in Doing more, On the road, The State We're In, Things we do, Work Camping

Way *way* down upon the Suwannee River…

… we joined a Y2V (A Year To Volunteer) work crew for a 2-week service project at Stephen C Foster State Park.

It was so remote (audience: How remote was it?)… it was so remote that it took almost 25 minutes to drive to the nearest town with a store, and that one and only store was a Dollar General.

Cell service was about as reliable as a stoner delivering pizza, and wifi at the campground trading post was about as strong as rest stop toilet paper, so we did not spend a lot of time online.

But that was bearable. We were busy working, making new friends, spotting wildlife, and enjoying the solitude. Here it is in a nutshell.

How We Got Hooked (blame it on the a a a a a alcohol)

It started with a meet-up at a Harvest Hosts location, the Medina River Winery in Castroville, TX.
We invited two friends (Phil & Stacy of You, Me & The RV)
and they invited two friends (Phil & Shar of A Year to Volunteer),
and the more I heard about the Y2V mission, and the more I drank, the more ambitious I became.
My inner voice slurred, “We haf schkills. We haf thah kine o time. Lesssh do thish!”
And that is how we signed our asses up for not one, not two, but three Y2V projects — and have since added a fourth.
Would anybody else like to drink with me?
Wine clearly makes me believe I have superpowers.
(Photo credit: Medina River Winery)

The Worker Bees of Y2V

There were 30 of us, all RVers, mostly couples. Most stayed the entire duration of the project (Jan. 25 – Feb. 5, 2021), and a few came and went. Some already had Y2V experience under their tool belts, and some were newbies like us.

There were retirees from a wide variety of backgrounds, a sampling of which includes military veterans, nurses, teachers, a business owner, a contractor, and even a pair of NASA engineers.

I won’t even try to calculate the combined years of home improvement, building, and fix-it experience. Tim has about 40, and he was one of the younger men on the job, so there were several lifetimes worth of skills and knowledge in play every single day.

The Honey-Do’s? Honeys Did — And Then Some

We were given 5 projects by the park. Our team completed those + 20 more, and still finished a day early! A sampling of the tasks:

  • Parking lot striping
  • New AC/exhaust system in maintenance shop
  • 3 new camp host sites (timbers, leveling, graveling)
  • Sanding and painting metal cabin doors
  • Sanding and painting porch & walkway rails
  • Installing new flooring in guest cottages
  • Sanding and painting rocking chairs 
  • Cleaning AC drip stains & touch-up painting in guest cottages
  • Replacing fire rings in campground loops
Our first morning meeting included a hilarious recap of the COVID safety rules we’d all previously agreed via e-mail to uphold.
Because all of us were there in RVs, Shar’s summary was simple:
If the person you’re working next to is not someone who wakes up with you,
you should be wearing a mask.
In addition, we observed social distancing rules, agreed to no indoor socializing or RV tours, and we held only one communal dinner, which was served by masked & gloved helpers rather than the usual potluck buffet style.
The new camp host sites at the beginning…

… in the middle …
… and at the end.
Almost.
Tim & I weren’t on the gravel-spreading team, and I forgot to go back and take a pic of the completed sites.
Earned my stripes on the deck whitewashing crew.
And now I have a pair of painting tights for future projects!
And bonus: they draw the eye downward from this hot mess of an ensemble.
Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.
~flips dust-caked curls and clomps away~
Tim and Jeff on the Cabin 10 flooring team
Tim, Scott, Susan, Jeff and Phil holding the last piece, which we all signed on the underside before Scott installed it beneath the sink.
Meet Mike & Ginny.
Ginny had been retired for like 20 minutes, and was probably not expecting her retirement to include rocking chairs so soon.
But “Old Folks at Home” is one of Stephen C. Foster’s most famous songs, and we were at the state park named for him, so it kind of fit the theme.
Tim and I took on fire ring replacement.
The old rusted ones were anchored in cement, so we had to dig, wrestle, and swear all that out before installing the new ones.
By about the fourth one my shoulders were aching, but stepping on a fire ant hill distracted me from that rather quickly. Good times.
Less than a week after we all left, word came down from above: we rocked.

The park itself shouted out some love too.

Oh, And We Had Fun

“Have fun!” is in fact codified in Y2V’s core values, and we were nothing if not obedient. Even while we worked, we joked around and kept each other entertained, and also made lasting friendships.

But there was also ample time for campfires & cocktails, hiking & biking, wildlife spotting, boating, and more (yes, socially distanced or masked or both).

The work schedule was not strict — roughly 9-4 each weekday, with a lunch break — and we were advised to take time off as needed for things like ouchy muscles or injuries, personal errands, and especially for any symptoms of illness.

Having the weekend off allowed us time to explore the park ourselves, and also kept our tools, paint, dust, and noise from creating mayhem for park guests during peak visitation days.

‘Twas a gator-spottin’ bike ride along the Suwannee Sill. We saw some!
The park treated us to ranger guided boat rides along the river.
We saw lots of birds, a few more alligators, and two otters (or it might have been the same otter twice).
Finally!
At the end of Week 2, we watched one of the park’s resident black bears investigate the yard of one of the park residences.
Girls, when they’re not busy using the tools and fixing the things, just want to have fun.
So we did.
There were also… ummm… dance lessons?
Kind of hard to tell who’s the instructor and who’s the student here.

UPDATE, 02/17/21: Now that the footage is live, I can divulge that yes, those were dance lessons, and here’s why we needed them! That’s me in the yellow safety vest; Tim’s behind me in the back row, wearing a red flannel shirt. If you make it all the way to the 4:30 mark, you’ll see how I live to be an embarrassment to our sons and any future generations.


Tomorrow we head to Tennessee for the next Y2V project, at Fall Creek Falls State Park. The to-do list includes building bridges, clearing and re-routing trails, and painting maintenance buildings.

Can’t wait to see some of our friends again, meet new members of the crew, and knock that list right out of the park. Hahaha! Out of the park. Get it? I crack myself up.


To learn more about A Year to Volunteer and their upcoming projects, visit them on


Our Pandemic Caveat
We are traveling a lot less than we normally would, and as often as possible we choose destinations that offer ample outdoor opportunities, and are unlikely to be crowded.
When we gather with friends or family, we keep our numbers small, and we request honest communication beforehand about their comfort level.
We continue to wear masks in public and wash/sanitize hands frequently, and we limit our outings.
~ The rrrrOHHHHRRRerrrrs, March 2020 – ?

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    • Ah, thank you my friend. We started working at our second project location today, and I can now add “painting under urinals” to my list of dubious skills. Yay?