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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. :) 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.

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