Work camping for Amazon: What’s a minimalist like you doing in a place like this?

Believe me, I get the irony.

We wanted less stuff. We got rid of almost everything we owned in order to gain more freedom and more mobility.

So what the ever loving hell are we doing taking seasonal jobs with Amazon’s Camperforce, working for the planet’s largest consumerism enabler, during the months of the year when people are losing their minds in their eagerness to Buy All The Things?

Hmmmm.
Let’s think about that.

Well, it’s not like we’re buying it.

We’re just gonna be moving it around. A lot. For pay!

And everybody likes to earn money, right?

I’ve made no secret that we live solely on Tim’s military retirement pension, and have done so by keeping our spending and our debt under control for the past four years. For us, the taking of these jobs is more about our need for new experiences than our need for income, and we know we’re very lucky to be able to work because we want to.

Plus, it’s Amazon — a business and cultural icon that we can’t imagine living without, even though we managed to find and buy things we needed (and… didn’t) without it for more than half our lives.

The company was born in 1994. Our sons? 1995 and 1997. It’s grown up with our family, with an order history stretching from toddler shoes to Legos to iPods to college text books. We want to be a part of it.

So… why the ever loving hell not?

Mmmmm, maybe because we’re not gonna know what hit us?

Although I’ve had many part-time volunteer and paid positions over the years, I haven’t worked a 40-hour week or had to clock in and clock out since 1994.

And Tim? Tim was a naval officer for 25 years, so he was used to being in charge of people, and now he’ll be in charge of precisely nobody. He will not be invited to morning staff meetings. He will be but a cog in the wheel for the first time since a stint flipping burgers in college back in 1980-something.

In other words: this will be a big BIG BIG change for both of us.

Here’s what we know:

  • Our schedule will include 4 10-hour work days/week to start, increasing to a mandatory 5 days during peak season, with an option for a voluntary 6th day. The two of us will work the same shifts, although we might not see much of each other throughout the day.
  • We will be paid an hourly wage, with time and a half for overtime.
  • Our campsite is paid for by the company during the time we are on their clock, plus a 2-night cushion on each end. For us, that’s September 20 to December 25.
  • If we finish our tours (sorry — old military terminology dies hard), we receive a completion bonus.
  • We are also eligible for referral bonuses, so hey, if you apply for Camperforce next season because of this article, and they hire you? Tell them we sent you!
  • We will be working in the warehouse as pickers, the position that was our first choice due to the amount of walking involved — like 10 miles/day! To state it simply, we’re on the outbound side of the operation, picking ordered items off the shelves and placing them in bins bound for the packing and shipping departments.
  • We are not allowed to carry our cell phones with us. We bought simple pedometers to keep track of our steps and calories burned while we work. The facility, which is only 5 years old, is a little more than a million square feet, so our feet are going to be tired. But I guarantee that lack of cell phone access will cause me to lose my shit and burst into tears long before my aching tootsies will. Just wait for it. You’ll hear me.
  • The fulfillment center where we’ll be working is in Murfreesboro, TN, and was one of four Camperforce sites that were available when we applied early in 2017. Two sites were in Texas. We’d lived there for 5 years, and have had family there since 1987, so we ruled out the familiar. That left Campbellsville, KY, and Murfreesboro. The latter came out on top because the pay was higher by $1.00/hour, and there’s no state income tax.

Got the t-shirts.
“Been there, done that” comes later.

Here’s what I predict:

  • We will be using our time off for little other than subsistence chores and recuperation: cleaning, laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, eating and rest.
  • Social media and overall computer use will decline. Markedly.
  • We will complete this deployment. By comparison to the ones Tim made during his military career, this is a short one!

And that’s all I’m willing pull out of my Magic 8 Ball of Expectations. Why? Well, because I remember that when we were awaiting the arrival of our first baby, we read all the books, we did all the research, and yet people kept telling us, “You have no clue. None.”

We thought those people were wrong.

They were not.

So for these jobs, we’ve again done a lot of research. The big difference is that this time, we know we have no clue what it’s really going to be like. Hence, I’m keeping my predictions to a minimum. And I’ll evaluate the three above a bit later in the game.

For now, we’ve got one more sleep until show time, which is tomorrow morning at 0730.

My alarm is set — with Rocky’s Theme.


Notes:

This is the “Before” installment in what I plan as a trilogy chronicling our 3-month gig with Amazon’s Camperforce. Other chapters will quite logically include a “During” and an “After.” I’ll link them all to each other when complete.

For more information, feel free to dig around on the Camperforce web site, and to check out this exposé that appeared on Wired. And if you search Google for “Camperforce,” you’ll also find a lot of personal blogs written by other RV’ers about their experiences.

Stuffed peppers experiment: not the cooking part, just the recipe posting part

Bear with me while I learn a new trick?

Jump to Recipe

Your reward will be this slow cooker recipe I like, in an easy-to-print format that my prior food blogging efforts lacked. See the cute little “print” button under the photo? Click that.

This recipe also happens to be perfect for cool autumn weather, and it’s fairly adaptable to various types of -free diets.

I had to use a recipe I already had a photo for, because I didn’t want to cook a thing and document every step and learn how to post it all at one go, so you get an oldie.

I first served this dish in 2011, and I’d happily give credit to its original publisher if I remembered where I’d found it in the first place, so if it’s yours, speak up!

Ready?

Print

Slow Cooker Sausage Stuffed Peppers

Hearty, savory, warm, filling, and very, very, juicy. I highly recommend serving these in bowls instead of on plates!

Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Total Time 5 hours 20 minutes
Servings 5
Calories 375 kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 15.2 oz can Hunt's seasoned tomato sauce for meatloaf
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 dash ground black pepper
  • 5 whole bell peppers, any color
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 small potato, any variety, chopped
  • 1/2 cup dried parsley
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1 lb ground Italian sausage, spicy, mild, or sweet

Instructions

  1. In a 6-quart slow cooker, combine the tomato sauce, oregano and pepper.

    Wash peppers and pat dry. 

    If they do not sit upright, slice a very thin piece off the bottom. Finely chop the pieces and place in large bowl. 

    Add the onion, potato, parsley and crushed red pepper to the bowl, and toss to combine. 

    Add the sausage and mix to incorporate.

    Using a paring knife at a slight angle, cut the tops off the peppers; discard the seeds. 

    Spoon the sausage mixture (about 1 cup each) into the peppers.

    Arrange the peppers upright in the slow cooker and place the tops over the filling. Cover and cook until the sausage is cooked through and the peppers are tender, 5-6 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high. 

    Using two large spoons, transfer the peppers to serving dish, letting any excess liquid drain into the sauce first. Stir the sauce and serve with peppers.

Let me know what you think!

There’s one standout in every crowd?
More likely I just used what I had on hand at the time.


Here are links to other recipes I’ve posted. I will probably not go back and reformat them, even though there aren’t that many, because I’m just not that ambitious, and I have no designs on becoming a Food Blogger (capitalization intentional). But I’ll post future recipes in the format above, for ease of both viewing and printing.

You can also find my recipes by going to my “Categories” drop-down bar and selecting “RECIPES.” This feature appears on the left or near the bottom of any page, depending on what type of device you’re using.

Yes, I use my slow cooker a lot. No, I have not upgraded to an Instant Pot.

Yet.

 

3 True Trail Tales from Our Trip to Trail Town USA

1st Tale: Tim & Greg Spend 7 Days Hiking the Appalachian Trail

Tim and Greg: Day 1, Minute 1

Tim and Greg: Day 1, Minute 2
Things got colder, wetter, dirtier, more strenuous, and a whole lot stinkier after that.

This tale gets top billing because it’s the reason we returned to this area (I’ve linked to posts from our 2015 visit below). We wanted a location with easy trail access, that was also within a day’s drive from our next stop, which is just south of Nashville, TN, and from Greg’s hometown, which is Norfolk, VA.

Hello, Damascus, VA, halfway point and trail town extraordinaire!

From VisitDamascus.org: Damascus is traversed by the Appalachian Trail, the Virginia Creeper Trail, the Trans-America National Bicycle Trail, the Iron Mountain Trail, the Daniel Boone Heritage Trail, the Crooked Road Musical Heritage Trail, Virginia’s Birding and Wildlife Trail, and lies within a short distance of hundreds of miles of other hiking, horse, and biking trails.

That red line is the Appalachian Trail. The boys hiked sections in this area, between Roan Mountain, TN, near the lower left, and Troutdale, VA, near the upper right.
(map source)

Since I didn’t go (other than accompanying them on a quick 2.5 miles in, then back out to the car after a gear replacement delivery on Day 2), I’ll let Tim finish up the tale with his stats and photos.

  • We hiked 76.7 miles, tracked using Greg’s GPS watch.
  • Our highest point was Mount Rogers at 5,728’.
  • Experienced grassy highlands and dense humid forests.
  • Our longest day was 16.9 miles; our shortest was 6.6 miles.
  • Night-time temps were in the 40’s; day-time probably 60’s.
  • We saw four thru-hikers. All were working hikes known as flip-flops or MOBOs, where they started somewhere in the middle and hiked north to the Maine end, then reset to where they started and hiked to the southern end in Georgia. They had roughly 400 miles of their 2,180+ mile journey remaining.
  • Met a father/son team (both named Tim!) at the summit of Mount Rogers. They’d just completed their 21st “Highest point in a state” hike, and were planning to do all 50.
  • One deer
  • Many wild ponies
  • Several longhorns (not the UT kind, like our younger son)
  • Zero actual bears, but we saw some pretty fresh scat and heard/saw a tree being worked over nearby, in addition to the honey-grabbing evidence below
  • No raccoons (remember this for later)

Random summit view 1

Random summit view 2

Laurel Fork Falls
A couple of thru-hikers said it was in the top two of the best things they’d seen on the entire Appalachian Trail.

What can I say? I have a thing for log cabins.

A freshly dug hole, probably by a bear going after honey in the hive.
Unfortunately the bees don’t show up in the picture, and we did not see Winnie-the-Pooh.

2nd Tale: Emily Does 6 Miles, and Gives Her Boots the Boot

While they were out, I went out too. Gathered my gear, packed water and snacks, and hoped my old boots would see me through one more hike. They did, but it wasn’t comfortable. My next “hike” was into town for a new pair!

My hike on the trail started here, up these steps.
My hike to the trail started on the steps of our RV, which was parked only half a mile away.
Location, location, location!

It ain’t much, but it’s mine.
But then, I’m a day hiker, so I don’t carry a tent, sleeping bag, cooking supplies, or multiple days worth of food.

When I reached this sign at the top, I turned around and hiked the 3 miles back down into Damascus.
Took me about 3 hours, including my 20-minute lunch break.

New boots!
This is my second pair of KEEN hikers; the first pair lasted a good 3-4 years. I like them because they are comfortable from Day 1, and they are nice and wide at the toe, just like my feet. I’ve managed to purchase both pairs during end-of-season clearance sales, taking their cost down to less than $100.00!

3rd Tale: The Half of the Virginia Creeper Trail We Didn’t Do in 2015, but Twice This Time, Because we Foolishly Skipped Booking a Shuttle

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, and it seemed like a good idea at the time.

Sure, we can ride 17 miles from Damascus to Abingdon for lunch, I thought.

I know we’re not serious cyclists, and that our longest ride together has been only 15 miles, but this is on an old rail bed with only a 5% grade, I thought.

Riding 34 miles can’t be that hard, I thought.

I was wrong.

And 24 hours later, I am still in pain.

In 2015, we took a bike shuttle to White Top Station (1), and rode the trail downhill 17 miles to Damascus (5).
Yesterday, we rode 17 miles from Damascus (5) to Abingdon (8), ate lunch, and then rode all 17 miles back.
I thought it would be maybe a 4-hour outing, but it took 7.
Yeah, ouch.
(Map source)

Don’t let that subtle bowl shape between Abingdon and Damascus fool you. Up is up, and I was one hangry chick by the time we got to Abingdon.
(Map source)

Our reward: scenic wooden trestles, rustic farmland, majestic rivers, lots of cows, and one final, magical, adorable sighting.

There were cows in the woods…

… and cows by the river…

… and cows in my selfie …

… and wow, that cow is reallyreally close! Wait. Close enCOWnter. HAAAAHAHAHAHA!

This part of the Virginia Creeper Trail cuts through quite a bit of private land, so there are several gates along the way.
Tim rode ahead to hold them open for me.
What a prince!

And then, just as I was thinking there was no way I could pedal the last 6 or 7 miles home, because everything hurt, and I’d run out of swear words to describe it, a bit of rustling on my right caught my attention.
It was not one…

… not two…

… but THREE BABY RACCOONS that were tumbling all over each other in the leaves, and making the most adorable pippity-purring noises I’ve ever heard.
I wanted to snuggle them. Bad.
But we didn’t get too close (I zoomed in for these photos), because nature.
Mama raccoon was probably nearby, and we definitely did not want to deal with the likes of her.

Those fuzzy little bandits were my good omen, my powerful talisman, the image that sustained me for the rest of the ride home.

Best. Wildlife sighting. Ever.


Posts from our 2015 visit