Back by popular demand!

 

I know, I know, it’s been awhile since I have posted a blog update!  For those new to the blog, it’s me, Makena, the blog writing Jack Russell Terrier!  Occasionally, I like to post an update to keep everyone updated on life in an RV, from the dogs point of view.

Keeping my peeps informed!

Keeping my peeps informed!

Once again I find myself back in Kentucky, with the promise that we will be able to go somewhere warm again for the winter.  I had a great time back in Wisconsin at Camp Meyer, visiting with everyone.  I did get to spend a few days up at my grandparents, where I was able to convince them I needed to play outdoors with my football at least 10 times a day!!  Even if you are just a dog, grandparents are still the easiest to swindle!

My parents did find someone to let me out on the days they are working at Amazon, so I don’t have to cross my paws for over 10 hours.  That keeps me relaxed, so I can find time to work on the bone that I received from Margaret, my parents co-worker at Crazy Horse.  It’s delicious!  Thanks again Margaret!

yummy!

yummy!

I think my parents must feel guilty for leaving me alone all day, because I did get a new toy, which I promptly destroyed!  Toys with squeakers don’t stand a chance with me!

toy destroyer

toy destroyer

All that work makes me sleepy, and when the sun shines in, what better place to take a nap than the couch?  Yes, I have a good life!

nap time!

nap time!

On a sad note, my cousin Gus passed away after a brief illness.  I will miss him, as he was pretty nice to me.  I know he is in a better place.  Rest in peace, Gus.

Gus

Gus

My other cousin, Reagan, was out bird hunting, and decided to go after a porcupine.  Her mouth is full of quills…..ouch!!  I can feel your pain.  Note to self – stay away from porcupines!

Ouch!!!

Ouch!!!

The vet gave her some good drugs, which caused her to be a bit sleepy.  She is doing better now.

a little doped up!

a little doped up!

I’m happy that my parents are not so busy touring on their days off, like they did this summer, as it allows for more snuggle time.  There is a nice open field behind our 5th wheel that I am occasionally allowed off-leash to play some football.  However I am really looking forward to when we hitch up and go south for the winter.  Hopefully they will find me some nice parks to play in, as I’m getting a bit restless here with my parents working all those hours.

Take care for now everyone!  Make sure to give your pets hugs everyday, and enjoy the time you have with them!

Quote for the day:  “There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.” – Ben Williams

 

 

 

 

Amazon – has it been 4 weeks already??!!

Wow, we can’t believe we have just finished our fourth week at Amazon.  What a difference a year makes!

Last year, our first at Amazon, was so frustrating at the beginning.  The physical part of walking all day was not so much a problem.  But the confusion of learning where everything was in the building, as well as the mind-numbing tedious nature to our jobs made for a difficult first month.  This year was truly a ‘piece of cake’!

The two hardest parts of Picking is learning the buildings, as you will be all over the place, and you must do so in a very timely manner.  The second part is just accepting the fact that Picking is a very, very boring job.  You will spend most of the day talking to yourself, as that is who you will be working with!  Breaks and lunch are the only time you really have to talk with anyone, other than a quick ‘hi’ when you are passing people in the building.

You can prepare for the physical nature of the job, but the mental part was truly an adjustment.  This year, knowing full well what we were getting into, made for a much easier transition.  You have to give yourself 4 weeks to not only condition your body, but your mind as well.  Most of the folks who quit, usually do so before their fourth week.  But if you can stick it out, you will meet a lot of nice people, learn about good/bad places to work, and get in shape as well.

Heartland Campground

This year we decided to stay at the campground that is technically across the street from Amazon in Campbellsville, KY, Heartland Campground.  Most people here refer to it as the ‘rockpile’, as it is really nothing more than a gravel parking lot, with white paint outlining your site.  But it has 50 amp, water and sewer, and Amazon pays 100% of the cost.  Although the Green River State Park where we stayed last year is beautiful, we decided to save time and gas money by walking to work.  The parking lot at Amazon gets very congested after Thanksgiving, and we spent a lot of time waiting in long lines.

Heartland Camground

Heartland Campground

If you look closely at the right center of the picture, you can see Amazon.  Not exactly ‘across the street’.  From our door to Amazon, it takes us 8 minutes to walk (a little quicker on those 45 degree mornings!)

Amazon in the distance

Amazon in the distance

Here is a zoomed in photograph of Amazon from the roof of our fifth wheel.

Amazon

Amazon

This campground has space for 100 RV’s, of all sizes and shapes.  We opted for the farthest row from Amazon, as it overlooks some green space.  We chose our spot so Makena would be looking into trees, and not other people. It also is a good area to walk Makena and play some football (it’s always about the pets, you know!)

view out back window

view out back window

Amazon Updates

This week we attended the ‘all hands on deck’ meeting for the month of October.  It is the last all staff meeting for the year.  The first thing the general manager emphasized, was that this facility was not going to close.  Last month, it was announced the center in Coffeysville, Kansas will be closing in February.  (this is one of four sites they hire workcampers at).  All the employees at that location can transfer to any facility of their choosing.  Apparently since that announcement, the rumors were flying that this location would be next.  The GM emphasized they have just signed a new long-term lease here, and they were making many improvements to the facility, including the repaving of the parking lot, which has already begun.  That seemed to make a lot of people happy.

They also talked about the projections for peak season, as well as overtime.  It looks like we will be able to get the same amount of overtime as last year, for outbound (picking and packing).  Inbound (stowing and receiving), will have even more overtime opportunities.  They will be hiring another 1500 people for the peak season, so the building will be getting pretty full, as it was last year.

The employees celebrating their 15 years at this location were also announced to the group.  The GM said this location has the most employees with the longest tenure at Amazon.  In  addition to receiving an additional grant of $2000.00 in stock options, they received a $100 Visa gift card, and a nice jacket.  One of the gals wore an orange shirt with the words “15 years of hard time” on the back!  That got a laugh out of the group.  She said in 4 years she will be ‘paroled’!

The GM also talked about the bonus for the regular employees for October.  Apparently, every month that you have perfect attendance at Amazon, you get a 4% bonus.  During the months of October thru December, it is doubled.  And if the facility meets their production goal, there is a 6% bonus for the employees.  The GM said they are on track to meeting the production bonus, which means the employees with perfect attendance will receive a bonus of 14% for the month, based on their base pay.  That made a lot of people happy.

We haven’t been doing too much on our days off.  Just resting and getting caught up on some things we neglected this summer.

Quote for the day:  “All things are difficult, before they are easy.” – Thomas Fuller

 

 

 

Craft Beer tours of the Black Hills

Craft Breweries are increasing in popularity, and the Black Hills of South Dakota has several good brew pubs to stop in for a sample or two. All the brew pubs have flight  tastings so you can try small samples of several different styles of beer, from wheat to pale ales to stouts.  They all offer growlers, where you can fill up a 64 ounce container of beer to take home with you.  But such a giant container does not fit so well in the small, shallow refrigerators in an RV.  So we just opted to stop in for samples (but not all in the same day!)

The Buglin’ Bull Restaurant and Sports Bar in downtown Custer, SD has a full service restaurant on one half, and a bar on the other half.  They also have a rooftop deck as well.  With just 4 different selections of craft beers, they offered the least variety, but still had some good flavors.  We both enjoyed the Elk Poop Stout the best.

 

Buglin Bull

Buglin Bull

4 tasty samples

4 tasty samples

 

The Firehouse Brewing Company, in downtown Rapid City, is housed in Rapid City’s first firehouse, built in 1915.  It has a full service restaurant, with a wide variety of food, and reasonable prices.  The have a rotation of nine craft beers on tap, including seasonal brews.

Firehouse Brewing Company

Firehouse Brewing Company

These were the beers on tap on the day we did some sampling.  Lot’s of different types of ales, from pale ales, brown ales, Scottish ales as well as wheat beers, stouts, and a very good cider beer called Teachers Pet.  Normally we don’t care for the cider beers, but this one had more of a beer flavor than the sour apple flavor.

Brews on tap

Brews on tap

It took some doing, but we managed to get through the long line of beers to sample!!!

9 tasty samples

9 tasty samples

Crow Peak Brewery in Spearfish, SD was established in 2007,and is the only brewery that offers cans and bottles of their flavorful beer (Although they have a very limited selection).

Crow's Peak Brewery

Crow’s Peak Brewery

They have a large variety of beers, including seasonal selections.  When the menu is on a chalkboard, you can expect a constantly changing variety of fresh beers.

The "menu"

The “menu”

They have tasting flights of 4 beers.  Our favorite beer was the Pagan Stout, which they unfortunately do not (yet) bottle.

our samples

our samples

Miner Brewing Company in Hill City, SD is a brand new, opening in the fall of 2013.  The owner/brewmaster is part of the family that owns the Prairie Berry Winery that is located next door.  We stopped in several times for tasting, as they also rotate the beers on tap.

Miner Brewery

Miner Brewery

When our friends Forest and Mary stopped in for a visit, we stopped off for some sampling after a day of playing tourist.

Cheers Forest & Mary

Cheers Forest & Mary

They have a wide variety of beers, and we all enjoyed their oatmeal stout.

Miner's sampler

Miner’s sampler

Bitter Esters Brewhouse is right in the heart of downtown Custer.   They pride themselves on using locally grown ingredients whenever possible.  They also consider themselves to be a Nano brewery, which is a very small craft brewer.  They offer a limited menu of food.

downtown Custer, SD

downtown Custer, SD

They have a variety of beers, brewed in small batches.

colorful brews

colorful brews

The Sick-n-Twisted Brewery shares space with the Naked Winery in Hill City, SD.

Sick n Twisted

Sick n Twisted

They had the largest variety of beers, but we were not too impressed with the ones we were able to sample.  They did have some creative names for their beers.

a creative lineup

a creative lineup

IMG_20140703_140724_353 (1)

If you do enjoy beer, and you are in the area, stop in for a sample or two.  Our favorites were Crow Peak, Miner Brewery and Firehouse Brewery.

We did sample several glasses of wine at three of the wineries just north of Hill City: The Naked Winery, Prairie Berry, and Stone Faces. We did enjoy several of the selections at Stone Faces, but we did not care for most of the samples we tried at the other two.

Quote for the day:  Well ya see, Norm, it’s like this… A herd of buffalo can only move as fast as the slowest buffalo. And when the herd is hunted, it is the slowest and weakest ones at the back that are killed first. This natural selection is good for the herd as a whole, because the general speed and health of the whole group keeps improving by the regular killing of the weakest members. In much the same way, the human brain can only operate as fast as the slowest brain cells. Excessive intake of alcohol, as we know, kills brain cells. But naturally, it attacks the slowest and weakest brain cells first. In this way, regular consumption of beer eliminates the weaker brain cells, making the brain a faster and more efficient machine. That’s why you always feel smarter after a few beers.

– Cliff Clavin, of Cheers

Amazon, our 12 week fitness program

 

We started our fall work camping job, at Amazon, in Campbellsville, KY on September 30.  This is our 2nd year at Amazon (you can search through our September – December 2013 blogs if you want to read more on our first year, or on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail).  This year they changed the first week format a little, as we started on a Tuesday, with orientation and safety school.  We worked 5 hour shifts Wednesday thru Friday, in your assigned department. Saturday was an off day for everyone that started that week.  Week two you go to your regular work days, but only 5 hour shifts again, for “work hardening”.

We are group number 6 (they start a new group each week, until November 14th) and had about 35 people in our group, only 3 of us assigned to first shift picking.  Here is a  photo of our group:

Group #6

Group #6

We asked for, and received, the same shift/department as last year.  “A” shift, which is Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, from 6:30am – 5:00pm, with a 30 minute lunch break.  We will be Pickers again.

A little history about Amazon and Campbellsville, KY

The warehouse, or Fulfillment Facility as Amazon calls the building, is one of the 5 oldest facilities.  It was originally a Fruit of the Loom factory, and when they relocated to another country, it caused massive unemployment in this small community.  Amazon bought the facility in 1999, and just celebrated 15 years in this location.  Many of the employees that started with them, are still here.

And if you think back to 1999, how many of you were ordering items from Amazon?  They were mostly selling books back then, and now they sell just about everything.  As Amazon has grown, they have used all the space in this building, which makes for some challenges when picking items.  Things do not go in alphabetical or numeric order, like they would in a newer facility.  And even this year, they have added even more shelves in some areas.

Work camper positions at Amazon

Amazon divides up their positions into Inbound and Outbound areas. Inbound is Receiving and Stowing, outbound is Picking and Packing.  There is also ICQA, which is the quality control department. There are other jobs in these areas that they may transfer you to when needed.  Dan and I both did ICQA a few days last year (very hard on the knees), and Dan was in transship in the mornings a few times, which he enjoyed.  I was in gift wrap for one afternoon, which was horrible!  Amazon has very high standards for how a package should be wrapped, and no matter how hard I tried, my packages looked rumpled.   No matter where you are, the jobs are physical.  They run two shifts, 10 hours each.

In simple terms, Receiving unloads trucks and puts the merchandise on carts.  Stowers take the carts of merchandise and put it on the shelves.  There is no pattern to where the items go.

Pickers have a cart and a scanner, and go pick the items off the shelf, put them in a tote, and on to a conveyor belt.  The totes go to the various Packing departments, where they are sorted, boxed up, and sent on to be loaded on to the trucks.  Everything is bar-coded, and no customer information is ever displayed.

When you interview with Amazon, they make no secret of how strenuous the positions are.  Many  workcampers have said this is the hardest job they have ever done.  We both agree with that, and add that Picking is also the most boring job we have ever had.  But here we are for our 2nd year!  Why?

As the title of our blog implies, this is our 12 week fitness program.  Last year Dan lost 28 pounds and I lost 8 pounds, in 12 weeks, even with greatly increasing the amount of food we consumed.  Some people pay to join a gym, we have Amazon pay us to walk, and walk, and walk.

We enjoy Picking because you are left on your own to work.  It’s just you and your scanner (which we occasionally yell at!).  On average, you can walk about 10 miles plus a day in Picking.  There are 4 floors (Pick mods) in three buildings so you will be walking up and down the stairs as well.  Items are in bins, and your scanner will tell you where to go, what item is needed, and the quantity.  Some days you will spend an hour or two in the same area (pick mod), and other times you will be moving all over between the buildings.

All workcampers have to meet production standards.  They expect the workcampers to perform at 85% of what the regular full time employees do.  In Picking, this means if an employee should be picking 100 items per hour, we need to be picking 85 items.  All workcampers are expected to be at 100% for quality.  If a customer orders a red, medium shirt, you need to pick a red, medium shirt.  If you don’t, your scanner will beep at you.  Quality is very important, as every customer service is very important to Amazon.

 

Quote of the day:  “There’ll always be serendipity involved in discovery.” – Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon.com)

Chapel in the Hills

Rapid City, SD is home to the Chapel in the Hills, an exact replica of the Borgund Stavkirke built around 1150 in Laerdal, Norway.  A stave church is a medieval wooden Christian church building, named because the load-bearing posts are called stav in Norwegian.  The Chapel, completed in July of 1969, was originally built as the home for the “Lutheran Vespers” radio program.  When that program moved to Minnesota in 1975, it left no support for the Chapel, and a non-profit organization was formed.  The Chapel is now an ELCA church, although it has no congregation, and receives no funding from the organization. Private donations, gift shop sales and wedding fees support the Chapel.  It is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

front view

front view

The front door of the Chapel is known as the “men’s door”, as men stood on one side of the church, women and children on the other side, in early times of the church.  Women and children entered through the side door, known as the women’s door.

side view

side view

 

inside facing altar

inside facing altar

In the photo below, Dan is looking though the leper’s window.  A person with leprosy, an infectious skin disease, was not permitted to enter the main church, but could receive communion through this window.

the leper's window

the leper’s window

A prayer walkway has been added to the grounds behind the Chapel.

view back on prayer path

view back on prayer path

There are sculptures along the path with inspirational messages.

never lose faith

never lose faith

The gift shop has a grass roof and displays the flag of Norway.

gift shop

gift shop

There is also a small museum, in an original Norwegians settler’s log cabin, that was relocated from Keystone, SD.  The museum has many items used by the early immigrants.  And of course, they have statues of Ole and Lena in front!

Ole and Lena

Ole and Lena

inside their cabin

inside their cabin

We were surprised at how tiny the Chapel was, but enjoyed the visit.  It would be a nice place to have a small wedding at.

Quote for the day:  (well it’s more of a Norwegian joke of the day) “One Sunday morning, the Lutheran pastor noticed Ole standing in the foyer of church staring up at a large plaque.  It was covered with names and small American flags mounted on either side of it.  The old Norwegian had been staring at the plaque for some time, so the pastor walked up, stood beside Ole, and said quietly, ‘Good morning Ole.’

‘Good morning Pastor,’ he replied, still focused on the plaque.  ‘Pastor, vat is dis?’  The pastor said, ‘Well, it is a memorial to all the men and women who died in the service.’  Soberly, they just stood together staring at the large plaque.

Finally, Ole’s voice, barely audible and trembling with fear asked, ‘Vich service, da 8:30 or da 10:45?’