Thursday, July 24, 2014

Preparedness for the Road

Sometimes I hesitate a bit when writing about the care and maintenance of the RVs that I and a lot of my acquaintances live and sometimes work out of. I don't want to come across as some haughty know it all. As some of my dear readers know, I am a licensed aircraft mechanic and have had tools in my hand for as long as I can remember. Additionally I went to my fathers mechanic "school" where I learned most, if not all of my basic mechanical knowledge.
A lot of the misfortune on the road can be traced back to the owner of the rig. Here are just a few examples that are sometimes overlooked.
All RVs are sensitive to weight and tire pressure. You should endeavor to weigh your rig (fully loaded) before heading anywhere. The gross weight of your rig is the determining factor in the amount of air that should be in your tires. There should be a data plate, manual or some reference you can use to verify the cold tire pressure of your particular rig. Incorrect tire pressure causes a lot of tire failures. Here is a tip. Most manufacturers err on the side of caution, so you should not have to sacrifice ride comfort to conform to posted tire pressure recommendations. It has been my experience that five pounds either direction will not overly tax the tire. If you have any doubts, consult a tire shop knowledgeable about RVs or talk to the manufacturer. If you are still in doubt, go by the inflation suggestions on the tire side wall.
If, despite your best efforts, you suffer a blowout you need to be prepared. The majority of Class A owners will have to call a road service. The tires and wheels are of semi truck size and weight, preventing the owner from performing a tire change. You should check your spare's condition and inflation pressure regularly. Additionally, I recommend an emergency road service club of some kind-it will pay for itself over time. If you're in a tow behind or 5ver you should be able to change the tire yourself. I'm not as strong as I used to be and suffer from heart disease; however, with Missy's help, I can change the tires on our 5ver. More than likely you will not find a jack or lug wrench in your RV; so make sure you buy them. If your trailer is a dual axle you can improvise by cobbling together a ramp to run up on and raise the flat tire for change. You can also buy a ramp which is available on Amazon and at other retailers.

Both RVs with their engines buried in the rear and your tow vehicle suffer from hard use. The RV is especially problematic since most vital components are buried in the back, typically beneath a small access panel. PAY A MECHANIC IF YOU CAN'T OR DON'T WANT TO PERFORM SOME OR ALL OF THESE SUGGESTIONS. Let me insert a quick tip to you noobs out there along with new or first time Class A pushers and tow vehicles. If the maintenance records are lacking or non existent, change all the fluids, including fuel and water separators (where applicable). Also have a mechanic do a once over of the engine and drivetrain, paying special attention to the hoses, belts and clamps. I recommend that any hoses or belts over two years old or that you have any question about be changed. A lot of Class A's (especially diesels) have air dryers which are designed to remove the moisture caused by condensation from the air lines. These dryers have filters and cartridges that need to be changed periodically and they tend to get forgotten. Lest you think that is not important, remember that a lot of diesel pushers rely on the air for brakes and suspension. Another often neglected task is to regularly inspect your fuel filters and drain the water separators. When we owned a diesel pusher we kept spare fuel filters and separators along with a filter wrench onboard. Typically, most RV owners fail to accrue any significant miles on an annual basis. This raises the question of when to perform periodic maintenance which a lot of times is based on mileage (usually 5000 to 7500 miles for gas rigs and 10,000 to 15,000 for diesels). The simple answer is to set a date and change the oil and other fluids, regardless of the mileage, every twelve months. Refer to your manufacturer recommendations otherwise.

I regularly hear reports of folks who have broke down on the road and found themselves stranded. You can add us to that list. A good road service is invaluable. You can lessen your chances of being one of those by performing periodic maintenance on a regular basis.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Incompetence, Questionable Privacy Concerns and MS13 Mastering the System

If you've still have doubts of at least someone in the Obama administration being complicit in the current Mexican border crisis, just look around at  I don't know about you, but I doubt anyone is that prescient.
 Mayors and city officials throughout the United States are awakening to find tens of hundreds of illegal, unaccompanied minors housed in their municipalities. Cries of protest have been countered by the Obama administration, citing privacy concerns for the minors trumped notifying the cities in question. I can't make this up folks.

Finally; and this is scary, it turns out that a lot of the unaccompanied minors are gang members. Please tell me you are not surprised. Not only are they gang members, they are members of MS13, a group that has proliferated throughout the country. Identifying them has not been difficult, as they are proud of their affiliation, sport distinctive tattoos and regale anyone who will listen of their bloody exploits. Frustrated officials tell of encounters with stone cold murderers and their inability to do anything due to their minor status.

All around the world we continue to find countries ruled by terrorist organizations. Hamas and Gaza come to mind, for one. Are we that far away from having cartel's rule and run countries just south of us? Call it a stretch, but groups like MS13 have me wondering if that fate won't befall us sooner than later. You think about that.


Sunday, July 20, 2014

In Memoriam

We lost James Garner (one of my faves), Elaine Stritch (consummate star of stage and film) and Johnny Winter this week. May they rest in peace.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Sounds of Silence

After the shoot down and murder of almost three hundred innocent passengers and crew on a Malaysia Air 777, I was too stunned to write or say anything. Unfortunately, it's happened before, with the aggressor at least taking some responsibility. I think a variety of things have me wrangling over this incident. I'm trying to understand what it takes to gets folks riled these days. The mass murder of children seems to still do it; but all the rhetoric resulted in little or no change in regards to safety in schools. The day of this latest tragedy all the powers to be paraded on the media expressing outrage and indignation. All of this concern for the preservation of the crash scene and recovery of the black boxes will be for naught. All the voice and data recorders and debris will tell us is when and where this doomed flight met its end. We already know most of the useful information that can be gleaned from it. The most important goal should be finding and prosecuting those responsible. Unless something extraordinary occurs and the world is offered a "sacrificial lamb", I fear that will never happen. I have long said that all the rhetoric and goodwill in the universe will not result in peace as long as your average "Joe blow" has access to instruments of mass (and indiscriminate) murder. We are seeing and experiencing what should be a "wake up call";  weapons capable of raining unimaginable death and destruction in the hands of zealots and radicals. I have known some shady characters and never have been offered a machine gun or plastic explosive(s). I have no idea how to get the genie back in the bottle. The news last night finished with a poignant overview of the missile system that purportedly took down the Malaysian Air jetliner. It showed how the operator is ensconced inside the vehicle with no view to the outer world; simply a radar screen and some switches and buttons. Death and destruction at the flip of a switch; indiscriminate and without remorse.  There are at least forty conflicts currently in progress in the world today. Like a forest fire I see it eventually spreading and us getting caught up in the conflagration. Like a lot of you out there, I'm not sure how to express my outrage. But I refuse to be silent-hopefully this blog expresses that.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

An Adjustment in Lifestyle

Our boss has always been more than fair with us. We have taken exception to his management style on occasion, but all in all we have had a pretty good relationship for over two years. As some of you know we have ventured off a time or two, but we always seem to end up back at J&G. Our return to the fold this time was problematic, to say the least. We had two false starts and an extremely short emergency call out. All along, Justin (our boss) assured us he would make it up to us. In fact, after the second false start, we were given travel money and a paid stay at an RV park. Perhaps you can see why we find it hard to find fault with J&G.
We have finally landed at what will hopefully be a fairly long term gate. It is not your traditional oil gate, although there are wells and facilities here. There is also a guard on the main gate who controls that traffic and will also be allowing our traffic in. Our traffic will be for the construction of a pipeline. There are a lot of benefits to having someone else opening and closing the gate, plus the pipeline does not have near the traffic of an oil gate. The pipeline also rarely works at night and usually has at least one weekend day off. It has been and is quite an adjustment.
With the time we have at hand, our boss suggested that we work some of the pipeline's ancillary gates, which would help him and supplement our income. That "day or two a week" job morphed into an opportunity for Missy to oversee the "day gates" (essentially gate openers on private land, most of whom also have to record their traffic) and the night watchman position.  Someone had to ensure the gates were covered, people were in place, those people got paid, etc. Someone also had to be available to liaise with the company representative. That all became too much for both Justin and our field manager (J&G also has a flourishing oil gate business, in case you forgot); hence the offer to Missy. So much for all our free time; but the devil loves idle hands-right? We still have nights and Sunday together. We are also making a ton of money, since we have more than doubled our income-the most we have ever made in the patch.
So, here we are, back on a gate (or close to one) and working in the oil patch. As I have said in past posts, we have been unable to find employment as fulltimers that pays as much as the oil patch. To be able to make that money without monitoring a gate or having to deal with fracs or drilling will require an adjustment in lifestyle. You'll have to pardon us if we do it with a smile on our faces.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Preparedness and Peace of Mind

I know most of us have discussed in one form or another the things needed to perform the duties of a gate guard. Even so, I continue to get questions and continue to share my thoughts on the subject. Today we were placed on a gate and; oddly enough, as we wound down this seeming endless caliche road, my phone rang. It was the service person in front of us and he half seriously queried whether we had stocked up on groceries, given the distance we had covered. When an experienced person makes a comment like that, you know you're in the boonies. I replied that we were indeed prepared and had at least a weeks worth of groceries and more on board. I didn't even have to think about it. If we are not going on time off and have a day or two between gates we always shop and prepare ourselves in case we get "the call". It's second nature. We shop, we clean and we relax. We try to eat healthy; but that can be difficult, given the distance we sometimes are from stores and fresh food. Some guards buy in bulk, some buy freezers and stock up, some buy prepackaged/dehydrated foods; the options are endless. We like the meals in a box and have a small freezer we lug around. All the equipment in the world is not going to help slake your thirst or quell your appetite. Just as a quick example, we always go to a gate with a case of water, a five gallon jug of water, a variety of juices and teas, fresh bread (we sometimes make our own), a wide variety of canned goods, frozen dinners and vegetables, snacks, dairy products-including milk, and boxed meals. (Don't forget the PB&J LOL) We stretch the on board foodstuffs by occasionally purchasing fresh goods, including something to put into the smoker. We then split that into several meals. We rarely go into town between paydays or every two weeks or so. It's a lifestyle and it requires discipline to implement. Once you are forced to do without or travel 100 miles or more to get to the market and back, you'll start to figure it out. After a while it will become second nature and you to will have the peace of mind that comes from knowing you are prepared.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

I Saw America and Didn't Like It

I have said many times of late that I am becoming my father. I have less patience, am less tolerant and long for the "good old days". A lot of what my parents taught me is just now sinking in.
We went to Schlitterbahn yesterday thinking a Tuesday might be a good day to avoid the crowds. By the way, follow this link to their website if you want to see an "all American couple" . I know some of you are groaning out there, saying here he goes again. My point is the photo is what is becoming a rarer and rarer example of what we used to be like. If someone resembling that photo was in attendance there yesterday, I missed them. We certainly did not miss the crowds as there were lines everywhere except the bathrooms. Which just got me to thinking... I fail to see the attraction of these large parks. Who wants to wait in line for hours for a minute or two of thrills? But I digress (as usual). America, you are chubby. Let's face it you're just fat. Not that I'm svelte, by any means. IMHO people that are overweight do not belong in bikini's, spandex or thongs. The image of a pregnant woman wearing a bikini is stuck in my brain. I do not wish to discriminate against you, just wear something appropriate. Hey America! In your pursuit of political correctness and elimination of corporal punishment you have raised a truly frightfully behaving bunch of kids. (My sincere apologies in advance to those of you that are and have raised polite, disciplined children). And where are Mom and Dad when these kids are terrorizing everyone? Now I am really going to piss a lot of you off out there. When I was a young buck and had the chance to explore the seedier side of San Francisco, I marveled at and even enjoyed some of the debauchery that went on. It was a novelty to see same sex couples showing affection in public and holding hands. Call me a bigot or an "old fuddy duddy", but I don't want to see that in an amusement park or in my local grocery store. Hell, I don't want to see anyone being overtly affectionate in public. (DO NOT LABEL ME AS A GAY BASHER, PLEASE!) I realize that I am swimming against the tide, but I can hope and reminisce. Moving on. Somewhere along the line America lost its innocence because there were some girls in attendance yesterday that were not trying to hide anything. At some point the difference between a "G" string and a bikini must have got blurred. Again, I guess I am swimming against the tide, but I wouldn't want my daughter exposed like that till she comes of age. Finally; let's discuss tats. Again, I must have missed something. America, did you go tribal in the last twenty years? Tattoo's use to be somewhat risque and/or they were applied discreetly. Even in the progenitor of them all, the armed forces, they can't be seen when in uniform. Now it seems as if everyone is wearing ink; including kids. Yesterday was a wake up call for me. I really don't think I've been oblivious, I just didn't realize the immense social change that has occurred over the last few years. If only that smiling, wholesome couple in the Schliiterbahn promotional photo was exemplary of our country...