Saturday, December 27, 2014

Re-Retired and Loving It

After nearly 10 weeks at Amazon, we put in our last shift last Tuesday.  Since then, we have had the chance to sit down whenever we like and the numbness is leaving our hands and wrists.  I am exaggerating only slightly.  What did we learn?  We are thankful that we were physically able to stay through the whole “peak season”.  We are also very thankful that we don’t have to do this kind of work on a regular basis. 

One Christmas custom we were able to do, was to make lefse.  We set up the electric griddle in the kitchen and cranked out about 4 dozen lefse.  We shared some of it with Dave and also brought some to Christmas for Jamie.  Yum!

We had a very nice Christmas, being invited to Jeff’s parents’ house for snacks and gift-giving on Christmas Eve with Pam and Ron along with Jamie, Jeff and their girls.
We hosted a small brunch in our motorhome on Christmas Day for Dave and Nancy and, also, Peggy and her son, Scott, from the Ashville area.  They are also fulltimers who have been at Amazon, while staying in the same park.

Our next service project doesn’t start until after New Year’s Day.  We have booked 4 nights at the Life Enrichment Center, a Methodist camp in Fruitland Park Florida to pass some of that time.  Now that we are recently re-retired we figured we could stretch a 2-day drive to get there into 3 days of driving, with another day off to get used to all this moving again.  We left the Nashville area yesterday and drove about 200 miles to a very nice Corps of Engineers facility on Allatoona Lake in northern Georgia.  A couple of traffic issues made it a long day, so today is our day off.  We will go through Atlanta on Sunday morning and stop in southern Georgia for one night, and then get to Fruitland Park on Monday. 

The Corps of Engineers put a dam on the Etowah River to create Allatoona Lake for flood control and electricity generation about 1949.  We are about 30 miles north of Atlanta and, as a result, the place is one of the busiest Corp facilities in the nation with 6 to 7 million visitors per year.  The following is taken from the Corps website:

“   As Allatoona Dam controls flooding downstream, large fluctuations of the lake elevation can occur.  This is because the normal capacity of Allatoona Lake is relatively small compared to the amount of water that drains into it during heavy rains.

     Daily lake elevation increases of three to four feet are not uncommon after heavy rains.  Weekly increases have been as great as twenty feet.  In the past, high waters have caused severe shoreline erosion.  To guard against this damage, engineers lower the lake's normal elevation during the winter to provide storage capacity for spring rains.  This is when sudden heavy rain cause the most severe fluctuations.  In the summer when rainfall is reduced, the Corps of Engineers raise the level of the lake to 840 feet above sea level.  This is when the lake is most beautiful, and when recreational use of the lake is the greatest.”

And we thought the Whiteface changed a lot during the year – but nothing like this.

Here is what our location looks like, and notice the room to catch next spring’s heavy rains.

We got a message from Nancy that they made it to Florida.  They took off their jackets and socks as the temperature was 78.  We can’t wait!!


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Summary of 2014

2014 was the fourth year we have had experiencing life on the road or "full-timing".  Here is an overview of our year:

We started the year out at the Rose Parade where we first spent time with our now friends Dave and Nancy.  A very fun event!!

After the Rose Parade we headed to Phoenix where we spent time with family and friends.  We also did a Nomads project and traded our motorhome for a new, larger one.
Paige and her sisters
Bob, Uncle Phil, Elsie, and Paige's Mom

We slowly headed to Minnesota, doing another Nomads project in Oklahoma on the way, arriving in late April.  Too early as we encountered cold weather and snow!  Ice on Lake Superior didn't go out until June!  We got busy in Duluth emptying and cleaning Mom's house to prepare for it's sale - which happened in October.

We arrived at the cabin in mid-May and encountered a day similar to the book "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day" where our new motorhome suffered multiple issues trying to get into the driveway.  The result was that we had a new driveway put in to avoid future issues.

The granddaughters went on a field trip to an underground iron mine with Dave.

We celebrated Grandma Joyce's 85th birthday.

Friends and family relaxed at the cabin.

A trip to the State Fair was fun!

Before we left Minnesota, we took the girls for the annual school shopping trip.  Grandpa loves shopping!

Since mid-October we have been working at Amazon in Murfreesboro, TN.  This is close to Nashville where our niece Jamie and family live so we've been able to spend time with them.  They have two adorable daughters!

After Christmas in Nashville later this week, we will be heading to Florida for New Years Eve.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Nearing the End

During the past 2 weeks, we have met a lot of other CamperForce workers at Amazon, many of whom are fun to be with.  Some have chosen to drop out and leave because of health or family problems, and there are stories that some may have been asked to leave, but there are so many rumors floating around that some might not be accurate.  We heard the story of a Camperforce couple working in the gift wrap department a couple of days ago and had such a fight over a box that they were fired.  Apparently the fight became quite violent.  Guess it’s getting to be time to leave for a lot of people!

Bob has done nothing but packing products into boxes, but Paige has had a couple of chances to do what she likes: more gift wrapping.  Usually the gift wrapping is only for a few hours in the morning because they then need to get orders packed and shipped so she is pulled back into the packing area. 

Last weekend we took the time to add Skype to our small electronic Tablet.  We tested it with a call to David, and tomorrow we will use it with Brett and his girls.  It seems to work better than last year when we used it on the laptop.  We’re looking forward to Skyping with the kids and grandkids on Christmas.

Last Wednesday, we felt the need for a bit of a break, so we arranged to have a number of co-workers meet for dinner at a local Mexican restaurant right after work.  Two of them brought their wives along as well.  It was a welcome relief from the usual “Work, Eat, Sleep, Repeat” daily grind.  One of the couples happened to be working as camp hosts at the campground we were at in San Diego 3 years ago.  Small world!  One of the guys, John, is an avid GeoCacher and has “hidden” many caches in this area which Bob is hoping to go looking for before we leave here.

By E-mail on Thursday night, we received our official release date, which will be Monday the 22nd.  We expect it to be a mostly full day, but with a “going away” meeting in a conference room during the last ½ hour.  Yipee!!  We made it (almost)!!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Deck the Halls

Tis the season for decorating and preparing for the Holidays.  In the motorhome, we do everything minimally compared to what we used to do in the house.  Here is some of our decorating:

Fireplace (driver’s side)

                                                                       Entry way

Presents under the tree (passenger’s side)

The 50-hour weeks have become like mindless repetition of filling boxes with other people’s stuff, over and over.  It makes us appreciate the freedom we have by not having much stuff (or room to carry it).  Some of our co-workers opted to take on a 6th 10-hour day this week, but we had other things to do with our time (like laundry and shopping and resting).  With only two weeks left (and maybe a little bit more) our thoughts have turned to scheduling our departure and choosing the route to our next Nomads project.  

Depending on their order backlog Amazon may choose to end our work anytime between the 20th and the 24th.  We plan to stay here in Smyrna through the 25th and leave for Florida on the 26th.  We’re looking forward to spending Christmas with Pam and Ron and Jamie’s family. 

We spent part of yesterday and today completing our Christmas shopping.  Some of the gifts were ordered online and will be delivered to the kids.  But Paige has a need to wrap gifts so we bought a few things that will be mailed after being personally wrapped by her.  We’ll miss being with the kids and grandkids!  Hopefully we can Skype and enjoy talking after they receive the gifts.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Black Friday is History

Our 6th week at Amazon contained our first Holiday and our first overtime.  Our shift will normally work overtime on Thursdays, except for this past week.  It was shifted to Friday due to Thursday’s holiday. 

For Thanksgiving Day, we had read about some of the Tennessee state parks that have restaurants, and some of them had planned to have a holiday buffet.  The one nearest to us was about 45 to 50 minutes away.  After Dave and Nancy finished their ½ day shift, we loaded up for Henry Horton State Park only to arrive and find a crowd outside with a 2 hour wait to be seated.  We don’t care how great the food might be, very few places might be worth that time, plus we all had to work again on Friday.  We opted for “Plan B” and headed off to parts of Tennessee we had not seen before.  As luck would have it, we happened upon a small restaurant with a gift shop and gas pumps out front.  It was like a mini-Cracker Barrel, with immediate seating, a huge menu, and a Thanksgiving dinner for the special of the day.  It was also quiet enough to have a great conversation.  We had a leisurely dinner and ended up enjoying this very small restaurant.  As this is a time to give thanks, we are particularly thankful that we have the health and stamina to put in the 10 hour days at Amazon, but also thankful that it is a choice we've made and that we don't need to work like this.

Friday was supposedly the biggest shopping day of the year, but that must be in the malls only.  Amazon had geared up in anticipation of a busy Black Friday, but we didn’t have much to do in the morning.  The afternoon was a little busier, but the morning was very slow.  Maybe this will change on Cyber Monday – we will see.

Saturday, as this is being written, is our normal day off.  We hosted our niece, Jamie, and her family for a lasagna dinner and a fun time.  It was so great to see them again! 

Now we have quiet time, before making up tomorrow’s lunch bag and getting ready to start a normal 50-hr week.  Only 3 full weeks left – we see the light at the end of the tunnel!!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Our 5th week at Amazon

We have just completed week #5 which was “more of the same” – just like last week’s description.  At least we are indoors, in short sleeves, and not lifting anything too heavy.  After standing in one place for 10 hours (except for lunch and 2 short breaks) we come home pretty tired and stiff, but it is really surprising how quickly we recover and are back again for the following day.  A 3-day weekend gives us even more time to recuperate.

This coming week includes Thanksgiving Day.  We will have a normal 40 hour week from Sunday through Wednesday, with another 10 hours of overtime on Black Friday, on the 28th.  Then we’re having Jamie, Jeff, Shay, and Kyla over for a lasagna dinner on Saturday.  It’s so nice to be able to connect with them while we’re here!

We’re going to start working more now as everyone is ordering more from Amazon – 50 hours per week.  It’s amazing what we pack!  Paige’s most surprising package was 1 cake mix!  Who would order just that??  Or one package of shoe laces??  We think there are people that just don’t want to leave their houses for anything!!  We also can’t believe the electronic device covers.  Literally millions of them!!  Bob’s been surprised at how many gun holsters he’s packaged.  They don’t sell guns or ammunition, but a large amount of holsters.  There must be more paranoid people out there than he expected.

We have two days left on our break this week.  On our way to Best Buy and the Knotty Knitter yarn shop.  Enjoying our time off!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Week #4

We’ve just completed our fourth week at Amazon-Murfreesboro and have our 3 day break now.  We are coming up on the peak Christmas shopping time period, but we’re not quite there yet.  The stowers and others working the Incoming departments are working overtime already, but Packers like us are part of the Outbound group.  Optional overtime was available to us today, but we elected not to go in, since we are both getting over having colds.

So what does an Amazon packer do?  Check the computer monitor for a recommended box, tape its bottom, flip it over, scan item(s) barcode, put it in the box, check the monitor to see if the order is complete, add dunnage (bubbles) if needed, tape the top shut, apply a SP00 sticker (temporary ID label), and drop it on a conveyor.  Repeat everything over and over and over and over for 10 hours, standing in the same station, moving a step or two if needed sometimes reaching up and bending down.  It is really pretty mindless (not much decision making) and little interaction with others, except for resupplying our boxes and taping needs which is done by turning on a blue light and another employee (a water spider – don’t know why they’re called that) responds to that request.  No cameras are allowed inside so we can’t show you our work area.  There may be about 100 packers for a weekday shift, with more expected to start soon.

Last weekend, we drove Dave and Nancy to the Opryland Hotel where the Christmas decorating is almost done.  They were amazed at how beautiful it is inside.  The Christmas decorations were due to be turned on last night so we may go for a short visit again tomorrow.   

After our outing to Opryland last Saturday, Paige came down with a cold which was passed to her by her wonderful, sharing husband, Bob.  It hit her pretty hard and she ended up staying home from work on Sunday.  Both of us are basically recovered now – just a little coughing now and then.  Thank goodness for good health!!

The cold from Minnesota is now visiting us.  Today it is in the 30’s here with lows in the 20’s forecasted for tonight.  We haven’t been through a cold spell like that with this motorhome yet but are confident we’ll keep warm and experience no freezing water lines.  The cold is forecasted to last for a week or so.  Florida is sounding good!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Three Day Weekend

Until peak shipping season begins (which should be soon) we work 4 days in a row with three days off.  In order to get onto our regular schedule of Sunday through Wednesday, we had only one day off last weekend (Saturday) but now we are into our normal schedule so we had Thursday for routine errands, Friday for a little sightseeing, and today to spend with our friends Dave and Nancy.

Our first full week passed without any incidents and no unusual aches and pains, but we sure appreciate having a day (or 3) off.  We learned on this morning’s news that a fire had started in a cardboard baler at Amazon late last night, and production had to stop for the fire to be put out and the smoke to be cleared.  We expect to hear more about that tomorrow morning at start-of-shift.

On Thursday we spent the day doing laundry and errands.  Friday we did a little road trip and stopped at a small whisky distillery called George Dickel’s.  It was in the country and the drive there was windy, hilly, and scenic. 

There are a few smaller children here in the RV park so we expected to have trick-or-treaters for Halloween but no one came, so we will just have to eat the treats ourselves.  What tough duty.  In addition, Bob made some of his Palm Beach brownies which we’ll also have to eat!

Dave and Nancy invited us along today for a trip to a nearby town which was full of antique shops.  A late afternoon stop, before returning home, was at a very small distillery where they had a display of an actual old time still manned by a couple of old time bootleggers.  They sure entertained us with stories of the old moonshine days.  Today’s production uses the same recipe but with higher volume equipment.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Our Only Day Off This Week

Our last post was at the end of our first day at Amazon's Murfreesboro warehouse.  Now we have finished our first week: 4 days of 5 hours each.  Our work will all be in “Packing”, where orders have already been pulled from the shelves and brought to us for packaging, the last step before shipping to the customer.  We spent Thursday and Friday learning the 4 possible alternatives: single or multiple items, and large or small packages.  There isn’t as much walking as we did last year in Stowing; we’ll be working in a single work station all day.  It remains to be seen if this will be easier on us than last year.

All of last week’s trainees begin their regular shifts next week.  Our shift is daytime, Sunday through Wednesday, 10 hours each with overtime (if scheduled) being another 10-hour day on Thursday.   No overtime has been scheduled yet, so we will have our 3-day weekend on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays until we are released just before Christmas.

So what did we do during our only day off: met with family.  Our niece, Jamie and her husband Jeff, recently had their second daughter, Kyla.  Isn’t she cute?

Her big sister, Shay, just completed 6 weeks of figure skating classes at the Scott Hamilton Skating Academy.  She’s doing very well and now talks of playing hockey in the future. 

Scott was there to hand out diplomas and encourage everyone to continue the sport.  He is a very down-to-earth person, and easily approachable.  Paige was thrilled to meet him.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

“Working Stiffs” – Once Again

We are officially now back in the working world.  We’ve completed our first (short) working day at Amazon Fullfillment Center in Murfreesboro TN.  Here, they start everyone off with 4 short days, starting with paperwork and standardized videos to cover company policies.  Tomorrow we will undergo safety training, and begin learning what process we will be doing (packing, picking, stowing, or ???).  The 10-hour days start next week.

This warehouse is only two years old, and is much larger than the one we were at in Nevada last year.  There were more than 20 people who started today, and we were among the youngest.  Many of them have worked at other Amazon facilities in the past. 

The campground they provided for us is a little old and quite crowded, but at least it is quiet.  The most noise we hear is the acorns falling on our roof.

We arrived here on Sunday afternoon and our friends, Dave and Nancy, had us over for dinner.  It was so great to see them and catch up on all the news as we haven’t seen them since last spring.  It was total coincidence that we both ended up here at Amazon.  We’re glad that they are also in the same campground.  It’s nice to have them to commiserate with!

We’re also anxious to see Jamie and family this weekend.  We will get to see the new baby, Kyla, who already is growing up fast.  Shay has her last skating lesson on Saturday and we’re planning to watch that. 

We hope that we can last through this second stint at Amazon.  We know that it’s grueling but the extra money sure is nice!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Motorhome Service in Iowa

We left Duluth on Monday morning and passed through St. Paul about mid-day.  After a lunch stop at a rest area, we arrived in Forest City Iowa during business hours.  Last month we had tried to schedule an appointment for service at the Winnebago plant, but they had a full schedule for this week.  Instead we had an appointment at their local dealer.  We parked there for the night and they got us in early Tuesday when they got most items on our list fixed.  A mark on our roof had concerned both them and us, and they suggested we try a “drop-in” at the plant on Wednesday.  The plant was able to squeeze us in and took care of everything else on our list (except for one item).  We’ve been very pleased with the factory service last spring as well as this week.  Here is a view of our motorhome and truck at the Winnebago service center:

One of the benefits of coming here for service is that you get to talk with other Winnebago owners.  There are so many interesting people out there! 

We’re now ready to head for our work in Murfreesboro, TN.  We’ll get to the campground on Sunday afternoon, take Monday to get oriented and set up, and start work on Tuesday.  We only work 5 hours/day for 4 days next week.  Piece of cake!  Then we start the 10 hour days the following week.

Since we had to extend our stay in Iowa, we won’t be able to see Jamie’s family until the following weekend.  Looking forward to seeing the new baby and we get to see Shay’s skating lesson (which may give us the opportunity to see Scott Hamilton as he runs the skating school!).  It’s so great to have opportunity to connect with family when we’re on the road!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Moving On

After three fun and work-filled weeks at Northern Pines Assembly, we are once again on the move.  Our prior blog mentioned unseasonably warm weather; it didn’t last.  The weather turned unseasonably cool and increasingly windy for our final two weeks, but we had a great team and got a lot of good work done.

We will spend this weekend with Paige’s mother in Duluth and head south early next week.  We will make a quick stop at Winnebago on Tuesday to have a couple of minor things inspected, then will push on to Tennessee.  Amazon is expecting us for another holiday season.  We’ll start working October 21st.  Our friends, Dave and Nancy, are already there and are set up at the same campground where we will be staying.  That will make our work at Amazon much more fun.

We are back at Lakehead Marina, on the shore of Duluth’s harbor, same as we were back in early May.  Back then there was a lot of ice and few boats in the water.  There is no ice here yet, but they have begun taking many of the boats out already.

Here is our view:

Friday, September 26, 2014

Back At It

During a quiet week with Brett and Jen and the girls, we got to see the girls off to school every morning and return most afternoons.  We also got our annual dental inspections done and had a few more social gatherings.

On Friday Sept 19 we hit the road, northbound, and arrived at Northern Pines Camp in Park Rapids MN for a 3-week Nomads project.  We met with the camp director during the afternoon to learn what he had in mind for our group to work on.  Four more couples joined us on Saturday and Sunday, so we have 10 people here.  It’s a great group and we’ve had a lot of fun getting to know everyone already this week.

After a busy 4-day work week, we all are enjoying the start of a quiet 3-day weekend.   We started with a number of our larger tasks and have made good progress already, but only a couple projects have been completed.  We started off the weekend on Thursday night with a bonfire and roasted hot dogs.

It’s a beautiful, unseasonably warm weekend here.  The sunset tonight was gorgeous!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Fall is Here

Last week we moved our groceries from the cabin to the motorhome on Thursday so that we could pull up the jacks and roll down the road to Brett and Jen’s place.  Friday morning the flowers were still standing and colorful, but we heard that a hard frost hit that night, so we apparently got out just in time.  We had a great summer up at the Whiteface and will miss everyone up there!  Here is how things looked when we left:

We now have this week to do some socializing, get annual dental checkups, and some delayed back-to-school shopping with the granddaughters.

We also got to a hockey practice for Anna.  She’s just starting hockey but is making great progress.

This week we have our pre-employment drug tests for Amazon, and more socializing with friends and family before we leave for our fall Nomad project in Park Rapids MN.

It has been a relaxing summer, but the time is coming to get back to work.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Goodbye Cabin, soon

Our summer at the cabin is wrapping up quickly now.  We just pulled the raft and dock out with the help of our neighbor.  We have 3 full days to transfer all our stuff from the cabin to the motorhome and spend one more day in Duluth for laundry and groceries before leaving on Friday morning for Elk River. 

This past weekend David and LeJoy came for a visit.  They brought a box of apples from a tree in their yard so LeJoy and Paige made Apple Crisp and Applesauce.  Bob and Dave went to McCarthy State Park for a hike.  We had such a nice time and it was hard to see them leave.  They have the honor of being our last company for the summer.  Another reminder that our time at the cabin is ending.

                                                                    last boat ride

After the left, we had a beautiful Sunday afternoon, when we could sit alongside of the motorhome and watch the renewed Vikings team record their first (of many) wins this season.

As we go on our golf cart rides around the circle, we think of all the things we did up here this summer:
  • Having kids and granddaughters up here at various times
  • Spending time with Grandma Joyce and doing things with her (celebrating her 85th birthday in July)
  • Picking raspberries
  • Getting to know neighbors better, meeting new neighbors, and seeing old neighbors
  • Playing cards and games with neighbors
  • Enjoying campfires
  • Going for a couple of boat and motorcycle rides
  • Spending time with cousin Steve and family
  • Having KJ/Rob and Almekinders visit
  • Walks around the circle
  • Quiet time reading our Nooks, knitting, and playing Cribbage (Bob enjoyed this more than Paige as he usually won!)

Today is windy but sunny and quite warm.  The forecast, however, is for a high of 45 and rainy by Wednesday.  This is nature’s way of preparing us for the move south!  We get to spend a week at Brett’s where we’ll take care of medical appointments and spend time with all the granddaughters and other family before we start our Nomads project in Park Rapids.  

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What Summer?

Labor Day is less than a week away; we’ve already been to the MN State Fair; we’ve had a couple of nights with temps below 40; a few trees are beginning to lose their green.  Fall is definitely in the air.

We spent some time beautifying our new driveway by adding a rock border.  We still have a ways to go on this project.

We have also spent time with cabin neighbors, either playing cards or just sitting and talking.  Bob and Kathy Almekinder came for a short visit.  It was so good to see them.  Here we are at cousin Steve’s enjoying the fire. 

Late last week we made a quick trip to the Twin Cities for a day at the state fair with Brett and his girls, plus LaJoy and her kids (a first-time trip for them).

The shorter days and cooler nights let us know that summer won’t last much longer.  We will still be here for a few more weeks, and more company is coming to visit.  Our plans for the next few months are firming up:  after a Nomads project at a church camp, we will return to working for Amazon (this time at a warehouse in Tennessee), then we will spend the winter in Florida doing Nomads projects and just enjoying the warm weather.

Friday, August 15, 2014


Last weekend was busy.  On Saturday afternoon we went to Paige’s class reunion.  It was small (30 classmates out of 350 attended) but we enjoyed seeing some old familiar faces.  The weather was perfect for it and it was held at a classmate’s lake home not terribly far from the Whiteface.
We left the reunion early as cousin Steve and Deanna invited us to their cabin for a steak dinner.  We had great food and great company there!  We sat on their deck and watched the sun go down – it was a beautiful sight and so peaceful!

When we got back to our cabin, we saw the moon coming up.  The moon has been spectacular this week!  It can be so beautiful up here!

This week’s weather has been great – just warm enough and a little rain.  We worked on the ceiling in the cabin and shampooing the carpet.  Mom came for a visit one day.  Not too many projects but enough to keep us busy.

We’ve started collecting rocks and creating a cobble stone edging around the driveway to stabilize the slope and make it look better.  That’s hard work and not anything we need to get done in a hurry!

This weekend we have our good friends the Almekinders coming for a quick visit.  We haven’t seen them in for 2 years so we’re real anxious to see them!