Working in Wisconsin

We loved our time in Georgia, but we had a commitment to keep in Wisconsin. We were expected to arrive the first week of May, so it was time to pack up Waldo and motor on. We drove the 1380 miles in 3 days, not a marathon, but the last day was long.

As we drove through Black River Falls, we got our first look at the town which will be home for the next several months. I love the small town atmosphere and the outdoorsy feel of the area. We drove past farms and fields soaked with the late spring rains. It’s common to see Amish folks with their horse and buggies trotting down the road next to a monster trucks towing 4 wheelers heading for the state forest.

Usually, we find our jobs on the Workers On Wheels website, but this one came via referral from a couple we worked with in Texas. Don and Barb worked here last year and knew our skill set and work ethic would fit in perfectly at Lost Falls Campground. The campground, nestled on the shore of the Black River, has 36 RV sites, 7 cabins and 18 tent sites. My first thought when we turned into the park was “I’m gonna love it  here!!!” Don greeted us with hugs and happy to see you before showing us to our site. Many times, workampers are given not so great sites, shoved out of the way, saving the best ones for paying guests. Not so here! First of all, every site is wonderful. And they are huge, most are at least 35′ wide! Our site comes with a bonus shed for storage…

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Plus the use of the golf cart. Score!

Once settled in, we didn’t waste any time and got right to work. Don knows about my construction background and asked me to take a look at the bathroom floor in one of the cabins. He said it has a “soft spot” near the shower. I bounced on the floor a bit and told the owner, Aaron, this couldn’t be fixed with a band-aid. The floor needed to be pulled out and replaced. Once I assured him the repair could be completed before Memorial Day, he said “Have at it.” Steve removed the toilet and sink while I decided how to best remove the shower. Whoever installed it, didn’t want it ever coming out. Hmmm. Let’s tear out that wall. The next thing I knew, this had become a complete remodel…

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Once I got into it, I knew the vent pipe needed to go in the wall, not a foot out into the floor and all the old horse hair plaster had to go. Yep, that 1950’s ceiling has to come down too.  And what’s with that floor joist cut in 2? Geez, who built this? Replacing the plaster with sheetrock gained almost 5″ of floor space. At this point, Aaron’s wife Shannon was brought in to discuss her ideas on the remodel. I talked her into a new corner shower and a smaller sink. Once everything was decided and ordered, I got to work putting it all back together…

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It wasn’t all work and no play by any stretch. There were comfortable nights at our firepit…

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And turning Waldo into a birdie buffet…

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Speaking of birds, we had 2 really neat encounters since we’ve been here. First we found an injured Great Horned Owl…

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Sadly, we were unable to rescue it. Our second encounter has been ongoing. A mating pair of yellow-bellied sapsuckers has built a nesting cavity in the tree right behind our shed. We’ve watched as the male excavated the nest and have seen a bit of birdie porn so we are hoping for babies in the next 25 days or so…

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One morning, when I was working on the bathroom, Don came in and said he had something to show me and I should grab my camera! While making his rounds by the river, he came across a doe giving birth to twins…

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It was one of the neatest things I have ever seen. The next day, Steve found a baby western painted turtle…

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So dang cute!

When I wasn’t remodeling or taking pictures of local wildlife, I became the official sign painter for the campground…

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Yep, I’m getting paid to be creative too. Speaking of creativity, I got out my Lensball…

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Memorial Day brought lots of guests, all of our RV sites were full, 5 of the cabins were rented and there were quite a few tenters. One of the main reasons people stay here is we rent canoes, kayaks, SUPs and tubes. We shuttle folks to one of 3 landings and they float/paddle back to the campground. We even rent cooler tubes so your float can be complete with beverages! The rentals might be the reason they come to begin with, but I think the awesomeness of the campground and it’s owners and staff are what bring them back time after time!

If you find yourself near Black River Falls, Wisconisn make sure you have a night or two to spend with us at Lost Falls Campground!

Up next, Atlas Obscura come through again!

Where We Find Work

One of the most frequent questions we get is how do we find work. People are always surprised by the number of websites and forums out there that are tailored to RVers. Other websites aren’t necessarily RVer specific, but have short term or seasonal jobs.

Most of the work we have found has been through Workers On Wheels. Bob and Coleen are full timers who practice what they preach. They write a weekly newsletter filled with links to articles about the lifestyle, including help wanted ads. I emailed Coleen one time about an article I’d read on their site. I wasn’t really expecting a reply, but much to my surprise, she responded within the day. Knowledgeable, friendly and helpful is the best way I can describe Workers On Wheels and Bob & Coleen.

Another website I frequently visit is Happy Vagabonds. One of my favorite things about this site is you can do a job search by state (or Canadian Province). When looking for a winter job, I certainly don’t want to see job posts in cold climates! Happy Vagabonds also has a section dedicated to volunteer positions. Not everyone is looking for pay, some people are just happy with a beautiful place to stay for a few months.

Workamper News is exactly what it sounds like. There are several levels of membership to chose from. I have to be honest, I have never gone beyond the “Intro” level. To me, with so many free sites, I just can’t justify paying to look for work. Of course there is a lot more information available with paid membership levels. Everything from job listings to an employer verification service is available for a price.

Coolworks is another place to find, well, cool jobs. Most of the jobs I’ve seen on Coolworks have something to do with the hospitality industry. You can narrow your search to jobs with camping spaces provided or just look for something that interests you. They have full-time and seasonal positions. Many of the seasonal jobs are with companies who subcontract to National Parks. Want to spend the summer at the Grand Canyon? Check out this.

A Google search of “workamping jobs” will bring up pages and pages of opportunities. Other sites-

One of the biggest things to keep in mind is your own financial situation. A lot of the jobs require a portion of your hours to cover your site/utilities. Others pay all hours worked. And still others pay nothing at all except a place to park your rig for a spell, aka volunteering.

I hope you find this helpful if you’re looking for work or a place to volunteer. I will be adding a “Workamping Resource” page in the near future with links and some basic info about each site.

Safe travels, wherever life’s road take you!

5 Truths About Our Life on the Road

When we first decided to live full time in Waldo, I had a very different idea of what our life would be like. In some ways, it has far exceeded my hopes and in other ways, it has fallen drastically short. Here are 5 things I have learned about myself and our lifestyle:

1. We are NOT on vacation.

While most of my posts deal with all of the cool places we visit, the truth is we have to work. Neither of us are old enough to collect social security, nor do we have any type of retirement. Our only source of income is from the workamping we do. I had visions of living in Waldo the way my parents did, never staying anywhere for more than a week or two before moving on, sooner if the weather turned cold or rainy. But the fact is, we usually end up being somewhere for several months, after all, we made a commitment when we took the job. Quite often I find several months to be too long. I either get bored with a place once we’ve explored the area or the job isn’t really to my liking, but again, we made a commitment. For me, selling Christmas trees in Florida was nearly the perfect job. It was short term, it was warm and the money was great. If there was a “downside”, it was we didn’t have any time to explore the area.

 

2. Two people in 400 sq/ft can be a challenge

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We had been married for 14 years when we made the leap to full-timing. I thought I knew everything I could possibly need to know about us – nope! The biggest difference between living in an RV and living in a house is if you find you need some “space”, there isn’t any. I had a home office in our house, now my office is in the same room as the kitchen, living room and steering wheel. Steve had a garage to go putter around in, now he doesn’t. We don’t generally get on each others nerves, but it happens. We don’t generally have disagreements, but they happen. The difference is we can’t go to our separate space. Living in the confines of 400 sq/ft has taught me that I need my space more than I thought I did. Don’t get me wrong, I love Steve with all my heart.  I would never want to live this life without him, but sometimes I just need my space.

3. We’ll never get to see it all

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Thanks to my grammar school teachers, I know there are 50 states. If we spent 3 months per state, we could only see 4 a year – that’s 12 1/2 years (assuming we could drive to Hawaii). While we could probably hit the highlights in each state in 3 months, we’d never have time to seek out the out-of-the-way places we both enjoy so much. Oh yea, back to #1, we aren’t on vacation. By the way, I’ve added travel maps to the blog. You can check out where we went by year. I hope to keep it up-to-date from now on.

4. We are 6 wheels away from homeless

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I know this is a bit of an exaggeration, but it isn’t far off the mark. There isn’t much worse than seeing everything you own put on the back of a tow truck. I mean nobody ever towed off our stick and brick when it needed repairs. We’ve been exceedingly fortunate, nearly every time we’ve needed repairs, we’ve been able to stay in Waldo while the work was being done. The only time we couldn’t was when the roof was done. That wasn’t an issue because we were staying at my dad’s house. Every now and then, I get a little panicky when I think about what “could” happen. I know, no sense borrowing trouble. I just can’t help it.

5. We wouldn’t trade this lifestyle for anything!

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When I compare our stick and brick life to our RV life, I realize I wouldn’t change a thing. We love our life. We have met some of the most wonderful people, in person and online, because of the way we live. We have seen places lots of people only talk about seeing. We visited 15 National Parks in 2018 plus countless state parks. And we are doing it together! I doubt it really gets any better.

 

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Rockin’ Round the Christmas Tree

My last post had us leaving Midland, Tx heading for Florida. We made it in near record time and rested at Daddy’s house for about a 10 days before we were off to Parkland, Florida for our next job. I have to admit, I did have a few doubts about selling Christmas trees. What in the world were we getting ourselves into? We had no experience with managing a Christmas tree lot.

We arrived in Parkland on Nov. 16th and met Jeremy (owner of Hayes Farms Christmas Trees) for the first time. We liked him immediately and knew we had made the right choice. Jeremy led us to our “home” for the next 30-45 days, a beautiful spot behind Mary of Help Christians Church. Despite the certainty of several of my long time friends, I did not spontaneously combust upon reaching church grounds!

img_6983  The main tent was already up, but the trees hadn’t arrived yet…

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Our first sale was made even before the trees were setup in the tent. I was so excited. The guy must have thought I was daft when I asked if I could take a picture of the tree on his car. Note his hat, he is a New England Patriots fan. I took that as a sign all would be well.

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We spent the next couple days getting the trees and sales area just the way we wanted it.

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Jeremy stopped by to give us a crash course in Christmas tree selling. His most obvious suggestion was to be nice and have fun. He did warn us we would encounter a jerk or two, it just comes with any type of sales. Looking back over the last 30 days, I think we were dang lucky to only have one customer who was a problem (enough so, I turned it over to Jeremy). It turned out fine in the end, but I’m grateful we didn’t have more customers like him! Jeremy’s other warning wouldn’t truly sink in until 2 1/2 weeks later. “The hours were going to be long and fatigue WILL get to you. The lot is open Mon-Thurs, 9am to 9pm and Fri-Sun, 7:30am to 10pm.” The early hours didn’t concern me since I’m usually always up by 4:30am or so, but the late nights scared me, to be honest. I’m usually in bed and asleep by 8pm. With the help of an extra B complex vitamin, I survived.

At this point, I felt pretty confident we had a handle on it. And we did! The only part of our job we found to be challenging, was the hiring and retaining of lot workers. Most of them were high schoolers with a want for some cash in their pockets. They are the folks who drag your perfect tree out of the tent, wrap it up and tie it to your car for tips. Steve and I couldn’t do our jobs without them. I often felt frustrated by their lack of a strong work ethic but we got by. One of our lot workers was a superstar. If we had two more of him, we wouldn’t have needed anyone else. The other saving grace was on weekends we knew it was going to be non-stop, Jeremy would “loan” us a couple of workers from his other business. Despite the language barrier, these guys worked like there was no tomorrow!

Enough of the challenges, on to the fun!

Here are 2 of my favorite customers…

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Soooo, there were some ways I could make money, other than wages and tips. One of those was was tree flocking. Yes, I said flocking.

 

 

Flocking is a way of making the tree look snow covered. By the end of our time here, I had nearly become a pro…See for yourself…

One family drove all the way up from Miami for me to flock their tree.

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The review they gave us on Facebook made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside…

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When I wasn’t “flocking around”, I made wreaths from the tree trimmings. As you might have guessed, I learned how to do time lapse videos with my phone…

Oh ya, I flocked them too…

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One of our best sellers, were these reindeer and snowmen made out of tree cut-offs. They came in 3 sizes. I called them Babies (small), Teenagers(medium) and Adults (large). I couldn’t keep them in stock. Every time I had a herd of them ready, they would sell out by the end of the day…

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Some people were really attached to them…

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We were about 2 1/2 weeks into it and were running out of trees. Jeremy made the decision to have more brought down from North Carolina. I got to film/supervise the unloading of the truck…

Finally, more trees! That was just a week and a half ago and they are all gone. With 9 days until Christmas, we are sold out, with the exception of a few table top trees. For the last 2 days, I’ve had to tell countless families there were no more trees coming. And by the way, we open the weekend before Thanksgiving, come earlier next year. Since I’ve had time on my hands, I painted some of the things laying around…

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Rudolph, the red nosed palm boot

 

 

 

 

 

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And the farm logo on a cut-off from one of our 13′ trees

We’ve never had the desire to return to a location for work before. Part of the draw of this lifestyle is the constant change in scenery. With that being said, we are already making plans to come back next year. Yes, the hours are long and yes, we were exhausted, but it has been worth it. One of my favorite things about this job was Jeremy’s hands-off approach. This was our tree lot to manage. He was always available to answer questions or offer advice if I asked but he trusted us to make it work. I guess we did pretty darn well, because we made his top tier bonus for beating last years sales by more than 10%. Actually, we were closer to 20%. My organizational and craft skills, along with Steve’s “Let’s get to work” attitude, really made us ‘Rock around the Christmas tree!’

We are going to take a few weeks off to recuperate before heading to our next job. May the joy of the season be with you!

 

No, We Didn’t Win the Lottery

After reading about all of the adventures we’ve had this summer, you must be thinking we hit the lottery. I mean, really, who could afford to do all of those things?

Links go to the blog post I wrote about the adventure.

Two glacier cruises…

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Our cruise with Kenai Fjords Tours

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Our cruise with Major Marine

Two Helicopter tours…

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Marathon Helicopter tour

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Seward Helicopter Tours

Dog sledding…

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Turning Heads Kennel

Rafting…

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Rafting with Alaska River Adventures

Took the tram…

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Riding the Tram

Visited the wildlife center

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Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

And did sight seeing on our own…

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11 1/2 week old eagle in Homer

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One thing I haven’t written much about is the fact we are working. For May, June and most of July, we worked full time, 40 hours a week. We are the “On Site Hosts” at the Spruce Moose Chalets in Moose Pass. What does an on site host do, you ask? Well, lots of things. But one of the major things we do is be an ambassador for the area. Chalet guests come from all over the world and want to have the best experiences possible. But how can we recommend an excursion if we haven’t tried it ourselves? Would you recommend a restaurant you’ve never eaten at? No! So what I did was contact all of these businesses and explained to them we would be here for the summer and wanted to be able to tell our guests about our adventures. I asked if they would be willing to give us a discount in exchange for our testimony. Simple as that! Nearly every place I contacted offered us a deal and discounts varied from place to place.  We never would have been able to afford to do all these things if I hadn’t been able to leverage our position as the on site host.

I still have one more post to write (maybe two) about our time but I am pretty much caught up. Finally!

Our job contract here is almost up. We will be leaving Moose Pass on Sept. 4th, but our adventures are far from over! We are heading up to Denali for a week (where we have an interview for a job next summer), then we will be heading down to Haines for 4 days. I have mapped out a pretty ambitious trip back to Florida, 4 National Parks and lots of cool sights along the way. I hope you continue to follow our adventures!

We’d love to hear your comments!

A Year in Review

With 2017 and Peterborough in the review mirror, I realize just how much our life changed last year. When 2017 began, we were still living in a stick and brick home, we owned a business and we were still making our plan to hit the road. Then, something happened and it all changed. Accelerating our plan to move into Waldo full time a year ahead of schedule required quite a lot of work. First, had to decide what we wanted to keep and what needed to go, then we had to get rid of all our belongings that weren’t going with us…

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One of our many yard sales

We had to get the house ready to sell. Clean, paint, new flooring…

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kitchen cabinets

And, of course, the we had to wait for the weather to warm up…

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Sometimes, you just have to take a break!

Then, there was all the work we needed to do to Waldo before we could leave. My favorite “upgrade” was our new curtains…

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What do you do with family photos?

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You turn them into iron-ons and make curtains!

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We said goodbye to family and friends…

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Finally, Florida bound…

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By far, the biggest improvement we had to do was get a new roof. We decided Florida was where we should get that done. The benefit of being able to stay with my dad while the repair was done, made the decision an easy one…

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Steve began to adjust to not going to work every day…

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It was July before we truly ready to hit the road. We had a job waiting for us in Texas and it was time to go…

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Our first meal living full time in Waldo.

And then, our new temporary home in Texas…

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The next 5 months seemingly flew by, bringing us to December and the impending new year.

How things can change in 12 months! From this view…

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To this view…

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From using wood for winter heat…

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To using wood for camp fires…

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It’s been a year of major changes, all for the better. We’ve visited beautiful places and made some wonderful new friends. It means so much to me to have you along on our journey. Thank you.

May 2018 be your best year yet!

Getting to Work

Friday and Saturday nights, you will find Steve “patrolling” Wind Point Park in his golf cart. He escorts new arrivals to their site, sprays around their rig for ants (more about them later), picks up trash, cleans the public restrooms and enforces the rules. Overall, it is a pretty easy gig. One night, he came across a couple guys with an axe. They were trying to chop down a tree for firewood. Um, NO! Other than that, it’s pretty quiet here. Peaceful.

Spraying for ants could be a full time job by itself. Argentine ants are a huge problem here. Just look at Diesel’s food container…

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It was in the storage compartment under Waldo (with the lid on!) The ants are everywhere. I took this short video clip along the water’s edge…

The only up side about these ants is they have displaced the fire ants. Other than that, they are a real pest!

I’ve been getting my training in the office, learning campground management software and all the specifics of this park. The park is in the middle of a management shift. The current manager has been here 2 years and will be leaving in November. I love the fact several of the workampers have been here long term. I think it really speaks to the overall happiness of the work environment. Here I am, hard at work manning the desk…

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The second week we were here, the owner (Ryan), threw a hello/goodbye barbecue for all the park employees. Most of us had already met, but it was a fun way of formally being introduced.  One of the lawn maintenance guys brought his smoker and all I can say is mmmmmmmmm…

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There was enough food to feed a small army…

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Nobody went hungry, that’s for sure…

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After the meal, we all went out and played corn hole…

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We are enjoying our new lifestyle! Meeting great people, learning new skills and getting to explore our new “home for now”.

Thanks for coming by. My next post will be about our recent return visit to Sulphur Springs.