Warmer Weather; Busy Gate

Yesterday was jammed pack full of stuff, which I suppose is a good thing because I have been running out of things to write about.  The day started off well with an hour long meeting for our summer job, where I got more details about the position and some insight into my role.  I am very excited about it and think it is going to be a great summer, mainly because the people are nice and for a change in one of these jobs I will get to use my brain.  Let’s face it, gate guarding isn’t that mentally challenging.  On the rare occasion you might get something that takes a little thought, but mostly it’s get up, walk to the truck, write down the name and license plate, go sit back down.  Not tough stuff.

But that’s been ok for me, because I fill my down time with more creative pursuits and since I work nights I generally have lots of creative time.  Last night however was crazy busy.  The Frack phase ended and the work over phase began which meant a switch out of teams and equipment.  The traffic was at least four times what I usually get and there were lots of big trucks coming in and out.  The decent part was the weather has gotten warmer so I didn’t mind standing outside most of the night, but since this is our first time working between the frack and next phase I was completely unprepared for the volume.

Don’t get me wrong, I view this job as a job and make sure that I treat any downtime I have as extra, but I am also a human being and like I said I just wasn’t mentally prepared for that kind of volume.  I am not sure why they decided to do the switch out at 1am.  It might have been because a big storm was forecasted for the following day or maybe it was just to get it done before the weekend.  I wasn’t the only person surprised by that because the switch out crew all seemed surprised they hadn’t waited until morning as well.  It went fine, by the way, with people checking in and checking out, but by 3:30am when Lee woke up I was really tired.  Unfortunately I was also pretty wired and had a hard time falling asleep and then woke up very early.

The best part of the day was early on I had a hawk who was flying close by.  Seriously he was hanging out in the air over our rig several times and kept diving down into the field right next to our rig.   Beautiful bird and even several of the workers were watching it as they checked in and said it was really cool. I was able to get some shots with the long lens, despite the overcast weather, and it really was the best part of my day.

Picture taken as it hung in the area less than 15 feet above my RV. Very cool

The biggest bummer was I didn’t get to work on my book at all. My oldest daughter has kindly taken on the role as my Alpha reader, and her writing skills plus being outside of the RV community make her a perfect choice for this.  She is quick to point out when I use acronyms that make no sense to her and has given me some wonderful advice on structure.  With her generously donating her time, I feel the need to get through this second edit, so have mentally committed to a chapter a night.  Last night that just didn’t happen, because it is hard enough without being interrupted every five minutes. Just not a fan of the editing process as I have set this up, which means I really need to rethink that next time around.  Many people edit as they go and I think I am going to have to force myself to go down that route.  This definitely isn’t working as I find myself rewriting more than I am leaving alone and really slogging through it. Plus that energy doesn’t leave me much for writing the blog, although in all fairness it’s never fun writing this when not a ton of things are going in.  Basically I have found I have X amount of inspiration/time to write in any given day and  and I need to really think about which project to use that on. I’m still figuring it out.

Thankfully after a couple of days things really settled down and the pace has been nice and slow.  We get the occasional spike when lots of equipment comes in, but no where near the traffic from the turnover day.  With the slower pace I do find the days sort of blend together and I think more about the weather on a particular day than the actual day itself.  I have been watching the Olympics every night and as much as I am enjoying that it is certainly not helping me with the days.  Korea is a day ahead and I am constantly confused by which day I am watching lol.  Still all this time to really watch the events is really a luxury and I am truly enjoying it.

“Rush Hour” at the gate

No clue what this machinery does but it looks different than anything else we have seen.

A I am writing this it occurs to me I should probably take a moment and walk you through my shift so you get a feel for how things are for me. So here is what it looks like, keeping in mind that every gate is different.

  • 11am – 1pm – Get up.  My wakeup time is kind of all over the place and Lee just makes sure I don’t sleep past 1pm. Eat some toast, drink come coffee, take a shower.  During this time period I often cover for Lee so he can eat some lunch.  It’s nice to have a meal uninterupted and I like to do that for him when I can.
  • 1pm – 4pm  Check texts, emails and Facebook.  Run into town if I have an errand although I try not to go very often.  Blog, work on my recipe book, menu plan, make phone calls., basically any task that I can’t do while being interrupted.  During this time period Lee and I share the space, so I try to work around whatever he has going on.  If he’s watching TV I might work on the computer for example and if it’s nice outside I will often take over for him a little early and go sit in the sun and read a book.  I also eat lunch since I can eat uninterrupted.
  • 4pm – 7pm Work the gate, which includes a mini rush around 5pm (as the new shift arrives) and another around 6pm as the day shift leaves.  They must have a meeting or something because there is always a gap between when the folks come in and the other shift goes out.  This is by far the busiest time of day for me, so meals with each other is pretty much out of the question.  Occasionally on the weekend we will try to have steaks together, but it usually means I have to get up alot. I almost always do the dishes during this time period because that is an activity I can get interrupted while doing.  And sometimes I get hungry again and might eat something, but that just depends on the day.  Lee uses this time to eat his dinner and work on anything he needs that requires uninterrupted attention.
  • 7pm – 12pm – During this time period there is enough traffic that getting into anything too serious is frustrating because of the interruptions.  The Olympics has been perfect for that because I can watch and just step outside when I need to and I have also been filling this time with some crafts.  I also might watch a fluffy television show (like the Bachelor) or basically any activity that I can walk away from quickly.  Sometimes I will eat dinner, but other times just a snack.  It really just depends on how hungry I am.  Lee is worried I am not eating enough good food, and he has a point, but it seems like my body hasn’t really adjusted to the shift especially when it comes to meals. Lee typically goes to bed around 7 or 7:30 to watch something or read to fall asleep.
  • 12am – 3am – This is my slowest time of the night and when I can work on my book.  It’s great that it is so quiet, but not the optimal time for me creatively. Still I need to work with what I have and had been managing to spend an hour or so of this time writing every night.  The other time is spent watching more serious TV although I need to be careful about what I watch or I find I have trouble getting to sleep.
  • 3am – 4am – Lee gets up somewhere between 3am and 3:30am and as soon as he stirs I start the coffee.  Most days he takes a shower, gets dressed, and then comes out to face the day and I try to give him as much space as possible while he wakes up.  The traffic starts to pick up again after 3:30am so I handle trucks until he says he’s ready.  At that point I brush my teeth and head to bed, hopefully to fall into a deep sleep.  Generally I have been finding I fall asleep pretty quickly but some days it’s a little tougher.

Actually I’m kind of glad I broke all this down because I have been beating myself up a little over not being more productive.  I do wish I could get more done in the 12am-3am time period, but I have always been a person who worked best first thing in the morning.  Since my first thing in the morning is now noon (a very busy time at the gate) it’s not the best time to sit down and write.  Anyways, that’s all I have other than to say we think we should be done here by the end of the week and I am hoping we get a little break.  Even though the work isn’t usually difficult never having a full day off can wear on you a little.  You start to hear bells dinging in your sleep!  I’d love to have a couple of days to just chill with our friends, but we will see how it plays out.

 


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

BRRR It’s Cold

As much as we like gate guarding, it isn’t much fun when the weather is bad.  And we’ve had all sorts of this weather this week, with lots of rain, lots of wind, and some extremely cold nights.  Thankfully, for us, there was a bit of a technical issue at the well and the traffic was lower than usual, but it’s still pretty cold, especially during shift change when I am outside in the weather trying to write on paper.  If it’s not windy, we try to stay under the awning as much as possible , but when it’s raining and windy out in the elements we try to keep the paper dry as much as possible.  Still it’s not New England winter, and I think of that when I start to feel a little sorry for myself.  I just really prefer those nice, sunny days!

Here I am in long johns, gloves, winter coat, and ear muffs. The wind was tough this particular day.

We’ve stayed busy despite the bad weather.  I have really enjoyed watching the Olympics and we are getting some great coverage especially late at night while I am working, which is cool. The only down side is it’s on regular TV so there’s no pause button and I swear I won’t have a truck for 20 minutes then right in the middle of the American ice skaters I’ll get three 🙂 I did get to watch the Canadian ice dancers long program all the way through…absolutely amazing.   Lee also decided to do some work on the computer, including formatting and changing out our C drive, which is extremely time consuming.  He picked a Sunday (our slowest day) and started working on the changes.  I woke up a little early and things were a bit chaotic, but I appreciated that things seemed to be going well.

He was doing this and jumping up to take care of the gate.

 

He was using the laptop and TV as a monitor

 

Good chance to clean everything out and move things around

So that went better than expected until we realized we had lost a file.  And that file was for my second recipe book.  I work off a special program so was forced to put the file in one place on the computer and that was the drive that was formatted.  I didn’t think to mention it and he didn’t recognize the file for what it was since it had a different name soooo long story short I lost about 70% of a completed book.  And yes, it was my only electronic copy and yes, that was pretty stupid, and boy was I upset about it.  But what are you going to do, so we started trying to figure out what we could salvage.  At the end I found a PDF I had run back in November so that leaves the recipes between now and then.  Two of those I found in the trash (thank heaven Jeremy’s chicken marsala recipe was still in there) and the rest I have the pictures in a backup file, but don’t have the actual recipes.  I’ll need to see if I can recreate what I did, and if not, well that’s just the way it goes.

I don’t feel cavalier about it in any way, but no one was hurt and it’s just “stuff” for lack of a better word.  It does represent hundreds of hours worth of work, which does sting, but hopefully I can find a way to recreate it with less effort.  I had the PDF, which I may try to edit in that file, because if I use the Bookwright program it will not allow me to copy and paste so I will have to hand type every recipe back into that program.  Anyway, I know people have bigger problems, but it was rough and I know Lee felt really bad, but really I should have had a backup file.  That’s on me.

Update:  Lee felt really bad about what happened and after we tried multiple programs to import the PDF we finally realized it would all need to be retyped.  Since I am not a huge fan of the Bookwright program, I tried to create the template in Microsoft Publisher.  I got pretty frustrated pretty quickly.  Creating templates from scratch was never my thing, so one morning while I was asleep, Lee not only created a template for me, but he also retyped every single recipe into the new format.  Wow…just wow. That was an incredibly generous thing to do and seriously made lemonade from the lemons.  So now I have almost everything from before, in a format I can use easily going forward, and I am only out a couple of recipes, which I am pretty sure I can recreate.  Really love that guy. 

On a completely different side note, one positive thing is I finally finished listening to those training webinars and have all my Professional Development units finished.  Slogging through all of those was not fun, but now that it is done I can redirect that energy into the book about us going on the road.  I sent the first three edited chapters to my oldest daughter Kyrston and she really liked it, plus she gave me some valuable feedback which I can incorporate in.  I just need to quit avoiding the editing and commit to doing at least one chapter a day.  I also need to let go of the idea that it will be perfect, because perfection can be the enemy of achievement.  It’s a story, and yes it’s a bigger one than these blog posts, but at the end of the day it’s still just a story.  That’s what I need to keep in mind or it will never be good enough.

The high point of the week though was when Kelly and Bill came down to visit.  Bill has been doing solar installs, but he took one of his breaks to come and see us which was very nice.  Bill is working for RV Solar Solutions now and is an incredibly competent guy.  If you have been thinking about solar and need someone you can trust to do it, I highly recommend Bill. You can see his spring/summer schedule on the RV Solar website if you are interested. They brought pie and we made pork chops, potatoes, and corn and it was wonderful seeing them.  Plus traffic was pretty decent and the weather that day was a little milder so the guys hung outside and watched for trucks while I cooked.

We did all get to talk inside a little bit

 

Kelly cutting the chocolate pie

 

Which was really, really good

 

During dinner I was doing trucks and then dishes and she took over for me and finished them which was so, so sweet.

 

We really appreciated them making the 1 hour and 45 minute drive and being understanding about the truck traffic.  Hopefully we will get to see them before they head to Quartszite, but if not, definitely at the reunion rally!


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

Do We think About Stopping?

I got a very nice comment in the blog post the other day that mentioned they were worried that we might be thinking about quitting after Amazon, and I found that interesting and thought I would take a few minutes to talk about it.  We do get the question somewhat frequently, especially when the blog gets a bit whiny, and the short answer to the question is “Not really”.  That answer is truthful, but it also surprises me because I tend to be a person who thinks through everything.  But when I start down that path, I truly can’t picture where we would be, and when my brain hits that brick wall I just stop thinking about it.

Part of the problem I think is we still don’t have a place we want to be.  I’ve talked about this quite a bit here and there, but probably should lay the scenario out again.  We have three kids in three states.  We have Lee’s parents, my dad and brother  in a fourth, and my sister and mom live in a fifth.  As much as I would like to live near any of them, how would we pick one? Of course it would make the most sense to pick a part of the country we really like and live there, but there’s a couple of problems with that scenario.  First we haven’t seen everyplace we want to see yet. Before becoming a full timer, I wouldn’t have thought twice about that, but now I know how varied the country really is, and if I pick a place, what if I was missing out on someplace really great I would like better?  That’s new for me by the way, as I have spent a lifetime of settling for the best I could do, but I don’t feel like I need to do that now.  Plus Lee has never been a person who settled easily, and he really wouldn’t want to do that now.

The second reason is the weather.  We don’t need absolutely perfect weather wherever we go all the time, but we have gotten spoiled living this life. When I think about places I have loved in the winter (Apache Junction, Tampa, or San Antonio), it’s impossible for my mind not  to immediately think about how hot those places are in the summer.  Same thing with places up north we enjoy in the summer.  We loved Montana, Oregon, and Wyoming, but how we would deal with the rain and snow?  Granted, weather is less of an issue when you live in a sticks and bricks home, but it would still be a difficult thing to give up and the place would need to be pretty special.

One thing I can actually picture is having a regular job again, although the thought of getting up every morning, putting on dress clothes, and driving in rush hour traffic to work isn’t a pleasant one. The work itself is something I think about, but the other parts, the politics, long hours, and the constant pressure are things that I simply do not miss.  That’s pretty weird, because I just took for granted that is how life had to be before this, but obviously I have lived another way for quite some time now.

And all of those things aside I really can’t picture stopping because of Lee.  He absolutely loves this lifestyle and isn’t even close to being ready to being done. I couldn’t take this lifestyle away from him without a pretty compelling reason, and so far I haven’t run across one. He would stop for me if I absolutely hated it, there isn’t a doubt in my mind about that, but I don’t hate it, and don’t see myself feeling that way any time soon.

Because here’s the thing: it’s just my life.  We have good days and bad days.  We get on each others nerves and make each other happy.  We are in beautiful places sometimes and other times are in not so nice places.  We have bad weather, arguments about money, and the occasional health concerns.  We worry about politics, our kids, our parents, and the environment as the occasion arises.  Sometimes we are bored, sometimes we are ecstatic, but most of the time we are just living our lives.  And on balance, for me, it is much more interesting and fulfilling than the life I used to live. I don’t know about Lee.  I think he’s happier, although sometimes it is hard to tell since he generally has a low level of dissatisfaction with life in general. (I’ve been less unhappy for longer periods of time doing this than I have ever been in my life. – Lee) A lot of creative people are like that though, and I try not to take it personally.  I figure if he’s not outright miserable, it’s a win.

You might be wondering what my old life was like if I find this more enjoyable, and that is a fair question.  I think the best way to describe it was a big ball of stress.  I wouldn’t go so far as to say my old life was killing me, but I was far enough gone that I had no idea how much stress there was until it was lifted.  I feel lighter and more hopeful.  I have more energy, more creativity, and am happier.  These are not small things.  There is absolutely nothing that I gave up in the way of material possession or financial means that comes close to these new feelings I am experiencing.  Truly…nothing. Maybe that sounds unbelievable to you.  I wouldn’t have believed it myself frankly.  I didn’t know I was capable of being like this. But here I am, and although I will probably never be capable of the free and easy spirit that many people I admire have, this isn’t so bad, considering where I started.

And that’s why I really don’t think about stopping.  Certainly if I am having a particularly bad day my mind starts to travel down that path, and then like I said, hits the brick wall of all those factors. That doesn’t mean that I live in denial that sooner or later something may drive us from the road.  Situations and people change, and I am certainly open to the likely possibility that it could happen.  But I also don’t feel there is any benefit to borrowing trouble, and that in and of itself shows how much I have changed.  For a long time I was a person who actively thought about what could go wrong and spent a ton of time obsessing about it.  Somehow, and I honestly have no idea how I got here, I have given myself permission to just exist in the moment. For the record, it’s pretty awesome.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

 

First Time in Kenedy and The Superbowl

Previously I was pretty harsh about some of the towns in west Texas, so I wanted to take a moment and say how much we like Kenedy. It is on the main road between San Antonio and Corpus Christi, but it also is a great example of how a town with a population of around 3K can prosper from the oil business.  The town has nice schools, two grocery stores, and several restaurants.  Whenever I go in, there are always oil people getting food or gas and it’s obvious the town is doing well.  Yes, there is a “not so nice part of town”, but the people I have met have been very friendly and there are lots of local service, clubs, etc that people can take advantage of.

This was really made clear to me when I went to get a haircut and talked at length with a young woman who grew up here.  I asked her how much it has changed and she said “so much” but she seemed happy with the changes.  Plus while I was there her mother came in and brought her a new Gucci bag she had purchased for her daughter online and seemed really pleased that she was able to afford such a present.  She admitted it was a smaller one, since that was what she could afford, but there was pride there and her daughter was obviously thrilled with the gift.  It was a sweet moment and told me a ton about how the locals were benefiting from the local economy boom, and I was really happy to see it.   Here’s some pictures of the town.

Similar population to towns in West Texas but many more services

Nice high school

There are several newer hotels in town, which was surprising

And relatively new apartment complexes

Give me a McDonald’s and a Pizza Hut and I am happy

Dentist

A very nice Great Clips which I went to

Here’s the UPS store we are using

 

There is a not so nice part of town but most of the houses look like these

The downtown definitely needs some work, but there is some spectacular architecture on these old buildings. I hear in the grocery store they are trying to get the money together to revamp the downtown which would be pretty awesome if they can manage it

There is even a chines restaurant. It was weird a massage place was next door

It was on the expensive side but the portions were large and it was pretty decent

And my favorite thing is this large hospital with an emergency room!! It’s comforting to be so close to services just in case.

Big fan of Kenedy.  I also made the drive up to see Cori and Greg to watch the Superbowl.  It fell on our anniversary, but Lee was very nice and covered for me because I am a long time Patriots fan and Cori is a long time Eagles fan.  The fact that we were near each other when both of our teams were in the Superbowl was too good to pass up and Lee was just fine as long as I brought him back brisket!!  I also got to see Linda and Steve and Kelly and Bill who had just arrived at the campground.  Good times were had by all, although I was definitely outnumbered and it was a great game.  I was really happy for Cori that her team finally got their ring.  Truly it was a great game and a wonderful opportunity to be with friends.

I walked into their camper to see this sign

And a little bit later to see this one.  Not nice!!

In case you can’t tell this is the bathroom

No it was funny and I did enjoy the philly themed food.  The hot pretzels were really good.

My favorite was this homemade ice cream flavored with Red Shasta. Yummy!

 

Hobie didn’t like the underdog signs at all.  I think he’s a secret Patriots fan 🙂

They also had two TV’s set up.  One outside and one inside which was nice and we were able to have a fire as well.  Really cool way to watch the Superbowl and I loved seeing everyone.  It was a long 2 hour drive home, and Lee was a trooper because he stayed up so late, but again glad I did it. He worked a 19 hour day so I could go.  That’s quite an anniversary present.

Bill enjoying the outside TV

Great picture on this outside one

And the inside was great as well. I went back and forth between inside and outside and they both worked great

And Cori and I stayed friends 🙂


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

January 2018 Budget (with Revenue)

The budget shows that we were $411 short this month, but we actually broke even.  One of our paychecks was short $450 due to a clerical error and that money will be coming in February. Still, it was a bit of a bummer that we spent so much, but since we discussed doing most of our annual home repairs in the next couple of months it shouldn’t be that surprising.  We also made a Costco run at the very beginning of the month and those are always pretty costly.    Also, we had a meeting to adjust the monthly budget amounts for each category based on the three prior year’s expenses.  As I go through each category in detail I will let you know any adjustments we made.

 

 

Campground Fees – We chose to stay in a campground with our friends for a couple of days between gates.  We could have stayed for free in the yard, but it was worth it to see everyone.  For this year we cut this budget item in half since we spent so little on campgrounds last year.  It’s still more than we usually spend, but I wanted to leave some extra in in case we get the opportunity to work less. 

Groceries –  We went over in groceries by $100,  mostly due to a $250 Costco run at the very beginning of the month.  We left the budget amount the same, despite the fact that we miss this mark more often than we make it.  I recombined the food and cleaning supplies etc back into one category since we did a pretty bad job of breaking that out month by month, and overall it just didn’t seem like there was enough in the second category to make it worth the trouble. 

Dining OutWe were $63 to the good, because all of our dining out food was fast food during travel or long work days.  I changed the label to convenience to make that category a little more clear and also upped the budget to $100 a month from $50.  After three years it’s clear that this category was just too low, and since we had savings in many other places I thought it was worth making this one more realistic.

Entertainment – We bought a few books and a couple Itunes purchases.  We were $71 to the good in this category. 

Cell/Internet – The bill was low this month because we finally got our credit for being charged for the cell phone I already paid for back in August.  I have adjusted the budget to reflect what the new bill should be going forward, and we are thrilled by the monthly savings of $128!!!  Thank you AT&T for your new unlimited plan. (For those keeping score, we used to pay $ 363 for two phones, a WiFi hotspot and an iPad with 80 GB of data, and we routinely went over that limit and paid $15 per extra GB. (!!!) Now we pay $ 128 for the same devices and unlimited data. For those who are curious, we have not seen any speed throttling or network management yet, and we are now consistently using over 600 GB a month, which might give you an idea of how happy we are with the new arrangement. – Lee)  

Truck Fuel – We broke even in this category which was quite a bit, mainly because we traveled from southeast of San Antonio to far west Texas and back again, and have driven back and forth to San Antonio from our current location a couple of times.  I upped the budget on this category to $425 which has been our average for the last couple of years, minus the trip to Alaska. 

Truck Maintenance – This category is a bit in flux.  We think we have enough maintenance visits remaining on our prepaid Ford plan to last the rest of the year, but that depends on how many miles we end up driving this year.  For the time being I will be putting in $50 a month. 

Health Insurance – This is another exciting category as our monthly amount (with subsidy) is only $110.  This is a monthly savings of $230 which is obviously significant. 

Cigarettes – We buy tobacco and tubes to cover a few months at a time, so the annual amount is really what matters.  We reduced the annual amount by $192 to reflect what we spent last year.  

Personal Care (Haircuts etc) – This month we went over by $19 because I splurged on a pedicure.  (You should see her toes! – Lee) I reduced this category by $25 a month to more accurately reflect what we have been spending.  Thank heavens for SuperCuts and Great Clips!

Shipping/Postage – We went over by $37 in this category because we had numerous deliveries, and the ones that came to the Kenedy each cost $5.  We are shipping things to the UPS store here and there is a $5 per item fee.  I also adjusted this category down $15 a month to more accurately reflect what we are spending. 

Gifts – I had this cool idea to start making gifts for people because I thought that might be cheaper.  Turns out the raw materials aren’t cheap, even though I found most of what I needed at Super Walmart.  Still I am having a lot of fun with it, so I’ll mentally use the underage in entertainment to balance this expense out a little.  Plus now that I know what I am doing I can keep an eye out for cheaper raw materials as we travel. 

Home Repair – Obviously we had a significant overage for the month in this category, spending $690 over budget.  $260 of that was the new toilet, and the rest was the raw materials for several repairs Lee has made.  As I have talked about in earlier blog posts, Lee is doing a year’s worth of maintenance while he has the opportunity, so we are still significantly under the $2400 annual budget amount.  And we did talk about these experiences as they occurred, so we knew this category would be steep this month. 

Overall, I would have liked to have spent less money, of course, but I understand where it all went.  Hopefully February will allow us to put some money away for April, since we aren’t planning on working that month at all. We also had an extra $1000 in “unexpected” revenue for some pay Lee was owed from a contract job he did last year, and selling one of our domain names that we weren’t using, which was a very nice surprise. (Out of the blue someone called and asked me if they could buy my RV repair domain, and since I’m not really using it I decided to let it go. I thought it might bring $100, but he offered $500, which even I knew was much better, and I’m not so good with the mathing. I thought about trying to get more, but he was a young guy, all excited about starting a new venture, and then I remembered that I despise greed, so I just let him have it for what he offered. I suppose I could have been a really great guy and countered with a lower number so he could have it for even less, but while I’m not greedy, I’m also not a moron. – Lee)

So from a cash flow perspective we are starting the year off just fine. 


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

Milton Signal Bell And Flashing Light…..Not Good Enough™

After using the modified Milton Signal Bell for a few weeks I decided…..it Isn’t Good Enough™. While the light inside works very well, it needs to be somewhere in your peripheral vision to see it. It’s not bright enough to overpower the lights in the rig, and it certainly isn’t bright enough to notice if you’re not in the room. And generally speaking if you’re doing anything in the rig that makes noise, you generally can’t hear the bell outside. Since the circuit is so simple, and everything works off of the simple diaphragm switch in the bell, I decided to add an additional feature, a classic mechanical two tone “Ding Dong” doorbell.

I was able to pick one up at the local Do It Best hardware store for the very reasonable price of $14.99.

A household doorbell is pretty simple and straightforward. It’s powered by regular old household 120v AC, which goes to a transformer, which knocks it down to 16v AC. The transformer is separate from the doorbell box, and usually is mounted somewhere in the house where it’s out of the way, because it’s ugly and bulky and would make the bell box that hangs on the wall bigger and heavier. Then there’s small gauge bell wire that loops to a momentary push switch (the door bell button) to close the circuit.

Here’s what it looks like:

When the switch/button is pushed, and the circuit is closed, electricity flows from the transformer to the solenoid inside the bell box which pushes out the striker/plunger to smack the first bar, and give you the “ding”. When the button is released, the electricity stops flowing, the solenoid is de-energized, and the spring on the solenoid pulls the striker/plunger back through the solenoid where it smacks the second bar, which gives you the “Dong”. In cases where you have a rear button which produces only the “Ding” or the “Dong”, that is accomplished by another striker that smacks one bar, but on the return stroke it’s blocked by a barrier so it never gets to the second bar. Imagine going through your whole life only living up to half of your potential because a tiny piece of plastic is in your way. Depressing.

And here’s how it works:

 

Just for fun, this is how it SHOULD work…

In my case, I don’t want to put the button out on the road because it would last for exactly one “Ding Dong” and then it would be ground into powder by the second set of wheels on a truck, and I already have a “button” in the form of the diaphragm switch on the bell. So I’m simply extending the circuit for the bell and the light and adding this one in. Which means the wire that normally runs between the solenoid, the switch,  and the transformer just gets shorted to run between the transformer and the solenoid. If I were to plug the whole thing directly into an outlet wired that way, it would “Ding” and the constant flow of electricity would just hold the striker against the bar, presumably for all eternity. But since it’s plugged in to the other circuit, I’m extending that signal bell switch to do double duty.

I also put on an extra long lamp cord power line so I can put it where I want it, and because I might want to turn it off, I put in an inline rocker switch. It works like a charm, and is loud enough to be heard over the TV or running water, wherever we are in the rig. It looks a little rough because of the transformer, so I am going to find a box that I can use to hold both the transformer and the doorbell mechanism.

It was easy and fun to do, took about 45 minutes, and cost $ 27.82.

Now it’s good enough, for now.

UPDATE: The doorbell turned out to be REALLY loud inside the rig, and Trace would jump every time it would go off, so I put a little strip of Gaff tape on the tone bars so deaden it a little. Worked like a charm. And I’ve said it before, but it’s worth repeating: If you’re using duct tape, just…stop. Get yourself some gaff tape and thank me later!

Here’s a super short clip of it functioning, with bonus Tracy directing trucks in and out in the background.


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.

Drilling Crew Out and Frack Crew In

As I have mentioned before, different teams of subcontractors complete different phases of an oilfield project, and when those teams switch out it can be a bit chaotic.  We have heard lots of people talk about the frack phase in particular but up until this point we have not experienced a full switch, having been brought in or left mid phase on both of the other gates we’ve worked. All I can say is it is crazy busy.  The volume has jumped astronomically and we are both busy on our shifts. What can be particularly challenging is when big equipment is leaving and coming in at the same time, and although this was somewhat staggered we did have a couple of instances where we had big rig traffic coming in and out at the same time, which can be tricky.  I kind of enjoy the challenge to be honest because I get to be bossy to my heart’s content, but if it’s busy (I had one 30 minute period where 15 trucks came in and 10 left for example) I do get a little harried.

Here’s an example of big traffic coming in and going out. These drivers are REALLY good though

Thankfully the drivers are all really good about following directions and the rule that incoming traffic always has the right of way does seem to be universally understood.  Our main goal is to keep people off the road, which requires some quick thinking when there is a line of trucks.  First and foremost all we do in those situations is get the plate number and if possible the company.  We wave them through and write really fast so we can mainly keep traffic in continuous flow.  One thing that suffers is the paperwork.  I have a teeny bit of dyslexia and on occasion my numbers get jumbled, but the company man was very clear.  The priority is always safety, and trucks sitting still on the main road is not safe.

The scope of these moves is hard to explain, although one anecdote may help.  At 1am I talked to some guys who went to Mcdonald’s and the 40 cheeseburgers they ordered really ticked off the night crew.  There are tons of people coming and going all day and night and for Lee in particular it’s been super busy.  I’ll just share some more pictures with you so you can get a feel for things, but the main point is sometimes there is no downtime in this job.  That’s important to know if you are thinking about trying it.

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Even with the pavement we get some dust from these big guys

You can see me for scale. These things are huge

 

 

Here’s me being bossy lol. I thought I looked more intimidating than this 🙂

You can see the incoming truck for scale . This one was crazy big

 

Lee looking official

I have no idea what most of these things do, Lee think most of it was designed from Dr. Seuss drawings.

 

 

I will on occasion get out in the middle of the road but for obvious reasons try to keep that to a minimum.  If you are wondering why I don’t have my vest on, it’s a bee magnet.  We have set out bee traps but in the meantime any bright colors and they land right on you. So Deb no gate guarding for you.





The biggest bummer of the whole thing for me was they actually took the drill tower down after dark.  I really wanted to see that and take some pictures, but it all happened late with just floodlights on the area, which honestly surprised me.  I guess I thought they would have waited until daylight. Here’s the last picture I got of the drill towards dusk.

 

We did have a beautiful full moon though that was orange when it was close to the horizon but got white as it got higher in the sky.  There was also a lunar eclipse but we missed it since it was cloudy in the morning.

And last pic is one of the hawks in the field.  They have been around less with all the hoopla…or maybe I just don’t have time to notice them, but I got this cool picture of a red-shouldered hawk, which was a first for that bird for me.

 

 

So it was a crazy few days, but I am thankful to say that things have calmed down quite a bit.  We haven’t started the frack process yet, and expect some steady traffic through that, but for now the major big equipment moves all seem to be done.

 


Camper Chronicles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, a program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. We very much appreciate any purchase you make via our website links.  There is no additional cost to you and helps support our blog.  Search Amazon.com here

Or you can check out our recipe book filled with 80 real recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. The cookbook specializes in recipes that have a limited number of ingredients, without sacrificing flavor and is organized into categories that matter to full time RVers such as Happy Hours, Travel Days, and Pot Lucks   You can preview the kindle version on  Amazon or the Apple version on Itunes.    It is available in paperback on Amazon if you prefer.