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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Living in our RV: The 8th month

Karin and I would like to start out by thanking everyone for following along on our journey. If you are new to our blog, or have missed some blog entries along the way, then you can find all of our blogs at craignkarin.blogspot.com.

We are currently working in Campbellsville, Kentucky at Amazon.com. We are here to help as Amazon.com gets busy with the holiday season shopping. The job is actually easy, yet the hardest part of it is being on your feet for 10 to 11 hours a day. We have just finished our first 60 hour week. We decided that we are here to work, and only have about 3 weeks to go. So let's get all the hours that we can.

Out of the 8 months that we've been on the road, we have worked during 5 of those months. When we leave Amazon.com around Christmas eve, we plan to head back to North Carolina to visit Craig's parents. After this, we are going to head south to warmer weather. There will be no hurry to find more work, hence the reason that we're putting in the maximum overtime here that Amazon.com allows.

It is a bit chilly here, which has taught us a few lessons about living in the RV during cold weather. On the first night that the temperature dropped below freezing, our water filter that is attached to the hose busted. We have since learned to leave the water dripping in a sink to prevent this from happening again. Craig filled one tank of propane, but forgot to fill the other one. Each tank lasts about a month in colder weather and only costs about $12.00 to fill. We woke up one morning to the cold reality that we had run out of propane. How would we get it filled while working? That's the great thing about our fellow Workampers. We take care of each other. Our neighbors, whom had the day off because they work the night shift, volunteered to run and fill our tanks. They also let us borrow an electric heater. Thank you again, Ken and Debbie!

The Workamping force that has invaded this small town of Campbellsville has had some interesting media written about them. Labeled as "migrant workers", "gypsies" and "nomads", newspapers in Louisville and Lexington, Kentucky have written some interesting articles. There was even a small story that had our neighbors, Jimmy and Sheila, on the ABC evening news with Diane Sawyer. If you look at this video, you can even see a quick glimpse of our travel trailer, the smaller RV compared to some of the larger ones around us. I personally think that our RV is big. Karin has reminded me that most males truly believe that things are much bigger.....than they really are.

Here are the links that will take you to the articles that are mentioned above.

The Louisville Courier-Journal article is here:
Courier-Journal

The Lexington Herald-Leader article is here:
Herald-Leader

The ABC World News with Diane Sawyer article/video is here:
ABC News

AND... Karin sent a Letter to the Editor concerning the Louisviller Courier-Journal article. See this here:
Letter to the Editor

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear




On Saturday, October 30th, 2011, a rally was held at the National Mall in Washington D.C. Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert led the "Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear". Who are these guys? They are comedians. Yes, they both have their own shows on the cable network Comedy Central. Jon Stewart represents the somewhat liberal idea that it's time to restore some sanity, both in the political process in Washington and also throughout the country. Stephen Colbert satirically represents the ultra conservative, living in fear of everything that's going wrong.

There was a great amount of entertainment and humor throughout the 3 hour rally. When Comedy Central applied for the permit, they estimated that 60,000 people would show up. Over 150,000 showed up on Saturday, although Jon Stewart thought that he had counted up to nearly 5 million. When they attempted to conduct a roll call, they got up to number six and quit.

Was this a true political rally? Yes and no. The entertainment was enjoyable and funny, although there was an underlying meaning to many of the skits that occurred on stage. Stewart brought out Yusuf Islam (aka Cat Stevens) to sing his hit from the 70's "Peace Train". Colbert countered by bringing out Ozzy Osbourne to sing his hit "Crazy Train". Do you get it yet? Be sane on the peace train or be fearful on the crazy train. So Jon and Stephen decided to compromise on the song "Love Train" by The O'Jays. Stephen resisted at first, until Jon reminded him that in love, there is also a fear of heartbreak and sexually transmitted diseases.

Near the end, John Stewart summarized the rally. "We are in bad times, not end of times". Well said Jon. He went on to tell us that no matter how we think or how we live, we all seem to get along and get the job done. As he was explaining this, he showed a video of a row of ten or so toll booths. Once the drivers paid their toll, they were then merged down to 6 or so lanes, then to 4 lanes and ultimately into 2 lanes which eased into the tunnel. It was his example of how we do work together. He did take a shot at the politicians in the Capitol that have no clue how to get through that tunnel when it comes to running this country.

Stewart also said this. "If we amplify everything, then we hear nothing".

So true.

Earlier in the rally, Colbert showed how he has come to fear so much in the world today. He showed a video clip that included Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly, Newt Gingrich, Wolf Blitzer and several others. Stewart responded by showing Colbert a TV remote control that he had brought to the rally from his hotel room, trying to point out that you can turn off the TV at anytime. But Colbert ran another video clip that showed various news agencies reporting on how the number one dirtiest and possibly deadliest thing in a hotel room is the TV remote control.

Remember people, this was comedy. But even in comedy, sometimes a point can be made.

Fear is a good thing. If a bear attacks me and I have no fear, then I will be eaten. What if I am passing a car on a two lane road and I see that I cannot make it without having a head-on collision with oncoming traffic? Would I do it anyway if I had no fear? Or would common sense tell me to avoid an accident? Hmmm...maybe fear and common sense go hand in hand.

Sometimes fear can be exploited. I personally believe that it's done on a daily basis. I've listened to various shows and hosts that are currently on TV and radio. Some make accusations of hate, racism, bigotry and other sensitive issues. Some actually promote those issues. I'm not going to name or bash anyone in particular, because they all have one thing in common. RATINGS. If you don't watch or listen to them ,then they will go away. So what is they best way to attract people? FEAR. Let's scare them a bit and they will come back for more. Do you truly live in a state of fear? Well Jon Stewart has an answer for that. Push the power button on you TV remote. Switch your radio to an FM station and listen to some tunes.

What a simple solution.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Amazon.com




Here we are in a small town named Campbellsville, Kentucky. We arrived as the fall colors were nearly in full bloom. We come in peace, yet we do not come alone. There are nearly four hundred couples that have also made the trek to Campbellsville. We have not come here for a vacation. We did not go off the beaten path to meet new people. We did not have a psychic experience that told us all to drive to Campbellsville. We are all here for one reason.

To work.

For Amazon.com.

Yes, the United Workampers of America have arrived in Campbellsville to help Amazon.com make it through the peak holiday season. Amazon.com has 3 major distribution centers throughout the country located in Nevada, Kansas and here. Why did we choose Kentucky? Well it was truly a process of elimination. In Nevada, Craig would lose all of his money. And have you ever wondered how it would feel to experience a black hole in outer space? Just take a drive through Kansas sometime.

Why did we decide to come and work for Amazon.com? That's easy. The money and the perks. We make $10 to $10.50 per hour. We all receive a free RV campsite for the duration of our stay. There is a bonus of $500 per person if we complete the contract. Four day work weeks until the peak season hits, then the overtime kicks in. We also get discounts when we order merchandise. It's actually a nice deal to cover the ten or so weeks that lead up to Christmas.

Many fulltiming RVer's are here. Unlike us, most are retired. They come to keep busy and supplement their retirement income. There are a few of us that just decided to get out of the grind and off of the grid. But we are not retired, so we do need the income. Most seasonal jobs just do not pay much more than minimum wage. Amazon.com has offered us a great way to make a quick buck.

Just remember this: a "quick" buck is not always an "easy" buck. This job is easier for some and harder for others. It just depends on what type of shape you're in. Ten hour days are nothing to sneeze at. Yes, you are on your feet all day. Yes, you do get a thirty minute lunch break. And you also get a fifteen minute break in the morning and in the afternoon. You lift things and sometimes they are heavy. There is a lot of walking. There are many flights of stairs! Sorry, no elevators. Comfy shoes are a must. Craig wears tennis shoes while Karin feels comfortable in her hiking boots. A little exercise helps too. When we arrive to work, we begin the day with some great stretches to limber us up. We do the same stretches right after lunch.

So far it's been a wonderful experience. But hey, we're only two weeks into this. We've only been doing five hour days. Our full days start next week. Let's see if we're singing the same tune then :)














Friday, October 15, 2010

It's Been Awhile

Smokey Mountains
Appalachian Trailhead


From the Appalachian Trail

Chesapeake Bay


Atlantic City


Wow! It's been awhile since we posted here in our blog. Sorry to keep everyone hanging. So much has happened since our last entry. We will begin with where we left off.

We said our goodbyes at Mountain Lake Campground. We met alot of friends that we'll keep in touch with. Our fellow workampers threw us a little party a few nights before we departed. The area that we were living in was nearly empty, so we broke a couple of rules, cranked up some music and actually danced around in the wilderness.

We left West Virginia and headed to North Carolina to see Craig's parents. We did stop for a night in Charlottesville, Virginia. We went into town and the traffic was...hmmm...scary. Our first thoughts were "take us back to the wilderness"! We had not dealt with traffic for a few months, so it took a little getting used to.
When we arrived in North Carolina, we were able to setup our camper next door to the parents. Their neighbor has a field with water and sewer connections. We ran electricity from the parents house and were good to go. Unfortunately when we arrived, Craig had come down with a bug. It was a nasty one too. His parents were on the receiving end of it, which made us feel terrible. But everyone is better now.

While in North Carolina, we took off for a few days and headed up the coast to Atlantic City. We crossed the Chesapeake Bay on the bay bridge tunnel. Then we crossed the Delaware Bay on the Cape May - Lewes ferry. It was a beautiful trip! Craig got to play in a poker tournament while we were there. We strolled along the beach and the boardwalk. Atlantic City is nice along the boardwalk, but looks pretty rough when you go a block or two inland.

We headed back to North Carolina and stuck around for about 3 weeks. Craig's parents are doing well. It was wonderful to visit with them. It did rain quite a bit the last few days we were there. Other than that, it was a great stay!

Our next job is in Campbellsville, Kentucky with Amazon.com. We were supposed to start the 3rd of October, but Amazon.com called us and pushed it back to the 17th. So we started our journey to Kentucky. We stopped in Asheville, NC for a couple of nights. Very nice! This is the retirement capital of the USA. How could we tell? Well, there were a couple of obvious signs. Everyone drove around with their blinker on. Also, on the on-ramp to the highway (aka the acceleration ramp), people would come to a complete stop. And once you got on the highway, everyone was in the left lane going 40 mph.

Next stop was Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Home of Dolly Parton and Dollywood! Well, it's a bit "touristy" there, for lack of a better term. We did venture into Smokey Mountain National Park. Beautiful. The leaves were just starting to turn. We found the infamous Appalachian Trail. This trail is over 2000 miles long, stretching from Georgia to Maine. We hiked four miles of the trail. It was a tough hike! Nearly a 1000 feet elevation gain. We had a wonderful day and took some great pictures.

So now here we sit in Campbellsville, Kentucky. We start at Amazon.com on Monday. The campsites here are a bit tight. But we've already met some nice people here.
There's a social hour everyday at a neighbors camper. We asked someone what their plans are after leaving here. We loved their response. "Everything's in pencil. We can erase and change whatever we want, whenever we want". Most of the fulltimers here have been on the road for many years. They all seem to love the lifestyle.






Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Workamping Lessons








(Craig/Karin) As the summer begins to slowly wind down, we have nearly seen all of the places here in West Virginia that we said we would. Our latest adventure led us to the Greenbrier Trail. This is a 77 mile trail that runs along the Greenbrier River in the eastern part of West Virginia. We picked up the trail in a small town called Marlington. The trail is paved for a mile or so, then it turns into a wide path consisting of crushed gravel. We traveled from south to north, heading slightly uphill as we pedaled. The elevation gain was unnoticeable, being that the trail only rises 220 feet over 77 miles.
It was a beautiful trip as we cycled for about 23 miles. We did get some rain, so we had to pull over and throw on the ponchos. The spookiest part of the trip was when we arrived at a tunnel that went right through a mountain. According to the map, the tunnel was only 520 feet long. There must be a sharp curve included, because as we walked into the tunnel, it was truly pitch black. Karin looked at Craig and apologized for not bringing a flashlight along. Craig’s response to that was “lets go”! As we entered the tunnel and all turned to black, Karin was rather nervous and let out a few “expletives” as we blindly went ahead. The darkness didn’t last for long. We went around the bend and there came the sunlight. As we exited the tunnel, Karin said to Craig “that wasn’t so bad”. Craig responded with a silent smile.

On Mondays and Tuesdays, one of Craig’s tasks is to ride around in a golf cart at check out time to make sure that people are checking out. Craig was in area 3 when a kid ran up to him and reported that there was a snake at their campsite. As Craig arrived, the frantic mother asked him to get rid of the snake. It turned out to be a rather large black snake. Craig attempted to grab the snake by it’s tail to move it, but it turned on him and poised itself to strike. Now a black snake is not poisonous, but it can bruise you with it’s bite. Craig just didn’t feel like getting bit that day. He decided to just push it towards the forest. Once the mother saw this, she became frantic again, wanting the snake removed to a far and distance land. So before the snake could escape, Craig took a stick and flung it into an open area. He then took the stick, pinned the snake’s head down, grabbed the snake with two fingers just behind it’s head at the jawbone and picked up the snake. Wow, the snake was nearly as tall as Craig! A good five feet in length. The father had come back now and saw Craig lift the snake. Craig looked at the father and said “I used to watch the Crocodile Hunter”. Well, they found a sack and tried to get the snake into it, but Craig figured that as soon as he released the snake into the sack, that he may get bit. So Craig jumped back onto the golf cart, holding the snake up and out of the cart, and drove off to the rear of area 3. There he released it, and everyone lived happily ever after.

We only have about four weeks to go here. The campground is still very busy, but we can sense that things are slowing down. Our contract runs until September 7th. We may stick around for a few days to raft the Gauley River (Craig is still thinking about that). Our next job will be in Campbellsville, Kentucky. We will be working for Amazon.com. That runs from October 15th until December 23rd. We will be visiting with Craig’s parents in North Carolina in between this job and Amazon.com.

We have learned so much from our experiences here at Mountain Lake Campground. We would like to share a few with you.

Never assume, although in most circumstances, you’re probably right.
Craig was waiting on a female customer. She wanted a primitive campsite (no electric or water) to put her tent on. As he was taking her payment for the site, she received a phone call. Craig couldn’t help but to hear her ask the person on the other end of the phone “do I have any clients lined up yet for tonight or tomorrow night?”.
GOLF stands for Gentlemen Only Ladies Forbidden.
Karin had a married couple come up to the counter wanting to play miniature golf. A little while later, the couple came back and returned their clubs and golf balls. They also returned a blank score card. Karin asked “who won”? The gentleman responded that his wife had won. Karin then held up the scorecard and said “but how do you know? There’s nothing written on the scorecard”? The gentleman said “lady, we’re married. I knew the score way before we ever played”!
Great Danes are invisible dogs.
Karin was approached by a woman in the store. She said that there was a terrible odor over near the toy section. Craig went to investigate and found a large pile of poop right in the middle of the floor. The woman said that it must have been a dog. Craig thought to himself that the only dog that could have done that (it was big) was a Great Dane! Neither Craig or Karin could recall seeing a dog come through the front door.

Children and their parents are easily entertained.
This continues from where we left off concerning the Great Dane. Craig went back to get some cleaning materials to take care of the mess. As he came around the corner to the location of the poop, he found two young boys. They had decided to walk through and slide around in the poop. There were “poop-prints” everywhere. Their parents were just standing there……and laughing very hard. They just thought that the kids were so cute. After they left, Craig cleaned up the mess. He looked at Karin afterwards and said “thank God for bleach”.

Honey is not always sweet.
There is a sign in the store that reads “Honey Wagons must be paid for by noon on the day that you order it”. Seasoned campers know what this means. The new campers always ask what a “Honey Wagon “ is. A honey wagon is a tank on wheels that is pulled behind a truck. It’s purpose is to empty the sewage tanks on a camper, since the campground does not have sewer lines running through it. The truck then hauls the honey wagon to a dump station and dumps it. After explaining this, the customer’s smile always goes away. Their thoughts of someone pulling around a cute little wagon that’s selling jars of fresh honey straight from the beehive….just vanished.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cruising Down the River

















(Craig/Karin) It’s been awhile since we last made a blog entry. Sorry for the wait, but there’s been a lot going on. The 4th of July weekend was huge! The campground was full, but everything turned out well. The store was super busy, until the night of the 4th. Summersville had a fireworks display about 5 miles from here. The campground literally became a ghost town, as the campers went out to watch the show. We didn’t get to see them, but we didn’t mind at all. It was a nice break to a busy weekend.

Craig’s birthday was on the 5th. We had to work, but we did celebrate it a couple of days later. What a huge birthday gift from Karin……a full day raft trip on the New River!! We had a choice to raft the upper New River with class III and IV rapids, or the lower New River with class IV and a couple of class V rapids. Karin had never rafted before, but what a trooper! She chose to take Craig on the lower New River. Nervous seems like such a mild way to put it, as Karin made her way into the truck to begin the journey. We went to the Ultimate Rafting Company in Fayetteville, about 20 miles south of us. As we were all issued our gear for the trip….paddles, personal floatation devices and helmet, we were given a speech about the river. One part was to remind us that there was a lot of poison ivy on the banks of the river. Also, if we were not familiar with poison ivy, then a sample would be passed around so that we may all get to know it better. Ahhh, gotta love the raft guides and their humor. When asked by the main guide “how many of you have never rafted before?”, several people and of course, all of the guides raised their hands. It was going to be an interesting day!

We all boarded the bus and headed down to the “put in” spot at the river. Karin was told that she had a wonderful and tight grip on her paddle….although we were still on the bus. It was someone’s birthday, so we all sang happy birthday. Then, the raft guide said that it was also the bus driver, “Docs” birthday. So we sang it again. We found out later that they sing happy birthday to Doc everyday. As we left the bus, we met our raft guide, Kirk. He reminded us that addressing him as “Captain Kirk” was funny to him until about the 3rd grade. So we got the hint and did not address him that way. As we chose our seats in the raft, Karin turned to Kirk and asked him which was the safest seat to sit in for her, since it was her first raft trip. He looked at her, then pointed to the direction of the bus.

We had two other passengers along with us. Sue and Ron were from Michigan. This was also their first raft trip. Craig thought that the guys would paddle up front and the women would be right behind them. Ron got in the boat and seemed to be satisfied with the second seat, which left Karin to raft for her first time, up at the front of the raft. After getting into the water and doing some practice strokes, Craig knew that Karin would do just fine. The objective is for the two front paddlers to key off of one another to be in rhythm, while the paddlers behind them key off the person in front of them. Kirk told us that we will see how well we are all in rhythm at the second or third rapid.

After going through a couple of class III rapids, we reached our first class IV. By the way, instead of me going through and explaining what the differences are in the classification or “classes” of rapids, just do a google search and take a look. Just as a general idea of the differences, a class I rapid would be a slow moving river passing over some ripples. An example of a class VI rapid (the highest class is class VI) would be the Niagara Falls. Everything else in between is subject to opinion.

Anyway, our first class IV was a small waterfall. An 8 foot drop into a small hole created by the hydraulics of the falling water. Just to the left of that was an even larger hole. Well we went over the waterfall and that was easy. Then we saw that all of the rafts were pulling over to the shore. In Colorado, many kayakers will surf a hole, pointing towards upstream and paddle hard until they reach the hole. You can then surf it and it’s a lot of fun. But now here’s something that they do here in the East…..attempt to surf holes with rafts!! The object is to get in, surf and do what they call a “rodeo”. Try to picture this: everyone in the raft paddles hard and makes it into the hole. The front of the raft is getting swamped by the waterfall as the hydraulics in the hole keep you under it. Then you turn your raft sideways. This is the hard part. When the raft goes sideways and the waterfall is pouring into one side of the raft, if the people in the raft do not get to the high side quickly, then you will flip. The high side is the dry side of the raft. As the water pours onto the raft, everyone scrambles up to the dry side. This keeps you from flipping, but you must be fast! Anyway, if you can understand this, then a rodeo is when you do one complete turn. A complete circle. You’re not spinning fast at all….probably 15-20 seconds in each 90 degree position. One rodeo is an accomplishment. Kirk told us that he’s done two rodeos at one shot in the hole.

So we watched as several rafts attempted to do it. After seeing them try and fail, one raft did get in and did a rodeo. Everyone clapped as they exited the hole and got back in line. Then came our turn. We paddled hard to the right side of the hole. This is tough….everyone must be in rhythm!! The power of the water was tough to overcome and we were very out of sync…..so we didn’t make it….not even close. Kirk said that we’d try one more time. So we fell back and got into the raft line again.
On the second try, we hit the paddles hard and in total sync with one another. We moved to the left slowly as we were paddling, getting so close. Then boom………we are in!! Here we are, facing a waterfall, getting drenched in the front…..but surfing, upstream in a hole on the New river. Not a paddle was in the water….it wasn’t necessary now. The hydraulics of the water back flowing into the hole kept us right there. Now it was time for the rodeo. We weren’t ready for the sideways part of the rodeo. The raft tipped to about 45 degrees as we nearly tipped over. We all scrambled to the high dry side! Wow, this was awesome!! Now we were expecting the rest of the turns. Kirk would kick his paddle hard, which would shift us another 90 degrees. Now Kirk is getting drenched as the back of the raft is under the waterfall. We kept every position for about 20 seconds. So on to the final sideways trip of it, and we were done. One complete rodeo. But wait, Kirk isn’t satisfied with just one. He’s been a raft guide here for 20 years, yet just began with this company yesterday. He had something to prove to someone, and I guess we had just involuntarily volunteered to help him prove it! We made it through the second rodeo with ease, all of us moving in rhythm to one side or the other. But this can get tiring rather quickly. A lot of energy was spent getting into the hole. And no time to catch your breath while you’re shifting and holding on for dear life. So as we finished our second rodeo, we were ready for a rest.

But wait.

Like we said, Kirk had something to prove.

Either someone was praying out loud……or screaming out a few curse words at Kirk as he kicked the raft around for an attempt to complete something that he had never done before. A third rodeo in the same shot. Ok, this was a tough one to make it through…..exhaustion had set in. We were able to keep in rhythm enough to make it happen. After finishing the final turn of that third rodeo, Kirk dug his paddle in to kick us out of the hole. As we came out, breathing hard but all smiling……everyone over in the rafts that had observed this were clapping and screaming for us. Every raft guide stood up and applauded. It was a bit euphoric. But when we looked back at Kirk, we realized that this was something special to him. He had his hat off and took a bow. He also held up his paddle to us and we all did a paddle “high five”. He thanked us for staying in sync. He said that he had come close to doing three before, but always flipped or the hole kicked him out. We then headed down the river as Kirk laid back, propped his feet up and said “you guys don’t need me”.

That was an amazing trip. It is very beautiful here. We have included some pictures of us going through the class V rapid called the “Meat Grinder”. The other class V was called the “Double Z”. We had to start that one by going backwards down the first part, so that we could paddle hard to go back up and around a huge boulder. It was a wild ride, as we dropped 28 feet in a distance of about 100 feet. One raft did flip on this rapid, so we helped to pluck out the rafters as they came down it. Nobody hurt, just hauling in people with smiling faces.

As we ended the trip and headed back to the headquarters, we all turned in our gear. Kirk left for his second job before Craig could leave him a tip. So we asked someone at the raft company where he worked then headed out to find him. Once we found him, Craig gave him a tip and Kirk really appreciated that. Kirk then invited Craig to do the upper Gauley river with him. Craig was honored and said he would think about it. The upper Gauley river is the 2nd premier rafting trip in the world, only behind the Grand Canyon. We work at Summersville Lake. The lake gets drained every year, starting right after Labor Day. When the water is released, it goes into the Gauley River. This makes for a 9 mile section of class V++ rapids, beginning just below the Summersville Lake dam. 40 rapids during this stretch where the river drops in elevation by over 300 feet.

This is one rafting trip that Craig will have to think about.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Our Fellow Workampers












(Craig/Karin) Fortunately, we are not the only ones working at Mountain Lake Campground. There are several others workampers working along side of us. Some are retired, some are veterans, some are single. Some are very seasoned while others are new to workamping just like us. We would like for you to meet some of our fellow workampers. We will only use there first names, to protect a few who may be in the witness protection program or “on the lam“.
First let us introduce you to Virgil and Charlene. They have been riding motorcycles across the country for many years now. They are from West Virginia and about twenty-five miles from Charlene’s hometown. Virgil, a witty fellow, wears his beard to his waist and hair braided down his back. ZZ Top has nothing on this guy. He confessed that he has not cut his hair since 1977. When asked why so long, he responded that if he got tired of this life, then he could cut his hair and shave his beard and go off into the world and no one would recognize him. So far, it hasn’t been necessary to do so….yet.

Charlene is caretaker of the Russian sage, marigolds and assorted bright colored lilies in the campground gardens. She also has tomatoes and cucumbers growing in pots surrounding their RV. Virgil is the campground hero. He magically changed the campground showers from icy, hypothermia inducing nightmares, complete with screams and AGHHH from unsuspecting victims, into soothing, spa-quality, steam rooms. Everybody loves Virgil. We look forward to his stories around the evening picnic table while drinking his favorite beer, Milwaukee’s Best.

Next are Darryl and Teresa, also from West Virginia. They have been workamping for two years, since Darryl retired from law enforcement. When we asked about their plans, Darryl said he wants to travel to the sunrise in the east, the sunset in the west and see everything in between. They are responsible for disinfecting the campground shower houses and public places. And we thank God for them. Teresa also makes the second best peanut butter fudge. Craig’s mother will always hold first place for best fudge. Craig woofed up six pieces of fudge and would have continued if she had given him more. We look forward to them sharing family history around the campfires. We have learned a great deal about coal mining. We have developed a empathy and respect for coal miners who risk it all so that we may consume electricity anytime we desire.

Mr. and Ms. Moose are the next couple. Actually, the name is Caren and Moose. They are well-traveled motorcycle veterans from Omaha. This is their first workamping position. They fell in love with the area the year before while on tour and came to work this year. Caren is surviving cancer, and works part-time in the general store taking reservations. Moose is second in command to the owner, Shawn. One morning, Moose appeared zooming on his Harley-Davidson golf cart, growling and snarling as he chased a bear! He is known as “The Protector“. He is our gentle giant, reminding children to not run in the pool or zip across the road without looking. Towering over them at six feet plus with shaven head, they heed his warning. Children also adore his colorful parrot that rides on his shoulder. Craig and Moose communicate during working hours with grunts and groans….. like the old Looney Tunes cartoon that showcased wiley coyote and the sheepdog. After they clock out, they are the best of friends.

Our activity directors are Dick and Evelyn, both surviving World War II veterans! They are in their eighties, and have been traveling for years. They are members of the junior ranger program. They teach kids how to identify animal tracks, poison ivy, poison oak and fossils. Dick animates ghost stories at night, with oohs and ahs just like at boy scout camp.
Beverly and Ray just joined the group right after Memorial Day weekend. This is their first workamping experience also. They come from the Cincinnati area, and previously owned and operated a campground. Beverly helps out at the store, while Ray helps out on the grounds. Kenny and Becky are also new. Kenny works security. We also have Pat, a single workamper that helps wherever help is needed. Cleaning, security and helping in the store is where you’ll find her.

There are also some great employees here. They are local and some have worked here for a couple of seasons or more. Brenda and Kim make up the accounting, management, human resources and anything else that can be thrown their way. Steph, Megan, Tania and Shannon also work in the store. They are all a lot of fun. It can get “crazy” busy in the store at times. But when it slows down, watch out! The other day, Craig called Steph from the back room on his cell phone. He asked her if she had any “duck ways” in the store. After having Craig repeat the question a couple of times, Steph finally asked the magic question……”Sir, what’s a duck way”? And Craig responded “about five pounds with feathers…..quack quack”! Steph took it well, but we’ll see what the revenge turns out to be.

There’s Matt, Derek, Max and a couple of other guys that do a lot of the grunt work. The campground does not have sewer hook ups, so if you’re parked and camping for awhile, you only have two options to empty your “sanitary” tanks. Either pull your camper up to a dump station and do it yourself, or call for the “honey wagon”. Why they came up with the name “honey wagon”….we just don’t know. The honey wagon is a tank on wheels, with a pump attached that sucks your sanitary tanks dry. These guys take care of that, garbage removal, mowing, weed eating, road improvements and many other jobs. They are the manual backbone of the campground.

Susan and Shawn are the owners. They sit poolside daily, drinking their drinks that have the mini umbrellas stuck in them, soaking up the sunrays. They have cabana boys waiting on them hand and foot…..Susan gets at least two massages a day, while Shawn enjoys his pedicures. Ok, ok……we gotta stop because Karin and I are laughing so hard. Susan and Shawn work very hard! They are great owners, wonderful employers and have a general business sense that mixes well with their love for the land that they have and the people that come to use it. They have two great kids, Abbey and Lane. These two are very knowledgeable and help out when it is needed.

So there you go. Things are going well and we all work well as a team. So far, so good.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Copperhead !!

















(Craig/Karin) Memorial day weekend has come and gone with little to no problems. We worked in the store on Saturday and had Sunday off. Craig handled reservations and Karin was the sample girl. She was dipping animal crackers into homemade cinnamon honey butter and passing them out. The funny thing was that she had the last jar of that specific honey butter! So many people wanted it, but couldn’t have it. What a tease! Some people griped a little that the store didn’t have animal crackers to sell. Oh well, you just cannot please everyone.

On Sunday, we decided to head out on a road trip. Not too far…..we just wanted to go the opposite way of all the weekenders and do a little hiking. We ended up in a small town called Fenwick. The Cherry River ran through it and looked inviting. So we pulled over and jumped in. Typical cold water coming down the mountains. It was a hot day, so it was very refreshing.

Mondays and Tuesdays are now Craig’s days to be the fill-in as the pool guy. Clean it up, sweep it, check and add chemicals if necessary. It’s a pretty easy job. On Tuesday, there was a group of high school students there for a private party. They sat in the pavilion that is right next to the pool as Craig was cleaning it. Some of the kids were calling out to Craig, saying “Hi Mr. Pumpkin”, referring to the bright orange polo shirt that he had to wear for work. Craig thought about responding with a single finger salute…..but then remembered that he was a ambassador for his employer. So he just did the old “grin and bear it” stance. A couple of teachers approached Craig and asked him where there was a water spigot at to fill up water balloons for a fight with the students later. Craig showed them the spigot and asked the teachers to forewarn him before the water balloon fight started, so that he wouldn’t get wet. The teachers said that they would do so, and turned on the spigot. Well, they had forgotten to attach a balloon to the hose, so water shot out and sprayed Craig. How funny was that! After they all stopped laughing, Craig smiled and responded that now he knew for future reference to watch out for the teachers as well as the students.

Karin has gotten into the swing of things in the store. She loves to converse with people as she rings them up at the register. The guys just love her! Craig was at the next register and asked the next person in line if he could help him. The gentleman responded “no, I’ll wait for Karin”. Craig can understand that…..her warm smile, blue eyes and bubbly personality are very appealing! Craig just smiles and thinks to himself “ enjoy it now guys, ’cause later on she’s heading home with me”. :)

Wednesdays and Thursdays are looking like they are going to be our regular days off. This past Wednesday, we just relaxed and visited the library. On Thursday, we decided to explore Hawks Nest, overlooking part of the New River Gorge. You drive through the small town of Anstead to get there. After checking out Lover’s Leap overlook, we wanted to get down to the bottom of the gorge. So we drove back through Anstead and found a dirt road that went along Mill Creek. Good thing we have a four wheel drive vehicle. We passed by and took some pictures of the creek, which had several waterfalls along the way. At the bottom, we found a rail trail that went back along the creek, so we began our hike.
Craig usually leads the way, using a hiking stick just to watch out for any pesky critters. The trail was about four feet wide, so Karin felt safe and passed up Craig to lead the way. About a half mile into the hike, as Craig followed Karin, Craig noticed a brown coil off to the right side of the trail. It was on top of a rocky area, maybe a foot from the trail. Karin was about to walk right by it. She didn’t see it at all. But Craig did…and he realized that is was a coiled up snake. Copperhead! Craig had never seen one, but it was very obvious now as to why they are named copperheads. Should he yell out to Karin, startling her and possibly frightening this venomous snake? He decided not to say anything until after Karin was well past it. Craig walked past it also, acting as if he had not noticed it. About ten feet past the snake, Craig stopped Karin. “Honey, now don’t be alarmed” is what Craig said. Before he continued, Karin knew instantly what he was about to say. But she didn’t realize that they had already past it. He explained why he didn’t alert her, and she fully understood. We walked back to take a look at it from a safe distance. Craig took pictures and then we moved along.

For some reason, Karin decided to follow behind Craig for the rest of the journey. We stumbled upon an old coal mine entrance barred by a steel grate. The date carved into the stone arch was 1921. It was rather eerie. As we stood there, we could see the miners going into and out of the entrance. Ok, it’s been closed for some time, but the mental image was there. Not a job that either one of us would be enthused about. There are many coal miners in this state. It is a very dangerous job, hence the mining accident that just took many lives in this state several weeks ago.

We returned to the trail and headed back down. When we reached the area of the copperhead, we stayed on the right side of the trail to give us a lot of space as we passed back by. The snake was still there, just enjoying a little sun. We went passed it and stopped again to observe it. We were about twelve feet away when the snake seemed to sense our presence. It moved slightly and tighten it’s coil up, raising it’s head as if to warn us that we were close enough. We understood it’s message, and continued down the trail. Another day in West Virginia was gone. Karin has a list of places for us to hike and see. Like sands in the hourglass, these are the days of our lives. :)
 

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Dumbing Down Transition


(Craig/Karin) We began our workamping job nearly three weeks ago. We are working together in the general store, learning how to make reservations and conduct other functions throughout the store. It’s a nice store filled with all kinds of neat stuff: T-shirts, shorts, candles, lawn ornaments, kites, toys, camping essentials, and an assortment of food. Hot pretzels, popcorn, nachos, cappuccino, soft serve and hand scooped ice cream, hot fudge, home made fudge and much more. It is a parent’s nightmare! Kids could walk in and then exit without buying a thing….and still leave with a visual sugar high! Three bucks can buy you a jawbreaker the size of a baseball. If you look at the fine print on the wrapper of that jawbreaker, it probably says that it’s produced and distributed by the American Dental Association. Hey, when times are bad you have to drum up business somehow. :)

Karin and I believe that if we are going to share our experiences, then we must share ALL of our experiences….no matter if they are good or if they are bad. Well, our ship has had smooth sailing up to this point, but we’ve hit some rough seas with this job. After two weeks of work, we found ourselves becoming a bit moody. We became easily irritated with each other and our surroundings. This was very unusual for us. We’ve been the best of friends from the start, never having a harsh word for one another. Disagreements between us were non-existent until now. What was happening here?? We didn’t know. We had to figure it out. We finally sat down and had a “heart to heart” discussion about our feelings and emotional distress. We put it all on the table……laid it all on the line. Communication was the key. We believe that we have figured it out. We came to a conclusion and we termed it “The Dumbing Down Transition”.

Now the last thing that we want to do is offend anyone. This has nothing to do with your line of work. It doesn’t matter if you’re a food preparer at McDonalds, or the chief executive officer at Microsoft. If or when you decide to make a drastic change to your lifestyle, as we have done, then you will go through a transition. Is everyone affected the same way? Nah. We are all different. Some will be affected more than others. But there will be a transition. We hadn’t really talked about it, let alone planned for it. We just ran into it. Karin was a stockbroker. Craig a manager and business owner. And now we find ourselves standing behind a counter…..in bright orange work shirts that should have “County Jail” painted on the back of them…..asking a kid if he wants his superman ice cream scoop to be placed upon a regular or sugar cone. Or making a stuff-a-buddy teddy bear by shoving a pipe into the rear end of an empty teddy bear skin and pumping it full of stuffing. What have we done to our life? The one million dollar stock trades are gone. No more business ownership. All things that were familiar to us were left behind. It’s kinda like doing a belly-flop onto a parking lot from a twenty story building. Pretty unfamiliar, if you can get our drift. So that’s where the dumbing down transition comes from. It has nothing to do with ignorance. It’s just a huge change in our lifestyle. Ok, so now that we see what the problem is…..how do we fix it?

Once we had figured out why things had soured over the last couple of weeks, we were able to smile. We actually laughed and cried a bit, both at the same time. When it came to this job, or really any job in the future, we will need to dumb it down. And guess what? There’s nothing wrong with that. The whole purpose of this lifestyle change was to work less, play more, see more and enjoy our life together. No more three hour commutes (our current commute is 3 minutes by truck, 15 minutes by foot). No more overtime. No more working sixty hour work weeks for a forty hour salary. We are not saying that everyone needs to make this kind of change to attempt to achieve these results. It’s just the path that we chose. We are both committed to this one year journey. Let’s see what happens.

We worked hard the week Memorial Day weekend was coming up. Karin and I were asked to get the adult and kid’s pool ready for opening day. It rained that day. So we showed up, put on our ponchos and went out and worked in the rain. It was a wonderful day! It was a nice change from being in the store. Then came Friday, the big check-in day. Karin was at area 3 and I was at the area 2 gate. Our job was to check passes. We met so many people from all over. It was hot when we began at 2:30 in the afternoon. Lightening began to present itself around 7pm, so we called it a night. As we went back to the area that we live in, it was quite a sight to see! We were the first ones to camp in area 1 almost three weeks ago. As we drove into the area, it had come alive. The area was full of life. It was like someone added water and trailers sprouted up from beneath the dirt. Kids were playing at the playground and riding their bikes. The adults were lighting campfires and cooking up some grub. Everyone waved as we passed by them. We parked and took a walk throughout our new community. People were laughing and smiling. They were so happy to be here. Many license plates were from West Virginia. We saw others too….Virginia, North Carolina, Michigan, Ontario and many others. They were happy to be here…..to do for three days what we plan to do for the next 10 months. We had to step back and remember why we did this. Will we do this again next year? Only time will tell.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

West "By God" Virginia

(Craig/Karin) We left Ohio on Tuesday, knowing that we only had three more nights until we arrived at our workamping job in West Virginia. Since our motto is “frugal”, we decided to stop at a Cracker Barrel in Mt Sterling, Kentucky. Most Cracker Barrels have RV and bus parking…..and some will even let you stay overnight. When we arrived and sat down for dinner, Craig asked for the manager. As soon as he mentioned that we were pulling a camper, the manager invited us to stay overnight. She even offered tips on various places in town that may be of some interest to us. So we stayed the night and got a good night’s sleep.

Some of you have asked the question “where do you guys find the free places to stay”? We use two sites: freecampgrounds.com and casinocamper.com. These two sites alone have saved us hundreds of dollars! We also joined passportamerica.com. Passport America offers 50% discounts at many participating campgrounds across the country. Sometimes there are stipulations to the discount (i.e discount good only mon-thurs, discount good for up to three nights, etc). We’ve used this several times, and it has already paid for itself. We also use rvparkreviews.com. This is a great tool to read about the campgrounds before you decide to go there.

Our next stop was in St Albans, West Virginia. We found a free site at the city park. It was right along the Kanawha River, near Charleston. The city park had three RV sites with electric, access to water and a dump station. Nice! Now this little park was squeezed in between highway 60 and the river, so it was a bit noisy. There’s always pros and cons when something is free :) We stayed two nights there. We enjoyed watching the barges head up and down the river. After our two night stay, we threw a few bucks in the “donation” box, and off we were to our final destination. Well, not so fast. Craig noticed a transmission leak under the truck. It looked like a gasket leak. So we traveled around town to attempt to get it fixed. Everyone said that they couldn’t look at it until Monday. At least one fellow was honest. His response was “most places ‘round here close early on Fridays”. So on to plan “B”……load up with some tranny fluid and leak stopper and move on. That’s what we did.

Summersville, West Virginia was a little over 100 miles from where we were. There were some steep climbs along the way. Our truck’s temperature gauge was rising as we motored up these steep inclines. The extra fan to help with the cooling system kicked on several times. Thank goodness for that! The temperature stayed in range as we got closer to our summer home. We did stop at a rest area, where we saw a travel trailer about the size of ours, sitting at the rest area with a blown tire. Craig asked them if they were ok, and the gentleman responded that they had a tire on the way. We told him where we were heading, and he quickly warned us about the Summersville police. He said that Summersville was a big speed trap. Karin asked him if they would mess with someone pulling a trailer. His response was “Ma’am, you gotta be careful on a bicycle there”!

We pulled into Summersville, strongly heeding the 50 mph signs posted every half mile or so. Craig waved at the Summersville police cruiser sitting in the center median. And then we saw the sign to Summersville Lake. We turned right and drove a few miles. A Mountain Lake Campground sign pointed us straight ahead. We arrived at the general store. The store is the heartbeat of the campground. You call to reserve your site there. You check-in there. You can buy gifts, food, snacks, wood, ice and many other things there. So we entered the store. Craig went up to the counter and announced “Craig N Karin, workampers, reporting for duty”.

Susan James, the owner of Mountain Lake Campground, came out to greet us. We also met several other workampers that happened to be there when we arrived. Everyone was very friendly and were happy to see us. The store itself was very nice. It is open, but there are still many things to stock to get it completely up and running. We jumped onto the back of a golf cart while Susan took us to inspect our campsite.
This place is huge! There are four separate camping areas, each one with 50 to 70 sites within it. Three of the areas offer water and electric hookups. One area is considered the “primitive” camping area, mainly for tents. The general store is on the main street that connects all four areas. There is a pavilion next to the store for various activities and functions. Behind the store is a pool, another kids pool and a huge jumping pillow. Across the street from the store is an amphitheater mainly for movies. Next to that is a small BBQ restaurant and also a miniature golf course. Throughout the campground there are playgrounds, volleyball nets, basketball courts and horseshoe pits. There is a shower house with laundry and vending machines within each area. There are no sewer connections, but there is a dump site within each area. The campground also has what they call a “honey wagon” (why, we don’t know). The honey wagon is a tank pulled by a truck that can be dispatched to your site to empty your sewage for you. This allows you to stay put and not have to pull your trailer or RV to a dump site every few days.

The area that Susan has placed us in is not open yet. It won’t open until Memorial Day weekend. So we have the place to ourselves for about three weeks! It is beautiful. The sites are large. Even if this place filled up, our closest neighbor would be at least 50 feet away. There was a brief moment that our eyes met as we looked around at the beauty of this place. We later spoke and realized that we both had the same thought at that moment. The thought was that all of our hard work and research had paid off! This was exactly the kind of setting that we both had imagined being in.

Our first day at work will be on Monday, so we had the whole weekend to set up camp and explore. Karin worked on the inside of the trailer as Craig worked outside. It’s different when you know that you’ll be in the same place for four months. You can now go through all of the “junk” that you’ve dragged along and revisit why you did bring it. We want to keep the outdoors tidy, so we were very precise as to where to store things outside.

So we took our first hike to the store. It’s probably about a half mile hike. We saw many trails leading into various points of the forest. Several deer were seen along the way. Susan did tell us that they had five or six black bears sighted last year. We hiked past the store and down to the lake. Wow, the lake is gorgeous! Clear mountain water with the green forest surrounding it. This is not your typical round lake. Craig said that it reminded him somewhat of Lake Powell in Arizona. But this lake is surrounded by forest right up to the shoreline. We read somewhere that there are about 60 miles of shoreline, so that makes for a pretty big lake.
We then hiked up to Long Point. The point is nearly two miles from our campsite. The trail starts out wide, but narrows as we get closer to the point. There were several steep inclines along the way. At the end of the trail, there is a sign that reads “End of Trail”. We kinda chuckled about that until we saw why the sign was there. Maybe twenty feet past the sign, you find yourself standing on a rock, overlooking the lake. If you decided to go and extra foot or two, then you would plunge about two hundred feet straight down!
Well it's Monday....time to start earning our keep! We’ll get another update out soon :)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Kentucky Derby










(Craig/Karin) We left for our next destination: North Bend, Ohio. It is right on the state line of Indiana and Ohio, about 20 miles west of Cincinnati. We decided to stay for a week here.


We drove into Newport, Kentucky to look for any remnants of the Wiedemann Brewery that was once the main employer in this small town. Karin's great, great grandfather opened the brewery in the later 1800's. It was sold in the 80's, yet the beer was still brewed under the Wiedemann name for awhile. We found out that the brewery was torn down completely by 1990. The Wiedemann mansion is all that is left, and it sits on a hilltop, overlooking Newport with a beautiful view of Cincinnati. Unfortunately, nobody was there to see if we could get a tour. It is now used for dinner parties and weddings. We will attach some pics to this blog.


Craig went online and found out that the Kentucky Derby was going to run on Saturday. The Kentucky Derby is run at Churchill downs, located in Louisville, Kentucky, about 2 hours south of us. We just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Only general admission tickets were left, but what the heck! Karin could already taste that Mint Julep :)


After shopping for a hat for Karin, we went to the derby. General admission tickets get you to the infield. It was a very rainy day. Total attendance is usually around 150,000 people.....half of those in the infield! We staked out our spot along the first turn rail. We made friends with some neighbors from Louisiana. They helped us set up our tarp, tying it to the fence for cover. Being in the infield was crazy! Party town!! Mud everywhere.....college kids doing the port-o-potty races and mud wrestling.... it was quite a site! We had a blast, no matter how wet we got.


Then, the sun broke out minutes before the Derby, the 11th race. Calvin Borel and Super Saver ran as one in a smooth glide over the slop and mud. Calvin guided Super Saver from 7th place in a gutsy rail-hugging pace to stunning victory. Calvin greeted roaring fans with a three-fingered wave. It was his third Debry win out of the last 4 Derby's. Never before has anyone accomplished such a feat! But Calvin delayed receiving his vale of roses until after the 12th race. He had to ride in the 12th race.


We had alot of rain in the last couple of days. We heard about the flooding to the south of us in Tennessee. The Ohio river is not far from our campsite. It flooded a bit, but we were not close enough for it to reach us.


We contacted our employer in West Virginia and asked if it were ok to arrive a few days early so that we could get to know the area. She was happy to hear from us and said yes to our early arrival. We will be there Friday, the 7th of May.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Little Five


(Craig/Karin) In Indiana we decided to boondock in the Hoosier National Forest. There were several campgrounds in the area, most were Indiana state run parks that cost $25-$30 a night. We decided to find a place where we can save some money. The Charles Deams Wilderness Area was just that. The area was very secluded. The camp was in a large grassy area, surrounded by dense forest. There were four horse trailers parked, and also some groups of turkey hunters. It's turkey season!

We parked and setup camp for the evening. We sat outside and watched the glow of the thousands of fireflies within the forest. Very cool. It's beautiful out here. We haven't seen fireflies in years.

The next day, we visited Karin's niece, Megan, and her boyfriend Ben in Bloomington Indiana. She informed us that it's "Little Five" week, and huge parties would be occurring. "Little Five" is the short term for the Little 500, which occurs every year at Indiana University. It's a huge bicycle relay race, named after the infamous Indianapolis 500. The week leading up to the race is filled with many events and huge parties. Remember the movie "Breaking Away"? The cutters? Great movie from the 70's! That movie was about the Little Five.

Before the parties started, Megan invited us to her dance performance. We watched belly dancers, fencers and then came Megan. Her group performed a dance about African culture. Wow! Energetic and explosive!! We were exhausted after watching the show. After this, we made our way back to Megan and Ben's house and the parties had already begun.

This Little Five party was not just at one house. Nor just one block. This was at every house that had a student in it! Whoa!! When Craig and Ben hiked to the liquor store for beer, houses had kids crawling all over them! Someone parked a school bus in their driveway....the bus was full of people and probably another 20 or so were on top of it. Sofas lined the sidewalks. Music blasted the air. Ahhhh, the future of our country looks bright! We stayed till 2:00 am and had a blast! We are not big drinkers, but it was very fun to watch the partying indoors and out.

The next day Karin's sister, Sherry flew in from Denver. Sherry, Megan's mother is an experienced Morel mushroom hunter. Craig never heard of mushroom hunting, but wanted to share the excitement. He offered to take Sherry back to our camp to hike the trails. Craig found two mushrooms, the only mushrooms that could be found. Sherry believed there would be more popping after the rain stopped and the sun came out. But it did not stop raining while we were there.

We enjoyed Deams Wilderness and family so much we stayed two extra nights and are so glad that we did. Sherry and Megan are so much fun to be around. Megan was such a wonderful host! We were very thankful to use her shower.

Our next stop is somewhere near Cincinnati, Ohio. Karin's maiden name is Wiedemann. Does anyone recall Wiedemann Beer? Karin's great, great grandfather brewed this beer in Newport, Kentucky, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. We plan to stop and see where the brewery was.....and what's left.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Craig's caught with his pants down!







(Craig/Karin) Our next stop brings us to Middle Fork River Forest Preserve. It's near Penfield, Illinois. That's about 30 miles north of Champaign, Illinois. As we get close to arriving, all we see around us is flat farmland....miles and miles of it. Is there really a forest out here? Much less a river? Well, the forest pops up out of nowhere as we get to within a mile of the preserve. So we find the entrance and weave our way back towards the camping area.
There are about 200 camping sites in the preserve. We are the only ones camping here! There are a couple of cars around....people walking their dogs, jogging and fishing. We pull up to the registration office and it's deserted. We're on the honor system. So we put our $12 into an envelope and shove it into the slot.
We decide to take a hike. We find a trail that leads us back to a bend in the river with a large sandbar. The water is crystal clear! Hmmm....it's a warm day, should we take a dip? Well, we check the water temperature and it's pretty chilly! So we sit and enjoy the surroundings for a few minutes. We see a beaver here and there, but they're pretty quick. Just can't get the camera ready quick enough to snap a shot.
We head back and get our bikes. There's a 2 mile trail that looks like fun. Shouldn't be too tough, right? We got quite the workout on this one. Steep hills and winding turns. We finished up the trail and headed back to the camper. As we dismounted our bikes, we noticed that Karin's front tire was flat. Better that it happened now rather than a mile or so ago!
Craig's wanting a shower pretty bad. We see some forest rangers and ask if the showers are open. We were trying to conserve our water, because we didn't completely fill it up at our last stop. The rangers responded that the showers wouldn't be open for another week, but the water spigots around the campground were operational. We did buy a "solar" shower before our trip. Craig wants to use it now. It takes about 3 hours for the sun to heat the water in this solar shower. Craig says he can take a shower now, for no water is too cold for him.
Each campsite has a steel pole that is made to hold a lantern. Craig hangs the shower there and strips down to his underwear (or skivvies, per his Navy term). He screams a bit as the ice cold water pours over his head. Wow! Look at him move!! This is gonna be a quick shower :)
Whoops...here comes a car! Craig runs to Karin's side and sits by her as the car approaches, using her as a shield. Karin decides to run and get him a towel...but as she stands up and moves, his cover is blown. I wonder what the people in the car were thinking as they see a middle-aged man, soaking wet, in his "skivvies", sitting at a picnic table, shivering...with his legs crossed. Needless to say, the car made a beeline for the exit.
Later on, we made a campfire. We cooked up some hot dogs and marshmallows. Ok, not the most nutritious meal, but it was good!
We wake up the next morning and pack up. Our next stop will be in Hoosierville! Karin's niece, Megan, lives in Bloomington, Indiana and attends college there. Indiana Hoosiers, here we come!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Mississppi Queen

(Craig/Karin) We set the GPS, said our goodbyes to Karin's family and began the final leg of our journey towards West Virginia! We decided to go east of Minneapolis/St Paul and catch route 61. This would take us south along the Mississippi River. What a great choice!! Beautiful weather and the scenery was awesome. Dotted with small towns along the way, many of the surroundings seemed untouched by man. We made our way down to Winona, Minnesota. As we were on a small road (supposedly) getting near our next campground, the GPS said "you have reached your destination". There was nothing around us, except for water on both sides of the road. So Craig says "computer, please recompute". I guess he had a Star Trek flashback. The GPS didn't respond. This would be a very tough turnaround for our rig. So we just kept driving. About 2 miles further down the road, we found the campsite. "I knew it was down here" Craig said with a smile. Yeah, right :)
When Craig pulls into a campground, he wants to park. Period. The manager at Prairie Island Campground was very nice, and asked us if we'd like some information on Winona. We both agreed to listen. Well, he took us on a verbally guided tour which lasted about 20 minutes. It was a bit painful listening for this long after driving for hours. We both agreed that if we're ever asked if we'd like to hear some information again, we'll respond with "let us park and we'll walk back over".
We parked on the bank of the Mississippi. Nice. Peaceful. Not very many people there. We jumped on our bikes and rode into Winona. Lots of barbecuing going on. Everybody waves at you. Beavers on the riverbank. Tugboats pushing barges. We finished the day with a cookout of our own, by our rig, on the Mississippi River.
The next day, we moved on to Dubuque, Iowa. We again drove along the Mississippi, but this time on the Wisconsin side. Craig kept saying that he smelled cheese :)
Ok, Karin is the navigator, but I also have "another woman" with a lovely voice.....the GPS! Karin tends to tell the GPS how wrong she is....but the GPS never fights back. The GPS is always calm and sweet. I think that there's a bit of jealousy going on here. But it came to a head in a small town before Dubuque. The GPS told me to go straight, and Karin told me to turn. Well, I listened to the GPS. Ok, so she (the GPS) took me through a little residential street or two. I was then informed that I needed to respect my navigator (and partner) on this trip a little more than the "other woman". So, for the first time, I had to make a choice. There was no on/off button on the navigator in the passenger's seat....so I chose wisely, and proceeded to de-energize the GPS.
We arrived in Dubuque and parked at the Mystique Casino along the river. Great bike trail along the river. We had a couple approach us and ask us about our travels. We explained to them that we're heading to West Virginia to work. They said that they've been thinking about buying an RV. The wife seemed excited about our travels. The husband said that he'd prefer to just drive to one area and park for awhile. We're not sure if there is any compromise there....so it may never happen for them. Compromise is a large part of fulltiming.
The next morning, we took a walk in the opposite direction. We found a skate park just down the road. Well, Craig just happened to bring along his skates. Forty-Seven years old and going sideways up and down half-pipes!! We got some pictures of that and will post them soon.
On to our next stop in Bettendorf, Iowa. Another casino with free parking! Another great bike path along the Mississippi! We rode into Davenport and back. We did take a wrong turn in Davenport and became a little concerned as we passed the jail and seemed to be in a "seedy" part of town. It wasn't that bad, but we just do not want to take any chances in unfamiliar territory.
Our next stop will be in Illinois, the Middle Fork River Forest Preserve.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Northern Exposure

(Craig/Karin) Flandreau, South Dakota is in the middle of nowhere! When we pulled into town, a road sign gave us directions to the casino. It read "Royal River Casino, first right past the water tower." The directions were very accurate:)
We planned to boondock but noticed that the casino had a small RV park next to it. We inquired about prices first. Since the water was not turned on yet, they rented the space for only $5 including electric hookup. They also let us use the hotel pool, hot tub and showers. Wow! Craig couldn't get the $5 out of his pocket quick enough!
The casino was rather small, but we really didn't care. Karin played a couple of dollars in one machine and cashed out for $30. After that we rode our bikes through the small town of Flandreau. The highlight was a Ben Franklin five and dime store! It's been a long time to see one of those! Ok, it had been turned into a thrift shop, but it was really cool to see the old signage.

The next day would be our final driving day for awhile. We headed for Karin's hometown of Spicer, Minnesota. Her father, brother, aunt, uncle and cousin live on the lakes and close to one another. The weather was great..in the 70's. Ice was gone from the lakes. Many people where fishing on Nest Lake, searching for that great tasting fish, the Walleye! We parked at her father's house, a heavily wooded area with a skinny circular driveway. As Craig carefully pulled the trailer into the driveway, a low hanging branch whipped around and cracked the rooftop refrigerator vent! That afternoon, Craig purchased Goop sealant and and repaired it. Goop....another handy item for the toolbox!!
We met Karin's brother, Gary at his geometric dome house for the "Sunday Social". All of his friends meet there every Sunday and have a beer...or two....maybe three....or more :) What a great bunch! They are the "connoisseurs of beer". To celebrate, Gary popped open a 10 year old brew that he had made from birch sap! Ok, the fizz was gone, but it was rather tasty!
We biked 20 miles along the Glacial Lakes Trail that runs from Paynesville to Willmar. The trail was created from old railroad tracks that were pulled up and replaced with asphalt. We spotted several deer and wild turkeys along the way. This part of the country is very beautiful and very green!
We've been here for nearly a week, so we will hit the road for the final leg of our journey tomorrow. We need to be at the campground in West Virginia by May 10th, but are planning to get there a day or two early. We've traveled over 2000 miles now, with at least another 1000 to go. So far we've been very blessed in our travels. Our final stop will be the beginning of our workamping experience.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Heartland Tour

Our next stop was in Lyndon, Kansas at the Crossroads RV Park. It was raining as we pulled in and quite cold. This was the fastest we have ever setup our rig. It was the first night we needed to use heat. We decided to try the oil-filled radiator that we bought along. What a blessing. The radiant heat was wonderful! We even had to turn it down.
At sunset we heard a pack of coyotes howling at the outskirts of the park. Craig said he had not heard that since his Tucson days, many years ago. Karin, a seasoned Colorado hiker, recognized the sound and suggested that Craig go get a box of milk bones for the cute little guys. :)
The next day we biked fifteen miles on the Old Flint Coal Mine Nature Trail. It was a wonderful ride to Vassar, KS and back. Craig, being a good citizen, even cleared a fallen tree from the path.
The recession was apparent in Lyndon. Only a bank, of course, was open along with a cafe, and small grocery. All the other businesses along the three blocks were shuttered or for sale.
After two nights in Crossroads, we headed for Council Bluffs, IA. We parked overnight at the Harrah's Horseshoe Casino without hookups. We were surprised they charged $30 a night to hookup to electrical so we boondocked for the night. The highlight of our stay was the greyhound dog track attached to the casino. We arrived at the middle of the racing session and watched several races. We finally decided to bet on a race. Craig bet on two dogs that pooped right before they were placed in the box at the post. We won, so for a $2 bet we won $27. We tried to use this "handicapping" technique for two more races but it did not work. So we still walked away with a little extra cash in our pockets.
Our next stop is going to be in Flandreau, South Dakota. Our cats have figured out the routine. As we begin to pack the trailer for the next journey they find their hiding places. Karin's cat Princess, goes under several blankets on the bed, curls up and sleeps. Craig's cat Smokey, finds comfort by hiding in the litter box. Craig said the aroma has never been calming to him, but to each their own. Now the litter box is the last item cleaned before we leave, just for Smokey.

Heartland Tour

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Camp Graveyard




(Craig/Karin) We woke up in Durant, Oklahoma and decided to get some coffee at the casino before we departed. Hey...look, Craig just happened to bring along $10 :) We split it and off we went to try a quick machine or two. Within about 30 minutes, we had tripled our money, which nearly wiped out our losses from the night before. We pocketed the money and headed North.


Another windy drive, but it was a very beautiful one. We were heading to the Pine Island RV Resort in Jay, Oklahoma. As we were nearing the resort, Craig met a flying friend. Ok, it's kinda funny now....but it really wasn't when it happened. If Craig tells the story, then it would be that a foot long wasp flew into the window and attacked him! It was a large wasp...and it did fly into his hair...and the panic attack began. He did knock it to the floor. Then, while driving, he cracked the driver's door open to get it out. Well, that didn't work. So as it crawled up his leg, he swatted it. End of story.


Our GPS decided to take us into the resort via a very "scenic" route. You know that you came in the back way when the camp host proclaims "Wow, you really came in that way? You must be using a GPS".


The 10 mile shortcut was full of sharp curves and short/steep hills, or as Karin says: "Ravines". I guess that's Oklahoma's version of a roller coaster. :)


Pine Island Resort was very beautiful and very empty. We had the place to ourselves. Many white tail deer, a muskrat or two, hawks and one pesky owl that was eyeing our cats for breakfast were our only neighbors. We titled this blog as "Camp Graveyard" because there were several deserted rental trailers. They looked a bit spooky. One night, we thought we heard music at one of these trailers. We went outside and saw lights on inside the trailer and people talking. As we walked closer to see what was going on, the lights went out. No more voices. No more music. We peeked inside to just see dusty old furniture that was straight from the '50s.


Ok, we are pulling your leg :) Did we get your attention? No, we didn't hear music or voices. But they were still spooky!


Craig took a spill on his bike! His bike is new. When we bought it, the salesman supposedly took it back for "inspection and adjustments". Well, the handlebar came loose and fell off! It was only his 2nd time on the bike. Thank goodness it didn't happen on the hill we went down just moments before. He got a bump on the shin. We walked the bikes back to camp and tightened up the handlebar. All went well after that.


The next day we drove into Grove, Oklahoma. We spent time at the Har-Ber Village museum. Many antiques were on display. Next, we had some home made sweet potato fries and coconut cream pie at the cafe next door.


We did take a couple of pictures overlooking the lake at Pine Island. This lake is called Grand Lake O' the Cherokees. Very big and beautiful. I'll try to attach those.


So after 2 nights, we are now heading up to Lyndon, Kansas. That's our next stop. The Santa Fe Trail is nearby. We hope to do some more hiking and biking there. We have heard that there was snow in Denver. Hopefully, it misses us :)

Monday, April 5, 2010

Texans are great!

(Craig/Karin) Well, Texas blows! Ok, we're just talking about the fierce winds (gusting 50+mph) that we encountered from the panhandle to the Dallas area. We pulled into the Shady Creek RV park in Aubrey, Texas just north of Dallas. This place just opened this past December. Very nice and clean.
Scott and Shawna stopped by to have us follow them to a local Mexican restaurant. It was great to see Scott! 30+ years had gone by. He is looking good and in great shape. What a beautiful family! His wife Shawna is just so sweet and kind. They have four unique and wonderful kids. The food was great and the company priceless.
The next day, Scott treated us to a 15 mile bike ride through some of the suburbs and countryside near us. Craig really wanted to break out the Lance Armstrong pace, but He didn't want to embarrass anyone :)
That night the Browns (ok Shawna) cooked us up some brisket. Then Scott and I went into the reminisce mode. Kinda strange how we can remember so many things from so long ago. Then we got onto the subject of our own current health. I asked Scott later if we ever thought during our teenage years that we'd still be in touch and discussing each other's colonoscopy.
We wanted to return the hospitality that these Texans had offered us, so we took them to a local steakhouse, the Prairie House. Excellent sweet potato fries! After dinner, we discussed a cruise for next year, and then said our goodbyes.
So far, knock on wood, no problems with the truck or trailer. Ok, well we did have some water squirting out of the fresh water connection one time, but that was fixed with a little teflon tape. Duct tape and teflon tape are you best friends when on the road. :) Oh, and when you're moving stuff around under the bed, next to your fresh water tank....make sure you don't accidentally bump the tanks drain valve. It'll kinda surprise you when you arrive at your next stop.
We left on Easter morning heading towards Durant, Oklahoma. Another friend from years ago, Marcie, lives there. Unfortunately, we could not get together, so we will hopefully see her on the return trip. We parked in a casino parking lot for the evening. Choctaw casino is very large. We actually became somewhat dizzy with the size of the place. We played some slots. We lost a little bit of money, but not much. It was our first "boondocking" (without facilities) at a casino. A little loud up front near the highway, so we pulled around to the rear. Ahhh...it was much quieter until the trains went by :)
Our next stop is Grand Lake O' the Cherokees in the Northeast corner of Oklahoma. We may stay a couple of nights there, depending upon the scenery and cost. We are slowly making our way to Minnesota to see Karin's Father. We'll write some more from Grand Lake. Chow!

Friday, April 2, 2010

On Da Road!

(Craig/Karin) Well, we finally made it! And we're just gonna say it now....it wasn't easy :) Let's back up to several days ago. Our furniture guy rescheduled on us a few times as well as our mechanic. But we did get those knocked out last Saturday. Here's another thing: our trash day is on Fridays. We put all of it out on Friday, but come Sunday (our scheduled day of departure), we had another 15 bags!! What do we do with this? The renters will be moving in on the 1st and we didn't want to leave it for them! So Craig heard a trash truck across the street and took off....flailing his arms like a madman! He offered the driver a quick $20 if he'd come and get our bags. And just a few minutes later, the remaining trash was gone.

Going through the house and choosing what to take and what to sell or give away was very hard. Squeezing everything from our 2400 sqft home and garage into a 200 sqft trailer was tough. We had heard from seasoned RVers that this would be the hardest part of our journey. They were right! But we got it done. The house was unloaded and Craig made Karin quit cleaning. His suggestion was let the Property Manager take charge of any loose ends or dust bunnies. Whew!

Our journey began on Monday March 29, 2010 at 1:30pm, a day later than planned. At our first stop to get gas we checked the trailer to find Smokey our cat with eyes bulging out like he had seen a ghost. Princess our other cat was located beneath about twenty blankets. We knew it would take time for them to get used to it so we calmed them down and moved forward.

Our first stop for the night was Lamar, Colorado. We stayed at a small RV stop right off the highway with few parking spaces. It was good for practicing setup. We saw a beautiful sunset and a full moon rising. Sleeping was tough next to a highway full of truck traffic but we made it.

We headed out the next morning with tremendous winds across the Oklahoma panhandle and into Texas. Craig's experience driving a nuclear submarine came in handy :) Being a novice at pulling a trailer, he was quickly educated in trailer road handling in severe winds. We passed many huge wind farms, a benefit for the world getting greener.

A small town in Dumas, Texas offered us a free site next to their city park. Free electricity was included which was great. However, road construction near the entrance created some severe ruts in the driveway. We scraped the tow bar on the way in. So when we left, Craig figured out how to drive carefully. We left with no more scrapes. Even our cats remained sleeping and relaxed. No more buggy eyes. Dumas was a cattle town, with a busy main street.

With the winds just as gusty the next day we left for Lake Meridith. Lake Meridith is located about an hour north of Amarillo, Texas. This was our first "boondock", with no services at all. When we arrived we found a beautiful lake with hardly anyone camping there. Although it is beautiful, it seems like the water was at one time 30 feet higher or more. We camped on a cliff overlooking the lake and again enjoyed a wonderful sunset. While cooking burgers on the grill Craig heard a strange buzzing noise. Walking into the noise we found a "humming bush". We discovered the humming bush was loaded with a fresh crop of mosquitoes!! We immediately stopped our investigation preferring to keep our distance from these pesky blood suckers. After that we finished our burgers, enjoyed seeing stars and constellations without city light glare. We enjoyed a quiet night and our most restful sleep.

Our next stop will be in Aubrey Texas, just north of Dallas. We will visit Scott Brown and his family. Scott and Craig worked together at a skating rink in Tucson, Arizona, over thirty years ago and will be meeting for the first time since then. We will share the details of this reunion in our next post. See you then.

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