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CamperForce Recap and What’s Next

An old photo of Donner Pass... if you read this whole post the relevance becomes apparent.

An old photo of Donner Pass, which I promise is relevant if you read this whole post.

This is my last week at Amazon, woohoo! Friday night we’re working half a day (the other half we’re taking as our paid time off – a new perk for CamperForce this year), and then we have a couple days to get Cas ready, and then it’s south on the next new and exciting adventure, I can’t wait.

I know I haven’t written much about my Amazon experience this year, it seemed pointless to write in detail about Fernley since the site will be closed before peak next year. I will say this: overtime was a lot more plentiful. We started working the 5th day on our second full week at the end of October, and working an extra hour became an option the first week in November. This was the first week we haven’t worked five days since October, and it felt nice.

The paychecks have been nice too. I’ve earned more than expected (I’d based my estimates from work hours at Coffeyville), which feels good with several months without pay coming up.

Oh, and I finally got a taste of the outbound side. I spent about an hour and a half in the Gift Wrap department one night (after an hour of training on it) when there wasn’t enough stow work.

Gift wrapping was interesting to learn, but I don’t think I’d want to do it for a whole season. You have a station to stand at, and gifts that need to be wrapped come in on a conveyer. At your station you have a scissors, pencil, tape, and ribbon. When the gifts come down the conveyer, they’re already set inside the box they’ll be shipped in along with other gifts going to the same place that may or may not need wrapping, and inside that box is also the size box or wrapping paper you need (there are six sizes of boxes, eight (I think?) sizes of wrapping paper pre-cut into rectangles), the gift tag and shipping receipt are also in there.

What you do is confirm which item(s) need to be wrapped, that the item matches the description on the shipping receipt, and that the gift tag text matches the text given on the shipping receipt. Then, one at a time if you have multiple gifts to wrap in one shipment, you wrap or box them. Boxes are for items that don’t have six flat sides. They come flat and need to be put together. If the item doesn’t fit snugly in the box, then you should also have tissue paper to put in with it to keep it from rattling around. Once the item is in the box, you wrap the box around the center on the thinnest side with ribbon, and where the ends of the ribbon meet in the center you stick the gift tag on to hide it. Then you put the boxed item back in the big box it came in on and move on to the next one until all gifts in that shipment are done. At the end, you put the shipping receipt inside an envelope so that the gift recipient doesn’t immediately know what they got, and that envelope goes inside the big box. Then the big box goes on a different conveyer, and off to be sealed shut and shipped.

Wrapping works similar to the gift boxes, it’s for items that have six flat sides. The size wrapping paper you need should be inside the big box same as for gift boxes. I’m not going to try to explain to you the precise and exact protocol that Amazon has written up for wrapping gifts, but they do go over it with you in training so that you know what you’re doing when you get out on the floor, and they’ll expect you to goof it up a few times early on. Other than that the process is the same – ribbon centered around the narrowest side after wrapping, followed by the gift tag.

Gift wrapping is not always a smooth process. Sometimes the paper or box they give you doesn’t fit, sometimes the item is wrong or the gift tag doesn’t say what it should. There are problem solvers in gift wrapping just like all of the other jobs, and that’s who you take these issues to. Other than that, this seemed like the most “Christmas-y” job I’ve worked at Amazon, and it was a nice break from stowing.

And lastly, I do have a little bit more information about what CamperForce should look like next year. With Fernley and Coffeyville closing down, that only left Campbellsville, KY and Murfeesboro, TN as sure locations for RVers to work. A couple weeks ago, the head of the CamperForce program Pamela came in from Seattle to talk to all of us about it.

She said there’s “about a 90% chance” that there will be one new location in Indiana next year (it’s the place several people from Campbellsville were offered a bonus to transfer to this year), and one new location in Texas, which would be great news for folks who like a warmer climate in the winter.

There’s also talk about two places in California that might take RVers next peak, which would be good for those who want to stay in the western part of the country, but those are less certain.

Registration for next year’s CamperForce starts mid-January, and Pamela figured that by then the Indiana and Texas locations would be nailed down. Stay tuned, as soon as the word is officially out I’ll be writing more about it here.

* * *

But wait, where are Julie and I headed after Amazon? Well, that’s still somewhat dependent on the weather.

As I’ve mentioned before, Julie has relatives near Los Angeles, and they have a RV pad we could park on for a visit. I’ve never been to the Pacific coast, so that would be a real treat.

The trick is, we have to make it over the Sierras. Donner Pass is the most direct way there and if it’s snowing in the mountains when we’re released I don’t want to try it (I think if the three of us get stuck in the pass, poor Chance would be the first to go – he has no teeth after all to defend himself). Otherwise we could try heading down 395 and cut across further south, but I’m not sure how much better that would be if the weather’s poor. As of this writing, it looks like there’s going to be snow on Friday, but then after that will be several warmer clear days. If we leave on Monday chances look pretty good.

The other possibility is to head to Quartzsite, which isn’t a bad alternative. I’ve wanted to see Quartzsite in the winter since I was still in the planning stages of full-timing. I know I’ll make it there some year, and this might be the year.

The thing here is, true boondocking won’t be an option yet as I still need to get my water heater replaced, and don’t have a propane heat source in the RV. We’ll be paying to stay in a park or campground, and I’d almost rather wait to do Quartzsite until I can do it right – parked out in the desert.

Whichever it turns out to be though, I’m sure we’ll have a good time. We’ll have a couple weeks for one of those options, and then it’s probably off to Texas to volunteer, more on that coming up. On the road again, oh I just can’t wait to get on the road again…

Image courtesy of ChiefRanger

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Becky

At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.

47 Comments

  1. RV Workamping at Amazon CamperForce on February 4, 2015 at 9:31 am

    […] CamperForce Recap and What’s Next – Interstellar Orchard […]



  2. Barrie on December 19, 2014 at 6:39 am

    Hi Becky,
    For heat you should check out what RVSue (http://rvsueandcrew.net) has in her 17′ Casita Liberty Deluxe. She has her’s wall mounted and hooked to her main propane supply and I don’t think her install was too expensive. Just a thought.
    All the best,
    Barrie



    • Becky on December 19, 2014 at 8:55 pm

      Yep, she has the same thing that I’m looking at getting Barrie, the Olympic Wave 3. It comes highly recommended by many Casita owners.



  3. mratlas on December 18, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    The Quartzsite RV show and big tent open Saturday January 17th.. Not to be missed even if your not buying a new RV its great to stroll though them without being pestered by salesman. And along with all the RV items on sale the big tent will have many companies looking for temporary helpers. Plenty of other areas in town also have vendors hawking their wares. The whole town is like one big swap meet. At least for that week. Lots of good deals. I like to boondock at Hi Jolly for the week. It’s a few miles North and a little higher in elevation then the town so you don’t hear all that I10 traffic noise at night. But whereever you end up camping it’ll be fun.



    • Becky on December 19, 2014 at 8:53 pm

      By January 17th I’ll already be elsewhere Atlas, more about that is coming up soon. I’ve heard about that big RV show, it is a lot of fun to peer through RVs, even if you don’t want to buy one. 🙂



  4. Charlene Swankie on December 18, 2014 at 10:39 am

    I vote for Quartzsite. You can get a butane stove for $15 that will get you by for your visit. You can get a shower in town for $7. You can rough it for a few days and camp / boondocking style, so you can experience the RTR. Jan 6-20. Big Tent opens after that. You can stay as long or as short a time as you want… and then LA is only six hours or so away. Go for it. I think experiencing the boondocking RTR will help you decide for sure what you want to do in the future.
    Charlene Swankie recently posted..What I am NOT Thankful For!My Profile



    • Becky on December 19, 2014 at 8:51 pm

      We’ll see Charlene! I’ve been looking forward to Quartzsite for so long, I know I’ll enjoy myself once I get out there. 🙂



  5. Caroline near Seattle/LasVegas on December 18, 2014 at 10:15 am

    Thanks for posting this recap. More money than anticipated is always a good thing and certainly a great way to start off your new adventures in 2015.
    It will be interesting to see where you go next . My bet is on California.



    • Becky on December 19, 2014 at 8:48 pm

      So far, so good. 🙂



  6. Rene Kipp on December 18, 2014 at 10:07 am

    Yes, Donner Summit and highway 80 are a good option. They plow it regularly. However, I would buy a set of chains before you head out, just in case. Some places will even let you return them if you haven’t used them.
    Jelly Belly is a very cool place. My hubby and I went on the tour several years ago.
    http://www.jellybelly.com/california-factory-tours
    The trick is to go during the week, when the kiddos are in school and the parents are at work. Plus, you get to see the machines in operation and the workers are on the floor too.
    The coast is gorgeous! There are coastal towns south of SF, like Half Moon Bay, that have RV parks. The tide pools, lighthouses, beach are all places to see at least once.
    Enjoy!
    Rene Kipp recently posted..Rocky’s Upcoming AdventureMy Profile



    • Becky on December 19, 2014 at 8:47 pm

      It must be my frugal nature Rene, I have a hard time buying something I only might use. Chains were required for Donner Pass today, but by the end of the weekend with a couple days above freezing it’s looking good! With a departure date of Sunday or Monday, we’d be making it to the Jelly Belly factory on a weekday, woohoo.



  7. PamelaP on December 18, 2014 at 9:35 am

    So glad you enjoyed your peak at Fernley! I volunteered to do gift wrap for my Santa’s Helper week and I loved it. I’m volunteering at our FC in Bellevue, WA this weekend…I’ve become a wrapping ninja.

    To clarify about CamperForce locations for 2015 – as of today we have for sure Murfreesboro, TN & Campbellsville, KY. I’m reviewing locations in IN & TX. The biggest hurdle we usually have is finding enough appropriate campgrounds (i.e. professionally run, have 30/50 amp available, have amenities I’ve come to understand is foremost in campers minds – like good WiFi & laundry on site) so I’m still working on that for the possible new sites. As soon as we have these locked in, they will be posted on our CamperForce site.

    As you know, we use campers at sites where the town’/city can’t support our personnel needs. I’m not sure that is the case with CA, but I’ll be doing my “pitch”!

    I really enjoyed meeting Julie at RNO, and I’m glad you had a profitable peak so you can play for a little while. Thanks again for all your hard work at Amazon!

    Amazon will be at Quartzsite so if you DO stop there, please come into the big tent to talk to us & get a little swag!

    Happy Holidays!



    • Becky on December 19, 2014 at 8:43 pm

      A wrapping ninja, I love it, haha!

      For readers who aren’t in the know, this is the Pamela I referred to in the article above, so this information she posted about CamperForce is like getting it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. 😉

      You’re welcome Pamela, and yes Julie and I both had a good time. I’m glad we had the chance to see you this year if only briefly, and yes if we end up down at Quartzsite of course we’ll stop in. Happy Holidays to you as well!



  8. David Michael on December 18, 2014 at 8:15 am

    Bravo! Good for you for staying with Amazon. Truth is, I missed it, although I have a great seasonal job as a wine demo rep. Loved the camaraderie with fellow RVer’s and paid exercise (age 78). I might sign-up for the Texas gig with a warmer climate. That was my big complaint about Fernley. Soooo cold last year at -10 degrees. However, now that we have moved into an apt for part of the year, my wife loves making a nest. Doubt if she’ll work at Amazon again (age 75) because of all the aches and pains working in the prep dept.

    So…congratulations. Wishing a Merry Christmas and Great New Year and…Safe Travels.
    David Michael recently posted..Eastern Sierra NevadaMy Profile



    • Becky on December 19, 2014 at 8:32 pm

      Happy holidays to you as well David!

      You would have liked Fernley much better this year, coldest it got was 15 (above), and it only got below 20 on a handful of occasions total, and always got above freezing during the day.



  9. John on December 18, 2014 at 8:08 am

    If it works with your schedule, I’d suggest the Fiberglass Gathering in Q. It’s scheduled for Feb. 6-8 at the Dome Rock boondocking area but lots of folks show up as much as a week early. The last several years there have been around 80 trailers in attendance.
    John recently posted..Third Time’s a CharmMy Profile



    • Becky on December 19, 2014 at 8:30 pm

      I’ve heard of that John! Some year yes, but my RV isn’t set up for boondocking yet as I’ve said.



  10. Don Matthews on December 18, 2014 at 7:59 am

    I have been over Donner in the snow. It was not a big deal. You will need chains for your truck and trailer, but the snow plows do a good job.



    • Becky on December 19, 2014 at 8:29 pm

      Probably easier driving than when it snowed down in South Carolina. They didn’t have plows or salt trucks or anything to deal with snow down there, so even though it might only be an inch or two when it happened, everything would shut down, haha. The biggest danger came from other drivers, most of whom had no idea how to drive in snow.



  11. Aunt Jill on December 18, 2014 at 7:07 am

    MERRY CHRISTMAS! Love to hear about your adventures, safe travels and stay safe.



    • Becky on December 19, 2014 at 8:27 pm

      Merry Christmas Jill! Thank you for reading and yes I’ll drive safe. I hope you all have a happy holiday up there!



  12. Jodee Gravel on December 18, 2014 at 6:34 am

    I agree that the Q in a park just doesn’t provide the real experience. And a free pad in L.A. with family sounds pretty sweet. We have lots to see and do in the area, and if you haven’t seen the Pacific coast then now’s the time to do it when the crowds are down. My tree has had blue paper packages under it for the last couple of years…….fun to read how they get that way 🙂 I would take the pass on a clear day – they keep the road plowed and as long as there’s no ice it should be smooth sailing. Hope you can take your time coming south, although we’re having some much needed rain so it’s a little less “scenic” in some places 🙂
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..The Neverending Story – PurgingMy Profile



    • Becky on December 19, 2014 at 8:26 pm

      Yes Jodee, I was actually thinking that this would be a better time to see California because it’d be less crowded. A little rain doesn’t bother me, I actually kinda miss it – there wasn’t much of it in Utah or Nevada. I heard about how parts of Route 1 have been closed due to heavy rains and mudslides though, yikes! Some year I want to follow the coast on that road, but I have lots of time.



  13. Gary on December 18, 2014 at 5:39 am

    Hi Becky,
    It sounds like this year went great at Amazon. I hope Camperforce is still going strong a few years from now when I get ready to travel. At least the start of winter isn’t as harsh as last year in my neck of the woods. I am better prepared though, especially the 100 lb propane tank addition. I do hope our paths cross some day. Wishing you, Julie and family an enjoyable and safe holiday season……Safe travels 🙂



    • Becky on December 19, 2014 at 8:22 pm

      Yeah, Nevada has had a warmer than average winter so far Gary, it was nothing like Coffeyville last year! I think a lot of place had a hard winter last year.

      Happy Holidays to you too, and I hope to get the chance to meet you on the road someyear soon. 🙂



  14. dawn from camano island on December 18, 2014 at 5:22 am

    Winding down is good and making more $$ than you expected is even better! We received a wrapped gift from Amazon recently–it was beautifully done! Is there a lot of pressure at Amazon to move fast?

    I hope you make it to L.A. There are routes you could take other than 395 & family is good but family with an RV pad!?! Well, it doesn’t get much better than that. Q will always be there.



    • Becky on December 19, 2014 at 8:19 pm

      I think for full employees and temp agency staff there is a lot of pressure yeah. For CamperForce they cut a lot more slack – I was never told once this year that I was going too slow, and with the building being at 115% capacity which makes the stowing harder and slower I regularly was under their goal.

      Donner Pass is closed today unless you have chains (I heard from a RVer on Facebook that made it over the pass today with the chains just fine, but they also had 4-wheel drive and snow tires), but the snow turns over to rain late tonight and tomorrow conditions are suppose to quickly improve.



  15. Terri on December 18, 2014 at 2:50 am

    Glad you made the extra dough at Amazon, that always is nice to have extra in the bank account. Do you know where your next paying gig will be? Like for the summer? That is the part about doing workamping that scared me, not always knowing where my income would be coming from, with all of my loans. How much would a hot water heater cost for your Casita?

    Good luck on your travels, I’ll keep you in my thoughts and send good vibes for good weather.
    Terri recently posted..A New DirectionMy Profile



    • Becky on December 19, 2014 at 8:15 pm

      I don’t know yet Terri, I’m thinking Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, or Glacier. I’m not too worried about finding paying work for the summer, there are more positions than people that time of year. This past summer I didn’t apply for Zion until a couple weeks until I got there, it was early June.

      A new water heater is going to cost $700-something, I got the estimate around somewhere but can’t remember off the top of my head. To be honest, I expected an appliance to go out on the Casita within the first year (remember it’s 15 years old!) so it waiting for two years is actually better than planned. 😉



  16. Ron on December 17, 2014 at 8:06 pm

    Safe travels and enjoy. On to the next adventure. And Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to the 3 of you. Thanks again for sharing.



    • Becky on December 18, 2014 at 1:02 am

      Thanks Ron! Merry Christmas to you as well.



  17. Ramen on December 17, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    So Amazon actually wraps the gifts now. All of the gift wrapped items I received have always been thrown in a giant blue velvet type bag tied with yellow ribbon…Hopefully one of the CA locations for next season will be in Tracy, CA. That is about 1 hour outside of SF.

    Too bad you two can’t make it out to SF, its only a few hours away. You probably saw the prices the RV parks in the area wanted to dock for a day and said no thanks. Maybe a follower here has a driveway or large back yard in the bay area you gals can escape to for a day or two.



    • Becky on December 18, 2014 at 1:01 am

      Well, it depends on the gift Ramen. Apparently there are occasionally items so bulky or oddly shaped that they still go into gift bags, but I didn’t see one in my hour and a half.

      As for SF, it’s now actually looking good for us passing through there right now, but I don’t have any details for you yet. We’d like to hit the Jelly Belly Factory in Fairfield for a tour (and extensive taste testing) and if we make it that far west meeting up for a meal is definitely an option, although like you said we likely won’t stay overnight near SF proper due to prices. What days of the week and time of the day works best for you? Send me an e-mail and I’ll get you details as we figure them out.



      • Ramen on December 19, 2014 at 10:50 am

        Ok email sent. I’m off of work all next week, paid vacation time yay! Jelly Belly is next to Napa valley, another place you should try to roll through and see. I have a Buddy Heater if you wanted to check it out. Also have a butane stove someone mentioned below, its a handy setup.



        • Becky on December 19, 2014 at 8:11 pm

          I’ll send you an e-mail back soon Ramen, we won’t have much time in the area but I’m hoping we can meet up for dinner or something.



  18. Cherie @Technomadia on December 17, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    Sounds like you’ve had a great season there in Fernely… wishing you great adventures wherever winter takes you. We’ll be bouncing around the SW, and hope our paths cross again!
    Cherie @Technomadia recently posted..Soaking in the DesertMy Profile



    • Becky on December 18, 2014 at 12:50 am

      Yep, I’ve enjoyed my time out here, and definitely enjoyed the pay. 😉

      Thank you very much Cherie, and I hope you and Chris have a great winter as well! I wish there would have been time to meet up with you all when your caravan passed Reno, but time was short.

      I’ll be keeping an eye on RVillage as we travel, and if we get close to each other I’ll send a message for sure.



  19. jonthebru on December 17, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    You certainly do lead an interesting life.

    If you go to Quartzite, I bet there will be several sources to get the water heater replaced and people to help set up the propane heater also.



    • Becky on December 18, 2014 at 12:46 am

      I imagine you’re right Jon. 🙂



  20. Todd on December 17, 2014 at 6:21 pm

    Safe travels & Happy Holidays.



    • Becky on December 18, 2014 at 12:44 am

      Thanks Todd, you too!



  21. Rob on December 17, 2014 at 5:29 pm

    The snow will stop, the passes will be cleared and you can make the (relatively) short hop over the mountains but if you have to go…

    Heat? May I recommend the Mr Buddy heater.

    http://www.amazon.com/Mr-Heater-F232000-Indoor-Safe-Portable/dp/B002G51BZU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1418865834&sr=8-1&keywords=mr+buddy

    Works well, no batteries required & you can use those little bottles or a refillable. Avilible allover the places, not just Amazon.

    Quartzsite has parks that are reasonable, well they did two winters back, it’s worth the time to see the place.

    Enjoy your vacation!



    • Becky on December 18, 2014 at 12:44 am

      I have heard good things about those heaters Rob, but I’ve got my eyes on a more expensive one that mounts on the RV wall and is piped into my main propane line so I don’t need to bother with the little canisters. Being the frugal person that I am, I’ve been reluctant to spend money on a temporary solution until I can install the final solution, so I’ve made due without a propane heater to date. If I need a temporary measure though, that’s probably what I’d go with. 🙂



  22. Joe on December 17, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    I can’t say if Q is a good option, but I wanted to pass on an idea in case you decide to give it a shot. A solar shower (the bag kind, with one clear side and one black side) can be a passable option for heating water in the desert. I hate cold water and spent 1 season putting the solar shower out for a few hours and then bringing it to the inside shower to use. Works great if you can rig a hook sturdy enough to support it in your shower.



    • Becky on December 18, 2014 at 12:40 am

      I inherited one of those this past April Joe, haven’t had the need to try it yet, but it’s always there waiting, just in case. Was less practical out east where there’s more cloudy days and lots of trees to block the sunlight. I’m not sure if my shower could support a way to hang one up inside, I’ll have to look into it.



  23. Pleinguy on December 17, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    Sounds like you had a good couple of months at Amazon. I’m sure the bucks will be helpful. I was looking forward to meeting up with you in the Q. Several other RVers I know will be there; so, this is the year for me. Where every you go, hope you have a great holiday season.
    Pleinguy recently posted..Balancing RocksMy Profile



    • Becky on December 18, 2014 at 12:38 am

      Happy holidays to you as well Plein. If I make it down to Quartzsite, I’ll post it here of course so everyone knows. Maybe I’ll get the chance to meet up with some of you. 🙂



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