As we were checking into Mountain View RV park in Sundance Wyoming, we were asked “the question!.” The one all RVers seem to ask one another: “Where are you from?” We gave our usual answer: “We are nomads, we live in our Airstream full-time.” I always feel proud when I can tell someone that. The proprietor looked pleased and said, “We just lost one of our work camping couples, you can stay for free if you will help us out.”
Would we do it?
We’d only planned to stay a week and they would need us for at least a month so we told her we had to give it some thought. The offer was free parking with cable, free laundry, and a discount on goods from the store and on propane in exchange for working a total of 24 hours a week at the park, generally, 8 am till noon 3 days a week.
Looking at our plans, we were already going to be in the area for 4 weeks, just not at this campground. It didn’t impact our overall timeline, it only meant we’d have to drive long distances to the area parks. Looking at Mountain View, I liked what I saw. The park was clean and orderly, including the bathrooms. I’d read some sob stories about working in bad parks and figured that if it was well run there was a higher chance the owners would be good to work with. Making up our minds, we told them “yes.”
Rolling up our sleeves
Our first day working was the very next morning. We were handed a stack of Mountain View RV T-shirts to wear while on the job and given the run down. Every morning we first check the bathrooms and tidy up any mess. Then we take the cart and drive through the park looking for trash, dog poop, and other detritus. We check trash cans and empty as needed. Then we check the project board and see what needs doing. Typically that involves grounds keeping or cleaning up other parts of the park. At 11am we do another site check to ensure folks checking out have left and that folks staying are still here. We also clean up the checkout sites and inspect the sewer lines for obstructions. Finally, we give the bathrooms a good thorough cleaning and the day is done.
On our first day Bernie, one of the owners, spent the morning with us showing us the ropes and where all the tools and equipment were stored. Our project for the day was cleaning the game room. In addition to dusting and sweeping the walls hadn’t been scrubbed down in a while so we gave it a thorough 2-hour cleaning. Our second-day project was touching up on paint. I worked on doorways and window frames while Trail re-did the lettering on the giant “welcome” sign out front.
I was really pleased to be fixing up the kinds of things I so often see let go at other RV parks. I’ve thought many times that the places would look so much better if they just kept the painting up and did some routine cleaning. Here I was doing all those things and the place looked that much better for my brief efforts.
Of course, cleaning bathrooms is both hard work and not all that much fun. None the less I felt some satisfaction in tackling a problem I’ve found endemic in so many other RV parks, dirty bathrooms. Cobwebs in the shower stalls, dust caked on the vents, the smell of mildew heavy in the air, and strange red-brown stains on the walls. Not here, not on my watch!
Mountain View’s bathrooms were already in good shape thanks to their daily cleanup. All the surfaces get sprayed with Lysol and scrubbed down. All the toilets cleaned. An antibacterial and antifungal agent is sprayed on the shower floors. Then all the floors get swept and mopped. Supplies are replenished, trash emptied and all is well. I decided I’d also hunt down any and all stains on the walls and eliminate them. I also had a go at the air vents as best I could. End product: a super shiny and clean smelling bathroom.
The morning of day 2, I found the men’s bathroom partly flooded. Both toilets were stuffed and overflowing. A double header! I got the plunger, mop, antibacterial spray and cleaned it all up. As Bernie came around he was sympathetic and surprised. “Both toilets clogged?” he asked, “that’s the first time in the 10 years I’ve been running this park, lucky you!” Well, that’s just the kind of special snowflake I am!
Reflections on work camping
We’ve got 3 weeks to go but I think all in all it will be a positive experience. I don’t mind doing this kind of work when I know it’s benefitting my fellow campers and I’m being reasonably compensated. We did some math and the “wage” works out to about $12.60 an hour. No fortune to be sure but it’s simple unskilled labor and I think a fair trade. I’m happy to be setting a good example of how such work should be done and making Mountain View a nice place.
I’m sure every work camping experience has some unique elements. I suspect all of them have some common elements in that lions share of the work is clean up. I think I made a good decision in checking out the park before agreeing to work camp for them. If I didn’t like the owners or through the park was poorly run, it would make the work a lot less fulfilling and more onerous.
Work camping is not going to make anyone rich, but I do think it is a reasonable way to significantly reduce your expenses on the road and a way to give back to the RV community. If you are interested there are numerous sites that can help you find gigs.