Category Archives: Work Camping

Job Leads for Nomads in the U.S.A.

Standard
White Vehicle Traveling on Road

The #1 question I encounter in Facebook groups for vandwellers, rubber tramps, and vagabonds is some variation of What do folks do for money while living a nomadic life? In the past, I’ve tried to answer this question by sharing information about getting work at campgrounds, house and pet sitting jobs, participating in clinical drug trials, and picking up temporary work.

Recently in one of the Facebook groups for vandwellers that I’m a member of, I ran across a great list posted by a woman named Jamie Fox. She called the list “Some Links for Working While on the Road,” and it consisted of links to websites nomads can use to find work. I contacted Jamie immediately and asked if I could share the list with my readers. I was delighted when she said yes.

Of course, I’m not going to give you a list of links and leave it at that. I

Person Holding And Showing 100 Dollar Bills From Leather Wallet

researched the links on the list Jamie posted and made sure each one took me to an actual website. I also found the name of the website each link represented, and looked at what kinds of jobs were listed. During my research, I found other helpful websites; I’ve also included those as well as some I’d heard of or written about in the past.

I’m not going to say this list is complete, but it is the most comprehensive list of job leads for nomads I’ve ever seen. From camp host to beet harvest and everything in between, I present to you lots of ideas for making money while living on the road.

Warning: Neither Blaize Sun nor Jamie Fox are vouching for any of the companies or websites on this list. We’re only telling you what these companies and websites say about themselves. You are responsible for your own self. Do your own research before you pay any money or accept any job offer.

White Green and Black Outdoor Tent

Campground and RV Park Jobs Probably the most well-known work camping job is the camp host. The following companies do hire camp hosts, but some also hire folks to do other jobs that keep the campgrounds running smoothly.

American Land & Leisure is “a private contractor that cares for over 400 National Forest, Pacific Gas & Electric and State Park campgrounds throughout the United States,” and hires campground workers.

California Land Management hires camp hosts and other support personnel to work in campgrounds in California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Nevada.

The Rocky Mountain Recreation Company website says the company hires camp hosts, maintenance personnel, retail clerks, landscapers, day use area workers, and interpretive personnel.

Hoodoo Recreation hires camp hosts, attendants, and mangers to work in the Wenatchee and Gifford Pinchot National Forests in Washington.

Scenic Canyons Recreational Services hires people for campground jobs. Their website specifically mentions Workampers.

Recreation Resource Management “provides private operations management for public parks…[The company] operate[s] campgrounds and other recreation facilities in the US Forest Service, for state parks agencies, and for many other government parks and recreation agencies. Almost all…employees, even for…stores and marinas, are work campers.”

RV Park Store is a website with listings for campgrounds, resorts, and marinas for sale. It also has a Help Wanted for RV Parks and Campgrounds page.

Sun RV Resorts has a Work Camper program. Work campers in the Sun Resorts program “earn wages for the work…perform[ed], [and] earn rebates that are applied towards…site rent,” among other perks.

Bethpage Camp-Resort in Urbana, VA hires workampers. I was not able to find a list of their available workamper positions, but the website says potential workampers can send a resume and cover letter to bethpage_mgr@equitylifestyle.com.

The Working Couples website also offers campground job listings. (See more about Working Couples membership in the Companies You Pay…section below.)

The Camp Channel website offers a list of summer camp jobs and employment opportunities. (Note: These are jobs working with children.)

Members of The Camphosts Facebook group often list available campground jobs.

 RV Hosts & Work Campers of America is another Facebook group “for posting campground hosting reviews as well as posting of available positions.”

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has a volunteer opportunities page that directs folks to Volunteer.gov and advises folks to check with local BLM offices. Volunteer.gov calls itself “America’s Natural and Cultural Resources Volunteer Portal.” I’m not sure if any of the opportunities listed on Volunteer.gov are paying positions or if local BLM offices offer paying positions for work campers.

The Workers on Wheels website has a Campground Work page full of articles about working at campgrounds and RV parks.

Agriculture Jobs If you like working outdoors and don’t mind getting dirty,

People Harvesting

an agricultural job might be for you.

The Unbeetable Experience website is where you can apply to work the sugar beet harvest in Minnesota, North Dakota, or Montana, and possibly “earn up to $2,400 in two weeks.” You can also follow The Unbeetable Experience on Facebook. If you are considering working the sugar beet harvest, be sure to read the informative blog post “9 Expectations While Workamping the Sugar Beet Harvest.”

Michigan apparently has a beet harvest too. You can find out more on The Michigan Beet Harvest website or on their Facebook page. In answer to a question on Facebook, they say they do hire Workampers.

While WWOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) does not involve monetary compensation, it does offer “accommodations, meals, and learning” in return for working “usually about 4 to 6 hours a day” on organic farms and other places involved in “an organic lifestyle.”

The Working Couples website has a Ranch-Farm Couples job list page for folks “who enjoy working outdoors and with animals.” (See more about Working Couples membership in the Companies You Pay…section below.)

The Workers on Wheels website has a page called Agricultural Jobs for Campers and RVers: Jobs Involving Plants and Animals with many articles on the topic.

Red Wooden Shed on Farm Land

Caretaking Jobs Some  property caretaking and house sitting jobs pay a wage and offer a free place to live, while some only  offer free accommodations in exchange for keeping everything safe, secure, and in order.

The Working Couples website has a Caretaker Couples job list page, and says “some pay salary, some are hourly, some are just housing and utilities.” (See more about Working Couples membership in the Companies You Pay…section below.)

The article “How to Become a Summer Lighthouse Keeper in Michigan” will tell you how to do just that. (Beware: Some of these positions don’t pay a wage and many require application fees or a payment to stay in the lighthouse.)

The Caretaker Gazette is a resource you have to pay for. It is a “newsletter [online or print issue] containing property caretaking and house sitting jobs, advice, and information for property caretakers, house sitters, and landowners.”

Housesitters America is a web based resource that also costs money. Potential house and pet sitters pay $30 per year to browse ads seeking sitters and to make their profiles available to people looking for sitters. I (Blaize) had a membership with Housesitters America for a year and wrote about my (positive) experience with the website and the homeowners I sat for.

The Workers on Wheels website has a Property Caretaking Jobs page with many articles about house sitting, pet sitting, and providing security and care for the owners

Driving Jobs If you like driving—or at least don’t mind it—you can make

Aerial Photo of Asphalt Road

some money that way.

The Happy Vagabonds website has a page dedicated to RV Camper Delivery Jobs. The page says, ” Some of the RV transport companies require specific licensing requirements…”

CWRV Transport hires independent contractors to “deliver over 40,000 fifth wheel and travel trailer RVs, annually, using owned or leased ¾ or 1 ton pickup trucks.”

Horizon Transport “is one of North America’s largest RV transporters.” The company hires drivers who “use their pickup trucks to pull RVs and other trailers across the country, one at a time.” Horizon Transport’s Flatbed division hires drivers of flatbed trailers “to haul multiple RVs and other vehicles or trailers across North America.” The company also hires folks for Drive-Away which “is unique in that you don’t need a truck. You simply get in the RV, UPS truck, or other large vehicle and drive it to the destination.”

The Working Couples website has a Driving Couples page. When I (Blaize) looked at that page, I thought a few of the listings might appeal to work campers. (See more about Working Couples membership in the Companies You Pay…section below.)

Gray Industrial Machine during Golden Hour

Oilfield Gate Guard Jobs Gate guarding jobs often require a couple or a team of two because it is necessary for someone to be on duty 24/7.

The Happy Vagabonds website has a page with Oil Field Gate Guard job listings.

Timekeepers Security, Inc. seems to hire RVers as gate guards. You can contact the company via its Facebook page.

A 2011 post on the blog My Old RV titled “Oilfield Gate Guard Hiring and Contact Info” offers a list of companies that hire(d) “oilfield gate guards in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana.” This information is old, but it might be a starting point. Also, the author of this post listed the paperwork he had to complete to get hired as a field gate guide.

If you are considering doing this kind of work, be sure to read the article “Oilfield Gate Guarding” on the Heartland RVs website.

Tourism Jobs If you can stand working a lot of hours during the busy tourist

Person Folding White Bath Towels

season, you can bank quite a bit of money in just a few months.

The Black Hills Experience website makes the offer, “Camp for free or at a discounted rate in the heart of the Black Hills of South Dakota and surrounding area while making an honest wage at one of the many area businesses.”

The Live Camp Work website features the article “Jobs for RVers at America’s Theme Parks” which gives information about three parks that recruit nomads for summer work.

The Working Couples website has a Resort Couples page which lists jobs such as bartending, waitressing, housekeeping, grounds keeping, etc. (See more about Working Couples membership in the Companies You Pay…section below.)

The Grand Teton Lodge Company provides dorm housing for employees as well as offering sites in an employee RV Park. “The GTLC Employee RV Park has a limited number of sites available. There are water, electric (30 and 50 amp), and sewer hookups at each site. These are suitable only for hard sided, fully self-contained RV’s (no tents or pop-up campers)… All RV sites are charged a daily fee of $7.50.”

The Grand Canyon Conservancy “employs an average of 80 employees with seasonal retail positions consisting of work campers.”

Delaware North Parks and Resorts at the Grand Canyon “offers shared dorm style housing to its associates…at a minimal cost to the employees.”

Delaware North also hires work campers in Yellowstone National Park. “For those with their own RV’s, our Park RV site rental ranges from $35-78… RV’ers are responsible to pay metered electric and propane… For those living in our dorms, we do charge $29.50/week per person for your housing…You will be charged $63.50/week per person for three (3) set-menu meals a day, seven (7) days a week. All dorm residents are required to participate in the meal program.”

The Xanterra concessions management company offers jobs in several National Parks including Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Rocky Mountain, Zion, Glacier, and Death Valley. In many cases, housing for employees is provided. “Employee lodging facilities are generally dormitory-style facilities with communal baths…A limited number of trailer sites with full hook-ups are available for employees who bring their own self-contained recreational vehicle (single body, hard-sided with shower/toilet facilities). Meal and lodging costs vary by property. ”

Forever Resorts has “over 20 properties located in and around National Parks across the United States…” The company “…offers opportunities in the hospitality, food & beverage, retail, marina, and outdoor adventure industries as well as operational and administrative support positions.” Forever Resorts offers seasonal employment.

The Blair Hotels in Cody, WY hire workampers May through October for jobs such as housekeeping, front desk/reservations, maintenance, line cooks, buffet servers, and retail/gift shop clerks.

Adventureland Resort in Altoon, IA has a Workamper Program and “provides a free hook up campsite that includes electric, water, and sewer” to seasonal workers with RVs. Workampers primarily work in the amusement park and are paid for all hours worked.

Dollywood hires work campers but does not seem to offer RV sites. Instead, the website mentions the abundance of campgrounds in the area and says “[m]any of the campgrounds are within 10 miles” of the amusement park.  The website also says,”[w]ork campers will mostly be working outside” and “should be aware of the high humidity level and seasonal temperatures.”

PeakSeason is a job site “specializ[ing] in seasonal and resort area employment, including hospitality, restaurants, outdoor and adventure jobs, transportation, food & beverage, golf & tennis, and retail.” It is free for job seekers.

Other Work Camping Possibilities This work camping job didn’t fit in any other category.

Amazon CamperForce “is for mobile RVers who work seasonal assignments at Amazon facilities.” Amazon CamperForce has three sites in Kentucky (Lexington, Hebron, and Shepherdsville), two in Tennessee (Murfreesboro and Chattanooga), and one in Arizona (Phoenix).

To learn more about CamperForce, you can read a book written by a woman who was part of the team in 2013, 2015, and 2016. My Guide To Camperforce was written by Sharee Collier of Live Camp Work.

White Rc Vehicle Near Tall Tree

Free Work Camping Listings The following websites offer job listings you can look at for FREE! Some of them also allow work campers to post free “position wanted” ads.

The Workamping Jobs website was created “to give RV workers and those businesses that hire them a place to find each other…for free!” You can place a “work wanted” ad or peruse the “help wanted” ads. You can also follow them on Facebook, but there are no workamping ads on their FB page.

The Snowbird RV Trails website offers a list of “hundreds of current work camping jobs.”

Wanderlust Estate community has a workamping section with available jobs listed by state, an explanation of the difference between “workamping” and “work camping” (Spoiler alert: none, really), a video about work camping job experiences, and really helpful workamping FAQs.

Cool Works lists “Jobs with RV Spaces.”

On the Workers on Wheels website, you can subscribe to the free Workers on Wheels Newsletter which includes job listings and tips from working RVers. There are current job listings posted on the site as well. The website also offers a LOT of helpful information for folks new to work camping.

The Happy Vagabonds website has a Work Camping Jobs Menu page with many different categories of job listings.

The Job Exchange Powered by Escapees RV Club “matches job opportunities with traveling contract workers who want full or part-time work.” Job seekers at RVer Job Exchange must sign up for a free account. After signing in to the site, job seekers can post resumes, view jobs, contact employers, and receive job alerts. You do not have to be a member of the Escapees RV Club or Xscapers community to use this job board.

The Your RV Lifestyle has a job board.

Good Natured Jobs “was created to connect passionate job seekers with…employers offering unique…career opportunities all over the world in the outdoor adventure and travel industry” and has a work camping category. You must be signed in to apply for a job, but creating a profile is free for applicants. You can also follow their page on Facebook.

Backdoor Jobs lists “short-term Job adventures” in categories such as wilderness therapy jobs; summer camp and ranch jobs; jobs in the great outdoors; and resort, guest services, food & hospitality job opportunities.

The mission of itravelft is this: “bring every employer of full-time travelers and every full-time traveler who wants to work together on a one-site job-and-lifestyle platform.” The FAQ promises “searching jobs and applying for them will always be free,” but suggests folks will want a membership because of the extra job-search tools and value-added items available to members.

Facebook Groups about Jobs for Travelers You can join these

Green and White Volkswagen Combi

Facebook groups where people often post job openings.

The single workampers working together group is “for anyone that likes to workamp.” Members are invited to post gigs for single workampers and to share reviews and experiences.

The I Travel Full-time and I Work Here! group is a “forum for travelers seeking jobs and people who employ them.”

The Work Camper Jobs group is “a place to match super park hosts and work campers with extraordinary employers.”

Members of the Work Campers/Volunteers group are invited to “Post Work Camping or volunteering experiences (good or bad).”  Members are also allowed to post “work camper or volunteer (camp host) positions available.”

The admin of the group Work Campers mobile jobs has invited members to post information about employers looking to fill positions.

White Rv on Road

Companies You Pay for Job Listings or to Help You Find Work Camping Jobs If the free job listings aren’t enough, here are some companies you can pay to help you with your job search. These sites offer listings for several different kinds of work.

Workamper® News “has been the premier source for connecting RV lovers and potential employers for more than two decades.” There are three levels of membership (Gold for $19.95 per year, Diamond for $47 per year, and Platinum for $67 per year), each with different benefits. Workamper News also has a Facebook page.

To be a member of Work Camp Connections, you pay $14.95 per year. The company sends you a “host profile to fill out.” They verify your profile, run a background check, and check your references. Then they mail your “profile out to prospective campground in the areas you want to work.”

To see complete contact information on job postings on the Working Couples website, you have to be a subscriber and sign in. There are three subscription levels. The Free or Limited Subscription allows you to see featured jobs only. The $5 per month Monthly Subscription and the $12 per quarter Quarterly Subscription give full, unrestricted access to employer contact information for all active job listings, provide access to forums, and offer the optional upgrade to resume posting for $14.95.

The website for the KOA Work Kamper Program says the jobs offered vary by location but may “include maintenance, front desk staff, and manager.” Apparently to get access to the KOA Work Kamper website, one must pay $35 per year. Benefits include unlimited access to the KOA resume website, unlimited access to all KOA job postings, and training and educational opportunities.

For $50 a year, folks can join The Adventure Collective and get unlimited access to “jobs [sic] opportunities & work exchanges in the world’s best adventure destinations,” gain the ability to contact employers directly, and apply for jobs from anywhere in the world.

Resources for Work Campers Some of these websites and groups offer

Person Holding Black Compass

advice and suggestions for finding and getting work camping jobs while others offer work campers a forum for reviewing the places they’ve worked.

At The Goats on the Road blog, you can find a comprehensive post titled “101 Best Travel Jobs That Can Earn You Money While Travelling.” This post offers many ideas for work beyond the typical camp host job or working for Amazon during the pre-Christmas rush. There’s even more info about traveling and working on the Remote Jobs page.

The Workamper Dreamers Facebook group is the Workamper News intro group for “those that want to live the RV Lifestyle and learn how to take that next step to the freedom we all desire.”

The Workamping for Single Workers. And Campground Reviews Facebook group is “for workampers where a single or one half of a couple is able or chooses to work for a FHU or other compensation. All RV’ers are welcome…” In addition to items for sale and reviews of campgrounds and their staff, there are some job postings on this page.

The Workamping Reviews website allows work campers to post reviews of their worksites. Reviews are also posted on the Workamping Reviews Facebook page.

The Workcamper jobs & Reviews Facebook group “is to REVIEW work campers/camphosts jobs…We hope to be a resource for Work campers. With honest reviews as well as any job opening.”

The Workamper Reviews Facebook group is “for individuals that are WORKAMPERS. Our group offers members a place to share reviews of places they have work camped.”

The Live Camp Work website calls itself “your online resource for information on working on the road.” The mission statement says the site “was created to help provide information to working RVers about ways to make money on the road.” Several of the articles mentioned elsewhere in this post comes from Live Camp Work, and the website offers the extensive article “Workamping Families: Full-time Families Go Workamping With Kids!” You can also follow Live Camp Work on Facebook.

The authors of Live. Work. Dream. blog answer the question “What is Workamping?” and share their own adventures as work campers. They also offer an e-book Income Anywhere, in which they tell readers about the “various…revenue streams [they’ve] developed to support [their] nomadic lifestyle.” You can also follow Live.Work.Dream on Facebook.

The Workers on Wheels website offers resources for workamping parents in the section RVing Families with Children: Working While RVing with Kids.

I hope you find this list of job leads for nomads in the U.S.A. helpful. I would love to know if you get a job from this list. I’d also love to know if you have any other leads for jobs for nomads. In either case, please leave a comment below.

Special thanks to Jamie Fox for sharing the list. Jamie is a strong, independent woman who raised two boys on her own with many trials and tribulations. Now in her 40s with her boys on their own, she can travel. She doesn’t think people should let fear stop their hopes and dreams. People who live outside the box are the bravest people, so you’re already one step in the right direction.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-vehicle-traveling-on-road-2416592/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/relaxation-forest-break-camping-111362/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-holding-and-showing-100-dollar-bills-from-leather-wallet-1877353/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/people-harvesting-2131784/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/agriculture-barn-clouds-cloudy-206768/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/aerial-photo-of-asphalt-road-1046227/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/gray-industrial-machine-during-golden-hour-162568/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-folding-white-bath-towels-1437861/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-rc-vehicle-near-tall-tree-1906155/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/green-and-white-volkswagen-combi-594384/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/white-rv-on-road-2580312/, https://www.pexels.com/photo/person-holding-black-compass-1308751/.

Thank You

Standard

Kids loved the hiking sticks we sold at the Mercantile. They loved to take the sticks out of the display rack, and they loved to thump them on the wooden floor as they walked through the store.

Sometimes a kid would convince a parent to buy a hiking stick, but usually not. The sticks were pricey–$18 to $25–and most parents realized their kid didn’t hike often enough to make the stick a practical purchase. Most often, a kid had to leave the beloved hiking stick behind.

One day a family came into the store. In addition to Mom and Dad, there were two children who seemed to be boys. The older child was on the brink of being a teenager, while the younger kid was probably nine. Each member of the family was dressed in earth tones and sported at least one piece of camo clothing.

The two children were immediately drawn to the hiking sticks. They both walked right over to the display and began to take one stick after another from the rack as they talked about how cool the sticks were. As soon as the mother saw the price of the first stick, she said no. The woman had no intention of buying even one hiking stick and told the boys to put the sticks back where they belonged.

The older kid complied with his mother’s orders and returned the stick to its place in the rack. The younger boy took his stick of choice with him as he began walking through the store.

He didn’t just carry the stick. Oh no. He was a thumper! With each step he took, he brought the end of the stick down hard onto the wooden floor. Thump! Thump! Thump! reverberated through the Mercantile. His parents didn’t do anything to discourage this behavior.

I took a deep breath and let it out. This kid was getting on my last nerve, but I didn’t really think it was my place to correct him. His parents were standing right there. I though it was their job to reprimand him, not mine.

Then the kid started swinging the stick.

Swinging hiking sticks was another popular activity among young visitors to the the Mercantile. I don’t know where they got the idea that hiking sticks were for swinging. Maybe somebody in the Harry Potter movies fights with a staff or maybe they’re emulating Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings. I don’t know why, but over the course of two summers, I saw many children swinging hiking sticks as tall or taller than they were.

When the boy began swinging the hiking stick I knew his parents had no intention of buying, it was more than I could take. I walked up to the kid, put my hands on the hiking stick, and firmly took it from him while saying what he was doing was improper use of the stick.

Breakable bear figurines sit on a shelves, a shaft of sunlight illuminating them.
Some of the fragile knick-knacks for sale in the Mercantile

Let’s put this away before something gets broken, I said. My concern was valid. There were many fragile knick-knacks in the Mercantile that could have been destroyed with one unfortunate swing of that stick.

When I put my hands on the hiking stick, the boy immediately let go. He didn’t protest or whine. I think it’s a pretty good indication that people know they’re doing wrong when they don’t even protest when confronted.

As I walked past the mother on my way to put away the hiking stick, she murmured Thank you. She sounded exhausted

I gave her a nod and a grim smile. I was glad she was glad for my help and not mad at my interference, but I felt like I was doing her job instead of my own. I thought it was her job to demand her kid follow through after telling him to return the stick to the display rack. I thought it was her job to tell her kid to stop thumping the stick on the floor. I thought it was her job to tell her kid the stick was not meant for swinging, especially in a small, enclosed space housing breakable items. Apparently she thought her job was to browse while her nine-year-old kid did whatever he wanted to do.

Of course, the father figure hadn’t said anything either. It was his job to correct the kid too, so I don’t think only the mother was at fault.

As was so often the theme in my interactions with tourists on that mountain, when they left, I was glad to see them go.

I took the photo in this post.

Too Many Questions (Blog Post Bonus)

Standard

According to the Days of the Year website, today is Ask a Stupid Question Day. In honor of this “holiday,” I’m sharing a blog post bonus about a lady who asked me too many questions. Maybe the questions weren’t stupid, but I was done for the day and didn’t want to answer them. I answered the questions anyway. Sigh.

Halfway through my last season working on the mountain, I thought of a way to get out of guarding the Mercantile overnight twice a week.

After The Man left the mountain, The Big Boss Man was finally able to find another person to work in the main parking lot. The new parking lot attendant, Cindy, lived in her car with her cat. I loaned Cindy my extra tent, and she posted up in a primitive camping area half a mile from the parking lot.

Early in July, one of the other clerks hired to work in the Mercantile left with her husband who’d been the unhappy camp host at one of the larger campgrounds on the mountain. Once the other clerk left, I had to be at the Mercantile at 8:30on Monday and Tuesday mornings to get the place opened by 9am. Losing an hour of freedom on those mornings made security duty on Sunday and Monday nights an even bigger pain in my neck.

Because I’m a nice person and a team player (or maybe because I’m a sucker), I didn’t just tell my boss I was done working as a security guard and let him figure out how to make sure the Mercantile was secure when the camp hosts were on their days off. Because I’m a nice person and a team player (or maybe because I’m a sucker), I thought about how to solve the problem my retirement from the (nonexistent) security force would cause. I thought about who might be willing to fill my security shoes, and I thought of Cindy. She was living between a tent and a car. Maybe she would like to spend a couple of nights a week in the (usually unrented) yurt next to the Mercantile.

When I presented my idea to The Big Boss Man, he was agreeable. I think he was glad I’d solved the problem for him. Cindy was agreeable too. Now she could stretch out and sleep in a real bed at least a couple of nights a week.

One Sunday afternoon after Cindy took over my security duties, I closed the Mercantile at five o’clock and went through my end-of-day procedures. I took care of everything step-by-step until the last thing I had to do was hand off the telephone to Cindy so she’d be able to make any emergency calls necessary during the night.

I walked over to the yurt where Cindy was staying and gave her the phone.

We chatted for a few minutes, then I said, I better get out of here before someone starts asking me questions.

I looked over at the parking area and saw only one vehicle other than my van, a car parked right next to me. It looked as if I could quite possibly make it out of there undisturbed.

As I walked up to my van, I saw the woman who belonged to the car next to my rig was also approaching her vehicle. Before I could even get to my door to unlock it, I’ll be damned if the woman didn’t say, What do you sell in the store?

I was polite. T-shirts, caps, magnets. Souvenirs. Camping supplies.

Do you sell food? she asked me.

What’s it matter? I thought. The store is closed.

However, I answered nicely enough. Chips. Candy. Granola bars.

By this time, my door was unlocked, and I got into my van and closed the door behind me. The woman walked around the front of her car and stood near my door.

Excuse me, she said, so I opened the door. (Unfortunately, the window does not roll down.)

The hot springs? she asked, so I told her everything I knew about the hot springs. The answer I gave her was quite comprehensive. While I talked, I buckled my seat belt. Surely the woman knew I wanted to leave.

When I ended my informational seminar on the hot springs, I hoped the woman had gotten all the attention she needed from me and would let me leave, but no. Now she wanted to know the best way to get to Mega-Babylon. Really? I was off the clock, but I’m a nice person (or maybe a sucker), so I took a deep breath and gave detailed directions to Mega-Babylon. Then I closed my door and started my engine and drove away before she could ask me what the weather was supposed to be like, how tall a particular tree was, or the price of the tea in China. I don’t know why she even asked what we sold in the Mercantile if she was on her way to Mega-Babylon! She’d be far away before the store opened at 9am the next morning.

The next time I saw Cindy, I reminded her how I’d said I better leave before anyone asked me any questions, then told her all about the woman parked next to me and her barrage of questions. Cindy and I agreed I’d pretty much asked the Universe to send that woman and her inquiries my way.

Cold?

Standard

A lot of people who came up the mountain for the first time didn’t know what to expect.

What’s the weather going to do? people asked me.

I wanted to say, If I could predict the weather accurately, I would be a millionaire, and I wouldn’t have to work here.

Instead, I would say brightly, It’s the mountains! Anything could happen! That was pretty much the truth too.

Sometimes people asked me if we were going to get rain.

If we’re lucky! I’d say with a big smile on my face. California was a dry place during the four seasons I worked there. We were lucky if it rained. However, people on camping trips usually fail to feel fortunate when they are rained on.

In late June of my fourth season on the mountain, a man and a woman walked into the Mercantile where I was working. They appeared to be in their early 40s. I think they were on a day trip, checking out the area with the thought of maybe coming back to camp at some later date. They ended up buying two walking sticks, and the guy treated himself to what the tag described as a “twill safari hat.”

Does it get cold up here at night? the fellow asked me.

I paused before I spoke and considered my answer. It does get cold there in the winter, but I figured this guy was probably asking about summer temperatures. I wondered what he considered cold. I wondered if what I consider cold is the same as what he considers cold.

After several silent seconds, I said, What do you mean by cold?

He said, 60, 65 degrees. Selective Focus Photography of Person Holding the Adventure Begins Mug

I almost burst out laughing. Really? Sixty-five degrees is cold?

I realize I like my nighttime temperatures lower than many people do. I like my nighttime lows in the 30s so I can sleep snuggled under my down comforter, but I realize most people (especially most people from Southern California) don’t necessarily feel that way. If this guy had defined cold as 30 degrees or 48 or even 55, I would have understood where he was coming from even if I didn’t personally agree. Sixty-five though—maybe that’s cool, but cold? Isn’t 65 degree what most people consider the perfect temperature?

If this man defined 65 degrees as cold, there was only one answer to give: Yes, it gets cold up here at night. It’s not unusual for the temperature to drop to 60 or 65 degrees overnight.

The guy seemed immensely disappointed. I guess I’d dashed his hopes for a comfortable night’s sleep on the mountain.

I wish I had thought to ask how hot was too hot for him. Maybe he was one of those people who just really dig the heat.

Image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/selective-focus-photography-of-person-holding-the-adventure-begins-mug-891252/.

Running

Standard

One of the things I hated about working in the Mercantile was dealing with unsupervised children. Even parents who were physically in the store sometimes paid no attention to their kids and simply let them run amuck. In these cases, it became my job to make sure the kids didn’t hurt themselves or the store’s merchandise. I spent a lot of time saying things like Be careful, sweetheart! or Oh! That’s breakable! while parents were paying attention to something other than their children.

One afternoon a family came into the store. The mother and father seemed to be in their early 30s. The little girls was a toddler, probably under two years old, and the boy was a little older, maybe six or seven. The dad wanted to wander around unencumbered, but the mom wasn’t having it.

Look, she told the fellow, I can’t handle both of them. You’ve got to take one.

The dad said he’d take the boy, but the mom said the boy would be easier for her to deal with and she wanted to take him. The dad seemed exasperated but agreed. I felt sorry for the little girl. It seemed both parents were rejecting her because she was too difficult. I hoped she was too little to understand what was happening.

Instead of holding the kid’s hand and leading her around the store while explaining that there would be no touching, the dad picked her up. She didn’t want to be carried and began venting her frustration by screaming. The mom and the boy walked away to browse in the store. The dad carried the freaking toddler outside.

At some point I lost track of the family. I don’t think the mom bought anything, and I didn’t notice when she and the boy left the store.

A green yurt sits in the forest. A wooden ramp leads to a wooden deck in front of the yurt.
The kids were running up and down the ramp visible on the right side of this photo.

The next time the family came to my attention, it was because the kids were running up and down the wooden ramp that went from the parking area to the Mercantile’s porch. The kids were not trotting or jogging or sauntering. They were full-on running, as if they were competing in the Kiddie Olympics. The boy was faster because he was bigger, but the tiny girl was doing her best to keep up. She was also squealing with excitement.

The children didn’t run up the ramp just once. They ran up the ramp, down the ramp, up the ramp, down the ramp. They kept running, just like the Energizer Bunny.

At the bottom of the ramp was a concrete parking pad for a vehicle carrying a passenger with a disabled access pass. I immediately imagined one of those little kids tripping, falling, and cracking a head on the concrete. Why weren’t the parents of the children as concerned about the prospect of a cracked skull as I was?

When I looked out the door, I couldn’t see either parent, and I thought the adults had wandered off and left their young athletes on our doorstep.

I bustled outside saying, Please! No running! Oh, no running please! Someone could get hurt! I was hoping to sound like a concerned elderly aunt, but I think I probably came across more like a deranged Mary Poppins.

The children’s mother was nowhere in sight. I think she’d gone to the restroom. I didn’t think I’d see the dad either, but there he was standing at the corner where the long ramp turned onto the deck in front of the store. He was messing around on his phone, but surely he knew his kids–including his tiny daughter who’d obviously learned to walk only recently–were running like maniacs. As far as I could tell, he’d done absolutely nothing to stop them.

No running please! I said again to the children, and this time the dad echoed halfheartedly, Yeah, no running.

The mom walked up about then, and I went back into the Mercantile. When the family left our porch, I whispered fiercely to the other clerk, The dad was right there! He knew they were running! He probably would have sued us if one of the kids got hurt!

I don’t understand people. There was a whole forest those kids could have run in. Whey let kids run up and down a wooden ramp with concrete at the bottom when they could have been running in the dirt?

Baguettes

Standard

Six Baked BreadsThe couple was very young, maybe in their early 20s, but probably closer to 18.

The woman had dirty blond hair, the sides pulled away from her face. She wasn’t wearing any makeup, or if she was, it was so artfully done I couldn’t tell it was there. She looked like a cute, natural young woman out for a day in the forest.

The guy had blond hair too, but his was the result of an unfortunate dying incident. It was that unnatural orange color caused by trying to bleach dark hair too fast. But what do I know? Maybe he loved his hair color. Maybe he enjoyed the rebellion of an obviously unnatural hair color. Maybe his hair color was the envy of all his friends. In the grand scheme of things, his hair color meant very little to me.

The couple walked into the Mercantile, and I said hello. The young man returned my greeting, and I identified him by his accent immediately. With that one word, I knew his first language was French, although I couldn’t tell you if he had grown up in France or Belgium or Quebec.

If I had any doubt about his Frenchness, it was dispelled by his next words.

Ah, we were looking for some baguettes

I almost burst out laughing. The French guy wanted baguettes? Are you fucking with me, kid?

It was the second time that season that a French man had come into the Mercantile and behaved so Picture of Eiffel Towerstereotypically French that I wondered if someone was pulling a prank on me. The first guy has such a stereotypical French accent and such stereotypical French mannerisms that I honestly wondered if he was just pretending to be French. He seemed too over the top to be real. It was only when his parents joined him in the store and I saw they were French but not comically so that I decided the young guy was French…in fact, he was very, very French.

And now this young French man was asking for baguettes. Is there a more French thing a person could ask for?

Baguettes? No, I answered sadly, still trying not to laugh. We don’t have any baguettes. What I didn’t say is, We’re on top of a mountain, and there are no bakeries for 40 miles in any direction.

Is there any other store nearby? The young French man asked. He clearly was not easily discouraged.

I pointed right and said, There’s a general store ten miles that way, then I pointed left and said, and there’s a general store ten miles that way, but I’m pretty sure they don’t have baguettes either.

Ok, the young French man said. We look around for something else.

Apparently nothing in our selection of chips, candy, and granola bars could substitute for a baguette because the young people bought nothing. They walked quickly around the yurt, then left to continue their quest for the bread of their people.

Images courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/baguette-bakery-blur-bread-461060/ and https://www.pexels.com/photo/picture-of-eiffel-tower-338515/.

Excuse Me?

Standard

It was July 2nd and unusually busy for a Monday. I guess people had already started their Independence Day celebration by heading up the mountain. The other clerk left a little past her scheduled departure time of 1pm. She was gone by 1:15, and by 1:25 the Mercantile was packed. I wondered if a tour bus had dropped a group at our front door.

I tried to answer questions and help find sizes, but once the line formed at the cash register, all I could do was ring up sales.

Man Holding Green and Brown MapIn the midst of this chaos, a man walked up to the counter with a copy of our most popular map. The map cost $12.95; with tax it was $13.99 out the door. Although it was a good map made from tear and water-resistant paper with clearly marked trails and roads, customers were often surprised and displeased by the cost. When I tried to sell a customer on the map, I mentioned the price along with the features of the map so there was no sticker shock at the cash register.

This man with the map was already at the cash register, so there was no way to prepare him in advance for the price. I scanned the map’s barcode and let the cash register do its magic.

That will be $13.99, I told the man with the map.

Excuse me? he said loudly as he leaned in toward me. He said it real mean, like I had a lot of nerve, like he wanted to fight me. I’d seen people get offended by the price of the map, but this guy seemed really angry.

$13.99, I said again, expecting the fellow to refuse the map and storm out of the Mercantile, maybe shouting a few choice words on his way out.

Instead he reached for his wallet and pulled out his money. That’s when I realized he wasn’t angry at all, just hard of hearing. He paid for his map and took it with him out the door.

Image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-holding-green-and-brown-map-1143514/.

 

 

Only Job?

Standard

Sometimes I don’t know what people are thinking when they speak. I suspect some people have no thoughts at all before they open their mouths and let words come out.

One Saturday we were busy at the Mercantile where I worked for two camping seasons. My sweet co-worker and I were standing behind the counter when another group of tourists streamed through the door. One of the new arrivals, a middle age woman with curly hair, looked right at the other clerk and asked, Is this your only job?

My co-worker and I were both like What? and the tourist woman specified, Do you work anywhere else?

I don’t remember what exactly my coworker said. She probably explained working in the store was a fulltime job. I can’t imagine what the tourist lady was thinking. I wonder if she interrogates cashiers at Wal-Mart and Target about their other employment. Maybe she wondered if my coworker had to hold a couple of jobs to make ends meet. Maybe she was just trying to make conversation and was awkward about it.

In honor of my sweet coworker, one of the kindest people I’ve ever met, I’ll list the jobs I know she had last summer.

  • Before the store opened, she helped get a 36 site campground ready for campers.
  • She worked 40+ hours each week at the Mercantile.
  • Every night she cooked dinner and served it to her husband.
  • She used one of her days off to clean the firth wherel where she and her husband (and their dog and cat) lived.
  • She also did all the laundry for her and her husband on one of her days off.
  • Whenever the Mercantile needed more merchandise, she pulled back stock from the box truck parked at the campground where she lived, then delivered the merchandise to the store.
  • She kept a list of items that needed to be reordered and communicated that information to the buyer for the company we worked for.
  • When the camp host left the campground where she lived and before a replacement was hired, my coworker checked in campers on busy weekends.
  • On more than one occasion, she hemmed the pants of camp hosts on her day off.
  • Every week she did all the paperwork pertaining to occupancy for the six campgrounds her husband managed.

Isn’t that enough? I would have asked the tourist lady if my coworker had detailed all the work she did in a regular weeks. Isn’t that enough?

The Girl with the Broken Arm

Standard

I never saw the girl with the broken arm, but I did speak to her father.

I knew something unusual was happening when one of the workers from the main parking lot approached the mercantile. It was the middle of a busy Friday, and I didn’t think she’d have walked over without a good reason.

I just happened to be outside talking to Javier the camp host when Cindy the parking lot attendant walked up. She told us a girl had broken her arm on the trail. Cindy had walked over to the store with the girl’s father.

Do you want me to call 911? I asked. Cindy said yes, and the man nodded. His eyes looked blank, and he seemed exceptionally calm.

I burst into the Mercantile and asked the other clerk for the phone. A girl broke her arm on the trail! I explained. The other clerk handed over the phone, and I punched in 9-1-1.

I saw the father had followed in into the Mercantile. I’m going to coach you so you can tell them how to get here, I told the dad. He continued to look blank, as if there were nothing going on behind his eyes.

Calling 911 (or AAA, for that matter) from the Mercantile was an ordeal. Since the campground didn’t have an actual street address, the dispatcher always had great difficulty finding our location. An address associated with our phone number did pop up on the dispatcher’s computer screen, but that address was fudged and existed in a tiny community fifteen miles from our phone’s actual location. Invariably, the dispatcher asked for the nearest cross street, which was a few miles away. After four years on the mountain, I knew what to say to get the help visitors needed, but most tourists barely knew where they were, much less how to convey that information to someone in an office in a city in the valley.

In the long seconds between the rings of the phone, I asked the dad where he was from.

France, he said with a thick accent.

My plan of coaching him went out the window. A language barrier on top of our remote location would have simply been too complicated. I decided to speak to the dispatcher myself.

The language barrier also explained the dad’s blank expression. He wasn’t necessarily drugged up or tuned out; maybe he only understood a small fraction of the words being spoken around him.

The 911 operator answered the phone and asked about my emergency. I explained a girl had broken her arm and the father was French, so I was helping by making the call. Then I said we were in a remote location, thus beginning the ordeal of explaining where to send the first responders.

Once the dispatcher finally pinpointed our location, she had some questions about the situation.

She asked how old the girl was. I relayed the question to the father.

Ten, he replied after a moment’s thought.

I gave the information to the dispatcher, then she asked how the injury occurred.

Again I conveyed the question to the father, and this time had had to think for a longer while.

She fell from a horizontal tree, he finally said.

It’s dangerous to climb on horizontal trees!

I repeated his words to the dispatcher, who seemed satisfied with the answer. She then said she was going to connect me with the ambulance company so I could explain our location to their dispatcher. Oh joy.

Moments after I’d walked into the Mercantile and asked for the phone, moments after the father of the girl with the broken arm had followed me in, a tall, imposing woman with a French accent had also come into the store. I found out later from Cindy that this woman had been translating for Cindy and the family of the girl with the broken arm. I didn’t get a good look at the woman, but I clearly heard her tell the father (in English!) that she was giving him a tablet to give to her daughter. It was a pain reliever, she said. You must trust me! she said. I didn’t mention the tablet to the 911 dispatcher because I didn’t know what the drug was or if the girl had actually ingested it. (Later, after he father had left and then returned, I asked him is the girl had taken the tablet. He said she had, then told me it was ibuprofen.)

Despite specific instructions not to move the girl that I had relayed from the ambulance dispatcher to the father, when the father returned to the Mercantile, he told the other clerk that now the entire family was waiting in the shade near the entrance to the campground.

An EMT from a nearby fire department (and by nearby, I mean 25 miles and 45 minutes away) arrived before the ambulance and accessed the situation. He cancelled the ambulance after telling the parents the girl would probably be more comfortable if they drove her to the nearest hospital instead of continuing to wait for the ambulance. (The parents were also likely saving themselves a pile of money by not giving their daughter a ride down the mountain in an ambulance.)

I never found out if the girl’s arm was actually broken or if she’d only sprained her wrist. In any case, the lesson to be taken from this tale by all adult caregivers, regardless of their nationality? Don’t let children for whom you are responsible play on horizontal trees.

I took the photo in this post.

You Are Here

Standard

We sold maps at the Mercantile where I worked, but most people wanted to look at them without actually purchasing them. One of the maps we sold was produced by the Forest Service and between Memorial Day weekend when the Mercantile opened and the middle of July, the price went up from $12.99 to $20. The other map we sold was better, easier to read, and only cost $12.95. When we ran out of those and the store’s buyer couldn’t contact the publishing company, The Big Boss man ordered some form Amazon, and the price jumped to $20. Just like the law of supply and demand I’d learned about in my high school free enterprise class predicted, we were suddenly selling significantly fewer maps.

One Friday morning, a large extended family came into the Mercantile. A boy of about 14 asked to see a map. The other clerk pulled one out of the display case where we’d started keeping them to prevent theft (our computerized inventory said we had two more maps than were actually in the store, so we knew some had been stolen) and manhandling by people who had no intention of buying. The boy said he was looking for waterfalls, but I don’t know if he was able to locate any on the map.

Model Figure Standing on MapDoes this map say “You are here”? he asked and he unfolded it.

Well, no, I said. If it did, the words would have to keep moving around as you moved through the forest.

The kid looked at me blankly.

I tried again. Only a stationary map will say “You are here,” I told him, but he continued to look at me blankly. I wondered if he knew what “stationary” meant.

Only a map that doesn’t move can say “You are here,” I said, and not a glimmer of understanding flickered across the kid’s face.

I gave up. I was too busy trying to watch out for shoplifters  and helping people find sizes to explain that a paper map moving through time and space with a person has no way to update “You are here” to reflect where a person is at any given moment. With paper maps, explorers must figure out “You are here” on their own.

Image courtesy of https://www.pexels.com/photo/blur-cartography-close-up-concept-408503/.