Saturday, December 28, 2013

Lots of Rose Parade Activities

Friday was a driving day: a little over 200 miles, from the foothills of the Sierras back into the hazy air of the central valley.  Here are two photos taken about 15 minutes apart.  In the valley:
After climbing the “Grapevine Hill” on Interstate 5. 
Isn't the sky color a nicer blue?
The road got better, and the litter alongside the road decreased somewhat as we left the valley, but the most noticeable change was the clarity of the air.  We aren’t into the LA basin yet, which has the dirty air reputation.  We have stopped for the week just outside the metro area, in a fringe suburb called Castaic.  Our tour group is made up of about 55 individuals from all over the country.  We had an initial meeting Friday night and got our updated agendas. 
Saturday morning was spent at a warehouse in Azusa where 5 floats are being prepared.  If you watch the Rose Parade on New Years Day, watch for NBC’s “The Voice”, the 2 football teams (Stanford and Michigan State), plus China Air and Indonesia.  All visible surfaces must be covered with natural material.  We saw people using parsley for the green of the field on the football float, pinto beans for an animal, half a hot red pepper for a plant, and halved brussel sprouts were being prepared for use somewhere.  Paige and Nancy glued shredded coconut flakes to make the yard lines on the Michigan State float. 
Meanwhile, Bob helped to unwrap over 30,000 red carnations whose petals will be the red color on “The Voice”.
The floats are operated by a driver in the rear, who is assisted by a spotter in the front.  There is not much room for either
Lots of work remains to be done before float judging takes place next week.  It’s hard to believe they’ll have everything done in time – there was so much detailed work to be done!  They’ll start working 24 hrs a day soon.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Yet Another “Small World” Story

When we planned our trip from Reno to Los Angeles, we knew it would involve two days of driving, so we planned to split them up at the Escapees Park of the Sierras, near Coarsegold California with a couple of days off where we planned nothing at all except recuperating from Amazon and spending Christmas.
Wednesday we found a pleasant resort-type restaurant for an early dinner then a Christmas Eve service at a small church in Coarsegold.  With only one exception, all of the music was performed by someone under the age of 25, and they all did quite well.
After phone calls with all the kids and grandkids, we spent Christmas day wandering through Yosemite National Park, since we were so close and neither of us had been there before.  Water flow is low this time of year, but there is still a little flow over the waterfalls:
The granite cliffs are so dramatic that our photos can’t do them justice:
We made it back to the park with enough time to rest up before a group dinner.  We were directed to a table where a couple of other non-residents were already seated.  As we walked up to the table we recognized Dave and Nancy Hilmo, who are also former Minnesotans, also Nomads, also recuperating Amazonians, and also planning to go to the Escapees Rose Parade Tour later this week.  We are starting to get used to some “small world” coincidences, but this many all at the same time is something else.  They spend their summers at Dakota County’s Lebanon Hills park in Minnesota, where we first met them.  We have not yet worked a Nomads project with them, but we have met at other activities a couple of times.  They had worked for Amazon in Kentucky last year and had been planning on working in Nevada but had the opportunity to help set up a new Amazon Fullfillment Center in Tracy California (near San Francisco) which just opened.  We had a great time talking about all the things we have in common with them and look forward to seeing them again at the Rose Parade Tour.
We plan to stick around here for Thursday, de-Christmasing, laundry, cleaning, then resting, and meet up with the other Tournament of Roses tour people outside of Los Angeles later on Friday.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

California Here We Come (Back)

Monday morning we pulled out of Reno before 9:00 AM.  That would normally be quite early for us, but it is much later than our leaving for work the past six weeks.  The weather was great, so crossing Donner Pass was not difficult at all. 

Interstate 80 brought us down the western slope of the Sierras into California’s central valley.  We went from high and wooded scenery to low and flat in a very short time.  After a left turn near Sacramento onto CA99 we continued south through Manteca, Modesto, Merced, and Madera.  We don’t know anything about these communities, but liked the series of “M”-names.
To the east of Madera and north of Fresno, we left the valley and climbed back into the foothills of the Sierras where the Escapees have a co-op RVpark outside of Yosemite National Park.  We put our coats away now that the cold is behind us.  Overnight temperatures were in the balmy 30s with forecasted highs in the 60s.  It took no time at all to get used to these temperatures.
This campground is unique – no flat sites all in a row.  There are winding roads/sites through the hills here.  We’re on top of a small hill with a terrific view all around of the hills and valleys.  We have a nice patio with picnic table and swing where we can sit and enjoy the view.  No neighbors right next to us but within sight.  We were also told there are a couple of other former Amazonians recuperating here.
Later today, we will pick up our mail and explore a couple of small towns near Yosemite and see how much of the park is open this time of year.  There is a Methodist Church nearby with a Christmas Eve service at 7 pm which we will attend.
Tomorrow there will be a Christmas Dinner at 4 pm in the community room of the park.  They are serving turkey and prime rib.  We’re looking forward to that since we won’t be able to be with our family.  It’s a very friendly and welcoming group here.
We’ll be here until Friday when we leave for the LA area and the Rose Parade festivities.
Again – Merry Christmas!!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Amazon WrapUp

Saturday was our last day of helping this company through its peak activity.  About 50 of us on Shift#3-Days met in a training room at 4:30 where the full time managers shared some interesting information about the Nevada operation for just this year.  For anyone nuts about numbers, here are a few tidbits I picked up at the meeting:
            - 406 CamperForce people accepted employment, mostly retired seniors
            - 136 of them had worked somewhere at Amazon previously
            - We worked only 6 weeks while others have been here since September
            - Although some left for medical or weather issues, 117 stayed through the end
            - Many records were broken this year
                        - Inventory peaked at 11.8 million pieces, now down to about 9 million
                        - Us stowers put away 449,000 pieces on a single day in Nov (where??)
                        - Output peaked for a single shift at 264,000 pieces pulled for shipments
Will we do this again?  Paige says it’s like childbirth – ask us again in a few months.  It wasn’t hard work (other than lugging huge, heavy textbooks from the aisles into the bins).  There were long days, leaving at 5:30 AM before the sun came up, and returning about 5:30 PM after the sun had set.  The work becomes a bit mind-numbing: find a bin with any space and fill it with something.  Most important things to bring are good shoes and a sense of humor.  It also helps to have the flexibility to reach from ankle level to shelves at 6 feet from the floor.  We have heard rumors of pressure to meet “production standards” but that may be more common in other warehouses.  The people here in Nevada seemed to really appreciate our being here.  Nobody made a big deal about our rate, since our attendance and focus were better than most temporary help.
Amazon has paid our campground fees while we were working, and pays for today as well so we can wrap things up.  We have been invited to a local family’s home for a brunch after church today.  Then we will do laundry and clean up the rig for tomorrow’s departure.  Tonight we’re going out to dinner with Bill and Ogie and then to a performance of the Peking Acrobats at the Grand Sierra Casino where we’re staying.  We’ve thoroughly enjoyed having them here with us!  We’ll be seeing them in late January again when we work with them at a Nomads project in Phoenix.
We plan to head west, over Donner Pass, into California where the temps are higher.  We hope to spend the next few days at an Escapees park near Fresno, then continue south toward Los Angeles for a 6 day group tour of the Tournament of Roses Parade and associated activities.  In the meantime, just taking today off to recuperate from all our aches and pains is a pleasure!
                Merry Christmas to all our family and friends!!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Recuperating, Temporarily

Five weeks down and one left to go here at Amazon, Fernley NV.  Last week was another 50-hour one but with no scheduled overtime for next week, we are now in the middle of a 3-day weekend.  This break is so needed to get over the aches and pains of working 50 hrs in 5 days.  During the workday, there are 2 20 minute breaks and lunch of 30 min between 6:30 am and 5 pm.  There is no place to sit down in the facility so you’re on your feet the whole time.  Whine – whine!
As far as last week’s work went, there is not much to report; being gone from the RV from 5:30 AM to 5:30 PM doesn’t leave much time for social activities.  Sunday was different however, with a morning church service, afternoon laundry, and an evening visit to a neighborhood Christmas lights display.  One house in particular had their lights synchronized to carols being played on an FM frequency.  They were also taking donations for charity.
For at least the last week or so our temperatures have been below normal with lows near zero and highs in the 20s.  Lots of RV parks and lots of fellow campers have had freezing issues with their water and sewer hoses.  We have had only minor issues, compared to many others.  A number of RVers have had enough of the cold and have left for warmer temperatures, foregoing any bonus for completing the season with Amazon.  We’ve gotten to know many of our co-workers so it’s sad to say goodbye.  We plan to stick it out here until the official end next Saturday.  It is much easier now that the temperatures have moderated.  It is still freezing at night, but a whole lot of melting takes place during the daytime.
Bob and I spend most of the day doing errands and Christmas shopping.  We usually wait until weekdays do get out and about and avoid the masses, however, it was really busy shopping today.  Apparently the masses are out during the week now also.  Tomorrow will be a quiet day.  We’re going to the all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant again with Ogie and Bill – yummmmm!  Getting ready for our last 4 day stint! 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Frozen in Nevada

Our 4th week at Amazon is now behind us; only 2 remaining.  Winter caught up to us this week with a couple of snowstorms and cold temperatures.  We’re getting darn frustrated with low single digit temps overnight.  The last 2 nights have been problematic for our poor motorhome; frozen pipes both nights.  Luckily, we had purchased an additional space heater at Walmart on Friday night in case we needed it and we’ve used it in an outside compartment to warm the pipes.  We’ve decided to leave it there until the temps rise to the double digits.
Last week was a 5 day, 50 hr week.  Hard work but we’re meeting lots of folks and the extra money will be nice.  We had Sunday and today off and now we’re scheduled for another 50 hr week.  We’ll be done on the 21st which is getting closer.
Today we’re having some neighbors at the campground over.  They are from Illinois and have a 2004 Meridian motorhome like ours but theirs has 1 more slideout.  They’re coming over for coffee this morning then we’ll be doing errands until we go to visit Bob’s cousin Vicky this afternoon.  We found out that Vicky and Chris moved here from Ohio about 1 month ago (about the time we first got here).  We’re going to their house today and then out for dinner.  It’s so great to connect with relatives and friends along the way!
Last night we went to a Fantasy on Ice performance with Bill and Ogie at the El Dorado casino downtown.  It was a great show and a nice way to celebrate the season.  The casino was beautifully decorated!

Sunday, December 1, 2013


Another week has come and gone, and so quickly too.  We are now halfway through our 6 week commitment to Amazon; 3 weeks down and 3 to go.  Time flies by when you’re too tired to think about it.  Last Tuesday’s overtime was made voluntary, so we had a 3 day weekend (Sun – Tues) which was appreciated, then it was back to work on Wednesday.  It seems like sales must have gone up, since the “pickers” have been busy taking stuff to ship out.  At least it seems like there is more room to stow new stuff. 

Thursday was a short working day, because of the holiday.  Our Thanksgiving feast was at a buffet in the nearby casino.  We went with Bill and Ogie, who are part of our extended family now.  We missed being with our family back home though.
Friday and Saturday were the usual 10-hour days, with one exception.  The “Outbound” night shift is working 12-hour days, ending at 6AM, just when we had been arriving.  The traffic jam in the parking lot was solved by shifting our hours, start and finish, by 30 minutes, so we get to sleep in until 5:00AM, punch in by 6:30, and work until 5:00.  We still fall asleep about 8:30 or 9:00 in the evening so the days go by fast.  We are indoors and the work isn’t physically demanding but being on our feet for long days is draining.
We will have only a 2 day weekend now, since Tuesday is mandatory this week.  It should be gorgeous weather to get some more sightseeing done before winter comes as scheduled later this week.  For our readers who are weather fans, we’ve had frosty windshields each morning, with temps in the 20’s, but pleasant afternoons in the 50’s.  In this dry air, it cools off fast when the sun goes down.  However, the forecast starting on Tuesday is for much colder weather, lows in the teens and highs in the 30’s – yuck!  We need to move further south!
Last Monday we did a little local sightseeing.  We had seen a store called Scheels that looked pretty impressive so we stopped in.  It’s a glorified Cabelas (which they also have in the area) with a ferris wheel in the center.  Decorations for the holiday are everywhere along with high prices.