Hard to believe that our first workamping experience is coming to a close. We’ll be heading out of June Lake and the Oh! Ridge Campground about mid-October.
Jim and I have spent the summer working for a company that contracts with the U.S. Forest Service to maintain campgrounds in the Mammoth/June Lake/Eastern Tioga Pass area of California. I can unequivocally say that this is one of the most beautiful and diverse areas I have explored. And that we ended up here is undeniably fortuitous. Serendipity is alive and well!
Most of my blog posts to date have been recounting our day-off adventures in this little bit of heaven called the Eastern Sierras. While I still have many more hiking and sight-seeing escapades to share, I wanted to reflect on the past 3 months in terms of our workamping experience in this post.
Since this is our first workamping job, I am reluctant to pawn this narrative off as *words of wisdom* to others living the RV lifestyle. I do not believe I’ve had enough experience to offer up advice! I also feel that each person’s journey is unique. My goal here is to record observations I’ve made – something in writing that will serve to guide us as we continue on our journey, and help us avoid catastrophe and enjoy success.
“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”
We have had a great summer, really! But, there have been instances when the unexpected has happened and we really needed to take a deep breath, see the positive, make adjustments and move on.
A. The Lemon: If you’ve read my first couple of blog posts, you know that we quit our first workamping job before we even started. Not an ideal way to start this new life! However, we have certain standards that we are not willing to compromise on, and staying in a crowded RV Park that catered to long-term residents was not going to fly with us.
The Lemonade: We re-grouped, spent a glorious, unplanned week in Glacier National Park, found a new gig, and ended up in a much better place. Things will work out if you keep the right attitude and persevere.
B. The Lemon: Everything about our current campground is great with the exception of the resident chipmunk population. We had never before experienced the destructive force of chipmunks, or the danger of catching the plague from these rodents. When our truck wiring harness was viciously attacked by chipmunks, we were shocked. While Jim was able to splice the wires temporarily so that the truck would run, we will have to replace the entire wiring harness at some point – at an estimated cost of $2,000.00.
We started a chipmunk eradication campaign in earnest and thought we were winning the battle. Don’t ever underestimate the fortitude of chipmunks. I was sitting on the sofa in our trailer one morning working on a blog post, when I heard a commotion. The sound was coming from beneath the oven, and in a flash, out spilled two small chipmunks from the gap between the floor and the oven. They literally somersaulted out from under the stove, in cartoon-like fashion. I thought I was witnessing the antics of Chip and Dale! They stood up on their haunches, and gazed over at me. It was a long couple of seconds as we sized each other up. Imagine the quintessential cartoon of a women standing up on a chair being held hostage by a mouse – that was me, except it was two chipmunks. I screamed and jumped up on the sofa, and the chipmunks scattered – one going back under the stove and the other heading for our bedroom. Not good!
It took us an entire week of experimenting with different pest control methods before we finally rid ourselves of the family of chipmunks living in our trailer.
The Lemonade: We are now experts at chipmunk removal strategies, a skill that will undoubtedly serve us well – and have also learned that we need to be more vigilant with pest-proofing the trailer. Prevention is much easier than eradication!
C. The Lemon: Just before Labor Day weekend, Jim was working on fixing an issue in one of the campground bathrooms using a large hand-held drill. The bit got caught, spinning the drill out of his hands and in the process, the ring-finger metacarpal bone on his right hand snapped in two. A month later, his hand is still in a cast and will be for another two weeks minimum. We’ve had to adjust our start date for our next gig, abandon doing some maintenance on the Airstream that we were hoping to accomplish before heading out, and alter some of our travel plans.
The Lemonade: The good news is that his hand is healing well, our son Luke just informed us of some last minute travel plans that will bring him near us in a couple of weeks, and Amazon Camperforce is incredibly flexible and accommodating. We will end up being able to visit with Luke and spend some unplanned time in Sequoia National Park with him. Our trip to Texas will be somewhat more leisurely, allowing us more time in Zion, Bryce and Canyon de Chelly. And Jim’s hand will have more time to heal before starting work at Amazon.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Mahatma Ghandi
As I mentioned before, serendipity is alive and well. We did not expect to find ourselves in the Eastern Sierras this summer, but it happened and I’m glad it did. We have truly been blessed to be in such a beautiful and diverse area. And we have taken every advantage of our proximity to some of the most amazing places in the United States. I’ve had fun researching and learning about this incredible landscape.
This is an area rich in history, and abundant in unique geologic features and plant communities. The list of hikes we’ve done and places we’ve visited is long and impressive. This is why we chose to try this lifestyle, and I can wholeheartedly acknowledge that we’ve lived by the expression “carpe diem”…all summer. Last week, we actually spent one of our days off in the campground at our site instead of venturing out. That was a first – and Jim remarked that it was kind of nice to just relax for a day!
We chatted last night about what makes this area so special, and we agreed that it is in part due to the distinctive geology of the area. The evolution of the land here over thousands of years seems so visually obvious and tangible. The contrasting landscape of the Sierra and the White/Inyo mountain ranges coupled with the distinct ecosystems of the Owen’s Valley offers visitors a glimpse into the glacial and volcanic past that is unrivaled. We will be back here to visit – there are still places to see and hikes to enjoy that we did not have time to cover in one summer.
Observation # 3
“I put a dollar in one of those change machines. Nothing changed” – George Carlin
Money. Of course, we did not choose this lifestyle for the financial rewards! We knew we would be living on a tighter budget. No matter how much number-crunching I did before we started our new adventure, reality is the true test. I’ve kept meticulous track of our expenses and income over the summer, and the good news is that for the most part we are in the black and have had money left over at the end of the month. That said, we still do have some modifications that need to be made! We were in the red one month and to me that is just not acceptable.
Where are we slipping? In evaluating my financial spreadsheet, it’s not hard to see what’s happening. We have dined out way too much! Even though we try to patronize restaurants during special deals (i.e. Happy Hour), if you do that too many times in one month it adds up. We are historically fairly frugal, but I do believe that we can get our grocery bill down with better meal planning as well. Discipline is the key to getting expenses under control. 🙂
We also have sunk way to much cash into unexpected purchases – like our on-going chipmunk crisis – to the tune of about $200.00 over the course of the summer.
And finally, we have some decisions to make regarding expenses in the coming year. We chose to keep our house in Vermont for the short-term, and this is something that we will have to evaluate. Continuing to maintain this property will eventually be a burden unless we decide to become landlords.
Observation # 4
“Work is either fun or drudgery. It depends on your attitude. I like fun.” – Colleen Barrett
I can honestly say that I have had a blast working in our campground kiosk and talking with folks from all over the U.S. and the world. I have enjoyed learning about this area, and getting proficient enough to act as a reliable information source for our visitors. Helping people have a fun-filled vacation has been a joy! The customer service aspect of this job is what I love, and is not all that different from my previous full-time position as a public services librarian.
Of course, the other group of people who you interact with on a typical work day are your co-workers – who come in all shapes, sizes and personalities. We are fortunate to have a great group of employees here in our campground. Workampers are a very diverse group – each with their own history and style. The variety of people that you meet is what makes it fun. As with any workplace environment, the typical personality types persist: The Chronic Complainer, The Antagonist, The Eternal Optomist, The Workaholic, The Procrastinator, The Comedian, The Control Freak – you get the idea. We have examples of all of the above working with us this summer!
Attitude is the key to meeting and accepting your co-workers, and getting along with them. Sometimes it can be difficult, but keeping a positive attitude and a sense of humor goes a long way. I’ve worked with many personality types over the years, as a peer and as a supervisor – and learned to adapt to people’s idiosyncrasies and react to issues with positive energy and understanding. I love the quote “You can’t have a good day with a bad attitude, and you can’t have a bad day with a good attitude.”
The good news is workamping assignments are temporary, and then you move on!