"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing"
- Helen Keller

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Only 3 1/2 weeks to go!

Yep, I’m counting them down. Evelyn who is also here even has the days counted now (28). It was a long week and I think they will all be that way now until Christmas. My feet still have not adapted to the punishing hours on the concrete floors. We even went and got new shoes and inserts to see if that would help, I think they may be a little better but they still throb by the time I get home. The first day of a stretch they don’t hurt until late in the shift, the second day they hurt by noon and the third day by the first break it gets bad and by the time we head home all I want to do is get off my feet. Johns are a little better than mine but he feels it too, for him it is more his back. This is just a very physical job and I can honestly say I have never worked this physically hard at any job before. It does make me appreciate all those folks out there that do these jobs full time. That experience alone has made this job worthwhile and catching up financially is the other real positive. 
We have been getting to know a few more of the other work campers here. Dave is a fella we are always talking with at our stand up meetings. He is working but his wife Joann stays back at the rig. They are parked in Independence where we go to do laundry and go out to eat so today we met up with them for dinner at Uncle Jack’s bar and grill (not to be confused with Jack’s bar in Liberty that we have also been to). They have been on the road since 2008 and are from Olathe KS. We discovered that we both have family working for Cerner in Kansas City- small world.
 Our son Gabe and his fiance Melissa have set a date for the wedding, it will be July 28th. We are excited for them. They are keeping it as small as possible with a guest list of only about 100 close friends and immediate family. Melissa found her dress and sent me a photo her trying it on, camera phones are great! Now that we have a date we can better plan our spring. I think we will shoot for being back in Iowa around July 1st so that gives us lots of time to do some exploring. I’ve been daydreaming of all the places I want to go. Two that are on “must dos” this year are the Grand Canyon and Lake Powell, after that maybe Yellowstone and back through the Black Hills and Mt. Rushmore but as I learned last year you never really know and being flexible is good. 
Hope you are all enjoying yourself somewhere warm and if you shop at Amazon and it comes from Coffeyville, you never know John or I may have picked and Evelyn and Kevin may have packed it.:)
Happy Trails.............................

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.”  ~Thornton Wilder
You know what I am Thankful for? A day off!!. We survived a week with mandatory overtime and it made me glad that we are only doing this for a short time. This week was a normal one except for tomorrow. Thanksgiving day we don’t have to go in until 10:30pm and work only 5 hours. Next week is a different matter. Friday through Monday they are working 11 hour shifts and our shift has mandatory overtime on Sunday. Right now we are the only shift with mandatory overtime, several others have voluntary OT. There is a potential for actually working 52 hours but they can only work us 50 hours unless we agree to more (I guess that’s the law). I think 50 ours is plenty so if we reach that then I’ll let them know I am going home early. The work is not so hard it is just a long time to be on your feet.
Today we are celebrating Thanksgiving with Kevin and Evelyn. I’ve got a pie to bake and some potatoes and stuffing to prepare. Looking forward to some nice relaxing time together. This time of year always makes me a little nostalgic and I do miss my kids. They are plenty busy and will have Thanksgiving dinner with my brothers family tomorrow. It is the holidays that are the hardest to be away. We had the boys join us for Christmas last year but this year it will just be the two of us. I am thankful that they both have someone in their lives to share the special times with.
Good news this week too. Gabe and Melissa have set the wedding date - July 28th! They will be getting married in the same park that John and I were married. They want to keep it a small intimate wedding with family and close friends. I am so happy for them and excited to finally have a daughter. She makes my son happy and that is the best gift of all. 
I was thinking of all the things I have to be thankful for and the list is very long. John and I have been blessed in this life and we are thankful for all of those blessings, family, friends, our life on the road and each other. So Happy Thanksgiving to each and everyone of you and thank you for being a part of our lives. Happy Trails........

Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way.  ~Native American Saying

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Starting Week 3 & Mandatory Overtime

Just a short update. We are going into our third week and our first week with mandatory overtime. That means a 50 hour week! I’m not sure I am ready for this but bring it on. It is getting a little easier, my feet don’t hurt now until the last hour or so of the shift. My back is giving me a little trouble but time will tell on that. We have seen several people quit. Some were unhappy with the jobs they were given (told they we have a different job before they came), some have found it just too physically taxing, and some were frustrated because outside of work there is very little to do in Coffeyville. While it is very physical we were told that before coming by the recruiter so I do feel we were warned about that and make no mistake it is a lot of walking and standing for long hours. Yes, there is very little to do in Coffeyville but we are so exhausted, doing nothing on our days off is all right with us. So we are hanging in there till the end (Dec. 23). This job is definitely not for everyone but for seasonal work it pays very well and that is what we were looking for, two weeks down and six to go. I think it will make us appreciate the rest of the winter even more.
On a more fun note, we went to a local bar/restaurant, Jack’s, for dinner last night with Kevin and Evelyn. The food was good and the company great. It has been fun to get to know them better. We went back to their place and learned a new card game “Wizard” and played Sequence. We hashed over work, learning about each other’s jobs (they are packers) and laughed over all the crazy things people buy from Amazon. It was a nice way to spend out evening off. 
No photos today but not much to take photos of around here. I am going to try and post once a week at least while we are here but we will see how much energy I have after working 50 hours a week. I’m also trying to keep up reading all the blogs of my friends but somedays I only get to a few. On my days off I try to get caught back up so if you don’t hear much from me know that I am thinking of you all and checking in when I can.
Happy trails.....................................

Monday, November 7, 2011

Captain's log: On site at Amazon

We've landed in Coffeyville to help Amazon with their seasonal work. This is one of Amazon's largest distribution centers, or what Amazon calls a fulfillment center. Let the fun begin.

The first day on the job was an orientation day, which included a quick tour of the facility. I'm not sure what's going on exactly, but here's what I think is happening. Lots of trucks arrive here with stuff Amazon hopes someone will buy on their online site. This stuff is stored in locations based roughly on how big each item is; most of the big stuff stays on pallets but the smaller stuff gets put in green totes along with other stuff so that everything is all mixed up. These green totes then get delivered in mass by big pallet trucks to where this stuff will get stored in row after row of shelves sectioned off into bins. Stowers will then hide the tote's contents in whatever space is available in any bin. Pickers will then try to find this stuff and put it into yellow totes that get put on to the nearest conveyor and hauled off to get sorted into specific orders that are then packed, labeled and shipped.

We were selected to be pickers on the night shift. Four, ten hour days a week with another ten hour day added after Thanksgiving if required. 
At the start of each shift, you pick up the handheld scanner that connects you with the Amazon over mind that makes all this possible. Every time a stower puts an item into a bin, the bar codes for the bin and the item are scanned. The Amazon computer can then match customer requests with product locations that are sent to the handheld screens of the pickers. That will give us the bin it's in and a product description. You take your best guess and scan it; if it's correct you get your next location, otherwise you get to try again. Pretty mindless, but you get a cross section of what people are buying and occasionally stumble on something interesting in the bins. Lots of walking and some stairs, so I'm hoping to lose some weight by Christmas.

Coffeyville isn't far from Oklahoma, so we got to experience the effects of the recent earthquake there. It wasn't much different that being rocked by the strong winds that are common here, which probably masked the original earth quake, but the aftershock was even stronger and there wasn't any wind then. Sometimes it's good to have a home on springs.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

One Week Down and a Surprise Visit

We survived our first week on the job. Taking the example of Evelyn who is on week three, we left this morning thinking one week down and seven to go. We were hired to be pickers and are doing the night shift on M,T,Th, & Fri. This week, however, it was Sunday orientation and then M, T, & W. So we are off now until next monday at 5pm. We work 10 hours with a 30 minute lunch so our hours are 5 pm until 3:30 am. It is a long shift and you are on your feet for all but about 45 min. Ten hours on your feet is definitely a challenge and by the end of the shift all you want to do is get off your feet for awhile. We also have to get into bins at floor level to retrieve items and so we are doing squats all night long. I’m guessing this week I’ve done several hundred squats. Between walking and squats I am getting back into shape. The other work campers say it takes a couple weeks before some of that gets easier.
This place is pretty amazing. It is over a million square feet and some of the areas have 3 levels. Eveyln did a great job on her blog of explaining the job that she and Kevin do in packaging. We got to see the Crisplant packaging area and got to see the packers in action. We are pickers and I’ll try to give you an idea of how this works. When you order something from it goes into the system and if it comes to Coffeyville then the items show up on a pickers handheld scanner. If there are multiple items they actually may get picked by multiple people. Our scanner tells us to go to an area in the plant and scan a tote (big yellow plastic box) which we put on a cart that we push around. Then it tells us an item to find by giving us a row and bin identifier. We go there and then scan the bin, find the item, scan the item and put it in the tote. After so many items, so much weight it tells us the tote is finished and we take the tote to the nearest conveyer belt and off it goes to sorting, then packing and finally to shipping and then arrives at your door The scanners prompt you for everything you do so that makes it easier to keep from making mistakes and it even tells you when its break time, lunch time and time to leave. Even seeing how it all works I am amazed at how they make it all work so smoothly, it is truly impressive. The people we work with and for have been great so far. This is not a difficult job to learn but make no mistake it is physically a challenge.
Lu and Terry 
Now for the surprise. I got an email yesterday from the friends we met in Wisconsin, Lu and Terry, saying they were on the way to Tulsa and realized how close it would be to Coffeyville and were thinking of stopping here for a night. It couldn’t have been better timing. Normally we would be working on Thursday but not this week, how perfect. We had been told there was a good little place to eat in Liberty, just a few miles north of town, so that is where we went for dinner. It was so good to see them. Sometimes you meet people that you just click with and that is how we feel about this couple. We are already looking at some ways we can spend some time together, maybe some work camping jobs along the way. I have to say it was the perfect way to end a long week. 
I’m going to see if I can get John to write a Captain’s log on out first week at Amazon too, but until then.......
Happy Trails..........................