Our drive to Massachusetts was primarily freeway, relaxing and easy breezy. As we passed clusters of trees lining the freeway, the web worms were immediately noticeable and had already begun their damage to the local trees. So sad, a giant step backwards that they are just as prevalent as they were when we left Massachusetts 33 years ago. My last recollection of those pesky worm cocoons were of me in our Marlborough Massachusetts backyard, gleefully torching them with our bar-b-q lighter and watching them fizzle up in flames.
Our arrival at Buffumville Dam was uneventful. The gate open, one of the couples already planted in the far site, we pulled into the middle and began to settle LilyPad. Barely half an hour later the last couple pulled into the site closest to the street. I was later to learn that our middle site was the prime of all three. Street side was noisy and had no dish reception, end site had power surges and no WiFi.
We greeted the other two Contract Worker teams, dogs KatieBug Pug and Casey Corgi sniffed each other and stretched out on the grass while us humans chatted. We are mid-range in age between the other two couples and, after several days together relaxing, it does appear we will all get along splendidly. A required training day on Friday will start us off and then we are on our own. One of the couples worked here three years ago and agreed to be our go-to source should we not be able to reach a Ranger.
Our Fearless Leader, Ranger Jamie, is as we Texans would say, a tall drink of water. Longtime employee, she has had a varied background and is direct, fare and relaxed in her requirements of our duties. Show up for work and do the job to the best of your ability. Our 12 straight hours, two consecutive days a week is our first “paying” job. Our perks include a full hook-up site with all utilities paid, a beautiful park to enjoy on our days off, being close to our New England family and friends, two friendly neighbor couples with which to work and within a half days drive of reaching any New England state we wish to visit. That and the $5.00 per hour pay, all things considered, this worked out nicely.
Buffumville Lake Park has two pavilions,
picnic tables with grills,
Volley ball and horseshoe pits,
a beach, swimming area and a pirate ship,
and seven miles of trails around the lake with a 300 car parking lot.
The toll booth where I work is a cramped dusty cube with two screened plastic sheeting windows, two doors, a small heater and a small musty a/c. There is no way to keep the outside from continuously seeping inside. It didn’t look this “vintage” in the pictures Ranger Jamie had sent. John will be cleaning the two stall bathroom facility by the beach and one vault on the dock side of the park and pick up trash. When cabin fever sets in, I will trade my cube for the golf cart, John will take my place and I’ll do trash pick-up, check/restock bathrooms and be the set of watchful eyes around the park.
This park is a “carry in/carry out” so whatever you bring in must be taken with you when you leave. No trash cans are available anywhere in the park, not even for our use. We must haul our trash over to the main facility several blocks away. Strange, but it seems to work with the exception of cigarette butts, dog poop and baby diapers left in the bathroom on the changing table. A tad gross but not nearly the worst we have had to clean up in the past so it’s nothing either of us can’t handle.
It is non-stop busy when the weather is pleasant. Cars line up to get in so sitting down for a rest is near impossible. Standing on cement for hours does unpleasant things to your back and your ankles tend to swell but our park guests are friendly so the time passes quickly when we are busy.
Our first day of work and we were slammed! Attendance right up there with the busy part of the season. I drove down to the beach to give the “one hour closing” warning after cleaning the bathrooms. A large family was enjoying the beautiful day, sitting on the beach with their whole family, having a Bar-B-Q and continuing their relaxation at our park from the previous days visit. We struck up a conversation and the husband said he wanted to do what we were doing when he retired. Strange how people see what we are doing and want to do the same. There sits a man in total relaxation, looking at my sweaty windblown self, watching me clean bathrooms and pick up trash, then trot off to stand in a tiny confined cubicle taking money for 12 straight hours, two days in a row with pay being a fraction of minimum wage. Odd that he sees this side of the fence as greener. Five years ago I had a completely different scenario playing inside my head when full-timing was my retirement dream. If you are thinking this isn’t exactly what I had planned, you would be correct.
For reasons known only to them, the Retirement Spirits chose today to send us a warning, as they have done in the past, that we should be more accepting of our reduced space lifestyle in our rolling box. These “Spirits” intermittently send plagues ranging from slide floors buckling to tanks overflowing and pipes under the sink separating and flooding the floors. Each incident requires us to remove the entire contents of alternating areas of our motorhome, squishing us into an even smaller living space.
At the end of two busy long hot dusty 12 hour days, lungs struggling, back pinching, feet swollen, in a “how the heck is this retirement?!” state of mind, John picked me up in the golf cart and began his “egg shell” walk by hesitating before answering when I requested to go immediately back to LilyPad to ice myself from head to foot. He smiled as the dreaded words, “Give me a hug” escaped from his lips. Naturally my reaction was “Oh crap…here we go again”. Arriving at LilyPad, from outside our front door I could see the water still dripping from the bottom corner of our front slide. Apparently our sink drain had loosened and all the water from the dishwasher had run out onto the floor under the sink and flowed behind the cabinets to the front of the motorhome. An “it’s always something” of major proportion. It took five days to clean it up, dry it out and put everything back.
Our first attempt at a relaxing day off was a drive through town and was interrupted by the local police pulling us over, neither of us immediately understanding the reason. The stolen “Ribbit” license plate we reported last August from a Portland, Oregon La Quinta Inn had come back to bite us in the hind end. For some peculiar reason, South Dakota DMV decided to ship us another plate with the exact same name. They didn’t tell us that we would probably be stopped if any police happen to run our plates. We drove from Oregon to Texas without any plate at all, no police stopped us. We drove from Texas to Massachusetts with our re-ordered “Ribbit” plates, no police stopped us. In the tiny town of Charlton, Massachusetts, a policeman pulls us over to ask us if we knew our plate was reported stolen. We were told by Oregon and Massachusetts that we were lucky several squad cars didn’t pull us over with guns drawn and hauled us off to jail on a stolen car charge. Yep, just another typical day in our rolling-down-the-road lifestyle. Many discussions were had with Oregon to remove the report. Lengthier conversations were had with South Dakota police to remove the theft from the books, all for naught. Our new “Ribitts” plates, a slight variation of “Ribbit”, has arrived and another “it’s always something” is behind us.
The pollen counts in New England, due to the late bombardment of snow, have gone on beyond Zebra with the highest counts in history. Already arriving with breathing problems, my lungs “just said no” after two long work days and the stress of major water leakage clean up. We had to quickly find a doctor. Massachusetts has premier doctors and we found our doctor extraordinaire at an Urgent Care facility within a reasonable distance of our Park. Dr. Connors was willing to work with me and discuss my concerns instead of demanding I take what he ordered and not have a say in my treatment. Given strongly worded counsel to “stay indoors”, prescribed two medications to use in nebulizer breathing treatments four times a day, two oral medications and advised to wear a mask if I go outside…UGH, no fun in my future for the next few weeks! My current mantra is, “this too shall pass”. Our next work days will be totally rain soaked, giving me additional time indoors and the continuance of recovery. John and I will work something out that keeps me indoors more than outdoors for the upcoming weeks.
Another one of our responsibilities is to protect wild life. This morning I drove John to the Park bridge so he could chase off a turtle crossing the road. I am doubtful Mr. Turtle was grateful for us going out of our way, in the rain, to do him this good deed.
The local wild life, beyond turtles, is scarce with the exception of one lone turkey who strolls across our front lawn each morning. Must not be a social guy as he wanders into the forest when he sees us open the front gate.
The rain encouraged purple Lady Slippers to push themselves up from the thick pine needle covered forest floor and spread out behind our host sites. Hundreds of them have begun to emerge and cover the area. Makes for a pretty back yard of bright spring colors behind our graveled sites.