ok, I’ll admit it…
Our Family of Workampers after a hard day of work
IT WAS ALL MY IDEA
I wish I could put my finger on exactly what drew me to the opportunity.
I know for certain it wasn’t my first impression that we should pack up and drag our family and our stuff from the bottom of the lower 48 to the absolute top.
When I first saw the post on Fulltime Families FB Group, I remember skimming past it with not so much as a second glance.
We were parked in Lazydays KOA in Tucson and we had just wrapped up the 2014 Roadschool Convention, literally 24 hours prior. After a whirlwind of 4 days of sharing curriculum choices, seminars, discussion panels, and square dancing like a cowgirl with 300 full time rving (present and future) friends, making other people’s beds and cleaning public toilets was the absolute last thing on my radar.
Then 5 minutes later I was standing in the middle of Rally Alley with Tammy Allen, our Murder Mystery Coordinator, and she said, “I see Christine posted a wanted post for Workamping up by Glacier. We were their workamping family last year and we loved it! I just made a couple of beds and we loved spending two months in that beautiful area”.
“I just made a couple of beds”
Those words would ring in my ears while I pleaded with and strong armed sheets into submission, hovering over 6 foot in the air, while simultaneously ducking and weaving before I inevitably smashed my head on the cabin’s rafters. But more on that later…
Here I am “Just Making Beds”
Something about Tammy’s testimony, how she painted a picture of calling “The Crown of the Continent” your backyard for the summer, resonated deeply in my soul and before I knew it, I was talking an unsuspecting Chris into the opportunity and on the phone with Christine, the owner of Timber Wolf Resort in Hungary Horse, Montana.
It was so thrilling to APPLY for the position. Friends wished us luck! Tammy and another FtF Family made themselves available as references. After years of being ‘just’ self employed, we were on pins and needles waiting to see if we’d made the cut. Were we qualified enough to clean toilets, make beds and do some general maintenance and upkeep. I say this tongue in cheek, but we really were sweating it.
Pre Season Picnic Table Painting
Would someone else with more (really any – since we had none) workamper experience be the obvious choice?
It was an exhilarating week as we waited to see if we’d get the job and have to start mapping out a route to what I would soon start referring to as the “Top of the World”.
Who Doesn’t Love a Ride On Mower?
WHAT I HOPED TO ACCOMPLISH BY BEING A WORKAMPING FAMILY
First and foremost, it had been nagging at me that my kids had no concrete activities other than the rallies, to attribute our financial support to. As they asked for expensive items and experiences, I began to suspect that they thought we ‘printed money’ straight out of our computers at night while they slept.
Traveling for four years and working on the internet had robbed our children of exposure to manual labor. Sure they have chores in the camper, but unlike sustaining a home, there is no lawn to mow, no multiple bathrooms to clean and no large remodeling projects going on in their world.
They never saw us leave for work. There was no commute time eating away at our day. We didn’t have to apply for vacation time and we no longer lived in fear of the words “downsizing”.
When we first headed out, I anticipated giving back by going to storm torn areas and helping with rebuilding efforts but I quickly learned that as a family with young children, opportunities for us to work together as I had imagined it, were not available to us.
Taming some of the Natural Ambiance
Workamping would be a great way to teach our kids to serve others. To work together with others towards a common goal.
I also anticipated using this experience as a motivator. The reality of our world is, if you are unskilled and uneducated, your options shrink and you could find yourself with no other opportunities except cleaning toilets… so do your homework!
GETTING TO THE “TOP OF THE WORLD”
Within a week, Christine had alerted us that the position was ours if we wanted it. For that week, I had learned everything one could learn about Hungry Horse and the West Entrance of Glacier National Park, so it seemed inevitable that we would accept and commit to 28 hours per week (shared between Chris and myself) for two months, specifically June 1st through August 1st.
We mapped a route north out of Tucson that included Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona, some Vegas Strip, a visit to the Golden Spike in Promontory, Utah and digging for opals in Spencer, ID.
We arrived in Hungry Horse a day early and set up in an empty campground, save the other workamping couple. Those first two weeks were actual ‘pre season’ so our early jobs consisted of painting picnic tables, landscaping, replacing and moving mattresses around in cabins, cleaning clean bathrooms and learning the ropes.
Cleaning out Fire Rings
OUR WORKAMPING RESPONSIBILITIES
Ultimately we were responsible for the cleanliness and light maintenance of 15 cabins (half of which had linens and electricity, the other half only had covered mattresses and no electric), 8 tent sites, 24 RV Sites, 2 Bed and Breakfast Bedrooms, 1 Comfort Station containing 3 toilets, 1 urinal, 4 showers and 4 sinks and 1 public restroom containing 4 toilets, 1 urinal, 4 showers and 4 sinks.
Here’s one of the daily chore lists.
Each day we received a check out list marked with the number of sheets and towels we’d need to pack up to change the linens in the newly vacated cabins / B&B rooms, and which public restroom facilities we were charged with.
Also marked were the campsites and tent sites that required cleaning.
We loaded our golf cart with a huge tub of fresh linens, an empty laundry sack, a broom, a caddy full of cleaning supplies, a shop vac, and a mop.
On days that there were two workamping teams (us and Cheryl & Terry) the lists were split evenly and each team was responsible for 1 of the bathrooms.
Timber Wolf Clean Up Crew
Each workamper team had two days per week off. The seven day breakdown looked like this:
Day 1 – both teams; list split
Day 2 – both teams; list split
Day 3 – A Team on (B team off); Responsible for all checkouts and both bathrooms
Day 4 – A Team on (B team off); Responsible for all checkouts and both bathrooms
Day 5 – both teams; list split
Day 6 – B Team on (A team off); Responsible for all checkouts and both bathrooms
Day 7 – B Team on (A team off); Responsible for all checkouts and both bathrooms
So essentially two days per week, we were responsible for the entire list, three days a week we split the work with the other workamper team, and the last two days were our days off.
Stripping the beds, note the gloves.
After having been beholden to no one for over 4 years and working our own very flexible self employed schedules, we had gotten ‘soft’ and reporting for duty was a struggle, even at 10am! I know, you’re reading this and saying… 10am!!!! Welcome to the real world + 3 extra hours of sleep you baby! But in our defense, in order to spend our days with our kids, Chris and I often work at night. Some nights, we work until 2 or 3 am. We’re usually up by 10am the following morning, but we’re definitely not dressed and ready to head out the door! and if by some small miracle we can accomplish that, there’s no way we can do it two consecutive days in a row, let alone FIVE!!!
But for five consecutive days, we smashed snooze on our alarm until 9:55, brushed our teeth and headed to take make beds and scrub toilets.
Are you wondering if I did this in my pajamas? Yes, I can imagine that would be the logical conclusion since we only allotted ourselves 5 minutes of get ready time, but as it turns out, a mop, or a broom, or even a roll of paper towels and a bottle of Windex has the mystical effect of turning someone invisible so it doesn’t matter if I was naked, no one would see me anyway!
Hey Look… I’m invisible
Who knew! Being ‘the help’ means your more often than not overlooked and discounted. What a lesson in humility. I know now how guilty I am of overlooking cleaning and maintenance workers or rather, looking through these support personnel.
But back to what we did every day.
After we received the list, I packed my workamper cart and Chris headed out to clean out all the tent and rv sites. He’d meet me when he was done with that to help out with the rest of the list.
My responsibilities started with the cabins. The majority of these 10 x 10 adorable gnome like structures housed three beds (two firmly planted on the wood plank floors, and one precariously perched (that’s a total exaggeration but that’s how it felt) over 6 feet in the air (that is not an exaggeration, I measured it).
Sheets required stripping, quilts were aired out, the mini fridge was emptied of any left over food stuffs and wiped down. All surfaces were sanitized with a blue solution that promised to kill every living amoeba within the three surrounding counties (which is something you definitely want to be working with when all the sudden the word “Staph” comes up – its either the blue stuff or you might be tempted to burn the cabin down and rebuild daily).
The floors were swept, vacuumed, and later on in the season, mopped. The outside porches were swept and de-cobwebbed, all burnt remnants were removed from the fire pits, garbage was removed and waste baskets were re-lined with fresh bags.
Some days were light with only 2 or 3 cabins requiring our attention. Other days were crazy with 6 or 7 cabins recently vacated. On average, 4 cabins would be on our sheet.
After the cabins, the Bed and Breakfast rooms were turned over in a similar fashion, fresh sheets, fresh towels, fresh surfaces.
Then it was bathroom time. Whether the Comfort Station of the B&B Public Restroom was on your list (and remember two days a week you were responsible for both) the restrooms lent themselves to the greatest adventure of your day.
We never knew what we would discover within the stalls. Most days, Tonia would announce, “I think today’s the day we’ll find the dead body – I just feel it, Mom”.
Here was another rude awakening… Had I really been that person? The person who thinks its someone else’s job to clean up behind me, when my paper towel drops off the top of the waste paper basket on to the floor. Or the person who thinks its ok to leave the shower a sopping wet mess, despite the fact that the proprietors have provided the tools (in this case a little mop) and the suggestion to leave the shower nice for the next person. And the unfortunate answer was “Yes”. I had been that person.
And now that I was cleaning up after people like me, I felt it was really only karma. Karma and a lesson in redemption. Knowing what I know now about cleaning public restrooms, I can say I will forever be a model bathroom customer.
DJ was in charge of replacing all the top bunk pillows
Right about here in my day is when Tammy’s “I just made a couple of beds” would replay in my mind and I wondered if much like the pains of childbirth, memories of hard labor are blurred in one’s mind as the months go by, leaving only brief glimpses of some less exhaustive tasks and the good times one had spent adventuring in one of God’s most stupendous of landscapes.
I believe there is some merit to the above theory, so I’ve chosen to document my experience here. If that’s the case and my memory will in fact wane, then I can refer back to this blog post.
In addition to these daily duties, the kids wanted to be responsible for the owners horses, so we took over the pm feedings. I was impressed that they had asked for additional responsibilities and how dedicated they were to the task. Every night, the feeding ritual was one of the highlights of their day.
Dominick and Mystery
WILL WE DO IT AGAIN
The short answer is, Yes.
We all took great pride in being a part of a beautiful resort and helping the resort’s guest have an enjoyable stay and make priceless memories with their own family’s.
As I had hoped, my children did not relish scrubbing toilets and have committed themselves to their studies in a way I could not have achieved without this experience.
Chris and I worked together as a team on a daily basis and strengthened our communication skills by doing so.
Tearing down the old playground. I’m almost positive they had no idea this was ‘work’
The two months we spent as a Workamping Family gave us all a new appreciation of each other, our time, our talents and reminded us how amazing our lives are.
It was a great experience that our family will reflect on and share with others for all our years to come. I can already hear hints of those tales starting with “remember when we were workamping at that place in Montana…”
As an aside, I should mention that Phil and Christine have graciously agreed to be our Charter FtF Family Friendly Campground and welcome you and your family to their beautiful resort. If Glacier NP is in your travel plans, I highly recommend you use Timber Wolf Resort as your base of exploration.
Christine, Owner of Timber Wolf Resort, applying her FTF Family Friendly Campground Decal.