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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!
Homer, Alaska

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

!! Happy New Year !!

Homosassa, Florida
Sunny, high 80's :-)

Well, it has been awhile, hasn't it! I guess there's two months of stuff I need to catch up on.

We have finished our fifth season at Amazon, 9 weeks this time, and have made it home for the winter. It was an interesting and busy season at Amazon this year. As I stated in my first post, the Campbellsville facility is switching over from holding just about anything you can imagine in the warehouse, to mainly apparel. You can find everything from the cheapest chinese socks to high-end wedding gowns. The facility was just emerging from a massive renovation job to accommodate this change in product, and my position in the Receiving department provided immediate overtime as we were kept quite busy with incoming product to fill up all the empty bins and racks in the pick mods. I'd been working 55 hours over the course of 6 nights for a few weeks, so I hope that gives me sufficient excuse to have missed writing blogs :-). Around Thanksgiving the influx of product started slowing, but by then the outbound end of things were starting to pick up, so workers in our department were being moved around to assist production in other departments. I worked in several departments this year, being trained in Receive Prep (my original department), Receive (all items already packaged and tagged), Stow ( putting away all those items in the pick mods), ICQA (basically verifying the content of the bins in the pick mods are correct), and finally Packing. Luckily I was never assigned to Shipping Parties, which involved people from our department stacking the orders in the mail trucks during the breaks the regular shipping department took. By December it is an endless flow of packages, so the work never stops! I wasn't thrilled at the prospect as I hate being around those tractor trailer trucks, so I was happy I was never involved in that.

I won't bore everyone with a long-winded description of the season, but we do have a few random observations for those thinking they may want to work there next season.

-The new online application process is tedious and confusing. We haven't worked through it yet for next year, but I'm sure it hasn't gotten any easier or fun since last year. Those of us who have worked there before actually had a ten day exclusive time period to apply for next year, but no, we haven't done it yet. Yes, we fully plan on returning, but don't see a need to get it done immediately, especially while you are still working there and so tired you can't see straight. Now we are in the middle of the holidays with family and friends, so will probably deal with it in a few weeks.

-The drug screening process and start time notifications were horrible this year. We were notified of our start date less than three weeks prior to start. The paperwork for our drug screen came while we were in the midst of traveling, and was difficult to pin down a spot within the three day time frame we had to get it done. It was a real problem this year, and I was annoyed with it, especially in the fact that the nearest place I could get it done was over 2 1/2 hours drive away. We did it, but I'm sure hoping it gets easier next year. 

-I did enjoy my department this year, and felt the training for it was ok; not great, but adequate. There were plenty of nice folks in the receive department as well that were always willing to answer any questions. My managers were great, and always kept things fairly fun, and were very generous giving out gift cards and thanks for doing a good job. This is not so in many other departments. And I found that once we were being moved around to different departments, the training was sketchy at best. If I hadn't already had experience in packing, I would have had a much more difficult time of it. I was pretty lost in Stow, having never worked in the pick mods and pretty much had no clue where anything was. I always felt like a little mouse being stuck in a maze :-). 

-Al had a more difficult time this year in AmCare, in that there was no Area Manager in place when he arrived, so it was hard trying to pin down what his schedule was going to be. About halfway through the season he was finally settled into set nights and hours, for the most part. We ended up without a single night off together this season. That is nice in that the dogs need less pet-sitting, but we end up doing a lot of the chores separately. One nice perk we get now is after we work 320 hours we receive 5 hours of paid time off that we can take, so one night I took off the last five hours of my shift that he was off, and another night he took off a couple of hours at the beginning of shift to go out to dinner with a group of our friends when I was off. 

-Green River Lake State Park was much more enjoyable this year without the tree cutting going on! Once again it was a quiet, beautiful sanctuary away from the hectic world of Amazon. All the people who work there are so nice, we continue to love staying there, and will be back there again next fall. I know a common complaint we hear that it is so far away from the warehouse, but I have timed the commute, and from the time I would clock out from work in the middle of the building until I walked into my trailer was a total of 20 minutes. I don't think that is so awful :-).

-We always enjoy meeting up with old friends, and again we met many new friends. Coming back to Campbellsville each fall feels like coming back to a "homebase". 

Working at Amazon is definitely an interesting experience. Its not for everyone, that's for sure, but we seem to deal with it well enough and it provides a nice cash infusion into the old checking account. So while we are physically capable of doing the job, I feel we will keep going back. Nine weeks is quite long enough, however! 

Green River Lake State Park, our "fall home".

We had a late departure from Amazon this year. Actually, we always sign a contract to work through December 23, but prior to this year we have always been released around the 20th or 21st. Things were proving to be a little different this year, and right up to December 18th we still didn't have a date set for our release. By then we had figured we were going right to the end, so we called our family and told them we wouldn't be there for Christmas Eve this year, and probably wouldn't get there until Saturday. We didn't want them waiting till the last minute with plans, hoping we'd be there, so they could get on with it for headcounts. I consoled myself, figuring there was a couple more days of salary coming in at any rate, and we'd have Christmas dinner when we got there. 

Of course, when I went in to work that Friday 12/18, at our meal break we were informed the next night, Saturday, would be our last night! Al  had a choice, he could leave that night with me, or work two more nights and leave Monday with the bulk of the workampers. Since we had already made the decision we wouldn't be home until Saturday, he worked the extra two nights. We ended up leaving Green River Lake State Park Thursday morning. Wednesday was a terrible weather day that we didn't want to deal with. It all turned out for the best as our friend Laura hitched up to go home and found a leak in her brake line, so we were able to help her out with that and get her truck to a service shop for repairs. Normally we would have been gone before her :-). 

Thursday turned out to be a great travel day, and we headed out around lunch after getting Laura back to town when her truck was ready. We had an easy trip down through Tennessee to Chattanooga, where we picked up I75. I could tell from that point on that we were traveling closer to the holiday as the traffic was much busier all the way to Florida than we've seen previously. We made it to Cartersville GA, just north of Atlanta, where we stopped for the night, figuring to tackle Atlanta on Christmas Day.

The trip around Atlanta went quite smoothly, thank goodness. The whole day was going pretty well, actually, except I was thinking there really was a lot of debris and garbage along the roadway. Everything just looked really messy and dirty, and I figured that was from the first storm front that had passed through that we waited for. We got just south of Perry, Georgia, when our smooth day went awry. Watching a tire blowout from behind is quite horrifying, in how spectacular it looked. Yes, the front driver side trailer tire blew. These things really annoy me, because we constantly check the tire pressure, make sure its right, keep our speed at 60mph or lower, and it still happens. Inspecting the other three tires they all look fine, just as this one did when we left. I'm wondering if there was some debris in the roadway we didn't notice. Being Christmas Day, he figured it would be faster and easier to change it himself rather than call roadside assistance, so that's what he did. I wasn't thrilled, with the way traffic was zipping by and not moving over like you're supposed to, and I tried calling the state highway police for traffic assistance; do you know how hard it is to get hold of the police without calling 911?? Whatever happened to operator assistance? It took me about 20 minutes to finally reach the state highway police department, and an officer showed up just as Al was tightening the lugnuts. He was very nice, and did make sure we were set, then took off after a car that seemed like it had to be doing 100mph as it went by us without moving over....hope he got a ticket!

Alas, it doesn't end there. We got back on the road, then stopped at a rest area that was about 5 miles down the highway just to check everything over good while in a safe spot. At some point I had our iphone out, and apparently left it on the truck bed when we pulled away from the rest area. We had decided to stop in Cordele, just up the highway for the night, and discovered the phone missing when we arrived. We did find it, back at the exit ramp to the rest area, completely demolished. Boy, was I angry at myself for that one! We do have insurance on it, and it has been replaced, but I must say, you feel quite naked without your phone :-). 

We were also having some battery/converter issues with the trailer, and the decision has been made to put in a new battery and converter. Once that is done, I will write about what his decision was and what the replacements are. I'm quite lost with all he has been researching, so I'll probably let him write that :-). So, for Christmas, Santa is bringing us (late) a new battery, new converter, new tires, a new phone, and repair work to the wheel well skirting. Not what I would have liked, but, you do what needs to be done....fix it and move on, as my friend Teresa says!

Saturday was a beautiful day to finish our drive, and we arrived home late afternoon. We have the trailer in storage for a couple of weeks, and are all moved back into the house for the winter. We have been busy fixing things and straightening things out, but are now ready for our annual big family New Year's Day dinner of prime rib that we host each year. All our Florida family will be here, and our dear friends John and Carol Herr are driving up from Sanibel Island to join us for this year's festivities. It should be a great and relaxing time. After that, we have lots planned for this winter, starting with a trip to Disney January 10 to spend the week with my sister's family, then another 12 days at Disney starting January 24 for the annual reunion with Al's family. So January is pretty full, and I'll be dusting off the camera and getting some pictures out here for you. Maybe even a review of our year soon...it was a good one! And we're looking forward to an awesome 2016 :-).