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 :-)   

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Just Chillin

We were supposed to start working at Amazon yesterday (Monday) but they seem to have run into problems getting the background checks completed, so we are just sittin and chillin.  Amazon is picking up the tab for our site since we were scheduled to start on Monday.

We played golf today.  It was fun even though my round sort of sucked.  But it's okay since I haven't played since Valentines Day.  Good news is that I only lost one ball.  I think my biggest problem is that I'm not good at playing "smart golf."  Like when there's a big tree between me and the green.  "Smart golf" would be to punch it out to the fairway and then go for the green.  Not me.  I have to try to go over the tree...  Unfortunately it rarely works out.  But then where's the fun in not trying?!?

Tomorrow we're going to go take the NuWa factory tour in Chanute, KS.  We figure since we have the time and it's only about 45 minutes away it would be a good idea.  It will be our first factory tour, so it should be interesting.  They also have a dealership and sell several lines of "full time" 5th wheels including a couple we haven't had a chance to look at.

We are also looking forward to meeting new full time rvers, Jerry and Kim who will be arriving in Coffeyville tomorrow.  

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Coffeyville, Kansas

We arrived in Coffeyville, Kansas yesterday afternoon and are getting settled in at Buckeye Estates.  It's been a little rainy and I've been suffering through some sinus pain so I haven't done much today.  Kevin went over to Columbia, MO with his sister to pick up his SUV.  We'd left it there when we went to North Dakota for the summer.  Couldn't see the expense of two vehicles, but he's missed his truck so I'm sure he'll be happy to have it back.

We got transmission replaced in the Avalanche in Fargo and opted to pay the $200 to put the additional warranty on the replacement transmission.   I'm not sure how much longer we will have the Avalanche, but the warranty is transferable so it seemed like a small price to pay for some good insurance.  They also said we need to replace some parts on the steering and should put new plugs and wires on it.  Not too bad for over 150,000 miles.

We are scheduled to go to the Sunday "Social" at Amazon tomorrow at noon.  This is where you meet the other workampers who are starting at the same time you are, fill out the employment paperwork and find out what jobs you will have officially.  Paul said we will be starting in Receiving and Stowing, but you never really know until you get there.  We're supposed to be working 6th shift, which would mean we go to work on Monday at 5pm if things are the same as last year.  We did have to fill out new background check forms.  It seems the company they were using is behind.  We emailed Paul the new forms on Thursday afternoon so hopefully all will be in order for us to start on Monday.  If not I guess we will see about playing golf!

Welcome to all our new readers.  Looking forward to seeing Randy and Tammy again in a few weeks and meeting new fulltimers and neighbors at Buckeye, Jerry and Kim.

Now off to see if I can organize a few things and then so see if we can find Rita for a glass of wine later!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

We had a plan, but the truck had other ideas

We decided to make August 12 our last day at Indian Hills Resort.  It's a great place for walleye fishing and the people and scenery are wonderful.  But 30 miles to the nearest grocery store, 80 miles to Walmart and no cell, internet or tv reception takes it's toll after a while.  And then we had the opportunity to start at Amazon a month early than we originally planned.  So August 13th we headed out.
Our plan was to spend a couple of days in Velva, North Dakota with my brother and sis-in-law, stop Fargo, North Dakota on Thursday to have dinner with my nieces and then head to Missouri arriving on Saturday to visit Kevin's family for week.  Unfortunately one niece had to work so we would have to miss visiting her this time through.
So after a few days visiting with John and Dorothy and taking care of some minor RV repairs (replaced some trim strips on the outside and cleaned water heater tubes), we headed to Fargo on Thursday.  We stopped in Carrington, North Dakota to have a bite of lunch and take a phone call from a research assistant at Rock Center with Brian Williams on NBC.  They are looking at doing a report on people who travel in RVs and work.  It was an interesting conversation and we agreed to talk more with them if they go further with the show.  It also took a bit longer than we planned, but we were finally back on the road for dinner with niece Amanda in Fargo.
We got about 30 miles outside of Fargo when the engine suddenly started revving erratically.  We pulled over and hit the OnStar button.  They ran a diagnostic and said the transmission had an problem reading but that we should be fine to drive the rest of the way and take it to the dealer for service on Friday.  We headed out and about 2 more miles down the road the check engine light came on.  Another call to OnStar with another diagnostic test and they were able to tell us that the electronic part that regulates fluid flow and therefore shifting in the transmission was stuck in the off position (they said what the part was but I've apparently blocked that information out.)  Again we were advised to take it easy, get where we were going and call for directions to the nearest dealer in the morning.  At this point I just have to say that it's completely amazing to me that they can tell me what is wrong with my truck as I'm sitting on the side of Interstate 94 in the middle of North Dakota!
We headed out again at 45 mph with the flashers going.  Now that's a lot of fun on the interstate!  We got about 5 more miles down the road when we saw an exit sign that indicated camping.  At this point our nerves were pretty shot, so we took the exit and pulled into a little campground next to the Days Inn in Casselton.  Full hookup, free internet and access to the hotel pool.  Sold!  We got set up and called Amanda who being the good niece she is drove out 20 miles to pick us up and take us in to Fargo where we had excellent pizza and a nice visit at Rhombus Guys Pizza.  Amanda brought us back to the trailer and we called it a night.
On Friday we got up, called OnStar who connected us with GM Roadside Assistance for a tow into the dealer.  Less than 15 minutes later the rollback truck was here to take us the last 20 miles to Gateway Chevrolet in Fargo.  They were great.  Got the truck right in and checked out the transmission.  Determined that it was a warranty repair and so hooked us up with a rental car.  They had to tear it down to the point of failure to determine whether repair or replacement of the transmission was called for.  
They ultimately decided to replace it.  Bad news was they didn't think they could get the new transmission in until Monday.  This was the point where we decided the truck had other plans for us.  You see my other niece, Alicia, had to work every day until Monday, so unless we were to stay until Monday we would not have seen her.  Apparently the truck decided we needed to see Alicia!  So we decided we might as well just go with it and stay till Tuesday morning.  We will have a shorter visit with Kevin's family, but we'll only be a few hours down the road for 4 months while we are at Amazon so we will have other chances to visit with them.
So we are chilling in Fargo, North Dakota.  The very good news is that since the transmission is under warranty there is no cost for the repairs or the rental car.  And since we have GM Roadside Assistance as a part of the $8 a month we pay for OnStar, the towing was covered as well.  So while we are sitting someplace different than we planned, it's not costing us anything extra.  The only thing we have to decide is if we want a 36 month / 100K mile warranty on the transmission instead of 12 month / 12K miles.  If so, we need to come up with $200.  The question there is do we think we will keep this truck longer than 1 more year.  Hopefully the answer is no since we really need to find a larger RV and that means a bigger truck.  But you never know.  Oh well, we have until Monday to decide that.
We got a call Saturday afternoon that the truck was actually done, but we decided to stick with our revised plan and stay until Tuesday morning.  Had a relaxing evening watching the Hunger Games and taking a dip in the hotel jacuzzi.  
Really cannot say enough good things about OnStar, GM Roadside Assistance or the great folks at Gateway Chevrolet.  They have made what could've been a very stressful situation as easy as possible.   Besides, I get to have more time with the nieces! 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Halfway Mark

Today we've been here at Indian Hills Resort for 2 months -- exactly 1/2 of our  agreed commitment.  "Resort" is a little of a misnomer in my opinion.  Don't get me wrong, it's a nice place, but "fishing camp" would be a more accurate description.  The campsites are nice, as are the walking trails.  But if you don't care to fish or boat, there's really not much to do out here.
Consequently there's also not much to report in our blog.  I've run into a few issues with selling the house in Austin, but it should all be resolved by the end of the month.  Other than that the only thing I have to share is a fun, easy cake recipe that is great for RVer's.  I read about it in someone else's blog and I'm afraid I can't retrace my steps to tell you who shared this great idea -- but the recipe is so easy that I remembered it after reading it ONCE!

3, 2, 1 Cake

1 box angel food cake mix
1 box any other flavored cake mix

Mix the 2 cake mixes together in a large zip top baggie.  To make each cake (more of a cupcake) mix 3 tablespoons cake mix with 2 tablespoons water in a coffee cup.  Microwave on high for 1 minute.  Let cool slightly and remove from cup.  Top with fruit, frosting, chocolate... whatever strikes your fancy.

Till next time...

Thursday, June 28, 2012


I was catching up on things at (a forum/site for folks who are or are thinking about full time rving) and saw a post where someone asked it all the stress went away when one finally became a full time RVer.  It got me thinking about how different people deal with life's ups and downs and consequently the amount of stress they feel.

I remember when my mom got really sick over 10 years ago.  It was right before Christmas so everyone headed up to North Dakota to be there.  Looking back I think my coping strategy was to get everything organized and make sure we all had food and the holiday celebration Mom would've expected even though she was in the hospital.  

The other day Kevin said he felt this job was too stressful.  Most days it doesn't seem that way to me.  But this week I see what he means.  Not because I feel like it should be stressful.  Seems some folks deal with stress by looking at everything that could go wrong or building up some upcoming event to a level that makes the anticipation unbearably stressful.  Others, like me, tend to go with the assumption that it will be fun and everything will go fine.  

At least that's how I'm looking at the upcoming July 4th week.  Yes, it will be like having 3 back to back weekends here at the campground.  But everyone will be here to have fun with friends and family.  We're about as ready as we can be and if something goes wrong, we'll take care of it.  So I'll take a deep breath and try not to let other's (and no, I'm not talking about Kevin here) stressed feeling invade my being.  I think writing this has been part of me trying to let it go.  LOL  Besides, we're off the next couple of days!

Welcome to all our new followers, especially Kevin's daughter, Ashley!  We're glad to see you all and ask you to be patient with us as we get into a more regular blogging routine.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Yes, it does get hot in North Dakota

In the past whenever I've mentioned that I grew up in North Dakota, invariably people wonder if it ever gets warm here.  Today the answer is a resounding YES!  The thermometer outside the store read 96 degrees in the shade at about 2pm and the humidity is in the 80+% range.  There were heat advisories out today.  

It's been fairly quiet today guest wise.  I cleaned one condo unit that folks checked out of and then worked on getting things ready for the upcoming July 4th week.  

Kevin made a run to Parshall to pick up propane.  I haven't been there yet.  He just got back -- unfortunately didn't make it there before the Cenex closed.  Guess we'll run to Garrison tomorrow.  

This weekend we're off Friday and Saturday so our plan is to book a nice hotel with a hot tub in Bismarck and relax a bit while we do our shopping.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Happy Belated Father's Day

Since we arrived here at Indian Hills Resort we've been busy with work and trying to learn to fish!  lol  It seems I never knew that much and Kevin has forgotten a lot since he was last able to do any fishing.  The other day I almost caught a big walleye but he snapped the line just before I got him on shore.  I think it was the first time I've ever had a big fish on the line so I really had no idea what to do.  That has been the highlight of our fishing adventures so far.  Other than that, we've mostly lost tackle and done battle with the Shakespeare baitcast reel we bought in Branson.  

So yesterday it was time for an amazon order --- one new Zebco reel to replace the annoying Shakespeare and a collapsable fishing net to snag the big one before he gets away next time!

We both worked on Father's Day.  The park was full, but it was strangely quiet.  I cleaned condos and cabins after folks checked out and then worked in the store till close.  Kevin tried to do some mowing but it kept raining on and off and there were too many people around to do much.  Kevin got a nice card from his daughter and missed family time.  We'll need to plan lots of that when we are back in Kansas this fall.  At least we have guests in the park this week from Missouri so he's a little less homesick.

We did manage to get out and visit Fort Stevenson State Park just down the road last week.  It's a nice park with good spots for shore fishing and a very interesting little museum located in the guardhouse.
Fort Stevenson State Park Guardhouse
We also drove out to Garrison Dam on day.  Hopefully we will make it back and take a tour before we leave.

(Imagine picture here... it's taking too long to get from my phone to Picassa... lol)

One of the things I had forgotten about this part of North Dakota is just how far it is to anything!  We are 33 miles from Garrison, which is a small town with 1 grocery store.  It's expanding, but it's still pretty small.  And it's 75 to 80 miles to the closest Walmart and fast food.  So we're learning to plan better and every day off starts with a run to the "city" for a fast food and grocery fix!  I keep telling Kevin that at least it means we are not spending much money -- except on gas of course!

Today I get off work at 4pm and we're expecting company.  Phyllis and Leonard are staying at Lake Sakakawea COE park across the lake from us and they are coming over to say hi.  We met them in Austin while they were there on a project earlier this year and we once again find ourselves in the same neighborhood.  So we might make a run into Garrison for our weekly stop at Ye Olde Malt Shoppe for burgers and ice cream.

We're off Tuesday and Wednesday so hope to see my brothers since they will both be in Velva for a couple of days.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

We've arrived in North Dakota

Sad to say I can't remember the date of our last post.  We've been on the road from Branson, MO to the Garrison, ND area for our summer workamping jobs at Indian Hills Resort.  Along the way we've had lousy internet connections and problems with our hotspot.  So today I'm forcing myself to sit down at the store and update everyone on what we've been up to.

We left Branson, MO on Sunday, May 6th with a target destination of Weston Bend State Park outside Kansas City, MO.  We arrived there and checked in just in time to be settled inside when the big storm hit.  I'm afraid I didn't get any pictures at the park.  We were pretty busy the few days we were there.  We took Kevin's Jimmy over to stay at his sister's in Columbia, MO along with some things we decided we didn't need / didn't have room for.  I'm sure other full-timers remember what that's like as you sort out what really want to travel with.  

We did manage to take in a Royals baseball game.  It was my first time ever attending a major league baseball game and pretty fun.  We were there for free t-shirt Tuesday, so scored a couple of new t-shirts as part of our $20 ticket price.  Not a bad deal.  I was very impressed with how well you could see the game from all the seats.  And the Royals even won, beating the Red Sox.  Apparently that hasn't been the norm this season so that made it even more fun.

From Kansas City we made a short drive to Maryville, MO so we could visit Kevin's kids and grandson before we headed to North Dakota for the summer. 

We stayed at Mozingo Lake RV Park.  
It's a very pretty little RV park.  $20/night for water and electric.  Our stay at Weston Bend and Mozingo were the first times we had stayed with no sewer connections.  Found out we can easily spend 3 days with no sewer, especially if there are good showers available.  The sunsets from our spot at Mozingo were beautiful and we had nice visits.  

We spent one evening with Bryan and Colten.  Colten is turning into quite the little man.  He loves his trucks and thinks that if you don't understand what he's saying, he just needs to say it louder.  He must have seen that in a movie.  Ashley came and had dinner with us at the RV park.  She brought the "kids,"  Zoey and Cisco.  Sorry, no pictures of either the grandson or the puppies.  I really need to remember my camera more often.  

Oh, almost forgot... on the way up to Maryville, we kept hearing this rattling noise in what we thought was the back wheel.  Turned out our rear U-joint was about shot.  We got it fixed there in Maryville.  The total bill was $66!  So glad we found it before we got on the road and that Kevin knows people there.  I was getting sick to my stomach worrying about just how big is unexpected bill was going to be.  What a relief!

We headed up the road toward North Dakota.  The wind was awful the day we left Maryville, so it was a long day driving.  We stopped for the night in Sioux Falls, SD, just as the rain was hitting.  Of course it stopped raining and the wind stopped blowing just as we decided to call it a day!  We opted to just spend the night at a Flying J truck-stop.  I checked the balance on my "Professional Driver" card (don't ask why I have one... but go ahead and snag one if you have a chance.) and Kevin was able to take a FREE shower there which he highly recommends.  Unlimited hot water, nice and clean and they even give you towels. You just have to play like you're a truck driver! :-) I'm not a big fan of the Flying J / Pilot merger, but they seem to be working some things out.  Make sure you pick up one of their RV member cards.  It will give you immediate discounts on gas, diesel and propane.

Let's see... That brings us to Saturday.  We headed out in the morning with Fargo, North Dakota as our target for the night.  We arrived almost exactly when I told my nieces we would -- between 1 and 2 pm.  It was graduation weekend for North Dakota State University, so it was pretty busy in town.  Both my Alicia and Amanda had plans for the evening -- bachelorette party for Alicia and graduation festivities for Amanda, but they came and picked us up and we went for pizza at Rombus Guys.  It was excellent pizza.  After that Kevin and I set up the trailer at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds ($20 a night for FHU with the $5 coupon I picked up at the rest area on the border.)  It's an okay place to spend the night.  They had sprint car races that night, but we wanted to do a little touring in Fargo, since Carol went to college there and skipped the races.  We also saw our first Zombie Pub Crawl...  oh to be that young again...  or not!  lol

On Mother's Day, we got a late start, but made it up to Velva, ND (where Carol grew up) in time for dinner with her brother, John and SIL, Dorothy, and Dorothy's brother and his family.  Amanda was also there.  She's doing part of her pharmacy studies there for a few weeks. So we had a nice dinner with family and a relaxing evening.  It's amazing up here because the sun doesn't start to set until at least 9pm.  So our schedules are completely messed up!  It's hard to even think about going to bed until at least midnight...

On Monday we took advantage of the family discount and used their washer/dryer to catch up on laundry.  John helped Kevin fix our sway bars on the trailer.  Turns out the dealer installed one bracket upside down.  So we got the family discount on tool use too and were able to use his big shop and impact wrenches to fix the problem quickly.

We finally headed out on the last leg of our trip to Indian Hills Resort.  We're located 33 miles west of Garrison on Lake Sakakawea.  It's beautiful and very peaceful here.  So far we have seen a 12 point buck (sorry no pics again), a turkey, pheasants and a couple of families of geese.  The park here has 6 miles of walking/biking/running trails that overlook the lake and have informational stops about the area.  

We're getting settled into things here.  I've been working on cleaning up the store and cabins and Kevin has been mowing lots of grass.  At least he has a better mower here to tackle the job with.  Tomorrow's to do list includes putting together new tables for the condos and we'll see what else the day brings.  We're both going to have to learn to plan better as the closest Walmart and fast food stop is 70+ miles away in Minot, ND.  No quick trips because you want a milkshake this summer!  lol  Although we did check out Ye Olde Malt Shoppe in Garrison yesterday and the patty melt was excellent!

So that brings you sort of up-to-date.  I'm now researching pay as you go hot spots, because my Sprint card isn't working and we need to check out Dish and DirectTV because there is no tv signal here and it's way to far to run to a redbox!  It will be good for us to have to plan more...  

Seriously, we're looking forward to spending the summer here.  We'll get to spend time with family and fish and make it to the North Dakota State Fair.  Should be a good summer.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Contemplating Options

As most of our readers have figured out, we're neither of retirement age or independently wealthy, so making a living is critical to our staying on the road.  Heck, making a living is critical if we were to stay in one place as well!

Our current workamping plans pay the bills, but without any room for emergency expenses or many extras, so as we get settled into more of a routine we find ourselves considering options.  I would love to find a way to combine my previous consulting career with the mobile rv lifestyle.  A couple of thoughts have crossed my mind and I wonder what you more experienced folks think...

I spent most of my career working with organizations to help them be more effective and profitable.  I've worked with training people, improving processes to eliminate mistakes and reduce costs and improve customer relationships/satisfaction.

One of the things I'm wondering is if there would be a market for a business consultant who specializes in campgrounds/rv parks.  The idea has really begun to percolate while we have been here in Branson.  When we got to this park it was pretty much in shambles.  No processes, no systems.... Heck... no staff!  For a small investment in computer equipment and software, I was able to set things up in about a week and bring the park into the 21st century.  We now have a website, facebook page, and twitter account.  Things are linked to make them easy to maintain and update for the next folks.  I've also documented most all the "how to's" in the office so no one has to figure things out.  Now there is a way to track how much business they have and gather feedback from customers.  Customers who have been coming here for decades have been complimentary.  They don't necessarily like some changes (a little rate increase) but understand that it's needed to improve the park overall.  It all depends on how you deliver the message I guess.   So wondering if other parks would be interested in hiring a fulltime RVer for a week or month to come in, assess their situation, suggest opportunities for improvement and implement changes that work within their budget.

The other thought I keep having is sort of along the lines of a substitute teacher, only for Organization Development/Training Departments in corporations.  Say you have a training manager who is going out on medical leave.  They will be out for 2 months.  You need to keep things going in their absence, but you can't hire a replacement per say.  What if there were someone who could come in on a contract basis, keep things going and then be happy to move on when your regular person comes back?  

Just random thoughts... 

Monday, April 30, 2012

Last week in Branson

Today started off very rainy.  It didn't look like we would get anything done outside.  But a little before noon it cleared up.  Good thing because we went from having one arriving camper this week to 4 within a couple of hours.  

Kevin was able to get the sites cleaned up and burned a couple of piles of leaves.   There are SO many leaves here we can't keep blowing them over the hill!  At this point they just keep blowing back so he's gone to plan B... Controlled burns.

I spent the day doing month end reports and trying to get a few more things wrapped up.  I was finally able to get the old domain name for the park transferred so we could use it for the website/blog.  It should all be working correctly here in a few more hours.  Try  It should get you to the campground website. 

I also uploaded a park map on the website.  We had a local graphic artist redraw it so that we could use it in marketing pieces.  All the sites are named after local acts here in Branson.  We've been in site 20 (easy to get in and out of) and now we're in site 24.   We can look out over the city from our patio.  In a few weeks we'll be looking out over the lake in North Dakota.  

We're busy training Ali and Ron to take over managing the park.  We're really trying to make sure that nothing misses a beat with the transition.  We've worked really hard to get things organized and running here so it's good to know that we're handing it over to some folks who can keep things going and move further forward.

Tomorrow it's laundry and starting to get things organized to head up the road...

Friday, April 27, 2012

And our next stop is...

Well our time in Branson, MO has been interesting.  Seems like work has taken more time than we'd like and there hasn't been much time for seeing too much of the area.  We're handing over the reins here at Branson View Campground to Ali and Ron Workentin.  We hired them to be our part time back ups and now we're training them to take over the management.  

We tried to go fishing one day, but it was windy and my reel broke so that didn't work out too well.  We did make a trip to Talking Rock Caverns.  It was Kevin's first cave tour and we both declared the hour long tour worth it.
Kevin's sister came to visit from Columbia, MO last weekend.  It was great to finally meet her in person.  Just his brother and sister-in-law to meet now and we will both have met all the immediate family.

Our next stop is Indian Hills Resort on Lake Sakakawea near Garrison, North Dakota.  We've been offered jobs there and they pay better than what we're getting here.  And we'll be only about 50 miles from my brother and his wife for the summer so that is a nice bonus.  We'll be there for the big Centennial Celebration in Velva, North Dakota and the state fair which will be fun.  I haven't spent any real time in North Dakota in over 20 years so it will be a nice change of pace.  And maybe since we'll be right on the lake we can get some fishing in...

We'll be at Indian Hills until the middle of September and then we will either work the sugar beet harvest or we'll head directly to Amazon in Coffeyville, Kansas.  Unless plans change again.. we're nothing if not flexible.

On our way to North Dakota we plan to stop in Kansas City area for a few days -- hopefully check out a Royals baseball game and some other sites.  We think we're going to stay at Weston Bend State Park.  Then we'll stop and see Kevin's kids in Maryville, MO.  We'll head up I29 through South Dakota to Fargo.  We can stop and see my nieces in Fargo and then make the last leg over to Garrison.  We're supposed to start there no later than May 15th and our last day here in May 5th so we have a little time to make the trip.  It will be the first trip we've made where we didn't have to rush.  Should be a nice change of pace.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

We Have a Website and Help!!!

Our first workamping assignment as a couple has been rolling along.  

Kevin has made a lot of progress on cleaning up the campground.  He's still working on the mowing situation.  None of the lawn equipment here works and rather than buying a new mower the lender wanted us to get bids from landscape companies for the weekly maintenance.   Well, we have lots of trees and things to trim around so the bids aren't cheap.  Hopefully we can get things mowed this week.  So far it's not too bad, but if we get more rain it may become critical.

I've finally got a handle on the office operations.  We have installed Campground Master to manage the campground.  I think I will qualify as a Campground Master expert at the end of this.  And we've got the daily, weekly and monthly reports under control for the management company.  

We got a new computer and a new all-in-one printer, scanner, fax that have both made a huge difference in being able to do anything here.  Of course Kevin is complaining that I got a new computer and he can't get a new mower... lol

My big frustration for the week was finding out that there has been voicemail on the phone that we didn't know how to get into... or even that it existed.  Apparently when the management company took over they set up the phone service.  They had voicemail put on the line, but didn't tell us it was there or how to access it.  You think that might've been important for the folks on site to know.  I finally got in and called everyone who had left messages.  Unfortunately we lost out on a few reservations, but people were glad I took the time to call and apologize so maybe it will pay off down the road.

And for the headline news... 

We have a website!  Check us out at Branson View Campground.  I'm still working on the domain name, but at least we can point people to some sort of website!  Now if I can just figure out what is up with the online reservation stuff I think we will be in pretty good shape.  We also are on Twitter.  You can follow BransonViewRV and see what we're up to between posts.

We also found some office help.  I was reading blogs one day and noticed that someone I had been following was looking for a new workamping assignment.  A couple of emails and phone calls later, they are on their way to Branson.  They expect to arrive tomorrow and will start training on Monday.  So hopefully we can take Tuesday off without getting any knocks on the door from folks needing something in the office.  Lesson learned here is don't be afraid to put it out to the blog-sphere when you are looking for something!  You never know what it will yield.

Welcome our newest follower and soon to be employee, Ali Workentin!  Safe travels and we're looking forward to meeting you in person tomorrow.  

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter

Happy Easter to all!  We're working a few hours today as it is still just us here at the park.  Hopefully we can find some help soon.

It has cooled off considerably this week in Branson.  We were up in the 80's and now back down in the 60's.  That's okay, I don't mind not having the air conditioner on one bit!  And I'm sure it will be hot as blazes soon enough...

The view from our campsite our first full day at Branson View Campground -- March 24
Kevin checking the view of Lake Taneycomo.
We're starting to get things cleaned up and got the window boxes planted
Part of the view from the lower sites

There are some nice spots to sit and enjoy the view here.
Our campsite... And look!  We have neighbors!
The view from our campsite now.  This is why we picked a spot at the top of the hill rather than down by the office.

As you can see... we have leaves on the trees now.  Hope you all are enjoying your Easter Sunday!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Finally Time to Breath

We finally have a minute to breath!  It's been crazy since my last post.

The first part of March was completely overwhelming with getting the house emptied and set to go on the market in Austin, TX.  We opted to put some things in storage -- basically the good furniture and family keepsakes.  So we have 1 10x10 storage facility and 1 5x5.   

We're now in Branson, Missouri on our first workamping job together.  We're managing Branson View Campground here.  I would include a link to the website, but I haven't managed to get that working yet.  I HAVE installed Campground Master and have been setting that up.  The previous reservation system consisted of a bunch of slips of paper and a 3 ring binder with notes in pencil.  So I should be set for any future opportunities that say "must have Campground Master experience!"

The park has been neglected over the past few years so we're having to do some catch up.  We hired a company to come blow out all the leaves from the campsites.  They started on Friday... they finally finished on Monday.  Kevin is a bit frustrated because none of the equipment seems to work and no one shows up when they say they are coming.  I think we are getting cured of any desire to own a RV park someday... lol

We're taking today and tomorrow off.  First days off since we got here on March 23rd.  Maybe we can do something fun today and have cool things to report tomorrow...

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Moving Day

Today the movers are coming to take things to storage.  I should be getting things ready, but it's early and I'm not quite thinking straight yet, so I thought I'd blog instead.  LOL

Why am I up so early?  Well, besides the stress of getting everything wrapped up with the house, Kevin got up at 5:30 am to head up to Iowa to pick up our travel trailer.  It's been at the dealer getting some warranty work done while Kevin's been down here in Austin with me.  We had hoped to head out together, but things with the house are just taking longer than anticipated.  So I'll wrap things up here and meet him in Branson, MO on Saturday.

We start our first workamping job there on Monday.  We will be managing the Branson View RV Park.  As soon as I figure out what's up with their website, I'll post a link.  

Back to the house thing... I had no idea how much stuff one can accumulate in 18 years in one house!  And it's funny to see what people want to buy and are willing to pay for and what they just walk by.  I have a lot of antique things that just aren't moving.  Today is decision day as I don't want to store them so must decide where they will go.  Yesterday we made 5 trips to Goodwill and suspect there will be more trips today and tomorrow.  

While it would be better if the house were staged with furniture, we decided we didn't want to have to come back to Austin to pack things up so it will be empty when I leave here on Saturday.  We have rented a 10x10 climate controlled storage space and are keeping the good furniture, family heirlooms and other irreplaceable things there until we settle on a plan for sure.  While I believe we want to travel full time, a home base is really important to Kevin so we might as well keep the basic furniture so we don't have to replace that down the road.  

I'm pretty sure I'm babbling so I best go now and get things ready.  Wish me luck!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Almost There

Just a quick note to start things off.   We're having our one big moving sale tomorrow and Saturday.  Hoping to be out of here Monday or Tuesday at the latest.  We're supposed to be in Branson, MO to start work on Thursday.  Nothing like the last minute!  

Once we are settled I'll have some time to make this all purty and update you on what we are doing.