Posted in On the Job, RVing

What WASN’T in the Job Description…

Two years ago on an August evening, an unknown Oregon number rang my Idaho cell, and I picked up the call that changed EVERYTHING. Jon and I were agitating to get out of Boise, which has outgrown itself —-wanting to move closer to the Coast, somewhere small-town, more like Idaho used to be… (When I was growing up there weren’t a million people in the state! Now they’re approaching a million in the Boise valley.) Jon, who’d been a mechanic at the same mom-and-pop shop for 27 years, was searching job postings all over Oregon, while I drew a radius around every Home Depot to which I might transfer…

Over and over, my life has proven that GOD is a better planner than KANA. (I write that sentence with a sulky frown, because I’ve considered myself a brilliant planner, thankyouverymuch!)

And so it was that despite all our lists, maps, searches, and phone calls, it was this call-from-the-blue that revealed the real plan for our exodus:

Is there any chance you’d be interested in managing an RV park in Pendleton, Oregon?

Why HELL YES, since you ask!

We had chosen to live on wheels for just this reason. Everything we owned was in that fifth wheel—so we could just roll up shop and roll down the road! (That’s it just below: ALL Our Stuff, driving down the road.)

We gave notice at our respective jobs, bid farewell to our Church, my AA Home Group, Jon’s folks and brothers, my teenage daughter, our friends of decades… And exactly 19 days after answering that phone call, we were Pendleton residents: registered to vote in Umatilla County and proud holders of Oregon drivers’ licenses (though I have literally had a mug shot that looked better than this photo).

DONE!

Now here’s the thing. There wasn’t a written Position Description at that time, but we had a pretty solid idea of what we were taking on. We’d lived in an RV (and an RV park) for our entire marriage, I’d worked in the RV park office for several years, and Jon had moonlighted on the maintenance staff in the summers. So it’s, you know… you keep the grass mowed and laundry machines running, manage the reservations and help people park, sell ice and laundry quarters, pump propane, make bank deposits and do the paperwork, pick the best staff you can from whoever is living in the park… stuff like that.

And indeed, when I ended up writing the Position Description a year later, it was full of stuff-like-that. “Reviewing and updating the Park’s legal and operational documents (renter application, rental agreement, park rules, employee handbook, employee contract, etc.) and staying apprised of applicable changes in state and local laws“… You get the drift. And yes, that’s all stuff we have to do.

But here’s what’s NOT in the Position Description—-not even the one I wrote myself. Because some of this shit just has nowhere to fit in a document like that. Snake Charmer, for example? What heading would you put that under? It’s a thing. In the summer we get bull snakes strolling through from the open adjacent fields—-looking enough like rattlers to spook our East-coast guests, and terrorizing poor Bob, who lives here and doesn’t care that they’re not venomous. Periodically I get a call from Bob, barricaded with his little dog inside his motorcoach, under siege by a bull snake lounging beneath his steps—-so Jon jogs over to take it by the tail and swing it back over the fence.

The ACTUAL Job Title Should Include…

The reality of this job is some crossbred chimera of… House Mother. Building Super. Narco. Concierge. Groundskeeper. Zookeeper. Safety Inspector. Sponsor. Hostess. Personal Shopper. Newspaper Reporter. Driving Instructor. Postmistress. Social Worker. Tech Support. Marriage Counselor. Emergency Services. Landlord. Mediator. Plow Driver. Plumber. Ditch-Digger. Electrician. Traffic Cop. Crew Boss. Legal Advisor. Neighborhood Watch. Marketing Manager. Trainer. Travel Agent. And maybe Tiny-Town-Mayor. (Or Tiny-Country-Dictator?—-there’s really not another branch of government in play here.) Plus, occasionally, a touch of Pastor.

I’ve had someone knock on my door to alert me (with quite stern intensity) that there were hamburger buns in some trees! I wasn’t sure what she wanted me to do with that information, but I thanked her politely.

Last week a mom knocked on my door for help with her fourth-grader’s math homework (the kids still aren’t back to school-in-person in our county; thanks to COVID they’re suddenly all home-schooled).

I’ve been asked on the phone if there were any possibility I could provide a javelin upon the caller’s arrival, something about a scheduled coaching-session. (We don’t have Craigslist here, but a community FaceBook page serves similar purposes—and my request for the loan of a javelin was certainly one of my odder posts there…)

I do wish I’d started earlier at jotting down the surprising incidents, the sorts of things that leave me owl-eyed blinking and wondering if someone actually just asked me that… But here’s just a small and recent sampling.


Tech Support, Level One Zero

“I need you to help me set up one of those—-you know, a mailbox on my computer,” says one of our residents, hefting himself onto the stool across the counter from me. Not having the least idea what he has in mind, and not wanting to sound insulting, I settle on the vague but diplomatic: “Tell me more.” Email! It turns out the thing Stan wants but doesn’t know the name for is an email account.

I set him up with gmail—and staple the address and its password to his renter’s file, assuming he’ll need help with that again. Sure enough, a few months later he’s at our door asking my husband about his password. Feeling rather proud of my foresight, I produce it on a Post-It, but Stan frowns and says he’s already tried that. “Here. You make it work,” he insists, holding out his device.

It’s a Roku remote.

Sometimes the moment when you understand something is the same moment when you realize you don’t know where to begin with explaining it.


Parrots. Parents. And Other Wildlife

I’ve been asked if we provided grazing for horses. (They might fit through the dog-park gate?) I’ve been asked if we had rules about goats. There’s a six-foot iguana living in a fifth wheel down the way. (And Harley does startle people, sunning in the window at eye level.) There used to be a one-legged man with a parrot (for real!) and after I teasingly called him a pirate, he showed up in the office in full piratical regalia! Actual wooden leg and antique pistol and all. (Turns out he used to make a living playing pirate in Key West.)

I’ve seen cats walking their humans on leashes (and one that rode around on his person’s shoulder), cow-dogs on rodeo ropes, one bear-puppet, a couple imaginary pets. One day a glance out the office window started me laughing—“Ohmygosh, that looked almost like a huge chicken in that camper doorway!” My cohort and I had a good giggle, because how crazy is that! Well it WAS a huge chicken. Harvey, the biggest rooster I’ve ever laid eyes on. (Thankfully, Harvey’s person considerately took him on a drive every morning so he wouldn’t wake the rest of us cock-a-doodling.)

For pure entertainment value, though, it’s hard to beat the people. Especially (being a hike-in-the-mountains, pee-in-the-bushes kind of Western Gal myself) watching the people unaccustomed to wildlife that’s any wilder than, say, pavement pigeons.

An overexcited woman grips my arm: “Ohmygod, did you see the MOOSE?” (Yes, we do see deer in the fields and conservation easement between our fence and the mountains. Do I educate her, or just let her have her moment?)

A person with a camera around his neck (whose country of origin I won’t mention because it’s too exactly-the-stereotype to be believed) asks me WHAT TIME will the family of quail be returning to view? I’m reminded of a back-country hike in Yellowstone, when we ran into another hiker who was anxious about being on the wrong trail “because when I went UP the mountain there were SHEEP.” (Again, do we educate or just point him toward his car at the trailhead? Notice to all hikers: Bighorns do come on legs.)

Just last month a resident asked me to move the birds congregating in the adjacent tree and making a mess on his trailer. I said sorry: “Shit literally happens.” (Though I did enjoy the image of myself swinging into action with tiny bird-size lassos… )

The people-watching prize, however, goes to a colleague of mine who runs another KOA park… Young kid finds baby skunk. Kid’s mom lets kid pick up baby skunk. Baby skunk bites kid. (Go, Baby Skunk!) Mom wants proof that “the animals are up-to-date on vaccinations.” !!! (Park manager silently wishes baby skunk had bitten MOM while he was at it…)

So. What have we learned?

  1. Wildlife should come with identification.
  2. And warning labels.
  3. Quail need watches.
  4. Turn left at the sheep.
  5. Unless it’s a deer.
Continue reading “What WASN’T in the Job Description…”
Posted in Lists, RVing

Like a (Dry-Docked) Sailboat: RV Living

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sailing with my mom & daughter 10 years ago

Because I’m a sailboat skipper, I’m amused by RV terminology that borrows from the marine arena. Like the “shore cord”—the cord we plug in at an RV park to power the rig’s electrical system. On a sailboat a shore cord (which you’d plug in at the dock when you stay in a marina) makes sense—it goes from the boat to shore.

So today’s list is about ways that RV-living reminds me of sailboat-living. (Just add water.) And some ways that RV-or-sailboat-living is different from living in a house…

  1. The toilet flushes with a foot pedal. [What does it say about me that this is the first thing that comes to mind?] This is reminiscent of every sailboat I’ve ever chartered. And to add to the illusion: the skylight over the shower is just like a sailboat hatch.
  2. image
    spaces have multiple uses…

    We have to pay attention our blackwater tank. We leave our gray tanks (sinks & shower) open all the time, but we empty and rinse the black (toilet) tank about once a week, keeping it closed and dosed with a chemical treatment between-times. Most people pay extra money for “RV toilet paper” that’s supposed to break down more easily in the blackwater tank. We opt to use the trash can instead—that way we never worry about our tank getting clogged. I don’t even think about it any more, until I find myself reaching for a trash can when I’m on a “land-based” toilet. (TMI?)

  3. Spaces have multiple uses. Our bed lifts up to reveal storage beneath. Our garage has seats and a bed that can be lowered from the ceiling when we need more “living” space.  The stove and kitchen sink convert to countertops. We set up our Total Gym in the garage when the seats retract to the ceiling. The bench at the foot of the bed holds our linens. The bunk above our kitchen doubles as storage space since we don’t host overnight guests. Even the back wall of the garage can be lowered down to create a porch, complete with railings. (It also doubles as the ramp up which we drive the motorcycle when it’s getting parked indoors for a move.)
  4. imageThings have multiple uses. We don’t own a dozen pots and pans; we own one “red copper” frying pan and one deep square red copper pan (which can go in the oven, be a stovetop pot, or serve with a frying basket). The stand for our bedroom space heater is really a stack of boxes that hold photos and sewing stuff. The sewing machine in its case is the “shelf” where I perch my purse. Our TV trays serve in roles ranging from dinner-table to computer-desk. Almost everything does more than one thing.
  5. We have power back-ups. When the “shore cord” is unplugged, our fridge and water heater switch to propane power and our lights run on solar. If need be, we can run the onboard generator. (“Onboard.” There’s another marine-echo…)
  6. image“Outside” is part of the living space. It’s not a sailboat deck, but we eat dinner and hang out on our patio for most of the year. We didn’t host dinner parties during the winter, but we do have some merry patio-parties under the “fairy lights” built into our awning.
  7. We hear the weather. Rain on the roof is a lovely sound, though we couldn’t even converse through a hailstorm last fall! Combined with the outside living, I feel closer to the weather and the world than I ever did in a house.
  8. We don’t buy many things in bulk. Just toilet paper and coffee. For the most part, we buy other things as we need them.  We don’t keep a cupboard full of canned goods or “stock” supplies—we buy them as recipes call for them, or as we’re actually going to use them. (The glaring exception here would be the pickles, which we canned ourselves last summer and have in abundance!)
  9. imageWe can’t move the furniture. Everything is built in, from the bed to the couch to the huge surround-sound TV in the garage that we’ve never turned on. This is one reason to choose a rig with a configuration you actually like. (And yes, we have a few notes about layout that we’ll keep in mind when we decide to trade this one in… Especially the kitchen.)
  10. Space gets cluttered easily, but clean-up is quick! There’s just not that much house to clean. By the same token, it usually doesn’t take long to find something I’ve misplaced. There just aren’t that many places to look.
  11. We’ve learned to live without an “entryway” for dirty shoes and without a coat closet for the helmets and motorcycle jackets. I just vacuum more often, and the otherwise-unused end of the couch collects coats.
  12. When someone knocks at the door, they’re looking at our knees when we open it. The steps up are so steep, the front door is most-of-a-person taller than the person standing outside. I usually come down the steps to talk because standing elevated in the doorway feels awkward.
  13. image
    moving without packing!

    We never have to pack. Well, OK, “never” is an exaggeration. We still have to pack when we go camping (to the mountains where we wouldn’t drag the monster RV), or on a motorcycle trip, or to visit my mom. But we’ve moved four times without packing a single box. And if we wanted to, we could take the whole house on a trip with us—we can go almost anywhere without “leaving home.”

  14. imageRVers are unabashedly interested in each other’s homes, in ways that brick-house-neighbors would never admit to.  Even models with the same name come in different configurations, and we all seem to get a charge out of seeing how individual rigs are laid out. Home repairs (like last weekend’s replacement of our roof-fan to the bathroom) are carried out publicly and discussed in detail (our near neighbor, who also has a Grand Design Momentum, called for Jon’s help for the same repair, just days later). We commiserate about design flaws, brainstorm solutions, swap stories of difficulties, share winterizing materials, and unashamedly ask to see inside each other’s homes. It would never cross my mind to ask a casual acquaintance to show me their bathroom or closets in a brick-and-mortar house, but it doesn’t even phase me to be asked the same here. All in all, it’s the same sense of shared adventure and camaraderie (maybe minus the bathroom-tours) that you’d find among sailors moored at a marina.
  15. image
    I choose closet-space over washer/dryer

    We don’t do laundry at home. I thought this would be a major pain in the neck, but truthfully it’s not that much more work to walk a basketful of dirties over to the park’s laundry than it would be to walk it to a laundry-room in a house. Initially I thought I’d be begging for a washer/dryer in our rig, but now I wouldn’t trade the closet space for that minor convenience. An amusing side-note: thanks to the coin-op laundry, quarters are a hot commodity around here—definitely higher-than-face-value. Part of my pay, working for the RV park, comes in the form of rolled quarters every month!

  16. image
    My Useful Person! I’m grateful for his skills

    Getting professional home-repair done is a pain, because it can involve dropping off your home somewhere, and being homeless while it gets worked on. Our rig has a number of issues that are covered by the warranty, but we’re waiting for our vacation-week this summer to take it in to the dealer while we’re out of town. There is a mobile RV-Repair guy who makes frequent visits to the park—but Jon can do pretty much everything Jake does. (Side-note: it’s an unbelievable blessing to be married to a Useful Person when you’re living in an RV! Jon’s “automotive technician” skills spill over to a lot of handy-work for which other people are calling Jake.) For the major stuff (e.g. rear A/C unit that hasn’t worked since we bought it) it’s a shame to let that warranty go to waste, but I’m betting a lot of people pay Jake rather than hand over their homes for “drydock” repair.

  17. image
    decals & velcroed angels

    “Home decor” mostly means decals (which won’t fall off the wall) and velcro under knick-knacks (so they won’t fall off the ledge). It also means we don’t have a lot of knick-knacks, because horizontal space is scarce. My Willow-Tree angels and his dad’s service flag are all velcroed in place so we don’t have to fuss when we move.

  18. Internet connection is precious. Theoretically the park has free wi-fi, but it doesn’t really reach most of us most of the time. Since we can’t hardwire a cable, I finally invested in a wifi hotspot so I could get my freelance writing done (and yes, blogging too) but I spend my online-time watching the “meter” running in the corner of my screen, trying to get my gigs to last as long as possible.
  19. imageWe’ve gotten creative to keep things organized and accessible. Lacking bedside tables, we used to keep a basket by each side of the bed with the various things we’d use there—books, medications, phones, water bottles, kleenex… And we’d always be rummaging to find what we wanted, till I made us each an organizer to hang by the bed, with pockets for those items. I’m thinking I should market these things! (And send a cut to my mom, who used to make similar organizers for our crayons and coloring books in the back of the car…)
  20. Christmas-shopping just got challenging. My mother expressed as much when she asked, “What do you get for the person who’s already gotten rid of almost everything I ever gave her?” For the record, I’ve kept lots of things she gave me—but she does make a point. When space is scarce and belongings minimized, gift-giving takes on a whole new aspect… So one of these days (before next Christmas!) I’ll do a list of ideas.

This list could go on, but if you’ve made it this far you’re already a tenacious reader…

When I was a kid, I used to pretend my bedroom was a sailboat. That particular game-of-Pretend requires rather less in the way of imagination these days! (A girl’s gotta have dreams… Just sayin’.)

Posted in RVing

Views From the Roof

the fair from our roof
the fair from our roof

On the list of things-I-didn’t-think-about before living in an RV: we have a great balcony with a great view. OK, it’s our RV roof, but the “great view” part is true.

Our park is situated right next to a semi-pro baseball park (Boise Hawks, a farm team for the Colorado Rockies) so we have front-row seats to the fireworks displays after games. (OK, I’ll admit that would be more fun if I weren’t married to a combat vet. Apparently some of those fireworks sound just like incoming mortar rounds…) We’re also next to the state fairgrounds, so we got to know the carnival workers (“not carnies,” we were told, working at the park office) while they stayed at the park, and had a fun view of the fair itself from our roof.

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winter from our roof

The last few months it was a very different view! Same neighbors (many of them, anyway), different landscape. With a record-breaking series of snowstorms, we have now officially had the most snow Boise has seen since someone started measuring in 1875. Did we pick a great year to start RVing, or what? But hey, this way we know we can do it!

As I was just writing to another blogging RV-er, I’m glad now that we chose a “toy-hauler” rig, meaning we have a garage section at the back. I initially thought that was just so we could take the motorcycle with us, but it turns out to be so much more useful than that. We can keep dive gear back there (it was Scuba-and-RVing that sparked the discussion), camping gear (we still like to head further into the mountains than we’d want to pull the fifth wheel), rapelling gear, my mechanic-husband’s tools, snow pants and snow boots and sleds while we were buried in snow this winter, even a Total Gym set up… In other words, all the things I wouldn’t want cluttering my living room!

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last month’s view of Home

Of course, using that back space as “garage” means that we have less living-space… but we have enough. And although we got rid of tons of stuff (literally) when we moved into the RV, neither of us was willing to offload the gear. We’re in this for Experience–and (as my fellow blogging-RVer and I agreed) that’s what that kind of gear is for! Continue reading “Views From the Roof”

Posted in RVing

On Mobility

fifth wheel weatherproofing
weatherproofed, built up, and staying put. (Or… maybe not…)

I used to say I hated moving, when “moving” involved packing and hauling and unpacking boxes every time… But moving kept happening, even while I said that. I averaged more than a move-a-year in the decade before I married Jon—never mind that with every move I earnestly swore my intention of staying put!

I blamed circumstances for each of those moves, and it’s true that my life has just not followed any “expected script” from one year to the next, and circumstances kept changing after each oath to stay put.

But now I’m kind of shaking my head at myself and wondering if maybe the common denominator in all those moves… might be ME.  Jon and I just made our fourth move, in the year-and-two-weeks we’ve been married. Continue reading “On Mobility”

Posted in RVing

RV Wintering

winter RV

I’m still learning things about RV living—the right things to do, the right words to use… Like the difference between “winterizing” an RV (getting it ready for winter storage when you’re not using it) and actually WINTERING in an RV.

Cliffs Notes version: Everything changes with the weather!

We’ve had snow for weeks, and now the temperatures are heading down from “mere” single digits to -10F overnight. It’s a test of all the winter-prep we’ve done, and we’re still figuring some things out.

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Jon climbing to the roof to brush off the solar charger.

Right now  it’s sounding like Santa arrived late, but it’s just Jon up on the roof with a broom and a windshield-scraper, pushing snow off the roof and brushing it off our solar charger.

Before winter hit, we enclosed the underbelly with foam board and wrapped our hydrant and hoses with heat-tape and foam insulation. When temps hit single-digits we added a box around the hydrant with a lightbulb to keep it heated, kind of like the one I used to keep in Christian’s chicken-house. Continue reading “RV Wintering”

Posted in Lists, RVing

Put it on a Bumper Sticker: RV Edition (List#4)

though-we-travel-the-world-over-to-find-the-beautiful-we-must-carry-it-with-us-or-we-find-it-not20Time for another little list! I used to love the idea of a turtle carrying its “home” on its back, and I love the same thing about portability-of-home now that I’m living in an RV! For those of us who can travel with our homes on our backs (or towed behind a truck, anyway), the whole world can be our backyard… Here are some RV bumper-sticker thoughts that appeal… Continue reading “Put it on a Bumper Sticker: RV Edition (List#4)”

Posted in RVing

Death of a Salesman(‘s Commission)

RV park rainbow
here we are at rainbow’s end

We all know—don’t we?—the demographic that comprises full-time RV-ers… They sport hearing aids and golf pants and live in Arizona or Florida half the year.

Once again, it’s time to challenge my assumptions. When Jon and I moved into this RV park in February, I was surprised to find two-thirds of the sites occupied by long-term residents… And I was downright shocked to realized that I am not (as I had supposed) on the youngest end of the age spread. My image of RVers was pretty severely outdated, as it turns out–we have nearly as many young families in the park as retired folks.

At one end of our row we’ve got 20-year-old newlyweds–he’s in construction, and she’ll find a new vet-tech job wherever his work takes them next. At the other end of the row, a young single mom with her feisty four-year-old daughter. Suzie’s five home-schooled kids mostly live on their patio in warm weather, and I’d pass one or two of the boys in the early morning, fishing poles perched at a jaunty vertical like jousting knights on their bikes. Continue reading “Death of a Salesman(‘s Commission)”