On Sunday, April 26, I arrived at the campground where I’d been told to report. Within a couple of hours, I met the boss and was told there was no training the next day. She seemed unsure as to why I’d been told to arrive a week before my training, although she said she could put me to work. (On the voicemail I have saved, the woman who works in the office said she’d just talked to the boss who said I should be at a specific campground for training on the 27th.) No one has explained why I was told to arrive a week early. The boss was certainly not expecting me.
On Monday, April 27, my van wouldn’t start. I flagged down an elderly man who was hard of hearing, and he used my cables to jump start the van. I drove into town (where I was headed anyway) and proceeded directly to the Car Quest auto parts store. Thankfully, I had a small monetary cushion, because I used that money to pay for a new battery.
The battery in the van when I bought it had been doing weird shit for months. I’ve had to have it jumped six times since I bought the van last July—six times the battery was dead for no obvious reason. When I started the van, it kind of stuttered before starting, and it often died when I tried to back up immediately after starting it. I had it checked out at a Car Quest in Southern New Mexico—they charged it for eight hours, then checked it and said it was fine. But I decided I can’t be having a dead battery out in the woods, so I bit the bullet and bought a new battery. Now the van starts right up, no stuttering, and no dying when backing up. Am I glad I had to spend my money cushion on a new battery? No. Am I glad to have a new battery? Yes.
I spent small parts of Tuesday and Thursday filling out paperwork and getting some training for the job (from the women who gave me the message to show up early). I also spent a couple afternoons that week at the Burger King in town (WiFi, an electrical outlet, and free refills on sodas) writing and mostly catching up on email. I explored a pioneer cemetery and the local history museum.
On Friday I was finally taken out to the campground to work temporarily. The camp hosts of my temporary campground had not arrived yet. I don’t know why. However, the company was having yurts built in the campground, to they wanted a staff person around to keep an eye on materials and supplies after the builders go home. They decided I would be the staff person on duty. Since I’d be at the campground anyway, they decided to open it to campers two weeks early.
The campground is much bigger than the one I’ll be working at for the rest of the summer. This first one has 32 sites, plus five or six large group camping spots, compared to just ten sites at my campground. I’ll be parking on one of those sites, so I’ll actually only be responsible for nine camping spots once I’m out there. Although I’m only expected/allowed to work five hours a day here, the first couple of days kicked my ass. Just the walking was wearing me out. At night, all I could do was eat dinner and read a bit before falling asleep early. On the first two nights, I was in bed before it was dark out. When I woke up in the morning, I did not feel recovered. It was very depressing, and I wanted to give up.
On Sunday, I was given a golf cart, and that helped a lot. At first I was scared of the golf cart, but when I told the guy who delivered it that I’d never driven one before, he told me it was just like driving a car. And then I realized, yes, I drive a giant van, I should be able to drive a golf cart. And you know what? I can drive it! (And it’s fun!)
In van driving news, I am able to back into my campground host site. Granted, it’s a pretty big area, and I don’t have to be in one strict spot (like between lines or on an asphalt slab), but backing in is a HUGE step for me. I’m learning!
I did see my campground on the way to the temporary spot, and I love it! It’s so cute! It’s ½ mile off the main road down a dirt road, and there are lots of trees and a meadow. I can’t wait to be there.
I’ve had mixed feelings about being out here.
On the one hand, the landscape is absolutely stunning, and the wildlife is incredible. There are mountains, a river, and tall trees. There are many ponderosa pines where I am stay and they are soooo tall. I saw four deer (two mammas and two youngsters, I think) in the campground the other morning around 6:30 when I was making my rounds. That afternoon, I saw the biggest chipmunk I’ve ever laid eyes on—it was the Arnold Schwarzenegger of chipmunks. One day I saw a blue jay so blue I gasped. One night as it was getting dark, I heard a sound I thought was the panting of a dog or maybe a bear about to attack, but it turned out to be the sound of the flapping wings of two low-flying birds.
On the other hand, I’ve had moments of intense loneliness. I feel very far away from the people I love. When I see co-workers, it’s not for very long, and I haven’t found any common ground with any of them yet. Anyone who knows me won’t be surprised to hear that my favorite prat of the job is welcoming campers and talking to them while I’m filling out their paperwork. I hope I’m not coming across as desperate for human companionship, although I do feel a bit that way.
It’s been cold hour here at night; the temperature starts dropping around 4:30 in the afternoon (or 16:30, for those of us currently using military time). Once I’m snuggled in bed, I’m warm, but 12+ hours in bed gets uncomfortable, and it’s difficult for me to get out of bed in the morning when it’s cold. Fortunately, I don’t have to be out and about at any particular time, although they do want us to a “sweep and hang” (sweep restroom floors and make sure there’s enough toilet paper) early in the morning. I do have my propane heater, but it’s still packed away. I think I’ll get it out so it’s easier to get a blast of hot air to get me going in the mornings.
I’m also bummed out because every time I drive on the tightly curving mountain roads #1 all my neatly stacked plastic crates tumble all over the back of the van (but it’s easy enough to put everything away again) and #2 I get car sick. I suffered a lot from motion sickness as a kid, but as an adult in a moving vehicle, as long as I don’t look at the floor (like to tie my shoe) or turn around to talk to someone in the backseat, I’m fine. And I’ve never before gotten even a twinge of motion sickness while driving. But these roads are something else. I’ve driven on curvy, twisty mountain roads in Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, and New Mexico, but none of those places compare to the sheer number of miles made up of tight curves I’ve been experiencing.
In the last week, I’ve thought many times about quitting and going back to New Mexico, but I realized that while New Mexico would familiar, it wouldn’t necessarily be better. I’d still be dog dead tired at the end of the day. I’d be hot instead of cold, and also windblown and dusty. I’d still be lonely a lot, because when I’m working I don’t do much socializing because I’m tired and concentrating on making money. So running away to New Mexico doesn’t actually seem to be an answer.
I just finished reading a book of first-person accounts of single women homesteaders in Montana in the early days of the 20th century called Montana Women Homesteaders: A Field of One’s Own, edited by Sarah Carter. I am finding inspiration in those tough, determined foremothers. Many of them lived alone in tiny shacks, with no electricity, often with no water on their property, sometimes with no neighbors for miles and no transportation. They depended on their neighbors, but they depended primarily on themselves. The loneliness was intense, the labor backbreaking, the weather destructive. Often the crops didn’t grow, the garden didn’t grow, and they had to work additional jobs for survival. One woman mentioned hurried to do her own chores on her claim each morning so she could walk six miles (and later six mile home!) in order to earn cash doing laundry for other people.
I’ve got so much more than those women did. Surely I can be as strong.