First Month on the Job
July 1: Betsy and I are fairly new to this thing they call “workamping”, so we’re still trying to decide the optimal amount of time between blog posts talking about our job(s). During our nine weeks at Amazon, we wrote a post every week. We felt this was best since there always seems to be interest in people’s Amazon Camperforce experiences. With our current job at Acadia Bike and Coastal Kayaking, we’re going to try out a post every month. Not because there is any less interest in this job, but to try out a different time frame and see how it works.
During our work updates you’ll more than likely hear us mention some co-worker names we have met here. You will definitely hear us both mention four co-workers who we have known for a long time. To get introductions out of the way early, the two couples I am speaking about are Mike and Annette, and Jay and Karen. Annette is my older sister and I’ve known her, well, for all of the 50 years I’ve been alive. Mike is her husband, and I’ve known him for about 40 of my 50 years. I’ve known Jay for about 25 years and been on many adventures with him. Betsy and I met Jay’s fiance, Karen, approximately eight years ago, and have spent a good bit of time with her and Jay since we’ve been married. It wasn’t a package deal, but Acadia Bike and Coastal Kayaking ended up with all six of us for the Summer 2017 season. Betsy and I will both give our perspectives on our jobs since they are definitely different jobs at the same company.
Customer Service - Betsy
“Thank you for calling Acadia Bike & Coastal Kayaking. This is Betsy. How can I help you?” While this felt like a mouthful the first few days of the job, it now comes out smoothly when answering the phone. June 1st was my day to report for duty where I joined familiar faces - Annette & Karen, but also Gail & Bonnie who are also staying at our campground! My first day of training, Angela (a jill of many trades) showed me the ropes and let me get right into it. Since the software that is used to book all the bike rentals and kayak tours is new this year, we were all in the same boat for learning the ins and outs of the system. I was thrilled to see the three iMacs in the office since that is what I am used to using. To keep things interesting, occasionally things change in the software system keeping us all on our toes. My daily tasks are to make reservations and check-in customers for both bike rentals & kayak tours. The office also has a small inventory of retail products that need stocked and straightened occasionally. Through lots of questions and a bit of trial and error, I have learned about all the different tours and products that are offered and are able to convey those offerings to the customers.
The thing that surprised me about the job the most was the need to be able to provide our customers with additional information on the local area and other attractions they should make certain not to miss while they are here. Most of our customers assume that we are locals since we are working in town. I think I would be likely to assume that if I was visiting as well. It has forced (in a good way) for us to learn the best places for ice cream, the location of the tastiest lobster roll in town, where to find the most scenic views, the easy vs. the hard hikes, and where each of those steep inclines are along the carriage roads. I love learning about new ares, so this being a part of the job responsibilities gives me additional motivation to learn the area.
Memorial Day weekend was really busy in Bar Harbor. I had not started working yet, but got a glimpse of what things would be like later in the summer. Lucky for me, it was still fairly slow when I got trained. That gave me time to learn the ropes without lines of people out the door. Now that the customer service team is all up to speed, we are ready for the summer craziness to begin! Along the way, we have figured out ways to work smarter, not harder by having reservation forms and check-in tickets made in advance rather than on the fly.
Since most of the customers we deal with are vacationers, they are usually in a good mood. They rarely know the date when signing forms, which is a great sign that they are truly relaxing! I have enjoyed meeting customers from all areas of the United States as well as abroad. I am reminded of what a “small” world we live in as demonstrated in several different cases. I have met customers that:
Lived in the house right next to a softball field at Taylor University where I played a bunch of games during my college career.
Were fans of ICED by Betsy cupcakes. I got to take their reservation on the phone as well as check them in for their kayak tour.
Know of and have enjoyed a bologna sandwich at the G & R in my hometown of Waldo, Ohio.
Lived on the same street I did when I lived in Anderson, Indiana.
While I still have responsibilities on the job, I really enjoy that when I leave at the end of the day I don’t bring my work home. When problems arise, I can try my best to solve them, but I don’t have to make the final decision as I did when I owned my bakery. Owning a business is filled with perks, but also large amounts of responsibility. I have to be honest, I don't miss it. I have enjoyed being given a schedule & told what to do! We have a great team of co-workers and we have enjoyed becoming a team. Until our next workamping job recap, you will find us working hard and having fun on Cottage Street in Bar Harbor, Maine.
Driver - Russ
Driver. Well, that’s a pretty generic work title, but it’s all I had to go on when I signed the work contract with Acadia Bike and Coastal Kayaking. Before arriving, Glen, the company’s owner, had suggested it may be helpful to get my CDL. For a variety of reasons, I chose not to get a CDL while we were in Florida for the winter, realizing I would forego the additional $2 / hour Glen had offered to pay his CDL drivers. Jay and Mike already had their CDL’s with passenger endorsements, so I knew Glen would have at least two CDL drivers for the summer. Betsy and I had been given an official start date of June 1st. When things started to ramp up the last week of May at Acadia Bike and Coastal Kayaking, I was asked if I would be able to start May 29th. Since we had arrived at the campground on May 8th, and already done some sightseeing, I looked forward to starting my job and seeing a little income come in. Mike and Jay were already into the swing of things at work when I started on May 29th, so I jumped right in. That first week I was told to expect about 75% of my hours to be driving and about 25% to be working in the bike shop. The variety sounded like a good thing and my first week I did work two days in the bike shop learning the ropes there. Duties in the bike shop included performing basic maintenance on the bikes after they were returned from a rental, as well as assisting customers get fitted and comfortable when they rented a bike. There were more experienced bike mechanics in the shop who would handle the more complex repairs, my job was simply to identify problems during basic maintenance and tag them for further repair. It was a good two days in the bike shop once I settled into the rhythm of how things were done there. You now won’t hear me mention the bike shop any more since those were the last two days I worked there. I hope that was not based on my performance, but more due to the fact that the need for drivers was high as the amount of kayak tours increased.
So driving is really only a portion of the job duties for a driver at Acadia Bike and Coastal Kayaking. Yes, we are definitely responsible for driving our customers from the office at 48 Cottage St. where they are fitted with their gear to kayak, to the water where they launch their kayaks. Just as important is the trailer we pull behind the van which holds all of the kayaks. A typical Harbor Tour or Sunset Cruise leaves from the Sand Bar that connects Bar Harbor to Bar Island. A full tour includes 12 customers in six tandem kayaks and a guide in a single kayak. Obviously those numbers can, and do, change when the tour is not full. But for now we’ll assume that a full tour would require us to unload seven kayaks from the trailer and place them on the shoreline, ready for the customers. This is accomplished by working with the guide to unload the 110 lb. tandem boats and the 80 lb. singles. Now is a good time to point out that the customer never helps in loading/unloading the boats. They have paid to enjoy their kayaking experience, and that should not include lifting the kayaks. Of course, the reverse of this process occurs at the end of the tour, when the seven kayaks are loaded back onto the trailer. Now I mentioned earlier that we launch our tours primarily from the Sand Bar at the base of Bridge St. that connects to Bar Island. We drive the two blocks down Bridge St. and drive onto the Sand Bar to our launch point. This is true for the roughly 5 - 6 hours around low tide. You see, because with 12 - 15 ft. tides in the area, at high tide that same sand bar is 5 - 7 ft. under water. It really is pretty cool and amazes me all of the time. It is even more fun to explain this to a visitor new to the area, as to why the Sand Bar they were just walking on is now five feet under water. With the Sand Bar gone when the tides are up, we are required to BACK the van and trailer the two long blocks down Bridge St. to the edge of the water. Not a simple feat, but one I am getting better at every day. Up to this point I am still not sure which is easier, driving down Bridge St. and dodging all of the hundreds of people on foot who are headed out to walk on the Sand Bar; or backing down Bridge St. when there are less people with no Sand Bar to walk out onto.
There is some variety as to where we launch the kayak tours, as there are about six places around Mt. Desert Island used as launch and take out points. In addition, Acadia Bike and Coastal Kayaking also offer 3 day / 2 night kayaking / camping trips which so far have launched about two hours north of Bar Harbor, on Beal Island, ME. Same process for us drivers, just a little longer drive. In addition to driving and lifting kayaks, us drivers are also responsible for maintenance and small repairs on the kayaks and the vans. With approximately 75 kayaks in the fleet, there always seems to be a deck line or rudder cable in need of repair.
Early in the season we were launching and taking out 4 - 6 tours a day. As the weather warmed and the crowds pick up, Acadia Bike and Coastal Kayaking is doing 10 - 12 tours a day. That’s lifting those boats quite a few times during the day and I definitely don’t see the need to join a gym in the Trenton, ME area.
One thing I have not mentioned, but is of note, is what we wear. There is not a uniform required, which is nice. Up to this point, I have been able to wear weather / temperature appropriate attire. Anything from sweatpants and sweatshirts, to shorts and a t-shirt. The biggest decision so far for us drivers is footwear. The water hovers around 50 degrees, and while some of the beaches are rocky, some of them consist of crushed shells which easily get into your water shoes or sandals. While Jay and Mike have chosen the water shoe / neoprene sock route, I have chosen the way of a "Mainer" (Local person from Maine!) and invested in a pair of Muck Boots, Wetland edition (affiliate link). They are completely waterproof, not allowing any water or shells to penetrate them. They are tall enough to walk in 12 - 16 inches of water, and fold down half way when not in the water to make them wearable all day. Oh, and by way, I’ve found them to be quite comfortable. And last, but not least, when I am working near a harbor or dock with lobsterman around, I seem to fit right in!
If you are curious about the world of Workamping, checkout Workamper® News the company that coined the term Workamper® back in 1987. They offer a free membership that allows you to search for jobs and receive the digital version of their magazine. If you do opt for the gold membership which includes additional features like a resume builder & printed magaizine, we would love if you would mention that you were referred by Russ & Betsy simply by using the code AMB103.
RUSS & BETSY'S WORKAMPING REVIEWS / UPDATES:
- - - Texas Lakeside RV Resort in Port Lavaca, Texas (November 2017 - November 2018):
- - - Acadia Bike & Coastal Kayaking in Bar Harbor, Maine (June - October 2017):
- - - Amazon Camperforce in Campbellsville, Kentucky (October - December 2016):