Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The State of the Union

I am saddened more and more as each year passes and yet another State of the Union is delivered by an ineffective President at odds with a polarized Congress. I get the idea that I will not be one of the few with little or no desire to hear what the President has to say. Even sadder is the sense I get that we have lost our sense of nationalism as disparate immigrants seem to no longer have the desire to embrace and love this country. We have weakened the national resolve by fighting seeming endless and questionable conflicts. Our blood and treasure have been diverted and our country has suffered. In my humble opinion, the State of the Union should center on getting the horse back in front of the cart and getting our ship of state heading in a unified direction. It may be too late even for that. There are many sayings that reflect on the importance of learning from past mistakes to avoid repeating them. It does not take a scholar to see how profoundly this speaks of this country. I had the opportunity to travel and see countries that got caught up in the same morass as we're in. Places where they were at the forefront in technology, medicine, human rights, the arts; you name it. Visiting some of those places today is like seeing time come to a stop, or at least a crawl. This is not complicated folks. Egos will have to be set aside and openness and honesty will have to prevail. Funding needs to be directed inward to update and improve our infrastructure. No one wants to use an antiquated rail system, depend on an overloaded and aged power grid or travel on dilapidated highways. All that and more should be a source of national shame. We should have had high speed rail in place years ago. When I reflect on the men and women we lost in Vietnam and Southeast Asia and look at the thriving, communist country(s) that is there today, I am left to wonder where that threat to democracy went. Supposedly that is what we were there for. I look at the mid east now and see the same thing. Fallujah has fallen and Al Qaeda is back in control. Need I remind you of the sacrifices made there? Point is, all that funding could have been spent on improvements to this great country. There are many other sources of funds, but I somehow feel that dollars aren't the only answer. I see history repeating its self and have a far more dreary view of the State of the Union.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What Should I Bring Along

If you're new to gate guarding you will essentially become a fulltime RVer. An exception to the generally accepted description which usually entails getting rid of the stick and brick home and living in the RV. That's because a lot of gate guards retain their stick and brick home and do this gig part time. For those folks, deciding what to bring along is much simpler, and they have a home to store the rest of there stuff. Regardless, here's an incomplete list of things we cannot do with out and should be on board when you head out. (It's incomplete because I am sure everyone has some additional things they think are important).
Extension cords-both light and heavy duty
Zip ties and bungees
Rain gear
Several wide brimmed hats
A boot brush
Old towels of every size
A battery charger
A compressor (needs to be capable of inflating tire up to and sometimes over 100 psi)
Do you have the tools necessary to change the tire(s) on both the tow vehicle and trailer?
Speaking of tools; the DW may disagree, but I think you can never have enough
A generator (the rare times we have needed a generator proved how invaluable it is)
Totes of various sizes to keep things organized
Warm clothes, especially if you are a winter Texan
Hoses, fittings and PVC tubing to facilitate dumping
Hoses specifically for potable and non-potable water
Water (you should always have potable water on board)-you'll need drinking water and distilled water (for battery health)
Unless you want to take a potentially long trip to the store on moving/set up day have the fridge stocked and bring along non perishable foods
Try to make space for lumber; especially for 5vers and trailers. I made up wooden pads for the jacks to set on and you'll need lumber to level out the RV. You're not going to find it at most gates.
We lug along a small pallet to keep the stuff outdoors off the ground. (We have a freezer and smoker which I have left off the list since they aren't essential)
Tarps and moving blankets
Buy an emergency road service plan specifically meant for RV's (it'll pay for itself)
Are your propane tanks(s) full??
A complete first aid kit. Brushing up on first aid is not a bad idea either, as you will most likely be a long way from help.
I generally avoid carrying a lot of water along in the internal tank, but I like to be near to full when I'm headed to a new site. We have had to wait for the support trailer for a couple of days several times. Along those same lines you should perform a thorough dump of both gray and black water before heading to the new site.
Remoteness dictates that you should have the basic fluids necessary to replenish your vehicle, should it be needed.
A reliable phone-AT and T is the way to go in the oil patch. I think you should also look into a booster.
Don't forget personal hygiene items along with sundries.
Tape, caulk and glue
Games and hobbies for the downtime
Have cash on hand and make arrangements to do your banking-you are not likely to be close to a branch.
Basic office supplies, including a clipboard.
You can argue the necessity; but we can't get along without internet. Air cards will work, but severely limit the amount of data you can use. We are on satellite internet and wouldn't live without it.
You can also argue the necessity of subscription television, but we wouldn't live without it either.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Workplace Etiquette

We started as gate guards with Gate Guard Services. It is a good company and a great place to find out if gate guarding is the job for you. Soon after our arrival in the oil patch we started hearing rumors that there were companies paying much more money. Eventually the money was too hard to resist and we decided to move on. As a contractor there are a lot of blurred lines when it comes to chain of command and who actually is your supervisor. You are essentially a commodity to be used by a company where and when they need you. Conversely, you sit idle if not needed. The fact that Gate Guard Services was embroiled in a law suit, the crux of which was whether a gate guard should be considered an employee and paid accordingly, also muddied things up. A lot of folks were doing a dance, not wanting to be observed in activities that could be construed as giving a gate guard anything that resembled supervision. Having worked at "big corporate" all my life, I figured the proper thing to do would be to give Gate Guard Services as much notice as possible. Apparently you can give notice to your service person based on the response from whom I considered to be my manager. Despite my offer to remain on the gate if he couldn't find a replacement, he said as contractors we could go where and when we wanted. As far as he was concerned we'd be back in a couple of weeks anyway. Whatever the unwritten word is in the world of gate guarding (or contracting) I am going to attempt to leave on good terms and give as much notice as possible. The old adage that you shouldn't burn your bridges behind you applies in almost every endeavor in life.

The Speed I Prefer

Gate guarding has a lot of likable attributes. If not, we'd all go stark raving mad pretty quickly (maybe we will anyway). You have an opportunity to meet and socialize with a lot of people and probably will make more money than you ever would working out of your RV. However, no matter what they pay me, I have a speed I am comfortable with. It helps to be good with numbers and to be able to pick out a series and remember it. All this with more traffic and more info to record while your doing it. I consider my self to be pretty good with numbers, but my memory is not as sharp as it used to be. For us, the magic number is around 200 vehicles a day before we start contemplating bodily harm to ourselves or some innocent victim. I know there are some of you that regularly blow that number out of the water. If you're one of those super humans or aberrations that can knock out twelve pages a day or so; more power to you. I keep a piece of scrap paper on my clipboard all the time as a crib sheet. Even so, when traffic gets heavy and I forget a number or two, I start to freak out. My speed is to have the amount of vehicular traffic to be able to occasionally go inside the RV and decompress for a few minutes (sometimes longer) and return to the battle with a fresh perspective. The gates that require me to be out side in a state of constant readiness are just not my style. No time to pee, to cook, to clean, relax...you get the idea. We are now on a gate that rarely sees five minutes elapse before another vehicle hits the cattle guard. We are determined to make the best of it, especially since the pay is so good. Our boss told us that we would never look at a gate the same way after working an electrical contract and boy was he right. Our first stint with this company was on an electrical contract and boy did we get spoiled. We unlocked the gate in the morning to let the workers in and repeated the process at night. In between there was little traffic. Talk about an easy job! Now, if I could just find a gate that paid well at the speed I prefer...

Friday, January 10, 2014

A Matter of Choice

Since our start in the oil field, about three years ago, we have worked for four gate guard companies. If you're a little insecure about being off the grid Gate Guard Services is the place to be. It's rare that they leave you hanging when a problem arises and the wait between gates isn't normally bad. It's almost equivalent to concierge service in the oil patch. As I've said in previous post(s), the amount of B.S. I'll take from a gate guard company is tempered by the amount they are paying me. When we made the jump from GGS to J and G it almost equaled out to an extra pay check a month. I'm still befuddled by folks who won't better their position in life over something as trivial as a "yard" to park in between gates. For an extra check a month I'll find a place to squat for a day or two. Besides, when we come off a gate we don't want to stay in the oil patch anyway. J and G isn't bad and the equipment has come a long way since we started with them. We rarely saw anyone from the "office" and found we actually preferred that. Lest you think we are jumping around from job to job, let me explain. One stop was in between assignments with J and G to cover a Sitewatch gate as a favor to their owner/boss. (The guards had a medical emergency) The owner of Sitewatch does not like anything posted on the Internet, so I hope he'll forgive me. They are a first class operation, pay extremely well (but pay you as a employee) and are extremely difficult to sign on with. Other than that we have worked for J and G for over two and a half years; a long time in the oil patch. Now we are faced with change again as we avail ourselves of a better opportunity. We have come a long way since that first gate outside of Kenedy. I vividly remember how forlorn we felt after the service person left after setting us up. That was tempered by the excitement we felt by taking on a challenge and finally pulling out of the financial nosedive that workamping was for us. Our new employer provides little in the way of support equipment. However, the basics are there, and we are up to the challenge. For us the pay is what matters and putting up with a little inconvenience is a matter of choice.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


It's 2014 (the year really doesn't matter) and there is a law in place requiring you to purchase health insurance through federal and state programs. If you don't; you face fines and possible forfeiture of personal property.

There apparently is a law (whose enactment a lot of us must have slept through) that is slowly banning the production and sale of incandescent bulbs. 75 and 100 watt bulbs have already bit the dust and now the 40 and 60 watt bulbs have joined them.
Finally, from what I understand, Hillary Clinton is both a viable and leading candidate for president. The Republicans have no idea who is running.
Pardon me as I am conducting a reality check.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Markies

The Markie Awards for 2013

The Most Horrific Award again goes to Mother Nature- Moore, OK and the Philippines-need I say more?

The Most Brazen Award goes to Congress for their unabashed acceptance of pay for a job left wanting.

The Foot in Your Mouth Award is shared by Paula Deen and Phil Robertson.

The "Oh Shit Moment" Award is shared by Asiana Airlines and UPS.

The Obfuscation Award is shared by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama (this was a closely fought battle)

The Missed Opportunity Award goes to the entire Republican Party.

The Wasted Effort Award goes to the entire Republican Party who tried to rescind Obamacare over thirty times, wasting millions of our dollars.

The "I thought they'd Blink" Award goes to Ted Cruz.

The Teflon Award goes to Hillary Clinton - Can she simply take the blame for something?

The You can get away with anything in a college Town Award goes to the Tallahassee Police Department.

The We hear you but could you dial it back a Bit Award goes to the LGBT community. PLEASE no hate mail - just stating a fact!

The Can't we find work for these People Award goes to our local, state and national leaders. Is there not some sort of community service that the unemployed/underemployed can perform to earn their keep and retain their dignity?

The Movie of the Year Award goes to Her. Since no one seems to have seen it we're giving it to Gravity.

The Song of the Year Award goes to Robin Thicke and Blurred Lines. I think the song title says it all.

The Legislation of the Year Award is shared by Obamacare and Colorado's legalization of marijuana

We were unable to award a most significant passing award. Here's a nod to Nelson Mandela, our service men and women, the special ops community, the men and women of law enforcement, firefighters - including smoke jumpers and a slew of actors and luminaries who enriched our lives, to name a few.

Happy New Year to everyone, especially my subscribers!