Friday, December 27, 2013

Slippery Slope

The covert community is all over the news these days; especially with Edward Snowden disseminating stolen, sensitive material. It has also been the fodder of too many novels to even begin to count. I find myself torn and conflicted about the wholesale assault on our espionage community. On the surface their activities seem intrusive and even unconstitutional at times. What mucks it up even more is the explosive growth of personal communication devices and the social community on the internet. I grew up living in countries where daily life as an American or foreigner put you at risk. We have even had folks we knew struck down by terrorists. Before all this unrest in the Mid East, South America suffered from a scourge of terrorism and attacks. Actually, it still does. The Shining Path in Peru, the Tupamaros of Uruguay and FARC in Colombia all have contributed to unrest through out South America. Add in the narco dollars from cartels and you have the potential for violence all over South and Central America. I haven't even mentioned Europe, the Middle East and who knows how many other back water countries. Spies have been around since the dawn of time and there always has been a covert war raging somewhere. Unbeknownst to most folks is that a cat and mouse game (with potentially serious consequences) goes on between us and the members of the diplomatic community both here and abroad. All those attaches that belong to the embassy staff are involved in covert activities in one form or another, He or she may have the title of Agricultural Attaché or supposedly belong to the Agency for International Development (AID) or some other title; but they are all spies. The intelligence gathering is so rife that our country has had to abandon new construction of some diplomatic outposts because of all the bugs embedded in the building. The embassy and consulate staff have to undertake extreme measures to avoid being listened in on. At some of our posts, the staff is paid extra for working in an environment under constant bombardment from microwave and other intrusive devices. Each country keeps a strict count on how many people comprise the staff of each Embassy or Consulate and this goes on throughout the world. This is just scratching the surface because you also have to deal with each countries intelligence agencies; like M I 5 and 6 in Great Britain, our CIA and NSA or the KGB in Russia. I'll throw in moles, too. Agents embedded in our communities and workplace(s) snooping about and doing who knows what. Anyway, after nine eleven our government thought it prudent to throw out a wide net to try and quash any potential acts of terror and perhaps identify the perpetrators. With all that was going on they figured the American people wouldn't mind. This involved tracking phone calls with key phrases and words both from here and abroad. Conspiracists must have rejoiced when Snowden made all this public. For what it's worth, I don't think the NSA, CIA or whoever was and is involved meant any malice toward the average Joe. As I have written previously, I believe this whole personal privacy thing is overrated. Sadly the cow is out the barn on that deal. Unless you know a way to erase your public persona and can drop completely off the grid, forget about it. Back to my being torn and conflicted. I think Edward Snowden did a disservice to this country and should be treated as a traitor. Apparently he is fishing around for an amnesty deal and is tired of being a guest of Mother Russia. I say bring him home and hang him in public. As far as the activities he exposed, I reluctantly think they are a necessary evil. The problem is; and has been for ages, who is watching the watchers?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


It's the day before Santa's big show and I find myself somewhat blasé about the whole affair. The 22nd of December would have been my fathers 81st birthday and he passed on Christmas day. No man is without flaws, but my father was an exceptional human being and he is loved and missed. I will celebrate his life and make the best of the day; he would have wanted it that way.
We will again celebrate Christmas like a lot of other Gate Guards; ever vigilant and at our post. It is a oft times thankless job, but we didn't sign up expecting accolades. Unlike the drilling rigs we have protected, the fracking crew will shut down for a few days starting at noon on the Monday before Christmas. It is interesting to note that we initially dreaded getting assigned to a fracking crew. All we heard about was the traffic, the dust and general busyness of frack gates. Now we have grown accustomed to it all and find it's really not that bad. I will say that sustaining a professional effort and maintaining an upbeat attitude becomes more difficult after multiple fracks without a break. The crew we are currently with have worked with us before and that makes the job easier. This crew also has a full time caterer so we are eating well and saving on groceries!

Our long term plans call for a Memorial Day break to compete in a chili cook off and we hope to visit some relatives next year. I also have hopes of visiting a national park before my demise. How ironic that I have travelled the world and not seen our national parks!

Missy and I, along with our pack of animals, sincerely wish you and yours a Merry Christmas. I hope you get to spend it with someone you love and care about.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Writer's Block

I have been suffering from a horrendous cold. At least that is what I am told. Frankly it feels more like the flu or walking pneumonia to me. The oilfield workers say it's the "crud" and it's going around. As some of my dear readers know, I suffer from heart disease and I have had a quadruple bypass. What they might not know is that coughing is never the same once your chest has been split open. I am not soliciting sympathy; far from it, I am simply providing an update. I figured that I haven't made a blog submission for a while and that I owe my readers an explanation. The cold, crud or whatever it is also manifests itself by making even the simplest tasks difficult. I also owe Missy and those around me an apology as I know I have been difficult to work with during my illness. Basically I am a terrible patient.
Anyway, along with being a terrible patient, I am a Scrooge. As I have said in the past the commercialization of Christmas seemed to take all the joy out of the holiday. It seems more and more that the value of a present has far more meaning than the thought behind it. Then, good old capitalization sets in, and; before you know it, everyone is trying to out give the other. Often times someone in the group/family just can't keep up and simply gets outspent. Bad feelings commence...need I go on? In my case if you get more than a card you're doing well! I watched my father try for years to get the perfect present for my mother. Most times he failed. Silly man, all a woman really wants (I said really) is your love and some pampering-like some spa time or a mani-ped. C'mon ladies! You know I am right. As far as this male goes; keep it simple. A six pack or two of my favorite brew and a box set of Justified and I'm set. So my advice to you this Christmas is to get back to basics and show your partner that you truly care for him or her.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Trip Back in Time

Recently our time off coincided with the move of a friend into an older home. We volunteered to help her get settled and the first order of business was a thorough inspection of the new digs. Wow! It was an older home (built in the forties) replete with gas heat via ancient ceramic heaters. While the heaters still worked the house did have a central heat and air system retrofitted; for those of you that were concerned. A trip into the kitchen revealed a charming, virtually intact Magic Chef oven from the early fifties! Of course, there were wood floors throughout the house. The "flow" sucked, of course; but they didn't worry about those things back then. I'm not sure what the exterior walls were made of, but the house retained a chill throughout an 80 degree plus day. We spent the better part of two days helping clean and organize. But, isn't that what real friends are for?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

First, I am grateful to be sitting in my warm 5th wheel. Especially since temps are in the low 40's and it has drizzled all day. I use holidays as milestone/memory markers as it is easier on my addled brain. Thanksgiving is not especially remarkable this year; but, as always, it reminds me to be grateful. This year I am both grateful and concerned. I am grateful to live in a great country, to be able to put food on the table and to have steady work. I am also grateful for a loving family, my fiancé and my furry companions; along with all my friends and acquaintances. I don't want to muddle the holiday up with politics. However, I am concerned with the direction this country has taken. It is problematic to me when the government shoves a program on its citizens and then threatens them with monetary penalties if they fail to comply. It is also troublesome when we have a polarized Congress, immersed in partisan politics and obstructionism. Far worse is the knowledge that we have an electorate that continues to put these folks in office. I do remain hopeful, given that our country has lived through much worse. Here's hoping you have a wonderful Thanksgiving and that better times are ahead.

Friday, November 22, 2013

A Day that Personified a Decade

It is very hard to believe fifty years has come and gone since that fateful day in Dallas. Generations have come and gone and some of the latest barely know of John F. Kennedy's assassination.  It is a shame that the event and events surrounding it are already just a brushstroke in history. Probably no more than a page or two in today's history books. Perspective is everything when interpreting events and to get the proper perspective on Kennedy's death you have to take in the sixties as a whole. The dowdy administration of the Eisenhower's was exiting the world stage and a young, vibrant couple was taking over. Just a look at Mamie and Jackie side by side told the story. The ugly face of racism was sweeping the country and racial equality for everyone would boost the civil rights movement. The Beatles were headed for the United States and most of us know what that meant. Our boys were fighting and dying in a humid, remote hell called Vietnam. The race to the moon was on and the Cold War between the United States and Russia simmered in the foreground; still smoldering from the Cuban Missile Crisis. How ironic that the events in Cuba would change the face of the nation forever as the first mass of fleeing refugees landed in south Florida. It would be difficult to imagine the Miami of today without the Cuban influence. Student unrest would percolate through the colleges of the country fueled by drug use and hatred of the aforementioned Vietnam war. The country was at least unified in its opposition to Vietnam and support of getting to the moon in the decade. The country was being tore apart and never would be the same. Unfortunately the hallmarks of the decade were the assassinations, including Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Tragically, toward the end of the decade, John F. Kennedy's brother Robert would be struck down by an assassin. I remember listening to Dion sing Abraham, Martin and John- how poignantly that song captured the decade. Rest in peace JFK.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My Annual Holiday Rant

The line between holidays just keeps getting more and more blurred. Some stores started Christmas stocking and decorating in late October. If the Christmas music and carols start any earlier I am not going shopping till it's over. Someone else can get the groceries. I am not a Grinch; so to speak, the commercialism of the holiday has done it to me.
Which brings us to Veteran's day; which seems some what overlooked with the advent of Christmas at or before Halloween. When I was a kid we looked forward to each of the holidays; each with it own ambiance and period of occurrence. The time between them may have been short but there seemed to be some demarcation. Confused? You must be much younger than me.
Back to the veterans who have given so much to our country at great personal sacrifice. It seems a shame that there has been such a need for a grass roots movement to ensure that our vets are cared for and get the benefits they deserve. My question is "Why haven't some of these movers and shakers tried to unify their causes?" Every time I turn around there seems to be a plea for funding for disabled and wounded vets by many disparate organizations. It seems some of these selfless folks could use their valuable time organizing and unifying. I once spent some time in discussion with a crusty Marine vet, trying to get him to support The Wounded Warrior Project. He failed to see the need, stating that that was what Walter Reed and their benefits were for. Perhaps therein lies the problem?

Blockbuster is gone; the last rental went out a few days ago. Talk about crashing and burning-they were flying high in their day. Of course, I still remember-Atari,  Beta Cassettes,  Video Cassettes, Laser discs, vinyl LPs, 8 track, disco (-; , Pan Am (and Air Florida and Eastern), AMC (they made the Gremlin and Matador), Silly Putty, real books, Montgomery Ward, drive in theaters, the Zenith Commander remote with three channels, rabbit ears, pay phones, Etch a Sketch, The Thing toy bank, the Twist (and the Swim and slow dancing without too much contact-we didn't twerk)...Sorry, I got carried away.

Here's hoping you and yours can keep yourself above all the political mayhem, hinky weather, mass shootings, money woes, health woes and general discontent. That way you can better enjoy the season and appreciate that we live in the greatest country on this planet!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Real Figures from Someone who has Done It

It took Missy and I about two years to find our way to the oil patch. We workamped at three or four campgrounds before Andy ( convinced me that the compensation was indeed real. If you think we were jaded, you'd be right. Our pay at campgrounds varied from $800 to $1300 per month; not enough to pay the bills, and barely enough to survive on. We still follow the workamping community and the pay has not gotten any better. If anything, it is worse than ever, with more and more campgrounds offering a site in exchange for the work. At some campgrounds the menial work we were assigned to do seemed never ending. We even worked at a campground where the two of us were responsible for maintaining almost three hundred acres. About seventy five to one hundred acres required weedeating and mowing. Did I tell you there were also about a dozen horses that we cared for; which included breaking, tack maintenance, feeding and grooming? Plus we conducted trail rides through the woods and brush that we created and maintained. I forgot to mention that they also had a float operation with canoe, tubes and rafts. Of course there was the store, the reservations, guest relations and the campground to maintain. Then there were the arguments with the owners because we couldn't seem to get everything done without exceeding forty hours. Most campgrounds don't want you to exceed forty hours in a week to prevent you from being considered a fulltime employee. Our only good experience was a well run campground in Branson, Missouri. Being able to attend the shows for free or a heavily discounted rate was a great perk. Still, the pay was awful at under two hundred dollars a week before taxes for each of us. The irony of it all is that the only folks that can really afford to do the work are retirees and folks on disability (or collecting supplemental income from somewhere.) My point is, there are a lot of us who are unemployed and have hit the road in an RV looking for some of that good old American promise with little or no supplemental income. It is a ready and willing work force that some take advantage of. Workampers are not the only ones caught up in this financial trap. There are hundreds of thousands in the work force who are forced to subsist off of government programs and/or charity due to poor pay. Sadly and shamefully, that includes a lot of our military and government workers.  So what is someone to do who wants to pursue his or her dream of seeing this country and living the RV lifestyle? Hopefully some of you dreamers are reading this because you need to start now. Start saving and purchase the largest RV you can afford (no matter what you buy you will find it lacking in room). You don't want those payments saddling you on the road. The used market is the way to go, in my opinion. Spend the time to thoroughly research and shop around. RV'ers are generally a friendly bunch and you can obtain a wealth of knowledge talking to them. Renting a coach for the weekend is also a good way to learn about the RV lifestyle. Although I am generally against workamping, there are exceptions to the norm. Amazon has a loyal following at their distribution facilities with good pay and discounted parks to stay in. There are temporary and long term employment opportunities in construction and energy exploration that you can do while living out of an RV. Some of them, like gate guarding, provide your utilities while working. Whatever your choice is, it will be difficult to make a living workamping without some sort of additional income.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Affordable Care Act Redux

My 200th post and y'all are apparently still reading! Thanks!! I also have 34 subscribers and counting. If you enjoy my take on the world it's easy to subscribe, just click on "join this site" on the right side column. Hey, you can always hit the delete button and it's easier than searching for it.

My worst fears concerning the Affordable Care Act are developing before my eyes. It is all a vicious circle, feeding itself. The business model requires "x" amount of young, healthy participants in order for everything to work. Without that young component; much less whatever magic number of participants overall is required to make it work, the insurance companies cannot assess an affordable premium. The administration had hoped that the insurance companies would "play" along and set the rates by their projected numbers, but they're not playing along. Their fears are also coming true, as the sign up rate remains abysmal and the majority are older, with pre existing conditions. Come on, people! Did you really think the folks that use over ninety percent of the tax revenue in the collection process to run the IRS could pull this off? How about Amtrak or the Post Office? So here's a typical scenario. Joe Schmo makes about 50K a year and decides on a Silver plan. He or she is between 50 and 60 years of age with a pre existing condition. His or her premium hovers around $500 and $600 a month, which he or she can't afford, so they opt out. Joe Schmo soon receives notice that he or she will be assessed a fine of between 4 and 5k annually. That fine will come out of his or her taxes or they can opt to make monthly payments; the government will even allow them to set automatic withdrawal. If Joe Schmo chooses to ignore the fine, the Act provides that the government can then suspend his or her drivers license. After a period of time things will escalate and ignoring the fine can lead to the loss of assets; including Joe Schmo's home. I can't make this sh*t up people! Finally, the big lie and the even bigger "smoke and mirrors" fix. After an outcry (thank you America, I was worried you'd lost your voice) of biblical proportions over Obamas repeated broken promise that we could keep our current insurance, the "Great and Wondrous Oz" has spoken and apologized. He believes he can wiggle his nose or wave his wand and the insurance companies will comply with his request to reinstate the cancelled insurance policies. Let's see, you're an insurance executive and the man that threatens to destroy the health insurance industry as we know it and has repeatedly shown to have no idea what his failed policy is doing or causing is asking you to do something to help him out. Is that about right? Wait; here's the "smoke and mirrors". If Obama manages to get the insurance companies to play along with him the reinstated policies will only be good for a year. Here's the rub as I see it. Obama is the leader of the free world. He has continually shown to be disingenuous and downright dishonest. The world sees this and the lost respect can never be regained. We have failed foreign and domestic policy, from Benghazi to the Affordable Care Act. Our political system is a laughing stock, polarized and impotent. Just when you thought the damage to the presidency by Clinton couldn't be surpassed, along comes this Bozo-sorry, I meant Obama.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Value of a Brownie

A brief list of some of what we have received for a brownie or a cookie or some bar-b-que or a cold get the idea.
Help with a flat tire
The use of a compressor
Sewer pump out
All kinds of swag-hats, shirts, promotional items and gifts, etc.
Candy and food of all sorts
Trash pick up
Groceries from town
Safety gear
Man power
Very few; if any of these folks, asked for anything in return. We just offered it. Kindness from strangers is such a wonderful thing. Now our gate has a reputation for almost always having something good to share. Finally; just remember that the squeaky wheel gets the grease and  resourcefulness is the hallmark of an effective gate guard.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Reflections on a lesson Learned

We came down to the oilfield with a Class A Holiday Rambler diesel pusher. In its day it was a pretty luxurious coach; costing north of one hundred thousand dollars new. Most of our problems with the coach centered around its basement heat pumps, which we could  never seem to get to work properly. Every time we called a repairman to look at the heat pumps it cost hundreds of dollars and we were lucky if it cooled or ran for more than a day. We supplemented the heat pumps with a small window air conditioner which helped some, till the ambient temperature rose to over 100 degrees. The straw that broke the camel's back was the failure of a radiator hose and loss of the engine. The repairs wiped us out financially and an additional cash influx failed to correct a persistent overheating problem. All along I was concerned that my less than stellar credit and nomadic lifestyle would prevent me from acquiring a new(er) RV. We had also tried to sell the coach via the internet, including Craig's List, with little or no results. We finally found a dealer that would take the coach in trade and that even turned into a debacle after a wheel bearing failed on the way there. In hindsight I should have cut my losses sooner. The 5th wheel we are in now seems to be a solid vehicle, requiring only minor repairs. Additionally, the repairs we have done have corrected the problem(s) eliminating the need for a repeat visit. The peace of mind that comes from knowing that you have a solid, reliable vehicle to live and work out of is invaluable.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Items of Note

Kudos to John Colas and the USO staff at O'Hare for jumping into action when word came that Marines returning from Afghanistan would be passing through the airport. Mr. Colas figured that after five days of switching airplanes; not to mention returning from the hell of war, the Marines deserved some recognition. Further kudos to the first responders who joined in forming a greeting line to salute the Marines as they passed through. It gets better-the fire department arranged a ceremonial shower for the aircraft as it taxied out. Finally, the flight crew sat six of the Marines down in open first class seats at which time the rest of the first class passengers got up and gave up their seats. OooRah! Now, can anyone explain why it takes five days to return from Afghanistan?
A salute to George Strait on a well deserved Entertainer of the Year award at the CMA's last night. A pox on the CMA for not rewarding him sooner and more often.
I find myself lacking words to describe the recent actions of an Indianapolis police officer who mowed down motorcyclists sitting at a stop light. A breathalyzer test; conveniently forgotten at the scene and given later, still showed the officer's alcohol level to be twice the legal limit. There is no word to describe how depraved a servant of the people has to be when his depravity leads to the death and injury of those he's sworn to serve. This is at least the fifth on duty accident this officer has been involved in.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Sister's Love

In order to describe the relationship that my sister and I have it is important to note that we fought like cats and dogs as children. I'm sure there is some psycho babble to describe our interaction; especially since our relationship was forged through a life of constant change. We are military brats which; unless you have lived it, is impossible to describe. Basically; your friends, schools, homes, etc. are in constant flux as your father/mother travels the world to fulfill his or her military obligation. Amazingly, through all of that, my sister and I grew to be the best of friends. The women of my family personify all that is good in a female. Caring, nurturing, non judgmental, generous, protective, etc. are just some of the qualities my mother and my sister possess. My sister is resilient, having suffered through tremendous loss in her life, and I admire her for it. Even though we are different persons we share many of the same qualities. I know my sister is there for me as she has been all my life. I only wish I could have been there more often for her. I hope she knows that she is in my thoughts and prayers; especially today. Happy Birthday Sis!!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Some Thoughts

First, let me say I am for some sort of health care overhaul. The plan put forth by Obama is dependent on numbers yet to be released (which may account for 33 states not participating) and an even greater undisclosed number of young, healthy participants. Since almost no one I know understands the program; (including me) and so many can't even get into the website to study it, the early numbers are not promising. The early results are upwards of 80 percent of those able to sign up are older folks; some with pre-existing conditions. Additionally the program's sign up results have been abysmal, at best. Obama's business model is dependent on an average sign up rate of around 40,000 customers a day (the results to date are far under 100 a day!).  The Obama business model will fail if the trend continues. This program was passed around four years ago and this is the launch we have gotten. The health care overhaul is failing in its infancy because the figures don't add up and there is little faith in its ability to perform as advertised. Whether you know it or not every problem seems to cause yet another; kind of like a cancer. For example, the rate quotes on average are higher than predicted; all because the insurance companies have no faith in the projected numbers of participants. This has led to the biggest, and most overt lie; the promise that folks currently  insured and happy with their plan will be able to keep them. Even as the cancellations mount and/or plans unwillingly change, Obama continues to promise the opposite. To think we could face fines for failing to comply with this charade really gets my hackles up. This is not the rant of some conservative or some Tea Party hack, unwilling to compromise and looking for any way to demean the administration. Not to get off the subject; but that seems to be the standard Democratic/administration response. I am just an average "Joe" who is deeply disturbed by the goings on in our country. Specifically the ineffective, out of control, partisan and polarized government we are saddled with- and I know I am not alone. In my opinion the Affordable Care Act will become just another bloated, underfunded program subsidized by the government-meaning your hard earned dollars in the form of additional taxes. Come on people! Look at Amtrak, Social Security, Medicaid and Welfare. We can only print more money and increase the tax burden for so long. I believe the folks we sent to Washington know that and that is why we are seeing some of them digging in their heels. The unfortunate result is that the welfare of the country takes a back seat to these partisan politics. Seems like "Groundhog Day" to me.

Monday, October 28, 2013

This is Definitely not Burger King

We get a lot of folks who think they have found the proverbial Shangri La when they hear about gate guarding. They can't wait to get on a gate and start making the big money that had been promised. Unfortunately, for a lot of folks, disillusionment soon follows. I (along with others) have tried to enumerate the reasons folks leave the vocation; mostly to serve as a reminder/warning to those contemplating coming to South Texas. The tolerance of most gate guard companies to bear the complaints of noobs is not one of their hallmarks. You should carefully read up on gate guarding and/or contact folks who are actually doing the work before making any other move. I have always maintained that we were extremely grateful to have found work that actually put food on the table. A year or two of scratching by and living hand to mouth will do that to you. We barely eked out a living as workampers. Every purchase decision was agonizing and balanced against what we would have to give up to acquire the item(s). I had no other income and retirement was a ways off when I embarked on this adventure. If nothing else it has taught me to have an appreciation for the freedom that an extra nickel or two can provide you. That; in a nutshell, is why we have remained in this profession and are grateful for the work. It is also perhaps why, early on in gate guarding, we adopted the motto "If we call you had better answer the phone and come running, because it's urgent or an emergency." Your comfort (or discomfort) is not at the top of the list for most gate guard companies. Most do not have the personnel  to act as your concierge. A lot of them do gate guarding as a secondary operation and their priorities reflect that. If there is any way at all that you can do a little troubleshooting and; even better, minor repairs, you will last a lot longer down here. If you did your research as suggested you should know what to expect in regards to response time and subsequent repair work. Don't misunderstand this as a rebuke: I am merely trying to let you know what to expect. We have been fortunate and had little trouble with our equipment. We have never waited more than twenty four hours for any major/important repair. Unfortunately, that is not the norm in many cases and I have known guards to be without power or water for  good while. Let this serve as a reminder that this is definitely not Burger King and you can't always have things your way.

Friday, October 25, 2013

I Don't Know Where I'm Going

I get the "I don't know where I'm going" quite often in the oil patch. After I ask if he can call someone (or if I can peruse his directions) (and/or his phone doesn't work out here and I offer to let him use my home) the reply sometimes is "Why; he doesn't know anymore than I do?" Really? Then comes the looks and berating because I won't allow them to drive around on the lease and try to figure out where they belong. If you have business to do on my lease, at the very least I would like you to give me your name, the name of your company and the name and/or number of the well you're going to. I also have a similar discussion that becomes more and more earnest when someone insists they're going to a site that I know is not on the lease. Even more irritating is our lack of knowledge. I have repeatedly asked for a map for our lease so that I at least have a rough idea where everything is to no avail. Today I had a company man come in who didn't bother to slow down long enough to introduce himself. Turns out he was in charge of a work over rig that no one bothered to tell us was coming in. Our primary focus is on knowing who is out here and where so that an accounting can be made should something happen. Since we're here to help protect the folks that are working out here; you'd think they'd be more appreciative. I really don't mind helping folks out; it just gets out of hand sometimes. Most GPS devices have the capability of locating using latitude and longitude; something the exploration companies have used for some time since lease roads rarely exist on a map. I'm left to wonder how they end up on my doorstep. Finally, at the risk of being redundant, here's a typical example. A truck rolls up and I immediately notice that it's painted with unfamiliar livery; so I am pretty sure he doesn't belong here. When I query the driver he starts to bristle and takes exception to my questions. As is often the case he says he doesn't know the well number or location that he is going to. After looking at his directions, I find he belongs on the lease next to us and I direct him to turnaround. After some "select" comments the driver departs and I called his dispatcher. The dispatcher also had some "select" comments for me and said he'd call back. Turns out he was upset with his driver and he apologized when he called back. He had given the driver directions and a well number and specifically told him not to turn down our county road. That driver was one of several that had committed the same error that week; hence my pursuit of the matter. I truly believe that if someone could quantify the amount of diesel wasted by wandering lost souls in the oil patch it would be alarming. I have actually had drivers roll up to my gate and say they have been looking for our site for hours! I never cease to be amazed at what goes on here in the oil patch.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Third our Backyard

We had an incident (which I will not go into detail about) that involved the release of LOTS of potentially dangerous gas from the lease next to us. It took a little time, but the powers to be thought it would be best if we evacuated-NOW! Luckily, I had had the foresight to put our truck outside the gate because the gager put a lock and tag on our gate before I knew it. I ran inside and told Missy to grab the "go bag" and off we went. It soon became apparent that we would be "homeless" for at least the night. We made arrangements to pick up the dogs; left food and water for the cats, and headed to a hotel in Cuero. It was called the Wildflower Inn and was the cheapest and closest hotel that would take us and the dogs.
Let me digress just a bit so you have a little perspective. I am a Air Force brat and a former Marine. I have travelled extensively and have slept in a lot of places; from out under the stars to some of the fanciest establishments you can imagine. So, I have a lot of tolerance for room conditions. The worst "room" I ever had was in a little village in Brazil. It was a mud hut with holes knocked in the side for ventilation and leather flaps to cover them. Light was provided by a single bulb in a socket attached to a wire that was strung across the ceiling. When you turned on the light it illuminated hundreds of cockroaches which geckos were chasing and eating. The beds were of rough wood with straw filled burlap as mattresses. My father slept much better than I did that night.
Now back to the Wildflower Inn which, though not a mud hut, has made my top ten list for awful hotel rooms. I do not mean anything prejudicial so please do not send hate mail. The owner checked me in and was obviously from a third world country. That might explain the condition of the room and property. In his country if a room had running water it probably sufficed for luxury accommodations. I'll let the e-mail I sent him describe our accommodations.
We checked in on the 13th and left the next day and stayed in room 120. I have lived in many countries and seen my share of motel rooms, but this was one of the worst. First, the room was filthy, with trash strewn about. Additionally we found numerous problems which included: the lamp shade was off and the attaching hardware was missing, the carpet was sticky and filthy, the fluorescent lamp wouldn't work, the bed linens were stained, the hot water was barely hot, the tub leaked and; along with the sink, was rust stained and covered with calcium deposits, the floor leading into the bathroom was weak and soft, the divider strip into the bathroom had sharp edges and hurt your feet, the toilet was difficult to flush, and there was a floor "repair" in the bathroom made out of electrical tape. There may have been a few other things, but that about sums it up.
I dealt with the owner while checking in and found him to be a very nice gentleman. It was surprising to find he owned a hotel as bad as this one. This room at half the price would not have been worth it and we'll not return.
Suffice it to say that we do not recommend the Wildflower Inn in Cuero, Texas.

In fairness let me say that the owner of the Wildflower Inn called me to discuss my complaints. It is as I suspected; very much a cultural issue. He was very grateful-not apologetic-for my e-mail and promised to do better as money allowed. He went into a long winded explanation about how he started as a worker there and ended up taking it over in an owner financed deal. His explanation for the hotel conditions was purely financial. I realized that trying to explain our standards to him would be futile and allowed him to repeatedly thank me for my e-mail. He also asked that I pray for him in his endeavor. I might pray for him, but  unless he obtains and accepts outside advice, I think he is doomed. He surely won't last after the oil boom.

Friday, October 11, 2013

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Some comments on the so called Budget Crisis.
The Good
Saner minds seemed to have prevailed as State and Federal Authorities are getting together to figure out ways to get National and State Parks reopened.
The Bad
Trying to keep veterans of WW2 from visiting the monument created to herald their exploits and heroism due to budget closures.
The Ugly
Denying the families of recently deceased veterans the funds due them as a death benefit and the wherewithal to travel to Dover AFB to witness the return of their loved ones.
And the Inane
Allowing the clocks to stop in the Senate and House because the "winders" were furloughed. I mean really-can't someone there wind a clock? Or do you suppose time is of little importance to them?
More of the Inane
Leaving directions on the Social Security Office phones to call another number which tells you to call another number...
Even more of the Inane
Pigs are stuck in their pens, cattle aren't leaving the pasture for market and corn is stuck in the silo. All because the Agriculture Department  isn't publishing needed reports which help set prices. BTW-that means they're "playing tiddlywinks" in the commodities market.
More Ugly
The disinformation and rumors that are spreading in regards to the debt limit and fiscal cliff. The financial markets won't fail (at least not because of a date on the calendar), our country won't default and payments will continue to go out.
There are tons of examples, but the whole "budget crisis" is really overblown. The wheels are still turning and the government is still operating-albeit more slowly. IMHO what we really need are rules or laws with teeth. The threat of a REAL shut down might get these folks to put their differences aside and act rationally and decisively. Instead we have a comedy of errors reminiscent of high school where barbs are tossed back and forth and "band aid" legislation is passed to limp things along. We already have workers being recalled and talks to raise the debt ceiling. Apparently sequestration hasn't taught us anything. For example; we may not have flyovers for sporting events, but the military marches on (no pun intended). I had hoped a light would go on and someone would realize that painful cuts are doable and maybe downsizing isn't such a bad idea. I am very apprehensive that my worst fears will occur and the electorate will put these pols back in office.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

A Chill in the Air

As a fulltime RV'r and a gate guard it is easy to get lulled into a sense of complacency. Day after day of sometime tedious and monotonous duty can do that to you. A lot of people's concerns over maintenance of their RV fade onto the back burner; especially with little or no rain and seemingly endless sunny days. Now there is a change in the air; rain is coming more frequently and the temperatures have moderated. Hopefully the maintenance and care for your roof was not one of the items on your back burner. Down here in South Texas I try to have things prepared in accordance with our mostly two season year. The cooler months are the time to start thinking about cleaning and resealing the roof. It's also prime time to start thinking about air conditioner care and maintenance. Missy may have thought it humorous that I was working on the fireplace a few weeks ago, but she enjoyed it this chilly, wet morning. I also check the back or outer side of the on board furnace and operate it periodically throughout the warmer months. You would be surprised at how many folks out there just flip switches and expect a system that has set for weeks or months to operate. You do not have to be a certified mechanic to properly maintain your RV. Most of the systems you operate on a regular basis and it is easy to make a list of the ones working in the background. By utilizing the Internet and asking a few questions you should be able to point out all of your RV's systems and where their access ports are. This is some of the easiest money you will ever make! There are hundreds of stories of folks calling a repairmen out only to find out a circuit breaker had tripped, a filter was clogged, a battery had boiled itself dry-need I go on? There are a myriad of places you can go to that will provide you with a list of things you should be looking at on a regular basis. Besides, it will give you something to do on those boring days and the furnace will more than likely work when you flip that switch when there is a chill in the air.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Working Together

Certain facts do not bode well for folks looking to make this gate guarding thing a winter vocation. For one thing a lot of the guard companies try to make keeping their year round folks working a priority. That may rub some folks wrong, but it is a fact. We have also previously covered the financial impact of the final fiscal quarter(s) of the year plus the annual hunting season. More disturbing to me; and something each of us can help with, is the trend towards eliminating gate guards all together. I am not going to try to tell you what to do or how to comport yourself as a gate guard. What I will tell you is that when the bean counters are looking to try to cut expenses we are a target. Trust me, anything not directly tied to production is a target when the discussion of cuts comes up. The folks that go through our gates rarely know what company we represent. They just see another impediment to there getting to the workplace. So what can a little old gate guard do to help things along? I can only speak for myself; but the first thing I do on every job is try to get in contact with the powers to be. That would be the company men and my primary target, the field superintendent over the job. I try to make his priorities mine and acquiesce to his desires as much as possible. The good thing about establishing dialog early is it allows the principles to work out any area of conflict. You would be surprised at what a person as important as a superintendent wants. Simple things like don't allow traffic to back up onto the county road and remind folks of the speed limit. I again will not try to tell you as a guard what to do when traffic backs up, but trust me when I say we keep it moving. If you're older and your memory is suffering, keep a notepad and pen with you at all times. Scribble now and make a neat log later I say. Also try to memorize the plates and names of your regulars-or keep a list of them. That's good exercise for the addled brain I previously mentioned and; not only will things flow better, it will be appreciated.  Another disturbing thing that has come to light from my discussions with company men and superintendents is that they all almost universally would rather not have to deal with gate guards. So the next time you consider chasing someone down or raising the intensity of a discussion; take a moment to collect your thoughts and consider the ramifications. There is a way to conduct yourself in a manner that will garner you respect and make you a valued member of the team.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Back to Basics

It occurred to me that we not only have folks down here just for the winter, but also neophytes to the world of fulltiming. You may not consider yourself a fullltimer; especially if you still have a stick and brick home, but living and working down here out of an RV for months at a time qualifies you. So, at the risk of boring some of our more seasoned folks, here are a few tips.

First off there is little or no on the job training for gate guards. I tell you this so you are prepared ahead of time. No one will hold your hand and, more than likely, you will be led by a service tech to some gawd forsaken remote spot and told to park your rig. If your lucky they will help you hook up to the "nurse trailer" and give you a quick briefing on how it all works. Regardless, before you know it you will be standing there with a clipboard (you did bring a clipboard, didn't you?) and wondering WTF happened. You will learn to share responsibilities with your partner and get settled in while working the gate at the same time. Basically your responsibility is to keep a record of all the vehicles that come and go through your gate.
You will rarely need heat in south Texas; but when you do space heaters are the way to go. Especially since your electric is free. Your on board furnace is almost too powerful down here and consumes copious quantities of propane. You folks in motorhomes need to pay special attention to this, since your tanks are built into the coach. You can check out Andy's blog at for info on an adaptor to allow you to supplement integrated tanks with an external tank. He also has a slew of helpful suggestions. Purchasing a couple of space heaters before you come down will save you additional pesos if you can find them. Speaking of climate control, don't forget to run your air conditioner periodically throughout the cooler months. The winter is also the time to clean, treat and reseal your roof. While you are up there make sure your condensate drains (on the bottom of the unit) are clean and free flowing. Also check the evaporator and condenser fins for obstructions and crud. If you are not comfortable doing this, having this performed before you come down will be money well spent. Not only will it cost you much more, finding reliable RV repairman down here is nigh impossible.
Buy a road repair plan period! We can argue till the cows come home about the pros and cons of which service is better, you'll just need to research and make a choice. Just make sure that it is specifically tailored for RV's. Coach Net and Good Sams come to mind. We have Good Sams Roadside service and it is dollar for dollar the best purchase I have ever made. The added benefit is that it also covers every vehicle we own. The first time you have a flat it will pay for itself and you'll be pleased with yourself for having purchased it.
Speaking of flats. Weigh your RV and inflate your tires accordingly. This may be the most important thing you do.
Bring light winter clothes, including a set of long underwear or two. It doesn't have to be freezing out for you to get chilled; especially when you spend a few hours outside signing in vehicles.
Bring pens, pencils and whiteout. A clipboard is nice, since most companies don't provide them, and those that do usually give you one of poor quality.
A high quality flashlight is worth its weight in gold.

You'll need a pair of shoes that you an easily slip on and off. Once you are on a gate this will become abundantly clear to you. Suffice it to say that you don't want to track anymore dirt into the RV.

Buy a tarp or two.

You will be taking your RV on roads that resemble the tracks used for rallying or short course trucks. If I had a high dollar RV I would consider buying a cheap tow behind to use for gate work, like a used FEMA trailer. Seriously folks; the roads are that bad.

Banks are just as far away (if not farther) from your nearest town. Additionally, a lot of guard companies don't offer direct deposit. Regardless; make financial arrangements before your come down.

If you are contracting, avoid the temptation to spend your new found wealth and pay your taxes! There are sites that you can register at that make this process simple. There are folks who struggle with this and find themselves staring at a tax bill at years end. Some end up switching to companies that treat you like an employee and take out your taxes automatically.

Bring stuff to do with your down time. Subscription television like Dish or Direct are invaluable. Hobbies are also another way to keep busy.

I'm sure there are other things to add, but this should serve as a good start. There is also a wealth of information on the web. Most companies will answer your questions and you can also establish a dialog with gate guards via several forums on the web. Good luck!

Monday, September 23, 2013

A Comment about the Budget

Here are a few words shared by Ben Stein about the budget crisis with a few embellishments by me:

Now for a few words about the latest budget crisis gripping Washington, and thereby gripping us all.

To simplify it a bit too much, the Democrats under our President, Mr. Obama, want to raise the debt ceiling, maybe possibly raise taxes, and keep spending and thereby enact Obamacare.

Now, no one seems to know exactly what Obamacare is, but anyway, that is the Democrats' wish.

The GOP wants to make sure the government keeps cutting spending under the so-called "sequestration," which cuts military and domestic spending automatically as time passes.

Some Republicans are so opposed to Obamacare that they are willing and ready to let the whole government close down rather than let Obamacare go into effect.

Naturally, the parties differ. That's why they are in different parties, and we should not be surprised by that.

And if the GOP-controlled House of Representatives wants to send a bill to the Senate cutting off Obamacare, that is its right. If the Democratically-controlled Senate sees it differently, that's its right.

There are procedures for resolving these differences. They are called conference committees, and they would work perfectly well -- if everyone had a good attitude.
But not everybody has a good attitude.
The problem is this idea of letting government close down. That is just plain nutty.

It might be fun for children to threaten it, but it will not be fun to drastically cut defense, law enforcement, medical care for the poor and the elderly.

To shut that down seems to me a flight from adult responsibility that is just not defensible morally.

Yes, let people on Capitol Hill yell at each other. Let them call each other names. But to even think of closing down the government is wildly dangerous.

Yes, as a Libertarian for a long time now, I'm upset at the growth of federal government spending under Mr. Obama. But at the end of the day, we are all Americans. We don't just pick up our toys and go home if we disagree.

It is wonderful to take a stand. But sometimes the patriotic thing to do is compromise today, gear up to win elections tomorrow, and work like adults for America every day.

Be cool, Americans. Our day will come. But let's not have it be Doomsday.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Window Weather

Prior to moving to the Midwest I resided in Florida for many years. One of the things South Florida is known for is its humidity. High temperatures are not common which is fortunate because seventy percent plus humidity makes it a real stew down there. South Florida is also known for not having four seasons like most of the country. It is either hot and humid or raining. I can attest to recent climate changes because South Florida no longer gets all the rain it used to during the rainy season. You used to be able to almost set your watch by the thunderstorms that rolled in out of the Everglades every day. Sadly that is no longer. Occasionally, for a very brief period, the humidity lowers and temperatures drop and you get what my mother calls window weather. It gets its name because almost everyone down there takes advantage and opens their house to air it out. I've found some similarities in South Texas, except once it gets hot it stays hot (and gets hotter) and rain is almost non existent. On the plus side; by late September the high pressure finally moves out, the rains come and cooler weather settles in. Those of us who braved the summer heat and dust can finally catch a break and open our windows. Woo Hoo! The a/c is off and it's window weather again.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Will you still need me, Will you still feed me...

Well it's time for another birthday and I'm headed into "seniorhood" kicking and screaming; at least internally. I am on the brink of entering my sixties and facing mortality square in the eye. I remember my early twenties were difficult, especially since people in their mid twenties didn't quite accept me and eighteen and twenty somethings thought me too old. The next challenge was my forties as I really didn't want to settle down like most others were at that time. I'm not quite sure how to express my feelings about entering my sixties. And please don't tell me it's just a number. I have suffered at least one heart attack, had open heart surgery, gained weight, lost some of my hearing, and have all sorts of aches and pains, to name just a few things. I am not afraid of death as I am secure in my spirituality. Still, I have suffered tremendous loss in the last decade. I have had several friends drop dead from heart attacks and too many suffer through a losing battle with cancer. If I could figure out how to grow old comfortably, perhaps I wouldn't be so anxious. Trying to reconcile that I'll never be able to run again or enjoy anything physically taxing is especially difficult. My brain wishes and thinks it's in great shape while outwardly I know better. I don't know what life's journey has in store for me, but I do know that I am not ready to exit yet. It will be interesting to see how I feel about all this when I turn the big six zero next year. If I am blessed enough to celebrate that event I promise to write yet another chapter in this blog.
Those of you not old enough to recognize the title of this post may want to know that it is lyrics from the Beatles song "When I'm 64".

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

This Generations Pearl Harbor

On September 11, 2001 over 2800 people died as a direct result of a terrorist attack accomplished by hijacking four airliners. Like so many others affected by remarkable events, I know exactly where I was and what I was doing when they occurred. This event and the subsequent war on terror have left an indelible mark on all human kind. Hopefully everyone can reflect on the solemnity of this day and perhaps try to use it as an impetus to live together in peace.

The Life of a Fulltimer

We recently purchased/traded our Class A motorhome for a fifth wheel and truck. We were informed that there were some errors on our credit report that we needed to address. We signed on with a company that specializes in credit repair and counsels you on a course of action. Besides correcting errors it allows your credit score to better reflect your creditworthiness. One of the byproducts of the information age is that your credit score is used in all sorts of things besides purchases. Not only does it help set your interest rate(s); it can even determine whether you get hired or not. One of the things that came up was verification of our address, which had changed after years in a stick and brick home. The credit reporting agencies wanted something with our address on it, like a utility bill. As a fulltimer and a gate guard we have no utility bills as we live off the grid. Even when we are in a park somewhere we still don't have bills or correspondence that comes to us. Addressing some of these issues has been a challenge. 
Company helping us with Credit Reporting Agency, "What is this address you are using?'
Me, "It's a mail forwarding drop box."
Company helping us with Credit Reporting Agency, "Is that where you live?"
Me, "No, I just have it so I can receive and have my mail forwarded."
Company helping us with Credit Reporting Agency, "Why"
Me, "Because I live and work out of my RV fulltime and I need an address not only to receive mail but to register my vehicles and establish residency."
Company helping us with Credit Reporting Agency, long pause...
You get the idea; plus I didn't even want to try to explain why we had P.O. boxes all over South Texas. And then our Dish receiver started to act up. I won't regale you with the minute details, but Dish basically said they could not send equipment or dispatch service to anywhere but our service address (the address on our Dish account). Dish supposedly has a department specifically designed to deal with RV'rs, but you wouldn't know it by calling their tech support. We now know to just ask for the loyalty department and; if they still act like you're speaking Greek and won't connect you, threaten to cancel the account. Folks have been hitting the road since the first car was built. Admittedly it has progressed to the point where you now can actually live in a rolling mansion. Still the advent of mail forwarding and fulltiming has to be over fifty years old. You wouldn't think that folks would look at you like an alien when you sport an out of state address, license, phone number and checking account-amongst other things. There's a business opportunity in here somewhere.

One of the other challenges of fulltiming/gate guarding is getting reliable, honest and knowledgeable repair work completed on your RV or vehicles. I swear that once you get south of I-10 you are seriously looking at a still to be settled America. Or at least the America of the 40's and 50's. Problem is that no matter how charming that lifestyle was; and a lot of these small Texas towns can be quite charming, that was fifty plus years ago. Very few of the hardy settlers are left and a gritty Tex Mex clique has evolved. Kudos to them for establishing businesses and scratching out a living. But try dealing with them as a gringo much less an outsider. Mom, Pop and apple pie Americans are few and far between. We have been dealing with Paul from Family RV Center and he does a first rate job. He will come to you, but will charge for the travel expense. At least he comes when he says he will and he has always been fair with us. We had a ton of questions about our new to us fifth wheel and a fairly long punch list. There are still a few things left on the list, but we did get the important stuff out of the way. We now sport a second air conditioner and have resolved a ton of questions. More importantly Paul is going to return to fix the few things left on the list.

I suppose these challenges are part and parcel of living off the grid. I mean how many people wouldn't bat an eye at making a two hundred mile round trip to town? No matter how prepared you are or how long you have done it; living in close proximity to another human being is the ultimate challenge. Why do you think the submarine service tries to determine if candidates are psychologically fit for the lifestyle before they even consider their qualifications. So not only are we independent and self reliant, we are also very unique. The person that said building a house is the ultimate test of a relationship never lived in an RV on an oil gate deep in South Texas.

Saturday, August 31, 2013


One of the definitions of ruminate is to mull something over. Well I think we have a ton of things to mull over. Here's a few.

Almost five years in and we have accomplished little or nothing under the Obama administration. I mean can anyone seriously say we have? After expending all of his political capitol on Obama Care, Obama was left with a rudderless, partisan administration and party. And shame on the Republicans for not taking the initiative and presenting a strong plank to win back the voters and try to repair things. The lack of direction is apparent throughout Obama's administration. Cabinet posts come and go like a revolving door, department positions, including heads, remain unfilled and partisan politics (that scream for leadership) have left Washington in a morass. There are tons of examples; but we still have not resolved what to do about our fluid borders and illegal immigrants, our decades old power grids, our deteriorating roads and bridges, our overtaxed judicial system and overflowing jails and the burden of a deficit that our grand kids will be repaying. And somehow we find the blood and treasure to expend on a muddled foreign policy-don't even get me going there. Meanwhile Hillary is stirring the waters in an unapologetic bid to run for the presidency again. If you don't know how that segue fit then you may be part of the problem.
Now we are on the brink of attacking a country embroiled in a bloody civil war.  I'm not sure what bothers me more-the actual bombing or the fact that John Kerry actually believes it will teach Assad a lesson. Note to the Secretary of State-chemical weapons have been in use in the middle east (and elsewhere) for a long time. Have we already forgotten about Hussein? Unfortunately atrocities happen with regularity on this planet. Where were these warmongers when genocide was occurring in Africa or when Pol Pot wiped out millions? Our propensity for twisting facts to fit situations has worn down not only our war weary country, but our allies as well. So with little or no support it looks like we will again meddle in the affairs of a country that doesn't want or need us there. By the way, did I mention the Russians have thwarted every effort we have made to interfere in Syria and they back the Assad regime. Where have I heard this before...HMMM?!? By sticking to his guns in spite of worldwide opposition, Obama has again put the reputation of the United States on shaky ground. He no longer has (or never had) a mandate and will be looked down upon if the bombing occurs and he (and the American people) will look weak if we back down.

I haven't found whatever it is that continues to motivate our politicians to meddle where we are clearly not wanted. Some might argue where we are also not needed. Vietnam was a watershed moment where the American people made it clear that they objected to our country's course of action. I found our involvement in the Middle East to be equally if not more objectionable. I also believe the majority of Americans agree with me. It is both tragic and eye opening that folks just seem incapable of seizing the opportunity and voicing that objection.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Just Enough to Get By

Believe it or not cooler weather is on the way. It looks like those of us that braved the record heat are going to be in the cat birds seat once again. Or not. Gate guarding is a very competitive business and there has been a huge influx of people since word got out. Just like the gold rushes of yore there are always a few bad apples in every bunch. We have unwittingly made a career out of replacing those less than desirable folks out there. If there is a personality conflict, behavioral issues, lack of name it, we're your answer. Our recipe is nothing special. We groom regularly, we are polite but firm, we answer the door promptly no matter the hour and we try to ingratiate ourselves with folks we work with. Those are just a few things. I suppose you could say we make a conscience effort at it; but we just view it as part of the job. So why am I bringing this up? Even in the worst of the heat/slow season there were few gates left wanting. It could rain gates tomorrow for all I know, but it looks like another very competitive winter is coming up. As I have said in the past I am loath to spread rumors. But, after doing this full time a while you start to see patterns develop. Along with the winter Texans, we have the hunting season coming up and the yearly slow down in the final quarter. Add wildly unpredictable gas prices, dirt cheap propane and an anti gas and coal political climate and anything could happen. Like long haul truckers, gypsies and cowboys gate guards are an independent bunch. So I am not going to preach to the choir. For whatever it's worth I'd slick my hair back, renew my effort to get to the door promptly, smile at the hardest persons to get along with and overall step up my game right now. Y'all know what to do and this is a friendly reminder. Doing just enough to get by ain't going to cut it. And those of you on the fence had better get to prepping and packing, the sooner you get here the better. We've got folks sitting right now.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Black Water Revisited

I promised an update on our non flowing black water tank. I am a very persistent type, especially when I seem unable to find solutions to a problem. I finally dug into the belly and had Missy exercise the cable while I assisted down below. The valve seemed to be operating correctly. I decided to run a hose to the toilet and fill the black water tank to see if the valve was by passing. I don't know how much water a typical hose puts out, but I gave up after about five minutes. I resigned my self to removing the black water valve just to figure out what was going on. Given the results of the last time I removed a valve-a sh*t shower so to speak-I wanted to be sure the lines were clear. I gave the valve one last yank and; lo and behold. a loud whoosh emanated from the bowels of the RV. Our black water tank had finally dumped! I believe that we had what is known as a dry tank. Apparently the RV had sit for a while and/or the last owner just left the black water valve open. Sometimes these situations can be real bad and you end up replacing the tank. We are going to fill the tank and add copious amounts of softener to help things along. Hallelujah!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

They Come in Threes

I'll again rely on my aviation experience to comment on the latest aviation accident. While the investigation continues over the crash of a UPS freighter near Birmingham, Alabama, the preliminary conclusions are not comforting. Every system has checked out so far; the engines were operating correctly, the flight controls were in order and matched the yoke position(s) and there was no evidence of catastrophic failure and/or a fire or explosion before impact. It appears yet again that the pilot(s) actions contributed to the loss of the aircraft. In this case the pilots were landing on a shorter, lesser used runway which had a hill thrown in just before the threshold. The approach requires a steep glide slope and the aircraft was descending at an excessive rate, which caused an alarm to sound in the cockpit. Throw in a dark night with the unfamiliar approach and you have a recipe for disaster.  Veteran pilots have already commented on the spatial disorientation that is endemic when landing at night on this runway.

Let me again say that if I am wrong I'll be the first to come out with an apology and retraction; but the evidence is alarming. When I commented on the Asiana crash in San Francisco I alluded to the advanced computers and instruments available to help pilots in today's modern airliners. Still we have had at least three major accidents in a short period of time that appear to be the fault of the pilots. The Asiana pilots basically blew the approach, the Southwest pilots landed hard nose first and now it appears the UPS pilots also blew an approach. There has been an ongoing discussion that the availability and use of computers has eroded the skills of some pilots. Whatever the cause, I hope someone is as alarmed as I am over the human involvement in these recent accidents. My mother said tragedy always comes in threes. I hope that means we won't be hearing about anymore crashes.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Communication via Satellite and Cellular in South Texas

A cell phone is a necessity in the oil fields. Besides being a means of communication it can also serve as a lifeline. Oil exploration can take you many miles from civilization and finding a cell phone provider that works out there can be problematic. More and more companies are investing in infrastructure; but it has been our experience that A T and T works best. I can't enumerate the times I have been asked to lend my phone. It makes me wonder what they would have done in an emergency. One good thing about A T and T's coverage is that we have rarely needed a booster. We learned the hard way and recommend you save yourself the trouble and follow this advice. If you're determined to keep your current provider, buy an A T and T burner phone from WalMart or Radio Shack.
Internet opens up a whole new set of challenges, especially if you're talking about high speed and multi gigabytes of usage. We originally came down with a Verizon MiFi that proved useless and bought an equally useless A T and T MiFi. We finally took the plunge and signed up for satellite internet from Exede. While we are very disappointed with their customer service and tech support, we are pleased with its capabilities. It is somewhat like our Dish service-once I learned to point it and troubleshoot it, I was happy with it. Oddly enough we get ten times more usage from our Exede than we did with the mobile hot spot, and it costs the same! Plus we have unlimited usage between midnight and five a.m.
If you plan to work very long in the oil patch, you will find that quality internet and cellular service are indispensable. Hopefully this advice has been helpful.

A Stinky Problem

Our 5th wheel came without any manuals and I have been busy learning how everything works. One conundrum I've yet to solve is the dump valves for the gray and black water. We have a standard gray and black dump handle on the left side and an unlabeled dump handle on the right side. Apparently the tanks are empty or the valves are not opening, because nothing is coming out when I pull any of the handles. In our application the valves all have long cables, enabling them to be operated from the sides of the trailer. The valves operated from the left are buried in insulation somewhere in the belly of the trailer with a protective cover plate. I have yet to figure out why they went to all the trouble to insulate and bury the "main" valves and left the one on the right exposed to the elements. I decided to tackle the easiest thing first and removed the easily accessible right hand valve to determine if it was operating. Our dump plumbing and lift pump are not set up correctly (pointing downhill) and all of the standing liquid came pouring down on me once the valve was loosened. I was expecting some, but not two gallons or so. I know some of you are laughing out there! Anyway; despite the heat and creepy crawlies under there, I am going to have to tear into the belly and determine what is going on. Anyone who has experience with multiple dump valves and tanks and thinks they can enlighten me, please feel free to do so. An update sans the bath should follow shortly.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

A Victim of our Own Success?

When we first started working with our current company we asked to remain with the drilling rig when they relocated. The field superintendent (who is actually a gruff teddy bear) at the time said that that was against corporate policy and denied the request. Just as we were preparing to leave we were told our company man had intervened and we would be following the rig. We remained with the same two drilling rigs for over a year. Recently we have found ourselves assigned to more and more difficult gates. While we suspected that we were being singled out for these jobs, we had no real confirmation. That was until the traffic situation on our current gate caused our exploration company to send someone out to check on things. Turns out he knew who we were and said that they had  specifically asked for us on that job. Suspicions confirmed! Here's hoping that the situation will work in our favor and we will catch a break and get a decent gate soon.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Gate Guarding-An Almost Two Year Update

Well; we came down just after Labor Day in 2011, wide eyed and not knowing what to expect. We initially contracted through Gate Guard Services with whom we have absolutely no complaints. When we heard that we could make an extra $50 a day we jumped at the opportunity and left them after about six months. We have worked for our current company for almost two years and are very pleased with how we are treated. Here are some things we have learned.

Your primary responsibility will be to record traffic entering and exiting the facility you're assigned to. This can be a lot harder than you think. We have been very fortunate and not gotten many real busy gates. That is not always the case, so be prepared.
We came down here with Virgin MiFi and phones. We quickly discovered AT&T is the only company that works throughout the Eagle Ford Shale. Later we found out that for the same cost we were paying for MiFi we could get satellite Internet with ten times the mega byte allowance.
The value of having something to keep you entertained cannot be overstated. We enjoy our Dish network, video games and radio controlled cars and helicopters. We both use a Kindle and work puzzle books.
A generator is invaluable. The equipment we are provided has been very reliable; but if your company provided generator should go down in 100 plus degree weather you will appreciate having an alternate source of power.
Make arrangements to deposit your check somewhere. Most companies do not offer direct deposit and cashing a check can be expensive and problematic.
If you value your car, leave it at home-the caliche and gravel roads will destroy the average car. Buy something like a Jeep or Expedition; either here or at home. The same principal applies to your RV-the environment will be very tough on it.

No matter what anyone has told you, you have to experience the heat and dust to truly appreciate how debilitating it can be.

Set up mail forwarding before you get down here. A lot of guards rent a box at the local post office for that purpose. You have to be creative, but you can get package delivery in the oil field. Sometimes a call to Fed Ex or UPS will get them to deliver to whatever road and rig number you are working. Also a lot of local feed stores accept packages for the local community.

I highly recommend you make contact with a guard company BEFORE you come down to Texas. Gates are at a premium in the winter and you can sit for a very long time if prior arrangements have not been made. Things are a bit easier in the summer, but the same principal applies.

Most companies provide some sort of alarm to put into your RV to alert you about traffic. A lot of guards purchase Mighty Mule driveway alarms because of their reliability. Additionally, I like having my own equipment.

Be prepared to be in a remote spot, miles from the nearest pavement and town. Self reliance is appreciated down here.

A basic rule is that the less you bother the company you work for the more valuable you will be to them. Seniority is virtually non existent in the gate guarding world, but by following the aforementioned suggestion will find yourself leapfrogging others and getting on a gate quicker.

No one expects you to be a master mechanic, but some troubleshooting skills are invaluable. Get to know your equipment and its basic function.

We try to relate to everyone that enquires as much info as possible. Still we have folks that pack up and leave soon after their arrival. Normally you are cut out for this work or you're not; there's rarely any in between. Hopefully some of this was helpful.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Another Okie Passes

The list of Oklahoma musicians is long, laden with every genre of music imaginable. Everything from folk to alternative music has influences from the Sooner state. Red dirt and Americana music would not be what it is without their influence. JJ Cale was one of the giants, collaborating and writing with Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits on their biggest hits. To get a broad spectrum and appreciation of JJ's music listen to songs off of Troubador or To Tulsa and Back. JJ suffered a heart attack and passed on July 26, 2013. He will be missed and warmly welcomed by the other members of heaven's band.

A Week in a 5ver

Occasionally I like to rope things in and speak more on topic; if there is such a thing. When I started my blog I was inspired by Andy and his My Old RV blog. I thought I too could add to his voice and maybe help a few folks out via my experiences. I also had an altruistic motive in that I like to be able to occasionally voice my opinion.

Well we have spent a week in the new (to us) 5ver and it is starting to grow on me. (5ver is the slang term used in the RV world for a fifth wheel) I have said all along that if I have a comfortable place to sleep I can be happy. I don't really require a bunch of needless trappings. One of the things that I am guilty of is driving poor Missy crazy about the boxes of sh*t we have lying around. Let me apologize here and state she has done a bang up job of getting things situated. We had a ton of room for storage in the basement of our class A and have given up probably half of it with the 5ver. So it has been a challenge situating stuff. I'm also anal in general and want to realize the gain in interior space and enjoy it. One of my pet peeves is boxes laying about six months or more after a move. Enough about all that! When we were shopping for our new home several things were important to us. Here in no particular order are a few. Opposing slides-check, diesel generator-not yet, a real oven-check, dual ducted air-not yet, washer and dryer-check!, a large basement storage compartment-check and check (we also have a rear pass through and a few bonus compartments). Several folks questioned the importance we put on an oven and questioned whether we would use it very much. Let me say that our oven has gotten a workout and that there is nothing like cooking with gas. I have yet to make my almost famous lasagna, but it is coming.

In conclusion, we both are happy in our new abode. Here are some observations. There is a ton more interior room versus a single slide class A. The hooking up and disconnecting takes a little getting used to. We miss hydraulic jacks, but are getting the hang of leveling this thing. Having driven a tractor trailer in almost every state makes towing this thing pretty easy. However, it is a bit disconcerting that I don't have that big old Peterbilt under me when I'm doing it. A pickup feels positively small in front of this trailer. If you have animals they will go nuts over the extra room-ours love it! I am not completely sold on a 5ver. I think it is ideal for the oil field gig or weekend camping,  but I believe I would prefer a big class A to tour the country in.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

How an Overnight Trip Took a Week to Complete

As I have chronicled we have been on an odyssey trying to sell our tired, worn out class A motorhome. We set out for Houston on a Wednesday and promptly broke down (see my previous blog). That took almost two days to resolve and I arrived, (Missy had gone on ahead), in Houston late Thursday evening. Friday morning we took our first look at the RV that the salesman had reserved for us. While Missy seemed fairly happy with her choice, I automatically knew it would not suit our needs. This RV dealer will finance the nearly dead and their bread and butter is refurbishing and reselling FEMA trailers, so 5th wheels are always at a premium on their lot. We took a quick look around and I settled on a 37 foot Fleetwood with three slide outs. As it turns out, that 5th wheel was missing two of its slide out motors. It had come from a repo auction in Florida and folks seem to like picking through them for parts and pieces. The dealer also offered to rip the interior out and put new carpet in and give it a deep clean inside and out. Upon further review...(where have we heard that before)?!? The slide out motors were no longer manufactured, the refrigerator wouldn't work, the water system leaked, etc. Late Saturday afternoon I decided we were not going to sit around while they resolved the issues and called the boss and asked to be put on a gate. In the meantime the arduous task of moving our stuff from RV to RV continued. This in the heat and humidity of Houston. When we had set sail on Wednesday (remember?) we had left our campsite behind thinking we would be back the next day-or Friday at the latest. We also had put some stuff in storage at the same campground. Additionally we had left the animals with a friend to keep an eye on them. Now the pet sitter and the campground were starting to get a little antsy. Since Friday was fully booked; we completed the purchase of the 5th wheel and dashed out to have the hitch installed in our pickup, we couldn't retrieve the animals till that evening. So late Friday we dashed off to San Antonio to retrieve our pets, returning to Houston early Saturday morning. Sunday was an off day at the dealership so we continued the move. Our plan was to leave sometime Monday for the gate, but we were unable to arrange for a trailer rental till Tuesday morning. So Tuesday off we went with the dogs and cats in tow, stopping briefly to strike our campsite in San Antonio, and then heading out to the gate. Nothing is ever simple and one of the cats escaped, delaying our departure. Once underway we resolved we were thirsty and hungry and decided to stop at a truck stop for lunch. The cat that had escaped (and I believe his comprade) had figured out not only how to lower the windows but also how to deactivate the window lock. You guessed it, when we walked out into the parking lot the windows were down and both cats were gone. The roundup was comical, to say the least, and took at least a half hour. We finally arrived on the gate early Tuesday afternoon. And that is how the overnight trip took a week to complete.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

New Digs!

I'm sure some of you have grown tired of both our tales of travail with our motorhome and our pursuit of a replacement. I have good news for all of you! We finally sold the Class A (we actually traded it in) and bought a 37 foot 5th wheel. Our extensive research has shown us that we should not experience near the level of anguish and fiscal outgo with a 5th wheel like we endured with our Class A motorhome. We are in the process of moving everything into the new home and excited about having it to work out of on a gate.

Things are finally coming together and we should be back in the Eagle Ford Shale soon!

I thought you had it!

As a long time veteran of aviation maintenance; and a federally licensed airframe and power plant mechanic, I have worked on and flown in a ton of aircraft. On this subject I feel particularly qualified to comment. Other than acrobatic flight (and some bad weather) I can't think of anything that disturbed me more than test flying aircraft that had just come out of heavy maintenance. Almost all of the maneuvers that we put the jets through were done at high altitude, allowing ample time for recovery. The pilots of the Asiana flight in San Francisco did not have that luxury. Commercial jet liners and planes in general do not maneuver well at low altitudes and air speed. I won't go into the physics of it, but not having the altitude to recover is a major factor. Unless someone steps forward with an explanation or there was some sort of mechanical failure, those pilots flew that aircraft into the ground. When the A 300 was introduced Airbus decided to show it off at the Paris Air Show. One of the maneuvers was a slow fly by somewhat mimicking a missed approach and the pilots were supposed to go around and retry the landing. The video is eerily like the Asiana crash-too low, too high a sink rate, too little airspeed and no time to recover. They pancaked in as would have the Asiana flight except they got the nose up in time to slam the tail in first. Unfortunately getting the nose up killed airspeed and put the aircraft in a stall as the wings lost airflow and lift. What is disturbing and unfortunate is that every endeavor is capable of failure due to human error. Even in a modern airliner replete with every computer you can imagine to assist the pilots. When I worked at American we had an airplane crash in Colombia because the wrong city/airport codes were inputted in the computer by the pilots. There were other factors (aren't there always?), but the pilots were found at fault. Unfortunately; whatever the cause, it does not make the loss of life and trauma any easier to accept. We all can learn a lesson from accidents like this by being a little more diligent when making decisions.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

What A Long Strange Trip it's Been

When we first purchased Jesabel we made a maiden voyage to Oklahoma City. The minute we started home the fuel shutoff valve failed and the engine "derated" (meaning it was in "limp home mode" and wouldn't exceed about 45 mph). This on a turnpike with a 75 mph limit! We were towing a car and quickly unhooked it to use it as a "blocking" vehicle, as we were terrified someone would run up our rear end. After a week at the Cummins dealer we finally told them "no mas" as they kept finding things wrong and the bill kept creeping ever higher. It was a portend of things to come. Shortly there after we made a quick run up to Muskogee for a cook off and asked some friends to join us for dinner. We were ensconced in an RV park and when we returned to the coach after dinner there was a waterfall emanating from the top of the slide out. Turns out the slide out seal was deteriorated. Also the vent over the kitchen had leaked (and would continue to leak the whole time we owned it) and had warped the floor. Then there was the fuel leak that required the removal and replacement of the fuel tank. All this in the first six months we owned the coach! And we won't even go into how much we have invested in air conditioning repair. The coup de gras was the upper radiator hose failing, causing the engine to burn up last year. Jesbael has not run right since and, after years of putting money into the coach, we had finally had enough. We thought we had the coach traded/sold and drove all the way to Fort Worth only to have the dealer renege on the deal. That story is in a previous blog.  Now we  found another dealer who will work with us (I hope) over in Houston. We were recently released from a gate and decided to take the opportunity to head that way. Jesabel was not happy and definitely not through with us! About 35 miles out side of San Antonio a loud noise came from the right front side of the vehicle. The hub had failed after the bearing spun in its race. We had just paid a shop dearly to replace those bearings (less than 90 days ago) and we immediately called them. The repair person quickly ascertained that the race had spun and that the hub was a goner. It took two days to get the parts and to get us off the side of the road. Now we have the "chicken or the egg" argument going and have yet to see the bill for the repair. Did the race fail or did the bearings fail first? Personally I think that since they were the last folks to work on the wheel, they are at least somewhat culpable for damages. I sent Missy ahead once we knew parts and a repair were imminent, which is a whole another story. If we finally rid ourselves of Jesabel and get a newer RV-I will update as soon as practical. I am determined to leave Jesabel in Houston!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Musings yet Again!

My heart goes out to the smoke jumpers who lost their lives fighting a wildfire in Arizona. My thoughts and prayers go out to their family, friends and community. Very little can be categorized as selfless as the yeoman's work that first responders do. Making the ultimate sacrifice so that others property and lives are spared from fire is truly a heroic endeavor.

It is my fervent hope that the families, relatives and friends of Nelson Mandela can stop their selfish, altruistic squabbling and let him pass in peace.

I do not expect perfection (or even accuracy) from my local weathercaster; but it would be refreshing if they could admit they screwed up once in a while. Sundays forecast had to have been the most inaccurate in some time. We went from a hot 112 plus degree Saturday to a stormy, rain soaked Sunday that barely broke 90 degrees. This after Saturdays broadcast promised another searing day with temperatures over 100 degrees yet again.

You will never know how much sh*t (OK-stuff for the sensitive among you) you really have till you pack up the entire house for a move. And then you suffer through a multitude of feelings after you realize how much importance you put on a simple piece of property.

I believe that we will never eradicate the mice colony from our RV. The sticky traps were effective, but now they know to avoid them. We also set out some traps that looked like over sized clothes pins and baited them with peanut butter. We would hear the traps spring close only to find an empty trap and the peanut butter completely gone. I have reluctantly put out poison now and hope they don't die somewhere inaccessible. I have ordered a deterrent called Cab which comes in pouches. Mice are supposed to hate the odor and reviews say it is highly effective.

I hope there is a special place in hell for Edward Snowden. Expressing your displeasure of acts performed by your government by leaking its secrets is treasonous at best. The murky world of politics and diplomacy is rife with espionage. The thing about it is that everyone does it, everyone knows it and the less said the better. We're no angels, but neither is the rest of the world.

Finally; I am coming out here in support of Paula Deen. I don't know much about her and only occasionally watch her shows. IMHO what she is guilty of doing certainly doesn't merit the punishment she's getting. She is guilty of some pretty poor PR work. We are so quick to condemn others when our own house is far from perfect. It would be nice to have a sponsor of one of these celebrities come out in support of them before jumping on the bandwagon and sacking them.

Friday, June 28, 2013

No Deal!

After hiring someone to watch our gate we sat sail for Ft. Worth just before three a.m. yesterday. We wanted to avoid traffic and the heat of the day, plus we wanted to get back as  soon as possible. Three hundred plus miles later we arrived at the RV dealership and began negotiations to trade our coach and car for a 5th wheel. This after we had spent hours on the phone with the dealer and sent photos along with a description of our coach. After about thirty minutes of inspecting the dealer announced that he would not make the trade. Apparently he wanted to pass it on to other buyers and they did not offer enough to make it worth his while. The 5th wheel was more or less as described, but some things gave me pause. The bathroom floor was soft and there was a stress crack along with some delamination of the body. Maybe the "big guy" was trying to tell us something. I guess we can do a little more organizing and cleaning since we have everything packed up. Doesn't make it any easier to swallow...

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Organized Chaos

When I was abandoned by "big corporate" and forced to move my semi retirement plans up, we were faced with downsizing from an entire house full of stuff-including a storage closet. At the time I was relegated to my lounge chair, recovering from heart surgery. Missy got some friends to help and they paraded by my chair all day long asking what I wanted to keep. Even though I trashed a lot of stuff, donated some and sold even more I was concerned that the poor motor home would be overweight. Missy weighed it and we made it with a few pounds to spare. Since then we have attacked the glut in the motorhome several times. I'm no hoarder, but obeying the "if you haven't used it in over a year, get rid of it" rule is extremely tough for me. I thought we had made a significant dent in the glut until moving day reared its ugly head again. People have a lot of things that they say they will never do again. My mother says she is packing up and leaving with out looking back if a hurricane ever destroys her house again. I personally do not want to ever transfer or move my stuff from one place to another ever again. Especially from RV to RV, house to RV, RV to get the idea. Missy has been doing a yeoman's job of packing up stuff (we thought it would be easier and faster if we boxed as much stuff up as possible) but we now have crap and boxes scattered from one end of the motorhome to the other. RVs and boats are unique in that the lack of space dictates that everything have a space and be in its space. That in itself is going to make the move a challenge. For years we have had the luxury of basement storage and now most of that space will be gone. We are excited about moving into our new digs-a 38 foot Open Range 5th wheel. Once things have calmed down, I will endeavor to post some pics and tell the tale of  swapping out rigs. Didn't I tell you-the 5th wheel is in Ft. Worth!