Monday, February 25, 2013

Re-Hashing the Gate Guard Gig

I have a lot of friends and acquaintances who do the full timing thing in their RV and most agree you either are cut out for it or you're not. For us the adventure and the chance to meet new folks played a big part in our decision to pull up stakes and hit the road. The gate guarding gig is the same deal except money was the driver. Simple as that. Whether it's dust, mud, heat, cold, smells, noise, etc. we focus on the money. Just like the full-time RV lifestyle, you either are content doing it or your not. So many folks have asked me what we do as gate guards, especially with the down time. To us having hobbies is indispensable along with satellite television and Internet. Developing a well rounded lifestyle makes life on the gate much easier. The adage of work hard and play hard truly applies here. We find it curious that folks place so much value on having a company yard to park in between assignments. We hit the road and head to a RV park just outside of San Antonio in between assignments. It gets us away from the oil patch and lets us enjoy the amenities of the big city. As we work through our second year as gate guards I can't even begin to numerate the many things we've learned. I do know the experience has made us better persons. Both of us are more resolute and assured in all we do. On a more practical note, we have become so appreciative of the value of water and hooking into the grid. At the same time we are supremely confident in our ability to either boon-dock or live completely off the grid. We know our water consumption and tank capacities and how long we can go before servicing. We have also gotten to know our motor home inside and out. The bottom line is that we have been unable to find a line of work that pays as well as gate guarding; especially with my heart condition.  Having the added bonus of being surrounded by associates that care for one another is just an added benefit and blessing.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Something positive for a Change

We finally got offered a gate and relocated from our R and R campground (Hidden Valley) in Von Ormy to our new gate. As usual the folks at Hidden Valley treated us very well at a very reasonable cost. As always we highly recommend you put Hidden Valley high on your list of places to stay in South Texas. 

One of the rewards of campground life is meeting folks who share a lot of the same interests that you do. Good times and stories shared with fellow nomads are and added benefit. We got to see the good and bad side of Canadians and tried to enjoy both. We had a wonderful time with a couple of Cajuns from Louisiana and got to know a few of the very colorful locals. So, even though we were tired of sitting, it was an enjoyable and well spent three weeks.

As posted previously we spent more money on the coach and this time we were rewarded with an uneventful move. The new tires handled well and the shifting anomalies seemed to have all but disappeared now that the throttle and fuel control have been adjusted. Wayne, the mechanic and the folks from the tire shop with Billy Bob's Tire and Mobile Repair were fair, knew their stuff  and reasonable.

Once we got settled it was time for the dreaded internet satellite set-up. At our last gate I paid special attention to the tech who came out to help us aim the dish. I was especially determined this time because the tech claimed he preferred setting up the internet satellite to satellite television and I consider myself an ace at setting up the Dish satellite. Surprise surprise! I was able to aim the internet satellite and lock it in pretty quickly. What a relief! I have very mixed feelings about WildBlue primarily because of their awful customer service and questionable technicians. The equipment is fragile and susceptible to damage, which is not good for us RV folks. I have to say that when it is up it is blazing fast and reliable. The unlimited internet from midnight till 5 a.m. is a nice bonus and I have found a treasure trove of free movies, television series and specials from Netflix which we stream with our WII. I am beginning to believe that WildBlue is not unlike Dish which suffers from the same maladies. Once we tackled aiming and troubleshooting our Dish network on our own; life has been a lot easier. I think once I get proficient with WildBlue, my opinion may change.

We are glad to be back making money and thankful for all the support we got during our unplanned hiatus.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Some Facts

Here is a fact check on some of President Obama's key points in his State of the Union Address. The "smoke and mirrors" with the job count particularly bothers me. As I have said during campaigns President's can promise the moon but they still have to get through Congress. The following is from Yahoo.

OBAMA: "After years of grueling recession, our businesses have created over 6 million new jobs."
THE FACTS: That's in the ballpark, as far as it goes. But Obama starts his count not when he took office, but from the point in his first term when job losses were the highest. In doing so, he ignores the 5 million or so jobs that were lost on his watch, up to that point.
Private sector jobs have grown by 6.1 million since February 2010. But since he became president, the gain is a more modest 1.9 million.
And when losses in public sector employment are added to the mix, his overall jobs record is a gain of 1.2 million.
OBAMA: "We have doubled the distance our cars will go on a gallon of gas."
THE FACTS: Not so fast.
That's expected to happen in 12 more years.
Under a deal the Obama administration reached with automakers in 2011, vehicles will have a corporate average fuel economy of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, twice the 27 miles per gallon, on average, that cars and trucks get today. Automobile manufacturers won't start making changes to achieve the new fuel economy standards until model year 2017. Not all cars will double their gas mileage, since the standard is based on an average of a manufacturers' fleet.
OBAMA: "Already the Affordable Care Act is helping to reduce the growth of health care costs."
THE FACTS: The jury is still out on whether Obama's health care overhaul will reduce the growth of health care costs. It's true that cost increases have eased, but many experts say that's due to the sluggish economy, not to the health care law, whose main provisions are not yet fully in effect.
OBAMA: "Real reform means establishing a responsible pathway to earned citizenship — a path that includes passing a background check, paying taxes and a meaningful penalty, learning English and going to the back of the line behind the folks trying to come here legally."
THE FACTS: The seemingly stern admonition that illegal immigrants must go to the back of the line, often heard from the president, doesn't appear to have much practical effect except in the most obvious sense. Everyone who joins a line, whether for a movie, a coffee or citizenship, starts at the back of that particular line. It's not clear he is saying anything more than that illegal immigrants won't get to cut in line for citizenship once they've obtained provisional legal status.
Like those living abroad who have applied to come to the U.S. legally, illegal immigrants who qualify for Obama's proposed path to citizenship will surely face long waits to be processed. But during that time, they are already in the U.S. and will get to stay, work and travel in the country under their new status as provisional immigrants, while those outside the U.S. simply have to wait.
Sending illegal immigrants to the "back of the line" is something of a distinction without a difference for some legal immigrants who dutifully followed all the rules before coming to the United States.
For instance, some legal immigrants who are in the U.S. on an employer-sponsored visa can't easily change jobs, or in some cases take a promotion, without jeopardizing their place in line to get a green card. In other cases, would-be legal immigrants in other countries wait for years to be able to settle in the U.S.
Obama is using "back of the line" somewhat figuratively, because there are multiple lines depending on the applicant's relationship with family already in the U.S. or with an employer. Generally, a foreign-born spouse of a U.S. citizen or someone with needed skills and a job offer will be accepted more quickly than many others.
But even as a figurative point, his assertion may cloak the fact that people who came to the U.S. illegally and win provisional status have the great advantage over applicants abroad of already being where they all want to go.
OBAMA: "Study after study shows that the sooner a child begins learning, the better he or she does down the road. ... And for poor kids who need help the most, this lack of access to preschool education can shadow them for the rest of their lives. ... Every dollar we invest in high-quality early education can save more than $7 later on — by boosting graduation rates, reducing teen pregnancy, even reducing violent crime."
THE FACTS: Dozens of studies have shown Head Start graduates are more likely to complete high school than their at-risk peers who don't participate in the program. But a study last year by the Department of Health and Human Services that found big vocabulary and social development gains for at-risk students in pre-kindergarten programs also found those effects largely faded by the time pupils reached third grade. The report didn't explain why the kids saw a drop-off in performance or predict how they would fare as they aged.
OBAMA: "I urge this Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change, like the one John McCain and Joe Lieberman worked on together a few years ago. But if Congress won't act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy."
THE FACTS: Obama failed to get a global warming bill through Congress when both Houses were controlled by Democrats in 2010. With Republicans in control of the House, the chances of a bill to limit the gases blamed for global warming and to create a market for businesses to trade pollution credits are close to zero. The Obama administration has already acted to control greenhouse gases through existing law. It has boosted fuel-efficiency standards and proposed rules to control heat-trapping emissions from new power plants. And while there are still other ways to address climate change without Congress, it's questionable regulation alone can achieve the reductions needed to start curbing global warming.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Pack Rat

For me there is little more difficult than parting with things. I do not consider myself to be materialistic; I understand that you can't take it with you and that, especially in a RV, it all requires space to store it. Some of my more aggravating habits are due to my being miserly. I reuse everything, trying to eke out it's maximum value. For example; I have a water bottle in the fridge that I have reused countless times and paper towels get rung out to dry for reuse. My father was notorious for keeping used items squirrelled away in hopes they would find some future use. I remember my Mom flipping out when the bulb she found in my Dad's treasure trove didn't work. Blogs and websites are littered with warnings to keep what you lug about to a minimum. I downsized and sold my brick and mortar home (actually a trailer) right after major surgery. Missy took advantage of that as she loaded the RV. As I lay recovering in my lounge chair (another item I dearly loved-it had massage and heat) she would parade by asking me if I really needed or wanted one thing after another. For me certain things represented parts of my life and getting rid of them meant leaving that behind. Anyway; we have been carrying around a ton of stuff and we attacked it yesterday. I had a couple of collapsible chairs that I won at chili cookoffs. Both of them had a broken plastic attachment rendering them useless. I couldn't bear parting with them because they were embroidered with the time and place of the cookoff. I also had two collapsible tables with various broken pieces. Well, we made one chair and one table out of the two and chucked the rest. The basement in an RV is much like the ones found in houses, and there's no telling what you'll find. As our cleanup progressed, we encountered manuals for items we no longer owned and boxes that lay empty. I rationalized that the empty boxes might be useful should we have to send item(s) in for repair, or that they would add value to the item(s) should we sell them. In a way, I guess it was cathartic and I reveled in our new found space. Today, we attack the basement again and my baseball hats are on the hit list. I must have over 100 hats that I have owned for over twenty years and they have traveled many a mile with me. I remain resolute in my mission to clean house and rid myself of "things" that are of no use. The only items I refuse to part with are my stuffed animal souvenirs and TY bears. Ain't gonna happen!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Should have kept my mouth Shut??

We have been on the sidelines for about two weeks and are starting to get a wee bit antsy. We try to keep in touch with the gate guard community and it paid off. We got a call from a fellow gate guard who said her boss was looking for some good hands. It turns out that it was only a short gig; just a few days to cover a rig move. I told the man to give me a minute and I'd call him back. You see, I have this thing about loyalty and I wanted to run the idea by my boss. Actually, as a contractor he's not my boss. I guess you'd call him the liaison for the company we contract out to. Whatever! It shows the respect we have for the man that we keep him up to date on what we're up to. Well we talked for a bit and he allowed as to how he'd prefer we not be off doing something else in case something popped. I countered by saying that he ought to put us on some sort of retainer if he wants us to sit here and play tiddly winks. He offered to pay for at least a week of our charges at the RV park where we are situated. That's not near the income we'd make on a gate, but it was enough to make me sit a bit longer. I have to admit I have mixed feelings about this whole contractor thing when it comes to relations with the folks you work with. I tried to do right by the last company we worked for when we were contemplating leaving and the liaison/boss was a real jerk. I took solace in the fact that I tried to do the right thing. I even sent a thank you note to corporate and a couple of e-mails out to folks I'd worked with. I didn't want to burn any bridges. I never heard from any of them. People will tell you that none of that matters as a contractor. Some folks will tell you I should have kept my mouth shut and jumped at the opportunity to work for a few days. I'm never sure who I'm beholden to; but on the gate I try mightily to keep the company man happy along with the folks who work for the exploration company. I figure if they aren't complaining my boss/liaison will be satisfied. Like many things in gate guarding, little is written in stone for you. There are no manuals and you had better keep an open mind and ask lots of questions if you want to succeed. Or; maybe I should have kept my mouth shut?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Even More Musings!

My dear readers never know what to expect when they see the Musings title. It's kind of my way of getting things I wonder about off my chest. It also frees me from following whatever the title I've chosen for a blog.
First off; apparently a lot of you find me via whatever search engine you prefer. That is fine, but there is a simpler way. All you have to do is click on "join this site" and, whenever I get around to publishing another episode, it will appear in your in box.
Am I the only one who has noticed the alarming amount of pedestrians who are dying  on San Antonio streets? Almost without exception they chose to cross a street outside of the pedestrian crossing or stoplight. And a lot of them are killed at night with dark clothes on. Missy and I have witnessed it many times; including a real dumbas* who ran the gauntlet not only once but twice, making a return crossing. All while we watched, patiently waiting our turn to enter traffic. Let's not leave out the drunks. My goodness, they have taken out houses, trees, garage doors and businesses-to name a few. If your smart enough to use the designated crosswalk it apparently isn't enough as a young bicycle rider tragically found out recently. The latest escapade was a intoxicated young man exceeding 100 mph on city streets; hitting a medium, flying over a bridge guard rail and sailing down onto the tracks below where an oncoming train demolished the car. He survived; his passengers didn't. If it wasn't so tragic it might be a little humorous. We marvel at the news which we refer to as the body count. I would love to see the pedestrian versus car and accident stats for San Antonio, it can't be good.
The super blackout. I thought I had heard everything; including that something that BeyoncĂ© did caused it. Today there was an expose on the incident and it revealed a superb example of bureaucratic bungling. Apparently the problem was exposed many months ago, funds were approved and then no one seemed capable of getting the job done. The president of whatever organization runs the Superdome raised it to an emergency repair citing possible injury or fire from whatever was wrong. And still the job did not get done. Now the Mayor has established an investigative committee and promises to get to the bottom of it. There might be an update here in a few months.
Do not be surprised if you can't flush your toilet at your local McDonalds the next time you visit. A pair of thieves has been making off with the flush mechanisms. Is there money in toilet fixtures?
In the news for you gate guards out there-Congress has slashed the tax breaks for corporate jets and oil companies. Obama's agenda to exorcise all the "dirty fuels" out there continues. I believe the "salad days" for gate guards is over.

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Loss for our Country

Chris Kyle was allegedly killed, along with his neighbor and friend, by a former Marine in Glen Rose, Texas. Chris was attempting to counsel the Marine who suffered from PTSD. Although he achieved notoriety for his kill count (over 150), Chris was also an advocate for his fellow service members suffering from PTSD. He was a family man and noted author with 2 Silver Stars and 5 Bronze Stars. He will be remembered by Seal Team Three  and the entire Seal community, both for his valor and for having penned the  Naval Special Warfare Sniper Doctrine. He was a true hero and larger than life. RIP Chis!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Conundrum and Pespective

I have worked both sides of the street; as a supervisor and as a hourly employee. I have worked in retail, restaurants, as a laborer, and supervised 30-50 employees. I have been responsible for setting sale prices after factoring in the wholesale cost and submitted and ran budgets for whole departments. I say all this so that you know my background and the basis for my opinion(s). I realize that folks have to make a living and I am willing to pay them for their expertise. To me it's kind of like paying for a meal-if it's over a certain amount it better knock my socks off. Time after time we have paid for goods and services and not been satisfied. We paid a technician a ton of money to repair our heat pump and it ran all of twenty minutes before quitting. And we removed the unit and delivered it to him; which was no small task! I guess I wouldn't succeed out there because I would have offered to remove the unit and repair it to make things right. This guy wants me to remove the unit to facilitate the repair and reinstall it when he's done. If I wasn't paying him it might not be such a big deal. What set me off today is that our second heat pump is also not working and he has diagnosed it as needing a hard start kit. He quoted me $250 if I removed and opened it up for him. A friend and I were chatting later that day and he said "Why don't you install the kit yourself?" Well, I made a call to the local RV supply shop and its going to cost me less than $20 to get the kit. In my humble opinion, the disparity is not worth the techs expertise. The problem in a nutshell is that I've spent a ton of money trying to get the heat pumps operating and, at some point, I have to cut my losses. I paid another technician/mechanic a goodly sum of money to go over my entire engine and ensure that it would not overheat or breakdown on me. If I get an uninterrupted good run out of it I will call it money well spent. See; I'm not so difficult. The whole mentality by repair shops and dealers that owners of boats and RV's can afford to pay higher prices for parts and repairs is aggravating to me. I also watched my father pay premium prices to keep his sport fisherman running. All you entrepreneurs out there listen up! There is a demand for honest, fair priced, mechanics and parts sales out there. Never buy anything for your RV or boat before shopping around!