Summer in Oregon


My first thought spending summer in Oregon will always be berries, berries, berries! From July we have picked almost everywhere we’ve visited. Fish always, and now berries – D.A. is calling us Subsistence RVers. Way to go!

Last winter near Lake Havasu we had the conversation about the probability that we were not getting any younger or healthier, and what was still on the list for us. For me it was seeing Costa Rica and Alaska. For D.A. it was Peacock Bass Fishing in the Amazon. We decided to see those places… soon.

In past summers we have volunteered at state parks, Corps of Engineers parks, National Wildlife Refuges and Habitat for Humanity. We had the idea it would be great to let an employer help us with our upcoming travel expenses. We were already aware of camphosting jobs at Portland General Electric campgrounds through our Workamper membership, so I sent off an email asking them to put us on the list for the summer.

I won’t bore you with the details, the story is here, and while the relationship only lasted three months, we had the opportunity to see a lot of Oregon — Mount Hood, Timberline Lodge, Hood River, the Columbia River  Discovery Center. Where we were – near Madras – was great too, just east of the Cascades in the high desert. We spent days off at the Museum at Warm Springs, and in Bend, and all the gorgeous places surrounding it: Sisters, Camp Sherman and the headwaters of the Metolius River, Cascades Lakes Highway, McKenzie Pass and the Dee Wright Observatory.

We were awaiting new eyeglasses at Costco in Bend when we decided to leave PGE, so we needed to stay in the Bend area a short time to take delivery on the glasses. I found a campground through our Coast to Coast membership, and it turned out to be quite an interesting experience. Sundance Meadows is about six miles from Bend. Our stay was free with our C2C membership, and I’m not sure we would have stayed if not for that fact. There was electricity and water to the sites, but no sewer. The sites for visitors (as compared to “owners”) were quite unlevel. As full-timers, our RV is our home, and just like “home” we like full hook-up, level sites. Nonetheless, once I went wandering the property, rustic as it was, I fell in love with the great opportunities for walking. The property was originally developed in the 1970s as a ranch and year-round vacation spot for families.

From there we moved south to Timber Valley SKP, an Escapee park, in Sutherlin, OR. Having been members of Escapees almost since our RVing departure from Tucson, this is the first SKP park we’ve visited.

The Escapee parking system provides a very comprehensive resource with 18 Escapee parks from Washington State to Florida plus a partnership with over 800 commercial RV parks that offer a 15 to 50 percent discount.

I’ve only heard great things about Escapee parks, now I have experienced one. I agree. This would be a lovely place to live (or even spend your summers, though lots of residents stay year around). Timber Valley SKP is a co-op. When owners leave for whatever reason, they can leave their spots empty for casual visitors (like us) to use. In return, the rental pot is split at some point and the owners get a proportional reduction on their annual fees. There is a waiting list to own a lot – about five to eight years. You give them a deposit and they save your space on the list.

For Boondockers looking for a lovely place to park, Timber Valley let’s you park along the boundary of the property – all well-marked spots (about 15 of them), that you can have for $5 a night! What a bargain!! I assume this happens at other Escapee parks also – it wouldn’t take long to recoup your membership cost.

We stayed a month for about $400, made the trip to Astoria and another to Lopez Island in the San Juan Islands with friends from Seattle. D.A. found a great place to fish, Cooper Creek Reservoir, which just happened to have a great hiking path for you know who.

We had two goals coming to Oregon. D.A. wanted to fish for salmon on the Columbia, and I wanted to visit Crater Lake NP. While at PGE, I made reservations for two nights at the end of August at Crater Lake National Park.

As everybody in the West knows, there have been a lot of fires this summer.  Everywhere we went we had smoke to contend with – never terrible but always present. When we joined our friends from Seattle for a few days on Lopez Island in the San Juans, it was really smokey. We kept hoping for minimum smoke for our trip to Crater Lake.

We took that gorgeous Umpqua River Road with all the waterfalls and visited a few each way. It was a glorious day and a friend had suggested we see Diamond Lake. It turned out Diamond Lake would be a perfect lunch spot, but, sadly, by the time we arrived, there was a lot of smoke. The waiter said it was simply a fact of life at the lake in the summer now…

Our first view of Crater Lake was smokey yet FANTASTIC! We had two very full days including the boat tour that comes with a hike described by the ranger on our boat, “One mile down, ten back up.” On the third morning, we awoke, had breakfast, walked to the rim and no smoke! Post card perfect viewing for our rim tour.

Thank you, Oregon. Another summer has passed and just like we felt leaving Maryland, Maine, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin (and a few others). We could spend every summer here!



Camp Hosting for Portland General Electric -PGE- at Pelton Park

From High and happy expectations to “how soon can we get outta here?!”

We expected to be camp hosting for Portland General Electric at Pelton Park until September 30, but left at the end of July due to issues mostly beyond our control.

We learned of the opportunities at PGE parks through Workamper, and sent off an email of interest last fall. We were told to register at PGE/Careers as Seasonal Park Attendants. I looked at workamper reviews of working at PGE and they were all positive. Great!

Sometime over that fall-winter stay at Havasu Springs, we had the conversation: “We’re probably not getting any younger. We’re probably not getting any healthier. Are there some things we still want to do?” For D.A. it was peacock bass fishing in the Amazon. For me it was a trip to Costa Rica and also a trip to Alaska. It got us thinking… Why not find out if PGE wanted to help us pay for it?

Sure enough, we were notified about open positions and applied. By the beginning of this year, we were pretty sure we would be offered a camp hosting position. Most of these seasonal jobs pay about $14.50 an hour (which is, as you may know, quite high for the industry). They like couples. The woman works in the office and the man in maintenance, though I think they might be open to other arrangements, and one of the three couples on our team both worked maintenance. Often they pick two couples and a solo.

In spite of our confidence, the obstacles to getting hired by PGE were daunting. They sent us to a local clinic for a drug test and physical. We complied with all instructions and after a long wait were informed they were unable to do all the tests PGE required. Actually they did none of them except the drug test. PGE said they would find another clinic to do the rest of the testing. Lake Havasu City is a town of about 70K, so we were surprised they couldn’t find another clinic nearby. They wanted us to go to Phoenix or Yuma – both more than two hour drives from us. We finally got them to agree to find us a clinic in Las Vegas – which we could visit on our way to Oregon.

During all this, my urine test result came back as inconclusive, so I needed to return to the original lab and take the test again with an audience. Ha! After the process the lab told me PGE was looking for Methadone. Methadone!?! I don’t think so. Needless to say, I passed the second test.

The actual physical turned out to be the most comprehensive I’ve ever had: hearing, eyesight, peeing in a cup, toe touching, squats – you name it. We did it all successfully, but it was a little daunting and the whole time I was thinking, “What could possibly be next?”

On arrival in Oregon at Pelton Park, we were put in a brand new camp host site. It was the first site you would see when you drove into the park, so it seemed a big benefit for PGE. They assured us they were aware it needed a lot of work, that they would level the site and bring a picnic table. Neither happened. The water service had been run from another camp host site and they had placed three hoses inside PVC pipe.  One of the hose connections leaked continuously. It ran down the pipe and eroded the area around the electric pedestal! We brought it to their attention. It was never fixed.  We discovered we had no cell service or wifi. Satellite TV was almost impossible, with no local channels. The worst of all though is we were parked under three huge trees that shed an unbelievable amount of biomass every day. It covered our truck, chairs, awning, screened room and of course RV. We couldn’t help but track it into the RV.

After more than a month in a bad situation, we had a potluck get-together for all the local staff. A long-time PGE employee who is host at a nearby day use area said, “You haven’t seen anything yet. Wait until the sap starts seeping from those trees!”

I told our supervisor we needed to move. NOW! There was another host site in the park, but while much better for us, it took away the advantage of having a second host near the entrance to the park for PGE. We really didn’t care. We moved.

in the meantime, the writing was on the wall but we failed to comprehend it.

I trained and learned the reservation system. The computer was mostly fine, but the wifi speed was dial-up, and the delay in accomplishing a reservation could be disheartening. Also, you could get caught in a loop and some transactions and the system would freeze, so you could do nothing until you shut down and rebooted the computer! The phone was just as bad. We had two lines. The “regular” line for reservations and park business and the other was an “emergency” line for PGE brass and local authorities to contact us.  Many mornings (and throughout the day) when you tried to make a call, the regular line would be dead and you’d have to call its number from the emergency line to restart it!

D.A. had been learning the maintenance duties. He soon noticed a problem with the toilet plumbing – the toilet apertures were so small that when the park was full and there were many people using the toilets, they would clog – maybe 12 times a shift! So, on busy weekends, the crew spent their time driving their Gators between the four bathrooms clearing clogs – no time for any of their other routine duties. We complained, guests complained, but we were told the situation would be considered “off season.” Eventually, management told staff to “do their jobs” and later offered a $25 Amazon Gift Certificate to the crew member who cleared the most clogs! It wasn’t very well received by staff. Nobody applied for the prize.

These issues were compounding daily, with no solutions offered, when our supervisor made a totally inappropriate comment about another crew member. At first I was so mad I couldn’t speak, but eventually took an opportunity to discuss it with him. With one careless and thoughtless statement, I lost all confidence in his abilities and I surely didn’t want to be around someone who thought so little of his staff.

One particularly hot Sunday (Pelton Park is located in Oregon’s high desert east of the Cascades), guests starting arriving at ten in the morning. Check in time was four p.m. We had one guy working, D.A., and he hadn’t even begun cleaning sites by 10 a.m.; he was too busy unclogging toilets! The incoming guests were indignant. They were hot and wanted to unload into their sites before it got hotter. I asked them to return about one p.m., still three hours before actual check-in time. It didn’t matter. They were mad at me, they were mad at D.A., and they were mad at PGE for not having enough staff to accommodate their arrival six hours ahead of schedule. We’re not talking one guest, we’re talking six or eight of them – all furious!

That wasn’t the beginning of the end… It was the end of the end: bad management, woefully inadequate infrastructure, management that never followed through with anything they said, not to mention the significant health hazard presented by all those clogged toilets. We gave notice.

The manager of our supervisor told us there were other staffing opportunities they would like us to consider because they didn’t want to lose us. We said, “No, thank you,” and then we summarized it all – pretty much as I have above. In our remaining days, we never heard another peep out of Corporate.

Would we try it again? The wage is attractive. The reality is not. No. But guess what? The trip to Costa Rica is booked, and from there we go to the Amazon!