Category Archives: Work camping

Is Substitute Teaching Work Camping?

This post is written by Diana.

As you have read about Jim’s job at UPS this winter, I’m guessing more than a few have wondered if I’m been just sitting around eating Bon Bons and watching soap operas. Well I admit, I did go to the beach a couple of days.

D75F0A37-C508-4C63-BD7A-A80BC7BCE972

However, the majority of my time was spent applying to be a substitute teacher. Working with the Junior Ranger Program at Oregon State Parks this summer reminded me of how much I love kids and teaching. Jim and I have often commented about the nice elementary school near us as we have biked by it many times the last couple of years. Why not see if I could substitute teach there?

It took almost two months of work to complete the many requirements to get approved. I had to complete layers of information online, have official copies of my transcripts ($10) sent from the colleges where I earned my degrees, get a recommendation form completed by each of the five places I have worked the last ten years, and apply for the county to accept my Michigan teaching certificate for substitute teaching ($25). Brevard County Schools do not require you to have a certificate, but they do pay more if you have one. The highest rate for substitute teaching goes to retired teachers, so I also had to get a letter from the district I retired from in Michigan. In addition, I had to set up an account for direct deposit of my paychecks. Many times during this process, I wished I had more of my official documentation that is back in our storage room.

Once all of the above was completed, I was cleared to set up an interview with an administrator of our local elementary. This was a full interview with the assistant principal where I was given different classroom and discipline scenarios and asked how I would respond to them. I haven’t taught in 3 1/2 years, so some of my answers referred to my more recent experiences as an interpretive host. Luckily the interview went very well and they forwarded their approval on to the county. The elementary that seemed so nice on the outside, was even warmer and friendlier on the inside. I was getting excited!

The next hoops to jump through were drug testing ($30), finger printing, and a background check ($50). I received official notification that I was approved just before the students went on Christmas break. This gave me time to set up the online program for signing up for open substitute positions, as well as the online portal to see my pay account. In addition, there were many pages of information to read regarding school policy and procedures for substitute teachers. One packet alone was over 35 pages.

29EE27DA-1DC5-41FE-8315-90DA6ABF188A beach waves a

When school resumed January 8th, I was ready to go. The county has an automated program that calls with offers of substitute positions the evening before from 5-8 pm, and again from 5:30 to the start of school in the morning. I can also search online for openings in the four elementary schools that I selected. However, most positions are filled before they are ever available to the general pool of subs. The secretaries and teachers like to assign their favorite subs and only post openings online as a last resort. I get it, I was the same way. Therefore, it takes a while to build up your reputation.

I have worked three days so far. Of course we took off one week to go to the Tampa RV show, so this is only the beginning of the third week I have been available. The first day I subbed was a blast! I was called by the secretary the night before, so it was nice that it wasn’t the morning of. It was a sixth grade position and I taught science and social studies. I was nervous that morning, but with 30-plus years of experience it all came back to me rather quickly. I was able to teach the level and subjects that I love, and then go home at the end of the day. I felt a little guilty watching the other teachers stay to grade papers, make lesson plans, and contact parents. Well not that guilty, I paid my dues. 🙂  The other two days were more supervision than teaching, which is fine but not nearly as much fun. It’s still a treat to be around the kids though. They do have a way of keeping you young and up on the latest trends.

A general definition of work camping is any job you are doing while camping. So yes, I consider substitute teaching work camping. As a retired teacher the rate of $16.25 per hour is on the high end of work camping jobs, but of course they don’t pay for our campsite. I like that it allows you to be flexible and block out days when you may have other plans. Being ready early every morning for a call that might not come, is definitely one of the down sides. I am also concerned about staying healthy, especially with the flu that is currently going around. I will let you know how things go. One nice thing is if I sub five days this school year, I do not have to reapply for next year.

IMG_8644 Diana cropped

If anyone has a good gluten-free recipe for Bon Bons, I’ve got some free time for baking. – Jim

Golf Cart Delivery – The Scoop

A few posts ago, I mentioned that UPS had taken me on as a seasonal delivery driver.  You may recall that I use a golf cart to distribute packages that are brought to a central pod that is located on the edge of my route.  Today I am going to detail the job as it has unfolded, as some of you may be considering doing this in the future as a way to bring in some holiday cash.

On the surface, driving around a gated community on a golf cart and bringing parcels to homes sounds easy, right?  Well, for the most part, it is…

Cold

…except when you are zipping along at 20 mph on a 50 degree rainy day.

rain cart

On days like this, I am reminded of the U.S. Postal Service motto:

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

That motto applies to UPS and FedEx also.  But most days are sunny and warm here in Florida, and weather has not been a major factor.  What has been interesting is the reactionary nature of this business.  By that, I mean that UPS has to react to whatever is thrown at them, which means that they need to be flexible.  That ability to switch gears at a moment’s notice occurs at all levels of the company, including my job.

When I started out, they had me deliver packages from my pod only, which is designated by a three letter code.  (For security purposes, the codes I use are not the real codes.)  My pod is ABC and the pod next to mine is AB-2.  I would deliver my packages and finish up by around 1 PM, depending on the day.  On a weekday, a route is somewhere in the vicinity of 85 stops, with some houses getting multiple packages.  The package count is right around 130. AB-2’s driver also works nights at the terminal, so he shows up at noon.  If he has a lot of deliveries and requests the help, I can log onto his manifest and help him out.  That has worked extremely well.  On occasion, I’ll get a call from either my trainer or the terminal, requesting me to go to another pod after I’ve finished mine.  I’ve always accepted the challenge, as the variety keeps it interesting.  The first time I did this, I was beachside (as in, I was on the barrier island, instead of the mainland where ABC is located).  The neighborhood was not gated, and could best be described as ‘beach funky’.  The previous driver had quit. Coming in cold without knowing the neighborhood wasn’t a huge problem, as it was 5 east/west streets with 7 cul-de-sacs descending off of the southern road.  We will call this pod BCD.  There is a GPS map feature on the phone they gave me to use…which works well…but I also like to print myself a map for quicker reference. That way, I can pre-sort my packages into the order I am going to deliver them.  That is actually faster than fumbling with the phone on the route, as we are told to put the phone down when the cart is moving.  Going to a new route mid-day doesn’t allow me to print that map, but I have learned to print one if I know I’m going ahead of time. Also, my friend Rod taught me an invaluable trick that he used last year.  With all of the writing on a label, it is sometimes hard to find the address quickly.  What he did was to write the address on the top of the box with a Sharpie, using the first two letters from the street.  For example:  2180 Maple Street would be written as ‘2180 MA’.  That makes finding the correct box a breeze, especially when you are peering under a tarp in the rain.

Pod stacks
Approximately 50 stops worth of parcels.

On Saturday, December 2, they had us come in to deliver any parcels that were in the pipeline for Monday.  That amounted to two cart-and-trailers worth of stuff for ABC (around 30 stops), and I was done in less than two hours. AB-2’s driver texted me and asked what his pod looked like, so I stated it was light….25 stops.  He asked if I would run it for him…which I agreed to, just to make my trip to the pod worth it.  I finished his and then got a call from my trainer, asking if I would go to another pod (CDE), as the person working there also quit on them.

shade (2)

CDE was a really nice neighborhood.   The homes were older than ABC’s and the community wasn’t gated.  Also, the landscaping was more established, offering me plenty of welcomed shade.  The downside was, it was a huge route with 55 stops…a LOT for a Saturday.  The roads were twisty-turny, and there were a lot of small cul-de-sacs interspersed throughout.  Remember, I came in cold without a map.  Luckily, the cart was extremely fast, as someone must have removed the governor.  About 4:30, I received a call from the terminal asking if I was going to get the job done…as I think they lose a lot of people at the end of the day.  “Don’t worry, I’ve got this!” I said.  The last package was delivered as the sun hit the horizon.  🙂  I ended up logging 7.25 hours that day…which is all time-and-a-half, regardless of how many hours you have during the week.

This last week, I returned to BCD on Tuesday, then was sent to another new route, DEF.  That route required patience.  Again, a person had quit…and this time, I sympathized with them.  The neighborhood was decent, but it involved a busy two lane connector road with no cart path…and it was under construction.  The pod door was facing south, and it was 85 degrees.  Needless to say, sorting was a cooker!  Also, it was located at the back of an apartment complex in a storage area, so it was not very convenient.  While the cart was fast like CDE’s, it had a major issue getting started.  Every time I pushed on the gas to take off, it would squeal for 10 seconds before the engine would start and I could begin to move.  That cut into my time a lot.  I informed the terminal and they sent a driver out to take some of the work off my hands, but there wasn’t any way of fixing the cart yet that day.  To be fair, if the cart would have worked well and the connector road had been fully opened, the route would have been somewhat decent.  I even stopped for a minute to compliment one of the homeowners on her landscaping, which she was busy draping Christmas light on.  After all, I was getting paid to ride around on a golf cart. 🙂  As far as all the folks quitting; I guess they would rather receive packages than deliver them!

On Wednesday, the terminal texted me before work and asked me to start at BCD, then head over to ABC.  10 minutes later, they switched me from BCD to a new route, EFG.  This route could be best described as ‘funky…without the beach’.  Luckily, I was still at home, so I printed a map.  I got there and saw I only had 45 stops…which for a weekday, was very light.  I sorted the pod, loaded the first run and took off.  Two stops into the run, my trainer called and said they had a glut of drivers that day, and that I needed to take the cart back to the pod and let someone else complete it.  So that is what I did.  I went to my ABC pod and completed that in my normal amount of time and called it a day.  Of course, my rate of packages was really low for the amount of time I was clocked in, so I was called on it by the afternoon dispatch.  I explained what happened, and that whoever was fortunate enough to run EFG, probably had a great rate, as I had completely sorted it for them.  Once dispatch realized what had happened, she breathed a sigh of relief.  🙂

snoopy

Since then, there has been enough drivers to cover all the routes.  The driver at AB-2 and me have been doing our trade-offs, but that’s been it.  I get to enjoy the Christmas decorations on the ABC route and….

sandhill

…the wildlife!  These two Sandhill cranes were standing a few feet from where I needed to walk, so I calmly talked to them and they let me pass by.  🙂

A few other things I wanted to mention:

amazon box

Amazon boxes hold up extremely well, while…

target

…a particular competitor’s boxes do not.  I see it time and again.  The competitor uses much lower quality cardboard and tape.  Also, delivering packages is a dirty job.  By the time those pretty boxes come from the packers at Amazon and make their way to Florida, they’ve picked up a fair amount of dirt, which transfers to me and my clothes.  In addition, some of these boxes are quite heavy.  I delivered a Schwinn Airdyne and a Total Gym, both of which were too heavy to lift.  I slid them to the edge of the pod and tipped them into my trailer, then reversed the process at the home.  My hands and low back definitely let me know they are hurting after a day’s worth of deliveries.

So there you have a rough idea of what’s involved in my fun little job with UPS.  Will I do it again?  Most definitely.  Any job I’ve ever done has had its pitfalls, and this one has had a few of its own.  But the people I am working with are dedicated and very nice, and like I said two posts ago, the people receiving the parcels are happy to see me at their door.  That makes for a very fun day, indeed.  🙂

ups

 

 

 

 

Life at the Speed of Prime

“You want it when???”

you

Back in the 1970’s, this jewel of a cartoon began appearing in workplaces all over the world. As lead times have decreased since then, many people have looked at this drawing at their work stations and smiled, after customers placed unrealistic delivery dates for them to meet. In my management career with a hotel furniture manufacturer, I’ve felt the stress of demanding customers pushing me to get them their product quickly. In turn, my vendors and our manufacturing team had that pressure transferred from my shoulders to theirs. I’m sure many of them hung up the phone, looked at this image and laughed at me.

Back in those days, my world view was focused between our company’s vendors, workers, and customers from my desk in Holland, Michigan. Sure, I’d think about how my demands affected their personal lives, but the constant pressure on me never allowed me to look much further than that. Retirement to lives as fulltime RVers has expanded Diana’s and my views to help us understand the bigger picture of how our world is speeding up. Two post-retirement jobs in particular have really driven that point home: packing boxes for Amazon and delivering packages for UPS.

When the two of us first walked into Amazon’s fulfillment center in Campbellsville, Kentucky last year, I literally had to fight back tears of joy. To totally understand why that is, you have to go back to my upbringing in the neighborhood that surrounds the Ford Rouge plant in suburban Detroit. I was one of the fortunate few who took the old tour of the facility in which I saw the iron ore being unloaded from a ship at one end of the plant and a finished Mustang being driven off the line at the other end. That was a pivotal day in my life in which I saw what an efficient process could do in getting product to the consumer quicker. I would spend my career striving to streamline everything I did, often keeping Henry Ford’s beloved Rouge complex in the back of my mind. When we toured Amazon during our orientation, everything I dreamed of achieving…and more…was happening before our eyes! Orders that hadn’t even been placed yet when we ate breakfast, were being packaged and sent to waiting trucks before we sat down to eat our lunches. The concept that is Amazon Prime…where an item ordered online will be delivered in two days…had become our daily duty.  Clearly, Jeff Bezos & Company had built upon Mr. Ford’s dream and had polished it to such a model of efficiency that even Henry would be awestruck.

Fast forward to this holiday season and my job delivering packages for UPS. I’m seeing how the Amazon Prime culture is affecting the shipping business. Melbourne’s little UPS distribution center…while quiet most of the year…sees not only a huge population increase as the snowbirds arrive in town, but also in the amount of items those people are buying online during the holidays. FedEx and the US Postal Service sees the same thing. Imagine trying to run a business within those parameters. On a system-wide scale, more airplanes and semis are needed this time of year…not to mention the increases needed at the local level. While I haven’t seen it with the other shippers, the seasonal golf carts is how UPS has addressed the onslaught of Christmas deliveries. Evidently, they use them throughout the U.S. in places where snow isn’t an issue. For the price of a golf cart, trailer, safety vest, gasoline, smartphone, temporary driver’s wages and a rental pod, they can cover a residential area of a half square mile or more. Also factor in the hiring, training and supervision of the temporary employees. For trainers/supervisors, they are using senior and retired drivers to fill those positions. For hiring, they are advertising on indeed.com and using county employment agencies to physically handle the amount of people applying for these jobs. All of these resources are tangible and can be relied upon year after year. For a worker like me looking to pick up some extra cash, the job is a good deal. And for a young person wanting a career, its an outstanding opportunity to get a foot in the door.

Change is happening in places other than the shipping industry, because of Amazon.  Since Prime was introduced in 2005, retailers have either closed their doors or adapted to the change.  Malls stand empty across the country, as do many big box stores.  Walmart has accepted the challenge online by offering free two day shipping without the subscription fee that Amazon charges for Prime.  Target, Kohls and many other brick-and-mortar retailers are also stepping up their online presence.  They have to in order to survive.  Groceries will no doubt be next, with Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods.  What comes next is anybody’s guess; it could be a pharmacy retailer, a home improvement chain or any number of things.

I have faith that solutions will be found for companies like UPS to adapt to life at the speed of Prime. Being able to observe them pull it off fascinates me to no end. I look forward to see the next big innovation and the changes it will bring to our world.

What ways have you seen that Amazon Prime has changed your world?


Search and shop our exploRVistas’ Amazon link by clicking HERE !  


explorRVistas is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon .com. Shopping through our link does not add anything to your cost, but it does help support this blog. Thank you for shopping through exploRVistas!

Happy Trails! Until We Meet Again, Oregon!

Labor Day officially ends our time in Oregon, as our work volunteering for the state parks is complete.  This summer has exceeded our wildest dreams!  Coming in, we weren’t totally sure what to expect…we just knew it would be new and challenging.  When we finished up as interpretive hosts at Heceta Head Lighthouse at the end of June, we headed east to Prineville Reservoir State Park and our two month stint as interpretive hosts here.  We knew that they had an amplitheater, a big telescope, a lake, and that they were in a high desert climate.  Looking at Google Maps failed to reveal the topography, but it did show a whole lot of brown. We had heard from others that the town of Prineville didn’t have much to offer, and that was going to be our anchor for food, gas, and the like.  Redmond and Bend were farther away, but still close enough to get to on our days off…and they have every service imaginable.  At the park, the manager who hired us was promoted and moved to a new location, so we weren’t clear as to what our position entailed.  As you can see, there was a fair amount of uncertainty for us as to what we would find here in Central Oregon.

Once we crossed the Cascades and dropped into Sisters, the air dried out and the landscape changed.  The area around Redmond was somewhat flat, and there were a fair amount of sagebrush and juniper trees.  Heading into Prineville, we decided to stop at the Ochoco Wayside to use the facilities in our rig.

Wow!  The town of Prineville spread out before us in a giant basin.  We would later find out that the lowland is actually a giant 25 mile wide caldera from an long-extinct volcano.  The town is home to Les Schwab Tire Centers, Facebook’s first data center, and a large Apple data center.  Still, the town is a laid back western community, with the school mascot being the Cowboys.  Beyond the city, the Ochoco Mountains stretched as far as the eye could see.  Google Maps didn’t show that!

Driving 17 miles southeast of town, we came to Prineville Reservoir State Park.  What we thought was going to be a dusty campground was actually quite green.

What a delightful campsite!  Before too long, the park’s interpretive ranger, Mariah, came springing down the hill from her office and introduced herself.  She was very enthusiastic and fun, and we were pretty sure by her greeting that this was going to be a good experience. 

Well, the experience has been outstanding.  😊 Mariah is an absolute hoot…and not just because she thinks owls are “super cool”.  We have learned a lot of new things from her about birds, trees, fish, mammals, snakes, rocks….the list goes on and on.  That snake we were helping cross the road is a bull snake; non-venomous.  

She’s brought in several guest speakers, representatives from Search & Rescue, Wildland Firefighters, Crooked River Watershed Council, and an astronomer from Oregon Observatory.  As you can see, she’s always available to be example. 🙂

She even had the Redmond Smoke Jumpers visit a couple of times.  Here she is in her gear, ready to jump! Take note of the fact that it was over 100 degrees when this photo was taken! 

We had the pleasure of running the stargazing program, and using the park’s 16″ telescope.  The campers really enjoyed seeing Saturn, Jupiter, the Moon, Andromeda Galaxy, and Ring Nebula…and we enjoyed hearing their reactions.

The new park manager, Mike, has been extremely supportive and helpful. The park staff, including our supervising ranger Nate, has been fantastic to work with.  We are definitely going to miss them.

And what about Prineville itself?  Well it tuned out to be just super.  We used the library many times ($15 got us a three month membership!), we shopped at Ray’s Supermarket almost exclusively, fueled up at Union 76, ate at the Sandwich Factory and Crooked River Brewery several times, and visited the Bowman Museum…one of the coolest little community museums we’ve ever seen.

We found the brand new Express Eco Laundromat, which was amazing.  Turns out they have them all over Oregon.  Clean laundromats are hard to find; be sure to take note, fellow full time RVers.

We were also able to represent the state parks at the Crook County Fair, which allowed us to interact with the community even more.  There are a lot of good, hard working people in Central Oregon, and it was fun to be a part of their neighborhood for a few months. 😊

We also had visits from Rick, Bob & Kathrun, and…

…we finally were able to meet up with John and Pam from Oh the Places They Go when our paths converged in Bend!  😊

Where does exploRVistas head next?  Well, we are hooking up and heading east across the northern states towards Michigan to see family, friends, and our doctors.  From there, we mosey south to winter in Florida.   We plan on taking our time along the entire route, so be sure to follow us to see what we find along the way! 
———-

Smokejumper: A Memoir by One of America’s Most Select Airborne Firefighters and other cool stuff on our exploRVistas Amazon link by clicking HERE.

———-

Prineville Reservoir State Park

As stated in our previous post, we are currently the interpretive hosts at Prineville Reservoir State Park, 17 miles south of Prineville, Oregon.  This is a high desert climate, with sage and juniper dominating the land.  Afternoons can get blazing hot and nights chilly, and the humidity is next to nothing. The Crooked River was contained by the Bowman Dam in the late 1950’s to create a 3000 acre lake that sits 3200 feet above sea level.  Quite a difference from our last location on the Pacific coast!

Our campsite is one of the nicest host sites we have ever seen.  We sit at the highest point in the tent loop, and we have a view of the lake from our patio.  The juniper trees provide us with plenty of shade most of the day, so the 100+ degree mid-day temperatures are not an issue.  

The Eagle’s Nest Amplitheater and Discovery Center complex is one of the two areas of the park where we help out.

We take care of a few critters in the Discovery Center, including a smallmouth bass, a gopher snake, and two fence lizards…one of which is seen here.

We assist the Interpretive Ranger Mariah with her educational programs.  She is enthusiastic and enjoys sharing her wealth of knowledge about Oregon’s natural resources.  It’s fun to watch her interact with park visitors!

Diana is enjoying helping with the park’s Junior Ranger program.  Here she is administering the oath to a new group of Junior Rangers!

We also run the star gazing programs at the observatory next to the beach.

This is the park’s 16″ deep space telescope.  It resembles a circus cannon!  We can easily see the bands on Jupiter with this.  We had 62 people attend a sky viewing on Saturday night!

We also have a 6″ Orion tracking telescope at our disposal.  We are going to be learning how to use the tracking feature sometime this week.

We’ve also met a lot of new people and learned a lot of new things!

Here we are with a woodland firefighter and Smokey Bear!  We’ve also met a pair of search and rescue specialists and we are going to go on a hike with a geologist this weekend.  

All in all, it promises to be a great couple of months here in Central Oregon!  Stay tuned to see what new vistas we find to explore!

———-

Smokey Bear gear and other great things on Amazon!
———-

explorRVistas is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon .com. Shopping through our link does not add anything to your cost, but it does help support this blog. Thank you for shopping through exploRVistas!

 

A Memorable Month at Heceta Head

June 29th brought an end to our time on the Oregon coast and Heceta Head Lighthouse.  Never in our wildest dreams did we expect our time there to be as great as it was!  To give our personal history of this lighthouse, we have to go back to 1996. We were camped in Florence at the time, and Diana saw a flyer on a bulliten board in a grocery store for a special night tour of the beacon being offered by a graduate student that same night.  We took the tour, walking up the 1/2 mile path with flashlights in the fog to the building.  We all climbed the tower and when we came back down, the fog had lifted.  We could see the beams pinwheel 21 miles out to the horizon.  Having worked so hard for the previous 4 years to get Old Mackinac Point in Michigan reopened (which was still a long 8 years in the future), the sight of a working first order lens moved me to tears.  Yes, this job this summer meant a lot to us.

Right off the bat after our arrival on May 24, things clicked.  As I was setting up camp, a fellow host named Rick stopped by with his dog.  I caught that his name was Rick and that he was from Wisconsin…and that his dog’s name was Maxine.  I was a tad preoccupied, so it never clicked with me that I had seen his face before.  He thought he recognized me also, but didn’t mention it at the time.  As I tell this, keep in mind that none of us had cell or data signals at the campground.  Our mutual friend Tracy figured it out from her campground in northern Oregon and sent us both texts, but neither of us got them until we were in town the next day!  It turns out that Rick had attended the spring 2014 RV-Dreams rally and we had attended the fall rally later that year.  I had put in a friend request to him on Facebook a month before, as I had seen that we had 11 friends in common.  My first thought upon seeing that was ‘I need to get to know this guy’.  Well, as luck would have it, we now know him very well and are proud to call him a very good friend!

One of the benefits of Rick and us coming in before Memorial Day is that we got to meet the previous month’s hosts.

As you can see, we all hit it off right away.  😊. Thanks to Cary and Rick for this photo!  Five of the people in this image, including us, stayed on through June.  Not all of us were interpretive hosts at the lighthouse; some were campground hosts at Carl Washburne State Park.  Michael (in the blue hat) volunteered for U.S. Fish and Wildlife, using a scope and binoculars at the lighthouse to show visitors the various wildlife along the shore.

Along came June…and with it came several new folks.  Rick, Cary and Michael stayed on, and we added John & Linda as camp hosts, along with Neil, Beverly, and Lisa as lighthouse hosts.  A special shout out to the wonderful rangers at Washburne…especially Ben and Deb, as we worked closest with them. We really had fun with this crew!

We also were visited by our friends Jodee and Bill, who were camped in Florence for a few weeks.

Man, it was good to see them again! Here we are at dinner in Florence with (right to left) Rick, Jodee, Bill and (under the table) Tessa.  We had a couple of meals with them, including a fabulous lunch at a place Jodee suggested, Maple Street Grille in Florence. They also came up to Heceta and took one of my lighthouse tours.  Jodee, Bill and Fluffy Dog are simply wonderful to be with.  😀

We also spent a few days with our friends Tracy and Lee when they came to visit!

Here we are on a visit to the beach at Washburne.

And here is Tracy signing Rick’s copy of her new book, RV Living Cookbook.  We had bought the Kindle version, so we couldn’t get ours signed!

The last evening they were here, we all made the trek up to the lighthouse at night.  It is darn near impossible to photograph the beams of light coming from the sentinel, but it was pure magic to see Heceta’s lens doing its job again.  It took me right back to 1996.  Lee commented that it was one of the coolest thing he had seen since going on the road!  We had such a marvelous time with Tracy and Lee, and we plan on seeing them again this summer!

Beyond our friends and coworkers, we also became familiar with the towns of Yachats and Florence.  Not having phone or Internet at Washburne, we ended up using the libraries in both places….especially Florence.  We purchased a three month pass to their branch of the Siuslaw Library System for $15, which includes access to their online books.  We also were frequent visitors to the local Fred Meyer, to a point that we knew where most things were in the store.  We really enjoy this part of our lifestyle, as we get to experience how others live, whether good or bad.  We would rate life on the Oregon coast as very good, although the dampness and cloudiness would wear on us over a longer period.  Still, we thoroughly enjoyed our time there and we are glad we did it!

On our last day of work, we had one of the visitor’s snap this photo of Lisa, Rick and us.  We sure are going to miss working with them! With June in the books, we have now moved east across the Cascade Mountains to Prineville Reservoir State Park near Prineville, Oregon. As far as climate goes, we’ve done a 180 degree turn.  Temperatures have been near or just over 100 degrees, and it is sunny and dry!  We are working here as interpretive hosts, helping the interpretive ranger with her duties. This includes assisting with the Junior Ranger Program and the observatory.  The park is home to some of Oregon’s darkest skies, and we have a 16″ and 6″ set of telescopes at our disposal.  Talk about exploring vistas!   We will be here through Labor Day, so that puts us here through the total eclipse.  Be sure to stay tuned for more on that…it should be fun!  🌙

———-

A link to our favorite litter stick from the lighthouse, plus other amazing things on Amazon!
———-

explorRVistas is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon .com. Shopping through our link does not add anything to your cost, but it does help support this blog. Thank you for shopping through exploRVistas!
 

Heceta Head Lighthouse

As stated in our last post, we are spending the month of June volunteering for Oregon State Parks as interpretive hosts at Heceta Head Lighthouse.  Located between Florence and Yachats, this sentinel has been guiding mariners since it was first lit on March 30, 1894. 

 

Standing at just 56 feet high, the building’s stature could be considered somewhat short. 

It is the commanding position on the headland that gives the lighthouse the height it needs to send its beam out 21 miles to sea.  The curvature of the earth is the only thing that limits it from projecting further. The focal plane of the bullseye on the lens above mean (average) sea level is a whopping 210 feet!

Back in 1775, a Portuguese explorer named Don Bruno de Heceta was sent by Spain on a mission to chart the waters from San Diego north to the Arctic Circle.  When he reached the waters off of the headland where the lighthouse sits today, he noticed that there was a large shallow area several miles from the shore.  That ridge of seabed became known over time as Heceta Bank, and is actually a raised area on the edge of the North American Plate.  Subsequently, the headland itself became known as Heceta Head.

Fast forward 75 years to the Westward Expansion and the California Gold Rush.  With the surge in ship traffic up and down the coast, there was a need for reliable navigational aids.  The U.S. Lighthouse Service received congressional appropriations for lighthouses in California and Washington, but it took longer to fill in the dark voids along the Oregon shore.  The last area to be lit was from present day Newport down to Winchester Bay.  Three locations were chosen:  Yaquina Head Light at Newport, Umpqua River Light at Winchester Bay and Heceta Head Light, halfway between the other two. Construction on Heceta Head began in 1892.  Considering the rocky coast and the fact there was only a rough wagon road over the headlands to the site, the project was a formidable challenge.  Some of the materials were brought in by ship and unloaded into smaller surf boats and rowed ashore.  Others were brought around the headlands to the south at low tide on calm days.  Still others were brought over the wagon road. Considering those challenges, it is quite amazing to note that the lighthouse, the two oil houses, the keepers house and the assistant keepers duplex were all completed by 1894.  On March 30 of that year, the first keeper lit the kerosene lamp in the first order Fresnel lens and Heceta Head Lighthouse was officially in service.

The Fresnel lens that was used at the lighthouse was made by Chance Brothers in England.  Most lighthouse lenses in the United States came from France and were made out of silica based glass, which had a greenish tint to it.  Chance used a sulpher based glass which gave the optic a slight yellowish hue.  It was found that the Chance Brothers lenses actually had a higher candlepower, due to that color difference. At the time that Heceta Head used a kerosene lamp, the output of the lens was rated at 80,000 candlepower.  

The current 1000 watt bulb increases the output to 2.5 million candlepower, a full 500,000 units brighter than a comparable silica glass lens!  As a result, Heceta’s light is the brightest on the west coast.

When the lighthouse was first opened, the 4000 pound lens rotated one revolution every 8 minutes.  There are 8 separate panels of prisms, each radiating from a bullseye in the center of each panel.  As each bullseye would align between the light source and the mariner’s eyes, the entire panel would flash.  As a result, Heceta’s signature was one white flash every minute.  Each lighthouse has its own unique signature, so mariners are able to tell where they are at by timing the flashes.  When Heceta changed from a hand wound clockwork mechanism to an electric motor, the lens speed was increased to one flash every 10 seconds.

Touching on the original clockwork at the lighthouse, it was powered by a 200 pound weight that would descend from the lens to the watchroom floor.  That took 39 minutes to go that distance, and resulted in the keepers having to constantly climb the steps and rewind the mechanism.  A request was made to the Lighthouse Service for permission to cut holes in the watchroom, service room and first landing floors, so the weight could descend to the base of the tower.  Permission was granted and the modification was completed, which increased the winding interval to 4 hours. 

There were three keepers that worked rotating shifts to maintain the light at Heceta Head.  Their responsibilities included filling the lantern with kerosene oil, winding the mechanism, polishing the lens, painting and whitewashing the buildings and general cleaning and upkeep of the lightstation. Things began to change in 1932 when the Oregon Coast Highway was built, which passed within yards of the station.  Electricity came on the heels of the road in 1934, and the oil-fired lantern was replaced by an electric light bulb.  That eliminated the soot on the lens from the kerosene, which resulted in less cleaning. Following that, the clockwork was removed and replaced with an electric motor.  With the decreased workload, the Lighthouse Service eventually reduced the quantity of keepers from three to two.  The head keeper was moved into one half of the assistant keepers duplex. The main keepers home was sold for $10 with the stipulation that the buyer must dismantle and remove it.

With the onset of World War II, there were heightened concerns of Japanese attacks along the west coast.  Defenses were built all along the shore from Southern California to the Canadian border. Heceta Head became host to a bevy of Coast Guard personnel, along with what was described as several vicious guard dogs. Patrols originated from the station to the north and south.  A couple of barracks buildings had to be built where the former head keepers house was, and it was noted that perhaps they had removed the first structure a little too soon.  Once the war was over, the barracks were removed.

In 1963, the lighthouse was fully automated.  All of the windows below the lantern room were sealed over to prevent vandalism. Occasional maintenance was undertaken by the Coast Guard to change the light bulb, grease the rollers the lens rotates on and clean the windows.  In the 1960’s, the Coast Guard turned over the lighthouse to Oregon Parks and Recreation, except for the lens and one oil house.  Those were deeded to the state park at a later date.  The assistant keepers house is owned by the U.S. Forest Service and is leased as a bed and breakfast.

In 2012, a major restoration was undertaken to restore the lighthouse.  Today it stands proud on the headland shining its beam through the same lens it did 123 years ago.  Diana and I feel extremely fortunate to be able to showcase the beautiful sentinel this month, and to foster interest in the history of the location.  We have met people from all around the globe who have come to visit the beacon.  It’s that sort of curiosity and interest that ensures Heceta Head Lighthouse will still be shining brightly 123 years from now!

Redwoods and Rocky Shores 

Heading into Northern California on US-101, we were really impressed with how beautiful the region was.  The hills along the winding road soon were filled with progressively taller forests, eventually transitioning into groves of coastal redwoods.   We spent a night in Myers Flat to quickly explore the Avenue of the Giants, knowing we were going to be spending a full day at our next stop in Redwood National Park.  While checking out the visitor center at Humboldt State Park, we noticed the campground next door. 

When we walked in to take a look, we realized that it was the same place that our friends Lee and Tracy had hosted at back in 2015.

The next day, we drove up to Klamath and set up on a riverfront site at Klamath River RV Park.  We decided to do a little exploring, so we drove down towards the ocean.  One of the first things we saw was the entrance to the old US-101 bridge over the Klamath, which was washed out in 1964.  

The span featured these concrete grizzly bears on the railings, similar to the gold bears on the new span farther upriver.  Why are the bears on the new span gold?  Well it seems that back in the 1950’s, several friends were at a local bar discussing how the town needed to be spruced up.  They set out that night sweeping up the streets and washing windows on the businesses.  To top it all off, someone suggested they coat the bears on what is now the old bridge with some gold paint that he had in his shed.  When the California Department of Transportation saw them the next day, they sent workers with turpentine to remove the golden hue.  This went on back and forth several times until the state finally gave in and left the grizzlies as the townsfolk wanted them to be. 


 
When the new bridge was built, the highway department adorned the approaches with these bedazzled bruins as a tribute to the Golden Bear Club of Klamath.  😊

The other point of interest on our drive that afternoon was the old World War II era early warning radar station along the coast.

The trail down to the facility was not maintained, so we couldn’t get any closer. Disguised to look like a farmhouse and barn, the structures actually housed radar equipment, a generator, and two 50 caliber anti-aircraft guns.  This particular station is the last of 65 such stations that once were located up and down the entire coast.  If they detected any military boats or aircraft that didn’t belong, they sent out a warning. Having not heard of these defenses before, we wondered aloud, ” What sort of things like this exist today that we don’t know about?”

We drove to the national park visitor center in Crescent City the next day to get our bearings.  We had business to take care of that required good wifi, so we knew our time would be limited in the park. We made good use of the local library’s wifi, and checked out town before heading out to see the big trees.

Battery Point lighthouse sits just off the mainland.  There is a trail out to it that is accessible only at low tide.

From there, we drove up into a grove of trees northeast of town.

The height on the coastal redwoods can get quite a bit taller than sequoias, even though they aren’t as old or as big around.

Even after they’ve fallen, they are gigantic!

They are so rot resistant, large trees take root in them and grow to impressive heights before the nurse log has a chance to decay.  

After spending nearly a month exploring California, we arrived in Oregon on Tuesday, May 23rd. Our first stop was in Port Orford.  We drove out to Cape Blanco to check out the lighthouse and the westernmost point in the contiguous United States.

The wind was blowing so hard, we had trouble holding our footing!  It was incredible!

On Wednesday, we arrived at Carl G. Washburne State Park north of Florence, Oregon.

This is our campsite for the month of June, as we will be interpretive hosts just south of here at…

…Heceta Head Lighthouse!  This sentinel has held a special place in our hearts since we visited it during a special nighttime tour back in 1996. We will be giving tours until the end of June, when we will be moving on to a different adventure. Our internet is non-existent at our campsite, but we do get service in the day use and at the lighthouse. If we are slow to respond to comments, that’s why.   Please stay tuned as we explore the central Oregon coast over the next month!

Joining the Amazon CamperForce

When we decided to retire, become fulltime RVers and travel North America, we knew we would want to supplement our retirement savings on occasion.  That would be accomplished through ‘work camping’, which involves some sort of work being done in exchange for a campsite. Our jobs the past two summers at Wild Cherry provided us a free place to stay in a fabulous location for two easy days of work each week.  Many of these campgrounds offer fulltimers additional compensation after a certain number of hours to entice us rolling retirees to come and work for them.  Recognizing the work ethic this segment of society has to offer, several companies that have nothing to do with camping are jumping on this bandwagon.  One of the biggest examples of this is the online retailer, Amazon.com.

To pass along a little history, Amazon.com was founded as Cadabra, Inc in 1994 by Jeff Bezos in his garage in Bellevue, Washington.  

One of his lawyers misunderstood the name to be cadaver, so Bezos changed it to Amazon, as the Amazon River was “exotic and different.”  It’s also the biggest river in the world, just as he hoped his company would be.  Furthermore, he noted that it was at the top of the alphabet, thereby appearing at the top of an alphabetized list.  The company went online in 1995 as a book retailer (I remember that!) and eventually began selling everything from A to Z with a smile, as indicated in their logo.    

I wonder where he got that idea?

Amazon survived the dot com bubble burst and turned a profit in the fourth quarter of 2001.  The company went public with an initial public offering of stock at a price of $18 a share in 1997 (actually equal to $1.50 after three stock splits early on) and is now trading at $822 a share.  It is mind boggling to think that a person who would have invested a mere $2000 in the company in 1995 would be a millionaire today from just that one transaction!  In 22 short years, the company has over 100 billion in annual revenue (2015) and over 250,000 employees in 16 countries….and it all started in a garage.

With that kind of explosive growth, logistics come into play.  Fulfillment centers (known from here out as FC) need to be placed near airports that are serviced by shipping companies, and also near a stable workforce.  Campbellsville, Kentucky was a perfect choice, as a 1998 closing of a Fruit of the Loom textile plant left a fairly new building vacant and over 800 workers unemployed.  It was also very close to the Louisville airport (airport code SDF), also known as Worldport, United Parcel Services main hub.  The new FC in Campbellsville opened in May of 1999 and was named SDF-1…or the first FC to ship out of that airport.  Being centrally located in the United States, SDF-1 played an important role in Amazon’s success.

Amazon started offering items other than books in November of 1999.  It wasn’t long before consumer buying habits started shifting from brick-and-mortar stores to buying goods online.  In 2005, the term Cyber Monday came into existence, referring to the first workday after Black Friday, when many people sit at their desks and do their holiday shopping instead of their jobs.  The Amazon FCs started feeling the pinch, and armies of temporary employees were brought in to help with the increased workload.  In Campbellsville’s case, many were bussed in from Louisville and housed in local hotels.  As is often the case with temps, quality and attendance issues arose…and sleepy little Campbellsville was having to deal with a segment of society that tend to cause problems.  

In 2008, the FC in Coffeysville, Kansas began a pilot program to hire work campers to help with the holiday rush, known in Amazon circles as peak season. That program has since been expanded to several other FCs…including Campbellsville…and has been given the name Amazon CamperForce. The upside for the company is that the majority of these workers are retired and have a great work ethic and attendance.  The only drawback is that they tend to want to change the Amazon way of doing things, as they come from careers in which they did things differently.  That fact is stressed at orientation, saying “it’s a job, not a career”.  The company sends recruiters to RV shows around the country to recruit new workers each year.  We put our names on the list at the Tampa RV Show in January, after reading the accounts of several friends and family members who had done it in the past.  We already had ties with the company as advertisers through our Associates account (located at the bottom of each post), so we thought it would be fun to see what makes the place tick.

We arrived on October 8 to find a newly remodeled facility.  Our friends Peg and Michele who worked last year pointed out that the building is vastly improved, and is much cleaner.  The regular workers (known as Amazonians) seem genuinely happy that we are there, probably because the CamperForce can be counted on to get the job done without too much drama.  Our first morning was orientation, led by a very entertaining and informative gentleman named Kelly Calmes.  That was followed by safety school in the afternoon.  The remainder of the first week was 5 hour work days in our departments, meant to harden us for the 10 hour days that were to follow.  We were assigned to packing, which I will talk more about in a future post.  


Looking pretty good at 6:15 AM for Breast Cancer Awareness Week!

For now, I will leave it at this:  our first week went really well. We found the work, the environment and people enjoyable.  We are amazed at the process, and I kept finding myself looking back to my career in manufacturing and thinking ‘THIS is how we should have done things’.  Granted, their system is not perfect…but when you consider that almost every package they deliver is on time and correct, it’s pretty darned slick.

And it all started in a garage just a mere 22 years ago…
—————————————–

Search and shop our Amazon link by clicking here
—————————————–

explorRVistas is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon .com. Shopping through our link doesn’t add anything to your cost, but it does help support this blog. Thank you for shopping through exploRVistas!