September 26, 2011

The Full-time RV life has some unusual features, one of which is a series of temporary part-time jobs in RV Parks.  These jobs are usually in a scenic place, and in return for working 15 - 20 hours a week the RVers get a free spot to park and maybe a little pay.  It’s a great way to really get to know a new area beyond the tourist sights and learn what makes it unique.  It’s a great opportunity to get things done that require staying in one place for awhile, such as RV maintenance or medical treatment.  It’s the only way to really get to know some of the nicest people you would ever want to meet - that alone makes it a worthwhile!  And the pay helps stretch retirement dollars farther.  
Amazon is a different scenario.  During the peak holiday they need temporary help, and they have learned that RVers are the perfect answer.  The work is between 40 and 60 hours a week and the pay is between $9 to $12 an hour, depending on the location and shift, plus the RV site is paid for.  Rvers usually take this job to cover a large planned expense, like big RV repairs or an extended vacation.  We met a couple in their 40s who do this yearly, and spend the rest of the year working for little or no  money in state parks.
Of course, there is another group of people who work here.  For someone who wants a job but can’t find one, if they have access to an RV or a camper, this is a chance to work full-time for awhile.  For a few months Amazon will pay their rent and utilities and give them an above-minimum wage, and in this economy that is a welcome respite for them.
Randy and I came to Amazon as part of the first group - planning to earn some extra cash to pay for some RV remodeling and make our retirement fund go a little farther.  However, we have discovered that this job is not for us.  10 hour days are OK in an office, but in a factory it makes for a very long day, and working 5:30 pm to 4 am doesn’t help.  We’ve met some great people in the park, but socializing doesn’t occur much because everyone is tired.  And there are some rules that don’t make sense for us.  For example, several hours of manual labor can make my wrist hurt so as a preventative measure I want to wear my wrist brace.  This is not allowed unless I have a doctor’s prescription for it.  But the main reason we decided not to stay is because the job we had is mindless.  There aren’t even prices on items so I can amuse myself by saying “wow, that’s a bargain” or “wow, who would pay that for this?”.  And the nature of the job does not allow conversations with others.  So what we have is 10 hours of mind-numbing activity, day after day.  We gave it a real try but this just isn’t for us.  So we are going back to St. Louis for awhile to change a few things in the RV and decide what to do next.

September 24, 2011

Today we felt almost caught up on sleep which was a good thing, because we had a full day planned.  First stop - the Bread of Life Cafe in Liberty.  It’s run by the Galilean Children’s Home, which is our favorite ministry.  We discovered the Home years ago when the church we attended made regular trips from Illinois, bringing donated supplies and volunteer labor for a day or two.  The Children’s Home is the result of two people - Jerry and Sandy Tucker - who couldn’t have children and decided to care for children who needed a home.  Eventually they did have biological children but by then they had found their calling.  Over the years they adopted nearly 30 children and have cared for many, many more - somewhere around 800.  Their children include many who were mentally challenged from birth, some who were abused to the point of destroying their intellect, and now they all have a happy home for the rest of their life.  Some children had debilitating birth defects, which the Tuckers correct with surgery as much as possible.  Children from other countries needing surgeries they could not afford often find a home here for a few years while the Tuckers arrange for life-changing treatments.  They also started a ministry of taking care of babies born to women in prisons, making sure the babies visit their moms every week until mom is released.  And they don't receive or accept any assistance from the government.  They rely on volunteers for the amount of work it takes now, and private donations fill much of the financial need, but they have also been working to create revenue-generating industries of their own.  The Cafe is one of these; besides generating income, it provides training and jobs for some of the residents.  
But for those interested in the culinary side, it’s worth noting that the food is really good!   This is Amish country, so the food is definitely home-made and tasty!  We had the breakfast buffet and I got a small bowl of what I thought was apple butter, but one taste told me it was chocolate.  Not knowing what chocolate was doing on the breakfast buffet, I asked the waitress what it was for.  She said “why, that’s chocolate gravy, for the biscuits….It’s a southern thing.”  I may have to move here!  

Being in Amish country means sharing the roads with horse-drawn buggies, and farmers plowing their fields with a real six-horse powered plow. 

This particular weekend in Liberty, something special was going on.  It was the Casey County Apple Festival, which is celebrated by a street fair and by baking a huge, huge apple pie!  The pie contains about 45 bushels of apples, 300 pounds of pastry and a bunch of spices.  It’s baked in a special pan that is 10 feet across, and it takes a forklift to move it from the one-of-a-kind oven to the pavement.  
They make a big deal of cutting it, with the local dignitaries such as the mayor and the Apple Festival princesses.  But it’s worth making a fuss over because it really is a good pie!  They served that pie all day long, and were smart enough to keep the crowds away until most of it was gone so I didn’t get a picture of the whole thing.  At this point it doesn’t look appetizing but that is deceiving - it was a great apple pie, sweet and juicy with just the right amount of spices.  
The rest of the fair was similar to was we are used to, but there were some differences.  For example, there was a booth serving things like Gater on a Stick, Red Bean and Rice, and Frog Legs.   And in booths offering raffles, the prizes were usually rifles.  And this might be another Southern thing - prison inmates helped with the cooking and cleanup in some areas.  They wore bright green shirts with “INMATE” on the back, but otherwise you’d never notice them. 

To finish the day, at 4 in the afternoon we went to the Green River Lake Park where Amazon was hosting a picnic for their employees.  As someone who worked at Enterprise, I would say this is similar to Enterprise’s Summer Event.  They had free food (hot dogs, hamburgers, side dishes, desserts and sodas), door prizes (not rifles), and lots of things for kids to do.  We met up with some of the people we have been working with and just relaxed for a few hours, chatting and enjoying the view.

September 23,

We got off work at 4:00 am Thursday and slept on and off most of the day.  Today I slept until 10:30 and am still tired.  But we needed to get out for a change so we drove to Fort Knox.  I know they don’t give tours anymore, but it turns out you can’t really get into the place at all.  Can’t even take a picture of the famous depository.  So here’s a picture of the brochure picture….
We did get into the nearby Patton Museum and learned a few things about Patton from his letters on display there.  Apparently he was raised with a strong sense of class, his being the upper class, of course.  And he had a very high opinion of himself.  So the lesson here is be careful what you write because you never know who is going to read it!  The museum closes at 4pm but one of the parking lots closes at 3:30.  In that lot is a sign to give you that information.  When you park there and go through the gate towards the museum, there is another sign meant for people who leave the museum after 3:30:
Since we couldn't get into Fort Knox, we decided to go to President Lincoln's birthplace in Hodgenville.  But we got there at 5:30 and the park was closing, so that didn’t work out either.  I did see an indication of the thoughtfulness of Kentucky people:  the drinking fountain has one fountain for adults, one fountain for children, and one just for dogs!

September 19, 2011

So far Kentucky isn’t much different than the Midwest, but there are a few things that catch our attention.  For one thing, it seems like more people here smoke.  That may have something to do with all those tobacco fields we’ve seen here. 
The local yard sales are likely to have saddles, and monster cars are more prevalent.  We drove to Lexington to go shopping and on the way passed some of the huge horse farms - beautiful, well-groomed horses in well-groomed pastures which are marked off by miles and miles of white or black fence.  Some people are doing very well with racehorses here!
We are working at Amazon while we are in Kentucky.  We signed up for this a few months ago, but we were not informed that we would be working 10 hour shifts, or that the PM shift would be from 5 pm to 4 am.  We’ve both worked third shift in the past and couldn’t adjust to it, but we’ll give it a try.  The up side is that the job involves a lot of walking - probably 10-15 miles each day.  We want to lose some weight, and this should do it!  Yesterday was the first day that we worked the full 10 hours.  We got home at 4:30 this morning and Randy was smart enough to go to bed right away, but I couldn’t sleep so I stayed up till 5:30.  We got up at 10:30, went out for breakfast, came home and took a nap.   Eventually we hope to be able to do something besides sleep and work!

September 11, 2011

I am not going to dwell on the 10th anniversary of 9-11.  I watched just enough coverage to know that I can't revisit it yet.  Maybe after another 10 years...

So on to other things.  We are now camped in Campbellsville, Kentucky.  It's a small town in a rural area; the nearest "big" town is Elizabethtown, about 45 miles away.  The roads are pretty good, and they are lined with green forests or big dairy farms.  There are also large, stately houses set back from the road, with immaculately manicured lawns.  Huge lawns, too - it must be someone’s full time job to keep them so tidy.  I think I prefer the forests.
Campbellsville is located in a “moist county” - that’s a new phrase in our vocabulary.  It means that alcohol cannot be bought in a store but some restaurants can serve it.  Go figure!  
We are parked in Heartland RV park, which is basically a gravel parking lot.  It does have full hookups and WIFI, but no cable TV, and the only local stations we can get are Public TV.  Cable TV doesn’t matter much when staying a couple of nights, but if we spend the winter here, it could get pretty boring.  
On the other hand, there are several interesting things in Kentucky.  Fort Knox is here, and the Abbey of Gethsemani.  And there is a local tour of 6 bourbon makers - that should be fun!  And this seems to be a pretty good place for a lot of fall festivals.
Recently I have been afflicted by a fit of cleaning.  For some reason I actually want to spend part of every day cleaning, or organizing, or fixing up.  This is the first time that’s happened to me in 50-plus years so as you can imagine, there is a lot of cleaning, organizing and fixing waiting to be done!  This should keep me occupied for awhile.
Yesterday was a lovely sunny day, but our neighbors said it rained all last week.  And this morning the rain came, and it stayed all day.  I know there are parts of the country that would love to have rain - I hope they get some of ours!

September 5, 2011

It’s been about a week since we pulled into St. Louis, and it’s been a busy week.  One day of going through the cabinets was all we could stand so the next day we drove to the Peoria area.  My Mom lives in there, as does my older sister Kathy.  And Randy’s sister lives nearby with her family, so we got to see a lot of folks in one trip.  
We came back to St. Louis for one more day of cleaning, then off again!  This time we went north, to spend a few days with Randy’s brother Lonnie and his wife Chris.  They live in the country and it’s always relaxing there.  They like to RV a lot, so we swaped stories and suggestions.  
Now we are back at the St. Louis RV Park, and we need to make some decisions about our short-term future.  What to do?  The rotten stock market is not behaving reasonably.