Timeline: September 2016 – January 2017
So to go along with our original Travel PT Plan for the Next Four Years, we had planned to go North in the Summer and South in the Winter. Well, since we’re from VA, we really wanted to go deeper South this past Winter, like Florida, Georgia, South Carolina… but unfortunately we just weren’t able to find two jobs together in those states at that time. So the furthest South for the Winter we could get was North Carolina! We had actually heard not-so-great things about Fayetteville, NC and were initially hesitant to take these jobs. But we were given the opportunity to talk to a current travel PT working in the area who said she didn’t mind it at all, and that just like everywhere else, you have to be smart and avoid the bad areas. (And as it turns out, this was exactly how we felt about Fayetteville after having spent 15 weeks there.) Besides that, the jobs that we were offered sounded really great: 2 outpatient jobs with the same parent company within 10 minutes of each other and pretty darn close to a couple campground options! So we went for it.
Our first week there
When we first moved down, the campground that was closest to our jobs and cheapest didn’t have any availability. So we went with the one that did have openings which was only about a 25 minute drive up I-95. It was a former KOA which was very large with a beautiful property and great amenities, but the only problem we had were the bugs! There were so many gnats and mosquitos there, it was crazy. During our first week there, we also ran into some trouble with the commute due to rain and flooding. There was a day or so where they had just a regular storm, but as we were soon to find out, flooding is a major problem there. It was one of my first days of commuting to my new job and I ended up being over 30 minutes late because there were several road closures and detours. When I finally did get to work, my co-worker also informed me that the stretch of Business I-95 I took is extremely well known for hydroplaning and cars going off into the ditch, and she advised me always to go below the speed limit on that road when it rains. This was good to find out after I had already been speeding to work, ha! Fortunately I was safe getting to work, and in addition the rain caused a lot of cancellations that day (plus I didn’t have a full schedule yet as it was) so it was fine that I was late!
So during our first week there, we got a phone call from the closer campground that there was an opening! It was kind of a pain to have to move again, but we were glad because it was so much closer to our jobs and everything in town, and also so much cheaper! This particular “campground” was kind of strange, and at first I was very skeptical. It wasn’t actually a campground, it was a person’s property where he had turned his backyard into RV sites with full camper hookups. It was an average sized lot in a residential subdivision, with ~15 camper hookups (almost all OCCUPIED) in his backyard! It was the strangest thing, but we really didn’t mind it at all. There were no frills, no fancy amenities, just the Water/Sewer/Electric hookups and a picnic table. We did have to go off site to the laundromat, but it was less than a mile away. Luckily we didn’t end up ever needing a bathhouse while we were there either. So it worked out just fine!
Okay well it wouldn’t be any fun for me to give an update where something didn’t go wrong (ha!). So the first week we had a “normal thunderstorm” that caused several inches of rain and some minor flooding. Then about a week later, as many of you might recall for this time period, Hurricane Matthew hit. This was a scary time for Fayetteville and the surrounding region, and for us too, especially being in a camper! We were all watching and waiting to see how bad it would be. Jared and I considered having to leave the camper and go stay with someone in their house, and we also considered trying to haul the camper out of there and go somewhere else safer so it wouldn’t flood or get blown away. We didn’t really know what to do. So we stayed. And luckily it worked out for us, but it easily could’ve gone much worse. The damage and troubles caused by this storm were immense. The normal things like downed trees causing power outages didn’t surprise me. But some crazy stuff happened too that I just had no experience with. So many roads in the region got washed out. What? They just collapsed. People were stranded with no way to pass for days to weeks in some of the outlying areas. I saw terrible photos, and heard horror stories where just earlier that day people were driving over those areas on the road before the collapse. On top of that, at one point running water was cut off. They were concerned it may have become contaminated, so when it finally did come back on we were on a boil water advisory. We honestly didn’t have any supplies and would’ve been in rough shape if we couldn’t get out to go get supplies. We went out during the storm and Jared scoured stores to find what bottled water was available. We were only without water and electricity for a short time, while others were without it for days. And we’re actually kind of lucky in the camper when it comes to the lack of electricity, because many of our appliances can run on propane. Many people’s homes became flooded, and the entire nearby town of Lumberton was under water. The flooding even extended days to weeks beyond the actual storm because of rivers rising and dams breaking. People came from all over to help those affected, with lifeboats and helicopters to rescue many who were stranded or whose lives were at risk in floodwaters. Looking back, we were so lucky we had just minimal flooding where we were, and thank goodness our camper didn’t float or blow away! I remember one of my co-workers actually came to check on us because nobody really had our contact info, but she knew which campground we were staying at and wanted to make sure we were okay!
To give some context, here’s an excerpt from a local news story on Hurricane Matthew:
“The storm dumped three to four months’ worth of rain in about 12 hours, killing 26 people in North Carolina and turning communities into islands. People were stranded, their lives at risk, as the floodwaters rose … Matthew’s arrival as a rainmaker couldn’t have been any worse. Heavy rainfall about a week earlier had left the soil saturated and lakes bloated in several counties … Fayetteville officially picked up 14.8 inches, shattering the all-time one-day total … At least nine people died on the roads of the Cape Fear region during or just after Matthew.” (The Fayetteville Observer)
So during this time we did actually go to work (except for one day Jared’s clinic was closed), because we were some of the lucky ones who could actually get out and on the roads very easily. Many of our co-workers were unable to get out, so we were covering for them. But many patients cancelled too because of the storm. Overall, our first several weeks there were just very strange with scheduling, and I remember our co-workers saying that cancellations/no shows were unusually high during our time there.
Overall we both had a great experience at our jobs in Fayetteville. But not everyone involved did. The company was going through some changes, as a larger company had just acquired both facilities. One of the facilities had lost a bunch of staff due to the changes, and the other was just seeing a huge increase in caseload. Therefore they asked for five travelers between the two clinics: two at Jared’s site and three at mine (plus two that were already there who Jared and I were replacing, who finished up a couple weeks into our contract). Unfortunately, with all the cancellations we had, caseload just wasn’t as busy as they had thought, and they decided they didn’t need all the travelers after a few weeks. So they ended two of the travelers’ contracts early, a new grad PT couple that was placed with me at my clinic. It was definitely a crappy situation for them, because not only was it their first assignment, and they were going to be out of jobs, but they had rented an expensive furnished apartment and signed a 3 month lease that they had to still pay. Jared and I were thankful that they didn’t cut our contracts, and I have a feeling it was because we had more experience than the other two (and also we had started a week earlier). It was weird to think of ourselves at that time as the experienced ones, because we had only been out of school for less than a year and a half!
The two clinics where we worked were very different. Jared’s was more general orthopedics and elderly population. Mine was more sports medicine based with a younger crowd. To date, it’s the most fast paced clinic where I’ve worked. It was fun but at times stressful, and I didn’t even have as busy a caseload as the full time employees. I got to brush up on a lot of my sports medicine background from athletic training, which was awesome.
Our co-workers were pretty good as well. We hung out with them on several occasions outside of work (including line dancing which I love! and it seemed there were a lot of going away parties during our time there: the two travelers who were leaving when we started, the two travelers whose contracts got cut, a full time employee who was moving with her husband for the military to Germany, and then of course our going away when that came!). We were also there through several holidays, so we got to enjoy things like dressing up on Halloween, Secret Santa gift exchange, and a Staff Holiday Party.
There wasn’t a ton to do in Fayetteville, but the neat thing about the location is that it’s easily accessible to highways to get you a lot of places fast (including back home!). We took a bunch of weekend trips including:
- Home to Roanoke, VA for a wedding in which Jared was a groomsman
- I went to Wrightsville Beach/Wilmington, NC with my mom & sister for my mom’s birthday
- Asheville, NC (where we attempted to hike Mount Mitchell but couldn’t because it was freezing!) but where we got to drive on new stretches of the Blue Ridge Parkway and see the Biltmore Mansion
- I went to New Bern, NC for a girls weekend with my PT school best friends
- Kernersville, NC to do Thanksgiving with my sister’s in-laws (thankful to have a home away from home Thanksgiving with some of my family)
- The North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, NC
- Touring around Chapel Hill and Raleigh, NC
- Home for Christmas to see family and friends
- And last- Savannah, GA for New Years Eve!
All in all we enjoyed our assignment in Fayetteville, and we were hoping to be able to extend our contracts there longer. Unfortunately they were not able to extend, so we ended up finding other jobs in a different area of NC – this time near the beach! Stay tuned for my next post about our experience in Eastern North Carolina.