too later!) and have found the means to do so through workamping. Yes, I am envious, a bit, of folks we meet on the road who are completely retired, and have the financial means to travel without working. But then, I have to stop and think, I AM still doing what we've dreamed of, seeing the country and so many wonderful sites. So I mentally slap myself to stop the whining, and get on with it!
We've had a tough year, no doubt, as so many other of our RV-Dreamer group has. It hasn't gotten any easier towards the end, as my family is dealing with a family member with several serious health issues. For awhile it looked like I might have had to leave my post here at Amazon and go back to Florida, but thanks to two wonderful family members, the immediate crisis was taken care of and I think that we can get things done via phone until we go back at Christmas. I think a lot of full-timers our age are finding that it is difficult to deal with elderly parent issues from afar. Although, truthfully, if we weren't out here on the road, we would still be back in New York, with our business, and probably the issues would be even harder to deal with.
And I think that may be the crux of the whole argument that I've been having with myself the last few months. I still have no regrets at all about our decision to change our lives, we both feel it was definitely the right thing to do. I was questioning the timing of it though, and talking to a co-worker about it this summer. She came right out and asked me, would any of these things have NOT happened if we hadn't gone out on the road? Maybe we wouldn't have had the truck and trailer issues, but there were always issues with vehicles and the house that needed to be addressed. Our parents would have still gotten older; Chelsea would still have gotten cancer; Al still would have his heart issues (along with a myriad of other physical problems due to our jobs); in short, problems don't go away just because you changed your life. So wherever you are and whatever you're doing, they still need to be dealt with.
Many of you know that our trailer is going back to Indiana after New Year's to have more work done to it at the factory. We have been so disappointed with the durability of it. We are strongly considering trading it in after we get the issues fixed (before something else goes wrong!). I am looking for input from folks with fifth wheels who have POSITIVE experiences with their rigs. We simply can't afford to change rigs every few years, and need to have a reliable, sturdy rig for our travels. I realize that every rig will have issues, but I think we've had more than our share in less than three years: two holding tanks replaced, one fixed; propane leak in furnace system; one side wall replaced because of broken welds, a second one being replaced in January; converter replaced; oven replaced; shower pan replacement pending; tire blow-out causing side wall damage (luckily no worse); front cap paint damage from the sun (the new dark gray paint isn't doing so well for Keystone); and the myriad of smaller items that have broken, come loose, etc. that Al fixes himself. I will say Keystone has stood by the rig and repaired the structural damage, but it is a major hassle (and expense) to haul the rig up to Indiana in the winter. I'm grateful I have a place to stay while the work is being done, but what if I didn't? We plan on a couple of days at the Tampa RV Supershow inspecting rigs and seeing what kind of deals they're giving.
Tonight ends our third week of eight at Amazon. Al is already starting overtime tomorrow in AmCare. I am home tonight because my department was told last night they were giving VTO tonight.....voluntary time off. Saturday is still on the slower side, and they were bringing in new trainees again tonight, in preparation for Peak coming. I am in outbound (packing), and our overtime hasn't started yet....it should pretty soon though! So I took the VTO tonight, rather than go in and spend the 10 hours doing something like scraping the old tape off the floors and putting down new tape. Been there, done that my first year...didn't care for it!
Green River Lake State Park is more crowded this year than in prior years. A combination of one campground closing and word getting out about what a beautiful park it is has brought more folks here to stay. I've met a few of my readers here, and at work. Its always fun to hear "Aren't you Al and Karen...." and then have a nice conversation. Unfortunately, simply because of shifts, we don't get to socialize too much with folks working day shift. We simply don't see each other much! The busiest time in the campground seems to be between 3PM and 4PM...folks out walking dogs before heading in for night shift, and 4AM and 5AM as folks come home from night shift and others are getting up for day shift. Its a good thing there's not too many non-Amazon workers in the park :-).
I guess that's about all I have tonight. I don't know if I'll have anything more interesting to post in the coming weeks, but you never know. I have a couple of videos to share if you care to watch; they are short and kind of interesting if you wish to see what goes on in the factory. It wasn't our facility, but it's fairly representative of the workspace. Enjoy, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, wherever you are.
Sugarbeet harvest: video by Larry Harmon of this year's beet pile; we worked (very briefly) with Larry and Betty last year before coming to Amazon early. I thought some of you would be interested in the video showing the beet pile at the end.
It's been a couple of weeks since I posted, we've been pretty much on the move during that time. We departed Mount Desert Narrows October 15, and traveled down to Connecticut for the night. We had decided to use the Cross Sound Ferry to reach our destination on Long Island, rather than drive through New York City; always a dicey prospect, especially with a large RV! We stayed at Ross Hill Park Family Campground for the night, about twenty minutes from the ferry terminal. I had thought about staying at Mohegan Sun Casino for free, but there are no hookups there and with Al using a CPAP machine, I didn't want to chance it. The campground was quiet, and looked nice enough, but we had a devil of a time trying to figure out how the site was laid out, and it was not very level at all. We got set up ok, though, and headed out fairly early for our 1 1/2 hour ferry ride across the Sound.
Our destination for the week was Camp Driveway at my sister Amy's house in Aquebogue NY. It was a busy week of birthday parties, a lobster bake (yes, we brought lobsters down with us!), golf and fishing for Al, and lots of visiting with family and friends. Why is it that those weeks are always the most tiring?
All too soon it was time to head towards Campbellsville Kentucky. Our start date was October 28, so we left NY on the 24th, and headed towards our first stop, Ronks, PA, in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch country. Back in the 80's, in our pop-up camping days, we would go there every spring for a little golf, shopping and a lot of eating! Nowadays, if we're ever close to the area, it's just about mandatory to make a stop there. We stayed at a small campground called Flory's Cottages and Camping for two night, which provides a convenient base for us to visit our favorite haunts: Miller's Smorgasboard, Kitchen Kettle Village in Intercourse, as well as Stoltzfus Meats and all the other shops in town. Our pantry and refrigerator were pretty bare after our week of visiting, so it seemed a good place to re-stock! We also did a bit of geocaching while there, and reached a milestone of 250 caches found since we started August 2012.
From Ronks, we headed southwest to Kentucky, splitting the 685 miles into two nights. I had researched the maps, gps and Mountain Directory East for the most gentle ride through the mountains. We are trying a new procedure this fall, and now I am driving our Trailblazer behind Al and the rig. We want to see if the convenience of having a smaller vehicle for day to day driving as well as significantly less fuel consumption makes up for the added fuel expense of a second vehicle. We'll be keeping track of that. It is also quite handy to have a second vehicle while working at Amazon, as we don't always work on the same schedule.
The route I ended up choosing was I76 through PA, exiting in Bedford to a very nice small highway US220. The scenery going through small farms and towns dressed in fall foliage colors was quite nice. Then we picked up I68 in Maryland, and this section of the drive had the most grades. It wasn't too bad, though, and I managed just fine for my first time driving mountain grades :-). We then switched to I79 in West Virginia, and stopped for the night at Huntington/Foxfire KOA. I hadn't even thought about it being the Saturday before Halloween, and we were lucky to find their last site long enough for us! After 440 miles of driving in one day, I sure was glad as I didn't want to keep going on down the road! The campground was packed with trick or treaters, but quieted down nicely and sleeping was not an issue.
Our last push took us down I64 into Lexington KY, and I marveled at what a beautiful city it is as we drove through. It has definitely gone on my list of "must return to" and visit the sights. I hear the Kentucky Horse Park is THE place to go. Our roads led us down the Blue Grass Parkway and then onto 55 into Campbellsville. We arrived at Green River State Park mid-afternoon, and got set up in our regular site, 87. It was great seeing the folks running the park, and some of our Amazon friends who are already here!
Monday was our "meet and greet" afternoon, where Camperforce HR folks, Kelley, Jen and Stephanie, go through introductions and go over paperwork. It also gives you a chance to meet your fellow shift workers, and people staying at your park. There's quite a few more folks staying at the State Park this year, and we've got dog walking and car pooling in the works. Al and I are both on the same shift this year for the first time, Wednesday through Saturday, overtime night is Monday. He started right in with 10 hour nights down in AmCare, and I am going through "work-hardening" five hours a night this week, 7 1/2 hours next week, then 10 hours. It does help your body (feet) get adjusted to the work.
So that's where we're at now. Busy working for the next eight weeks. We may get some fun stuff in, but I'm mostly concerned at keeping the budget on track and saving some funds towards our travel out to Wyoming next spring. We're thinking about making a couple of stops along the way in San Antonio, Santa Fe and Moab as we work our way up there. It all takes dollars, so its time to make the donuts :-)! Suggestions for things to see and do in those areas are always appreciated.
Our time at Mount Desert Narrows ended Monday. We had signed on for the full season, May15 to October 14, and together with one other couple who stayed to the end, we closed down the campground for the season. With Acadia National Park closed since the first, it had gotten pretty quiet in the area. There were still some vacationers around who either couldn't or wouldn't change their plans, and we helped them as best we could to come up with alternative ways to enjoy the beauty of the area.
It was an odd season for us. We truly enjoyed the area. It was much busier than the area we were in last year, but that is to be expected being so close to a National Park in the east. The food was downright diet-busting and that's all we'll say about that! Hiking and biking opportunities are everywhere, and we did as much as we reasonably could taking into account Chelsea's capabilities. The weather...well it wasn't that great. Like most of the east coast this summer, we had a lot of wet weather. A direct result of this was mosquitos that could carry away small children...seriously! Once again, we worked with a great bunch of people, and had many enjoyable moments. Let's get to some pictures!
Our first hike, and done many times over the summer at Ship Harbor
I stopped counting how many lobsters met their demise at Al's hands
Gorham Mountain was our first, but not last, hike that was more of a rock "scramble" than a hike. I do declare that I found hiking in Acadia more difficult, apart from altitude, than in Colorado.
FDR's summer cottage on Campobello Island was our first stop in Canada this summer.
We also visited beautiful Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia....
where we saw our one and only moose of the summer.
The most photographed bridge in Maine at Somesville
breathtaking views on trails VERY close to the edge of the cliffs!
Visiting RV Dreamer friends...
friends from back home (Jim in the white shirt, Judy seemed to be avoiding my camera!)
Al's co-worker Janice and family from the ambulance...and other fellow bloggers who dropped in for visits as they were passing through the area.
Geocaching took us to out-of-the-way places like Hunter's Beach
and picturesque buildings.
kayaking on Long Pond where we found the loons
The Carriage Roads are a unique feature of Acadia that we enjoyed exploring.
Our last hike in Acadia on the last day the park was open, overlooking beautiful Sand Beach.
We personally had several setbacks this year with our vehicles and our health. We also had two terrible losses this year. However, we will have fond memories of Acadia: good friends, wonderful scenery and good times. We enjoyed our work at Mount Desert Narrows, and appreciate the confidence our managers displayed in our abilities.
We now turn our attention to a week long visit with our families on Long Island NY, and then we head to Campbellsville KY to start at Amazon on 10/28. Our future plans are finding us heading west again next year! We have settled our summer season job for next year, and will be working at Luton's Teton Cabins in Moran, Wyoming. Its a beautiful guest ranch at an entrance to Tetons National Park, and 30 miles south of the southern entrance to Yellowstone National Park. We are very excited to be heading west again, and look forward to another summer of new experiences...and hopefully less problems!
The campground is thinning out. The leaves are falling and there's more than a definite nip in the air. Whereas the crisp cooler air has brought clear sunny skies with no haze, unfortunately I have been unable to get to the top of Cadillac Mountain to take advantage of it, as most everyone who is breathing knows why. Our beautiful Acadia National Park has been closed, shuttered by complete and utter nonsense going on in our Nation's Capitol.
(image courtesy of Facebook)
Fortunately last Monday we had a day off and spent the day in Acadia. I had had no faith whatsoever that a resolution would be done in time to prevent a government shutdown, and I'm not pleased to report that I was right. There were a few things we wanted to do before leaving for the season.
Sand Beach is one of the iconic features of Acadia, and we wanted to do the hike around Great Head Point. The dogs are not allowed on Sand beach before September 15th, so this was a hike we were waiting to do with them. To get at the trailhead requires crossing the beach.
There's a pretty steep set of stairs going up to the trailhead. We started going around the loop trail counterclockwise, but ran into a pretty formidable set of rocks that were going to require more climbing than Chelsea could comfortably manage. So we backtracked, and headed around the trail in the other direction, a flatter walk and we would be able to cut across a short-cut that wouldn't require as much scrambling.
The views were really nice.
Sand Beach from above.
A nice view of a mountain they call the "Beehive".
Back on the flatter ground, we had also done Acadia National Park Earthcache Challenge a couple of weeks ago. Traditional container caches are not permitted on National Park property, so there are several virtual caches. These caches usually require you to navigate to the published coordinates, and usually there's some kind of information you need to find out in order to claim the cache. This particular Earthcache is sponsered by the Park Service, and is a multi-location challenge. We ended up in five different locations throughout the park, collecting the required information needed to answer a final question. To claim the cache, we needed to go to the Visitor's Center, and tell the answer to a Park ranger. When we had finished our challenge the day we did it, it was too late to claim the cache, the Visitor's Center was closed. So we definitely wanted to get there on Monday and claim our prize: a special stamp that we had them place in our National Parks Passport book :-).
One spot we hadn't been to before was Monument Cove. We drove past it many times, but never could see the beautiful free-standing pillar until we walked down a hidden path!
One last lunch at Jordan Pond was also a necessity. Popovers, sandwiches, and then total decadence: we decided since it was the last time, we were throwing caution to the wind and having popovers a la mode for a dessert! No pictures, but it was awesome! I felt so bad for all the folks working here who had no idea if it was their last day or not.
Other than that, we've been back at work. Its quite quiet, and we've lost a few reservations due to the Park closure. We've been quite busy talking to guests about alternative recreation ideas, and quite truthfully, even though the park is officially closed, there are so many ways to access the hiking and biking trails from state roads that plenty of people are still enjoying the outdoor activities. If it become too prolonged, however, it will really be a serious issue as people cancel vacations and cruise ships go to different ports. The local economy had already taken a hit with the month late opening of the park due to the sequestration budget, and now with a late season closure at prime leaf-peeping time, it will hurt. Every lost restaurant meal, every lost tour ticket, every lost room or campsite is something the small business people will never sell again. I have been writing my representatives, and I hope everyone else is as well. Common sense needs to take over! And that's all I'll say about that.
On a final lighter note, this is Nuzzles, Casey's friend here at the campground this summer. Nuzzle's mom, Roxie, is a seasonal camper here, and has supplied us with some delicious home grown veggies this summer. Nuzzles is a Newfoundland/St. Bernard mix, and he is the most gentle, friendliest dog. They've had a really good time together :-).
We're not sure what we'll be doing for the next two days off, the weather is suppose to turn cold and rainy until Wednesday. Well, we arrived in cold and rain, and I guess we'll end that way as well! What can you do?
Late breaking news out of our former work area from last summer was brought to our attention earlier this evening. Sadly, it has been confirmed that 5 hikers have been killed and a sixth injured at a rockslide at Agnes Vaille Falls. This short hike was our first hike in the area, and was also our last. I had never posted pictures of it, as I was busy with getting ready to leave at the time.
Agnes Vaille Falls
We were looking for a geocache at the falls, and after much searching, we did find it. The search did lead us up into the rock piles.
I absolutely shudder to think of this wall of rock crashing down upon us!
Prayers for the family and friends of these poor people.
Our days are winding down here at Mount Desert Narrows. Two weeks left. I feel as if I've left so much un-done. The weather has been partially to blame, it really wasn't an extremely nice summer in this area of the country. It has been very wet, especially on our days off! It is what it is, however, and as we've had shorter days at work the past month, we have done a bit of exploring in Acadia.
The Carriage Roads of Acadia is a feature I have not yet written about. Sherry has written a great post about them here, so why re-invent the perfect wheel when she has done such a good job explaining :-)?. When our work day started ending at 4PM, it was time to get out and start exploring the carriage roads as best we could, of course at Chelsea's pace!
The carriage roads are America's best example of broken-stone roads commonly used at the turn of the 20th century. They are true roads, approximately 16 feet wide, constructed with methods that required much hand labor. Road crews quarried island granite for road material and bridge facing.
Speaking of bridges, there are 17 stone-faced bridges, each unique in design spanning streams, waterfalls, roads and cliffsides. This is Hemlock Bridge.
Waterfall bridge, with a very tiny trickle in the background. It had actually been dry for a couple of weeks when we took the walk here :-).
The bridges are steel-reinforced concrete, but the use of native stone for the facing gives them their natural appearance. Over time, the stone cutters became very skilled, and were asked by Rockefeller to not cut the facing too perfectly, losing the rustic look!
Casey always enjoys his walks.
Large blocks of granite line the roads serving as guardrails. Cut roughly and set irregularly, the coping stones add to the rustic feel of the roads. They are affectionately known as "Rockefeller's teeth".
The roads were aligned to follow the contours of the land to preserve the line of hillsides and save as many trees as possible.
The roads are also graded so they were not too steep or too sharply curved for horse drawn carriages. That was the original intent behind the carriage roads; Rockefeller was very disturbed by the advent of the automobile intruding upon the serene beauty of the Island. In an effort to keep the automobile as far away as possible, he had these carriage roads built so the wealthy "cottagers" would be able to continue their travels across the island by carriage.
I always like this view of the "Bubbles" across Jordan Pond.
Cobblestone Bridge, the only bridge that is completely faced in cobblestones.
The workmanship is beautiful.
There are also two Gate Lodges in the system. This one is at Jordan Pond, the entrance to many of the carriage roads.
All in all there are over 45 miles of these rustic carriage roads, the gift of John D. Rockefeller Jr. and family. His construction efforts from 1913 to 1940 resulted in roads with sweeping vistas and close-up views of the landscape that endure today. Each year, the Friends of Acadia contibutes more than $200,000.00 for carriage road maintenance. Their use is still strictly maintained for pedestrian, biker, and horseback rider use only. We have found them to be wildly popular with the visitors here at Acadia. Even though we always have other people using the roads, though, the sense of quiet and peacefulness is always there.It has been a wonderful place to take our afternoon walks!