Great Location, Great Friends, and a Surprise Ending
After driving over a mountain pass in a snow storm we had not anticipated, we made it to our latest work camping job in Grand Teton National Park. The journey here had not been an easy one an we were ready to park the rig and stay still for a little while. So, it was only natural that our hearts sank when we went to check in for our new jobs and were told that we had arrived three days too early. It had been such a struggle to get to our new job on time and now we were facing the possibility of needing to leave and come back in a few days. It seemed at this point that this new event was just par for the course in what had been a rocky end to season 11. However, we did have hope that things would be turning around for season 12 when they made accommodations for us and told us that we could stay. A wave of relief washed over us and we began to settle in and prepare for our new jobs.
Settling in to the employee RV park was a little different than previous experiences. When we pulled in there was only one other RV and they had just recently plowed out the sites and turned the water on for the season. There was so much snow piled around us that when we parked the slide room came out to within an inch of the snow bank on one side and on the other, we had a small walking path between the RV and the snowbank to get to the door. Another first, was having to dig though the snow to find our sewer connection. It was the first time we would be living in this much snow at the beginning of a summer season. We had done so much preparation in the past to live in the cold this was not a big concern for us. We knew once we were set up, our home would be fully functional and we would be warm and comfortable. This meant that we could enjoy this new place we were living in and take in the sights of Jackson Lake completely frozen over and Mount Moran, Grand Teton and the rest of the range blanketed in snow and ice.
This would be our first season working in a maintenance department. And, when working at a property that only opens seasonally that means that the beginning of the season is the busy season, like what they call high season in the industry for those that work front of house or guest facing positions. Maintenance is busy at the beginning of the season turning the water back on to buildings and making sure that all of the utilities are in working order and that any damage to the facilities that may have occurred over the harsh winter months is addressed so that everything will be ready for guests on opening day. So, as the saying goes, we hit the ground running which is something we were not fully prepared for as most of our jobs have been guest facing and the season usually starts out slow and then ramps up to the busiest part of the season. For a while work was busy but we got the hang of things quickly and set to exploring the local area.
Very early on in the season we took a weekend trip to Yellowstone. Without putting much thought into it we packed up and headed north. We were part way there when we realized we were going to one of the busiest national parks in the country on Memorial day weekend with no reservations and no plan. We did not let that deter us though and decided that we would drive from the south entrance to the east entrance exploring along the way. When we stopped at one of the visitor centers we were given information about places to camp outside of the park. We decided to risk it and try to get a spot at one of the first come fist served campgrounds outside of the east entrance and it paid off. It was early season in the park and many of the amenities were not open yet which meant there were very few people in the park and we could pull over and explore almost anywhere we wanted. Driving along Yellowstone lake and seeing the steam from the geysers billow up in the distance like smoke coming out of a chimney was mesmerizing. This time no reservations and no plans had worked out for us.
As the summer went on we enjoyed our daily drive to work as we got to see a variety of wildlife on the side of the road in the early season before the park became busy with people and traffic. We were also able to watch the mountain range change daily before our very eyes. The snow slowly melted off of the enormous peaks and there were no two days that looked alike whether it be the lighting or a wisp of cloud hanging below the peak, or even completely shrouded in clouds. Then came the fire season and wind brought smoke from places south and west of us and it was rare that we could see the mountains at all. Except on the rare occasion that it would rain and clear out the smoke or even on one occasion we were stuck in a hail storm.
During this time our work load had evened out and we began to get to know our coworkers and neighbors in the employee RV park. It seemed there was always something going on from lending a hand to a neighbor with their rig, to Taco Tuesdays (on Wednesdays), weekly Canasta games, and impromptu game nights or chats around the fire. We would even venture out to explore Jackson and the surrounding area including a trip to the rodeo. To be quite honest, it felt like adult summer camp. And, we made some really great friends.
In July, the property we were working at had a Fourth of July parade put on by the employees. Ben was asked to drive the Flxible bus in the parade while Lauren and a few friends would ride along. It was quite the hoopla with floats and golf carts decorated.
It was now that time of year that Lauren’s family would make their annual pilgrimage across the country to wherever we were for the summer. Much like last year they would be bringing Lauren’s grandfather but they would also have additional passengers. Lauren’s aunt and her dog would be joining them for the trip as well. While they were with us we took a driving tour of the park, starting at the historic Cunningham Cabin and then entering the park at the Moose entrance and driving past Jenny Lake, over the Jackson Lake Dam, making a stop at the lodge where we worked every day to enjoy a coffee and the view of the mountains, to Colter Bay. We also went shopping in Jackson, saw the most photographed barn in the US, and went to the Museum of Military Vehicles in Dubois. The closest accommodations my parents were able to get after having to change their reservations was in Dubois which was roughly an hour and a half away from the park. This worked out though as we would probably have missed the Museum if they were not staying near by. Dubois is a quaint western town with restaurants and shops to explore which Lauren did with her aunt and mom on one of the days we were there. There is even a shop with a live honey bee hive in the store. It was also nice to see their travel trailer and the newest modifications they had made since we had seen it last.
After they left it seemed that time was going by quickly and the summer would be over before we knew it. Our friends and coworkers were all buzzing about where they would be going next and what their next adventure would have in store for them. Much like other seasons we were unsure about what we would be doing next or where we would be going. We were not panicked though and had been keeping an eye out for job opportunities and had put in a few applications.
Our season was starting to get busy again at work, with facilities starting to shut down when one afternoon Lauren got a phone call that would change the rest of our season.
One of those jobs that we had put in an application at called and said that she would need to start at the end of the week. A small amount of negotiating was done to push back the start date until the start of the next week. Ben and Lauren had a brief discussion about whether taking the job was a good fit and then the call was made to go for it. We quickly went into planning mode. And, within 24 hours we had given notice at our current jobs and were hitched up and in the truck ready to move on to the next adventure.
Our travels would take us west to Reno, Nevada. Which turned out to be quite a finish to season 12. We were staying in an RV park at a casino, which is not uncommon in the Reno area, getting our bearings and doing some errands while in town. We were sitting in our living room in the morning when we witnessed a woman climb through a hole under the fence that opened up under our slide room. She climbed out from under our slide room and proceeded to try to open the door to the RV next to us. When Ben moved to go outside and ask her what she was doing she heard the movement inside our trailer and took off down the street. A short time later we spoke with security about what had happened and then decided to leave to do some errands. Our trip was cut short when we received a phone call that meant we needed to return to the trailer and on our way back came to a stop behind a vehicle in front of the entrance. The vehicle moved along a little further and then stopped again right in the middle of the road. but this time the doors were open and there were feet sticking out of the doors. It took us a moment to register what was going on and then we realized someone was getting beaten inside the vehicle. Ben started honking our air horn and the two separated and exited the vehicle. The male figure walked away as his victim yelled after him to give back her keys. Ben honked the air horn again and he threw the keys on the ground. She yelled that she wanted her phone too and Ben honked again. At this point there was a crowd of bystanders watching the scene and a nearby employee was calling for security. The aggressor returned the phone and left the scene. Within seconds of this second incident in the same day we decided that we would go to the office and try to check out early. They allowed us an early check out and refunded our money for that night. We told them we would be hitched up and out of the park within half an hour. While in the office we found out that earlier that morning a man who was packing up his truck and trailer was beaten up and his truck and trailer were stolen. This solidified our decision that we needed to leave this park and with as much haste as possible. We would head to a safer location and figure out what our next move would be. And, where we would be for the official start of season 13.