Zion Beauty, A Book Review, and CamperForce News

Looking at the calendar, I can’t believe that August is almost over and summer is on it’s last hurrah. My time out here at Zion National Park has been simply amazing, I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to come out west this year. In honor of that, here’s a list of ten things I’ve enjoy about my time in southern Utah:

  • Really, really, beautiful scenery
  • Diversity in ecosystems, elevation, and geology
  • Numerous parks and monuments to visit
  • Low humidity
  • No rush hour traffic, low population density, friendly locals
  • Sunsets over Zion
  • Complete quiet at night, clear night skies
  • Being able to walk to work
  • Wildlife visits
  • The view from my camp site

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But no place is perfect, even one so glorious as this. Really, my complaints are few. Actually there’s only really one:

  • The worst WiFi I’ve ever dealt with

Don’t get me wrong, the Trading Post is a swell place to work. I like my boss, my coworkers, and the job itself, but the WiFi is the worst free WiFi I’ve ever had the misfortune to rely on, and as a full-timer who uses campground WiFi almost exclusively to get online, I’ve been on some pretty flaky networks.

When I wrote about the cheapest internet option last spring, I speculated (a premonition?) that once I got out west I might need break down and pay for a more reliable internet source. Right now, if I want to find reliable free WiFi I need to drive a good 40 minutes to get it, one of the few downsides to living in a wilder and less populated part of the country.

So what’s a curious yet uninformed full-timer to do? If you’ve been following IO since the early days you already know the answer to this question: research!

Well known full-time bloggers and technology gurus Chris and Cherie of Technomadia have just come out with a new book all about connectivity for RVers. I started reading it a week ago (not done yet, it’s 186 pages!) but can already say from the half I’ve read that it’s well worth the investment.

There’s chapters in there for cell phones and data plans, satellite, WiFi, boosters, and plenty more… and it’s all presented in an easy to understand way, even for the more technologically clueless folks like myself. There’s even a guest chapter in there from Jack Mayer, the man who first taught me about solar power for RVing and got me excited to try it myself some day.

Before I go any further, no, I have no stake in this book and do not have an affiliate agreement with Technomadia. I just think they’ve put out a ridiculously useful product which is well worth owning if you find yourself in need a better way to get online.

Whether I decide to invest in a data plan like Millenicom soon or hold out a bit longer is still up in the air, but I am now certainly less confused by the options out there and will feel more confident when it’s time to make the purchase that I’m making the correct decision for my style of RVing. For more information on The Mobile Internet Handbook, see here.

* * *

Lastly, I’d like to clear up a little confusion for Fernley CamperForce folks. If you’re going to be working at one of the other sites, you can safely ignore this.

There have been a lot of rumors flying around on the internet that the RNO1 fulfillment center is shutting down soon, and that the CamperForce program isn’t going to start until mid November this year.

I received a voice mail on my phone just this morning from Amazon (the lady’s name was Amanda) who says CamperForce will be starting, and I quote: “early to mid October”. There was also directions for me to contact Amazon via e-mail or phone if I was still interested in the position. So I think it’s safe to say, coming from an official source and all, that early to mid October is what we can expect this year. I have heard from a second-hand source (thanks Sara!) that one Fernley camper was told to report in on September 23, but I think he’s a camper scout and not part of the main CamperForce.

As for the Fernley site shutting down soon, that is true. Wait, wait! Don’t panic. After this holiday season Amazon will be relocating to Reno proper, you can read a blurb about it here. The article goes on to say “all employees will be offered the chance to transfer to Reno, about 30 miles west of Fernley.”

No, I do not know how this change will effect the CamperForce program in NV for next year. I’ll keep an eye on the changes and as soon as I know more I’ll let you all know.

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51 Responses to Zion Beauty, A Book Review, and CamperForce News

  1. Curious by Nature August 29, 2014 at 8:52 pm #

    The link for the Amazon story needs fixing, I keep getting a 404 error.

    • Becky August 29, 2014 at 8:59 pm #

      Fixed, thanks.

  2. Ray August 29, 2014 at 8:54 pm #

    Hello, great blog and excellent Amazon information. My wife and I applied for Fernley back in March. We received an email from Joni around Aug 2th stating they would be starting scheduling the drug test within 10 days…anyway that did not happen. We requested to start on Sept 8th. Amanda called us around Aug 17 and said we would not be able to start until the first part of November or they could give us a $250.00 relocation bonus if we went to Coffeyville . We accepted and will start on Sept 10th. I believe they are just trimming down at Fernley .We worked there last year and started on Sept 20th…anyway the process didn’t seem as smooth as last year. I hope you have a great season at Amazon.

    PS it did get down to -5 degrees last year we stayed in Fallon.

    Thanks, Ray

    • Becky August 29, 2014 at 9:01 pm #

      It got pretty cold at Coffeyville last winter too Ray, stay warm out there. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing, another interesting piece of information.

  3. Isabella August 29, 2014 at 10:16 pm #

    I was scheduled for the first group to start at RNO1, but Joni called and said they weren’t starting til November 1st (actually missed her call and she left a voicemail). Only in the last week have they changed it to October 1; I think though, that is because they are full at the other locations (at least KY for sure, and I believe LUT1), and really do not want to have to rescind any employment offers.

    My understanding is that they aren’t really starting any Inbound through CamperForce, due to the physical location transfer (they have to be out of the building by, I believe, January, as the building has been sold), but are bringing in Outbound to make sure to clear out inventory, to make it easier to move.

    I had really been looking forward to Nevada (love it out west), but, unfortunately, money won out this year over location. I will try for RNO1 again next year, hoping it is all settled by next Peak.

    • Becky August 30, 2014 at 12:43 pm #

      Thanks for the information Isabella. From this and other comments, it sounds like people who were set to start in September were offered an incentive to change sites which I didn’t get since my earliest date was October.

      I imagine you’re correct on the rest of it: Amazon really doesn’t know what the needs are going to be for a peek until it gets closer to peek time, so the start dates are in flux until it gets later in the year. They’re not changing their minds to make us mad, they’re doing it for legitimate business reasons – but that makes it hard on campers like us who need to time leaving other jobs and calculate if the trip out there is going to be worth it.

      • Isabella August 30, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

        Yes, we were offered compensation if we wanted to transfer to KS or TN. Luckily, I hadn’t left Florida for Nevada, yet, so I’m not in the worst situation, but it does make it a little difficult to plan. Trying to make the best of it, as, like it’s often said, “It’s a job, not a career”.

        Exactly right on the needs. As someone pointed out on the FB group, people think it’s wonderful and fantastic when Amazon’s needs meet up with their own, but if it even deviates a little, they blame the company, even though it is fully stated: “business needs”.

        • Becky August 31, 2014 at 10:54 am #

          Yeah, a lot of people lose sight of that. I’m not an Amazon groupie or anything, I’m just able to look at it it from their point of view and understand why they switch dates and do the things they do. Yes, it does sometimes suck for RVers, but it is what it is. You either adapt, or find another job – complaining about it does nothing.

  4. KansasSue August 30, 2014 at 9:29 am #

    Becky, I will miss not seeing you this fall. I got a call from Fernley and they offered an incentive to work at TN or KS this fall, unless I was willing to wait until November to start at Fernley. I chose TN. I am thinking Christmas at Opryland will be worth the change of plans. I will be heading that way shortly.

    There is always next year for Reno or another opportunity.

    Zion may have poor internet but until you experience Yellowstone at the Yellowstone Lake Area, you are still having a positive experience. Even with a Mi-fi the service is extremely sub-par, and if you have mi-fi then it has to be Verizon, no other option. There is a pay as you go service in the Lodge but it is relatively expensive. It is usable if you time your online time around the early morning hours but evenings are very slow with minimal bandwidth available. Even so, as you have experienced, the views are worth the difficulties!

    • Becky August 30, 2014 at 12:45 pm #

      Yeah, I’ve heard that Yellowstone is a challenge for connectivity Sue! I’ll keep that in mind as there’s a chance I’ll be working there or the Grand Tetons next summer.

      Sorry that we’ll miss each other this fall, but there are always other opportunities. Enjoy your time further east!

  5. Kit August 30, 2014 at 10:01 am #

    Hi Becky, I love Zion, and agree on the wifi being quite poor at the campground. I usually camp at the Watchman. Where were you camping on the east side of the park?

  6. Kit August 30, 2014 at 10:07 am #

    Where to next? Dont miss Capitol Reef National Park
    Kit recently posted..Fall Color Photography Lessons, 2014My Profile

    • Becky August 30, 2014 at 12:54 pm #

      I’m working at Zion Mountain Ranch just outside the east entrance of the park Kit, I live at the campground half a mile from the east entrance. I’ll be here another month, then it’s on to to at Amazon in Fernley, NV.

  7. Roger August 30, 2014 at 10:11 am #

    Hi Becky,

    I got the call from Amanda a couple of days ago, it said the same thing for me. I guess we’ll find out next year if they will still hire workampers.
    Looking forward to meetting you whenever they let me know, they did mention I will know my start date 30 days in advance, and the drug test will be 3 weeks in advance.

    Roger

    • Becky August 30, 2014 at 12:56 pm #

      Ahh, I hadn’t heard about that 30 day notice or drug test thing, but I didn’t get signal to answer the call when it came in, just listened to the voicemail afterward. Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to meeting you all too, I think it’s going to be a good season. 🙂

  8. Roger August 30, 2014 at 10:14 am #

    Actually, it is 30 days for drug test, and 3 weeks on the notice of start date.

    Sorry, must be all confused.

    Roger

  9. Jim@HiTek August 30, 2014 at 10:46 am #

    Good to hear that Amazon Fernley is moving…not that there is anything wrong with Fernley, it’s just that the plant was kind of antiquated. They really needed to update and upgrade the entire place. Hopefully, they installed some automation in the new facility that’s common to so many modern warehouse & shipping companies.

    It’s too bad they didn’t just upgrade there. I feel sorry for all those businesses that have grown up around the Fernley Amazon facility. All those RV parks are soon going to feel the pinch when 75% of their business moves to Reno. And that’s just one type of business that’ll be affected. Then those RV parks and businesses up in Fallon, 65 miles away now and not likely to be considered as the place to stay by camperforce employees. Sad.
    Jim@HiTek recently posted..Art at the casino and other things…My Profile

    • Roger August 30, 2014 at 11:38 am #

      Lots of good points Jim,

      I’ll be staying at an RV park in Sparks now 30 minutes from Fernley, Most likely it will benefit from the move.

    • Becky August 30, 2014 at 12:58 pm #

      Yeah, that was pointed out in that article I posted too. Although I’m hoping they stick to less automation, because the more automation the less need for workers and the smaller CamperForce is next year. 😉

      • Isabella August 30, 2014 at 6:30 pm #

        From what I heard, the building they bought (the address is out there somewhere, I could find it, but I’m lazy right now; if I come across it, I’ll post again) belonged to Diaperland(?), and they did use a bunch of automation, but the word is that Amazon is not using that the same way, so the amount of people needed will stay the same, it will just be *adding* workpower to certain areas.

        They are telling people during meetings that the CamperForce program needs will not be impacted (but that was also before they started making calls announcing the much later start dates), so we will see how that plays out next year.

        But oh, well, “business needs”, such it is.

        • Becky August 31, 2014 at 10:58 am #

          Good to know Isabella.

  10. Jim@HiTek August 30, 2014 at 4:29 pm #

    I understand what you’re saying, Becky, but there are some things that are better left to machines…just one example, trying to pick a single CD from a bin that has 15 different titles in it. Gah!
    Jim@HiTek recently posted..Art at the casino and other things…My Profile

    • Becky August 31, 2014 at 11:03 am #

      Haha, if they’re willing to pay me $12 an hour to pick a needle out of a haystack, I’m game!

  11. Tom August 30, 2014 at 6:58 pm #

    Becky, in your hotspot research, be sure to look at the 3-g hotspots offered by straight talk at walmart. Their device sells for $79 and uses the verizon network. We are stix and brix people, but get out for a month at a time. I buy airtime that covers the time we are out, and no plan is required. When we are home, the hotspot sits in a drawer, and when we go I buy airtime to cover the trip. It works out well, for emails and browsing, checking news and stock prices daily. As you might just need to bridge gaps in availability between locations, I thought this could possibly answer your quest.

    Tom

    • Becky August 31, 2014 at 11:04 am #

      Thanks for the tip Tom.

      • Roger August 31, 2014 at 12:20 pm #

        Hi Becky,

        I have been looking for a way to have connectivity, but i did not want to be stuck in a contract and not pay when I was not on the road in my RV.So I just got online and bought this device Tom mentioned, I’ll let you know how it works out. One nice thing about walmart is if I’m not happy I might consider returning it.

        • Becky September 1, 2014 at 10:32 am #

          How many gigs of data do you get, and how much is it a month? Millenicom is $89 a month for 20 gigs and uses Verizon towers as well, also no contract.

          • Roger September 1, 2014 at 10:43 am #

            Hi Becky,

            I guess I really did not to my homework, not really sure how much data per month. Kinda jumped the gun because I wanted something that was pay-as-you go. Millenicom I think is a good deal, but since I don’t full-time, I don’t think you can stop it when you don’t use it. This is a moot point now as I cancelled the order, and will have to find out more about the data allotment, and the monthly cost. Cancelled early this morning, got an email yesterday telling me I could pick it up in a few hours, this morning I got an email telling me it was delayed and would be 2 weeks before I could get it.

          • Roger September 1, 2014 at 1:17 pm #

            Hey Becky,
            I did a little more digging, there is no monthly fee. It is pay as you go ,I could buy a 4 GB consumable data card for $40, it is good for 30 days. When I’m not on the road I don’t have to activate it. I looked on the Verizon site and they say a persons average usage is 1 to 2gigs a month ( don’t think that includes people who do lots of streaming.)
            I think I could get away with 4gigs a month. So, 8gigs would cost me $80/month.
            As long as I’m not full-time this may be the way to go.

            Roger

          • Becky September 3, 2014 at 9:12 pm #

            Yeah Roger for your situation that sounds like a good deal. I use less than 1 gig a month on my phone, but on computer surfing I can easily top 20 gigs a month, I have no TV so computer is my main form of entertainment.

            Thanks for looking into this and sharing for others who don’t need as much data!

    • Cherie @Technomadia September 5, 2014 at 11:44 pm #

      The Straight Talk hotspot plan is a decent deal and we include it in the book Becky so kindly mentioned in this post. Especially for folks who just need a little bit every so often. Their plans over $40 give you 60 days of access, which is a pretty darn cool. However, it’s important to know that the device/service is 3G service only – which is rather slow.

      As Verizon just rolled out LTE service on their own pre-paid plans (called Allset) – we anticipate seeing the Straight Talk plan upgraded in the near future. As such, we’d advise that unless you need it now.. waiting may be wise.
      Cherie @Technomadia recently posted..Understanding Solar Panel SpecificationsMy Profile

      • Roger in SoCal September 6, 2014 at 12:07 am #

        thanks for the info. unfortunately I bought the hotspot yesterday, but I will really only be using for email and answering blogs like this.

        • Becky September 6, 2014 at 10:10 pm #

          Thanks for sharing Cherie! And I think you’ll be fine Roger, if that’s what you’ll be using it for.

  12. Caroline near Seattle August 31, 2014 at 4:02 pm #

    Hard to believe it’s been 2 months since you arrived at Zion. You’ve really had some great experiences this summer.

    You’ve mentioned a couple of times that you’re saving for solar. What do you anticipate your cost will be?

    • Becky September 1, 2014 at 10:35 am #

      I want a 200 watt panel, another battery, and I’ll also need the charge controller and a converter. The Casita only has room for one battery in it’s compartment, so there’ll need to be modifications somewhere. Likely $2,000, possibly more depending on how complex the mod is.

      • Caroline near Seattle September 1, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

        Thx !

      • John L. September 1, 2014 at 1:34 pm #

        Becky, no way a 200 watt solar package will cost you near $2k!!!!! Are you planning to go to Quartzsite after Amazon this year??If so, I urge you to connect with Bob Wells at CheapRVLiving.com and ASK him to help you get your solar set up/installed!!! Bob is a good man, a wealth of RVing info and would love to help you!! Don’t buy anything solar until you at least consult Bob!!

        • Becky September 3, 2014 at 9:16 pm #

          I like to over estimate on costs John, that way I’m pleasantly surprised with my costs and not the other way, haha.

          I have talked to Bob in the past and he is a good man and very helpful, did a guest post for his blog a while back. I will be down in Quartzsite and will look at solar stuff while I’m there even though I don’t anticipate on having enough money for it at that point. To be honest though, I’m leaning towards having AMSolar up in Oregon install it, they get outstanding reviews from everyone I talk to. I’m not set on it one way or another though and will keep researching my options.

          • Roger September 3, 2014 at 9:37 pm #

            Hi Becky,

            I am also considering eventually going solar, I got an estimate back in March from an Am-Solar affiliated installer, I have read he does fantastic work. Anyway the estimate for the 400 watt expandable system was about $4200.00. So I’m waiting till I can afford something like that.

          • Becky September 3, 2014 at 9:48 pm #

            If it’s that much for 400 watts 200 watts is probably going to be about $2K then, but everyone says they do such a great job.

          • Roger September 3, 2014 at 9:57 pm #

            Hey Becky,
            Yes they do a great job plus I was requesting top of the line equipment, there are other ways to go with them, and lower the costs.

          • John L. September 3, 2014 at 10:41 pm #

            Well, AM Solar are all great people!! I bought all my solar panels/gear from them…think they have an affiliate installer in Quartzsite as well. I will go back on Bobs site and find your guest post.

          • Becky September 4, 2014 at 11:42 am #

            Ahh I see Roger.

            John, you can read it here: http://www.cheaprvliving.com/blog/guest-post-safety-for-the-single-female-traveler/

  13. Jodee Gravel August 31, 2014 at 9:56 pm #

    Not a fellow Amazonian here, but I can’t imagine they would be reducing their workforce anytime soon. They need a full staff just to cover my orders!!

    Glad you have another month in that beautiful area – sorry for the internet challenges :-(.
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..When You Hear Hoofbeats Think…….Zebras!My Profile

    • Becky September 1, 2014 at 10:37 am #

      Haha, that’s funny Jodee. 😉

      And, well, the internet challenges are worth it for the beauty of this area.

  14. Russell September 2, 2014 at 10:01 am #

    I got the call from Amazon last week and was offered to start in Fernley on 1 Nov or start today in TN / KS. We have been on the west coast almost a year and have our snowbird site reserved in AZ so we are waiting in Las Vegas until Nov. We will be heading east next summer. Lesson learned, apply for TN next year.
    Russell recently posted..SEATTLE, WA (PART I) JIMI HENDRIX & BRUCE LEEMy Profile

    • Becky September 3, 2014 at 9:18 pm #

      Thanks for the info Russell. I got an e-mail back today saying I was confirmed for Fernley, but still have no start date.

      • Roger in SoCal September 6, 2014 at 12:03 am #

        Hi Becky,

        I got an email today from Amazon with a start date and information on orientation, including a link to fill out my I-9 form.

        • Becky September 6, 2014 at 10:13 pm #

          Same Roger, my co-worker here at Zion got his today too.

  15. Cherie @Technomadia September 5, 2014 at 11:46 pm #

    Becky.. thank you so much for the humbling review of our new book. We are so thankful to you for that!

    And all of the Amazon news is interesting to follow, thanks for sharing!
    Cherie @Technomadia recently posted..Understanding Solar Panel SpecificationsMy Profile

    • Becky September 6, 2014 at 10:14 pm #

      You’re welcome Cherie! It’s a darn helpful book.

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