Wednesday, September 23, 2009


September 19-22, 2009

As we arrived in the lush woodlands of this state park we noticed a pickup coming from the other direction parked in the middle of the road. We soon saw why. A deer doe and her fawn were peacefully grazing on the shoulder. We too stopped to watch as the white tail showed no concern about the humans in her domain.

This was to set the tone for our short visit in the area. We camped in the Springhill campground area of the park. We had no sooner set camp then deer started drifting through, all does and fawns. No buck was ever spotted by us, but based on the number of fawns we are certain there must be several in the area. That night a total of 14 deer visited our campsite.

It was so peaceful to enjoy dinner with the camper blinds wide open watching them enjoy their dinner. Even when Gary went outside to get the camera and snap photos they showed no alarm. It was obvious they knew they were in a protected area. It was also obvious that those who knew the area well were as attracted to this nightly visit as we were.  Each evening and morning we were there cars would slowly drive through the park to watch the deer graze.

If you are an extremely modest person the restroom here might not be for you. The stalls have half doors on them. All modesty is covered, but you feel very exposed while using the facilities. I found the ladies shower to be rather unclean looking as well, but that could have been from a previous camper using it. Gary said the men’s was clean.

We visited the Boiling Springs near the rangers’ office and were a little disappointed by it. It was merely a small square pond enclosure where the spring water bubbled up through the silt in the bottom in two places. So unimpressed were we, no photos of the spring were taken.

There are numerous nature trails and springs throughout the park, but our schedule was too tight so we didn’t take time out to explore them. Perhaps another time.

We only had a few shops to do in this area, but it was an area we had both always wanted to visit so we did the jobs quickly and then went exploring for one afternoon at the natural wonders not far from the campground.

First stop was the Little Sahara near Orienta, OK. To find a sand dune area of this type so close to such a rich woodland seemed strange indeed. It seems to be a favorite spot for four wheeler enthusiasts as everything in the area was geared toward them.

We had originally planned on camping at this state park but had changed our mind at the last minute. I’m certainly glad we did. Perhaps it was simply because it was a Monday and the trash people hadn’t arrived by the afternoon time we were there but the campground was dirty. All the dumpsters were overflowing and debris was blowing around in the stiff wind that gusted around us.

We drove around for a while looking for walking trails to see the dunes from, or perhaps an overlook but found none so we went to the Ranger Station and inquired about a location to take photos from. She was extremely helpful and soon we were at an area that only required a hike up a steep sandy grade near one of the campgrounds.

No four wheelers where on the dunes when we finally made it up the steep grade and we were glad we could enjoy the beauty of it without them. Wildflowers hugged the edge of the trail we walked on, with sunflowers being abundant everywhere.

Watching the sand blow on the distant dunes made us both think of all the movies we’d seen that took place in the desert areas. It also gave us an even bigger respect for our troops that fight in the deserts of the world.

While it is not a large desert it is still awe inspiring.

After several photos were snapped we made our way back down the dune to stand outside the truck and pick goat head stickers from our clothing for several minutes. Then it was on down the road to see the Gloss/Glass Mountains.

Originally called Glass Mountains are a series of selenite filled mesas that glisten in the sunlight like glass.  A transcription error in 1875 that turned the a in Glass to an O created the name conflict of Glass/Gloss.  Both are considered correct.

We nearly missed the area to view these mountains, near Fairview, OK on highway 412,  because it is not well marked. There is a single sign that says scenic turnout on it. Gary just happened to be in the correct lane and was able to pull in at the last minute. It’s unclear at first whether or not you can drive down into the area from the highway information area, so I’ll clear it up for you right now and save you a walk. You can. There is a nice parking lot and picnic area at the end of the road.

I walked down to find this out and then Gary brought the truck and camera down. In our younger and slimmer years we might have followed the young European couple that scrambled up the steep stair case from the valley to the mountain top for a panoramic view, but not now. We opted instead for the 300 foot long walk on the handicap accessible walkway down to the Horse Shoe Bend area. The view there was great.

Please note in this and most other national and state parks the taking of rocks is forbidden. However, here they do have small containers of samples of the rocks/crystals supplied for exactly that purpose. I am a person who loves rocks of all types so I was very pleased I could legally take a sample of both the white and green/gray selenite crystals  from one of these bins with me.

It was overcast when we first arrived and we were a little disappointed that we weren’t going to be able to see the mountains shine. Just as we headed back to the truck the sun came out and we were rewarded with a shimmering hillside. It was something to see.

From the Glass Mountains we journeyed on to the Sod House Museum. at Aline, OK.  The soddy was once the home of Marshall McCully.   The caretaker was coming out of the museum in which the sod house is preserved just as we arrived. We are very lucky we arrived when we did. It turns out it is normally closed on Mondays but she happened to be there on other business and generously invited us in.

It is a small well kept museum with articles from the time period as well as the soddy. She was so nice to give us a private tour and talk to us about everything from sod house construction to quilt making and customs of the times we felt very lucky to have ran into her. You can read more about the soddy at

We would have liked to have spent time at the Salt Plains and Alabaster Caverns while in the area as well, but once again time was our slave driver. So it was back to the camper to have dinner with the even larger herd of deer and an early bedtime because we were moving on the next morning.

Camping fees for electric at water at this campground were $18 or $16 for senior citizens.  It has a large picnic area that would be perfect for a family reunion with picnic tables set close together for such gatherings.

Jan who loves to tour natural and historic things such as we saw this day in OK


September 5, -19 2009

We traveled from Edmond back toward the campground that is quickly becoming our second home, the Arbuckle Mountain Campground that is near Davis, OK. We had a few minor jobs scheduled for the area and were hoping to expand that long enough to stay and enjoy their fall Blue Grass Festival. We weren’t sure how we’d do it, but we were determined to soak up as much blue grass music as possible.

It was raining as we pulled in and continued to rain for several days while we were there. Not really heavy but constant. That didn’t deter the campers. Each day saw more and more campers pulling in. Soon the campground would be near capacity. From the very first day there were jams going on all day long and into the late evening hours.

For the early bird arrivals like us there were tours of the Field’s Pie Factory and a local Artbuckle Wedding Chapel. Workshops . An ice cream social was also on the schedule. Not to mention special meals that were supplied by local businesses.

One day we took off on our own to go see Turner Falls. Staying with our shoestring budget we opted to just go to the scenic overlook to see the falls instead of paying $10 each for a day pass down into the park. We’d planned on going over to a nature preserve as well, but the rain cancelled that, so we’ll go there another trip.

We of course made sure we got “Original Fried Pies” while on our outing that day. Folks these pies are soooo good. This time instead of getting the sweet pies we got meat pies. Gary got the beef one and I the chicken. Talk about melt in your mouth goodness!!! Gary did sneak back to the register and get himself a cherry pie for dessert but I was far too full for a dessert at that time. We did get fruit ones later on in the week at the festival. He stuck with cherry but I tried the apricot for the first time and it was, as they say, to die for!

As luck would have it we picked up a rather steady flow of small shops and one set of big shops that allowed us to stay the whole festival. We were very pleased with that outcome.

Our only disappointment was needing to run home for two days for two different doctor appointments I had scheduled, but even those were a blessing. Both reports were good, so I can’t complain. While we were home we even managed to work in one good shop and a couple of small ones as well.

As soon as we were back to the campground Gary attended workshops on blue grass and felt he learned a lot.

The final Thursday was when things really got jumping. First off was the golf cart parade. You can either bring your own or have one delivered to the campground from a local golf cart rental company that the Bowens, (the owners) had made arrangements with so everyone can have a cart available to rent if desired. The carts in the parade were decked out in a patriotic theme. One of the larger carts was also pulling a trailer filled with musicians playing.

Of course there was a competition for the best decorations and there was “street” entertainment by the contestants for the next day’s beauty queen pageant. This is all done in good clean fun. Young and old a like got a good giggle out of the antics of the performers. (see photos to the left).

After the parade the music really kicked in. For the rest of the weekend we were treated to bands like Ellis County Bluegrass, Lonesome Prairie, Mark Phillips &IIIrd Generation, Salt Grass, Glen Bonham & Sothern Tradition and many more. Each band played twice a day for the entire weekend The on stage music started at noon each day and ran until 10:30 each night with a short break for dinner daily.

The evening hours were then filled with jamming at various campers throughout the large park. The fact that the music was so spread out wasn’t a problem though because even if you didn’t have a golf cart there was a very active free shuttle of golf carts that ran all day every day and into much of the night to make sure everyone could get everywhere they wanted easily. I would estimate you never waited more than five minutes if you needed one.

Rosemary, Al, Paula, Richard and all the other people that worked so hard to put this event on should be well complimented on how nicely things ran. They even managed to get the rain to stop just in time for the actual festival days. Now how’s that for service?

There were drawings daily for everything from a nice mandolin to CD’s by the various artists. Vendors were available to feed you a burger or sell you pain relief medication.

One of the highlights was the Youth Fiddle and Mandolin competitions. It’s amazing how good these young musicians are.

Camping for the festival was once again $12 per night unless you stayed 7 or more nights then it was $10 a night. Tickets for the festival were $35 each for all three days, or a sliding scale for individual days. The honey wagon was still just $8 a pump out as well.

For more information on the campground see my earlier blog on the Arbuckle Mountain campground or visit their webpage at:

That final Sunday morning saw campers leaving in a great drove us among them. We were headed for Woodward, OK.

Jan who is off on the adventure of a lifetime and is enjoying it thoroughly in OK

Tuesday, September 22, 2009



With a Little Route 66 Travel Thrown in

After our most recent trip home we decided we were going to have to bite the bullet and just go for it if we were to truly see the USA the Mystery Shopping Way. Running back home every 1-2 weeks was getting very expensive.

Part of the decision making process included deciding how to handle two obligations we had in the Tulsa, OK area. The first was Gary’s part time teaching job at the Tech. Since he was no longer working in the ever changing field he’d been teaching previously he felt that he was some how letting his students down. He actually dreaded the four hours a week teaching for 16 weeks twice a year.

Then we got the news the class didn’t make. We were both so relieved we wondered why he had even considered teaching it any more. A simple set of math calculations also showed us that we would go in the hole financially to run back home each week for him to do the job during the weeks it did make.

He notified the tech they would need to find a different teacher for the next term. If we weren’t coming back weekly for his tech job that also meant my four $6 each merchandising jobs were going to be a burden. I gave official notice to that company as well.

The euphoria that hit both of us as soon as we freed ourselves t those obligations was unexpected. Now we were free to truly travel. No more running home every time we turned around. Those trips home were expensive!

We were also going to change our attitude about travel and work. We had been doing 95% work and only 5% play. Work is essential, we have bills to pay. But even my son was saying “you two are killing yourselves, slow down and really visit the areas you are working in.”

With this in mind we headed for the Arcadia campground at Edmond, OK.

It is a nice campground with the standard Corps of Engineer rates. $15 for a site with water and electric only, $12 for seniors per night Monday-Thursday. The weekend it’s $21 and $18. The dump station is $5 for non-campers. This particular campground has an annual pass you can purchase to get discounts as well. I had a paper on it with all the information about that, but it seems to be gone with the wind.

They are in the process of doing a lot of re-wiring at this campground. All new electrical boxes appear to be going in. Our spot, #101, was a pull through, but not very level. We had to add 2 inches of lift to the right side trailer tires to make it level enough to be comfortable in the fifth wheel.

We were at the camper so little I never made the journey to the public restrooms. Sorry to those who are dependent upon that information. From the outside they look well maintained and I didn’t hear anyone complaining about them.

The area was all well maintained and it had a good sized boat launch area. There was a nice sized playground with what looked to be new bright colored equipment on it.

The night we arrived we did a fast food dinner shop. This shop took us right by the second tallest cross on Route 66, we’d seen the tallest one last year on our trip to Las Vegas. Then it was back to the camper to work on scheduling as far as we could. Outside our camper we could hear the chirping of tree frogs and the quacks of the mallards on the shoreline just past our camper. It was a pleasant way to spend the evening.

The next day we were off early to do mystery shops and were surprised to discover we were less than five miles from Pops the 66 foot tall L.E.D soda pop bottle on route 66. We stopped long enough to snap a few daytime photos (see the left side bar for all mentioned photos) and then scurried off to complete our shops for the day.

Taking our son’s words to heart we returned there later on that day to see the Round Barn a mile or so on down the road and the bottle lit up that night.

A little Route 66 lore for you. The Round Barn was an icon of Route 66 in it’s hey day. It was 30 years old by the time the Mother Road was well established. Built in 1898 the 60 foot wide 45 foot tall barn was built with surviving Oklahoma’s infamous tornados in mind. The builder thought the round shape would keep it safe from tornados and apparently it has. It has remained standing for 111 years now with the help of local volunteers who did some major repairs to it some years back.

The barn now contains a gift shop and a second floor loft you can rent out for parties. Both were closed at the time of evening we arrived, but it was still really great to see it. We snapped photos read all the posted signs and then headed on down the road back toward Pops.

By then the LED lights were going in a kaleidoscope of colors. The rock music filled the air and the vast parking lot was full of tourists snapping photos.

Inside the diner thousands of bottles of soda pop glistened in the light as diners waited their turn to eat at the grill.

Across the room people were finding favorite soda pops of days gone by to purchase at $2 a bottle. Gary and I decided it wasn’t on our shoestring budget to partake in the rather expensive soda pop but had a great time looking at all the brands. Some we’d never heard of, others like Grape Nehi were fun to see once again.

Our only disappointment with Pops is we thought with all its vintage soda pop feel they should have sold the old style candies and chewing gums too. We looked all over and didn’t find a single 7-up candy bar or stick of clove gum. Too bad.

Several photos later it was back to the camper for a late night of paperwork filing and preparing for more shops on Friday.

Friday the work was heavy and by the time we got to bed we were more than ready for it. Saturday saw us on the road headed back toward the Arbuckle Mountain campground near Davis, OK. Blue grass was calling our name!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009


As I do posts on various lists and here on my blog I am often asked about mystery shopping, how it is done and what you need to do it. Over time I will be giving more and more information as thoughts ramble through my brain. Today’s thoughts are getting started and what a person truly needs to be a mystery shopper.

First you need to sign up with legitimate companies I suggest you read the book “MYSTERY SHOPPING MADE SIMPLE” by Ilisha Newhouse. You can probably check it out of your local library. The information is slightly out of date, but the basic info is good. She lists several good quality mystery shopping companies.

An excellent website for legitimate companies is I am not affiliated with either of these sources in anyway, but use both often. I own a copy of the book, purchased it used—always the tightwad, and even though I’ve been mystery shopping for a long time and still learn something new constantly. The website has a free newsletter I recommend you sign up for.

When applying with a company to become a mystery shopper or merchandiser remember you are applying for a contract labor job. That means you are going to have to, at some point, give them your social security number. More and more companies will not even consider your application without it. So if you do not want to give it out, don’t bother to apply.

When you make over $599 they will send you a 1099 at the end of the tax year and you will be required to declare the income. If you do not want to do this, then don’t apply. You are contract labor and with that come all the self employment tax requirements. Be sure and keep good tax records of not only income but expenditures to do the shops.

You all have read “NEVER pay to mystery shop!” numerous times. However, there are a few instances that you do “pay”, sort of.

1. Certification, I personally am not certified, simply because I have not had the time or money to do it. It is my understanding that you will get more and better jobs if you get certified, but I’ve not spoken to anyone who has been certified so I personally don’t know if you do. I do know that every company I apply with ask if you are certified.

2. Purchase required, reimbursement given. These purchases are generally SMALL purchases. A hamburger, $3 at a home improvement store, $5 worth of gas or similar purchases. Your work orders or CPI will tell you exactly how much they will reimburse you for these purchases. Occasionally in the instance of a fine dining experience, a hotel stay or similar instances it will be higher. Again this will be reimbursed and is in your contract.

Who can mystery shop? Just about anyone, each company has its own rules and it’s very important you read and follow those rules. Some shops you have certain age restrictions. They often have a restriction about who can or cannot be with you when you shop. Most shops require you to be alone. You must adhere to that rule if it is stated. Some will require you to have a partner to do the job.

Wardrobe is also important. Most jobs I have done require you to dress business casual. Some specify the shirt should have a collar and buttons. You are a representative of the company that has contracted you and you need to dress per their requirements. If you are doing this full time, as I do, you need at least 2 such outfits. One to wash and one to wear is the minimum you can get by with.

Because we travel in a camper that has no washer I have several more outfits than that. They mix and match to allow me more flexibility in my work wardrobe. If you are doing fine dining meals or visiting a facility that would be “upper class” then you of course would need a nicer set of clothes.

Comfortable shoes are a must too. Many jobs require you to be on your feet for long periods of time.

You will also, occasionally need a photo ID. I’ve only been asked for this once, but if I had not had it I would not have been allowed to do the inventory I had been hired to do.

Equipment is your next big item to have. Below is a list of items needed to do a variety of shops:

1. A computer with an internet connection and a printer. It’s the electronic age and every company I work for assigns their work via the internet. You will need to print out the work orders, forms and much more. You also file your reports via the net 99% of the time. High speed internet is essential with some companies, but not all. If you are on dial-up you may have trouble filing reports that have a lot of photos with them.

2. Speaking of photos brings up the second piece of equipment you will need. A digital camera, NOT a cell phone camera. Most companies will NOT accept photos from a cell phone. You will also need to be able to transfer those photos from the camera to your computer in jpg format.

3. Reliable transportation. Companies do not want to hear you didn’t do job XYZ because your car wouldn’t start. Some jobs can be done doing public transportation, but most require you to have a reliable car.

4. A digital stop watch is required for many shops. You will need to be able to not only time minutes and seconds, but lapsed time as well. Many electronic items such as Ipods have this capability.

5. A cell phone, while not mandatory is a major plus. Many a time I’ve got out to do a shop and ran into something not included in the paperwork as to what to do. Such as the address given does not exist—had this happen two days ago. If you must vary from the prescheduled scenario you usually need permission to do so. Pay phones are becoming few and far between. Even if you find one the chances are there will be no call back phone number on it. So then you have a problem.

6. A notebook or clipboard to keep your paperwork and receipts organized while doing a shop. Whatever you do don’t want to lose your receipts and business cards you collect because you will not get paid without them.

7. Some companies require you to fax in a report. However, there are free fax sites you can use from the internet to do so without having a fax machine.

8. A paypal account and/or a checking account for getting paid. Some companies pay only by paypal, others won’t use paypal and only pay by checks, while others prerfer the direct deposit system. So you need to be prepared for all three scenarios. If you are concerned about the direct deposit system set up an account for mystery shopping only. For tax purposes this might just be your best choice all the way around.

That’s pretty much all you need. There are some things you will occasionally be asked if you have them to do a shop.

Where can you shop? EVERYWHERE, however in Nevada you must have a private eye license to do so. There are mystery shoppers all over the US and Canada, as well as in some other countries.

So that’s it. That’s what you need to mystery shop. If you have questions please feel free to leave them in the comments section. I will answer them as soon as I can. Please also feel free to sign up as a follower of my posts. As time goes on I’ll post more and more about the pros and cons of mystery shopping.

Jan who thanks you for stopping by to read her humble posts in OK