Friday, November 16, 2012

Planning - perhaps. Flexibility - a necessity!

If you know me at all, you know I like to plan.  I like to be prepared.  It makes me feel more relaxed when I know what today and tomorrow hold.  I have some anxiety issues ...  I love lists.  I love my calendar.  I plan out our dinners a month in advance (if I'm on top of things).  Can you relate to that at all?

Part of this new life style for me is learning to be more flexible.  I am having to learn to be more open to whatever happens to come up.  This is not always easy for me, but I'm trying!

Being a park host is excellent training in being flexible with my own plans.  I'm learning to accept each position with the attitude of "whatever you need us to do, we will try our best".  I've done that in other volunteer opportunities quite successfully.  However, this park hosting business has raised the bar!   If I could, I lean toward avoiding any real or imagined difficulties.  I'd like to appear confident in my job, which means I might only want to do what I've already tried.  Fewer risks.  Rarely now are any two jobs the same!  Yes, I'm being stretched - in a really good way.

We accepted the park hosting position at Wallowa Lake State Park for September and October.  We were assigned our camp site (we loved it).  I did not pick it as I've always done when we were just "regular campers".  We were assigned responsibility for selling wood and for cleaning vacated camp sites - both tasks we enjoy - because that's what they needed us to do.  How the job is done varies from park to park.  We began work the morning after we arrived, and worked with 5 other hosts.  Our schedules overlapped and and we covered for each other as work loads changed with the changing of the seasons.  All of that required being available and flexible, getting to know new people and learning to deal and accept individual differences.  At Wallowa, we worked with such a good group of hosts - we all became quick friends, even with different strengths and personalities.  Park hosting is a great way to make new friends!

October brought some changes to our happy little Wallowa Lake family.  Some hosts left at the end of September.  The seasonal rangers were beginning to leave as well.  We had an additional host come join us for a week on a special project (photographing campsites which will eventually be viewable when making online camping reservations).  Steve and Al hit it off pretty quick (the "engineer thing") and we hope to see he and his wife again at another park one day.  We lost a couple other hosts who were ready to move to their next job, or planning to "Winter" elsewhere, leaving only two remaining hosts - the Schaffers and ourselves.

The weather changed rapidly in October.  We began getting freezing temperatures, in the mid 20's, at night.  We were unable to get propane delivered directly to our coach at the park, but had figured out a location we could take the coach to in town, if necessary.  We nursed our 28-gallon propane, using one of our heat pumps (air conditioner) for heat once the temperature got above 35 degrees, when the heat pump began to be effective.  Running a furnace can use a lot of propane up quickly, though at the time we had just one of our two furnaces working.  We went into town and purchased a small ceramic heater for extra help holding the temperature above freezing in the night.  It began to look like we were going to make through two months without buying more propane!

A prior winter photo by Heather Honeywell
Around that same time, our supervising Ranger, Shawn, told us that there would be a point coming soon when Maintenance-Ranger Wes would begin shutting off the water in various loops to avoid freezing pipes at the park.  Our host site happened to be C-1, a part of the first loop they were planning to close down.  To us less rough-and-tough people, it's no fun trying to "dry camp" for any extended length of time.  Keep in mind, this is our house!  We do laundry in it, take showers in it, wash dishes, etc.  We certainly need more than 100 gallons of water for a couple weeks of living!
Steve and I began trying to figure out what we could/should do.  Could we move into another site in B loop, which they'd planned to keep open longer?  While Ranger Shawn assured us that we could leave whenever we felt we needed to, it felt strange to consider leaving the park early.  We'd taken the position for September and October.  We've always met our commitments.  We spoke with our fellow hosts.  They planned to stay to the end.  We were really struggling.  Suddenly, the weather warmed and began to look hopeful!   They wouldn't need to turn off the water unless things got worse again.  We stayed on at the park, though we decided to leave on the 29th, to give us a better shot at being home for my Dad's birthday.  Our best plan was in order.

Then we had our first real rain of the reason.  It poured and poured for a couple days.  A small lake formed behind our MobyHoma.  We breathed in the moisture!  My cuticles began to mend at last!  But, then we saw our first snow.  It was so great to be able to see it come down in the park.  I love snow!  I don't want to have to drive in snow, mind you, but I love it!  We were keeping a close eye on the weather forecasts...  On Sunday, October 21, the temperatures dropped down in the mid 20's again.  We'd seen frost for the first time the morning before, thanks for the moisture left from the rain.  Keep in mind moisture was rare during our time at the park.  We decided not to risk driving into town on icy roads for church in Enterprise that morning.  One Ranger had experienced black ice on her way in to work.

Instead of church, Steve and I did a lot of talking.  We checked the latest weather forecasts and discovered a steady downward trend in the temperatures, both during the day and at night.  Snow was predicted for Tuesday morning, the 23rd.  We talked about our desire to be home for my Dad's 80th birthday, about the amount of tasks we were going to have to accomplish during the month of November, including finding/buying/ rigging a tow vehicle.  We were already aware that it was going to be an extremely busy month.  We were going to have to hit the ground running in McMinnville in order to accomplish everything we needed to .  Then we considered the weather creeping in on us.  When would it be too late to drive out safely?  We decided it was time -- now.  We decided to leave on Monday, October 22nd, prior to the predicted snow event, just in case it didn't end after the predicted day.  This would be one week before our planned date of departure.

We went over to visit our co-hosts to tell them of our decision.  I said, "We have some news to share."  Sharon said, "I think I know what it is."  I asked, "What?"  She said, "You are leaving the park tomorrow."  I couldn't believe it!  How could she have known?  We didn't talk to anyone else about it!  Seems they'd run into Ranger Wes, who'd shared that he was going to have to turn off the water on their loop, and had already closed the restroom/showers and laundry facility in that loop early that week.  They didn't have a washer/dryer in their Class C motorhome.  Independent from us, the Schaffer's had come to the same conclusion on when they should leave! It was clear God had confirmed that our plans were His also.  How cool was that?!?!

I went on to explain to Bill & Sharon that we thought we'd only go as far as Pendleton, staying at the RV Park at the Wild Horse Casino.  Bill said they'd had the same idea!  Sharon had told me on a previous day that she like the idea of traveling together with us for safety reasons.  After all, we were both headed the same direction.  Bill & Sharon were heading back to Newberg, and we were heading for McMinnville.  However, our leaving dates weren't making that possible.  Until now!  I should mention that Bill and Sharon are very early risers compared to us.  Steve and I are much slower and prefer to stay up in the evening a while longer.  Knowing that, Bill and Sharon were still willing to wait and leave with us between 11:00 and noon once temperatures were above freezing.  The plan was made.

We left Wallowa Lake State Park just after 11:00 on Monday morning.  It was snowing (not sticking) as we drove around the lake on the way out.  Steve (with Parsley) led in the Buick, I followed in Moby, and the Schaffers followed in their motorhome, towing their Volkswagen bug.  We had us a "convoy" of sorts!

I prayed a lot during that 2 1/2  hour drive to Pendleton.  First, I was concerned there might be slick roads along the way.  (Our motorhome doesn't appear to have a temperature monitor for the road.  If it does, we haven't found it yet.) However, things went very well and were pretty easy, at least until we started climbing to get through the pass prior to Pendleton.  We ran into a pretty good amount of rain, which was increasingly mixed with snow.  This was my first experience using the windshield wipers, and I was so happy to see how well they worked.  I knew I could just pull over if it got just too dicey.  However, then I imagined the snow might begin sticking and we could get stuck.  I knew we had to keep going.  I began to pray aloud to God asking that He would get us through these last 30 miles safely.  Hadn't He led us to this day of travel?  He did.  Surely, He would see us through.

There was sunshine on the other side of that pass!  We pulled into the Wild Horse Casino RV Park around 2:00 that afternoon.  We set up and then joined the Schaffers on a shuttle bus to go enjoy the Casino's lunch buffet.  It was so nice to enjoy our new friends, a good meal, and relax.

Steve and I didn't get much sleep that night, but decided the next morning to go ahead and head for McMinnville that day.  If there was excessive wind or other nasty weather in the gorge, we could always decide to stop for another night.  Since Steve was feeling particularly groggy this morning, we decided I would go ahead and drive Moby the rest of the way to McMinnville....

To be continued .....

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