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Working and finally back on the road - 11/15 thru 12/30/2014

   We Wish You All A Happy and Healthy 2015!!!


Now that we have settled in at our home for the next three months in Mesa, Arizona, I finally have time to catch up on the past two months.

Working at Amazon and seeing the sights in Louisville

Outside the Campbellsville, KY Facility
We worked for Amazon from 10/28 until 12/20 with WORK being the operative word!  We started out in Campbellsvile, KY working nights from 5:30 pm until 4:00 am.  We liked those hours, it was nice leaving for work while the sun was still shining.  We were back home by 4:30 and asleep by 6:00.  We'd sleep until noon or one and then start all over again.




Outside the Jeffersonville Facility - 1.2 million SF!!



In mid-November, Amazon asked for 100 campers to move north to Clarksville, IN.  The incentive offered was a $500.00 bonus per worker.  It sounded good but we were comfortable where we were and decided to take a pass.  There were only about 35 campers who agreed to make the move north so Amazon decided to up the offer to $1000.00 per camper willing to make the move - that was an offer we couldn't refuse.   Unfortunately there were about 80 other people who felt the same and we received a call that we hadn't made the cut but were first on the waiting list. One hour later, two people had dropped out and we were in - YAY!

We moved up to Clarksville, IN on Saturday, 11/22 and settled in at the KOA.  Clarksville is just across the Ohio River from Louisville, KY and about 90 miles north of Campbellsville.

Our first day of work in Indiana was Tuesday, 11/25 with orientation and some training.  We worked from 7:30 until about 3:30.  We began working 10 hours (6:30 am until 5:00 pm) the following day and continued thru Sunday.   Our shift was Wednesday - Sunday, 10 hours a day.  We worked wherever they told us.  We re-binned, packed, gift wrapped (yuk!) and prepped jewelry.  We both liked re-binning the best, we pulled items from totes, scanned them and placed them into the appropriate slot on a "re-bin" cart.  There were 5 shelves and five slots on each shelf and each slot represented orders with multiple items.  We were continuously on our feet but we were moving and bending a lot and it was the easiest job on our bodies.  I wore my Fitbit a few days and found that I averaged 5-6 miles walking a day. This job was hard, standing for 10 hours is hard on the feet and back and most nights I crawled into bed around 8:00 with the intention of reading for a little while and never getting past a few pages.  We were up at 5:00 am every morning to start the fun all over again. 

The job I liked the least was "tote turning".  It is exactly what the name implies, you stand by the conveyor belt and turn the plastic totes from vertical to horizontal.  And, when it gets real busy, you get to take the totes off the conveyor belt until there is room and then place them back on the belt - whoo-hoo!  Unfortunately for me there were maybe 4-5 totes every 10 minutes, talk about boring.  I did go to talk to the supervisor to see if I could be switched somewhere else but was told that this was a very important job and I needed to stick with it.  Luckily I only needed to "stick with it" for one day!

We didn't spend all our time working (even though it felt like it).    We spent an evening driving with our Camperforce friends, Herman and Linda thru the Mega Cavern to enjoy "Lights under Louisville".  Here's a link to the Mega Cavern, it's pretty incredible; at Christmas they decorate with lights and you can drive through and take pictures - it's about a mile long. http://www.louisvillemegacavern.com/about/history.html





 We also used one of our days off to visit Churchill Downs and Cave Hill Cemetery.  Churchill Downs is home of the Kentucky Derby which we learned on our tour is the longest, continuous running sporting event in the U.S.  It has run on the first Saturday of May for 140 years without a miss - pretty amazing! 




There are plaques on buildings throughout Churchill Downs listing each year and the horse who won. In 1915 a filly named Regret won; she was named Regret because her owner wanted a stallion.   I'm sure he was happy with having a filly after she won.  In the 140 year history of the Derby only three fillies have won.

After we left Churchill Downs we drove over to Cave Hill Cemetery.  Colonel Sanders of KFC fame is buried here and was my original reason for going. It turns out that this is a pretty impressive place to be buried.  There are 20 miles of roads within the cemetery and many interesting people interred here including magician, Harry Collins and Patty Hill, the kindergarten teacher who wrote "Happy Birthday".  There are many unique headstones and we enjoyed driving through.
 Here's a link, if you'd like to read more.
http://www.cavehillcemetery.com/

 That was it for our sightseeing in Louisville.  Working really took up all our time, when we were off we also needed to do the mundane things like grocery and laundry.  It was well worth our time to work at Amazon but, at this time, we feel that once was enough.

The best part of working is making new friends.  Mary with Herman and Linda


Back on the Road

We were "released" (their words) from Amazon on Saturday, 12/20 and we hit the road west towards
Yay, Marty!!
Mesa the very next day with one planned stop in Arnold, Missouri to visit our niece Katie and her husband Paul.  About 30 miles after we left Indiana we noticed the air pressure in one of our trailer tires had a fast leak (thank goodness we have a tire monitoring system).  We pulled over in an Arby's parking lot and called our roadside assistance company, Easy Care.  They told us it would take 90 minutes to two hours before someone could get to us.  Marty decided that if we could get the rig up on the stabilizer he would be able to change the tire himself and HE DID IT!   

The flat tire did delay us about 2 hours (we did have to eat at Arby's after all) and by the time we got to our stop for the night - St. Francois State Park in Bonne Terre, MO it was dusk and misting.  We were the only ones in the park, that was kind of creepy with the mist and all.

Looking at ultrasounds
We drove into Arnold to see Katie but stopped at a tire store first to get our tire fixed.  After dropping it off we had a nice time visiting with Katie who is pregnant with their first child.  We picked up our tire and then drove with Katie to meet Paul for dinner at a nice restaurant in the Old Italy section of St. Louis.   It was so nice to see Katie and Paul and her baby bump :), can't wait to see what they have, I'm hoping she has a girl.

Marty, Mary, Katie, and Paul
We left our creepy campsite on Tuesday morning and headed west.  We had no idea how far we would be going or where we would be staying but we made it to Tulsa and found a decent campground right off I-40.  It was a combination of campground and permanent trailers and suited our needs for one night.

Again, on Wednesday, we had no idea where we would end up.  We made it to Amarillo, Texas and stayed in another campground right off I-40.  This one was a step up from the one in Tulsa but, again, we only needed it for one night so it didn't matter.  We arrived in Amarillo around 3:00 so we had some time for a little exploring and decided to visit the Cadillac Ranch at sunset. 
The Cadillac Ranch is just west of Amarillo and right off I-40.  There are about 6-8 cadillacs planted in the ground and covered by graffitti.  It's a strange sight in the middle of nowhere and it was amazing to see the steady stream of people visiting with their cans of spray paint (especially considering this was Christmas Eve).  One woman I talked to was driving with her daughter from Delaware to Camp Pendleton in San Diego where her daughter was reporting for duty.  They stopped at Home Depot for their can of spray paint and passed it on to us when they left.  We had some fun with it and then passed it on to a family with a bunch of kids.

We were thinking about spending Christmas Day at Palo Duro State Park which is about 20 miles south of Amarillo.  The weather was looking a little dicy for Friday so we decided to skip the canyon and continue driving west.  We made it past Albuquerque and stayed at a small rv park at the Sky City Casino and Hotel.  We enjoyed a buffet dinner in the hotel and spent a small amount of time (and money) in the casino.  We were back in our rig by 8:00.  Marty took Maddie out a little later for her last walk of the night and it was SNOWING! 

When we woke up on Friday the ground was snow covered but the streets looked ok and we definitely didn't want to be stuck there for the day so we headed out.   The RV GPS told us to take I-40 to Holbrook, Arizona and then take roads southwest into Mesa but when we looked at the atlas we weren't so sure that this would be wise.  Luckily before we left we walked over to the nearby gas station and met another couple driving with their Montana.   They were also headed to Mesa and were going the way our GPS wanted us to go.  The man assured us that they had done it many times and we'd be fine and it was a much shorter way than taking I-40 to I-17 so we crossed our fingers and decided to try it.

Once we got on I-40 we again were second guessing our decision.  The road west into Arizona was snow and ice-covered and we saw two rv's lying on their sides plus two cars in ditches and one overturned semi - YIKES!  Marty drove very slow and easy and we made it into Arizona where we stopped at the welcome center. 
Welcome to Arizona!
Once we got out of the Arizona Welcome Center the roads amazingly cleared up and we went with the GPS directions.  The day was sunny and the roads were dry and we were in Mesa by 4:00 and all settled into our site at the Good Life RV Resort by 5:00.  We took a walk around the park and picked up some literature about the activities here - there are a lot of activities, old people sure know how to have fun.  We are not here just for fun, we will each be working 12 hours a week setting up tables and chairs for the various activities.   For this total of 24 hours a week we get our site with full hook-ups for free!  And,  when we're not working, we are able to use all the facilities and join in any activity that interests us.  Pretty sweet deal. 

At Wrigley West
On Saturday we had visitors - Sue and Earl, Jeanne and Roseanne stopped by.  Joe and Jim were golfing so we'll catch up with them later.  They are all on vacation in Scottsdale until next Wednesday (12/31). We gave them a tour of the park and some of the amenities, went to get something to eat and visited the Spring Training Headquarters of our favorite baseball team. 

Good Life RV Resort

We took it easy on Sunday, walked around the park and met a few of our fellow workkampers.  We meet our new boss, Leighann, tomorrow and start working on New Year's Eve.

See you next year!  

 






10/29/14 thru 11/14/14 - She Works Hard for the Money!

We've worked 1 eight hour day (orientation/training), 7 5 hour days ("work hardening"), and, so far, 2 10 hour days.  Our shift is Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday from 5:30pm until 4:00 am and, if required, our overtime day is Wednesday.  We are working in single toys but it's actually all single items so we've seen everything from ugly sweater cakepans to barbie dolls to vibrators (hmmmm)  to gun accessories.  Anything you can imagine goes thru our department which makes it interesting.  We stand for the whole 10 hours packing items into the appropriate size box, filling it with those wonderful airbags, taping it, scanning a label on it and sending it down the line and then we start all over - imagine Lucy and Ethel in the candy factory episode :).   Amazon is very good about ergonomics and we do stretches at the start of our shift and when we come back from lunch.  We also rotate stations after every break so that both sides of our bodies get equally abused.   The time goes fast but when we're done we walk out at 4:00 am doing the "Amazon Zombie Walk".  

The first few days my legs and feet hurt so bad that it was hard to sleep  but I got used to that. The next few days my arms and shoulders were aching but I got used to that.  Next it was my back screaming but we've had three days off and now everything is fine and tonight we get to start all over.  Hopefully these next four days of 10 hours don't break me.  I'm living on Advil and it does help as does soaking my feet in epsom salts (Thanks, Sue!). 

Since we are so tired and are working nights and the weather has been cold and rainy, when we're off we've watched a ton of movies.  Marty is almost done with 4 seasons of Boardwalk Empire!  That's a lot of TV.

Have you wondered what we do with Maddie while we're gone for over 10 hours a day?  Wonder no more, we have a very nice lady in the park who sends her husband off to work at Amazon while she stays home and walks dogs (smart lady!).  

When we're not watching TV/Movies we have done a little bit of sightseeing.  We are camped right next to Green River State Park and we hiked in there one day.  It's a very pretty park and was one of our options to stay at while working at Amazon but they don't have full hook-ups so we chose Green River Stables and have been very happy here.

We are not too far from the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln so on one of our days off we took a drive to Hodgenville, KY to check it out.  A replica of the Lincoln Cabin is inside this marble and granite memorial.  There are 56 steps leading to the memorial, one for every year of Lincoln's life. 


We also took a drive up north (95 miles) to Louisville to visit the Louisville Slugger Museum/Factory.  It was awesome - we saw bats being made, saw all the players signature plates on the wall, and at the end of the tour, they even gave us a miniature bat.  While in the museum, one of the docents saw my Cubs shirt and startled me with his Harry Caray imitation, he was pretty good.

The bat model most popular with today's players is Jose Cardenal's model #C271 - Cub fans always knew he was #1!

My favorite part of the day was being able to hold game-used bats of Mickey Mantle, Derek Jeter, and Cal Ripken - how cool is that?
Cal Ripken, Jr. Game Used Bat

My all time favorite - Mr. Cub, Ernie Banks!


That's all for now, it's off to work we go for the next four days.  It's very strange starting our work week on Friday. 


10/11/14 thru 10/28/14 - From Michigan to Kentucky with stops in Indiana and Illinois

We arrived at Van Buren State Park in South Haven, Michigan on Friday, October 10th after a short drive from Dyer, Indiana. Van Buren State Park is on the shores of Lake Michigan and the campground is just a short walk to the beach.  There are a little over 200 campsites but except for Columbus Day weekend we were pretty much alone.  At one point there were only 4 other campers in the park - it was wonderful!  The colors were beautiful and the weather was cool but we had more sunny days than rainy ones so it was a good place to be while waiting for the phone call from Pete's RV letting us know that our parts were in and we could bring the rig in for repair.

This is the Life!!
It's a great campground but there are no sites with water or sewer.  When you enter the park you fill up your tanks and when you leave you dump them.  We stayed here 11 nights and the first few days we took navy showers every other day but then we just started using the shower house.  We were there 11 days and just squeaked by with our fresh water. 

We walked almost every day 2-3 miles trying to get in shape for our Amazon job.   We also took the bikes out, the Kal-Haven trail runs right thru the park. 

One project that needed to be done in our rig was adding some insulation inside the cabinets.  We are living in a tin box and it can be cold so anything we can do helps.  Reflectix is a quilted foil which Marty added to each cabinet located on an outside wall.  It may (probably will) get cold in Kentucky in December so we're hoping this will help.

We also had time to take the truck in for a tire rotation and best of all it was FREE!  Belle Tires is where we went and if you ever need a tire rotations while in Michigan, check them out.

We called our friends at Pete's on Monday, 10/20 to check on the parts and everything had come in except for a part for the leveling jack.  We brought the rig back to Indiana on Tuesday hoping that the last part would be there - it wasn't.  After many phone calls between Pete's and Keystone and between me and Keystone, Keystone admitted they had the part but the earliest they could ship it was Thursday so the rig wouldn't be ready for us until Friday.  We weren't thrilled but there was nothing we could do so we packed our bags and headed west to Crystal Lake where we spent two nights with my sister, Judy.  Go Gators! (that's my nephew, Zach's, soccer team and they are going to state sectionals on Wednesday, 10/29 and then hopefully continue on to the finals)

Taking Maddie and her cousin Buddy for a walk in Crystal Lake.

I have gone back to an old hobby, crocheting and have learned how to crochet rugs.  I've never been good at following patterns so sometimes they are shaped kind of strange but whoever I give them to should remember they are made with love :).  My great-niece, Abby got my latest creation and it actually doesn't look too bad and if you put something on top of it, it will even lay flat.
It fits perfectly with all her doll furniture and it's pink & purple, what's not to like?


Thursday night (10/23) was spent at La Quinta in Merrillville, IN so that we could pick up the rig as soon as it was ready on Friday and head south to Kentucky.   We did, finally, hit the road around 1:00 on Friday and made it as far south as Scottsburg, IN before pulling into a Walmart for the night.  On Saturday we were up nice and early and finished our drive to Campbellsville, KY a little after noon.

Amazon has made arrangements with five campsites in the area to accommodate their Camperforce.  We chose to stay at the Green River Stables and yes it really does have stables.  It also has karaoke every Saturday night but that had nothing to do with our decision (well maybe a little). There are 82 sites so it's not too large and everyone we've met has been very welcoming.  The campground is nice and we have full hook-ups (electric, water and sewer - YAY!).   After taking showers in the bath house at Van Buren and taking Navy showers before that at Chain of Lakes it is pure luxury to stand under the shower for as long as we want.  We back up to the State Park and there are easily accessible trails from our park - you just have to remember that the trails are shared by the horses and watch where you walk!

When we bought our rig it came with two recliners.  We took one out and replaced it with a file cabinet which we have had issues with ever since.  The drawers sometime open while we're traveling and Marty has made many repairs and adjustments to keep it working for us but after the drive to Kentucky it finally bit the dust.   Luckily, there is an antique mart/flea market in Campbellsville and we found a cabinet which should work out just right.  It is solid wood but had been painted an ugly brown so we went over to Lowe's for some paint and glaze and now we have a beautiful new cabinet and, best of all, some color in our home - everything else is boring beige.  We bought the cabinet Sunday morning and by Monday afternoon it was painted and sitting in it's new home. 
Ugly Brown
Beyond Repair


With a little paint and glaze we now have a new cabinet

We started at Amazon on Tuesday, 10/28, with an eight hour orientation and safety training.  We will be working nights (5:30 P.M. until 4:00 A.M.) and our shift is what they call a donut shift, we work Sunday and Monday and Thursday and Friday.  Once mandatory overtime starts in mid-November another day will be added, I think it will be Wednesdays.

Camperforce Group #10 after finishing our orientation/safety training
There are four different departments; Receiving, Picking, Stowing, and Shipping.  We will be in Toys which is part of the shipping department so we'll learn early what the most popular toys are this year.  We start training in our specific job tomorrow so I don't really know much about what we'll be doing except that we are in one spot for the whole shift.  We were hoping to be working in stowing which is exactly what it sounds like, you take packages from the receiving department and then find a bin, any bin, and stow the item after scanning both the item and the bin.  You walk 5-7 miles every shift and it's an excellent way to get in shape and lose a few pounds.

The best department for getting in shape is Picking.  In picking you pick up an order and then track down the items throughout the plant with your scanner from wherever the stowers placed them.   In that job you can walk 12-15 miles per day!! 

One good thing about being in Toys and working nights is that our next door neighbors and their next door neighbors are all in the same department and working nights.  We'll learn from them and we'll all be quiet (or loud) at the same time.

Since we're in training this week and next, we are only working 5 hours a day (5:30PM to 10:30 PM).  We will start working 4 10 hour days on Sunday, 11/9/14 and probably start the mandatory 5 10 hour days the following week.  It should be interesting, especially the working nights part.  I'm looking forward to working but I'm also glad that we'll be done on 12/23 and then heading southwest to Mesa for a less stressful job and warmer weather. 

10/20/2013 thru 10/20/2014 - One Year on the Road

ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF BEING ON THE ROAD!!

It's hard to believe that we've been on the road for one whole year!  It went by so fast and we still have so much to see but here are some highlights from the past year and some of our "lessons learned".

First night on the road and first "boondocking" experience - Walmart in Greenberg, IN - 10/20/2013

First time using power tools - Habitat for Humanity in West Liberty, KY - Ocbober 23, 2013
Biggest Surprise - Sue, Tom, Megan & Sarah surprised us in Louisiana - December, 2013

First Frost - January, 2014 in Lockhart, TX (we thought we were done with that stuff)
 
Darkest Sky - City of Rocks State Park in New Mexico - February, 2015

Southernmost Spot Visited - Puerto Palomas, Mexico - February, 2014
Most Interesting Visitor - Flat Stanley in Arizona - March, 2014

Westernmost Spot Visited - Pacific Ocean in Carlsbad, CA - April, 2014


Northernmost Spot Visited - Brooklyn, WI - August, 2014

Easternmost Spot Visited - Tallin, Estonia - August, 2014

Lowest Point - Queen Bee Mine in Bisbee, AZ - 1500 feet underground - February, 2014

Highest Point - Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park, CO - 5/3/2014, we were about 11,000 feet high

Stormiest/Scariest Night - Hanover, IL - 6/30/2014


LESSONS LEARNED

10/9/13 - Always make sure all the valves are closed before starting a dump or you will be doing the "black water dance" (luckily, this has not happened to us yet!)


10/19/13 - Always make sure you hear TWO clicks and a CLUNK before pulling the truck out with the trailer attached!  We almost didn't make it out of the driveway in Elgin heading out because the trailer wasn't attached properly and landed on the bed of the truck - Yikes!
TWO CLUNKS!
11/02/13 - Always make sure you put your steps up if you go back in a the rig for anything!  After pulling into an empty lot so I could run into the rig to use the bathroom we forgot but luckily heard the scraping noise and stopped right before we got to a high curb that would have ripped the stairs right off.

11/02/13 - Always check the map to see where you are going.  Hurricane Mills is not just outside of Nashville (more like 1 1/2 hours away).  We had planned on visiting Marty's cousin, Mary Jo,
but ended up too far away.

11/02/13 - Always check electric before settling in -  its no fun to pack back up especially after a long day of driving.   Once we did get to Hurricane Mills and finally backed into our spot we discovered that the electric wasn't working.   It was after 5:00 and the office was closed so we stayed at that spot and froze until the next morning when they let us plug in to the spot next to us.

11/18/13 - Always bring bug spray, keep it in the car!  The bugs by the Mississippi River were horrendous!

1/19/14 - Always check tree branch height before backing into new spot (or prepare to do some patching).

4/17/14 - Always make sure you are clear of all barricades before turning (or you might scrape the rear drivers side of your rig).
Uh-Oh!
This has been an exciting first year and we've learned a lot! (notice that our first 6 lessons learned were all during the first month of travel).  We've had so many memorable experiences that I really can't think of just one as a favorite (although the surprise visit from my family in Louisiana was pretty amazing). The best part of the year was reconnecting with far-flung family and friends and making new friends; we look forward to more of the same in Year #2..