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Old 11-05-2018, 07:40 PM   #15
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Thanks!

So grateful for your words and pictures!
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Old 11-07-2018, 10:58 PM   #16
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Thank you all for the kind words - I appreciate them.

PatLee - I own a 2014 Sony DSC RX100 point and shoot and one of the best point and shoot cameras that year. It has a panoramic capability where I sweep across a landscape, and it can shoot video too. It's compact and relatively tough but I wish for a newer and more powerful camera. I recently bought a nice entry-level drone/camera but have yet to try it out due to fire restrictions in the boondocking spots we've been camped in this past Fall.

frone - I am glad you asked because we are big fans of boondocking or dry camping. When we first hit the road in 2014, we left straight out with only a 30-minute test drive/tow - not exactly the recommended way to start out. But I had read a lot of descriptions of boondocking here on airforums - you can get a lot of info and advice by reading Ray Eklund threads and posts; just Google search his name and airforums.

The basics for us were to start off with baby steps. Your first move should be to head to the West where public lands abound. Our first effort was in the Grand Staircase National Monument in Utah and in the spring. We were 10.5 miles away from a small town and only 2.5 miles off the highway - we could still hike out to help if everything went bad. I have some threads in this Full-timing Forum that describe our experiences while boondocking.

You can visit National Forest ranger stations and BLM offices - talk to the rangers and ask for local intel: how rough are the roads and are they suitable for trailer hauling; are there turn-arounds; where are drinking water and sewage dumps? I would buy maps that show NF and BLM boundaries.

You need to unhitch your trailer and leave it in a nearby RV campground or Ranger or BLM parking lot. You can then scout out the dirt roads with your truck and look things over. I recommend going out as far as you're comfortable; we like to find spots that are secluded and no one is within sight or ear shot. We like to use a generator late at night and we don't like to bother anyone else.

Read Ray's posts and find out what kind of gear you need. A lot of it depends on how deep you are into the wild. We carry basics: several water cans, a couple gas cans, a shovel, and some tools. I'd like to go out farther but I also don't want to leave my wife in a bad situation if I do something stupid to myself.

I wish you the best and hope you get an opportunity to get out there far enough to hear you think and breathe - it's a wonderful gift for yourself.
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Old 11-07-2018, 11:16 PM   #17
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Quite a few full-timers make some extra money by working the sugar beet harvest in Sidney, Montana and other locations in Montana and North Dakota every September and October. I thought I'd add some thoughts in case anyone has an interest in our experience.

We left Idaho and crossed into Montana after having last visited in 2015. We arrived in Sidney, Montana on September 23rd for the sugar beet harvest (and the only Airstreamers by the way), and began work at the piling grounds on the 27th and finished on October 23rd; that included about 19 days of actual work days and off days due to Mother Nature. There is a window of opportunity to harvest the beets - not too cold and not too warm; high winds can shut down the pilers due to fear of booms getting blown off. We estimate we made about $8k (before taxes) as a couple after including $100/off day (we had seven, one off day did not qualify during the first week) and a 5% bonus to be paid in December; you get a 10% bonus the second year. Sidney Sugars pays time and a half each day after eight hours and the entire weekend.

We were hired by Express Employment Professionals, who bring in workers for Sidney Sugars. I can only speak of our time in Sidney; we have friends and friends of friends that work in North Dakota and based on our limited intel from them, I can recommend coming to Sidney Sugars for harvest work. In addition to the $100/couple/off day and bonus, they also gave us two free days of RV stay after our last day - much appreciated after a harvest. We were fortunate to work at the Factory Yard located in Sidney and only a few miles away from Bagnell's RV park. First a word about Bagnell's - it's a dump of a RV park BUT...when you're working 12 hour shifts, all you care about is whether the hookups work, and they did. It also has a small laundromat with three washer/dryers - they're not only affordable but the best washing combos we've seen in four years of traveling…go figure. It also had screaming WiFi but we were parked right next to the office.

The harvest workers can be assigned to two other locations that are about a 20-minute drive away. Our daytime shift was 7 AM to 7 PM; the night crew works the other 12-hour shift. When I first signed us up, I wanted to work the night shift for some extra money but my wife said no. Boy, am I glad I listened to her! The night shift earned only about a buck more an hour but that work is TOUGH! While they do run pilers and empty trucks, a lot of the shift is clean up work on the five pilers - cold and muddy. We were much happier working daytime...and that was tough enough at times.

I tried doing my homework but did not get the real picture. I actually told my wife that we would be working with shovels and keeping a beet pile tidy. I thought we would be randomly picking out beet samples for sugar content analysis. While the work does not require heavy lifting (the samples are bagged at about 20-25 pounds), you will be working adjacent to a large and very loud piece of equipment in the piler and dump trucks. The physical demand comes from the elements and the ability to stand in the cold for 12-hour shifts. Every now and then the piper suffers a breakdown, usually due to excess mud, and anyone who is physically capable is expected to climb up and into the “belly of the beast” and clean it out. I thought I had bought enough layers under our coveralls but we learned quickly that we would need ski clothing: ski pants and jacket, heavy beanie, winter work gloves and socks, and hand/foot warmers. Sidney Sugars gave us a hard hat, safety glasses (both clear and tinted), safety vest, a balaclava, and work gloves. No worries though - there a couple good thrift stores in town and we were able to outfit ourselves properly for about $60.

The helper is tasked with helping truck drivers enter the piler's end dumps where the truck beds are raised and the beets slide out. The beets then are moved laterally and then up a long ramp, moving through a set of rollers where the mud is shaken off before the beets are dumped onto a boom's ramp and dropped atop the sugar beet pile. When the truck is emptied, the helper guides the driver off the ramp and backs the truck up to just below a secondary ramp that delivers the farmer's mud back into the truck bed. The other helper randomly collects about 20 pounds of beets through a chute and into a bag, tags and ties the bag, and moves it onto a nearby cart. The bags are collected by a Bobcat/skid steer periodically and taken to a lab. The piler operator works in a stand at one end and above the piler, directing the trucks onto the end dump(s), and operates switches and buttons that control the ramps and the boom. The boom needs to swing in an arc and raised periodically, building a pile about 20 feet high. It's vital helpers on the ground communicate to the operator how far above the boom's end is above the pile; allowing the boom's end to make contact with the pile can result in damage at worst, triggering an auto-shutdown at best and requiring someone to climb the pile to re-set the boom's ramp. The helpers also clean the end dumps once the trucks leave; they use long-handle scrapers to clean off mud and beets stuck on the dump gates.

I just never found this kind of description but maybe I just missed one. So it's loud, muddy, very cold at times, and a grind through the day or night, and duration of the harvest; ours took about 19 work days, not including the days off. One more thing: the work days are continuous. The longest stretch we worked was over the last eight days, and by then we had good weather. We had other stretches of three and four days but they were conveniently broken up by frost in the fields, resulting in welcome off days. However, I did hear from other workers who had stretches of 13 and 21 consecutive work days in years past - that would be a heckuva grind.

So in summation, we would do this again next year...unless we win a lotto. Nobody works the harvest to have fun. Everybody is sick of beets and ready to leave by the end of the harvest, but a year's passing has a way of making one forget the tiredness and cold. It's still the fastest way I've seen for a full-timing couple to make a decent amount of cash without having to be a rocket scientist. We made some new friends, got a look into a farmers' life, and can now say we have worked in the agricultural sector. There is nothing in Sidney to attract visitors but it's yet another opportunity to try something new while earning some decent wages.

I am looking forward to sleeping in. The whole winter.

P.S. I tried to have a little fun with my harvest video by being a bit dramatic. Just to be clear - there is very little drama and a whole lot of grind.

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Old 11-07-2018, 11:26 PM   #18
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While working the harvest, we often talked about getting back to our beloved eastern Sierras in California. So we made the long trek across Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada before finding a boondocking spot outside Lee Vining, California and fishing with friends.

While the fishing is late in the season and not that good at all, it still is worth the drive. Sometimes we think about saving the money and not traveling so far but if we thought that all the time, then we’d just be living in a trailer. As the saying goes, the worst day of fishing is still better than a day at work.

Especially if it's a sugar beet harvest.
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Old 11-09-2018, 08:25 AM   #19
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That's a really good description of the work for those of us that wonder.

Years ago Technomadia gave a good write up on working at Amazon over the holidays.

Like you said the work gets done because it's a good opportunity to put some money in the bank.
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Old 11-09-2018, 09:41 AM   #20
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Jeff, I always look forward to your posts. You never disappoint. Your narratives are clear, and your photos are, well, just picture perfect. Great Job!
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Old 11-09-2018, 02:41 PM   #21
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Thank you, Hittenstiehl and Don. It's always great to hear from you too.


We found a lone strip of campsites left open after all the National Forest campgrounds have been gated shut. The fishermen and campers are long gone - the remaining traumatized trout are no longer interested in what I have to offer…but that’s okay by me. We are boondocking up around 9,000 feet, the nights are well below freezing, and we have to wait on the mid-morning sun to loosen up our water jugs.

We don’t have solar yet, so we burn a gallon of propane along with a couple gallons of gasoline - all told about $13 each day/night. When the overnight temperature closes in on zero, we leave on the water heater and generator - cheap enough insurance to get our trailer, and us, through the cold night. Still, it's a cheap price to pay for seclusion - the total silence and stillness are priceless to me.
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Old 11-11-2018, 09:06 PM   #22
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There is no Airstream in this video but as I have stated elsewhere, it is what facilitates such moments. I am no great fisherman and a lot of the time I go home empty-handed...but that's okay with me.

I'm outside and I wouldn't trade that for all the money.

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Old 11-13-2018, 11:13 AM   #23
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Loved the narrative and the photos. Thank you!
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