Is It The Places or The People ?

We are closing in on finishing up our 3rd year of living the full-time RV lifestyle.

The road has been a good one to us. Not that it’s been all fun, frolic, and laughs but it has brought us closer together – not only physically but emotionally as well.

Kathy and I just celebrated our 45th wedding anniversary with an Amtrak trip to Glacier National Park. During our lifetime together, a lot of that time was “alone” time. In one of my early career positions I was gone “on the road” nearly every weekday, sleeping in motels Sunday through Thursday nights somewhere in my multi-state territory.

Even when I was at home, my time was consumed with working on the “work” business from home involved in conference calls and drafting of sales proposal letters along with being active in the only real hobby I ever had … local ham radio clubs and events.

Me in my ham radio “shack” in the early ’80’s

Kathy had a handful of different jobs over the years (most importantly raising the kids and keeping the house together) with most of the time working in the school system so she could be off work and at home when the kids were at home. We were fortunate because with her job schedule we didn’t need to hire child care.

But now our lives are a polar opposite of that earlier time. We are together ALL THE TIME. We travel side by side, we share meals, we do the mundane tasks of grocery shopping, house cleaning and laundry together, and we sleep next to each other. I think we have both come to appreciate each other far more than earlier in our marriage. We’ve always had a lot of mutual love and respect for each other – rarely raising our voices to the other. But before … we had other things to occupy our time. If we felt the urge for some “space”, we could easily separate ourselves from the other. Now on the other hand – it’s not so easy. After all, we live in a 300 sf box with a little bit of green space around us.

Our three years together in our “Green Machine” Airstream motorhome has given us the luxury at this stage in our lives of … in a way … becoming one.

45 years and still “Livin’ & Lovin'”

When we started this lifestyle three years ago, we realized that in order to travel from place to place and enjoy the local life, we needed to have some assistance with the household budget. We sold our house, paid off what little remaining debt we had and decided we would live off our social security income and a small pension Kathy had from working at the school system. We decided we would keep the retirement nest egg (IRA’s, investments) alone for future use when (if) we get off the road. Oh sure, it’ll happen sometime. We will either run out of good health or run out of our love for the road, but by leaving our investments alone so they can continue to grow, at least we won’t HAVE to come off the road because we’ve run out of money.

Although I had no employer monthly pension income (I was self employed the last 20 years) we had purchased an annuity years ago that could now provide a supplement to our Social Security along with Kathy’s small pension.

Yes we could “make it” on those income sources alone, it was going to be tight. We’d have to always be scrutinizing the budget each month and we’d have little room if any for any emergency expense or extravagance.

Somewhere, somehow … we discovered Workamping/Hosting/Volunteering and the opportunities it can provide. These experiences have given us the opportunity to travel and have rent-free sites and utilities. In addition, these opportunities have given us something else that we never really expected … new and lasting friendships.

Workamping/Camp Hosting/Volunteering opportunities are generally long-term commitments. What I mean by that is that most often (but not always) your “employer” would like to have their “staff” on board for the season or even year-round.

Starting out, our first gig was 6 months long – the winter season in Arizona.

Kathy at the registration desk at Rancho Verde RV Park in Camp Verde, AZ

Although our owner/managers (George & Sigrid) were wonderful to us, treated us so well – like family … we ultimately decided when making arrangements for future opportunities we would look for more “short term” commitments. We’ve since been working one-month to 3-month gigs.

This way we can continue to travel around the country and have more new experiences and make more new and lasting friendships. If we worked for 6 months in each location, we’d be 130 years old and still not have completed our Bucket List!

Here’s a U.S. map showing where we’ve AT LEAST stayed overnight in the last three years. You can see we’ve still got a long way to go … we need to spend more time along both the east and west coasts.

Oh yeah, earlier I mentioned this part about friendships but then I got off track – excuse me. We have discovered that working (volunteering) as we travel allows us to meet, get to know, and build lasting relationships with lots of wonderful people from all over the country.

Right now as an example, we are acting as tour guides at DC Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery and Archives in Spearfish, South Dakota (Black Hills and Badlands area)

There are 10 couples here, all living in our rigs side-by-side in Volunteer Village at the Spearfish City Campground right across the street from the hatchery.

We work side-by-side, share most nights of the week around the campfire cooking smores and enjoying each other’s stories and even have monthly pot luck meals along with weekly free music festivals in the city park just a few hundred feet away.

One of our pot luck meals at Volunteer Village
Brooksie entertaining us with one of her stories while Matt prepares his Smore
Enjoying one of the weekly free “Canyon Accoustics” concerts
Sometimes it’s a smaller group out to share a meal together

When we have to say goodbye and hit the road again, we stay in touch with our new friends as we travel using both Facebook (groups) and a Facebook-like app made just for RV’ers called RVillage.com. Both of these are great resources to keep up with our buddies and see what their next adventure is and maybe where we might apply to work/volunteer in the future.

We’ve already had at least a dozen experiences over the last three years where we have volunteered with folks in say, Livingston Texas and met up with them again in Burlington Vermont or Ludington Michigan (or somewhere like that). Sometimes it’s planned, but more often it’s serendipitous!

But what about our family and “old” friends? Do we miss our kids and grandchildren? You bet! It would be great if we could do what we are doing AND fly back home to Ohio at least once or twice a year to spend time with the family. But, fact is we just can’t afford to that. Life is often about sacrifices (and opportunities!)

It really depends on where we are working and how long the commitment is and where the next commitment will be. We don’t plan our work locations based on traveling back home once or twice each year. We plan our work locations on where we have NOT been, what we might like to see, and how appealing the location and job description/compensation package is.

We were last in Ohio April of 2018 for a month and we will be back there summer of 2020 so we’ll have plenty of time to catch up. The photos below of the kids, grand-kids, in-laws and old neighbors might be a couple or a few years old, but they’re some of our favorites.

And of course, we post LOTS of info and pictures on Facebook, videos on You Tube and posts here on the blog for family and friends to see what we’re up to.

So yes, it’s great to travel the country and see all the great exciting new places, but we’ve found that the wonderful personal relationships we’ve developed with all our new friends as we travel and volunteer are the larger perk of the RV lifestyle that we embrace.

If you are interested in finding out more about our Workamping and volunteering experiences, just scroll on up to the top right hand side of this post and enter either “volunteer” or “workamp” in the search box and hit “enter”.

If you’re not already subscribed to this blog, you can easily do so by scrolling up to the top of any page and entering your email address in the block on the right side.

You can also subscribe to our YouTube channel (herbnkathyrv) on You Tube.

If you’re curious (at any time) to know where we are at that moment then click the button at the top right of this page labeled “See Where We Are Now“.

We’d love to hear from you. If you scroll all the way down to the bottom of this page, you can send us a note. Again, thanks for riding along. ’til next time – safe travels.

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

So Just What Is Fort Peck?

Fort Peck – It’s a small town (about 250 residents) and it’s an Army Corp of Engineers “Project” that includes a dam, a campground, an Interpretive Center, and multiple fishing/boating/hunting recreation areas.

Oh, and I almost forgot … the reason all of the above is here … the Fort Peck Reservoir. The reservoir (man made lake) was formed from the Missouri River, is 135 miles long and has over 1500 miles of shoreline. It was formed in the 30’s when 10,000+ men built the world’s largest earthen dam to provide flood control for lands downstream.

The dam and the history of how families came from all over the country to work there and the engineering that went into the planning and building … well that’s a story in itself and will require a blog post dedicated to that subject alone. But you can learn all about that right now by following this link to PBS Montana.

For now, we want to share with you a little about why we are here, how we came to find this job in particular, and take you on a tour of the park and show you some of our duties here.

Kathy and I are volunteers … well, kind of. We travel the country volunteering our time at campgrounds and RV parks in exchange for the rent and utilities on our site. We generally provide the park 12-15 hours a week and they give us a full hook-up (elec, water, sewer) site along with utilities. Sometimes we also receive; laundry money, free WiFi and cable TV hook-up, and discounts on purchases from the camp store or nearby attractions.

This arrangement offers us an opportunity to travel and see the country, meet all kinds of wonderful new people and experience new situations in all kinds of environments that we otherwise would not be able to see and do on our limited budget.

It offers the campground owner/operator free part-time employees for no cash outlay, only the loss of rental income for a couple RV sites that might often be vacant anyway. Another benefit: typically there is no employment contract or agreement to sign – only a handshake agreement. It’s called bartering. And it works well for us and the campground owner.

How we came to show up here ..

We knew that part of our “Bucket List” included a lot of the national parks and monuments out west, so we decided we’d search for jobs in that area.

Although we subscribe, either for a small annual fee or sometimes for free, to many of the Workamping web sites and have our resume’ published on a lot of them, there is also another great source for finding government related jobs and volunteer positions. I logged on to Volunteer.gov and followed the easy instructions to search for Campground Host (volunteer) positions available in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. I filled out the online application and with just a few mouse clicks submitted our app to probably 40 or so parks in that five state area.

Within a week or two we started getting emails and phone calls from campground managers and rangers throughout the 5 state area. We chose to come to Fort Peck because we were already committed to South Dakota for July, August, and September and Ranger Scott here at Fort Peck was willing to work with our schedule. We left our leased RV lot in Casa Grande Arizona on April 1st and showed up at Fort Peck on April 15 just after the snow melted.

It’s been fascinating to learn about the local history. The town of Fort Peck was built by the corp to support the nearly 50,000 people that would come here to work on the building of the dam over the 10+ year period of 1930 to 1941. There were as many as 11,000 men working on the dam at any one time during that period and eight men lost their lives during “the Big Slide” of 1938 and are permanently entombed in the dam to this day.

To learn more about the dam building and how the town and local area and people from far and wide prospered during the depression, I encourage you to follow this link to visit the PBS web site with some great pictures from the era and a video about the building of the dam.

Our Camp Host Site on day one – April 15th
The theatre operated 24/7 during construction of the dam with newsreels, movies and live plays to entertain the workers and their families and still offers summer plays to locals and visitors to the area.
The Northeast Montana Veterans Memorial Park in the center of town
The world’s largest earthen dam, 4 miles long, 3/4 mile wide at the base, and 250′ tall.
The Spillway located 3 miles east of the dam. Yes, that’s ice on the downstream side
The Interpretive Center contains displays information on the dam, local paleontology, and local fish and wildlife along with an educational movie theatre

There was a T-Rex discovered here (now on display at the Smithsonian) with a full-size replica here in the Interpretive Center.

The Fort Peck T-Rex in the Interpretive Center

Here’s a video that gives a tour of the campground and some of the surrounding area along with a little bit of what we’ve been doing at the park these first couple of weeks.

10 minute video on the Downstream Campground – Fort Peck Montana

Thanks for riding along and visiting. We’re having fun and intend to keep posting to share a little of our time here. Please leave any comments below and be sure to subscribe to our You Tube channel so you always get the latest videos as soon as they are published. I usually try to make the videos available here via the blog as well.

Until next time, best wishes to you and yours from HerbnKathy

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Great Time at Escapade ’19

As members of the Escapees RV Club, Kathy and I attended our 2nd “Escapade” this past week. The first one we attended was in Essex Junction (Burlington area), Vermont back in summer of 2016. This year’s Escapade was in Tucson at the Pima County Fairgrounds.

Aerial View of The RV Park at Pima County Fairgrounds

The annual Escapade is held in different locations around the country. 2018 was in Sedalia, Missouri while next year’s event will be held in Rock Springs, Wyoming. Holding the rally in different locations allows club members in different areas of the country to attend without having to travel extreme distances.

The rally is an opportunity to; renew friendships with other travelers you haven’t seen in a long while, enjoy some great regional food, attend as many as 10 or 15 informational seminars scheduled over a 4 day period, visit the Marketplace where vendors of RV equipment and supplies display and sell their products, take a tour of nearly 100 new and used RV’s on the lot, and attendees can even volunteer as shuttle cart drivers, hospitality hosts, parking attendants, morning coffee crew members, and lots of other opportunities.

Here are some pictures of various parts of the event. We took over the Pima County Fairgrounds with 830 recreational vehicles (RV’s) and just about 2500 attendees.

As usual, if you click on any of the individual pictures below, it will open into a larger image so you can see more detail.

Here’s a couple videos of the evening entertainment. This evening’s video features “The American Rogues” (Sorry the audio is not nearly as impressive as it was at the live presentation). You could feel the drums beating and the rafters shaking.

The American Rogues

Here’s a video of the “Redhead Express” – and 5 of these 6 band members are siblings!

The Redhead Express

Thanks for coming along. We are blessed to be able to live the full-time RV lifestyle and we hope you enjoy riding along with us on our adventures.

So long for now!

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy
NOTE: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.