Viva Las Vegas!!

And now back to the states…

So to mix things up a bit we decided to head to the west coast for a bit before our long Alaskan summer began!

And what better place to spend a little time… Vegas Baby! Although “Vegas Baby” was a little less “whoo hoo”, and a lot more, “do you remember Vegas being like this?” It’s really kind of funny because The Strip is like an icon. But I think you finally get to an age where you crave the simpler times of Vegas. Give me a locals casino, some cheap bingo, and machines that are actually pennies!

I was so excited to hang with  Grammy, “Hey look there’s Vegas”, and my awesome friends! I had a great time in Vegas, once we got OFF the strip 🙂

Although there is something about the lights, the buildings, the neverending dings of the machines, I could totally see myself here!

And surprisingly we’ve never been to the Hoover Dam, crazy right! Well, after saying goodbye to Grammy we picked up our hot Jeep and headed for the dam. It was actually pretty cool! And so was Liv’s favorite car!

And Liv’s will probably kill me for putting these up, but hey, you gotta go sometime, and I think you’ll agree, these are pretty priceless.

I don’t even think they need an explanation, because hey it’s Vegas!

Florida – Universal Studios

So the kids decided, well Livs decided, that she wanted to maximize our time visiting Universal Studios. It was actually pretty great to have passes. I mean it’s no Disney, although I don’t even think Disney is Disney anymore, but I digress.

Livs and I looked forward to our nights out to dinner, a trip to Starby’s, and capped off with some people watching at Universal, oh and of course a trip to JCP! HA! Dad and I enjoyed our time in the park without the kiddos. It was actually our first time really realizing that one day, we hope, we will have an “after the kids” life. Kind of weird and awesome all at the same time!

In any case, I think we can all say we really enjoyed Universal pandemic style, would I go back in a normal year? Um, never!

 

 

 

 

We had a special delivery this week…

Meet Ellias Grayson. We’ve been anticipating his arrival since the summer and we are so happy he’s finally here!

Ellias is a special kind of baby. A teaching baby, or as the company calls it a “Baby Think It Over”. I saw the “robo-baby” on a TV show over the summer and that’s what sparked my interest. A few online searches brought me to Home School Babies. Basically, it’s like the cliche “egg baby project” that you hear about for high schoolers, but with a very realistic twist! The baby is programmed for the duration of your time with him at home and needs everything from feeding, changing, burping, and even knows when you’re giving him a cuddle. It comes with pretty much everything you need and anytime baby “needs” something you swipe your key card against his little butt and start delivering whatever care baby needs, the really cool thing is that just like a real baby you have no idea what that care might be and so you just start going through the motions.

Livs was anxious and excited to get the project going so as soon as baby arrived we took him out of the box and popped in the batteries.

He was a little harder than we anticipated but otherwise, his length and weight were similar to a newborn baby. Because I’m a crazy person I thought a couple of weeks would be a good time frame, in hindsight I’m grateful that Livs convinced me to pair it down to 5 nights. That was plenty to get the point across.

What is the point you ask?

Well… We all want our kiddos to make it out into the big wide world in a little better spot than the parent. Soooooo I thought a little perspective on midnight feedings might offer a little insight. We are quite open and honest with our kiddos about lots of different things, and even though I love my kiddos more than anything in the whole wide world, my situation, specifically starting our little family at such a young age and under such interesting circumstances, is really an exception to the rule. I think the Grandmas reading this post would both agree that there were many hesitations when Hubby and I announced our little bun on the oven. And frankly, I’d like my kiddos to live a little before they commit to families and such. Again, while it all turned out just the way it was supposed to for us, not every young family is lucky enough to have the same positive experience.

So I just wanted to offer the kids a little glimpse into what it’s really like, at least as close as we could get with our little robo-baby.

Ryder was less than thrilled with the project. He wasn’t even really that involved except for the fact that ya know cardboard walls and that baby was LOUD! Ha! But, in our household, we teach equal responsibility when it comes to pregnancy and such. Plus we tend to do everything as a family and this was no exception, well, except for night care that was all Livs! I did my time 🙂

When we first “activated” baby he slept for a few hours and then once he cried his first cry we realized it was just the beginning. It didn’t take long for Livs to settle in though. And what I mean by settle in is, “Mooooommmm, he won’t stop crying all I want to do is watch Tik Tok.” HAHAHA! My favorite moment ever!

And actually seeing her take care of the baby made me so grateful that we had our kiddos before phones came along. It’s actually something I think of often, but I think I would have been an awful mom to young children if I had my phone to keep me occupied. This picture epitomizes, in my opinion, how phones have impacted our child-rearing. These devices pull us away from “real life” so often, and I am just as guilty, but I wonder how that will impact how we bond with our babies. Anyways…

So on with the project! At first, it seemed like baby wasn’t really going to “act” like a real baby but starting at about midnight that first night he was just as perfect as any other newborn. Round the clock feedings, diapering, burping, and rocking. And just when you thought you had done all the things and he was finally going to go to sleep he was ready to do it all over again. It was absolutely perfect! I mean, you don’t get the positive feedback of those little eyes gazing back at you, and those soft squishy cheeks, but that’s probably a good thing when deterring children from having children! Ha!

Hubby and I finally got smart and closed our door by the third night. Again cardboard walls but it helped a lot. After night two Olivia was just about fed up with the whole thing. She certainly “looked” like the mom of a newborn when she rolled out of bed that morning!

All in all, it was a fairly realistic experience and I feel that my goals were met with the project. I don’t know that there’s anything a parent can do to get their kiddo to stop and think in the heat of the moment, but at least we can say we went the extra mile and tried. Obviously, a good foundation is key. I’m a huge believer in the “first five” and we’ve tried to expose our kids to the nuances of starting a family young and key in on the life-altering changes that decision brings. The good, bad, and everything in between. If anything we checked robo-baby off the list. Who has such oddly specific lists? I’m pretty sure my kids think only me! Ha!

Here’s a little Q&A with Livs to see what she thought about the experience:

Overall what did you think about the baby experience?

Blah, It sucked! But I guess it wasn’t that bad, I was just really annoyed with it at night because it would wake up all the time and I was very tired.

Did it feel like a real baby?

I can’t answer that because I don’t know what a real baby is like.

Even not knowing what it’s like to take care of a real baby, do you think it was similar?

I guess, yeah, probably. A real baby probably would cry more throughout the day, and it would be more cuddly, this baby was too hard.

Do you think it gave you a perspective on caring for a baby? How?

Um, probably, maybe, I don’t know. Yes, it gave me perspective on how to care for a child, I guess. I mean, I’ve never had to be on call like that before.

The whole point was to get you to consider certain adult decisions as you get older, do you think you might think twice about certain things? Why?

Yes. Because I’m lazy and don’t want to have to deal with a child. Perhaps I’ll want to deal with a child in the future, when I don’t have other things I want to do.

Was the baby and experience what you thought it would be?

Mmmm, I don’t know. I think it was different than I thought it would be. I didn’t expect it to be so damned loud, it was so loud, and I thought it would be squishier, that made me sad. I didn’t like that I couldn’t pull its head or grab it by the legs, it’s really annoying that the baby was so sensitive, I hated worrying about shaken baby syndrome, it was hard to bring into bed with me at night. At night it was terrible, I would be trying to go to sleep but all I could hear was the baby screaming even though it wasn’t because I was so worried it would wake up, and then I couldn’t go to sleep, and then it would really start crying!

Do you think other kids could benefit from having this experience? How?

No, maybe, I don’t know. It’s hard to say. The people I know wouldn’t benefit from it because I think overall stupidity will rule and while perhaps it would change a teenager’s perspective on having a child, I don’t think it will change the act of getting pregnant because kids are stupid. But it might change whether you decided to have an abortion.

Do you feel differently about abortion now?

No.

Is there anything parents/adults can do to impart how devasting it is to have a baby when you’re not ready?

Um, hmmm, um, I don’t know, probably nothing because kids are stupid and they won’t listen to their parents in “that” moment.

How could this experience have been better?

I don’t think it could have been better, it still wants all the things, and still wants to be awake when I want to sleep.

Are you glad we did it? Why?

Yeah, I am. I guess it would have been some sort of unknown had we not done it, so yeah, I’m glad we did it.

Did you learn anything?

Hmmm, not really. Um, what did I learn, I don’t know? I don’t want to make you mad by saying I didn’t learn anything. I guess I just learned that babies are loud and I don’t want one and you’ve scarred me!

Will you get your kids a robo-baby?

Hahaha, I don’t know, maybe. Probably not, who even knows if there’s a future with the state of our world, don’t put that in there!

Anything else you have to say about it?

I’m glad it’s gone! I don’t know what do you want me to say about it? Like it was cool and all but real annoying, and I’m tired, and I like not having to worry about it waking up, like I would think, should I even try to go to sleep because its just going to wake up, that b***!

Christmas 2020!

What a wonderful Christmas! Maybe one of our best yet! After a very restful break from trees, the big day finally came.

Dad and I woke up early. That seems to happen as the kiddos get older. It’s often Dad and me kind of hanging out waiting for them, ha! We hit our DIY photo booth and got ready for the excitement!

Amazingly, Ryder was up and ready to go by 9 am. This was impressive!

And, of course, Olivia was ready to go looking as beautiful as ever!

We were all set! Christmas shirts, check! Christmas hats, check! Time to open some presents!

All in all, we had such a great day!

And while 2020 may have been a little bonkers, Christmas Day 2020 was one of my best days ever!

 

Christmas time is here…

So the Pandora has been full swing since trees and the Christmas tunes persist now that we’re in the RV full-time. The family has done a super job with humoring my neverending holiday playlist. We hit up the dollar store yesterday and picked up some decorations.

It’s almost Christmas Eve. Let the festivities begin! So amazing to have so much downtime before the big day.

We’ve been hitting the hot tub and ticking off Christmas movies. Life is good!

Oh Christmas Tree!

Our tree farm experience was quite the whirlwind. In these “unprecedented times,” it was hard to know exactly what the tree buying season would hold. I think we were hopeful for a busy season, but there was still a bit of uncertainty. It was made very clear within 48 hours of our arrival that trees were going to sell and sell fast!

It may have been a slow start for us to get set up, but once we did, whoa, we were slinging trees like crazy!

We were definitely more comfortable this time around, although this was a new lot for us. And we love our new location. It flows better. The people are great. The setup was awesome! Everything about it was just perfect!

Black Friday, our biggest weekend of the season, flew by! Little did we know we would only have one more major weekend, and then, poof, our tree supply would come to an end! Talk about a short season!

And flock was extremely popular this year! Nothing like a winter wonderland in South Florida!

And of course, these little guys are always fun to see cruising around!

And just about 4 weeks to the day, we were all wrapped up! I still can’t believe we’re all done! We wound up selling every single tree. Crazy to think that we went through hundreds of trees!

And believe it or not, during our last few nights at the lot, it got so cold that Hubby and I huddled around the space heater!

And now, after a very successful season, we are back north in Orlando! So happy we opted to purchase a seasonal site. It was so nice knowing we had a place for the rig, and this definitely feels like “home”! We’ve already hit the hot tub a couple of times, stocked the fridge and freezers full of food, and of course, Liv’s and I have tended to our horrible sap infested nails! Doesn’t get any better than this. Now we lounge, and enjoy, and see what our big adventure brings! Christmas, here we come!

Alaska to Orlando

Guess I left you hanging at the ANC airport. Time to montage our way through to get us caught up to the present. As you can see, the flights were easy as we traveled south. We arrived in Orlando at about 1 am and finally made it to the hotel by around 3 am. Ready for a quick night of sleep, we were all excited to get to the rig and setup.

Thankfully other than a few low tires and some ants, the rig and truck were ready to roll. The kids and I got a head start so we could check out our site. It couldn’t have been more perfect, right by the pool, a few shady trees, and super wide. We waited for Dad, and he backed us in like it was nothing.  Within a few hours, we were all set up and ready to start our Florida adventure!

It was a welcome relief after our very intense summer to just sit and wind down until the tree farm. We spent the weeks ahead doing all the things we dreamed about in Alaska. Nails, hair, pool time, hot tub time, tanning, yummy food. It was absolutely perfect. The kiddos got Universal passes, and we spent a few nights at the resort, and then Dad and I got passes too. Universal time during a pandemic is pretty awesome!

And our room at the resort was pretty amazing too! Plus, everything felt so safe and easy. They definitely have it all figured out. And it’s pretty nice to have the rides to yourself! Of course, that meant no Disney, but I just couldn’t do it this year. I think we are finally over our love affair with the parks. At least for now. It was a good run. Liv’s reminded me that we’ve been pass holders to one or both coasts for 14 years!! That’s a long run of Disney! But, because Universal is so stinking cheap, you get to stay on property. It does have its perks!

And as we prepared for the tree farm, we celebrated Liv’s 16th birthday! I can’t even believe it. And how did my little girl spend her bday? By putting a hole in her nose!!! Ahhhh. But I suppose if that’s the worst thing she’s doing at 16, we’re doing pretty good!

We had an amazing 5 weeks in Orlando. Then it was time for the Cunnigham’s to roll south and sling some trees!!!!

 

At the Airport

It’s been an easy morning so far. Hopped in the hotel shuttle after experiencing a new covid friendly continental breakfast. Unlimited packaged goods that you must bring back to your room? Sold!

As you can see Liv’s is easy breezy as we worked our way through TSA and such. The agents have been so friendly. Everyone is polite and patient. I could get used to this simple way of travel.

The boys are also feeling mellow. So far I’m quite happy with the new travel bubble. Florida here we come!

Anchorage…

One last pic from the campground before we rolled out! A perfect crisp, cold October day in AK!

We made it to the hotel. Hooray! As you can see it didn’t take the kiddos long to get comfy!

Tomorrow is the big day. Our flight doesn’t get in until about midnight and then we’ll pick up a car and settle in for the night.

I swear getting to Europe is way easier than getting to FL from AK, ha!

So excited to be heading south. Excited for trees! Excited for sun and water. Excited to see what the next adventure holds. Here we go again!

Back in the states

We kept a pretty low profile while in London. Lots of Judge Judy and gas station food.

The day finally came and we boarded our very empty plane back to the states.

A quick, not really, ten hours later we had made it to Miami. After a few basic checks we were officially on the other side of immigration and had made it back “home”. Whew!

It was pretty exciting to be back on US soil. Just something about the comforts of the known.

While in London the kiddos and Dad had convinced me to book a house in Orlando with a pool and  spa while we awaited our flight back to the cold white North.

Oh man am I happy I humored them! Ha!

Not only did we get a deal because, well, Airbnb’s aren’t exactly thriving at the moment but it has given us a chance to “self isolate”.  And of course it’s been pretty awesome to soak up some sun and enjoy the water.

We’ve got a few more days here and then we head north. We’ll face a 14 day mandatory quarantine up there, but it sounds like there’s still a ridiculous amount of snow on the ground so what else are you going to do, right?!?

Today we made a video recapping our European Adventure.

I’m so grateful we got this experience. Even with a health crisis at our heels. I mean would the Cunningham’s do it any other way?!?


London Calling…

Ok, so let’s get this European tour going!

After a great winter in Florida. It was time to wrap up the RV and head out on our 50-day European extravaganza! We spent the past week getting the rig ready for storage, packing for Europe, as well as Alaska. As we were packing up, it felt like we had just moved in, but so goes living life in seasons.

On Monday, we moved the kiddos into a hotel, picked up the rental car, and Dad and I finished cleaning the RV. It went pretty fast this year, so that was nice. Monday night, we joined them at the hotel, and by Tuesday morning, the RV was safely in storage.

With our Europe bags in tow, we loaded up the rental car and made our way to the Magic Kingdom for one last amazing day of Disney Magic!

We may say this every year, but we really think this was the last time for Disney passes. After 13 years, we just might have had our fill, but time will tell. In any case, we had a great time, and it was absolutely the perfecting ending to our time here in Florida.

Wednesday morning came quickly, and it was finally time for our long haul flight to London. We had a redeye out of MCO, so we leisurely left the hotel, ran a couple of errands, and enjoyed one last gluttonous American meal. We were all feeling a little anxious, as you do when traveling. In fact, one of the reasons I love traveling so much is that it pushes the boundaries of my comfort zone. I always tell myself that one of these days, I will be totally at peace when it comes time for a trip, but something tells me it’s just not in the cards. Honestly, my personality is not really conducive to traveling. I am an over worrier, a control freak, and highly anxious. But again, it’s for these reasons that I like to put myself in uncomfortable situations. I guess I like proving to myself that with a little determination, I can overcome my own craziness.

So after dropping off the car and getting through TSA, we had just about an hour before our departure. I was pretty sure we were ready, although at this point it didn’t really matter we were going! Like I said, this has been a long time coming, and when you plan for a 50-day, 6-country, excursion for a family of four, there’s just a tiny bit of pressure to make sure everything goes smoothly. And at this point, I wasn’t thrilled with my preparedness level. We didn’t even make it through TSA before we had three of the bag straps break. Are you kidding me?!? And this is why we always travel with zip ties, oh wait except for this time, shit! Luckily a nice woman offered us a few feet of twine, so Dad spent the majority of our time reconnecting the straps, HA! You can see we were off to a good start. I guess we’ll see how I did preparing for the rest of the trip.

I am quite proud of these little bags, I mean, if they hold up that is. Because I’m a cheap asshole, which is really the only way you can be when traveling on a budget, I forced everyone into a 10kg bag, and that’s it! You read that right. One bag per person with all of your necessary and, ahem Livs, unnecessary belongings. She’s lucky her brother loves her and travels light, I think a few of Olivia’s items might have spilled over, HA!

Now onto the plane!

After much consideration, I opted for budget airline Norwegian. If you stick to their low-fare option, you can fly pretty darn cheap. We also took the risk of not paying for seats, and to our surprise, we all got seated together, so grateful for that!

The flight was great. Quite honestly one of the best flights I’ve taken and I was really not looking forward to it! But it was comfortable, and the time passed quickly.

We’re in London, baby!

Immigration was a breeze. With a US passport, you head straight for the kiosk, scan your passport, smile for the automated camera, and off you go. Customs was just a room that you breezed through, and I suppose they would stop you if they saw a reason too. That was it, we were free in the airport, and after a quick trip to the loo and a glance outside to remind you that you weren’t at home anymore, it was time to head to the trains. Everything is well marked, so we headed for the platforms. With a little examination of the tickers, we decided that our pre-booked Thameslink train was due to arrive at platform 3. We did confirm with a “travel advisor” because why not, but we were correct in our thinking. Once on the platform, we once again read through the digital signs and determined we were in the correct location. About an hour later, we arrive at St.Pancras Intl. Hopped off the train and made the quick walk to our hotel. They even let us check-in early.

We were all pretty tired, but it was only about 1 pm, so we showered up and hit the city. We grabbed coffee by the University and hit the Wellcome Museum, free and way cool, we saw Napolean’s toothbrush, I mean, who can say that?!? Finally, about 6 pm we hit a Pret A Manger for some budget-friendly premade sandwiches and wraps and headed back to the room. We only made it to 8 pm and we all crashed.

Now it’s 4 am and Dad and I have been up since 1 am. I guess we didn’t do such a great job at whispering because 230 am rolled around and the kids were done sleeping too. So now we will sit and patiently wait for the breakfast buffet to open.

More to come!

Disney World’s Rise of the Resistance

So before I catch you up on our upcoming adventure, we just embarked on a mini-adventure at Disney World. We finally got to ride on Rise of the Resistance, the newest ride of Galaxy’s Edge. This isn’t just a “wait it out” kind of ride. There’s serious planning and a very early morning to be had if you want to be part of the infamous resistance.

It goes a little something like this…

4 am Thursday morning – Time to wake up and head to the park. It’s clearly a no-makeup kind of day. Hoodie and yoga pants, and of course, a cup of coffee, is all I need to ready myself for the day.

4:50 am – Leave the rig and make the drive to Hollywood Studios. Man, it was dark outside. Typically these days, we’re lucky if we roll out of the rack by 11 am, so this kind of dark was all new!

5:10 am – Shit! We totally just cleaned out our wallets and realized we didn’t have our parking pass. I am so not paying the $25 for parking. Dad turned it around and headed back for the house.

5:30 am – Ok, whew! We’re back to where we were. Disney, here we come!

6:00 am – Parked and making the cold, brisk walk to security. We’re magic banded up, no bags, so it should go fast!

6:10 am – Wow! There’s a shit ton of people here. I see now why they say the virtual cue boarding passes complete distribution in minutes. However, I feel pretty confident. We’re standing just shy of the ticketing kiosks so it won’t take too long to get through the gate.

6:29 am – Sweet! They’re letting people through the gates. Basically, you need to be on the other side of the turnstiles by the time the park opens with phone in hand and ready to access the Disney My Experience app and “Join Boarding Group”.

6:40 am – Ok, we’ve made it through, hit the bathroom, and are making our way down Hollywood Blvd.

 

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If you want to hit Galaxy’s Edge first thing, follow this sign. Do not try and shortcut your way to the land. They have many areas blocked off until after the park opens. And see, I told you it was dark!

 

6:40 am – We’ve made it to the Disney Vacation Club kiosk near the entrance of Toy Story Land. We’ve decided to hit Slinky Dog because we just can’t seem to get a fast pass or hit it at the right time, and we’ve gotta wait somewhere!

6:55 am – We’ve got two phones logged into our My Disney Experience app and are refreshing the “Join Boarding Group” page.

6:59 am – Everything goes silent. Seriously the crowd just kind of zones in on their phones, and the energy is tense. We’re all trying to do the same thing, and chances are many of us will be left without a boarding pass. What a bunch of weirdos we must look like! Ha! But so fun 🙂

7:01 am – Dad’s in! He’s got our passes. Now cheers of satisfaction can be heard all around! The app is easy. Just keep refreshing the Boarding group page, and once you’re live, the app should recognize who in your party has scanned into the park. Select all, accept the boarding pass, and you’re done!

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7:04 am – All the “guaranteed” boarding passes have been distributed, and back up groups are still being issued.

7:10 am – That’s it, folks! Distribution has concluded for the day. I still can’t believe it really did happen that fast, and we are supposed to be here on a slow day if those even exist anymore!

8:30 am – Our boarding group has been called, and we now have 1 hour to make it to the entrance. By this time, we had already hit Slinky Dog, Rockin’ Roller Coaster, and Tower of Terror. After a quick coffee cart stop and a Mickey Pretzel, we made it to the entrance, so exciting!

9:00 am – The rides down! Ha! This happens a lot! It’s cool though, we’ve got a fast pass for Star Tours. And now that they’ve called our boarding pass, and the ride was down, we have all day to use our pass, pretty nice perk!

After Star Tours and a quick check-in with guest relations, we headed for Galaxy’s Edge again. The ride was still down, but we wanted to scoop up one of these baby’s…

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After purchasing our under $3 souvenir, we opted to stay in the area. It seemed like people were starting to gather by the entrance of Rise of the Resistance, so we wanted to be nearby in hopes that the ride was opening soon. Sure enough by the time we get to Smuggler’s Run, single rider line, of course, because it only takes like 20 minutes to get through, Rise of the Resistance was back open. Whoo hoo!

9:40 am – Not wanting to risk the ride going down again, we hopped out of line for Millenium Falcon Smuggler’s Run and raced to the entrance of Rise of the Resistance.

9:50 am – We’re in line, and things are moving pretty quickly. Within less than 15 minutes, we are in front of a cast member inquiring about party size. We are then ushered into a room with a small group and ready to fight for the Resistance.

BB8 and Rey help get us prepared

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And then, to our surprise, we get escorted outside to a transport ship. This starts our journey of “oh wow” moments that continue for the remainder of the experience

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Once onboard, you’re asked to hold on tight. The tram reminded me of an airport shuttle but a lot more exciting.

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Unfortunately for us, we were busted by the First Order…Time to get boarded

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And then taken into the most awe-inspiring room of the entire ride

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Now it’s time for an interrogation but don’t worry the good guys are there to help you out of your jam

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And from there, it’s just one amazing room after another.

Kylo Ren in Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance

The trackless cars are incredibly smooth and sophisticated. There’s a great little drop, and it wouldn’t be Star Wars without an AT-AT encounter

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Just amazing! All in all, I think the whole experience takes about 20 minutes. Disney has truly out done themselves. I can’t possibly capture all of the awesomeness this ride has to offer. But we sure are glad we got to be a part of it! Way to go, Disney, you sure know how to keep our hard-earned paper dollars!

Up next a trip across the pond!!!

 

Christmas tree lot managers…check!

So we wrapped our last day of trees on Monday and headed for Orlando.

What an amazingly successful season. I think I’m still in shock!

Not only did we pad the bank account but the kiddos learned so much. Dad and I really enjoyed wrangling trees. And most importantly we did it as a family. Once again another job well done that we couldn’t have accomplished without the kiddos.

We are now back in Orlando enjoying a very leisurely Christmas day. Sipping on mimosa’s, opening presents, and hanging with the fam.

More later, but for now a very Merry Christmas from the Cunninghams!

All’s well in Sunny Florida…Mostly ;)

So Wednesday, we left Anchor Point and made our way north to Anchorage. A couple of nights in a hotel there, and it was time to make our way to Nashville. Probably the quickest and easiest flights we’ve had. Once in Nashville, we picked up a rental car and headed for Lebanon, TN. Just about an hour east of BNA. We crashed out for the night, and when we awoke Saturday morning, it was time for the big reveal of the truck that’s been stuck in Pigeon Forge since December!

After a minor situation with a dead battery, whew what a relief, we were on the road to TYS to drop the rental car. I’ll be honest it was a bit of a quiet ride. By now, we were on our 4th day of travel, and I think we were all a little anxious about the truck. Plus, we had just heard from Grammy that morning that she had a heart attack at Amazon and was going in for bypass surgery. Jeez! Poor lady! So while travel was going well, we were all trying to figure out what to do with the Gramster.

We made it to GA by about 10 pm that night and once again kind of just fell over out of exhaustion. The good news was the truck made it, no check engine light, excellent gas mileage, all signs pointed to success!

Sunday morning, we awoke to one of the shittiest most expensive hotels in the area, and we were grateful no one woke up covered in bites, HA! We met up with our friends for a tour around the airbase and a leisurely lunch. Nice to be in the air conditioning, eating good food with good friends!

As we all predicted, time got away from us, but we got on the road to Orlando about 3 pm, and we were officially Disney bound! Yeah!

The kiddos wanted to do the park on Monday while Dad and I got the rig set up, so we opted for a cheap little hotel on the main drag so we could drop kiddos off early and go pick up our house. In no time at all, Dad and I were up at the storage lot, a few butterflies in our tummies, just wanting everything to be OK with RV.

We popped open the door and quickly did the smell test, a good indicator of anything awful inside. Totally clear, just dryer sheets and my glade air fresheners. Hooray! We did a quick look around, and everything looked to be in good shape! While I continued to get the rig roll ready, not much to do, but we had put down trays of kitty litter, charcoal, and such, Dad set up the hitch on our truck. We had only done this once before, but with a little effort and a manual, we agreed we were ready to roll.

After a few miles of going the opposite direction, we couldn’t figure out where to turn around, we arrived at our RV park, parked, and got situated. And once again the truck did great! This was our biggest fear becuase towing seemed to anger the truck prior to repair, so we have pretty high hopes that it is officialy fixed! By this time, the kiddos were cooked from the hot Florida sun, had done a ton of rides, and were ready to come home. First things first, we got the air, water, and sewer set up, and off we went for the kiddos.

All was going great!

A quick trip to Walmart to gather a few staples, a trip to Chipotle for lunch, and we were all happy in our home, ready for our big adventure!

We agreed that Tuesday would be a day of much-needed rest so we could charge up for our adventure.

All was going great until we heard a big bang and thud from the bathroom. Poor Olivia had fallen, and her leg was definitely not OK. An ambulance ride and an ER visit later, we found it was relatively minor, just a dislocated knee cap, but definitely enough to throw a wrench in our plans.

As of now, she is resting comfortably with a brace and crutches, let me tell you crutches in the RV is for the birds, HA! But she’ll be ok. We’ll follow up with an ortho down here to make sure all is good, but with a little rest and recovery, we think she’ll be fine.

Guess we just have a little more time for school 🙂

As for Grammy, her surgery is tomorrow; we are all thinking good thoughts, and I’m sure I’ll head north to get her settled back in her rig at some point. Liv’s will rest. And we’ll all just be happy we’re able to be together as a family!!

I’ll take it!

2019 Amazon Camperforce Update

**This page is current for the 2019 Season including Program Changes**

If you are familiar with the Camperforce program you’ll notice a few changes:

  • Base pay is $15.00/Hour
  • Bonus $0.50/Regular Hour $1.00/OT Hour
  • Site stipend $550.00/Site (Even if you are a couple you will still only receive $550)
  • Hard start and end dates (You can now choose your specific assignment during the application process. These “assignment dates” are not flexible, at least prior to arriving)

What is Amazon Camperforce?

Amazon Camperforce is a fantastic workamping opportunity that offers RV’ers a great way to earn some big bucks around the holidays and beyond. Camperforce employees perform various tasks at the participating fulfillment centers in exchange for an RV space, base wages, OT wages, a completion bonus, and some other fun incentives throughout the season.

Official Amazon Camperforce Page
Official Amazon FAQ Page

Where is Amazon Camperforce?

There are a few participating locations that are available year to year and a small number of others that seem to vary. Here are the 2019 Locations:

  • Shepherdsville, KY
  • Campbellsville, KY
  • Hebron, KY
  • Lexington, KY
  • Murfreesboro, TN
  • Chatanooga, TN
  • Phoenix, AZ

When is Amazon Camperforce?

New for 2019 Amazon announced  firm start and end dates.

* This building is staffed with 11 hour shifts instead of the standard 10 hours per day. The expectation will be to work 44 hours per week in this assignment. Mandatory overtime will not exceed 50 hours per week per CamperForce program regulations.

What can I earn with Amazon Camperforce?

Amazon offers excellent wages at $15.00 per hour and time and a half for overtime Plus a shift differential (available at specific facilities for weekend and nights), plus a completion bonus in the amount of $0.50 for each regular hour worked and $1.00 for each overtime hour worked. To be eligible for the bonus, you must complete your assignment.

What will I do at Amazon Camperforce?

Receiving – The receiver’s job is to receive product into our inventory system and place it on a cart so that it may be placed onto shelves.

Stowing – The Stower’s job is to scan product and place it into a bar-coded shelf location so that the product can be ordered by customers.

Picking – Pickers receive information regarding customer orders and are then directed to a shelf location to “pick” the order and place the items in a “tote” and then on to the conveyor system.

Pack – Packer’s will receive information from the computer regarding what packing materials to use for a package, and the packers will then place the completed order on the conveyor system.

ICQA – In ICQA (Inventory Control & Quality Assurance) you are responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the inventory in the bins. Typically this position is limited to returning associates who have been previously trained in ICQA.

Physical Demands – Each position has its own set of physical demands, but this is a rough list of what to expect amongst the different departments.

  • Must be able to stand continuously for a 10-hour shift
  • Lift and move up to 49 lbs with assistance
  • Lift, bend, reach above the head, kneel, crouch, stretch, and stoop repetitively
  • Engage in repetitive motion activities
  • Able to walk frequently throughout the facility
  • Walk several miles throughout the facility (5-10 +) over the course of a 10-hour shift
  • Operate a handheld scanner

Current Openings:

Current Campground List:

Click Image to Expand

 

One Adventure Closes…

Well, we said goodbye to Florida and all of our Disney shenanigans last Wednesday. We all had such a great time down there, and we can’t wait for October to come around and embark on another new journey!

Our last night at the Magic Kingdom was magical as usual! Surprisingly this is the first time we have ever posed for a pic on Main Street, can you believe that?!? The parks had gotten significantly crowded during our last couple of weeks, crowds that we’ve never really been a part of, I still can’t believe people do this in such a short amount of time. As you know we hit the parks pretty leisurely. Other than a water park day you won’t really catch us in the parks much before two or three in the afternoon, and then we love to close the place down. Less heat and better crowds.

We were so happy to have Nana join us at the parks. We had an amazing time. Meals out, catching up on the Bachelor, tons of Twistee Treat, shopping sprees, new rides…

And we hit the Starbucks Like A LOT!!!! Thanks, Nana!

After Nana left, we had just about a week to go before it was time to hop on a plane back up North. We knew we were going to have a few days of chores and such to prepare for our travel day, but before that, it was time to hit some rides and soak up the last few days of vacation! We hit the big rides, made a list of our must do meals, and stocked up on a few last minute shopping items, things are so much cheaper down there!

Once Saturday hit it was time to move into full travel mode. It was a mellow day of packing and having the rig washed, and UV treated. Since the truck still isn’t in a driveable condition we opted to store the rig in FL and the truck will sit in TN until October. Crazy right?!? Anyways, we thought about purchasing a cover for the trailer, but upon reading through various blogs, and talking to the locals, we decided against it. They are expensive, can trap in the moisture and humidity, and at our price point, we would probably need to buy a new one every year because it just wouldn’t last in the FL sun. So instead of investing in a cover, we will have the trailer UV treated every year, seems like a fair compromise. On Sunday the kiddos and dad decided to hit Typhoon Lagoon while I cleaned. Other than it taking me a hell of a lot longer than I anticipated it went really well. So Sunday night it was off to a local motel so we could officially wrap up the trailer and get it into storage on Monday. We prepared the RV for moisture by laying down pans of kitty litter and charcoal, and tossed bay leaves and flea collars around, and of course my favorite…dryer sheets galore! Hopefully, we come back to a mold-free, critter free, nice smelling RV!

By the time we checked into the hotel, I think we were all feeling a bit anxious. It’s hard not knowing what you might be coming home to. Anchor Point saw a ton of snow this winter and knowing we had to move into our RV the day we flew in was a bit daunting. We always try to live in the moment but sometimes at “transition time” we all get a little anxious. With that said, Monday came early, and it was time for Dad to accompany the trailer to storage. All went well with that, and now we just hope for the best! We took it easy the rest of the day enjoying lazing around the room and eating all the junk food we could before we headed back.

Tuesday, the big day! So initially we had planned to drive to Atlanta, store the rig and truck there, and catch a plane back to AK. Well, that plan was made months ago when we thought we had a working truck. So we did the best we could. Instead of paying a ton of money to change our flights we opted to swap our rental car with a one way rental to Atlanta and drive overnight to catch our early AM flight. But in true Cunningham fashion, we had to hit the water park just one more time before we left. So we dropped the kiddos off at Typhoon Lagoon, drove to MCO to pick up the new rental car, drove over to the old rental car place to drop the first rental, picked up food, and met the kiddos for some fun in the sun.

I would be lying if I said my tummy wasn’t in knots at this point, but it sure looks like we’re having a lot of fun!

So after a few trips down Miss Adventure Falls, a couple of loops in the lazy river, and catching some serious waves in the pool, it was officially time to say goodbye to Disney! Man, it was fun!

A quick drive back to the hotel and we got all showered up, another round of fast food and we were on the road to Atlanta. The kiddos made it to about 1am before they hit recline on the seats and Hubby and I cranked up the tunes and enjoyed a spectacular lightning show in the distance.

We made a quick stop at the gas station to top off the rental and grab a few snacks for the plane. I was pretty exhausted at this point, and we still had 3 planes and a couple of layovers to go. Honestly, it’s all kind of a blur. The plan was for Dad to catch a charter flight before the rest of us so he could stop at the chamber, grab the truck batteries, drive those over to where his truck was parked, get the truck up and running, go scope out the campgrounds to see if we could even drive in, and then go get the rig out of storage and set up shop.

Well…

Most of it went according to plan. As the kiddos and I sat in the Anchorage airport, we awaited good news texts from Dad with progress updates. Everything was going pretty good until the storage place dropped the ball. The RV was very much stuck. So with the kids and I getting on a plane to Homer, Dad had to make some executive decisions, and I would just have to see what he came up with once I got off the plane. We opted for a night in a hotel in hopes that he could get the RV out the next day! Mostly we just wanted a hot shower and to fall over and crash for the night, by this time we had been going about 30 hours, so that’s just what we did. Of course, Dad was awesome and made sure the kiddos had dinner and all the things they needed, once I hit the water it was mere minutes before I passed out, HA, he really is something else!

Thursday morning he took me into work at the tax office and set off to rescue our little house on wheels. By the time he picked me up he had the rig set up, filled with water, and all was pretty much right with the world. Amazing right!

It still feels a little weird to be back, and I certainly didn’t miss it up here. But it pays the bills! So I definitely can’t complain about that! And tomorrow we formally ditch the Alaska house, I couldn’t be happier. It was a cool experience, and I’m so glad that we did the Airbnb thing, but we are ready to be even more unburdened, and selling this house is huge! We’re already scheming about our winter plans, but in the meantime, we are prepping for a great summer. We are going to shake things up a bit! A new home for the RV and the kiddos are going to experience some serious independence!

How you ask… Well, that’s for another post!

 

 

 

 

Florida Update…

Florida has been super so far. We are officialy on day 23! 32 days left to go before we have to hop on a plane back to the great white North! We’ve been hitting Blizzard Beach like crazy this past week. It’s really hot down here, which is great when you’re baking in the sun. We have our regular spot, and the kiddos have the run of the place. It’s kinda cool when cast members know you by name, or maybe not by name but “bearded guy and family” is tossed around quite a bit. And typically once we set foot in the park, the kids are off to ride the rides while Hubby and I set up shop, get some sun, and hit the lazy river. The rest of the day is usually spent seeing what crazy water slide they can manage to get mom on. Dad’s pretty adventurous, but some of those water slides scare me, HA! Anyways, when we aren’t hitting the water park, we have been loving Epcot. It’s a really nice evening park! So we manage to get some school done and go in for a late afternoon/evening tour. Barring a few logistics here and there life is pretty quiet.
And other than doing the parks and maybe a quick trip out to Clearwater that’s about all we have planned before we head back. We’re still waiting to hear back on the truck, but who really cares at this point, I am sure it will all shake out. The Alaska house is moving forward with the sale, so hopefully, all goes well with that! We’ve officially signed up with Amazon again, and I’ll be updating the information soon, as there have been some changes to the program. So with that said we think that the rig will be stored down here in Florida until we pick it up in October. We do have a special guest coming on Monday, Nana will be spending a few weeks of Disney fun with us! So we are all looking forward to that! Today, we’re not really sure where the day will take us. We are all enjoying a leisurely morning, clearly because it is now 1pm and we are all still in our jammies, yep, this is the life! HA! More soon…

Now for the good stuff…

We have been having a great time here at Disney! We love this area so much, and the warm Florida sun is just amazing. We have a great pool and hot tub at our new park, something I have been looking forward to for a long time! Our Disney time is just awesome, we love the way we do Disney. No stress. Go in when we want and stay as long as we want. It’s super great to just enjoy the parks for a few hours and not feel pressed for time. Sometimes we just go in for our 3 pre-booked fast passes, a yummy treat, and call it a day!

We’ve also received great news about the Alaska House, we are officially in escrow! That was such an exciting phone call! Obviously, this just gets the ball rolling, but I am hopeful that things will trek along smoothly and we will be free of the property by April. Hooray!

 

 

First the Bad News…

So we thought it would be easy breezy to get our RV moved from one park to another. We thought we did all the right things, asked around, hired a reputable guy, and then, well, this happened in the hour-long move…

Luckily it’s not too bad. We need a new front door and some new trim,. But per usual it could always be worse. But I just can’t shake the feeling of a “looming dark cloud” Ah well, all part of the experience I suppose. Truck still in the same state when we left, still waiting on a viable part. But the good news…

Wand’rly Magazine

Nathan, of Wand’rly, just published my Amazon Camperforce article, hooray! Love reading through their site, they have some great stuff! Check them out HERE!


“Must be nice,” a bearded gentleman at a bar in Mobile, Alabama says after hearing our story of traveling around the world living in vehicles, “wish I didn’t have to work.”

I explain that indeed we do work, and without working this wouldn’t all be possible. Of course, this isn’t always the easiest part to figure out. Thus, this time around, Nina Cunningham of RV Family Adventure walks us through one way to make money during your travels, working as a part of Amazon’s Camperforce around the holidays.

Don’t care to sit still for a few months? Don’t particularly like Amazon? We keep a handbook, well, handy here full of all of the articles we’ve ever written about on how to make a living on the road.

Not worried about the income, just want to know where to go?

The small towns, deserts and national parks of Southern Arizona and Joshua Tree National Park are always hot spots (literally) and Florida doesn’t tend to cool off either (in fact, we’re headed there now!)

PS!

Do you travel full-time in a van or RV? Want to write for Wand’rly? Get in touch and tell us a little bit about yourself, what you want to write about, and send a link to something you’ve written before and/or your Instagram and let’s see if we’re a good fit.

Happy trails!

Nathan & co.
wandrly.co
instagram.com/wandrly


Welcome to Sunny Florida

Oh my goodness we made it!

So we pulled into our RV park yesterday afternoon. It was a pretty easy drive down. We split it up into two drive days. The first day we made it from Pigeon Forge, TN and stopped at our “home park” in Unadilla, GA, met up with some friends for a quick dinner, then it was off to Clermont, FL. I was so happy when we saw our first palm tree and all the air plants. I love it down here!

I have to say I was super impressed with Hubby’s parking skills. This is a tight park and he did incredible. And of course there were plenty of spectators. One guy came up to me and commented on Hubby’s skills, he said, “now that’s a truck driver, been doing it all his life I bet” HA! I love it.

So now Hubby is headed back up north to Knoxville, TN to drop off the truck. He left about 3:30 this morning to make it in time for his evening flight. What a guy, right!!! Once I get some laundry done and the kiddos are awake we’ll Uber into Kissimmee and pick up our rental car. We have 12 nights before I have to figure out how to move the rig, so life is good! Whew! We are so lucky to live the life we do, even when things are crazy I wouldn’t trade it for the world! Lots more adventure along the way!

So yesterday was the big day…

The part arrived on Saturday, a little later than expected but that seems to be the case anymore. So hubby went over to the mechanic first thing Monday morning and took every precaution when installing the new component. We were so nervous. This had to work. It’s not so much that we aren’t enjoying our time. It’s more just the process we go through every time we sit and wait for the part to arrive. It’s never quite enough time to make real plans, but somehow these little spurts of time have added up to a month! I can’t even believe it. I’ve thought a lot about why this is happening, what we are supposed to learn from it, how to stay positive, and how I can fully accept that life isn’t so bad. I’ll be the first to admit I am not a very patient person. Also, I’m a lot spoiled. I try really hard to consistently remind myself of all the things I am grateful for. But I don’t know, I guess I just lack a sense of peace and contentment when I really want something to happen. I say all the right things out loud. Even my writing on here reflects all the things I want to feel inside. But something I have learned through this whole experience is that just saying these things out loud doesn’t mean you actually believe in the bullshit you’re spewing. Maybe not even so much that I don’t believe it, but I just don’t truly live it. So I’ll try, try, and try again to keep living who and what I want to be. I suppose you get you’re 100 years not only to experience all the things but to keep working on the person you admire when you look in the mirror.

Wow, that was deep!

So back to Monday. I’m sure you can gather that things didn’t exactly go as planned. We had prepped and prepared the RV to roll, as hubby was supposed to show up and we were going to roll off to the Florida coast. And the day actually started out that way. Hubby called and confirmed that the install was a success! Progress!! The truck started right up and sounded great. But while we were on the phone a couple of new dash lights illuminated. No big deal, I got on the phone with the parts company, and they said it was just the computer updating and to let the vehicle idle for 30 minutes. Sweet! So I tell hubby, he’s happy, and he sits and waits. At this point, I am really excited. I crank up the music, start moving the appliances and such and then hubby’s face flashes on my phone again. I think at this point I already knew what he was going to say.

Sure enough, when hubby tried to pull out of the shop, the truck just shut down. He explained that the lights had gone away just as the repair company said, but now we had a whole new set of problems. At that point, the mechanic hooked up the scanner and started to read the codes. Luckily the original code was gone, but we were left with one very unique code which clearly didn’t allow the vehicle to even move. HA! Awesome! So back to the electronics company, the part goes, and the truck will now sit in Pigeon Forge for another week-ish while we try and figure out what’s wrong.

OK, no big deal, we had talked about all this. Planned for it, the whole thing!

So hubby made the walk back, and we’re all still in good spirits, knowing that our plan was still to leave. No matter what. So we talked about our options now that we were actually faced with the choice of what we were going to do and I set about on the phone and computer making plans.

This is where the day kind of got away from me. It seemed like everything I had researched and tried to plan for was just falling apart. And then finally we did have a viable plan, I started booking cars, and flights, etc. And then one big piece of the puzzle just crumbled. By this time we were done. The only thing left to do was wait it out, and get a fresh start the next day. I am so not good at just letting it go, but Hubby was so great at diffusing my emotional state.

Fast forward to this morning, the phone rings, and everything changed. Just like that, we were back on! Isn’t that crazy?!?!

So it was go time. We had to pick up a rental car, run some much-needed errands, and then head out to pick up our truck rental. That’s right. We rented a truck to tow our rig to Florida. We’ll make the drive over a couple of days. Then Hubby will drive said truck all the way back here, they only rent for roundtrips, and then he’ll hop on a plane back to Florida. Easy right? And then, of course, there’s the whole moving of the rig between RV parks without a truck, HA! We’ve got plans for that too. We’ll see how it goes!

Overall the logistics on this one were challenging, probably some of the most intense planning we’ve done. Accomplishing these things on a budget is tough. Sure with all the money in the world, it’s easy. But I spend hours trying to find promo codes and scouring every website I can think of for a great deal and any insight to accomplishing our goal. We definitely ran the gamut of possibilities, scratching down all the scenarios and calculating costs. I suppose we could have just sat here for another week or so and kept waiting it out, but that’s just not who we are, and considering a “2-3 day turn around” back on January 3rd has led us here, I think it’s safe to say that a best case scenario in terms of timing may no longer be on our side. I know it sounds crazy, but at this point I just want this truck fixed…PERIOD, who cares about when!

Fingers crossed all goes great! As usual, I’ll keep you posted!

Hello from…. Yep, still Pigeon Forge!

Yes, we are still really here. And you’re probably thinking what in the hell are they still doing there, if it were me… Well sometimes it’s easier from the outside to come up with all the things you could do to get yourself out of a jam, but when you’re living it things become a bit muddled. In any case, I think we last left off with us waiting for our truck part, again! And we now know that the part is officially “dead.” So with many phone calls we finally got what we think we need. Now, we still don’t know if this will fix the original problem, but the truck isn’t even a working vehicle without this part, so first things first. The hope is that this “new” part will show up tomorrow, and we can drop it in, and it actually fixes the problem. Does it feel like you’ve heard this story before? HA! I’m telling you it’s like the freaking twilight zone around here 🙂 Anyways, we have decided that either way we are getting the hell out of here. Truck or no truck. We’ve got plan A and B all drawn out, and we’re ready to push forward with either. The weather here is turning, and we’ve had a half-frozen RV for the last couple of days, we’re doing OK, but I think it’s time. We do warm up today so everything should be back to normal, but man, I hate putting this thing through rough weather. So hopefully our next update will be from a warmer destination. Fingers crossed!

Pirate Golf and the Mirror Maze in Pigeon Forge, TN

With the truck almost fixed and hopefully rolling out of here Saturday we thought it would be good to check the last few activities off our list. So last night we went over to Magi Quest and relived our adventure from 2012. First up was Blacklight Pirate Golf…

As you can see it was a very close game between Hubby and me. I rarely do anything better than he does, so this was super cool! After golf, it was on to the Mirror Maze! And if you have never done one you have to add it to your list, they are so much fun!!! Music, disco lights, and the constant shock that there’s 20 of you…Aweomse!!!

After all this fun the boys went off to play their Magi Quest adventure, and it was time for a Starbucks for Livs and me. We finished the night at 5 Guys, my absolutely favorite burger place here in town, and of course took an Uber home. I am ashamed to say that we just couldn’t make the walk back. We did walk into town, but by this time it was 29 degrees outside, just too cold!!

And today should be the big day. We’ll wait for UPS to deliver our part to the campground, Hubby will Uber over to the mechanic, we’ll do a little test drive, and then we should be ready to roll out tomorrow!!! I’ll let you know 🙂

 

Steak n’ Shake in Pigeon Forge, TN

So after another great school day, we decided it would be fun to get about and about, hit the outlets, and grab some dinner. We knew the trolley was on a modified schedule so we walked to the pickup point, only about a 15-minute walk from the campground and figured it would arrive within 20 minutes. Well…. we waited and waited and waited, and Livs called the trolley office, and we waited some more, and finally an hour later it arrived.

You know it’s so funny that these little moments pop up in life, and we could have just called an Uber, we could have just gone home, we could have gotten upset, we could have just played on our phones, but we didn’t. We all chatted, reminisced about all the times we had waited for buses and boats in Central America, laughed, and felt a tiny sense of accomplishment as soon as we saw the trolley round the corner. It was silly really but honestly, some of our best moments come from standing on the side of the road putting our faith in something other than ourselves.

So after the short trolley ride up the parkway, we were dropped off at the outlets, running a little later than we anticipated but no biggie! So we head towards our first store, and the door is locked, turns out they closed early! HA! Too funny, we all kind of died laughing at that moment, because it was just so perfectly us.

So now it was on to dinner! We had plans to go to this place that we’ve seen down here, Quaker Steak n’ Lube, but we saw a Steak n’ Shake on our way and just couldn’t resist! And it was a great experience. Yummy food topped off with delicious shakes! We did treat the kids to an Uber home, by this time it was so cold out, and I obviously needed to refamiliarize myself with the new trolley schedule, ha!

Today it was another great school day followed by the best news of all….The truck part that we sent off is fixed!!! My biggest fear was that they were going to call and tell us nothing was wrong with it, but thank goodness it was actually broken. So… In theory, we should be able to pop this back in the truck and be back and rolling!!! Friday is the big day, we’ll get the part to the mechanic hitch up the trailer and put the truck to the test, as long as everything goes as planned we will officially head out on Saturday and continue our way south. Yeah!

 

Sunny Days in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg, TN

So as we sit and wait to see what the future of our truck holds we get to enjoy the fun town of Pigeon Forge and nearby Gatlinburg. We visited this area back in 2012, and it’s always held a special place in our heart. We successfully moved RV parks and are now even closer to the main drag.

On Saturday we decided to take the trolley up to Gatlinburg. It’s a tiny little town nestled in the heart of the Smokies.

Once in town, we headed toward the main strip. More of the same really but so cute. Little shops and eateries and of course tons of mirror mazes, candy stores, moonshine distilleries, and silly museums.

Livs and I picked up a couple of hoodies, and of course, the kiddos and Dad got their candy fix. Other than that it was just so nice to get out, feel the sunshine, and be together!

Today it was a back to school day for the kiddos. They actually did a great job. Sometimes it can be a bit of a struggle to get back into the groove when they’ve had some down time, and when I say they I mean Ryder…But he actually did a super great job! I was so pleased. The next few days hold about the same. We’ll use this time to really buckle down and get ahead of it so we can enjoy some downtime once we get to Florida! As for the house, we got the Toyo repaired, and we’ve actually had some really great showings. I am so excited because I really feel confident we are going to sell this thing!! Whoo hoo! We’ll keep you posted!

It’s 2019!!! Happy New Year!

Well, we made it out of Rising Sun, IN. Well…first we only made it about 10 minutes before the truck decided that it was most definitely not fixed. A drive that should have taken about 5 hours took about 8 with all the stops, but we kept our game face on, no tears, no yelling, and we got through it! On the bright side, the RV traveled really well. Since we haven’t rolled with it much, it was hard to know what items needed to be moved and secured. I always take a little extra precaution, but it’s nice when you get to a point when you know precisely which cabinets and drawers not to trust. Overall it did great. This is also the first time we’ve traveled with flat screens on the walls. Usually, we take them down, but these are set up a bit differently. They did pretty well. The one in the living room shimmied out a bit, so we decided a bungee cord would fix the issue, but in the meantime I took a blanket and made a makeshift rope to keep it in place, not to bad for a roadside fix.

We pulled into Pigeon Forge, TN about an hour or so after dark. Luckily it was an easy site to get into, plus I think Hubby really knows how to move this trailer. It didn’t take us long to get set up. Even with our new setup, it doesn’t take us more than 15 minutes or so to get everything ready on the inside. Maybe a bit longer for Hubby on the outside, but he had to mess with the dump lines a little more than usual. Some people think it must take forever to get these things ready to roll and set up again. But really, putting away the groceries is a bigger task than setup and teardown.

Since it was such a long day, we headed to bed pretty early. The next morning Hubby and I scoured the internet for a good diesel mechanic. We still had an idea of what was wrong with the truck, but we wanted someone else to take a look. He took it over in the morning, and we spent a leisurely day at the RV, kinda nice just to sit and relax. The next morning we heard back about the truck. Still no real idea of what the problem is. So we decide that we’ll go with the next step and that’s sending off the PCM for a repair and return. Ugh! Unfortunately, this became a logistical nightmare. And of course we kick ourselves for not doing this while we were still in Indiana, but we thought we were making the right decision based on what we knew, and sometimes that’s just all you can do.

And this is when living in an RV gets a little messy. So we know we can’t stay at this park because they are closing for the winter. We also know that we have to get this part out of the tuck and then in the mail. We also know we will be without our truck for about a week. So you start thinking logistics. First off was to head to the Walmart to load up on groceries, while we still had the truck. Plus we were going to enjoy a nice evening out since we would all use a break from the trucks woes.

Well…we just barely made it through Walmart, and we got a call from Alaska. Turns out the heating unit in the main house went out. Fortunately, it did not appear that the house had frozen over….yet! We tried to go through some troubleshooting, but it didn’t look like that was going to work. I got on the phone with the technician and he said he could be there Monday, this was Saturday. So in the meantime, we had our guy set up an electric heater, and turn the faucets on a trickle. And just wait it out. Ugh! Oh man, we couldn’t even get a day!

I have to be honest after we checked out of the Walmart I was spent. I was so worried about the dumb house, and all I could think of was crawling in bed. And that’s exactly what I did. I am not proud that I wasn’t able to pull myself together. But sometimes that’s just the way it goes.

I slept late the next day, still not totally wanting to deal with our crap. And then finally decided to put my big girl panties on and apologize to my family for being such a dick! They, of course, forgave me, and we took a trip up into the Smokies. I just wanted to get out and drive and walk a bit. Other than having to reset the truck a few times, which we knew would happen, we had a great time. We laughed, listened to music, walked along the creeks, and breathed in the fresh mountain air.

By Monday morning Hubby and I had gotten a plan together. He drove the truck to a different mechanic, had the part taken out, walked to the UPS store, and then Ubered back to the rig. It’s funny, it all sounds so easy when I write it down. Now we wait. Hopefully there is something actually wrong with the part, and hopefully, they can fix it. We should know more in the next couple of days. As for the house, the tech still hasn’t made it out there, hopefully working on it today, so we’ll see how that goes. We think we found someone to move us to a different RV park on Thursday and that should get us through until we get our perfectly fixed truck back! Peaks and valleys, man! HA!

So now you’re all caught up. We did however have an awesome New Years Eve night. Luckily there’s a pretty extensive trolley system that has stops along the Parkway, the main drag of Pigeon Forge, and hits a lot of the campgrounds, and grocery stores. So really, there are worse places to be stuck without a vehicle. We hopped on the trolley in the afternoon and had plans to do an “Escape the Tomb Adventure,” dinner, and “The Island” to ring in the New Year!

The Tomb was super fun. A little cheesy, but that’s what we expected. It was about an hour adventure, solving puzzles while you moved from chamber to chamber, trying to outsmart the Pharao. It was nice because it was just the 4 of us on our journey, with our guide, who was super funny! Definitely glad we did it! And thank goodness we escaped the Pharaos wrath and made it out alive!

The Island is a bit like the City Walk at Universal Studios. Restaurants, shops, attractions, and moonshine! Turns out you can’t get booze at a local store in town, but they will gladly sell you overpriced moonshine at that little brewery you see in the photo! And Hubby and I totally bought in!

We watched some great white rappers!

Drank some shine! Checked out the attractions and a few shops. And then we were ready to call it a night! It did to start to rain a bit, and we kinda wanted to beat the crowds, so we made our way out of the busy area and attempted to book an Uber. The trolleys were done running for the night, and my phone was acting up, so Uber wasn’t an option. So in true Cunningham style, we decided to wing and just walked the couple of miles back. It was actually kind of nice to walk in the rain.

And even though I love to get out and about I truly enjoyed watching our New Years Eve CNN live stream on youtube. Usually, we’re just hanging out in cold and dark Alaska, and we do our hourly videos. This year though I’ll have to come up with an impromptu year in review and spring it on the kiddos when they least expect it, ha!

But for now, all I can really say is that 2018 was what it was and I am so ready for 2019! We learned a lot. Made new plans. Tried new things. Enjoyed some adventures. And got out of Alaska for the winter! I am so proud of this little family, and these kiddos who are just the coolest little people. And my Hubby, how that guy deals with me, still amazes me to this day!

So now we’re just kind of hanging out. I had to rearrange a few reservations, we’re just going to hope for the best and plan on getting back on the road next week! I’m sure we’ll enjoy a few more attractions in the area, Ryder is ready for a return to Magi Quest, and Liv and I really want to get our feet pampered. We’ll keep you posted!!

 

Amazon – Would we do it again?

Would we do it again?

More than likely yes. I can’t reiterate enough how good the money is. You will not find winter work that pays quite like Amazon, especially after that significant bump to $15/hour. We both agree that it would be easier now that we know what to expect. And hopefully, we wouldn’t be dealing with so much personal baggage.

Would we go back to the same facility?

This one comes with a few qualifiers.

Leadership – If the same management was in place then I think we would strongly consider heading back to the same facility. I think we built a good rapport with leadership and I feel like we were rewarded for doing a good job. That’s not to say that we wouldn’t be picking the majority of the time, but again now that we know what to expect we can hang.

Type of Facility – This building handles apparel, I enjoy small items that are easy to handle. No one’s going to ask me to move a fridge or a flat screen. There won’t be any spills, and you don’t really have to worry about hazard stickers, etc.

Hours Available – This is one thing that concerns me with CVG1 in particular. All we kept hearing is that year after year at this facility peak was getting smaller and smaller. And there was quite a bit of VTO. So I’m not even sure this facility will be around next season due to the lack of work. This is not something that can be predicted, but I would hope that they would only offer Camperforce in areas that will still provide plenty of OT, as that is where the money is.

Weather – It seems like every Camperforce facility is in a cold weather climate. With a little preparation, you can get your RV to a state that will withstand the cold…to an extent! Since my mom is hanging around for peak returns, I will be able to keep up with her and how the weather is doing. We did ok until December. We froze up one time early on when the temp dropped below average during a cold snap, but we made some alterations to our heat tape, and then we did just fine. I feel like weather is changing all over the place, and it’s just getting colder. But really the only facility that’s available right now that would be any better would most likely be Murfreesboro, TN. And even there it can still get quite cold. So until they set up Camperforce in the middle of Costa Rica, I think it’s a crap shoot.

Campground – This probably plays in a little more when you have kids. I really liked our campground. I felt safe. The kids felt safe. And the facilities were clean and maintained. There were no problems with the water freezing up, and the electric was OK. I can only speak to the campgrounds in Murfreesboro, TN, but they did not appear nearly as nice or convenient for the commute.

I do feel like the Camperforce program as a whole could use some improvement. There is a severe lack of communication. And with a few minor changes, I think they could really offer an outstanding program. It does appear, based on conversations and correspondence, that they are trying to grow the program. Of course, I had my own lengthy email that I sent off with some alterations that would make the experience so much smoother. All in all I value the Camperforce program tremendously. Without it winter work, at least for us, would be very difficult to find due to our current obligations. I highly recommend doing a season, even if just out of curiosity. We met some good people. And it felt good to see through a commitment. And too, I am all about perspective. It might not have been a seedy city in some Central American country, but it sure taught me a lot.

Christmas with the Cunninghams

Merry Christmas from Rising Sun, Indiana!

We had an absolutely awesome Christmas Day. A perfect way to end our season at Amazon. It felt like we had been waiting for this day for an eternity, and we were so happy it finally came!

We made Santa cookies and decorated with our traditional gingerbread houses.

Our last day of work was Saturday the 22nd. We went out and got all of our Christmas goodies, then on Sunday we all cleaned and tidied to get ready for the big day. Livs and I premade a ton of food, and by Christmas Eve night we were all set for Santa to come.

Finally, it was Christmas day! Hubby and I were so ready to finally open all those presents. The kiddos set their alarms for 8:30am and told Grammy to be over promptly at 9:00. Hubby and I couldn’t sleep so we took some selfies, played our favorite game, “name the trash floating down the river,” and just enjoyed hanging on the couch!

Now it was time! Liv was ready!

Ryder was ready!

And Grammy was ready! We all got decked out in our Christmas gear and started the festivities. We really had a great day! The kiddos said it was our best yet. And Ryder said that he couldn’t believe that we had topped last year. HA!

 

What about Amazon with kiddos?

What about Amazon with kiddos?

This is the first time that our kiddos haven’t had either mom or dad the majority of the day. They are 14 and 12 and just about the best kiddos you could ever ask for. When I go to work in the winter, Dad is home, and when we work over the summer, the kiddos are either in tow or left to their own devices for short periods. This work adventure was tough for me to wrap my head around, I hate leaving my babies, even when I work the tax office. But we decided as a family that this is what we all wanted to do, well unless we were going sell body parts for cash or something. So off we went.

We discussed the possibilities of Hubby and I both working nights and decided that we would not put our family in that situation. If for some reason we both got put on nights one of us would just bow out and go find a gig at Target or something, they pay $12.00 minimum, and we would still get our campsite, etc… paid for with only one of us working Amazon. Fortunately, we both got put on days. I do feel like this was the best scenario for our family. If we had worked opposite shifts, we would almost never see each other, and for those of you who know us, that’s like a totally big deal. And as I write this, I am already thinking about next year because, that’s the one thing I don’t like about the whole Amazon thing, you just don’t know your shift until you get here, and that’s kind of a burden when you have kiddos. Although, I feel like the facility was very accommodating to all of our Camperforce team, and I have high hopes that we could find something that worked for everyone. Anyways…

So the kiddos. I am so proud to report that no one was injured, the house is still standing, I mean as good it can for a home made of cardboard 🙂 and the kiddos didn’t kill each other. I do NOT think this is for kiddos who are NOT uber responsible. They are forced to handle the daily grind, school, chores, etc… All while in a strange place, without mommy and daddy to keep them company. Now for our kids, this just kind of is. It’s no hostel in the middle of Honduras that’s for sure! So to them, I think it was just another 10 weeks of mom and dad’s shenanigans that they were forced to go along with. And that’s why they are going to be absolutely awesome adults!!

They managed the daily chores, keeping us stocked with clean dishes and clean laundry all while managing their busy school schedules. The key for us was keeping them tasked. We take opportunities like this to focus entirely on school. That way we can go at it a little easier when we’re having fun! They stayed up late, got up late, and just barely had enough time to get all the things done before we got home from work. This worked well for us. They also got a cool babysitting gig which occupied their time, and brought in some good cash!

They did start to wear down over the last couple of weeks, I think we all did, but they pushed through, and I think they feel a sense of accomplishment. Again, this is not for the children who push boundaries and make you worry. It’s probably not right for your family if you have little ones, or kids who need their time micromanaged. But if you have kiddos that can stick to a schedule, and take pride in doing a good job, and getting their work done, then I highly recommend it.

So would they do it again?

The answer is an overwhelming yes, but only if they get to hang at Disney for a couple of months. I can’t say I blame them!

 

Amazon – How much we worked and what we got paid…

How much we worked and what we got paid…

Overall we were offered several overtime opportunities. While they did offer VTO quite often, you are not required to take it. They did, however, cancel 2 MET days, and just didn’t schedule us for one of our overtime days. So that’s lost money, but I feel like our take-home pay was about what I anticipated. What I did not account for was the Boone County Tax, and I felt like the KY state tax was quite high. I kept playing with my W-4, but it didn’t seem to do much. At Married and 2 they were still withholding about 19% total for federal, state, and county. As of 2018 Amazon can only require Camperforce associates to work a maximum of 50 Hours/Week and OT Hours can only be on your scheduled OT day. Camperforce associates do not qualify for holiday pay. And while Amazon cannot force you to work more than 50 hours if the OT is available you can work a maximum of 59 hours per week. Plus during our 10 weeks we accrued 5 hours of Paid Time Off, we only found this out 2 days prior to our departure, so on our last day we did a half day and used our 5 hours of PTO paid at regular time. This will not impact your bonus, take or lose it!

Week 1: 10/15-10/18 24 Regular Hours Worked Gross Pay $276

Week 2 10/23-10/27 40 Regular Hours and 10 OT Hours Worked Gross Pay $677 (This was before the big $15 min)

Week 3 10/31-11/3 40 Regular Hours Worked Gross Pay $582

Week 4 11/6-11/10 40 Regular Hours and 10 OT Hours Worked Gross Pay $825

Week 5 11/13-11/17 40 Regular Hours and 10 OT Hours Worked Gross Pay $825

Week 6 11/21-11/24 30 Regular Hours and 5 Holiday OT Worked Gross Pay $563

Week 7 11/26-12/1 40 Regular Hours and 10 OT Hours Worked Gross Pay $825

Week 8 12/4-12/8 40 Regular Hours and 10 OT Hours Worked Gross Pay $825

Week 9 12/12-12/15 40 Regular Hours and 5 OT Hours Worked Gross Pay $696

Week 10 12/17-12/22 40 Regular Hours and 10 OT Hours Worked and 5 Hours of PTO Gross Pay $900

Season End Bonus Gross $480

Gift Cards Won $185 (It was pretty exciting to go to the local grocery and pay for most of Christmas Dinner, Thanks Amazon!)

What did we take home? $6000 Each! Not bad for 10 weeks of work

Week X Update Oh Wait, Shit I did it again, got too tired and just bailed on the blog HA! Seasons Over Peeps…

Week X Update Oh Wait, Shit I did it again, got too tired and just bailed on the blog HA! Seasons Over Peeps…

Well, guys, we did it!!!!!! We officially had our last day at Amazon. What an incredible journey. And even as I write this, I still can’t quite believe it’s over. It has seriously been quite the rollercoaster of events. Let’s backtrack a bit so I can fill you in on all the details.

For the most part, the days wore on about the same. Just picking items and filling totes. And then it was the big event we were all waiting for, Peak was finally here. It all starts a few days before Thanksgiving and runs through December 23. Amazon’s busiest time of year. So as the week of Thanksgiving arrived schedules were changing, and there was a lot of energy in the air. The word on the street was that Black Friday was big and Cyber Monday was even bigger. So it was all hands on deck. Now here is where I feel this staffing need is extremely site-specific. At CVG1 we primarily do apparel, and generally speaking Black Friday, and Cyber Monday deals are all about the toys and electronics. Sure enough, we come in for Cyber Monday, and we learn that we will be training in ICQA. What does this mean? Well, it means that there wasn’t nearly enough work for all of the employees that they had staffed for, so they needed to push bodies into other departments. Now, you certainly won’t hear me complain. We got paid some serious overtime to train in ICQA, and it’s another department we are now “certified” in. It was just kind of comical. As is the way a lot of the time at Amazon. This is where our personal gripes start to build, with their lack of transparency. Why build this whole thing up, even though all of your long-time employees have seen “true peaks” and know what numbers should be getting called for. It was the same story over and over, every year “peak” at this facility gets a lot less busy, yet they keep staffing for maximum production and then call a shit ton of “VTO” voluntary time off.

I think this is where the full-time employees start to get a little upset. They are being called in for 55 and 60 hour weeks, and then there’s very little work to be done, so you are now offered the VTO. And typically the earliest it gets called is when you are driving into work. Well, I don’t know about you, but at this point, I’m probably going to stick it out. Maybe the upper management really can’t make the call any sooner, but I still don’t understand why they don’t stick to their regular system of overtime, which is called VET, voluntary extra time. This is where they have a signup for all the people who actually want to come in and work, and as far as I understand it, if they get enough volunteers, they don’t have to call mandatory, if they don’t, they do. So to me, it seems like they will pull in the employees who really want to be there, and then maybe on the rare occasion that you do need more bodies you have the ability to call MET, mandatory overtime. But who’s to say what it looks like from the upper management view. Perhaps they can’t make that call that far in advance, maybe they’ve tried this system and it just doesn’t work. Like I’ve said before, you have plenty of time to think as a picker, and I’d rather focus on all of Amazon’s grief than my own, HA! Well, clearly I’ve gotten off on a tangent, as I tend to do, but I think that overall employee morale really affects your time as a Camperforce associate, so I just want to give an accurate portrayal of what it’s like to do this.

So let’s continue…I will say that the number of items needing to be pulled “the bucket” did increase as we got closer to Christmas, not a crazy amount though. And there was still plenty of VTO being offered, almost daily. We even had a couple of mandatory overtime days canceled. Which really sucks as Camperforce, because you’re kind of there just to make money. And again, it would always get called in the afternoon the day before your shift, so you didn’t have time to even think about making a long weekend of it. Anyways, not the end of the world, but from a low-level employees perspective, it seems like they could be more considerate of your time.

So let’s talk about the facility and management a bit. Around that week of Thanksgiving, there was a little miscommunication about holiday pay for Camperforce. The details aren’t necessary but do know that as of 2018 Cmaperforce does not receive holiday pay. So, it was just kind of par for course, yet another Amazon mixup. It baffles me, that a company that is so “customer-centric” so “customer-obsessed” that what seem like simple personnel tasks are greatly screwed up. So when HR approached us about clarifying the holiday pay, I kind of let it all out. I explained that the miscommunications, lack of leadership, and a poorly maintained facility were going to be the demise of the Camperforce program at this particular site. I simply said that we are a small community and I would be shocked if they could get Camperforce to come back to this facility.

And then the craziest thing happened. We were called to an impromptu “roundtable” with the site leader amongst others.

It definitely felt like being called into the principal’s office, and no one gave us any indication of why we were there. In a nutshell, the site leader explained that they like to do these roundtables to get a feel for what the employees have on their minds, what Amazon is doing well and what they can do better. Now here’s where I may be a little narcissistic, but I thought it was quite funny that within 24 hours of me making a comment about Camperforce not returning to this site, here we were sitting with the site leader, again it’s that lack of transparency, but hey we got our sounding board and you know I absolutely got everything out there, of course in a most tactful way. Plus I felt like we had an opportunity to take some of the concerns that we had heard from full-time employees and bring them directly to the rockstar of CVG1, you can’t let an opportunity like that get away. If you can just impart a little change, it’s a step in the right direction.

And then things got even crazier…I feel like they actually listened. At that moment my whole experience with Amazon changed. And honestly, we even saw a real change in the mods as the weeks went on. They said all the right things, did all the right things and followed up. The site leader was seen walking the mods, managers engaged with us on a more frequent, personal basis. We even got the greatest tour of the facility, with one of my favorite managers. I don’t know, I guess I drank the Koolaid, but I sure enjoyed the rest of my time there! HA! Plus, Hubby and I got trained in gift wrap, which is like the coolest thing in the whole entire Amazon world. I can’t thank my manager enough for bringing us into the mix. Being on the floor is such a different experience than being up in the mods. You have such a different outlook on the whole Amazon flow. You feel important. You feel valued. You certainly don’t have all that time to think. It’s pretty awesome.

And here’s where I need to chime in on our personal issues. Imagine having 10 hours a day to just think. Dwell. Contemplate. Evaluate. Ugh! The job is so mundane that you really are just left alone with your thoughts. And for someone like me, that’s a dangerous little game. So I have to be honest and say that we brought a fuck ton of personal baggage to the job on a daily basis…

– Our new trailer was already having problems, granted I knew this would happen but not like a few weeks in. The water heater died, the furnace went out, the fireplace stopped working, one of the interior walls literally popped off… I mean just one thing after another

– Our “new to us truck” was having serious problems on like day 3, we got it fixed, and still the same issues

– My stupid root canal that I had done days before coming down here was giving me serious troubles, I was in so much pain at work that I was miserable, plus every time I thought about it I was infuriated that I spent so much money to be in so much pain

– The house that we waited all summer to rent, losing much needed income, was now being vacated, well not so much vacated immediately, moreover they just stopped paying rent, utilities, and took their time vacating, and now we’re thinking who’s going to rent a house in Alaska in the middle of December? Ugh!

And maybe you’re thinking, yup, that’s life! Well you’re right, but having 10 hours a day with nothing else to occupy your mind was just too overwhelming for me. I should never be left alone with my thoughts on a good day, HA! Let alone when all the things are going wonky. The last couple of months have felt so defeating. Like everything we have been working for is just giving us the biggest fucking middle finger HA! It’s one thing to bust your ass and know that it’s all a means to an end. Like yes, we do this and it’s all going to be great! But make plans, and well… You get it!

So where did it all shake out?

Well, I would absolutely come back to this facility. And you’re thinking, man this lady is crazy she is all over the place. But, on one condition, only if the same leadership is there. I really feel like after that meeting they took the time to get to know us, and I feel like that would carry some weight if we came back. That’s not to say that we wouldn’t be stuck picking for 10 hours a days most days, but I also feel like if we didn’t have so much personal shit going on, that the whole expereience early on would have been a lot better.

There’s also a few other perks to this facility:

– Apparel: They only deal with apparel. It’s easy, doesn’t smell, and it isn’t heavy. Imagine working in a facility that did appliances, perfumes, big screen TV’s etc…

– Campground: We were set to go to Murfreesboro before this facility so I scoped out those campgrounds. In my opinion, this campground is far better. It’s safe, clean, and an easy drive.

Our personal life:

– Truck: Well the truck is what it is. We had the truck serviced again, still the same probs. And for the most part,t it runs great. We have a few ideas if it keeps acting up. But for now, we are going to see how it does on the drive from here to TN. That’s our next stop.

– Trailer: Hubby managed to get the elctric hot water up and running, the furnace fixed, and the wall put back together. The other items are going to wait until FL where we will drop the rig off for warranty work. That was absolutely anticipated. So all is well there.

– House: We have listed the dumb house. I hate that stupid thing with a passion. It all started when we went to build the loft and then got sucked in becuase of the shitty septic system. Ugh! Anyways, the one renter is out, our other renter is more amazing than anyone out there, and I feel so bad for him that we have to sell. But so goes… Hopefully, we will get this thing sold and out of our hair! Our Alaska House!

Other than some specifics that I will address in other areas I have to say that I am so glad we had this experience. On our last day, it felt great to see through our commitment. Hubby and I both ended in gift wrap, and it’s a pretty cool feeling knowing that you’re the last one to prep the gifts before they go under the tree. I sure won’t miss punching a clock every day. And my favorite sayings… “You get paid the same no matter what” and “Anyone can do anything for a couple of months” are truly put to the test as an Amazon associate. Especially when other employees are literally sleeping in the aisles, leadership just walks over trash, and accountability is practically non-existent. But I digress. Maybe Amazon needs to take a more site-specific approach. Maybe not every market is driven by the “team buidling activities”. Maybe in the more metro areas this type of leadership works, but here in the midwest, I’m not so sure. Like at CVG1 I think they should adopt something like Nebraska’s new tourism campaign…

Maybe something like…

I mean you don’ have to make it something that it’s not right?!?! It is just a job, no one is getting up every day and filling up totes out of the kindness of their hearts, it’s all about the paper dollars!

Amazon Week 3 Update

Week 3 Update…

Well, we’ve completed three weeks at Amazon, and wow, are we tired! I know a lot of people speak poorly about the Amazon Camperforce Program due in part to the extreme physical demand it puts on your body, and I can honestly say that I was not prepared for how I would feel physically. That’s not to say that Amazon didn’t warn us. In fact, I still have yet to walk the 10+ miles per day that is listed under the job description. We average about 7 miles per day. I just don’t think you can wrap your head around how your body will feel, but again no fault of Amazon. Then you have to consider your actual duties. I can only speak to picking, but I have to say that it is the worst job I have ever had. It is boring. Mundane. And gives you way too much time to think. Pair that with your severely exhausted and sore body, and well, it’s easy to say that Amazon is a horrible employer who exploits its workers as if we’ve gone back to the dark ages.

So, if it’s so awful why are we doing it?

$$$MONEY$$$ It’s that simple!

Especially with the new wage increase, it is going to be tough to beat Bezos’ Camperforce deal.

Consider this…

$15/Hour

A Free place to live

Free Utilities

Over time at $22.50/Hour

A season End Bonus of $1.00-$1.50/Hour Worked

And the ability to work as little as a few weeks or several months and be welcomed back year after year…

Anyone can do anything for a couple of months. And if this allows us to pursue our passions, then without a doubt it is worth it. And so doable. I can’t imagine doing this full time though, ever! Of course, those of you who know me, know that I can’t really commit to anything for a long time, HA!

At this point, without finishing out the season, and reviewing opportunities for next year, I have to say that this is the best way to earn good cash, in a shortish amount of time as an RV’er. With that said, I will absolutely be looking for other opportunitites next year, as well as evaluating our season net, mesured in both time/effort and actual paper dollars.

So what about the fulltime/long term employees and the wage increase?

It’s been a little disconcerting talking to some of the fulltime employees. It’s hard to get the facts, but the consensus is that the employees feel betrayed, and they are actually making less money now. It’s well known that the stock options and performance-based incentives have been withdrawn. With that said, I am not sure to what extent or how far up the ladder these items have been affected. Morale seems mediocre at best. On the floor, it feels like a very us against them mentality. Anytime I ask someone how they feel about the wage change; the answer is always the same bleak outlook. And everytime we get a message on our scanners to “move quickly because we have to ship out the items” I think to myself how irritated the employees must be knowing that the only bonus they receive for working a little harder is the fact that they’ll get to keep their job.

HOWEVER! It sure worked out for us!!!! And every new employee to come….

I’d like to think that it truly is for the benefit of the masses. Amazon sure has done a lot for the consumer. And I can’t help but think how many thousands of jobs have been created, especially in these smaller towns.

My Amazon musings…because there’s not much else to do while picking for 10 hours a day other than think!

PERHAPS…MAYBE…POSSIBLY…AMAZON IS…

  • WEEDING OUT THE OLD EMPLOYEES
  • PLANNING FOR A MORE SEASONAL WORKFORCE
  • ENCOURAGING EMPLOYEES TO PURSUE OTHER CAREER PATHS
  • GEARING UP FOR THE FUTURE BY CREATING LIVE/WORK/PLAY SITES
  • EDGING OUT THE COMPETITION BY BUMPING MINIMUM WAGE ACROSS THE BOARD
  • SCREWING OVER LONGTERM EMPLOYEES JUST BECAUSE THEY CAN
  • GROWING A TOP DOWN BOTTOM UP LIVING WAGE ENVIRONMENT
  • TAKING OVER THE WORLD ONE FULFILLMENT CENTER AT A TIME

So, in my opinion, it’s still too early to tell for the fulltime employee. But as for the Camperforce program, I strongly encourage people to take a step back and realize all of the benefits before passing judgment. For our family, it was a way out….of Alaska that is 🙂 And I think that as the wave of “nomads/wanderlust/full-timers/whatever you want to call yourself” continues to grow programs like this are going to be vital.

The New Rig is Coming Along…

It’s been almost 2 weeks since we picked up the rig and we’ve just about got everything into place. I am amazed at how much storage this thing has! I mean I couldn’t fill the thing up even if I wanted to.

Living Room Book Case

Everywhere you look there’s another cupboard.

Master Bath Linen Closet

It’s pretty awesome! And having both a dinette and a couch in the living room is so nice.

Dinette and Couch in Living Room

 

Our master bedroom is a bit small, but now that the living room is so comfortable we all pretty much just hang out there.

Master Bedroom

Surprising our master bath feels smaller, but that corner shower makes up for it completely.

Master Bathroom with Corner Shower

The L-Shaped kitchen is a huge plus, having a corner to shove all the devices is incredible.

Kitchen and that Amazing Pantry

I still have yet to really look at our outdoor kitchen, again more storage, but hubby’s pretty happy to have a beer fridge HA! The kids love their room, they are so glad the beds are bigger than they thought they would be. And really the floor space is much wider than I thought it would be.

Kids Room

 

Liv’s bathroom is snug, but she has plenty of room for all her girly products, so that’s another plus.

Kids Half Bath

As you can tell we all love the new rig, and of course that fireplace is like, amazing! Pair that with the blue lights, and I’m totally in my happy place!

Our 2018 Amazon Camperforce Season So Far…

Our 2018 Amazon Camperforce Timeline

January 13 – Application submitted (Basic questions, a brief personality survey, and the opportunity to upload your resume)

January 18 – Application Approved

February 18 – Application Approved by preferred facility and preliminary offer paperwork received. Now able to select preferred shift, department, start date, etc…

March 27 – List of Campgrounds released, now able to make reservations based on your preferred start date

August 20 – Drug Test and Background Test Ordered

August 31 – Drug Test and Background Check Approved

September 27 – Received Official Start Date of 10/15

October 13 – Arrived at “Amazon Campground” (Amazon will allow you to pull in 2 nights prior to your start date)

October 15 – 4 Hour New Hire Orientation (Shift and Department Revealed)

October 16 – 10 Hour Shift

October 17 – 5 Hour Shift

October 18 – 5 Hour Shift (After this condensed work week you will begin your regular shift)

What our first week was like at CVG1 as Pickers…

We arrived at the Amazon Hiring Center promptly at 8am on Monday. I believe the orientations are held on Mondays so I would urge you to choose a start date that aligns with that schedule. We were the first group to arrive at the hiring center. We received our 2018 Camperforce shirt, lanyards, and a few extra goodies. We completed our I-9 on the laptops provided and then headed to the orientation area. There we handed over our ID’s, watched a couple of hours of new hire videos, and received our shift and department assignments.

Tuesday we arrived at the fulfillment center and received our badges. Once we were through the turnstiles, we got a very brief tour of the employee facilities, such as bathrooms, the breakroom, HR, time clocks, etc… In the “classroom” we reviewed break times, for outbound it’s 9:15am and 2:45pm, with lunch at 11:35am. And tons and tons of safety training, safety is very important to them. We did lots of on the floor training, just learning how to navigate the fulfillment center, and how to do your job as a picker. By lunchtime, we were pulling real orders.

After lunch it was Hubby’s turn, I went off and did my thing. Primarily as a picker, it’s your job to pull items from the bins and fill your totes. And BTW it’s very important to remember the difference between a tote and a bin, HA! It’s kind of funny how much this is drilled into your head. Anyways, once you are ready to work, you activate your scanner, and it tells you exactly where to go in the fulfillment center. I’m still learning my way around, but our first week was spent on the 3rd floor in North MOD, I know that tells you a lot, HA! So you grab a cart full of totes and head to the area on your scanner. The scanner will NOT let you mess up. Scan the bin, scan the item, place tote on the conveyor, rinse and repeat. In a nutshell that’s what you do for 10 hours a day, 5 days a week. I just got a pedometer, so I am so curious to see how much we really walk in a day, but I’m guessing at least 5 miles a day. Pretty impressive that Bezos is paying us $15 an hour to get a little healthier HA!

By the end of the day Tuesday, we were beat. Although all of our Disney training proved helpful, we were pretty used to tired feet. Same deal for Wednesday and Thursday, but only 5-hour shifts. And by then, we were both pretty happy to have a long weekend.

All in all, it’s super easy work. A little mundane, and I have to admit at times I contemplated whether this was better than the tax office HA! But not having to work with the general public is always excellent. You’re pretty much on your own. Except when I might steal a passing kiss from hubby in an aisle 🙂

We start our regular shift this week. A full 50 hours. The money is great! And anytime I feel a bit tired I think about all the benefits my body is getting, along with the fact that anyone can do anything for 10 weeks! I’ll keep you posted.

All settled in…

What a week! So Hubby and I are official “Amazonians”! Work Hard. Have Fun. Make History! And walk a shit ton! HA! Everyone at the facility is very friendly and helpful. For the most part it’s easy work, just physically demanding. We are both really happy to be sitting and off until Wednesday. It’s pretty cool being in the facility, getting a first hand perspective of how that little package makes it to your doorstep within 2 days. You can keep up with Camperforce specific updates here: Amazon Camperforce Page. The kiddos are adjusting well, so happy we got the day shift. It makes for a smooth transition. Olivia is just finishing up her first quarter as a freshman, and I am so pleased to report that she is a straight A student in her online classes. I feel so much better now, knowing that we didn’t totally screw her up all these years! HA! If there was one subject I was ever nervous about it was writing, creative and otherwise… Well, she did a fantastic job! She got a 98% on her quarter-final which was a narrative and a 95% on her 60 minute timed writing test, basically another narrative prompt, just timed. WOW! I am one impressed mom!!!! In other news the truck is back in Michigan. Hubby met the mechanic halfway and swapped trucks. Still no word on what the problem is, but at least we can get to work on time, so that’s really all that matters right now. Other than that things are going great. The campground is amazing, phone service could be a little better, but otherwise, it’s beautiful, clean, safe. And the Halloween festivities are widespread. Today will be pumpkin carving, we’ll decorate our site a bit, a hayride to the on-site haunted house, and some trick or treating. So fun!

Our Detroit Tour

Most of you know that I’ve been trying to get Hubby to take us to Detroit for a long time now. I guess dragging him to San Pedro Sula, “the murder capital of the world”, it finally convinced him that Detroit should be just fine. So I scoured the internet in search of a “one day in Detroit” driving tour, and sure enough, I found something awesome! I plugged the destinations from One Day In Detroit into Google Maps and off we went. It was pretty easy to follow, and if you really only have a short amount of time it will capture all the highlights.

The Joe Louis Fist and Corktown

I narrated while Hubby drove and we tried to learn a little history about each little spot on the tour.

Joe Louis was an American professional boxer who competed from 1934 to 1951, and the monument represents the power of his punch both inside and outside the ring. Because of Louis’ efforts to fight Jim Crow laws.

Corktown is a historic district. The Great Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s resulted in extensive Irish migration to the United States and Canada. By the middle of the 19th century, they were the largest ethnic group settling in Detroit. Many of these newcomers settled on the west side of the city; they were primarily from County Cork, and thus the neighborhood came to be known as Corktown.

Michigan Central Station

Michigan Central Station replaced the original depot and was formally dedicated on January 4, 1914. The station remained open until January 6, 1988. Comprising a train depot and 13-story and 2 mezzanine level office tower with a roof height of 230 feet, it was the tallest rail station in the world at the time of its construction.

 

Packard Plant

Packard Automotive Plant is a former automobile-manufacturing factory. The 3,500,000-square-foo plant is located on 40 acres of land on the city’s east side. It included the first use of reinforced concrete in the United States for industrial construction in the automobile industry. The Packard plant opened in 1903 and was considered the most modern automobile manufacturing facility in the world, with skilled craftsmen involved in over eighty trades. The factory complex closed in 1958, though other businesses operated on the premises or used it for storage until the late 1990s. In the 1990s, the buildings were used to host infamous “underground” raves and techno parties. Now the Packard Plant has a new future awaiting. Honestly, it seems like much of Detroit is getting a “Millennial Makeover”.

The Heidelberg Project