"if you are not living on the edge, you are taking up too much room"

Thursday, October 31, 2013

quick trip "home"

With our scheduled work days changing we found ourselves with 4 days off in a row. We decided to go back to Indiana to visit family before the we are too tired from working to make the drive. :-)
We are 3 1/2 hours from our daughters home so wanted to take advantage and get some quality "grand kid time". We spent our evenings (and nights) occupying the guest room at my Mother-in -laws home and ventured out from there.
Sunday was pumpkin carving day at our daughters and we found them in their neighbors back yard putting scary faces on gourds. :-)

We had a great time hanging out with the kids and even picked up some ripe persimmons that we gave to Rudee's sister.

Amanda's neighbor, Steve, slow roasted a pork loin on his grill that we all shared for supper. He did a fantastic job, it was the best tasting meat we have had for a long time.

Monday we met with our son, Matthew, for lunch and got caught up on everything they have been doing. They just returned from a trip to Gatlinburg to celebrate their one year anniversary. Sounds like they had a great time.

Tuesday arrived way too soon for us and it was time to head back to Kentucky. We slept in some Tuesday morning trying to shift our sleeping habits towards working night shifts and ended up getting on the highway around 1 pm. Traffic was heavy with lots of semi trucks and we started hearing talk on the CB radio of a back up ahead of us due to construction. We ended up jumping off the interstate before the back up and took US 31 to avoid the "interstate parking lot". We stayed on 31 all the way to New Albany, Indiana where Rudee noticed a sign for the Horseshoe Casino. We made a quick detour and found ourselves in their parking garage in no time. :-)
When we visit a casino we always put ourselves on a budget and stick to it. We played a few slot machines with poor results and slowly worked our way through the different floors of the "boat that never sails". We were getting close to leaving (our budget was running low) when I got on a machine that started hitting and kept hitting! Rudee was my cheerleader and I ended up cashing out over $300 from that one machine! That was more then enough to recoup our prior losses as well as come away with a nice profit. :-)

Wednesday was our first day back to work. We are now on 7 1/2 hour shifts working 5:30 pm until 1:30 am. We get one paid 15 minute break and an unpaid 30 minute lunch. We are both working at getting our speed up and keeping our mistakes to a minimum. :-)
We were both a little sore and tired after work. My back muscles are sore while Rudee is complaining about her neck hurting. I guess we will be buying Tylenol by the case for the next several weeks. :-)
I'll keep you posted.

Friday, October 25, 2013

1st week at Amazon

We have one more day to work and our first week at Amazon will be in the books. The last two nights we have been getting used to our new jobs in "single toys". Basically what we are doing is putting peoples orders into boxes and sealing them up so they can be shipped. When you order something from Amazon the first step at the warehouse is to find your item in one of the thousands of cubbyholes on the shelves. This is the job of the "Pickers" who then put the item in a tub and onto a conveyor belt. The tubs are all coded  with UPC labels so the computer knows where to route that certain tub.  Sometimes these tubs  find their way to our work area which is just a series of work stations adjacent to the conveyor. When I go into work we have a meeting, stretching exercises and get our work station locations. Once at our stations we sign into the computer and are ready to start packing. The first thing we do is pull one of the totes off the conveyor and place it in our work station. We scan the label with our code reader and the computer tells us what should be inside the tote. We then grab the first item and scan it's individual label. The computer then tells us what size box to use to pack that particular item so we pull the flattened box out of the stock that is within reach all around our station. The next step is building the box. They have tape machines that also read the size of the box from the computer and, with the touch of a button, spits out the length of tape you need to tape up the bottom of the box. Next step is to scan and attach a new UPC label to the outside of the box. We then place the item in the box, put in the little air pillow "space fillers", close and tape the top of the box. We have a second conveyor belt that we put the packed boxes on and they are then headed to the shipping area to have the address labels applied and then out the door they go! Then repeat and repeat and repeat! :-)
The work is not hard and the hours seem to fly by! We are both enjoying our jobs and the full time workers have been very friendly and patient with us. :-)
They are changing our schedule a little though. We are on nights working "D" shift and originally we were off Saturday, Sunday and Monday. During the peak season they switch D shift days off to Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and that occurs next week so we are going to have a four day week end! :-)
We decided to head back to Indiana to see everyone before the mandatory overtime starts and we are too tired to move! :-)
Next week we move from 5 hour shifts to 7 1/2 hour shifts before going to our regularly scheduled 10 hour days the following week. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

and the remodel continues

One of the additional things we wanted to do during our visit to Indiana was to replace the day/night shades in the motorhome. We didn't know we wanted to do that before we replaced the valances but afterwards it was apparent they had seen their better days. Getting called to Amazon early put a crimp in our plans to get this job done. What a pleasant surprise to find a Lowes store here in Campbellsville. We had already researched which blinds we wanted and Lowes sold them. Cool!
Monday night I measured all the old blinds and we took that info with us to Lowes once we were off work Tuesday. They cut the blinds to our measurements and we were in business! The blinds we chose are stringless (YEA!) Levolor Cellular Shades. We chose a sand color and decided to use "light filtering" blinds in the living area and a "room darkening"  style in the bedroom.

Rudee and I removed the old blinds and hung the new ones one at a time. The job went fairly well as long as you don't mind trying to stand on your head while you are driving screws. :-)

Not too bad if I do say so myself!

While cruising the internet the other day I happened across an ad for a used truck topper. A small dealer had it advertised on craigslist and was only about an hour away so we drove over. He was pretty anxious to get rid of it and cut the price down to "bare bones" so we snatched it up!

I had looked at brand new ones but, with prices well over $1000.00, they just didn't fit our budget. Ya, I know the color is not a perfect match but with all the body panels having that "golf ball" look from the hail you hardly notice. :-)

We report for work tonight at 5:30 pm for our first time on "D" shift. We will be doing process training for a couple of hours and then will be doing our actual jobs with our trainer alongside us the rest of the night. We get off at 10:30 and plan to stay up for awhile to start getting our bodies used to our new sleep patterns. I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

meetin' and greetin'

Sunday morning we were up early and headed for breakfast with the kids and grand kids. One last family meal before hitting the road. :-)
We enjoyed the time we were able to spend here and it passed by so quickly but we need to make a few $$'s to keep this dream alive, so off we go again.
Our first stop was south of Indianapolis at a Speedco to get the oil and filters changed on the motor home. This was our first time at one of these "big rig quick lubes" and I was impressed with their service. The price was reasonable and we were back on the road in less then an hour. Next door to Speedco was a Flying J truck stop so we pulled in and topped off the fuel and propane. We also hooked the Dakota onto the rear of the motorhome before heading back out onto the highway.
Traffic was pretty heavy as we headed south and there was a steady stream of cars coming at us as well. I guess everyone was taking advantage of the nice week end weather.
We had only gone about 40 miles when I noticed something wrong with the Dakota. I was looking in my mirror and saw the trucks mirror peeking around the rear of the motorhome. I'm not supposed to see that! I quickly checked the rear view camera and started slowing down. I could see that the tow bar was not aligned properly and knew we had a major issue and needed to get stopped. I let the engine brake slow us at a steady rate while I moved to the shoulder of the highway and slowed to a stop. Whew, we got the whole rig off the road safely. A quick inspection showed the locking pin on one of the tow bar arms was missing. I'm not sure how that happened, I always, always double and triple check the cotter pins that hold the pins in place. Rudee and I quickly unhooked the other arm and all the safety chains and wires. Since we didn't have a spare locking pin she just followed me the rest of the way. One thing is clear, we will be getting the fancy cotter pins that you lock with a key!
The rest of the trip was uneventful and we pulled into our campground just outside Campbellsville, Kentucky around 4:30 pm.  We were told (via email) that there would probably not be anyone here to check us in and to just pick any available site. We were met by some of the other residents, all of them Amazon workers, who showed us the few sites available. This park is pretty small and all the sites are being used by Amazon. We checked out the sites (there were 4 available) and chose #6. We had to ask our neighbor to move his vehicle so we could back in, seems like he has been using most of "our" site to park his big dually truck the last week or so. The sites are not large and parking tow vehicles and toads is even tighter but there is a grassy area nearby where everyone can park, it's just not right outside your door. Only a minor inconvenience in my mind.
We got set up quickly and met a few of our neighbors and, soon to be, co-workers. We also got some suggestions for dinner and headed to the Creekside Restaurant for their Sunday buffet. Good choice! Thanks Harry and Jessica!
Yesterday we had our "meet and greet" hosted by Amazon at the Heartland Campground. We saw a few videos and met some of the folks at Amazon, it was nice to finally put a face to the name. :-)
We also got our shifts and job assignments. We are working in "single toys" Tuesday through Friday 5:30 pm until 4:00 am. We had initially asked for day shifts but are not really unhappy with nights, we just need to adjust our habits a little. The big plus is we get a .60/hour shift differential. More money is always a good thing. :-)
We have our orientation later today and then start our night shifts on Wednesday. Our first week we work 5 hour shifts as a "hardening" process and then they extend the hours gradually until we are working the full 10 hours. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Packing up

We have been in a whirlwind the last couple of days. We have made final visits with friends and family saying our "so longs". Today we had lunch with our son and daughter in law at a Cracker Barrel in Lafayette, Indiana. Tonight we are having an early birthday dinner for our Grandson Nicholas since we will be gone on his actual birthday next month.
We are leaving the motorcycle and trailer here at our daughters home so I attached the trickle charger and made sure it was set to handle the winter storage. Then I gave it one last look before shutting and locking the door. :-(
I also got the motorhome ready to roll. I topped off the air in all the tires, put away the few things we had outside and greased the arms of our tow bar. We are planning to stop tomorrow at a Speedco just outside Indianapolis and have the oil and all the filters changed. Speaking of leaving, we are planning on pulling out mid morning tomorrow. We have a little over 200 miles to travel so it will, hopefully, be an easy travel day.
Our first "official" Amazon duty will be a meet and greet function Monday afternoon. We will get our photos taken for our name badges and find out what department we will be working in as well as our schedule. We are both looking forward to this new adventure but, as always, it's hard to say goodbye. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

one last project and then back to work

The hail storm last month really did a number on our slide out awnings and they needed replaced.
Here are just some of the impacts from the hail on one of awnings.

I did some research on various RV forums and the internet and decided to do the project myself, with a little help from Rudee of course. While doing the research I was referred to Tough Top Awnings. Their website had video (plus written) instructions on how to measure and order the replacement material. I measured our slideouts and entered the dimensions on their quote form on the website. Within a couple of hours I had a quote back and placed the order. The toppers arrived in a week and we were ready to begin. I viewed the installation video several times and it didn't sound too hard ..... famous last words. :-)
I gathered up the tools and got the ladders out of my son in laws garage. We started with the living room slide since it would probably be the hardest since it was the longest of the two. I followed the directions and removed the hardware they recommended, unrolled the excess awning around the roller tube and pulled it off. No turning back now!

The next job was threading the awning back onto the rail mounted on the motor home and at the same time feeding it into the slot in the roller tube. This is where I needed help and as luck would have it the school bus stopped and dropped off my Grandson right at the right time. :-) While I guided the new fabric into the rails Rudee and Nicholas held it high above their heads to keep it from catching.

We gently pulled and tugged the awning back into place and gave it a test run before I re-attached the hardware. Success! Looks really good too!

Now for the bedroom slide. I did the same process as on the living room and it did prove to be easier then the front. The entire job took us a little over an hour and saved us a ton of $$'s over an RV dealership doing the job. I can't say enough about Tough Top Awnings. Their replacement fabric is heavier then the OEM and it fit our slide out measurements perfectly. The videos they have on their website were top notch and gave me the confidence to do the job.

Yesterday we got our start date at Amazon as November 4th and they said they would contact us if they had any earlier openings. This morning we had an email from them asking if we wanted to start next Monday! Holy Smoke! That's only a few days away! We decided to take them up on their offer so are preparing to leave for Kentucky this week end. I guess the projects will be on hold for awhile while we head out on our next adventure. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

more changes

With the new couch installed our attention was drawn to the opposite side of the motorhome to the old, dilapidated, stained recliner which I'm sure was original to the coach when it was built in 2002. The chair would even "leak" small pieces of foam while you sat in it!
Tuesday, with a new chair on our minds, we headed north to the Elkhart, Indiana area to check out some of the RV surplus business'. We didn't start out until almost noon and it is a 2 1/2 hour drive so we got there a little late. Luckily two of the stores were just over the state line into Michigan and were on Central time so we gained an hour. :-)
We looked at several models of chairs and the quality was all across the board, we all know that there are a lot of "cheap" furniture they put into RVs but there are also some high quality, long lasting brands as well. The latter is what we were shopping for.
We looked at (and sat in) chair after chair in several of the shops and were about to give up and head for a Lazy Boy store when I spotted a nice looking Euro Recliner at RV Surplus Salvage. I have not been a huge fan of these style of chairs but this one was very comfortable and was made by Flexsteel who have a good reputation for quality in the RV community. I sat in it for quite a while and liked it plus it's dimensions matched our old chair. There was no price tag on the chair so we inquired and their response sealed the deal. $275 for the chair and ottoman and they would even load it in the back of our truck ...... SOLD! So we did another "out with old and in with new" once we got home.
old chair:

new chair:

Makes a big difference and we are very happy with our decision.

This week end we moved to a local campground, White River Park, to camp with our motorcycle buddies. This is an annual event corresponding with the parks Halloween celebration and is always a fun time. We drove over Friday morning towing the Dakota behind the motorhome. After getting settled in Rudee looked around the coach and announced our next project! Our window valances were old, outdated and didn't match our "new" look so she decided we would recover them with new fabric. Her and Jany Runion jumped in our truck and off to Walmart they went telling Rob and I to "get busy" while they were gone. Our shower skylight was broken by the hail storm in South Dakota and I had patched it up with some duct tape and silicone to keep it from leaking. I received the new skylight a few days ago from the UPS man and it needed installed so I got out the ladder and tools. Rob and I changed out the skylight pretty quickly and sealed everything up with self leveling "goo". We were even done before the girls got back. :-)
Rudee picked out a dark gray material and Saturday morning we got started. The hardest part of this job was getting the valances off and then back on again. We had 5 valances to do and, with Rob's help, made steady progress but it still took the majority of the day to finish the job. Here is the before and after pictures.

None of us are professional upholsterers but it's a passable job for a bunch of amateurs. :-)
Today we will pack up and move back to our spot in our daughters driveway. We are waiting to hear from Amazon with our start date and Rudee has been mentioning how old and grungy the day night shades look with the new valances. OH NO! :-)  I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

out with old and in with new(er)

Yesterday we started our first "project". While in South Dakota I saw an ad on a RV Forum for a used leather sofa for sale that came out of the same model motor home as we have. I made contact with the owner and he was switching out the couch for recliners. They were also full timers and were in Indiana. We negotiated a price that made us both happy and the deal was done. I called my good friend Rob who agreed to go and pick up the couch. Since then the couch has been stored in the garage at Rudee's Mother's house.
Monday morning I started taking the old couch apart so we could get it out the door. The couches in these units are electric, reclining sofa beds. Needless to say they are bulky and heavy. I was able to separate the arm and foot board sections from the main frame and removed those first. Rudee and I then were able to carry the main section out the front door.

We had always planned on replacing the couch because the prior owners had a dog and didn't clean things up very well. The front of the couch had ground in stains where the dog would lay against it and there was always that "wet dog" smell in the cushions no matter how much we shampooed them. YUCK.

Once the couch was out Rudee started cleaning the carpet that was on the floor of the slideout. She was about half way through cleaning it when she made the comment we should really just replace it. Up it came and out the door it went! Our good buddy Rob came to our rescue once again when he rode up on his Goldwing. We made a quick run to Menards where we bought a brand new piece of carpet. Once back at the RV we cut the new carpet using the old piece as a template and had it installed in no time. Piece of cake!
Now we just had to lift a sleeper sofa over heads like Charles Atlas and then walk backwards up the steps into the motor home. :-o
I did not take the arms off the new one thinking that "they got it out that way" soooooo "it should go back in that way". :-)
The only problem with that theory is two young Amish guys carried it out and loaded it into Rob's truck. Here we are, two middle aged slightly pudgy (at least me) guys with bad backs trying to carry it back in!
Once we got it picked up and headed in the door things got "interesting". Rob was the one backing in because I was able to grab the "good end" first. :-) Somehow he ended up standing on the drivers seat with the coach lifted over his head while I had to climb over the passenger seat on my knees!
We got it in though and all it will cost me is a few chiropractor visits for Rob. :-)
The new coach is a little different in that it is a split model and the reclining mechanisms are seperate. This means there are two motors, with wiring, while our old one only had one. We had more wires then plugs. Out come the meters and we started figuring out what was what. One more run to the hardware store for some connectors and we got everything hooked up and working. Next job was to secure it to the floor of the slideout. This entails laying on your back (or belly) and reaching under the couch with your drill and driving screws through holes in the brackets that are all the way back against the slide out wall. With me laying under the coach and Rudee kneeling on the seat reaching over the back, we were able to line up all the screws and get them installed. I'm not sure if all furniture installers do it this way but with both of us crawling all over the couch together well, lets just say, I needed a cigarette after we got it all done! :-)
Here is the finished product.

Only two trips to the hardware store and nobody ended up at the Emergency Room. All in all a good day! Stay tuned for more "projects". I'll keep you posted.

Monday, October 7, 2013

got out in the nick of time!

We have been trying to keep in contact with some of our co-workers still in South Dakota. The winds they were predicting for last Monday arrived and the gusts were 50+ mph. At least one of the rigs at our old campground had the slide out awnings torn off by the wind and anything outside that was not nailed down got blown away. Thursday evening the snow started. They were predicting 6"-10" but got over 2 feet! The wind continued and they have had to deal with large drifts as well as power outages. Looks like we left at the right time! Here are a couple of photos one my full time co-workers sent me of her backyard.

We are parked in our daughters driveway and have been doing a lot of catching up the last several days. Thursday we went to Wal Mart and bought a basketball goal for our grand kids and I spent most of the after noon putting it together. I finished it just in time and they had a lot of fun breaking it in! :-)

Friday was spent with our son. We took him out for lunch at Steak and Shake and spent a great afternoon enjoying his company.
Saturday we joined several of our motorcycle buddies and took a ride down to Elizabethtown, Kentucky. The weather didn't cooperate very well and it rained most of the trip but we had a good time in spite of the weather.
I have a few projects in the works that I will be starting work on so stay tuned. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

we didn't let the grass grow

We finished our last shift at Crazy Horse, saying as many "so longs" as we could to all our friends and co-workers. We made a quick dash into Custer and picked up a pizza at our new found favorite pizza joint, Pizza Works. I also filled the Dakota's fuel tank up so we would be ready to roll bright and early.

Monday morning we were up before sunrise. I busied myself with dumping the tanks and rolling up the last of the cords and hoses. While I was working I heard an Elk bugling off in the distance. I ran to the door and told Rudee to hurry outside so she could hear it but by the time she came out he had stopped.
Maybe he was just coming by to tell us goodbye. :-)

We stopped our packing long enough to eat a quick breakfast and then gave out hugs to our neighbors Tom and Liz. There were even a few tears appearing as we said "see ya down the road" to these two special friends. We pulled out of our site at 7:45 am and headed for "home". We got our last glimpses of Paha Sapa (Lakota for Black Hills) in our mirrors as we headed East on I-90. We spent all morning just driving through South Dakota until finally turning to the south at Sioux Falls. On past trips we have continued on I-90 through Minnesota but decided to see some new scenery and take I-29 towards Omaha. The wind had picked up some and the crosswind was noticeable on this leg of our trip. Several miles North of Omaha we jumped on I-680 and this took us to I-80 and bypassed the hub bub of the city. The sun was sinking pretty fast but we both agreed that we were not ready to stop for the night yet, so on we drove setting our sights on Des Moines as a possible overnight spot. Seeing as it would already be dark when we stopped, paying for a night in a campground just didn't make sense so we started looking for a boondocking spot. My GPS showed there was a casino just off the interstate east of the city so I programmed it in after Rudee called them to get permission for us to park there. She talked to their security department and they were very helpful with directions and parking instructions.
We arrived at their parking lot shortly after 7 pm and picked a spot among the semis and RV's already there. After getting parked I hopped in the truck with Rudee and she drove us to a nearby Taco Bell where we picked up supper and brought it back to the RV. We ate and then headed for bed, what a long day, 645 miles with 12 hours behind the wheel. :-o
Tuesday morning we were up early again, or was it late? We had lost an hour going from Mountain Time into Central Time and were going to lose another hour later today when we crossed into Eastern Time. Our cell phones say it's one time, our watches say it's another and our body clocks say it's another. Jeez, this is so confusing! :-)
We hit another drive through for breakfast and then headed out for another day on the interstate. We were excited knowing that we would get to see the Grandkids today. :-)
While we rolled along Rudee and I would chat on the CB radio. Although it's not the same as her sitting beside me it's not that bad and the time passes quickly.
We passed through Iowa and headed into Illinois. One more state to go!
Traffic picked up in Illinois and there were quite a few more semi trucks traveling around us. I used the cruise control a lot on this leg of the trip since Illinois is mostly flat farmland and this helped the miles roll by.
We finally crossed the Indiana line late in the afternoon. We were on the homestretch now! We made one last stop at a truck stop where I unhooked the motorcycle trailer from the motor home and we hooked it onto the Dakota. Rudee pulled it the rest of the way because backing the motor home into our daughters driveway would be next to impossible with the trailer attached. We arrived at their home shortly after 4 pm and quickly got set up. Our trip today was "only" 460 miles. :-)
I know most of my fellow fulltimers cringe at the idea of traveling more then a couple of hundred miles a day. So why did we push ourselves so hard for this trip? I was asking myself this very question when the kids got home from school and they ran at us yelling "Papaw, Grandma" like it was Christmas morning. I knew then that the trip had been worth it. :-)

We have some catching up to do with family and friends while here in Indiana along with a couple of projects I've had in mind for the rig. I'll keep you posted.