Doug and Rand James, both professionals in the Metropolis of Dallas, Texas, started a “someday” plan as they rode their motorcycles all over the United States. On those rides, they mentally tabbed the places they wanted to visit for an extended time. In 2010, they turned their plan to “…go see America” into reality. Both retired; Rand after 40 years as a real estate broker and Doug as the owner/operator of an over-the-road long haul trucking company. They sold their townhome, bought a 42-foot motorhome, and moved into a base camp, a farm house on 40 acres in East Texas.
Several years prior, a friend had shared a copy of Workamper News. Doug and Rand read it cover to cover, anticipating “…one of these days.” When that day arrived, they had good knowledge of the various Workamping job descriptions, the pay scales, volunteerism, and expectations of employers. For several winters, they volunteered for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Since Doug worked as a consultant for a private corporation in 2012, they only served as camp hosts for one month that winter at Inks Lake Texas State Park. In other years, they committed two to three months to volunteerism.
In the summer of 2011, the James took jobs with Blair Hotels in Cody, Wyoming. A family-owned business, Blair Hotels includes two recognized hotels, cabins, and the UCross Ranch. Doug worked as bellman/maintenance for the Comfort Inn, Holiday Inn, and the Buffalo Bill Village Cabins. Rand used her experience in sales and marketing in the gift shop. Only 52 miles from Yellowstone National Park’s eastern entrance, they had opportunities to ride their motorcycles into the park several times. The nearby entrance to the Chief Joseph Highway that intersects the Beartooth with its numerous switchbacks offered scenic and challenging roadways to navigate on their days off. West Yellowstone, Montana, at the park’s western entrance caught their fancy as a small town where they would like to spend a few summers.
“We loved working in Cody, made many friends, and were invited to return to our jobs the next summer,” Rand says. “But our plan was to have a new experience each year.”
Since Doug worked for a private company the following year, they took their next Workamping jobs at Crazy Horse Memorial in Custer, South Dakota, in 2013. Doug drove a tour bus to the bottom of the mountain that is the world’s largest Mountain Carving in progress—a monument to a member and leader of the Teton Sioux tribe. From the base of the mountain, he drove a van of visitors to the top. Doug and Rand both worked in the Orientation Center at the Welcome Center. Rand worked as a greeter, in customer service, and as an interpretative guide on the tour buses.
“It was a great job for both of us,” she says. “Lots of friends came to visit because of the Sturgis Motorcycle rally and the beautiful riding in Custer State Park and surrounding areas. Once again, we made new friends. We were tempted to return for another season, but that memory of West Yellowstone, Montana, called out.”
In the summer of 2014, Doug and Rand were hired to manage the Buffalo Crossing RV Park and work one day a week in the IMAX Theatre/ Gift Shop. They purchased an annual membership at the next-door Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center and also annual passes for Yellowstone National Park. As a benefit, they were provided parking space in the RV Park. Four days a week, they manned the park’s office, taking reservations and checking in guests. On the fifth day, they worked inside the IMAX Theatre complex.
Rand took a job again with the IMAX Theater/Gift Shop. Her days off match Doug’s, so they continue to enjoy the wildlife and splendor of Yellowstone National Park. Doug gets to view animals daily as he follows his truck routes. Almost every day he spots bears—so often that he has named some of them.
“All of our jobs to date have been in family-owned businesses—with the exception of Doug working for the National Park Service,” Rand says. “Our ‘bosses’ run professional operations, but treat us as extended family.
“We feel we are members of a secret club called ‘Life After Work,’” she continues. “We call our Workamping jobs ‘free vacations,’ and we get to enjoy beautiful locations as community members. All our jobs have been in assisting tourists who are there to have fun!”Research Campgrounds, Plan RV Safe Routes & Turn your phone into an RV GPS.
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Traveling in their motorhome several months each year, Arline and her photographer husband, Lee Smith, make their permanent home in Heber Springs, Arkansas. She currently is a presenter for Workamper Rendezvous, sponsored by Workamper News. Arline has dozens of magazine articles published, as well as five books: “Road Work: The Ultimate RVing Adventure” (now available on Kindle); “Road Work II: The RVer’s Ultimate Income Resource Guide”; “Truly Zula; When Heads & Hearts Collide”; and “The Heart of Branson”, a history of the families who started the entertainment town and those who sustain it today. Visit Arline’s personal blog at ArlineChandler.Blogspot.com