Day 1333: Opportunity or Insanity?

Our Home At Woodlands KOA

This is not my mid-life crisis.  Some would say that selling the house, becoming nomads, and living in an RV for the last 4 years fits the definition of that.

David and I have been spending a lovely summer as workampers at the Bar Harbor Woodlands KOA.  Just an hour away from Deer Isle and David’s parents and sister, the job allowed us to work for KOA and visit family for the summer.
The location also afforded us quick access to amazing hiking and biking trails in Acadia National Park. It really has been a wonderful experience.

KOA (Kampgrounds of America) owns two campgrounds in Bar Harbor: Oceanside, which has many RV sites and Deluxe Kabins, and Woodlands, which is more for tenters and rustic Kamping Kabins. Both campgrounds are managed by one person, named Barbie. She interviewed and hired us back in January, for a position that runs May to mid-Sept. We didn’t know which campground we would be assigned to, but found out later that she really has a knack for finding the right match of people to job and location.

Here is Barbie walking in the Bar Harbor Independence Day parade:

Barbie
Barbie

When we arrived at the end of April, there was still snow on the ground, evidence of the hard Maine winter. The trees were so bare, I really thought they were dead.

Woodlands Site at the beginning of the season
Woodlands Site at the beginning of the season

Assigned to Woodlands, we moved to our site and started the work of clearing the campground of trees and debris with 3 other couples. The store was dusted, vacuumed and stocked. Kabins (starting with that KOA “K”) and restrooms were scrubbed, and we welcomed our first visitors on May 21.

Each of us has a specific role. There is a lead couple, Kevin and Dodi. I really could not have done this job without them. They both encouraged us to take the reigns and allowed us to work off of our own initiative.  That resulted in David planting a garden for everyone to enjoy, and for me to learn the reservation system, store set up, and even opening, manning, and closing the store alone. For someone who has never worked retail, I was surprised by how exhausting it can be. It’s hard work being nice for 8 hours a day!

This is Kevin and Dodi. For those of you who know my side of the family, Kevin reminds me very much of my little brother – neither of them has ever met a stranger. And Dodi is all about just jumping in and getting it done. My first day in, when she found out I had not driven a golf cart before, she jumped out of the driver’s seat and “made” me drive.  She defines “Just Do It”.

Kevin and Dodi Carr
Kevin and Dodi Carr

Tom and Christine had worked at the campground before, and were there to help open it. Christine forced me into answering the phone, and taught me about retail placement. I learned that it was ok to make a mistake, because everything could be fixed. Tom was great at showing David the campground ins and outs.  Here is a picture from our opening day:

Bob, Donna, Christine, Dodi
Bob, Donna, Christine, Dodi

Bob and Donna are our amazing Housekeeping team. Seriously the unsung heroes of the campground. It’s easy to greet customers, sell firewood, and give directions to island hot spots. It’s darn hard work to keep bathrooms, Kabins, and Deluxe lodges shiny. The last to be praised, the first to be criticized, Housekeeping is a thankless job. Just think how frustrating it must be to clean a bath house of eight shower/toilet/sink rooms for a hour, then watch a group of campers destroy it in 10 minutes. But Bob and Donna keep doing their best to stay ahead of it. On top of that, they are some of the most genuine people you will ever meet.

There are other couples that work with us, too. Tom and Lou, Fred and Margie, Val and Paul, Kate and Allie, Susie and Dave, Donnie and Pat, Larry and Barb…they all have varying degrees of KOA experience, and are doing their best between the two campgrounds, to give the customer the best vacation experience they can. And that is no easy task.

We read the reviews on the KOA website, and are sometimes surprised by the feedback. That is both good and bad, I must admit. But I know that David and I are both richer for the experience that we have had this summer.

Which brings me to where I am now…on a plane…by myself…doing something that I never thought I would have the opportunity to do.

About 2.5 weeks ago, I received a call from Amazon and  offered a position in the HR department at the Haslet, Texas fulfillment center. This is a seasonal position, as a member of CamperForce, to launch the CamperForce program in Texas. The opportunity for this to become a permanent position is very real, and the position has never been held by a Camper, in other locations, that I know of. I was humbled by the offer, but the position started immediately, and I was committed to KOA until Sept 18. We had not planned on joining Amazon for our usual CamperForce jobs until late October.  So I declined.

And then I told David about the call and my answer. His reply was, “Are you kidding? You would rock that!” *This may not be a direct quote, but you get the idea.  So, I called Texas back, and then went to chat with my KOA bosses.

Barbie, Kevin and Dodi were so supportive! Even though I was leaving them during peak for the camping season, they encouraged me that it was OK.  David is finishing his commitment, and then helping to close the campground.  He will join me in late September (I am hoping to fly back and drive with him to get the rig to Texas).

So here we are today. David is staying in Maine with the RV, the cat, the KOA job, and more time with his family. I am flying on three planes to get to Dallas Love Field, where my 30 day Hotwire rental car awaits. I have a hotel room for 6 days, and must find shelter until my guy and my house on wheels can join me.  Orientation is at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow, and I will not have much time to learn the job – the first campers are supposed to start in a little over a week.

Wish me luck!

~ Nancy

Day 1228: 4 Days of Walmart Hopping

Road Flowers

Since Sunday, April 19, we have been quick-tripping across the US from Oklahoma to Massachusetts. Tomorrow, we will arrive at David’s sister’s home in South Hadley, where we will attempt to park in her driveway (a first for us)!  This will give us a few days to visit with her, her husband Bob, and David’s parents, Betty and Harold.

This speedy way of travel can get old fast! It is not that it is particularly hard, it is just that we are not fond of sitting on our arses day in and day out.  We would much rather take the slow track, stopping and experiencing the areas that we are traveling through.  But, there are loved ones to visit with, and a job to get to in Maine, so we will just have to revisit the areas some other time.

It also is not the first time we have made this trek, so we know what to expect.  One aspect of this method of long, day-after-day trekking, is the luxury of parking for free at a Walmart.  Now, there are many people who take issue with Walmart, and I suppose we could also overnight park at a Cabela’s, or a Home Depot, or a Lowe’s, as these all allow for RV overnight parking. But Walmart works for us, as I am always able to run in and grab some fresh veggies, salsa, fruit, to get us to the next location.  These RV fridges are just not that big, and I appreciate the convenience of having a grocery store in my yard, so to speak.

We have had a mix of weather, as well.  We seemed to be running in front of it for the most part, but were greeted this morning with cold wind and rain in Pennsylvania, and never really got away from it until we were in Connecticut.  The snow was lovely, and we certainly found winter, but dang, it was (and is) cold.  The shorts are put away, and I can feel my tan fading fast!

Here is what our route has been:

Day 1225 – April 19: Route from OK to MO

We left Keystone Lake State Park outside of Tulsa, OK and drove to Missouri on our first day.  Our first night was supposed to be at the Walmart in Eureka, MO, but we discovered upon arrival that they did indeed, NOT allow overnight parking.  The fact that they were a mile from Six Flags St Louis should have been our first clue.  Luckily, we had a backup plan, and “landed” at the Ridge Point Walmart instead.  Probably should have checked Allstays before we arrived, instead of just looking at Google Map’s aerial view.  Live and learn.

High Ridge, MO[/caption]

 

Departure Time: 10:37 am
Drive Time: 7:41.54
Miles Driven: 405.2
Gallons Used: 35.4
Avg MPG: 11.4
Arrival Time: 7:12 pm (Central)

Day 1226 – April 20: Route from MO to OH
Spring was definitely starting to make an appearance, as seen in these flowering trees all along our route:

So Bright!
So Bright!

 

I know I spent the day with my laptop and phone, trying to figure out why my phone memory is showing that it is nearly full, while have most apps and photos and videos going to my sd card.  Additionally, I ran some of the KOA training videos so that we could get a taste of what is to come.  And, we topped it off with the episode of “Undercover Boss” that featured Jim Rogers (https://youtu.be/ONGRxuyPk38) – Now we can’t wait to get to work in May!

Departure Time: 10:15 am
Drive Time: 7:20.10
Miles Driven: 405.8
Gallons Used: 32.5
Avg MPG: 12.5
Arrival Time: 7:15 pm (Eastern)

Day 1227 – April 21: Route from OH to PA

Storm Hasn’t Caught Us Yet

 

The highlight of this day’s driving was Amazon Prime Music, specifically the Simon & Garfunkel channel.  We had a blast, as David tripped back to his days of corduroy bell bottoms and Crosby Stills Nash & Young “Deja Vu” 1970 glory. Yeah – I was 6. Don’t remember it.  Still, the music was good, and it was so much fun listening to David sing along.

Departure Time: 10:24 am
Drive Time: 6:13.26
Miles Driven: 340.6
Gallons Used: 28.1
Avg MPG: 12.1
Arrival Time: 5:44 pm

I was really itching to cook, and I was rather productive – dinner, milk and cookies!

Dinner was savory groats.  Here is my adaptation of a Martha Stewart recipe:

Savory Oat Groats and Kale
1 small onion (1/2 cup), finely chopped
1 medium leek, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise, cut into matchsticks, and rinsed well
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 small carrot, cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 cup oat groats
1 cup homemade vegetable stock
1 cup water
6 ounces Tuscan kale, stemmed and cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide strips
Freshly ground pepper
Crushed red-pepper flakes

Saute onion, leek, and garlic in water-lined stockpot. Cook, stirring, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in carrot and groats; cook 1 minute. Add stock and water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, covered, 25 minutes.
Stir kale into groats. Cover; cook until liquid is completely absorbed and groats are tender but still chewy, and kale is steamed, about 15 minutes more. Season with pepper and red-pepper flakes. Garnish with nutritional yeast.

I made soy milk for the second time with my Soyapower machine, and had the okara that I wanted to use (the okara is on the left):

Soy Milk and Okara

A quick Google search for recipes, and I found one that I could modify to meet our needs:

Okara-Oatmeal Cookies
In a bowl, thoroughly combine
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oats
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup chocolate chips

In a second bowl, whisk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup applesauce
1/2 cup okara
1 Tablespoon molasses
1/2 tsp. vanilla
until thoroughly emulsified.

Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir until they are thoroughly incorporated. Drop by the Tablespoonful onto a cookie sheet (Silpat or parchment-lined).

Bake for 14-15 minutes at 350°F.

Road Trip Muchies!
Road Trip Muchies!

Day 1228 – April 22: Route from PA to CT

Woke up to this (yes, it was as cold as it looks):

Rain Rain Go Away

 

And warmed up with breakfast on the road:

Kale Yams Squash Beans Salsa Yum
Kale Yams Squash Beans Salsa Yum

 

We had snow for the first hour of our drive.  Our biggest concern was the solar water heating system, since we have not drained it, as we were not expecting freezing temperatures.  I know, what were we thinking? We kept the pump on, so that the water was circulating as we traveled.  It looks like it faired just fine.

The positive of the day: The Beast (truck) and The Tardis (RV) both got a nice little wash, since it rained the entire time we were on the road.  We got a break just long enough to go for a walk.

Departure Time: 11:00 am
Drive Time: 5:44.26
Miles Driven: 304.8
Gallons Used: 26.1
Avg MPG: 11.7
Arrival Time: 5:00 pm

After our walk around the rest area, we each set about doing our own thing. This means that David did some stretches (as well as he can with the slides in), and then started working on some paracord bracelets. I went to the kitchen to make a batch of veggie burgers using the rest of the okara that I had in the fridge.

This is my adaption of Veggie Burgers With Okara:

4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup yellow onion, minced
1/2 cup carrot, minced
1/2 cup yellow bell pepper, minced
1/2 cup broccoli slaw, minced
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
2 cups of okara
1/2 cup of flaxseed meal
1 cup of stale non-dairy bread crumbs (I used gluten-free bread crumbs found in the baking section of Walmart)

Mix minced vegetables in a large frying pan, and saute them over medium heat in a thin layer of water until tender. Add in spices and okara, mixing thoroughly. Slowly add in flaxseed meal and cook the mixture for another couple minutes until relatively firm. Remove mixture from heat and allow it to cool for a minute or two.

Preheat oven to 350 and form mixture into patties. Coat the outsides with bread crumbs, and place on a Silpat or parchment-lined sheet, and bake for 15 minutes. Carefully flip burgers and cook for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve warm. This recipe makes about 6 burgers.

Where are the pictures, you ask? Ummm, we ate them faster than I anticipated, and missed the photo op! But, there will be a next time!

Sorry for such a long winded post, but had to get up to date! There are many posts sitting there waiting for me to finish, so be sure to sign up for the email updates, as the posts will be in date order, but behind this (and future) post!

I’m glad that we could have this chat,
Nancy

The last 4 days:

Drive Time: 27 hrs
Miles Driven: 1,456
Gallons Used: 122

 

Day 1196 – Back on the Road

Leaving Our Spot

First of all, David survived his overnight backpacking trip. In fact, he was really quite the happy camper when he got home.  I will let him fill you in on the details, and he has some great photos. Hopefully, he will write his own blog post soon.

Today, we started our annual Eastern trek.  We first watched the Newcastle United vs Arsenal English Premier League match on TV because Hannah was in attendance.  Didn’t really expect to see her on TV, but wanted to see what she was seeing on the pitch.  She did send pictures from the sponsor suite, and really enjoyed the VIP treatment.  It reminded David and I of our first date in the CalFarm suite at Arco Arena all those years ago.  And while Hannah had a chef make her a special vegan entree, David had to settle for a hot dog bun as his vegetarian option at the Kings game in 1989. Certainly is a good example of how eating habits have changed over the years.

We had a lovely visit with our friends Anna and Louis, and got our quick goodbyes in before they headed out for a walk around the lake; David grabbed a picture of them just before we left.  They head back to Canada next week.

Anna and Louis
Anna and Louis

I gave Anna the last of any soap that I was still holding onto, so I am really motivated to get a new batch made.  Perhaps when we stop in Texas…

I have to brag about this couple a little more.  Anna made both David and I the most lovely hand warmers.  Check them out:

Hand Warmers by Anna
Hand Warmers by Anna

These are going to keep us toasty in Maine, that is for sure! And you notice those jars on the counter? Well, they contain goodies like apple sauce and a berry syrup that I can’t wait to put on pancakes.  Yes, I get spoiled by friends on the road, just like I did at home on Markham Way.  Life is good, I tell you!

After we visited the dump station and filled with about 60 gallons of water, we headed to Highway 8, and after a short drive (by RV-travel standards), we parked at RoVer’s Roost, a SKP Co-op park outside of Casa Grande, AZ.  This no-frills park offers dry camping spots for a deal: $5 for the first night, and FREE for the second.  We are going to drive into the Phoenix outskirts to visit some friends for the day tomorrow, and we wanted to be parked someplace secure, so this park is going to be great for that.

Upon setup, we chatted with a lady named Georgia, whom we happened to meet in the dry camping area of another Escapee park called Jojoba Hills.  I guess we are just destined to run into people we have met along the way, since we are now in our 4th year of RVing.  It does just blow me away by how small the world is, though!

Tomorrow will be a busy day, so I will just sign off with this – dinner was quick and easy, and I really need to get to a Trader Joe’s, Winco, REI…oh, hello civilization! I feel a shopping fix coming on.

I’m glad that we could have this chat,

Nancy

Our Route Today:

Day 1194 – Individual Projects

Hiking Guy

The day started with a surprise rain storm.  It is one of those things that happens rarely in the desert, but we have been witness to it at least four times this season.

Our day was spent inside getting our place in order, preparing to leave, and with a few projects.  David has been planning to hike up one of the nearby peaks, and did indeed head off around 4 pm today.  He had his backpack loaded with water, food, a tent and sleeping bag.  Yes, it is a solo overnight hike, and as I type this at 12:50 am, he is up on some mountain, and I suspect he is getting more sleep than I am.

I really encouraged him to go.  One, because I think it is important that he see that he can still do these things on his own.  We do so much together, and this trip is proof to me, too, that his health is good, and that it is OK to not be hovering around him all of the time.  It is strange to be alone for so long, though.  I am sure that I will eventually get tired enough that I fall asleep, and then morning will come, and he will return with tons of pictures and stories.  It gives me a chance to update this post, too, which is something that I have been struggling with.  Time, energy, focus, structure – these are all my unstructured-life challenges.

For my project today, aside from burning a bunch of personal papers that I have sorted through and logged into Quicken, and after I made some muffins for David to take on his trip, I had a new soap project to complete. Here are the carrot/apple/raisin/walnut muffins I made:

Muffins!
Muffins!

David would tell you that they needed more spice, and that they could have cooked a little longer.  I will tell you that this did not stop him from eating them.

Now, for the soap project.  About twice a year, Brambleberry (a soapcrafting supply company) has a “Soap Swap”, where one signs up to swap 10 bars of soap with other soapcrafters.  There are only so many soapers to get into each swap, and I was lucky enough to get into this one.  I have been wanting to try something called “rebatching”, so today was the day to do it. Rebatching is taking a batch of previously-cured cold process soap, and remaking it into something new.

I started off with taking the unscented soap that I had on hand, and shredding it:

Shredding Soap
Shredding Soap

I purchased this shredder at the local Thrift Store for 50 cents!

Next, I put the shreds into a pot:

Makeshift Double Boiler
Makeshift Double Boiler

And melted it down slowly over a 2 hour period.

I then added a fragrance, and put it into a loaf mold.  Next, I topped it with some dried rose buds:

Soap Toppers
Soap Toppers

 

I am hoping this texture on the soap calms down a bit, and that it doesn’t turn out to be a globby, flaky mess!  If it doesn’t turn out well, I will have to make a different batch of soap for the swap, and that is not in my travel plans for this weekend!

The daylight part of the day was wrapped up with a lovely sunset, and a text from David that he had made it to the top of the mountain.  I looked for him, but couldn’t see him.  Honestly, I don’t even know for sure which peak he was going to.

Sunset View
Sunset View

I am sure David will have lots of photos to share tomorrow.

As for me, I binged on many episodes of “Hot In Cleveland”, ate a vegan Boca burger for dinner, and am letting the cat sleep on the bed.  Seems like an all-around good wrap up of a day.

I’m glad that we could have this chat,

Nancy

Planning Our Path East

When The Cactus Flowers

Our time of living life leisurely parked in the desert of Arizona, living off the grid, is rapidly drawing nigh. We must pack up our things, store Hannah’s car, and start heading towards the East Coast of this lovely land.

We are in the planning stages, and this is what we have so far:

Our timeline:

Sunday, March 21: Meet up with friends outside of Phoenix, AZ for a bike ride and some bingo!

Tuesday, March 24: Overnight Hike in Saguaro National Park (http://www.nps.gov/sagu/index.htm)

Travel towards Texas – plans open, but we have a deadline…

Thursday, April 2: Annual exam Dr appointment in Buda, TX (scheduled)

Friday, April 3: Annual Neurology appointment in Houston, TX (not yet confirmed)

Hopefully spend the next few days visiting with family in the Austin area.

Then, head on up to Tulsa to see Kit and Tamara.

From there, we will head towards South Hadley, MA to see David’s parents and sister, then head to our job in Bar Harbor, Maine.  Our expected arrival there is the last week of April.

At least, that is what we have planned right now.  We do reserve the right to shake, rattle and roll, boogie woogie, or slip slide away the days, depending on the radio station and what catches our fancy as we head down the highways and byways.

I have many update posts up my sleeve as well, so I will just say that I am working on it, and leave it at that.

I’m glad that we could have this chat,

Nancy