We’ve been traveling for a while, and there has been a little mystery about what we are doing and where. Some friends, and of course our families, will already know this next chapter, but for those that do not, we are taking our retirement story one step further this summer. Here is the back story.
Jerry and I were fortunate to both retire in March 2015, two weeks apart. We traveled via motorcycle for a month, and then, after several years of yearning, and about 18 months of serious research, in May of 2015 we bought Koko Moto, our Newmar Ventana motor coach. Since then, she has taken us across the country multiple times, and we have enjoyed over 30,000 fun-filled miles traveling this incredible country.
You must forgive the many links in the next section. They are provided in case you would like to go back and read any of the previous blog posts that are referenced here.
Last spring, we took off from Georgia, traveled to Texas, enjoyed San Antonio (where we met), celebrated our 22 year Dataversary, and then embarked on a National Parks and Monuments tour of the southwest. We enjoyed incredible highlights such as Carlsbad Caverns, fun sights around Carlsbad, an awesome Santa Fe RV park (and I never post about RV parks), a once-in-a-lifetime chance encounter with motorcycle world travelers in Santa Fe, a stop in one of our favorite towns, Taos, Bandolier National Monument, and El Malpais National Monument. I did a great job of blogging about these iconic stops…until I didn’t. LOL Seriously, I enjoy sharing the fabulous places we visit so much, but I really ENJOY just experiencing those places even more. So, I dropped the ball during our visits in Arizona, Southern Utah, and Colorado, and one day, I will make this right and share the natural wonders that we saw there. I did manage to share a wonderful visit with fellow motorcycle blogger Ry Austin when he came to meet us in Moab. That meeting absolutely required a blog post!
Anyway, at least half of our trip didn’t get reported, but we continued from Southern Utah, where it was getting pretty warm in late May, to Southern Colorado. We stayed in Durango for a week, then moved to South Fork, just north of Pagosa Springs and enjoyed the Silver Thread Scenic Byway on our motorcycles. Many are familiar with the Million Dollar highway, which connects Ouray to Silverton, but the Silver Thread is also spectacular and much less traveled. Anyway, while staying in South Fork, we traveled the Silver Thread a couple of times. The tiny silver-mining town of Creede caught our attention. At the headwaters of the San Juan and the Rio Grande rivers, and at an elevation of around 8,500 feet, the climate in summer is blissful. No humidity, cool days and chilly nights; it captivated us. So, we found an RV resort in town and thought it might be a great place to think about work camping.
Work camping? What’s that? Well, there are thousands of RV parks, national, state, county, and local parks, and many other facilities and attractions that hire RVers to work each season, depending on location, for the summer or winter. We had become aware of this phenomenon during our travels and thought it might be something we would be interested in trying for a summer. So we went to the Creede park’s website and sent in an email inquiry. Timing being what it usually is, we were moving to Colorado Springs the next day, to visit with old friends from San Antonio who had relocated.
We got settled in Colorado Springs and received an email response from Creede saying that the RV park owner would love to talk with us, but they would prefer to do so in person. Ha. So we rented a car and drove the 225 miles back to Creede. We had an informative, but non-committal, meeting with the owner and promised to send applications, resumes, and photos when we returned home to Georgia. We understood that he was not planning to form his team for 2018 until after his 2017 summer season ended in October.
We went about our visits, had a great time, and followed up with the required items in late June once we returned home. In the meantime, we signed up for several work camper sites and newsletters, such as Work Camper News, Work Camping, and checked sites such as Volunteer.gov. The opportunities are everywhere, and as varied as there are people! There are campground hosts, where you assist campers with reservations, logistics, finding their site, or purchases in the camp store, to park docents who share their knowledge of flora and fauna in a state or national park, to lighthouse volunteers who give tours.
We decided we would focus on Colorado, and look for opportunities only in the high country, where the humidity and temperatures would be low. We kept in touch with the owner in Creede but kept looking at other options.
In late September, I found a listing for the Estes Park Valley Recreation and Park District. They were looking for campground hosts for two parks they manage just outside Rocky Mountain National Park. The listing had just been posted the day before, so the timing was perfect. It wasn’t Creede, so I had to get Jerry to take a look at the listing and think about Estes Park as an option. It didn’t take long, and the next day, we completed the applications and almost immediately received the most energizing response we could have imagined from the manager of the two campgrounds. We arranged a phone conference and her positive energy had us convinced right away. By early October, we made a commitment for summer 2018 in Estes Park, starting May 6th, through October 1st! It is a volunteer position, working 24 hours per week, and in turn, we are provided with a free full hookup site, and many other wonderful “employee” perks.
We were jazzed, to say the least, but then we had the logistics to deal with. What to do with our house, what do we bring with us, do we tow our motorcycle trailer and bikes, or tow a car, etc. It took a number of months to settle all these issues, but we did, and then we started planning our journey to Estes Park. Of course, we would take a long way, and see as much as we could on our trip west. Dear friends Pam and Eric, our traveling companions for our epic bucket list trip to Alaska last September, really wanted to come to visit us in Colorado during our stay this summer. Initially, they volunteered to drive our car to Colorado and then fly home. As we thought more about the time of year that we would be traveling, and the snow and temperatures at elevation in April, we thought we would prefer to tow the car with us initially. We investigated options for having the trailer delivered by a bike hauling service, but they prefer to haul just the bikes in their own trailer. One night, Jerry had the brilliant idea to ask Pam and Eric if they would be interested in driving our truck and motorcycle trailer to Estes in June and then using the truck to tour the southwest before returning home to Georgia. They immediately agreed since they are “this” close to retiring and were ready for the practice. 🙂 When we leave Colorado in October, we will tow the trailer with the coach, and one of us will drive the car separately.
So, details settled, on April 2nd, we left our home in the capable hands of a housesitter and headed south and west. We visited friends in Baton Rouge, San Antonio, Fredericksburg, and Amarillo, and ticked off a number of must-see items along the way. Our dear friend Dorcas flew from San Antonio to Albuquerque and then toured Santa Fe and Taos with us for a week. It was wonderful being able to share so many historic and beautiful sights in New Mexico with her.
We then spent a week in the Buena Vista/Salida area, to acclimate at 8000 feet of elevation, then 4 days in Loveland, prior to reporting to Estes Park on May 6th.
On May 2nd, we met up with 5 of our fellow work campers at a brewery in Loveland. We were all excited about the adventure to come, and enjoyed meeting and getting to know each other a little. For the two campgrounds in Estes, there will be 4 couples at one park, and 8 couples at the other. It just so happened that all of the May 2nd group would be working together at the Mary’s Lake location. Unfortunately, we neglected to take any pictures!
And then the day arrived, and on Sunday, May 6th, we made our way from Loveland to Estes Park.
We met our wonderful manager and assistant manager, and some other work campers briefly, then quickly got set up so we could make our way to a full group potluck at 4 PM!
Our home for the next 5 months, Estes Park Campground at Mary’s Lake, site M47!
We had a blast at the potluck in the Estes Park Campground at East Portal, and it was great fun meeting the rest of the work camping crew. We had a really nice and emotional welcome from our manager and also shared a lot of laughs. I think this group is going to jell really well over the summer!
That night, we relaxed by the fire on a fine chilly evening, looking at the gorgeous view until well after dark.
The next day we were free to explore the area so I will share just a few highlights. We have all summer to share even more!
This must be a Colorado thing…the electrical boxes are beautifully decorated! So amazing…there is art everywhere!
And last, but not least, probably the most exciting aspect of being in this incredible location…the wildlife!
The herd of elk was right outside our coach! They have come each evening, and probably in the morning too, but we haven’t been out early enough. 😉 They are found, along with deer, all over Estes. It is fascinating and wondrous to see them so close. And they start having their babies in June…be still my heart!!!
We had a full day of training today, which was amazing, and will have training through Friday. Then we are free to enjoy the area until Tuesday, May 15th when the campground opens. We feel so fortunate to have this opportunity, and will certainly share our experience through the summer. Please let me know in the comments if you have any questions.
Stay tuned for more adventures…we have plenty planned. And absolutely let us know if you will be in the area, we would love to see you!