Last summer (2016), we spent most of the summer in Steamboat Springs, CO, parked in the driveway of the home we have owned for more than 35 years. Yes, in the driveway. We could have moved back into the house, but our daughter and her family are living in it, which affords us the luxury of finally living our RV dream. For this we are extremely grateful!! We find our 34-foot travel trailer to fit us perfectly. We love the comfortable floorplan and it holds everything we REALLY need. We can sleep in our own bed each night, we have all our everyday stuff and nothing we don’t need, and it affords us our own privacy when in Steamboat. Close, but not too close, if you know what I mean.
Summer travel lesson
What we learned, however, is traveling by RV in the summer is crazy-making!! (Read about last summer’s travel lessons here ) With children out of school, and the weather generally pretty nice, families pack up their “camping” units and head out. The size of units range from tents (tiny to humongous with several rooms) to 45-foot behemoths towing boats or jeeps. Minimalists, to “taking it all with you” types. The best weather is from July 4th weekend through the third week of August, just before the kids go back to school. We learned that there is no “winging it” as far as finding places to park/camp during these weeks, especially near the ocean. The first two weeks of the trip we were mostly inland and parked at or near relatives, which was great, but once we headed to the redwoods of California and up the coast of Oregon, it took several phone calls each day to find a place for a night or two. By the third week of August, we were unable to find ANY place to stay on the Oregon coast (last week of family vacations?) and had to turn inland toward Bend, OR. and head back home. Even then we learned to stop early in the day to get a place.
Sometimes, when families are “camping”, parents decide they are also on vacation from parenting. I’m sure we did the same thing when we were a young family, letting the kids have a little more “freedom” than they normally would have had at home. While parents may relax with an adult beverage (or eight), the kids hook up with other kids, run EVERYWHERE, and make a considerable amount of noise – to which parents can be oblivious. Kids, not knowing camping etiquette, walk through other’s campsites on the shortest path to the bathhouse, and drop their bikes in the middle of the road. for others to move. The family dog (oh, yes, he is VERY friendly) runs amuck and leaves deposits. While these examples are not all that prevalent and there really are some very nice families we have parked near, it’s these annoying exceptions that can spoil an otherwise relaxing and beautiful camping spot. (Sorry, I will tuck my “curmudgeon” back in.)
To make a long story short, we decided, at the end of the trip, that we would go back to traveling in the off-seasons, because we can, and leave summer to the families. So what do we do about summer? While Steamboat is a GREAT place to spend summer, (Steamboat locals often share the old adage, “Come for the winter, but stay for the summer”), there is so much of this country to see and summer really is a great time to see it. It occurred to us that we could be workampers in the summer, be in a beautiful place we want to explore, get our campsite for free, and perhaps even make a little money to further our travels.
“What is a workamper?”, you ask
A workamper is different from an itinerant worker. I even looked up the terms to see what the dictionary had to say. In some ways, they are exactly the same – people traveling around, seeking temporary jobs. But each has a very different connotation. Workamper seems like a more positive situation, a sense of freedom, choice, and romance. Itinerant worker brings forth pictures of farm workers slaving in the hot sun under the watchful eye of a demanding crew boss (ala Grapes of Wrath). Here is what Workamper.com says a workamper is. Here is what an itinerate worker is.
In less than two weeks, in early September, from the time I posted our “Awesome Resume”, I got an email from the owner of a KOA near Whitefish, Montana, asking us if we were interested in spending the summer with them. He gave me a brief rundown of what the job would entail, let us know there was monetary compensation (yaayyy!) in addition to the free campsite, and the approximate dates we would be needed. If we were interested, he would have his son, the guy who actually runs the park, call and interview us. We were EXCITED! A few days later the son called and “interviewed” us. It went like this:
Him: “Dad told you about what we are looking for in a workamper and what to expect, right?”
Him: “Do you have any questions?”
Us: “Well, no. We thought you might ask us questions.”
Him: “Does it sound good to you?”
Him: “Welcome, aboard. See you mid-May.”
Of course, as soon as he hung up, we thought of lots of things we should have asked him. We have heard horror stories about some of the positions friends have taken without having a written contract spelling out what it was they were to do. Some were disasters! I expected him to email us (from our contact info on our Awesome Resume) with more details of where to be, exactly when, a contract outlining duties and what we could expect… something. I also had neglected to ask for his contact information, but thought he might include it when he sent the email. We never got an email. Next time I will be sure to get that info upfront, so I have it. Basically, I knew the name of the park, the dad’s name and his email address, and the son’s name (but not phone number). I figured I could look up the KOA on the internet. I did. Sort of. Not much there. Boy, did I feel stupid! Was this any way to run a business? I felt like such a neophyte!
The question of where is answered
At least we had a position for the upcoming summer. We would be able to enjoy our winter in Tucson, knowing we would be headed to Whitefish, MT, and be close to Glacier National Park from mid-May to at least Labor Day. We could do anything for four months, if it didn’t turn out well. We knew we would be working the office, cleaning bathrooms and cabins, doing ground maintenance and working the breakfast shifts in the on-site restaurant. It seemed pretty straight forward.
In Part II, I will give you a run-down on what our experience as workampers was like. For us, the experience was positive. As it turns out, the laid-back nature of our “job interview” is pretty much the way Montanans approach everything – pretty laid back. “Whatever.” “Nothing is urgent.” “It can always be fixed – somehow.” “No rush.” “Live and let live.” We like that.