Saturday, March 31, 2012

It'll be ready when?

We live in a topsy turvy world where accepted rules and practices don't seem to apply anymore. Some blame it on a global economy and the "shrinking globe". Even with the economy in the proverbial toilet I continue to have difficulty finding great customer service. This puzzles me as one would assume with "main street" under siege providers of goods and services would go the extra mile to attract and keep customers. Now I am not the picture of perfection, but I do place enormous value in keeping my word. Say what you mean-mean what you say are the words I was taught. Your word used to be your bond. The reason for this rant is the experiences I have recently had trying to get some things repaired or performed. It is appalling to me that some folks just cavalierly toss around dates of completion with no intention of it ever happening. What happened?!? I mean I don't even get phone calls or e-mails advising me of a change in status, much less an occasional update. And then when I "call out" the offender it somehow gets turned around. I'm impatient, I'm rushing them, I've already done "this and that" and I'll complete it soon, etc. Just some for instances for you. I have waited almost three weeks on an air conditioning repairman. The only updates I get is when he reaches out for us. He doesn't respond to my e-mails and calls. I have a Jeep that had been in the shop for over a month before I finally drove it home. The mechanic used to be pretty good about about communicating-not so much anymore. He's another one that likes to toss around completion dates which never seem to happen. And he's all upset that I seemingly don't appreciate all the work he has done so far. Bizarre. I have a guy that is reupholstering some things for me in the motor home. He hasn't met one promised completion date yet. About a week ago I spoke to an RV technician about having some things done on the motor home. He said he had a job at a nearby RV the next day and would try to drop by afterwards. Failing that he and his techs would be by the following day. You guessed it-I haven't heard from him. To be fair the air conditioning guy was involved in an accident, the mechanics son suffered an ankle injury and the upholsterer's wife is ill. I don't have a clue about the RV tech. Now I'm not some sort of hard ass, but you'd think they could at least call and update me. Am I the only one noticing this stuff? Can someone at least keep me updated and complete a job in a timely fashion? Am I asking too much?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Upkeep on an RV

Fulltiming requires that you maintain and take care of your RV. At the risk of sounding obvious, it is your home. Having a mechanical aptitude is invaluable and will save you tons of money. Here in the Eagle Ford, calling (or even finding) an RV mech is an expensive endeavor. The web can be an invaluable resource and even you folks that don't know your wrench from a side cutter might be surprised at what you can accomplish. We have replaced the control boards in our refrigerator and hot water tank, replaced our roof fan, resealed the roof, changed our oil, etc. And that's just a few things we have done. I have heard folks complain that RV upkeep is  prohibitively expensive. I wonder if they are "weekend warriors" and only take the old RV out on sunny weekends a few times a year. A RV needs the wheels to turn and its systems "exercised" periodically. Otherwise you will have breakdowns and unscheduled maintenance. Here's some things we do and you might want to consider. At least once a month we start the "big motor" in the back and run our generator under load. My recommendation to all of you that have a motorized RV, such as a Class A,B or C, is to change the oil yearly if you are unable to make or exceed the manufactures scheduled mileage change. It's cheap insurance and, in our case, allows a mechanic to look in places we might not be able to. Check and inspect your house and chassis batteries regularly. A lot of deep cycle house batteries are not maintenance free, so keep distilled water on hand for them. Unfortunately, you will probably end up changing your tires due to age long before they are worn. You can check on-line to determine the age and life of your tires. Another tip is to go over the entire coach before you move. Make sure the batteries are up-check fluids and make sure the engine will start-make sure the jacks will retract-check tire condition and pressure-check slide out operation-clear the immediate area around and under the coach... you get the idea and you can make up a list that suits you. For all you gate guards out there it is an unwritten rule and common courtesy to try to be off the pad and/or ready to move when vacating a gate. Same rule applies to you campers when checkout time arrives. If you treat your "home" right, yearly oil changes and minor maintenance should be your only expense.

Sunday, March 25, 2012


I am of the age where my kinfolk are slowly passing on. I was blessed to have had great grandparents long enough to know who they were and remember them. My first memories of cooking, which led to my life long love of it, came from my great grandma Gruner and my grandmother Marjorie. My first "manly" pursuits were with my great grandpa Bass and my grandfather Gerald (or G.I.). We would hunt at the strip pits left by coal mining and fish in the local lake. I never pursued hunting and am an average fisherman. All those folks and many more have gone to their great reward. Every loss is significant and they all wear on you. You realize your legacy lies not in any achievements you might have made or how much you acquired. It is simply the memories and love that you leave behind. The best you can hope for is that people think well of you and respect the path you walked. It has become apparent to me that, at best, I have twenty five years left to walk on this earth. It is sobering to realize and accept that a quarter century is all that you have left to live. I am unfortunately saddled with heart disease, both genetic and my doing. I am also part of that population that has no health insurance. Both of these things do not bode well for longevity. I am slowly accepting the fact that I am also a senior citizen. I did not mean for this blog to turn into a downer. I've just realized how precious the time I have left is. So I have to resolve to make every day count. When I don't accomplish much, I'll enjoy the rest I'm having and not beat myself up over it. I'll try to be a better grandpa and dad. I'll also try to be a better friend to my friends. I'll try to get my "house" in order so that my passing is as little a burden as possible. This getting old is not for amateurs-is it?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Communication or Lack Thereof

I am not a Chatty Kathy. In fact, until we settled into gate guarding, I had a phone with a little over two hours of talk time (monthly). No data or internet- and I was happy. Not Missy, she is the "clothes horse" of the chat world. She can and has racked up other wordly numbers in voice minutes and chat counts. Those jokes about a phone growing out of your ear definitely apply to her. When it came time to renew my phone it just made more sense for all of us to be on the same plan and carrier. Well, almost the same plan-I think Missy has some unlimited deal. Point being; I did research before we started gate guarding. I knew we would need an air card (I still call it a MiFi) to get us internet service. I also knew we would eventually need some sort of booster to amplify our phone signal when we ended up on that gate in the middle of nowhere. For some time we got by by using a "in car" booster. We put the antenna up on the roof of the RV and hung the "thingy" that would have gone in the car somewhere inside the coach. I had read suggestions on several blogs; but this was working well, so I just got by with this set up. Well, we are now on the gate in the middle of nowhere, and we were lucky to get a single bar of signal. The time had come to buy a real in home booster for our cellular signal. As I said before, I can get by with a very basic phone plan. However, if you are going to do this gate guarding thing, communication is a necessity. Having a clear connection is just as important-basic plan or otherwise. After several instances of often comical and always frustrating attempts to communicate, I set about in earnest to find and purchase a booster. The old adage that you get what you pay for probably applies here, but I did let money affect my decision. I read in blogs and from chatting with other gate guards that some folks were spending mucho pesos on these things.Then I read about this SOHO YX 545 by z boost. It had great reviews and was available at Walmart. Best of all, it cost around $200. That was cheaper than a lot of other offerings I had seen out there. Well we finally got the booster and it was a cinch to hook up. The most time consuming thing was getting on top of the RV-we attached the antenna to the ladder. Once we had everything connected we plugged it in and we had four bars of signal! Best of all, our internet was blazingly fast. I still don't talk or chat much (how do you guys/gals work those tiny keys?), but I feel much more secure knowing the phone works.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Just Wondering

Am I one of the few beating the drum out here? How does one who feels fervently about a cause get the opportunity to utilize the soapboxes the PTB (powers to be) seem to always have at their disposal. As I have railed about ad nauseam, this joke of an election continues to lurch onward. Romney out spent his opponents by a multiple of five in order to bulldoze his way to a victory in Illinois. Yet they had the lowest turnout in decades on election day. In previous posts I have lamented the fact that our founders unknowingly placed us in this predicament. As much as I love this country, it is obvious that it is broke or stressed in a multitude of ways. The founders never envisioned that the country (and populace) would expand much beyond the original thirteen colonies. It was not until Jefferson that our manifest destiny began to emerge. So we are stuck with an obsolete electoral college and House staffed based on population. We are also stuck with many fail safes that thwart any opportunity to amend the process, Given Congress's inability to act now, can you imagine putting together a super majority and then getting some sort of legislation out to the electorate for them to act upon? The House of Representatives, oddly enough, represents our current state of affairs in many ways. It is bloated and misguided, rarely reflecting the will of the people, and incapable of setting policy that benefits us all. As much as I agonize over our current state of affairs, I can only imagine how previous generations must feel. What is most frustrating is that it seems as if most folks seem resigned to accept our collective fate. I apologize for again beating the drum. However: the national debt continues to spiral out of control, inflation has taken hold (have you bought groceries lately), fuel costs have soared to record heights, our infrastructure is failing around us...-do I need to go on? Our President continues to alienate those he is supposed to serve. I applaud efforts to find alternative energy sources and establishing "green" policies and ideals. Unfortunately, most of this technology is still in its infancy and years from practical, cost effective implementation. Yet the current administration seems determined to chase it, with seemingly no concerted, organized effort behind it. Trillions of dollars that we can ill afford to spend has been thrown at failed efforts to create and utilize alternative energy sources. All that might be acceptable, even lauded, were it not for the Presidents continued assault on our current sources of  energy. Owners of stocks in coal and gas have watched helplessly as their "dirty" fuels are assailed by our current administration. And yet we seem unable to rise above prejudice and an inability to control our borders. Communication has never been more readily available and yet we seem unable to unite as one to implement change that is so desperately needed. All this is, of course, is one man's opinion. It's odd, though, how it seems to resonate with so many of my dear readers.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Traffic Cop

Controlling traffic is one of those things that you wish you knew more about before you started a gate guard gig and are always striving to improve. You and your partner need to be consistent and politely firm in your expectations. Traffic needs to know where and when to stop and you need to communicate clearly what info you need. You need to be in charge of the conversation from the get go to get that information. "Training" the regulars is part and parcel of the process. You will have all kinds of trucks and well personnel that comprise the regulars list. Rather than log them out every time they come and go during the day, we have a hand signal indicating they will be returning. We make a small notation/mark on the log or on a scrap piece of paper to track them. We have a hand signal that indicates they're through for the day and we then log them out. You should get with the company man and/or the rig clerk and determine whether they have particular wishes when it comes to allowing sales reps to call. There is a certain etiquette involved on your part in this process too. Have you ever suffered through the tedium of a transaction which required your imparting certain info to someone and it seemed to drag on forever? They were probably filling out some sort of form or following a worksheet of some sorts. In gate guarding if you do this you are going to have all kinds of disgruntled customers; and a line of vehicles stretching out onto the main road. That is big time "no bueno". We keep a piece of scratch paper on hand at all times. When traffic starts to build we scrawl the "need to know" on that paper and transcribe it onto the log later. Although I'm not that "high-tech" yet, I understand some guards are using cameras to aid in this process. Traffic control does not have to be overly complicated. Putting yourself in the "shoes" of the people your processing and easing their passage will make it an easier task to perform. When you find yourself questioning the wisdom of accurately performing this task, remember a thing or two. Logging vehicles is the main purpose for your being on the gate in the first place. Just as important, your log may be used in an emergency to determine who is or isn't on the property. I have heard that some companies have actually reviewed some logs for accuracy just because of this. Finally, when we get frustrated with the process, my partner and I remind ourselves what we are getting paid to do this. It always brings a smile to my face and makes the job easier to perform.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

New Gate and Things in my Head

Tonight I couldn't get "Jail Break" by Thin Lizzy out of my brain's MP3 player. I almost would rather have ringing in my ears. I recently posted about the weather, especially the wind. Well I think "Mother Nature" is paying me back. I can take a little wind, but we have had gusts in the 40 mph plus range for days now. We're getting just about a taste of everything that torments gate guards. The wind is finally going to die down, but not before temperatures crash and we get a deluge over the weekend. We won't get out of the 50's all weekend long. We gate guards "love" the rain and the cold. ( -: It means we go from dust to mud. Additionally we are in a spot where our phone service is spotty and the old Wilson amp ain't doing the job. So when you want to know what makes the job tough-it's not the responsibilities of gate guarding. If you're not the independent type and don't like working outdoors in the middle of nowhere, this is not your cup of tea. There's no getting around it and; as my friend Andy says, there should be no whining.
BTW-we have moved from Karnes City to Coy City off of 99.

Super Tuesday

From my vantage point, there did not seem to be much excitement about Super Tuesday. Either the Republicans are a quiet bunch, or I'm missing something. Obama seems quietly assured of himself and his reelection. I'll not comment on his policies, but we surely can't afford to reelect him-unless the United States suddenly wins the lottery. Reports have Romney outspending his opponents with obscene amounts of money. And yet he still seems unable to achieve a knock out blow to his opponents. By the way; what's all that about anyway? Statisticians say that Santorum and Gingrich (forget Paul) have no mathematical chance of catching him yet they still remain defiant and on the campaign trail. IMHO without a viable third party and the eradication of money from politics Americans will continue to feel resigned to their fate. Kind of seems un-American, doesn't it? 

Friday, March 2, 2012

Too Close for Comfort

Recent storms in the Midwest have reminded us of how capricious mother nature can be. The wild swings of weather there have even astounded a world traveler like me. I remember a notable day in Oklahoma when I went to work in short sleeves and there was snow on the ground by six that night. It's early spring, but mother nature seems to have a potent brew going. The jet stream is plummeting down from the northwest, making a swing east in southern California and turning north in south Texas. This cool air is mixing with a warm humid air mass off of the Gulf of Mexico and generating windstorms. Some grow into tornadoes, causing the widespread damage we have witnessed of late. What was poignant and haunting to us, is that one of the areas heavily affected was where we workamped last summer. We worked at the Port of Kimberling (often called POK) in Kimberling City, Missouri. It is a charming little town southwest of; and often times overshadowed by, nearby Branson. Unless you have recreated on Table Rock lake you probably have never heard of it. POK is a Mom and Pop operation with a fairly large campground and marina complex. There are close to 50 large piers with boats and all the support shops that they need. They're are even some that live aboard and year round campers. This swarm of storms descended on Kimberling City and Branson at around 1:30 a.m, hop-scotching from spot to spot. It destroyed some of the aforementioned piers, hotels and properties in both towns. If there was an upside, there were few injuries there and the system grew exponentially further north. A fellow workamper was in his 5th wheel when the storm hit. Fortunately he had a few minutes warning from the on site hotel staff and he escaped with minor injuries. This despite having used some of those minutes fumbling around in the dark looking for clothing. He was hanging onto the door of the 5th wheel when the storm balled it up into scrap metal! While all this makes for interesting reading, how does it affect us and our little nomad community? Hopefully, it will make all of us aware of what mother nature can do. Especially in Spring in south Texas. I'm pretty sure that we'll head for the rig; depending on what kind of warning we get. I think I'll take my chances inside one of those heavy steel containers rather than inside my motor home. Failing that, I'll look for a low spot outside somewhere. Don't laugh, it is a recommended and proven alternative for refuge in a tornado. Last summer we were nearly caught up in similar weather. We were rousted from our motor home and told to hunker down. One time in a nearby brick shower house and the other in the nearby hotel. Knowing the people and having worked there made this outbreak a sobering experience.