Monday, May 27, 2013

Three generations of Southern Women RVers 'workamp' at Florida State Parks

Katie, Jolene and Sandra workcamp at Florida State Parks.
Jolene MacFadden-Kowalchuk needed to retire from her job due to medical reasons and her mom, Sandra MacFadden, had always wanted to travel.

"So, we decided it was time for a drastic change," says Jolene. "We sold some stuff, stored some things we wanted to keep, gave away what we could, and threw away the rest. I cashed in my pension fund, bought an old RV and a minivan."

Since November 2012 Jolene, Sandra and Jolene's youngest daughter, Katherine Kowalchuk, have lived, worked and traveled in a 1984 Pace Arrow Class A motor home. They use their toad vehicle, the minivan, for local touring and trips into town for supplies and errands. 

Suwannee River 
In the beginning their plan was to visit every Florida State Park campground with RV facilities and write about it from a women's point of view for their blog: "Our Great Adventure -- 3 Southern Women Hit the Road: Women can camp too."

"We have only seen a few single women RVers," reports Jolene. "Mostly, there are a lot of older couples. We are hoping to encourage more women to head out and camp through our blog postings, tweets and Facebook page."

However, because of unanticipated repairs required on their motor home and van, they soon found they needed to supplement their budget. They heard about Workamper News and signed up.

They learned about camp hosting positions with the Florida State Parks department, filled out an application online, specified the regions they were interested in, and within a week received their first call.

Jolene maintaining grounds.
Since March they have been camp hosting at the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail River Camp called Adams Tract located between Mayo and Branford, Florida. The campground is accessible to canoers and kayakers traveling down the Suwannee River.

"There are no fees for camping here overnight just donations asked for a bundle of firewood," says Jolene.

In exchange for camp hosting and light maintenance work, they receive their campsite with water, electric, sewer, picnic table, barbecue grill and firewood.
Sandra handles restroom cleanup chores.

"We have a washer and dryer in a garage building that we can use for extra storage and a regular-sized refrigerator to use while we are here," says Jolene.

In addition to her share of the cleaning work, Sandra fills her time reading, fishing (although she hasn’t caught anything yet), and crocheting scarves, hats, purses and other items the women offer for sale on: Southern Women Crafts.

Katie shoveling sand at canoe takeout.
Still a high school student, Katie participates with the "Florida Virtual School which is a free service offered to Florida residents who wish or need to homeschool their children."  Katie’s Homeschooling Journey website follows her adventures.

Traveling around Florida gives Katie the opportunity to learn first hand about her home state. "Each park is unique and offers programs for everyone to learn about the history of the area, the type of animals that live in the area, the plant life and ecosystems as well as seeing the stars away from the blinding city lights."

In addition to homeschooling assignments and helping with camp hosting duties, teenager Katie is studying for her driver's license and learning photography.

They have one male in the RV--Katie's dog Linus. He is an 8-year-old Black and White Jack Russell Terrier. "He doesn’t really like male visitors and might tolerate female visitors if they have food."

What next:

They will be staying at the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail River Camp until the end of June then it is off to their next campground hosting assignment at St. Joseph's Peninsula State Park near Port St. Joe, Florida, off U.S. 98.

Would they recommend other women seek out camp host positions?

"Yes, we would," says Jolene. "However, I would suggest that they travel at least in pairs. Sharing the workload is best and most of the parks are looking for couples or pairs. It is just nice to have someone to talk to, share expenses and share driving."

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