Merry Christmas

We would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!  We decided to stay in Montgomery until tomorrow, when we will leave for sunny Florida.

We miss seeing our family and friends this holiday season, but everyone is welcome to join us in Florida!!

Merry-christmas-messages

Quote for the day:  “Christ was born in the first century, yet he belongs to all centuries. He was born a Jew, yet He belongs to all races. He was born in Bethlehem, yet He belongs to all countries.”  – George W. Truett

And from our favorite Christmas show, Charlie Brown Christmas:

Charlie Brown finds himself depressed at Christmas time, searching                 for the true meaning of the holiday amidst the glitz and commercialism           of the modern age. He finds his answer in the passage below:

“And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field,              keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And they were sore afraid … And the angel said unto them, “Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings o great joy, which shall be to all my people. For unto you a child     is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord.”

 “And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe                     wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly,                     there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host                     praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and good will toward men.”

“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” –   Linus Van Pelt

Chalrie and Snoopy

 

 

Goodbye Amazon & Campbellsville, KY

Greetings from stormy Montgomery, Alabama!  Yesterday (Saturday) was our last day of work at Amazon.  After 3 months it was time for hugs and “see you later”.  I don’t do “goodbye” anymore….too sad for me.

We really enjoyed our time at Amazon, as we met lot’s of wonderful people and learned so much on how to live our dream of full-time RV’ing.  It is a good community to belong to.  On our last day, the Camperforce team was having a final meeting at 3:00pm.  Normally we work until 5:00pm.  About 2:40pm, I noticed dozens of smiling folks in their Camperforce t-shirts heading towards the break room for the meeting.  So I logged out of my scanner, put my last tote on the conveyor, and joined the parade of happy people!  Dan joined a few minutes later.

They thanked us again for working for them, and we received a t-shirt and some bags of M&M’s!  Then it was back to the campground, where we prepared for our Sunday morning departure.  We had 2 routes planned, as there were storms and high wind advisory’s in effect.  In the morning we decided to head south thru TN and AL, as it looked like the storm would be going thru Atlanta.  We had perfect weather until we were about 30 miles from Montgomery, AL.  It has been raining like crazy since we arrived.  Makena is hiding somewhere, as there has been a few booms of thunder.

On our way down we enjoyed the delicious Christmas cookies that Dan’s mom had sent to us last week!!  Tonight we can enjoy the Wisconsin cheese from Dan’s sister and brother-in-law!!  (Makena really misses Camp Meyer!)

We weren’t too happy with the rain, but then my sister and my friend Amy sent photos of the snow that was falling back home in Wisconsin.  Yes, we will deal with the rain and 55 degrees!

We plan on staying here for 2 nights, and may go out and play tourist in the Montgomery area tomorrow.  After that, we have not decided where we will end up.  We were hoping to be able to watch the Packers/Steelers game, but they have the Patriots/Ravens game on tv here.  Oh well, it’s better than People’s Court, Divorce Court, America’s Court and Paternity Court that we had endless episodes of in Kentucky on our single channel.

And now for what many have been waiting for…..the final weight loss totals!!  Despite eating more (a lot more!!!) I ended up losing 8 pounds and 5% body fat in the 12 weeks that we were working at Amazon.  But the “biggest loser” was Dan.  He weighed himself this morning, and said he lost at least 20 pounds!!!!  Woo-hooo!!!   (he won’t give a specific number). Makena said she plans on making sure we do plenty of walking with her, so we don’t gain back the weight!!

Quote for the day:  “In two decades I’ve lost a total of 789 pounds. I should be hanging from a charm bracelet.”   – Erma Bombeck

 

I’m back… :)

Hello everyone, I thought I would take over the blog again.

Things have been going well for me.  There is a nice couple, Jim and Gayle, that let me out when my parents are working.  It’s not as nice as my walks with Grandpa Stu, but it will do for now.

My parents signed up for voluntary overtime this week.  I’m not sure why, something about making money so we don’t have to live where it snows.  While I don’t mind the snow, I would rather be out playing on the grass, in warmer weather.  One year we were playing in the snow, it was so deep my football landed in the snow bank and we couldn’t find it.  It was a crisis of epic proportions.  We had to wait until the snow melted before we found the ball again.

Makena blizzard 008

I did try to make a new friend recently.  I woke my mom up at 3:00 am to go outside.  She was mumbling, something about it being 3 am, and she had to get up for work at 5 am.  She mumbles a lot when she is sleepy.  I was outside and noticed something really cute by the RV next to us, and started to go over there.  My mom was mumbling that the lady didn’t have any pets, so she made me stay while she went to see what was under the camper.

Next thing I know, she is picking me up and running back into our camper, mumbling ‘that’s a skunk, that’s a skunk’!  Well, I don’t know what a skunk is, but it sure looked really cute and friendly.  I guess another dog in the park tried to make friends with the skunk, and ended up getting 3 baths in one day.

It’s getting dark earlier, so my parents are not playing football with me as much outside.  But I taught them a lesson.  If I can’t do this:

Makena and football

Then I do this:

I need to play

I need to play

So now they are making an effort to get me outside more.  They don’t want to keep buying me new toys, which I promptly shred.

After we leave here, we will work our way down to Florida.  My mom previously mentioned they will stay in Cedar Key for January.  Now they tell me we will be in Orange City for February.  I guess it is somewhere near where a giant mouse lives.  They haven’t told me where we will be for the rest of the year yet.  I’ll keep you posted.

Quote for the day:  “Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring–it was peace.”   ―  Milan Kundera

Quote for the day:

7 weeks to go!

Yes, just 7 more weeks left of work at Amazon.  December 23 is the last day of work for the workcampers.  Today another group of 60+ campers started.  Next Monday, the last group of workcampers starts.  After that, this location will be hiring an additional 1200 employees from a temp agency.  So it will be getting quite busy and crowded at work.

Christmas is definitely around the corner, based on all the lights, ornaments, and Christmas CD’s and DVD’s that we have been picking this week.  And there have been a lot of new releases on DVD’s, as we have picked a lot of The Hobbit and the full volume set of Twilight.

The week of Thanksgiving, we will be off on Tuesday, and working on Friday.  All shifts have been adjusted, so everyone is working on “Black Friday”.  Should be interesting to see how that will work out.  After that, we may have 3 weeks of overtime.  Depending on the volume, we could be working 50 or 60 hours each week in December.

I finally found my pedometer, and have worn it the last 3 days.  Saturday I walked 13 miles at work, Sunday 12 1/2 miles, and today was a “light” day at 10 miles.  No wonder I am so pooped out after work!  I am doing a half marathon every day!!  I have lost 5 pounds already.  Dan has no comment on his weight loss!

We have booked a one month stay at a campground in Cedar Key, Florida from January 2 – February 2.  Other than that, we have not yet made any plans.  We will probably slowly meander down to Florida from Kentucky after we leave on the 24th.  Originally we thought about going to Texas to visit my sister, and then on to Arizona, but decided to go for the warm weather in Florida instead!

Yesterday we moved to another site at the State Park.  After November 1, Amazon workers are allowed to move wherever they want in the park.  We just had to wait for a couple from Lexington to leave, and then we moved to a lakefront site.

our new view

our new view

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Thanks Amazon, for our free lakefront living!!  It is a nice, concrete pad with an extra pad for the picnic table.  But for some reason, we are now down to just one channel (the CW) on the TV!  We only moved about 100 feet, but lost the 3 Kentucky education channels.  I didn’t think I would miss TV, but I do.  One can only put up with so much “People’s Court”, which is what seems to be the only thing on.

We hope all is well with everyone.  If you thought you signed up for the blog, but have not been getting e-mails when we make a post, just sign up again.  There was a few days when it was not working, but seems to be now.

Quote for the day:    “There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will.”  – Epictetus

 

 

 

Part 2 of the KY Bourbon Trail

Only 1 more day to go and it’s the weekend for us!!!  The internet works better when 200 campers leave.  So to continue on with last Thursday’s journey, we went to Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, KY for their tour (cost $7.00).  It was a beautiful drive thru horse farms to get to the distillery, which is also a National Historic Landmark.  The tour was excellent, as we were able to see a few things we have not experienced before.

Woodford Reserve -Versailles, KY

Woodford Reserve -Versailles, KY

One nice part of the tour was everyone was given headphones, so we could clearly hear what the tour guide was saying.  He started out discussing what makes a bourbon, and the 5 sources of flavor (grains, water, yeast, copper pot distilling, and aging in barrels).  Woodford Reserve has one recipe, and one bourbon, all distilled in small batches.

5 sources of flavor

5 sources of flavor

Woodford Reserve is the only distillery in Kentucky that triple distills their bourbon, which creates a smoother taste.

triple distilled at Woodford Reserve

triple distilled at Woodford Reserve

We were able to watch an employee hand stamp all their barrels with their logo, as well as the date, as they were filling the barrels while we were there.

in 6-8 years, todays barrels will be ready to drink!

in 6-8 years, todays barrels will be ready to drink!

filling the barrels at Woodford Reserve

filling the barrels at Woodford Reserve

After the bourbon goes thru the 3 copper pot stills, it goes into a barrel.  The barrels are then sent down what looks like railroad tracks, to the only surviving limestone aging warehouse in the United States.

barrels go down these rails after bottling

barrels go down these rails after bottling

from filling to the warehouse

from filling to the warehouse

 

only limestone warehouse in Kentucky

only limestone warehouse in Kentucky

limestone barrel warehouse

limestone barrel warehouse

Inside the warehouse are hundreds of barrels, just waiting for the right time, usually 6-8 years.

barrel warehouse - Woodford Reserve

barrel warehouse – Woodford Reserve

When the master distiller determines the bourbon in the barrels has reached its full maturity, those barrels are taken from the warehouse and brought into the bottling area.  An employee uses a lift to place the barrels on a trough, and then drills out the barrel stop, rolls the barrel over, and the bourbon drains out.

drilling out the cork - barrel is ready to bottle!

drilling out the cork – barrel is ready to bottle!

You can see the bourbon pouring out of the barrel below on the right.

bourbon fresh out of the barrel

bourbon fresh out of the barrel

The bourbon then goes to these large tanks for filtering, mixing and then on to bottling.

from barrel to blending/filtering tanks

from barrel to blending/filtering tanks

bottling, labeling, packaging

bottling, labeling, packaging

The tour was great, and we really enjoyed the Woodford Reserve bourbon.  Plus, we got to keep the RV friendly acrylic glass that our sample came in!

bottoms up!

bottoms up!

After Woodford Reserve, it was off to our final stop for the day, at the Town Branch Distillery in Lexington, KY.  This distillery is new to the Bourbon Trail for 2013.  They have both whiskey, and craft beer.

Town Branch Distillery in Lexington

Town Branch Distillery in Lexington

We toured both the brewery, and then the distillery, which is only operating part-time now, as it is new.  The brewery uses an old 1940’s bottling machine for their beer.  It reminded me of an old episode of Laverne and Shirley.

1940's bottling machine

1940’s bottling machine

Their bourbon was okay, but they had excellent craft beer.  The best that we tasted was Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale.  They take their Ale beer, and then put it into used bourbon barrels, for 6 weeks of aging.  It was one of the best tasting beers we have ever had.  They said they are now selling their beer in Ohio, Illinois, and Wisconsin.  So if you have a chance to purchase their beer, I would recommend it!  It comes in a 4-pack, and was a bit pricey down here at $11.99.  But it was very tasty.

They also have a Kolsch-style beer, regular Kentucky Ale, and a hoppy IPA.  We also liked the Kolsch-style beer (can’t be called just Kolsch, as it was not made in Germany).  It was a lighter style of beer.

All in all, it was a good day working our way around Kentucky.  Only 2 more distilleries to go, to complete our passport.

 

Quote for the day:  “I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done.” Lucille Ball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Halloween!!

This weekend at the state park was sold out, due to their annual Halloween festivities.  I knew it was going to be an interesting weekend when our neighbor came over and asked Dan for help moving his coffins!

Friday night they had a folk singer and a storyteller for the kids, plus hot chocolate and a bonfire.  Saturday was the big day for the kids.  In the afternoon, they had a lot of games and craft activities.  Plus a costume and decorating contest.  We had to work, but did make it home in time for trick-or-treat.  Makena wore her Packers jersey, and received many compliments.  We really didn’t know how much to plan for candy, and we did run out.  Duck Hunters seemed to be a popular costume for the boys, and there were two girls that dressed up as I-phones, and they had photos of each other on the corner of the phone (face-time!).  Very creative costumes.

At night they had a DJ playing music, and “spooky golf” in their mini golf area.  The big event for the adults was the decorating contest.  These folks really go all out with their decorating.  Enjoy the photos of some of the rigs:

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Quote for the day:  “A grandmother pretends she doesn’t know who you are on Halloween.” – Erma Bombeck

You’ve got mail…

Probably the number one question that we have received, is “how will you get your mail?” Since it was just Columbus Day, and you didn’t get mail, I thought we would have a topic on mail.  When we decided to change our residency to South Dakota, we set up a service with a Mail Forwarding Company.  There are a number of companies in SD, Texas and Florida that work with full-time RV’ers to handle their mail and other paperwork.   After searching several companies, and talking with the people who work at those companies, we went with MyDakotaAddress.com, in Madison, SD.

downtown Madison, SD

downtown Madison, SD

We have been very happy with the service that we have received so far.  As with all the companies we checked into, they offer several options for service.  We chose to receive our mail once a month, as we already receive and pay all of our bills on-line.  We have switched several magazines to an IPad app, so we do not receive much important regular mail anymore.  We pay $76.00 for 13 months, plus actual postage costs.  Once a month I send an e-mail requesting our mail, and give them our current address, and about 3 days later we receive a large package from the post office.  If we needed something quicker, they will send the mail via FedEx or UPS.

You can also have your mail sent twice a month, weekly, or have them send you an e-mail each day that you receive a piece of mail.  It’s whatever you want to spend, as each level of service costs more.  In addition to the mail service, they will also take care of our vehicle and RV registrations, and helped us set up our voter registration and change in residency/drivers license forms.

When we arrived in South Dakota, it took us a grand total of 1 1/2 hours to set up our new mailing address, register to vote, change over vehicle titles, get license plates and new drivers license.  It was a very efficient process, and Terri Lund at MyDakotaAddress was a huge help in completing all the paperwork for us.  I would definitely recommend them if anyone is in need of a mailing service.

Just to update what we have been up to:

Makena wants to thank everyone for their comments and e-mails regarding the blog post she did.  She wants everyone to know she has agreed not to stand on the kitchen table.  We also have a couple that is letting her out while we are on our 10 hour days, Saturday – Tuesday, 6:30am – 5:00pm.  We let their dogs out, as they work 2nd shift, which is from 5:30pm – 3:30am.

no table...while they are home

no table…while they are home

The park has been filling up on the weekends, and is booked solid these next 2 weekends for their Halloween festivities.  After that, it is closed to the public.

Amazon is up to 310 workampers that have started, and has 5 more groups to bring in, about 50 a week.  As pickers, we are expected to do 85% of what a regular full-time picker does.  In other words, if they pick 100 items an hour, we are expected to pick 85 items.  They give you until your fourth week to try to get up to speed.  Yesterday, after week 3, they posted our numbers.  Dan is at 108%, and I am at 125%.  We are both fast walkers, so I think that is why are numbers are so high.  Everyone has been very nice, and helpful.  The hardest part is just getting to know where everything is.  I am also having a hard time when my scanner has me picking automotive parts (what is a solenoid?), and some hunting/fishing items.  Now when my scanner has me picking housewares, I just grab the item without hesitation!

It’s raining today, so we just are having a leisurely day.  We are looking at some brochures to see what to do the next few days.  We hope everyone is doing well.

Quote for the Day:  I  also hate those holidays that fall on a Monday where you don’t get mail, those  fake holidays like Columbus Day. What did Christopher Columbus do, discover  America? If he hadn’t, somebody else would have and we’d still be here. Big  deal.  John  Waters
 

 

 

Day off at the Distillery’s

Yea, it’s our day off, so we went back into “tourist mode”.  Kentucky is the Bourbon capital of the world, so we visited two of the many distilleries in the area.  They now have “micro” distilleries as well.  First, a little history on Bourbon.  Back in the 1780’s, one of Kentucky’s first counties was named Bourbon County.  When they whiskey was being shipped to other areas, Bourbon was stamped on the barrels, to identify the point of origin.  People then started asking for that “bourbon” whiskey, and the rest is history.  All bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon.  By law, bourbon can only be produced in the US, made with at least 50% corn grain, and aged a minimum of two years in brand new charred, white oak barrels.  The barrels can only be used once, and then most of the bourbon barrels are sent to Scotland, to make Scotch whisky.  Notice I left off the “e”.  Now comes the English lesson.  The general rule of thumb in spelling Whiskey/whisky is based on the origin where it is produced.  If there is an “e” in the country (like United States, Ireland), then there is an “e” in whiskey.  No “e” in the country (Canada, Scotland), means no ‘e’ in whisky.  There are exceptions however, as in our first tour, to Makers Mark.  They do not use an ‘e’.  I have inserted a lot of photos below.  As with all the photos in the blog, you can double-click them to make them bigger for viewing.

Makers Mark, Loretto, KY

Makers Mark, Loretto, KY

 

Makers Mark is a widely known brand, but it is still made in small batches.  They age their barrels just under 6 years, and blend the barrels to make a smoother product.  They offer tours with tastings for $7.  Now for the cooking class lesson on how bourbon is made (trying to keep these blogs educational!) In simple terms, the grain (always 50% minimun corn, and then other grains depending on the brand) is placed into mash pots, to grind and cook the grain, which becomes mash.

the "mash" pots @ Makers Mark

the “mash” pots @ Makers Mark

From the mash, the liquid is placed into fermentation pots and mixed with yeast for 3 days.  By day 3, the pot looks like oatmeal, but has a distinctive whiskey taste.  (and yes, they do let you stick your finger in for a sample!)

fermenting the mash - yummy

fermenting the mash – yummy

From the fermentation room, the liquid goes to the copper pots for distilling.  The remainder of the leftover grain mash goes to farmers to feed their cows.  I think there a lot of happy cows in Kentucky!

the distillery pots @ Makers Mark

the distillery pots @ Makers Mark

The liquid in the pot starts at 140 degrees, and is cooled to 120 degrees at Makers Mark.  Right now, the product that goes into the barrel is commonly known as moonshine.  It is during the barrel aging process, that it becomes bourbon, and over time develops the caramel coloring from the charred wood barrel.

barrel aged bourbon @ Makers Mark

barrel aged bourbon @ Makers Mark

From the barrel, the liquid goes to bottling, labeling and packaging.

Bottling, labeling and dipping @ Makers Mark

Bottling, labeling and dipping @ Makers Mark

 

Boxing up the goodies

Boxing up the goodies

 

(Pudge, I tried to put a mailing label on one of the boxes for you!!)  After all this, it was on to the tasting room!  Makers Mark has a big area designated for this, and goes in to the proper way to drink their product.  We sampled the “pre-barrel” whiskey (aka – moonshine or white dog), a regular Makers Mark, a whiskey that was aged too long (several folks said it tasted like scotch), and Makers 46, which they have been making for a few years.  It is a little smoother tasting because of the added wood they put in the barrel.

sampling room @ Makers Mark

sampling room @ Makers Mark

tasty treats!

tasty treats!

sampling at Makers Mark

sampling at Makers Mark

Makers Mark is known for their signature hand dipped wax bottles.  After the tour is done, they do let you dip your own bottle that you purchase.  The below photo is from last year when we did this tour.  However, last year, they were shut down for cleaning, so we did not get to see the whole process, so we came back this year.

safety first - googles, gloves, apron

safety first – goggles, gloves, apron

hmm, a potential workamping job?

hmm, a potential workamping job?

After Makers Mark, we headed to the Limestone Branch Distillery, in Lebanon, KY.  This is a new micro distillery that started in 2010.  Their entire operation is in one building.  The tour is free, and consists of going into the distillery, then going back out into the tasting area/gift shop.  Unlike Makers Mark which takes about 2 hours, this was 20 minutes!  This distillery was started by Steve and Paul Beam, and yes they are related to Jim Beam.  Cousins, I believe.

Limestone Distillery, Lebanon, KY

Limestone Distillery, Lebanon, KY

A micro-distillery.  This is the entire operation!

A micro-distillery. This is the entire operation!

The fermentation barrels hold 80 gallons, unlike the 1100 gallon barrels at Makers Mark.

tasting the fermented mash

tasting the fermented mash

We were the only people on the tour, a bonus of going to a micro-distillery.  They distill small batches of whiskey, in this 150 gallon copper pot still.

150 gallon still at Limestone Distillery

150 gallon still at Limestone Distillery

 

 

tasting room at Limestone Distillery

tasting room at Limestone Distillery

 

decisions, decisions...

decisions, decisions…

Right now, they do not have any bourbon whiskey at this distillery.  By law, it must age a minimum of 2 years, and it will be late this year when the first barrel will be ready to taste.  They have “moonshine”, a sweet-shine, which is whiskey with sugar added, and they had several very tasty flavored whiskeys, including a seasonal pumpkin whiskey.   This place is only 9 miles from Makers Mark, so it is well worth the drive to do both together.  It was very interesting to see how the product is made.  And with the smaller distillery, you get a more personalized tour.

Quote for the day:  “Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite and furthermore always carry a small snake” – W.C. Fields

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nose to toes

Day 2 at Amazon was orientation on all the rules, paperwork and safety training.  The most important paperwork was how to input the code for our employee discount!!  We will probably pick up some optional overtime to pay for the items we need for the camper.

in the afternoon, we received a lengthy tour of the warehouse, along with our safety training.  Our trainer repeatedly used the phrase to keep your nose with your toes, to avoid twisting while bending.  We had to demonstrate that we could lift boxes up to 20 pounds without assistance.

Tomorrow we will start learning our specific jobs, and we only have to work 5 hours.  Amazon has discovered people can’t go from not working to working 10 hour days very well, so they ease us into the jobs.  We were probably the youngest in our group of 50 that started today, but there are much younger full-timers than us.

Quote for the day:   If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun!  Katherine Hepburn

 

moving day

Just a quick update.  Today we hitched up and started heading to Campbellsville, KY.  We stopped at a nice little local park in Linville, IN.  Tomorrow we have about 200 miles to go.  No internet here and only 1 bar on the phone.

 

Go Badgers!