Sunday November 21st 2021
So lets start by doing a little review, the last blog was of our travel from snowy cold Ontario to sunny warm Arizona, and it was very rushed when compared to what were had originally planned. You see if the border would have opened even two months for Canadians to cross to the United States after opening for the Americans to cross into Canada our plan was to finish up at LHR (Lake Huron Resort) on the 20th of October and cross at Sarnia / Port Huron a day or two later. We would have planned two or three day to visit with Butch and BJ, before heading south through Kentucky and Tennessee where we would have spent some time exploring each State and sampling some Kentucky bourbon and Tennessee moonshine, and possibly taken in some of the local tourist attractions before slowly working our way to the south west and end up at BTA (Boyce Thompson Arboretum) by November the 10th.
There were a number of issues that all came in to play, first they originally wanted us at BTA on November 1st and I had our start date postponed till the 10th, that was in late summer, and as the border reopening just kept getting kicked down the road with each announcement, then finally the announcement came that it would open early November. We were hopping for the 1st of November, because crossing on the first would have still given us ten days to get to Arizona, so it would have meant a shorter visit with the Ward family and then a steady pace west would have been ok for the 10th. But when they announced the border was going to open on the 8th, that meant we then had to ask for a second postponement, not the best way to make a first impression. So they granted us an extra week to get here, with the thought that we had to be all trained and up to speed by Thanksgiving as that is a busy time at the arboretum, so once we crossed the border, and had only spent a few hours with Butch & BJ it only seemed right that we hustle ourselves here, which after the repair of the mechanical issue on the coach we did.
Pulling into BTA on the 14th of November only four days behind our original start date, we thought we might get started right away, but our orientation was already scheduled for the Wednesday the 17th of November so they left it as scheduled and they were allowing us to take a couple of days to get settled in. And while unexpected, has worked out well, on Monday we drove to Costco in Mesa for supplies, a drive of less than forty minuets. And Tuesday we spent tweaking little things in preparation for the winter, like our satellite receiver needs to be repaired to connect, and I need to order some lighting for under the coach to protect us from pack rats, a fairly common pest in the desert, not one we have had to deal with before because we normally move to often to be attractive to them but this will be a 5 month spot so a rodent that needs to be avoided if possible.
Well it’s Wednesday and today was our orientation day at BTA (Boyce Thompson Arboretum), so today was the day that we learned what area of the arboretum, we would be working in, and who will be our supervisor. Our duties will be in guest services which basically means answering what ever questions visitors may have, it also includes taking admission fees, guiding people to the many sight over the 400 acre property, selling of store items, stocking shelves, and as our supervisor said making sure the shifts are covered and the guests are happy. We were supplied a shirt, a hat, and there will be a name tag coming shortly and we will start our actual training tomorrow morning at the visitor centre / park entrance to get us as trained as possible for the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend, which is expected to be busy.
The arboretum has a lot of volunteers, we are the fifth couple with one more coming in early next year, we are referred to as Host Volunteers, then there are lots of Regular Volunteers that may only work three or four shifts per month, and they could be helping in one specific area only or may be called in to complete a weekend project, and maybe only help at specific times of the year. There is also a much bigger staff at the park than I imagined, but it is a large park and requires so much upkeep, with watering, pruning, and the like there are a number of horticulturist that look after specific areas of the park, as well there are many fundraisers that are needed to support this non-profit organization, plus all the behind the scenes people taking care of the recruiting, marketing, merchandising, employee and volunteer training, plus accounting and management. There are promotions all year long but a couple of their largest events are their plant sales held twice a year, there are always plants for sale but the big sales are quite popular and are very busy and crazy but are also very profitable events for the park.
The volunteer hand book is quite large and lists out what the expectations are for everyone involved, and the fact that it is so large and in-depth means that somewhere along the line someone must have done the things that are referred to, things which most of us would find scary for a number of different reasons, but unless you are a total idiot there should be no problem at all. Miss Laurie has already spoken with the young lady that is in charge of the area around the coach about cleaning up the nearby gardens, and I know that no one is at all surprized by that little tidbit. So we are allowed to wonder the park on our time off, and after the park closes, they kept reminding us that there are lots of wildlife in the area and to use caution and common sense, which according to the handbook is not real common any more, I will let you know how training goes tomorrow.
Training was short on information, only the basics were covered, our main task will be selling daily tickets, checking in members, guests, and such. It should be an easy task, but for the fact that only about half of the membership cards will not scan, so the members have to be looked up by phone number or name, and the ticket printer has not worked so far (the printer works just won’t interface with the program), so what should be so simple has become a task has became a more involved process. Our job is to make the guests feel welcome, collect required entry monies, promote the arboretum, also promote the benefits of becoming a member, and generally provide information, this is an area that we are lacking in, having limited experience in the gardens.
Our schedule for this week was Thursday through Sunday with hours varying each day but the hours appear to be either 9 or 10 start time till between 2 or 4 as a quit time, our location in on one side of the entry, behind a concrete counter, and while a neat spot we can only help people using credit or debit cards as there is no cash drawer as it would be very exposed to the public. We are being asked questions that we are just not qualified to answer at this point, we are presently working with another volunteer couple for training who started just one week before us, and Sunday we will be on our own, which could prove interesting, we also are responsible for watering the plants that are for sale, some need to be watered daily while others (the cactus) get watered less frequently, and if the water pressure is good that task takes between an hour or two. We also get tasked to assist with set up, this week I helped set up for a wedding, chairs, tables and the like, only to tear them down and restore the equipment when the wedding was canceled for some unknown reason. We have met all the other volunteers that are camped here, although we have not had a get together yet, so we just have passing encounters and conversations at this point. And according to next weeks schedule we have four days off and work Friday through Sunday as the gardens are closed for Thanksgiving day but are expect to be very busy on the weekend.
As I sit here Sunday morning trying to complete this blog it seems a little difficult to believe that we have just been here a week today, we are getting settled in, and have been preparing the coach for a five month stay. Our internet seems to be working well here and gave us quite good connectivity all of our trip across the country and while speeds do vary from day to day our download speed was 14 mbps and an upload speed of 7 mbps this morning, we have seen speeds up to 25 mbps down and 38 mbps up which are more that enough for anything we need to do. Our actual campsite while close to the laundry and staff washroom building is quiet as the park closes at 5pm so the traffic and noise in our area is nonexistent till after eight in the morning, our site overlooks the gathering area where we will have community fires when conditions allow, right now things are much too dry but we can still use our propane fire for now. We see rabbits and quail most mornings, we heard a coyote close by our coach the other night, Miss Laurie has her humming bird feeder up and has seen lots of bird activities, lots of sunrises and sunsets to photograph and our plan is to start exploring the arboretum and gardens as well as some of the surrounding area next week.