Summer in the Badlands

a-badlands-summerSo it’s official, I’ll be working at Cedar Pass Lodge in the Badlands starting on April 22nd, and will be there through early-mid October. I’m excited!

Original plans were to stay east of the Mississippi this year and do the Carolina Renaissance Festival with Julie in the fall, but after a couple weeks of job searching it became pretty obviously that I wasn’t going to find any summer jobs in the area that were in an interesting location and earned enough money to be able to take the time off for fest. So starting over two weeks ago I expanded the search and started sending applications and resumes to several of the big outfits out West.

After a lot of silence, I heard back from three places Wednesday afternoon and quickly set up interviews. Lake Powell (Aramark) was on Thursday, and Yellowstone (Delaware North) and the Badlands (Forever Resorts) were on Friday. All three places made me an offer right after their respective interviews which put me in the unusual but interesting position of having options for what to do this summer.

I started writing a post about Xanterra, Delaware North Companies, Aramark, and the other companies who have concierge contracts at the big National Parks out west, as many of these places have RV spots on site and pay for part of the site cost in addition to offering an hourly wage for a full-time position. In that post I’ll be talking about the application and interview process, job expectations, pay, and what cost of living looks like, but I figured for now just giving everyone a personal update on what’s happening was best.

After the last interview I had a matter of hours to make a decision, and it was a tough one. Yellowstone was weeded out because it was the most expensive of the options, in that it would cost the most gas to get to being the farthest away, would give me the least amount of savings per month since the site and food plans were more money compared to the hourly wage, and would be the farthest from the closest Amazon warehouse once the season was done.

The pros and cons for Utah and South Dakota were so close that in the end I literally flipped a coin, how’s that for a decision making process? As I posted on Facebook on Friday, all three places are in locations I find very beautiful and perhaps next summer I’ll try one of the other two.

The pre-travel giddiness is taking hold now. It’s nice to have plan in place for the summer. There is a lot to get done in the next three weeks, I gave my two-week notice at Lowe’s on Saturday and now I have only a few days off to get Cas travel ready again as this coming weekend I’ll be in Myrtle Beach for the wedding of two friends of mine and the weekend after that I’ll be at Kings Mountain park on the NC/SC border with some other friends to have one last hurrah before I’m gone from the area for a while again.

The last time I was at the Badlands was on a family road trip when I was 14 years old, half a lifetime ago. I remember looking for fossils and bones and hiking and having a lot of fun, and now that I’m older and a bit more patient I think I’ll enjoy it even more this summer. The picture for this post was one I stole from the internet, but I look forward to taking a lot of pictures myself when I get there.

I’ll be working at a gift shop, all three interviews were for retail positions as I have a lot of experience and skill there. More details about the job itself and the campground will follow, but it also sounds like there are shuttles from the Lodge for employees to other attractions in the area like Mount Rushmore, and that’ll be pretty neat too.

Okay, back to work with me. More details to come as time permits. Have a good week all!

Image courtesy of daveynin

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  1. Reine on April 8, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    Hey Becky,
    Glad you aren’t going to SD for a couple of weeks. They’re expecting a SNOW STORM later this week! Have fun and stay safe on your travels.

    • Becky on April 9, 2013 at 12:49 pm

      Yeeeah, I saw that today. Hopefully it’ll all be melted by the time I get up there. 😛

  2. Kristine on April 7, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    congrats!! Funny 3 offers in a day and off you go!! I have been living in the RV an entire week. I love it and the dogs are doing great as well. I to am getting ready to roll to Mass next Saturday. First big trip, first break down of site so very much to do. Hope I remmeber everything. I think I have 3 promising waitress jobs lined up waiting to meet me so that is first thing I need to secure when I arrive. Family is in the town I am camping in so tjhat will be great!!
    Then off to Amazon Kentucy in late September.

    Ill keep reading your posts for sure. Safe travels.


    • Becky on April 7, 2013 at 5:08 pm


      Glad to hear that the dogs are taking to it easily and everything is going well for you! Have a safe and fun trip up to MA, having family in the town you’re staying in is great if you’re just starting out because the whole going full-timing thing can be overwhelming and moral support of familiar people is nice to have.

      I hope your waitressing interviews go well too, lining some options up before you arrive in town takes a lot of pressure off so that’s nice to have. Safe travels and happy trails.

  3. BadKat on April 4, 2013 at 10:27 am

    Beginning our journey fulltime tomorrow and will be going up to Mt Rushmore, Badlands and Black Hills. So looking forward to it.
    I am interested in maybe working Amazon. If you dont mind a question. Does Amazon put your camping fees on your W-2? Thanks, enjoying your blog.

    • Becky on April 5, 2013 at 12:33 pm

      Heya BadKat, congratulations and have fun out there on the road!

      To tell you the truth I’m not sure if they did or not, the W-2 just had the one number for income so that’s what I copied into TurboTax, so if the fees were on there they were lumped in with my income. I didn’t actually take out a calculator to check, but I don’t think so?

  4. Rob on April 3, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    Try to spend some time at Custer State Park, down the road from Mt. Rushmore. In my opinion, it’s as nice as any national park, with great wildlife, gorgeous mountains, and spectacular looking lodges. There are some gorgeous campgrounds in the state park.

    And if you’ve got the time, Wind Cave is worth a visit.

    Good Luck.


    • Becky on April 5, 2013 at 12:30 pm

      I’ll see what I can do Rob, you’re not the first to recommend Custer State Park. And I’ve always liked caves. I’ll remember the two times I visited Mammoth Cave in Kentucky all my life, so neat, and long, and big.

  5. Caroline near Seattle on April 3, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    Congrats on the job. I’m sure the relief was quickly replaced by excitement. You have 6 months of adventure ahead of you !! I hope you can take a little time to enjoy some sights along the way to SD. Get all your prep done so you can hit the road as soon as your time at Lowe’s is up.
    Working retail in a tourist setting is different than regular retail … your customers are on vacation buying aspirin and postcards, they have few worries. They might whine about your high prices, but it’s not the same as dealing with real-world customers.
    BTW, if you want to see historical data at your new home, check out wunderground. Just plug in the dates. Happy planning!

    • Becky on April 3, 2013 at 5:02 pm

      Hello Caroline, thanks for posting. I won’t be getting much if any time to sight see on my way to South Dakota this time, although I did last year. My last day at Lowe’s is on the 12th, that weekend I’m gone with friends, then Monday I pack up, leave Tuesday, and hope to get there on Saturday. It’ll be alright though, I’ll be able to sight see on my days off. 🙂 And yeah, it’ll be interesting to see how vacationer retailing differs from regular.

      I have wunderground saved on my computer, it’s handy! That’s the site I used to find my temperature data for the three Amazon locations when I wrote up that article last year. 🙂

  6. Becky on April 2, 2013 at 10:42 am

    Ahh, cool. The job I interviewed for at Lake Powell was actually near Bullfrog, UT, on the north end of the lake, although I saw that Aramark had positions for Page as well. Like with the Portelli’s I’ll keep an eye on your blog and see what you think of working out that way, it’ll give me some insights for next summer. 🙂

  7. Tracy on April 2, 2013 at 10:34 am

    congrats, Becky. We are at Guess we aren’t gonna meet this year. So far Lake Powell is very friendly. You should have lots of fun in SD. Lots to see and do.
    Tracy recently posted..Get Your KicksMy Profile

  8. Kim and Jerry Portelli on April 1, 2013 at 10:38 pm

    That is terrific!! And very cool that you had three jobs to choose from. I hope you have a grand experience :).
    Kim and Jerry Portelli recently posted..On Our WayMy Profile

    • Becky on April 2, 2013 at 10:40 am

      Thanks you two! I hope you have a great time in Yellowstone, I’ll be reading about your adventures there to help me determine if I want to do that in a future year. 😛

  9. Ross Macintosh on April 1, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    The Badlands gig sounds awesome. I haven’t been there (yet). I once was just a few miles away but that was straight up in an aircraft flying over. I remember the sense of wonder at how interesting an area it would be to explore. As you prepare remember to polish up your luck. I’m expecting you to discover either a new kind of fossil or a great big meteorite. Stay sharp! Don’t let me down!

    Seriously, I’m happy for you. Remember your sunscreen.
    Ross Macintosh recently posted..classy camping coffee…My Profile

    • Becky on April 2, 2013 at 10:28 am

      Haha, thanks Ross. I’ll keep my eyes open for the strange and unusual. And yeah, getting sunburned is no fun. I have applying sunscreen down to an art form with all the poking around on Hunting Island that I do in the summer, it’s amazing how fast you can get a burn on the beach.

  10. Regina on April 1, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    I’m sooooo happy for you that you found a job. It must be such a relief, plus the excitement of a new adventure. You will be in some beautiful country. Looking forward to seeing photos from your travels. Congratulations!

    • Becky on April 2, 2013 at 10:25 am

      Thanks Regina! It’s a little hard to explain the emotions, maybe other RVers could do it better. It’s relief at having found the job, excitement at adventures to come, and a bit of holy cow there’s so much work to do to get ready, plus a bit of crossing fingers that nothing big breaks down on the way. 😛

  11. Janice on April 1, 2013 at 3:04 pm

    That sounds like a wonderful job and one I wouldn’t mind doing myself once we are on the road. Good luck. I look forward to your posts about this job and also the interviewing process you went through with all three companies.

    • Becky on April 2, 2013 at 10:22 am

      Yeah, the work itself wont’ be much different than retail work anywhere I’m guessing, it’s the location that makes it great. I think that next post should be coming on Thursday.

  12. Ron on April 1, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    Becky… good luck to you with your summer job in The Badlands. You would not have gone wrong had the coin toss fell on Lake Powell. That is a beautiful resort and campground where I camped in my teardrop trailer for a week in 2011. I tried to insert a Lake Powell sunrise photo here but was unsuccessful. There are many beautiful areas close by to visit as well.

    I now have a Casita trailer and will be leaving out in mid June coming through The Badlands on my way to Yellowstone, Glacier, Olympus and other NP’s out west.

    Have a great summer and go for Lake Powell next year. Yellowstone cannot be surpassed as far as natural beauty so, consider it for a future location as well.

    Ron H.

    • Becky on April 2, 2013 at 10:21 am

      I know Ron, I looked at pictures for Lake Powell and it looked like a really beautiful place too, such a hard decision! If it’s an option next summer I’ll go for it. I should still be more westerly located, part of what make it a little less attractive this year was how many more miles (and gas $’s) it would be from where I am compared to the Badlands.

      Congrats on the Casita, in many ways I can’t believe how well mine is holding up at 14 years old despite having now lived in it full-time for 11 months. When you get close to the Badlands you should drop me a e-mail or something so we can meet up.

  13. Carl on April 1, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    Congratulations Becky! I know that takes a huge load off your shoulders and a lot of worry off your mind. We will be in Sturgis, about 75 miles away in August for the big motorcycle rally. We’d love to ride down one day and meet the lady who gives us inspiration and courage to take on our own full-time endeavor. If our plans come together at the end of this year as we hope you will have been the driving force who spurred us on. Thank you and good luck to you!

    • Becky on April 2, 2013 at 10:13 am

      Oooh, sure Carl I’d enjoy meeting up with you guys. I’m not sure what my work schedule is going to look like yet, but it sounds like it’s typically 5 days on 2 days off and they schedule the two off days in a row. Since the weekends tend to be busier though my days off will probably happen on week days.

      Have fun at the rally and I’m glad to hear that IO is helping you get on the road! Comments like this make me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

  14. jim on April 1, 2013 at 11:09 am

    The Badlands is my favorite NP, particularly under a full moon. I was appalled at the native american poverty on one hand the beauty in the Badlands. Little town Interior has the best Indian Tacos and the biggest Brahma Bull I have ever seen. There is also a crossroads, Scenic that has some old ruins that are interesting. Of course stop in WALL Drug and take some of the tours of museums. Also the Old Prairie Homestead is another good tour. Good luck. The heat is hotter than here on the east coast, but there is no humidity thus it is not as uncomfortable, but you will a blanket at night.

    • Becky on April 2, 2013 at 10:11 am

      I’ll remember to set aside some time to see it on a full moon night, being there several months I’ll get multiple chances. 😛

      I remember seeing WALL Drug when I was a teenager, I didn’t really understand what the fuss was because it just looked like another store at the time. Maybe it’ll be different this time.

      Down here in SC, it’s upper 80’s low 90’s all summer long on average, but with humidity levels over 80% it feels awful. I think I’ll like dry heat better, we’ll see. I do have my little electric heater for cool nights.

  15. Dennis Smith on April 1, 2013 at 10:02 am

    We took the grand kids there last summer, great place. Your problem will be there is so much to do and a lot of it does cost money. But you will just love it. We sure did. Lake Powell is a great place also, really neat if you have a kayak.

    • Becky on April 2, 2013 at 10:06 am

      Well, entrance into the park will be free as an employee, and I think I get discounts for Mt. Rushmore and other area attractions as well. Luckily for me I’m not big into the touristy stuff, just getting to explore and hike in the park goes a long way.

  16. cozygirl on April 1, 2013 at 9:33 am

    WAHOO!!!! Oh Becky all your hard work and determination has come together. So happy it’s all working out and I think you picked a fine area. Going to be so wonderful to get your stories of the Badlands. You’ll be a perfect fit … and when we travel through there I hope we finally get our meet up!
    cozygirl recently posted..My Spring Break Week off …My Profile

    • Becky on April 2, 2013 at 10:03 am

      Heya Carla,

      Thanks! I’m glad it worked out too, now I just need to get everything ready to get up there, haha. I just peeked at the weather for the Badlands and it’s currently only 22 degrees, brr! Hopefully in three weeks it’ll be a little more spring-like.

      I love that battery mod Jerry did. When I finally get started on a solar setup I want to do something like that, two batteries to hold more amps. We’ll see what happens. 😛

  17. Cherie @Technomadia on April 1, 2013 at 12:11 am

    Congratulations, and I’m thrilled for you! Those sorts of gigs just sound like a heck of a lot of fun – working with cool people in awesome locations to explore. If it wasn’t for the lengthy time commitments, they’d be more appealing to us. I’m looking forward to following your adventures this summer… and congrats again!
    Cherie @Technomadia recently posted..Millenicom: We’re All In This TogetherMy Profile

    • Becky on April 2, 2013 at 9:56 am

      Thanks Cherie! Needless to say I’m pretty excited. Of course I had to choose the one with the shortest amount of time till it starts, so much to do now.

      Aramark who did Lake Powell had a few positions that had shorter commitment times, but I think they were still a good 8 weeks. I’ll keep an eye out in the future for more short term ones.

  18. MARVIN on April 1, 2013 at 12:10 am


    BECKY ,

    The plan comes together ! ! It will be interesting to see how the

    choices unfold after Amazon . You make it look easy ! !

    Have Fun – Be Safe


    • Becky on April 2, 2013 at 9:52 am

      Indeed Marvin, although I will be going back to Amazon in the fall after the Badlands gig is over. That’s as far as I have planned out right now. 🙂

  19. Tina on March 31, 2013 at 11:06 pm

    Hi Becky,

    Yay!!!!! I am so happy for you and wow to have all those choices of places to go. That is a amazing place, was there a few years ago. Looking forward to your post about the job interviewing and searching options. Enjoy your next last weekends before hitting the road.


    • Becky on April 2, 2013 at 9:51 am

      Thanks Tina!

  20. William on March 31, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    Way to go, I’m excited for you. I know this must be a load off your mind. I too remember back when I was around 14 going to the badlands, but for me it was almost 3 quarters of a life time ago 🙁

    I’m very interested in your post about finding places to work and how they turn out. I hope to get my bus into living condition over the next year and then live locally for a year to save before I head out.

    Then I will be in the same boat, or land yacht that you are in.
    William recently posted..Where to start?My Profile

    • Becky on April 2, 2013 at 9:51 am

      Thanks William. The post will be coming later this week, probably on Thursday.

      Living locally for a while helps, I lived in Cas for several months in Bluffton before I hit the road in September. It helped to have that time to figure things out.

  21. Sherry on March 31, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    Congratulations. Sounds like a good choice. Who knows maybe you can just keep working for them year round in some winter friendly place they also run. Unless you love Amazon of course.

    Sherry recently posted..A GREAT birding day at La ChuaMy Profile

    • Becky on April 1, 2013 at 12:06 am

      Thanks Sherry. It’s not that I love Amazon so much is it makes good economical sense to work there when you can save 50% of your paycheck. The Badlands will not be as good of an opportunity in that sense, but will be much more fun. It’s a trade off and lucky for me they happen different times of the year so I can still do both. 😛

  22. Kim on March 31, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    Yay! That’s great news. I know you are relieved to have the near-future decided. I’ll be up there myself in late-May, early-June.

    Though I’ve promised myself to stay away from gift shops from now on in an effort to economize, I’ll make an exception and swing by to meet you, if that’s OK.

    I’m betting you’ll love the experience (the Badlands, I mean, not meeting me). ;-]
    Kim recently posted..Spring Trip PlanningMy Profile

    • Becky on April 1, 2013 at 12:01 am

      Haha, I totally just left a comment on your Spring Trip post saying we should meet up if you’ll be in the area when I’m there. Maybe if we’re lucky you’ll be in the area on a day I have off and we can avoid the temptation of the gift shop. 😉

      I’m betting I’ll love the experience too, even if working at the gift shop will probably be hectic during the peak season. The real fun will be after I get off work.