John and Margaret Mason, who met on-the-job in the reservation department at American Airlines, swapped their tailored uniforms for jeans, loaded their seven kitties into the motorhome, and set out to see the United States. Trading their winged travel perks with the airline for the hum of wheels on the roadway, the couple count their blessings in blazing sunsets, morning coffee with new friends, and the freedom to roam the North American continent in the company of their furry felines.
The Masons had never RVed until they vacationed at the Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge. "We saw some couples who lived in their RVs and volunteered at the refuge," John states. "We thought it would be a great way to indulge our love for wildlife and give something worthwhile back to our country through volunteerism."
On their first volunteer assignment at the Aransas Wildlife Refuge, John and Margaret parked their rig for the winter months on a pad with full hookups furnished by the refuge. Surrounded by the whooping cranes that swoop to the Gulf Coast in a wintertime migration, they worked in the Visitors Center and answered questions for a Scouting program.
"Since we've been full-timing, we've learned to be bird watchers. We are so taken by these wonderful birds. At Aransas, two gray-horned owls we called "Steve" and "Edye" lived behind our trailer," John remembers. "They sang all night long."
Margaret says they were reminded in their orientation that the volunteers and guests are visiting on the animals' home turf - not the other way around. However, she was slightly taken off guard when she cleaned the rest room and a snake poked up his head in a morning greeting. "My initial response was to scream and run," she says, recalling how foolish she felt once she was outside the building. "John went back inside with me and the snake was gone.
"I didn't want to meet that slithering monster again," she continues, remembering with a laugh how she banged her broom and flushed toilets to make as much noise as possible. "Then I looked up and saw that little snake head inching up and peering down at me from its coil on a rafter. "I had no reason to be afraid," she goes on, admitting there is a fear of reptiles that typically goes back to childhood. "He never bothered me."
Later, a college group came in to camp and John mentioned to one of the women to be wary of a snake in the rest room. She said, "Oh, is that snake still here?" At that point, Margaret knew the snake was in its own little spot and she had to get used to him keeping her company as she cleaned.
Despite the satisfaction the Masons gain from volunteerism, they mix up their Workamping adventures with paying jobs. While roaming the Northwest, the versatile couple stopped in the Portland, Oregon, area for their training session with American Guide Services (AGS), a company that produces campground maps with related advertising. Although the typical training is five days, they crammed their classes into three and a half to accommodate another couple with a tight schedule. "Training is quite laid back, and we had a good time," Margaret reports. "We paid about $200 for the class, which included a bonding fee and all the information and forms we needed to complete our first job."
Following their course, the Masons took an assignment to map an RV park in Sequim, Washington, down the road from the AG S headquarters. "We had a wonderful opportunity to tour the AGS facility and meet all the good folks there," Margaret continues. "The company owner and president, Lynn Rogers, and his wife entertained us and several other sales people at dinner. Everyone on staff made us feel at home and welcome to be on board." John explains that AGS works with them to find campgrounds in the geographic area compatible to their travels. "Our first job was a simple two-color brochure for a remote resort in Coulee City, Washington," he says. "We had to drive long distances to obtain the advertisers, but that kind of thing 'goes with the territory.'"
The Masons note that the job requires a tremendous amount of paper work. They use their computer and scanner to lay out some of the ads they sell to new advertisers. However, they point out that a computer or scanner is not required to do the jobs. Once they complete their work and send it into AGS, the "front office" checks the paperwork and layout before sending it on to the production department. Within two or three weeks, the Masons have their check in the mail. "We were pleased with our earnings on a first job," Margaret says. "The area we had was not affluent and it took us two weeks of hard work to get some of the ads renewed and to sell new ones. On our first call, the advertiser had to be sold on renewing his ad," she continues. "But the on the second call, we introduced ourselves and stated our business. They had the checkbook out and pen in hand almost before we could say we were there to discuss their ad. So the game of selling goes from one extreme to the other."
In their first job, the Masons report excellent feedback and support from the company. "AG S uses a voice-mail system that permits us to ask questions and receive answers," Margaret says, "If we have something really important to ask, we call the company direct and get good responses." Sales people have the option to sign up new parks on their own, giving the job flexibility. They also have the freedom to work as much or a little as they choose. John and Margaret look forward to developing accounts with bigger parks in more prosperous locations. But they recognize the need for additional experience before they land more profitable jobs.
In between volunteer roles and their paying job with AGS, the Masons goof off. "A typical day might be sleeping in, having a leis rely breakfast or lunch, taking a bike ride, playing on the computer, reading a book, and taking a nap," Margaret describes. Traveling cross-country, the Masons and their family of cats balance their RVing lifestyle with volunteering and working for pay. Stepping in during their frequent stays to give hosts at some of the Air Force Base FamCamps a day off, they report the most fun part about RVing is hearing the "stories" of everyone they check in. "At this phase in our lives, we have no regrets in swapping wings for wheels," John and Margaret agree.