Friday, October 25, 2013

Rest Up and Pack Up

Wagon Circle RV Park, Heber Springs, AR (35.449483, -91.911632)

Today was Bonus Day for the Rendezvous. This was the day that all the seminar speakers made their money through private one-on-one pre-scheduled sessions with Rendezvous attendees. This evening we heard from several that their experience was positive.

We, however, did not sign up for any of the sessions. For us today was rest up and pack up to hit the road early tomorrow morning. Our trip to Titusville, FL is over 900 miles.

As I was working outside, I noticed my neighbor doing the same. We have not met all week because we were not outside at the same time on any day. Today I saw him and he looked familiar. It was Kevin Placzek one of the Round Table hosts from yesterday. He was packing up to head to Texas. We talked for a bit then both got back to work. He left late in the afternoon. I have never done that. I always leave in the morning. I'm just a creature of habit.

Last event for the day was a shower -- I don't know how I stand all this excitement.

ePostcard_Workamper Rendezvous

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Workamper News Rendezvous -- Day 3

Wagon Circle RV Park, Heber Springs, AR (35.449483, -91.911632)

Today was the last day of the seminar. Three days is about right. My tank is just about full and I think most others feel the same. The first block was a Steve Anderson recap intended to make sure we believed we got our money's worth. Both Michelle and I feel we did.

There were no unattended seminars we believed we should try to catch on this last morning. So Michelle went to The Cure for the Website Blues presented by Luke and Jody Duquette which I attended on Tuesday. I attended What Every RV Driver Needs to Know given by Bob Hill which Michelle attended on Tuesday.

Today for lunch we got back to reality with an uneventful lunch at McDonalds. Nothing more need be said about that.

This afternoon was our turn to moderate a Round Table session. We related our workamping experiences to three audiences. We talked about our time at the Panhandle Pioneer Settlement, the Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, Joshua Tree National Park, and included a little bit about decorating the Rose Parade Float. Everyone seemed interested and we got plenty of questions. When I mentioned that our Black Hills experience was the subject of an article in the July issue of Workamper News Magazine, I got a lot of sounds of approving recognition from the audience ... "oh, you're that guy".

Our subscription to Workamper News expired recently. I delayed renewal hoping to get some super deal here at the Rendezvous. During this week, the two best deals for us boiled down to 1) Workamper Gold for Life membership subscription, and 2) Terry Cooper's Take Home Technician RV Maintenance Program After considerable discussion, we decided to sign up for Workamper Gold for Life ("such a good deal I got for you") now and buy the Maintenance Books later. I think Michelle attending the website seminar convinced her that the package was worth buying. The "Gold" package gives us unlimited access to every product. The "For life" offer (which expires at the end of this rendezvous) gives us that access for no additional fee for life. Since they are intending to raise prices in January, now is the time (how about that).

I need to say a few words about the Book Store WKN set up here at the Community Center for the duration of the Rendezvous. They had lots of books, CDs, and DVDs related to workamping and the RV lifestyle. It must have been good because it was always crowded and by the end almost everything was sold.

After our buying business was complete, we sat around and chatted with Brad & Joy Riza for about an hour. He is a retired Air Force Chaplin. We met them on Tuesday. Somehow they learned we are also retired military and they were interested in learning about our adventures from a retired military perspective. So we are now 'new best friends'.

This evening was the end of course social. WKN sponsored a "BBQ and Entertainment Evening by the Lake" at the Dam Site Campground Group Pavilion.

We got to meet the few remaining folks we had not crossed paths with during the week and chat more with those we had ...

... and the food was good.

Yesterday I commented about Terry Cooper's cool truck. In the interest of fairness, I should say that Steve has a cool one too. Neither is one I would use to take a lovely lady to dinner, but both have tax benefits I'm sure.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Workamper News Rendezvous -- Day 2

Wagon Circle RV Park, Heber Springs, AR (35.449483, -91.911632)

Day 2 of the Workamper Rendezvous was a beautiful weather day although chilly at the start and end. We remote started the truck to warm it up before we headed for town. Everyone was in place early and appeared ready to go.

For the first block Michelle and I attended together a Webinar on Campground Manager Software Training. Peter Kearns and one of his staff gave a demonstration of Campground Manager proprietary software and services offered in conjunction with it. They came to us via webcam from their office. This session was a sales pitch for their Campground ManagersSoftware Certification Training. Both of us felt the software would be relatively easy to learn and I filed this one away for future reference.

For my second session I took in Your RV Checkup. This seminar focused on developing knowledge, skills, and confidence to do your own RV repair. Our instructor was Terry Cooper. The current cost of shop labor at over $100 per hour makes me think that doing repairs myself is a good investment. ... and besides all that Terry has a cool truck.

Michelle sat in on An Apple A Day Keeps the IRS Away. This presentation by George Montgomery is designed to help us understand the tax aspects of the Workamping and RV lifestyles.

For lunch today we walked over to the nearby Good Times Family Restaurant. I had half a Muffuletta. Michelle had a New Orleans Oyster Po' Boy. We shared our table with two other rendezvous attendees. I'm embarassed to say I do not remember their names.

Our first afternoon block was held at the Dam Site Campground where several attendees had their rigs open to show. Of course they were the big exotic ones with six digit price tags. However we did get to see the big cousin to our unit–the Montana High Country. There was a lot to oohh and aahh but we came away pretty happy with our Cougar High Country.

Back in the classroom Michelle attended R&D Your Workamping Future hosted by Steve Anderson. He discussed why some workampers have no problem designing their future and getting the great jobs. Michelle came away with a lot of notes, which says it was a good sessions.

At the same time I enjoyed two webinars under the title Consider SD or TX for Your Domicile State. The first was offered by “Your Best Address” mail and registration handling service in Sioux Falls, SD. The second was a presentation by Shawn Loring an attorney for Escapees RV Club discussing the legal aspects of “Domicile”. I found this one particularly interesting. As we move toward our personal goal of full–time RVing and Workamping, the question of Domicile has been lingering in my mind.

We capped off the day with Round Table Discussions. Here volunteer workampers give brief descriptions of their RVing Workamping experiences and open the floor to questions. There will be a total of eight sessions. Four today (Wed) and four tomorrow (Thu). Each session is 30 minutes and attendees rotate among the four. Michelle and I will participate tomorrow afternoon. Today we got to listen.

Today was a good day.

We joined Linda Mclain and Christi ?? for dinner at Mack's Fish House. I had a three piece fried catfish dinner with brown beans, french fries, cole slaw, and hushpuppies. Michelle had Mahi-Mahi with baked potato, brown beans, pickled onions, and hush puppies.

It was pretty tired out tonight but not as bad as last night so I braved the chilly evening and took a much needed shower. Sleeping clean always feels better.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Workamper News Rendezvous -- Day 1

Wagon Circle RV Park, Heber Springs, AR (35.449483, -91.911632)

Bright and early this morning we (and most others in the campground) headed to the Heber Springs Community Center for the first day of our learning experience. The Heber Springs Community Center is an excellent venue for this event. Spacious conference rooms, ample parking, and nearby restaurants made attendance quite comfortable.

After registration and a continental breakfast, Steve Anderson started with a welcome, get acquainted kickoff session designed to get us hyped up for the three days ahead. This kind of activity really doesn't turn me on but I understand the need, so I endure.

For the first block, Michelle attended the session What Every Driver Needs to Know presented by Bob Hill. Devoted to safety tips, guidelines, and instructions on how to drive your RV, the seminar made everyone a better RV driver. Michelle commented that she picked up several important tips. That's good because she does most of the driving.

Meanwhile, I went to the session Proven Prescription for Finding a Workamper Job given by Jaimie Hall Bruzenak. This session focused on steps for finding a workamping job that is a match for you. Several times I found myself thinking "I never thought about that".

Workamper News provided a catered lunch today—giving us a chance to mingle and get acquainted with other attendees. That was a nice touch.

Back to the classroom. For the first afternoon block, Michelle and I attended Taking Care of Yourself: The Proactive Camper given by Jaimie Hall Bruzenak. Focusing on proactive strategies for finding the right workamper job, Jaimie gave a host of ways to root out workamping opportunities. Many good ideas that raised my eyebrows.

In the second block, Michelle attended My RV Kitchen provided by Evada Cooper. This session surprised many who dismissed it as a cooking seminar. Not so. It was devoted to the anatomy of the RV kitchen–how RV kitchen appliances work and ways to use storage space more efficiently. I wish I had attended that one.

My second block was The Cure for the Website Blues presented by Luke and Jody Duquette. Here I got a guided tour of the Workamper News Website. This turned out to be a very worthwhile session. I have used the website previously but just scratched the surface of its capability. I learned a lot more today.

By this time it was getting late and we had had enough. So we headed out for dinner at The Smokehouse Restaurant. There we shared a table with Linda Mclain and Leon Booth. I had a Pulled Pork Dinner and Michelle had half a rack of Ribs. We traded workamping stories as we ate and enjoyed getting to know these two folks.

Our tummies were full and the fatigue of a long day had set in so we headed back to the campground and straight to bed, looking forward to another interesting day tomorrow.

Monday, October 21, 2013

A Day In Heber Springs, AR

Wagon Circle RV Park, Heber Springs, AR (35.449483, -91.911632)

We had a beautiful day today but about 1900 this evening the rain started.

Our first order of business was to get clean. Both of us took showers using the campground shower -- very nice. One day I'm going to write an article about campground bathrooms/showers. The quality ranges from spectacularly good to spectacularly bad. This is such a no-brainer that I am constantly perplexed about what I see. That's for another day.

Before heading out, I took a little time finishing off loose ends from yesterday. Although we did not participate, Workamper News held a Pre-rendezvous day here at the campground in the meeting room. The subject was Cooper's RV Discovery Day for Dreamers and it was an all day session.

We headed into the town of Heber Springs to explore. Wagon Circle RV Park is considered in the boondocks southwest of town. Driving to Heber Springs gave us a new perspective on the word "boondocks". Along our five mile drive, we passed several gated communities with very expensive houses. No Klampetts here. If a summer home in the Arkansas hills is on your list, you better check out this area.

With no firm plan in mind, we decided to start at the Workamper News office, which was at the far end of town from our entry point. So we got a view of the town as we proceeded. At the office, we picked up some more information about the rendezvous and the town of Heber Springs. From there we located the Community Center which is the site for the rendezvous and noted that our daily drive will be ten miles each way.

Using some really bad verbal directions, we tried to find the Chamber of Commerce to get a better map of the area. Finally found it -- closed. We picked up stuff from an outdoor rack and headed to a nearby grocery store for bread.

Heading back along the main drag (2nd Street), we stopped at a tire store to inquire about the low tire pressure we experienced the previous day. Long story short. Opinion was that a drop in pressure from 35 to 28 was too much and that the original filling was probably not pure nitrogen. They refilled all 4 tires with nitrogen up to 40psi for $13. If that price doesn't convince you, then this sign should. You know you're in redneck country when a car dealer offers a free shotgun with every new truck purchase

Time for lunch. We chose a Chinese Buffet and ate too much. It was OK but won't make the list of memorable dining experiences, plus Michelle developed an MSG headache shortly thereafter.

After lunch we drove out of town on the north end to check out the COE campgrounds where I intended to stay if the government had not been shut down while I was making the decision to make reservations.

Heber Springs exists because of Greers Ferry -- lake, dam, campgrounds, and the Little Red River.

Greers Ferry Lake is a favorite water playground nestled in the foothills of the Ozarks in north central Arkansas. This 40,000-acre masterpiece pleases water enthusiasts of all types. The lake is surrounded by an abundance of rock outcropping, trees, and wildlife making it a leading tourist destination.

The lake, formed by Greers Ferry Dam, was completed in July 1964 at a cost of approximately $46.5 million. The lake and dam were dedicated in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy, his last public appearance before the fateful trip to Dallas.

Greers Ferry Lake is noted for its pristine shoreline and deep crystal clear waters that provide a wonderful opportunity for enjoying nature at its finest. Excellent camping and hiking facilities are available. The lake has deep clean water for boating, water skiing, and scuba diving. There are vast stretches of water for sailing and other water sports.

The Corps of Engineers operate 10 campsite areas with boat launches, restroom facilities and swimming beaches. There are eight marinas located on Greers Ferry lake that provide rentals of ski boats, pontoon boats, house boats, fishing rigs, and personal watercraft. The marinas provide boat service and sell recreational equipment and other supplies needed for a great lake experience.

The Little Red River Tailwaters downstream of the dam provide excellent fishing.

Learn more here and here

Two of the ten campsite areas -- Dam Site and JFK -- are close to town and very nice. When we checked them, they were almost empty. Either would have been a good bet -- closer and cheaper.

Rain this evening. Feels good listening to the rain when you know you have all the resources you need to stay warm and dry through the night.

Tomorrow we learn.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Camping in Arkansas for the First Time

Wagon Circle RV Park, Heber Springs, AR (35.449483, -91.911632)

The day started clear and cold with temperatures near freezing. The Walmart parking lot, so busy last evening, was almost empty. This was no leisure morning. We took care of bodily functions in Walmart, closed up the rig, got underway at 0747 CDT, and went directly to a gas station which fortunately was only 0.2 miles from our spot.

No water dripping this morning. However, the truck tire pressure (normally 35 psi) was very low (high twenties with LOW warning light) -- because of the cold? Headed out watching the tire pressure display. Pressure gradually climbed to mid-thirties but LOW signal did not go away.

I usually seek out government campgrounds primarily because I have the Federal Senior Pass which lets me camp at federal facilities for half price. Corps of Engineers (COE or ACE) by definition means lake, dam, and river. Heber Springs exists because of a Corps of Engineers dam -- Greers Ferry Lake, Greers Ferry Dam, and the Little Red River. My experience at COE campgrounds has been uniformly excellent, so I use them whenever possible and recommend them at every opportunity. This time, however, I was trying to make plans during the government shutdown. Expecting a large influx of campers for a special event, it seemed prudent to secure a camping spot at a local commercial campground. So I reserved and paid for a space at Wagon Circle RV Park. By today the government shutdown was over and the two COE campgrounds were open. Wagon Circle RV Park probably did very well because of the shutdown. Win some, lose some.

Since we picked up an extra 44 miles yesterday, there was no sense having a very short day with an unnecessary stop, so we decided to press on and finish the trip today. I called ahead to find out if the campground could take us a day early -- no problem. We did the 326 miles in 8:13 and arrived at the Wagon Circle campground at 1600 CDT.

The campground is a giant field with utility and sewer connections. So we had no problems getting into a pull through site.

Our adventure for today was leveling the Cougar with our new level. I bought this level primarily because I can see it in the rear view mirror from the driver's seat and the graduations are big enough to mean something. This level is a steel ball contained in fluid in a smiley face tube. Bubble levels are an air bubble contained in a frowney face tube. Bubble levels respond instantly. This level responds slowly so you have to wait while adjustments take effect. I cross checked the new level with the bubble level and with a carpenter's level several times. OK, I'm convinced both levels are giving me good information.

Still concerned about a water leak, I decided to search for the leak by filling our fresh water tank and using it instead of hooking up to city water. My hope was a leak would reveal itself by causing the water pump to run frequently. The pump stayed silent so the leak is not on high pressure side of the pump.

We have cable TV here, so I hooked up the TV and we relaxed for the evening. We both need a shower: that can wait until morning.