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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… 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… 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… 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: and These two sites alone have saved us hundreds of dollars! We also joined 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 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 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. is an independent contractor for various companies and is providing Internet affiliate services to these companies via the internet for which they may earn financial compensation.

My Zimbio