Winter work camping is done!!

We have finished up our 6 months of work camping at Westwind RV and Golf Resort in Yuma, Arizona!  It was our longest work camping job that we have done since we started our journey in 2013.  And we’re going to do it again (for 1 more year) this fall!  This season, Dan and I both worked 3 days a week, Thursday – Saturday.  Dan worked 24 hours each week, on the golf course. In exchange, we received our full hook-up site, including all utilities, for free.  I worked in the office, for minimum wage (currently $11.00/hour in Arizona) averaging about 28 hours/week.

In total, I made approximately $8,000 for the 6 months of work (I haven’t received my last paycheck yet, so I don’t have the exact gross pay figures).  Our expenses were minimal, as we did not have to pay anything for 6 months of rent/utilities.  Laundry was not included, and we spent $225.00 at the on-site laundry facility in the park.  We probably could have found a cheaper laundromat, but the convenience of walking to the facility outweighed the expense.  But the real benefits of being in one spot for so long is all the wonderful people that you meet.  Dan enjoyed working with the full-time year round staff on the golf course and in the maintenance department.  I had great co-workers that made the job fun (shout out to Lori and Roy!!), and a very patient office manager, Kathy.  We never seemed to stop learning…

This fall, Dan will only be working 16 hours/week, 3 days a week.  In exchange, we will receive our site for free, but will have to pay for electric/utilities.  He requested this, because he often finished up his work by lunch, and had to spend the afternoon making “busy work.”  Being a former math teacher, he ran the numbers, and it wasn’t worth working 32 extra hours per month to cover electric/utilities.  It amounted to getting paid just over $4/hour.  I will be back in the office, and the minimum wage in Arizona is set to increase to $12/hour next January.  So that’s a nice perk, as most winter jobs do not pay.

In addition to having a positive experience at Westwind, we decided to come back for several other reasons.  We are planning on going to Alaska in 2020, but not to work, just to play tourist.  Having an income over the winter season will help to offset the loss of income in the summer.  Also, we really enjoyed getting together with our friends Dave and Marilyn.  It was a pleasant surprise when we found out they had moved to the Yuma area and next season our friends Tom and Ellen will be joining us as well.  Tom will work in Guest Services (helping to park RV’s, read electric meters, and whatever else is needed) and Ellen will be in the mail room.  In exchange for their hours, they will receive their site for free, including utilities, and a voucher which they can use at the onsite restaurant, golf shop, and concert tickets (only the office is a paid position).

It took 6 months, but I finally saw my first rattlesnake and roadrunner at the end of March, while playing golf with Dan, Roy and Lyle (who is from Canada and rented a park model a few doors from us).

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A zoomed in view, as it was much smaller (thankfully) than I expected!

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Needless to say, you must keep the ball in the fairway!

It was hard to get a photo of the roadrunner, so this is a bit blurry.  They move fast, and are not as big as I imagined (must have been all those cartoon road runners I watched growing up….beep beep!)  And yes, they can fly, but usually just run around.

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I’m not sure what I prefer, dealing with alligators while golfing in Florida, or rattlesnakes in Arizona.  I think I’ll stick with the safest alternative, Max.  He doesn’t bite!

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What’s next?

We have a month to wander around until we start our summer job, back at Luton’s Teton Cabins.  We spent a week near Phoenix at Peublo El Mirage Golf and RV resort (very nice), just relaxing, and are now near Sedona for a few days.  We have met up with Tom and Ellen and Steve and Kathy who are all on their way to West Yellowstone for their summer work camping jobs.  I will have a new post about the Sedona area in the not too distant future.

I’m not sure what the name of this cactus is, but it was in full bloom at the RV park in El Mirage.  We were told it only blooms for one day each year.  Since we were leaving the park the next morning, I was not able to go back and verify if the flowers were still in bloom.  It was beautiful though!

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Quote for the day:  “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” – Dr. Seuss

Back to work and Howling at the Moon!

 

We are all settled in sunny Yuma, Arizona for the winter, and have two weeks of work under our belt at Westwind RV and Golf Resort.    They have about two dozen seasonal work campers here, in addition to a year-round full-time staff of locals.  Various jobs are in the mail room (with 1057 sites, there’s a lot of mail), office, bar/restaurant, activities, guest services (escorting guests to their sites and helping back them in), maintenance, and housekeeping.

Dan is one of only two work campers assigned to the golf course, and works Thursday, Friday, Saturday, 6:30 – 3:00pm.  The other work camper has Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  Dan works with three other guys, who work full-time, year round, on the course.  He will be mowing greens, fairways, raking sand traps, and does some trash pick-up on Saturdays, when the regular maintenance workers are off.  The golf course is currently closed for the month of October, due to overseeding.  So he has been able to work on the course without having to dodge errant golf shots!  But that will change November 1, when the par-3 course opens to play.  He is curious to see how his duties will change, once the course opens up.  He’s also looking forward to cooler temperatures next week.  It has been in the 90’s for the last 10 days, but the humidity and dew point have been in the mid 30’s.  So it’s been hot, but not oppressive, since there is no humidity.

In exchange for his 24 hours of work, we receive our site for free, along with all utilities.  This park charges $650/month October/November/December, and $800/month January – April.  In addition, they have metered electric of 14 cents/kilowatt, and a $40/month utility fee for water/sewer/trash/recycling.  Our neighbor, who just has one air conditioner on his fifth wheel, had an electric bill of $144 for October, so we know ours would be pretty high as well, given that we have been running both A/C’s non-stop.  So it’s a pretty good deal.  Dan will not receive a W-2 or 1099 form.  His compensation is not taxed.  There are some campgrounds that do give you a tax form, and it’s best to ask that so you don’t end up with a surprise during tax season, and have to pay taxes on the site that you received.

I work in the office, also on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, from 8:00 am – 5:00 pm.  For my 24 hours, I am paid $10.50/hour, which is the Arizona minimum wage.  It was a little perplexed filling out the Arizona wages tax form, as you do not go by the number of deductions, like the Federal form (most states do).  They have seven different tax brackets, ranging from 0% to 6%, and you have to pick one.  I just picked the middle, at 2.7%.  We’ll see how that works out in April!  Our summer job was in Wyoming, which has no state income tax, so we’ll still only have Federal and one state to file taxes in this coming tax season (Florida, our domicile state, also has no income tax).

There are seven total office workers, one works on Sunday, three work Monday – Wednesday, and three of us Thursday – Saturday.  It has not been too busy, so we are literally tripping over each other.  Hopefully things will be picking up after November 1, when most of the seasonals start to arrive.

Campground Manager is the computer software system that they use here (not to be confused with Campground Master, which is another brand).  Personally, I find the system to be antiquated, as you have to hit the “tab” key to go through the database, instead of clicking a mouse.  It just seems clunky to me.  Once it gets busier, I should get more used to it.  In addition to checking in guests, we also handle the utility bills, and hand out the packages that people receive that are delivered by the post office. (UPS and FedEx will deliver right to people’s site, so that cuts down on a lot of packages) I was surprised by the large number of QVC packages that are received.  Apparently that home shopping channel is still doing well!

Here is our free site for the winter.  We are against a wall, so no one behind us, which is nice.  The sites here are big.

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HOWLING AT THE MOON!

When I posted this summer that we were coming to Yuma to work, I received an e-mail from Dave and Marilyn, a couple that we met working at Amazon.  They had moved from Florida to Yuma, as they were tired of the humidity.  Dave said the lack of humidity is much better for his arthritis.  Plus, they work summers in Seattle, for the cruise ships, so it was an easier commute for them.

Marilyn mentioned getting together to “howl at the moon,” which is apparently a popular thing to do in Yuma, out in the desert.  We met up with them, and their neighbors, Jim and Carol, and had a great time.  Howling at the Moon is held every month when there is a full moon.  A local band plays on a small stage, there are food trucks available if you want something to eat, or you can just bring your own food/beverages, plus a lawn chair.  It starts around 3:30 pm, and ends when the moon has risen above the Fortuna Foothills, about 3 miles East of our campground.

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Dan, Marilyn, Dave, Jim and Carol

The sun setting off to the West, at 5:55 pm (mountain standard time, or Arizona time, as most people call it)

The Fortuna Foothills, in the East, at the same time.  Jeeps and other off-road vehicles are very, very popular in this area.  The off-road vehicles have LED flag poles on them.  The moon will rise over the foothills.

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At 6:00 pm, the sun has gone down, making it easier to see the crowd and band from our vantage point.

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By 6:30, the last light of the sun is fading, and the lights are on the stage.  You can start to see the LED lights from the off-road vehicles.

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I started to notice everyone turning their chairs around, towards the East, to get ready for the moon to appear.  Around 6:40 pm, a glow began to appear behind the foothills.

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As the moon started to rise, I realized that I have never watched a “moon-rise,” only sunrises and sunsets.  It was just as beautiful. (although much harder to get a good picture of).  As it started to peak out, people began to howl.

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And when it had fully risen above the foothills (took about 10 minutes), the band did a countdown, and all 500 plus people “howled” at the same time!

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And that was the end of a wonderful evening!  There is no charge for the event, but they do come around for donations, to help cover the cost of the band and port-a-potties.  Any extra money goes to various charities.  We had a lot of fun getting caught up with Dave and Marilyn, as well as meeting Jim and Carol.  Hopefully we can get together again soon!

Next month when the moon is full, be sure to “howl” (or listen for us howling in Yuma!)

Quote for the Day:  “Yeah we all shine on, like the moon, and the stars, and the sun.” – John Lennon

 

 

Wildflowers, wildlife and wild scenery

Busy, busy, busy is how the last few weeks have been at Luton’s Teton Cabins. The cabins have been at full occupancy through the 4th of July. We have a day or two reprieve until they fill back up again. The families have now taken over the cabins, with a few couples in the smaller cabins.  Some cabins look like a tornado has gone through, with stuff everywhere!  We have to be careful where we step when making the beds.  We have met some wonderful guests from around the country, and a few international tourists as well. Our group of 9 work campers has been doing a great job, and our guests have left many wonderful reviews.

We did receive one puzzling note from a guest that checked out this week. They stated the cabin was great, but were disappointed by the mosquitoes. They felt for the amount of money that they paid to rent the cabin, we should have done something about them (the owners did spray their fields, but the cabins sit on 100 aces). The more I thought about this guests note, the more amused I became. I didn’t realize that mosquitoes should only bite people who stay in budget motels! Mosquitoes don’t discriminate. They go after everyone!

The Tetons received over 600 inches of snow this winter (normal snowfall is 400 inches). Between the snow melt and the spring rains, it has created a bumper crop of mosquitoes this year. But it has also rejuvenated the wildflowers. We have gone on several hikes so far, and I always take time to stop and photograph the flowers. I’m not really sure what they are, and just refer to them as yellow, purple, and blue flowers!


We have seen plenty of elk, buffalo and moose. I am still in search of the elusive porcupine. I was talking with one park ranger, and she gave me some areas to try, after 6 pm. Once the mosquitoes settle down in a few weeks, I plan on heading out on some trails in the evening to look for a porcupine.

On one of our hikes, we did see a bear, but it quickly ran off when it spotted us.  The only other animals that we found were long deceased.  It’s the circle of life…

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someone’s dinner

Even though it’s July, there is still plenty of snow on the mountains this year. It just makes for a peaceful setting.
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Always nice to watch the sunset from the cabins.

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Quote for the day: “Even if you fall on your face, you’re still moving forward.” – Victor Kiam

Just plugging along

We have been pretty busy at work so far this season at Luton’s Teton Cabins.  It took about a week to complete spring cleaning all the cabins and the lodge.  Every log gets wiped down with a damp rag, and then oiled with Old English Wood Oil.  It is a tedious process, but the wood looks fantastic when we are done.  Many guests this year have commented on how nice the cabins look, and they are surprised to find out they are over 25 years old.  Brad and Joanne, the owners, are very particular about cleaning, and it shows.  We have already received several 5 star reviews on Trip Advisor this year, and the season is just getting started!

We have a fantastic group of work campers this year, which really makes for a pleasant work environment.  And, based on our first pot luck, they are all good cooks as well!  Karen and Al are back again along with Jodi and Ken who worked here a few years ago. Joining our experienced crew this year are Shawn, Erin and Melissa.

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Dan, Joanne, Karen, Brad, Shawn, Erin, Jodi, Ken, Melissa and Al (standing)

We have managed to get out and do a few things on our days off, when the weather has been co-operating.  We had a few days of snow early in the season and it’s forecast again for tomorrow – ugh!!! We have also had some wind, rain, hail and flood warnings. This year the Tetons received over 600 inches of snow, and the snow melt has caused the rivers to be near flood stage.  We are keeping our fingers crossed that the road to the cabins does not get closed.

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Snow Day!

We went up to Yellowstone National Park with Karen and Al for a day.  There was a lot of snow in the park.

P1000101P1000094With all the snow, we knew the waterfalls would be spectacular, and we were not disappointed!  It was a bit windy out, as you can tell by Dan’s hair!


 

And no visit to Yellowstone would be complete without getting caught up in a buffalo jam!

And to top off the day, we met up with Tom and Ellen at the Old Faithful Cafeteria for dinner.  They are working out in West Yellowstone again.  It was great catching up with them, and we plan to get together later in the summer.  


And to continue with our crazy weather, last night it was raining to the East, which resulted in one of the nicest rainbows I have seen.  Melissa and I went out to take some pictures, and half of our guests were standing outside taking pictures as well.  No rain…no rainbows!  Thanks Melissa for the photo!

We are looking forward to a great summer and expect to be busy as the cabins are near capcity all summer.   Hopefully the crazy weather will settle down soon so we can get out and explore the area more on our days off. We should have more time to explore since I won’t be sidelined by a broken foot like last year.
Quote for the day:  “In the Spring, I have counted 136 different kinds of weather inside 24 hours.” – Mark Twain 
 

 

Summer work wrap-up

Our summer work camping job at Luton’s Teton Cabins has officially come to an end, and I will do a brief wrap-up for those readers interested in work camping.  For those who just like pictures, I put a few of those in as well!  Our view when we arrived in May.

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Grand Teton Range

Of the 9 work campers (4 couples, one single) we were the last couple left, so we had some very busy days.  I was working both in the office, and housekeeping.  We ended up working 8 days in a row (our choice).  Brad was excited when he found out Dan had done commercial steam carpet cleaning before we were married.  The carpeting in the cabins are cleaned every fall, as the cabins start to open up after the guests depart.  Dan was able to get 12 of the 14 cabins done before we left.  Two were still occupied into October, so Brad will take care of those after the guests depart.  The cabins officially closed for the season on October 7.

At 4 1/2 months, this was the longest we have stayed at a work camping job.  The time went by very quickly though, and we never had that “how many weeks to go” count down that we have at Amazon!  Because of the length of our stay, it was also the most profitable job we have had.  Our total combined gross for the summer was $19,159.25.  This includes an unexpected bonus at the end of $500.00 each.  Our pay agreement did not include an end of season bonus, so we were pleasantly surprised when we opened up our envelope and discovered 4 paychecks!

ADDITIONAL PERKS

We had a free 50 amp full-hookup site, excellent high speed internet, a few hundred dollars in tip money (tips are split 9 ways), a great location for exploring (5 miles East of the entrance to Grand Teton National Park), free laundry including the use of a large commercial washer/dryer, and probably my favorite perk was the food lottery.

When guest leave food behind (usually those that are flying), all the food is put into a refrigerator in the housekeeping garage.  The work campers rotate in picking items each day from the refrigerator.  We had items ranging from eggs, ketchup, mustard, beer, bottled water, salad dressing, wine, butter, coffee, olive oil  and ice cream.  I think we have 4 bottles of olive oil in our pantry!  During the busy summer season, we had a lot of leftover items from the families.  In September, when it was mostly couples, we had very little food, as most of the couples went out to dinner.

NEXT SUMMER

Our original goal when we started our full-time RV life was to always work in a new location every summer. We have decided to return to Luton’s Teton Cabins next summer, however, for several reasons.  We have had a wonderful summer, and Brad and Joanne are two wonderful people to work for.  They gave us a nice bump in pay for next year, as an incentive to return.

With my broken foot this summer, there were many things that we did not do, such as bicycling in the park, and hikes longer than 4 miles.  So we have many things to do next summer.  And Dan and Al (yes, Karen and Al are coming back for their 4th summer) can keep catching dinner, as they were quite successful fishing this summer. This picture shows six nice sized cut-throat trout which are native to this area.

img_1229We managed to eat at one of the restaurants featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Nora’s Fish Creek Inn for breakfast, with Karen and Al.  I had the recommended banana bread French toast, which was excellent.  We did not get to try Pinky G’s Pizza, the other featured restaurant in the area, so that is on our list for next summer.

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Makena has also given her approval for returning, as she enjoyed the acres of land for her to play on.

img_0878-1Our view at the end of summer, with the moon over Mount Moran.

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So if any of our readers has plans to visit Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks for next summer, let us know!  Just don’t try coming on or around August 21, 2017.  Everything is booked solid due to a solar eclipse!

Quote for the day:  “The brain is a wonderful organ; it starts working the moment you get up in the morning and does not stop until you get into the office.” – Robert Frost