To break up the trip back from Denali – we decided to spend the night at the Elks Lodge in Wasilla. Friends, Steven & Linda he stayed there and said they allow non-members. We are probably going to be joining the Elks, as we have learned the Elks allows members to stay the night in their parking lots across the country for nominal fees or even free. A lot of them have dump stations and some have partial or full hook-ups. I’ll keep you updated as we investigate and go through the process.
Our site was ok – the bartender only charged us the member rate of $15 for the night. We had issues with the electric in the first spot Bill backed into, but the second one was ok. We could have stayed at Walmart in Wasilla or even Cabelas in Anchorage, but with all the clouds and rain, Bill would have to set-up the gennie for power, but for $15 it was worth it to not deal with that.
We made our way home to Seward and Renfros and got parked and settled in plenty of time for dinner. We had been concerned about running into fires that had been burning south of Anchorage, but rains had dampened them and helped firemen in getting them under control.
For the last couple days, I’ve been considering what this post should be about and the answer came while going about a typical work day.
I’ve been asked more than once – how is the job going and what exactly is it we do? I’ll probably expand on that a bit to include some suggestions for anyone staying in a cabin or campground. Take what you need and leave the rest sort of stuff.
Bill and I will generally only approach a cabin if we know for sure the guests have checked out. Well – Gary doesn’t require guests to officially check out, but a lot of the time they will have mentioned their expected time of departure or they will stop at the office and say goodbye. The official check out time is a generous 12 noon, with check in at 3pm. That could get dicey if we have more than 2 or 3 cabins to turn over and no one leaves til noon and everyone arrives at 3. Each cabin, as long as it isn’t a complete disaster, takes about an hour and 15 minutes for us to clean and ready for the next guest.
We usually start by doing an initial sweep, as most people do not remove their shoes, as suggested by these cute signs out on the porch. Gary doesn’t want us wearing our shoes inside, but since going barefoot doesn’t work for my knees, I have outside and inside shoes.
Next we divide and conquer. I will generally start in the kitchen. I will check in the frig and cabinets for anything that may have been left. Sometimes people leave food and other items. If it’s open, we pitch it, if closed we may keep it or give it to Gary or Bob & Marna. We’ve gotten bacon, sausage, milk, oil, all kinds of things. There is sometimes dishes to wash and/or put away, and the table needs to be remade. Gary likes the table made so it looks welcoming when the guests enter. It’s a casual setting with a placemat, dinner plate, lunch plate, bowl, fork (with a paper napkin under it), knife, spoon, mug and water glass. It does look nice. Sometimes the stove/oven hasn’t been touched, sometimes it is an awful mess. Sometimes people will wash their dishes and properly use the drain board, sometimes they don’t aim the drain into the sink and water is all over. Other times (seems like a lot lately) they will attempt to wash dishes and stack or put them away wet. Who does that? Do you do that at home? Sometimes they rinse out a pot but don’t take a scrubby to it and there is yuck still in it. This past week, someone actually put a very dirty skillet pan away in the cabinet and put the smaller pan on top of it. If we weren’t doing a deep clean on this cabin, I wouldn’t even have looked at it. YUCK! Can you imagine, as a guest, finding that? I would NOT be happy! It was bad enough finding it as a staff member. One time, someone put all dishes back as we had them (set the table) with dirty dishes. I will also wipe out the frig and microwave, if needed.
Suggestion #2: don’t put half clean or fully dirty and/or wet dishes away in cabinets. It’s just not nice.
While I’m in the kitchen, Bill will resupply stuff, like coffee, cappuccino , strip all the dirty bed(s) and get the dirty towels. The larger cabins have a queen bed up in the loft area, a full size futon and twin bunk. We make the beds a certain way so it is easy to tell if it’s been slept in. We have all linens for the futon folded and put in totes a specific way so we can tell right away if it has been touched. If there is any doubt, it get washed. Bill will wipe down the shower with a towel to get off any water, as it makes it easier to clean when dry.
One of us will clean the bathroom while the other makes the bed and makes sure the futon tote is good to go. If the twin bunk needs to be made, we will usually do it together as it is much easier. The lakeside cabins, which were remodeled this past winter, all have plain full glass shower doors, which look amazing, but are not the easiest to clean. Sometimes the bathroom barely looks used, other times it is a train wreck. More than once we’ve had people that must have showered with their shoes on, b/c there mud and/or tree needles in the tub. Who does that? Sometimes there is toothpaste on the mirror. We have not had any issues with the toilet, thank goodness. Once, while working for a CA State park, friends of ours walked into the bathroom to find – you know – poop – ALL OVER! EWWWW! Since our guests are not anonymous, I don’t think we will have that kind of problem. Although, our co-workers had one of our cabins where someone had puked and not cleaned it up. Really? I’d be mortified! Sick or not sick – I wouldn’t have anyone finding that!
Suggestion #3: don’t wear shoes in the shower.
Some people will attempt to remake the bed. I have no idea why, I mean the thought is nice, but we just have to unmake it and remake it. Some people will just sleep on top of the quilt. Yuck! In the futon tote, there is a mattress pad, fitted and flat sheets, blanket and quilt, folded in that order. Some people will just use the mattress pad and use the blanket, skipping the sheets. For the record, we do wash the mattress pad and blankets and quilt but not usually as often. Those items are part of the deep clean process. Now – if it is clear someone slept directly on the mattress pad – it will get washed right away.
Suggestion #4: don’t sleep on the mattress pad – make the bed using the sheets provided.
Suggestion #5: if you really want to be helpful – remove the sheets – save yourself the trouble of making the bed with dirty sheets.
After kitchen and bathroom are clean, and beds made, the last thing inside is the floors. They get vacuumed and swiffered. If there are any stubborn spots, we have magic erasers and/or 409, which will usually cure any of that. We end the cleaning of the inside with a dose of Febreeze.
Outside the cabin, we wipe down the chairs and grill, checking the grill for use and disposing of any charcoal remains. We sweep the porch and steps, Bill checks the fire pit to make sure there aren’t any embers still burning. We also check for any garbage that may have been dropped on the ground. We like everything looking neat and tidy for our guests!
When all cabins are ready for the next guest, we move on to the RV Park bathhouse. There are 3 separate rooms, a bathroom (with a toilet and sink), the laundry room (with a washer, dryer and wash tub type sink), and finally there is a shower room (with a shower and sink). Usually I will get the laundry room and bathroom done and Bill does the shower room. It hardly takes any time at all, except when someone has gotten into the shower with their shoes on – which happens sometimes – who does that? If you use public showers and don’t want to get in barefoot, which I totally get, get flip flops just for that purpose.
Next, we check garbage cans, which are located throughout the property. They are all bear proof. The cabins all have a container for recycles, but the RV park does not. We also switch out reservation papers, they are attached to a wooden site identifier, and have the name of the guest assigned to that site, along with their check in and out dates. We also make sure there isn’t any garbage on the ground anywhere, Bill checks if pedestals not in use are off, and sometimes needs to shut off water spigots. We then head up to the lodge to let Gary know we are going to the transfer station (community garbage collection area). Sometimes there is enough recycling to bring, if so we bring that also.
Suggestion #6: do not wear outside shoes in the common shower, if desired, get foot wear to wear only in the shower.
General CG ediquette suggestions: 1) do not use the ground as a garbage can, especially when there are cans available right nearby – and yes – cigarette butts ARE garbage. 2) teach your children that walking through a site not your own is the same as walking through your neighbors yard – it’s bad manners unless invited. 3) don’t play your music loud past quiet hours so the hosts have to get out of bed to remind you of the time. 4) pick up after your pet! 5) keep your dog on a leash. These are not a lot of rules to remember. It’s all common courtesy. Gary doesn’t like a lot of rules, he wants everyone to have fun and not be bogged down, he expects most people are decent and will do the right things. He’s right, most do, but those who don’t can make life uncomfortable for those around them and it isn’t nice.
That about wraps it up. I realize it does not sound very glamorous and it isn’t, it is not a career for us, believe me. What it is is a job that is allowing us to do what we want, which is to continue to live our lives the way we want to. One of the biggest components of that is to be where we want to be – right now we want to be in Alaska – and here we are!
Something I would like to be clear on is that while our jobs here are not a career move type position, that doesn’t mean we do not take pride in our work. We do. Everyday, whether we are officially on the clock or not, we strive to make the guests time here at Renfros more comfortable and enjoyable. Renfros Lakeside Retreat has been #1 on TripAdvisor under “other” hotels for the last 3 years. Gary has only owned the place for 5 and before he took it over, it was #20 or something. To say he has kicked it up a notch would be an understatement! Here are a few samples of the reviews people write on TripAdvisor:
We are very proud to be able to say we contribute to these reviews in that we are the ones making the cabins immaculate and helping when and however we can.
Who wouldn’t be proud and excited to be a part of this place – even just for one summer?
In closing – I just want to say to Gary (I know sometimes he reads my posts) – thank you for taking a chance on us and having us in your wonderful location for the summer! We will always be grateful!