We have been here in the high desert about three months now. Time is certainly flying by! We are half way through our season at the Circle Pines KOA in Williams, AZ already.
I want to talk about a few unusual things that we have discovered here in this beautiful place. Things like extreme weather, tumbleweeds and funky squirrels.
Northern Arizona was really not what we were expecting. Having never been to Arizona before, I figured we would be living in a desert. And true to form, much of Arizona is just that. But the towns of Williams and the Flagstaff area sit at about 7300 feet above sea level.
And that makes all the difference in the world!
At such high altitude, we often have folks showing up at the campground with altitude sickness. It takes at least three days for your body to adjust.
You also have to think about things such as adding flour to your baking recipes and the fact that water boils much slower.
But I’d have to say that the biggest thing to get used to was the quick and dramatic changes of weather that are so common here in the high desert.
When visiting the town of Sedona a few weeks ago, we took a bunch of photos of the beautiful rock formations and the gathering clouds behind them. It was in the 80’s that day. Sunny and warm.
And then we went into a restaurant to have lunch.
We came out to several inches of pea sized hail and temperatures in the 60’s! Freak storm? Hardly.
It seems that at this altitude, these types of storms are quite common.
Especially during the Monsoon season of mid July through August. Most days are sunny and temperate. Most afternoons are full of interesting surprises.
We are right in the clouds. Thunderstorms can be very dangerous. The weather here can kill those that do not properly respect it.
When we originally decided that we wanted to become full time RVers, we weren’t exactly sure how to go about it financially. You see, we were both working for huge corporations in Atlanta, making good money, living in a big house with lots of big bills.
We knew what we wanted to do, but it looked like it would take years of saving to get there.
Then one day I ran across information on work camping on the internet. Apparently, you could work for a campground, making an hourly wage and even get a free spot to stay while you are there! It seemed like the answer.
With the income from my websites, and the campground supplying a spot to stay and spending money too, it made it possible for our dreams to come true even earlier than we expected.
We sold our home and most everything we owned last April and hit the road in our RV.
Our expenses at the start included a RV payment, health insurance, vehicle insurance, phone/internet bill, approximately $500 per month in overhead for my websites, and of course food and spending money.
We have been on the road for nearly a year and a half now, and we are successfully living on the income from my websites and the income from the campgrounds that we have worked at.
So, let’s take a look at this phenomenon called work camping.
As an insider, I would love to share with you some of the truths about this way to make a living.
As full time campers and work campers, we have come to the conclusion that for the most part, other campers are awesome! We all have so much in common. We love the outdoors, we enjoy cooking on the grill, we enjoy the stars at night.
But there is always one bad apple in the barrel. Isn’t there?
The problem is that most campgrounds this time of year become very full. A larger campground such as the one we worked in St. Petersburg, Florida has nearly 500 campsites.
Filled to capacity, you are looking at the very least, 1000 people crammed into one campground! St. Petersburg KOA was full to capacity the entire winter season that we were there.
The closer people camp together, the grouchier they become. It’s just a fact.
That is why campgrounds have the need to post rules. Usually you will receive a pamphlet of rules along with a map of the campground upon arrival. Some of those rules may seem a tad restrictive, but I have to tell you that there is a reason for every one of them.
As campground workers, we are more than aware of some of the biggest pet peeves of those that camp around us. Here is our list of the top 10 complaints that we receive at the campground and how to avoid being the bad apple.
Top Ten Rules of Campground Etiquette
10. Quiet time is not just a suggestion
Many of the campgrounds that we have worked at post quiet time as 10:00 PM at night until 7:00 AM. Why? Well, some folks want to sleep at night. Common courtesy is at play here.
Yes, we are all on vacation, but do respect your neighbors and keep the noise down after 10:00 PM. Most campgrounds try to enforce quiet time as best as possible, but we cannot be at all places at all times.
We are finally back on the road, heading to our summer destination, Williams, AZ. I wanted to talk a bit about some of the things that have been going on behind the scenes. Traveling with animals is a joy, but keeping them healthy while doing so can sometimes be a challenge.
I firmly believe that if we hadn’t been traveling that I would not have noticed Ralph’s symptoms so quickly.
You see, one of the things about the RV lifestyle is that we are all well aware of each other’s daily routines. Walking the dogs three times a day, along with extra potty breaks here and there had become routine after a year on the road.
We knew what was normal.
And then suddenly, Ralph couldn’t hold it any more. He was dribbling everywhere. He had to go every 2 hours, day or night. We were alarmed at the change.
At the time, we were in St. Petersburg, FL, so we inquired about a good vet in the area and then took him for an exam.
He was diagnosed with bladder stones and Diabetes. They preformed emergency surgery to remove the stones blocking his urethra and those in his bladder.
After recovery, they put him on insulin. Two shots a day. And I’m the chosen one to give them to him. Me. The person who has never given a shot before.
But I drew short straw because neither has Dave and he doesn’t do poop, yak, or apparently shots either.
The vet says it’s easy! (As he pokes Ralph with a needle numerous times while Ralph just sits there looking like he’s thinking about his next milk bone).
So that evening, with our new supply of syringes and insulin, I made my first attempt at giving Ralph his shot. Dave held him, I grabbed a fold of skin and injected him.
Ralph very nearly bit Dave.
OMG. I don’t think we can do this! I turned into a blubbering idiot, while Ralph hid under the table. I didn’t want my dog to be afraid of me. But twice a day for the rest of his life, I was going to have to do this.
I called my oldest daughter, who just happens to draw blood for a living. She talked me through how to hold the needle and give the shot quickly.
It would take some practice. Lots of practice.
I’m a night owl, and can go back to sleep in a heartbeat, so I ended up with night shift duties. Ralph still was dribbling, was drinking tons of water, and losing weight.
Consistently for 6 weeks, Ralph had to go out every two hours. He was now down nearly 5 pounds. His ribs were showing. Despite increasing the insulin dosage about every week under the vet’s direction, Ralph’s health was deteriorating.
I’m currently juggling three websites, and this one seems to suffer a bit. My goal (hopefully soon) is to post twice a week on here. Currently, I’m really not doing well at that!
When we first hit the road, I thought I’d have tons of time to write. I mean, I quit a full time job that included a hour and a half commute each way. I should have tons of time, right? But we are work camping right now to help supplement our income. That requires at least 30 hours a week working for the campground for an hourly wage plus campsite.
My other websites, Suzy’s Sitcom and Daily Holiday Blog have taken off this year and I’m trying to keep up with them. Hopefully very soon we will not need the supplemental income provided by work camping. Not that I dislike working at the campgrounds, but I cannot somehow make more hours in my day!
Dave and our friend Judy on a rainy KOA day…
In the meantime, life goes on at the campground! We are currently in St. Petersburg, Florida for the winter, parked amongst the snowbirds from Canada and northern US. We will be here two more months and then will be moving onto the Grand Canyon in Arizona for the summer.
My sister came to town this past week to spend a few days with us. Here is a short video that I put together from her visit!
The winds were pretty strong and it felt like winter finally arrived in Florida. But we had tons of fun in spite of the the windy weather. We look forward to visiting with her again when she comes to Arizona!
Dave needs a haircut pretty badly. After taking a photo of him with his locks blowing in the wind, I couldn’t help myself. I had to make a romance novel cover out of it.
And then post it on Facebook.
Because that is what I do.
By the way, Buffy Dickenson is my make-believe stripper name. (Just put together the name of your first pet and the street you grew up on).
A new year. If there was one word that best describes the year 2015 for us, it would be “change”. It was definitely a year of change. We have seen so many beautiful things this year, made lots of great new friends, and are both so much healthier now than we have been in years.
A year of change.
Christmas didn’t involve the normal family get togethers this year. It was a little strange celebrating the holidays in 90 degree weather.
Yes, record highs! Florida was supposed to be temperate this time of year. Dave calls it Tropical. I call it False Advertising.
But with new lives and new places come new traditions. We celebrated with a beach picnic with our friends from Bar Harbor, Rick and Judy.
New Year resolutions? Well, let’s just say that my main resolution this year is to continue to live freely. To take some advice from my dog Ralph who insists that New Years resolutions need to be simple.
Be nice to nice people.
Enjoy life, travel, go on an adventure.
Rather than focus on resolutions, I am focusing on one word this year. From the website, One Word 365,
One word you can focus on every day, all year long… One word that sums up who you want to be or how you want to live.
It will take intentionality and commitment, but if you let it, your one word will shape not only your year, but also you. It will become the compass that directs your decisions and guides your steps.
So let’s consider that word while I tell you about our holiday.
How do you celebrate Christmas when you are miles from your relatives and currently living in neverending sauna?
You snag your good friends and head to the beach for a picnic! Fort De Soto, to be exact.
Fort De Soto Park is one of my favorite places in the St. Pete area. It is located on five offshore keys, or islands just south of the city. Historically, the islands were used for military fortifications. There are two piers, beaches, picnic areas, hiking trails, bicycling trails, kayak trail, and even a ferry to Egmont Key State Park!
This is Rick and Judy! We met them while working in Bar Harbor, Maine. Winter jobs are hard to get in the camping industry. You see, Florida is in pretty high demand in the winter because much of the campgrounds in cooler areas are closed for the winter.
This means that you might very well run across folks that you worked with in other areas of the country if you are wintering in Florida. Rick and Judy, and one other couple that we worked with in Maine, are working with us here in St. Petersburg.
It’s very nice to have friends in the area to celebrate with.
And do a bit of beach combing with.
Rick and Judy will be heading to the northwest in the spring, and we will be headed to Arizona. We will definitely miss them. The camping world is a small place, so we just may end up working together again in the future.
Change is becoming a regular occurrence.
Oh, and speaking of change, guess who stayed up past midnight for the first time in 30 years?
We have some plans for 2016. We will be here until March, and then will be moving onto Arizona for the summer. The fall is still a mystery. But that is half the fun.
That word for 2016? Let’s go with “Adventure”. And we will see where that takes us.
We have been settled in St. Petersburg, Florida for about a month now. I am still behind on posting, but wanted to take some time to catch you up on our travels. In the past month we have visited our favorite place, Tybee Island, GA, attended my daughter’s wedding in Atlanta, and even endured some RV problems.
I have to tell you that I miss the snow. As pretty as Florida is, I would prefer to be trekking through several feet of pure white snow. But the RV and Dave both would like to have a warmer winter.
We arrived to 95 degree weather with nearly 100% humidity. Looks like the RV and Dave both got their wish.
Our new spot is quite beautiful and the campground is like a little resort, so I really do not have a lot to complain about. They tucked us in with the snowbirds who all seem very nice. And we even have grass!
Ralph and Faith like it too. They both have lots of things to keep their interest. In fact, there are so many lizards running around here that it is hard to get Ralph to take a poop without getting distracted.
And Faith has an issue with herons (those tall legged white birds with the long necks), so there is always plenty of excitement when I take them outside.
We are working at the campground here. I am in the office and Dave is working on the grounds. And…we are getting the place spiffied up for Christmas!
Dave put up all the blow up decorations this week, and then spent quite a bit of time freaking Ralph out over this outhouse Santa.
Ralph is not a fan of Santas exiting an outhouse. Just saying.
The streets are decorated too! What do you do when there are no fir trees around?
We felt the need to decorate the coach too. Since we had no nearby fir trees to decorate, Dave and I picked out a tiny tree at a local Christmas tree stand.
Charlie Brown would be proud.
Our tree turned out great! We ended up with just enough room in the living room for it. The little table is actually my printer box covered in blankets. (I’m the master of multi- purpose!)
Oh. Did I mention there is a beach nearby? It is 2.5 miles from the campground to Madeira Beach. There will be plenty of beach photos in the next few months.
We have yet to located any great eating places to share with you, but I’m sure we will have a top 10 list before we leave the area.
Since ice cream is my second hobby, I do feel the need to mention this fun soft serve stand, Twistee Treat. There are actually a few of them in the area, all shaped like giant ice cream cones.
And apparently, I have my new challenge for this leg of the trip. Trying each and everyone of those awesome flavors!
Oh, and by the way. That is a medium size cone there. Can’t even imagine what the large one might look like. I think I’m going to like Florida.
On the beach there are snowmen. This will probably be as close as I get to snow this winter. I’ll take what I can get.
And the sunsets here are beautiful too. Christmas in Florida can be quite beautiful!
If you squint a bit, that white sand could be snow. Right?
It is so hard to accurately describe how beautiful it is here in Bar Harbor, Maine. Over the past five and a half months, I’ve done my best to document some of the sights and sounds of the area. We have made so many wonderful friends here at the Bar Harbor KOA and will miss every one of them.
Here is a compilation of some of the highlights of our time here along with my friends and coworkers who made the time that much more enjoyable.
We get asked a lot about what it is like living full time in a RV. I talk about how much fun our adventure has been so far, and really it has. It is so exciting to enjoy the sights and sounds of this beautiful country. Our new lifestyle has resulted in better health for both of us, much less stress, and excitement around every corner.
But in an effort to keep things real for those of you that might be considering this particular lifestyle, Dave and I wanted to point out a few things that are not so great about full time RV living.
Granted, we have only been full timers since April of this year, and I imagine in another year, our priorities may be different and our list of things we love and do not love might change. But for right now, here is our top 8 things that we do not love about RV living:
The Poop Issue
When living in a RV, one has to deal with poop on a much more personal level. Both our poop and the dogs poop. While the bathroom in our RV is definitely several steps above a port-a-potty, I have to admit that it is still a toilet situated over a poop holding tank.
A poop holding tank that is full of…well… poop.
We have two holding tanks. The gray water tank holds leftover dishwater, shower water, etc . The black water tank has the job of holding the poop. Every few days, Dave flushes out the black water tank with water from the gray water tank. He then adds a bit of water and a tank treatment which helps keep odors at bay and breaks down things.
In general, the bathroom smells fine. But dealing with poop is much more labor intensive than simply flushing a toilet.
This is coming from someone who goes on eight hour plane flights and never uses the bathroom once due to the fear of accidentally getting locked in there with all that blue water and the potential of turbulence. Heck, I can’t even use the public restrooms without having to run some water in the background!
The hubby says, “Then just use the woods!” But I pee on my socks every time…
Too much information? Ha! Sorry…
Walking the dogs
While we are talking about poop, we cannot leave out the dogs. I have to say that I do miss the days when we could just put the dogs out the back door and let them do their business.
Granted, walking the dogs is good for all of us. But they do need walked several times a day, rain or shine. Waking up in the morning with rain pelting the roof and knowing that I have to go out in the pouring rain and stand while Ralph takes ten minutes deciding what area he would like to pee in definitely puts a damper on my morning.
Unlike Faith, Ralph took a while to get comfortable going to the bathroom on the leash. And to this day, he has to circle an area for a while before he finds the perfect spot.
And whatever you do, do not watch him. He will quit in mid-poop. And then we will have to start all over again!
Oh, and then there is the fun bit about carrying fresh warm poop bags to the dumpster.
Yeah, I knew about this going in. Working full time at the campground, running several websites and crafting in between, leaves me not so much time to do those things I really do not like doing in the first place. As a perpetual procrastinator, I tend to leave dishes until the last possible moment. Resulting in emergency dish washing in order to get dinner on the table.
Problems with the RV
Currently, the steps to the front door go up on their own accord. Which could be a potential issue when we are ready to go to the next campsite, and they choose not to go up that day.
Two televisions turn them selves on occasionally without our help- usually coinciding with the slamming of the front door.
We called out the local repair guy and both the steps and the televisions worked seamlessly. Of course!
The awning goes in on its own. Granted, it has a sensor that will pull it in when it gets windy. Apparently, it’s definition of wind is different than ours and if we do not shut the motor off, it rolls itself in quite dramatically while we are trying to sit in the shade with our iced tea.
Last week, I went to take a shower and we had no hot water. The electric hot water heater decided not to work. We are fortunate to have a gas alternative and switched to that. When we called the RV repair guy out, the electric heater started right up.
He thinks we are crazy.
Mosquitos and other pests
Uggghhh! In this part of the country, mosquitos are pretty darn plentiful. And much to my dismay, they absolutely love me. The scent of mosquito repellant is now my new perfume.
While working at the front counter the other day, an errant mosquito flew in and bit me right on the nose. Much to Dave’s enjoyment, I ended up looking like Broom Hilda the rest of the evening.
Unfriendly and inconsiderate campers
There I said it. There are those that have absolutely no camping etiquette. They are the ones that park their car in the small area that you call your front yard. They take short cuts through your campsite, dropping trash and making tons of noise along the way, setting off both dogs into a noisy bark-fest. And then complain that your dogs are barking.
Tyler Kealey plays “Mama’s got a Squeeze Box” by The Who as part of his video a day challenge in 2014.
They play loud music past midnight. Sit outside playing an accordion, electric guitar, or drum set (yes, all the above has happened in the past few weeks alone!). Who the heck brings an accordion while camping? Well, somebody did last week.
Not sure what they were playing, but Dave and I both had The Who’s Moma’s Got a Squeeze Box stuck in our heads for a week.
Now you do too.
Lack of Space
Again, I knew this going in. There is not much space for crafting and I spend more time looking for my supplies than actually doing the craft. Really! I tried to be organized. I labeled many containers and stored them all over the camper. But when I am looking for one particular tool or paintbrush or fabric swatch, I spend the next hour searching all compartments until I finally run across it.
Coming up to Maine from Atlanta, we encountered lots and lots of terribly maintained roads. In a car, you do not notice them as much, but when driving a huge motorhome, each bump and ridge is magnified ten-fold. Dave said that I need to mention in particular, parts of I-85 North and the entirety of I-84.
Our coach shook so much over I-84 that when we finally reached our destination, not only was our bedroom door entirely off it’s hinges, but only one of the televisions would come on.
Unless of course, we slam the front door.
So that is our top 8 gripes for right now. I have to say that for every gripe, there are ten things we love. I mean, just check out this view. How could you not love that?
Living in a RV full time is not for everyone, that is for sure. But for us, I think it just might work!
We are smack in the middle of the busy summer season here at the Bar Harbor Oceanside KOA. With 50 to 70 check-ins a day, Dave and I have found ourselves working long hours. Granted, it will slow down in about a month, but in the meantime, our schedules are pretty busy.
We eat when we find a moment… and some meals are just plain peanut butter and jelly.
Work Kamping this time of year means dealing with crowds, tired campers, children on sugar highs, problems with guests not getting along, occasional backed up toilets, and all around craziness. I work the office and it seems that everyone shows up all at once and dealing with 10 checkins at a time, with RVs lined up as far as you can see, can be quite intimidating.
Dave and I both work hard to keep the guests happy. Sometimes it is as simple as helping their children learn how to use the rental bikes, or directing a guest to our favorite restaurant. Sometimes it is much more difficult than that. There are some folks that just won’t ever be happy. We just do our best.
Working long shifts means that I often end up working in the evenings and early morning on my websites. Of course, there are worse things than sitting by a campfire and writing on my website.
The dogs have been doing well. Of course one main thing we had to all adjust to was the fact that we have to regularly take them for walks rather than just put them in the backyard. Yep, living full time in a RV means that you are quite familiar with everyone’s daily routine.
Sometimes a little too familiar.
So I learned something new this week. Never wrap the leash around your finger. You see, when a 20 lb. Chihuahua/Pug happens to notice a squirrel in the distance and accelerates from zero to fifty in less than two seconds flat, the finger has a bit of problem keeping up with it.
I ended up with a badly dislocated finger, and torn tendons. Oh, and my wedding rings didn’t fair very well either. Someday when I can get a ring back on my finger, I’ll have a jeweler reassemble them.
Let’s just say I finally got a day off. LOL!
Work Kamping isn’t for everyone, and there is definitely a lot of work involved. But, there are good things too! Like getting off after a long tiring day and being stopped by the Lobster Guy on site who just so happens to have a couple lobster dinners ready for you!
(Ignore the dirty dishes in the photo- dirty dishes are a common occurrence during the busy season! ) LOL!
There are the times we get to enjoy a good dinner at one of the fabulous restaurants in the area with our friends and coworkers!
…trying out new and delicious meals. (Crab Cakes courtesy of The Burning Tree Restaurant in Bar Harbor).
…and the fun of exploring this beautiful area of the world!
This season at Bar Harbor KOA has been very exciting for us. It is our first taste of working at a campground. While not everything runs as smoothy as we would like, we wouldn’t trade this experience for the world.
The beautiful sights of Mount Desert Island are something we will remember always. Last week, we took a break on one of our days off and hiked one of the trails along the shoreline of Acadia National Park.
Rock Climbing? Well, maybe that is something we just pretend to do.
The vistas are amazing here. And the journey to get here is worth the effort.
We are half way through our Work Kamping experience here and will be moving on in October to our next destination. Where that is, we currently do not know.