Sunday, December 16, 2012

One More Week... Maybe...

I know we haven't posted much while here in Kansas.  Working at just doesn't seem to lend itself to blogging... at least for me.  Our weeks have consisted of work, chores, sleep...  Repeat.  Oh, and then we've both been sick, so on days off we haven't been out and about much.  Besides, since we were both here last year I think we exhausted the somewhat limited possibilities of the area.  lol

Late Friday we got an email telling us that while our original release date from is December 23rd we are being released on December 22nd without penalty.  That means we will finish our scheduled overtime shift on December 20 -- well actually at 3:30 am on December 21st -- and be done.  Maybe...  The maybe is that Amazon is considering having some workampers stay on after the season.  Kevin is consideing it if they continue to pay the lot rent.  Me?  Not so much.  If they do keep Kevin on I think I will stay in and get things organized and caught up from our months here.  We've been talking about a lot of things and need to make some arrangements.

We're planning to head to Maryville, MO to have Christmas with Kevin's kids and grandson the weekend before Christmas.  Then head back here for Christmas.  If Kevin is still working he will likely have to work on December 23rd.  If he's not working, we'll pack up and head out after Christmas.  

We still having shopping left to do, so we best get to it!

Hope your holidays are filled with love and laughter... oh, and lots of GREAT food!  lol

p.s.  Almost forgot the "important" news.  North Dakota State University will be playing for their 2nd Division I NCAA football championship in Frisco, Texas on January 5th.  Pretty sure we can't afford tickets and will be looking for an alumni group whereever we are to watch with...

Saturday, October 6, 2012

October Already!?!??

I can't believe it's October already!  That means I've been at work at for a little over a month and Kevin's been at it 3 weeks.  Just as we were getting into the routine, they changed our schedule this week and messed it up.  

Normally we work Sunday through Wednesday.  This week we had Sunday off and worked Monday through Thursday.  You wouldn't think that would be a big change, but it made this week seem REALLY long!

Last night was particularly crazy.  Every year Amazon does what they call "stress testing" in preparation for the Peak Season.  What they do is try to simulate the amount of orders going through the system during Peak to make sure everything (people, equipment, software, etc.) is up to the load.  So yesterday we went to work at 2pm instead of 5pm and got off work at 12:30 am instead of 3:30 am.  That part was okay.Some of the day people stayed later as well, so from about 5pm until 7pm we were supposed to have the largest staff on hand and see how the system fared.  

Only challenge was that someone caught a piece of clothing on the fire alarm pull (at least that's the story) shortly before 5pm and everything came to a halt.  We all evacuated the building.  It took about an hour for them to make sure everyone was accounted for and for the fire department to declare the building safe.  For the rest of the evening things were pretty messed up.  But it all pays the same and we got home early.  It was just a bit frustrating.

Today was our usual catch up day -- a little sleep, grocery shopping, laundry and catching up with the neighbors.  It seems to have gotten a bit chilly, so tomorrow we're going to have to dig out some cool weather clothes and stash some shorts.  Think we'll put some soup in the crock pot and take it easy.  

Next weekend we'll be heading to Kansas City to watch Northwest Missouri State play football and the weekend after that I think we're helping Kevin's sister move.   In between we'll be putting in our days (nights) at Amazon and looking for something to do in January.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

New Strategy

I’m going to try something new and do my initial writing in Word and then paste it to the blog.  Maybe I can get more writing done this way with less frustration!

After reading our last entry I thought I ought to do another update, lest ya’ll think we’re not having any fun here!

We’re very fortunate to be able to connect with old friends from last year here at Amazon.  Dan and Rita Desmond are here at the same park with us and are working the same shift.  They are picking with me.  It’s their 4th year at Amazon so they are the veterans in the group.

There are several other Amazon couples here and we get together for drinks/happy hour/laughs as our various schedules permit.  Admittedly tougher now that we’ve all started working!

Our neighbors, Jerry and Kim, are great fun.  We went to the Combine Derby in Humbolt, KS a couple of weeks ago with them.  Great fun!  Nothing like watching folks smash large pieces of farm equipment into each other!  The people watching was pretty good as well.

Kevin and I played golf as well.  We only played 9 holes.  He actually beat me so I’m looking for an 18 hole rematch!  I thought it was going to happen this week, but I think he was scared… lol  Maybe next weekend.

Last week I decided I needed to get a haircut.  So I took a deep breath and made an appointment with a local lady who was recommended by some other RVers.  Well, she was surprised when I showed up and had long hair (she assumed it would be short since she knew I was traveling full time) and I should’ve left then!  But I went through with it and got my hair cut.  For the first time I cried after a haircut!  I keep telling myself it will grow out, but this is definitely the hardest thing for me about full timing.  I’ve been getting my hair cut by the same person for nearly 20 years.  He knows me and my hair and I never have to tell him what to do.  I guess I’m going to have to learn how to communicate better with the hairdresser.  The good news is that it is starting to grow out and I will probably go back to the same lady here in Coffeyville.  At least I can tell her what I didn’t like and try to tell her what I want.  Maybe I can establish someone who knows my hair here in KS in case we come back again!

We had dinner with Jerry and Kim the other evening.  They had some great cheddar jalapeno brats they grilled and I added the salad.  We spent a nice evening eating and visiting with them and our other new neighbors, Mark and Christina.

Other than that, our free time has been spent doing the day to day tasks of laundry and grocery shopping.  We’ve also been RV shopping.  We’re trying to find the right 5th wheel and truck for us going forward.  That’s time consuming and confusing.   Yesterday we looked at the new Trilogy.  At least we ruled out and expensive one because we didn’t like it!  We also looked at Open Range Residential (maybe), Jayco Eagle Premier and Pinnacle (maybes), Montanas (maybe the 2013 when they come out), and Redwoods (not sure). 

So now let me see if I can upload this without too much delay and then get ready for work this evening.  Till next weekend ;-)

Should We Dump Sprint?

It seems like I'm having a tough time keeping up with our blog this year.  First it was internet access.  Now it's work schedules and internet access.

Kevin started work at one week after I did.  I started on Labor Day.  He started on September 10th.  We're both working nights again, Sunday through Thursday, which means we're up late tonight so that we'll sleep late tomorrow in order to go to work at 5pm.  That and I want to put a chuck roast in the crock pot for dinner before we go to work tomorrow.  

First the Amazon update.  Kevin is working in Crisplant again.  I'm picking.  It seems like I"m walking an awful lot, but I don't have a pedometer, so I have no idea.  The plant has over 1 million square feet and I'm pretty sure I've been in most of it!   Besides walking, there's lots of lifting, bending and twisting as I find products, put them in plastic totes and then put them on the conveyor system.   

Sometime I will pick a bunch of product in one location/area.  Sometime I'll pick one thing in one area upstairs and then it will send me across the warehouse to pick something in a completely different area and then back where I was.  That can be sort of frustrating, but having worked Crisplant last year I think I at least have a better understanding of why it happens that way. When customers request 1 or 2 day delivery, those orders are "premiums."  That means they need to get picked and then and packed and on the truck as soon as possible.  That's why we get sent all over the place sometimes.  So I just remind myself it's for the customer and run -- I mean walk very quickly -- across the warehouse.  

Kevin has been in Crisplant where they pack orders with multiple items.  He's hoping to move over to Single Toys as things get busier.  They told him he will be re-certified on the "walkie."  A "walkie" is a motorized vehicle they use to move pallets of stuff around the facility.  He was certified last year, but they have new equipment this year.  It's sort of surprising how many of the regular Amazon employees have changed places since last year.  Kevin says there are very few of the same people working in that area as last year.  Many are still with Amazon, but in different locations.

We've both noticed a changed in the atmosphere from last year.  There is a new site manager and we think he's making some positive changes.  For instance, last year the area managers rarely spoke to or acknowledged the workampers.  This year they seem to be making a real effort to talk to everyone, workampers included.  They are also making improvements to the restrooms and break areas.  Now if only they would finish the bathroom remodel!  I'm happy to wait on the breakroom, but more bathrooms will definitely be welcome!

So besides work, we've been having issues with our Sprint Hotspot.  We've been having problems getting it to connect and while the park we're at has WiFi, it's not the best either.  Early in September Sprint said the antenna was bad on our spot and gave us a new one.  So far it still won't connect.  Tonight they agreed to send another new Hotspot.  Hopefully this one will work.

If it doesn't we need to decide whether to give up on Sprint and go a different direction.  We're thinking about going with Millenicom instead.  We could get 20 G for what we're currently paying for 12 G with no contract and it would be on the Verizon network.  If it weren't for the $150 early termination I think we would be gone.  Our hotspot hasn't worked well since we left Austin, TX in March.  It's especially frustrating since my Sprint phone has worked fine.  

Off to put the pot roast in the crock pot and go to bed.  Hope you all have a great week!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

New Shoes

After working 10 hours at Amazon on Thursday night I slept in a bit.  When I got up I was talking to Kim next door about my shift and how my toes were hurting.  She said my shoes were probably too small to be doing that much walking in (she used to work for New Balance and is a runner, so she knows a bit about this stuff.)  So it was off to find new shoes before returning to work on Sunday.

We stopped at the local Brown's Shoe, but they didn't have anything that really worked for me.  As we were headed there a big storm blew through.  LOTS of wind and rain in a very short time.  When I checked the weather on phone it said there were 70 mph winds and the storm was moving at 45 mph.  It didn't last long, but it sure took down some limbs and blew things around as it went through.  

Apparently there was a second wave that went through Coffeyville later, but we missed that because we were off to Tulsa on the shoe finding mission.  I did find a pair at Academy Sporting Goods.  I knew about Academy from living in Austin, TX.  They generally have a good selection and their prices are better than a lot of places.  I also picked up a water bottle carrier to use at work.  Since I'm picking this year I needed a way to carry my water bottle along with the other "tools of the trade" like my scanner and box cutter  when moving from location to location.  Our next stop was Target for some new socks for me.  Pretty exciting stuff, huh?

On our way home we saw a sign for Route 66 RV in Claremore, OK.  We decided to make a little detour and see what they had.  Given it was 9 pm they were closed, but it looks like they have a reasonable selection to look at and Claremore is a good size town.  It's also home of the Will Rogers Museum so we're planning a day trip there soon to check things out.  

On our way to Tulsa we had to make a detour north of Nowata because they had Hwy 169 blocked off.  We ended up driving about 30 miles through rural NE Oklahoma to end up back at Nowata on 169.  As we were driving we noticed lots of blown down trees, buildings and power lines.  When we got home we checked the news and learned the reason the road was closed was because the winds had blown a trailer house to bits next to the highway.  4 people were killed including a baby girl.  Very sad.  From what we understand there were no tornados, only very strong straight line winds.

Today is beautiful.  High of about 80, clear and just a bit of a breeze.  What a difference a day makes.  We're planning to go the the Combine Derby in Humboult later today, so I guess I best get busy and head to Walmart for a few things.  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Back to Work

I started work at on Labor Day with Orientation.  Got paid time and a half for my first day since it was a holiday.  Not a bad deal!  Tuesday we had another half day of Orientation taking care of paperwork, etc. This is when we finally got our official offer letters with shifts and job assignments.  

Kevin and I are both working 6th shift which is Sunday through Wednesday 5:00 pm to 3:30 am.  This is the same shift we both worked last year.  It works for me because I'm much more of night owl than a morning person.  8 am Orientation was rough!  I can get up in the morning, but it just takes a while before I am firing on all cylinders!  With 6th shift, I only stay up a few hours longer than I normally would anyway and I'm actually awake when I get to work!

Kevin's background check was finally processed so he will start with Orientation on Monday.  He's supposed to be working in Crisplant/Single Toys.  I ended up Picking which is fine with me.  LOTS more walking and we're still on the same break/lunch schedule.  

Yesterday I was only required to work 1/2 a shift.  We came in at 5 pm and did our Pick School training.  They do a pretty good job with the training although it's a bit overwhelming at first.  My biggest fear is getting lost!  But then that's about the same with any large unfamiliar building.  Even though we were here last year, my work was confined to one area.  So now I get to find the bathrooms in the rest of the buildings!

Kevin said he saw an article on the internet last night slamming's workamping program and telling people not to come to work at any of the 3 locations.  I have to say I just don't understand that.  Yes, there have been a few snafus getting background checks done this year.  But every company I've ever worked with either as an employee or a consultant occasionally messes something up.  I'm sure they will learn from this year and do things differently in the future.  I know that I see changes from what they did last year based on the feedback they received.  

From my perspective, they do their very best to meet our requests.  Sometimes it's not possible to meet all of them due to business needs.  For example, they may get you the start date you requested, but that means the shift or job you requested might not be available.  If you're flexible about when you start you might have a better shot at the job/shift you want.  Last year I wanted to be a picker, but ended up in Single Toys.  I wasn't too happy about it and tried to get it changed for over a month.  It didn't happen.  But on the upside, I met Kevin there.  Might not have happened had I been picking...   And I also met some other really nice folks who were all happy to see my back at the facility yesterday.  Besides -- it's only for a few months and it all pays the same.  Unless there is some physical reason you can't do the job, my suggestion is to just go with it.  You might even have some fun! 

They also run a very "lean" organization/process.  That's part of what allows them to keep the prices down like we like.  It's also means your recruiter/contact person (Paul in our case) might not get back to you as quickly as you would like.  We've found if we're patient and use tools like email, we will get the answers we need.

Finally, the other complaint seemed to about the quality of the campgrounds.  Now really can't do much about that.  Here in Coffeyville I wouldn't say any of them are resorts.  But then we are here to work and don't really have time to enjoy much in the way of amenities once things get rolling anyway.  There are some nicer/pretty parks we could stay at, but they are further away.  We choose to keep our commute short and stay local.  It's our choice, not Amazon's.

Enough of my rant defending Amazon.  Yes, they mess up, but so do we all.  From our perspective there's very few other workamping jobs that pay as well and none where you will meet as many other great workampers and make as many new friends, both among the campers and the regular employees.

Now I better finish getting ready for work before Rita gets here to pick me up!

Friday, August 31, 2012

NuWa Tour and Chuy's!

Yesterday (or Tuesday) we got up early and drove to Chenute, KS for the NuWa factory tour.  Orville was our tour guide and there was one other couple on the tour.  They had just picked up their new Hitchhiker Discover America the day before.  NuWa has a campground nearby where they allow folks to set up their trade in RV next to the new one and take as much time as they need getting moved and testing all the systems on their new unit.  It was nice to hear from the other couple on the tour that it is exactly that way.  Some folks take 2 days, other take 2 weeks...

I told Orville I wanted to learn what the difference is between a $50K RV and a $100K one. The tour was very interesting and at the end of the day I think I had a better understanding.  We learned that NuWa builds each of their 5th wheels exactly the same way.  The difference in level comes in the finish out.  They finish about 1 unit each day, so it's not a rush job.  They also sell a number of other brands of 5th wheels.  We also learned that we think the MorRyde suspension and disc brakes will be good things to have on whatever 5th wheel we end up with.  Orville was great and didn't push us about anything.  We left feeling like we could call anytime we had questions.   

The only downside was that they had started moving some of their inventory to Hutchinson, KS for the Kansas State Fair.  On the upside we learned the Kansas State Fair starts September 8th.  We might need to check that out.

On the way to the tour, we also saw a number of custom painted combine/harvesters.  Kevin remembered seeing something about a combine derby on tv a while back that he thought was in Chanute.  When I checked the internet, low and behold, the Combine Derby is being held in Humboldt, Kansas on September 8th.  That's about 40 miles from here, so you know where we'll be next Saturday!  I'll try really hard to get pictures since I've been really bad about that lately.

When we got back to Buckeye we found our new neighbors, Jerry and Kim, had arrived with their beautiful new Landmark 5th wheel.  I think I'll have to work out a trade --  I'll teach Kim how her convection oven works in exchange for use of it to bake since we are currently ovenless!  Seriously, it's nice to meet fellow bloggers/travelers/Amazonians and I think they will be great neighbors.  We had a nice visit with them before heading back to our humble abode to cook dinner.  

This morning (or yesterday now) we got a call from Paul at saying my background check had come through and I was good to start work on Monday.  They are still waiting on Kevin's.  It's really frustrating but nothing we can do.  Hopefully his will come through in just a few more days and we'll both be at work.  No word on shift or job yet.  Won't learn that until Monday.

Later in the afternoon we ran down to Owasso/Tulsa to get my Sprint Hotspot taken care of.  It had quit working earlier this summer and this was the first time we were in range of a Sprint store to get it tested and on the road to replacement.  They've ordered a new one and it should be there tomorrow or Monday.  One more 150 mile round trip to pick it up!  But hopefully will ensure a more consistent internet connection which we are both missing a great deal!

Before heading back to Coffeyville we stopped at Chuy's, an Austin, TX based Tex Mex restaurant.  It was nice to get a fix of one of my favorite Austin institutions.  I left with a 32 oz container of their fresh salsa, which if folks are very nice I might share Friday at happy hour :-)