We headed north Thursday to our first workamping experience. We left our moochdocking spot at my Dad's and headed 3 hours north to Peninsula State Park-Welckers campground. The journey was uneventful, except for a little rain, and we pulled in around 3pm.
This state park is located in Door County, which swells with tourists in the summer from all over the world, but mostly from IL. LOL Fellow cheeseheads will get that reference! Peninsula State Park is one of the states largest and busiest state parks with over 3700 acres, with about ¾ undeveloped. It has really everything within the park. There are 5 different campgrounds, a full golf course and restaurant, a lighthouse to tour, a beach complete with store and all sorts of water rentals, lots of trails and a wonderful outdoor playhouse in the summer that has some great comedy musicals.
When we arrived we checked in at the office and found that our contact had gone home sick. We met one of the rangers who gave us a bunch of keys, a Rubbermaid bin and manuals and said everything we need is in the bin and at the site, including the Gator that we are able to use for our duties. They were very nice to call one of the other seasoned hosts to come over to our site to answer any questions. I have to say, I was a bit nervous about being handed the materials and being let loose to figure it out. The questions were mounting as we drove to our site.
Most of the park is wooded, as is our campground, Welcker's Point. I was nervous about getting down the roads with our tall, 42 ft 5th wheel, hoping we would not be scrapping too much on trees aside or above us. We did pretty good with just a brush of leaves here and there. Our site is quite wide and Rick was able to wiggle the 5th wheel in to fit lengthwise. Being the hosts, we do get a larger site and electric. Unfortunately, most WI state parks are set up the same way, with only electric. The good thing is, in talking to other hosts, we can get additional water from the water fountain in front of the bath house next to us and use our little wheely dump tank and dump in the man hole near the bathrooms. Not ideal, but we will make it work. Being next to the bath house helps in that we can use the showers and bathrooms there most of the time.
Our campground consists of 81 non-electric sites in a large loop with another cutting through the middle and a small loop of 7 sites off to the side. We have 3 bath houses, one of which does not have showers. Dumpsters are at the entrance road to our campground. We also have responsibility for Welcker’s Point, the small day use area across the main road from our campground. What are our duties as camp hosts you ask??? Well that was sort of vague but we knew we had to check sites after campers left, making sure to empty trash and ash from the firepits and check sites for trash and take down the departure day tags. Ok cool, we got that. We do have a cleaning crew that comes through daily, in years past it used to be twice a day. They clean the bathrooms and stock them. We then check them periodically to make sure there is no issues and they have TP. After that it gets a bit fuzzy. In talking with a couple other hosts that have been here for years, it is very loosely managed. There is no micro-managing of campground hosts. We had another camp host come over and took us to show us where the maintenance shop is, supplies, where to gas up the gator, etc. You can imagine we had a ton of questions for him. He has been a campground host for over twenty years and was a wealth of knowledge. He introduced us to the lead maintenance man and gave us pointers as to how to write up maintenance tickets, etc. We also have responsibility for the day use area and our guess is that we check for trash there and empty the grills. We also set up a charging station at our site on the extra picnic table we have. That has become very popular and our campers, young and old appreciate the ability to charge phones, ipads and batteries. After that, we are just learning as we go as to what other “duties” are. SO far, we have checked some sites for the office when they called, helped campers with directions, posted the daily weather forecast on our information board, trimmed a branch for a camper concerned about it brushing his camper when he left and answering A LOT of questions about our RV and our full-time lifestyle.
There has also been a change in who enforces and monitors the park. In years past it was the park rangers, this year it is the DNR wardens. We get the distinct feeling that some folks, including other hosts are still getting used to that idea and have not quite warmed up to it yet. We were given a flip phone with pre-programmed numbers for us to call, such as the office, multiple people’s names…not sure who they are or what they do and the rangers. Umm, no Wardens! So what happens if we need them??? We were fortunate to have the supervising warden on duty our second day and he was very nice and answered some questions for us and came back with a print out of the wardens schedules and all their phone numbers. I then promptly programmed them in to our phone. Scary thought was that we are not the first hosts this year using that phone and who would have had to contact a warden.
Once we had the 5th wheel set up, we got our first host issue. We didn’t even have a chance to read all the manuals we were given. Geeesh. One of the three bath houses had both sinks in the women’s bathroom plugged and overflowing with water still running. We knew we needed to wear our safety vests when riding on the gator, so we grabbed those, found the gator key and drove down to see what we were dealing with. By the time we arrived, the water had stopped running and both sinks were full. Now what do we do??? Well that is up to you, there is no clear direction in all those manuals. We were told by another host to just use common sense. Ok then. Rick tried to take saran wrap and unplug them but that did not work. Most of the water on the floor had gone down the floor drain and there were no puddles. We then hung an out of order sign on that bathroom and locked the door. Getting back to the site we filled out a maintenance ticket we found in the bin with the manuals and looked through the manuals for what to do next. Do we call maintenance on a Thursday night? Do we call the office? Do we wait until the next day and give it to someone? How fast do they come out to fix it? Are we supposed to do more to fix it? All great questions with no answers in any of the manuals or bins. We decided to wait until the morning until the seasoned host was coming over to show us around. We had the bathroom out of order and locked so the issue couldn’t get worse, however it was an inconvenience to the campers on that end of the park. We still do not know how long it should take before something gets addressed from a ticket we write up, because there are some tickets already in and some other showers and toilets out of order. When we asked another host, he just said, it is not real speedy. I guess we will see. This is certainly a departure from our corporate lives where there were step by step action plans and set expectations. I have read from other full-timers blogs that this is an adjustment that will take time. I do however want to mention to the office staff who we have been communicating with prior to starting, that it would really be helpful for a new host to have some sort of “A day in the life of…” or one document that gives you and idea of what your daily duties would be and some examples of other tasks that could pop up AND what the maintenance ticket process should look like. I don’t think this has been too much of an issue with many of the folks being return hosts but it sure would help us newbies out!
Ok, thanks for letting me rant for a minute. Don’t get me wrong, we like camp hosting and talking with folks. We even had one camper stop by while we were emptying trash and chat for just over an hour! Campers love the park and are happy to see a friendly face to answer questions and just say “Hi.” We love toddling around on the gator, checking sites, writing down the site #’s of those that will be leaving in the next day or two so we know how busy we will be on a given day. That really helps us to plan our personal stuff and sightseeing. So far we have only gotten out to do some laundry, visit a winery and orchard for some much needed “supplies”, visit the little local grocery store and a quick breakfast to use their wifi. That brings up another issue we ran into…cell and internet.
Being the campground that is the furthest out from the entrance and the rest of the village of Fish Creek, our cell and internet is pretty much non-existent. Our Verizon phones may get 1 bar of 4G intermittently but my AT&T phone is non-existent. We recently switched to a unlimited plan for the AT&T phone and also received free TV (think mini-Directv Now plan) that did not count against our data or hotspot. Well, so much for using that while we are here. We did find out that if we go down to the concession store at the beach, they do have wifi, albeit a bit weak and VERY popular. We are managing and it has given us a bit of a break from being contantly “on”. Apologies to everyone if these posts are a bit further apart, but it is difficult to get down to the beach and we are a bit gun-shy after our first trip down to read a couple emails and check FB. We took a ride down on the gator and had our camp host vests on while we sat outside the store checking our phones. After about 10 minutes an older gentleman wandered over and began to tell us about how long he has been coming to this park and everything he felt was wrong with it, what is not working and just general complaining…over and over and over again. We listened, painfully and throughout the discussion we mentioned that the park really wanted visitor feedback and suggested he fill out one of the suggestion cards, saying that if they didn’t know about his concerns, they wouldn’t have a chance to address them. Little did we know, and we were told later by other camp hosts that he is very well known and this is his usual MO. They also mentioned that him and his wife go through all of the campgrounds looking at the campsites and complain when the camphosts take any wood left behind. We think they are looking for leftovers for themselves and sure enough, we saw his wife in sites at a campground they are not staying in. It certainly takes all kinds. I would say they are the exception and not the rule, as most campers are very friendly. Since that encounter we have not had a chance to get back to the beach for some wifi and we are very keen to watch for places that offer free wifi, like the cute little restaurant outside the park entrance, Julie’s Café, that offers it. We have already visited them for a breakfast to take advantage of that little luxury. As for TV, we have been fortunate to get several local channels, although at times they fade in and out.
I also mentioned that they have a wonderful theater with 3 different shows during the summer season that are very popular throughout Door County. It is an open air theater and all shows are at night, under the stars. We have been to Peninsula State Park several times and unfortunately have never been to a show. However, yesterday, the marketing director for the theater stopped by to introduce herself and provide promotional materials to hand out to the campers. She also provided us with complimentary tickets to each of the three shows and then gave us a couple more for our visitors that will join us later in August. What a pleasant surprise!!!
So overall, we really like being here and look forward to getting a routine going so that we can plan some outings and our routine trips to the grocery store and laundromat. More to come on our adventures here and how we manage some of our creature comforts that we have come to really appreciate here, like wifi, showers and empty RV tanks.
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