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Monday, September 30, 2013

20.......

We knew several days ago that Sunday would be a warmish day with a projected (guessed) high of 75-76 (it actually topped out at 80).   Sunday was an outlier, as they say, because the next 10 days after Sunday are going to see temps in the very low 60's.....a lot in the 50's, and a day in the 40's.  Since the Sugar Beet Harvest officially starts October 1st the forecast is a good sign as beets need those kind of low temperatures so they don't begin rotting while they sit in their large piles for a few weeks.  In fact, if it gets too warm on any given day, or part of a day the piling stops until the temperatures come back down.

We had no plans whatsoever for Sunday.....Sunday this time of year has non-stop NFL games on from, in our case, 11 am until close to 9 pm.  And that is what I did all day long with a few interruptions here and there.....I watched football, and the great thing about our latest work schedule is that I will be able to still watch a few games on the weekend since we don't go to work until 7 pm at night.

Sometime around 1:30 our very good friends Krash and Karen called us from their home in Ypsilanti, Michigan to wish us well before we go "dark" on Monday....."going dark" means we will be pretty much incommunicado for the next 3 weeks as we spend all of our time sleeping, eating and working.  We had a lovely speaker phone conversation for the better part of an hour.    If you have only started reading our blog recently, we met Krash and Karen through our blog about 4 months into our journey while we were visiting my sister and her husband in Michigan, and have become great friends.  We lovingly refer to them as our first "stalkers", and they wear that title proudly.  They are great examples of one of the chief benefits of this lifestyle.  Over the past 20 months we have met, and become friends with so many people we would NEVER have met except for embracing this lifestyle.  Now that we have just finished our 20th month living full time on the road, and have acquired this new, wonderful circle of friends we cannot imagine our lives without them.  

I belong to a number of online groups that deal with the full time lifestyle, and was disheartened, along with many others, yesterday to read the following post by a relatively new member of one group:

"So we are near two months into our new life in the rig... and well, despite what we have encountered on line on the actual website of  *****... not here on fb (where hate to be blunt but the age requirements have been overlooked i.e. less than 60 is what I assumed ****** was about).. we haven't met anyone our age that are fulltimers... oh and I should clarify we don't have children and are in our early 30s techgeeks, we do have jobs that allow us to travel, we do have a dog, we are very friendly and yeah we do like meeting older people 55 and over but we really have nothing in common with them, so we are a bit frustrated... where is everyone?"

When we began our journey we were not focused on who we would see, and meet, but on "what" we would see.  What we have learned over 20 months (Sunday marked the end of 20 months on the road for us) of traveling is that these connections.....these friendships are so very important.  Wherever we travel now we feel connected to a community of like minded souls who, regardless of age, lifestyle, philosophy, religion, or politics are an integral part of our lives.  One thing we have learned is those things that we used to place so much importance on when we lived in our sticks and bricks homes, are just excess baggage now.....those "things" create walls....barriers.  People are so much more than their political, religious, or socioeconomic status.  Out "here" none of that is important.   We have made friends with so many who are younger than some of our kids, and yet, because of this lifestyle, we relate to them as peers.......I don't think of them as a certain age.....I think of them as equals, and we are treated as such.

If you head out on the road to live this life seeking to connect only with people you would normally relate to in your narrow sticks and bricks life you will, unnecessarily, shrink your experience and your world.  If you seek this lifestyle please do not try and replicate your sticks and bricks life on the road.....it simply will not work, and then, frankly, what is the point?  Get rid of your pre-conceived ideas about what this lifestyle entails......just get out there, be open, and take people as they come.   Don't put us in your convenient little boxes, or put your labels on us, or stereotype us.  Get to know us......get below the surface and you will find a treasure trove of new friends,  ideas, and experiences.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, has an interesting story.....you only have to take the time to ask questions, and then listen.


A lovely sunset Sunday....

Okay, now I'll step down off my soapbox and get on with the day......we had a lovely day of relaxation......TLE reading, me watching football, and I took care of some insurance work, which I will finish up Monday morning.  Monday evening at 7 pm the rubber will meet the road, and we will be going "dark".......I will still post every single day as I have for the past year, but those posts will be primarily about the sugar beet harvest.  I know from several messages I have received that many of you are interested in our experience, so saddle up and get ready to ride, because here we go!

Thanks for stopping by!

P.S. - Thank you Krash and Karen for calling.....you made our day!

Sunday, September 29, 2013

As The World Turns.....

Just when you think you've got your ducks lined up, and the next three weeks planned out, you get a call which scatters your "ducks" all to "hell and gone". 

While TLE was shopping yesterday morning she received a call from Duane Peters, our agricultural manager at Sugar Valley, asking if we (the two of us) would consider moving over to the "Factory" location in Sidney to do what we were going to be doing at the Sugar Valley location......they were short two people there.  The catch?  You know there is always a catch, or a string attached, right?  The catch....the wrinkle......the string attached is we would be working the 7 PM to 7 AM shift........hmmmm.

I'm glad TLE waited until she returned home to tell me about the "offer", because she, apparently, caught me at just the right moment.......as I was considering what she had just told me I heard this seemingly disembodied voice saying "Sure, let's do it".  Wait.....what?  Did I say that out loud?  Seriously, though I really liked working the night shift at Amazon......I liked not having to get up at the crack of dawn to go to work in the dark, and returning home in the dark that evening.  We both spent a large part of our workaday lives getting up at the "butt crack of dawn", and that really doesn't appeal to me anymore.  As much as I liked working at the INDY 500, the one thing I didn't like was getting up at 4 am for 16 straight days.  We talked about it for a few minutes....both deciding we actually like that schedule even better than the 10 am to 10 pm shift.  So, I told her to call Duane back and tell him "YES!".  

Within an hour of TLE giving Duane our answer we got a call from Vanessa at the "Factory" giving us the details of our new location and shift.  The "Factory" is only 2 miles from where we are staying so we're going to save 20 miles of driving a day.  TLE will work in the scale house, and I will be a rover giving people breaks, plus I will be operating a piler, and will learn how to operate a Bobcat......this just keeps getting better and better!  Vanessa said she would drop by the RV ghetto to meet us in person, and answer our questions.  She arrived within 30 minutes and we talked to her for about 20 minutes.  She seems like a very nice person, and I think we'll get along just fine!


Bobcat front loader

So now, just like Amazon, we will wake up in the afternoon to daylight, have the rest of the afternoon to get ready for work, work our 12 hour shift, then come home around 7 am......when it's light again.  Vanessa says the night shift is a little less hectic......fewer trucks, etc, and that we will have time to read, etc.  Plus, we won't be on our feet for 12 straight hours.

Around 2 pm all of us here in the RV ghetto at the Richland County Fairgrounds gathered down in site #2 for a potluck, and a chance to meet everyone.  It was nice at first....sunny, windless.......but unfortunately the wind came up shortly after the potluck began throwing a lot of dust into the air, into our food, and into our eyes making it difficult to carry on a conversation, so after about 45 minutes we gave up and headed "home".

Of course Saturday is NCAA Football, and there were a number of interesting games to watch.  The first one was Nortre Dame vs. Oklahoma (Sooners).......OU won handily 35-21, so I know our friends the Reganalls (Muskogee, OK) will be very, very happy.  

Late in the afternoon my blogger friend, Brian Gore (Goin' RV Boondocking), came over to talk, and we (he, TLE and I) talked for a couple of hours about everything under the proverbial sun.  As it turns out Brian and Heidi will be working at the "Factory" also, albeit different hours (10 am to 10 pm), but our shifts will have about 3 hours of overlap, so we'll be spending more time with them.  I'm currently reading Brian's latest western, Shadow on the Mountain, on my Kindle, and we spent some time talking about the main character, Ben Jensen, and how he seems to resemble, somewhat, Brian....we had a good time kidding him about that.

Brian left around 7 pm, and we settled back into reading, and, in my case, watching more NCAA Football.  I called it quits around 10 pm heading to bed, while TLE continued reading....I'm not sure when she came to bed, as I was fast asleep within minutes.

One more day until we begin working for a living again.....our first 12 hour shift starts Monday at 7 pm!

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Smooth Operator......

We had to be at Sugar Valley to start our 4.5 hour shift at 7:45 am in order to "clock in" for our shift starting at 8 am Friday.  It was still quite cold.......43 degrees.....when we got in the 'Bird at 7:10......and we had both bundled up a little warmer than the day before.  It's hard enough at my age to fold yourself up so you can get in that car, and with several layers of clothing to ward off the cold of the morning it is, as you can imagine,  even harder.  

We arrived at Sugar Valley at about 7:30.....15 minutes earlier than we needed, so we'll have to adjust our departure time a little.  Shortly after we clocked in Travis, our supervisor, came up and let me know that as part of my "rover" responsibilities I would need to learn to operate the sugar beet piler.   Based on the pictures I posted yesterday you know that these pilers are the biggest Tonka toys I'll ever get to play with, so wasn't I excited!?

On Friday they were having a few trucks come through to dump their beets so test the pilers to be sure they were working properly.  We were given a little more detailed, hands on instruction on the operation of the piling equipment, and our respective jobs.  Since I will be a rover I'll need to know how to do all the jobs around the piler.  I think I'm going to like being a rover a lot.  Nothing like a lot of variety to help move time along.

TLE learned that she has been given a new job......beet temperature taker.  I think I mentioned that the temperature is very important during the beet harvest.  If the outside temperature, and the temperature of the beets is too high they cannot dump then in the piler.  Beets that are too hot when they arrive will begin to rot before they are shipped.  So it is important to monitor the temperature of the beets as they are arriving.  Of course, for TLE, this is kind of a good thing, because it means she will be sitting inside a lot as they only take the temperature once an hour.

Since this was  more of a practice day we only had to be on the job site until 9:30 when we were dismissed, but will still get paid for 4.5 hours just as Thursday......not bad!

We took at easy the rest of the morning, but around 12:30 we headed into town to check the thrift shops to see if they had any padded bib overalls.  A lot of people here like them a lot, and say they are more comfortable, and warmer.  The new ones in town run up to $129 a pair.  We came up empty at the thrift stores so we headed back to the Tru Value Hardware store to see what they had.  As luck would have it they had some padded bib overalls on their clearance rack that were only $45 a pair.  They were not as high a quality as the $129 ones, but they only have to work for 3 weeks, so we bought two pair.  

Once the "bib" issue was taken care of we headed directly to "Footers", which, as you can surmise, is like Subway.....they specialize in foot long sub sandwiches.  Yelp gives them 4.5 stars.  I'm not sure I would go that far, but they make a pretty good sub sandwich.

We spent the rest of the afternoon re-organizing our closets in order to have the clothes we will be wearing for the next 3 weeks as handy as possible.  For TLE that meant taking a large armful of clothing out to the trailer to hang.  I think I need to have her look at my closets and reorganize them......I'm amazed how much she gets in her closets!

We read the rest of the afternoon, and I took a couple of naps.  Starting Monday I don't think there will be much opportunity for napping the next 3 weeks, so I better get them in while I can.  We watched a recorded episode of "Elementary", and then watched MasterChef Juniors.

We were in bed by 10.........

Thanks for stopping by!


Friday, September 27, 2013

Training day...

At last our first day on the job site arrived, and along with it winter seems to have arrived, too.  I think it got into the low 50's today, but barely.  We had a steady wind out of the northeast that continued into the evening (and as of Friday morning at 6 am, is still blowing).  The rain let up well before dawn, but the cold damp conditions continued all day.

We had a date with our trainers out at Sugar Valley at 1 pm, so we just hung around the coach with electric heaters blasting all morning.  Around 11:30 I started to get out and organize my cold weather clothing which I have been acquiring for the past few months culminating two days ago with my purchase of my $3 winter jacket.

Around 12:10 pm we got in our car and followed two other couples north on SR 200 toward Fairview 11 miles away.  Just past Fairview the road turns right and we crossed into North Dakota just about 2 blocks to the Sugar Valley Pile Station.

I "love" first days on the job.....you have absolutely no idea what you will be doing, or how difficult it will be to learn the job.  Everything that comes at you is new.   You're in a small room with dozens of people trying to sign in, get your lock (I'll talk more about that shortly), fill out your first time card, get a hard had that fits, safety glasses, safety vest, and ear plugs.....yeah, it gets pretty noisy.

There are six piling stations that look just like the ones below.  These stations create large piles of sugar beets 18 feet high.




I know you are still wondering about the "lock".....whenever the piling station is shut down a "scissors" type contraption is clamped on the lever that turns back on the power at the main electrical service for that piler; then each person working on that station attaches their lock to make sure it cannot be turned back on until each person has removed their lock, and is back in position before startup.  If you are in the wrong position when these beasts are powered up you will get squished.

As each pile reaches its maximum height, and width the piler is moved backwards to start a new pile.  The lot where the piling is done is quite long......maybe 7-10 football fields long.  When we reach the other end we are done.  Sugar Valley is the largest sugar beet piling station between here and the Pacific Ocean.....over 2,000 trucks a day will come through here at the height of our operation.....that's about 333 trucks per station per day.

We spent just over an hour examining the equipment, asking questions, and being assigned our positions.  We figured we would be helpers on one of the stations, however, when our turn to talk with our supervisor, Travis, came he said they were looking for one couple to work slightly different hours.  TLE would be assigned to work in the "scale house" (in out of the weather)....where the trucks are weighed coming and going, and I will be a rover moving from station to station giving workers break time.  Our hours were going to be 6 am to 6 pm, however, with our new positions our hours will now be 10 am to 10 pm.......perfect!  In addition we get a $4/hour bump to $14/hour.  We love the hours because we don't have to get up at the "butt crack of dawn" , and we don't get to bed much before midnight most nights anyway, so we are very happy.

We'll head back to Sugar Valley to do more on job training with trucks coming in and dumping their loads to get the hang of our jobs.  We'll work from 8 am to 12:30 pm Friday, then no work again until Monday morning when we start our 12 hour schedule.  Although North Dakota is on Central time, we will be working on Montana time, or Mountain time.

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sometimes......

 Sometimes, like today, I wake up and wonder "what am I going to write about Wednesday (or whatever day I'm writing about at the time) that is noteworthy, or interesting, or informative?".  Sometimes I sit staring at the "Post" title box above for what seems like a long, long time trying to figure out what one word, or phrase will convey the gist of the day just passed.  Sometimes I think it would just be easier to take a day off, and post a link to the same date from a year ago.  Sometimes I just start with one word, like "Sometimes" and start writing what comes into my mind........okay, well not everything that comes into my mind.....just the stuff fit for civil society.  Sometimes I have the utmost respect for those who make their living "writing" books, or articles, and I do most of the time, but sometimes I think "they're good at what they do because they are just being themselves and writing about whatever comes into their minds, and for the most part their thoughts put on paper, or in digital format are consistently interesting to a lot of people", and therefore, they become popular.

When I first started this blog I only posted when we did something, mostly when we took a trip in the coach, or after we went full time, if we rolled our wheels that day.  It wasn't until we arrived at Amazon.com in Campbellsville, KY last October that I decided if I was going to become any good at this blogging stuff I needed to write something every single day, whether, or not "I thought" what we did might seem interesting, or informative to others.  What I found was that people just wanted to know about the experience, no matter how mundane it seemed to me.  I get comments often now from people who started reading my blog back then when I was writing on a daily basis about our Amazon experience.  At any rate, here I have written several hundred words about "sometimes".  I hope what I write about our daily life lived in an RV traveling around the U.S.  is interesting sometimes, but hopefully it is interesting most of the time.

Wednesday did not involve a lot, in my own mind, to write about......I started off as I always do pouring cup of coffee from our Starbucks Barista automatic coffee maker, which, by the way makes quite excellent coffee.  Then I pour a little half and half into it and watch it swirl, and change the color to a lighter brown.  I actually look forward to getting up in the morning just to have that first cup of dark roast coffee....it just makes me happy.  Then I turn on my laptop, and sit down to stare at the blank screen that is waiting to be filled with something that I hope will be interesting to others.

Usually within an hour TLE gets up, comes out, pours a cup of that same wonderful coffee and asks......"is the blog up yet?"....sometimes I am able to answer in the affirmative, but most often it is still a work in progress.  Please understand, I don't spend that entire hour just trying to write the blog....I usually try and come up with a title, and write the first paragraph, then I may read some news, catch up on some sports scores from the day before, or check the weather.  I don't write the blog in one continuous session, but over about an hour it is mostly finished as I go back and forth to other websites.  Then I need to proof read it for spelling errors, and grammatical errors....sometimes I need to rephrase a sentence so it makes more sense.  Nevertheless, at some point I announce to TLE that the blog is up and ready for human consumption.

Once that is done then I am thinking about what we're going to do for the rest of the day.  Wednesday I needed to get the envelopes for our three tax returns addressed, then over to the Post Office to be mailed.  Once that was done we decided we would walk to the Post Office......it's about 1.75 miles away......just a straight shot down Holly....and since we were going to pass the IGA we stopped off to get some more half and half, milk, and some slightly small trash bags.....apparently the other day we inadvertently purchased the incredibly small trash bags in error.

By the time we returned to the coach an hour and a half later it was time for lunch.  After lunch I took a nap.....I had gone to bed Tuesday night after midnight, and was up at 6:15 am.....not nearly enough shut eye for me, so I napped for about an hour, then took to reading a book on my Kindle for much of the afternoon.  That was our day......sometimes it is not exactly captivating, but it is what it is, and I hope it was a little bit interesting.

Right now we are just kind of killing time until we start working.  There is not much to do around town....there is not even a movie theater.   There are, however, a lot of hardware stores, tractor supply stores, automotive parts stores, and a lot of pizza places.  We are ready to work, and on Thursday we will head out to the Sugar Valley pile site and do our on site job training.  

The promised rain did arrive early evening, and continued on and off all night long.  Right now it is kind of blustery, and the skies are a leaden gray.....it is sure lookin' like a "winter's day".

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Losing Track.....

For my sister-in-law, Phyllis, we have arrived in Sidney, MT for the sugar beet harvest and will be here until 10/21/2013....give, or take a few days.....no need to read any further if you do not wish.  Love you, and miss you!

I have to admit some days I forget what day it is.  For a while Tuesday I was convinced it was Wednesday.  That's more understandable if I was still part of the "workaday world" when I looked forward to "hump day"....the half way point of the work week.....just as, no doubt, many of you still do, or once did.  If it wasn't for the day clock on the wall of our living room I would have had to pull out my phone and check the calendar.  I had written my entire blog entry yesterday about Tuesday, not Monday, and had to go back and fix every reference I made to the wrong day.  I guess if that's the worst problem I have in the next 3 weeks I will be in good shape.

Tuesday gave us clear blue skies, and temperatures in the high 60's until late in the day when it topped 70 briefly before the cloud cover arrived.   We wanted to take a bike ride around town to get a better idea of where everything is.....nothing like exploring any place at under 10 mph.....so while TLE cleaned up after breakfast I headed over to the trailer to get the bikes put together, and the tires aired up.  

As I prepared the bikes for our ride RV's continued to roll into our "getting more crowded by the hour" little RV ghetto here in the far corner of Richland County Fairgrounds.  There aren't many spots left, so I think just about everyone is here.  We've met a number of interesting people here so far.  One particularly interesting fellow is someone I have wanted to meet ever since I began reading his blog entitled "Goin' RV Boondocking".....his name, Brian Gore.  He describes himself as a "Broken down Ol' cowboy goin' RV boondocking....and Yondering to the beat of a different Cowboy biker drummer".  Now anyone who can write that colorfully about himself I have to meet, and as Miss Serendipity would have it Brian and his wife are here for the sugar beet harvest, too.  Brian is a writer of westerns, and I have read all of his books so far, and thoroughly enjoyed them.  He writes under the name B.K. Gore, and if you click on his name the link will take you to his publishing page and his books.  If you like westerns you will enjoy his books.


I started following Brian's blog back before he hit the road full time.  It was my interest in "boondocking" that led me to his blog in the first place, and Brian is a certifiable expert "boondocker".  Just for the sake of those who may not be familiar with this RV'er term let me send you to a page in Brian's blog where he describes it much more eloquently, and poetically than I.  The short version of "boondocking" is parking your RV far from services, towns, sometimes cell phone reception, in beautiful rural settings with no access to electricity, water, or sewer.  Some think boondocking is parking in the parking lot of a Walmart over night, but that comes under the title of "dry camping", which is a whole 'nother thing.  He is able to go a lot places with his modest 5th wheel that I could never take the Newell, and trailer, but many places he has been I can also get to, and plan to visit now that we are in the western half of our country.

We headed into town on our bikes a little after Noon heading first for Main Street, and a couple of thrift stores, and a hardware store.  TLE needs a better pair of work shoes, so we stopped first at a local Tru Value Hardware store where they had a large selection of boots, but none of them fit properly, and even if they had they were quite expensive at over $100, or more.  So, our next stop was a thrift store at the far eastern end of Main called "Goodcents".  While I was securing the bikes, TLE headed inside.  I was barely in the door when I saw her waiving me over to the shoe section....she had found a pair of steel toed leather work boots for $20, and they fit her feet nicely.  Again, one of the things I love about Montana is NO SALES TAX!  All I had to do was hand the nice sales lady a $20 bill, and we were on our way.  Next stop was the Salvation Army store back up the street a few blocks.  This is probably one of the smallest Salvation Army stores I have ever been in, and the prices were just as small!  We found two heavy duty winter work coats for $3 each....the kind of coats we can get filthy dirty, but keep us dry, and warm.   When we are done with the harvest we can just toss them out, or re-donate them.

After packing our "finds" in our panniers we rode over to a little cafe we had passed in the car a few days ago for lunch called the Fireside Cafe.   We arrived around 2 pm for a late lunch.

This is actually the table we sat at!

TLE had their Rueben sandwich, and I the Chicken Fried Steak sandwich.....after eating these nicely prepared entrees we can now understand why Urbanspoon gives them 3 stars.....for us the ambiance, the service, and the food get a solid 4 stars.  There was only one review on Yelp from a year ago, and he gave them 2 stars.....our experience more mirrored Urbanspoon's assessment.

From there we headed over to the IGA where TLE got some envelopes....one more thing we were out of when I was getting ready to mail in my taxes the other day, so now we are set to get those puppies in the mail.....finally!

By the time we arrived home it was after 3.....I settled in for a short nap as the clouds rolled in, and then spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning the car, and the front of the coach.  Around 7 we watched "Castle" which had recorded on our DVR the night before, then we watched NCIS, NCIS L.A., and Person of Interest.....all new shows.   Since prime time starts at 9 pm now (Mountain time) we didn't get to bed until after midnight.  Starting Sunday we will be in bed very early for the next 3 weeks as we will be reporting to work at 6 am each day after that for close to 21 days straight.

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Nuts and Bolts.......

Our dear weather guessers predicted rather boldly Sunday evening that we would have rain during the night, and possibly into mid morning Monday.  What actually happened was a very light sprinkling from about 8:30 to 9:30 am.....just enough moisture to show up on the windshield of the coach, but hardly noticeable if you were outside.  Don't get me wrong.......I'm happy it didn't rain, because there is no doubt in my mind that when it does rain, and it surely will at some point......this little RV park we are in will get a little muddy, so the longer it stays dry the better.

The workampers are steadily flooding in to our little park, and it is getting crowded......they really pack them in here.  The sugar beet harvest officially begins next Monday, September 30th, so I would think within the next couple of days we will be completely full.


Getting crowded....for sure

So here is our "hookup" situation.....we are plugged into a good 50 amp electrical service.  There are two hose bibs, one at the end of each double row of RV's (RV's are backed up to each other in two long rows).  As RV's come in the individual owners attach their water hose to a "Y" valve on the end of the hose, then put a "Y" valve on the end of their hose for the next RV.  Obviously we do not depend on the water pressure from the hose to pressurize the water system in our coach...we just fill up our fresh water tank, and run our water pump.  We only open the valve on the hose to refill periodically.  If we all used the hose water at the same time the water pressure would drop to zero.  


 Our electrical service....my cord is the one of the left, #11

My "Y" valve is the one connecting the two white hoses together....this is the "end of the line" so this connection supplies three RV's with water

Now, you're probably wondering about our waste water situation.  There is NO place to dump here, so they have a "honey wagon" come in every Monday and Thursday to pump out our gray and black tanks.  Normally we would not have had to dump our tanks this quickly, as we arrived here in Sidney with empty gray and black tanks having dumped them in Columbus last Saturday morning before we left the RV park, but I wanted to meet the guy running the "honey wagon" and show him where our dump valve was, and how to connect.  There are two dump valve standards used on RV's.....Valterra and Thetford.  Thetford valves (what we have)  are more often found on higher end RV's.  The connection diameter is slightly larger on Thetford valves requiring a larger connector.  I have an adapter that reduces the Thetford connection down to the Valterra standard.  As it turned out, I was glad I was there because of the angle Monty (the dump guy) must use to attach to our dump valve using his connector causes my adapter to leak while he is dumping.  So what I did after he left was attach my short flexible hose to my dump valve using a regular Thetford connector, and then on the other end attached a Valterra connector.  I told him I would just leave that on for the time we are here to make it easier for him, and less messy.  I know this sounds a little complicated, especially if you don't own an RV, so here are a couple of pictures to illustrate what I am talking about.


 The white fitting is the Thetford connector
The orange fitting is the Valterra connector

Since we don't need to dump our black tank but every 10-11 days I'll just leave a note for Monty every Monday and Thursday when we are at work advising what tank(s) to dump on that particular day.  I'm sure we'll dump the gray tank every chance we get so we don't have to worry about taking showers....plus we can even use the washer/dryer if need be.

I spent the better part of the morning completing my tax forms for the Fed's, Kentucky and California, then printing out all the forms, 1099's, and W2's for attachment.  Right in the middle of all of that we ran out of black ink, so TLE, who had to go shopping anyway, headed out to get a couple of black ink cartridges for our HP printer/scanner/copier.  Since we filed for a six month extension they aren't due until 10/15, but we will be in the middle of the sugar beet harvest 12 hour days by then and I won't have time to do anything but  work, eat and sleep.

Watched the Monday night NFL game between Oakland and Denver......Peyton Manning continues to amaze.  He set a new record for number of touchdowns in the first three games of a season with 12, breaking Tom Brady's record of 11.  On top of that he has had NO interceptions in the first three games.

That was our day.....Tuesday is starting out with clear blue skies.....just what we want....it may get to 72 today.  Every day without rain is a great day!

Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Sugar Valley

Sunday morning we continued setting up our campsite here at Richland County Fairgrounds, and then around Noon we headed into town to Express Employment Professionals located at the local Microtel to begin our "job" orientation.  Our "job" orientation consisted of more paperwork.....TLE and I both agree there is not much more paperwork involved in signing escrow papers for a home.  After signing and initialing quite a few more forms we sat down to watch a video dealing with the different types of jobs  we will be doing, plus the ever present segment dealing with sexual harassment, and hostile work environments.  Considering that we will be spending 12 hours a day for 3 weeks straight living and breathing in an environment that by it's very nature will be cold, dirty, muddy, dusty, sometimes wet, or as one might say a "hostile work environment" I would think that last thing on anyone's mind would be making it more hostile, but you just never know.

Of course, like many manual labor jobs this job has its particular hazards, and strict procedures for reducing, if not eliminating those hazards.  Periodically we will have to assist in the movement of the largest power cord any of us will every handle.....a 4 phase 440/480 volt power cord that supplies electrical current to the piling station equipment we will be working around.  Based on the clothing and safety equipment we saw being worn in the video at more than one worksite, we will look like a couple of ragamuffins.  Everyone looked quite bundled up against the cold.

Our assigned worksite will be Sugar Valley about 12 miles from our campsite, and is actually located just over, and I mean just barely over, the border of North Dakota.  Our shift will be from 6 am to 6 pm daily for as long as the harvest takes.....typically not longer than 3 weeks.  Below is a satellite view of the piling station.....just across the border from Fairview, MT (see the little red marker with an "A" in it).


View Larger Map



Satellite view of Sugar Valley piling station

You can see some of the equipment is already set up in this satellite view, but there is a lot more equipment when the site is completely up and running.  On Thursday we go out to Sugar Valley for on site job training, and will then have a better idea of what specific jobs we will be assigned.

After our training we stopped in at a local "pub" called "Winners", which is really more of a sports bar with average food.....BUT there are 15, or 20 flat screen TV's with every single NFL game, which is why I wanted to stop there.  They have NO beer on tap, and the food only marginally passes for "pub food".  The link I have given is to the Yelp review, which gives it 1.5 stars I think.....that's a little harsh...I would give it a 2...barely.  If all you want to do is watch football and drink a few bottled brews then it's a nice friendly place, but don't go there expecting any semblance of ambiance, draft beer, or remarkable "pub" food.  One reviewer wrote this: "Perfect place to go if you wish to have your food cooked & served by the cast & crew of 'Deliverance'...".  That's over the top, but very funny......although I did think I heard strains of "Dueling Banjos" coming from the casino attached to the pub.....:D


I'm pretty sure we will not be returning here in the near future, but I thank TLE for humoring me by going in and having lunch with me just the same  I did get to see the end of a few of the morning games, and no one came down with food poisoning.

Much like a lot of small towns in this part of the country on a Sunday, a lot of stores were closed.  The only hardware store open was at the CENEX gas station just up the street.  I've never seen a hardware store as part of a gas station, but it was a very nice hardware store, and they have a wonderful selection of work gloves, which is why we were there.  We didn't buy any gloves on this visit, but once we get a better idea on Thursday what type of gloves are recommended for our job we will return.

We stopped at the local IGA (Independent Grocers Association) where TLE stocked up on a few more staples, and I bought a couple of small six packs of Snap-E Tom's Tomato & Chile Cocktail.  It's hard to find, but the IGA's always seem to have it.



We arrived back "home" around 2:30 and I spent the rest of the afternoon/evening watching football, and getting my beauty rest.....in about a week we will be getting up at 4, or 4:30 and going to work by 6.

Thanks for stopping by!



Sunday, September 22, 2013

Changing it up....

I had a conversation with the Jello about our plan to take two days to drive the 313 miles from Columbus, MT to Sidney, MT, and after a short discussion decided it would be better to do the distance in one day.   "Why?" you ask.....well from what I was hearing through the grape vine workers were already arriving and if we took an extra day we might not get a 50 amp spot.  Normally we don't really mind having 30 amp, but when it is very hot, or very cold it is a little more complicated living off 30 amps....each of our A/C's and electric heaters uses around 10 amps each....give, or take an odd amp here and there.  When it is cold, like it will get here in a week, or so we are usually running both electric heaters, plus the basement heater....that's 30 amps right there which puts us on the edge of blowing the breaker.....plus, if we turn on the electric coffee maker, which we prefer, that puts us over the limit.  So, all things being equal, and the fact we will be here the better part of a month, we would prefer to have 50 amps, which is really 100 amps (50 amps per leg), and not have to think about it.


View Larger Map

Our Route Saturday

We were both up pretty early Saturday so we could get on the road by 8 am giving us plenty of time to drive the 313 miles to Sidney and still take our customary rest stops.  Our first stop of the day was Billings, only about 38 miles into our drive, so we could fill up our propane tank at the Flying J.   We arrived there around 8:45, and by 9 am were on our way again.  

It wasn't long until flying insects began committing suicide by flying directly into our windshield.  As we drove TLE took a number of pictures of the surrounding area.....pretty flat with very long views....but kind of marred by the insect slaughter visible in this picture.



 The Yellowstone River once again



As we were driving down the Interstate I saw a large pickup truck entering the Interstate on my right so I moved over to the #1 lane to let him merge into the #2 lane.....just as I did that he kicked up a rock that hit our windshield (see below) and put a large dime size chip near the middle of the drivers side.  In over 40,000 miles of driving since we purchased the Newell this is the first glass damage.  Fortunately, before we left on our adventure I endorsed my auto policy to "100% glass coverage" meaning there is no deductible for repairing, or replacing any of the glass in our coach, or car.  Our windshield is a split one, and fortunately the damage is to the older piece of glass on the drivers side.

The chip

We stopped off at the Walmart in Miles City......our original stopping point for Saturday before the Jello intervened....and did some shopping.  We were there about an hour, so it was a nice rest stop.  From Miles City it was another 76 miles to Sidney...the last 23 on SR 16, which runs along the Yellowstone River all the way up to Sidney.

Over the course of the day we continued dropping in elevation, and ended up at 2,200' elevation here at the fairgrounds, where we will be parked for the better part of a month.  We arrived in Sidney just around 3 pm.  We found out pretty quickly that our decision to get here on Saturday was a good one...we got one of the last 50 amp spots available, and most everyone else who hasn't arrived here yet, will arrive here on Sunday.

We did have to drop the trailer about one hundred yards away, so that's a little inconvenient, but it is what it is.

Saturday and Sunday it will be in the high 70's, low 80's, and then the temps drop into the 60's and low 70's for the foreseeable future.  We spent about 20 minutes filling out employment paperwork, and meeting a few people then settled into setting up our campsite.  Later around 6:30 I got out the BBQ to grill a couple of steaks (rib eye)  that TLE had bought way back in Sioux Falls....over three months ago....they came out great....TLE said I grilled the steaks "to perfection".

The decision to do the last 313 miles in one day worked out well, and since we stopped 4 times to take a break we arrived feeling fresh.  I still don't like long driving days, and at 7 hours this was a long day for us, but sometimes you just have to suck it up and "get 'er done".

Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

33

Summer seems to be over....I see RV's by the hundreds heading south....the overnight lows are getting lower and lower.......what are we doing?  We are heading north and east.....what is wrong with this picture?

The low Thursday night/Friday morning was 33......I actually turned on the water bay heater before I went to bed.....the water bay heater keeps the fresh and waste water from freezing.....I probably could have gotten by without doing that, but I tend to err on the side of caution when it comes to freezing water....especially black water.....nothing good ever comes from that.

We only had 200 mile to travel Friday, so we delayed our departure from Fairmont Hot Springs until 11 am, giving us more time to spend with Tom, Darlene, and our favorite McCloud....Missy, the schihtzoodle.....the happiest little dog I have ever known.  While the girls played cards, Tom and I sat and talked.  Finally we could delay no longer, and we said our "until next times".  We will see Tom and Darlene after the first of the year when we begin our belated trek further south.

We left Fairmont at about 5,500' elevation and it wasn't too long until we had topped out at 6,393' crossing the Continental Divide once again going west to east.


As we trekked eastward the views got enormous........and we saw the distant mountains with a fresh dusting of snow from the storm a few days ago.....another reason we "should" be heading south and not northeast.  The Interstate took us up and down in elevation several times, and we found ourselves in 2nd gear several times as we finished 6-7% climbs.


Of course, as I have written numerous times previously, we are heading northeast on purpose as our destination is Sidney, MT and the sugar beet harvest, which starts next Monday.  We'll spend a few weeks working the harvest and then we will head south and west.

There were no Rest Areas along this stretch of I-90 so we chose to exit the Interstate at about the 70 mile mark to take a break at a Pilot truck stop.  It was nearing 12:30 so TLE made me a yogurt and fruit snack....okay, I admit it was actually quite good....I'm beginning to develop a taste for yogurt.  We were back on the Interstate within 25 minutes, and continuing our eastward trek......we had about 133 miles to go, and little did I know at the time, but that was the only time we would stop Friday.....the Rest Stop we had counted on using down the road was closed for remodeling.  How cruel is that?  By that time there were less than 40 miles left, so we just continued on arriving in Columbus, MT around 3:10 pm at Mountain Range RV Park....we stayed here almost exactly 3 months ago as we headed to Alberta with our Newell friends.  It is a nice overnight place.......just a short distance off I-90, and the pull through sites are perfect for us.

The Yellowstone River on the left, and snow covered mountains ahead

Eventually we came to the Yellowstone River, which we will, more or less, follow the rest of the way to Sidney.  Originally our Jello plan called for us to split up the remaining 300 miles into two 150 mile days, arriving in Sidney Sunday afternoon, but since we start working on Monday we have changed it up and will plow the 300 miles on Saturday.....a longer than normal day, but we'll break it up with Rest Area stops along the way.  Hoping to get into Sidney by mid afternoon Saturday.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, September 20, 2013

An Amazing Day!

Thursday dawned partly cloudy, but the weather guessers were guessing that it would be mostly sunny.  By the time I finished my blog post TLE was up, and we headed into Cracker Barrel for breakfast.  I chose the simple oatmeal breakfast with a blueberry muffin, and TLE had eggs and bacon with some biscuits.   I love breakfast at Cracker Barrel for so many reasons.....the food is consistent, it is good, and it comes quickly!


We were on the road by 8:15, but only for a short distance......Thursday it was time to "pay the rent".  The last time we put diesel in our tank was back in Columbia Falls, MT about 40 days previously.  We still had half a tank, but we had 610 miles to go to Sidney, MT, and diesel is not going to get much less expensive.  We found a Pilot truck stop just 8 miles west on I-90 so we exited there.  We have a Flying J/Pilot RV card which gives us 3 cents off each gallon, so we took on about 107 gallons at $3.83/gallon.  Using those high volume truck pumps is wonderful.....takes the same length of time it takes fill up the T-Bird.  

By this time the skies had cleared as promised, and the drive southeast was just beautiful.  We were steadily gaining altitude from the moment we left Missoula (3,000' elevation) until we arrived in Fairmont Hot Springs, Mt (5,000' elevation), but the grade was so gradual I hardly noticed it.  I only had to shift down to 4th gear one time, otherwise the Allison tranny kept us plugging along at our usual 60 mph.

Just east of Missoula

TLE needed to do some quick shopping to pick up a few things and said there was a Safeway in Deer Lodge, MT, so we exited there around 10:30.....the supermarket was just a mile, or so off the Interstate and we were back on and continuing our drive southeast by 10:45.  Our plans were to meet our good friends Tom and Darlene McCloud in Fairmont Hot Springs.  They are heading south to Arizona, and we to Sidney, MT so we managed to work out our schedules so we could spend a day together, and I am so glad we did.

Nearing Anaconda, MT

We arrived at Fairmont RV Resort just after 11 am, and were checked into site #59 within minutes.  Of course, Tom and Darlene were there to greet us, and we spent the next hour catching up before getting a quick bite to eat, and then heading over to Fairmont Hot Springs Resort to spend a few hours soaking in the indoor pools.

Our site, and the view

Around 1 pm we headed over to the hot springs resort.....it is only a short walk.  I never know what to expect when I visit a hot springs....sometimes what you get are a couple of crude pools in the middle of a field, but this resort blew my socks off.  They have spring fed pools inside, and outside.....it was in the low 50's so we chose to use the indoor pools.  Even though none of us is 65 (the age at which they give a senior citizen discount) the lady gave all four of us the discount....I'm not quite sure how to take that, but it's half price, so who's complaining, right?

The pool below is the bigger of the two and is kept just around body temperature....


The smaller pool (below) is kept at 103-104 degrees, and is where we spent a lot of time.


Tom took this picture.....it looks like the girls are getting ready to baptize me, huh?


We soaked, and talked until well after 3:30, then headed back to the coaches.  I had a little insurance work to attend to, and took a nap.  We reconvened over at Tom and Darlene's coach for dinner around 5.....Lasagna, garlic toast, and salad.  Of course the conversation continued unabated until after 7 pm when we decided to head back over to the hot springs for another dip.  We soaked, and talked until 8:45, then headed home in the 43 degree outside temperature.  The predicted low for the night was 33, and I can tell you with some authority it got at least that cold last night.

Of course, earlier in the day Tom had declared Thursday night to be "movie night", so we scrolled through the available movies and I chose "Hunger Games".  Only Tom had seen it before, and said he didn't mind seeing it again, so we settled in to watch the movie.  It was very interesting, while quite disturbing at the same time.  At any rate we enjoyed the movie, then bid adieu to our friends around 11:45.....we'll continue our journey eastward toward Sidney Friday, while Tom and Darlene will continue south into Idaho.

Once again the magic of meetups on the road produced an amazing day......one that will be remembered, and thought about until next we meet again.  I am so glad we arrived here so early in the day, because that enabled us to spend a lot of quality time with our friends.

Just a side note.....my Dodgers clinched first place in their division last night by defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks 7-6....I am sorry that came at the expense of our friend's home team....okay....really just a little bit sorry.

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Me: "It's good to be moving again....." - TLE - "Yeah...."

Four weeks, and 1 day after we arrived in Coeur d'Alene we were once again moving.......originally we had planned to leave between 11 am and Noon, however, the weather guessers told us it would be a 70% chance of rain by 11.  Well, I'm sure you feel the same way we do about packing up to leave in the rain.....not one of our favorite things, and regretfully we have done our share of that.  So, with that in mind we began in earnest to complete preparations for departure.  

By 10 am we were out on the street hooking up the coach to the trailer, and then loading the T-Bird.  By 10:15 am we were merging on to I-90 eastbound.   Our destination for the day was Missoula, a town we have overnighted in 4, or 5 times previously.




The heavy overcast we woke up to Wednesday continued all the way to Missoula, and we got rain as we crossed first over 4th of July Pass, then Lookout Pass, but as we descended on the east side of each pass the rain quickly disappeared.  We were only driving 166 miles.....a little far for us......so we stopped at a Rest Area at about the 60 mile mark, and then again with about 44 miles to go.  At the second one there was a National Forest Campground attached to the Rest Area, so we put on warm clothes (it was about 53 degrees) and took a 1.1 mile walk around the campground.  It was very nice to take a walk in temperatures under 60 degrees again...that is my favorite walking weather.

Of course, once again we are in Mountain time so we had to advance our clocks 1 hour.  We arrived without event in Missoula at around 3:30 pm at the Cracker Barrel where we planned to spend the night.  This Cracker Barrel has the largest pull through sites of any Cracker Barrel we have ever stayed at.....they actually are long enough for us and the trailer!


Around 5 pm we walked over to the MacKenzie River Pizza company, which is just across the street from the Cracker Barrel, for dinner.  We weren't too hungry so we split a Flathead Pizza, and took about a third of it home.

I had a stiff neck that had been bothering me most of the day, so when we got back to the coach so I took a nap, then read for a while.  TLE rubbed some Tigers Balm on my neck, and that combined with a neck rub helped a lot.  We turned on the TV around 9 pm and watched the X-Factor, and then were in bed by 11.

Thursday we will drive 110 miles to meet up with our very, very good friends the McClouds near Anaconda, MT where there are reputably some wonderful hot springs.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Unbeetable......

I know, you think I spelled the title of this post incorrectly, but the spelling is deliberate.  The folks who are hosting us for the sugar beet harvest created a Facebook page called "The Unbeetable Experience" which serves as a "clearing house" for information regarding the beet harvest.  It has been quite helpful to us, and we appreciate all the information provided.  For those of our readers who also spend a lot of time living on the road in their RV's and are looking for an occasional "workamper" job, follow along as I blog daily about our experience at the sugar beet harvest....we start working Monday.

Tuesday we began in earnest putting the rest of our stuff away.......the weather guessers predicted rain by 1 pm, so we wanted to be mostly done with the outside work by then.  While TLE worked inside, I wiped off the outside of the coach.  It was especially dirty due to the dust storm the other night followed by rain, and there is no way I could take our "baby" out in public looking such a mess.  Fortunately, I've been using a new product called Firecoat to clean, and wax the coach since the Newell Gurus Mini Rally in Spearfish, SD.  The result is all I had to do was take a micro fiber towel and wipe the dirt off.....no water necessary!  Within an hour or so the entire coach looked like it had been washed and waxed again.

As usual the weather guessers guessed wrong, and the rain did not come until much later, but that was a good thing.....sometimes their bad guesses redound to our benefit.  We kept watching the skies, and paced ourselves accordingly taking occasional breaks.  It's amazing how much stuff comes out when you sit in one place for a month!

We'll pull into the street and hook up the trailer once again....

By late afternoon all I had left to do, which will be done Wednesday morning, was empty and flush the "black" tank, top off the fresh water tank, and then unhook the utilities.  We are only going as far as Missoula Wednesday (163 miles) so we'll probably leave closer to 11 am, or Noon.

The weather has certainly cooled off significantly these past two days, and as we move eastward it will continue to be in the 60's, and 70's for the next 10 days based on the best guesses by the weather guessers.  The rain finally came around 5 pm, and it rained on and off until close to midnight......it's been a while since I went to bed hearing rain on the roof.....what a lovely sound!

We spent the evening reading, and by 10 we were both in bed.  I've taken to watching an episode of Fasier before falling asleep.  I had forgotten how well written, and funny that show was.  Unfortunately for TLE I laughed out loud several times catching her as she was just dropping off to sleep, and rightfully earned her disappointed retort.

Thanks for stopping by!