A New Fork in the Road by Debbie
We’re taking a new direction with an old Blog. Heidi started this site when we left Iowa in 2008. We’ve moved on to other blogs since then: Fitting Words and Hare of the Pooka but with a move on the horizon, we’ve decided to go back to a traveling site.
Here’s a recap of what you missed if you didn’t follow seasons 1-3. Heidi bought an RV in April of ‘08. We spent much of that summer, as did all in Cedar Rapids, watching is dismay as the flood waters washed away our city.
In August, we accepted jobs as work-campers at Turtle Rock Resort in Gold Beach, Oregon. Work-camping is a huge industry for full-time RV’ers. Generally you work app. 20 hours a week, either office or outside crew and receive your site, utilities etc… in exchange.
We were quick to fall in love with Gold Beach. We began attending a tiny (30 folks when all came) Episcopal church and found a home there. I got a part-time job at the Visitor’s Center, working for Sue, an encyclopedia of Oregon Fun Facts to Know and Tell (did anyone else get the Weekly Reader in grade school? I loved that section)!
Our work-camping job at TR drew to a close and we headed for Tucson to spend 5 weeks with my sister and brother-in-law (who was quite ill). From Tucson, we headed to CA where we spent 6 months working as housekeeping/outside crew at Clear Lake (a misnomer if ever there was one). We cleaned fishing cabins, weed-whacked, shoveled gravel, cleaned the swimming pool etc… Every day was exhausting. We had 2 days a week off but we either cleaned our boss’s house did work for her best friend who was dying of Aids.
Since work-camping jobs are seasonal, about the time you get settled in, you try to get your next position lined up. We so missed Gold Beach. I called Sue who pulled some strings and was able to get me reinstated at the VC with an added day.
In September ‘10, we may a flying trip back to Iowa where every moment we could spend with family and friends was cherished. Then it was back to GB. For 3 months, we lived in Port Orford and worked as State Park hosts. I drove the 30 mile drive on 101 3 days a week to GB. Oregon state parks I’m confident, have no rival. They’re immaculately maintained and beyond beautiful (we saw whales spouting on our first day at Cape Blanco)!
When the park assignment came to an end, we moved to a beautiful little RV park in GB about 50 yards from the ocean. I would walk out the door and down the beach a quarter of a mile to work at the VC. I loved promoting Gold Beach, I loved working for Sue, who soon became our dearest of friends, loved walking to work of the beach! I also volunteered at the Police Department one day a week. That was great fun and certainly an education!
It was a dream job except for the min. wage and a max. of 18 hrs a week.
Gold Beach is a town of just over 2000 (except during tourist season) so it wasn’t long before I knew most of the business owners/managers. One stood out in particular. Deb was a long time GB resident, but a fairly new manager at the newest ocean front resort in town. She would repeatedly come in and offer us free nights at the resort, just to check it out so we could better describe it if someone asked questions. She was a dynamo of ideas and enthusiasm and she was looking for a night manager.
In a matter of weeks I went from a part-time employee of the city to first, a night manager and then the Guest Services Manager of Pacific Reef Resort. Heidi came out of retirement and was quickly hired as the General Administrator. For 10 crazy months we lived and breathed PRR. We initiated multiple hirings and firings (Heidi did the firing, I like the hiring part better!), installed and trouble-shot a completely new reservation system, dealt with angry high maintenance guests and got served as witness’s to a wedding on the beach (Henry was even the ring barer).
We grew to know and love our staff and functioned as a small, if somewhat dysfunctional family of about 20. The tide changed in November with a dictum from the owner in Utah, all but eliminating Heidi’s position. We took our 2 days a month off and drove to a little cabin overlooking the ocean to re-look at our options.
While Heidi was napping, I made many ‘catch-up’ phone calls, including one to Joanie, whom I had hired last summer to work for me part-time at the front desk. Joanie and John left mid-summer for Texas to work as gate guards. In the process of catching up on each other’s lives, she described their average day and that got me thinking.
I was working at the Front Desk 40 hours per week, then was on call from 4-10pm (8 in the winter), then Heidi would take the overnight calls and I would start again at 8 the next morning. We had 2 days a week off, but we were still on call evenings and overnight for which we didn’t get paid but had, first a one room studio above the office and then for 2 months, a 2 bedroom apt on the property.
I filled Heidi in on the info I’d gotten from Joanie and she began looking into the possibilities of gate guarding. It was a tough decision, particularly for me. We lived in what I think is the most beautiful part of the US. GB is a temperate rain forest, much like the inside passage of Alaska which we also love, with it’s giant moss-covered trees and ferns that grow nearly to shoulder height. There’s crabbing and salmon fishing and best of all, no one can own the ocean in Oregon so there are miles and miles of beach to walk on and treasures from the sea to find.
We loved our staff and felt a great sense of loyalty to Deb and to all who worked at PRR. But we were really tired. Pacific Reef had become our whole life. It was all we did and all we talked for about $2.60 an hour (no benefits).
So we got fingerprinted, took the 50 question test, filled out pages of info and became certified as Level 2 security guards. We hired our replacements the day we resigned and began, once again to pack the RV for full-time occupancy.
After talking with our friends and connecting with another couple on-line through their blog, we chose the company we wanted to work for and made the calls. We were told to be in Texas by the end of December and wait.
We said many tearful goodbyes and left Gold Beach just hours ahead of a snow storm in the Siskiyous. We had a wonderful week in Tucson where I spent my first Christmas in 30 years with my sister. We left Tucson the 26th of December and headed for San Antonio. That brings you up to this season’s installments. We’ve been writing every day since we got our first assignment. We still don’t have internet access (limited on our phones, but it’s pretty hard to blog from there) so we’ll post a few days at a time when we’re up and running. I’m writing this on January 10th. We’ve been at Gate 427 for 14 days. Assignments vary in length from days to months. This one appears to be coming to an end, but we’re not sure.
Briefly, gate guarding is simply a job for people who have their own RVs. You’re assigned to a gate, usually on a ranch or in an oil field, the company provides a generator for your electricity, a sewage connection, undrinkable water and a private contracting wage, paid twice a month. Some gates protect oil sites, some water, some both. We’re currently on a gate where they’re fracking (I’ll explain that when I can get on-line to research) so there are a few oil tankers but we’re primarily salt water (in the desert, in Texas).
Many gates, maybe most, I’m not sure have 24 hour traffic. We were fortunate that our first assignment has been mostly day time. It’s not likely to happen again, so whenever we start to feel discouraged about the remoteness and lack of internet, TV etc… we think of all the sleep we’re getting now that we probably won’t get in the future!