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Today was very uneventful as far as driving days go, just routine, thank you very much! We got up around 7:30 a.m., made some coffee, put away the coffee maker, rolled in the slide outs, and got on our way. The pic above is on US 58 between I-95 and I-85, leaving Emporia, Virginia. By the way, that Yogi Jellystone Campground there is only 375 yards from a VERY BUSY railroad. Trains all night long. Other than that, it was ok. They had many long pull-through sites with water, electric, and sewer connections.
We stopped for breakfast around 10:30 at Cracker Barrel. I used to love their gravy and biscuits, but could only sit and watch as Jim ate them today. But, let me tell you, their cornbread muffins are really good with bacon and eggs, and a little blackberry jam.
Here we are on I-85 near Rocky Mount, North Carolina. I am a little surprised that the leaves are still so colorful so late in the year. I don’t remember them being this pretty last year when we left Urbana, Virginia on November 15 . Hmmm, maybe I am just getting old…NAAAHH!
We got to our destination for today, the fabulous Fleetwood RV Resort at Lowe’s Motor Speedway at about 3:00 p.m. Yes, we stayed at this place last year, too, on our way south. It is nothing fancy. It is rather boring looking. But is is right next door to the Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Nascar fans probably love this place. But for us, it is just a place to stop for the night.
For dinner tonight, I made a thrown together goulash with things I had hiding in the pantry.
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1/3 lb ground meat
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large can pitted black olives
1 can Progresso Creamy Mushroom Soup
1 tablespoon tapioca flour
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups gluten free pasta, cooked
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onions, celery, and ground meat, cook until meat is browned. Add the olives, sliced if you like, the soup, and the tapioca flour. Stir together well. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve over noodles. Have seconds.
I served this with pear salad. Put a dab of mayonaise in the middle of a pear half, top with grated colby cheese.
Tomorrow we are taking the truck to a Ford dealership for them to check it out before we get back on the road. Jim thinks maybe it needs a new alternator because the batteries are not charging up right. He wanted to wait til we get to our home town to do it, but I said, “What would happen if it went out, and the truck wouldn’t start, and we were in the middle of nowhere with no cellphone signal?”
The wheels will be rolling tomorrow morning on our travel trailer. We finished our commitment to our job at Granite Hill Camping Resort yesterday. There were times when it seemed like this day would never come. It has been a long, long season.
We spent most of today getting ready to go. We are taking a good bit of Pennsylvania with us, literally. Jim got two cases of Yuengling beer. I got three huge bags of Utz Tortilla Chips, they are the best! I also went back to Hacienda Shiloh and got some garlic and some of that good Autumn Rub that they sell there, and some other things. A trip to the Rose Garden Natural Foods store to stock up on buckwheat flour, rice flour, and rice pastas since I don’t know when I will find another source. What else? Hmmm…
I have a half dozen pints of green beans, some frozen cooked turnip greens,three bags of cooked mashed pumpkin, a gallon bag of chopped sweet red italian peppers, and some apple sausage in the freezer. Some acorn squashes, and a few apples, all came from Harbaugh’s Farm. There is a large jar of sweet pickled cauliflower, two jars of apple salsa, a jar of cherry butter, and several small packages of dried cranberries, dried pineapple, and roasted pumpkin seeds from the farm market across the road from the campground. It will take us a long time to clear Pennsylvania out of the pantry.
I would say that if any of you gets a chance to visit or workamp in the Gettysburg area, it will be a real treat. It is a rural area, with lots of agriculture, so there is an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, with farm stands down almost every road during the summer and fall. We have certainly enjoyed our stay here.
But, as the song says, I can’t wait to get on the road again…
We subscribe to a magazine called Workamper News (WN). It is a listing of jobs in campgrounds, resorts, marinas, national parks, and other places for people who live in RV’s. We had seen an ad in WN for several years for a campground on a river in Virginia. Their ad offered wages for every hour we worked, a free full hookup site to live on while we worked there, and a completion bonus. To qualify for a completion bonus, you make a commitment to stay a certain length of time on the job, and once you complete your commitment, they pay a bonus equal to 50 cents for each hour that you worked while you were there.
We applied for the job, and went for an in person interview, and were hired for the job in March of last year. We loved working there. In the years that we have done this type of work, that job was the best job we have ever had. We loved the campground, we loved the people we worked with, we loved the people we worked FOR, we loved the people who came there to camp. It was a fun, beautiful place to be. We made an agreement to stay until November 13, 2007, which we did.
While we worked there, I kept a spreadsheet of the hours we worked each pay period, because our bonus was to be calculated based on how many hours we worked. My husband and I used that spreadsheet as a morale booster. Whenever we were tired, or had had a bad day, we would look at the spreadsheet to see how our bonus was adding up. We left on November 15 headed back to Georgia for the winter. We fully expected our bonus to be paid with our last paycheck. It was not.
In December, I called to question when we would receive our bonus. The general manager said he would check on it and call me back. He called me on January 12 to tell me that our bonus would be paid “on the next pay period”. So, we expected to receive it by the end of January.
January 31 came and went with no check received or direct deposit made to our account. I called several times, leaving word each time for the general manager to call me back. No one ever returned the phone calls I made. I was concerned that maybe they had mailed the check and it was lost in the mail. But, we HAD received our W-2 forms from them, so I knew they had the correct address.
I continued to call every so often, always leaving a message for someone to call me, and making sure whoever took the message knew that I was calling because we had not received our bonus check. In March, we were on our way from Georgia to Pennsylvania for our next job, and stopped in Williamsburg so we could visit our daughter and some friends for a few days. We arranged to have dinner with a couple we had made friends with whom we had worked with at the previous job.
Of course, the subject of the bonus came up at dinner. My friend, Lynn, said “You should compare your last paycheck stub with your W-2 form amount.” She did not say why I should, but because she put that little bug in my ear, the first thing I did when we got home was look at the two documents. Yes, the amounts on them WERE different, and the amount of the difference was exactly the amount of the bonus we never received. So, now we not only had not received the bonus, but the employer said we did by showing it on our W-2 form! This fact opened up a whole new problem for me, as I was not going to pay income taxes on money I had never been paid. I was more determined than before to collect that bonus!
The next day, we had breakfast with two other couples we had met while we worked there. I purposely did not want to talk about work with them. I wanted to have a fun, enjoyable breakfast with friends. One of the girls brought up the subject, though, and asked if we had ever received our bonus. I said, “No, we have not, but I am not going to give up on this. We worked for that money, and I intend to get it.”
After we got to our new job, I got a Cingular Wireless Aircard so I could have internet access at my travel trailer. I searched the internet for information on employment law in Virginia. At the Virginia Department of Labor website, I found that if you were promised a bonus before you began the work, the employer is legally obligated to pay it. There was a form there for you to fill out and send in, with whatever documentation you had, showing what was owed you, and the state would help you collect the money. I downloaded a copy of the form and saved it on my computer.
However, first, I had to send a demand for payment letter by certified mail. I wrote the letter, and sent it along with a copy of the ad from WN showing a bonus was offered, a copy of our work contract showing a bonus was offered if we stayed until November 13, a copy of our last paycheck stubs, a copy of our W-2 forms, and a copy of my spreadsheet. I advised them in the letter that they had until March 30 to make payment or we would take further action. I received the signature card back from the post office showing that they had indeed received the letter.
After they received the letter, I got a phone call from the general manager. He asked me “So you are saying that your W-2 reflects that we paid the bonus but you never received it?” I said, “Yes, that is correct.” He told me he would forward the letter to the downtown office. I never heard another word from them. On April 5, I filled out the forms from the Virginia Department of Labor and mailed them in, along with copies of all my documentation, which now included a copy of the letter and a copy of the green card that I got back from the post office. My husband and I were very hopeful that we would have our money soon.
I got the forms back from the Virginia Department of Labor on April 12th, with a form attached that said “Your claim for unpaid wages has been received and reviewed. It is being returned for the reason noted below:
“You had a written employment agreement in place with your employer. Although we are unable to assist you, you may have recourse through the courts”. What? I thought the website said they would help us! What a bunch of crap!
Jim and I discussed this some more. I searched the internet some more, looking this time on the IRS website. I was sure there was SOMETHING we could do that would not involve us actually going to Virginia to file a claim in small claims court. After a lot of research, I found some information on the IRS site about what to do if you have received a fradulent W-2 form. So, the next time we had a day off, Jim and I went to the IRS Service Center in Frederick, Maryland, which was the closest one to us.
When we arrived at the service center, I showed the clerk all the documentation we had and explained to her that we felt we had received fraudulent W-2 forms from our former employer. She looked over the contents of my folder, listened to my story, and finally agreed with me.
She went into another room and called the place we worked last year. We don’t know exactly what she said to them, but when she returned, she told us we would hear from her if she had any news for us. That was one week ago, today.
Yesterday, I had a message on my cellphone to call George, the manager of the IRS Service Center. The message said “We have some new information that sheds new light on your issue.” When I called him back, he told me that he had our bonus checks in his hand and we could come pick them up!
So, after only 5 and half months, 14 unreturned phone calls, a certified letter, 2 forms with copies of everything sent to the Virginia Department of Labor, and two sixty mile round trips to Frederick to the IRS Service Center, we received our long overdue bonus checks today.
When we arrived at the IRS office, all of the employees there came out to the lobby. They were all smiling, and all of them shook our hands. They said it is not very often in the course of their jobs that they can actually make people happy. They usually have to deal with people who were fleeced out of money by their employer and the person had no documentation to back up what they were saying.
The clerk who had handled this for us told me that it was my legwork that helped them help us. She said that if I had not had so much documentation she probably would not have been able to collect the money for us. She said that after talking to us last week they knew that we were honest and were right that our former employer owed us the money. It was so fun to talk to those people. Then we went shopping!
Now that spring is here, this place is getting really beautiful. The photo to the right is the spring house near the trout pond. They stock the trout pond for a trout tournament each year. We saw the fish truck here last week.
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We have arrived in Pennsylvania for our job here at Granite Hill Campground. The trip up was very nice. We stopped in Concord, North Carolina the first night at Fleetwood Speedway RV Resort at the Nascar track. It is a good place to stop for the night, but I have no idea why they call it a resort. It just looks like a campground to me.
The next day we headed out to Williamsburg, Virginia. We stopped there for 3 nights at Anvil Campground. If you click on the link, you will see that they don’t have any pictures of their campground on their website. I think there is a reason for that. The place is one step away from being classified as a dump (in my opinion). It is right next to a railroad track, and trains roar by throughout the night. It sounded like those trains were going right through our bedroom. We wondered what those folks thought who were camping in tents right next to the tracks.
We met our friends Charlie and Lynn for dinner on Friday night at Outback Steakhouse. We had fun with them, they are really nice people. They said they were going to come up to Gettysburg sometime this summer. I sure do hope so. Then, on Saturday, we met Linda and Ron and Liz and Russ for breakfast at IHOP. Again, we were glad to see all of them. It was over way too soon. Linda and Ron are leaving Virginia soon for a new job in Florida. Maybe we’ll see them this winter.
After breakfast we drove down to Norfolk to visit Rebecca and see her new apartment. We went to lunch with her and Joe at a Mexican place. Then we drove out to Virginia Beach for ice cream. It seems like all we did in Virginia was eat, eat, eat. We hung out with Rebecca for the rest of the day. We got back home to the train yard about 9:30 pm, just in time for the Amtrack train.
Sunday morning when we checked the map for directions to Prince William Travel Trailer Village in Dumfries, Virginia, we realized that it was only about 40 miles south of Washington, D.C., so we called Seth and told him where we were going to be. They decided to drive down and visit with us. We have not seen them in more than 3 years. They arrived about an hour after we got to the campground. It was sooo good to see them. Michael jumped out of the car as soon as they drove up and gave FabGrandpa a big hug. I got one next, and Michael told me he missed me a lot. I met Seth’s new wife, Sarah for the first time. She is so nice! We really enjoyed seeing them. We went out to Cracker Barrel for a late lunch, then went back to the trailer to visit for a while.
On Monday, we only had about 106 miles to go, so we slept late and still got here about 2 pm. The countryside in Maryland and Pennsylvania is beautiful. There are lots of farms with silos and red barns. Even with everything still being brown from winter it is still pretty here. The lakes and ponds are all frozen over, which surprised me. I knew it would be cold, but I guess I just didn’t think about it being THAT cold.
Last night it was 10 degrees! It is supposed to snow 2-4 inches tomorrow. We went out today and filled our propane tanks. Oh, and I had sticker shock at the grocery store in town—celery was $2.89! carrots were $1.99! and 5 lbs red potatoes $3.99! Yikes!
We also had to drive over to Hanover, about 14 miles away, to go to the mall. We got lost on the way, and wound up going into an industrial area, where we saw the Snyder’s of Hanover pretzel plant. It smelled like pretzels in the air around there.
Here in Gettysburg, we have already found a farm market and an egg farm to buy fresh food. There was a nice butcher shop in Hanover near the pretzel place. (I had to go in there to ask directions after we got lost, so of course I looked around to see what they had. The meat prices in there looked pretty good.)
There is a shetland pony farm about 3 miles from here, I want to take Michael and Sarah there, and Spencer too if he gets up here this summer. And of course, there is the National Battlefield Park, and I saw a Civil War Hospital on the way to Hanover. I’m sure there are lots more things to do that I haven’t discovered yet. So, that’s it for today.
OK, so we live in a travel trailer that is 30 ft long. There are AT MOST two steps from the bed to the toilet. Every night when I get up to go use the toilet, my husband asks me “Where are you going”? HUH? One of these nights I am going to answer him “I am going to Las Margaritas, do you want me to bring you a bowl of soup?” just to see if he is awake.
The trip to Georgia was uneventful, and took less than two days. It was 574 miles from Bethpage to Unicoi State Park. We went through Westpoint to I-64 west, to I-295 south, to I-95 south, to I-85 south, to Georgia 17 north. We stopped for fuel at the Sadler Truck Plaza in Emporia, where diesel was $2.319 if you paid with cash, but they consider a debit card to be the same as cash. The price of fuel in North Carolina was the highest at $2.499.
We stopped for the night in Concord, North Carolina at Fleetwood RV Resort. I don’t know why they get to call it a resort. It is behind an RV dealership, and right next to the Lowe’s Motor Speedway, a NASCAR racing facility. Our site had an excellent view of the speedway stadium, but no cable TV and no Wi-Fi. It was $25 per night for a pull through on gravel and pavement. Oh, and they were running laps til after 11pm at the raceway, so if you stay there expect noise. I could close my eyes and imagine it full of NASCAR fans. I am so glad I don’t work there. We woke up at 4:30 am and decided to “Just leave”. (that is for Lynn and Mary, hehehe)
We arrived at Unicoi State Park around 11:30 am yesterday to begin our winter Volunteer Camp Host job. Even though the host spaces are first come first served, we go the space we wanted. It is right next to a little creek, Our view out the window is of the forest, very nice. We ran into Gary and Faye at the lodge when we went up to check in with Shirley, the retail manager. They have been here about a week. Shirley was as usual happy to see us. We go tomorrow for an orientation session. We didn’t have to do an orientation last year because they did not have an onsite volunteer coordinator. The new person is Ellen. We met her when she came by our trailer to introduce herself to us.
We can’t wait to go to Doodle’s, the coffee shop in Helen. They have free Wi-Fi, and good coffee, but the owners, Stan and Linda, are really nice and we got to know them pretty well last year. We are looking forward to seeing them again. We also like to go to Betty’s County Store. They may be a little expensive, but they have good meats and a nice produce department. They make home made breads, and have a good selection of snacks. Yum!