Sunday, February 22, 2015

Some Axioms

Spring, then summer, will eventually come. Hard to believe with all this cold, but true. Apparently the word has finally gotten around that; unless you find some shade somewhere, one air conditioner will struggle to cool an RV in the South Texas summer. Some of the more recalcitrant and ignorant RVers have found their units wanting when it comes to the issue of adding extra air conditioners. At the risk of sounding "preachy", here we go again. Do not buy an RV with 30 amp service if you plan to live and work in it fulltime. It trumps price or any other BS a salesman might tell you. As if you need further proof, many RVs with 50 amp service are already prewired for the second unit.

$100 - 200 is cheap when you start adding up the things that may need repair when you acquire a new or used RV. Pay the money and get the potential unit properly and thoroughly inspected.

While we're on the subject of repairs; purchasing a roadside emergency service plan is like money in the bank. Good Sam EVRS or Coach-Net are two that come to mind. Both can be had for under $150 a year. Avoid AAA or any other provider that does not deal specifically with RVs. I promise you it will pay for itself over time.

Try to keep up with the condition of your rig. It's easy to forget about that big diesel engine in the back of a motorhome; or the generator-wherever it is located. Both should be run regularly, with an electrical load on the generator. Basic things like tread wear, fluid levels, axle bearings and such should be monitored. Those of you towing should lavish attention on your truck. Without it where would you be?

Which leaves us with the final axiom. Ignore theses suggestions at your peril.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

2015 San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo

Some former military NCO's must be involved with the San Antonio Rodeo. It is organized, clean, safe and runs with a precision that would make any Swiss clockmaker proud. The fact that it has won the best indoor large rodeo for ten years straight attests to that. Rodeo; perhaps more than any other sport, goes out of its way to generate funding and support youth organizations. Everyone has their reasons for attending, but to me the only downer is that merchandising has almost overtaken what part of the grounds that the stock show doesn't use
San Antonio's rodeo also books top drawer entertainment, with acts ranging from One Direction to Jeff Foxworthy. One way to enjoy both the rodeo and the entertainment is to purchase Rodeo Star Experience tickets; which benefits a youth rodeo charity. However, this package is wildly popular and is limited to 200 people per event. Typically the San Antonio Rodeo announces and starts selling tickets for their entertainment in late October or early November for the following year's rodeo. We were determined to purchase the Rodeo Star Experience ticket package, so we stayed in contact with the Rodeo. Our efforts were rewarded as we scored tickets to Keith Urban. Now, I have to tell you I like Keith Urban, but I wouldn't call him my favorite artist. Perhaps it was the fact that our seats were within ten feet of the stage; but from the first note he had me. The man is a dynamo and a virtuoso on the guitar. He connects in an unassuming manner and obviously loves to share his virtuosity with the audience. The sounds emanating from four guys (the drummer had just been replaced and this was his first gig) was sublime. Suffice it to say that Keith moved up in my list of favorite musicians. It goes without saying that we found the San Antonio Stock and Rodeo Show Rodeo Star Experience more than worthwhile. Here's a brief synopsis of what's included. Grounds tickets, reserved and paid parking, rodeo seats in a reserved zone, two drinks a piece, a steak dinner with all the trimmings, seats down on the rodeo dirt directly in front of the revolving stage and a souvenir chair to keep. It's not cheap, but a couple just attending the rodeo (the concert is included) will easily spend at least half or more than we did. And that's without a meal and sitting in the rafters to boot. This easily made my list of top five concerts ever and the best entertainment for the money spent period. Go attend the rodeo and then you'll understand just how valuable the Rodeo Star Experience was.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Sad Truth About Fulltiming and Workamping

The road calls out to a lot of folks, kind of like the siren song of the mermaids did to mariners. Those of us that have answered the call soon find that the harsh face of reality hits you very hard and fast. Even supposedly well prepared folks find the costs eat into any savings you might have had. Those fortunate enough to have a retirement plan like social security or a IRA stand a better chance of survival. Then there are the working poor without supplemental income who have answered the call, faced reality, and continue to struggle to survive. Employers know they have a captive audience and take full advantage. For instance, they charge workers for site fees and keep your hours down to avoid paying benefits. Ironically, those minimal hours are what end up paying for your site. The best opportunities that I have found pay less than $1500 a month for a couple. Workamping sites tend to glamorize the lifestyle and are lean on the harsh truth of living on the road. How ironic it is that I rarely enjoy the travel part of living on wheels that I love so much. I envisioned getting to see the great United States, but got caught up in making a living wage.
You may wonder what got me rehashing over life on the road. While I remain optimistic, it would be foolhardy of me not to investigate life beyond the plum job of gate guarding that I find myself doing today. The sobering reality of falling oil prices is that cuts will affect all that are involved in the business. For gate guards it has manifested itself into a horrific winter for those hoping to find a gate. While there have been a few layoffs in the service sector, gate guards themselves have not been laid off, per se. They have however, not found many opportunities this winter. I am waiting for the ax to fall any day now on those that have been given a site to stay in whilst waiting for a gate. It has been a long standing tradition by gate guard companies to "put up" the gate guards they have on standby. I fear sheer economics will put and end to that tradition soon; their largesse just can't continue (some folks have set for weeks on end). Ironically, not only is there a huge divide between Workamping  and gate guarding wages (by more than half), the slowdown has cast more folks into the availability pool. The sheer amount of folks out there unfortunately allows the employer(s) to not only be more selective, but also pay inferior wages. It is a sad truth of workamping that someone will always take a position that most would not even consider. Even someone ignorant in economics can see that, if wages remain constant, a person can afford less and less. That's where workampers find themselves.

There are plenty of opportunities to make money travelling and working in this great country. Just remember that you have to pay for fuel and living expenses. You should also severely temper your expectations and have some sort of income stream, before embarking on the life of a workamper. As far as gate guarding goes; for the foreseeable future, it will suffer from the same malady that affects most workampers seeking winter work. The vast majority of workampers head south for the winter, making not only sites difficult to come by, but also, workamper opportunities to be very competitive. This year we suffered from the "perfect storm" in the oil patch-a glut of oil and way to many available candidates. I don't see it getting better anytime soon.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Alternative

I suppose some of you came to the oil patch as a first foray into the world of fulltiming. Hopefully, most of you had some experience making ends meet performing  some other type of endeavor. Especially those of you that have neither retirement/pension, social security or some other form of supplemental income. I say this because it has been the experience of many a workamper that the opportunities to make a decent living on the road are few and far between. It was that experience that has made us forever grateful for having stumbled into the world of gate guarding. Our first two years on the road were fraught with misery, watching every penny we spent and making agonizing decisions over what we could and couldn't afford. It was a no brainer; despite the challenges, to immerse ourselves full time into gate guarding. We take the occasional break, but otherwise treat this as a full time job. With the oil glut casting a gloomy outlook on gate guard work, it behooves all of us to explore other opportunities and to ensure we have the finances to transition back out into the workamping world. It never fails to befuddle me how employers expect workampers to make a decent living; especially with more and more resorts and campgrounds expecting part of your pay to go towards lot/site rent. It would seem to be a double edged sword-they want healthy, hard working folks; yet the vast majority of workampers are elderly or somewhat to fully disabled. I guess I might be wrong about that, since its based on anecdotal evidence, but you get my gist. They do; however, unfortunately have a captive audience, willing to perform just about any task. It wasn't my intent to come across as "Debbie downer", but a sad truth awaits most workampers seeking to make a living on the road.