Entertainment at Patrick AFB

Well, the past week here has been entertaining, although not very happy for a couple of people. Late last week a 35 or 40 ft Class A pulled into the campground and proceeded to the office to register. After talking to the driver (husband) much later, he said he was following his wife’s instructions, which turned out to be a big mistake. Next to the new office is a large sandy field (for lack of a better word) that used to be the base firing range. They tore it down sometime in the last 2 yrs and haven’t done anything other than remove all the rubble.

Oops, I stand corrected. They did have a fabric fence around the area to keep the sand from blowing all over. That was removed when some office worker decided it would be a great idea for all overflow vehicles (mostly tow dollies and box trailers, but some trucks and cars) to park on this soft, sandy ground instead of a nearby paved parking lot. That decision was rescinded within 24 hrs as people tried to get into the new parking area and started sinking into the sand. The fabric fence was never put back into its original location. That turned out to be a big mistake as the Class A from the previous paragraph pulled in.

The wife suggested to the husband that they pull off the pavement so they wouldn’t block the road. Unfortunately, hubby followed this advice. After registering, they went back out to the RV and attempted to pull out, only to dig the rear wheels in, down to the axle. Even though a case could be made that it was the military’s fault and they probably had a suitable vehicle in the motor pool to pull him out, this poor guy had to use his emergency roadside service. So, 2 hrs later, the tow truck shows up. At this point, we find out how starved RVers are for entertainment. They (including me) started coming out of the woodwork to watch the festivities. There must have been 40 or 50 people just sitting in lawn chairs or on picnic tables. The tow truck driver did a very good job and had that RV out of the sand in about 20 minutes, with no further damage.

The following day was my turn to move again. Everything was going well since there were some empty spots in overflow so I didn’t have to wait for somebody else to move first. There was one moment, however, when my stomach did a few flips and my heart was racing. When I kicked the last wheel chock out from between my 5th wheel tires, the RV started rolling. Fortunately, it was already hitched to the truck so nothing dropped. It only rolled a couple of inches but I was already racing for the truck to jump in and stand on the brakes. The rest of the move was nowhere near as exciting.

Now fast forward a few days and I’m looking at the opposite row of overflow parking and see something that looks out of place. I mentioned in my last post that they put the power pedestals forward on some of the sites. Well, it was just a matter of time before somebody hit one. This pedestal was leaning over at a 45 degree angle, completely exposing the cement base that was probably meant to keep it in place. A little later I found the RV that caused that damage. It was another Class A and they hit the pedestal while pulling out of the spot. The tail swung out to make contact and you could see the gouge starting about 8 ft from the back of the RV. So, a couple of storage bay doors will need to be replaced and the rear cap will require some fiberglass work. It all brought back some sad memories of my accident in Nebraska when I pulled a similar stunt at a truck stop. The big difference here though is that this guy had a spotter available. I know that because I saw his wife spotting as he backed into his new site. Now, if only she had been spotting as he pulled out of the old spot, they wouldn’t have to get their RV repaired.

Back to overflow at Patrick AFB

Ahhh, another lovely moving day here in sunny Florida. They have a rotation policy here in this military campground. If you’re on a partial or full hookup site and there are other people on a waiting list, you can only stay on that site for 30 days. My 30 on a partial hookup site was up this morning so I got to swap spots with someone in the improved overflow. So, the morning started with gathering up the outside stuff (bike, kayak, racks, etc) and tossing it all in the back of the truck to put on the new site. Then back to the RV, finish securing stuff inside, disconnect utilities, bring in slides, hook up and head for the dump station. Wish I’d had more time at the dump station to flush the black tank real good but it was good enough for a few weeks in overflow.

I said ‘improved’ overflow because they’ve added electricity since my last visit. My new site was very narrow, just barely long enough for the RV, the power pedestal was too far forward and there was an electric panel on the door side of the RV. Oh, and it was angled so I had to back in from the blind side. With the help of a couple of neighbors, I got situated OK in about 15 minutes. I had to make several adjustments so that I could still open one of my storage compartment doors and the big slide would have room to clear the electric panel. When all was said and done, my RV door opened on to fairly new sod instead of the concrete patio but I can live with that. Dakota is happy that it was such a short move.

I’m back on the waiting list, this time for a full hookup site. That will really be nice to have sewer again. I’ll probably be here in overflow for 2-3 weeks. After my move to a FHU site, some of the other RVers should start traveling again so I may be able to sit there until I head back north. I’m also much farther away from the bath house in my new site so I’ll be getting more exercise walking back and forth.

♫♪Back on the water again ♪♫

I woke up this morning, looked out the window and decided to put the kayak in the Banana River for a paddle. Weather conditions were overcast with a light breeze, perfect for a speed paddle across the river and back. I was almost all the way across when I noticed a large flock of birds overhead flying north. I couldn’t identify them but ruled out geese or duck since I didn’t hear any honking or quacking. They were flying in sloppy V formations but what made them really stand out was their sheer numbers. This flock took well over a minute to pass by and I’m guessing it was about 1/2 mile from start to end. Before my paddle was finished I saw 3 other flocks of similar size, all heading in the same direction. While I was watching one of these flocks I also caught some movement out of the corner of my eye. 3 dolphins had snuck up on me and were just cruising past looking for their breakfast. One of these days I’ll figure out how to signal a dolphin to turn around and inspect my kayak. All in all, a pretty good way to start the day :-)

Blue Boy Etiquette

Right now I’m on a partial hook-up site. In this case it means I have water and electric but no sewer. Fortunately, the dump station and the bath house are very close. I can take all my showers in the bath house so 1 of my 2 gray tanks only gets water from brushing my teeth or washing my hands. The other gray tank is for the galley so that gets more use from washing dishes. And I only use my toilet for middle of the night requirements. At that rate, the black tank should easily last until it’s time for me to move off this site. At that point, I’ll either dump the black tank at the dump station or a full hook-up site.

But what about the gray tanks? Well, the clever folks in the RV industry manufacture a nifty little product commonly known as a Blue Boy tote. They come in various sizes but they all have wheels, handles and openings to let you fill and empty them without making too much of a mess. Besides the weight when they’re full, the other bad part is not being able to visually tell when they’re almost full. That’s important because you have to stop the gray water flowing into the tote before it’s full, otherwise you get a lot of overflow. That’s also the reason that you shouldn’t try using a tote for your black tank. Nobody likes cleaning up a poopy spill.

Blue Boy Totes

Blue Boy Totes

Today I decided to empty my gray tanks. The process was uneventful. I filled up the first tote and wheeled it over to the dump station. As dump stations go, this one is fairly nice. The actual sewer opening is at the bottom of a concrete, concave surface. There’s no lip on the sewer pipe so any liquid that makes it onto the concave part of the station will flow into the sewer. After positioning the tote near the sewer opening I gradually opened the dump valve on the tote. Gray water began pouring out, down the slope and into the sewer opening. As the tote emptied, I opened the valve further.

About that time I got some company. One fellow RVer walked up beside me and the camp host pulled up in his golf cart. After exchanging pleasantries with the camp host, he took off. The other RVer then went on to tell me that he got reprimanded for dumping a tote exactly the same way I was. In other words, without hooking up a sewer hose first to drain directly into the sewer opening. That was kind of surprising until the next words out of his mouth. He said “You know everybody mixes gray and black water when they’re using the totes”. Really? Not me! All the totes are clearly marked for gray water only. My guess is that he was using the tote for his black tank, the camp host saw that dirty water/mixed solids coming out of the tote and had a little conversation with the gentleman.

For those of you new to using totes, please check with the local host/manager before your first use. It may save some embarrassment later.

Back to warm weather, kind of…

Well, I finished work at Amazon at 10:30 on a Friday evening. Weather in KY was still cold so I didn’t get as much accomplished before the shift as I hoped. On the brighter side, I won productivity contests on my last 2 shifts so I was able to stock up on goodies from Kroger and eat at Subway courtesy of Amazon.

I was unable to get my sleep schedule adjusted properly so I didn’t leave Campbellsville until noon on Saturday. Traffic through TN was absolutely terrible – one slowdown after another. I was able to pick up an all news radio station north of Atlanta so I didn’t drive into any traffic jams there. Spent the night in a truckstop just south of Atlanta. Temps got down to 28 that night. Fortunately I had all the blankets on the bed, plus my long johns. I actually slept past sunrise despite all the diesels idling around me.

My second driving day was totally uneventful – no construction zones, no accidents, just the way I like it. Arrived at Patrick AFB before dark and got set up in the overflow area. Big surprise there since my last visit. They’ve added electricity in overflow so I didn’t have to light candles or walk around with a headlight on. Unfortunately, the cold front followed me down and I’ve actually had to continue using a space heater and the fireplace at night. Rested for one day, then drove into Orlando to visit with my newest granddaughter (and her parents). Moved into a partial hookup site the next day, visited my favorite local Chinese buffet with an old friend, more relaxing.

And as a bonus, one of the other RVers here at Patrick noticed the sign on the side of my truck advertising computer services. He had some malware on his Win 7 laptop and I was able to earn a little extra money correcting that problem.

Hopefully, I’ll be able to get the kayak wet in the next week. Surprisingly, I’ve gotten back to jogging since my arrival back in Florida despite the abuse my feet got at Amazon.

Amazon coming to an end

Somehow I’ve managed to survive the last few weeks and the end is in sight. Lots of blisters and sore feet and one stomach virus that fortunately happened on some days off. My last day was supposed to be Dec 22 but they just sent out another email changing that to Dec 21. So, looking at the calendar I only have 1.5 shifts left. I could practically do that walking on my hands so the bonus should be a ‘gimme’. Of course, the downside is losing more pay this period, especially the overtime. There’s been a lot of that this season. One week they cut our overtime shift entirely. Other days they would release us early to minimize the overtime for that week. I’m not sure if it’s because of the economy overall, whether people are shopping elsewhere or if it’s still Sandy-related problems. Now I’ll adjust my pre-departure a little and be on the road to nice, warm Florida this Saturday. That means I’ll be set up at the campground at Patrick AFB well before Christmas day and get to see my new granddaughter that much sooner.

Beet Harvest vs Amazon Comparison

So, now that I’ve been working here at Amazon for a few weeks, it’s time to compare 2 non-traditional workamping jobs.

At the sugar beet harvest, I was a piler operator. That paid at the high end of the range for the seasonal workers. It required a lot of concentration and attention to detail. The most physically demanding part of the job was standing for the entire shift. Being in the cab of a million dollar piling machine I was largely protected from the weather although it did still get cold in the cab. I was responsible for the machine itself, the ground crew and the trucks arriving to offload their beets.

Here at Amazon I’m a picker. I carry a hand-held scanner which tells me where to go and what product to pick out of a bin to put in my tote. As long as I follow the directions on the scanner and apply some common sense, I stay out of trouble. It’s a very fast paced environment. To meet the productivity goals I estimate I’m walking at a 6 mph pace between bins or different warehouse locations. When I power walk for exercise, my pace is usually between 3 and 4 mph for 1 or 2 hours. My shifts at Amazon are 10 hrs right now and will bump up to 12 hrs as we get closer to Christmas.

There are other, less mobile, jobs available at Amazon. The folks who take the product from the loading docks and put it in the bins don’t spend as much time walking. They take large stow carts to a location and work that location until the cart is empty. The packers are the ones who actually put your merchandise into mailing packages. They are stationary for the entire shift, but just standing on concrete can really break you down. I’m not sure if they’re allowed to have some type of cushioning mat to stand on.

As an added bonus for RVers, Amazon picks up the camping tab at nearby campgrounds. I’m at an RV park directly across the street from the warehouse so I can walk to and from work although others in the park elect to drive everyday. My guess is that it’s a half mile round trip from my site to the warehouse door. But working at Amazon is not for everyone. My first neighbors here in the RV park were a couple in their late 60s/early 70s. At the end of their first 5 hr conditioning shift, they quit. The next folks on the site, another couple considerably younger left sometime during their first week. I’m sure Amazon loses a lot of people that way

So far, I’m doing OK. I’ve had to make some adjustments to what I wear and some nights I hobble back up the hill to my RV. Hopefully I’ll be able to survive the next 4 weeks with all the overtime and qualify for the end of season bonus, then rest up a lot in sunny Florida.


Beet Harvest Over, Bring on Amazon

Well, it’s over for me and a lot of other seasonal workers anyway. I left MN a week ago so I could get to Campbellsville KY on time to start my next job.

It was a strange season for the harvest, at least for me. First, the start of the harvest was delayed due to warm temps. Then we got to work for a day and went into another hold for snow. The rest of the season was very slow due to wet and cold conditions. As of today, they’re still trying to finish the harvest but the farmers may have to resort to collecting crop insurance. Even if enough people stay to work, Mother Nature may have the last say.

So, I had an uneventful drive to IN to visit family. It was a little dicey driving around the twin cities in MN since it was the tail end of rush hour, rainy, dark, construction zones and several Interstate merges. I stayed at Caboose Lake Campground in Remington IN again, always a nice place to stay. The owner was testing her customers by putting a special line in the campground rules. I caught it and was only the 6th person this year to claim a 10% discount in the store for reading the rules.

Finished the drive to KY and got into my campsite. I was catching up on some computer stuff when I noticed another 5th wheel backing into the site next to me. A little while later I went outside and discovered damage to my kayak racks. After surveying the situation I decided that the neighbors must have hit it. I knocked on the door and explained the situation to the wife. She assured me that they couldn’t possibly have hit my kayak or racks and invited me to inspect the rear of their RV. We both walked back there and discovered a 1 ft gash in the endcap, at the exact same height as my kayak rack. What a surprise!! We’re dealing with insurance now for repairs.

Just started training with Amazon this week but it doesn’t look terribly difficult. Can’t wait to get back to warm weather in FL.


Weather delay already

….and now we wait. 10 days ago there were rumors that we might start the main harvest 2 days early. Everyone was very excited about that since that would mean starting with weekend premium pay. Unfortunately, the weather changed and it will be a little too warm to pile sugar beets this weekend. Now we might start on Tuesday or Wednesday. Here’s hoping we’ll still get 2 weekends in before end of harvest – that’s where the big bucks are. Time and a half for Saturdays and double time for Sundays!!

Decisions, Decisions

So, I’m back in Stephen MN for the annual sugar beet harvest. They actually have 2 parts to the harvest. The pre-pile started in mid-August this year so I was able to get some work in before the main harvest, which starts on October 1 (or close to it). Pre-pile is sort of like spring training for the harvest. It allows new people to get training, work out equipment problems and check the current beet quality.

After the pre-pile at Stephen was complete, I was also able to work at a different site for a few days. Today I got a major surprise. I was approached about becoming a foreman next year. What a conondrum! On the positive side it would mean higher hourly salary and more hours each season. On the negative side, it would mean more hours each season and supervising temp employees. I’m supposed to find out next week what else the job would entail.

I’m really at a crossroads here. One of the reasons they asked me is because they have other plans for my current foreman, who happens to be a good boss. So, if I refuse, I could end up with an asshole for a new boss. This will definitely take some serious thought.