August already?

Well, it’s been awhile since I posted. The internet here, during the busy season, is pretty bad. Very bad, actually, to the point of being unusable. But, since last week, there appears to be a lot fewer people here during the week, allowing me to get decent speeds. The Verizon tower is close by and I get 4 bars of 4G LTE, but, so I’ve been told, lightning hit the tower a year ago and they replaced it with a lower capacity unit.

Here’s a couple of photos from the resort:

The (rustic) restaurant:

restaurant

My kitchen (pretty spacious, really- and cleaner than it looks in this picture):

kitchen

resort scenes (lots of flowers and butterflies now that it’s raining):

view from my site

site view

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Work is, umm, interesting. It’s generally busy and can get quite stressful. I can’t say I’m having much fun at work. Boo hoo, right? After a couple of weeks, the waitress quit. It’s too bad because she was an experienced server. They got a replacement, but she hasn’t been a server for 20 years. She also has some physical issues which slow her down. And I think her previous waitron gig was more along the lines of Denny’s. She had (has) a problem learning the menu, which has led to some real problems. But the customers like her and she shows up (she has a fifth wheel two spots away from me), so I guess it works. She’s gotten better in the last two months.

I’ve also gotten better. I’ve been making incremental improvements to my work flow so that things go along fairly smoothly. It still gets tough when a lot of people come in at the same time. But I’ve kept service times within an acceptable limit, considering the Yelp complaints in previous years here talk about 1-2 hour waits for food! Hey, there’s limitations to what I can do. There’s only so much fryer and grill space, just so much room for plates under the heat lamps, and a lot depends on getting someone to run the food when the window is full. Steaks will rise in temperature one degree every minute after pulling from the grill, so a steak can go from medium rare to medium in 10 minutes. And they wonder why I get upset when food sits in the window!

I’ve made some improvements to the menu. Making fresh hash browns instead of throwing frozen bullet potatoes in the deep fryer, making fresh buttermilk pancakes each morning, and a Buffalo style fish fry- a flounder fillet in beer batter. According to the food rep, nobody does that anywhere around here. They all use frozen pre-breaded cod steaks thrown in the deep fryer. I’ve also added a baked lemon flounder as a Friday special, which is doing well

The owner decided to keep the restaurant open until December 5, so I’ll be staying here until then. It pays well enough that I can get a new trailer plus put aside enough to get me through the winter without working. I’ll start looking for a trailer beginning Labor Day. But there’s no hurry. I don’t need it until Thanksgiving. The longer I wait, the more money I’ll have.

I’m deciding between a Trailmanor and a hybrid. One of the advantages of the Trailmanor is also it’s main disadvantage- it’s size. When open, the TM is 29′. That means lots of room inside but reduces the number of small spots I can get into. So I’m leaning towards a hybrid.

Here’s a Trailmanor: http://www.trailmanor.com/

Here’s a hybrid: https://starcraftrv.com/travel-trailers/launch-outfitter-7/16rb/

I work 40-43 hours in 3.5 days, then have 3.5 days off. But I haven’t been doing enough on my days off. One reason is because I got an infection on my right big toe that makes it painful to walk. But it’s starting to clear up and I should be able to got out hiking possibly next week. Just in time for mushroom season.

Speaking of which, the weather here is actually pretty nice. There was a hot stretch for a couple of weeks in May (80s to 90s) but since then it’s been mostly in the 70s, getting quite cool at night (jeans and sweatshirt cool). But there is a lot of rain. Almost every day, in fact. But not that all day long rain. More like South Florida rain- really heavy rain for an hour or two in the afternoon. I actually kind of like it. Don’t really care for hot weather.

 

 

 

 

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Arizona

Well, I’ve been in Arizona for a month now. The weather is great- blue skies, warm temps, low humidity. It’s still chilly at night (40’s) with a cold front moving in next week. There’s even talk of snow next Tuesday night. That’s life at 7600 feet!

This resort is an escape from the heat for Phoenix residents. I checked the temps for July-September for the last two years. There were only seven days above 90 and none in triple digits. Nights during that time were anywhere from the low 60’s to the mid-40’s. But that is also the rainy season. And that’s when mushroom hunting season begins.

So one nice aspect of this RVing shtick is I get two springs. February and March in Vegas and now May in Arizona. Of course, that also means two allergy seasons!

I was hired to be a cook at the resort. But then they said the cook on hand didn’t need much help and would I mind spending some shifts as a waiter? Well, the money is good and I want to get a new trailer this year, so I said sure. (Most workamper jobs run from Memorial Day to Labor Day. This one runs from May 1 to December 1. Plus the hourly rate is higher than most workamper jobs.)

Once I got here, I was told there would be no cooking for me. So I would spend a few shifts as a waiter, then a few working the front desk (retail store and reservations), with maybe some outside maintenance thrown in to get me to 40 hours. Well, I hate working the desk. OK, hate’s a strong word. I dislike it. Working the phones is a pain because of my hearing problem.

Anyway, I trained for three days on the reservation software, then, because the restaurant wasn’t open yet, I got to paint some of the cabin suites. It wasn’t tooo bad. I worked alone and wore a headset so I could listen to podcasts that I download onto an Ipad but usually can’t keep up with them.

All this happened the first two weeks of April. Then the manager approached me and said the cook was leaving to get back together with his wife and could I take over the kitchen? So now I have the cooking gig I wanted. It’s going to be tough, though. There are 42 seats in the restaurant. We only serve dinner on Friday, then breakfast, lunch and dinner on Saturday, and then breakfast and lunch on Sunday. Adding in prep, cleaning, and inventory, I’ll have 40 hours easy but the weekends are going to be a blur. Of course, that means I have off from Sunday around 4 to Friday noon. The bourbon will be flowing at 4:01 on Sunday!

But it will still be hard. There’s no hostess and only one waitress and one cook. They had hired a dishwasher/busser, but he is not returning their phone calls (what else is new). So I’ll (we’ll) be slammed for six straight meals. They have never kept track of the covers, so I don’t even know how many people show up! And with no hostess, 40 people could show up and sit down all at the same time. I don’t know how I’m going to stay out of the weeds in that situation. but at least the waitress is experienced, so I don’t have to worry about the front of the house. It’s only for the summer, though. Since I’ll be cooking until the end of November, I can afford to take the winter off, bumming around New Mexico from December to the end of April. I just need to remember that when I have 20 tickets hanging!

I’ve since moved the trailer from my temporary spot (pictured last post) to the employee area. There’s only four trailers here, so there’s decent privacy. And I have an end space. Picture next post.

There are many hiking trails and some lakes in the area. That’s the big draw here, besides the weather.

Boating is big:

boat rampboating on the lake

Not so much swimming, I’d guess:

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But fishing is huge:

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This is a mountain up towards Flagstaff. Not sure yet what it’s called:

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The restaurant opens tomorrow (5/5) after a few soft dinners for the employees. I guess they wanted to make sure I could cook a burger! I’ll update soon if I survive!

Leaving Las Vegas

Last Friday I experienced the worst weather I’ve encountered since hitting the road 2.5 years ago. There was a wind advisory for Vegas, but I had been through high winds before, up to 40-50 mph, so I thought I was prepared. Let’s see- some windows open to reduce side wall pressure- check. Straps to secure the bed end walls- check. Well, that’s about the extant of my wind prep.

So the afternoon brought the expected winds- 20-30 with gusts up to 50 out of the north. It lasted a few hours but I was unscathed. Still, it’s unnerving to be in a trailer during high winds. Gives new meaning to the phrase ‘Don’t come knockin’ when the trailers rockin”!

The winds subside so I take the opportunity to take the cat for a walk. We’re out for about 15 minutes when the temperature drops about 10 degrees, the skies darken, and the wind shifts almost 180 degrees and starts picking up. We hightail it back to the trailer just in time. Now the winds hit me broadside, 30-50 mph with gusts that hit 70! I actually feared that the trailer would be torn apart. And it lasted without let-up for nine hours.

After midnight, it died down so I was able to get some sleep. But I was awoken at 6:30 by the wind howling again. Another high wind storm that lasted about six hours.

There was some damage to the trailer, mostly minor except that one of the door hinges was bent. Now the door doesn’t close properly because it’s off kilter. It’s screwed to the wall frame but pop riveted to the door. I’m trying to devise a work- around because I’m getting a new trailer later this year.

So after that weekend, I was prepared to get moving. A couple of weeks ago, I had the brilliant idea of asking my summer employer wheather there was any work availabe before the restaurant openes. She said I could help get the park ready for the summer and could come by April 4. So that worked out.

On Tuesdfay, I spent the usual three hours getting packed and hitched, then drove six hours to the mountains of northern Arizona to Happy Jack. I got marginally set up and got some sleep, starting the next morning at the new job. Here’s a photo of the view from my site:

Happy Jack, Arizona
The restaurant doesn’t open until the middle of May. It will be open Friday dinner through Sunday breakfast. I’m to get about 28 hours a week and I asked to work outside the kitchen for additional hours (gotta pay for that new trailer, you know). So my first three days here was spent working in the office, learning the Campground Manager reservation software. It’s not an intuitive design, but I’m feeling pretty comfortable with it. I just don’t want to put too many hours into that job, though. I’d rather work outside for the additional hours, but we’ll see.

There is a Verizon tower on the property, so I get a great 4G LTE signal and I pick up NPR form Flagstff, 50 miles away. And there’s great mushroom picking in the national forest surrounding me, so I’m going to give that a try when the season arrives.

I’ll be doing some painting and staining this week, but don’t know my schedule yet. The plan is to update the blog once a week, since it doesn’t look like I’ll be getting overtime this summer, unlike the 50-60 hour weeks of last summer. But it does mean I’ll be able to spend more time hiking and photographing the area.

City Life

I had to move the trailer about 30 yards because my employer thought it was a better spot. He doesn’t realize that it takes as long for me to pack up, hitch and unhitch, then set back up for a move of 30 yards as it does for a move of 3000 miles. Just less traveling time.

As I was setting up, I tripped over a curb that runs along two sides of the trailer. The fall seemed to be in slow motion. I realized I was falling and that there was nothing I could do to break the fall and it proceeded in a manner that made me wonder if there was a man in a flannel shirt nearby yelling “Timbeeeer!”.

Luckily, I just received a couple of scratches. I don’t fall too often, more like once a year. So I figure I have it out of the way now. Then, last night, I stubbed my toe going barefoot and may have broken it. It’s swollen and black and blue. It’s fun getting old!

I was going to do some work on the trailer but decided that I am going to get a different trailer later this year, so why bother? I’d rather put the money towards the new trailer and spend the time reading and walking (although not at the same time) instead of ditzing around with trailer modifications.

Once I get the trailer replaced (by the end of October), I was going to retire. But I may need to put that off for one more year. It would be best if I also replace the tow vehicle. My minivan can tow 4400 pounds but, since it grew up in Buffalo, rust is becoming an issue. Even though I am in the dry southwest, rust never sleeps. If I don’t replace it by the end of next year, I won’t be able to for 3-4 years. So I will look for something to do this winter, then hopefully, return to this summer’s job next summer.

I have 7 1/2 weeks left here in Vegas, but I may see if my summer employer has something earlier for me to do. Why not stay here until May 3? Well, first, it’s just so noisy here. Tons of high speed traffic and cars, trucks and motorcycles with modified exhaust systems- apparently there’s no muffler inspection around here!

Second, it’s starting to get hot, with highs of 80 right now, which means 90-100 can’t be too far behind. The summer job is at 7600 feet and is currently twenty degrees cooler. Plus I can make some more money. I’m getting very bored with the lack of work around here.

And finally, for some excitement, I was woken at 2 AM by a police officer. The commercial property where I stay is next to an apartment complex. The first entrance to said property is about 100 yards away. He wanted to know if the two story building I’m at has cameras on the roof. Why? A man was just shot and murdered at the entrance to those apartments. Two hours later, I was awakened again, this time by a pair of detectives, asking me the same question. They received the same answer- no cameras. Might be time to get my 12 gauge pump (thanks Rick) out of the van and next to the bed!

No pictures this time, just trying to keep up some updates.

Still here

Time is passing quickly here in Vegas, while I get little accomplished. But I am enjoying the leisure. I look at it as practice for retirement- which is only 10 months away! I may work longer, and I will still spend a little time on my eBay business, but the plan is to finish this summer’s gig, then spend some time in New Mexico until February 2018. What happens then, you ask? Well, that’s a surprise. I’m planning a major project that will include travel, photography and writing but it’s too early to discuss it with the likes of you!

I roused myself up early last Saturday for a hiking trip with a MeetUp group. MeetUp is an online site to brings together people with similar interests. I went to a few MeetUps in Buffalo, but found them to be comprised of cliques of friends out for the evening. One of the hiking groups here seemed interesting, so I thought I’d try it.

We met at 8 AM and hiked in the Red Rock Canyon area to the Muffin Boulders. It’s just under two miles but climbs 1000 feet. Up and back took almost three hours with a short break at the top. While I enjoyed it, I’m not sure I’ll attend any others. I like to use hikes as a vehicle for photography, not to hike, per se. And since we’re constantly moving, there’s little social aspect to the hikes.

Here’s a few pictures. The skies were very dark (we even got some snow at the summit).


Speaking of photography, I am trying to take more pictures this year. I find myself drawn to photos that involve geometrics, texture and perspective in everyday scenes. Here’s what I mean (click for larger):


I mentioned my summer gig earlier in this post. A great way to find workamper jobs is through Workers on Wheels and Workamper News. Workamper News puts out a bi-monthly newspaper-format issue that lists hundreds of jobs by state. In the Nov/Dec issue, I found twelve jobs that appealed to me. Of those, there was one that sounded perfect. So it was the only one to which I sent a resume. After a few weeks, I was hired. I start May 10 and can go there a couple weeks before. The job runs until sometime in October-November. I’ll be cooking at a resort in the Arizona mountains (7600′). So the plan is to stay in Vegas until the end of April and then drive a whole 400 miles, where I’ll stay for 6-7 months. My cat will be pissed because he loves it here.

Happy Thanksgiving

Since it looks as though I will be waiting until the end of next year to get a different trailer, I have started to make some improvements to my Apache. And since it’s getting colder, I’m starting with the insulation.

Yesterday, I added a ‘teardrop’ weatherstrip tape to the end of the roof that meets the bed end roof. There is a small gap that lets just enough air in to be a problem. I’m not real happy with the result, however and am thinking of replacing it with pipe wrap insulation. That’s the round foam insulation that has a cut along one side. It seems like that would ‘clamp’ on to the box roof edge nicely.

I then added door edge insulation to cover those small door gaps most pop-ups have.

I’m also considering getting rid of my propane tanks. I have two 20 pounders but only use it for the stove top. My oven, water heater and room heaters are all electric. I have a Mr. Heater Big Buddy but don’t use it anymore. First, it costs more to operate. Second, the electric does a fine job. Third, it takes more attention. There are two types of LP tank extension hoses available for that heater. I could only find one when I bought the set-up. It’s the one that requires you to turn the propane off at the tank when you shut off the heater inside. Too much of a pain when it’s cold outside! Why not leave it running all night? I tried that- propane heat leaves condensation (even with a window cracked) and I awoke with all the walls covered in moisture.

So if I replace my stove top with an induction cooker, I can ditch the propane altogether. I just need to check if my current cookware will work. Time to get out the magnets!

It looks like (fingers crossed) that I will be here in Vegas until sometime in January. So I will be getting out with the camera soon. Meanwhile, here’s some shots from New Mexico:


Current reading list:
That Bear Ate My Pants! Adventures of a Real Idiot Abroad by Tony James Slater
The author’s trip to Ecuador. A very funny read.

The Eichmann Trial by Deborah Lipstadt
The capture of SS Lieutenant Colonel Adolf Eichmann by Israeli agents in Argentina in May of 1960 and his subsequent trial.

The Martian by Andy Weir
The story is told mostly through the log entries of astronaut Mark Watney, chronicling his efforts to survive on Mars. I’m reading it because a reviewer noted similarities between the book and the 1964 movie Robinson Crusoe on Mars, which I love!

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
A classic. The movie is an example of a rare great film version of a book.

Appetites by Anthony Bourdain
I love Bourdain. I think anyone who’s worked in a restaurant kitchen does. He’s the BOH patron saint. I got this book without a second thought. Turns out it’s a recipe book. Bourdain is at his best when he’s doling out opinions, snarky or otherwise. There is very little of that in here and it may be his shark-jumping moment. Who knows, maybe he needed the easy money a recipe book will produce? But, really, who reads Bourdain for a grilled cheese recipe?

Vegas

While in New Mexico, I saw an opening for a temp job in Vegas. I applied and got the gig, so that’s where I am for now. But it’s very temporary. I could be done here as early as the beginning of December. I took this job instead of returning to Amazon. I just didn’t feel like driving all the way to Kentucky and back. I would have made more money but now I have a lot of time to work on my eBay business. From here, it’s back to New Mexico. I want to try the SW area of NM. I haven’t been to that part yet.

There are a lot of job openings for this summer. I’m putting out resumes but many won’t actually hire until after Jan. 1, so I’m not sure where I’ll be going.

I’ve been busy moving my 1300 disc DVD collection over to a 8TB hard drive. It will give me more room in the van and make it easier to select a movie to watch. I’ve also been rearranging the trailer to make it easier to pack up when I move. That’s the worst part of having a pop-up- it takes me 3 hours to hitch up and 2 hours to unhitch, plus travel time. I need to cut that in half. We’ll see how my latest efforts work out.

Here’s a parting picture of New Mexico and my first attempt at a starry sky (click for full size):