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

Saturday, December 31, 2011

It's a Beautiful Day

Well, according to John’s thermometer you can see it’s a warm day.
It is but aren’t you a little skeptical? I mean really.
Some unusual ducks on the San Gabriel River
It has been a great week with sunny warm days for us to enjoy. Wednesday we spent another day here in Georgetown. We went and had the oil changed in the truck then walked the trail around San Gabriel Park and ate at Dos Salsa. Dos Salsa was very good and if you are here and looking for Mexican it is definitely worth the stop. Their parking lot is small and busy but the public parking for the downtown area is just a couple blocks away and if you have your truck it is a safer choice. 

Town Lake Trail Ladybird Lake Austin
Texas State Capital
Thursday we headed to Austin to see the sites. We had read about the Town Lake trail along Ladybird Lake so we headed there first which turned out to be an excellent decision. Town Lake Park is just off I35 and it has free parking (downtown parking was $7, free is better). We grabbed a site on the street and headed off on the trail. We walked the trail to the Congress Street Bridge.This bridge is known for its bat colony, the largest urban bat colony in North America, but of course they aren’t around this time of year so we didn’t have to try and stay until dark to watch them. Congress street takes you into the downtown area and if you keep going it leads to the Texas State Capital. The capital area has several buildings and a beautiful park area in front. It was a busy place on this sunny day. We didn’t do the tour as being outside was a more appealing idea. We headed back downtown to a little Irish Pub called Fados and enjoyed a brew and sliders, very good but a little pricey. Then off on the trail again.

Downtown Austin
We had checked online for brewpubs and there was one called Uncle Billy’s that wasn’t too far off the trail. On the way there we walked through the largest urban dog park I’ve ever seen, tons of dogs having a good time and right by the Stevie Ray Vaughn Memorial. John is a huge fan of his so I got his photo with Stevie. A little further and with the help of the google map I printed we arrived at Uncle Billy’s. This is a find. We each tried one of the brews made in house and they were excellent. We were still hungry so we order their pulled pork Sliders. They bring the sliders with a group of bbq sauces so I took the one call Uncle Billys-Que. I realized quickly I was going to need some water - my mouth was on fire. It was tasty but definitely the hottest bbq sauce I have ever had. John helped me eat that one. He can handle it a lot hotter than I can and even he needed that glass of water. 

John and Stevie Ray Vaughn

We headed back to the truck and of course it was just in time for rush hour traffic. We have enjoyed many things about this area but not the traffic; it is crazy. In fact from Dallas/Fort Worth south I35 is incredibly busy. I have gotten to the point where I really hate driving in cities. I have plotted a course out of here that takes a little further west and on US highways instead of the interstate. It will take just a little longer but I think it is worth it. Our next stop is Port O’Connor TX, a little fishing village on the gulf. Should be a quiet retreat and we are looking forward to it.
It was a nice day for rowing on Lady Bird Lake
We have just a couple more days here and today may be the last really nice day so we may try to get back on the trail here in Georgetown but this time actually on our bikes. We hope you all have a wonderful New Years Eve and stay safe.
Happy Trails...............................

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

On the move again-Yeah!!!!!

Winstar Casino RV Park

Free shuttle to the casino
Laundry anyone?
We finally left Kansas and it was certainly time. Our first stop was Thackerville, Oklahoma at the Winstar Casino’s RV park. This is a very nice park and if you sign up for their Players Card it is a great deal. The card gives you the first night free and the subsequent nights at $20 (regularly $25). That is for FHU with 50 amp, paved sites and patios, very nice laundry facilities and a free shuttle service to the casino. It is amazing that we have spent the last two Christmases at casinos and we are not big gamblers. Maybe next year we’ll break the streak. We were here 4 nights for $60, and that was a bargin. 
Eastview Ranch RV Park
Yesterday we were off again to our next stop, Georgetown TX. We will be here for a week before heading to Port O’Connor. We are parked at the Eastview Ranch RV Park. This was recommended to us by a fellow work camper who stays here when visiting family. It is very reasonably priced and a very clean little park. The sites though are pretty tight; I miss the state and county parks but we are trying to save a little on our trip south. The people here also are very friendly and have given us lots of ideas for things to do.
Outside the local winery

A great coffee shop
Today we checked out Georgetown’s downtown and enjoyed their local Winery and a local coffee shop. We did some shopping but the only purchase was wine. It is a beautiful downtown that revolves around the town square with the courthouse on it. It was so nice to have the time and energy to be out discovering new places again. I was in heaven. We also hit their very nice shopping mall and the Target store. Target is one of my favorites so I was able to stock up on all kinds of things. The fridge and freezer are once again stocked.
Got the coffee guy to take our photo
Not bad for an amateur 
Our Christmas gift to each other this year was a small camera, a Canon Powershot. Today’s photos are taken with the new camera. Sometimes there are places I don’t want to take my big Canon SLR and I wanted to get John taking a few photos. I figure it is the only way I’ll actually get in a few photos along the way. I’ve tried to give John some tips on photography and he usually ignores me but today he actually took a decent photo of me. I was pleasantly surprised, maybe he’ll get the hang of this yet.
One other item John purchased was a thermometer to put outdoors so we’d know the temp. He went very old school and mounted it to the outside ladder. There is one flaw in his plan: it seems it is always in the sun so today when I looked out it registered almost 100 degrees. If it is 100 out why did I need a coat and why was the furnace still running??? I think he does these things just to make me laugh, and laugh I do. :)
Wow, its hot outside-----maybe
We have plans to head into Austin which is just a few miles to the south. We have already found a couple brewpubs and maybe even a bike trail. The weather is suppose to get warmer and may even hit the 70’s later this week (which should be about 120 on John’s thermometer). Oh yea, bring it on.
Happy Trails............................

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas to all!

Our wish is that this Christmas finds you well and counting all the blessings that come your way. We truly feel blessed this Christmas season. Safe travels to all our RV friends.
Janie & John

Friday, December 23, 2011

Would we do it again?

Several of you asked this question so I felt it would be good if both John and I answered this question. So today you get to here from both of us.
My first reaction would be “not if I could help it”. What I mean is I would rather do some camp hosting or volunteering along the way instead of 2 months of this type of work. However if we found that we just really needed the funds I know I can do this and it definitely has some financial benefits. The pros are the money, the free rent and the people you get to know, and the weight loss from all the walking. The cons are the sore feet, the long hours, and at least in Coffeyville the lack of anything to do other than work and sleep. That last one though is almost a pro. You are so tired from the work that you wouldn’t feel up to doing much anyway. If we decided to do it again, I would definitely be more prepared. I’m not sure it is possible to get your feet totally ready for 10 hours on cement floors. It is not like hiking, even if I hiked ten miles there would be chances to stop and sit from time to time and at this job there are two short breaks where you maybe get 10 minutes off  your feet and a lunch that is maybe 20-25 minutes off your feet. It took almost a month before the throbbing at night when I got off my feet quit and I didn’t expect that. John and I have always been active, we hike and bike and sometimes I run but it is just not the same. I still would try to come in in better shape and hope it made a difference. The weight loss has been nice. This is usually a time of the year that we gain about 5 lbs and in the end I lost about 10-12 lbs so I am happy about that. So my answer to the question is maybe but if I could find another way to have this lifestyle without this stretch I would do it. Sometimes I wonder if it’s like childbirth; right after I had my first son I wasn’t sure I wanted to go through that again but with time and perspective I changed my mind so maybe you should ask me again in about 6 months.
Sure, if Janie wanted to. It also helps to do it with friends who can save you a seat at breaks and lunch. If you can talk someone into doing this with you and they stick it out for a few weeks you can also get $50 a person in your paycheck from Amazon. I think it also helps to show up in October so you can get a few 40 hour weeks in before you start with the 50 hour weeks around Thanksgiving. We also put off getting better shoes from the local shoe store that was recommended to us but after we did, our feet finally started to get better. Shoes and orthodic inserts were about $200 for each of us. Well worth it.
Our work was very repetitive; almost mindless. I liked it that way. More walking, less stress. I talked to one gentleman who described himself as “a little ADD” who preferred picking to packing since he didn’t have to stand in one place (we’re sometimes farmed out to packing or shipping when they need help). The environment can be noisy, but Amazon provides earplugs if you want them. I used them maybe twice in eight weeks. Most people wear gloves. I had a reaction to the provided rubber coated gloves but after I bought a leather pair I was fine (and I used lots of hand lotion). We both went eight weeks without missing a work day. No injuries or sick days.
Of course, we did it for the money. If we can keep the credit cards paid off we probably won’t be back but you never know. I would like to think I would be able to do this if I wanted to in the future. Lots of campers were older than we were, but the job is physically taxing. Some of the veterans were trained for other jobs also that might help break up the day.

I hope that answers some of your questions. We are now in a very nice RV park at the Winstar Casino in Thackerville OK. Just kickin' back enjoying not working. I hope to do a Christmas post but just in case I don't get it done. Merry Christmas to everyone. :)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Captain's log: Goodbye Amazon

“We’re not in Kansas anymore.” I’m looking forward to saying Dorthy’s classic line as we head into Texas for the next couple of months. Our working for Amazon is coming to a close along with the Christmas season, so it won’t be long. After working here for seven weeks, things have actually gotten easier, I think, as we’ve lost some weight and gained some strength. The final push before Christmas is next week, so we still have some eleven hour days left, but then we’re done and out of here. Merry Christmas indeed.
Our jobs as pickers for Amazon are driven by the commands on our handheld scanners from the sometimes capricious computer. It doesn’t always make sense, but you must obey. Resistance is futile, and if you slack off the computer will always rat you out.
We catch up with our friends in packing at breaks and lunch. Their jobs are more driven by an assembly line type of operation with lots of opportunities for any one component shutting the whole thing down. That thing is often the vast system of conveyors that span this million square foot facility. You can go from no work to too much work in the blink of an eye as some upstream tote jam is resolved and the backlog suddenly appears at your station. Things may go from busy to much worse if your little side conveyor working, but the main conveyor keeps feeding it. It’s like “I Love Lucy” when Lucy is trying to pack the cakes, only in this case Evelyn gets to be Lucy. Maintenance shows up. Usually several times (you can imagine the pressure to get it fixed). Sometimes it gets resolved or you might get to watch an episode of “Huey, Dewey and Louie Fix the Conveyor” or maybe The Three Stooges. Colonel Sanders or Mr. Moneybags may even show up to supervise.
So we lost some weight, gained some money and even had some laughs. Not a bad deal, but I’m ready to retire again.

Monday, December 5, 2011

What's in my tote?

We are starting week number 6 and it is getting a little better. The feet are better than they were and now that we are back to 10 hour shifts it seems easier. One of the most fascinating things about working for Amazon is finding out what all is available and what people order from them. As pickers we go around the warehouse finding various items that have been ordered and putting them in a tote to be sent on to the sorters and packers. The things I pick are usually for different orders which is good to know because sometimes I would hate to think that tote is going to the same person. Some of them are strange combinations.
So what is in my tote? Well it may be groceries, like soups, tomatoes, pasta sauce, noodles, dried mushrooms, lots of coffees and teas, basically any grocery item that is dried or canned, and I pick a lot of them. Next toys, Legos, Kinex, Plan, tons of toys from a company called Melissa and Doug, video games, and then there are adult toys many of which I don’t care to list. The first time I came across a sex toy called the Latin King, it was definitely an education for me - can they really be that big? John enjoys picking all the costumes for women, like a naughty nurse, girl scout, dream girl, sexy pirate, and others, but you get the drift. Clothes from Bebe, Lacoste, Calvin Cline, Nike, Columbia, Asics, Puma,and about any other brand name you can think of. Next is books, cds, and DVDs, there are whole floors dedicated to these. Everyone says that paper books are on the way out but you wouldn’t know it from this warehouse. Electronics is next, all kinds of portable devises from laptops to GPS to game systems. All of the extra things needed for our electronics too, cables, hardware, software, peripherals. I do believe after doing this job if there is something you want Amazon has it. They don’t discriminate either. I find things that would interest Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Feminists, Racists, and any other group you can think of. I think Amazon is the example of free market economy - if you want it and have the money you can order it from Amazon.
So this week what was the strangest tote I had? A case of Campbell’s Soup at Hand, 2 large boxes of condoms, a wooden toddlers puzzle, a Battlefield 3 video game, an Angry Bird stuffed animal, and a lego Star Wars set. Now aren’t you glad I told you those are probably for different orders?
I’ve been trying to keep up on my blog reading but some days I’m just too exhausted. Other days I read about all the places you are at so I can remember the light at the end of the tunnel and that soon we will be out there too. Until later.
Happy Trails................................